Greetings Cruise Fans!
Yesterday we boarded the classic Celebrity Century from Celebrity Cruises, and we have been most impressed sailing onboard for this four-day cruise after our day tour for filming months back. She definitely elicits fond memories of our first days on Celebrity on the Galaxy and Mercury – Century’s since retired sister ships.
One curiosity and quick hurdle we ran across was that our stateroom was not configured as was indicated in Celebrity’s brochure. We had reserved what we thought was an outside stateroom with a sofa sleeper – for yours truly, returning to my days as a third guest along with my parents. However, the cabin was actually configured with no couch and two fold-down upper berths instead.
Celebrity came through for us and was able to transfer us to an upgraded room – a family veranda cabin – that was certainly more conducive to the three of us sailing together. Still, the cruise line will need to update its brochures to indicate that room 5034 is indeed sans sofa sleeper. Thankfully, we are now enjoying the unique aft-facing view from our new room as we depart from Santa Barbara.
Last night as we sailed away from San Diego, we enjoyed dinner at Murano, the only specialty restaurant onboard, that was added to the ship when she was remodeled several years ago. Our experience in this restaurant was surprisingly superior to ours on the Celebrity Equinox where we found the staff’s attitude to be a tad pretentious. Here the atmosphere was decidedly more jovial while maintaining decorum.
And the food was wonderful. Diners have the choice of a wine-paired tasting or a la carte menu. We ordered from the a la carte side and chose from a fantastic selection of appetizers and entrees before a final cheese and dessert course. A caviar course is also available for an added fee.
Of the three first dishes I tried, the goat cheese souffle was tasty but a bit by the numbers. The standouts were the smoked salmon and crab parfait and the scallop wellington. The former was a layered cylinder composed with avocado, creme fraiche and salmon caviar that was extremely refreshing, and the latter was perfectly savory and playfully reminded me of the mountain in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The lobster entree was exceptional and was truly comparable to what I’ve had on luxury cruise lines recently. Prepared table-side – itself a rarity that was nice to see again – with cognac, basil, bacon and dijon cream, the delectable dish was mouthwatering. I also split a chateaubriand that was equally tasty.
Finishing up with a cheese course and chocolate souffle dessert was a welcome sendoff to a great culinary experience discovered in a comfortable restaurant with clean, handsome decor.
Santa Barbara, California
Today’s port of call was the ever charming Santa Barbara with its immense beachfront, classic wooden pier and old-school retail corridor along State Street. We had visited Santa Barbara on road trips up from San Diego many times before and many years ago, but this was the first time we ever stopped by on a cruise ship. It was really quite neat to see the city from off the coast for the first time and to tender in to the marina.
Architectural connoisseurs like myself certainly enjoy the vintage Spanish-style heritage and lush landscaping that lines the edifices. Some of the older buildings were even currently under restoration.
But before we strolled down State Street, we took to the pier to peruse its handful of shops, restaurants and sole museum, as well as get a hazy yet striking view of our cruise ship. Interestingly, there was even a professional photoshoot underway for Sketchers while we were there.
Once on State Street, we enjoyed a bit of shopping before stumbling upon a gem of a restaurant for lunch. Anything that hearkens back to yesteryear tickles my fancy, so Joe’s Cafe with its retro neon sign called to us.
As it turns out, the establishment is the oldest restaurant in Santa Barbara dating back to 1928, and its staying power is understood once you dine here. Our hearty French dip sandwiches and slice of homemade apple pie were winners for certain.
Continue on to Part 2: Catalina Island, California and The Grand Restaurant…