I nicknamed our cruise "Mama Bird Kicks the Chicks Outta the Nest Tour" since we were celebrating our two sons (ages 18 and 22) traveling with us as adults for the first time. My husband and I (he is 52, I am 49), were also celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary.
This was my 2nd Celebrity cruise following a cruise on the Mercury to Alaska with my sister and mother a couple of years ago. This cruise was the first Celebrity cruise for my husband and two sons. It was by far the best cruise I've been on and my husband and boys were thoroughly impressed with our ship and with the Celebrity cruise line.
Celebrity is a wonderful cruise line -Celebrity strives for excellence and it shows. Celebrity has some of the best crew to passenger and space to passenger ratios in the industry. Celebrity's M class ship, Millennium, made a very positive impression and we look forward to cruising with them again. Celebrity knows how to treat passengers "famously". (Believe me, I had to fly to LA the day after our return and train a new batch of employees the day after we returned -- I kept waiting for my steward to appear!) I was pleased to see Celebrity was still striving for excellence and was impressed with the improvements in their Entertainment productions since my last voyage with them.
**Note** Any criticisms or recommendations in this review are intended to be constructive and are offered in hopes that someone from Celebrity will read it.
The Millennium is beautiful; it is designed to make the most out of the available space. We particularly appreciated the positive use of space planning; although the Millennium was at full capacity it did not feel crowded at all. The flow from one public area to another was very logical and smooth. The décor was elegant and sophisticated. The ship itself was kept very clean and I was impressed with the continual painting and maintenance that was being done. (This seemed to be a bone of contention in past years). The crew was unobtrusive in the completing of their duties; in fact, I had one of the workers call down to me when I tried to sit on a lounger beneath the mast pole he was painting! The artwork on the ship was aesthetically pleasing and accented the feeling of spaciousness and elegance.
The pool area was well designed. We never had a problem getting lounges (especially when painting was underway! LOL!). While it was crowded near the pool on sea days, we were able to locate chairs easily. I did have a slight issue with certain people pulling up their chairs too close, but that was not the ship's problem and that only happened once! The pool butlers were attentive and efficient about removing towels from the chairs as were the bar attendants in making the rounds for drink orders. Our boys quickly learned if they ordered four beers from the pool bar they got the fifth one free PLUS they came in a bucket of ice. (Oh, AND no more said about that bar bill . OMG!) Another comforting touch was when the pool attendants passed out chilled towels poolside. On sea days, the sorbet parade occurred around 2 PM and was a hit. The citrus sorbet was very refreshing. Usually the parade was followed by a round of Music Trivia or some other audience-involved activity. The Duo Mr. Jones & Me played poolside and they were pretty upbeat and kicky playing apropos cruise songs like Gloria Estefan, etc.
The Aqua Spa was fabulous as usual. I had a great massage which I scheduled immediately upon embarkation. I booked it for the early AM of our first sea day which I figured would be a safe time - of course,
we soon learned that our Captains Club and Cruise Critic activities would conflict with this appointment. (Murphy's Law, I suppose .)
I was disappointed to learn when touring the Millennium Aqua Spa that the Thallasotherapy pool was open to the public rather than requiring a pass as was the case on Mercury. Consequently, with the thallasotherapy pool open to the public it was always crowded and was just not very appealing. I did not use it once whereas I used it on a daily basis on Mercury.
We enjoyed the bars and lounges. Unfortunately, we discovered the Martini bar one of our final evenings and totally missed out on the martini sampler. We heard it was a great way to try new offerings.
We did enjoy a cocktail now and then during the cruise and enjoyed the variety of bars and lounges. Being from California, the smoking does bother us and we found that we just didn't stay anywhere it was smoky for very long. Fortunately, the casino was very smoky so we left that venue for our sons! (Thank Goodness.they were lucky!)
We found Michael's club was a terrific place for a relaxing cocktail in a quiet atmosphere. We loved the warm intimate environment.
Cosmos was a nice dance club. We enjoyed dancing here at the beginning of the cruise but didn't frequent this as much as we would have liked. It could either be empty or packed depending on what time you went. Things picked up a bit later and our sons enjoyed frequenting the club. I liked the DJ - he picked up on our ages the moment we walked in the door and started playing age-specific music. I didn't even wait for my husband to join me on the dance floor!
The Extreme Sports bar was a bit disappointing. My sons felt the lack of current programming made it hard to keep up with their current teams', games and scores. Football teams were making their cuts and
Heaven knows. my guys are not happy when they are not being kept in the loop. (They did check the internet for scores, cuts, playoff data, etc.).
