September 2016 - Empress of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
This is the smallest ship in the RCCL fleet and is well worth considering for a cruise. Think of it as a botique-size cruise ship without the bone-crushing crowds found on most mega-size cruise ships of more recent vintage. The ship never felt crowded. Elevators were easily accessed without long waits. The line for seating at the MDR always moved quickly. No problem if you wanted a table for two. One could be ready in a couple of minutes. No problem if you walked into the theater five minutes before the performance. Lots of seats were available. Deboarding at Miami was a matter of less than 20 minutes from stateroom to being off the ship. If you were Diamond status or above there was not the usual afternoon reception but instead each member had three complimentary drink credits added to their sea pass each day, valid between 5pm and 8pm.
Our stateroom was in the F1 category which is the top grade for oceanview accommodations. These cabins are oversized in comparison with lesser grade oceanview grades and have a little nook off to one side plus a second large window. Well worth the small additional cost to upgrade. Veranda cabins are very limited in numbers and cost considerably more. Overall, F1 is the best deal for the money. The cabin was always bright and sunny during the day. The little nook provided a nice area to sit and relax apart from sitting on the bed or at the desk, which is all you get in lesser grade cabins.
Buffet food was better than found at the buffets on most Celebrity ships, which is somewhat remarkable since Celebrity is RCCL's more upscale brand. Also, the brunch held on sea days in the MDR included one round of complimentary mimosas or bloody Marys with second rounds being a charge. Very nice.
Deck chairs also were readily available, except in the immediate vicinity of the pool. If you went up one deck from the pool there were lots of deck chairs for sunning, plus a group of oversized hammocks, suitable for couples. Again, no crowding in this area.
Overall, a very pleasant and relaxing cruise.