Alt Text!

A last look at Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas

In:
28 Dec 2020

With Royal Caribbean having sold Empress of the Seas, I thought it would make sense to take one last look around the ship before she leaves the fleet.

Empress of the Seas has been sold to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific and many cruise fans will miss being able to sail on this iconic cruise ship.

Empress of the Seas was launched in 1990, transferred to Pullmantur Cruises in 2008, and then brought back to Royal Caribbean in 2016.

ListenRoyal Caribbean executives share stories from Empress and Majesty of the Seas

As we say goodbye to Empress, please enjoy these photos of around the cruise ship one last time.

Empress of the Seas pool deck.

View of the bow of Empress of the Seas

Windjammer buffet

View alongside the side of the ship

Read moreEmpress of the Seas Sold to Indian Startup

Chops Grille specialty restaurant

Views of the Centrum

\

Royal Theater

Main dining room

Schooner Bar

Casino Royale bar

Cafe Royal

Boleros

Viking Crown Lounge

Many thanks to Michael Poole and Billy Hirsch for providing these photos.

Report: Indian cruise line is new owner of Empress of the Seas

In:
27 Dec 2020

When Royal Caribbean announced it had sold Empress of the Seas, it did not say who bought it, but we might have an answer now.

An Indian cruise line, Cordelia Cruises, shared a message from its CEO to announce it has acquired Empress of the Seas.

The message was posted by Cordelia's CEO Jurgen Bailom, It gives me immense pleasure to inform you that Waterways Leisure Tourism Pvt Ltd. that recently acquired over the Jalesh Cruises brand, has decided to further capitalize the immense potential of cruising by entering in the Indian market with the Empress of the Seas, that belonged to the global giant Royal Caribbean International until recently. "

"With an individual capacity of 2,000 passengers, she has sailed many coastlines and high seas in her glorious past. I look forward to your support in continuing the legacy of Jalesh Cruises in upholding the spirit, culture, and value of "Incredible India" and being the evangelist of Joy by curating memorable cruise holidays that delight customers."

Read moreRoyal Caribbean and fans say goodbye to two cruise ships

Thanks to unofficial website CrewCenter for spotting the news.

The announcement includes a photoshopped image of Empress of the Seas with the new logo onboard.

Royal Caribbean has only said it sold the ship (and Majesty of the Seas) to "an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific."

The message had no mention of Majesty of the Seas, which leaves its new owner still unknown.

Mr. Bailom's message did say they are working on adding a second ship to the cruise line, but provided no further details.

Empress of the Seas was launched in 1990 (then known as Nordic Empress) by Royal Caribbean following the acquisition of Admiral Cruises.  She was designed specifically for the short cruise market, offering 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas.

Empress went on to offer cruises to a number of destinations and accruing a series of accolades over the years.  She was the  first cruise ship to sail out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey when Royal Caribbean opened the terminal in 2004.  She was Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship to visit Cuba in 2017.

Read more: Two Royal Caribbean executives share stories from Empress and Majesty

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley lamented the loss of these classic ships, and their impact on the company.

"Empress and Majesty of the Seas made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size. Touted as the cruise industry’s most groundbreaking ships when they were introduced, they continued to make history throughout their more than three decades of service."

"Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary. With plans for new, innovative ships to join our fleet in the upcoming years, we look forward to our guests and crew continuing to make new memories with us."

Royal Caribbean sold two smaller cruise ships with enormous legacies

In:
23 Dec 2020

It's still hard to believe we will say goodbye to Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean announced last week it had sold two cruise ships signaling the end of an era for ships that had blazed a trail for the cruise line.

While eclipsed by larger ships these days, when both ships debuted in the early 1990s, they set the tone for the entire cruise industry with their new onboard amenities and enticing itineraries.

In announcing their departure, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said these vessels "made indelible marks on the cruise industry," and many cruise fans and cruise executives are mourning the loss of these epic ships.

To commemorate the role both ships played in taking Royal Caribbean from a somewhat still upstart cruise line into a new era of cruise vacations, I offer this look back at what made each ship special.

Empress of the Seas instant impact

Empress of the Seas (then known as Nordic Empress) joined Royal Caribbean first in 1990, and was the result of Royal Caribbean acquiring Admiral Cruises in 1988. 

More importantly, Empress was designed for the short cruise market, which is a concept that did not exist at the time. Most cruises were a week long, but Royal Caribbean wanted a tempting choice for consumers who were looking for weekend getaways to the Bahamas.

Raimund Gschaider is Royal Caribbean's Vice President of Hotel Operations today, but in 1991 he was the restaurant manager on Nordic Empress and he remembers vividly the immediate impact Empress had on the cruise market when she debuted.

"When she hit the market, she was it. It was just such a vibrant, such a party, such an exciting time to be for cruising in general."

