(2:30 p.m. EDT) -- Citing a need for more time in dry dock, Royal Caribbean has canceled the first six sailings of Empress of the Seas.
The line informed travel agents of its decision via a letter that began: "We are writing to inform you that the March 30, April 4, April 7, April 11, April 16 and April 21 sailings of Empress of the Seas have been cancelled.
Like many large renovation projects, we are going to need more time to ensure the ship meets the high standards for quality our guests expect from Royal Caribbean."
Passengers on the canceled sailings may move to the same cabin category on another Empress of the Seas sailing between April 25 and July 23, 2016 or may move the same cabin category on any Majesty of the Seas sailing between now and April 29, 2016 – both for the same cruise fare they paid for their original Empress sailing. Those who rebook will receive a $100 per cabin onboard credit.
Additionally, passengers who booked their air through Royal Caribbean that transfer to another sailing will receive modified flights at no extra cost. All others who rebook will receive up to $200 for domestic and $300 for international flight change fees. (Passengers are directed to send a copy of the change fee receipt, with brief note explaining they were on canceled Empress sailings, to RCI Customer Serivce, 1050 Caribbean Way, Miami FL 33132.)
Those who do not wish to rebook will receive a full refund of their cruise fare. All air booked through Royal Caribbean will also be fully refunded.
Empress of the Seas is returning to the Royal Caribbean fleet, after being part of sister brand Pullmantur Cruises since 2008. During the ship's dry dock, it will receive a rock-climbing wall, new pools and hot tubs, the adults-only Solarium and the line's signature steakhouse Chops Grille. Empress of the Seas will also feature the line's high-speed Voom Internet.
--By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor