by Kuki, CruiseMates Cruise Director
October 13, 2000
After eager anticipation Mrs. Kuki and I set out for our Millennium adventure. Our plans were well laid out. We were stopping enroute in New York City for 2 nights, before flying over the Atlantic for 3 pre cruise nights in Venice, and then on to the Millennium for 10 glorious nights cruising the Western Mediterranean.
New York City-
That first evening was cool in NY and I searched the room for a thermostat to warm us up. I felt rather silly calling the front desk to ask where the thermostat was located, but when they learned I was interested in some heat they said they would send up an engineer. A few minutes later the "engineer" arrived, and with professional ease plugged in a space heater. This was rather unexpected for a hotel charging $325/night.
The real chuckle came when the "engineer" told us we had to many lights on in the room to keep the space heater plugged in. He was quite concerned about us blowing a fuse. If I wasn't laughing so hard I may have, but not the electrical type he was speaking of.
That night we met up with friends from the area for dinner. As we headed out to find the Old Homestead Steak House, which had been recommended to us for dinner, things got adventurous. Our friends looked up the address in the phone book and it was decided we could walk to the restaurant quite easily.
We walked a long way searching to no avail. We walked up and down 9 Ave. so many times I was beginning to worry about being arrested for street walking. I was beginning to think this restaurant was more than a well-hidden secret, but just plain well hidden. Eventually we did find the Old Homestead and had a very pleasant evening stuffing our faces and chatting.
The next day Mrs. Kuki went walking and exploring. As we turned onto 5th Ave. we found ourselves in the midst of a parade. This turned out to be a theme for the balance of our trip. Everywhere we went they seemed to be throwing another parade in my honor.
We walked through a great deal of Manhattan, the theater district, and Time Square working our way up to the West Side to meet our CruiseMates bosses, Anne Campbell and Paul Motter. Oddly, after knowing Anne electronically for over 4 years, and working for CruiseMates for over a year, this was our first face to face meeting.
We lunched with Anne and Paul, and then got the famous Paul Motter tour of New York City by car. It was great fun as Paul led us all over, trying to squeeze every landmark in the city into a few hours. Our evening ended having CruiseMates Consumer Affairs Editor, Tim Rubacky meeting us for dinner in "The Village". Thanks guys... It was a wonderful day! Monday morning, Columbus Day, Mrs. Kuki and I decided to do some more walking before we had to head to the airport to board our late afternoon AlItalia flight to Milan, Italy.
As we rounded the corner onto 5th Ave. again we ran right into another parade. I couldn't believe how many people knew I was in the city to keep throwing parades for us.
As it turned out the Des Baines Hotel we were booked into was not really IN Venice, but was located on Lido Island, about a 15 - 20 minute water bus, or water taxi ride to Venice. While the Des Baines is a nice enough hotel, I would certainly never stay there again if I were planning a short 3 stay in Venice.
Exploring Venice is fun, exciting and involves lots of walking. Had we been staying IN Venice we surely would have enjoyed going back to the hotel for a rest mid or late afternoon, and heading out for more dinner and more exploring later in the evening. To do this from Lido Island was, frankly, a pain in the butt.
I guess this goes to show even those of us who travel a lot should still do our own research and know where we're going rather than rely on other travel "experts".
This lesson cost me close to an extra $200 in water taxi fares. Venice itself is amazing! It's a city of art, history, and romance. Walking through the maze of streets and canals can easily wear out the hardiest traveler. But, the experience is wonderful.
This time of year St. Marks Square and many of the side streets in Venice flood in the mornings with high tide. It was very interesting to see the stretches of what appear to be about 3 foot high tables strung together to form a temporary sidewalk during this flooding. The crowds of people simply creep along these tabletop sidewalks snaking their way through the city.
Normally by early afternoon the waters recede and the pavement is again bare and dry. Surprisingly, so much so you'd never know they'd been flooded just hours earlier.
Located close to Venice is the islands of Murano and Burano. Murano, known for its famous glass factories, Burano known for its lace. Both are accessible only by waterbus, or water taxi.
My only other disappointment in Venice; we saw no stores selling Venetian blinds.
Heading to the Ship-
In fact we were so concerned about getting to Genoa in time to make the scheduled sailing time that we didn't even stop enroute for lunch. As we rode towards Genoa there was some concern on the bus and the driver getting looking at his map.
I felt relief as we saw the large yellow Celebrity X of the Millennium approach, then watched as we circled the port area over and over trying to find the turn that led to the correct berth.
