by Thomas Treimel
February 13, 2005
Off to the airport: Friday I drove five of our group from home to the airport. Dropped everyone off then over to and left the car in long term parking. It's a drive around to get there at Newark airport. Then back on the shuttle bus. Continental leaving Newark at about 4:00pm. The airports have reduced the id checks to those needed. At check in for baggage, to get to the security area and through the security gate area. We were on the plane to go at about 3:30pm. After a 25 minute wait in line to take off we did so and made good time arriving at 7:00pm. For the first time we - my wife Barbara, Sister in Law Julie and I - flew into Florida a few days early. Into West Palm Beach. Nice airport. A bit busy at that time of the day - but that is Florida. Getting real crowded in that area. My friends, Ray and Jill, picked us up and we stayed at their house in Port St. Lucie for the two days before the cruise. They live in a gated community in Port St. Lucie called Ballentre.
There is an 18 hole golf course that is on their property. Nice if you are a golf lover. They're not. But I got up early both mornings and ran around the course. What were those eyes in the ponds? I think they were watching me. Hmmmmm. Maybe I was on the breakfast menu if I made a misstep. They live on a street near a wild life preserve. Not on the golf course. They have a beautiful Florida home with some real great extras they put in themselves. There is also a huge lanai area. They did not have much damage from the set of hurricanes last year. But they are putting in the storm shutters just in case. Saturday we went around to some of the trendy shopping areas in Stewart. After a quick lunch we drove across the river to see some of the newer planned - gated communities going up in the area. Just the property started at $400,000. A little out of my range. We also did some shopping for some of the cruise extras I bring along. Champagne and other things. On Sunday morning we drove down from Port St. Lucie to the pier at about 10 AM or so, and arrived there about 11:30 am just in time to start boarding. We met some of our travel group of 9 there as we had pulled up. So we had 5 of the total 9 in the group boarding at one time. Our friends, Jim and Carole, had flown out of Newark at about the same time we did. So they would be in early also. They were stayed in the Ft. Lauderdale area at a bead and breakfast. They said this was on or near the hotel strip area just north of the pier. They had walked around the area at night to see what was up. And there were some clubs in the area near the large hotels up near the beach area.
Embarkation: We just had a little paper work to fill out before we boarded and as always I'm very happy to be at the pier. There were no real lines to check in when we arrived. But Julie got caught in the port screening with something they could not find - metal - on her person. It was just a short wait. I was already through starting the check in paper work process for credit cards and picture checks. Once the paperwork was done we walked onto the ship at about noon. We took a group picture of the five of us. We will always now recommend traveling into the port of departure a day early and looking around. This will lessen your stress levels knowing you are there or if there are flight problems - bump to something later and pick up some extra free flights on the airlines. But once on the ground in the home port your home free. Relax. When you fly into the Florida airports, the pier areas are all just a short drive from the airport areas. We were going in a Concierge Class cabin on deck 9. Cabin number 9201 at the aft port side of the boat. A great choice aided by, whom I consider the best T/A out there, Deb. The balcony area for this cabin level is about 18 feet deep by about 12 feet wide. Some of the lower cabins have even larger areas as I found out via Mike from the Cruise Critic boards. His cabin was directly below ours on deck 7 and the balcony area was about 24 feet deep by the same width as ours. We had tagged our bags and they arrived at our cabin within about 45 minutes of us leaving them on the pier as we went to check in. Nice touch Celebrity. We got to unpack a little then headed upstairs to get some lunch. The norm for all lines for luggage is - there is no specific time it is set to arrive.
Cabin: #9201, Sky Deck. The cabin is slightly larger than the normal Celebrity cabins. This one was 210 sq. ft. Barbara did have some suggestions for the room. The full length mirror was right in front of the bed. And the ladies could not get a head to toe look at themselves before going out. For me it was the storage - closets. There were only three where I remember the regular cabins had four. Not a big deal. There was plenty of storage for all in the room. The bags were put under the bed for storage. The one large bed were made slightly larger than a queen size. There is a nice sized one or two person sofa-sleeper/couch. There is also a cabin safe with a keypad to enter your own code, an interactive TV which we barley used, so you can access your shipboard account, book excursions, order room service, pay-per-view movies (also, newly released movie videos - no charge), dresser/desk with chair, small glass coffee table, plenty of mirrors in front of the desk. They also supply an extra hair dryer in the CC cabins. We left most of the drink and mixings on this table. Our cabin steward kept at least one bottle of Champagne chilling for us every day. The line had provided a welcome aboard bottle for the room and our T/A sent us another one. To go with the others we brought on. We had a few too many and carried one bottle home at the end of the cruise. Back to the room. The desk also has side storage space on both sides of the dresser. The room is decorated with light wood panel tones were perfect for the lighting provided for the room. The bathroom is perfectly sized for the room. Celebrity provides a lot of the small extras for you. So you do not have to carry them with you. Shampoo, moisturizer, q-tips, cotton swabs, a built in hair dryer. Under the TV is a small refrigerator. You can use this if you bring any beer or wine onto the ship. The cabin steward will unlock it for you if you want. The only draw back is that it does not really get anything cold. They will provide you with a Wine bucket and ice if you request it. So you can chill what you need in this. So just be sure to tell the cabin steward you are using the fridge. Just in case. If you use anything out of it your ship board account will be charged.
We booked this cabin for the slightly larger room but mostly for the veranda. With 9 in the group traveling together we needed someplace to meet before dinner and watch the sun go down. Enjoy a glass of champagne or watch Bob shake it up making himself a martini. Standing out on the veranda you can hear the singer playing on the Resort deck above us. He was there every night from 6:00pm till 10:00pm. Another nice treat from Celebrity. This was my 27th cruise and Barbara's 29th. She has gone with the girls out to Bermuda a few years back and on the Oceanic, old Home Lines, and way back in 1973. So she has the longest cruise experience of the group. This was the 13th cruise for me with Celebrity. We have now just about split taking cruises having inside and outside cabins. But any cabin is good as long as your on the ship. We were located in a good position on the ship. One deck below the Ocean café. So the coffee and drinks were not far to walk to. We both like to walk a bit more on the ship when we can. Not taking the elevators but doing the stairs almost all the time. I think we only used them on the formal nights. The main elevator bank located amid ship is beautiful, glass enclosed on the outside - inside of the ship. Being able to look out to sea or to the inside if you wanted. The weather for the entire trip was spectacular. No rain just some cloudy days. We were told that this week was the best weather they had experienced in the past month. Sweet.
