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Gary Barto

Age: 59

Occupation:Travel agent

Number of Cruises: 16

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Millennium

Sailing Date: September 7th. 2005

Itinerary: Europe on Wheels

Celebrity Cruises
Millennium
12 night Western Mediterranean

Gary Barto
gabata82@cox.net
Europe On Wheels

Having been in parts of Europe before with crutches and a wheelchair, I was a bit leery of returning, if we were only TO have ONE day in each port. Before we would spend a week and could become acclimated and familiar with each place. This time things would have to be done efficiently and with some speed. One thing I am not is fast. The cruise ship Millennium was doing a 12 day Mediterranean cruise, departing from Venice, Italy and going to Barcelona, Spain, with many stops between.

We arrived at Marco polo Airport the evening of Sept. 6, 2005. We stayed that night at a "Holiday Inn" half way between the airport and the docks where the ship leaves from. The hotel's name was "HI Venice-East Quarto Daltino". The hotel was better than most "HI's" we have stayed at in the US. The people were more courteous and the facilities were more than expected. The price was less in price than most hotels we checked, i.e. E72.00euro verses 150.00 to 400.00 euros at other hotels. Although there were no h/c rooms available at time of booking, I was informed they had a "couple" on the premises. The only thing I thought was out of line was the taxi ride, to and from the hotel. As all American's "They saw us coming". Enough said!

We boarded the ship the next afternoon, the 7th of Sept. I had been on the ship when it had been brand new and spanking clean. It was now the end of a European Season and it still had the same great character , although it did show signs wear, cosmetically. The same great welcome and help getting the wheelchair and myself aboard, although when the cruise was over and it was time to leave we were pretty much on our own.

The service was still good but lacking the spark you expect from "premium". The shows at night, to me, were still the highlights of The Millennium shipboard life (with the possible exception being the wine stewards and their cellars-superb).

The largest negative I have for the cruise is the Shore Tour Dept. On several occasions I was told I couldn't or shouldn't take a particular tour. On two occasions I was told I would "slow up the tour". This is fine if the tour I wanted was a walking one or mule riding. I was told I couldn't take the cable car up to the top in Santorini, which I did on my own with no problem and at the top found they had a H/C chair lift that traveled the same 900 ft. incline.

In Athens they said I couldn't go to the Acropolis because the are too many steps to reach the to top where the Parthenon and other ruins were. I did take a tour of the city and stopped there. I went in where I could and my wife went on in and up part way only to find lo and behold there is an "ELEVATOR" all the way up. Unfortunately the "City Tour" wasn't that long and the bus was getting ready to leave.

The next port was Naples where most tourists that don't want to stay in the city will go to Capri. We chose to take the hydrofoil not to the Island of Capri, but go twenty minutes further to the island of Ischia. A totally lovely Island with volcanic Hot Springs throughout. A taxi tour with "Franco" was well worth the E50.00 with tip.

In Rome again I was told the tours they had weren't for me, but they suggested doing the "Rome on your own tour". Just sixty five Euros pp for the transportation in. Luckily we found a personal tour guide that took us in by train at a cost of E9.00 pp. and let us off at St. Peters Basilica, which also has an elevator if you ask. After doing the sights of Rome by cab our tour guide took us to a sidewalk cafe that he liked and we had a real Italian meal w/ 2 bottles of wine. I would tell you the name of our guide but I think TOM OGG would get upset with me.

Next it was off to Livorno, the stepping off point for Florence. We got up late that day and would have had a hard time getting back for the ships departure so we toured Livorno which is interesting in itself. The one thing I found there, of interest to me, were the accessible buses for wheelchairs. You go to a bus stop and while your sitting in the chair a bus arrives curbside and immediately lets air out of "something" and the bus lowers to curb level, a ramp comes out so you can get in. We went around the city on buses that afternoon for a price of one euro.

12 days after leaving Venice we arrived in Barcelona where we had planned in advance to stay 2 extra days. We stayed at the EXPO Hotel. It was an older hotel but recently refurbished. It was definitely European with English, French, Germans, Chinese, and two Americans as guests. The rooms are basic but clean, comfortable, and pleasant. We were on the 6th floor and were able to sleep in the 67 degree weather with windows open. To tour Barcelona we would recommend to use the public transportation system, w/ the same buses as Livorno and three separate routes laid out. For 17 euro you can ride the system all day.

Looking back, the trip was exciting, informative, romantic, historical, and TIRING. With 9 ports in 12 days you can't see all of any one place but you certainly know where you would like to go back to. For those with limited mobility don't be afraid of Europe, but be prepared.

1. Don't have a wheelchair w/ pneumatic (air) tires. The coble stones will cause the to burst. Solid rubber only.
2. Listen to the tour people on board your ship but you know what "you" can and cannot do. You'll be able to do more than you might think.
3. Use a lightweight collapsible chair. You will be getting it in and out of taxis, boats and lifts.
4. Research the ports of call and know what you would like to see or do!! I found the tourism bureaus of most of our ports were helpful. Contact them on line before you trip.
As someone who has walked w/ crutches or used a wheelchair for 20yrs, I would recommend this cruise. Depending on the degree of your limitations, it can be an exhilarating experience.

REMEMBER: RESEARCH-GO AT YOUR PACE-ASK FOR HELP!

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