August 2016 - Empress of the Seas to Caribbean - Western
This was my first cruise. The view from our balcony suite was stunning even in open waters. I will never cruise without a balcony room ever again. We spent so much time just sitting on the chairs enjoying the waves and talking and relaxing. Our room was right below the pool and entertainment area but we were not disturbed at any point by the loud music and fun up above us. There was not a boring moment.
There is only one small pool and too many kids splashing salt water in everyone's eyes. Someone is needed by the pool to enforce rules or have a separate adult swim time. The deck can be a little crowded in the middle of the day, but that also makes for a very social atmosphere. The boat is small enough we actually got to know a number of people and ran into them often. For an older boat, everything looked great due to the recent refitting completed just a couple months earlier.
As expected, the bathrooms are small, but just enough space for everything you need to do.
Pay attention to the times when excursions leave. One of the tenders was disabled and we were mistakenly directed to wait at the nearby bar. We ended up missing our dolphin excursion to great disappointment. We were able to book a stingray excursion at the last minute and still had a great time.
This is time of year was a great time to sail. Very little motion noticed on the deck 9. We forgot we were on a ship at many times. The new Chops restaurant was great and they made every effort to give an atmosphere of sophistication. We were surprised to wake up steaming off the coast of Havana on the second day. We were disappointed that there was no lobster before hitting Grand Cayman, but otherwise the food was nicely orchestrated and plentiful. Breakfast and lunch (and brunch) in the dining area was a veritable feast. Food is always available around the corner when you are hungry or thirsty. Every member of the staff was very friendly and ready to make sure we were always happy. The spa facilities are very nice and super relaxing. Plenty of elevators fore and aft to keep people moving.
The internet access is very good except for forward on deck 2. I highly recommend getting the unlimited drink package. Being able to walk up and order a drink at any time without a second thought was convenient and cheaper than what we would have spent. Don't miss The Quest game show on the last night - it's an amazing time. We are already thinking about our next cruise on Royal Caribbean.