Celebrity Century Dining
The Grand, Century's sprawling, two-story dining room, is the ship's primary focal point for dining. It serves open seating breakfast and lunch, and offers two seatings for dinner at 6 and 8:30 p.m.
The Celebrity Select dining option varies from the traditional, assigned-time, assigned-table dining plan. With Celebrity Select, passengers have the option to dine any time between 6:30 and 9 p.m., and to decide whether they want to eat with their own party or at a table with other passengers. They can also make specific dinner reservations for each day of their cruise online in advance, make reservations onboard or simply show up when ready to eat.
The cuisine in the main dining room offers a blend -- particularly at dinner -- of both standard (broiled salmon, sirloin steak) and more adventurous fare (quail). There's always a vegetarian starter, soup/salad and entree (toasted Israeli couscous cake).
The dining room itself is sparingly decorated -- the eye candy in The Grand is its huge, two-deck high window on the ship's stern. It must be said, though, that it's a brilliant design. Beyond the magnificent sunsets at night -- the view never lets you forget you're on a cruise ship.
A note about seating: Tables for two are very limited and generally located in some of the less desirable spots. Most tables are for six and eight with a sprinkling for larger groups.
For more low-key eats, the Casual Dining Boulevard, A.K.A. the lido buffet, offers a variety of stations and options, from breakfast's homemade waffles to lunch's sandwich, soup and salad bar (in addition to the usual buffet fare). The Pizza and Pasta Center (basically just a counter where you can order made-to-specification fare) is dangerously tempting; open from noon to 1 a.m., it's a great place for a before-dinner snack (taken out onto the aft deck's Sunset Bar -- bliss).
Tea, with attendant pastries and sandwiches, is served here from 4 to 5 p.m. (and also at The Grand).
Don't miss the fabulous Sushi Cafe. Open only from 6 to 10 p.m., it's located at the very end of the boulevard, right up against the Sunset Bar. The spread of various rolls is beautifully laid out, delicious to taste (and perhaps makes for a slightly healthier pre-dinner snack), and the cafe itself, with its black lacquer decor, is atmospherically Asian.
Just beyond the boulevard is a grill -- open during the expansive hours between lunch and late dinner -- offering hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and fries, along with a special or two every day.
At night, a portion of the lido is transformed into the Island Cafe for casual dining. Reservations are required (which basically takes the casual out of dining), and the venue is so popular my party had a hard time getting a table! The menu is basic -- I had a delicious roast chicken with mashed potatoes, simple and lovely. And you don't have to dress up. Suggested gratuity here is $2.
The Cova Cafe on Deck 6 is a charming space. Often there's live music (of the soothing, classical variety), and the buttercup-yellow linen clothes and wall mural exude a note of elegance. On my trip, Cova Cafe was open from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and frankly, it would have been nice if it could have started serving even earlier for those folks in a hurry to make a shore excursion. You pay for the beverages -- coffees, such as latte, espresso and the like, as well as various teas and a delicious hot chocolate. The snacks, which range from croissant and Danish in the morning to pastries and cookies later, are complimentary. There's a wine tasting some nights between 6 and 8:30 p.m. for an extra fee.
And as lovely as the Cova Cafe is in the daytime, it's just as lovely at night -- sipping a glass of wine and watching the parade of passengers pass by.
I've saved the best options for last: Murano, the cozy (only 66 seats) alternative restaurant. Contrary to those Millennium-class restaurants that hark back to traditional cruising ambience, Murano is sleek and contemporary in a way that reminds me of swishy 1940's flicks. It's all white with glittering Murano chandeliers and candles.
There's a stiff $45 per passenger service charge just to sit down at Murano and trust me when I say it's worth every nickel, all 900 of them. Beyond the fact that the cuisine is of incredibly high quality, the service is personable, professional, and the tableside dining was as much fun as participating on something like "The Rachael Ray Show!"
Murano has two menus. The first is a four-course meal that you order a la carte, one item from each category. It starts off with an appetizer (lobster bisque vs. goat cheese souffle vs. foie gras, oh my!), moves on to an entree (the rack of lamb en croute was superb), and then to dessert (for me the only possible choice was the Grand Marnier souffle). Portions are appropriate -- not too big, not too small -- so when you move on to the last course -- cheese -- you're not as stuffed as you'd think. Not being a huge cheese aficionado, the presentation via a rolled cart with a variety of choices from soft to hard and gentle to savory, was fascinating anyway, and with the slightest display of interest, the waiter will happily plunge into a wealth of tidbits and recommendations. They'll also make superb recommendations about which liqueur to pair with your selections.
There is no additional charge beyond the $45 for this Murano experience (aside from your drinks), though I did tip additionally.
Culinary adventurers can also opt for the Five Senses tasting menu. There is one more course, but each is a bit smaller so as not to overstuff, and they're pretty much chosen for you (rather than the longer list on the standard menu you have a choice of a couple of items in each category). The five-course menu started off with the lobster bisque, then foie gras or goat cheese souffle, the lamb or sole stuffed with lobster mousse, then cheese, then dessert. The significant difference is that the restaurant sommelier pairs a different glass of wine with each course. The foie gras with a Sauternes, instead of the South African chardonnay that had accompanied it on my other, "regular menu" visit, transformed the dish from fabulous to mind-blowing. Also lovely was the Tokai, a Hungarian after-dinner wine that was matched to the Grand Marnier souffle. The wines are included in the $89 per person tariff.
Quite the contrast is the ship's AquaSpa Cafe. Tucked in a simple, serene space next to the spa, it's the best in the Celebrity fleet, offering light and healthy fare for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. It's operated by the chefs and waitstaff of Murano -- a major plus -- and it was nice to be recognized and greeted warmly on each foray, along with a "will we see you tonight?"
My third favorite way to dine on Celebrity Century was via room service. Prompt, efficient and featuring a menu with the kind of 24-hour stuff you usually see: sandwiches, salads, burgers. You could also order from dining room menus at lunch and dinner.
One of the boons of booking a ConciergeClub cabin is that its balcony furniture features a dining table for two. Blessed with gorgeous weather, I ate as many meals outside as possible.
Passengers with special dietary needs, such as diabetic, low-sodium, low-fat, and kosher, should alert the line at least 15 days in advance of sailing.