Cruise Notes August 2005
I'm sitting at a PC in the Millenium's well-equipped Computer Room with a view of the western Mediterranean passing peacefully by as we sail for our final destination, Barcelona. The fact that I can so easily access a terminal on a Sea Day is due both to the greater number of terminals than on previous cruises as well as the price of internet access (a painful $0.75 per minute, and a connection noticeably slower than your home cable modem hook-up).
This is our tenth cruise, although first with Celebrity (we are long time Royal Caribbean cruisers, the corporate owner of Celebrity). It will not be our last though. It's a slightly up market version of Royal Caribbean, a slightly older crowd (average age maybe 45), slightly fewer kids (though with a peerless kids' program), and significantly better food (on which more later). At twelve nights, this was also our first "longer" cruise, which felt a little decadent and certainly long enough to let the time merge into a pleasantly confusing fog of ports, excursions, dining dress codes and misplaced days ("if it's Friday it must be Santorini").
We arrived in Venicea day early, both to adjust to the six hour time difference from the U.S. east coast as well as to sightsee. Venice in August is a popular place, and San Marco Piazza (which we have visited before) allowed crowd movement akin to exiting a large sporting event. Taking a vaporetto (water taxi) is certainly the recommended way to get from Marco Polo airport to your hotel; however, Nature plays a role here and since the canal most convenient to our hotel was inaccessible (low tide) we had to wheel/carry the considerable luggage a family of six takes for two weeks across San Marco Piazza, down alleys barely wide enough for a suitcase and finally to our hotel. If I think of it, next time I'll check for deep water access near our hotel. So we settled in, explored, took a gondola ride, ate at "tourist" restaurants, and the next day boarded our ship.
Check-in was uneventful. It was high tide so a relatively short hike with bags to the vaporetto, and following a pleasant ride to the passenger terminal our bags were taken by a Celebrity representative while we were processed and led onboard. Our group was eight (three adults, four teenagers and a four year old). We've cruised together many times. Reports on Millenium from various websites range from positive to tired. It's a big ship though smaller than the Royal Caribbean Voyager class (those of the rock-climbing wall and ice-skating, not that we've ever tried either). We found it well looked after, clean, and generally with a wide variety of activities on offer (unless you're an under-age teenager seeking entry to the 18+ disco). We tentatively enrolled our young daughter in the Kids' Program, and this turned out to be a big success. While we had to probe and guess at how she'd spent her day, she invariably skipped in there each morning while we went on an excursion that she would not have enjoyed nearly as much, and as a result a better day was typically had by all.
The evening dinners in the main dining room were a notable step up from Royal Caribbean, whose standards we feel have slipped in recent years. We really didn't have a bad meal, and in many cases the quality was easily that which you might expect in a good restaurant back home. The lamb shank was slowly cooked for several hours, delicious and quite enormous. Similarly on lobster night (our elder daughter's favorite) the lobster tails were decent-sized (such that if you did indulge in a second that was quite as much as anyone could consume). Our waitress, Viktoria, from Hungary was ever-cheerful and efficient, swiftly replacing the occasionally poorly-chosen appetizer and quietly whispering to us the better menu choices (advice we quickly learned to heed). We ate in the dining room every night and never had a bad experience.
The evening entertainment was decidedly mixed; we've had better. The Millenium Singers and Dancers were heavily employed, it seemed to us, and at their worst (a most forgettable show named "Fantasea") made us feel as if our role as audience was that which parents of young children play when the little ones announce at home there will be "a show" in the family room (attendance compulsory) in five minutes. It's somehow less endearing when the quality is the same but the performers are adults. There was an illusionist, Jamie Allen, early in the cruise who was excellent, but one or two comedians would have been good and were sorely missed. Although we typically watch the evening show, we passed on many after the first few days.
Our cabin (7204) was a family suite with a queen size bed, pull out couch for our two daughters and a quite large balcony (always well worth it in our experience). And it was here that we encountered the Oregon family. On the penthouse deck directly below us, in a cabin that our balcony overlooked, was a very pleasant couple in their late 50s/early 60s. They were traveling with three of their grown children and respective spouses and children, distributed in three other cabins. We engaged in some small talk from our balcony overlooking theirs, and they invited us in to see their quite sumptuous quarters (which included a piano and two plasma TV screens). They were the eminently presentable U.S. cruising couple, well-dressed, well-travelled and not bad neighbors. Children can surprise you, and presumably the loud and substantial pre-school teacher (yes, really) that was next door to us had turned out somewhat differently than her unfortunate parents might have expected perhaps 20 years earlier.
Now I've normally thought stateroom walls are steel, and can remember few occasions where our neighbors on past cruises were even audible. And, as we were reminded on many occasions those first two jet-lag induced sleepless nights (at a shrill level of decibels more appropriate for the evening show) Oregon is nine hours time difference from Europe. These people evidently live life at a very high noise level, which rendered the wall paper thin and afforded us unwanted details on minute details of their daily lives. It began to resemble a version of reality TV watching a certifiably dysfunctional family in action, as screaming matches developed over such issues as ownership of a glass of water, missing chocolate powder, TV channels, bodily emissions and other unsavory aspects of (I presume) what passes for every day life in certain parts of Oregon. They reminded us of the Griswold cousins in National Lampoon's Vacation, a view that was reinforced when we briefly met the husband. Our amusement over the first couple of days soon shifted to incredulity, especially when I pointed out to the amply fed Mrs. Griswold that we could hear EVERYTHING going on in their room. We're still getting used to living like this was her reply, and while I searched hard I couldn't detect a trace of embarrassment, as if it must be some other domestic battle we were listening to every night. I did wonder if I should report unusually thin walls on Celebrity ships, but since on our other side the cabin might as well have been empty I guess this was just our bad luck. Eventually their sleep patterns conformed more to ours although we often awoke to bellowing (usually concerning food). It was Griswold's first cruise, and I hope for the rest of the cruising public, their last. By the way, our stateroom attendant was quite adequate, did his job efficiently and was unobtrusive.
In surveying our group on the ports and excursions (ages ranging from 4 to 42), the Pisa/Viareggio tour offered the requisite photo opp in front of the leaning tower (now freed again of its ugly supporting cables) along with a pleasant few hours at the beach and was the favorite of our teenagers. Santorini was of course beautiful, but if you choose the volcanic hike/hot springs wear your oldest sneakers and when swimming in the springs a sulphur-colored swimsuit will be less discolored than most when you emerge from the hot water. Nice and Monaco were beautiful and made us determined to return in the future with time to explore more widely. Rome and Athens were of course as expected. My daughter and I meanwhile took an olive-oil tasting trip north of Rome and enjoyed seeing the countryside. Celebrity's only real mistake was a disastrous tendering operation in Dubrovnik which left hundreds of passengers stranded onboard waiting for a boat ashore. Our ticket for tender #9 saw us wait 90 minutes; no doubt those like another family we chatted with (possessing #27) never got off. A public explanation and apology, since so many were affected (including us) was disappointingly absent.
The gym was well equipped. I tried a spinning class and was happy to find the activities staff organized a daily soccer game when it became clear there were enough Brits on board to make it worthwhile. We've had a great time which is now winding to a close. As I've been typing the PC technician has been most patiently assisting guests create CDs of their photos. One is left with the agreeable impression that this is a well run place.
A few other tips:
. Try the spa food . Check out the aquarium in Monaco . Barcelona was fun, but avoid the flamenco show and watch for pickpockets
FYI: we are in our 50's, 100,000+ yr income, been on 12 cruises on Princess, Oceania, Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Carnival.
To sum it up, my husband said "I think we finally found what we've been looking for". We like lots of activities and entertainment in a more refined atmosphere, with really great dining and service. This ship was all of the above.
We were in a category 12 cabin (got a super bargain price, we couldn't resist), but even the bottom category was plenty spacious for 7 nights, lots of drawers and closet space, a bigger shower than most, and a refrigerator. We were in 2180 and the only downside was some engine noise from time to time.
The food in the dining room was excellent, and served by an efficient, friendly (but not TOO friendly) staff. The dinner at the Olympic Restaurant was to die for!!! Fabulous!!--but only if you like a very formal elegant dining experience. Most people dressed up a lot for this, even though it was casual night throughout the ship. We also enjoyed one night at "casual dining" which had a 2.00 service charge, a stepbetween the big dining room and eating off the buffet. Very good menu (shrimp cocktail, steak, spaghetti, and the like) served by waiters. We ate a few lunches at the Spa Cafe which was light and healthy. Requested creme brulee on the first night and got it every night in the main dining room!!
The spa was wonderful, pricey, but I did a few treatments, and enjoyed the free amenities at the spa just as much (T pool, followed by a sauna, followed by a hot shower in the changing room, they have nicer lotion/shampoo, etc there).The gym was the biggest and best we've had.
Singers and dancers were good, the shows were pretty lavish with gorgeous costumes. A combo played several sets per night for dancing, mainly older people there. The disco was the only disappointing thing on the cruise, you could not see the DJ therefore, the audience participation was just not there. If the dance floor was empty, why play a song for 5 minutes? The ship is showing some wear, but is scheduled to go into dry dock in the fall, the minor flaws here and there wouldn't affect anything as far as we are concerned.
We are grateful for every opportunity to cruise, and would recommend this ship to anyone seeking a more formal (at night), fine and relaxing cruise. After our last one on Carnival, it was refreshing to see most people behave in a mannerly way while still having fun.
Off to the airport: Friday I drove five of our group from home to the airport. Dropped everyone off then over to and left the car in long term parking. It's a drive around to get there at Newark airport. Then back on the shuttle bus. Continental leaving Newark at about 4:00pm. The airports have reduced the id checks to those needed. At check in for baggage, to get to the security area and through the security gate area. We were on the plane to go at about 3:30pm. After a 25 minute wait in line to take off we did so and made good time arriving at 7:00pm. For the first time we - my wife Barbara, Sister in Law Julie and I - flew into Florida a few days early. Into West Palm Beach. Nice airport. A bit busy at that time of the day - but that is Florida. Getting real crowded in that area. My friends, Ray and Jill, picked us up and we stayed at their house in Port St. Lucie for the two days before the cruise. They live in a gated communityin Port St. Lucie called Ballentre.
There is an 18 hole golf course that is on their property. Nice if you are a golf lover. They're not. But I got up early both mornings and ran around the course. What were those eyes in the ponds? I think they were watching me. Hmmmmm. Maybe I was on the breakfast menu if I made a misstep. They live on a street near a wild life preserve. Not on the golf course. They have a beautiful Florida home with some real great extras they put in themselves. There is also a huge lanai area. They did not have much damage from the set of hurricanes last year. But they are putting in the storm shutters just in case. Saturday we went around to some of the trendy shopping areas in Stewart. After a quick lunch we drove across the river to see some of the newer planned - gated communities going up in the area. Just the property started at $400,000. A little out of my range. We also did some shopping for some of the cruise extras I bring along. Champagne and other things. On Sunday morning we drove down from Port St. Lucie to the pier at about 10 AM or so, and arrived there about 11:30 am just in time to start boarding. We met some of our travel group of 9 there as we had pulled up. So we had 5 of the total 9 in the group boarding at one time. Our friends, Jim and Carole, had flown out of Newark at about the same time we did. So they would be in early also. They were stayed in the Ft. Lauderdale area at a bead and breakfast. They said this was on or near the hotel strip area just north of the pier. They had walked around the area at night to see what was up. And there were some clubs in the area near the large hotels up near the beach area.
Embarkation: We just had a little paper work to fill out before we boarded and as always I'm very happy to be at the pier. There were no real lines to check in when we arrived. But Julie got caught in the port screening with something they could not find - metal - on her person. It was just a short wait. I was already through starting the check in paper work process for credit cards and picture checks. Once the paperwork was done we walked onto the ship at about noon. We took a group picture of the five of us. We will always now recommend traveling into the port of departure a day early and looking around. This will lessen your stress levels knowing you are there or if there are flight problems - bump to something later and pick up some extra free flights on the airlines. But once on the ground in the home port your home free. Relax. When you fly into the Florida airports, the pier areas are all just a short drive from the airport areas. We were going in a Concierge Class cabin on deck 9. Cabin number 9201 at the aft port side of the boat. A great choice aided by, whom I consider the best T/A out there, Deb. The balcony area for this cabin level is about 18 feet deep by about 12 feet wide. Some of the lower cabins have even larger areas as I found out via Mike from the Cruise Critic boards. His cabin was directly below ours on deck 7 and the balcony area was about 24 feet deep by the same width as ours. We had tagged our bags and they arrived at our cabin within about 45 minutes of us leaving them on the pier as we went to check in. Nice touch Celebrity. We got to unpack a little then headed upstairs to get some lunch. The norm for all lines for luggage is - there is no specific time it is set to arrive.
Cabin: #9201, Sky Deck. The cabin is slightly larger than the normal Celebrity cabins. This one was 210 sq. ft. Barbara did have some suggestions for the room. The full length mirror was right in front of the bed. And the ladies could not get a head to toe look at themselves before going out. For me it was the storage - closets. There were only three where I remember the regular cabins had four. Not a big deal. There was plenty of storage for all in the room. The bags were put under the bed for storage. The one large bed were made slightly larger than a queen size. There is a nice sized one or two person sofa-sleeper/couch. There is also a cabin safe with a keypad to enter your own code, an interactive TV which we barley used, so you can access your shipboard account, book excursions, order room service, pay-per-view movies (also, newly released movie videos - no charge), dresser/desk with chair, small glass coffee table, plenty of mirrors in front of the desk. They also supply an extra hair dryer in the CC cabins. We left most of the drink and mixings on this table. Our cabin steward kept at least one bottle of Champagne chilling for us every day. The line had provided a welcome aboard bottle for the room and our T/A sent us another one. To go with the others we brought on. We had a few too many and carried one bottle home at the end of the cruise. Back to the room. The desk also has side storage space on both sides of the dresser. The room is decorated with light wood panel tones were perfect for the lighting provided for the room. The bathroom is perfectly sized for the room. Celebrity provides a lot of the small extras for you. So you do not have to carry them with you. Shampoo, moisturizer, q-tips, cotton swabs, a built in hair dryer. Under the TV is a small refrigerator. You can use this if you bring any beer or wine onto the ship. The cabin steward will unlock it for you if you want. The only draw back is that it does not really get anything cold. They will provide you with a Wine bucket and ice if you request it. So you can chill what you need in this. So just be sure to tell the cabin steward you are using the fridge. Just in case. If you use anything out of it your ship board account will be charged.
We booked this cabin for the slightly larger room but mostly for the veranda. With 9 in the group traveling together we needed someplace to meet before dinner and watch the sun go down. Enjoy a glass of champagne or watch Bob shake it up making himself a martini. Standing out on the veranda you can hear the singer playing on the Resort deck above us. He was there every night from 6:00pm till 10:00pm. Another nice treat from Celebrity. This was my 27th cruise and Barbara's 29th. She has gone with the girls out to Bermuda a few years back and on the Oceanic, old Home Lines, and way back in 1973. So she has the longest cruise experience of the group. This was the 13th cruise for me with Celebrity. We have now just about split taking cruises having inside and outside cabins. But any cabin is good as long as your on the ship. We were located in a good position on the ship. One deck below the Ocean café. So the coffee and drinks were not far to walk to. We both like to walk a bit more on the ship when we can. Not taking the elevators but doing the stairs almost all the time. I think we only used them on the formal nights. The main elevator bank located amid ship is beautiful, glass enclosed on the outside - inside of the ship. Being able to look out to sea or to the inside if you wanted. The weather for the entire trip was spectacular. No rain just some cloudy days. We were told that this week was the best weather they had experienced in the past month. Sweet.
