My wife and I are in our fifties, live in South America, and we have made 5 cruises so far. This time we decided to take a cruise to Alaska, in the "Mercury" Celebrity ship, departing from Seattle.
We arrived to the Pier 66 at 10.45, and at 11.00 we were on board. So, embarking was perfect. We didn´t go directly to our window with veranda room, because we thought it was not going to be ready yet. At 12.00 we decided to take a look, and it was ready: clean and with all the amenities, and with plenty of room for our stuff.
. At 2.OO P.M, when we returned from lunch, we already had our luggage in the door of our room. The departure of the ship´ was two hours late, and we think the delay was due to a very slow procedure of baggage loading in the ship.
This ship is not precisely new. However, we found every places we went clean and nice, though in some details age shows (this is not important , it happens the same with human beings!!).
All the employees we met were nice and professional, and some of them outstanding, as we will explain forward.
When we made our reservation, we requested to be placed in the late seating for dinner. That was not possible because, we were told, a big group was on the ship and was placed precisely in that seating. It was true. We had to cope with the main seating (6.00 P.M), that is difficult for South Americans, who have dinner a lot later than that. But it was not really a problem. Already on board, we requested a table for two, and we got it at once.
Food in the Manhattan restaurant was excellent, and service outstanding. An Indian man, Xavier, was our waiter, an Indonesian guy, Tri, our bus boy ; and a French, Alexander, our sommelier. The three were exceptional. Without any doubt, Alexander was the best sommelier we have met in cruises so far.
Usually we had breakfast and lunch in the Palm Spring buffet, and though not excellent, it was good.
We used room service only twice, one for breakfast and another for a light meal, and it worked fine.
Our steward was William. We didn´t see him very much, but the maintenance of the room was perfect. That is what a steward is supposed to do. Efficient but not intrusive, nice and educated the few times we met him personally. His service was perfect.
Shows were good, and some of them, for cruises standards, were close to exceptional, particularly the dancers and the singers.
Let ´s say a few words about the cities we visited. First of all, we had a wonderful weather in the seven days of the cruise. We were extremely lucky. Even in Seattle, where bad weather is frequent, and where we stayed five days with a dear friend, we had only one rainy afternoon, and sun and warm weather in the rest of our stay.
Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan are beautiful places to visit.. But the highlights in Alaska cruises are given not by the cities, but by places that can be reached by tours - In Juneau we took the helicopter and dogsled tour. It is very expensive, and everybody, including us, complained about that.....before doing it. Back in the ship, everybody agreed that it was absolutely worth. The helicopter trip over the glaciers is wonderful, and the dogsled ride is an unforgettable experience.
In Skagway we took the White Pass & Yukon River tour, and it was also very nice.
In Ketchikan we book the Lumberjack show, that was O.K, and we visited the city and dedicated to shopping, but that visit was a real tour de force, because time was not enough. Why? Now it is time to write about was not O.K in this cruise.
The cruise didn´t respect the schedule announced in the Celebrity magazine we read when we decided to book it. We know that, according to the contract, the company may change the schedule or even delete some port of call. But good faith in contractual matters implies that is an exceptional possibility, and that when it is used, the reasons should be explained to the customers.
We had made a cruise, with in Celebrity, in January (Southern Caribbean) and onboard we got a Celebrity magazine to look for another cruises. We read that, in the Alaska cruise, the call in Skagway would last from 8 A.M to 5 A.M. Actually, the ship departed at 3. P.M (two hours before) and that was announced the day before in the bulletin, without an explanation.
The same magazine stated that the call in Prince Ruppert would last 4 hours. Actually, it lasted only an hour and only was "technical", that is, nobody could disembark. No call, and no explanation again.
And we read also there that the call in Ketchikan would last from 8 A.M to 3. P.M. Actually, it lasted from 9.20 A.M to 3 P.M.
This situation damaged badly our personal schedule. We finish our visit in Skagway and Ketchikan literally running. And we saw the port of Prince Ruppert from our veranda.
Obviously, we had made our schedule trusting Celebrity magazine itinerary. And even we knew changes were possible, we didn´t expect them to be so important and without any explanation. We understand that some changes are impossible to avoid. But it has to be remarked that all the changes in the schedule were aimed to shorten the stays in port.
What happens casts a shadow over credibility concerning future Celebrity cruises.
For us , that was a real problem in the cruise. But not the most important one. Why?
If you browse looking for a cruise, you will notice that, generally speaking, all the cruise lines offers more or less the same. Ports of call, food, shows, rooms, service. They are not the same, but in general they are very similar.
So, what makes the difference? There is a difference that defines the decision of the passenger.. For us, the difference in Celebrity is style. When we book Celebrity we are not looking for a "Fun ship", a floating kindergarten or a noisy seven day party. We are looking, yes, for some entertainment, but in a stylish and quiet atmosphere.
Well, having that in mind, we were amazed by the noise in this ship, due to unruly children that, without their parents and at any time of the day, and specially at night, ran, shouted and made noise in every place of the ship, corridors included.
That was a permanent problem in the seven days of the cruise. The proof: In one of the daily bulletins, parents were encouraged to take care of their children. But that was only a wish. The crew didn´t protect the customers, and allowed these unruly and bad educated children to make whatever they wanted.
We talked with many passengers who were also astonished by what was happening in a Celebrity cruise.
We don´t know if this situation was exceptional, and due to exceptional circumstances. Anyway, we think Celebrity should pay attention to what happened, because a lot of passengers were uncomfortable by that noise, and doubted about the future of their future choices.
We repeat: style is what makes the difference today, at least for us. If Celebrity is more interested in the number of passengers, and not in the way they behave, that difference will fade away. And the ones who look quiet holidays will switch (with an effort) , to even more expensive cruise lines, or to another ones (also noisy but cheaper).
We are planning to make another cruise (may be in Northern Europe) But we are in doubt in choosing Celebrity again. And the reason is simple: we are not sure. Schedule will be respected or not? We will find the quiet elegance and good manners we seek when we book Celebrity, or we will find again a cruising kindergarten?
Service in Celebrity continues to be the best we have seen. But it is sad that the two aspects we have mentioned (erratic schedule and noisy children) cast a doubt over our future selection.