Dining Room: The Metropolitan Restaurant like all the Celebrity and Millennium service ships is spectacular. Dark wood tones and flowing stairway to the upper level was picture perfect. The tables were spaces with enough room to move about. We were seated at table 546 on the second level Starboard side. Ademar from Brazil and Artha our assistant waiter from Indonesia were there at all times to satisfy all requests we made. Ice tea on the table for all every night before we were seated. Extra bread sticks for Julie. Laugh all around. They took great care of us. Ademar was telling us he was engaged to a young lady working on the boat. She worked in the Michaels club most nights. I'll have a short bit on that later. The table was set for 10 but we were only a group of 9 so one seat was open just about every night. We moved our seating around every night so everyone would get a chance to sit and talk to everyone in the group. The waiters work area was just a few steps away from our table. There are not a lot of small work areas on the floor now. Just in a few places in the dining room. The Zenith and Horizon have about 20 to 30 small work stations on the floor. There does not seem to be any problem with wheel chair accessibility on the dining room as the access paths are large enough for maneuvering spaces. Come to think of it I did not even hear - until the last formal night any dinner music. But sometimes you get into a zone of talking and eating and it's just there. Barbara and I were invited to have dinner at the Captains table the first formal night. But we declined the invite. I had booked our entire group into the Olympic restaurant for that night. This was Valentines Day. I was on the phone to the restaurant reserve person at 9:02 AM the day the booking were opened. Even if you miss a night in the regular restaurant you should tip for the whole week. There are a few nice changes in the regular ship restaurant now. The one most noticeable is an upgraded menu selection. In that they have added and subtracted some items. Another is the menu now comes in a nice leather cover. Not the old standard heavy paper ones. You can also order some standard selections each night even if they are not on the menu. Shrimp cocktail, Steak and a few others. Me. I'm easy. There is always something great waiting to be ordered and tried. I did get a chance to stop into the restaurant for first seating dinner one night. Both seating were quite full. I did not notice any empty tables at either seating.
The Specialty restaurant, The Olympic, was fully booked on Valentines Day. As I checked our reservation a couple were trying to get a table for that night also. But to no avail. They offered to buy two of my reservations for that night. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.... But who to drop out? I can't drop anyone out. But! Hey. Mr. Mater'd. Can I add two people to my reservation? Going from 9 to 11 people. Yes you can sir. And so Tony and Ansley joined us for dinner that night. Not a problem. They have only so much man power to go around and waiting on other tables is a bit of a problem for them. We ended up having a great time. The food was fabulous and service perfect. I took a picture of the desert sampler I ordered. Was a real taste treat. They presented the ladies with Roses that night and I had bought the ladies of the group each a small box of chocolates. The dinner here takes about two and a half to three hours to complete. Well spaced servings and time to ponder and enjoy what has been presented. You can have the wines they recommend for each course for an extra charge. The cheese selection is first class. Marion will select the ones you think fit your pallet. Strong to mild. She was dead on the selection for me when I requested she pick from strong to mild. There was a Harp player at the entrance area of the dining room. But we made too much noise to hear her during dinner. Good conversation, great food and better company make for an enjoyable evening. A little wine thrown in also helps.
Onto the ship and activities. The Cruise staff was made up of Natalie Clemens, Anna Hovenkamp, Mylinda, and Paul Bleier. They worked at the trivia, word games, pool games and just about every ship activity where it was passenger related. As good a group as I have seen on a Celebrity ship. If they can put up with me. Then they're battle tested cruise veterans. I was at all of the Battle of the Sexes trivia challenge during the week. From the start I knew it would not go well for the men's team. The questions the ladies got were, I feel, a bit easier than the men. One sample the asked us, the men, "What is body sugaring?" Are you nuts???!!! The answer is it's body waxing. Who knows these things? The women's questions was "Who plays in Wrigley field?" Duhhh The Cubs. It did help the ladies that they would have an average of 2 of their team to one for the men. They won the week long competition about 52 to 42. Bring back Donnell and the trivia cards. But we had a lot of fun doing this and the daily trivia games. Some picture drawing games. One of the ladies brought her 10 year old. She ended up being the best artist of the lot of us. Thank goodness I had her on my team anytime she appeared. The cruise staff have activities that start at about 8:30 AM with then greeting you up on the walking track at 8:30 am. Walk a mile. Then other activities all day up to 4:30 pm in the Oceans café. To meet and discuss your day. This is a time to relax and meet them over a lemonade or iced tea. The age of the people on the activities staff is made from 24 to 27 years old. They are out for a bit of travel and work at the same time. They know a lot about the ports of call you are going to. Tap into this information source if you get a chance. All the staff are very outgoing and friendly. They don't just work the daily activities. They also cover the bingo games, the on deck specialty night dances, karaoke and helping you with getting places as the ship hits each port. The assistant cruise director Harun from Turkey has a great group to work with.
