Celebrity Millennium October 29-November 10 Barcelona to Venice
We booked this cruise that would take us from Barcelona to Venice, in May 2005 with an embarkation date of October 29, 2006.
We reserved stateroom 9160 upon Celebrity's Millennium. This is a Concierge Class aft cabin, which is approximately 251 square feet with a large 200 square foot veranda.
Boarding this ship has never been easier. Once our taxis dropped us off at the Pier in Barcelona, a porter was very eager to accept our luggage and guide us to the entrance to the embarkation lobby.
We were immediately asked to sanitize our hands before entering a ship-controlled area and would later discover that this is now SOP aboard Celebrity. We were also offered a cool fruit punch while we stood in the proper line.
The line moved quickly and we were thru security and with champagne in hand by 12:00 noon. As with so many cruises that allow early embarkation, our cabin was not "ready" until 1:00, but we just could not resist stopping by and "dropping" off things. Once there, we met Gregorio and Tailer our stateroom tag team that did a pretty good one-twopunch in Stateroom cleanliness and attentiveness. Any concern we had throughout the cruise was always met quickly and efficiently.
October 29 was night one and shortly after our sailing from Barcelona, while getting ready for dinner, I became aware of Mediterranean fruit flies that had infested our cabin. I was distraught and after expressing our displeasure firmly with the staff at Guest Relations, we were moved to another cabin while they attempted to correct the problem.
After expressing my displeasure to the Guest Relations Office the entire staff of the Millennium did their best to turn a negative into a positive the Lead Guest Relations Officer Ms. Jann Ramos could not have been more understanding about. Her performance in this situation reminded me of just why we chose Celebrity.
It took a little over 36 hours before we could get back into the cabin we had purchased for this adventure. When things at the start of an Adventure begin to turn negative, and you see all of your dreams go up in a mist, it can become very scary and disappointing to say the least.
Ms. Ramos not only coordinated the cleanup effort between the various departments, but she made an effort to keep in touch with us every step of the way! I must applaud the entire staff for a job well done!
AND we were back in our stateroom where on David's birthday, October 31, we were able to wake up and have breakfast on the veranda. SUCCESS!
The Millennium as a whole is in fine condition. All carpets appear to be in good repair, and the ship shows little signs of age. The support staff have done a wonderful job with maintenance.
We opted for late dining at a table for two and we received table 552, which is at the top of the staircase in the dining room, located adjacent to the Jan Martini Quartet. So our meals were always filled with music. Nice touch.
Our wait staff, the team of (Glenn) Joseph and Richard; were a nice combination that did their best to please. However at times they seemed to be a bit overwhelmed.
Sebastian our Sommelier was attentive and supportive. He accepted our boycott of first night no wine sales with real grace and on night two made an effort to find a specific vintage that we asked for. He was outstanding and very personable.
The food was just as we remembered. The cold soups were just as remarkable, while the roast beef was just as tender and the Escargot, which are now part of the regular standby menu, were outstanding.
With this being a very port intensive cruise, we did not see much of the late night activities. So the entertainment we really cannot comment on.
The exception was for a review of a fantasy type show that the "singers and dancers" "performed" for the passengers. I personally didn't care for it.
On November 4th, a formal night, we had reservations for the Olympic Restaurant. Once again, we had a table for two and this time a great duce by the Harpist. The meal was outstanding and the service exceptional. Thumbs up to Stanislaw Stoyanov, Maitrie d'Hotel. He runs a fine restaurant. Our only exception was for the Sommelier who was unhappy that we chose not to buy wine and refused our request to purchase a second sparkling water.
We were planning a small gathering in our stateroom to sample some wines. Gregorio had anticipated the tasting and offered to provide cheese, crackers, and other things before we had to ask. He was amazing.
The casino when open had a nice selection of slots and our favorites were Little Green Men and Texas Tea, where I was able to pick up a few hundred on this cruise, so that's a nice feeling.
Overall we felt we did in fact receive our money's worth! Got our bang for the buck, as they say.
The Millennium is a fine ship with an outstanding crew and I would not hesitate to sail it again if the itinerary happens to present itself.
Now to Rate the Cruise line: Scale 1 to 5 (1 = Needs Improvement -- 5 = Excellent)Guest Relations = 5 Accommodations = 4 Onboard Activities = 3 Entertainment = 2 Food = 4 Specialty Restaurant = 4 Overall Cruise Experience = 4.5
Valparaiso,Chile to Fort Lauderdale, via Panama Canal
We arrived in Santiago and stayed again at the Santiago Sheraton hotel. Had nice lunch in the top of the San Christobal tower section of the hotel. What a beautiful view of the city which is 571 meters above sea level.
We went to the Los Dominicos market again and looked around and then walked through the local downtown section eating at a nice sidewalk caféé (Lomits).
We had arrived on Friday March 17 and Saturday night we went to a local dinner show at Los de Adobes Argomedo and after the show had great fun dancing.
The next day Sunday March 19, we had luggage picked up outside the room and we went on a private pre-arranged tour to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso being dropped off at the ship by 5:00 PM. This is about an 80 mile drive.
We sailed just after 9:00 PM for Arica, Chile which is close to the border with Peru in the North of Chile. The shipboard atmosphere was jolly and we had a nice cruisecritic meeting with a very good attendance. Our captain Apostolos Bouzakis was acharming Greek fellow. Simon Weir was our cruise director and we had previously had him on another cruise when the Millennium sailed the Baltic Sea, her second voyage. He is the best. His brother Nick was the C.D on the South American Horn Cruise in February 2004, and is also very good.
Wednesday March 22, after two wonderful sea days, we arrive in Arica, Chile at 7:00 AM. We had previously booked a short local ships tour of the city and the Geoglyphs in the area. It only lasted about 4 hours but did go up the El Morro mountain around some very winding curves on roads without guard rails. In Arica, they still talk very much about the Pacific War which was between Chile and Peru. We did not take the trip to the Lauca National Park which seemed to be a very long ride. We returned to the ship, had lunch and then walked back into the city and to the Main Street, which is kind of a hang out and pedestrian walkway.
