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Jerry Hoehn

Age: 52

Occupation:Sales

Number of Cruises: 19,

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Horizon

Sailing Date: May 28th, 2005

Itinerary: Bermuda


I’m sitting here on our little boat with my laptop while the waves gently lap against the hull. My daughter has guided our craft into our favorite cove on the lake and anchored her in the deepest part. The water is cooler there. The Bronzed Goddess herself is bobbing in the cool waters on a raft with her signature Fresca and White Zinfandel wine cooler. This seems to be the only time I have to write a review for our last cruise to Bermuda, so I sit under the bimini top with my notebook on my lap and tap away as the girls chat and sip their refreshments. This is going to be a short one compared to our previous reviews. Soon, friends will be gathering at the cove, so I have to type fast!

So, without further adieu, here is my short, but very positive, review of our recent return to Bermuda.

Travelers: Jerry and Barb Hoehn
Travel Date: May 28, 2005
Traveling with: Just the two of us.
Cruises: 14 total - CCL, RCI, Premier, HAL, NCL, Celebrity, Windjammer, and Princess.
Stateroom: 4046 Inside Starboard Aft Category 12 (the lowest category on the ship!)

I'll give you the Summary first and save many of you the trouble of reading my customary rambling and ranting.

Positives –

Itinerary
Crew
Cabin Size and layout
Chief Wine Steward
Cleanliness
Food in Dining Rooms
Embarkation
Bus Ride
Price
The Passenger Mix
Entertainment in Michael’s Club

Negatives-

Entertainment (in the Rendezvous Lounge)
Pool Games
Sitting on the bus for a half an hour at the pier
Overall Ship Condition
Cabin Location
Vibration of Ship
No Hot Tubs

Summary- Rating on a scale of 1-10 – 8.75

This was a last minute “budget cruise” that we booked 12 days before sailing. It’s just sooooooo easy to go to Bermuda out of Norfolk for us (or anywhere for that matter) - and the price was unbeatable! Included with all this was free bus transportation from our nearest town and a coupon book. More on all that later. Just suffice it to say that we were not at all disappointed and, all in all, Celebrity met or exceeded our expectations.

When deciding if I had a good experience on a cruise, I ask myself and my wife a few simple questions:

Did I get my money's worth? Yes. We got an exceptional price on this cruise and we jumped on it. The ship is small by today’s standards but it really is a nice size. Not too big, but big enough to have most of the lounges and restaurants, decks and outdoor spaces you’d want. And when you compare the cost of taking a cruise to Bermuda with what it would cost to fly there, stay in a nice hotel, eat out every night and get some free entertainment, this cruise in particular and cruising in general to Bermuda is a real bargain!

All that being said, Bermuda is a VERY EXPENSIVE PLACE. Stop for lunch on the island for a nice lunch and expect to spend $50 for two. YoUcH! But on the positive side, Bermuda is beautiful this time of year. The flora was in full bloom and, as usual, the people were very friendly and accommodating. As with most Celebrity cruises, the food in the dining rooms did not disappoint and the passenger mix was comfortable for us. Not too old, not too young, not too many special interest groups, not too many kids, etc.

Would I go on this ship again? Well, this is easy. This is the second time we’ve been on the same itinerary on the same ship! For a Bermuda run, this ship is more than adequate and we would do it again on her if not for the fact that the ship is leaving the fleet. If you hear rumors that the ship has been sold, they are NOT TRUE. More on that later….

Did we enjoy ourselves? Those of you who have cruised with us before know this is an easy one, too. From the people we met, to the places we went, to the things we did, formal night wearing a tuxedo and Bermuda shorts (me not BG!), meeting my old college roommate from 32 years ago(stay tuned for that one), the food, the piano player in Michaels, the wonderful crew and officers of the ship and dining at the Captains table (again)……WE HAD A BALL!!!!!! Did you expect anything less??!?!?!?!?

Tips – A few quick tips for those of you who don’t want to read all the rest of my ramblings…..

