This was our 3rd Celebrity cruise, the first cruise ever for our friends. We are all in our 50’s. We had previously been on the Zenith and the Horizon and found them both exceptional. The Century has to be the most beautiful ship we’ve ever seen. It is in pristine condition with soft colors and eye-catching artwork all over the ship. There’s even a Picasso! You feel that you are in a luxury resort, not on a ship that is moving from place to place. We had that feeling on our previous cruises also.
We had arranged our own air with our travel agent who got us a great deal w/United. As long as she had notified Celebrity within weeks of our departure, Celebrity would arrange for someone to meet us at the gate and take care of our luggage. That is the best part of traveling. You put on the tags supplied by Celebrity and the next time you see your luggage after your home airport is when it is placed outside of your cabin. A Celebrity rep met us as planned, confirmed our names, collected a few others from another flight and (allowing for a potty break) escorted us to the bus to take us to the pier.
The ride is only about 10 minutes if that long. We catch sight of our ship and can’t believe our eyes, she is that beautiful! My husband & I are Captain’s Club members and would have priority embarkation, but in deference to our friends we take a number also and wait to be called. There is fruit punch and lemonade for those who want it. The "spa girls" are going around signing people up for treatments and hair appointments. Embarkation begins promptly at 1 pm. The numbers are called and as you go through the door, you have your embarkation picture taken. I actually liked the way it was done when we went in ’95 where it was on the cat walk going into the ship and not with hordes of other people around and in your picture. But I quibble, as we didn’t buy the picture anyway. You see these stands set up w/ranges of room numbers and head to the one for your room. There, if your papers are all filled out, you exchange your documents for a key/credit card to use for the next 7 days.
I always carry my birth certificate and my husband’s naturalization papers, as you have to indicate in which country you were born. Karl was born in Germany and came over as an eight-year-old with his parents. On our first cruise, you had to go through customs and they asked if we had proof of citizenship! As I went to pull out our papers, the customs official just waved us on. Since then, we’ve never been questioned or gone through customs. I think there are just too many cruisers for customs to handle everyone born in the USA. There is a separate line for non-US citizens to pass customs. Anyway, we went through the metal detector, up the escalator and entered the ship in the Grand Foyer. There we were met by the white-gloved housekeeping staff, relieved of our carry-ons and escorted to our rooms.
Since we wanted to be near our friends and also get our Captain’s Club free room upgrade we chose the Vista deck (deck 8). Our friends had the standard room and were pleasantly surprised by the huge picture window. They were sure it was going to be a porthole! Did I mention that it took us 5 years to convince them of the "value" of cruising? Our room was on the stern or the back of the ship. We actually had what I would call a family cabin with separate areas for a queen size bed and 2 couches, which could be made into beds, and a pull out from the wall. A desk w/chair which doubled as a vanity for me and a small glass top table w/2 small chairs finished the furniture. And we had plenty of room to move around. The bathroom is quite nice with a regulation size shower, a vanity w/sided shelves on top, hair dryer, big mirror w/great lighting. But the room was quite roomy for just 2 of us! Plenty of storage for all we brought and all the things we bought! Our suitcases fit fine under the bed. Our cabin steward had laid out a vinyl pad on the bed for us to lay our suitcases on while we unpacked them. He kept the room in pristine condition, even folding socks we had left out! The rooms are checked at least twice a day and the insulated water pitchers and ice buckets are always kept fresh. There is a small fridge acting as a mini-bar. You can buy your own cans of soda and ask the steward to empty it out for room.
We went upstairs to the not-quite-top deck for the Welcome aboard Buffet. This is ok but not a knock-your-socks-off meal. But we know it will get better. Celebrity is proud of their food and rightly so. All bread is made daily onboard. The ice creams are homemade. Specialty diets can be ordered ahead of time and they will make every effort to accommodate you. There is a daily vegetarian menu. We watched a video galley and bridge tour in our cabin and were amazed at how much effort goes into making your trip so special.
