Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: March 30th, 2003
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
If you have never been on a cruise, GO, I beg you. You will either be totally thrilled with the experience or not care for it. No amount of cruise review reading could have prepared me for what I was about to experience on the best vacation I have ever had. And so, on with the review. I will try to stay brief.
Background info: Family of four (wife, hubby, daughter 12, daughter 8) from the cold Canadian north. This cruise was part of the Stars at Sea program. My 12 year old was among 30 dancers from her studio who rehearsed for 10 months in preparation for two performances onboard GTS Millennium. The families (i.e. parents) spent almost a year saving and fundraising to make the journey (we spent almost $10,000 Cdn for 4 of us).
Pre and post-cruise stay in Fort Lauderdale: We stayed at the Tropirock Resort 2 days before and 1 day after our cruise. This place must be experienced to be appreciated. We now consider Mick Ball (owner - Hi, Mick) a friend. I could ramble on about this place but this is a cruise review so I won't. I'll take that ramble elsewhere. When we go back to Fort Lauderdale, we won't stay anywhere else. Please do yourself a favor and stay there.
Embarkation: We arrived at the terminal about 11:30 a.m. Perfect timing, check-in was quick, easy and courteous. White-gloved waiters greeted adult passengers with glasses of champagne as soon as we boarded. I think the kids may have gotten juice, but I can't quite remember since I was waiting for Robin Leitch to descend from the grand onyx staircase. A "mahvelous dahling" first impression indeed.
Millennium Staff/Crew: What can you say about people who work so hard and such long hours to please you? Always smiling, professional, courteous, helpful, "bend over backwards" types representing over 60 different countries. Absolutely wonderful people. I truly felt like Millie was my home for the week and these people were the main reason.
Stateroom Attendant: Irfan is from India and when we returned to port he was heading home to get married. Irfan is one of those wonderful Millie personalities who went many extra miles to make our stay so enjoyable. Return their smiles and kindness - many of these people are a long way from home and loved ones.
Waiter/Assistant Waiter: Our entire table (of 10) adopted Georgi and Miguel for the week. What a pure joy these two are. We will always remember them fondly and miss them. I would say we returned to the dining room each evening because of them with the awesome food being the secondary reason.
Food: The Cruise Director said the average weight gain is one pound per day. I missed my goal by ½ pound. Burgers, hot dogs and pizza poolside (Riviera Grill). Healthy choices at adults-only Aqua Dome grill. Breakfast, lunch, dinner buffet at Ocean Cafe. Pastries at Cova Pattiserie. We usually settled for breakfast at Ocean Café, lunch poolside (cheeseburgers in paradise), but wouldn't miss dinner in the elegant and extravagant Metropolitan Restaurant. The presentation and quality were fabulous. Frogs legs do taste like chicken. Everything was delicious and delivered with swift precision. Marvelous. Yummie.
Le Grand Buffet: If Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso were chefs, this is what they would serve. I know it's not polite to point and stare with your mouth open, but honestly. I mean you can't imagine how they did some of this stuff. Speaking of stuff, I was unfortunately too full of lobster and chocolate to consume anything. Oh well, I may have been ashamed of myself to destroy something by eating it.
Activities: This being our first cruise, all was a bit overwhelming. The Daily was full of things to do. Sadly, we didn't partake in many activities. Our dancers had rehearsal on Monday morning and we visited 4 ports. The girls wanted to hang around the pool most of the time so we had to be there. And those loungers around the pool were so cozy. At my daughter's bequest, my good sport of a hubby entered the King of the Millennium competition and thereafter was greeted with bows and hails to "King Richard", since he won. Funny stuff. But I had to put my foot down as the title started going to his head. I reminded him that he may very well be the "king" but that made me the Queen.
Casino: Donated about $40 to 5 cent slots. Hubby was up on a quarter machine, gave me another $20 and said "Go play that one". Took me 2 minutes to feed the hungry thing. Hubby didn't leave until he used up all those heavy quarters. Final score: Fortunes Casino $100, us zero.
Entertainment: Thien Fu was our welcome aboard act. Very funny guy. Sadly, we missed his late night adult act in Cosmos Nightclub. The Hawaiin Cowboy (Wes Epae) was hilarious and a skilled impressionist (from Dean Martin to Michael Jackson). I was fortunate to catch all shows of the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. They are an extremely talented troupe. All the entertainment was great. The Celebrity Theatre is elegant and very comfy, not a bad seat in the house.
