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.