Celebrity Cruise Lines - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
Celebrity Cruises

Century
by Julian and Sheila Davies
Eastern Caribbean
Oct. 7, 2000

So many people have written thorough reviews of their cruises aboard the Celebrity Century that we don't feel we need to repeat all the information on the ship itself. This is more of a personal, subjective report.

Most of the reviews we have read about Celebrity are very positive. I have found only three or four reviews from passengers who had bad experiences. I really don't know if their cruises were so much worse than everybody else's, if their expectations were unrealistically high or if they're just supercritical whiners. Anyway, we agree with the favorable comments from the great majority of those who have sailed with Celebrity.

A REALLY ENJOYABLE WEEK
October 7 thru 14, 2000 aboard the Century on the Eastern Caribbean cruise. The ship was as beautiful inside and out as everybody says. The food was really good, amazing when you consider that up to 875 passengers were being served at each dinner seating. The service in the restaurant and the cafe and the cabin service were pretty well flawless. The Islands cafe had a big choice of good food and was well organized with the four identical serving stations. The shows in the theater were very tight and professional. The musicians around the ship did their job well. We particularly enjoyed the Celebrity Accord Quartet and Mario's Duo. Oasys provided great Island music and atmosphere by the pool. The Celebrity Orchestra played big band music very well. One big plus for those who don't drink alcohol: a big choice of exotic alcohol-free drinks- very thoughtful, Celebrity! Our fellow passengers, for the most part, turned out to be polite, fun people who were having a terrific time. The pool games were a total blast to watch and everyone out there without exception was laughing and smiling. And wherever you went on the ship, the people working on board were all friendly. You will feel welcome on the Century. The cruise director, Julian Bertsch, was tremendously entertaining and warm and seemed to be everywhere. We figured he never actually sleeps.

THE SHIP IS A WONDERFUL ENVIRONMENT
Elegant, clean, beautiful, from the Grand restaurant to the Celebrity Theater. You won't regret taking a cruise on this ship. My wife had never cruised before and she was in awe from the first moment to the last.

We were in cabin 1135, on the port side of Penthouse Deck. So well designed we could hide all our clothes, and even put the suitcases under the bed. About 20 hangers are provided, though you might want to bring a few more too. At night, leave the drapes open and you can lie in bed and see the stars. The bathroom's great, although the vacuum toilet stopped working a few times, apparently in one or two of the other cabins also. The plumbers fix this by accessing the piping from the corridor, so they don't have to disturb you at all- an excellent design. Water pressure in the shower is more than adequate and shampoo is provided. The towels are really soft.

One of our favorite places is at the front of the Sunrise deck. This is great to watch the ship coming into any port of call. Also great for sunbathing away from the crowds at the pool, but beware- with the wind up there you get sunburned much faster than usual. Think of it as the Sunburn deck. We did run into some pretty rough weather the last two days of the trip- remember most of the cruise is in the Atlantic, not the Caribbean- but it was part of real life, and other than seeing seasick patches on a lot of necks, and barf bags outside every cabin, it really didn't spoil our fun.

Lime overboard! The waiter service extended even to the windy Sunrise deck. We ordered some iced tea up there and when the waiter returned with it a gust blew the lime slices overboard. We told him not to worry, but he went all the way back down and returned with a small glass with several new slices in it. Now that's service!

TIPS:
Book your tickets as far ahead as you can. I bought ours 6 months ahead and we were upgraded 5 categories.

Surprisingly, the ship's logo store ran some pretty good specials on Century t-shirts and similar items (wait till the last couple of days for those).

Coffee, decaf and tea are available 24 hours a day at the Islands Cafe. A lot of people didn't realize that. Contrary to some comments, I really liked the coffee. You should taste the stuff we get at work!

The lunch and dinner menus are posted each day outside the Grand restaurant, by the elevators. Since the service is very speedy and you get a nanosecond to decide on four courses, you'll probably want to swing by earlier and allow yourself an hour or two for food fantasies.

Room service can get you anything from the Grand Restaurant, only when lunch or dinner are actually being served there. Any other time, it's a limited choice.

At least once, treat yourself to the afternoon tea at the Islands cafe. They have a great selection of little sandwiches, cookies and cakes, including my favorite, smoked salmon, sandwiches.

The pizza and the hot dogs and fries out by the pool area are good and often convenient if you've missed a meal.

Be sure to watch channel 61. It's full of information about the ship and the excursions, with a tour of the bridge, a tour of the galleys and on the last night a fabulous, too short, compilation of the video taken all over the ship during that week's cruise.

Be prepared to buy bottled water (Pelegrino or Evian) at every dinner for $3 a bottle. We love Pelegrino and don't drink much wine, so we did this every night.

Never try to eat at alone at the Islands cafe; the cleanup is way too fast for that. My wife took a muffin to one of the tables there one morning, split it open, walked about 12 feet back to the counter for butter, and the vigilant staff threw the muffin into the trash before she could return.

I was drinking coffee there one afternoon, I left the spoon on the table to return no more than six feet to the coffee station for a second cup and when I turned back the spoon was being whisked away to the kitchens.

Cookie down at station 3! A customer dropped a cookie on the floor one lunchtime and one of the staff, who had been standing motionless with a carpet sweeper, darted forward within a second to clean it up, with robotic precision.

LOST?
My system to help you find your way around this very large ship involves the number 3:

There are 3 stairways with accompanying elevators. We all get confused when we exit the elevators so remember that the elevators face Aft, Fore and Aft, starting from either end of the ship (just remember AFA). The top 3 decks are public, the next 3 are cabins, and the next 3 are public. Under those are more cabins for passengers and crew.

Now divide each public deck into 3 sections; Forward, Midships and Aft and memorize the position of the big rooms on each deck and you can wow all your friends with your direction-finding abilities. The Theater is right at the bow because that has the perfect pointy shape for a wide auditorium and a narrower stage. The Grand Restaurant is at the very back of the ship for the view, and so on and on and on.

OVERHEARD:

Are these blintzes hot?" "No, sir, they're very cold."

On the tender coming back from St. Maarten to the Century. "Where are we going to eat next? We haven't had a meal in almost an hour!"

Countless times during the week by many passengers: "by the time I know my way around this ship it'll be time to get off."

On the final Saturday morning at 8.30 A.M., docked at Port Everglades just before disembarkation. "I sure could use one more Pina Colada!"

Myself on the final morning: "God, I'm going to miss our servants!"

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE:
Our cabin attendant was Firuta, who has already been praised in other reviews (I wonder if she knows about her great reputation). She could not have been more attentive, polite and helpful. She spoke good English with a delightful Romanian accent. Her assistant, Shawn, from India, was also terrific. We got to know him a little better as it turned out that he was with the Century from the beginning, five years ago, when he put up the art in the hallways for Maria Chandris. I now work for a publisher in Florida but 25 years ago I had been a piano player on three Chandris ships- the Ellinis, Australis and Queen Frederika, so Shawn and I had plenty to talk about. Chandris became Celebrity in 1989 (keeping the distinctive X on the funnels) and now is part of the Royal Caribbean fleet, with John Chandris as a director.

In the dining room, our waiter was Vygantis, and he and his assistant also gave us terrific service. At breakfast and lunch we had open seating, with different waiters from our usual ones, and the service was great for those meals too. No complaints in that area. The maitre d' of our section of the Grand restaurant made everyone feel welcome and the restaurant manager spent most of the time walking around with a baby belonging to a family. The dinner music was provided by the Celebrity Accord Quartet with a wonderful violinist, accordion, piano and bass- a classic and nostalgic sound. When we walked down the restaurant stairway on formal nights with that band playing and everyone dressed up elegantly, we felt as if we'd been taken back in time to a night on the Queen Mary as it crossed the Atlantic with us among the aristocracy on board.

