After flying from Washington State to San Diego, it was a refreshing surprise to find the cruise ship terminal only an $8 taxi ride from the airport -- extremely handy.
The Mercury was tied up next to the famous Star of India sailing ship. What a difference a few years make. The Mercury is a 77,000 ton floating premier hotel with all the amenities a traveler could wish for.
Embarkation was the smoothest we have ever experienced after, a few minutes' wait to enter the terminal area due to extremely tight security checks of our passports and those of everyone else entering the area. After we removed our bags from the taxi, they were scooped up by one of many waiting longshoremen and disappeared into the large warehouse.
We then got on line inside the terminal and within five minutes we were at the counter being processed for boarding by a Celebrity rep. Five minutes later we were heading up the gangway onto the ship. What a luxury to be greeted by ship staff with champagne and then escorted to our outside cabin on Deck 4 and offered an explanation of the features inside our stateroom. Celebrity is copying the style of Four Seasons Hotels and is going first class with the embarkation.
Our stateroom was more than adequate and the bed configuration was as we requested, together. There was plenty of room under the bed for our suitcases, lots of closet space (but not enough hangers), lots of drawer space, an electronic safe behind the mirror, 20-inch TV, and the best-designed bathroom facilities we've ever seen on a ship. The shower was more than adequate and the controls were simple. Air flow into the stateroom is constant with only a temperature adjustment available. Our stateroom attendant performed adequately but never bothered to introduce himself, ask how we were doing, or even speak to us other than good morning or good evening. We did note that other attendants were much friendlier with their passengers.
The ship is kept in excellent condition, very clean and constantly attended to by the staff. There were no signs of wear and tear or rust.
The public rooms are quite adequate, but half of the ship always smells of smoke as smoking is allowed, except in the inside dining areas or the theaters. The library has a fair number of books, mostly fiction. The theater and conference center got quite warm and stuffy when the movie was playing to a full house. The theater that showcased the major entertainment is one of the best-designed we have ever experienced, with most seats having unobstructed views. The excellent stage setup included a turntable and a section of the stage that rises up from the pit, which was well used in the excellent Broadway-style productions put on by the ship's company.
Dining experiences ran from fair to excellent depending where you ate. The main seating in the dining room is for 5:45 p.m. on this ship and second seating starts at 8 p.m. This caused a few issues during the 11-night cruise, with people arriving late for the first seating and thus delaying the start of the second. Our waitress admonished the guests at our table who arrived late to be on time as being late caused a backup in service. We found that the problem was actually caused by a backup from the kitchen in providing meals in a timely manner.
Breakfast service in the dining room was perfunctory at best, with the menu never changing. The buffet breakfast never changed either, except for small differences – i.e., smoked salmon was only served three times for breakfast, cheese blintzes were there one day and not the next, and then back again. Day after day, fresh fruit included honeydew melons, cantaloupes, watermelon, orange slices and grapefruit - nothing else. Service in the breakfast buffet area was generally excellent except for a couple of occasions where the staffers were too busy chatting to be attentive. On these occasions though, the maitre d' was quite good at chasing them back to work.
The grille areas were excellent, with pizza, hot dogs and the best hamburgers at sea I have ever tasted. Congratulations, Celebrity.
There is no real alternative dining on the Mercury except for a limited menu available from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for a $2 service fee. Reservations were required and service was in the buffet restaurant area. Casual dress was accepted.
The food served on board was adequate most times in the dining room. Nothing really wowed us, not even the only lobster night; the lobster was quite chewy and very small. Other passengers said they ordered two, as they knew they would be small. Fish entrees were undercooked a couple of times but all in all everything was properly done and tasty. Desserts were generally very good in the dining room but the selection at the buffet was at times limited. They ran out of cream for the coffee on the last day at sea, and staff did not want to tell anyone at first but finally they did, and said we should use milk instead.
Our waitress was in a little over her head, and rushed most of the time. The assistant was very competent and the maitre d', Sasha from Croatia, was excellent, always checking with us throughout the journey at night, in the morning and even at lunch.
This cruise had a very busy itinerary, stopping at Cabo San Lucas (a tender port), Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and then on to Acapulco, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo (tender port) and finally Manzanillo. We journeyed through all these ports on our own, thoroughly enjoying the sights (once we escaped the relentless taxi drivers/tour buses) and had no problems anywhere. Zihuatanejo would be an excellent choice for a one-week stay to experience Mexico at its best. Acapulco cliff divers were spectacular as promised. Weather for all ports was excellent. Celebrity did a great job in the tender ports and we experienced no real problems with catching a tender either going to shore or coming back.
The swimming pools are salt water and during the busy times were a little dirty. The pool in the rear of the ship under the sliding dome (which was never opened more than two or three feet) is clean but very small and not adequate for any exercise. This ship does not have a promenade deck that goes all the way around. The jogging track was adequate but not the same as walking the promenade deck three or four times to make that one mile. We took the stairs most of the time; the elevators (there are 10) are very small.
Disembarkation went very smoothly; we met U.S. Customs on the ship, so we could receive our passports back again from the ship's guest relations. We were then allowed to wait in our stateroom until our color was called to go to the Celebrity Theatre and await permission to leave the ship. We waited just 15 minutes before we could disembark. The search for our luggage once off the ship was a madhouse. After being told all day before that we would be checked by Celebrity security, no one ever checked us on the way out. Taxis were waiting right outside and the trip to the airport was quick and painless.
All in all, a very nice and relaxing cruise and we would be delighted to travel on Celebrity again.