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Empress of the Seas 2018 Review (Cuba & More)

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Great review, I really enjoyed it.  Two questions:

 

We recently received our edocs for our 2019 Cuba cruise. The info alludes to the visa paperwork being attached but I did not see it. Where were yours?

 

You said you felt uncomfortable and out of place in Old Havana. Did you not feel safe? Are there areas you would avoid, etc.?  Any advice is appreciated.

 

Thanks!

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Nice review. easy to read and lots of great food snaps. My  Cuba cruise this past October got cancelled by NCL and now Im trying Carnival on a new ship to Cuba in 2020. I was so worried about the really old dccl ship but you made it seem fine. Ill start looking again at RCCL for a closer additional trip.

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7 hours ago, Bookish Angel said:

Great review, I really enjoyed it.  Two questions:

 

We recently received our edocs for our 2019 Cuba cruise. The info alludes to the visa paperwork being attached but I did not see it. Where were yours?

 

You said you felt uncomfortable and out of place in Old Havana. Did you not feel safe? Are there areas you would avoid, etc.?  Any advice is appreciated.

 

Thanks!

 

The visa part of it is all done when you go on the cruise itself, so I sure wouldn't worry about it now, except for saving up for the $75 part of it.  🙂

 

As for being uncomfortable in Old Havana, please know that we were never uncomfortable when we were doing the tour, or in the tourist areas.  I was uncomfortable big-time when we first arrived because we went the wrong way.  It was disconcerting to not know where we were going, to not speak the language, and the street we were on looked like a back alley in NYC.  Similarly when we left the tour and started toward the shopping area, the whole street was again like a back alley in a major city.  We didn't know if we were walking almost through people's homes.  We had also never inquired about crime in Cuba.  I wish we had known then what we heard later, which was that if someone stole a cellphone, for instance, it would be automatic imprisonment of 10 years, so apparently there is very little crime.  I don't know if that's true or not, but I do wish we had heard it before we ventured forth.  I think we would have felt a bit more comfortable.  Then the last discomfort was the extreme aggressive selling techniques that we encountered at the warehouse place.  And I do mean extreme.  Please keep in mind this is just our perspective, which is largely from an ignorant standpoint, in that we did little to no research before going.

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7 hours ago, tinkr2 said:

Nice review. easy to read and lots of great food snaps. My  Cuba cruise this past October got cancelled by NCL and now Im trying Carnival on a new ship to Cuba in 2020. I was so worried about the really old dccl ship but you made it seem fine. Ill start looking again at RCCL for a closer additional trip.

 

Thank you!   Why did NCL cancel your cruise?  I didn't realize that Carnival was going to Cuba.  Are they building a small ship?

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NCL just changed their schedule. Went out of Miami longer and did more Bahamas runs. 

Carnival is redoing, cutting up a ship and rebranding it as sunrise. It will not be small. Midsize I believe. I got a great price on it. So very little risk. 

I keep looking at Azamara bc they do a nice 3 Cuba port.  I didn’t love Azamara for the price when we did it. But that itinerary is so nice. 

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1 minute ago, tinkr2 said:

NCL just changed their schedule. Went out of Miami longer and did more Bahamas runs. 

Carnival is redoing, cutting up a ship and rebranding it as sunrise. It will not be small. Midsize I believe. I got a great price on it. So very little risk. 

I keep looking at Azamara bc they do a nice 3 Cuba port.  I didn’t love Azamara for the price when we did it. But that itinerary is so nice. 

Sounds like you have some good options!  I haven't done Azamara yet, but would like to.

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Thank you Lori! Excellent review! And I appreciate your honest opinions about Cuba. It is somewhere that we are curious to see, but we are not in a great hurry to do so. Your photos were wonderful, and give us a better idea of what the areas looks like. 

Edited by Coralc

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Thanks, Lori.

 

I speak some Spanish and grew up among Cuban people and culture so I think we will be generally okay. I have also done a lot of reading on present day Cuba.

 

I get uncomfortable around aggressive vendors, too.  I am prepared to politely say no, gracias and walk away. 

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13 hours ago, Coralc said:

Thank you Lori! Excellent review! And I appreciate your honest opinions about Cuba. It is somewhere that we are curious to see, but we are not in a great hurry to do so. Your photos were wonderful, and give us a better idea of what the areas looks like. 

