This was our 14th cruise in the past four years and our second aboard Celebrity Cruises. In August 1999 we took a two week Western European trip on the Century from Amsterdam, and visited Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and debarked in Genoa, Italy. We had an excellent, restful cruise and looked forward to cruising again with Celebrity. Our trip on the Century prepared us for what to expect on the Millennium and we were again pleased with great service and several unexpected surprises.
The Millennium is the first of four "Millennium Class" ships which Celebrity plans for the early years of the new millennium. She is 91,000 tons and 964.6 feet long and was inaugurated in June 2000. Celebrity Cruises enjoys an excellent reputation for its cuisine, service and ships' conditions, has received awards of excellence by travel magazines, and is rated in the top ten cruise lines. We believe that these acknowledgments are well deserved. The Celebrity ships are the navy blue and white ones with the distinctive X [the Greek letter "Chi"] separating them easily from all others in port. Being this new, the Millennium is shipshape in every way; we enjoy sailing on new ships because of their crispness and we can see them at their best, even though at times the crew is still learning its way around.
Embarkation was easy -- since we are members of the Captain's Club, there was a special very short line. This time we had a wheelchair, and a steward assisted us and we were in our cabin in less than ten minutes.
After sailing last December on the new CostaAtlantica (a floating art museum!), this ship was the exact opposite on the spectrum, being almost devoid of decoration and art, with the exception of a few indecipherable "modern art" pieces here and there throughout the ship -- not our preferred art style. However, the Millennium is simplicity and stark elegance. The three deck high Grand Foyer has a beautifully lighted, gold onyx staircase which is excellent as a background for formal pictures. This stair leads from the Customer Relations desk up to the Cova Café di Milano, serving products made famous by the renowned Italian Pastry and Chocolate Purveyor which is located in Milan across from the La Scala Opera House.
We felt the Millennium to be beautiful in a spartan way -- functional and uncluttered. Corridor decoration is limited to a very few black and white photographs, while stairways and foyers have whimsical plastic sculptures of surfers or swimmers, etc. The use of teakwood columns topped with simple chrome capitals throughout the entire ship, from the dining room to the outdoor pool and spa areas was a unifying motif and quite pleasant. We were not impressed by the huge, odd sculptured head, situated in the Aqua Spa atrium, made up of many pieces of various types of marble; however, some cruisers seemed to like it, since they were photographing it from different angles. This entire deck area was nicely equipped with teak deck chairs and teak shaded benches. The water jets for the hydro-massages were nice and strong, but this spa was no match with the Thalassotherapy pool of the Century. We spent some time there every morning, between the hours of 9:00-11:00; it was not as crowded as poolside -- and it was almost all ours!
Don't miss the beautiful Cosmos Nightclub (Deck 11 at the bow) with its 270° view of the sea -- starkly decorated with light oak wood and blue/gold striped chairs and a polished metal dance floor. This would be a lovely site for an onboard wedding with its surrounding windows. Check out the statue of the oversized boy with binoculars looking out to sea. The Platinum Lounge (Deck 5) is another very pretty room and again the emphasis is on simplicity, with polished platinum discs combined with purple/white striped chairs and simple columns around a circular balcony looking down on the dance floor of the Rendez-Vous Lounge.
Our Superior OceanView, wheelchair-accessible, Cabin #8176 with veranda, is located aft and is very spacious (538 square feet, including balcony). It has light oak paneling on all walls and is devoid of all decoration except for a signed lithograph. As you enter, to the left is the huge bathroom with one sink, a mirror and two glass shelves on each side, a hair dryer nearby, a double shower with a curtain and shower seat, a commode, several safety rails and towel racks, but no rack near the sink, where you would expect one. There are hooks on the bathroom door with two nice robes provided for use on board.
This is a very large and adequate cabin, but more spartan than other cruise lines: no marble, fancy tiles or mosaics here. Past the bathroom is the queen size bed with a green/beige striped padded headboard (anchored to the wall with a chrome drapery dowel) and matching bed ruffle. Then there is a grey/green love seat and a small glass coffee table. The aqua carpeting has a beige and pink confetti pattern and all three colors are combined in the bedspread and draperies. It makes a nice and restful ambiance.
