The idea of a cruise first came to mind while planning a trip to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. We had been discussing various vacation options when my wife mentioned a cruise. A colleague at work had told her about an article in the Globe & Mail (Toronto, National newspaper), the article introduced and rated various cruise lines. Each line was described offering information on ship sizes, number of passengers, age groups targeted, activities, food, etc. . Based on this information we tended to lean to HAL or Celebrity and did some online research. The Celebrity's Millennium, 10-day southern Caribbean itinerary appealed to us both. We contacted a TA, who agreed that Celebrity would probably appeal to us based on what we told her and what we were looking for. So we booked our trip and paid our deposit. Were we doing the right thing? Neither of us had ever cruised before. Would we like it? Would we be seasick? Would this type of vacation work for us?
Even though not all went as planned; we had an excellent cruise which surpassed our expectations. We had planned and booked our cruise with another couple.At the last minute, prior to departure, our friend's wife was admitted to the hospital and they had to cancel their trip. Thank god, for travel insurance. We shared in their disappointment and left for our trip with dampened spirits. The trip had been in the planning for so long and we were celebrating out anniversary and we were going to make the best of it. From the moment we arrived at the ship, one couldn't help but do anything other than to get into the spirit of it.
The ship is beautiful. The ship's lounges and bars are beautiful each with their own appeal one of which would please different age groups and musical interests. From ballroom dancing in the Rendezvous lounge to disco in Cosmos, the elegance of a Martini in the Platinum club, to a football game on satellite TV in the Extreme sports bar. The dining experience (all meals) was superb whether dining in the Metropolitan the main dining room or, one of the alternative dining rooms (Ocean café / grill, Aqua spa buffet. There us always someplace open and serving to have a meal, tea, coffee, ice tea, punch or lemonade. If not room service is available 24 hours a day. The Olympic restaurant, the specialty restaurant, was an experience beyond belief. The additional cost of $25pp was money well spent. The waiters in Tuxedos were at your service at all times. The table set with fine china, crystal and silverware. Our meals were presented tableside. The menu selection & wine menu are superb. The sommelier, will offer wines from the wine cellar. Wine price range from $25 a bottle up to wines in the $100's of dollars. We choose to bring our own wine, which we brought to the dining room earlier in the day to have chilled, and pay the $15 plus tax corkage fee. I must admit this was the only disappointment. When we told the sommelier that he would be serving our wine, he was not discreet enough to hide is disappointment that we would not be ordering from the wine menu.
Our stateroom (Cabin 7116, cat 2B) was well appointed with tasteful décor. There was more than sufficient storage/closet. Our larger pieces of luggage stored easily under the beds and there was plenty of space in the closet to hang all our clothes along with 6 drawers for sox, underwear and t-shirts. The closet also contained life jackets and a safe for safe keeping of cash and valuables. The washroom and shower were a comfortable size, which includes an electrical outlet for electric razor and a blow-dryer (not the most efficient). Veteran cruisers told us that the washroom showers on the Millie seemed larger than on other ships. Our suite with the balcony was an added WOW. A luxury I wouldn't want to do without on future cruises. I really enjoyed having my morning continental breakfast delivered by room service and having breakfast on the balcony while watching the sea go by or arriving at the ports.
The pools and hot tubs were excellent, yes there are still some tiles missing in the shallow, this seems to be an issue, which is frequently mentioned in review. I imagine at some point Celebrity should fix this. The Aqua spa with the Thalassotherapy pool is an experience not to be missed and is a nice escape from the rain when you are at the open-air pool. We did not purchase any of the spa packages nor did my wife have her hair done at the beauty parlor but we did hear from those who had, that the services were excellent but needed to be reserved in advance. The fitness club was well equipped with a trainer there to offer advice on how to use the equipment and offer personalized services. A feature of the Aqua spa we did enjoy was the buffet, which offered light and nourishing meals.
The Celebrity theatre offered nightly entertainment, we had chosen late seating for our meals and the evening shows for late seating were arranged either prior to dinner or after dinner. The pre dinner shows were at 7:00 p.m. and the post dinner shows were at 10:45 p.m. We liked this way of scheduling. If you weren't up to those late night shows you didn't miss all the shows. For, our part we only missed one show. We found the shows to be of professional quality ranging form light entertainment such as the comedian/juggler, the magician, song and dance shows and musical shows. I won't go into the specific names or acts but all were superb productions and very entertaining.
Our Ports of call were, St. Maarten, St, Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts, and St. Thomas. Each island has it's own natural beauty and personality. This being our first cruise and visit to the islands we booked our shore excursions with Celebrity. In St. Maarten we did the Regatta sailing, which was a thrilling adventure. In St. Lucia we did the Land/Sea tour to Souffreiers. This tour was exceptional and highly recommended. In Barbados we booked the Harrison Caves excursion. The beauty of the caves is breath taking. In St. Kitts we choose the Nature Kayaking, what a wonderful explore the St. Kitts' coastline and paddle in the Caribbean Sea. When we arrived in St. Thomas our planned excursion "Escape the Magen's Bay" was cancelled due to lack of participation and our shipboard account was credited with our refund. So on we decide to strike out on our own. We took a Taxi island tour, which showed us the island highlights, and following the cab driver's advice we chose Coki beach over Magen's Bay to swim a snorkel. We arranged with the Cab driver to comeback and pick us up two hours later. The cab arrived precisely at the arranged time and returned us to the ship. We paid our cab fare only when arriving at the pier, our total fare was $20/pp.
Our first time cruise experience was beyond all expectation. We met marvelous people from interesting places. Couples like ourselves from Canada, people from all over the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, Dominion Republic and Australia. A wonderful person of all ages, each with their own stories to tell and share. We made some acquaintances and friends who we hope to someday meet again.
The Celebrity staff and organization are to be commended; they go out of their way to make your cruising experience memorable, safe and secure. Their skill in organization is incredible when you consider the number of passengers the must deal with. A point, which is mentioned in all reviews, is the embarking and disembarking process. Our experience was exceptional. We arrived at the pier at 11:00 a.m. and we were processed and on board by 11:40 a.m. We immediately found our stateroom and we were poolside by noon. On disembarkation the process was just as fast. Our luggage was tagged with brown tags and all our color was called at 9:00 a.m., we were off the ship and in a cab to the airport by 10:15. We were impressed on the efficiency of disembarking process.
We were told that cruising, from June to November, in the Caribbean was risky due to hurricane season, and this of course is true. During our cruise there was a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, which I believe hit the coast of Cuba. This only affected us, one night where we experienced high winds, a bit rougher sea and a spectacular lightning storm during the night; nothing, which really rocked (our boat) the ship. The one big advantage we found was that at all our Ports of call, the Millennium was the only ship in Port and we had no crowds to deal with and had the islands to our fellow passengers and ourselves. With this cruise now behind us, we can comfortably say "Cruising is for us" and we are anxious to live yet another cruising experience.
We returned last week from the 11 day Millennium cruise and it was fabulous! Hope this will help those of you who are going on the Millie in the near future:
EMBARKATION: We registered on-line with the paperless embarkation and it was a breeze. We arrived at the port around 10:40a.m. and were the second ones on the ship by 11:20a.m. (and we did not belong to the Captain's Club, as this was our first Celebrity cruise). Even the guy at the terminal checking us in said how nice it was that we were already in the system. People who got there too early sat and waited for a long time, but we whisked in and out.
THE CABIN: We were in room 2129, which is an outside cabin with a king size bed, 2 uppers and a pull out couch. It was comfortable for all 4 of us (my spouse and 2 kids ages 8 & 4). There was enough drawer and closet space, which was a worry we had, but bring extra hangers. This room was the perfect location at the center of the ship, very quiet, yet closeto the main elevators. No noise from above or below, just the occasional flushing of a toilet from next door. We were able to drop off items in the room right away and all but one piece of luggage was in the room by 3p.m. Other passengers waited much longer for their luggage. Our cabin steward was not so great, we had to ask for shore excursion towels each day, as he only would leave 2, not 4. Occasionally he did not leave enough regular towels, or left the kleenex empty, or took several days and requests to empty the refrigerator, etc. The assistant to him, however, was great.
DINING ROOM: We had the main seating, which was fine for us, but the majority of the passengers requested the late seating, which was full. The main seating had some empty tables, and ours was only half full. The waiter said the late seating was crazy with so many people crammed in there, we were glad to have the early seating. Overall the food was very good. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent, as were other waiters we experienced there. The kids were happy to get their request for shrimp cocktail every meal. Unlike other ships we have been on, the kids menu also changed each night, which was a pleasant surprise. One night my youngest daughter was sleeping, so we placed her order and the waiter prepared it to go so she had it when she awakened. That was very nice.
KEY WEST: We toured on our own in Key West, as we live in South Florida and can see the Keys whenever we want. We walked around the various shops, and to the Hemingway house (I'm a big cat lover and was already missing my 7 cats back home).
THE SHOWS: We were very impressed with all of the shows they performed. We saw all but one, and had no complaints. We were surprised at the beginning of the cruise the shows did not pack the house, but towards the end of the cruise it was hard to find a seat. The Celebrity Theater is very comfortable and no bad seat in the house. People were pretty good about not saving a million seats (in the theater that is; the pool, that's another story).
