Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: May 21st, 2005
The Group on the Century
I was the group escort and seminar facilitator for a group of 38 travel professionals traveling to the Baltic on a 12-day cruise. The cruise departed Amsterdam, The Netherlands, so I flew into Amsterdam a day early just to be sure that I (and my luggage) would arrive in plenty of time to make the 6 pm departure time.
Getting to the Ship:
Flying to Europe in 2005 has been an expensive proposition. I arranged a flight on Delta from San Diego with a connection in Cincinnati, to Amsterdam. The flight departed San Diego on time, but was delayed in landing in Cincinnati due to weather. I had a short connection to begin with, but this made the likelihood that I would make it very suspect. Once the aircraft was cleared for landing and we pulled up to the gate, the pilot requested that everyone without a tight connection remain seated allowing those trying to make connections to deplane quickly. It was a good move as I was able to deplane, run the 12 gates to my next flight and board it just as they were closing the doors on the flight. Many people did not make it and Delta did not hold the flight for them. The flight was non-eventful, but even with my Bose headset, I could not fall asleep the entire flight.
I arrived at Amsterdam's airport right on schedule, cleared immigration and proceeded to wait for my luggage (which I knew never made it) After about an hour of waiting, I approached the lost luggage counter to file my claim and the agent advised me that my luggage would be there in another hour or so. I waited and it showed up. Apparently it was rerouted on a flight to another city with service to Amsterdam. I was very thankful to have it at this point. I cleared customs, and then made my way to the shuttle bus to the various hotels in Amsterdam. I was staying at the SAS Radisson Hotel near Dom Square and it was the last stop on his route. I got a great tour of Amsterdam on the way to the hotel. After checking in, I decided my best course was to stay up all day in favor of going to bed early for a good night's sleep.
Amsterdam is one of those cities I just don't care for. I mean it is beautiful, hosts many wonderful sights and museums, and is very charming visually. It is just that the liberal atmosphere regarding sex and drugs draws people from all corners of the Earth interested in liberal sexual policies and drugs who populate the city. There are groups of young men everywhere that are hanging out in the red light districts and patronizing the many "cafes" (a cafe in Amsterdam is where you can legally purchase and smoke marijuana). It is not uncommon to see folks completely zonked out of their minds wandering the streets the first thing in the morning. I just don't care for it.
I spent the day taking pictures for PortReviews.com's Amsterdam page and then had dinner before turning in for the evening. Unfortunately, I still couldn't sleep, as my time clock was 9 time zones off. At 11pm, I called my wife Joanie, who had just gotten off the Spirit of Aloha and was staying in Waikiki an extra night before her flight home. She was exactly 12 time zones away, so I called her as she was sitting on the beach in Waikiki. It was great to hear her voice and we talked quite a bit longer than we should have. I know the bill for the telephone call will be amazing.
I was up early and enjoyed breakfast at the hotel before making my way to the Amsterdam cruise terminal. When I arrived I realized that I had left the group manifest back in my room at the SAS Radisson Hotel. I ran into Nancy Norris (also on the cruise) who agreed to watch my stuff while I tried to recover it. I power walked to the hotel and was able to recover the file out of the trash bin of the maid that had just cleaned my room (note to self: Always make a back-up copy from now on).
Once back at the cruise terminal, Nancy and I boarded the ship without delay. As Elite members on Celebrity, there is a separate check-in line where you are expedited in favor of all non-Elite passengers. It was very much appreciated by me.
I had sailed the Century several years ago in Alaska and loved her. She is the sister ship to the Mercury, but there are enough design and finishing changes to make her a unique ship in her own right. I had heard that she was going into dry dock for a complete makeover, so was a little concerned about her condition on this cruise. The concern proved to be unnecessary. The Century was the first superliner for Celebrity and was launched in 1995. She is just over 70,000 tons and carries 1,750 passengers offering a space ratio in excess of 40. However, this cruise was not sold out and everyone benefited from the additional space.
The Bottom Line
I loved this particular cruise experience. Everything about it (for me) was wonderful. The ports give one a great overview of the Baltic region and the ship itself is a great experience. I would highly recommend the Century for those looking for a port intensive cruise of the Baltic. There was some grumbling about the Internet service and buffet (I suspect it was founded because I heard it from too many different people to discount it) but overall it was an excellent cruise experience. If you haven't cruised the Baltic and only have two weeks, this is your cruise!
