Sometimes I pick a cruise based on the itinerary, sometimes I pick a cruise based on the ship and sometimes I pick a cruise to cruise with friends. This cruise happened to involve all three criteria.
The Century is my favorite ship currently sailing. This sailing was part of a redeployment of the Century after Celebrity decided to reduce the previously announced ‘solsticization’ dry dock down to a shorter technical dry dock, no doubt due to plans to sell or transfer the ship out of the Celebrity fleet. I usually book my cruises years in advance, this cruise was offered only about eight months prior to its sailing, that meant I had to rearrange my cruise schedule for the year when I booked this one, but it also meant another sailing on my favorite ship before she was gone.
I was also drawn to the itinerary, which included a port that we had never visited in our previous thirty plus Caribbean cruises. St. Bart’s was a completely new port for us. We had been to St. Croix only once before more than a decade ago. We had a bad experience there and I wanted to give it another try. San Juan was the only port we weren’t excited about, but that was okay, we’d use it as a ship day. Grand Turk is a new favorite port that we had been to only twice before.
But the deciding factor was probably an email was a cruise friend prodding us to cruise together once more. We have met so many great folks while cruising; it’s always fun to reconnect on another cruise.
A little about us, we’re in our late 40’s and have been cruising for 15 years. In that time we’ve taken nearly 40 cruises, on 6 different cruise lines, most of which were in the Caribbean, our primary motivation is an escape from our Minnesota winter.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale the evening before the cruise via Southwest with a plane change at Chicago Midway. I had kept an eye on the weather forecast for Chicago all week. The weekend before we had a diversion and delay flying through Midway I was hoping that wouldn’t happen again. This winter the weather has been extra crazy all over making travel tricky. It turns out the weather was fine in Chicago on Valentines Day, but I failed to check the originating city of our flight. The plane was coming from NY via Milwaukee and had a delayed arrival of about an hour. Our two hour layover turned into one hour but we still had time for a drink at the airport since this time we were lucky enough to fly into and out of the same gate. We have been flying on Southwest for only about a year. I like the flexibility they allow to change or reprice flights that have gone down in price. We have also had good luck getting good seats by purchasing the early bird option. On this trip we would take advantage of the free alcoholic beverage offered on holidays when flying Southwest. This year there was a full moon on Valentine’s Day.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on time at 11:35 PM on Valentines Day. We spent the night at the Renaissance in Plantation. We had never stayed at this hotel before. We always stay in the 17th Street area or the beach area of Fort Lauderdale. But since we booked only eight months out, it was Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day weekend, the only hotels in those areas were pretty spendy. Since we were arriving late I didn’t want to spend too much, but I also prefer at least a 3* hotel. I was able to reserve a room at the Renaissance in Plantaion with a AAA discount for $160, which was much cheaper than anything I could find in our usual areas. The cab ride there was about $26 plus tip. We didn’t explore the hotel much, but I can say the mattresses were incredibly comfortable.
Saturday February 15, 2014 embarkation day
We have friends, which we met on a cruise, that live near the hotel. They picked us up at the hotel in the morning and we had breakfast together at one of their favorite breakfast spots. We also stopped at Publix for a forgotten item. Then they dropped us at the ship by noon. Check in had already opened, there was a small line for the x-ray, no line to pick up our cruise cards, a quick stop for the security photo, then we were on the ship sipping a welcoming sparkling wine. A very quick and easy embarkation process.
Since this was our fourth cruise on the Century we didn’t need to explore the ship. We knew exactly where we wanted to go, the Sunset Bar. The Sunset Bar is a wonderful open air bar at the aft of the ship all the way back through the buffet. The wake view is great and there are several tables.
There has been some recent concern regarding the condition of the interior of the ship since the ‘solsticization’ was canceled. During the cruise I never noticed worn out carpeting or upholstery. It appears that they may have just replaced a strip of carpeting in the buffet area between the tile area at the serving lines and the carpeting in the table area. The only worn area I noticed was the decking on the starboard side of deck 12.
It was announced that rooms were ready between 1:00 and 1:30. Our home for the next eight nights was 1217, an inside room on deck 12. This was our third time staying in the same room. All the rooms on deck 12 were added during the big refurbish in 2006, so the cabin is newer, I think the hair dryer is nicer since it’s newer. We like the location because it has easy access to the pool area, buffet and the Sunset Bar. This room probably has the most storage of any room we have experienced. There are two large hanging closets and another closet with four large shelves and four shallow drawers, two bedside stands with two drawers each, a desk area with six drawers and a large storage area behind the large mirror at the desk. The bathroom also has a lot of storage and the shower had plenty of clearance to keep the curtain from attacking while showering.
