August 12, 2002
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 close to 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.