Celebrity Century Cruise Review by Caribbean Chris: Excellent food, friendly crew, vintage ocean-liner charm
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Excellent food, friendly crew, vintage ocean-liner charm
With four sea days out from San Diego to the islands, four port days in Hawaii, and six sea days returning, this cruise offered plenty of days to relax and enjoy the cozy, wood-paneled ambiance of the ship. The smiling officers and staff were highly visible and many Hawaiian-theme activities and entertainment were included. Food was excellent and the service by the dining room staff and wine steward was exceptional.
PRE CRUISE AIR AND HOTEL
We used frequent flyer miles on Delta for free, uneventful flights both ways. On arrival in San Diego, we spent two nights at the Best Western Plus Bayside Inn, using AA frequent flyer miles. We were so pleased that we changed our plans and stayed there one night at the end of the cruise at an excellent price. The hotel provided fast, friendly transfers (airport and pier), included a full hot breakfast buffet, and was just a few minutes' walk to the waterfront tourist orange trolley stop for sightseeing.
We are a More couple in our 60s, have cruised dozens of times, and booked an outside double room on Deck 5. It was adequate but it had a third, upper bed. A frame extended down to the floor and almost a foot into the walking space beside the bed, so my husband had to bend under and around it to get out of bed. We would avoid a triple option on this ship in the future.
We were surprised that cabin service was the slowest and most inconsistent we have ever encountered on any previous cruise, including on Celebrity, for both morning cleaning and evening turndown. On at least five evenings, we had no turndown service at all. We never received our Captain's Club letter inviting us to events, nor the coupons for discounts on services we had already paid full price for, and eventually visited the hostess to obtain them. Our stateroom never was provided with robes. Unlike some past cruises, the stewards never left towel animals in the room (not necessary for us, but a whimsical touch that some passengers enjoy.)
On the plus side, our bed was comfortable and we slept very well. Laundry sent out came back very quickly.
Early on, we noticed cigarette smoke smell in the hallway and seeping into our room, and reported it. (This may have been from another passenger room, or perhaps from staff rooms on the deck below ours.) The smoke smell quickly went away, and we had two follow-ups, by phone and letter, to be sure all was well. This, plus a few other minor needs later, were handled very professionally by the customer service desk staff - the most friendly and effective I have ever seen on any ship by far.
The Century is smaller and older than other Celebrity ships, more intimate and cozy without ever feeling crowded. Wood paneling, brass trim and subdued colors give it a classy, ocean liner feel. Some of the upholstery needs freshening, but for the most part it was in excellent condition. The staff constantly worked at keeping the ship immaculate, whether in public rooms or buffet.
Weather was cool and sometimes rainy, but there were many quiet spots inside for reading and relaxing. The ship seemed to ride quite well, and we never experienced the rough ride we expected in the Pacific.
DINING AND WINE CELLAR
This was a high point of our cruise. The food, with great taste and presentation, was equal to or better what we found on past cruises including on board the Eclipse during its inaugural year. Food was never too salty, seasoned just right. Fish dishes on the menu were imaginative and outstanding, so I ordered these often. Desserts were delicious. Coffee was great at the buffet and in the dining room. (Not always the case on ships.)
We booked Celebrity Select (flexible) dining, and requested a quiet table for two (due to a severe hearing impairment) the first night for 6:30 p.m. The Maitre d' was always friendly and efficient, and we were so pleased with our table that we remaining there for the entire cruise. Our waiter Kingsley was excellent and service was quick without ever being rushed.
I was interested to see that there seemed to be a team approach in the section of the dining room, so that all the staff, including managers, worked together to fill any need as service progressed, regardless of the table. I was really impressed with what seemed to be a well-oiled machine.
Our wine steward was very prompt, courteous and friendly, whether we were ordering a glass of wine, a bottle, or using our three-bottle wine package. Later in the cruise, he suggested upgrading to a five-bottle package which provided us with the same discount. We are not big wine spenders, typically going for the $30 range (not the $100 bottles!) but were treated beautifully nevertheless.
We ate at the Islands buffet most days for breakfast and lunch, and the food was quite good there too, with special offerings like sticky pecan buns and specialty fruit breads. All day, pizza was excellent and the ice cream delicious. We discovered eventually that there was a wonderful salad bar and custom stir fry station near the aft end of the buffet, with outdoor seating that would be lovely for a cruise with sunny weather.
The ship presented an elaborate Easter Sunday Brunch buffet in the main dining room that was a big hit. We were not traveling with children, but noticed an Easter party was held for the kids all morning.
