She might be the cruise line’s smallest ‘superliner’ – at 71,434 tons, she carries a maximum of 2,150 passengers – but Celebrity Century will be the most highly-rated vessel based in Australian waters this season.
Not familiar with the Celebrity Cruises line? It is part of the Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited family and it operates a fleet of 10 ships in three classes: Century, Millennium and Solstice. Celebrity Silhouette is the latest to join the fleet, making her inaugural cruise in Europe in July, and Celebrity Reflection is set to launch in November next year.
Celebrity Century is the only ship of her age and design in the fleet. Launched in 1995, she had a $55 million refurb in 2006; her sister Mercury was retired in February. The Millennium- and Solstice-class ships outweigh her in tonnage and youth, but Celebrity Century has character and style in spades.
I sailed on her last year, on a four-night Western Caribbean itinerary, and met many loyal Celebrity fans on board. One of them, Anne Brimberg, was on her 58th cruise since 1994; she’d taken most of them on board this very ship. How, I wondered, could she fit this phenomenal number of cruises into her life? “My husband travels for work; I travel for pleasure,” she replied dryly.
Anne loved everything about the ship: the crew, her stateroom and, of course, the dining, for which the cruise line is renowned. We met at the Captain’s Table in the ship’s Grand Dining Room, an elegant, two-tiered, Art Deco-themed venue that has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the stern of the ship. The service was faultless, the food fresh and light, and our host, hotel director Jan Willem Kuipers, quietly charming.
There are five other dining venues on board: Islands Cafe, the Poolside Grill and AquaSpa Cafe, all on Deck 11; Cova Café Milano on Deck 6; and Murano, the alternative ‘specialty’ restaurant on Deck 5. Islands Cafe also has a sushi bar that’s open from 6 to 9.30pm and Cova Café serves sandwiches and pastries from lunchtime to mid-afternoon, then turns into a tapas bar from 5pm until late.
My cruise companion, Kim, and I booked into Murano for dinner (there’s a US$35 surcharge) on our last evening. It’s a lovely space, all gleaming silverware, sparkling crystal, drifting curtains and subdued lighting, and the dishes were as delicious and refined as you’d expect from a high-end French restaurant. The service from our waiter was nothing like that we’d experienced everywhere else on the ship – he was somehow both pushy and inattentive – but once the maitre d’ took control we had a thoroughly enjoyable gourmet experience.
While we made the most of our shore excursions – a mini-jeep and snorkelling tour of Cozumel was a standout – there was plenty to keep us amused on board. For example, you could start your day with a ‘Chilates’ session at the ship’s fitness centre; attend a cooking demo or food-and-wine pairing lecture; unleash your inner geek in a computer class at Online@Celebrity; brush up your dancing skills; watch a new-release movie, or check out an art auction. However, as Celebrity Century boasts a 500-plus piece art collection that includes works by Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein, why not take the free, audio tour and bone up on the finer points of some genuine 20th-century masters?
Evening entertainment on our cruise included a dance show, a very good late-night comedy act, karaoke and an amazing array of live music in different venues: a string quartet in the Cova Café would be followed by acapella singers, then a solo guitarist; a classic dance band would be the warm-up for a party band in the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 6; and there was a piano player in Michael’s Club on Deck 7. As we left Cozumel there was a Latin-themed night on the pool deck that featured a fabulous Mexican mariachi band, a magnificent spread of Mexican food and dancing with crew and passengers until – well, late.
It will be interesting to see what sort of regionally-themed evenings Celebrity Century will offer on her Down Under itineraries! I hope her tradition of one formal night during each cruise continues: it’s fun to dress up for a change. And like many Celebrity Cruises fans, I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of this lovely ship in Sydney Harbour on November 30.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Celebrity Century will sail from Hawaii to Australia to begin her season Down Under. Her first itinerary will be a 12-night New Zealand cruise from Sydney to Auckland, departing November 30.
• Celebrity Century was the ship featured in the May 1996 episode of The Nanny entitled ‘Ship of Fran’s’.
• Celebrity Century’s ‘ice bar’, within its Martini Bar, was the first such venue at sea. It features a liquid wall that takes on a sparkling crystalline appearance when frozen, and a bar counter that freezes into ice-cold stone, while a solid block of ice is used to display bottles behind the bar.