Ranked #7 Celebrity fleet
Ranked #38 among all ships
Mercury left Celebrity in 2011, going to German sister company TUI Cruises. Reviews here are for historic reference only ...Read the CruiseMates report
Ranked #7 Celebrity fleet
Ranked #38 among all ships
Mercury left Celebrity in 2011, going to German sister company TUI Cruises. Reviews here are for historic reference only ...Read the CruiseMates report
This is my review of my first ever cruise on the Celebrity Mercury, roundtrip from Vancouver to Alaska which departed on Sunday 31 August 2003. I travelled with my sister from Australia to do this cruise.
Right up I have to ask the question "Why have I never cruised before?" It was just an incredible experience.
We arrived in Vancouver a couple of days before the cruise - me from Perth on the west coast of Australia and my sister from the east coast. We met each other in Sydney and flew from there to Vancouver via LA.
I booked through Priceline and got the Westin Bayshore Resort and Marina for $48US per night. I was very pleased with the price and we both loved the hotel. When we arrived I asked if it would be possible to get a harbour view but was told it would cost another $30CA per night. We refused the offer. However, without asking we were upgraded to the tower and received a corner room with a harbour view at no cost. It was wonderful. I loved this hotel and would very happily stay here again (especiallyat the Priceline price). We did breakfast at the hotel restaurant the next morning and it was expensive but worth it for the convenience at that point. However after that we ate at the White Spot restaurant up the road from the hotel.
I also loved the hotel location. We are both walkers so being near the seawall was really convenient for us and we made the most of it. The hotel was within walking distance of Denman Street which is a hip, funky street filled with cafes and restaurants. Can highly recommend The Banana Leaf as cheap and tasty. There was also a Laundromat almost on the corner of Denman and Robson Streets. There was also a Safeways and a fruit market close by. It is also within walking distance of the Aquarium.
The main shopping area on Robson is only a 15 minute walk away. The hotel has a mini-bus service that goes every hour and drops you off and picks you up at the Sears department store.
On our walks we could see the cruise ships at Canada Place and we were very excited. When we went into the downtown area we went to Canada Place and walked around. I still can't get over the size of these ships. They are just enormous.
Day 1 - Embarkation
Sunday dawned clear and bright. We went for our walk, had breakfast and finished packing. We caught a taxi to Canada Place and arrived around 11.30am. The porters tagged our bags immediately and wrote our cabin number on all the tags. That was the last time we saw our bags until they arrived in our cabin. We didn't know what to do so we followed everyone else. We picked up an Alaska travel book as we walked in. We were directed to the Mercury security lines. When we got to being asked our details, the security man couldn't find our names on the list. I was very insistent that we should be there. I think we held up the line for about 15 minutes before he finally went and got some help. The lady informed him that foreigners, ie, people who were not US citizens were listed at the back of sheet list, and low and behold there were our names. I would have thought that this was a basic instruction given to all the people staffing this section of the embarkation process especially considering how many "foreigners" sail on cruise ships. Anyway we put our cabin bags and handbags through security and set off again and got our photos taken. For some reason I thought your photo was taken on the gangway as you walked onto the ship! There was an area where tea and coffee facilities were set up and about 1 dozen people were sitting or milling about. The joy of being naïve is that we walked straight through this area into the area with big white counters - there was no one around to ask for assistance. The big counter area was empty though beyond that point there were a number of people sitting. We were called up to the counter and given our cruise cards which would be a stateroom key as well as a credit card for on board purchases and filled out and signed a couple more forms and then went to sit down. About 15 minutes later they started calling people to start boarding - US citizens first, then Captain Club members, then people with children or disabled people and then the rest of us. While this was happening, more and more people were filling up the big counter area and there were lines everywhere. We went through US immigration and started the climb to board the ship.
We were greeted with champagne or champagne and orange by a white- gloved attendant. We had our security photos taken as we went through. We were directed to the Palm Springs Café to have lunch and were told our luggage would arrive by 1pm. We were seated and eating by 12.20pm which I thought was fast. An announcement was made to say luggage had been delivered but when we went to our cabin ours wasn't there. We met our attendants - Veronica and Kevin - who were delightful. The bed was set up as a double so we asked for it to be separated.
We spent the next couple of hours just exploring everywhere and taking photos. We visited the spa/hair salon and gym. The spa prices were over the top expensive. The library was small and had a limited number of books. The Mercury is gorgeous - we both loved her. I thought the muster was poorly organised - honestly if the ship had really been in trouble, 90% of the passengers would not have made it. However, for first timers it was an interesting exercise. We also happened to meet the people we would spend most of our time with on the cruise, although at the time we didn't know that. (Ken and Kathleen from Seattle were standing next to us and we just started talking. The next day we kept seeing them everywhere we went so by the next day we decided to really meet and talk). Our luggage arrived around 3.00pm
Dinner that first evening was casual. We ate in the Manhattan Room at Table 529 on Deck 5 right near a window at the main seating with 6 lovely people - 3 couples. Two couples were from the Seattle area and the other couple was from Nanaimo, BC. The couple from BC were friends with one of the couples from Seattle. Everyone was really nice. I'm certain we were the loudest table in the room. We laughed and talked non-stop every night. Our waiter was Goran and the bus boy was Jose. Both were wonderful. Had shrimp cocktail, chilled pear and honey soup, veal picante (awful) and the swan cream puff.
After dinner we visited the stores and saw the 9pm show in the Celebrity theatre - 4 for U - an a capella group who were wonderful and over the week formed a very strong following.
We had an inside cabin (Category 9) on the Sky Deck (Cabin 1214). We loved this location. My sister and I made a pact before we boarded that we would not use the elevators, it was stairs all the way. Our cabin was very handy to the outside area on the Sky Deck for when we felt queasy and close to the Palm Springs Café on Deck 11. For those interested there was a built-in hair dryer in the bathroom, cotton tips and cotton balls were provided, shampoo and conditioner and body lotion were provided in dispensers. Bathrobes were also provided. There was also a small in room safe behind the mirror in the cabin area. We arrived with two large suitcases each, 2 cabin bags and 2 handbags (please bear in mind we were travelling for a further 4 weeks around Canada and the US after the cruise). We unpacked everything. There was still lots of room in the wardrobes and we placed our suitcases under our beds.
Chocolates and a small card with the next day's weather conditions were placed on our pillows every night.
Day 2 - At Sea
I look back now and don't know why we did it, but we booked in for a 7am Yoga class. I'm no yoga expert but have picked up a thing or two in my weekly beginners yoga class that I have been doing for 3 years and I have to say this class was a waste of money. The instructor knew 3 poses and used them for 45 minutes and included approximately 50 arm lifts (come on!!!!) and then took this class of beginners (most had never done yoga before) through about 10 movements of Salute to the Sun. This put us off the gym for the rest of the week.
From "yoga" we went to breakfast at the Palm Court buffet. While the food was perfectly edible, it suffered from the same problem of all buffets - the food was not hot enough - barely warm eggs, bacon, pancakes, etc. You could order a made-to-order omelet if you wanted to wait. There was plenty to eat including cereals, fruit, yoghurts, eggs/bacon, pastries, (I loved the chocolate croissants) etc. Tea and coffee was self-serve.
At around 9.30am the ship started to move a lot and we started to feel decidedly queasy. My sister suffered quite badly and paid a visit to the doctor and was given a tablet. She spent some time on deck and finally went to bed. I went to the Celebrity Theatre for the talk on shopping in Ketchikan with Dara. Just a tip - she gives away freebies so sit at the front of the theatre. It was interesting trying not to watch the curtains sway quite violently from side to side. I managed to stay on to listen to the on board naturalist - Dirk Younkerman speak on "North to Alaska: Introduction to Cruising Alaska".
I went to the Palm Court grill for lunch - pizza - grease was just what I needed for a queasy stomach. The ship changed course slightly and within minutes, the sick feeling was gone. Checked on my sister who was feeling better and up and about. She went to eat and I ended up in the Navigator's Club for the afternoon, reading, watching the scenery, spotted 2 whales and some dolphins. I did go back to the Celebrity theatre to listen to Dirk talk about humpback and orca whales.
Tonight was formal night for dinner so we got dressed up and headed to the dining room. I am pleased to say that most people dressed up which was nice to see. Certainly not long evening gowns and tuxs but cocktail wear and jackets and ties. There are always people who don't care and those in jeans or worse stood out.
Dinner tonight was ham and cheese fritters, corn soup, tomato, onion, basil and lettuce salad with a disgusting oriental dressing, (I could not eat this); roasted pork loin which was delicious and apple tartin.
It was interesting that no-one at our table drank wine, one couple drank one beer each. Our decision not to drink on this cruise was based on cost. At $8.00US for a glass of wine it was too expensive, at that time, the exchange rate would have meant it cost about $14.00A and no wine is worth that much a glass. We knew we would be doing our share for the US and Canadian wine industries when we were staying with friends during the remainder of our holiday. We also don't drink soda so we drank water and iced tea which was free.
We stopped by the jewellery store after dinner to enter a competition to win some amber jewellery and then stopped at the Navigator Club but after listening (not purposely) to someone vomit twice!!! we headed back to our cabin, set back our clocks/watches one hour to be on Alaskan time and went to bed.