THE POOL: Speaking of the pool, if you did not have a chair reserved with your personal items on it by 8:30a.m., you were outta luck! There was not a soul on deck, but by golly every lounge chair was taken. We just made sure on sea days we were up bright and early (at least my husband was) to secure 2 chairs. We weren't greedy and saving for the kids, as the majority of the time they were in the Fun Factory. When they were at the pool, they were in it, not laying in the sun. Most people were nice about the chairs, but someone did lay in ours despite our personal items still on them. We politely, but firmly had them relocate. A few days we did not get a chair early, but we always managed to find some. The upper deck always had some available further back on deck, just couldn't hear the band. The band Onyx was fabulous!! They played several times a day at the pool, as well as the deck parties, in the disco and even the shows.
COZUMEL, MEXICO: Our ship arrived a little bit late, and we had to wait for a Carnival ship to clear customs first. This cut down on our tour time. We took the ships tour for Xcaret. It was very interesting, included swimming as well as touring some ruins, seeing animals, a little bit of everything. It has an underground river with caverns, etc. we were all able to float through- very exciting. We ate an authentic Mexican lunch at one of the restaurants there- yummy. Could have used a little more time there, but we had to rush back to catch the boat. There were at least 4 other cruise ships in port, so everything was packed.
COSTA RICA: The night before we arrived in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, we were notified our tour had been cancelled. (by the way, we booked our tours on-line ahead of time, were glad we did because the shore excursion deck was packed and tours sold out quickly). We were very upset, but it is the rainy season in Costa Rica and many roads were washed out and unsafe. Luckily the shore excursion desk helped us to arrange another tour on the Tortuguera Canal. When we arrived it was pouring down rain, and we weren't even sure we could get off the ship. Fortunately our tour was later in the morning. The people who went on the same tour earlier didn't see much of anything other than rain and plants. We, however, lucked out. The rain stopped as we left the ship and had a nice ride along the canal. We saw several sloths, a crocodile, some bats, some unusual birds (I forget the names, but they are definitely not ones you would see anywhere else), spider monkeys, white-faced capuchin monkeys, turtles, catfish, butterflies, and gorgeous plants and flowers. This tour included a nice buffet of fresh fruit. After the boat ride, our bus took us on a tour of the island (again, luck of the draw, people on other buses with different tour guides did not have this added extra). We were able to see part of the countryside and some banana and cocoa plantations.
PANAMA CANAL: Here we went on the 2 Ocean Railroad tour. It was a very nice and relaxing way to see this country and learn some of its history. We had a tour of the Miraflores Locks, but did not arrive in time to see a ship pass through the locks. They served a boxed lunch, which was not bad, (some people did not like it), but at this point in the trip you were used to eating alot, so any food would have been okay. The main shopping areas in Panama are closed on the weekend, so the only open area for shopping we saw was right by the ship. After the tour we were dropped off right by the shops. How convenient!
OLYMPIC RESTAURANT: The night we were in Panama is when we chose to eat in the Olympic. It was a casual night, but we didn't mind being a bit dressier. We chose this night because we knew we wouldn't be too exhausted from our excursion, and we booked it late enough (8:30p.m.) so we would have time to feed the kids and not be rushed. The atmosphere, waiters and food were fabulous. Well worth the extra $$. We were so stuffed by the time the chocolate souffle (excellent) and the sampler dessert (we each got something different) arrived, we were ready to explode! They had a strolling violinist, who stopped by our table when they had a surprise anniversary cake for us (our 12th anniversary), that was a nice touch. Had no room for this extra bit of dessert though! by the way, we had no trouble getting the exact date and time we wanted for this, because making the reservation was one of the first things we did when we got onboard. Some people were still making reservations for additional nights in the Olympic the night we ate there.
ARUBA: This was our favorite stop of the trip. We took the Sailaway Beach Cruise, which went on a relaxing, long catamaran ride to 2 different snorkeling sites. One included a sunken WWII ghost ship, which was interesting. The water was a little deep and rough for the kids to enjoy the snorkeling, but they loved the catamaran journey. We stopped at the beach for a private barbecue luncheon, then had some free time on the beach before reboarding the catamaran for the nice ride back to the ship. After snorkeling free rum or vodka punch was offered, and punch and soft drinks were always available. This tour took up most of our time in Aruba, but we still had enough time to do some shopping. Here you can bargain for a better deal on something, and most likely you will get your price, not their original price.
GRAND CAYMAN: Here we did the snorkeling, Stingray City and beach tour, which included everything. It was a bit rainy when we arrived, but after many clouds and one deluge of rain and thunder, it cleared up. Luckily this cooled it off somewhat so it wasn't stifling hot. The Stingray City was exciting, if you don't mind huge mushy things rubbing against you in the water. The kids were not too thrilled to be accosted by such big creatures, but they enjoyed watching them swim around them, as long as they didn't swim onto them. You could feed the stingrays, and some people, my husband included, even held them. I agreed with the kids and kept a comfortable distance. The snorkeling site was a huge reef. Some of the kids on the tour stayed on the boat, as the water was pretty deep. I took my older daughter and hand in hand we were able to explore this site. It was interesting and we saw some different fish and the coral, as well as stingrays further away. Like Mexico, however, this port was packed with other cruise ships. We spotted 5 other big ships, so everything was crowded. Luckily, we had an earlier start than the others so the stops were not too packed. The beach we went to was a resort on the 7 mile beach. It was nice because the tour included a nice lunch, drink (alcohol if you wanted), and lounge chair. They had fresh water showers available also. You could rent water sport vehicles (wave runners, etc.), but it was a little pricey. The water and beach were exquisite there. It was a nice leisurely day, and we still had enough time to do some shopping. No bartering for prices here, however, you pay the asking price period. Be sure to leave enough time to ferry back to the ship. One of the Carnival ships in port had to turn back because a few people missed the ship.
AQUASPA: The thalassotherapy pool was very relaxing and quiet. The security was pretty good at keeping children out, but it never ceased to amaze us when parents brought their children in with them anyway. We did not. The spa offered a lighter lunch, which we sampled and were satisfied with for a change of pace. They had a sauna as well, which was nice. Better to use the spa earlier in the cruise than towards the end, many people are sunburnt and peeling, and traces of that was evident in the spa pool (gross!). Yes, as posted by someone else, an ADULT put shampoo or some kind of soap in the whirlpool at the spa as well as one of the main pool whirlpools. This was totally inappropriate and inexcusable. The whirlpools had to be closed and drained, and hopefully nothing got ruined.
DRESS CODE: Day 1, casual; day 2 Key West, formal; day 3 Cozumel, casual; day 4, informal; day 5 Costa Rica, casual; day 6 Panama, informal; day 7, formal; day 8 Aruba, casual; day 9, informal; day 10 Grand Cayman, formal; day 11, casual. We dressed to the nines, including my girls, each formal night. We loved it! Other people, however, were not as compliant. One young girl (age 12-13) on formal nights trotted into the dining room in short shorts and some kind of hat on her head. How inappropriate! This same family rushed into dinner on average 40-50 minutes late every night. Overall, most people followed the rules. We did see an occasional pair of shorts or jeans at dinner time for casual night, and no one said anything (except for us, of course and several other people who were dressed appropriately). To each his own, but we enjoyed getting dressed up for dinner.
KIDS PROGRAM: My kids have been on other cruises, but they both thoroughly enjoyed Celebrity. I have to admit, I was a little anxious worrying if this ship could compare to the fun they have had on Carnival, which is well-known for it's children's program. Well my older daughter informed me that this ship was MUCH better than the other cruises she has been on before. Both girls looked forward to the activities and often did not want to leave. A nice plus was on the formal nights, not only did they have a pizza dinner party for the kids, but they offered free slumber party until 1a.m. On the other nights the scheduled activities ended at 10p.m. and you had to pay $6 per hour per child after that.
KIDS ON BOARD: Yes, there were many parents who let their kids wander aimlessly on the ship. However, overall, the kids were well behaved. I did not feel it was appropriate to have small children (under age 9) roaming the ship by themselves, but many people allowed this. We did not. One morning in the dining room we were seated for breakfast with an "elderly" crowd. We thought they were going to have a fit sitting with 2 small children. by the end of the breakfast, everyone at the table complimented us on how well behaved the girls were. So there! As I have said before, it depends on the parents - not all kids are obnoxious!!
DISEMBARKATION: This was the worst part of the trip. Not because the process was bad - but because the trip was over. Eleven days is NOT enough. Never again a 7 day! Leaving the ship was not as chaotic as I have read on other posts. Our colored tags were one of the last colors called off the ship, but we were in no rush to return to our ordinary life. The staff made sure people who had to catch planes, etc. were the first off the ship, then came the rest of us. We quickly found our luggage, and left the port without a hitch.
Well, I hope I covered the highlights. Please feel free to e-mail me with any specific questions.
The Ship - The ship was beautiful even though it's showing a bit of wear. It was very clean and day and night the crew was polishing and cleaning it. The staterooms are very nice and spacious. We had a Cat. 1 with a veranda and had plenty of closet and drawer space. There are shampoo and lotion dispensers in the bathroom along with a blow dryer. We brought extra hangers and were glad that we did. The dining room was two story and nicely laid out with views of the ocean from just about every table. The casino was a bit small for all the action that was taking place in it. It was very crowded just about every evening and not laid out well. We were tripping over each other when the casino was busy. We saw quite a few jackpot winners! The chairs by the main pool were occupied every day and you had to get there very early if you wanted a chaise lounge. One of our favorite places was the Cosmos Lounge on Level 11. It was pure heaven to sit up there duringsea days and get a panoramic view of the ocean. We also loved eating lunch or a late breakfast behind the buffet all the way aft. You're basically sitting at the very back of the ship, outdoors, under picnic type tables. Not many people took advantage of this outdoor space, but it was a perfect place to enjoy a cup of morning coffee while you watched the sea.
