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twangster

Empress B2B - 14 Nights on the Biggest Little Ship

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6 hours ago, Bandit236 said:

Are there any trivia games onboard?

 

If I was a smarter cruiser I would have been recording the answers for these three cruisers in case the questions repeat.  You can always use another keychain...

 

4 hours ago, cruisedude29 said:

 I do have on question how much does the ship rock compared to RC bigger ships?

Thanks again I am love loving this review.

 

Not really but I'm not sensitive to motion.   It's a hard question to answer. 

 

Sea conditions change one day to the next.  On the first leg we came around Cuba and entered the Caribbean Sea.  There was a gentle swell hitting us broadside and you could feel an ever so slight motion from it.  On the next cruise crossing that same area and nothing, smooth as can be.  One guest on the first sailing might say "Yes I could feel it" while a different guest on the next sailing doing the exact same itinerary might say "Couldn't feel a thing".  They would both be right.

 

BTW - in this very same area I felt Allure move like I had a few more drinks than I did.  It was moving more than Empress on that occasion.  

 

The ocean is big and powerful and sailing Symphony on the transatlantic there was a swell from a distant hurricane a thousand miles away.  On that occasion Symphony had more motion than Empress has.

 

It's sort of like asking if it was sunny on my cruise thinking the answer would indicate the chance of your cruise being sunny.

 

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12 hours ago, twangster said:

 Using lessons learned from the previous night I think they came out pretty good. 

 

fmb7g5w.jpg

 

 

 

Can you share what settings you used for this shot?

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Has there been any rough seas during your b2b..........we were on that ship years ago on a repositioning from San Juan  to NYC......Hit a storm  between Bermuda and NYC..........The ship was really going up and down,  went with a another couple. The rolling started and it really got bad. You would be lieing in bed on your back and it was so bad the rolling would turn you in your bed to your side and then back again to your back. It was like that all  night.

 

Finally morning came and my buddy and me went up toward the front the ship and you could see the whole front of the ship take the wave on the way up and then on the way down the bow would fill up with water then back on the way up the water would pour out of the bow.

 

Awesome sight, we then went up to the windjammer and it was almost completely empty. Most passengers and crew and our wives were back in their cabin sea sick..............

 

So you know it can get bad in that ship with rough seas and storms.

 

After that cruise my wife said she would never sail on the ship again no matter the price or the itinerary...........The ship is just to small!!

 

Can't believe after they sold it, they rebought it and brought it back into service.......Still can't believe they did that....

 

 

Jimbo

 

 

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7 hours ago, John&LaLa said:

Can you share what settings you used for this shot?

 

I shot this using a full frame Sony A7III with a Sony 12-24mm lens.   A crop sensor body that most people shoot wouldn't be able to get this wide.  The A7III also has really good low light performance, night and day from my last full frame body, a Nikon D750.

 

Also keep in mind I have a pretty good investment in gear.  Body and lens for this shot are ~ $3,700.  Not trying to brag but let's keep expectations real.  A <$1k kit can shoot the Milky Way but not achieve the same results.

 

Camera settings shown at the top, Lightroom adjustments below that.

 

cVSofV4.jpg
 

Using Adobe Lightroom I added a lot of clarity and adjusted other light levels and white balance.  This is why I shoot in RAW.  There is a lot of data captured in a RAW file that can be manipulated using software such as Lightroom.  Shooting in JPEG would lose all this extra data and you would never be able to achieve these results.  This is how JPEG produces a lower file size, it throws away all the extra sensor data it doesn't need for a JPEG picture.  A RAW file is much bigger because it contains all the raw sensor data that was captured.

 

Original picture as it was captured on the left, final picture on the right after adjustments in Lightroom.

 

HidIHkj.jpg

 

The one on the left is closer to what you see with the human eye.  Between the two brightest stars you can sort of see a cloud like area with the human eye that is the center or heart of the Milky Way.

 

Keep in mind I've been shooting the Milky Way for several years now so I've got some previous experience on land with a firm tripod.  On land you have more control and can take longer exposures, up to around 25 seconds for this focal length.  That allows you to lower ISO or make other adjustments for better results.  I wanted to keep the exposure shorter because of the ship's movement.

