Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: March 23rd, 2001
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
I had previously visited the Mercury when it was brought to New York before its inaugural cruise in the fall of 1997. I thought the ship was beautiful and recommended it to my parents for their 50th anniversary cruise. Three years later I still think she is a beautiful ship. For a megaship it never felt crowded and the passenger flow was excellent.
I arrived at Port Everglades at around 1 pm. Boarding had already commenced. As a Captain's Club member I was sent right to their special check in desk where there was only 1 set of passengers checking in ahead of me. Upon boarding the ship my carry-on bag was taken by a staff member who escorted me to my cabin. Since I had over packed my carry-on I was glad to have the escort. I could tell right away that the ship was immaculate and did not show any signs of wear and tear since my first visit. I was told later that the ship had just returned from South America and the crew had scrubbed the ship from stem to stern in anticipation of an inspection by the CDC. My cabin was a category 5 which is a deluxe outside. It is the same square footage as a standard inside but differs from it by having a sitting area (a loveseat which opens into a bed if needed, a larger window (Celebrity calls it a panorama), and included a vcr (but no remote control for it). The rest of the amenities are the same as the standard cabins. I found the cabin to be very clean, comfortable and there was plenty of storage space.
Food on Celebrity has been getting a knocking recently (I had my "problems" during my fall cruise to Bermuda on the Zenith) and I was curious to see how it would be. I usually find that the welcome aboard buffets are usually not the greatest fare offered on a cruise ship (with the exception of the Grand Princess). I was very pleased with my meal in the Palm Springs Café. Outstanding selection of salads, cold entrees, hot entrees and of course, those wicked, wicked desserts. A little too pleased because it meant that it would be difficult to avoid the feasting and extra pounds cruises are infamous for.
After the lifeboat drill I returned to my cabin. My luggage had arrived and I like to get my unpacking done a.s.a.p. In the middle of doing this I happened to turn towards my window and noticed we were moving. I didn't felt any movement and since the ship really does keep announcements to a minimum, there was no other way of knowing if you weren't outside or looking outside.. Now that is what I call smooth sailing!
Before dinner I made my way to the Martini Bar, outside the dining room on level 6. I loved the one on the Zenith, so I decided I would have to check this place out. The menu of martinis was the same and the service was outstanding. The bartender/waitress remembered my name from day 1. Everyone who visited this bar fell in love with it. It was a wonderful place to meet new friends and this would be one of my favorite spots aboard the ship. I would add, that just like the Zenith, all of the wait staff in the lounges and bars on the ship were friendly and accommodating. My only complaint is that the drink prices went up. However, this cruise was a bargain so I didn't begrudge the rate hike too much.
I hadn't been assigned a dining room table, so I had already taken care of that before we sailed. I was assigned a table for 8 on the second level on a balcony that overlooks the entire dining room. I was very happy with this assignment One of the selling points to me of Celebrity's Century class ships is the dining room. A 2-story affair at the very back of the ship with floor to ceiling windows in the center of the back wall. The wait staff was excellent and I was most pleased with them. During open seating meals the other waiters were equally attentive and it made no difference if you had your assigned waiter (although the one morning I took breakfast in the buffet my assigned waiter was on duty there. He carried the tray through the line and filled my plates for me…that's what I call service). I found the dining room food went from very good to excellent and I had none of the problems I experienced on the Zenith.
Speaking of service, my cabin steward turned out to be more like a private butler. In my attempt to stay active during the cruise I injured my knee on the second day at sea. I found my cabin steward and requested a bag of ice for the knee. For the rest of the day he kept checking in on me, bringing more ice. He also told me not to call room service. He brought me the lunch menu from the dining room and served me himself. Although I felt sorry for myself, I can't think of a better place to throw a pity party. In fact, it was interesting since I never really stay in my cabin for long periods of time (except for sleep) so it was nice to know that the amenities are there. I even enjoyed watching an in-house movie, which I don't normally do on a cruise. Fortunately, I was able to make it to the dining room for dinner By the next day I was using the whirlpool baths on the ship and was able to get back on my feet in no time, so I really didn't miss much.
Entertainment on the ship was a mixed bag. The soloists rate excellent. We were treated to 2 separate performances by pianist Brooks Aehron. One was a pops concert. I was amused by his variations on Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer", especially when he lay a bicycle chain across the piano wires to imitate the sound of a honky-tonk upright piano (he promised us that this would not hurt the chain). Equally enjoyable was the featured violinist Hannah Starosta. Attendance to these classical music performances was on the light side but these were by no means stuffy performances. In fact they are excellent introductions into the classics and I'm sure anyone who attends would be pleased The piano/string quintet Serenada Strings performed at dinner every evening and were also featured during the afternoon "Elegant Tea". They were so delightful that after I finished my tea (which was delicious). I pulled a chair up to where they played to enjoy the music. And last, but not least was the a cappella quartet "The Overtones" who performed in the atrium and Cova Café every evening. They are not only talented musically but their clowning with the passengers adds a nice personal touch. Sort of like a cross between the 'Nsynch and the Marx Brothers.
