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Celebrity Cruises


by Barbara Moorhouse

Western Caribbean Cruise January 1998

Celebrity Cruises Mercury

Background: Our first cruise was in 1994 to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean on the Amerikanis, a "classic" liner operated by the now-defunct Fantasy Cruise Lines, which was a subsidiary of Celebrity. This was our second "real" Celebrity cruise, the Horizon in Alaska being our first in 1996. We have also cruised on American Hawaii Cruise's Independence around Hawaii (May 1997). Most of our cruises have been group tours arranged by Global Holidays for one or more midwestern professional associations. Each winter they offer a Celebrity Caribbean cruise which includes charter air, a great convenience.

Our group of 130 left Detroit for Ft. Lauderdale at 10:00 am on Sunday morning. The weather was incredibly bad--low ceilings and ice. This was the first time I had ever seen de-icing equipment in action, which, while interesting to watch, was a little disconcerting. The sun and warmth of FLL was most welcome when we touched down at 12:30 pm. We arrived at the terminal at Port Everglades by 1 pm. Smoothest and shortest transfer we had ever experienced! It was a real thrill to be able to see the Mercury's smokestack nearly as soon as we pulled away from the air terminal! There were four other large cruise ships at Port Everglades that day: HAL's Veendam, Costa's CostaRomantica and CostaVictoria, and the Crown Princess.

Check-in: Celebrity does a great job of check-in (a vast improvement over what we experienced with them in Vancouver in 1996). As we entered the terminal we were handed a number for boarding. After a wait of about 15 minutes, we were ushered into a smaller waiting room where they asked us to be sure to have all our forms filled out. A very short time later, we were called into the huge area where they do the check-in. The entire process was very efficient and would have gone quite quickly except for the fact that the couple ahead of us had not filled out any of their paperwork apparently!! Oh well, we were still on the ship before 2 pm. Two pieces of our luggage had arrived by the time we finished lunch and the third arrived by 5 pm (caused me a little panic as it had all our regular, non-formal clothes in it!).

The Cabin: You enter the Mercury on Deck 5 (Plaza) through the Grand Foyer. Since we were in cabin 5022 on the Plaza Deck, we did not have to bother with an elevator to get to our room which was convenient. On the Horizon we had the forward-most cabin on Deck 6 and had only a porthole so we loved our cabin's large window. Another advantage of Deck 5--no deck outside, so total privacy (we were on the Sun Deck on both the older ships). There is more than enough storage everywhere. There are two closets: a total of 6-8 ft. long by 2 ft. deep. One has space only for hanging clothes. The other is divided into several sections. The bottom part has six drawers; the right top part has shelves and the left top part has a rod for short garments. The closets are along one side of the entrance hall and opposite is the bathroom.

The bathroom is larger than most we have had before and the shower downright huge (the latter has one of those pull-out laundry lines which came in handy and the hot water is extremely consistent and plentiful). There are several glass shelves above the counter, plus two cabinets underneath. There is a built-in hair dryer over the toilet. As I am rather short, I did not find it very convenient to use so used the one I brought with me. A small aside: it took us several days to discover that there is an outlet in the bathroom (I suppose we could have asked the stewardess, but did not think to). It is in the hair dryer housing and covered when not in use! Thus, we were limited to the one above the desk in the cabin for awhile.

In the cabin itself are more storage features. In addition to the two night stands which had two drawers each, there is a desk with six drawers. Behind the mirror above the desk is the safe and lots of shallow shelves. In the other corner is the TV with more shelves. Underneath the TV is the refrigerator with all those expensive beverages and snacks. The desk and TV units are on an angle. The cabin also had two chairs and a small glass table. The main drawback of this particular cabin are the two overhead berths. If we had kept the beds separated, they would not have been a problem, but since we had the beds made into a queen, it was a bit tricky to get in and out of bed without bumping our heads. (The ladders for the upper berths also took up space in the closet. This is what we get for booking through a large group.)

