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Well, I've pored over the messages from the fine folks using the Cruise Critics message board for my first two cruises now, so I thought it was time to attempt a review - the Celebrity Century E. Caribbean sailing of December 11, 2004. My other cruise was back on a 7 day (lengthened to 9 days thanks to Hurricane Jeanne) W. Caribbean jaunt aboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas in September 2004. This bit of foreshadowing may alert faithful Celebrity fans that the Century will be up against a formidable comparator - read on until the end to get my opinion on which is the winner.
Pre-cruise: My wife and I (aged late 30's/early 40's) Hotwired a room in Ft.Lauderdale at the Doubletree for a reasonable rate. Nice enough place, well situated across the street from the beach. Walked (about a mile or so) back to the drawbridge leading back to the Port (and airport) to do our usual pre-cruise snack and provision buying at Walgreen's (right on the corner when you turn into the port drive). Then about 12:00, we cabbed it to the port... A large Princess ship (Caribbean?) was in dock, as were the NCL Zuiderdam and the RCCL Enchantment of the Seas. There was also a very large private yacht - our driver said it was one of Bill Gate's Microsoft partners - Paul Allen. A gorgeous monster, I tell you...
Embarkation: Our driver dropped us off at the Celebrity gate and we were treated to one of the most efficient and amazing embarkation routines imaginable. Sure, we were early and there weren't the throngs of people that marched into the RCCL terminal in Miami, but Celebrity scores a perfect 10 in their set up. There may have been about 100 people there, but as soon as you enter the large terminal, there must have been 15 staffed kiosks there - no waiting at all. After a two minute wait to check in our passports (we are Canucks), we were off to the ship. A process taking, in total, maybe 5 minutes!
Cabin: The 'customary' glass of champagne greeted us as we entered the ship proper, then we headed down to our room. After our first cruise, where we splurged for an aft balcony on the 9th level of the Navigator, we downshifted to an interior cabin - this time just back of Guest Relations desk on the 5th level. And we have no complaints! The cabin size on the Century was more than adequate and our attendant, Marcelino, had already cleaned it up and had it ready for us to drop off our carry-on bags. We inquired, then cleared the mini-fridge of the pricey contents so we could put in our water and Pepsi (from Walgreen's). Great amounts of storage in the room, a nicely sized shower, and the pitch black that you might see if swallowed by a whale when the lights were shut out. Celebrity, though, must sometimes read these boards - I have long seen recommendations to cruisers suggesting that they pack along a nightlight for interior cabins. The Century already has done this, using the non-used European voltage outlet for a glowing green nightlight. Despite the fact that we soon unplugged it (as the glow lit up our room like the Northern Lights) - good thinking! Our cabin steward, Marcelino, was friendly and unobtrusive – the one person who we thought to increase (double) the standard tip. No towel animals, though L. .Again, despite the supposed better service, RCCI had two different stewards working throughout the day…
Ship: After we gave our room the once over, we did our rounds of the nearly deserted ship. While 10 years old, the Century is in very good shape. All of the interior public rooms were kept in tip-top condition and the decks and pool area appeared equally well tended. We played a little ping pong while in port - located aft, even the wind in port made it difficult - while we never wandered by the tables again, playing while enroute must be impossible with the table's location. Went up to pool-side and had hamburgers, hotdogs, and pizza from the poolside grill. I must say that the burgers are great at this grill - I'm a burger fiend and made an effort to have one every day on the ship. My wife, in contrast, has a little more class - and generally went for her food from the pasta station (same poolside location) or actually in the IslandBuffet - which had more 'exotic' fare more to her liking. More about food later...
While the shops are closed while in port, I'll cover them here. The central atrium features
several shops, including a liquor outlet; jewelry boutique; 'general store' - with souvenirs,
snacks, t-shirts and the like; a more formal clothing and accessories store; a watch kiosk; and various sidewalk sales - usually of jewelry. Over the week, we bought items from all but the liquor store - friendly, knowledgeable salespeople throughout. Justin, a fellow Albertan, presides over the watch store - we each found a good deal on watches.
