Best Vacation Ever - Alaska on Century: Celebrity Century Cruise Review by dwp1127
Overall Member Rating
Best Vacation Ever - Alaska on Century
New York to Vancouver (Saturday Night)
We flew from JFK to Vancouver on Cathay Pacific, 10PM Saturday night which got us into Vancouver a little before 1AM (with time change) on Sunday morning. I picked Cathay because they had a very reasonable direct flight (<$400/pp round trip) when I booked last year. I'm a pretty More frequent flier for work, and I have to say that the service we received in Economy on Coach was actually better than some of the service I've received in Business on American or Delta. Very impressed with Cathay. Flight was uneventful, other than being completely packed.
Once we arrived at Vancouver, it was about a 25 min cab ride to our hotel the Westin Grand Vancouver. Booked the hotel on our Starwood points; noted in the reservation that we were staying pre-cruise (and post-cruise on a different reservation) as part of our 10th Anniversary. Upon arrival, we found champagne and desserts in our room with "Happy Anniversary" on the plate - very nice touch. We were so tired at this point we literally just crashed for the night around 3am.
Got up, had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Our Check-in window was 11am-3pm for the cruise. We checked out around 10:30am and walked down to Canada Place (about a 10-15 minute walk). The walk was nice, but with us each carrying a back pack, a suitcase, plus my carrying a garment bag, it was a bit of a pain. We arrived at Canada Place to see Century docked on the right, and Zaandam (Holland America) docked on the left. It was a little confusing at first figuring out where we needed to go (it literally looked like we were walking into a parking garage), but once we figured that out, we just followed the signs to Cruise check-in. We were there around 11:05 AM.
Hands down, the absolute smoothest embarkation we've ever done. We literally followed the signs to "Celebrity Century", followed the signs to "Suites". There was a very small line, we went up to the counter, handed in our pre-filled/signed cruise documents, were handed our SeaPass cards, and then shown where to walk to go towards the ship.
We walked towards the ship, had our embarkation photo taken with the "Alaska" background, and off we went to the Century. From the time we got to the terminal, to the time we were physically on the ship was maybe 10 minutes. We were told by several different people that the rooms would be ready about 1pm. We got on the ship and just started walking around to get the lay of the land since this was our first time on Century. Went up to Deck 12 and saw they had the doors closed so you couldn't get to the staterooms yet, so we headed up to the buffet and grabbed lunch. Good selection, nice presentation. Staff very friendly. Ship wasn't really busy yet (maybe a couple hundred people on at this point). We walked around some more and found the doors had been opened so we went to our stateroom.
The Room and Cabin Staff
We had an S1 Sky Suite on Deck 12 (Room 1205). If you're looking for a Suite that you'll find on an S-Class, this isn't it - and we knew that going into our trip. That being said, the room was perfect for us. Great condition, no issues whatsoever with anything working, it was plenty big for the two of us for the week. We were able to store both suitcases and garment bag in the closet without issue and still had plenty of room for all of our hanging clothing (suits, sport coats, dress shirts, slacks, dresses, etc.).
The Verandah is HUGE with a table and chairs we could eat at, two lounges, and a small table next to them. We still had plenty of room beyond that. My wife was a little hesitant based on some of the reviews we've read on CC in the past, but she said to me within 10 minutes of being in our room that she thought it was perfect. Within about 20 minutes we met our Butler, Ram. Hands-down, the most service-oriented person we've ever encountered on a cruise. Yes, I know, you're thinking to yourself "he's a butler, that's his job". Within a day we felt like we've known him for years. I'm not a big fan of having people waiting on me, and he sensed it early on. He very clearly told me his job was to ensure we had an amazing experience and to sit back, relax, and "let Ram take care of everything". Shortly after we met Luna who was our cabin steward. Again, we had felt like we knew her forever within a day or two. Always smiling, laughing with us, and making sure everything was perfect for us.
The Ship Itself
Century is a beautiful ship. It's definitely not a Solstice or even a Millenium for that matter, but it's a beautiful, charming ship. We liked the "coziness" of it, and yet it never really felt crowded despite it's smaller size (granted, there are also less passengers). From what I understand, we were at capacity for the cruise, but it still never felt like you were with that many people. Crew were constantly cleaning areas, doing touch-ups, etc. Century probably has the cleanest public men's rooms I've ever seen on a ship! Anytime I walked into one there was an attendant in there ensuring it was clean. Century Theater was nice, we sat in the upper potion a few times and had great views of the shows. The pools were never overly crowded (it was chilly a few of the days we were on it).
