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Ann and Chris Hannon

Age: 37/38

Occupation:writers

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Millennium

Sailing Date: December 16th, 2001

Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean

This was our first cruise with Celebrity (last one was NCL, the Sky). We decided on Celebrity because they seemed to be a step or two above NCL and had read and heard wonderful things about the cruise line.

THE CRUISERS: We were a traveling group of 6, two grandparents, two children, 7/9 and two parents 37 and 38. All midwesterners who thought we would escape the cold weather, ah, it was not so cold at home when we left. We had read all kinds of reviews of this ship, this itinerary and we were getting mixed reviews. We certainly were looking forward to our trip to make our own conclusions. Here's our thoughts on our week on the Millennium.

PRE CRUISE: We stayed at the Embassy Suites the night before. Great price on Priceline. They provided transportation from the airport and also to the pier. Free happy hour every night and free breakfast. Close to shopping. Nice hotel. We had dinner at the Southport Raw Bar, walking distance to the hotel and I highly recommend it. Great food. Great beer garden.

EMBARKING: We got to the ship around 1-1:30 and embarking was a nightmare. There was no explanation as to where you needed to stand, what documents you needed or who needed to see the documents, it was very disorganized. Not a good start to this cruise. Once we got past the cattle call in the main room, things moved more smoothly and we were on the ship within a 1/2 hour.

CABIN: We had 2B cabins on the vista deck, aft. 7171/7173 We were right near the stairs/elevator but that was never a problem. Our steward introduced himself, Filipe, and he was a joy to work with. We were a little concerned, we had 4 people in our cabin and there was a queen sized bed and sleeper sofa. We found out the pullman came down from the ceiling, Filipe said he would take care of that in the evenings. The cabin was great, very roomy and plenty of closet space. Our veranda was a little larger due to the our location on the aft of the ship. Minor complaint, the set up of the balconies, we could look down onto the balconies below and the balconies above could look down on us.

SETTING SAIL: We wandered the ship before we set sail and the ship was just beautiful. We found a bar at the aft portion of the ship to watch the ship setting sail. The winds picked up before we left port. Something we would deal with all week. The wind.

ASSORTED INFO: As this was the week before Christmas, we had planned ahead and brought lights for the room, and deck and wrapping paper for the doors. We decorated the grandparents balcony too. I suggest even when it's not the holidays, some lights on the balcony, we had quite a few compliments on the decorations. Formal nights were just that, many many tuxes (glad we rented one for hubby) and those not in tuxes were in suits. The women wore cocktail dresses long and short, but formal night was just that. We left a note for Filipe and asked that we get ice at noon, and again at 5 and could he empty the fridge of the 'honor' bar items? We left him a $20 (as did our neighboring grandparent cabin)It was just a down payment on his services for the week. Off to pre dinner cocktails we went. We had the late seating for dinner. And when we returned we had ice and every day after that, our ice was filled when we requested it. Also, I recommend the wine tasting that is scheduled, I believe on Mondays. It is a very educational program and you will feel more comfortable ordering wine with dinner, if you are not a frequent wine drinker.

MINOR COMPLAINTS: There were 320 kids on this cruise and unfortunately, you knew it. The kids programs were very well run, but it seemed a lot of parents were not taking advantage of the programs. There was running on deck, kids taking over hot tubs and my favorite, was the parents who would allow their kids to play on the stair case in the Metropolitan. Screaming kids at the late seating of dinner, was a little much. Also, the sports bar, was a neat set up, but really not well used. In fact on Saturday when there were NFL games being played, the bar for the sports bar was not even opened.

FAVORITE PLACES: The Platinum Club, martini bar. The bartender Desmond (Jamaica) was great and our waitress, Anita (Hungary) was just a pleasure. We had cocktails every night in the lounge. They have a great selection of 'fancy' martini's but still can make the classics too. This was on the fifth deck and the fourth deck right below was the Rendez-vous lounge. They had a dance floor and The Young Duo played nightly. Also, Michaels Cigar lounge, a beautiful room, great after dinner drinks and the hostess, Alexandra, was very knowledgeable about the cigars, but did not get pushy to sell the product. The room was very well ventilated. The Rendez-Vous was great for after dinner with entertainment and dancing. Speaking of entertainment.

ENTERTAINMENT: We had not gone to any of the shows when on NCL and had heard mixed reviews of Celebrity's talent. I have to say, the entertainment was wonderful. We saw all the big shows in the theatre. The Celebrity singers and dancers did a great job. Not quite Broadway but much better than expected. The cruise had a Vietnamese juggler/comedian, a strange combination but he was incredibly funny. My sides hurt from laughing from his full set (the first night-they do a short preview of the upcoming shows). There is a group, the Josh Hanlon group, that are members of the orchestra that also play jazz and they are great. These kids do a great job, only complaint, we did not see enough of them. With the late seating, the entertainment seems to be geared to the early seatings. Minor complaint, wait staff in the theatre was less than attentive. The Young Duo played in the Rendez-vous and they were just wonderful. A great mix of music and always music to dance too! One complaint, it would have been nice to have a piano bar area to sit and enjoy drinks in. The talent seems to move around the ship and again, it seems to cater to the early seating diners. Big complaint. The pool band, they were almost non existent. They seemed to be on break more than they played. Their sets were uninspiring. The tape at the pool was even worse, a disco tape????. Pretty awful pool music.

