Archive for the 'Food' Category

Cruise Day 15 – At Sea

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

Three weeks ago today we reached the last full day of our cruise. While you never really want vacation to end, the consensus amongst friends was that we were all ready to be home. At some point you need to get back to your day-to-day life, to see your family and friends, and pets.

Besides being the last day it was the dreaded packing day and the day to say goodbye (for now) to new friends. Here we are at dinner on the last night.

Celebrity Millennium: Dinner

I’ve put together a few more comments related to our cruise, things that address questions I wondered about before we left and questions that are asked ALL the time on Cruise Critic.

Did you book another cruise while you were on board?
YES! We plan to be on the Millie again in April 2014, going from Shanghai, China to Vancouver, Canada across the gulf of Alaska. It will be an adventure. The Millie is making almost exactly this same trip in April of 2013 so I will be on the look out for reviews then.

The benefits to booking online vary depending on what category stateroom you choose. We reserved another sky suite which required us to pay $100 per person down, it gave us some on board credit, and no room upgrades. It may be a better deal to book online when you’re going to get room upgrades, but still – $200 deposit to hold our room is a good deal, especially if you use CruiseFish.net to monitor prices because we were assured that if the price drops we can call Celebrity and get our price lowered.

How did you like the Millie?
It was great – we like this size of ship and the staff were all wonderful. The only things I found odd were that the grand atrium was not very grand and the main dining room was not very architecturally impressive. Otherwise I liked the layout of the ship and found there to be enough deck and pool space, and plenty of places to hang out inside.

There were only two occasions when it felt crowded – disembarkation and waiting for dinner on that first formal night when there was a huge crowd outside the dining room.

How was the music and volume around the ship?
The volume issue really depended on where you were in the ship. In the theatre I found it to be a touch loud, particularly the brass instruments and the steel guitar of Kimika. For me it was way too loud in Rendezvous Lounge – forget having a conversation here when the band is playing.

In the ‘grand’ foyer there was overlapping music. I still don’t know where it was coming from, but sitting between Cafe Al Bacio and the Gelateria you would two completely different soundtracks. It was totally annoying and probably explained why there were rarely people sitting here.

Blu is a funny one. I would classify it as dance and techno. There were a couple songs on the soundtrack that they play on one of my favorite radio stations which happens to be a dance station. I’m the ONLY person I know who listens to that station and even I found the music strange.

For the most part I didn’t care for the live music around the ship. Kenosis played at the pool and they were pretty good. Take Note played at Rendezvous. The female vocalist grated on me for some reason, but the male vocalist (and percussionist) was much better. Many other people hung out here and danced before dinner so either I am in the minority in disliking them or people were desperate to get on the dance floor.

How were the theatre shows?
They were okay which is what I expected. We didn’t see that many of them, I’d say we went to less than half the shows. Start time was 8:45 or 9 pm; we usually finished dinner by 8 pm. Depending on the show you needed to be there 15-25 minutes before it started. So call me crazy, but eating a big meal and it being almost 9 pm at night I found it difficult to want to go sit and wait for the show to start. I figured I’d be ready to fall asleep when it started. Sitting with friends helped a lot when it came to the time passing faster.

If you asked people’s opinion of the shows (I did) you would get love it and hate it responses for each one. Kind of amusing.

Cabin

How did you like your accessible sky suite cabin?
It was a very nice cabin with plenty of room to move around. We could definitely walk past each other in this room as there was about 5 feet between the end of the bed and the cabinetry.

The storage was of good size. There wasn’t much room left over, particularly in the closet, but that said we did have enough room to put everything away with a few things doubled up on hangers. Our 3 suitcases (1 large, 2 small) fit just fine under the bed. Don’t ever let your husband do the unpacking though as you’re going to be looking for stuff the entire cruise or you’re going to end up moving everything around. And why he couldn’t leave the bulky bathrobes hanging in the bathroom instead of taking up like 5 inches of closet space I still don’t understand.

How was the accessible bathroom?
It was fine. We didn’t have much trouble at all with water flowing out from the shower into the rest of the bathroom. There was a raised tile edge that defined the shower and that kept most of the water in the shower. We usually did put down one of our towels as you did tend to get a bit of over spray around one edge of the shower curtain.

What didn’t you take that you wished you had?
I wished we had taken our smaller digital camera. It would have fit in my clutch or Richard’s jacket pocket and would have been much easier to take to the dining room when I didn’t want to pack the larger camera around.

I think it would have been handy to have an organizer to hang on the back off the bathroom door too. The only reason I didn’t take one is that I couldn’t find one that was small and lightweight. I’d also be sure to take flip flops or Crocs to wear to the pool or on the beach.

Is there anything you’d leave at home next time?
As it turned out I had plenty of smart casual clothes and barely enough shorts and tank tops so I’d try to balance that out better next time. ‘Smart casual’ was very much hot weather casual, not dressy at all.

