May 09, 2017

First Impressions of Empress Of The Seas

As I drive through Tampa headed to the port, the ship can be seen berthed behind the Aquarium. Alyssa proclaims "such a tiny ship", Scott says she's not even a ship but a "boat". I'm not sure that argument has ever been resolved as to what constitutes a ship and what is a boat. It doesn't matter. I will not only call her a "ship" but make her my home for the next two weeks.

There is no doubt she is small. Only barely 10 decks tall, and just over 600 feet long. About half the length of newer ships. Shorter than the Amsterdam that I spent 4 months on, but much slower and built to carry 50% more passengers.

Boarding is a breeze and I am on board just minutes after leaving the car. The Windjammer is relatively sized, small, but there is no pushing and shoving to find seats, they are plentiful. My cabin is ready before the scheduled expected time of 1:00 PM, and I dump my carry on bag to more easily explore.

My initial impression is that they did an excellent job during refurbishment. There are no visible run down areas. Except for design elements there are no obvious clues to her age. The $60 million spent or refurbishment is more than the ship initially cost to build. She retains much of her original charm with teak decks and railings, real wood paneling with lots of brass, chrome and glass.

The theater reminds me of the Vegas showrooms of the 70's and 80's with tables, chairs, and booths instead of the now common cramped theater style seating.

The dining room ceiling is several stories high with elegant crystal chandeliers. Seating is plush and comfortable.

Teak, not rubber, decking surrounds the entire outside of the ship on deck 6. Abundant lounge chairs are stacked about, and the extended deck aft has tables and seating for guests. The welcome party for top tier guests is held here just after sailing. I soon run into a number of passengers I know, all of which will be here for the three cruises over the next 13 days.

The crown lounge appears to has suffered the same fate of many of the Crown Lounges on the Royal fleet. Half of it has been converted to a spa and exercise gym. Much more profitable than a scenic lounge seating area.

The Crown and Anchor party is held on day two, a sea day. For the record there are 7 Pinnacle guests, and 32 diamond and diamond plus guests on board. About 50 Crown and Anchor guests of all levels attend the party. Over half of the passengers on the ship are first time cruisers, not unexpected for a four day cruise. The future cruise manager asks, and I am the only passenger booked on the newest ship, The Symphony Of The Seas.

It has been quite awhile, but I decide to go to the dining room the first night. I am seated with a family of five. Grandparents, daughter and son in law, and 3 year old grand daughter. The menu reflects the ships size, it is very small. I order a steak and it is excellent. The service is good.

Our only port of call this trip and next is Cozumel. I will be here three times before returning home. We are docked next to the Liberty of the Seas which has sailed from Galveston. The weather is perfect after a brief shower in the morning. I stay on-board with many other passengers to write this post.