In February 2000 I took my first cruise on the MV Mercury in the Western
Caribbean. It was this cruise that got me addicted to this thing called
"cruising". Last week my wife and I returned to the hallowed passageways of
the MV Mercury to sail her from Vancouver to Seward, Alaska. It was like
coming home. Everything about the ship was as I remembered and some things
were even better.
I will give my "Readers Digest" condensed version up front so you can get my
overall impressions without having to read my ramblings. (Note: C is
average. A is exceeding expectations)
Asst. Waiter B
Maitre D A
Ship Cleanliness A
Food/Dining Room/Dinner A
Food/Dining Room/Lunch B+
Food/Dining Room/Brkfast C
Shore Excursions (Did on Own) A-
Cruise Director (Julian Bersch) A
Cruise Director Staff A
Social Hostess (Danielle Ganion) A
Bar Service A
Port Lecturer A
Midnight Buffet A
We boarded our flight from Minneapolis early on May 11th. We had an
uneventful flight on Northwest to Seattle. We then transferred to Horizon
Air for a short flight to Vancouver. In Vancouver we had a fairly long wait
to get through Customs but once we were at the Customs desk it was just one
or two questions and through we went. We then went to claim our luggage.
One piece was on the carousel but the two others were no where to be seen.
We waited about 20 minutes but they did not come out. There were a number of
other people on the plane from Seattle who were also waiting. After 45
minutes the last two pieces came out of the carousel. It seems they were put
on the next plane after ours. We then proceeded out of the baggage area,
handed our customs form to the official and were met by our driver to take us
to the pier. I had booked a 6-passenger limo to take us to the pier. The
corporate rate that I received was almost as good as what taxi fare was so
what the heck. Go in style. The limo was a 12 passenger and stretched about
half a block. Our driver was a wonderful man who gave us a tour of the city
as we made our way to the pier. We even went by Canada Place and got to see
the Infinity up close. I hear that the Infinity is much nicer looking inside
than out. We arrived at Ballantyne Pier at about 1:00 PM and handed our
luggage to the porters, who took a little while to arrive. It was only about
2 minutes but on every other cruise they have been there immediately. We had
a picture with our limo driver and proceeded to check-in.
This was the only area that Celebrity needs to work on. We proceeded to the
Captains Club/Suite check in line. There were about 6 others in line ahead
of us. There were about 40 people in line in the regular check in line. We
waited in line for 45 minutes. There were only 2 positions open for CC and
suite check in. Those two positions were servicing two people who were
checking in four or five people each. The problem was that they had none of
their documentation filled out. The staff was being very patient and
accommodating to them, allowing them to fill out their documentation, ask
questions, complain about not being able to book excursions at check in. As
I said, the staff was very patient and accommodating but there patience and
accommodation to these people caused the rest of us to have a very long wait
for check in. I did suggest to the agent when I checked in that they should
request that people who do not have their forms filled out please leave the
line, fill out the forms, and then come back when they are completed. I know
they like to be helpful to their Captain's Club and Suite passengers but this
is a little too accommodating.
Later that day I did speak with one of the passengers who was checking in and
found out this was their 8th cruise and that they never fill out the
documents because as she said: "They are just too complicated."
PLEASE FILL OUT YOUR DOCUMENTS before getting to the pier.
When we finally made it to check in, it took about 2 minutes and off we went
to board the ship. An officer met us at the gangway and a white-gloved
steward took my wife's bag and escorted us to our cabin. Upon entering
Mercury I had an uncontrollable impulse to yell out. "Honey, I'm home.
We had originally booked a Cat 2 guarantee. About 3 weeks before the cruise
we were informed that we had been upgraded to a Cat 1 Suite. On our first
cruise on Mercury we also had a Cat 1 suite so this was sort of Deja vu. The
Cat 1 is a large balcony cabin but does not have a separate sitting area. It
has a nice sized balcony and a marble bath with a tub and whirlpool jets in
the tub. The tub is a little small for my 6'2" body, but my wife enjoyed it.
One of the amenities that came with the suite is Butler service. Our
Butler, Eduardo, was a very nice young man from Honduras. This was his first
stint as Butler and he performed like he had been doing it all his life. He
brought us afternoon pastries and canapes. He also served us dinner in our
room one night when I wasn't feeling well. Eduardo also polished my dress
shoes to a "high gloss" shine. It is a nice amenity. Our Cabin Stewardess,
Marta, did her job well and always had the extra towel in the bathroom and
extra pillows on the bed that we requested. She did have a little problem in
entering the cabin when we were in there. Twice she caught me with less than
a full set of clothes on. The poor girl is probably still having nightmares.
Dinner in the Manhattan Dining room was fabulous. We had a table for six and
were seated with two other couples who made the week very enjoyable. Rob and
Nancy were from Mclean Virginia but were relocating to Sonoma to begin the
"Farm Life" of olive trees and vineyards. They were a great couple who were
down to earth and were excellent conversationalists. Our other couples were
Andrew and Isha. They were a young newlywed couple who were from the D.C.
area but were living in Fairbanks. Isha was a clerk for the Federal Circuit
Court Judge and Andrew was a CPA for a firm in Fairbanks.
