by Jennifer Mochan
October 13, 2001
My husband & I have just returned from the Western Caribbean on Celebrity's Century. I thought I'd contribute my review of this cruise since reading other reviews before we left helped me know what to expect. This review will be geared more toward the first time cruiser as these are things I would have liked to have known before cruising!
Overall, our cruise was fabulous! I can't stop daydreaming about it! We've cruised once before (in 1997) on Premier Cruise's the Big Red Boat. I believe that cruise line is now out of business but I've heard excellent things about Celebrity and they had the itinerary we liked, so we wanted to try it. Glad we did!
Nearly all of the crew we came in contact with were extremely pleasant, friendly and definitely "customer service-oriented". I find this amazing because they do this week after week after week and still manage to make you feel like your cruise experience is the absolute most important!
Embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was pretty quick and easy. We live in Jacksonville, so we drove down a day before sailing and stayed in the AmeriSuites on 17th. The rate for our room was very inexpensive and the room was clean and spacious. I highly recommend this hotel! In addition, AmeriSuites offers a free shuttle service to the pier for their guests, so you can leave your care in their parking lot for free & shuttle over to the piers. I understand parking at Port Everglades is somewhere between $10 and $12 a day, so this is a good deal! The only downside to this is that the morning we were there, the shuttles were crowded and it was taking several trips back and forth to get to everyone. We were trying to do this around 11am; right after check-out and the earliest you can embark the ship, so perhaps waiting an hour or two would've solved this problem. In any event, we were excited to embark so we decided to catch a cab over. The cab fare was $5 and worth it to us.
We made sure we had all paperwork completed and we were in our cabin in about 35 minutes. Literally! The check in staff was friendly and helpful. There were several security checks, but we didn't mind at all. The checks were well organized and quick and thorough enough that I felt at ease about traveling in light of the events that took place on September 11th.
I booked an inside cabin because, like I said, we've cruised before and discovered just how little time you actually spend in your cabin. To our surprise, however, we were upgraded to an outside room. How cool is that!? Maybe because we booked so early (about 8 months ahead of time) or because many people decided to cancel…I don't know, but I really enjoyed watching the ocean waves whiz past our cabin window. It was a lot of fun to watch the ship approach ports from our cabin window. This window was large enough to sit in (which I did often)—not just a little porthole!
Our cabin attendant was Agnelo. He knocked on our cabin door and introduced himself to us on the first day but we didn't see much more of him after that. It was obvious, however, that he was in and out throughout our stay. He did an excellent job keeping everything tidy and fresh. Our ice bucket and water carafe were always filled. Turndown service is a nice touch. I enjoyed the card that included the weather forecast that was left on our pillow for the next day's port visit. My husband and I also looked forward to the Century Daily; the ship's newsletter that was also left on our bed each night. There aren't a lot of announcements, so the Daily is a vital part of knowing what's going on! It includes all of the next day's activities, meal times, dress code, etc. Very helpful! Other things I enjoyed about our cabin was the fact that it was pretty roomy and had lots of space for our clothes. There are also robes in the closet that you can use while you're onboard. Also nice was a safe located behind the mirror that you set with your own combination.
I would've liked to have known what the shore excursions were all about beforehand, so here's a word about what we experienced:
We chose to book all of our excursions through the ship. You don't have to do this—there are plenty of private companies when you arrive in port who you can book excursions through or go it on your own. You can also book online before you sail (which is what we did and it worked out just fine) or once you get into your cabin, you can book through the Celebrity Interactive Network right from your cabin (you can also order room service this way!)We chose to book through the ship so we wouldn't have to do anything but report for our trip when we arrived in port. A word about excursions—everywhere you go, you will be expected to tip! Even though you've already paid a good chunk for your excursion! Be prepared!
