Age: Baby Boomer
Number of Cruises: Lots
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: February 19th, 2006
Millennium Cruise Review
I was the group escort and seminar facilitator for a group of 40 travel professionals aboard Celebrity Cruise Line’s Millennium. Since I have done a thorough review of the Millennium on another sailing that you can find here, I will simply share the travelogue portion of this cruise in this review.
The Millennium Anchored at Porto Belo, Brazil
Getting to the Ship:
I flew American Airlines from Los Angeles to Dallas/Ft. Worth connecting to a non-stop flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The overnight flight was uneventful other than many people connecting from mid-western cities never made it out of their home states because of extreme weather conditions. I arrived in Buenos Aires about 10 am, claimed my luggage, cleared customs and negotiated for a taxi to take me to my hotel, the Melia Buenos Aires. I was surprised to have been able to check into my room upon arrival and took the opportunity to take a shower and a catnap. One of the couples with our group was also at the same hotel, so I arranged to meet them for a cocktail and dinner in the Recoleta district of Buenos Aires. We had a great time wandering around Recoleta and finally decided on one of the restaurants with entertainment. It was a great choice. I slept like a baby.
San Telmo District in Buenos Aires
Aires, Argentina; Casual
More people from our group arrived n the morning and I offered to store their luggage iu my room while they went to dine. As it turned out, we needed to check our luggage prior to dining because of some confusion over the checkout time at the hotel. Once the luggage was checked with the bellman, we made our way to a café that one of the ladies had heard was wonderful. We traversed Florida Street and eventually found the restaurant. We had a very enjoyable lunch and stopped for some shopping opportunities on the return walk back to the hotel. As it turned out, one of the gentlemen in our group was mugged right off of Florida Street in an attempt to steal his new gold Rolex watch. While shaken up, he had turned the would-be thief away by fighting him, but ended up with some severe bruises from the incident.
We called for a taxi and made it to the cruise terminal in time to board the ship around 6 pm. Our group had been booked in the Concierge level and I was very happy with my cabin located on deck 9 (9157). Since the ship was departing late in the evening, dinner was open seating and a number of us took advantage of it and formed a group for our own table. I was feeling quite at home.
This was a special cruise for the Millennium as it was focused on Carnival in Rio de Janeiro and was spending a total of three days in Rio. Here was the cruise itinerary.
Sunday, February 19th,
2006; Buenos Aires, Argentina
Monday, February 20th, 2006; Montevideo, Uruguay
Tuesday, February 21st, 2006; Day at Sea
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006; Day at Sea
Thursday, February 23rd, 2006; Porto Belo, Brazil
Friday, February 24th, 2006; Day at Sea
Saturday, February 25th, 2006; Buzios, Brazil
Sunday, February 26th, 2006; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Monday, February 27th, 2006; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tuesday, February 28th, 2006; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Wednesday, March 1st, 2006; Day at Sea
Thursday, March 2nd, 2006; Day at Sea
Friday, March 3rd, 2006; Day at Sea
Saturday, March 4th, 2006; Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sunday, March 5th, 2006; Buenos Aires, Argentina
You can see that there were a lot of at sea days and 3 days in Rio for Carnival. All in all, it was a great itinerary. I had made arrangements to leave the ship on the 28th in Rio so that I could then join the Oceania Insignia on March 1st in Rio for a 16-day cruise up the Amazon River.
Montevideo, Uruguay Skyline
Montevideo, Uruguay, Casual
We arrived in Montevideo on schedule and as I had just visited Montevideo on a South America cruise around the Cape, decided to enjoy the ample sunshine by the pool instead. This proved to be a great choice as the day was stellar and the sunshine abundant. Some in our group disembarked to shop the adjacent area by the port and had a wonderful time.