We returned to the ship and were scheduled to depart at 6:00 PM. We noticed that we were not departing but went to early main seating dinner. We went to the Celebrity Showroom after dinner to watch the Pampas Devils Argentina Tango show. While sitting in the showroom we were advised that around 4:30 PM a fatal accident occurred and 12 of our fellow passengers were killed while returning from a tour. We were delayed in Arica for 15 hours while the captain assisted those in need and the chief concierge left the ship to fly to the states and bring families of the deceased to Arica. A doctor and nurse from the ship were sent into town to the hospital to assist with the two injured passengers who had each lost their wives in the accident. For a video see: http://us.video.aol.com/video.index.adp?mode=2&pmmsid=1481730
We arrived in Callao, Peru at 11:00 AM Friday March 24, 2006 after two days at sea, four hours behind schedule, where I was to take a Nazca Lines tour. Due to the delay, the Nazca Lines tour that I had booked was cancelled and Celebrity credited my account ($535) for this one tour and in addition gave myself and my wife a free tour of Lima, Peru. (10 Kilometers from Callao). Celebrity was under no obligation to do this and had not had anything to do with booking the fatal tours. Everyone on board was proud of the way Celebrity handled the incident. We had a very nice tour of a very ancient city. We departed Callao, Peru at 8:00 PM.
On Sunday March 26th 8:00 AM after two days at sea, we arrived in Manta, Ecuador. We were aware of the high incidence of Malaria in this area, but the Plasmodium is transmitted by the Anopheles Mosquito which is really a night biter. We took no medication since we spent only the day there. Manta is the center for the Ecuadorian Tuna industry and is the home of Charlie Tuna. Manta has been a major port since the pre- Inca era. The road from Manta to Montecristi has many warehouses and factories related to the tuna fish industry. We visited a factory that processed the Aqua nut into the Ecuador marble and bought several of the small figurines. Montecristi is the home of the Panama Hats and we visited a market with many handicrafts including the famous Panama hats. A lot of the small children are trying to sell goods, but they are very polite and not pushy or aggressive. They are very beautiful people.
Tuesday, March 28 after two days at sea we arrived for the Panama Canal transit. My old map from 1995 did not have the new Centennial Bridge on it that was built in 2003, but otherwise was very helpful in letting us realize exactly where we were. I had previously made notes on the "Path between the Seas" which made the sacrifices of the people who built the "Big Ditch" much more impressive. It makes one realize that this is indeed a "Wonder of the World". It takes about 8 hours to undergo the approximate 50 miles of the canal which runs from southeast (Pacific) to northwest (Atlantic). One can get confused at times if you see the sun setting in the East. Since 1999, the canal now totally belongs to Panama, but the U.S still has Howard Air Force Base close by for security. Apparently Japan and the United States are the biggest users of the Panama Canal.
We entered the Miraflores locks (two locks) about 7:00 AM and then into Miraflores lake. We locked through the Pedro Miguel locks (one lock) to reach 85 feet above sea level in to the Culebra (meaning snake) Cut a 9 mile section crossing the continental divide and now named the Galliard cut after a Major Galliard. At the end of the Galliard cut is Gamboa and the portion of the Chagres River that feeds the Gatun Lake. There is another dam higher up on the Chagres River (Madden Dam) to help control this river that can had been known to rise 14 feet in 24 hours.
While cruising the canal I took a picture of a tourist boat that I considered to be very overloaded with people and it was just about the time the ferry out of Bahrain had capsized because of being overloaded. What I saw in the Panama Canal was an accident looking for a place to happen.
Thursday, March 30 after another 2 days at sea, we arrived at Aruba at 7:00 AM. This is a long skinny island, but has some beautiful beaches. We elected to spend the day at MoomBa Beach located between the Holiday Inn and the Marriott Ocean club. This turned out to be a very comfortable beach with natural trees for shade. Lounges were free with purchase of drinks and food.
April 2, 2006 we arrived in Fort Lauderdale and after a nice breakfast on the balcony finally walked off the ship and flew home without any mishaps. It was a great cruise only marred by the terrible accident outside of Arica. Pictures at: gallery
I would like to warn everyone who has any inclinations of going on a cruise with Celebrity Cruises/Royal Caribbean. In September my husband and I went on our honeymoon on the Milennium Celebrity Cruise. We purchased our entire package from Celebrity and spent an extremely large amount of money: $25,000 on this honeymoon - including the cruise itself, flights, food, drinks, and excursions.
We cruised 2 weeks on the Milennium without the pools, hot tubs, ball courts. Having worked in the travel industry in the past I had always wanted to go on a Celebrity cruise...what a BIG mistake that turned out to be. The service was absolutely horrible, most of the crew members were unfriendly, cold and miserable - I do not understand how they managed to be employed in the hospitality industry. We were shocked. The everyday activities were lame and the night life was minimal. I have been on cruises before and they have been quite lively.
Please Please Please I warn you to WATCH YOUR LUGGAGE and all your personal belongings. Do NOT take the staff's word when they tell you your luggage will be safe when you leaveit for their safekeeping before disembarking the ship. We had made sure our luggage was safety locked up. When we got home to our surprise that some items we brought and purchased from our trip were STOLEN!(approximately $1000.00 worth). They even stole the video tapes from our vacation (our honeymoon memories - gone!) The tapes and videocamcorder we received as a wedding gift just a month before was stolen. (This was our first and last time we had to use it). I know thieves have no sentiments and they don't give a care as to what they steal and who they steal from. I could not believe what had happened! Trying to get any compensation from Celebrity Cruiselines is a JOKE! Not only did they steal our luggage they managed to lose another bag of ours from the ship to the carousal in Barcelona - less than 100 metres away. What a bunch of incompetent fools. This is no coincidence, these people are professionals so please be aware.
I can not believe after spending the amount of money we did Celebrity just brushed us off. The letter they sent back was like a slap in the face. I believe no matter how much money is spent on a vacation no one should have to worry about safety or their possessions especially because it is their job to safekeep their belongings. I am absolutely flabbergasted and appalled with what has happened and especially the lack of professionalism of this cruiseline.
Please I beg you to think twice before booking a vacation with Celebrity cruiselines/Royal Caribbean.
Take care all. Thank you for reading my review and think hard before booking Celebrity Cruises/Royal Caribbean
We recently sailed on Celebrity's Millennium from Valparaiso,Chile to Fort Lauderdale, via the Panama Canal.
We arrived in Santiago and stayed at the Santiago Sheraton hotel. We had nice lunch in the top of the San Cristobal tower section of the hotel, with a beautiful view of the city, which is 571 meters above sea level. We went to Los Dominicos market and looked around, then walked through the local downtown, stopping for a bite to eat at a nice sidewalk cafe (Lomits).
We arrived in Santiago on Friday, March 17; Saturday night we went to a local dinner show at Los de Adobes Argomedo and after the show had great fun dancing.
The next day (Sunday, March 19) we had our luggage picked up outside the room and we went on a private pre-arranged tour to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso before being dropped off at the ship by 5 p.m. (This was about an 80-mile drive.)
We sailed just after 9 p.m. for Arica, Chile, which is close to the border with Peru in the northern part of Chile. The shipboard atmosphere was jolly. Captain Apostolos Bouzakis is a charming Greekfellow. Simon Weir was our cruise director; we previously met him on another cruise when the Millennium sailed the Baltic Sea, her second voyage. He is the best. His brother Nick was cruise director on the South American Horn Cruise in February 2004, and is also very good.
