Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: NOT FOUND
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: January 26th, 2003
This was my Wife's and My 5th Cruise. We had previously been on Carnival's Festival (1989), Tropicale (1993), and Imagination (1996) as well as Norwegian's Norwegian Dream (2000). Because of the very reasonable prices ($620.00 each for outside cabin - obstructed view), we decided to try Celebrity Cruise Lines. I should mention that we have always enjoyed our Carnival experiences, and had a bad experience with Norwegian, so it was with mixed feelings that we chose Celebrity. We had heard and read reviews that we could expect an older (we're in our late 40's), much more sedate crowd. That the staff on the Horizon could be a bit aloof, the ship was showing its age, that Tampa embarkations were a nightmare, and that the food was ultra-gourmet. Most of our fears were totally unfounded, a few were realized, but overall I would certainly recommend the Cruise Line and the ship.
Tampa: We arrived a Day early, and
had a reservation at the Best
Western Westmore Hotel. Our room was very clean, as was the hotel. The outdoor pool looked very nice, but the weather was quite chilly (55-60 F) so we didn't use it. The Hotel has a shuttle to/from both Airport and Cruise Port but be sure to ask about the fee (We were told on the phone it was free, so after a "discussion" with the manager it was taken off our bill, some others were charged $18.00 pp).
Embarkation: After the horror stories we've read about since 9/11 we were prepared for the worst, but embarkation was a breeze. We arrived about 1:00 pm, and because we had our documentation ready, and had filled out the online embarkation form, the time from shuttle to ship was maybe 15 minutes in line. All the Celebrity staff from security on down were very friendly and helpful
Cabin: Our cabin (#9056) was quite roomy, and featured a sitting area with two chairs and a small table, a desk, two large closets with plenty of drawers and just enough hangers, a safe, a roomy bathroom (for a cruise ship) with stand-up shower and ample hot water, and very good water pressure. Soap and lotion were provided and replenished as needed. There were no musty smells in our cabin or hallways (or anywhere on the ship that we could find). The heat/ac worked well, and between the cool weather in Tampa and Key West and the Heat in Mexico and Grand Cayman we needed both!
The king-size bed was actually two twins pushed together and not particularly comfortable. We slept all right, but cuddling was a problem because one or the other of us ended up right on the split. I should mention that this has been the case on all our cruises. Our Cabin Steward, Antonio was around all week and always had our ice bucket full, our cabin clean and prepared, and a smile on his face.
The Horizon is not a huge ship, and after a day or so you can find your way around it fairly easily. One pool and one large hot tub amidships, sun decks all around. Chairs are easy to find except on sea days, but the most padded chaise lounges directly around the pool fill up quickly
The Casino is rather small, and for the most part sparsely populated. There are a few rows of nickel slots for us "low rollers." I don't know if it was because of exceptionally high seas or not, but we felt more motion on the Horizon than on any of the other ships that we've been on. Neither of us is particularly susceptible to motion sickness, so it was not a problem, but I thought it might be worth mentioning. Unlike some reviewers who thought this ship was a bit ragged, we thought the Horizon was in fine shape, and saw the crew every day painting and polishing.
1. Key West - The Horizon docked at a tourist center right next to downtown, so you are right where the action is. We had signed up for a bike tour, but because not enough people registered it was cancelled. This was a problem with a lot of tours during the week - many were called off.
Fortunately, most of the sights in Key West are located in a rather compact area. For us walking was not a problem. There are plenty of free maps available, and the streets are well marked. Note: If you want to mail post cards and have them get home before you do, this is your last chance. The cards we mailed from Key West on Monday arrive home on Wednesday, the ones we mailed from Grand Cayman arrived in New York two and a half weeks later. There is a sunset show next to the pier in Key West, but we sailed too early (4:30 pm) to see it.
