Celebrity Century Cruise Review by velevele
- Sail Date: December 2012
- Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
- Cabin Type: Ocean View
Me. First time on Celebrity, about my 8th or 10th cruise overall, other lines have been Princess, Costa, riverboats, Lindblad, and a couple I can't remember. I normally take rugged land-based vacations (last one to Ethiopia, next one to Iran), and don't consider myself much of a cruiser, so keep that in mind. I was traveling solo. (Most of my previous cruises were with my parents.)
Ship. After reading some of the reviews of Century, I wondered if I was on the same ship! No, it isn't brand-new-out-of-the-shipyards, but I thought the ship was in excellent shape. It was clean and well-kept, everything I needed worked, and I didn't notice any major problems. Despite it being an 1800-passenger ship, it felt fairly small and intimate, and other than on embarkation and disembarkation day, I never felt surrounded by crowds.
Passengers. It was a Christmas/New Year's cruise, and at one point an announcement was made that about 200 children were onboard, but I never would have guessed that. Century has well-segregated areas for both teens and younger children, and that must have been where they were, because I rarely saw any. (I'm not a fan of children.) Most of the U.S. passengers were, I'd say, in their 60s or older. A fair number of Europeans, Australians, and South Americans were also onboard, and I thought those passengers tended to skew a bit younger. I never attended any singles events so I have no idea how many other solos were onboard.
Embarkation. I got to the Fort Lauderdale port about noon, and it took me about 45 minutes to get on. Boarding was by cabin type, not by last name as I've encountered before. The security line (airport-type) was long but moved very quickly. The checkin line was short but moved very slowly. Lunch in the Islands Cafe that day was the only day I couldn't find a seat inside - very crowded, and a lot of milling around as passengers hadn't yet figured out what types of food were where in Islands. Cabins opened up at about 1.30 or so. My luggage didn't arrive until somewhere between 6 and 7 PM, but I had everything I needed for embarkation day in my small carryon.
My stateroom. I was in 4016, an oceanview stateroom on the starboard side, near the front. I loved this cabin! It was very near a staircase, which took me directly up to the fitness center, and it was extremely quiet (I heard virtually no noise from inside or outside the ship during the entire trip). I'd been a little concerned because instead of inside staterooms facing it, the medical center faced it, but I heard no noise from there either; the medical center's entrance faced the elevators rather than the hall, and it wasn't open very many hours a day, either. (I never went in it, but it seemed to be doing a hopping business every time I walked by!) Deck 4 felt very stable to me. I've gotten seasick on almost all of my past cruises, but not on this one. I like a very cool room temperature, more so than most people, and by turning the A/C down all the way, it stayed at about 66-68F, which was pretty good.
Food. I never ate in the MDR, Murano, or Aquaspa, nor did I ever use room service. Mainly I ate in the Islands Cafe, with occasional forays to the poolside venues for French fries and potato chips :-), and to Cova for snacks and pastries. (I'm a vegetarian.) I thought the food was okay. Occasionally, it was excellent; occasionally, I didn't like what I'd selected at all.
Islands breakfast: probably the best variety of all! I don't normally eat sweets for breakfast, but I got very attached to the outstanding fresh hot waffles. The rolls were often stale. Occasionally there were excellent little pain chocolats, but they tended to get snapped up and not replaced. The made-to-order omelets were excellent; I don't like undercooked eggs, so I always asked for mine to be cooked extra-well-done, and it was.
Islands lunch: I often had pizza (there was always at least one and often two vegetarian options) or the salad bar (mysteriously, every day a different selection of toppings was available there - some overlap, but new things came and went randomly).
Islands dinner: Each night, Indian food was available in Islands, and I ate a lot of that, since there were always at least two vegetarian selections. Two of the curries I had there were as good as any Indian food I've ever had, and the rest were pretty good also, showing the skills of the Indian head chef. When the soups weren't meat-based, they were also excellent (I'm still drooling over the memory of a cream of corn soup). Sushi was available in the evenings, but the vegetarian selections I tried didn't appeal to me. The pizza and salad bars were also open at night, as well as the stir-fry bar and the pasta bar, both of which were decent vegetarian options.
