by Lyn Dimon
January 5, 2003
This trip was our first cruise and a celebration for my 50th birthday. Cruising has always been a lifetime dream of mine, and I figured there was no better time to do it then NOW. We very much anticipated a wonderful week and you will see that Celebrity really does try to exceed your expectations.
We arrived at the pier at 11:30 am the day of the cruise after spending the night beforehand at the Sheraton Hotel at the Airport in Ft. Lauderdale. Got a fantastic price for the hotel room over Priceline. This hotel is very nice, however their restaurant is below par and very expensive, considering what you get. Take a taxi to the nearest mall/shopping area if you decide to stay here, and skip the restaurant on hotel property. The cost of car service to the pier was only $14 and our driver knew how to work around the traffic jam of cars heading to the pier and got us there in no time at all. I believe there are at least 3 ships departing on Sunday afternoon from the pier and everyone has to pass through pier security, so traffic jams are inevitable. After checking our baggage and filling out forms, we proceeded to the gangway and entered the ship. We were surprised how easily the process went with no lines and no waiting. We were greeted with waiters carrying trays of champagne and after a toast proceeded to our stateroom, room number 9016 which was a balcony room in the forward section of the ship on the 9th deck (Sky Deck). We obtained a super duper wonderful price for this cruise through Travelocity and booked a Guaranteed Category (balcony room) and was given this great location on the ship. We spoke to other cruisers who also had balcony rooms on the 7th deck and they actually paid considerably more. by booking a Category Guarantee, the ship guarantees that you will get a balcony room or HIGHER. We were hoping to get bumped up to a suite, but no such luck. We didn't get an upgrade on the size of the room, only the deck location. It is worth investigating this option of Guaranteed Category booking as you might get lucky and get bumped up to even better quarters.
This ship is awesome. Being practically new, everything is spotless and in very good shape. I read that someone thought that the ship is showing wear, and I really tried to find what they were referring to. I could not find anything that needed replacing, except perhaps the bedspread on our bed. The bedspread gets a lot of wear due to cruisers laying their suitcases on it, even though it is removed every night by the stateroom attendant with bed turndown. Bring good walking shoes and be prepared to walk a great deal because this ship is almost 1,000 feet long. The elevators are glass and mirrors and the whole ship is decorated in a contemporary style. Marble floors and Las Vegas style carpeting are used throughout the interior. Very often we forgot we were actually on a ship at all as this ship is so large and beautiful. There are two salt water pools with Jacuzzis and one therapy pool (heated salt water with jets) with accompanying Jacuzzi. There is a special pool for young children however I did not view it. Get to the pool area early in the day to get a good chaise lounge close to the pool, as these get grabbed up quickly. Although the staff discourages "saving" pool chairs, this is more common than not, and I have found that whatever policies exist anywhere there will be people willing to break them. These chair hogs make it difficult to find a good spot unless you get out there early. One tip is really worth mentioning - - DO NOT take the two Millennium towels from your stateroom to the pool. If you lose them and forget them at the pool or elsewhere, you will be charged $28 PER TOWEL at the end. Unfortunately there was NO notice of this "policy" in the room and I took one of the towels to the pool on the first day and forgot it there. On the second day when reading the daily ship newspaper that arrives in your stateroom, there was a reminder about the towels. Being upset that I would have to pay for a towel that I didn't have, I asked our stateroom attendant if there was anything I could do to get my towel back, and he told me that it would okay and not to worry. He gave me another towel. I was never charged, however it is best to be safe then sorry. Don't lose the towels.
Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic
This was our first stop on our 7 day cruise and a MAJOR disappointment. We were to understand that this was the first time the Millennium stopped here and unfortunately we were the guinea pigs. We were the first of the passengers to leave the ship and when we got to the top of the hill at the port there were about 20 mini buses waiting to take us to the Caso de Campo compound which consists of some 1700 acres. After a ride of about 20 minutes we arrived at this newly constructed "village" with about 20 stores and a marina. Viewing this from the window of the bus, we decided this was not where we wanted to spend our day, so we didn't get off the bus. Another couple was also turned off by what they saw and was able to speak Spanish to the bus driver who then drove us to the Caso de Campo resort (another 15 minutes). When we arrived at the resort the staff looked at us like we were aliens from Mars. They spoke very little English and after some effort we were able to ascertain that the beach was not readily accessible and we would have to take another shuttle to get there. We then decided that we just should go back to the ship, but we were stranded there. We paid for a taxi to take us back to the ship and when we approached there were 600 people that were waiting for those mini buses to go on the same FIASCO trip we just returned from. We went to Customer Relations immediately and complained. We also canceled our excursion planned for that night on this island (a Latin Extravaganza of dancing, singing, etc.) due to the potential for another miserably planned and organized effort. The ship was so nice and comfortable that many people cruise for the ship only with little regard to the ports it visits. This was one port I HOPE Celebrity will eliminate from their itinerary, since it was a total waste of time and not up to the standards of things Celebrity should be involved with. I understand that hundreds of passengers complained, so the likelihood of this port being scrapped is high. If your cruise does go here, stay onboard. No one needs this kind of aggravation.
San Juan, PR
The major emphasis of this port is shopping. The ship docks a stone's throw from the old San Juan shopping district. Celebrity gives you great maps of the area, and with so many tourists the shopping district is as safe as any city. Watch your valuables and wear comfortable walking shoes and you will be fine. We did an excursion called "old San Juan-New San Juan" and felt that it was overpriced for what we actually got. It was interesting however to see the contrast between the two sections of the city. The tour also included a visit to a old fort in old San Juan which was marginally interesting.
