Occupation:Insurance Safety Consultant
Number of Cruises: 16
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: May 24th, 2003
This was our 16th cruise, second on a Celebrity ship and our first on the Horizon. It was also our second cruise to Bermuda, the first being on the Norwegian Majesty in 1999. What follows are some thoughts, discoveries and insights into our cruise and the ship.
Port of New York continues to be one of the great places to take a cruise from. The city seems to rise out of the water and is all hustle and bustle. Once onboard there is time to take in the sights and sounds of the Hudson River and the waterfront immediately adjacent. Our cruise departed during the Memorial Day weekend and in NYC that means it was also fleet week. Yes the fleet was in, with ships from the US Navy and five other countries being represented. This is far fewer than in prior years and this was attributed to the Iraq war. The presence of the ships, sailors and visitors had little impact on our ability to access the pier and added some interesting sights to look at.
Our cabin, 4096, is situated on the lowest passenger deck (Florida) and was a standard outside that could accommodate 4 people in two lower and two upper berths. We had three adults in our cabin and while a bit tight when everyone needed to dress, it was otherwise more than adequate. The cabin measured 174sqft and had a large picture window. The bathroom was a typical modular affair with a fairly roomy shower. Some rust was noted around the base of the bathroom door and door sill and the tile grout needs to be redone in the shower but overall it was acceptable. The cabin had adequate storage space to accommodate clothes for three people; however, with four in the room it could be tight.
Embarkation was virtually a snap. Being a Celebrity Captains Club member, we were able to take advantage of priority check-in allowing us to avoid a line that had to be at least 45 minutes long. Anyone who has sailed previously with Celebrity is eligible for member ship and as of June the previously required $35 fee has been dropped. I highly recommend joining if you have the opportunity or have not already done so. Once the boarding picture was taken it was on to the ship.
The ship is entered on deck five at the Horizon Lobby, a two-story area that contains the shore excursion and purser desk as well as the banking office. A hostess offering champagne greeted us at the entrance, well done! There is no atrium. The lobby is finished in blond woods and is wonderfully lit and sets an elegant tone. Unfortunately the waterfall sculpture at the bow end of the lobby was inoperative. A white-gloved crewperson will greet you and guide you to your cabin. This is always a nice touch and sets a proper tone.
After our departure we sailed down the Hudson River and a narration highlighting the sites of NYC was presented. A period of silence was observed as we passed ground zero. Passing by the Statue of Liberty and then under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and then out to sea. Our day of departure was cold and windy and once we were in open water the seas were quite rough. I thought the ship rode reasonably well considering the sea state and the adverse conditions, others said they wondered why the ship was rolling and pitching so much. I guess 12' to 16' foot seas can do that! Apparently a goodly number of passengers found themselves suffering from seasickness that did not abate until we arrived in Bermuda 36 hours later. With only a short period of sunshine on our full day at sea the ability of the ship to provide diversions was put to the test, and for the most part she met them well with a bevy of activities. Our first port was supposed to be Saint George but due to high winds the pilot decided that any attempt to make it through the narrow channel into the harbor would be unsafe, so off we went to Hamilton and there we stayed until our departure.
A downside for any ship doing the Bermuda run is that once in port virtually everything onboard save the dining rooms and a few bars are required to be shut down. Bermuda regulations even forbid amplified entertainment after a certain hour at night. Consequently passengers are required to mostly fend for themselves and seek entertainment off the ship. Normally this is not a problem but our arrival was on Bermuda Day and virtually the entire island was shut down for the national holiday. A big parade was planned for Hamilton and it was hoped that this would provide some fun. Regretfully heavy rains came and washed away any attempt to enjoy the festivities. The hearty Bermudans stayed and watched as soggy marchers passed by but it was a sad end to what could have been a really fun night. Seeking diversion on the ship relegated us to the Cova Café providing light classical music or the Rendez-Vous Lounge with a two-piece ensemble playing contemporary hits. This was the sum total of onboard entertainment while in port. Other simple activities were also scheduled, the best of which was the Newlywed game.