The casino is what it is. Although we pumped a few dollars into one of those mesmerizing
'quarter-push' machines, we generally 'refuse to lose' and stay clear of this sometimes smoky environment. Speaking of the evil weed, smokers weren't too much a bother on this cruise. There is a bit of a gauntlet of smokers you have to run through on level 7 of the Atrium (they have tables for two all around the stairs) but aside from that (and the casino, of course), smoking on the Century was not a big issue.
The theatre was roomy - and, in comparison to the undersized cup holders on the Navigator, having the lighted glass cocktail tables throughout the rows were great. The variety of lounges and pubs, ship-wide, was also nice. Despite previous raves about Michael's Club, we found it to smell like an old ashtray. As it is now a smoke-free piano bar (with a normally full house for the talented pianist/singer), they need to do a full blown fumigation of that venue. All the soft leather in the world isn't enough enticement when you walk out of there smelling like a cigarette butt...
Restaurants: As mentioned previously, the poolside grills are great. Longest lineup was, maybe, 4 or 5 people. The buffet, the Island Cafe, does not compare favorably with RCCL's Windjammer. There were sometimes moderate line-ups, the selection of main entrees were fairly limited, and the decor is a bit dated. The exception was the Sushi bar, opened on at least several evenings. My wife thought it was great, but aside from a few East Asian passengers, it is woefully unused by the 'typical' Century cruiser (more on that later, too...). The Grand Restaurant was, again due to the scale of the three story equivalent on the Navigator, fairly cramped. We were at a table of 10 – and were quite happy with our dining company... Two couples (retired or semi-retired) from Florida and two ladies from Indianapolis. All had great cruising and travel stories and gave us great hints on what do when we cruise the Mediterranean next year! A special 'hello' to Ben, Pauline, Julio, Aneida, Leanne and Jeannine if they are surfing the boards!
One minor issue - all week, right from day 1, they seemed to have some difficulty in
having the doors open for the early seating - making a fairly large crowd who arrived on time, wait for 10 to 15 minutes outside the doors. Not acceptable, considering the posted times are their schedule...
As far as food quality in the main dining room, it was quite impressive - at least the equal of the Navigator (which, again, had wowed us three months earlier). Excellent filet mignon!
Portions seemed a bit small and I don't believe that, aside from one occasion when our waiter presented an 'extra' shrimp cocktail to all at our table, any extra food or 'dual' entree choices was ever offered (nor requested, to be fair). But, maybe because we had a table for four (and, therefore, the wait staff had more time for us) on the Navigator and because our previous crew was so incredible, our waiter, assistant waiter, and maitre de simply didn't come up to the high standards we found on RCCL. We certainly wouldn't fault our waiter and crew on the Century - it was simply too many diners for the number of dining staff - the ratio must have been better on the Navigator.
The Midnight Buffet on the final formal night was awesome - the culinary skills and presentation of the Century's chefs were worth staying up for. We did not run into the Gourmet Bites or any other late night eating - just too tired after shore activities...
Miscellaneous: We didn't use the pools or hot-tubs - the few that did seemed to enjoy them. The on-deck band was ordinary – played a lot of the same songs, loudly, over and over…
My biggest beef with Celebrity, though, falls into their internet services. Like RCCL, there is a fairly exorbitant per-minute cost of using the internet. On Century, though, they have a brochure posted at each of the internet stations. I took a picture of it, following the debacle I'm about to describe... On this card, they state that their e-mail at sea program sets up an email account for each guest - something to the effect of 'firstname.lastname@example.org' - and the first 100k of each incoming or outgoing email messages costs $2.00. Hey, I thought, that seems reasonable enough. So I wrote off a quick, generic, three paragraph email and cc'd it to 9 email addresses that I could type in off the top of my memory. Wrong move! These thieves charged me $2.00 for each address I sent it to - despite the fact that it was, maybe, a 5K message - all sent at the same time. So what should have been a $2.00 "hello" turned into a $20.00 rip-off! When I saw the charge on my 'interactive television menu', I approached one of the computer personnel. He logged on for me to observe my concern, then told me I should have sent the email to one person and had them forward it to the others. For this lame advice and log-on, I paid another $2.00!! Now I'm not cheap, but this is highway robbery. As I said, I took a picture of their internet instructions/rules - misleading at best.
