Celebrity Mercury (Now Mein Schiff 2), Alaska

May 1998

Please Note: This is my first review, of my first ever cruise.  I had nothing to compare my experience with.  If I took the same cruise today I may well have different opinions…but hey, it’s a record of what I  though and felt at the time. 

Introduction

This was my first Cruise, although I have travelled extensively by other methods, I cannot draw nautical comparisons.

The  was essentially a 14 night re-positioning cruise from LA, via San Francisco and Victoria to Alaska.

Sisters, Mercury & Galaxy in Skagway, May 1998.

Sisters, Mercury & Galaxy in Skagway, May 1998.

Mercury was then about six months old (built late 1997) and this Cruise was her first to Alaska. If you have never seen a modern Cruise ship in the flesh, their scale is breathtaking – they are the biggest moving man-made objects. Mercury looked enormous.

Boarding took about an hour or so, which was very efficient considering that there were 1,900 passengers which had to be processed plus 4,000 items of luggage. We had a lovely cabin with double bed and picture window, which was great, considering that we had only paid for an inside cabin (Thanks Celebrity).

I guess I am a traditionalist in terms of ships decor and Celebrity are contemporary in style.  The ships decor was very garish/glitzy in places, from my British perspective, though I guess this is America’s version of  high class.

The passenger corridors just went on forever as you would expect. The Grand Foyer and staircase was pleasant and functional, but had more in common with a Shopping Mall than the ‘Grand Staircase’ of a real ‘Ocean Liner’, for example. The Casino was a little tacky for my liking, but the Celebrity Theatre with its 1000 seats was impressive Although being at the bows of the ship, it was subject to the rock and roll of the sea.

Various items of modern art decorated the ship which was a very nice touch, if you like modern art. The ‘Promenade Deck’ was one of my favourite areas this looked rather traditional, with a wooden deck which encircled most (but not all) of the ship.

The Mercury was a clean, functional and spacious ship. It never ever seemed like you were sharing her with 1,900 other passengers. Queues of more than a couple of people were rare. This was in part due to the fantastic organisation by the crew, of all the events and excursions etc. The staff, almost a 1,000 in number, were generally excellent. The entertainment was good and succeeded in providing something for everyone. We particularly liked the enrichment Lecturer, Tom Logsdon, who really was a rocket-scientist who had worked for NASA..

The food is an important part of any cruise, but is very subjective. Everybody agreed that it was at least ‘good’. The Chef’s  of course had an almost impossible task, of providing 2000+ high class meals for both evening sittings, using assembly-line techniques. However in general they achieved it. By my own admission, I sometimes enjoy plain cooking and began to dream of a simple Hamburger and Fries, although, these could be obtained during the lunch buffet. I got a little fed up with the aesthetic looking French dishes with rich sauces, which were served every evening. I plumbed for the breakfast buffet which was very good too and flexible. Surprisingly, they never had mushrooms or tomatoes for breakfast, a small point I suppose.

There was a strange vibrations from the propellers (I guess) which could occasionally be felt in the aft main restaurant, quite badly. Once again the motion of the ship could sometimes be felt quite strongly when dining . (That’s why all the old Ocean liners located their Restaurants in the middle of the ship.) Room service was prompt but only limited items were available for our cabin grade.

Every thing on board ship is designed to relive you of your hard earned cash, apart from the food which is included. Beware; you can spend a fortune on on-board shopping, drinking, smoking, gambling, photographs and excursions. The ‘cash’ free system makes it very easy to loose count of your expenditure. However, I understand that this is the case with all Cruise lines. After all, they are a business – they would hardly give it all away, would they? Fortunately, for us Brits, the tips for the staff were included in the price of our holiday. This is not normally the case with other cruise lines (or Celebrity now).

Glacier Bay was very impressive and it was amazing just how close our big ship could get to the bluish ice walls. The ports of call in Alaska, Skagway, Ketchikan and Jeneau were all surprisingly touristy, featuring gift shop after gift shop Every day, during the season, six or more Cruise ships would descend upon the ports, making them very busy indeed.

The excursions available were numerous, of good quality, but were expensive. The best things about the Cruise for me, was the excellent staff and the fantastic ‘Inside Passage’ scenery. The weather was very warm for May, and it never rained once. I would certainly recommend ‘Celebrity Cruises’ and ‘Mercury’ as long as you don’t expect a cruise on a 1930’s style ocean palace. Times have changed, this is modern-day Cruising.

Malcolm Oliver

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