Celebrity Century Holiday Eastbound Panama Canal: Celebrity Century Cruise Review by petesfamily
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Celebrity Century Holiday Eastbound Panama Canal
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: San Diego
Before the Saturday embarkation we arrived in San Diego on Friday morning around 11:00. Luckily we were able to check in early at the Wyndham Bayside which was amazingly DIRECTLY ACROSS FROM THE CENTURY! After we checked in, we were able to walk a short distance to Seaport Village and do some sightseeing and shopping.
It was SO cool to wake up and see the Century in port from our hotel room. It was just a matter of time before we were able to meet up with Jordan after the Century arrived. We spent the morning catching up and walking to the Rite-Aid down the street from the motel. It seems that this is a popular place to More “stock-up” before boarding the ship, which was less than a block walk.
Ship information: After reading several posts on Cruise Critic about the “sad state of the Century” we were pleasantly surprised about the condition of the ship. We only have the Summit to compare to, but we LOVED the feel of the ship. Here are some photos I took of the Century: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesfamily/sets/72157639794028496/
The Grand Foyer was so beautiful and we really preferred it to the Summit. It is such a nice central location for the ship and there always seems to be something going on there. From the amazing “Soundtrack Jazz Trio” to the “5 O’Clock Somewhere” modern rock duo there was always a great vibe in the area. We looked forward to the music from these two acts daily. Our boys loved just hanging out there and playing cribbage after a busy day of excursions. The staff at the Cova Cafe made our stay there quite enjoyable.
We have a special place in our heart for Michael’s Club. This is where Jordan performs on a nightly basis. Just like the cruise director says, “Jordan draws a crowd to the Club and by the end of the cruise it is standing room only.” We definitely found this to be true. Once people heard Jordan in the Club, the word spread and the crowds got bigger and bigger each night. We felt bad for those people who looked into the Club and saw that there were no seats and were turned away. Florin, the bartender there, is a class act. He is a very professional bartender and treats each guest with respect. He makes your experience at Michael’s one to remember. There was a significant Scottish contingent on this cruise and they seemed to gravitate towards Michael’s Club. Here is a video of the great times we had here:
We enjoyed the “coziness” of the ship and would sail the Century again.
Activities: We enjoyed many of the activities on the ship. The trivia is always fun to play, but often could not fit all of them into our schedule. The “expert” presentations during the day were very informative, especially the one on the Panama Canal. It was a great way to learn more about the Canal before crossing through. Zumba was super popular, but the area for this is too small and many people participated from various spots on the pool decks. My wife enjoyed the various presentations by the culinary staff on the pool deck such as the ice carving and food carving demonstrations.
Service: We are always impressed by the professionalism of the staff on Celebrity. From the housekeeping staff to the Captain, we have found them to be excellent. As in any organization there are better employees than others, but for the most part, we had great service. At times the bar staff at the MDR took longer than expected, but it was not terrible. As stated above Florin, the bartender of Michael’s Club is top-notch, a true professional who goes out of his way to make you feel “special” at the Club. I think other guests on the ship go out of there way to look for bad service and we just do not do that. I think if you live by the “golden rule” and treat people with respect, you will get that in return.
Port & shore excursions: We did not take any excursions on the Summit, so we were not sure what to expect on this cruise. Here is a summary of our experiences at each port:
Cabo San Lucas: We participated in the “Salsa, Salsa, Margarita” excursion with Celebrity. Honestly, my wife wanted to do this more than I did, but I played along like a good sport. We were bussed to a restaurant a few minutes from the port. We were expecting to see some locals that were going to teach us how to make salsa, but were greeted by the “Dancing Chefs.” (http://www.salsaandsalsa.com/dancingchefs.php) We were a little taken back, but actually had a good time making 7 different types of salsas and had unlimited margaritas…so, not so bad. After the salsa lessons we made our way back to the bus and back to the port, not leaving us much time to shop or sightsee in Cabo. I was kind of disappointed that we did not get to do much else there than the excursion. Our sons did get to go parasailing and thoroughly enjoyed that. We were able to do a little shopping and then had to head back to the ship.