I'll digress here to give you a walking tour of the ship. You enter on the Promenade deck number 4 amid ship. They have a welcome aboard glass of champagne or OJ for you. If you want to mix them just ask. There are officers and staff to greet you and direct you to your cabin if you need to. There is also some of the house keeping staff there to walk you to your room and carry any extra luggage if you wish. White glove treatment. If you walk to the middle of the ship and turn to your right you should be at the top of the grand foyer staircase. This is a light tone yellow marble color. As you step forward to the right is the internet café. To your left is the main bank of elevators. Straight ahead on deck 4 is the level that the casino is located just forward of the main lobby atrium area. Listen for the sounds of the slots when the ship is out to sea. We made our usual contribution to Celebrity. Barbara plays the slots and we used our Captains club coupons to get $12 play for $10. Barbara and her sister Julie were ahead for about half the week playing. But lost it all the last two days. They do this mostly at nights after dinner. Behind you off the main foyer is the Rendezvous Lounge. This a large - nice tan soft color tones - lounge where they cruise staff hosted the daily Trivia challenge. They have after dinner dancing here with a duet. Walking forward on deck 4 through the Casino to the port - left - side is the Michael's club. This is where Celebrity had their Select and Elite party. They have a piano player in here most nights. The most beautiful bar waitress on the ship was working here. Joelvia from Brazil. But our waiter Ademar told us this. I suspect he is a bit shaded in this opinion, they're engaged. I stopped by one night for a drink, as Joelvia did not know where I sat for dinner, and told her one of the waiters was saying that the most beautiful bar waitress was working in the Michael's club. She asked who would say such a thing as she took my order. When she returned she had guessed the answer. She was very nice and was saying what their future plans were for working before trying to get married. Sometimes I think we take for granted a lot of the things we come by easily in the U.S. This was also the place that the select and elite captain's club members met before we departed the ship. Amanda Grant, the captain's club social hostess, met us here and when the time came to leave walked us off the ship to the gangway. To the right - starboard side of the ship just outside the Michael's club is the photo gallery. This is where you can get camera supplies and purchase the ship pictures taken of you during the cruise. They do not take a lot of pictures anymore. More like if you want to have them taken they are available to have it done. They will also transfer your pictures to a CD if you would like. If you are traveling in a large group you can arrange to have a formal group picture taken on the main staircase on one of the formal nights. Moving forward from here is the Celebrity Theater: We are not big into the shows. They kind of blend together at this point. The theater is a nice size. It could handle at least 1000 people on all levels at one time. As I have said before the chairs are way to comfortable. We did see some of the welcome aboard show and the comedian. We had a lot of big laughs from the comedy show of Thien Fu. A great slant on looking at America. He was from - formerly - South Vietnam. The Dancers were top notch as we have always seen in all the shows. There is also a singing quartet on the ship. I caught part of their show one night. Celebrity has a lot of different groups and acts on the ship to entertain you at all times of the day and night. Going to the back of the ship through the lounge area you would hit the main level of the Metropolitan restaurant. I described this area a bit above.
Moving up in the world from the back of the ship onto deck 5 - the Entertainment deck. If you walk from the restaurant forward you would enter the Platinum club. It is a large area that has a circular hole in the floor to look down on the rendezvous lounge dance floor below. This is a purple shaded lounge area. It is one of the specialty bar areas. On the port side is the Champagne bar. They have a large selection of sparkling wines to choose from here. On the starboard side is the Martini bar. You could find our friend Bob here most nights. He wanted to sample all the flavors they had. But time and his capacity to handle the drinks would not allow it. We will have to give Bob his due with his Tux and jewelry for the first formal night - Valentines Day. Bright red vest and tie. Going forward from here - not a simple task most nights as the music floats up from the duet below - you would walk back into the top level of the grand foyer. The card room is off to the starboard side of the ship. In this central meeting area and the card room people could meet for daily bridge play, a fast paced game of dominos, scrabble or some board games of their liking. I brought a game we all play at home called Rummy - O. This is a cross between scrabble and gin rummy. The first one to get rid of all their tiles is the winner. The group played this just about anywhere on the ship they could find a table and a few chairs. Bring on the coffee, lemonade and ice tea and they were ready to go at it. In this area also is the Cova Cafe Milano it is kind of intertwined into the seating areas that are all around the open atrium here. The Coffee bar is on the Starboard side of the ship. This had Espresso and other Coffee delights on their menu. Just across from this area was the small bakery and sweet shop. The daily had a list of the special bakery treats for each day. I would say a lot of people missed this lounge area. Forward of this are the shops and the specialty boutiques. As always they have a nice selection of merchandise. The daily ship program would show if they were offering any specials for that day. Barbara stopped in here and picked up some sale items. They have gold and silver chains to watches, and plaster statues. Intermixed in the shop area is the on board liquor store. As with all Celebrity ships they carry a fine selection of Liquors priced just a little bit more than on land. They may not carry all the local brands - but a large cross section is represented here. Mostly the main stream brands you would find in the U.S. You would do well to check the prices before you go ashore. Save some time and effort for yourself in case you are buying to bring back home. They will deliver it to your door the last day of the cruise. It will be in travel boxes so you can carry it off the ship and home with you. They did have few give away promotions in the shop area - pick out the fakes and the like. But you have to be present to win.
From here we will walk back down to Plaza level - deck 3. This is at the bottom of the main staircase in the grand foyer. At the bottom of the stairs is the guest relations desk. The guest relations area is where you can check on your on board charges and any other thing ship related. About the third day of the cruise I was down here picking up another ship daily and went to talk to one of the people here quickly. The young lady - Natalia - smiles at me and say "Hello Mr. Thomas. How are you?" Now I'm puzzled as I had only talked to Amanda Grant in from the Captains Club desk before this. After looking and asking. It turns out the Natalia was on the Zenith cruise out of Jacksonville last year working in guest relations. And she remembered my name. It took me awhile to register and remember her face from last year on the Zenith. I got a chance to chat for awhile with her. I think it's amazing someone could remember a passenger from a year pervious and their name. With all the ship traffic and people they see every cruise every day. Another lovely young face on a Celebrity ship. Natalia Soares - Guest Relations officer. To the left of the guest relations desk is the Captains Club desk area. They now have the Captains Club hostess - on this cruise it was Amanda Grant - has hours posted. You can come down and find out any of the special events going on for the people on the ship. I had stopped by a few times to check on some of the special happenings for the select and elite members. Amanda was great going over the invites for the elite party. They have shifted the hostess duties to be more focused on the Captains Club members than the general ship board people. So do yourself a favor. When on board sign up for the Captains Club. It's free and you get a lot of nice extras. To the left of this area is - what I think was - the tour information area. Walking back to the right - starboard side of the ship in the main lobby area is the Bank. You can cash your traveler's checks or get change here. Be aware. If you need money for tips at the end of the cruise. Go to the Casino. Get a cash advance there. It will show up on your charge card as a ship expense. Not a cash advance. Save the card fees. Right near the bank is the ATM machine. Look above as to how to get cash on the ship. On the starboard side next to the bank area is the future cruise sales area. This area was staffed by Adriana Belmonte. I had stopped by and requested some fare rate information about a Panama Canal cruise. She had the price quotes on out cabin door later in the day. Barbara also went to her and requested some information about rates to Bermuda this summer. Which she provided and followed up on quickly. As a result Barbara is taking our children - who have also sailed with Celebrity many times - to Bermuda this summer. And they are working on taking a few others with them. It's nice to see efficiency in how she helped us with the decision to book. Well worth the few minutes it took to stop by and talk to her. The next large area as you move about to the back of the ship is the Shore excursion office. They have many small pamphlets here describing what each tour has in it. As you turn to the back of the ship - across the lobby under the stairs is the entrance for the Olympic restaurant. A great treat to go to the five star restaurant at sea. You can - if your captains club - call in a reservation for the restaurant in advance. If not stop by here and talk to the mater'd and reserve a night to remember. The service, atmosphere and food is well worth the fee to enter. Something to try at least one time. Going back to our walking tour as we turn and move to the back of the ship.. This is the meeting room and cinema area. They held the Celebrity enrichment series here for people to learn all about computers. Me. I work with them all day every day. So I do not want to look at one on vacation unless it's something I need to see.
