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Pat Schaffhauser

Age: 42

Occupation:Product Manager

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Century

Sailing Date: May 11th, 2002

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

We just returned from our first Celebrity Cruise on the Century (3rd cruise overall) and are so glad we chose a cruise as our family's vacation. My husband and I traveled with our six-year old son and are definitely looking forward to going again next year.

We traveled the week of May 11th-May 18th 2002. We tend to be rather budget conscious so this review will also address how we were able to stay within our family vacation budget.

We booked the cruise through Expedia.com and overall found the best price after researching for several weeks. We booked our own airfare from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale ($160 round trip each). We flew down Friday night and found the accommodations at Marriott's Spring Hill Suites ($79 for a suite) to be very comfortable for the three of us. We were able to put my son to bed and still unwind with some TV in the living room without disturbing him. Free continental breakfast and complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades was also convenient.

We got to the terminal a bit before 11:00 AM as I had read you can get on the ship earlier than the 2:00 PM embarkation time listed in our Celebrity info. We had to wait until a little after Noon as there was a Coast Guard inspection that delayed everything about 40 minutes.

Embarkation was well organized. I want to thank Jake for finding my purse and returning it to me with everything intact (including $200 in cash). I guess I was a little giddy from the excitement. This was the first of many pleasant surprises from Celebrity.

We were on the Century about 12:15 and we headed to the Islands Cafe for lunch which had a selection that would please anyone. We were able to get into our stateroom about 1:00 PM so we could drop off our carry-on. Several boards recommended bringing a carry-on with a change of clothes, bathing suit and the essentials and this is very good advice as our luggage did not arrive in our stateroom until almost 5:00 PM and we were able to have the pool nearly to ourselves for almost 4 hours.

We went to our room to change for dinner and meet our cabin steward. We called our steward the “Stealth Steward” as the cabin was always immaculate but we never actually saw him except to say good morning in the hallway. One day, Ramesh even rinsed the mud off our water shoes without being asked! The cabins come equipped with robes in addition to shampoo and lotion that was very nice to have available. There is also a hair dryer that lacked the power to get my hair to work right so I had a series of bad hair days throughout the cruise. I suggest you bring your own hairdryer. The rooms also have a night-light and you can program your phone for wake up calls as needed.

You also receive a beach bag which comes in handy for shore excursions and Celebrity-supplied beach towels (you must return them or it is a $26 charge). We asked Ramesh to clear out the refrigerator so we could store some bottled water and wine we brought on board. This saved a good bit, as bottled water was $4 a bottle as you left for your shore excursions and we only paid a $6 corking fee when we had our wine with dinner.

Meals in the dining room were a delight. Our waiter, Goran was urbane and efficient- the service is attentive but unobtrusive. Goran handled a table with 4 adults and 3 young children with great ease although I know it wasn’t always easy for him. Our assistant waiter Valens was very kind and doted on our children. Goran even entertained our children with an origami frog he made and decorated. There is a children’s menu with the regular kid fare or they can order from the extensive regular menu. Again, the selection was excellent and even discerning eaters will find something appealing every night. Between my husband and I we sampled steak, lobster, veal, pork and fish and found all items to be well prepared and elegant. Crème Brulee and Tiramisu were desert highlights for me. The chef even managed to make the vegetables unforgettable!

We normally had breakfast and lunch buffet in the Islands Café and managed to sample some sweets during teatime in the Sky Bar. We only made to the midnight buffet once and that was only for photos- too much! On the day we went to Cozumel we reserved alternative dining in the Sky Bar. The view was worth the trip as my husband and I watched the lights fade as we left Cozumel. I would describe alternative dining as “bistro dining” versus the fine dining you have in the Grand Dining Room. It came in handy, as we knew we would not be back in time from Cozumel for 6:00 dinner. The food selection is good but more limited than the Grand Dining Room and the service is not as attentive. Basically, the main dish is served to you but you go up to the service line to pick up your appetizer, soup, salad and desert. I can see an advantage to alternative dining if you are in a hurry as dinner took 1 hour in alternative dining versus 2 hours in the dining room. We booked our shore excursions before we got on the ship via the Internet and booked one through Celebrity online as well. We attended the shore excursion and port information talks conducted by the Cruise Director and by Christy and found each to be a waste of time. I was looking for some culture and history about each place and received information on the best place to buy rum cakes- I realize they get paid for referrals but couldn’t they work in some meaningful information about the place we are going? In Ocho Rios we selected the River Tubing Safari and had a blast! You’re picked up in zebra-striped Range-Rovers and driven about 30 minutes through the rainforest to the White River. The guides are very entertaining and provided some perspective on island life. You are equipped with a tube and a paddle (used for pushing off the bank) as well as a life jacket. When we arrived, they even had a kid-side tube ready to go on the Jeeps for our son. I would recommend investing in a $6 pair of water shoes from Target at it was $5 to rent a pair there and you definitely needed them.

