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Empress of the Seas Live Blog Day 2 - Key West, Florida

14 Sep 2016
Michael Poole

Today we are in Key West, Florida, which is our first port stop on this five-day cruise.

I woke up this morning at 5:30AM, I do not know why, but I decided to enjoy the ship while I was awake. I went around many of the public areas and able to capture some great pictures without people in them. I will admit it was kind of weird at points feeling like you were the only person on this ship.

I went into the Windjammer at 6AM when they opened. However, they only had breads and coffee available, no bacon until 7AM, bummer. I decided to head to the back of Boleros where they had that day one welcome party, to watch the sunrise.

I ended up staying well over an hour just taking in the views; it was absolutely breathtaking to watch. 

Docking in Key West, Florida 

I was able to see the local pilot board our ship to help us sail into Key West. For those wondering what that is, every port a cruise ship docks in, a local pilot boards the ship to help guide the captain to dock. They know the port and help provide the Captain some guidance along the way, however the Captain is still in control of the ship.

Since the Empress has recently added these short sailings to fill time before Cuba, the main pier in Key West was already booked by Carnival. Today we docked at the United States Navy training facility.

I actually thought were going to have to walk all the way into town and went back into my cabin to put tennis shoes on. However, once we got off they had rows of trolleys to take us into town. This was a different Key West experience and I really enjoyed the short 10-minute ride through the base and into town. They asked that we take no pictures of the base on our ride; so sorry I don’t have any. 

Once I got into town, my mission was simple find some Key Lime Pie! A few friends recommend I try Kermit’s pie, so off I went. The walk to their shop was very short, I just plugged it into my GPS, but it was around 2 blocks.

When I arrived I noticed it was empty, but I guess that’s because it was 10AM. I went inside and ordered their classic Key Lime Pie, those wondering it cost $4.80. I’m not a huge sweets guy and it was early in the morning for pie, but it was amazing!

The staff here was really nice too, they actually asked if I wanted a sample of their other pie. Who turns down free pie? They brought out a chocolate covered froze pie, which was also good but I preferred the classic version or maybe I was just too full. 

After, I headed to Sloppy Joe's for a beer. They did not have live music playing yet, so no real excitement there today on my visit.

By this point it’s 11AM and I’m getting tired and decided to head back to the ship. Well what an adventure that was, since we took trolleys into town you had to take one back. Let’s just say I got on the wrong one, not once but twice. The second one was an actual tour of Key West, so off I went.

They made a stop at Sloppy Joe's on the tour and I jumped off, and walked back to the bus area again. Now on my third try I asked the driver if we were headed to the ship, I can only laugh at myself on this one. 

 Afternoon on board 

I wanted to take a nap but they were running test on the ship, which caused them to turn off power (including air conditioning) for a half-hour, so off to the pool deck I went. Not really a big deal since there were very few people on board, but I did notice how the temperature rises quite fast without running air conditioning.

I made some new friends in the hot tub and made good use of my select drink package.

I went into Windjammer for a small lunch; I was still full from all that pie in Key West. The options today were not as great as yesterday, but I usually just get rice and fish anyways.

Around 4PM I left the pool deck to get ready for the evening, still going with no nap. 

Evening on board 

Right at 5PM, I went down to Schooner Bar and used my Crown and Anchor drink coupon and noticed the bar was full. This was the first time I’d seen it so full like this, but I don’t think I usually go around this hour. Almost everyone was using their 3 free drinks loaded on their card, since this is pretty much the only place to do so.

Around 6PM I was starting to get hungry, my Chops dinner was not until 7:30 but I went early and they seated me right away. I was the only person in the restaurant when I arrived and there were 3 tables when I left.

The service was outstanding and I got to know my waitress during the meal. I decided to order shrimp cocktail, mushroom soup (which I can’t decide if that’s better or French onion) and a salad to start (if you were counting that is three starters!).

For my entree, I went with the 16oz New York Strip and let me tell you this was the largest steak I have ever seen. It was almost falling off the plate; once again the NY strip surprised me with how great it is compared to the filet. Which do I prefer? I am going to say I enjoy them both, but if you are really hungry, get the NY Strip. 

After dinner, I decided to go the headliner show in the main theater.

I do not usually attend any shows unless I’m on an Oasis-class ship, but I wanted to try something new. We had Finish Henderson hosting the show. He sings all types of music and his voice sounded exactly like singer he was singing, no idea how he does it.

I looked on his website looks like he is headed to Anthem of the Seas next, and Allure/Oasis this fall. If you get a chance, go to the show. He received a standing ovation at the end of the show for quite a while. 

Tonight is the white pool deck party; dancing under the stars they call it. It started raining and they moved it inside the Viking Crown lounge. I will say the event was packed, almost everyone wearing all white. I even saw a guy down their in his white crown and anchor robe, points for being creative. I stayed for an hour talked with the Cruise Director Elvis for a while really nice guy. Around midnight I called it a day, what a full day of events. 

Tomorrow we have our first sea day, and I’m really looking forward to it.