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twangster

Empress 7/30/18 5 Nights inc. Cuba

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The early transfer folks had a scheduled time of 8:20am in the theater.  By 8am I was already outside feeling the morning heat and humidity of South Florida.  Maybe I should have stayed on the ship!

Airport transfers were very disorganized on this day.  There were no signs and few employees outside in the heat.  I walked around outside and figured I might as well take some pictures of the RC buildings while I was there.

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As I waited a bus arrived and roughly 50 people got off.  They grabbed their luggage and made their way towards the ship.  These are new crew joining or returning to the ship after their break.  The crew tends to turn over in this fashion.  Groups of 10, 20 or even 30 to 60 getting on and off at each day one of a cruise.  A number of crew will leave on this day starting their break.  In this manner the crew constantly revolve.

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I eventually started asking each bus if they were the ship transfers to FLL.  Eventually I found it on the East end of the terminal.

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Transfers are outsourced and unlike the employees in the airport who were very visible, helpful and friendly, these folks were all sitting in the air conditioning of the buses socializing, not really caring too much about being found.  More drama as our bus with just me on it was directed to go to another terminal to pick up guests from Celebrity.  Our coordinator had an attitude about this and expressed how it was unfair for that girl's guests to be accommodated while her 13 guests from Empress would be stuffed in a van that was on its way.  

As we pulled out two more guests from Empress somehow found the bus like I had and waved it down.  We went over to the Equinox and picked up two guests, waited there for 30 minutes before coming back to Empress where we picked up 6 more.  

Now just after 10am we started our way to FLL airport in Fort Lauderdale.  Now you see why they require afternoon flights to use their transfer service.  

We hit traffic heading North (Express lanes were closed for road work).

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Shortly after 11am we arrived at FLL.

Next time I'll use a ride share service even though it will cost a little more.

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Cruise Summary

I had a very enjoyable cruise overall.  As a Diamond Plus I was treated very good on Empress.  It's not that other ships don't treat the top elite well because they do, but on Empress they took that level of service up a notch.

At 48,563 gross tons Empress is small by today's standards.  That makes her almost 5 times smaller than Symphony.  With a capacity of 1840, our sailing at 1808 guests was near capacity (98.2%).  At times like at muster or at certain times in the Windjammer it felt just as crowded as any other ship but it never felt crowded for the majority of the time.

In considering a cruise on Empress (or any ship) research the ship.  Empress has only one main pool, no flow riders or water slides.  I was amazed though that it didn't feel like a small ship.  I knew what I booked and my expectations were set appropriately and because of that my expectations were achieved.  The cabin bathroom did feel a little dated and if you are the type that will see a spot of rust or chipped paint and focus on that then maybe this isn't the ship for you.  

I wasn't sure how I'd feel on Empress so I didn't booked any more cruises on her but now having experienced her I won't hesitate to sail her again.

The 10 drink card was offered for $75 on day 4.  A beer bucket special was $29 for 5 beer (buy 4 get 1 free).  I didn't purchase either.  

My total bar bill was $116 or ~$23 per day including gratuity.  The drink package on board was $63.  My 30% Diamond Plus discount would have dropped that to $44 or $52 per day with gratuity.  Granted I had 3 complimentary Diamond happy hour drinks each evening but I couldn't have consumed very much more and certainly not an additional $29 worth each day.

The bad dining experience on one night in the MDR goes to show that any wait staff can have a bad day on any ship.  

Cuba was an amazing port.  The people of Cuba were awesome and like the OFAC program that we travel under it is there to benefit the Cuban people (not their government so much).  That's exactly what I'll plan to do on my next visit. The 7 night sailing that visits more Cuban ports look very appealing at this point.

It was great to make CocoCay after having two missed calls on previous cruises.  I was very happy to see that construction had minimal impact on the island as I've experienced it before.  I'm not sure the pier will be ready for November.  It seems like they have a lot more to do but I'm not a construction expert.

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I feel the same way about Empress. I took a back pack full of toothpaste, toothbrushes, pencils, paper, hair bands and other things. My private guide was happy to get them. I am thinking about the 7 day cruise also. I used my pics as a learning tool in my classes. The students were amazed no Mcd's, Burger King or Popeyes.

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2 minutes ago, Sweety said:

I feel the same way about Empress. I took a back pack full of toothpaste, toothbrushes, pencils, paper, hair bands and other things. My private guide was happy to get them. I am thinking about the 7 day cruise also. I used my pics as a learning tool in my classes. The students were amazed no Mcd's, Burger King or Popeyes.