To the right as you enter the cabin is a mirrored wall in the foyer and then a triple wardrobe. The first two doors have wooden hangers and the next door contains the safe and eight drawers -- next there is a console with a TV and the refrigerator with a fully stocked mini bar. Finally, there is a desk/vanity with lighted mirror. The far wall is a double panel sliding glass door to the veranda with the view of the wake of the ship. Very nice!
Usually we book a cabin midships, but this huge veranda (approximately 12' x 20', where at least five couples could do the Argentine Tango) tempted us, even though Vincent at this time couldn't dance, but could do the wheelies with his wheelchair. Now we are glad that we experienced the ship's aft cabin. However, like everything in life, there is always a trade-off. We found that maneuvering a wheelchair from the elevators all the way aft was not easy. The one inch door jambs at each firewall door were difficult to "jump" and the corridor is narrow, so that at times, when luggage or equipment were there, we had to fold the chair and limp past the obstruction and then reopen the chair.
The view from the stern of the ship was wonderful, though, and worth the inconvenience this once. We also noticed that when the ship was going at full speed there was a greater rolling motion and a disturbing low frequency engine noise. We are not sure if this was due to the location of our cabin or to a problem that the Millennium was having with one of her engines. From the form and size of the wake, we could see that the engine on the starboard side was definitely less powerful than the one on port side. Could this have been the cause of the unexpected rolling motion of the ship and the noticeable humming noise of the engine in relatively calm seas? An improvement is expected after drydock repairs, scheduled for the first two weeks of April. When the ship was cruising slowly, the sound of the wake behind the ship was like that of a mountain stream running through the rocks or down small rapids. This sound was so relaxing and conducive to meditation that Vincent spent long hours lounging on the veranda.
We found the service to be exceptional and up to their motto "Exceeding Expectations." The Hotel Manager Dimitrios Anagnostou responded immediately when we reported that there was a noise in the sliding door leading to the veranda, like that of a "knocking sound," during the first night at sea, when the rolling motion was more prevalent. We informed the Guest Relations Desk in the morning and by the time we returned to our cabin at noon the problem was fixed. It was a wonderfully quick and appreciated response! The service is fast and courteous -- whenever we neared our cabin, if a steward was in sight, he would open our door for us with a smile. We thought the crew was tip top. More specifics about the wonderful dining room and alternative dining staff appear below.Dining and Food
The Welcome Aboard buffet was inviting and well stocked; the trays had cloth placemats and there were waiters to carry trays to the tables, but usually this is the only meal we eat at the buffet. Normally, we order breakfast in our cabin; it was punctual and even early at times. The room service breakfast menu included fruit juices, coffee, tea and hot chocolate, omelets and scrambled eggs (the only way eggs were prepared for room service), bacon, sausage, ham, cold cereals, croissants, Danish pastries, toast and rolls, all abundant and fresh. We had a fresh fruit basket in our room replenished daily by our steward, Agnelo, who also provided us with a pitcher of fresh orange juice daily; after we had asked the first day for one, we never had to ask again. The water and ice in our cabin were purified and tasted excellent.
Pizza was served from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Riviera Grill, and 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. at the Ocean Café. Freshly made ice cream was served near the buffet on the pool deck daily. We felt that there was food available at every hour, including room service 24 hours a day. But we heard some people say that they would have liked something other than sandwiches when they returned from excursions. They felt that the hours for the buffet, grill and pizzeria were too short when compared to the food service on other lines, especially Princess. We were happy with Celebrity, but we have to agree that other lines that we have cruised on have longer hours for alternative food service. For example, RCCL had pizza available from 11:00 a.m. to midnight, and on the Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas, cookies, Danish, assorted small sandwiches, ice cream, coffee, and tea were available all day long on the Royal Promenade; in addition, these two gigaships have a characteristic American diner, Johnny Rockets, reminiscent of the '50s, where excellent hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, onion rings and milk shakes are served for most of the day.