Islands desserts: Definitely the weak point for me - it tended to be cakes, tartlets, mousses, etc., not really to my taste. Occasionally something excellent would materialize, however (tiramisu, creme brulee, etc.), and then never be seen again. I'd heard a lot of raves about the ice cream on Century, but I thought it was just ok - sometimes icy, and rather bland flavors for the most part. (Exception: the rocky road, which was outstanding, and which - you guessed it! - showed up once and then never made an appearance again.)
Cova snacks: Pastries in AM and at night, with a midday window of little sandwiches (think salami, brie on bread, etc.). The pastries were often some of the same ones as at Islands, but often there were different ones too, so, keep checking! Cookies were always available at Cova, and ranged from great (peanut butter!) to mediocre (stale chocolate chip). There's no charge for any of the food at Cova.
Drinks. After a bunch of dithering, I bought the premium non-alcoholic package during a sale, and I was glad I did - definitely got my money's worth. The Panama Canal cruise is a hot one, and I drank tons of bottled water, as well as soft drinks and other iced drinks (mocktails and iced coffees and teas). I loved not having to even think about it. The Cova rapidly became my favorite place to get drinks, even non-coffee ones - I thought it had the friendliest staff of all the bars, and they were happy to give me my AM diet Coke before they even officially opened for the day. The one drinks disappointment is that the Cova drinks menu is NOT the same as the Cafe al Bacio menus I'd seen posted online - much less variety in the frou-frou coffee drinks I love. However! If you explain to the Cova staff what kind of drinks you like, they will make them for you. One of the bartenders suggested some mocha frozen coffee thingy one day that wasn't on the menu, and I loved it so much I had it pretty much every day the rest of the trip. (Other than to my cabin attendant, Cova was the only place I gave out extra tips other than the ones I'd prepaid.)
Onboard activities. Mostly quite disappointing - a lot of "how to buy your emerald" and "how to keep wrinkles at bay" kind of things. There were exceptions, though. The activities director Jamie ran a "Thriller flash mob" dance class that was the most fun thing I did onboard - she taught us a two-minute dance routine to Michael Jackson's "Thriller", and we performed it onstage at the beginning of the crew talent show. Jamie wants to expand this to the whole Celebrity fleet, and I hope she succeeds. It sounds wacko, but the 40 or so of us who did it had an absolute blast. If it's on your ship, go for it!
Lecturers. Hal Tinberg, who did the "forensic DNA" series, was terrific - he was well prepared, his Powerpoint presentations were organized and interesting, and he pitched his talk perfectly at the audience. I missed a few of these and was sorry I had. I wasn't a fan of "Uncle Marty", who gave the Panama Canal-oriented talks; he was knowledgeable, but he did indeed have an avuncular style that I didn't care for. YMMV. I also enjoyed the lectures on "how the ship works", given by the officers.
Fitness. There was a Zumba instructor onboard, Lisa, and she was fantastic - gentle, kind, and enthusiastic at the same time. She gave AM classes on sea days in the theater, and I didn't miss a one. When it was cool enough, she also gave PM classes by the pool. There was no extra charge for these classes. The fitness center opened at 5 AM on sea days but later on port days (??? why? It wasn't attended before 8 AM anyway, on any day). It was well-equipped with treadmills (the only thing I used), and I never had trouble getting one either in the morning or in the late afternoons (on sea days I went twice a day, so I could eat more :-). The treadmills were in good shape. Hint: if the ship is rolling, the ones oriented port-starboard are a lot easier to run on than the ones oriented fore-aft! The temperature was reasonably cool in the AM, but in the PM, when it was full of people and the sun had been beating in through the glass windows all day, it was pretty steamy in there, ugh.
Entertainment. Not the high point of the trip. I went to only one of the evening shows, and found it disappointing - kind of chorus-girl stuff with sequined costumes, not my thing. The classical string trio was okay, playing light classics (think "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik"), sometimes fairly well, sometimes not too technically adeptly. I enjoyed the "Party Band" very much, especially their female lead vocalist, who covered everything from the 1920s to music just released - very competent musicians all (loved her rendition of "Call Me Maybe"!). The a cappella quartet was a disappointment - four very young men from Sweden, doing a lot of things like Michael Buble arrangements. There's a LOT of great music out there for four-part male a cappella singers, but unfortunately I didn't hear them do any of it - mostly the sappier stuff. The solo pianist/vocalist and guitarist/vocalist were okay as well but not outstanding - arrangements of light pop music mostly. Unfortunately musicians tended to be booked at the same time - e.g., most days there was live music from 5.30 to 6.15 in several different places on the ship, but then there wouldn't be any live music during other big chunks of the day or evening. I would have liked to have seen it spread out a little more.
