May 14, 2017

A Closer Look

Now that I have been here a few days, I have a better understanding of some aspects of the Empress.

I mentioned before that the A/C in the casino doesn't work. Walking thru on disembarkation day, no only doesn't it work, but it would appear that heat is being poured into the area. It easily was over 100 degrees, when the outside temperature was a very comfortable 80. Had all the slot machines been running I'm sure it would have been even warmer.

This issue is certainly high on the priority repair list as the casino is closed more than usual while workmen are busy at work. They can be seen carrying sections of 4 inch flanged iron pipe, probably for chilled water, duct work, and other supplies while the noises of various power tools can be heard coming from the area.

There are piles of 8, 10 and 12 inch A/C duct, elbows, and couplings piled in various locations on the outside promenade on deck six. Most interesting is that all this material was shipped by Air Freight from Denmark to Tampa. Not a small expense considering both the weight and bulk of the materials.

I can only assume RC realizes how much revenue they are losing in the casino, and feels the expense is justified.

The Casino A/C isn't the only item that isn't functioning properly. Another is the soft serve ice cream dispenser, but this one most passengers won't even notice because of the clever work around that has been put in place.

On most RC ships self service soft serve ice cream is available for guests for 6 or 8 hours each day. Often there is a line, and the machine, or machines on the biggest ships, crank out soft serve or frozen yogurt non stop.

This machine is on its last legs and no longer freezes as efficiently as it should, so instead of just turning it off and offending some passengers, they have placed a staff member at the machine to dispense the product for the guests. In doing so, there are several very deliberate but subtle changes that have been made.

First she works very s l o o o w l y, making small talk conversation with the guests before and after she lifts the dispensing lever. The amount of product that is dispensed is certainly sufficient, any amount would be as it's free, but probably is about half of what most passengers would dispense themselves.

Yes, this is a deliberate plan shared with me by the Food and Beverage director to give the machine more time to freeze the product. A classic case of making sweet lemonade out of sour lemons, and I give them credit for the solution.

There are always maintenance issues to take care of, and this morning there were several access panels open to the plumbing and air conditioning for several cabins. Yes everything looked 20 or 30 years old, but everything was also clean. No dirt and most importantly no mold as I have observed on a ship of another line.

Once an engineer, always an engineer and I will always make such observations.

There are 9 pinnacle members on this cruise and 32 diamond plus. Only 5 pinnacles showed up for the Crown and Anchor party. I can't say how many other Diamond plus, but total attendance was between 25 and 30. Must have been very disappointing for all the officers and the dancers that entertained us. In fact the total number of Royal employees in attendance exceeded the number of guests.

The crown and Anchor reception was held in the Viking Crown Lounge. Since the second floor is now the gym, other guests had to pass thru the party on their way to or from the gym. Passengers that were on the outer deck near the rock climbing wall found themselves locked out during the reception, and they had to walk around the outside of the ship to get back inside. Just another of those little inconveniences of an older ship that has been remodeled.

I had observed that there are many design elements on the Empress that also exist on newer Royal ships. Today I learned why. This was the first ship by the designer responsible for all Royal ships through the Freedom Class, and a contributing designer on the Oasis class ships. If I were a student of naval architecture I probably would have been able to recognize some of the specific characteristics that he always includes in his designs. Now it all makes sense. Some of the elements are rather obscure and insignificant like non functional rotating wheels on the atrium elevators, others are bold like the windows on many decks, the Viking Crown Lounge, and the atrium that extends the height of the ship.

Sanitation and curbing the spread of illness is near the top priority on any cruise ship. On every ship there are constant reminders to wash your hands, Royal even has cartoon characters singing a "Wash Your Hands" jingle. Chemical sanitary solution dispensers are found throughout every ship, but the Empress has another line of defense that I haven't seen elsewhere. As you enter the buffet, there are a number of plain old fashioned sinks with soap, running water, and paper towels. Hand washing compliance is actually pretty high, and personally I think a better approach.

My second arrival in Cozumel finds the skies quite cloudy, with a few scattered showers. I take advantage of the reduced sun to wander ashore for a few hours. The Senor Frogs here is rather small and calls itself a half Senor Frog. The newer international port area continues to expand with more shops being added each year. Nearly everyone gets off the ship today, mostly headed to the beaches I assume as the shops are nearly vacant.

The magician from London is the headliner show for the evening. Having enjoyed him a few days ago I decided to attend again. Much to my surprise 30% of his show was different. Delta had mishandled one of his bags and he was missing some of his props for the first chow. He had little choice, but like many experienced traveler he split his goodies between multiple suitcases just in case. Had the CD not told us, the audience would have never known.