After having been loyal customers of Holland America for several years, we decided to give Celebrity a try. to our surprise and delight, it has become our favorite cruise line!
we embarked on the july 19, 2003 sailing through the western caribbean. our room was a sky suite #1210. from the moment we arrived at the port we were promptly greeted and directed to the ship where a smiling group of officers and employees were ready to welcome us with a champagne toast. our first observation of the ship was its clean lines, absolute order and modern appointments. for a ship of its age ( 8 years old) celebrity does a superb job in its maintenance and upkeep.
our sky suite was the perfect size for the three of us (the two of us and our 9 year-old well-travelled daughter!). the balcony was very large, accommodating three chaise loungers, a large dining table, chairs and a side table and we still had room to dance or entertain friends. the bathroom was small, however, sufficiently comfortable and equipped with all the necessary amenities. we were trying to compare this room to holland america's "s-class suites" and royal caribbean's a and b class suites: those two lines have bigger bathrooms and the rooms are a bit larger, but we found that the service, food and hospitality of celebrity's staff far exceeded those of holland america and royal caribbean in volumes.
the first order of business was the usual evacuation drill, which went well and quickly. afterwards the fun truly began! we always elect to have late sitting as a dining preference, and celebrity gave us a table for 8 as requested, next to the balcony on the second level. our table mates were absolutely fabulous and our evening dining was truly spectacular because of them. our waiter was daniejl and his assistant was clifton. our sommelier was yamila and our maitre'd was sasha, i cannot say enough wonderful things about this talented and caring group of professionals! i should also add that our suite butler (yes, we had a butler as part of the suite service on celebrity) as ashwin gomez and our room attendant was tania, also absolutely wonderful. in fact, ashwin had us all spoiled every afternoon and evening with the most delicious service of finger sandwiches, desserts, caviar, salmon sandwiches and other delicacies brought to our suite. naturally celebrity's signature champagne always accompanied these beautifully presented delights!!
dinner every evening was a culinary extravaganza. never have we dined so eloquently and deliciously anywhere else (and i must say, we have traveled the globe..) celebrity culinary creations are truly awe inspiring, elegant and creative. nothing was ever mediocre, it was all perfection, right down to the generous, diverse wine list.
activities during the days and nights were so many that it was impossible to partake in the majority of them. we truly enjoyed the martini bar, both for dancing and quiet moments. we also explored other areas of the ship we truly enjoyed such as the hemisphere lounge, the tastings lounge, the boulevard shops and the many intimate sitting areas throughout this well-designed ship. our least favorite part of the ship was the rendezvous square lounge, the smoke was so thick and nauseating that it was almost toxic. we avoided walking thru that area at all costs, otherwise our clothes would retain the unpleasant smell of cigar and cigarette smoke. it was horrible and i wish that celebrity would ban or control smoking on its ships a little more. it would make the experience far more pleasant for those of us who dislike smoking.
we found the evening entertainment on the century to be beautiful, elegant and varied. the celebrity theater was a beautiful venue, boasting a wonderful sound and light system.
our daughter briefly participated in the children's program because she made new friends immediately and chose to spend time with them rather than at the club. however, i must say that the staff that entertained the children was fantastic and caring and i highly recommend their services to families with children. they have plenty of activities all day long and even into the late night hours!
shore excursions offered were varied and some reasonably priced. we are very familiar with each port we visited (ocho rios, grand cayman, cozumel and key west) so we opted to do things on our own. the only place where we took a tour was in mexico to the tulum mayan ruins. we had visited tulum many years ago while on a trip to the yucatan and we expected it to still be a glorious place to take our daughter so we spent $215.00 for the three of us to embark on one of the most disappointing tours ever!! let me explain.