Dining Room: The Metropolitan Restaurant like all the Celebrity and Millennium service ships is spectacular. Dark wood tones and flowing stairway to the upper level was picture perfect. The tables were spaces with enough room to move about. We were seated at table 546 on the second level Starboard side. Ademar from Brazil and Artha our assistant waiter from Indonesia were there at all times to satisfy all requests we made. Ice tea on the table for all every night before we were seated. Extra bread sticks for Julie. Laugh all around. They took great care of us. Ademar was telling us he was engaged to a young lady working on the boat. She worked in the Michaels club most nights. I'll have a short bit on that later. The table was set for 10 but we were only a group of 9 so one seat was open just about every night. We moved our seating around every night so everyone would get a chance to sit and talk to everyone in the group. The waiters work area was just a few steps away from our table. There are not a lot of small work areas on the floor now. Just in a few places in the dining room. The Zenith and Horizon have about 20 to 30 small work stations on the floor. There does not seem to be any problem with wheel chair accessibility on the dining room as the access paths are large enough for maneuvering spaces. Come to think of it I did not even hear - until the last formal night any dinner music. But sometimes you get into a zone of talking and eating and it's just there. Barbara and I were invited to have dinner at the Captains table the first formal night. But we declined the invite. I had booked our entire group into the Olympic restaurant for that night. This was Valentines Day. I was on the phone to the restaurant reserve person at 9:02 AM the day the booking were opened. Even if you miss a night in the regular restaurant you should tip for the whole week. There are a few nice changes in the regular ship restaurant now. The one most noticeable is an upgraded menu selection. In that they have added and subtracted some items. Another is the menu now comes in a nice leather cover. Not the old standard heavy paper ones. You can also order some standard selections each night even if they are not on the menu. Shrimp cocktail, Steak and a few others. Me. I'm easy. There is always something great waiting to be ordered and tried. I did get a chance to stop into the restaurant for first seating dinner one night. Both seating were quite full. I did not notice any empty tables at either seating.
The Specialty restaurant, The Olympic, was fully booked on Valentines Day. As I checked our reservation a couple were trying to get a table for that night also. But to no avail. They offered to buy two of my reservations for that night. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.... But who to drop out? I can't drop anyone out. But! Hey. Mr. Mater'd. Can I add two people to my reservation? Going from 9 to 11 people. Yes you can sir. And so Tony and Ansley joined us for dinner that night. Not a problem. They have only so much man power to go around and waiting on other tables is a bit of a problem for them. We ended up having a great time. The food was fabulous and service perfect. I took a picture of the desert sampler I ordered. Was a real taste treat. They presented the ladies with Roses that night and I had bought the ladies of the group each a small box of chocolates. The dinner here takes about two and a half to three hours to complete. Well spaced servings and time to ponder and enjoy what has been presented. You can have the wines they recommend for each course for an extra charge. The cheese selection is first class. Marion will select the ones you think fit your pallet. Strong to mild. She was dead on the selection for me when I requested she pick from strong to mild. There was a Harp player at the entrance area of the dining room. But we made too much noise to hear her during dinner. Good conversation, great food and better company make for an enjoyable evening. A little wine thrown in also helps.
Onto the ship and activities. The Cruise staff was made up of Natalie Clemens, Anna Hovenkamp, Mylinda, and Paul Bleier. They worked at the trivia, word games, pool games and just about every ship activity where it was passenger related. As good a group as I have seen on a Celebrity ship. If they can put up with me. Then they're battle tested cruise veterans. I was at all of the Battle of the Sexes trivia challenge during the week. From the start I knew it would not go well for the men's team. The questions the ladies got were, I feel, a bit easier than the men. One sample the asked us, the men, "What is body sugaring?" Are you nuts???!!! The answer is it's body waxing. Who knows these things? The women's questions was "Who plays in Wrigley field?" Duhhh The Cubs. It did help the ladies that they would have an average of 2 of their team to one for the men. They won the week long competition about 52 to 42. Bring back Donnell and the trivia cards. But we had a lot of fun doing this and the daily trivia games. Some picture drawing games. One of the ladies brought her 10 year old. She ended up being the best artist of the lot of us. Thank goodness I had her on my team anytime she appeared. The cruise staff have activities that start at about 8:30 AM with then greeting you up on the walking track at 8:30 am. Walk a mile. Then other activities all day up to 4:30 pm in the Oceans café. To meet and discuss your day. This is a time to relax and meet them over a lemonade or iced tea. The age of the people on the activities staff is made from 24 to 27 years old. They are out for a bit of travel and work at the same time. They know a lot about the ports of call you are going to. Tap into this information source if you get a chance. All the staff are very outgoing and friendly. They don't just work the daily activities. They also cover the bingo games, the on deck specialty night dances, karaoke and helping you with getting places as the ship hits each port. The assistant cruise director Harun from Turkey has a great group to work with.
I'll digress here to give you a walking tour of the ship. You enter on the Promenade deck number 4 amid ship. They have a welcome aboard glass of champagne or OJ for you. If you want to mix them just ask. There are officers and staff to greet you and direct you to your cabin if you need to. There is also some of the house keeping staff there to walk you to your room and carry any extra luggage if you wish. White glove treatment. If you walk to the middle of the ship and turn to your right you should be at the top of the grand foyer staircase. This is a light tone yellow marble color. As you step forward to the right is the internet café. To your left is the main bank of elevators. Straight ahead on deck 4 is the level that the casino is located just forward of the main lobby atrium area. Listen for the sounds of the slots when the ship is out to sea. We made our usual contribution to Celebrity. Barbara plays the slots and we used our Captains club coupons to get $12 play for $10. Barbara and her sister Julie were ahead for about half the week playing. But lost it all the last two days. They do this mostly at nights after dinner. Behind you off the main foyer is the Rendezvous Lounge. This a large - nice tan soft color tones - lounge where they cruise staff hosted the daily Trivia challenge. They have after dinner dancing here with a duet. Walking forward on deck 4 through the Casino to the port - left - side is the Michael's club. This is where Celebrity had their Select and Elite party. They have a piano player in here most nights. The most beautiful bar waitress on the ship was working here. Joelvia from Brazil. But our waiter Ademar told us this. I suspect he is a bit shaded in this opinion, they're engaged. I stopped by one night for a drink, as Joelvia did not know where I sat for dinner, and told her one of the waiters was saying that the most beautiful bar waitress was working in the Michael's club. She asked who would say such a thing as she took my order. When she returned she had guessed the answer. She was very nice and was saying what their future plans were for working before trying to get married. Sometimes I think we take for granted a lot of the things we come by easily in the U.S. This was also the place that the select and elite captain's club members met before we departed the ship. Amanda Grant, the captain's club social hostess, met us here and when the time came to leave walked us off the ship to the gangway. To the right - starboard side of the ship just outside the Michael's club is the photo gallery. This is where you can get camera supplies and purchase the ship pictures taken of you during the cruise. They do not take a lot of pictures anymore. More like if you want to have them taken they are available to have it done. They will also transfer your pictures to a CD if you would like. If you are traveling in a large group you can arrange to have a formal group picture taken on the main staircase on one of the formal nights. Moving forward from here is the Celebrity Theater: We are not big into the shows. They kind of blend together at this point. The theater is a nice size. It could handle at least 1000 people on all levels at one time. As I have said before the chairs are way to comfortable. We did see some of the welcome aboard show and the comedian. We had a lot of big laughs from the comedy show of Thien Fu. A great slant on looking at America. He was from - formerly - South Vietnam. The Dancers were top notch as we have always seen in all the shows. There is also a singing quartet on the ship. I caught part of their show one night. Celebrity has a lot of different groups and acts on the ship to entertain you at all times of the day and night. Going to the back of the ship through the lounge area you would hit the main level of the Metropolitan restaurant. I described this area a bit above.
Moving up in the world from the back of the ship onto deck 5 - the Entertainment deck. If you walk from the restaurant forward you would enter the Platinum club. It is a large area that has a circular hole in the floor to look down on the rendezvous lounge dance floor below. This is a purple shaded lounge area. It is one of the specialty bar areas. On the port side is the Champagne bar. They have a large selection of sparkling wines to choose from here. On the starboard side is the Martini bar. You could find our friend Bob here most nights. He wanted to sample all the flavors they had. But time and his capacity to handle the drinks would not allow it. We will have to give Bob his due with his Tux and jewelry for the first formal night - Valentines Day. Bright red vest and tie. Going forward from here - not a simple task most nights as the music floats up from the duet below - you would walk back into the top level of the grand foyer. The card room is off to the starboard side of the ship. In this central meeting area and the card room people could meet for daily bridge play, a fast paced game of dominos, scrabble or some board games of their liking. I brought a game we all play at home called Rummy - O. This is a cross between scrabble and gin rummy. The first one to get rid of all their tiles is the winner. The group played this just about anywhere on the ship they could find a table and a few chairs. Bring on the coffee, lemonade and ice tea and they were ready to go at it. In this area also is the Cova Cafe Milano it is kind of intertwined into the seating areas that are all around the open atrium here. The Coffee bar is on the Starboard side of the ship. This had Espresso and other Coffee delights on their menu. Just across from this area was the small bakery and sweet shop. The daily had a list of the special bakery treats for each day. I would say a lot of people missed this lounge area. Forward of this are the shops and the specialty boutiques. As always they have a nice selection of merchandise. The daily ship program would show if they were offering any specials for that day. Barbara stopped in here and picked up some sale items. They have gold and silver chains to watches, and plaster statues. Intermixed in the shop area is the on board liquor store. As with all Celebrity ships they carry a fine selection of Liquors priced just a little bit more than on land. They may not carry all the local brands - but a large cross section is represented here. Mostly the main stream brands you would find in the U.S. You would do well to check the prices before you go ashore. Save some time and effort for yourself in case you are buying to bring back home. They will deliver it to your door the last day of the cruise. It will be in travel boxes so you can carry it off the ship and home with you. They did have few give away promotions in the shop area - pick out the fakes and the like. But you have to be present to win.
From here we will walk back down to Plaza level - deck 3. This is at the bottom of the main staircase in the grand foyer. At the bottom of the stairs is the guest relations desk. The guest relations area is where you can check on your on board charges and any other thing ship related. About the third day of the cruise I was down here picking up another ship daily and went to talk to one of the people here quickly. The young lady - Natalia - smiles at me and say "Hello Mr. Thomas. How are you?" Now I'm puzzled as I had only talked to Amanda Grant in from the Captains Club desk before this. After looking and asking. It turns out the Natalia was on the Zenith cruise out of Jacksonville last year working in guest relations. And she remembered my name. It took me awhile to register and remember her face from last year on the Zenith. I got a chance to chat for awhile with her. I think it's amazing someone could remember a passenger from a year pervious and their name. With all the ship traffic and people they see every cruise every day. Another lovely young face on a Celebrity ship. Natalia Soares - Guest Relations officer. To the left of the guest relations desk is the Captains Club desk area. They now have the Captains Club hostess - on this cruise it was Amanda Grant - has hours posted. You can come down and find out any of the special events going on for the people on the ship. I had stopped by a few times to check on some of the special happenings for the select and elite members. Amanda was great going over the invites for the elite party. They have shifted the hostess duties to be more focused on the Captains Club members than the general ship board people. So do yourself a favor. When on board sign up for the Captains Club. It's free and you get a lot of nice extras. To the left of this area is - what I think was - the tour information area. Walking back to the right - starboard side of the ship in the main lobby area is the Bank. You can cash your traveler's checks or get change here. Be aware. If you need money for tips at the end of the cruise. Go to the Casino. Get a cash advance there. It will show up on your charge card as a ship expense. Not a cash advance. Save the card fees. Right near the bank is the ATM machine. Look above as to how to get cash on the ship. On the starboard side next to the bank area is the future cruise sales area. This area was staffed by Adriana Belmonte. I had stopped by and requested some fare rate information about a Panama Canal cruise. She had the price quotes on out cabin door later in the day. Barbara also went to her and requested some information about rates to Bermuda this summer. Which she provided and followed up on quickly. As a result Barbara is taking our children - who have also sailed with Celebrity many times - to Bermuda this summer. And they are working on taking a few others with them. It's nice to see efficiency in how she helped us with the decision to book. Well worth the few minutes it took to stop by and talk to her. The next large area as you move about to the back of the ship is the Shore excursion office. They have many small pamphlets here describing what each tour has in it. As you turn to the back of the ship - across the lobby under the stairs is the entrance for the Olympic restaurant. A great treat to go to the five star restaurant at sea. You can - if your captains club - call in a reservation for the restaurant in advance. If not stop by here and talk to the mater'd and reserve a night to remember. The service, atmosphere and food is well worth the fee to enter. Something to try at least one time. Going back to our walking tour as we turn and move to the back of the ship.. This is the meeting room and cinema area. They held the Celebrity enrichment series here for people to learn all about computers. Me. I work with them all day every day. So I do not want to look at one on vacation unless it's something I need to see.
Now we'll take the elevators at the back of the ship from deck 3 to deck 10. Decks 6, 7, 8, 9 are all passenger decks.
As you get off the elevators on deck 10 - Resort Deck. You are in the middle of the Ocean's café area. This is the Café and Bar (area) - stern. This is where the morning and lunch buffet area are served. As you get to the stern - rear - of the boat in the early AM to the sides is a station that will prepare an omelet of the day for you. And at lunch these stations turn into a pasta of the day station. At the back just before you go outside is another specialty area. In the AM it's where you get fresh Waffles. At lunch it's time for the sandwich of the day - with soup if you like. At night it turns Japanese - the Sushi bar. Another Celebrity expanded extra. Don't miss this if you can. Some great treats await you as you go for lunch. The best cake we had was when we had our welcome aboard lunch up here. Just at the end of the buffet line. Remember - your on a cruise - They make it - you eat it. Or at least sample a bit. The area inside around the oceans café during the morning and noon meal hours is always busy and crowded. Then at night this area turns into the Sushi bar. I stopped by here just about every night. Picking up some treats for the group meet in our room before dinner. I could always find our group here, walking outside to the stern - back of the boat outside. It afforded them a table that always was available. They would set up and play Rummy-O her a lot of the time and enjoy lunch at the same time. Julie, Barbara, Jimmy and Carole could be found in this area about noon till 2 or 3 pm when the lunch buffet closed down. At this back bar area on the ship. Every night they, have also added, a singer here. He was playing till about 10pm. Requests were taken. This was one of my hiding spots grabbing some sushi and a beer while listening to the music. As the ladies were getting ready for dinner. It only takes me about 20 minutes to come in and be showered, changed and ready for the guests and or dinner each night. What takes them so long?