St. Thomas, VI
We were looking very forward to this port due to everything we heard about it. We decided to book an excursion to St. John to snorkel. Upon disembarking the ship, we were told that our tour was canceled due to rough seas and the fact that the Red Hook Ferry was not running. We were disappointed, however decided to do the snorkel trip to Buck Island instead. We sailed to Buck Island with only 6 passengers total on a catamaran and had a lovely day. The rum punch served onboard the catamaran called "Happy Hour" was delicious and the captain and mate only happy to accommodate. Snorkeling here was good, however I felt gypped that I never made it to St. John as I was told that this is one beautiful island. Oh well, hopefully the next cruise will have this on the itinerary. We also went to Charlotte Amalie by taxi (cost: $4 per person) and purchased liquor and cigarettes. Each passenger is allowed to purchase 5 bottles of liquor and 5 cartons of cigarettes duty free. The stores will deliver to the ship at a cost of $1.50. Celebrity will not allow you to have the liquor until the last night of the cruise and they 'save' it for you until then. When you finally get your order, please open the box and check the contents. One carton of cigarettes was missing, but Celebrity made good on the purchase and gave me a carton from their store onboard. There was no reason for Celebrity "saving" your order till the last night and the only thing I could think of is that they wanted you purchase liquor from their bar and not consume liquor they weren't selling. If you want to have liquor in your room, pack a small amount of it prior to the beginning of the cruise or purchase a small amount in San Juan and put it into a tote bag. They do have you go through security whenever you come back from a port, so don't make it obvious.
The port here is a stone's throw from the famous Straw Market and is easily walkable. You can find all your last minute gifts here for all the people back home. After shopping at the Straw Market we decided to take a taxi to the beach. The driver took us to the public beach called Cabbage Beach, which is practically next to the new Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island ($4 per person cab charge). You can rent beach chairs there as well as towels, and they even have a few enterprising individuals renting jet skis. We were told that you can view the main floor of Atlantis and of course visit their casino, but seeing the aquarium there will cost $25. This was the last stop on our cruise and we were very sad to leave Nassau knowing that in the morning we would be back in Ft. Lauderdale to say goodbye to the Millennium.
Dining aboard the Millennium is like eating in a very good expensive gourmet restaurant. Service is excellent and the food delicious. You must dress to dine in the main dining room. No shorts or jeans. If you don't want to be bothered with dressing, you many chose the alternate dining option of the buffet. Both are very good and you should try both. We dined in the main dining room for dinner, but chose the buffet for breakfast and lunch. This cruise had two formal nights and everyone DID dress up. I would recommend the ladies have two formal outfits and the men a dark suit and tie or tuxedo. About 40% of the men had tuxedos, and if you book this cruise far enough ahead you may make arrangements to rent a tux through the cruise line and it will be delivered to your room. In addition to the two options I mentioned, there is also a healthy food area next to the therapy pool for those wishing to watch their diets and also an outdoor grill serving hamburgers and hot-dogs, french fries and the like. The food aboard this vessel was unlike anything I have ever experienced. You will definitely gain weight during the week. Room service is also available at any time of the day or night should you wish a snack or meal. It can be ordered via interactive TV, by phone or by putting a slip on your door the night before. I had my coffee delivered to my room each morning as I cannot function without that caffeine jolt. A small tip to the staff for this is appreciated. The last formal dining night they have the GRAND BUFFET at midnight. This is NOT to be missed. They advised that it takes all their kitchen staff some 100 man hours just to prep for this event. You will want to take pictures of this, so bring your camera, as the people back home will not believe what you tell them. The only slight disappointment on dining and I emphasize the word 'slight', is the fact that there is only one midnight buffet during the 7 days. We also dined the last night at the famous Olympic Restaurant. Service was impeccable here (perhaps slightly overkill) and I felt that while this was an experience I will savor, it wasn't really necessary because of all the wonderful meals available in the main dining room. The night we dined here, the violinist played the theme from The Titanic and I could really envision the opulence those people must have experienced prior to their demise. The Olympic requires a $25 pp charge for dining there. If you do decide to "do the Olympic", make your reservation early, perhaps one of the first things you do after finding your stateroom. I would also recommend that you dine here early in the cruise, perhaps the 3rd night.
A show is available every night for your entertainment. I felt that they were very good and some excellent. You don't want to miss what these talented people have to offer each night with excellent singing, dancing and costumes. Very much on par with a Las Vegas type revue and the best part - all of this is included in your cruise. The band Prodigy plays live at the pool everyday and they are also very good.
We had a wonderful week and I hated to leave the ship to go home. Disembarkation was easy and we got to the airport in plenty of time. Getting a taxi is no problem at all. Being so pampered and well fed was very easy to get used to and felt we were "hooked" on cruising from now on for our vacation. I felt that there was a lot of value for the dollar with this type of vacation and you never had to dine at a bad restaurant or schlep your bags from one hotel to another in order to see the variety of things we saw during the week. I felt that there could be improvement in the area of interaction amongst the passengers and more emphasis could be placed on this by the Cruise Director to plan activities that would nurture this, as it makes for more fun if people are interacting with eachother. by and large this cruise is more laid back than a party boat, if that is what you are seeking. A booze cruise party boat this is not. The small negatives that I mentioned were FAR outweighed by the positives. Celebrity is a wonderful cruise line, the Millennium a very classy ship and I highly recommend both. You will have a week you will never forget.