The 71,545-ton, 1,814-passenger Celebrity Century debuted in 1995 as the first of three Century-class ships. Century's sisters, the former Celebrity Galaxy and Celebrity Mercury, are pleasing German passengers for sister line Tui Cruises as Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2, respectively.
While the mid-size Century has been surpassed in tonnage and innovation by Celebrity's 2,850-passenger Solstice-class quartet, the goal here is to provide a best-of-both-worlds experience -- one featuring a comfortable blend of today's required amenities (plenty of balconies, 314 of which were added during a 2006 refurb, and a sumptuous French-Continental specialty restaurant) along with the more intimate ambience offered by smaller vessels. Century has a few unique-to-Celebrity touches, too, including line's only stand-alone AquaSpa Cafe, which offers healthy (but very tasty) cuisine. (On other ships it's a buffet line tucked into the solarium pool area.)
Moreover, Celebrity uses Century as its dedicated pathfinder. The ship spends the summer months sailing Alaska's Inside Passage, then repositions to Australia for the winter (the southern hemisphere's summer). Panama Canal and Hawaii cruises, typically around two weeks in length, are sandwiched in between.
The Grand, Century's sprawling, two-story dining room, is the ship's primary focal point for dining. It serves open seating breakfast and lunch, and offers two seatings for dinner at 6 and 8:30 p.m.
The Celebrity Select dining option varies from the traditional, assigned-time, assigned-table dining plan. With Celebrity Select, passengers have the option to dine any time between 6:30 and 9 p.m., and to decide whether they want to eat with their own party or at a table with other passengers. They can also make specific dinner reservations for each day of their cruise online in advance, make reservations onboard or simply show up when ready to eat.
The cuisine in the main dining room offers a blend -- particularly at dinner -- of both standard (broiled salmon, sirloin steak) and more adventurous fare (quail). There's always a vegetarian starter, soup/salad and entree (toasted Israeli couscous cake).
The dining room itself is sparingly decorated -- the eye candy in The Grand is its huge, two-deck high window on the ship's stern. It must be said, though, that it's a brilliant design. Beyond the magnificent sunsets at night -- the view never lets you forget you're on a cruise ship.
A note about seating: Tables for two are very limited and generally located in some of the less desirable spots. Most tables are for six and eight with a sprinkling for larger groups.
For more low-key eats, the Casual Dining Boulevard, A.K.A. the lido buffet, offers a variety of stations and options, from breakfast's homemade waffles to lunch's sandwich, soup and salad bar (in addition to the usual buffet fare). The Pizza and Pasta Center (basically just a counter where you can order made-to-specification fare) is dangerously tempting; open from noon to 1 a.m., it's a great place for a before-dinner snack (taken out onto the aft deck's Sunset Bar -- bliss).
Tea, with attendant pastries and sandwiches, is served here from 4 to 5 p.m. (and also at The Grand).
Don't miss the fabulous Sushi Cafe. Open only from 6 to 10 p.m., it's located at the very end of the boulevard, right up against the Sunset Bar. The spread of various rolls is beautifully laid out, delicious to taste (and perhaps makes for a slightly healthier pre-dinner snack), and the cafe itself, with its black lacquer decor, is atmospherically Asian.
Just beyond the boulevard is a grill -- open during the expansive hours between lunch and late dinner -- offering hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and fries, along with a special or two every day.
At night, a portion of the lido is transformed into the Island Cafe for casual dining. Reservations are required (which basically takes the casual out of dining), and the venue is so popular my party had a hard time getting a table! The menu is basic -- I had a delicious roast chicken with mashed potatoes, simple and lovely. And you don't have to dress up. Suggested gratuity here is $2.
The Cova Cafe on Deck 6 is a charming space. Often there's live music (of the soothing, classical variety), and the buttercup-yellow linen clothes and wall mural exude a note of elegance. On my trip, Cova Cafe was open from 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and frankly, it would have been nice if it could have started serving even earlier for those folks in a hurry to make a shore excursion. You pay for the beverages -- coffees, such as latte, espresso and the like, as well as various teas and a delicious hot chocolate. The snacks, which range from croissant and Danish in the morning to pastries and cookies later, are complimentary. There's a wine tasting some nights between 6 and 8:30 p.m. for an extra fee.
And as lovely as the Cova Cafe is in the daytime, it's just as lovely at night -- sipping a glass of wine and watching the parade of passengers pass by.
I've saved the best options for last: Murano, the cozy (only 66 seats) alternative restaurant. Contrary to those Millennium-class restaurants that hark back to traditional cruising ambience, Murano is sleek and contemporary in a way that reminds me of swishy 1940's flicks. It's all white with glittering Murano chandeliers and candles.
