This was our second cruise on the Celebrity Mercury -- the first time was to the Mexican Riviera in Dec. 2004.
This time, we tried the Pacific Northwest (Astoria, Oregon; Seattle; Vancouver; Victoria), the first run of the season.
To begin with, the ship was late repositioning from Mexico. We would find out a few days into the cruise that they knew the ship would be late; however, we were never notified. So, while we were there to board at 1 p.m., the ship didn't arrive until after 3 p.m. It was scheduled to leave at 5 p.m., but they were still loading on luggage at 7:30 p.m.
While we waited to board, the passengers were housed in different locations depending on cabin type, and since we had a balcony room, we were among those lucky enough to receive sandwiches and water. Others apparently didn't receive food. Unfortunately, one of the people in our location choked to death on his food, and none of the cruise or pier staff were prepared to assist this elderly passenger. My wife assisted with CPR until the paramedics arrived, but her efforts came too late.
So, I guess we should count ourselves lucky -- we were alive when we eventually boarded the ship.
The ship itself has seen better days; it was built in 1992, and it's in its final year as a Celebrity ship. Although it was refurbished a year or so ago, it's still seen better days. Our balcony room was adequate, but small. The redeeming feature of the ship were those that staffed it -- specifically the room attendants and dining room staff.
Now, the stops:
Astoria, Washington is a lovely little town, but it's honestly not much of a cruise stop. For those interested in walking the downtown as we did, you won't discover much. It does have a nice art gallery, and the bakery we stopped in was quite good; otherwise, it's a sleepy town. The people were amazingly friendly, but overall this stop reminded me of Wrangell, Alaska -- and that's not a favorable comparison. There simply didn't seem like much for 2000 cruisers to do here.
Seattle -- Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I imagined it would be a lot like Vancouver, but it wasn't. Granted, I wasn't in the best of moods as I had a case of gout hit me, but the Pier area was quite touristy. Now, maybe it doesn't seem like I can be happy. In Astoria, I said it wasn't touristy, and Seattle certainly had that going for it, but not in a good way. I had looked forward to going to the Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, but found it to be a big disappointment. The Zoo was average, but the highlight of the stop was the Space Needle. If you go there, drop the money to eat in the revolving restaurant. A hamburger will cost you $25, but that's better than spending $16 just for the elevator ride to the top. Take that into account, and the hamburger is really just 9 bucks.
Vancouver -- The Trolley and the Big Bus are both $35 per person. What is the cost of regular mass transit? I hate to think about that. Our first time in Vancouver a few years back, we took the Trolley, and it actually seems like a good value (I think the price has gone up $10 in 3 years). This time, we tried the Big Bus, which was actually about as comfortable as a school bus. I'm not sure why anyone would shell out good money for the Big Bus. Do yourself a favor and do your homework on using the regular bus system. I'm sure that will save you a lot of Canadian loonies. Worth seeing in town are: Chinatown, Granville Island, and the Aquarium.
Victoria -- Lovely town, but this is a stop that most cruiselines cut short; our cruise was no exception, as the ship set sail at 2 p.m. We barely had time to walk the shore and eat lunch; just a beautiful town, especially at the beginning of spring, and I'm sure that we'll go back for a longer non-cruise visit.
Back on the ship, we decided to do very little. Meals at dinner were quite good, I thought, but lunch and breakfast were lacking. Also, people at meals told us the comedians and the dance numbers were like watching train wrecks. That's a typical problem with cruise entertainment, but this cruise's entertainment seemed especially weak.
Disembarking was just as bad as embarking. Customs delayed things by a couple of hours, but Celebrity didn't seem prepared to handle any kind of delay. It seemed as though they expected things to run perfectly, and then when anything snagged perfection, they were at a loss at how to handle it.
One note about getting to the Pier from SFO. A taxi costs about $50 each way; transfers bought from the ship were also about $50 each way (for two people). But, if you're willing to walk about a mile or so, try the BART. The walk from the Embarcadero to the Pier is actually quite nice, and BART tickets from SFO are only $5 per person each way -- so you can save yourself about $80 that way.
Overall, I'm afraid to report that this cruise experience was quite average at best. Any vacation is a good vacation in my book, but this is our eighth cruise, and I'd rate it about 6th overall.
One more mark against Celebrity service: this was our 3rd Celebrity cruise; however, we've never been invited to join the Captain's club, although that is supposed to happen automatically. So, this cruise we asked to join the club. We were told that they don't keep passenger records of past voyages, and that it would be our responsibility to prove that we had cruised with them before. How's that for good customer service?
Will we sail with Celebrity again? Sure, if they're the only cruiseline going where we want to go; I can't say that they'll be at the top of our list otherwise.