Get to the port early and you’ll beat at least some of the traffic. And the busses! They say they won’t be boarding until Noon, but the truth is, if the ship gets cleared early enough, they will start boarding as early as 11 AM. And be ready for some serious traffic. Downtown Norfolk can only handle so many cars at one time and there always seems to be some sort of festival at Town Point Park next to the cruise terminal. If you are driving to the port, factor in some time to park at the remote parking area at Cedar Grove, get on the shuttle buses with your bags and ride back through traffic to the terminal. There is a limited amount of space available for dropping off your bags at the cruise terminal. We had to sit on the bus “for safety reasons” (sound familiar?) when we got to the port. The real reason, I think, is because they can’t handle more than one bus load of passengers and all their bags trying to get to the port at one time. You can imagine how a cruise nut like me felt sitting on the bus with the ship and terminal in sight watching a steady stream of passengers GETTING ON THE SHIP AHEAD OF ME!!!!!! AHAHAAHAAhaaaaahhaahahhaaaaaaarrrgggg.. Well, eventually we did get on and no major harm was done.

There were NO UPGRADES available at the pier. Last year we did very well moving from an outside to a CC at the pier. I was bummed that we didn’t have an opportunity to move up, but in a way, I’m glad that Celebrity is doing well in Norfolk. That means there will be more cruises from here!

Just like on every other cruise, beware of the “welcome aboard” drinks and the “souvenir glass” drinks. If you want one, get one, but don’t assume they are “complimentary” and souvenir glasses often as much as double the price.

Since there are only two sea days, there is a lot of chair saving at the pool those days. If you plan to get a chair near the “action”, you’d better get your breakfast in the buffet. Get a cup of coffee from room service and carry it out on deck before you go to breakfast. I hate chair saving. But once you’ve put your stuff on a lounger, the others around you get filled up and people see you there, then I suppose its “legal” to claim them. I think “the rule” is up to a half hour. That should give you time to go the dining room for breakfast or lunch if you don’t abuse it. No harm, no foul. We personally don’t like to be down where the pool is. Its noisy, too much foot traffic, not as much breeze on a hot day and too much screeching and splashing from juvenile cruisers in the pool and the Thalassotherapy pool (I’m including all ages in this category, especially on this trip since there were NO hot tubs). We liked hanging out on the deck above the pool a little forward, but not too far from The Mast Bar. Seems like the Bar Service Waiters used it for their refills, so we got plenty of attention. Overall, the pool bar waiters were very attentive, but not intrusive.

Transportation - If you are feeling daring (stupid?) rent mopeds. Honestly, it really looks like fun. I recommend the three day bus passes. But that’s just good old me. When I’m on vacation, I try NEVER to drive anything. Period. I tend to enjoy an adult beverage or two during the day, so it doesn’t make sense to hurl myself and my loved ones down the road on a two wheel bike. You don’t need any transportation in St. George unless you are handicapped. Just walk or if you feel you must, take a cab. Everything is pretty close in. I must confess I took a cab back from St. Catherine’s Beach after a day of rum punch and bright sun.

Get the three day pass when you get to Hamilton for the last three days. This includes the ferry boats system, too. And a trip to the Royal Dockyard is mandatory. Well, at least I think you’ll enjoy it. And don’t forget there are ferries to all sorts of other locations. Take the ferry to RDY and then the bus down to Somerset Village. Then take the ferry back from Watford Bridge. Also, there is a “scenic” version of the ferry from downtown to Somerset Village with a short walk to a cute little town with some shops and a pub.

Don’t be afraid to explore the island on the bus, ferry or motorbike. The island isn’t that big and there is little if any crime to speak of. The only tragedy you might encounter is when you wreck your moped and come back in a cast. It happened on our cruise. In fact, while we were there, there was an accident involving mopeds with three fatalities. Did I mention that the bus and ferry system was just great?
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OK. Drum roll please…………………..

And now ladies and gentlemen, the “Bermuda Shorts” version of the full “MrTractor” review of our trip………….

(Cue the snazzy show band music)………..