The decor of the cabin is very tasteful: mostly blues, some beige, and light wood. One interesting note: there was a very nice print on the right wall, but it was difficult to see it from the right side of the bed because of the upper berth. BUT if I looked in the mirror over the desk which is on the left, it appeared as if the print was directly across from the bed!

Our stewardess, Sudy, was excellent. Very unobtrusive, but friendly when we did see her (as were all the housekeeping staff in our area). There was also a young man who at least did the vacuuming of our cabin and perhaps other cleaning chores. I do not know if this is unique to Celebrity or is a common practice, but no wonder the cabin was always in tip top shape whenever we returned to it.

The Ship: It is hard to know where to begin to describe this large, magnificent ship! There is more use of vibrant color than on the Horizon, but all tastefully done. There is also much light wood and brass. There is lots of art, including a number of photographs (one entire stairwell has black and white pictures of icebergs). All in all, the overall impression of the interior spaces is that of a fine modern hotel.

I will start our tour from the bottom up, so to speak. It is quite easy to move around the ship: there are three sets of elevators (3 in each set): forward, midship and aft plus corresponding stairwells (more stairs outside), plus the Grand Foyer stairway from Deck 5 to Deck 8. Although the tenders always departed from Deck 3 forward, Deck 4 (Continental) is essentially the first passenger deck. It is all cabins plus the medical center. Fortunately, we never had the need to visit this deck! [Note: I find it interesting .that the brochures always use deck names, but on the ships themselves, the deck number is what you need to know in the elevator, etc.]

Mercury Grand FoyerDeck 5 (Plaza) houses both cabins (forward section) and public areas: Guest Relations desk in the Grand Foyer, Shore Excursions and Purser nearby, lower level of the Manhattan Restaurant across the back of the ship. The galley extends from the Grand Foyer to the restaurant. For those of us housed on Deck 5, this arrangement is a bit awkward if one's table is on the lower level of the restaurant (more about this later). This first floor of the Grand Foyer is really very much like a hotel lobby: windows on each side with nice, large sitting areas with a variety of chairs, sofas, tables and desks. Several of the organized groups on board set up headquarters here, meaning usually just a board listing their special daily activities. Our group of 130 had a delightful hostess from London who kept "desk hours" every day to help with any problem that might arise. Other than a complimentary cocktail hour one evening, our group had no organized activities. (The largest group on board was the Country Music Association of Arlington, TX. There were over 400 of them, plus their own entertainers--several shows were open to the whole ship. There were also several other organized groups ranging in size from 40 to 150.)

A word about the Grand Foyer atrium: This was the first atrium we had seen on a ship. It stretches from Deck 5 to Deck 8 and adds a nice touch of class. Atrium features particular to a specific deck are mentioned below. There is a huge rotating brass sphere on a pedestal located in the atrium's center on Deck 5. Down one wall is a shimmering ever-changing glass panel and at the very top is a decorative ceiling where stars seem to twinkle.

