May 19, 2017

The Third Leg On Empress

Today I repeat the process of leaving the ship, passing thru customs and re boarding. Everything goes very smoothly. There are 15 passengers staying on for the next cruise, and we are escorted off the ship, checked by the same customs agent as last time, and back on the ship in less than 30 minutes.

In a separate group there are a number of contract workers that also disembark and re board the ship in the same manner as the back to back passengers. About 50 crew members leave the ship this week to begin their much earned vacation. They exit as a group right behind the contract workers. Those few I asked will all be returning to the Empress this fall.

Once on board we are restricted to the Schooner bar for a few minutes while the ship conducts a test closing of all fire and water tight doors. The slamming of so many doors at the same time sends a mild shudder throughout the ship. At least one door didn't pass the test, and workmen were quickly addressing the issue.

I take advantage of a ship mostly devoid of passengers to take pictures, even sneaking into one of the suites, the only cabins with a balcony. Throughout the ship there is lots of subtle elegance that is mostly missing from modern vessels. Pictures should be posted by May 22, a good a guess as any.

While the theater is very small, and really doesn't have room for flying any sets, they do have a modern digital background for the stage with impressive brightness and resolution. The backgrounds they create for the shows are impressive.

Despite the age of the ship, it is very accessible for those with walkers, wheelchairs, or scooters. I have not encountered any area of the ship that isn't with the exception of the fitness room above the Viking Lounge which is only accessible by spiral staircase.

There were about 600 passengers under 30 on the last cruise. Most were well behaved, and I experienced no issues, but in several cabins down the hall from me they were having to make repairs this morning. Light fixtures had been ripped from the cabin walls along with other damage. I hope they are charged appropriate repair fees.

For this trip the passenger manifest is similar.

This morning I met a UCF senior in the dining room at breakfast. He lives about a block from the train club. This was his second cruise, having been on the Empress last year. A very pleasant young man, studying Business Administration and Health Services Administration. Not only did he have a good time, he was offered a job by a person he met at the blackjack table. He said he is going to take it as it was a very good offer and just what he was looking for. I won't go as far as to suggest cruising is the pathway to your dream job, but It is another valid reason to cruise.

I am sure this happens occasionally, but after we left Tampa it was revealed that we had a stowaway on board. First she was spotted in the pool area, and then in Windjammer buffet. The staff wasn't overly concerned with catching her, but a number of teenaged passengers decided to take things into their own hands and attempt a capture. After about an hour the villain was trapped between the elevators on deck 10, and the little bird was captured and released outside on the pool deck. Whether it flew back to Florida or found a better hiding place on the ship to continue its journey to Mexico I don't know.

Security was called to the Schooner bar to remove two drunken and disruptive passengers last night. The passengers were not of the younger generation as you might expect, but I would guess to be in their late 50's or more. This didn't even happen after a long evening of drinking. The passengers were begrudgingly escorted away about 7:00 pm in the two unrelated incidents.

The weather and seas continue to be 100 percent cooperative. Our sea day again found the temperatures in the high 70's or low 80's under mostly sunny skies. So far the seas have been too slight to rock even this small ship. But of course that doesn't stop some passengers from feeling otherwise, and complaining about how rough it is. This can can be found on any ship, and often when we are still tied to the dock.

This trip we have 15 Pinnacle members and 30 Diamond Plus. Barbara is again the top cruiser with about 2600 points. (Think days on a Royal ship). She is one of several passengers that sailed on the Nordic Empress when she was a brand new ship 27 years ago. At the time the largest cruise ship, but now the smallest for Royal Caribbean.

We again berth at the International Pier in Cozumel. Two Carnival ships are close by. I stay on the ship and watch the crew launch some lifeboats and test all the fire and watertight doors again.

Since I am now confident that I will live, I will admit that I have been fighting allergies, a sinus infection and a nagging cough much of trip. It all started several days before leaving home when the weather was so nice that I left the doors and windows open for two days. The watery eyes and sinus issues eventually developed into a sinus infection and a nagging cough. The first time in many a trip that I have had to dig into my stash of cold medicines and antibiotics that I always bring with me.

The production shows and the headliners are the same this trip as they were on the previous two, but since we have one more day, there will be one new show. Both the comedian and the magician have actually varied their routine quite a bit for each show. A nice twist that doesn't often happen.

One of the things Royal does is try and treat their best customers a little bit better than the average guest. One way of doing this is by offering us more or special food. Each departing day I find a plate of cookies, many bottles of water, and a can or two of sprite zero. A day or so later I find a basket of fruit or chocolate covered strawberries in my cabin. Now do keep in mind that fruit, and cookies for that matter, is available nearly 24/7 in the Windjammer. As always it is the thought that counts.

Each morning we also have the the option of breakfast in Chops, the premier speciality dining room. Today they are also treating us to a special lunch with the officers in the dining room. I often forgo such activities, but will attend this time as I have encouraged Libby to go.

Often I find myself writing about some strange passenger behavior, or some mishap whether personal, mechanical or environmental. It is much more pleasurable to write about a neat person I have had the honor of meeting and getting to now a little about. Libby is such a gal.

For the last year she has been dealing with some difficult medical issues, finally she was going to get a prognosis on what the rest of her life might be like. Report day was a few days before we left Tampa on this voyage. A few weeks ago she decided to book the cruise, but she wasn't sure if it would a cruise of celebration or possibly the last adventure she would experience.

Libby has had a very full life, and is an interesting person to get to know. She has been a sky diver for many years, and holds a world record in women's sky diving. But sky diving hasn't been enough to satisfy here desire for a challenge. She is also a certified diver and diving instructor and has donated her talents to teach hundreds of kids the sport of scuba diving, a sport that has advanced immensely since I earned my certification years ago.

To facilitate her diving ambitions she is also a USCG licensed captain for vessels up to 200 tons. Though she admits to having grounded at least one vessel, I would feel comfortable with her at the helm.

We spent a few hours together, and when we looked we were the only people over 25 in the Schooner bar listening to the Piano player. Actually a good piano player, but Kelly will always be my favorite.

Anyway I drift off the subject. Libby's medical report was good, and this was able to be a trip of celebration. She dove in both Cozumel and Costa Maya, even spotting a turtle she was unable to yet identify but will research when she returns home. I think Libby has permanently packed her parachute for less risky adventures, but don't be surprised. Thank you Libby for allowing me to tell a little of your story.

Tonight is our last night on The Empress of The Seas. Alyssa will pick me up at the port in the morning and I head back to reality. I should have images posted in a few days.