by Ian Warren
May 26, 2005
My wife and I had wanted to go on a special cruise last year, to celebrate our 50th birthdays. Having looked at all the brochures we decided on Alaska, and chose Mercury as we had been on her sister ship Galaxy. What a great start to the trip when BA upgraded us to World Traveller Plus for our flight from London to Seattle.
Seattle was experiencing a mini heat-wave when we arrived, and the Mercury looked beautiful in the brilliant sunshine as we approached Pier 69. However, embarkation was chaos and we were queuing on the pavement in over 90 degree heat. It transpired that it was Mercury's first visit to Seattle, and she was late arriving that morning so it took us about 2 hours to board.
Once on board we soon relaxed, and were thrilled when we reached our cabin. We had booked 8007 specifically, having seen comments about it on a Cruise Critic forum, as being "L shaped" it is about 50% bigger than other cabins. Another bonus is that the window is right on the front of the ship, giving panoramic views ahead. During the week we saw amazing scenery from the cabin, as well as the spectacle of 2 humpbacks rising and diving in front of the bows.
Mercury may be over 8 years old, but Celebrity has done a great job of keeping her looking clean and fresh. No matter how busy it is on board, you can always find a quiet area to relax or have a drink with friends. The crew are excellent and look after you're every need, from the efficient restaurant and bar staff to the first class singers and dancers in the Celebrity Theatre. The only disappointing meal we had was when we missed early sitting in the Manhattan Restaurant as we were ashore, and went up to eat in the Palm Springs Café. The food was only lukewarm, and by the time we had queued for drinks and found a seat it was actually cold. I don't know if this was a general occurrence as we prefer dining in the restaurant and getting to know the people on our table. We always book a large table so that we get to meet and chat with people from different places.
Well the main reason for taking this cruise was to see some spectacular scenery and wildlife, and we weren't disappointed. A lot of the cruise is spent either hugging the coast or in Fjords, so you see a lot more than just open seas. Many passengers spent a lot of time on deck looking for whales and porpoises, not forgetting the amazing scenery, and when really close to shore there was always the chance of seeing bears. There was a naturalist on board which was a bonus, as she gave regular talks on the wildlife and glaciers, as well as making announcements out on deck when there was something interesting to see.
As for many other people, an important part of cruising for us is visiting the ports and going on excursions. In Juneau we had booked a whale watching trip over the web with Captain Larry, and it was worth every penny. He had a very fast boat, which took only 24 passengers, and he was able to follow two large of pods of Orcas. We were with them for about 2 hours and also saw a humpback for a lot of the time, and we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Skagway was really attractive, in the style of the old cowboy towns. From here we had booked a coach trip into the Yukon, and were lucky enough to see a black bear come from the woods and amble along the road past our coach, before being frightened by another vehicle and jumping the fence into the woods.
Yakatut Bay and the Hubbard Glacier were breathtaking. It was a brilliant sunny morning, although there was a nip in the air, and most people were on deck taking photos and peering through binoculars from before 6.30am. We were lucky enough to get an invite to visit the bridge while in Yakatut Bay, so after taking some photos on deck we arrived on the bridge just as Mercury stopped in front of the glacier. What a way to enjoy such a beautiful example of Mother Nature at work.
Ketchikan was another attractive town, but what struck me was the number of sea planes. There seemed to be more planes taking off and landing on the river than you see at Heathrow! On the last sea day we passed Vancouver Island just after lunch, and for the rest of the day there was plenty of interesting scenery on the shoreline on either side of the ship.
All too soon we were back in Seattle and disembarking, and doing some sightseeing before heading for the airport.
A wonderful ship, breathtaking scenery, and amazing wildlife – what more could we ask for in a cruise?