Our waiter, Hugo, was great. He delivered great service and was very funny.
He also livened up the evenings with stories and a few magic tricks. Our
assistant waiter, Turo did his job but was not a talkative person. Hugo
always provided us with our requests for an extra entree or dessert and went
the extra distance to make sure we were pleased with our selection.
Another pleasant surprise was our Maitre D, Daryoush. He was from Poland and
was a wonderful Maitre D. I will admit other Maitre D's I have had basically
came by on the first and last night and collected their tip envelope.
Daryoush did not do this. He stopped by each night. Learned of my love for
Mohr Em Hemd. (Viennese Chocolate Pudding) and made sure that I had more than
I could consume. He also made sure that a special request for berries was
fulfilled by the Galley when they gave Hugo a little bit of a hassle about
it. Daryoush is what a Maitre D is supposed to be.
The food at dinner was fantastic. Everything was done to perfection. The
seafood was fresh and the meats were cooked to order. The pasta was the only
thing that wasn't perfect. A little too done for my taste and the seasonings
were not to my personal liking.
The food at lunch was usually quite good. There were a couple of instances
of overcooked meat and spotty service at open seating but overall it was
Breakfast in the dining room was a different story. The eggs benedict was
cold. Even when I requested another it came back cold. I then requested an
Omelet and that came out undercooked. The pastries were dry and the toast
seemed to have been made the night before. This was my only experience in
the dining room for breakfast. After this I went to the buffet each morning.
Overall it was quite good. I will say that in my experience Mercury has the
greatest variety of dishes at their buffet. I am not a great fan of buffets
but the breakfast items were overall quite good. The corned beef hash was my
favorite and the cooked to order omelets and eggs were also very good.
The lunch food was also quite good with an excellent choice of entrees and
very good vegetable selections.
There were also grill selections available. Hot Dogs, Hamburgers, Pizza and
one day Mexican foods were available during lunch hours. I am sorry to say
that I never could find room to try these selections.
It was spectacular. Beautiful presentation and artistry make this buffet
more of an event than a meal. We did walk through and take pictures but were
just too full to try any of the selections.
There were two other midnight buffets but due to the fact we had late seating
dinner, we did not partake in either.
On our second formal night were surprised and pleased to find an invitation
to dine at the Captains Table with Captain Dermatis, the Hotel Manager. It
was a wonderful evening with great conversation, wonderful food, great and
plentiful wines and service that was no better than what we had at our own
table but there was certainly more staff. Captain Dermatis gave us some
great insight into the operation of the Hotel side of the ship. These
insights and the conversation of our other tablemates made for a very special
evening that will be remembered, fondly, forever.
I do have to mention the Thalassotherapy pool. It is one of the best things
on Mercury. My wife and I partook of it everyday. by having a suite there
was no fee for using the Thalsso. We would have paid the fee if we did not
have a suite. I suggest everyone try it at least once.
O.K. enough about the ship. Alaska was the destination and I better mention
something about this awesome state. I will start out by saying that our
weather was fantastic. We had some rain but most of the days were sunny or
partly cloudy and we never once had any shore time interrupted by rain.
Temperatures were in the upper 40's and low 50's. We are from Minnesota so
this is normal spring temperature for us.
All of our other cruises have been in warm weather climates. Caribbean,
Mediterranean, Tahiti, so this was something completely different and I
actually preferred it. No where else will you see things like you see on an
Alaska cruise. The mountains, the glaciers, the whales, otters, moose, bear,
eagles can all be seen from ship or shore. Pam the port lecturer gave great
lectures and also made sure that any whale sighting did not go unannounced.
She also provided great commentary while we cruised the Inside Passage,
Hubbard Glacier, and Prince William Sound. It is also true that it stays
daylight until very late. On a couple of nights we were taking pictures from
our balcony at 11:00 PM. The sunrise is around 4:30 AM so if you want to
see some spectacular sunrises you will have to get up pretty early.
It is a beautiful city and I really wish we could have spent more time there.
I personally think that when I do another Alaska cruise I will do a
Southbound. This would give me more time to explore Vancouver. Our limo
driver was just able to give us a brief glimpse of Vancouver but that glimpse
left me longing for more.
It can only be described by saying it is beautiful. Majestic tree covered
mountains, large and small islands make up this waterway. Don't worry about
what side of the ship your cabin is on. You will have beautiful views on
either side. Most of time you could not tell which was shore and which was
A lovely little port town. We just wandered the town and bought some nice
things to remind us of our trip. We did not do an excursion here but our
tablemates went whale watching and saw many Orcas, and even Humpbacks. They
At Juneau we had a car rented for the day. We took a cab from the pier to
the airport to pick up the car. The cab ride is about $18 but Hertz will
give you $15 credit on your rental to offset the transportation cost.