Walking from the back of the ship here forward as you reentered the Oceans café area to the port side of the ship is where they have the nightly informal dining area. You can call and reserve an hour in advance. In case you want to go earlier to dinner or are coming back from a land tour late and do not want to rush. As you just about exit the oceans café you will see a little recessed area. This is where you can get your daily ice cream fix. They have about 10 flavors out each day. Want soft ice cream. They have that also. Pile on the sprinkles. As you exit this area you will come to the opening doors and enter the Rivera pool area. The main pool was about 50 feet in length from front to back and about 20 feet wide. The shallow end was 5 feet and the deep end 6. If the ship was moving about a little - avoiding the clouds - you got a few waves in this pool. Some people get it right and get to cruise mode as soon as they are on the ship. They are in the pool and hot tubs. They get to listen to the sail away music was playing on deck from here. There are a lot of pool chairs in the well open area on deck 10 around the pool. There are such beings on boats as Chair Hogs.. They may come out in force on the sea days starting about 7:00 am or so. These are the people who put a towel and book or shoes on a bunch of deck chairs and use them for less than an hour each day. The ship does it's best to try and stop this practice but.... But there are usually enough chairs about the ship so no one would be left standing if they did not want too. A good hint if you need a quiet place in the sun. On the starboard side forward of deck 11 their is a stairway that looks like it goes nowhere. Wrong. This is up to deck 12 forward. Bring a towel there are lots of chairs here. And the wind screen cuts down the breezes coming over the ship as it moves. The port days bring very few to the pool area. So there are plenty of chairs available to use all day. So don't bother marking a spot. They also have cushions for those in the well and around the pool. There are also 4 hot tubs in this pool area. There should be an available spot here to catch some serious bubbles. The second pool just behind the larger pool looked to be about 20 feet long by 15 feet wide. The depth of this pool was about 3 and half fee to 4 feet. This was more for the kids than the adults. Remember the pool is chlorinated salt water, and was comfortably refreshing. Some days when they exchanged water it was a bit cool till later in the day. This pool area is where the pool games are held. We had King of the Millennium and the pillow pool jousting here. Lots of fun to watch your fellow passengers entertain you. They also held some of the music - name that tune - games here. The cruise activities staff hosts these get togethers. The stage area for the band to play while leaving port. To the starboard side of the pool area is the outdoor grill. They had Hamburgers, Hot dogs, fries, pizza of many types here all afternoon. Be aware if you book the rooms underneath this area there may be some noise coming down to your room. This area is a heavy traffic area from about noon till midnight. This would be over some of the suites. On this ship cabin numbers 9096 and 9098. We met a couple who had this room and moved. Moving forward you will hit the Thalassotherapy Pool area. This area is just forward of the open pool area. It's the bubbles pool with the water spouts. This is a new feature on all the Millennium Class ships. They also have the lite breakfast and lunch served in this area. And it is lite. Not a big selection but in the right spot if you need it. I found this is another great hid away. If you are not a Sun worshiper. The glass ceiling and front part of the ship block a lot of the direct light. This is like entering a giant tub, but not as hot as the regular hot tubs. There are jets of water shooting out from the sides and pool bottom, large faucet-looking jets overhanging the four corners (great back massage). One each side of this pool there are chrome, in-water, loungers. The bubbles come from under this area and refresh you slowly. Bob and Eileen liked this area and were in the bubble pool just about every day. The pool area itself was not too crowded most of the time. But there is a limited amount of area to catch the bubbles on. They also have two hot tubs in this area one on each side. Around this pool area are very comfortable, pillowed (lower back and head), teak lounge chairs. This area does get crowded as the afternoon progresses. But later in the day - about 5pm or so empties out. As you leave the bubble pool area going forward you walk into the Aqua Spa, Sauna & Gymnasium. I used this facility each morning. To say the least it's large. You can get a massage and all the other spa treatments here. Sign up in advance in case you want something time specific. The gym has a large floor for aerobics and other workout related exercises. They have a small free weight area to the starboard side. There are about 20 nautilus machines of all types you can use. I only used about 7 or 8 machines that I worked on my knees and legs with. There are also about 12 walking / running machines you can sign up for when the morning use crush is on. They look forward where the ship is going. A great place to work out in the Early AM - see the sun come up and watch the ship dock all while getting in shape. There are also a lot of different types of bikes you can use and another 4 machines the looked like a cross between skiing and running. There were also a few stair steppers. A lot of workout equipment for a ship. Great area.
Walking upstairs to the Sunrise deck - Deck 11. This is the Running / Jogging / Walking track: A good idea to use on calm days for everyone. There are signs out saying that 3 laps equals about 5/8 ths. of a mile. Well it's off a little. They are trying to show three laps is about one kilometer. May be a little short. But not to worry about. Just about 5 laps plus is a full mile. If your going to run or jog be sure to do this before 7:30 am or after 5:00 pm - or you will hit a mass of walkers and people coming up to catch the morning sun and out for a stroll. They may mess you up a bit. The walkers may not hear you coming behind them and not move right away. They are used to what happens on land where they walk. Not many others around and not to worry about anything else. The walkers, in a perfect world, would stay single file. So as to allow others room to move past them. I had the track just about to myself on this cruise. The walkers did not come out in force till past my quit time every day. There were just a few other runners on the boat. As we always seem to be. We are in the minority. I did not get a chance to go on land and run this cruise but walked about the ports a lot. Around the pool area are a lot of deck chairs so you are close to the music and pool if you need to cool off. If you walk forward through the side doors you will find the Cosmos club. This area is deserted most of the day. This is another great place to escape to with an early morning coffee and view the sunrise from inside. They held the Anniversary party here and the Captains club repeaters party here. This is where you find out that someone on the cruise has been on Celebrity about 52 times before. Ouch. But not this time. Amanda Grant had sent us a request to come down and talk to her as we would be introduced in this group for long cruisers. They usually introduce the three sets of passengers with the highest amount of times they have cruised with Celebrity. Well this time the numbers were so low that with just our 13 and 14 cruises we were the highest. They presented Barbara with a beautiful bouquet of six roses. I took a picture of them and we wished we could have brought them home with us. We had our picture taken with the Captain. And they dropped off this picture to us before we departed the ship. Another nice touch by Celebrity. The Cosmos club area also hosted the nightly karaoke. Natalie and Mylinda hosted this the one night I stopped by. Some real good singers and some not so good ones. Fusion the house band that played on sail away was up here at night. As was the DJ. There is a great dance floor and room really strut your move on it. Plus this lounge has some quite spots to relax in if you need to. They have bar service in this lounge from 5:00 PM till the last person leaves for the night. If you walk back to the middle of the ship on this deck you would come to the elevator bank. Going inside here you would be near the Golf Simulator. All Celebrity ships carry golf professionals to help you with your swing or arrange for golf on shore. The golf packages were a bit expensive for me to only play one time. But I will say the "Teeth of the Dog" course excursion in Casa De Campo was $200.00 per person. Not too bad for one of the best golf courses in the world. I will say I did miss them not having an open house so to speak - with a long drive contest and a closest to the pin play off during the cruise. But time in the simulator was just about all booked for every day on the cruise. Across from the Golf simulator is the Extreme sports bar. They had ESPN playing here just about all the time. But it was the Caribbean feed. This means that there is a lot of soccer highlights and not much on American sports. Talking to the activities people, they were saying this area does not get much traffic unless there is a big sporting event on TV that everyone on the ship would want to see. They were packed the week before for the Super Bowl.
Walking back outside and to the back - Aft section of the ship you would come across a stairway - they are on both sides. This leads up to the Sports Deck 12 Mid ship. This is where most of the outdoor games are played. Each day the Cruise staff has a Darts, Basketball, and other competitions up here. They also have Volleyball, paddle tennis and other games you can play out here. It's a bit windy when the ship is at sea but on port days just fine. I did get into a few basket ball games and one good volleyball match. But the port days cut back on the ship activities here. I did get to see a spirited game of basketball by eight good players. They were all a lot bigger than I am - so it was best to just watch.
The only other area on deck 11 as you walk to the aft section of the boat is the Kids Fun Factory. This area covers the complete back of the boat on this level. There is a large play ground area here. In it is a small pool, and a lot of climbing toys for the tots to play on. Inside is a ball pit and more play area. Celebrity had - as far as I saw - about 6 or 7 kid camp counselors on the ship on this trip. I ran into the kids going from one area to another. All having a good time. They used Paul from the activities staff as their bingo caller one afternoon up in the Extreme sports bar area. Everyone had a good time.
The only two public areas I have not talked about are Notes- the music library - This is located amid ship on decks 6 & 7 that I walked by it a lot of times. There was always someone in there. They also have Words which is their at sea library. This was between decks 8 & 9. Another nice area to find some quiet in. Again there were people in here a lot of the times I went by. You can borrow books from here and return at the end of the cruise.
This concludes the walking tour of the ship. I hope I covered everything.
Onto the day to day.
The first day on board is get adjusted day. Get through the boarding process. Get your picture takes at the ship entry area. Get your picture taken for your security pass. Get a welcome aboard glass of champagne or two. Walk about the ship. Go find your room. Find your great T/A has sent you a bottle of Champagne for the trip. Find that Celebrity has also sent you a bottle of Champagne. Go get something to eat. Stroll the ship. Go get something else to eat. Go back to the room and store the clothes. Check out the views from the veranda. Go back downstairs to the entry area and get another glass of Champagne. Go back upstairs to check out the deserts you may have missed. Listen to the band playing. Walk forward to see the views from the front of the ship. See if you can find anyone who is in your group. Go over to the grill and get a hamburger and fries. Get a game of Rummy-O going. Make sure your table is located near the outside grill. Play one game. Get drinks from the service area behind the band stand. Get a second game going. Get a hot dog and fries from the grill. Finish the game. Go back to room and store any other clothes you have. Lay out tonight's dinner wear. Call the others on the ship phone and invite to bon voyage get together as we leave port in our room. Find your life preserver. Go to Life boat drill at 4:00pm. Finish life boat drill. Don't stumble on the straps from the life preserver on the deck from your or others. Get some cheesy pictures of your friends in their life preservers. Get Wife's life preserver and yours and put it away. Go back up to the buffet area and get a quick bite before they close. Back to the room. Call everyone to stop by as the ship sails away. Pop the cork on the champagne. Seeing how far off the aft section you can shoot it. Pour it out to Doug, Joan, Julie, Jimmy, Carole, Bob, Eileen and Barbara. Have some snacks we brought out for everyone. Get some more pictures of everyone at the back rail on the sail away. Lean over and see if Mike from cruise critic is on his balcony. And away we go. We then disperse and meet back at our room at about 7:45 pm for some more champagne. Did I say that we had brought a lot of supplies in my drag bag onto the ship. I have brought a bottle of Grey Goose with the Vermouth and olives. Bob supplies the shaker and it's Martini time. I also have some Gin for gin and tonics for others. Along with soda and seltzer I think everyone is covered. I have gone upstairs to the Sushi bar and gotten a nice selection for the group to try out. We also have the evening canapé's delivered by our room stewardess. I requested and she gave us a few plates of them. Nice.
About 8:30 pm or so we all walk down to dinner. We are all seated at table 546 in the Metropolitan restaurant. This is the start of a great week of friends, food, beautiful service and a lot of fun.
Food: Cosmopolitan Restaurant (main dining room)
- Dinner: Excellent as always from the chef's. Barbara has mostly beef or meat for her dinner selections. They were all were outstanding as I was told. I am a fish/seafood eater while on the ships. Each night they have a different offering. I like the subtle sauces offered with each main course. They compliment every meal here. As usual the food is top level as all Celebrity ship have. Service is also the best I have seen. Another Celebrity trademark.
- Breakfast: I only went to sit down breakfast in the main dining room twice. Both times I ordered omelets. The4 or 5 days; Ordered something different each day. One time I just ordered scrambled eggs with some bacon and sausage. The plate came and it was more food than 2 could have eaten. I tried but had to push it away after getting just over half through it. I don't think anyone else in the group had a chance to go to sit down breakfast except for the last day.
- Lunch: I only made it here one time for lunch. They present the main course wonderfully. There were some nice changes off the menu in the Ocean's café.
It's nice to sit and be served some of the days at sea. Nice way to break it up.
- Dinner: alternative dining - This is in the back port side of the ship. You have to call them an hour in advance of dinner. You order the Main entrée from the menu but the appetizers, salads, desserts, are all buffet. This is a bit of a limited menu selection from the formal dining room. But. The sushi bar is right there also. I have always thought this is a good alternative if your out on a tour and coming back late and do not want to rush to dinner. Parents with kids that can't sit through the whole dinner or would like to come and go as they please.
Pool Grill - Outside at the pool. Lunch: Get in line for your hamburgers, good hotdogs, and pizza. Drinks are right nearby.
There is food available just about 24 by 7 somewhere on the ship. Lite night bites are brought around the ship at about 11:30 pm each night. This replaces the large buffets they used to have. Although they do have a grand buffet on the last formal night. Nice to check out with all the fruit and ice carvings. If you did not get enough Lobster they have the extra tails cut up and ready to eat here. You can also always find an open drink station somewhere on the ship at all times.
The actual trip: The second day at sea. Got up and ran for about 15 to 20 minutes on deck at 7:00am. Who put that hill on the deck as I was going forward. Workout every day consists of 20 minutes run. Then go to the weight room do some sit ups. Then the weight machines for 10 minutes or so. Out to the pool and swim for 10 minutes. I can do three strokes pretty well now. But that butterfly is not doable for me. My daughter could do this but it has evaded me to this point. Maybe too much coordination. Last thing is into the hot tub for a few minutes then a quick rinse off. Towel down and bring wife a coffee back to the room. During the early afternoon the Captain came on the speaker and announced we would be turning back to the Bahamas. This was in the early afternoon. As there was a medical emergency. We had to air lift off the man who had had a heart attack. We saw the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter a little after 3 pm. The whole evacuation of the nurse, person from the coast guard and man took about 20 to 30 minutes. We had to go back so they could reach us. The Coast Guard boat that launched the helicopter for the pickup was a long ways from our boat. From what we heard later he was airlifted into the Bahamas and was doing well. The passengers that watched from the front of the ship applauded the rescuers efforts as they flew away.
This delayed our arrival into Casa De Campo by four hours. The weather was beautiful today. About 80 degrees not too many clouds in the sky.
The third day at sea was another loss for the men in the battle of the sex's trivia. Same morning routine. But it was even windier up on deck earlier in the morning. This makes for an uneven run. Oh well live through it. The one good thing is you get to see the sun come up an peek between the clouds. Nice reds and yellows on nature's perpetual painting. Stop and smell the roses. One thing I did notice was there were some birds flying next to the ship today. They were a long way from the nearest shore in the Bahamas or the Dominican Republic. They were watching the waves the ship made for some bait fish to catch and eat. They would climb up about 60 to 70 feet in the air and dive down into the water about 50 feet from the boat. Nice sight. We arrived in Casa De Campo about 5:00pm or so. The boat was cleared very quickly. But most of the day tours were cancelled. The line for the busses to LaMarina and Altos De Chavon was over 1000 people deep. The busses held about 30 people each. And the round trip takes about 25 minutes at best for each location. So after about 600 or so people took the first set of busses there was a bit of a pause before they returned to get more people. Harun the assistant cruise director was in charge of getting the people onto the correct bus for the area that was to be visited. His group of helpers - activities staff and celebrity dancers worked this out nicely. Some people opted out and took the taxi service that was near by. Julie, Jim and Eileen took the bus for the ride to La Marina. They described it as just another tourist town that needed a little work. Me. I walked off the ship into a nearby park and got a nice ship picture. From the top deck you can see a baseball field complex. The town of La Marina is just to the port forward side of the boat as it is in the dock. There was a factory of sorts belching black smoke to our direct left. But this may have been a sugar cane processing plane. Looking at the map now you may have been able to walk into La Marina if you wanted. This would have taken about 20 minutes or so. I'll save it for next time. There are some special shows and trips for later in the evening in Altos De Chavon. We pulled away from the pier about 11:00 pm that night. Never felt a thing as glided over to Puerto Rico.
Day four brought a nice dark sky in the early morning. But this cleared up as we came near the coastline of Puerto Rico. Pulling in to the port of San Juan and seeing the old forts over looking the harbor entrance area is a nice sight. I always think what, after touring the forts, an invader or hostile ship may think as they bobbed about the ocean trying to run past the cannons in the fort. Chances were not good. The old town area was a complete fortress in the early years. A lot of the old walls are still in place. There was a U.S. Navy ship coming into the port just behind us. The marine amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Sipan. It was impressive to see all the sailors lined up along the decks in their dress whites as they slowly followed us into the port area. We had a second chance to cheer on our men in the armed services. And did so several times as their ship docked next to ours. The navy ship had to use tug board as the older navy ships do not have the side propellers the newer cruise ship do. This helps in their docking. I was talking to Natalie about how there were all these young single men real close by. And they liked to travel. I wonder if she got the hint. Well our whole group got off and walked a bit around old town. Barbara and I have been there many times. I have been to the forts and other sights. She has seen a lot of the shopping areas. We walked down the main road next to the harbor. We found a nice shade tree just past the Island made hand crafted booths. We sat down here while the rest of the group went off to check out the sights. Barbara went back to the boat and I went off to find the pueblo - small super market - up off the main square here. I needed to pick up some more tonic water and some other supplies for the group. Walking back onto the pier area as you enter is the Puerto Rican rum sampler desk. Yippee... They had free samples of about six or seven blended rum drinks. I tried one. Then went upstairs to the discount store. The one liter of rum here was $6.00. Not expensive at all. They had a large selection of different rums and other liquors here. All were very inexpensive as I could tell. I purchased one bottle of rum and brought it onto the ship then stored it in my room. Celebrity does allow you to take bottles to your room. But if you prefer you can drop them off at the desk as you enter the ship. They will hold them for you till the end of the trip and drop them off to your room. A nice service. I usually do not carry home anything from the trip and this time did not either. Drink it up. I went back out into town to look for one other item. When I came back I made sure I stopped by the rum booth again. Nice friendly people. They will even spice up your drink if you ask them. I don't remember much of the day after that.
