(3 p.m EDT) — Empress of the Seas, which departed the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2008, will return to the cruise line’s fold in 2016. The move was confirmed by Jason Liberty, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s senior vice president and CFO, during the company’s third quarter earnings call.
Before the ship returns to the fleet in spring 2016, it will undergo an "extensive refurbishment," he said.
Empress of the Seas left the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2008, sailing as Empress with sister Spanish cruise line Pullmantur. Pullmantur is undergoing a restructuring and will not be able to use Empress going forward.
The 2,020-passenger ship initially debuted for Royal Caribbean as Nordic Empress but was renamed Empress of the Seas in 2004.
Longtime Royal Caribbean fans are thrilled with the news.
"Empress was a great little ship! I’d do [it] again in a heartbeat," said Cruise Critic member johnjen, while dada2199cc said, "This is awesome news for us small ship cruisers!"
There is some speculation as to what Royal Caribbean will do with the ship. Some cruisers think it could be the first vessel the line sends to Cuba, while others suspect it will do short sailings with free Internet for all passengers, similar to Majesty of the Seas.