This was our first time on Celebrity, although I have previously taken 5 cruises on Royal Caribbean. I was able to transfer my Crown & Anchor Society status to the Select status on Celebrity, so we were able to take advantage of the expedited embarkation. This was wonderful. On that note, disembarkation was a breeze. Way better than it's ever been on RC.
Food: We like the formal dining room. I like getting dressed up and having a set time for dinner, so we opted for the late seating on this cruise. The food ranged from a little above average to excellent. The Baked Alaska was almost unidentifiable as that dish, but the creme brulee and chocolate mousse were very good. I had fish several times and it was always great, but the steak was only average. Our waiters were both extremely nice, but the wine steward was a little snobbish. We booked during the 1-2-3 Go! promotion and got the standard drink package, and the steward sneered every time we ordered beer or wine within the accepted price range for the package. That being said, he was the only Celebrity employee we encountered who was anything but nice and helpful. We ordered room service once, and it was delivered promptly and our order was accurate.
The final brunch buffet was beautiful. Even if you don't want to eat a big meal, you should go just to browse the wonderful creations. Tons of desserts, shrimp cocktails, ice sculptures, it's just a culinary masterpiece.
Entertainment was pretty good. We liked the Motown singers, the commedian was good for a "clean" show, and believe it or not, the juggler was very entertaining.
My favorite place on the ship was Michael's Club. It was never overcrowded, the seating was comfortable, the decor like an old study, the bar service very cordial. It was really nice going there after dinner to sip sherry or port and listen to the wonderful pianist, Peter Rossetti.
We had a balcony suite in the Concierge class. Normally we get an inside cabin because we don't spend a lot of time in the room itself and like the total darkness during sleeping hours, but we shelled out the extra money for the balcony suite since we assumed we would be spending a lot of time on the balcony during this particular cruise. We know lots of people who have taken Alaskan cruises (and we read lots of reviews on cruisecritic beforehand), and everyone raved about how many whales they saw in the waters around the ship, and how many bald eagles or bears they saw at the ports. We saw one whale (tail only), one small school of dolphins and no bald eagles or bears anywhere. We specifically did not opt for the whale-watching excursions because everyone assured us that you basically got the same experience onboard the ship, so we really missed out. We tried to hang out on the balcony, but the weather for at least 3 days of the cruise was super foggy, and it was extremely cold on the other 3 days. Yes, of course we knew it would be cold in Alaska. I think you just have to keep in mind that if you spring for the balcony price because you think you'll be out there all day, you're underestimating how cold you'll be sitting out there.
I probably will not opt for the Concierge class again. The stateroom attendants are in and out of your cabin all day long, every day. They are doing this to clean up, bring you fresh flowers, deliver pre-dinner canapes' on the formal nights - behaving exactly as they are instructed, I'm sure - but that was just too much for us. If you want to hang out and truly relax in your room, you won't be able to do that with Concierge service.
Another note on the weather: apparently if you travel to Alaska in the spring, it's warmer and you see more wildlife but you'll be plagued with swarms of mosquitoes. In the fall, it's cooler, foggier, but no mosquitoes. When we mentioned all the fog to one of our waiters he said "that's because this is the last cruise to Alaska this season. It's always like that this time of year." So there you go.
As you probably already know, Celebrity is Royal Caribbean's more luxurious line (with Azamara being even better/more expensive). Consequently we had high expectations for the ship. Some of these expectations were met, others were not. For example, the food (with the exception of the brunch buffet on the last day of the cruise) was basically the same. As a matter of fact, many of the dishes were identical to those I've enjoyed time and again on RC cruises. Frankly, as much as I like the food the menu needs an update. Those of us who frequently cruise on the same line don't want the exact same meals on every cruise.
There were also some special benefits like the option of afternoon tea, nice thick blankets on the lounge chairs at the pool deck, and definitely more storage space and a nicer bathroom in the stateroom/cabin.
The decor was definitely an improvement. In my experience, both RC and Celebrity's ships are very clean and well maintained by the staff. But beyond that, the ship itself was classier, the decor more sedate, the seating more comfortable, etc. than the RC ships I've seen. Celebrity had the aforementioned Michael's Club, as well as a swank (but pricey) martini bar and a lovely (although crowded) coffee cafe'. I also felt that the other cruisers were nicer on Celebrity - but this may be an isolated experience. People were better behaved, not crazy drunk or acting trashy in the bars, etc.
If you're not a "kid person", this is a good time of year to cruise. School is in, so we saw very few children on this cruise, and none were running amok. At dinner one night there was one large family with two howling babies that were extremely annoying. I wish the staff would learn to address these situations better for the comfort of the other cruisers, but I realize it's a delicate situation. Of course, the parents should have just removed the kids when they kept screaming.
Oh yeah, and this is a big deal to me - there is no indoor pool on the Century. I cannot understand how they chose this ship for the Alaskan cruise season, as cold as it gets in September. RC ships almost always have beautiful, adults-only solariums along with the big outdoor and child-centric pools.
The spa - I had a great massage here, but it was about twice the price that I would pay at a spa at home. Afterwards the masseuse really put the hard sell on me to buy one of their custom spa products. It made me a little angry - you get all relaxed and happy after the massage, then they try to force their overpriced products on you. I have had massages on RC cruises before and didn't have this experience, and really wish Celebrity just provide the good service.
Excursions - this itinerary has tons of great excursions. I wish we could have done more, but we loved the ones we did.
In Icy Straight Point we did the ATV Expedition. Our guide was awesome. She quickly determined that we were the youngest people in the group (we're in our early 30's, which is pretty young for the cruise set), and told us to take the ATV directly behind hers. She took off, and we happily followed and let the more cautious drivers catch up when it was convenient for them. It was rainy, cold and muddy that day, but this actually made plowing through with the ATV really fun. Our guide also told us a lot about the native Tlingit people and their culture, which was nice.
Ketchikan - this is a cool little town. You can tour it in about an hour in a rented electric car, which is easy to drive. We saw tons of salmon spawning in a stream, and some totems. We did the floatplane excursion. This isn't cheap, but is well worth the cost. It was just us and one other couple with the pilot on the floatplane, which went over the Misty Fjords and landed in the water before taking off again. We have beautiful pictures from this, and loved our pilot, who gave us lots of facts on the area.
Juneau - loved this port. A very picturesque town with huge evergreens on the mountains above. We had lunch at a wonderful crab shack with super fresh seafood, and the locals were all very friendly. We did the dog camp and got to ride in the summer sled. We played with the puppies and had lots of fun. The only thing that would have improved this was doing it atop a glacier as opposed to at the camp. It would have been nice to ride through the snow instead, but this was much cheaper and a nice adventure.
Overall we would recommend this cruise, if for no other reason than the great excursions. My feeling about Celebrity as opposed to RC now is that if you can book Celebrity for the same price or a little more than RC, do it, but if the price difference is big, then don't. I would take this cruise again, but not in September. Instead I'd probably to to go early in May before school is out and the weather is nicer, and just bring along a lot of mosquito spray. :)