Day 3 - Ketchikan
We were up at 5.45am and out on deck at 6.20am to see the ship dock in Ketchikan. It was wet and Ketchikan looked so pretty. It was surreal being up on deck 12 looking down at the town. Took some great photographs. Had breakfast at the buffet and then went to the Rain Gauge to meet up with Island Wings for our floatplane trip. However, we got the bad news that due to the weather (it was drizzly) that all floatplane trips were cancelled. We were so disappointed. I had really been looking forward to this trip. The good news was that the refund was given that same day and appeared on my credit card very quickly. No point getting upset, we knew this was a possibility so instead we booked a city tour with Rainbird tours. The tour lasted for 2 hours. There's not a lot to see in Ketchikan but we were dry and warm so it was fine. After the tour we went shopping. Our mum was after a string of turquoise beads so we headed to the jewellery stores. It was strange that there were so many jewellery stores in a town like Ketchikan. We picked up a bargain on a silver and turquoise bracelet inlaid with opal. The manager knocked off $495 from the original price as it was the end of the season and then showed us these toe rings he had made out of opal and stirling silver. We convinced him that these beautiful rings were not toe rings (he had obviously never seen a toe ring) but were more suited to the fingers. He then gave us each one of these original pieces to thank us for the advice. I still wear mine, it is stunning and I am always getting compliments on it. PS. The manager was gorgeous and thanking him was an excuse for me to kiss him!!!
Had lunch on the ship (might as well, it is included in the price). And then wandered around Creek Street. By early afternoon we noticed that the sky had cleared but all floatplane trips were booked out. We went back to the ship to the Navigator Club and meet the couple we were always seeing around the ship so we finally introduced ourselves and spend the rest of the afternoon talking and finding out about each other. We left Ketichikan at 4.00pm.
Dinner that night was informal. I had tomato and buffalo mozzarella, Louisiana gumbo, boston lettuce, gorgonzola cheese and croutons, lamb (delicious). I had 2 desserts - lemon tart and tiramisu - yum.
After dinner my sister and I went to the photo gallery and bought the photo of us arriving in Canada Place and a photo of the Mercury. The photos were not cheap about $9.00US each. We then went to the Celebrity Theatre to see Carl Andrews, a magician, and 4 for U.
Day 4 - Hubbard Glacier
Got woken up at 5.30am with a big noise (never found out what it was). The seas were quite rough so neither of us was feeling well. Breakfast at the buffet and then went to the 10.00am shopping talk on Junea and Sitka with Dara. This was followed by the Dirk's talk on glaciers.
Lunch at the grill and then straight to the Navigator Club with our new friends. About 2pm we went outside to watch as we entered Hubbard Glacier. This was the only day I wore a hat, scarf, gloves, extra layers and jacket. It was very windy, cold and wet until we got to the glacier. I would hazard a guess and say we were within about ½ km of the glacier. It was magnificent. We saw and heard numerous calving. Took so many photos. The ship slowly made several full circles. We were there until 5pm. We heard at dinner that there was a film crew on board filming from the brig and that was why we were there for so long.
Dinner that night was informal and all I can remember food wise is that I had lamb. Following dinner we met our new friends in the Cova Bar to listen to 4 for U. They were wonderful. Afterwards we wandered the shops and each bought an amber ring. I went back to the cabin to bed as I had a sore throat.
Day 5 - Juneau
We were up early to catch a tender into Juneau. We were at the buffet at 7am only to learn it didn't open until 7.15am. I would have thought it was logical to open early on a port day. We had booked with Captain Larry for the early whale-watching tour at 9am. We were able to catch the first tender at 8.15am and arrived about 10 minutes later. Juneau was covered in fog and it was the weirdest thing as we went past the bow of the ship in the mist. Hard to describe but it was surreal as we drifted past this massive structure looming over us. Wish I had taken a photo but it would not have done the view justice
Orca Enterprises was easy to find and we checked in. While we waited we did some window-shopping at the Juneau Clothing Co. Back up at Orca Enterprises we found the Mercury's naturalist Dirk. Turns out he and Captain Larry are great friends. They started the whale watching industry in Alaska 10 years ago and Dirk was coming on this trip with us. We headed out to Auke Bay around 9.30am to meet Captain Larry. Juneau was still shrouded in fog. About 20 minutes out we hit clear skies. Dirk had heard there was a transient group of orcas out in Auke Bay and he told us it was very rare to see orcas and humpbacks together as orcas were the natural enemy of humpbacks. So we all kept our fingers crossed that we would see both - and we did!! The water was smooth, the sky was blue, the air crisp and the glaciers in the background were just glorious. We saw a pod of 4 orcas as well as humpbacks, seals and bald eagles. It was a great morning. As we were heading back, Captain Larry yelled out that a humpback had just breached in front of him. We then spotted Flame, a calf born in Hawaii, that Dirk was familiar with. Flame did a half breach right in front of another boat. It was amazing to watch. I could have stayed out all day. Later that day, Dirk found us on the Mercury and told us that we were the only group to see both the orcas and humpbacks - hee hee.
We were picked up around 1pm and dropped of at Coastal Helicopters for our trip to the Herbert Glacier. Our flight was booked for 2pm but the other people dropped of with us insisted on going earlier in case they missed their ship. The people at Coastal said they would get them back on time and that there were no flights available. These people were not happy but like us went to the airport (right next door) to have bite to eat. I have to say the menu was better than a lot of places in the town itself. We had just ordered when one of the young guys from Coastal ran in saying they had gotten a pilot to take us earlier. While there was no necessity for us to catch this flight as our ship didn't depart until 10pm we went along. Turns out Skip the pilot was very happy to be called out of a meeting to take us up. I've never been in helicopter before and I loved it. The view was amazing and landing on that glacier and walking around was phenomenal. Skip was very accommodating in taking photos of us and allowing his photo to be taken. I collected a nice sample of glacial rocks which are currently decorating my office. We spent about 25 minutes on the glacier with Skip answering all sorts of questions. On the flight back we flew along the Mendenhall Glacier which was spectacular. For someone who rarely sees snow this show was incredible. It was perfect weather - warm with clear skies.
Back in Juneau we did some souvenir shopping and watched the Mercury dock around 5pm.
At dinner (informal) that night I had cauliflower with pesto soup, salad with some disgusting heavy dressing; rack of lamb which was delicious and charlotte beajolais. We wanted to see what the movie theatre was like so we went and saw Maid in Manhattan, the best seats are the aisle seats in the 3rd and 4th rows from the front - clear view, with no-one in front of you. We wandered around the decks after and went to bed around 11pm.
Day 6 - Sitka
It dawned overcast and very cool. We met Ken and Kathleen on deck at the crack of dawn and watched as the Mercury sailed into Sitka. It was breathtaking. Sitka is a tender port but we had booked the Otter and Wildlife tour through the ship and the boat picked us up at the ship. This was a very well organised endeavour. The tour was 3 hours long and I thought we might get a little bored but it went so fast that we were almost begging for more time. We saw 7 humpbacks, a couple of them with calves. One humpback came to the surface right alongside the boat right near me, we looked right at each other - just amazing. Then we headed in the opposite direction to see a raft of sea otters who cavorted and dived and played for us - it was joyful. We also saw seals and a large number of bald eagles and a nest - it was huge. We were back at the dock in Sitka around 12 noon.
We wandered around the very small town. Bought several Russian Christmas ornaments and ogled the $40,000 babushka set - so beautiful. We posted some postcards and did some sightseeing. We caught a tender back to the ship and had lunch on board. My sister forgot something so she headed back to Sitka for another quick visit while I spent some time in the Navigator Club with Ken and Kathleen. Kathleen and I were fortunate to watch 4 for U rehearse and had a chat with the boys.
Dinner was formal that night - potato gratin, cesear salad and veal cordon bleu. It was baked alaska night which might have been fun except one of the waiters tripped over my chair and somehow juggled the baked alaska mid-air and caught it centimetres away from my sister's face!!!! Talk about lucky!!! Nearly a disaster.
Went back to the Navigator Club after dinner and met up with Ken and Kathleen to watch 4 for U. While waiting for them, Ken excused himself and unbeknown to us had spotted the group and arranged for us to have our photos taken with them after the session. They were happy to do and we were excited as only girls can be. (You should have seen me when I was talking to Hugh Jackman in New York later in the trip).
Ken took photographs and they turned out really well. We went to bed that night turning our clocks forward one hour.
Day 7 - At Sea
It was a rough sea the next morning when we got up around 7.30am. Ken and Kathleen joined us for breakfast as we filled out the customer survey forms. We went to the Vancouver Disembrakation talk at 10.30am and then we were very lazy and spent the rest of the day in the Navigator Club resting and writing and reading. Occasionally one of us would get up and go and get some food and bring it back for the rest of us. It got quite rough and announcements were made about being careful when walking around. My sister and I took turns going to the cabin to start packing. Dinner that night was casual. Can't remember what we ate, I know everyone took lots of photos and address and emails were exchanged.
We got our bill tonight which advised that unless I queried anything, that amount would go on my credit card.
This had also been tipping night. As Australians tipping is not part of our culture but we happily tipped (well in excess of the minimum required) Veronica and Kevin as well as Goran and Jose as their service was exceptional. However, we refused to pay the Assistant Maitre'd (please don't flame me for this decision). As far as I was concerned he spent 20 seconds at our table one evening and we never saw him again until he came around to collect his tips - his money was better spent on Goran and Jose.
We stayed up again to watch 4 for U and spend some more time with Ken and Kathleen.
Day 8 - Vancouver - disembarkation.
We got tags that showed we were getting off the ship at 8.00am. We had breakfast early and said goodbye again to Ken and Kathleen. We went down to the allotted deck and within 5 minutes we were called and headed off the ship, our suitcases were waiting for us, we grabbed a trolley, loaded it up and went to customs, had nothing to declare, asked for a stamp for the passport and headed out to where we had arrived 8 days earlier. It was all very organised with a taxi pulling up almost immediately. We jumped in and were at the airport in about 20 minutes. We purchased our airport improvement tax vouchers and checked-in, went through security and were sitting down in the airport terminal proper by 9.30am. Our flight to San Francisco was at 1pm. I headed back later to see there were queues for miles. We beat the rush, thank goodness.
So that's it. It's over. My sister and I both agree that we just didn't do this cruise justice. Neither of us knew what to expect and were a bit gob-smacked by the ship and the location. I think we walked around most of the time with our mouths open, not fully comprehending everything we saw. So we think we should so it again, as soon as possible so we can take in all in properly. We thoroughly enjoyed the whole adventure, the crew, the ship, Alaska, the wildlife, the scenery, the people we met both on and off the ship. It was a very memorable experience and we would do it again in a heartbeat.
