by Maria Hopkins
April 13, 2002
We have just returned from The Century's Western Caribbean itinerary through Jamaica, Grand Caymans, Cozumel,MX and Key West. We'd do it again in heartbeat. I'll try to give you the details in order but looking back it was the overall experience that was almost 5 star, not each particular activity. I rate this cruise a 4.5 out of 5.
Initially, I had booked this trip with Celebrity directly but they encouraged me to use a travel agent. They told me they would allow a TA to "take over" the booking. So I did... saving $800. Later I realized that when you use the TA you can't call Celebrity directly. No matter what! So every time you need assistance (and we did on the "day prior program") you have to go through the agent.
The beginning (day prior) was the biggest disappointment because we were placed in a substandard Hilton room in a goshdarned fly-by zone! For God's sake, if you want your nerves rattled get a room at the Hellton/Ft.Lauderdale! I rate the Hilton barely a 1/5.
OK...since we are now committed to getting over it (it's our 20th anniversary) we focus on the embarkation at Port Everglade the next morning. After a disorganzed, crowded transfer from the Hilton we arrive at the Port. We pass through security. It is easy and quick. Everyone is friendly. Celebrity seems concerned about the bad experience on land and tells us that "corporate" is looking into changing the day prior program. Believe me, it's not worth $79/pp at all...it isn't worth a dime. Yet,they don't give us any kind of "comp" for the trouble. So, we are on the ship in no time and off we go exploring. First impressions were that is was a sort of relaxed if not sleepy, understated elegant ship. We ate lunch at the "Welcome Aboard Buffet" complete with Rum Runners and Tequila Sunrises. It was very good. Then we return to the the Sky Suite (that we scoped earlier) and our luggage was awaiting. No sign of our butler though. It seemed quiet near Sky Suite 1205. We open the door to find fresh fruit and champagne in the nicely designed suite. The verandah is spacious and sunny.We call for ice and we are ready to cruise. We meet the butler and he is low key, with a heavy accent. We ask why the interactive TV is not working. He is not sure why until a day later when he says the system is down. After a day of straining to understand him I realize he is a nice guy. Just not overbearing....seems he waits for you to call him. I rate the cabin a 5/5 - Butler 3.5/5
First day aboard and next day at sea are super relaxing. Lots of food, sun and alcohol create an environment where everyone unwinds. People dance on the pool deck to the steel band. We watch the girls who are prancing around in bikinis while we soak up the rays. I notice that my husbnad is especially relaxed. ;) Formal night is coming and we have our pictures taken. It's like the prom. Everyone looks radiant.
Monday: Arrive Ocho Rios, Jamaica. It is hot, dirty and drug infested. Not kidding. We make our way through 2 blocks of alternating security, taxi hawkers and drug pushers to a shopping area called Taj Mahal. Prices are cheap and get cheaper as you say, "No, thank you." We purchased a 6mm/20inch gold omega chain and opal slide for well below what it would cost in the US. We looked at watches. Then we went back to the ship walking through the same 2 blocks of poverty. I felt I didn't ever need to go back there. Dunn's River Falls was treacherous...but people (lots of kids) do it anyway. The beach is small and dirty. I rate this port of call a 1/5. Seriously, they should clean this place up. Not up to Celebrity standards.
Tuesday: Arrive Grand Cayman...early morning sunrise. Beautiful! Eat a great breakfast and then get your ticket for tender service to the island.
Tender is pretty efficient...25 minutes total time. Shop at Little Switzerland for a Movado watch for my husband. Buy Waterford ring holder for my engaged sister. Buy Coach watch for my daughter and a small Wedgewood piece for myself. None of the prices were great, except in Little Switzerland. Grand Cayman is anything but inexpensive. We pass on the Stingray trip because our excursion in Jamaica was such a waste of time (SanSan Yacht Cruise) We didn't feel like chancing another tourist trap. We did our own thing and we were happy! It was a short day. We enjoyed the pool later and read our books. I rate this port a 4/5.
That night on the ship we ate, drank and gambled. The casino is becoming great fun! We hit at the roulette wheel on #20 with $12 dollars on it! Yahoo. We leave with our winnings. Even the dealer is happy. I rate the casino and casino staff a 5/5.
Wednesday: Cozumel, Mexico. This was a great stop. A nive combination of restaurants, shops and culture. I did not feel afraid here like I did in Jamaica. It was quite hot, around 92 degrees, so we bought a baseball cap and bottled water. We also picked up some silver and a pretty pink quartz tequila shooter set. People were pretty loaded at this stop. Carlos and Charlies was hopping. Young crowd was partying like crazy here. I enjoyed the energy that day. It was fun. I'd go back in a heartbeat. I rate this port a 4/5. Back to the ship, through security again and to the pool. Later I check email at the sports lounge (very convenient) That night is full of laughs and we end up at the blackjack tables. We manage not to get stripped of last night's winnings. They are butlering around hot hors deurves, calling me M'dam. Everything is sumptuous! Everything. I feel like I am in heaven. I rate this port a 5/5.
Thursday: Day at sea. We're tan, happy and ready for the day at sea. My husband comments what a perfect itinerary it is. He is ready for a day of rest after 3 ports of call. We read all day at the pool and drink tequila. WHEW! Feeling loopy now. Lots of sun you see. We move inside to the blackjack and slots tournaments. It's a scream. $20 to enter...could win a small bundle of cash. My husband is having a blast. Later back at the pool, we finish our books, take a swim and fall asleep for almost 2 hours. Luckily we have late dinner seating. We're ready by 8:30 and find our usual dinner company also rested after a day at sea. Dinner is outstanding and every night Juan brings me 2, not 1, but 2 Shrimp Cocktails! We eat things like Lobster tails, Filet Mignon, Veal Chops, Stuffed Quail,Baked fish, Frogs Legs and caviar all week. All the best, all fresh and superb every night! I don't know how they do it. You won't believe the Grand Buffet until you see it and eat it. I drank a lot of iced teas, lots of water and 2 bottles of Dom Perignon to celebrate 20 years of marriage. It is memorable and quite lovely.
Friday: We arrive in Key West. It was nice there too. We do our own thing and have a blast finally ending up at Margaritaville for conch, grilled tuna, and a Margaritaville Chicken Avocado Club to die for. We drink Tequila Margaritas, shop, take the Old Town Trolley Tour (I'd pass on the trolley next time) and walk a lot. Shopping is great here. Hemingway's house really belonged to his wife's family (she was rich). Duval Street is getting ready for the Drag races the next day (not cars you understand) and the weather is perfection. My husband's cell phone starts working and it feels good to be back in the US. I would spend some more time in Key West if possible. There is much to do and see there. I rate this port a 5/5.
Check email again...about $5.00 for a session of 5 mins. (It's worth it and better than using the phone which is very expensive) Hang out at the pool and go to late dinner and casino again. Win 3 blackjacks at blackjack table and cash out for the week with a nice stack of chips. I rate the dealers a 5/5. Pack and have luggage outside of cabin by 12am.
Saturday- Wake up early, eat lovely eggs benedict in the dining room and then get moving. They called our color and we were on our way to another hectic transfer via bus to Miami airport for final flight to Philadelphia. Bought some magazines, and waited 2+ hours for our flight. American had complimentary headphones and TV. Was good to get home....a nice flight.
Saturday - 4pm arrive Philadelphia. Home Sweet Home!