Celebrity Century 4 night Caribbean cruise 4/25/11-4/29/11. This cruise had two at sea days and one port, Cozumel. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary and it was our first "real" trip away from our 3 year old daughter. Thank goodness for Grandma! :-)
Background: I am 31 and my wife is 32. This was our fifth cruise but first on Celebrity. Up until this point we had been loyal to NCL. We decided on this sailing to try something new and because the price, compared to similar cruises, was the same or less. This was our shortest cruise to date, most being 7 nights, our longest 8 nights.
Travel To Port and Embarkation: We flew in a day early and stayed in Fort Lauderdale the night before the cruise. We were picked up by SAS Transportation from our Fort Lauderdale hotel the day of the cruise and it was a very quick transfer to the Miami cruise terminal. Upon arrival at the port, we were met by the porters who provided us with luggage tags to fill out (we did not have correct luggage tags because we changed cabins less than 2 weeks before the cruise). With the luggage out of our hands we made our way inside. I must say this was the absolute easiest boarding process we have ever had. We arrived at the port between 11:30 and noon and the place was absolutely dead. No waiting in line and a very quick check-in had us on the ship in maybe 10 minutes. We did use the Concierge Class line but there was no lines/no waiting in any of the lines. Once on the ship we were greeted with smiles and offered Champagne or Mimosas. Cabins weren't ready so we had an enjoyable lunch at the buffet. Cabins were ready a little after 1pm.
Cabin: Originally we booked the lowest price inside, we were trying to do this trip on the cheap. I just want to touch upon this inside cabin briefly. We were assigned to 4024 and after doing a Google search I found a review that warned not to book it because it was "unique". No explanation was given for its "uniqueness". Since that time, I stumbled upon a YouTube video that showed the interior of the cabin and it had two large poles running through the cabin. Just a warning if you happen to get this cabin.
Now on to the cabin that we actually sailed in. I checked prices daily and I was pleased to see that veranda cabins dropped drastically in price a few weeks before sailing. I was able to upgrade for a very small change in price. We sailed in cabin 9100, a Concierge Class (C1) on the Vista deck. It was similar in size to the balcony cabins we have had on NCL. There was an interactive LCD TV, small sitting area with a "couch" and a desk with chair. The cabin was outfitted with robes and a good selection of toiletries in the bathroom. Because of being in Concierge Class, the linens and towels were upgraded (VERY soft) as were the robes (plush instead of waffle). We also got a couple of extras including binoculars which as reported here on CC are toy-like and pretty useless. Upon arrival there as a bottle of sparkling wine and a fruit plate. The balcony was large enough for two chairs and a dining height table which was great for dining on the balcony.
Dining: We ate in pretty much every venue onboard except for Murano. Since we are used to the Freestyle concept, which NCL pioneered, we opted for Select Dining which allowed us to dine at our leisure between 6pm and 9:30pm. We just aren't appointment type people while on vacation. With Select Dining you are able to make a reservation for dinner in the main dining room. We found this not to be needed and were seated right away whenever we showed up.
Grand Restaurant (Main Dining Room): We ate dinner here 3 of the 4 nights aboard (the other night we had room service, ordered from the restaurant menu). We were always promptly seated. One night at a table for 4 (but it was just the 2 of us) and the other nights at a table for 2. Regarding the tables for 2 in the Select Dining area of the dining room (which is upper level starboard), they are very close together. You most likely will end up conversing with your neighbors. I really cannot say anything bad about the food served in the Grand Restaurant. The visual presentation was great and the food was always served at the correct temperature. At times we did have a hard time getting service from the bar server or the sommelier. Sometimes you had to track them down. But beyond that, service was excellent. Some stand-out dishes were the seafood orzo and the osso bucco (my favorite from the week). We had breakfast here only on disembarkation day. It was good, if a little rushed (simply because it was disembarkation day). But the quality was good. We had only two sea days and dined in the MDR for lunch one of the days (the other sea day brunch was offered). Lunch was quite good with excellent service.
Islands Cafe (Buffet): We only ate a full meal at the buffet one day, lunch on embarkation day. It was quite good. Lots of variety and very good quality. They served the dishes to you on the buffet line which we found a little unusual but thought was nice. Service was good with a crew member offering to carry my wife's tray for her back to our table and another getting my drink at the self service beverage station (he took my glass and asked what I wanted...). Mainly though, we used the buffet for afternoon snacks. Tea Time was nice with little sandwiches, scones, and pastries. I only got to sushi one afternoon but it was very good. Other offerings included pizza (quite good), Asian stir fry station, pasta and salad bar, ice cream, and more.
Poolside Grill: This was our go-to place for lunch on the two days we lounged by the pool. Burger, dogs, fries, onion rings, tacos, nachos, chicken skewers, chicken wings, etc. Everything we ate here was good.
AquaSpa Cafe: Never ate a meal here but had smoothies the first day. The offerings did look good and everything is cooked to order.
Cova Cafe: Sandwiches, pastries, and tapas available at Cova depending on the time of day. The chocolate croissants are decent (the only food I had from Cova). The coffees are quite good and they are a full service bar too.
Room Service: We dined on our balcony for breakfast 3 mornings. The food was always delivered on time or early (2 or the 3 mornings it was delivered before the time we had indicated). The smoothies available on the Concierge Class menu were VERY good. We did omelets and sides each morning and they always came at a decent temperature and tasted good. On formal night we opted to dine on our balcony and ordered from the dining room menu. We didn't ask in advance for the menu but called when we were ready to eat and our steward brought us the menu with some paper to write our order and came back to take it from us. The food was delivered quickly and everything was at the proper temperature and tasted great.
