San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Nassau
Let me start by saying that we LOVE cruising! And I'd be back on board today if it were possible. There is just something about stepping on board a cruise ship that takes me away from everyday living. How fortunate we are to be able to enjoy such luxuries.
We switched ships (and cruise lines) the week before our final payment was due. We were originally booked on HAL's newest ship, Zuiderdam. After reading about some of the persistent challenges facing Zuiderdam in it's first couple of months of cruising, we decided we just didn't want to deal with new build hassles and switched back to Celebrity (this being our fourth Celebrity cruise in the past 18 months). In retrospect, we made the right move.
Our regular routine is to travel to our departure city at least a day early. Our 16-year-old daughter began Spring Break on Thursday, April 17 so we actually traveled to Ft. Lauderdale two days early. We choose to stay at a funky little hotel on Ft. Lauderdale beach called TropiRock. I found it several years ago when we took a group of 25 on a cruise. It's inexpensive, clean and fun (looks like the Flintstones lived here) and the owner is a gem! Makes us come back again and again. We rent a car (all the major rental companies provide transportation to and from Port Everglades) so that we can enjoy Ft. Lauderdale and then get to the ship early on departure day. (FYI - three good restaurant recommendations in Ft. Lauderdale - Il Mulino - Italian - and Canyon - Southwestern are both located on Sunrise; and Mango's - Caribbean and Seafood -- on Las Olas. All outstanding and a quick cab ride (if you don't have a car) from any of the standard port hotels (Embassy, AmeriSuites, Hyatt Pier 66 or Marriott Marina).
I love to wake up on embarkation morning and walk up to the rooftop of TropiRock where I can see the ships docked in the distance. Andy (my husband) runs up to the little European cafe for breakfast goodies and juice that we enjoy on the rooftop before we pack the car and head for the port. We departed the hotel around 10:30 AM; arrived at the car rental return 10 minutes later and were on board a shuttle to the port within 15 minutes. We arrived just after 11:00 AM. Passengers had begun to trickle into the terminal. We stopped and asked about Captain Club/Suite check in (we are a Capt. Club member and for the first time are in a Sky Suite). We were escorted into an "inner" holding room (for lack of a better description) where 50 or so passengers were already seated. By 11:30, they opened the doors to registration desks and they let us in one row of seats at a time. We spent approximately 5 minutes in line, received our keys and were on our way up the ramp to Century. It's the best feeling.
We always keep one rollerboard with us. It has swimsuits, dop kits, pj's and casual clothing for dinner the first evening just in case luggage doesn't arrive in time for dinner. I also carry on a small bag that has my camera, film, book, CD player and CD's, suntan lotion and jewelry with me. If nothing else shows up for the rest of the cruise, I can survive (they do sell nice clothing in the gift shop if needed and travel insurance kicks in for missing luggage).
Celebrity asks that you do not occupy your staterooms until 1:00 PM. We make our way to our hallway and find our cabin attendant and introduce ourselves. We ask if it's OK to drop our carry-on luggage in the room and tell them we will not occupy the room until after 1:00 PM. They are always friendly and glad to have us drop our carry-ons off in the cabin. We were then off to explore the ship. Amanda and I had sailed on Century with my mom in 1998 but this was Andy's first time on board. We have come to like the smaller ships (80,000 tons and less). Andy was anxious to see Century.
When we boarded, we were not welcomed with Champagne like we were on Millie in December (re-branding has not reached Century). Not a problem for us. As we began to explore the ship, I looked far more closely at the condition of the ship because of discussions on the message boards. Overall, Century is in great shape. There are some signs of wear and tear. Our love seat in our cabin, for example, (it was yellow) was in need of being reupholstered since it had some pretty bad stains (why would you put a yellow love seat in a cabin ???). The plexiglass on the upper pool deck was pretty scratched up, too. But I'm not sure if I would have noticed these things if I weren't looking so closely. The furniture in the Rendez-Vous Lounge appeared to be brand new and the hallways and staircases were spotless (you always saw crew vacuuming and using chrome cleaner in these areas throughout the day).