Words and Notes were a nice touch. We didn't use them much, but the boys visited Notes quite often and separately, enjoying the privacy. We noticed other folks had rented the MP3 players from Guest Relations but we did not take advantage of this.
We browsed by the gym but unfortunately never had a chance to visit since we were out so early every day and relaxing by the pool in the afternoon. This area had a nice selection of equipment and was kept very clean. Although I used it everyday on my cruise to Alaska I just didn't find the time while on this cruise. The boys used it for a day or two, but they said they too were too wiped out to enjoy it.
The photography area was convenient and we took advantage of many sittings. They actually offered photo taking every evening not just on the formal nights. We rented tuxes onboard for the boys (which up until our first dinner they refused to do - score one for mom!) so of course we made certain to have a lot of pictures taken, and we purchased many as well. We also purchased the cruise in review video in which we found we were featured! It was $24.95 and it will be mailed to us in a few weeks. .
Our CC (Concierge Class) stateroom with Verandah (9097) was midship on the Sky deck. Our two boys were in a 2B Penthouse deck stateroom with balcony (6057). The design of both stateroom/ cabins was similar and typical Celebrity. There was sufficient storage and closet space for my husband and me in 9097 and for the boys in 6057. Each room had two double closets with a tie/belt rack and lower hanging bars that folded down if needed. A single closet adjacent to the double closet had 6 drawers, a few shelves, and a safe. The staterooms differed slightly in size; ours was 191 sq ft with a 58 ft balcony, the boys room was 170 sq ft with a 40 ft balcony. Both rooms had an entry which opened to a hall which led past the bathroom on the right and the closet on the left. We were able to accommodate our clothing in the drawers and closet and our luggage fit safely under the bed. The main area of our cabin had a very comfortable queen size bed. The boys had two double beds. A sofa, table, and two chairs were located in our seating area. We had a desk with two cabinets for storing our cameras, film, suntan lotion, etc. while we used the other cabinet for our home bar accoutrements. We had additional storage in the nightstand drawers. Both rooms had TV's and mini-bars. Power outlets were by the desk and we brought power chords from home for both rooms which proved helpful. Since we were in a Concierge Class room our bathroom was slightly larger than the boys, and it had a great shower massage head. We had a shampoo dispenser in the shower, an assortment of soaps, moisturizer, shampoo and conditioner as well as the requisite cotton balls, q-tips, and shower caps. We received a complimentary bottle of champagne upon arrival, binoculars (which were of surprising quality) and we had fresh fruit and flowers daily.
As mentioned earlier, our balcony was larger than our sons. We had cushions on our chairs and a nice table. Our sons, after seeing our setup, took their cocktail table from their room and set it on the deck. It actually made more room for them in their cabin as they preferred to sit outside anyway.
The views from our midship room were terrific; prior to the cruise I heard a lot of hooey RE: the Sky deck CC rooms and balconies (Rooms had an overhang (yes), it wasn't sunny (it was sunny enough), the overhang was obstructing (NOT!), it was noisy (Didn't hear a thing!); I tell you, we found the rooms to be delightful! We had views FORE and AFT along the entire port side of the ship. The boy's balcony on the Penthouse floor was situated more FORE of ours on the port side and they had lifeboats directly below them, however, they found that did not bother them at all. Both cabins had overhead lights controlled by a switch near the desk panel. My husband and I decided we would just like to take a future cruise to sit on the balcony!
Upon arrival in our cabin we noticed some areas that were not quite up to our expectations; but considering how quickly they turn the cabins, it was not the result of spot cleaning that was at fault! The carpets could use a good overall steam cleaning, but the rest of the cabin appearance and cleanliness was good. My suggestion is that Celebrity devote some TLC to the carpets at the next dry-dock or break in cruise routing. Our cabin steward, Zaldy, was very good with the day-to-day cleaning of the bathroom, main vacuuming, etc.
Prior to this cruise I was concerned about the reports of noise above the sky deck. Our cabin was situated directly below the jogging track and buffet area. It was very quiet. We did not hear anything like others have reported regarding the crew moving furniture and hosing down the deck at ungodly hours of the morning; but then again, we were probably off the ship by then! I did hear an occasional chair scraping but nothing out of the ordinary. I would not hesitate to be in this cabin on this level again. We had plenty of privacy on the balcony, and had sufficient sun and shade. I didn't feel there was any breach of privacy whatsoever.
