We arrived at Port Everglades about 12:15 PM for the 10-day Ultimate Southern Caribbean cruise on Celebrityís Horizon. It was our eleventh cruise, and our eighth with Celebrity. After parking the car in the port garage ($8/day), we presented our "Captain's Club Card" at the terminal and went to check-in immediately. Paperwork completed, we passed security with "No Beeps" and had the dreadful boarding photo which detains the boarding process even more. After being escorted to our cabin (6097) we were surprised to find a Bon Voyage bottle of wine from our Cruise@ddicts friends, Andy Taylor and Chuck, whom we would finally meet at the end of our cruise.
We had two beautiful sea days before arriving in St. Maarten on Monday. As we sailed into the harbor, we saw a bizarre looking ship named Aida. It had a giant blue eye with a streaming eyebrow on each side, and big red lips on the bow. We have been to St. Maarten several times and decided that this time we would stay on the ship. We had the ship to ourselves; the peace and quiet was enjoyable.
We set sail from St. Maarten and arrived on schedule in St. Lucia Tuesday morning. We had toured St. Lucia on a previous cruise, so we wanted to check out one of the native dining establishments called the Pink Elephant, which had been recommended by some friends. However, we found it was closed and decided to browse around the shopping mall in the Castries Harbor instead.
Tuesday morning we also received our first invitation to dine at the captainís table. (Starlight Restaurant pictured at right.) At first, we were not sure if we would accept the invitation. Weíve heard horror stories about how "stuffy" or "snooty" some people can be when invited to dine at the captainís table. However, with some good advice from our friend, Gustavo, the Maitre dí, we decided that this was an honor that we should not miss. Tuesday evening, we went to the "Repeat Cruisers" party (with some prompting from our crew friends) and were surprised and honored as we were called to the stage and presented with a bottle of champagne, champagne flutes with the Celebrity logo and a Celebrity photo album.
After the party, the Social Hostess, Rebeka, escorted us to a secluded section of the Rendezvous Lounge for pre-dinner drinks and to receive our instructions on what was about to take place. We were introduced to our host Vassilis Hatziioannou (I canít pronounce it, either) the Hotel Manager. Couples were separated to promote socializing and conversation. Being separated only added to the stress for Linda and I. There were a few nervous moments to begin with, but it turned out to be a pleasant experience overall. After dinner, we were escorted to the Celebrity Show Lounge to see the show and were seated in front row seats.
Palladium Show Lounge
Wednesday morning we arrived in Barbados. The seas were rough Tuesday night, from Hurricane Lenny, but not unbearable. We shopped in the port mall for a while and returned to the Horizon for lunch. Throughout the afternoon, ships trying to avoid Lenny were entering the port of Barbados. We left Barbados at 7 PM, two hours behind schedule. We headed south around Trinidad and Tobago for calmer seas.
Thursday was an "At Sea" day. We were scheduled to be in Antigua, but better safe than sorry, with Lenny hammering St. Maarten. Some passengers were upset about the itinerary change, but what else can you do with a hurricane in the vicinity?
On Friday, we arrived in St. Thomas. The wind was very gusty and there were reoccurring showers. There were only two other ships in port with the Horizon: the Majesty Of The Seas and the Galaxy. When the ship had cleared Customs, we went to the Galaxy to visit friends. Most of the crew was running for the phones to call home and let loved ones know that they were safe. We had lunch at Havensight Mall and did some shopping before returning to the ship.
Saturday & Sunday
Saturday and Sunday were "At Sea" days, and we were headed home. Sunday morning we received an invitation to tour the bridge at 3 PM. We spent Sunday morning packing and at 3 PM we were escorted to the bridge. What a view! Although the Horizon is approaching her tenth birthday, and is no longer at the leading edge of technology, her equipment is still very impressive. Lots of radar, global positioning instruments, fire sensing devices, security cameras and redundant equipment for "just in case."
The ship is well maintained; constant cleaning, painting and polishing are a fact of life on the Horizon. I spoke to a young man cleaning and polishing the stairwells outside the dining room, around 2:30 AM, and told him he was doing a great job -- everything was so clean and shiny. He said, "Thank you." I also asked what time his shift ended. He replied 6 AM, when someone would replace him.
In October of 1998, the Horizon underwent considerable renovation, with the addition of the Martini Bar, Michaelís Cigar Bar (pictured at right), an art gallery and an additional gift shop. The library and card rooms were also relocated and updated. The health spa too, was renovated and equipment upgraded. We were told that the Coral Seas Café is scheduled to undergo renovation at the end of the 2000 Bermuda itinerary. Instead of one buffet line down each side of the café, there will be four lines (total) to improve the flow of hungry passengers. The furniture will also be replaced. Good news for those of us who have missed the whirlpools on the aft of the Horizon: they are scheduled to return next year.
Celebrity is known for its gourmet food. Being a lover of good food, I can only reiterate what has already been said: "The Food Is Great!" If you have never tried a chilled soup, this is the place to have your first. The chilled melon and kiwi soup ,and the chilled strawberry are my favorites. The hot soups are equally as appetizing, with clam chowder, onion and cream of broccoli at the top of my list. Every nightís menu offers fine selections of appetizers, soups, salads, entrées and desserts. Entrées include a variety of seafood, fresh pasta, veal, lamb, beef and chicken. The desserts are superb!
The Staff & Crew
I canít say enough about the staff and crew of the Horizon. From Captain Konstantinides to the young man on night shift who cleans and polishes the stairwells, they are among the most personable people on the seas. It is the attention to detail and the friendliness of the personnel that keeps us returning to their ships. Celebrity is only a cruise line . . . the personnel make us feel like itís home.
Phil Parker may be reached at: email@example.com.
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