by D Wallis
January 13, 2006
We sailed the Mexican Riviera on the Mercury January 13 - 23, 2006. This was our 4th cruise with Celebrity, first time on this itinerary. Although the ship is due to be refurbished soon, we found it to be very clean and overall in good repair. Some carpets in main traffic areas needed replacing but were not objectionable. Our inside room was more than adequate in space and storage and our steward kept it clean, towels continually replenished, ice bucket full. We never caught him in our room in 10 days and we used a lot of ice for our water bottles, and showered several times each day resulting in many wet towels.
Both embarkation and disembarkation were by far, the fastest and smoothest we have ever experienced. A glass of 'welcome aboard' champagne was handed to each person as they boarded...nice touch. They allowed boarding as early as 11:00 a.m.! and were serving lunch by shortly past noon. Staterooms available by 1:00. Sail-away party was pretty pathetic due to cool, windy weather and a delayed departure (one hour) due to a medical emergency. San Diego is a beautiful harbor to sail away from.
Celebrity still has the best buffet in the industry, but we were sorry to have to concur with some previous reviews on the dining room (Manhatten) menus. On three of the ten evenings, we felt the entree we ordered was definitely not up to Celebrity's usual standard. However, having said that, we would just avoid dishes that include "marinated" (may indicate a poor cut of meat) or other combinations. The service on Mercury is wonderful and the staff were exceptionally gracious.
Unfortunately, some people will travel a great distance and go to great expense just to find a new place to complain. We avoided the La Playa grill (we can get hamburgers at home) but some people seemed to eat there daily. The pizza/pasta bar was very good, as were the waffle station, and sushi bar. We especially enjoyed the soup/sandwich/wrap/salad bar in the Palm Springs restaurant for lunches. We only ate in the dining room for lunch twice, but the food was excellent and it was a nice relaxing and quiet change from the buffet line. We made a reservation in the Casual Blvd. one evening (part of the buffet seating area dressed up with linen, etc.) and enjoyed it very much. As the waiters here are 'in training' a modicum of patience and humor is in order.
As with many cruises over 7 days, the average age was quite honestly 'OLD'. We are early 50's and were among the youngsters. More disturbing however, was the large number of extremely obese. Its a wonder there weren't more emergency medical evacuations.
We attended almost every evening performance in the theater. The Celebrity singers and dancers were better than average, and a larger group than usual--6 singers and 9 dancers I think. On this 10 night itinerary they covered 4 full shows, which may have been a bit much. The aerialists/adagio duo, Jean-Claude and Gaby were simply awesome. The comedian Louis Johnson was hilarious and kept the show family friendly. The violinist, Dominique Ava was quite amazing. Overall, we would rate the entertainment as better than we've experienced on most other ships.
We used the gym daily. It could use some new equipment but was quite adequate. Other than winning a free Ionetherme treatment (ouch) valued at $160.00 the spa is too pricey for our tastes. I think it is unfortunate that the spa thalassotherapy pool is not available to all. Every 'free' session in the spa area, is to sell you some very expensive treatments, creams, procedures, etc. Heh, if you can afford it you could have a wonderful time in there. My first choice would be the hot stone massage which I got to sample. Enjoyed seeing all new ports, but our favorite was definitely Zihuatanejo, a tendered port but worth the effort. It is a quiet fishing village. No hawking is allowed on beaches or streets, the vendors are required to stay in their allotted stalls. There are no big hotel chains , resorts or bars...it is peaceful and gorgeous.
The only excursion we booked through the ship was the Outdoor Challenge in Puerto Vallarta (PV 36). It was well worth the money, compared to many ship excursions. For $89 US we took a boat through the harbor to the Vallarta Adventures office, where we boarded a big safari-style Mercedes truck with two bench seats with seat belts in the back. After a one hour drive to base camp, we were fitted with â?~dive' shirts, climbing harness and gear, and helmet. We travelled halfway up the narrow mountain trail on mules, then to the summit on foot. (This was the only section I found a little difficult...puff,puff) We then did a total of 6 zip lines across the jungle, up to 200 feet above the ground. We rappelled down acliff, the final portion through a waterall and into a rather chilly mountain pond, slid down a nature made waterslide, then hiked our way back down the mountain, wading across many streams. Exhilarating and fun.
At base camp, there were sub buns, cold meats, lettuce, tomato, cold drinks. Unfortunately the pictures the official photographer takes are $15.00 apiece (4 by 6 photo). We took a disposable water camera and got some pictures, but it is too dark in many places due to the jungle canopy. By the way, the brochure from both the ship and the company suggests insect repellent, but we were told not to use any as it is an eco-friendly tour and would contaminate the water. I got 8 wicked bites of some kind, so suggest you bring some "after-bite" or equivalent. Found hand sanitizer gel helped! Celebrity's wonderful service is apparent when you return to the ship from the port visit and they are waiting with cold wet facecloths, cold lemonade or water.
Overall, a great cruise, wonderful service, great food and new friends.