Post-Thanksgiving/Pre-Xmas on Century : Celebrity Century Cruise Review by CalUrsus

Celebrity Century 5
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Post-Thanksgiving/Pre-Xmas on Century

Sail Date: December 2012
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: San Diego
This was a follow-on cruise with Celebrity for me, but the Century came as a little bit of an initial disappointment at first glance--it looks a bit dinged up--scratched name plates, graffiti scratches in the elevator metal, finishes worn off of public and cabin furniture. But the scale as being one of the smaller, relatively cozier big ships does grow on you.

Embarkation was easy since in San Diego, you fly in right over the ship, and it's a 5 minute cab ride. Luggage gets snapped right up. There are ample lines to get processed and while you are given some specific mid-afternoon arrival times, apparently you can go earlier, and people do.

My own reservation was made late, so it took some processing to get found and put onto the register. However, this account glitch seemed to keep happening for at least the first half of the cruise, where "sorry your cabin number doesn't show up on my system" was the familiar refrain. My key card would fail and have to be reissued More on five separate occasions. (is the on-board software also 17 years old?)

The Pacific side of the cruise was mostly smooth--only going around points and capes did it get bumpy at all.

The onboard service was at the Celebrity standard; always polite, well-honed greetings, etc.
Except for room service--on mornings where I booked an early tour--three separate occasions--the card, even put out early evening, never got picked up. The room stewards Caetano insisted that he bring me breakfast for the rest of the cruise, every morning, personally. Which is not what I wanted, but they were anxious to fix the problem.
The bed was a problem; I took guarantee oceanview and got a four-bunk cabin for myself alone; the bunks are stowed but will bang you in the head at first until you get used to avoiding them. The small twinned beds weren't lashed together and as a 6 foot plus traveler, I landed in the middle of the two beds on the floor one night. This landed me at the acupuncturist in the spa for a couple of back treatments. The steward remedied this with better mattresses and tied them together, but it still wasn't the best sleeping arrangement.
This cruise had some limited entertainment options, interesting enrichment speakers (an astronomer from Berkeley) but was a snooze as far as nightlife. The only activity after 9:30 was at a few gaming tables, and the bars seemed to be empty for most of the cruise. Among the bigger draws were the trivia contests, but frequently some of the Life programs were stacked at the same time, inadequately publicized, and then there were times with nearly nothing happening. It would help if they published a "track" schedule for activities throughout a cruise, rather than "read your schedule carefully each day for surprises".

Food was competent if usually bland, service in the MDR was fine; though the wine waiter was kind of annoying. This cruise did not have any issues over the formal nights--and there were three--I wore my sport coat and shirt without tie, which is still within the range, as did many other male guests who didn't lug a tuxedo. And still more than a few flouted those rules, and were not banned from entry in the MDR.

I used the spa a couple of times; the deals on embarkation and port days are good. Just beware of a pressured sales pitch for some sort of overpriced product when you are at your most relaxed at the end of the session. The acupuncturist on my cruise was competent but was not that friendly.

I made some port commentaries separately--Cabo's not my style, PV is great; the port in Guatemala is really nowheresville, but luckily the roads are good to elsewhere; Panama's port is a dump but the canal should be seen, and you'll wish you would have much longer to see Cartagena.

In fact, it seems like the time in ports with this itinerary are shorter than usual--is this another cost saving method? Once you go through the canal, the Century goes out past the harbor entrance, 40 miles out from Colon (around 4pm in our case) and literally chugs around in a circle until returning at 7am the next morning. What's the point--are the port taxes overnight that much higher than the cost of fuel for 17 hours of sailing nowhere?

Anyway, this was an interesting itinerary, the cruise was neither the best or the worst, and it might be worth catching some of the port variations on a return trip. Less

Published 01/14/13

Cabin review: 9009

Generally comfortable but a few things to note. A bit banged up on some of the furniture surfaces, and the window has a partial obstruction, which is part of the category. But the window is also scratched up, foggy and salted over for about half of the rest of its view, so it was difficult to see much out of it. This room is also equipped with bunk beds overhead which, even stowed you can bang your head on until you learn to avoid them when getting out of bed. The remaining singles, when put together, are of "bunk bed quality"--and these beds don't link together like the ones in other rooms. After nearly slipping onto the floor in the middle of each night, with resulting back pain, the room steward kindly replaced the mattresses with thicker ones and did something to hitch the beds together more tightly.

Port and Shore Excursions

Clean and modern but utterly Americanized. Not much of Mexico to experience here besides the food and drink.

Hands down one of the prettiest harbors on the Panama Canal itinerary, with views of both Miami-style and Spanish colonial seafronts. Celebrity barely spends 4-5 hours in port here, which was a joke, unless you book their tours to get early access out. The port center itself was terrific, probably the best on this itinerary--a garden with live flamingos, toucans and macaws flying around wild that want to be fed, and a shop with some better quality souvenirs at not as exorbitant prices and a Juan Valdez coffee shop. Check out their many varieties of local coffee and chocolate if you can't grab some in town.

Panama Canal Tour

The port of Colon itself is a real dump, and you will be advised by both crew and tour guides to not wander outside the shopping center of the cruise port, since it's a really rough looking slum, no joke. The tours are necessary so you can get out of there to see the Canal visitors center from another view point, and perhaps go to Panama City. The tour descriptions offered through Celebrity are spotty, so it's not clear how long the various operators spend at which place. And they're also useless at being clear on where you're going when they say the "Old City"--do they mean series of ruins in a city park not worth a long visit, or the "Casco Viejo" which is the old colonial section of town being restored. Unfortunately, the tour I was on was represented as going to the UNESCO-protected colonial town, however once on the tour: 'Sorry, sir, our buses don't fit into that neighborhood'...

A nicer mix of high-rise and old town, beautifully constructed waterfront walkways, easy to get around with cabs. PV pulls it off--absorbs the gringos and still feels like a pretty place in Mexico.

Coffee Plantation

The port of Puntarenas is a bit grungy with some limited shops for tourists at the end of the pier, with spotty wi-fi available. Took a tour to a coffee plantation collective Espritu Santo in Naranjo. It was probably one of the closest destinations at 1 1/2 hours over Costa Rica's spotty main highway. One of the drawbacks of this port is that the lousy roads make bus trips to any of the other more scenic destinations extremely long. You might need the dramamine you didn't use on the cruise. The add-on of this and many tours to Sarchi where you are paraded past an early 1900s machine shop, see some folks painting colorful oxcarts, is interesting for about 10 minutes. Then you are kept in a ridiculously overpriced souvenir shop for about another half hour.
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