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Eastern Caribbean (11 Nights) from Tampa, Florida
Sailing Date: November 18 2003
Ports of Call: Nassau, San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Tortola, Key West
This was our 10th cruise with Celebrity. Our 40th cruise overall.
The m/v Horizon is a cozy, almost intimate ship compared to today's mega-ships. Although she is showing her age in places and scheduled for a major refurbishment in 2004, the ship is overall in very good shape. Here are our impressions:
Check in was a breeze, although we arrived a little earlier than we should have. We arrived via Bay Area Van from our hotel which was located near the Tampa Airport ($8.00 pp) at about 11:45 AM. There were plenty of porters on hand to handle luggage. Doors upstairs had not yet opened and quite a line had formed. However the doors were opened shortly after our arrival and from that point all moved quickly for Captain?s Club Members. We were boarding the ship at 12:15PM. Disembarking seemed to move much better than past experiences. They have changed their disembarkation procedures since our last cruise on this ship in April. Everyone is assigned to a public area to wait; however you do not have to leave you room until 9:00AM, which made for a very relaxed breakfast in the dining room and a no rush trip back to our stateroom to pick up our hand luggage. We were in the second group called for disembarkation and were off the ship and had our luggage and cleared customs by 9:15AM.
We had an ocean view stateroom #4066 on deck 4 (Florida Deck). The room was clean and well kept. The stateroom steward did a fine job. It almost seemed as if he had ESP and knew when we came and went. We never ran out of towels and always had ample ice & water. We were missing one robe upon arrival and our life jackets indicated two different Muster Stations, both of these items were corrected quickly. The staterooms are nice size (about 160 sq ft) and have more than enough storage space for clothes for 12 days. We actually had a couple unused drawers!
The Starlight Restaurant is the main dining room. There is also the Coral Seas Caf? & The Grill. We ate all evening meals, except for our day in San Juan, in the Starlight. The quality and variety of food was excellent. The beef dishes were all superb. The lobster was excellent. Overall, the food was the best we can recall on recent cruises. Desserts and breads to me, were great. We did the Alternative Dining option while in San Juan because we did not want to rush back to the ship for our early dining room seating. We ate most breakfasts & lunches in either the Coral Seas or Grill. Breakfast was very good, especially the omelet bar. Lunch was generally quite nice with cooked to order pastas, the hot dogs & burgers from the Grill were also very good. Cafe service was first class and there were also ample waiters to assist those with carrying trays in the buffet line. My only negative comment is the chairs in the dining room are not very comfortable. The bench seats are more comfortable, but for petite folks, like my wife, you end up a little far from the table, for my 6?3? frame they were perfect.
There were the usual mix of musical revues and guest entertainers. We enjoy musical production shows and the three presented during the trip were excellent. The guest entertainers were all quite good.. They also had the usual audience participation shows (newlywed game, karaoke, etc). The main show lounge had good sight lines from both lower & upper levels and the seats were comfortable. Seats tended to fill up early for the Main Seating (Early) folks. Shows for Late Seating folks were less crowded.
The Cruise Director, Chris Moody, and his staff worked really hard and were very friendly & pleasant. The party band (Exodus) was very good. Their music was very good, and they could play anything from country to rock to Caribbean. We enjoyed the Class Action Duo in the Rendezvous Lounge. About mid-way through the cruise we discovered that they too are from Las Vegas and live about 2 miles from our home. We also enjoyed the Polonaise Duo who appeared late nights in the America?s Cup Club. The casino was not as big as on other ships, but it never appeared too crowded. As Las Vegas residents this area had little appeal for us.
The Americas Cup lounge offers a great view and was also never crowded. We enjoyed a nice, quiet card game up there one afternoon. The Cova Cafe & Rendezvous Lounge were the main gathering places. The Cova Caf? is very comfortable and they serve the themed coffee (Irish, Italian, Aspen, etc.) that used to be served in the dining rooms aboard Celebrity ships. Bar service was very good. The Zodiac Dance club was also small, and this is where the DJ did his thing. Did not spend any time there.
The pool area was nice. The ?Bubble Pool? seemed to get a lot of use. The exercise room was more than adequate for the amount of use it got. Even though there were only a handful of stations for internet access, they did not seem to be overused. This probably had something to do with the .50 per minute charge. We used an Internet Caf? in St. Martin to catch up on our emails and communicate for the family back home. The gift shops were well stocked and stayed open generally past 11 pm. The photographers were around the ship but never intrusive. Announcements over the ships intercom were kept at a minimum, and you can turn them on or off in your stateroom.
We dined with Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis on the last of three formal nights. At 37 years old he is the youngest Captain in the Celebrity fleet. He has been with Celebrity for 16 years and a Captain for 3 years. He is a very entertaining dining companion.
We were also among the 35 or so passengers invited to a private ?High Tea? on one of our sea days. As great fans of tea, scones and clotted cream we had a fine time.
Celebrity is now using a different, alternative way to handle tips. You may charge all tips to your on-board account and specify the daily amount for each person. This is an ?opt-in? system not automatic as on some ships like Princess. You have until quite late in the cruise to make this decision. We used it and were very pleased with it. Vouchers were delivered to our Stateroom the last sea day for distribution to the staff the final evening. We like this change very much.
Ports of Call
Since we have visited all of these ports of call many times we did not take any excursions, simply went to our favorite spots and shops and enjoyed ourselves on our own. St. Martin shops were open even though we were there on a Sunday, as were the shops in Key West on Thanksgiving Day.
We feel that the Horizon was an excellent cruise experience and we give it a 9.6 on a scale of 10.