This was an oceanview cabin towards the aft section of the ship. The window was large and the drapery covering it capable of blocking almost all of the sunlight if one wanted to sleep during the late sunset and early sunrise. I had a queen sized bed with a night stand on either side. The telephone was on the port nightstand and both had reading lights. A master on/off switch for the lights was located on the wall directly under the window. On the port side of the cabin aft of the bedding was a large desk housing two sets of drawers with three drawers each. Note that there is only one 110 volt outlet, so you will definitely want to bring an extension cord with multiple outlets. Above the desktop (plenty big enough for my notebook computer, printer, speakers and cds) was a large mirror with excellent lighting. Behind the mirror is the cabin's safe with a small cubby on either side for storage and three large shelves for additional storage reside above the safe and cubbies. There is a great deal of storage in this area.
The starboard side of the cabin aft of the bedding houses a small circular table and another chair. A refrigerator stocked with sodas, water, champagne and liquors is available, but be aware you are going to pay, as you use the items. On the shelf above the refrigerator is the cabin's VCR and then the television. The television offers several channels of entertainment including CNN. More storage resides above the entertainment area.. There is quite an ample amount of closet space with two separate closets to use. The most forward contains a full length of shelves with three drawers on the bottom while the right side has a 1/2 length hanging rack for shirts or whatever, and three more drawers below the hanging rack. The other closet had a full hanging rack for dresses or longer items with a large amount of storage on top of the rack.
The bathroom was quite large enough to be comfortable. The shower was quite large compared to other ship's showers and the hot/cold water control allowed for precise temperature control of the shower. The sink is large and the counter top quite large. There are two shelves for additional storage and the entire area is mirrored. A hair dryer adorns the wall over the toilet, but it is the type that most women do not care for. I would suggest bringing your own hair dryer if you use one for styling your hair. On the hallway side of the bathroom are several shelves that house the various towels for use in the bathroom. One word of caution however, there is about an eight to ten inch step to enter the bathroom from the hallway that could be a problem for those with any mobility restrictions. There is also a six to eight inch step into the shower. I would strongly suggest that you bring a night light that can be plugged into the 110 volt shaver outlet in the hair dryer. In this way, one could make a safe passage to the restroom during the night without having to turn on the light to negotiate the necessary steps thereby affecting the other person in the cabin.
A Tour of the Ship:
Century's Golf Driving Range
Deck 14, The Sunrise Deck
The best way to investigate the Century is to simply explore her deck by deck. So, if you will join me we will go to the forward stairwell and make our way to deck 12, go outside and climb the stairs to deck 14 where we find the Century's sunning area and jogging track. Aft on deck 14 (we need to return to deck 12 and then climb back up to deck 14) we find the Century's golf simulator and enclosed driving range.
The Basketball Half Court
There is also a basketball half court available for everyone's use. However, I never saw it used the entire time I went by it. From here we will go back down to deck 12 (there is no deck 13) and start our pictorial tour.
Deck 12, The Sport Deck
The Hemisphere Lounge
All the way forward on deck twelve is the Hemisphere Lounge.
The Hemisphere Lounge Dance Floor
This is the Century's disco and is a large venue that also doubles as the observation lounge.
The Hemisphere Lounge Viewing Area
it offers wonderful vistas when entering or departing a port and is also a great place to get away from everyone on days at sea to relax, read or simply watch the ocean go by. There is a large bar with bar stools by the dance floor and numerous tables and cubbies to relax in. Exiting the Hemisphere Lounge, we come upon the Mast Bar.
The Mast Bar
The Mast Bar overlooks the pool area and offers an intimate place to meet foor drinks while enjoying the sunshine and the pool area.
The Century's Pool Area and Sun Deck
Moving aft outside on deck 12 we enter the sun bathing area above the pool compound on deck 11. While the official jogging track is forward on deck 14, many people used the deck surrounding the pool area on deck 12 for walking and jogging, as well.
The Uncrowded, but Excellent Tables in the Sky Bar
Aft of the passenger cabins on deck 12 is the Sky Bar. This was an excellent place to sneak to during breakfast as the tables were never crowded even when it was a sell-out crowd in the buffet on deck 11.
The Sky Bar Pizza, Salad and Pasta Area
During lunch pizza, freshly made pasta to order and Caesar salad made to order were available. HINT: try to avoid the most popular dining times. It was not unusual for there to be long lines for both pasta and salad. Since they were individually made to order, the wait was sometimes lengthy. Try waiting until 1:30 or so, to dine here.
Just One of the Two Video Arcades on Deck 12
Just forward of the Sky Bar Dining Area is where one found the video arcades. There was one on each side of the ship and they seemed heavily used by the kids on the ship. If we walk down the spiral stairs in the aft section of the Sky Bar dining area we are delivered to the very aft section of the Island Cafe.
Deck 11, The Resort Deck
The Aft Deck Behind Islands Cafe
By exiting through the aft doors, we enter the aft fantail and outdoor dining area for the Islands Cafe. I took breakfast here on a number of occasions and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is well protected from the elements and a pleasure to enjoy.