We packed a couple of extra hangers. I wouldn’t bother with these. You can get extra from your butler or if you need to send some things out to be laundered they’ll come back on hangers.

Personally, I would not have brought a laptop AND a tablet computer. Whether or not I can convince Richard of the folly of hauling around both of those items I do not know. Internet connectivity was so bad it was basically nonexistent. I am glad that I used the laptop to type up notes on what we did, that has formed the basis of what you’ve been reading here.

Food & Beverage

How do you feel about the beverage packages after purchasing one?
Richard had the most expensive beverage package ($55 + 15% gratuity per day) and I had none. I think it worked out for us okay, but Richard could have taken better advantage of his package if he had used it in the morning at Cafe Al Bacio instead of drinking the free coffee, and if he would have refrained from buying bottles of wine at dinner. I had heard that the wine by the glass was not great and I would have to agree.

For me, I drank mostly water and tea, and some wine. We took a case of water on board and two bottles of wine. This covered a large portion of what I drank. I’m glad I didn’t buy the non-alcoholic package that I was considering because at most I had 2 of the specialty frou-frou drinks in the afternoon and a glass of wine at dinner. The iced tea at Cafe Al Bacio really was special even at a cost of $5 plus tip. However, I couldn’t have drank that every day either so it was best to buy it when I wanted it.

How was the ships water?
Hit and miss. Most of the time it was fine and I used it to make hot tea or drank it with ice at meals. There were 2 days in particular that it tasted horrible and I threw out the tea I made with it. Blech. We both noticed that we had puffy fingers as our rings were tight. Whether that was due to more salt in the water or in the food I could not say.

How about the coffee?
Richard thought it was fine, but he is not picky about coffee. He was drinking Folgers for years. Now he has a Keurig. After dinner he liked to get an espresso drink instead of coffee, but it took FOREVER to get it. We are fairly sure that Rosys actually had to go out to Cafe Al Bacio for it.

How did they handle your food intolerances?
Just in case you don’t know what my food intolerances are: dairy, eggs, corn, and banana. Luckily I am only intolerant and not allergic. If I eat these foods I may feel sick and may spend the evening close to a bathroom, but I will not go into anaphylactic shock.

It was hit and miss. I thought I could handle it myself by reading menus and asking when I needed to about the ingredients. What I found is that the servers usually did not know about the ingredients. In the MDR the menu denoted lactose free, no sugar added, vegetarian, and gluten free which was super helpful. Why don’t they have these symbols next to every food item on the ship? Like in Oceanview Cafe and Aqua Spa Cafe why can’t they print the symbols next to the name of the item? Next time I would be more forceful about protecting my health by having a conversation with the maitre’d and possibly by requesting alternatives before departure.

One example: in Blu I was told that the overnight oats are soaked in soy. Then at Aqua Spa Cafe I was told the overnight oats were soaked in a mixture of soy and dairy milk. It really made me question why they would make them 2 different ways and whether what I had been told was accurate.

Cruise Day 14 – Cabo San Lucas

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

We arrived at an early 7 am, but as you know if you’ve ever been to Cabo, the cruise ships must use tenders. Since we had not planned any tours or particular activities we took our time in the morning and didn’t head to shore until 9 am. At this point the wait for a tender was only a few minutes.

How can you not smile when you look at the ships photos from Cabo?

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

It was SO hot in Cabo. Either that or we were all running out of steam because all we could muster was a short, uninspired walk into town and around a few stores. We had a margarita to cool off and then we took a water taxi across the harbor to get back to the cruise ship terminal. A little more shopping and we were wore out! Our time in Cabo was quite limited so that didn’t help.

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Tonight was our third and final formal night. My original plan was to wear my wedding dress tonight. Unfortunately there was no way it was going to fit correctly if I still wanted to breathe. Shoot! Plan B, black slacks and a ruffly pink shirt. Formal has really not been very formal at all on this ship so there was no issue with my clothing choice, only that I was disappointed I wouldn’t be getting photos taken in my wedding dress.

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

They went all out on the dinner menu tonight in terms of offering everyone’s favorites. I forgot to snap a photo, but appetizers included oysters and pate, main courses included tuna, lobster, and beef wellington. Dessert (of course) was baked alaska, but they no longer carry it around the dining room on fire. My limit for rich food had been reached so I had shrimp cocktail and caesar salad from the everyday menu with the beef wellington. Richard had pate and beef wellington.

Here’s a look at the dining room and a few of our dishes. I did have one picture of an appetizer, after it was half eaten! Oops.

Celebrity Millennium: Dining

Celebrity Millennium: Dining

Celebrity Millennium: Dining

Celebrity Millennium: Dining

Celebrity Millennium: Cabo San Lucas

Tomorrow is our last day at sea and the dreaded packing day.

