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Sail Date: July 2003
Intro: To those who don't know me, by way of a little background, I am a 49 year old corporate real estate attorney from Calabasas, California (just northwest of Los Angeles). Accompanied on this cruise by my wife, Beth, a School ... Read More
Intro: To those who don't know me, by way of a little background, I am a 49 year old corporate real estate attorney from Calabasas, California (just northwest of Los Angeles). Accompanied on this cruise by my wife, Beth, a School Psychologist. For the first time in 10 years, we left the two teenaged daughters (17 and 19) at home. Pre-Cruise/Venice: Flew from LAX to Venice with a 2:40 layover and change of planes at JFK. Only problem with JFK was that at 5-7 in the evening, all food services at the Delta terminal were closed with the exception of Burger King. Plane from JFK to Venice caught a tail wind and we were in Venice at 9:30 am on Thursday, over an hour ahead of schedule. Celebrity personnel met us at the luggage carousel and escorted us to a nearby waiting bus. The trip into Venice was quick and easy. Our luggage was taken to the hotel for us and we were led on a short easy walk from the bus parking to the hotel. We opted for the two-night pre-cruise stay at the Carlton Executive Hotel in Venice. The hotel was clean and nice, rooms were small but well appointed. Not really worth the $359 per person for the two-night stay, but the logistics of not dealing with our own luggage/transportation easily made up for that. The hotel was located right across the canal from the train station, making it convenient to the port and to the buses/trains, but a long walk to most of the sites of Venice…That was okay, because, for two days, we got very accustomed to walking everywhere. First day, we walked across the bridge to the Ghetto, toured the Synagogues and Ghetto (absolutely fascinating), then walked to Tintoretto’s church and to the Rialto Bridge. Had dinner on the Piazza Santa Margarita in the same outdoor café where we ate on our honeymoon 22 years earlier (very good, but overpriced and all ala carte). Friday, we took a "free rideâ€? to Murano. BEWARE! Free rides are worth what you pay for them. The hotel clerk told us they would arrange such free rides, but, you are basically there as a guest of whichever glass blowing studio paid for your ride. The boat tenders to their private dock and they give you a personal guided "tourâ€?, most of which is a trip through their showroom store where your one-on-one guide tries to sell you extremely high-priced pieces. We LITERALLY escaped and ran…there is no exit…You need to find your own way out. We found some other tourist family jimmying open a gate and followed them to freedom…Once outside the gates, Murano is charming, but everything is a glass-blowing gift shop…We took a "Vaporettiâ€? (a public bus-boat) back to the main islands, walked to Piazza San Marco, toured the Doge’s Palace (a highlight is crossing the Bridge of Sighs on the INSIDE…to the prison)…For dinner, we crossed the bridge to near the train station where there are many nice little outdoor cafes with prix-fixe complete multi-course menus…We chose the Cafe "Brindisiâ€? with a full menu for 13 Euros a person…Very good… Next morning, on schedule, the ship’s land agent, Medov, came to take us to the ship… Check in was remarkably quick…we were on board in a matter of minutes… The Ship: What can I say…The Millennium is magnificent…The ship’s décor is dignified and warm, the layout is convenient (for a ship her size). Our cabin was on the Eighth deck, right near the midship elevators, making everything a convenient distance…Dining Room on the 4th and 5th decks to the rear of the ship, Celebrity Theater 4th and 5th to the front…most everything else was to be found between the two…shops and lounges on the 5th, casino, internet cafe and lounges on the 4th…Cosmo’s disco on the 11th, pools, spa and buffet on the 10th, cinema and purser on the 3rd…All easy to find… Our cabin was not large, but comfortable…perhaps could have used a bit more closet space, but, all-in-all, a minor inconvenience…Cabin Steward, Martin, was excellent and highly professional, almost transparent most of the time…he knew our schedule, made note of changes to it (like our reservation time for the Olympic) and adapted to it… I was very impressed with the showroom, amply large with few truly bad seats… We had Early Seating…which worked out perfectly with this itinerary…the only nights we were in port late, we ate in the Olympic or it somehow otherwise worked out (we had tickets to the Flamenco show in Barcelonaâ€"departing 8:45, so the early seating slid very well right in front of it.)… Our table was wonderful…Our tablemates were Nick and Liz, from New York, Nathan and Zippy from New Jersey and Ralph and Doreen (lilmscaddy on Cruise Critic…Intros were easy…thanks, CruiseCritic) from Indiana…We all became pretty close pretty quickly and did quite a bit together as a groupâ€"on and off the ship… Our Waiter, Davidâ€"from Franceâ€"and assistant waiter, Francisco were great…If anyone who reads this gets David as a waiter, consider yourselves in very good hands… We had a table at the extreme rear of the ship at the window, on the port side, 4th floor…nice views for dinner… I, personally, thought the food was outstanding…although, there were mixed reviews from our table…my wife, for one, had a few meals with which she was less than thrilled… The Olympic: We ate one night in the Olympic…the food and service was excellent…Beth had the Cheese Soufflé and Steak Diane…I opted for the Lobster Bisque and the Veal…The veal was fine but I should have gone with the Steak Diane…The Chocolate Soufflé for dessert was unbeatable…I wish they served it in the main dining room as well…Although the meal was excellent and I would easily pay far more back home for such a dining experience, I don’t know that it justifies the extra $50…It’s not as if the main dining room is giving you burgers and fries at a fast food window…I know the Olympic has its fans, but for me, if it didn’t exist and I was FORCED to eat in the main dining room each night, I wouldn’t exactly feel deprived… Other food: I thought the pizza was only fair at best and hardly worth the effort…The Sushi bar, however, was outstanding…My only wish would be that they should open it at 4:00 p.m., like the Carnival Elation (Yes, folks, Carnival gets some things right) instead of 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.…For those of us with early seating, this puts it smack opposite dinner hours…Still, on more than one occasion, I stopped for a plate of sushi on my way to dinner!! Selection and quality were outstanding…But, if it were open at 4:00, we could at least digest a little sushi before beginning the next meal…Ice Cream was great…and convenient…I must have had about two cones a day… Entertainment: On various nights, the main shows included: The Celebrity singers and dancers: Very good, but, as typical with most cruises, the shows lacked much originality and whoever comes up with these shows obviously believes that music, as we know it, ceased to be created after 1965…with the exception of motown and disco which seemed to have continued on through around 1975…the last show by these guys, at least had some good costumes and some interesting opera numbers… A magician: again, pretty good, but nothing overly flashy… Jugglers: These guys were fun and entertaining…and funny… A comic: Don Gavin…from Boston…my favorite on this cruise…very funny, also did a quite funny midnight show… A violinist and a trumpet player (co-billed but separate)…good, but these types of acts don’t make for an exciting show…Lisa, the violinist, was actually quite nice…we met her later in the cruise… An impressionist: weak on the impressions, but strong on the audience rapport…which more than makes up for talent…relating to the audience is a greater talent…especially in putting up with one obnoxious young audience "volunteerâ€? who tried to hijack the show (Parents, get a clue…muzzle your kid)… A couple of the house singers did "double-dutyâ€? headlining shows…good, but Celebrity should bring in added talent instead to make these shows a bit more special so you don’t feel you’re just getti8ng another "houseâ€? show without the dancers and costume changes… I may have left someone or another out…though the nights when we were in port late, there were no shows… Overall, the entertainment rates only a "fairâ€?…But, that’s okay, I’m satisfied with "fairâ€?…it beats what we got on Princess in the Baltic a couple of years back… Ports: General: We had visited 8 of the 10 ports before, some more than once…but never by cruise ship…We had always made our own way, hit and miss…so, we decided, this time, to rely mainly on tours…We considered booking our own guides, but the uncertainties of hiring guides and not having others to defray some of the costs or of ending up with incompatible tourmates pretty much convinced us to rely on the ship’s excursionsâ€"despite the obvious limitations…and cost (other than the high cost of private, unshared tours) was not a major concern…So, we went with Shore Excursions in every port… Dubrovnik: We opted for the Cavtat and Dubrovnik tour…I would not recommend it…Cavtat was scarcely worth seeing…The tour of Dubrovnik was brief and did not go up onto the walls…after the tour, we wandered the old city on our own…and this would have been sufficient… Corfu: We did the Achilleon Palace, Paleokatstritsas and Corfu tour…The Achilleon Palace was definitely worth seeing and we would not have seen it on our own…after the tour, we ate lunch at the same restaurant we ate at on our honeymoon, "Pizza Pete’sâ€?…Yes, that’s rightâ€"but, don’t let the name fool youâ€"this place is a one-of-a-kind…it sits out on the cliffs over the sea, near the harbor and the old fort…the kitchen sits on the other side of the highway and the waiters dodge traffic as they bring you your food…the food includes Pizza and Italian specialties, but the menu is extensive and is largely Greekâ€"it’s actually two restaurants…or at least looks like itâ€"the other half has a Greek name, but the menus are the same, and the kitchen and waiters are the same…it’s a ploy for folks who can’t decide between Greek and Italian…the patio is "splitâ€? between the two…sit on either side…it’s the same…You’ll find it on the road along the sea between the shuttle bus stop and the harbor… Then, we wandered the town on our own, shopping and hopped the free shuttle back to the ship… After these two ports came a much needed and well spaced "Day at Seaâ€?… Santorini: We took the Akrotiri Museum and Wine Tasting tour. The Akrotiri part does NOT take you to the ruins themselvesâ€"they are covered and closed…The Museum is in Thira and could have been done "on our ownâ€? as well…but they do take you on a scenic drive around the island to some great view spots and a neat little winery…and they do leave you off at Thira without having to take a donkey up the hill…and with a cable car ticket for the ride home…After our tour, we met up with all of our dinner table mates for lunch at a nice view restaurant in Thira and then went with another of the couples out to Oia and back by public bus…Beautiful island… Athens: Took the Acropolis and Cape Sounion with Lunch tour. Acropolis was, of course, fascinating…even with all the scaffolding and work being done…then came a waste of a stop at a touristy gift shop, then a pretty good Greek lunch at the Hotel Metropolitan (A Chandris Hotel)…lunch was good, but the location had little charm…Then the drive out to Cape Sounion for the very picturesque Temple of Poseidon…which had to be one of the windiest places on earth while we were there… Then, another deserved "day at seaâ€?… Naples: Took the massive, ten-hour "Capri, Sorrento and Pompeiiâ€? tour…and, yes, believe it or not, they fit it all in quite adequately…Our guide, Franco, was excellent…First, we boated right over to Capri, took the Funiculare up to the top, walked to the gardens on the far side of the island, then had shopping time in town…then we boarded a hydrofoil directly for Sorrento, bused to the top to a restaurantâ€"very good and charming, but warm…then some shopping time in town and back to the bus for a tour of Pompeii…with excellent commentary by Franco…but I wish we had more time here…stopped at a useless "Cameo Factoryâ€? on the way back to the ship…ran OVER the 10 hours…we showered and dressed in a hurry and just made it to dinner… Rome: We hit the jackpot on shore excursions here…â€?A walk in Renaissance Romeâ€?…I think the name of the tour and the description (â€"3.5 mile walk…â€?) scared most folks away…So we ended up with two tour guides and only eleven passengers…Since we all fit into a much smaller bus, we were able to travel to Rome on a more restricted route…so that "1.5 hour bus rideâ€? to Rome took only 45 minutes…The walk part…from the Trevi to the Pantheon to the Piazza Navona and many other sights along the way…was quick and easy with only 11 passengers to keep track of (and that description seemed to scare away the older and less mobile folks as well)…We had an outstanding lunch at a small restaurant and had found ourselves so far ahead of schedule that we got an extra, unscheduled bus tour of parts of the city not on our planned itinerary…Then we spent the last portion of our tour with a very personalized guided tour of the Vatican… Livorno: Excursion Jackpot part two: We originally opted for the Pisa and Florence tour, but the more we thought about it, the extremely hot weather, the thought of 40 or 50 passenger buses having to park far from the tourist sites, the walks, the lines, the waiting…and we’d been to Florence before anyway…and it was Monday and we knew the museums would be closed…So, nope…last minute (morning of the tour) we asked out and were allowed to change to the Tuscan Countryside tour…Another small group "19 this timeâ€"and a visit to the beautiful and quaint San Gimigniano and Volterra…Lunch was at an extremely charming little winery outside of San Gimigniano…Plate after plate of antipasti: Salami, prosciutto, cheeses, olives, peppers, breads, tomatoes, and on and on…then some delicious pasta…and wine…and wine…and wine…and wine…So glad we made the switch… Villefranche…Back to the big buses…the Nice, Eze and Monte Carlo tour…a very pleasant time walking through the "marketâ€? in Nice and stopping for a "Double Cafeâ€?, Eze was enchantingâ€"with a very nice lunch…Toured the Palace in Monaco (on our own nickel during our "free timeâ€?…A little upset with the tour guide, Valerie…She gave us a meeting time: 2:45 p.m. and a meeting place: The Yellow Submarine outside the Oceanographic Institute…then failed to wait for us there…We got there a few minutes BEFORE the appointed time…about 10 to 12 of us were gathered there and when 2:45 came and went, the debate raged over what to do…Some folks didn’t even seem to know how to find the bus on their own…luckily, I knewâ€"a short walk, an escalator, an elevator, two more escalators and turn right…Everyone followed me…When we found the bus, we found Valerie…she claimed that since it was so hot and crowded at the meeting place and since many of the passengers were back early, they just "decidedâ€? to leave early…no other explanation, no apology…Guess what, Valerie: No tip either… Another well-spaced and well-deserved "day-at-seaâ€?… Barcelona: We had an "overnightâ€? in Barcelona before finishing the cruise. Took a morning "City Tourâ€?…well worth the $39 for a nice overview with stops at Montjuic, the Sagrada Familia and at the Cathedral…Then, we went back to the ship and packed, had dinner and then went on the "Flamenco Dancingâ€? excursion…what an absolute waste…do this on your own if you really must…First, we stopped at the "Palaceâ€? to watch the colored fountains show along with the mobs of folks…then on to this seedy Flamenco club for popcorn and sangria and a really poor excuse for a dance show…Somewhat amateur hour-ish…and the seating made viewing the dancing difficult at best…We (at least the men) spent most of our time here looking at our watches (How long can this go on???)…at $69 a head, a complete rip-off… We also opted for the additional two-night package in Barcelona at the Gran Hotel Havana…The hotel was quite nice, rooms were substantially large with large bathroom…Location was excellent, on Corts de Catalans at Carrer Bruc…it was three blocks west on Corts to Passieg de Gracia…from Passieg de Gracia, it was only one block south to the Placa Catalunya, the main square of Barcelona and a center of nightlife…The giant "El Corte Inglesâ€? Department store…10 stories of shopping with everything you’ll ever need sits right on the Placa on the Passieg de Gracia frontage (NOTE: Bottled water all over town at small stands and cafes, bars and bakeries goes for 2 to 4 Euros for a 1.5 liter bottle…But, in El Corte Ingles, if you go down one level from street level, you are in the supermarket section and you can get an assortment of bottled water for around 35 Euro CENTS for a 1.5 liter bottle…as well as just about any other snack or drink you want…The Placa Catalunya is also the northern terminus of Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s great walking street…North of Corts de Catalans, along Passieg de Gracia, within just a few blocks, you will find the "Manzana de Discordiaâ€? with Gaudi’s amazing "Casa Batlloâ€? (10 Euro for a short radio-guided tour) and a couple blocks up from that, Gaudi’s "Casa Milaâ€? with it’s great museum and roof access for 7 Euro…Our first day off the ship, we walked south through Las Ramblas and through the Barrio Gotic (the really old parts of Barcelona)…The second day, we walked up Passieg de Gracia to the Gaudi sites then ate lunch at Placa Ruis e Taulet then hopped on Bus #24 along Passieg de Gracia up to Gaudi’s amazing Park Guell… And, then, sadly, the next morning, we returned home…Celebrity’s land agent had a van at the hotel to collect us right on schedule…and the rain poured down at last just as we left the van for the terminal… Some side notes: --Making for a really nice cruise, my wife hit the "final bingoâ€? (a 3-way tie) and walked off with $618…we bought drinks for the table that night… --Formal nights were on two of the "at-seaâ€? nights and, surprisingly, once on a port night (Corfu, I believe…but I don’t have the schedule with me as I write this)…Four of the last five nights were "Casualâ€?, with the informal nights loaded heavily to the earlier nights… --Karaoke was only on "at-seaâ€? nights… --The unruly and rude passengers: The major topic of discussion onboard the ship were the "unruly French peopleâ€?… There were apparently 500 French folks on board…as well as 500 Spanish, some Italians and the rest mostly English speaking (American, Canadian, British, South African, Australian, etc.)...And not ALL the French passengers were rude and obnoxious of course...we met many with whom we would gladly cruise again...Apparently, there was a particular group of 100 or more from a French Bridge Club who, regardless of seating assignments, all walked into the late seating and proceeded to "claim" sections of tables...extremely aggressive and rude...made life fairly miserable for everyone...I also observed many of the Europeans smoking virtually everywhere on the ship..."No Smoking Section" meant absolutely nothing to them...I am asthmatic and very sensitive to this...And, of course, certain entire groups seemed to completely disregard their children, even actively encourage their bad behavior...Yes, if we could have kicked off about 500 people, the cruise would have been perfect--the other 1800+ passengers were exactly what you'd hope for...We, thankfully, had early seating--it was splendid and dignified the entire cruise--I only heard the accounts of the late seating from friends in late seating... Overview: Despite certain problems, overall it was an EXCELLENT cruise…The ship was fantastic, the service excellent, the itinerary was about as good as could be found, the ports varied from the big cities of Rome and Athens and Barcelona, to the small islands and remote ports like Corfu, Santorini and Dubrovnik…We went from the truly ancient sites of Athens and Pompei, to the Medeival in Dubrovnik and San Gimigniano and Eze to the modern of Monte Carlo and Gaudi’s Barcelona…We visited different cultures, heard different languages, ate different foods…saw great art and architecture…and did it all from a great modern ship with traditional service and values… If you are even slightly considering doing the Mediterranean by cruise ship, I wholeheartedly endorse the Millennium…I wish we had another two weeks… Read Less
Sail Date: October 2003
Celebrity Cruise Lines - Millennium 12-Night Mediterranean Legacies Cruise October 14-26, 2003 PREFACE The travelers: Two women, widowed, one approaching retirement, the other already there. We've both cruised before (HAL, Royal ... Read More
Celebrity Cruise Lines - Millennium 12-Night Mediterranean Legacies Cruise October 14-26, 2003 PREFACE The travelers: Two women, widowed, one approaching retirement, the other already there. We've both cruised before (HAL, Royal Olympic and Carnival), but this was the first cruise on Celebrity for either of us. The Millennium was selected because the itinerary was one we were both interested in, was port intensive and at the outer limits of the time we had available to travel. PRE- AND POST-CRUISE ARRANGEMENTS Although some people enjoy making their own travel arrangements, we opted to assign this task to Celebrity, eliminating the potential need to make last-minute changes or risk overlooking something. Teresa and I live in different states and flew separately to Venice. She arrived about 8:30 AM Tuesday; I arrived two hours later. Celebrity representatives met arriving passengers, and buses shuttled us to the ship. Check-in was simple. The difficult part was trying to stay awake until shortly after noon when the ship was ready for us to board. Our return to the US two weeks later was frustrating. Teresa's plane was apparently overbooked, and passengers were offered six hundred airline dollars as an incentive to move to other flights. She declined the offer, did get checked in to board her flight and reached Dallas at the scheduled time. I arrived at the Barcelona airport on Celebrity's shuttle bus 2-1/2 hours before the plane's scheduled 1:00 PM departure. I was ticketed on Air France from Barcelona to Washington, DC with a change of planes in Paris. The Celebrity package also included an E-ticket on United to fly from Washington to Cleveland. When I was sixth in line and after standing in line for two hours, check-in for the flight was halted. The plane was full or had reached its weight limit. The remaining passengers were instructed to visit the adjoining Air France ticket counter to make alternate arrangements. Airline reps were less than helpful to the first people they dealt with. One couple was told they would be ticketed only as far as Air France's US termination city. Any subsequent flights to their destination on planes of other airlines would be their responsibility to arrange. A lot of yelling went on at that window. When it was finally my turn, I asked, "Just get me home, whatever routing, whatever time." My options: (1) fly later that day to Paris, spend the night there, and continue home the next morning; or (2) remain in Barcelona overnight and fly out the next morning. I chose to stay overnight in Barcelona. The rep reissued the two Air France paper tickets and changed my connecting United reservation by issuing an e-ticket to replace the original. Approximately two dozen of us spent the night at the Tryp Hotel, a very nice facility near the airport. When I returned at 6:00 the next morning, a long line had already formed but I was able to check in and got home with no further problems. THE SHIP Many cruise reviews include a description of the ship, public areas, cabin accommodations, general dEcor and food quality and presentation. These criteria are less important to me than the itinerary and experience in each port of call. To summarize in a few words, the ship is attractive and stable in rough seas, the crew is attentive, and I didn't lose any weight. Because we anticipated long days touring when in port, we requested second seating (8:45 PM) for dinner. This worked well for us, allowing us time to relax and regroup before eating. Generally after we'd rested and dressed for dinner, we visited one of the lounges or stopped by the sushi bar to have a pre-dinner appetizer. We ate breakfasts and lunches in both the dining room and Ocean Cafe. When shore excursions were booked, the Cafe was our choice; on sea days where eating could be unhurried, we visited the dining room. OUR CABIN Our cabin, midship on Vista Deck (7), had a veranda, which we used when weather permitted. Cabin appointments were comparable to those of similar class ships: king bed split into two twins, a settee and coffee table, television with remote control, vanity and chair, shower bath and combination mini-bar refrigerator. ON-BOARD ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT There were many daytime shipboard activities available, but day-long shore excursions prevented our taking part in them. Celebrity provided opportunities to play games such as bingo, trivia and pictionary, and Enrichment programs were available as well. Fatigue from long days of sightseeing also precluded my attendance at evening shows. By 11:00 PM, when we left the dining room, all I wanted to see was my bed. SHORE EXCURSIONS In the past we have purchased ship-sponsored excursions in ports we were unable to see on foot. In doing research for this cruise, however, we found many travelers opted to book private driver/guides for some ports. We decided to do the same. The caveat was that it would be our responsibility to get back to the ship before it left port. A ship will wait for its sponsored tour buses to return before leaving port; she wouldn't wait for us. Three months prior to our sail date, I contacted several recommended drivers and eventually scheduled five to serve as driver/guides. In three other ports we did self-guided tours and in the last, Barcelona, we purchased Celebrity's City Tour with hotel transfer. Our reasons for deciding to book private tours were: (1) our cost would be less than a ship's tour, even after a tip and the price of lunch/snack were added; (2) we could decide on the agenda and time spent at each stop and (3) our group would be small with no more than eight passengers in a van. As our days with the private drivers passed and our experience grew, we learned (1) it's important to tell the driver at the start of the day whether the group wants a leisurely lunch or a quick snack (eat fast, see more); (2) the quantity of historical information offered by private drivers varied. From our experience we felt that bus guides give more background. (But then, they're not concerned with navigating traffic while talking, either.) and; (3) Vehicle acoustics and the driver's tone sometimes made hearing what he said difficult. Bus guides have microphones. Venice, Italy - The consensus of what we read about touring Venice was to "see it on foot, get lost." Once on the ship and after a quick lunch, we took the vaporetto shuttle to St. Mark's Square to wander around. There were signs pointing the direction to the Rialto Bridge but we never found our way there. After three hours exploring on foot, we returned to the ship to unpack and collapse. A week before the cruise I had made reservations for the "Doges' Palace Secret Itinerary" Tour (12.50€). Following the two-hour tour the next morning, there were only three hours until we needed to be back on the ship, so we stayed in the area around the Square rather than chance missing embarkation. If you have only a day in Venice, take a guided tour, perhaps the ship's walking tour. We spent so much time lost that we had too little time to see more of the sights we were interested in or take a gondola ride. An informal get together of Cruise Critic members assembled after the ship set sail, and we met again formally Friday morning. It was great fun to meet face to face after months of e-mail correspondence. Dubrovnik, Croatia - Reviews we read indicated it was a simple matter to tour Dubrovnik's old town without investing in a tour or guide, so we did. The day was sunny but high winds necessitated the use of tenders to the port. A bus then shuttled us to the walled city. A fee (converted to Euros) of 2.20€ each bought us tickets to walk along the wall's top. The steps were numerous and steep, but the views of the city and Adriatic Sea were worth the effort and price. At the halfway point we descended to the street where we had lunch and then continued our exploration of Dubrovnik as we walked to the pick up point for our return to the ship. Athens, Greece - Following a day at sea, we joined two fellow passengers for the first of our independent driver/guide tours. Although Spiros (www.athenstaxi.net) had indicated he'd be our driver, we were met by Mike, one of his employees, outside the terminal's main entrance at 8:30 AM. The sky was overcast, but Mike made the day bright for us. Our morning stops included the Acropolis, changing of the guard at the Parliament Building, Temple of Zeus, Mt. Lycabettus and a short stop to shop. Mike took us to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. We dined family style on lamb, pork and true Greek salad (no lettuce but lots of feta cheese, tomatoes, green peppers, olives and onions) and a Greek dessert of yogurt topped with honey. We also drank retsina wine, which Mike said should be ordered from the barrel, NEVER in the bottle. We finished the day by driving to Cape Sounion to see the Temple of Poseidon and were back on the ship by 5:00 PM. We'd had a busy day and were ready to rest. Santorini, Greece - I visited Santorini on a cruise three years ago, but we had less than five hours of shore time. On this cruise we would have nearly fifteen hours. To take advantage of the time, we reserved a rental car for the day (www.pangosmio.gr). The instructions were that we would be met at the port. When there was no one there at the appointed time, we rode the cable car to the top thinking the representative would be there, but she was not. Eventually I called the emergency number that had been provided with the reservation and learned that she had been at the port but evidently arrived after we'd left to search for her office. (NOTE: if you're told where you'll be met, then wait there!) Once we had the car, we spent some time in Fira and then went to Oia to shop, stroll and take pictures. Following lunch at a cliffside cafe, we drove across the island to Akrotiri and then stopped to tour Koutsogiannopoulos Winery on the way back to Fira. After returning the car, we headed to Zafora's, a restaurant near the cable car station. We found a table there where we shared a sampler of Greek appetizers and watched the sun set before tendering back to the ship. Naples, Italy - Following another sea day, six of us from the ship met our second private driver, Gennaro (www.sorrentolimo.com). What a professional, personable, friendly man! He allowed us to set the pace, reminding us at the same time that the faster we moved, the more we'd see. Our tour began with a drive along the Amalfi Coast. If we wanted to stop to take pictures, we had only to ask. Occasionally he'd stop without prompting because there was a view he wanted us to see. He arranged for us to have lunch in Ravello at a hillside restaurant with a spectacular view of the gulf, and after our meal, we went into the town for a short visit. I'd asked Gennaro to schedule a private guide for us in Pompeii. We spent two hours with her, walking through and learning about the ruins. Her fee was paid by Sorrento Limo and was included in the total we paid to Gennaro back at the port. Rome, Italy - Max (www.maxleotta.com) was to be our driver, but