by J. Vickers
November 30, 2009
Embarkation: This was our 13th cruise, our 6th on Celebrity and our first departure from Baltimore. The terminal is a good example of function over form-not a lot of bells and whistles but good passenger flow. The only glitch was a problem with Mercury's computers which wouldn't allow Sea Passes to be issued at check-in, which resulted in delayed boarding. We were among the first to board at 1 p.m., had lunch, then waited until almost 3 before the cabins were ready. Our luggage was waiting and our cabin attendant delivered our Sea Passes before dinner. No big deal.
Cabin: #1201 on Sky deck. First time CC and our first balcony. Very nicely appointed but the standard 172 sq.ft. The balcony was huge, the width of the cabin but very deep like the Sky Suites. The cabin location was good-close to the stairs, elevator and door to outside. It was also one of the quietest cabins we've ever had. Our cabin attendant Victor was excellent. A1 service.
Dining: We were assigned a table for 8 on the upper level overlooking the lower level, a very nice location with super dinner mates. On the first 2 evenings, service was a little erratic but then smoothed out. Our waiter was very entertaining and after the first couple of nights he became very adept at remembering individual likes and dislikes. The food in the main dining room was very good and sometimes exceptional. Only once was I disappointed-and that may have been my personal taste. The desserts have improved greatly since our last Celebrity cruise. We had one breakfast and a couple of lunches in the buffet and I thought the food and variety were very good. We would have used it more but the older we get the more we like being waited on. There was one brunch held in the main dining room which we thoroughly enjoyed with numerous stations doing cooked to order, a selection of hot foods, a carving station, salads, seafood and decadent desserts. The downside to setting up a buffet in a 2 story dining room is that everyone wants to sit downstairs. People were wandering in without being assigned a seat, loading up their plates and then complaining that they had no where to sit. This was probably more the fault of the staff than the guests. We ate dinner once in the alternative dining venue in the buffet which would have been excellent if it weren't for the temperature.
Common areas: Best described as elegantly understated. Mercury has been refurbished since we were on her in 2005 and it shows. I made a point of looking out for stained carpeting, worn furniture or burnt out lights etc. and could find none. The Navigator Club on deck 12 forward is a beautiful lounge and the perfect spot for that sail-away cocktail with its floor to ceiling wrap around windows. The Celebrity Theatre is very comfortable with very few obstructed views. The Cova Café, located in the 4 story atrium, was a popular spot anytime of day for pastries, people watching, the string quartet or just reading. Michaels Club is really too small to be used for entertainment and now serves as a private lounge for Elite members or as a card room. The Rendezvous Lounge is a nice spot and was packed every evening before dinner for drinks and dancing. The pool areas are well laid out and well maintained. The Spa was the only area where I noticed any wear and tear-there's a lot of wood that needs refinishing. We enjoyed the Thalassotherapy Pool-it was worth the extra money. The casino was packed every night-the non-smoking policy seems to have had no negative effect.
Entertainment: We've never been "wowed" by Celebrity entertainment and this cruise was no exception. The in-house entertainment was pretty good-the string quartet, a great guitar/singer, a pianist/singer, a good band and singer at the pool and the Rendezvous Lounge, and a first rate group of singers and dancers. With one exception, the guest entertainers were pretty lame- a British singer, a harmonica player, a so-called impersonator. There was a very talented Chinese dulcimer player but it was too much of a good thing. The exception was a young couple who performed acrobatics hanging from fabric streamers. They were outstanding. In my opinion, they were Cirque de Soleil caliber.
Ports of Call- St Thomas-our 7th visit and we finally made it to Megans Bay. Beautiful beach and not crowded as there were only 3 ships in port. St.Croix-we'd had one previous visit in 1988 and it is just as wonderful as we remembered. We docked in Fredrikstaad and took a bus to Christianstaad.
St. Kitts-not one of our favourite islands but since we were there last they have established Port Zandt (?), a large area of duty free shopping and cafes directly opposite the pier.Nice improvement.
Antigua- This was where we had booked our only shore excursion-a 6 hour cruise on a catamaran which included snorkeling, the beach and lunch. It was first rate. We've done a few of these but this was by far the best.
St. Maarten- Our all time favorite island.-much more tourist friendly than St. Thomas. Once again, only 3 ships in port so strolling Philipsburg was a pleasure, followed by a dip in the Caribbean and lunch on the beach.
We chose this cruise for 4 reasons-the price for CC, the departure city (half as close to Ontario as Florida), the cruise line but primarily for the itinerary. We enjoy sea days and we got 6, 3 in a row to start and 3 more to end. In between, 5 ports in a row. We also like this ship. For us, it's the perfect size and I find it hard to believe that it's now 13 years old. Inside and out, it is in excellent condition. The service and friendliness of the crew was outstanding.
On the downside, other than the entertainment, the temperature in the Buffet prevented us and others from enjoying it. Even when we were close to Baltimore and the temperature was in the 50's, the air conditioning was on full blast. We attempted to have coffee one afternoon but after moving 3 times we left. The other problem is accessing the dining room. The lower level entrance can only be used if you arrive by elevator-you cannot walk from midship to aft on Plaza deck because of the galley. Guests are requested to approach on the upper level, then those seated on the lower level have to use the stairs by the martini bar. I assume this is to keep the elevators free for the guests in wheelchairs. This was not a problem for us as we were on the upper level. And speaking of elevators, they are small and only 3 forward and midship but 4 aft. There was a huge contingent of disabled passengers on this particular cruise who were waiting up to 30 minutes for an elevator. I'm sure they would not rate this cruise as high as I have.
Unfortunately, I'm sure the Mercury's days are numbered. I, for one, will be sorry to see her retired.