We just returned from a great cruise on Century. I had booked us at the last minute. Originally, I had hoped to be able to take a longer cruise at Christmas. My in-laws' health problems, however, made my DH decide he wanted to be home to visit them for the holiday. So this 4-day itinerary, returning Christmas Eve, worked out with our schedule.
We sailed on Century for Christmas and New Year's four years ago, before the refurbishment. I was eager to see the changes. That was also our last Celebrity cruise—having sailed on cruise Christmas cruises twice on Princess and once on Holland America since then.
Precruise: We flew down to Miami from Raleigh two nights before our cruise. I booked our room at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami through Priceline. It's a 4-star hotel (according to Priceline). I felt we had a 4-star bed in a 2-star room. It's obvious that the room had been remodeled to try for a suite feeling. There was a 5-foot wall that separated the bed from sink area. The bathroom had not been remodeled very well. The handles, faucets and shower head looked like something from a cheap motel. The hotel does offer the amenities of a 4-star hotel, such as room service, concierge, and valet parking.
From the hotel we took the free Metro Mover often. It's like a monorail that loops around the downtown area. We enjoyed shopping at Bayside and along Flagler. And we were able to catch the Miami Heat against the L.A. Lakers. Great game for Dwayne Wade and not so great for Kobe. There is a liquor store on Flagler. It does not carry any boxed wine.
Embarkation: We checked out of our hotel a little before noon and caught a cab to the port. The fare was less than $10. Within minutes, we had checked our bags with the porter, walked through security, and checked in. There was a little wait upstairs for our security photos, but we were on the ship within 15 minutes. The woman at security took my one bottle of wine and said it would be delivered to our cabin.
Stateroom: I had booked us a Cat. Z—inside guarantee cabin. Our cabin assignment was posted on Celebrity's website a couple of weeks before our cruise. We ended up in a Cat. 11 inside cabin on the Plaza Deck (5021), just a few steps away from Guest Relations. It's a great location for us. When we have cabins without balconies, we like to be close the Promenade Deck. This cabin is just one flight of stairs away.
The layout of the cabin was typical—small desk area with a safe behind the mirror, beds made together as a queen, two small nightstands, a flat screen TV above the mini bar, and lots of closet space. The bathroom was nice. It's one of the biggest upgrades I noticed from when we sailed on Century in 2004 (before the refurbishment).
Our stateroom attendant Sebastian was OK. He tidied up the room, but occasionally was a little bit slow to do so. He did bring extra pillows for me the first day and then more for DH later on during the cruise.
Food: I was appalled by the lunch buffet the first day. I have never seen such slop before on a ship. It did not help that the buffet was 45 minutes late opening up, so by that time a huge crowd had formed. As I was waiting in line, there was a guy carving roast beef at the end of the main courses. By the time I got to that point, he was gone. When I asked, the reply was that he had moved to the other side.
The overall impression certainly confirmed my idea that Celebrity is way behind the other cruise lines for its buffet food. I later had to change my mind. The rest of the cruise the food in the Islands Cafe was terrific. There were several stations during breakfast and lunch serving different things. I especially enjoyed the stir-fry station at lunch. In the evening, the sushi was pretty good.
In the dining room, the food was pretty good. We had a good waiter (Kumar) and assistant (Santos). They kept service quick and did not seem to mind special requests. The food arrived at the right temperature. We enjoyed a table for eight that turned into a table for six. Two of the couples from the first night did not return. We were joined by a couple on the second night. They had moved tables because they disliked their previous table location. We were close to the entrance on the upper level of the dining room, beside a window.
We ate breakfast in the dining room on three days. Service was excellent the first couple of days. It was horrible the third one. That's the type of hit-or-miss chances that can ruin a cruise for some people. I always manage to eat something and to know that there's another meal coming up not too long from then to worry about it.
Lunch was served in the dining room only during the sea day. I am not sure if not opening the dining room on port days is a new idea since it has been four years since our last Celebrity cruise. In any case, I would prefer it to be open for lunch, especially since our itinerary was such that a lot of passengers would have made it back to the ship in Key West in time for lunch and could have eaten lunch in the dining room before leaving the ship in Cozumel.
The Aqua Spa Cafe was a tasty alternative for lunch one day. It offers several different cold plates that are supposed to be healthy choices. I enjoyed the poached salmon. DH had a cashew chicken dish. The tart with fresh blueberries was one of the dessert highlights of our cruise.
I missed the thalassotherapy pool—the biggest victim of the refurbishment. It was our favorite place to relax on our last Century cruise. I don't really get the attraction of the Persian Gardens. We tried out the heated loungers during a tour of the spa the first afternoon.
Entertainment and activities: We saw the two production shows Liverpool Knights and Broadway. The first was billed as Celebrity's newest show. I don't remember what it replaces, but it can't be an improvement. It's a mElange of second-rate songs from the 1960s. The singers and dancers worked hard. You won't be seeing any of them on American Idol—unless it's in the audition rounds.
The welcome-aboard show featured a comedian/magician. From our seats, I could tell how he did every trick. The other headliner was Karen Saunders, a New York singer discovered by Rodney Dangerfield. That makes about as much sense as her show did. We left about halfway through to go see the a capella quartet Michigan Avenue perform in Rendez Vous Square. These guys were very entertaining. We had caught the end of their performance in atrium earlier during the cruise. They also performed at the Christmas show.
There was a poolside band that wasn't great. Fortunately, we like to use the pools and hot tubs in late afternoon and they were not playing then. The trio who played in Rendez Vous Square was good. The string quartet was a nice touch—but played fluff. If you're going to the expense of having a string quartet, why not let them play some decent music? There was also a guitarist who I enjoyed listening to one evening during my sushi run. He also played the atrium. The stage band for the nonproduction shows wasn't great.
We enjoyed trivia several times. It took quite a few times before we finally won. There were also many other activities throughout each day. The activities staff was missing one person, but the three of them managed to always start on time with the exception of the few times we had to change locations. I don't understand how whoever puts together the schedule can't see that there's already an event booked for a room. There must be some communication problems behind the scenes.
Problems: That bottle of wine that was taken at embarkation took an awful long time to arrive in our cabin. I asked at Guest Relations before dinner the first night. She said it should be there that night. I asked again the next morning after we had finished touring Key West. That woman took our cabin number and the kind of wine. It finally showed up at 5:00.
I had also preordered three bottles of wine online. Two were in our cabin when we arrived. I asked at dinner the first night about the other. The wine steward did not know anything about it. I asked at Guest Relations the next day while asking about our missing wine. She told me it would be delivered to our table. Well, that night we schlepped one of the bottles to the dining room. Our wine steward did not mention the other bottle until the end of dinner. He wanted me to sign receipts saying that we had received the three bottles. I explained we had only received two. He promised to deliver the third bottle the next night. I said I would sign for it when I received it.
Our tablemates had worse problems. Their cabin was without a working toilet for several hours one day. Apparently someone had flushed a towel. They also had problems with hot and cold water. It was either scalding hot or cold. The people who came to fix the problem could not.
Overall: I was apprehensive about taking another short cruise, thinking that we would not have enough time to relax and that a short cruise would attract a rowdy bunch of passengers. We had a great time. I would rather stick with 10-night cruises, but once every few years it wouldn't be bad to do another 4-night cruise if it's on a Celebrity ship.