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twangster

Empress B2B - 14 Nights on the Biggest Little Ship

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I wasn't sure I would post this trip live but Empress is secret favorite of mine and she doesn't get much attention here.

 

Empress is a small ship yet she doesn't feel small on board, as long as you pick the right cabin.  In the wake of the abrupt Cuba changes fares have been very reasonable including Junior Suite rates.  On a small ship the added space and balcony of a Junior Suite goes a long way to not feeling the size of the ship. It's also the only to have a balcony.

 

The fact that cruising solo in a suite will net me triple Crown and Anchor points wasn't lost on me.  That's a whopping 42 points for the price of a 7 night cruise in a balcony on an Oasis class ship.  

 

Since I'm flying to the ship I always prefer a B2B.  If I'm coming all this way I might as well cruise twice.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my last Empress cruise so given the great last minute rates and affordable suites I couldn't pass up the opportunity to sail this little beauty again.

 

Itinerary 1 - 6 nights

Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel

 

Itinerary 2 - 8 nights

Key West, Costa Maya, Belize, Cozumel, CocoCay

 

I like to scuba dive so the opportunity to visit Belize again was appealing.  This will also be my first trip to see the new Perfect Day additions.  Cozumel is a perennial favorite as is Key West.  Costa Maya is also an easy port to spend a day at. 

 

Put it all together and the answer computed to... YOLO, why not?

 

I am going to take a more relaxed approach to posting this one.  It is after all a small ship and I've got two weeks to spread my posts over so I may not be as active on this one as I have on other cruises.  

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The adventure began with my 6pm flight delayed to 7pm, then delayed again to 7:30pm.  New arrival time 1:45am.  And so it begins...

 

After a number of weather delays we finally boarded 2 hours late.  Lining up to board there was a lady who had clearly spent the delay at a bar.  

 

Once boarding was complete there was another delay.  Apparently somewhere behind me a drunk lady did something to draw the attention of the crew.  The same lady I saw while boarding was removed from the flight.  While not very dramatic it further delayed us.  I was worried our flight crew would time out but eventually we took off.  

 

Thunderstorms along our flight path made for a beautiful nighttime show.   The power of nature is amazing.  Thunderstorms in Ft Lauderdale area slowed us down some more.   

 

At 2:25am we landed.   After waiting for luggage I hailed an Uber for the $45 ride to my Miami airport area hotel.   Finally in my hotel room at 4am.  Thankfully that’s only 2am Mountain Time so not as bad as it sounds.  

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Posted (edited)

IT’S CRUISE DAY!

 

At the terminal by 10:10am after a $20 Uber ride.  Today we are using terminal E.  


PHhKXqG.jpg
 

Check in was smooth as an early bird and I was led to a small waiting room for suites.   Three other guests were already waiting.    Terminal E has a lot of Carnival signage and reminds me of Terminal G.  Very similar.  

 

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A first look at the ship from the suite holding area.

 

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At 10:15am I heard a radio call that the ship had federal clearance.   At 10:45am boarding commenced.  First on the ship.  #winning 

 

I didn't buy The Key but I noticed the large banner welcoming guests who had.

 

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Carry on holding area in the theater.

 

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A half dozen guests were in Chops enjoying a lunch.

 

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Dedicated theater seating for The Key along with Gold card holders. 

 

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Deluxe drink package $63 per day on board.  Empress doesn’t have a Diamond Lounge so I used my 30% D+ discount and bought the DX.  It was $50 in the cruise planner so I saved a few bucks by buying it on board at $44 but this only works because I am D+.   Normally folks should buy the DX in advance except they were offering the BOGO50 for DX on day 1 only.   The beverage package table in the Centrum had the new cups (no handle) while the other beverage package displays in other areas had the old beverage cups. DX packages offered on day 1 & 2 only. 

 

Booked Chops using my D+ BOGO.   Normally this requires nights 1 & 2 but they allowed me night 1 and any port day for the return visit.  I had a really good Chops experience on my last Empress cruise so it’s one of a select few ships where I’ll pay for specialty dining.   It’s also the only specialty venue on Empress so there’s that too.

 

Noted signage for the Key in the theater and at Chops.

 

Cabins ready at 1:30pm with muster at 3:30pm.

 

Waited until 11am for my first beverage since that would make it after noon on Canada’s East coast.   

Edited by twangster

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Posted (edited)

Empress has a casino that is open to other guest areas so it is non-smoking.  Here is the casino bar.

 

ztZomSh.jpg

 

They wasted no time opening the casino after sail away as soon as we were in international waters.

 

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urq1AXt.jpg

Edited by twangster

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Boleros located aft is one the biggest and nicest Boleros in the fleet.

 

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Behind Boleros is an aft facing public deck.  Empress doesn't have a Diamond lounge but on day one they have a sail away gathering for Diamond and higher with complimentary drinks and a piano player.  I'll try to get some photos on the next cruise.

 

Empress offers a very classic approach to cruising with outdoor seating areas under the lifeboats.  A great place to enjoy the sea with a good book or a beverage, or both.

 

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The pool deck checks all the boxes.  A main pool, a kids splash area and hot tubs.

 

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No pool deck is complete without a pool bar.

 

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Covered seating areas line the outside of the pool deck.

 

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Deck 11 forward has more sitting areas and some other relaxation option like these hammocks.

 

M0Pecpz.jpg

 

A look back at terminal E.

 

vKfzTDR.jpg

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Boleros was my favorite place on that ship.. The wide open aft deck outside was awesome for sail aways, and having a cigar. 

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Posted (edited)

Junior Suite cabin tour

 

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No tub in this JS, just a shower.

 

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Walk in closet.

 

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The balcony is covered by the pool deck extension.

 

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Looking aft.

 

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Looking down towards the sea.

 

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The view forward.

 

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Edited by twangster

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Dinner in Chops on night one.  

 

Chops on Empress is one of the nicer Chops with windows to the sea.

 

1O22K5W.jpg

 

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A deconstructed Wedge salad because I forgot to take a picture when it arrived and jumped right in.  Oops.  


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Nine oz. filet cooked to perfection.  My mouth is watering as I write this recalling the flavor.

 

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Missed taking pictures of the sides.  Oops.  Must be the drink package effect.  

 

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Key Lime Meringue Pie

 

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The pie was a bit of a let down with sugar grains in the meringue creating a weird texture.  Flavors were good but the chewing on sand effect of the sugar was a miss for me.  Given the otherwise great experience I'll give them a pass on the pie.

 

Excellent service and great tasting steak, Chops on Empress did not disappoint once again.

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I made good use of the beverage package on day one but didn't keep score.

 

Lacking a pub the beer choices on Empress are a little lacking beyond the large scale brands.  At the Schooner Bar I asked for a Guinness.  They have only a small stock on board and it was being saved for a beer tasting event.  #disappointed  

 

Returning later the bartender had asked the food and beverage manager and obtained special permission to offer me Guinness.  #winning   

 

I checked out the Welcome Aboard show in the main theater.  It's always nice to see the cruise director and pick up any essential last minute details about the cruise.  Comedian was good.  Might have to check out his adult show later in the cruise.

 

Given the late night arrival into Miami the night before I called it quits after the show and headed to bed early.

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Day Two - Key West Approach

 

Day two started early for me given the early bed time.  Still dark I could lights from shore along the Keys.  Thunderstorms in the distance provided a cool lightning display.  Later I ventured up to deck 11 as we got closer to Key West to take in the sunrise.

 

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With our pilot on board the pilot boat cruised past us.

 

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Awesome! 😎. A Twangster review! I’m not sure I’ve read one before. If it did, there were no pictures. This is the first good kook I’ve had an Empress, and I’m excited to see her!

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A nice perk for Diamond Plus members is to be included in the Chop's breakfast normally offered only to Gold card suites and Pinnacles on other ships.

 

WVnPSGy.jpg

 

Despite the size of Empress Chop's is a good size.

 

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Chop's Breakfast menu.

 

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Fruit plate to start was very tasty.

 

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Eggs Benedict.

 

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What a great way to start the day.  It remind me of a Coastal Kitchen breakfast.

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Empress may be the smallest ship in Royal's fleet but she has many open areas that make her feel like she isn't small.

 

This is where photos are displayed.  The casino is up the stairs to the left.

 

ucH3dSP.jpg

 

Schooler Bar with windows to the sea.

 

7dSUipw.jpg

 

LycBPKd.jpg

 

Aft elevator lobby and stairs has sitting areas.  With the large open areas like this it doesn't feel like a small ship.

 

Oagzxd3.jpg

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3 minutes ago, twangster said:

 .... With the large open areas like this it doesn't feel like a small ship.

 

 

All that open space on Empress is probably driving the corporate bean counters nuts!

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Day Two - Key West, continued...

 

We arrived as the first ship into port and we hit the jackpot with the primary Mallory Square berth.  A Carnival ship would arrive later and end up behind us.

 

JnyMV57.jpg

 

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It grew hot pretty quickly so I ventured off to grab a few pictures in between work activities.  I am working a bit on this cruise so I took advantage of the strong cellular connection towards that goal.

