Posts Tagged ‘celebrity mercury’

Choosing a Cruise Ship Cabin: Mushroom pit or Porthole? Which is best?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Celebrity Mercury in Christchurch by Sheree Zielke


Ocean view?  Porthole?  Verandah?  Penthouse suite?  Desolate mushroom pit?  Which is best for you?  Well, that depends.  Read on.


If you book your cruise early enough, you should be able to tell your travel rep where you’d like to live on your ship.  Choosing a cabin suited to your personality and biological needs is the first step in ensuring a memorable and happy cruise. 

  Let’s start with these three terms first: Amidships, fore, and aft.  Mercury ship side by Sheree Zielke





Amidships has its positive aspects especially for those prone to seasickness.  Consider this the middle of the seesaw while the fore (front) and aft (back) are the ends of the teeter totter yielding the most noise and hardest wave action.  The fore can be extremely noisy in rough sea as the hull is beaten by waves, but the aft, in calm waters, can provide a more private place to sun and rest.Rough seas by Sheree Zielke


A ship like the Celebrity Mercury houses its Shipmates Fun Factory at the rear of the ship on the Vista Deck, Deck 9.  Most people view a cabin near this area to be a negative placement, but quite the opposite is true.  You rarely hear the kids, and when you do, it’s usually a happy noise.  And you are only steps away from a quiet back area.  It’s an especially nice bonus for those not able to secure a private verandah or balcony.


A balcony is a must for very warm cruises, like through the Mediterranean, but definitely not in colder climes like Alaska and Australia.  A balcony is also a waste on a transatlantic crossing since all you’ll see is water, and more water.



If you can’t get a balcony, an unimpeded deluxe ocean view cabin is wonderful.  While you can’t step outside, you do get natural light, and you will always be able to see out in spite of salt-grimed glass.


An inside cabin (for me) is to be avoided at all costs especially by those suffering from even minor forms of claustrophobia or SAD (seasonal affective disorder).  An inside cabin is akin to a tomb or a coffin.  It is always dark, and upon awaking there is no way to tell the time of day.  But if you can stand living like a mushroom, then book an inside room (you will save a whack of money.)


Then there is deck height.  The higher the deck, the more you will feel the wave action.  But those passengers housed in lower decks will SEE the wave action, right outside their window.


Keep in mind, when booking your cabin, the side (port is left, starboard is right) of the ship it’s located?  Ask your travel agent the direction you’ll be cruising when alongside land; you’ll want to book your cabin on the side closest to the land, obviously.


For help in making a more informed decision about your particular ship, try CruiseMates or this USA Today article.  Other really good research sites are CruiseCritic and SecretCruises.


Above all, if you are picky, book early so you can secure a room to your liking.  Check if your travel agent or the cruise line is offering any deals; in many cases, upgrades may be available.  An upgrade could mean the difference between an unobstructed and an obstructed ocean view room.  You will appreciate the difference when you find your “ocean” view filled with a life boat or a window-cleaning platform.Mercury Side View by Sheree Zielke


Oh, and a room with a porthole?  Imagine having a view on the world about the size of your toilet bowl.  If you can stand this peephole outlook, you’ll have money left over for those other expensive ship extras like shore excursions, and soda pop (an endless pop on a 10-day cruise for two people is 100-bucks). 



Sheree Zielke

Day at Sea: Day of Boredom or Day of Fun! It’s Your Choice!

Monday, January 28th, 2008

A “day at sea” sounds like a splendid idea, doesn’t it?  But after you’ve gazed out at unending waves, for hours on end, with not a hint of land in sight, you will soon begin looking for something to do to ease the boredom.  A cruise ship activities staff has just the answer. Whether you are super physical, or you like attentive pampering, or you are a trivia junkie, you WILL find something to do.

Here’s a sample list of activities recently offered by our ship the Celebrity Mercury on a January sailing around New Zealand and Australia.  The list is typical of most cruise ships depending upon the size of the ship.

Participatory Events/Organized Games:

  • Salsa or ballroom dance lessons
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Trivia games (Beatles, TV, men vs. women, musical oldies)
  • Shuffleboard tournament
  • Boxed games – Tribond, Scattergories, Pictionary
  • Bingo (this can be a costly affair as cards cost $20 each)
  • Bridge tournaments
  • Golf putting challenge
  • Pool games
  • Table tennis competitions
  • Basketball free throw
  • Cooking demonstrations
  • Flower arranging demonstrations
  • Wine-tasting with a sommelier (you’ll even be given your own aluminum tasting cup)
  • Art auction (TACKY!!!! We know this is part of every cruise, but we would walk miles to get around this uniquely horrible offering.)
  • Prizes are usually lame like pens, sun visors, notebooks, but sometimes you can win bingo cards, or even a stay in the ship’s penthouse suite.

Passive Activities – Drop-in:

  • Casino slot play/card tournaments
  • Deck walking
  • Spa treatments
  • Pilates and yoga classes
  • Arts and crafts – making picture frames enhanced with seashells or paper bead necklaces
  • Reading
  • Internet
  • Edutainment (educational) presentations (port history, port hi-lights, digital cameras, wine)
  • Golf technique improvement clinic
  • Movies
  • Stage shows
  • Musical presentations

Non-physically demanding Activities:

  • Sunbathing
  • Eating
  • Shopping (most ships have a variety of jewelery, clothing, perfume and souvenir boutiques and “sidewalk” sales)
  • Sleeping
  • Watching TV
  • Journaling
  • And…Catholic mass

And then there are the Junior Cruisers:

Many parents and other caregivers bring children on cruises.  And most ships are ready and able to help with children as young as 3 years of age.  The Celebrity Mercury calls those little ones aged 3-9, Ship Mates; those aged 10-17 are called Ensigns.  Activities might include the following:

  • A huge variety of crafts including mask-making
  • Design your own race car
  • Physical participation games (like camp games)
  • Movies
  • Sleepover nights & pajama parties
  • And for the ensigns…a learn-how-to-gamble class.  (I’m not kidding…they’ll teach your teen to play Texas Hold ‘em and Blackjack.)

For a more in-depth overview of cruising with children, see my article on “Cruising with Children.”

There’s just no excuse for being bored, on board!

Regardless of what activity you choose to alleviate boredom during your cruise ship “day at sea,” rest assured that the cruise activities staff will do its darndest to get you involved.  Your participation or lack thereof, is entirely up to you. 

But trust a seasoned cruiser when I say this: Move, don’t just lay around, because the steady stream of delicious food served up on most ships will make an impression upon you, and your bathroom scale, when you get back home. 

See my other blog entry on losing weight gained on a cruise.

Sheree Zielke