The fifth day had us landing in St. Thomas U.S.V.I. One of the prettiest ports in the Caribbean. As you look at the port are to the starboard side is a shopping - mall area - called Havensight. This is right next to the area the ships dock in. Very nice spaces to walk about in the open air mall. To the forward port side is the downtown area of Charlotte Amalie. This is a larger shopping district. After participating in some of the ship activities this am I got off the ship. Some of the group went off the ship earlier. They were going to walk over into Havensight and then take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain, or large hill as you see it, over looking the port. Me. I walked over and found the road next to the back of the shopping area. I then walked up to the top of the mountain. This is not a pretty road by any means. It's a poured concrete road that looks like it just hit with a rake to push down the concrete into place. The road winds its way up the mountain to the place where the gondola ride stops. At the top of the hill is a bar and souvenir shop on top. I met Paul from the cruise staff here. The gondola ride was broken when I arrived and there was a group getting a ride back down in a small jitney. I walked around and took some pictures of the ships tied up in the port. From the looks of it they are going to add another ship terminal area just off the town of Charlotte Amalie. As I was starting to walk back down I hear shouting. My friends are in the gondola and it is going back down the mountain. Missed them by just a little. I walked back down and looked through some of the shops in Havensight. Nothing really interests me here. This was the seventh or eighth time we have been here. So I have seen most of the mall and everything for sale in it. I did stop by Al Cowan's to pick up some more supplies for the group. The walk up the hill took me less than a ½ hour as I was by myself and did not have to wait for anyone. I was also stopping to take pictures along the way. I did purchase a drink before walking up and just about finished it as I arrived. I do know that the shopping in Havensight is nice. But there are shops aplenty over in the down town of Charlotte Amalie. I did jump off the ship just before we pulled out and was the fifth from the end straggler person back on before we sailed. I was helping someone else get some of their own supplies. Golfers beware. Your trip to Mahogany Run will tie you up for the full day on land.
The sixth day was a sea day. We were cruising back to Nassau. Clear blue skies. Temp in the 80's. This is clean up day in the room. Time to get started packing. Moving around the things we did not use. Maybe we'll get to them tomorrow. A nice relax day. The pool is busy early on. We have gotten about 10 invites to various Captains Club functions during the week. Special tours, wine blending, meet the officers and on. It's nice to have cruised as many times with one line that gives back customer loyalty with special services. I have sent a letter through channels requesting the ship allow Natalie Clemens from the cruise staff to come have dinner with us in the main dining room. Natalie, Paul, Anna and Melinda have been great to me this cruise. Putting up with my antics at the games. I'm the question everything person. Comment on a lot of other things. All in fun. I just wish I could have invited them all to dinner. But they have to split duties and move about the ship to work later that night. During the afternoon at the pool they have a pool jousting contest. I signed up for this. If you have never seen it. They have a pole across the pool. You slide out into the middle against an opponent. Each person is given a bag of balloons. You try to knock the other person into the water hitting them off the pole. It's a lot of fun to try this. The women went first. The men second. I got to the finals and was playing against a guy about my height. Six foot 5 inches. But he was about 250 pounds where I'm just about 190 all wet. Ready - set go. Off we went to hitting each other. I called for bar service in the middle of the bout. But they did not serve people on the pole. Darn. Well we could not put each other into the water. We had slugged it out for what seemed like 5 minutes. My opponent accidentally hit me in the mouth with a backhand as he was coming back with his balloon bag. Ouch. Fat lip time. They declared it a draw. Thank goodness. We were both real tired. But I did win a t shirt for it. After this I went got some of my room supplies. Mixed it up and was feeling no pain about an hour later. Then off to charades to have some more game fun. A cruise is what you make of it. Tonight was the repeaters party. This was held in the Cosmos club. Hosted by the ever gracious and lovely Amanda. I took some nice pictures of all the cruise ladies dressed up in their finest. They party was another highlight of the trip. I did make sure that Natalie was able to have dinner with our group. I checked with the cruise director - Derek Habraken - on this at the party. No problem. I dithered our time away making sure all our pictures got takes with the ladies of the cruise staff and we went in and were greeted by the captain and his main officers. Our friends Eileen and Bob missed out on this party as they were having early dinner at the Captains table with the Hotel Manager. A nice invite for them. Amanda had found and invited them to this special treat. I had gone down and gotten some pictures of them at the captains table. A nice remembrance. We had a wonderful time at dinner with our invited guest. Eileen and Bob came back and sat through dinner having desert and coffee with us. The Baked Alaska parade was a crowd clapping event. Trying to say thank you to the whole Celebrity wait staff for the great service we have gotten this week.
The seventh and our final full day on the Millennium. Worked out till 8:00am. Back to the cabin with the coffee and then changed and off to breakfast. The daily activities started and away I went. This was the finals of the battle of the sex's trivia contest. Like I said before. We - the men - were too far behind to catch up. Even getting the last two 10 point questions right only closed the score to a respectable one. I still think the ladies questions are easier. As a whole. We docked in Nassau right on schedule - about noon. We went off the ship and took a water taxi over to Paradise Island. This was not expensive - but they wait till there is a full boat to leave. When inside they are saying boats are leaving right now. Well we sat there for about 20 minutes plus before they pulled away. A local on the boat gave us a short informational tour of the area we were passing through. Then asked for tips as we left the boat. We docked under the bridge that crosses over to Paradise island. We walked into the Club Land'Or area. This was in the back of their marina area. Ouch. If you stay to the right as you hit the dock area you can walk around past a lot. of expensive yachts. They were all so beautiful. Where does the money come from to afford something like this. We walked through here and to the back entrance of the Atlantis hotel. We did not go in as time was short and we should be getting back to the ship before sail away. We walked back and just missed out on getting the water taxi back. Waited another 20 minutes before we caught the next one and it left. The water taxi left us at the far end of the pier area. We walked a bit through the craft area and through the gate back to the boat. It was iced tea time now and they broke out the Rummy-O game to get in a final few games. Next time I think we will try a taxi to Paradise island and try to get there as soon as we dock. On a previous trip we had spent the day on the Atlantis beach in the water. Something we could go back and do next time. The Millennium pulled away from the pier right on schedule. Back to the room to start packing for the trip home. I found that I had packed about 5 shirts and three pairs of short that I had never used. I just about had enough clothes for a 14 day cruise. We had one last small get together in our room before going up to dinner. Tonight is the time you drop off the tips for the wait staff in the restaurant. You can leave the tips for your room steward out so when they come to turn you room down for the night they will find it. Remember the working crew - the servers and housekeeping live on the tip money you leave them. It's long hours for not a whole lot of money. They just have to stay at it for a long period of time to save anything. Make sure you put your luggage out before you go to bed. And you have the correct tags on them.
Last day. Up early and Barbara and I went to sit down breakfast. We did not order anything special as we know the staff is trying to get ready for the next set of people. After this we made our way to the Michael's club. Amanda greeted us as we entered here. This was where the Select and Elite members meet to leave the ship. Bob, Eileen, Jim, Carole and Julie were already there. I went and found Dog and Joan and took them there. I also picked up Tony and Ansley. This is a nice place to get ready to go. Celebrity has provided some croissants and other small breakfast foods. They have a generous supply of coffee and tea to help you wake up. The comfortable chairs are nice to sit in one last time before hitting the airport. When it cam time to get off the ship Amanda led us down to the gangway. A gracious hostess till the end. Never ending smiles. After passing through customs we went down and picked up all the luggage. Jimmy got a van to take five of us over to the airport. Doug and Joan were driving home from Florida and made their connection to the long term parking area. Bob and Eileen were staying on in Florida and were going to pick up a rental car. Goodbye hugs and best wishes passed all around. We were at the airport in about 10 minutes. All checked in about 10 minutes later. No baggage weight problems. We were so early we may have been able to get on the wait list for the earlier 11:00 am flight back to New Jersey. But you have to tell them before they ticket your luggage now. As they will not go through it to pull it out. The 11:00 AM flight was no very full. So we sat about the airport moving from cruise mode to normal work and travel mode. We boarded the flight right on time. The plane ride was uneventful and we touched down right on time in Newark. I went to pick up the van from the long term parking lot. Can anyone out there tell me why there are no signs as to how or where to get the bus to go get your car from long term parking. After asking 5 airport employees I find the place where the bus stops. Finally get the van and pay for the parking. Picked up everyone no problem. Home in about a ½ hour. Unload all the luggage and start telling the home crowd the ship stories. Walked the dog a few times then it's off to bed. Cruises wear me out. Thank goodness it's presidents day tomorrow and there is no work.
A bit more information - Shore Excursions: We don't do them.
Just got off the ship and looked around and shopped in the port area.
Our cabin stewardess and her helper were excellent. Even though I saw them a lot they were always working in someone else's room. Ours was always spotless. We made a lot of mess every night we had people in before dinner. But the room was clean all the time. Never a thing out of place. They even kept the ice bucket full with a bottle of champagne we had in the room all week. Great service.
Dining room wait staff -waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter - Great. The area Mater'd. Stopped by the table each night to inquire about our goings on. This group was neat and efficient the whole cruise. They did not miss anything. Smiles all around. We requested the first night and got Ice Tea on the table every night of the cruise. Something we really appreciate. Add in Joelvia and it was a splendid week.
Passengers: Only a 7 day cruise. There were not a lot of kids - that I saw at all on board. The average age of the group was about 45 years old. There were a lot of young kids on the cruise and we saw them with their camp counselors playing about the ship each day. The ship programs are real good for the younger set. As the kids get older they tend to go their own way.
Ship Impressions: This ship as all Millennium series ships are the most attractive I have been on. The Celebrity ships are unique and beautiful. From interior design and art to the exterior painting.
You have to pick your port itinerary carefully so as not to travel to one port too much. The ship laid out real well. I would have to say that everything about the ship is beautiful, and tastefully put together. From the cabins, public areas, pools, spa, sauna, gymnasium, shops, to the lounges, and the open-air deck space.
I always feel Celebrity has the plus one food and service on all their ships. The staff people are well spoken and take time for each individual passenger.
Hope to see you next time you cruise.
Following a Western Caribbean week aboard the RCCL Splendour, we travelled across Florida from Tampa to Ft. Lauderdale. We have always said that Celebrity was our favorite, but this particular trip aboard ther Millenium (January 16-23/05), for a variety of reasons, was not our best cruise. Embarkation was extremely quick and efficient. We were on boad and enjoying lunch in the Ocean cafe by 12:30. When we were allowed to go to out staterooms at 1:00, we were amazed to see our bags already there! Our inside room was very adequate for space and storage, included a mini bar for the first time. Shower, bathroom etc. all good. Unfortunately, the builders chose to put down a yellow print carpet in these rooms, and it was really stained and grubby looking. You don't really expect to have to wear your shoes in the stateroom like you might in a cheap motel. Outside of our stateroom, the Millenium is 'understated elegance'. Lots of light wood in place of the usual chrome, glass, and mirrors. Lots of artwork, but very little that we found appealing. The 'buddha heads' on every landing of one stairwell, weredownright scarey and unattractive. Service at the desk was very good, also excursion desk.
The Metropolitan dining room was a little disappointing. We didn't have a great location, but more than that, often tablemates never showed up and we dined alone. Thought we could have been moved to equally empty other tables. Celebrity's service is usually wonderful. Unfortunately, our waiter Vidas, frequently got the plates wrong or order wrong. Also, completely neglected the two of us (dining alone again) while fawning over the twenty-something beauties at his other table. His assistant Jerry was very good. The food and menu was virtually identical to that of RCCL Splendour (afterall same parent company). The Ocean Cafe (buffet with 4 lines) was definitely superior to most ships we've been on. Lots of variety and Celebrity service in place of serve yourself. Also a pasta and pizza bar, grill with burgers, hotdogs, fries, a healthy/vegetarian bar, hard ice-cream counter with ?6 flavors each day, no shortage of place to get good food. Perhaps what made the food seem less than great, was the fact that we hit very rough seas as soon as we left Lauderdale...unlike any we have ever seen, and even some of the crew. Most people sick, lying in bed for the first day or so. There were small tsunamis in the pools and water everywhere. The second day was slightly better (down to 12 foot swells). Unfortunately, I also got ?bronchitis, cough, fever etc.
The entertainment was probably the best we have seen on a ship. The male and female aerial artists (?from Cirque de Soleil) were amazing. Yakov Smirnoff is undoubtedly the best comedian we have ever encountered. The production team was the usual and quite good, although the singers were sometimes off pitch. Our cruise director Darren (Canadian) was the best one we've seen since Julian on our first cruise aboard Celebrity Horizon.
We enjoyed our visit to Casa del Campo (actually Romona) in Dom. Rep. The free shuttles to Altos de Chavon were appreciated, and Altos de Chavon is a beautiful and interesting place; its easy to spend a couple hours just walking around enjoying the replicated European villa and cobblestone streets. We bought excursion tickets off the ship ($30) for the KANDELA show in the huge open-air amphitheatre that evening. Worth the money, but I don't know what it would have cost if we had just arrived and asked for tickets at the gate. Weather was overcast for St. Thomas so Magen's Beach was not at its best. Walked 'downtown' but tired of the shops. Enjoyed exploring the Castillo de San Cristobal in San Juan ($3 admission). Also, cool and cloudy, and included a downpour that day. Bahamas...you can only take the straw market for a brief period but you should see it once. We took a ferry over to Paradise Island to find a beautiful beach. Unfortunately, the ferry operators are determined to cram as many people on board as possible and it got a little ridiculous. The beach was fun, but it is a very long walk around the end of the island from the ferry terminal to the beach. On return we passed as hotel tenants and walked through the resort instead! Also, difficult to find a place to change on the beach, so wear your suit.
Poolside was never overly crowded due to the weather. Last day at sea was good, relaxing and fairly calm. Poolside band 'Fusion' was the best island band we've heard. The lead (female) was good and sang elsewhere on the ship. They weren't out very often though, possibly due to the weather. Overall, an enjoyable week, but surprisingly not as good as the week previous aboard Splendour.
We just returned from a 12-day cruise on the Millennium to the Eastern Mediterranean. Many of the reviews I read before departing were of great assistance.
Our flight on British Airways from Los Angeles to Barcelona was great -- we arrived on time and spent the night in Barcelona before departing on the Millennium. I suggest you do the same and see some of Barcelona. Embarkation was a breeze. Celebrity has their act together for getting you on board quickly. We had a balcony stateroom on Deck 8 (8084), and my daughter and her friend were on Deck 3 close to the reception area -- a great location for getting around.
The ship was very quiet and stable; even in rough seas there was little motion. I loved that about the Millennium -- smooth sailing all the way.
We had no complaints with the food anywhere on the ship. The main dining room, The Metropolitan, had great food and service. We had a window table on the second level and it was very quiet. Our table waiter was the best at his job for taking care of us. I usually give around $25extra at the beginning of the cruise and it makes sure I get taken care of very well. Do the same for the cabin attendant.
The buffet on the lido deck has a very limited selection, and after several days I got tired of eating the same things. However, they had fresh fruit and pastries that were always tasty. If you are on tours every day, you will be eating there, so try to eat in the main dining room on the days at sea.
