Number of Cruises: 6 to 10
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: 28th,
This was the final cruise to Bermuda for the 2000 season. I had been interested in a cruise to Bermuda for quite some time, booked one 7 years ago that had to be cancelled, but never got around to booking another one til now. Being the final cruise of the season, the rates dropped dramatically and made this cruise a bargain. I was well aware that one takes a chance with the weather (more on that later) but I have sailed in unkind waters before with no problem to my constitution.
We arrived at the passenger terminal around 12:30 pm. Boarding had already commenced and using the Captain's Club priority boarding desk, we were on the ship in no time at all. Upon boarding on Deck 5 we were ushered to our cabin on Deck 6 by a staff member. The cabin was inside, below the Celebrity Theatre, which, I must say, never proved to be a noise problem. The cabin was large for an inside and appeared to be the exact same size as the outside cabins. The beds were even wider than most. The cabin was immaculate. I missed not having a small sofa or love seat. They only provide 2 chairs and a small glass table (no floral arrangement as seen in the brochure!) but there was plenty of storage space. The night table was very wide and had 2 large drawers. The vanity table had 8 drawers and there were another 8 drawers in one closed which also contained a safe (you program the combination; no need to swipe a credit card). The television is on the vanity which limits the amount of space, but it is wide. There is one outlet by the vanity which can accommodate both 2 and 3 pronged (grounded) appliances (bring something to plug in for extra outlets) and a switch for the separate set of lights by the vanity mirror. Closet space was amble as well. One double closet for long clothes like slacks and dresses, and another double closet (the one with the drawers and safe) for shorter clothes. The hangers were the type with straight hooks that fasten to rings on the bar. So far the only cruise line I've sailed on that trusts its guests with regular hangers is Princess. There were 2 robes in the cabin (not plush terry cloth like Princess or Carnival) for use during the cruise which came with the standard note "if you wish to purchase a robe." The bathroom is average size for cruise ships BUT the shower is much larger. There is a shampoo dispenser in the shower which I found handier to use than those tiny bottles or messy cardboard containers. Likewise, a lotion dispenser is by the sink. There is a hose-type hair drier which doesn't blow much air but gets very hot. I think women would be happier with their own hairdryers which can be plugged in by the vanity table (so you can sit while doing your hair and also free up the bathroom). Lastly, the night table by the bed also contains a console for 3 channels of piped in music, a button to suppress announcements in the cabin (except for important ones), buttons to control the cabin lights, a single lamp with lights and switches on either side. The problem with the lights is that you cannot get a dim light for using while someone else is asleep. You are forced to keep the bathroom light on all night so that the light under the door can help guide you. Likewise the television set is programmed to go on with sound regardless of how you set the volume the last time (it also reverts to the channel with the in-cabin menu for pay-per-view and other services). Since this was my first inside cabin experience I would add that not having the window really didn't affect my comfort and enjoyment.. The cabin was quite comfortable and the use of the tv channel with the bow camera was almost as good as having a window.
The cabin was kept spotless by our steward and his assistant. I did make one very unusual request that probably had cabin services scratching their heads. I traveled with Space Bags, which are plastic bags with a port for vacuuming out the air in order to store clothes and linens. They are excellent for traveling as well because after compressing your clothes (which aren't ruined) you will have more room in your suitcase It also means that when you return home, you can have the dirty clothes separated and airtight. This required that I borrow a vacuum cleaner with a hose from the ship on the last night. I did manage to get the vacuum delivered to my cabin, after a lot of explaining. I guess this was one request for the record book.
I found the public spaces were amply sized and conveniently located. This is not a mega ship and was built before the industry standard use of the atrium. The ship's lobby, located on Deck 5, is gorgeous. But since it is situated on a deck with no other public amenities it isn't really used for social situations, which is a pity. Some of my favorite places were the Fleet Bar, located at the top of the ship (forward) which offers panoramic views; the Aft deck on Deck 10 (rear) with lounge chairs for relaxing when you don't want the noise of the pool area (I enjoy watching the ship's wake as we sail); The Martini Bar (adjacent to the Rendez-Vous Lounge on Deck 7) which offers a menu of some very interesting variations of the Martini (I enjoyed the "Le French" made with 2 parts Stoli,1 part Chambord & a splash of pineapple juice). This little lounge was decorated with a beautiful Tiffany style stained glass mural behind the bar and Tiffany style lamps. I must say that the lounge servers are the best I have ever encountered. All were friendly but did not push the drinks. Even if you weren't ordering they always were friendly and polite. Although I did not have an opportunity to spend time there, the new library looked very comfortable. It has a projection tv and very comfortable club chairs with ottomans. I believe that you can also listen to music or books on tape. It was one of the more tastefully decorated public rooms on the ship.