Major public rooms include the aforementioned Rendez-Vous Lounge. This lounge is the primary venue for drinks prior to dinner being situated immediately adjacent to the main entrance of the Starlight Restaurant. The Zodiac Club, deck 8 aft, is a nicely laid out nightclub style lounge for music and dancing. It becomes the ship disco after 11pm. The America's Cub Club is a nicely decorated room evoking the feel of a private yacht club. It is located forward on deck 12. The Palladium Show Lounge is a two deck high room that is the venue for the production shows. Sight lines are good from anywhere in the room and the seating is comfortable. Michael's Club is the cigar smoking lounge done up to resemble a very proper and British men's club. A beautiful room it has the distinct aroma of cigars and for non-smokers is a place one would never venture. There is the requisite library and card/game rooms both nicely decorated and well suited to their purpose. A small Martini Bar is tucked into a small corner of deck 7 near the Rendez-Vous Lounge.
Shopping includes a
souvenir and sundries store, a jewelry store both located on deck 8 and a
liquor store and art gallery located on deck 7.
Dining is usually a big event aboard any ship and more so on Celebrity. The line takes great pride in the quality of the food served and it certainly did not disappoint. The menu was varied and inventive and everything sampled was sublime. Service was prompt and proper and meals arrived hot. Requests for iced tea and other beverages were filled and after the first night provided without further request. The lido dining area is called the Coral café and it offers the typical breakfast items. The lunch menu main dishes are the same in the lido and dining room. In the evening one side of the Coral café is turned into an alternative dining area, nice for those who did not wish to get dressed up for dinner. Reservations are required and a two-dollar per person tip is suggested for the waiter. We did not use this feature so I cannot comment on how service or the food was. Other dining alternatives include room service with the full restaurant menu available during dinner hours. Pizza is available and during most of the day hot dogs and hamburgers are also available from the outside grill.
While attending the Captains Club cocktail party we had the pleasure of being invited to dine at the Captains table on the second formal night. Our host was the Hotel Manager. He turned out to be a warm and jovial person, easy to talk with and he kept the table conversation lively and fun. The service was impeccable and if you ever have the chance to have this experience take it! It was certainly the highlight of our cruise.
Much has been written about Bermuda so I will not say much except to say that Hamilton is a small cosmopolitan city with all the hustle, bustle, traffic and noise one would expect. One must get away from the city and travel to Saint George, the Dockyard area or the beaches to discover the true Bermuda. When you have done so you find that Bermuda is a simply lovely island with warm and gracious residents that are always willing to talk with you and offer help if needed. Buy the three-day transportation pass ($23) and use the buses and ferries to get around the island. Both are safe and very punctual. The ferries are a great alternative and often they are faster than the buses. Saint George is our favorite spot and we returned to it twice during our stay. Visit any local pub or restaurant and sample the local fare for lunch. The Bermuda fish chowder is a national dish and yummy. Dining ashore is expensive and having lunch is a great way to sample the food without going broke.
Being that we have cruised so often the production shows hold little attraction for us and we didn't attend either show. Those who did said the second show was better than the first.
Our return to New York was again greeted by rough seas the first night out, however, everything calmed down considerably by the next morning. The weather was cool, overcast and windy making use of the outdoor pool area problematic at best.
Odds and ends
The deck crew left the lounge chairs and pads out in the rain making them damp to use when the weather permitted. At least the pads should be kept under cover to avoid them getting soaked. The pool lido and sun deck above are carpeted in a light brown Berber style out door carpet. This carpet holds water like a sponge and anything laid on it got soaking wet. Some rust was showing around the pool entry steps and flakes of paint were seen. The pool area looked like it could use a bit of sprucing up. The outside coffee and tea service area was out of service for most of the cruise, apparently suffering some sort of drainage problem.
Due to the rough seas the America's Cup Lounge situated above the bridge on deck 12 was hardly used at all while at sea and seemed underutilized while in port.
Deck bar service was unobtrusive and the lack of public address announcements was very much appreciated.
Several public bathrooms were found to be a bit untidy and one smelled very bad, as if there was a drain problem. Some public bathrooms had cotton hand towels and others did not or the hand towel supply had been used up and not replenished.
There was a noticeable lack of fresh flowers around the public areas of the ship and those that were present seemed stale and in need of replacement.
Bar servers in the Rendezvous lounge were very good and remembered your room number and name after a visit or two.
Attentive service and pleasant crew, good food and a nice deck plan all make a favorable cruise experience. While not as impressive as the larger and newer ships in the Celebrity fleet, the Horizon exudes a charm all her own. We would certainly not hesitate to cruise the Horizon again, but next time it would be on a Caribbean itinerary. This would allow the ship to strut her stuff in more ways than on the Bermuda run. It would also most likely offer a much more sedate sea to cruise on!!!