Shore excursions. I arranged one shore excursion on my own (Segway riding in Cartagena); did one via people I met in the roll call (Panama overview); and did four through the ship (Poas volcano in Costa Rica; Pacaya volcano climb in Guatemala; ziplining/mule riding/rappelling etc in Puerto Vallarta; and parasailing in Cabo San Lucas). I loved all of these, but of the six, the Panama one was the least successful, for a variety of reasons, and I doubt I'd do a roll call trip again, though I did enjoy that one. I hope eventually to post reviews of the shore excursions as well, but this review is already plenty long enough. :-)
Disembarkation. It seemed kind of chaotic (there were numerous pages for some non-US citizens who had not done the customs clearance on board), but I had a late flight and had booked the San Diego shore excursion through the ship, so we had a separate room to sit in and were allowed off at the beginning. I was VERY glad I hadn't booked an 11 AM flight, as I'd thought I might; I don't think anyone got off the ship much before 9.30, and that definitely would have stressed me out. (The San Diego excursion was tons of fun, too!)
In summary: I enjoyed this cruise, but, I didn't feel I was really the target audience for Celebrity (or for mass-market cruising in general), and I expect any future cruises to be on small adventure-styled ships of 100 people or less, such as Lindblad, as least as long as I'm physically able to do that. I'd cruise with Celebrity again, but I definitely learned that large-ship cruising isn't my preferred vacation. For what they are trying to do, though, I thought Celebrity overall did an excellent job.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Cabo San LucasI booked the parasailing excursion in Cabo. This was a lot of fun - you are clipped into a parachute on a platform at the rear of a boat, and then the boat starts moving and you gently rise up up up, about 400-500'. Our boat driver circled the ship, which was great fun, looking down on Celebrity! You're up there about 10 minutes or so. Parasailing can be arranged a lot more cheaply on the pier, but I went with the shore excursion in order to have a pre-vetted company.View All 1,302 Cabo San Lucas Cruise Port Reviews
Cabo otherwise is pretty much a tourist line of shops, beaches, and bars. If I went there again, I'd book a full-day excursion to get away from it.
View Cruise Critic's Cabo San Lucas Cruise Port Review
Segway TourI wrote a long review of this on TripAdvisor, where this company has more than 90 ratings, all 5-star as of right now! Short version: owned by a young man, Cesar, fluent in English and with a great sense of humor. Segways are very easy to ride, and in the HOT Cartagena climate, it was great not to work up a sweat, and to create our own cool Segway breezes! Cesar hit all the high points of the old town, with interesting commentary, and plenty of picture stops. (I booked the longer (90-minute) tour.) He also picked me up right at the port, very convenient. I can't recommend this tour and company highly enough!View All 10 Segway Tour Reviews
Colon (Cristobal)This was arranged by a roll call member, and she did a great job in finding this company and arranging the itinerary of the tour. Unfortunately, we ran into a road accident ahead of us that delayed us considerably, so some of the sightseeing had to be cut short. In addition, we spent TWO HOURS in a restaurant for lunch - while it was a lovely waterside place, I'd rather have spent the time sightseeing. (In the tour operator's defense, he would have skipped the lunch for the sightseeing, but other people wanted to eat.) What we did, I liked - just wished there had been more of it.View All 444 Colon (Cristobal) Cruise Port Reviews
View Cruise Critic's Colon (Cristobal) Cruise Port Review
Extreme CanopyAmazing! A bit of everything. We were picked up by a speedboat at the pier and went south about half an hour to a small village, where we piled onto open-air 4WD trucks, which after about 20 minutes deposited us at "base camp". There we changed into company-provided shirts and left everything else behind. You get soaking wet, so don't take passport, wallets, etc. unless they're well-protected from water. You cannot take a camera past base camp. We got on mules and rode them uphill for about 20-30 minutes. We then had a safety/how-to demonstration regarding ziplining, and then hiked uphill about 10 minutes or so to the first platform.View All 13 Extreme Canopy Reviews
It's basically an Outward-Bound-type course that's been laid out, which includes several ziplines (one directly into a pool of water - splash!), rope bridges, rope ladders, rappelling (down a waterfall, and also free rappelling off a platform), hiking, and water slides. It must have been a blast to lay this course out, and it was a blast to traverse it. (Let me repeat - you get soaking wet, and there's no way to avoid it - bring a change of underwear, pants, and shoes.)