Normally we had lunch and dinner in the Metropolitan Dining Room and they were always good to excellent. The menu was extensive and varied. Michel Roux oversees Executive Chef Alain Doelen's menus and Monsieur Doelen gave a Culinary Demonstration of a Shrimp Sauté Cote D'Azur in the Rendez-Vous Lounge, which was delicious. We think the touch of Pernod was the unique ingredient to enhance the flavor of this dish. The Chef was both personable and knowledgeable. He recognized us in the dining room and asked how we were enjoying our lunch and told the waiters to treat us with special attention.
Thursday night we dined in the alternative restaurant, The Olympic. The Maitre d' Hotel Raffaele Bernardini runs this fabulous restaurant like a fine timepiece. Dinner here is by reservation only and there is a $25 cover charge per person. Since many items are prepared table side, dinner can last, as ours did, from 6:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m., but you will enjoy one of the best dining experiences at sea! It is more than worth the cost and the time; you may also admire the original paneling from the White Star Line's ship the RMS Olympic (which entered service in June 1911 and was the sister ship of the fabled RMS Titanic). Take a tour of the wine cellar with its wonderful old stories, mementoes and famous and unique wines. On the tour, Raffaele pointed out several special vintages: Chateau Margaux, 1924 for a mere $1,250 and not to mention the Chateau Petrus, 1949 for a few dollars more, $12,400. We found that the Millennium has one of the finest selections of wine at sea.
Vincent had Shrimp Flambé -- squisiti! Mary had Saltimbocca alla Romana and it was wonderful. Dessert was a perfect Chocolate Soufflé for Mary and Zabaglione made especially for Vincent who stated that it was almost like his mother's -- a very high praise from him. The service here is formal, but always smiling. The waiters, dressed in tails, served our table of six in unison and with flourishes. We thought nothing could top that night, but the next night we dined equally as well at the Captain's table as guests of Hotel Manager Dimitrios Anagnostou.
We were met in the Platinum Lounge and were served cocktails, and Dimitrios gallantly kissed the ladies' hands. Vincent went down the elevator in his wheelchair, but the rest of us were escorted down the Grand Staircase and through the dining room to the Captain's table which is in front of a wall of windows overlooking the stern. Usually from our table #544B, at the top of the stairs, we could see a pretty optical illusion: the reflection of the lavender rose window in that glass wall behind the table. But the captain's view is breathtaking: the blue glass back-lighted ceiling, the rose window and the lights were beautiful, especially when the lights were dimmed for the "Baked Alaska" parade. Needless to say we enjoyed the lobster, the wine (especially the Greek red one selected by our host), the view and, most of all, the company. Thank you, Mr. Anagnostou.
The shows were top notch. The second night we enjoyed the featured show, "Spectacle of Broadway," so much that we went to all three shows presented by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers. The other shows were "Pure Platinum" and "Classique, A Musical Odyssey." All of them were well staged, with great singing and dancing. But we were most impressed with "Classique, A Musical Odyssey," where several operatic arias were performed with gusto. Christopher Riggins, a graduate of Cincinnati's Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati (Mary's Alma Mater) did the Bearcats proud! He got a standing ovation. This young tenor is going places. We met him later at a cocktail party for our group. He is personable, handsome, talented and happy to practice his Italian with Vincent.
Ports of Call
We were first to debark. Cruisers were asked to go to Deck Three only when their color was called. The cabin steward assisted us as far as the Grand Foyer, then another crew member took us as far as the luggage pickup. There were plenty of taxis and busses and all was well organized. We were met curbside by our daughter-in-law, Paige, and were on our way home by 9:00am -- no problem.
It was a great cruise. We made new friends and we'll look forward to cruising on Celebrity again. Happy Cruising!
PHOTOS courtesy of Paul M. Jaffe
For lots more SeaLetter photos and information on Millenium, click HERE.
Vincent & Mary Finelli have written many reviews for the SeaLetter and may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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