Cosmos Nightclub: Sadly, us 40-somethings were too burned out and stuffed from that wonderful food to stay awake for much clubbing. We did manage to get in there one night and danced to some great 80's music before the younger, more awake crowd took over.
Topless Sunbathing: Not wanting to create a mass "man overboard" emergency, I did not partake of this new feature. Besides, I don't tan, I freckle - 'nuff said. The only time I ventured up to deck 14 was when we were entering/leaving port because it was the best vantage point.
Other newer features: "Sorbet on Parade" daily at Riviera Pool; ice cold towels poolside and when reboarding at port; ability to stay in your cabin until disembarkation begins.
Motion of the Ocean: The only real negative about the entire trip was that my kids got seasick a few days. I guess I wasn't expecting the ship to move as much as she did and it's highly unusual for kids to be affected. I don't know if the movement was normal or not. It did not bother me at all. I added it to the enjoyment of everything else and chuckled at walking like I was inebriated. The girls wouldn't eat the candied ginger I brought (tastes like soap), the seasick medication made them sleepy and they wouldn't take my repeated pleading for them to get out of the cabin and go up on deck where they could see what was going on. They don't get that stubbornness from me.
Stars at Sea (the reason we were there): The kids performed like pros. We were proud of them all. It was unfortunate that for our first show the theatre was practically empty. The Cruise Director had made previous announcements that there would be no show that night and we were in Casa de Campo. Later, however, he was falling all over himself, announcing the other performance which was on Thursday night. Aside from that slip up, Edwin Rojas was a good Cruise Director. My daughter was too ill and sadly missed performing Thursday night. But I was thrilled to hear that we had a full house. I didn't see the show as I was in the room with my sick girls.
Ports: Casa de Campo - free shuttle to a quaint little villa, nice amphitheatre, holy heck it was hot. We did not take any shore excursions.
San Juan - no excursions here either. Once we ran the gauntlet of tour operators/cabbies we were free to roam the souvenir shops and narrow streets that are Old San Juan. We also trekked up to Fort San Cristobal, another "holy heck it's hot" place. I love history so found this interesting. I wanted to go to El Morro but it would have been too far and too hot for our little 8 year old.
St. Thomas - Havensight Mall is way too convenient for shopping so we couldn't (rather I couldn't) resist. Our snorkeling at St. Johns was cancelled due to bad weather so we booked Magens Bay. Was never so glad to see our bus come back. We were there for 2 hours and it poured in Biblical proportions for 1.5 hours. All adults stood in the only shelter while the kids played in the water. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the animals pairing up. You can't imagine how badly I felt for that poor girl in her wedding dress waiting for the rain to stop for her wedding pictures on the beach. We failed to see why this place was rated one of the worlds 10 most beautiful beaches by National Geographic. The sand was full of leaves and the facilities were very dirty. Of course on the way back to the ship a nice rainbow broke out over the place.
Naussau - amazing sight pulling into harbor but I had to run to the back of the ship as our captain decided to show off by turning around and backing into port. Someone said there were 10 ships in port that day but I only counted 6. We did the stingray snorkeling excursion. Don't sit at the back of the boat on the way out to Sandals, you will die from the fumes. There may be better stingray experiences elsewhere but I was still amazed once I got over the terror of putting my face in the water and breathing. We had a great time. One idiot was trying to ride the poor stingrays so I acted like a 5 year-old and told on him. Na na boo boo dummy.
Disembarkation: I couldn't believe how
courteous that announcer was after about the 10th time calling the same 4 people
to show up for U.S. immigration. These people are the reason you don't book an
early flight home. Most of our dance families were staying on in Ft. Lauderdale
a couple days so we were the last color off the ship. We waited in the Rendevous
Lounge in no particular hurry. Walking off our floating home was uneventful. Our
Cruise Director bid us adieu with that ever-present smile. I joked to somebody
this was the "you are broke now so get off our ship" moment. Of course I didn't
feel that way at all, but if I didn't laugh I knew I would cry like the big baby
Closing Comments: The Tropirock Resort has a rooftop sundeck where you can catch a glimpse of the port. I ran up there on Sunday at 4:20 hoping to catch one final look at my Millie. As I strained I caught the familiar "X" carrying the next fortunate group out to sea. I imagined them standing where I was a mere 7 days previous, waving to the friendly residents along the shore. I was crying like a baby, wishing our cruise would have never ended and feeling so very blessed to have been a passenger onboard the GTS Millennium.