The muster drill was held at 3:30. Our muster station was the casino. During the drill we listened to the safety information and watched a crew member demonstrate the proper way to wear a life jacket. We did not have to bring our life jackets to the drill.
Shortly after the drill it was time for sail away. Our favorite spot for sail away is the Sunset Bar; we also like the area with the “golf balls” one deck up and forward of the Mast Bar. After sail away it was time to unpack and clean up for dinner. Before dinner we like to stop at the Martini Bar, our second favorite bar onboard.
We have been choosing the Select Dining option for several years now. We find that we don’t always feel like eating dinner in the dining room. But when we have traditional dining I feel obligated to go and feel guilty if I don’t, so the Select Dining option works well for us and we have rarely had an issue on Celebrity or any other cruise line. Until tonight. We arrived at the Select Dining Room entrance between 8:00 and 8:30 and found two long lines. There was one line for those like us with no reservation and another line for those with reservations. We soon discovered that many people waiting in the reservation line had reservations for 7:30 and still weren’t seated. This was our third cruise on Century with Select Dining and the first time we’ve encountered a wait. We decided to skip dinner and call it a night early.
Sunday February 16 day at sea
We started the day at the pool. On sea days we’re usually out at the pool by 8AM. Sometimes we take turns going to the buffet for breakfast, today I didn’t eat until lunch time when I went to the grill for a cheese burger. The cheese burger tasted really good. I’m sure part of my enjoyment was due to the length of time since I had my last burger, since I normally only eat burgers off the grill at home and it had long been too cold and snowy at home to grill a burger.
Shortly after the pool games began at 1PM we decided we’d had enough sun for the first day and decided to get cleaned up spend some time in other parts of the ship. As I was dressing after my shower I encountered a problem. The hinged mirror at the desk area was coming apart. I called guest services and told them the problem and asked them to send maintenance. Calling guest services entailed at about 5 minutes in a phone queue. Then instead of sending maintenance, they sent our assistant cabin attendant, about 15 minutes later. I showed the cabin attendant the mirror and he assured me it would be fixed and I didn’t have to sit in my room waiting. It was the middle of the afternoon of our first sea day and I didn’t want to spend it in my inside room. During the afternoon we spent time at the Sunset Bar, the Cova Café and other areas of the ship. After realizing that still nothing had been done to remedy the mirror issue in our room we stopped at guest services.
We had talked to friends who had gone to dinner earlier than us the first night and found no wait, so we decided to give earlier a try. A few hours later it was time to get ready for our first formal night and still nothing had been done to fix our mirror, very frustrating. We got ready for formal night as best we could. It was too difficult to access the jewelry I had brought that matched my formal dress since it was in the safe behind the mirror. Every time we moved the mirror it seemed to get worse and I didn’t want it to come all the way off the wall. It was very heavy and a mirror that would’ve broken and gotten glass all over our room. Before leaving for drinks and dinner we once again stressed to the room attendant that something needed to be done.
We stopped at the martini bar before going to dinner. The frosty bar is cool and the bartenders there are always friendly and fun. When we arrived at the dining room, earlier tonight about 7PM, we were discouraged to find lines again for both those with reservations and those without reservations. It turns out we were in line behind a couple we knew from the roll call and when we decided to eat together it seemed to help us get seated sooner as a party of four, we were seated before other parties of two in front of us. Service in the dining room tonight was slow to start. It seemed to take a long time before they took our orders. But once they took our orders our service improved to a nice pace. After dinner we stopped back at the martini bar for a dessert drink, and then made our way back to the Crystal Room to hear the orchestra play Big Band music. When we decided to call it a night we were relieved to find the mirror in our room had been removed.
Monday February 17 day at sea
Another day at sea, again we spent time at the pool in the morning. While we were at the pool during the morning they brought the repaired mirror back and installed it. For the remainder of the cruise our mirror operated properly. We spent the afternoon enjoying the ship and the Sunset Bar.
We always ate breakfast and lunch from the buffet and grill. My favorite breakfast item was the made to order eggs benedict; I also liked the hash browns, sausage and bacon. At lunch I usually had cheese and bread from the buffet, sometimes a cheeseburger from the grill. I used to find cheese in the buffet for a mid-afternoon snack, but now there isn’t any cheese out then, but I found I could steal cheese from the salad bar.
