By way of introduction, this was my fifth cruise. I’ve been on Costa (20 years ago), Royal Caribbean (11 years ago) and Holland America (two years ago) cruise lines, and all of my comparisons with the Century are based on these other cruises. This was my first cruise on a Celebrity cruise ship.
We sailed on the Celebrity Century on June 27, 2006, from Amsterdam on a 12-day Baltic Cruise, on what I believe is the second cruise after the Century’s renovation.
The ports of call were:
Amsterdam – embarkation Copenhagen, Denmark Helsinki, Finland Stockholm, Sweden St. Petersburg, Russia Tallinn, Estonia Oslo, Norway Amsterdam – debarkation
There were three days at sea, and at least six hours at each of the cities, except for St. Petersburg, where we docked overnight. Oh, and for those of you in the planning stages of such a trip, there were three formal nights onboard.
Travel to and from: We flew into Amsterdam from California, a long and arduous journey. This travel was not in connection with Celebrity. It took us about five days to recover from the jetlag.
Stateroom: We were in the Penthouse category, in an Sky Suite with butler. It’s a fabulous room, much larger than any of the other cabins I’ve stayed in with other lines. Of course, it’s still small by any other yardstick. Our cabin had its own veranda (not exactly private, but pretty private). Whenever I remarked about that guy smoking a cigar on his veranda, two cabins down, I’m sure he heard me.
Service to the Stateroom: Superior. There’s no other way to describe it. One joke onboard is that a passenger stepped into his bathroom, and when he stepped back out, his bed was made. That is not terribly far-fetched. If there’s any complaint at all, it’s that our cabin attendant failed to leave us any washcloths one morning, so we called and they delivered four.
The Butler: Our suite came with a butler. We never really learned what to do with him. He brought us tea and coffee in the morning when we said we wanted it (we stipulated 7:30 am so that we could make excursions leaving after 8 am), and then canapés and tea in the afternoon. When my roommate was seasick and missed a few meals, he scolded us nicely, and suggested that he could’ve helped by bringing some soup or calling the doctor. He also could’ve made spa appointments for us, I guess, but we ended up doing that on our own. As I said, we never really figured out what to do with him, but what service he gave us was superior.
Entertainment onboard: If you like going to the shows onboard, don’t read this part as we never availed ourselves of the opportunities. We didn’t recognize the names and so didn’t go. There is one exception to this: we attended the piano concerts of Arad Avner because we like classicial music, and that was stellar.
Activities onboard: The onboard activities were rather like Holland America’s for the most part: fun but low-key things, not a lot for kids that I noticed. 1. There was a nice library filled with travel books and magazines that a lot of people used. 2. Due to the recent renovation, their Celebrity Online room offered computer classes to a limited extent; their classes were primarily about downloading and filing your photos, including beginning and intermediate Photoshop, although you could book private lessons. I don’t know about the private lessons, but the Photoshop classes were $20 each for 45 minutes. 3. There were two culinary demonstrations onboard the ship at Rendezvous Square and I have to say, this was my favorite activity. They actually cooked something in front of you – filet mignon with a nice sauce in the first session, and shrimp in the second session – and gave you a printout with the recipe on it. In the meantime, they had the Master Decorator working on fruit as decorations, and the pastry chef working on sugar or some wonderful dessert in the same sessions. 4. There were various organized and unorganized card and board games going on in the card rooms. 5. The usual art auctions were held during days at sea. 6. They had a wine auction in Michael’s Lounge, plus wine pairings and tastings (for a $10 fee) at the little coffee lounge, Cova Café, on Deck 6. 7. Various trivia games almost every day. 8. Bingo – not as many bingo games as I’ve seen in the past on other cruises, but a nice winner-take-all blackout game that went all the way to the end on our cruise.
Internet: In addition to the computer classroom computers, which usually weren’t for Internet use, there were four Internet computer terminals on Deck 6, and four more on Deck 7 next to the classroom. Internet costs were very high: 75 cents a minute if you didn’t get a package (and you had to be instructed on how to get the package, something I missed the first several sessions), or as low as 65 cents a minute with a package. Despite the cost, it was very difficult to find a free terminal. Everybody, it seemed, wanted to send their grandchildren an email, or print out that boarding pass on the last day.
Dining: The formal dining room is in the double-decker Grand Restaurant. (No decorations here, which I found strange, unlike the gorgeous Holland America dining rooms.) A nice trio plays during dinner, but you can’t hear them past 10 feet. There was a LOT of noise in this dining room – I found it almost impossible to hear my tablemates. We were seated right next to the captain’s table, on the bottom floor (Deck 5), right next to the aft window – we could see the spectacular sunsets in the second seating. The sun doesn’t set until 10 or 11 pm in the Baltic, so if you want to see the sunset during dinner, get the later seating option. But I found that we missed a lot of entertainment because of the later seating….so make your choice accordingly.
The food is superb. I was looking for food that was more to my liking than on Holland America, and I found it. It’s American simple, meaning, fancy enough but recognizable. I loved each and every five-course meal, although for many of them I didn’t select every course.
Dining Room Service: Excellent. The iced tea appeared during every meal as I sat down, as I had requested it during the first dinner. We got to know our crew by name (they insist on that!), and they performed extraordinarily. We found the service to be a little less excellent during breakfast and lunch (during one lunch I never received my appetizer), but that’s a small criticism.
The Spa: I was disappointed in the spa, mainly because of their very heavy, very aggressive sales tactics. I received a manicure, pedicure, massage. My massage wasn’t as good as I thought it should have been: my shoulders and back went back to pain mode not even a day later – not very deep tissue. The manicure and pedicure was very nicely done. But get ready to endure a 10 to 20-minute sales pitch each and every time, sometimes even during the procedure. It got very tiresome so we didn’t go back.
Shore Excursions: Excellent. My roommate has some mobility issues, so we really appreciated the fact that the online version explained how many steps were involved, etc., and took full advantage of their availability by booking all of them online before we flew to Amsterdam. Like the other ships, Celebrity has you meet in certain rooms to get your sticker and directions. This process was normally handled efficiently – and I realize the problems with getting approximately 1500 people off this ship within an hour’s time – but there were some problems, such as certain excursions weren’t called but were being processed, not being able to catch up with the tour leader if you are disabled, etc. We learned to grab the stickers then go down to Deck 3 to disembark BEFORE the tour leader got there. Then we could spot the bus and board the bus by our number. Otherwise, we were the last ones onboard, and the mobility-challenged have to walk to the back of the bus for any seating.
The Itinerary: Incredible!!! So many ports of call on this cruise, so much to see, and yet it allowed us to compare all the Scandinavian countries with each other (and they’re all different!), as well as look at their history with each other and Russia/the Soviet Union. St. Petersburg was just fascinating, as you can well imagine, some years after the Soviet break-up. And the weather during the summer was just fabulous – mostly 70’s to low 80’s.