The Food - There were many complaints about the food, almost all from people who had cruised Celebrity before. Those who sailed other Celebrity ships claimed that the food on the Millie was inferior. The two main complaints were the quality of the food (it was inconsistent) and the menu selections. My husband and I found the food to be good, not great. We agreed about the menu selections, though. Some nights it was a stretch to find something we liked. We're not huge fish eaters, and usually two of the four selections were fish based. The menu offered shrimp one night, lobster one night, fillet two nights and prime rib two nights. One of our tablemates had chicken every night because she couldn't find anything she really liked on the menu. (you can order chicken, salmon or steak any night even if it's not on the menu...same with shrimp cocktail for an appetizer) Some of the fish selections were species we never heard of, such as Hake. This could be an east coast/west coast thing, though. (we're from the west coast) The first three nights offered the best selections. I liked the selections better on NCL, RCI and even Carnival!
We tried the Olympic dining room one night. It was a beautiful room! We had a very nice time, but probably wouldn't do it again. The service was extremely attentive....almost too attentive. There was always a waiter standing behind you and if you dropped a crumb, he was right there to sweep it up. Personally, I was a bit uncomfortable with this. It was difficult to have a conversation with the waiters standing next to you. The food was good, but not outstanding. If we ordered the suggested wines our bill would have been over $300!
The ocean grill is open for casual dining every night from 6:00 to 9:00. They have two menus that they alternate. You order your main dish from the menu and the soup, salad and dessert are buffet style. We really enjoyed ordering room service for breakfast on port days. You fill out the room service card that is found in the back of your Celebrity Directory of Services book that will be in your room. A nice touch is that they call you a few minutes before room service comes to give you time to be prepared. This was great and the eggs and coffee were always hot and good!
We had early seating and at first I didn't want that, but the ship was full and we couldn't be changed. I ended up being thrilled that we weren't changed. First of all, we had a table with the very best tablemates! We had a great time every evening and ended up doing many activities together. Secondly, we were able to see the evening show at 9:00 instead of 10:45. We never felt rushed getting ready for dinner, even after a day at port. The day we went to Aruba, everyone at the table agreed that we wanted to spend as much time there as possible so we made reservations at the Ocean Grille for 7:00 and met there instead of the main dining room. It was a perfect solution so we could each do our "thing" at port and still enjoy each others company for dinner.
Ports - We loved Key West! It's such a pretty, quaint town. We booked a tour off the internet and had a blast! We drove our own two person speedboats around the mangroves and islands (we followed a guide!) and saw the backyards of multi-million dollar homes. We were on the lookout for manatees, but unfortunately didn't spot one that day. Then, following the guide, we took off into the ocean to a small bay where we snorkled in clear, warm water. The tour lasted about 3 hours - from 9:30 till 12:30. We had about an hour to walk around the town before heading over to the tandem. The tour was from www.jungletour.com <http://www.jungletour.com> and was a lot of fun!
Cozumel - We went to the Nachi Cacoom Beach Club. The sand was pure white and the water was as clear as can be. It usually costs $5 per person to use the chalupas and chaise lounges, but if you're going to buy a drink or lunch, they don't charge you to use the facilities. We sat under the grass chalupas and had a wonderful swimming and snorkeling in the water. They have a nice restaurant there, and also food and drink service directly to your chairs. This beach was not crowded at all and when we passed the ones that the ship recommended, they looked mobbed! Try to get there before noon to get a nice chalupa next to the water. It's a $15 cab ride each way, so see if another couple wants to join you. There are water sports here also...jet skis, parasailing, etc.
Costa Rica - We booked the Tortuguero Canal tour through the ship. We thought the tour was way to expensive for what you got. We saw a few monkeys, a toucan, sloths, a few iguanas but no crocodiles because it was a misty day, If I were to do this port again I would book a tour off the ship from one of the many tour guides that were waiting on the pier. They not only gave you the canal tour, but also the banana plant tour and a beach tour for half the money the ship charged. Everyone we spoke with who took the "off the pier" tour loved it!
Take the free shuttle or walk over to the shopping area. It's an open air flea market and is a lot of fun! This is where you'll find the best prices on their coffee. Panama - We booked the Two Ocean Railroad tour through the ship. It was a pretty good tour...the train was beautiful! We were lucky enough to see a ship pass through the first lock. The Guten Lake is huge and you'll pass right by it. We spotted many monkeys in the trees and a few large turtles roaming by the sides of the tracks near the Lake. If you go into the shopping area right off the pier, bring your camera! You'll find kids walking around with their pet spider and white faced monkeys along with exotic birds etc. For a dollar you'll get a fun shot of yourself holding a monkey. You'll also get a bit of a surprise when you come out of the shopping center and head towards the ship....you'll find a group of Native Panamanians dancing. This might not seem surprising, but they are in all stages of undress (women topless and men have the bottoms bared) and they have green symbols painted all over them. It's a riot watching everyone gather around them!
Aruba - We took a taxi to Palm Beach and were let off at the Marriott Hotel, which is the last hotel on Palm Beach. The hotel is beautiful and after you walk through the lobby (which is where the casino is located) you'll pass a small bridge with a sign that says, "Iguanas Passing" They aren't kidding! There were iguanas walking around this area everywhere you looked and some were huge! Great Kodak moment! We paid $10 for the use of the facilities. We found a chalupa right on the water and the attendant fixed our lounge chairs with Marriott towels. The water was great, the sand was soft and it was nice and shady under the chalupa. Every 15 minutes or so we ventured into the water to float around or snorkel. You can rent floats for $5 for the day or jet ski, etc. We loved having the waiters come to our lounges and take our drink orders and just enjoyed the perfect day.
Grand Cayman - We booked a Stingray City tour off the internet. The tour guide met us at the pier and took us to the Grand Cayman Yacht Club. There we boarded a beautiful yacht and went through the harbor past million dollar homes and out into the sea to the sandbar. This is a MUST DO! The stingrays are as tame as can be and you have to touch them to believe how smooth they are. Our tour guides were wonderful and there were only 18 of us on the yacht. The guides provided the food for the rays and they were in the water with us lifting them up for us to hold and taking pictures of us, etc. After stingray city, the guides took us to Coral Reef where we snorkeled and saw the most amazing fish. The guides provided all the equipment along with floating vests if you wanted it. The price of this tour was $25 per person and lasted just under 3 hours. A nice touch was that we were given the choice of going back to the pier or going to Seven Mile Beach. We chose the beach and again had a ball. The water temp was 88 degrees! The outfit we took the tour with was www.nativewaywatersports.com. I highly recommend them!
Crew - The crew was great! Always a smile and a friendly hello and always willing to help out. Our waiters were perfect, bartenders and drink people were friendly and not pushy and the hostesses seemed to have a ball with their job and tried to get everyone involved. The captain's wife gave a talk to promote her book. If you buy it, read chapter 3 right away!!! WOW!!!! I think the only one we didn't see with a smile on his/her face was the captain himself. I guess he read Chapter 3 of his wife's book!
Glitches - We had a wonderful cruise and the time of our lives! There were just a few things that bothered us and I think the biggest was the rude people on the ship. Some groups didn't think twice about walking right in front of you or cutting in lines, saving rows of seats in the theater, etc. I don't know if this was a language barrier problem or different customs from different countries, or what. There were many large groups of Europeans on the ship and maybe in their countries people are so congested that pushing in front of others is normal...don't know. But, they sure didn't follow by American ways and many, many people were getting visibly upset with their behaviors. We actually witnessed two near fights when a group of 8 cut in line to be with their tour friends. The groups were large...not family groups, but tour groups, and they tended to let everyone in their tour cut in line with them.
Another problem was the pre-teens and teens. Some of them seemed to have nothing to do so decided to run through the ship and play havoc with the elevators, ice tea machines, ice machines, etc. The last few days of the cruise were the worst. I think 11 days may have been too long for some of the kids. We spoke with the teens every chance we could to see if they were enjoying the cruise because we almost brought our 16 yr. old. All of them said the same thing...they were bored! I don't think Celebrity had enough activities for the teen groups.
Last but not least was our cabin stewart. He wasn't very accommodating. One afternoon I asked him for ice and he told me that he would re-fill it at 6:00pm. It was 4:00 and the ice was melted so I asked if he could bring some sooner. "No", he said. "I only bring ice at 10:00am and 6:00pm." I almost had to laugh! I asked him to make an exception and to make that exception quickly! LOL!!!
On the last full day at sea my husband and I were packing up. We decided to order room service for lunch and enjoy the balcony for our last day. I went to look for the room service menu which is in the Directory of Services book. The book was gone so I went to ask John (our steward) if I could have the book back for a few minutes. (the stewards take the book from the room on the last evening so you can't take it home with you) John told me that he didn't want us to have room service that day because he was "busy getting ready for the next cruise." He suggested that we eat in the buffet. I ended up ordering room service through the TV, so everything was fine in the end, but the room steward's attitude was not great for the whole 11 days.
