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Ken Foster

Age: 53

Occupation:Executive Chef

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Millennium

Sailing Date: March 6th, 2006

Itinerary: n/a

Our cruise arrangements were made through Hobbit Travel of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lauren was most accommodating as we made our booking on the phone within two weeks of travel and the “deals” were being bought up quickly. Having cruised twice before with ocean view staterooms we elected to take the deluxe balcony stateroom, 6018 on the penthouse deck.

The travel package included airfare on a well established mass market charter service, Sun Country. No frequent flyer miles this time! Sun Country is the air service that I have always referred to as “Sardine Air,” because of the seat room being tight the one time I had flown them before.

Our flight departed Minneapolis from the Humphrey Terminal at MSP. This is a rebuilt HH terminal used for most of the charter, mass market and international flights. The flight was surprisingly pleasant in terms of leg-room and the flight attendants were attentive. To our surprise, we were offered two beverage services, interspaced with a breakfast sandwich and a beverage refill.

Travel to Ft. Lauderdale Our flight left MSP at 7:45 am on Sunday March 6th, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale about 30 minutes late, due to a very busy FLL airport. Upon our arrival in baggage claim we found the “Hobbit people,” with their orange shirts. We were called out of the crowd for those with Hobbit until we were told that we need to collect our luggage first. Having gathered our luggage, we were informed that they were out of the tags that earmarked us for their bus. We were directed to follow one of the men in the orange shirts, probably about 25 of us going to different ships. He quickly made his way down a hall where he soon seemed to vanish into thin air. Using our own noses, we found the man out by a line of buses. We were carting our 4 bags plus two carry-on pieces as we arrived at the spot where the busses would meet us. A woman who was a superior to the man in the orange shirt told us that we were in the wrong spot and we had to bring ourselves and our luggage to another spot on the pavement. Soon the bus came along and we were taken the two odd miles to the pier where the passengers for two other ships were dropped off and finally to pier 18 where we saw the beautiful Millennium and entered the building.

Embarkation We were greeted warmly by Celebrity Cruise people and taken through a seamless embarkation process. We ascended an escalator to the gangway perched at a steep angle to reach the promenade deck, where the warm greetings, smiles and kind words were continually exchanged by Celebrity staff. On entering the ship, we explored a small area around the grand foyer with it’s beautiful onyx staircase. We were offered a glass of champagne. Which I sipped on our way to our stateroom with only our carry-on luggage in tow.

Stateroom Number 6018 was easily accessed from the forward elevators and as we entered, we were greeted by our cabin attendant. The beds were together against the side wall leaving just a little room to walk around the end of the bed to the veranda. The veranda was deeper than most, set with two chairs and a small table. Above our entrance onto the veranda was another short balcony, then beyond that to the outer rail, the ceiling rose to two deck heights where other higher, set-back balconies could be seen. The stateroom was equipped with a mini-bar that was well stocked with small bottles of liquor, imported and domestic beers and soft drinks. This stateroom did not have a bathtub. The shower was a very small rectangle. The vanity was adequate with significant surface area, soap, lotion and cotton balls and cotton swabs in a lidded jar.

Exploring The Ship We were eager to scope out the food for a quick lunch, so we decided to try the buffet. As shipboard buffets go, this was better than NCL and RCL lines. There was a good selection of items to choose from and the quality of the food was fair. However, we determined that this would not be our choice for any other noon meals. We strolled out to the pool deck, the sun deck and then located the purser’s desk, bank, concierge office and internet café. A little further exploration and we found the Metropolitan dining room. We were assured the main seating for dinner. Returning to our stateroom, we got ourselves ready to take in some south Florida Sun before cleaning up for dinner. On the sundeck, we watched our departure from Port Everglades, following a Costa ship into a very busy channel which would take us out to sea. The Star Princess was keeping pace closely behind us as we found our way to the Atlantic waters.

Dinner We were directed to table 416A by our assistant maitre’ d. We had asked for a small table and were pleased to find a table set for 4, where we had a clear view out of the large windows on the stern of the ship. We were asked if we would prefer to be alone and we did. Each night after that, our table was set for two. As we dined on exceptional cuisine, we watched the sun set behind us. Our waiter had a very engaging personality, a quick learner and most gracious, something we were beginning to notice of most of the celebrity staff.