We find Century to be more classical in its dEcor. Lots of wood versus chrome, art not quite as off the wall as the M-class ships. We also like the size of Century a lot. At just over 70,000 tons, she's easy to find your way around and still feels like a ship compared to the floating hotels that are the mega-ships (over 100,000 tons).
OUR CABIN - Sky Suite, 1207 (Deck 12)
It was really strange having a cabin above the pool deck. There are ten sky suites on either side of the ship up there. We were steps from the pool deck and steps from the Islands Cafe (the buffet dining room). The cabin itself was a good size. It was wider than your average cabin but not as deep as you might expect. The bathroom (by ship standards) was big, titled with beautiful gray marble and had a jacuzzi tub. There was more than enough storage between the closet, drawers, various shelves and the bathroom. We had three people in the cabin and never felt crowded.
The sky suites have wonderful verandas (nearly as big as the main part of the cabin). We had two padded lounge chairs, two additional padded chairs and a nice dining table on the veranda. We spent more time out here than on a typical cruise (more on that later) and loved every minute of it. Other than 8181 on Summit and our aft cabin on Vision of the Seas, this is the best veranda we've had.
I have always found the beds on Celebrity ships to be very comfortable and they have great comforters, too. There were a variety of pillows in the room as well, so we were all able to find a pillow we liked (we all have different preferences in our family).
BUTLER & CABIN ATTENDENT
Suites come with a butler, something we've never had before. Peter (the butler) and Andres (our cabin attendant) quickly introduced themselves and provided great service all week long. They were both very friendly and quick to respond to any requests. Our room was kept neat and clean without intrusion. We've decided that we really aren't butler people, though. We enjoyed chatting with Peter and he was more than happy to do anything you might ask. There just wasn't much we needed him to do for us. He did find us some cardboard and tape to package a painting we purchased for a gift so that was very nice. I'm sure others may have more requests than we did.
The majority of Celebrity's public space occupies decks 5, 6 and 7 along with decks 10 and 11. All of the lounges were very nice. I'd have to say that most of our pre-dinner time (we had late seating) was spent in Images (the Sports Bar) because our daughter is a hockey fanatic. I will say we met some other nice hockey fanatics in Images and the bar staff (Resie and Rado) was terrific!
I liked the Crystal Room (deck 7, aft). It was divided up into several different areas including the Martini Bar in the far rear corner. Also, the Crystal Room had the biggest dance floor of the lounges on decks 6 & 7 (usually the Rendez-Vous has the largest dance floor). This room was also used throughout the day for a variety of activities - Bingo, Battle of the Sexes (the women won for the week!!!!), Wine Tastings, etc. - in addition to evening music.
Can anyone tell me the purpose of the Sky Bar? This area at the back of deck 12 is used in the evening for alternate dining. But during the day it's an empty room (and not a bar at all). It could be a great little spot as there are great views of the ocean from here. I think we should all come up with some fun ideas of what Celebrity can do with this space!
Overall, the entertainment was pretty good. I think I made it to every show (unusual) in the Celebrity Theater. The production shows with the Celebrity singers and dancers were excellent. All four featured singers had great voices and the dancers enthusiasm for their work showed. Guest entertainers were good, too. The "Ladder Guy" was extremely funny even though we saw him two years ago on Mercury. Jack Walker, a singer and impressionist, had a great voice, too. There was also a guest comedian (don't recall his name) who was funny, but he had a minor microphone problem and seemed to get very annoyed. He refused to come out when the cruise director asked for a round of applause for him and he refused to return to the stage again at the end of the show when the cruise director introduced all the entertainers. It was very odd.
Xtasea (pronounced Ecstasy) was the pool band that also played in various lounges and at theme parties during the evening. They were the best overall cruise ship band we've ever had. They played a wide variety of music on the pool deck (some pool bands play the same ten songs over and over again) and were very versatile in playing jazz, 50's & 60's, swing, etc. at night.