In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, we booked the Sundancer Cruise to Dunn's River Falls but for some reason, we were put on the Jamaican Queen. I had a good time but my husband who isn't crazy about loud music and sun didn't! I feel as though the boat was a little overcrowded—they tried to pack too many of us on and the music was blaring unnecessarily loud. I mean LOUD! It was definitely a "party boat" and not just a leisurely cruise over to the falls. This cruise is probably fine for young people, but there were many older cruisers who didn't appear to be enjoying themselves. Maybe Century could indicate what type of crowd or what type of atmosphere to expect as to avoid disappointments for other guests. There was also this guy on the boat; "Mr. Jamaica" who was dressed in brightly colored clothes and who limbo-ed with glasses on his head. He juggled and was pretty entertaining…Dunn's River Falls was very cool! I'm glad we did it. It is a little on the scary side, though. Everyone holds hands going up and for good reason! The water rushes over rocks that can be slippery and sometimes you can't see where you're going to step, so you end up in deeper water than expected. Take lots of pictures here! Of course the guides will take pictures and video and pressure you to buy after your trek! Be careful! This trip isn't for people who can't ambulate well or who are afraid of heights or water! Be aware of the local children who are everywhere! They will push their way through your "human chain" and it's a bit stressful if you're trying to pay attention to where you're stepping! Just be aware! No one is rude, per se, just kids being kids. It must have been a Jamaican holiday the day we were there because there were kids everywhere (on a weekday)! As I mentioned before, the guides expect tips at the end of the climb and they're not shy about it! If you give them an amount they don't think is generous enough, they'll let you know! This kind of thing doesn't bother my husband—he just walks away, but if you're like me, it makes you feel a little funny. The truth is, the guides don't do much…they'll take your picture with your camera, but for climbing the falls, you could do it on your own…I heard a lot of people say they wouldn't go back to Jamaica, but I thought it was beautiful! Very moutainous and lush...
We got good deals on Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum and Blue Mountain coffee in the Taj Mahal shopping plaza. When you get outside of the cruise terminal, you will be bombarded by locals trying to sell you things: taxi rides, braids if you're female and some other very curious things. For the most part, if you just smile and say "No thank you", they'll leave you alone. The merchants in Ocho Rios are pretty pushy. They all think you need a t-shirt! Get used to saying "No thank you". If you're curious, you can very easily forgo the ship's excursion to Dunn's River Falls and just hop a cab and pay the $6 admission fee to climb the falls. It would be much cheaper! I guess it just depends on what you like…we preferred to have our tour all squared away beforehand—but you can go it alone pretty easily, I presume.
In Grand Cayman, we chose the snorkeling/Sting Ray City combom (I should mention here that you tender into Grand Cayman on one of Century's lifeboats—not a big deal, really, just a little crowded and closed in). This excursion was GREAT! The crew was extremely pleasant and friendly. I can't remember the name of the vessel, but the crew members were Martin, Jackie and Monique. Martin, the captain, provided us with information about the area, the reef and the marine life we would encounter as we snorkeled.
The snorkeling here was great! The reef is very colorful and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a resident nurse shark (ok, it was a little scary!) and many different types of fish. There's also a Moray eel that hangs out in this particlar spot, but I didn't see it. After about 45 minutes, we re-boarded the vessel and moved over to "Stingray City": a sandbar where the stingrays were awaiting our arrival. This is no pool or cordoned off area—Stingray City is just out in the open water, about 4 miles out where there is a sandbar. This is an incredible experience! Entering the water is a little scary at first and I have to be honest, I never got used to the rays swimming beneath my feet and bumping into my legs, but I'd do it again in a minute. The rays seem to be used to people and are very friendly. They rub on your legs and swim under you and around you. They are not dangerous (which is something I did not know) and very docile. I didn't feed them, but you can. Apparently, they suck the squid out of your hand and their sense of smell very keen, so if you have the smell of squid on you, they will continue to hang around. My husband, who is much braver than I, fed one and even picked one up with the assistance of the crew. I highly recommend this excursion. A very cool experience! Every review I've read says you must check this out! Now I know why…
In Cozumel, we booked the Fury Catamaran cruise. We were taken to a reef a very short distance from the ship for snorkeling. In my opinion, the snorkeling was better in Cozumel because there were lots more fish around to admire. One of our crew members had food to attract the fish so we were literally swimming in schools of brightly colored fish. We snorkeled for about an hour here and then were taken to a remote beach to swim, play volleyball, kayak, lay in hammocks and drink free Mexican beer and/or margaritas. There were other groups from other cruise ships there, but it didn't seem crowded. The ride back to the ship was fun with music and a conga line that went by the bar where a crew member poured margarita into your mouth! It was definitely a fun atmosphere! The crew were very friendly and fun. I recommend this excursion as well!
