Socogal--DH retired from WPAFB 1/97 after 33 yrs. and worked for a consulting contractor off and on for 8 yrs after that--the last 4+ years back at WPAFB in the same building he worked in before.
As to your question about an RCI itinerary that was more $$ than Celebrity--I had my heart set to sail Brilliance to the Panama Canal last year, but was horrified to see how expensive it was (and almost sold out, to boot). So I checked Celebrity and found the Galaxy cruise to be $700 less and ONE MORE DAY with plenty of cabins left.
I checked out both lines to Mexico and found that RCI has only a 7-night (Vision) with 3 ports. Mercury's 11-night with 6 all-Mexico ports is $50 less per day than Vision and $40 less per day than Infinity's 11-night with 2 US ports and only 4 Mexican ports. Than was the deciding factor in our choice of Mercury. But we feel comfortable with both lines and would have chosen RCI if it had been the best deal.
I'm considering Mercury a sister to Galaxy because they are the same size, but evidently as you saw above there are some differences in layout. Summit is a larger ship, but not a whole lot different from Galaxy. We loved them both and expect to love Mercury. We stick to RCI and Celebrity, choosing our ships depending on itinerary and price. My step-sis, our TA, started us out with Explorer because I had no idea about anything and we were hooked on cruising the first time and we wondered if we would ever like any other smaller class ship.
As I said in my first post, we went along with friends on Summit and loved it also. So RCI and Celebrity are OUR lines and we haven't felt an urge to try others. I thought we would have to switch to Princess for Aus/NZ but the very next day after my research, I found out Mercury was starting that itin. So no more changes for us. But we would've sailed Princess if necessary.
The only thing we think has changed is our preference for longer cruises. Galaxy spoiled us with the 11-night, then 12 on Jewel and now 11 on Mercury to Mex., with 11 on Galaxy to the Med and 14 on Mercury to Aus/NZ in the future. Then probably a 14 or 16 to S. Amer. Life's too short to go without cruises!
Thank you Cassandra for putting out the best comment about the food. Everyone's tastes are different and just because someone complains about something is no reason to reject it. I felt the same way about our local food critic, who has just retired.
If she panned a restaurant, I would want to try it because I thought she was too picky and "gourmet" to live in the real world.
Personally, I thought the Windjammer on Jewel was the best I've seen and tasted on any of our 4 RCI cruises and even buffets on the 2 Celeb. We ate there more than ever because of our port-intensive cruise--early excursions made eating quickie breakfasts there a necessity and the dining room was closed for lunch on all 9 port days.
One of the Roll Call posters on our Jewel cruise thread said the food was "...fair, not many choices..." HUH?? Was he on the same cruise?
Yes, he was because I met him and my first impression was that he was a first-class snob. Most people don't dine regularly if ever at 5* restaurants (I never have) so you can't judge cruiseline food by that standard. But some people do and it's very misleading.
My advice is: try it for yourself.