Metropolitan Restaurant, (main seating, table #535) - We were seated at a table for 10; but to our luck the other diners seated with us decided to move to dine with friends prior to our first meal! We had a table of 10 for the 4 of us! With two college age sons, one 6'3 and the other 6'1 and 250 lbs, and a husband of 6' and 200 lbs, we couldn't have fared better! A little leg room was nice. believe me!
The restaurant décor and ambiance was very nice. We had a great porthole view of the sea from our table. We enjoyed the views from our table and once when there was an emergency on board we noticed they covered the portholes to mask that we were not leaving port on time. I don't think anyone else noticed. The porthole coverings used on the formal nights were quite attractive and afforded a desired ambiance, however I wish they wouldn't lower them until after sunset because you do you miss the view. We enjoyed the string quartet but found it was difficult to hear them from our table. Food ranged from excellent to very good. We did not have to send one meal back. I was a bit surprised there were not as many fish entrees as I would have liked but we honored our waiter's recommendations and he never steered us wrong! I probably ate more beef than I have in years, but it was worth it! We made the acquaintance of the dining room MaitreD, Vlady, on our first evening and he insured that we had a lovely dining experience for the extent of our cruise. He arranged to have an antipasto plate of prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella for us prior to each evening's dining. The food was as good as I remember it to be on the Mercury cruise to Alaska a couple of years before. Excellent beef, lobster, salmon, and rack of lamb were featured. The appetizers and soups were consistently excellent - My sons ate foods I never thought they would enjoy: cream of asparagus, duck consommé, cream of cucumber, gazpacho, seafood gumbo, cream of broccoli, escargot. We also enjoyed our salads enormously; partly because one son requested a special salad of "iceberg lettuce" with creamy Roquefort dressing which was not on the menu. Both sons, and then my husband, were thrilled with the chef's willingness to accommodate this request. It wasn't long before we noticed the Roquefort dressing became an addition to the menu for the duration of our cruise!
The desserts were fabulous - although I stopped indulging after the first night. The rest of the family continued to enjoy dessert right up through the last day! We enjoyed the baked Alaska parade on the last formal evening and we were surprised when we were presented with an Anniversary cake both in the Olympic Room and then at our Main seating the next day! What a group!
Our waiter Angelci was from Macedonia and he was truly outstanding. The assistant waiter Da Dong (from Bali) was a hoot and was very attentive. My boys (ah, good Italian boys) are major bread eaters and short of bringing the baker to the table our food crew kept the bread basket refilled! Angelci was very good at letting us know what was good and what was NOT recommended. He and the restaurant manager seemed genuinely interested in our opinion and in making certain we were satisfied.
Our wine sommelier, Catina from Lithuania was wonderfully friendly and very helpful. We brought a lot of our own wine and she seemed thrilled to have our business. (We noticed there weren't many bottles of wine ordered in general).
The Olympic - Wow! What a divine evening. This dinner was an unbelievably outstanding and a wonderful treat. I fell in love with the
Wine Room and reserved it for our anniversary. What a beautiful room! The room was octagonal in shape with wooden and glass wine cabinets lining the walls of the room. Glass doors protected the wine bottles; I was told one bottle was priced at $12,400.00!
I had the goat cheese soufflé, the rack of lamb, several delicious selections from the cheese cart, and the chocolate soufflé with hot coffee sauce for dessert. We were surprised when the Maitre'D brought out a cake for our Anniversary! The wait staff sang "Happy Anniversary" to us and we took pictures. What a delightful evening!
As if this wasn't enough, we had cucumber soup at the beginning of our meal and then after our cake a selection of petit fours for dessert. The food and presentation were amazing. My husband had the French onion soup, which was the best he has ever had. One son had escargot and another son had the lobster bisque. The staff was attentive and most entertaining. We had our room attendant, Zaldy, deliver three of our own California wines beforehand and the MatreD told us he could sell them for 3 times what we paid for them. (We elected to drink them). I did splurge and had a nice glass of French Champagne with my appetizer. The Assistant Maitre D was in charge of serving us and our Sommelier was delightful! He had been scheduled to work at the French Laundry prior to this engagement but could not because his Visa did not come through in time; we had many stories to share with him. He was young yet very knowledgeable. This dining experience was a great Celebrity innovation! The $30 per person surcharge was well worth it. We tipped extra since we felt it was so deserved.
Ocean Cafe - We had breakfast here once as a family but since I am not a breakfast eater nor do I like buffets, this was not my preference. The food was ok, but then the highest I would ever rate a buffet is "ok". Our boys ate there for a couple of days, and then we all decided to have our respective breakfasts in our rooms. We could watch the port activities from our balconies and eat breakfast at leisure before the day began.