While Empress was initially designed for short Bahamian cruises, she quickly became a hit anywhere Royal Caribbean sent her, offering cruises from Port Canaveral, San Juan and even New York.

Mr. Gschaider recalls how different a cruise to Bermuda was on Empress because of the fact she was small enough to visit the city of St. George's.

"St. George's has this really nice, very small harbor. And you get in and the entrance, it's literally you can touch either side, the rocks on either side when the ship goes in and you're in a very different part of Bermuda."

Read moreRoyal Caribbean and fans say goodbye to two cruise ships

A trio of icons with Majesty of the Seas

Just like Empress, Majesty of the Seas and her sister Sovereign Class ships had an immediate impact on the cruise industry as well.

Known as the first "mega ships", Majesty of the Seas was the last of three Sovereign Class vessels to be built and Ken Rush, Royal Caribbean's Director of Entertainment Activities & Media Operations always felt the public areas on Majesty were a big hit with guests.

"When they built the Sovereign class and these three sisters, the Majesty, I have a lot of fond memories about it because I love the layout," Rush said as he looked back on Majesty. "These ships really gave us ideas for our future ships. We learned a lot from those ships."

Majesty of the Seas had the iconic Centrum area with glass elevators, sweeping staircases and fountains in marble pools, which was a brand new idea for the time. The ship's theater was significantly larger than on other ships, which meant the production shows brought an entirely new kind of entertainment to cruising.

Mr. Gschaider thinks ships like Majesty set the pace for the cruise line going forward, "The Majesty...certainly took cruising to a new level in the early nineties and set up Royal Caribbean."

Another first for Majesty of the Seas which was the first cruise ship to introduce the concept of a full ship charter, which has since become so important to Royal Caribbean's bottom line.

Read moreA last look at Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas

Trailblazing throughout their lifetime

Certainly both ships established their legacy early in the 1990s when they debuted, but their firsts were not limited to the last decade of the 20th century.  Empress and Majesty of the Seas also hold the distinction of being the only two ships to ever visit Cuba.

Empress of the Seas was brought back to Royal Caribbean after being a part of Pullmantur Cruises, and her sailings to Cuba brought about a new chapter in Caribbean cruising.

Shortly thereafter, Majesty of the Seas would also offer cruises to Cuba and for a short period of time, were the hottest cruise ticket around.

Mr. Gschaider believes the foresight to design and build cruise ships like Majesty and Empress were so important for their longevity, "Those ships have such good structure and layout and bones."

"Kudos to our executives, who have the vision to build ships with an extremely long lifespan and who can go for one or two cycles of revitalization and amplification and have the flexibility to take them into the next decade without losing a step."

Mr. Rush agreed that the viability of both ships is incredible, "The reason why these ships stay as great as they are is because of the onboard maintenance. It's just it's amazing how we keep it so fresh all the time."

Final months

After Cuba was no longer an option for American cruise lines, both ships were left without an obvious role in a world of giant cruise ships.

Majesty of the Seas was moved arround a bit, but ended her career with Royal Caribbean offering cruises from New Orleans.

Mr. Rush thinks cruises from the "Big Easy" were a great fit for Majesty, "We did Mardi Gras on board and the guests were just over the moon about it. So it is a shame that it's gone because that was a great run and a great time for all of our guests."

With Empress of the Seas, Royal Caribbean looked to try something completely different and offer more intimate and longer sailings to places most other ships in the fleet never visited, including voyages down the St. Lawrence River in Canada and a return to Bermuda.

Unfortunately, plans for both ships were cut short when the cruise industry shut down in March due to the global health crisis.

In the months since, Empress and Majesty were the subject of different rumors and speculation that they would be sold to generate much-needed cash flow. In fact, Empress of the Seas was falsely reported at least two times as being sold earlier in 2020.

The ships have been sold to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific, that will release details for future sailings at a later time.

Both Mr. Rush and Mr. Gschaider shared their memories of both ships, and what they think stands out about each vessel. Listen to episode 386 of our interview with Ken Rush and Raimund Gschaider in its entirety below.

Be sure to subscribe to the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Podcast at Apple PodcastsTuneIn, and Stitcher.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast Episode - Remembering Majesty and Empress

In:
23 Dec 2020

Listen to the Show

Royal Caribbean announced it has sold two cruise ships, and this week, Ken Rush and Raimund Gschaider join me to say farewell to Majesty and Empress of the Seas with a look back each ship's legacy.

Share with me your thoughts, questions and comments via...

On this episode:
Running time:

Royal Caribbean and fans say goodbye to two cruise ships

In:
17 Dec 2020

For over nine months, Royal Caribbean was able to side step selling any of its cruise ships, but that has come to an end.

On Wednesday, Royal Caribbean announced it has agreed to sell two of its cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas, and while perhaps not terribly surprising, it was nonetheless a sad moment for many cruise fans.

