5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
This cruise was originally scheduled to go to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba with a stop the following week overnight in Havana. Santiago was supposed to be changed from a port where they could dock to a tender port, due to damage at the ... Read More
This cruise was originally scheduled to go to Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba with a stop the following week overnight in Havana. Santiago was supposed to be changed from a port where they could dock to a tender port, due to damage at the pier. Shortly before departure I received an email stating that Santiago would be canceled and an overnight in Havana substituted. While it is true that the contract of carriage gives the cruise line great latitude to do this, it was unfortunate that no consideration was offered to the passengers for whom this represented an unwelcome change. Often cruise lines will do so voluntarily in the interests of customer satisfaction. Royal Caribbean chose not to do so. Disappointing. Havana was a great place to visit. The ship tour "Easy Panoramic Havana" was a bit expensive, but we had a very good guide and the tour took about six hours including visits to Revolution Square, the fortress and a shop with an introduction to the fine points of Cuban cigars and rum. This was very helpful if you wanted to buy such souvenirs, but did not have experiences with these products. A stop at Fusterlandia, filled with Gaudi-like mosaics was truly a big surprise and a highlight. Our guide said that we were free to ask any questions and she would answer them. I was not expecting such candor. Her English was excellent, so much so that I asked her if she had lived in an English speaking country. She replied no, she had only ever lived in Cuba. A couple on the tour inquired about tickets for the show at La Taberna and she walked there with them after the tour and assisted with booking. This tour gave an excellent introduction to Cuba and the city of Havana. I was not sure what to expect in Havana and I was pleasantly surprised to find the city in considerably better shape than might have been expected from some comments on this site. While there are undeniably some rough edges, there are many beautiful buildings and the history was very interesting as well. Our tour guide had mentioned that it was perfectly safe to walk around at night and this proved to be the case. Many elegant European style buildings were fully lighted as well as the pedestrian only streets in the city center, the plazas and the Malecon. There were many lively restaurants and it seemed every block had a band playing Cuban music. Some of the areas had rough spots on the sidewalks so you had to watch where you were going! Some people may not be used to areas that are not designed just for tourists, but I found Havana to be very similar to many cities in Italy, Spain and other parts of Europe. Keep an open mind and give it a try! Cienfuegos is a smaller city and seemed more of a work a day place than the capitol city. The town square has some pleasant buildings and the pedestrian shopping street was lively, full of local shoppers buying every day things. Just don't go expecting expensive boutiques and designer label shops. The walk back to the ship is anything but scenic, but the distance is not far. The Cuban visa is issued at check in and the $75 fee assessed to the on board account. The Cuban Travel Certification form is not too difficult to fill out and you need to bring two copies with for check in. Although the visa states it is good for thirty days, it is in fact a one time visit visa and is collected before leaving Cuba for the last time. Even Royal Caribbean did not provide correct information about this prior to departure. Guest service staff explained it fully on the ship. Prior to that it was a source of confusion that the cruise line could have avoided for the guests if they had provided correct information to the guests prior to departure. The Empress is one of my favorite ships. I have been on it many times and some of the things that people on this site have complained about are valid concerns. Yes it has some limitations and rough edges, much like Cuba itself. But the food and service in the dining room (unfortunately not in the buffet) are some of the best in the line. The two productions shows in the theatre are the hottest anywhere. The one time only show featuring just the musicians on board was a great show and the closing number by the ships orchestra was one of the most rousing renditions of When the Saints Go Marching In I have ever heard. The big ships have a big lesson to learn from the Empress! But the one truly noticeable thing about the Empress is the quality of the crew. While no ship is perfect in this regard, this ship generally excels in this area. If you are thinking about Cuba the one thing I would emphasize is that selecting a cruise itinerary that docks in Havana overnight is a must. The look and feel of the city at night is something that should be experienced and contrasted to the daytime. No visit to the Tropicana night club this trip-something to save for next time.. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
