We have just returned from Mercury's Jan. 17 cruise from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso. In general we enjoyed the cruise.
However, there were disturbing issues in dealing with Celebrity personnel both on the ship and in the corporate office. There were many complaints from other passengers. Some who were big Celebrity fans felt that since the Royal Caribbean purchase, quality has really suffered.
Our biggest concern involved the pre-cruise, Celebrity-sponsored, trip to Igauzu Falls;this was an unknown quantity for us since we received no information with our documents concerning any of the arrangements. They didn't tell us how we would be transported to the hotel, which hotel, when or how many nights we would be staying there, or when we would be taken to Iguazu. For all we knew, we would arrive in Buenos Aeries and leave immediately for Iguazu. Of great importance to us was the issue of luggage--should be pack an overnight, would the big pieces be taken to the ship or the hotel.
We finally got a 3 line fax from them 2 days before we left; this fax didn't tell me as much as a post from Jack of this board who kindly e-mailed info. Our TA was heavily involved in these dealings. Others on the Iguazu Falls tour echoed our concerns. Several were treated quite rudely. We weren't, just were not given any info. I guess you could say we were patted on the head--"Don't worry; it will all be fine--trust us!" was the attitude. The 3-line fax was the only black and white confirmation from Celebrity that we had even booked this tour. Yikes!!!
Non of us received vouchers for airport transfers either. We feel that this is necessary. They continued to say if we booked air fare with them, we wouldn't need vouchers for our transfers. Several people who arrived on flights with us were denied transfers because their names "were not on the list". Our traveling companions had paid but still had to take a taxi. Wouldn't it be simpler just to send a voucher so that the passenger has that reassurance? Couldn't they include with your documents the brief instructions needed for the pre-cruise? We received very complete instructions with the Princess pre-cruise Denali visit as well as the pre-cruise trip in Beijing.
When we returned from the Falls (a good trip, I might add), we got different rooms, not really a problem, except that ours had NO air conditioning, no TV and smelled of horrible smoke. Since we went to the Tango show, we didn't get to the room to discover these problems until midnight, too late and too tired to request a change, but it wasn't a good night. Be sure that you request Non-Smoking Rooms from the hotel staff before you leave. Rather than book the Celebrity Tango/Dinner evening (we didn't want dinner) the Celebrity hospitality people helped us to book the Tango show (no dinner). We really enjoyed it. Actually the dinner didn't look too bad.
The embarkation was horrible. First we went to the "warehouse" where you do all the paper work (long, long lines), get your picture taken (they went so fast you didn't even have time to smile or get ready), then wait in another line to board an un-airconditioned bus to the ship.
There is a lot of non-communication concerning embarkation with people who did not purchase transfers. Celebrity seems to be quite reluctant to give adequate information for getting to the ship. Most people think that they will go to an area next to the ship and take care of the paper work. They unload their luggage and dismiss the taxi, only to discover they still have to get themselves and luggage about 15 minutes away to the pier. Our friends repeatedly asked for instructions and were actually given the wrong pier number by Celebrity people--on the day of boarding.
I'm "over" ventriloquits (although he did go through the ship calming passengers with the dummy when we had alarmingly rough seas), Gary Williams was good (perhaps one show was enough), the singers and dancers were very good, but the best for me was Brooks Aehron the pianist we first heard on the Splendour of the Seas Baltic cruise. He's wonderful! Our group really liked Opus because this group really was energetic and interacted with passengers. No comedians. The girl singer in Rendez Vous was also quite good.
We experienced some very rough seas; I understood that this might happen, and I don't blame Celebrity for bad weather. But as Dan (earlier post) experienced on the Christmas cruise, we were given very little direction during this bad weather. They did finally request the people not go out doors (no kidding?!) (I guess for some passengers, announcements on the ship are irritating. Celebrity makes a big point of this--"We won't disturb you the way other cruise lines do." For us, we would have liked some "help from above". I don't like to hear everytime bingo or the art auction begins, however a whale was spotted and we didn't hear anything about it until it was all over.)
Formal night was cancelled as was the big production number show (we got to see it later on and really enjoyed it). The ubiquitous art auction was even cancelled on the stormy day, that's how bad it was.
Water was sloshing around, coming up over the decks and into the doors, merchandise flew all over the shops, dishes were breaking, and people were falling. Heavy racks crashed around in the shops. Waves were incredibly high. One woman broke her hip.
Even the slot machines wouldn't work properly. We should have some very interesting photos of waves. Finally, the captain turned the ship completely around and headed back to Ushuia and proceded in another direction. One night a lot of late diners, didn't!
We were able to see Pope Pio XI glacier and it was spectacular. Apparently this is not usually on the itinerary. I think it was because of all the other things we didn't get to see.
