Mercury 11-Night Mexican Riviera Cruise – Nov 20th, 2006

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Back Ground

This was my 9th cruise over the course of about 30 years (I started young). The Celebrity Mercury Mexican Riviera cruise certainly ranks up there as one of my best cruises ever. Three years ago, my husband and I took this same itinerary and ship for our 10 year anniversary. Last year we considered this cruise, but opted instead for the 15 day San Diego/Hawaii Round trip cruise on the Celebrity Infinity. This year, we decided to keep it simple and do the Mexican Riviera cruise. We live in Arizona, so Mexico is both “just around the corner” and far off and exotic for us. We have many Mexican friends here in Arizona. The kids and I take Mexican dance lessons and the whole family often enjoys Mexican food, so the idea of visiting many different states in Mexico appealed to us. We also thoroughly enjoyed our entire Celebrity Cruise experience on our last two cruises, so we anticipated the same great overall experience on this cruise.

I’ve decided to group this cruise according to the cruise issues that are most important to us and least important to us. That way I can review each item in terms of how it met our expectations.

Service

Service is probably the most important reason that we cruise. We like getting away from our daily routine and have others take care of us. Under the service category, I include State Room, Dining Room, Buffet, and Bar Service.

First our stateroom attendant, Edwin, though not extremely outgoing, was fine. The room was always clean and I have no complaints about the room or his service.

Next, I have the pleasure of telling you about the wonderful people who served us in the dinning room. Cesar, our waiter from Peru, was smart, friendly, and presented the deserts with flair. We enjoyed his efficient and informative service. His English language skills were nearly perfect, often understanding idioms or sayings. He also was helpful in giving us a few key Spanish words to use the next day in shopping in port.

Alexys has a smile that will melt your heart. He’s from the Dominican Republic and I couldn’t help but notice that he had some resemblance to his famous compatriot Sammy Sosa. He was wonderful as our assistant waiter.

Shiva, from India, served as our Sommelier. This was a relatively new position for him as he was just recently promoted from Bar Waiter, but his energy and enthusiasm for the job certainly made up for any inexperience. His Cellar Master, Iwona, from Poland, seemed to enjoy talking with us about her experience with wines and her position as cellar master. She did a great job making the specialty after dinner coffees. Marcel, our assistant Maitre’de, seemed to be on top of things and frequently checked in on us to make sure the service was in order.

Food

I have to qualify my food review by stating that I could eat wasabi and jalapeños exclusively for a week and think I was in heaven. I love spicy food. The food in Celebrity is generally not spicy. However, it is fresh and well prepared with interesting presentations. I even had Phat Tai for lunch one day that I actually thought was adequately spiced. I found the choices varied and always found something interesting on the menu. I tried to be good and opted for fresh berries for desert most nights, but I also enjoyed a few of their fantastic specialty deserts.

We like the relaxed pace and excellent service of the dining room, so we tried to eat as many breakfasts and lunches there as possible. The breakfast menu was the same every day, but I figured out that if you order just two items, you kind of stay within modest dietary guidelines, you have plenty to eat, and you really don’t run out of choices.

Lunch was open on all sea days and while in port in Zihuatenjo and Manzanillo. We really enjoyed the service from the waiters on duty at open lunch seatings.

The buffet is not my favorite place to eat because I just don’t like the line, but the food was fine on the buffet, and we even tried the waffles one morning!!! My daughter and I really liked them, but I should point out that they are cooked soft, almost like a doughnut, and not crispy. So if you prefer crispy waffles, you might be out of luck.

Activities

I thought the activities staff did a pretty good job of keeping us entertained. We did several trivia games, a couple of spelling bees, battle of the sexes trivia, and a few of the “Game Shows” like Liars Club and Not So Newlywed Game. As I am a singer, I also religiously attended the karaoke nights. I also participated in the passenger talent show.

So, here’s the good and the bad and the ugly. Trivia was a fun mix of easy, challenging and impossible. The “Game Shows” were side splitting funny. My husband, daughter and I went to Liars Club and I thought we were going to keel over laughing when 4 members of the cruise gave their definition of the word “Crapulence”. We now jokingly use the 4 definitions in our family on a regular basis. My husband and son also attended the Newly Wed/Not So Newly Wed game, which I watched on video replay . It was very funny and just watching other passengers laugh at themselves was the most fun.

We also enjoyed a few of the theme parties. We even brought costumes for the 50’s/60’s party, borrowing poodle skirts from our dance teacher. This party was a lot of fun with a silly music trivia contest, a twist contest and lots of dancing. They even gave free chocolate sodas to the kids for coming in costume.