Beware the internet on Century, gentle CruiseCritic members!!!
The entertainment is another area that falls short compared with the RCCL. Maybe because this cruise is targeted at a (much) older crowd, or maybe it's simply a matter of taste, but the talent on this ship is wasted.
For example, there is no shortage of vocal and dance talent on the Century - but on both the main production shows (Taste of Broadway and a Vegas-style show, the name which escapes me...), they misguidedly cater to the 90's (not the decade but people in their 90's ... Old 40's and 50's tunes so ancient they should be put out of their misery! And here's my take on the choice of material - the final production show had several Lion King songs - with nice costumes, dancing and vocals. This was a well done segment. And as we exited the theatre at the end, even older seniors were talking about that portion of the show. My point - even cruisers in their 80's or more would rather have more contemporary show material. Why not do Lion King or Grease (which was on the marquee but wasn't touched) or Phantom of the Opera? These modern classics appeal to everyone. Again, the talent is there, somewhere, but the material is often mediocre to just bad. Many cruisers commented that they've seen better high school productions... A real shame.
On the upside, the Ladder guy (Michael James) did have am all-too-short segment early in the cruise - then sadly blew out a knee during the cruise. He would have been great to see in a full show instead of the abbreviated 'variety' show style piece we saw. Talent, great humor and knows how to work the crowd. For future cruises, lets hope he recovers quickly!
Big band music is not our thing – but the “Orchestra” certainly was talented. Kudos to them!
The Cruise Director, Allen King, was appropriate, especially for the older crowd on the Century. His nightly groaner jokes were a nice cap to the evening. He wasn't our cup of tea, but he redeemed himself nicely on the final evening of the cruise (when the featured act didn't make it to the ship on time from departing in Nassau) by gracing us with some very nice musical skill - and I would say it was better than nearly all of the entertainment staff that were there solely in an entertainment role. I hope Allen uses his talent more often in future cruises!
The piano guy (Roger Carr) from Michael's Club also was featured one night - again, talent galore, but songs like "Hello Dolly" should be relegated back to the archives. Play us a song, (from within the last 3 decades) you're the piano man! Some Billy Joel or Elton John!
We missed the first comedy night - our tablemates said it was good. Then again, they loved the second comic of the week (as did Allen King - he praised him as the funniest comic he'd ever seen in his years of cruising). Well, I guess we were the silent minority, sorry to say. How many times can you go on and on about the size of interior cabins? How many jokes can be made about the sheer gluttony of many cruisers? How many observations can be made about getting lost in ship passages? Maybe I watch too much Seinfeld for this guy to compare but "the funniest comic in cruising?" - Puhleeze ! All in all, the Navigator simply blows away Century in every theatre endeavor. If you want great entertainment, you should check out the Voyager-class on RCCL.
San Juan (docked) - we arrived just in time for a (very) quick walk out to the Fort - made it
with 17 minutes left before closing. So, kind of like Clark Griswold at the Grand Canyon, went into hyperspeed to see most all of the place. Coolest thing - the restrooms have balconies opening up to the harbour with gorgeous views! The late afternoon arrival does not do justice to this beautiful place - we hope to take a S. Caribbean cruise from there next year so we can spend a day or two here before or after the San Juan based cruise...
St. Thomas (docked) - We were docked in a port about a mile or two from the downtown - it would've been a long walk. But, waiting about 5 - 10 minutes, the port's taxi 'boss' found a group of us who wanted to go to Coral World/Koki Beach and we were off. Coral World is fairly nice - a bit pricey for what you get - but for those who have not been to the big aquariums of North America, it would be worth a visit. We did it mostly to get access to the locker rentals within, while we were snorkeling Koki beach next door later in the morning. Nice snorkeling, despite too many snorkelers (and idiotic, too - I want so much to put my thumb on the snorkel tubes of the many many fools who step down on coral or ocean vegetation - they are ruining the future of the very things they came to see. That's my pet peeve in the tropics. DO NOT STEP ON THE CORAL! (There, that feels better.) Then back to the shopping fest downtown. Cameras and jewelry on the agenda - all purchases were reasonable, but getting back home and twinging with buyer's remorse, you can do as well or better on the internet - especially with cameras.
