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Kristine

Age: 41-to 50

Occupation:n/a

Number of Cruises: n/a

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Century

Sailing Date: May 13th. 2000

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Kristine

In the dozen or so cruises we've had the pleasure of taking, Celebrity is a stellar performer. Recently, we decided to return for a second time to our favorite of their ships, CENTURY. Now five years of age, CENTURY remains in pristine condition. This review may be helpful to those who will experience Celebrity Cruises for the first time. 

We made our own airline arrangements to Ft. Lauderdale. The interior of the Ft. Lauderdale Airport is not a very clean or comfortable place; hopefully, there will be some improvement as they are in the process of refurbishing. While two in our party of five collected our luggage, I used the courtesy phone to contact Amerisuites for their complimentary shuttle to that hotel. Within 20 minutes, we were on our way. Taxis are also readily available outside baggage claim. 

The Amerisuites Hotel is located about 10 minutes from the airport and the Port of Ft. Lauderdale. Check in time is 3 PM. We had a nice, clean suite with a king size bed and separate living room area with a couch that offered sleeping accommodations for two additional people. There was also a refrigerator, microwave oven, coffeepot with coffee and tea provided, and an iron with an ironing board. Next door to the hotel is an Outback Steakhouse restaurant. Within a few blocks of walking, there are two major chain grocery stores, drug stores, and a liquor store. From the Amerisuites hotel, there is no direct view of the ships in Port. 

In the morning, the hotel provides a nicely expanded continental breakfast. Check out time is 11 AM. The (one and only) courtesy hotel mini-bus that holds about 10 people and luggage makes runs to the Port and the airport about every 10-15 minutes, or you can call for a cab that will cost you about $5 per person.

Years ago, we took our first Celebrity cruise. We were so pleased by our experience, we knew we would be back, so we paid the one-time fee of $35 to join their "Captain's Club." Membership includes a number of perks, e.g., a one category upgrade (except to suites), and priority embarkation and disembarkation. 

At the pier, when you enter the ship's embarkation waiting area, get a boarding number from the ship's staff who will be at or near the doors and circulating around the large room. If you're a Captain's Club member, be sure to tell the staff. All passengers are handed a form to complete. Among other things, it tells Celebrity and the airlines, the flight number and departure time for your trip home. To avoid digging through purses or luggage, have this information and a pen handy! Embarkation is best described as a process. When your embarkation number is called, you and the group of people with the same number make your way through metal detectors, and your carry-on luggage is scanned. From there, you step up to one of the counters where your cruise ticket and other documents are verified. Be sure to have with you a photo ID (your driver's license will do) and your passport or official birth certificate (not a plain copy). At this point, you will also provide a credit card for imprint so your on board ship charges are applied to your account. The plastic card you get in return serves as your shipboard "charge card" as well as your cabin key. 

After this is done, you ascend via escalator to yet another waiting area. When your group number is called -- Captain's Club members and passengers with suites are called first -- you board the ship. An embarkation photo is taken. White-gloved staff members on board CENTURY welcome you on board, and assist you with any carry-on luggage, escorting you to your cabin or suite. A nice touch. 

We five -- ages from 40-something through 60's -- had two mini-suites on Penthouse Deck, all the way aft (at the back of the ship). Suites include Butler service. Our Butler, Desmond (from East Africa) welcomed us with chilled champagne, and reviewed with us information to enhance the pleasure of our cruise. Desmond gave us his pager number and told us to contact him with any questions or requests during our cruise. Each day, he would bring late afternoon tea service that included yummy sweets and finger sandwiches, and later each evening, he would reappear with canapés. Suite amenities include good quality, individually packaged toiletries and thick, fluffy towels. Our king size bed was covered with an attractive, light comforter. An additional blanket and pillows are stored in vinyl bags inside the closet, and they will be included in the makeup of your cabin on a daily basis if you simply tell your cabin attendant. Firuta (from Romania) did a fine job of housekeeping all week. Rest assured that it's certainly not necessary to have a suite and a Butler to make your cruise experience enjoyable and memorable; it's only mentioned here because on this cruise, we had made these arrangements. 