Overall: A wonderful, relaxing way to explore the cities and beauty of Alaska's Inside Passage. Explore the ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Sitka, plus a few hours in Disenchantment Bay, the access point for Hubbard Glacier. A refined, classy ship without a superpremium price. A crew genuinely interested in the pleasure of your vacation. Nearly flawless shipboard operations, including a dining room that serves 1000 meals at a time without missing a beat. The scenery? Beautiful!
The ship: Mercury was built in 1997 as part of Celebrity's expansion into the market a notch above Princess, RCL, and Carnival. Conde Nast rates Mercury (and many other Celebrity vessels) as tops in their class. However, our first impression was that Mercury was not that different from Carnival. This changed after the 2nd day, when we began to notice Celebrity's refined customer service, its sincere crew, and the passengers themselves, who were not nearly as "wild" as on other lines. Though the ship was full, everyone was nice, and even the kids were amazingly well behaved. The bars, the casino, and the disco were never crowded. We had the place to ourselves most of the time.
Thestaff: Julian Bertsch started his seagoing life as an AV geek -- handling sound and lighting for shipboard production numbers. Now he's Mercury's Cruise Director -- professional, informed, entertaining but not intrusive, handsome, and (sorry girls) no longer available - he's heading to the altar this fall. Two gems on his staff: The vivacious Robin Pilarski and the smooth and stealthily charming "Cookie" will make great future Cruise Directors. Robin's birthday is coming up September 10 - wish her a happy 25th!
The best place to hang out, day or night, is the Navigator Club, the ship's huge disco up on Deck 12. With a commanding 180-degree panorama out floor-to-ceiling windows, the multi-leveled seating areas are wonderful for viewing the gorgeous scenery.
Celebrity allows advance tour booking on their website, a wise idea, especially for the more popular tours. Although in the Caribbean you can save as much as 40% by booking excursions over the web with vendors in advance, we did not find the same savings in Alaskan ports.
Like other cruise lines, Celebrity offers an adult unlimited soda card for US $39/adult for 7 days. You cannot buy this by the day, only for the entire cruise. If you don't drink alcohol, this is the way to go.
The helicopter trips to glaciers, dogsled trips, and other unusual excursions are expensive, and everybody leaves the ship grumbling about it. But everyone comes back beaming.
Definitely take a taxi to and from the Vancouver airport -- it is only $13 CDN per person and much faster than the Celebrity bus. Plus you don't have the long waits for other passengers and their bags.
Best prices on quality t-shirts that won't fall apart on their 3rd wash is at the Juneau T-Shirt Company just across the street from the Juneau dock.
The best Spa deals are in the glass display case to the left as you enter the spa reception area. Typically those deals are for when you're in port. Feeling a little "dirty"? Ge the magic mud and then clean up with your beloved in the mysterious and sensual Rasul Chamber.
Join Celebrity's Captain's club. It's free and you get perks on your next Celebrity cruise.
Our cabin (1138) was spacious and spotless. Mercury's elevators, toilets, lights, and other systems always worked. Everywhere was super clean and polished, including the public areas. Breakfast in bed is a must. Breakfast is also served up on Deck 11 and in the main restaurant, Manhattan.
The food? While we were thoroughly impressed with the crew and their exceptional friendliness, the food itself was truly the same as compared to other lines. That's not a bad thing, as the food is very good, just not up there with the ship's other superlatives. Extra points, however, go for the Baked Alaska - still served flaming - unlike many other cruise lines who have eliminated this classic cruise practice.
The most romantic spots are on Decks 9 and 10 at the back of the boat, deserted after about 11pm (wink, wink). If you have been on Carnival, NCL, or Princess, there are some things you won't see (or hear). There is no 24/7 pizza/salad/ice cream. Except for a daily status report from the Captain, there are no announcements (this is VERY good). There are no towel police tracking your every move. There is no entertainment by the waiters except for the last night which makes for more elegant dining. And there are no tired dancers selling $1 scratch-off cards (that no one seems to win, ever) in the hallways. Typical tips of $10 per person per day are additional, given the last day of the cruise.
The ship's sushi bar is open every night from 6-10pm. Other Deck 11 casual restaurants close for dinner, except for a small area called "Alternative Casual" which requires reservations and $2 per person service charge. So in order to eat, you've got to make reservations, eat sushi, or show up at the main restaurant on Deck 5 dressed appropriately. That means two formal nights (tux or dark suit), two informal nights (slacks and tie), and two " casual" nights (slacks and sport shirt). Guys, they'll let you slide if you don't have a tux, or even a tie, but don't try to sneak by in jeans or t-shirt on any night. This is a classy ship, not uptight, just classy.
The Photo staff was never in our face except for getting on at Vancouver. And no badly made-up guy in a pirate suit took our picture, ever.
Group gym classes like aerobics and kickboxing, formerly free, are now $10 each. There's no free cruise bingo on the last day, but the last bingo does have a pot that ranges from $3000-6100.
Not So Great
If you put Celebrity tags on your bag prior to arrival, they will somehow be plucked from beneath the airport (before clearing Customs, which is quite a feat), and delivered to the ship. No one tells you this in advance. You begin to suspect something when your bags never come out on the belt. The experience is quite a bit unsettling. It took us 20 minutes to find a Celebrity rep to assure us the bags were indeed going to make it to the ship.
Don't trust any biking shore excursion that says "easy." Those descriptions were written by lean 25-year-olds in Lycra. Pass unless you've got your own bike and you ride it 5-10 miles regularly.
Internet is expensive at 50 cents per minute, and there's no deal to get unlimited access during the cruise. We saw few people at the terminals. Bring your cell phone, as all ports are hooked up to the grid and depending on your calling plan a call home may be cheaper than a portside landline. It certainly will be cheaper than the shipboard phone.
Expresso and cappucino after dinner, free on Carnival and other lines, is extra.
Lukewarm salt water plus minerals equals the amusingly pretentious " Thalassotherapy" pool, $10 a day to visit. Hot tubs (four of them) are free on Deck 11.
Conclusion: A winning cruise!
To see all our reviews, visit http://www.strategicdevelopment.com/travel.
Happy Cruising! George and Eleanor
We decided to take this particular cruise in the spring because it left out of San Francisco and we hadn't been to the City by the Bay in almost 30 years and wanted to see it again. Our friends, Denny & Karen had never been to San Francisco and also wanted to see it. We left Chicago-O'Hare on 5/2/03 with a plan to spend 1-½ days sightseeing before boarding the Mercury for our cruise to Alaska. This would be the 5th Celebrity cruise for Karl and I.
Our United flight was uneventful and on time. The weather in San Francisco was cool and rainy. Everyone kept telling us that it was too late in the year for rain!
We checked in at the Sir Francis Drake hotel right by Union Square where we had stayed 30 years ago. They still have the Beefeater doorman and he was agreeable for photos. The lobby is very impressive and check in was quick. The rooms however clean are rather vintage. We were on the 4th floor and didn't have a view of anything other than a roof. Karl called the decorating "early carnival". It didnot blend with the posh lobby at all. The bathroom was very small with the original fixtures from the 20's. I think the bathroom on the ship was larger. But, it was a place to crash and we wanted to get out and sight see.
The concierge arranged for a bus to pick us up @ 1:30 for a 4-hr tour of the city. Since it was still pretty early, we hopped aboard a cable car and went to the Cable Car Museum. It was mildly interesting and Denny was looking for a cable car for his train set. It was not to be found. We took the same route back in variable showers and went looking for a place to grab a quick bite. Lori's diner, which is kitty-corner from the hotel, was our choice. Good hamburgers and soup with a 50's ambiance.
Back to the hotel and while waiting for the bus tour to begin it started to pour and pour. The bus took us to Fisherman's Wharf where we boarded the tour bus for our 4 hr sightseeing trip in the rain. Needless to say, we did not get off to visit Golden Gate Park, which I'm sure is quite beautiful and we did not walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. The fog was rolling in and visibility was quite limited. The bus driver was quite considerate in dropping people off at their hotels. Since we had reservations at the Club Fugazi to see "Beach Blanket Babylon" he dropped us off at the corner by the theater.
This is a great musical review to see if you are in San Francisco. The premise, if it needed one, is Snow White looking for True Love around the world. The cast are all first rate singers and there is a lot of topical humor. We enjoyed it immensely! After it was over, since it had finally stopped raining, we walked up to Columbus Street and grabbed a cab back to the hotel. The Sir Francis Drake is known for its' elegant rooftop lounge and we wanted to have a drink before bed but we were so grubby from traveling and everyone in there was dressed up so we skipped it.
The next day dawned partly sunny and we took this as a good omen. After breakfast @ the hotel, we took 2 cabs to Pier 39 and dropped our luggage with the porter. Passengers were already lined up to board at 10 AM. We took off for a walking tour of Fisherman's Wharf and covered it pretty well until about 2 PM when we worked our way back to the ship. The Mercury looked so good tied up there and we were excited about finally boarding.
Herein is the only complaint I had about the process. We were quite surprised with having to fill out the SARS questionnaire, but that went pretty well with tables handy and plenty of pens to write with. It was when we were in the Captain's Club line that everything came to a screeching halt. They had one woman there passing out the disembarkation forms and insisting that everyone fill them out immediately instead of at your leisure sometime during the cruise. People who were not Captain's Club were just walking in and getting their cruise documents and boarding. This was a far cry from our previous year's experience in Hawaii where we just walked on.
Once we were over this hurdle the rest went smoothly. There was the requisite stop for boarding photos and then onto the ship for a complimentary glass of champagne or orange juice. I was surprised by this as I thought it was going to be for Captain's Club members only. A nice welcome, but this has to cost them some bucks.