The Islands Cafe Buffet
The Islands Cafe is the main buffet area and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast finds 3 separate complete hot and cold buffet lines serving typical breakfast fare. There is also a continental buffet line for those not wanting hot items. An omelet station and waffle station are favorites with many people, however the omelet station only had one burner and it took quite a while to get to the front of the line to order your omelet. Ditto for the waffle station. Each waffle was custom made to order, so it took a while to order one. HINT: Try dining right when the buffet opens or wait until after the rush hour to enjoy fresh omelets and waffles. There were two drink stations that were open 24 hours a day. In the morning they served breakfast juices and then punch, lemonade, passion fruit juice and such for the balance of the day. Coffee was always available.
One of the Island Cafe's Drink Stations
Lunch in the Island Cafe found 3 complete buffet lines, a grill line offering hamburgers, hot dogs and such and a reasonably good salad bar. I ate here on several occasions, but opted for the Sky Bar's pasta and salads.
Dinner usually found sushi available (excellent, by the way) and also the ship's alternative dining restaurant. The port side of the Islands Cafe was turned into a complete restaurant. There was a suggested additional gratuity of $2 to dine there, but no reservations were necessary.
Moving forward from the Islands Cafe we enter the pool area and then the pool bar area. There is entertainment by the pool, but it was never crowded because of the fact that the weather was quite cold most of the cruise. However, I did manage some Jacuzzi time, but it was brisk when I got out.
The AquaSpa Check-in Counter
Moving forward and indoors we come to the Century's AquaSpa. I spent a good amount of time here and loved it.
The AquaSpa's Beauty Salon
The first thing you pass as you make your way to the spa check-in is the beauty salon. Man, was this place busy! Every time I passed it there seemed to people waiting to get into a chair.
The Century's Thalassotherapy Pool
One of the major benefits of being an "Elite" member (10 or more Celebrity cruises, or Diamond status on Royal Caribbean) is that you can use the Thalassotherapy Pool for free anytime that it is open. First there is a sauna in the men's and women's locker room along with two excellent showers. Then, the thalassotherapy pool has several stations. The water is about body temperature, or a little warmer and treated heavily with various minerals to make exposure to its massaging effects wonderful. There is a large "rack" one simply floats on while thousands of bubbles massage your entire body. I really liked the back massager, a large volume of water that shot from a pipe straight into the pool. You simply put whatever part of your body you wanted massaged under it and viola. There are many jets at varying levels to use to massage one's self and finally there is a portion of the pool that offers a very strong current of water that feels great after being immersed in it for a few minutes. The pool runs for 20-minutes and then takes a five or ten minute break so that people don't overdo it. Also in the same area is a co-educational steam room. The flow of traffic goes something like this; jump into the pool and when it takes a break, jump into steam room. I think you get the idea.
The Century's Aerobics Room
Adjacent to the AquaSpa's check-in counter is the Fitness Center. It consists of a rather large aerobics workout area,
The Free Weight Station and Cardio Machines in the Fitness Center
a small free weight area,
The Weight Machines and More Cardio Equippment
some weight machines and some cardio equipment. The machines lack any upper body equipment with the exception of a nautilus rowing machine and since we were walking a million miles a day, I passed on working out for the cruise with the exception of a couple of mornings.
Deck 10, The Penthouse Deck,
Deck 10 is all passenger suites.
Deck 9, The Vista Deck
Deck 9 is all passenger suites.
Deck 8, The Panorama Deck
Deck 8 is all passenger suites..
Deck 7, The Entertainment Deck
The Celebrity Theater
Starting all the way forward, the Celebrity Theater is the main entertainment venue on the Century. This is the location of the production shows and headline acts. Many of the shows for late seating passengers are scheduled before dinner making the evening seem longer and more friendly.
Moving aft from the Celebrity Theater we pass the intimate Michael's Club. This is a wonderful place to relax, enjoy the piano music of Julio Urbina, a very talented pianist and singer. We conducted our meetings in Michaels Club and were treated to a performance by two of our members one morning before our seminar began. It was magical.
Images is a great bar. Originally set up as a sports bar, about 8 computers were added to the bar and it became one of our meeting places.
When the Internet service was working, you could get online here and also enjoy a glass of wine, as well.
The Wine Auction on the Century
Something I have not seen before on cruises was a wine auction. The idea is the same as the art auction, the company buys 100% of quality wines and then packages them in groups to be sold at auction. I am not sure the idea has legs though, as I never saw more than 10 people at the auction and they didn't seem very motivated. I was glad I wasn't the wine auctioneer.
The Boulevard Street Sales
Moving aft still from Images OnLine we enter The Boulevard shopping area. There are a surprising number of stores on The Boulevard and they always had some sale going for something.