Puerto Vallarta: We decided to go at it by ourselves here and took a cab ($20 for 4 people) from the port terminal to Old Town and just hang out on the beach at Los Muertos. We ate at the Burro Bar and Restaurant that was on the beach. Pretty good food, cold beer but we were BOMBARDED by vendors selling their goods-anything from shore excursions to pipes-it got a little overwhelming, but we got used to it. Our sons actually purchased an excursion on the beach with a guy that took them snorkeling. They loved it and the guy was great. While the boys were snorkeling, my wife and I just did some shopping in Old Town. Very large selection of merchandise and the vendors were willing to bargain a little. One of the vendors actually helped us find a cab back to the terminal, which actually had a lot of vendors right off of the ship.
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala: We had heard that going into Guatemala alone was probably not the best thing to do, so my son and I purchased an excursion through Celebrity to tour the ancient Mayan ruins of Iximche. This was not advertised on the Celebrity website, so I thought this was pretty exciting that we would be able to visit some ruins as I thought they were all too far away to see in the limited amount of time we would have. It was a long bus ride through the Guatemalan countryside, but we finally made it to the ruins in about 1 1/2 hours. Our tour guide was very knowledgable about the area as that is where he was from. The ruins themselves are not very impressive, besides the fact that they are over 500 years old. I did enjoy it and we actually got to meet some Mayan people that were performing some religious services there. Here is a link to photos from the site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesfamily/sets/72157639841352624/ We stopped at a restaurant on the way to the ruins to use the restroom and on the way back to eat a prepared lunch for us. The food was very good and we had some time to shop at the vendor market by the restaurant. The bus ride home, however, was interesting. The bus was having acceleration problems the entire trip and we finally were told that we would need to change busses. This did not take too long, but as soon as we stopped, we had police there to guard the changeover. We were almost late to the disembarkation from the port and that had me a little nervous. We did get back on time and even had a few minutes to shop at the port vendors.
Puntarenas Costa Rica: We did not plan on any excursions here either as we had read there was plenty to do right off of the port at the “Paseo de los Turistas” which is a long stretch right off the port full of food and souvenir vendors. We really enjoyed this port as all of the vendors were polite and had much to offer. We did eat at a good restaurant that had WiFi. After lunch and shopping we hung out at the beach. It was very crowed as it was the weekend, but it was enjoyable. Here are my photos from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesfamily/sets/72157639837514193/ I will have to say the sunsets that night as we disembarked from Costa Rica were AMAZING.
Panama Canal Crossing: What an amazing experience to be able to cross the Canal on a cruise ship. I know this cruise is on many cruisers “bucket list” and I could see why. There is way to much to write about this in one short paragraph, but the entire experience took around 12 hours. Here is a link to my photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesfamily/sets/72157639807598145/
Colon Panama: We were not sure what we wanted to do, but many suggest to do an excursion in Colon, so we did. We initially wanted to do the “Monkey Excursion” where you were taken to an area where many species of monkeys lived, but when we went to purchase, they were sold out. We then were relegated to doing the “Rainforest Tram” ride through the jungles near the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Gamboa, Panama. I am not really sure it was worth the more than $100 each for this excursion. We took a bus ride from the terminal out to the jungles near the resort and were taken to the aerial tramway. Each tram car held 5 persons, so my son and I went with a mother and her two middle school aged sons. It was a beautiful view and we did actually see some Howler Monkeys, but other than that, not much. One highlight of the trip was that we did get to meet some Embera Indian people that were selling their crafts. Upon returning back to Colon, we had a few hours to shop around the port, which was very nice. They had a grocery store there that we spent some time in to pick up some things. There is also a Subway Restaurant there, so my boys LOVED that.
Cartagena Colombia: We had planned on getting an excursion to tour the “Old Town” area of Cartagena, but our son’s friends from “The Soundtrack Trio” (the jazz group on the ship) are all FROM Colombia and agreed to be our tour guides for the day! What a great trip. This is a beautiful city and with some natives giving us a tour, it was even better. We took a cab from the port (around $15.00/cab) to the Old Town area. We decided to eat right way and the Colombians (as my son calls them) took us to one of their favorite places to eat. I had the Pescado Frito and it was awesome-along with ice-cold Club Colombia beer. We had 7 people in our group and the bill was just a little over $60.00, so I paid for all of us. We then proceeded to walk around the area and do some shopping. Many things to see and do here, but I just enjoyed walking, shopping and taking photos. Here are my photos from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesfamily/sets/72157639787551675/ Cartagena was definitely my favorite stop on this cruise.