Mast Bar- We found this option on our last day. One of our sons had been dying for a sub sandwich and they made them here to order! The deck was beautiful - the fore location a little windy, but most enjoyable.
Aqua Spa Café - Another wonderful addition to Celebrity Dining! The food here was fabulous- light, tasty, and just enough. I enjoyed this immensely. The selections were delightful and a perfect compliment to basking in the sun by the pool!
Sushi Bar - We never found this and I must say after 13 days I was in sushi withdrawal. I gather the hours of operation must have conflicted with our early dinner seating, or. Could it be.my husband purposely diverted my attention elsewhere?
Riviera Pool Grill - This became our hang-out after returning from our shore excursions. They had delicious hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and fries with a few other accompaniments. This was very convenient and they had a great beer selection (Yeah -Red Stripe!) on ice.
Ice cream bar - My boys (including my husband) frequented this more than I cared to know about.
Evening pizza and pasta - Another place given a good workout by my boys. This was great since we had the main seating and occasionally the boys would be hungry again later.
Cova Café - We really didn't frequent the café because we enjoyed breakfast in our rooms. We also missed the afternoon snacks here and I gather this is where you may also purchase soda cards here. We did not.
Midnight Bites - This was a great concept however we were always conked out by then. Our sons' did partake once or twice. The "bites" served in the lounges were also a nice touch (they also did this on the Mercury). Since we had a CC room we were served our canapés in our room a touch we thoroughly enjoyed.
Midnight Buffet - This was presented once during the cruise. We were so tired we did not attend. I know from a prior cruise that it takes them hours and hours to prepare and display everything. Often diners attend only to take photos of the stunning ice sculptures and beautifully arranged delicacies. I have always thought this an extremely odd practice.
All in all the variety of dining choices was very pleasing and the availability was very good with a variety of food offered frequently throughout the day. The options were varied and the food was as good as the last time we cruised. We were all very happy with the choices.
The few crewmembers already mentioned were wonderful. Everyone was genuinely friendly and seemed very happy. The service was prompt and attentive. We enjoyed talking and joking with many of the staff - they were all delightful!
Cruise Director - Edwin Rojas - What a voice! I never tired of listening to him. He announced that he was retiring the last day of the cruise to spend some time with his wife and sons; I hope he will be back soon.
Port and Shopping Guide- John. John highlighted many of the "select" shops safe for our shopping excursions. I did buy a nice onyx and diamond ring at one store in Santorini that was a recommended shop but I did not notice any "added benefit" associated with my purchase.
Sustained - A capella group - A nice group with a select range of music.
Mr. Jones and Me - Duo - Very enjoyable. Mrs. Jones had a beautiful voice. They played a nice selection of typical tunes (Gloria Estefan) poolside while branching into others in the evening at the Cosmos dance club. By the end of the week the poolside music had become a bit repetitive.
Coco Band - They were not for us but filled the 60-80 year old age niche. Many passengers enjoying listening and dancing to them. We saw many excellent dancers.
Pepe Ayala - Guitar player - Very enjoyable; he was out on the aft grill deck outdoors. The cigar and other smokers would hang out here, and as my son erroneously read from the daily itinerary, "cigar smoking under the stairs" -(uhmmm."stars") - the smoke really wasn't bothersome with the fresh air.
Bob Arno - Comedian - Interactive Pick pocket - Absolutely hilarious . He was very talented and had the audience in stitches (and short their wallets, watches, money clips, etc.)
Mary Amanda - Harp- Very talented and lovely.
Nathaniel Reed - Pianist - Michael's Club Another extremely talented performer. Also, he is funny and witty. He played a nice varied selection.
DJ Yvon -DJ Cosmos - Awesome. He had the knack to play appropriate age-specific music when you walked in the door! He made you want to get up and dance!!
The Celebrity Singers and Dancers- As I mentioned earlier, we met one of the singers and two of the dancers the first day of the cruise and they were adorable! Of the two girls we met, one was obviously a gifted cheerleader and gymnast, and the other had the benefit of a fabulous ballet background. Their shows were great!
All in all, the shows were much improved over what I remember on Mercury Alaska.
We did not have a chance to view these areas.