We enjoyed the fact that Celebrity spared us public announcements. Somehow, we always knew when it was dinnertime without them telling us! The daily newsletters were very well organized and full of all the information we needed.

The room service was a big plus. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch in our cabin at no extra charge (we did tip- I'm not entirely a cheapskate!) during the Grand restaurant lunch hours. Another night my wife ordered pizza and fruit from the room service menu, and she was very happy with it.

I recommend the talk about the ship by the Cruise Director. Very informative and well done. Also try to catch any culinary demonstrations by the Executive Chef, complete with samples handed out.

DOES THE CENTURY VIBRATE?
Yes, and we thought it was a lot of fun. The only times it happens are approaching or leaving port. The night we were having dinner in the Grand Restaurant anchored at Nassau, the engines fired up and the whole room vibrated noisily as we maneuvered in the harbor. We could actually see the tug pulling us backwards. Then the tug cast off and as the ship left the harbor it listed about 15 degrees to port, putting me high above the lady on the other side of the dinner table. Service never faltered, the band played on, the waiters sang happy birthdays. After a while we were in open seas and the vibration stopped altogether until the next morning about 5.30 when we slowed down while approaching the Florida coast. The vibration's probably caused by the four diesel engines cutting in and out, and the huge propellers being under the public rooms and cabins at the back of the ship. We certainly experienced it in our cabin, well aft. No big deal.

COMPLAINERS:
I heard one lady complain to anyone who would listen how slow the elevators were. A) They weren't slow at all. B) Do what I did- use the stairs- it's the best way to work off some of those fantastic chocolate desserts. Another lady complained about having to wait in line to see the shows-it was maybe a five-minute wait, and we enjoyed the chance to meet other passengers. And when I read reviews where people complain because the waiters were a little late bringing their second entree, I would just recommend that they try working 12 hour days, carrying trays with 12 full plates on them on a rolling ship, being away from their country and their families for ten month periods with the company holding your passport, and taking orders from overweight spoiled strangers three times a day. Complaining passengers might just be a little more understanding if they tried that for a while.

ON THE NEGATIVE SIDE:
Toward the end of the cruise the guests are given a questionnaire that goes to Head Office, including a space for comments. My comments were that everybody on board does a terrific job. I believe that Celebrity's marketing and advertising is snobby and pretentious and they're making a mistake trying to attract wealthy passengers from Crystal and Seabourne. They should be trying to attract Carnival passengers who want a less rowdy experience. The Celebrity magazine ads with the ship in the soup bowl are unlikely to sell a cruise to anyone in their right mind. And the commercials, ads and company website are full of male and female models in perfect physical condition with limitless discretionary income- something most of us can't identify with. Contrast that with the commercials for the Disney cruise line that show a regular family having fun. I admit the ship was sold out for our cruise, so maybe Celebrity doesn't need my advice on how to sell the product. But I do think word of mouth is what sells the ship best, specially during open-seating breakfast and lunch when everybody compares cruise experiences with strangers.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS TO CELEBRITY (if they ever read these reviews):
Either make sure the vaunted Sony technology works or throw it overboard. Our "interactive" TV wasn't interactive, though we could watch everything else on it. We didn't care; to book a shore excursion I'd rather wander down to Guest Relations and talk to a real live human being, but it shouldn't be advertised if it doesn't function. Likewise, the safe in the cabin. Very convenient to have a safe, but quite often the program seized up and we had to wait for it to "beep" and try again, sometimes several times. The final night I had to summon the assistant chief housekeeper to fix it. I understand I haven't been the only passenger with this problem.

Make the gym area more accessible to the passengers to wander in and out at will. The Spa ran some free demonstrations of makeup and massage during the cruise but it generally seems like an attempt to get a lot more money out of passengers by convincing them they will look better, younger and slimmer in about an hour for a couple of hundred dollars. Likewise, Michael's Club is an attempt to squeeze more profit, and while my wife and I enjoyed an hour or so there one evening, I'm not really relaxed about spending $20 for one cigar and a drink. Each night we'd peer in to Michael's Club and we never saw more than 4 people there. Open it up as a smoking room where we can bring our own cigars, cigarettes, pipes. You can still make profit selling drinks there.

