Friday, January 28, 2011

Goldring Travel's 2011 Celebrity Century Cruise - How Close to Luxury Can Celebrity's Smallest Ship Get? - Some Final Observations and Thoughts

My last day on the Celebrity Century was a bit of fun, a bit relaxation and a bit of "this feels like the longest cruise I have ever been on". 

After a leisurely breakfast and some more observational strolls, it was time for a light lunch so my DW and I went to the Grand Dining Room.  Again there was disappointment.  Today was "brunch".  It consisted of a fairly typical buffet, but it offered far less than the buffet in the Islands Café and, more importantly to me, it was horrifically noisy and dirty.  We arrived at 12:30 PM and literally not a single table in the entire dining room was clean.  If two people at at a table for eight, their plates were gone, but the rest of their remnants remained (napkins, glasses, etc.) were not and if it was a table for two, it was no different.  Hence, we were left with either sitting at a dirty table, compromising on less appetizing food and staying in a loud area or heading back to the Islands Café and carrying our trays to the Sunset Bar to dine al fresco.  You know what we did.

Then it was time for a shuffleboard tournament within our group.  We had a fun time, but we had to find our individual way to the bar to get drinks and the equipment was a bit shoddy, the deck seriously in need of a good sanding and oiling and only a few older loungers available.  (I did think of the Seabourn Odyssey and Sojourn's new "fancy" shuffleboard and putting greens with comfortable all weather chairs and sofas...and the bar waitstaff, but kept it to myself.)  My DW and Nancy won; a tremendous victory!

Then it was time for a nap on my balcony.  Aside from the stains on the lounger cushions the two on our suite balcony were quite comfortable, so with one of my bath towels used for a bit of cleanliness, I was quickly asleep...only for my DW to come bursting onto the balcony yelling in panic "I lost my glasses!" (Like I had something to do with that!).  So, still in a half-sleep I said, "Give Nancy a call.  I am sure she picked them up at the shuffleboard tournament."  Her response, "I can't!  I can't see the numbers on the bloody phone!"  I tried not to laugh...Really I did...but I had to.  (Nancy had her glasses, so I was off the hook.)

I was then forced to see the pre-dinner show.  After the barwaiter gave me the wrong drink...and then spilled it on my pants...I was forced to stay.  And then I was forced to stay even though the show was terrible.  (Anyone want to buy a CD or DVD after the show?)

Dinner was good; truly enjoyable.  But the waiters and barstaff were just too smiley and asked too often if everything was to my liking.  Oh, yes, that is because it was the last night and even though we had paid our gratuities ($15.00 per day in a suite), that wasn't enough.  They wanted more.  And, to be sure, some of those in my group did give more but I was - as a seasoned cruisers - more offended than shamed into slipping twenties here and there.  (And I gladly tip extra when deserved.)

I should note that my butler was present thought the cruise and was more than willing - always with a nice smile - to do anything I asked, but I just didn't ask. He dutifully brought us tea and finger sandwiches at 4PM everyday, but generally we weren't in at 4PM. He would bring us canapés at 6PM, but we generally weren't in at 6PM.  Would I consider this "luxury"?  Not really.  It was nice, but as I have always said, it is more show than substance...and not worth paying a premium for.  (I should also note that I do not think I ever saw my room steward.  He did an acceptable job keeping the room tidy.)  I do still recommend paying the extra for the Sky Suites and their amenities...just don't do it because you get a butler.



Now for my concluding thoughts:

My premise in writing this was actually not based upon any true belief that a five day cruise on the Celebrity Century (the oldest and smallest ship in the fleet) could actually provide a luxury experience because there simply is no way it could.  It is not its purpose and the clientèle that enjoy this ship want a particular product that is more upscale than Royal Caribbean or Princess and without all of the glitz and activities and announcements...or they just found it to be a good value for a five day getaway.  Other than dinner in Murano, certain times at the Sunset Bar or Michael's Club (stained furniture aside) "luxury" in its true sense is not what the Celebrity Century is about.

Someone said to me that they felt five days was the perfect amount of time for a cruise.  I asked them if they had some more cultural or other activities off the ship (visiting ruins, snorkeling, sailing, ATVs, cultural tours, etc.) so that the ship was less the focus and days were more diverse would five days be enough?  The response was "Good question.  I don't know."  Because of the lack of those things...even more so than the state of the ship...I felt five days was far more than enough...for me. 

Does that make me a "cruise snob"?  No, it means I need my cruising time to be more mentally rewarding and enriching.  I need to walk the fish market in Catania, Sicily or visit the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey.  There are many people that those things simply hold no interest.  They would just as easily and quickly say, "Seabourn has fancy ships with nothing to do and its way too formal.  Yuk."  They are not wrong; Seabourn is just the wrong product for them.

What was truly disappointing and a bit shocking for me was the difference between the Celebrity ships.  I am sure the Solstice-class ships have spoiled me, just as the Celebrity Suites on the Millennium-class ships have, but to a lesser degree.  Celebrity does not try to be everything for everybody, but I think just as the Meridian, Zenith, Horizon, Galaxy and Mercury have said goodbye, the time for Century to do so may be near.

I am not sure what will be done, if anything, to spiff her up before she spends her summer doing 7 night Alaska cruises and then travels to Australia.  Considering the options out there for similar cruises one really needs to look hard to be sure this older lady that is showing a bit of neglect is one's best choice.  You really need to ponder whether what she offers is what you really want.  I am sure that for many it is, but for others don't see the Celebrity name and assume she provides what Celebrity markets.  Other Celebrity ships do, but Century...