The remaining entertainment (piano player and the duo in the Rendez-Vous) was not memorable. The string quartet that played in the dining room played nice dinner background music, mostly on formal nights. One of the best entertainers was a passenger who sat down one morning and played original compositions while we were having coffee in the Cova Cafe. Wish he had played more. Oh, how could I forget? Elvis lives - he was on Century with us last week. He dressed and acted like Elvis ALL DAY LONG (and night, too). It was kind of scary (sorry if you are reading this, Elvis)!
With the exception of one lunch, we only ate in the dining room for dinner. We had late seating (8:30), table 608 on the starboard side of the ship, aft (one table from the rear window). We were on the upper floor of the dining room just above the Captain's table. I loved this dining room when we were on Century several years ago and it's still a beautiful room. It doesn't have the long entrance-type hallway with tables that the M-Class ships have so all of the dining room tables are actually in the dining room (I know that sounds strange but those of you who have been on both ships probably understand what I mean).
Our waiter, Aslan and our assistant, Andrej (Barbosa) were simply outstanding. They were a perfect pair. We have always had exceptional service from crew members on Celebrity ships. This cruise was no different. They were friendly, funny, and made great food recommendations. Without exception, all of our evening meals were very good to excellent. The filet mignon was as good or better than a great land-based steakhouse. Even the vegetables were very good each evening. Our only complaint with the dinner menus is that they were exactly the same as the previous three cruises we've taken on Celebrity in the last 18 months. They need some additional menus and/or menu changes.
In addition to the food and great service, we had a terrific table for ten. One family was cruising with their two teenagers (15 and 18) and the other family was grandparents sailing with their 16-year-old granddaughter. It was a great table for our 16-year-old daughter and us. One more bonus was the table next to us. It was a family of six with an 18-month-old toddler named Hallie! She was a highlight every night. She was always happy and smiling, eating crackers, fruit, veggies and dessert. She'd wave to us and blow us kisses. Considering we had late dinner, she was the most well behaved and pleasant younger child we've ever seen on a cruise ship.
We didn't eat here very much. The lunch menus in the dining room and the here in the buffet were very similar; actually too similar. Andy would stop here early in the morning and bring coffee, Danish and croissants back to our veranda for breakfast. I usually enjoy the homemade omelets in the morning but I skipped them this cruise. We never actually sat down to eat in here. We'd either eat in our cabin on our veranda or on the aft deck outside behind the Islands Cafe.
I also found it odd (I told you I notice strange things) the way the buffet lines flow. They run the opposite of the way they do on the M-class ships. On Century, when you are at the end of the buffet line, you are ultimately meeting up in the middle with the line on the other side of the buffet. On the M-class, the buffets both start in the middle and work their way away from each other and out into the seating area. The problem on Century is that they've created a crowd where the lines meet. Drink machines are also in this area so it always seemed abnormally congested. I couldn't figure out what they didn't flow the other way?
There are actually two pool grills, one on either side of the pool just outside the Islands Cafe. On the port side of the ship, you'll find hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and pizza. All items were typically very good. Pizza isn't served all the time, but it is served throughout each afternoon from something like 2 - 6 PM.
On the opposite Grill (on the starboard side of the ship) you'll find a themed lunch option. We found the lunches served here to be better than those served in the Islands Cafe or the main dining room. One day was Italian (the lasagna was excellent); another day Oriental; another BBQ. There was also a sandwich and salad bar one day (very nice) and most important for me, at the end of this grill you'll find a pasta station where they tossed different types of pasta with a variety of sauces. The downside of this area is that they do not provide any type of signage as to what's available (like they do in the Islands Cafe) so it can be difficult to see and tell what's available if you are trying to decide where you want to eat. In fact, I didn't find the pasta station until the third day. I was walking by and smelled the garlic or I may have never found it. This station was operating regardless of the theme of the day (on the day the theme was Oriental, they were tossing Pad Thai at this station). Check this grill out. It had lots of good options.