It was at this point that I commented to my husband that the passenger mix was definitely tilted toward the older crowd. Now we are all in our 50's so it's not like we are so young ourselves but it was quite apparent there were no youngsters on this cruise. I did not see any children on this cruise but did not expect to since it was so close to the end of the school year. When we were at dinner there were more people our age so I dialed down the average passenger age about ten years to 70.
Our cabin was 8127 Vista Deck mid-ship, a standard outside cabin with picture window. It was our experience with Celebrity that all our cabins have almost always been identical no matter which deck we were on. We elected not to have a balcony this time due to the early season. This was a wise choice as it was too chilly when the ship was moving to even think about sitting outside. The cabin came equipped with a smallish hair dryer that became too hot to hold even with my short hair. The new hair dryers on the Summit were much more powerful. I liked the desk with outlets for my curling iron and makeup lights. Plenty of storage space and we were able to store our boxy suitcases under the bed and out of the way.
Our cabin steward introduced himself as soon as we boarded and was efficiency personified. We hardly saw him at all. He quickly learned our schedule and the room was made up while we were at breakfast and turned down while we were at dinner.
As we moved away from the dock, we experienced the most unbelievable vibrations at the rear of the ship. We were sitting in the Solarium pool area and everything rattled and banged so loudly that we wondered if the doors were going to come out of the frame. I had read about these in other reviews and never quite believed they could be that bad. But that was the only time we felt this. I can't speak for anyone who had an aft cabin.
The sail-away party was held on deck and everyone watched as we sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and out of San Francisco Bay. We passed by Alcatraz and got quite a good look at it. It was sunny but quite windy and no one stayed outside too long.
We had elected for late seating because we always enjoy the time between the shore excursions ending and having some time to relax before dinner and the late show. In this instance we were surprised as most of the shows for the late seating were before dinner and were poorly attended.
Frankly, I was disappointed in the quality of the performers this time. We had been on the Hawaii cruise the year before and had really enjoyed the entertainment so we were looking forward to it this time. The production shows were always enjoyable with a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the performers and musicians. But the featured acts were somewhat lacking in star power. The singer Peggy Herman had a great voice but her material was from the 20's and 30's and was more suited to the generation before us. There was a gentleman from China who played the dulcimer and he was quite talented but again, lacking in excitement. Noodles Levenstein was aboard and most of his material was the same from the year before. But, he is definitly PG-rated and amusing.
There were two formal nights on the two sea days and we dressed up as usual. Just once I'd like to see my husband rent a tux for a cruise instead of his suit. We didn't see too many tuxes this time out. There were quite a few when we took the Hawaii cruise. There were 3 informal nights and 3 casual nights. This was different from what was in the brochure. But as usual, I had over-packed and had an extra dress shirt for my husband and another outfit for myself so this was not a crisis.
We started every evening in the Rendezvous lounge with a drink before dinner and listening to the music. There were quite a few dancers among the passengers and they provided the floor show. We had one bar server, Marie from the Czech Republic, who was so sweet and always knew what we wanted and called us by name. On our last formal night, Karl decided to have Irish Coffee after dinner. We had seen another couple who sat next to us have it every night and he was intrigued with the whole process. Marie was called upon for this special service which she proceeded to do in a most excellent manner. Karl made sure that he tipped her extra on our last night.
The food was exceptional which is what we have come to expect. Karen did get a tough lobster on the last formal night and it was exchanged without a hassle. I did notice that the choices had changed somewhat. It used to be chicken, beef, fish, pasta, pork or lamb every night. Now it's beef, 2 fish, one w/pasta and one without, and a few other assorted things. Our waiter, Wilson from India, was very professional and started to kid around with us after a few days. I'm very particular when it comes to fish since we live in the Midwest and it is very difficult to get really fresh fish. But the 2 times I tried it, it was very fresh tasting and not fishy smelling at all.
This was a port intensive cruise. Our first day at sea coming from San Francisco was a little bouncy and we heard of several people who were under the weather. Karen had her patch on and was sure that was why she was fine. The rest of us used nothing and we felt no ill effects, whatsoever, but Karl & I have always been good travelers without motion sickness problems.
First stop was Victoria, B.C. to sunny skies and 50 degrees temperature. We docked about a half-mile from the center of town and it was an easy walk there. Several people took the shore excursion to Buchtardt Gardens and said it was beautiful but didn't have enough time to really enjoy it. Since Karl would rather have his teeth drilled without Novocaine than go shopping, we pretty much walked around the town and came back to the ship in less than 2 hrs. The hot tea offered in the lobby after we boarded was very welcome. I had to rest my legs briefly after our forced march through the town. Victoria was very clean with lots of flowers and nicely kept public areas. We didn't go into the Victoria Hotel although we did take a picture of it.
Our next stop was Ketchikan and again we docked at the pier and walked off into town. This is a very cute town and has preserved a lot of its history. We wandered around and visited Dolly's, the former town bordello, which has been quite restored. Again we did not take any shore excursions but elected to explore on our own. There is a vertical railway you can take for $2 to the top where there is a hotel with a nice view of the port and ship. There is also a path running parallel to the railway for the adventurous. The view out the back of the hotel was spectacular with lots of snowy mountains. One thing we did do was to purchase 10# of fresh frozen king salmon to send to our daughter in Chicago. You can also purchase crab legs and other delicacies to ship back home. Ketchikan is only accessible by sea or air. There is a huge ice field on the other side of the mountains and no roads running through it. Everything has to be brought in by ship. They had a small airfield and we did see Air Alaska flights taking off and landing. The weather is quite mild with a lot of rain, as they are part of the Inside Passage. Our weather was sunny in the 50's. It was unusual enough that every merchant we talked to comment on what nice weather we had for our visit.
You can believe that the tourist is king for these people as there is no business from Oct-April. Most of the people we talked to, from clerks to bus drivers said that they were on welfare or left the state for other work in the off-season. A salesclerk in Ketchikan showed us the calendar that the city issued to all the merchants listing the ships in port for each day. Some days in the summer had 5 ships in at the same time! At every port we were the first or only cruise ship in port. We couldn't imagine that many people descending on these small towns. She said that the police had to stand at the pier and hold people back so that traffic could pass! Even so, at least one person gets hit by a car every season. For that reason, we were quite self congratulatory on choosing this time of the year to visit.
Our next stop was Juneau, the capital of Alaska and the largest (in square miles) capital city in the U.S.A. Here was the only place we took a shore excursion from the ship. Karen & I had originally purchased 4 tickets for the whale-watching excursion, but the guys decided they would rather walk around than bounce around in a small boat. The ship refunded the price without a hassle and the two girls went whale watching on our own. We dressed for warmth by layering t-shirts, sweatshirts and jackets. I even brought my gloves and earmuffs just in case. Well we never needed those. Again, the weather was sunny and about 55 degrees. We traveled by bus to the boat, which was enclosed and set out looking for whales. They guarantee you will see a whale or they refund $100 of your $109 fee. Bald Eagles abound up there. They are like sparrows at home. They were easy to spot as their white heads stood out in the tall evergreens. Of course the scenery was spectacular and we saw sea lions and Dall's porpoises which look just like miniature killer whales. And we did see A whale. But it was very agreeable and kept circling the boat, breaching and showing it's tail for some great photos. When we boarded the bus back to the Mercury, all the ladies were given a long stem red rose for being the first customers of the season! It was at this time we noticed the children of one of the ladies in the office who were dressed in summer dresses without any coats, slips or socks! I guess if you live in Alaska, 50 degrees feels like the summer. Since we left for this trip about 10 AM we were back on the ship in time a lunch of pasta and pizza.
The guys had done some exploring while we were gone and found a kiosk on the dock where we could get a bus to Mendelhall glacier for $10/person which left every hour on the hour. Since the ship was in Juneau until 10 PM, there was plenty of time to see and do things. We went inside the Red Dog Saloon to see it and kick around some sawdust on the floor. There was a guy singing & playing the guitar and he was quite good, but we didn't hang around very long.
Mendenhall Glacier is about 13 miles outside Juneau and is part of a national park. As we commented about the snow-covered mountains (again) the park ranger informed us that the snowfall was very minimal the past winter and there not only wasn't much snow on the mountains but that the glacier had receded quite a bit from previous years. Since it was dry we were able to walk on sandy land that normally was under water. You could really cover a lot of territory and get quite close to a beautiful waterfall, which wouldn't have normally been possible. We didn't see any calving of icebergs, which would have been anticlimactic anyway, since the water there was so shallow.
This was the one gripe Karl had with the itinerary. We did not go to Glacier Bay. When we had originally booked the cruise it was supposed to be 9 days starting in San Diego and stopping for a day in San Francisco. Sometime in January Celebrity informed our TA of the change to 8 days with the addition of the stop in Victoria. He felt we could have skipped Victoria and gone to Glacier Bay instead. Well we decided we will just have to do this cruise again someday and include the interior trip also.
Our last stop for our itinerary was Sitka. This is the only port we had to use the tenders. Since Sitka sits inside a protected bay, it was a smooth transition. Actually once we got to Victoria the sailing was very smooth for the rest of the trip. Sitka is a little jewel of a town without any traffic lights that is easy to walk around and see the sights. Again we did not take any shore excursions but just checked things out on our own. The principal feature is St. Paul's Cathedral, which was reconstructed after a fire destroyed most of the town in 1968. There is a $4 fee to enter and view the icons from Russia, which are museum quality and quite old. Only some of the icons are on display and they rotate them on a regular basis. The docent told me that they are already a National Landmark but are trying to qualify for museum status to be eligible for more federal funds.
There is shopping of course and we did notice that the prices were the cheapest in Ketchikan for the few items we had already purchased. I bought 2 great picture albums with a map of Alaska on the front. Believe it or not, there was a Chinese restaurant in each town! In fact we saw 2 in Sitka. This despite the fact that Juneau only got a McDonald's about 6 years ago! They were bemoaning the closure of K-Mart in Juneau and said they could only hope that Wal-Mart would open there. Since it's difficult to bring in merchandise, things for everyday life are very expensive. Milk was $4 a gallon.
