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We chose this cruise because we had thoroughly enjoyed a S. Pacific cruise going to Sydney 2.5 years ago. This time, we wanted to tour New Zealand on our own and return via another long cruise. We flew into Sydney from Queenstown on JetStar early on the day before Millennium sailed. We took the train to Circular Quay, noting that mass transit is the same everywhere when an agitated young girl got on and proceeded to swear loudly and crudely at anyone she thought was looking at her. Relieved to get off, we walked to our hotel, Holiday Inn Old Sydney, which is very convenient to the Quay. We have spent time in Sydney before, but we revisited several spots in the 24+ hours we had before we could board the ship. We weren’t able to get on the cruise ship until mid-afternoon sail day, but we did drop off our bags early. Once on board with champagne in hand, we found our well-situated room (#6098, perfectly mid-ship; a terrific location) and made our way to the OceanView for a late lunch. Millennium is showing her age, and the dry dock (happening now?) is desperately needed. Our bathroom grout, toilet, and floor were stained; the curtains were moldy at the bottom; my mattress was soft and sagging (an egg crate topper helped); towels were frayed and stained; plants were growing out of the overhang visible from the treadmills! Nevertheless, our steward Peter kept the room clean and tidy and was unfailingly polite and helpful, as were all the crew members we saw. The staff also showed their professionalism and poise when on our second sea day we had a helicopter evacuation of a passenger with heart issues. The captain thoroughly explained what would happen. We deviated from our course and were at dinner when the ship slowed way down; we could see the helicopter circling again and again, waiting for the medical crew they had lowered to the ship to evaluate. The passenger was evacuated safely, but we heard later that he had died the next day in New Caledonia. We enjoy Celebrity and HAL both for their enrichment lectures. We had a destination expert (history, culture), married astronomers (little too keen on sharing Polynesian worldview, Hawaiian words, etc.), and a botanist. All were good. The astronomers held two star gazing nights toward the end of the cruise. The husband was excellent at pointing out constellations (we saw the Milky Way, Southern Cross, and Alpha Centauri for the first time), but when his wife would take the microphone and give us Hawaiian names and a Polynesian view of the stars and navigating, we grew impatient and finally left. We heard later that many others felt the same way. A Hawaiian native woman taught dances and lei-making, and her sessions were always well-attended. The entertainment was standard cruise fare, although the Aussie Boys put on a concert that was the best show we have ever seen on a cruise ship. A close second was the Gold Art aerialist duo. Singers, a humorist/magician, a mentalist, singers, musicians, and the production shows completed the offerings. We always attended the entertainment, although getting there early was important. Visibility in the theater is very good. We enjoyed trivia, made use of the running track and gym, watched some dance lessons, thoroughly enjoyed the informal Q&A with some of the Celebrity dancers, and made it to the DateLine Crossing and Equator Crossing parties. The former was way too loud with a rock band in a confined space, and the latter was held at night and without much class or ceremony to it, losing a good deal of its fun. We chose AnyTime dining and were happy with that; however, we came to realize dinner would last close to 2 hours. Time between courses took way too long, but I don’t know if that would have been true at the timed seatings as well. We found the food very good, but we are not food snobs. Fish routinely disappoints me on cruise ships (dry and tasteless), unless it’s the always-dependable salmon. The bread baskets always had different varieties (loved the sundried tomato foccacia) and three types of spread (excellent hummus). A separate vegetarian menu is available, so I had double the choices since fish is not on the vegetarian menu. I found the carrot cumin salad, the stuffed mushroom, and spicy corn soup with green chili and cilantro fabulous! Others regularly praised the rack of lamb and prime rib. We had a full-sized lobster tail on the last “elegant chic” night. “Elegant chic” encompassed everything from casual capris and tennis shoes to tuxedos! We never tried the formal dining room for breakfast or lunch. The OceanView has a huge variety of food at both meals, and it is long enough and stations are on both sides of the café, so crowds are kept to a minimum. Homemade sticky buns appeared about every 3rd day in the OceanView. At the back of the café, I was a frequent patron of the made-to-order pasta station. I have never found a good veggie burger on any cruise ship, but by Day 15 of the cruise, I was ready for something different. I ordered one at the poolside grill, and it was fantastic! I ordered one for the following four days as well and wished I had found it earlier. The lightly-battered fries were also very good, just not available every day. The AquaSpa café has tasty and lighter alternatives at breakfast and lunch (lentil and quinoa make frequent appearances). A small menu on the wall offers quiche and made-to-order