(MrTractor enters wearing his black tuxedo with cummerbund and bow tie with parrots on it. In deference to the shortened nature of this review, he is wearing his “Formal” Bermuda shorts with matching long black socks).

“Good evening fellow cruisers and thanks for listening! Tonight I’m inviting every one of you to embark upon a voyage to the beautiful island of Bermuda where we’ll visit places never before seen by grumpy, whiners who don’t know how to relax and enjoy themselves. If you are one of the above mentioned people,

STOP NOW!!!

You’ll only feel worse. Come with me and my fellow adventurers to a place where…….

Even a bus ride can be fun!

So turn on the calypso music, get your self a frothy drink with fruit hanging off of it, put your feet up and try to enjoy this short but hopefully informative review.

(Remember, this is just one man’s opinion). Your mileage may vary. (YMMV)”

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Trip to Norfolk – For one incredible price, Celebrity included a bus from our home town. As I said above, I don’t like to drive while on vacation (I drive about 50,000 miles a year and don’t find it particularly empowering) and this was the best way ever to get to port. They picked us up at a town near our home and drove us right to the dock. SWEEEET! On the way home, they did the same thing. All things considered, I think it was even faster than driving and parking. Last year when we drove down for the same cruise, we had to park at Cedar Grove and take a shuttle. Considering the time it took to do that, it may not have saved us any time to drive, even though we did make one stop on the way back. If the cruise lines offer a bus – take it!

Norfolk, VA
– Lots to do near the port. Waterside shopping area, McArthur Memorial, Chrysler Museum, Water Taxi to historic Portsmouth, harbor tours, dinner cruises and more. And the port is right next to Town Point Park and there is always something going on here on weekends. Last year is was the Wine Festival and this year the African American Culture Festival. If you have a chance to come in early, you won’t suffer from a lack of things to do.

Embarkation – The port of Norfolk is closing next season for a big expansion project. Right now the port is just too darn small. The traffic downtown is horrendous on embarkation day. The only complaint I had about the bus ride was that we had to sit on the bus in the parking lot like prisoners for a half an hour. The port is unable to handle unloading more than one bus at a time. So we waited our turn to offload while we watched a hundred people stroll past us and get on the ship. Hopefully, this will be alleviated by the upcoming expansion, but for now, don’t be in a hurry when you get to downtown Norfolk. If you should come in early and can stay at the Marriot Waterside, you can easily pull rolling suitcases to the pier. Otherwise, be ready for a slow process getting in and out of the port. If they are checking in passengers, I suggest getting there very early and dropping off your bags. Don’t go all the way back to the Cedar Ridge parking area. Just park at the downtown parking garage. It’s straight out of the circle that you go into to drop your bags. After you’ve checked in and gotten your room (this is also a great way to beat the crowd to check for an upgrade at the pier. They will all still be trying to get back from the parking lot on the shuttle). After the crowds have settled and the traffic died down, you can go back and move your car. Just a suggestion that worked for us last time. Once we got to the check in area, the lines weren’t long at all, at least for the “Captains Club Founders” Line. This just means that we have cruised with them before and were one of the original or “founding” members of the Captains Club. It doesn’t cost anything to join and it’s worth doing if you are planning on cruising again. One more cruise and we’ll be able to get Platinum on RCCI through a reciprocal agreement with their sister line. Cool! Barbie and Ken will be so proud of us!

Just one quick note about sailing out of Norfolk. You will be sailing right past the largest naval base in the world. We passed no less than 9 aircraft carriers, one of which was French (yes, they are still officially our allies). I’m glad I’m not on the other team if they ever piss these guys off! But the real highlight for me was seeing

NO LESS THAN FOUR NUCLEAR SUBMARINES MOORED AT THE SAME PIER!!!!.

There is enough fire power in those four little boats to set the entire world on fire. Whew! (Oh, by the way that’s ”NUCYALER” Submarines for you George W. fans).