As we left Sitka we left blue skies behind us and sailed into a fog bank for the rest of the day. The foghorn on the ship was blowing and it was quite the evening atmosphere. Our last day was a sea day that we used to enjoy the ship and relax before having to leave the next day. We had long given up on the casino and I have to admit it was the emptiest I had ever seen on a cruise. I don't know if it was because the passenger age was older or the fact that the slots were so tight. I managed to break even playing blackjack, but that was because I would quit when I had doubled my money or had lost what I started with. I did enter a slots tournament and didn't win, but somebody did and they were happy.
We saw lots of whales going north while we were going south and dolphins swimming along the ship. Karl saw a humpback being chased by 3 killer whales. Later in the afternoon, we came out of the fog and now saw land on both sides. It was staying light out until about 9:30 and we did get some great sunset shots.
Alas, we woke up the next morning at dock in Vancouver. We didn't take the Vancouver city tour as we had done that the previous year coming home from Hawaii. If you have a later flight, it is quite worthwhile and sure beats sitting in the airport. Our flight home to Chicago was delayed about 2 hours and we were quite anxious to get home by that point. Vancouver's airport is very clean and has the usual amenities but it's still just a place to wait. We arrived home to rainy, cool weather and were told how it had rained the whole time we were gone. We took the limo to our friends' house where we had picked it up and jumped in our car for the short ride home.
Overall, we thought this was a great cruise and were lucky with the weather while we were there. Alaska is beautiful and everyone we encountered was gracious and very thankful for our business. It sure made you glad to be spending your money in the good old USA. Like I said earlier, we felt we had only barely touched on what there is to see in Alaska and would really like to go back again for a longer trip. Would we do Celebrity again? Of course we would.
California Coast Itinerary (San Francisco; Monterey; Catalina Island; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) April 19, 2003
Although this was about my sixteenth cruise on a wide variety of ships and itineraries, it was different in that it was my first trip traveling with a physically challenged person. This certainly made me look at the ship from a different perspective. Our travel agent put us together to avoid the unreasonable single supplement we would each have had to pay otherwise. Other than the obvious difference that she used a walker or wheel chair to cover any distance longer than a few feet, we were well matched in interests and backgrounds.
We were driven to the pier by Connie Risse, our travel agent, as she had an appointment to tour the ship before we boarded. The pier in San Francisco is easy to find and has convenient parking at $10 per day across the street. Our boarding was accomplished very quickly and easily at about noon. There was a separate processing booth for wheel chair passengers so we avoided the lines and were the first onto the ship. We waited a few minutes for thebuffet line to open and really appreciated the nice lunch as breakfast had been over six hours earlier at home. A buffet line first for me was the linen cloth on the tray and a crew member waiting to carry the tray to the table for older passengers or anyone who wanted the help. These classy touches were standard procedure in the Palm Springs Cafe for the whole week. We ate breakfast there almost every day, but did not eat any further lunches or dinners there as it is much easier to have service in the dining room than to go through a buffet line when you are using a wheel chair.
For some reason I had trouble finding my way around this ship more than on most others. Part of the problem was that the cutaway type of diagrams were not always near the elevator, but around a corner or something. There were no signs inside the elevators letting you know on which floor the main destinations were located. Many ships have these useful aids over the top of the elevator door or next to the buttons to select the floor. The list of what is on this floor, located near the elevators did not include the restrooms, and did not tell you on which end of the ship to find your objective so that I often went the wrong way first. The main problem is that I have absolutely no innate sense of direction. Some ships manage to have such good signage that I can find my way around in spite of this handicap. On this ship the restrooms are located around corners with only the sign over the door, after you have found it, to guide you in the right direction. An unusual shortcoming is that there is no public restroom on the fifth floor anywhere near the dining room. One very pleasant aspect of the Mercury is the lack of constant PA announcements trying to part you from your cash. In fact the only announcements are occasional reports from the bridge and emergency announcements. A nice amenity was the paper with excerpts from the New York Times that was delivered to the stateroom each day. Also delivered each day was a card with the weather forecast for the next day to use for planning.
After lunch we were allowed into the stateroom. It was among the smallest I have been in, even for an inside cabin. The door (too narrow to be easily entered by the wheel chair) was in the middle of the long wall of a long narrow cabin. This made it necessary to keep the walker and wheel chair in the very limited floor space in order to open and close the cabin door. There was plenty of total storage space, but it was allocated in such a way that one passenger had all of the drawers in one closet while all long hanging garments were in the other. Since Jean had no long items we solved this situation by having me put all of my drawer type items in the six drawers of the vanity/desk. There was no chair provided for seating other than on the beds, and there was very little floor space for the desk chair so it had to stay tucked under the desk for the week. This would have been true even without the wheel chair. As it was, we had to constantly move items to move about the cabin. Luckily, all of our empty luggage fit neatly under the bed. On the other end of the scale, the bathroom was one of the largest and most nicely appointed I have ever had on a ship. The shower was full size and there was a glass shelf for toiletries for each of us. The towels were large and very fluffy, but the hair dryer was so powerless that it would not even clear a steamy mirror, much less dry hair. The only electrical outlet in the bathroom was for shavers only. More importantly, for us, there was a much longer than usual step down from the bathroom floor to the main cabin floor. This was extremely difficult for Jean to manage even with the grab bar located near the door. I do not consider myself physically challenged, just a bit out of shape, and I had quite a lot of difficulty with the step. The hall outside the cabin would have been adequate except that part of it was often blocked with cabin cleaning carts or bags of laundry. These obstacles made getting the wheel chair to the elevators difficult.
Dining in the main dining room is traditional assigned tables for dinner, open seating for breakfast and lunch. The only less than perfect service I received anywhere on the ship all week was during open seating at lunch in the dining room. On two separate occasions a waiter was less than pleasant about filling a reasonable request from people at the table. Dress for dinner in the dining room was generally quite dressy, even on nights not designated as formal. Our assigned table in the dining room was in the rear overlooking the wake from the ship. The view was wonderful and our dining companions pleasant. When the sun was too bright to leave the windows exposed there was a painted scene like a theatrical backdrop that covered them. One chair at our table was not assigned to a passenger; we were told that it was for a ship's officer. The environmental officer joined us on one of the formal evenings. He was a good conversationalist and we enjoyed learning about his responsibilities on the ship. Each time we entered the dining room the maitre d had someone push the chair the rest of the way to the table and store it folded during the meal. The service from our regular waiter and his assistant at dinner was flawless and appropriately friendly. There was a good selection of entrees on the menu, but my favorites were the wide variety of appetizers. A lot of them were things I had never eaten and were; therefore, fun to try. The entrees and salads were well prepared, but fairly ordinary. The desserts were of a wide variety and universally outstanding. The "ship made" ice cream provided in the Palm Springs Cafe each day was also outstanding. We tried breakfast in the dining room one day. The eggs Benedict was served luke warm and the rolls were not heated so we ate at the buffet after that. There was a good selection of breakfast foods and omelets cooked to order served in a bright cheerful room.
All of the seats in the Celebrity Theater had good sight lines. My only problem was the fairly steep ramp down into the theater from the upstairs entrance. I was always worried about loosing control of the chair and having Jean bump all the way down to the stage. Luckily that did not happen. There was a place for wheel chair parking behind the last row of seats, but no place for companions to sit so that we all sat in the row in front of the wheel chairs. The shows were energetic and pleasant, but nothing extraordinarily special. The comedian was funny without using jokes that were in bad taste for the family audience. The musicians playing in venues around the ship were generally good. I especially enjoyed the Con Brio Quartet. I just wished that the entertainment committee would have had them play where there was not so much conversation and noise. It was hard to hear them from their spot by the rail of the atrium in the Cova Cafe. The harpist played in the same venue. I could not hear her either. The casino was complete, but the craps table was available only in the evening. All personnel from the casino that I had occasion to deal with were much more pleasant than on most other ships. Upon talking with other passengers we felt that the slot machines were very tight. I have never before lost $100 in a dollar machine without even winning one or two small amounts to whet your appetite and keep you playing. I found that I was not the only one to have this experience. On this ship the slots did seem to be a donation to the casino. Craps was good to me so I went back to it in the evenings. The cruise director's staff was friendly and I enjoyed the trivia type games in the lounges most of the time. I did not like the Jeopardy type game, even though our team won, because each person only gets to play for a few minutes then spend the rest of the time listening to others. Also, if the first team gets their answers correct there is not much incentive for the other teams. The games where everyone plays the whole time are more fun. Bingo was too expensive at $35 per session, so I did not play. The card room had a jigsaw puzzle on one of the tables, a nice touch. The library did not have comfortable reading chairs, and I never found a person there with the cases unlocked so that I do not know if there was a good selection. My favorite place to spend the daytime hours was the navigators lounge. It is located forward on the deck above the bridge. The room has floor to ceiling windows giving a 270 degree view in a room that is light and airy. A wonderful place to spend the afternoon with a good book. The comfortable Cinema and Conference Center had frequent showings of relatively recent movies. The shopping area is all in one place and all sales staff were helpful and polite. The prices were high so I made few purchases.
All ports were accessed by tender, and both Monterey and Catalina were relatively short stops. Tendering with a wheel chair is difficult or impossible so we did not feel it was worth the bother for such short times in port. An announcement over the PA discouraged wheel chairs from going ashore at Cabo San Lucas so we ended up not going shore in any of the ports. It would be nice if the ship could have at least one port where they dock so that the handicapped passengers could more conveniently enjoy the going ashore experience.