grilled tuna or salmon. Add that to a salad for a lovely lunch (just be prepared to wait 12-15 minutes). Occasionally, they offered mango slices which were scooped up fast! We ate dinner in the OceanView a couple of times. Again, be sure to go all the way to the back for the grill and a choice of meats and fish. Also available only at night is the Mongolian grill. Our first three days at sea were filled with exercise, lectures, trivia contests, shows, an art auction, reading, sunning, the Thelassotherapy pool, and plenty of eating! Lautoka, Fiji – on the recommendation of good friends, we had pre-booked a driver for both stops in Fiji. He was a bit pricey, but we had a bad experience with a taxi driver last time we visited Suva, Fiji. Another couple from the ship joined us for a tour including an authentic village, an ornate Buddhist temple in Nadi, the Sleeping Giant orchid gardens, optional mud baths (it was too hot to even consider these!), the Denarau marina (shops and harbor), and general countryside driving. Our driver, Fasail, ordered Indian appetizers and sodas at the Buddhist temple and paid all entry fees for our AU$120 each (his price is on the high side, he admitted, since Fasail drives from Suva). He was very knowledgeable and provided excellent commentary as well as an air-conditioned van, most welcome in the heat and humidity. After the 4-hour tour, we ate a late lunch on the ship and walked 20 or 30 minutes to McDonald’s for very slow wifi (code given with purchase). Had we walked further into town, we found out later, we could have located a café with better wifi. A Fijian cultural group came aboard in the evening and danced and sang for us. Suva, Fiji – I recruited two other couples for the tour with Fasail. Since Suva is the capital, he showed us government buildings as well as landmarks, Albert Park, Thurston Gardens, the Grand Pacific Hotel, and a wealthy neighborhood before making a stop to order Indian appetizers. While we were waiting for them, Fasail took us to two local stores (almost all stores were closed, being a Sunday, but he must know the owners, and he assured us we were contributing to local family businesses). Two of the guys bought Fiji shirts at the first store, and two of us bought an assortment of cannibal forks at the second (we all left the store while our negotiator bargained for a good price for the bundle!). We picked up the delicious appetizers and bottled water and headed into the countryside. We tried to hike in the Colo-i-Suva national forest, but steady rain cut that short. We made our way into the rainforest for about 20 minutes before giving up, soaked in our rain gear despite the cover of trees. Fasail’s tour was also supposed to include a trip to the beach with some time for swimming, but that clearly wasn’t happening. Most of us wanted some wifi, so Fasail went to one of the resorts, but they would not let us use their wifi, even if we purchased food. He suggested we return to the Colo-i-Suva forest and the delightfully-situated RainForest café which did have wifi, and we sat on a covered patio overlooking a small lake. We ordered appetizers and drinks and caught up on email and websites for a couple of hours. We also fed French fries to the fish! The day’s outing wasn’t exactly the tour we had paid for (and I thought we would see some fire walking), but we all felt connected again. The tour was discounted from AU$100, since I had recruited another couple. We each paid $AU80 + $5 each for the forest fee. Another four sea days followed the Fiji stops, and we crossed the International DateLine during this time. Bora Bora, French Polynesia – Do get up early to watch sail in; this is an extremely beautiful island. We tendered here, and that was a mess. We had been told tender tickets would be available at “x” time, so that’s when we went, only to learn people had lined up almost an hour earlier (lesson noted for the next day!!). So we ended up waiting an hour for a tender. We had pre-booked Reef Discovery Pure Snorkeling (gear and water/soda/fruit drinks provided), and they waited the extra 20 minutes for us (obviously, they know cruise ship and tender procedures). The boat held 8 of us + two guides who were professional, helpful, and fun. We were gone four hours and had four snorkel stops: manta rays, The Aquarium where we were given bread to attract the fish (and a reef shark and an unwelcomed barracuda), eagle rays (true to their name, they looked like they were flying), and the Coral Gardens. Guillaume was adept at finding eels and coaxing them out. Fabien showed us a seahorse, although it wasn’t anything like what we’re used to seeing. At each stop, fish were abundant, the gorgeously multi-hued water was warm, and boating past the resorts with the over-the-water bungalows was amazing. This was a spectacular excursion. Online, I had requested and was granted a drop-off at Matira Beach, but the guides must not have gotten the message, and we decided to get some lunch on the ship anyway. I wish we had insisted on the drop-off, for once we ate and took the tender back to the island, it was too unbearably hot and humid to even think about walking a beach, no matter that it was supposed to be amazingly beautiful. We found a restaurant a short walk from the pier that offered wifi with a meal purchase, but it was full with a wait list, so we returned to the ship. If you’re looking for wifi here, this restaurant is in a small