Our guide told us there is one McD's on Cuba.  It's in the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay.  Not available to Cuban residents, though.  I'm not sure that's accurate though, maybe a joke on his part.

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Once again, your live blog has made my research on my future cruises a breeze! We are going on Empress to Cuba in May 2019 and I wasn't sure what to expect from such a small ship, but now I am so excited to sail on her! I'm also going to have to start hanging out in the steam room for weeks before to prepare for the heat and humidity so I don't wilt...

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30 minutes ago, ABT said:

Our first cruise was on the Empress in 1995 ( then it was known as the Nordic Empress ). 

The ship seemed massive to us back then.We really enjoyed your blog.

Thank you!

Ironically all of my charges while onboard are noted on my credit card statement as "Nordic Empress".

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Here are some scopes from this cruise:

Havana Arrival

https://www.pscp.tv/w/1RDxlWoVOwMJL?t=3s

Havana Departure

https://www.pscp.tv/w/1RDxlWoVOwMJL?t=3s

Havana Excursion and Walking around:

https://www.pscp.tv/w/1BRJjeVNkWQGw?t=3s

Walking around CocoCay:

https://www.pscp.tv/w/1BdGYogazLZxX?t=2s

Empress Sunset

https://www.pscp.tv/w/1eaJbVlqARQJX?t=16s

 

Cruise Compass has been scanned and sent to Matt.  It should appear shortly on the Cruise Compass page:

https://www.royalcaribbeanblog.com/cruise-compass

 

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Great pics and blog! I defn want to try out Empress......

 

Glad to se that Coco Cay still looks like what I remember...hoping she's like that in Oct when I get there.....now just fingers crossed that it will be ok to tender of course as well. Hat is half the fun imho and the people I am going with have never experienced it so.....

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On 8/5/2018 at 5:26 PM, ABT said:

Our first cruise was on the Empress in 1995 ( then it was known as the Nordic Empress ). 

The ship seemed massive to us back then.We really enjoyed your blog.

Our first cruise was on a small Premier Cruise Line ship.  We docked next to the Empress in Nassau and were in awe of the size.  How times have changed....

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On 7/30/2018 at 1:28 PM, twangster said:

The bus ride down to Miami flew by quickly - on account of me sleeping most of the way.  I did wake up in time to catch our first glimpse of Empress and Mariner.  

It makes you appreciate just how much bigger (or just how small) some ships are compared to others.  Picture was taken just before we entered the tunnel to make our way onto Dodge Island where the port is.

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It's not a good perspective like your picture @twangster , but this is Empress next to Liberty in Cozumel, my grandson was with us and he was having trouble with the size of Liberty until he saw Empress, he didn't think Liberty was small but he didn't think she was large either.

Great Blog on Havana.

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I was thinking about booking a cruise on Empress to Cuba for next August, and figured I'd take a look to see if there were any trip reports.  Was thrilled to see there was a Twangster report, but it seems like all the photos are missing?  Any idea what's wrong?

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Just now, karl_nj said:

I was thinking about booking a cruise on Empress to Cuba for next August, and figured I'd take a look to see if there were any trip reports.  Was thrilled to see there was a Twangster report, but it seems like all the photos are missing?  Any idea what's wrong?

Photos are being moved to an external website. I'm on a cruise and well Voom is Voom so it'll have to wait I'm on land.   

I apologize for the inconvenience.  

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20 minutes ago, twangster said:

Photos are being moved to an external website. I'm on a cruise and well Voom is Voom so it'll have to wait I'm on land.   

I apologize for the inconvenience.  

 

Hope you are enjoying your cruise!  Glad you are aware of the issue, and happy to hear that there is a plan to recitify in the future.

 

Thanks!

 

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On 11/17/2018 at 5:00 PM, karl_nj said:

 

Hope you are enjoying your cruise!  Glad you are aware of the issue, and happy to hear that there is a plan to recitify in the future.

 

Thanks!

 

 

On 11/17/2018 at 4:30 PM, karl_nj said:

I was thinking about booking a cruise on Empress to Cuba for next August, and figured I'd take a look to see if there were any trip reports.  Was thrilled to see there was a Twangster report, but it seems like all the photos are missing?  Any idea what's wrong?

They're still missing 😞 But I understand people being busy!  I enjoyed reading the blog, anyway!

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On 1/5/2019 at 3:56 AM, SpeedNoodles said:

 

They're still missing 😞 But I understand people being busy!  I enjoyed reading the blog, anyway!

What are you talking about?  All of my pictures are here...

Just Kidding - finally fixed them 🙂 

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