In the mini-suite, there was also a sofa bed, cocktail table, a large vanity area and upholstered chair, mini-refrigerator, TV and VCR, and an abundance of closet space and drawers. On Celebrity ships, we have lots of unused storage spaces in spite of packing heavily (even in standard cabins). The lighting in the bathrooms on board their ships is great. You have bright, white surroundings, compared to the dismal, yellow lighting on Princess Cruise Line's GRAND PRINCESS. Besides the glass shelves in the bathroom, you'll find additional storage space; there are several shelves behind doors. The wastebasket is discreetly hidden in a foldout bin, compared to a metal pail on the floor of the bathrooms on board GRAND PRINCESS. In the suites, a fruit basket is provided and it's replaced daily. If you bring along your own beverages or other items needing refrigeration, you may use the refrigerator in your suite or cabin. You'll find a set of fluffy white bathrobes for your use while on board ship; beats having to pack them. Celebrity gives you a signature cloth tote bag to use and then take home. A large, sturdy webbed nylon bag is an added amenity given to those in suites. On the veranda, there were two chairs and a table; just enough cozy space for two people. 

Note that if you book a mini-suite on CENTURY, they are located under an outdoor eating area on the deck above, so expect some muffled noise from chairs being moved around by passengers. We didn't find it bothersome, but you might, so keep it in mind when booking. Our aft verandas were private, but in some suite locations on CENTURY, passengers can be standing at the rail on the deck above you looking down on your veranda, due to the configuration of the ship. Check with your travel agent to make sure your accommodations (including verandas) will be what you expect.

Our luggage arrived within a half-hour of our embarkation. After unpacking a few items, we walked up one deck to the Islands Café to enjoy the welcome aboard buffet. Delicious hot and cold items and beautiful desserts are always presented in a wide variety to satisfy all but the pickiest of tastes. The buffet on Celebrity ships is very well organized compared to other cruise lines. There are four, identical food areas so you rarely have a wait in a line. Trays are lined with white linen. They serve you with china, cloth napkins, and silverware; a touch of class compared to the plastic dishes and no trays at all on GRAND PRINCESS. After you've been through the buffet line, a white-gloved waiter or bus boy will get you hot or iced tea, coffee, water, or juice, and then carry your tray to a table you select. This service is provided to anyone in need of assistance, and is especially nice for elderly, physically challenged, or female passengers, or for families traveling with young children. White-gloved attendants circulate in the buffet seating areas indoors and out, to provide you with refills of coffee or tea. On Celebrity, the buffet is always in top shape due to the efforts of all the personnel, and the supervisors (Assistant Maitre D's) make their presence known to passengers, and they keep a watchful eye on the performance of the staff. Nothing goes amiss. 

Note that everything on Celebrity including ice creams, salad dressings, breads, pastas, and desserts, is freshly prepared each day. The trend on board most cruise ships is to provide other "restaurants" for alternative dining choices, for which you pay a reservation fee. To date on Celebrity, this doesn't appear to be a popular choice, because their ships have no dedicated space -- that has changed on their newest ship, MILLENNIUM. But, from "early riser" coffee and pastries through Midnight buffets or "gourmet bites" served in the public areas and lounges, you will never go hungry!

CENTURY sails away from Ft. Lauderdale at 4:30 PM. At 4 PM, there is a mandatory lifeboat drill. For first time cruisers, just follow the instructions in your cabin about where to report with your orange life preserver, and there will be many ship's staff members around to guide you from there. The drill usually takes about 20 minutes. As sailing commences, a band at poolside plays party music, on CENTURY this time, Oasys.

Once the ship is a short distance off shore, the shops and casino on board ship open. The numerous bars and lounges will have already been opened. Each day, special drinks are offered at a discounted price. Note that each time you use bar service for alcohol or soft drinks, a 15% gratuity is automatically added to your bill. 

The dining room on board CENTURY is a handsome two-tiered room with a sweeping staircase. Entry to the dining room occurs on two decks, lessening the crowd factor in front of the doors. You are assigned main seating (usually 6:30 PM) or late seating (8:30 PM). Some vibration is felt in the dining room when the ship leaves a port; perhaps a bit unnerving if you're a first time passenger or otherwise sensitive to this, but it is limited to a few minutes. We had a table for six by a window on the lower level. Our waiter, Mert (from Romania) seemed a bit inexperienced, but his assistant, Elario (from Manila) made up for any slight lapses in service to make for a very good dining experience. We had an excellent Sommelier whose name I cannot recall; a very tall fellow from Romania who attended to our wine service in friendly and expert fashion. Our bar waiter, Constantine (from Jamaica), was a real pleasure with his genuine smile and cheerful personality. All these folks combine efforts to make your cruise enjoyable, and they work hard to please you. First night on board ship means casual attire in the dining room.