Celebrity's ships are beautiful but it's their crew that keeps us coming back. I'm a firm believer that in giving a smile and a thank you to a crew member goes a long, long way. These folks work a ton of hours to please passengers. And they are such interesting people too. It's great to learn about their homelands and their families. On Century, some of the outstanding crew members were: Charlotte (from St. Lucia) who was a member of the Cruise Staff; Yuli (from Indonesia) was a bar server who remembered our names from the first drink she served us; Helen, the Guest Services manager who left three messages in our cabin when I stopped to talk to her about the pool issues (to come later); the gift shop staff member (we never even got his name) who we started a friendly hockey rivalry with; Tadeja, our wine sommelier who really knew here stuff; and of course the other staff I've already mentioned.
On this cruise, we were very lucky to re-connect with several very special crew members we met last year on Summit. Our waiter, Roy, had just returned from vacation; and Vesna, our all-time favorite bar server who has been promoted to a wine sommelier. The friendships you build make your cruise great!
Great facility. Lots of equipment in the gym; plenty of classes from aerobics to yoga to Pilates. Spa services such as massages are quite expensive ($109 for a 50 minute massage) but the therapists are great. I also love the T-pool inside the spa. I like it much better that the T-pool area on the M-class ships (it's really a second pool on those ships). While Century's T-pool is much smaller, it is also much less utilized since there is an additional charge to use the facilities unless you are in a suite. It's truly a relaxing place and I used it almost daily.
Much is written about attire on board cruise ships. In this section, I'll just report on what people wore in general. Celebrity now terms their evening attire as "required throughout the ship after 6:00 PM." By and large, most guests were considerate of the required dress codes. On formal nights, all of the ladies were dressed in lovely dresses or gowns. I'd say the percentage of tuxes to suits was 30% tuxes; 70% suits.
PORTS OF CALL
We have been to all of the ports on this cruise in the past so we didn't plan to do any shore excursions on this cruise. We were into relaxing. Here's what we did:
Arrived around 4:00 PM in the afternoon. It was raining. Amanda had one thing in mind....finding a sports bar that had the hockey game on (the ship didn't get all the games). A crew member recommended the Hard Rock Cafe which was a short walk from the ship. The bartender was very kind and turned the game on for us. We enjoyed appetizers and drinks here and had great conversations with the bartender. They were so kind, we'd go back. We were back on board for our dinner at 8:30.
We have a ritual of hopping in a cab, taking the Red Hook Ferry to Cruz Bay, renting a car and spending the day at the beaches on St. John. Everything went exactly as planned except the minute we stepped off the ferry on St. John, it began to rain. It poured the rest of the day. We've been fortunate to spend time here in the past so we weren't too disappointed. We still drove to the beaches and I took some photos (made for some interesting, different shots in the rain) and drove up to Chateau Bordeaux for lunch (their outdoor deck serves burgers and such for lunch. However, it was raining so hard, they couldn't light the grill. So we headed back to town and found a fun little restaurant on the water (Panini Beach Trattoria). It was great. Made me want to stay!
St. Martin/St. Maarten
Our only truly "bad" experience of the cruise. We decided to visit Marigot since we had never been there before. After waiting for a cab for about 20 minutes (I've decided that cabs REALLY DON'T want to go over there) they put us in a small taxi, along with an entertainer from a Carnival ship who needed to be dropped off at the airport. No big deal, we thought. Bad thought !!!! Traffic on St. Martin apparently often is congested. We had about three hours. We checked at the information desk and they told us it was a 20 minute cab ride to Marigot so we figured we'd have a little more than two hours in Marigot before we headed back to the ship. What we didn't realize (or anticipate) was that it would be a 40 minute ride to first get to the airport (heavy traffic and stopped by a draw bridge). Then it was another 20 minutes to Marigot from the airport. We quickly decided we didn't have time to make it to Marigot and asked to be returned to the ship. The cab driver obliged. The problem came when we got out of the cab....he charged us as if he had taken us TO and FROM Marigot! I began to discuss it with him, explaining that we were being treated very unfairly because we hadn't asked to "detour" to the airport AND we never made it to our destination. It was a no win situation. Needless to say, we were VERY unhappy with the experience. Lesson learned - don't get in a cab that is going somewhere in addition to where you want to go. Next time we'll rent a car and go on our own!
