Number of Cruises: 5
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: June 24th, 2001
This was our honeymoon. Both of us are in our middle 40's and have traveled somewhat. I've cruised 4 times but Ruthanne has not. I have always wanted to visit the Mediterranean via a cruise so I researched my options and chose Celebrity's Millennium. Ruthanne and I feel this vacation truly exceeded our expectations!
Some background on what I had wanted in a cruise may help give credence to my impressions and observations.
At the start, my wish list
- Greek Islands.
- Small ship like a crewed yacht. I wanted to visit as many small islands as I could.
- Ten days to two weeks.
Well, Ruthanne has a terrible problem with motion sickness (even though she is a scuba diver she finds a way to cope) so there was no way I wanted to risk our honeymoon with her getting sea sick! I then looked into Windstar but was still concerned she might have trouble. Other ships looked fine but the dates of travel didn't quite work for our Summer schedule. Celebrity had the sailing and an itinerary that fit best. Since this is a large, new ship and with Celebrity's reputation I figured Ruthanne should be fine and we would be pleased with the ports of call.
The Millennium is a superb ship. From the outside it is apparent that Celebrity is serious about ocean view cabins with verandahs -- 4 decks are nothing but those. It's a pretty ship to admire. All of the cabins I saw whether inside or outside seemed to be quite spacious. Ruthanne noticed Celebrity made good use of strategically placed mirrors to enhance this spacious feel. I would classify the Millennium having a casual
elegance to her. The public rooms are classy but not to the point of feeling uncomfortable. There is no garish glitz like "some" cruise lines . You can get comparative data on space ratios and cabin sizes from your travel agent (recommended) or to some degree at http://www.cruising.org .
The new gas propulsion system is quiet and no perceptible vibrations.
This was a full ship so around 3000 people were on board yet we did not feel cramped. From what I've read the Millennium has one of the larger passenger space ratios and it showed. There were no unmanageable long lines to contend with. A contributing factor to the lack of lines may have been crew training. We visited some shore excursion intensive ports of call and the crew moved us along quite efficiently. For example, in Egypt there were 40+ full buses to board and get going between 7:30 AM and 8:30 AM -- they did it.
I was surprised by the average age and make up of the passengers. I'll guess the average age was 49 with many families on board. More teens (well behaved I might add) than expected. This was a pleasant surprise for Ruthanne and me. In hindsight I can see why there were so many families on board since it WAS an interesting itinerary, the cost was reasonable, and third/fourth person rates including meals and entertainment make it a good choice for families with teens. Also there is plenty of time for teens to hang out by the pool.
Transportation to and from the
We took Celebrity's air fare offer. Understand that Istanbul is a port of call so you arrive one day before the ship sails. We left Chicago on Saturday and flew to New York's Laguardia airport, from there we were transferred by Celebrity to JFK for the World Airways charter flight. The reason for not flying directly into JFK was the charter was scheduled for a 2:00 P.M. departure and there are no flights arriving into JFK from Chicago to connect with it.
The new terminal at JFK is quite nice and since the flight left so much earlier than others at JFK there were no crowds. The World Airways personnel were very friendly and check in went relatively quickly. The aircraft was a new MD 11 with an efficient, personable crew. It's a charter so the seating is cramped (409 passengers). The flight took just under 9 hours to Istanbul.
We arrived around 7 AM. I feared we would be waiting at the pier until 2 P.M. Wrong! Celebrity transferred us to the Holiday Inn Crown Plaza and fed us (Oh Boy, FOOD!) a nice buffet. Transfers to the ship started at 10:30 AM. We were on board by Noon.
At the end of the cruise the usual departure procedures apply: Bags out night prior, collect bags and go through customs, transfer to airport. At Barcelona, Celebrity was with us all the way to the point of making sure our bags were brought in to the airport and that we were with the bags.
This is something else I have to say about Celebrity, I felt they were there pampering us from the moment we stepped off the flight to the point of check-in at the airport.
Ruthanne and I visited most areas. I'm a restless and curious person so not many areas were not visited at least once. In fact that's the first thing I do when I go somewhere is to check out the facilities. Here are some of the highlights:
Dining Room. Very nice and classy. It's a two level room and our table was on the second level towards the rear of the room. A string quartet played on our level. Most tables are by a window. The rear of the dining room is the rear of the ship -- and it's all glass. Service was good. Do check out your table assignment as soon as possible. You want a table by a window.
Pool Deck. The pool is on deck 10 surrounded by chaise lounges with deep blue colored thick cushions. Each one has a big, thick, yellow beach towel on it ready for you to use. There are plenty of extras available too. TIP -- get a second towel to completely cover the cushion because the dark color gets very hot. There are four hot tubs and two fresh water showers next to the salt water pool. Deck 11 above the pool (jogging track) is open and more chaise lounges are available, but not the type with the cushions.
Aqua Spa and gym. This is kind of unique in that they are placed at the front of the ship. While you are on the tread mills or Stair Masters you can look out and see where the ship is headed. Ruthanne and I went to the gym regularly to stem the tide of fat from the great food. She did take advantage of one spa treatment -- expensive to me but I guess normal as deluxe spas go. The Thalassotherapy pool area is quite impressive. I'm not sure what the big draw is to use it, it's nice -- I did find it relaxing -- but not quite something I used regularly. BTW, there is a buffet line in the Aqua Spa area with low calorie and low fat meals for breakfast and lunch with no line.
