Travel Weekly West Coast bureau chief Jerry Brown sailed on a
seven-night Caribbean outing of Celebrity's Century. His report
ABOARD THE CENTURY -- Our itinerary was supposed to carry us
through the western Caribbean, with calls scheduled at Ocho Rios,
Jamaica; Grand Cayman; Cozumel, Mexico, and Key West, Fla. -- the
latter three of which I had never visited and was eager to
Yet here we were, 12 hours out, headed for San Juan, Puerto
Rico, with St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Nassau, the Bahamas, to
follow -- all of which I had seen many times before.
All things considered, though, it was a switch with which I
could not find fault.
The Century -- all 70,606 tons of it -- had become a victim of a
late-season tropical storm dubbed Marco.
When weather reports clearly indicated after our departure from
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that Marco was staking a claim to the
western area of the Caribbean, Capt. Gerassimos Andrianatos wisely
steered the Century out of harm's way.
Ending up on the Century's alternate-week eastern Carib-bean
routing rather than the western itinerary scheduled was frustrating
for some people.
One man, for example, had bought back-to-back eastern and
western itineraries, only to end up repeating the same cruise
As for me, gone was my chance to visit Ernest Hemingway's home
in Key West.
Gone was my opportunity to visit with an old friend from home, a
surveyor now living on Grand Cayman.
In the circumstances, it was natural, perhaps, for passengers to
turn a more than usually critical eye on the ship itself.
It says much for the Century -- celebrating its first
anniversary of service -- that it stood up to the intense scrutiny
Even in the heavy waters on the edges of a tropical storm -- up
to 23-foot swells, according to Capt. Andrianatos -- the ship
earned high marks from most of those on board.
A member of an electrical-supply company incentive group offered
somewhat sheepishly that although he was "on the wrong side of 50,"
he had never cruised before.
And he asked, "Is every ship as nice as this one?"
An English lady, having crossed the Atlantic in search of
sunshine and having been rewarded, instead, with the back of
Marco's hand, might have been miffed.
She did not seem to be.
"I know Celebrity can't do anything about the weather," she
said, "and the ship makes up for it, doesn't it?"
A year ago, Century vaulted Celebrity to a higher plateau,
alongside the other operators of brand-new, large ships.
Together with the even-bigger Galaxy newly in service, the
vessel gives the Miami-based line a formidable high-end one-two
Three things, especially, were impressive about the Century --
its entertainment, its two-level dining room and its food.
The Celebrity Singers and Dancers produced colorful, high-energy
shows in the ship's elegant theater.
Naomi Hatsfelt, one of the group's lead vocalists, was equally
listenable when belting out numbers Ethel Merman-style and when
whispering torchy ballads a la Julie London.
The star of the show one night was a Vietnamese-born comic
juggler, Thien Fu, whose thick accent made even his Henny
Youngman-vintage jokes hysterical.
Much has been written about Century's Grand Restaurant, capable
of serving more than 1,000 passengers at a sitting -- a truly
handsome room, dominated by a short staircase linking the two
The food matched the setting.
My traveling companion, my 26-year-old son, tends not to rave
about cruise ship victuals, but he volunteered that this was as
good as any food he ever had eaten at sea.
There were, it is true, moments of irritation in the Century
experience -- minor, but the more annoying because they were
Late one afternoon, for instance, as we enjoyed a beverage in
one of the ship's many bars, we asked the server if we might have
some peanuts or pretzels to nibble on.
No, she informed us, politely but firmly. Because of a busy
afternoon in the bar, she had run out of all such snacks.
That may not seem like a big deal, but when you ate lunch at
noon and dinner is not until 8:30, it somehow assumes a greater
degree of importance.
The point was that it should have been possible -- even
mandatory -- for her to call for somebody to bring her more
The passenger in the booth next to us, by the way, had just been
through the same routine with her and was a little disgruntled.
Then there was the matter of the falling spoons.
Three nights in a row in the dining room, a different server or
busboy somewhere near our table dropped some pieces of cutlery --
But nothing -- not Marco, not 23-foot swells, not peanut
deprivation, not noisy moments in the dining room, not even the
fact that I managed to lose my daily poker machine allowance
without entering the casino, courtesy of the ship's in-cabin
television-screen gaming -- could disguise the fact that Century is
a quality product.
Presumably following the axiom "If it ain't broke, don't fix
it," Celebrity has committed the vessel to its alternating eastern
and western Carib-bean pattern through April 19, 1998.