Number of Cruises: 22
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: November 18th, 2005
Millennium Cruise Review
Review of the Celebrity’s Millennium Transatlantic Cruise
Beginning November 18th and ending December 2nd, 2005
The Memorable Celebrity Staff:
Master - Captain Michael Karatzas
Hotel Director – Renato Chizzola
Chief Engineer – Ioannis Pepes
Staff Captain – Spyros Konidaris
Executive Chef – Jean Paul
Cruise Director – Don Fluke
Food and Beverage Mgr – Shelton Thompson
Asst Hotel Mgr – Gary Abbs
Restaurant Mgr – Chaydee
Maitre D – Steve Haigh
Our Butler – Alex Mascarenhas
Stateroom Attendant and Assistant – Michael and Neil
Waiter – Dario, Asst – Israel
Concierge – Gary, Asst - Janet David
Captains Club Hostess - Brenda
We just returned from the western transatlantic on Celebrity’s Millennium ship (referred to as “Millie” from this point forward) sailing from Barcelona, Spain to Fort Lauderdale, Fl. I booked this cruise at the last minute in October. We had a fabulous time when sailing on her to Europe in May, 2005 and woke up one day in October and decided it would be nice to take her back from Europe.
The Millie was due for dry dock in France the week of November 6th. As indicated by Celebrity, the contractor filed for bankruptcy the week before the scheduled dry dock and Celebrity had to find another company to facilitate their needs. Therefore, guest sailing and departure was delayed by two days to Sunday November 20th. Despite the delay, the Celebrity more than made up for the inconvenience by providing everyone generous options. They offered to refund the entire cruise package; OR either (1) pay up to $250 per person for changing flights; OR (2) 2 nights stay at a four star Barcelona Hotel with a full breakfast, and free transfers to the ship. Also they included a 20% direct refund of the price paid for the cruise (excluding taxes and port charges) and $200 to $300 cabin credit depending on the cabin category.
Barcelona: We took a non stop flight to JFK from Florida and a non stop flight from JFK to Barcelona. We arrived in Barcelona at 9:30 am, were greeted by cheery Celebrity Folks and whisked to our hotel. My wife and I were placed in a beautiful hotel in the Olympic District, the Icaria Hotel, which was close to the beach, Metro and shopping. Our room was promptly given to us upon arrival at about 11 am. We were impressed with the room’s modern décor, the furniture and the marble bath. The king size bed was new and we slept well after traveling all night. There were a bunch of restaurants nearby and we had a variety of foods available. The first night I walked to a close-by Chinese Restaurant and ordered standard Chinese take-out food for 2, costing 20 euros. On Saturday morning we awoke early and went down to a full breakfast with a variety of eggs, bacon, breads of all kinds, fruits, potato pie, juices, coffee and tea.
To ensure efficiency, Celebrity sent representatives to the hotels to pre-check passengers on the Millie. This allowed us to receive our room keys and proceed directly to the ship on Sunday without additional lines at the port. This was the best check-in we have had thus far, since we were saved from dealing with mass luggage transport and port lines. I purchased a category 2C but was assigned stateroom 7135 (category 2B) before I left home so I was pleased.
On Saturday, we connected met up with a friend we met on the airplane from JFK to Barcelona and spent the day touring Barcelona with her. We took the Metro to La Ramblas and walked a 3 mile radius from there, seeing most everything. On Saturday night we all ate at the Wharf in the Olympic Plaza. It was “pricey” but well worth it. We had a five course meal overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with local wine and dessert. It was great having two free nights in Barcelona; we had not toured this city for a few years and it’s a beautiful place to visit. For us, this deviation in cruise plans was an unexpected surprise.
On Sunday, like clock work, a bus arrived at the hotel at 12:40 pm and picked all 40 of us up with our luggage (which we left outside our hotel room door) and took us to the ship. As expected, we were whisked to our staterooms without wait.
As a very loyal Celebrity cruiser, Elite member and non-complainer and good tipper in the past, I was once again fortunate enough to be offered the option to upgrade to a Celebrity Suite (CS), which is the third nicest stateroom/suite on the ship. Some may argue that the CS is nicer than a Royal Suite (RS) with the beautiful picture window and large Jacuzzi tub in the master bath. It was a beautiful room with a separate bedroom, dining and living room area. I attached the link to my website that shows pictures of the suite. The specific financial details of my upgrade is not subject for disclosure per agreement (handshake) with Celebrity, but as a frequent cruiser I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure this was all real. Although the Celebrity Suite is not the Penthouse by any means, the room was immaculate and I couldn’t have asked for more considering I had just booked this cruise in October. The old adage goes: be nice to people, treat everyone with deference and good things will happen to you. This is a living example of my philosophy. They remember the good passengers!
Upon stepping onto the ship I was reunited with many of the same personnel that we met on the May 05 cruise. We met the Hotel Director, Mr. Renato Chizzola, his assistant Gary Abbs, the Concierge Gary and the Maitre D Steve Haigh. It is always nice to greet the same staff on ship providing us a sense of being “home” or with “family”. On Celebrity they try to make everyone feel like a CFM (Celebrity Family Member) and my wife and I sure feel like we belong to this extended family—in reality though, the CFM term is specific to Celebrity staff (not guests).