Celebrity Theater. Very well equipped with all the lights and sound you'd expect at a small yet expensive venue on land. It was hard sometimes to remember I was on a ship. The entertainment was OK in general. The reviews staged on board were quite impressive at times. Best part to me was the shows lasted only about 1 hour so I could do other things.
Bars. Plenty of them. The disco is quite large and nice. Our favorites were the Martini Bar and Michael's Club, the cigar bar. Best Martinis I've had and the cigar bar is classy and empty -- I guess the cigar smokers go there late in the evening. It's not smoky in there. Ruthanne and I liked to go before our late dinner to play Gin Rummy and have a drink.
Notes and Words. These two have great potential but are underutilized. From what I've read in other reviews here and what I saw there has been a problem with pilfering books and CD's. There are not that many books available to read (many empty shelves) and you have to sit at listening stations for CD's. Sitting inside on a beautiful cruise ship with headphones on seems a waste to me. Both are real nice but......
Ports of Call and Shore Excursions:
I'm not going into great detail with each one. Here are some points:
Do take shore excursions. You don't have that much time at each port to waste getting your bearings. Also you get to meet your fellow passengers.
Book them in advance! Have your travel agent do this for you.
Istanbul: I had done some research and wanted to see Topkapi Palace. We took a cab and toured it from late morning to mid afternoon. Do go here! From what we saw most museums do not have detailed descriptions next to the exhibits so plan on buying a guide book or renting a tape.
Ephesus: We took the "Highlights of Ephesus" tour of the major sites. Worth it. Don't mess with the "carpet demonstration" at the end of the tour -- it's a sales pitch.
Cyprus: We took the free shuttle into town & walked to the ancient castle (Limassol Castle - Cyprus Mediaeval, Museum). It's pretty interesting. Cyprus is very hot! Other than museums (limited hours and days of operation) it's not a place to tour.
Alexandria: Well, it's a port city to LEAVE. We were greeted with a marching band and red carpet to the buses (40 of them). We did the "Pharaonic Treasures And The Pyramids" tour to Cairo. Worth it. Long day so be prepared. They included lunch at the Marriott Palace hotel. Nice touch (red carpet with bag pipes again) but wasted time. Should have brown bagged it but probably too many folks would complain. Tut treasures are awesome.
Athens: Did the "Athens Sightseeing" excursion. 4 hours was not enough. Cool to be standing right next to the Acropolis, looking down on Mars Hill where Paul first spoke to the Athenians.
Naples: We chose Explorations of Pompeii. This is a truly amazing site. It's bigger than what we thought. It's truly amazing to be walking on the same stones ancient Romans did, touched the same frescoes they did, etc... From what we were told the Island of Capri was OK but not worth it.
Rome: Did on our own. We took the 1 ½ hour bus ride from the port. I was told there is a train for $7 from Civitavecchia to Rome. Some folks did it but I'd be careful because Italian trains are notorious for being late. The bus takes you to the Vatican. We walked to Old Rome which is next to the Colosseum. If you are in to history this is a must. Took a cab back to the Vatican and saw St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museum, and Sistine Chapel. Note that lines are long and you will NOT see it all. Yeah, all this is worth the trip and you had better do it!
Villefranche (Nice): We did the Monte Carlo and Grand Casino tour. Well, it is a gorgeous region for the rich. I can see why people with the money want to live there. The Grand Casino is interesting only for the people that are gambling there and staying at the deluxe hotel next to it -- a class of people you only read about. There is an admission charge to get in. The reported dress code was not seriously enforced during our afternoon tour. The region is too large to cover in a cab so a tour is the way to go.
Free days at sea: These are needed to relax between those busy ports of call. We truly enjoyed the ship. I'd get up early and tour the ship, meet new people, drink coffee, read, enjoy the sailing experience. Late breakfast at either the Ocean Cafe or the "light and healthy" fare at the Aqua Spa. Lay out by the pool for a maximum of two hours (very hot sun) and read. Nap. Get something light at the Ocean Cafe and then go to the gym. Meet people along the way and chat. Get cleaned up and head to Michael's or Cova Café Milano and play Gin Rummy. Some nights there was an early show in the Celebrity Theater. Late dining was best for us. We had great table mates so we could visit at our table until 10:30 PM. If there was an evening show we would go there but mostly we would head to bed.
Challenges: The only problems we had were related to Celebrity's document department. Our documents were sent via overnight mail to my home and not to my travel agent. The problem with that was no notice was given about this and I had just sold my home. Luckily, I had not closed on the sale yet. Also, the name on the overnight package was my fiancée’s – she has never lived there. The BIG problem was on the return. Ruthanne's name on the reservation for Iberia was changed by Celebrity to someone else. There was a family of ten in front of us checking in and this happened to one of their daughters too. We were lucky Iberia had seats available since there was no time to call anyone to get help. I've written Celebrity to inform them but have not heard back yet. From what Iberia told me this change happened at the last minute so I don't think we could have done anything about it in advance.
Summary: This was the best vacation and honeymoon we could hope for. It was so good I don't think I would do this same trip again because it could not live up to what we experienced.