On Wednesday, after two wonderful sea days, we arrive in Arica, Chile at 7 a.m. We had previously booked a short local ship's tour of the city and the Geoglyphs in the area. It only lasted about four hours, but did go up the El Morro mountain around some very winding curves on roads without guard rails. We did not take the trip to the Lauca National Park, which seemed to be a very long ride. We returned to the ship, had lunch and then walked back into the city and to the Main Street, which is kind of a pedestrian promenade.
Passenger Tragedy We returned to the ship and were scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. We noticed that we were not departing, but we went to early main seating dinner. We went to the Celebrity Showroom after dinner to watch the Pampas Devils Argentina Tango show. While sitting in the showroom we were advised that around 4:30 p.m. a fatal accident occurred and 12 of our fellow passengers were killed while returning from a tour. We were delayed in Arica for 15 hours while the captain assisted those in need and the chief concierge left the ship to fly to the states and bring families of the deceased to Arica. A doctor and nurse from the ship were sent into town to the hospital to assist with two injured passengers who had both lost their wives in the accident. For a video click here: AOL News
We arrived in Callao, Peru at 11 a.m. Friday after two days at sea, four hours behind schedule. I was scheduled to take a Nazca Lines tour, but due to the delay, the tour was canceled and Celebrity credited my account ($535) for this one tour and also gave my wife and me a free tour of Lima, Peru (10 km. from Callao). Celebrity was under no obligation to do this and had nothing to do with booking the fatal tours. Everyone on board was proud of the way Celebrity handled the incident. We had a very nice tour of an ancient city. We departed Callao at 8 p.m.
On Sunday at 8 a.m., after two days at sea, we arrived in Manta, Ecuador. We were aware of the high incidence of malaria in this area, but the Plasmodium is transmitted by the Anopheles Mosquito, which is really a night biter. We took no medication since we spent only the day there. Manta is the center for the Ecuadorian Tuna industry and is the home of Charlie Tuna. Manta has been a major port since the pre- Inca era. The road from Manta to Montecristi has many warehouses and factories related to the tuna industry. We visited a factory that processed the aqua nut into Ecuador marble and bought several small figurines. Montecristi is the home of Panama hats, and we visited a market with many handicrafts including the famous hats. A lot of the small children are trying to sell goods, but they are very polite and not pushy or aggressive.
Canal Transit On Tuesday, after two days at sea, we arrived for the Panama Canal transit. My old map from 1995 did not have the new Centennial Bridge on it that was built in 2003, but otherwise was very helpful in letting us realize where we were. It takes about eight hours to transit the 50 mile length of the canal, which runs from southeast (Pacific) to northwest (Atlantic). One can get confused if you seem to see the sun setting in the East. Since 1999, the canal has belonged to Panama, but the U.S. still has Howard Air Force Base close by for security. Apparently Japan and the United States are the biggest users of the Panama Canal.
We entered the Miraflores locks (two locks) about 7 a.m., then proceeded into Miraflores Lake. We went through the Pedro Miguel locks to reach a point 85 feet above sea level, then went into the Culebra (meaning snake) Cut, a nine-mile section crossing the continental divide (this portion is now named the Galliard Cut after a Major Galliard). At the end of the Galliard Cut is Gamboa and a portion of the Chagres River that feeds Gatun Lake. There is another dam higher up on the Chagres River to help control this river, which has been known to rise 14 feet in 24 hours.
On Thursday, March 30, after another two days at sea, we arrived at Aruba at 7 a.m. This is a long, narrow island with some beautiful beaches. We spent the day at MoomBa Beach, between the Holiday Inn and the Marriott Ocean club. This turned out to be a very comfortable beach with trees for shade. Lounges were free with the purchase of drinks and food.
On April 2, 2006, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale and after a nice breakfast on the balcony finally walked off the ship and flew home without any mishaps. It was a great cruise -- only marred by the terrible accident outside of Arica.
Pictures here: Joe Reynolds
This 14-day cruise was our fourth cruise, third on a Celebrity Millennium Class ship. We enjoy our balcony and this time we had one on Deck 8 on the starboard side at about mid ship (8074). We enjoy cruising with Celebrity and this cruise exceeded our expectations!.
We spent 3 days in Argentina before the cruise and 2 days in Chile after the cruise.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. The itinerary is great. The ship is in good condition and we did not experience any bad odor that some had reported previously. The service was excellent. We were very lucky to have great weather. We hardly saw any shows, so we cannot comment on them. We chose to enjoy our balcony with an after dinner drink (usually wine that we picked up in a port) instead. We would highly recommend this cruise.- Dileep & Ann Bhandarkar
Jan 19 - 20: Buenos Aires, Argentina
On arrival at 10:30 am on Jan 19, we breezed through immigration and exchanged some money (terrible rate) while waiting for baggage. Customs was easy. A big disappointment as there was no one to pick us up. Ricardo forgot thatwe had managed to change our arrival to a day earlier. Fortunately, my cell phone worked and he suggested that we take a prepaid taxi (54 pesos) which only accepts pesos. He agreed to try and schedule our city tour for 3 pm. The taxi ride to NH Jousten Hotel (pronounced Houston) was uneventful. The hotel is very nice with friendly service, free internet in the lobby, and convenient location including the wine shop called Winery next door.
After a brief rest, we left with our guide Ana Pesce and driver Alberto to see May Square, Cathedral, San Telmo, La Boca (the colorful Caminiti street was great) and Recoleta. The mausoleums were all very interesting and works of art. A short stop at the Recoleta Urs factory shop yielded a leather jacket and some merino wool sweaters. Dinner at La Cabana was good.
Day 2 started at 9:30 am with guide Elba Rabito and driver Carlos for a sightseeing boat trip on the river delta in Tigre, followed by a train ride to the quaint town of San Isidro. The boat ride is very interesting and highly recommended. We were back at the hotel at 1:30 pm for a quick lunch and a nap before the long evening.
The evening highlight was the fantastic Tango show at El Viejo Almacen, which has a more traditional tango in a small theatre which gives you a very up close view. They had some Cusco musicians who were great! Dinner started at 8 pm followed by the show just after 10 pm, ending at midnight. We were unaware that there was a show at 8 pm, which we could have taken without dinner.
We thoroughly enjoyed our day and half in Buenos Aires. Ricardo's guides and drivers are very good and cars comfortable. He aims to please.Jan 21: Iguazu Falls - Highly Recommended side trip
Ricardo made amends for his earlier miscues by giving us a complimentary ride to the domestic airport for our trip to Iguazu Falls.