The other “theme party” we enjoyed was the sail-away from Acapulco. The deck party started right away after the Folklorico show with the Mariachis playing some songs. My kids and I take Mexican Folklorico dancing at our international dance studio, so we had written down the songs to which we know dances. I’m not sure where my son disappeared to, but my daughter and I ended up doing a couple of the dances with the Mariachi’s before they left. So much fun for us!!!. They had to get off the ship pretty quickly so that we could leave port. Then, the party band “Locomotion” took over. They did the standard party songs like “Hot, Hot, Hot”,”The Macarena”, and “Cent, 5 Cent, 50 Cent, Dollar”. All of these dances were a lot of fun if you like to be involved.

This was a nice cruise where you could do as much or as little as you want.

Activities Staff

I really thought that the activities staff was very pleasant, professional and extremely interested in making sure that cruisers had a great time.

In particular, I was very impressed with the way that James ran the adult passenger talent show. He made sure he had the names and home state or country correct for the passengers that participated. He really was thorough in making sure that he had the proper CDs or accompanist available to the participants. He even arranged for us to be back stage rather then seated in the audience during the show. I had a lot of fun meeting the other passengers and participating in the show.

Children’s Program

The Childrens Program was well organized and had a wide variety of fun activities for my kids. There were over 100 kids onboard and parents could utilize the program as much or as little as they wanted. My son really enjoyed the many contests that they had in the ensigns program like scavenger hunts and trivia games. My daughter enjoyed the crafts and games for the 9 and younger crowd.

My only complaint was that the children’s talent show was not well organized. The staff encouraged all the kids to do something, but then didn’t give them any guidance to help their performance. A few of the kids did skits, but they were not well rehearsed and took too long. Also, a few of the kids who could sing pretty well sang A’ Capella. Their performances would have been much more interesting if they had been encouraged to select a song from the karaoke disks, or had the ship provided some sort of accompaniment. Finally, my biggest complaint about the whole cruise is that the chidrens’ talent show overlapped with the adult talent show. One was at 2:30 and the other at 3:00. That just made no sense to me at all. We had made friends who wanted to be at both. I also wanted to watch my kids and perform in the adult show. That meant running from the Pavilion on the back of the ship, to the theater on the front.

Children’s Staff

The kids really enjoyed their counselors in the childrens’ program. They came from all over the world and seemed to enjoy working with kids.

Room

We decided to try a Family Ocean View room on this cruise because we really felt cramped in our standard size room on the Infinity. Also, on the Mercury there are no large window ocean views or standard size balcony cabins available for four people. To get a balcony, we would have had to book a Sky Suite and utilize a sofa bed and roll away for the kids. The Family Ocean View is a long skinny room on the back of the ship that is divided by a sliding glass and wood door. The closet has three sections instead of two and the room has a double bed in the front section and bunk beds and a sofa in the back section along with a picture window. There is a set of drawers in each section. We had plenty of room to unpack for the trip and I only had to double a few dresses and shirts on hangers (Quick Tip, always bring a few hangers from home.)

The one down side of this aft room was the motion of the boat in the mornings when we pulled into port. It woke me up every time the ship would use its thrusters or go in reverse. We noticed this motion and sound to a lesser degree when we were mid ship 3 years ago.

Entertainment

The Entertainment was the usual mix of productions shows and cabaret acts. We really enjoyed seeing the production shows even though three of them were repeats from the last time we cruised the Mercury. It was fun to watch them with the kids, who had fun counting the songs that had been featured in their own dance studio recitals. The fourth show Dance Around the World, was new to us. The whole family thoroughly enjoyed this show.

The solo entertainers also included a ventriloquist, an Australian award winning cabaret performer Darrin Wilson and a comedian. We laughed pretty hard at both the ventriloquist and the comedian, though the comedian’s cruise humor seemed to have been around as long as I have been cruising. Darrin, really impressed us with this operatic repertoire.

We skipped the pianist, but might have to go see him next time as the Aerialist were a featured part of his performance. Everyone raved about their performance.

