Age: 36 to 45
Number of Cruises: 3 to 5
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: February 21, 1999
Itinerary: Western Carribbean
What a terrific cruise! The Mercury is a beautiful ship….as background, this was our fourth cruise, our second on Celebrity. We had previously sailed on NCL’s Dreamward and Norway, as well as on the Horizon. My husband, Steve, is 38, and I’m 36.
Embarkation: All I can say, is THANK GOD we’re Captain Club members!! We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early; we booked our air and extra day through Celebrity. We may not do again, as Celebrity no longer allows you to pick your hotel. We ended up at the Airport Hilton. Would not have been our first choice, and on Sunday morning the hotel lost all water. Luckily, I had showered, but my husband wasn’t too happy that he missed his! We had rented a car through Avis, which has complimentary shuttles running on the hour from their airport location to the cruise ship terminals. As the Celebrity bus wasn’t scheduled to pick us up at the Hilton until 1:30 p.m. (and I was dying to get on board), we dropped the car at Avis around 11:45 to catch the noon shuttle. It didn’t leave until 12:15, and the Mercury was about the fifth ship it stopped at, but we were still at the terminal by 12:30. Walking in the terminal, Celebrity staffers were handing out embarkation boarding numbers. We said the magic words ‘Captain’s Club’ and were given the number ‘0’. The terminal was packed, but we were directed to the back of the terminal where Captain’s Club, Suites and handicapped folks enter first through a separate door. Within 5 minutes, the doors opened and we were allowed in….no waiting, and we were on board in about five minutes!
Cabin: We were celebrating our 10th anniversary, so had splurged on a Category 2 Cabin with Verandah (cabin 1025). After being escorted to our room by a waiter (geez, these service folks do all kinds of jobs on ship), we were greeted by our cabin stewardess (Yana) who showed us around our room. This was the smallest cabin we’ve ever had, but the verandah more than made up for it….Steve and I rushed out there, and poor Yana ended up giving the rest of the room tour to herself! She was excellent, keeping our tiny room uncluttered. I will say this cabin (and three others) are smaller (slightly) than all other Category 2 cabins on ship, having only space for an armchair rather than a love seat. The wall across from the bed was completely mirrored giving the impression of more space. There was tons of closet and drawer space in the room, and all six (can you believe it?) of our suitcases fit under the bed! We don’t usually travel with so much, but we wanted to bring a boombox, (for our musical enjoyment while sitting on the verandah) and it was the first time we had brought our own snorkeling equipment, so luggage were us! The bathroom was adequate, with lots of shelf space for both of us to leave out our toiletries. There were also shelves under the sink and the shower was nice sized with great water pressure. I used the hairdryer every day, but it was nothing to write home about. I had previously read in other reviews that the dryer didn’t have much power, and they were right! What I wish they would have mentioned is how hot it got; I generally needed to wrap a towel around the dryer to keep from burning my hand while I finished drying my hair….oh well, small complaint.
Exploring the touring the ship and getting the lay of the land. The décor is somewhat interesting, but not as annoying as we had expected based on previous reviews. We started at the top on the sky deck. The Navigator Club on deck 12 is beautiful, and was the site of the repeaters parties and anniversary parties later in the week. We used it a lot just to order cocktails to take to our room (on deck 10 forward) in the evening to enjoy while sitting on the verandah watching the world go by. Deck 11 is home to the AquaSpa (sorry, never found time to use it, although our tablemates did and loved the mud treatments….Sensual, I think was the word they used to describe it!) Also the main pool and the Palm Springs Café are on Deck 11….hint: there are outside tables at the back of the ship (past the indoor/outdoor pool) that are wonderful for eating your meals outside, and it’s never crowed, as most people never find them! We then headed to Michael’s Club to check out this Cigar Bar. Beautiful bar, with lots of couches and big leather chairs that surround the top of the atrium. Deck 7 has the Pavilion nightclub, Fortunes (the casino), the shops and the entrance to the Celebrity Theatre. The theater is great. I don’t think there is bad seat to be had. Our ship was pretty well booked, yet there were always seats to be found, especially down front! Deck 6 had our favorite bar, Tastings. Rendezvous Square (another bar), and the Martini Bar, the Photo Gallery, the library, card room and second floor entrance to the Manhattan Restaurant. Now this room is very nice, and even with 1000 diners, you really don’t feel crowded in! Deck 5 found the first floor of the restaurant, and the excursion desk bank and guest relations’ desk. Overall, the ship is very beautiful, and you can tell it’s new, as nothing is worn down.
