• Write a Review
  • Boards
  • Log In
  • Find a Cruise
  • Deals
  • Excursions
  • More

Empress of the Seas Review

2019 Best for Entertainment
2018 Best for Dining
2018 Best for Embarkation
View More

Find a Empress of the Seas Cruise from £219

Empress of the Seas
3.0 / 5.0
1390 reviews

Pros
Cons
Bottom Line
Empress has charm and offers a well-rounded cruise experience at a bargain price

About

Passengers
1,602 (double occupancy)

Crew
668

Passenger to Crew
2.40:1

Launched
1990

Shore Excursions
589
Sails To
Western Caribbean, Canada & New England, Bermuda, Bahamas, Southern Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean
Royal Caribbean Cruise Deals
Amber Nolan
Cruise Critic Contributor

Empress of the Seas Overview

The 2016 return of the 1,602-passenger Empress of the Seas to the Royal Caribbean fleet marked a break from the company's flashy, gigantic ships, and took travelers back to a time when cruising was all about the sea. Those who are used to sailing Royal Caribbean's ships for the innovative amenities (skydiving simulators, ziplines, ice skating rinks and constant flow of activities) will likely be disappointed in Empress -- the smallest (and oldest) ship in the fleet. Empress is not a floating theme park, and in many ways doesn't feel like the modern Royal Caribbean line at all. Yet, many of Royal Caribbean's signature experiences, like "Quest" scavenger hunt, Viking Crown Lounge, Windjammer Cafe and the friendly, genuine crew members, are reminders that -- despite its small size -- Empress still wears the Royal Caribbean crown.

Free Price Drop Alerts
Get tomorrow's price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Empress of the Seas entered the Royal Caribbean fleet in 1990 under the name Nordic Empress (it changed its name to Empress of the Seas in 2004), but was transferred to Spanish cruise line Pullmantur Cruises in March 2008. (Both Royal Caribbean International and Pullmantur are owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.) In 2015, Royal Caribbean announced that Empress would return to the fleet in spring 2016, following an extensive $50-million renovation. 

Visually, the ship's revitalization is evident in some spaces more than others -- like the new Boleros. A beautiful, Cuban-themed lounge with colorful decor and paintings of Cuban culture, it's the best iteration of the space of all the line's ships. And it is perfectly paired with Empress' itinerary, which, as of April 2017, comprises four- and five-night cruises to Havana, as well as Key West, Florida and Cozumel, Mexico, from its Tampa homeport.

Other parts of the ship still maintain elegance from the early days -- like the Royal Theatre that showcases white marble entranceways, crimson curtains and supper-club-style seating with individual tables. The smaller size of the ship makes it easy to navigate and passengers can quickly walk from one end to the other without worrying about being late for events. The lack of a need to "sign up" in advance for most onboard activities adds an element of spontaneity to the cruise.

While the start of meal times -- especially on the final day of the cruise -- can produce a wait in the restaurants and at the guest relations desk, overall, the ship is uncrowded and has an airy, sunlight-soaked atmosphere. Many secluded seating areas face floor-to-ceiling windows and the promenade on Deck 6 provides ocean views and even more peace and quiet. The pool area and sun deck has plenty of loungers and chairs so finding a nice place to curl up with a good book is not a concern on Empress. For many cruisers, it is a refreshing change to the busier, larger vessels.

Although there is still room for improvement, Empress delivers an affordable and relaxed cruise experience. The ship is ideal for first-time cruisers, budget travelers or simply those who enjoy a more intimate voyage where the crew treats you like family, instead of a cabin number.


Top Empress of the Seas Itineraries

Empress of the Seas
8 night eastern caribbean cruise

Miami, San Juan, St. Thomas, Tortola, Miami

View All Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas Itineraries (29)

Fellow Passengers

The Tampa-based ship is a melting pot of North Americans from all cultural backgrounds; the majority of adults are baby boomers or younger. On our summer cruise (when most schools are not in session), there was a notable number of families with teenagers or young adults traveling together -- a bit surprising since the ship doesn't have a teen center.


Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas Dress Code

Daytime:Casual clothing is the norm during the day and you'll see plenty of T-shirts and shorts.

Evening:The dress code on Liberty of the Seas is relaxed throughout the week; no formal dress code is ever required though many passengers still "dressed up" for dinner with cocktail dresses or nice blouses for ladies and button-up shirts for men.

Not permitted: Tank tops are prohibited in the main dining room and specialty restaurants at dinner. Shoes must be worn in all dining venues at all times.

For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Royal Caribbean.


Free Price Drop Alerts
Get tomorrow's price drops
250,000+ people have entered their email
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Find a Cruise

Empress of the Seas Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins3.03.5
Dining3.03.9
Entertainment3.03.9
Public Rooms4.03.9
Fitness Recreation2.53.4
Family2.03.7
Enrichment4.03.5
Service4.54.3
Value For Money4.03.7

Already Booked?

Get to know who you'll be sailing with

More about Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas

Where does Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas sail from?

Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas departs from Miami, Bayonne, Cape Liberty, Bayonne, Montreal and San Juan

How much does it cost to go on Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas?

Cruises on Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas start from £219 per person.

Is Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas a good ship to cruise on?

Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas won 13 awards over the years, including Best for Entertainment in 2019.

Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice

  • 2019 Best for Entertainment
  • 2018 Best for Dining
  • 2018 Best for Embarkation
  • 2018 Best for Entertainment
  • 2018 Best for Fitness & Recreation
  • 2018 Best for Public Rooms
  • 2018 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2018 Best for Value
  • 2017 Best for Dining
  • 2017 Best for Embarkation
  • 2017 Best for Entertainment
  • 2017 Best for Shore Excursions
  • 2017 Best for Value
Show More

Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas Member Reviews

Empress of the Seas
maseat
Sail Date: Jan 2020
We came across a staff member that we met on the Symphony of the Seas. She now works in the Empress Windjammer restaurant. She told us I just love being on this ship.... Read More
Empress of the Seas
PatMunits
Sail Date: Sep 2019
Empress of the Seas itineraries got affected. Many people cancelled, and Royal offered significant discounts for cabins that unexpectedly became available.... Read More
Empress of the Seas
Gaynors
Sail Date: Jan 2020
After boarding with very low expectations we all came to love the Empress over the period of our 8 night cruise.... Read More
Empress of the Seas
indycruiseman
Sail Date: Dec 2019
Empress does not have the options and amenities of a new mega-ship, but the cost of our seven day cruise was only $550 each for an ocean view cabin.... Read More

Royal Caribbean International Fleet

Enchantment of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

1986 reviews

One of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships; highlights include rock climbing, bungee trampoline, three pools, eight bars and a Ben & Jerry's at sea; holds less than 3,000.

Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas Cruises to the Western Caribbean Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas Cruises to the Southern Caribbean View All Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas Cruises
Grandeur of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Older ship carrying fewer than 3,000; highlights include rock climbing, two pools, outdoor movie screen and several specialty dining venues including Ben & Jerry's at sea.

Majesty of the Seas
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Offers three- and four-night cruises; features a rock climbing wall, Johnny Rockets at sea and smallish aqua park; can carry a bit over 2,500 cruisers.

Rhapsody of the Seas
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


An older ship carrying less than 3,000; features rock climbing, two pools, for-fee nursery, eight bars and lounges and more than half a dozen dining venues.

Vision of the Seas
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


One of the smaller Royal Caribbean ships, Vision of the Seas carries 2,435 passengers and features six dining venues, rock climbing wall, solarium, outdoor movie screen and age-specific kids' clubs.

Voyager of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


In 1999 Royal Caribbean's 3,114-passenger Voyager of the Seas became the largest cruise ship in the world and was heralded as the most revolutionary vessel ever built.

Radiance of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Carries 2,500 passengers, family-friendly and features eight dining venues, outdoor movie screen, casino, mini-golf, pool tables and Adventure Beach with water slides.

Adventure of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Bustling atmosphere; features two-slide water park, simulated surfing, rock climbing, ice skating shows, 15 bars and the line's signature Royal Promenade; can carry upward of 4,000.

Brilliance of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Brilliance of the Seas' mediumish size -- 2,112 passengers -- allows cruisers to feel they have the best of both worlds: a vessel with ample activities and attentive crew.

Navigator of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Carries some 4,400 passengers and features surf simulators, rock climbing and ice skating, 11 bars and lounges and the lively Royal Promenade.

Mariner of the Seas
5.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Royal Caribbean's 3,114-passenger Mariner of the Seas launched in 2003 and was the first in its class to undergo upgrades designed to create fleet uniformity.

Serenade of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Carries more than 2,400 passengers and features six restaurants and bars, rock climbing wall, mini-golf, sports court, outdoor movie screen and casino.

Jewel of the Seas
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


One of Royal Caribbean's smaller ships; attractions include rock climbing and mini-golf, kids' water slide, half a dozen or so dining venues and family-specific cabins.

Oasis of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


The first megaship to hold more than 6,000 cruisers; features high-energy activities like zip lining, surfing and the high-diving AquaTheater.

Liberty of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Carries more than 4,000; features a three-slide water park, surf simulators, rock climbing wall and "Saturday Night Fever: The Musical." 

Independence of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


A favourite with U.K. cruise passengers, Independence of the Seas offers more than 4,000 passengers an ice skating rink, whirlpools which extend over the ship's sides, six bars and six restaurants.

Allure of the Seas
5.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Mega-ship holding upwards of 6,400 passengers; features zip lining, surf simulators, rock climbing and an open-air Central Park with shops and restaurants.

Quantum of the Seas
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Quantum of the Seas dares its passengers not to have fun. It's a bold ship that screams for your attention via its innovative features.

Harmony of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


World's largest cruise ship featuring high-energy attractions including zip lining, water slides, surf simulators, rock climbing and 18 dining venues.

Symphony of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Royal Caribbean's newest ship will be one of the largest in the world when it launches in spring 2018; high-energy highlights include zip lining, water slides and surf simulators.

Ovation of the Seas
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Part of Royal Caribbean's Quantum class, Ovation of the Seas boasts high-tech features such as the RipCord by iFly skydiving simulator, bumper cars and robot bartenders.

Empress of the Seas
3.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Royal Caribbean's Cuba ship with stops in Havana; features the Cuba-inspired Boleros lounge and a free mimosa or bloody mary at the daily "Sunday" brunch.

Spectrum of the Seas

The first Quantum Ultra-Class ship will launch in the spring 2019. The class will be the next evolution of Royal Caribbean's Quantum Class, though the line has not yet said what its size will be.

Want to cruise smarter?
Get expert advice, insider tips and more.
By proceeding, you agree to Cruise Critic’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.
Cookie Consent