Aldo came in his place. We were very satisfied with his effort to show us as much of Rome as possible, especially since it was a rainy day and Rome traffic moved slowly. In spite of congestion, Aldo pointed out a number of historical sites and made several stops that included the Forum, Coliseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Piazza Navona. With so much to see, we asked for a noon stop for a snack, and Aldo took us to a small lunchbar near the Vatican. It was here that we sampled gelato for the first time. (Oh, boy, that's good stuff!) As the end of the day approached, we finally reached the Vatican, and literally ran through the Museum in order to get to the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's before our day had to end. I cannot praise Aldo highly enough for his perseverance in getting us to as many sites as he did. Florence, Italy - Another day with another driver, this one Alex, also an employee of Max Leotta's limousine service. Alex was as reserved as Aldo was ebullient, but he was every bit as accommodating. In discussing what we wanted to see, Alex suggested that we secure tickets for the Uffizi and Accademia museums first and plan the rest of the day around those stops. We were able to get into Accademia immediately, but tickets for the Uffizi weren't available until after our tour ended. Thus, we walked across the street to see Michelangelo's 'David' and then made the short drive to Cathedral Square. While Alex stayed with the van, the six of us headed off for 2-1/2 hours of picture taking, sightseeing and shopping. Back in the van we continued to Santa Croce Church where Michelangelo and Galileo are entombed. Our last stop was at an overlook for one last view of Florence. The time we'd have spent in the Uffizi Museum was now available for other use, so we asked Alex to take us off the expressway and through the Tuscan countryside on the drive to Pisa. Who said, "It's just a leaning tower"? The architecture and area surrounding the church, baptistry and tower make this an outstanding stop. I'm so glad we didn't pass it by. We were back on the ship by 5:00 and it had been another memorable day. Villefranche, France - This was our fourth consecutive day with a driver/guide, this one scheduled to be Alain (www.Dream-Tours.com). The six of us tendered to the port where we were to meet Alain at 8:30. When he hadn't arrived by 8:45, I asked the attendant at the information desk to call the Dream-Tours office. Uh oh. In spite of repeated e-mails where the subject line included the date of our tour, we were on their schedule for the following day. The Dream-Tours rep said there would be a driver at the port within a half hour. (While we waited, Sylvie Di Cristo approached us, asking if we were the party she had booked for the day. Sylvie's a very personable woman, and I can understand why she's been highly recommended by many people.) Shortly after Sylvia departed with her group, Fred rushed in looking for us. He apologized for the mix-up and set about making sure the rest of the day was without hiccup or complaint. Our tour began with a drive through Cap Ferrat as we headed to Eze, a spectacular stop if only for the view alone. Shopping in the quaint nooks could have taken most of the day; however, we needed to move on to Monaco and Monte Carlo. We spent some time in the garden outside the casino taking pictures and then drove through the marinas and over portions of Monte Carlo's Grand Prix racecourse. Eventually we stopped at the church where Princess Grace is buried and had time to see the church, visit the palace, wander the narrow lanes and, of course, shop. From Monte Carlo it was on to Nice. While two of our group visited the Matisse art museum, the other four strolled through the gardens of an adjacent church and adjoining city park where the ruins of a Roman bath remain. Our final stop was St. Paul de Vence, a hilltop village reminiscent of Eze. With too little time to explore and shop, it'll be at the top of our list of places to visit if (no, when) we return to southern France. With the ship not sailing for another six hours, Fred was willing to continue our sightseeing tour; however, we were tired and ready to rest. Fred had more than made up for the false start early in the day. Should he be your driver, you can be assured Fred will do whatever he can to make your visit a memorable one. Barcelona, Spain - After a final day at sea, we were greeted with rain when we disembarked in Barcelona. For passengers who extended their stay in Barcelona by at least a day, the ship had available a half-day excursion of the city that included a transfer to a hotel. Our first stop was at Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. With umbrellas in hand, we circled the work in progress as our guide explained some of the history and design. Back on the bus, we passed other Gaudi creations and then went to the Gothic Quarter to stroll the old lanes and learn of the area's importance to Barcelona. Rather than continue our outdoor tour in the rain, our guide altered our agenda and took us into Barcelona's City Hall where several pieces of art are displayed. Near noon and back on the bus, passengers were dropped off at their respective hotels. Ours was the Gran Hotel Havana and the room more than met our needs. After checking in, we walked to Las Ramblas to complete our souvenir shopping and sample tapas. WEATHER We visited nine ports and had four cloudy days, three days of rain and two sunny days. (I have no recollection of what it did the three days we were at sea!) Daytime temperatures generally reached into the 60's and at the least, a light jacket was usually needed. This was a good cruise to dress in layers. SUMMARY Would I recommend this cruise? Yes, if your goal is to visit as many ports as possible in the shortest amount of time. Teresa and I returned to our homes exhausted but glad that this had been our cruise choice. If you have questions, let me hear from you. Kitty Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
Generally a fine cruise experience, but with enough jarring notes to leave a bad taste. Good points - facilities are excellent and well-maintained. Health club and exercise program are not afterthoughts. Rooms are spacious and ... Read More
Generally a fine cruise experience, but with enough jarring notes to leave a bad taste. Good points - facilities are excellent and well-maintained. Health club and exercise program are not afterthoughts. Rooms are spacious and well-designed. This was a 14-day repositioning cruise with lots of at-sea time. Activities such as lectures were excellent, varied, and frequent. Concierge, room, restaurant, health club, spa, store, and bar personnel were uniformly excellent (concierge was outstanding). Food was highest quality but a bit boring - menus felt like they came from 20-yr-old Gourmet issues (great ingredients but dated!). Lunch buffets were outstanding and varied. Main restaurant dinners were of the highest quality with excellent supporting wine lists; they should offer an anytime dining option in main restaurant. Olympic Restaurant extra price ($30 per) is a strange experience with much food "produced" table side in a continuous dining room traffic jam and an incredibly intrusive staff (it is not enjoyable when 4 or 5 different restaurant personnel inquire about each course). These mar what should be a delightful and sophisticated experience. It is a beautiful room. Embarkation, both at the cruise beginning at at ports of call, needs work. In Ft Lauderdale, we stood in line outside(!!) waiting to check in. Processing passengers on and off is incredibly slow, even hours after docking. We dealt with customer service on two separate issues (cabin amenities and post-cruise documentation) that were Celebrity-generated issues. In both instances, Customer Services seemed more interested in defending and explaining the errors than in fixing them. For post-cruise documentation, it took 6 different visits/follow-ups to get a final correct answer that was not contradicted by something we would learn later. Not to mention several promised follow-ups that did not occur. Entertainment was the usual - overproduced and underwhelming - except for the comedian. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
My wife and I sailed on the May 21st sailing of the Celebrity Millennium in Europe. We flew from San Francisco and I'm 49 (13 cruises) and my wife is 55 and in wheelchair (5 cruises). EMBARKATION: Smooth as it has ever been, but ... Read More
My wife and I sailed on the May 21st sailing of the Celebrity Millennium in Europe. We flew from San Francisco and I'm 49 (13 cruises) and my wife is 55 and in wheelchair (5 cruises). EMBARKATION: Smooth as it has ever been, but then we did get there kinda late (3:30) and the ship wasn't sailing from Venice until the next day so no hurry. CABIN: Handicapped cabin #2022. Very nice with PLENTY of space, especially in the bathroom. Lots of drawers and shelves and comfortable beds with a small foldout couch and chair. Only drawback was opening of bathroom down would block access to part of the cabin by a wheelchair passenger. You would need to close the door to get by. FOOD: We had been warned that the quality of food had gone down on Celebrity, but not on our cruise. The food was wonderful all over the ship. Great choices at breakfast at the Ocean Grill. You can use the buffet, have eggs cooked special, have a special omelette or very nice was the waffle grill in the back. Can be had with warm syrup, sugar free syrup, melted butter, cherries in syrup or even a delicious orange butter. We had also been warned that Celebrity didn't know how to do pasta being a french kitchen. Let me tell you, being Italian, I know pasta and all of it I had was excellent. They didn't have that much in the dining room but did have one lunch buffet that was all Italian. It was wonderful. Great sauces and perfect pasta, especially the lasagna. You could also get custom pasta daily at the same stations you get omelettes in the morning. Never did venture to the Ocean Grill for dinner so cannot comment. The food and service in the dining room was excellent. Our waiter, Andreas, was from Croatia, and our assistant waiter, Oman, was from Indonesia. The menus were varied and although the same items were repeated (ie chicken or veal), they were prepared differently. We did eat in the Olympic dining room the evening before our 4th anniversary. And it was every bit as good as people had said. The service is amazing. I'm sure that if you dropped a knife they would catch it before it hit the ground. Each and every dish was perfectly prepared. Taking previous recommendations, I had the goat cheese souffle for an appetizer and it was wonderful. After dinner they brought us an anniversary cake and the violin player played for my wife and I. After trying the cake, my wife had ordered the chef's desert surprise, a sampling of 6 small deserts. I had the chocolate souffle with hot sauce poured in the middle. Excellent. They then brought out a 3-tiered plate of petit fours which we sampled but nearly had to be wheeled out after 3 hours of eating. We were just too tired to try any of the late night buffets or the bites they passed out late at night. But did see the fruit buffet display one night and it was lovely. It's also nice to know Celebrity has made the duties of the sommelier much easier now. They are only in charge of wine. There is another person in charge of taking other drink orders, alcohol, soft drinks or coffees. Makes for very good service and kudos to sommelier Gitana on our cruise, a lovely lady with a great personality. PORTS: In Venice Celebrity provides a complimentary shuttle from where the ship docks to St. Mark's square, a nice feature not all ships do. DUBROVNIK: Again they provide a shuttle to the center of the walled city. A lovely city with very friendly people and nice prices on lace and tablecloths (better than Venice we found). ATHENS: We had a private guide here for the day who picked us up at the ship at 8 am along with another couple we met here from Colorado. We got our driver through Spiros who came highly recommended here and his name was Dmitris. Very nice distinguished gentleman who drove us around Athens in his Mercedes taxi. He will be driving for NBC when the Olympics begin. He took us first to the Acropolis to beat some of the crowds. Only bad thing was the wind was blowing 35 MPH on the top of the hill, but worth every minute to see. He also took us 40 miles outside Athens to Sounion to visit the ruins there. Then we visited a Greek restaurant nearby right on the water in a very quiet bay. An unusual restaurant in that the seating was on the water side and the cooking part is across the 2-line road. The waiters had to walk the food across the road! SANTORINI: Every bit as beautiful as people had said. We tendered into the town of Fira. But most of the town is on the top of the hill. You can walk (500 very long steps uphill), you can take the small funicular cars (6 per car) or take a donkey ride up the same steps you walk (therefore if you want to walk you do it early in the day!). I visited twice, once before lunch and again in the afternoon. Took the funicular up and down the first time and up again the second time. I rode the donkey down and that was fun once I got in synch with the donkey. Very nice shopping here for souvenirs and things native to Greece. NAPLES: We took a taxi to visit the Archeological museum where most of the items from Pompeii are being shown. Was fantastic touring the museum and seeing all the ancient items. ROME: We had a private guide here also with our friends Charlie and Betty from Colorado. Found him online and his name was Angelino. He was tremendous and took us everywhere in Rome, even some places I don't think cars were allowed. We saw an awful lot in a day. And he took us to a restaurant his family likes and the food was fantastic. FLORENCE: My wife and I were going to take the train from Livono into Florence but she had gotten worn out and stayed behind to rest. Was very easy to take the train and only cost 11.6 euros round trip. Just remember to have your ticket stamped at the machine near the trains. One couple didn't and got fined onboard. Was easy to take a taxi to the station in Livorno, buy a ticket and hop the train. Was in Florence by 10:20. Had a reservation to visit the Academia Museum and had a great time. Lovely 15th century paintings and of course the David which was larger than I thought. VILLEFRANCE: Had been here once before and took my wife (after the tender ride) for a stroll along the waterfront. We went back for lunch and I came back in the afternoon. Tried to take the train to Monaco but missed it by 2 minutes and another one was nearly an hour away, didn't want to wait. Thought about Nice instead but just when I was confirming the schedule, that train pulled up. Not enough time to get a ticket and get to the other side of the tracks. Took a small tram that is near the dock for a tour that showed the area including the bordering town of Beaulieu. BARCELONA: My wife and I were in the first group off the ship despite our flight not being till Noon. It was because the handicapped transfer we had asked for was ready and we hopped aboard for the ride to airport. Beat all the crowds. Flew from Barcelona to Munich to connect to a Lufthansa flight to San Francisco. Got lucky to be upgraded to business class seats in Munich for the 11 hour flight. That was TREMENDOUS. All in all, having been on 13 cruises (and numerous lines) and my wife 5, we both felt this was a runaway winner for the best cruise. Great itinerary, lovely ship, but even better service and food than we could have hoped for. Can't wait for our next trip which will be on Celebrity!! Read Less
Sail Date: May 2004
CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM, 5/21/04, Venice to Barcelona, Mediterranean 13 Day Itinerary. Submitted by: RADGroup@aol.com Flight from Fresno, CA to SFO (5-20-04) UAL; SFO to Frankfurt to Venice (5-21-04) Lufthansa Business Class. I nicknamed ... Read More
CELEBRITY MILLENNIUM, 5/21/04, Venice to Barcelona, Mediterranean 13 Day Itinerary. Submitted by: RADGroup@aol.com Flight from Fresno, CA to SFO (5-20-04) UAL; SFO to Frankfurt to Venice (5-21-04) Lufthansa Business Class. 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 after we 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 dEcor 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 Captain's 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 dEcor 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 Maitre'D, 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 prosciuto, 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 consommE, 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 soufflE, the rack of lamb, several delicious selections from the cheese cart, and the chocolate soufflE 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 maitre'D 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 Cafe - 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 Cafe - We really didn't frequent the cafe 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 canapEs 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 cappella 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 Maitre'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 canapEs 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 30-40 mph winds but we got some great unobstructed pictures since we arrived so early. We spent an hour or so in the cafe 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. (See 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. Rome-Day 9 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 were 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 our 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 Captain's 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 Captain's Club status. I paid full price for their balcony room in addition to ours. OTHER 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 canapEs 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 and ... Yes... Celebrity, We were treated "FAMOUSLY"! radgroup@aol.com Celebrity Mercury 9/00 Celebrity Millennium 05/04 Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
Just came back from a glorious 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard Millennium. This is my 3rd Mediterranean cruise and my 5th cruise on Celebrity. After 20+ cruises, I stopped counting how cruises I've been on. I tend to get ... Read More
Just came back from a glorious 12-night Eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard Millennium. This is my 3rd Mediterranean cruise and my 5th cruise on Celebrity. After 20+ cruises, I stopped counting how cruises I've been on. I tend to get critical at this point since I have plenty to draw from. Ship itself -- not impressive. I prefer the dramatic atriums some cruise lines have which Celebrity avoids. Grade: B Shops on the Emporium -- good layout and plenty of stores compared to most cruise lines. Not as many interesting things to buy though. Grade B+ Service -- good. Although I miss the little shows the waiters put on. They did one but it lacked energy which most Caribbean sailings tend to put on. Grade: B+ Cabin -- good. I had a category 2B with veranda. Nothing fantastic but ample like any other cruise lines. The attendants were great. Grade: A- Celebrity Theater -- poor layout and unimpressive. The SHOWS are WOW! They have A+ shows and excellent performers. Grade: B- for the theater, A+ for the shows. Casino -- good size. Grade: B+ Food -- good. Grade: B+. Computer at sea -- very expensive and slow. Grade: D Room Service -- excellent. Food is very good, specially the soups. Grade: A- Ports of Call -- great. Although they shoud have warned those who took the Rome On Your Own tour that it was a public holiday and all the shops were closed. We just wanted to shop since we've been to Rome many times. It made for a very long, hot, sticky day just killing time. Guess it didn't hurt to see the Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Plaza Navona, and toss 3 coins on the Trevi one more time. We got to practice a favorite European past time, people watching, as we ate slowly in an open cafe at the P. Navona. Whoopee. Grade: B+ Embarkation -- poor and not as organized in Barcelona. Grade: C Disembarkation -- excellent and smooth in Venice. Grade: A+ Thank you. Read Less
Sail Date: August 2004
Note: This was a chartered cruise with Atlantis Events. Embarkation: When flying to Venice, Italy from the United States, you virtually have to connect some where. During this connection or even getting into Venice, several of us had our ... Read More
Note: This was a chartered cruise with Atlantis Events. Embarkation: When flying to Venice, Italy from the United States, you virtually have to connect some where. During this connection or even getting into Venice, several of us had our luggage shipped to other places or left at the connection airport! Celebrity did a great job providing us with extra complimentary clothing to change into while waiting for the bags to arrive. Getting on the ship was easy and painless once they started boarding everything was fine. Ports of Call: Extraordinary. This cruise was once in a lifetime for me. Seeing the Olympics in their birthplace, Athens, and being there for the closing ceremonies. Mykonos, Greece was highly overrated with so many damn people crowding into this little ally way for the sponsored club but I went off and had my own fun and it was still a great time. I loved Capri, Italy, passed up the ship shore excursion to go back to that island again! Ship Itself: By far Celebrity is the best ships for elegance I've sailed on thus far. As the lesbian comedian Shann Carr joked when I was on the January charter, same ship, that I was closest located to the stairwell with the heads on them! LOL. I'm a sucker for elegance and this ship is the best I've been on so far. Nice combination of wood and decor to truly impress! Stateroom: It was an interior cabin and the only interior cabin located aft on deck 7! Since I was in the share program, I was randomly assigned a roommate who sleep through most of the parties and was getting up when I was just getting back! LOL. Oh well, the room itself was very nice, nothing out of the ordinary. Very clean and very friendly room attendants who were extra diligent about making sure our rooms were up to par and even left some towel animals, common to other cruise lines but not Celebrity. Nice touch and I rewarded him with a bonus tip at the end of their niceness. Nicest stewards I've had yet (and this was my sixth cruise)! Service: The people at guest relations were incredible. They found my luggage in Paris de Gaulle and were all over Air France to get it to the ship before it left! It arrived just prior to sailing and everything was ok, still, they wanted to make sure this didn't dampen my spirits so they gave me complimentary toiletries, clothing and a bottle of champagne! I personally had to thank them for their nice efforts for making it a pain free time! They said, no thank you for being so nice about it. I guess when people lose luggage they take it out on them?? :( The dining room service was fabulous, our popular girl onboard was Daniella! She was a hoot! Finally got to sit in her section the last night onboard. All the rest of the waiters and waitresses had tricks and were very much enjoying our presence and let us know that by good service given! Food: Thus far sailing on every cruise ship, between RCCL, NCL, Princess and Celebrity, I can't really rate Celebrity as standing out but I can say it was comparable to those lines in presentation and exquisite taste. If I'm not cooking it, I'm not complaining if it's cooked to my liking (as in rare). Entertainment: Since Atlantis brings on their own and it's what you sail them for, I shall just comment about the Celebrity shows that were run on the off nights. FantaSea was incredible the second time around and so were the rest of the Broadway style shows. As for Atlantis entertainment, those HoneyBoys still have loads of work to do with their sound, still horrible. Comedian Shann Carr, as always incredible and so was the hypnotist! The hypnotist really got some Brit guy on board, who I saw on the last night of the cruise and said the magic word and he said the code word he was hypnotized with!! I certainly hope the hypnotist got that out of him because saying "God Bless America" every time the code word is said could get you in trouble in England amongst the commoners!! LOL Overall, this was the best cruise experience of my life because of the unique itinerary combined with the fact that I was sailing with a crowd that I can really be laid back with. The ship was incredible, food was great, service beyond a doubt the best I've had and the entertainment was the same as I've come to expect from Atlantis. Celebrity Millennium is a highly recommended ship to sail on in my book! Bon Voyage :) Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
This "review" contains a few comments and observations about our September 18-30 (2004) Mediterranean cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium. It does not include a full review of the ship or the ports as these have been covered ... Read More
This "review" contains a few comments and observations about our September 18-30 (2004) Mediterranean cruise aboard the Celebrity Millennium. It does not include a full review of the ship or the ports as these have been covered in other reviews. However, I try to comment on items that would have been of interest to us prior to taking the cruise for anyone considering a similar itinerary. As background, my wife and I are 50 and 51 and live in Florida. We've cruised 19 times, 18 of which have been in the Caribbean and Bahamas aboard various ships in the Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Princess and NCL lines. This was our 7th cruise with Celebrity, our second aboard the Millennium. While we have traveled outside of the US (e.g., Hong Kong, Bali, Singapore, Beijing, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and most Caribbean nations), this was our first trip of any kind to European countries. My point is that we did not know what to expect in Europe beyond what we had read about. Overall, the ship was in very good condition, food quality was very good and the service was fine (with the exception of the dining room sommelier, who was responsible for many more tables than any one person could ably cover). We chose cabin 9105, which on Millennium is a Concierge Class cabin. This was our second Concierge class cruise. We appreciated several of the "amenities" provided to this class including the choice of pillows, occasional gifts in our cabins, preferred seating (table for two, second seating), preferred embarkation and disembarkation, afternoon sweets delivered to the room, an extra social event and, in particular, the larger table and padded chairs on the balcony. These were much more comfortable than the standard balcony table and chairs, especially during our few meals on the balcony. We flew to Venice a day prior to being able to board the ship. We did research prior to arriving and knew that getting our luggage from the Venice airport to the hotel and then on to the ship would require some planning. As a result, we checked three of our bags at the Venice airport luggage holding office (3.5E per piece per day, I think) and took the Alilaguna waterbus from the airport to St. Mark's Square. When we were ready to leave for the ship the following day, we took the waterbus back to the airport, picked up our bags and took a land taxi directly to the ship. While this was relatively painless and about 30-40E cheaper than taking private water taxies, it added about two hours of travel back and forth to the airport over two days. In hindsight, it would have been preferable to arrange to split the cost of a private water taxi with other cruises (if you can) from the airport to the hotel and then on to the ship. If that's not possible, leaving your luggage at the airport works well. We stayed at the Locanda Orseolo, which we highly recommend. Our room was large (two rooms, actually) with wood floors and modern bathroom fixtures. Our large windows opened out over a small but rather active canal (complete with a few singing gondoliers). The staff was very friendly and helpful. Breakfast was a combination of self-serve buffet and made to order pancakes and quiches. By the way, although the base and foundation of the locanda are a few hundred years old, the floors with rooms were (re) built in 2002. I can't say enough about this B&B. I wish we had a few more days to spend there. (By the way, after flying overnight with little sleep, we retired for the night by 7pm. While it was tough to pass by Venice so early in the evening, we felt much, much better the next morning.) St. Mark's Square was a five minute walk from the locanda. Venice is a location that we would likely never tire of visiting given the chance. What sticks in my mind are the walks down narrow "streets" and over dozens of bridges, the ubiquitous nature of water vehicles (taxies, buses, delivery vehicles, even the police and hospital ambulances are boats), innumerable restaurants and bistros and, especially, St. Mark's Square. (We also highly recommend the Doges Palace Secret Itinerary Tour.) Last but not least, Venice is a "must see" sometime in your lifetime. The entire experience is very difficult to describe unless you've been there. This is probably not a bad time to mention money. We used Euros the entire trip, but we waited until we arrived at the Venice airport to exchange dollars for Euros. While we could have exchanged 1.37 dollars per Euro (plus a handling fee) at JFK, the exchange rate at the majority of ATMs we used during our cruise was approximately 1.22 dollars per Euro (plus a small fee in all cases). At the Venice airport, there is a currency exchange in the luggage retrieval area which charges slightly more than the ATM found just outside the luggage security area. Note that you'll need a 1 Euro coin (or was it 0.50E?) to get a baggage cart in the luggage area. Tickets for the Alilaguna waterbus can be purchased in the airport lobby. A free shuttle bus will transport you to the waterbus pier at the airport (next to the private water taxi docks.) ATMs are numerous in Venice as they were in all the ports we visited. Regarding the other ports: Dubrovnik, Croatia: A wonderful half-day visit to the old walled city, which is like something out of a fairy tale. Note that this was the only port that did not take Euros. An ATM just outside the walled city entrance provided Croatian Kunas for use during our visit. Walking along the top of the wall is a great experience but be aware that the walk to the highest areas is steep in places. We stopped to rest several times during our stroll. Pictures from the top of the wall are spectacular. Santorini, Greece: A beautiful island. We rented a car (Hertz, 80E per day) and spent 9 hours driving from the south end to the north end (Oia), with a stop in Kamari for a beachside lunch. The highlights of the day were our visits to Kamari and Ammoudi Bay, as well as shopping in Oia. Visiting the cliffside shopping and restaurant area in Oia is an absolute "must." Do not visit Santorini without visiting Oia. Athens, Greece: We took a taxi from Piraeus (the port) directly to the base of the Acropolis (for 20E but should have been about 12E). The Acropolis area is wonderful. While a visit to and pictures of the Parthenon are required, don't miss the small museum at the top of the Acropolis (free, easy walk through, many historic figures and parts of the Parthenon) and, in particular, the ancient market place area to the northwest of the Acropolis base. We had lunch in Monastiraki Square and walked to Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldier. From Monastiraki Square we returned to the port via the public train (about 1.5E). Note that the walk from the Piraeus train station to the ship was about 30 minutes, directly along the pier area. Finding our way from the station to the ship wasn't difficult but finding the train station walking from the ship would in my estimation be much more difficult. If you decide to take the train in both directions, make sure you have good walking shoes and good directions from the ship to the station. Naples, Italy: We spent no time in Naples. Instead, we took the public train (about 30 minute walk from the ship and not the easiest place to find on your own) to Pompeii, where we encountered about ten minutes of light drizzle, the only rain we had on the entire trip. My first 20 minutes at Pompeii were a bit underwhelming, since I had already seen plenty of ruins in Athens. However, I was much more affected after a period of time by the size of Pompeii as an ancient city. It's breathtaking to consider the devastation that was brought to such a large city and residents. I highly recommend visiting the public bath house ruins and some of the larger private residence ruins. From Pompeii we boarded the train for Sorrento, where we had lunch in the main square. After lunch we took the public bus to Positano, a wonderful ride high above the rugged coast with beautiful water. Getting off at the second Positano bus stop (I remember reading that it was the second, but I think it was the third stop), we walked down to the beach along walkways and alleyways lined with stores and restaurants. I highly recommend a visit to Positano as it's a wonderful experience. A word of caution based on personal experience: plan your time carefully, especially if you're taking public transportation as we did. It was our intention to take a hydrofoil from Positano back to Sorrento and then one from Sorrento back to Naples. However, the seas were too rough in Positano (or so the sign said - it didn't look all that rough to me) and there was no service that day. As a result, we had to reverse our trip using public transportation (bus to Sorrento, train to Naples). The bus was 30 minutes late and overcrowded. While the train was on time, we had to run from the Naples train station for a taxi back to the ship. The taxi got caught in traffic and we had to run the last few blocks to get to the ship. All passengers were to be on board by 6:45pm. We arrived at about 6:52 and were among the last to board before they pulled up the gangway and made sail. In 19 cruises, this is the closest we've come to missing our ship. I'd like to say we can laugh about it now but I can't. It was frightening. (By the way, it's my understanding that some passengers were left behind in at least two ports when they did not return in time.) Rome, Italy: We were part of a group of eight people (Cruise Critic party folks) that reserved a private driver (Pepe, who works for Daniel). From my perspective, this is the only way to see Rome in one day. We visited Vatican City, the Coliseum, the Spanish Stairs and a church with an alter displaying the chains placed on St. Peter to bring him to trial, among other areas. We also had a wonderful outdoor lunch in an obscure Roman neighborhood square. Pepe was so friendly, cooperative and knowledgeable that we requested that he be our driver the next day in Florence/Pisa (where we had also contracted with Daniel). Florence/Pisa, Italy: Pisa and Florence were wonderful but the day was highlighted by a visit to San Gimignano and a small winery/B&B in San Donato. I highly recommend a visit to the latter two if possible. Villefranche, France: Escorted by a private driver (Sylvie), eight of us visited Monte Carlo (Monaco), Cannes, Eve, and the Nice area. The day was highlighted by being driven along the Monte Carlo Grand Prix road course, lunch on the beach at Cannes and visits to Eve and another small, obscure village between Cannes and Nice. Barcelona, Spain: We stayed at the AC Diplomat and toured most of the day using the Red and Blue lines of the Bus Touristica Bus (on-off), both of which we highly recommend. Highlights were the Olympic stadium area and Gaudi's Sagruda Familia. The latter can be viewed/walked through in 30 minutes but is fascinating. We were disappointed with Las Ramblas, but perhaps we didn't visit it late enough in the evening. While this is meant to be neither a positive or negative comment, Barcelona felt like Chicago with surrounding mountains. Random comments: • The Millennium was a wonderful "floating hotel" to come back to at the end of each day in port. • Although I was told by the ship's staff that there was a 50/50 mix of Americans/non-Americans on the Millennium, our feeling is that only about 25% of the passengers were American. There seemed to be a large number of Canadian, Italian and Spanish citizens on board. This was a quiet, friendly, laid back cruise. • The weather in late September could not have been better. • We saw no shows in the Celebrity Theater. We either were too tired or were spending time in the Aqua Spa pool in the evening. • Our personal security never felt threatened on shore. Nor did we feel any anti-American sentiment during our port visits. (We hadn't expected any but thought I'd mention it anyway.) • While in port, we kept our cash, credit cards and passports in a zippered pouch that hung around my neck under my shirt. • In most ports, Diet Coke was known instead as "Coke Light." Also, quite unexpectedly, in several ports we noticed milk shakes to be a popular adult drink. • Why can Europeans, especially Italians, get by with such small cars when SUVs and large vehicles are our preference? The only American cars we saw on our trip were a Hummer, two Jeep Cherokees and about half a dozen Chrysler PT Cruisers. When I asked about American cars, our driver said that they're nice but not very widely owned due to their gasoline consumption. • Everything is more expensive than you plan for (except for wine ?). • Wear comfortable walking shoes and take drinking water with you on shore. • We were quite comfortable (and able to save a lot of money) doing the majority of land touring on our own using public transportation. However, I highly recommend a driver (or tour) in Rome and, to a lesser extent, in Florence/Pisa, Amalfi Coast (Sorrento/Positano), and the Villefranche/Nice area. • While all ports were wonderful, it is our firm intent to return to the triangle of Venice/Rome/Florence (by land) in the future. • Folks on shore were friendly and helpful, especially in Italy. • One of several nice touches by Celebrity was a poolside buffet in two ports that had late night return times, including native Greek dancers performing on deck while in Santorini. • Celebrity also allowed passengers to download digital pictures onto a server during the trip. Downloading was free. At any time (but mostly at the end of the cruise) passengers then transferred their pictures to CDs at a cost of $15 each. With roughly 400 pictures, this was a valuable service for us. Leave plenty of time (roughly one hour per CD) to do the CD burning if you wait to the last day of the cruise. • Thanks to Irene for arranging the drivers in port. • I hate to say it, but the first few days back at home were kind of depressing. We really missed the culture and neighborhoods that we encountered on the trip. It makes one realize what a young country we are. Last but not least, when asked by our friends about this trip, we've responded "it was the trip of a lifetime." Indeed. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2004
I am just back from my first cruise with Celebrity Cruises on the Millennium for 2 weeks in the Med., here is my review of the cruise... Myself and two friends, early, mid and late 20s joined Millennium in Barcelona on 24/10 after flying ... Read More
I am just back from my first cruise with Celebrity Cruises on the Millennium for 2 weeks in the Med., here is my review of the cruise... Myself and two friends, early, mid and late 20s joined Millennium in Barcelona on 24/10 after flying into the city on 23rd and staying at the Grand Marina hotel. (Really loved the hotel and was within sight of the cruise ship berth. We arrived at the terminal at 11:30 a.m. and joined a very short queue to check in. Within ten minutes we were issued with our sea pass card, which was account, ID and door key. We then boarded the ship. We were greeted in the atrium with a glass of champagne and escorted to our cabin, Sky Suite 6101. Our suite was all ready and very impressive. Shortly after our butler, Arles came along to say hello. Throughout the holiday he was totally brilliant. Now it was time to explore the ship. We were very impressed with the ship's facilities and found that a lunch buffet was already being served in the Ocean Cafe. This sure beats sitting in a waiting room to board the ship and arriving for afternoon tea. We explored all areas of the ship and checked out our table in the Metropolitan Restaurant, a table for 4 made up for the 3 of us, on second sitting. First impressions:   A very spacious ship. The dEcor is very modern and impressive. The prom deck is a little disappointing being very plain with a rubberised rather than teak finish and no windows in the superstructure of the ship alongside. All carpets and fittings look immaculate and everywhere is very clean. Bars: Good service with pleasant happy staff (ok the women in the Cova Cafe seem to have an attitude problem at times). Ocean Cafe: Good choice of food, lots of seafood. Always at least one carvery meat was available at lunchtime. Separate pasta counter where you can have pasta sauces of your choice made up. A separate sandwich making station is available too with about 15 types of bread available and a vast array of hot and cold fillings. Lots of lovely desserts there too! Really nice ice creams and sorbets were available at no charge from 12-6 at a separate ice cream bar within the Ocean Cafe. During breakfast complementary fruit juices, tea and coffee were available and during the rest of the day free fruit punch, guava, lemonade and iced tea, tea, coffee and cold milk were provided.... What a great idea. In the afternoons fresh hollowed out fruits filled with sorbet were handed out to all people on deck. Metropolitan Restaurant: A vast restaurant on 2 levels seating over 1100 people in 2 sittings, 6:30 and 8:45. We were on the lower level in the centre on a table for 3. The menus were very good with a good choice. A separate vegetarian menu was also available. A basket of fresh rolls, breads and bread sticks was provided. The breads were different every day. All meals were pre-plated rather than silver service, I found no problem with this and extra vegetables were always available. In addition to the menu other items were always available such as chicken, steak, Caesar salad etc. Wine service was very good with a separate wine waiter serving you and wines could be pre-ordered if required from the cabin interactive TV. As we had paid for the soda pass (unlimited fountain soft drinks for the duration of the cruise), we always had full glasses of soft drinks on the table. These were very efficiently replenished too. We found all the restaurant staff were great and had some great times chatting to them. Olympic Restaurant: Dining here was a great experience. The dEcor, food and service were of the highest quality. We had afternoon tea on one afternoon and dinner on one evening in the restaurant. The evening cover charge was $30 and well worth it. Cova cafe: A very nice coffee bar overlooking the atrium, serving speciality coffees and lovely pastries (you only pay for the coffee). Pool grill: Serves a nice selection of pizza, burgers and freshly made pasta form 12-6 p.m. All food was of a very high quality. Once again free drink stations were provided here too. Casino: A large Las Vegas style casino was on the ship. We had a couple of fun evenings in here on the slot machines, and did not actually lose much money. Shops: There were quite a few shops all grouped together. The duty free shop was not open at any time due to EU laws as we were not calling at any non-EU ports. Aqua Spa: A really nice enclosed pool, well more a giant Jacuzzi. Some lovely steamer chairs here and an Aqua Spa cafe providing healthier meals. The gym was very nice and overlooks the bow of the ship. I heard the treatments were good, although a little expensive. Theatre: The theatre was excellent. There were 4 production shows, a really good Irish comedian, an illusionist and some other guest musicians. The production shows were the best I have ever seen on a ship, making full use of the amazing lighting rig, the lifts and turntables on the stage and projected images. The singers and dancers were very good. The comedian (Adrian Walsh) was fantastic and had us all in stitches. The seating was of the bench type with a little table for every 2 people. This seemed to work well and it was nice to have a drink with you in the theatre. Music: Most evenings there was a great variation of music around the ship. A string quartet in the Cova Cafe, Acapella singers in various places. A group playing in the Rendezvous Lounge. A really good Spanish guitarist and singer (Pepe) at the Ocean Grill, A pianist and singer in Michael's Club and another group and DJ in the Cosmos bar (the Crows Nest to any P&Oers!) Reception desks: There was the main reception desk, and bank desk, a concierge desk and a shore excursions and future cruise bookings desk. I found separating the desks works well as if you wanted to see someone at reception you did not have a massive queue of people changing foreign currency there, as they would be at the bank. The man at the concierge desk was a genius, providing us with maps, train times and great advice at every port. Itinerary: We started out from Barcelona and called at Genoa, Livorno, Mykonos, Santorini, Athens, Messina, Naples, Civitavecchia, and Villefranche ending up at Barcelona 2 weeks later. From Livorno we went on a half day tour to Pisa which was very enjoyable and well organised. In Athens we caught the metro from the port to the city for 70c and had a great day walking the city. In Naples we went on a half day tour to Pompeii, a really fascinating place. In Civitavecchia we caught the train to Rome and spent the day walking around. And once again in Villefranche we caught a train to Monte Carlo and spent the day there. We arrived at all ports on time and departed on the dot at all times. In Santorini and Villefranche which were tender ports, the service was very efficient with very little waiting. When boarding after a long hot day iced flannels and drinks were handed out, a really nice feature. Cabin: The 3 of us were in Sky Suite 6101 just forward of the glass lifts on port side. The suite was lovely with a twin beds and a sofa bed. There were 3 chairs on the large balcony. Fresh drinking water, ice and fruit were provided daily. The cabin steward was very efficient and Arles our butler was a total star. If wanted a full breakfast, lunch or dinner would be provided in cabin. Afternoon tea and daily canapEs were also served. There was a 21" fully interactive TV in the cabin. Pay per view films. Shipboard account review, room service ordering, wine pre-ordering and many other things could all be accessed on the TV. I found this excellent and so much better than having to call at reception to get a printout of your account to check up on things. Along with the nightly turn down service, luxurious chocolates and a little card showing the following day's weather forecast were left on the beds. The quality of the room service food was excellent; we even pigged out on a midnight pizza each one evening. Disembarking: As we had a suite we were in the second group getting off. Our disembarkation time was 6:45 a.m!.!! A little early but I guess you can't have early boarding and late disembarking. The process went very smoothly and the cases were easy to find. We headed straight to the airport for the midday flight home. Conclusion: Overall I would say that our cruise was as good as it can get. The ship, food, entertainment and service were 5 star and we were very lucky to have consistently good weather. I cannot recommend Celebrity cruises highly enough; the value for money was great. The only weakness was the lack of self-service laundries, as these are not provided on Celebrity. I managed to get by without ironing shirts by steaming them in the shower! I am now really looking forward to our Panama Canal cruise next May on Infinity. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask away.... Read Less
Sail Date: May 2005
This was my third cruise with the Celebrity Cruise lines and I will say from the start that it lived up to my every expectation, just as Celebrity has done on each of my previous two cruises. My husband and I booked our entire package ... Read More
This was my third cruise with the Celebrity Cruise lines and I will say from the start that it lived up to my every expectation, just as Celebrity has done on each of my previous two cruises. My husband and I booked our entire package through Celebrity via a travel agency. I highly recommend this to anyone who is planning on a similar trip. They took care of our flight to Barcelona, transfer to the hotel from the airport, the hotel stay, transfer from the hotel to the ship, transfer from the ship to the airport and the flight home. With all the other stress that goes into planning these trips; it was wonderful to have all of those important details taken care of by the travel company - especially knowing that if something went wrong we could count on them to help us out. It is probably a little more expensive to do it this way, but I still recommend it for the peace of mind if nothing else. We flew into Barcelona a day early so we could sample a bit of the local flavor rather than having to head straight for the ship. I am really glad we did. La Sagrada Familia, La Rambla and the Placa de Catalyna are not to be missed. The street performers at La Rambla were very entertaining. Note of caution, we did hear of someone who had their camera cut from their wrist while in Barcelona so keep a close eye on all belongings when you are in a crowd of people. La Rambla gets pretty packed so just be aware of what is going on around you. We stayed in the hotel Gran Havana and it was pretty nice. It was definitely well located as it was about halfway between La Sagrada Familia and La Rambla. We were able to walk everywhere and felt very safe even when we were out pretty late on our first night. We got to the ship fairly early on Sunday. They were having computer problems at the time and couldn't print out our seapass cards so one of the security guys walked a bunch of us on the ship and let us go so we could wander around and look at the ship while it was still pretty empty. I leave it to others to describe the actual ship itself, these vacations for us are more about the destination than the transportation, but I will say that it was beautiful and well kept and I couldn't complain about a single thing appearance-wise throughout the whole duration of the trip. We only had to wait an hour before our seapass cards were available and then we were able to drop our carry-on bags at the room. The rooms weren't supposed to be ready until 1, but I remember ours was available considerably before that. We did have to go back down and have our security pictures taken since we didn't have our cards when we boarded, but all in all I thought Celebrity handled the computer problems admirably. The room was pretty standard from our other cruises. We always get a plain inside stateroom for the simple fact that we spend so little time in it; I would rather use the extra money to buy souvenirs. There is plenty of room for our needs, though we did have a small table this time that was kind of nice to have even though it took up a good bit of extra floor space. My only complaint on this cruise was that there were no hooks on the walls as we have seen on other ships and part of the closet space was taken up by the safe which on other ships has always been tucked away behind the mirror. The closet space seemed smaller, but that may be because this trip was almost twice as long as any of the others we have every done and I can't pack light to save my life so we brought a LOT of clothes. My husband and I were on the young side for this cruise (I am 29 and he is 35) where the majority of the passengers were retirement age. Celebrity did their usual wonderful job of putting us at a dinner table with three other couples that were closer to our age than the average and I have to give them major props for this because we became good friends with all three of them and spent a lot of time with them during the port days. We ended the week with hugs and exchanging contact info so we can get in touch and visit each other. All of the service in every place we went on the ship was wonderful. Our dinner waiter Preston, his assistant Wilfredo and the bar waiter (whose name I never managed to catch) were WONDERFUL. We are more soda drinkers than we are alcohol drinkers (though we do our fair share of that too) so we bought the unlimited soda sticker on the first day and our bar attendant kept the glasses coming all through dinner and half the time they were already there by the time we sat down! They got to know our usual likes throughout the week and catered to us very specifically throughout the cruise. One of our table mates was such a chocolate nut that they even added chocolate sauce to her deserts a couple of times even when it wasn't mentioned on the desert menu at all. They were just wonderful. If one of us didn't seem too fond of a dish; be it the appetizer, soup or whatever - they were right there to replace it in no time and genuinely seemed happy if we were happy. They were an amazing group and I can't say enough good things about them. We spent a good number of our evenings in the Rendezvous Lounge listening to Karaoke which was always a hoot and having drinks. Seating was usually at a premium right after the second seating since there were usually a bunch of us from our dinner table trying to sit together, but we always managed to find a spot somewhere. On several nights we went up to the disco in Cosmos and danced had drinks. I guess because of the higher average age on this cruise, there weren't usually that many of us on the dance floor except on Latin night when it was packed. The staff in both places was wonderful and attentive without being overbearing. I never felt pushed to order anything, but if I did they were very quick. The ports were the reason we took this cruise, but as every person likes something else, I will just hit the highlights. In Villefranche we didn't take a tour at all and decided to just wing it. The train was a bit difficult to figure out, but we managed to get to Cannes and Nice before packing it in and spending the rest of the day wandering around Villefranche. Cannes was neat because the film festival was going on, Nice didn't do much for me, but I think that is because we got off at the wrong stop. If you want to go there, make sure you get off at the stop that takes you to the beach. We ended up in the city and it was just like any other city except we couldn't read the signs. Villefranche was actually the highlight of the day; it is an old fishing village and is just about as quaint and picturesque as they come. Loads of people raved about Eze (which can also be reached via train, just in the opposite direction of what we went) and I really wish we had gone there instead, though Villefranche was great. Next was Livorno. We took a ship tour to Florence and Pisa which was wonderful. Our guide was Ramona who was fantastic, but something of a practical joker so you weren't sure when she was being serious or not. She started out the tour in Italian and went on for about five minutes before anyone tried to stop her. She was just pulling our leg, but I would imagine she would have done the whole day that way just to see how long it took us to speak up! We walked around Florence with a tour guide. We had earpieces to hear the guide with, but to be honest we couldn't hear that well and just ended up meandering around on our own. This is fine, but keep an eye on your guide! It is very easy to get lost or end up in someone else's group accidentally (as we did, fortunately we figured it out before we got left!). After that we went to Pisa and got to go around on our own for a while. I highly recommend the ships tour for this stop since the trains are a bit iffy and this way you get to see Florence and Pisa in one day. It is quite a ride out there so going it on your own might be tempting fate. At least if the ships tour is late getting back, they wait for you! Rome (or Civitavecchia) and Naples were the two highlights of our trip. I found some folks on the cruisecritic.com roll call for these ports and planned a private tour with a company called Benvenuto Limos (benvenutolimos.com or info@benvenutolimos.com). I cannot say enough good things about this company. They were fantastic. I emailed back and forth with Giovanni who is also one of the guides. He was incredibly helpful in setting up which tours we would do and extremely patient with all of my endless questions. We had a driver named Fabrizio for our Rome tour who was personable and fun and treated us incredibly well. We had a great time and got to see most of the big sites in Rome with stops for lunch and gelato. He was a great guide and very informative and if you can ask for him personally for this trip, I recommend it. We got a bit turned around outside the Vatican where we were supposed to meet him, but he had planned ahead and given us a cell phone so we could call him if we got lost. Of course, we were lost so we couldn't tell him where we were, but my husband convinced one of the Swiss guards outside the Vatican to take the phone and explain to him where we were. He just seemed very relieved to get us back! Giovanni himself was our guide in Naples and again, he was just wonderful. He also was very funny and informative and made sure we saw some incredible sites. We had planned to see Pompeii and drive the Amalfi Coast during our day with him (a 2 hour guided tour at Pompeii is included in the tour we chose). We did the Amalfi Coast drive first and it was just breathtaking. Giovanni is from this area and you can tell he is proud of it, as he should be. It was incredible. I let him know that I was interested in purchasing a cameo so we made it a point to stop at a place that sold them (where I found one that I loved) and we also stopped at a place that made in-laid wood items where he got us a short demonstration and then some time to shop a bit (we all did, they were beautiful items). We stopped for lunch along the way at a delicious seafood restaurant and had some time to wander around at several other places where we stopped for great views. We did Pompeii on the way back to the ship and had a knowledgeable guide take us through some of the highlights (you would need days to see everything, it is huge). If you are going to either of these ports (as well as several others in Italy, check the website), I HIGHLY recommend using Benvenuto Limos. They made these two stops the highlight of our entire vacation. The price for six of us to share a van with one driver was 600 Euros and when you break down all that we got to do and see and the personal attention that we got, it was very competitive with the tours that the ship was offering. They are also well aware of what happens if they don't get you back to the ship on time so they are very careful to schedule everything so as to get you back to the ship with plenty of time to spare. On Mykonos we took a shore excursion to Delos, which if I am not mistaken is the only excursion available at this port. It is an island of ruins and well worth the trip. We had a tour guide that walked us through the ruins explaining things as we went, but mostly we just enjoyed wandering. The only people on the island were the tour groups from the ship so it was relatively uncrowded and it was a beautiful day to boot. A trip well worth taking. We did stop in Mykonos and had souvlaki and gyros at one of the little cafes before going back to the ship. Santorini was an interesting stop. You leave the boat and then have to get to Fira by foot, donkey or cable car. Word of warning; if you are not in pretty good shape – do NOT walk! The four of us that went are all regular exercisers and we wondered if we were going to make it. Some places smell rather strongly of donkey and if you aren’t careful you might get run over if the donkeys pass you on their way back down. They move pretty fast. They do wear bells though so if you do walk and you hear the bells coming from above you – get to the inside of the path! They tend to swing wide so you won’t have any trouble if you stay on the inside. We didn’t do that and practically got trampled, fun! The town itself was really neat. It was all cobblestoned walkways and narrow alleys. There are some great shops. I bought a sterling silver ‘greek line’ necklace and earrings for 35 Euro. I suggest doing what we did and just wandering around on your own. It is pretty hard to get lost here unless you take the bus into Oia on the other side of the island (I understand that the prices are better there since it isn’t quite so touristy, but Fira wasn’t bad). Athens was probably the least favorite of all of our stops, but that isn’t saying much since we really loved pretty much every place we went. We took a ship’s excursion to the Acropolis and got to see the Olympic stadium, but that was about it. The rest of the trip was really just big city. Though to be completely forthcoming, we did fall fast asleep on the bus so they may have shown us amazing things that we just slept through. Going to the Acropolis was well worth the price of the excursion though. It was rather awe inspiring to be standing in front of something that is 2500 years old. There is a saying that Europeans think 100 miles is a long way and Americans think 100 years is a long time. There is something to be said for that. It is hard to wrap your mind around something that has existed for that long when your own country hasn’t even been around for 10% of that! Dubrovnik was something of a pleasant surprise. We weren’t sure what to expect and really didn’t have high expectations, but we ended up loving it. The ship provides bus service right to the gates of the city. It is pretty cheap (I think less than 3 euros per person) to walk the wall of the city. It goes about a mile and is a great way to spend the afternoon. There are great views of the ocean as well as the city itself. There is a maritime museum about halfway around that we stopped in more for the AC than anything else. I was hoping to see info about the building of the wall and the recent civil war, but there really wasn’t much about either of those there. Cars inside the city walls are rare to nonexistent – it is definitely a pedestrian type of place. We came down off the wall for shopping and lunch. This is a tourist paradise. Dubrovnik has seized Capitalism by both horns and gone full bore. Everyone we dealt with was extremely nice and spoke excellent English, the food was wonderful, the prices were good – I would definitely suggest this itinerary if for no other reason than to check this port out. I definite highlight! Keep in mind that they have their own unit of currency; the kuna (I think 10 kuna = 1.50 euro or thereabouts) so the prices listed are not always in euros though we used them without problem everywhere we went. They happily did the currency conversion for us and usually had no problem making change in euros. Venice was a beautiful as I had heard it would be. The sail into the city isn’t to be missed. I can never keep port and starboard straight, but just be on the front of the boat on the right hand side of the ship. If you have a balcony on that side or know someone who does, take advantage of it. It is almost a 2 hour process and it gets hot; especially since everyone else is up on the main decks doing the same thing. The city goes by pretty much underneath you so a good view is easy to come by. We were on one of the top decks though and the wind shield got in the way of a lot of the pictures we wanted to take. St Marks is easy to see as are Doges Palace and the Bridge of Sighs if you are on the right side. St marks square is fantastic for shopping. If you want anything made of Murano glass and don’t want to actually go to the island; this is a great place to get it (getting to Murano is REALLY easy. If you don’t want to book the excursion through the ship, there are representatives from the glass factory at the pier practically begging you to take a free shuttle out there for a demonstration.) I know of one couple who took the Murano/Burano tour through the ship and really enjoyed it. St Marks is also the place to buy a cameo as there are literally thousands of them available. I was a bit annoyed to find the exact same cameo I got in Florence for almost 30 euros less than what I paid for it, but oh well. If you do want one – wait for Venice! Another fun thing to do is to buy corn from the vendors in the square and feed the pigeons. They land all over you trying to get to it. This makes for some really entertaining photos! We did book a shore excursion through the ship in Venice to take the ‘Gondola Serenade’. Do not, I repeat DO NOT book this tour through Celebrity unless they have changed vendors by the time you take the trip. We actually filed a formal complaint about this tour because it was SO bad. The cost was $105 per person and you could easily get a gondola ride on your own at any one of a dozen places for about the same price. They put four people in a two person gondola so that my husband and I ended up having to sit on foot stools the whole time facing each other knee to knee (very romantic!) while the other couple in the boat sat in the seats. The gondoliers were smoking and drinking beer and it really was the most unpleasant, uncomfortable experience I can remember having on vacation. It was so bad we were laughing out loud the whole time about how ridiculous it was. The worst part was we kept passing other gondolas with only two people in them and they all seemed to be having a great time. Celebrity is usually very good about the excursions that they offer so they may well have changed vendors if they get enough complaints, but definitely check first! So I have a tendency to babble even when I type so this is probably information overload. The bottom line is this was a fantastic cruise, Celebrity is a top notch company and I would recommend this itinerary, this boat and these excursions (EXCEPT the gondola ride!) to anyone and everyone looking to have an unforgettable vacation. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2005
