Head to Head

04/30/04

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Comparison between the Celebrity Century and the Holland America Veendam.

Category

Century

Veendam

Ship features

Rooms in general

Overall B- The standard outside rooms in the Century were comfortable but not quite as large as those in the Veendam.  The rooms really need more electrical plugs, there is only a shower, and the step up into the bathroom takes a bit of getting used to.  Overall, the bathroom is very well laid out and while cramped is very functional. The space under the bed to store the luggage is a great idea. The bar space is wasted.

Overall B Rooms are small but definitely bigger than the Century.  A full (small) couch instead of just a chair.  The overall furniture is not quite as nice as the Century.  The bathroom is definitely bigger with a full (small) bath instead of just a shower.  We ended up storing our suitcases in the bottom of the closet since there was no room under the bed.  More electrical plugs would be nice.

Our room

B Everything was in great shape although there was a slight sag in the bed.  It was still very comfortable.  The chair and end table are just the wrong size for the corner that they are in.  We ended up placing the table over the arm of the chair to give us an additional foot of walking space.  Carpet was a bit worn but it was barely noticeable.  Window was not as clean as that of the Veendam which was surprising since we were several levels higher and should have gotten less spray.  The room was very comfortable.

B The only real complaint was the sofa.  It should have been a step up in fabric to conform with the rest of the ship.  There was a smidgen of rust on one of the screws in the window, but the window was clean!

Cabin Attendant

A Fantastic!

A Ditto!

Common areas

B- My only real complaint on the common areas was the glass in the Hemisphere lounge was dirty.  This would not have been so bad but it was a prime spot for viewing and taking pictures and as you can tell, I like to take pictures.  The library on the Century was definitely a step up from the Veendam both in number and types of material.  The lounges were all nice and a bit better defined than the Veendam (of course it is a bigger ship).  Lots of nooks and crannies to escape from everyone and the deck areas under the lifeboats reminded me of the old time sailing ships. The casino was a bit of an obstruction and took up the full breadth of the deck.  So, to get around the casino we had to go up or down a floor.  This would not have been so bad, except the noise and flashing lights had a tendency to give my wife headaches forcing us to find creative detours.

Smoking was more prevalent on the Century than on the Veendam although it was not debilitating for those of us with severe tobacco allergies.  Smoking in front of the Grand Restaurant was definitely excessive.  On the other hand, the view from the Grand Restaurant was magnificent.

B The library was the only real disappointment on the Veendam. The number of books made it seem that the library was more of an afterthought than a real area of interest. The lido deck did not have all the excitement of the Century but it more than made up for it with the sliding glass roof and the pool.  Not that many people used the pool which was just as well since the waves were an art form in themselves.  Watching the waves form in the shallow lip of the pool and in the area around the dolphin statues was one of the most restful parts of the cruise.

I like the major theater in the Veendam a bit better than the Century only because it was more like a coffee house with chairs and couches around mini-tables, rather than row after row of seating.

Overall, I prefer the layout of the Veendam a bit more than the layout of the Century.

Overall ship ride and handling

A- Minor rocking at night (boy was it restful!) There was a little turbulence two days at sea but the ship handled beautifully.  This is not really a fair comparison since the water was so peaceful!

B- We were chasing a hurricane most of the trip and the ship movement reflected this.  One morning we woke to the ship having a significant list to one side.  The automatic levelers were not functioning and it took a few hours for the manual adjustments to take place.

Activities

 

 

Main Entertainment- ship performers and musicians

A- The ship dancers and singers had three big performances ranging from very good to excellent.  Lots of energy, good special effects, and quality performances.  The singers did a very good job on most of the songs (the Tina Turner segment was nailed perfectly) but were only fair on some of the other numbers.  The dancers were great.

We spoke to two of the performers after the last show and discovered that some of our major concerns were being addressed.  The shows are being updated and refreshed.  For example, the show on Rock glossed over some areas and stopped in the late seventies.  The Broadway show had one number from Phantom (I am a bit spoiled but the singer was not suited for that song!) but did not have anything more current.

The ship band was great performing at all the shows.  A minor complaint with the piano player who worked with the passenger variety show.

B- The dancers were good, the shows were interesting, but the quality was more the level of a major theme park rather than Vegas.  Also consider that the Veendam is quite a bit smaller than the Century and with fewer guests, the show will naturally be a little less flasher, a bit rougher around the edges, and a little less professional.  All-in-all, though, all the big performances were well worth going to and lots of fun provided one does not expect to see Broadway or Vegas level shows.

Main Entertainment- Headline acts B The "ladder guy" had an act that had to be seen to be believed.  He actually gave two performances one on the ladder, the other on unicycles.  The other name act was Mark Preston.  He gave a very good Las Vegas style performance but as my wife said, he used every trick in the book to minimize the actual time he had to sing (Similar to what Cher has done on her farewell performance).  He spent a great deal of time on video clips and having an audience member sing while he assisted (all of which was fun) but he did not really do that much serious singing. A- A comic, a juggler, and another act that I can't remember right now!

Lounges

B The piano player (whose name I did not get) who performed at Tastings was very good.  If we had had more time to sit and listen to him perform, we probably would have.

A- One lounge had a performer who was only fair.  We never stayed around more than a few seconds when he was performing.  The reason why this score is so high is because of the Rosario Strings.  They are amazing. If the group could be cloned and perform on every cruise ship, I would be ecstatic.