Ports of Call and Excursions

The people in Mexico were very friendly and kind, but there is always someone trying to sell you something or trying to earn a tip. Cabo San Lucas, our first port, was no exception to either one of these truisms. We waited until after lunch to tender into port because the swells in the port area were making loading and unloading of passengers very difficult. Once we got into Cabo, we were approached by a man selling exactly what we wanted, a water taxi to Lover’s beach. It was a bit more than I had expected to pay, $10 per person round trip, but the boat ride and the beach ended up being one of our favorite excursions. We got a tour of the rock formations and then got dropped off at Lover’s Beach. There were men working on the beach for tips to help passengers on and off the boats. This was a good thing, because I don’t think the kids could have done it with-out their help. Vendors on the beach also sold beer and rented snorkeling masks. We thought it was a bit rough for snorkeling so the kids played in the surf on the safer Sea of Cortez side of the beach. At the designated time, the water taxi came to pick us up for our return to the Marina. We tipped the beach guys and had them boost us back into the boat. Back in town, we shopped the market for souvenirs. First, we needed to get some shoes for DD as she left hers on the beach. Then, we got some post cards for DS and a Mexican “Barbie” dressed in the Baja California Sur State costume.

The next port was Mazatlan. We booked the ship’s Shopping, Folklorico, Lunch and Beach tour. My only complaint is that this tour allowed for 2 hours of shopping and we found everything we were looking for in about ½ hour. So there was a lot of standing around and waiting. The kids got some Mexican handicrafts. My daughter got another doll in the State costume of Sinaloa and my son got a Mazatlan “hoodie”. Sweatshirt.

The folklorico show was pretty interesting and well preformed. It featured the Papantla Flyers, who come from the Vera Cruz region of Mexico, performing their “High Flying” act which is actually their ancient form of worship to their gods of wind and sun. The show also featured the La Bamba dance from Vera Cruz, El Jarabe Tapetio (Mexican Hat Dance), the Sonoran Deer Dance and an 11 year old trick roper. The audience was made up of cruise ship passengers on pre-booked tours, so I am not sure that there is any way to see this show unless you are on a package tour. After the show, we walked down to the La Playa hotel where our tour guides were waiting for us beach towels and directions to the changing area. We met passengers from other cruise ships while in line at the Mexican buffet. After lunch, we enjoyed both the beach and the pool at the hotel. While on the beach, we were nearly constantly approached by vendors selling goods and para sailing. If you want to avoid them, you need to stay in the water or up on the hotel grounds.

Puerto Vallarta was our next port of call. We had friends who were staying at the Velas Vallarta resort, so we had made plans to meet them there. Our friends had asked about our coming to visit and the waiters and bar tenders had told them we were fine and that we just needed to pay for all of our purchases a la carte. It worked out fine and we had a wonderful day by the pool and the ocean with our friends. On the way back to the ship, there was a bit of time for more shopping this time for a Jalisco Doll and more postcards.

Acapulco was a busy day for us. It started with me taking the kids across the street from the ship to the museum in Ft. San Diego. My son was really interested in the history lessons in each section of the museum, but my daughter found it kind of boring. We pick-up my husband back at the ship and then headed for lunch at La Perla and took in the cliff diving show. Though extremely touristy, I felt this was something that we shouldn’t miss. After the show, we were off to Hotel Boca Chica, an old small hotel with easy access snorkeling rental. We had to pay a modest resort fee to enter but received vouchers for food and drink in the same amount. I think the snorkel rental fee was just $5 per person for an hour, but I looked at the website and they only showed a $15 full day fee. What I remember paying was $15 for three snorkel rentals and giving a $5 tip to the guy who gave us a little snorkel tour. We tried to use up our vouchers but with early seating we really needed to head back to the ship. We also tried to find a Guerrero doll, but couldn’t find one we liked at a fair price. We did however find a Colima doll – and of course we found some post cards for my son.

Zijuatanejo was our last port to visit on this cruise. My daughter and I went into town together on a shopping expedition. We had to find our Guerrero doll, t-shirts for the whole family, and an Aztec/Conquistadors chess set for my son. After walking all through town and searching all the stalls in the market, we successfully found all the items we were looking for. We had hoped to visit one of the beaches here, but we just didn’t want to push our selves too hard after such a long day in Acapulco the day before.

Manzanillo… Well, we just stayed on board. We were tired and had been there and done that.  Still, three years ago we really enjoyed our day at Las Hadas Resort.

Embarkation

We actually arrive around 11:30, which is quite early, so we went through all our usual boarding procedures and then had to wait about ½ hour before boarding. But, truly, every thing went smoothly. The only thing we didn’t like was that you got your welcome aboard champagne or orange juice on the deck and then had to finish it before you stepped on board. Also, we appreciated the efforts to control disease spread with hand sanitizers.

Disembarkation.

Disembarkation was actually a bit more of a hassle than previous cruises out of San Diego, but mostly because there was another large ship in port at the same time. We had trouble getting a porter and getting our shuttle back to the park and ride. It would be nice if we could have just hung out on the ship a bit longer and some how avoided the crowd.