The Boulevard's Liquor Store
The logo shop had an incredible array of products to purchase, as did the liquor store.
Another Store on The Boulevard
The Fragrance Store was also very popular as were the general stores, jewelry and clothing stores.
A View of the Grand Foyer (The Boulevard is on the Top Deck)
Leaving The Boulevard we pass the top level of the Grand Foyer, which is very attractive and the central heartbeat of the Centurey.
The Fortunes Casino's Slot Machines
Moving aft we enter the Fortunes Casino. I am not a gambler, but man, was this casino packed.
The Gaming Tables
The slots were always busy and there seemed to be a great amount of table play, as well. I guess there were some winners in the group.
The Crystal Room's Center Area
All the way aft is the Crystal Room. We had our arrival cocktail party i the Crystal room and after meeting in the Images OnLine lounge a few nights changed to meeting at the Martini Bar in the Crystal Room.
The Martini Bar
We found that the Martini Bar was an excellent place to meet, as it was just far enough away from the band in the Crystal room that folks could carry on a conversation without disrupting anyone's enjoyment of the music. Yet, if folks in our group wanted to enjoy the music or dance, they could. The bar staff at the Martini Bar was excellent and took great care of our group.
Deck 6, The Promenade Deck
Century's Grand Restaurant
Moving down the aft stairwell we arrive at the entrance to the Grand Restaurant. This is a very elegant restaurant that we thoroughly enjoyed every evening.
A Grand Restaurant Table Setting
Our Assistant Maitre d', waiter and assistant waiter were all excellent. The wine steward was better than excellent. He remembered everyone's wine and had it waiting, as soon as you sat down. During the evening, he would always know when a fill up was necessary and there was never a moment that folks were looking around for his attention. The dining was excellent from my perspective. An excellent menu was offered each evening and the presentation was wonderful. All in all, I would give the dining experience two thumbs up. We had arranged for doing round table seating where we could dine at any of the five tables that we had blocked for the group and the service at all of the tables was excellent.
Moving forward from the Grand Restaurant one enters the Rendez-Vous Square, a wonderful bar and entertainment/dance venue. Rendez-Vous Square offered many nooks and crannies in its layout making it a great place to meet people. It was also one of the two wi-fi hot spots on the Century. I favored Michaels Club, Images OnLine and the Martini Bar over this lounge, but it was heavily populated with partiers every time I traversed it. Leaving Rendez-Vous Square we go through the Photo Gallery on both sides of the ship.
The Century's Flower Shop
One of the really cool things about the Century was the flower shop where folks could buy flowers for their cabins. It was a great touch.
The Cova Cafe
We made the Cova Cafe our meeting spot before leaving the ship in ports. Everyone else decided to crowd the stairwells waiting for the ship to be cleared while we enjoyed a coffee, latte or cappuccino. The specialty coffee drinks are inexpensive and they were also well prepared.
The Entrance to Celebrity@Sea
The Internet service on this particular cruise was horrible. Not that it was really slow or problematic when you were connected, it was just that one could rarely get online. One of the frustrations I personally had was that I would log on, write an e-mail and when I went to send it, I would be offline and would then lose the e-mail I had written. The computer center at Celebrity@Sea seemed more interested in selling their computer classes than making sure folks who had purchased Internet packages could get online. I purchased a 200 minute package and never used all of them. I normally would have done in excess of 500 minutes on a 12-day cruise. I could never log on using my wi-fi connection either. In all fairness, I suspect that there was possible interference with the satellite that may have been causing the problem and the Internet Manager was generous at adjusting everyone's minutes for lost time. Still, it was very frustrating.
The Century's Library
Across from the computer room was the Century's library. As you can see it was heavily used and everyone enjoyed its casual elegance.
Just forward of the library was the ship's cinema and meeting facility. I never attended a movie here, but many made it a point to see every one.
More Internet Access Forward of the Library
Across and forward from the Cinema, there are more computers available for Internet use. All in all, there must have bee 50 or 60 computers available for Internet useage between Images OnLine, Celebrity@Sea and this area.
The Card Room
On the port side of the ship, one finds the Card Room. Again, the card room was heavily used by folks that spilled over onto tables in many of the lounges.
Forward past the forward elevator banks is the entrance to the Celebrity Theater.
The Century's Promenade Deck
On the exterior of deck 6 one finds the ship's promenade. This is a great place to lounge and read a book. Blankets were available for those that wanted to snuggle up to watch the ocean go by.
