Friday, February 15, 2008

Cruising: Early birds get the best worms

This weekend I'm cruising aboard the Celebrity Century, on a four-night cruise to Key West and Cozumel. It's part of series we're writing about weekend cruises from South Florida; you can catch it later this spring at

Meanwhile, though, here's what you need to know: Don't be late.

Used to be that you could dash from your office mid-afternoon, jump aboard ship and minimize the out-of-office time. No more. Thanks to new rules from Homeland Security, all passengers on all ships have to be on board no less than 90 minutes in advance.

And to make matters worse, once you do get on board, you may find that all the spots in the specialty, reservations-only restaurants and spa are all taken. Which is a real bummer.

Celebrity doesn't allow agents or anyone else to make reservations in its specialty restaurants pre-boarding. Our travel agent told us that since we were in Concierge Class -- a premium upgrade including canapes, Frette bathrobes and specialty service -- we shouldn't have any trouble getting a reservation in Murano, this ship's specialty restaurant. WRONG. We can't get a space for love or money, and my husband had to be very insistent before the restaurant even offered to put us on the waiting list. So you have to wonder what good the concierge can do ... at least on a short cruise like this.

(The good news: Food in the main dining room last night was very, very good, and it's included in the price we've already paid. In Murano, we'd have to pay $30 per person extra.)

When I went up to the spa just after the mandatory safety drill, the spa manager said people had been standing in line since 11 a.m. to snag spa appointments, and there were no appointments left for the periods we'd be at sea (and not many for times when we're in port!)

Bottom line: If you want to use the ship's services, you'll need to get aboard early. Which defeats the purpose of a weekend cruise for working stiffs like me.

No comments: