Copy of an old report.
Baltic Sea Cruise Aboard the GTS Millennium
Flew out of Jackson, Ms July 10,2000 connecting in Atlanta aboard Delta Airlines and only one hour late leaving Atlanta. Arriving Amsterdam, Netherlands at about 11:15 AM we took a blue and white bus from Schiphol Airport into town. Alternate arrangements would have been the train to the Central Station and a cab to the Grand Hotel. A cab from the Airport was quite expensive from what I have read. We had to walk with the luggage about one block since the bus did not let us off in front of the hotel. We met up with our friends from Blackpool, England and spent a wonderful time touring together. They are the ones that encouraged us to take this trip and it is the fourth time we have traveled together, after meeting on an Orient Cruise in 1997.
The Grand Westin Demure Hotel-Amsterdam was originally created as a convent in the 15th century before being converted by the city governors in 1578 to a lodging for princes and great lords’, aptly called the Princes’ Court. The building served as the headquarters of the Amsterdam Admiralty for most of the 17th and 18th centuries, before becoming Amsterdam’s City Hall from 1808 to 1988. The following year, work started to transform the monumental City Hall into the five-star deluxe hotel it is today. The hotel is situated in the historic city-center, just a stone’s throw away from Dam Square and the Royal Palace and about 30 minutes from the Airport.
In Amsterdam we visited Anne Frank Huis, and a Modern Art Museum, and walked around the town visiting Dam Square and walked through the RLD. Took a Canal Boat tour, which I would recommend.
For dining, Alberto’s is an excellent restaurant in walking distance Argentina beef restaurant, but also had a very good fish soup so we dined there twice.
One night we had a very nice dinner at The Oriental City Restaurant on the corner of Damstraat and Oudezids-Voorburgwal, which was only a half block from the hotel. Café Roux in the Grand Hotel is run under the direction of renowned chef Albert Roux. The food was excellent and I understand that a relative Michel Roux possibly his brother is the director of the restaurant services aboard the Millennium.
Tour out of Amsterdam to ____________
Boarded Celebrity Cruise Line’s Millennium early at 1:30 PM after a short cab ride of about 10 min from the Grand Hotel. This was to be the second voyage of GTS Millennium. It was originally the third but the first was cancelled.
The ship is a magnificent product at 91,000 GRT and propelled by two electric Mermaid pods (4 fixed blades for each) She has three bow thrusters at 2350 KW each.
The ship is gas turbine driven. Marine diesel fuel is burned and the exhaust gasses are used to drive a high pressure turbine at 9500 rpm and power turbine at 3600 rpm. Turbines turn generators to produce electric power to propel the Mermaid pods and everything else on the ship.
Exhaust gasses are also used to boil water to steam and produce heat and hot water in a constant circulating system so that the showers have immediate hot water.
The ship has 10 elevators that are the fastest I have seen on a ship. Amidships, two of the four glass elevators are outside of the ship to give a very impressive view as well as a different sensation as the elevator goes up and you watch the waves go up or down.
In the ports we visited I would say thousands of people were on the banks to watch us. The ship must be an impressive sight sailing in or out of port.
The bow has a heliport for any emergencies.
We had a stern cabin with 271 sq.ft cabin and a 242 sq.ft veranda. We brought a clothes line along and hung clothes out to dry we had so much room. Don’t ask why you pay this much for a cabin and then wash your own clothes. It must be deep seated do it yourself instincts.
The restaurant has the two level eating arrangement with the central stairs and the ceiling to floor glass behind the captain’s table. A beautiful Venetian scene is electrically controlled to shade as well as the large round side windows. The show room has three levels of seats all with unobstructed views. The entertainment was first class productions good comedian wonderful dancers and singers. Brooks Aaron concert pianist and Renato Pignalero tenor singer were excellent. Theo only bummer was David Polydor the quick change artist and Magician, with a French like impressionist performance. We did miss about two shows which were reported to be excellent. Telephone response time and guest services response time is excellent. The people do what they promise.