The Celebrity Theatre, located on deck 7 is 2 stories tall. It's not as high tech as the newer ships theatre and therefore cannot offer as elaborate productions, but it serves the Bermuda cruise well because of the restrictions placed on entertainment while in port. I found that the solo acts worked best. My favorite was pianist Elliot Finkel who performed both a pop recital one evening and a classical recital another evening. I only attended the classical recital which was excellent. His insightful and amusing introductions to the music added to my enjoyment. The other offerings were a magician/unicyclist and a couple of "production shows" featuring 2 vocalists and the "Matrix Dancers". These were typical cruise line shows. Some better than others. What I find amusing is that one of the shore excursions is to a nightclub where the cruise line feels it's necessary to add the caveat that this is not Las Vegas caliber entertainment, yet there is no warning in the ship's daily bulletin with such a warning about their own shows. There were also musicians performing in the various lounges, none of which I can honestly rave about. In fact, the Celebrity Orchestra did not sound well rehearsed for their big band numbers.
Now about the food. Celebrity is supposed to be, or perhaps, was tops in the area of cuisine and food service. I cannot say I had a bad meal on board the ship. Not even a mediocre one. But I did, however, find that food service coordination was not the best and neither was the availability of beverages in the buffet area. Many times the most convenient beverage stations were closed down, making it a trek to get a drink. Also, the ice tea and lemonade dispensers were frequently unavailable. I found this very mean spirited on the part of the cruise line, since sodas have to be purchased. The one special request made to my waiter in the dining room was politely turned down (a request that was accommodated on both Princess and Royal Caribbean). I was given some explanation about the kitchen preparing too many meals and something I didn't quite understand concerning the headwaiter. If the headwaiter wasn't there for special requests, I felt that he was not needed at all. The only time he visited the table was to do some lame card trick that he was doing at every table, so that by the time he got to our table, I had seen it three or four times. This is not what I need a headwaiter for and I wasn't impressed. There were faux pas such as frozen cream cheese, desserts calling for almonds or pecans substituted with peanuts and most importantly, many dishes arriving lukewarm, especially the Eggs Benedict (which would have otherwise been outstanding). I only recall one soup arriving piping hot (and that was the vichyssoise...only kidding...I couldn't resist that one). Because of our schedule in Bermuda, we didn't have lunch very often on board. The times that we did, I would say that the dining room selection and presentation outshined the buffet. The hot foods just did not look appetizing, except for the carving station, which was impressive. The buffet breakfasts, however were quite good for me. The omelet station was excellent, the selection of melons and other fresh fruit was outstanding, and if I worked it right, my hot cereal was indeed hot. I have to admit that the scrambled eggs and breakfast meats did not look so good, but I wasn't very much interested in them anyway. I think if you want an egg dish, ask the omelet chef to make it. Using the buffet for breakfast gave us the opportunity to eat outside on the aft deck while in port (too windy at sea), enjoying both the sunshine and the views of Hamilton.
