With the help and advice of Travel Agent, Tim Lewis of Cruise One, my husband and I enjoyed a near perfect cruise vacation on the Celebrity Mercury for our 10 year anniversary in 2003.
What Did We Want in a Vacation?
We wanted a vacation that would provide fun and activities, but also provide plenty of opportunity to relax. The combination of the Celebrity cruise experience and the low key itinerary of the Mexican Riviera helped us to achieve these goals.
The Mexican Riviera
We chose this destination because of the convenience of leaving out of San Diego and the laid back itinerary. Many different airlines, including Southwest, provide flights from Tucson to San Diego. We can also drive there in about 6 hours. For this vacation, we didnt want to go anywhere where we felt we would miss out on anything if we decided to not get off the ship in port.
The Mexican Riviera has great resort towns, but my husband and I are not big beach people, so missing a day at the beach was just fine with us. Again, the point of this trip was to relax, not see every tourist attraction with-in driving distance of the pier. My husband did enjoy a day of golfing in Mazatlan, while I stayed onboard and enjoyed a spa appointment. In Puerto Vallarta, we enjoyed an excursion on the Marigalante Pirate ship. In Zihuatenjo, we tendered into the old fishing village and simply took in the quaintness of this laidback fishing village. In Manzanillo, we took a cab and bought vouchers for the day at Las Hadas Resort where the movie Ã¯Â¿Â½10Ã¯Â¿Â½ was filmed. All of these activities were so low-key that the vacation was refreshing rather than exhausting.
Defining what differentiates the Celebrity cruise experience from others lines in a similar price range can be difficult to quantify. Our travel agent described it as an air of sophistication that positions Celebrity Cruise Lines between the mass market cruise and the luxury cruise. We told him that we had been on Holland America 10 years before, and that from word of mouth we didnt think Carnival was right for us. He indicated that if we like Holland America, we would probably like Celebrity, but it was still kind of hard to quantify what we were looking for. Perhaps the Celebrity slogan Ã¯Â¿Â½be treated famouslyÃ¯Â¿Â½ summed it up best.
What is the Celebrity Cruise Experience?
From the moment we arrived, the service staff made us feel like we were the most important people on the ship. Our cabin attendant did a great job of keeping our room looking ship shape. She was from the Philippines and really warmed up to us when we mentioned that we had visited there. Our waiter, from South Africa, was warm and funny, but always focused on providing us great service. He greeted us every night with questions about our day and always had information about the next days port or events. The bartenders and cocktail waiters also gave us a lot of personalized attention. There seemed to be at least one waiter in each of the ships lounges to whom all we had to do is wave, and before we knew it he or she was delivering to us our drink of choice. The entertainment staff and cruise director could not have made our trip any better. They provided passengers with lots of fun activities, like Name That Tune, Trivia Contests, Ship Builders Regatta, and Pool Side Battle of the Sexes. The Cruise Director, David Cole, knew me by name after only the second day of the cruise. Celebrity has no activities announcements over the intercom, so passengers simply plan their day according to the list of activities delivered to the stateroom. This allows passenger who choose not to participate in the activities the opportunity to relax undisturbed. Though difficult to explain exactly how Celebrity did it, they provided a balance of elegance and fun, combined with a high level of personal service, that created a completely enjoyable vacation experience.
Several of the staff members even went above and beyond the call of duty to make our experience memorable. The cruise director really paid special attention to passengers. I mentioned to him that I love to sing, but shared my frustration that the Karaoke only goes until Midnight, leaving only a Ã¯Â¿Â½ hour window for late seating passengers to participate after their late production show in the theater. He offered to send the song selection book to my stateroom so that I could look through the book during the day and already have my songs picked out.
This worked out perfectly as I got to enjoy my dinner, show, and then still make it to the lounge in time to sing a song. In the dining room, our waiter did a fabulous job of bringing me fresh berries for dessert almost every night even though they were not on the menu. We even had a favorite bartender in the sky bar who was on her working honeymoon cruise with her new husband who was also a crew member. She always made sure we had a nice big glass of water to go with our drinks on deck and gave us great advise for avoiding hangovers: one glass of water for every alcoholic drink. She also introduced my husband to Belvedere Vodka from her home country, Poland.
The fellow passengers also enhanced the cruise experience. We enjoy meeting people of all ages, walks of life, from all over the country and all over the world. While most of the crowd was over 55, there were a few younger couples, honeymooners and families with children. A little leery of getting stuck with dud table mates, we had requested a table for two. When we arrived the first night we are a little surprise to find that we were at a table for 8, but delighted to find that every one is very personable and friendly. We found plenty of opportunities to meet new people at the games and activities. The ship was large enough that if one met someone that he/she didnt care for, they could easily avoid them. Most of the passengers were very friendly and courteous.