**TIP - This was amazing to me, but you can buy booze on the ship and bring it right back to your room!! They don't hold it till the end of the trip. Just tell them that you want to bring it to your room and they will bag it and let you take it there. This sure saved us a lot of money especially since the liquor is so inexpensive in the shops!
Don't miss going through the Observatory. This is where one lone man designs and produces all the flower arrangements you see on the ship. The place is just amazing. It's located on the 10th and 11th levels (two stories).
My family and our best friends (8 of us) just returned from the 11-nite sailing of the Millennium, which visits islands in the Caribbean sea and several ports in Central America. Embarkation was a breeze and we were aboard by 11:15 A.M. The ship is not spectacular in a glitzy way, as Carnival's newest, but it is elegant and tasteful. The 2-story dining room is stunning, with a wall of glass covering the back (stern) wall, and large, circular windows spaced along the sides.
Our standard outside cabin was of a good size and very well designed. Four of us shared it, and I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to put away all of our belongings (though every available nook and cranny was used, including alongside the T. V., and on top of the safe.) Other ships I have sailed on, and this was our 9th ship, did not have the storage space this one had.
The food on Celebrity continues to be outstanding, the best of the lines we have sailed on, which includes Holland-America, Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Princess. The steaks and prime rib, for example,were of the highest quality, and I can honestly say that not one of the meals was a disappointment.. The lunch buffets at the Ocean Café were the most extensive I have seen, and separate stations included a pasta station, specialty of the day, ice cream bar, and the usual hamburger-hot dog-French fries grill. Staff was even there to carry your tray for you. Lines were never long, even at peak time.
As for entertainment, the production numbers were excellent, particularly the last one, which displayed an imagination I had not seen before on a cruise. The lead tenor and soprano were outstanding, though the other singers were minimally talented.
We enjoyed our time on shore. I would recommend what we did on Grand Cayman, which was to take a ride in a taxi, see the turtle farm, stop by Hell, and spend a few hours at seven-mile beach. The shore excursion we took at Cozumel I would highly recommend; it included a catamaran ride (the boat was called the "Fury"), snorkeling, and some time at a lovely beach. Colon, Panama is a dump, and our bus driver cautioned us against walking about anywhere. Seeing the Panama Canal, however, was well worth the stopover.
My one major complaint was not with the ship but the maitre d' staff. We have traveled together with our best friends for the past eight years, and made sure that our travel agent placed us at the same table. Despite confirmation from Celebrity, which our agent said she had, we were placed at separate tables, not even on the same floor of the dining room. We discovered the dining room assignment upon entering our stateroom, and immediately went to see the maitre d' staff to straighten it out. I found them to be rather pompous and unsympathetic. We were given vague assurances that they would do their best after tonight; this was unacceptable, and our friend told them that if we were going to be at separate tables, we wanted off the ship now. The assistant maitre d' insisted he would see what he could do tomorrow. We asked a party seated at one of the tables to which we had been assigned, if they would consider changing, and they graciously agreed. We ate together that first night and received assurance from that area assistant maitre d' that this table assignment would be permanent for the cruise. However, the following night, a different assistant maitre d' came to our table and said we shouldn't be there-that a party of nine which had not shown up the first night should be there. He then conferred with another of the dining room staff, who said that our request for a table together had been arranged, and that we were supposed to be upstairs at a table for eight. He insisted that each stateroom (there were three in all) had a notice of the table change; in fact, none of the staterooms had any such notice, so how were we supposed to know this? It turned out that the table we eventually would up at was fine, and the waiter, Christian, was very professional. The aggravation of the dining room could have been avoided by better communication among maitre d' staff, and greater sensitivity to the traveling needs of the passengers, who are paying a great deal of money for this experience.
Minor disappointments were that there was not that much to do at night, no late shows for example, and Celebrity could have added a port to our itinerary. The stop at Cartegena was eliminated months ago, and another day at sea substituted. This left us with six ports, on an 11-night cruise, and at one of the ports, in Costa Rica, we did not venture from the ship due to the heavy rain for our entire stopover. Overall, I would rate this ship a 9 out of 10.
I recently cruised for 11 days on the Millennium and enjoyed many aspects of the ship and service. This was my 28th cruise and Princess is still my favorite line although I think each line has their own "best points". H.A.L.'s service and friendliness seems so consistent no matter which ship, princess just knows how to "do it all right", food, shows, service, embarkation, etc. The Millennium's strong points were good embarkation and debarkation processes, adequate food quality and service, but I agree with another review listed here....many people on my deck and hall never saw their cabin attendant the entire cruise! Large bathrooms, well appointed, bright (a real plus) rooms were comfortable, but the closet space does not even begin to approach that of some ships (and I am not speaking as one who always books premium rooms).
The shore excursion dept. was terrible: a mass of over-priced, confusing (with a capital C), and disorganized "tours". Probably the most distressing aspect was to arrive onboard thinking the ship was going to one of my favorite ports, Cartagena, only to find the posting of a U.S. state department advisory. That is understandable, butwhen a crew member told me "this ship has never gone to Cartagena, it was never intended to go, it is a marketing ploy", it did bolster my confidence in Celebrity! I was amazed to find that this was not, as it was made to appear, a "last minute" change. I had talked with Celebrity and the agent a number of times, both were aware that this port is one of my considerations in a cruise, yet no one bothered to tell me they have never actually gone there. Two other incidents on Celebrity kept it from my favorite list. The first has never happened to me on any other ship, but could of course happen anywhere. I took a sauna, the Millennium has the most beautiful sauna I have ever seen...it looks out on the ocean through a huge window.
I was the last person, it was quite late and they were closing. When I reached my cabin, I realized I had left my suit on a hook in the spa. The suit was brand new, but I was not worried as they were cleaning and closing as I hurried to gather my other things and left. I called and was told I could probably pick it up at lost and found the next morning. When I checked, it had "not been sent down yet". I went to the spa/gym, one of the employees said not to worry, and said she saw it when they closed and knew the cleaning people had it. End of story is, my suit was never "found", or at least never turned in. The other incident was really upsetting. While I boarded early and my luggage arrived before expected, I had carefully hung my formal dress bag on one of the many curbside dress bag racks. It never appeared in my cabin with my luggage. I didn't think much about it, my experience had told me they would be rolling the rack from stateroom to stateroom delivering the hanging bags, not unusual for them to arrive apart from the other luggage. Mine never appeared. Very late that night, after late seating and the entertainment, I was on my way to my cabin when I spotted, in a heap, a garment bag. It was in a corner of the main hotel deck passage used for embarkation.
There it was, quite visable, looking like a "pile of garbage" thrown out of the way. I picked it up, took it to the desk, and while they were pleasant, no one could give any explanation. I did receive a bottle of wine delivered to my cabin with an apology, a gesture which reflected class on the part of Celebrity. This small gesture of taking responsibility made the difference to me in ever considering Celebrity again. In this day and age of so many choices and such appealing prices, cruise lines had better pay close attention to the impression they leave with passengers. Many reviews speak of "nickle and dime" tactics, I agree completely, the extra charge restaurants, per diem gym charges, art actions, retail selling, outrageous per min. email charges, etc. may one day drive confirmed cruise-a-holics like myself back to land based resorts. On all ships I have been on lately, 3in the past year, the once interesting, entertaining, and educational activities traditionally a part of the cruise experience (i.e. talks and demonstrations in the spa) have become nothing but high pressure sales pitches for "treatments" I am not sure are proven and possibly, not even safe. Pills to "cleanse" your system are pushed, hand lotion at $30-40 a bottle is touted as if on a TV infomercial, and other disturbing trends. Has this soured me on cruising, not yet, but I do hope that Celebrity and the cruise industry will begin to realize their success has been built on many of the ammenities they are gradually eliminating.
I'm writing this letter to express both praise and complaints about our second cruise with Celebrity Cruise Lines, but first aboard the Millennium.
THE EMBARKATION: All looked quite organized at first glance; however, as new members of the Captain's Club, we became irritated right from the start. We entered the waiting area and took seats near the door marked "Captain's Club and Suites". After about thirty minutes, the doors opened and we joined a line of about twenty five people. As we approached the door, the agent told us there were too many people and we'd have to join the regular line, which was now quite lengthy...so much for the Club's benefits. The check in process went quite smoothly after that and we boarded about 40 minutes later.
THE SHIP: Was quite beautiful, seemed well laid out and handled the full compliment of passengers, around 2,000, quite smoothly. My only complaint would be the public restrooms. They were in need of some obvious repairs, doors' locks inoperative, lights burned out and in constant need of cleaning. Very surprised on a ship only 18 months old.
OUR STATEROOM: We had two adjoining balcony rooms, #9073and 75. The large sliding door was a nice plus and the room quite comfortable. We were impressed with the speed our room steward and assistant were able to get in and out in the morning after leaving the rooms very neat and clean. My only complaint here would be that we had asked on the first day, that we have ice delivered every afternoon around 5pm, but only received it once or twice in eleven days. We had to call every evening and were only able to get through about half the time. As tacky as it may seem, if the passengers had access to a machine as you do in a hotel, it would cause a lot fewer problems in the long run.