Travel to embarkation Port: We flew out of Omaha to San Diego early on Friday arriving at the Wyndham Bayside Hotel around noon. Luckily were able to check in at that time and had some time to do some sightseeing at Seaport Village. We ate lunch at the San Diego Pier Cafe and it was very good. That evening we were craving some In-N-Out burgers, but did not have transportation, so we decided to give “Lyft” a try. If you do not know what it is, it is “on demand ride sharing.” We were a little skeptical, but I have a friend from SD who uses it often. We were able to get a “Lyft” to and from In-N-Out with no difficulties and it was a pretty cool experience. I would recommend it! http://www.lyft.me Saturday morning we knew the Century would be in port and were very excited to see Jordan again. To our amazement, the Century ports directly across the glass elevator at the Wyndham so we were able to have a great view of the ship!
Dining: We ate at the MDR on several occasions with the best meal being on New Year’s Eve. Here is a photo of the menu that night: http://www.flickr.com/photos/petesfamily/11953372123/in/set-72157639794028496. Jordan’s performance schedule was much more consistent on this cruise, so we were able to eat with him several times here. It was interesting to watch the boys try everything that was on the menu. Being on a 15 day cruise allows you to be able to sample pretty much EVERYTHING on the buffet-which we did. We probably ate more of the made to order pasta and stir-fry than anything else, but also enjoyed the sandwiches and burgers by the pool. Honestly, though, by the end of the cruise, we were pretty tired of the food on the ship. We actually ate at a Wendy’s when we got into Ft. Lauderdale and I could not believe how good it tasted!
Entertainment: We were able to attend many shows on this cruise because of Jordan’s more consistent schedule. One of the shows had a surprise as the performer, Travis Turpin, is from Nebraska close to where we are from. Very cool to meet him and talk to him after the show. He was very good and did impersonations of various singers. Great show. The jugglers were ok, but not great. The ventriloquist was very funny. He did more than just ventriloquism and was actually very good. The various singers and entertainers around the ship are really what I enjoy. 5 O’Clock Somewhere is a duo from London and we enjoyed them MANY times at the Cova Cafe. Very personable and good with the audience. They would often ask Jordan to play with them if they saw him sitting there. The other act we really enjoyed was the “Soundtrack Jazz Trio.” These are Jordan’s good friends on the ship and not only were they great musicians, they are just good guys. As I said before they gave us a tour of Cartagena since they are from Colombia and had visited there often. Alejandro, the guitarist, is very talented. Actually Jordan and some other musicians from the ship are working on an original song that they have recorded.
Disembarkation: Here is where the fun begins-not really. Apparently when you are getting off a ship that has traveled to the Central American countries that we have, they take EXTRA precautions that certain items are NOT brought back into the United States. Basically drug dogs were used to go through every piece of luggage from the ship. We probably spent 1 1/2 hours at customs and another 1/2 hour waiting for a cab. Ft. Lauderdale is a very busy place for cruise ships and 5 arrived the day we did. We had planned on going out to eat with Jordan, but he was nervous about getting back to the ship on time, so we did not. He actually got off the ship BEFORE we did.
We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways as Jordan boarded the ship and we left the port. Caught a cab to the Holiday Inn Suites in Ft. Lauderdale and did some shopping and resting before the flight in the morning (we thought). We knew there were flight problems because of the “polar vortex” but our flights had not been canceled-yet. We made our way to the airport, boarded the plane and were then told after about an hour that “it is too cold to fuel planes in Chicago and we don’t know when it will be.” Wow. We knew this could be a possibility, but we thought we were home free. We were able to get a flight on Wednesday to Denver and then back to Omaha, so we got to spend a couple of “extra” days in Ft. Lauderdale as the temperatures were below zero back home, so not so bad. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Plantation and had a great time shopping and eating-again. Finally made it back to Omaha around 10:30 p.m. and had the long 3 hour drive home. We both made it to work the next day, but it was NOT easy.
Summary: The Century is a great ship. Loved the older feel of it compared to the Summit. Of course it is old, but that is the charm of it. We loved the layout of the ship and the staff was top-notch. Hopefully the rumors about it being sold are not true as it is a grand old beauty. I know going through the Panama Canal is on many cruisers bucket list and I can see why. We can’t wait to see where Jordan’s career will take us next time-Bermuda again??? Less