While on the subject of Bermuda, I must say that I fell in love with this gem of an island (or islands connected by bridges and causeway). We arrived in Hamilton early and the ship was ready for disembarkation by 9:10 am. Since the weather was beautiful and we weren't sure of the rest of the days, we headed straight for Horseshoe Bay Beach via the 7 Bus (we purchased the 3-day bus/ferry pass at the pursers desk). Everything said about the south shore beaches in Bermuda is true. The powdery pink sand is, indeed, like walking in a sugar bowl. The water is delightful, clean and crystal clear. Along either side of Horseshoe Beach are coves where you can snorkel or sunbathe without the crowds. Climbing the rocks on the east side of the beach, I could look down 30-40 feet into the water and see azure blue fish (what a sight!). We landed up spending the entire day at the beach. The trip back to the bus stop is a hike, but there are taxis waiting for those who prefer to get back to the ship in comfort. The next day we took the ferry from Hamilton to the Dockyards, which is the former British Naval Port for Bermuda. It is now a tourist attraction and cruise ship dock. The main attractions is the Maritime Museum (which we skipped) and the Shopping Mall, in the clock tower building. This contains both unique shops as well as satellites of the large shops in Hamilton. We proceeded afterward via the 7 bus to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse, passing through Sandys and Somerset Parishes. This proved to be a most enjoyable ride for both the sites as well as observing the locals socialize on the bus. Everyone seemed to know each other and there was always a pleasant "good morning/afternoon" to each other. I was especially impressed by the way younger people addressed their seniors. When was the last time you heard a group of students thank the bus driver when they lighted the bus? The Gibbs Hill Lighthouse offers beautiful views of the island, so if you can make the trip up the hill from the bus stop
and then the 156 steps once inside, you are in for a treat. The final stop on the way back to Hamilton was at the Elbow Beach Hotel to visit a former co-worker of my mother's whom I haven't seen in 25 years. What a wonderful reunion this was, and the hotel is magnificent. There is a shuttle van to take you down to the beach (where we had lunch) and you can call for the van from the beach to return to the hotel. The grounds of the hotel are beautifully landscaped and the beach is nice, but not as scenic as
The captain informed as that the winds were too strong for the ship to make the reposition to St. George. So, instead, we went to St. George via the ferry. Well, those winds were indeed strong and the ferry boat pitched and rolled the entire time we were out in the ocean. We had no problem, but someone else did get sick and another person took a fall on the deck. It was quite an experience, and I'm afraid to say, a shade of things to come.
St. George is a charming, colonial-type town including stocks and a ducking stool. There is a little show put on to demonstrate town life in the 18th century at noon. We skipped this because we wanted to visit the other lighthouse in Bermuda in St. Davids, a 20 minute bus ride from St. George. This was a lovely ride and St. Davids is the least commercial part of Bermuda. The visit to the lighthouse (which was closed) was very tranquil and a nice respite from the activity of Hamilton and St. George. We returned to St. George for a stroll and then continued by bus to the Crystal Caves. I was quite impressed with this visit and recommend it provided you can make it down and back up a number of flights of steps.
The next day we would depart from Hamilton at 2 pm, so the last half day was devoted for shopping in Hamilton in the Front Street Stores. I found the staff at Smiths and Trimminghams very friendly. We found very good prices on duty free cologne and even some English Bone China. Someone else on the ship told me he did very well with a Harris Tweed jacket. Liquor prices are not as good as the Caribbean but weren't bad either. You have to purchase the liquor at least a day before and it is delivered to the ship. The ship then holds it until the last day of the cruise.
Well, after 3 1/2 perfect days in Bermuda (only scattered showers which always seemed to happen while I was indoors (by the way, you can borrow umbrellas from the ship at the same desk you sign out for beach towels), it was time to leave Bermuda. Unfortunately, after only about 5 miles out the ship began to pitch, like a seesaw and the waters would get even nastier as we proceeded. By that evening, which was the 2nd formal night, many people skipped dinner. I was taking ginger capsules since 2 days before the cruise, and felt just fine during this ordeal, so I did not miss the lobster, nor the best roast duck I have ever tasted. The next morning the captain announced that we encountered 90 mph winds and 35 ft swells (what's so SWELL about that?). Sleep wasn't so easy but the ship performed well under the circumstances. I would add that all drawers and closets in the cabin shut tight, so there was no problem with swinging doors or rolling drawers. Breakfast in the buffet was a challenge the next day but no accidents. I am especially amazed by the way the waiters in the dining room navigate the heavy trays stacked with plates on their shoulders. No crashes were heard during the entire ordeal. But you had to see the water in the swimming pool, jumping 10 feet out of the pool! Anyone at the pool bar ordering a drink with a splash was sure to get one!
By late the next evening conditions improved so, that the ship didn't feel like it was moving at all. Breakfast in the dining room on the last morning was a treat as we sailed past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The ship arrived 2 hours late, but the captain announced this the day before. It just meant sleeping later than normal on the last morning of a cruise. Although this worked for us, I'm sure that those with early flights didn't take the news as well. The ship arrived at around 9 am and took a little over an hour to clear for disembarkation. Again, being a Captain's Club member meant priority disembarkation and the luggage was closest to the exit.
I was very happy with this cruise and had an enjoyable time. Using the ship as a hotel in what is a prohibitively expensive destination worked out perfectly. And for the most part, Celebrity does a very good job and offers excellent value. I look forward to another visit to Bermuda.