The system of disembarkation where you check in with immigration and customs before leaving the ship is probably easier for able bodied passengers than the usual procedure where you check in as you leave the terminal with your luggage. For a person pushing a wheel chair; however, this method was very tiring. We had made it from the cabin to breakfast then back to get our carry-ons and were making our way to the next stop fully loaded with the carry-ons. Luckily just as I was about to give up from exhaustion our waiter came along and saw my plight. He took over wheel chair pushing while I carried luggage. I am sure this was not in his job description, but he cheerfully got us to the Celebrity Theater where we were to check in. Next we were told to report to the Rendez-Vous-Square and wait for our color to be called. There was a long line of wheel chairs, each with an assigned crew member to push it, when it was our turn to leave the ship. The gentleman pushed Jean down a long ramp to get our luggage then stayed with us out to the front of the building where we met our ride to go home.
Overall I found this ship to have the best attitude and service of any on which I have traveled. The food was satisfactory and the ship herself is generally well planned. I would very much like to cruise on her again, but not in the same cabin.
Mercury, Oh Mercury. Where for, art thou Mercury? We miss you dearly. There you were, right in our back yard. And we couldn't resist you. That Golden Gate beckoned. We longed to sail under her on a ship of your stature, in daylight of course. But you teased us. You took too long to get ready then raced by in the dark of night, right in the middle of our salads. Ah, but you knew your charms would salve our disappointment. You knew we would be easily swayed by your beauty, your aromas, your vistas, your fresh grilled hot dogs. But we digress...
...In the beginning there was that extra long embarkation, so close yet so long before we could board you. But board you we did, in just under two hours, foreplay much longer than we're used to really. But then...Paradise! You looked just as good as you did when you were younger. You looked brand new even!
A wonderful staff all around. Daniel and Jose took extra good care of us in our cabin. And Sen and Erica made our dinners a delight. Oh ye, do not be swayedby slight cuisine quips. We who have also dined far and wide know a wonderful meal when we see, smell, and taste one. Your divine courses seem to be missing now at home. The soups, superb. The salads so tasty. And the entrees we looked forward to all day long. And the desserts, well, well, six pounds more are we for we could not resist. The best dining in memory.
The muse drew us in. Truly the finest singers we've heard on the seas in some of the best shows. And a brand new cast at that. Chills down our spine for Le Miserable. It doesn't happen often. String quartet, acapella singers, dance band and orchestra all for our pleasure. Though the specialty violinist too loud, the talent apparent.
We shall not forget the Fun Factory, nor shall Christian at three. Hurrahs for Lorena and Mal and all the rest. You gave us rest. Many thanks.
Oh the places you took us Mercury, a bit rough dear at times. Your creaks and moans assured us a stop in the morn. See the fish in Monterey, an astounding aquarium indeed. Find the dragon seahorse and let your amazement flower. An e-ticket ride to Catalina and back, on a rocky rather than tender. But this island can be fun. And oh Cabo, you warm and sugary beach you, with water so clear. We needed you.
Yes Mercury, we noticed your new dress. Your re-branding touches made us ever so close. Correct clothes did we all wear; champagne to greet us; lemon, punch and tea libations to quench our thirst always available; sorbet shared with all in the afternoon. And ice cream tempting from 12 until 6.
But Mercury, we cannot be called unobjective. We noticed things....to be improved a bit. Getting on as you know, getting off not so bad. Unfilled tenders waiting whilst numbers are not called and the crowd sits in the theatre. Cold, cold pools. Get some heaters if you please. Turn that violin volume down and let Samantha's talent shine. Please invite a few more guests in their 20's-40's. We'd like some company in the beautiful disco. These are but a few requests. Pray do not be offended.
Mercury, Oh Mercury. Where for art thou Mercury? We were off and home by 11:30. As if by some miracle. No plane did we catch. No airport did we dread. Please stay Mercury. Please come back. We love you.
My wife Elaine and I were first-time cruisers on the Mar 15 sailing of Mercury. This was a round-trip cruise out of San Francisco with stops in Monterey, Catalina, and Cabo San Lucas.
We are in our early 50s. Our shipmates were mostly in their 30s and older. There were also quite a few children up to the age of early teen. There were few older teens or adults in their twenties. Think of a Mercury cruise as being about adult rest and relaxation.
There were many things that impressed us. For the purpose of brevity, I will list the outstanding highlights:
I was more or less in awe of the Mercury. There appears to be no feature of this ship that isn't well-designed and crafted. Experienced cruisers told us that the staterooms- and especially the bathrooms- are larger and better-designed than those on a typical cruise ship. The public space that most impressed me was the Celebrity Theater, where live shows were staged nightly. It is large, elegant, very comfortable and there are no obstructed views.
The crew and staff of Mercury were far beyond courteous- they were genuinely friendly at all times.It was a revelation to me that cruise ship staff typically come from all over the world. Mercury's staff included people from 57 different nations. In these troubling times of war and terrorism, it was very soothing to me- quite an unexpected benefit- to experience the friendliness and humanity of people from all over the world.
The food was simply the best eating of our lives. I enjoyed several entrees at the evening meal that I'd never had before. The daily breakfast and lunch buffets are incredible as well: There wasn't a thing I wanted that they didn't have in the buffet.
We enjoyed the opportunity to play dress-up. There were two formal evenings and two semi-formal evenings. I wore a tuxedo on the formal evenings and a blazer and tie on the semi-formal ones.
Last but certainly not least, there is a troupe of Celebrity singers and dancers aboard Mercury. I believe there are six young men and six young women in this troupe. They performed three different hourlong Broadway-style revues in the big theater. We were extremely impressed and entertained with these performances. The dance routines were complex, difficult and delightful. I found that these productions rivalled real Broadway productions at times.
There were a few things that detracted from our cruise experience. Most are beyond Celebrity's control:
First, if you've never been at sea, you just don't know how the motion will affect you. Elaine was uncomfortable for about half of the cruise due to motion from rough seas. On our cruise, there were rough seas between SF and Catalina going both ways. Things were much calmer south of Catalina. Elaine kept it together by using all these remedies in various combinations: Meclazine in 'patch' form, another medication in tablet form called 'Bonine', and an acupressure treatment called 'Sea Bands', which is elastic bands worn on both wrists.
Second, and somewhat related, is that the weather in March in the eastern Pacific can evidently be pretty dicey. So apart from the motion of the ocean was the fact that the daytime weather was a little chilly on our cruise for most of the trip. There were two good days around the pool, I'd say.
Last, an experienced cruiser told me that the West Coast just doesn't offer the kinds of quality itineraries that the East Coast offers. That fact really shows on this cruise. Monterey is nice but hardly an exotic destination for folks who mostly come from the Bay Area anyway. Catalina is very pretty but there is little to do there except shop-- and it is the priciest of the three places for shoppers. Cabo is warm but not very picturesque or charming. It just seems very remote. My impression of Cabo is that it's a long way from anywhere (anywhere I want to be, I guess.) It does have pretty good souvenir shopping.
But all in all, we had a wonderful life experience that we will always remember. We have actually started considering a cruise on Mercury to Alaska in the summer!
We sailed on a 15 day repositioning cruise from Miami, through the Panama Canal, and disembarked at San Francisco.We are a married couple, ages 57 and 50, professionals, and this was our ninth cruise in 10 years, our first with Celebrity. Our previous cruises were: RCI Nordic Empress, Vision of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Grand Princess, Dawn Princess, Carnival Celebration, and HAL Veendam. I will try to give an accurate description and draw comparisions where neccessary. Embarkation went smoothly, and we thought the welcome aboard glass of champagne was a nice touch. We were in a standard outside cabin, 5052, which turned out to be a great location, just off the main floor of the centrum. We liked the wide hallway there, also had a ladies' room nearby, which was convienent at times when my husband was taking a little too long in the bathroom! Also, it was centrally located between the fore and midship elevators. It had a nice layout with plenty of drawer and closet space. I took a different outfit for each of 15 nights, plus a couple of other outfits forevening wear, 8 pairs of shoes, and lots of daywear and swimwear, in other words, I am a heavy packer, but I could have put in lots more before the closet was full. Mike brought a lot of things, too, including a tux, 2 suits, 1 sportcoat, and all the casual wear he wanted. There was a nice storage area behind the large vanity mirror, where we kept bar stuff (yes, we did bring on a small supply of liquor and mix, plus a few snacks). There was a nice size mini-fridge, a safe, the bathroom was not huge, but bigger than most we've had, especially the shower. The only negative thing I can say about the cabin was the hair dryer was nearly useless--bring your own!
We were impressed with the cleanliness and general upkeep of the ship, but not "blown away" by the appearance of the ship as we have been before. The RCI ships such as Radiance were far more attractive, with their nine story atriums, glass elevators, fabulous art, etc. The artwork aboard Mercury was not to my taste, I never heard any positive comments about it, but plenty of negatives. It was definitely "far out" modern stuff! The staff was friendly and helpful, and really aimed to please. The food is the strong point on Mercury, far surpassing our other 8 previous cruises. While not "perfect", it was always delicious, the right temperature, and presented beautifully. I would give it a 9 out of 10. We liked the fact that you could order things that weren't on the menu, if you did so the night before. (example: we loved the creme brulee served on night 2, so we told them to fix 4 orders of it every night, and these wereshared by our 8 tablemates, in addition to the regular desserts on the menu---also had shrimp cocktail, filet mignon, etc whenever we wanted it.) The gala midnight buffet was the prettiest one we had seen, true artistry with food. They serve something every midnight, some nights passing around trays of canapes and sweets, some nights they'd have a buffet upstairs or a themed party up on deck. Room service was very efficient. The entertainment was so-so by comparison to our other cruises. The singers and dancers presented three variety shows, and they were average in quality (for professionals) with average costuming and special effects. They weren't bad, they just weren't GREAT. The "headliner" shows ranged from very good to pretty bad. Around the ship there was entertainment day and night, the best ones being the Nep Tunes, 4 young guys singing a capella, and On Lyne, the Caribbean band poolside, which was versatile enough to play all styles of dance music inside. (Though, IMHO, they should stay away from the country music!) There was only one act that REALLY got on our nerves, that being Fred the piano player who sang really really loud, and his renditions were like a bad lounge act. This was usually in the Cova Cafe, a centrally located spot that would have been a nice meeting place for a drink with friends, but no way could you talk there! During the day, there were some activities, but not as many as on our previous cruises. This was a more relaxing type cruise, not a "Fun Ship". If you like Carnival-type atmosphere, you may find yourself bored at times. There were lots of elderly people on this particular sailing, playing cards, napping, and playing shuffleboard. This was a dressy cruise, and we like that. We liked the way everybody would stay in their formal attire all evening long, not changing after dinner like so many do on the other ships. The "informal" nights were dressy as well, with many coats/ties, and cocktail dresses worn. "Casual" nights were still dressier than on other lines, perhaps it had to do with the age group. All in all, we had a great time and would return to Mercury anytime. Please feel free to email any questions you might have. Martha.
