Trek Of The CENTURY, Part Two

Continue with part two of Peter Knego’s latest trek aboard Celebrity Cruises recently refurbished CELEBRITY CENTURY as the ship visits Alaska’s Icy Strait Passage, the spectacular Hubbard Glacier and Juneau.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Smoked salmon en suite.

In what would become our morning routine for the next six days, the phone rang before a procession that included our room steward Bernard and one or two concierge attendants entered with trays full of delectables edaciously ordered the night prior. As it was a bit windy on the balcony, we ate in the sanctuary of our cabin, beginning with artfully-dressed plates of smoked salmon.

MV COLUMBIA in the passage.

CELEBRITY CENTURY made her way up the Inside Passage, encountering the southbound. 1974-built Alaska Marine ferry COLUMBIA, a 7,7450 ton, 499 passenger charmer that plies between Bellingham, Washington and Skagway.

Sea shine on the CENTURY.

Celebrity Cruises website

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Up top, intermittent showers and a persistent sun waged battle across our ship’s pristine upper decks.

CENTURY to MILLENNIUM at Icy Strait Point.

As we neared Icy Strait Point, fleetmate CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM was concluding her visit to Alaska’s newest port of call, located twenty two miles southeast of Glacier Bay National Park.

MILLENNIUM sails into the horizon.

Moments after we polished up our lunch in the Island Cafe, MILLENNIUM was motoring her way out of the strait en route to Ketchikan.

CELEBRITY CENTURY at Icy Strait Point.

The Tlingit Indians have lived in the Icy Strait Point region for thousands of years and due to its proximity to the nutrient-rich waters of Glacier Bay, it is an excellent spot for viewing marine mammals, bears and eagles. Flightseeing, bikes, fishing and Tlingit cultural tours abound but the main attraction of Icy Strait Point is Ziprider, a 5,490 foot long zipline that plunges riders down at a speed of 65 mph from a 1,320 foot elevation to sea level. As tempting as it was to try, the $100 ticket price seemed a bit steep for a 90 second thrill, so we chose to just walk along the pebbly beach and get a few views of our ship.

High and Dry at Icy Strait Point.

The small complex of buildings at Icy Strait Point was constructed by local Tlingits in traditional Alaskan style. Shops, a cafe and a crab eatery are adjacent to the tender landing.

Sliming table display at Icy Strait Point.

There is also a Cannery Museum that features equipment salvaged from a 1912 built structure and numerous displays detailing the fish canning process. Tours are free.

CENTURY of sleekness at Icy Strait Point.

We tendered back to the ship just before the weather took a slight turn for the worse.

Gym, facing port.

Considering our round-the-clock eating, it was reassuring that the CELEBRITY CENTURY had an excellent gym with plenty of cardio and weight machines to help work off a few errant calories. Prior to our late sitting dinners, it was a great place to spend an hour or two.

Waves.

And the view from the gym, which is located directly above the bridge on Deck 11, is par excellence.

Grand Dining Room, facing forward from Deck 5.

The sweep and scope of the Grand Dining Room makes every meal an event. Despite (and probably thanks to) not having changed since the ship debuted in 1995, it retains its original “wow” factor. Its elegant staircase, brass and nickel pillars, artful ceiling details and sundial motif are just as lovely today as they were when the CENTURY was the pioneering “Cyber Ship”.

Upper Crostini of the CENTURY.

Another excellent dinner began with the Crostini Due appetizer from the CELEBRITY SOLSTICE’s Tuscan Grille Restaurant, featuring toppings of tomato and basil, olive tapenade, red pepper pesto and sun-dried tomato.

Fondant a la Banane before...
Post Creme Anglaise mortem with an "X".

And it all ended too quickly with a Fondant a la Banane featuring a moist walnut and banana cake served warm with Chocolate Creme Anglaise.

Dining dos equis.

We spent the next hour or so walking around the ship, peeking in at the various entertainment options in the public spaces and ogling some of the CELEBRITY CENTURY’s still very intriguing design elements.

Totally Random burled "X" shot.

In the Deck 6 atrium balcony, there is some finely burled wooden veneer in the shopping galleries.

Night passages.

Up on deck, it was noticeably cooler as the CELEBRITY CENTURY entered the open waters of the Gulf Of Alaska. Holland America’s southbound STATENDAM passed off our port side.

Bernard and Avinash in the passage.

It seems the CELEBRITY CENTURY’s staff strives for perfection in pairs. Our duo of cabin stewards, Bernard and Avinash were so efficient, good-natured and dedicated, they made it seem as if their job was easy.

The elephant in the room.

When we retired, there was an elephant in our room…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bergs for breakfast.

As we parted the curtains, the CELEBRITY CENTURY was gently nosing through a patch of ice in Yakutat Bay. Although it was by far the coldest day yet, we couldn’t resist having breakfast in the approaching spectacle of Hubbard Glacier. Coffee, cappuccinos, tea, poached eggs and toast did their most in tandem with Celebrity bathrobes to ward off the chill.

View from the bridge.

At 11:30 AM, we joined a bridge tour as the ship pivoted around the massive blue and gray wall of ice that took 400 years to reach the sea from 11,000 foot origins some 76 miles away. My last and only prior visit to Hubbard was aboard the HANSEATIC in 2009. On that trip, we were able to zip around the ice field and the CENTURY’s near sister, the CELEBRITY MERCURY. A lone tender from the CENTURY hovered off the bow as the ship’s videographers darted lenses between the mountain of ice and our ship.

