Celebrity Century Cruise Review by HBJOHNST
- Sail Date: July 2003
- Destination: Western Caribbean
Boarding: Ten of us flew into Miami because the fares were better. We rented two cars ($56ea) as the cheapest way to get to Lauderdale. The Super Shuttle (Lincoln Town cars) is up to $23pp now. And we would have required three regular cabs at about $70 each. The rental cars worked pretty well. Two of us went and got them and picked the rest of the group up at the airport. The rental drop-offs in Lauderdale are between the airport and the piers, and they were willing to take our two drivers back to the pier in their shuttle bus.
We arrived at the pier at what should have been a peak time (around noon). But surprisingly, especially with a full ship, there were no lines at the check-in desks. We were on board in minutes. One of the best boarding experiences I've had. As we entered the ship, they offered us free glasses of champagne. That's so much better than on some other lines, where they offer you a "welcome aboard" drink, and then present you with a bill. They didn't offer to escort us to our cabins, as I believe Celebrity has done in the past. But there were stewards standing there; my impression is that they'll still do it on request.
The Ship Overall: I love the dEcor. It's clean and nautical, with lots of wood and navy. Nothing gaudy. It's a mid-sized ship at about 70,000 tons, smaller than most ships being built today. That's fine with me; the smaller the better. The rumor among the crew is that the ship is slated to be stretched. If so, I'm sure they'll add some of the latest features, like balcony cabins and an upscale alternative restaurant. But to me, that's going in the wrong direction. The ship is fairly simply laid out, with most of the inside public areas on two decks. The atrium is smaller and less "grand" than many other ships, but it's beautiful and functional with nice shops and lounges. There aren't many balcony rooms, but that's also fine with me; if I'm not going to have one I don't want to have to look at everyone else's. The only significant drawback to me is the lack of a full-circuit promenade deck. There's a nice teak deck down the sides, with lounge chairs for reading/relaxing. And you can walk around the back by going up and down a flight of stairs. But the front is closed off completely. There's a small jogging/walking track up top, but it's not nearly as nice.
Cabins: We had standard cabins, some inside and some outside, on deck 8. They were decent size, by cruise ship standards, at about 175 square feet. There's no couch, but there are two comfortable chairs. The bed works well as either king-size or twins. The bath is larger than in standard cabins on most ships, with a full-sized shower. Storage is better than average. For once, we actually had storage space left over. Our room steward was excellent, taking good care of the room and all our small special requests without disturbing us. If you like balcony cabins, there's a trick you can work on this ship. We did it when we cruised on it before. There are just nine "regular" balcony cabins on the ship, all aft-facing and very nice. But there are actually more suites with balconies. If you book a balcony guarantee, your chances of upgrading to a suite are very good.
Food & Dining: The main dining room on the Century is one of the grandest on the sea. We had two large tables in a corner upstairs. They weren't the best tables in the room, but they were fine for our group. Our waiter was eastern European, as were many of the wait staff. He was superb, probably the best we've ever had, and that's saying a lot. The food was excellent. We were split on whether it was better than on the Zuiderdam. My wife thought it was, but she likes more sophisticated dishes, versus my more basic tastes. I slightly preferred the Zuiderdam food. Both were great, probably the two best we've experienced. But there were always several things on the Zuiderdam menu I liked; sometimes just one on the Century. Also in favor of the Zuiderdam.... complementary cappuccino after dinner. On the Century it's "from the bar" (costs extra). The lido dining room was as good as any I've seen. (I try to avoid all those places as much as possible.) The food and variety were fine, including good pizza and ice cream available all afternoon. There's also a grill by the pool with good hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, fries, etc. The drink station all the way aft in the lido dining room stays open 24 hours with coffee tea, lemonade, and fruit punch. There's a by-reservation casual dinner restaurant above the lido restaurant. We didn't try it because of our large group. I don't think there's any extra charge, maybe a tip. Room service was prompt and good. We ordered coffee every day (including the last morning), and full breakfasts some days.
Entertainment: Generally, I'd say entertainment isn't Celebrity's strength. But the pool band, XtaSea, was terrific. Naturally, their specially was Caribbean music, but they could play absolutely everything. They played in the observation lounge a couple of nights and in the small show bar at least one night. They were a hit in every performance. Lack of any real pool band was one of my few complaints about the Zuiderdam. Score this item for Century. The song & dance troupe in the main show lounge was pretty good; I've seen better and worse. I thought the Zuiderdam had better talent, energy, and staging. But at least the Century used a real band for accompaniment. The band music and chorus voices were taped on the Zuiderdam. The comedian was funny and the other acts were about average. There was a pretty good duo in the mid-ship lounge. It came to be our place to gather and have a drink before dinner. Our bar waitress in the dining room worked that lounge between dinner seatings, and she became our regular waitress there too. My vote for best entertainment overall.... NCL.