PORTS OF CALL / SHORE EXCURSIONS
Venice - Friday May 21, 2004
We boarded the ship following our delayed flight arrival from SFO to Frankfurt. Venice Limo picked us up at the airport and delivered us to the cruise terminal prior to the arrival of the cruise buses. We checked in quickly and the Captains Club afforded us a most timely embarkation. We investigated the ship, our rooms, and met our room attendants. Later we toured the bars and other public areas. The boys wanted to take a nap before dinner and as I expected, we did not see them the rest of the evening. My husband and I took advantage of the open seating in the dining room and we had a very pleasant evening. I walked over and found where our regular First Seating table was and was pleased it was near a window. In talking with the Matre'D, he advised me that our prior tablemates were going to be moving to sit with friends of theirs at the later seating. I was thrilled we would have a table of 10 just for our family! I asked him if we could keep the large table and just set the service for the four of us rather than moving in a smaller table - he was very pleased since they preferred not to change the usual seating pattern.
Venice -Day 2
We decided to go into Venice early since we all had a good nights sleep. We were among the first off the ship and we enjoyed the lack of tourists and crowds in Venice. Venice was a most interesting place. The square was almost empty (except for the pigeons) and it was enjoyable to look at the Basilica and the Campanile without the crowds. We got to peek inside the church before the tours and the church interiors were absolutely gorgeous! We walked around the curving streets but it was too early for anything to be open so we headed down to look at the bridges. We walked around the city, looked at the bridges and the shops and took a lot of pictures. At one point I caught a woman sticking her hand in my husband's backpack. She left immediately after squarely looking me in the eye. We stopped at the Metropole Hotel for coffee and juice and sat out on a quiet patio. The hotel seemed rather stuffy and small although it is a recommended hotel in Venice. The use of marble was beautiful, but our family decided we wouldn't want to stay there for any length of time.
Once it started getting crowded in Venice we headed back to the ship.
We changed into our swimsuits and went out to the Riviera Grill and
Pool. We spent couple of hours lounging in the sun and then attended the Life Boat Drill. At 3 PM we went out on the deck for the Bon Voyage party. We met with Elisabeth the social hostess and remade our acquaintance with Rebecca and Kim both dancers with the Celebrity Singers and Dancers.
Croatia - Day 3
We woke up early and watched as we pulled into the seaport. The port was wide and beautiful. There was a huge bridge near where we moored the ship. I called the boys and had them look out as we approached the dock. We were off the ship by 7AM and went into Croatia, boarding a bus on the dock that was provided for our use. We elected to see Croatia on our own and we had a ball! The city was
Phenomenal! What a fortification! To think that the architecture dated from the 6th century was amazing! We were impressed with the walled city and amazed at the number of steps that led down from the fortress into the city at measured junctures. These steps crossed little avenues complete with eateries, pubs, shops, and other businesses. We found a great little pub which served great pizza and beer. The pub had a large CD collection above and behind the bar and the pub tender was the resident DJ as well. He played great music and we lounged, ate pizza and drank beer. The resident cat was stretched out on a bench and did not move the entire time we were there. Once back on board the ship we planned our evening. We had dinner with the boys and attended the Captains Gala Toast then attended the Spectacle of Broadway, which featured the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. The show featured the Broadway shows Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Chicago, and others I have forgotten. We were impressed.
At Sea - Day 4
We left Croatia last evening and spent the day sailing to Greece.
Today was our first official sea day. The seas were a little rocky last night but not bad. My younger son said he had toppled over while in the shower the night before, but given the space in the shower and his size, I didn't take it too seriously. Since he had also been in the Casino and bar-hopping most of the night, I gave it even less notice.
I had scheduled my massage at 9AM; so the boys (including hubby) were on their own to have breakfast and explore. While I felt I had a good massage, I also felt the masseuse was really pushing the merchandise. I bought some shower gel and aromatherapy oil. I got out of the Spa a bit later than I planned since the spa was very busy on the first sea day. I arranged to meet my husband at 10:15 at the spa but of course he was not where he said he would be, or I was a few minutes late, probably a bit of both. I looked around at the places where I thought he might be (the Sports Bar, Pool Bar, etc.) then went up to the stateroom. He was not there either. Since our cruise critic meeting was at 10:00 and I knew I was already late, I dashed off a note that I missed him and would catch him at the meeting. On my way down to Michael's club, I looked for him in the stores and casino and finally got to Michael's Club about 10:35. The CC group was just disbanding and my husband had already left. Since we had our CC Anniversary Party Scheduled for 11:30, I went back up to the room. My husband had been back and he had left me a note! I headed to the disco for the Anniversary party. As expected, when I arrived, my husband wasn't there, so I went back up to the room. Our Steward/room attendant, Zaldy, said my husband just came back and left and said he would meet me at the party. Believe me; I did not receive a very gracious welcome when I finally caught up with him! We did enjoy the party and were impressed with the number of couples whom had been married 50 years or greater. The winning couple was married 55 years!
