June 2016 - 4 Night Key West & Nassau (Miami Roundtrip) Cruise on Empress of the Seas
We were on the second sailing of the Empress since it's return to service with Royal Caribbean. While our experience does not seem to be as bad as that of the unfortunate passengers on the first sailing the preceding week, I would still rate our overall experience as poor. Our negative experiences began at check-in, Confusion and delay seemed to be the order of the day, we even ended up with our photos mismatched with our identities on our key cards. Other issues arose with services that had been pre-ordered and paid for that were not available to us at boarding, and required a very long wait at the service desk for correction.
The Empress is an older, smaller ship so one should expect less amenities, smaller cabins, and less expansive public spaces. As a trade off you would expect shorter lines, better service, and a more personal experience while on board. That is not the case.. We waited longer, in bigger crowds, with much more confusion and poorer information than we had on past cruises on larger ships, on other cruise lines.I think that the crew members were willing to help but lacked the experience, training, and supervision to succeed.
I am not picky about food and having heard others complain of poor service and delays in the Main Dining room we stuck to the Windjammer buffet which was adequate but nothing special.
Once we were off the ship we enjoyed our stops in Key West and CocoCay.
Key West is great because you can find a lot to do from a laid back walking tour to full-on aquatic activities.. And CocoCay was nice although a bit crowded as the Majesty of the Seas was there at the same time as we were
Disembarkation was as big a mess as boarding with a long line that snaked through the heart of the ship, from the bow to who knows where.. As a final nail in the coffin ( not Royal Caribbean's fault ), a nonfunctional escalator in the terminal delayed processing while disembarking the ship.
I would certainly not book again on the Empress and I would probably consider other cruise lines before booking again on Royal Caribbean.