Food: What’s a cruise without great food, and Celebrity outdoes itself in this area. We had late seating in the Manhattan Restaurant (8:30) and found ourselves at a table of 8: a delightful couple from Ireland (60’s), a nice couple from Mass. (40’s) and a mother/daughter from Chicago (60’s/40’s) who kept our whole table laughing all week! Our waiter, Desmond, was a delight, truly professional, and never got an order wrong all week, and was very willing to traipse back to the kitchen for any last minute item one of us decided we couldn’t do without! Our busboy, Attila, was still learning, and had trouble remembering to keep our water glasses full, but was so nice and polite that we all chose to overlook his shortcomings! The food was wonderful each night, especially the tenderloin steak. You could cut it with a butter knife. We learned quickly to take Desmond’s recommendations each night, and he never steered us wrong. The only negative thing I could say is that the salad variety was lacking, and I grew weary of the ‘Celebrity dressing’ about midway through the week! Desserts were good, and you definitely need to try (or have someone at your table try) the after dinner coffee drinks. They bring a cart around each night with liquors and coffee, and it’s quite a production to watch them light the liquor in a gravy boat, and then pour it into a second one…they get quite a flame going, and keep tossing it back and forth between these two gravy boats while still a flame, then they pour the flaming liquor into a wine glass, fill it with coffee and add a heavy cream to the top….Yummy!
We didn’t eat any breakfasts or lunches in the dining room. Most mornings we had coffee delivered to the room (couldn’t get us off the verandah!). We hung an order form out each night before we went to bed, checking off the half-hour interval we wanted it delivered during. The neatest part was they called the room right before they brought it, so you had about 30 seconds to a minute to make sure you were ‘proper’….nice touch! You could order full breakfasts (and meals) through room service although we never did. Lunch was a good variety, with a nice buffet, a couple of grills serving burgers and hot dogs, and a pasta station. In the afternoon and evening, homemade pizza was available (very good) and ice cream and frozen yogurt was available all afternoon.
There was also alternate dining available for dinner on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings in the Palm Springs Café. Although we meant to try it one night, we never got around to it, and I never met anyone on board who did either, so I can’t relay any info on that.
Entertainment: Not Celebrity’s strongest suit, but we were pleasantly surprised by how good some/most of it was. Our favorite was Four Score, an acapella group of four young men, singing doo wop and barbershop style music. Steve is a barbershopper himself, so naturally they were a draw for us, and we made it a point to show up just about every time they sang. They even let Steve sing a song with them one evening. They performed in the opening and final shows, and also sang a few nights in the Tastings Bar, where they roamed from table to table singing and talking with the guests. You would never know that they hadn’t sung together before getting this gig six months ago.
The Welcome Aboard show Monday night featured Michael James (the Ladder Guy), a comedian who uses, you guessed it, a ladder. He was a riot! He was also on Tuesday night, with another comedian, Cary Long, who was also very funny with his observational humor. I wouldn’t miss either of these two shows. I’m not much of a production number fan, but did sit through Monday’s show ‘On Broadway’, which was ok. I skipped Wednesday’s production ‘Bond Voyage’, but Steve stuck his head in long enough to feel comfortable that skipping it was the right choice for us. We also skipped Thursday’s show, featuring a singer, Stephen Kane. It was a before dinner show; we did see him on the final night, and he was ok. We also went to Friday’s production show, ‘And the Winner Is’, and it too, was only ok. The Farewell show on Saturday was very good, featuring Four Score, Cary Long and Stephen Kane. And a special treat was the cruise director, Jim Cannon, singing the final song….he was quite good.