The itinerary of this cruise rates an A+. We stopped in San Juan on the 2nd afternoon of the cruise. It was a beautiful day and as we sailed passed El Morro you could see lots of kites in the air. It was Sunday afternoon and everyone was out enjoying the beautiful weather. I stayed on the ship since I've been to San Juan and didn't want to hobble on the cobbles. Next day was Isla Catalina off the coast of the Dominican Republic. I still wasn't too secure on my feet so I chose to stay on the ship. Yes, I missed I lovely beach and a chance to see Casa de Campo Resort. On the plus side, the pool area was virtually empty and it was a great chance enjoy this area to myself. And the whirlpools, as I previously stated, worked wonders for my knee. In fact, I became quite spoiled having these places to myself which are otherwise very busy. I really suggest staying on board the ship sometime to see what it's like to have a 77,000 ton ship to yourself. So, after 2 days of recovery, I was ready to enjoy the Virgin Islands and Nassau. Our next port of call was Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. From what I had read the B.V.I. is the perfect place for sailing. So, I took the Virgin Islands Sailaway excursion offered by the ship. This sells out fast, so I suggest you book this one right away. We were taken by safari bus over to the marina (but is in walking distance) and boarded a lovely catamaran sailboat. This was my first time on a sailboat and first time snorkeling. We crossed the Sir Francis Drake Channel. It was hot on the island but the sea breeze made the sailing a joy. The scenery is spectacular and catamarans do make for a smooth sailing. We made 2 stops at Norman Island. The first was by the caves. As a novice snorkeler I found the current a little too strong for trying to coordinate my breathing, etc., so I just swam. I faired better at our second site which was in a cove. We were able to dock there and use the beach and a bar/restaurant called Billy Bones. The fish weren't colorful but they were plentiful. A barracuda was hanging around, I guess because there were so schools of tiny fish. The water was so calm that I was able to float on my back. It was good to finally manage to get off the ship and enjoy the sun and sea. Our final port of call was Nassau. It was a very windy day (shades of things to come). I took another sailing/snorkeling excursion which was quite good. We sailed past Paradise Island. The Atlantis is a site to behold. The other resorts, homes, etc. were impressive as well. I even managed to see the Cloisters gardens. An actual French cloister was moved and rebuilt. I understand that it's a popular wedding facility. We sailed out to Rose Island, which I had previously read is fantastic for snorkeling. It is, as reported by the veteran snorkelers. There were tons of colorful fish and coral. But this novice wasn't going into 20 feet of choppy water. So, I will have to return once I get the hang of it. I did enjoy the sailing.
And speaking of choppy water, sometime after midnight on the last night of the cruise we ran into a storm with 80 mph winds with gusts of 104 mph. Although the ship listed to one side (and things did slide off shelves in the bathroom but my luggage had already been carted away for the next morning's disembarkation) we sailed fairly straight. When I looked out my window it looked like a front-load washing machine. I will no longer be concerned with sailing during "hurricane" season since apparently every day can be hurricane season. The next morning you could see the effects (drenched carpets) but the ship and crew performed marvelously. I have read some other accounts on-line about other passengers experiences during this episode. Some were truly frightened and were annoyed by the behavior of the Passenger Relations desk staff. Promises of an announcement from the bridge were made but there wasn't any. Apparently some people darned their life jackets. I just got into bed which seemed to be the safest place to be as some people who ran out of their cabins landed up being tossed around and having doors slammed on them. We were in port and off the ship on time. And considering that the staff had been up all night stowing and securing, we still managed to get breakfast, if not in the usual efficient manner, at least no request went ignored. By the time I finished breakfast disembarkation commenced, so there was no need to hang around the cabin or a lounge. I was first off the ship thanks to Captain's Club membership and patiently waited for everyone else to take their luggage from the area my disembarkation group was assigned. It's easier to spot your luggage this way than parading up and down the aisles trying to find it
Celebrity delivered the goods on this cruise. It's a shame that this particular cruise is not to be offered anytime in the near future. The staff was very hard working and also very, very friendly. Lots of smiles from both staff and passengers. I spoke with many people who were on their first cruise and were very impressed. This veteran cruiser felt the same.