Deck 5, The Plaza Deck
The Century's Registration and Tour Desks
Moving towards the center stairwell and going down to deck 5, we are presented with the Century's main registration desk, tour desk and bank. The Registration Desk staff were very friendly and helpful, but the bank manager seemed to have a problem focusing, He would have a line of people waiting in line to exchange money into the local currency, and he would needlessly shuffle paper around, fidget and otherwise waste time. On one morning I was in line behind a lady who waited at least 5-minutes while this guy invested time turning bills into the same direction, as if were a huge problem if one of the bills was in the wrong direction. I suspect that it would be a difficult job to find someone to do. I sure wouldn't want it, so I accepted the man's eccentric behavior as probably the norm for a money exchange guy.
All the way aft on deck 5 is the lower floor of the Grand Restaurant.
The Entrance to the Children's Fun Factory
Deck 4, The Continental Deck
While my cabin was on deck four, I was also quite near the Children's Fun Factory. There were very few children on this particular cruise, but those that were on board loved the Fun Factory.
The Inside of the Children's Fun Factory
The children are broken into age groups and each age group had their own counselor. They were having a ball.
More Children's Fun Factory Fun
The daily activities were listed on daily sheets that were available at the doorway to the Children's Fun Factory.
While the Century is one of Celebrity Cruise Lines older ships, it is still quite serviceable. However, when I returned home, I found out that she is due to be completely rebuilt next year. I wouldn't hesitate to cruise her again for a moment and definately want to see what Celebrity does with her in the refurbishment.
May 21st, 2005; Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Once I was aboard the Century, I made my way to my cabin (#4122). I was located on the starboard side, aft and was quite happy with my accommodations. I had a rather large group of travel professionals with me so I spent the afternoon making sure that everything was under control. I met with the group coordinator (Ngauhira) and reconfirmed all of the group's details. I am glad that I had, as there were some minor changes that needed to be made before delivering the "Welcome Aboard" flyers. Once the flyers were delivered, I made my way to the Islands Cafe for a late lunch. Celebrity does a wonderful job in their buffets and always offers a fish entree and vegetable side dish. Today it was Ling Cod and fresh peas and carrots. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I returned to my cabin and spent the afternoon working, preparing for the up coming seminars and cruise. I was ready for our 7 pm cocktail party and made my way to the Crystal Room, met with Ngauhira (the group coordinator on the Century) and began greeting folks as they arrived for the cocktail party. I was really impressed with the quality of the agents in the group and recognized some of them from past cruises. We stayed at the cocktail reception until it was time to make our way to the dining room and find our tables. The Grand Restaurant is absolutely wonderful. We had a total of 6 tables for our group and they were quite close together. The assistant Maitre d' greeted us, as did our waiters and assistant waiters. Everyone was in an excellent mood and we began the first of our wonderful dinners aboard the Century. We had so much fun that first evening that we ended up closing the restaurant. I slept great.
May 22nd, 2005; Day at Sea
I was up early, took breakfast in the Islands Cafe and made my way to Michael's Club for the first of our three seminars. I always love the first seminar, as everyone gets to know one another and it is really the beginning of a great experience. Today's seminar was no different. After our coffee break we got down to business and never looked back. I was exhausted from the seminar and ended up staying after for almost 2 hours talking with some of the agents. I then took lunch in the Sky Bar and enjoyed a wonderful Caesar salad made especially for me. It was excellent.
I didn't realize it then, but I kind of set the trend for the cruise. It was cool and windy outside, so I decided to simply enjoy the Thalassotherapy Pool in the Aquaspa. I mentioned that it was a benefit of being an Elite member on Celebrity and it just that, quite a benefit. I went into the men's locker room, showered and then entered the magical waters of the thalassotherapy pool. It would stay on for 20 minutes and then break for 5. I would jump into the steam room for the period of time the pool was off and then jump back into the pool when the jets came back on. Once I had had my fill of the thalassotherapy pool, I went back into the locker room and enjoyed a long sauna. After a long shower, I changed and went back to my cabin and took a nap.
I was up and dressing for the Captain's Cocktail party with plenty of time to spare and felt wonderful My tux came back from the cleaners in record time HINT: I take my tux onto the ship without getting it cleaned from the last cruise and get it cleaned using the "same day" express service on the ship I am on. In this way, it always looks great for the formal night. I met some folks from our group for cocktails in Michael's Club and then attended the cocktail party. We had a great time before moving on to dinner. Dinner this evening was spectacular. First, the table I sat at had wonderful people who were having a great time so far. I had been on other cruises with one of the couples before and grown fond of them because they were such positive and wonderful people. It sort of caught hold at our table. Second, our wine steward, waiter and assistant waiter could not have done a better job. All of us at the table had a bottle of wine in come stage of consumption and our wine steward knew just exactly when and how to serve everyone. He never interrupted and was always considerate to everyone at the table. When one bottle ran out, a non-invasive inquiry from the wine steward would result in another bottle being presented. The meal itself was just as excellent. I think that the meal we had on this evening will go down in my memory as one of the best.