Menus are quite varied, but you can let your waiter or Maitre D' know if you have special requests, including birthday or anniversary cakes. For entrees, the fish has never disappointed, the filet mignon is excellent, and the lobster is very good. One night, I ordered strip steak and it was tough. It was promptly removed with embarrassment and many apologies, and immediately replaced with another one that was fine. Lunch and breakfast is served in the dining room; most of the time, it is open seating. If you've not cruised before, open seating means you will sit at a large table with people you may not know, and be served by waitstaff other than those assigned to you at dinner. Years ago, Celebrity had assigned seating in the dining room for all meals, but on all our recent cruises with them, we note that this has been eliminated. Your options if you don't care for open seating are going to the buffet (which serves basically the same selections as in the restaurant), or you can go to the grills by the pool for hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, salads, pasta, tacos, and pizza. You could also have meals in your cabin by ordering from the cabin service menu or during restaurant hours, you can order from the restaurant menu. If you go to the buffet for lunch, freshly made ice cream, sherbets, and sorbets are available at no cost. Also, in the buffet area in the afternoon, frozen yogurt is provided in addition to "tea time," which means yummy desserts, fruit, and fancy little sandwiches. At the buffet in the mornings, you can have an omelet made to your liking at the omelet station, and there are also many breakfast foods to choose from. 

CENTURY is at sea on the first day. There are lounge chairs all over the place on the decks and around the pool, and soft beach towels are provided. At the Aqua Spa, we enjoyed the relaxation of the thalassotherapy pool, complimentary for passengers in suites and a nominal fee for others. There are also steam rooms, saunas, massages, and other services for a fee. This night was formal, including the Captain's welcome aboard cocktail party. It was Mother's Day, and the Assistant Maitre D's came to each table in the dining room to present long stemmed roses to all the ladies. A thoughtful touch.

Arrival in Ocho Rios takes place the next morning at 7, departing at 5 PM. Our friends took a shore excursion across the island to a working plantation and then to Dunn's River Falls. They were pleased with the price and quality of this excursion. Expect to be swarmed by locals trying to sell you all kinds of items! Evening dress on board ship this night is casual.

CENTURY sets anchor off Grand Cayman Island the next day, from 7 AM to 3:30 PM. There are no piers for cruise ships here, so all lines use small "tenders" to take you to the docks in town. Passengers with shore excursions receive tender tickets; if you aren't on an excursion, you can get your free ticket by going to the designated lounge where the tickets are distributed. We had no shore excursion, but were on a tender about 20 minutes after the first ones left the ship. They run continuously, back and forth. Grand Cayman Island is a great place to spend time in water activities, on Seven Mile Beach, or snorkeling with the stingrays. This is the island where you'll find Tortuga rum cakes. Evening dress on board ship tonight is informal. Note that informal was described by Celebrity on this cruise as "informal dress or pants and blouse" for ladies, and "jacket and tie, slacks" for men. Also, "No jeans, please." 

Next morning, CENTURY arrived in Cozumel to stay from 10 AM until 7 PM. Prior to Cozumel, the ship slows to make a brief stop off Playa Del Carmen to off load passengers on various excursions. You won't disembark the ship here unless you're going on an excursion. At Cozumel, CENTURY didn't dock at the new pier that has shops in a long, warehouse like building. Two big, ugly Carnival ships occupied the docking spaces at the new pier and CENTURY docked nearby. To get to taxis, you first walk through the older, original pier shopping area. If you're going into town, you'll pay about $5 per person for the 10-minute taxi ride. So much to do in Cozumel, it's difficult to choose the activities, land or water based. Tonight's dress on board ship is informal/casual, described as ladies wearing "pants suit, casual dresses, sporty outfits." Men would wear "sports shirt and slacks." Again, "No jeans, please."

Thursday, we were at sea, with the second formal night. Tonight is the extra special Gala Midnight buffet where cruisers gasp and exclaim their "oohs" and "aahs" over the magnificent culinary displays which are first offered up for photographs, and then the dining room opens for eating.

