Day One – Surprises on Empress of the Seas 2019!

Empress of the Seas

We recently went on a five day cruise on Empress of the Seas to Key West and Cuba from the Port of Miami.  Read on for my day by day adventures on Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas.  

Red Roof Plus, Miami Airport

Just a note on the Snooze, Park, and Cruise package at Red Roof Plus.  This is the most inexpensive package in Miami.  The motel is nice, but you are right at the airport.  First time we stayed there we were in a second floor room facing the airport, and it was really noisy.  This motel is right under the flight path for the planes.  This time we were on the first floor away from the airport, and it was much quieter.  They have a shuttle to the port, but not back from the port.  I’m assuming this is because a lot of people are going to the airport after their cruise. 

You check in at the kiosk marked shuttle the night before and they’ll give you a time to meet the shuttle.  They were prompt.  Breakfast was okay, nothing fancy, but plenty since we were going to be eating a lot on the ship anyway.  Our car has always been safe there.  You park in the very back of the motel.  One note:  If you come in off of River Street, it is a bit confusing.  The “in” driveway is on the left and the “out” driveway is on the right.  

Embarkation, Port of Miami

This has to be the fastest I’ve ever embarked onto a cruise ship ever.  We left Red Roof Plus, Miami Airport just before 10:00 am on the shuttle on April 1, 2019.  The shuttle dropped off people at the Norwegian Jade and Mariner of the Seas before it dropped us off at Terminal F for our cruise on Empress of the Seas just after 10:30 am. 

After we dropped our luggage off with the Porter and went into the terminal we immediately had our documents checked and were shown to security.  The Porter would not accept our eight pack of bottles of Gatorade like Royal Caribbean normally does, so we had to carry them on with us. Security was easy, they didn’t even want to check the Gatorade bottles we had to carry on.  We were shown to the up escalator to the check in area.  There was no line at check in so we went straight to the agent.  She looked at our passports and sail pass documents, and also at the documents we had filled out for Cuba.  (We used the “Support for the Cuban People” checkbox as instructed by our Tour operator.) 

We then had to fill out a form for our Cuban Visa and took our picture for the ship.  She left for a few minutes, then came back with our ship cards and our Visa forms.  She instructed us on how to fill it out, and gave us written instructions also.  We were told that if we messed it up, we’d have to pay an additional $75, so to be careful.  And then we walked from the agent straight onto the ship.  No waiting in the terminal at all.  Very efficient!

Onto the ship

After we got onto the ship we walked around a while, then headed to deck 10 to the Windjammer Buffet.  We were told that it would not open until 11:30 am, so we grabbed a seat at a table out on the pool deck and put our backpacks down.  They actually did open up at around 10:15, so we went in and found a table.  They do have hand washing stations and Purel dispensers as you go in, and they are very serious about clean hands. 

Windjammer Buffet

The Windjammer on Empress is small, but it didn’t seem to have the same craziness and rush of people as on most boarding days.  We were early, but the tables didn’t fill up for a long time.  It was a much more pleasant experience than normal.

I ended up eating light with mostly veggies and salad.  The selection at the buffet was not huge, but was adequate.  Sandwiches, hotdogs, hamburgers, shepherd’s pie, a taco station, assorted meats, rolls and many other selections.  Drinks include coffee, tea, unsweetened iced tea, strawberry kiwi flavored water, and sugar free mango flavored water. 

Time to relax a bit

After the craziness of getting to the ship we took some time to relax in the Windjammer.  There were still empty tables so we didn’t feel the need to rush to let others use our table.  Cabins wouldn’t be ready until 1:30 pm.  Our backpacks and Gatorade were heavy, and we didn’t want to carry them around.

We did leave the Windjammer after a while and walked down one flight of steps to the Library on deck 9.  The Library on Empress is very small and consists of an armoire of books, a wooden box to return the books to, and another wooden box for you to leave any book that you’d like to donate to the library.  However, they do have some small relaxing groupings of chairs and loveseats on both sides of the ship.  We sat on a loveseat, watched out the window at Miami, and waited for our cabin to be ready.

Our interior cabin

We got into our cabin at 1:30 on the dot.  We had booked an interior room just because it was the best deal at the time.  Exterior rooms and balconies on Empress of the Seas come at a premium because it’s such a small ship.  We were going for the destination, not the ship.  The cabin was very small, with enough room barely for the bed, two small nightstands, a vanity, and some drawers.  The bathroom and closets were small also.  But we could manage since that’s what we expected.