Since we rested in Barcelona we were ready to venture out in Nice on Day 2. The shore excursion to Monte Carlo and Monaco was great and we all got casino entrance passes to gamble, or just watch the gamblers and check it out. The Monaco Palace tour was very interesting also. One note though, the bus steps are very steep and some seniors may have problems entering and leaving the bus. To get to the bus loading area we had to climb a bunch of stairs which also may be difficult for some seniors. Another item worth mentioning is toilets in Europe. You need to take small change with you on the tours for rest rooms entrance. On my next European tour I will have a bunch of 20 cent euros to accommodate us.
On day 3 (at sea) we had a special lunch treat and privilege to dine with senior Staff in the Olympic Specialty Restaurant (closed for lunch normally) and have a favorite dish of mine, nasi gorum, an Indonesian dish. As usual the meal was to die for with the shrimp, chicken and lamb sticks (in peanut sauce) cooked to perfection. We were pleasantly surprised to be invited also to the Captain’s Table on this first formal night. The group met in the Champagne Bar for cocktails and subsequently went to the beautiful Metropolitan restaurant, having a great meal and conversation with Captain Karatzas. The Captain and I share a common interest and so we continued our discussion of Sport Cars (from the May 05 transatlantic).
On Day 4 we arrived in Malaga, Spain and took a shore excursion to Marbella and Porto Banus which was great. It lasted 4 hours and gave us time in each city to walk around and have a drink or shop. The tour was very reasonable for door to door service and the tour guide was well spoken in English and made the tour very interesting. Again, there was a lot of uphill walking on cobblestones and the busses had steep stairs, but the guide walked slowly to accommodate everyone. Later we were invited to the bridge with 8 other guests to watch the Millie depart Malaga which is always an exciting adventure.
On Day 5 we discovered (after 2 trips on the Millie) the Aqua Spa Café and had a great lunch of low fat tacos and a hot Indian Dish of chicken, veggies and rice. It was excellent and I didn’t feel that I was over filled. I decided this was the place to eat when I started to feel I had overdone things the day before. For our special Thanksgiving Holiday dinner we invited the Captain and Hotel Director to dine with us at a special table in the Metropolitan Restaurant. We had a great holiday meal of turkey, stuffing, white and sweet potatoes, veggies, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
On Day 6 we ported at Tenerife pronounced “Ten “ir” ef A” and walked around and did some shopping. We were unable to find Llardo porcelain figurines (which we collect) or fine jewelry in any of the shops but instead we looked at cameras and electronics and had fun admiring the architecture and the overall scenery. Unfortunately, the shops close from 1 to 4 pm so we didn’t get to purchase too many things (good for me but bad for Susan). As a business person, I have a hard time believing shops close their doors when a ship is in town during prime business hours, but I suppose that’s their custom in Tenerife. We were invited to the bridge to watch the ship leave, this time alone. We were thrilled to watch the Master Captain maneuver the massive ship out of the Tenerife harbor. He actually went sideways for a short distance as we were “parallel parked” and then he backed out of the small harbor due to the closeness of other ships and location of the pier. I was fascinated watching him maneuver this huge ship in reverse.
On Day 7 we were invited by Renato Chizzola, the Hotel Director, to a special meal that he hosted with all the ships senior officers. Renato purchased tapas in Tenerife with all kinds of cheeses, olives, meats and fish. It was a fabulous feast with wine and a special Brandy Cordial that Renato shared with us.
The Cruise Director, Don Fluke was outstanding and was very visible on the ship. I ran into him frequently and he always engaged me in great conversation. I also met Simon Weir (permanent Millennium Cruise Director) while we were in Malaga and he was visiting the ship. His wife is a crew member and Simon happened to be on vacation in Malaga. He will be returning to the Millennium soon. I heard a lot about Simon and finally got the chance to meet him. We attended the Captain’s Club party and had a pleasant time. It works out very well on Celebrity with the bar attendants bringing the drinks to each table as opposed to the guests standing up attacking the waiters walking around with full trays of drinks. I have never been one that likes stampedes while on vacation especially waiting to get into the dining room or at some ships “captains party’s”. The day ended with the Captain joining us in the theater for the show.
Day 8 was a sea day and we lunched alone in the Metropolitan Dining Room. I invited Renato to join us in the Olympic for dinner. We had a fabulous meal as usual and Stan, the head Maitre D was his superb self. I had Steak Diane cooked to perfection at our tableside. I still consider the Olympic Restaurant to be the best dining experience I have ever had anywhere for any price. Our meal took 3 hours and we never once felt rushed.
Days 9 through 12 were days at sea, time to relax and read books and magazines and watch movies. We had lunch each day with the Captain and ended the cruise with dinner at the Olympic with the Captain and Renato. We seem to hit it off with ship personnel and they do make a difference in your vacation. I had a few private behind the scene tours of the ship and it’s as beautiful as ever.
I know some cruisers complained about sewer smells on decks but I can say we never smelled a thing. The US Health service gave the Millie a 98 out of a possible 100 points so I am very confident the smells were just random. No one that I know got sick or affected by any smell.
I would cruise her again in a heartbeat, especially with the fabulous crew on board. I have never been around such consummate professionals, caring people. On the Millie as well as the rest of Celebrity it’s all about customer service. Unfortunately, there are jerks on every cruise and the staff has to deal with them. I get so irritated when I hear someone screaming at someone just to scream. Guests are not always right in my opinion, their demands can be outrageous and I commend Celebrity Ship personnel for dealing with some situations with utmost respect.
I look forward to the November 06 Millie transatlantic which is a 17 day, 16 night cruise stopping in some great ports. Susan I were lucky enough to get our former humble abode back (cabin 6147) on this cruise. Let the Parties Begins, I cant wait!!!
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