Deck 6 (Promenade) is entirely public. Forward is the Celebrity Theater stage and main level although you do have to climb stairs inside the theater to get up to the seating--it is easier to access the theater from Deck 7 (escalator goes from 6 to 7 outside the theater). The theater seats nearly 1000 and has no obstructed views (unless you are short like me and cannot see over the railings in the balcony). Walking aft from the theater, you pass the Cinema and Conference Center which seats almost 200. Ordinarily they show movies in the Cinema several times a day, but on this cruise there was a corporate group who used it for business several days (never did meet any of these folk, hope they had fun some time). Across from it is the Card Room, a long narrow room with lots of windows and a glass wall on the hall side. There is a very large piece of sculpture in here as well (the glass wall is free form to accommodate it). Next to the Cinema is the small, but nicely stocked Library. Walking further aft, one comes to the Grand Foyer and the Tastings coffee bar (I found this out later, much to my regret--thought it was just another bar). Breakfast pastries of various kinds are available here from 10 am - noon and then dessert pastries from 3-5 pm (it is just as well I did not know about this place at the time!). There are lots of nice seating areas available around the Grand Foyer with more windows. There is also a player baby grand piano, the player being a computer. There is a live pianist now and then. Beyond the Grand Foyer are the Photo Galleries, one on each side (late seating folk port, early seating starboard; daytime pictures could be on either side). Then onto the Rendezvous Square, a Celebrity trademark. This is a popular gathering place before dinner and there are many daytime activities here as well (more windows, so lots of natural light by day). A duo (Casanova) played here every night and there is a small dance floor. In the foyer of the Manhattan Restaurant is the very tiny Martini Bar. If one has a table on the lower level of the restaurant, one could use either the aft stairwells or elevator or make one's grand entrance down the wide central staircase inside the restaurant. Another option is to go down through the Champagne Bar in the lower level foyer. This bar, while small, is much larger than the Martini Bar above. As I mentioned before, if you have a cabin on Deck 5 and a table on the same deck, you have to go up to Deck 6 and then back down because the galley prevents you from going through on Deck 5, a minor inconvenience.

Mercury Manhattan Restaurant

The Manhattan Restaurant is the first two-level one we had experienced on a ship. The entire two-deck-high rear wall is glass and there are large windows on the sides of both levels. It is magnificent. The Adagio String Quartet played every night at the top of the staircase. The only thing we did not like about the restaurant was the location of our table. We were in nearly the forward most corner and behind the staircase so we often could not hear the music, nor see much of the rest of the restaurant. The food is just as good as that we had on the Horizon. No disappointments here! Our waiter and busboy were both from Turkey and very competent. The waiter was a bit clownish, but sweet; the busboy was much quieter. Our tablemates were in our group so all Michiganians (three lawyers and a doctor, plus their spouses or, in one case, their mother). We had late seating, which was not our first choice, but we had booked just two months in advance. It worked out very well for the most part, though (the ship was totally booked so we had not tried to change it the first day). We got to see cast-off every time and a few sunsets plus we were certainly never hungry enough to be tempted by the midnight buffets! The only downside was the lack of musical entertainment (that would have been enough) anywhere on the ship between about 6 and 7:30 pm. We do not nap and the in-cabin movies never worked out to be precisely at that time.


One more note about Deck 6. It IS the Promenade Deck and has a nice wide teak deck which, unfortunately does not go all the way around, but is quite long on both sides. And, of course, it is lined with deck chairs. The shuffleboard courts are here as well. There is more "promenade deck" up on Deck 7, with a connecting stairway. Just have to be sure you do not bump your head on a lifeboat up there.

Deck 7 (Entertainment) is also entirely public space. Aft is the ship-wide Pavilion Night Club. A lot of daytime activities here (more windows) and always some kind of music and/or entertainment in the evening. Generally it is a very nice room, but there are many obstructed-view seating areas which is frustrating. Forward from here is the Players Casino which is also ship-wide with more windows. Lots and lots of slots, quite a number of blackjack and poker tables, several roulette wheels and at least one craps table (I only do slots so may not have accurately tallied up all the other places one could lose money). Of course, it also has its own bar (out in its foyer--just a few slots out there). Forward of the casino is the Grand Foyer again where the Grand Slam a capella singers alternated with the Adagio String Quartet at various times in the evening (could hear them just as well down on Deck 6). There also is more seating (and windows) around the atrium. Moving forward from here takes you winding through the Rialto Galleries shopping arcade. Tastefully done, but nothing otherwise remarkable. At last we arrive at the upper entrance to the Celebrity Theater.

Decks 8, 9 and 10 are essentially just cabins. Deck 8 (Panorama) does house Michael's Club, the cigar bar, at the top of the atrium and Deck 9 (Vista) has the Ship Mates Fun Factory and wading pool (aft) for the little kids.

