Celebrity Cruise Lines - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
Celebrity Cruises

by Bruce O'Dea
Western Caribbean
December 19, 2003

This Holiday cruise was our first time on Celebrity. We have extensive
cruise experience on other lines (over 40 cruises) and in recent years have
been mostly on Holland America and Cunard. I mention this mostly for
those who might ask "Compared to what?" in reading the observations below.

For us, the cruise was a very good one. What I attempt here is some
subjective observations about the Horizon (and Celebrity) rather than a day
by day chronology or a public room tour of the ship. Hopefully, the review
will be of some value to those readers considering the Horizon either out of
Tampa this winter or to Bermuda in the summer. The ship, while not perfect
for my tastes, is pretty much a keeper. Come to think of it, I'm not perfect
for my tastes either.

As is often the case with Holiday cruises, the presence of family groups using
upper berths and sofa beds raised the passenger count above the ship's lower
berth capacity of 1354 to about 1450. The 46,000 ton ship's passenger space
ratio (on a lower berth basis) is normally 34 and on this cruise was 31.72.
These figures are a bit on the low side in the current era (or the 30s and 50s
for that matter) although they would have looked good in the 70s and 80s.
We knew all this when we booked and believe that Celebrity handled the
number of passengers very well.

The 250 passengers under 18 were mostly well behaved. They were lively
and enjoyable shipmates. The kids were the stars of a very special Christmas
Eve show.

The cruise was 10 days and called at Grand Cayman, Puerto Limon, Colon,
Roatan and Cozumel. I shan't comment here on the ports except to say that
arriving at Grand Cayman and Cozumel, both often extremely crowded with
ships midweek, on weekend days showed careful itinerary planning.
She will be alternating this itinerary with an 11 day Eastern Caribbean one
from Tampa all winter.

The Horizon is a traditional vessel. She lacks the latest trends in ship
architecture- no balconies, no soaring atriums, no specialty restaurant. As
cruising tradtionalists, we were not troubled by these absences. (We like the
fresh air from the balconies, but we liked it way back when portholes opened,
too.) Space is well used. The Horizon is more comfortable than striking to the
eye. She is very easy to navigate and places do not seem far apart.

Things about the Horizon which fit the "Premium Cruise Line" designation:

(1) The ship, 15 years old, is in mint condition:
(2) The food in the dining room, in both quality and presentation, was equal
to the best we have ever had at sea;
(3) The service, even with the large passenger count, was supurb throughout
the ship;
(4) A variety of "enrichment" lectures, including a paricularly good series on
the itinerary related Panama Canal. Enrichment lectures are not common on
Caribbean cruises;
(5) Individual entertainers were of high quality and contributed, along with
the Cruise Staff and kids, to a really great Christmas Eve program;
(6) She has quiet nooks and crannies-especially the beautifully designed and
furnished Michael's Club and library area;
(7) and some nice touches like: a bank separate from the Purser's Office;
mostly predinner evening shows for late sitting guests; a wide variety of
music in different lounges; a gracious and friendly casino staff; pre-dinner
canapes in the lounges; minimal PA announcements; shampoo dispensers in
the showers; lotion dispenser on the sink; well insulated ice bucket and a
twice daily pitcher of cold water in the cabin;
(8) The absence of a Captain's Welcome aboard cocktail party was pleasing
too. These events just don't work on a ship with more than 600 passengers.

Things about which we were Nuetral:

(1) Our cabin-Catagory 5, standard outside- was adequate , no more, in space
(172 sq. ft.) and good on storage. It was somewhat sparsely furnished and
decorated. In particular, it could have use a comfortable reading chair.
(2) Cruise Staff- friendly, helpful, energetic but inexperienced at lower end:
(3) Food in Coral Seas deck cafe and attached food stations;
(4) In house company of dancers and singers-nothing special.
(5) Daytime activities-pretty much standard cruise ship fare although a
"Battle of the Sexes" trivia game, which ran all cruise with cumulative
scoring, was particular fun. The men won.
(6) The one shore excursion we took (Gamboa arial tram in Panama) was
crisply run, although, as may be expected, expensive.
(7) Extra charges-not many that aren't traditional. Specialty coffees-ok,
maybe. A set of menus though? Could be worse; could be better.

(8) Interactive TV in Cabin. It was useful for viewing one's shipboard
account but darned if I would play blackjack on it.
(9) Organized deck sports- offered daily but not well located for serious play.
Ping pong location has slight wind problems and shuffleboard location traffic
problems. Shuffleboard courts need daily maintenance or wax applications..

Things not quite "Premium":

(1) The Coral Seas deck cafe is far from adequate in space for even the
normal 1354 passengers. Traffic patterns are not well designed. On this
cruise it was a zoo at busy times;
(2) Absence of real deck chairs with real steamer cushions in an outdoor,
quiet, shady location where one can sit to read or watch the world go by. The
rather narrow deck under the lifeboats has possibilities, but it is not really a
Promenade Deck. Nor does it go around the ship. Walking a measured
mile?...well, difficult.

Note: My impression is that this absense of wooden, cushioned deck chairs in
quiet, shady locations is Celebrity fleet wide- not Horizon specific. The ships
just don't have wide, teak wood wrap around Promenade Decks. Pity.

(3) The passenger/elevator (7 elevators) ratio is barely 1 elevator per 200
passengers (even using the 1350 lower berth capacity)- a marginal ratio at
best for a ship this size. Only 2 elevators are aft, serving the restaurants.
There were too often long waits. Again the condition is fleetwide. The 1950
passenger Millenium class vessels have but 10 elevators.

(4) Port information for the independent shore venturer was sadly lacking.
Port lectures were strictly shopping lectures. Written materials were
inadequate-short and vague. Truly usable local maps were not available
onboard. Inquiries at the tour office met mostly with a reply that "this will be
only our second or third call there". This problem is easily fixed. What is
needed is just one tour office staff member onboard solely because of his or
her solid familiarity with the ports visited.

(4) We didn't win at Bingo (a complaint not limited to Celebrity).

I make no comment on the spa facilities, botiques, golf program or very late
night entertainment since I don't use them enough to form a useful opinion.

On balance, I think most discerning cruisers will like the Horizon very
much. If nothing else, her food and service are so fine and her size so
managable that other relatively minor shortcomings can be forgiven (or, as
with the port info, easily rectified).

Enjoy! We did.