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Henry Schulman

Age: 42

Occupation:Sportswriter

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Century

Sailing Date: November 16th, 2002

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: November 16th, 2002

First of all, I’d like to say something in general to people reading this or any other cruise review. It has been my experience that people sometimes overly obsess over the negatives. I know I did. After I booked my cruise, I would see something negative in a review and wonder if I made a mistake and worry too much. I have a few negative things to say about the Century cruise I took, but please be assured that overall it was a wonderful experience that I would repeat in a heartbeat.

Onto the review:
The Century is a mid-sized ship, as you probably know. Having cruised on a larger ship before (RCL’s Sovereign of the Seas), I can truly say I enjoyed being on the smaller ship and can’t imagine dealing with all the people on one of those new mega-3000-people ships. On the Century, one always has a feeling of space, which was wonderful. The one drawback about being on a smaller ship: It does rock back and forth a little more, especially in rough seas, which we had the first two days out. I got a bit seasick and could not enjoy the first two dinners. I recommend bringing along some Dramamine.

Celebrity’s marketing focus is food and service, and I’m here to say both were ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING. Not just the dinners in the Grand Restaurant, but even something as mundane as the breakfast buffet in tie Island Café on Deck 11 was wonderful. Perfect scrambled eggs. SUPERB croissants. One tip: There are two lines in the Island Café, where you can eat breakfast, lunch, midnight buffets, etc… Everyone goes to the line closest to the pool area, leaving few people in the line at the back of the ship. It’s the same food. You can save some time there.

My wife and I usually ate just one meal, the dinner, in the Grand Restaurant to save time. Every dinner was five courses – appetizer, soup, salad, entrée, dessert, and sometimes a sorbet added in. SUPERB, TERIFFIC, MOUTH-WATERING. Pick an adjective. The service was great, too. The waiters really seem intent on making each meal a great experience. They serve you with humor and never let you see how hard they work. My wife and I wound up tipping a bit more than the $3.50 per day per person that is recommended.

The cabins are much larger than those we had on the Sovereign. There is so much storage space, for luggage and clothes, you never have to worry about bringing too much.

The public areas on the ship are nice. Like on most ships, earlybirds reserve lounge chairs around the pool and keep them all day, even though they are asked not to. That didn’t bother me too much because I prefer lounging on the deck above the pool, where chairs were plentiful.

The gym was great, but one word of caution for joggers and exercise-walkers. The jogging track is small – it takes 14 laps for a mile.

One thing I enjoyed about this cruise, and don’t know if it’s the same on others. Smoking is allowed only on port side of the ship and not allowed on starboard side, so non-smokers like me and my wife could always find someplace to lounge without having to gag on smoke.

This is a not a cruise full of great activities, although we enjoyed the wine-tasting seminar (8 bucks a person) and cooking demonstration. We knew that going in. There is no rock-climbing or bowling. This is mainly a cruise for relaxing and dining. It is very adult-oriented. When we cruised there were 60 kids among the 1,800 passengers, although they do have programs for teens and young children. Those on our ship did not seem to be too bored, but if you have kids I would recommend another line.

The entertainment was hit-and-miss. The singers/dancers are talented, but some of their shows were a bit contrived. The comedians were so-so, although we really enjoyed Mike James, a former circus clown who does wonderful balancing tricks on a ladder and unicycle.

There was only one aspect to the cruise that was very disappointing: the port calls. In our opinion, there was far too much time allotted for St. Thomas and far too little for the other three ports: San Juan, St. Maarten and Nassau. Nassau was the worst because we arrived an hour late and barely had time off the ship.

St. Thomas is really all about shopping. If that’s not your bag, there is really not much reason to spend 10 hours there (although we enjoyed looking through the St. Thomas Synagogue and Seven Arches Museum on Government Hill). Arriving at San Juan at 4:30 and leaving at 12:30 leaves you too little time for sightseeing in the old quarter and too little time to enjoy the nightlife, which doesn’t really get going there until about midnight.

In St. Maarten, we highly recommend taking the 25-minute taxi ride to Marigot on the French side. It’s far less crowded and prettier than Phillipsburg on the Dutch side. Wonderful little shops and French bistros.

We did not take any of the paid shore excursions, but two of our seatmates at dinner took one in St. Thomas and enjoyed it, two other seatmates took one in the Bahamas and were so disappointed they complained and got a refund.
I highly recommend buying Frommer’s Ports of Call guide, which allows you to do your own walking tours and tells you how to set up your own beach or snorkeling tours. You’ll save money that way.

Getting on the ship was a piece of cake. It starts around 11:30 a.m., and Celebrity has tons of people ready to get you on the ship. Getting off the following Saturday was a total disaster that probably couldn’t be helped because of post-9/11 security.

Every man, woman and child on the ship must go to the main theater on that final Saturday morning to show their passports or birth certificates to a U.S. immigration official. It was supposed to take 5 minutes, but took a half hour as the line snaked all the way from the front of the ship to the back. Be patient. You have to be out of your stateroom by 8 a.m. and many people didn’t get off the ship before 9:30 because they disembark in shifts. That meant a lot of people cramming into the public areas waiting to be called.
Once off, luggage retrieval was easy and painless.

In summary, we enjoyed our Celebrity Century cruise tremendously and would not hesitate to cruise with them again, although we would pay a little more attention to the port itineraries so we would not feel cheated with the time at some ports. Food and staff are tremendous. My wife and I (both in our early 40s) exercised a lot, the only way to keep from ballooning by 25 pounds each! If you are booked on Century, get ready to enjoy.

Henry Schulman

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