The Dining Room/Food
We were put at a table for 8 with two empty seats. Two other couples (one from Quebec - a little older than us, one from Vancouver - a little younger than us). Very nice people, and we hit it off with the one couple, but the other couple just didn't seem overly interested in interacting. The wait staff was OK, but I honestly don't remember much about them. It was the first dinner on a cruise where I actually felt a little uncomfortable. I asked my wife if she would mind us getting switched to a table for 2 (I just didn't want to feel like I had to be "on" at dinner and try and carry a conversation), and we went to the Dining room the next day. They told us they would try to honor our request, and a few hours later we had a new assignment card in our room with "Table for 2" hand-written on it, now being at Table 538. From that night forward, we had one of the best cruise dining experiences. Danilo was our waiter and Azhari was our assistant. Fun, attentive, and just generally great people. By the end of the cruise we were hugging and taking pictures, and just sad to leave them. They learned our preferences the very first night (well, 2nd night of the cruise at this point), and every night knew without us asking. We would show up and the Pelligrino was already on the table. After dinner, my Earl Gray tea with extra Splenda and no milk was brought to me. I've been very focused on my health for the last 2 years (I've lost 148 pounds on Weight Watchers in the last two years) and Danilo sensed that with my choices each night. I would order the low-fat frozen yogurt for dessert every night, and after one night of me asking for a 2nd one, I had a double portion coming out every night without on.
Food quality was really excellent. We never had a bad meal. We tried a variety of dinners during the week - everything was always cooked properly, hot, and ample portion. We never walked out of there feeling hungry, or stuffed. Just enough to be satisfied.
I was really impressed with the Gym on Century. Had what I needed, equipment was in great shape. I went down to the Gym every day for about 45 minutes. It was definitely busy most times, but I never had to wait for a treadmill or bike (granted there were a few times I grabbed the last treadmill and other people came in and had to wait a few minutes). It definitely met my needs; I love the fact that it has a forward facing view (contrast to a ship like Disney Dream which has the gym facing the side - I found that odd).
I am not a "spa" guy by any stretch of the imagination. I don't like massages or anything like that. That being said, my wife and I did a tour of the spa on the first day before we left port, and I really liked the Persian Gardens. So we bought the access pass for the week ($179). I am so glad that we did. we used the Persian Garden every day - I would usually head down to the gym around 7:30 and my wife would come down around 8:15 and meet me so we could use it. We always were able to get a seat, and most of the time we had it all to ourselves. We had a few days where we used in the morning and evening. Just so relaxing, I would fall asleep laying there I was so relaxed (and I am NOT a napper!).
The only "negative" of the spa was that my wife had an appointment booked that the Spa rescheduled on her 3 times. First time was because the woman doing the treatments was apparently sick with a fever (OK, not complaining!), second time was some scheduling mishap by the spa. The 3rd time wasn't really a reschedule, but rather them calling 20 minutes before her appointment to say that the woman (same woman) was "running late". Uhm, OK. My wife was the first appointment of the day, not sure how someone runs late on a cruise ship, traffic couldn't be that bad ;-) It was the day of Hubbard Glacier. My wife was assured she would still have plenty of time to see the glacier, etc. Well, even after coming down when they told her to, she still waited another 30 minutes for the person to arrive. We wound up hanging out in the Persian Garden, so I really couldn't complain too much :-) The woman doing the treatment wound up giving my wife a longer treatment than she paid for, perhaps to "make up" for it, which was a nice gesture. She wound up getting out of there with enough time to see us arriving at the glacier, so it all worked out in the end, and wasn't horrible, but just surprised us since they always seem to be so "on target" with delivery on the Century.
Entertainment - Shows
We both thought the stage shows were good. Shows they did with the onboard entertainers were "Dance Around the World", "Liverpool Knights", and "A Touch of Broadway". The singers and dancers were good. Not the best we ever saw at Sea (Sorry, Disney wins that one), and certainly not the worse. It was definitely "good". Corey Kahaney was the comedian. Thought she was OK. We only saw her one night. I seem to remember her being funnier when I saw her on Letterman, personally. Christina Bianco is a singer who also does vocal impersonations (she does a spot on Barbara Streisand among others) - we enjoyed her. The highlight for us was the Beatle Maniacs which were on towards the end
of the cruise. Absolutely amazing. Had (literally) the entire theater up and dancing, it felt like a concert and not a show at Sea. If you ever get a chance to see these guys - do it. They do a large selection from the Beatles library, all dress up like the Beatles (the guy doing Paul McCartney literally looks like Paul McCartney when he was young), and they sound amazing. We went to a few of the "party" type events in the Crystal Lounge. They were OK, we stayed for a bit and then went onto other things. The last night was a 60s party, and to be honest, I felt like the whole 60s British thing was overdone by then, and we left early.
