Now more than a decade old, Celebrity's Century-class ships still shine, with classic modernist style and Celebrity's elegant yet casual vibe.
Typical Per Diems: $65-$110
Century sails the Caribbean from Miami (winter/spring 2011), from Baltimore (winter 2012); the Panama Canal from Miami (spring), from San Diego (fall); Alaska from Vancouver (summer); amd Hawaii from San Diego (spring & fall).
Mercury sails the Caribbean & Bahamas from Baltimore & Charleston (winter).
These are the ships that ushered Celebrity into the megaship world and also sealed the line's reputation for elegant, gorgeously designed vessels with a truly modern flair. It's difficult to say what's most striking: The elegant spas and their 15,000-gallon thalassotherapy pools? The distinguished Michael's Club piano lounges with their leather wingbacks and velvet couches? The two-story old-world dining rooms set back in the stern, with grand floor-to-ceiling windows allowing diners to spy the ship's wake glowing under moonlight? A modern-art collection unmatched in the industry? Take your pick -- you won't go wrong.
In part through regular refurbishment and in part because they were ahead of their time to begin with, Century and Mercury have held up remarkably well in their decade and a half at sea, both in practical and aesthetic terms. That said, they aren't immune to the passage of time, and as this book was going to press we learned that Mercury is about to endure the fate of many aging cruise ships: In February 2011 she'll leave the Celebrity fleet to join TUI Cruises, a German company owned in part by Celebrity's parent company, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Sad news! Particularly since we, your humble authors, first met aboard Mercury, just before her launch, way back in 1997. Talk about the passage of time . . . .
Simple yet pleasing decor is cheerful and based on light-colored furniture and muted color themes. Standard inside and outside cabins are larger than the norm, and suites, which come in four categories, are particularly spacious, with marble vanity/desk tops, Art Deco-style sconces, and rich inlaid wood floors. Some, such as the Penthouse Suite, have more living space than you find in many private homes (1,219 sq. ft., expandable to 1,433 sq. ft. on special request), plus such wonderful touches as a private whirlpool bath on the veranda. Royal Suites run about half that size (plus 100-ft. balconies) but offer touches such as French doors between the bedroom and seating area, both bathtub and shower in the bathroom, and TVs in each room. Mercury's 246-square-foot Sky Suites have verandas that, at 179 square feet, are among the biggest aboard any ship -- bigger, in fact, than those in the more expensive Penthouse and Royal suites on these ships (you may want to keep your robe on, though, as people on the deck above can see down onto part of the Sky Suite verandas). All suite bathrooms have bathtubs with whirlpools and magnified makeup mirrors. Like the Solstice- and Millennium-class ships, the Century-class ships also have ConciergeClass staterooms, which are located mostly on the Sky and Penthouse decks. Though a tad less cushy and amenities-filled than regular suites, they provide a lot of extras without the full-suite price.
All regular inside and outside cabins (170-175 sq. ft.) are outfitted with built-in vanities/desks, stocked minifridges (accounts are billed for any snacks or drinks consumed), hair dryers, cotton robes, and safes. Closets and drawer space are roomy and well designed, as are the bathrooms. Cabin TVs are wired with an interactive system that allows guests to order room service from on-screen menus, select wine for dinner, play casino-style games, or go shopping.
Eight cabins aboard each ship (one inside and seven outside) are specifically designed for passengers with disabilities.
The two-story formal dining rooms on Century and Mercury are truly stunning spaces reminiscent of the grand liners of yesteryear, with wide, dramatic staircases joining the two levels and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass facing astern to a view of the ship's wake. If you lean toward the dramatic, don a gown or tux and slink down the stairs nice and slow like a 1930s Hollywood starlet. There aren't many places you can do that these days.
Century provides a dinner alternative at the Murano restaurant, named for the Venetian island famous for its glass blowing and decorated with Murano chandeliers. The restaurant's decor also includes a floor designed to resemble medieval European paving stones; a hand-painted mural themed on travel and adventure; and glass-fronted, polished-nickel wine armoires displaying backlit bottles. Elaborate, multicourse meals follow the style of Celebrity's Millennium-class specialty restaurants, with their table-side cooking, carving, and flambé.
Each ship also has an indoor/outdoor buffet restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as pizza and ice-cream stations.
Both ships are designed so well that it's never hard to find a quiet retreat when you want to feel secluded but don't want to be confined in your cabin.
Each vessel boasts a cozy Michael's Club piano bar, decorated like the parlor of a London men's club. It's a great spot for a fine cognac or a good single-malt Scotch while enjoying soft music. On Century, Michael's Club piano bar maintains its wood-paneled clubby ambience somewhat better than aboard the Mercury, where it wraps around the main atrium and looks onto a very uncozy view of the shops below. Still, you can't beat the high-backed, buttery-leather chairs and dark setting.
For those who don't find that clubby ambience appealing, the Cova Café is an alternative, with specialized upscale java at extra cost. There's also the popular Rendez-Vous Square, arranged so that even large groups can achieve a level of privacy and couples can find a nook of their own. On Mercury, it's a gorgeous, two-level space defined by rounded wooden walls, champagne-bubble carpeting and glass panels, and a two-story Sol LeWitt mural created specifically for the ship. One level features a champagne bar, the other a martini bar. Various other bars, both indoor and outdoor, are tucked into nooks and crannies throughout both ships.
The multistoried, glass-walled nightclubs/discos are spacious and cleanly, modernly elegant, designed with lots of cozy nooks for romantic conversation over champagne. Both ships have double-decker theaters with unobstructed views from almost every seat (though avoid those at the cocktail tables at the back of the rear balcony boxes, unless you have a really long neck).
Pool, Fitness & Spa Facilities
Pool Decks aboard these vessels feature a pair of good-size swimming areas rimmed with teak benches for sunning and relaxation. Even when the ships are full, these areas don't seem particularly crowded. Aboard Mercury, a retractable dome covers one of the swimming pools during inclement weather.
The ships' excellent 10,000-square-foot AquaSpa and fitness facilities are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional. The gym wraps around the starboard side of an upper forward deck like a hook, the large spa straddles the middle, and a very modern and elegant beauty salon faces the ocean on the port side. On Mercury, the focal point of the spas is a 115,000-gallon thalassotherapy pool, a bubbling cauldron of warm, soothing seawater. After a relaxing 15- or 20-minute dip, choose a massage, a facial, or something more exotic, such as a Rasul treatment (a mudpack and steam bath for couples) or herbal steam bath. A day pass to the thalassotherapy pool is $20, a weeklong pass is $99, and you get use of the pool free if you book any spa package. Unfortunately, Century's thalassotherapy pool was removed during her 2006 renovation. Both ships also have saunas and steam rooms.
The gyms are a generous size, with aerobics classes in a separate room. Standard classes are free, but trendy ones such as Pilates and spinning are $10 a pop. There is also an outdoor jogging track on an upper deck and one deck that's specifically designed for sports.