May 23rd, 2005; Oslo, Norway
I was up early, enjoyed breakfast in the Islands Cafe and went back to my cabin to get ready to meet some from our group in the Cova Cafe to get off the ship and explore Oslo. We debarked the ship and made our way down to the ferry across the harbor to the Maritime Museum. The ferry ride is short, but worth the effort, not so much for the museum, but to enjoy the residential area that surrounds it. The homes are simply beautiful. I would never suggest anyone pay to gain entrance to the Viking Ship Museum, as you can see just about all there is to see from the entrance. Simply go through the front door and climb the stairs to the second level and you can take pictures from there. We walked to the Kon Tiki Museum and FLAM and enjoyed both before catching the ferry back to the inner harbor. We then boarded on of the trams out to Vigeland Sculpture Park. While at first I wasn't very excited to see it, once I arrived and experienced the intensity of it, I was glad I had come. Even if you are only casually interested in art or parks, this is one place well worth seeing. Best of all, there is no admission fee to get in to enjoy its beauty. After taking the tram back into Aker Brygge, we found a wonderful little restaurant named "Vin Og" (it is right on the harbor front) and while there are sidewalk tables, we chose to go upstairs to have a view of the whole harbor. Vin Og is an excellent choice if you intend to dine in Oslo.
Back on the ship, I made time for my usual trip to the Thalassotherapy Pool for my afternoon session. I was really beginning to enjoy this cruise. Our group met in the Images OnLine bar and had a great pre-dinner cocktail session and dinner proved to be just as rewarding tonight as the previous two nights.
May 24th, 2005; Day at Sea
I was up early, had breakfast in the Islands Cafe and was ready in Michael's Club for our second of three seminars. It amazes me how folks can bond so quickly in a professional environment and this group was not an exception. The seminar went extremely well and ended with several individual meetings that took me past 2 pm. While I had enjoyed a Caesar Salad here before, this is when I really discovered the Sky Bar's pasta and salad venue. I had the chef make me a linguini with shrimp, asparagus and tomato with a white sauce that was to die for. I decided right then and there to make this my new lunch venue. There was also a small wine cart set up that served excellent wines by the glass. If this sounds like you, don't miss this dining venue.
Like a broken record, I spent the late afternoon in the spa, dressed for our group's nightly no-host cocktail party and then went on to a fabulous dinner. By now, all of us had pretty much dined with everyone in the group and were getting to know each other's personalities. Dinner always lingered into the evening and our tables were usually the last to leave the restaurant after much laughter and fun.
May 25th, 2005;
Aaahhh, Stockholm. I have spent a good amount of time in Stockholm and have loved every minute of it. We arrived at a terminal that I have not been at before and after debarking the ship made the decision to follow the non-traditional line into town. The Century offered a free shuttle into the heart of Stockholm, but our group decided to take a taxi instead. This proved to be an excellent choice, as the line for the shuttle was long and time consuming. We departed the taxi at the foot of the stairs that led to the Palace's entrance and we made a rapid assent to its doors. After climbing the back stairs to the rear of the palace we began our exploration of old town. This really is an excellent city to explore, as its winding cobbled shopping streets offer just about everything one could imagine. We had arranged to meet one of our group by the palace guard house so while the rest of the group shopped and explored, I kept vigil watch for the missing member. We met up for the changing of the guards and were lucky to be there on the day when the full procession took place. It was really an awesome event with the mounted guards in full regalia, the marching guards and all of the pomp and ceremony. We explored the main shopping street in the newer section of Stockholm and enjoyed a wonderful lunch before making our way back to the shuttle pick up point and to the ship. All in all, it was a great day.
Late afternoon in the spa, met the group for cocktails and then off to dinner for another wonderful dining event with new found friends.
May 26th, 2005;
We arrived right on schedule and our group met in the Cova Cafe to debark and take the transfer into Helsiniki. The ship was docked in the commercial harbor and it was quite a ways before arriving into the downtown area of Helsinki. We wandered the shopping streets, visited the churches, shopped in the open market place and then settled into a sidewalk restaurant for an enjoyable break. Some in our group got caught up shopping for the great values in Finish sweaters, furs and trinkets, so lunch lingered into the afternoon. All in all, it was a great day for hanging out in Helsinki. With great shopping and some wonderful sights, everyone enjoys spending the day in this great port.
I was in a total rut. Spa, cocktails, dinner, bed. Oh life is good.