Over-all rating 10: Ports of call, small number of guests 1400, quality of service, food, activities..it all was great Areas of Improvement: Beverages: Pre-paid adult beverage pkg: $45/day must include both adults so $90/day/6 days. ... Read More
Over-all rating 10: Ports of call, small number of guests 1400, quality of service, food, activities..it all was great Areas of Improvement: Beverages: Pre-paid adult beverage pkg: $45/day must include both adults so $90/day/6 days. My fiance does not drink and the alternative offered of the regular beverage pks did not interest her. Essentially, we were off the ship boarding/departure/tours about two days so could not use pkg. Suggest a daily package even if a bit more for one. Phone service: Not on hold long, Unfortunately, all week long we could not hear what the other person was saying so it was of little use to us. Check-in/check-out: seems they might have more agents on duty, long lines. Handicap Rooms: not enough with balconies Service: Outstanding in all areas but a few of the staff did not know location questions when asked and had trouble with English We are handicapped so we could not participate in all activities. We did, however, find other things to do and the trip over-all was fantastic. Highly Recommand. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
We chose this cruise because it happened to fall during Thanksgiving week. We've been on a Cuba cruise 2 years ago and weren't thrilled to be visiting Santiago rather than Havana. We were told that the dock in Santiago has been damaged ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it happened to fall during Thanksgiving week. We've been on a Cuba cruise 2 years ago and weren't thrilled to be visiting Santiago rather than Havana. We were told that the dock in Santiago has been damaged and is under repair. We were given 2 days in Havana as a substitute, which was perfect. There is no Diamond Lounge but we were allowed 3 drinks per person in any bar during the nightly Diamond event. There was a cocktail party on the open deck of the Boleros bar on embarkation night and we had an exclusive breakfast daily in the Starlight dining room. The bar service was slow during the Diamond Happy Hour and the Boleros bartender was anything but friendly. Havana is an easy city to get around in on your own and since we visited before, we did our own thing. We booked a salsa class on both days with a local studio in central Havana, and while the streets were dirty and the area run down, no one bothered us and we had a good class, although there was no air conditioning in the studio. We ate at the San Cristobal paladar nearby and highly recommend it for excellent food and service. Note that Presidient Obama and his family had dined there during their visit and there are photos on the wall of that visit. Cienfuegos is a beautiful city with historical architecture and in much better condition than Havana. We did some shopping at the open air market next to the central plaza and ate at the Dona Nora paladar nearby. We had a balcony table and enjoyed an amazing meal with drinks, full dinners and dessert for under $50 with the tip. We enjoyed a rare 15 year old rum for only 6 cucs! We also booked a visit to the Hotel Nacional for their cabaret show. It's easy to reach by taxi and the hotel is glamorous and very historical. The show was amazing and reasonable at $35 per person, which included a mojito and a seat near the stage. We'd seen the Tropicana on our last visit and this is a good second and certainly not as crowded. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
We booked the ship for the destinations. RC must have taken note of all of the customer complaints. We did the Best of Cuba trip on Thanksgiving week and it was unforgettable. Our Santiago stop was replaced with Havana. We stopped in ... Read More
We booked the ship for the destinations. RC must have taken note of all of the customer complaints. We did the Best of Cuba trip on Thanksgiving week and it was unforgettable. Our Santiago stop was replaced with Havana. We stopped in Havana for 1.5 days, Cienfuegos for 1 day, and Grand Cayman for 1 day. We had plenty of time to explore each city and were able to go out at night in Havana. I would not recommend purchasing any excursions through the ship. You can purchase the same thing from a local for 1/3 of the price. The staff on the ship was excellent as well, and the dining experience was excellent. Windjammer was slightly disappointing but the main dining room was great. The rooms were older, but again, we booked the ship for the destination. I would highly recommend this cruise to anyone wanting to experience Cuba. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
We choose this cruise because the price was definitely right and we were mildly curious about Cuba. We have cruised lots of times on several different ships -- usually Celebrity Cruises. And now we understand why the price was right. ... Read More