 

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Back on board we sailed away at 5:30pm and I made my way to the Windjammer for dinner.  Jerk night.  Yum.  

The WJ is forward facing on this ship.

 

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The band Mass Effect was playing in Boleros.  Pretty good and one Mojito turned into another. 

 

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A sunset was looking promising but some clouds on the horizon stole the show away from me.  From the pool deck;

 

S9RljrY.jpg

 

The Viking Crown Lounge is different on Empress.  It is aft facing, not forward facing like the VCL is on most other current ships.

 

KF8suVN.jpg

 

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Empress does have a rock climbing wall.

 

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Movie night.  Tonight's movie was Captain Marvel.

 

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This picture doesn't do golden hour justice.  Sunsets at sea are often some of the best.

 

6EHufeh.jpg

 

 

Kim Kincade was on the piano and singing in the Schooner Bar.  Ballroom dancing display in the Main Theater didn't grab my attention so I hung out in the Schooner Bar for and hour, or two, or three.  Kim is from Nova Scotia and he is pretty good.  

 

Late night adult comedy hour was good and the theater was packed.  A couple had their 5 or 6 year old daughter with them.  This show was not appropriate for that age and the comedian didn't hold back.   She doesn't speak english was the couples response.  I don't buy that.  Some people.  

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3 minutes ago, Host Clarea said:

 

All that open space on Empress is probably driving the corporate bean counters nuts!

 

 

They could probably put two inside cabins there!

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

Boleros located aft is one the biggest and nicest Boleros in the fleet.

 

iTiPrsO.jpg

 

RJHFntv.jpg

 

Behind Boleros is an aft facing public deck.  Empress doesn't have a Diamond lounge but on day one they have a sail away gathering for Diamond and higher with complimentary drinks and a piano player.  I'll try to get some photos on the next cruise.

 

Empress offers a very classic approach to cruising with outdoor seating areas under the lifeboats.  A great place to enjoy the sea with a good book or a beverage, or both.

 

pRwdhXV.jpg

 

The pool deck checks all the boxes.  A main pool, a kids splash area and hot tubs.

 

DMTCuf3.jpg

 

erXYYwY.jpg

 

No pool deck is complete without a pool bar.

 

cGboT2a.jpg

 

Covered seating areas line the outside of the pool deck.

 

pZImRak.jpg

 

Deck 11 forward has more sitting areas and some other relaxation option like these hammocks.

 

M0Pecpz.jpg

 

A look back at terminal E.

 

vKfzTDR.jpg

Sorry to re-display on the fantastic photos - curious - how did you know there was a Diamond event on the first day?  Information in your cabin?  

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Day Three - Sea Day

 

I woke up feeling like the ship wasn't moving and I thought we might be stopped or at a pier for a medical diversion.  Nope.  Opening the drapes the sea conditions are very flat this morning.  The itinerary channel on the TV system has us going ~15 knots.  Very smooth, it feels like we are going 4 or 5 knots.

 

GXudiBf.jpg

 

The full breakfast menu choice in Chops this morning.

 

TsgQps9.jpg

 

Chops has a private dining area contained within it.  I suspect this is where the Chef's Table would be held. 

 

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While at breakfast I noticed some marine life popping up here and there.  Back in my cabin I saw some more.

 

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Looks like dolphins, quite few of them but spread out for 15 minutes here and there.

 

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Voom Surf and Stream this morning:

 

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That's actually an improvement over yesterday.  While in Key West under sunny skies Voom was delivering a whopping 0.9 Mbs down and 0.7 Mbs up.

 

Our progress so far...

 

KacuzdH.jpg

 

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2 minutes ago, crilski said:

Sorry to re-display on the fantastic photos - curious - how did you know there was a Diamond event on the first day?  Information in your cabin?  

 

Yes, a letter in my cabin plus it's standard for Empress.  They did it last year as well when I sailed her to Cuba.

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Great review thus far, Im also doing a solo B2B on her in late January, but in the solo studio OV. This is by far the best look at the ship I've seen and you are just on day 2 😁

 

 

Also enjoying your replays on Periscope. 

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1 hour ago, crilski said:

Sorry to re-display the fantastic photos 

You can edit your reply to remove the photos.

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1 hour ago, perfect match said:

Awesome! 😎. A Twangster review! I’m not sure I’ve read one before. If it did, there were no pictures. This is the first good kook I’ve had an Empress, and I’m excited to see her!


Are you calling Twangster a kook?  😂🤣😂🤣

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We're sailing on Empress for the first time the end of August.  I'm loving your review and all the photos!

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