The Olympic Restaurant is only 134 person capacity and must have a reservation to eat. Reservations are taken in this A La Carte French Restaurant limited to six persons at a time. Only one reservation per couple at $12/per person. The food is excellent. The wall paneling is the same paneling that was taken from the restaurant aboard the RMS Olympic. Following the loss of her sister ship “Titanic” the RMS Olympic (1911-1935) was brought to Belfast for renovation consisting of an outer hull. The ship was advertised as a ship within a ship. One of the renovations was to expand the A La Carte restaurant and bring it up to par with the lost Titanic. Craftsmen were imported from Palestine to carve and guild the paneling. An expended Café Pariesiene restaurant was created in which passengers could dine while viewing the ocean. This had never been seen before on an ocean liner. The RMS Olympic was scraped in 1935 and the paneling from the RMS Olympic's A la Carte Restaurant was purchased by a man and installed in his house. Celebrity found the house and bought it, then removed the paneling sent it to France and had it installed in the Olympic restaurant aboard the Millennium. The restaurant has high-class service and high-class prices with a glass of wine about $15 to $90. Bottles were also expensive. We had a $40 bottle which has the 15% service charge added as do all drinks on cruise ships now. The Waldorf pudding for desert was excellent and the recipe is the same one that was served aboard the RMS Olympic in 1912.
Day at sea allowed us to tour the ship and see the wonderful indoor heated pool with jets and hydrotherapy for many people at once along with two separate hot tubs. A sauna was available for general use for men and women separately.
The outdoor pool had two hot tubs associated with it. The windows around this outdoor pool could be opened to the air. The center of course was open with an upper sun deck overlooking the outdoor pool.
Deck 3 was guest relations, the bank and shore excursions. Deck 4 was the lower entrance to the main dining room, the rendezvous lounge, the platinum bar and the café-o lait bar with chocolates and the champagne bar with caviar. Also the Fortunes Casino and several private meeting rooms were available. The lower entrance to the Celebrity Showroom. On Deck 5 were the upper entrance to the main dining room aft and the upper entrance to the Celebrity Showroom forward. A long emporium of shops and photo gallery also available. Deck 6 had the Penthouse suites and the Royal suites.
Deck 7,8,9, were cabins. Deck 10 was the outdoor pool and indoor pool and spa forward and the Ocean grill and café aft. Deck 11 forward was the Cosmos lounge forward and the children’s game room aft.
There was a flower shop located aft also with a tower.
Oslo, Norway’s capital since 1299 is located at the end of Oslo Fjord. . Since our friends had booked a tour we also booked a tour after coming aboard using the TV located in the room. I think the cost was slightly higher than pre-booking, but we only booked two. (Oslo and Stockholm). The booking by the TV was easy and the tickets delivered to the room.
We took the Oslo city sightseeing ships tour and visited The Vigeland Sculpture Park created by Gustav Vigeland. A 55-foot Monolith with 121 nude stone figures climbing on top of each other representing the struggle for life. There were 150 sculptures of stone and bronze in the park.
We passed in front of the building where the Nobel peace prize candidates stay during the ceremony of selection.
We went to the Holmenkollen Ski Jump where the first jump was built in 1892. There is a splendid view of the Oslo Fjord and City of Oslo.
We visited the Viking Ship Museum housing three authentic long ships dating from the Viking era that had been excavated from the mud banks of the Oslo Fjord.
A day at sea.
Stockholm, Sweden. Our second scheduled ships tour visited the Vasa Museum, which is built around the 17th century sailing ship that sank in the harbor as soon as she was launched. Without proper ballast and top heavy she went over and sank in 1628. She was discovered in 1956 and salvaged in 1961. Three Cannons were found on her deck. Some say she was a cargo ship, but she had gun turrets just like a Man of War .
The Vasa Museum was more impressive than either my wife or I had expected. It was worth the visit, but could easily have been seen without a ships tour. Gamla Stan, the old city of Stockholm was narrow cobble stone streets. Saw the change of guard at the palace and got one of the guards to return a salute on video.
Coming into the harbor noticed the construction of the Carnival’s new ship “Spirit” in the shipyard.
Elected to just take the shuttle into town, but as soon as we got off the bus, we were greeted by a salesman selling a local city tour from an old English double deck bus. We thus took this tour at $20/person that was half the ships shore excursion and saw the same thing.
We saw the Sibelius monument (only a bunch of pipes welded together), not much, The Rock Church which was formed by blasting through 100 feet of solid granite and topped with a copper dome. We also drove past many government buildings, and the Olympic stadium with a statue of the Flying Finn in front.
We got a good geographical map study of the city with this tour and thus did some nice walking touring after we got off the bus to Uspenski Cathedral, the Market Square, and the Presidential Palace.
July 21, 2000 Friday and July 22, 2000 Saturday
St. Petersburg, Russia. Our traveling couple along with ourselves had planned ahead and each had a Russian Visa. We had mad previous arrangements for two full days of tours in and around St.Petersburg not connected with the ship’s shore tour office. Our English friends had found the company called Nota Bene Co. Ltd. Manager Nikita A. Zonin e-mail “firstname.lastname@example.org"
Address is: Russia, St.Petersburg Griboedova, 34 office 323 Tel.(812) 939-06098 tel/fax (812) 313-87-37.
