by Ron Saia
September 30, 2004
We just returned from a 12-day cruise on the Millennium to the Eastern Mediterranean. Many of the reviews I read before departing were of great assistance.
Our flight on British Airways from Los Angeles to Barcelona was great -- we arrived on time and spent the night in Barcelona before departing on the Millennium. I suggest you do the same and see some of Barcelona. Embarkation was a breeze. Celebrity has their act together for getting you on board quickly. We had a balcony stateroom on Deck 8 (8084), and my daughter and her friend were on Deck 3 close to the reception area -- a great location for getting around.
The ship was very quiet and stable; even in rough seas there was little motion. I loved that about the Millennium -- smooth sailing all the way.
We had no complaints with the food anywhere on the ship. The main dining room, The Metropolitan, had great food and service. We had a window table on the second level and it was very quiet. Our table waiter was the best at his job for taking care of us. I usually give around $25 extra at the beginning of the cruise and it makes sure I get taken care of very well. Do the same for the cabin attendant.
The buffet on the lido deck has a very limited selection, and after several days I got tired of eating the same things. However, they had fresh fruit and pastries that were always tasty. If you are on tours every day, you will be eating there, so try to eat in the main dining room on the days at sea.
If you want the experience of a lifetime, make reservations at the Olympic Dining Room for a true feast. The service and menu choices are exceptional. Try the goat cheese appetizer and the Waldorf pudding for dessert. This will cost $30 per person but it's worth every penny. We raved about this meal throughout the cruise. I have been on 36 cruises, and the food and service on the Millennium was equal to the best I have been on. When you are at sea or return from a tour early, try the hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza on pool deck – they're great. There is also an ice cream bar and pasta bar available to you at the buffet station each day.
Celebrity had entertainment every night, including lavish Broadway shows and solo acts of singers and artists. Some of this was boring but everybody seemed to enjoy the variety. The casino was quite large and was never really full; you could play anything without much difficulty. It is a little smoky but not that bad. There is a little piano bar right outside the photo shop that we enjoyed going to for a drink. Also, you have the disco and other music to enjoy, so try to do it all during the cruise.
Our stateroom had plenty of space, but I recommend bringing a hanging bag for all the toiletries to help with the space in the bathroom. The bathroom was my biggest complaint: There was mold around the bottom tiles in the shower, and several people, including my daughter, had the same issue. In addition, there were several loose tiles on the bathroom floor that kept falling out. I reported it and was told it would be fixed but it never was. My daughter's toilet had to be fixed several times. For a fairly new ship I found this to be disturbing but it never stopped us from having a good time. If you go on this ship and this itinerary, get a balcony stateroom -- you will be glad you did; the views sailing into ports are breathtaking.
We did almost everything ashore on our on. The costs for the ship's tours are very high, and we found you can get around very easily on the trains for a lot less. The only exception was Rome -- we took the buses provided by the cruise line into Rome and Naples. Otherwise, do some research on the Internet and you can get all the train schedules for departing and returning to whatever port you are in. It's easy to get around in all the different countries and cities. By the way, the people in these cities will be very helpful in assisting you.
Monte Carlo is charming; walk around and visit the shops, the Grand Casino, the Palace, and try to have lunch in some small, enchanting cafe overlooking the harbor. In Florence we took the train to Pisa first and spent two hours there; then we took the train to Florence. It was crowed in Florence, and we did not get to see the statue of David or the Basilica. You need to allow enough time.
Rome is one and a half hours from the dock, so getting there and back will use up three hours of the allotted shore time. This is not enough time to see everything, so get to the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, St. Peters and the Vatican if you can. You will no be able to do more then that.
In Naples, we took the cruise line's bus to Pompeii, a sight not to be missed. If you have time, take the high speed shuttle to the Island of Capri. It will be a tight schedule but plan it and you can do it. Keep a close look at the time to avoid missing the ship.
Mykonos, Greece is all walking and we loved it there. The weather was very windy so we did not enjoy it as much if it had been warm and sunny. Try some local foods in the many small cafes. You will have plenty of time there so you can see almost everything.
Santorini, Greece was our favorite island. Ride the donkeys to the top of the mountain, or take the cable car if you want. On top are the most breathtaking views you will ever see. Santorini is all walking with small, narrow streets and plenty of shops and restaurants. If you can and the weather is good, stay for the sunset you will remember it forever.
Athens is a very dirty, noisy city, but you do not want to miss the Acropolis and the Pantheon. You can reach all this on the subway train very easily.
Dubrovnik is a charming walled city. Again, it's all walking and you want to walk atop the wall around the old city for some breathtaking pictures. Have lunch there and enjoy this medieval city.
Venice has so much charm you will want to spend a week there. Do not miss the cruise down the Grand Canal. Pick up a Venice walking map and you will find it most useful. Go to the Murano Glass factory and enjoy some pizza and wine in Venice. A quick note -- beware of pickpockets; they are everywhere in Europe. We heard that a lot of people were victims. Do not carry anything you do not want to lose. Leave everything in your safe on the ship. Also, beware of crooked taxi drivers -- do not go anywhere without a firm fixed price.
Overall, this was the greatest vacation experience I have had in many years.