I love the “Welcome Aboard” cocktail party that we do for our groups. It is my first chance to get to meet everyone and it is always the start of a wonderful group experience. People always come somewhat apprehensive and leave the party having made new friends and looking forward to the week’s activities. This cruise was no exception. We met in Cosmos Nightclub for our cocktail party and everything was set up perfectly. I had cruised with many of the agents before and it felt like “old home week.” Everyone was looking forward to Rio and Carnival and the level of excitement was wonderful. After the party we made our way to our assigned dinner tables. We always try to book adjoining tables and then prepay the gratuities so that we can jump between tables so everyone can sit with everyone else and get to know the entire group. It is the only way to handle a professional group at dinnertime. The net working is awesome. I was bushed from the sunshine and called it a night.
2006; Day at Sea, Formal
I was up quite early, worked out for a while and then took breakfast in the Ocean Café and dined on the aft fantail. I think that one of the most enjoyable things about the Millennium class ships is the ability to dine pretty much by your self in the early morning on the fantail. It is one of the most enjoyable things about a cruise in my opinion. After breakfast, I made my way to the pool area and settle in for the day next to the Jacuzzi area. I was joined by a good number of the group for the day and we all enjoyed the ample sunshine and company. I was sunned out by 3 pm so made my way to my cabin to get some work done and to eventually get ready for the evening’s events.
A good number of us decided to meet for pre-dinner cocktails at the Rendez-Vous Lounge and it became a nightly event when there wasn’t a pre-dinner show. We had a great time. I had met with the Maitre d’ in the early evening and cleared the way for a round-robin dining environment and we began the process on this evening. Dinners on the Millennium are very special. The service is wonderful and we were blessed with excellent waiters throughout our tables and the cruise. We lingered after dinner and almost missed the evening’s show “I Love the Nightlife” but managed to make it and were glad that we did. It was excellent. Not wanting the evening to end, all of us made out way up to Michael’s Piano Club and enjoyed a nightcap. It was a great day and evening.
2006; Day at Sea, Informal
I awoke to another beautiful morning. The sun was already intense. You could almost feel the sun’s strength increase daily, as we made our way north towards the equator. After my usual early breakfast on the fantail, I settled into a lounge chair right by the Jacuzzi. For me, I think one of the best experiences about cruising is the days at sea and the camaraderie that develops among the sun lovers on a cruise. This cruise was no different. The day breezed by and before I knew it, I had had enough sun and made my way to my cabin to try and get some work accomplished.
Our group met at our pre-designated cocktail hour in the Rendez-Vous Lounge and had a wonderful time listening to the music and enjoying the conversation. Everyone was looking forward to Rio. Dinner was a very special event as wine was served to our tables and everyone greatly appreciated and enjoyed it. Our waiters and assistant waiters for our section were simply wonderful and our wine stewardess was such a character that everyone just loved her. We lingered well after the start of the late seating show and while some of our group decided to attend a few of us went to Michael’s Club for a nightcap. Michael’s is a piano bar and the gentleman playing on the Millennium was an excellent entertainer. We really enjoyed the atmosphere and his obvious talent.
Shopping in Porto Belo
Belo, Brazil, Casual
We were ready to debark the Millennium and explore Porto Belo so we left the ship, tendered into the small tender wharf, walked through the little harbor area and boarded the motor coach that provided the free shuttle into the town center. It was only a ten-minute ride into the main square of Porto Belo and once there, there wasn’t a heck of a lot to see. There were some street vendors in the square selling local crafts and the streets surrounding the square had a number of stores selling local crafts and beach oriented items. After about 15-minutes, we had seen it all. We had heard that there were great beaches in Porto Belo, so we returned to the port on the motor coach and negotiated for a taxi to take us to Bombinhas Beach. Bombinhas Beach is Porto Belo’s main beach area and the entire beach was lined with tourist restaurants, bars and beach rental concessions. It was crowded and noisy. The boulevard that paralleled the beach was also lined with shops selling every kind of beach apparatus known to man. There was a ladies bathing suit store on every block.
Bombinhas Beach, Porto Belo, Brazil
After a bit in the sun and jumping in the water a couple of times, we decided to move on. Nancy Norris had heard about a beach within walking distance across the a low hill, so we decided to start walking. We walked inland after seeing the sign “4 Ilhas” which was the name of the beach we were looking for.