There's a stiff $45 per passenger service charge just to sit down at Murano and trust me when I say it's worth every nickel, all 900 of them. Beyond the fact that the cuisine is of incredibly high quality, the service is personable, professional, and the tableside dining was as much fun as participating on something like "The Rachael Ray Show!"
Murano has two menus. The first is a four-course meal that you order a la carte, one item from each category. It starts off with an appetizer (lobster bisque vs. goat cheese souffle vs. foie gras, oh my!), moves on to an entree (the rack of lamb en croute was superb), and then to dessert (for me the only possible choice was the Grand Marnier souffle). Portions are appropriate -- not too big, not too small -- so when you move on to the last course -- cheese -- you're not as stuffed as you'd think. Not being a huge cheese aficionado, the presentation via a rolled cart with a variety of choices from soft to hard and gentle to savory, was fascinating anyway, and with the slightest display of interest, the waiter will happily plunge into a wealth of tidbits and recommendations. They'll also make superb recommendations about which liqueur to pair with your selections.
There is no additional charge beyond the $45 for this Murano experience (aside from your drinks), though I did tip additionally.
Culinary adventurers can also opt for the Five Senses tasting menu. There is one more course, but each is a bit smaller so as not to overstuff, and they're pretty much chosen for you (rather than the longer list on the standard menu you have a choice of a couple of items in each category). The five-course menu started off with the lobster bisque, then foie gras or goat cheese souffle, the lamb or sole stuffed with lobster mousse, then cheese, then dessert. The significant difference is that the restaurant sommelier pairs a different glass of wine with each course. The foie gras with a Sauternes, instead of the South African chardonnay that had accompanied it on my other, "regular menu" visit, transformed the dish from fabulous to mind-blowing. Also lovely was the Tokai, a Hungarian after-dinner wine that was matched to the Grand Marnier souffle. The wines are included in the $89 per person tariff.
Quite the contrast is the ship's AquaSpa Cafe. Tucked in a simple, serene space next to the spa, it's the best in the Celebrity fleet, offering light and healthy fare for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. It's operated by the chefs and waitstaff of Murano -- a major plus -- and it was nice to be recognized and greeted warmly on each foray, along with a "will we see you tonight?"
My third favorite way to dine on Celebrity Century was via room service. Prompt, efficient and featuring a menu with the kind of 24-hour stuff you usually see: sandwiches, salads, burgers. You could also order from dining room menus at lunch and dinner.
One of the boons of booking a ConciergeClub cabin is that its balcony furniture features a dining table for two. Blessed with gorgeous weather, I ate as many meals outside as possible.
Passengers with special dietary needs, such as diabetic, low-sodium, low-fat, and kosher, should alert the line at least 15 days in advance of sailing.
As expected on a ship this size, Celebrity's three-deck high "plaza" communicates the intimate, rather than grand. Deck 5 is pretty much devoted to the business of your holiday -- with its excursion and purser's desks, and the concierge station. The latter, also a service available to all, proved to be quite helpful to a number of folks. I was eavesdropping when the concierge was helping one lady, concerned that her credit card company had declined her charges. First she figured out the nature of the problem (hint: it's helpful, if you don't travel often, to give your bank a heads up beforehand or they'll assume the charges are fraud-related, which was the case in this situation), then provided the number of her bank and actually put through the call.
Murano is located on this deck as well, and there's a very strange shop that sells ultra-luxury goods; it was empty nearly every time I passed it.
Decks 6 and 7, the Promenade and Entertainment respectively, are the main gathering places for inside the ship fun. On Deck 6, the anchor is the Cova Cafe; off to various sides include a card room, a generous library (that actually spills over into the game room), Online@Celebrity Internet stations, and a conference room that also serves as a cinema and lecture facility.
The Entertainment Deck starts with a handful of shops as its focal point. While the merchandise ranged from the usual duty-free and souvenir items you find on most ships, they may also carry itinerary-specific fashions and collectibles. This was one area of the ship, however, that was rather cramped and almost impossible to navigate when passengers were moving between The Grand Restaurant and Celebrity Theater.
Also on this deck is Celebrity's High Seas Computing classroom, with rows of terminals and offering a variety of workshops; options range from Adobe Photoshop to Web site design, and from basic Introduction to Windows to Microsoft Excel. Classes are $20 apiece.
While the computer stations here aren't typically available to passengers, there are Internet-connected machines scattered in various places -- there's a group right next door, as a matter of fact, and wireless capability exists, though it is temperamental. The price is fairly high these days for cruise ships -- 75 cents per minute -- though packages can reduce the per-minute charge to as low as 24 cents.
The cabins -- whether inside or the Royal Suites -- represent a lovely blend of comfort and contemporary style.