DINING: We only saw our Maitre' D the first evening. When we traveled on the Century in '97, we were visited by him almost every night, very impressed with that. We weren't impressed with our waiter, Garrie, at all. He spent very little time with us, difficult to understand, made no eye contact with the table and spoke so fast explaining anything on the menu that we had to ask him to repeat himself. When my wife asked to have just an appetizer versus a main course one evening, he said it couldn't be done. After that, we didn't bother making any special requests. We were at a table for ten, and all of us felt dissatisfied with his service. As a result, six of us only ate a total of seven meals at his table. We did however, greatly enjoy the Olympic Room. We dined there twice and felt it was well worth the extra expense. The other alternative eating areas were also a pleasure. The food was good and the crew kept up with the cleaning of dirty tables for others to dine. The pizza stand was quite good and the hamburger/hotdog area was a hit with anyone we talked to...couldn't beat their french fries anywhere in the world.
ENTERTAINMENT: The Cruise Director, Jim Cannon, was excellent. I can only guess that he's well compensated for the job he does, as he could easily be entertaining elsewhere with great success. He was knowledgeable in many areas, including cameras, computers and dancing class instruction. He had a great voice and was always enthusiastic in his presentations. The pianist and comedian in the Celebrity Theater were great; however, there should definitely, be some thought given to other decent entertainers for a voyage of a week or more. Howard and Rose in the lounge, as well as The Vibz at the pool were terrific. The movies shown in the theater, other than Pearl Harbor, were quite second/third rate. I believe there were only three different titles spread out over eleven days. SPECIALTY ROOMS: The computer room was laid out nicely with plenty of machines to go around; however, I'm sure the fifty cent per minute charge kept the crowds down. There were a number of classes given by a very knowledgeable staff member. The library needs some looking into. It seemed as though the hours of operation were very poor. I'm not sure why there is a need for a crew member to be present to have it open, as the selection of books is quite limited. When we traveled on the Century, the doors were open at least during the day and early evening without a staff member present. It just makes a nice quiet area to read even if you bring your own book(s).
FINAL THOUGHTS: The Good- The ship was laid out extremely well, easy to get around and very well decorated. There didn't seem to be any problems with waiting in any lines, things flowed quite nicely. The Olympic Room was a major success. The Bad- Our server in the Main Dining Room was the biggest drawback. Fortunately, we had nice dining experiences in other parts of the ship. Never approached by the Maitre' D and asked about the service at our table. Generally felt that the attitude of the crew was much different from our experience in '97 aboard the Century. We are thinking that possibly since the merger of Royal Caribbean that year, the training has gone more towards RCC's standards. We've been on two of theirs and that was our complaint with them, very insincere. The Ugly- The Captain's Club advantages were a rip-off. The point of early boarding and disembarkation was a major misrepresentation. The disembarkation needs some organizing. The color coded bag tags works well until you find that nobody pays attention at the gangway. If you at least had to show your claim checks, I believe it would cut into the large number of people that leave at first call, yet not belonging to that group. Then once you arrive at the baggage claim area, the aisle for walking was down the center, but the bags were grouped by color on both sides of the traffic. If they were grouped either one side or the other, it would have made finding your luggage without crossing back and forth "through traffic". After retrieving your bags and kin, street side was a mess. Those who tried to be civil while finding a cab, ended up getting run over by others who were stopping them in the middle of the street. I strongly suggest that there be a line set up with ropes on the sidewalk and a representative taking people in order to access a cab. Things were getting stressful for everyone.
I recently sailed on the Millennium and would love to pass some information on to my fellow travel agents.
The food was surprising very good and well prepared. Actually that might have been their strong point. The rooms were large enough and well planned. I particularly enjoyed the layout of the shower in the bathroom(lots of room to move around in).
I was most disapointed in their Shore Excursion Program. Maybe the worse I have ever had the misfortune of booking. They were not organized, over-priced and not worthy of dicussing. Otherwise, the dining room servers were very attentive and service was good. I never saw my cabin steward accept to collect his tip. He never did anything to make our cruise special.
The entertainment was acceptable ,but not great. They need to improve in this area. Carnival Cruises is better.
They eliminated the Captain shaking hands with his passengers,because they were too many to shake. I had several clients on this cruise and they were so disappointed, and this the usual routine. In fact, many of us never saw the Captain at all, he appeared briefly on the step way.
Celebrity Cruises hassuch beautiful ships they could do better.
I just returned from an 8 night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Century's Millennium. I can not say enough about this vacation. I have not been catered to like this since my wedding day. From the cabin attendant to Guest Relations to our dining staff, it was world class treatment.
This was my first cruise and I traveled with my husband, one year old son, my mother and mother-in-law. My husband and I are both in our early 30's and we were concerned that it would be mostly older people, but there was a good mix on the ship.
Our trip started out poorly when Continental lost my son's baggage. Of all the luggage, his was the one we were most concerned about. It had all of his diapers, wipes, formula, baby food and enough clothes to change 3 times a day. When we got to the ship, Jackie at Guest Relations told us where we could buy supplies and we quickly ran to a grocery store and pharmacy to restock. We missed the signing up for excursions and the Olympic (gourmet dining experience) that most people do when they arrive. Howeverwe were able to sign up for most things we wanted later on.
Once the staff found out about our lost baggage they did everything in their power to make us more comfortable. They laundered all the clothes we had bought for our son free of charge. They also sent us a bottle of champagne and fruit basket to make up for our inconvenience (one that they did not cause!). They also handled all communication with Continental regarding our luggage so we wouldn't have to worry. Luckily, the baggage was found and sent to our first port of call (Puerto Rico).
I have to say the ship was beautiful inside and out. The decor is elegant and not overdone. We were impressed with the storage in the cabins which was deceivingly large. When we first got in our room I was wondering how everything would fit, but there was plenty of room.
I must mention our cabin attendant Cruz who attended to our every need. We received new towels three times a day and if we left our cabin for a moment, when we returned it was cleaned and the bed was made. We would just need to pop our head out of our room and he would be asking if we needed anything. He was excellent. He picked up our garbage several times a day also, which was wonderful since we had dirty diapers to get rid of.
I also have to mention our wonderful dining staff. HR, our waiter, was extremely good. He always told us what the chef's recommendation was and give us his own. He was always right there to take our order and food came quickly. He couldn't do enough for us. Also, Artion, his assistant was wonderful as well. They were very attentive to our son as well. Even waiters not assigned to our table would come over and play with our son. As they got to know us better, they would even come by and take our son for a few moments so that we could eat a course. Our son is an angel for the first hour, but then gets fidgety. Everyone was wonderful with him.
All of the staff was extremely nice, always smiling and always available. I like that at the Ocean Cafe buffet, there were attendants offering to carry your tray or get you a drink if you forgot to get your own. Without fail, everyone was very nice and I was surprised to read past comments about the lack of friendliness on this ship. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The food in the Metropolitan (main dining room) was always good with the exception of one night where I did not like any of the choices. I had the quail and my husband had the lamb and both of us were not thrilled with the dishes. However, HR (noticing we did not eat much) offered to get us something else. We were fine though and made up for it with 2 desserts. That's another wonderful thing, if we wanted to order two entries, we could. Some nights HR would bring us several desserts to try. Pure decadence.
We only got to see the comedian which wasn't bad, and one show while on the ship. Only because we had a baby and didn't take advantage of the sitting services. Both shows were fine. We did take advantage of the Olympic dining experience one night (just the two of us) and it should not be missed. I had the Lobster Volute (bisque), the Chilean Sea Bass and the chocolate souffle for dessert. My husband had the same except he had the Steak Diane as his entree. Everything was incredible and the service impeccable. Try not to sign up for this on any of the formal nights because the Metropolitan is wonderful those nights, and the second to last night they do a presentation of the dining staff which is nice, so that shouldn't be missed either.
We also missed eating at the Midnight Buffets, but did view them. They were very well presented, especially the grand buffet, which is a must see. I was afraid of gaining weight, so I only ate breakfast, lunch and dinner, but you could eat 24 hours a day on this cruise. I enjoyed all the breakfast buffets, the spa lunches, and all dinner dining. I was extremely pleased.
Oh, another thing I must mention is that our moms were staying together in an ocean view room. My mother-in-law snores and was keeping up my mother, and after a couple of days my mother-in-law went down to Guest Relations to see if she could get another cabin. They gave her an inside cabin FOR FREE. Therefore, both moms had their own rooms and thus we can still have family holidays together!! I thought it was wonderful of Celebrity not to charge her for the extra room and I really appreciate it.
In conclusion, this was probably our best vacation ever. We were treated like royalty and enjoyed every second. We will definitely cruise again with Celebrity!
We completed the April 21-29 cruise aboard the Millie and had a nice balcony room. Most of the good reviews that I have read are true about the Millie; however, the very best or excellent reviews must come from smokers. If you have allergies or are a non-smoker this is NOT the ship for you. This ship actually promotes smoking by actively selling cigars and cigarettes every day and having no clear non-smoking policy. These sales are in huge print in the daily newspaper each day and they have a cigar bar on board. All the public areas, with the only exceptions of the theatre and dining room, were full of smoke. It is also necessary to walk through several of them to get to the theatre or dinning room so smoke is unavoidable. I really wanted to try the Martini bar and that was impossible since it was always in a smoke cloud.
We could not even enjoy our balcony most evening since three rooms down someone smoked a cigar out on theirs and the smoke blew onto our balcony. Yes, I can hear you smokers saying that youhave rights and that is why I am writing this so the non-smokers will just choose another ship. The first day there was an announcement that all smokers were kindly asked to only smoke on the port side of the ship but it was not enforced so it did not work. Many people on board were unhappy about that but nothing was done.