Seeing the Galapagos on the Xpedition turned out to be better than one could imagine. The boat is really first class in every aspect. A tour of the engine room and explanation of the working of the ship was a real experience too. This must ... Read More
Seeing the Galapagos on the Xpedition turned out to be better than one could imagine. The boat is really first class in every aspect. A tour of the engine room and explanation of the working of the ship was a real experience too. This must be one of the most Eco friendly ship afloat. The tour starts with a two night stay at the J.W. Marriott in Quito, a tour of Quito with an excellent guide and a chance to visit the equator (a real kick to take a picture with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern). The next day off to Baltra and arrive on the Xpedition. The ship takes normally 90+ passengers with a crew of 60+. As this was "low" season we had only 43 passengers and we were treated like royalty. Amazing that you experience a day that you feel was an experience of a life time only to be blown away the next day by what seemed a even more memorable experience. Snorkeling with sea lion pups, thought, was probably the highlight. The crew was super friendly and the guides, one couldn't say enough about their excellence. The food for Ecuador was outstanding. The final surprise the guides took pictures all week and the last night we saw the week in review set to music and then were given a PowerPoint CD of the show. What a great touch. The final verdict, if you have chance to do this...GO! You will never forget an experience like this. Celebrity has hit a home run with not only this ship but with the all inclusive policy of an open bar, tips included ( I find the practice of making an optional item, based on service, compulsory on other cruises...obnoxious to say the least) all land and water trips are part of the package and everything, and I mean everything is included. The final verdict, if you have chance to do this...GO! You will never forget an experience like this. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2005
Overall, a simply fabulous cruise. (The nits below should not detract from this.) HIGHLIGHTS: Main seating dining and service, overall service, Santorini (Oia), Dubrovnik (and Dubrovnik seafood), Venice, Capri, Olympic dining room ... Read More
Overall, a simply fabulous cruise. (The nits below should not detract from this.) HIGHLIGHTS: Main seating dining and service, overall service, Santorini (Oia), Dubrovnik (and Dubrovnik seafood), Venice, Capri, Olympic dining room LOWS: Tired statesroom, uneven breakfast and lunch service, uneven tour guides, entertainment, confusing disembarkation/airport transfer, rude Venetian salespeople, Sorrento generally, "first class" meals on excursions, pad-thai and pre-cooked dessert crepes at main seating dining, cold burgers at the grill EXCURSIONS TAKEN: Nice/Eze; Florence/Pisa; Imperial Rome; Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii; Delos; Athens Acropolis; Doge's Palace/Glassworks PORTS WHERE EXCURSIONS SKIPPED: Santorini, Dubrovnik TIPS: (1) On Santorini, an excursion is unnecessary. Oia was the highlight of the entire cruise and shouldn't be missed. Bus service from Fira to Oia is only 1 euro (v. 15 euro by taxi). Be prepared for 3d world packing of the bus, though. (2) In Greece generally, retsina and ouzo are awful (probably an acquired taste). (3) Dubrovnik was a surprising treat. The candied almonds sold in some stores are delicious (if pricey). The restaurant at the end of the Stradum right by the water is great. Walking the city wall is well-worth the small fee. (4) In Venice, gondola rides can be independently arranged for significantly less $$$ (140 euro for 4-6 people for the longest 1 hour trip). Skip Cafe Florian (85 euro for coffee and dessert for 4!!!) and try the cafe across the square, which plays better music anyway (classical instead of showtunes). (6) The Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii excursion was great because of Capri, which is very cute (although Santorini/Oia is far cuter). The tourbooks are right -- Sorrento is a waste of time. REVIEW: Overall, the cruise was great. DINING: Dinner in the main dining room was excellent. It only disappointed twice -- when we tried the Pad Thai (very non-authentic; more like bad chow mein) and the crepes (pre-cooked). Our wait staff -- Daugaus, Darius, Herson, and our wine steward Dona (all sp?) -- were excellent and very attentive. The members of our table consistently ordered more than one entree, and were always satisfied (except as discussed above). The wine list was decent and very reasonably-priced. We ordered two bottles of wine for our table almost every night, and never had to repeat choices. Breakfast in the main restaurant disappointed. The only advantage over eating on Deck 10 was that the omelets and croissants were slightly better and there were no lines. The staff was somewhat inattentive, however, and rather rigid. For example, when one of our friends asked for a plate of grapes, she was told that this could not be accommodated. She could, however, order an entire fruit plate and discard everything except for the grapes. The service in the buffet restaurant on Deck 10 was spotty. The waiters are supposed to offer to take your tray to a table -- but only did so for those who were very old or very infirm. STATESROOM: Our statesroom attendant, Jose, did an excellent job. He made sure to fold/arrange our clothing daily and even sprinkled rose petals on one of our friend's beds on her birthday. Our statesroom itself was adequate. The 170 square feet of space were ample, as was the closet space. The furnishings in our statesroom disappointed, though, and looked to be more than 5 years old. The small couch was dirty and threadbare, and one of our lamps was missing a lampshade (the result of a former inebriated occupant's mishap, we later learned). The paint on our toilet seat was peeling, and there were visible scratches along one of our statesroom walls. The blow dryer was very, very weak. EXCURSIONS: Although we liked all of the excursions that we took, we had mixed reviews regarding our tour guides. Our local tour guide in Rome was fantastic, as was our Delos tour guide. On the other hand, our guide on the airport transfer in Barcelona (yes, yes -- not really an excursion) did a great job of NOT selling us on Barcelona (e.g., "This is the ugly part of town." "Spaniards do not really siesta, except for the lazy people in the south.") Our guide in Athens constantly threatened to leave us if we were late (and, indeed, consistently departed a few minutes before the appointed time). Celebrity mis-advertises some of the excursion meals in its literature as being at "first-class restaurants." In Italy, we dined at three such restaurants in a row -- on our Florence, Rome, and Capri excursions. These meals were certainly not "fine dining." Celebrity tries a bit to hard to "pitch" certain of its affiliated stores. In Venice, the Murano glassworks demonstration person even conceded that he was giving us a "pitch." OTHER: The entertainment was adequate. The illusionist's illusions were good overall -- but he laughed too hard at his own jokes. We dropped in on many of the other shows (Fantasea, etc.) and found them to be solid, if slightly amateurish (better than your average college production, but only slightly so). The ship's bands were adequate, as well. Prodigy was very entertaining (especially the lead singer, who was quite the showman). The violinist for one of the bands consistently played off-key. She played during dinner, and thus we could not avoid her. Overall, the highest marks for food quality, main seating dining, and personal service. Decent marks for breakfast/lunch service, entertainment, and our statesroom. Read Less
Sail Date: November 2005
There have been several anecdotal and chronological reviews so far - here is my attempt at "something completely different". Les (Pat is on a different shore excursion....) The ABC of Xpedition (NOT in traditional order): A ... Read More
There have been several anecdotal and chronological reviews so far - here is my attempt at "something completely different". Les (Pat is on a different shore excursion....) The ABC of Xpedition (NOT in traditional order): A is for altitude of Quito - while we took it easy walking (and drinking alcohol) and had no ill effects, some other passengers struggled with breathing (and other symptoms) on steps, at night, and after drinking. A is for Alejandra - a wonderful Celebrity guide in Quito who has many skills including wit, good humour and stopping taxis with her smile. A is for Albatrosses - they danced, they clacked beaks on cue as promised. B is for bird-life - no red-footed booby or vermilion fly-catcher spotted on our shore excursions, but - the rest flew, nested, mated or hopped near us and we have photos to prove it. B is for bridge on Expedition - a must visit - modern technology and old-fashioned friendly officers who answered all of my dumb questions with a smile. B is for boobies - what else can we add? - blue-footed and Nazca in every imaginable pose - and so unafraid. C is for Christian - the Xpedition Maitre d' - he walks the talk and the staff responds with excellence in every way. C is for Carlos - another Celebrity guide par excellence in Quito - may you be on his bus. C is for Celebrity - the reputed touch of class we have experienced on other ships in the fleet is present on this expedition in all (but one? - see T) aspects from arrival in Quito to departure ten days later. D is for Diego - attentive bar steward who tolerated our attempts at Spanish and always brought the right "vino" with a smile. D is for Darwin Research Institute - a most informative place to visit (though showing its age?). I would have liked more "free" time here to explore more slowly. Sorry to hear some concerns expressed about the uncertain future of this establishment and the Galapagos Islands. D is for dolphins - as predicted in the Xpedition Today, they came, and they played with our ship and entertained us. O is for the opportunity to choose different levels of excursion each day - this really worked will for us all week.. O is for the oyster catchers that have stopped migrating and now live in Galapagos year round. O is for outdoor dining, and the scheduler who seemed to know which nights would be suitable for dining under the stars - clever! F is for Freddie - a naturalist with a flair for sharing his wide knowledge - patient to a fault with answering the "what is that" question (which he had sometimes given just minutes ago). F is for Fausto - a friendly Captain who loves his work. F is for frigate birds - so beautiful in flight - so dangerous - so brilliant when a male is puffed up to impress the female. F is for Fabio - a naturalist who is well spoken, and has a genuine concern for the future of the Galapagos (albeit a pessimistic one?). H is for healthy ship - no reports that I was aware of in terms of gastric problems... a few coughs by day 6 and some sore throats reported by Quito on day 9. H is for hand-painted skirts - worn by the folkloric ladies on the Xpedition on the last night (a summary of wild-life seen during the week before) H is for High Intensity - not to be avoided as a choice of shore excursion if you are in reasonable shape and have good footwear. Some of the best views and best bird life were seen on this level ("high" refers more to length of time and steepness of climbs than to length travelled). K is for Katherine and her last night rendition of "Galapagos: and the living is easy". K is for knife - that specialty one by the cheeseboard made sampling the variety of cheeses so simple. K is for keyboard - Jacobo was always there to play for us (and on pan flute too) V is for Venice Island with its flamingos reflected in the brackish pond. V is for VAT - it is 12% in Ecuador! L is for lava - such shapes, colours, textures (and lava cactus and lava lizards) L is for Louis - a waiter who "reserved" a table for our changing dinner groupings. E is for espresso - ordered first Sunday after lunch in the Dining Room. It then came after every lunch without my ordering it - no matter which waiter served our table - how do they do that? E is for Ecuadorian staff and crew - well trained, efficient, hard-working, and always smiling when greeting passengers. E is for endemic species - the local naturalists were proud and keen to point them out and describe the peculiar features of the sightings. G is for Galapagos - a destination of a lifetime for those who know what is in store. G is for Guayaquil - our unexpected destination the first (short) night. Quito airport was closed as we approached from Houston and we were diverted - but Celebrity reps met us, had us through Immigration and on a bus to the Hilton efficiently. Given that we took off to Quito the next morning, we had a total of three landings and three take-offs here in the seaside city. N is for Nacho - a well versed naturalist who led our five member band on the "survival of the fittest" hike - we will stay in his Puerto Ayora hotel if we return to the islands. N is for new friends - there were so many open, sociable, stimulating guests on board who went quickly past the ubiquitous "where are you folks from?" stage to serious discussion of topics and issues. P is for Pedro - we quickly nicknamed him Pedro - King of barmen. Was there a time in the Beagle Grill or Discovery Room Lounge when he was not there smiling and serving? P is for penguins - they posed, swam, and fished so close to us - so tiny! P is for Puerto Ayora - shops, DRI, Highlands and more - glad we visited twice. P is for Post Office on Floreana where we witnessed the human equivalent of a feeding frenzy (we have one card to deliver close to home). I is for iguanas - they are everywhere and sometimes hard to spot (that is not a handrail, Clive) - do they think we are as ugly as we think they are? I is for Isabela with her five volcanoes - some of the best views from the top of the stairs here. I is for Imodium - a word not heard once during the whole time on board. Q is for Quito - some incredible Old Town structures (modernized inside but not out) - but litter and smog detract from its beauty. Q is for questions - passengers asked probing and productive ones of naturalists and thereby added to our learning experience (but there were also "dumb" ones from the non-listeners and this grated by week's end). Y is for yawns - seen often at early morning (e.g. 5.15am in Quito on the last morning) and every evening during dinner after two or three excursions each day. This is not a late night party ship. Y is for yo quiero - 2 of the 22 Spanish words we used on board when ordering - resulted in lots of smiles in the bar and dining room from the appreciative Ecuador staff (or were they laughing at me?) R is for Raoul – Executive chef who works miracles with the local produce in a small galley. The Ecuador buffet lunch, the fish dishes (such sauces!) and the desserts were outstanding (and those jellies eh Michele?) R is for routines – e.g. back aboard in the afternoon – off with life jacket – receive a refreshing cold towel – use the anti-bacterial soap provided – up a deck for a different fruit juice from Diego each day – Jacobo on keyboards to pipe you to you cabin (some added a cerveza from Pedro en route) – shower! S is for Suarez Point on Espanola – how can such an uninteresting looking island (from the sea) have everything in such close quarters – the visit of the week! S is for sea lions – all ages, all sizes and so close – and smells…… S is for stateroom attendants – rarely seen but took extra special care of our cabin the belongings we forgot to put away in the rush to go ashore again. S is for South American wines served – generally very good quality though restricted in grape variety. S is for soups – enjoyed every hot soup at lunch and cold (fruit based) ones at dinner. U is for “unbelieve it” – naturalist Nacho’s favourite word to special sights and experiences. U is for unprepared – there were some passengers who did not expect to work so hard at this “vacation” – their lack of interest in the experience became a distraction hard to ignore. T is for turtles and tortoises – sleeping, hissing, walking, mating – small to Antony sized. T is for TV set in the cabin – with a front input for the cable from my camera we were able to enjoy a quick look at daily pictures – made culling easy to free up memory. T is for Theatro Sucre – dinner here on the last night in Quito was a very “unCelebrity” event in our opinion (ex-restaurant reviewers and current opera subscribers) – cool food, un-professional and erratic service, not a wine-bar as advertised, wines substituted without asking, prices on list and bill differ (guess which way), and a singer who could not stop from going flat. Décor and tuxes alone do not magically turn a one star restaurant into a four star place. W is for welcome at Guest Relations – at any time of day they provided top-notch Celebrity service. W is for wave action – we were pleasantly surprised at how smooth the seas were (took off our preventative measures after two days). Some passengers reportedly were not so lucky. W is for wine list – the premium one has some strange listings (Mario explained why). W is for weeks – it will take several weeks to digest the experiences, sort photos and souvenirs, and to recover from the pace of activity. Z is for zodiac rides – the pipeline from ship to shore - sometimes wet, always safe – loading and landing from that rear deck is so efficient and practical. J is for Jaime – the “teasing” naturalist who kept my wife and I smiling when on Zodiac or on shore. J is for Jaime – the waiter for our first dinner – called me by my first name every day from then on whether I sat at his section or not (and my wife Madam Patty too). J is for Jason – what a class act – humour, knowledge, patience, initiative, energy – a real leader of expeditions! M is for Mario – as Hotel Director he claims to be having a holiday working on Xpedition – don’t believe it. He looks calm and unruffled but he is paddling like crazy underneath to make sure everything in his department works for passengers – and the results are extra special. M is for Marriott – very enjoyable Quito home – worthy of the Celebrity choice and confidence. X is for Xpedition – a classy lady – glad we met! She looks so elegant as you approach by Zodiac, and her performance and design makes exploring the Galapagos so much easier. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2006
This was our second Celebrity Cruise, 1st time on the Connie. The 8 day cruise was a repositioning from San Juan to Bayonne NJ. Jet Blue had best rates to SJ from NYC. We arrived in SJ two days early an stayed at the Best Western Hotel ... Read More
This was our second Celebrity Cruise, 1st time on the Connie. The 8 day cruise was a repositioning from San Juan to Bayonne NJ. Jet Blue had best rates to SJ from NYC. We arrived in SJ two days early an stayed at the Best Western Hotel Pierre in Condado. Very convenient to dining and public transportation. Also closer to Pan American Pier, where we left from. A quick taxi ride for $20. Embarkation was quick and painless, Celebrity has it down to a well oiled machine. Our Oceanfront room was ready, and we went to the buffet for a late lunch. The ship was in good condition and clean, the crew seemed a little distant during the first day, but they warmed up as the trip progressed. We booked a dinner in ocean liners the first thing, plenty of openings for us to chose from. The dinner was excellent. Service sublime. I would recommend it highly. The buffet was OK, the waffles and egg station, fresh cooked were the best choice for breakfast, and the pasta for lunch. There was a little of the staff talking in groups instead of working the room, but that improved by the 3rd day. The San Marco dining was good, a bit uneven with food quality with our waiter recommending some dishes not to order. The oddest thing was the staff informing us that they ran out of some food. The sommelier was inexperienced and confused the wine orders and poured the wrong person 3 times. Activities were the run of the mill, but fun. Pool games, trivia, bingo, basketball etc. Entertainment: Cirque du Soleil was the best, followed by the comedy acts. The floor shows need some work, I felt they were fair. The shore excursions were varied and very professional, snorkeling in Turtle Cove and touring St. Maarten were fun. Disembarkation was well run, and the ground transportation was outside in a line, something to think about if the weather is inclement. In summary, Celebrity still pays attention to the small details and not many complaints. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
First, a little background. I am 63 and my wife is 59 and we have completed 12 cruises, the most recent on the Celebrity Millennium. Previously we have cruised on NCL (3), Costa (1), Royal Caribbean (1), and our favorite Holland America ... Read More
First, a little background. I am 63 and my wife is 59 and we have completed 12 cruises, the most recent on the Celebrity Millennium. Previously we have cruised on NCL (3), Costa (1), Royal Caribbean (1), and our favorite Holland America (6). We chose this cruise because of the great itinerary and because Celebrity is rated as a "premium" cruise line as is Holland America. These are my comments regarding our experiences on this cruise. 1. Embarkation process - absolute flawless. We literally walked onto the ship to our room which was ready. Our luggage showed up less than two hours later. 2. Condition of ship - For a ship that is only six years old, many items showed excessive wear. Most notable was the condition of the toilet seats found in our cabin and throughout the ship in the public restrooms. They were ALL badly worn, chipped, and stained. One was completely broken! For any cruise line this is disgusting. For a so called premium cruise line, this condition is unacceptable. We also noticed that many pieces of furniture in the public areas of the ship were badly stained and worn. The bedspread in our cabin was stained very bad which was beyond disgusting. The cheap plastic shower curtain in our cabin was worn and frayed on the bottom and should have been replaced long ago. The beds were like cheap cots with thin mattresses and pillows that were like bricks. 3. Shore Excursions - These were extremely well organized with absolutely no problems other than having unfit people with us that had no business being on such strenuous adventures. Unfortunately this is something you have to put up with on all cruises. 4. Staff - These people were the highlight of our cruise. Because Celebrity still leaves tipping up to the customer, service remains very high. Every staff person we encountered was kind, courteous, and attentive - just like the old days before automatic tipping. 5. Entertainment - We only watched two shows which consisted of the usual singers and dancers. Both were very high quality and professionally done. 6. Food - On a scale of 1 to 10, we gave both the cafeteria on deck 10 and the main dining room about an 8. We tried the Olympic Restaurant on deck 3 only because it was a gift from our travel agent. The atmosphere in the Olympic as stunning because of the ornate paneling which was salvaged from the Olympic which was the sister ship to the Titanic. Seeing this room really gives you an insight into how opulent those old ships were about 100 years ago. Not being a "foodie" and not being impressed with the tableside show the waiters put on, I would not recommend paying the extra money to eat there. I would however strongly recommend going there during the day just to look around and take photos. 7. Internet Facility - Like all cruise lines, this service is an absolute rip-off. The charges are $.75 per minute or 100 minutes for $70, 200 minutes for $120, or 500 minutes for $250. If you are used to the speed of a dial-up ISP, you will be happy with this service. However if you have any type of high speed service at home, you will go to sleep waiting for each page to load. 8. Debarkation Process - Extremely efficient system that is different from other cruise lines. Other than our bus being 20 minutes late, we encountered no other problem. Bottom line, would I go on another Celebrity cruise? No way. If we cruise again is will most certainly be on a Holland America ship. Thanks for your time. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
This was a cruise for my 27-year old daughter and myself (50+ mom). We have crusied before in the Carribean and have also been to Europe several times, but not on a cruise. In fact, I have really enjoyed traveling thru Europe by train and ... Read More