All cabins, from insides on up, feature soft Egyptian cotton linens and duvets, flat-screen televisions with cable channels and movies-on-request (some free, others $8.97 to $13.99), and wireless Internet access. There are colorful plush pillows and lush window treatments (outsides on up) that are actually functional and attractive, closing perfectly to create a dark room during daylight. A nice touch is the small, individual lamps attached to the walls above the bed allowing one person to read without disturbing the other.
Standard-sized cabins (this includes insides, outsides, and those with balconies) are, at 175 square feet, on the small side of industry average. But they are brilliantly decorated and outfitted to maximize space. The shower-only bathrooms in these staterooms have trendy vessel sinks. The roomy shower is twice the length of those found on new ships.
The balconies measure about 44 square feet.
Century has a handful of unique cabins called "sunset verandah staterooms"; they're located on the stern, above the white canvas sail-like tent that hangs over the Sunset Bar.
And, like the rest of the fleet, Century has ConciergeClass cabins. Though much the same as the standard balcony staterooms in many ways, these entitle passengers to a few extra perks. Those that stood out -- and made it worth the extra cost of a regular verandah stateroom -- included the Frette bathrobes, chilled Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine, fresh flowers (in a neat stem-by-stem vase), daily hors d'oeuvres and the aforementioned balcony furnishings that featured a table for dining. In 2012, Celebrity expanded the ConciergeClass services to include an exclusive pre-departure lounge with free coffee and juices. The best thing? Passengers in these accommodations can order from a special ConciergeClass breakfast menu where options include the usual Continental fare with a big plus! Pancakes, omelets, eggs-to-order, fresh-squeezed orange juice and cold cuts were terrific, but even better were some of the ConciergeClass "signature" dishes, such as granola berry parfait, baked bananas and Russian Sevruga caviar. (Alas, the latter was priced a la carte at $44.50.) The smoothies were delicious. (Blueberry-watermelon was a favorite.) Also falling in the "very special but it will cost you" category were drinks, like mimosa, bloody Mary and Champagne. Nice way to meet the day.
At 246 square feet, the Sky Suites are basically just a bigger standard balcony cabin -- but they do have roomier balconies (69 or 179 square feet depending on location), a bit more space and a very lovely marble bathroom with a big soaking tub.
The Century Suite is very much like the Sky Suite, though interestingly, it's slightly smaller (190 square feet with a 35-square-foot balcony). The big difference? It comes with a DVD player and sumptuous bathroom.
The eight 537-square-foot Royal Suites are more of what you expect in a suite -- with a separate living and sleeping area (divided by a huge 42-inch flat-screen television on both the living room and bedroom sides), along with DVD and CD players. There's also a small dining room -- part of the L-shaped configuration of the living area. The bathroom is divine, with separate tub (whirlpool) and shower, lots 'o marble, and a walk in-closet with a little vanity. The suites come with a lovely long balcony (94 square feet) with plush furnishings, teak instead of the standard metal-mesh stuff, and plump chair cushions.
The Penthouse Suite -- there are two -- is the piece de resistance. At roughly double the size of the Royals, these feature a separate bedroom and living room, huge bathroom, guest powder room, walk-in closet, Bose electronic equipment, a dining room with butler's pantry and wet bar, and, on the verandah ... a whirlpool. Interestingly, while the suites themselves measure a generous 1,101 square feet, the balconies, at 118 square feet, are actually smaller than, er, smaller suites.
All suite passengers are entitled to butler service. Typically, butlers deliver cruise-sized newspapers, full meals and afternoon tea. They also provide shoeshine service, and booking assistance in Murano and the AquaSpa.
Century has seven wheelchair accessible oceanview cabins, one inside stateroom and two Sky Suites. Accessible staterooms are placed on centrally located floors and within close proximity to key destinations, such as guest relations, elevators and reception areas.
Celebrity Cruises is increasing its suggested gratuity by 50 cents per passenger/per day beginning on all bookings made on or after April 29 for all cruises that begin on or after the same day. The new suggested gratuity will be $12.00 per person/per day, if you're in a standard cabin; $12.50 per person/per day, if you're in a Concierge Class or AquaClass; and $15.50 per person/per day, for passengers in suites.
|Fitness and Recreation|
In the main pool area there are two pools. One is more of a family pool; the other, adjacent, is a bit quieter. Other features include four whirlpools and a dance floor.
Century's spa is truly magnificent. AquaSpa is a lovely retreat, one of the prettiest I've ever seen at sea, with a blue and green color scheme that actually offers a visceral pleasure just walking through. Features include a Persian Garden relaxation room, outfitted with steam showers and heated tile loungers. There's a charge to use it -- I never got around to it. More interesting is the barber shop for men and, heralding the mainstreaming of tooth whitening treatments, a dedicated area that includes a heated lounger and flat-screen television. (If you've ever tried the treatment in a standard spa room it's about the most boring 50 minutes you'll spend -- and roughly as pleasant as a visit to the dentist.)
