We arrived in San Diego from Seattle just before noon on embarkation day. The day before, I received an automated call from Celebrity informing us that we would be unable to board prior to 3PM, but with less than 24 hours notice, there wasn't much we could do, so we just went with it. I'm a patient sort. Read on, but verdict: Embarkation was messy. I was okay, but there was certainly a dull roar of grumbling (and even yelling) going on.
Upon arrival at the airport baggage claim, we spotted the folks running the Celebrity transfer to the pier and stopped to ask a few questions. We had not purchased transfers, but weren't sure if we should head directly to the cruise terminal or kill some time elsewhere. The man was very helpful....told us it would be much cheaper to grab a cab (and directed us to the taxi line) than use the transfer, and that we could bring our luggage to the terminal where it would be held. It's a ten minute ride (or less) by cab to the pier (about $10), so off we went.
Our luggage was stowed at the terminal, and we were able to complete all of our check-in tasks, and received boarding tickets. The staff member then advised us to come back around 5 or 6PM. There was a lunch buffet set up, and large TV screens, but seating was limited so it was recommended to find somewhere else to go. They offered free tickets to the nearby maritime museum, and a free trolley tour of Old Town San Diego as well. As we exited the terminal around 2PM, we could see the Century slowly approaching the dock. We opted for the trolley and were delightfully surprised by the two-hour, very entertaining tour. San Diego is a lovely city! We returned to the pier at 4:30ish, and were able to board on Deck 6 without difficulty. There were lots of friendly staff with trays of mimosas and sparkling wine. Happiness!
We booked a Concierge Class veranda room on Deck 9 starboard aft. I knew that the Century was an older ship, so it was no surprise that our cabin was smaller than on past Celebrity sailings. The veranda was quite tiny, and we ended up not using it for much more than drying swimwear. The closet space was ample, though, and the shower was more powerful than ours at home. We had no issues with water temperatures, either. I was disappointed, though, to find that our luggage had yet to be delivered, and the Concierge amenities were not in place (fruit, flowers, sparkling wine, and canapes), especially because the previous cruise had disembarked in Ensenada, so one might assume that there was extra time to turn the staterooms around. Oh, well. Off we went to explore.
The Century was built in '95 and spruced up in '06, I believe. Sure, there was the occasional sign of wear and age (mostly in the staterooms, I would say), but overall, it's a beautiful ship and I have no aesthetic criticisms. The Cova Cafe was graciously appointed and offered up some wonderful seats for people-watching, not to mention excellent cappuccinos and tapas. We spent part of each day there during the cruise.
We were due to leave port at just before midnight (rather unusual), and the muster drills were held at 8PM. They did not require that we have our life jackets with us, so that was nice....no back and forth to the stateroom. Having booked the cruise just a couple of weeks prior, we had no choice but late seating for dinner. Since our luggage had still not arrived, we were allowed to wear jeans in the dining room.
I'll just say it once and right now: Celebrity has wonderful food. I'm a bit of a food snob too, and you won't hear one complaint from me. From the dining room to the breakfast buffet to the pizza place to the pool grill to room service, I was a happy cruiser. I'm also now a fatter cruiser, though I did make efforts to take the stairs whenever possible!
By the time we returned to our stateroom after dinner, our luggage was there. I'm not a big fan of unpacking at 10:30, but I was happy that the suitcases finally found their way. Our amenities found their way too, so we stood on our veranda drinking sparkling wine as the Century pushed off near midnight. There were two dock workers standing on the pier to wave to, so they were probably pretty popular that night.
If you love to cruise, you probably love the gentle rocking of the sea while drifting off to sleep. I know I do. I slept well, although I was vaguely aware that maybe the gentle rocking was more of a birthday party with 7 year-olds in a bouncy house. It got a little rough, folks. By morning, and particularly on Deck 11 where the buffet is located, we were in full rock-and-roll mode. Someone said there were 17-foot swells. I tried to eat breakfast but quickly realized that it might not be the best idea. Thank God for Dramamine and patches, right? We escaped to Deck 5 midship for some relief. Luckily, as the captain had promised, things calmed down later that evening. Lord knows I'd hate to miss another meal! Dinner was delightful.
As cruisers, my husband and I really enjoy sea days, and this itinerary offers lots of them. I'm not one to go to napkin folding or scrapbooking or lei making demonstrations, but the ship still had much more to offer. There were ukulele and hula classes, cooking competitions, and wine tastings. My husband enjoyed the navigation lectures while I played a bit in the casino. I had a loaded e-reader, and there was always a peaceful and picturesque nook to kick back and read in. There was a featured film every day, too. I would have liked to see it moved to the larger theater venue (it was always crowded, with people trying to find seats in the dark after the film started), and popcorn offered. Really, if they gave bags of popcorn and threw in a cocktail waiter or two, they'd make more money. I'm certain of that, and it was echoed by many others I spoke with. I was very surprised that there were no art auctions offered. I've always found them to be entertaining, and have never been on a cruise without at least a couple. Maybe someone out there knows why they were absent on this sailing?
As for excursions, I was standing behind the door when adventure genes were handed out, so I can't comment on zip lining or helicopters over lava or suspension bridges with slats missing. I do know one thing: the excursions were outrageously priced. $520 for a volcano helicopter tour? Yes, really. That's probably the most exaggerated example, but overall, everything was much pricier than expected or experienced in the past (this is our third Hawaiian cruise). We did take a Honolulu tour, which was fine and interesting. Our favorite by far though, was an excursion in Kona hosted by a former Kennedy family executive chef, where you got to spend time in three different residences while enjoying a progressive brunch....a few wonderful nibbles in each home, and the chance to get a feel for island living. That topped out at over $150 per person. We loved it, though. Oh, and the tendered ports? Like embarkation, they were also a mess. We were 90 minutes late for our excursion, and some people lost that on theirs, which means they didn't get the time they paid for.
Let's talk about entertainment a little, okay? Having a background in music and theater, I'll admit to being a little snobby about that too (along with food). It's been my experience on almost every cruise I've taken (and not just with Celebrity), that a glass of wine helps the nightly productions rise above mediocrity. I know that sounds snotty, but I'm being honest, if not particularly nice. I also admit to not attending two shows on this trip, so there's no singling out any one act. Everything I saw was okay....something to do before or after dinner, but not that impressive. Actually, I thought the most entertaining show on the ship was when our cruise director, John, took the stage and talked his previous career as a Hollywood stuntman while showing clips, and then opened up an audience Q&A session. I did enjoy the game show stuff in the evenings too. Those were lots of fun.
Across the board, I found service to be exemplary, which was not a surprise, having cruised with Celebrity before. I could not have been more pleased with Alexandra, our stateroom attendant, and Eduardo, our sommelier, in particular, but every crew and staff member we encountered was professional and friendly. No question was left unanswered, and no request was denied.
I know no one is reading this by now. My English professors always told me I was too wordy, and none of them cured me of it, apparently. You might be surprised to find that I don't actually talk that much! But I can't stop before I remark on disembarkation.
We filled out the necessary information so Celebrity would know our plans and make sure we were able to catch our flight, etc. I understand that they need to empty the staterooms to prepare them for the next sailing. I also understand that they need customs clearance before they release passengers. I had no problem being packed and out by 8AM, even though our flight didn't leave until 1:30PM. What was a bit annoying is that we had to assemble in the theater by 8:15, yet were not called to disembark for over another hour. I've had smoother disembarkations.
Overall, it was a very nice experience with a few bumps. We'll sail with Celebrity again, although unlike many, we have no blind loyalty. It's all about itinerary, timing, and value.