DINNER: As I said, we had the late seating, table for 4. With the kids, we wanted the option of having them eat with us, or not. The grandparents also had the option of eating with us when the kids did not. Our waiter, Darius (Lithuania) and assistant waiter Daniel (Romania) were very pleasant and by pleasant I mean, funny, knowledgeable and great to have as a staff. Our maitre d’ was Birrus from Bulgaria and he checked on us every night and was easy to find if we had a complaint or concern, of which we didn't. The food was excellent, we were never rushed and the kids enjoyed the kids menu and also ordering for the adult menu. Our oldest would usually mix and match from the two menus and that was never a problem with our wait staff. The formal night was great food and we were introduced to our wine steward, Mirta (Croatia). She was also great and I think we were only ordering wine just to talk with her! With the girls coming and going and the grandparents changing tables, you would think it would give the wait staff reason to complain, it didn't. They figured out our routine and when the kids came back from Fun Factory, just in time for dessert, the table had six chairs waiting. I saw a table near us with a plate of anchovies and asked Daniel about getting anchovies. He said all you have to do is ask. Every night after that, we had a plate waiting. We loved our staff and they had very dry senses of humor, but were quite fun to work with. The Tuesday night menu was not real inspired (maybe a night to make Olympic reservations?) but the food was very good to excellent. The chilled soups were very tasty and the lobster and prime rib very good. We had made reservations in the Olympic, but cancelled, as we did not want to lose a night with our staff!

OTHER FOOD INFO: We rarely were up for breakfast, hey, we're on vacation. We did order room service breakfast one morning for our cabin and it was great, hot and what we ordered. The complaints I have about the Ocean Cafe are several. There seemed to be always sections that were not operating, with 2000 passengers on board, I would think all stations should be opened during breakfast, and lunch (we were never there for dinner). The food was cafeteria like and nothing too creative. The inability to get orange juice during the day was frustrating as was trying to figure out when the lemonade and ice tea would be available. And all three were never available together and you could rarely get lemonade in the afternoon???? Highlights: the pizza in the afternoon was very good, and when lunch was less than tasty, the pizza certainly was. Another highlight, the little sandwiches put out late in the afternoon, while lunch was bland and boring the sandwiches were very good and always something different. As we had the late seating for dinner, we never hit any of the late night buffets, we were just too stuffed from dinner.

FUN FACTORY: This was a great program for the kids. It is available 9-12, 2-5 and again 7-10 pm (or 7:30,can't remember which) and is free of charge. After 10 there is a charge for babysitting. The two formal nights the factory starts at 6 with a pizza party and runs until 1 and is free of charge. My kids were in and out of the program during the day and the staff had no problems with kids coming in during scheduled times. Nice to have a place for the kids to go during dinner on the formal nights and giving mom and dad some extra free time. We did not take full advantage of all the programs as the kids wanted to see the shows and they did spend time with us in the pool and wandering.

THE POOL: There were plenty of chairs all over the decks. Nice touch was the covers on the chairs on the main pool deck. Even on the days in port. There were the usual chair hogs, but it may have been more noticeable if we had had warmer/less windy weather.

PORTS: San Juan, can't say I was too impressed, the duty free at the port was worth the wait. Bringing it back on board did not seem to be a problem as long as it was in moderation. A bottle and six pack was not a problem to bring on for us. Private Island, we did not get off the ship for the island. And heard we made the right choice. Long lines for food, the locals were very pushy. St. Thomas, I was pleasantly surprised. A very pretty area. We walked from the ship to the main shopping and it was very pretty. Great prices. We took a cab back to the ship, $3.00 per person just make sure you are getting that price from your driver. Nassau, been there done that. It's a good stop for refueling the liquor cabinet.

WEATHER: The cruise line has no control over the weather, but a few words of caution when traveling at this time of year. The winds. Very windy, waves were very high on most days at sea. We really lost our last sea day (Friday) and Saturday due to high winds.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a great cruise and I can happily, say, I would cruise this line again. The ship was beautiful, the staff excellent and very attentive. I reread some of the reviews that were negative or less than enthusiastic and all I can say, is I guess there is no ship or line that can be all things for all people. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and would gladly recommend this cruise to anyone who likes a more 'grownup' atmosphere for their cruise, excellent food and wonderful service.

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