Port Stanley was interesting although small. There are no tours offered (I think), but there are short trips to see Penguins here. You can arrange these right on the dock as you get off the tender and still have time to walk around when you're finished (or reverse it). There is an internet cafe here, but you need to hurry--it fills up.
In his post Dan also addressed the problem of terrible noise and vibration in the dining room when we were having dinner. It's hard to imagine how extreme it is.
Supposedly no shorts, jeans etc. are allowed in the main dining room, but we went anyway. We didn't look bad; we were just dressed appropriately for a day at sea. The food was good but not better than most of the ships on which I've sailed. The pasta was UNexceptional. I did like the way the waiters carried our trays to our tables in the cafe.
Our dining room personnel were efficient and personable--Valeriano, Emile and Dom. Marcel was always fun. Valeriano was injured in a life boat drill and was unable to work for several day. They had to take the injured away in an ambulance. I think that there were some rather serious injuries.
FEW ACTIVITIES were planned for sea days. The library is POOR, and there weren't many games or video tapes--a lot of checkers and jig saw puzzles. How hard could it be to provide board games and decks of cards?! The "Reference Library" (2 shelves) was locked most of the time. A lot of tango lessons, only one of line dancing. The ubiquitous art auction was even cancelled on the stormy day, that's how
Although the shore excursion director did give run downs on what to expect, no videos were available. The Petrohue Falls was quite diappointing in that we had heavy rain all day long. If it rains, there is not much sight seeing--just a lot of shops.
Because the departure time of our return flight kept getting changed, our plans for the last day were cancelled--no body's fault. However that meant that we needed transfers to the air port and the hotel day room--both part of Celebrity's printed policy. The ship's staff couldn't get confirmation from corporate that any of this would happen. We started working on this more than a week before disembarkation. This should have been an easy fax back to the ship, but again corporate did everything it could (it seemed to us) to try to finegle out of it. With persistance, we did get confirmation.
Disembarkation was not smooth. We were two hours later than we should have been. Several of our companions missed their all-day tour because of the procedures used. The drive to Santiago was interesting--a lot of vinyards along the way.
The Sheraton Hotel in Santiago was wonderful. If they promise you a day room (again you get no vouchers stating this) it will be a lovely, private room. There is a beautiful pool, work out area, and an exceptional, albeit pricey, poolside buffet.
The cabin on board was fine but there wasn't enough storage for 14 days. The veranda was quite nice with 2 lounge type chairs and a table. The bathroom has dispensers of shampoo (in the shower) and lotion rather than little bottles. The shower is quite large.
I realize that my post is more negative than positive. We all agreed that we had a good time. It's unfortunate that our pre-cruise experience set the tone for the 17 day experience. Celebrity, Wake Up!!! Be more responsive to the passengers' needs.
I forgot to add that one couple in our group didn't receive their luggage for 4 or 5 days, the fault of the airline. Celebrity assured them that they would be taken care of. 10 minutes AFTER the Captain's party had begun, formal wear (his tux was OK; her outfit was indiscribably bad and ill-fitting) was delivered to their cabin. He received a cheap casino shirt to wear during the day. I don't know what they did for underwear. These people didn't mind buying garments, but there were few sizes from which to choose. The bags actually did arrive in port the 3rd day but Celebrity didn't get them on board.
Sorry to hear about your problems. I not sure that these problems can be blamed on the RCI takeover though. I've cruised a number of times with RCI and the quality was more than satisfactory.
If anything has diminished the quality, in my opinion, it's the over supply of cabins and the competition for personnel. Everyone is having to slash prices in order to get there ships full and at the same time hire more people for all of the new ships. If you cut prices and hire more people something's got to give.
We're cruising on the Infinity 4/7 and hoping that the quality of service is not what you've experienced. If it is, it'll probably be the last time we book Celebrity.
Yea gad!!! We have booked this cruise for next Feb, 2002. I haven't heard anything good about it. We were on Millenium last Sept. and we felt the service quality was poor; but everyone assured us that Mercury was so much better. How were the fjords? We have booked a suite and spending 5 days in Rio for Carnival before cruise. It is costing us a bundle....can we hear something good...like how were the ports of call (the itinerary is why we are taking this cruise)!!!
