Hi all - time for the review, before I forget everything! Warning, this is very long, and of course, itís my perspective only. Overall, I enjoyed the cruise, but Iím not planning to take another one like it any time soon.
Me. First time on Celebrity, about my 8th or 10th cruise overall, other lines have been Princess, Costa, riverboats, Lindblad, and a couple I canít remember. I normally take rugged land-based vacations (last one to Ethiopia, next one to Iran), and donít consider myself much of a cruiser, so keep that in mind. I was traveling solo. (Most of my previous cruises were with my parents.)
Ship. After reading some of the reviews of Century, I wondered if I was on the same ship! No, it isnít brand-new-out-of-the-shipyards, but I thought the ship was in excellent shape. It was clean and well-kept, everything I needed worked, and I didnít notice any major problems. Despite it being an 1800-passenger ship, it felt fairly small and intimate, and other than on embarkation and disembarkation day, I never felt surrounded by crowds.
Passengers. It was a Christmas/New Yearís cruise, and at one point an announcement was made that about 200 children were onboard, but I never would have guessed that. Century has well-segregated areas for both teens and younger children, and that must have been where they were, because I rarely saw any. (Iím not a fan of children.) Most of the U.S. passengers were, Iíd say, in their 60s or older. A fair number of Europeans, Australians, and South Americans were also onboard, and I thought those passengers tended to skew a bit younger. I never attended any singles events so I have no idea how many other solos were onboard.
Embarkation. I got to the Fort Lauderdale port about noon, and it took me about 45 minutes to get on. Boarding was by cabin type, not by last name as Iíve encountered before. The security line (airport-type) was long but moved very quickly. The checkin line was short but moved very slowly. Lunch in the Islands Cafť that day was the only day I couldnít find a seat inside - very crowded, and a lot of milling around as passengers hadnít yet figured out what types of food were where in Islands. Cabins opened up at about 1.30 or so. My luggage didnít arrive until somewhere between 6 and 7 PM, but I had everything I needed for embarkation day in my small carryon.
My stateroom. I was in 4016, an oceanview stateroom on the starboard side, near the front. I loved this cabin! It was very near a staircase, which took me directly up to the fitness center, and it was extremely quiet (I heard virtually no noise from inside or outside the ship during the entire trip). Iíd been a little concerned because instead of inside staterooms facing it, the medical center faced it, but I heard no noise from there either; the medical centerís entrance faced the elevators rather than the hall, and it wasnít open very many hours a day, either. (I never went in it, but it seemed to be doing a hopping business every time I walked by!) Deck 4 felt very stable to me. Iíve gotten seasick on almost all of my past cruises, but not on this one. I like a very cool room temperature, more so than most people, and by turning the A/C down all the way, it stayed at about 66-68F, which was pretty good.
Food. I never ate in the MDR, Murano, or Aquaspa, nor did I ever use room service. Mainly I ate in the Islands Cafť, with occasional forays to the poolside venues for French fries and potato chips :-), and to Cova for snacks and pastries. (Iím a vegetarian.) I thought the food was okay. Occasionally, it was excellent; occasionally, I didnít like what Iíd selected at all.
Islands breakfast: probably the best variety of all! I donít normally eat sweets for breakfast, but I got very attached to the outstanding fresh hot waffles. The rolls were often stale. Occasionally there were excellent little pain chocolats, but they tended to get snapped up and not replaced. The made-to-order omelets were excellent; I donít like undercooked eggs, so I always asked for mine to be cooked extra-well-done, and it was.
Islands lunch: I often had pizza (there was always at least one and often two vegetarian options) or the salad bar (mysteriously, every day a different selection of toppings was available there - some overlap, but new things came and went randomly).
Islands dinner: Each night, Indian food was available in Islands, and I ate a lot of that, since there were always at least two vegetarian selections. Two of the curries I had there were as good as any Indian food Iíve ever had, and the rest were pretty good also, showing the skills of the Indian head chef. When the soups werenít meat-based, they were also excellent (Iím still drooling over the memory of a cream of corn soup). Sushi was available in the evenings, but the vegetarian selections I tried didnít appeal to me. The pizza and salad bars were also open at night, as well as the stir-fry bar and the pasta bar, both of which were decent vegetarian options.
Islands desserts: Definitely the weak point for me - it tended to be cakes, tartlets, mousses, etc., not really to my taste. Occasionally something excellent would materialize, however (tiramisu, creme brulee, etc.), and then never be seen again. Iíd heard a lot of raves about the ice cream on Century, but I thought it was just ok - sometimes icy, and rather bland flavors for the most part. (Exception: the rocky road, which was outstanding, and which - you guessed it! - showed up once and then never made an appearance again.)
Cova snacks: Pastries in AM and at night, with a midday window of little sandwiches (think salami, brie on bread, etc.). The pastries were often some of the same ones as at Islands, but often there were different ones too, so, keep checking! Cookies were always available at Cova, and ranged from great (peanut butter!) to mediocre (stale chocolate chip). Thereís no charge for any of the food at Cova.
