December 3, 2011
5-Day Western Caribbean
Miami, Falmouth Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Miami
I just returned from a fantastic cruise on the CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM. Overall I could not have been happier with the experience. Usually I lower my expectations for a shorter cruise, as often they don't hold up to the longer ones, but that was not necessary for this sailing. The cruise was extra special as I sailed with one of my oldest friends from Los Angeles (going on 25 years!). Jim flew out early to Miami and we enjoyed a wonderful day on South Beach. That night we were joined by two of my newer friends, Frank & Chuck. After picking them up from the airport we had dinner at Il Mulino in Ft. Lauderdale which I highly recommend. It's one of mine and my partner's favorite Italian restaurants. That night was a full house at my apartment as we only have one extra bedroom. Jim was kind enough to sleep downstairs in the living room.
Embarkation day is aways exciting and this time was no different. We somehow managed to get the four of us and all our luggage into my car. Parking at the cruise terminal was a breeze but pricey at $20. At least it's covered and secure. Embarkation was quick, the day was beautiful, and in no time we were enjoying the beautiful MILLENNIUM. I thought the ship looked great! Considering she is going on 12 years old she still looks modern, relevant, and in excellent condition. The one exception might be the Extreme Sports Bar which is looking quite dated. This area will become the specialty restaurant Qsine when the MILLENNIUM is “Solsticized” in the Spring. It's been several years since I sailed on an M-Class ship, and I forgot just how elegant and lovely these ships are. We were in a Concierge Class cabin, and we had champagne, flowers, fruit, and robes waiting for us. Everything in the cabin was in great shape and the beds were very comfortable. Soon it was sail-away time and we met our friends Frank & Chuck in their cabin to enjoy the champagne. Afterward we headed up to the aft Ocean Bar to meet up with fellow Cruise Critic members and enjoyed a festive gathering with a beautiful Miami cityscape in our wake.
We had secured late sitting for dinner and I felt our meals and service in the dining room were very good. Our table was on the upper level, and the four of us were joined by another friend Tim, and new friends Deb and Chris. The seven of us along with our festive waiter and assistant really enjoyed some memorable times at dinner. One evening Jim, Frank, Chuck and myself enjoyed a truly amazing dining experience in the Olympic Dining Room. Honestly I can say it might have been my best shipboard meal ever, or if not the very best certainly within the top five. I can't say enough about how excellent the food, service, company, and atmosphere were that evening. The specialty restaurants on the M-Class ships are really about as good as it gets at sea. It was very comparable to a dinner I enjoyed recently at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges in London, which was over six times the price! I never had breakfast (rarely up that early!) and mostly had lunch in the Ocean Cafe which had a nice selection, and the best french fries I've had on any ship. They were the thick cut steak fries if you happen to like those like I do. It should be pretty obvious by now that any diet regime was out the window! As a group we enjoyed lunch in the main dining room twice. Once was a special brunch, which consisted of a lot of food stations that offered everything from sushi to waffles and omelets. It was quite a variety of food although a little chaotic.
I only saw one evening show on this cruise and it was quite good. Most nights consisted of the gym around 5pm, getting ready for dinner, then pre-dinner drinks in the Martini Bar followed by dinner and after dinner drinks or the show. We usually capped off the evening at Cosmos. One evening was the deck party which was way too much fun (from what I remember). Some of it was caught on video just in case I forgot! The Officers were out in full force and they ended up in the pool which is something I've never seen before. I'll say in general the Officers were far more visible and friendly in comparison to other cruise lines. Having them out and about around the ship is a really nice touch.
Our ports were Falmouth Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Jim and I strolled around the developed port area of Falmouth but didn't do much else. In Grand Cayman I didn't even get off the ship. I've been there many times in the past and with six ships anchored I thought a day by the pool was the best bet.
We had a spectacular final sea day returning to Miami, with almost a flat calm, sunny skies with no clouds, a gentle breeze, and the Northern coast of Cuba off our Starboard side. It's the type of sea day found in cruise ship brochures! Back in Miami the following morning, getting off the ship was as easy as boarding. There was a little line up for Customs and Immigration but nothing overly long or time consuming.
Once again Celebrity Cruises exceeded my expectations. They have long been my favorite large ship cruise line, and I'm happy to say they continue to be after this latest sailing. As an Elite member of the Captain's Club, I honestly feel Celebrity offers more value and tangible benefits to this tier of past passenger compared to any other line. Complimentary drinks every night from 5-7pm, complimentary laundry service (one bag), complimentary wine tasting, complimentary elegant afternoon tea, two complimentary tote bags, complimentary backstage tour, Officer's party, and 90 minutes of free internet. What more could you ask for, especially on a five day cruise? On this note my only negative experience on the MILLENNIUM was with the Captain's Club Host. He handled a situation at the Elite afternoon tea very poorly, and I noted this in the guest questionnaire. In any case it was a minor blemish on an otherwise exceptional cruise.
Like all cruises, it's really the people that make all the difference. The staff and crew of MILLENNIUM were a delight (especially Dragana in the Martini Bar!), but even more so were the old and new friends I had the pleasure of sailing with! Jim, Frank, Chuck, Tim, David, Chris, Deb, Oren, Ray, Jean, Robert & Jake … thank you all for making this cruise one of the best! My apologies if I left anyone out.
All good things must come to an end, but we were not quite ready to give up so easily. We headed up to West Palm Beach the day we disembarked to enjoy a post-cruise dinner with my lovely friend M-L at Rhythm Cafe. It was wonderful seeing her beautiful new home, and dinner was superb! In a way it was a pre-cruise dinner as well, since we will all meet up on QM2 in just a few weeks time. Good times ahead!
Some preview pics: