Year built: 1990
Speed: 22 kn
The Empress of the Seas currently sails 4 and 5 night cruises to the Western Caribbean from Miami, Florida.
During its service history, the Empress cruise ship (construction order name “Future Seas”) was operating under the names Nordic Empress (1990-2004, constructed for the Admiral Cruise Lines /defunct), MS Empress (aka “Pullmantur Empress”, 2004-2008, operated by the RCCL’s subsidiary company Pullmantur Cruises, Spain) and under its current name “Empress of the Seas” (between 2004-2008, and from 2016 onwards).
In 1987, Royal Caribbean merged with the future ship’s owner Admiral Cruises, so the Admiral brand was dissolved. The still under construction vessel was incorporated into the RCI fleet and named “Nordic Empress,” the last RCI ship with a name without the suffix “of the Seas”. The vessel’s name was changed to the current “Empress of the Seas” on May 8, 2004, following an extensive refit and refurbishment.
In March 2007, it was announced that starting March 2008, the ship would be transferred to Pullmantur. The Empress’ final Royal Caribbean cruise was on March 7, 2008. Her inaugural cruise as Pullmantur Empress was on March 15, 2008.
In November 2012, the vessel was the first in the Pullmantur’s fleet to receive the line’s new logo and hull colors.
In October 2015, the shipowner announced that Pullmantur Empress, after a dry dock refurbishment in March-April 2016 would be transferred back to the RCI fleet.
On September 12, 2005, while en-route to Key West Florida, the ship experienced propulsion problems resulting in reduced cruising speed and a major itinerary change. In Key West some temporary repairs were made. Due to the accident, the itinerary was changed from a Mexico to a Bahamas cruise, calling at Nassau where more repairs were made. As compensation, all passengers received $150 in on board credit.
On April 29-30, 2006, during a round-trip Bermuda cruise from Philadelphia, for almost 1 1/2 days the ship encountered extreme weather conditions in the Atlantic Ocean. The vessel had to operate at reduced cruising speed to maintain tolerable levels of listing caused by 30 foot waves and strong winds over 50 mph. The storm ended early morning on May 1. Among the damages suffered on board were broken TVs, furniture, dishes, and glassware. Most of the passengers remained in their cabins suffering seasickness. The incident also resulted in an itinerary change. The scheduled arrival in Bermuda was delayed by a day. Call port of St. George was replaced with Hamilton, and the port stay was two days. The next embarkation in Philadelphia was delayed by 4 hours.
In April 2016, due to prolonged dry dock refurbishment works, the ship’s inaugural cruise plus 7 more scheduled sailings were cancelled. The list of affected itineraries includes the ship’s Miami to Caribbean departures on March 30 and April 4, 7, 11, 16, 21, 25 and 29. The cancelled itineraries were 3 to 5 days. All booked passengers were allowed to switch to a same cabin type booking on the RCI’s Majesty of the Seas ship (itineraries through April 29, 2016) at no additional cost. Passengers re-booking on the Empress cruise ship received $100 in on board credit. Cancelled bookings were fully refunded. Passengers booked through RCI flights were re-booked on new flights without extra charge. RCI also covered the flight change fees of all privately booked fly cruise passengers.
On June 15, 2001, the vessel (as Nordic Empress, carrying 1566 passengers and 650 crew) suffered an engine room fire accident. No injuries were reported. The incident occurred 10:30 PM, when the ship was northeast of Bermuda and en-route to NYC on a 7-day round-trip cruise from New York. The shipowner reported officially that the fire was safely extinguished by the ship’s fire-fighting system. However, the USCG report revealed a 3 hour firefight and drifting for 7 hours. The ship called for assistance by the USCG. Tugboats were sent out, but the vessel sailed back to port on its own power, using its starboard engine. All main on board systems remained fully functional. Due to the engine room damages , the vessel reversed its course and returned back to Bermuda, arriving in King’s Wharf on June 16. According to the incident report, the fire was caused by a ruptured fuel line between the 3rd and 4th main diesel engines. While the ship was docked in Bermuda for repairs, all passengers were disembarked and flown back to NYC via charter flights and regular air service at RCI’s expense. A total of 35 passengers remained on the ship having been booked on other cruise ships to transfer them back to the US. As compensation, all passengers received a free Royal Caribbean cruise certificate. The next voyage was also canceled.
On September 8, 2004, 7 of the crew were seriously injured in a lifeboat incident. It occurred while the ship was docked in King’s Wharf, Bermuda. During a lifeboat drill, one of the 8 life-boats plunged some 60 feet into the water. One of the victims sustained spinal injuries and was airlifted for treatment. Another man suffered a near drowning and was in intensive care.
On December 6, 2012 (as Pullmantur Empress) a Brazilian news media reported a 23 year-old male passenger sustained a serious head trauma and was hospitalized after falling from its cabin’s balcony. The man fell while trying to take a picture. He slipped and fell from Deck 10 to Deck 8. The incident occurred at 2:00 PM while the ship was docked in call port Itajai. The man was ambulanced immediately to the Hospital Maternidade Marieta Konder Bornhausen for treatment.
On April 10, 2014 (as Pullmantur Empress) while the ship was docked in Santos Brazil, during a routine inspection Federal Police officers arrested a male crew and charged him with drug trafficking. The man was trying to smuggle to Europe almost 100 pounds of cocaine. The drug was packed in 333 casings in 4 bags, which were hidden in coffee pouches.
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