May 28, 2004
Too short for Celebrity?
We had no unrealistic expectations -- or so we thought. We knew this was only a two-night cruise. Two days in port...board in Vancouver… in port until 5 p.m. …wake up in Victoria and spend the day there… back in Vancouver the next morning. It was not the usual seven nights or more routine, but we were disappointed in Celebrity nonetheless. We have been on five short cruises -- three on the Radiance of the Seas, one on Vision of the Seas and one on the Sea Princess. It makes a nice break between the longer cruises, and we are so close we can drive to and from the pier.
Celebrity does not usually have two-night cruises. This was sandwiched between a Hawaiian cruise and the first Alaska cruise of the season. And we were made to feel like poor cousins -- kind of unwanted. Like people who are merely taking up space until the REAL passengers come on board. Celebrity has a good product. The ship was spotless as usual. There was a lot good about it, and if I had not cruised so many times with them, I might not have noticed the lackluster attitudes and things that were missing from the norm.
We arrived at the pier early. There were no long lines. We got to the check-in desk and almost the entire staff is brand new -- and we are the FIRST passengers they have ever checked in. The young gal who checked us in was very nervous. She took all our documents, passports, cruise ticket, charge account info sheet etc. She asked to see our credit card, checked it over and handed it back to us. Then after a few minutes she asked if we would be paying in cash. "No, we will be paying with the credit card you asked to see." She asked for a supervisor to come and check over everything she did, just to make sure she didn't make any mistakes. So check-in took at least four times longer than normal. (The last day of the cruise we got a notice from the ship's bank to pay our bill in cash, because after all that, she still wrote down that we would be paying in cash!) We just went down and they scanned our card again.
We were greeted upon boarding by some of the great Celebrity staff bearing champagne! We were both in high spirits and looking forward to a fantastic time. Our cabin wasn't ready because we boarded at about 11:30 a.m. No problem; we expected that. We were able to go to our cabins at around 1:30 p.m., an hour after they said they would be ready. During the two hours we waited, we toured the ship and took videos and still shots. This is always a good time to do it, because there aren't a lot of passengers on the ship yet.
We took the Infinity to the Southern Caribbean in her inaugural season and everything was still like new! We decided to have lunch before it got too crowded, so we went up to the resort deck for the "welcome aboard lunch buffet." We started down the food line and I noticed some thing missing. I asked about the beef roast that was NOT under the heat lamps. I stopped and asked the server about it and he said he would check into it. After a while I noticed it was there! So my hubby went and got us some sliced roast. They also had the traditional Welcome Aboard cake they ALWAYS have on the first day of their cruises. I was still happy at this point.
The weather cleared up and the pool deck was bathed in sunshine! It turned into a beautiful warm day in Vancouver. We went up to the pool deck and sat by the pool in the sun. It was around 2 p.m. and I was wondering when they would take the nets off the pools and hot tubs.
We went down to our cabin. The door was shut, so we knew it was ready. We walked in and almost immediately I tripped over the big humps in the carpet by the bathroom door. That was my first clue that this was a wheelchair-accessible cabin. In the brochure our cabin (#9121, Sky Suite) does not show any symbols, so this was a complete surprise. We had a big bathroom, but no tub and no long walk-in closet. Instead there was a larger area by the front door to park a wheelchair. This would be a great cabin for those who need it, but I would not go out of my way to book one. I like the standard ones better. I wanted to hang my dress in the shower to help get the wrinkles out, so I found the cord coming out of the wall by the shower and pulled. A red light came on! I immediately knew what a stupid thing I just did -- I pulled the emergency cord. Jim called down to the guest relations desk and told them about the "bonehead" thing I did. They said and emergency light did go on up at the bridge. I didn't know! I have never seen one of those before. I did eventually find the laundry cord that I was looking for in the first place.
Jim asked some staff members by the pool why it wasn't open yet. They said it should be open soon. So I changed into my suit and we went up to go for my first swim on the ship.
We got up there and found a nice spot by the pool. My hubby ordered a drink and we were happy. After about an hour Jim called back down to guest relations to find out WHY the pools and hot tubs as well as the Thalassotherapy pool were still not open. They told him Canadian health inspectors were onboard and they could not open the pools until they got around to inspecting them. O.K., NOW I was getting unhappy. I saw someone with an ice cream cone walk by. I said, "If I can't swim, I am going to drown my sorrows in ice cream. I waited in line spending my time deciding what flavor ice cream to have. When it was my turn, I asked for a one-scoop Rum Raisin cone, please. He said he just ran out of cones. I could have a dish. I looked at him like, do you mean to tell me that there are no cones on this whole ship? I didn't want to have a dish by the pool, so I just left aggravated. His attitude bugged me – like, "take what you can get". He wasn't going to bother getting any cones.
