One of the most interesting aspects of a cruise on Canadian Empress is the style of itinerary. Daytimes would alternate with a few hours spent sailing then a short stop in a small town to see some aspect-of-interest (from the Frederick Remington museum to the quite-fabulous Upper Canada Village historic site). While sailing, cruise directors organized competitions, ranging from a take-no-prisoners shuffleboard tourney to a ship-wide scavenger hunt. This curmudgeonly 40-something traveler - who, it must be admitted, thought she'd avoid the group activities and just catch up on her reading - was quite surprised at how much fun it was to participate (and never finished one book).
While sailing, the Captain would occasionally broadcast facts about interesting places we passed. And, as befits a destination-oriented line, shore excursions are included in the cruise fare.
Evening entertainment featured the aforementioned solo acts (with the exception of an excellent trio that has played one night per voyage for the past 18 years) and quality varied considerably.
Well, there's really just one public room and that's the grand salon, which serves as everything from the reading room to the pub to the dining area to performance venue to a game room. There's a bar - the ship's only one - tucked into a corner. Off the grand salon was a lovely back-ship screened in outdoor area with comfy wicker chairs. Upstairs, the Sun Deck - completely open to the sky - featured man-sized checkers board and a shuffleboard court along with a variety of lounges and chairs.
There is a small gift shop onboard; it stocks necessities and logo-wear and other souvenirs.
Does shuffleboard count? Otherwise, fitness enthusiasts will have to get their workouts off-board. Fortunately, the ship typically docks at small towns or marinas where there are facilities (pools, occasionally, always walking and running trails).
At first glance this would appear not to be a ship at all geared to families. There are no organized activities, there's no children's onboard facility. But one couple brought their pre-teen children who had a ball - in large part because crew members took such pleasure in including them in activities and projects (from helping with tying up the ship to ringing the bell for dinner). The passengers, too (many grandparents among them) took them under their wing and played puzzle games with them. It was clear that the kids - who incidentally won the shuffleboard tournament - were having a great time, but I would not recommend this cruise line for families whose children are very young or who need lots of entertaining.