An open letter to Celebrity Cruise Lines:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing today in regards to my recent cruise experience aboard the MV Horizon. My family and I sailed the Horizon out of Tampa, Florida on March 23, 2003 on Horizon's Western Caribbean itinerary. While I realize that when people are generally unsatisfied, they feel the need to communicate their displeasure, complain and warn others of potential poor situations. In my letter today, however, that is not the case. My cruise experience can be summed up in two words:

Thank You.

Thank you, Celebrity for making my very first cruise experience a memorable one. Never could I have expected the top-notch treatment we received aboard the Horizon. I have never met a more professional group of people that were so completely customer oriented. My expectations were consistently exceeded at every turn.

Before this vacation, my family and I considered the possibility that this would be the only cruise vacation we would ever have the pleasure to experience. Like so many people, cruising to us seemed too costly and too prohibitive. Fears of having nothing to do while on board, of being herded around like cattle on an over-crowded ship and being left at the mercy of over-worked, short tempered crew members were totally unfounded. At no time during my week aboard the Horizon did I ever experience anything less than total customer service. From the desk clerks to the window washers, everyone always had a smile on their face and was willing to do whatever it took to make the passengers happy.

During the disembarkation speech, our cruise director, John Howell, made a comment that struck me as odd. While describing the survey form he requested that we all fill out, he mentioned that on the Horizon, a grade of 'good' is not good enough. They strive for excellence in everything they do. He encouraged us to be honest when filling out our survey and promised to address any facet that did not consistently grade out at 'excellent'. That struck me as being somewhat unrealistic until I looked back at the previous week aboard the ship. I realized then, that I was hard-pressed to think of any time I spent on the Horizon that was not, indeed, excellent. Long lines at the buffet counter were handled graciously and there was always a staff member nearby to clear any bottlenecks and get things moving again. Deck crew consistently cleared unused beach towels and empty food trays to make sure ample space was available to everyone around the pool. While never being obtrusive, you never had to look far to find a staff member to answer a question or give you some great advice. My only complaint is that I didn't get to meet everyone!

After only a day or so, certain staff members would bond with certain passengers. Learning passengers' names and preferences of food, drinks or entertainment made sure that everyone aboard received truly personalized treatment. It was like having a friend on board who had sailed the ship before and could point out all the best things and help you avoid things you may not enjoy as much. I cannot say enough good things about the staff and crew of the Horizon. Color me impressed.

I cannot close this letter without giving special kudos to the Horizon's youth counselors. We traveled with my nine-year-old daughter and were concerned that there might be a problem keeping her entertained. Once again - my fears went unfounded. After only one night of participating in the youth activities, my daughter's counselors knew her by name and made sure she was always included in any activity she wished to partake in. We were informed that aboard our particular cruise (during Spring Break) that there were 300 children and of those 140 were teens. I took note of this throughout the week and can honestly say - I would have never guessed.

On our last night, upon retrieving our daughter from the playroom, she went around and hugged all her counselors and told them that she would see them next year! She so enjoyed her time aboard the Horizon and because of this; my wife and I did as well. Thank you Celebrity!

As I mentioned above, we had never seen cruising as a future possibility. Upon returning home, however, we have begun plans to repeat this experience as often as possible! I read somewhere that after your first cruise, you become addicted. It's true.

Thank you again, Celebrity and a special thanks to the entire staff and crew of the MV Horizon for making our first experience the best!


Charles R. Hawley

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