Celebrity Century Cruise, Auckland -- Sydney sailing 6th January 2012
On a beautiful sunny day Carolyn and I walked from our hotel to Princes Wharf in Auckland for embarkation on the 'Celebrity Century'. We had previously sailed from Sydney, on the 15th December, aboard P&O's 'Pacific Pearl', for a four night repositioning cruise...and had then toured around the North Island for a couple of weeks in a camper van before our journey home.
This was the first time on a Celebrity ship for us, and the first time back to this part of the world by Celebrity in a few years. We were really looking forward to this cruise with great anticipation! Having previously sailed on the 'Rhapsody of the Seas' and the 'Pacific Pearl', the 'Century' was to become our fourth cruise.
Realising that the 'Century' is regarded as an old ship by today's 'mega-liner' standards, and a bit on the small side (if you call 71,000 gross tons small), we still prepared for a wonderful sailing experience.
The embarkation process went quickly and smoothly so that within about 30 minutes we found ourselves confronting the usual photographers and being offered a drink as we boarded! Shortly after that we were able to off-load our hand baggage in our nicely appointed cabin, meet our lovely, helpful steward, Thelma, and then head on up to 'The Islands Cafe' buffet for a light lunch.
The muster took place at 4:30 pm and before long we were heading out of Auckland Harbour on our way to the Bay of Islands. We had requested the late session for our dinner in the 'Grand Dining Room' and were seated at table 571 with Waiter Nyoman and Assistant Danilo. These two very agreeable gentlemen proved to be most obliging and helpful as the cruise progressed and we formed a wonderful relationship with them and one that was full of fun. Seated at our table when we arrived was a very lovely couple from Canada, Linda and Garry. We formed great dinner friends with them and plan to keep in contact with them now following our return home.
We found the food in the 'Grand Dining Room' to be of excellent quality and choice, and we never left the table feeling as though we could have eaten a little more! (Mind you, maybe we should have, as this showed up on the scales by the end of the cruise!! Oh, well, it's back to the weight loss and fitness programme once again!!) Carolyn, being mostly vegetarian, always had some delicious choices to make and was very happy with the dining fair.
We were spoiled for choice in 'The Islands Cafe' buffet where the food was also of high quality, and we found it easy moving about the selections and locating a table. This may have been attributable to the times at which we chose to eat there, which generally were just before or after the main rush periods. We found the staff in this area always to be obliging and helpful...and always happy to engage in a short conversation, too.
On one occasion I selected a meal choice from one of the pool grills and took it into the buffet to eat it with Carolyn. It was a turkey burger with chips and salad, and it was very tasty - I recommend this choice! I can also thoroughly recommend the desserts...and the ship-made ice cream in multiple flavours (maybe this is another reason for the shift in the scales)!!
There are many quiet places on the ship to select from if you want a little peace and quiet. The one that I recommend is the 'Hemisphere Lounge', on Deck 12, at the 'pointy' end of the ship, where you can just relax and enjoy the view out of the large glassed-in area. Even though there were just over 1,800 passengers on board, at no time did Carolyn or I ever feel overcrowded. We were always able to move around with ease...and find somewhere to get a vantage point to take in the view.
How would I rate the condition of the ship? Okay, it's an old ship, 17 years old to be exact, however we found it to be very well maintained and very clean. This is one of those ships that has a very loyal following, and I'm sure that wouldn't be the case if it was not 'up to scratch'. You won't find the glitz and glamour of the new 'mega-liners' on the 'Century', but what you will find is a warm, more intimate, feel to the ship.
On another note, of course you will find the usual ways to relieve yourself of more of your hard-earned cash if you so choose, eg. ship's photo's, casino, 'duty free' shops, alcohol purchases, specialty restaurants, etc. All of these go with cruising and always will. When you consider the cost of operating these 'mammoths on water' believe me, the cruise company needs to get more than the revenue from the fare sales to keep it going, and it is these extras that help to keep the cost of cruising to a level that you and I can generally afford. If you don't want to participate in some/any of the extras it's easy...don't! We have found a simple 'no thank you' is so easy to say!
At the outset, let me say that in this part of the Pacific we are currently experiencing the La Nina Oscillation cycle, and hence it is reflected in the weather patterns experienced this summer (or lack of summer!) here on the east coast of Australia and throughout New Zealand. Many of our Northern Hemisphere guests had difficulty coming to grips with this situation...understandably...as they had expected hot weather on arrival down here. Sadly, that wasn't always the case...but we trust that next summer will offer more of what we normally expect!
The Bay of Islands: Tender Service. This one is easy to talk about, as we didn't even get the opportunity of seeing it! After sailing up there from Auckland we had visibility of less than 1 km due to fog...and there was a heavy swell running. In other words it was pretty lousy weather and the Captain wisely decided that we couldn't safely tender to this destination. Safety should always come first...consider Concordia!!