 

I use an app called PlanIt Pro.  It has an AR feature where you can hold up your phone, adjust the time or date and it will show you where the Milky Way will be at that moment in the future.

 

After we left Belize heading North to Cozumel I used this app to see when and where the Milky Way would be on Night 11.

 

YknDvh1.jpg

 

This tells me the MWC (Milky Way Center) will be visible between 8:43pm and 3:07am.  At 12:16am the MWC will be as shown for the location we are at this moment in time.  On land that works well, on a moving ship you don't always know where your position will be in six hours or the heading of the ship hours later so there is some guess work and extrapolation involved, but at least you know what direction to find it. 

 

With a full moon the results would have suffered a lot.  I don't try to shoot the night sky on land most of the moon phase, it works best without moon light.  New moon was perfectly timed for me, that's just luck.   For Costa Maya it was July 31st. 

 

The MWC in the Northern Hemisphere is visible at night in summer months only, you can't shoot the Milky Way in the winter.

 

There is also a lot of luck involved.  Based on the cloud cover after leaving Belize pictured above the Milky Way would not be visible.  I got pretty lucky two nights in a row with the ship heading South towards the Milky Way, on the right phase of the moon, without major cloud cover.  Costa Maya and Belize are close so the ship was only moving at ~8 knots.  

 

I don't always bring my A7 with me, that's why I have the RX100VI - for travel.  I threw the A7 in my backpack at the last minute.

 

I was in the right place at the right time with cloud cover that was in my favor on a slow moving ship with the right gear.  It's pretty rare to get all that working in your favor on a cruise, on a ship with a public area that is dark.  I may never get another opportunity like this. 

 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Jimbo said:

Has there been any rough seas during your b2b..........we were on that ship years ago on a repositioning from San Juan  to NYC......Hit a storm  between Bermuda and NYC..........The ship was really going up and down...

 

Can't believe after they sold it, they rebought it and brought it back into service.......Still can't believe they did that....

 

No rough seas, yet :) 

 

Even Anthem got shook up pretty good in rough seas.  That's why they try to avoid rough seas now.  It's also why Jim Van Fleet is the Chief Meteorologist as a full time employee of the cruise line now.  Going forward you likely won't hear many more Anthem/Empress stories of this nature unless they truly are unavoidable.

 

The point is even large ships suffer in truly rough seas.  

 

While Empress moved out of the Royal Caribbean fleet, it didn't exactly get sold outright to a 3rd party.  She moved to a related company line.   When Cuba opened up but with the ability to only take small ships, the business units within the relationship worked it out so that Empress could come back to Royal.

 

I think there is some hope that Cuba becomes available again at some point.  If it does it will only take small ships for a while so they are keeping Empress close for the moment.  

 

Edited by twangster

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1 hour ago, twangster said:

I was in the right place at the right time with cloud cover that was in my favor on a slow moving ship with the right gear.  It's pretty rare to get all that working in your favor on a cruise, on a ship with a public area that is dark.  I may never get another opportunity like this. 

 

Don't forget a heavy dose of skill and preparation.  Well done.

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3 hours ago, twangster said:

 

I shot this using a full frame Sony A7III with a Sony 12-24mm lens.   A crop sensor body that most people shoot wouldn't be able to get this wide.  The A7III also has really good low light performance, night and day from my last full frame body, a Nikon D750.

 

Also keep in mind I have a pretty good investment in gear.  Body and lens for this shot are ~ $3,700.  Not trying to brag but let's keep expectations real.  A <$1k kit can shoot the Milky Way but not achieve the same results.

 

Camera settings shown at the top, Lightroom adjustments below that.

 

cVSofV4.jpg
 

Using Adobe Lightroom I added a lot of clarity and adjusted other light levels and white balance.  This is why I shoot in RAW.  There is a lot of data captured in a RAW file that can be manipulated using software such as Lightroom.  Shooting in JPEG would lose all this extra data and you would never be able to achieve these results.  This is how JPEG produces a lower file size, it throws away all the extra sensor data it doesn't need for a JPEG picture.  A RAW file is much bigger because it contains all the raw sensor data that was captured.