We checked out our pictures at the Photo Shop - they were quite good and we purchased a few. We went up to the Pool and met the boys and got some sun. That afternoon after lunch we attended a wine seminar with Adolfo Alarcon, the winemaker from Kendall-Jackson. It was a very nice seminar. We retired for our afternoon canapés and later met the boys for dinner.
While it was still dark, I watched the ship sail into port and then watched the sunrise. We were cleared by 7:30 AM, which was much earlier than our scheduled time. We were the first off the ship. We asked John, the shopping guide how much to expect to pay for a taxi to the Acropolis, he told us $25 -35 was the going rate. We found a taxi driver who drove us into Athens. We saw the stadium that was being built for the Olympics. We were amazed at how our driver backed up on the Freeway and into the entry lane for the opposing traffic. He backed all the way up the on-ramp then flipped a U-turn! We were aghast! We came eye-to-eye with a woman attempting to merge onto the Freeway going the proper direction. She did not seem alarmed.
We were among the first to enter the Acropolis and spent most of the morning exploring before any tour groups appeared! We saw the Parthenon, the temple of Athena Nike, the Dionysus and Odeon theatres, the Ancient Agora, the Athens stadium and finally, the Plaka.
It was very windy at the top of the Acropolis 30-40moh winds but we got some great unobstructed pictures since we arrived so early.
We spent an hour or so in the café at the Acropolis and then caught a taxi back to the ship. Amazingly and after much difficulty, we caught a taxi just dropping off a fare - he drove us in a new Mercedes sedan and charged us $4.80 for our return trip to the ship! Wow, did we get gouged going into town!
Santorini - Day 6 - Wednesday
We awoke early again and watched our ship head into port; we watched the sunrise over the hills. We had decided against doing a tour here and we really lucked out in doing so. I don't know what more could have been seen! We were the first to disembark via tender and we arrived in Santorini by 8AM. We docked right next to the Constellation and they blew their horns back and forth to each other as they docked. It was loud and pretty humorous. We took the cable car up to the city. The donkeys were ready for a day of hiking up the mountain but we opted to take the cable car instead. The Museum of Thira was just opening as we arrived. We explored the ancient pottery, statutes, and engravings. We walked up the narrow crooked streets passing schoolchildren on their way to class. We saw their school, the little storefront jewelry stores, eateries, and hotels. We had lunch at a mountain-side restaurant with a fabulous view of the ocean and our ship. The scenery from the restaurant was gorgeous. The hillside was a blend of blues, peach, coral and white; a maze of restaurants and hotels with blue lap pools threaded their way across the landscape and added a suggestion of opulence and elegance.
Sea Day 2 - Day 7 - Our Anniversary
We woke up a bit later than usual (there was no port to scout!) Since it was a sea day we had breakfast in our room. We lounged in the sun and prepared for our big dinner at the Olympic Club.
Naples - Day 8
We watched our ship dock pre-sunrise. This had become such an important part of our cruise and a prelude to another delicious day! The first thing I noticed, the Naples port appeared a little dirtier than the others. We had talked about visiting Pompeii but several people had shared with us that it was somewhat depressing. Since I had really wanted to go to Capri and Sorrento instead, this notice served well! We got off our ship and immediately saw Castel Nuovo looming before us. My husband and the boys really wanted to see it, so we tried but it did not open until 9AM. Since we did not want to wait, we just walked over to the Ferry terminal and purchased our tickets for Capri. We left on the earliest Ferry to Capri. When we arrived in Capri at Marina Piccollo (or was it Grande?) we walked around and caught a cab in the square - We paid $60 Euros for the 4 of us to drive around the island in a Convertible. The driver took us up to all of the scenic spots. We stopped to view the luscious lemons and to see the Madonna encased in the mountain. We stopped at a lot of scenic turnouts where we took pictures. On one such occasion, the driver stopped the car, jumped out and picked some lovely yellow flowers for me. We drove on and passed the Mt. Solaro chair lift and went down to the seaside beaches along the beachfront Marina. We saw the grotto and the Faraglione and the fort/castle on the hill. It was a luscious, sunny day. Once we finished with our Capri drive we returned to the Ferry and took another Ferry into Sorrento. We walked around Sorrento, had a beer and checked out the shops in the vicinity. Our youngest son was getting hungry and wanted to return to the ship. On our ferry back to Naples
We actually saw a shark in the water off the side of the ferry - the fin spiked no less than two yards from us and we gawked as we noticed
kayakers near the shore.