If you want the experience of a lifetime, make reservations at the Olympic Dining Room for a true feast. The service and menu choices are exceptional. Try the goat cheese appetizer and the Waldorf pudding for dessert. This will cost $30 per person but it's worth every penny. We raved about this meal throughout the cruise. I have been on 36 cruises, and the food and service on the Millennium was equal to the best I have been on. When you are at sea or return from a tour early, try the hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza on pool deck – they're great. There is also an ice cream bar and pasta bar available to you at the buffet station each day.
Celebrity had entertainment every night, including lavish Broadway shows and solo acts of singers and artists. Some of this was boring but everybody seemed to enjoy the variety. The casino was quite large and was never really full; you could play anything without much difficulty. It is a little smoky but not that bad. There is a little piano bar right outside the photo shop that we enjoyed going to for a drink. Also, you have the disco and other music to enjoy, so try to do it all during the cruise.
Our stateroom had plenty of space, but I recommend bringing a hanging bag for all the toiletries to help with the space in the bathroom. The bathroom was my biggest complaint: There was mold around the bottom tiles in the shower, and several people, including my daughter, had the same issue. In addition, there were several loose tiles on the bathroom floor that kept falling out. I reported it and was told it would be fixed but it never was. My daughter's toilet had to be fixed several times. For a fairly new ship I found this to be disturbing but it never stopped us from having a good time. If you go on this ship and this itinerary, get a balcony stateroom -- you will be glad you did; the views sailing into ports are breathtaking.
We did almost everything ashore on our on. The costs for the ship's tours are very high, and we found you can get around very easily on the trains for a lot less. The only exception was Rome -- we took the buses provided by the cruise line into Rome and Naples. Otherwise, do some research on the Internet and you can get all the train schedules for departing and returning to whatever port you are in. It's easy to get around in all the different countries and cities. By the way, the people in these cities will be very helpful in assisting you.
Monte Carlo is charming; walk around and visit the shops, the Grand Casino, the Palace, and try to have lunch in some small, enchanting cafe overlooking the harbor. In Florence we took the train to Pisa first and spent two hours there; then we took the train to Florence. It was crowed in Florence, and we did not get to see the statue of David or the Basilica. You need to allow enough time.
Rome is one and a half hours from the dock, so getting there and back will use up three hours of the allotted shore time. This is not enough time to see everything, so get to the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, St. Peters and the Vatican if you can. You will no be able to do more then that.
In Naples, we took the cruise line's bus to Pompeii, a sight not to be missed. If you have time, take the high speed shuttle to the Island of Capri. It will be a tight schedule but plan it and you can do it. Keep a close look at the time to avoid missing the ship.
Mykonos, Greece is all walking and we loved it there. The weather was very windy so we did not enjoy it as much if it had been warm and sunny. Try some local foods in the many small cafes. You will have plenty of time there so you can see almost everything.
Santorini, Greece was our favorite island. Ride the donkeys to the top of the mountain, or take the cable car if you want. On top are the most breathtaking views you will ever see. Santorini is all walking with small, narrow streets and plenty of shops and restaurants. If you can and the weather is good, stay for the sunset you will remember it forever.
Athens is a very dirty, noisy city, but you do not want to miss the Acropolis and the Pantheon. You can reach all this on the subway train very easily.
Dubrovnik is a charming walled city. Again, it's all walking and you want to walk atop the wall around the old city for some breathtaking pictures. Have lunch there and enjoy this medieval city.
Venice has so much charm you will want to spend a week there. Do not miss the cruise down the Grand Canal. Pick up a Venice walking map and you will find it most useful. Go to the Murano Glass factory and enjoy some pizza and wine in Venice. A quick note -- beware of pickpockets; they are everywhere in Europe. We heard that a lot of people were victims. Do not carry anything you do not want to lose. Leave everything in your safe on the ship. Also, beware of crooked taxi drivers -- do not go anywhere without a firm fixed price.
Overall, this was the greatest vacation experience I have had in many years. The itinerary is tiring, but you will see things you only read about and come home with wonderful memories. My advice is to book this trip and enjoy the Eastern Mediterranean. If you want any additional advice or information email Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Had a nice time on our cruise from Barcelona to Venice. Ship was very nice. Service was excellent. Had a cat 1A cabin which was great. Sorry to learn that that category will go away as of Jan. It will become CC instead. CC (concierge) is a scam to boost the price. Sure you get some nice touches, but the increase in cost doesn't warrant it. The beds, towels, shower, etc. in cat 1A were fine. The ports were interesting, but it would have been nice if Celebrity had supplied readable maps and had been more informative about where and when their shuttles go. Unfortuately, in most ports many things were closed due to timing, strikes and holidays.
Villefranche had tender problems. Docked at 10am, but due to tender problems (4 ships trying to tender to the one dock) we got off after noon. It was Sunday, stores were closed. Got a train to Nice, had a nice lunch and walked to the beach. Lovely port. Needed more time.
Livorno. Got the 1st shuttle to the train station. Train to Florence was easy. Walked around. Visit the Duomo and Baptistry, had anice lunch, shopped ( great jewelry on the Ponche Vecchio), and had a lovely day. Train was not AC on the return. Traffic from the train in Livorno to the ship was awful. Ship left port at 8pm instead of 7pm. Monday, in Florence, the museums are closed.
Rome. Had plannned to take the train, but took the ship's tour "ON Your Own" because it was a holiday( Feast of St. Peter and Paul) Dropped off at the Vatican. Toured St. Peter's Basilica ( Vatican Museum and Sisteine Chapel were closed) , walked all over Rome. Loved the Trevi, plazzas and Pantheon. Had great pizza. It was a lovely hot day. Shops were closed for the holiday.
Naples. Went to Pompeii in the afternoon. Extremely interesting, but very HOT. Great place. Do it in the morning. Take lots of water.
Mykonos and Santorini. Quaint, interesting. Stores were open. Charming.
Athens. HOT HOT HOT!!! Over 100 with matching humidity. Makes Phoenix in the summer fell cool. Climbed the Acropolis. Highlight of the trip. Athens in a big crowded city. Did a half day tour. Shops were closed. Sunday.
Dubrovnik was OPEN. The walled town is fascinating. Just wandered around. Loved it.
Venice. Enchanting. Romantic. Great shopping. The civic museums were closed due to a strike. Visit St. Mark's and the Guggenheim. Gucci was having a 1/2 price sale. Had fun!
A very nice cruise in spite of all the stuff that happened to us. Pickpockets everywhere.( Got hit in Barcelona) Street crime is rampant. ( WEar money belt or just stash it in your undies - wear no jewelery ) Lost luggage. ( Next time -carry on ) Broken camera ( take a spare)Was dissapointed that so many attractions were closed. ( On a cruise, your time is limited - it just reduced the options available) Extremely hot( wear light clothing, sunglasses and a hat: carry water,wetnaps; and smile. Have fun. Enjoy. Don't fret about what you don't do or see, enjoy what you DO.
We were very dissapppointed in our dinner at the Olympic restaurant. It was overcooked and vegies were cold. Worst meal and service on the ship. DO NOT eat there! They tend to pay attention to large parties ( we were just 2) who spend $$$ on the fancy overpriced wines. It's a lovely room, but not worth the time.
I nicknamed our cruise "Mama Bird Kicks the Chicks Outta the Nest Tour" since we were celebrating our two sons (ages 18 and 22) traveling with us as adults for the first time. My husband and I (he is 52, I am 49), were also celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary.
This was my 2nd Celebrity cruise following a cruise on the Mercury to Alaska with my sister and mother a couple of years ago. This cruise was the first Celebrity cruise for my husband and two sons. It was by far the best cruise I've been on and my husband and boys were thoroughly impressed with our ship and with the Celebrity cruise line.
Celebrity is a wonderful cruise line -Celebrity strives for excellence and it shows. Celebrity has some of the best crew to passenger and space to passenger ratios in the industry. Celebrity's M class ship, Millennium, made a very positive impression and we look forward to cruising with them again. Celebrity knows how to treat passengers "famously". (Believe me, I had to fly to LA the day after our return and train a new batch of employees the day afterwe returned -- I kept waiting for my steward to appear!) I was pleased to see Celebrity was still striving for excellence and was impressed with the improvements in their Entertainment productions since my last voyage with them. **Note** Any criticisms or recommendations in this review are intended to be constructive and are offered in hopes that someone from Celebrity will read it.
THE SHIP The Millennium is beautiful; it is designed to make the most out of the available space. We particularly appreciated the positive use of space planning; although the Millennium was at full capacity it did not feel crowded at all. The flow from one public area to another was very logical and smooth. The décor was elegant and sophisticated. The ship itself was kept very clean and I was impressed with the continual painting and maintenance that was being done. (This seemed to be a bone of contention in past years). The crew was unobtrusive in the completing of their duties; in fact, I had one of the workers call down to me when I tried to sit on a lounger beneath the mast pole he was painting! The artwork on the ship was aesthetically pleasing and accented the feeling of spaciousness and elegance.
The pool area was well designed. We never had a problem getting lounges (especially when painting was underway! LOL!). While it was crowded near the pool on sea days, we were able to locate chairs easily. I did have a slight issue with certain people pulling up their chairs too close, but that was not the ship's problem and that only happened once! The pool butlers were attentive and efficient about removing towels from the chairs as were the bar attendants in making the rounds for drink orders. Our boys quickly learned if they ordered four beers from the pool bar they got the fifth one free PLUS they came in a bucket of ice. (Oh, AND no more said about that bar bill . OMG!) Another comforting touch was when the pool attendants passed out chilled towels poolside. On sea days, the sorbet parade occurred around 2 PM and was a hit. The citrus sorbet was very refreshing. Usually the parade was followed by a round of Music Trivia or some other audience-involved activity. The Duo Mr. Jones & Me played poolside and they were pretty upbeat and kicky playing apropos cruise songs like Gloria Estefan, etc.
The Aqua Spa was fabulous as usual. I had a great massage which I scheduled immediately upon embarkation. I booked it for the early AM of our first sea day which I figured would be a safe time - of course, we soon learned that our Captains Club and Cruise Critic activities would conflict with this appointment. (Murphy's Law, I suppose .)
I was disappointed to learn when touring the Millennium Aqua Spa that the Thallasotherapy pool was open to the public rather than requiring a pass as was the case on Mercury. Consequently, with the thallasotherapy pool open to the public it was always crowded and was just not very appealing. I did not use it once whereas I used it on a daily basis on Mercury.
We enjoyed the bars and lounges. Unfortunately, we discovered the Martini bar one of our final evenings and totally missed out on the martini sampler. We heard it was a great way to try new offerings. We did enjoy a cocktail now and then during the cruise and enjoyed the variety of bars and lounges. Being from California, the smoking does bother us and we found that we just didn't stay anywhere it was smoky for very long. Fortunately, the casino was very smoky so we left that venue for our sons! (Thank Goodness.they were lucky!)
We found Michael's club was a terrific place for a relaxing cocktail in a quiet atmosphere. We loved the warm intimate environment.
Cosmos was a nice dance club. We enjoyed dancing here at the beginning of the cruise but didn't frequent this as much as we would have liked. It could either be empty or packed depending on what time you went. Things picked up a bit later and our sons enjoyed frequenting the club. I liked the DJ - he picked up on our ages the moment we walked in the door and started playing age-specific music. I didn't even wait for my husband to join me on the dance floor!
The Extreme Sports bar was a bit disappointing. My sons felt the lack of current programming made it hard to keep up with their current teams', games and scores. Football teams were making their cuts and Heaven knows. my guys are not happy when they are not being kept in the loop. (They did check the internet for scores, cuts, playoff data, etc.).
Words and Notes were a nice touch. We didn't use them much, but the boys visited Notes quite often and separately, enjoying the privacy. We noticed other folks had rented the MP3 players from Guest Relations but we did not take advantage of this.
We browsed by the gym but unfortunately never had a chance to visit since we were out so early every day and relaxing by the pool in the afternoon. This area had a nice selection of equipment and was kept very clean. Although I used it everyday on my cruise to Alaska I just didn't find the time while on this cruise. The boys used it for a day or two, but they said they too were too wiped out to enjoy it.
The photography area was convenient and we took advantage of many sittings. They actually offered photo taking every evening not just on the formal nights. We rented tuxes onboard for the boys (which up until our first dinner they refused to do - score one for mom!) so of course we made certain to have a lot of pictures taken, and we purchased many as well. We also purchased the cruise in review video in which we found we were featured! It was $24.95 and it will be mailed to us in a few weeks. .
OUR CABINS Our CC (Concierge Class) stateroom with Verandah (9097) was midship on the Sky deck. Our two boys were in a 2B Penthouse deck stateroom with balcony (6057). The design of both stateroom/ cabins was similar and typical Celebrity. There was sufficient storage and closet space for my husband and me in 9097 and for the boys in 6057. Each room had two double closets with a tie/belt rack and lower hanging bars that folded down if needed. A single closet adjacent to the double closet had 6 drawers, a few shelves, and a safe. The staterooms differed slightly in size; ours was 191 sq ft with a 58 ft balcony, the boys room was 170 sq ft with a 40 ft balcony. Both rooms had an entry which opened to a hall which led past the bathroom on the right and the closet on the left. We were able to accommodate our clothing in the drawers and closet and our luggage fit safely under the bed. The main area of our cabin had a very comfortable queen size bed. The boys had two double beds. A sofa, table, and two chairs were located in our seating area. We had a desk with two cabinets for storing our cameras, film, suntan lotion, etc. while we used the other cabinet for our home bar accoutrements. We had additional storage in the nightstand drawers. Both rooms had TV's and mini-bars. Power outlets were by the desk and we brought power chords from home for both rooms which proved helpful. Since we were in a Concierge Class room our bathroom was slightly larger than the boys, and it had a great shower massage head. We had a shampoo dispenser in the shower, an assortment of soaps, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner as well as the requisite cotton balls, q-tips, and shower caps. We received a complimentary bottle of champagne upon arrival, binoculars (which were of surprising quality) and we had fresh fruit and flowers daily. As mentioned earlier, our balcony was larger than our sons. We had cushions on our chairs and a nice table. Our sons, after seeing our setup, took their cocktail table from their room and set it on the deck. It actually made more room for them in their cabin as they preferred to sit outside anyway. The views from our midship room were terrific; prior to the cruise I heard a lot of hooey RE: the Sky deck CC rooms and balconies (Rooms had an overhang (yes), it wasn't sunny (it was sunny enough), the overhang was obstructing (NOT!), it was noisy (Didn't hear a thing!); I tell you, we found the rooms to be delightful! We had views FORE and AFT along the entire port side of the ship. The boy's balcony on the Penthouse floor was situated more FORE of ours on the port side and they had lifeboats directly below them, however, they found that did not bother them at all. Both cabins had overhead lights controlled by a switch near the desk panel. My husband and I decided we would just like to take a future cruise to sit on the balcony!
ARRIVAL: Upon arrival in our cabin we noticed some areas that were not quite up to our expectations; but considering how quickly they turn the cabins, it was not the result of spot cleaning that was at fault! The carpets could use a good overall steam cleaning, but the rest of the cabin appearance and cleanliness was good. My suggestion is that Celebrity devote some TLC to the carpets at the next dry-dock or break in cruise routing. Our cabin steward, Zaldy, was very good with the day-to-day cleaning of the bathroom, main vacuuming, etc.
Prior to this cruise I was concerned about the reports of noise above the sky deck. Our cabin was situated directly below the jogging track and buffet area. It was very quiet. We did not hear anything like others have reported regarding the crew moving furniture and hosing down the deck at ungodly hours of the morning; but then again, we were probably off the ship by then! I did hear an occasional chair scraping but nothing out of the ordinary. I would not hesitate to be in this cabin on this level again. We had plenty of privacy on the balcony, and had sufficient sun and shade. I didn't feel there was any breach of privacy whatsoever.
