January 28, 2005

CENTURY AT CHRISTMAS... MMM - ??


As you will know from earlier postings, we had dithered about booking on Century for Xmas 2005 after reading very poor and mixed reviews about the quality of on-board management, and the state of the ship which is about 8 years old and due for a refit in early 2006. But as the Millenium was booked and then there were some good reviews we did. So this review on a similar cruise to the one we booked from Xmas 2004 wasn't very good news... psted by James on CruiseCritic..

"Dec 24 2004 sailing on Celebrity's Century:

Sailing at Christmastime is always a gamble for people who enjoy an upscale cruising experience (my vision of a good cruise usually does not include large families with many children -- a given on holiday cruises). Still, when selecting Celebrity (based on 2 prior experiences with them -- once on Summit and another on Century in 2003) my wife and I (experienced cruisers with over 20 cruises) felt it would be well worth the extra cost to enjoy the premier service we had received in the past. This was not the case.

HIGH holiday prices = LOWER level of service?

I could not have been more disappointed however, as the ship was severely understaffed for the holiday cruise despite significantly higher prices. Service outside the formal dining room was truly terrible -- bar service was only adequate at the pool, nowhere else, drinks were being top-poured after tight measuring of each shot (even the Amstel light beers were 11.1 oz not 12), and to get a decent martini ($8.95 plus 15% auto gratuity) one had to endure the sports bar with its "Carnival decor" and crowded atmosphere. Smoking is not allowed in the Michaels Room cigar bar (they can sell cigars but you can't smoke in there now -- what gives)?

"Not in my job description" attitude or just POOR MANAGEMENT?

Piles of trays from the Islands Cafe (Deck 11) constantly littered the pool and public seating areas, and I had to help a little old lady with Parkinson's Disease clear her own place to sit on the aft deck (this was not an exception -- this mess was the rule). There were no service personnel to be seen, and to make matters worse, there was nowhere to leave the trays and dishes if you wanted to be self-responsible and keep your stuff from blowing overboard.

Treated "INfamously" made worse by RUDE PASSENGERS POOLSIDE

No line can be blamed for the percentage of social misfits aboard its ships but when people are saving deck chairs for their kids for 2 hrs and then threaten to go get security if you don't move out of their (absent) kid's chair, there's a need for policy revision. Celebrity needs to make it clear to their self-important clientele that 15 min. is the max duration for their ambiguously stated "reasonable time" when holding limited deck-chair space. Perhaps a poolside sign with the old adage of "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you" would be a great addition to the multitude of other useless signs throughout the ship.

Aquaspa:
Thassolotherapy pool use for $60 pp + 15% auto gratuity (for the whole cruise) was not enforced by the useless front end staff at the Aquaspa. Once they took our money for cruise-long we found ourselves among others who clearly decided to beat the system. They should either charge or not but don't be arbitrary and steal my money for a service you're allowing others for free.

Entertainment:
My wife and I have given up shows a long time ago so I have no comment on the entertainers other than to say that the Pool Band did a decent job: They have a very good lead vocalist and played a fun variety of music. It's true that the band didn't play long enough or at seemingly appropriate times (earlier on days at sea), but this again is a management level issue and has nothing to do with the band. Other musicians were very talented but the highly compartmentalized nature of the Century made it hard to be in the right place at the right time unless you wanted to relax in a crowded hallway or otherwise busy thoroughfare.

Ports and shore excursions:
These were excellent. St. Thomas: Having already been to the big islands several times, the wife and I decided to take an Eco Hike on St. John (led by a native American named Thunder Hawk who is a highly knowledgeable bush medicine expert and ecologist with 12 years on the island). I could not give a higher recommendation to his tour (yes you have to walk so if you'd rather stay on board and reserve your 15 deck chairs please do so). We returned in time to enjoy some properly prepared "Bushwhackers" near the port. Don't miss them - it's the island's unofficial Cruzan rum drink.

St. Maarten: We took the high-speed ferry ride from near the dock to St. Barths -- a very rough ride over (VERY!) but worth it after about an hour of cooling down once on land -- and catching our wits. I recommend finding the little Boulangerie (bakery) near the far corner of town and buying one of their pre-made fresh sandwiches on a French baguette roll for about $4. They were excellent and portable if you wanted to walk out to Shell Beach -- which also was excellent. We had a whole section to ourselves. The ferry ride back was with the current and much smoother.

St. Kitts -- the frou frou-y crowd didn't like the far quieter and realistic town as much as the modernized other ports but we love it. Be sure to check out artist Kate Spencer's gallery and elsewhere read the tombstones outside the church -- many fascinating stories are told there. On this trip, we spent the $98 each for a time on the Catamaran Fan-ta-Sea shore excursion and it was worth every cent. We enjoyed some of the best snorkeling followed by a well prepared and tasty lunch on Nevis (spectacular location -- great coconut salad, bbq chicken and open bar with local rums worthy of distinction). The trip out and back was almost entirely under sail on the 1.5 million dollar "Spirit of St. Kitts." Crew were excellent, choice of music was good, and I've never had a better time on a shore excursion.

Back to the Century:
The wife and I lingered in port each day basically dreading getting back on the ill-maintained and poorly staffed Century. RCI has truly succeeded in devaluing its (historically) premier line while improving RCI in many ways. The only thing that stood out positively about our Celebrity cruise was the dining room food, and even then I found myself ordering shrimp cocktail and grilled salmon more than once from disenchantment with the menu items.
To conclude, the overall experience was only good because we had great table companions (Thank GOD!) and great shore excursions. Basically, I feel ripped off by a company I'd switched to (Celebrity) after 19 RCI cruises (We're RCI Diamond Members). The problem is, since RCI owns both companies, where do I switch to now to get the service that's advertised so prominently?

Final notes for those interested:
-- 2 of the 3 recumbent bikes were broken in the gym -- at least put a sign on broken equipment! -- ceiling was peeling and moldy in the Aquaspa Thassolotherapy pool. -- safe in stateroom constantly needed resetting and was hell to close. -- lots of mold in shower. -- bar mismanagement was evident in each location: Recommend large martini's be available in all bars (after all they're "trendy"). Celebrity cruisers will pay for quality but don't like to be herded around to seedy sports bars for a good drink. -- if it's true that the Century is being relocated outside the US ports due to emissions from its diesel engines, RCI should stop booking cruises on it until they decide to live up to their advertised standards. The loss of vision for distinguishing Celebrity from RCI is apparent and RCI should be ashamed of themselves for their false advertising" Posted by Hello

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