Again, if you are a smoker this is a good ship. The entertainment was very good. We saw it all as it was our only refuge from the smoke each night.
This is a combined review for three cruises:
HAL's, Maasdam (3/25/01, 7 days, K579, Western Caribbean); stats are 1993, 55,000 tons, 1266 capacity, 600 crew
Celebrity's Millennium (4/21/02, 8 days, Penthouse 6018, Eastern Caribbean); stats are 2000, 91,000 tons, 1950 capacity, 999 crew
RCCL's Radiance of the Seas (5/24/02, 3 days, 8602, Pacific Northwest); stats are 2001, 88,000 tons, 2100 capacity,
Where possible, I will try to provide facts for all three ships. We are big band, ballroom dancers; thus, our cruising experiences are geared toward dancing. Port information is not provided in this review. We cruise to dance; and sometimes will even overlook eating to enjoy good dancing. We bypass the port activities in order to rest up for the evening's activities and other onboard events.
Topic Headings are as follows:
Who We Are; Prior Cruises; Future Cruises; Travel Agent; PreCruise Activities; Embarkation; Ship's Captains; Cruise Directors; Cabins; Room Service; Mini-Bar; Luggage Storage; Room Safes; Bathrooms; Ship's Newsletters; Noise On The Ships; Service, Cleanliness, Etc.; Breakfast; Lunch; Dinner; Desserts; Specialty Restaurants; Ice Cream; Theater; Dancing; Pools & Whirlpools; Photography & Videos; Fire Drills; Medical Facility; Non Sea Days; Sea Days; Ports; People We Met; Sun, Rain,Wind; Improvements That Could Be Made; and Disembarkation
Who We Are: I am a woman over 60, semi retired, and my traveling partner, life-companion, is a "few years older." We both lost spouses, mine to emphysema (smokers out there should try to quit smoking) and his to cancer. We both met during senior dance activities and feel that God brought us together. We are enjoying a tremendously happy life filled with love for each other, dancing and traveling together. He has been dancing since he was 16 in high school and throughout his life. I, too, loved dancing in high school, but stopped after marriage. Why do we cruise to dance when we can dance at home (approximately five times a week)? Well, at home you do have to pay fees, travel to and from the location and find a parking place, etc. And, if you have a drink or two, you need to worry about driving home. Not so on a ship with dance activities; just a few steps here and a few steps there. And the ambiance of dancing on a beautiful ship with dinner included and wine, if desired, is a great deciding factor.
Prior Cruises: He, a former major in the US Army, was stationed in China for two years and has traveled the world, first cruising on the Mariposa (actually a pleasure cruise ship taken over by the Merchant Marines), and then traveling throughout Northern Burma, India and South China. Since then he has been on eight cruises and introduced me to cruising last year. The Radiance was my third cruise; I just love this way of life.
Future Cruises: We currently have booked a 10-day cruise to the Southern Caribbean on HAL's Amsterdam, set to sail November 11, 2002. And the big band Tommy Dorsey Orchestra is scheduled for this cruise. Also, we are planning a trip to China next year, most likely by air and land travel because we cannot find a cruise just in the areas in which we wish to travel.
Travel Agent: We have been using AAA in Bellevue for the last couple of years and have been very satisfied with their service. We also take advantage of the maps and tour books for the various trips, both cruises and other air/land trips, that we have taken over the years. We usually do the research first on the Internet, and find fares, etc. And our agent adds in the AAA rate and the senior rate, etc. and ends up getting us the best fares. So, we are pleased. She is such a sweet person and has provided us with a welcoming bottle of champagne in our stateroom on each of our Caribbean cruises.
PreCruise Activities: We usually elect to stay overnight in Fort Lauderdale. Last year, it was the Hilton and this year we stayed at the Best Western Inn, 1221 State Road 84. Both rooms were OK and served its purpose. Last year we had a late dinner at the Hilton. Since we arrived earlier this year and since the Best Western had no place to eat (they have continental breakfast), we went across the State Road 84 to a German restaurant. It was an excellent place to eat, drink wine and dance. Yes, they had dancing and we took advantage of it. We just wished that they stayed open later. They closed at 11:00 p.m. (Saturday night). Both places have vans to take you to the ships at Port Everglades.
Embarkation: Last year, getting on the Maasdam took a little longer. It may be better now. This year, while at the Best Western we discovered that I forgot to pack my beloved's medication. Thus, we were frantically calling the Millennium at midnight. We had a ship to shore call which cost us $95. But we were very much relieved when the ship's nurse was reached and informed us that they had the medications on board and would be able to assist us. We were told to arrive at 10:30 am the following morning and let them know that we had an appointment with the ship's doctor. Once on board, we saw the doctor and got prescriptions for the medications, which the ship filled for us. Everyone was very nice to us and thus our embarkation process on the Millennium was very good. Later that day, we joined the Captain's Club to gain the special departure privileges.
On the Radiance, since we live in the Bellevue area, we drove our car to Seattle's Pier 66 and entered the parking garage for the Bell Street Pier. Once inside, they took our luggage and told us where to park. We parked on the 4th floor level where the sky bridge is and walked across the sky bridge. We headed up the escalator to where check in is. There was a large line, but for some reason, someone stopped us and said "This is your lucky day" and she escorted us to the check in counter. The check-in process had not started yet and everyone was getting their computer to log on to the company's network. They had difficulty and we waited in front of the counter for about ten minutes before the lady got logged on. Then it was a short ten-minute wait to go up the "gangway" and take a picture and then board the ship.
Ship Captains: All three ships' captains were very nice, congenial hosts who genuinely seemed pleased that we were aboard. All three ships had no vacancies.
Captain Peter Jan van Maurik, HAL's Maasdam; attended the Champagne Welcome Party and a Mariner's Reception.
Captain Antonio Manaras, Celebrity's Millennium; met him at the Captain's Welcome Aboard Cocktail Party and at the Captain's Club Receptions.
Captain Kent Ringborn, RCCI's Radiance of the Seas, has a great singing voice; he sang during the Captain's Welcome Aboard Reception, greeted everyone personally and also took pictures with all guests who requested it. I have a very nice picture of the three of us.
Cruise Directors: We believe the best cruise director on all three ships is a toss up between Susan Wood on the Maasdam and Jim Cannon on the Millennium. These two were the most enthusiastic persons on their respective ships, always greeting us with a smile and talking to us and conducting classes we took part in. The Radiance's Ken Rush, although he too was a nice personable friendly person, did not provide the dance entertainment that the other two did.
Cabins: The cabins on all three ships were approximately the same size: 179 square feet on the Radiance, 170 square feet on the Millennium and 182 square feet on the Maasdam. General layout of the rooms and storage space were all excellent. One nice touch on the Radiance was a drape room divider between the bed and the sitting area. All you needed to do was unhook the clasp and pull the drape across the upper rod. This was very much appreciated when one wanted to nap and the other did not, etc. And if one had difficulty sleeping, then one could read without disturbing the other. Another feature of the Radiance was that each of the bed lamps had two switches, one to control the lamp and the other to control a night light built into the lamp, which could be directed in various directions. The sofa on the Maasdam was larger than the ones on the other two ships. And the storage space was larger for the vanity/desk area. The hangers on the Radiance, however, were better than the other two. The Millennium closet and storage was the largest. A fruit basket was provided daily on the Maasdam. Ice bucket and water were provided on all three ships, although the Millennium was the nicest arrangement.
One thing that bugged me was to have the bedspread on the bed with the top folded enveloping our pillows. This way of bed making is also done in some hotels. This, to me, is not the proper way to make the bed. One should pull the top sheet over the pillows to keep the pillows clean and then put the bedspread on the bed. Everyone knows that the bedspread is not washed daily or even weekly. Who knows how often the bedspread is washed and where it has been lying around or what has happened to it? When we travel, we always request that the bed spread be kept folded up in a drawer somewhere. One usually cannot sleep with it on the bed; it is too heavy.
Room Service: We did not order room service on any of the ships; thus we have nothing to report on this.
Mini-Bar: There was no mini-bar on the Maasdam, nor the Radiance, although the Radiance had a refrigerator, which may have been useful on a longer trip. The Millennium had a mini-bar and we requested that everything be removed and thereafter we used it for our own use.
Luggage Storage: The suitcases can fit under the beds of all three ships. If you have one that is too large, then leave it open and slide it under. The best thing to do is to unpack everything and then store your suitcases below the beds.
Room Safes: The Radiance and the Millennium had room safes that use a number code, four digits on the Radiance and six on the Millennium. These are easy to use and easy to check to see if the safe is locked shut. The Maasdam did not have a room safe. However, each of the bedside tables had a locking top drawer with key.
While on the Radiance, our room safe at one time would not open. We discovered that perhaps when pressing the digit it did not register. Anyway, a call to our Cabin attendant, Fannie, quickly brought a young man from maintenance. It only took him a minute to make some kind of adjustment and we then could access our safe. What a relief!
Bathrooms: We had showers in all three bath areas. The nicest bath area was on the Millennium. The Radiance had a built in cabinet with mirror. We thought that if they had installed it the reverse, then one would be able to see the back of one's hair in the mirror. But, they did not have this foresight. There was probably no woman involved in the planning. The Millennium has a nice area with curved horizontal bars on a three level shelf area to hold toiletries, etc. What we did was bring a sock holder, not a shoe holder, but a 12 pair plastic see-through sock holder with a hanger and hung it on the bathroom door. This made it very convenient to see everything and have it all in one handy place.