DINING Metropolitan Restaurant, (main seating, table #535) - We were seated at a table for 10; but to our luck the other diners seated with us decided to move to dine with friends prior to our first meal! We had a table of 10 for the 4 of us! With two college age sons, one 6'3 and the other 6'1 and 250 lbs, and a husband of 6' and 200 lbs, we couldn't have fared better! A little leg room was nice. believe me! The restaurant décor and ambiance was very nice. We had a great porthole view of the sea from our table. We enjoyed the views from our table and once when there was an emergency on board we noticed they covered the portholes to mask that we were not leaving port on time. I don't think anyone else noticed. The porthole coverings used on the formal nights were quite attractive and afforded a desired ambiance, however I wish they wouldn't lower them until after sunset because you do you miss the view. We enjoyed the string quartet but found it was difficult to hear them from our table. Food ranged from excellent to very good. We did not have to send one meal back. I was a bit surprised there were not as many fish entrees as I would have liked but we honored our waiter's recommendations and he never steered us wrong! I probably ate more beef than I have in years, but it was worth it! We made the acquaintance of the dining room MaitreD, Vlady, on our first evening and he insured that we had a lovely dining experience for the extent of our cruise. He arranged to have an antipasto plate of prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella for us prior to each evening's dining. The food was as good as I remember it to be on the Mercury cruise to Alaska a couple of years before. Excellent beef, lobster, salmon, and rack of lamb were featured. The appetizers and soups were consistently excellent - My sons ate foods I never thought they would enjoy: cream of asparagus, duck consommé, cream of cucumber, gazpacho, seafood gumbo, cream of broccoli, escargot. We also enjoyed our salads enormously; partly because one son requested a special salad of "iceberg lettuce" with creamy Roquefort dressing which was not on the menu. Both sons, and then my husband, were thrilled with the chef's willingness to accommodate this request. It wasn't long before we noticed the Roquefort dressing became an addition to the menu for the duration of our cruise! The desserts were fabulous - although I stopped indulging after the first night. The rest of the family continued to enjoy dessert right up through the last day! We enjoyed the baked Alaska parade on the last formal evening and we were surprised when we were presented with an Anniversary cake both in the Olympic Room and then at our Main seating the next day! What a group!
Our waiter Angelci was from Macedonia and he was truly outstanding. The assistant waiter Da Dong (from Bali) was a hoot and was very attentive. My boys (ah, good Italian boys) are major bread eaters and short of bringing the baker to the table our food crew kept the bread basket refilled! Angelci was very good at letting us know what was good and what was NOT recommended. He and the restaurant manager seemed genuinely interested in our opinion and in making certain we were satisfied.
Our wine sommelier, Catina from Lithuania was wonderfully friendly and very helpful. We brought a lot of our own wine and she seemed thrilled to have our business. (We noticed there weren't many bottles of wine ordered in general).
The Olympic - Wow! What a divine evening. This dinner was an unbelievably outstanding and a wonderful treat. I fell in love with the Wine Room and reserved it for our anniversary. What a beautiful room! The room was octagonal in shape with wooden and glass wine cabinets lining the walls of the room. Glass doors protected the wine bottles; I was told one bottle was priced at $12,400.00! I had the goat cheese soufflé, the rack of lamb, several delicious selections from the cheese cart, and the chocolate soufflé with hot coffee sauce for dessert. We were surprised when the Maitre'D brought out a cake for our Anniversary! The wait staff sang "Happy Anniversary" to us and we took pictures. What a delightful evening! As if this wasn't enough, we had cucumber soup at the beginning of our meal and then after our cake a selection of petit fours for dessert. The food and presentation were amazing. My husband had the French onion soup, which was the best he has ever had. One son had escargot and another son had the lobster bisque. The staff was attentive and most entertaining. We had our room attendant, Zaldy, deliver three of our own California wines beforehand and the MatreD told us he could sell them for 3 times what we paid for them. (We elected to drink them). I did splurge and had a nice glass of French Champagne with my appetizer. The Assistant Maitre D was in charge of serving us and our Sommelier was delightful! He had been scheduled to work at the French Laundry prior to this engagement but could not because his Visa did not come through in time; we had many stories to share with him. He was young yet very knowledgeable. This dining experience was a great Celebrity innovation! The $30 per person surcharge was well worth it. We tipped extra since we felt it was so deserved.
Ocean Cafe - We had breakfast here once as a family but since I am not a breakfast eater nor do I like buffets, this was not my preference. The food was ok, but then the highest I would ever rate a buffet is "ok". Our boys ate there for a couple of days, and then we all decided to have our respective breakfasts in our rooms. We could watch the port activities from our balconies and eat breakfast at leisure before the day began.
Mast Bar- We found this option on our last day. One of our sons had been dying for a sub sandwich and they made them here to order! The deck was beautiful - the fore location a little windy, but most enjoyable.
Aqua Spa Café - Another wonderful addition to Celebrity Dining! The food here was fabulous- light, tasty, and just enough. I enjoyed this immensely. The selections were delightful and a perfect compliment to basking in the sun by the pool!
Sushi Bar - We never found this and I must say after 13 days I was in sushi withdrawal. I gather the hours of operation must have conflicted with our early dinner seating, or. Could it be.my husband purposely diverted my attention elsewhere?
Riviera Pool Grill - This became our hang-out after returning from our shore excursions. They had delicious hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and fries with a few other accompaniments. This was very convenient and they had a great beer selection (Yeah -Red Stripe!) on ice.
Ice cream bar - My boys (including my husband) frequented this more than I cared to know about.
Evening pizza and pasta - Another place given a good workout by my boys. This was great since we had the main seating and occasionally the boys would be hungry again later.
Cova Café - We really didn't frequent the café because we enjoyed breakfast in our rooms. We also missed the afternoon snacks here and I gather this is where you may also purchase soda cards here. We did not.
Midnight Bites - This was a great concept however we were always conked out by then. Our sons' did partake once or twice. The "bites" served in the lounges were also a nice touch (they also did this on the Mercury). Since we had a CC room we were served our canapés in our room a touch we thoroughly enjoyed.
Midnight Buffet - This was presented once during the cruise. We were so tired we did not attend. I know from a prior cruise that it takes them hours and hours to prepare and display everything. Often diners attend only to take photos of the stunning ice sculptures and beautifully arranged delicacies. I have always thought this an extremely odd practice.
All in all the variety of dining choices was very pleasing and the availability was very good with a variety of food offered frequently throughout the day. The options were varied and the food was as good as the last time we cruised. We were all very happy with the choices.
THE CREW The few crewmembers already mentioned were wonderful. Everyone was genuinely friendly and seemed very happy. The service was prompt and attentive. We enjoyed talking and joking with many of the staff - they were all delightful!
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director - Edwin Rojas - What a voice! I never tired of listening to him. He announced that he was retiring the last day of the cruise to spend some time with his wife and sons; I hope he will be back soon.
Port and Shopping Guide- John. John highlighted many of the "select" shops safe for our shopping excursions. I did buy a nice onyx and diamond ring at one store in Santorini that was a recommended shop but I did not notice any "added benefit" associated with my purchase.
Sustained - A capella group - A nice group with a select range of music.
Mr. Jones and Me - Duo - Very enjoyable. Mrs. Jones had a beautiful voice. They played a nice selection of typical tunes (Gloria Estefan) poolside while branching into others in the evening at the Cosmos dance club. By the end of the week the poolside music had become a bit repetitive.
Coco Band - They were not for us but filled the 60-80 year old age niche. Many passengers enjoying listening and dancing to them. We saw many excellent dancers.
Pepe Ayala - Guitar player - Very enjoyable; he was out on the aft grill deck outdoors. The cigar and other smokers would hang out here, and as my son erroneously read from the daily itinerary, "cigar smoking under the stairs" -(uhmmm."stars") - the smoke really wasn't bothersome with the fresh air.
Bob Arno - Comedian - Interactive Pick pocket - Absolutely hilarious . He was very talented and had the audience in stitches (and short their wallets, watches, money clips, etc.)
Mary Amanda - Harp- Very talented and lovely.
Nathaniel Reed - Pianist - Michael's Club Another extremely talented performer. Also, he is funny and witty. He played a nice varied selection.
DJ Yvon -DJ Cosmos - Awesome. He had the knack to play appropriate age-specific music when you walked in the door! He made you want to get up and dance!! The Celebrity Singers and Dancers- As I mentioned earlier, we met one of the singers and two of the dancers the first day of the cruise and they were adorable! Of the two girls we met, one was obviously a gifted cheerleader and gymnast, and the other had the benefit of a fabulous ballet background. Their shows were great! All in all, the shows were much improved over what I remember on Mercury Alaska.
KIDS/TEENS CLUB We did not have a chance to view these areas.
PORTS OF CALL / SHORE EXCURSIONS
Venice - Friday May 21, 2004
We boarded the ship following our delayed flight arrival from SFO to Frankfurt. Venice Limo picked us up at the airport and delivered us to the cruise terminal prior to the arrival of the cruise buses. We checked in quickly and the Captains Club afforded us a most timely embarkation. We investigated the ship, our rooms, and met our room attendants. Later we toured the bars and other public areas. The boys wanted to take a nap before dinner and as I expected, we did not see them the rest of the evening. My husband and I took advantage of the open seating in the dining room and we had a very pleasant evening. I walked over and found where our regular First Seating table was and was pleased it was near a window. In talking with the Matre'D, he advised me that our prior tablemates were going to be moving to sit with friends of theirs at the later seating. I was thrilled we would have a table of 10 just for our family! I asked him if we could keep the large table and just set the service for the four of us rather than moving in a smaller table - he was very pleased since they preferred not to change the usual seating pattern.
Venice -Day 2
We decided to go into Venice early since we all had a good nights sleep. We were among the first off the ship and we enjoyed the lack of tourists and crowds in Venice. Venice was a most interesting place. The square was almost empty (except for the pigeons) and it was enjoyable to look at the Basilica and the Campanile without the crowds. We got to peek inside the church before the tours and the church interiors were absolutely gorgeous! We walked around the curving streets but it was too early for anything to be open so we headed down to look at the bridges. We walked around the city, looked at the bridges and the shops and took a lot of pictures. At one point I caught a woman sticking her hand in my husband's backpack. She left immediately after squarely looking me in the eye. We stopped at the Metropole Hotel for coffee and juice and sat out on a quiet patio. The hotel seemed rather stuffy and small although it is a recommended hotel in Venice. The use of marble was beautiful, but our family decided we wouldn't want to stay there for any length of time. Once it started getting crowded in Venice we headed back to the ship. We changed into our swimsuits and went out to the Riviera Grill and Pool. We spent couple of hours lounging in the sun and then attended the Life Boat Drill. At 3 PM we went out on the deck for the Bon Voyage party. We met with Elisabeth the social hostess and remade our acquaintance with Rebecca and Kim both dancers with the Celebrity Singers and Dancers.
Croatia - Day 3 We woke up early and watched as we pulled into the seaport. The port was wide and beautiful. There was a huge bridge near where we moored the ship. I called the boys and had them look out as we approached the dock. We were off the ship by 7AM and went into Croatia, boarding a bus on the dock that was provided for our use. We elected to see Croatia on our own and we had a ball! The city was Phenomenal! What a fortification! To think that the architecture dated from the 6th century was amazing! We were impressed with the walled city and amazed at the number of steps that led down from the fortress into the city at measured junctures. These steps crossed little avenues complete with eateries, pubs, shops, and other businesses. We found a great little pub which served great pizza and beer. The pub had a large CD collection above and behind the bar and the pub tender was the resident DJ as well. He played great music and we lounged, ate pizza and drank beer. The resident cat was stretched out on a bench and did not move the entire time we were there. Once back on board the ship we planned our evening. We had dinner with the boys and attended the Captains Gala Toast then attended the Spectacle of Broadway, which featured the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. The show featured the Broadway shows Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Chicago, and others I have forgotten. We were impressed.
At Sea - Day 4
We left Croatia last evening and spent the day sailing to Greece. Today was our first official sea day. The seas were a little rocky last night but not bad. My younger son said he had toppled over while in the shower the night before, but given the space in the shower and his size, I didn't take it too seriously. Since he had also been in the Casino and bar-hopping most of the night, I gave it even less notice. I had scheduled my massage at 9AM; so the boys (including hubby) were on their own to have breakfast and explore. While I felt I had a good massage, I also felt the masseuse was really pushing the merchandise. I bought some shower gel and aromatherapy oil. I got out of the Spa a bit later than I planned since the spa was very busy on the first sea day. I arranged to meet my husband at 10:15 at the spa but of course he was not where he said he would be, or I was a few minutes late, probably a bit of both. I looked around at the places where I thought he might be (the Sports Bar, Pool Bar, etc.) then went up to the stateroom. He was not there either. Since our cruise critic meeting was at 10:00 and I knew I was already late, I dashed off a note that I missed him and would catch him at the meeting. On my way down to Michael's club, I looked for him in the stores and casino and finally got to Michael's Club about 10:35. The CC group was just disbanding and my husband had already left. Since we had our CC Anniversary Party Scheduled for 11:30, I went back up to the room. My husband had been back and he had left me a note! I headed to the disco for the Anniversary party. As expected, when I arrived, my husband wasn't there, so I went back up to the room. Our Steward/room attendant, Zaldy, said my husband just came back and left and said he would meet me at the party. Believe me; I did not receive a very gracious welcome when I finally caught up with him! We did enjoy the party and were impressed with the number of couples whom had been married 50 years or greater. The winning couple was married 55 years! We checked out our pictures at the Photo Shop - they were quite good and we purchased a few. We went up to the Pool and met the boys and got some sun. That afternoon after lunch we attended a wine seminar with Adolfo Alarcon, the winemaker from Kendall-Jackson. It was a very nice seminar. We retired for our afternoon canapés and later met the boys for dinner.
Athens-Day 5 While it was still dark, I watched the ship sail into port and then watched the sunrise. We were cleared by 7:30 AM, which was much earlier than our scheduled time. We were the first off the ship. We asked John, the shopping guide how much to expect to pay for a taxi to the Acropolis, he told us $25 -35 was the going rate. We found a taxi driver who drove us into Athens. We saw the stadium that was being built for the Olympics. We were amazed at how our driver backed up on the Freeway and into the entry lane for the opposing traffic. He backed all the way up the on-ramp then flipped a U-turn! We were aghast! We came eye-to-eye with a woman attempting to merge onto the Freeway going the proper direction. She did not seem alarmed. We were among the first to enter the Acropolis and spent most of the morning exploring before any tour groups appeared! We saw the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike, the Dionysus and Odeon theatres, the Ancient Agora, the Athens stadium and finally, the Plaka. It was very windy at the top of the Acropolis 30-40moh winds but we got some great unobstructed pictures since we arrived so early.
We spent an hour or so in the café at the Acropolis and then caught a taxi back to the ship. Amazingly and after much difficulty, we caught a taxi just dropping off a fare - he drove us in a new Mercedes sedan and charged us $4.80 for our return trip to the ship! Wow, did we get gouged going into town!
Santorini - Day 6 - Wednesday
We awoke early again and watched our ship head into port; we watched the sunrise over the hills. We had decided against doing a tour here and we really lucked out in doing so. I don't know what more could have been seen! We were the first to disembark via tender and we arrived in Santorini by 8AM. We docked right next to the Constellation and they blew their horns back and forth to each other as they docked. It was loud and pretty humorous. We took the cable car up to the city. The donkeys were ready for a day of hiking up the mountain but we opted to take the cable car instead. The Museum of Thira was just opening as we arrived. We explored the ancient pottery, statutes, and engravings. We walked up the narrow crooked streets passing schoolchildren on their way to class. We saw their school, the little storefront jewelry stores, eateries, and hotels. We had lunch at a mountain-side restaurant with a fabulous view of the ocean and our ship. The scenery from the restaurant was gorgeous. The hillside was a blend of blues, peach, coral and white; a maze of restaurants and hotels with blue lap pools threaded their way across the landscape and added a suggestion of opulence and elegance. Sea Day 2 - Day 7 - Our Anniversary We woke up a bit later than usual (there was no port to scout!) Since it was a sea day we had breakfast in our room. We lounged in the sun and prepared for our big dinner at the Olympic Club.
