Sail of the Century
Century cruise ship gets a luxury overhaul
AT SEA IN THE BALTIC » There was something not quite
right with the Century.
The Sibelius Memorial in
Back in the early 1990s, the decoration and
furnishing of the gleaming new MS Celebrity Century was
the personal project of Mrs. Myrto Chandris, doyenne of
the cruise line's founding family.
In early 2006, despite its worn carpeting and
decade-old facilities, it still appealed to a loyal, if
steadily shrinking, cadre of senior cruisers.
But for the newer and younger breed of ocean
travelers, the ship named the Century was, well, just so
Cruisers in the 21st century, now, have been
demanding luxury improvements found on more elegant
vessels, like those on other leading cruise companies,
as well as on Celebrity's newer ships, like the
Millennium (launched 2000) and the Summit (launched
In the wake of some customer criticism, Celebrity
Cruises booked its relatively old Century in for a
complete makeover at a Sicilian shipyard. It was
accomplished in just over a month, between April 28 and
70,606-ton MS Celebrity Century normally carries
1,750 passengers in 875 cabins. Facilities
include eight bars, casino, cinema, discotheque,
health club, computer room, two swimming pools,
sauna, Jacuzzi, several shops, three dining
areas and a theater for live entertainment.
There are special programs for children.
» The Baltic
Sea itinerary described here is scheduled again
for June 3, 15 and 27; July 21; and Aug. 2 and
» Prices for
the 12-day cruise will vary depending on
individual arrangements and exact dates. For
August they will be about $2,000 per person for
an Inside cabin, $2,500 per person for an Ocean
View stateroom, $3,000 per person for Veranda
accommodations, and $4,000 per person for a
Suite. Prices for cruises before that could be
Century has scheduled other European itineraries
for the fall season, and will operate in the
Caribbean Sea during the winter.
Celebrity Cruises Inc., 1080 Caribbean Way,
Miami, Fla. 33132
The improvements were put to the test during a recent
12-night Baltic Sea Cruise out of Amsterdam. The
itinerary included calls at Copenhagen, Stockholm,
Helsinki, Oslo, St. Petersburg and Tallinn, the capital
The Baltic Cruise is being offered several times this
summer on the Century. It will be repeated next year.
The Celebrity fleet consists mainly of two classes of
vessels. The more elegant choices are the Millennium,
Summit, Infinity and Constellation. Considered more
modest are the Galaxy, Mercury and, until recently at
least, the Century.
"Now many of the Century improvements are features
previously found only in the Millennium class," said
Keith Ashley, Century's hotel director. He directs
everything on board the ship except its navigation and
physical well-being, the responsibilities of the
Balconies are the main thing, he said. Today's
cruisers demand private verandahs on their staterooms.
The previous Century provided a measly 40 balconies.
The new Century managed to add them to the outside of
314 more staterooms without reducing the size of the
cabins. Also during the renovation, workers lifted in a
prefabricated section of 26 balconied cabins, replacing
a seldom-used feature called the Sky Bar.
Not that there aren't plenty of other bars and
lounges available, including the new Martini Bar, with
its frozen wall of ice and 230 varieties of martinis,
and the hip, new Sushi Bar on the Resort Deck.
The Century had also been criticized by some for the
lack of an alternative restaurant besides the regular
Grand Dining Room. This has now been corrected with the
addition of Murano, a swanky Italian restaurant, whose
meals are available at an extra charge. (Reservations
Many other features were added to both the staterooms
and the public areas, Ashley said. There are new and
better mattresses fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets,
for example. And there are LCD wide-screen televisions
in the cabins.
Some things might yet need to be adjusted. In our
cabin the flat-screen TV seemed to flatten everyone's
heads. We were not able to contact the 24-hour room
service when we were awake at 4 a.m. due to jet lag. The
hard-to-read map of the Century's 12 decks gave no
indication of the floor numbers, just the name of each
Copenhagen is seen from the
deck of the MS Celebrity
The captain of the Century provided interesting daily
announcements from the bridge, but his voice could be
heard only on speakers in the public areas and not
inside the staterooms. On other ships we've seen, this
kind of thing could be found on a TV channel, which
passengers could decide whether to turn on.
On the other hand, some of the many handy interactive
features on the cabin TV kept us informed as to exactly
how much money we were spending on the ship and allowed
us to reserve our places at various classes and other
events. What with shore excursions and other add-ons,
the screen soon revealed that we had reached what was
for us a financial high-water mark.