We floated down the pristine White River for almost 2 hours, hit a couple of small rapids and reveled in the beauty of the rainforest. Our son thoroughly enjoyed the trip and seemed to feel secure as the tubes have bottoms on them and the rapids were quite mild. The guides as well as our fellow travelers were friendly and kind to our son and he enjoyed the attention as the only child on the trip. There were also 4 guides for our small group of 20 so safety was never an issue. After you finish tubing, you are able to taste Jerk Chicken and buy crafts or a drink (very low key). We returned to the dock, ate lunch on the ship and dropped our son at the ShipMates Fun Factory (more on that later) so we could shop in the afternoon.

We took a short cab ride to Dunn’s River Falls (yee gads $22) and paid the $10 admission to see the falls. We did not choose to climb the falls, as our goal was to take photographs. The falls were very pretty but probably not worth the $40 it cost just to see them. Those climbing the falls seemed to really enjoy it. On the way out we made a big mistake and exited through the craft market. The vendors were so aggressive and rude I felt like a mouse trapped in a maze. On the way back we stopped at the Taj Mahal shopping area and bought some coffee and a Cuban cigar that my husband enjoyed the last night of the cruise-very smooth. We returned to the Century and enjoyed a couple of hours by the pool. If I had to do it again I would have returned to the cruise after the tube trip and spent more time at the pool.

Grand Cayman is absolutely beautiful. We booked a snorkeling tour to Stingray City with Captain Bryan and had a wonderful time. His tour was $15 less /person then the one through Celebrity and ½ an hour longer. The 15 of us sailed on a huge Trimaran (Like a catamaran but with a third point) and appreciated the tranquility of our vessel when we passed other tour boats packed in like cattle. The 30 minute sail out to the snorkeling area was as enjoyable as the snorkeling itself. I was unsure whether this tour was appropriate for my son but he seemed to enjoy it although he had a bit of trouble warming up to the snorkeling gear. Again, the crew and our fellow travelers were very friendly and helpful. Stingray City was a real experience and our guide was very helpful in showing us how to hold and feed the Stingrays. It’s a little unnerving at first and I was glad our guide was so experienced and helped us feel very comfortable. We returned to land and had a couple of hours before we had to go (port time in Grand Cayman is limited to 8 AM until 3:00 PM). We ate lunch at the English Bakery next to Captain Bryan’s (wonderful!) and shopped a bit. While the items were very nice in Grand Cayman we didn’t see any real bargains.

Cozumel was also a highlight. Our goal was to hang out on the beach, do a little shopping (bargains!) and if we had time see the ruins. We rented a convertible VW Bug (Less Pay Auto Rental - $25) and set out to explore the island. We had read about Mr. Sanchez’s Beach in another review and our agent at the auto rental place also suggested it. It was fun tooling down the highway in our convertible the 20 minutes to the beach. This place is really special. Very festive and welcoming. The beach is free and there are chaises as well as tables under thatched roofs. Since we had already experienced a good bit of sun from our day at sea we opted for the table and were able to stay in the shade for much of the day. While you are under no obligation, the waiters are very service-minded and we ended up buying a couple of drinks and having a traditional Mexican lunch (very good). The beach is beautiful and the water is shallow and very smooth underfoot. The highlight was swimming out to the huge water trampoline and bouncing until we were silly. There are restrooms and changing areas as well as a wonderful band that played everything from Mariachi music to Mozart. I have so say I’ve never enjoyed Mozart more than hearing it played on a Pan Flute. There was also a very pretty pool and waterfall that was shallow and our son had fun playing in it with the friends he made there.

