Celebrity Cruise Lines - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
Celebrity Cruises

by Charles Stauffer
Western Caribbean
April 14, 2001

I am submitting this cruise review because I found previous reviews very helpful in planning my last cruise, especially the shore excursions. I read many of the reviews for Century's cruise to Western Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale and chose the excursions that seemed to appeal to me and my partner's interests. We are a young couple in our 50's who love cruising, dancing, snorkeling, hiking, etc.

I have cruised on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean and can compare Century to my previous experiences. This should also be helpful to others considering this cruise or others on Celebrity/Century as it was to the two of us.

Arrival -
I had never been to Ft. Lauderdale airport but it was very easy to pick up our luggage, hail a taxi and for $10 get to the ship's berth. (You can see the ship on your flight path) The driver dropped us off right at the ship's loading area (small tip), the porters checked us off their manifest and we entered the port for sign in with our carryon bags. l always carry on a days worth of active clothes because we are never sure how long it will take for our bags to arrive at our room. At least we have swimsuits, shorts, etc. to enjoy before sailing.

When you enter the dock check in, it will appear hectic but just seek out one of the many Celebrity reps and they will provide you with forms to fill out (some are the same as which come in the packet from the travel agent regarding customs, credit card information, returning flight etc.) We arrived at 12 noon and had 4 hours until sailing. Large groups were arriving but everything ran smoothly. We walked right up to the counter to get checked in and get our signature cards and account set up. The reps are extremely nice and helpful. It took about 5 minutes and we were on our way up the gangway. Of course, on your way you are stopped for a picture before you enter the ship.

A side note: If you wish to purchase liquor or wine you may do so at a very convenient booth that is very obvious when you first enter the booking area. You have a nice selection and they are very reasonable considering what the ship chargers for similar wine and liquor. Brandy $10, a bottle of Merlot $8. The ship's wine is $18-25 and up depending. The only catch is that your order cannot go on board with you, you must return about 20 minutes prior to sailing to pick up your order. It went as they stated and the 4 bottles we purchased of hard liquor and wine was packaged and ready for us. The ship did not check our purchase or not allow us to bring it to our room as I hear some cruise lines do. So, we always had a nice pre-dinner shot or mixer and you can bring your wine to dinner. Beware: When you purchase the wine they will tell you that there is not a 'corking fee' but there certainly is. I think it was $6 per bottle at dinner but it still came out much less expensive to do it this way than to purchase at the table from your wine steward, and you have a better wine on the average. Our wine steward did not care and it seemed quite normal to her. We felt a little funny walking in with a wine bottle but afterwards I felt we had made the right choice. (We do not drink wine at every dinner so it worked out great)

Embarkation -
When you first walk on board you are greeted by a ship' officer, then escorted to your room by a steward. When the steward opened our room, surprise! There was a huge window over looking the water, big enough to sit in! This is the second time that Celebrity has upgraded us after we were originally assigned an inside cabin. The 9th deck aft is an ideal location because you only walk up two decks to the Islands cafe for breakfast, lunch and the pool deck.

Leaving port in Ft. Lauderdale is a spectacular sight as you view the hotels and beaches. Worth going on deck to see. You have to move topside since the emergency life boat drills take place at 4PM soon after you get settled, that is, unless you happen to just get aboard. Plan and book you shore excursions early, right after the lifeboat drill. They fill up fast and you may not get your choice of trips.

Accommodations -
The rooms are very spacious for two if you store your suitcases under the double bed. Plenty of space for hanging clothes, suits, etc. and of course, the terry cloth robes that Celebrity provides. (a very nice touch). The bathroom seems much larger than the bathroom on RC Rhapsody of the Sea. On that ship I was unable to shower without my arms and head pushing out of the shower curtain. (I am 6' tall, 200 lb.) There is a nice hair dryer provided, along with liquid soap dispenser and shampoo. There is an electrical outlet but it did not provide enough power to run our Water Pick. I called guest services for an extension cord, which was delivered within 10 minutes. Our room steward was efficient, and helpful. He provide us with a filled ice bucket to chill our wine, glasses, chocolates before bedtime, extra towels, whatever we asked for.

The ship is immaculate. There is constantly someone cleaning mirrors, floors, etc. For as many people that this ship carries, there is virtually no dirt anywhere.