Quatro Ilhas (4 Ilhas) Beach
After going over a rather steep hill, we stumbled into it. It was gorgeous. Beautiful white sand and an open ocean greeted us and there were not that many people on the beach. We enjoyed the beach for a while and since it was nearing 1 pm, we decided to find a restaurant.
Just One of the Fabulous Dishes at Casa de Camarao
After looking for a while we decided upon the ocean front restaurant located right at the end of Quatro Ilhas Beach named Casa de Camarao, or House of Shrimp in Portuguese. We enjoyed a bottle of Chilean chardonnay and a couple of shrimp plates, one of which was the restaurant’s specialty. It was fantastic! Looking back, it was easily the best meal we had on the entire cruise (including on the Millennium).
Fabulous Mariscal Beach
Reveling in the success of the find we decided to continue our exploration of the area and negotiated for a taxi to take us first to the next beach to the north (Mariscal Beach) for a visit and then to one of the other popular beaches (Bombas Beach) and then back to the ship. While all of the beaches were excellent and the thing to do during a call on Porto Belo, Quatro Ilhas Beach is the best and you should head straight there.
We barely made the last tender back to the Millennium after thoroughly enjoying our day in Porto Belo. We all headed straight for the Jacuzzi and enjoyed the sail-away as the Millennium turned north toward the equator. After getting ready for dinner, I met a good number of the members of our group in the Rendez-Vous Lounge for pre-dinner cocktails and conversation. One of the best things about round-robin dining with a group is getting to know people that you hadn’t gotten to meet before. On this evening I sat with three couples that had been friends for years and were also from all over the United States. We had a great time as many of our interests were very similar and we all shared the same sense of humor. It was one of the best dinners of the cruise for me. I was bushed from the day’s activities and went straight to bed.
2006, Day at Sea, Formal
I was falling into my routine quite nicely. Up early, breakfast on the fantail and then on to the pool area to enjoy the day. Today was no different. It was an absolutely beautiful day and the sunshine was abundant. I had arranged for our group photo to be taken in the evening before dinner and we all met in front of the reception desk. It was also the evening of the Captain’s Club get together, so after the photo a group of us made our way to the party. It was surprising how few repeaters that there were on this particular sailing, but we enjoyed ourselves in spite of the smaller crowd. Dinner was a continuation of excellent service and fine dining. The evening’s show “Fantasea” was an excellent production that kept everyone until the very end of it. Considering that it started at 11:15 pm that is saying quite a bit.
Having not been to any of these ports before, no one knew what to expect. It is always fun to explore new ports and every now and then you stumble upon a real jewel. Buzios is the epitome of a jewel!
Bronze Statute of Brigitte Bardot Along the Way to Rua das Pedras
We anchored outside of Buzios and tendered into the small tender pier. From the moment I stepped onto the pier and entered the outskirts of Buzios, I knew that Buzios was very special. We walked into the town past several small and very quaint shops and boutiques selling beachwear and other beach related items. However, the shops were very upscale and eclectic. The village, ocean and overall environment reminded me of La Jolla in California back in the 1970s when it was still a community, rather than a destination.
Buzios' Tres Pescaderos (3 Fisherman) Statutes on a Reef
As we got closer to the village, we were treated to the sight of “three fisherman” three life sized bronze sculptures of fishermen plying their trade on the inner reefs of the harbor. A little further on, there was a statute of Brigitte Bardot sitting on a bench. Apparently Brigitte Bardot adopted Buzios as her home away from home when she was in South America. It is easy to see why. We walked the full length of the village noticing all of the interesting restaurants, boutiques, shops and businesses before deciding to engage a water taxi to take us to a beach that had been recommended. We negotiated transportation to Joao Fernandes Beach and after exploring its length settled into the area in front of the Recanto do Sol Restaurant. After enjoying a local beer, we ordered some shrimp and other treats and while good, they did not hold a candle to the meal we have in Porto Belo. There was a gentleman selling fresh corn-on-the-cobb on the beach that was to die for.
