My wife and I recently returned from a week aboard the Celebrity Century (sailing Dec. 6-13). We benefited greatly from the many cruise reviews and articles we read, so we wanted to return the favor. We hope our description and letter grades are beneficial for you.
The ship (A-)
The Century is an attractive, well designed ship. The public rooms vary from glitz (the showroom) to classy (dining room and most lounges). Despite a full ship (1800 capacity), there were very few times it felt crowded. It was clean both inside and out. The only maintenance I saw were a few wood rails being refinished and carpets being shampooed. I expect most anyone would find the décor generally attractive and probably understated compared to other lines' ships. Two negative items to note . the basketball court is above a portion of the large café, and you can hear balls bounce disconcertingly overhead. And, the aft (back) part of the ship does rattle, sway and vibrate more than other locations. There is a lot of artwork in the public rooms representing many styles . the "floating art gallery" is a nice touch.
The room (C+)
We paid for the lowest priced room category (#4161 on Continental deck) 15 months in advance of the cruise. Booking so far ahead and celebrating our anniversary, I was hoping for an upgrade. We didn't get it. The room was relatively roomy. Storage space was plentiful, with more shelves and cubbyholes than we filled up. The furnishings were nothing special, and we noted the bedspread and chairs were worn looking. The wood finish was attractive. The bathroom was small but functional, not unlike most ships I guess. I felt the heating/cooling was slow to respond, and by the time it was the right temperature, it seemed to swing too far hot or cold. We had two major room complaints . the shower drain and bathroom floor drains are connected. Every time we showered, the shower drain backed up, and the excess water came up through the bathroom drain, flooding the floor. This was messy and inconvenient. We reported the problem to our stateroom attendant, who "solved" the problem by giving us extra towels. I was disappointed in his service in this regard. The second complaint was the sounds and vibrations in the cabin at night and early morning while arriving in port. This is the loudest, most vibrating area of the ship, and we felt it all in our room. In retrospect, we would have much preferred a cabin located most anywhere else.
A quick note about upgrades and anniversaries: I don't know how you qualify for an upgrade. We booked way in advance, but were not upgraded or refunded any money. The fact that we were celebrating a honeymoon I guess didn't qualify us for a "freebie." In fact, the only recognition of our anniversary was an invitation to a captain's party for honeymooners and anniversary celebrates. This was a little disappointing, but didn't matter much in the big scope of things.
The service (B+)
With the exception of our stateroom attendant, service was perfect. The dining room waiter and assistant could not have been better. Specifically, our waiter Vitas from Lithuania, presented the menu with very helpful recommendations and some foresight into what was coming later in the week. At week's end, we reduced the "recommended" tip allowance for our stateroom attendant and more generously tipped the dining staff. This might be looked down on by some, but my goal was to give my limited tip dollars to those I felt most deserving. Service around the ship was also very good, from cleaning, to drinks, to buffet lines. No complaints outside of the stateroom.
The food (A)
You always read about the strength of Celebrity food. With so little cruise experience, I can't compare it to other lines. But I can say the quality of the food is excellent. The evening dining room dinner was always prepared well. Meat came as ordered, hot food hot, and cold food cold. I ordered multiple appetizers and desserts on several occasions and was accommodated cheerfully. I'm not aware of any of the eight members of our dining table being displeased in any way with the menu and preparation. Outside of dinner, the dining was also excellent. When I think of buffets, I picture bland food that is no longer the right temperature. This was not the case. Excellent fruit, pastries and breads, and a wide variety. If anything, perhaps the buffets had too much "artsy food." For those of us with easy to please tummies, the grills located poolside served up very good sandwiches, and fine pizza/burgers. Food was available any time of the day and night somewhere on ship. Total weight gain: three or four pounds. We did not order room service, which is available 24/7.
The entertainment (B+)
Entertainment on the Century is often reviewed as a low point. I do not share this view. With the exception of a comedian we thought made too many inappropriate ethnic jokes, the shows in the theatre were very good. The Broadway reviews (3 in all) featured four primary singers and a dozen dancers; all looked to be college aged. The quality was on par with a touring off-Broadway troop . not exceptional, but very enjoyable. My impression is that they love to perform, and the Century was a resume building venue on their road to professional maturity. My wife's favorite was "the Ladder Guy" Michael James. Very funny and talented physical humor. We also saw Mark Preston, former singer of the Letterman. My wife says he was the stereotypical "lounge lizard." My thoughts are along the same line, but he does have good pipes and works the crowd like a pro.
The musicians in the lounges were good. I especially enjoyed the jazz and big band music provided by the same crew that backed up the Broadway shows. But we were disappointed by the pool band Xtasea. They only played for 45 minutes twice a day, and their repertoire was limited. They mostly begged the crowd to participate and proceeded to sing with such accents and loud volume that they were hard to understand. The Century bills the band as the best party band at sea . I doubt that's the case. When not performing, the music on deck was canned 70-80s stuff that repeated every couple of hours.