There's also a stand-alone acupuncture facility adjacent to the spa. Century's AquaSpa was the first to offer a treatment room specifically designed for folks with disabilities. Kudos on that one.
A full range of treatments is offered from standard massages and beauty treatments to fancier stuff, like an "Egyptian Ceremony of Milk and Ginger" and a "Tahitian Ceremony of Flowers." Prices are, as usual, on the high side, but there are discounts on port days -- look for them in the "Celebrity Today" daily newsletter or just check with the spa. A warning: Numerous passengers complained about a hard sell on products following a treatment. Because this behavior is, sadly, prevalent on any spa operated by Steiner (as is this one and just about every cruise line's facility), I've learned to politely say "no thanks" to the pitch before my treatment gets started.
The usual fitness class offerings apply -- things like Pilates and spinning require a fee, stretching and aerobics do not.
Golfers can partake of a golf simulator. Basketball and Ping-Pong are other recreational options.
The Fun Factory, the actual play facility for kids, is a windowless, mid-ship destination, unlike those found on newer vessels featuring windows and adjacent deck space for splash pools and such. Programs for children ages 3 - 11 are available every day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The Fun Factory opens a half hour before arriving in port for children whose parents depart before 9 a.m. for a Celebrity Cruises Shore Excursion. A trained youth staff supervises games and activities such as karaoke, puppeteering, theme parties and movies.
Celebrity's program is divided into several age groups: Toddler Time (under 3 years), Shipmates (3 - 5), Cadets (6 - 8), Ensigns (9 - 11) and Teens (12 - 17). Toddlers are permitted in Fun Factory only with parental supervision. Both Shipmates -- who must be diaper-free -- and Cadets must be signed in and out of the Fun Factory by someone 18 years or older. Ensigns can sign themselves in and out of programs -- some based in Fun Factory, others in venues around the ship -- until 10 p.m. Teens can enjoy their own hangout, X-Club, which features electronic games, sports activities and late-night, teen-only dances. Youth counselors host all activities in the teen facility, which boasts dark paneled walls and 1960's streamlined couches and chairs (a little James Bond modish).
Activities are held, on sea days anyway, morning, afternoon and evening, and include, for instance, "partycrafts" and "family scavenger hunt" for the Shipmates, "Super Hero Intensive Training" for Cadets, "Scavenger Quest" and a talent show for Ensigns, and "Dodgeball Insanity" for teens.
For-fee activities are scheduled when the ship is in port and each evening. These include lunch and dinner parties, and slumber parties. Fees are $6 per hour, with immediate surcharges for late pick-up. Group babysitting is available in the Fun Factory on port days from noon until 2 p.m. and in the evening from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. for a fee of $6 per hour per child. In-cabin babysitting for children 12 months or older is subject to availability. Fee is $19 per hour for up to three children in the same family.
Passengers fall mostly into the 40--to-60-plus demographic and hail from a variety of places, although primarily the U.S. and Canada with increasing representation from Europe and Latin America. On the ship's Alaska itinerary expect more families and different ages traveling together.
Country club casual is the buzzword onboard, both day and night -- though of course the evening version of the dress code is a bit more elegant than the daytime one. There are several formal nights, and folks primarily dress in cocktail garb with men in jackets and ties (only a few sport tuxedos).
Daytime activities, particularly on sea days, offer the usual cruise fare -- movies, organized bridge games, Champagne or wine tasting (fee applies), and activities' staff events such as table tennis or "battle of the sexes." Online@Celebrity features computer classes, and the Fortunes Casino, with table games and slots. It's open when the ship is at sea.
The ship's energy level really gears up as dinner approaches, and lounges such as the Martini Bar, featuring a shivery, ice-like decor, and the elegant Michael's Club, are popular places for aperitifs. Other cocktail venues include Rendez-Vous Square, which has a small platform for musical performers and dancing, the Crystal Room Night Club, a secondary performance venue, and Hemispheres, the top-of-the-ship observation lounge and disco.
And let's not forget the Sunset Bar, which wraps around the back of the ship. It's the best place for a sail away cocktail -- and the occasional vocalist or guitarist is a pleasant accompaniment.
Post-dinner shows and concerts are primarily held in the Celebrity Theater and are, of course, timed to main and late seating dining. Productions may be mildly entertaining, if a little bit old fashioned. Musical offerings are nicely varied. A dance band for hipsters may play in the Crystal Lounge, the Rendez Vous is the scene of more laid-back dance music. Michael's Club is a great spot for sentimental favorites.
Other activities may include a late night country hoe-down or "The Best of Elton John." Particularly interesting is an effort to match movies in the cinema to the itinerary.
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