We choose this cruise because the price was definitely right and we were mildly curious about Cuba. We have cruised lots of times on several different ships -- usually Celebrity Cruises. And now we understand why the price was right. The Empress of the Seas is the oldest and smallest ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet. Indeed, RC had previously sold the ship but later bought it back; refurbished it; and uses it for short cruises to Cuba. We were not unhappy. We had a fairly nice experience -- thanks to the staff and our own good travel companions. But we often repeated the same words: "we've been spoiled by our earlier cruises." Why: the ship is smaller so naturally the number of activities and amenities is less. The food was good but we have eaten great on other cruises. Naturally there are fewer shops but the same good prices for what was for sale. Sometimes I asked myself if the ship is the training ship for new employees. The staff was the best part of the ship: they are all so friendly; they remembered my name and my drink and eating preferences. They engaged in conversation even when they did not have to do so. They were responsive to my every request. Note that if one member in the suite buys a drink package, the second person is also required to do so. I can understand why they are doing this but what if you have one drinker and one who does not care to drink over $60 worth of booze on a daily basis?! They only disappointed once: they failed to notify me by letter of the mix and mingle event. They did schedule the event on the final day of the cruise which was pretty useless for some of our members who had hoped to connect with each other. Would I book again on this ship? Yes, but only for a short cruise. Never for a repositioning cruise of longer than a week. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
I'd read many reviews about the Empress of the Seas before I made my booking. After reading them the impression I had was the ship was old and the rooms were unfathomably tiny; virtually unusable. It was like having an old broken down ... Read More
I'd read many reviews about the Empress of the Seas before I made my booking. After reading them the impression I had was the ship was old and the rooms were unfathomably tiny; virtually unusable. It was like having an old broken down rusting ghost ship containing hundreds of dirty broom closets all stuffed with people clawing to get out! After having just returned from a voyage on the Empress of the Seas I can tell you people are probably not wrong in their description of small spaces and aging equipment but they are certainly wrong on their expectations of those things. First of all, It's a real modern working cruise ship! It's not the movie Titanic. You will not be able to unload multiple steamer trunks and address your entire personal staff easily in these small rooms. But how much room do you really need? On my trip to Cuba. The destination was the focus. I viewed the size of the accommodations as being last on my list of priorities. It turned out to be a very nice accommodation and never once did I say I wanted a bigger room. I did find myself thinking, "I wish I had a bigger bed". But I lived and I slept very well each night rocked gently to sleep by the motion of the ship. Even that was fine. As far as aging equipment and a small-sized vessel. It is EASY to understand the comparison to all of the venues of those mammoth sized ships out there. I rather enjoyed the novelty of a more intimate setting. You know people pay a LOT of money to travel on S-M-A-L-L ships all of the time. They are more desirable because the service is more personal and things are more conveniently located. So don't be deterred on the "small size" of the ship comments. They are probably left by people that will never be able to afford a highly personable cruise experience opting instead for huge venues and massive crowds. The ship was refurbished and is absolutely acceptable. The buffet was, for me, one of the weak points. I have to mark them low for that. I think they need to start eating their own meals the food from the buffet themselves and maybe not depend upon the feedback. I think it's common sense when the deserts look amazing but lack any taste, you're serving the wrong stuff. The staff (except for the photo girl that kept interrupting my meals and barking that I remove my lanyard, making me smile to her liking .... for the money making purposes of the ship. That my friends is not good customer service.) The staff is EXCELLENT!! I left the ship on a first name basis with many of the staff members. I loved them all. (except the photo girl from hell). The other low marks I give are for the ship's excursion desk. They were billed as "experts". When I would approach them with questions I was "handled" and told basically if I wasn't doing one of RCI's excursions... they didn't know anything at all about basic Cuban facts. Entertainment was much better than expected! Great!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
All around blah cruise (my 19th) compared to Carnival and NCL. Poor plumbing, tiniest shower, pay for yoga class??? And waiting for 3 tenders of people for one overpriced excursion. Chop fine dining for fee was great. No bill copy ... Read More
All around blah cruise (my 19th) compared to Carnival and NCL. Poor plumbing, tiniest shower, pay for yoga class??? And waiting for 3 tenders of people for one overpriced excursion. Chop fine dining for fee was great. No bill copy delivered by 6am in day of depart. 5 days of comedian. Coffee card of $32 for 15 drinks great. Food was never even a C. Main dining room was below average. Food in dining room C, Buffet D, Staff B, Room 4000 D, Tender days D, Front Desk A, Shuttle from MIA $16-lllYoga class All around blah cruise (my 19th) compared to Carnival and NCL. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2018