Now we'll take the elevators at the back of the ship from deck 3 to deck 10. Decks 6, 7, 8, 9 are all passenger decks.
As you get off the elevators on deck 10 - Resort Deck. You are in the middle of the Ocean's café area. This is the Café and Bar (area) - stern. This is where the morning and lunch buffet area are served. As you get to the stern - rear - of the boat in the early AM to the sides is a station that will prepare an omelet of the day for you. And at lunch these stations turn into a pasta of the day station. At the back just before you go outside is another specialty area. In the AM it's where you get fresh Waffles. At lunch it's time for the sandwich of the day - with soup if you like. At night it turns Japanese - the Sushi bar. Another Celebrity expanded extra. Don't miss this if you can. Some great treats await you as you go for lunch. The best cake we had was when we had our welcome aboard lunch up here. Just at the end of the buffet line. Remember - your on a cruise - They make it - you eat it. Or at least sample a bit. The area inside around the oceans café during the morning and noon meal hours is always busy and crowded. Then at night this area turns into the Sushi bar. I stopped by here just about every night. Picking up some treats for the group meet in our room before dinner. I could always find our group here, walking outside to the stern - back of the boat outside. It afforded them a table that always was available. They would set up and play Rummy-O her a lot of the time and enjoy lunch at the same time. Julie, Barbara, Jimmy and Carole could be found in this area about noon till 2 or 3 pm when the lunch buffet closed down. At this back bar area on the ship. Every night they, have also added, a singer here. He was playing till about 10pm. Requests were taken. This was one of my hiding spots grabbing some sushi and a beer while listening to the music. As the ladies were getting ready for dinner. It only takes me about 20 minutes to come in and be showered, changed and ready for the guests and or dinner each night. What takes them so long?
Walking from the back of the ship here forward as you reentered the Oceans café area to the port side of the ship is where they have the nightly informal dining area. You can call and reserve an hour in advance. In case you want to go earlier to dinner or are coming back from a land tour late and do not want to rush. As you just about exit the oceans café you will see a little recessed area. This is where you can get your daily ice cream fix. They have about 10 flavors out each day. Want soft ice cream. They have that also. Pile on the sprinkles. As you exit this area you will come to the opening doors and enter the Rivera pool area. The main pool was about 50 feet in length from front to back and about 20 feet wide. The shallow end was 5 feet and the deep end 6. If the ship was moving about a little - avoiding the clouds - you got a few waves in this pool. Some people get it right and get to cruise mode as soon as they are on the ship. They are in the pool and hot tubs. They get to listen to the sail away music was playing on deck from here. There are a lot of pool chairs in the well open area on deck 10 around the pool. There are such beings on boats as Chair Hogs.. They may come out in force on the sea days starting about 7:00 am or so. These are the people who put a towel and book or shoes on a bunch of deck chairs and use them for less than an hour each day. The ship does it's best to try and stop this practice but.... But there are usually enough chairs about the ship so no one would be left standing if they did not want too. A good hint if you need a quiet place in the sun. On the starboard side forward of deck 11 their is a stairway that looks like it goes nowhere. Wrong. This is up to deck 12 forward. Bring a towel there are lots of chairs here. And the wind screen cuts down the breezes coming over the ship as it moves. The port days bring very few to the pool area. So there are plenty of chairs available to use all day. So don't bother marking a spot. They also have cushions for those in the well and around the pool. There are also 4 hot tubs in this pool area. There should be an available spot here to catch some serious bubbles. The second pool just behind the larger pool looked to be about 20 feet long by 15 feet wide. The depth of this pool was about 3 and half fee to 4 feet. This was more for the kids than the adults. Remember the pool is chlorinated salt water, and was comfortably refreshing. Some days when they exchanged water it was a bit cool till later in the day. This pool area is where the pool games are held. We had King of the Millennium and the pillow pool jousting here. Lots of fun to watch your fellow passengers entertain you. They also held some of the music - name that tune - games here. The cruise activities staff hosts these get togethers. The stage area for the band to play while leaving port. To the starboard side of the pool area is the outdoor grill. They had Hamburgers, Hot dogs, fries, pizza of many types here all afternoon. Be aware if you book the rooms underneath this area there may be some noise coming down to your room. This area is a heavy traffic area from about noon till midnight. This would be over some of the suites. On this ship cabin numbers 9096 and 9098. We met a couple who had this room and moved. Moving forward you will hit the Thalassotherapy Pool area. This area is just forward of the open pool area. It's the bubbles pool with the water spouts. This is a new feature on all the Millennium Class ships. They also have the lite breakfast and lunch served in this area. And it is lite. Not a big selection but in the right spot if you need it. I found this is another great hid away. If you are not a Sun worshiper. The glass ceiling and front part of the ship block a lot of the direct light. This is like entering a giant tub, but not as hot as the regular hot tubs. There are jets of water shooting out from the sides and pool bottom, large faucet-looking jets overhanging the four corners (great back massage). One each side of this pool there are chrome, in-water, loungers. The bubbles come from under this area and refresh you slowly. Bob and Eileen liked this area and were in the bubble pool just about every day. The pool area itself was not too crowded most of the time. But there is a limited amount of area to catch the bubbles on. They also have two hot tubs in this area one on each side. Around this pool area are very comfortable, pillowed (lower back and head), teak lounge chairs. This area does get crowded as the afternoon progresses. But later in the day - about 5pm or so empties out. As you leave the bubble pool area going forward you walk into the Aqua Spa, Sauna & Gymnasium. I used this facility each morning. To say the least it's large. You can get a massage and all the other spa treatments here. Sign up in advance in case you want something time specific. The gym has a large floor for aerobics and other workout related exercises. They have a small free weight area to the starboard side. There are about 20 nautilus machines of all types you can use. I only used about 7 or 8 machines that I worked on my knees and legs with. There are also about 12 walking / running machines you can sign up for when the morning use crush is on. They look forward where the ship is going. A great place to work out in the Early AM - see the sun come up and watch the ship dock all while getting in shape. There are also a lot of different types of bikes you can use and another 4 machines the looked like a cross between skiing and running. There were also a few stair steppers. A lot of workout equipment for a ship. Great area.