We only ate breakfast once in the dining room on each of our cruises. Celebrity has changed from having assigned times for breakfast and lunch to open seating. The only downside to this is that you don’t sit at your assigned dinner table and have your regular waiter and that you’re seated w/whoever they need to fill the table. The service was not great. I had ordered fruit and never received it and they doled out the sweet rolls like they were gold. They were good but not that good. We ended up going up to the buffet and getting coffee and rolls to take back to the room! So we stuck w/the breakfast buffet from then on. Besides having anything you could possible want for breakfast, including an omelet station, you could sit out on the back of the ship under an awning and watch the ocean go by. This was always Karl’s favorite time.
We usually skipped lunch as we had had a late and very large breakfast. But the menu in the buffet was the same as in the dining room. (I know because I looked at the menu posted outside the dining room for lunch.) The grill would be open by the pool and burgers, hotdogs and fries were always available along with a pasta station. Pizza was available from 2-4 and then later in the evening. The pizza was very good. (I’m Italian and from Chicago so I take my pizza seriously.) If you skipped lunch because you were on a shore excursion, you could always hold back the hunger pangs with afternoon "tea". A string quartet would play and you could take your choice of a variety of finger sandwiches and pastries. Then to top it off from 4-5 you could have a large cone of frozen yogurt. Yum! It is impossible to go hungry.
Although once we were late coming back from a shore excursion to the Coba ruins which had left at 6:30 am and the lunch buffet was kept open for the 200 or so people who were late coming back. We (and everyone else) were forever grateful for that consideration.
Luckily for us we had late seating dinner or we would have had no appetite at all. Of course this precluded any thought of the midnight buffet. Dinner would consist of 3-4 appetizers hot & cold,
2-3 soups, 2 salads with a choice of 3 different dressings each time, 5-6 entrees of beef, chicken, fish, veal, pork, lamb or pasta. On the last formal night, there was roast goose, prime rib and lobster tail and a few other things I don’t recall. Our companion couple are picky eaters and we thought that they might be put off by the gourmet aspect of the food, but they found something they liked on every menu and even tried some new things! Denny is allergic to seafood and asked that a pasta dish which was topped with shrimp be made w/o the fish and they gladly did it.
The midnight buffet was always themed. One night was Italian. Then 2 nights were on deck, the Tex-Mex complete w/line dancing and the fruit and dessert buffet. The Grand Buffet was on the last formal night and they open it first to photos before the eaters get to it. The ice sculptures and the food design is not to be believed. We saw a woman’s face carved out of a whole roasted turkey! When we showed the photos to friends, they couldn’t believe it. The other nights, waiters went around w/gourmet bites and had them laid out in certain areas of the ship. It always looked fabulous but we were too stuffed from dinner and couldn’t eat a bite.
This is one place where we have seen some improvement. There is always a juggler, a singer, a comedian and a couple of production shows with lasers and explosions. The talent seems to have gotten better from our first cruise. The theater is perfect w/no obstructed views and is set up w/love seats and couch type seating w/little cocktail tables for your after dinner drink. It’s not Las Vegas but it’s not a VFW hall either. Kind of reminds me of the old Ed Sullivan show with lots of variety acts. But it’s a good way to pass the evening and let your food digest before hitting the casino and losing your money. The casino is large enough for the number of people who use it. The slots are very tight however and you lose your money very quickly on those. I did play some $3 blackjack and managed to hold my own all evening. I never won, but at most I lost $20. Karl liked the Caribbean Stud or whatever they call it on Celebrity.
The ports on the Western Caribbean are Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Key West with 2 sea days. You can get off the boat and hire someone to take you anywhere you want to go provided you know where to go. The first time, we did excursions through the ship and they are not cheap, but we did get to see a lot of each place. Later, we just went on our own. We are not big beach people so we would do our sightseeing, some shopping and come back to the ship. We feel like the ship is the vacation anyway.
After all of this, I hope you have some idea what a cruise aboard the Century would be like. It is heaven! Oh and by the way, how did our friends like the cruise after all? On the last night they were incredibly depressed over having to leave. They were overwhelmed with the service, the food, and the whole ambiance of cruising. Denny was saying, " why didn’t we do this in our 30’s?" They commented again and again about how much you pay up front but you don’t realize until you are actually there how much you get for your money. Are we going again? Oh yes! Next year is either a 10-day Panama Canal or Alaska on Celebrity again. Believe me, you can’t go wrong with this cruise line.
Susan Hofer may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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