Empress of the Seas

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Empress of the Seas in Grand Cayman May 30, 2016.jpg
Empress of the Seas in Grand Cayman on Monday, 30 May 2016.
  • Originally ordered as: Future Seas
  • 1990–2004: Nordic Empress
  • 2004–2008: Empress of the Seas
  • 2008–2016: Empress
  • 2016–present: Empress of the Seas
Owner: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Port of registry:
Builder: Chantiers de l'Atlantique, Saint-Nazaire, France
Yard number: G29[1]
Launched: 25 August 1989[1]
Christened: Gloria Estefan
Acquired: 31 May 1990[1]
Maiden voyage:
  • 25 June 1990 as Nordic Empress
  • 15 May 2004 as Empress of the Seas
  • 15 March 2008 as Empress
  • 28 May 2016 as Empress of the Seas (again)
Homeport: Miami, Florida
Identification:IMO number8716899[1]
Status: In service
General characteristics (as built)[1]
Type: Empress-class cruise ship[2]
Length: 210.81 m (691.63 ft)
Beam: 30.70 m (100.72 ft)
Draught: 7.10 m (23.29 ft)
Decks: 9 Passenger Decks
Installed power:
Speed: 19.5 knots (36.1 km/h; 22.4 mph)
Capacity: 1,840
Crew: 668
Notes: Formerly Nordic Empress and Empress of the Seas for Royal Caribbean.

Empress of the Seas is a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean International. She was formerly operated by Pullmantur Cruises as Empress.


The ship was ordered by Admiral Cruises and was intended to be called the Future Seas and join the other Admiral ships, the Azure Seas and the Emerald Seas. However, when Royal Caribbean merged with Admiral in 1987, the Admiral brand was dissolved and the newbuild (still under construction) was incorporated into the Royal Caribbean fleet. A few signature Royal Caribbean brand elements were added, including the Viking Crown and Windjammer Cafe.

The ship was originally named Nordic Empress and was the final Royal Caribbean ship whose name did not end with "of the Seas" until the name was changed to match the rest of the fleet following an extensive rebuilding that ended on 8 May 2004.

MS Nordic Empress, featuring her original Royal Caribbean livery, anchored off the Cayman Islands in late March 2004

Nordic Empress was the first mainstream cruise ship especially designed for the 3 and 4 day cruise market. Her initial itinerary was a short cruise to the Bahamas, which was then combined with 3 and 4 day cruises from San Juan, Puerto Rico. In 1999, following the sale of the Song of America, the Nordic Empress took over the New York City to Bermuda route.

In 2000, Royal Caribbean announced that the Nordic Empress would be undertaking a series of cruises in South America. Shortly after these cruises were put on sale, Royal Caribbean decided to replace the Nordic Empress with the Splendour of the Seas on the South American itineraries, leaving the Nordic Empress in the Caribbean.

2001 engine room fire[edit]

MS Empress, in her original Pullmantur livery, docked in Tallinn, Estonia on 16 June 2010.
MS Empress, in Tallinn, Estonia on 15 June 2013.

In June 2001 the Nordic Empress suffered extensive engine room fire damage while sailing 140 miles north of Bermuda. Subsequent investigation revealed the cause of the fire was failure of a loose bolt in a fuel line flange assembly that had been improperly repaired.[3] The broken bolt caused the flange assembly to separate, allowing fuel to leak around the engine. Moments after a low fuel pressure alarm sounded in the engine room, the leaking fuel ignited against the hot engine surfaces, causing a large explosion that was visible on the engine room CCTV.[3] The engines were stopped immediately and all fuel pumps switched off. Crew members attempting to enter the engine area to fight to fire with fire hoses were forced to turn back from the intense heat.[3] 6 minutes into the fire, the engine room overhead fire sprinkler system was activated along with the ship's general emergency alarm. The sprinklers appeared to have extinguished the fire after 4 minutes, and crew once again attempted to re-enter the engine area, only to have the residual fuel in the engine area ignite a flash fire that was quickly extinguished with fire hoses.[3] During the subsequent inspection of the engine room and surrounding areas, burning wires were discovered in an adjacent compartment. The space was evacuated before lowering watertight doors and releasing 885 kg of halon and restarting the overhead sprinkler system.[3] 3 hours after the first fire broke out, the incident was logged as resolved. The ship was able to return to Bermuda under reduced power, and was subsequently taken out of service for 2 weeks for repairs. Total expenses and lost revenue related to the fire totaled over $8.8 million.[3]

Actress Tina Fey and then recently married husband Jeff Richmond were reportedly on board at the time. The incident was recounted in Fey's autobiography, Bossypants.[4]

On 26 March 2007, it was reported that in March 2008, the Empress of the Seas would be transferred to the fleet of Royal Caribbean's subsidiary Pullmantur Cruises.[5] Her final voyage for Royal Caribbean took place on 7 March 2008. The maiden voyage as Empress for Pullmantur Cruises took place on 15 March 2008.