 

Original picture as it was captured on the left, final picture on the right after adjustments in Lightroom.

 

HidIHkj.jpg

 

The one on the left is closer to what you see with the human eye.  Between the two brightest stars you can sort of see a cloud like area with the human eye that is the center or heart of the Milky Way.

 

Keep in mind I've been shooting the Milky Way for several years now so I've got some previous experience on land with a firm tripod.  On land you have more control and can take longer exposures, up to around 25 seconds for this focal length.  That allows you to lower ISO or make other adjustments for better results.  I wanted to keep the exposure shorter because of the ship's movement.

 

I use an app called PlanIt Pro.  It has an AR feature where you can hold up your phone, adjust the time or date and it will show you where the Milky Way will be at that moment in the future.

 

After we left Belize heading North to Cozumel I used this app to see when and where the Milky Way would be on Night 11.

 

YknDvh1.jpg

 

This tells me the MWC (Milky Way Center) will be visible between 8:43pm and 3:07am.  At 12:16am the MWC will be as shown for the location we are at this moment in time.  On land that works well, on a moving ship you don't always know where your position will be in six hours or the heading of the ship hours later so there is some guess work and extrapolation involved, but at least you know what direction to find it. 

 

With a full moon the results would have suffered a lot.  I don't try to shoot the night sky on land most of the moon phase, it works best without moon light.  New moon was perfectly timed for me, that's just luck.   For Costa Maya it was July 31st. 

 

The MWC in the Northern Hemisphere is visible at night in summer months only, you can't shoot the Milky Way in the winter.

 

There is also a lot of luck involved.  Based on the cloud cover after leaving Belize pictured above the Milky Way would not be visible.  I got pretty lucky two nights in a row with the ship heading South towards the Milky Way, on the right phase of the moon, without major cloud cover.  Costa Maya and Belize are close so the ship was only moving at ~8 knots.  

 

I don't always bring my A7 with me, that's why I have the RX100VI - for travel.  I threw the A7 in my backpack at the last minute.

 

I was in the right place at the right time with cloud cover that was in my favor on a slow moving ship with the right gear.  It's pretty rare to get all that working in your favor on a cruise, on a ship with a public area that is dark.  I may never get another opportunity like this. 

 

 

Thank you, very enlightening 

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6 minutes ago, John&LaLa said:

 

Thank you, very enlightening 

 

Pun intended? 😉

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Fantastic review....

I'll be sailing Empress at the end of the month. This looks soo much more appealing than the Oasis Class!!

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3 minutes ago, Beachammo said:

Fantastic review....

I'll be sailing Empress at the end of the month. This looks soo much more appealing than the Oasis Class!!

 

I board Harmony Sunday.

 

Cool idea for a review 🤣

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On ‎7‎/‎30‎/‎2019 at 10:15 AM, twangster said:

With our fabulous dinner over around 10pm I was too full to retire so I changed into shorts and went for a walk outside on deck 6.  Venturing forward we were sailing into some sea mist from the warm waters yet cooling air and there were some clouds in the sky but I also glimpsed what I thought was something I've photographed before in the night sky.  So I went back to grab my camera and mini tripod.

 

I've often sailed into the sunset but tonight we were sailing into the milky way.

 

UpNRlbP.jpg

 

Capturing the milky way requires long exposures but on a moving ship in the ocean it took some playing around to find some settings that worked.  With the 10 to 15 second exposures I was using I managed to catch some lighting in a distant storm on the horizon.

 

The bow is dark at night so the bridge crew can keep watch.  The long exposures captured enough light to make the bow look like it's illuminated but it isn't, that's just low levels of ambient light 

 

f2fji1H.jpg

 

The sea mist, clouds and moving ship didn't make for the best astrophotography conditions but I'm pleased with the results. 

More lightning:

 

YlWu5K6.jpg

 

On land the stars would be more precise and clear, that's the problem with shooting from a moving platform, but I'll take the results.

