by Allan Smith
Caribbean / Central America
July 1, 2002
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