In travel, as in life, so much focus is put on the latest and the greatest; on the newest product that you can try. While I do like shiny new things I also love the chance to be part of a farewell tour, of getting to be one of the last people to experience something.
Last year I had the chance to do this on the great Australian rail journey The Sunlander, which will clack down the tracks from Cairns to Brisbane for the last time at the end of the year.
This year I’ve taken part in the farewell tour of a different kind of vessel, a more sea-faring one that goes by the name Celebrity Century.
When she first set sail twenty years ago, Celebrity Century was the largest premier cruise ship in the world. Today, at 71,545 tonnes, 12 decks and just over 1,800 passengers she’s considered a mid size ship, an almost old fashioned cruising experience.
As the oldest ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, it has been decided that it’s time for her to move on, and she has been sold to another cruise line. Not only is this goodbye to her, but as she was both the first and the last of the Century Class ships it’s also the end of an cruising era.
Knowing it was her last year as a Celebrity ship before taking on a new persona I’ll admit I did wonder what she would be like. Was I signing up for a week on a ship with peeling paint and outdated facilities?
Turns out she’s still on fine form and looking good. She may not have an ice rink and you can’t surf at sea in a wave pool as you can on some ships, but she had more than enough for me.
For a week off the coast of California I became very attached to the old girl. My stateroom was roomy, clean and comfortable, and I loved waking up at sea and looking forward to the day ahead, and to coming home to her after a day of exploring.
She was my home as we cruised under San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, the place I fell asleep with a smile on my face after seeing hundreds of dolphins leaping out of the water. But as well as the fun to be had outside the ship, I loved just being onboard and watching the world go by.
Celebrity Century Dining
Despite my best intentions not to eat too much on this cruise I was doomed to failure thanks to the tempting and tasty food on board. As well as enjoying the meals in the main, two level dining room, I had a couple lazy room service moments in my stateroom (don’t you just love free room service?), and then there was the fine dining experience in Murano.
As regular cruisers will tell you, the food is usually included on a ship unless you decide to dine in an alternative restaurant, which is where you will pay a little extra. In the case of Murano, it’s $45 per person for a dinner that is worth oh so much more.
For those who really want to treat themselves, The Chef’s Table in Murano is an experience I won’t forget in a hurry.
Having met Executive Chef Stephen Adelle Jondeau on the ship’s galley tour and hearing how he doesn’t get to do that much actual cooking anymore, it felt very special to have him create a beautiful meal for us, especially when he prepared some of the six delicious dishes right beside our table.
And a note for the food lovers and sticky beaks out there, the ship’s galley tour is open to everyone, with more than 400 people doing it on the same day we did, so make sure you keep an eye out for that chance to go behind the scenes.
First Ice Bar At Sea
There was a moment when our group of Aussies sat down in the Celebrity Century’s Martini Bar, looked at the menu for the first time, and realised we could purchase a entire flight of six mini martinis for the same price as a single cocktail back in Sydney.
There was a moment not long after that when our orders arrived and we realised these martinis weren’t all that mini, and they certainly hadn’t been watered down.
A very popular little spot, the Celebrity Century’s Martini Bar features the first ice bar at sea (as in, the actual bar ices up, not as in an entire bar made of ice that you may find in an ice hotel). It also has lovely furry chairs that are hard to stop petting. Especially after a martini or six. Mmmmm…. Furry chairs….
Canyon Ranch Spa on Celebrity Cruises
The words Canyon Ranch may sound like the name of a cattle farm to some people, but to those who know their spas it means something very different.
Considered a world leader in luxury spa vacations, the original Canyon Ranch is found in Arizona, others have followed in Florida and Massachusetts and the Celebrity ships have the only Canyon Ranch Spas at sea.
With a pedigree like that, who was I to resist? The spa offers a range of massages, facials, body treatments and more. I went for the hot stone massage, which was pure heaven. My only mistake was having it before dinner. All I wanted to do afterwards was curl up and sleep.
A top tip for new cruisers: keep an eye on the daily specials at the spa as they have some great offers. So much so that a few days after what was supposed to be my only treatment I was back for more, going for an all over body massage from the specials list that I found both relaxing and invigorating.
If you book a treatment, head along to the spa early so you can also spend time in the spa’s Persian Garden, which features heated mosaic lounges that feel divine as you lay back and watch the world go by.
Goodbye Celebrity Century
At the grand old age of 20, Celebrity Century will leave the Celebrity fleet for another company in April 2015. While she may have entered her final year as part of the Celebrity Cruises family, she’s sure going to see a lot of the world while she still has that big X on her smokestack.
Celebrity Century will visit 77 ports in 32 countries in her final year, more than any other ship in the fleet.
I already know that when I see her in my hometown of Sydney’s Circular Quay later this year I’m going to get a little emotional. When I asked one of the officers on board how he felt about having to say goodbye to her, he looked genuinely upset as he told me, “she’s an old girl, but a good girl.”
Hop on board if you can, she’ll take care of you and you can help give her the send off season she deserves.
Love cruising? You may want to check out some of my other cruise reviews, including Azamara Club Cruises in the Mediterranean, Venice on Uniworld’s River Countess, chasing the Northern Lights in Norway on Hurtigruten, a South Pacific adventure with Holland America’s MS Oosterdam and cruising down the Mekong with Pandaw.
Then there’s my guide to Sea Days on the biggest cruise ship to ever be based in Australia, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.