Celebrity Millennium 12/14
Sunday, December 14
We both woke up around 4:30 for some unknown reason and couldn't go back to sleep. So we decided to pack up all our stuff and head to Ft. Lauderdale. We left St. Augustine around 6 after packing, checking out, and picking up the car from the valet, and headed on down the road. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 11:00.
For this trip I had made reservations at Florida Auto Rent to park the car for about half the price of the port, plus a free shuttle. Sounded like a good deal. We had no trouble parking and getting the shuttle to the port. Too bad the return journey would not be as fun, but that's a story for later.
We were dropped off at the port and left our luggage with a porter. Check-in was a breeze; we got in the concierge class line and had no wait. We boarded the Millennium and immediately felt right at home. It was our second journey on this beautiful ship. Staff members greeted us with glasses of champagne as we boarded.
It was our first balcony cabin, though, and our first time to try out Celebrity's new Concierge class staterooms. We thought we'd take a peek at the cabin first thing - just in case it was ready. It wasn't, but the door was open and we got a glimpse inside. It looked incredible.
Since the room wasn't ready, we went upstairs to the buffet to have lunch. It was pretty good. By the time we were done it was 1:00, the time they said we could go to our cabins. This time it was ready. It was a beautiful cabin. There was a bottle of welcome champagne, a vase of fresh flowers, a bowl of fresh fruit, and plenty of room. The balcony was gorgeous. Our room, 9043, jutted out a little, so the balcony was slightly extended in one corner. Our research for the best cabin for the money had paid off! The larger table and padded chairs were very nice, too.
We had our cabin steward empty out the fridge so we could put a few things we'd brought in there. He was very nice.
We went to the maitre d' to see about our table situation. It was very busy there, and apparently a lot of people were in a group and wanted to sit with certain people. When he called us up, we requested a table for two and he seemed relieved that was all we wanted. He gave us a terrific table upstairs right next to the piano. After this we walked around the ship a little and went back to our cabin until the lifeboat drill. The drill was fairly short. Then we went back to the cabin and watched the sailaway from our balcony, drinking our complementary champagne.
My only complaint about the room was not with the balcony, but with the people next door. They were chain-smokers and went outside to their balcony to smoke what seemed like every half hour. I don't like the smell of smoke so it drove me inside every time. By the end of the cruise I was very annoyed with them.
Occassionally Mark would smoke a cigar to try to drive them away. Didn't always work. You can kind of see them through the partition in this picture.
We actually liked the overhang over the balcony. It shielded us from the weather and didn't block our view.
While walking around the ship, we agreed that if we could pick again, we would choose a different ship. Not because we didn't like the Millennium - we loved her - but because there was no novelty. The balcony cabin was new to us, but nothing else on the ship was. We were happy to be on board, but there wasn't that excitement that comes with exploring a new ship and discovering new favorite places.
That evening was casual night, and we loved our table location and dining room servers. I can't remember what I ate, but the food was fantastic.
Monday, December 15
This was a day at sea. We slept late and ordered room service breakfast. The extended room service breakfast menu in concierge class is fantastic! Well worth the extra cost for the room. I discovered the granola-yogurt parfait and had that for breakfast every morning. Mmmm, I wish I had one now.
During the day we walked around, had coffee at the Cova cafe, spent a minute or two in the internet cafe, ordered room service for lunch, all kinds of stuff.
There was a wine tasting that day that we attended. We got to go for free as members of the Captain's Club. That was a lot of fun.
In the morning we received an invitation to dine with the captain that evening. My usually outgoing husband for some reason was dead-set against accepting the invitation. I really wanted to go but I knew it would cause a fight so I gave in. He called and declined the invitation. The person whom he talked to was shocked ("You're declining an invitation to dine with the captain
?!?!?!") since they probably don't have people decline very often. I told Mark that it was a great honor to receive such an invitation and a breach of etiquette to turn it down, but he didn't care. He kept saying how this was a private occassion for us and he didn't want to spend the evening with a bunch of strangers.
The social hostess, Winnie Hung, called the room that afternoon and wanted to know why we had declined dining with the Captain. Of course, I felt cruddy having to make excuses but told her that my husband was very shy. She tried to convince me that it wouldn't be awkward but I had to tell her he just wouldn't go.
We did write a nice note to the Captain about how we were sorry to decline dining with him but really appreciated the offer, and delivered it via the purser's desk.
You have no idea how much I wanted to come on Cruisemates and gripe about my husband! But since we spent nearly all our time in each other's company I restrained myself (until now).
That evening was formal night. I had a delicious beef tenderloin for dinner.
That night Mark fell asleep on the pillowtop chocolates. What a mess on the sheets. And how embarrassing to tell the steward about the next day. He told me he dreamed about eating a giant chocolate bar that night. I vaguely remember waking up at one point, thinking I smelled chocolate, and falling back asleep.
Tuesday, December 16
On Tuesday we docked in Casa de Campo. We watched the ship pull in from our balcony but didn't get off the ship as we hadn't heard much that was good about this port.
We ate lunch in the dining room and it was okay. In the afternoon we went to the gym and used the treadmills.
That evening was casual, and I had heard that it was open seating in the dining room but I don't think it was. We had made reservations in the Olympic restaurant anyway. That was a great experience, once again. Watch out, though. When we were seated, the sommelier came up with a cart of champagnes and asked if we would like some. Of course, I said. He asked my preference and I asked for a sweet champagne. It was wonderful, but when we got the sail & sign bill the one glass was $17!!! Oh well. The meal was fabulous, of course. I had caesar salad, steak diane, and chocolate souffle. Mark had goat cheese souffle, rack of lamb, and a plate of bite-size desserts. We had to waddle back to the room we were so full.
Wednesday, December 17
Our port that day was San Juan, Puerto Rico. We arrived in the morning and Mark and I walked into the Old Town to find a grocery store and buy some rum. I tried to practice my Spanish with the grocery store clerk, but after I said "Buenos dias, como esta?" she said something completely incomprehensible to me. I apologized and said I only speak a little Spanish. She shrugged and rang up our purchases. I believe she was asking me if I had a discount card for the store but I'm not sure. I was a little upset after that ("I'm losing my Spanish!!!") but then I remembered that I could communicate fine in Mexico and decided that the people of Puerto Rico just speak more rapidly and in a slightly different accent than I am used to.
We ate lunch on the ship and then headed out for our tour of El Yunque rainforest. We had done this tour a year ago but really enjoyed it so we decided to go again. This time it didn't rain on us. The highlight of this tour, for me, was meeting a friendly grey cat by the observation tower. I don't know what it was doing in the middle of the rainforest - maybe it lived there. The guide turned on a water fountain and the cat jumped up and took a drink. Very funny.
On the way back from the tour the bus stopped at a little tourist shop and Mark and I got some beers, which we drank on the way back to the ship.
Thursday, December 18
This was the day we were in St. Thomas. Unfortunately, Mark began feeling ill that day. He was coming down with a really bad cold. We did manage to go to K-Mart to get our major duty-free liquor purchase of the trip out of the way (as well as picking up some Nyquil), and also we went into town and had a fabulous lunch at Gladys's Cafe. It's in the Royal Dane Mall just off the main drag. The meal was delicious and there were a lot of locals eating there, too, so we knew we were in a good place. The conch fritters and conch chowder were yummy. Our main course was a Caribbean chicken stew with traditional side dishes. I also had a Planter's Punch and Mark had a Pina Colada. That meal was one of the highlights of our trip. We also stopped in a souvenir shop and bought some knick-knacks, but no major purchases.
We spent the afternoon in the room and Mark slept most of the time. He was feeling pretty awful. We did make it to the bar outside behind the buffet to see the sunset during sailaway, and we made it to dinner, too.
Friday, December 19
Friday was a day at sea. Again, we spent most of it in the room while Mark slept and generally felt miserable.
In the morning, though, we had received an invitation to a special wine-blending seminar in the Olympic and I convinced him to go to that. It was a lot of fun. There were only about ten people there, and the sommelier gave us several red wines to taste and we blended them to make a distinct wine. I didn't care much for any of the wines we tried, but it was fun. Poor Mark tried to enjoy it, but I could tell he was feeling pretty icky.
Sometime during the day we got a call from the social hostess, Winnie Hung. She told us that the Captain had received our note and appreciated it, and she wanted to invite us to dine that night with another officer whom she said "was much more fun" than the Captain. I wanted to go and was tired of making excuses for Mark, so I handed him the phone. Winnie was a woman who wouldn't take no for an answer. We did tell her he was very sick and we might not be able to make it, but he agreed to go. He was pretty ticked off at himself for agreeing, but I was glad.
It was a formal night, and at the time we were supposed to meet for our dinner with the officer, we got all dressed and ready and Mark decided he really wasn't up to going. The invitation was for early seating and we had late seating normally, so I called Winnie and told her he was too sick, and we waited until our usual dinnertime at late seating to see how Mark was feeling. He said he was up to going to dinner, so we went. After dinner he went right to bed.
Saturday, December 20
Saturday's port was Nassau. We had signed up for an excursion, Pirates and Dungeons Tour, which we were very much looking forward to, but we received notice that it was cancelled due to lack of participation. So we just stayed on the ship as we'd been to Nassau many times and are not thrilled with it. Mark was still feeling bad anyway. Plus, that day it was actually cold outside.
