October 21, 2005
While this is an older ship, generally it is good condition. There is a little normal wear on the carpets here and there, and a few scuffs and wear on some chairs, but nothing that would spoil your vacation. The food is fairly good in both the dining room and the buffet. The entertainment started out being mediocre, but toward the middle of the cruise it got much better, with some good comedians, singers and acrobats. Embarkation was a challenge as the ship was late reaching San Diego; hundreds of guests were crowded into the lounge and it took a long time to get on the ship.
It was equally challenging to disembark at the various ports of call -- in fact, it was horrific, with long waits for tenders and poor organization both at tendering and when docked. Most of the issues I had with this voyage related to “management” where there was a lack of co-ordination in a number of areas.
Would we cruise on the Mercury again? Probably not. But in fairness, this was not an expensive cruise, and on a cost-to-value basis you get a fair return for your money. One thing seems certain to me on the basis of this cruise: There is no difference between Royal Caribbean and Celebrity -- certainly nothing to warrant paying a premium to travel on Celebrity.
There is only one word -TERRIBLE. We waited more than two hours in the
embarkation lounge along with hundreds of others in fairly cramped conditions as the ship was late arriving. Check-in itself was easy – but then we had pre-registered by computer so that did not take long. When we did eventually get to move, there were two flights of stairs and long lines to get onto the ship and to have your photo taken as identification. Why this could not have been done in the terminal is anyone’s guess.
The staff was also totally incompetent when it came to disembarking passengers at ports of call. I don’t think the same system was used at any two ports, making it confusing for all concerned. It took ages at Cabo San Lucas to get people off the ship, so some people missed their tours. In Acapulco, we got off the ship only to be herded into a compound where we stood for half an hour until we were marched two-by-two into holding areas under cover. We then waited another 30-40 minutes to be guided to our tour buses. I could detail every port's problems, but suffice it to say that the staff would do well to study the system used on RCCL of getting people into a lounge with stickers and getting them off the ship one tour at a time.
Disembarkation at San Diego when we returned was a nightmare. We were told that all non-U.S. citizens were to go to the Nightclub at varying times for Immigration clearance, and that no one would be allowed to leave the ship, including U.S. citizens, until every non-U.S. citizen had been cleared. More than 500 people -- plus a large number of U.S. citizens who lined up in the wrong queue -- stood in a winding line for more than two hours (in many cases), and even though the ship docked at 7 a.m., not one person got off before 10 a.m. While the Immigration Service was partly to blame (there were only five officers), not one member of the ship's management team took charge of the line, made sure only the correct people were there, or offered any explanation for the long, long delays. We should have been off the ship by 9.15 a.m. (based on our color tag – deemed to meet our flight needs); in fact, we didn't get off the ship until 10.15 a.m. and thus missed our 11.15 a.m. flight. Many, many others were still on the ship and I would imagine it was well after 11 a.m. before the last passengers managed to escape.
We were booked in a Deck 8 ocean-view stateroom, but to our delight when we checked in, we found we had been upgraded to a balcony cabin on Deck 9. We greatly appreciated this gesture and it did add to our enjoyment of the cruise. The cabin was clean, well organized, and while the beds would benefit from replacement, they were OK. The cabin steward did an excellent job keeping the cabin spotless, and our every wish (though there
were not many) was her command. Hurray for service with a smile. The only complaint I heard on cabins was from two couples who had to leave their rooms on Deck 9 due to flooding from a burst water pipe, and a few people who thought the beds could have been a little more comfortable. Otherwise it was a good experience.
The food on Mercury was fair to good both in the dining room and in the buffet restaurant.
It was certainly not exceptional; indeed, we thought that the food on RCI's Brilliance, which we cruised on in Europe, was better. The food was good quality, meats were tender and there was plenty of it, but it was very bland, lacking any zip and any 'wow' factor. The shrimp cocktail was the saddest I have ever had (four small/medium shrimp, rather than the five or six large shrimp we got on other cruises). The breakfast buffet had only two types of fruit each day – a half-grapefruit and either watermelon or pineapple -- and while the hot food offerings provided all one could need, by the time you found a table to sit it was invariably only warm and often cold.
Expectations/value for money
I wonder if these days our expectations are too high. This is the first time I have cruised on Celebrity, a premium cruise line. I find no difference at all between this cruise line and Royal Caribbean, on which I have cruised several times. I would certainly not pay a premium to cruise on Celebrity. The cost of about $120 per day per person was good – and on that basis we probably got reasonable value for money. It was not the experience of a lifetime advertised by Celebrity, but then you only get what you pay for -- and sometimes not even that.