Dining -
The dining room is two level with plenty of glass. I never felt crowded or uncomfortably warm even during the formal attire evenings. During the first afternoon we were directed to sign up for our dinner table. Late seating is 8:30PM and recommended if you are active during the day and have no children with you. You do not have to be rushed upon your return from an excursion to get ready for the 6PM seating. They seated us with 3 other couples matched in age. Nice folks but, except for one couple, the others were not very sociable or have anything in common. This is my biggest complaint on any our cruises so far. We have had bad luck, if you call it, in this area. Other people that we have talked to have been luckier than we have. Our next cruise will be open dining and should help alleviate this problem since you can change tables and change dining times. Our waiter turned out to be fantastic. He was from India and, along with his assistant, knew exactly what we wanted and provided us with little things before we even asked. He had the chef make up special appetizers for our table to suit the varied tastes. The dinners were always hot, delivered in a timely manner and with good portions. It is a 5 star process and continues to be so through all my experiences with Celebrity. You can order seconds, or any combination of entrees. The menu is varied for different tastes, such as vegetarian, heart healthy, beef, fish, and lamb and chicken available for your choosing with each meal. The second to last night, the standard is the Lobster entree and, as is traditional, ask the waiter for a second 'tail' after you order your fist so he will be able to get the extra tails as soon as they are available. As I mentioned, bring your wine in and the wine steward will set up a chill bucket and pour for you. If you do not finish your wine, they will save it for you until the next evening's dinner. The final evening is the special night when flaming 'Baked Alaska' is served for dessert after much fanfare and pomp. It is fun for the waiters and all alike.

On the second day of our trip we were lucky enough to be invited to the 'Captain's Table' for dinner. There were about 8 couples who all met at a special reserved table with drinks on the house and then the Captain and his wife arrived. We were all led to the head table in the main dining rooms with each of us having our own waiter and plenty of red and white wine on the house again. Two days later we were invited to visit the bridge (off limits to guests) and get a first hand tour and a visit with the Captain and his officers. The ship is a technological wonder. It practically runs itself. I was impressed with the redundant safety systems that Celebrity has that are not required by law. By all means take a tour if offered. The Cruise director, a delightful young lady, organized our tour.

Ship's Amenities -
Our first day at sea is a relaxing time. You get to explore all the ship's amenities. The Century has a magnificent Aqua Spa that you must try. (See TV ads) It is a huge Jacuzzi that is heated to body temperature and contains salt water. It has all types of powered water jets including a rail that you can stretch out and practically float on. It is an incredible experience and highly recommended. It is an additional $70 for an entire week or $15 for a day.

The gym and weight room is large, well equipped with weight machines, bikes, treadmills and stair masters. They also have free weights, an aerobics class and a personal trainer that can provide nutritional and exercise regimens. The weight room is located at the very front of the ship, top deck so the view is spectacular. The only complaint is that it got quite warm in the workout room. We never had to wait for a treadmill as was the case on Rhapsody. Later, one broke down though.

One complaint:
The jogging track is quite small and located forward so the wind is quite strong while underway. We found out later that this track is also the 'topless' optional sunbathing area. We elected to jog/power walk the same area aft which circles the stacks, a much larger area and, less crowded. The sign said 'no jogging' but no one ever said a thing to us. The two pools are amidships but rather small. One is used more often for games and events. There are 3-4 hot tubs located by one of the pools. There are plenty of deck chairs but you have to get there early or you will be waiting for one. Of course there are waiters from whom you order drinks and a bar for cocktails. Remember, there is no cash on board. Everything is signed for on your 'signature' card. The towels are clean and ready on deck. A complaint about the pool area is the marginal entertainment and band that plays for about an hour. They are the same band that will show up at shows in the lounges. Kids are not allowed to jump in the pools but they were all doing so and it was quite annoying. The parents either were no where to be found or did not care. They did have two security guards walking about which was a change over previous cruises. I feel this a positive addition. They also serve pizza (good too) from 12-2PM and some days hamburgers and hot dogs. Another day was Mexican with tacos and the like. It is great for kids and to hold you over until dinner. About 2PM or so they also serve soft ice cream which certainly is a treat when you are hot from the pool. It is a must to put on sunscreen for protection from the direct sun in the Caribbean. Many people were burned the first day and it must have ruined their remaining vacation.

Side note: A children program goes on daily. There are two or more teachers/crew members that take care of the activities. For teens, there is a variety of games and dancing in the early evening in the Disco lounge until11PM.

Midnight Buffet -
The midnight buffets start about 11:30 and provide more FOOD. Personally, I barely could finish my late seating meal, then attend the show and make it to eat again at midnight! Each night is a different theme, such as Caribbean night, Texmex, Italian, etc. The Texmex is followed by dancing, ice carvings and a real party so don't miss it.