Entertainment - Around the Ship
Alan Kavanagh is a guitarist and vocalist - REALLY liked him. I would often sit at Cova Cafe with my tea and just listened to him. Something about acoustic Pink Floyd being played (well) in the lobby area - the sound just carries nicely in there. Carlos Avalon is a Pianist/Vocalist who I also liked - he played at Cova a bit and we listened to him a few times at Michael's Club. Really nice guy, always had a smile on his face when he saw you. Estrada Trio is a Jazz trio they had that we caught a few times, liked them as well. Twist of 8 is the "Party Band". They were OK.. I wasn't overly impressed with them although I really liked their Drummer - I felt like he was the life of the band and was truly having fun, where everyone else looked like they were just trying to get through their set to go to bed or something.
Cruise Director - Ben
Ben was awesome. Always "on" but never "over the top". Always smiling, helpful, asking how you were doing. Seemed genuine. I've been on some cruises where I felt like the guy was trying to sell me a car. Ben just seemed very natural. He did a great presentation on his time working for Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) at the Australia Zoo which was pretty cool.
Naturalist - Milos Radakovich
Milos was the highlight of the ship activities for me. I wound up going to every one of his sessions based on the recommendations from others on Cruise Critic. I *really* learned a lot from him. He did "Wildlife of Alaska" on Monday, "Fire & Ice" on Tuesday, "Sea Mammals of Alaska" on Wednesday, "The Night Sky: Stars, Planets, and Constellations" on Friday, and "Are We Alone in the Universe" on Saturday. I am very science-oriented and this was all right up my alley, but even my wife (granted, she's a teacher, but she's not someone I would consider very into science) thoroughly enjoyed these sessions. Milos is a GREAT presenter, funny as heck, and really added value to the cruise. We also enjoyed him up on the bridge when we were at Hubbard Glacier. You could hear in his voice the excitement and wonder as he was explaining what we were seeing, etc.
Amazing. Experience of a lifetime. We were able to get within .5 mile were perfect visibility and blue skies. Able to see calving multiple times. We stayed on our verandah the whole time (port side). Here's a tip - if you get a Verandah, stay on it for the glacier - no need to go up on deck (unless you want to get a "360 experience". Turn on your TV to Channel 19 and crank up the volume. You'll hear Milos (or whoever the naturalist is on your cruise) do their entire play-by-play that's being pumped through the PA system on that channel. We were able to get on our Verandah, see everything, and listen to Milos on our TV. They opened the bow of the ship up so people could go out to it, it was pretty crowded (Ch 19 also has the bridge cam so you can see everyone out there). The crew came in nice and slow, and then hung a right, did a real slow 360 so the entire ship was able to see the Glacier perfectly. I snapped about 400 photos of just the Glacier area. Port, Starboard, or Aft from your Verandah, you'll get a great view.
- The Usual Cruise activities, we took part of a lot of them and enjoyed them. They did a battle of the Chefs that was fun, my wife took a water coloring class she enjoyed as well.
Icy Strait, Juneau, Ketchikan. Enough has been said about these and I feel that it's personal preference to anyone who goes to them. I enjoyed them. Don't feel the need to go back to any of them, but enjoyed them. We did the Wine & Whales at Port Adolphus (Icy Strait) which was my first whale watching trip and we saw whales!; the Dog Musher camp in Juneau which was a lot of fun and very well done. In Ketchikan we did the trolly tour which was OK.
