This was the second leg of a b2b, following three nights to the Bahamas. We kept the same cabin, and our wonderful room stewards made that part of “turn-around day” seamless. However, due to the unusually large number of cruisers staying on, there were some logistical hiccups in the disembarking / re-boarding process. The folks at Guest Relations seemed genuinely concerned about those issues when we brought them up. Hopefully, the turn-around process for this ship will go more smoothly in the future.
This was our second cruise on Century, so we pretty much knew what to expect. We were a little disappointed to find that nothing had really been replaced during the dry-dock immediately preceding our cruise. To us, it looked like cleaning and repairs were all that had been done. However, our verandah cabin was in great shape, and our stewards kept it neat and spotless. Some of the public areas were where the “wear & tear” was most visible. That being said, I’m always amazed by the “old-ship” class that Century exudes. Wood and brass are everywhere, as opposed to the glass and stainless steel that predominates the newer ship decors. I prefer Century’s main dining room to any on the Solstice Class.
We found the food to be hit-or-miss, especially in the main dining room. Overall, the quality of food on Celebrity ships seems to be slipping, fleet-wide. The rib-eye steak, featured on two different evenings was so thin that you could hardly call it a steak. However, the chefs did their best with what they had. Regarding food preparation, our major complaint was the consistent over-salting of the food. Others at our table noticed the same thing – two of us sending the fish back one night, for being too salty. Our service in the MDR was outstanding! The two ladies who made up our wait-staff were very pleasant and attentive, and the maitre’d stopped by most evenings to chat with us.
The one onboard dining experience where we noticed dramatic improvement was Murano. Two years ago, we did not enjoy our meal there – they couldn’t even manage to cook a steak properly. The two dinners that we had in Murano on this cruise were head and shoulders above what we remembered. The tableside dishes were prepared with a wonderful flair, and the soufflés were perfect! One night we had Chateaubriand, which was cooked beautifully.
The ports: This unique itinerary was what drew us (and many others) to book this particular cruise. It gave us an opportunity to visit three islands we had never been to, as well as returning to an old favorite (Puerto Rico). Overall, it turned out to be a mixed bag:
St. Bart’s: Well, if you’re on a private yacht, have a good time. But, if you’re on a cruise ship, you might want to just stay onboard. The locals don’t want us there, and they made that very clear. As we were waiting in line for the tender to shore, there was an announcement that all of the public bathrooms in Gustavia were closed that day. We got off the tender a little before 11 am, and nothing was open -- except some of the ultra-high-end shops. We walked around for about an hour and took pictures, hoping to find a place to have lunch. No luck -- so we just went back to the ship. Others who went onshore later in the day found a few restaurants open. We heard that, despite the high prices, the food was quite good (even if it did come with a side of attitude).
St. Croix: Our first time there -- but we had a distinct advantage over our fellow cruisers, as we have family members living on the island. They picked us up at the port and gave us a private tour. We finished with a stop at the Cruzan Rum Factory. The tour and tasting that followed were great, but their store was a disappointment. They did not take cash or American Express, as payment. So, we ended up not making the purchases we had planned. Personally, I have never heard of a U.S. company (Cruzan is now owned by Beam), on U.S. soil (USVI), that would not take U.S. dollars!
San Juan: Having been to El Morro several years ago, we decided to see the “other” fort, this time. Castillo San Cristobal is not as large or imposing as El Morro, but very impressive nonetheless. It was within easy walking distance of the pier. We even did a little shopping, on our way back to the ship. I have always loved sailing into and out of San Juan. I think it is one of the most breath-taking views anywhere in the Caribbean.
Grand Turk: A beautiful island, but small. The problems arise when you’re not the only (or at least the first) ship in port, there. We didn’t arrive until noon – well after the Carnival Conquest. By the time we got off the ship, every lounge chair, umbrella, restaurant table, and golf cart were already taken. One of our roll-call members had worked diligently to set up a tram tour of the island for our large group. But, by the time our group finally located the tour operator, he had already filled the tram with other customers. Rather than apologize, he proceeded to chide us for being late – which we were not!
Overall, this was one of the best cruises we’ve taken on Celebrity. The great crew more than compensates for the age of the ship, or its lack of the “bells & whistles” that can be found on the newer-builds. The Captain and his officers were highly visible, and very approachable. The Guest Relations desk was responsive to any problems that arose. The brand-new Captain’s Club Hostess was simply amazing, and we found the Cruise Director to be funny and entertaining.
One of the best parts of this voyage was the large Cruise Critic contingent, onboard for this cruise and the one preceding it. We had an amazing roll-call, and it was great to be able to meet the folks we’ve been chatting with, for so long. Many of us were on this cruise to say “good-bye” to Century – as it appears that she will be leaving the fleet, sometime next year. She will certainly be missed!