by Mark and Stacie
March 1, 2003
My wife and I just returned from a western Caribbean cruise aboard the Celebrity Century. The ship is in good shape, and the food and service are impeccable. Hello to all our new friends at table 602 and staff!
Arrival and check-in were smooth and totaled less than 15 minutes. We were aboard the ship by 11:30am and the pools and buffet were open. Rooms were ready for passengers by approximately 1:00. We enjoyed the sail away party and were given prompt attention as we requested a change in table assignments. We were than assigned to table 602 for the late seating. Vukman was our waiter and he is a charismatic young man of 25 from Romania. His assistant Pedrag and they combined to present not only professional, but very personal service. This leads to the highlight of a cruise, and to Celebrity crown jewel in particular; the main dining room and food preparation. The quality, style, and presentations were top notch. I am sure that there are even luxurious places to dine, but I have not seen any that achieve these results on such a large scale. The main dining room food, soups and beef in particular, were outstanding. Foods at other times were good, but did not compare to diner. The pastries at all times shined, but the omelets were slow and had few items available for them. Likewise I found the grill food at lunch to be just average. I am not one who believes a hamburger is a hamburger. The last formal night and specialty food presentation were beyond description. Outstanding.
The room was more than I thought a standard outside room (8219) would be. We had plenty of storage, and even managed to squeeze two in the shower! Okay, I have digressed. The room steward Johnny, from India, was professional and I doubt he ever slept. He not only did his job, but was a quick fix to a couple of our special needs. The room services on the television were useful, and the only reason we turned on the television.
The other areas of the shop were ample and rarely crowded. We loved the seldom used Crystal Room for pre-dinner dancing and music. The Hemisphere lounge is a great place to watch a sunset all by yourself. We did not use any spa treatments, other than the therapy pool which was fun. We spent very little time in the casino, but others were complaining about losing money there. That is what most our supposed to do there. The pools were a let down as well. I have only cruised Princess, and I was aware these would be salt water. Even so, it is hard to cool off with salt stuck to you.
The crew and entertainment were slightly less than I would wish for. The band (5 for u) was great, but the played only short sets. The same went for the other bands onboard. The short sets and ever changing scenes detracted from any long relaxing situations. I know this is not the party cruise line, but more live music and events would suit me better. We also thought the ships entertainment shows were low quality. They were less than the other two lines my wife and I have tried. To go along with this area of concern, I found the drinks expensive and weak. I do not mind paying for alcohol when I am at a restaurant or bar, but these were not very good. The really expensive "island" drinks were had so little alcohol in them, they could be served to children. That is a slight exaggeration. This brings up another sticky subject, bringing your own alcohol onboard. I can bring a bottle of champagne to the Four Seasons in New York, or any hotel on South Beach. It is frowned upon to some extent by the cruise lines. This practice is only enforced in some ports.
The ports were a lot of fun and we created many memories. I do not take part in the higher priced tours, choosing to make the most of each country on my own. In Jamaica we rented a driver and drove around to many sights, including the falls. I ate in a local restaurant where I was the only tourist or white person. Very cool. Jamaicans are a poor, but proud people. I for one like this port stop. I also stopped in Jimmy Buffetts place, which was much more fun than the one in Key West. We did the short morning tour with Captain Marvin in Grand Cayman. It was fun, and we saw the sting rays and Bills Gates house. The tour ended by 11, and we ate at a simple seaside place. It was great fun and we saw why people say this is an expensive island to stay on for a week! We also snorkeled at Eden Rock, near the long lines waiting to ferry back to the ships. In Cozumel, we quickly remembered why we love Mexico. It has so many great adventures waiting to be had. As soon as we could get through the forced maze of shops, the cruise lines have helped to invent, we separated from the masses. We rented a scooter and headed to Dzul-Ha. There were only a handful of people there, and the snorkeling was great. We than went to town and ate at La Choza, this is a great Mexican place to eat. The food is definitely not Chi Chi's. We stopped at Carlos and Charlie's and danced on the tables! We hung out with some of the ships crew and had a ball. After that, we rode back down the coast and found a beach for just the two of us. Very romantic. We have been to Cozumel and the final stop of Key West many times. We tried something new and romantic, we got pedicures at the same time. They tried to paint my toes, but my wife stopped them. Even through all the commercialism and crude t-shirts, you can still find eccentric people there. If you are open minded, try one of the many crude comedians on Duval street before heading to the nightly celebration, sunset. Unfortunately, our ship left port 45 minutes before the best thing to do in Key West, the sunset celebration.
Things we loved the most: 1) Meeting new friends (crew included), 2) dinner, especially the formal nights, 3) the service, 4) dressing up, 5) the ports, 6) dancing, 7) romance. Things we liked less: 1) Production staff, 2) lines for tenders, 3) more upbeat bands and themes, 4) drink qualities, 5) 45 minute fire drills right at sail away time.
My conclusions: I loved the cruise, and so did my wife. It gave me a chance to take more time for romance and attend fancy dinners. It gave her a chance to climb the falls and be scared by the stingrays. That being said, we have been doing all- inclusive the last years and missed that style of vacation. The more relaxing time without rushing from port to port is nice. The thing we missed the most is serious beach time. These are only our opinions, but I think others should try both of these types of vacations. We intend on trying both in the future!