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Empress 7/30/18 5 Nights inc. Cuba


twangster
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Going to hijack this blog to ask a question...if anyone would know, it's going to be @twangster.  I noticed during your scopes and pics today that the ships were facing the other direction (towards Miami).  Last week when we were there, Mariner and Empress were facing the open waters.  What dictates which way they dock on embarkation day?  Is it something that is just left up to the Captain?

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32 minutes ago, Tom Cruises said:

@twangster Which app do you use to track storms? I don't want to worry too much but given that there may be a free app to track any systems when we'll be cruising in late September, I am curious 🙂

Mine is called "Hurricane Tracker" by EZ Apps.  It's $4.  There are some free ones out there.  I used to live on the coast and with all the cruising I do, $4 is nothing but there are some free apps that might work for you, or just visit the National Hurricane Center's website https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

 

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Cabin Tour!

Junior Suite 9144

Empress is an older ship displacing just 48,563 GT (to put that in perspective, Mariner who was in port with us in Miami is 138,279 GT, nearly 3 times).  Being from an earlier generation of cruising, balcony cabins were a engineering challenge in those days and there aren't very many balcony cabins on Empress.  The best way to snag one is to book a Junior Suite.  

At the time the price difference was reasonable so I opted to pay the upgrade and score double C&A points.  

Opening the door to the cabin and you are presented with a small hallway.  closet on the left (mirror doors) , bathroom on the right.

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Nicely appointed and refreshed in 2016 she has the carpet similar to other ships that have been recently refreshed.

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Looking back towards the cabin door there is a small makeup area that doubles as a desk.

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Bathroom features a shower with plastic shower curtain (behind the door).  

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The closet is a walk in closet in the sense that you can walk in and there is enough room to close the doors behind you.  More than enough space for a couple.

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Lots of storage space but the only drawers are under the TV by the balcony.

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With the pool deck above me, there is cover from the elements.  I looked out while in Miami and it raining very hard at one point yet my balcony was dry.  I waited until we were at sea to take some balcony pictures.

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I've yet to be disturbed by noise on the pool deck above me.

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17 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Going to hijack this blog to ask a question...if anyone would know, it's going to be @twangster.  I noticed during your scopes and pics today that the ships were facing the other direction (towards Miami).  Last week when we were there, Mariner and Empress were facing the open waters.  What dictates which way they dock on embarkation day?  Is it something that is just left up to the Captain?

I can only speculate but I imagine there are a number of factors.

It could be based on port pilot factors such as traffic in port at the time of arrival or planned departures times.  There may be restrictions on how many ships can be transiting the pier area and if another ship is waiting with it's pilot on board they might avoid using the turning basin until departure so that the other ship can follow in more closely.  Ships need to be very careful passing each other in port.  There are tremendous forces in the water just from the displaced water from a moving ship and sailing past another smaller ship or when a ship isn't fully berthed could put stress on the few lines that are secured at that point and snap them.  In that case it might be more efficient just to dock without passing other ships and accept a turn in the turning basin at departure instead.    

Weather and winds either upon arrival or forecast for departure could be a factor.

They may have scheduled maintenance like painting or routine lifeboat maintenance.  By not making the turn upon arrival they can work on the other side of the ship.

Or perhaps the local harbor pilots all play poker and the loser's ship has to dock differently.  (Just kidding)  

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4 minutes ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

Is your JS on Empress smaller than the other JS across the fleet?  It looks more narrow.  Or maybe that's just the pictures....

I don't know that there is a fleet standard JS size.  This ship was ordered by Admiral Cruises just before Royal Caribbean acquired Admiral.  Supposedly it was built  specifically for the 3/4 night cruise market so with that in mind and given her small size some deviation from the modern ships that have evolved from these ships should be expected.  This is possibly an example of that.

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7 minutes ago, twangster said:

I don't know that there is a fleet standard JS size.  This ship was ordered by Admiral Cruises just before Royal Caribbean acquired Admiral.  Supposedly it was built  specifically for the 3/4 night cruise market so with that in mind and given her small size some deviation from the modern ships that have evolved from these ships should be expected.  This is possibly an example of that.

 

Just now, Matt said:

Impressed by the size of the JS on Empress.  More to the point, I feel it looks a lot more like a balcony room on a far newer ship.

Curiosity got the better of me and I just took a peek at other JS across the fleet....On voyager class, they are about 264 sq ft., Freedom class they are 297 or so,  Oasis class about 287.   Balcony cabin on OA class, 182.  So like @twangster said, given the history of the ship, most of those cabins on Empress, not just the JS, run smaller than the typical cabins on others in the fleet.

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Just now, Lovetocruise2002 said:

 

Curiosity got the better of me and I just took a peek at other JS across the fleet....On voyager class, they are about 264 sq ft., Freedom class they are 297 or so,  Oasis class about 287.   Balcony cabin on OA class, 182.  So like @twangster said, given the history of the ship, most of those cabins on Empress, not just the JS, run smaller than the typical cabins on others in the fleet.