Bar service was always prompt and friendly. We visited the Martini Bar twice and it was terrific. We dined in the extra-fee Murano specialty restaurant on the last formal night to celebrate our 33rd anniversary and enjoyed it.
We chose to use our sea days for reading and working puzzles. Many passengers took advantage of Hawaiian theme activities, and literally hundreds of people sported kukui-nut and woven ribbon leis they made. I wish I had attended those classes. There also were hula and ukulele classes, and lectures on Hawaiian history and culture.
We enjoyed the Cruise Critic welcome party on the first day out. Celebrity (especially the Century) does this well, by organizing the invitation process and hosting the party. Cruise Director Rich Clesen welcomed everyone, introduced a large contingent of officers, and explained details about the previous day's late departure (caused by a rigorous, unannounced Coast Guard Inspection involving the entire crew that delayed boarding and for many hours, followed by a union shift change and medical emergency that further delayed departure). Some attendees complained about pre-cruise itinerary changes that were not well-communicated, but Rich tactfully pointed out that all cruise contracts allow ships to alter as needed.
The past passenger's Captain's Club party (we were at the lowest, Classic level) was outstanding, with sushi and crepe stations, waiters constantly offering a choice of drinks. Rich again was the host along with the Captain's Club hostess Marlene, and again it was attended by many officers. Live entertainment was provided, and to sum up, it was a wonderful way to thank repeaters even at the lowest level.
Two other events we enjoyed very much were wine-related. One was an international wine tasting of 12 different bottles ($25 per person), and the second was a Champagne-tasting of four bottles ($15). This included a bit of Champagne history and concluded with a wine steward demonstrating the slashing off the glass neck of a vintage bottle with a saber! It was great fun and I wished I had brought my camera.
The evening we were in Maui, the ship brought onboard the "Drums of the Pacific" children's show, performed beside the pool. It was colorful and entertaining, and another example of how Celebrity did a great job of adding to the Hawaiian ambiance at no cost for all the passengers.
We were invited to a party for honeymooners and those celebrating anniversaries but did not attend since it unfortunately conflicted with a wine event. On our last day, we received a nice gift from the Captain's Club hostess Marlene, a leather-like large folding frame with two photos of the ship and a space to insert our own ship's photographer's photo taken on a formal night.
The production shows were colorful, but not quite as professional or polished as on previous Celebrity Cruises. We enjoyed the comedian and magician's performances.
PORTS AND SHORE EXCURSIONS
We were met by friends on Hilo and only regretted that the ship arrived two hours late, cutting our time together down to just a few hours. Still, we had time to drive to the Volcano National Park and visit their parents' home on the ocean.
Later that evening, the ship cruised past the Kilauea lava flowing into the sea, which was quite am unforgettable show! The captain pivoted slowly so that all could see the orange-red glow and high clouds of steam.
In Kona, we did not book an excursion but should have. Tendering in this port is quite slow (I believe for all cruise lines), and those not in suites or without tour tickets had to wait a long time, in our case until close to Noon, to get off. We walked around the village, shopped, and enjoyed the pretty port.
Whales greeted us on arrival at Lahaina, Maui, a breakfast treat from the buffet window. We took the all-day Road to Hana excursion and were very glad we did. It was a long, exhausting day in a small bus, but there were numerous scenic stops for photos and sightseeing, and we saw many gorgeous waterfalls and black lava beaches--the kind of "Fantasy Island" scenery you expect from Hawaii. Lunch was good at the Hana Ranch.
Our final Hawaii port was Oahu, and we took an excursion to Pearl Harbor to see the Arizona Memorial. This worked out very well, and rain held off so that we were able to board the boat to the moving memorial, and the guide allowed plenty of time for visiting the museums. City sightseeing was also included in the tour, but since we then had heavy rains, it was not as enjoyable as it might have been on another day.
The last day at sea concluded with a stop at Ensenada, where we enjoyed the city lights from the deck after dinner and stayed on board.
Since we did not have to catch a flight, we were assigned a 9:40 a.m. disembarkation from the ship, and relaxed in the lounge until around 10 a.m. when we were called. We then departed quickly, with smooth and easy collection of luggage.
The many sea days of this cruise appealed to us and we enjoyed getting an overview of what Hawaii has to offer. The minor issues with itinerary changes and our cabin service did not impact the overall wonderful vacation we experienced. The dining room food and service were truly outstanding. The officers, staff and crew were warm and welcoming. Overall, I came away feeling that the Century has a "happy ship" atmosphere that can make a cruise especially enjoyable. Less
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