St. Martin (tendered) - busiest port with ships all over the place by mid afternoon. Tendering wasn't as bad as might be expected, either. We hopped a cab to OrientBeach to check out nature in all her glory . Some reasonably nice scenery there, and it's a very nice beach too. Snorkeling, though, is non-existent. We saw one trunkfish, a couple of butterfly fish that must be lost or looking for Nemo, and a few of the generic, whowantstolookatthose, silver colored fish that you find everywhere. We should've water taxied to IslePinel for better snorkeling, but it being our first trip to St. Martin, we headed back to town for lunch, shopping and a short torrential downpour.
Nassau (docked) - another, bigger, irritant with the Century was its delays in docking here. We were on the deck about 1:00 p.m., watching the Atlantis Casino loom in the distance. Around that time, you could feel the ship slow down from a normal cruising speed (18-19 knots ?) to maybe 1/2 that. For the next several hours, we just crawled into port, getting docked about 1 1/2 hours late and basically giving us a very quick three hour pit stop at this port. Again, the universal complaint on many of these reviews is the Captain or crew not keeping the guests informed of operational issues. If there was a good reason for 'downshifting' to a snail's pace, fine... But we never heard anything about it... Not enough time, really, to see/do anything more than a quick shopping tour... As we were seated in the dining room for our final dinner there (and the boat was leaving the pier), there were a nasty series of shudders (like a washing machine that is off balance during the spin cycle) that severely shook the dining room/ship. After reading about mechanical problems on the cruise the next week, I wonder if this was the start of something…
Disembarkation - It took a little longer than the schedule (about an hour over...), but not too bad - and again better than the Navigator. Well done, Celebrity!
Summary – Well, even though Celebrity is supposedly a more upscale line from its parent RCCL company, we weren’t going in thinking that any particular thing would be substantially better or more impressive. Although the ship was loaded with seniors (at around age 40, my wife and I would definitely be in the youngest 15 or 20% of passengers on this particular cruise), they certainly didn’t detract from our enjoyment. But the, I believe, mistaken conception of Celebrity to think that the older crowd wants ‘old’ entertainment. My suggestion – revamp the whole entertainment program! I’m sure the glimpses of skill and talent that occasionally shone during the evenings could be made into something really good, if the material chosen was updated.
The best embarkation/disembarkation imaginable.
Good to very good food/presentation in the main restaurant.
Nice ship, well maintained, very good crew.
A great itinerary on the E. Caribbean swing.
Overall, a very good value for the money…
Entertainment mediocre, for the most part.
Nagging delays in a lot of areas, including dinner and port arrivals.
Huge rip-off internet costs.
Buffet could be improved
All in all, we had a good cruise for a reasonable price – but this ship/cruise is not really geared for anyone under 65 or anyone looking for partying or excitement. I can live without the excitement, but if two similar cruises are offered for a similar price – between Celebrity and Royal Caribbean – take the Royal Caribbean. For us, it would simply be a better cruise…
Next up - a real old barnburner from NCL (the Sea from Houston - February - not expecting great things , then the RCCL Splendor of Seas (Barcelona - October) and the RCCL Serenade of the Seas (San Juan - South Carib. - next December). All in all, after two cruises, we're hooked...
I have sailed her twice...and was supposed to go again in May...but not anymore ...as they are re-deploying her to Europe.
It's funny how people see things differently...I am in my mid 40's and personally, I LOVE THIS SHIP......But I don't put alot emphasis on entertainment....so being 46, I feel totally comfortable on her ......wish I was going back again!!!
And there is a chance I will be going on one of the Voyager Class ships in May....nothing booked yet.....waiting on some information from my TA......
hoping I don't feel like I get "swallowed up" ..those ships seem so BIG.
Enjoyed your well balanced review. Again like Lois, I was surprised with the age factor. I have been on the Century twice and found the age of the passengers to be in their 40's -50's. Maybe just the week you were away.
Wonderful review! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. There were a lot of things I agreed with you about, especially the entertainment but as others have stated, am surprised at the age of the passengers. We were on her in June and there was a nice mixture of age groups.