We picked up the car and drove to the Mendenhall Glacier. We went to the
visitor center and then hiked back to the huge waterfall next to the Glacier.
We could get about ½ mile from the glacier and got some beautiful pictures
from there. The weather was quite warm and we were stripped down to T-shirts
by mid morning. Remember to layer your clothing to accommodate the
We then went about exploring the area around Juneau. by mid-afternoon we
were ready for our helicopter tour of the glacier. If you can afford this
tour, do it. It is an experience you will not forget. When you are on the
glacier it is like being taken back time to when the world was just forming
and you are witnessing it. We had a nice tour on the glacier and were even
able to drink very cold and tasty glacier water. My wife also brought home
some "Glacier Poop". This is ground granite that has been crushed by the
glacier into a fine powder and can be used for facials or whatever. I gave
it the name of "Glacier Poop" because that's what it looks like.
The scenery in Skagway is very impressive. I would avoid the town and
cemetery tour. This was about the most boring tour I have taken. The town
cemetery is very unimpressive. Most of the grave markers have been replaced
with painted plywood markers that look like Mr. Thompson's seventh grade
remedial shop class did them. I would suggest taking the train tour to the
summit. The scenery is spectacular and the train ride is nostalgic.
Hubbard Glacier is an awesome sight. The water around the ship is almost
like a gelatin due to the amount of ice in the water. This amount of ice
also makes travel slow and only allows the ship to get within a couple of
miles of the glacier. Make sure you bring your binoculars. This way you can
see the glacier in more detail. Don't forget to look at the shores on each
side of the glacier. We saw bear and eagles on shore. Unfortunately the
glacier did not do any calving while we were there but it was still an
awesome sight. One thing to note: Don't go by the times posted in the daily
program for glacier watching. The program said we would be at the glacier at
10:30 am. We were there about 1.5 hours before that.
Most of Valdez was destroyed in the 1964 earthquake. There is not much to
the town that holds historical significance. If you were going to venture in
to Valdez I would suggest doing so on an organized excursion. There is
really not much to see in town and the shuttle service took quite awhile to
go to and from Valdez to the pier.
Prince William Sound:
This is a beautiful area and this is where College Fjord is located. We saw
quite a few Sea Otters here as well as quite a bit of ice from the many
glaciers that empty into the College Fjord area. College Fjord is named
because the glaciers that empty into it are named after colleges.
"But I don't want to go." That was what I kept saying the morning of our
departure in Seward. Disembarkation starts very early. 0600 a.m. We
received a disembarkation number of 16. At first I thought this was an
oversight seeing as suite passengers were to receive priority disembarkation.
When I found out what time disembarkation started I was glad to have 16.
Our number was called at about 07:50. Just enough time to get showered and
have one last buffet breakfast. But then we were off the ship and the cruise
was over. We picked up our bags in the terminal and I then boarded the Hertz
shuttle to get the car we had reserved. My wife waited at the terminal and I
made the short drive back to the terminal to pick her up when I got the car.
We had booked a 4x4 Explorer, which met our needs quite well.
The drive from Seward to Anchorage is beautiful. There are too many sights
to see in one day. We did visit the Exit Glacier in Seward. You can drive
up to within ½ mile of this small but beautiful glacier. We then proceeded
up the Seward Highway to Anchorage. We stopped in Moose Pass and had nice
lunch of Alaska sized Halibut Sandwich and a hamburger. After that I had my
wife drive so I could look at the scenery. Well, that was a mistake. I fell
asleep and the next thing I hear is my wife asking me what exit do we need to
take to get to the hotel. Oh well, I needed the sleep. Just as we exited
the highway my wife commented that she hadn't seen a Moose up close. Be
careful what you wish for, it may come true. About 30 seconds later we see a
Moose running along the side of the road. We slowed down and the Moose
decided that he is going to cross right in front of us. Luckily we were able
to stop and not hit him but we did get an up close look at him.
We spent the rest of the day in Anchorage doing some shopping for souvenirs.
We checked in at the Millenium Hotel near the airport. It is a nice hotel
but the rooms do not warrant the rate that is charged. You can get a room at
the Hilton or Sheraton for about the same rate and it is nicer room. The
fixtures and furnishings have been updated but the wallpaper, carpets and
bathroom fixtures have not. Overall the hotel reminded me of a Holiday Inn
that had quite a bit of use and had seen better days.
We spent the night at the hotel and got up bright and early to catch our
flight back to Minneapolis. The flight was uneventful but quite comfortable.
If you have never been on an Alaskan cruise, do it. Especially on a ship
like Mercury. You will see things you have never seen before on a cruise.
You will also see nature at its best. Don't be too worried about the
temperature. Just take layered clothing and you will be fine. This trip now
has taken its' place as my favorite cruise. Like all cruises though I wish
it had been longer.