May 27th, 2005;
Having been to St. Petersburg several times before, I opted to go with a small group on a private tour with DenRus, a certified Russian tour operator. Many people think that they either have to take the ship's shore excursions, or obtain a Russian Visa (quite expensive and requires a sponsor) however, the Russian immigration law has a loophole in it that says that if you are on a passenger cruise ship in port for less than 72 hours and have booked with a certified Russian Tour company, a visa is not required.
We were off the ship, cleared immigration and were met by our driver and tour guide right on schedule. Our game plan was to spend the first day sightseeing and shopping in St. Petersburg, then come back to the ship. In the evening, we were going to go nightclubbing in St. Petersburg's infamous nightclubs. The following day, we were going to explore Peterof. The day's touring went quite smoothly and we saw an abundant amount of sights including the Hermitage, Church of the Spilled Blood, Peter and Paul Fortress, and so on. The highlight of the day for me was shopping on Nevsky Prospekt, St. Petersburg's main shopping street. I could easily go back and spend days exploring the shops, malls and department stores, as they all offer unique products not seen in the United States. I purchased an excellent globe for my wife's charm bracelet at the only jewelry store on Nevsky Prospekt and got a great deal on it.
Back on the ship I tried to take a nap after a short stint in the spa and was dressed and ready to go meet our driver and guide for the 9 pm appointed time. We again met at the Cova Cafe, cleared customs and took off for the evening. We immediately drove to the Palace Bridge and I was surprised to see tens of thousands of people congregating around the bridge itself. We eventually found a place to park and made our way to the river's edge. There was a bar (located on a barge tied up along the river) so we made our way onto it and ordered a beverage. The view we had was awesome. We didn't realize it, but we were about to witness the official start of the "White Nights Festival" a celebration of Russia's longest days of the year. When the time came, the bridge opened, fireworks started and a 3-masted ship passed through the draw bridge firing canons. While it looked somewhat like a Disneyland production, the Russian population went nuts. They were screaming and shouting and one could easily feel their pride at being Russian and living in St. Petersburg. It was a hoot. Once it was over, we started to make our way back to our automobile and noticed an incredible amount of empty bottles along the way. My conclusion was that the people living in St. Petersburg really know how to party!
We departed the area looking for nightclubs. The first one we hit turned out to be fully booked because of the festival, ditto for the second. We ended up back on Nevsky Prospekt at a nightclub known as Magrib. We made our way in, enjoyed some caviar and vodka (the third time I have ever drank vodka in my life...long story) and tried to blend with all the local characters. The clubs in St. Petersburg serve a very important need. At midnight, all of the bridges along the river open so that ships can navigate the river. They stay open all night, so that if one is caught on the wrong side of the river after the bridges open, they hit a club for the evening and stay until it becomes light outside and the morning finds the bridges closed. After a few vodkas, I started to explore the environs of the Magrib nightclub. The front entrance found what appeared to be seasoned and exceptionally evolved bouncers...I wondered why they were there. I walked into several rooms and then made my way towards music I heard. I came to the entrance of the disco and it was packed with folks. I was astounded at the beauty of the women that I had seen in the club's restaurant and was keenly interested in taking a look inside the disco. When It came time to pay the bill, we eventually came up with enough rubles to pay the bill (HINT, if you go out on your own in St. Petersburg, you will need rubles. You can get them at any ATM. There is one in the Hermitage near the entrance. You can also get them at the major hotels in St. Petersburg that offer both a currency exchange and ATMs.)
After paying the bill, we decided to penetrate the disco to see what was going on. OMG, I have never seen more beautiful women in my life. Don't get me wrong. I am a happily married man and am not looking for another woman. It is just that, well when any man sees what I saw in that disco, you just can't help but comment on it. Suffice it to say that if you want to have an unusual and memorable experience, go nightclubbing in St. Petersburg. Men, you will never forget it. You count on the fact that the next time I am in St. Petersburg for the evening, I will bring back a thorough report. The drive back to the ship gave me a personal memory that will stay with me until I die. We passed the Church of the Spilled Blood at about 3 am and it was lit up in the white night. I think it was one of the most beautiful things I have seen. I am not sure that anyone else noticed it.
May 28th, 2005;
The person that handled the reservations with DenRus knew exactly what they were doing, as our tour the next day did not start until 11am. This gave us plenty of time to recover from the evening's events and get ready for another day of touring. We met in the Cova Cafe, debarked the Century, cleared customs and met our new friends. We drove for an hour or so before we arrived at Peterof. Peterof is something very special. Understanding the engineering that went behind the fountains and the entire palatial grounds leaves one speechless. While we were unable to tour the main palace at Peterof, we were able to visit Katherine's palace and bath house. I made a mental note to return to Peterof and spend an entire day.
We were back at the ship in plenty of time before our departure for Denmark. This evening's dinner was wonderful, as everyone had some excellent experiences to share about their time in St. Petersburg.