Our Russian Visas cost $70/person through the Russian Embassy in NY. The Celebrity Visa service was more expensive as was the Russian tourist agency. Nota Bene usually requires a deposit but we did not make one somehow. If a deposit is made it could be lost if the ship for some reason did not make the port. I think the Nota Bene company should refund the deposit if the ship did not make the port,but this should be agreed upon.
A one-day tour in St.Petersburg through the shore excursion office was $148 pr
person. For two days we paid $470 which was $117per person plus $70/person visa equal $187/person for the two days, as opposed to the $296/person for two days via the ship’s shore excursion. An additional plus is that with just four people a driver and an English-speaking guide, we were able to see more with much better personal attention. For an additional $22.50/person we attended a wonderful folk show in an old 1800’s building that was beautiful inside and we had champagne ,caviar ,vodka and juices and cokes during the intermission, which was not furnished by the ship’s folk show tour. I think we also saw the better Russian Folk show Friday night. Our fee included our transportation in our Red Van. We could easily have shared this with another couple had we known in advance, which could have possibly decreased the price per person.
On our tours we visited the outside of St.Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Church of the Spilled Blood . We visited the Hermitage entering through a back door without any crowd and hit all three Hermitage buildings at a record pace including the Winter Palace. We made the visit to Pushkin previously known as the Czar’s Village (Tsarkoe Selo – mentioned in book Nickolas and Alexandria) . We visited Pavlovsk palace and grounds and were also able to visit Peter and Paul Fortress and the Peter and Paul Cathedral with the tombs of the Czars. In the back are stones on the wall for Nicholas II, his wife Alexandria and the children Olga, Tatiana, Maria , Anastasia and Alexi (the hemophiliac). The other Czars have large tombstones in the church but Nicholas II and his family were originally not welcomed to be buried in the church. Later the bones were moved into the church and wall stones placed in the back of the church. The last of the Romanov’s who died in France in 1992 is also buried in the church.
I would certainly recommend the above method for visiting St.Petersburg, not only because it was cheaper but because the convenience of not having a bus load of people and more personal attention from a guide for four people.
The ships charge for the Russian Folk spectacular was $55 per person as compared to our $22.50 per person.
We were also taken to a very nice shop that the four of us were the only ones shopping at the time. Prices were very good and they took USD or Charge Card.
Tallinn, Estonia. We took the shuttle which dropped us at the side of the Viru Hotel and we walked through the town using the Lonely Planet guide and maps as recommended by Pam Kane. The maps and directions were very accurate. There is much walking to see this town even with a shore excursion from the ship. Many nice places to sit and eat lunch and watch the people that are watching you.
Gdynia,Poland to visit Gdansk, Poland
We teamed up with two ladies traveling together to rent a cab at $20/hr and used it for 2hr 50 min which was cheaper than the ship. The ships shuttle just takes you to downtown Gdynia not to Gdansk. Gdansk was well worth a visit
We took the train from Warnemunde, Ger the port town paying about 6 DEM /person for a day ticket which entitled you to use the trams in the city of Rostock. This is a good deal and easy to do. The biggest problem is figuring out how much it cost and where to put the money. Some representatives were available to help us here. Once in Rostock (don’t get confused and get off too soon) information tells you to get off at the third stop (Nier Mkt) and you are in the center of town. The train did not have city stops posted in the train like the London Tube and we almost got off when it read Rostock. A map obtained before you get on the train shows all the stops before Rostock.
We took the shuttle into town and used the Lonely Planet guide to tour and make our way back to the ship and the little mermaid. My wife got kind of tired with me following the guide. We did stop in some department stores along the route.
Day at sea.
July 29, 2000
Back in Amsterdam and to the airport where we were 2 hours late for takeoff. We missed our connecting flight in Atlanta at 3:30 PM but made a 5:20 PM flight. Delta’s overseas flight seats had less room then their Atlanta to Jackson flight. I think I would try another airline for overseas next time because of the little amount of space between the seats.
All in all this was a wonderful trip, and shore excursions are doable by yourself but better with another couple for cab ride sharing but you can usually find someone at the dock looking for the same thing you are. Only thing is prior preparation for St.Petersburg, Russia. They check your passport every time you come off the ship. In Poland we had to give up our passports prior to arrival and got them back as soon as we cleared Poland. This was required and was easier than the Russian thing where we had to show them each time we went off the ship. Lonely Planet for Scandinavian countries is recommended.