Every January, for the last couple years, CELEBRITY CENTURY departs from its usual schedule of seasonal 4 & 5 night cruises to accommodate a 7-night charter from the Royal Bank of Canada. This scheduling change leaves a 2-night gap in the schedule, which has been filled by Celebrity as a special 2-night Short Bahamas Getaway.
I sailed on last year's 2-nighter and enjoyed the brief respite so much that I decided to repeat it this year.
Living in Fort Lauderdale means the Port of Miami is a short drive away, so after leaving my home at 2:30, I was onboard CENTURY by approximately 3:15 p.m., with check-in a breeze.
Last year I had booked a minimum outside cabin; I had originally done the same thing for this year. However, after checking Celebrity's website several times, I noticed some pricing changes which allowed me to upgrade (twice)…first to a Concierge Class veranda stateroom on Penthouse Deck, then after a second pricing adjustment, to a Century Suite overlooking the stern.
CENTURY still appears mostly fresh from its refit in late 2006, which, among other things, added hundreds of balcony cabins. One nice feature on Celebrity is the fact that they do not allow smoking in any of the cabins or verandas…so accommodations are fresh and not smoky. Cabins feature contemporary furnishings and nice soft goods, a flat-panel TV, and a revitalized bath with a raised-bowl sink. The colors are warm and restful, not trendy and overly-bright. Cabin 1148, while a suite, was a fairly modest 190 square feet and featured two twin beds which can convert into a king, a full-sized sofa, mini bar, safe, and four generously-sized closets. The cabin lighting and the black-out drapes were both exceptional, two pet peeves of mine. Being a suite added the following amenities: A DVD player with access to movie library, robes, binoculars, umbrella, and scale (a most unwelcome addition on a cruise!). Most of the above items are available for purchase. The bathroom features an expanded line of private-label Hydro-Minerale amenities, including shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, foot spray, sewing kit, nail care kit, and shower cap.
However nice the suite was, the piece de resistance was the surprisingly spacious balcony…which measured a very generous 10' deep or so. Facing directly over the stern, the balcony was furnished with two chaise lounges, and a high-quality teak and aluminum dining table and two chairs. The only caveat being: the roof of the balcony is only covered for about 3 feet…so the celebrants at the alfresco Sunset Bar above invade on your privacy, at least partially. Conversely, you are able to view the cantilevered balconies below. Noise from the bar was almost non-existent when in the cabin with the door closed.
Century Suites offer Butler Service, which among other things, offers evening hors d'oeuvres, afternoon tea, and complimentary espresso and cappuccino. In-suite dining is also available. Our Butler, Ezio, was solicitous but not obtrusive. I thought I would be uncomfortable with something that I considered elitist like Butler Service, but I adjusted quickly! We coerced Ezio into delivering margaritas to the cabin and compensated him accordingly for his time and effort.
I will admit off the bat, that I am a big fan of Celebrity. I've been on twenty-something cruises…four of which were in 2008, the latest being NCL's NORWEGIAN SKY in November (see my Cruise Critic review). In my opinion, Celebrity manages to do something quite rare: make a mega-ship experience feel intimate and personal. This is all due to what I consider to be the excellent training and staffing of their ships. Even though this was a "one-off" cruise, I found the staff to once again be personable, smiling, and sincere. A vast change from my previous NCL experience, which I think is a direct result of the Freestyle concept, but that's another story.
After a very thorough lifeboat drill, we were on our way, gliding through Government Cut, with the Miami skyline backlit by a spectacular sunset. Life began to take on a familiar shipboard rhythm as passengers explored the vessel. One odd thing that stands out about CENTURY is their food service in the Islands Café…instead of a continual all-you-can-eat slop-fest, there were limited hours and a limited selection of items: a pizza and pasta bar, salad, as well as beverages available 24/7. Sushi was offered on the second night. At first I was put off by the food availability and selection, but in retrospect liked the fact that there was minimal waste, and that the items appeared to be quality versus quantity. Excellent hamburgers and hotdogs were available at the pool deck, and self-serve ice cream was always popular. Unfortunately for the reader, I have never eaten in the Grand Restaurant on CENTURY on either of my sailings. I'm sure that the food was as good as I experienced on a previous Celebrity Panama Canal sailing. So between the pasta bar and some very good Room Service (available 24-hours a day) I was content with not making too big a fuss and enjoying the mesmerizing views of the wake from the cabin balcony. Room service can be ordered via TV, and I had a shockingly good steak the first night.
As I didn't participate in any activities, I can't really comment on them. My pleasures were mostly derived from some excellent margaritas and some casino time.
The next morning bright and early we arrived in Nassau. The negative aspect of the stern cabin became apparent due to the noise and shaking which accompanied the docking of the ship…however it only lasted 5 or 10 minutes. We were docked in Nassau with CARNIVAL SPLENDOR and DISNEY WONDER; Holland America's STATENDAM arrived mid-afternoon. Since I've been to Nassau 6 times the past year, I simply got off to take pics of the ship, and to sit at the dock and play my favorite game: "Who Is Going To Which Ship?" It's an amusing and fairly accurate exercise.
All too soon, my two nights onboard CENTURY was over with! So, what is Celebrity and why should I cruise on CENTURY, you might ask? To me, a Celebrity ship is stylish but not too trendy. You won't find a bowling alley or colors that will date the ship in a couple of years. The cabins are handsome and restful. A "zero announcement" policy also adds to the sense of peace; there are no endless, loud calls for shore excursions and gift shop "blowouts". The ship is considered mid-sized so it's fairly easy to grasp in a short period of time. But in my opinion, despite the investments in quality "hardware" like ships, Celebrity has wisely invested in their PEOPLE. It seems that their employee training is just not some half-hearted "mission statement" but a real sense of hospitality from top to bottom. Accordingly, I felt at HOME on CENTURY…and that sense of familiarity and welcome will bring me back to Celebrity again in the future.