Mercury December 1998 Western Caribbean Cruise
My husband (47) and I (40) were traveling with our 5-year-old son. Although we've been to the Caribbean many times, this was our first cruise. We originally booked a Cat 2 cabin on the Century, Eastern Caribbean itinerary, departing Dec 5. On November 16, Celebrity called my travel agent and asked if we would consider switching to the Mercury, departing Dec. 6, on a Western itinerary. They offered us a Royal Suite and a shipboard credit, so we took the offer.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale the night before the cruise. We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was clean and basic. They provided shuttles to the airport and the port. We used the shuttles, but next time we'll take taxis; the shuttles were too crowded and there was too much waiting.
The shuttle got us to Port Everglades around 12:30pm. I have never seen so much baggage in my life. We just followed the crowds to the door where they were handing out numbers. The woman gave us a number 7 and I said, "We're in a suite." She gave us a 0 and we went to stand in line with the Captain's Club members and other suite passengers. We were in our cabin in about 20 minutes.
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What can I say? We were in a Royal Suite. There was a bottle of champagne iced down on the coffee table. The cabin was incredible. The entryway was marble tile. The living room had a hardwood floor and rug. There was a full size couch, coffee table, two chairs, and a dining table with four chairs. The bedroom had a king-size bed and another chair and table. Both rooms had doors to the veranda, which was about twice the size of the standard verandas. There was a walk-in closet with a dressing area. The bathroom was all marble, with separate areas for the toilet and the shower. There was also a bathtub with Jacuzzi. The bathroom also had two sinks.
About the shower . . . I wanted to take it home with me. It was marble (looked like granite to me) with a glass door. The showerhead was adjustable for both height and direction. The water pressure was wonderful. There were two knobs on the shower, one was for adjusting the pressure and the other was for the water temperature. Where can I get one of these?
Other miscellaneous cabin info: there were two TVs, two temperature controls, and a Sony stereo with CD and tape player. Fortunately, we remembered to bring Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley CDs. There were also more light switches than I ever figured out. There were five modern art prints, and one very strange sculpture.
The service was great. Our dining room waiter was Antonio and he did a great job. He always made sure David (who is 5) was served at a faster pace than we were. This way, I was able to take David to the fun factory when he was finished and then return to our table for desert. Antonio also arranged for David to have pizza every night, once he determined what a pizza head David is.
Our butler was Carlton and his job seemed to be to make us gain weight. He brought us a full breakfast every morning. He said we could get whatever we wanted, if they had it on the ship. If we checked that we wanted breakfast from 7:30-8, he always brought it at exactly 7:30. In the afternoons, he brought us tea, if we were in our room. And then at 5, he brought us appetizers.
My son really liked the caviar and the smoked salmon. At one point he said, "This is the first time I've had caviar." To which I had to reply, "Well, David, it's only the second time I've had it."
One night we invited our tablemates to our room for drinks after dinner. Carlton brought us drinks while we listened to Jimmy Buffet. (He got a big tip. Carlton, I mean, not Jimmy.)
One of the reasons we picked Celebrity was that they have a good food reputation. Cooking and eating out are some of my main hobbies. The food on the ship was usually very good. However, I didn't have anything that I would call excellent. You know, the stuff where the first bite almost takes your breath away it's so good. I was craving ethnic food, other than "Continental," after a couple of days. Consequently, I inhaled the pico de gallo when we had lunch ashore in Mexico. Next time we cruise, I'm bringing a bottle of Tabasco and a jar of jalapeños.
We ordered wine for dinner every night. We stayed with wines in the $20-$30 dollar range. There was a nice selection in that range. On most days, we ordered our bottle on the interactive TV. You can check the dinner entrées and then order the wine. It is supposed to be at your table when you sit down. The first night, it took a while to get the bottle, because we had changed tables. After that, the wine was always there when we arrived.
We drink mostly non-New World reds. Among the wines we tried was the only Greek red they had on the list; it was surprisingly good. We tried a white one night and ordered a good Pinot Grigio. We liked it so much, we tried to order it another night, but they had run out of it.
The Mercury had just the right amount of activities for me. Keep in mind though, one of my favorite activities is lying around by the pool, reading a book and listening to Reggae music. I'm glad there were no announcements to interrupt my relaxation. We attended a wine tasting one afternoon. It was a good opportunity to taste four of the wines on the wine list.
We played team trivia one morning. We came in third, which wasn't bad, since my husband doesn't do trivia, so I was a team of one. I also had an in-suite massage. That was one of the perks for suite guests: if you want a massage, they will come to you. It was very relaxing. It was far from the best massage I've had, but not the worst, either. It did cost about twice as much as my regular massage therapist charges. Next time, I'll save the massage for when we get home.