Tauranga: Port docking. An overcast day with a few showers. We were able to berth at Mt Maunganui and it was more sheltered, so people were able to connect with their tours okay, and get to see what they had planned. There were lots of local tours to be had if desired, but as we had not long been to this area (as we toured around in our camper van) we just walked around the business area...and caught up with our email!
Napier: Port docking. A much nicer, sunny day! Once again, having recently toured here in the camper van (in the rain!) we decided to take a walk through the city centre, taking photo's of some of the 'art deco' buildings and just generally getting a feel for the town. We also visited a small but very beautiful park! It is a pretty area and there are many tours to be taken if you want to go further afield.
Wellington: Port docking. Mixed weather on this day...but NO wind! Charlotte, one of our very generous 'Cruise Critic Roll Call' members, lives in Wellington. She very kindly arranged the hire of a small bus that took us on a short tour around the city and finished with an afternoon tea at her home! This was a wonderful way to see Wellington and everyone on the tour really enjoyed it...and appreciated all the work that had gone into its planning and implementation! Thank you, Charlotte! A very nice city to visit, with many points of interest, and worth taking the time to investigate.
Akaroa: Tender service. Early fog...but then a gorgeous, sunny, warm day! Due to the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch this is as close as the ship can get to the city at this time. The Akaroa Harbour is very scenic and there are local cruises that you can take to see the beauty of the area. We chose to walk around the local community, eat fish and chips for lunch and take in the scenic beauty on such a great day. It isn't a large community, but there are a number of different tours you can take out from here as well.
Dunedin: Port docking. An overcast and very cool day, with some sunny periods. We took the 'pay-for' Shuttle into the city (approximately 20 minutes) and were dropped at the Octagon. This is a central interchange and the business area fans out from here. We took the opportunity of shopping for souvenirs for our family in the main shopping area...and also grabbed some photo's as well. With what we saw we would rate this area as well worth coming back to, so as to spend more time looking around. There are many tours you are able to avail yourself of from this port. A fairly large group of people from the 'Century' took an overnight Celebrity-organised tour from here through to Queenstown, finishing at Milford Sound. They then re-boarded the ship in the Sound the following afternoon. Those I spoke to were full of praise for the tour and seemed delighted with the experience.
The three Sounds: No disembarkation. A cool, overcast day with drizzle and intermittent rain! These areas are certainly a great way, though, to finish off your tour of NZ - Dusky Sound, Doubtful Sound...and the highlight for us being the last Sound we visited, Milford! Despite the cool, misty and showery conditions, we were still able to experience and enjoy the Sounds in one of their many moods. Keep in mind that there are always many more overcast or rainy days here than sunny ones, so your chances of having a beautiful day are somewhat slim! If you do get such a great, clear day though definitely count it as a bonus!
Upon sailing out of Milford Sound we immediately hit poor weather and the Tasman Sea lived up to its reputation of at times being able to provide some really rough seas. The next two sea days tested quite a few on-board...and the sick bags were located strategically throughout the ship!
Melbourne: Port Docking. A beautiful and quite warm summer's day! As we neared Australian waters the weather started to improve somewhat! We berthed in Melbourne approximately 3Â½ hours late due to the heavy going whilst crossing the Tasman. The great weather in Melbourne provided all with the opportunity of seeing this lovely city at its best! There are many things to occupy one's day here, so choose one of the numerous tours on offer. I'm sure you will find one that holds special interest for you...and enjoy your stay!
Delightful weather took us the rest of the way to Sydney and those who weren't heading straight to the Airport upon disembarkation had the opportunity of seeing the wonderful highlights this beautiful harbour city has to offer. To me it seems a shame that so many people taking a cruise in this part of the world just fly in, jump on the cruise ship, get off at the other end and fly out!! If you have travelled a long way to get here, to take a cruise such as this, at least try and plan to spend a couple of days at either end. Then hopefully you won't be like many people we've heard say, 'We should have spent more time in Sydney...or Auckland...etc...we will have to come back again!!' Not that we mind you coming to visit us again - you are always most welcome!! It is just that many of those who say it often don't get the opportunity of doing it again in the future! Do it on your first trip, and know that you have accomplished it! You won't regret it!!
One point worth mentioning here: this cruise demonstrated the risks involved in pre-booking self-organised tours...and then possibly not reaching the destinations in time to take the tours! As mentioned above, due to fog and choppy seas, we missed The Bay of Islands altogether...and we were late into Melbourne, too, due to the heavy crossing of the Tasman Sea. I'm sure that those who booked Century tours had no problem obtaining a reimbursement...but, of course, that would not necessarily be the case for those arranging their own tours. Just something to keep in mind before handing over your hard-earned cash up front for self-organised tours!!
Anyway, to summarise our 'Century' cruise experience, in the words of the wonderful staff and crew, we found it to be simply 'EXCELLENT!!'
If you haven't already been able to experience the 'Century' Downunder this summer season, it's too late!! But next Australia/New Zealand summer it will be the 'Solstice' down here...so plan your end-of-year cruise to this great part of the world NOW!!