Glass and ice.

The face of the glacier is anywhere from 200 to 300 feet tall, so even smaller bits tend to make a dramatic tumble. By the time a calving is heard, most of it has already happened. But this was an active day, so if a break-away was missed, it was sure to be followed shortly by another.

Elements of liquidity.

When we returned to the cabin, the port side of the ship was facing the glacier, so we positioned ourselves at the balcony, undeterred by a cold mist.

Calve-alcade!

One last major calve, digitally preserved after its four century journey to the sea. With that, the CELEBRITY CENTURY slowly began pivot towards the mouth of Yakutat Bay.

Whirlpools and a wall of ice.

As the ship gained momentum, the chill had cleared all but the most hardy from the upper rails. A trio of thick-skinned revelers braved the whirlpools as the icy backdrop receded into the CELEBRITY CENTURY’s wake.

Posing for a photo.

For those who missed their chance to pose in front of the real thing, there was one final option.

Back’atcha Yakutat

Blame it on the glacial air but we found ourselves in need of another gnaw or two, so we headed to the Island Cafe. On its aft open terrace, our teeth clattered but we remained transfixed by the evolving scenery.

Shuffle berg.

Although the CELEBRITY CENTURY’s promenades do not fully encircle the ship, they are lined with gorgeous teak and are plenty wide enough for deck chairs, strollers and errant bits of ice.

Bone in teeth in the Gulf Of Alaska.

When the ship reached the Gulf of Alaska, the seas began to swell. For the rest of the afternoon and evening, the CELEBRITY CENTURY pitched and rolled her way on a southbound course to Juneau.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deep in the heart of Juneau.

I was up at dawn as the CELEBRITY CENTURY motored into Juneau, berthing stern-to-stern with Holland America’s STATENDAM. Somehow, I managed to get back to sleep for a short while before we debarked in search of an internet cafe. After two attempts and several hours of fighting low speed wifi, we finally gave up. But the people in town were very friendly and the Juneau looked beautiful in the sunshine as a series of waterfalls plunged from its lush, mountainous backdrop.

Tramming up Mt. Roberts.

It would have been a great day to partake of the view from Mt. Roberts but the $27.00 tram ticket was steeper than the ride, itself. We opted to head back to the ship.

CENTURY tail fins.

CELEBRITY CENTURY’s profile may have been altered but it still has much of its original, edgy elements, such as the angular “tail fins”, a look that first appeared with Celebrity’s HORIZON of 1990 (currently sailing for Pullmantur Cruises as the PACIFIC DREAM). Fittingly, many of the early Celebrity ships shared automobile-related names.

CELEBRITY CENTURY at Juneau.

Dense cloud cover and the promise of rain staked claim to the latter portion of the day.

Deck crow.

With second seating dinner still hours away, we could not resist the urge to get a snack from the Poolside Grill on Deck 11. As we waited for our veggie burgers to be freshly cooked, a brazen raven honed in on some forgotten fries.

Dinner strings.

The second formal night of the cruise was yet another elegant affair in the Grand Dining Room. A string trio at the top of the staircase provided a serene musical backdrop as our appetites swelled.

Imade and Adrian.

Our waiter Imade (Bali) and assistant waiter Adrian (Romania) were yet another duo-de-force of excellent and friendly service on board the CELEBRITY CENTURY.

When in Alaska...

Nothing like a little Baked Alaska in Alaska.

Activities for the morrow.

Another big production awaited in the Celebrity Showroom. We arrived early for good seats and enjoyed the sneak peek at the next day’s events as they flashed on the giant LED screens.

Broadway on stage: The Producers.

The show, a tribute to Broadway, pleasantly veered from the usual pastiche of Andrew Lloyd Weber, West Side Story and South Pacific numbers in favor of some slightly more obtuse fare. The first set of songs was culled from “The Producers”.

Broadway on stage: Hairspray.

“Hairspray”, for beehive or worse, was also featured. As was “Cabaret” and…

Broadway on stage: ???

“Nine”, which gave the acrobats a chance to demonstrate their agility.

Chocolate fondue in the Crystal Room.

Meanwhile, back in the elegant Crystal Room at the stern of the ship, a grand dessert buffet was in full swing. A chocolate fondue and all sorts of baked treats tempted, despite that dinnertime dollop of Baked Alaska.

Ragtime with Richard Rubin in Michael's Club.

At Michael’s Club, we encountered an act that was almost beyond description. Talent is an asset and Richard Rubin has it, along with an absurd, curiously intellectual presence that evokes Ubu Roi, Woody Allen, Groucho Marx and Mel Brooks. Rubin might be known for his part on the reality television show “Beauty and the Geek” but his role as resident CELEBRITY CENTURY vaudevillian ragtime pianist (with a twist) is not to be missed.

Martini Bar ice in counter.

Afterward, we had a chance to see the Martini Bar “in action”. The CELEBRITY CENTURY had the first “ice top” bar counter at sea when this venue was installed but it has since become a favorite feature on Celebrity’s brilliant new SOLSTICE class of ships.

End of CENTURY At Sea Trek, Part Two

Very special thanks: Dayna Adelman, Martin Cox, Rob Di Stefano, Elizabeth Jakeway, Tavia Robb

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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