If you can't do the cruise right, don't do it at all!! Best of Cuba in a few hours?? Waste of time & money. We signed up for this cruise solely because of of 2 ports in Cuba as we had been to most of the other ports & they ... Read More
If you can't do the cruise right, don't do it at all!! Best of Cuba in a few hours?? Waste of time & money. We signed up for this cruise solely because of of 2 ports in Cuba as we had been to most of the other ports & they were not that interesting. This seemed to be the case for the majority of the passengers/customers. (We have been on about 10 cruises. About half have been with RCI including Empress of the Seas about 10 years ago.) A few weeks before the cruise departure we were notified by RCI that the port of Santiago, Cuba, was being dropped with no explanation, but some passengers found out about the change only after they were onbaord the ship. (We found out why they dropped the port while onboard & they had good reason.) What was so unethical was that they knew far before they told us that they were dropping the port but they waited until after we passed the refund time! They told us to compensate we would stay in Havana until 5am but we were not scheduled to arrive until 2 in the afternoon; they tried to tell us that this was somehow 2 days in Havana! We arrived in Havana at about 3pm & by the time we were through customs we had only about 2 hours of daylight in Cuba. Oh, after 5 or 6 customs went home & your could freely come & go without a VISA. While waiting for the first Havana excursion, an excursion desk staff said we should not have signed up for our evening excursion as there was not enough time between the day & night time excursions. I pointed out that the online RCI software does not allow for overlapping excursions but they took our nighttime excursion tickets. When we returned from our daytime excursion there was still time before the nighttime excursion! The daytime excursion was not what was in the description, an "Old Havana Heritage Walking Tour". We walked maybe 5 blocks, spent close to an hour in a cigar, rum, & coffee shop (must have been a kick back from someone to delay us at that shop.) Then we went on a bus to a bar with a section only for tourist where they taught us about how to use cigars, rum, & coffee. We received a sample cigar, a taste of rum, & a taste of very bitter coffee. This part was interesting but I had to step outside when it became smokey. After about an hour we back on the bus with TINTED windows being shown highlights of Cuba in the dark, we didn't see much. Didn't see much heritage or history but did see lots of rundown parts of Havana. Everyone who asked received refunds for their Havana excursions. Apparently, ours was not the only bad excursion. We spent a lot of money & time to see very little of Cuba. (Did find out back in Ft. Lauderdale that Southwest flies to Havana.) The public area of Empress looked fine. However, if you looked around you saw lots of rust & chipped paint. Several crew members said they had lots of maintenance issues, especial clogged pipes. I even saw corrosion of a bracket holding an access latter on the side of the ship. I wonder what it was like in the non-public areas? The ship is going into dry dock for a month in February. I think the ship needs a safety inspection. The service was good as usual. Considering the limitations placed on the crew by the itinerary, a small 30 year old ship in disrepair, RCI HQ, & the Cuban government they did very well with a lot of disappointed & angry passengers/customers. Dinning: It is now less all inclusive as now some extras in the Formal Dining room are offered at a large surcharge when they used to be included. There were some issues with getting meals out in a timely fashion & correct. Days at sea were limited to a breakfast buffet in the formal dining room, instead of the formal dining from a menu. One big health & safety improvement for the buffet restaurant (Windjammer) was the addition of hand washing sinks at the entrances The gym area was a joke. It had been reduced in size from when we were on the Empress last time. There was not enough equipment & some of it was in disrepair. The staff were frustrated with the inability to get repairs done on equipment. There are no longer locker rooms, showers, steam rooms or saunas in the fitness area. With so many days at sea a good gym is essential. A spa staff said that there was an used men's locker room. They had the same paid classes but little space & few takers. Not all inclusive. The port called Labadee, Haiti is suppose to be a private "island" but I think it is a private port. You get no real exposure to Haitian culture. It was a pretty area but limited in what you could do. Because it was private & had no competition the only fun things were grossly overpriced. The zip-line was $80+ for about 30 seconds ride. Even a simple water slide was $25 (never saw anyone use it.). The beach chairs were free & they served a simple meal for free at the port. No one snorkeled from the beaches & I saw ahead of time on the reviews that there was nothing to see. There was a sand volleyball court but no planned games. If you like