Drinks. After a bunch of dithering, I bought the premium non-alcoholic package during a sale, and I was glad I did - definitely got my moneyís worth. The Panama Canal cruise is a hot one, and I drank tons of bottled water, as well as soft drinks and other iced drinks (mocktails and iced coffees and teas). I loved not having to even think about it. The Cova rapidly became my favorite place to get drinks, even non-coffee ones - I thought it had the friendliest staff of all the bars, and they were happy to give me my AM diet Coke before they even officially opened for the day. The one drinks disappointment is that the Cova drinks menu is NOT the same as the Cafť al Bacio menus Iíd seen posted online - much less variety in the frou-frou coffee drinks I love. However! If you explain to the Cova staff what kind of drinks you like, they will make them for you. One of the bartenders suggested some mocha frozen coffee thingy one day that wasnít on the menu, and I loved it so much I had it pretty much every day the rest of the trip. (Other than to my cabin attendant, Cova was the only place I gave out extra tips other than the ones Iíd prepaid.)
Onboard activities. Mostly quite disappointing - a lot of "how to buy your emerald" and "how to keep wrinkles at bay" kind of things. There were exceptions, though. The activities director Jamie ran a "Thriller flash mob" dance class that was the most fun thing I did onboard - she taught us a two-minute dance routine to Michael Jacksonís "Thriller", and we performed it onstage at the beginning of the crew talent show. Jamie wants to expand this to the whole Celebrity fleet, and I hope she succeeds. It sounds wacko, but the 40 or so of us who did it had an absolute blast. If itís on your ship, go for it!
Lecturers. Hal Tinberg, who did the "forensic DNA" series, was terrific - he was well prepared, his Powerpoint presentations were organized and interesting, and he pitched his talk perfectly at the audience. I missed a few of these and was sorry I had. I wasnít a fan of "Uncle Marty", who gave the Panama Canal-oriented talks; he was knowledgeable, but he did indeed have an avuncular style that I didnít care for. YMMV. I also enjoyed the lectures on "how the ship works", given by the officers.
Fitness. There was a Zumba instructor onboard, Lisa, and she was fantastic - gentle, kind, and enthusiastic at the same time. She gave AM classes on sea days in the theater, and I didnít miss a one. When it was cool enough, she also gave PM classes by the pool. There was no extra charge for these classes. The fitness center opened at 5 AM on sea days but later on port days (??? why? It wasnít attended before 8 AM anyway, on any day). It was well-equipped with treadmills (the only thing I used), and I never had trouble getting one either in the morning or in the late afternoons (on sea days I went twice a day, so I could eat more :-). The treadmills were in good shape. Hint: if the ship is rolling, the ones oriented port-starboard are a lot easier to run on than the ones oriented fore-aft! The temperature was reasonably cool in the AM, but in the PM, when it was full of people and the sun had been beating in through the glass windows all day, it was pretty steamy in there, ugh.
Entertainment. Not the high point of the trip. I went to only one of the evening shows, and found it disappointing - kind of chorus-girl stuff with sequined costumes, not my thing. The classical string trio was okay, playing light classics (think "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"), sometimes fairly well, sometimes not too technically adeptly. I enjoyed the "Party Band" very much, especially their female lead vocalist, who covered everything from the 1920s to music just released - very competent musicians all (loved her rendition of "Call Me Maybe"!). The a cappella quartet was a disappointment - four very young men from Sweden, doing a lot of things like Michael Buble arrangements. Thereís a LOT of great music out there for four-part male a cappella singers, but unfortunately I didnít hear them do any of it - mostly the sappier stuff. The solo pianist/vocalist and guitarist/vocalist were okay as well but not outstanding - arrangements of light pop music mostly. Unfortunately musicians tended to be booked at the same time - e.g., most days there was live music from 5.30 to 6.15 in several different places on the ship, but then there wouldnít be any live music during other big chunks of the day or evening. I would have liked to have seen it spread out a little more.
Shore excursions. I arranged one shore excursion on my own (Segway riding in Cartagena); did one via people I met in the roll call (Panama overview); and did four through the ship (Poas volcano in Costa Rica; Pacaya volcano climb in Guatemala; ziplining/mule riding/rappelling etc in Puerto Vallarta; and parasailing in Cabo San Lucas). I loved all of these, but of the six, the Panama one was the least successful, for a variety of reasons, and I doubt Iíd do a roll call trip again, though I did enjoy that one. I hope eventually to post reviews of the shore excursions as well, but this review is already plenty long enough. :-)
Disembarkation. It seemed kind of chaotic (there were numerous pages for some non-US citizens who had not done the customs clearance on board), but I had a late flight and had booked the San Diego shore excursion through the ship, so we had a separate room to sit in and were allowed off at the beginning. I was VERY glad I hadnít booked an 11 AM flight, as Iíd thought I might; I donít think anyone got off the ship much before 9.30, and that definitely would have stressed me out. (The San Diego excursion was tons of fun, too!)
In summary: I enjoyed this cruise, but, I didnít feel I was really the target audience for Celebrity (or for mass-market cruising in general), and I expect any future cruises to be on small adventure-styled ships of 100 people or less, such as Lindblad, as least as long as Iím physically able to do that. Iíd cruise with Celebrity again, but I definitely learned that large-ship cruising isnít my preferred vacation. For what they are trying to do, though, I thought Celebrity overall did an excellent job.