We are also booked on the Mercury in Feb. 2002. This will be our second time on the Merc. and Ill have to say the reason we are doing it again is because how fabulious our Panama Canal cruise was back in November. I predicted when Celebrity decided to do the South America cruises there would be snags getting set up for the first time. Im sure there is a lot we don't understand what it must entail to set up new ports and itineries for the first time. I'm sure some of the snags will iron out by next year. All I can say we will have a blast no matter what because if there is a lack of entertainment we make our own. It was like that on our Panama Canal trip, the entertinment was a bit weak but it wasn't the reason we chose the Mercury. The food, service and ports were exceptional in our opinion. We have been on many cruise's and I would rate the Mercury on top. I dont think we will be bored at the Carnival Rio (lol) and have optioned to see the falls as well next year. Lets hope that Celebrity attends to the wrinkles that have been noted, and South America proves to be great new cruising vistas for us cruise maniacs. RIX
My husband and I were also on the Jan 17 South America cruise on Mercury. We had a great time! We were booked into the Sheraton in Buenos Aires for the pre-cruise package (we didn't do Iguazu Falls). We both thoroughly enjoyed browsing Buenos Aires on our own. We also did the a tango/dinner show which was excellent. On the morning of the cruise, we did the Celebrity city tour which ended at the pier. Although the lines were long in the "warehouse", they moved quickly with no problems for us. On board, we had a suite with a verandah, and were very pleased with the amount of storage space.
Regarding entertainment: we seldom go to the shows on cruises, preferring to do our own thing in the lounges. I did hear the ventriloquist wasn't very good, but that Gary Williams was excellent. We very much enjoyed Opus and Danuta.
The ports were the best part. We were fully prepared for the chilly weather with warm clothing, so we were comfortable. We explored Montevideo's old port area on our own in the rain, and enjoyed lunch at the old port market. In Puerto Madryn we took the tour to Gamon and the Welsh Tea House. This was a charming place, with good tea and pastries after a long (boring) bus ride. The scenery in this part of Argentina is nothing much to look at! We also enjoyed Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, despite the cold nasty weather. Fish & chips at the Globe Tavern and a lovely wool sweater purchased at the Pink Shop made it worthwhile. (We've also enjoyed visiting the cathedrals and churches in varous ports. They have some beautiful ones.) We had better than expected weather in Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, with temps in the 50's and some sunshine. I found both cities very appealing, despite their being "at the end of the world."
Regarding the rough seas: We LOVED THEM! There were quite a few of us up in the Navigator Lounge, overlooking the bow on the 12th deck, hooping and hollerin' and having a good time. We were in the dining room when it was announced they were turning around, and that the ship was going to list badly to the port side for a few minutes, so everyone should sit down right where they were. We were already sitting, but it was quite something to watch the dishes and silver ware sliding all over the place. The waiters did a great job catching some of it!
At the end of the cruise, we did a post-cruise package at the Sheraton Santiago. Lovely hotel, with a most relaxing pool/dining area outside. At our Thursday night dinner, they presented us with a bottle of wine, a small box of chocolates, and a white rose, because it was "romance night." Nice touch. Our transfer from the hotel to the airport was smooth, as were all our transfers.
The food on the Mercury was very good...but not better than what we had on Royal Caribbean. The chilled soups were especially good. Our waiter Shailesh was terrific, as was busboy Albert and Wine Steward Jerzy. Also high praise for our butler, Jerry, and cabin steward, Mia.
We saw the accident that injured a few of the crew. We were standing on the pier and happened to look at the ship just as the lifeboat that was being lowered (for a drill) slipped and fell to the water. We weren't surprised to hear there were injuries.
All in all, a great cruise!
Jane & Dick Israel
I'm glad your cruise was so enjoyable. Isn't it ironic how a few bad experiences can color our perseptions? Nevertheless, we are disgruntled cruisers and are writting letters. Believe me, it wasn't the weather. I knew to expect rough seas. It was our treatment. We certainly didn't have a "romance night". That is a nice touch.
We will be cruising on the Mercury on March 30 to the Eastern Caribbean. This will be our third time on the Mercury! (Alaska, W. Caribbean and now E. Caribbean) We just got back a few weeks ago from the Millennium. Loved that ship. But my heart is still on the Mercury. Can't wait to see her again. I would love to go to S. America, but can't get that many days off from work. Also air is really high from Seattle! Maybe some day.
I have been upset about my future cruise around the Horn after reading your review, but Jane assured me that they had a great experience and so I am looking forward to it now. Everyone has told me the Mercury is a fabulous ship. It is so ironic that you got that message from Celebrity because we had the most horrible experience on Millenium last Sept. in Europe. It was the most discombloberated cruise I have ever taken; so bad that I swore I would never go Celebrity again; until I was assured by fellow passengers that the Mercury was a so much better ship. Actually, the Millenium was beautiful; it was just the staff that was so mixed up, shore excursions were mediocre and it ended up being an overall bad experience. I do believe that our mishaps were probably the same as yours and it just seems that all that could go bad happened to us. The experience that one has might be completely different than someone elses. Talk about baggage mixups and confusion on disembarkation, it was a nightmare on Millenium. Lots of luck!!!