just lying around on the beach it was ok. I don't know why they go to Nassau so often as there is not much there to see. It is basically a shopping stop. However, we were fortunate as we arrive on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (WWI) so there was a large local parade & wreath laying ceremony that had nothing to do with tourist but it was very important to the locals. Because they had to replace the lost port with Key West port of call, we wasted a lot of time wondering back & fourth across the Caribbean Sea. Not very efficient route or environmentally friendly. We asked out travel agent to try & get a partial refund of the cruise as they did not provide what was sold to us. He was not able to get anywhere with RCI HQ in Miami. I talked to RCI customer service twice but got nowhere. I received one call this week from RCI, they said they were in management. She said in order to be fair to all the customers they would offer no refunds only an apology. How is that fair to their customers? Why be in their frequent cruiser program (Crown & Anchor)? In the past I considered RCI one of the best value, good food, good service cruise lines. I am NO longer recommending RCI to my friends & family. This cruise really hurt their reputation. I heard many cruisers, including high level Crown & Anchor members, say they were done with RCI. I think I am through with RCI because of their disrespect of their customers. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2018
I chose this cruise "8 night Best of Cuba" on Empress of the Seas because I wanted to see Cuba. We were supposed to visit 2 ports in Cuba, Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Our first port was cancelled a week before we left and ... Read More
I chose this cruise "8 night Best of Cuba" on Empress of the Seas because I wanted to see Cuba. We were supposed to visit 2 ports in Cuba, Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Our first port was cancelled a week before we left and substituted with Key West. We were very disappointed but knew we were still going to Havana. We chose to do a private tour in Havana. On the day we were going to Havana we were told we would arrive at 1:30pm we did not arrive until after 3pm. It took us THREE very long hours waiting on line to get off the ship. We were dropped in Havana at 6pm. It's VERY dark in Havana at that time and there are very few street lights and to make matters worse all the shops and attractions were CLOSED!!! They exchanged our money in the terminal and we had no where to spend it and then the exchange windows closed, we were stuck with money that's not worth anything and you can not exchange back in the US. We were promised the "Best of Cuba" and all we got was a Cuba drive-by!! How very disappointing that Royal Caribbean felt this was OK and did not want to address this situation with the 1700 very disappointed and angry passengers that were on board. We chose this itinerary on an older very small ship for the destination and we did not get that destination. I must say the crew and staff were very nice and the service was good, but the management and corporate office we not. I would definitely NOT recommend this cruise and at this time I wouldn't even recommend Royal Caribbean, as a Diamond member I have sailed that cruise line many times and I feel like they could care less about my vacation experience. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: November 2018
The actual onboard experience was good and we had a good time, but the cruise was advertised as Best of Cuba cruise and that never happened. We were sold a cruise with two port calls in Cuba but Santiago pier had been damaged and that ... Read More
The actual onboard experience was good and we had a good time, but the cruise was advertised as Best of Cuba cruise and that never happened. We were sold a cruise with two port calls in Cuba but Santiago pier had been damaged and that port call was cancelled. We were taken to Key West Florida instead. the cruise line had been aware for some time that the pier was damaged but didn't adjust the itinerary or marketing, and didn't advise us of the cancellation of that port call until it was too late to refund our reservation. We arrived in Havana at 3pm on a winter day so you know it was dark by 5, and we couldn't disembark ship until customs was cleared so by the time we made it onshore it was already 4:30. All shops close there at 5pm so we were rushed into one local shop to purchase cuban cigars and liquors and afterwards we only had access to "night life". . and the ship departed at 5am the following morning. We were advised onboard that American dollars needed to be exchanged because US dollars aren't acceptable in Havana, but that was not true as we received change from the shop in US monies. I feel very cheated because the whole point of the cruise was to experience Cuba!! This was very disappointing and I will never choose Royal Caribbean line again because I cannot trust them to tell the truth. Read Less
Empress of the Seas Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 3.6
Dining 3.0 3.9
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 2.5 3.4
Family 2.0 3.4
Shore Excursion 4.5 3.8
Enrichment 4.0 3.5
Service 4.5 4.3
Value For Money 4.0 3.8

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