by Elaine and Connie
January 16, 2000
Splendour of the Seas VS. Mercury
I am 58 years old and have taken 14 cruises. This review is meant for people like me who constantly puzzle over which cruise line to book, based on Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America. I have sailed on Princess 4 times, RCL 4 times, Celebrity once on the Century, and never on Holland America.
My most recent cruise was with my grown daughter on The Mercury Jan.16 to 23rd 2000 Western Caribbean with ports of key West, Calica, Cozumel, and grand Cayman, with only two days at sea (not enough!) First a comment about this itinerary at this time of year. While warm enough at 78 to 81 degrees, we escaped the prior week with cold tamperatures and 15 foot seas. The eastern or southern itinerary would have been a better guarantee, I would think, of warmer seas and air.
It's probably most helpful, without giving you a detailed rundown of every last aspect of the ship which can easily be found in other reviews, to instead compare my general impressions of the Mercury with my last sailing on Royal Caribbean's Splendor of the Seas, and also mention in passing how this ship struck me in comparison with her sister ship the Century, which I sailed prior to RCL's takeover. Celebrity is billed as a cut above. Not necessarily so.
1. The Splendor's gorgeous, much-loved centrum , a natural meeting place, surrounded by shops. This is lacking on Celebrity ships. There is instead a lobby, albeit a very attractive one, but lacking in glamorous ambience of a true centrum.
2. The Splendor's huge indoor Solarium with its splash pool, hot tubs, classical music, roman luxury decor, and pizza parlour was the place we headed after every day in port. On The Mercury there is instead only a small indoor pool at aft, no hot tubs, and without the lofty design and beauty.
3. The Splendor's entertainment, whether headliners or broadway shows, were excellent. On the mercury, on the other hand, the headliners were great, but the broadway shows lame, and my daughter refused to attend another.
4. The Splendor's passenger talent night is always one of the surprising hightlights of the cruise. On the mercury, there was none. it was cancelled due to non-participation. No doubt this was influenced by mercury's policy of never announcing anything, leaving your only source of info the daily cruise journal. This lack of announcemnets had other ramifications for me as well. (read on)
5. On the Splendor, the captain addresses passengers daily from the bridge - not to be missed - with details of our voyage and often bits of humor. On the Mercury, silence. On Splendor meals are announced with a series of soft bells and a wish for a bon appetit. I have grown to expect and like this cruise detail. On Mercury, silence. On Splendor at the Welcome Captain Party, the captain makes an interesting speech with details about the line and a joke or two. On the Mercury, a very dour captain says about two sentences. Very disappointing for a welcome party.
6. Splendor's food was consistently good. On Mercury, when it was good, it was very good, but it was not consistent. Lunches in the dining room were uniformly awful, pasta was inedible, and desserts were inconsistent. I think that corners have been cut here. Food was fresh and served hot however, and beef was perfectly cooked.
7.. RCL ships have lots of greenery whereas on the Mercury this is lacking. RCL's Pool deck is pretty and designed well On the mercury, there seems to be this odd space around the pool which does nothing and would be better used for either lounges or greenery.THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT MERCURY:
1. On the Mercury's aft pool deck, behind the palm grill was a lovely area with umbrella chairs for meals with a stunning view of the ship's wake. One deck below, was a beautifully quiet, narrow deck for sunning with partial shade at times of the day. perfect!
2. The Mercury's SPA thermal sea water pool, with a an extra charge of $15 per day, was a treat for sore muscles. Especially nice if you wanted to be out of the sun and noise of the pool deck. However, on Splendor, the solarium hot tub, which was free, worked just as well for me.
3. The Mercury's Palm Court Grill on the pool deck was spacious, airy, and pretty with 4 serving stations so there were never long lines. A very nice touch here was linen placemats on the trays and the fact that there was always a waiter on hand to carry the tray to a table, and there were always tables! the dining area was partitioned for a feeling of intimacy and it was great. Frozen yogurt was served at tea time and was marvellous!
4. Mercury has 600 fewer passengers, hence more space. There were always vacant seats in the theatre, in fact often a lot of them.
5. Mercury's very good cabin soundproofing . I don't want to make too much of this owing to the fact that our cabin was on the sky deck (the highest) and so may have been unusually quiet.
6. One of Mercury's pleasant entertainment perks was an archipela group who sang at random around the ship delighting everyone.
The most disappointing thing about the Mercury for me was that I had expected the same exquiste food that had been served on the Century, which was not to be. Secondly I was looking forward to the same fabulous, two tiered dining room elegance. Another disappoinment. On the Century the entire aft wall of the dining room is soaring cathedral windows and the centre of the dining room dominates. On the mercury, the centre had been sadly encroached upon by the expanded tiers, leaving the wall of glass diminished and the soaring feel gone. For that alone, I would choose the Century in a heartbeat over the Mercury.
In summary, both are lovely ships, gleaming and immaculate with a different cruise experience. All in all, my personal choice would be RCL over Celebrity, a surprise even for me. The only Princess ships I have sailed on were older ships, not a fair comparison, apples to apples, with Splendor versus Mercury. I would love to hear from anyone who has sailed a great Princess and can compare it to my experience.
Re ship tours: One further note for anyone going to Grand Cayman. Don't bother with the ships' snorkeling. To the right of the pier half a block away sits Eden Rock where there are lockers, equipment rental for $8, and a fabulous dramatic site only yards offshore with easy step entry. Similarly at Cozumel, you can share a cab for a five minute drive to Chancanab Park, enter for $7 and rent equipment for $5 and do everything at your own pace in relative peace. The ocean reef here is pleasant with step entry, and the beach a treat! Re sea-kayaking In Key West - watch the weather as wind and chop makes for a far less that relaxing experience. This was okay, but really all you do is paddle around and through a mangrove island at a very high cost for a brief bit of solitude. (Xcaret, at Calica ..by comparison is a huge cash grab. )