Mercury AquaSpaDeck 11 (Resort) is where most of the daytime fun takes place. Forward is the AquaSpa which stretches from side to side with a narrow deck around the sides. Although we are not into the health club routine, this facility is most impressive. Many treadmills and far fancier exercise equipment are available, as well as full spa facilities (massages, thassalotherapy, etc.). And the view is to die for--floor-to-ceiling windows all around. There is a large deck with lots of deck chairs forward of the spa. It was not used that much during the cruise so was a quiet area to relax. We went there most evenings to try to stargaze (too darned much light though), but often it was very windy as the ship sailed full throttle to the next port (or to nowhere during the night from Cozumel to Calica, a distance of 12 miles). One night it was so bad that I was seriously concerned that we might be blown overboard (the deck chairs were almost flying).

In mid-ship is the large La Playa pool area where there are several pools and 5 hot tubs (elevated above the regular pools for a nice view). In one forward corner is a bar and in the diagonally opposite corner is a large grill where you can get hot dogs and hamburgers plus a few other items for lunch and then pizza every day from 3-7 pm. There are four rows of deck chairs--two under cover of the balcony above and two in the sun (they have cushions). There is a small stage at the forward end--site of many types of entertainment, including the sailaway shows.

Aft of La Playa is the Palm Springs Cafe which is very large with four serving lines surrounded by a large seating area with floor-to-ceiling bow windows large enough for several tables each. The only time there was much of a wait in line was at lunch on the first day. You could eat breakfast and lunch either here or in the Manhattan Restaurant. We ate breakfast and lunch twice in the restaurant and the rest of the time we ate here. (It is nice to be waited on in a gracious setting even for lunch and breakfast occasionally, although not many other passengers apparently agreed. The restaurant is equally spectacular during the day, even while at sea.) The food was good in the cafe. The only complaint I have was the difficulty in obtaining skim milk at lunch. It was out with the cereals at breakfast, but not out at lunch and the dispensing machines only provided whole milk. Finally, I got clever and asked for it from one of the servers at lunch who was near the area where cereal was served in the morning. Voila! He found some under the counter.

Beyond the cafe is the Palm Springs Pool area. This section has a moveable glass roof (magrodome), which makes it useable at anytime, even in Alaska. There are lots of deck chairs here, all with cushions. In addition, the back wall is beautifully tiled, there is lots of potted greenery around, and there are windows on three sides. There is also the requisite bar plus a grill which serves late breakfast, hot dogs & burgers for lunch, and pizza from 10 pm to 1 am. Furthest aft is a small outside deck with tables which is nice for outdoor dining (those helpful, tray-carrying waiters come in handy from the cafe to here).

Mercury Sky SuiteDeck 12 (Sky) has the Sky Suites (24) which have huge verandas (each partly covered) and a few smaller cabins (19), but otherwise it is public space. Aft most is primarily the roof for the Palm Springs Pool, but on either side are volleyball/basketball courts, each surrounded by netting so you do not lose the ball!. Tucked away in the corners in this vicinity are darts and ping pong, as well. To move forward in public space you need to go up to the Sunrise Deck around the smokestack. There is a fairly wide and lengthy deck around the smokestack (golf simulator is inside the stack area--do not ask, I did not visit it) with several rows of deck chairs. From here you can peer down into the Sky Suites' verandas. I met one lucky resident of such a suite (it was an upgrade!) and she said they were well aware of the lack of privacy for the open section of their verandah.