CENTURY docks at Key West the following morning at 8, departing at 5 PM. Dress after 6 PM on board ship this night is casual. This night is "tipping" night, when you use the envelopes left in your cabin for placing cash tips. You should personally hand these envelopes to those who have served you all week. You're provided with suggestions about tip amounts, but this is strictly a personal decision. The envelopes are marked for your cabin attendant, your Butler (if you had one), the chief housekeeper, the waiter, the waiter's assistant, and the restaurant Maitre D' assigned to your section. 

You will also be provided with a survey to complete about your cruising experience. No one on a Celebrity ship has ever asked us to rate him or her as "excellent," as they have done on other cruise lines, particularly Princess and Royal Caribbean.

The last night on board ship is also packing night. Don't forget to leave out some clothes to wear on your trip home! You'll be asked to place your luggage outside your cabin door by Midnight for pick-up by ship's personnel. Special luggage tags will be left for you to affix to the luggage before putting it outside your door. 

By 7 AM, we returned to the Port of Ft. Lauderdale. Breakfast is at your assigned dining table, 6:30 AM for main seating, and 8 AM for late seating. Alternatives to this are the buffet breakfast (which was crowded), or cabin service. With priority disembarkation given to Captain's Club members, we had collected our luggage and were on our way to the airport in a taxi ($15 for the five of us) around 9 AM. You find your luggage in color-coded areas; if your luggage tag was red, you go to the red area and so on. It makes collecting your luggage easier if you'll assign just one or two of your party to do the "hunting," while the others wait out of the way as much as possible. This area gets loud and chaotic, and there can sometimes be frustration in finding a porter, if you need one. If you've bought airport transfers or if the cruise line has made air/sea arrangements for you, you'll follow the directions given to you before leaving the ship. There are always Celebrity staff members around if you have any questions or need assistance. 

Some other comments … Celebrity seems to be making an effort to improve in the entertainment category, perhaps the area that has consistently fallen short of praise. On this cruise, there were several production shows, a performance by Mark Preston (formerly of the Lettermen), comedians (one who juggles), and an impressionist/singer. In the various lounges and the disco, or by the pool, you could listen/dance to music provided by different performers, some solo, some duets, some bands. The Cruise Director, Jim Cameron, is a talented and very personable man who was visible all week and actively sought out conversation with passengers. 

On board Celebrity ships, there are no P.A. announcements, so to plan your next day's activities, you should review your "daily news" sheet, placed each night in your cabin. No one will be shouting over a loudspeaker that bingo is about to start, etc! You can't possibly do all the activities, so just pick a few, relax, and have a good time! There are a wide variety of activities from sunrise to the wee hours, for all interests and age groups. Celebrity does show some restraint in activities, though. This is not a cruise line with beer guzzling and belly flopping in the pool as entertainment, so if that's what you enjoy, book elsewhere to avoid disappointment! 

The CENTURY's Social Hostess on this sailing was Sonja Nootebos, a lovely young Dutch woman. She seems well on her way to joining the likes of the almost legendary Amanda Reid, with whom we've sailed on all previous Celebrity cruises. Amanda will be on the line's new ship, MILLENNIUM, debuting in Europe in June, and we look forward to seeing her and cruising on this new ship in December. 

We had several special encounters and experiences while on board CENTURY. Ms. Nootebos extended to us a special invitation to visit the ship's navigational bridge. The senior officers made us feel very welcome and discussed with obvious pride their impressive command center on board this beautiful ship. We also enjoyed the hospitality extended to us by way of several special cocktail parties and other social events.

We are loyal to Celebrity because we can relax and depend upon the people on their ships to consistently provide a level of service and cuisine, in all areas, that pleases us. 

Were there any disappointments on this cruise? There was one. The safe in our cabin would not allow us entry at about 11 PM on the last night of the cruise. There had been no problem with access all week. A call to Guest Relations staff was of no help, as they insisted that no officer was available to open the safe until the morning. We thought this was not up to usual Celebrity service standards, and we were not pleased. In the morning, an officer did respond to open the safe. 

I'll be happy to answer any questions or provide additional information if you send me an e-mail. Happy sailing!

Kristine
E-mail: FL2NH@together.net

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