We awoke early to watch our ship pull into Port Civitavecchia. As we approached the dock, we could see a number of buses, taxis and limos
lined up. Our youngest had been burning the midnight oil in the casino and wanted to sleep in so only our oldest accompanied us into Rome. We caught the early train in and the ride was very enjoyable. The train delivered us right at the Vatican. It could not have been easier. We walked around the Vatican square and was amazed at the enormity of it all. The pope was scheduled to deliver a papal audience later that morning and as the day progressed it became more and more crowded. After we finished at the Basilica we walked through the city and explored. We walked down the Via Della Conciliazzone, saw St. Angelo's, other churches and historic buildings. We crossed the river and went into the Piazza and saw the Spanish Steps. We walked on to see the Trevi Fountain and the Panthenon. We caught a cab and went on to the Coliseum. What a marvel!
We caught our return train from the Coliseum and sat with a newlywed couple from Buenos Aires. We had a wonderful conversation with them since my son had just completed a research study on Buenos Aires.
Livorno/Florence/Pisa - Day 10
Again awoke early and watched our ship enter port and dock. We arranged a limo pick up for 8AM and I kidded my husband that the car alone in the back parking lot must be our Mercedes sedan with the driver kicked back snoozing. As 8 AM approached, sure enough, the car pulled up to the gangway and our driver was rested and raring to go!
Our driver, Fabrizio, was hilarious! His "Mama Mia's" were too funny and his quick wit was quite enjoyable. His car was impeccable
and he did not hesitate in getting us to wherever we wanted to go. We had a great day in Florence, shopping and sightseeing. While I would have liked to have stopped at a Tuscan winery, it probably would have been a bit too much to do in a day. We agreed to meet Fabrizio back at the square for out return trip back to the ship. We agreed on a time and
managed to get back to the ship before the masses or the traffic wore us down too badly.
Villefranche - Day 11. Docked early in VilleFranche. We caught a cab into Nice and rode down the Corniche with a former race car driver (at least he thought he was). It was a windy, scary and very pretty trip. We arrived in Nice and were let off at the water fountains across from the Grand Hotel. We walked the streets of Nice and while some of the eateries with their pretty striped tablecloths and chair cushions looked striking, I really wasn't too impressed. The stores looked like any you would see in a big city, for instance, San Francisco's Chinatown. We returned back to VilleFranche and had a nice lunch at a restaurant near the dock.
At Sea - Day 12
What a nice day. Lounging in the sun. Swimming laps in the pool. Listening to the pool band. It was hard to believe we were nearing the end of our cruise. My husband and I agreed we hadn't spent such quality and fun-filled time with our children since they were toddlers. What a great family vacation!
We ate our last dinner as a family in the dining room and said good-bye to our waiters. They suggested we do a "back-to-back" We all laughed. After packing, my husband and I got ready to retire to bed; Shortly after we heard a knock on our door. Our "Casino-minded" son wanted to pop-in and advise us he just spent his last moments in the casino. As he turned to leave he showered upon us $600.00 in chips!
(I hope he doesn't get used to this!)
Barcelona - Day 13 - Ah, our last day. We had breakfast in our room and were as ready as we ever would be to disembark. We made a quick call to the boys, said a sad good-bye to Zaldy and we were off.
EMBARKATION / DEBARKATION / CUSTOMS:
Embarkation - We arrived in VCE via SFO/FRA on Lufthansa the day we embarked. We arrived in VCE at 2:30 PM instead of 1:30PM for our embarkation time of 3PM. We quickly found our luggage and our Limo driver was waiting for us - We had four people and seven pieces of luggage so it had been a blessing that we ordered a Mercedes Van! We arrived at the cruise terminal around 2:45 and were quickly assisted by a porter who took our luggage. Our driver dropped us at the front of the terminal. We entered and were immediately directed to the Captains Club line. We had no line to deal with whatsoever.
We had our docs reviewed and since we were Captain's Club and concierge class we were allowed priority embarkation We went through security. We proceeded down a hallway, had a picture taken, got our room cards and sea pass accounts activated. We proceeded up an escalator passing through the area where a photo is taken for each room card. We got on board and we were offered champagne from a tray of champagne. We met a couple of the Celebrity Singers and Dancers who greeted us and then had a crew member escort us to our rooms. We were onboard close to 3 PM. My husband and I received our luggage by the time we got to our room; although one of the boys bags did not arrive until 5PM. He didn't mind, he had his swimsuit in his carry-on.