Pool Deck: It's just one large pool area with two pools. One has a game net set up most or all the time. The cruise staff challenges any and all comers to pool volleyball, and has reportedly never been beaten. They do the usual stupid games and contests around the pool on sea days, but less obnoxiously than most lines. By comparison, it's even lower-key on HAL, and you can escape it altogether by going to the other pool area. As usual, it was pretty crowded around the pool on sea days, with the usual annoying saving of chairs going on. But we were always able to find a few chairs that our group rotated in and out of. It was really fine. As a summer cruise, there were lots of kids on board. The pool probably isn't quite as crowded in other seasons. The pool chairs were in some need of repair, but they have nice pads like I've only seen only Celebrity and HAL. There are four hot tubs, crowded at times but not too bad in the late afternoon when we enjoyed them. We came to enjoy the observation sundeck all the way forward. It was quiet up there, and always breezy (sometimes very breezy).
Gym and Spa: About average, which is pretty good, of course. Rumor is that this area will be completely reconstructed in the "stretch". There's a daily charge to use the spa pool. We used it last time we were on the Century. It was nice but not worth paying for.
Casino: The casino seemed even busier than on most ships. I'm not a gambler, but I do observe. I've noticed that on some ships there are three green 0's in roulette, increasing the house odds on most bets by 50% from the standard two. But on the Century, it's just two. And they use the standard Las Vegas rules in Blackjack. On some ships, the dealer can "stand" at one point lower than Vegas rules, improving his odds.
The Ports: My mother doesn't walk well, and uses a wheelchair to get around most of the time. Dunn's River Falls is pretty much a "must" in Ocho Rios. It's much less of a mob scene to start the falls at the bottom, arriving by water. We booked the combination Dunn's River Falls and Dolphin Experience excursion through the ship ($49pp). It arrives at the falls by boat and leaves by bus. Most of the group climbed the falls, and I helped my mother and aunt climb the steps, one section at a time. That worked OK; they could climb the steps about as fast as the group climbed the falls, so they got to watch. Everybody had a great time. The Dolphin experience was OK, we didn't actually swim with them (big extra cost). But we watched and relaxed on the little beach there. In Grand Cayman, we booked a Sting Ray City excursion with Captain Marvin through the internet ($40pp). They took just our group of 15 on a small boat that made two coral snorkeling stops, plus the sting ray sand bar. There were many bigger boats there, but our guide anchored us a little bit away from there. He has adopted one of the rays and named it (Emily). He feeds her every time and she comes to him. He also knew where to find a moray eel at one of the coral spots, and lured it out from its hiding place for us with some bait. He showed us the scars on his thumb where that eel had bitten him once before. One note about Captain Marvin's. When you arrive on the tender pier, you have to walk (or get a cab) about three blocks to the left. Their office is on the right. It took us a little while to figure this out. From there, they take you by shuttle bus to the marina. In Cozumel, we rented three jeeps for our gang (about $72 each), and took off on our own. We were going to stop at Chankanaab Park, but the $10pp admission made us reconsider. We went a few more miles down the road to Palancar Beach. It was smaller, quieter, and really nicer than Chankanaab. There's no admission fee, the beach is nice, and the food and drinks are good and reasonable. While we were there, we saw a huge waterspout just a mile or so away. When we left Palancar, we drove on around to the Caribbean side of the island, It's really beautiful and virtually deserted over there. In Key West, most of us took the trolley tour ($18pp, I think) and spent a lot of time at the Hemingway house ($6pp). It was interesting, especially to see the study out back where he wrote most of his works.
Disembarkation: Not too bad. Our steward was gracious about letting us leave things in the room past the official deadline while we went to breakfast. (Of course, we'd given him a nice tip by then.) Because of mother's wheel chair, they let us all depart fairly early. Otherwise, it was the usual process of waiting in a crowded public area for your color to be called. So far, nobody's beat NCL on disembarkation. They just let you relax in your cabin till they call you to disembark. This time, we asked the porter on the pier to help us find a van back to Miami. They were all pre-booked, but we found one that just had a quick trip to the Lauderdale airport. He promised to come back for us, and did in about 30 minutes. At $15pp, it was a little more than renting cars, but more convenient. We feared the worst in the way of crowds at the airport. But it wasn't bad, not nearly as bad as the Lauderdale airport on our last cruise. There, the line to get through security was almost two hours.
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