Wireless e-mail access is also available throughout
the ship, although the quality is subject to frequent
variations in the satellite reception. This kind of
thing was a bargain on a previous cruise we made aboard
the Celebrity Summit but now much more expensive on the
Century, which charges between 50 cents and 75 cents a
minute, depending on various package deals.
One new offering we've never seen on any cruise ship,
including others in the Celebrity fleet, was
acupuncture. My needle-savvy wife sprang for the $115
treatment and was glad she did. (Package arrangements
are available.) Other passengers enjoyed spa facilities
that were not available on the previous incarnation of
"Years ago the first ship I worked on didn't even
include a gym -- just a promenade deck available for
exercising," Ashley said. "Fitness facilities are in
demand for today's cruisers. Our AquaSpa has been a huge
The AquaSpa includes its own separate restaurant,
with special, health-conscious offerings.
The interior decorating of the new Century is indeed
elegant from stem to stern. But from our point of view,
the greatest attraction of the ship was its Baltic Sea
itinerary, since it provided a taste of all four
Scandinavian capitals, plus the wonderful art and
architecture of St. Petersburg and Tallinn. It was good
to see them in the summer, too, when the winter-weary
residents of these northern countries were in a mood to
soak up the sun.
The ship's theater offers
SEVERAL SHORE excursions are offered through the ship in
all these ports, although we varied our own approach to
each of these ports, sometimes finding our own way
around the city, sometimes taking tours we found
ourselves. Three-hour ship tours ran around $50 to $80;
all-day tours ran from around $150 to $200 and usually
In Copenhagen we opted for a ship-sponsored bicycle
tour ($85), allowing us to join the local cyclists to
cover a lot of the flat urban landscape. Our first stop
was to the famous waterside Little Mermaid statue. Then
we pedaled through parks and gardens and eventually
using bike lines along busy streets. Frequent stops
included the royal surroundings at Amaliehaven Square
and the nautical neighborhood at the Nyhaven Canals.
A day in Stockholm for us included a ride on the top
deck of a double-decker tour bus we found in town by
The Baltic Sea itinerary of the
Century stops in seven cities in
12 nights. A bicycle tour pauses
in the Amalienborg Palace square
ourselves, giving us a giant's-eye view of such
monuments as the Royal Palace and other grand buildings.
A walking street provided an interesting shopping
Helsinki was more pleasant than I had imagined, and
easy to explore. The unique Sibelius Memorial, a steel
sculpture created in 1967, is designed to reflect the
Finnish composer's musical style in visual form. The
modern Temppeliaukio Church is also an architectural
success. It was built into solid rock and light is
brought into the structure through 180 narrow windows
under a copper dome. The center of the city is dominated
by the imposing Helsinki Cathedral, built in 1830.
Oslo, which we had visited before on a Crystal Cruise,
we explored pretty much on our own this time around. The
ship tied up beside the ancient Akershus Fort, a castle
that dates from the 13th century, and it was an easy
walk from there into town. Other cruisers took in the
almost obligatory Viking ship museum and the famous
outdoor statues in the Gustav Vigeland Sculpture Park.
In St. Petersburg we took the ship's combo tour of
the city and the wonderful Hermitage Museum on one day,
and a river-
Balconies on the Celebrity
Century as seen from the
Akershus Fort in Oslo.
canal cruise on the second day, pleasantly soaking in
art and architectural treasures dating back to Imperial
Russia and beyond. Besides the Hermitage, highlights for
us included the interiors of two recently refurbished
cathedrals, St. Isaac's and the Peter and Paul cathedral
in the fortress island in the Neva River. The latter
included a chapel in which were interred the remains of
the assassinated Czar Nicholas II, his family and
servants, which were found only in 1991.
The biggest surprise was Tallinn, the charming
capital of Estonia, whose genuine medieval atmosphere
invited us to explore many of its winding and narrow
cobblestone streets and open plazas in the old town.
Tallinn is known as a musical sort of place, and the
Eurovision Song Contest is held there annually. When we
wandered into the main square, a large and very
professional concert band was playing a selection of
popular and classical selections.
All in all, the Baltic Sea seemed an ideal proving
ground for the new Century, and an experience we will be
happy to remember.