Ship's Newsletters: All ships have a daily newsletter. However, the Radiance of the Seas has the most attractive (yellow, blue, ivory and shading throughout). The Compass provides a very nice newsletter headlined with Day One, Day Two, etc., which lists all the daily activities and other events in topic paragraphs. Accompanying the newsletter is a down sized 4.25" x 11" 4 page Compass Planner. This single letter-size page, which has been folded in half, mirrors to a smaller degree the larger sized Compass newsletter. The Planner lists everything in chronological order and is just the right size to fit in a man's shirt pocket or woman's purse. We packed a yellow highlighter to highlight the activities of interest to us.
A disappointment was that the Millennium Daily was never delivered prior to 11 or 12 p.m. every evening. A complaint to the front desk indicated that they were having difficulty with the printer. However, it was every night, except perhaps once or twice that no delivery was made and we had to retrieve it from outside the door every morning. The Daily did have a single page pull out listing all the daily activities.
The Maasdam's Newsletter provides a perforated section that you can tear out and fold up listing all the daily activities, along with service hours, dining hours and bar and lounge hours. And this section can then be folded and carried in your shirt pocket or purse.
All ships printed other newsletters, in different languages, depicting what was happening in other cities and countries around the world. You can usually obtain these from the reception desk area.
Noise On The Ships: All three ships were quiet and restful. We only recall one event that drove us crazy. One evening while on the Millennium, when we were trying to get to sleep, we could hear a cracking or noise that seemed like it was coming from the movement of the ship. We discovered, however, and much to our delight, that it was the sliding door to the balcony. We opened and closed it again and the noise disappeared.
Service, Cleanliness, Etc.: We just heard that the Maasdam received a 98 inspection score from the Coast Guard. If you will notice the stats above, the Maasdam has 600 crew members to a capacity passenger number of 1266. She almost has a 2 to 1 ratio of passengers to crew members. Thus, this will indicate why we feel that the best service is on HAL's Maasdam. Yes, the service was the best. Why is that? Well, we believe that the crew tries harder; they know that tips are not automatic and that if they want any, they will have to earn them. Holland America advocates that tips are not mandatory, while the Millennium and the Radiance provide you with envelopes and guidelines on what to tip and who to tip. And they expect you to follow the guidelines. They also attach an automatic 15% tip to all bar bills. There is something to be said about feeling good and being able to add a tip to a bar bill depending on whether or not you received good service. And to provide all other persons with a tip at the end of a cruise, also depending on whether you received the expected service, is HAL's way.
Breakfast: We enjoyed breakfast at the "buffets". Actually the Lido (Maasdam) and the Ocean Cafe (Millennium) are really cafeteria style. What was nice on both ships is that there is someone to help you with your tray or assist in finding you a table and bring you coffee, tea, etc. On the Radiance, it was truly a buffet. You could help yourself to whatever you wanted. However, finding a place to sit was difficult and most of the time we found ourselves outside. One did not have a tray to use, but a big huge plastic platter. So, you filled up your platter, found a seat and then got your drinks, etc. We saw no grapefruit or oatmeal on the Radiance. We enjoyed both of these items on the Maasdam and the Millennium. We tried breakfast in the Maasdam's Rotterdam Dining Room on two mornings and enjoyed this too. Each time we got a table for two. One morning we opted for this on the Millennium, but did not like it as well because they seated us with several persons at a large table who were already in different phases of eating. And they only had half the dining room or a small section open. We went to the omelet bar on the Maasdam and had a very nice omelet. On the Millennium, we had an omelet, but could not eat it because the inside was not cooked. We noticed, however, that later on they had someone else making them and he was making sure that they were cooked. One other time we ordered eggs over easy and they were good. You can also get toast or toasted bagels on the Maasdam and the Millennium, but not the Radiance.
Lunch: All three ships had great lunch selections, although we would rate the Radiance last. They had less selections. One good item I had, however, was a tuna salad sandwich on a bun on the Radiance. They had tuna wraps and I provided a bun to the server and asked him to make me a tuna sandwich. And it was delicious, so much so, that I went back and got another.
Dinner: We had early seating on the Maasdam and the Millennium and we opted for late seating on the Radiance. After having done it either way, we believe the early seating is better, especially if you do not spend a long day in port. We thought we would try the late seating so as to accommodate an afternoon tea or late night buffet. However, none was to be had on the Radiance. Both the Maasdam and the Millennium had high teas in the afternoon, and late night buffets but we did not try them. We did view some of them, however, and thought they were very elegant and spectacular. Why did we not try them? The 4 p.m. high tea time was just too close to a 6 p.m. dinner time and the late night buffets were just too much - after eating three meals already in a day of anything and everything that we wanted or craved. We had to draw the line somewhere.
Oh yes, we did purchase a Royal Cocktails card on the Radiance of the Seas; cost is $39 + 15% gratuity for 12 drinks of choice, most house brands. And, we used it up. I am unaware if the Maasdam or the Millennium had such a program.
Desserts: Desserts on both the Maasdam and the Millennium were outstanding, both in the Lido Buffet (Maasdam) and the Ocean Cafe (Millennium). And the dining room desserts were top notch. Not so with the Radiance. The Windjammer selections were OK, but not many to choose from. The desserts in the dining room were only rated OK by us, not outstanding or excellent at all. There was one angel food cake dessert with strawberries served one evening. You can get better angel food cake at the supermarket.
Bread pudding on HAL and Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee, Chocolate Souffle, Crème Brulee on both HAL and Millennium are desserts that you should not miss.
Specialty Restaurants: We did not try any of the specialty restaurants on any of the ships. In actuality, the cost or fee imposed is not limited to the set service fee, but it also includes the amount of money already spent for the dinner that you will be missing in the dining room or in the buffet if you choose to eat there instead. Also, the specialty restaurants take a longer time to eat; and this would take time away from our dancing.
On the Radiance is a little known restaurant called the Seaside Cafe. Although this restaurant caters to the younger crowd, we enjoyed a hot dog and strawberry milkshake one evening. It was the last night of our cruise, after we were all packed, that we decided to go up to Deck 12 and find the place. We had some feedback on it through the Cruise Critic Boards. Up we went and ordered two hot dogs, one for each of us and a strawberry milkshake to be split between the two of us.. Our order came with the grilled hot dog in a toasted bun, smothered with onions, and with French fries, too. It was delicious. The milkshake was the only item we had to pay for. It was $3.25 and we had to get it from the bar area.
The hamburgers and hotdogs on the Millennium and the Maasdam were also great. The hot dogs on all these ships are much better than the ones that you get at a sports game or even at Costco. Costco used to toast their buns - some years ago, but no more.
Ice Cream: All three ships served ice cream. The best, however, was on the Maasdam. There was a soft serve selection, plus sorbets and other items that you could request of the server. Then you could help yourself to various toppings, including fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The Millennium had a similar setup, but with only a few toppings and the server added those items as requested. We had vanilla ice cream with toasted coconut and milk chocolate sauce. Very good. And the Radiance had soft serve machines that you could fill chocolate or vanilla ice cream cones or bowls with. But, they only had a bowl of chocolate syrup available. However, you could get whip cream from a huge bowl on the dessert table. The Radiance had very good cookies. We had an oatmeal raisin cookie and we dipped it in whip cream prior to every bite. It was delicious. Another item I enjoyed was the 2 x 3 inch apple rolled tart. These were available daily on the Radiance near the sweet rolls in the Windjammer Cafe.
On the other side of the Millennium's ice cream section, was a similar section, serving non sugar selections.
Theater: The Maasdam had the best on stage performances. The production numbers were outstanding. Next was the Millennium and then the Radiance. We made the decision not to see the last day's show on the Radiance because we did not think that the other two days were that good. The Millennium had the best theater, with wonderful plush seating with little tables for cocktails. The Maasdam was next with similar seating and then the Radiance was last. The Radiance has cup or glass holders to hold your drinks on the right arm of each seat. Sightlines on all three ships were good. We never had a bad seat watching any of the shows.
The Maasdam was also the only ship that provided an artistic covered program for each of their production numbers. It was nice to follow along and know what was going to be next, etc., and also have the names of the people performing.
Dancing: First, let me say that you cannot dance on a ship's deck, at least not ballroom dancing. Our style of dance requires a nice dance floor, and one needs to wear a shoe that will slide. Sport shoes, running shoes and tennis shoes, etc. cannot be worn for this type of dancing. Thus, any kind of shoe with a smooth bottom, usually a leather soled shoe is the best kind outside of a shoe made specifically for dancing.
The best dance floor on all three ships was at the Colony Club on the Radiance of the Seas. It has a nice large, rectangular shaped, smooth wood floor. However, we only got to dance on the floor during the Captain's Reception. We were the first to take the step and get out on the dance floor even though the band had been playing for at least 10 minutes. On Day One, they scheduled a Quest activity. And the late night 11:00 to 12:30 am Rock n' Roll party was devoted to twist. Nothing was scheduled on Day Two other than the Captain's Reception from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. And on Day Three, they scheduled Karaoke in the Colony Club.