strip of shops across from the church. Or you can take a taxi to Bloody Mary’s, but I imagine you’ll have to purchase something there as well. Moorea – This is the most beautiful island we have ever seen; the iconic picture of what “Tahiti” should look like! We pre-booked a car with Albert Transport, and the pickup was right on time. We went straight to the Lagoonarium with two other couples. This is a must-do if you like the water and snorkeling. The Lagoonarium is a few miles past the ferry dock. After paying the entry fee + snorkel gear fee (incidentally, you will get a much better price if you have CPF) at the hut at the small parking area, a little motor boat ferried us and a honeymooning couple to the completely idyllic motu three minutes offshore. We were taken around the tiny island, given a hut, shown the free life vests and plastic shoes as well as the kitchen with free coffee/tea, told when the first fish feeding was, and had the two snorkeling “tours” explained to us – the thick cables offered protection from the current and we could take the longer route all the way to the reef. We all quickly changed and got to the water. The snorkel gear was of poor quality, so if you plan on this, have your own gear if possible. The fish were plentiful, and we saw some colorful ones as well as a hundreds-strong school of tiny bright blue fish. The coral was abundant and varied, just not colorful. Before the scheduled fish feeding, the guides got in the shallow water with bait and were soon swarmed by stingrays. Anyone could pet the rays, and this was quite a fun experience. The guides kept up this portion of the feeding for a generous amount of time. Then the guides asked everyone to go into the deeper water and get on the outside of the cables. In a U-shape now, we watched the guides feed and attract reef sharks, more rays, and myriad fish. The feeding went on for close to 45 minutes. We had packed some food from the ship and ate in the hut, escaping from the brutal sun. The hut has windows that open for cross ventilation, so it was quite comfortable. It would be easy to spend an entire day here. We never even made the full circuit of the closer-in snorkel trail. But we only had the one day, and we wanted to see some of the island, so off we went. Our first stop was at a marked lookout over a stunning white sand beach, water of an almost-unimaginable aqua color, and bungalows stretched across the water. We gaped for a good while, continued our drive, found a French café offering free wifi so we stopped for pastries, iced coffee, and internet catching-up, before resuming the island tour to Belvedere Lookout. The drive is windy and torturous, but the lookout is so worth it! We wished for more time (I don’t know why the cruise ship left at 5 when we were so close to the next island) to stop at the agricultural school, fruit juice factory, and fruit stands. We mistakenly thought Le Petit Village was near the pier, or we would have stopped there before turning in the car. But we made do with browsing the stalls set up by the tender pier. With more time, I would have liked to visit a pearl farm. The black Tahitian pearls are stunning and oh so expensive. Back on board the ship, we cleaned up and went to the specialty restaurant Qsine (2/1 special). We found it just as unique as advertised, from the décor to the iPad ordering system to the unusual way every dish is presented. Some of the small bites were delicious; others we wouldn’t order again! But we definitely recommend it. I heard they were offering the 2/1 special almost every night, but when we booked, we were told it was only on port days. Papeete – While waiting for friends to meet us off ship, we watched native dancers performing for the tourists. We shared a rental car with our friends, necessitating a hot and humid walk to the Avis office and a wait behind several others. We intended to get out of Papeete as quickly as possible, following a Fodor driving tour. We made several stops, including the black sand beach and lighthouse at Pt. Venus, blowholes, waterfalls, lookout views, gardens, and grottos over the course of five hours. While not as pretty as the other two islands, Tahiti still is gorgeously green and mountainous, but also more crowded. We returned the car with enough spare time to hunt down wifi (a challenge, but we found an internet café at a shopping center whose name started with a “V” near the ship), connect online for an hour, and then try to spend our remaining Central Pacific Francs at the now-closing local market. I found a bar of Tahitian vanilla soap, and when I gave the lady my remaining change, she insisted I take another bar of soap! Some stalls were still set up close to the ship, and I bought a very inexpensive Tahitian pearl bracelet. We now had five remaining sea days, and while at first we didn’t want them to end, by day four, the inevitability had sunk in, and we were ready. Unfortunately, the immigration process to get off the ship in Honolulu was a nightmare with terribly long lines and poor communication of a US-citizen line. We texted our shuttle driver we would be late, but we made it to the airport in plenty of time. But for a while there, we weren’t so sure! During this 18-day cruise, plus our 18 days self-driving in New Zealand, we saw some truly amazing places, reveled in extraordinary beauty, experienced new countries, enjoyed spectacular weather, and met wonderful people.

Love All Those Sea Days!

Celebrity Millennium Cruise Review by Fear-the-turtle

8 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We chose this cruise because we had thoroughly enjoyed a S. Pacific cruise going to Sydney 2.5 years ago. This time, we wanted to tour New Zealand on our own and return via another long cruise.

We flew into Sydney from Queenstown on JetStar early on the day before Millennium sailed. We took the train to Circular Quay, noting that mass transit is the same everywhere when an agitated young girl got on and proceeded to swear loudly and crudely at anyone she thought was looking at her. Relieved to get off, we walked to our hotel, Holiday Inn Old Sydney, which is very convenient to the Quay. We have spent time in Sydney before, but we revisited several spots in the 24+ hours we had before we could board the ship. We weren’t able to get on the cruise ship until mid-afternoon sail day, but we did drop off our bags early. Once on board with champagne in hand, we found our well-situated room (#6098, perfectly mid-ship; a terrific location) and made our way to the OceanView for a late lunch.

Millennium is showing her age, and the dry dock (happening now?) is desperately needed. Our bathroom grout, toilet, and floor were stained; the curtains were moldy at the bottom; my mattress was soft and sagging (an egg crate topper helped); towels were frayed and stained; plants were growing out of the overhang visible from the treadmills! Nevertheless, our steward Peter kept the room clean and tidy and was unfailingly polite and helpful, as were all the crew members we saw. The staff also showed their professionalism and poise when on our second sea day we had a helicopter evacuation of a passenger with heart issues. The captain thoroughly explained what would happen. We deviated from our course and were at dinner when the ship slowed way down; we could see the helicopter circling again and again, waiting for the medical crew they had lowered to the ship to evaluate. The passenger was evacuated safely, but we heard later that he had died the next day in New Caledonia.

We enjoy Celebrity and HAL both for their enrichment lectures. We had a destination expert (history, culture), married astronomers (little too keen on sharing Polynesian worldview, Hawaiian words, etc.), and a botanist. All were good. The astronomers held two star gazing nights toward the end of the cruise. The husband was excellent at pointing out constellations (we saw the Milky Way, Southern Cross, and Alpha Centauri for the first time), but when his wife would take the microphone and give us Hawaiian names and a Polynesian view of the stars and navigating, we grew impatient and finally left. We heard later that many others felt the same way. A Hawaiian native woman taught dances and lei-making, and her sessions were always well-attended. The entertainment was standard cruise fare, although the Aussie Boys put on a concert that was the best show we have ever seen on a cruise ship. A close second was the Gold Art aerialist duo. Singers, a humorist/magician, a mentalist, singers, musicians, and the production shows completed the offerings. We always attended the entertainment, although getting there early was important. Visibility in the theater is very good. We enjoyed trivia, made use of the running track and gym, watched some dance lessons, thoroughly enjoyed the informal Q&A with some of the Celebrity dancers, and made it to the DateLine Crossing and Equator Crossing parties. The former was way too loud with a rock band in a confined space, and the latter was held at night and without much class or ceremony to it, losing a good deal of its fun.