I left this towards the end because I have mixed feelings. We had (prior to getting to the ship) made reservations for Friday night Dinner to celebrate our 10th Anniversary, on our wedding anniversary. It was going to be the "highlight" night of our trip. We met a woman on the first day who worked in Murano named Roxanna who was just a pleasure to talk to. Anytime we'd run into her around the ship, she'd always stop to talk with us and just made us feel good. She recommended we also try Murano for lunch, and we did on Tuesday. Wonderful experience, great lunch (perhaps the best meal we had the entire week), and it psyched us up for dinner Friday night with high expectations. Now, I'll preface this by saying that (as I pointed out earlier), I'm not someone who is comfortable with people waiting on me, etc. But, I'm also a professional who works in Manhattan and has been to some very nice restaurants in his life/career. I have a pretty good feel for what I would consider "acceptable" at a higher-end restaurant. Murano is sold as an "experience". They clearly hit the mark for Lunch, on par with some of the best restaurants I've eaten at in New York. Dinner on the other hand was an entirely different experience, until "Carlos from Portugal" got involved. We had 8pm Dinner reservations and arrived a few minutes early. We waited for a few minutes (no big deal), were seated, and handed menus without a word being said to us. They were not busy at all (maybe half the restaurant full). The couple at the table next to us were clearly agitated about something, which we would later find out to be that they felt the service was slow and unattentive. They literally got up and left the restaurant before their dessert because they had enough of waiting (I would estimate we were sitting next to them for at least 30 minutes before they left). So, we sit down and wait. And wait. Until someone comes over and basically asks us what we want for dinner. No, "welcome to Murano". No "here's what's on the menu". The waiter was looking around the room the entire time we were telling him what we wanted (almost as if we were keeping him from his "more important" guests). So now I'm annoyed. Our reservation clearly had noted on it (and I saw it, so I know there are notes on the reservation) that it was our anniversary. No "welcome", no "happy anniversary", nothing. A short while later a family comes in at the table next to us, and a whole bunch of waiters are practically falling over themselves welcoming them, etc. Maybe it was the two hot blondes at the table, but that would be purely speculation on my behalf. Long story short, I'm annoyed. really annoyed because the service just stunk. Our appetizers come out, barely a word. Finally about 90 minutes into dinner, "Carlos from Portugal" stops over and asks how are things going. So, I was honest. Told him the food was great but I was really let down by the service. He asked me "Slow?" (I was told by other people on the ship to expect a 3 hour meal, which was perfectly fine for us - we wanted to savor the night!). I said "No, I feel like nobody cares that we're even here." and continued to explain the lack of greeting, lack of acknowledgement of the anniversary, the fact that my drink glass sat empty for 20-30 minutes at a time, the fact that the other waiters are tripping over themselves giving service to the other table and we feel like we're just sitting there like idiots. Carlos apologized profusely and took over the rest of the night. From that moment forward, it was like we were transported into another restaurant. Service was amazing, he must have said something to the other staff because people were attentive, and giving us the service that (a) we expected and (b) experienced earlier in the week at Lunch. At the end of the night they brought out an Anniversary cake, and Carlos sat with us and just chatted for a bit. For the remainder of the trip, anytime we saw Carlos on the ship (usually in the buffet) he would stop to talk with us. I made sure to write this out on our comment card for Celebrity and also sent them an email. People like Carlos is what really helps set Celebrity apart from some of the other lines we've sailed. By the way, the food was fantastic at dinner too :-)
On Sunday we got back into Vancouver around 7AM, we were up at 6:30, and went and got breakfast at the Buffet around 7:15. We were assigned luggage Group 4, and told to report to the Hemisphere Lounge at 8:15 AM and were free to get off the ship between 8:45 and 10. We said our goodbyes to Ram and Luna (we were genuinely sad to leave them!) and headed up to the Lounge at 8am. Got up there and heard the crew member in there telling another family that they had already called Luggage group 4, and we could get off the ship, so we went down to Deck 6 and proceeded to get off the ship. We were in the luggage area by 8:10, and had our luggage and in a taxi by 8:15 off to our Hotel.
Post-Cruise Stay in Vancouver
We spent Sunday/Monday in Vancouver (again at the Westin -GREAT staff and highly recommend the hotel). Easy walk from the Cruise Terminal although this time we opted for a cab since I didn't want to lug our luggage again. We had dinner Monday night at the revolving restaurant ("Top of Vancouver"). Wonderful dinner, we went right before dusk and were able to see the city 360 degrees transition from day to night.
Flight Back Home
Our flight (Cathay Pacific again) was due to leave 10:50PM back to JFK, but was late leaving Hong Kong, so we didn't depart until just before Midnight. We got to the airport around 7PM. Vancouver international was hassle-free. Able to get through security quickly, Airport wasn't very crowded. We had dinner in one of the restaurants and just hung out until our flight departed. Full flight again, but were able to sleep no problem and wound up getting into NY around 7:30AM.
Overall, this was the best vacation we've ever had. I travel a lot for work (Domestic and International) so consider myself a fairly savvy traveler. Every part of this trip was stress-free, had little to no hassles. My wife and I have traveled and seen many things in the world but nothing compares to the beauty of Alaska. Pictures don't do this trip any justice at all. As to those concerned about Century being an "older" ship. Don't be. It's a great ship in great condition, with a truly amazing crew. Less