Panama Canal Cruise 2013:
Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale


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Panama Canal Cruise 2013: [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2 - At Sea] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Colombia] [Day 5 - Panama] [Day 6 - Canal] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Costa Rica] [Day 9 - At Sea] [Day 10 - Guatemala] [Day 11 - At Sea] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Mexico] [Day 14 - Mexico] [Day 15 - At Sea] [Day 16 - San Diego]

Friday, January 18, 2013: We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale via Atlanta near midnight, and checked into the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Beach Hotel.

We had booked an oceanfront room, but were upgraded to a two-room oceanfront suite.
It was quite large, with a full bath and a half bath, ...
... and bright, sunny views in both rooms. We opted for a room service breakfast in our living room in the morning.
Here's the view of the beach to the north of the hotel (also shown in the night shot at the top of this page), ...
... and here's the view from our suite looking out over the ocean.
With plenty of time before our cruise departed, we dropped off our luggage with the concierge and went for a walk along the beach.
Here's the view of our hotel. We were in the center suite on the top floor.
Ooooh, pretty.
We aren't sure what kind of birds these are, but we think the tiny ones were babies of the bigger ones. One was napping and the others were contemplating being naughty, but the bigger birds kept an eye on them.
We spent a fair amount of time walking in the surf. If it had been warmer, we would have been out in the reef snorkeling, but even Florida gets some form of winter, and it would have been much too cold for us.
We retrieved our luggage and asked the concierge for a taxi. Instead, we were escorted to a van where we went on a 5-minute, $22 ride to Port Everglades a few miles away. Ouch. That one hurt. Lesson learned: even in America, you ask for the price before you get in a vehicle.
The security check and registration took very little time by the time we arrived, and we were on board the Celebrity Century in no time. We were welcomed on board with a glass of champagne. There had been a novovirus outbreak on the previous cruise, so the ship was being extra thoroughly cleaned. We're not sure if Celebrity does this for all cruises or just for ones where access to the cabins is extremely delayed.
With no access to the cabins, passengers were waiting in the dining room, but we managed to find a couple of seats and wolfed down a buffet lunch.
Next, we headed to the outside deck to pass the time in the warm weather, taking advantage of the internet access on our phones that would disappear as soon as we lost sight of American land.
In nearby berths, there was a Princess ship and two Holland America ships, the Noordam and our old friend, the Statendam. We ended up following the Statendam through the Panama Canal five days later.
Before long, the announcement was made that cabins were available, and off we went. We had Sky Suite 1212 on Deck 12. We had been on the Celebrity Century 10 years earlier, in Sky Suite 1210, and it didn't take long to discover that this was the exact same cabin. A new Sky Suite had been added during Century's 2006 refurbishment, and the cabins were renumbered, but close examination of those photos proved that this was the one.
The fabrics, upholstery, and carpeting had all been updated, but the wood furnishings and light fixtures were the same.
With the television now wall-mounted, the old space for the television could now be used for more storage.
The bathroom is still a marble beauty, with covered shelves below the sink and glass shelves above the counter ...
... and even more shelves behind the toilet for plenty of storage.
The balcony is huge, which was a wonderful treat for a 15-night cruise in tropical waters.
We spent a lot of time out here with the two tables, two chairs, and two loungers in various configurations, depending on the sun and our level of sunburn. Here's how it looked in 2002.
The Sky Suites come with a butler who delivers afternoon tea and evening canapes daily. He also keeps the bowl of fruit updated daily and delivers room service. It's a nice perk.
After the other cruise ships had departed, it was our time to leave. Shortly after that, we went to the dining room, anticipating dinner at the table for two that we had requested 18 months earlier, and reconfirmed a week earlier. Imagine our displeasure to learn that the early seating had been overbooked by 100 people and we were seated at a table for 10. Nope. We are not joiners at dinner. So, we went to the maître d' and were given a table for two at the late seating, which also displeased us.
We were hungry to eat right that minute, so we chose to have dinner in Century's specialty restaurant, the Murano. We learned after dinner that there is a 20% discount off of the $40/person surcharge, so it wasn't quite as expensive as we expected, which was good.
We started with a selection of one piece of bread from a bread basket which never reappeared, so Debbie was glad she was greedy and asked for a second piece at that time. Our dinner started with a tiny serving of strawberry soup.
Next up, an avocado, crab, gravlax, and caviar appetizer for Debbie, which was the highlight of her meal.
Tom opted for the pork belly with chile sauce, which he enjoyed.
We both chose lobster bisque for our second course, which was served with a chunk of leek paste and lobster bits in the soup bowl, with a cold dollop of crème fraîche on the side to add to the soup if it was too much for us, but it wouldn't be, our waiter assured us. Then, the lukewarm bisque was poured over the leek paste and lobster bisque, leaving it to us to mix up the stuff in the bottom and to cut the leek paste into smaller bites. Debbie defied the waiter's suggestion and added the crème fraîche, but since the bisque wasn't hot, it never melted into the soup and finally ended up in one of her spoonfuls as a single glob. It was pretty disappointing, but the corn jam and tiny fritter served with it were good. Later in the week, we were served hot lobster bisque in the main dining room, so someone on board is aware that hot soup should be hot.
Debbie's entree was the surf and turf, which was adequate, but about the same size and quality that would be expected in the main dining room for free.
Tom's entree was a filet mignon with a sauce that was cooked tableside by the assistant maître d'.
After dinner, we were served several petits fours before dessert. We were also offered an optional cheese course that we passed on. Debbie's dessert was a very delicious Grand Marnier souffle with vanilla ice cream, that helped redeem the previous two courses.
Tom's dessert was another prepared-at-tableside option, the crêpe ballon rouge. The assistant maître d' addressed Tom when he was discussing the dish, but addressed Debbie when explaining how to make it at home, even showing her the pan of unmelted sugar prior to making the sauce.

Here's the finished product: a crepe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream inside, surrounded by strawberry sauce. It's safe to assume that Debbie will never be making this for Tom at home. Bottom line: the experience was definitely not worth the surcharge, but at least we didn't have to wait until 8:00 to eat dinner.

Day 2 >


Panama Canal Cruise 2013: [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2 - At Sea] [Day 3 - At Sea] [Day 4 - Colombia] [Day 5 - Panama] [Day 6 - Canal] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Costa Rica] [Day 9 - At Sea] [Day 10 - Guatemala] [Day 11 - At Sea] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Mexico] [Day 14 - Mexico] [Day 15 - At Sea] [Day 16 - San Diego]

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