Following the previous review of our Northern Lights cruise on the MS Boudicca Complete with norovirus as widely reported in the British press. My wife and I returned to Celebrity for a back to back cruise on the Celebrity Century taking in a Pacific coast wine cruise followed on with a cruise to Alaska.
Normally I would start my review with the embarkation process,but as this trip included BA flights from Heathrow to Vegas,and there were significant issues, I felt I should start this review from the very beginning.
For the first time we departed from BA's Terminal 5, and to our horror we discovered there was no executive lounge available to anyone other than BA Frequent Flyers of Silver Level and above. I don't know what percentage of passengers departing Terminal 5 are frequent flyers of that level with BA, but I'm willing to bet there are a significant number who at not. Added to this lack of executive lounge facility, we could not find any access to wi-fi. We have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, and this is the only terminal in which we have ever encountered this problem.
Sadly, however, our problems did not end there. We boarded our Boeing 747 for the 10 hour flight, only to find that for the second time running with BA, we had to endure a long haul journey with no in-flight entertainment as the system wasn't working in some of the seats. Apparently this affected about ten people.
In our experience with BA, the staff are helpful and friendly, and when we encountered this problem on our previous flight back from Hong King last December, the purser was able to move us to other seats. On this occasion however, the flight was full, so the flight attendants were very apologetic, and we were promised our problem was recorded, and that we would hear from BA HQ.
As this is a cruise review, I won't talk too much about Las Vegas, except to say it was about our twentieth visit so clearly we love the place, although more than about four days would give us sensory overload.
We departed Vegas for San Diego to embark upon the Celebrity Century. The embarkation process was speedy and efficient, and we love the way Celebrity allow you to board the ship early and enjoy the facilities, while you wait for your cabin to be ready.
This was our first Celebrity cruise as Elite Members, and to the best of our knowledge, the Celebrity/Royal Caribbean loyalty programme is the best in the industry, and we were very impressed with all our additional benefits. For what it's worth, we are also at the top level with Fred Olsen and there is simply no comparison.
Following my previous mixed review of our cruise on the Celebrity Milennium, we embarked the Century not knowing what to expect. We very quickly learnt that despite these two ships belonging to the same company, and operating presumably to the same policies and procedures - these two ships are world's apart. It is fair to say we are pretty demanding passengers, who expect a high quality service, and we are not prone to handing out praise if it isn't earned.
The crew on the Century have a can do attitude, and were very friendly, helpful and efficient in every department, with the exception of one person on the front desk, and one waiter. The ship not only has character, but also a great atmosphere. Up until this cruise our favourite ship was definitely the Azamara Quest, now it's a close run thing.
As far as the negatives go, and this won't take long, we started with a cabin on deck 4 (4071) and it was easily the noisiest cabin we have ever had, mainly because it was below the galley. In fairness we were moved to another cabin, with a minimum of fuss, and more than adequately compensated for our inconvenience. We had one or two other minor niggles and these were also dealt with in an efficient and friendly manner.
The only major issue, and it's more to do with company policy than the ship itself was unlike the wine cruise we did on the Constellation in Europe last year, we were unable to drink any wine on board that we may have bought on any of the excursions. Consequently we decided not to do any of the wine tours, so our business was lost.
Also, this was our first back to back cruise, and we never realised that at the end of the first half of the cruise we would have to finalise our account, and start all over again the next day, with all that entails which of course meant attending another muster drill, and being treated by some of the staff as a new passenger which was slightly irritating, particularly as they messed up our account details for the second part of the cruise. The other problem with the back to back cruise was that the dinner menu was repeated in the second week.
Anyway, onto the practicalities. The cabins were adequate and clean. The ship's public areas were all clean, well-presented and spacious. There were always plenty of activities going on, and the ship's resident performers and evening shows were of a high standard. The ship's gym was the best equipped I have ever seen, and I never once saw an out of order sign on any of the equipment.
My one criticism of the Spa was the exorbitant prices charges for any of the treatments on offer, but I guess if some people have more money than sense and are willing to pay, you can't really blame the company for charging what they think the market will bear. Also, the shore excursions were a little expensive, and I would question the value for money aspect, but as with the Spa, if people are willing to pay etc. etc.
As I mentioned earlier, the service on board was easily amongst the best we have ever encountered. The waiters, the concierge, future cruise sales, cleaners, and bar staff were all excellent, and the company should send all of its' staff for training in guest services to the Century, because in over twenty cruises, the guest services staff were the best we have ever encountered - light years ahead, nothing was ever too much trouble. They were friendly, helpful and extremely efficient, and I wouldn't normally give name checks but on this occasion I will make an exception.
Cristian, the guest services managers, in my humble opinion, should be put in charge of training for the whole company. He was always friendly, approachable, and keen to resolve any problems. As was Lisa, a member of Cristian's team on the front desk, who was easily the most friendly, helpful and caring person we have ever encountered on a front desk, and did everything possible to ensure any problems we had were quickly and efficiently dealt with.
Also the I.T. staff were helpful and much friendlier than they often are on cruise ships.
The first part of this cruise was a Pacific Coast wine cruise, so we attended a number of wine tasting events which were both informative and interesting, and the second part of the cruise went up to Alaska.
Sadly the shop staff were not as friendly as we would have hoped, and we were continually pestered by the ship's photographers. Also, the choice of TV channels was limited, but that always seems to be a weak point on a ship. There were minor niggles which did not affect our enjoyment of the cruise, although we, along with many of our fellow passengers could have done with the hot tub being a little cooler.
One other thing. The cruise terminal in Vancouver with two other ships in was pandemonium, and be warned. There are U.S. Immigration officials there and the queues were horrendous. We certainly will not be visiting there again. Brits beware, I was forced to buy a new ESTA, even though I had a perfectly good one.
Fortunately, and to be fair when we disembarked the Century the following week, we were off the ship and clear of the terminal within minutes. Celebrity, like some of the other lines give you the option to walk off if you can carry your own luggage, and the staff in Canadian Customs were very friendly, welcoming and efficient.
In summary, we loved our cruise on the Century, so much so that we will rejoin the ship for its' San Diego to Hawaii cruise in October, and very probably, again for the Panama Canal cruise next year.