Fix the outside floor on the aft Sunrise deck. So much is immaculate about the Century, it's a mystery that there are one or two areas that look tacky and neglected. The table tennis tables at the very back of the entertainment deck need fixing, and there were only two balls. Perhaps having the tables so close to the railing wasn't such a good idea- ball overboard! Anyway, this was my favorite place to smoke my own cigars without disturbing anybody actually trying to breathe air.

Get rid of the mini-bars; another shameless attempt to get extra profit (and we used ours shamelessly!) Convert them into refrigerators where we can store our own sodas and wine. We'll still spend plenty at the bars. The policy of not letting passengers bring their own alcohol on board is just greed on the part of Celebrity and not worthy of them.

One small suggestion: As music lovers, my wife and I enjoyed the music aboard the Century, but we feel that taped and live music should be separate, except for the Karaoke. If live music is any good it can stand by itself, and the same for recorded music. I can see little point in having two musicians strumming guitars to a big band recording. And while the (recorded plus live) music for the shows was terrific, the very last piece, after the Cruise Director's announcements, played live by the Celebrity Orchestra with no tape to help them, was a total mess.

THE CARIBBEAN ISLANDS:
Beautiful from a distance, nasty, dirty and greedy up close. San Juan needs a face lift. I talked with an old gentleman in a square there who had been born there in 1918. He said it used to be a beautiful place and now he hates the way it's so dirty and noisy. St. Thomas, we stayed on the ship. St. Martin- we took a cab to Marinot on the French side. My wife loves French perfume and she bought quite a lot there, but she said the prices were just okay, nothing like as good as they lead you to expect, and the assistant didn't really know her stock well. I checked out a couple of liquor stores with the claim of low prices and duty free. I'd say the prices were pretty good, but not fantastic, and rather than haul more stuff on and off the ship, I'd pay a few more dollars next time I was at my local Walgreen's back in Florida. The island was exotic, but surprisingly populated. Marigot was very hot and fairly dirty. We did find a French bistro, where we were the only people speaking English. We had a terrific lunch there (lamb stew and fried potatoes) at a reasonable price. Nassau was dirty, crowded and full of cars with high-powered radios booming out rap music. I saw beggars in the street, something I hadn't seen when I was there in the seventies, including one guy drinking the dregs of every bottle from a dumpster- even in Florida I haven't seen that! The glass bottom boat tour was very pleasant- plenty of fish and a coral reef to see. Overpriced at $38. I'd say about $20-$25 would be okay.

Next time we'll either stay on the ship while at port, or go to a beach and snorkel, or take a small boat ride. But shopping's too frantic and crowded, the bargains are over-rated, and we want to relax for 2 weeks every year. Tension and stress we can get at work the other 50 weeks.

OVERALL:
Again, this is just our opinion. Our advice to ourselves and to anyone reading this- treat yourself to a trip on the Century. Enjoy excellent service, genuinely helpful staff, wonderful food, polite and fun fellow passengers. Enjoy everything about the islands that's natural- the beaches, the glass-bottomed boat, the snorkeling. Some of our tablemates at dinner really enjoyed the "pet the stingray" excursion and the " America's Cup boat race" trip. Don't believe the constant hype about the stores on the islands. Unless you're a big spender on jewelry, a couple can expect to spend approximately the same on extras (drinks, excursions, gift stores) as they did on one ticket. If you're a nickel squeezer, drink only water and don't even think about the onboard casino, "Misfortunes". If you made a killing from Microsoft options, enjoy the Aquaspa, raid the minibar, take the helicopter rides around the islands and make a couple of satellite phone calls to your buddies in Tennessee at $10 a minute.

We paid our $35 and joined the Captain's Club to get priority treatment on the next cruise. Now we've been once we absolutely have to go again. The sooner the better!