This was a cruise for my 27-year old daughter and myself (50+ mom). We have crusied before in the Carribean and have also been to Europe several times, but not on a cruise. In fact, I have really enjoyed traveling thru Europe by train and have been on trips thru Italy, France and Spain. Quite a few of the places we were to visit on this cruise we had visited before, which played a part in our choice of excursions in port. But my daughter wanted to do something different this year and a cruise it was to be. We have cruised Celebrity, HAL, RCCL and Costa before; Celebrity being the line we like best. When we decided to book the cruise I liked the itinerary - I had never been to Greece and have recently heard alot about Dubrovnik, so the ports offerred some old favorites along with a few new places. We actually booked somewhat at the last minute (at least by our usual planning standards). About a month and a half before the sail date we booked an inside cabin over the internet, then about a week or so later I decided to upgrade to a "Verandah Guarantee" cabin. Boy did that work out for us! We ended up on a verandah in Concierge Class at the back of the boat - 7212 - it was fantastic. The largest cabin I have ever been in (it was handicap accessible) and the balcony was just HUGE. I am so glad I decided to spend the bucks to do that upgrade. I loved the little extras that came with the CC cabin - fresh flowers, afternoon nibbles, priority tendering and also it helped put us in the late dinner seating which was great for a European cruise. Gave me time to take a nap, then sit out on the balcony, sip some wine and then go to dinner! Here are some general observations - then I will cover the ports. We like the food on Celebrity - we live in Atlanta so we are used to good restaurants. I have also spent a lot of time on my other European trips enjoying the local cuisine....a vacation is alot about food to me. Now I don't necessarily like the very highbrow gourmet food...but well prepared foods with good ingredients. I would rate the Celebrity food good or very good. As others have said, listen to what your waiter tells you is good that evening; the items I had that I would say were mediocre were those not suggested by the waiter (but he was always willing to then bring me a second item that I should have ordered in the first place!) We had some very nice fish, my daughter likes beef and it was usually very good with tastey sauces. We like the dining room experience and we were fortunate to have some great table mates. Another family with a daughter the same age as my daughter and a single woman...in fact we enjoyed our table so much we never ate away from the table on any nite except the one that was "open seating" - the nite we were in Santorini. We always think about going to the specialty restaurant, but in the end decide against it - the food in the dining room is definately very good - why pay more? But I must admit I did miss some of my usual European vacation foods - as good as the food was, it was not the same as what we usually eat on the land in Italy, France or Spain. Our shipboard activities are limited! We like to sun, I usually walk several miles on the track, my daughter went to the gym...we do not go for the entertainment so I have no comments on the shows. We went to Karaoke one night and it was pitiful, but maybe everyone was tuckered out from the land excursions. The passengers were definitley older than on a Carribean cruise. Very few my daughters age - except a few honeymoon couples. But I must say, even though the crowd was a bit older, they loved to dance! The rendezvous lounge was always buzzing before dinner. I think they had a guest professor on board our trip providing some musical entertainment and maybe lectures. They also had an art historian that gave talks on Italian and Spanish art on sea days - I very much enjoyed those! Ports - we flew in one nite eary to Barcelona, stayed on a hotel right on Las Ramblas. I love Barcelona, would have loved to stay longer! If you have never been to Barcelona before, it would be good to do the Hop on - Hop off bus...it will cover most of the highlights of this amazing city. Villefrance - we walked around the city and out towards Cap Ferrat as we have stayed in Nice and toured the general area before. Nice beach in Villefrance....had a wonderful scallop risotto in Cosmos reaturant near the waterfront in the old city. Livorno - we bought the ship's transfers here....waste of money. Didn't take you to the train station. We ended up getting a taxi at the port to go directly to the train. We did a trip on our own to Lucca where we rented bikes and explored the ramparts....great day! Cittavecchi - again bought the ships transfers. Here the taxis could not come to the ship (that I could tell) but maybe here was a free shuttle bus. It was way too long to walk in tho. It was very confusing and frustrating to me the different port situations. The ship did not always give clear and helpful instructions on how to do the ports on your own. If you don't plan to do ship excursions try to find out ahead of time (by posting on the boards I guess) about how to get from the dock to a point where you can do your own thing. Several of the docks were a long ways and in very pedestrian unfriendly areas from where you needed to be). Anyway at this port we went into Rome on our own as we have been there and done the main tourist things previously. But if you have not this is definitely a place to buy a ship excursion if you want to maximize your time on the land. Naples - WOW - I knew Naples was chaotic as we have come thru it before on the way to Capri. I planned to go to the Archeological museum on my own and then do a "Rick Steve's walk" around the city. None of the taxis at the dock would take me to the museum - wanted to score full day trips to Pompeii! I did eventually get one across the street - got to the museum - they would not sell me a ticket without correct change! Eventually got my bill changed by buying a phone card and went to the museum which I ended up enjoying a lot. Also stopped by a local grocery store to restock my in room wine bar - the store was as chaotic and crowded as the rest of the city! The Amalfi coast is much more enjoyable than the city - do yourself a favor and splurge on a car and driver for this shore excursion. Santorini - took a taxi to Kalmata (something like that!) beach. This was another great day! Beach is black pebbles - tough on the feet but a great place to sun worship. And here is the best part....there were very nice chaise lounges and umbrellas for FREE FREE FREE. In France we have had to pay 15 Euros each for similar set ups, so we were happy to have a value day on the beach. Ate at a beachside restaurant - the view was better than the food (I was looking forward to my Greek tasties) but the wine was cheap and pleasant so overall the day was a winner. Athens - I had gotten info from the internet as to how to get from the port to the city but it didn't work for me. First of all it was VERY HOT at 10am. I exited the boat thru a confusing complex crowded with many people heading to the Greek ferries to be met by an aggressive swarm of taxi drivers. I attempted to find the metro, but again the area was very pedestrian unfriendly. I headed back to the boat! That evening our table mates told us they had taken a taxi to town (25 Euros) and the metro back. The young woman said the walk from the metro to the boat was a "deathmarch" - fairly long and very hot. Well, I'll see Athens another time! Dubrovnik - WOW - drop dead gorgeous. I would love to return to this city and spend some leisurely time there and along the coast. We did not get any of the local currency - had our credit card and Euros - however to walk the walls you need the local money. Oh well...next time. Went to lunch at a restuarant suggested by a shopowner - mostly locals and some crew from the ship there. I decided I wanted sea food - so I ordered a grilled fish. It came on a plate with head, tail, bone in......I looked expectantly at the waiter, then I realized I AM NOT ON THE SHIP!!! I did manage to debone and enjoy it but they sure do spoil you onboard, don't they? Venice - did not purchase the ship's shuttle tickets, but it was a bit of a walk to Piazza Romale. We wanted to walk to locate our hotel when we were not dragging our bags. The shuttle goes to St. Marks. Venice was VERY crowded - try to get away from the crowds after you have seen St. Marks. There are nice places to eat on the Zattarere where you can watch a lot of the boats buzzing by and be away from the throngs. I must admit the ship sailing into Venice was great (tho I know these big ships must be part of the high water problem!!) They play opera as the ship sails in - I started crying - it was just such a LIFE IS GREAT moment! My daughter was apalled! The next day when we disembarked, lo and behold there was a free shuttle bus to Piazza Romale where you can connect to a bus that takes you to the airport. We stayed an extra night in Venice - it is so amazing! I am weary of this report! To summarize - we enjoyed this trip very much but I missed being on the land in Europe. It was great to just unpack one time and visit so many great places, and the access in from the ports was frustrating at times. If you spend the money for the ship excursions it would make it a lot less hassel in most of the ports. The vacation was just a little too much on the boat for me - tho don't get me wrong I like the ship. Perhaps the food quality has gone down a bit but it is still good. My daughter loves the sushi, I like the salmon in the aquaspa. The buffet, pasta, grill options for lunch were not always fabulous, but there were always tastey morsels to be found. One day there was some grilled shrimp that were great! The service and crew were wonderful (that is one aspect that wins it over the land in Europe where at times the service is bit surly or unfriendly!) I wish Celebrity spent a few bucks on fresh flowers - the artifical arrangements looked tired. Feel free to email me any questions you might have. This is a great itinerary - if this is your first trip to Europe it will give you many ideas of where you want to go in the future and spend more time on the land! Bon voyage! SueC12 Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
Flight and First Day in Venice We started out our journey with a nights stay at the Sofitel at Gatwick North terminal. We really liked the hotel, it was very modern, classy and very well maintained. On Thursday 25th May we caught the 1pm ... Read More
Flight and First Day in Venice We started out our journey with a nights stay at the Sofitel at Gatwick North terminal. We really liked the hotel, it was very modern, classy and very well maintained. On Thursday 25th May we caught the 1pm BA flight to Venice. Once at the airport in Venice, we took the shuttle bus into Piazzale Roma, at one end of the Grand Canal, and then dragged our cases across bridges to our Hotel, the Carlton and Grand Canal. We really liked the hotel and its perfect location on the Grand Canal. From the hotel it was easy to cross the bridge and explore the marvelous streets and alleyways of Venice. We spent the rest of Thursday exploring Venice, walking to St. Marks Square and catching the waterbus back to the hotel. 26 May - Day of Boarding Ship We decided to head from the Hotel to Millennium at around midday, so caught a taxi from Piazzale Roma (where cars are allowed) to the cruise terminal. Upon arrival we were able to check in and immediately board Millennium. After the usual champagne, we made our way to the Cova cafe to buy our soda package (around $60 for our 12 night cruise for unlimited fountain soft drinks), then to our cabin, 8045 to leave our bags there. We met our cabin steward at this point, and then headed to the Ocean Cafe for some of Millenniums famous "made to order" pasta. As usual it was brilliant! In the afternoon we walked back into Venice. We could have taken the $8 Celebrity organised waterbus direct to St. Marks Square, but to be honest that is not the best area of Venice, and usually full of tourists, so we much preferred to explore starting out in the area around our hotel from the night before, The hotel Carlton & Grand Canal. The walk is ok, although a little dangerous when crossing some of the roads. We returned to Millennium at around 6pm and had a good look around the ship before getting ready for open seating dinner. We went along at 8:30. Dinner was great; it was so nice to get back into the old routine. After dinner we explored the ship further. 27 May - More Venice and Departure After a room service breakfast, we headed into Venice again on foot. We had another nice day exploring. I really fell for Venice. Very few places are as good as people say, but I can honestly say Venice is. We headed back to Millennium at around 2:30 for a late lunch (well, our first visit to the really good burger grill by the pool, followed by one of the lovely aqua spa cafe deserts.) After lifeboat drill, we headed up onto top deck for sail away. I must say the departure from Venice was amazing. Wow, what a view from that great height. I took some really good video as we sailed down past all the sights of the city. At 5:45 we headed to a cruise critic party (we had received invite in our cabin when we arrived onboard) The party was held in one of the Penthouse suites. We felt so privileged to be invited along. Thanks to Lynda and Jeff for that. It was really special. Later we headed to our late sitting dinner. We met our tablemates; Trevor and Mary form the UK as well. They are lovely people, who we shared so many brilliant days with, and are now great friends. As it was our first regular late sitting dinner on the cruise we met Javel and Alvin, our waiter and assistant for the first time. They were fantastic, and in over 23 cruises I can honestly say we have never had waiters like them. They made the cruise for us. 28 May - Dubrovnik We anchored at Dubrovnik and tendered in. Apparently, there were long waiting times to go ashore, caused by the port authorities only allowing one of the ships tenders in at a time. We heard quite a lot of complaining about this. Personally we did not find a problem, as we opted for going ashore later at 11ish, avoiding all the waiting around. After all, we were on holiday so trying to rush off the ship first thing always seems a little silly to us. We walked around Dubrovnik, and really liked the place. The old city is compact, and contains many fascinating alleyways and sets of steps. After a really nice afternoon exploring the city we headed back to the ship and relaxed until dinner. Javel and Alvan were on form at dinner as usual. 29 May - At Sea A lovely relaxing day at sea while cruising via the straights of Messina towards Greece. 30 May - Santorini After a nice room service breakfast, we headed ashore by tender at 11am, after all the crowds had gone. We took the cable car up to the town on top of the cliffs and had a good look around. What a lovely place, and the views of Millennium at anchor were really good. After a light lunch and some lovely beer (ok, our legs did not work after one glass of beer in the sun!) we headed back to the ship at 4pm and had another wonderful evening on Millennium. 31 May - Athens We decided to walk to the local metro station in Piraeus and catch the train into Athens; we did a walking tour of the city (thanks to the map from the concierge) We stopped off at my favourite place, the Parliament building to see the somewhat amusing changing of the guards. It sure is a unique experience! As it was such a hot day, we headed back to the ship, via the metro, for a nice cool drink on deck and a chance to plan yet another amazing evening. 1 June - At Sea Another relaxing sunny day on Millennium, followed by dinner in the Olympic restaurant with Trevor and Mary. Dinner was fantastic. The goats cheese soufflE and Chateaubriand were out of this world, and it would have been rude not to have the equally brilliant Waldorf pudding, to finish it off cheese and biscuits were served. What an amazing evening. 2 June - Naples We had an early start on this day so we could go on a half-day Celebrity tour to Pompeii. Really enjoyed the tour, and took so many photos. Back to ship at lunchtime for a relaxing afternoon and evening. 3 June - Rome We caught the train into Rome (9 euros including day pass on metro and busses. The ticket is called a BERG). Upon arrival it was obvious the Pope was on show in Vatican City, so we immediately made our way across the city to avoid the steadily increasing crowds. It was one of those situations which was a little scary, with large crowds of people and shut off streets and subways, making things even more difficult. We explored the city until 3pm, and then headed back to the railway station and Millennium. Its worth noting that despite the onboard paper "Celebrity Today"saying the shuttle busses ($5 for a day pass now!) drop you a 15 minute taxi ride from the railway station, they actually drop you a 10 minute walk away. 4 June - Livorno On this day, we had a half-day afternoon Celebrity tour organised to Pisa, so had a relaxing morning onboard ship. The tour was good and we had a really nice afternoon in Pisa admiring the great buildings, and trying to work out how the leaning tower stays upright. After the tour we had another fantastic evening onboard. 5 June - Villefranche It was raining in the morning so we decided to head ashore after lunch. We caught the train into Monte Carlo (5 euros return), and spent 4 hours exploring. It was interesting to see most of the stands and barriers were still in place from the previous weekends formula one Grand Prix race. Moored up the harbour were Crystal Symphony and Easycruise 1 - what a contrast eh! After a nice glass of beer on the seafront back in Villefranche, we headed back to Millennium. As usual the evening was brilliant. It was a formal/informal evening with the customary baked Alaska parade in the restaurant, and later in the evening the Grand Buffet. 6 June - Barcelona We arrived on schedule in Barcelona at 2pm and after things had settled down at the gangway we headed ashore. We took the Celebrity shuttle coach ($8 for a day pass) what turned out to be a relatively short distance to the one end of Las Rambla. We walked up this fascinating street full of amazing street artists and performers, stopping and watching many as we passed. On the way back the four of us stopped off for a 2-litre jug of sangria, as you can imagine not much sense was heard from us after that. It was a bit of a sad evening as it was our last out with Javel and Alvan. Over the 12 nights we had become a really good team and enjoyed many laughs together. I guess all good things come to an end eh. After dinner we wandered around Millennium until pretty late. It was interesting to note that the late night bites were still served in the public rooms at midnight, and pasta and pizza were still available in the Ocean Cafe in the early hours. 7 June - Bye Bye Millennium! We were set to leave Millennium at the rather ungodly hour of 7:10 (there has to be a penalty for being allowed to board so early at the start of the cruise) we caught a taxi to Barcelona airport at a cost of 30 euros, pretty reasonable compared to the Celebrity shuttle at $25 per person. Unfortunately our flight was not until 1pm so we had a fair bit of waiting around to do. We found the airport to be a pretty nice spacious place and passed the time pretty easily people watching and shop exploring. Production Shows We really enjoyed these. They were the most professionally produced and performed shows I have ever seen. The energy and professionalism of the performers really came across. Millenniums fantastic theatres many features were used to their full extent. The Shows were: Spectacle of Broadway, Fantasea, Classique: a musical Odessy and I love the nightlife. Congratulations to the theatre team. Caberet artists The other shows we went to were: A brilliant English Violin performer, who went through virtually every time of music style you can imagine. Very good indeed. A professional pickpocket, once again a very good entertaining and educational show. We certainly knew what to look out for the next day in Rome! I have to mention the fantastic Spanish guitar musician, Pepe de Jose who performed in the Cova Cafe and at the Ocean Bar. He was on our cruise on Millennium in 2004 and we were so pleased to see him back onboard for this cruise. Food We dined in the Metropolitan Restaurant every evening, apart for the one in the Olympic restaurant. We could not fault the food or service in either restaurant, and as mentioned before, our brilliant waiters made it a cruise to remember. Food quality and service were equal too if not better than Millennium was in 2004. Our night in the Olympic was perfection. The Ocean Cafe food was as good as ever, with made to order pasta dishes, pizza, many buffet choices. Ice cream was served all day as well. At lunchtime sandwiches were also available, made to order. In the evening sushi, pizza and pasta were available and part of the Ocean Cafe was turned into a casual dining area, as an alternative to the Metropolitan Restaurant. The Burgers form the Burger grill were as brilliant as ever! Food form the aqua spa cafe was really nice. They do the best deserts on the ship at lunchtime as well. Room service was always delivered really fast, and the menu available very nice. When food was being served in the Metropolitan Restaurant the same items were available for delivery via room service, a real treat. Ship Condition There has been much said on Cruise Critic about the "tatty" look of some Millenniums public areas, I can assure you that I looked hard and found things to be in a very good state of repair. The carpet in the theatre has been replaced, and new light strips fitted on all strips, making things much safer there. One or two things on the exterior of the ship, mainly made form aluminum, could do with repair, but it was nothing significant. Our Stateroom CC grade 8045 was in good condition and had the extra large angled balcony, a real treat. We were looked after well by our cabin steward, and her assistant, so no complaints there. Attitude of Staff Every member of staff on Millennium always greeted us with a smile and a hello, how are you? They are a great team and really were the best we have had on any ship. Some of the officers seemed a little non-understanding at times though. On one occasion one of the Assistant chief housekeepers came to ask if everything was ok with the cabin and steward etc. We told them that we had brown water in the bathroom that evening. They replied oh that's good, smiled and went. Maybe some training is required there! On another occasion we returned to our cabin after the show to be greeted with a strong smell of sewage. We called guest relations, who sent somebody up so see what the problem was (it was not caused by a blocked toilet, and seemed to be coming form the air conditioning). The man from guest relations did not seem to understand that the problem was, and went. He did say we would hear from them, and that was the last we heard of it. Captains Club As elite members, we were looked after very well by the Captains Club hostess. We had an elegant afternoon tea in the Olympic Restaurant, Backstage theatre tour and galley visit, as well as other treats. Well done on making your loyal customers feel special. It really works, as we booked an Alaska cruise whilst onboard. Conclusion A brilliant cruise, visiting some of the most amazing places on what I feel is the best ship in the world. About Me I am an engineer from the UK in my 30's who travelled with my friend Finn in his 20's. We now cruise exclusively with Celebrity after previously being regular P&O customers. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2006
We had a wonderful cruise on the Millennium. There were 4 of us, in our 50's and 60's. This was the longest cruise any of us had ever taken. We flew Alitalia, as we had heard great things about the airline and the price was ... Read More
We had a wonderful cruise on the Millennium. There were 4 of us, in our 50's and 60's. This was the longest cruise any of us had ever taken. We flew Alitalia, as we had heard great things about the airline and the price was right $800.00 from Miami to Milan, Milan to Venice and the return was Barcelona to Milan, Milan to Miami. We booked 10 months before the cruise. Our flight times did not change and we had uneventful flights. They did get our seat assignments mixed up, but were able to fix them for us at the airport. We were there the required 2 hours ahead. No problems at all. We were somewhat disappointed with the airline, as the seats were very close for an international flight and the attendants were not very friendly. The food was better than I have experienced with Delta etc, but airline food none the less. Wine was free with the meals, a nice little plus. Venice We arrived in Venice around 11am a day before we were to board the ship. I am so glad we gave ourselves that extra day. We stayed at Locanda Orseolo, a hotel we got from these boards. We booked with them 9 months before our trip and requested rooms with windows on the canal. The airport is several miles from Venice. There are several ways to get out of the airport...by boat or land. You can go by bus to the Piazza Roma, which is kinda like the entrance to Venice...were cars can no longer go. The AVTO bus (blue) is 3 euros per person, including luggage. This bus takes you to Piazza Roma. (We are told there is luggage storage at Piazza Roma, next to Pullman Bar on the ground floor @ 5euro per piece per 24hrs). If you are going directly to the ship, and have not bought their transfers, you can take a land taxi to the ship OR this bus to Piazza Roma and then a land taxi to the ship (probably cheaper but more time intensive). There is a Vaporetto stop at Piazza Roma as well, so if you are going to a hotel, you can pick up one of these...but it would be real difficult to get a lot of luggage on one of the boats, as they are usually VERY crowded. At Piazza Roma, you could also get a private water taxi to your hotel. OR you can go by boat, right from the airport dock to Piazza Roma. Remember that if you take a Vaporetto to a hotel, you will then have to drag your luggage to the hotel, across cobble stones and over bridges. If you want to go by way of the water you must first get from the airport to the airport's dock. Unfortunately, the airport dock is a bit of a walk from the baggage area of the airport, and there is no longer a free bus shuttle from the airport to the dock. They have a walkway that you can take and it's very well marked. It is all flat, cement and easy to pull your luggage along. We were told it takes about 15 minutes to walk to the dock. There you get a boat to the Piazza Roma or a private water taxi to your hotel, if it is on a canal that is accessible. Upon our arrival we used a water taxi company called Venezia Water Taxi. They were in the baggage area of the airport. They charged the 4 of us 10 euros to drive us and our luggage to the dock, and then 90 euros to take the four of us and all our luggage to the Locanda Orseolo. So the entire transfer from airport to our hotel was about 25 euros per person. It was a blast. It was about a 20 minute boat ride to the first small canal, then into the grand canal, under the Rialto Bridge and finally to a couple smaller canals to our hotel. The boat ride was a wonderful introduction to Venice...in our opinion much more fun than the gondola rides we observed. They were in groups of gondolas, with one singer on ONE of the gondola. The traffic in the canal was brutal...day and night, and not too romantic looking to us! The canals were full of boat traffic...very, very busy. We arrived at our hotel and went in thru a window, luggage and all. The hotel was wonderful, the owners treated us like family that they were so happy to have visit. They cooked a made to order breakfast for us in the morning and gave us lots of advice about the area. If you stay here, my only suggestion is to have what you need for your hotel stay in ONE suitcase. They will keep the rest for you on the first floor, as there are no elevators. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed watching the action on the street/canal from our windows. The hotel also has a front door to the street and is a very short walk, less than 5 minutes to San Marco Square. Perfect location. We had made advanced reservations for a tour of the San Marco Church for 4pm, so we had ample time to wander around the area. We walked to a restaurant that the hotel recommended, called Aqua Paza (spelling may be wrong!) I believe it was located in Campo S. Angelo, a rather large square. The food was incredible, 3 of us shared a huge fish...we got to pick it out! We ate outside, in the middle of the square and had a bottle of local wine...excellent! Cost was around 100 euros. We walked back via another way, toward the Accademia...easy to do but make sure you have a good map with you. The streets are well marked, and there are signs pointing to San Marco Square, Rialto Bridge and several other places. So you won't stay lost for too long! We were back at San Marco Square in time for our reservations to tour the cathedral. These reservations are free and well worth it. We walked right in, past a VERY long line. The church was well worth the visit. At the end there is a small bar/snack bar, right before the gift shop. We stopped there and had a glass of local wine&.excellent! Here is the web site for the free reservations. http://www.alata.it/eng/booking/sanmarco.asp After the church, we headed for Harry's bar for a Bellini. The place was packed and very small. The prices were outlandish! So we left there and had our Bellini on San Marco Square instead. We figured the price was probably the same, but at least we could people watch and enjoy the scenery. The square is very large, with tables lining both sides of the square. There is usually a live band playing music (mostly American music!!) on one side or the other. We each had a Bellini, while people watching, listening to the music, and writing post cards. Much nicer atmosphere than in Harry's bar! The guys drank the Bellini but hated it, they then ordered 2 Jack Daniels on the rocks...so our final bill for those 6 drinks was 103 euros! Just the 4 Bellini's were 73 euros! Of course, part of it was the service charge for sitting at the tables! It was around 7-8 pm by that time...and we had been up way over 24 hours. We decided that would be our dinner! We went back to the hotel and crashed. Next morning, after a huge breakfast made by the owner of Locanda Orseolo and served by his wife Barbara, we checked out of the hotel (they held our luggage for us). We headed to the Doges Palace. We had made reservations there as well, for the Secret Itinerary Tour. Our tour was for 9:30. The line was huge when we got there, but we walked past everyone to the door, told them we had reservations for the tour, and we were let right in. Went to an office on the left, where we paid 16 euros each and went in for the tour. The SI tour is very good, we loved it. Took about 1 ½ hours and we were then able to go thru the rest of Doge's Palace, the areas that are open to everyone. We enjoyed it very much. Got back to the hotel around 1 pm and took the same taxi company to the ship. This time it was 30 euros for the four of us and all our luggage, via the window again! What fun, we enjoyed our second taxi ride as much as the first. Down the Grand Canal, under the Rialto Bridge...great views and another hundred pictures! Embarkation The embarkation was simple and quick. We were taken to our rooms while sipping on our champagne. We had aft cabins on the 9th floor. They were perfect. Plenty of storage space, bed was comfortable. This was a CC cabin, so we had champagne in the room, our choice of several kinds of pillows etc. X web site has a list of the amenities of the CC cabins. We met our cabin attendants and I must say they were excellent. Most days, on arriving back on the ship, Mark would run ahead of us and have our 2 doors open for us! Little things, but it made us feel special. We were treated royally. Ice everyday, wine glasses when we needed. We never wanted for a thing. After a VERY quick look over the ship, checking on our table in the dinning room (which was perfect) and having lunch, we headed back to Venice. We were quit surprised when they asked for 8 euros each for an all day pass to use Celebrity's water shuttle to San Marco Square. It used to be free! We had little choice...so we added $16 to our ship card and off we went. The dock the X shuttle lets you off is to the right of San Marco Square. Looking to the left, when getting off the shuttle is a hotel called Daneli (or something very close to that). Take a moment to walk thru the lobby. It's just beautiful and it has free bathrooms! After getting off the shuttle, we bought a 24 hour Vaporetto pass and took one of the Vaps to the island of Murano. The Murano stop was to the right of the dock that the X shuttle uses...looking at San Marco Square. The stops are all very well marked. Just make sure you get on the Vaporetto that is heading in the right direction. We had a great afternoon. Wandered around for hours, very little crowds, beautiful scenery, bought some Murano glass and stopped at a little bar and shared a bottle of local wine...excellent! We headed back to San Marco when everything seemed to be closing on the island and avoided stopping for a drink on the square! We headed back to the ship via their shuttle, had dinner around 8:30. This first night was casual night and had open sitting. We went to the show that night, the singers and dancers are really very good. Enjoyed the music...then bed. Next morning we took the X shuttle back to San Marco Square (another $8 per person!!) and then just started walking. We wandered all over Venice, stopping at a darling little local restaurant. We all had lunch and a bottle of local wine (excellent!) for 29 euros! Everything in Venice is NOT expensive, you just need to get away from the tourist areas. After visiting the Jewish Ghetto area, we grabbed a Vaporetto, using our 24 hour pass, and went back to San Marco Square, again enjoying the ride thru the Grand Canal. We made the last shuttle to the ship! The sail away was amazing. It is a must see. Being as high as you are on the ship, it was a whole different vision. We were on our aft balcony, but we heard the rail space was very crowded. Dinner at 8:30. Informal night, most men were in sport coats or suits, with and without ties. Ladies all looked very nice. Dubrovnik Next day was Dubrovnik. A beautiful place. We tendered at this port, being dropped off at the dock right in the city. Apparently there were long waiting times to go ashore. We had priority boarding for the tenders (CC cabin) but it did not do us much good. Had a good 45 minute wait. Much complaining. But once we got there it was all forgotten. The place is so different, indescribable. If you want to climb the walls of the city, you must pay in Kuna. When you enter the city from the small port, go to the right. This will take you to their main street, where you will find some ATM's. Then walk back the way you came, as the entrance to the Wall is to the left of the port entrance, up several stairs. It's 50 Kuna per person to climb the walls. It's quite the walk! There are several, very clean bathrooms along the wall, as well as a couple different places for cold drinks and snacks. These are ON THE WALL, no need to climb back down. A stroller would be doable, but you would have to carry it up and down MANY steps. A wheelchair would be impossible. It was very hot, bring water and wear a hat. The views are lovely. You can go down halfway around if you feel that you cannot continue. I was in sandals the entire trip..I don't own a pair of sneakers or closed toed casual shoes, and I did just fine. But if you have trouble walking or lose your balance easily, good walking shoes would be a must. After we completed the wall, we stopped at a little outside cafe for a bottle of local wine...excellent! We then did some shopping and wandered around the town. Around 3pm, we decided to have lunch. Found an outside tavern down one of the little alleyways and had a great meal and a bottle of local wine (excellent) for 160,000 kunas! Gasp! Fortunately, they took euros. It was 34 euros. We then headed back to the ship as we left at 5pm. After the beautiful sail away, we enjoyed some time in the T pool and had a snack at the Aqua Spa Cafe. A must try. Every time we wandered down there they had great food choices, no line! Tonight was formal night, so we got all dressed up. We girls wore gowns and our husbands were in tuxes. Had a lovely dinner. Anytime I don't have to cook is a GREAT NIGHT! Sea Day Next day was a sea day. We lounged by the pool, enjoyed the music and had a very relaxing day. Dress was informal. I can't tell you what people wore to dinner. I just don't pay that much attention. Everyone seemed to look appropriately dressed in the dining room thru the entire cruise. Santorini We were awake and on the balcony as we sailed in...it was breathtaking. Its pictures just can't do this island any justice. We had breakfast on our balcony and then went in search of the tender. This morning it was much better organized. Very little wait and on to the Island. We took the funicular up, forgoing the donkeys. It was a quick trip up, great view. Cost was 3.5 euros per person. We wandered around Santorini for a few hours. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. We had planned to take a bus to Oia, but when we got to the bus station, we found that the next bus was in 45 minutes, so we took a cab instead. The taxi stand is right by the bus station. Cost was 20 euros. A lot more than the 1.5 euro bus. But the ride over was really nice, with great views. We arrived and wandered around the town. Very similar to Fira, but much smaller. We had been told about a restaurant at the foot of Oia, down in Ammoudi Bay, so we headed there for lunch. You go down steps similar to what you saw when going up to Fira, but not as long and no donkeys! Just keep asking how to get down to Ammoudi Bay and you will be directed to the right set of steps. We took a leisurely walk down the stairs; again the views were breath taking. Upon arriving at the bay, facing the water, the restaurant is to the left. You need to walk thru a couple other dinning areas to get to it. It's called Dimitris Ammoudi Taverna and has a yellow roof. It's the last restaurant in the row. Owned by Dimitris and his wife Joey. If you go there, make sure you ask to say hi to Joey. Tell her the 2 couples that she met at the taxi stand sent you! Well worth the walk! The food was great and the view was wonderful. We had a bottle of their local wine...excellent! Cost was not cheap, but we felt very reasonable. After lunch, Joey called us a taxi to take us back to Fira. We took the funicular back down around 3pm (another 3.5 euros), as we had booked a trip on a sailing boat at 4pm. The sailing ship is an exact replica of a schooner. We sailed from the port of Fira (same place the ship tender lets you off) and cruised throughout the Caldera area. From around 4pm to 9pm. We went to the Nea Kameni Volcano, and we walked to the crater's rim. It's a long hike, up hill and it's hot. Took about 45 minutes. We brought water with us, you can also buy water and soda and beer on the sailboat. The guide that takes you up stops frequently for breaks, explaining the history of the area as well as telling different stories about the volcano etc. We enjoyed it, others remained on the sailboat, others walked around on their own. We got back on the boat and sailed to the HOT Springs, where we swam for an hour or so (the springs are only warm, and the swim to get to them is cool to cold depending on what you're used to!!). Several folks on the sailboat chose to stay onboard and watch the others swim. To swim to the "hot springs" you must be a rather good swimmer...although they do offer life vests for those who want them. After that, we were served a free meal comprised of traditional Greek hor-d'oeuvres and Santorinian wine. We then sailed back to Fira listening to live music while the sun was setting into the sea. A truly wonderful way to end our day in Santorini.  Dress was casual that night, and we did not leave the port till around 11pm. We just ate around the ship that night. Some sushi, pasta, a desert from the spa cafe and ice cream. We enjoyed some local wine we had bought on shore on our balcony as we sailed away. Another perfect day! Athens  We had decided to do Athens on our own. We had all our maps and plans all written down and we were ready to go! We got off the ship and started our walk to the metro/train station. We turned left and followed the port around. And we walked, and walked, and walked. We asked several times for directions, thinking we had passed it up, but no. The directions were correct. Eventually you come to a three way street area and you go to your right. The metro/train station is two stop lights ahead on the right. It was a good 20 minute walk. When we returned, we took the # 843 bus that drops you off right at the port. Would suggest looking for that bus stop when you leave the port instead of walking. Just remember that you want to go towards your left, with the port at your back. Almost everyone in Athens speaks some English, so don't hesitate to ask for directions. Anyway, we made it to the metro/train station. We bought all day tickets for 12 euro per person. When you enter the tracks area, be sure to have your ticket stamped...it's an auto machine that you walk thru. There are two sets of tracks, both pointing in the same direction. I wanted to make sure they both went towards Athens, so I stepped into one train to ask someone what direction it was going and the door closed on me!!! Leaving my husband and friends standing on the platform screaming! Well, that certainly was a oops! To make a very long story short, I prayed that my girlfriend was thinking the same thing I was. We had taught our children if we ever got separated, go to the last place we were all together and STAY there. Sooooooo I hoped and prayed that my girlfriend would stay put, and keep my husband from jumping on the next train after me. I then got off at the next stop, got on the next train going in the opposite direction and went back to Piraeus. There they were, waiting for me on the platform. Needless to say, we NEVER got on a metro/train without making sure we were all together. The doors close very quickly, so beware! OK...we finally got our hearts started again and headed for Athens. By the way, both trains, on both sides of the platform go towards Athens. So you can hop on either train. This is the green line. You go about 8 stops to the Omonia and get off to transfer to the red line. There are huge metro maps on the walls. Check your next stop, which is Akropoli, and see what is the last stop on that line. I believe it's Panagoulis. That is the direction you want to go. Follow the signs to Panagoulis. Get on that metro and get off at Akropoli. Again follow the signs to the Acropolis when leaving the metro station. When you leave the station, go to the left, up the hill. It's a very short walk. You will see the ticket booth. The cost is 12 euro per person and includes the Acropolis, Kerameikos cemetery, Temple of Zeus, Roman Agora and the Tower of the Winds, and the Ancient Agora. If you are doing Athens on your own, my advice is to decide ahead of time what you want to see and accomplish. We had a very good map of Athens and used it all day. Plan your day well; be very familiar with the map. And ask questions if you are not sure you are going in the right direction. It can get a bit confusing. We did everything we wanted, except the trip up to Lykavittos Hill. We were just too tired to do any more. Even if you are not using the Metro, if you have time, go down the Syntagma Square Metro station, it's like a mini museum, with all the artifacts they found when digging out for the Metro. Free. We saw: -Everything on the Acropolis, including the museum. Walk to the flag pole, the views are great and it gives you some idea of the layout! There is a very clean, free bathroom near the museum. -The Roman Agora, The Tower of the Winds. There is a fresh water fountain there&.free! We filled up all our water bottles. -Arios Pagos, a small rock or rock hill that St Paul preached from. Great views. -Ancient Agora. We did not walk thru the whole area. You reach it from a walkway to the right of the Ario Pagos. -Mitropoli Cathedral -Syntagma Square...saw the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the guards -wandered thru the Plaka and had lunch at an outside dinner. We had a lovely bottle of local wine...excellent. Price was 26 euros and they gave us a "shot" of their local brandy free after lunch. -Walked thru the National gardens to the -Olympic Stadium, then walked on past the stadium to -Temple of Zeus and Hadrian's Arch. We were back by the Akrpoli metro station by that time, took it back to Omonia, switched to the green line toward Piraseus. This time we were smart and got the # 843 bus back to the port. The bus stop is across the street from the Metro station, just look for the number 843 on the signs on the poles. Whew, what a great day. We had a ball and saw everything we wanted to, with time to spare. That night was Informal night. We just managed to keep from falling asleep at our table...no shows that night for us! Sea Day Just relaxed and enjoyed the Mille that day. Spent some time in the T pool. Went to a lecture on Florence and Rome. That night we dressed up for Formal night. We did some dancing after dinner. Great day. Naples We docked here, but the port was not too accessible to the city. The ship charged $5 for a shuttle to take you out of the port area. If you had a ship excursion or a private excursion booked, you did not need to pay this. We had booked a private driver/guide for this port. At 8 am he was waiting on the dock with our name on a card. We used Francesco Marrapse -- he was perfect. We first drove thru Sorrento, then spent some time walking around in Positano. Then we enjoyed the drive thru the Amalfii coast, stopping in Ravello for a wonderful lunch on the patio of a restaurant on the top of a mountain. The food was great, very reasonably priced and we enjoyed a bottle of local wine...excellent! We then drove on to Pompeii, where Francesco had arranged a private guide to take us thru. It began raining at this point, but Francesco had umbrellas so off we went. We truly marveled at Pompeii, and felt the private guide was well worth the extra money. Francesco charged the 4 of us 550 with another 35 per person for Pompeii (10 euro per person to get in and 25 euro per person for the private guide.) An audio guide is available for 20 euro. I suggest you do one or the other, or you will not be able to really understand what you are looking at without some help. Another perfect day. Everyone else was saying how tired they were, but we felt we had done a lot in one day, but at a very leisurly pace. We had a casual dinner that night. Rome The shuttle from the ship out of the port in Rome was $8 per person. We had hired a private guide here as well, so we did not need the use of X's shuttle. Our guide, Carlos, was waiting for us at 7:10 am when we got off the ship. We had emailed back and forth about what we wanted to see. As the Vatican was high on our list, he suggested that if we were willing, we would start out VERY early and do it first. The Vatican Museum closes at 2pm on Saturdays and he felt it would get quite crowded. He also hired a private guide for the Vatican Museum. Her name was Domizia. She had gotten in line at the museum at 7:30am that morning! When we arrived around 8:10, Carlos took us up one of the many hills in Rome for a beautiful view of the city. He then dropped us off with our guide and we joined her in line. She sent us, a couple at a time, to a local bathroom before they opened the museum, as she said the lines in the museum would be really long. We were one of the first to enter the museum when it opened at 8:40. We had an incredible time. The guide was everything we could have asked for. She took us straight to the must sees and explained and educated us as we went along. She has been doing this for 7 yrs, so she knows the guards and we got thru some lines rather quickly!!! We also did the Sistine Chapel and St. Peters with her. She was wonderful. The guided tour was to be 2 ½ hours but she did not leave us till around noon. The place was packed by then. We learned later that Tony Blair was there. When we returned to the ship, we learned that many of our fellow travelers never got into the Vatican due to the crowds. At around 12:30, Carlos was waiting for us outside in St. Peters Square and whisked us, via back roads and alleys, to other sites in Rome. I have never seen so many people in one place before in my life. Thank God we had Carlos! We entered the Coliseum, St. Peters in Chains Church to see Michelangelo's Moses.....wow! We made stops at the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. We saw the Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus, the baths of Caracalla, Piazza Noavoa, and Capitol Hill. We also had time for lunch at a little taverna by the Coliseum and a bottle of local wine...excellent! Carlos was 500 euros and we shared this tour with another couple we met on line. So the 6 of us split that...84 euro per person. The Vatican guide was another 120 euro...20 per person. The entrance to the Vatican museum was 12 euro per person and the Coliseum was 11 euro per person. Another very busy day, but because of Carlos, we were not nearly as exhausted as we thought we would be. Dress code that night was Casual. Livorno Florence Pisa Shuttle service at this port was $8 day. Again, not needed if you have a tour scheduled. We hired a taxi at this port. He was not a guide, just a taxi to take us to Pisa and then Florence and bring us back to the ship. We thought that we could handle Florence on our own as everything is so close. It worked out well for us. We knew what we wanted to see and had bought a very good map. Another couple joined us. The cost of the taxi, at our disposal all day, was 320 euros..about 53 euro per person. Cheaper than the ships "Florence on your own" package that we had considered, and this way we did not have to have the bathroom stops etc that you have when you are with a large group. We used Tuscany by Taxi and were very pleased. He even spoke a little English and gave us a run down of what we were seeing. We were picked up at 8 am and he took us to Pisa first. We had the entire place to ourselves! We chose not to climb, but took many pictures. The square is really very pretty. I was pleasantly surprised, it was much nicer than I had expected??!! They do have very clean bathrooms for a slight charge...0.20 euros I think. We then were taken to Florence. First to Michelangelo Square for a breathtaking view of the city and a look at our first "David", in the Square (he's one of the fakes). After taking a few hundred pictures, the taxi dropped us off at the Accademia. We had 10:30 am appointment and we literally walked right in. Looking at the door, the line to the right (the really long one) is for people without tickets. The line to the left of the door is for those with reservations. We had called several months ahead for reservations. I strongly suggest you get reservations. You then pay the 15 euros at the door and walk in at your appointment time. If you make your reservations by phone, make sure you have your reservation number with you arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment time. What can I say about David...he is magnificent. The rest of the museum was very enjoyable as well. We spent an hour there. They have free, clean restrooms. Next, the taxi driver drove us to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and dropped us off. We made arrangements for him to pick us up at 4-430 at the Santa Crocein Church. We were in awe of the Cathedral, the Duomo..its gold doors. We had attended a class on Florence on one of the sea days on the ship, so we knew a little about the doors of the Duomo. Since it was Sunday, the Cathedral was closed to the public till 2pm. However, we went to the noon mass. The Cathedral was beautiful, the organ was amazing, the service was very moving...even thou it was in Italian! We thought we might sneak out early, but we stayed to the very end...then wandered a bit thru the magnificent church. Next we headed down Dei Calzaiuloi...most stores were closed (our DH's were very happy about that!). We stopped at a small outside restaurant down an alley for lunch, had a bottle of local wine...excellent! We had also made reservations for the Uffizi during the same phone call for the Accademia. They have a special door for reservation holders...door #3. Looking down the "U" that is the museum...door # 3 is on the right, the rest of the entrances are on the left. An hour is not enough time to see this museum. It's packed with people, confusing to navigate thru. You need days, maybe weeks to truly experience this museum. The number to make the reservations at the two museums is 011 39 055 294883. You can also get reservations on line, but you have to pay when you make the reservations, so if something happens and you can't make it or the ship's itinerary changes, you lose the money. It's a very cheap call; they will give you 2 separate reservation numbers, one for the Accademia and another for the Uffizi. You go to the museum about 15 minutes or so before your reservation time, WITH THE RESERVATION NUMBERS, pay in euros, and go right in. We were not too impressed with the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, perhaps because it was shoulder to shoulder people! Prices seemed high at the many jewelry stores that were open. We crossed the bridge and turned to the left, just wandering thu the city. Out last stop was Santa Croce church and it was a real gem. It was 5 euro to enter but well worth it. Lorenzo, Leonardo de Vinci, Galileo, Michelangelo, Dante, Machievelli, to name a few, are all buried there. If you intend to do this city on your own, get reservations ahead of time, study the map and know what you want to see. It is very doable on your own, as everything is close together. I can't speak for shopping...most stores were closed and we were not there to shop anyway! Tonight was formal/informal night. That's how it was stated in the daily. Needless to say we were tired that night. We enjoyed the sail away from our balcony, then had to get ready for dinner. We were happy to forego the tux and gowns. Our husbands put on their sport coats and we girls wore dresses. Villefrance We were looking forward to this port. We had our day planned to the minute, with bus and train schedules. Unfortunately, we woke up to rain. We had breakfast in our room, as it was too cold and damp on the balcony. Around 10-10:30 the rain slowed so we decided to make a go of it with our itinerary completely changed. We had planed on leaving Villefrance, first to Nice, Eze next, returning to the ship so the guys could change into long pants/sport coat. We had planned to spend the evening in Monte Carlo, entering the casino. Since we had such a late start, and it was cool and rainy, the guys wore pants anyway, so we decided that we would try and get to the Casino by 5pm, before jackets and ties were required. We took raincoats, umbrellas and back packs and headed out. The ship tendered here, and again there was some tender issues. We were sent back and forth several times to different areas on the ship...no one seemed to know what was gong on. Eventually we did get tendered into shore. We knew that the bus station was up a hill, next to the Tourist Information Booth. However, the walk was quit the hike, uphill the whole way. We had no difficulty, but some folks were halfway up and not sure whether to continue or try and get back down. You could follow the winding road up hill, or take a short cut up some stairs. Just keep going up hill, and ask if you are going towards the Tourist Information Booth. There are many places on these boards that discuss the bus and train schedule, and how easy it is to do this port on your own. If you decide to do this area on your own, make sure you have all the schedules, a good map, and are willing to change itineraries as the day goes by. The town of Villefrance is picturesque. Lots of little shops, restaurants. All built on terraces, on hills. If you're heading for the bus stop, just keep going up hill. We left Villefrance via the # 100 bus to Nice. This stop was on the other side of the street from the TI Booth. We had intended to purchase the all day bus pass, but the bus driver did not have any! So we just paid as we went. Most trips were less than 2-3 euros for the two of us. Wandered around Nice a while...we had a map and we walked from the bus stop to Hotel Negresco and went inside. Just a beautiful hotel...used the bathrooms! Next we wandered down the Promenade Des Anglais ending up in old town. Lots of shops...very touristy. It was drizzling off and on. No one on the beach. We stopped for some pastry and coffee (no wine, too early, even for us) We did a circle, ending up back at the bus station. Took the # 82 bus to Eze. Again, a very picturesque city&but I thought very touristy and crowded. We did not walk down the Nietzsche Path, as we were afraid the rain had made it too muddy. We waited for the bus from Eze to Monte Carlo for 40 minutes, but it never came. So we took a taxi. We thought he told us 14 euros, but when we got there he said 40 euros...oh well. We paid the 10 euros each to enter the casino. We used our pictured drivers license for ID. Of course our guys were in pants, as we were told no shorts. However, we did see men in shorts in the casino, women in almost anything...capris, skirts, sandals. It was not very crowded and to be honest, I was a little disappointed. It's nothing special. We won around 60 euros and hi-tailed it out of there. After using the bathrooms, of course. We went back to Villefrance via the # 100 bus. Had a bit of a time finding the bus stop. Asked many folks, but did not find the French quite as helpful as the Italians. There was a huge set of bleachers set up outside the casino, blocking the view of the park and fountain that we were looking for. That's where the bus stop was! Anyway, arrived back in Villefrance and did a little shopping, then back to the ship. Casual night. Barcelona It was great having the morning off, as we did not arrive until around 2 pm. We had time to start our packing and have a nice lunch. Another shuttle charge here, $8 for the day. We took our one and only ship excursion to Montserrat and loved it. We left the ship with our group at 3pm (so we did not have to pay the $8 shuttle fee) and drove thru the city...getting a little tour. Then we drove up the mountain towards Montserrat. What a climb. We had some folks on the bus literally sitting on the floor so they did not have to look out! The ride was incredible, beautiful, and a little frightening if you are afraid of heights. The Monastery is unbelievable and the Black Madonna gave me goose bumps. There is a funicular that you can take to go even higher up the mountain if you choose to. We had a guided tour thru the Monastery and then about an hour on our own. There is a restaurant there so we had a bite to eat and shared a local bottle of wine...excellent! We returned another way, so saw some different parts of Barcelona. Altogether, well worth the $40 per person. We got back to the ship around 8pm, just in time for our late seating. Casual that night, as suitcases had to be out by 11pm. Next morning the disembarkation went very smoothly...at least what I saw. You received a color with your time to disembark, depending on how you filled out the form earlier in the cruise: ie people with early plane flights getting off first. We know that some folks left the ship at 4:45am due to an early flight, but for the most part we all departed between 7 and 9am. Barcelona has a beautiful port. The luggage comes out on a revolving baggage wheel, just like at the airport. We were off the ship by 8am and had our luggage and were out the door by 8:30. I had made arrangements on line with Angie's taxi service to pick us up. The taxi was waiting for us when we exited. A van, large enough for the 4 of us and all our luggage cost 30 euros. He drove us to Hotel Continental on Los Rambla. The hotel rooms are small, not many amenities. On the good side, the air conditioning works very well, they have a continental type breakfast with free drinks available 24/7, and they are located right at the top of La Rambla, a perfect location. We had a room with a balcony, can't image one without...would feel pretty closed in. It was fine for one night, but I would not want to stay there longer than that. We asked for ice for the 4 of us and were given 4 ice cubes!!! Anyway, one of our rooms was ready, so we put all the luggage in there, had a bite to eat at their 24 hour breakfast bar, grabbed a few free bottles of water and headed out. After walking the length of La Rambla, we bought tickets for the Bus Turistic...the off/on double decker bus. Cost was 18 euro per person. It worked well for us. We got off and on at all the sites we wanted to see. The Barcelona Cathedral was beautiful; Sagrada Familia was really weird, but interesting. Park Guell is quite a walk, up hill from the bus stop or metro stop. Not sure it's worth the hike, if you don't like to walk. The bus was very crowded, sometimes full, so you had to wait for the next one, but they did come every 5-10 minutes. You cannot see much from the bottom floor. The top is the best, but can be very hot. At every stop, people on the bottom are able to take any vacant seats on the top level, before they let any new people on. It works well and is very orderly. The other option is to use the Metro. An all day pass costs about 4 euros per person or a 10 ride pass (can be used by more than one person) is around 6 euros. The only down side to the Metro is that you can't see anything as you travel from place to place. The hotel made reservations for us to see a Flamenco Show. We went to the Tablao Flamenco for a great dinner and show. Cost was $60 per person and we felt it was worth it. The meal was a buffet with lots of Spanish type foods and free local wine...red, white or sangria. You already know that we have not met a local wine we did not like! The next morning I had made arrangements for Angie's taxi to take us to the airport. Cost was 46 euros for the 4 of us and all our luggage. The taxi driver was waiting in the lobby the next morning when we came down to check out. Very reliable. The Ship We thought the Mille was in good shape. We were having a great time and certainly did not look at her chairs, carpet etc., but to us she seemed fine. Our cabin attendants were wonderful, very attentive to our every whim. Everyone was helpful, always a smile on their face. We had most of our breakfasts in our rooms, on our balconies. Lunches were mostly on shore. Did use the pasta bar, the sushi was great, and we ate several times at the aqua spa cafe. We enjoyed our dinners, but cannot honestly say the food was consistently excellent. We had some very goods meals and some ok meals. But nothing that detracted from the entire cruise experience. Our waiters were very good, and we enjoyed our evenings with them. We never noticed the infamous odor or black/brown water in the sink. We enjoyed dancing several nights; saw a couple shows that we thought were entertaining. Unfortunately, I can't comment much further than that. I did hear good things about several of the shows we missed. Our cabin was aft, on the 9th level. We loved it and would not hesitate to book it again. However, we did hear chairs being dragged overhead some mornings. We never experienced any water pouring down due to them cleaning the floor above. The evenings were lovely, with the music from the floor above drifting down for our listening pleasure. The televisions do not have ANY hook ups. We were not able to view our pictures via a slide show. We asked for a VCR/Disc player, but was told they do not have any. I had purchased a Roadstor (on eBay, really cheap) to copy my pictures from the digital picture card onto a disc. This worked very well. The ship offers this service at $15 per CD. I had also brought some music CDs to listen to thru the Roadstor, but was not able to listen to them as I could not hook the Roadstor to the TV (to use the speakers). We used the T pool several times, and my black bathing suit is still quite black...did NOT fade. Choice of clothes for this trip was something I kept reading about. If you get nothing else out of this review, please know that as long as you are dressed appropriately; wear what you are comfortable in and what you look good in. DO NOT stress out on your choice of wardrobe. We saw jeans everywhere, on locals as well as tourists. Capris were very popular, as were longish skirts. Lots of pants on women and shorts on men. Lots of sneakers...even white ones! The man that served us in Venice had on jeans, a t-shirt and white sneakers. He spoke very poor English, but was so very helpful. Did not see the baggy shorts/pants and "wife beaters" that we see so much of here. THANK GOD! The only ladies that were not carrying purses were tourists. That's how they pick us out before we even speak! Having said that, we still were very cautious with our money. We did not carry any valuables, the guys had their money in their front pockets and we girls used a waist pouch I found at AAA. We carried travel bags when we needed additional thing like water, rain gear, maps etc. While on buses and trains/metros we kept them in the front of our body. Never had a bit of trouble. Used the safe on the ship with complete confidence. We had ordered 2 liquor packages from the Celebrity web site as a gift to ourselves before we left for our trip. They were $55 each (I understand this price has since gone up!). When we arrived in our cabin on the first day, the cabin attendant had a card noting that we had ordered the liquor. He asked us what kind we wanted, we told him Jack and Grey Goose. The package included a liter of booze along with a bag of nuts and a six pack of soda (we asked him for a six pack of water instead). By the time we returned to the ship, the 2 bottles were there, along with the nuts and 2 six packs of water. We also had ice and glasses waiting for us. This was a lot easier than trying to sneak the bottles on board in our luggage. We were able to enjoy a cocktail, some snacks that we ordered thru room service, and the view as we sailed away from each port. We bought some local wine and never had any trouble bringing it back on the ship. It went thru the metal detectors and we took it to our rooms. No questions asked. We could drink it in our rooms, or take it to dinner with us and pay the $15 corkage fee...that was usually more than we paid for the wine! Do try the local vino, we found it consistently good. Bathrooms were everywhere. I have no horror stories to tell. Most were very clean and I did not find one hole in the floor. I carried toilet paper but did not need it, not even once. We used them at restaurants, museums, bars, hotels, and there were many public WCss or toilets to be found. Occasionally we had to pay a very small amount, but most of the time they were free. We brought a couple hundred euros with us, got the rest from ATM's without any difficulty. Just remember to let your bank and credit card companies know that you will be using your ATM card/credit card in Europe, so that they are not suspended due to possible theft or fraud. I can't thank everyone on this board enough for all the great information, suggestions, and opinions. Our trip went off like clockwork. We had an absolutely wonderful time, and would not have changed a thing! Read Less
Sail Date: June 2006
