Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: October 1st, 2005
Celebrity Cruise Line
Millennium Cruise Review
We’re just back from our first cruise and first trip to Europe and had specifically chosen the Millennium 12 night Mediterranean Legacies cruise because of its itinerary as the only ship to include Venice, Greece, Naples, Cittavechia/Rome and Livorno/Florence with additional stops in Croatia, Villefranche and Barcelona. Our goal had been to see as much of the Mediterranean as possible in our first venture across the pond. Clearly this venue provides that opportunity, but also comes with the temptation to squeeze too much into any given day, allowing little time for rest. All of the new friends we made via this website complained of exhaustion!
My husband and I have traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and had always been somewhat put off by cruising – we’re not big on crowds or bus tours and were often amused by what appeared to be groups of lemmings following “lollipops” brandished by cruise guides. We were relieved to realize that while cruising can take on that form, it is also possible to construct a more individualized experience. This web site helped us to do that.
Overall, a great trip – and yes, we would cruise again, though not necessarily with Celebrity.
Travel Arrangements: Our agent at AAA had provided us with a lot of great advice in terms of the best cabin for the money. Based on her input, we chose Deck 7, midship, near to by not adjacent to the elevator, with a balcony cabin and made plane reservations through the cruise line in order to minimize potential travel problems. Celebrity booked us on Lufthansa. One of our only major complaints about the trip was that they assigned us the worst seats possible – in the middle of the middle row of a cramped Airbus. I didn’t think to check the seats prior to departure (my bad), a mistake I will never make again. We were able to change our seats on the return with the ticket agent in Frankfurt (on the condition that we would never vote George Bush back into office). Note that if you fly Lufthansa, once you check in at the gate in Frankfurt, you cannot escape. If you want to have a drink or do some shopping, do so before checking in. There is a restroom in the gate area.
The Ship: The public spaces were very nicely done. The décor in the cabins was tired, as others have previously observed.
Food: All of our
friends who have cruised have raved about the food, and I suppose this raised my
expectations and led me to be somewhat disappointed. We are fortunate to have
many excellent restaurants in the Providence, RI area and perhaps we are
unusually spoiled in this regard, but I thought the food in the dining room was
good, not great, and very institutional from the buffets. We did eat at the
Olympic one night (an additional $60/couple charge) and that was excellent, but
I suppose I had expected the dining room food to be that good, and it wasn’t. I
thought the drink prices were quite high. It’s easy to spend $50 - $100/day on
drinks at nearly $10 each. Some people were smuggling vodka on board in water
bottles to avoid the high prices.
The Casino: We enjoy playing blackjack, but the house rules tipped the odds every so slightly in favor of the house, whereas it’s normally the other way around. I don’t know if this is SOP on cruise ships, but it made a difference. As an example, the dealer has to hit a soft 17 – we’ve never seen that in a casino before - and it seemed to play out in the house’s favor more often than not.
Ports of Call – overall, spectacular. This itinerary was just what we had hoped for.
Venice: We arrived in Venice and onto the ship late afternoon the day before departure. This allowed the opportunity for an evening gondola ride, one of the highlights of the trip. Six of us paid $120 Euros, including tip. We were especially happy we had gone in that evening because it rained the next day. Most of our on-line group booked the Doges Palace Secret Tour www.tickitaly.com that takes you into the back rooms and darker history of the palace. Great tour – highly recommend it. Buy your tickets in advance on line to avoid the long lines and don’t forget to print out and bring your voucher. Even though they had a record of our ticket purchase, they punished us for forgetting our voucher (we missed the first part of the tour while they held us back trying to decide what to do with us.)
Dubrovnik, Croatia: We had signed up for the 4x4 Konavle excursion through the cruise line, a “safari” through the Croatian countryside in Jeeps. This was one of our favorite days. We were lucky to have the guide, Pero (Peter) Skuric, from Auto-Rubikon (www.rubikon.hr ) in our Jeep. He was very well informed and provided a lot of history. The views from the top of the hills overlooking the coast were spectacular. The ride through the back country was less interesting, but did expose remnants of the war. Our favorite part of the adventure was our lunch at Munica - Sapro, an old olive oil mill that had been in the family for over 700 years. Everything served was raised or produced on the family farm. The delicious meal was prepared using an ancient method of cooking under a metal lid covered with hot coals. We learned how the family still makes olive oil using traditional methods. I strongly recommend this tour, or you can contact Peter yourself via the Rubikon website.
The city of Dubrovnik is surrounded by medieval walls and provides lots of opportunity for exploration, especially if you are willing to climb the many stairs leading to the top of the walls. Croatia had not been on our must see list, but surprised us with some of the best memories of the trip.
Santorini, Greece. Fira - what a beautiful little town – high on a hillside over looking the Adriatic Sea. We opted to take the cable car up rather than the donkeys. Those truly in the mood for exercise can walk up the path, taking care not to step in the donkey poop. After some exploration and climbing a lot more stairs we found a more off-the-beaten path restaurant called Casablanca where we enjoyed an authentic Greek lunch and some Ouzo on our anniversary. Santorini had good shopping for glass and jewelry. The people were extremely friendly and all spoke English. Some of our tablemates found their way to Oia (ee-ah) and said it was even more beautiful than Fira.
We had also booked the volcano hike and hot springs
swim with the cruise line. Although we were fascinated by the guide’s narrative
about the volcano’s history, enjoyed the hike and view from the top, the hot
springs swim was highly overrated.
