My husband and I just disembarked Empress of the Seas, from a 4 night cruise Miami-Key West-Nassau-Miami. I'd just like to share a few thoughts about our experience for those who are thinking about this ship.
This trip was to celebrate our 10th anniversary. I had paid for the deluxe anniversary room decor package that included a cake. I also ordered chocolate covered strawberries to be delivered on our sea day. Upon arrival in our stateroom, the decor was up and the strawberries were delivered. No big deal, we enjoyed them a few days early. We headed to the Windjammer for lunch on embarkation day. I stopped by the bar to order drinks for us (we had the ultimate beverage package). I like to drink Jack Daniels Honey with coke and my husband, Tito's and tea. I was told that bar didn't carry JD Honey, and I was instructed to go to the beverage station to get a cup of iced tea for my husband's drink. That was a bit off putting but I thought that since it was a smaller windjammer bar, that it wasn't as stocked as the rest of the bars. We enjoyed our lunch and then headed back to our room to see if our suitcase had arrived and to unpack. Arriving there, we discovered that the Chops Grille lunch we had reserved for our sea day was upgraded to the bottomless valley brunch. Great! Maybe a little perk for this being an anniversary trip? Unknown but appreciated!
We decided to explore a bit and found ourselves at the pool bar. I once again tried to order my drink of choice and was told they don't have that liquor, but that I could go and buy a bottle of it from the liquor shop. I chose to drink something else. Once again my husband asked for Tito's and tea and was again sent to fetch the tea himself. At this point we were getting a bit disappointed. I can live with the liquor I like not being carried, it's a small ship and they can't possibly stick everything. But wouldn't it be a smart idea for the bar to keep a couple pitchers of tea as a mixer? Surely there are others who use it. By the second day my husband realized that by asking for Tito's on the rocks would get him a nice serving of the vodka and he added a splash of tea, making his drink stronger than had the bartenders made it!
We arrived for dinner (main seating, Starlight 4). We had been expecting a table for 2, but were met with a table for 8, that was set for six. We picked our seats, sat down, and immediately realized we had a front row view of the revolving kitchen door. (Spoiler alert, no one else showed up to the table the entire weekend and for the remainder of the cruise we sat with our backs to the kitchen door). We were given water and some menus. The waiter came to take our order a bit later and we had to ask to order drinks. Instead of taking our order he told us the assistant waiter would be by to take the order. When the assistant waiter finally made it over to us, the language barrier made the ordering of drinks a comedy of errors. Having ordered drinks, our food started arriving. At some point during dinner, a nicely dressed man who I presumed to be the head waiter approached our table and asked how the food was. We responded that the food was great but we were disappointed in having to ask to order drinks. At the point he pulled out a Chops menu. He was just there to upsell us. I explained that we already had plans for Chops for our sea day. He did say he would mention the service issue to the head waiter. We did see the head waiter speak to the assistant waiter and from that time forward we were asked if we wanted drinks immediately after sitting down.
Our first port of call was Key West. We had a really great time there. We toured the Hemingway Home and the aquarium and of course did some shopping. That night was uneventful, we watched the show Bailamos, and joined the dance party on the pool deck. The next day was our sea day. We went to the endless galley brunch at Chops and it was absolutely delicious. The food and and the company and the service was outstanding. We were on such a high after a lovely couple of hours. Then we got back to our room to find a note stating our excursion in Nassau was canceled. We were refunded our money and offered a 10% discount on any other excursion. Unfortunately, no other excursion that was of interest to us and that fit into our budget was available. That was disappointing and dashed the great feeling we had. We just really started to feel like this whole trip was 1 step forward and 3 steps back. We spent the evening low key and went to the headliner show, Unique 3. It was a great production.
We weren't too excited about our stop in Nassau since our excursion had been canceled. We got off the boat only to pick up some souvenirs for our kids and promptly hopped back on the boat. We took advantage of the empty pool deck and enjoyed a private morning in the pool and hot tub. We lunched at the Windjammer and my husband loved the burgers and hot dogs! We just enjoyed the day together, knowing the trip was ending. We had to pack up our suitcase and have it in the hallway by 10:30. Because we were arriving at Terminal J after departing from Terminal G, no self assist was available. A shuttle was provided to take us to Garage G.
Despite some of the shortcomings, we really did enjoy ourselves. The boat was sold out and never once did we wait in line at a bar or for anything at any time. We did not feel crowded or cramped. We were very pleased with our room location as it was convenient to everything. We were on deck 4, port side, right off the midship elevators. I thought we'd have problems with the late night centrum noise, but it was never an issue. Our room attendant was superb and our room was always tidied and we had towel animals 2/4 nights.
If you have any questions, I'll try and answer them the best I can!