Joao Fernandes Beach
We stayed at Joao Fernandes Beach for a couple of hours before hailing a water taxi to take us to Azeda Beach, the next beach towards the village of Buzios. While just a short distance away, the topography is quite steep and to walk the distance would have taken quite a while up and down steep streets. The water taxi is the very best choice. They are fast, inexpensive and plentiful. After enjoying Azeda Beach we decided to walk back into Buzios taking in the sights. Arriving at Ossos Beach and then continuing into the village, one gets the feeling that they are in a very special place indeed.
We had arranged to meet some other folks in our group at a restaurant in the village, but unfortunately the restaurant did not open until the evening time. We settled into Brigitta’s Restaurant on the waterfront and it proved to be an excellent choice. Once our group was settled I made my way back to the original restaurant to wait for the other group to let them know where we were and to join us. I waited for about 30 minutes and finally one of them showed up to advise me that they had run into the other group and were already at Brigittas. The weather was turning cloudy and promising rain, so I went back to Brigittas as quickly as I could. Not only were both groups there, but they also recruited some other folks from our group, as well.
It started pouring rain.
We ordered some food and a bottle of wine, then another, then another and then another. Lunch in Buzios turned out to be one of the best group lunches that I have had in recent memory. Everyone was having a ball and no one wanted to leave. Four of us barely made it back for the last tender back to the ship. All in all, I would give Buzios a six-star rating and would go back for an extended stay any time.
Back on the Millennium, I took a quick Jacuzzi, dressed for dinner and met our group for our nightly gathering. Everyone was excited about Buzios and also at the prospect of arriving in Rio de Janeiro the next day. Dinner was another excellent experience and the evening’s show, a virtuoso pianist named Hyperion Knight, was excellent.
Statue of Jesus Christ on Corcovado
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Casual
I hadn’t been to Rio since I made an exploratory surf trip there in the mid-1970s. While I found surf, it just didn’t have the quality surfers were looking for so I never returned. I was looking forward to seeing all the changes. We docked early and the ship was cleared by 8:30 am. A small group of us had made arrangements for a full day tour that would include Rio’s major sights, as well as a visit to Rio’s southern beaches for a lunch at one of the surfing areas that had evolved. We were met right outside the cruise terminal and our driver took us directly to Corcovado. His reasoning was that being Sunday, it would be crowded and the only way to get in and out in a reasonable time frame was to go the very first thing. He was right, of course. We gained entrance, enjoyed the statue of Christ, the views and some fresh fruit juice before moving on. On the way to and from Cocovado, you pass through the National Park of Brazil (the Parque Nacional de Tijuca). This park is in itself a wonderful sight to enjoy. The views are tremendous and the fact that the park resides right along with 8-million people is mind blowing. We drove through Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach and into the Barra Beach area and continued down the coast in incredibly heavy traffic. It became obvious that we would not make it to the southern beaches and the driver offered to take us to a Brazilian Bar-B-Q for a traditional meal. When we agreed to go along with the change, the driver turned inland and took a road with little traffic on it back towards Barra. I couldn’t help thinking to myself “why didn’t we jkust take that road to the southern beaches?”
Ipanema's Shopping District is Only 1 Block Inland
We got to the Bar-B-Q restaurant along with all the other tourists and it became obvious to me that we had been maneuvered into dining here and that the driver had no intention of taking us to the southern beaches. I am not sure what the deal is with the Bar-B-Q restaurants and taxi drivers, but it must be a healthy kickback for bringing tourists. We ended up buying lunch for the driver and he also helped us drink a bottle of wine. The bill came to well over $200.00 US. The meal was OK.