Naples - Day 8
We watched our ship dock pre-sunrise. This had become such an important part of our cruise and a prelude to another delicious day! The first thing I noticed, the Naples port appeared a little dirtier than the others. We had talked about visiting Pompeii but several people had shared with us that it was somewhat depressing. Since I had really wanted to go to Capri and Sorrento instead, this notice served well! We got off our ship and immediately saw Castel Nuovo looming before us. My husband and the boys really wanted to see it, so we tried but it did not open until 9AM. Since we did not want to wait, we just walked over to the Ferry terminal and purchased our tickets for Capri. We left on the earliest Ferry to Capri. When we arrived in Capri at Marina Piccollo (or was it Grande?) we walked around and caught a cab in the square - We paid $60 Euros for the 4 of us to drive around the island in a Convertible. The driver took us up to all of the scenic spots. We stopped to view the luscious lemons and to see the Madonna encased in the mountain. We stopped at a lot of scenic turnouts where we took pictures. On one such occasion, the driver stopped the car, jumped out and picked some lovely yellow flowers for me. We drove on and passed the Mt. Solaro chair lift and went down to the seaside beaches along the beachfront Marina. We saw the grotto and the Faraglione and the fort/castle on the hill. It was a luscious, sunny day. Once we finished with our Capri drive we returned to the Ferry and took another Ferry into Sorrento. We walked around Sorrento, had a beer and checked out the shops in the vicinity. Our youngest son was getting hungry and wanted to return to the ship. On our ferry back to Naples We actually saw a shark in the water off the side of the ferry - the fin spiked no less than two yards from us and we gawked as we noticed kayakers near the shore.
We awoke early to watch our ship pull into Port Civitavecchia. As we approached the dock, we could see a number of buses, taxis and limos lined up. Our youngest had been burning the midnight oil in the casino and wanted to sleep in so only our oldest accompanied us into Rome. We caught the early train in and the ride was very enjoyable. The train delivered us right at the Vatican. It could not have been easier. We walked around the Vatican square and was amazed at the enormity of it all. The pope was scheduled to deliver a papal audience later that morning and as the day progressed it became more and more crowded. After we finished at the Basilica we walked through the city and explored. We walked down the Via Della Conciliazzone, saw St. Angelo's, other churches and historic buildings. We crossed the river and went into the Piazza and saw the Spanish Steps. We walked on to see the Trevi Fountain and the Panthenon. We caught a cab and went on to the Coliseum. What a marvel! We caught our return train from the Coliseum and sat with a newlywed couple from Buenos Aires. We had a wonderful conversation with them since my son had just completed a research study on Buenos Aires.
Livorno/Florence/Pisa - Day 10 Again awoke early and watched our ship enter port and dock. We arranged a limo pick up for 8AM and I kidded my husband that the car alone in the back parking lot must be our Mercedes sedan with the driver kicked back snoozing. As 8 AM approached, sure enough, the car pulled up to the gangway and our driver was rested and raring to go!
Our driver, Fabrizio, was hilarious! His "Mama Mia's" were too funny and his quick wit was quite enjoyable. His car was impeccable and he did not hesitate in getting us to wherever we wanted to go. We had a great day in Florence, shopping and sightseeing. While I would have liked to have stopped at a Tuscan winery, it probably would have been a bit too much to do in a day. We agreed to meet Fabrizio back at the square for out return trip back to the ship. We agreed on a time and managed to get back to the ship before the masses or the traffic wore us down too badly.
Villefranche - Day 11. Docked early in VilleFranche. We caught a cab into Nice and rode down the Corniche with a former race car driver (at least he thought he was). It was a windy, scary and very pretty trip. We arrived in Nice and were let off at the water fountains across from the Grand Hotel. We walked the streets of Nice and while some of the eateries with their pretty striped tablecloths and chair cushions looked striking, I really wasn't too impressed. The stores looked like any you would see in a big city, for instance, San Francisco's Chinatown. We returned back to VilleFranche and had a nice lunch at a restaurant near the dock. At Sea - Day 12 What a nice day. Lounging in the sun. Swimming laps in the pool. Listening to the pool band. It was hard to believe we were nearing the end of our cruise. My husband and I agreed we hadn't spent such quality and fun-filled time with our children since they were toddlers. What a great family vacation! We ate our last dinner as a family in the dining room and said good-bye to our waiters. They suggested we do a "back-to-back" We all laughed. After packing, my husband and I got ready to retire to bed; Shortly after we heard a knock on our door. Our "Casino-minded" son wanted to pop-in and advise us he just spent his last moments in the casino. As he turned to leave he showered upon us $600.00 in chips! (I hope he doesn't get used to this!)
Barcelona - Day 13 - Ah, our last day. We had breakfast in our room and were as ready as we ever would be to disembark. We made a quick call to the boys, said a sad good-bye to Zaldy and we were off.
EMBARKATION / DEBARKATION / CUSTOMS:
Embarkation - We arrived in VCE via SFO/FRA on Lufthansa the day we embarked. We arrived in VCE at 2:30 PM instead of 1:30PM for our embarkation time of 3PM. We quickly found our luggage and our Limo driver was waiting for us - We had four people and seven pieces of luggage so it had been a blessing that we ordered a Mercedes Van! We arrived at the cruise terminal around 2:45 and were quickly assisted by a porter who took our luggage. Our driver dropped us at the front of the terminal. We entered and were immediately directed to the Captains Club line. We had no line to deal with whatsoever. We had our docs reviewed and since we were Captain's Club and concierge class we were allowed priority embarkation We went through security. We proceeded down a hallway, had a picture taken, got our room cards and sea pass accounts activated. We proceeded up an escalator passing through the area where a photo is taken for each room card. We got on board and we were offered champagne from a tray of champagne. We met a couple of the Celebrity Singers and Dancers who greeted us and then had a crew member escort us to our rooms. We were onboard close to 3 PM. My husband and I received our luggage by the time we got to our room; although one of the boys bags did not arrive until 5PM. He didn't mind, he had his swimsuit in his carry-on.
Debarkation - This went very smoothly. We were given priority debarkation. Our steward/room attendant, Zaldy, put out our breakfast as usual (sans the tablecloth), I love the Celebrity touch! They still make you feel you are a guest even on your last day! After a leisurely breakfast in our respective staterooms, we collected our few remaining items, and visited our balcony one last time. Following breakfast, we proceeded to the priority lounge and waited 5 minutes to be escorted from the ship. My husband and boys searched for our luggage, I got a porter who then collected our luggage and brought it curbside, where I had flagged down a taxi. It was very easy. Other passengers were just running around and stressing out which was beyond me. They had no clue. We got to the airport in no time and once there, we had no lines.
Customs - This went so smoothly I couldn't believe we were done!
GRATUITY SYSTEM We charged our gratuity for the two staterooms to our shipboard account to make things easier. The forms were very easy to fill out. We tipped everyone the expected gratuity and also tipped ahead of time for any services we expected above and beyond the norm. As we have read in prior reviews, and what we have found to be so very true, those folks you take care of repay you in kind in so many more ways than you can anticipate!! Moral: Give and ye shall receive!
CRUISE CRITIC As was the case on my last cruise, the Cruise Critic party invitation arrived after we embarked and was left in our room the first night of our stay. Unfortunately, and again, the party was scheduled at the same time I had booked my massage appointment. Consequently, I arrived for the CC party at the tail end of things. My husband checked in earlier and chatted with a few folks, but he still didn't meet everyone. He was very tickled with receiving our C.C. pins. I only wish we would have known ahead of time when the party was scheduled; I would have liked to have participated!
CAPTAIN'S CLUB We also missed the Captains cocktail party since we were scheduled then for our anniversary dinner in the Olympic Room. I heard the party was nice. Since we used our CC Club membership to arrange our Olympic Room Anniversary Dinner reservation prior to boarding, it would have been nice if they would have taken this into account. While it was nice to be able to make the reservation ahead of time, I found that I was VERY thankful to have personally checked our table assignments prior to our dinner. Prior to our first evening's seating, I made a point of introducing myself to the Maitre'D at the Olympic Room. In reviewing the seating options, I found that I absolutely LOVED the Olympic Wine Cellar room and asked him if we could celebrate our Anniversary dinner in the Wine Room. He graciously accommodated my request and confirmed our reservation. I was very satisfied with all of our CC benefits; if there was anything that I could recommend, it would have been that the boys' balcony room could have been upgraded or discounted due to our Captains Club status. I paid full price for their balcony room in addition to ours.
The Daily program was very informative. We looked forward to it being delivered to the stateroom during the bed turndown each evening. In addition, the accompanying weather forecast was great! Our boys also received an itinerary but it took a few days for them to pick up the benefits of reviewing the daily schedule! One of our sons turned into a CASINO fiend and he actually won enough to buy himself a Tag Heuer watch at one of the onboard shops. He still had several hundred dollars of winnings to spare when we disembarked. I wish I had his luck! He made a lot of friends in the Casino, many three or four times his age. We had a nice couple compliment us on our boys' manners and behavior (I'm sure they were initially a little concerned when they saw two young men check into a stateroom next to theirs!). My husband and I saved our pillow chocolates in a ziploc bag since we couldn't eat them at bedtime; now they are now a terrific remembrance of our wonderful trip. Our boys did not contribute any to the cause; they managed to eat every single one of theirs!
In addition to our CC amenities we received a nice CC Cruise card case - I found it was easier to keep track of my SeaPass this way although I still had to run up to the Sky Deck a couple of days to get my card as we tried to disembark! CC also provided a wonderful menu of pillows and the "Isotonic" pillow was divine! I heard a passenger inquiring as to where she could purchase one - I would love to know that as well! We also enjoyed the binoculars, the daily fresh fruit and flowers and the delivery of daily canapés during happy hour.
We loved our itinerary with the two days in port at the beginning. I would have liked a couple of days on the tail end (rather than just one) to relax before heading home. All of the ports were desirable and I would love to visit each one again and again. (I must admit though that Villefranche, which was supposed to be a highlight of the cruise, just didn't do it for me).
I enjoyed the sea days and we could have used more. The design of the ship left one to feel comfortable and we never felt crowded or pressured. There were no lines or waiting. Everything was convenient, easy and accessible even with the ship at full capacity.
IN SUMMARY Our family enjoyed this vacation tremendously and cannot wait to cruise with Celebrity again. Feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding our trip. Yes, Celebrity, we were treated "FAMOUSLY"!
Cabin Categories - #7197, 1C which became a 1B after Concierge Class was instituted and Family Veranda, #7199 with the enormous corner balcony on Vista Deck 7
This was our 14th cruise, 6th with Celebrity cruise line and second time on the Millennium. We started cruising just about 10 years ago and are addicted. This was our first Family cruise with our daughter, son-in-law and 3 grandchildren ages 5, 10 and 12. Our adult children choose this cruise for the great reputation that Celebrity had received, a balanced itinerary of days at sea and ports that offered beach opportunities for the family, that the ship sailed out of a Florida port of embarkation and for its great value for upper class accommodations for the family.
Incoming Travel & Hotel Information
Flying from New England, we choose to arrive a day early but rates for airlines where very high even 8 months in advance when we booked. Originally, we took advantage of the Cruise line airfare from our regional airport at $309 pp. Later, rather than incur additional deviation fees and charges, we opted to purchase Southwest tickets utilizing some frequent flyer rewardsthat averaged out to be about $250 pp for our family of 7.
On Priceline, about 3 months before our School Vacation week trip, my bid of $70 per room for a 3 star hotel was accepted at the newly acquired Wyndham Airport Hotel (formerly the Hilton). Pre-paid hotel rate included airport to hotel shuttle. In addition, we were able to negotiate for a tip, shuttle transportation to and from a nice local restaurant, Tropical Acres where Wyndham had preferred reservations. On the day of embarkation, our son-in-law arranged hotel shuttle for our party of 7 with the transportation director/concierge on the Hotel van for $7 per adult plus tip. Video check-out was not available the morning of our departure, but was quick & easy at the front desk. The Staff was very helpful and friendly. Nothing is in walking distance of this hotel for food or provisions.
Overall, the pool area was nice and the rooms very comfortable. We enjoyed breakfast off the menu rather than the huge buffet in the hotel café. Prices were the usual hotel expensive. This facility also services Celebrity pre-cruise passengers with a registration desk on embarkation day, air line personnel and TSA staff.
The Wyndham shuttle left the hotel shortly after 10:30 a.m. After showing our photo ID's at the pier check point, we were at Pier 18. Disembarking passengers were still leaving the terminal. I found the porters who were just preparing to check the luggage. We proceeded to the Captain's Club area inside the terminal to relax before boarding registration began; 11 a.m. Two very personable Celebrity staff members circulated among the seated guests to help anyone with uncompleted forms. At 11:15 a.m. the Suite, Special Needs and Concierge Class passengers were allowed to enter followed by the Captain's Club Founder, Elite, Select group. We passed through the airport screening device and headed to the last Celebrity representative to check in for both cabins. Our adult children came with us as we had one of their children booked into our cabin. Both accounts were processed within 10 minutes.
Next, we came upon the Fun Factory registration area. Two of the three children's names were on the roaster. Mom completed the 3 permission and information forms while dad, nana & grampy and the children listened attentively to the overview of the program and the safety issues. As the middle child was 9 on embarkation day, they required her to be in a different group than her 12 year old sister. This was only for the first night. She joined the older sibling on day two.
We all smiled for the camera at the Embarkation Photo stop. I asked if we could take a second photo or if they would make two prints as we took a family photo. Of course there was only one print made, so we had to request a duplicate. Next just before stepping into the atrium, our photo was imbedded into our Sign & Sail card which was also to be used as our key card. Total time to board now more than 45 minutes of which at least 15 minutes was spent with the Youth Counselor.
Edwin Rojas, Cruise Director, Winnie Hung, Social Hostess and a processing of white gloved staff were on hand to greet incoming passengers in the embarkation area. Roving waiters offered Mimosa, Champagne or Orange Juice to passengers. With drinks in hand, we headed to the set of aft elevators to deck 7.
Category 1B #7197 - Premium Class with pull out sofa bed and 40 SF balcony with 2 chairs and a small table for 3 people Category FV #7199 - Family Corner two room cabin with extended hall entrance including door bells and huge corner balcony half covered/half in the sun. Sofa flips open like a futon, to accommodate one 6 ft. person, Sofa bed opens which could accommodate 2 small children.
Celebrity would not allow the 3 children to be in the Family Cabin due to the 12 year old being considered an adult! My only question, if we had not been traveling with them, would they sell a cabin to her if she was not able to be accommodated with her family?
Both cabins were still being prepared for the new guests but the beds were made. We secured our valuables by programming the safe with our personal code and left our tote bags in the cabins.
By this time, it was 12:30 p.m. and the Ocean Grille and Buffet were open for lunch. We checked out both areas, with the children opting for Pizza, Burgers or Hot Dogs and the adults trying the hot and cold luncheon buffer. We sat inside near the Ice Cream Bar, which the children really enjoyed throughout the week. After lunch, we headed to the Teak bar to purchase a soda card for each child. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, the only bar waiter on duty, informed us the cards had to be purchased at the Cova Café. Each child was given a Coke Can replica insulated cup. Nice souvenir, but an inconvenience if you wanted a soda and didn't have the cup with you especially at dinner!
After inspecting the public areas of the ship, we returned to our cabin to find Julio our cabin steward bringing luggage. He had two of our pieces right away and quickly retrieved the rest. We were all unpacked just before the 3:45 p.m. Life Boat Drill. We both had asked for our mini-bar to be emptied because of the children, but it was never done. All other requests were met accept we never received our complimentary bathrobes for use during our stay.