The pool band, Oasis, was very good. In addition, in the lounges you could find string quartets, big band music, a singing duo, and another band doing pop type songs. All seemed pretty good.
On board activities: We participated in activities less on this cruise than any other; there was something for everyone, though, from Bingo to trivia to art auctions, etc. We did enjoy the Not so Newlywed game one evening…what a hoot! The cruise director and staff were very friendly, but not in your face…thank goodness!
Excursions: It was cold in Key West (actually it was windy the entire week, so even when we got to warmer weather, it was still cool on deck due to the winds), so we opted against any excursion, and just took the conch train from the pier to downtown to do some shopping. Steve needed a tie (he forgot his), so off to Margaritaville to buy a tie…my personal preference would be just to make this a sea day, rather than the half day stop at Key West. There’s just not a lot of time to really do anything. Rough seas to Cozumel this day, forcing many no shows at Formal Night that evening.
In Cozumel, we signed up for a beach snorkeling excursion, which we had done on a previous visit to Cozumel. It was really windy and the Sea was rough. The excursion was to be a guided tour, and after entering the water, you swim by a gentlemen in scuba gear who will take your picture underwater….he brings fish food, so you get a nice picture of yourself with the fish. Available for purchase for $9. We bought it. Swimming on we found ourselves in a strong current; strong enough that the guides stopped guiding, and started to try to lead us out of the current. Strange feeling when you are kicking your feet with all your might, and making no headway what so ever. I really felt bad for the first timers, as well as a little girl who was in the group, as it was scary for me, and I’m used to snorkeling! I do think that swimming against the current was a great calorie burner, and why I didn’t gain any weight all cruise . Topping it off, as you neared the beach (or basically a stone wall with slippery steps), the waves were so large that they were pushing many people into the wall….lots of scratches. The staff on shore was so busy getting the next group ready to go, they were of no help to any of the snorkelers struggling to get out of the water. I made it ok, but Steve ended up with some scratches. There were a few near tears as they came out, and finally a nice tourist from Minnesota started helping folks up the stairs.
After the snorkeling, we went back to ship for a quick shower, then headed to Carlos and Charlie’s for lunch…the place was hopping, and we were dancing on our chairs before lunch made it to the table. What a place! We then shopped a little before heading back to the ship’s pool.
Calica was a pleasant surprise. We decided to do Xcaret, and it was so much nicer than I even imagined it would be. This is an eco-archeological park, with plenty to do. You can swim with the dolphins (get there early as spots go quick). We didn’t do it, but a friend did. It was $80 for an hour, and you get a videotape of you in the water with the dolphins. She said it was great. We snorkeled the underground river, which was a really neat experience, and so much better than our snorkeling experience in Cozumel. The beach area was absolutely gorgeous, and there were tons of quite coves and lagoons, where you could be more by yourself. This was definitely a good buy for $36/person, which includes bus shuttle to the park. It’s about a five-minute ride.
In Grand Cayman we did Sting Ray City….this is a must do, and sign up for the earliest tour. We were kicking ourselves that morning for signing up for the 7:45 am group, but once we got there we were thrilled we did so. Ours was the first boat to get to the sand bar that day. We anchored in about 3 feet of water, and all the stingrays were swarming the boat. It’s a little intimidating at first, but once you get used to them, it is so cool to feed and pet them. Words can’t describe this experience! We did some shopping after the excursion then back to the boat. This was the only tendering we had to do all trip.
Conclusion: While not perfect, this was a great cruise experience. The ship, food and service were exactly what we expected from Celebrity, and will bring us back to Celebrity for future cruises. I have all the daily programs, so you may e-mail me if you want any additional information. I highly recommend this ship!