We would have loved a variety of music, i.e., music for the Rhumba, Cha Cha, Tango, Salsa, Swing, Jive, Hustle, Fox Trot, Waltz, California Polka, etc.
The second best dance floor is in the Ocean's Bar on HAL's Maasdam. We enjoyed dancing every evening both before dinner and after (prior to going to the evening show) and then again after the show. The Nevada Quartet were a great group and played requests, such as New York, New York and Pretty Woman. Such requests were made of the Radiance group and were turned down with them saying that they did not know the songs. We got the whole spectrum of the dances we liked with the Nevada Quartet.
And next is the the Rendevous Lounge on the Millennium. We enjoyed dancing to Howard & Rose's music. However, we felt sorry for them after awhile because they lost power to their instruments several times during the evening and on several evenings.
The Millennium's Cosmos Nightclub, Deck 11, has a beautiful dance floor, but it is not conducive to ball room dancing as one's shoe can get hung up on the ridges throughout the floor. However, we did enjoy dancing and partaking of the lessons provided by the staff. The Cruise Director, Jim Cannon, scheduled dancing one evening there with the Celebrity Orchestra and this was great. They took requests and did a good job. There should have been more activities with the Orchestra.
Oh yes, I should mention the Vibz group on the Millie that usually played on the deck by the pool. They were there during the sail aways, Tex Mex Night (line dancing) and another swing night. One night they were in the Cosmos Lounge and they were very good. And they took requests and played Pretty Woman several times during the cruise.
Cruise directors need to realize that many persons who do not dance enjoy drinking, big band music and watching those who do dance. Therefore, they not only need a big dance floor, but a large lounge or area for those who prefer to drink and watch. And those who dance also drink too. So, they are not losing the audience nor the big bucks spent on drinks when they provide dance activities.
Pools & Whirlpools: The best ship was HAL's Maasdam. The hot tubs were hot. I did not like the T pool on the Millennium. There was no place to sit. One had to slide one's body over the metal railings and lie on them. And they were always sticky, probably from everyone's sun tan lotion. The hot tubs on the Millie were OK; however, they were not hot. The temperature was pretty mild. We enjoyed getting the kinks out in the hot tub on the Maasdam. The hot temperature really did make our bodies feel better. In all fairness, we did not try the Radiance pools. We did not have good weather on our three-day trip and thus did not feel like taking a dip.
Photography & Videos: The best photography department and photographers were on the Radiance. Each one of the pictures was very good and we ended up purchasing all of the photos. We only got one on the Millennium because we did not like the others. On the Maasdam, these too, were very good and we ended buying all of them.
A cruise lasting at least seven days will usually create a video of the trip at a cost of approximately $20.
Fire Drills: All three ships conducted the mandatory fire drill. The Maasdam and the Millennium passed with flying colors, getting everyone to their muster stations, which were located on deck where they would be boarding the lifeboats. The Radiance, in my opinion, did not pass the test because all they did was get everyone to the muster station. We did not go outside to the deck, but simply stayed in the lounge area that was assigned to us. They did, however, call on the loudspeaker, all the persons who were missing. It is very important that you take part in the fire drills and not be the one to keep everyone waiting. On one ship, people were standing in the hot sun and they had to wait for others to arrive. And everyone should know that they should not be carrying anything with them for the fire drill. In the case of a real fire drill, you would not bring anything with you. Anything other than your body and life vest would take up more room and make the life boat weigh more. Thus, what you need to do, is pack your ID, Ship's Card and money, in a small wallet that will fit in your pocket.
Medical Facility: The Millennium had the best medical facility (see embarkation above), but of course, we did not have to use the ones on the other two ships, so we really have no comment on them.
We did, however, see three or four children during our cruises who were injured in some way, usually from having a door slammed on a hand. We felt sorry for these children as they had to spend the rest of the cruise with some degree of pain. If anyone needs to see the doctor, they should call first and make an appointment as the doctor will not see any one without an appointment. Of course, if it is an emergency, go directly to the facility and have someone else call and say that you are on your way. Do not sit and wait outside a closed door. Phone the number on the door as they keep the door locked and they do not know that you are waiting outside.
Non Sea Days: As mentioned above, we are not enthusiastic about non sea days or visiting the ports. There seems to be a lockdown on non sea days. Everything was closed. We wanted to use the golfing features of the Millennium, but could never find anyone there. And messages left with the pro were always returned, but we could never connect to make an appointment or just to take advantage of what they had to offer. And, of course, you cannot shop on the ships while the ships are in port. So, when can one shop? They seem to be open only from 6 to midnight. And one cannot go at 6 because of dinner. And the show follows dinner and then thereafter, if one wants to go dancing, there is no time to shop. They should have the shops open all night.
Sea Days: We love sea days because you can go out on your balcony and lounge around while the ship is moving. We had a very nice balcony on the Millennium with two lounge chairs.
Ports: We did get off the ship in St. Thomas. It was only on the island that we found out that there was a holiday that weekend and that certain streets were closed. We took a van (carries 12) into town. The driver could not get close enough due to traffic jams, so we all got out and walked about 6 blocks. We looked around a bit and then decided to return to the ship. We should have started walking right where we were. But instead we hailed another van (almost full) and he tried to get down to the water area and make a left turn back to the ships, but was turned around by traffic personnel. He then thought he would try to outsmart everyone and went in a round about way to get back down and ended up in a huge traffic jam, so huge, that he requested everyone to get out and walk back to the ship. We ended up walking 3.5 miles that day. We suggest that you take an umbrella with you. Try to find one with a fringe or ruffle, more like a parasol. I had one and was very glad that I did.
On the way back, we discovered that there were three cruise ships in port. And, of course, this added to the cause of the traffic jams throughout the city.
When we visited St. Maarten, the Adventure of the Seas was docked along side the Celebrity's Millennium. The Millie really looked small next to the AOS.
In St. Maarten, there is a water boat that takes you over to the shopping area. They wanted us to get off at the first stop and walk over to the other shopping area. That way, we would visit some of the shops along the way. However, after walking 3.5 miles the previous day, we were in no mood to do a lot of walking again. So, we insisted that we wanted to go over directly and they took us there.
It was Sunday when we visited Nassau; thus, we did nothing much but had a milkshake at the Haagen Dazs and perused a few shops that were open.
All ships provided shopping and port information, including maps and coupons.
People We Met: One of the fun reasons for cruising is meeting all the wonderful people. We had Table 503 on the Millennium, very nice table for 8, at the back of the ship on Deck 5. We enjoyed meeting and talking with you Bob, Joyce, Frank, Adele, Peter, etc. On the Radiance, we had table 418, again a very nice table, for 10 this time and it was not filled. We enjoyed talking with Arnelle, Susan, David, Shirley, Charmaine, Beth and others . We also met an upcoming author, Elaine Zale. Her first novel, Wing's of Love, was at the publisher's; and after she described it to me, I knew that I wanted to read it.
Sun, Rain, Wind: You should be aware that you may get sunburned, even while not in any direct sun. Be careful as you may receive indirect sunshine through reflections off the water, glass or in other ways. Prior to the cruise, get a good hair cut, one that will not be bothered with the wind because it will be windy while on the ship. Pack an umbrella for use when it rains and when the sun is shining. You will be glad you did as the sun gets very hot when walking around the various islands. And, if you are in the Pacific Northwest or even going to Alaska, you may need it for rainy weather.
Improvements That Could Be Made: (1) One thing that really bugged us was the lack of toilet seat covers in all public restrooms on the RCL ship. We were used to having use of them on the Millennium and the Maasdam.
(2) Why have a beautiful dance floor like the one on the Radiance and not use it? One evening it was devoted to Karaoke. Activities like this, along with Bingo, could function very well in the theater.
(3) The ship's director should make sure that the events take place as scheduled; i.e., line dancing was scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and Trivia was scheduled for 3:00 p.m. in the same area. The person conducting the Trivia arrived 10 minutes early and had to take on a quick line dance class to pacify the persons who arrived and had been waiting for the last 20 minutes. The line dance teacher never did show up. This happened on the Radiance (5/25/02).
Disembarkation: The last morning on any ship and subsequent travel to the airport always takes time. Leaving the Maasdam took the longest and the line at the airport was the worst. Imagine more than 2000 people (from several ships) arriving at the airport back in March of 2001. Waiting around the ship took hours going through customs and then disembarking. The Millennium was better because we had Captain's Club privileges and got off the ship fairly fast. It was waiting outside trying to hail a taxi cab. There were no orderly lines and everyone was trying to grab, grab, grab. And of course, it takes all day to fly home.
The Radiance was OK. However, we had to fill out disembarkation information indicating that we did not have an airplane to catch. Consequently, we had to wait until nearly 10:00 to get off the ship, until they called our Lavendar color. One does not mind waiting if one has an idea of how long, but of course, no one could tell us this. And the waiting had to be in the public areas, no waiting in the cabins, which had to be vacated by 8:00 a.m. So, we sat around for 2 hours. Once off the ship, however, it went fairly fast.
We did call the evening before with the question of how we were going to get our luggage to the car parked in the parking garage. The person at the reception said that all you have to do it get a porter and he will take you with your luggage to your car. The porter that we got informed us that he could not cross the street, but he did say that he would take us to the elevator that will get us to the sky bridge. So, once we got on the elevator, we had to maneuver our luggage across the sky bridge and to our car, which fortunately was on the same level, Level 4.