Breakfast -
We suggest eating breakfast at the Islands Cafe. The selection is amazing from all types of traditional foods to smoked salmon, muslix, and made-to-order omelets with smoked salmon if you prefer. There are all types of fruits and pastries. Celebrity is great because there is always a waiter ready to carry your tray to a table and ready to refill your coffee cup. There was always a choice of seating inside or out. Never had to wait for a seat. On Rhapsody, we could walk in circles until a table became available. The waiters would just stand and look at you and never offer to help. The food was always fresh and plenty of it. They varied the menu from day to day a little so you could change you breakfast choices as opposed to Rhapsody, which stayed the same.

Ports of Call - Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
A very poor country with obvious squalor. We decided to stay with a tour group signed on for the trip to Fern Gully and the Botanical Gardens with the final stop at Dunn's River Falls. The vans were clean, air-conditioned and our guide was well versed and helpful. Of course they stop at a place for picture taking where there are many locals hawking their wares. The trip is nice and the gardens beautiful but it becomes obvious that the guide/gardener is working for his tip. At the end of the walk through, they provide a free drink of Coke, Pepsi, etc. and wait for the tip. The falls have turned totally commercialized from 10 years earlier. They strongly suggest that you rent slip on shoes to climb the falls. ($5) A decent pair of sandals will do or bring some from home. It was the day after Easter and a national holiday for Jamaica so every schools child and family was there for the day off. The falls were so crowded that it simply was a horde of people inching their way up the rocks. It is very steep and fairly treacherous. Once you begin, there is no turning back. The water is quite fast and pounding and difficult to tell where you are putting your foot down. Couple that with the throngs of people and it was not an exhilarating experience. There are guides willing to take your picture with your camera but probably expect a tip. We did not use them. Some of the older visitors and ones not in good condition had some difficulties. The walk out is through a long procession of stands selling just about everything. If it is the day after Easter, forget it.

During the trip to the falls, they stop in town for shopping. The buy is the Blue Mountain coffee for about $16 or so. Do not buy your alcohol here. Wait until you walk back towards the ship and you come onto a duty free liquor store. The prices were phenomenal (I purchased in town and regretted it) You can try a sample of each type of beverage. If you like Kahlua then you must try the Blue Mountain Coffee Liquor. It is the best and goes for $10. Also try Ginger Wine $6 and the Appleton Estate Rum for $12. They have an 'Overproof' liquor that cannot be bought in the states but beware, it is so strong that too much can kill. The 25 year old rum is the best but a little more expensive.

Grand Caymen-
Definitely an upscale port with little to no poverty. The ship uses tenders to bring you ashore which can waste some valuable time but the most we waited was 20 minutes. You must be aware of the time for the last tender to return to the ship on time before it sails. You cannot board the tender without proper ID (ship's signature card and picture ID). We signed up for the Snorkeling/StingRay City excursion. This was suggested on a cruise review and it was well worth it. You are met at the landing and escorted to air-conditioned vans. The trip takes you along the 7 mile beach and you are able to view the beautiful resorts along the way. The boat captain is English and comical. They provide all good snorkeling gear if you do not have yours. It is easy and the water warm, little to no current and is quite effortless. The first stop puts you snorkeling at the edge of a coral reef in 10-20 ft. of water. We saw many reef fish, coral heads and finally a huge, green Moray Eel that was enticed out of its hole by a mate from another boat using bait. Oh yes, there are many boats and snorklers. The next stop is StingRay City a real experience. The water is only 3-4 ft. deep and the rays are numerous. You are provided with squid to feed them and instructed how too. Make sure you listen how to. They are like big cats that rub up against you and nuzzle themselves up your back, legs etc. You can hold them under the wings and about lift them out of the water. They weigh upwards of 40 lb. so they can run into you quite hard. A great experience. The trip back is leisurely and the Captain who is quite informative will suggest tips of course. The drinks onboard are on the house.

Cozumel, Mexico-
The ship docks at a modern, clean and safe pier. You may take a cab, of which there are plenty, to town or walk the 3 miles along the shore road. The cost is supposed to be $4, the ship advertises this, but the cab drivers will expect $5. We signed up for the Advanced Snorkeling tour at this port. It was also recommended by the cruise review. It is an open boat with some sun cover. The crew is knowledgeable and speaks good English. They are quite funny and helpful about all your questions on Cozumel. The trip is quite long to the snorkeling site so they make a stop at a modern resort and do so by driving right up on to the beach. Gear is provided. It goes to say that my partner and I own our own and are comfortable with bringing ours. It is more work to carry it all over and I wonder if it is worth it since the gear provided is very good. The advantage would be if we decided to go to a beach on our own and snorkel. The crew asked if everyone was experienced and all but two were not. They kind of rolled their eyes at that. There were 20 plus snorklers. This is a 'Drift Snorkel' type of trip. The boat drops you off on the reef. One crewman leads the group and another trails behind. They insist that everyone stay together and drift along with the current. They stop and point out sights along the way. You are in the water at least an hour and even though the water is in the 80's, you will begin to feel chilled. I have a lycra skin, which helped. If you try to 'swim' you will get more chilled and tired. It is easier to drift along and keep up with the group. One complaint: the inexperienced snorklers will run into you and kick you with their fins constantly. It is very annoying. They also swim erratic when they should relax and use their fins in an effortless fashion, keep their heads in the water and look out for others.