We were finally on our way to Alaska. We were originally booked on the 6/ 3/2005 sailing that was cancelled due to pod problems. We ended up going to Bermuda last year on the Horizon after our cancellation and used our free cruise on the ... Read More
We were finally on our way to Alaska. We were originally booked on the 6/ 3/2005 sailing that was cancelled due to pod problems. We ended up going to Bermuda last year on the Horizon after our cancellation and used our free cruise on the 6/17/06 Alaska sailing on the Summit. We flew in one day early from Knoxville, Tennessee and stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. The hotel is beautiful but very expensive.After arrival we went out for some sightseeing in Gaston and a bite to eat at a small pub type restaurant. We had originally booked this hotel on the understanding that the Summit would be docked across the street at Canada Place. However, this was not the case. We had to take a short bus ride to Ballaytine Pier to board the ship. The bus left from the hotel at 11:00 AM and we were onboard by 11:45. Embarkation was easy and efficient. Our room was a balcony cabin, number 7160, on the starboard side of the ship. The cabin was nice, but when the sofa bed is pulled out, it makes it hard to get to the balcony. You must climb over the bed to get out to the balcony. Our first port of call was Juneau. We took a bus tour on our own out to Mendenhall Glacier and the Chapel by the Lake. We had a Tlingit tour guide named August. He was very informative and the tour was a good value for the price. After the tour we went out to the Hangar Restaurant in The Wharf. We had a bucket of King Crab legs and some Alaskan Beer. It was pricey but they were worth it. Next up was Skagway. Shopping was good here especially at Corringtons Ivory Shop and Museum and we also went to the Red Onion Saloon and had had a snack before our trip on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. The weather was perfect, and the scenery was spectacular. I would highly recommend the train to anyone. The next port was Sitka. We had no tours scheduled, the town was packed, and it was raining. So we went back to the ship and spotted 5 or 6 eagles from the balcony. We had a good time watching as the mother fed her babies in the nest. Our last stop was Icy Strait Point. They allow only one ship a day to visit. We had a Whale Watching Excursion booked through Celebrity. We saw several whales but did not get close enough to get a good picture. We also saw sea lions and eagles on the boat ride. After the excursion we went to a small restaurant by the dock. We had a whole Dungoness Crab. They were 18 dollars each and well worth it,even better than the King Crab in Juneau. The next day was Hubbard Glacier and was much better than we had expected. The "White Thunder" was unbelievable and the calving was magnificent. We also saw seals on the way out of the bay. The food in the main dining room was very good. Our waiters, Augustine and Niyazi, worked very hard to please us. The beef dishes seemed especially good, but my son was partial to the lamb. Food in the buffet during breakfast was very good, especially the waffle and omelet stations. The cheeseburgers and hot dogs at the waterfall grill were also very good, but the line could get long. The sushi bar was good, but not quite as good as on the Infinity in February. The shows were very good, we enjoyed the Celebrity singers and dancers, and also the comedian, Don Gavin. The aerialists were unbelievable. The Cirque de Soleil show was okay overall, but the acrobat was very good, but the clown portion was not. Overall the Summit is a wonderful ship, well taken care of, and we had fantastic service. I would recommend the Summit to anyone and would be happy to sail on her again. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2006
Our Cruise on the Millennium July 1st was our 15th cruise and our first in Europe. I have taken my original board review and out it into categories, rather than a diary form to make it easier to read. Off We Go: Continental Airlines from ... Read More
Our Cruise on the Millennium July 1st was our 15th cruise and our first in Europe. I have taken my original board review and out it into categories, rather than a diary form to make it easier to read. Off We Go: Continental Airlines from Newark,NJ. In one word our flight was a nightmare, and it seemed as though we would never arrive in Barcelona. We finally did arrive in Barcelona, and waited a bit for our luggage, met the representative from Celebrity and put on the bus rather quickly. Unfortunately it was quite a bit later that we actually started moving, because we had to fill up our bus. Embarkation: It took us literally 5 minutes. We got on the express pass line(there was no line) and we were on the ship 5 minutes later. Just as we boarded we heard an announcement that passengers could now get into their rooms. We were greeted with Champagne and cookies but did not receive an escort to our room. The Cabin: Cabin 8112. I had been in a similar cabin in April so I knew exactly what to expect. What we didn't expect and were really not pleased about was the mold in the bathroom. The mold was in the shower and the bathroom walls. The other unexpected surprise was that our toilet did not work. We did not get a resolution to the toilet problem for almost 4 hours. The mold was never resolved, despite repeated requests. There is ample space for clothes although you might need to get a little creative with some of the space. We had 4 suitcases and were able to get two under the bed. Room Attendant: Not the best we have ever had, and not the worst. I did not feel as though he wanted to go above and beyond, although his assistant did. Other staff members put themselves out, this person seemed to only do what he needed to, no more no less. Dining room: Table 505: We had a wonderful experience in the dining room. our waiter and busboy anticipated our every need. I had explained to Sanjaya our waiter the first night that I had terrible food allergies, and he made sure that everything I had was safe for me to eat. The only thing we noticed which was not really a problem for us, was that our food was never hot. The food overall was excellent. There were a few nights were my allergies prevented me from eating anything on the existing menu, and our waiter, went out of his way to help me with alternatives. Breakfast and Lunch: We never ate in the dining room, but ate up on deck 10. I liked the hamburger grill, sandwich/wrap station, and spa cuisine. The buffets were not that great, but the individual stations were wonderful. Gourmet Bites: Since we never got out of the dining room until 11pm..we couldn't even try them, but they looked really good. Cova Cafe: Loved the frozen coffee drinks..Never tried the pastry cart. Drinks: Soda for me, my husbands drinks in the dining room were made well. Shows: The shows were good. The big production shows were the same as they were in April, and I thought the previous group was better than this one. Sometimes the shows were hard to attend when they had a pre-show for late seating passengers. Many of the tours were 10.5 hours long, and we were exhausted by the time we got back to the ship. pre-shows also did not get attended well in general. We felt badly for one excellent performer who only had about 40 people attend his show. Activities on the ship: We attended art lectures by Justin Newell, the art historian on board. He was excellent. I learned so much useful information to take with me on my tour the following day. We also attended port/shopping talks which were informative. Slot machines which were pretty friendly. We did not do any of the Captains Club activities, because they always seemed to be opposite something else we wanted to do. Spa: I had a full body healing massage, and then a scalp massage. Both massages were very relaxing. The first massage I was not pressured into buying products, the second one just a little. I was a little disappointed because I had requested the same person the 2nd time, and wasn't told until I was there that she was off. I didn't find the reception staff in the spa very friendly. Other staff: We found the rest of this ship's staff to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. The Guest Relations desk went out of their way to help us with a few problems that had come up. Tours: Outstanding with the exception of one tour. The tour guides were incredible, knowledgeable, personable, fun. We opted to do all the ships tours this time, and we don't regret it. There were several extraneous factors which could have ruined a tour if we had done it on our own, and with the ship's tours we knew we were safe. Villefranche: Tenders: Our first port and what a picturesque port. Our tour was at 1:30pm. Monte Carlo and the Grand Casino. Great tour guide. Won on the good old Red white and Blue machine. Florence Italy: Note: If you want any real shopping time on these tours you need to take "A Taste OF" tours which leaves you plenty of time to shop. We had 45 minutes on our tour, which was okay since we knew what we wanted, but we had to scramble. Florence is breathtaking. You need much more than a day to see everything. The Baptistery doors(Go to the art historian's lectures) we felt so smart understanding ahead of time what panel signifies what and how to read the panels. Lunch was included and was a typical Italian Lunch. Rome: Several things have come into play with this port. There was a wildcat taxi strike in Rome which was playing havoc with traffic. The Pope was giving his last speech of the summer, and the usual crowds were doubled because of these 2 events. Our guide was absolutely fantastic. She figured out how we could still do everything we were supposed to, despite the obstacles..So we saw the Vatican Museum, and the Sistine Chapel. We could not get to St. Peter's Basilica, so we went to the Roman Coliseum, then had lunch and finally went back to the Basilica. The re-arranged schedule worked perfectly! Naples: This was the port we decided to do the Exclusive tour. This was the most fantastic tour we have been on, on any of our cruises. There are no words to describe how wonderful our tour guide, bus mates, driver were. The Amalfi Coast is breathtaking. If you have motion sickness beware its twisty and turny, but oh so worth it. Positano and Sorrento are not to be missed. Pompeii was great and we were lucky that the heat was not what was expected. What history! Santorini:Tender: Choppy water! The only bad tour. We went on a wine tasting tour where we were promised old fashioned grape stomping, but where we were taken was a modern factory. Our guide seemed almost bored and really did little to make the tour interesting. There was a tour escort on our tour that told us she was going to let Celebrity know how disappointing this tour was. We decided to meet some friends in Fira where our tour left us, for dinner at the Sphinx. Its a beautiful cliff side place where you can drink and eat and watch an incredible sunset. $$$$$ As we got ready to leave Santorini a yacht nearby gave us a fireworks display which was a nice surprise. The fireworks lasted for about 10 minutes and just filled the sky with color. Note** It was windy and chilly when the sun went down in Santorini. Athens: Pouring down rain at the Acropolis: We had 3 hours to shop at the Plaka. Guide was very good, very informative. Bought a tapestry, lots of shops, high pressure, especially the food places. Note* Don't eat in outdoor cafe called Sikiness. Croatia: Hot hard to breathe there.. Shuttle bus (No tour today) $10.00. No air on the bus.. Walled City overcrowded and hot. Too much for us we went back and spent the afternoon at the pool. Venice: Arrival 11am Entrance into the Grand Canal is beautiful. Masterpieces of Venice tour..EXCELLENT! Evening Gondola ride..disappointing..4 people to a Gondola, so you end up with people you don't know...next time we will go alone. Debarkation: smoother than smooth.. Venice airport: We were there by 8:20 and our flight to Milan wasn't until 12:20pm...NOTE you can't check in until 2 hours before, so we had to find a place to wait with all our luggage. When we finally got to the gate...It a free for all!! Assorted observations and tips: We had bought a scale from Magellens for $7.50 to make sure our luggage was not overweight...it was a great investment...I also bought these neck cooler things that you wet in water and then you can put in the refrig..which weigh nothing and keep you cool for hours...QVC.. You want to have lots of $5 and $10 Euros for tipping on the tours etc.. If you are CC class and can't have or don't like fish they will give you cheese and crackers with some fruit.. If there is nothing on the menu that you want to eat...aside from the steak and chicken which are always available, you can also ask for pasta....If there is a pasta dish you want but something else looks even better..you can ask if you can have an appetizer size portion of the pasta... Make sure you check you mini-bar bill carefully...we were charged for things we never used... If you are a size small don't wait to buy a jacket or sweatshirt in the shops on the ship...if they have smalls they are the first to go... Cova Cafe not to be missed!! Safe in room was fine...we had no problems....there are no safety deposit boxes.. Excursions were the best and most organized we have seen...and this was our 15th cruise.. Sea days at the spa fill up almost immediately so make your reservations as soon as you board...same for the alternative dining... We bought smaller cards for our camera..so if our camera was stolen we would not lose everything....We burned them to a CD each day...and we took more than 900 pictures...once you burn them though you can't add to the same CD... We used under the clothes wallets and had no problems..My husband and another gentleman did feel someone lightly touch their back pocket...Just be careful and wise...we only carried one credit card each and enough cash for that day...we wore little to no jewelry.. Beware of the kids...and beware of gypsies with babies...they will pretend to almost drop it..and while you go to grab it...they take your wallet... we were told they are not even real babies but dolls...Just be smart and you will be fine! Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2006
SHIP REVIEW Arrived in Barcelona 3 days early. Well worth the days. Toured using the Bus Turista to get a taste of Barcelona, which was great! Stayed at the 5 star Majestic Hotel on Paseo de Gracia (just like 5th ave in NY) fantastic! ... Read More
SHIP REVIEW Arrived in Barcelona 3 days early. Well worth the days. Toured using the Bus Turista to get a taste of Barcelona, which was great! Stayed at the 5 star Majestic Hotel on Paseo de Gracia (just like 5th ave in NY) fantastic! Embarkation: arrived at 12:00pm by taxi from hotel (10 minute drive)to no lines and no waiting. Since we are Captains Club are check in was separate but still a perfect time to arrive for anyone. Boarded our first Celebrity cruise (more than 10 with Royal Caribbean) minutes later. Cabin: #6049 with Balcony is a adjoining cabin which we specifically requested NOT to have but got it and was not able to be switched since the ship was sold out. Do not stay in one unless you want to hear all that goes on in the next cabin. The balcony door was broken so we heard the ocean in our cabin everyday and the curtain was also falling down. We complained several times but the balcony door was never right/quiet nor was the curtain fixed. The bathroom tile was cracked and stained; however, the cabin attendant was exceptional. Dining/Food: We had dinner in the dining room each night except the 1 night we dined at the Olympic (specialty dining) where there was a $30 PP extra charge for this experience. The food was very good and service excellent. You could easily dine for 2 1/2 + hours but we asked to finish within 2 hours since we wanted to continue the evening at a show or casino. The regular dining room food was fair to good and the service excellent. The dinner choices were somewhat limited. We had a table for 8 and one of the couples was on cruisecritic.com and were from Scotland, the other 2 couples were both from England. Entertainment: The shows that I attended were very enjoyable and the individual entertainers very talented. The Celebrity singers and dancers were great and really put on great shows. The port days were long and active so many people didn't attend the late shows but the ship had several predinner shows. Activities: were plentiful to take advantage of and participate. From pool games, to art auction to on board shopping to bingo etc.. Sports activities were also well attended. From basketball which my husband played frequently to golf lessons with Dale the golf pro which my husband raved about and was incredible. Golfing at the Belfry in Scotland with a dining room tablemate at the simulator was splendid. Services: I enjoyed the well equipped workout area and machines at the AquaSpa but was disappointed that several machines were broken the entire trip. I also used a spa service which was good but unhappy being provided with 2 stained and old robes to use. The internet and computer dept was wonderful with helpful assistance and direction. The DSL speed was more than adequate to e-mail and wireless areas abundant. SHORE EXCURSIONS Shore Excursions: This trip really focused on the ports and experiencing a side of the world that is so rich in history and beauty. My husband and I are very active and in our mid 40's. We were not interested in excursions with a bus load of people and having to wait for everyone and go by a schedule. We found several recommended private tours through cruisecritic.com members and booked them. Compared to the ships rate for the same excursions, we opted to go private and so happy we did for all except 3 tours. All of the private tours included all of the ship's recommended sites plus the ability to stop and photograph, shop and eat that we requested. VERY IMPORTANT Nice(Villefranche)for our 1st port Frederick from dream-tours.com toured us through the French Riviera and was wonderful and HIGHLY Recommended. Filled with knowledge and details of all the sites we had a terrific day that included Eze Village, Monaco, Nice, Cannes and St Paul. Another couple (honeymooners from Canada) joined us and we hit it off so well we invited them on all the other tours we booked. They joined us on 3 others.. Florence/Pisa (Livorno, Italy) we used limoinrome.com and our driver Paulo who explained all the sites including the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa and took us to a castle and winery in the Tuscan countryside which was breathtaking. Also HIGHLY Recommended. Florence is a great mecca of shopping and we definitely contributed to Florence's economy. Rome (Civitavecchia, Italy) Vincent was our driver this time through limoinrome.com. We visited every major site and then some. He provided us with explanation and pictures before we toured the site and timed the stops so fantastic that we didn't wait in line for ANY venues. Naples/Capri Our driver from sorrentolimo.com was nice but very disappointing with virtual no communication (he did speak English)or explanation of the sites. We drove the Almalfi Coast and visited Sorrento, Positano and Pompei which is highly recommended..just better with a good driver. These locations are beautiful and breathtaking and a definite MUST. Santorini is a place we want to return to thanks also to Nikos and Anna at santorinitours.com. HIGHLY Recommended. Nikos toured us all over and explained the history and sites. He also is a professional photographer and took pictures of us with his camera throughout the day and provided us a CD of those pictures. This island is absolutely beautiful and fortunate to experience a sunset that compares to no others. We visited the main village of Oai (shopping and picture taking), Fira and the black and red beaches. Our best meal of all the ports was a local favorite, with the best Greek food. Athens tour was provided by Mikis at athenstaxi.net, who was thorough and extremely knowledgeable and HIGHLY recommended. A few other families from the ship (including the Gilbert family we met from cruisecritic.com) used this company and we all had a wonderful time throughout the day meeting up at several sites and all had lunch together at a seaside cafe with excellent food and reasonable prices. Dubrovnik was a ship excursion because we didn't find a recommendation of a private company. I know why now, because one is not needed. This is a port you can do on your own. Walking the walls of the city is the highlight which you can purchase a ticket and walk the walk. It is fascinating and enjoyed the site. Venice day 1 we purchased a water taxi transfer from the ship to St. Marc's Square..the only way to get into the heart of Venice unless you purchase a tour. We did it on our own with the Gilbert family and toured Venice through public water taxis. This is so amazing compared to city bus services..water is the way to go. We purchased a all day water taxi pass that you can use to Murano and Burano and throughout the city. We did purchase a gondola ride through the ship which was quite enjoyable for 45 minutes but again we could have purchased one on our own cheaper. The gondolas held 4-6 people and we were joined by another couple from California that even though it was the last full day of the cruise, became friendly and exchanged e-mail, phone etc. Venice last day and disembarkation included a ship's 4 hour excursion to Padua and airport transfer, all included in price. Our flight was 5:00pm and wanted to have part of the day touring. The ship wouldn't store luggage and we didn't know the airport would store it so we took this tour. This was one we should have planned better to spend more time in Venice. Venice airport is 15 minutes from the port. Either way, it was the most organized and smoothest disembarkation ever to get our luggage and go to the bus. OVERALL EXPERIENCE Overall we expected a step or two above Royal Caribbean and for the most part it was true. The ship is 6 years old and showing its age in many places; however, still classy and laid out well. A refurbishment and "makeover" will be well worth it. The experience was fabulous and the friends we made will be lasting. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2006
This cruise was marvelous and we loved every minute of it. We arranged our airfare ourselves and arrived in Venice a day early. Well worth the extra time in Venice. Beautiful though we we disappointed in the graffiti all over the city. We ... Read More
This cruise was marvelous and we loved every minute of it. We arranged our airfare ourselves and arrived in Venice a day early. Well worth the extra time in Venice. Beautiful though we we disappointed in the graffiti all over the city. We took a water taxi to the ship with another couple and that made it so easy. Celebrity greeted us at the water taxi station and took our luggage while we walked over to the ship. It took less than 5 min to get our keys and then we were on the ship. We were not Con. class but were greeted with a glass of champagne and escorted to our cabin. That set the stage for a wonderful cruise. Our luggage arrived about 2 hrs later. All ports of calls were fantastic though I found Athens nothing more than a very big city with amazing ruins. Santorini is something we hope to go back to along with the Sorrento coast of Italy. VilleFranche was such a quaint little town we never left it to go to Monaco, but then we had visited there a few years back. We loved the ship, the crew, the food, and the service. We were made to feel special the entire cruise. Everyone had a smile on their face and it amazed me how the crew remembered me and my wants. For ex I only had to ask for diet soda once at dinner and every night when I came down,there were 2 diet sodas waiting for me. We found the food exceptional. Everything just as our waiter described, food cooked to our desires and great company. I thought the entertainment was great, but by husband did not enjoy it as much and felt it was less than professional (dancers). I loved the comedian, but he didn't but overall we were not disappointed. In fact, we love the service and Celebrity so much, we booked another cruise with them for Feb of 08, before we left the ship. This was a cruise of a lifetime for us and we had high expectations. CELEBRITY DELIVERED!!!!!! Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2006
My wife and I, experienced cruisers, had heard that the Galapagos cruise was "the trip of a lifetime," and expected the islands to be fantastic. We had known others who had been on (more)expensive tours than ours, and although ... Read More
My wife and I, experienced cruisers, had heard that the Galapagos cruise was "the trip of a lifetime," and expected the islands to be fantastic. We had known others who had been on (more)expensive tours than ours, and although they loved the tours had less than enthusiastic things to say about the ship they were on. We had never cruised on a ship as small as the Expedition, and thus did not expect much of the shipboard experience itself. Boy, were we positively surprised by the ship, and on board experience! The Expedition is a 5 year old ship designed originally for a different purpose, but purchased by Celebrity a few years ago. It had just returned from dry dock before our boarding, and was "spic an span" with new carpeting and upholstery. The rooms are GREAT--roomy and nicely appointed for such a small ship. We were in the least expensive cabin on the ship, but it was as nice and comfortable as more expensive cabins. All are outside, and the more expensive cabins had a larger window, but ours was "just fine." There are a few balcony cabins (more expensive), but the tours are so wonderful,and the ship is so small there is little need for the extra expenditure. The food is "exceptional" and the dining room very nice. There is no reason to "dress up" for dinner, with slacks and polo shirts just fine. There is a large lounge with bar--super. There is even a small gift shop with most everything you might need, including sundries, clothing, dvds, and even galapagos jewelry. There is an outside eating area as well. One night we even had dinner under the stars, and one night a special Ecuadorian dinner. Although the ship is wonderful, the best thing about the Expedition is the crew. From the Captain, to the Maitre D, the waiters, cleaning crew, to the Cruise Director and Guide Staff ("Naturalists") everyone is exceptional. On most cruises the staff smiles on cue, and appears to be responsive to the needs of the guests, on this ship it looks like the staff REALLY IS what they appear to be. Everyone was so kind, happy, professional and really seemed to enjoy the guests and their own jobs. There is an open bridge policy, and the Captain and staff seemed to love showing us around. There was also a chance to visit the cooking staff and tour the kitchen---often available on other ships, but on this one we really felt welcome! There was even a young man who played the piano (and other local instruments) in the evening and during outside dinners. He was great as well. The best of the crew however was the Cruise Director, Jason, and the naturalists. Although the ship holds 96 passengers, on our cruise there were only 74, with 6 naturalists. Each evening Jason told us about the following days tours (generally 2 per day), and gave us a choice of High, Medium, or Low intensity activities. With these choices guest of all physical conditions could participate. During the day, he gave lectures on the geology, and socialization on the Islands. The ship, even though small, cannot land on the islands directly, so from the ship guest are loaded onto rubber rafts (like the ones used by the Naval Seals) called Zodiacs. The Zodiac drivers were wonderful, and if a special animal was spotted, the drivers would stop the Zodiac or circle around so each of the 10-15 guests could snap as many pictures as they wanted. Of course, the Galapagos are all about the scenery, and the animals. Sea Lions, Turtles, Tortoises, Iguanas, Birds of all types and sizes and colors, and other animals---were unbelievable. The animals have no fear of humans, and will walk up to you (or vice-versa) without seeming to mind the presence of the visitors with cameras and binoculars. Many of the animals are only found in these Islands, and after visiting it is understandable how Darwin used what he saw there to help develop his theory of Evolution. My wife and I took over 2000 pictures!!!! The Expedition provides many useful extras: Binoculars, Wet Suits (the waters are cold, but once in are not too cold), Snorkeling gear, and Bathrobes, to name a few. The last night of the cruise, all guests are given a very special gift (I won't reveal what it is, so that you can be as wonderfully surprised as we. There is plenty of time for shopping at the 2 Islands where shops are found, and at the Airport on day of departure (Shirts, hats, and knick knacks are relatively inexpensive). There is even nice jewelry found on Santa Cruz, the Saturday before departure. There is internet available on the ship at a cost of $30/60 minutes). The minutes can be used throughout the cruise, but the connections are generally slow). With the exception of internet, purchases and premium liquors---everything else is INCLUDED IN THE COST OF THE CRUISE. Drinks are included---even gratuities to staff and naturalists! A heartwarming touch was the disembarkation, when Jason and all of the Naturalists accompanied the guests to the airport, and remained there until the time the flight was called, at which time they hugged us and shook hands and seemed to genuinely thank US for having been there! My wife and I made our own pre and post cruise arrangements in Quito (and saved alot of money compared to the Celebrity package), and would be happy to provide more details by email if anyone is interested. The bottom line is this---If you love nature, unusual animals, fantastic scenery that is photo perfect, and a cruise that is A number 1--the Expedition is the one to take---indeed, it is the TRIP OF A LIFETIME. Harry (& Benay) Croft Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
Celebrity Millennium Friday May 25, 2007 Venice to Barcelona Background Information: We're age 55 cruisers celebrating 35 years of marriage and live in New Jersey near New York City. Our three previous cruises were all in the ... Read More