Debarkation - This went very smoothly. We were given priority debarkation. Our steward/room attendant, Zaldy, put out our breakfast as usual (sans the tablecloth), I love the Celebrity touch! They still make you feel you are a guest even on your last day! After a leisurely breakfast in our respective staterooms, we collected our few remaining items, and visited our balcony one last time. Following breakfast, we proceeded to the priority lounge and waited 5 minutes to be escorted from the ship. My husband and boys searched for our luggage, I got a porter who then collected our luggage and brought it curbside, where I had flagged down a taxi. It was very easy. Other passengers were just running around and stressing out which was beyond me. They had no clue. We got to the airport in no time and once there, we had no lines.
Customs - This went so smoothly I couldn't believe we were done!
We charged our gratuity for the two staterooms to our shipboard account to make things easier. The forms were very easy to fill out.
We tipped everyone the expected gratuity and also tipped ahead of time for any services we expected above and beyond the norm.
As we have read in prior reviews, and what we have found to be so very true, those folks you take care of repay you in kind in so many more ways than you can anticipate!! Moral: Give and ye shall receive!
As was the case on my last cruise, the Cruise Critic party invitation arrived after we embarked and was left in our room the first night of our stay. Unfortunately, and again, the party was scheduled at the same time I had booked my massage appointment. Consequently, I arrived for the CC party at the tail end of things. My husband checked in earlier and chatted with a few folks, but he still didn't meet everyone. He was very tickled with receiving our C.C. pins. I only wish we would have known ahead of time when the party was scheduled; I would have liked to have participated!
We also missed the Captains cocktail party since we were scheduled then for our anniversary dinner in the Olympic Room. I heard the party was nice. Since we used our CC Club membership to arrange our Olympic Room Anniversary Dinner reservation prior to boarding, it would have been nice if they would have taken this into account. While it was nice to be able to make the reservation ahead of time, I found that I was VERY thankful to have personally checked our table assignments prior to our dinner. Prior to our first evening's seating, I made a point of introducing myself to the Maitre'D at the Olympic Room. In reviewing the seating options, I found that I absolutely LOVED the Olympic Wine Cellar room and asked him if we could celebrate our Anniversary dinner in the Wine Room. He graciously accommodated my request and confirmed our reservation.
I was very satisfied with all of our CC benefits; if there was anything that I could recommend, it would have been that the boys' balcony room could have been upgraded or discounted due to our Captains Club status. I paid full price for their balcony room in addition to ours.
The Daily program was very informative. We looked forward to it being delivered to the stateroom during the bed turndown each evening. In addition, the accompanying weather forecast was great!
Our boys also received an itinerary but it took a few days for them to pick up the benefits of reviewing the daily schedule! One of our sons turned into a CASINO fiend and he actually won enough to buy himself a Tag Heuer watch at one of the onboard shops. He still had several hundred dollars of winnings to spare when we disembarked. I wish I had his luck! He made a lot of friends in the Casino, many three or four times his age. We had a nice couple compliment us on our boys' manners and behavior (I'm sure they were initially a little concerned when they saw two young men check into a stateroom next to theirs!).
My husband and I saved our pillow chocolates in a ziploc bag since we couldn't eat them at bedtime; now they are now a terrific remembrance of our wonderful trip. Our boys did not contribute any to the cause; they managed to eat every single one of theirs!
In addition to our CC amenities we received a nice CC Cruise card case - I found it was easier to keep track of my SeaPass this way although I still had to run up to the Sky Deck a couple of days to get my card as we tried to disembark! CC also provided a wonderful menu of pillows and the "Isotonic" pillow was divine! I heard a passenger inquiring as to where she could purchase one - I would love to know that as well! We also enjoyed the binoculars, the daily fresh fruit and flowers and the delivery of daily canapés during happy hour.
We loved our itinerary with the two days in port at the beginning. I would have liked a couple of days on the tail end (rather than just one) to relax before heading home. All of the ports were desirable and I would love to visit each one again and again. (I must admit though that Villefranche, which was supposed to be a highlight of the cruise, just didn't do it for me).
I enjoyed the sea days and we could have used more. The design of the ship left one to feel comfortable and we never felt crowded or pressured. There were no lines or waiting. Everything was convenient, easy and accessible even with the ship at full capacity.
Our family enjoyed this vacation tremendously and cannot wait to cruise with Celebrity again. Feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding our trip. Yes, Celebrity, we were treated "FAMOUSLY"!