In November 2012, the Empress was the first of the fleet to receive a brand new logo as well as new hull color scheme.[6]

In October 2015, it was announced that Pullmantur would be transferring Empress of the Seas back to Royal Caribbean.[7]

2018 rescue of two fishermen[edit]

On 21 December 2018 Empress of the Seas rescued two fishermen who were without food, fuel or water after having set sail in the Caribbean sea twenty days earlier.[8][9] Crew members operating the radar system for the Empress of the Seas had noticed an anomaly that turned out to be the small fishing boat. Royal Caribbean lowered one of its lifeboats to rescue the fishermen.[10][9]

Present Status[edit]

Pullmantur refocused on Europe after concentrating passenger sourcing efforts on Latin and South America after the Spanish market went soft. As a result, MS Empress returned to Royal Caribbean after a dry dock in Spring 2016 and was again named Empress of the Seas. The Royal Caribbean "Crown and Anchor" logo was reinstalled onto her funnel. She was repainted with Royal Caribbean's livery, although without her original hull striping.

On 21 December 2015, Royal Caribbean started offering 4- and 5-night Empress of the Seas cruises from Miami, originally scheduled to begin 30 March 2016, with the Bahamas, Key West, and Grand Cayman among ports to be visited. On 18 March 2016, Royal Caribbean announced that the reintroduction of Empress of the Seas into its fleet would be delayed until 25 April 2016,[11] and on 20 April 2016, Royal Caribbean announced a further delay to 28 May 2016 to give them time to completely rebuild the ships galleys.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

In the novel World War Z, by Max Brooks, the Nordic Empress is found to be heavily infested by zombies and drifting near Dakar, Senegal by the Chinese Type 094 submarine Admiral Zheng He.[13]


Currently, Empress of the Seas operates sailings from Miami with calls at Key West, Cozumel, Mexico, Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico, Belize City, Belize, and CocoCay.

In 2019, the ship was scheduled to take longer and more extended cruises to Cuba. Besides Havana, she was scheduled to visit Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba. These routes have since been suspended, the ship instead substituting the Cuban ports for other ports in the Caribbean and Bahamas. [14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Asklander, Micke. "M/S Nordic Empress (1990)". Fakta om Fartyg (in Swedish). Retrieved 2 August 2008.
  2. ^ "Empress of the Seas". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Danieloncarevic (27 May 2013), Lessons learned - Engine Room Fires, retrieved 29 April 2016
  4. ^ "Tina Fey's Honeymoon Ruined By Cruise Ship Fire? : Cruise Law News". 22 April 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Royal Caribbean International's Empress of the Seas to Join Pullmantur Fleet" (Press release). Royal Caribbean International. 26 March 2007. Archived from the original on 1 February 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Pullmantur Rebranding". Retrieved 24 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Pullmantur: Another Change of Strategy; Empress Back to Royal". cruiseindustrynews.com. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  8. ^ AM, Ewan Palmer On 12/24/18 at 5:18 (24 December 2018). ""Christmas miracle": Sailors lost at sea for three weeks rescued by cruise ship changing course". Newsweek.
  9. ^ a b https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/12/24/lost-sea-their-food-was-running-low-then-empress-seas-appeared
  10. ^ https://www.foxnews.com/travel/royal-caribbean-ship-rescues-two-men-stranded-at-sea-for-20-days
  11. ^ "Royal Caribbean Cancels Six Empress of the Seas Cruises". Cruise Critic. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Royal Caribbean Cancels More Empress of the Seas Cruises". Cruise Critic. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  13. ^ Brooks, Max (2006). World War Z. pp. 242–243.
  14. ^ "Royal Caribbean Will Sail Longer Cuba Cruises in 2019, Including 3 Cuban Ports of Call". www.cruisecritic.com. Retrieved 6 July 2018.

External links[edit]