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Thanks for the excellent review and your time in preparing it. The noise you heard in the dining room is the thrusters when leaving port. That shuddering and you described it perfectly is normal. One time on Century we had the family cabins a couple of decks below the dining room and you can imagine pulling into port at 5:00A.M. and being awakened by that noise. It is unfortunately a normal condition and nothing to do with the following weeks problems.
Thanks for the detailed review. I'm in my early thirties and I look forward to that older timeless (to me anyway) music on board the celebrity ships. I'm an odd bird, but its not always about age you see. Now, my wife is 29 and she's not so much into it, so there you go!
I read the following on Celebrity's new website.
Maybe this will be the new post in the cafe as well.
An Outlook e-mail account will be setup for each Guest on the ship. Charges are $2 for the first 100K bytes of each inbound message and each outbound address. An additional charge of $1 applies to each additional 100K bytes of message. An inbound message causes a voice mail message to be placed on your stateroom phone.
Internet access is available in the Internet Café 24 hours a day until debarkation is completed. Internet minutes are available at 4 different rate:
Thanks so much for taking the time to post, Cruisebug! We have been on Century once and are looking forward to our upcoming cruise on her in April. Just thought I'd let you know we did the Splendour last August to the Med. and think she is a perfectly LOVELY ship!!! I don't think you will have time to worry about entertainment though since the itinerary is SO port intensive!!!! Early seating worked well for us since many passengers were from Europe and wanted late. It made it nice too because everything we did was the opposite of the dinner crowd making the ship seem empty eventhough we were at maximum capacity!!!
The service was every bit as nice as the Century. The food was actually quite close in the dining room, but the buffet left something to be desired (most do in my book!). I think that unless you are in Concierge class or suites, RCI is almost the same as Celebrity! Oh boy, I hope saying that isn't opening a can of worms!!!
A very detailed and balanced review. We have sailed Century and will be on her again in January. Many of the things you wrote had us nodding our heads in agreement. I thought you were very fair!
We too love the entertainment on RCL. The Navigator and Adventure are tied for our favorite RCL ship. I wish they would send some of the RCL shows to Celebrity!
We were just OK with Allen (CD) too until we started going to trivia. He is quite talented when he is able to show it (get out of the "routine"). Glad to see you got to see that side too!
Thanks for taking the time to post! Did you ever get to eat the Waffles they make by the pool in the mornings? I drool just thinking about those!
JUST ADD WATER
MONARCH OF THE SEAS 3/99 (S. CARIBBEAN)
GRAND PRINCESS 4/00 (E. CARIBBEAN)
SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS 10/00 (BAHAMAS)
GALAXY 1/01 (S. CARIBBEAN)
GRAND PRINCESS 1/02 (W. CARRIBEAN)
ADVENTURE OF THE SEAS 5/02 (S. CARIBBEAN)
ENCHANTMENT OF THE SEAS 11/02 (W. CARIBBEAN)
CONSTELLATION 1/03 (S. CARIBBEAN)
GOLDEN PRINCESS 4/03 (E. CARIBBEAN)
NAVIGATOR OF THE SEAS 10/03 (W. CARIBBEAN)
GALAXY 1/04 (S. CARIBBEAN)
CENTURY 5/04 (E. CARIBBEAN)
CARIBBEAN PRINCESS 10/04 (E. CARIBBEAN)
CENTURY 01/05 (W. CARIBBEAN)
DAWN PRINCESS 05/05 (ALASKA CRUISETOUR)
MARINER OF THE SEAS 09/05 (E. CARIBBEAN)
CONSTELLATION 1/06 (S. CARIBBEAN)
GRANDEUR OF THE SEAS 5/06 (WESTERN)
SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS 10/06 (BAHAMAS)
RADIANCE OF THE SEAS 03/07 (E. CARIBBEAN)
SUN PRINCESS 07/07 (ALASKA)
CENTURY 12/07 (WESTERN HOLIDAY)
CENTURY 1/08 (WESTERN)
GALAXY 3/08 (SOUTHERN)
ENCHANTMENT 10/08 (WESTERN)
SUMMIT 2/09 (SOUTHERN)
MONARCH 7/09 (BAHAMAS)
SOLSTICE 3/10 (EASTERN)
SOLSTICE 10/10 (WESTERN)
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