First Evening After dinner we strolled the promenade and found our way to the celebrity theatre where we were treated to a production by the celebrity singers and dancers. These young people were above average performers with great ranges of musical talent and very precise dance routines. The show was very high energy but never overdone. The theatre was ample for those who attended and visibility in all areas was excellent. There are no pillars to have look around. The seats were comfortable with the exception of the small immovable tables set between every two spots on the bench seats. The tables were difficult to maneuver around and confined me to only a couple positions. After the show, another stroll on the pool deck and off to bed. We enjoyed sitting on our balcony for a few minutes before retiring and enjoyed our private little piece of the ocean. We both fell asleep quickly with our long day of travel and beginning to unwind, together with the gentle ever so slight rocking of the ship from time to time.

Day 2 beginnings It is good to wake up to a day at sea. Not having to get up and get ready for activities in port is a nice buffer for the following days of activities on the ship and in the various ports of call. One of the Celebrity dancers taught a dance class in the Cosmos lounge. Laura is from Scotland and has a lovely accent as she takes the loosely assembled class through three days of simple dance steps. We watched for her in the dance routines during the productions in the Celebrity theatre. We were delighted to take advantage of the “T-pool,” a large bubbling pool of warm water and minerals.

Day 3, Port: Catalina Island Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic This was a delightful little boat trip out to a private island beach where we enjoyed the sun, the sand and strolling through the shops of a few local artisans and peddlers. We did not get back in time to have dinner at our early seating so decided to see what was offered on the buffet. Besides the usual buffet spread, Millennium has a pool-side grill where you can get average tasting burgers and undercooked hotdogs on very dry, crumbly buns. Also at the grill, you will find pizza that is freshly baked. In this same location there is a pasta bar where pre-cooked pasta and your choice of ingredients is sautéed while you wait.

Day 4, Port: San Juan, Puerto Rico The sail into the bay of San Juan is one of the most enjoyable that I have known. Picking up the pilot outside the massive fort of San Felipe del Morro, the ship is eased in between the rocks and reef giving plenty of time for pictures as you come round the 500 year old fortress. Rounding the bend, the old city gate comes into plain view as well as La Fortaleza, Puerto Rico’s governor’s mansion. Soon the old city comes into full view and you are coming alongside of one of the newer piers in Old San Juan. We made our own excursion through the well known alleys and narrow streets where we visited many times while living in San Juan. We sought out a place for lunch where mostly only the locals eat in the middle of their busy work day. We were hungry for a Cubano, sandwich. Layers of smoked ham and roasted pork with Swiss cheese, mustard and pickles, stuffed into soft bread and grilled in a press called a “plancha.” We were not disappointed. If you go, ask where the restaurant, “El Meson,” is found and you will be treated to good food and the warm local culture.

Day 5, port: St. Thomas The night before our arrival into St. Thomas, we ordered breakfast to be delivered to our room the following morning. I did not read the form they provided, very well and missed the box to say how many meals we would require. However, I had ordered enough to satisfy us both and we enjoyed a quiet breakfast on our balcony, in the robes provided. In St. Thomas we took a sight seeing excursion that lasted about two hours. It was just enough of a tour with a couple stops along the way. Rather than stopping in Charlotte Amalie, we finished our ride back to the ship where we nosed around the Havensight shops.

Day 6, Sea Day Another day at sea to relax, enjoy the sun and the ship’s amenities. We had six foot seas with a little movement now and then. This made our second dance class kind of interesting as we tottered on one foot then the other on the polished steel floor of the cosmos lounge.

Day 7, Nassau, Bahamas Slipping in between Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas and Carnival’s Fascination we docked without the slightest vibration. We again made our own way by walking through the streets of Nassau, visiting the various shops and picking up a few gifts for family back in the frozen north. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the Metropolitan dining room that evening before our overnight to Ft. Lauderdale.

Ft. Lauderdale and Home I was up before the sun to watch us come alongside at pier 22. The bustle of a busy day was well underway for those who would restock the ship and get it ready to sail away again that evening. Disembarkation was very easy, with the exception of the regret of the reality of returning to work the next day.

Not to be outdone by our transfer to the pier a week ago, Hobbit Travel’s chartered coach did not show for two hours. Some took a taxi back to the airport but we waited in the fog of diesel smoke of every coach service in Miami but ours. We finally arrived at the Ft. Lauderdale airport to stand in a line to go through the security checkpoint that stretched about 300 feet in length.

Sun Country delivered us safely back to Minneapolis with a sandwich in mid-flight and two beverage rounds.

Final Observations Celebrity is an excellent line with above average service and meals. Hobbit Travel has excellent rates from MSP including airfare, however with miserable transfer service in Ft. Lauderdale. Sun Country was a surprisingly good air charter service. We may use Hobbit Travel again, but arrange our own transfer from the airport. we may fly Sun Country again but we will definitely cruise on Celebrity again and again!

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