For sure.  Look at the interior cabin sizes.  Empress and Majesty have some of the smallest interior cabins ever. (another factor in my choosing the upgrade) 

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1 minute ago, twangster said:

For sure.  Look at the interior cabin sizes.  Empress and Majesty have some of the smallest interior cabins ever. (another factor in my choosing the upgrade) 

We stayed in an interior room in June on Empress.  It was tight.  No couch or seating area.  Just a little stool for the vanity desk.  The carpets were not refreshed in our interior room.  Only the hallways were.  If I were to sail on Empress again, I would choose a suite. 

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Day 1 - Departing Miami

Muster was outdoors on deck 6.  At least it was covered.  Pretty quick and efficient muster, pretty typical.  There are a couple of muster stations in the theater.

Since we were pointing bow towards the West we would have to sail to the end of the channel where there is a turning basin to complete a 180° turn to head out of Port.  To my surprise we left before Mariner.

The bridge wings are not part of the interior bridge area on Empress.  Captain and crew get to experience it outdoors just like we do.

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We headed past Mariner and made our turn before passing Mariner once again as we headed out of port.

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The new Skypad has become a defining element to the ship visible from a distance.

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As we continued towards the exit of the harbor we approached the new terminal being constructed to house Oasis class ships including Symphony.

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There is a significant parking structure behind the new terminal.  That should make for a super convenient experience for anyone driving to the ship.

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A few sprinkles broke up the sail away party but it didn't stop people from enjoying the pool.

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The pool deck features these covered areas but are open to the sea which provides nice shelter from rain or sun but keeps you connected to the sea.

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Deck 6 aft behind Boleros there is a sail away party for the top members of the C&A Society.  I wanted to capture sail away and the new terminal from deck 11 so I only dropped by late to the party as it was winding down. 

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With that the cruise was officially underway.

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Day 1 - Dinner

I had made up my mind to stick with the MDR on this trip but walking past Chops Grille I talked with the host. 

My Chops Grille experiences on other ships has left something to be desired.  I had written Chops off and vowed to not eat there for a while.  However this is the only specialty restaurant on Empress.  As a Diamond Plus I get a BOGO offer on my SeaPass card so I opted to give them another try.  I'm glad I did.

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Fairly standard Chops Grille menu:

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Wedge salad to start.

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16 oz Prime Bone In Ribeye.  Cooked perfectly and good flavors.

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Dessert menu.

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For dessert Key Lime Meringue Pie.

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Bonus - I was able to use my Diamond Happy Hour drinks loaded on my SeaPass in Chops plus they served me a nicer Pinot Noir compared to the normal happy hour wines I have experienced on other ships.  

I really enjoyed this meal and for the first time in a Chops Grille both service and the meal were excellent.

My BOGO 'free' dinner is on day 2 in Chops.  That Goat Cheese Salad and the Rack of Lamb are calling my name.

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After dinner I wandered around and took some pictures.  First I checked out the Schooner Bar and found a singer / piano player at work.  I still have a song in my head from this. 

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From here I ventured into the main theater.

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The welcome aboard was about to start so I sat down for a while.  The comedian was good but family friendly tonight.  He has an adult show later in the week.

He pointed out this is the smallest ship in the fleet.  You can tell it's the smallest he explained, when it will fit inside the Royal Promenade of a newer ship.

The Viking Crown Lounge is very different compared to the rest of the fleet.  Note the folks on treadmills one level up.  That's the gym.  I guess you can go for a run while watching the late night dancing.

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"A Wrinkle in Time" was playing on the outdoor TV by the pool.

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Some of the drink specials.

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My glass block for reaching another milestone in the Crown and Anchor Society.  I plan these things and it seemed fitting getting one on this ship, one of the oldies but goodies.

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I was getting ready for bed when I caught some flashes in the sky outside.  In the distance was another ship.  I am sure they were far from the storm but from this angle it made it look very dramatic with a ship on the horizon.

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Day Two - Key West

After my red eye flight the night before it felt so good to sleep in a real bed.  I awoke to find us in Key West.

When I was at Chops the night before I noticed that Chops serve breakfast to Diamond Plus, Pinnacle and Gold Card Suites (GS and above, not JS).  On other ships I've sailed D+ is excluded from this list.  Naturally I had to check this out!

If anyone has experienced Coastal Kitchen before this reminded me of that breakfast experience including some of the menu choices.

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I'm starting to really like this ship 🙂 

No 'slumming' it in the WJ for breakfast for me!

No pictures this morning, too early.

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

When I was at Chops the night before I noticed that Chops serve breakfast to Diamond Plus, Pinnacle and Gold Card Suites (GS and above, not JS).  On other ships I've sailed D+ is excluded from this list. 

Very nice !  First ship I've heard of allowing D+ to participate in the special breakfast

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