Our guide Miguel picked us up for the 15 minute trip to the Sheraton, which is in the national park. We had our first view of the falls from our room balcony. We recommend the Falls view room.
After a 10 minute walk to the ecological train station we headed on a 20 minute train ride to Devil's Throat falls. Another 10 minute walk, this time on metal cat walk to see the spectacular falls. There was same spray off and on, but we have plenty of time for some great pictures and videos. The total time including the train trip back was 1.5 hours.
The next walk was along the Upper Circuit to see other falls including San Martin Falls. This trip took about an hour including photo stops.
Next we went down the Lower Circuit from which you get a view of Union Falls at Devil's Throat and San Martin Falls, with a walk down to the base of Bossetti Falls to experience the spray. It started to rain just as we were ready to head back to the hotel.
The entire trip to see the falls was about 4 hours with a lot of walking and the guide was helpful. He told us the names of all the falls and pointed out good vantage points. The guide makes it easy, but we could have done it by ourselves with a little more effort and may be a bit slower. We were lucky that it was not as hot as previous days (only high 80's) and water levels were higher than the previous week.Iguazu Falls Notes:
Catarata Train Station is a 10 minute walk from the Sheraton. Get there 10-15 minutes before departure time. Train leaves for Devil's Throat at 10 and 40 minutes past the hour. Train ride is a bout 15 minutes. Walk to the observation point is also about 15 minutes. You can spend 30 minutes there and make the return train which leaves on the hour and half hour. I left at first train at 8:40 am from the Catarata Station and had a few minutes of exclusive viewing before others caught up with me, and returned on the 10 am train.
We you come back to Catarata Station, you can walk around the Upper Circuit for an hour, followed by another hour along the Lower Circuit.
Wear shorts and comfortable walking shoes. You will not get soaked unless you take the boat. You will get sprayed a bit, which can be refreshing.Jan 22: Return to Buenos Aires and sail away on the Celebrity Millennium
After a sunrise falls view from our balcony and a relaxing morning, I had to make another visit to Devil's Throat to see in the morning light. I managed to get on the first train at 8:40 am and beat the crowds to the observation deck. We took our return flight at 1 pm. Aerolineas Argentinas is a nice airline with clean airplanes and good service (including complimentary wine). Our flight pushed back 10 minutes early. Ricardo's driver Carlos picked us up and we made a quick stop at the NH Jousten hotel to pick up our luggage before heading to the port.
We checked in to the ship around 3:30 pm without any delays or hassles. They took our passports and kept them for the duration of the cruise. We had no problem carrying on the 4 bottles of wine we had bought in Buenos Aires. Our luggage, including the checked in wine box, were delivered in a reasonable time. After tasting the Martini sampler we had dinner. There was open seating for both early and late diners. Ship departed for Montevideo down the Plata River (Rio de la Plata) at 11 pm. Fortunately, no late night life boat muster.Jan 23: Montevideo, Uruguay - Informal Evening Attire
Spectacular sunrise around 6 am. Our arrival was delayed by slightly more than an hour by the port authorities due to congestion in the shipping channel. Celebrity pushed out our departure time by an hour to compensate. Leather shop shuttles are right there at the port! We were met by our guide Marta and her driver Washington (aka Pocho) and we left on our 5 hour private tour ($25 per person for 6 people) of the city with 4 other cruisers (Billy & Jane Defoyd and Colin & Jenny Lavery). Marta was excellent and very knowledgeable. We made frequent photo stops. She took us to a supermarket to buy wine and beer. We enjoyed our 3+ hour city tour and ended with a stop at the small Leather Outlet Club, where Ann found a great shearling lambskin coat. Lifeboat muster took between the two dinner seatings.Jan 24: En route to Puerto Madryn - Formal Evening Attire
Fairly calm seas and partly cloudy. Cruise Critic Connections party took place at 10 am in Michael's Piano Club. Simon Weir, the Cruise Director, stayed for a full hour and listened to cruisers introduce themselves and answered questions. At least one couple did get their invitation. There were 18 or so attendees.Jan 25: Puerto Madryn, Argentina - Casual Evening Attire
We docked early and got off the ship quickly with Anna Marie and Bob Harvey on a bright sunny day. Our guide (Miriam) and driver (Leandro) were waiting for us and we were one of the first vans to head out for our Punta Tombo excursion ($50 per person for a group of 4) at 9 am. The 100+ mile drive takes about 2.5 hours, including 1.5 hours for the last 73 miles on a dusty unpaved road. The long bumpy ride is definitely worthwhile. We got there at least 30 minutes before the Celebrity buses started to arrive with many people. You walk among hundreds of penguins on a graveled path that is easy to walk on. There are penguins everywhere and they have the right of way! We spent an hour and half taking pictures of the penguins and enjoying the sights.We made a quick stop in Trelew at the Paleontological Museum, which was nice but somewhat disappointing. We did find some Patagonian wine in the gift shop. We got a quick tour of Puerto Madryn including a quick peek at the busy beach before returning to the ship around 4:30 pm. The private tour for 4 people in a van is not only about half the cost of the ship's tour, it is more comfortable than riding in a bus, and you get there before the place gets too crowded.
What a difference a few days makes. We had a nice warm sunny day. The previous cruise could not get into this port due to high winds on Jan 18!
We had the Menu Exceptionnel dinner in the Olympic Restaurant on the ship with our dining room table mates (Al & Pauline, Lee & Gigi) in the wine room. A perfect way to end a great day!Jan 26: En route to Port Stanley - Informal Evening Attire
Fairly calm seas and sunny in the morning. A few white caps appeared in the afternoon and the wind picked up.Jan 27: Port Stanley, Falkland Islands - Casual Evening Attire
It was a bit rough, so they decided that the tenders would move slowly. We had our priority passes for Concierge Class, so we were able to get on the second tender along with Colin and Jenny Lavery at about 9:30 am. The general tender boarding was supposed to start after 10:30 am. Those with shore excursion tickets had first priority.
The Falklands is the only place where you see Gentoo and King penguins. Everywhere else you see Magellanic (aka Jackass) penguins. Celebrity has an exclusive for Bluff Cove (most popular tour) and Sparrow Cove which have many Gentoo penguins and sometimes 4-5 King penguins. Bluff Cove is an hour away including a 30 minute ride over rough roads. Sparrow Cove is reached by a special tender followed by a 4 wheel drive. The biggest King penguin viewing is at Volunteer Point which is 2.5 hours away and monopolized by Celebrity. Book the ship's tour for the best penguin viewing.