Right after the uneventful Orange Life Jacket fashion show, we headed up to the stern Teak Bar to meet and greet other Cruise Critics and friends. The weather was mild and about half of the group who had been talking on-line for many weeks and months, stopped by to say hello. To all of those folks who we met it was a pleasure. The other half of the group also attended the Celebrity Connections party on Tuesday held in Michael's Club at 11 a.m.
Dining, Food, Wine, & Liquor
Our table request for a large table at the Main Seating was perfect. Miguel, Sokos, and Mr. G (the maitre de) were absolutely fabulous to the entire family and especially to the children's individual requests. The 5 year old had Shrimp Cocktail every night; the fussy one had pickles and apples as an appetizer, and if something was not on the menu or not quite to the liking of anyone, it was very quickly replaced - like magic. In 14 cruises, this is the first time that I definitely felt the maitre de and the staff all deserved an extra gratuity.
Dining room food was fine for my tastes. Buffets lacked variety but the omelet station was excellent. Our only negative comment was that the buffet area is still not open long enough during the afternoon. If Celebrity would at least leave one buffet aisle open with cold choices, salads and pastries until the next dining hour, it would be appreciated. I did eat more hamburgers and pizza on this cruise than ever before due to lack luster choices. We also went to the main dining room for breakfast on two occasions, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Our sommelier quickly learned that we enjoyed wine. Although he had no record of my pre-purchased wine, he investigated it and returned with the chilled bottle of bubbly and an apology very quickly. He too was very accommodating of our requests. We also enjoyed the Wine Tasting, including the Mixing seminar held in the Olympic, that my adult children attended. The Martini Tasting held on embarkation day from 5 to 8 p.m. for $5 per person for 5 set flavors of Martini's was very interesting and a great way to try something new.
As mentioned above, the children each had an Unlimited Soda card @ $5 per day plus 15% gratuity, with the sticker attached to their sign & sail card. This is for the week only and not available on a daily basis, per the Today newsletter. This entitled them to Coke products including Sprite and diet fountain soda which was available at all bars throughout the ship except via room service
My daughter and son-in-law celebrated their belated Anniversary at the Olympic for which we had made a reservation in advance. We had given them the gift of the $25 per person credit for this event. Unfortunately, they were never presented with the gift card until the day of the reservation, which did concern me. Also, the Anniversary Package which my SIL had purchased did not arrive until day 2. I checked on both as I had made the purchase to surprise my daughter. All credits and gifts showed up on their Folio accounts, but the presentation was not done until later in the cruise. They enjoyed their meal at Olympic, but again, the length of the presentation was a little too drawn out for their tastes. When the Anniversary chocolate cheese cake arrived in their cabin that evening, they were much too full to even consider eating it. The cabin steward did keep it chilled and severed it at another time.
As part of the Anniversary Package, they parents enjoyed breakfast in bed with their mimosas that they later shared with us on their great balcony. We had taken the children to breakfast with us at the buffet that morning.
We were invited to the Captain's Club Cocktail Party, the Elite & Select members' Senior Officers Cocktail Hour on Monday at 11 a.m. at Michael's Club, a galley tour, the wine tasting, of course the Celebrity Connections Party on Tuesday at 11 a.m. and best of all with the assistance of our lovely Social Hostess, Winnie Hung, we had a tour of the Bridge with Captain Karatzas formerly the master on Infinity. We also received Cova chocolates, match play coupons for casino chips and slot machines, a $10 internet coupon which was applied to our Sign & Sail account and spa discounts.
We did get to enjoy many shows and musical venues in the theater and lounges. We enjoyed the opening evening review Pure Platinum which was after diner for Main seating guests at 8:45 p.m. Formal night, proceeding the Captain's Gala Bon Voyage Toast the Spectacle of Broadway was presented with numerous costume changes and entertaining performers. There was no show Tuesday as we were at Casa de Campo until 11 p.m. The Tropical night buffet and theme night was held out on the pool deck, but we couldn't make it to stay up that late unfortunately. The Celebrity singers and dancers performed Classique: A Musical Odyssey from the Big Band era to today's modern music presentation after dinner at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Nathaniel Reed performed many piano numbers at Michael's club. Sorry cigar smokers, I loved this new relaxing room. We have visited this lounge and others similar on the many Celebrity ships but could not stay to relax due to my asthma. The beautiful setting was a perfect way to relax and enjoy our time at sea. Cigar smokers are now delegated to the Teak bar where Tony Swamy sang along as he played his guitar. Musical Impressions by Wes Epae and the comedy routine of Jeff Nease, was much better entertainment than I had expected. The second formal night, our 12 year old grand daughter joined us to enjoy Fantasea with the Celebrity Singers & Dancers. The band at the Rendezvous Lounge had many folks up and dancing. When they took a break, the roving Accepela group, the Sea Tones, filled the gap with beautiful voices and music. They could be found in various areas of the ship throughout the evening. Music could also be heard while dining in the Metropolitan Dining room but from our location, we could not see the ensembles. We never did get to Cosmos accept for the Captain's Club cocktail party which was very well attended with music provided by the Energy, the Caribbean band and singer who also entertained poolside daily. Overall Celebrity's performers provided a very nice performance which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Although the 12 year old pre-teen (Admiral T's 10-12) didn't want to attend the initial orientation at the Fun Factory because her then 9 year old sister (Ensigns 7-9) was going to be put into a separate group, she was finally convinced to attend so she could fill her sister in on what they would do the rest of the week, as she turned 10 on the next day. The 5 year old boy Cadet (3-6 years old) met friends right away but was found very sad sitting at the buffet area while his group was having ice cream and snacks. Nana saw him and knew something wasn't right. He was reluctant to tell me, but finally said the counselors would not let him have ice cream. A nearby counselor overheard our conversation and explained my daughter had filled out an allergies form stating he was lactose intolerant. They took it very seriously and would not even take a chance with a cookie. Well, I convinced the counselor I would take responsibility and to give him cookies. I found my daughter and explained the dilemma. Upon picking the little guy up at camp a short time later, she spoke with the counselors who had misinterpreted the directions that he could have ice cream, yogurt or foods containing milk, just not whole milk. During the week, the children would go to camp in the morning, return for lunch and fun in the pool at noon and if they wished, go back to camp again. Our five year old grandson said what he liked best was the Kids Club and making crafts. He had made a sword that he brought home. At St. Thomas, after a trip to the beach and fun in the sun, two of the 3 wanted to go to the Fun Factory, but the middle girl was tired of "having" to go to camp and just wanted to play with her newly acquired souvenir stuffed Iguana. After a half hour of play, she wanted to go to the arcade. The counselors had given her an Arcade card for her birthday. We bargained and she returned to the Fun Factory to learn about the theater from a dancer with a behind the stage tour and a presentation of some of the costumes. When asked what the ten year old girls' best experience was on the Millennium and this vacation she said it was meeting and making new friends. One very nice experience was this child meeting another girl who was from England. While talking to this young child, our recent 10 year old, who had been given some money for her birthday on board, offered a Dollar to her friend. I thought this was very generous of her and later learned because the child was from Europe; she had no American money to spend. We were very proud of our little one for sharing with her new friend. The girls enjoyed the second formal night's Kid's Fun Factory Dinner, so they did not need to get all dressed up again. Overall, there were many prizes won by each child for various games; CD case, insulated Lunch bags, pens, hats, etc. As many of you may know, I was very nervous about the total number of children who would be on board ship this last week of February. On average, there must have been about 100 children on the Fun Factory list but I doubt if they all participated in the activities each day. The kids stayed at the two Formal night Slumber parties, which were free. The little guy gave one of the counselors a high Five, only to miss and hurt his hand. Although the counselors stated that they tried to phone the parents (we were in the theater), they took him to the Infirmary, ran x-rays, and finally when his oldest sister was informed, she paged/phoned Mom & Dad on their walkie-talkies and in the cabin. The staff and medical personnel were very attentive with a follow through exam the next day and all at no charge. The children were treated royally in the dining room. I can't say enough for the individual service that each one of them received. The one surprise we experienced was, the two younger children never asked to sleep in Nana & Grampy's cabin. They had their own room with the 13 inch TV/VCR combination. Sailing with a pre-teen who likes to sleep in was a challenge since her opened sleep sofa got in the way of the vanity draws where my clothes were kept. Once we figured this out, I would pull out my things the night before and go off to breakfast without her in the morning. When her folks were ready, they would call her and she joined them of breakfast. It all worked out. Ports of Call & Shore Excursions
Much has already been written about these familiar Eastern Caribbean ports except for the Dominican Republic. We had chosen the itinerary so we would not incur great expense on organized tours especially for 7 people.
Casa de Campo: The ship docked at 5 p.m. at LaRomana, DR due to a medical emergency and evacuation that had to be made during the previous night at Nassau (the closest island with a hospital). This caused the late arrival, so any thought of beach time was forgotten. Our Daughter & Son-in-Law had booked the Sunset Happy Hour tour, which was still offered with a beautiful sunset even with threatening rain clouds hovering nearby in the area. We took the free shuttle to the Altos de Chavon and walked around this recreated Mediterranean Village. Shops were very limited and the children were very disappointed as they had souvenir money to spend. A child's toy, a hand made "Chinese Handcuff" was purchased for $10!. This should be framed as the most expensive item purchased all week. Due to the late nature of this stop, we did not make it back to the ship on time for our early dinner seating, but ordered room service.
San Juan: Mom had hurt her foot the evening before so needed a trip to the doctors to check it out that morning. The ship docked right downtown at Pier 1 in front of the Dom Q building. As soon as possible, the rest of the family ventured into Old San Juan on foot to find some kid friendly souvenirs and a pair of sneakers for Mom. We found Calle Forteleza with little trouble and Payless plus a few familiar drug stores that had just the right stuffed toys for the kids to purchase. I purchased another Santos, St. Patrick at the Puerto Rican Artists Association. It was then off to find my friend Alex Yorcis at Gems & Pearls, a shop that now is recommended on board the ship. We have known this jewelry store owner for many years. He is originally from NYC and runs a quaint gift store which includes hand strung pearls, Larimer jewelry, cigars and unique souvenirs. I bought a 3 piece silver Larimer set for $25. We then headed to Pigeon Park and Christ Chapel. This was the first opportunity to see the beautiful Silver alter of this historic chapel. As it was Ash Wednesday, the church was open. The children enjoyed chasing and feeding the birds, while we took great photographs of our ship. Once back to the ship, we downed a very quick lunch and hurried off to join our ship tour to the El Yunquee Rainforest. With Mom's foot injury, this was the best option for everyone. Our comfortable bus tour was narrated along the way with a stop made for refreshments, souvenirs and a break. We visited the Coca Falls, climbed the abandoned look-out tower and walked throughout the graded paths for a good overview of the only rainforest in the USA. We got back to the ship about 15 minutes before dinner, so off we ran to change and made our seating a few minutes later than usual.
St. Thomas: We were definitely ready for the beach. We were the last ship this week docked at Havensight. After a quick breakfast we never heard the ship cleared announcement, if there was one, so went ashore about 9 a.m. We found a taxi van who would take us to Coki Point for fun in the sun @ $7pp each way. The driver wanted to wait for a few more passengers, but after 5 minutes with anxious children in the car, I asked if she was ready yet or we would be finding another driver. She introduced us to a beach boy, but his services were not needed. A local lady approached for the girls to get their hair braided, which they were looking forward to having done. Mom negotiated $75 for the two girls who choose their different styles. Each child was done at a picnic table in the shade and with their own new comb that Nana had brought. The stylist did have brand new combs though. The guys enjoyed the snorkeling as they had brought their own equipment. The beach was nearly empty for the first hour, but groups started to arrive from the other ships that were in port. Coral World, which was easily seen from the beach, was skipped this trip. One of the dive masters gave the little guy some dog cookie bones to feed the fish. These fish were large, colorful and plentiful. Our driver returned right on the scheduled time. She was leaving right from the port after dropping us off for a flight to Atlanta where here daughter was graduating from college. She left us at Havensight and brought DD and SIL downtown for them to enjoy the shopping without the children in tow. The black clouds moved in right after we had some lunch on board the ship, so our next venture up Paradise Point was a wash-out. Again, we took the children into a few stores at Havensight to find more souvenirs. Our birthday girl found a great hand painted visor with an Iguana painted upon it for $10. It was really cute. This is the first cruise that Nana really didn't go shopping at St. Thomas. The customs agent must have surely been surprised.
Nassau: As we docked about noon, the skies were threatening and the winds were brisk. We decided to forego a beach trip to Paradise Island and just wander around downtown Nassau. We walked farther than I thought we would have to go to the public beach but the winds were even too strong for kite flying. Unfortunately, we were approached right away by vendors and then found glass in the sand, so our stay on the beach was very short. Once back at the Straw Market, the family went in to seek out some bargains. The children were peddling wooden turtles and flutes which they youngsters bought. No one could agree on one thing to do, so we went back to the ship to try to find a late lunch. Shortly thereafter, the skies opened up and once again, we had a down pour.
Value for the Price
Our Premium balcony cabin was actually less than it cost us for a regular outside twin cabin that we had almost 10 years ago on the Celebrity Horizon. For $400 for each child, plus tax as port fees were included, no other cruise line could match this incentive. The Family Cabin is so roomy and unique to this class of Celebrity ship offering the family a two room private sleep setting with two TV's including VCR's and the extra large corner balcony and great storage space. Our daughter and son-in-law loved this spacious feature the most, plus the fabulous service of our cabin steward, Julio. The little extras extended to us as Elite Captain's Club & Founder members, were also very much appreciated.
Overall, the cruise was worth the 9 month wait and to experience what we love most through a child's eyes. Although there were some anxious moments with family issues, changes of plans, weather delays, overall it was a nice relaxing week. Meeting all of the Cruise Critics and their friends and family was an extra special memory. As mentioned previously, I will attest that the Celebrity staff has come up the ladder a long way with friendliness, fabulous service, smiling faces, and their determination to do everything possible to please their guests. The price made this cruise affordable for all. Even though I know more changes are inevitable on Celebrity, I do hope they continue to try to exceed everyone's expectations. They certainly fulfilled ours.
We sailed on the "Millennium" on Feb. 1st, 2004, and had a great cruise. The food and service were excellant, and the cabin steward was also very good. The one flaw in the ointment, so to speak, was the loss of ambiance in the main dining room for the evening meal (late seating). We saw many incidents on people wearing ble jeans, shorts, and sleeveless tee-shirts into dinner, and nothing being said by the maitre-de they walked casually past.
When we inquired about this, the answer given was "We are not fashion police." Several of the ships officers were asked also, and the response was simular. So, for all practical purposes, the dress code on the "Millennium" is nonexistant, which should make several cruisers very happy. No need to bring a tux or a suit, no need for dockers or slacks, no need to pack ties. It's just like eating at McDonalds! Same ambiance! Blue jeans were the "uniform of the day" on the "Millennium" for this cruise; we saw them everywhere. This was our 9th cruise, and had never seen this before on other Celebrity ships until now. Is thisa new Celebrity policy?
My husband Mark is 29 and I am 26. This was our second cruise on Celebrity's Millennium and our honeymoon. We had a concierge class stateroom, 9043.
We drove to Ft. Lauderdale and arrived 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. Itwasn'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.
We actually liked the overhang over the balcony. It shielded us from the weather and didn't block our view.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 occasion 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.
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.
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 soufflé. Mark had goat cheese soufflé, rack of lamb, and a plate of bite-size desserts. We had to waddle back to the room we were so full.
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. If you buy liquor in a grocery store or other non-duty-free shop you don't have to declare it.
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 gray 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.
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.
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 many 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 Piña 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.
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'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.
This was without exception the worst disembarkation experience we have ever had.
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 wouldn'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 we were 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.
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 ship is beautiful and in excellent shape. The food was wonderful. The service was great. The lounge entertainment was top-notch. 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 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.