We ate in the dining room again tonight. This time we planned to meet our friends and again it seemed like we were seated sooner as a party of four than other parties of two waiting. Tonight there was a comedian in the theater, we don’t care to go to the usual shows, but we enjoy a good comedian. Unfortunately this was not a good comedian.
Tuesday February 18 Gustavia, St. Bart’s
We were scheduled to arrive at St. Bart’s at 10:00AM, tendering started about this time. We didn’t have a tour booked so we weren’t in a hurry. We had a leisurely breakfast in the buffet, more made to order eggs benedict. Shortly after tending began, it was announced on the ship that public restrooms on shore would not be available. This is a French island and I had heard that they don’t like Americans and/or cruise ship passengers. So I guess the absence of restrooms was thought that it would discourage passengers from disembarking to the island. We had never been to this island before and I was determined to check it out.
I think it was between 11:00 and 12:00 when we tendered over. We had read about a bar there called Le Select, that is said to be the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet’s song Cheeseburger in Paradise, so that was our first stop. We had a couple Presidentes, the bartender was nice, they took US dollars and the restrooms were in fine working order when needed. After our stop at Le Select we continued through town in search of Shell Beach on the edge of town.
The beach was nice; it was made of tiny and crushed shells instead of sand. We spent some time in the water. When we had enough of the water, we decided to get something to eat at the restaurant at the beach, Du Brazil. It was kind of like we were invisible here, it took a long time to get seated and then even more time for someone to take our order. The food was good when we were finally served. We were on vacation so we weren’t in a hurry, but it was pretty obvious that we weren’t wanted or welcome. As we were eating the weather was getting cloudy and raining off and on, so when we finished eating we decide to head back toward the ship.
On the way back we stopped at a store and got a Christmas ornament for 5EU and stopped for a couple more beers at Le Select. I’m glad we went to St. Bart’s, but I don’t need to ever go back. Shortly after we were back on board it started to downpour, so we made it back to the ship just in time.
Tonight we ate dinner in the buffet. I like the pasta bar. There are a variety of items to pick from that they will cook and add to your choice of pasta and sauce.
Wednesday February 19 St. Croix USVI
We docked at 8:00AM this morning. We’ve been to St. Croix once before a dozen years ago. That time we booked a snorkel trip to Buck Island, which stranded us on the other side of the island without a ride back. We were ready to give St. Croix another chance. This morning when we left for our excursion I left a couple laundry bags. This time we booked the Half Day Frederiksted Sail & Beach Break.
While checking our account we noticed that we had been charged for a drink, since we both have the premium drink package we shouldn’t be charged for any drinks. On the way to the excursion meeting place in the theater, we stopped at Guest Services to break up some bills and ask them to adjust our bill. They printed our bill highlighted the incorrect charge and said it would be taken care of. In the theater each different excursion was assigned a colored number that was called when they were ready for us to disembark for the excursion.
We boarded the catamaran right from the pier we were docked at, an easy walk from the ship. My first impression was there were a lot of people boarding this catamaran, but there was plenty of room for all of us. The crew of three raised the sails and served us rum punch or pop if you preferred. After sailing for awhile we stopped at Rainbow Beach and had plenty of time to enjoy the water, beach and a drink at the beach bar. Both this beach and the beach in St. Bart’s had steep drops just into the water which made it difficult to get out of the water. After a couple hours at the beach we were back on the sail boat back to the pier. We enjoyed this excursion so much that we’ve already booked it when we return to St. Croix on a cruise in November.
We walked around the shops near the end of the pier a bit but I didn’t see anything that interested me, so we went back to the ship. After the sun and the sand and the water this morning I was ready for a nap in the afternoon. Tonight we ate in the dining room, just the two of us this time. The wait wasn’t bad this time for the two of us. After dinner we stopped at the martini bar for dessert martinis, and then later stopped in the Crystal Room to check out the interactive theme party.
Thursday February 20 San Juan, Puerto Rico
We arrived bright and early at 7:00AM. San Juan isn’t a favorite port; we will stay onboard and enjoy some pool time with fewer passengers onboard. I took some pictures of San Juan from the ship. We were parked next to Independence of the Seas, we’ll be sailing that ship for New Years Eve this year. We were dwarfed next to it.