Walking upstairs to the Sunrise deck - Deck 11. This is the Running / Jogging / Walking track: A good idea to use on calm days for everyone. There are signs out saying that 3 laps equals about 5/8 ths. of a mile. Well it's off a little. They are trying to show three laps is about one kilometer. May be a little short. But not to worry about. Just about 5 laps plus is a full mile. If your going to run or jog be sure to do this before 7:30 am or after 5:00 pm - or you will hit a mass of walkers and people coming up to catch the morning sun and out for a stroll. They may mess you up a bit. The walkers may not hear you coming behind them and not move right away. They are used to what happens on land where they walk. Not many others around and not to worry about anything else. The walkers, in a perfect world, would stay single file. So as to allow others room to move past them. I had the track just about to myself on this cruise. The walkers did not come out in force till past my quit time every day. There were just a few other runners on the boat. As we always seem to be. We are in the minority. I did not get a chance to go on land and run this cruise but walked about the ports a lot. Around the pool area are a lot of deck chairs so you are close to the music and pool if you need to cool off. If you walk forward through the side doors you will find the Cosmos club. This area is deserted most of the day. This is another great place to escape to with an early morning coffee and view the sunrise from inside. They held the Anniversary party here and the Captains club repeaters party here. This is where you find out that someone on the cruise has been on Celebrity about 52 times before. Ouch. But not this time. Amanda Grant had sent us a request to come down and talk to her as we would be introduced in this group for long cruisers. They usually introduce the three sets of passengers with the highest amount of times they have cruised with Celebrity. Well this time the numbers were so low that with just our 13 and 14 cruises we were the highest. They presented Barbara with a beautiful bouquet of six roses. I took a picture of them and we wished we could have brought them home with us. We had our picture taken with the Captain. And they dropped off this picture to us before we departed the ship. Another nice touch by Celebrity. The Cosmos club area also hosted the nightly karaoke. Natalie and Mylinda hosted this the one night I stopped by. Some real good singers and some not so good ones. Fusion the house band that played on sail away was up here at night. As was the DJ. There is a great dance floor and room really strut your move on it. Plus this lounge has some quite spots to relax in if you need to. They have bar service in this lounge from 5:00 PM till the last person leaves for the night. If you walk back to the middle of the ship on this deck you would come to the elevator bank. Going inside here you would be near the Golf Simulator. All Celebrity ships carry golf professionals to help you with your swing or arrange for golf on shore. The golf packages were a bit expensive for me to only play one time. But I will say the "Teeth of the Dog" course excursion in Casa De Campo was $200.00 per person. Not too bad for one of the best golf courses in the world. I will say I did miss them not having an open house so to speak - with a long drive contest and a closest to the pin play off during the cruise. But time in the simulator was just about all booked for every day on the cruise. Across from the Golf simulator is the Extreme sports bar. They had ESPN playing here just about all the time. But it was the Caribbean feed. This means that there is a lot of soccer highlights and not much on American sports. Talking to the activities people, they were saying this area does not get much traffic unless there is a big sporting event on TV that everyone on the ship would want to see. They were packed the week before for the Super Bowl.
Walking back outside and to the back - Aft section of the ship you would come across a stairway - they are on both sides. This leads up to the Sports Deck 12 Mid ship. This is where most of the outdoor games are played. Each day the Cruise staff has a Darts, Basketball, and other competitions up here. They also have Volleyball, paddle tennis and other games you can play out here. It's a bit windy when the ship is at sea but on port days just fine. I did get into a few basket ball games and one good volleyball match. But the port days cut back on the ship activities here. I did get to see a spirited game of basketball by eight good players. They were all a lot bigger than I am - so it was best to just watch.
The only other area on deck 11 as you walk to the aft section of the boat is the Kids Fun Factory. This area covers the complete back of the boat on this level. There is a large play ground area here. In it is a small pool, and a lot of climbing toys for the tots to play on. Inside is a ball pit and more play area. Celebrity had - as far as I saw - about 6 or 7 kid camp counselors on the ship on this trip. I ran into the kids going from one area to another. All having a good time. They used Paul from the activities staff as their bingo caller one afternoon up in the Extreme sports bar area. Everyone had a good time.
The only two public areas I have not talked about are Notes- the music library - This is located amid ship on decks 6 & 7 that I walked by it a lot of times. There was always someone in there. They also have Words which is their at sea library. This was between decks 8 & 9. Another nice area to find some quiet in. Again there were people in here a lot of the times I went by. You can borrow books from here and return at the end of the cruise.
This concludes the walking tour of the ship. I hope I covered everything.
Onto the day to day.