The return trip was incredibly cold due to a downpour that we ran into with waves coming over the bow. There is plenty of free beer and rum drinks on the house. After our return and clean, dry, clothes we took a cab into town. The town is a myriad of shops selling basically the same tourist items. I took interest in a rose colored star sapphire at $520. If you pay cash, there is a 20% discount, with a credit card, 10%. However, the price quickly dropped to $320 with or without payment options. Something was fishy so I decided against this purchase. The salesman assured me it was genuine and would issue a 'certificate of authenticity' from the government, but then how real is this? What does one do when you are back home trying to make good on a phony gemstone? Upon returning home I discovered that it was probably a synthetic stone. There are some good buys on liquor and merchandise at the head of the pier before you return to the ship, all duty free. Make sure you return to the ship on time. Two ladies missed the ship sailing and had to hire a private boat and race to catch up with the ship. They transferred from boat to ship while at full speed!

Last stop - Key West, Fl
It was nice to be back in the US but we found the people the least friendly. The ship docks right in town. Everyone should take the Conch train tour for $18. The narration and sights are splendid. It takes about 3.5 hours. The character and charm of the city is obvious. One must try Conch Soup and a local brew. We stopped at Kelly's and ate outside in the patio. Very nice and good. The actress Kelly McGillis owns it and she is seen there from time to time. You must see Key West Winery in town if you like exotic wines. Wines such as Kiwi, Carrot, Tangerine, Black Cherry, Chocolate, and on and on. Not inexpensive though. The salesman is very nice and informative. Get on his mailing list for when they start shipping to other states. On your way back, stop for true Key Lime pie. We were told to find the biking tour of the island but we arrived to late and probably saw more on the train. Of course there is snorkeling and scuba diving if you prefer.

On Board Entertainment -
The shows after dinner were lackluster at best. The ventriloquist was fairly entertaining. If you are embarrassed easily, do not become his assistant. The sound of the 60's show was very well done. The lounge entertainment left much to be desired except for the night that the band played 'oldies'. They also have an Elvis contest that can be entertaining.

The Disco Lounge was a big disappointment. Only about 8 couples were there and, after about an hour of decent dancing music suitable for middle-aged couples, the DJ began playing nothing but Techno and Rap sounds. That was our signal to call it a night.The Martini Bar, which is usually a relaxing stop before dinner, was located some distance from the main dining and the service was not what we are used to. The Zenith and Galaxy offer a spectacular Martini Bar that becomes a ritual after a few trips.

everyone must have your luggage packed by midnight the night before and placed in the hall outside your door. It is taken and is ready once you disembark to the pier. You will be issued color tags to place on your luggage the night before based on your flight and other time requirements after you leave the ship. Get up early; pack you carry on and leave it in the room while you eat an early breakfast. Everyone is directed to muster at the Rendez-vous lounge at 8AM and, after customs is cleared, begin to call colors for departure. Your bill must be cleared the night before and any charges after midnight cleared. Everything went smoothly and we were called off approximately 30 minutes into the leaving. Our luggage was easily found in the large holding area. On future cruises I plan to put a brightly colored band on the luggage to make it easier to spot. I must say, hauling heavy luggage and carryon bags and your spouse's, kids, etc. can be very taxing. After carrying all the bags to the curb, I was approached by an uniformed person who appeared to be a cab driver.

he will carry your bags a few feet to a cab and then expect a tip. The cab driver takes over and expects a tip. The middle guy does not work for the cab co. I felt taken on that one. Again, the ride to the airport was about 10 minutes and we arrived in plenty of time for our departure. Like someone noted in a previous review; 'take plenty of one dollar bills with you.'

Final thought:
This review started out as a narrative but ended up more of a novel! Once I replayed our experiences, there were more memories, more than I can elaborate in a short essay. After my third Celebrity cruise, the last on Century, I can boast that this cruise line is heads above others in service, cleanliness, customer satisfaction and elegance. Celebrity and Century certainly provides a great value for the money.