May 29th, 2005;
We arrived in Estonia right on time and took the shuttle from the ship to downtown Tallinn (only a ten minute ride and easy walking distance) From the drop off point, it was only a five minute walk to the entrance to Tallinn's walled city. Tallinn is one of those ports everyone falls in love with. It offers everything wonderful about Europe, but nothing negative. The people in Tallinn are warm and friendly, the shopping is world class with prices even better than St. Petersburg, the sights are to die for and the overall experience is memorable. Every time you turn a corner there is another photo opportunity it seems. Everyone enjoys Tallinn and it is probably most people's favorite port on this itinerary. We stumbled upon a wonderful restaurant and had one of the best lunches I have ever had. I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting a fabulous gourmet lunch break while in Tallinn. After shopping and exploring Tallinn's winding and cobbled streets and taking a zillion pictures for the Tallinn, Estonia port review page, we eventually went to the appointed shuttle pick up spot and returned to the ship. All in all, it was one of the best days of the cruise.
May 30th, 2005;
We actually spent the entire day at sea and were expected to arrive in Copenhagen at 8pm. I spent the day in meetings with a number of the members of our group and then the afternoon in the spa relaxing. By the time Copenhagen was in sight, I was ready to go and meet a good number of folks from our group to walk into Copenhagen and visit Tivoli Gardens at night. Unfortunately, the Century had to wait for another ship to depart the harbor before being allowed to dock, so it was about 9pm before we were able to debark the ship. We walked all the way to Tivoli arriving at the back gate at about 10:15pm only to find out that it closed at 11pm. The group decided to forget about Tivoli and find some dinner instead. While at first blush it sounds easy to locate a restaurant, the plain fact is that Copenhagen rolls up early and every restaurant we tried closed at 10pm. We made our way to the Nyhavn area and finally found one that was still open. What a mistake. The service was horrible, the food inedible (actually, all I had was a salad and it was fine, but those ordering a hot meal were disgusted) and it was expensive to boot. So far the evening wasn't going too well. After delivering one of the pieces of shoe leather the restaurant called beef to the owner, we left for greener pastures. We stumbled into a Scottish pub that seemed to have a number of patrons so we entered and found some seats. Being resilient, we immediately started having a great time. In fact, we ended up closing the pub and walked all the way back to the ship at 3 am in the rain that had developed while we were in the pub. All in all, it was a memorable evening.
May 31st, 2205; Copenhagen,
I slept in and after taking breakfast in the Islands Cafe, started to get ready to go back into Copenhagen's shopping area. We were to meet in the Cova Cafe at 10am and there were only a small number of us that made it. Upon leaving the ship we were greeted by heavy winds and a good amount of rain. Having been to Copenhagen a good number of times, I decided to spend the day on the ship, as did some of the others. After an hour or so enjoying a latte at the Cova Cafe, the rain let up and the wind died down so two of us decided to take the ship's shuttle into town and walk back with umbrellas. It turned out to be a good decision, as the rain ended and it became a somewhat nice day. After shopping we ended up in a small local restaurant in Nyhavn and this time we were treated to an outstanding meal. After seeing some of the sights on the way back to the ship, we boarded in plenty of time to spend some time in the spa before dressing for the Century's last formal night. Our cocktail hour and dinner was simply wonderful and I also made an attempt to attend the evening\s entertainment, the production show "Shout". I almost made it all the way through it before heading off to bed.
June 1st, 2005; Day at Sea
We had our final seminar this morning in Michael's Club and it went quite well. In fact, we lingered for over an hour past the time we were to end. I enjoyed lunch with some of the folks from our group and made appointments for the evening with two couples that wanted to talk. I am sure it is no surprise, but I then spent the afternoon in the spa for one last session. I was dressed for dinner and somewhat packed to debark the ship and made my way to the Hemisphere Lounge to my appointments and then to meet the group for a business card exchange. It amazes me how close folks can become on a cruise. I saw so many close friendships that had developed during the past 12 days and made some new friends myself. I really think that this is the real essence of cruising. Sharing the experiences of the ports, dining together and simply relaxing and letting go. Dinner that night was a bitter sweet experience. It was a very enjoyable meal, but also very sad to think it was the last of the cruise.
June 2nd, 2005;
I had booked myself on an 11:30 flight from Amsterdam to Cincinnati and then connecting to San Diego. I was one of the first off the ship, but was still met with a long queue for taxis. I decided to walk down tot he small train station about a quarter of a mile towards town and hailed a taxi to the airport. It was a short ride with the exception of the commuter traffic heading to work. I was able to check in for my flight, grab a quick cup of coffee and then make my way to the gate for an on time and uneventful flight home.