The 1990-built Empress of the Seas and the 1992-built Majesty of the Seas were the oldest vessels in the Royal Caribbean fleet, but ones that nonetheless had a loyal following of cruisers who prized them for their classic design, smaller size and affordable itineraries.
Royal Caribbean says the two vessels have been sold to an undisclosed party in Asia-Pacific for future cruise service and have not been slated for scrapping at this time. Currently, Empress of the Seas is en-route to Valetta, Malta, while Majesty of the Seas is at anchor off the Greek island of Crete.
"Empress and Majesty of the Seas made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size," said Michael Bayley, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean. "Touted as the cruise industry's most ground-breaking ships when they were introduced, they continued to make history throughout their more than three decades of service.
"Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean's history -- one that is difficult but necessary. With plans for new, innovative ships to join our fleet in the upcoming years, we look forward to our guests and crew continuing to make new memories with us.”
Empress of the Seas was the first modern cruise ship designed expressly for three-and-four-night sailings when it debuted in 1990. Named Nordic Empress, it stayed with the Royal Caribbean fleet until 2008, when it was transferred to Royal Caribbean's Spanish subsidiary, Pullmantur. Empress of the Seas found itself back in the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2016, when it was pressed into service operating cruises to Havana, Cuba.
In later years, Empress of the Seas was referred to affectionately by passengers and crew as "The Small Ship with the Biggest Heart" in the fleet.
Majesty of the Seas was the last remaining member of Royal Caribbean's iconic Sovereign-class that also included Sovereign of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas. Those vessels had left for Pullmantur several years ago, and were scrapped this year in Aliaga, Turkey. Recently, Majesty of the Seas had made New Orleans its homeport, sailing weeklong itineraries to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
Michael Bayley, who started out as a crewmember aboard both Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas, shared some remembrances of these two iconic vessels.
"I know this is bittersweet for many of you who have made unforgettable memories on board throughout the years," said Bayley. "Their departure hits close to home for me as well, as I was part of the crew on Nordic Empress and Majesty of the Seas when we introduced her to the world."
Bayley noted that all crew members from both ships will be reassigned to other vessels once operations resume again.
Cruise Critic readers also chimed in with their memories of these two special ships:
"We took many wonderful cruises on both of these ships," writes cruisegirl1. "In fact, our first time on Empress of the Seas was when the ship was still called the Nordic Empress ( 1998). The last time was to Cuba in 2017."
"Sailed the Empress when she was still the Nordic Empress," writes njkruzer. "We were on her in 2002 when she was the 1st ship with passengers allowed back into NYC harbors after 9/11."
"Feel fortunate to have sailed on both, in 2002 on the Nordic Empress and in 2018 on Majesty," writes poocher. "Great small ships, many fond memories."
Cruise Critic contributor Aaron Saunders had the opportunity to sail aboard Empress of the Seas in January for the first time.
"I'd always wanted to sail Empress of the Seas," he said. "It didn't have the glitz and the features of Royal Caribbean's newest ships, but I absolutely fell head-over-heels for it. My cabin was small, sure. But the rest of the ship, from Boleros to the gorgeous Schooner Bar, was so well-kept and so spacious that it felt almost brand-new. I'd looked forward to sailing aboard Empress again, and I'll miss it terribly."
Royal Caribbean states it will reach out to affected passengers with bookings aboard both ships in the coming days.
Have you sailed aboard Empress or Majesty of the Seas? Head over to our message boards to share your memories of these two special ships.