In Key West, we opted to just walk around the island of Key West so we didn't book an excursion. We visited the Hemingway House, got pictures by the Southernmost Point landmark and shopped. Key West is small and quaint and full of little shops. If you love Key Lime Pie, this is the place for it!
A word about shopping: Jamaica and Mexico had very pushy merchants. Cayman was very different. Things were very expensive and no one pushed anything on us. We bought rum and coffee in Jamaica, rum cakes in Cayman (yum!) and jewelry and a hammock in Mexico. If you like sterling silver jewelry, wait until Mexico! You will be amazed at the selection there. Also, if you like to bargain, Mexico is the place to do it. It's not something I'm really into, but I gave it a go in Mexico and got a good deal on our hammock.
The food on the ship was great! You have a choice of 4 or 5 items for each course. We ate in the Grand Restaurant for dinners and had the pleasure of getting an excellent waiter, Nevyl and his assistant Vasielle. They were great! Nevyl was very service oriented and friendly. He made us feel like we were the most important table he had. It was really, really nice. It's great to be pampered for a whole week! And they do it with a smile which makes it that much more enjoyable. We had great tablemates too, which of course, makes the experience that much better. I don't think there was anything I disliked. If you want seconds, you can get them…if you don't care for something, you can try something else…it's great. We also ate in the Islands Grill, which is buffet style several times for breakfast and lunch. It too was very good with a great selection. It's buffet-style but there are dining room staff members there to carry your tray to your table for you. Nice touch! We also ordered pizza for a snack on two occasions, which was delivered to our cabin within minutes (literally!). The pizza was very good. There's always something to eat, 24 hour room service (no additional cost), Gourmet Bites (which is where waiters carry trays of food around the ship, into lounges, etc.), Midnight Buffets, hamburgers and hot dogs poolside. I don't see how anyone can go hungry on this cruise! Everything is fresh and the service is top notch! We chose late seating (8:30) so we weren't really hungry for midnight buffets, but I recommend staying up to at least "see" Le Grand Buffet on Thursday night…it's amazing what creations can be made with fruits and vegetables!
As far as activities on the ship, we stayed busy. You can do as much or as little as you like. We enjoyed trivia, the casino (casino personnel also very personable), wine and martini tastings, comedy shows (Thien Fu, a Vietnames juggler/comedian), karaoke and poolside parties with various themes. The Tropical Fruit Buffet (the night after visiting Jamaica) is fun with "melons on parade" (the waiters all parade across the pool deck with different carved out melons), an ice carving demonstration and all the fresh fruit you can eat! The ship is also decked out with international flags draped across the deck and all the lights glistening in the night! I will never forget standing poolside, drinking delicious, sweet, fruity drinks in the warm Caribbean air watching everyone limbo, laughing and being goofy and just having a wonderful time. There's something for everyone on this cruise. I liked the fact that there were photographers available to take pictures at dinner, on formal evenings when you're all dressed up and when you disembark the ship at ports of call. The nice thing about this is that once the pictures are printed, the photographers put them up in the photo gallery. You're not obligated and there is no pressure to buy them. If you like how they turned out, you can buy them. If not, you throw them into a bin where they're, I assume, disposed of.
A quick warning: after you disembark, there are guys outside of the terminal who will hail a cab for you, then load your bags into the cab's trunk and expect a tip. If I had known what was really happening, I would've said "Thanks but no thanks". I'm not into giving away a few dollars (especially at the end of my vacation where I'm tipped out anyway) to someone for lifting my bags into a cab's trunk. Also, the cab driver we got had the audacity to say "Will you give me $10?" when we told him where we needed to go. Maybe I'm a little naďve, but that kind of thing gets under my skin a bit!
Overall, we both thought our cruise experience on Century was a great time—a top notch vacation. The water is absolutely beautiful in the Caribbean. When you're cruising down, the water turns a beautiful hue of deep blue somewhere in the middle of your journey…I will never forget it! It's safe to say that my husband and I highly recommend this cruise/cruiseline and I hope anyone who's booked has as great of an experience as we did. We plan to do the Eastern Caribbean next year…until then, my daydreaming continues…as Jimmy Buffett says, "So many nights I just dream of the ocean, God, I wish I was sailing again…" Happy Cruising!