We didn't get off the ship. It was probably the most relaxing afternoon of all. We had the entire pool deck to ourselves. It was heaven! Try it!
FINAL COMMENTS - PROS & CONS
For the most part, we had a terrific cruise (we've never had a bad one, really, some are just better than others). However, the cruise wasn't without several things that are desperately in need of attention!
The situation of saving pool chairs is beyond out of control. It was totally ridiculous! This is NOT a lie....by 7:00 - 7:30 AM daily, all pool chairs (both decks) were completely filled with towels and miscellaneous items (books, suntan lotion, etc.) but NO PEOPLE! I'd bet that half the time throughout the day, pool chairs were empty, sometimes for hours. Why do people feel the need to "SAVE" a chair if they aren't going to use it for a couple of hours? If everyone used the chairs and removed their things when they went off to do something else, the problem wouldn't exist. But since it does (and Celebrity asks guests to not save chairs), I feel pool attendants should be monitoring the pool deck and removing towels and items that are left unattended for extended periods. For some reason, the pool deck brings out the worst in people. Consequently, we spent the better parts of our afternoon on our veranda.
Kids in Gym
I have no problem with kids who visit the gym and want to seriously use the equipment to work out. Our daughter works out daily and used the gym equipment frequently. However, several times while we were in the gym, kids (mostly younger) would come in and jump on equipment and run from one thing to the other - just playing around. It's not safe, it's annoying to those who are trying to use the equipment and once again, it's ignoring rules set down by the cruise line (16 or older to be in the gym).
I generally believe rules are in place for safety and the overall enjoyment of most guests. I'd like to believe that the average person appreciates and abides by rules. But for some reason, that often isn't the case on ships. And the situations are always made worse by the fact that the cruise line doesn't enforce their own policies. While I'm sure they don't want to "upset" passengers, there are a lot of other passengers who are equally appalled that they allow some of these things to go on. Part of it is definitely being on a holiday cruise (the week of Easter). But that's not an excuse to let things go. I'd say that most of the kids on Century were well behaved and had a really good time. I like to see them having a good time. But there are definitely instances where there is no regard for other passengers or rules and regulations.
Meeting new people and making new friends is always a highlight of any cruise for us. This one was no different. We had a great table for ten with folks who we enjoyed dinners with, exchanged daily activities, etc. They made each dinner fun along with crew.
Many people say they don't spend much time in their cabin and wouldn't get much use out of a veranda. That's not the case for us. We thoroughly enjoy a veranda. We like to have coffee out there in the morning and relax there with a good book in the afternoon. It's great to go to sleep with the door open and spend a time on the veranda starring at the moon and the stars before calling it a night. For us, a veranda is worth the extra money.
There are good things and bad things about every cruise and every cruise line. Nothing is perfect. But we still feel that Celebrity does it as well or better than others in this category of cruising do. I encourage you to walk on board with a smile, enjoy each moment on board (or as many as you can without getting frustrated with the chair hogs J) and have a great cruise. Remember how fortunate we are to be able to cruise!
Anne Goyer - email@example.com
P.S. To my Cruise Critic friends ... we didn't have enough people signed up for a Cruise Critic party and I had only talked to a couple of members on the boards prior to sailing. We hadn't set any definitive plans up for meeting so I wasn't sure if we'd catch up with anyone. Our family went to the Battle of the Sexes trivia game the first day at sea and after the session we stopped to chat with a couple who had also played the game. I looked at the wife and said to her "I'm sorry I didn't catch your name while we were playing the game." She said "Nichelle." And I screamed "from the Cruise Critic message board?" She started laughing and I said, "I'm Anne." The look on her husband's face was priceless. I looked at him and said "and your name is Anthony and you just moved from Texas to North Carolina." Astonished (we were all laughing hysterically at this point), he said "how did you know all that?" Anthony didn't realize Nichelle had spent time on the boards and met people. We had a blast with them all week long. And the other couple I met on the boards before sailing ended up sitting two tables away from us at dinner each night! Small world, those cruise ships! It IS what makes cruising so much fun !!!!September 2003