The first day on board is get adjusted day. Get through the boarding process. Get your picture takes at the ship entry area. Get your picture taken for your security pass. Get a welcome aboard glass of champagne or two. Walk about the ship. Go find your room. Find your great T/A has sent you a bottle of Champagne for the trip. Find that Celebrity has also sent you a bottle of Champagne. Go get something to eat. Stroll the ship. Go get something else to eat. Go back to the room and store the clothes. Check out the views from the veranda. Go back downstairs to the entry area and get another glass of Champagne. Go back upstairs to check out the deserts you may have missed. Listen to the band playing. Walk forward to see the views from the front of the ship. See if you can find anyone who is in your group. Go over to the grill and get a hamburger and fries. Get a game of Rummy-O going. Make sure your table is located near the outside grill. Play one game. Get drinks from the service area behind the band stand. Get a second game going. Get a hot dog and fries from the grill. Finish the game. Go back to room and store any other clothes you have. Lay out tonight's dinner wear. Call the others on the ship phone and invite to bon voyage get together as we leave port in our room. Find your life preserver. Go to Life boat drill at 4:00pm. Finish life boat drill. Don't stumble on the straps from the life preserver on the deck from your or others. Get some cheesy pictures of your friends in their life preservers. Get Wife's life preserver and yours and put it away. Go back up to the buffet area and get a quick bite before they close. Back to the room. Call everyone to stop by as the ship sails away. Pop the cork on the champagne. Seeing how far off the aft section you can shoot it. Pour it out to Doug, Joan, Julie, Jimmy, Carole, Bob, Eileen and Barbara. Have some snacks we brought out for everyone. Get some more pictures of everyone at the back rail on the sail away. Lean over and see if Mike from cruise critic is on his balcony. And away we go. We then disperse and meet back at our room at about 7:45 pm for some more champagne. Did I say that we had brought a lot of supplies in my drag bag onto the ship. I have brought a bottle of Grey Goose with the Vermouth and olives. Bob supplies the shaker and it's Martini time. I also have some Gin for gin and tonics for others. Along with soda and seltzer I think everyone is covered. I have gone upstairs to the Sushi bar and gotten a nice selection for the group to try out. We also have the evening canapé's delivered by our room stewardess. I requested and she gave us a few plates of them. Nice.
About 8:30 pm or so we all walk down to dinner. We are all seated at table 546 in the Metropolitan restaurant. This is the start of a great week of friends, food, beautiful service and a lot of fun.
Food: Cosmopolitan Restaurant (main dining room)
- Dinner: Excellent as always from the chef's. Barbara has mostly beef or meat for her dinner selections. They were all were outstanding as I was told. I am a fish/seafood eater while on the ships. Each night they have a different offering. I like the subtle sauces offered with each main course. They compliment every meal here. As usual the food is top level as all Celebrity ship have. Service is also the best I have seen. Another Celebrity trademark.
- Breakfast: I only went to sit down breakfast in the main dining room twice. Both times I ordered omelets. The4 or 5 days; Ordered something different each day. One time I just ordered scrambled eggs with some bacon and sausage. The plate came and it was more food than 2 could have eaten. I tried but had to push it away after getting just over half through it. I don't think anyone else in the group had a chance to go to sit down breakfast except for the last day.
- Lunch: I only made it here one time for lunch. They present the main course wonderfully. There were some nice changes off the menu in the Ocean's café.
It's nice to sit and be served some of the days at sea. Nice way to break it up.
- Dinner: alternative dining - This is in the back port side of the ship. You have to call them an hour in advance of dinner. You order the Main entrée from the menu but the appetizers, salads, desserts, are all buffet. This is a bit of a limited menu selection from the formal dining room. But. The sushi bar is right there also. I have always thought this is a good alternative if your out on a tour and coming back late and do not want to rush to dinner. Parents with kids that can't sit through the whole dinner or would like to come and go as they please.
Pool Grill - Outside at the pool. Lunch: Get in line for your hamburgers, good hotdogs, and pizza. Drinks are right nearby.
There is food available just about 24 by 7 somewhere on the ship. Lite night bites are brought around the ship at about 11:30 pm each night. This replaces the large buffets they used to have. Although they do have a grand buffet on the last formal night. Nice to check out with all the fruit and ice carvings. If you did not get enough Lobster they have the extra tails cut up and ready to eat here. You can also always find an open drink station somewhere on the ship at all times.
The actual trip: The second day at sea. Got up and ran for about 15 to 20 minutes on deck at 7:00am. Who put that hill on the deck as I was going forward. Workout every day consists of 20 minutes run. Then go to the weight room do some sit ups. Then the weight machines for 10 minutes or so. Out to the pool and swim for 10 minutes. I can do three strokes pretty well now. But that butterfly is not doable for me. My daughter could do this but it has evaded me to this point. Maybe too much coordination. Last thing is into the hot tub for a few minutes then a quick rinse off. Towel down and bring wife a coffee back to the room. During the early afternoon the Captain came on the speaker and announced we would be turning back to the Bahamas. This was in the early afternoon. As there was a medical emergency. We had to air lift off the man who had had a heart attack. We saw the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter a little after 3 pm. The whole evacuation of the nurse, person from the coast guard and man took about 20 to 30 minutes. We had to go back so they could reach us. The Coast Guard boat that launched the helicopter for the pickup was a long ways from our boat. From what we heard later he was airlifted into the Bahamas and was doing well. The passengers that watched from the front of the ship applauded the rescuers efforts as they flew away.
This delayed our arrival into Casa De Campo by four hours. The weather was beautiful today. About 80 degrees not too many clouds in the sky.
The third day at sea was another loss for the men in the battle of the sex's trivia. Same morning routine. But it was even windier up on deck earlier in the morning. This makes for an uneven run. Oh well live through it. The one good thing is you get to see the sun come up an peek between the clouds. Nice reds and yellows on nature's perpetual painting. Stop and smell the roses. One thing I did notice was there were some birds flying next to the ship today. They were a long way from the nearest shore in the Bahamas or the Dominican Republic. They were watching the waves the ship made for some bait fish to catch and eat. They would climb up about 60 to 70 feet in the air and dive down into the water about 50 feet from the boat. Nice sight. We arrived in Casa De Campo about 5:00pm or so. The boat was cleared very quickly. But most of the day tours were cancelled. The line for the busses to LaMarina and Altos De Chavon was over 1000 people deep. The busses held about 30 people each. And the round trip takes about 25 minutes at best for each location. So after about 600 or so people took the first set of busses there was a bit of a pause before they returned to get more people. Harun the assistant cruise director was in charge of getting the people onto the correct bus for the area that was to be visited. His group of helpers - activities staff and celebrity dancers worked this out nicely. Some people opted out and took the taxi service that was near by. Julie, Jim and Eileen took the bus for the ride to La Marina. They described it as just another tourist town that needed a little work. Me. I walked off the ship into a nearby park and got a nice ship picture. From the top deck you can see a baseball field complex. The town of La Marina is just to the port forward side of the boat as it is in the dock. There was a factory of sorts belching black smoke to our direct left. But this may have been a sugar cane processing plane. Looking at the map now you may have been able to walk into La Marina if you wanted. This would have taken about 20 minutes or so. I'll save it for next time. There are some special shows and trips for later in the evening in Altos De Chavon. We pulled away from the pier about 11:00 pm that night. Never felt a thing as glided over to Puerto Rico.
