by C Gross
January 20, 2002
I really valued the reviews I found while researching for our cruise. I hope this helps someone too!
We sailed the Caribbean with 8 people; besides me, we had my wife, and 2 kids (11,8) my brother, and his 2 girls, (14,12), and my mother. We sailed as a group, 4 years ago on the Mercury, to the western Caribbean, so that is my point of comparison. My family lives in Maryland, the rest live in Florida.
We got to Ft Lauderdale the day before we sailed, and met the rest of our party(from Florida) at the terminal at 11 AM. Boarding was an absolute breeze! We walked in, were directed to a man that got our paperwork organized, we went up to a counter to check in, and on the ship we went!! We had changed our rooms around since booking, so we needed to stop at guest relations, right as we went aboard to switch our keys around. While I did that, my wife checked on our seating, it was fine, so we were set, ready to check the ship out!! The pools and hot tubs were open, as was the Ocean Cafe, serving lunch, so we got a bite, then checked out the Extreme Sports Bar, to watch the Ravens game. The ship was fabulous!! Everything was extremely clean, and by getting on early, there were very few people milling around.
The food was excellent in the dining room, and we had a great assistant waiter, Bosco. Our Head waiter was OK, but didn't have much of a personality (that was the biggest difference from the Mercury, luck of the draw!) Bosco made up for it! We had early seating, and there were just a couple of times that we didn't think that some of the courses were delivered quick enough. No problem ordering extras either! We had multiple desserts every night.
We ate all lunches in the Ocean Cafe (buffet) or the Poolside Grill (Hamburgers, Hot dogs). The buffet had a ton of selections, and everyone, even the kids always found some things they liked. They also had specialty foods in the rear of the cafe every day. The ship had waiters there to carry your trey and get drinks for you too. My mom and the kids found this very helpful.
We ate 2 breakfasts in the dining room. The 1st was great, good selections, great, fast service. The 2nd was not good. We ate right after the St Thomas immigration inspection when everyone aboard needed to get up and check in, and it looked like the dining room didn't have enough help, it took over an hour to get breakfast delivered. I think everyone had the same idea as us that morning, to eat in the main dining room. This was our only experience with poor service on this trip.
The midnight buffets were great, they had 2 fun parties to go along with the food by the pool. On a couple of nights they didn't have the midnight buffets, but walked around with gourmet bites instead. I didn't care for them, but they always had pizza out too, so I was happy!
Also, room service was fast, and good. We had sandwiches one evening, and my son had dinner in the room another night.
We had 4 oceanview staterooms, no balconies, together. 2 rooms connected. The rooms were very nice, plenty of space, and our cabin steward Gratiella, was very efficient, and just a charm! She cleaned the rooms twice a day, and filled our ice at least 3 times a day, and always had a smile on her face!!
We attended all of the shows (I missed 1) I thought the production numbers they put on were very entertaining. The Celebrity dancers were very talented, and really full of energy. Thien Fu the comedian/juggler was good, but I didn't like the older headliner singer they had one night(Shirley Something.) She performed with a comedian though, and he was funny. The shows were only about an hour long, which worked out well.
The casino was larger than other ships I have been on, but it was still crowded at peek time (like it should be!) Smoking was allowed in there, and that got to me a couple of nights.
The kids programs were good, the counselors were great! Our 8 and 11 year olds participated on and off the whole cruise.
We thought the cruise director, Eric Bohus did a great job! He is responsible for the shows, and ship board activities. I didn't make the connection until the last day, but it turns out we knew each other in college; we graduated together at High Point College, in '81! Once I realized that, we hooked up and reminisced for a while.
I didn't get to the gym, but did play basketball 4 or 5 times. They have a great set up, that is tucked out of the wind, and is full court! It even has lights for night time play. They also had volleyball at Catalina. We played several games with international participation!
San Juan, we walked the shops, then walked along the water outside of the castle walls. The water walk was beautiful, but a little hot, and it didn't really lead anywhere. If anyone does that alk, you don't have to walk to the end!!
Catalina Casa de Campo, most everyone, including the kids did the horseback riding, and had a blast!! They said the handlers let you do more than just walk with the horses, and they saw some great sights! I did Catalina, joined by the rest of the family later in the day. It was a beautiful beach, with a BBQ lunch, and a band.
St Thomas, we ended up going to Coki Beach, and I'm glad we did. The snorkeling was fantastic, we must have seen 30 types of fish, and they are all right off of the beach!! The water was, as my son put it "clearer than our pool!" and the water was warm. If you go there the fish are on the right side of the beach looking out over the water, along the rocks. It felt like we were in an aquarium! If you go there take some money with you, they have stands that make some delicious frozen drinks!! (The Blast and Brown Monkey were our favorites! $5 for 16 oz.)
Nassau, My wife and I stayed on the ship, poolside, enjoying the day, while the rest went shopping. They weren't too impressed, but 3 got their hair braided, and they bought some jewelry.
Other things that stood out:
I was surprised at how clean and blue the pools were. I found out they are salt water pools, but they filter and chlorinate the water like a regular pool, which makes it look so much better.
Speaking of clean, they did a great job of keeping the ship clean too, and they must have done a lot in the middle of the night, because we didn't see people cleaning all of the time.
The pool band was very easy to listen too, and they played a wide variety of music. I wished they played more!
They had a ton of chase lounges around the pool and on the deck above. On sea days, people getting out to the pool late might have trouble finding chairs together, but there were always more on the higher deck that circled the pool, plus there is a better breeze up there. If you are looking for shade, on sea days you better get a chair early. The ship always kept a large supply of towels handy too. Passengers: no problems encountered!! Most everyone was having a good time, and I found most returned my "hi's" and "hellos" with a smile!! Each night at dinner, someone at our table, including the kids was required to make a toast. This turned out to be a really good thing, and we all looked forward to it each night.
There are 2 formal nights on the Millie. (I thought there was only 1 when we went!) There are also at least 2 informal nights (coat & tie requested) a lot of men, including myself, would ditch the coat and tie after dinner and just wear a long sleeve dress shirt with dress pants.
The poolside grill had great tasting hamburgers and fries, which hit the spot about mid week! The Martini Bar offered a large variety of drinks, but they were $8.00 a piece, so we only went there once! We had 30 knot winds one day, 12 ft seas, but the ship handled them well. It rolled some, but not bad.
Aquaspa: Very well done., warm water, nice surroundings. The outside pools were on the cool side, but refreshing on a hot day. There was a lot of artwork throughout the ship. I didn't 'get' most of it. I don't know if it was me or the artists!
Getting off the ship:
Very quick, basically we walked off when our color was called, quickly passed through customs, and to our luggage. We used the trick of tying bright ribbon on our bags, and it worked like a charm!! I used yellow surveyors tape, and spotted our bags in no time. The airport was busy, and it took about 30 minutes to get through security.
As you can tell, we really enjoyed our cruise!! On the last night, one of the kids said it only felt like we had been gone a few days, I think that is the sign of having a good time!