We chose AnyTime dining and were happy with that; however, we came to realize dinner would last close to 2 hours. Time between courses took way too long, but I don’t know if that would have been true at the timed seatings as well. We found the food very good, but we are not food snobs. Fish routinely disappoints me on cruise ships (dry and tasteless), unless it’s the always-dependable salmon. The bread baskets always had different varieties (loved the sundried tomato foccacia) and three types of spread (excellent hummus). A separate vegetarian menu is available, so I had double the choices since fish is not on the vegetarian menu. I found the carrot cumin salad, the stuffed mushroom, and spicy corn soup with green chili and cilantro fabulous! Others regularly praised the rack of lamb and prime rib. We had a full-sized lobster tail on the last “elegant chic” night. “Elegant chic” encompassed everything from casual capris and tennis shoes to tuxedos! We never tried the formal dining room for breakfast or lunch.

The OceanView has a huge variety of food at both meals, and it is long enough and stations are on both sides of the café, so crowds are kept to a minimum. Homemade sticky buns appeared about every 3rd day in the OceanView. At the back of the café, I was a frequent patron of the made-to-order pasta station. I have never found a good veggie burger on any cruise ship, but by Day 15 of the cruise, I was ready for something different. I ordered one at the poolside grill, and it was fantastic! I ordered one for the following four days as well and wished I had found it earlier. The lightly-battered fries were also very good, just not available every day. The AquaSpa café has tasty and lighter alternatives at breakfast and lunch (lentil and quinoa make frequent appearances). A small menu on the wall offers quiche and made-to-order grilled tuna or salmon. Add that to a salad for a lovely lunch (just be prepared to wait 12-15 minutes). Occasionally, they offered mango slices which were scooped up fast! We ate dinner in the OceanView a couple of times. Again, be sure to go all the way to the back for the grill and a choice of meats and fish. Also available only at night is the Mongolian grill.

Our first three days at sea were filled with exercise, lectures, trivia contests, shows, an art auction, reading, sunning, the Thelassotherapy pool, and plenty of eating!

Lautoka, Fiji – on the recommendation of good friends, we had pre-booked a driver for both stops in Fiji. He was a bit pricey, but we had a bad experience with a taxi driver last time we visited Suva, Fiji. Another couple from the ship joined us for a tour including an authentic village, an ornate Buddhist temple in Nadi, the Sleeping Giant orchid gardens, optional mud baths (it was too hot to even consider these!), the Denarau marina (shops and harbor), and general countryside driving. Our driver, Fasail, ordered Indian appetizers and sodas at the Buddhist temple and paid all entry fees for our AU$120 each (his price is on the high side, he admitted, since Fasail drives from Suva). He was very knowledgeable and provided excellent commentary as well as an air-conditioned van, most welcome in the heat and humidity. After the 4-hour tour, we ate a late lunch on the ship and walked 20 or 30 minutes to McDonald’s for very slow wifi (code given with purchase). Had we walked further into town, we found out later, we could have located a café with better wifi. A Fijian cultural group came aboard in the evening and danced and sang for us.

Suva, Fiji – I recruited two other couples for the tour with Fasail. Since Suva is the capital, he showed us government buildings as well as landmarks, Albert Park, Thurston Gardens, the Grand Pacific Hotel, and a wealthy neighborhood before making a stop to order Indian appetizers. While we were waiting for them, Fasail took us to two local stores (almost all stores were closed, being a Sunday, but he must know the owners, and he assured us we were contributing to local family businesses). Two of the guys bought Fiji shirts at the first store, and two of us bought an assortment of cannibal forks at the second (we all left the store while our negotiator bargained for a good price for the bundle!). We picked up the delicious appetizers and bottled water and headed into the countryside. We tried to hike in the Colo-i-Suva national forest, but steady rain cut that short. We made our way into the rainforest for about 20 minutes before giving up, soaked in our rain gear despite the cover of trees. Fasail’s tour was also supposed to include a trip to the beach with some time for swimming, but that clearly wasn’t happening. Most of us wanted some wifi, so Fasail went to one of the resorts, but they would not let us use their wifi, even if we purchased food. He suggested we return to the Colo-i-Suva forest and the delightfully-situated RainForest café which did have wifi, and we sat on a covered patio overlooking a small lake. We ordered appetizers and drinks and caught up on email and websites for a couple of hours. We also fed French fries to the fish! The day’s outing wasn’t exactly the tour we had paid for (and I thought we would see some fire walking), but we all felt connected again. The tour was discounted from AU$100, since I had recruited another couple. We each paid $AU80 + $5 each for the forest fee.