On Saturday evening we went to dinner but had to leave early because Mark was feeling so bad. I did make sure we stayed long enough to give the waiter and assistant their tip envelopes, but we had to skip dessert. I was pretty disappointed, but poor Mark couldn't help feeling so bad. Luckily we had spent the afternoon packing and our bags were already ready to go, so we didn't have to do anything after dinner.
Sunday, December 21
Okay, so maybe I described last year's disembarkation experience from Millennium as a "nightmare." Well, this was worse. Much, much worse.
I later heard that Port Everglades had a record number of ships in port that day - so it wasn't Celebrity's fault - but nevertheless, it sucked. No other word for it.
First off, disembarkation started late because of people not reporting to immigration. Again, not Celebrity's fault, but the fault of rude, inconsiderate people.
At the disembarkation talk (which we watched on TV) they explained that due to the large number of ships in port that day, we wouldn't be able to dock at our usual pier. So as we left the ship, we'd be bussed to the convention center where we'd be able to pick up our luggage and there would be plenty of taxis waiting to take people where we needed to go. Sounded simple enough.
The night before, along with our luggage tags we were given an instruction sheet with a specified time to report to our waiting area. After we reported to the waiting area, it said, it shouldn't be more than ten minutes before our tag color was called.
We went through immigration speedily at our appointed time, and then waited in the cabin for the time we were to report to the waiting area. Meanwhile, we listened to the repeated announcements begging people who hadn't shown up to immigration to get up there. At our appointed time, 9:00, we reported to our waiting area, the main show theater. The theater was full of people who hadn't been able to leave the ship yet. We had to stand in the hall outside the theater to wait for our color to be called. And wait. And wait. Watching the goings-on, we noticed that part of the problem was that the busses were taking a while to get to and from the convention center because there was a police escort for each bus. Finally, at 10:30, they called our color. We went outside and boarded a waiting bus. We were very hopeful at this point that the morning was almost over. We shouldn't have been.
We arrived at the convention center and snagged a porter to help us with our luggage. He took us outside to a curb where there were probably a hundred other people also waiting for taxis. The first thing we did was use our cell phone to call Florida Auto Rent, where we'd parked our car, so they would dispatch their free shuttle. Then we settled down to wait. Thankfully, the weather was decent, although it was threatening rain. There was no place to sit except the grass, so we stood the whole time we waited.
While we were waiting, for the first forty-five minutes we noticed taxis driving by refusing to pick anyone up unless they were going to Miami or Boca Raton. Many people were trying to get to the Ft. Lauderdale airport but when they told a taxi driver that was where they wanted to go, the taxi driver would shake his head, say "sorry" and drive on. Many people were losing their tempers.
The next forty-five minutes they picked up the people going to FLL. After that, they began picking up those who were left. We repeatedly called the rental car place and they assured us "sorry, the traffic is bad, he's on his way." Mark was too sick to do much or he probably would have come up with a better plan, but as it was we decided to wait. We saw the same taxis and shuttle vans come and go from the airport and destinations several times. We even tried getting a taxi, but no taxi drivers would take us since we were going such a short distance.
Finally, we were some of the last people on that side of the road (taxis were now dropping people off
instead of picking people up
). I had thought for a while that we might be able to get a taxi if we moved to the other side of the road, but we had too much luggage to move it without help. Eventually, a taxi driver motioned us over from across the street, and I tried to explain that we had too much luggage. He came over and helped us take it across, and agreed to take us to the Auto rent place a mile down the road. When he dropped us off there it was 12:30. I gave him $10 for the $3 ride, just because I was so glad someone had rescued us from our predicament. "He passed us by three times before he agreed to give us a ride," Mark later told me.
When I walked into the Auto Rent office, I could hear someone dispatching the shuttle van. "Now you need to go to the convention center, you have two people waiting there." Two hours after we first called and they hadn't even left
to pick us up! I was livid! I explained to the person at the desk that they didn't need to send a shuttle to the convention center as we had taken a taxi. He did apologize and reduce our parking rate, but I am still angry about it.
We didn't get back on the road until almost 1:00, with a long drive ahead of us, in foul moods and with empty stomachs. I realize Celebrity had no control over the disembarkation process, but that day really put a damper on the cruise experience. Mark and I will not be cruising out of Port Everglades again.
The food was great. The service was great. Concierge class was worth it. We didn't see any of the shows. We didn't go to the midnight buffet. Cruise director Dru Pavlov was enjoyable. The majority of passengers seemed overall very old, Jewish, and from the northeast. Nothing wrong with that, but at times Mark and I felt like the youngest people on board. Overall, except for the things that were beyond our control (getting sick, disembarkation) it was a good cruise.
Post Edited (01-14-04 10:09)