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Christopher Dorries

Age: 41 to 50

Occupation:lawyer (UK)

Number of Cruises: 3 to 5

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Mercury

Sailing Date: September 27, 1999

Itinerary: Panama Canal

We took the San Francisco to Miami cruise last fall, nearly three weeks. In many ways it was a great cruise, the boat is fabulous, but a number of silly things quite spoiled it for us.

First a word of warning for anyone from the UK who will be flying out to San Fran to join the ship on similar cruises in the future. The English brochure gives the clear impression that you will be staying in a central San Fran hotel. In fact you will probably be put in a very medium quality hotel miles away, we were in Oakland so all we saw of SF was two hours before the boat sailed. Very disappointing, much better to fly out a couple of days earlier and make your own hotel arrangements. We submitted a complaint about this on the Mercury and were told it was being forwarded to the UK office but never had a reply.

The Mercury itself is great. It was clean, well run in terms of hotel and restaurant services and generally had friendly staff. Virtually the only two points to let things down were: * a very poor excursion package until the boat got through the Panama Canal -- LA being a particularly wasted opportunity. At San Diego (lovely place) it is MUCH cheaper to take a taxi and pay individual entrance to Sea World than take the disorganized and expensive excursion. * the entertainments staff (not the entertainers but the youngsters organizing events on board) were very poor. They were much more interested in having a good time themselves and (to use an English phrase) couldn't organize a booze-up in a brewery.

Do try to get a balcony cabin, its well worth the extra cost. And if you want a window seat in the restaurant be sure to put this as a request on your booking form because we were told by staff that is how they choose your table.

The food was uniformly good (not fantastic and you will get a degree of repetition over three weeks!) The entertainment varied from absolutely excellent to mediocre, certainly the resident dancers and singers are very good.

Unfortunately, just to ensure that your last memories of Mercury are less than positive, expect some chaos when you get out of the Miami terminal. If you are being taken to a hotel before your flight, there will be big queues for the coaches and only a few people to direct you. Total chaos with lots of people losing their tempers. A sad end to a reasonable holiday.

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