Dancing

Other entertainers

Movies

C Yes, people do not go on cruises to see movies, but at least the movies should be ones that are not yet out on video.  Lord of the Rings 2, Harry Potter 2, and several other movies of similar vintage.  For the two we have not seen, we decided to decided to forgo in favor of renting them when we got home. The theater is far superior to the one on the Veendam and is used for seminars as well as movies.  Another minor complaint.  Movies are only shown one day and repeated throughout that day.  So, if you missed a movie on a specific day, you could not see it on a later showing.

B- Once again, older movies although these were not yet out on video.  An interesting selection and one that we really wanted to go see (The Princess Diaries).  The movie theater on the Veendam needs some major renovation and some better seating but the free hot popcorn before the movie was a definite plus.

Other entertainment

B- the talent show was okay but could have used more rehearsal and a better accompanist.  The bingo was well attended but not one of my interests.

Parties

The staff

Waiter

A+  Srgen, our waiter was spectacular.   Anything we wanted, he got for us.  When I was having a difficult time with the duck, he quickly deboned it.  When others were having lobster problems he neatly removed the meat from the shell.  If we couldn't decide between two items on the menu, he would insist on bringing both.  If something was not on the menu he would try to get it.  A lively conversationalist and a fascinating person to talk to. I was impressed.  Our assistant waiter was very good filling in perfectly whenever Srgen was doing other things.

Our assistant matre de was also excellent.  He was able to get a set of menus for me as well as fill me in on various ship activities.  Excellent job.

B We were really disappointed in our waiter and wine steward.  Part of the problem was that we were only at a table for six with two empty seats and I suspect that much of his time was spent with his other, larger tables.  Our table mates did spend a lot of time fussing about the food which I am sure kept him a bit further away so he would not have to receive so much flack.  The wine steward did not seem that interested in us once he discovered that we were not wine drinkers and that my wife really wanted Dr. Pepper.  No effort was made to find it or even to suggest how to get it (If we had arrived at formal dining and there had been a can of Dr. Pepper waiting for he, he would have gotten a lot of praise and a large tip)  As it was he did not appear to be concerned.

On the other hand, the assistant waiter (who also did duty as the yum-yum boy) was excellent.  He did everything the waiter was supposed to do, kept us entertained, and was very helpful.

Cruise director and staff

B+ We did not see much of the cruise directors (we had an emergency substitute fill in for two days while the regular cruise director was taking care of personal business) other than at the main shows but we did see most of the staff around all of the time.  Guest services were almost always able to give us exactly what we needed when we needed.  The only real problem we had was finding a time when shore excursions were open to try to straighten out our departure.  A few minor annoyances.  We were off the ship and halfway up the docks in the Bahamas before we found out that our tour was cancelled.  This lead to a bit of confusion and since it took so long to figure out what was happening, we lost the opportunity to go on any other tour.

B+ We did not see much of the cruise director on the Veendam either, but we did get to meet the staff, all of whom were excellent-  especially Crystal, who we met as we were boarding the ship and whose home town was only 5 miles from ours.  I much prefer the Holland America method of all tour groups gathering in the main showroom before leaving the ship on the tours.  It definitely prevents confusion and simplifies things if there is a problem.

The Captain

A- We did not see as much of the captain on the Century as we did on the Veendam.  My wife would definitely give him a A+ but as she said several times "He was built like a Greek god with long curly black hair....."  His accent took a bit getting used to, but he was friendly and was very gracious at the reception.  He also gave a running commentary each day describing our next port

A The captain was gracious, witty, and more than willing to speak to passengers.  He is the only non Dutch captain on the Holland America fleet.  He commented on that saying that it gave him a chance to show the other captains how the British do things. Great reply.

Food

 

 

Dining Experience

A

A

Main dining

A

A-

Buffet

B-

A

Other dining experiences

B

B

Pre-Cruise

Paperwork

C The information from Celebrity came in a spiral bound document, obviously customized to our trip.  It contained everything we needed to know in a concise manner and included shore excursions specific to our cruise.  On the negative side, it really was just a plain set of documents with no indication that this was an upscale cruise.

There was only one set for my wife and I, unlike Holland America where we each had our own set of documentation.

B+ The Veendam easily wins this category with the fancy document holder.  Yes, it is plastic, but it gives you a great place to store all the important papers in an elegant fashion. It reminded us of an old time boarding document into which we could add our passport and ship information. This was our first exposure to cruising and it gave us a great impression that this was to be an upscale vacation.

Customer relations

A- Before our cruise we decided to call to double check on things like drink cards, Dr. Pepper availability, and a few other totally trivial points that were important to us.  The Celebrity folk were knowledgeable and when they did not have the answers, they apologized, put us on hold and found out the information.  A definite class act.

B- We did not call Holland America before our cruise since we did everything through our travel agent.  After the cruise I had some questions, however and was able to get the information from a very friendly PR person.  My only negative was the evaluation we filled out the last day of the cruise.  There were several questions and not enough space to give full answers, so I added a comment to have them call me to further discuss the items that needed clarification.  They never did.

Overall Impression

A    Our second cruise which meant that we had something to compare against.  The Century is different than the Veendam but just as enjoyable for totally different reasons. Main dining and theater productions definitely favored the Century but in other areas that we expected to see greatness, we did not. A nice ship with a great crew. 

A    A few minor complaints but most were just that- minor.  The Veendam is more intimate than the Century which is to be expected based on the sizes of the two ships. The areas where you would expect to see better quality based on the numbers being served (main theater, types of activities) the Century did better.  The litmus test is would we go on the Veendam again to which we give a resounding "Yes!"

 

 

 

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