when we visited tulum over a decade ago, it was a pristine, sacred ground. today it is invaded with souvenir shops, vendors who won't leave you alone, filth and trash everywhere and the atmosphere of a carnival rather than an ancient monument to the mayan civilization. there is even a subway shop next to the ruins, it just does not get any worse than that. i would avoid buying any food items or souvenirs there, the vendors are lazy and unfriendly, and even to use the bathroom they want to charge you $2.00, yes, even to go to the bathroom! our tour started with a long, long boat ride to the mainland. it took well over an hour to get there and the whole process was rather disorganized. once we arrived on the mainland, we had to walk for at least 15-20 minutes to the bus stop. picture the temperature at 110 degrees, the humidity at 95% and now you know how we were feeling...after the infinite walk we arrived at a bus stop. we got into the buses and proceeded to drive to the ruins. the ride took another hour or more—at this point we were in air conditioning, so time did not matter. before arriving at the ruins, however, the bus made a stop at a souvenir store where i was constantly pursued by a vendor to buy a mexican hat i did not want nor need. i left the building and proceeded back to the bus. definitely we should not have stopped there. we finally made it to tulum, only to find what seemed a few thousand other tourists there. dust, trash flying everywhere we proceeded to a disney-like tram which cost us an additional $1.50 per person to get us to the ruins. finally made it to the ruins and to our dismay the mexicans have now created their own little entrance to the area. no longer can you wonder thru its glorious stone gate, of course not, now they have created a little road that takes you where they want to take you and you must enter through there and exit elsewhere. in any event, we were guided there by our over-talkative, tip-hungry tour guide. although i must say he was very informative, he was too long in his explanations and it became very boring and almost unbearable to continue to follow him and listen in such hot temperatures. by the time he was finally done with his speeches, we only had 25 minutes to actually walk around and take a few pictures. imagine that!! to come such a long way and pay so much money to only really see tulum in 25 minutes. please save your money and don't ever do this tour!
after conferring with some of our new friends on the ship, including our table mates, about our tulum experience, we found that we should have also gone on our own in mexico and would have had a better time and paid very little money. our table mates went to a beach called palancar and had a glorious day there. later they enjoyed a wonderful meal nearby and had an absolutely delightful time. next time that is what we will do!
jamaica is always a favorite of ours, but one has to be very careful where to go and what to eat there. we visited the island village shopping center and it was wonderful. the shopping is delightful and there is no one bothering you there. we always visit the swiss store where they sell magnificent rolexes and other watches and jewelry at reasonable prices and their store manager linda is a delight to visit. it is the only authorized rolex dealer in ocho rios, so if you are looking for a rolex, this is the place to go! if you would like to see the island we highly recommend the services of a terrific tour operator named luciano. he is very kind and knowledgeable and is always happy to show you the best of his homeland. his van is very comfortable, new, and air conditioned and his tours are delightful. he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or his mobile number 876-995-2443. he will take you to places where most tourists don't go and will also take you to popular spots like dunn's falls, fern gulley, etc..
georgetown, grand cayman is one of those places where one has to be careful as to what to buy and where, as it is very expensive and everything is priced in cayman dollars. our choice there was to spend the day at the 7-mile beach and we had a wonderful time. bring your own bottled water, as a beer will cost you over $6 and a hamburger over $10, so save your appetite for when you return to the ship!!
our last stop was key west, a well known destination for us, as we have a second home in florida and we have traveled the keys extensively. we strolled around its main streets, to find the usual vendors, bars, and other entertaining sights. our daughter wanted to take a tour on the trolley, so $50 later we embarked on this 1 ½ tour. we decided it was about enough after 40 minutes, so we got off the trolley and took a taxi to a local restaurant called el siboney. this was the highlight of our key west stop! it is a small, family owned cuban restaurant, no frills here, just great food at unbelievable prices. we recommend the cuban sandwich, fried plaintains and the palomilla steak. they have an extensive beer selection, try one of their imports. our party of eleven people cost $106 for all, including beer, wine and so much food we could not eat it all!! be warned, however, el siboney does not accept any credit cards, only cash, so go prepared! there are plenty of atms nearby, so make a stop, it is well worth it!
back to the century...we would like to suggest not missing the pool party that they host late one evening. the chefs prepare a bountiful display and buffet made completely of fruits, it is spectacular. dancing under the stars at this party was fabulous, not to be missed!
shopping on the ship is very enjoyable and often less expensive than at the ports. for perfumes, cosmetics and the like, we recommend the boulevard shops or the perfume store in the island village complex (jamaica, next to the swiss store), for other souvenirs it is wise to compare prices and be careful. in our opinion, the best shopping was in jamaica, on the ship and, if you choose carefully, in mexico at playa del carmen. if you choose to buy alcoholic beverages (bottles) at the ports to bring back with you, be aware that your bottles will be confiscated upon your return to the ship and returned to you on the last night of the cruise. also, any items that may appear to be a weapon will be confiscated (there was a woman who bought a huge sword in key west and it was to be taken away from her upon her return to the ship!!).
overall, the celebrity experience was a truly spectacular display of excellent service, warmth and attentiveness. their emphasis on quiet elegance, a relaxed atmosphere, paired with superb culinary presentations and exemplary service place celebrity cruise lines in a class all of its own.