Going back down to Deck 12 you arrive at the balcony area over the La Playa Pools. The jogging/walking track threads its way around the balcony through the two rows of deck chairs and the tables around the Sky Bar which is forward. (A nautical mile is 10 laps). This seemed to be a rather awkward arrangement for the walkers/joggers, but the deck chairs were never very much in use, so it was not too bad. I get the feeling, having looked again at the brochure deck plan, that originally the jogging/walking track was to be up on the aft Sunrise deck, but it probably did not take too many complaints from Sky Suite guests below to put a stop to that. Proceeding forward from the Sky Bar you can go up either side to small intervening decks (more deck chairs) and then to the forward Sunrise Deck where all the radar and other communications equipment is. In between all the little domes are deck chairs. In the middle of this area is a huge dome with a railing around it and a radioactive warning sign on the dome itself. Needless to say, we never spent TOO much time up here, although the views are spectacular and the privacy almost guaranteed. [Note: While I am sure there are more than enough lifeboat spaces for everyone, I think there must be at least one deck chair on this ship for everyone, too!]

Retracing your steps back down to Deck 12 and going inside you arrive at the entrance to the Navigator Club. Before you get all the way forward to the Club, you pass the teen room, the video game room and the Cyber Space (computers!). We had liked the topmost lounge on the Horizon (America's Cup), but this Club is even better! Three sides of two-deck high glass! And at each corner are those telescopes you see at viewpoints, only here they are free. Will be great in Alaska and I wish I had remembered them when we were at Calica so I could get a really good look at those ships over at Cozumel (see below). There are various levels to this room with cozy little seating areas all around. At night, the place turns into a lively disco with all kinds of lights and both live music and a disk jockey. There are various daytime events in here, although often it was closed for private parties, etc. (too many darn groups on this ship!). It was also the site for the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and the repeaters cocktail party.

Mercury Navigator Club

Entertainment: There is a wide variety of entertainment available throughout the day and evening. By day, there are bingo games, art auctions, wine tastings, trivia contests, various kinds of sports tournaments, bridge games, lectures, napkin folding classes, and on and on. There are also poolside concerts nearly every day by one of the several musical groups on board.

In the evening, all the lounges have some sort of musical entertainment at one time or another (some are mentioned elsewhere in this review). And there is almost always someplace you can dance. The highlight for many is the show in the Celebrity Theater. I know Celebrity has taken its knocks for its entertainment but I think they do a very good job. I was not prepared for the lasers, pyrotechnics, and other lighting effects of the four production shows--quite spectacular! On the other evenings we were entertained by Mark Preston, Michael James, and Noodles Levenstein. Preston, formerly with the Lettermen, did an outstanding and energetic show (with some audience participation--do not sit on the aisles . Afterwards you could buy his CD, get his autograph and have your picture taken with him. And, of course, I did! Michael James' act is billed as action comedy. Suffice it to say that he did a whole lot of juggling with different items while balancing on a single ladder, eight feet above the stage. We did not see Noodles do his solo show, but did see him the final evening when several of the artists performed. He was very funny and we were sorry we had missed his earlier show.

The musical groups which I have not mentioned elsewhere included the Onyx band, Something Special band and the Celebrity Orchestra. We loved Onyx--they played all the sailaway parties and in the disco (Navigators Club). Something Special was not. The Orchestra not only played for the production shows and backed Mark Preston, but they also played big band music for dancing--a very versatile group of musicians.

Itinerary: This seven day cruise stops at four ports and has two days at sea, a nice combination. We were scheduled to leave Port Everglades at 5:30 pm, but were delayed for various reasons (some folks arrived late, one fellow had a possible heart attack and left the ship by ambulance about 6 pm). The Veendam left while we were in our cabin unpacking so I did not note the time. However, the CostaVictoria left at 5:15 pm and the Crown Princess at 5:45 (we should have been in between), so we did get a chance to watch the "parade" and it was quite something watching those two large ladies sail out to sea, especially as the sun was going down. It was dark by the time we pulled away (CostaRomantica was still there--do not know when she left), but that had its plusses too--the south Florida skyline at night with all its lights. The send-off from the bayside apartments was neat too--everything but confetti! Of course if we had gotten early seating we would have missed all this.