Athens, Greece: In Athens we decided to go to the Archeological Museum rather than on the more popular trip to the Acropolis. Much of the sculpture and art that was once in the ruins is in the museum along with artifacts and art from the ancient civilization of Thera, pre-volcano eruption – all awe-inspiring. I would have liked to have combined a trip to the museum with a tour of the Acropolis – the cruise line doesn’t offer this - but you can probably set that up on your own with people on line and that would represent the best of both worlds. We did manage to convince our Celebrity tour guide (we were a very small group) to detour and stop at the base of the Acropolis for a quick photo opp.
Athens itself is a large, modern city – the
Acropolis looks like a misplaced prop in the midst of the traffic and noise.
Naples, Italy: Probably our favorite stop and a place where we’d like to return. With new friends we met through this website we hired a private van from sorrentolimo.com and enjoyed a memorable day with our guide, Alfredo, whom I highly recommend. As we drove through Positano in a torrential downpour, we pitied the drenched bus tour folks who had to keep to their group itinerary that included a walk through town. Alfredo was convinced that the weather would improve and recommended that we continue on to Amalfi. The sun greeted us there and we delighted in our exploration of this charming little village perched in the hills, sampling Limoncello from shop to shop. From there we continued on to Ravello where Alberto had made reservations for us a family style restaurant where we enjoyed sharing antipasto,pasta samplers and the house wine.
Following our drive down the Amalfi coast we headed to Pompeii where we spent a couple of hours marveling at the ruins of the ancient city that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. You can almost see the ghosts of its former residents riding horses, doing their daily chores, luxuriating in the baths. So much of what made up their lives is eerily in tact.
Civitavecchia/Rome: The ship docks in Civitavecchia, a large port about 60 miles from Rome. I was not feeling well that day and as luck would have it, our private van showed up with room for only six instead of eight, so my husband and I passed on that excursion. Later that morning, determined to see at least a little of Rome despite feeling poorly, we decided to take the train into the city ourselves, just to see the Colosseum. We managed to get on the train to Rome, but were almost fined $25 Euros each because we hadn’t gotten our tickets “validated”, something the guy in the ticket booth neglected to tell us. For the uninitiated, in Italy when you buy train tickets, they’re good for up to 60 days or so – and as a result, you have to validate the tickets the day you actually travel so that you can prove you only used them once. You can do this by inserting the ticket into a yellow box found in the train station or you can write your name and the date on the back of them. When you buy a train ticket you also get to ride the bus or subway as part of the cost. We didn’t know this – and paid $4Euros for “bus tickets” at an “information booth” – marking ourselves as dumb tourists – but as the “information booth” makes a living at this, I guess we were not alone. After another twenty minutes or so of confusion we found the right bus to the Colosseum, giving us a real local flavor (and odor) on the standing room only bus. We figured we’d recognize the Colosseum when we saw it as we wound through the streets and that was indeed the case. An unusually helpful Roman pointed us in the direction of a charming outdoor café overlooking the ruins where we had pizza and wine. We walked around the Forum, but passed on the Colosseum tour because of the long line for tickets.
Getting back to Civitavecchia posed its challenges,
to say the least. The train station in Rome is enormous and not tourist
friendly. We got a lot of misinformation about what track the train was supposed
to be on and had trouble finding the track. Once in the general vicinity we met
a lot of other people from the ship who had been similarly misinformed, and it
was only last minute luck that we all managed to get on the right train because
we were all waiting on the wrong track. The right train is the one to Naples. My
advice: if you’re going into Rome on your own on the train, get as much
information about the train station, procedures and schedules in advance on
line. Otherwise, you might miss the boat – literally. Others in our group who
had done the research had no trouble.
Livorno/Florence: Livorno is a large industrial port about 65 miles outside of Florence, not a place you want to spend any time. We had hired Paola Migliorni email@example.com for a private van tour. She is very knowledgeable and provided us with a great tour – I highly recommend her. We first stopped in Pisa, for the perfunctory pictures of the Leaning Tower. Still ill, I was unable to make the climb – it’s extremely disorienting to walk up the stairs. The others in our group did manage their way up and said a terrific view awaited at the top. Then we drove to Florence, which I believe is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Paola was able to drive right into the old section of the city (something the busses can’t do) and so were close walking distance to all of the spectacular architecture, sculpture and art. She took us to I Mosaici Di Lastrucci, an artisan’s studio where they use centuries old methods to create gorgeous works of art from tiny bits of marble and other stone. On impulse, we purchased a small representation of a lynx, which they shipped to us UPS and we received the day after we got home. It’s now in a place of honor and a wonderful remembrance of our trip. In the duomo we saw the tombs of Galileo and Michaelangelo – an amazing experience.
Villefranche, France: We had signed up for the “Scenic French Riviera” tour, but literally missed the bus, so we spent a few leisurely hours sipping Rose D’Anjou at a sidewalk café overlooking the water.
People who took the tour said the scenery was
gorgeous. Two of our tablemates got a big charge out of playing blackjack in
Monte Carlo – a real James Bondish experience. (We had already lost enough money
at blackjack in the ship’s casino)
Barcelona, Spain: Our flight left at noon, so we had no time to visit this city. Many people stayed on for a few extra days.
Disembarkation: Another one of my only complaints, I thought that the transfer to the airport was handled poorly by the cruise line (perhaps because we were no longer their concern). The Barcelona airport has two terminals, A & B. Everyone was dropped off at A, but our flight left out of B – a very long haul with all the luggage and a real pain in the neck. There were 3 busses from the ship to the airport in our disembarkation group. The cruise line knew which flights we were on and had arranged disembarkation by flight time – so why couldn’t they have put the B terminal people on one bus and the A terminal people on another bus? I plan to bring that issue to their attention.
Still, overall a great experience and one we will always remember.