We went to our stateroom to gather up the life jackets and head down to the casino for the lifeboat drill. I do appreciate the fact that they make everyone actually go to the lifeboat decks and line up under the boats. Some other lines don't do this. Even though it is a pain, it would probably make a big difference in a real emergency.
After dropping off the life jackets in our cabin, we went up to the sail-away party. The pool band, Legacy, was very good. The activity staff was enthusiastic, and at around 5 p.m. they finally took the nets off the pools! There was no sign of our Cruise Director Don Fluke yet -- I thought he would be at the sail away party. When I heard the Electric Slide I finally felt like I was on a cruise! We went to the bow to see the ship pass under the Lion's Gate Bridge. The Ryndam was ahead of us and the Vision of the Seas was still at Balantine Pier. Looking back towards Canada Place, it looked like a post card.
Our nice butler had appetizers ready for us in the suite. We spent some time on the balcony enjoying the view.
Dinner on the first night was casual. We were assigned a table for eight on the main level of the dining room, at the foot of the stairs, next to the pretty, expensive crystal table.
Our table mates were a family of four women (grandma and her daughters and granddaughter) from Vancouver, and a woman with her daughter from the Portland area. My husband said it was his harem. We had a nice time with all our table mates and felt lucky to be seated where we were. The waiter was good, but the
They had a show in the theater with the Celebrity singers and dancers the first night. I wasn't too impressed with the female singers, but a couple of the male singers were first-rate. I couldn't help thinking that the female singers wouldn't have made it very far on American Idol. After the show, we donated some money to the casino and turned in for the night. You know you are on a short cruise when the first night of the cruise you get the tip envelopes!
Victoria was cold and cloudy when we first pulled into port. We tied up at the new pier at Ogden Point. There was a sailing regatta that day, so we saw dozens of sailing vessels pass by. We had a cozy eggs Benedict breakfast in the suite served by our very competent and friendly butler. We had decided to stay on the ship instead of going into port. We scanned over the daily activities -- bridge, paddle tennis, darts, volleyball, computer class, library, afternoon trivia, checkers... O.K. now I am getting the idea that the staff isn't exactly putting themselves out on this day. There was no martini tasting, napkin folding, cooking demo, veggies carving, slot tournament, wine tasting or hairy chest contest on this cruise. It was cold and rainy, so the outdoor pool wasn't an option. Thus we decided to go into Victoria after all. I noticed that we received no port information sheet in our cabin – no walking map of Victoria, etc. They usually have these at the guest relations desk or where you get off the ship. But when we got to the port building the locals had some for free.
We took the $5 shuttle bus to town and walked to some of our favorite little shops, including Rogers Chocolates for our traditional cherry and rum raisin chocolates.
We walked to a cute outdoor craft market, then down to the waterfront along the docks. They have adorable little boats that do harbor tours. We decided to do the 50-minute tour. It was fun. The tour guide/captain has lived in Victoria all his 65 years. He had some great stories to tell about Victoria in the old days and how it has changed. I would recommend these tours to anyone. Afterwards we walked around the grounds of the Empress Hotel, went inside and looked though a couple of shops and then back to the bus to take us to the ship.
When we arrived back at Ogden Point, the Norwegian Star was next to us! This was the first time I had seen the Star. We noticed it had no passengers onboard. I can't say I like the paint job on the Star.
It was very cold and windy now, and we were happy to be back on the warm ship. We had a nice lunch in the Palm Springs Grill.
After lunch, we went to the Thalassotherapy pool to see if it was crowded. It was packed with people. There was hardly room for one more body! I decided to try the coffee here. I also tried a "healthy dessert" with my coffee.
After the big lunch and dessert, I could hardly keep my eyes open and I was still chilled from the cold wind so we went back to the cabin for a nap.
The second night was informal. We showered and dressed early so we could go to the casino and the shops before dinner. I was disappointed that a couple of the shops were not open, because they were restocking the Alaska merchandise. Also there was no booze or cigarettes because we stayed in Canada the whole time, so we couldn't get anything duty free. My hubby was particularly unhappy that they didn't have any Infinity baseball caps. He has a collection from every cruise he has been on. No Tortuga Rum Cakes either! I did get a really nice travel coffee mug with the Celebrity symbol on it from the Cova Cafe. They serve hot chocolate
We had Martinis in the Martini Bar and went into dinner. We had a very nice dinner tonight. My husband talked to the assistant maitre d' the first night, telling her that his favorite things to eat on Celebrity ships were crème brulee and escargot. They had crème brulee the first night but no escargot planned for the second night. She surprised us all by serving our table escargot! Now that is going above and beyond to please a passenger!
Captain's Club perks were nonexistent on this cruise. We received nothing for being Captain's Club Select members -- no coupons, etc.; nothing sent to our cabin.
All told, we had pretty good cruise. But I think other lines have handled short cruises much better. I would not cruise anything shorter than seven nights with Celebrity again. We booked a 10-night on the Mercury for next February and we are looking forward to it.