The bus driver spoke no English, but I was rather surprised it seemed he couldn't read Italian either.
We eventually found the ship and the embarkation process was very speedy for both Captains Club members and others. I assume this was because at this time we had to be amongst the last passengers arriving.
The Ship- at last-
To me, at least, the yellow and blue mix is quite ugly. Mind you, it does make it difficult to miss, even as hard as our bus driver tried does. Once you walk onboard though she WOWS you. She features a wide array of interior furnishing and finishing. Lots of variety in the color schemes and furniture in all her public rooms. And to my eye, each and every one is quite comfortable and elegant. The ship is full of eclectic art pieces, and oddly with the very little bit I know about art, I liked most of it. There are many flower and plant arrangements sprinkled in the public rooms aboard. I learned later most of these are synthetic arrangements and available for purchase from the flower shop onboard.
To be perfectly honest this sailing, with only one sea day, was so port intensive and busy, I never found the time or energy to explore the entire ship.
The Grand Foyer is well decorated and well lit. It has a very soothing feel to all areas of it rising above covering 3 decks. The Foyer is not as open, or possibly impressive as say RCI Vision Class, or Carnival ships, but it does have a comfortable feel.
One area in which I was disappointed was the central pool, on Lido deck. Mine may be an odd complaint. There were way too few tables and chairs for enjoying an al fresco breakfast, or lunch by the pool. And those that were present were hidden in the corners, almost isolated, so choosing to sit there meant passing on my favorite past time, people watching. The teak decked area at the stern of the ship suited this purpose but is not large enough to handle the demand I could see arising on a more warm weather cruise, like the Caribbean.
Aside from this, there were no upright chairs located anywhere near the pool. All the deck "chairs" were of the lounger variety, and stretched right to the windows on both sides of the pool. I prefer to remain upright even when sunning (figuring I'm going to be lying horizontal soon enough), and with only loungers available, I wasn't able to do so comfortably.
The entire pool side area, as well as the exterior of the promenade deck, and the balconies use some form of non slip coating for flooring. It's a tan colored material that kind of looks like cork-board. It's not really cork, although there could be some in its composition. While this is probably pretty practical for use in areas that may become slippery, it's certainly not very aesthetically pleasing.
I enjoyed the color scheme of the cabin, but the design layout of the cabin is nothing exceptional.
In particular I missed having drawer space in the desk. In place of drawers the desk has a large door on either side of the chair which opens to shelves. Certainly not an earth shattering turn of events, just something I personally did not care for. The only drawers to be found are one in each night table.
The entryway to the cabin is very narrow, with lots of closet space located on one side and the bathroom door to the other. With relation to almost everything in life, timing is everything. We found this to be true many times in our cabin. If I entered the cabin as Mrs. Kuki was looking in the closet there was a collision. If Mrs. Kuki tried to exit the bathroom as I was taking clothes out of the closet there was a collision. If any of the closet doors were open there was no room for anyone to walk by. In this entire area we found ourselves always jockeying for position. Honeymooners could happily have used this area to "accidentally" run into each other and have an excuse to grope. In the case of Mrs. Kuki and I, we'd just push each other out of the way.
I did like the in cabin safes located in the closet. These could be used in either one of two ways. You could set it to use a PIN #, or to use a card with a magnetic strip. Our cabin had no instructions on how to set up the safe for personal use, but it took me no longer than half the cruise to figure out it required a 6 digit, rather than 4 digit PIN #. Ours was a verandah cabin and I was delighted to see it had the sliding type of door on it. I love to keep the door open at night and let the sounds of sea lull me to sleep, and I was able to do that in this case, without blocking the door open with a chair, as I've had to do on some ships.
The balcony itself is about 38 sq. ft. Certainly not large, but adequate. It has two sitting chairs and a small table. The dividers between verandahs are beveled glass, and while not completely transparent, at night if the outside lights of the balconies are on you can easily see the silhouettes of your neighbors. If the thought of romance on your balcony should strike you, you'd best be sure to turn off that balcony light.
The cabin TV comes fully equipped with interactive services. You can order shore excursions; room service, movies, or wine for dinner in the dining room right from your cabin. You can also check your shipboard account balance any time you wish.
The cabin's washroom is a decent size, with a nice large shower. I'm not certain if I'm getting bigger, after too many cruises, or the shower stalls are smaller than we experienced on the Century class Celebrity ships.