A place we stay up in Canada on Lake Superior...Lake Shore Salzburger Hof Resort.

Posted this information - thought you might be interested since you took these very cool pictures...

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Day 12, Cruise 2 Day 5 - Belize

 

I awoke late after staying up late for the Milky Way and discovered we were at anchor in Belize.  Due to the great barrier reef system here and the lack of a pier or deep water harbor ships must anchor well away from shore (and the reefs) .  Guest use tenders to make it anywhere.

 

The tenders were queuing up getting ready to take guest ashore.

 

cduyL2E.jpg

 

One of the many tenders in use today.

 

or8z1oE.jpg

 

Today I booked Scuba Diving through Royal Caribbean in the Cruise Planner before sailing.  Catching a sale event and given the tender operations it's just easier booking through Royal especially in Belize since it's a tender port. 

 

Our meeting point is common on many Royal ships for ship excursions, the main theater.  Here all guests received a different sticker based on their excursion and we waited to be called.

 

1K3wjgc.jpg

 

When they were ready for us or excursion was called.  Our dive boat picked us up right at the ship.  We would never visit the Belize mainland today, we went straight to our dive boat and back.  A couple of Carnival guests were already on the dive boat since we shared anchorage with the Carnival Conquest today.

 

lqaegJ6.jpg

 

in the past sometimes these dive boats will take you their dive shop to get fitted.  In our case they came prepared with all of our gear and some extra stuff for size mismatches.  From here it was roughly a 45 minute ride to the reef we would dive today.

 

UCOc7y9.jpg

 

i had bought a new underwater housing for my RX100.  Yesterday as I was getting my stuff ready the inner gasket popped out of the track on the new housing.  I spent some time trying to get it back in but there was no way I could get it to stay.  Not willing to risk my favorite travel camera I went back to my old GoPro for underwater shots.

 

The reef is very beautiful here and the pictures don't do it justice.

 

VWBIU6h.jpg

 

CdncQTu.jpg

 

UJGF31e.jpg

 

A Green Moray eel wasn't very pleased with our presence.

 

C5pAdsC.jpg

 

Our dive master pointed out a resting stingray in the sand below.

 

IqzR9xY.jpg

 

Two Spotted Eagle Rays swam past at a safe distance to check us out.  Very majestic with their movement.

 

AoNH39X.jpg

 

We enjoyed two dives with a surface interval in between.  This is all done with a plan to respect dive tables and how your body absorbs gases under pressure at depth.

 

Both were enjoyable dives but I was disappointed I could use a better camera compared to my aging GoPro.  I guess I'll need to come back another time.

 

After the dive was over they served a box lunch and we headed back for the 45 minute ride to the ships.

 

VfoI2hF.jpg

 

u85igCz.jpg

 

We stopped first to drop off the Carnival guests at the Conquest.  The Conquest class was my first introduction to Carnival when I used to sail with them a number of years ago before switching to Royal.  It really struck me how badly the Conquest needed a paint job.

 

f1P6XOS.jpg

 

Finally we were off to our home around the corner.

 

oyOQpw7.jpg

 

PQNrqd1.jpg

 

Big difference that some routine maintenance can make.

 

OtEzOiI.jpg

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Posted (edited)

Windjammer had American Night tonight.

 

RIWN4nR.jpg

 

Main theater tonight had the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers performing Jazz Cabaret with music by the Empress of the Seas Orchestra.

 

gh9UExh.jpg

 

Some acts were solo, some duets.

 

tQJdlS7.jpg

 

Music was quite good.  Royal did a great job casting these performers.

 

MpVa55e.jpg

 

Some older stuff, some newer stuff.  All very well done.

 

rCJea4F.jpg

 

Later in the Schooner Bar was Name that Tune 70's music.  One group got them all correct, quite amazing given one very challenging song.

 

QjZjLyC.jpg

Edited by twangster

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20 minutes ago, twangster said:

Day 12, Cruise 2 Day 5 - Belize

 

Oops.  Make that:

 

Day 11, Cruise 2 Day 5 - Belize

 

The struggle is real cruising and doing a live trip report a day delayed.