We saw a man (Gerald Cheek) holding up a "Sightseeing Tours" at the pier and we hired him ($60 for 4 people) for a city tour and a trip to Gypsy Cove, which has a few dozen Magellanic penguins and one King penguin. It was very windy and rainy and the King was just lying down on the beach. Just as we were ready to leave a fighter jet flew over us. That noise woke up the king penguin and he put on quite a show for us. Gerald was delightful - a fifth generation resident, who retired 5 years ago as the Director of Civil Aviation. He showed us the battlefield of the 1982 war and all the sights in the city. We had fish & chips at the Victory Bar and walked around town and shopped for souvenirs.
The wait for the return tender was less than 10 minutes and the seas were calmer than they were in the morning. A great stop, but this is one port where paying Celebrity $110+ per person for a 2.5 hour penguin viewing tour might be worthwhile. Only the ship's tours take you to see Gentoo penguins. All tours were sold out at the beginning of the cruise. Taxis are available at the public jetty and there is a shuttle bus that runs to Gypsy Cove, which as Magellanic penguins only and a lone King penguin on the beach.
The ship left about 7-8 hours late because the refueling barge could not approach the ship until after the tenders were all hoisted up. The seas were too rough during the day.Jan 28: At Sea - Formal Evening Attire
We finally sailed away some time after 3 am. Relaxing day at sea. It got quite windy around noon. This brought out a lot of birds - petrel and albatross.Jan 29: Cape Horn, Chile - Casual Evening Attire
The seas were somewhat rough at times but not too bad. The ship got to Cape Horn around 4 pm as planned and the master got us really close and the ship stayed there so one side could view and then turned slowly for the other side. They opened the heliport (accessed from the port side on Deck 4) for people to view, but it was very windy and cold. We got a nice view of the Chilean garrison and the Albatross Monument. We spent about 2 hours there to get different views before moving on to our next destination.
The casino was closed from about 4 pm and will not re-open for another 4 or 5 days. No gambling when the ship is within 12 miles of Chilean coast.
Another fine dinner in the Olympic Restaurant with our table mates including 2 new additions (Betsy and her mother Dorothy). We had lots of wine, including some Chateau Yquiem that Lee & Gigi bought for the whole table to celebrate their upcoming 50th anniversary. Our dinner lasted almost 4 hours!Jan 30 : Ushuaia, Argentina - Informal Evening Attire
Even though the itinerary said that we were to be tendered, we docked right in town at 6 am. This was good day to sleep in if you were not on any of the ship's early tours that started at 6:45 am! It was rainy and cold in the morning but it got better as the day progressed. We left the ship around 9 am and bought tickets (70 pesos per person) at the pier for a 3 hour Beagle Channel excursion on catamaran operated by Caneoro Catamaranes. We stopped on Bridges Island for 40 minutes for a panoramic view of Ushuaia and the mountains around it and to see the local flora and fauna. We saw cormorants and seals on little island and the Lighthouse.
We had a fabulous lunch at Restorante Tante Nina which serves great crab dishes in a room with a view of the harbor.
We left an hour late at 5 pm because the tour buses that took people on the train ride and national park tour returned late. About 3 hours after departure the ship sails along the glaciers Holande, Italia, Francia, Alemania, Romanche - all visible from the starboard side. These glaciers are magnificent. It was slightly foggy at time and very windy, but our balcony on Deck 8 gave us a great protected vantage point. Some on deck 9 were obscured by the overhang.
The Hotel Director left the ship and his assistant was promoted.Jan 31: Punta Arenas, Chile - Casual Evening Attire
It was a sunny day and we managed to get on one of the early tenders. Even with Concierge Class priority, we were told that we could not get on until 9 am. We went down to Deck 1 at just after 8 am and there were 8 seats open of a tender that was bout to leave and we got on and the tender left with 4 or 5 empty seats!
Our guide (Paulina) and driver Hector met us at we set out for Seno Otway Penguin Caves around 8:30 am. The 50 km ride took about an hour, with the last half on unpaved road. It was extremely windy (40+ mph) and chilly but the penguins were great. The terrain is grassy here and the penguins were often in group. We saw several lines of 10 or 12 head out to the sea and dive in. It takes about an hour to walk around the 1.5 km circuit. These are Magellanic penguins just like the ones in Puerto Madryn, but the experience is quite different. You definitely need something to keep your ears warm.
There are plenty of taxis at reasonable rates at the port and we saw several on the road with 3 or 4 passengers. 4 hours is plenty of time. Entrance to the penguin colony costs $6.
We were dropped off at the cemetery which has mausoleums similar to the one in Buenos Aires, but on a smaller scale. We walked to the main square (Plaza Munoz Gamero) which has a bronze statue of Ferdinand Magellan and several old buildings that belonged to some of the elite in the 19th century. There are several vendors selling crafts, sweaters, and souvenirs.
We had lunch at Sotito's Restaurante which serves great seafood. We had King Crab a la crÃ¨me and avocado salad. Yummy! The appetizer portion is plenty for lunch. Senor Sotito served us and was delighted to see the print out of his web page that I had with me. He gave us cigarette lighters with his logo.
The return tender wait was short (10 minutes or so).Feb 1: Skua Glacier - Informal Evening Attire
Don't know why the itinerary lists this day as the Straits of Magellan. When left the straits of Magellan around 5 am and cruised up the Pacific Ocean before entering Canal Nelson and Canal Castro en route to Skua Glacier. The Pacific was quite rough.
We reached the glacier around 2 pm and they opened up the heliport for viewing again. It was spectacular. The master took us to within a mile of the glacier and turned the ship to allow a good view from all sides. We spent about 2 hours here. The ship's tender took the photographer very close to the glacier and seeing the tender there helped frame the size of this glacier. It is not as wide as Hubbard Glacier in Alaska, but it sure is a beautiful sight.Feb 2: Chilean Fjords - Formal Evening Attire
We were back in the Pacific Ocean this morning and we could feel the waves rocking the ship. We entered the fjords around 5 pm and they were not as spectacular as we had hoped. Around 7 pm we saw a snowy peak on the starboard side, and had to run out of the dining room to take a quick picture. The scenery got more interesting after 8 pm with rocky mountains with evergreen vegetation and another snow covered mountain. After 9 pm we could see Volcano Osorno in the distance.Feb 3: Puerto Montt - Casual Evening Attire
We pulled into Puerto Montt around 7:30 am. We had a group of 10 (Anna Marie & Bob Harvey, Lynn & Jan Fidler, Keith & Luanna Mitzner, June & Dennis Marquis, and of course the two of us) and we had made arrangements with Brenda at The Captain's Club desk to get on the tenders early for out 8:30 am appointment with Gail & Veronica of GV Tours. It was a bright sunny day - not common in this city!
We drive off for Frutillar on Lake Llanquihue (pronounced Yankee Way!). It was a bright sunny day. Frutillar is a quaint Germanic town, but it was the least interesting part of the day. We drove through Puerto Varas (a slightly bigger German town) and drove on to Lake Todos Los Santos (aka Esmeralda Lake due to the green emerald colored water) in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park with stops for pictures of Volcano Osorno and Volcano Calbuco. The lake has nice views of Osorno and Volcano Puntiagudo. The scenery is spectacular. Our next stop was at Petrohue Falls, a scenic waterfall. You see Volcano Osorno and Volcano Tronador in the background.
After an excellent lunch (red trout) at Restaurant Las Tranqueras we stopped for some photo opportunities in Puerto Varas before returning to Puerto Montt at 3:15 pm for some shopping at the handicraft stalls. There was no wait for the tenders.
There are plenty of taxis at reasonable rates ($40-50 per hour at the port and 6 hours will cover the points of interest. A new Captain took over today. Many of the ship's tours came back late and we sailed out about an hour late. We enjoyed room service dinner on our balcony as we sailed out towards the Pacific Ocean.Feb 4: At Sea en route to Valparaiso - Casual Evening Attire
It was a nice sunny day with smooth seas. There were many people by the pool and on Deck 11 taking in the sunshine. It was a nice relaxing day at sea on the Pacific Ocean.
We ended the cruise with another fine dinner in the Olympic Restaurant with 4 of our tablemates. There were 3 showings of the March of the Penguins at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:30 pm. We packed our bags and had them out before the 11 pm deadline.Feb 5: Disembark in Valparaiso and City Tour of Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar
We pulled into port around 6 am, and were in the Celebrity Theatre for our 7:55 am debarking, but the Chilean authorities did not clear the ship until around 9:30 am. After that the disembarkation procedures were smooth. We were glad to be greeted by our guide Julio from ABS Mundo. Our driver Leslie came with the Hyundai Sonata and we struggled to fit all, and our luggage in the car. Next time we will ask for a station wagon.
A slight mix up as the guide was not told that we were to get a tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar before being dropped off at our hotel in Santiago. Fortunately, I had a printed copy of our voucher and after a quick phone call to the travel agency we were on our way around Valparaiso. We stopped for several picture opportunities including La Sebastiana (former home of Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda), Victoria Square, Chilean Navy building, and on a hill with a panoramic view of the city. Valparaiso has some colorful quaint old homes.
We then took the coastal road to Vina del Mar which is tourist town with nice beaches and fancy hotels. Places of interest are the Floral Clock, the Abarca Cove, the Arab Union Club, Wulff Castle, the Municipal Casino, Peru Avenue, and Acapulco beach.
We then traveled to Santiago past the vineyards, farms, orchards and olive plantations of Casablanca valley (well suited for white wine grapes), including a brief stop at Veramonte Winery for some wine tasting (Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay). We got upgraded to great corner room at the Marriott on the 22nd floor (Concierge Level) with panoramic views of the mountains. The hotel does make tour arrangements at reasonable prices, e.g. airport taxi for $20.
We watched Super Bowl XL on ESPN in our room drinking Pisco Sours, with room service dinner at half time with some fine wine! They had commentary in Spanish by Raul Allegre (former NFL place kicker) and Alvaro Martin. We missed all the Super Bowl commercials!Mon, Feb 06 Santiago, Chile
With the morning rising sun, we had an excellent view of the snow capped Andes from our room. The sunrise over the mountains was a beautiful sight too! We departed at 9 am for a city tour of Santiago. We started our tour with a panoramic view of the city at the Cerro Santa LucÃa (the Santa Lucia Hill), where the city was founded in 1541. We drove to the Plaza de Armas to see important National Monuments, such as the Iglesia Catedral (The Cathedral Church), Correo Central (The Main Post Office) and the Municipalidad de Santiago (The City Hall), and then walked to the Palacio de la Moneda ( President's Palace). We drove past the St. Lazarus church. We visited the "Club HÃpico" horse-racing course, which is considered one of the most beautiful courses in South America. We drove through the area with restored university buildings. We were dropped off at the Central Market, where we had an excellent seafood lunch at Donde Augusto. The avocados in Chile taste great as a side dish with fish!
We took an afternoon excursion to Concha y Toro winery. We were supposed to be picked up at #:45 pm, but we got a call in our hotel room at 3:15 pm asking us to meet the bus downstairs! Founded in 1883, it is the country's largest wine exporter. Our guided tour of the facility with Carolina began with a walk around the mansion and its gardens, followed by the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards planted in 1978. This was followed by a tasting of the 2003 Casillero del Diablo. Then we visited the regular cellar. We also visited the old Devil's Cellar and then tasted the Don Melchnor Cabernet Sauvignon. You keep the tasting glass as a souvenir. The gift shop has reasonably priced logo items like shirts, caps, cooking aprons, and of course wine and other souvenirs.
The Marriott is right next to Parque Arauco, the biggest shopping mall in Santiago. We had a nice dinner at the El Parron Restaurant with some fine Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.Tue, Feb 07 Santiago, Chile, Transfer to Airport, Depart 1:45 PM
There is a nice wine shop called La Vinoteca at the airport with a great selection of Chilean wines at god prices, so I had to buy a bottle of a single vineyard Carmenere!
Ship's Crew:Master: Captain Michael Karatzas Chief Engineer: Ioannis Pepes Hotel Director: Renato Chizzola & Garry Abbs Staff Captain: Spyros Konidaris Cruise Director: Simon Weir Our Celebrity Service: State Room Attendant: Vali Cateanu Asst State Room Attendant: Aaron Mutate Our Waiter: Igor Cuk Asst. Waiter: Agung Wine Steward: Nikolay Metropolitan Asst Maitre D'Hotel: Wlodzimiez Czajka Olympic Restaurant Maitre D'Hotel: Raffaele Bernardini
We thoroughly enjoyed the Lectures given by the naturalist Dirk Younkerman. We found the Enrichment Lectures by Colonel James W. Reid to be rather long winded and punctuated too often with "in my book". He had some good information to convey, but he digressed too much and was somewhat boring in my book!
We generally had our morning coffee and orange juice in our stateroom and had breakfast and lunch (when not in port) in the Ocean Café on Deck 10. On port days we ordered room service breakfast. We ate 3 times in the Olympic Restaurant in the Wine Room and loved each meal.
Our stateroom and dining room staff were very attentive and excellent. All in all we had a great time! It was truly one of our most enjoyable vacations!
In December 0f 2005 we took our 5th cruise on Celebrity and first on Millennium. It was our 55th Anniversary and we opted for the new Concierge Class to celebrate the occasion. Unfortunately our veranda had a partially blocked view due to an apparatus that hung over the side. We were advised that it could not be relocated. Needless to say we were very disappointed and felt that the cruise line should indicate that certain cabins/verandas have blocked views. The crew was nice but kept insisting that nothing could be done. So much for the extra perk of Concierge Class.
This review is a letter written to the President of Celebrity Cruise Lines. Please note that the Line very generously gave us a future cruise certificate worth $75.00. How very generous of them.
December 4, 2005Mr. Daniel J. Hanrahan President, Celebrity Cruises 1050 Caribbean Way Miami, Fl 33132
Dear Mr. Hanrahan:
My name is David J. Michel. On December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th a friend and I had the distinct displeasure to sample your cruise line during a three day, two night cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. We were on the Millennium, Embarking on 12/02/05 and Disembarking on 12/04/05. We were in Cabin 3088. The purpose of this letter is to make you personally aware of several observations regarding our much less than stellar cruise. I am an experienced traveler who has had past cruises with RCL, NCL and Carnival. I place our experience with Celebrity at the absolute bottom of our experiences. Although I will say the general appearance of your Ship was excellent and appeared to be very well maintained, however a ship does not a cruise make.
To try to present out our observations and complaints in a logical manner I willattempt to break them down by category:
We dropped off our luggage at Terminal 25 and then were directed to walk to Terminal 26. The original Check-in time scheduled for 3 pm, was moved to 4 pm due to the late arrival of Millennium due to a hurricane. (Beyond control of the cruise line) Passengers were called and advised that the departure time had changed, and that the two days at sea now included a port of call, Nassau. We were also advised that celebrity would include a buffet snack for passengers. The buffet turned out to be cold sandwiches and Luke warm hotdogs. (Not a good introduction to Celebrity) We arrived at 3:15 pm for check-in and after standing in line for three hours at 6:15 we were finally boarded. Now three hours standing in line is excessive. It was obvious that your check-in/boarding employees were frazzled. Your contract security people were doing the best job they could with having only two screening stations.
Dining room Concerns:
We found the dining experience to be poor. Both nights our waiter was surly, lacked personality, appeared tired and frazzled. The assistant waiter was upbeat and was trying hard. Food service was very, very slow. We had 9 PM sittings and generally it was after 11 pm by the time we were out of the dining room. The first night one hour passed from the time the salad (a wilted ceaser in a warm bowl) was served until the main course arrived. When the food finally arrived the main course was so over cooked it would have qualified as shoe leather. By this time we were so exhausted from our check-in experience that we just accepted it and assumed that the crew was also exhausted as were we. The second night proved to be no better. (Although the escargot was excellent) The beef again arrived vastly overcooked and was sent back. Service was so slow that at five minutes to eleven in order to make the show (excellent show) we left, never having received our dessert that was ordered 20 minutes earlier. At no time during either night did the Maitre d'or assistant Maitre d' appear at our table to inquire as to the quality of food and service. I rate the quality of food at the very bottom of my cruising and dining experience.
We were amazed at the generally less than professional attitude of some of the employees of your line. For example, service was slow, attitudes were poor. To provide you an example, we visited the Ice Cream station on deck ten. The male employee had run out of chocolate topping and refused to provide or get more. He said he would give chocolate soft serve but no chocolate topping for you. Several passengers found his attitude and lack of good communications just amazing, as did we.
Another waitress at the 10th floor fantail bar was slow, haute and seemed to project an attitude of non-caring. Additionally she seemed to be suffering from what appeared to be numerous lesions on her legs and arms. Perhaps she may have been better utilized at another location without so much visibility to your passengers.
Another example, a waitress complained to us about how bad the crew was treated: "The long hours and seven month contracts with no rest, and the poor quality of crew food if you are not an oriental." By the way we heard this on at least three occasions and generally from people of Slovak origins. Your Philippino employees were excellent with no complaints. We actually asked several Philippinos about their food and accommodations and they had no complaints and actually said the food was great. However the other complaints made us feel that we were exploiting these people.
I did observe interactions between what appeared to be service supervisors and employees on the food lines. I must say that the supervisors did not use good people management skills, openly and scowlingly correcting employees in public. This lack of basic supervisory skills may lie at the bottom of the attitude I saw from your people.
On both mornings of the cruise, on at least Deck 3, all bathrooms were not working due to a broken vacuum line to the toilet black water system. It is not acceptable that the engineering department allowed this problem to happen on two consecutive days. Generally one does not awake in the morning and perform a test flush of the system. The problem being in close quarters is that it takes no time to foul the entire cabin. Worst was searching the ship for a working toilet that is not already contaminated. Some of the Ships public restrooms stalls were locked.
Now for what I consider the final insult to my and my companion's senses: On the first morning, we left the cabin and just went into Nassau. Upon our return hours later we entered our cabin and became almost nauseous from the stink of un-flushed sewerage. One would think that after the system became operational, the hotel staff would have sent someone around to each cabin to flush the toilets, and spray deodorant through out the cabin. I complained to our cabin attendant who is from India and he exhibited absolutely no concern.
I had also attempted to call in a complaint on the cabin telephone, but the pick up of an incoming call is so slow that after 10 or 15 minutes of listening to your recording of how important my call is to the line, or something of that sort, I felt ignored and hung up.
Mr. Hanrahan, I must say that it is my experience that the numbers of concerns that I have enumerated certainly seem to indicate that someone in your organization appears to resting on their laurels. We were never polled or asked to report our experiences. This was my first trip on your line and in all honesty I can say that even my experience on Carnival was superior to your line. We arrived back with more Stress than on leaving.
We would like to compensated in some way or have our fare refunded, as we can find little or no value for the money paid. I am now planning my next cruise of a week or more on a line other than Celebrity X. I suggest that you take this letter quite seriously as a harbinger of where your company is headed. If you wish to speak personally, please do not hesitate to call me at the above telephone number.
Regards, David J. Michel
Cruise Notes August 2005
I'm sitting at a PC in the Millenium's well-equipped Computer Room with a view of the western Mediterranean passing peacefully by as we sail for our final destination, Barcelona. The fact that I can so easily access a terminal on a Sea Day is due both to the greater number of terminals than on previous cruises as well as the price of internet access (a painful $0.75 per minute, and a connection noticeably slower than your home cable modem hook-up).
This is our tenth cruise, although first with Celebrity (we are long time Royal Caribbean cruisers, the corporate owner of Celebrity). It will not be our last though. It's a slightly up market version of Royal Caribbean, a slightly older crowd (average age maybe 45), slightly fewer kids (though with a peerless kids' program), and significantly better food (on which more later). At twelve nights, this was also our first "longer" cruise, which felt a little decadent and certainly long enough to let the time merge into a pleasantly confusing fog of ports, excursions, dining dress codes and misplaced days ("if it's Friday it must be Santorini").