The Aerial Tram That Leads to Sugar Loaf
From lunch we made our way through Inpanema and Copacabana and over to Sugar Loaf. Sugar Loaf is a spectacular rock that juts right out of the Bay in Rio. To get to it, you first must go to the base of the tramway, pay for your ticket and stand in line to board the first tram car. It is crowded and there is no air conditioning. Watch your stuff! Once at the top of the first hill and at the intermediary tram station you can wander around the museum there and enjoy the views and the restaurant. When you are ready to board the second tram to get to the top of Sugar Loaf, you stand in a second line and then board another crowded tram to the top. While the views are dramatic, I am not sure it is worth the hassle of the crowds since the views from Corcovado are even more dramatic. There are shops at the top and a food and beverage concession. Because we went in the late afternoon, there were also lines of people waiting for the tram back down from the top. We waited in line for almost an hour to get a tram back down to the intermediary tram station and then another 45-minutes to get back down to the starting point. The bottom line is I would pass on Sugar Loaf unless you are really bored for something to do. From Sugar Loaf, we made our way back to the ship. The evening found us dining at open seating and enjoying each others company. We visited Michael’s Club after dinner and then I turned in exhausted from the day’s activity of riding in the back seat of a small car all day.
The North End of Copacabana Beach with Sugar Loaf in the Distance
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Casual
I was up early and a small group of us decided to simply spend the day exploring Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches. We took a taxi from the cruise terminal to the northern side of Copacabana and started walking along the boardwalk. Copacabana is amazing. There are hundreds of thousands of people clustered together and it is almost as if they preferred to be clumped together rather than spaced apart. The Carnival atmosphere was dominant all day long and remnants of the prior evenings street scene were everywhere. We walked and walked stopping to visit some of the stores and the flea market and eventually entered the Ipanema Beach area. After exploring the beach area we decided to go back to Copacabana Beach and find just the perfect restaurant. We stumbled into the Atlantico Restaurant just on a fluke and ended up having a great meal. We lingered and enjoyed a bottle of wine watching the day go by. I would highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a lunch spot and don’t want to get Bar-B-Q’ed by a taxi driver. In the late afternoon we made our way back to the cruise terminal for an early dinner before heading out to the Carnival Samba Parade at the Sabodromo.
The Samba Parade at Carnival in the Sabodromo
As it turned out, getting to the appropriate entrance gate at the Sabodromo was not all that easy. We took a taxi from the cruise terminal (actually two taxis, as there were 7 of us) and were dropped about a mile from the Sabodromo. One of the ladies with us had mobility issues and the other had an eye infection, so we hailed a taxi to take us as close as we could get. It ended up taking almost an hour jockeying around the crowds and around the Sabodromo before we got to our assigned gate to enter the Sabodromo.
Another Samba Float Passes By
Once inside, the energy was overwhelming. Tens of thousands of Brazilians were standing on their seats dancing to the blaring music while float after float with thousands of Samba dancers made their way down the Sabodromo’s center street. All in all, it was very exciting, but got to be overkill about a few hours. At about 1am we decided to head back to the ship before hoards of people wanted to leave. The trip back was painless compared to the ride trying to get to the Sabodromo. I slept great.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
I had arranged to leave the ship today as I was going to board Oceania’s Insignia for a 16-day cruise from Rio to Manaus up the Amazon. Click here if you would like to read the Insignia review. I packed in the morning and after a wonderful last breakfast on the fantail of the Millennium, I cleared with the purser and debarked the ship. I was kind of sad to leave my new friends who would continue to cruise on the Millennium for another 6 days back to Buenos Aires. After checking into my hotel, I walked the length of Copacabana Beach taking pictures for PortReviews.com. I had agreed to meet some of the group members from the Millennium at the Atlantico Restaurant on Atlantico Blvd. In Copacabana and had a very enjoyable lunch. They departed and I returned to my hotel for one of the most memorable evenings of my life.
If you get a chance to go to Rio de Janeiro for Carnival…..go. You won’t regret it. Just remember that Carnival isn’t a tourist attraction, it is a state of mind to be shared with the people of Brazil. I would go again in a heartbeat.