The course ends with a very long, steep water slide (you can hike down if it looks too scary, and some people did). There are then snacks/drinks at no charge, and quesadillas at $2 each. You don't need a towel - those are provided, along with plastic bags for your wet clothes and a changing room to put on dry clothes. A photographer accompanies you, and there are terminals set up to review the photos, which you can buy (at a pretty steep price) if you want. (There was no hard sell about this.) There's also a tiny gift shop with T-shirts etc. I would recommend wearing closed-toe sports sandals, like Keens, if you have them - better than getting a pair of running shoes totally soaked, and Keens are rugged enough.
There was great attention to safety - any time you were doing anything even slightly risky, you were clipped into one, and often two, safety lines. You wear a helmet and a well-maintained safety harness. The staff were great - very encouraging, and very safety-conscious.
Loved it - if you're the adventurous outdoorsy type, don't pass it up!
Poas VolcanoI'm a geologist so I wasn't going to pass up the chance to see the recently active Poas Volcano! I loved the drive there, about an hour and a half through the lovely Costa Rican countryside, with a great guide who pointed out features of interest and clearly loved her country and job. Poas is that rare active volcano you can drive to the top of, and it was beautifully cool up there, about 60-65F. It tends to sock in at about 10 AM, and we got there at 9.45, but there wasn't a cloud to be seen, and we had GORGEOUS views. (Our guide later told us that in her 100s of trips there, she had rarely seen it so clear and beautiful.) It's an uphill hike of about 15 minutes or so on a wide paved road. Our guide gave us lots of free time here to move at our pace, and several of us made the hike to an older caldera, now filled with water and set in the cloud forest - gorgeous, but a more difficult uphill hike that took about 20-30 minutes for most people. There's a pricy gift shop with some nice items, and a tiny museum with limited info on the geology. The restrooms tend to get crowded; I'd stop when you first get there.View All 6 Poas Volcano Reviews
We had a great included lunch at a local restaurant (i.e., locals were eating there) - my vegetarian self was happy with the plantains, rice and beans, and delicious strawberry smoothie! The lunch was handled very efficiently and we got out of there reasonably quickly.
Then we drove via the metal church at Grecia (no stops, just viewed it out the moving bus windows) to Sarchi, for a stop at an ox-cart painting workshop. This was really a shopping stop, but I didn't mind, because the workshops were open, and one painter was at work. If you're looking for hand-painted Costa Rican souvenirs, it would be a good place to pick some up. We drove by the "world's largest ox-cart" but didn't stop. We made one last stop, at the group's request, for some candy/coffee shopping, at a very reasonably priced place with a good selection.
I would have preferred a few more actual photo stops (instead of just driving by things) - hence 4 stars rather than 5 - but overall I enjoyed this well-organized excursion tremendously, especially since we were VERY lucky with the weather at Poas Volcano - many people who go there don't get to see into the crater at all.
City TourThe tour started late because the guide couldn't find a Celebrity staff member to give the tour tickets to, but once it did, it was a lot of fun. We did drivethroughs of the Gaslamp District and Balboa Park, then headed to Coronado Island for a restroom break and some beach scenery. Then it was off to La Jolla for a little cliff hiking and sea lion-watching. We ended up with about an hour of free time in San Diego's Old Town, where many people chose to have lunch, and where there is also a lot of shopping and some historic buildings for sightseeing. The airport dropoff was smooth and right on schedule. I took off a star as I'd have also liked to walk around the Gaslamp District, but we just drove through that. Overall, a lovely way to spend the free morning in San Diego!View All 30 City Tour Reviews