Bed area…can make into two twins

Our luggage had not arrived yet, so we put down our carry-ons and decided to explore the ship.  She’s a very small ship, but a very pretty one.  One pleasant surprise while walking around was that the casino did not smell like cigarette smoke.  It’s a small casino with a sunken center section, but it has everything that a gambler could need, minus the smoking section it seems. 

Promenade deck

After exploring we decided to check out deck 6, the Promenade deck.  Deck 6 wraps around the entire ship and is a great place for walking.  As you walk towards and around the front of the ship while she’s sailing it will be pretty windy, and this is also where you feel the most movement.  The very back of the ship has a nice smoking area, and one side of this promenade is also smoking.  We never smelled strong smoke though.

Gym

We also checked out the gym.  The gym is small, but everything seemed to be working.  It has treadmills, elliptical machines, plus the weight machines that I normally use in my 30 minute circuit.  It’s located at the top of the spiral staircase in the Viking Crown Lounge. 

Muster Drill

Then it was time for the Muster drill.  We were lucky enough to have our Muster Drill located in the theater balcony.  That meant that we could sit instead of standing on deck, squeezed in behind other passengers who came later.  It didn’t take long on this ship to do the Muster Drill, so we were out quickly.  It seemed very organized, at least for us in the theater. Remember, you have to go to the Muster Drill or you delay it for everyone while they’re looking for you.  It is mandatory.

Luggage

After the Muster Drill we ran back to our cabin to see if our luggage was there yet.  My husband’s was there, but not mine.  Our cabin steward, Paulino, stopped by and said that he’d look for it.  After about half an hour it turned up down the hall and we grabbed it. 

Surprise!

And then came the surprise!  The Guest Service Manager, Jorge, called and asked if we’d unpacked yet.  We told him we’d unpacked some, and he said to re-pack, that he’d be right down.  We had no idea of what to expect, but soon he was at our door.  He handed us two keys and said to enjoy our new room.  What???!!! 

So, we did as he said, and to our surprise, the new cabin was a balcony, called a junior suite on Empress.  Balconies are scarce on Empress of the Seas, and we had no idea on why we had been upgraded.  This had never happened before.  All we could figure is that I’d told my Media Rep and RC that we’d be on the ship.  They had never gotten back to me, so I forgot about it.  All I know is that we were very thankful, because there was so much more room in the Balcony Cabin.  I did find excursion tickets in the balcony and talked to our new cabin steward, Ismail.  He said that someone had not shown up.  Since there was a sharps container and mini fridge in the room, we assumed that they were diabetic.  I was hoping that nothing bad happened to make them miss the ship, and hoping that they had trip insurance.  Also, since it was April first, I half expected someone to jump out and say “April Fools!”. 

The only difference between a junior suite on Empress and a regular balcony is that there is a coffee pot and a tea pot in the cabin.

First dinner in Main Dining Room

We hurriedly dropped our luggage off and ran to the dining room for dinner.  We had made reservations for 5:30, and we were late.  No problem, we were seated promptly at a window seat and Govind and Wahyu were our wait staff.  They were prompt and attentive.  We had heard that meals in the main dining room were slow, but not for us.

I had a crab cake for an appetizer, and it was delicious.  Prime Rib was my main course, also delicious.  Key Lime Pie was my dessert.  It was a bit too sweet and not tart enough for my taste, but it was still good. 

Unpacking

I hate unpacking on a cruise, it takes so long.  We did finally unpack after dinner.  In the balcony room there was plenty of closet and drawer space to go around.  The closet was a small walk in with plenty of hangers, two robes, and a small safe.  There was also more room in the bathroom for our toiletries.  The shower was still small though.  The luggage fit under the bed.

Welcome Aboard show

We went to the Welcome Aboard show after we were done unpacking.  It was basically a sample of the shows that we’ll see the rest of the week.  This was the first time that we saw our Cruise Director, Elvis.  Yes…Elvis is alive and well on Empress of the Seas!  He’s a funny guy so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing him more.

The best part of the Welcome Aboard show was the comedian.  Darrel Joyce is a very funny man from Georgia and he had the audience in stitches.  Catch him sometime if you can.

Time to chill

And then it was time to chill out and get ready for another fun day at sea.  Day one was packed with so much and we were worn out.  Wonder what surprises day two will bring?

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