I am writing this review of the Dec 22, 2000 Mercury South America Cruise I will attempt to outline what we experienced on the sailing of the Mercury from Rio de Janeiro to Valparasio Chile.
To begin this review we will have to say it was the worst cruise we have ever been on. Errors were made on this cruise that in our view reflect total irresponsibility by the Celebrity management of the Mercury.
The first and most important issue that I raise is the safety of us as passengers. When the ship sailed from Buenos Aires it encountered hurricane force winds in excess of 100 mph, which in our view nearly caused the ship to capsize.
We were in the Celebrity Theater at the time of the hurricane watching the second seating show featuring the Los Pampas Devils. An elderly man from the audience was picked by the performers to participate with them in their final act. Suddenly just as the act was finishing the boat rolled up on one side and settled back throwing the man down onto the stage backwards. The Cruise Director was hosting the performance went to the mans aid and helped him up. Once he realized the man was unhurt he made a joke of the situation to the audience. Just about the time he finished his joke the boat rolled up again this time much more than previous. Passengers that had drinks on their tables had to grab them as they started falling from the tables and spilling.
The boat would roll higher each time before settling back, no celebrity management were in sight. No one attempted to instruct passengers what to do. No announcements were made. Most people started getting up trying to get out of the theater. As they did so some were thrown over onto the theater seats or the floor. One man we witnessed fell violently backwards onto a couch just missing a cocktail table. He tried to get up but could not due to the angle the ship was listing. Other passengers had to help pull him up on his feet. The list of the boat was extreme enough so that we had to hold onto handrails just to stay on our feet.
The boat continued to roll up as we made our way from the theater. Once outside the theater we observed a man lying on the floor surrounded by passengers trying to help him. The celebrity crew that we observed were obviously scared. You could tell by the looks on their faces. We observed some of the crew putting on life jackets. Passengers and crew obviously did not know what to do, everyone it seemed was on their own. We heard someone on the PA system announce a “stat 7”as we made our way to our cabin to get our life jackets to be ready to evacuate the ship if necessary. Suddenly the boat stabilized.
Our cabin was located aft on deck 10. Everything that was on the desk or table was on the floor. The room was a mess. Up to now we had not heard anything from the Captain, Cruise Director or anyone of the celebrity management on board the ship instructing us what to do.
After a period of at least half an hour the Captain of the Mercury came over the PA system and announced that we had encountered winds in excess of 100 mph and he had dropped anchor. He further stated that the winds were not forecasted and the events that happened on board the ship were beyond his control.
A short time later the Cruise Director addressed us and said basically the same thing.
As we ventured about the ship in the aftermath we saw much damage to the goods in the shops. Many people appeared to be in a daze. On deck six a woman who we believed to be a passenger started playing the piano to calm those that were there.
We were informed that much of the dining ware in the Manhattan dining room had been broken as well as in the kitchen. The late seating dinner would be delayed. We observed a very nice work of art done in glass that we had previously admired now lay smashed on the floor.
From the events we endured above it seems that the management of the ship acted in an irresponsible manner in protecting the safety of the passengers by not taking charge of the situation immediately. We were left completely at the mercy of what seemed to us, irresponsible Celebrity management. To reassure us we were offered a glass of champagne at dinner when the dining room reopened.
Other concerns we have with the cruise although less in scope than that mentioned above need to be addressed.
While embarking at the pier in Rio, we experienced much confusion in handling our paper work it appears that most of the agents were new hires and were constantly having to go ask questions of a supervisor while trying to process the passengers documents. Much confusion it seemed revolved around passenger’s passports and embarkation procedures. Due to this inexperience embarkation was confusing and lengthy.
Some of the tours offered at the ports of call were either canceled or not very good. For instance we went on the Gaucho Fiesta while in Buenos Aires and expected to see more roping and riding by the Argentine Gaucho’s instead only one rope event was offered which lasted no more than 30 minutes. After the roping event we could have our picture taken with a Gaucho or sit on a horse and trot around an enclosed pen. This tour was made to sound much better than it actually was in the Celebrity brochure describing it. Since it lasted most of the day, it made it impossible to see anything else of Buenos Aires.
In Puerto Madryn we were not allowed to dock due to winds over 20 mph. That is what we were told. We had booked the tour to the Puerto Tombo penguin rookery. It is incredible that during this voyage we did not see one penguin except pictures of them in Ushuaia. No other destinations were offered as an alternative.
Cape Horn was barely visible due to weather. The ship stayed there briefly then left for Ushuaia.
The tour offered in Ushuaia (the train ride at the end of the world) was good mainly because it was the first time we had set foot off the ship since Buenos Aires.
The Chilean Fjords were a non-event as the ship sailed through them at night. The cruise director announced over the PA system at approximately 11 am that we were now entering Drake Passage and would arrive at the Chilean Fjords at 3pm. Time passed with no more announcements and no fjords seen Then at 6pm a Celebrity spokesperson came over the PA system saying that we would not arrive in the fjords until 11pm that evening. We rechecked this with the guest relation’s desk to verify what was said. The woman that we spoke to informed us that the announcement was correct, the ship was not due to arrive in the fjords until 11pm that night. She further stated that there would be a late sunset that night and it would still be possible to see the fjords. By 11 PM it was dark outside. We did not see any of the fjords. Celebrity had touted these fjords on board the ship and in the brochure as some of the most beautiful in the world. We were scheduled to spend a whole day “cruising” through them. What a disappointment not to see them at all.
The next stop was Puerto Montt where we had booked the tour to Petrohue Falls with lunch. This was the best tour of the trip in our view.
Disembarking in Valparasio was awful and disorganized. Only 15 people were allowed to disembark at a time. It was reported to us that there were 2200 passengers on the ship. Since we had a post cruise vacation in Santiago we were the last allowed to disembark.
Other areas of dissatisfaction were as follows. The entertainment offered on the cruise was lacking. We stopped going after the second performance.
The video library lacked enough videos to check out for in cabin entertainment. We tried to check out a movie and only five children’s programs were offered all others had been checked out.
Our room being located at the aft of the ship experienced excessive prop vibration every time the ship slowed. Our room shook so much that anything we had on our desk or bath vanity would shake to the floor. Some times this vibration would go on for hours. When we entered the Rio de la Plata channel on the way into Buenos Aires our room shook all night as the ship ran slow. We got no sleep.
The next morning due to complaints from passengers the Cruise Director announced that he was sorry about the vibrations but those in the aft cabins would experience “extreme vibration” when the ship slowed. He further stated there was nothing that could be done as this was beyond the ships control.
Note: Celebrity’s new ship Millennium had to be dry docked for excessive hull vibration at slow speed. It took modifications to the hull to correct the problem.
To make matters worse the vibration and noise in the Manhattan dining room which is also located aft made dining there very noisy. Passengers had to talk loudly to overcome the engine noise which was always present in the background of any conversation when the ship was underway. The ambiance of the dining experience was diminished due to this.
The positives that I would give this cruise were the food served in the Manhattan dining room. It was very good. Our waiters Jerome and Victor were excellent.
Our room although small was nice and our cabin attendant kept it very clean.
The Pizza was good and so was the frozen yogurt bar. The Ship was very clean and maintained looking. The health club had good quality gear and plenty of treadmills. The spa was very nice.