There was a small group of vendors who were assertive but not obnoxious- very different from Jamaica. We had intended to spend 2 hours or so at the beach but ended up staying at blissful 4 hours. We then drove the remaining coast and enjoyed seeing the unspoiled beauty of the island and pretty shoreline. We cut across the middle of the island and headed toward town. Unfortunately, if we wanted to shop we had to skip the ruins (so much for a cultural experience). We were glad we shopped, as there were very good bargains on silver jewelry and T-shirts. Make sure you are ready to bargain as we ended up buying jewelry for 50% less than the original offer. The vendors will also come down lower if you pay with cash rather than credit card. We headed back to the ship and our son opted to forego dinner in favor of going to the ShipMate’s Fun Factory.

Let me now talk about the kids program. Our son had the time of his life. I’ve never cruised Disney but they have nothing on Celebrity when it comes to showing kids a good time. I think our son was just the right age to really delight in every event. The kids are divided in age-appropriate groups from 3 to teens. The ShipMates Club is open from 9 AM to Noon and again from 2PM until 5 PM daily. It is also available after dinner from 7:30 until 10 PM nightly.

There is no additional charge for the program unless you wish to have your child stay during the 12-2 time or at night (sleepover until 1AM!). The charge during these times is $6 per hour. We were unsure of the hours of the program when we booked (no one could tell us when we called Celebrity) and were debating whether we would take our son on the shore excursions. As it turned out, our excursions all left before the ShipMates club opened so he came with us which ended up being really fun.

Every 30 minutes the ShipMates have a new event that includes make-believe (Pirates, Dalmatians and Aliens), a talent show, board games, videos, crafts, stories, “snack attacks” and video time. The counselors were all fun and caring and I never saw them without a smile whether it was 9 AM or 1 AM. The ratio of children to a counselor averaged from 6-8. In all honesty, the quality of the care Celebrity provided was key in my son’s enjoyment of the cruise and ours as well as it was such a treat to have some adult time lying by the pool, playing bingo or seeing a show at night. The director, Cameron came from Disney Cruise lines and the program shows his passion for children.

I had read the entertainment on the Century was so-so. The Celebrity singers and dancers were very good and they presented a Las Vegas style show, a Rock ‘N Roll show and a salute to Broadway. All shows were very enjoyable. When I first saw Mark Preston of the Lettermen on the ticket I groaned (my parents used to listen to him). My initial impression that it was some cheesy lounge act but I admit, I really enjoyed his voice- some set of pipes! He sang a range of music that was also enjoyable. On the other night we had “action comedy” and I have to say I’ve never seen anything like it- part Cirque Del Soleil part Soupy Sales. He was really very entertaining. We also played a little bingo, spent some time in Images the sports bar watching hockey (Go Maple Leaves) and took in the Karaoke show. It still escapes me how we could do nothing and have the days slip by.

We also spent a good deal of time by the pool, which may have been my favorite part. The issues you’ve read about lounge chairs are exaggerated. We never had trouble finding a spot by the pool to watch all the activities or you can go on the next deck up and find a secluded spot to chill. Speaking of chill, the hot tubs were often not very hot so check first before you plunge in. Another pool tip is to wear your sandals (again the water shoes came in handy) to the pool or hot tub as parts of the deck get so hot sometimes you can feel your flesh sizzle- ouch!

We ended our cruise in Key West where we had a short walk to see the lovely architecture and do a bit of shopping. Not my favorite port- but the Audubon House had some very lovely gift items. We spent most of our last day back on the Century in pure bliss.

Debarkation on Saturday went quickly. The only thing I would do differently next time is book our return flight home much earlier. We were at the airport by 10:30 AM and our flight did not depart until nearly 4 PM.

We’re already researching our next cruise with Celebrity and hope to see you on deck next year! If you have questions please email us at SGAATL@aol.com .

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