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Bob Bennett

Age: 60

Occupation:Journalist

Number of Cruises: 50

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Millennium

Sailing Date: December 30th, 2001

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

As a travel writer and producer of the award-winning radio show, "Let's Talk Travel," My wife Lynn and I have sailed on perhaps fifty cruises.

We've tracked Celebrity's success since the line's launch, in the early '90s. For years, I would've unhesitatingly recommended Celebrity as the best of cruise lines, unless one wanted to ascend to the rarefied climes of Crystal, Seabourn, et al.

We hadn't sailed Celebrity in some years. As 2001 drew to a close, it was with great anticipation that we booked a New Years' Eve cruise on Celebrity's Millennium.

Hoo-boy, what a shock we were in for!

We noticed the difference as soon as we encountered the cabin steward. The ship distributed nice canvas bags to the passengers. Thing was, we got only two and there were three persons in our cabin. The steward, rather than giving us a third bag, actually argued the logic of our sharing the bags among us. This bizarre exchange was kicked up a notch later in the cruise, when we three were expected to share two beach towels. The steward consistently left soiled glasses and dishes in the cabin for days.

The Millennium is a beautiful ship, by anyone's standards. Sadly, however, the ship's physical assets have been squandered by quirky management. Here are some examples.

One of our favorite occupations onboard is watching movies; it’s like having free passes for a week! The Millennium had a fine movie theater, but the same 3 movies were recycled throughout the cruise. This was in stark contrast to the Enchantment and the Zaandam, both of which showed two new movies almost every night.

There are many lovely public rooms and dining areas, such as the rear of the Ocean Grill, where you could enjoy breakfast outside on the teak deck and watch the wake of the ship disappear into the distance. If only there were enough chairs for the tables! The same pattern prevailed inside, in the Ocean Grill and the Ocean Cafe.

One of the truly lovely areas is the AquaSpa, which has its own cafe, serving really excellent and imaginative low-fat meals for breakfast and lunch. Here you can enjoy delicious salmon and chicken dishes, made to order, all low in fat--even the desserts.

There was even a stunning Thalassotherapy pool and saunas in the bathrooms! Water was consistently pooled outside the bathrooms, though, presenting a slipping hazard.

You could also sit along the deck outside the AquaSpa, and watch the sea pass by, through the glass windows. Strangely, the attractive wooden deck chairs there were abnormally shaped, not really designed for the human form. So you could only sit for a short time, without getting a stiff neck. Could this be designed to impel you to buy a massage? Just kidding!

We love to sit on a quiet deck and read a good book, while cruising. But another problem with this area is the deck attendants and towel attendants hang out there goofing off, laughing, and chewing the fat at the top of their lungs. We had to move to poolside, far quieter by comparison.

Getting back to the food: Would that the cuisine in the beautiful Metropolitan dining room was as good as that in the AquaSpa! Some nights it was simply inedible. Michel Roux (the celebrated chef who is supposed to oversee Celebrity’s cuisine) should hang his head in shame. It seems as if one has to spend $25 a person to eat in the Olympic specialty restaurant, to get good food and service.

Buffets were fairly good, but one had to haggle with the serving staff, who attempted to give only a few tiny morsels to each hungry diner. I felt like Oliver Twist.

I’m sorry to report that the gorgeous three-tiered theater was virtually devoid of entertainers. The headliner was a Chinese juggler, who appeared twice. He wasn’t bad, actually, but was certainly not in the caliber of entertainment we expected on a Celebrity cruise. RCCL, the owner of Millennium, seems to want to save money, notably by not hiring experienced shipboard managers.

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