I expected my laundry to be delivered when our room was made up in the morning, but nothing. After checking with the cabin attendant we got some of it back. Since the bag was marked one of two I knew there should be more somewhere, we finally got the second bag later than evening.
An unfortunate accident occurred while in port that required our friend’s parents to stay in San Juan to receive medical attention that wasn’t available on the ship. After their hospital visit they spent the night in San Juan and then flew straight home. Our friends were appreciative of the help they received from guest services during this stressful time.
Tonight was our second formal night. Our friends had two open seats at their table, so tonight we ate with them at early traditional dining. The service was slow to start, but then fell into a good pace. The lobster was yummy. After dinner we went to the martini bar for dessert martinis.
Friday February 21 Grand Turk
This morning was a lazy morning; we weren’t due to arrive at Grand Turk until noon. The water here is beautiful. There was another ship in port with us that had arrived an hour earlier, so it was already really busy at Margaritaville and the beach right next to the pier. We’ve been to Grand Turk twice before and we always do the same thing. We walk down to Jack’s Shack where we try various dinks and snack on jerk chicken, this visit was the same except this time I also got in the water a couple times too. The beach there is really nice. Jack’s goldendoodle, Topher, is always there digging holes in the sand and playing with the kids. It’s always a fun relaxing beach bar day. There’s always a place about half way back to the pier along the beach to stop for a local beer. Once we made the mistake of ordering a local beer and what was a very small vodka diet at Margaritaville and it cost us $16, that’s outrageous we won’t do that again. We were in port until 8:00PM. We went back to the ship when t got dark. Tonight we ate in the buffet. I love the pasta bar in the buffet.
Saturday February 22 day at sea
Once again we started the day at the pool. When checking our bill again on the TV were we irritated to find that the bar charge that we had brought to their attention days ago was still there and there were two more drink charges that shouldn’t be there. Again we went to guest services and again they printed our bill we had to highlight the charges and they said they would be taken care of, but based on previous experience I didn’t have much confidence in them. I just don’t understand why they couldn’t reverse bar charges of less then $10 on the spot when they knew we had the premium drink package. Guest services should be empowered to correct those errors on the spot. After pool time I started packing.
In the afternoon we shopped at the store and gambled just a little in the casino. I also stopped at Cova and had an Aspen, love them, and some very yummy carrot cake and some chocolate goodness. And of course time at the Sunset Bar. During the afternoon while at the Sunset Bar we saw a dolphin or whale come up for air a couple times right along the wake.
We mentioned the bar charges on our account to one of the bartenders and he was nice enough to take our information directly to his bar manager and got the charges taken care of immediately. I really appreciated his help with these charges, although I think guest services should’ve been able to take care of them immediately when brought to their attention.
The last night we ate at the pasta bar in the buffet. We also spent time at the martini bar, and the Sunset bar. At night when the sky is clear you can see so many stars, its amazing.
Sunday February 23 disembarkation day
We were spending the night in Fort Lauderdale before flying home Monday morning, so we weren’t in a hurry to get off the ship. We had number 33 with a meeting time of 9:40AM in the Rendez Vous Lounge. We had to be out of the room by 8:00AM so I had one last breakfast of eggs benedict and sat at a table at the Sunset Bar until it was time to head downstairs. We went to the lounge a little early and our number was called before we even sat down. We found our luggage easily and the line for customs and immigration was short and moved pretty quickly. We were docked at pier 4, we were staying at the Renaissance on 17th Street so we were able to walk pulling our suitcases the three blocks to the hotel.
We had a great time on this cruise. We spent time on our favorite ship, visited some great islands and spent time with friends and met new friends.
We encountered some hiccups. The broken mirror that took more than four hours for them to remove, similar issues that I’ve encountered on other cruise lines were addressed within an hour. Invalid charges on our account that were never resolved by Guest Services, similar issues that I’ve encountered on other cruise lines were addressed immediately while at the guest service desk. Although we can feel secure that guest services can rise to the challenge to assist during a major incident. The long waits for Select Dining surprised me, we had sailed this ship twice before with Select Dining and never encountered a wait.
It seems that the ship was having some sort of water issues. There were several tanker trucks delivering water to the ship when docked. Often times in the buffet area there weren’t any cloth napkins only paper. It didn’t adversely affect our cruise; I always had enough water when I needed it. I just thought it was odd.
We get to sail Century one more time LA roundtrip along the West Coast. I hope the Select Dining is running more smoothly by then.