Most cruisers expected this to happen at some time, with Majesty of the Seas having almost been sold once before and both ships losing their primary purpose with Cuba cruises unavailable until further notice.

In a world where cruise ships have gotten bigger and bigger, Majesty and Empress represented a different age of cruising, even if in their heyday, they were big ships for the time.

Empress of the Seas

Empress of the Seas was perhaps the last vestige of Royal Caribbean's roots.  She was actually ordered by Admiral Cruises prior to Royal Caribbean merging with the company. She was originally named Nordic Empress and was the final Royal Caribbean ship whose name did not end with "of the Seas" until a name change in 2004.

Empress had the distinction of being designed specifically for the short cruise market, with 3- and 4-night cruises her primary focus.   

Her inaugural sailings were short cruises to the Bahamas, and later was combined with 3- and 4-night cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After Royal Caribbean sold Song of America, Nordic Empress took over that itinerary and began sailing from Cape Liberty to Bermuda.

Interestingly, this is not the first time Empress of the Seas has departed Royal Caribbean's fleet. In 2008, she left Royal Caribbean to become part of subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises.

In 2016, Empress of the Seas came back to Royal Caribbean for the primary purpose of offering cruises to Cuba. She underwent a a massive refurbishment that totaled $50 million.

Majesty of the Seas

The last of the Sovereign Class cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas began service in 1992 and managed to remain in Royal Caribbean's fleet well after her sister ships were transferred out.

Majesty has sailed a variety of routes in the Caribbean, having sailed from many homeports to different destinations.  Most often, she sailed from somewhere in Florida and offered short cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean.

Just like Empress of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas was able to cruise longer with Royal Caribbean because of Cuba.

Originally, Royal Caribbean announced in 2014 that it would move Majesty to Pullmantur Cruises, but a year later, the cruise line changed those plans and announced Majesty would stay in the fleet.

Like Empress, Majesty underwent a massive refurbishment to add new features and bring the ship up to the standards of the rest of the fleet.

Majesty became the second of Royal Caribbean's ships to visit Cuba.

Saying goodbyes

Almost as soon as Royal Caribbean made the announcement, cruise fans took to social media to offer their goodbyes to two beloved cruise ships.

In fact, Royal Caribbean executives were among the first to bid farewell to both ships.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley was vocal in his admiration and sorrow following the decision to sell both ships, "Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary."

Hundreds of comments began pouring in from Royal Caribbean cruise fans on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog Facebook page to share their memories and despair that these ships are leaving.

Pamela Caughman loved the smaller size of these cruise ships, "I have sailed multiple times on both ships. the Empress was one of my favorite small ships. I had dinner with the captain once on her. For me she was the perfect size for short sailings."

Chris Fritz thought the crew were among the best he encountered, "Very friendly staff and great community feel to the ship. I looked forward to sailing her again. I guess not now. She'll be missed."

Joe Willis got started with cruising on Majesty of the Seas, "Majesty was the first ship we cruised on 3 years ago. Because of Majesty, we realized our love of cruises."

Royal Caribbean has sold Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas

In:
16 Dec 2020

Royal Caribbean has sold its two oldest cruise ships, Majesty of the Seas and Empress of the Seas.

The cruise line announced both ships have been sold, and will depart the fleet later this month.

It appears the ships have been sold, but not scrapped.  Royal Caribbean says they now belong to an undisclosed party, based in Asia-Pacific, that will release details for future sailings at a later time.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley lamented the loss of these classic ships, and their impact on the company.

"Empress and Majesty of the Seas made indelible marks on the cruise industry with their revolutionary design and size. Touted as the cruise industry’s most groundbreaking ships when they were introduced, they continued to make history throughout their more than three decades of service."

"Saying goodbye to these two beloved ships is a major moment in Royal Caribbean’s history – one that is difficult but necessary. With plans for new, innovative ships to join our fleet in the upcoming years, we look forward to our guests and crew continuing to make new memories with us."

Royal Caribbean said guests who had cruises booked on either vessel will be contacted with their options for rebooking or cancellation.

Majesty of the Seas was the last Sovereign Class cruise ship left in Royal Caribbean's fleet, and joined the fleet in 1992. She started off with 7-night Western Caribbean cruises from Miami, and has offered Caribbean cruises of various lengths and destinations ever since.

Empress of the Seas was even older than Majesty, having launched in 1990.  She was literally one-of-a-kind, having been the only ship of her type to be built.  

Empress was designed for 3- and 4-night cruises to the Bahamas from Miami.

Empress also made history as the first cruise ship to sail out of Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey when Royal Caribbean opened the terminal in 2004.

Empress of the Seas left the fleet, and then rejoined it to offer cruises to Cuba in 2017.

