I had modest expectations for this cruise. From what I had read I expected pretty much "old ship...decent food...Hawaii!" The total experience turned out to be more complex than that.
Let's get this out of the way first. Century is older (1995?) than most other cruise ships at the major lines, and I think she is the oldest of Celebrity's ships. Yes, there are signs of wear and tear. However, the crew really does keep her tidy and clean. Newer public restrooms were cleaned continuously and often had attendants. Stairways were vacuumed and polished nightly. The public areas were nicely designed and comfortable. The staterooms were clean, comfortable, and well attended. I did not see evidence of blatant neglect even though some areas obviously needed some updating.
The Captain and other senior officers made a point to be seen around the ship greeting and chatting with passengers and participating in activities. They were personable and professional. They went out of their way on many occasions to be available to the guests.
Some areas had seen recent refurbishment (like the spa and public restrooms) and I believe she is due for more in 2014 (or so people keep saying). But no matter how much effort the crew puts into visibility and cleanliness, other more modern ships have better amenities and that's just a fact. I must assume Celebrity considers the costs of running this ship in their brand calculation. But Celebrity does itself no favors by allowing first time cruisers on their line - like me - to compare Century with Princess or Holland America ships.
Bottom line, I was OK with Century. But I will probably go back to Princess or HAL for my next cruise. I would book on Celebrity again if I was going with family (like this cruise) but I can't see myself making Celebrity my favored cruise line any time soon. Other people swear by Celebrity (and Royal Caribbean) and we met many of them - some of them are relatives! So there's a certain amount of subjectivity I guess.
Lots of sea days. Then Hawaii! Then lots of sea days. It's a longer cruise (15 nights) but only 4 ports. There's a lot of anticipation leading up to Honolulu - then a flurry of ports - then the anti-climax of the return trip to San Diego. I thought it was OK. There were lots of things to do on board. I didn't have a chance to do everything I wanted to do. I learned I could probably do some of the longer cruises with lots of sea days without going crazy.
The highlights were the Hawaiian cultural activities. Numerous times per day, every sea day. I did ukulele lessons (surprisingly fun) and some lectures. There were also some craft groups, hula, etc.
I enjoyed the ports and excursions. I thought the best one was the Kona Coffee and Craters excursion. Others in my party thought the day spent in Hilo with the trip to Volcano National Park was the highlight. Maui was fun. I've been to Honolulu many times so I had a great day there just hanging out on my own.
The night cruise past the lava flow turned out to be pretty awesome. Those who stayed up for it were rewarded. The Captain darkened the ship and the views of the lava and the stars were spectacular. Some of that depends on the weather and we had perfectly clear skies. If you are a photographer get your stuff together beforehand. It's pitch dark and the lava was bright red. The stars were brilliant in the night sky. Make sure you know what lenses you are going to use and what your settings will be before you get on the ship. My pictures were not the best. But I got some OK shots.
Surprisingly good. I did not really have any expectations so for me this merits a special mention. Good stuff. Talented Swedish a capella group. They performed around the ship and also opened for some of the main events. Good jazz band. A classical string trio. The two ukulele dudes (they also taught the classes) were very good. Matt had a pretty awesome voice (in a rough seen-it-all kind of way). The Celebrity band was good. The party band was good. The Celebrity Dancers were surprisingly good. The production singers - Aaron was good but the others were a bit off.
Comedy good. Best magician I've ever seen - not that I'm a magic show connoisseur. Two excellent piano headliners - different styles. Great solo violinist. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of all the acts actually.
We ate in the main dining room at the 5:30 seating. The food was inconsistent. Sometimes very good. Sometimes just plain bad. I had some fish that was pretty bad one night. The beef dishes, all in all, were good. Sadly, most of the offerings were pretty standard cruise ship fare. French Onion Soup? Check! Shrimp Cocktail? Check! Caesar Salad? Check! Sirloin Steak? Check! The soup was watery and cool. The Caesar Salad was often limp and warm. I tried the different offerings but there were many at our table who relied on the standards...and they were not impressed.
Service in the main dining room was excellent. Dress code was resort casual which was pretty casual most nights. Three formal nights - dark suit or sportcoat will do.
The buffet was the same every meal. We tried both breakfast and lunch there. Not very inspiring. I don't know what it was like for dinner. I assume better. Some things they doled out like valuable commodities. Butter seemed to be rationed. But other stuff you could just take from the buffet line.
The food in the buffet - totally forgettable for breakfast and lunch. There was a build your own pasta station. Every day. For 15 days! Too bad the meatballs weren't very good. Breakfast was ok. Fruit, muesli, omelettes, yogurt, egg station,. The waffles were made out of cake batter - which my father-in-law really liked! Sometimes the french toast and pancakes were totally cold and rubbery - but they served them anyway.
The buffet was not organized well. In places two lines converged (like at the omelette station) which almost caused altercations amongst the passengers!
Service in the buffet - not very good. They did not clear tables. Some servers seemed to harbor a thinly veiled hostility towards the guests. I was thinking it was just my imagination at first but as time went on I came to think they have some labor problems with the buffet staff. The maitre d' of the buffet did not seem to care much about what was going on around him. I think he was probably more concerned with how to shave off a few dollars per day from the food spend.
The ice tea was incredibly weak. I really don't understand why that would be.
If you are expecting an up to the minute modern cabin then you should probably move on. But I found our cabin comfortable, clean, plenty of storage, decent bathroom. The only negative I have would be that the bathroom is a step up...and the shower a step over to get into. I did not mind so much cause I don't spend much time there, but being 6'4" my head brushed the ceiling in both the bathroom and the shower.
The bed wasn't bad. I did not have the egg crate foam like some reviews stress. I thought it was clean and comfortable.
Cabin attendant - Achmad - was fantastic. As was his assistant. Unobtrusive but the cabin was always clean.
*Random Hits and Misses*
Miss - the purser staff has no power to take care of even the most minor customer service issues. They write your concern down in a logbook and say someone will call in 24 hours. Needless to say, nobody calls.
Miss - the wifi was worthless. Maybe it was the location of the ship. But then don't sell it! (See #1 Miss above!)
Hit - Elite status does have some nice perks. The relatives are Diamond on RC and that translated to Elite on Celebrity. The perks extended to cabin-mates as well, which was a nice touch. They really did have some worthwhile offerings for their Elite travelers.
Hit - Elite laundry service! 30 items washed for free! 1 Dry clean. They did a good job.
Miss - they offered to wash one bag of laundry for $35 for non-elite travelers. The bag was small and made of paper. One of the rules was the paper couldn't be torn (of course). So if you had two pair of pants well, those and a couple T shirts and the bag was tearing. Seriously depending on what you put in the bag you could get from 5 to about 15 items (socks and underwear) per bag, which did not make it a value. Make the bag bigger...and plastic!
Miss - Disembarkation. Basically everyone for themselves. With little direction coming from anyone.
Miss - Tendering. Not their fault exactly. Seas were rough. But don't pack the people in like the ship is sinking. Leave a little room!
Hit - Exercise Room - newer, high quality machines. Small, but OK for the ship size. Could get crowded the first few days but that eased up as we went along!
Hit - Lifestyle classes - Yoga, pilates, morning stretch, and strength training boot camp. Good instructors. The yoga dude Alen from Croatia was very skilled, as was the woman from Australia (can't remember her name). Some things were free, some things cost money. It wasn't too expensive.
Hit or Miss, depending - Persian Garden was small. Probably because of the ship size. I did not buy the pass but it looked like it could be OK.
*Overall observation:* Enjoyable time and a good way to relax and learn about Hawaii and see four ports on three islands.