Another four sea days followed the Fiji stops, and we crossed the International DateLine during this time.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia – Do get up early to watch sail in; this is an extremely beautiful island. We tendered here, and that was a mess. We had been told tender tickets would be available at “x” time, so that’s when we went, only to learn people had lined up almost an hour earlier (lesson noted for the next day!!). So we ended up waiting an hour for a tender. We had pre-booked Reef Discovery Pure Snorkeling (gear and water/soda/fruit drinks provided), and they waited the extra 20 minutes for us (obviously, they know cruise ship and tender procedures). The boat held 8 of us + two guides who were professional, helpful, and fun. We were gone four hours and had four snorkel stops: manta rays, The Aquarium where we were given bread to attract the fish (and a reef shark and an unwelcomed barracuda), eagle rays (true to their name, they looked like they were flying), and the Coral Gardens. Guillaume was adept at finding eels and coaxing them out. Fabien showed us a seahorse, although it wasn’t anything like what we’re used to seeing. At each stop, fish were abundant, the gorgeously multi-hued water was warm, and boating past the resorts with the over-the-water bungalows was amazing. This was a spectacular excursion. Online, I had requested and was granted a drop-off at Matira Beach, but the guides must not have gotten the message, and we decided to get some lunch on the ship anyway. I wish we had insisted on the drop-off, for once we ate and took the tender back to the island, it was too unbearably hot and humid to even think about walking a beach, no matter that it was supposed to be amazingly beautiful. We found a restaurant a short walk from the pier that offered wifi with a meal purchase, but it was full with a wait list, so we returned to the ship. If you’re looking for wifi here, this restaurant is in a small strip of shops across from the church. Or you can take a taxi to Bloody Mary’s, but I imagine you’ll have to purchase something there as well.

Moorea – This is the most beautiful island we have ever seen; the iconic picture of what “Tahiti” should look like! We pre-booked a car with Albert Transport, and the pickup was right on time. We went straight to the Lagoonarium with two other couples. This is a must-do if you like the water and snorkeling. The Lagoonarium is a few miles past the ferry dock. After paying the entry fee + snorkel gear fee (incidentally, you will get a much better price if you have CPF) at the hut at the small parking area, a little motor boat ferried us and a honeymooning couple to the completely idyllic motu three minutes offshore. We were taken around the tiny island, given a hut, shown the free life vests and plastic shoes as well as the kitchen with free coffee/tea, told when the first fish feeding was, and had the two snorkeling “tours” explained to us – the thick cables offered protection from the current and we could take the longer route all the way to the reef. We all quickly changed and got to the water. The snorkel gear was of poor quality, so if you plan on this, have your own gear if possible. The fish were plentiful, and we saw some colorful ones as well as a hundreds-strong school of tiny bright blue fish. The coral was abundant and varied, just not colorful. Before the scheduled fish feeding, the guides got in the shallow water with bait and were soon swarmed by stingrays. Anyone could pet the rays, and this was quite a fun experience. The guides kept up this portion of the feeding for a generous amount of time. Then the guides asked everyone to go into the deeper water and get on the outside of the cables. In a U-shape now, we watched the guides feed and attract reef sharks, more rays, and myriad fish. The feeding went on for close to 45 minutes. We had packed some food from the ship and ate in the hut, escaping from the brutal sun. The hut has windows that open for cross ventilation, so it was quite comfortable. It would be easy to spend an entire day here. We never even made the full circuit of the closer-in snorkel trail. But we only had the one day, and we wanted to see some of the island, so off we went.