Gone but not forgotten

The news that Empress and Majesty are departing the fleet is not completely unexpected.  Both ships had been the subject of rumors almost since the global shutdown began.

Even before this year, the role of both ships was rather ambiguous following Cuba not being available to U.S. cruise lines any longer.

While many other cruise lines were selling off old ships, Royal Caribbean Group had not pulled that lever, although they never ruled out the possibility of selling ships.

Royal Caribbean Group executive vice president and Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty told investors in October, "We're being very opportunistic about the situation." Furthermore, selling a ship would make sense only if a particular cruise ship "does not fit strategically" within the brand.

Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, shared her thoughts on the departure of these vessels on Facebook, "Through the years, Empress and Majesty have created incredible memories for so many of our guests and crew members."

"As our fleet evolves, decisions like these pave the way for the introduction of new and reimagined innovative ships."

Michael Bayley also took to Facebook to say goodbye to both ships, "No doubt, they will be dearly missed – they may be small, but their lasting impact is mighty."

Mr. Bayley also confirmed the crew members that had been assigned to these ships will find work on other ships, "Rest assured, there is no need to worry about our extraordinary crew members. They are still part of the Royal Caribbean family and will be reassigned to other ships once we are back to sailing again."

No, Royal Caribbean still has not sold Empress of the Seas

In:
19 Aug 2020

The rumor mill went into overdrive with speculation that Empress of the Seas has been sold to an unnamed buyer for an undisclosed amount by an unnamed source, but it turns out it is not true.

Empress of the Seas recently sailed to the Greek isles, which began fueling hearsay that she was making a last stop before being sold off, similar to Pullmantur's ships just a few weeks ago.

I reached out to Royal Caribbean on Wednesday afternoon to get more clarification on the rumors and they flatly denied Empress has been sold.

"Empress of the Seas has not been sold," a Royal Caribbean International Public Relations spokesperson told RoyalCaribbeanBlog. "She is on the way to Greece where she will stay for a few months."

"We are constantly looking for the best places to deploy our ships in order to get all the ship services we require for operations."

Empress of the Seas was the subject of the same kind of rumors in late July when the ship began sailing towards Malta, but Royal Caribbean confirmed the ship was still very much in the fleet.

Despite being in the region for a few weeks, rumors began swirling again today when an unnamed source claims Empress was sold. 

There have been no Royal Caribbean International ships sold since the cruise shutdown, but the company is considering ways to further reduce its average monthly cash burn under a further prolonged out-of-service scenario and during re-start of operations.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said in mid-July there are no plans to sell ships, but it is a consideration.

No, Royal Caribbean is not selling Empress of the Seas

In:
31 Jul 2020

The online rumor mill was swirling this week with speculation that Empress of the Seas might be the next cruise ship to be sold to the scrap yard, but Royal Caribbean says the reports are not true.

After hearing from many RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers that noticed Empress of the Seas was headed to Malta, the traditional last stop before a cruise ship goes to the scrap yard in Turkey, I reached out to Royal Caribbean to get an answer.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson responded simply, "Empress is not headed to the scrap yard, she’s still a part of the Royal Caribbean fleet."

Where the rumors came from

The source of the rumors are websites that show marine navigational data, indicating Empress was leaving the waters around the UK, and headed to Malta.

Malta is where Monarch and Sovereign stopped to unload valuables before arriving to the scrap yard in Turkey earlier this month.

On top of that, Empress of the Seas is the oldest ship in the fleet and lost her primary purpose when cruises to Cuba became illegal again.

Add to that the fact Carnival Corporation has announced plans to sell 15 cruise ships by the end of the year, and it seemed like a possibility Empress was next.

Empress of the Seas added to Royal Caribbean app

In:
15 Nov 2019

Royal Caribbean has expanded its new app to include support for Empress of the Seas.

Empress now appears in the list of supported ships that can be found from within the app.

The new app is being actively developed, which means not all features area available on the app yet.  Moreover, the cruise line is slowly rolling out support for more ships.

The app is available on the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Royal Caribbean helps deliver first batch of relief supplies to Bahamas

In:
05 Sep 2019

Royal Caribbean announced hours after Hurricane Dorian devastated The Bahamas it would pledge $1 million in aid to the island, and the cruise line is already making good on that promise with the first batch of supplies loaded onto Empress of the Seas.

Guests sailing on Empress of the Seas were informed their ship would deliver much needed food, water, equipment and supplies to the people on Grand Bahama Island. Empress of the Seas was loaded with 10,000 meals, 10,000 bottles of water, as well as medical supplies, generators and other necessities.  The ship will dock off the coast of Grand Bahama Island to make the delivery, before resuming its cruise itinerary.

Thanks to Brad Garfinkel & Skip Bebout for providing this photo

Letters to guests were delivered to their stateroom to explain the extra stop.

Subscribe to Empress of the Seas