Day four brought a nice dark sky in the early morning. But this cleared up as we came near the coastline of Puerto Rico. Pulling in to the port of San Juan and seeing the old forts over looking the harbor entrance area is a nice sight. I always think what, after touring the forts, an invader or hostile ship may think as they bobbed about the ocean trying to run past the cannons in the fort. Chances were not good. The old town area was a complete fortress in the early years. A lot of the old walls are still in place. There was a U.S. Navy ship coming into the port just behind us. The marine amphibious assault ship U.S.S. Sipan. It was impressive to see all the sailors lined up along the decks in their dress whites as they slowly followed us into the port area. We had a second chance to cheer on our men in the armed services. And did so several times as their ship docked next to ours. The navy ship had to use tug board as the older navy ships do not have the side propellers the newer cruise ship do. This helps in their docking. I was talking to Natalie about how there were all these young single men real close by. And they liked to travel. I wonder if she got the hint. Well our whole group got off and walked a bit around old town. Barbara and I have been there many times. I have been to the forts and other sights. She has seen a lot of the shopping areas. We walked down the main road next to the harbor. We found a nice shade tree just past the Island made hand crafted booths. We sat down here while the rest of the group went off to check out the sights. Barbara went back to the boat and I went off to find the pueblo - small super market - up off the main square here. I needed to pick up some more tonic water and some other supplies for the group. Walking back onto the pier area as you enter is the Puerto Rican rum sampler desk. Yippee... They had free samples of about six or seven blended rum drinks. I tried one. Then went upstairs to the discount store. The one liter of rum here was $6.00. Not expensive at all. They had a large selection of different rums and other liquors here. All were very inexpensive as I could tell. I purchased one bottle of rum and brought it onto the ship then stored it in my room. Celebrity does allow you to take bottles to your room. But if you prefer you can drop them off at the desk as you enter the ship. They will hold them for you till the end of the trip and drop them off to your room. A nice service. I usually do not carry home anything from the trip and this time did not either. Drink it up. I went back out into town to look for one other item. When I came back I made sure I stopped by the rum booth again. Nice friendly people. They will even spice up your drink if you ask them. I don't remember much of the day after that.
The fifth day had us landing in St. Thomas U.S.V.I. One of the prettiest ports in the Caribbean. As you look at the port are to the starboard side is a shopping - mall area - called Havensight. This is right next to the area the ships dock in. Very nice spaces to walk about in the open air mall. To the forward port side is the downtown area of Charlotte Amalie. This is a larger shopping district. After participating in some of the ship activities this am I got off the ship. Some of the group went off the ship earlier. They were going to walk over into Havensight and then take the gondola ride to the top of the mountain, or large hill as you see it, over looking the port. Me. I walked over and found the road next to the back of the shopping area. I then walked up to the top of the mountain. This is not a pretty road by any means. It's a poured concrete road that looks like it just hit with a rake to push down the concrete into place. The road winds its way up the mountain to the place where the gondola ride stops. At the top of the hill is a bar and souvenir shop on top. I met Paul from the cruise staff here. The gondola ride was broken when I arrived and there was a group getting a ride back down in a small jitney. I walked around and took some pictures of the ships tied up in the port. From the looks of it they are going to add another ship terminal area just off the town of Charlotte Amalie. As I was starting to walk back down I hear shouting. My friends are in the gondola and it is going back down the mountain. Missed them by just a little. I walked back down and looked through some of the shops in Havensight. Nothing really interests me here. This was the seventh or eighth time we have been here. So I have seen most of the mall and everything for sale in it. I did stop by Al Cowan's to pick up some more supplies for the group. The walk up the hill took me less than a ½ hour as I was by myself and did not have to wait for anyone. I was also stopping to take pictures along the way. I did purchase a drink before walking up and just about finished it as I arrived. I do know that the shopping in Havensight is nice. But there are shops aplenty over in the down town of Charlotte Amalie. I did jump off the ship just before we pulled out and was the fifth from the end straggler person back on before we sailed. I was helping someone else get some of their own supplies. Golfers beware. Your trip to Mahogany Run will tie you up for the full day on land.
The sixth day was a sea day. We were cruising back to Nassau. Clear blue skies. Temp in the 80's. This is clean up day in the room. Time to get started packing. Moving around the things we did not use. Maybe we'll get to them tomorrow. A nice relax day. The pool is busy early on. We have gotten about 10 invites to various Captains Club functions during the week. Special tours, wine blending, meet the officers and on. It's nice to have cruised as many times with one line that gives back customer loyalty with special services. I have sent a letter through channels requesting the ship allow Natalie Clemens from the cruise staff to come have dinner with us in the main dining room. Natalie, Paul, Anna and Melinda have been great to me this cruise. Putting up with my antics at the games. I'm the question everything person. Comment on a lot of other things. All in fun. I just wish I could have invited them all to dinner. But they have to split duties and move about the ship to work later that night. During the afternoon at the pool they have a pool jousting contest. I signed up for this. If you have never seen it. They have a pole across the pool. You slide out into the middle against an opponent. Each person is given a bag of balloons. You try to knock the other person into the water hitting them off the pole. It's a lot of fun to try this. The women went first. The men second. I got to the finals and was playing against a guy about my height. Six foot 5 inches. But he was about 250 pounds where I'm just about 190 all wet. Ready - set go. Off we went to hitting each other. I called for bar service in the middle of the bout. But they did not serve people on the pole. Darn. Well we could not put each other into the water. We had slugged it out for what seemed like 5 minutes. My opponent accidentally hit me in the mouth with a backhand as he was coming back with his balloon bag. Ouch. Fat lip time. They declared it a draw. Thank goodness. We were both real tired. But I did win a t shirt for it. After this I went got some of my room supplies. Mixed it up and was feeling no pain about an hour later. Then off to charades to have some more game fun. A cruise is what you make of it. Tonight was the repeaters party. This was held in the Cosmos club. Hosted by the ever gracious and lovely Amanda. I took some nice pictures of all the cruise ladies dressed up in their finest. They party was another highlight of the trip. I did make sure that Natalie was able to have dinner with our group. I checked with the cruise director - Derek Habraken - on this at the party. No problem. I dithered our time away making sure all our pictures got takes with the ladies of the cruise staff and we went in and were greeted by the captain and his main officers. Our friends Eileen and Bob missed out on this party as they were having early dinner at the Captains table with the Hotel Manager. A nice invite for them. Amanda had found and invited them to this special treat. I had gone down and gotten some pictures of them at the captains table. A nice remembrance. We had a wonderful time at dinner with our invited guest. Eileen and Bob came back and sat through dinner having desert and coffee with us. The Baked Alaska parade was a crowd clapping event. Trying to say thank you to the whole Celebrity wait staff for the great service we have gotten this week.