The activities and facilities (B+)
The activities staff also appeared to be college-aged or so. They were eager to please, but in general, the ship's activities were not all that embraced. I think this is largely attributed to the demographics of our cruisemates. Pool games, water volleyball and the like were not of much interest to most. I went to an art auction, a couple of trivia contests, and a dart competition. All were sparsely attended. Otherwise, the usual fare for cruises: trivia, bingo, karaoke, card tournaments, casino. A note on the casino . I was looking forward to learning the game of craps, but there was no action at the table all week. Also, very slow at the blackjack and poker tables. I'm not a gambler but I was interested in people watching. The slot machines were well-used though. Movies were the kind that you'd find in the store as "new releases" but not all that new. Nice library (I checked out a book and read it while sunning) and card room where we played a few board games. Did not use the golf simulator. Took a tour of the gym and should have used it, but didn't. Modern equipment and great view of the ocean. I was disappointed that the reviews and literature said the famous T-pool was $10 for the day, but it turned out to be $20 pp. I was willing to give it a try for $10, but not $20. The pool and whirlpools were not used much. We sat in the whirls several times with none or one other person with us. Lots of walkers on the track. Lots of lounge chairs and a crowded deck the days we were at sea (the only times the ship truly felt cramped). I did not see a lot of chairs being saved as some report, but chairs were nonetheless in high demand when it was sunny.
The ports and excursions (B)
I don't know how many people pick a cruise for the ship and how many for the ports. I thought the ship was better than the ports. Our Western Caribbean stops (in order): Ocho Rios, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Key West. We did not book any excursions. Instead, we rented cabs and went where we wanted to go, when we wanted to go. I was nervous about this approach and hoped for the best. Now after doing it, I would recommend it to anyone. It is cheaper, and you control your schedule. In all cases, I would advise that you hit the port as early in the day as you can. Get off the ship the minute you can and speed to the attraction of choice. A) You want to get there before the excursion groups do. B) As the day goes on, often these ports begin to cloud over and threaten rain.
As for the ports . We did not like Ocho Rios; it was dirty and not all that interesting. We did go to Dunn River Falls ($6 taxi pp and $10 pp entry) and enjoyed it. But the beach at the Falls was dirty and smelly; the town was unattractive; and the vendors pushy. We would not ever go back to Jamaica for a vacation, and wouldn't care to go again as a port of call. In Grand Cayman, we spent the day at Seven Mile Beach. Very clean. Pay $4 pp to ride to the Holiday Inn, then walk up and down the beach to find a nice spot. Cheap sun and beautiful water. You can get a lounge chair for $10 at the hotel. In Cozumel we went to Chankanaab Park. Nice. $10 taxi and $10 pp for a man made beach that soaks up the sun. For another $6 pp, rent snorkel gear. The water is clear and the snorkeling fun. Enough fish to make it worth the $6. The Park also has a dolphin encounter and seal encounter for an extra cost. Nice gardens that have replica Mayan ruins. This was our most fun day. We have been to Key West previously and were not excited to return. Key West seems to cater to the gay community and is sexually explicit (in our opinion). It detracts from what would otherwise be a charming, historic community.
We are not power shoppers, but did poke around in each town. I think shopping in Grand Cayman offered the greatest variety, but who knows if it was really a bargain.
My wife and I do not enjoy the same types of excursions. I like a little adventure and animal life; she enjoys the beach and window shopping. Some things I would have enjoyed that we did not do were Stingray City in Cozumel and more snorkeling/snuba. Cozumel has much to do . it would be the location we would most likely schedule a stationary vacation.
The cruisers (C+)
One reason we chose Celebrity was to sail with more mature shipmates. While we are in our 30s, we aren't wild and crazy. We were not taking our young kids, and did not want to be surrounded by other people's children. But on this cruise, we got more maturity than we bargained for. The cruise was overwhelmingly older people (60s, 70s and 80s) from the east coast and Great Britain. Of course many of these people are pleasant enough. But some are not, and do nothing more than play slots, eat, fall asleep next to the pool and gripe at each other all the rest of the day. As mentioned earlier, a lot of the ship activities were poorly attended, I presume because of the mature passengers. Roughly one third of the guests were not from the United States . many British accents. It was fun to hear the various tongues and visit with new friends from Canada and England. But the age . I expect a summer or holiday cruise would have skewed a lot younger. If this mature age is typical, it might be too old for those in their 20-50s looking for a more energetic cruise experience.
We did enjoy our dinner companions. Tammy and Thomas from Canada (our age and also celebrating their 10th anniversary); Bob and Sue from Salt Lake City (early 60s and celebrating 40 years); and Doug and Jean from England (early 70s).
Our overall impression (A-)
This kind of review can sound more negative each time you read it over. But overall, we enjoyed our cruise very much and it earns a strong recommendation. We will not hesitate to use Celebrity again in years to come. The Century is a well-maintained, easy to navigate ship with good food, good service, and a staff that works hard to please. With the exception of our cabin problems, overall passenger age, and two undesirable ports of call, it was a memorable, relaxing vacation.