January 10, 2003
We sailed on the Mercury on Jan 10, '03 on our 7th cruise. Having sailed so often before, I came aboard expecting great food, far superior service to anywhere on land, in the dining area and cabin service, a children's program that would keep my boys happy, and a relaxing but fun time. This was our first cruise on Celebrity. Based on different reviews, I expected somewhat better food and service and I was worried about finding a stuffier crowd, esp one that may not care for kids.
The people I found aboard the ship were some of the nicest people I've ever met gathered in one place in my life. We attended the cruise critic party, and were so happy we did. One couple there, whom I don't want to mention by name for privacy reasons, invited us and the other cruise critic members to a private cocktail party in their penthouse suite. I thought they had hearts of gold and everybody there had a super time. We also ran into another couple that we met at the gathering at every port and several times a day on deck. It was very nice always running into them like that. As far as the children go, we didn't run into anybody antagonistic toward their presence or in any way rude to them or us.
Regarding the food, I found it very comparable to other ships. The intermezzos were out of this world. Those were served on formal nights. I didn't personally care for most of the bread. I found it too crusty, or hard on the outside. I personally prefer a light crust, so this was a disappointment for me. Croissants one morning were overdone, but the other mornings delicious. Most dinner entres were superb, only complaint was the duck. I have yet to be disappointed in a meal on Carnival and we've travelled that line on 3 of our 7 cruises, so I would say that Carnival's food beats Celebrity's by a small margin. I believe the professional reviews of both lines are biased. Carnival is not the bottom of the barrel nor Celebrity the top in this class of cruise ships. Both are very pleasant lines to travel on with slightly different flavors and many benefits to each.
As for the service, our dining staff were incredible! The waiters were friendly to us and the kids, made us feel right at home and provided excellent service. They also made sure that my youngest son had spaghetti and meatballs every night, which he loved. I can't in all fairness to some of the excellent wait staff we've had on other ships say they were superior to the staff on all others, but they were definately tied at the top on my list with the waiter on the Ecstasy who adored Tommy the first time we cruised with him, and the waiters on the Grand who played with Mikey and always had a smile, even though tips were prepaid and distributed evenly among the personal choice staff.
Our cabin steward was very average. He did his job and no more. Our room was always clean, beds made, but he often did not leave enough chocolates on the beds for all 4 of us. He also did not attempt any towel creations or cute things with our sunglasses etc that we have come to look forward to on cruises. This was a small disappointment. As for the chocolates, after he received his tip from us, he did give us a bunch of chocolates for the boys.
Now for the children's program. :) The staff and the program were very friendly and the children couldn't wait to get into the program. They loved being in there, and made some neat little crafts while there. Mercury also has a ball pit, a sega station, and a very nice outdoor play yard that is the most adoreable that I've seen on any ship. There is a snailshaped slide, a coral tunnel and a shell playhouse.
My complaint is on the placement and policies regarding the children's pool. I don't in any way blame the wonderful staff, because they like any of us in any job are only following the orders handed down. The children's pool is also extremely adoreable, but placed right outside the fun factory, in full view of the children inside, and only open while the ship is in port. If you plan on taking your children to the beaches, don't expect them to ever play in this nice pool. We skipped the beach in Cozumel and did the pool. We had several little long faces looking at us who couldn't come in the pool since their parents were ashore. I felt sorry for them and the staff having to say no to them. We got kicked out of the children's pool early because there was an activity planned on another deck and the door would have to be locked. Since the fun factory is the only way in/out of the pool, families wanting to spend time with their children there are not even guaranteed to have the whole time in port in the pool. I hope by pointing this out in this review and in the questionaire that somebody with decision making power listens, and changes policy. Safety wise, there is no reason the pool shouldn't be open at sea, given parents HAVE to be there for the children to use the pool, and there's no life guard at any pool, at any time period. Also the 1 foot pool is a lot safer for children to play around than the main pools and hot tubs. When I asked about the pool on the first sea day, I was advised by the children's staff to use the hot tubs with them. Entering the area, there's a sign that children under 16 must be accompanied by and adult in the whirlpools, however right over the hot tubs, there's a sign for "adults only." The last day and finding out I would have only 15 minutes in the children's pool before another outing on a different deck, I caved and took the children in the hot tubs. It was their first time in them and they were in seventh heaven!!! The next time we cruise, I don't know if they will have any interest in the children's pool knowing the joy of hot tubs. :)
The pools on Mercury were very nice. The main ones in the middle have basket ball nets at the side, and the stern one is just so pretty and enclosed with a retractable roof. This made it perfect to swim in when the center pool area was too cold. The ship was only half booked on this cruise, so about every time I went in, I had the pool to myself, which was a rare treat. Also there were no lines anywhere, even boarding which was absolutely incredible.
As for the ports, we have been to Grand Cayman before, learned from experience, skipped any and all tours and went straight for 7 mile beach on our own. It was incredible. On Cozumel, Mike and I ate alone at Senor Frogs by the dock, but were disappointed in the food. Many of the items were plain American food. I had been looking forward to "real" Mexican food in Mexico and was disappointed that Fiesta Cancun here at home beats the food I got there by a mile. At least we had fun at the children's pool.
I'm one of only a few, but I liked Progresso. The pier is 4 miles long. A shuttle takes passengers to town. Once in town there's a flea market style place that sells a lot of nick nacks very cheaply. That's my kind of shopping! :) I don't go on a cruise to buy expensive items, because I don't trust the outfits. If there was a problem, the store is in another country far from home, outside of US jurisdiction. Progresso also has a beach close to the shuttle stop. It is nice and sandy. The only thing is its NOT a snorkel beach. The surf is similar to the Jersey shore, and the water is full of sand, making visibility poor. I was disappointed in the weather that day, it was in the 70s and too cold and windy to swim, but I still stuck my feet in the water. Key West is still the typical touristy/spring break party heaven stop. At least there is a beach close by to go to for people like me who don't want to shop till you drop or drink like a fish.
Over all our experience on the Mercury was very nice. It was a cruise! How could it not be??? Especially since we were getting away from highs in the 20s. Drinks were not pushed, nor was the annoying art auction which is the focal point of other cruise lines!! Art was in one area, not in your face by every public area begging people to go and bid bid bid. There were almost no public announcements except to annouce debarkation for ports. It was refreshing and relaxing.
We got what we wanted at a very reasonable price, same as the 5 day on Sensation for a 7 day on Mercury. I would say we definately got a great value for the money, and a wonderful chance to relax before our third child arrives in May. We don't plan on cruising again until she turns two, and is able to go into Carnival's program. I'm too spoiled now with having the children go to the program to go with a child unable to get in.
After she's 3 and fully potty trained, if we got a great deal on Celebrity again, we'd take it! I just hope if that comes up, policies regarding the children's pool change.