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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.

Millennium - Eastern Mediterranean

Celebrity Millennium Cruise Review by maxnest

Trip Details
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.
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