The Cabin- 4143. Steerage Category 12 (the lowest possible category on the ship). It had lots of drawer and closet space and was very spacious overall. In fact, it was the exact same cabin as the Concierge Class Cabin we had last year, except that it didn’t have a window and we didn’t get the fancy linens. One note about this location, though. IT WAS VERY NOISY DURING THE TIMES THE SHIP WAS MANEUVERING INTO PORT AND WHEN THE ENGINE CHANGED SPEEDS. My wife was bothered by it, but I could sleep through a prison riot. In deference to her, I probably won’t book a cabin this far back and down again.

The Ship – the oldest ship in Celebrity’s fleet. It’s showing some age, but was very well maintained and clean by any standards. Our favorite lounge was Michael’s club. The bartender there has some great “Martini Juggling” tricks and the piano player there was great! The dining room was fine if a little dated. The pool area was pretty standard with a decent sized pool and a large outdoor Thalassotherapy pool. This is a pool that is just about 80 degrees so you can stay in it for longer periods of time. You lounge on stainless steel “chairs” in slightly turbulent water. Unfortunately it was full of kids and people who seemed to be camping in there this trip, so we never got in it. Sadly, there are no adults only hot tubs on the ship.

The Ports –

St. George is an historic city with a nice shopping area just off the ship. A short walk or taxi ride will get you to some great beaches. Tobacco Bay, Fort St. Catherine’s are our two favorites, but there are many others. A short ride will get you to a lot of attractions. Check out the online guides for more info.

Hamilton –The ship is your hotel right downtown. Enjoy the city, shop and use the buses to see the town. Try the Hog Penny Saloon for a beer. Hire a cab for the day and get a tour. There is a street festival there on Wednesday night with dancers, local crafts and the shops stay open late that night. Get out there and mingle!!!!

Entertainmen
t – Overall, I’d say the entertainment was OK, but not at the level I’ve enjoyed on other ships. Sorry, but the duo in the Rendezvous Lounge was awful. We couldn’t even sit in there and have a drink. The piano player in Michaels was great and the singers and dancers in the show room tried hard and generally succeeded. But compared to NCL or Carnival, they didn’t measure up. No harm done since we don’t go on Celebrity expecting Broadway quality shows. There was a trio outside on the back deck after dinner that was fine and they were up in the Americas Cup (one of the nicest lounges afloat, but much underappreciated) before dinner. They sang Beatles songs with a Pilipino accent, but their musicianship was first rate.

Food – We don’t go on Celebrity for the entertainment, but we do go for the food. The quality of the food in the dining room was consistently excellent. Not a bad meal all week and we tried every kind of dish. Real cold water lobster tails, not the oversized shrimp you see on some lines. The meals had the service to match. Performance from our wait staff from the assistant maitre’d to the bus boy was consistently excellent if not outstanding and the wine steward, while swamped with requests, (mostly ours) was very attentive.

For the second time in two trips to Bermuda on the Horizon we were asked to sit at the Captain’s Table. This involved meeting the Captain and all the other invitees for cocktails before dinner. We were escorted in and seated while everyone watched the parade. Two types of wine were served, paired to various courses of our dinner. The cost of this was picked up by the Captain. The only reason I can figure we were picked is because, Charming cad that I am, I started schmoozing the staff at the reception desk when we had a problem with our cruise cards. My wife said it was because we showed up well dressed and acted like we had good manners. Nah….. Couldn’t have been that. HA! The Social Hostess’s name is Leisl (you know, like the Leisl in the Sound of Music VonTrappe family). She was from Zimbabwe and was an absolute delight.

Barb spent most of the dinner chatting and drinking with the Captain. And he seemed to really enjoy the conversation. We learned a lot about the ship and about his home in Greece. First we learned that technically, the ship has not been sold. Rather is has been leased for 5 years to another cruise line. Second, it has been decided that the Captains home country, Greece, will no longer be called Greece. He said that by democratic and official vote, the country name will be changed to Hellas. Apparently that is the ancient and official name for the place. Hey, whatever he said was fine with me as long as he was buy the wine! HA! Very nice man and he seemed to enjoy sitting next to Barb. It’s a good thing I’m not the jealous type!!!!!

We ate at the buffet for lunch a few times, but generally went to the dining room. The dining room was good as usual and the buffet was well above par. A good variety and very attentive bussers.