We arrived in Venicea day early, both to adjust to the six hour time difference from the U.S. east coast as well as to sightsee. Venice in August is a popular place, and San Marco Piazza (which we have visited before) allowed crowd movement akin to exiting a large sporting event. Taking a vaporetto (water taxi) is certainly the recommended way to get from Marco Polo airport to your hotel; however, Nature plays a role here and since the canal most convenient to our hotel was inaccessible (low tide) we had to wheel/carry the considerable luggage a family of six takes for two weeks across San Marco Piazza, down alleys barely wide enough for a suitcase and finally to our hotel. If I think of it, next time I'll check for deep water access near our hotel. So we settled in, explored, took a gondola ride, ate at "tourist" restaurants, and the next day boarded our ship.
Check-in was uneventful. It was high tide so a relatively short hike with bags to the vaporetto, and following a pleasant ride to the passenger terminal our bags were taken by a Celebrity representative while we were processed and led onboard. Our group was eight (three adults, four teenagers and a four year old). We've cruised together many times. Reports on Millenium from various websites range from positive to tired. It's a big ship though smaller than the Royal Caribbean Voyager class (those of the rock-climbing wall and ice-skating, not that we've ever tried either). We found it well looked after, clean, and generally with a wide variety of activities on offer (unless you're an under-age teenager seeking entry to the 18+ disco). We tentatively enrolled our young daughter in the Kids' Program, and this turned out to be a big success. While we had to probe and guess at how she'd spent her day, she invariably skipped in there each morning while we went on an excursion that she would not have enjoyed nearly as much, and as a result a better day was typically had by all.
The evening dinners in the main dining room were a notable step up from Royal Caribbean, whose standards we feel have slipped in recent years. We really didn't have a bad meal, and in many cases the quality was easily that which you might expect in a good restaurant back home. The lamb shank was slowly cooked for several hours, delicious and quite enormous. Similarly on lobster night (our elder daughter's favorite) the lobster tails were decent-sized (such that if you did indulge in a second that was quite as much as anyone could consume). Our waitress, Viktoria, from Hungary was ever-cheerful and efficient, swiftly replacing the occasionally poorly-chosen appetizer and quietly whispering to us the better menu choices (advice we quickly learned to heed). We ate in the dining room every night and never had a bad experience.
The evening entertainment was decidedly mixed; we've had better. The Millenium Singers and Dancers were heavily employed, it seemed to us, and at their worst (a most forgettable show named "Fantasea") made us feel as if our role as audience was that which parents of young children play when the little ones announce at home there will be "a show" in the family room (attendance compulsory) in five minutes. It's somehow less endearing when the quality is the same but the performers are adults. There was an illusionist, Jamie Allen, early in the cruise who was excellent, but one or two comedians would have been good and were sorely missed. Although we typically watch the evening show, we passed on many after the first few days.
Our cabin (7204) was a family suite with a queen size bed, pull out couch for our two daughters and a quite large balcony (always well worth it in our experience). And it was here that we encountered the Oregon family. On the penthouse deck directly below us, in a cabin that our balcony overlooked, was a very pleasant couple in their late 50s/early 60s. They were traveling with three of their grown children and respective spouses and children, distributed in three other cabins. We engaged in some small talk from our balcony overlooking theirs, and they invited us in to see their quite sumptuous quarters (which included a piano and two plasma TV screens). They were the eminently presentable U.S. cruising couple, well-dressed, well-travelled and not bad neighbors. Children can surprise you, and presumably the loud and substantial pre-school teacher (yes, really) that was next door to us had turned out somewhat differently than her unfortunate parents might have expected perhaps 20 years earlier.
Now I've normally thought stateroom walls are steel, and can remember few occasions where our neighbors on past cruises were even audible. And, as we were reminded on many occasions those first two jet-lag induced sleepless nights (at a shrill level of decibels more appropriate for the evening show) Oregon is nine hours time difference from Europe. These people evidently live life at a very high noise level, which rendered the wall paper thin and afforded us unwanted details on minute details of their daily lives. It began to resemble a version of reality TV watching a certifiably dysfunctional family in action, as screaming matches developed over such issues as ownership of a glass of water, missing chocolate powder, TV channels, bodily emissions and other unsavory aspects of (I presume) what passes for every day life in certain parts of Oregon. They reminded us of the Griswold cousins in National Lampoon's Vacation, a view that was reinforced when we briefly met the husband. Our amusement over the first couple of days soon shifted to incredulity, especially when I pointed out to the amply fed Mrs. Griswold that we could hear EVERYTHING going on in their room. We're still getting used to living like this was her reply, and while I searched hard I couldn't detect a trace of embarrassment, as if it must be some other domestic battle we were listening to every night. I did wonder if I should report unusually thin walls on Celebrity ships, but since on our other side the cabin might as well have been empty I guess this was just our bad luck. Eventually their sleep patterns conformed more to ours although we often awoke to bellowing (usually concerning food). It was Griswold's first cruise, and I hope for the rest of the cruising public, their last. By the way, our stateroom attendant was quite adequate, did his job efficiently and was unobtrusive.
In surveying our group on the ports and excursions (ages ranging from 4 to 42), the Pisa/Viareggio tour offered the requisite photo opp in front of the leaning tower (now freed again of its ugly supporting cables) along with a pleasant few hours at the beach and was the favorite of our teenagers. Santorini was of course beautiful, but if you choose the volcanic hike/hot springs wear your oldest sneakers and when swimming in the springs a sulphur-colored swimsuit will be less discolored than most when you emerge from the hot water. Nice and Monaco were beautiful and made us determined to return in the future with time to explore more widely. Rome and Athens were of course as expected. My daughter and I meanwhile took an olive-oil tasting trip north of Rome and enjoyed seeing the countryside. Celebrity's only real mistake was a disastrous tendering operation in Dubrovnik which left hundreds of passengers stranded onboard waiting for a boat ashore. Our ticket for tender #9 saw us wait 90 minutes; no doubt those like another family we chatted with (possessing #27) never got off. A public explanation and apology, since so many were affected (including us) was disappointingly absent.
The gym was well equipped. I tried a spinning class and was happy to find the activities staff organized a daily soccer game when it became clear there were enough Brits on board to make it worthwhile. We've had a great time which is now winding to a close. As I've been typing the PC technician has been most patiently assisting guests create CDs of their photos. One is left with the agreeable impression that this is a well run place.
A few other tips:
. Try the spa food . Check out the aquarium in Monaco . Barcelona was fun, but avoid the flamenco show and watch for pickpockets