 

Thank you, I very much appreciate your kind words!

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7 hours ago, Bookish Angel said:

Thanks, Lori.

 

I speak some Spanish and grew up among Cuban people and culture so I think we will be generally okay. I have also done a lot of reading on present day Cuba.

 

I get uncomfortable around aggressive vendors, too.  I am prepared to politely say no, gracias and walk away. 

 

You should do great!  Sounds like you are much much better prepared than me!

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I feel like I was on your trip with you!  Thank you for the great review.  We will be sailing on the Empress in May.

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I have to agree with everything said about Cuba . We have been there twice and both times took a private tour . The second time we also did some touring on our own .There is a lot of begging and things in certain areas look dicey but were safe .If we said no to begging they did not pursue it .

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5 hours ago, wggold said:

I feel like I was on your trip with you!  Thank you for the great review.  We will be sailing on the Empress in May.

 

Well thanking you for taking the journey with me, I do appreciate it!  Excited for you that you have it to look forward to!

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2 hours ago, Sailor_Sally said:

I have to agree with everything said about Cuba . We have been there twice and both times took a private tour . The second time we also did some touring on our own .There is a lot of begging and things in certain areas look dicey but were safe .If we said no to begging they did not pursue it .

 

Appreciate your insight...I agree with you that the begging we encountered was not pursued when we said no.  Ana had assured us that children were okay.  That they were taken care of, as far as food, education and health care, and that if we gave them money it would most likely go to the parents.  The ones who wouldn't leave us alone were the ones trying to sell us something.  Gotta give 'em credit for salesmanship.  🙂

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Very good review.  Thank you for taking the time to provide good information and wonderful pictures.

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This was an amazing review, probably one of the best I have read on here. Some great information, especially about first time cruising to a new place like Cuba which is still new for so many people. I very much enjoyed it, thank you for taking the time to write it all and provide so many great pictures.

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8 hours ago, mcgore83 said:

Very good review.  Thank you for taking the time to provide good information and wonderful pictures.

 

Thank you, I appreciate your kind words.

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2 hours ago, Poorplaya said:

This was an amazing review, probably one of the best I have read on here. Some great information, especially about first time cruising to a new place like Cuba which is still new for so many people. I very much enjoyed it, thank you for taking the time to write it all and provide so many great pictures.

How sweet of you to say that, thank you!  It is my wish that it is helpful, as I get so much info off of these boards myself!

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On 11/9/2018 at 10:03 PM, tweetylori said:

 

Thank you, and I say DO IT if you want to see Cuba.  I wouldn't worry about the tiny cabin, just expect it and plan accordingly.   That being said, I know how nice a balcony can be, so if that's a deal breaker for you, then plan another itinerary or wait until Cuba can handle bigger ships.  I'm guessing that's coming pretty soon. 

 

VERY soon to Havana at least.  Virgin Voyages announced that as the first destination for their Scarlet Lady.  Not sure about the other stops but looks like Havana will be able take in the larger ships by 2020.  We're on the Empress this coming November and looking forward to it.  Your review is absolutely fabulous to help us in our planning. Thanks so much for doing this.  

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On ‎12‎/‎2‎/‎2018 at 10:17 AM, Bookish Angel said:

Thanks, Lori.

 

I speak some Spanish and grew up among Cuban people and culture so I think we will be generally okay. I have also done a lot of reading on present day Cuba.

 

I get uncomfortable around aggressive vendors, too.  I am prepared to politely say no, gracias and walk away. 

 

If you speak some Spanish it will be helpful.  We just got back from an 8 night Cuban voyage on Empress and really enjoyed the trip.  Havana is a big city and there is probably some crime however I felt safer there then in some parts of Newark or NYC.  Vendors and would be tour guides can be excessively pushy, you may need to say no gracias more than once.  FYI, while I thought the Empress was not great it definitely was not bad.  

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Of the 8 night cruise, our AC in cabin 7169 was either feezing or sweltering despite 4 requests for repair. Only the last 2 nights were reasonably comfortable. Our bathroom faucet had no hot water for several days and part of the fixture to rotate between hot and cold was broken and a bit jagged and took 2 requests to repair it correctly.  