Celebrity does supply all the toiletries needed. The shower is equipped with a shampoo dispenser attached to the wall, which was handy, and seemed to dispense decent quality shampoo.
There is one rather odd thing we missed that was absent in the cabin. There were no hooks on the wall. I'm sure no one else would even notice this, or call it a shortcoming, but it presented a major problem for me as I had no where to hang my hat or my antlers.
Desserts really surprised me. They were much tastier than I recalled Celebrity's desserts on other Celebrity cruises.
The ship's most appealing alternate dining experience is the Olympic Restaurant. Reservations are a must here as the restaurant only seats 134 people, and there is a service charge of $12/person, but it is well worth the cost. The $12, by they way, is paid to the staff for gratuity for services rendered, and what service it is.
The Olympic is so good it warranted it's own article, which I hope you read when it was posted on the CruiseMates front page.
The other alternate dining area is the buffet in the Ocean Cafe. This area is well laid out, with enough stations to keep waiting in line to a minimum. The food selection was pretty good, but really it's rather typical buffet quality. We should all understand we give up something in quality when we choose the "fast food" route.
During the course of the cruise the Ocean Cafe can also be used for alternate dining for dinner, with reservations. We never tried it, but some folks planned ahead, and made reservations for dinner when they knew they'd be returning late from shore tours in some ports of call. The Ocean Cafe also features stations serving freshly cooked Omelets in the mornings', and pastas at lunch. Aside from this there is a grill by the central pool and aft in the Ocean Cafe serving hamburgers, not dogs, grilled chicken, and pizza. Occasionally these grills also had other specialty items like tacos, kabobs or the like.
Room service offers a very limited menu, of sandwiches and with some restricted hours, personal size pizza. The pizza was terrific. Not quite as good as Carnival or Princess pizza, but a millennium ahead of RCI's. Since it's the same company Celebrity should share their pizza recipe with RCI.
Full meals can be ordered to your cabin during dining room hours. Just arrange to have a menu delivered to your cabin.
Staff & Service-
Any and all requests were dealt with efficiently, and without hesitation.
The remaining staff I had any encounters with were friendly and helpful. From the guest relation's desk, to the bank, to the Hotel Manager, Social Hostess, and Cruise Director, all were smiling and always pleasant to deal with.
Our cabin steward, Ronaldo, was on his first cruise, and as pleasant as his attitude was, it became sort of obvious he still had some learning to do. Nothing at all major, just some little things. When we first met, the first day onboard, I asked him to keep my mini bar fridge well stocked with diet cokes. It took til day 3 to get more than 1 can left there. Like I said, not a big deal, but he should know a moose need his sodas!
The only shortcoming I saw with regard to staff, was with regard to many of the officers we would pass when traveling about the ship. They seemed to just walk right by, oblivious to any attempts to smile, say good day, or exchange any pleasantries. I'm not sure if this is an attitude problem, or one which appears to be so, because of the language barriers.
The staff in the casino reinforced my opinion that this is normally the best area of a cruise ship to meet and have fun with the crew. Almost all were warm, and friendly, and more than willing to share some laughs. They weren't really generous enough with the cruise line's money, but that had nothing to do with them. That was just the way the cards fell. They always gave me the honest feeling that they wanted me to win. So much so, I was tipping even when I wasn't winning.
Reports back from other cruisemates were a rather mixed bag. They said some shows were great, and received standing ovations, and during others the folks were standing early to leave.
To truly make the most of your short time in these ports of call I highly recommend arranging for a private car and guide wherever it's possible. This option really isn't that much more costly than ship's excursions, but allows you to control the time you have. We used Port Promotions to pre arrange this for us. It can also be done through autoeurope.com.
As I mentioned earlier, parades being held almost everywhere we went became a theme. It started with two parades in NY, then when we reached Las Ramblas in Barcelona there was a parade of marching bands, then in Malta a small parade for the arrival of the Governor at the Justice Building, and finally a huge parade at St. Peter's Basilica.
Assuming that her upcoming dry dock remedies the situation, I can easily see someone cruising this ship afterwards, without having a single complaint.
She really is a beauty, and quite distinct in design and interior decorating than other ships we've sailed.
As I've discussed the ship, since my return, I keep finding myself saying she's a wonderful combination of elegance and comfort. That's a pretty accurate view of my summary assessment of the ship.
I would love to sail this ship again, on a more relaxing itinerary, just to have the ability to see all of her and enjoy the shipboard amenities and activities.