Our first stop was at a marked lookout over a stunning white sand beach, water of an almost-unimaginable aqua color, and bungalows stretched across the water. We gaped for a good while, continued our drive, found a French café offering free wifi so we stopped for pastries, iced coffee, and internet catching-up, before resuming the island tour to Belvedere Lookout. The drive is windy and torturous, but the lookout is so worth it! We wished for more time (I don’t know why the cruise ship left at 5 when we were so close to the next island) to stop at the agricultural school, fruit juice factory, and fruit stands. We mistakenly thought Le Petit Village was near the pier, or we would have stopped there before turning in the car. But we made do with browsing the stalls set up by the tender pier. With more time, I would have liked to visit a pearl farm. The black Tahitian pearls are stunning and oh so expensive.

Back on board the ship, we cleaned up and went to the specialty restaurant Qsine (2/1 special). We found it just as unique as advertised, from the décor to the iPad ordering system to the unusual way every dish is presented. Some of the small bites were delicious; others we wouldn’t order again! But we definitely recommend it. I heard they were offering the 2/1 special almost every night, but when we booked, we were told it was only on port days.

Papeete – While waiting for friends to meet us off ship, we watched native dancers performing for the tourists. We shared a rental car with our friends, necessitating a hot and humid walk to the Avis office and a wait behind several others. We intended to get out of Papeete as quickly as possible, following a Fodor driving tour. We made several stops, including the black sand beach and lighthouse at Pt. Venus, blowholes, waterfalls, lookout views, gardens, and grottos over the course of five hours. While not as pretty as the other two islands, Tahiti still is gorgeously green and mountainous, but also more crowded. We returned the car with enough spare time to hunt down wifi (a challenge, but we found an internet café at a shopping center whose name started with a “V” near the ship), connect online for an hour, and then try to spend our remaining Central Pacific Francs at the now-closing local market. I found a bar of Tahitian vanilla soap, and when I gave the lady my remaining change, she insisted I take another bar of soap! Some stalls were still set up close to the ship, and I bought a very inexpensive Tahitian pearl bracelet.

We now had five remaining sea days, and while at first we didn’t want them to end, by day four, the inevitability had sunk in, and we were ready. Unfortunately, the immigration process to get off the ship in Honolulu was a nightmare with terribly long lines and poor communication of a US-citizen line. We texted our shuttle driver we would be late, but we made it to the airport in plenty of time. But for a while there, we weren’t so sure!

