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Trip Report Celebrity Mercury to Alaska

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This my first review posted here. This review does not cover ports as you can always find information elsewhere. I jusrt want to talk about our on board experience.

Celebrity Mercury Alaska inside Passage Review

The main reason for selecting this cruise is the destination: Sitka and Hubbard Glacier. We have also heard from many friends that Celebrity has a reputation of better food than most mass market lines. Since we have not been on a Celebrity ship for a few years, it's time to revisit and see for ourselves.

The weather was crappy for the 7 days but it is not the ship’s fault. We ended up having a bit more time on the ship. We were prepared and brought our own rain ponchos which came in handy many times at the shore excursions. Our dinner table mates did not make it ashore in Sitka as the tender service was cancelled due to high waves. We were on the earlier groups and made it ashore. We got lucky.

Since the review is about the ship and the service, I am skipping the ports. All I can say is that the shore excursions are great, views are breath taking despite of the weather and we’ll do it over again and again as we have been to Alaska multiple times.

Embarkation process is good. Once we set foot on the ship, we were greeted by a row of “welcoming tables” along the main deck to “welcome” us and try to sell us soft drink packages, wine packages, spa packages etc.

Once we entered into the ship, we were offered complimentary champagne, as well as a staff escort to our cabin. It is a very nice touch.

We knew the ship is “older” in today’s standard and is due for a dry dock next year. So we have made allowances for it. The ship actually looks quite good and did not show its age. The ship is well maintained and very clean. The grand lobby is not as “grand” as the newer ships but is still nice just the same. The public areas did not feel crowded but the entertainment venue is lacking.

First impression of the cabin was good. We liked the lay out of the cabin, the closet space and the generous sized bathroom. The safe and the shelf space behind the dressing table mirror works well. The closet doors did not work as well. When the closet door is opened; it blocked the entrance to the bathroom or the exit from the cabin. Fresh ice and water is in the room daily. We have read previous reviews that there is only one power plug in. We brought a small power bar so it is not an issue.

Our initial impression of the cabin quickly turned sour when we discovered that the toilet had not been flushed from whoever had used it last. The tissues, among other “stuff” are visible in the bowl, not a pleasant sight to say the least. We also noticed holes and stains on the towels and bed linens. Bath robes were available in the closet but there is noticeably collar stains. This encounter would be repeated throughout the whole cruise: dated and dirty towel. I hope the brown stains on the towels are from suntan lotions.

We have requested fresh towels and robes but the fresh one that were delivered were also stained. After the second day, we just gave up. If we see stains, we tossed it on the floor and did not use it. We also discovered that the bed spread (bed cover) was put under the bed nightly from the turn down service. Not exactly the place where I would put it. The cabin steward and the assistant are friendly enough; all smiles all the time. But they just didn’t “get it”. When you were shown dirty towels a few times, I thought they would at least check the towel before delivery.

The toilet totally lost vacuum on day 3. It was serviced promptly but we still need to hit the button a couple times to empty the content. That probably explains the “left over” on day 1. Still, the cabin steward should have noticed.

The shore excursion desk staffs are excellent. They are the best I have seen. They are knowledgeable, helpful and go above and beyond. Here is an example: we have decided to change a shore excursion last minute (the morning of the excursion). They handled it well and gave detailed instruction on how to get to the “new” excursion, who to talk to and what are the processes. They radio ahead to make sure there are space availability. Very impressive indeed!

The card room has been converted to a computer class room. People reading the map looking for the card room keep showing up at the wrong place. The card room has been relocated to a different deck and occupy part of a seldom used lounge. You have to look for it to find it.

Due to the H1N1 scare, hand sanitizing is everywhere. Besides the self serve stations, they have staff strategically positioned with dispensers to make sure no one is missed.

The dining room is impressive with 2 levels. Everyone was told to enter the dining room though deck 6 (main entrance) even if your table is on the lower floor. I guess the idea is to enter the dining room through the main entrance, walk down the main staircase to your table if your table is on the lower floor.

That wasn’t quite the way it happened on the first night. A large group of people gathered around the main entrance. The Dining Room Manager frantically tried to get everyone organized and get the guests to the tables. You can hear the service staff yelling out instructions to the crowd gathered that guests with tables number starting with a 5 to proceed to the lower deck and use the lower level side entrances rather than the main entrance.

We made our way to the deck 5 entrance and lined up. After we made it to the front of the line, we found out that we have an even number table and it is on the other side (port side rather than the starboard side). So we made it to the other side and lined up again to get to our table. All this could have been avoided if there were better planning and instructions.

The service staffs are prompt and friendly. We were told that they are debuting a new menu and this is the first voyage for it. They have even warned us that the breakfast service the next day will be very slow. It is very good that they told us that the breakfast will be very slow. It took us over an hour and a half to get coffee, juice and some eggs. I asked for grapefruit juice but was delivered a half grapefruit instead. That would be the last time we had breakfast in the dining room.

The dinner menu was very traditional and not exotic, which was a surprised. You can see cut back everywhere. For the lobster night, what showed up on the plate was half a lobster tail, 2 tiger prawns and a sea scallop. The total portion is okay but to receive only half a lobster tail on lobster night was disappointing. It had gone from 2 tails to 1 tail and now half a tail. Since the price of cruising did not gone up, something has got to give. By the way, do not order the lamb shank ever. Quite a few people had sent it back. It was supposed to be slow cooked in low heat and very tender. It was cooked for a very long time but unfortunately, it did not appear to be cooked on low heat.

Overall, the dining room food was okay but disappointing. Maybe my expectation was heighten by all the accolades that I have heard.

The buffet food is acceptable and I can see efforts to please the crowd. There were 2 large Asian tour groups and they offered Asian breakfast and Asian specialty food. I don’t know if it is standard fare or it is something that they do for the tour group. It doesn’t matter as it added variety. The omelette station was great but the line up at the pizza and pasta station is way too long. Cooking pasta to the specification takes time and there is long line up all the time. Since the pizzas were served from there as well, a lot of people endured the line up for the pasta to get to the pizza. I thought the buffet food was better.

Give celebrity credit, I did not see any recycled food in the buffet from the dining room which is a common practice on the other cruise lines. Typically you will see yesterday’s dinner showing up as lunch the next day, but not here. Kudos to Celebrity for this.

I understand the need to sell alcohol to make money, but they may have pushed it too far. Staffs were walking around offering Baileys for the morning coffee. Champagne and orange juice for breakfast is one thing, but Baileys?

Best food was the “brunch day” in the dining room while scenic cruising Hubbard glacier. The display was great; food was good and selection plenty. Probably the best meal for the entire cruise and is a notch better than most cruise lines. Maybe that’s where the Celebrity’s reputation of better food came from. They featured whole smoke salmon and whole pig carved at carving stations, chocolate fountains etc. Too bad the ice cream was all melted.

The entertainment line up is good at the main theatre but very weak everywhere else. It is the same people playing the same music over and over again. The variety shows at the main theatre featured very good dancers and offer a good variety of music. The magic show is subpar.

All in all, we were disappointed with the cabin steward and the food in the dining room. Despite all that, we had a good time. Nothing can ruin our trip. The destination is good. The fellow dinner table guests are great. We have made new friends.

The main gauge of success is that will we book on Celebrity again? The answer is yes, but probably only on their newer ships.

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