Best place for a predinner cocktail – Michael’s Club
Best Place for a Martini – Michael’s Club
Best place for Dancing – America’s Cup
Best Outdoor Bar – The Mast Bar
Best Bar Service – Michaels’s Club
Best Place to see MrTractor Look Silly – The dining room - in Bermuda shorts!

Disembarkation
– We got a late disembarkation for whatever reason. I guess that’s what Category 12 people get! So by the time we got off, the ship was almost empty. No problem, this just gave us plenty of time to get breakfast and say goodbye to a few friends. It all went pretty orderly and we breezed through customs without delay. Out to the bus and on our way in a reasonable amount of time. We were home by 2 PM. Like I said, take the bus if if’s offered!

You Never Know Who You’re Going to Run Into - One last little story about this trip to Bermuda before I end this review. We just never know what surprises await us on the bounding main!.........

Barb and I are coming down to breakfast the first day at sea. The elevator is crowded and most of us are going to breakfast in the dining room. A very handsome African American couple is on the elevator. The man is pushing the elevator buttons and has pushed the wrong one. Naturally, I have to give him a little jab. I tell him to “stop fooling around, I’m getting hungry!” He is good natured and replies “, I’m a country boy and I got confused!”

As we get off the elevator, I notice that his wife has a British accent. Hmmmm. That’s interesting. As luck would have it, we were seated right next to them at breakfast. A table for 10. Those of you who know us, can imagine that a very lively conversation ensued that morning. He was a charming, handsome and articulate man and his wife was an effervescent beauty who turned out to be a native Bermudan. Finally, he got around to introducing himself and his wife. When he said, “I’m Randy Brooks,” a little light went on in the far away regions of my small, martini pickled brain. I must have looked like a dog that heard a far away strange noise. “Hmmmm. Randy Brooks. I knew somebody named Randy Brooks in college.” He said “, I went to VCU.” I looked at him and said as directly as I possibly could (even though I wasn’t 110% sure at that moment) “,Randy, you were my college roommate at VCU back in 1973.”

I had never seen a black man turn white before. He could hardly talk. I had chills running down my spine. We hugged. You can imagine the shock and surprise of the other six strangers sitting at our table.

After 31 years of separation, we were once again together laughing about all the stupid stuff we did back in college. We had a bond of shared experience that was immediately rekindled. Even though we had late seating and they had early, we met for drinks later on that night in Michaels Lounge and several times that week. Barb remembered hearing the stories of Randy and me in those days and was just as thrilled as I was. I just hope Randy doesn’t tell ALL the stories!!!! Yikes!!!!

Randy is now a very successful person. He got his BS in Business, a Masters in Chemical Engineering, runs a business with 18 branches all over the US and to top it all off, has a Doctorate in Divinity! WOW. I guess all that hard work I did with him at VCU really paid off! HAHAHAHAahahahaha……. Well everything but the Doctorate in Divinity…….

I’m guessing a semester with the future MrTractor probably drove him to find religion! HAAHHAHAHAAAHAHAAAAAaooaaaoaaaa…..WHEW!!!

We vowed to stay in touch and hope to see them this year in Florida before our next cruise. Thinking back on that reunion at sea, it still amazes me. If we had not been on that ship, on that elevator at the same time, we may never have seen each other. Five minutes later or earlier, we may never have been reunited. It was Divine Providence!!!!

Well I promised this would be a short review and I guess by most standards, it was still long! I won’t go into detail about the furnishings and the temperature of the soup. Just suffice it to say that this cruise met our expectations and given the same circumstances, we’d do it again! Tomorrow!

It’s back to the “suite life” for Mr. and Mrs. Tractor on the brand new Norwegian Jewel in November. But the people we met were just as nice and the experience we had on the Horizon was not derailed by the low category room. And we got a good dose of Vitamin SEA- hopefully enough to hold us until we sail the Jewel!!!! Thanks to all of the fun people we met and the great crew of the Horizon for a wonderful cruise!
MrTractor@earthlink.net

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