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Posted (edited)

Voom check in.

 

Morning in Belize before diving:


fpgBufl.jpg

 

Also noted way out where the ships anchor was fringe for cell phone coverage.  Sometimes great, sometimes not so much. 

 

This might vary based on who your cell phone plan is with.  The dive site had no coverage but as we got closer to where the ships anchor we had coverage on the dive boat.

 

After leaving Belize as we moved up the coast towards Cozumel much later that night after enjoying the evening activities:

 

wFBE2Ws.jpg

 

Generally speaking Voom has been stable and not doing the complete but brief outages today.

Edited by twangster

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Really enjoying the review just booked Empress for Bermuda May 2020 looks like a fantastic little ship. 

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Twangster, I’m really impressed with your Milky Way pictures, and the steps you took to get them from their initial point to your final picture. Thank you for sharing the process. 

 

I enjoyed your dive pics and description of your dive excursion there. Belize is one of the places I haven’t been diving yet. Hope to change that soon. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Day 12, Cruise 2 Day 6 - Cozumel

 

We were docked in Cozumel when I woke.  No plans today but I'm going to take advantage of my cellular plan including Mexico in my "home" area to make some calls and get some work done.  I like Cozumel so don't get me wrong but I've been a number of times this year with more stops booked.  With some overcast and rain clouds in the distance I'm going stay on the ship today.

 

#boring

 

From my office (balcony) I spotted the Carnival Paradise arriving. 

 

rWBcjXL.jpg

 

Carnival has modified some of these old ships to add balcony cabins.  Cool idea.

 

lWxiadC.jpg

 

uy8tUQQ.jpg

 

Voom has been pretty stable most of the day but towards the end my VPN was flapping occasionally so the on again off again Voom struck again for an hour or so.  I think it's a sign I need to stop working, like someone flipping the house lights on and off.  Time to move on.

 

With the work day done it's time to switch into cruise mode.  Happy hour is calling... and the bartenders are taking care of me.

 

MJwmsak.jpg

 

A lot going on around the ship but I saw it last week and I'll be back the week after next so I took the time to enjoy a Crown & Anchor bottle of wine on my balcony.  Something about the sea air and sound of lapping water that recharges the soul.  The wine didn't hurt that effort either.

 

TWnfYql.jpg

 

Edited by twangster

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On 7/26/2019 at 6:22 AM, twangster said:

 

I wasn't aware that Empress ever had a diamond lounge in the VCL.  July 2018 when I last sailed her it didn't. 

 

Nor did she when we sailed in November 2018

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Day 13, Cruise 2 Day 7 - Sea Day

 

Position report on our way to CocoCay tomorrow.

 

xAeXlHl.jpg

 

Calm seas today.  It has the makings of a beautiful day at sea.

 

0ln5KMx.jpg

 

Chops breakfast starts with some fruit.

 

l1JPiHJ.jpg

 

Eggs Benedict.  Yum.

 

fomreri.jpg

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39 minutes ago, emdia43 said:

Is there any place to get Pizza on Empress?.

 

Windjammer.  Keep in mind the WJ is open late each night and there has been pizza every night, among other selections.  

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Boleros

 

On this sea day I've got some time to kill so let's look at Boleros.  I can't say enough great things about Boleros on Empress.  it is the biggest and best Boleros across the whole fleet.

 

Located on deck 6 aft with entrances on port the port and starboard side.

 

oAq4TMP.jpg

 

S4YLjkF.jpg

 

This Boleros has a distinct Cuba theme.

 

YhCyGjo.jpg

 

vxJMSwz.jpg

 

qfUDHza.jpg

 

iZDufWC.jpg

 

M0Qkprz.jpg

 

Y9QG0Z1.jpg

 

UYAZkqO.jpg

 

k26uS45.jpg

 

3cOz2AO.jpg

 

804uSqj.jpg

 

Great bar with ample bar seating.

 

NPLe9I3.jpg

 

R0etzh8.jpg

 

Nightly there is always something going on in Boleros.  From Royal game shows to live music and dancing Boleros has it all.  

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