2. Costa Maya, Mexico - This is a new port and it shows. At the end of the pier is a large shopping area, a man-made beach (no ocean swimming) and a salt-water pool, which are totally surrounded by jungle. A good day to grab a beach chair and relax. For those who like to haggle with shop owners - this is the place! "Come on in, almost free today!" is the hue and cry everywhere. There are several shows, which feature locals in traditional Mayan costumes.
3. Cozumel - Our second trip there and what a difference a few years can make! There were seven cruise ships in port, so the streets were jammed and the drinks were flowing at Carlos and Charlie's! We took a snorkeling tour, and the reef was very lovely with colorful coral and plenty of fish. The water was very clear! There were only about 15 people on a party boat equipped for 50, so it was a pretty quiet "party." The last time we were in Cozumel, we took a taxi to the Chankanaab Eco-Marine Park, and it was very nice with a good beach, some re-created ruins that the kids could actually walk on, and a nature path with plenty of iguanas in their natural habitat. I understand there is an area for interaction with Dolphins now (for a price, of course).
4. Grand Cayman - All Ships must tender on Grand Cayman, and this was the one area where Celebrity was quite disorganized. Our tour met in the lounge with all the other tours. We were so delayed by the chaos, that five couples missed the start of the tour, and they had to come back for us. Ours was the "Turtle Farm and Beach Club" tour, which also included a quick tour of a rum cake factory, and a stop in the town of "Hell," which is a bar, gift shop and post office. If you want to mail a uniquely postmarked card, or buy a t-shirt that says "I've been to Hell and Back on Grand Cayman" this is the place! The turtle farm was very interesting and you get to see (and hold) these turtles from tiny babies, to giant adults. We had a relaxing hour at the beach club, before returning to the ship for yet another early departure. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed as if we were nearly always the last ship in and the first ship out at every port. Maybe the Horizon is a slower ship as other ships passed it several times at sea.
Dining: A major highlight! By far the best-prepared and tastiest main courses of any ship we've been on. Varied menu was well received. The food was served hot, the soups were excellent, and our waiter and busboy service was very good! The only suggestion for improvement was desserts. They were all the fancy type with no plain old sweets except ice cream. I love chocolate cake, but could have done without the apricot filling. We were initially happy to have gotten a table for two, then wished for the rest of the week that we had been with a group. They were having more fun! I guess the grass IS always greener...
The Breakfast and Lunch buffets were varied, and the food was typical. The Burgers and Hotdogs were fine, but once again routine (what can you do with burgers and hotdogs?) An exception to the unexceptional was the 4:00 pm tea buffet. The mini-sandwiches were delicious, and frozen yogurt was very popular! It made us wish we had booked late seating! The offerings from the pizza/pasta station were quite tasty.
Entertainment: Despite what some other reviewers wrote, we rated the entertainment very good. The three musical review shows with World Travel, Rock & Roll, and Broadway hits as their themes were well written, and the dancers and singers were both talented and enthusiastic. Comedienne Janine Gardner was quite funny, and the Comedy and Magic of Bob and Sarah Trunell was both amazing and hilarious! Academy Award pianist Pearl Hoffman (Dr. Zhivago) was a marvel at the keyboard, and Cruise Director Jason Beetham was a hoot all week.
Debarkation: was very smooth and quick. Actually for us a little too quick...Once again we had pre-booked the Tampa City Tour which would have ended at the airport, but it was cancelled. In fact the desk staff told us that since they have been docking at Tampa they have NEVER run that tour. On the Celebrity website it said that the tour was only for people with 3pm or later flights, so I had booked us on a 5:30 pm flight. With the tour cancelled, we were dropped off at the airport at 10:30 am. One very long day!
Overall Cruise Experience: If you are a bit mature (average age on this cruise was around retirement age), looking for a relaxing week with very few kids running around, and great food then this is a super cruise. If you are somewhat younger, like to stay up late, party, and whoop it up a little, that you might want to look elsewhere as we saw more people sleeping on the deck than dancing on it. We had a great time, got a super value for our money, and would definitely consider Celebrity for a cruise again. But probably not until after we retire!