On September 12, 2005, my husband and I embarked on the Empress of the Seas for a 5 day cruise to Mexico. Both my husband and I work, so the preparation for the vacation was extensive. We had to get time off of work, and we had to plan for and make sure that our work duties would be covered while we were gone. We have dogs, so we had to arrange (and pay) for them to be taken care of. Like most people, we work hard and get limited time off from our jobs, and wanted this time off to be special so we budgeted our money in order to afford a suite for the cruise, and carefully picked destinations that we wanted to visit. We spent a lot of time researching the excursions in Mexico, and were anxious to visit the Mayan ruins and other sites in Mexico.
As we were leaving the harbor in Fort Lauderdale, we were on the balcony of our room when the back end of the ship began to shake violently and actually slowed to almost a stop. My husband turned and looked at me and said, "this ship is not going anywhere - there is something terribly wrong." He was right, our ship broke down during the night, and the cruise course was altered. The ship had a problem with one of the propellers (it stopped working) - which caused the terrible vibrations that loudly shook our room (it was really awful), and caused us not to get sleep almost every night. Additionally, because of the propeller problem - we ended up going to the Bahamas instead of Mexico - a destination we would never have willingly paid to visit, and certainly not in the amount of $2500. Usually, you come back from a vacation refreshed - we came back stressed out because of worry about the mechanical issues while onboard, exhausted because of the loud noise and vibration of our room that caused us not to sleep, and feeling cheated out of the money we spent. To make matters worse, we were offered us $200 (per person) in compensation for a problem that was caused by the cruise line, and to be honest, we feel as if we were robbed of the money we saved for and splurged on for a trip to Mexico. If I sound like I am angry and bitter - I apologize, but, I am. I feel like we were taken advantage of, and that there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. To say that our vacation was a huge disappointment would be an understatement. We paid for a 5 day trip to Mexico - and did not receive that value - but instead were given the equivalent of a three day cruise to the dirty town of Nassau in the Bahamas. Our itinerary was changed NOT because of the weather or an "act of God", but because Royal Caribbean had a maintenance problem and was not able to take us to the promised destination. If I would purchase a plane ticket to go to New York, and the aircraft had a maintenance issue, the airline would not fly me to Chicago, hand me $200 and say - "that is the best we could do". That is, however, what Royal Caribbean did to us. We were told by the corporate "customer service" (Sara Hecker and Amelia Gomez) people that came to the ship especially because of this incident that this was an unfortunate inconvenience. What they failed to make us understand how this inconvenience should have been at our expense. We believe that the cruise line was absolutely aware of the engine vibration problem when we left the embarkation point (we certainly were!), but chose to roll the dice and take a chance with our vacation. We saved and planned for months to be able to go on this cruise. The treatment we were given by the "corporate" people on the ship was truly awful. They were cold, uncaring and condescending. (We actually heard the people on board referring to them as the "ice princesses") Every single passenger we spoke to was very unhappy with the treatment they were given by these ladies. I have worked in a Customer service capacity for years and would never let an employee of mine speak to customers the way I heard these two ladies speak to the RCI customers. We did, however, see them toasting with expensive wine, laughing and congratulating each other in the ship's upscale "Portofino" restaurant. (we were seated at the table next to them) How nice for them that they were able to get past the hundreds of customer issues and enjoy themselves.
We have to say the staff on the Empress of the Seas was polite, helpful and pleasant to be around. Our service on the ship was quite good, as was the food that was served. Our room was always kept very clean by our attendant. These folks had nothing to do with how we, as customers, were treated by the corporate employees. This was our third cruise with RCI, but we are very disappointed with how we were treated, and will likely not cruise with Royal Caribbean again.