We holiday in the winter as our working life is spent looking after holidaymakers in the summer! We wanted a holiday that was restful but not boring, with good weather, the options were the Mediterranean, Canaries, or America. We chose the US because we could meet up with family and shop for my very tall husband which is not restful, hence the decision to cruise for the last week, which compared with the cost of hotels was a very favourable option.
We booked our cruise at the last minute, through Page & Moy / Travelocity which was very efficient and enabled us to book flights and accommodation to suit.
We had 7 days in Miami before boarding the ship, If you have time don't bring luggage just shop when you get to the US there was far more choice of spring / summer clothing in Miami than at home in the cold rainy UK, in January. The best malls are Sawgrass Mills and the Dolphin Mall but there are many more, all offer excellent value at the current exchange rate!
Cruising. I will try to answer questions, which I had but could notanswer with the various pre cruise information provided.
We had hired a car for the land-based part of our holiday, which we left at the airport and took the shuttle bus to the port, just name your cruise line and they deliver you to the embarkation point. A porter took our bags. Embarkation was officially 2pm, we arrived at 11.45am but were immediately ushered into the embarkation hall (others had arrived before us) quickly greeted and given appropriate forms to fill in, late booking meant no previous cabin allocation had been made but as soon as they had processed the forms and checked passports we were given our stateroom number. We were directed up the gangway on to the ship and were checked on and security photos taken, then welcomed with complimentary wine or juice & given directions to our Stateroom, this was not available until 1pm, but lunch, was being served. Luggage arrived outside stateroom by 4pm. Note the ship's photographer is lying in wait at every opportunity to capture your image for sale later on, fortunately purchase is not compulsory.
We could not fault the service or the ships facilities, nothing was too much trouble for the staff, and the general appearance and upkeep of the ship was excellent. Our inside stateroom was perfectly adequate size wise if you don't intend spending much time in it. It had a 6ft wide bed with 18" either side, in front of the bed to one side was a dressing table and chair, another chair and small table opposite with a TV built in above. As you enter there are wardrobes on one side with plenty of hanging space and drawers, and opposite was the ensuite shower room which is well fitted but compact, it had a step up into it, for tall or large people this could be a problem.
There is something going on all the time if you wanted activities, lots of excursions some were expensive for what was offered. We took the trip to Chichenitza, which we enjoyed improved by excellent guides. The packed lunches left a lot to be desired and there was a serious lack of fluids provided considering the hot weather. Evening entertainment was excellent, with a good variation of music and dance to choose from. We resisted the Casino but it was popular. The Spa facilities and treatments were excellent but expensive. The cashless system works well, and you can use it to get dollars for offshore trips if necessary, we kept running out of small dollar bills for tips etc.
Dress. The first evening is casual, slacks & shirts for men, 2nd and 6th night is formal 60% of men wore tuxedo the rest suits. Women wore long dresses or cocktail dresses or pantsuits, the last formal night is the most glam and the 3rd & 5th are informal nights which means suits and cocktail /party ware for women. We enjoyed dressing up.
Disembarkation. We docked at Key West the previous day so immigration into the US was done then, at 7am very organised but too early, likewise the following day back at Miami. Luggage had to be put outside the cabin on the previous night, don't forget you will need clothes for the next day! plus a small bag for night things and wash bags etc. We had to have breakfast and be in the theatre by 8.15am, where we waited until called according to our luggage label colour to disembark. By 9.15 am dry land and luggage collected from the carousel. As our flights didn't leave until 17.00 we were grateful for the use of a hotel room for the day. We left the luggage and went back to Miami Beach to say goodbye to the lovely weather and blue seas.
Our biggest complaint is the obligatory tipping; this is the only thing, which would give concern about cruising again. We were shocked by the terrible rates of pay received by the staff for very long hours ($50 per month plus accommodation and food and tips), which probably explains the high level of eastern European and Asian staff. This is compounded by our disgust at the active encouragement of the company in promoting this antiquated immoral method of remuneration. We were asked to tip very specific sums of money for every member of staff not actually selling something, Bar Staff automatically have the 15% added to the cost of drinks, which were not cheap. In total the tips if given to all the recommended recipients came to $231, including the 15% we probably gave over $400 in gratuities I would prefer to have this included in the cost of the holiday and have properly paid staff serving me, who take pride in their work rather than have to ingratiate themselves to receive tips. Heaven help them if the ship isn't full or everyone is teetotal. Possibly being in the business and from a culture less inclined to tip except for service over and above that expected we were more aware of this, at home the minimum wage would be obligatory at the very least.
To sum up the entire cruise was all we had expected and we left feeling thoroughly spoiled, The ships organisation is excellent, considering the number of people on board everything which involved security and safety worked like clockwork it is something we would happily do again.
We sailed on the Mercury on Jan 10, '03 on our 7th cruise. Having sailed so often before, I came aboard expecting great food, far superior service to anywhere on land, in the dining area and cabin service, a children's program that would keep my boys happy, and a relaxing but fun time. This was our first cruise on Celebrity. Based on different reviews, I expected somewhat better food and service and I was worried about finding a stuffier crowd, esp one that may not care for kids.
The people I found aboard the ship were some of the nicest people I've ever met gathered in one place in my life. We attended the cruise critic party, and were so happy we did. One couple there, whom I don't want to mention by name for privacy reasons, invited us and the other cruise critic members to a private cocktail party in their penthouse suite. I thought they had hearts of gold and everybody there had a super time. We also ran into another couple that we met at the gathering at every port and several times a day on deck. Itwas very nice always running into them like that. As far as the children go, we didn't run into anybody antagonistic toward their presence or in any way rude to them or us.
Regarding the food, I found it very comparable to other ships. The intermezzos were out of this world. Those were served on formal nights. I didn't personally care for most of the bread. I found it too crusty, or hard on the outside. I personally prefer a light crust, so this was a disappointment for me. Croissants one morning were overdone, but the other mornings delicious. Most dinner entres were superb, only complaint was the duck. I have yet to be disappointed in a meal on Carnival and we've travelled that line on 3 of our 7 cruises, so I would say that Carnival's food beats Celebrity's by a small margin. I believe the professional reviews of both lines are biased. Carnival is not the bottom of the barrel nor Celebrity the top in this class of cruise ships. Both are very pleasant lines to travel on with slightly different flavors and many benefits to each.
As for the service, our dining staff were incredible! The waiters were friendly to us and the kids, made us feel right at home and provided excellent service. They also made sure that my youngest son had spaghetti and meatballs every night, which he loved. I can't in all fairness to some of the excellent wait staff we've had on other ships say they were superior to the staff on all others, but they were definately tied at the top on my list with the waiter on the Ecstasy who adored Tommy the first time we cruised with him, and the waiters on the Grand who played with Mikey and always had a smile, even though tips were prepaid and distributed evenly among the personal choice staff.
Our cabin steward was very average. He did his job and no more. Our room was always clean, beds made, but he often did not leave enough chocolates on the beds for all 4 of us. He also did not attempt any towel creations or cute things with our sunglasses etc that we have come to look forward to on cruises. This was a small disappointment. As for the chocolates, after he received his tip from us, he did give us a bunch of chocolates for the boys.
Now for the children's program. :) The staff and the program were very friendly and the children couldn't wait to get into the program. They loved being in there, and made some neat little crafts while there. Mercury also has a ball pit, a sega station, and a very nice outdoor play yard that is the most adoreable that I've seen on any ship. There is a snailshaped slide, a coral tunnel and a shell playhouse.
My complaint is on the placement and policies regarding the children's pool. I don't in any way blame the wonderful staff, because they like any of us in any job are only following the orders handed down. The children's pool is also extremely adoreable, but placed right outside the fun factory, in full view of the children inside, and only open while the ship is in port. If you plan on taking your children to the beaches, don't expect them to ever play in this nice pool. We skipped the beach in Cozumel and did the pool. We had several little long faces looking at us who couldn't come in the pool since their parents were ashore. I felt sorry for them and the staff having to say no to them. We got kicked out of the children's pool early because there was an activity planned on another deck and the door would have to be locked. Since the fun factory is the only way in/out of the pool, families wanting to spend time with their children there are not even guaranteed to have the whole time in port in the pool. I hope by pointing this out in this review and in the questionaire that somebody with decision making power listens, and changes policy. Safety wise, there is no reason the pool shouldn't be open at sea, given parents HAVE to be there for the children to use the pool, and there's no life guard at any pool, at any time period. Also the 1 foot pool is a lot safer for children to play around than the main pools and hot tubs. When I asked about the pool on the first sea day, I was advised by the children's staff to use the hot tubs with them. Entering the area, there's a sign that children under 16 must be accompanied by and adult in the whirlpools, however right over the hot tubs, there's a sign for "adults only." The last day and finding out I would have only 15 minutes in the children's pool before another outing on a different deck, I caved and took the children in the hot tubs. It was their first time in them and they were in seventh heaven!!! The next time we cruise, I don't know if they will have any interest in the children's pool knowing the joy of hot tubs. :)
The pools on Mercury were very nice. The main ones in the middle have basket ball nets at the side, and the stern one is just so pretty and enclosed with a retractable roof. This made it perfect to swim in when the center pool area was too cold. The ship was only half booked on this cruise, so about every time I went in, I had the pool to myself, which was a rare treat. Also there were no lines anywhere, even boarding which was absolutely incredible.