During this 18-day cruise, plus our 18 days self-driving in New Zealand, we saw some truly amazing places, reveled in extraordinary beauty, experienced new countries, enjoyed spectacular weather, and met wonderful people.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Snorkeling
    Do get up early to watch sail in; this is an extremely beautiful island. We tendered here, and that was a mess. We had been told tender tickets would be available at “x” time, so that’s when we went, only to learn people had lined up almost an hour earlier (lesson noted for the next day!!). So we ended up waiting an hour for a tender. We had pre-booked Reef Discovery Pure Snorkeling (gear and water/soda/fruit drinks provided), and they waited the extra 20 minutes for us (obviously, they know cruise ship and tender procedures). The boat held 8 of us + two guides who were professional, helpful, and fun. We were gone four hours and had four snorkel stops: manta rays, The Aquarium where we were given bread to attract the fish (and a reef shark and an unwelcomed barracuda), eagle rays (true to their name, they looked like they were flying), and the Coral Gardens. Guillaume was adept at finding eels and coaxing them out. Fabien showed us a seahorse, although it wasn’t anything like what we’re used to seeing. At each stop, fish were abundant, the gorgeously multi-hued water was warm, and boating past the resorts with the over-the-water bungalows was amazing. This was a spectacular excursion. Online, I had requested and was granted a drop-off at Matira Beach, but the guides must not have gotten the message, and we decided to get some lunch on the ship anyway. I wish we had insisted on the drop-off, for once we ate and took the tender back to the island, it was too unbearably hot and humid to even think about walking a beach, no matter that it was supposed to be amazingly beautiful. We found a restaurant a short walk from the pier that offered wifi with a meal purchase, but it was full with a wait list, so we returned to the ship. If you’re looking for wifi here, this restaurant is in a small strip of shops across from the church. Or you can take a taxi to Bloody Mary’s, but I imagine you’ll have to purchase something there as well.
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  • Sightseeing Tour
    On the recommendation of good friends, we had pre-booked a driver for both stops in Fiji. He was a bit pricey, but we had a bad experience with a taxi driver last time we visited Suva, Fiji. Another couple from the ship joined us for a tour including an authentic village, an ornate Buddhist temple in Nadi, the Sleeping Giant orchid gardens, optional mud baths (it was too hot to even consider these!), the Denarau marina (shops and harbor), and general countryside driving. Our driver, Fasail, ordered Indian appetizers and sodas at the Buddhist temple and paid all entry fees for our AU$120 each (his price is on the high side, he admitted, since Fasail drives from Suva). He was very knowledgeable and provided excellent commentary as well as an air-conditioned van, most welcome in the heat and humidity. After the 4-hour tour, we ate a late lunch on the ship and walked 20 or 30 minutes to McDonald’s for very slow wifi (code given with purchase). Had we walked further into town, we found out later, we could have located a café with better wifi. A Fijian cultural group came aboard in the evening and danced and sang for us.
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  • City & Countryside
    I recruited two other couples for the tour with Fasail. Since Suva is the capital, he showed us government buildings as well as landmarks, Albert Park, Thurston Gardens, the Grand Pacific Hotel, and a wealthy neighborhood before making a stop to order Indian appetizers. While we were waiting for them, Fasail took us to two local stores (almost all stores were closed, being a Sunday, but he must know the owners, and he assured us we were contributing to local family businesses). Two of the guys bought Fiji shirts at the first store, and two of us bought an assortment of cannibal forks at the second (we all left the store while our negotiator bargained for a good price for the bundle!). We picked up the delicious appetizers and bottled water and headed into the countryside. We tried to hike in the Colo-i-Suva national forest, but steady rain cut that short. We made our way into the rainforest for about 20 minutes before giving up, soaked in our rain gear despite the cover of trees. Fasail’s tour was also supposed to include a trip to the beach with some time for swimming, but that clearly wasn’t happening. Most of us wanted some wifi, so Fasail went to one of the resorts, but they would not let us use their wifi, even if we purchased food. He suggested we return to the Colo-i-Suva forest and the delightfully-situated RainForest café which did have wifi, and we sat on a covered patio overlooking a small lake. We ordered appetizers and drinks and caught up on email and websites for a couple of hours. We also fed French fries to the fish! The day’s outing wasn’t exactly the tour we had paid for (and I thought we would see some fire walking), but we all felt connected again  . The tour was discounted from AU$100, since I had recruited another couple. We each paid $AU80 + $5 each for the forest fee.
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  • Sydney (Australia)
    We flew into Sydney from Queenstown on JetStar early on the day before Millennium sailed. We took the train to Circular Quay, noting that mass transit is the same everywhere when an agitated young girl got on and proceeded to swear loudly and crudely at anyone she thought was looking at her. Relieved to get off, we walked to our hotel, Holiday Inn Old Sydney, which is very convenient to the Quay. We have spent time in Sydney before, but we revisited several spots in the 24+ hours we had before we could board the ship and can highly recommend these: The Rocks (just wander!), Queen Victoria Building (both exterior and the gorgeous stores inside), Pitt St. Mall, Paddy's Market, Darling Harbor.
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  • Island Tour
    We shared a rental car with our friends, necessitating a hot and humid walk to the Avis office and a wait behind several others. We intended to get out of Papeete as quickly as possible, following a Fodor driving tour. We made several stops, including the black sand beach and lighthouse at Pt. Venus, blowholes, waterfalls, lookout views, gardens, and grottos over the course of five hours. While not as pretty as the other two islands, Tahiti still is gorgeously green and mountainous, but also more crowded. We returned the car with enough spare time to hunt down wifi (a challenge, but we found an internet café at a shopping center whose name started with a “V” near the ship), connect online for an hour, and then try to spend our remaining Central Pacific Francs at the now-closing local market.
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