I loved the Mercury. Prior to this cruise, the biggest boat I had ever spent more than a day on was a 45-foot sailboat. I was worried about being so removed from the water. I like sitting on the bow, feeling the salt spray. I like being able to anchor, jumping off the boat, and snorkeling. You can't do any of this on the Mercury. However, you can do many other things that are different, but still as much fun.
The ship was immaculate. The décor was tasteful (to me, anyway) and understated. The art was modern, which, to me, means it was weird but extremely interesting. I found it fun just trying to figure out what some of it was. What was that big pear-like thing in the card room? And "Wine Poured Upon the Sea"?
Other than our suite, Tastings was my favorite room on the ship. We had after dinner drinks there most nights.
The people we met on the cruise were great. Our tablemates were Ron and Connie, both RNs from Ohio, and Lee and Jack, who were the ballroom dance instructors on the ship. They made dinner fun; we usually went to the show together, or skipped the show and had drinks with Ron and Connie.
There were two large groups on this cruise. One group consisted of 300 Mah Jongg players, on board for a tournament. They were fairly easy to spot, since they were playing Mah Jongg constantly. We were never bothered by their presence.
Now, the other group is another story. There was a bunch of Internet junkies swarming all over the ship. They were loud and obnoxious and wore blue T-shirts. I talked to a couple of them who were sober enough to speak clearly and discovered that they were part of something called a great group cruise. They were constantly shouting at each other about whether or not small children should be allowed to cruise, about having to dress up for formal night and about how much to tip.
Seriously, if I had not known ahead of time that the GGC was on the Mercury, I donšt think I would have noticed the group at all. The blue T-shirts were the only way we could spot a GGCer.
We saw only three of the production shows, since that's really not our favorite kind of entertainment. We saw Mark Preston, the lounge singer. I couldn't believe he was real. He seemed to be a caricature of a lounge singer. I laughed at inappropriate times during his show. I didn't really enjoy "Bon Voyage." The other show we saw was a jazz violinist, Doug; I liked that one the best of the production shows.
My favorite entertainment was Fourscore, the a cappella group. They sang in Tastings several times. We also liked "Shout," who are a Beatles copy band. The pool band, Oasys, was good too. I just wish they had stuck with Reggae and other tropical styles of music.
Which brings me to one of my complaints about the cruise. It seemed like that every entertainer had to please everyone. For instance, Doug Cameron played one country song, one classical song, one jazz song, etc. I would have liked him much better if he would have stuck with jazz. He is a Jazz Violinist, you know.
The only ship's shore excursion we took was Xcaret. It's a nice place to visit once.
In Cozumel we took a taxi to a house we rent when we go on vacation there. We got to see the housekeeper and her kids and tell her we would be back in May. We also stopped at Los Cinco Soles to pick up some vanilla and other souvenirs. In the afternoon we went to Chakanaub. The beach is nice and the snorkeling is very good. We also had a nice lunch on the beach there.
In Grand Cayman, we had our only bad time of the trip. We went snorkeling with "Captain Crosby." This was a mistake. First, it was too windy and the weather had "small craft advisory" written all over it. But we went. We took a taxi to Captain Crosby's shop. On arrival, he told us to go to the grocery store and get drinks for the trip. He didn't even have water on the boat. When I tried to pay him with a credit card, which he took for our reservation, he said he could not work the machine. He needed cash. We should have left then. I don't know why we didn't.
The weather was bad, my 5-year-old was miserable, and it was really too rough to snorkel. The boat had no netting around the edges so I constantly worried about my son falling overboard in the rough water. He constantly whined about wanting to go back to the ship. Of course we got back to the ship about an hour later than we were scheduled to get back. I was never so glad to set foot on the Mercury. Dave headed straight for the fun factory.
We have been on snorkeling trips from Cozumel to the Tobago Cays on all types of boats. On Grand Cayman, we definitely got the least for the most money.
The Children's Program
The Celebrity children's program was wonderful. Dave was in the 3-5 age group. There were activities scheduled daily from 9-12, 2-5 and 7:30-10. On the formal nights, there was a complimentary slumber party from 10pm-1am. Dave enjoyed the activities, and was in the Fun Factory whenever we were on the ship and it was open. We tried to get him to come to the pool with us, but he always chose the fun factory over his boring parents.
All in all, this was a wonderful vacation. We realize that staying in a Royal Suite has spoiled us. However, we are looking at another Celebrity Cruise on the Galaxy, but this time we'll try to get by with a plain old veranda cabin.
Lisa Hoover is a self-employed technical recruiter. She, along with her husband Gary, have been traveling to the Caribbean for 18 years. These days, they travel with their 5 year old son, David. Lisa can be reached for questions or comment at: email@example.com.
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