I am writing this mid cruise, after our only sea day on a very port-intensive itinerary. What a glorious day it was in the Mediterranean as we made our way towards Malta, after stops in Villefranche, Toulon, Barcelona, and Palma de Mallorca.
The weather hasn't been entirely co-operative during our stops in Villenfrache and Toulon, but it improved considerably for Barcelona, and Mallorca. Today, at sea, temperatures are reaching into the high 70's, the vivid blue waters of the Mediterranean shine brightly, and everyone onboard is out on deck to enjoy the day.
Let's flashback a few days and I'll fill you in on what we've been up to.
The embarkation process went very quickly, and we were walking onboard, and being escorted to our cabin within minutes of arrival. Due to our unexpected long drive, we weren't able to stop for lunch enroute, so after dropping our carry on luggage in the cabin we headed for the Ocean's Cafe food trough.
While the exterior of the ship is quite appealing her interior is far more impressive, each of her public rooms strikingly different from one another. Each, prettier and more elegant than the last. My favorite room is the Platinum Club, which is the caviar, champagne and martini lounge, located just outside the dining room on Deck 5. It's a wonderful spot for enjoying pre or post dinner drinks. On our first day onboard I found my favorite outdoor spot on the ship. Completely aft, just outside of the Ocean Cafe is a small deck area with teak tables and chairs for al fresco dining, and a marvelous view off the back of the ship. Because of the weather I wasn't able to completely enjoy this spot until the afternoon we returned from touring Barcelona. However, I've been breakfasting there each morning since.
For our first stop in Villefranche, Mrs. Kuki and I, along with another couple had, through Port Promotions, www.portpromotions.com, pre arranged a private car, driver/guide for our own tours. I know this service is also available through www.autoeurope.com. I must say, while this isn't cheap, where possible, it's a simply marvelous way to tour. The driver asked if there were any specific places we wanted to see. He then melded our choices with his local knowledge to provide an exceptional tour! We had made the same arrangements for our stop in Barcelona, with equally satisfying results.
By the time we reached Toulon I was exhausted, and have to admit I didn't even leave the ship. I needed to recover!! In Toulon, for passengers who did not book tours, Celebrity offered a free bus, or boat shuttle into town from the pier where the ship docked. And again in Palma de Mallorca, they offered free buses into the center of town for the passengers. In "Palma" we used this service with very enjoyable results as we walked and explored on our own.
Other members of the "CruiseMates group" booked Celebrity Cruises' excursions, or booked the optional private shore excursions our booking agent offered, or like us, also set out on their own.
On Monday, Oct. 15 we held our first informal meeting just to have the opportunity to finally meet the folks we'd been communicating with for so long anticipating the trip, and sharing information. The cruise line had set aside the cinema/conference room for us for this purpose, but me standing at a microphone, with everyone in theater style seats staring straight at me is much too formal for this Kuki. After exchanging some greetings, and forcing the group to listen to a few of my really bad jokes, many of us moved to the more relaxed atmosphere of the Rendezvous lounge to chat and get to know one and other. A very pleasant icebreaker, I thought!
From left to right: Millennium Hotel Manager George Traganis, Assistant Hotel Manager George Siozilis, Guest Relations Manager Theodoros Stoumpos, Social Hostess Amanda Reid, Kuki and Cruise Director Jim Cannon.
Last night was our "official" CruiseMates group cocktail party in the Cosmos Lounge (the disco). This is a stunning room atop the ship, on Deck 11, with panoramic views. Celebrity did a superb job on the appetizers, and drinks. Everyone got to visit in a very relaxed atmosphere, and the Cruise Director, Jim Cannon, stopped by to visit, and chat with the group. Jim is one of the most friendly, sincere and available Cruise Directors I've had the pleasure to sail with. When you sail the Millennium, be sure to tell him Kuki told you to say hello.
We also had the pleasure of meeting with Hotel Manager George Traganis, Assistant Hotel Manager George Siozilis, Guest Relations Manager Theodoros Stoumpos, and Social Hostess Amanda Reid.
To this point in the trip, the "Olympic experience" (our evening in the ship's alternate dining room) is undoubtedly the highlight of our cruise. To think of the ports of call we've already visited, and the touring we've done, for me to select this as our highlight should speak volumes of what a special experience this is.
Tomorrow we're in Malta until 2 PM. we've arranged for a private galley tour for the CruiseMates gang around 4PM, and then it's time for my transition. It's formal night, as we sail towards Naples. I hope to be reporting again soon, live from this fabulous ship, so stay tuned!