Celebrity Plans Major Century Overhaul

June 1, 2005
Celebrity's Century is about to enter a whole new era. The cruise line has announced that the 70,606-ton, 1,770-passenger ship is going to be renovated, and in a big way -- a whopping 314 verandahs will be added to the ship. And while the concept of tacking balconies on to older ships isn't groundbreaking (Costa Cruises added 242 cabins to CostaVictoria last year), a project of this magnitude is exciting, particularly for a cruise line with no new-builds on order.

The major overhaul will begin when the ship goes into dry dock next April -- and the new and improved Century will re-enter service in June 2006. The company has not yet assigned a shipyard; several shipyards are currently bidding for the project, which will take five weeks (and cost about $55 million).

A decade ago, when Century first launched, ships loaded to the brim with balcony cabins were just a glimmer in cruise line executives' eyes. These days, however, the percentage of outside cabins with verandahs (on non-luxury lines, anyway) can reach as high as 80 percent. In fact, on Celebrity's newest ship, Constellation, launched in 2002, the percentage is 72.

Cruise Critic spent a few hours in Miami, where Celebrity's headquarters are based, to get the hot-off-the-press details on Century's upcoming rebirth. We basically learned that this time next year, Century will be well on its way to featuring many of the same elements and amenities that have made the line's Millennium-class ships so successful. Highlights include:

314 brand-new balconies, to be added to existing oceanview staterooms. These balconies will measure 1.75 meters deep (just shy of 6 feet) -- which is actually larger than those found on Millennium-class ships (measuring 1.32 to 1.4 meters). Also, because the addition of the verandah involves the removal of existing window casings, these cabins will also gain a square meter of additional space, and furniture will be rearranged to allow for better in-room dining possibilities, with a seating area and table near the sliding doors. Every Concierge-class cabin will now have a verandah.

New cabins will be added, too -- 24 to be exact, in a variety of stateroom categories. Up on the sky deck, a row of 4 Sunset verandah staterooms will be added (these clock in at about the same measurements as the lower deck verandah-cabins, but face over the aft end of the ship), plus 2 oceanviews that adjoin to the Sunset staterooms located on either end of the row; 4 insides; and 14 suites. Editor's note: Six cabins on Deck 4 will be removed to make way for an expanded Fun Factory, so the net gain of cabins is actually 18.

Where are the new cabins going? They will actually be placed where the sports deck is currently -- and a new sports deck will be created on the uppermost level of the ship (which is now an empty space, without even a handrail to speak of). The deck will feature a ball court and other activity venues, and will overlook the pool area.

The outdoor dining area off of the casual Islands Cafe will be beefed up with bar service, and will offer tapas to match the al fresco dining on Millennium-class ships. Inside, a sushi cafe will be added as well as an evening Mediterranean cafe for casual dining in the evenings.

A specialty restaurant -- now considered a standard amenity on most mainstream cruise ships -- will also debut onboard, located off the main lobby (a seating area will be sacrificed to make room). While no theme has been set yet, the ambience is expected to mirror that of, say, Constellation's Ocean Liners -- intimate, romantic dining with table-side cooking ... and a delectable Michel Roux menu.

The spa area, which at the time of the ship's launch boasted the largest square footage of any at-sea spa, is also catching up with the times; its expansion is expected to be one of the biggest projects. The Spa Cafe, a popular spot on Constellation, will be added adjacent to the spa, featuring healthy eats.

In addition to the expansion of Century's kids' facility, Fun Factory, a portion of the Crystal Room on Deck 7 will be sectioned off to make way for a brand-new teens-only lounge.

The underused Images sports bar will be transformed into a chic martini bar in the heart of ship on Deck 7.

The computer station, currently a cluster of about 15 terminals, will be updated to feature approximately 25 terminals. The High Seas computer education program will be instituted onboard to offer guests enrichment opportunities.

The Cova Cafe Milano will also receive a facelift -- and there will be designated space for Celebrity's famed chocolate buffets.

Stay tuned for more details on the "new" Century....