 

MDR any time dining was mass confusion.  Despite asking for a two-top, we were directed to a large table more than once and had to repeatedly explain that we wanted a two-top only.

 

On the first day, there was a letter stating that norovirus had struck a "small percentage" on the previous cruise. Noro was on our cruise, too. My husband and I saw a supervisor in the Windjammer sneeze into his hands directly over the breads then walk directly into the staff-only area.  I sure hope he washd his hands and the entire bread display was removed. We saw several people breeze into the Windjammer without washing or sanitizing their hands despite being reminded to do so by the attendant. On disembarkation day, someone had clearly vomited on the stairs on decks 5 and 6.

 

There was often a strong sewage smell in the stairwells and on the outside on deck 6.  

 

While we loved Havana and will definitely return, it would not be on the Empress. We are not high-maintenance travelers and rarely complain, but we found the level of service on this ship to be lacking.

Edited by Bookish Angel

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On 1/26/2019 at 4:40 PM, Bookish Angel said:

Of the 8 night cruise, our AC in cabin 7169 was either feezing or sweltering despite 4 requests for repair. Only the last 2 nights were reasonably comfortable. Our bathroom faucet had no hot water for several days and part of the fixture to rotate between hot and cold was broken and a bit jagged and took 2 requests to repair it correctly.  

 

MDR any time dining was mass confusion.  Despite asking for a two-top, we were directed to a large table more than once and had to repeatedly explain that we wanted a two-top only.

 

On the first day, there was a letter stating that norovirus had struck a "small percentage" on the previous cruise. Noro was on our cruise, too. My husband and I saw a supervisor in the Windjammer sneeze into his hands directly over the breads then walk directly into the staff-only area.  I sure hope he washd his hands and the entire bread display was removed. We saw several people breeze into the Windjammer without washing or sanitizing their hands despite being reminded to do so by the attendant. On disembarkation day, someone had clearly vomited on the stairs on decks 5 and 6.

 

There was often a strong sewage smell in the stairwells and on the outside on deck 6.  

 

While we loved Havana and will definitely return, it would not be on the Empress. We are not high-maintenance travelers and rarely complain, but we found the level of service on this ship to be lacking.

 

Yikes, sounds like a very unpleasant experience...so very sorry!  What you experienced is not acceptable!

 

Edited by tweetylori

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Thank you for the review Lori, we are on this cruise in 2019 and your review is very helpful. We are in the very same cabin as you, I appreciate all of the views out the windows and the views of the tiny room and water closet. . I have a quick question, how much room is there to store luggage? On past cruises we have stored luggage under the bed, is this a possibility in this room? How about the closet? Any helpful suggestions are appreciated.  

Thank you again for all of the work you put into this review!

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15 hours ago, Island2Girl said:

Thank you for the review Lori, we are on this cruise in 2019 and your review is very helpful. We are in the very same cabin as you, I appreciate all of the views out the windows and the views of the tiny room and water closet. . I have a quick question, how much room is there to store luggage? On past cruises we have stored luggage under the bed, is this a possibility in this room? How about the closet? Any helpful suggestions are appreciated.  

Thank you again for all of the work you put into this review!

We were on in December and I thought there was plenty of room. Both suitcases fit under the bed (carryon size and a 29 inch one), there is a small cabinet with several drawers under the TV, a few small drawers on the desk and a couple of shelves in the closet. I moved the life vests to the top of the closet for more room and brought some extra hangers so that I could hang everything else and left them there. It was fine. 

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I'll also add that we had a great 8 day cruise. Yes, there were some issues with the AC and plumbing (avoid the bathrooms by the buffet on a pool day!). But seriously, it takes two minutes to walk back to your room. We were at the very back of the ship (not the aft cabins but the last one before those) on deck 8, two minutes down stairs we were in the dining room and two minutes up stairs to deck 10 and across the pool deck we were in the buffet. 

 

I thought the food and service was great. Our waiters had the kitchen to prepare filipino food for us on four nights (my husband is half filipino and our asst waiter was filipino so there was a lot of talk about filipino food!!) 

 

I really loved this little ship and would definitely cruise on her again. 

 

 

 

 

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