There were no rowdy drunks at all hours of the night funneling beer in the hot tub. Most people seemed to enjoy dressing up and followed the dress code through out the evening in the public areas of the ship.
One of the fun aspects of Celebrity is that they still follow the tradition of the high seas and have a fairly dressy dress code. There were three formal nights, during which most men had on tuxedos or dark suits, and most ladies had on long gowns or very nice cocktail dresses. On the informal nights, Celebrity asks the men to wear a jacket and slacks and the ladies to wear nice dresses or pants outfits. Even the casual nights would be considered dressed up for the area that I live in, with the men wearing slacks and a collared shirt,
and the ladies wearing nice pants and blouses or casual dresses. We also enjoyed seeing some of the extended families getting their portrait made on formal night. One little 10 year old boy looked especially adorable in his tuxedo and slicked down hair. The line asked that passengers maintain the dress code for the entire evening through out the ship. The exception to this is the Casual Dining Boulevard. Passengers, who choose not to dress for dinner, could come here and still have a sit down meal and enjoy entertainment.
Celebrity prides itself on having food that is a step up from what one might get on other large cruise lines. We found that the variety and quality of the food lives up to this standard. For breakfast and lunch we discovered that we enjoy the sit down experience of the dinning room better than the buffet. We enjoyed breakfast entrees like eggs benedict or smoked salmon. For lunch, the ship offered a choice of several entrees including one or two exotic ethnic dishes. For a quick bite, the food offered at the buffet provided a satisfying experience. We also looked forward to our dinner experience every evening. We indulged in the variety of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. We found the timing of the service to be just right. As a side note, we were following a low carb diet.
During our cruise. we decide to stick with the maintenance mode of the diet which means lots of vegetables, salads, some low sugar fruits like berries, very little and only whole grain breads, no restrictions on meat or protein food, and little or no white flower, rice, or sugar. We had no trouble sticking to the diet, never felt deprived, and did not gain any weight during the cruise.
During the day, all I had to do is check my daily in order to find something to do. A sample of day time activities included trivia, bridge, pool volleyball, brain teasers, ping pong, password, sports trivia, and classic TV Challenge. The Vibz Caribbean band played poolside for the sail-away parties.
The onboard nighttime entertainment was good and definitely not to be missed. The singers and dancers performed two large production musical reviews and a third smaller one as a farewell show with the Broadway review being my favorite. However, a few of the numbers were obviously lip synched, detracting from an otherwise quality live show. Two cabaret singers performed on different nights. The first was an award winning singer from New York, Jeff Harner, who sang a tribute to his parents album collection. His voice and personality were highly engaging, but I felt I was about 25 years too young to truly appreciate his songs selection. The other cabaret singer was Shauna Hicks, a Broadway and touring musical star. Again, I thought her choice of material was a little odd, some well know songs from the 60s, but also many more obscure songs from the 60s. Again her performance was first rate; it was more the material that didn’t appeal to me. Comedian Elliot Maxx had us all laughing with the standard cruise ship humor. In the Cova Caf, Jason Roberts provided the best entertainment on the ship. He had sort of a Michael Feinstein thing going, playing the piano and singing some of the great old standards, as well as some of the new songs recorded by singers like Josh Groban. I made sure almost every evening that I scheduled time to listen to him play and sing. Some of the other entertainers include classical pianist Jeannette Owens, a Russian Violin Virtuoso, and Ross Lewis singer/guitar player that played mostly during the casual dining. The Fun and Joy Duo played music for ballroom type dancing in the Rendezvous lounge. We enjoyed their music, but this lounge, because of its position near the dining room entrance, was always crowded.
The Celebrity Orchestra played wonderful big band style music in the Pavilion lounge. A few people were there to dance and listen to the music. One night, the cruise offered a Country Western Night in the Disco with the Caribbean band playing the music as Cruise Director David Cole entertained us with his vocal interpretations of popular Country songs. There were usually choices of things to do in the evening and music in different venues so passengers could check their Ã¯Â¿Â½dailyÃ¯Â¿Â½ and plan their evening entertainment accordingly.
A Few Things that Could Have Been Better
We only noted a few issues on the cruise that could have been better. On Thanksgiving, the dining room served their interpretation of the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. The turkey was a little bland and the sweet potatoes undercooked. The wine service in the dining room was very slow. We ordered a bottle of wine every night and several times we were well into the meal before the wine was opened for us. Our wine steward was clearly hustling and working hard, he was just stretched too thin between too many tables. In terms of excursions, I would liked to have seen a simple, inexpensive beach or resort excursion that could have been booked through the cruise lines. Most of the time, we did independent tours because we did not want the complicated tours offered by the ship.
This was one of the best vacation trips we have ever been on. We felt like we achieved our goal of balancing fun and relaxation. We highly recommend the Celebrity Mercury Mexican Riviera cruise if you share a similar goal for your vacation experience.