March 8, 2003
This was our second cruise. The first was aboard Voyager of the Seas (Royal Caribbean), the largest boat afloat. Naturally, Century was a bit of a letdown from Voyager, which is 200 feet longer, twice as wide and weighs twice as much. However, Century is a nice ship, nonetheless. Getting from one end to the other is a bit confusing on some decks, but that is to be expected when accomodating the many features offered in cruise ships.
So you can decide whether or not you can relate to my experience (seems many who write these things are a bit uppity), I am 56, grew up in the Midwest and have been a reporter for 34 years and work for the world's largest news organization ... a pretty average guy, all in all. My wife also is a Midwesterner, a teacher's aide.
Here's our take on Century: The food is nothing short of incredible in the dining room, the best I've eaten anywhere in my life. Chow in the 11th floor buffet restaurant is also good, especially the fruit and desserts. If you've never cruised before, you may not be aware that you can order more than one of everything on the dining room menu. Two appetizers? No problem. A steak meal and the fish, too? No problem. Three desserts to top things off? No problem. Ask and you shall receive.
I gained five pounds on the cruise, my wife added four. It was worth every single, extra ounce!
I'm not really a drinker, but those who are should know that the mixed drinks cost about $7 each. That's a bit spendy for me. As for beverages, ice water is provided in your cabin, and iced tea, lemondate, punch and coffee are free at the buffet and dining room. Iced coffee also is free in the dining room.
Sodas on ship cost about $3 a can, so bring some of your own and resupply at port. Ask your cabin attendant to empty your personal fridge of the ship's beverages, and use it for your own. Or you can get a so-called Coke card for about $34 for the week for fountain drinks.
The cabins are spacious and have loads of storage. I'd guess they're among the best-planned of any cruise line. Much better than those in the larger Voyager.
As for the ports, old San Juan is interesting and an easy walk from the dock. There's shopping and sights to see, but you don't arrive until late afternoon. St. Thomas is a full day on shore and has a great shopping district a mile or so from the dock. We rented a car and went snorkeling a few miles away at a nice beach called Morningside. Also rented a car at St. Maarten (Dutch side) and drove around to St. Martin (French side). It takes about two hours for the 31-mile drive, giving you time to stop in Marigot to shop and eat (I suggest going to the French side first so you are closer to the ship near the end of the day (which docks on the Dutch side at Phillipsburg). Go around the island in clockwise fashion and I'm told you'll avoid a terrible late-day traffic jam coming back into Phillipsburg from the oppostive direction. Nassau is a letdown, although we enjoyed the straw market a few blocks from the dock, featuring many native crafts. Prices, however, for the same types of wares were cheaper in St. Maarten/St. Martin.
The only real knock I have against Century is the liberal smoking policy, although I like cigars. Smoking is allowed nearly everywhere except in cabins and the dining areas. Got to be a bit too much at times. I took my cigars to outside decks and away from others as much as I could. There is a cigar-smoking room (club) on the boat, but I didn't use it.
As for dress in the dining room, shorts are taboo at dinner and they'd also prefer that you not wear T-shirts in the formal dining area. Sport shirts and knit shirts are fine. I took a blazer and couple of ties for the formal nights; some wore tuxedoes and gowns, others merely wore sport shirts even on formal nights. There is a reservation-only restaurant on 12th floor that not many seem to know about. It also is free and a little more private for evening dining. The menu, however, is somewhat limited in comparison to the formal dining rooms on 5th and 6th floors.
As for getting off the boat at ports, I'd recommend waiting about a half hour because otherwise you're just jammed into long lines in the hallways, waiting to flee the belly of the boat.
Service on Century from cabin attendants to waiters is very good. Food isn't available at all hours as it was on Voyager, but room service (free) is available all the time. There also is a grill on the port (left) side of the ship on the pool deck and a sandwich-making operation on the opposite starboard deck.
All in all, Century is a nice boat. But next time I think I'll take one of Celebrity's big boats, presumably with the same quality of food.
Joe in Pierre, S.D.
P.S. For what it's worth, we lived in Washington, D.C., for eight years and dined in many fine restaurants. Not one of them compared to Century, which should give you an idea of how good the food is.