The seventh and our final full day on the Millennium. Worked out till 8:00am. Back to the cabin with the coffee and then changed and off to breakfast. The daily activities started and away I went. This was the finals of the battle of the sex's trivia contest. Like I said before. We - the men - were too far behind to catch up. Even getting the last two 10 point questions right only closed the score to a respectable one. I still think the ladies questions are easier. As a whole. We docked in Nassau right on schedule - about noon. We went off the ship and took a water taxi over to Paradise Island. This was not expensive - but they wait till there is a full boat to leave. When inside they are saying boats are leaving right now. Well we sat there for about 20 minutes plus before they pulled away. A local on the boat gave us a short informational tour of the area we were passing through. Then asked for tips as we left the boat. We docked under the bridge that crosses over to Paradise island. We walked into the Club Land'Or area. This was in the back of their marina area. Ouch. If you stay to the right as you hit the dock area you can walk around past a lot. of expensive yachts. They were all so beautiful. Where does the money come from to afford something like this. We walked through here and to the back entrance of the Atlantis hotel. We did not go in as time was short and we should be getting back to the ship before sail away. We walked back and just missed out on getting the water taxi back. Waited another 20 minutes before we caught the next one and it left. The water taxi left us at the far end of the pier area. We walked a bit through the craft area and through the gate back to the boat. It was iced tea time now and they broke out the Rummy-O game to get in a final few games. Next time I think we will try a taxi to Paradise island and try to get there as soon as we dock. On a previous trip we had spent the day on the Atlantis beach in the water. Something we could go back and do next time. The Millennium pulled away from the pier right on schedule. Back to the room to start packing for the trip home. I found that I had packed about 5 shirts and three pairs of short that I had never used. I just about had enough clothes for a 14 day cruise. We had one last small get together in our room before going up to dinner. Tonight is the time you drop off the tips for the wait staff in the restaurant. You can leave the tips for your room steward out so when they come to turn you room down for the night they will find it. Remember the working crew - the servers and housekeeping live on the tip money you leave them. It's long hours for not a whole lot of money. They just have to stay at it for a long period of time to save anything. Make sure you put your luggage out before you go to bed. And you have the correct tags on them.
Last day. Up early and Barbara and I went to sit down breakfast. We did not order anything special as we know the staff is trying to get ready for the next set of people. After this we made our way to the Michael's club. Amanda greeted us as we entered here. This was where the Select and Elite members meet to leave the ship. Bob, Eileen, Jim, Carole and Julie were already there. I went and found Dog and Joan and took them there. I also picked up Tony and Ansley. This is a nice place to get ready to go. Celebrity has provided some croissants and other small breakfast foods. They have a generous supply of coffee and tea to help you wake up. The comfortable chairs are nice to sit in one last time before hitting the airport. When it cam time to get off the ship Amanda led us down to the gangway. A gracious hostess till the end. Never ending smiles. After passing through customs we went down and picked up all the luggage. Jimmy got a van to take five of us over to the airport. Doug and Joan were driving home from Florida and made their connection to the long term parking area. Bob and Eileen were staying on in Florida and were going to pick up a rental car. Goodbye hugs and best wishes passed all around. We were at the airport in about 10 minutes. All checked in about 10 minutes later. No baggage weight problems. We were so early we may have been able to get on the wait list for the earlier 11:00 am flight back to New Jersey. But you have to tell them before they ticket your luggage now. As they will not go through it to pull it out. The 11:00 AM flight was no very full. So we sat about the airport moving from cruise mode to normal work and travel mode. We boarded the flight right on time. The plane ride was uneventful and we touched down right on time in Newark. I went to pick up the van from the long term parking lot. Can anyone out there tell me why there are no signs as to how or where to get the bus to go get your car from long term parking. After asking 5 airport employees I find the place where the bus stops. Finally get the van and pay for the parking. Picked up everyone no problem. Home in about a ½ hour. Unload all the luggage and start telling the home crowd the ship stories. Walked the dog a few times then it's off to bed. Cruises wear me out. Thank goodness it's presidents day tomorrow and there is no work.
A bit more information - Shore Excursions: We don't do them.
Just got off the ship and looked around and shopped in the port area.
Our cabin stewardess and her helper were excellent. Even though I saw them a lot they were always working in someone else's room. Ours was always spotless. We made a lot of mess every night we had people in before dinner. But the room was clean all the time. Never a thing out of place. They even kept the ice bucket full with a bottle of champagne we had in the room all week. Great service.
Dining room wait staff -waiter, assistant waiter, head waiter - Great. The area Mater'd. Stopped by the table each night to inquire about our goings on. This group was neat and efficient the whole cruise. They did not miss anything. Smiles all around. We requested the first night and got Ice Tea on the table every night of the cruise. Something we really appreciate. Add in Joelvia and it was a splendid week.
Passengers: Only a 7 day cruise. There were not a lot of kids - that I saw at all on board. The average age of the group was about 45 years old. There were a lot of young kids on the cruise and we saw them with their camp counselors playing about the ship each day. The ship programs are real good for the younger set. As the kids get older they tend to go their own way.
Ship Impressions: This ship as all Millennium series ships are the most attractive I have been on. The Celebrity ships are unique and beautiful. From interior design and art to the exterior painting.
You have to pick your port itinerary carefully so as not to travel to one port too much. The ship laid out real well. I would have to say that everything about the ship is beautiful, and tastefully put together. From the cabins, public areas, pools, spa, sauna, gymnasium, shops, to the lounges, and the open-air deck space.
I always feel Celebrity has the plus one food and service on all their ships. The staff people are well spoken and take time for each individual passenger.
Hope to see you next time you cruise.