As for the ports, we have been to Grand Cayman before, learned from experience, skipped any and all tours and went straight for 7 mile beach on our own. It was incredible. On Cozumel, Mike and I ate alone at Senor Frogs by the dock, but were disappointed in the food. Many of the items were plain American food. I had been looking forward to "real" Mexican food in Mexico and was disappointed that Fiesta Cancun here at home beats the food I got there by a mile. At least we had fun at the children's pool.
I'm one of only a few, but I liked Progresso. The pier is 4 miles long. A shuttle takes passengers to town. Once in town there's a flea market style place that sells a lot of nick nacks very cheaply. That's my kind of shopping! :) I don't go on a cruise to buy expensive items, because I don't trust the outfits. If there was a problem, the store is in another country far from home, outside of US jurisdiction. Progresso also has a beach close to the shuttle stop. It is nice and sandy. The only thing is its NOT a snorkel beach. The surf is similar to the Jersey shore, and the water is full of sand, making visibility poor. I was disappointed in the weather that day, it was in the 70s and too cold and windy to swim, but I still stuck my feet in the water. Key West is still the typical touristy/spring break party heaven stop. At least there is a beach close by to go to for people like me who don't want to shop till you drop or drink like a fish.
Over all our experience on the Mercury was very nice. It was a cruise! How could it not be??? Especially since we were getting away from highs in the 20s. Drinks were not pushed, nor was the annoying art auction which is the focal point of other cruise lines!! Art was in one area, not in your face by every public area begging people to go and bid bid bid. There were almost no public announcements except to annouce debarkation for ports. It was refreshing and relaxing.
We got what we wanted at a very reasonable price, same as the 5 day on Sensation for a 7 day on Mercury. I would say we definately got a great value for the money, and a wonderful chance to relax before our third child arrives in May. We don't plan on cruising again until she turns two, and is able to go into Carnival's program. I'm too spoiled now with having the children go to the program to go with a child unable to get in.
After she's 3 and fully potty trained, if we got a great deal on Celebrity again, we'd take it! I just hope if that comes up, policies regarding the children's pool change.
My husband and I cruised on the Celebrity Mercury November 8th sailing. We were celebrating our first anniversary and this was our second cruise. Our first was on the Carnival Destiny. Overall, the cruise was a wonderful experience for the both of us and we had a great time. We sailed from Miami and stopped at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Progreso, MX and Key West.
The Ship I have to say I really liked this ship. Everything was clean, the decor and wood framing were classy and the lounges were comfortable. The theater was a decent size and it never felt too crowded during the shows. There were a lot of lounge chairs on the outside deck, so it was easier to find a place to sit compared to our last cruise. The ship seemed bigger than I had thought it would be.
Embarkation We flew into Miami on the day of embarkation and arrived there around 10am. We had thought our flight was too early, leaving Newark around 6am and all, and thinking that boarding wasn't going to begin until 2pm. We were wrong. We were on the first shuttle bus tothe port, got off the bus, handed the porters our luggage and preceded to go on the check in line. The line looked fairly long but it moved rather quickly since 10 agents were working at the desks. It was noon when we got on the ship and it was such a nice feeling to be practically the only passengers on there. We ate lunch and by the time we were done, we were able to head off to our cabin and settle in.
The cabin Our cabin was the lowest category inside cabin located on the lowest deck in the aft section of the ship. We booked a guarantee to save money, but didn't get upgraded since all the cabins were full. The cabin was nice and there was enough room to store our belongings and suitcases. The big downside was that we were very close to the engines, and it got noisy and things in the room would rattle, especially when we were docking. Once we were used to it, it was okay, but still annoying. Next time we'll aim for mid-ship. Our cabin steward was very good and also very quick. We would step out of the room for 10 minutes and it would be clean when we walked back in!
Spa During our tour of the ship, we decided to head over to the spa for the spa tours. Little did we know, when we arrived there, the staff was still trying to find volunteers, so lucky for me I volunteered and got a free reflexology done. DH and I switched off after the first hour and he had it done also. That was definitely a nice way to start the cruise. My feet felt nice and refreshed afterwards. We signed up for Thalassotherapy pool passes and a Razul treatment. The T-pool for those who haven't cruised on Celebrity, is a large Jacuzzi with different stations with jets that massage different parts of your body. One section has these bars in which you lie down in a reclined position. It was very relaxing and the water is equal to your body temperature. My husband and I did the Razul treatment together and it was relaxing and refreshing. Let's just say it involves a steam room, shower and mud….
The Food and Dining Areas & Hours I had been looking forward to the food ever since we booked the cruise since we heard so many wonderful things about it. I have to agree with everyone else who said the food was absolutely amazing. The food variety was good and pleased even the pickiest of eaters like my husband. I love to try new things and I had my opportunity several times. For breakfast and lunch we ate at the Palm Springs Cafe. There was never a huge line, although sometimes it was difficult to find an empty table. The table turnaround was very quick because there was always a waiter or two nearby to clean up. For breakfast, there was a selection of fruits, cereal, breads and hot items. The hot items were the same almost everyday. I believe you could also get an omelet made to order. Lunch consisted of salad, cold cuts, meats, the carving station and veggies, all of which were very good. A specialty themed lunch buffet was also available by the covered pool. The ribs and king crab legs were worth it.
We ate dinner during the main seating hours. Based on our last cruise, we liked eating early, so we could see the shows afterwards and not be too tired. Plus, we had gotten back from our excursions early enough, so the timing worked out really well. For dinner, there were choices of appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. Some of the foods listed were difficult to translate so our waiter helped with that. Dinner was excellent every night and I especially enjoyed the filet mignon. I even tried frogs' legs, which were also very good, and they do in fact taste like chicken. Our waiter could have been more outgoing and friendly. I think he needed a vacation. Our assistant waiter and the sommelier were also very nice.
During the times when breakfast, lunch and dinner were not being served, you could get burgers, hot dogs, fries, pizza or enjoy the afternoon teas and midnight buffets. The mini croissants at the afternoon teas were my favorite. We only made it to two midnight buffets during the cruise. The first was Italian themed and it was excellent. I never had ravioli that good before and I am from Brooklyn, so that's definitely saying something. The second buffet we went to was the Grand Buffet. My jaw practically dropped when I stepped into the main dining room that night. The decorations with the ice sculptures, and just the food layout were beautiful. The food was excellent too, of course. I enjoyed the beef Wellington immensely.
The buffet times changed on a daily basis, which was confusing to most passengers. I wish the hours were more consistent. For example, buffet lunch either ended at 2 or 2:30 depending on what day it was. It would have been more convenient if lunch were open until 3pm especially on port days, that way you wouldn't feel rushed in port to hurry back for lunch.
Entertainment My husband and I really enjoyed the entertainment on this ship. There was a good amount of variety and the shows had themes. Specialty performers included a singer, musician and a magician. On the other nights, the Celebrity singers and dancers did their performances and they were all very talented.
Ports of Call Grand Cayman - The tendering process was quick and we were among the first tenders to get off since we had an excursion. We actually got there ahead of schedule so we wandered around before meeting the tour guide. I enjoyed this island immensely. We took others' advice and went to Stingray City via an independent tour operator. Swimming with the stingrays was such a unique experience and I would gladly do it again. Our tour guides showed us how to hold the rays and feed them. They were pretty tame and just swam up to you anyway. The water was so crystal clear that you could see them swimming around from the excursion boat. After stingray city our tour guides took us to coral gardens for some snorkeling. It was neat seeing all the different types of fish swimming together.
Cozumel - Our excursion was the underwater bond and snorkel adventure. We had originally signed up to go to Xcaret, which is a big ecological park in Playa Del Carmen, but not enough people signed up so it was cancelled. We didn't know it was cancelled until after dinner the night before. Of course, by then the excursion desk was already closed and we had no idea what was available. We woke up extra early that morning to make it out to the pier to see what excursions had space available so we chose the bond adventure. A bond is a cross between a motorcycle and submarine, so your head is in a glass bubble and your body is in the water. After that was over, we went snorkeling in the same area. There wasn't as many fish as I would have hoped for. I also wish we had more time here because we didn't really get to see much of the island.
Progreso - In Progreso, we wanted to do ruins but we didn't really want to spend 3 hours on a bus to Chichen Itza. We went to Dzibulchaltun instead. It gave us a taste of the Mayan ruins and they were rather neat to see and some were in pretty good condition considering they were very old. The downside was that it was extremely hot.
Key West - Key West is a quaint little town with lots of shopping and history. We walked along Duval street and back via Whitehead street and then went back to the ship. We learned some pretty neat facts about Key West. The weather was beautiful.
Sea Days - During the first sea day, which happened to be the first full day on the ship, we were still trying to get acquainted with everything. We had two get-togethers planned for that day. First was the Cruise Critic party and then the anniversary party. The Cruise Critic party didn't have as big a turnout as I'd hoped for, but nonetheless, we met some nice people there. The anniversary party was very nice and we had our picture taken with the "Happy Anniversary" cake. Also, at dinner, the waiters came and sang Happy Anniversary to us and gave us this really good chocolate cake to share with our tablemates.
The second sea day was a bit rough. We were cruising through a storm and the water was very choppy and it was extremely windy. Some people were still determined to sunbathe! My husband was seasick, so he rested the whole day, I was a little sick in the morning and got better and had my appetite back by lunch.
Debarkation Debarkation went rather smoothly. We packed up the rest of our belongings and headed over to the breakfast buffet. After that we relaxed in the Pavilion Night Club, which was completely empty. We were off the ship by 9 and at the airport by 10 and had 3 hours to kill before our flight back home. We were finally back home in the freezing cold by nightfall.