Key WestOn Monday, the Mercury docked at Key West at 7:00 am and left at 1:30 pm (much too soon). The CostaRomantica was already there so I guess she passed us during the night. She also got to dock at Mallory Square while we were at the old Navy pier. As the seagull flies, it is not far away, but by road it is about a 10 minute ride. Celebrity provides free and frequent shuttle service on the Key West trolley. Since we had had very little sleep the night before the cruise, we were lazy Monday and did not get off the ship until 9:30 or so. There are various shore excursions/activities to choose from, but we decided to just walk around the residential areas of old Key West. We got a mini tour coming and going on the trolley. This was our first time to Key West and we enjoyed our walking tour (more or less used the Pelican Path map available from the Chamber of Commerce, located at Mallory Square). There is quite a variety of style in the old houses--Key West has its own unique style overall. The weather was partly sunny and warm, but not too hot. We were just sorry we did not have time to actually go into any of the historic homes which are open to the public. Sometime while we were on our walk, RCI's Enchantment of the Seas arrived and dropped anchor way beyond where we were docked, but their tenders dropped folks off at the Hilton complex near Mallory Square. We had a pleasant time at sea in the afternoon. After a late lunch, we briefly visited the Art Auction. Friends had alerted me to the fun of watching this whole operation--the franchise is held by a dealer whose headquarters are in the Detroit area.

On Tuesday we had been scheduled to dock at Calica, but a last minute shift to Cozumel was announced about 5 pm on Monday. It seems a freighter showed up unexpectedly at Calica and had a higher priority than the Mercury! Amazingly, they were able to rearrange all shore excursions except for the flight tour to Chichen Itza which had to remain on Wednesday as scheduled. It is possible they put those folks up on Cozumel on Tuesday night since my husband noticed a lot of luggage at the tender dock there. We dropped anchor at Cozumel about 9:00 am. To the north, Premier's OceanBreeze was already anchored. I like to snorkel so I was looking forward to the wonderful opportunity Cozumel presents. I took the "Advanced Snorkeling by Boat" which entailed a pontoon boat ride down to the south end of the island to see the Columbia Shallows and Palancar Reef. It was completely clear and warm at San Miguel, but, unfortunately, there was a large cloud down south and thus no sun the entire hour we were in the water. You could still see remarkably well, however, and the water was quite warm. Next time I think I will try Chankanaab Park instead. After returning to the ship (passing the Veendam and Enchantment at the International Pier) for lunch, we went back ashore for a little shopping. It was very hot (80s) and sunny. The ship was quite impressive from the shore! We pulled up anchor about 7 pm so got to watch the lights come on in San Miguel. Sunset was ok, but not spectacular.

Wednesday we docked at Calica at 8 am. Here you dock on one side of the narrow harbor and tender over to the other side. Before we arrived I went out on deck to enjoy and photograph the sunrise. Saw the Norwegian Star as she left Calica for Cozumel. Our ship actually backed into the harbor! Calica was interesting and off-beat. I am not sure how long the port has been there. There is a substantial sand and gravel operation nearby with a long conveyor belt going up to near where we were docked. There is no pier for the ship per se. There is a rocky shoreline with structures sticking out that prevent the ship from bumping into the rocks. The tying up of the ship was interesting to watch (we could see it well from our cabin). Because these structures stick out about 15 feet, they have to use a rowboat to throw some of the lines up on to the shore. You then tender over to the little pier where there is a small shop, taxi stand, bus parking lot, etc. The harbor is "L" shaped. The ship fits in the "I" of the "L"and is perpendicular to the coast and the tender pier is in the "_" There is also a ferry landing area where a ferry comes in from Cozumel (?) in late afternoon (just before we left) and unloads many semis and other assorted trucks and a few cars. Then a bunch of the same get on for the return trip. Just to the north is Xcaret which you can see from the ship. All in all it is really quite a private and quiet port. We decided to stay on the ship after we returned from Tulum at lunch time. I was amazed that we could see the large ships over at Cozumel quite well with the naked eye and could identify the cruise line, at least, with binoculars. They were 12 miles away! All in all, the afternoon was quite relaxing. Of course, the fact that we saw a gorgeous sunset while sitting there did not hurt.