Bars: My wife and I both had the Premium Alcohol package. Did we break even? Who knows, but even if we didn't, it wouldn't stop us from getting it again. We loved the all inclusive feel it gives the cruise. We didn't have to worry if we didn't like something or wanted to try something new. One negative side effect of the beverage packages, and this is just speculation, is that they may be under-staffing the bars to keep package users consumption down. With few exceptions, we found the bars to be terribly understaffed. The worst was at the outdoor bars especially the pool bar. We also observed that the pool wait service was very slow so we ended up having to go to the bar for a refill.
Reflecting back on the cruise the only gripes we had were bar related. Besides the staffing issues, my wife experienced one annoying thing that kept coming up. She kept getting carded. One or two times is cute and flattering, I guess...any more and it becomes very annoying. There is no doubt she is young looking. She is 32 but looks closer to 18 (one bartender didn't even think she was 18). I know there are liability issues but this has not happened on any other cruise. We understand why they are doing it but that doesn't make it any less annoying. Surely there is a better way.
One of our favorite, super chill (literally and figuratively) spots on the ship is the Martini Bar. So many choices and such a neat spot. The bar is frosted as is the back wall. The bartenders put on a show as well as mixing up the delicious drinks. One of the bartenders was really good with card tricks and kept us amazed while we were enjoying our drink. This was one of the few bars where staffing seemed to be able to keep up with the demand.
Entertainment/Activities: Relaxation and a whole lot of nothing was the theme of our cruise. We didn't go to any of the daily activities and only attended one show in the Celebrity Theater. The show we did go to was amazing and hilarious. Hypnotist Christopher Caress put on an incredible and incredibly funny show. All of the entertainers we happened to see in the bars/lounges were good. I especially liked Anton who is a guitarist/vocalist. The casino was quite good to me, turning $20 into $250 in less than 5 minutes on a penny slot machine that I was playing around with one night after dinner.
Shopping: Typical cruise ship shopping. Jewelry, watches, duty free, etc. Some bargains were to be had though since this was the last cruise of Century's Caribbean season. Caribbean themed items (including rum cakes which we stocked up on) were 50%-75% off.
Pool Area: The pool area consisted of two pools, one designated as the "family pool" and the other designated as the "adult pool". The actual difference between the two pools was depth. One was under 5 feet, the other over 6 feet. There were also 4 hot tubs near the adult pool and they were designated as "adult whirlpools". Even though there was a designation between the two pools and the hot tub was designated as "adult only", there was little adherence to this and no enforcement that I saw. Young children were constantly jumping into and out of the hot tubs with seemingly no adult supervision. There was one little boy who couldn't have been more than 5 who we saw multiple times, multiple days, jumping into and running around the hot tubs...he was swinging off a rope near the the hot tubs into them. Not a very safe situation. My wife and I actually discussed which one of us was going to jump in after him if he got hurt or started drowning since no one else seemed to be paying attention to him. I will touch upon "chair hogs" in the "CC Issues" section below.
Weather/Seas: The weather was PERFECT and this was absolutely the smoothest cruise we have been on. A little (VERY minimal) motion arriving to and leaving Cozumel but SO smooth overall.
Cruise Critic "Issues": Just some observations on some issues that come up on CC frequently. First, smoking. I absolutely LOVE Celebrity's smoking policy. It was a joy to be able to enjoy the casino without smelling like an ashtray after. It was nice to sit on my balcony and not have to smell smoke at all times (as I have experienced on NCL on several occasions). As long as the policy is followed by all, you are able to avoid smoking if you choose or are able to find a place to smoke if you want to. Second, dress code. I saw no serious violations of Celebrity's dress code. Did I see people in jeans? Absolutely. But that is allowed under their dress code. I did not see what people were wearing on formal night because we decided to dine in and enjoy a quiet evening. And there was one instance where I saw someone in shorts in the MDR at dinner which is against the policy. But I didn't let it bother me...why some do I will never understand. Third, Chair Hogs. There was obvious attempted chair hogging going on. The pool butlers had none of it and were actually removing towels after a half hour or so. The pool butlers were incredible. Constantly making sure there was an ample supply of towels and the pool area was clean and tidy. One thing I forgot to mention under the "pool area" section of my review was cold towel service was offered at the pool. What a nice touch!
Disembarkation: The sad part of my review :-(. I was a little blue on the last morning (and I usually am). I had a really good time and I didn't want to get off. I was actually worried about the last morning onboard because it seemed to be handled so differently than NCL. NCL allows you to stay in your cabin until your color/number is called. Not so on Celebrity. But it really wasn't an issue and the last morning was actually pretty relaxing. We got up, got ready, went to the MDR for breakfast. Came back to our cabins, chilled for a couple minutes, grabbed our stuff and went to our assigned lounge. And then we were off this ship. It didn't feel overly stressful or rushed which I appreciated. The only thing that could have been improved is the ability to get room service on the final morning (as they do on NCL)...but not a huge deal, it got us to eat in the MDR for breakfast at least once on this cruise.
Conclusion: In spite of some very minor issues (none really impacting my experience), this was a great cruise and very nice intro to Celebrity. I was going to do a full NCL vs. Celebrity comparison but decide it against it and allowed this cruise (and accompanying review) to stand on its own. I will say though Celebrity is a step up in most areas when compared to NCL. Does that mean I will abandon NCL and start sailing exclusively with Celebrity? Probably not, but Celebrity will be another line I will look at when planning a future cruise.