Celebrity Millennium Friday May 25, 2007 Venice to Barcelona Background Information: We're age 55 cruisers celebrating 35 years of marriage and live in New Jersey near New York City. Our three previous cruises were all in the Caribbean: 1995 RCCL Monarch of the Seas, 1992 Majesty of the Seas, and 1974 Sitmar Fairwind. We have had no prior experience in Europe. Our planning began November, 2006, with comparisons among the many cruise lines and vessels in the Mediterranean. Our selection of Celebrity's Millennium was based on recommendations from friends, positive press, schedule and ports of call. All of our travel arrangements were made via the web without a TA. Travel and Embarkation: We were able to fly nonstop from NYC JFK to Venice on Delta, the premium being a few hundred dollars. Our flight was delayed by 3 hours and the baggage claim at Venice was dreadful, with over 45 minutes spent collecting our luggage. Thus, we were almost 4 hours behind schedule by the time we reached the Venice airport exit. Luckily, an automobile taxi was easy to hire, and the drive from the airport to the maritime terminal was quick and easy (35 euros plus tip). Our taxi driver (male) sweet-talked an attractive young (female, heavily armed) security guard at the terminal entrance, but I think this was more for our enjoyment than furthering the cause of global security. I've never before heard the words "mi amore" used to gain secure entrance. Celebrity's embarkation personnel were more efficient than friendly and we were boarded quickly. Net, we were on the ship at about 1:30 pm local time and thoroughly jet-lagged. Stateroom: Our cabin was 9067 category CC, port side forward. Our cabin, closets and bathroom were sufficiently roomy and clean, and we enjoyed that deck 9 allowed us easy access to the pool, spa, and restaurants on deck 10. However, there was a large overhang that blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the cabin and a lower deck might be a better choice. The cabin contained a small loveseat and cocktail table; the balcony held two chairs and table, neither table was very large. The television had very few channels, not even CNN, so thanks everybody for keeping the world safe while we vacationed. Ship Info: The Millennium is well maintained but it's not new. We felt that the bi-level Metropolitan Dining room was beautiful, however the central galleria through the midships was plain and not to the glitzy standard we remembered from the RCCL ships. The theatre, nightclubs, casino, bars, disco were comfortable and well appointed. The exercise machines and treadmills in the spa were aged and several were broken. Elevators and stairwells have interesting artwork and were well-placed and speedy; we had no trouble "navigating" to locations on a timely basis. Apparently, some of the "quiet" spaces on the Millennium have been sacrificed for a new acupuncture spa and for internet cafes. The library remains a nice quiet space and it stocked some interesting material. Service: We expected excellent service, but we were disappointed when one of our four suitcases was delayed aboard ship for hours, and nobody could offer any reasonable explanation. We were dismayed as we had carefully overseen the retrieval of our bags from our taxi and watched them being placed in the cart for delivery to the ship. Finally, our junior stateroom attendant took the initiative and located the bag in a "holding area for bags that had been stripped of their Celebrity ID tags". I tipped him 5 euros on the spot. Beyond this, we felt that service was excellent. With rare exception, all personnel spoke excellent English and were eager to please. We routinely were delighted with our cabin stewards and one of the attendants at the pool who "attached" himself to us. Noteworthy is that the "Concierge Class" designation did not seem to mean anything outside of your cabin; we were given special "CC" tender tickets but there was no need at the times we tendered. Certainly, it is nice to have the CC champagne, fruit and flowers, but maybe it just means that you'll get the better stateroom attendants. Dining: Breakfasts, whether room-service, dining room, or buffet, were ordinary. We did enjoy the buffet lunches served on Deck 10; occasionally there was fresh seafood available (the mussels served after Athens were outstanding!). CanapEs were brought each afternoon to our room and our attendants learned to bring cranberry juice (to mix with our bon voyage vodka). Thanks, very nice. We scheduled the 2nd seating dinner; we had not requested special arrangements and were assigned to a table for four, with an interesting couple our age from London. The service in the Metropolitan dining room was excellent and our waiter generally steered us to the best choices on the daily menu. He often brought extra entrees that we could "sample". I found that the beef dishes were my favorites, possibly because beef holds up to refrigeration. Our sommelier was pleasant and he graciously served us the bottles sent as bon voyage gifts to our room. We reserved and were thoroughly delighted with the Olympic Dining room on two evenings. You must make your Olympic reservations quickly after boarding. The menu choices were limited but high-quality. On the first evening, we both chose the "Menu Exceptional" wine tastings menu and, while it was quite interesting, it did slow down the meal. I think the second evening was better when we chose (with the sommelier's help) a fine bottle of California chardonnay and informed the wait staff that we needed to be out for the 9 PM show (dinner started at 7 PM). We just made it! The Olympic's harpist (who we found out is married to the maitre d') had taken our request on the first evening for "Love is a Many Splendored Thing", our first dance at our wedding in 1972. She was able to rehearse and perform at our second visit to the Olympic (our 35th anniversary). Nice, thanks! The "Greek Night" buffet held by the pool (Santorini) was very special, as the sun is setting and if you have a table on deck 11 the views can be exquisite. I would recommend this as a more relaxed approach unless you absolutely, positively have to see the sunset from Oia (and then fight the crowds down the funicular). The chocolate midnight buffet was disappointing, and honestly none of the cakes, breads, or deserts aboard were tasty by our standards. We did not visit the gala midnight buffet held later in the cruise (12:30 am, yawn). Activities: Bon Voyage - Full liters of Grey Goose ($80) and Absolut ($60) can be ordered through the Bon Voyage program. If your friends did not get the hint, order the bottles for yourself. Spa: Madame enjoyed a 5-day massage package (it is important to confirm your massage schedule quickly upon boarding) and thought the massages were good value. The thalossotherapy pool in the Aqua spa was my favorite, especially after a hard day on shore. The warm, bubbling salt water rapidly dissolves the pain from your sore legs, knees and feet. I want to get one of these at home! Shopping: We enjoyed the humorous presentations by Jennifer, the young lady who operates the Millennium's shopping excursions desk. We used her recommendations quite a bit and came home with a "boatload" of stuff. As Jennifer says, if you're a "white knuckler" (definition: scary term used to describe people who would rather avoid the ship's packaged tours), you'll want to listen to her presentations as she's the only one aboard who knows the local transportation options. The ship's excursions desk as you might imagine is interested in selling the packaged tours and doesn't really know about other transportation. Photos: The ship's photographers are busy most evenings and we purchased several prints; however they make much use of artificial background screens; on the RCCL Monarch we had an excellent shoot with the ship's grand piano and foyer as a background. We were able to get a photographer to take our picture in the Olympic, just ask the maitre d'. Pool: Sea days we spent at the pool, in the sunshine, and it was crowded at times; the bar attendants always managed to "find" two lounge chairs in the sun for us before they took our order for cocktails. There are always "drinks du jour" for $4.95 and it's an effective way to get some chairs. Tip: order a bottle of Pellegrino sparkling water, it's just $3.95 and will last a few hours. The band plays during the afternoons but nobody got too wild, not even the folks from Brazil. Nightlife: The casino was always busy, however luck was not with us and after losing at 3-card poker, we decided to cut and run. We frequently enjoyed the Cova Cafe, Michael's, the Rendezvous Lounge, Martini Bar, and Aft Lounge which had some nice performers. The Disco seemed to always be "canned" music (no band, no DJ) and we avoided it. The Rendezvous Lounge seemed to have the most activity, including a couple of crazies and some beautiful people (if you were aboard, you know who I mean). Entertainment: Shows often included special guest, including Broadway stars, an Irish comedian, a magician / piano wizard, etc. who we thought were quite entertaining. To be kind, the Celebrity singers and dancers could not hold our interest; we would always sit upstairs (Deck 5) where we could easily exit the show (and often did). Shore Excursions: We looked forward to shore excursions and frankly, the reason for traveling to the Mediterranean has to be the ports of call and not the ship. We especially wanted to avoid too many canned tours, recognizing that learning, relaxation and fun occur in many different ways. We wanted to try to swim at all the beaches, talk to people and enjoy as many lunches off the ship as possible; we were somewhat successful at doing this. Excursion details follow below. . . Disembarkation: Quick and uneventful. We took a taxi to Hotel 1898 on Las Ramblas, for about 17 euros. The hotel was quite elegant, with a basement pool/spa and rooftop pool and bar. Our room included breakfast, a bottle of champagne, an outdoor veranda, and an elegant marble bath. The front desk staff were very helpful and the frankly everybody seemed happy. Note that the Barcelona airport has several terminals and it wasn't easy to figure out which one was Delta's (our taxi had to circle the terminals at additional expense for us). Delta's folks carefully weigh your bags, and they were ready to slap a 25 euro penalty on one of ours. We howled and they allowed us to rebalance (we had 4 checked bags and 2 carry-ons) but it was not a pleasant experience. The nonstop flight on Delta to NYC JFK was smooth and they had tasty food and free wine with dinner. Summary: We enjoyed the trip fully, and we think that the Celebrity Millennium offered us good value. It's hard to figure out where the competition stacks up and I suspect that all the cruise lines remain very competitive. As you know, the euro is killing the dollar right now. A friend warned us that the trip would cost $15,000 total, but he was wrong: it was more than $18,000. You might consider budgeting $8,000 for the CC cabin, up to $3,000 for nonstop air plus airport transfers, up to $1,000 per day for hotel plus meals either in Barcelona or Venice, $1,500 aboard the Millennium, $1,500 on shore excursions, and whatever you have left on gifts, souvenirs and your pre-cruise expenses for clothes, camera and luggage upgrades. Opinion: nothing will ever compare to thrill of our Sitmar cruise from 1974, but that was 33 years ago and we were only 22 years old: we didn't know how good it was. We might be tempted to try a line like Regent or Crystal for a next voyage as they should have smaller, more intimate ships that reach the smaller ports. Shore Excursions Venice: I thought Venice was a challenging port; it was hot and crowded, Celebrity charges $20 per person per day for water ferry service to Piazza San Marco, and we were jet lagged both Friday and Saturday. Nevertheless, on Friday we visited the Basilica San Marco which had allowed me to make a reservation through the web. We then wandered around a bit in the piazza, taking photos and admiring the pigeons; we had some nice gelato, but to be honest we were exhausted and needed to rest. Returning to the ship, we rested and later got some night photos of the other cruise ships in port. At about 10 am Saturday, we were back to the Piazza San Marco, where we wandered up through the shopping area to the RialtoBridge. There were lots of people in town, and I can't imagine what it must be like in peak summer months. We hired a gondolier near the Rialto bridge, and caveat emptor: we were promised a 30 minute 100 euro ride, we agreed, once in the boat he offered a "45 minute ride to see everything" for 150 euros, we agreed, about 35 minutes later, after being paddled through the foul back canals and seeing little of interest, we were back at the dock at the bridge with the gondoliers demanding 150 euros! Their explanation as to why we hadn't "seen everything" was "there was heavy traffic in the canals". OK. So why had the 45 minutes turned into 35 minutes and not 55 minutes? "There was heavy traffic in the canals". I guess it's more difficult to paddle the gondola at 1 mile an hour than 5 miles an hour. As it was the start of our vacation, I was reluctant to let this spiral out of control; I paid the 150 euros but please don't let this happen to you. We were upset with the gondola charade but decided to make the best of it. We bought some nice Venetian lace at a shop just off the Piazza San Marco, and enjoyed lots of window shopping and people watching. The last water taxi back to the Millennium is at 2:00 pm for the 3:00 pm sailing, thus our opportunities for a nice lunch were very limited. In summary, Venice is an interesting place and it pays to be well prepared or go with an experienced tour; we look forward to another visit with better planning on our part. The places we saw were highly commercial and everybody understood English reasonably well. Dubrovnik: Sunday had to be Croatia's national holiday as its president was in town, security was tight and the Croatian Royal Air Force was flying in formation overhead (no jokes, please). Celebrity ran buses to town ($12 pp) and I highly recommend a self-guided tour here as it is very straightforward. Life in the suburbs does not fully prepare you for a medieval walled city. Where are the green spaces? Where do I park? We intended to walk the walls but the prospect of negotiating our way through the crowds of people already up there (there were 4 ships in town!) held us back. Good decision. We walked through the Strada, out the back gate, and into the modern city looking for Banje Beach. After all, it was a nice day and the sun was inviting. We found the beach, but unfortunately it was closed until 1:00 pm (Sunday?), and quite frankly it looked much better in the photos. Up close, it's gravel and the facilities looked a bit run down; thus expired our last, best chance to swim in the Adriatic Sea. Back to town, we wandered outside the walls along the harbor; there were some street vendors (we bought nice Adriatic coral jewelry) and the sunshine and breeze were refreshing. We hit the churches and museums and found a nice lunch in an alley off the Strada. Fish, squid, white wine and beer! Not bad. Cost was 250 kuna which is just $50. In summary, Dubrovnik is a nice place to visit but we don't feel compelled to hurry back. It will probably still be here, unchanged, in the year 2107. The people were very friendly and in the commercial places, English seemed commonly used. Santorini: After a day at sea, we were rested and ready for Santorini. I was up before 6:00 am expecting a spectacular sunrise, but it was a bit foggy. We had scheduled the ship's volcano/hot springs tour at 09:00, which was interesting and provided quite a bit of exercise. Yes, we made it to the top but God bless anyone who did not have good sneakers. The second half of the tour brought us to the volcano "hot springs" where all were invited to dive off the boat and swim towards shore. Unfortunately, the captain announced that the boat was anchored in 8 meters of water (I'm not a strong swimmer) and it appeared to be 50 meters to shore. Haha, so my wife got to enjoy the hot springs without me. She said they were not so hot after all but I have the photos and it sure looked like fun. The boat then took us to the Santorini docks, where we had been given funicular tickets as part of the tour package. It was quick and uncrowded at that time (noon). We never got to see the poor donkeys (rumor has it that evil people are reincarnated as Santorini donkeys!). The views from Fira are spectacular! We went looking for the bus to Kamari Beach, without any luck, but found ourselves at a taxi stand where we negotiated to share a car with a couple heading out to the airport, 10 euros. Kamari beach is special and we loved it. There is a little town, with hotels, shops, and plenty of restaurants (and what looked like late night hotspots). The beach has thatched umbrellas and lounge chairs; rent was 7 euros for the two of us. Speaking of volcanic rocks, whoever said Kamari had "black sand" must have a lifetime poetic license. But the blue water was beautiful and the views are totally awesome! Finally, we were swimming in the Aegean Sea. We grabbed lunch right next to the beach: Greek salad, Santorini white wine, and some nice fish; about 45 euros. A serious nap on the beach was next. Santorini is a great day as the ship doesn't set sail until late. We taxied back to Fira and enjoyed bargaining in the fairly expensive jewelry shops. Unfortunately, we found no deals but the salespeople sure were polished. We enjoyed cocktails looking out across the many ships in the caldera and took some memorable photos. Based on the morning's sunrise experience, we opted not to wait in Fira for the sunset but headed back to the ship. The Greek night special buffet was set around the ship's pool decks, very nice with lamb and a whole assortment of specialties. We again enjoyed some Santorini white wine, unfortunately Millennium's price is about double what we paid at lunch. Sunset was ordinary, the fog preventing us from experiencing the advertised spectacular sunset. In summary, Santorini was a great place and well deserves a return visit. Food and drink prices were not bad when compared to Italy, France and Spain. The people were happy and understood English without much trouble. Athens: We were determined to "go it alone" in Athens based on Tom Ogg's excellent instructions at website www.europeportreviews.com and we were not disappointed. Note that the walk from the cruise ship terminal (past literally dozens and dozens of aggressive taxi drivers) was lengthy (about 30 minutes, at least 1 ½ miles) but we easily found the pedestrian bridge which leads directly to the Piraeus Metro station. We purchased 24-hour passes for 3 euros each. The metro runs quickly to Victoria station, and a short walk leads to the National Archeological Museum. We spent about 90 minutes, nice photos and an interesting learning experience. We backtracked on the Metro to the Monastiraki station, which leads directly to the Plaka and then the Acropolis. First stop on our agenda was to be lunch at O Platanos, highly recommended by no less than the New York Times. We were not disappointed in any way; delicious lunch including a 750ml bottle of Athenian white wine was less than 40 euros, and we were entertained during that time by an assortment of look-alike cats begging for table scraps and a sad-eyed little boy playing a single tune on a bouzouki. We gave the boy a euro and he moved to another table, but later I had regrets about supporting what should be considered child abuse. Near O Platanos, we happened to be consulting our Celebrity shopping map when a young woman in a carpet shop, recognizing the map, motioned us inside! She was exceptionally pleasant, her shop was on Celebrity's approved list of vendors, and she offered us multiple glasses of her father's homemade wine. We succumbed. About 30 minutes later, we emerged with a 65 euro silk and wool rug, about 40" x 60", which was rolled up so tightly that it fit neatly into my backpack. Prices started in the hundreds of euros for a roomfull of rugs so be sure to bargain carefully for only what you really need. By the way, the rug looks really nice back home and we're glad we bought it. We wandered through the Plaka and surrounding ruins and made our way up toward the Parthenon. It was getting hot, and along the way we met an assortment of folks coming down looking tired and bedraggled. As we neared the entrance to the Parthenon (14 euros each) we started having second thoughts about the "necessity of climbing another 300 steps to see the grandmother of all western civilization". Well, you probably guessed that we didn't do it and you're right. Instead, we scaled a nearby (and free) hilltop and got some great photos. Reversing direction, we made our way back through the Plaka, the Monastiraki flea market (disappointing) and back via the Metro to the ship. The thalossotherapy pool felt good that evening! In summary, Athens was great and we look forward to a return visit. The Metro was easy to use, the people were friendly and our English was readily understood. Naples: There are so many options in Naples that you can make yourself crazy. We had been warned that Pompeii was hot and dusty and that Sorrento and the Amalfi coast were significant drives. The simple option for us "white knucklers" was: see Capri! We walked a few minutes to the Molo Beverello terminal (just north of the passenger ship terminal) and attempted to navigate the crowds surrounding the ticketing windows. There was a 9:10 hydrofoil scheduled to Capri, but the queues and general disorganization seemed daunting. Luckily for us, a street urchin grabbed me by the hand saying, "Where you going?", we said Capri, and he led us around the corner to the correct window. A few minutes and 30 euros later, we were boarding; I gave the little boy 2 euros and he smacked me on the behind. Apparently, he was expecting some folding money. Maybe he was training to be a gondolier! Capri was exquisite, but we were paranoid from reading too many travel guides, and immediately bought our return tickets for the 2:10 pm hydrofoil (too early!). We took the funicular up to the top, and proceeded to tour Capri town. There are people in abundance, and there are churches to be seen, but the major touristic occupations seem to be shopping and eating. We did not resist, and several hours and hundreds of euros later we found ourselves at the Gardens of Augustus, a beautiful space overlooking the faraglioni. Apparently, it is possible to walk yourself down the mountain to the "beach", and maybe it helps if you are spiderman, but we did not attempt. We just made the 2:10 return, and back at Molo Beverello we opted to see why folks call Naples "gritty": true grit, apparently, is required just to cross the street along the waterfront, where 5 lanes of automobiles, insane motorcyclists plus trolleys target you, the touristic pedestrian. We just did make it, toured the Castel Nuovo and the downtown opera house, the church and various big old buildings. Certainly, some investment should be made here as the location is sadly rundown but appears to have been magnificent at some time in the past. Returning to the Millennium, we found that happy hour had started without us, and the thalossotherapy pool beckoned. In summary, Naples is a top port of call and I think a return visit is warranted; maybe a short stay in a nice hotel. English certainly seems the second language of choice and we had few problems communicating. Rome: Note that both Civitavecchia (Rome) and Livorno (Florence) do not provide convenient port arrangements for passengers wanting to tour independently using public transportation. In Rome, we had made advance arrangements through Cruise Connect friends for a 9-hour private driver, who picked up the 8 of us promptly at 8:00 am. Unfortunately, none of us (including the driver) realized that Saturday, June 2nd is a national holiday (the anniversary of the republic). While the drive to the city was quick, the city itself was congested, with roads closed for parades and too many people enjoying the apparently "free holiday admission" to the many public places. We made the best of it, seeing the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the multitude of Egyptian obelisks, etc. and arrived at the Vatican Museums for our pre-scheduled tour which included a professional guide. It felt good to unload a whole bunch of euros to avoid the miles-long lines, but frankly our guide was more interested in impressing us with her incredibly detailed historical knowledge than in quickly escorting us "through the stuff". Excuse me for saying this, and I will undoubtedly burn in hell for all eternity, but the Sistine Chapel was decidedly less beautiful than the photos led me to believe (seemingly no artificial lighting) and thus the high point of the tour was a disappointment for me. It seemed like we spent 4 hours at the Vatican yet didn't get to see St. Peter's Basilica, so some better timing and brisk action would have helped us considerably. At the Coliseum, the crowds were waiting for me, Sistine Chapel blasphemer, to be thrown to the lions. We circled and circled, looking for the pre-paid entry, finally realizing that our "reservations" from Select Italy were good for nothing on the holiday. Rather than wait in line, we walked through the Roman forum and enjoyed the ruins on what was a beautiful spring day. In summary, I think we managed through a situation that was beyond our control, and the limousine company and Select Italy refunded an appropriate amount of their fees. Frankly, 8 or 9 hours is way too short a time to enjoy the splendors of Rome, and a return visit (perhaps 2-3 nights in a nice hotel) seems well worth the trouble. We enjoyed Rome, and certainly I have not seen a more cosmopolitan city; our English was easily understood. Florence: We booked the ship's "Florence on your Own" tour, which consisted of an escorted bus, well air conditioned; with a clean morning rest stop that included a "shopping opportunity" at a leather factory. Several passengers were annoyed at this but happily, as it was a Sunday, traffic was very light and we arrived in Florence before 10:00 am. We had advance tickets to the Uffizi (through Select Italy) with a timed entry of 11:00 am. However, the delays were simply unbelievable and if we hadn't paid in advance, I would have walked away. I'll simply say that we stood from approximately 10:30 am until 11:45 before we were admitted. I'm still flabbergasted that they sell advance, timed entry tickets and then refuse to let you enter at that time. Fast forwarding through the museum, we exited just after 1:00 pm and proceeded to locate the shopping recommended by the Millennium. Similar to Santorini, the recommended shops were expensive and offered little value. However, we discovered a great little leather place with an elegant Florentine gentleman, who spoke to us in Italian slowly and softly as if we could understand better that way. His leather handbags were excellent and Madame purchased three for the bargain price of 115 euros. Now we were happy! Recharging with some walk-away pizza, we circled the duomo (Sunday mass being said, we were not able to enter) and headed for the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. Although some of the famed jewelers were closed (Sunday), the remainder seemed to offer decent value although we did not make any purchases. We enjoyed some cocktails before the afternoon bus; the return from Florence departed at 3:30 pm and we took the scenic way out of the city. In summary, Florence seems like a nicely compact little city, easy to walk (i.e., flat) with interesting sights. A return visit seems worthwhile, leaving plenty of time for lunch and less time for museums! Villefranche: I was conflicted about visiting France; our daughter had had an unhappy high school trip to Paris that included some rude behavior by restaurant waitpersons, etc. I tried to learn a few words of French before the trip, but fortunately for us, everyone we met in Villefranche and Nice were pleasant and professional. We tendered in relatively early, walked to the railway station (note the trains seemed to run on the wrong track compared to America) and caught a 9:50 am train into Nice. Note, that the machine selling tickets accepts euro coins only and is in French, good luck. Within a few minutes we debarked at Nice-Ville station, and walked up the street to the main Avenue Jean Medecin, which I'll describe as the "5th Avenue" of Nice. We enjoyed the approximate 1 mile walk to the sea, stopping at the Basilique Notre Dame, and the Nice-Etoile town center (shopping mall). Naïve student of humanity that I am, I'm always fascinated by the fact that malls sell the same things everywhere on the planet. We toured the Promenade des Anglais, stopping at the Hotel Negresco for terrific photos of their decidedly weird artwork. Lunch was beyond our credit limit at the Negresco, but we found an excellent lunch at the plage Beau Rivage, about 72 euros plus tip, right on the beach. Note well that actual sand is in short supply and that the female clientele believe topless applies to all ages. There was a terrific flea market active in Vieux Nice, and we spent quite a bit of time looking for bargains. We returned via the bus station at Gare Routiere, a short walk from the old town. In Villefranche, we enjoyed some nice photo opportunities but we thought that the shops were much too kitschy even for us. We tendered back to the Millennium and enjoyed some canapEs and martinis while enjoying the tres bon Villefranche views. Summarizing, we enjoyed very much our brief visit to the spectacular south of France; our lunch was possibly the best of the entire trip, on or off the ship. Our lack of language skills did not interfere with our visit. Barcelona: A day at sea precedes debarkation, and we spent plenty of time enjoying the ship (and packing our bags). Our hotel (the Hotel 1898) was centrally located and, in retrospect, we probably spent too much time relaxing in the hotel and people watching on Las Ramblas. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the 2-day pass on the Touristic Bus and spent quite a bit of time at both the Sagrada Familia and the ancient cathedral in the Barre Gotic, in addition to all the other Gaudi stuff. There is terrific shopping in Barcelona and we got an excellent deal on Omega watches from a recommended shop. The Barcelona beaches are endless and spectacular! Actual sand, probably imported from New Jersey, and crowded with young people. The restaurants that we visited were OK, offering acceptable seafood and wines, and prices were more moderate than France or Italy. I found Barcelona offered the best pastries and coffee, and we also enjoyed a simple al fresco snack of bread, cheese, and wine that must have cost 7 euros total. Summarizing, a return visit to Barcelona is a definite must. The city provides an array of activities that we could only touch upon, given our fairly exhausted state after 12 days of cruise ship. The people were friendly but English did not seem to be as common a second language as we expected. It is a very cosmopolitan city, and seemingly has terrific nightlife for those able to enjoy it. Read Less
Sail Date: May 2007
Overall cruise was fantastic and would repeat in a minute. Ship and its crew were great. As with many ships the public areas get worn and could use more frequent updating. I usually don't let this get to me. Embarkation in Venice ... Read More
Overall cruise was fantastic and would repeat in a minute. Ship and its crew were great. As with many ships the public areas get worn and could use more frequent updating. I usually don't let this get to me. Embarkation in Venice was smooth and disembarkation in Barcelona was amazingly efficient. We were told to expect 30 to 45 minutes to disembark but found ourselves on the curb 15 minutes after being dismissed (which was right to the minute of when scheduled). With exchange rate hedging the ships excursions seemed to consistently be overpriced. We elected to do all our own arrangements for some substantial savings. The entertainment was of high quality but seemed to lean to much toward an opera based crowd. Heard Phantom of the Opera three times in one cruise which was a bit much. Including an opera singer from Australia who was quite self impressed and spent more time talking than singing. Since he consistently was off key from the band I guess less was better. The dancers and aerobatic group were astonishing considering this was said to be their first chance to perform as a group. Food was well prepared and presented. I know of some who wanted (or expected) more gourmet selections based on Celebrity's reputation but for me it was done well. I have had some gourmet which goes over the top and when you get you selection it neither looks nor tastes like you would expect when you selected it. Maybe a dish or two of such would be a trade off to please both sides. The cruise director Derrick was from Canada and was one of the better I had seen in our 12 cruises. Was upbeat and visible. I as well like the fact Celebrity does not go overboard on announcements compared to some other lines. I go to relax and not be constantly trying to talk over background chatter about art auctions and bingo. If I want to know what to do or where to go the daily planner has all I need to know. Read Less
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