The tour to Tulum was worth it! Since we arrived earlier than we would have on Tuesday, lunch was not included which was fine. We did the mandatory rest stop at a souvenir place on the way to Tulum, but not on the way back. Our guide was very good, although perhaps had too much information to impart. Eventually he was finished so we could wander around for about an hour. The view of the sea is spectacular from here! The ruins are interesting, but not as much so as the ones at Chichen Itza (from what I have read). We have not spent much time in Mexico, so I do not know if its customary to charge to use most public restrooms, but the visitors' area at Tulum was one such place.

We sailed away from Calica at 7 pm for our first full day at sea (Thursday). I was a little nervous about all this free time out in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, but it went by much too quickly! We tied for first in Team Trivia and started our collection of trinkets. We also won the Daily Trivia, run out of the library. The sun did disappear behind the clouds in the afternoon and there were even some showers later, but we were indoors by then. The seas remained fairly calm, as they had been (and would be) the entire trip.

On Friday, we dropped anchor at Georgetown, Grand Cayman, at 8 am. We were again joined by our cruising companions, CostaRomantica and Enchantment of the Seas. I was looking forward to more snorkeling, but not the sting ray trip! Thus, I took an alternative trip which took us out into the bay at Georgetown. It was a hot, sunny day so the water felt good. We saw two sites--a reef and a shipwreck. At the latter it was easier to see the fish because of the white sand bottom. I have never seen so many different varieties of fish as I did on this cruise (have snorkeled in the eastern Caribbean and Hawaii)! I used up three underwater disposable cameras (all bought at home!) in all. After going back to the ship for clean-up and late lunch, we returned to do some souvenir shopping. Not far from the dock we found a wonderful little glass blowing shop where you could watch them work. The small bowl I bought has swirls of blues and greens and is so evocative of land, sea and sky. At 4 pm we pulled up anchor, after hoisting up the lifeboats which had been used as tenders. Got some interesting shots of that process, as I leaned almost a little too far over the railing on Deck 12.

Saturday was another day at sea. The weather was not perfect, but better than on Thursday. We sailed around the western end of Cuba (about 7 miles off the point) and then remained about 12 miles off northwestern Cuba during the morning. The atlas was missing from the library so I could not look up exactly what we were seeing over there. As it turns out Havana is in that area, but we could not quite see the Pope who was visiting at the time. There are fairly large mountains in that area as well. In the afternoon I played bingo for the second time on this cruise and actually won once. I would have won outright if I had been quicker, but had to share the $200+ pot with another lady. We also played Team Trivia and came in second this time--the pile of booty continued to grow. Time to pack came all too soon.

Sunday morning we arrived in Fort Lauderdale at least an hour early. There was no one there at the dock yet, but nobody on the ship was in a hurry to get off! The disembarkation went very smoothly and we arrived at the airport two hours before our charter flight was schedule to leave. Unfortunately, the agents who were to check us in for the flight did not arrive for another hour. :-(

Conclusion: The Mercury is a magnificent ship to look at and be on. It is very large with as many as 2000 passengers on her at one time, but yet you never feel like you are in such a big crowd. There are a wide variety of public and not-so-public spaces for your use and enjoyment, as well as a wide variety of activities and entertainment--something for everyone, no matter their age. This ship should be equally popular with the active, younger (and young-at-heart) folks and those who just want to be alone and not do much of anything out on the sea. I want to go back this minute and sample all those places, events, and entertainment that I missed the first time (and repeat a few too).

Photos courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

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Barbara Moorhouse works part time for her state legislator whose campaign she worked on in 1996. While not doing that, she devotes her time to volunteer activities, photography, gardening, and talking and writing about cruising on the 'Net. She and her husband have traveled extensively in the US and Canada, quite often by car. Barbara can be reached at: BarbaraMoorhouse@compuserve.com.

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