Cruise Day 13 – Puerto Vallarta

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Let me just say that I wasn’t that excited about Puerto Vallarta. When I was in Mexico years ago I went horseback riding here and that was great, but I was taken aback by how poor the city was. It seems like as soon as you stepped off the ship back then you were in a dirt parking lot.

The only bummer about this day was that I slept through the docking of the ship. It would have been interesting to watch how they backed us in as the opening to the cruise docking area is through a very narrow opening. Puerto Vallarta is almost unrecognizable to me since the last time I was here. There are hotels and timeshares everywhere! Really the only thing I recognize are the hills around the town.

These parrots were in a large cage at the cruise ship terminal. They were making plenty of noise to wake people up and get them off the ship.

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

After some pastries and fruit for breakfast we walked off the ship to meet up with our friends. The plan was to hire an independent taxi or tour guide so that we could go as a small group to town, lunch, and a tequila tasting room. For $25 each we went with Pedro in a large passenger van. It was great – he told us about the flora, fauna, shops, hotels, etc – you name it and he could tell you about it. We took a short tour of the town area north of the pier and then drove south past the Malecon. Continuing south we went up a steep hill to overlook the city and the bay of Los Arcos. We had another photo opportunity where we could see the location where the Night of the Iguana was filmed (evidently I’m to young to know the movie).

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Here’s our small group for the day. Miss you guys! I think I’ll crack open the tequila tonight in memory of our fun times in Puerto Vallarta.

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Once again, like in Costa Rica we were on the PanAmerican highway. Pedro said it would take 40 hours to drive to Guatamela from Puetro Vallarta! From here we backtracked a short distance and turned off onto a dirt road that took us to a tequila tasting room. We were all pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t Hacienda Dona Engracia as that is where the larger tours from the ship go and I’m sure it was swamped with people.

We were welcomed with a small shot of almond tequila at Ranchos Los Panchos Reposada. It was delicious! Our host walked the 6 of us around the tasting room, showing us agave plants and how they were processed into tequila before the advent of modern technology. Then we got to taste 4 more tequilas. There was one other flavored one – coffee and the others were different ages of tequila. Surprisingly, all of them were very good. I guess I just didn’t expect that, but maybe that is because the tequila that is poured in the US has a bad rap for being cheap and nasty tasting. Did I mention it was only like 10:30 in the morning?

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

When we were done with the tequila tasting room Pedro took us another couple miles into the hills for lunch. Our destination was Canopy Mundo Nogalito Tours which had a beautiful restaurant in the shade under the trees next to a river. They also had zip lines, but we didn’t have enough time to even consider that option. Richard and I shared a combo plate for lunch – cheese quesadillas, rice, beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, salsa, and nachos. We also shared a blended mango strawberry margarita. Everything was very tasty.

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Relaxed from the tequila and full from lunch, we headed back to the ship and were on board at 2 pm. At 3 pm we departed for Cabo San Lucas.

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Celebrity Millennium: Puerto Vallarta

Cruise Day 12 – At Sea

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Hopefully I didn’t promise you that I was done talking about food because I haven’t told you about the brunch buffet yet. The brunch buffet is evidently Celebrity’s version of the midnight buffet as there was no midnight buffet. I also believe the brunch only happened one time for the entire cruise. It was barely promoted anywhere – if Jerome hadn’t mentioned it we probably would have missed it. There was only one line “Brunch (Deck 4) 10:00 am to 1:00 pm” in Celebrity Today.

As it was we did not partake of any of the food. Photos were enough.

Celebrity Millennium: Brunch Buffet

Celebrity Millennium: Brunch Buffet

Celebrity Millennium: Brunch Buffet

Celebrity Millennium: Brunch Buffet

Celebrity Millennium: Brunch Buffet

I haven’t mentioned much about the theatre shows on Millie. Partly it’s because we didn’t make it to that many shows and also because I don’t like taking photos during shows. Tonight was one show I made a point of making it to. Dale Kristien, who played Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera for 5 years, sang for us. She was amazing. Of course, she sang many songs from Phantom, including some that were originally sung by the phantom. She also had a sense of humor and had the audience laughing in between songs.

Tomorrow we are moving on to Puerto Vallarta, then Cabo San Lucas, and our last day at sea.

Cruise Day 11 – At Sea

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

We are at sea today, in transit from Puerto Quetzal to Puerto Vallarta. A relaxing day was needed after not feeling 100% the day before which was most likely due to eating heavy cream the evening before. We had breakfast in Blu, but this time I had the french toast and took my own tea. The fresh squeezed orange juice is always good here (they have it in the MDR too, but not in the café or from room service).

Today we had been invited for a bridge tour. The thing that struck me the most was how much room they had in this bridge – it was wide open.

Random brain dump of what I remember from the tour:

The first officer was telling us how careful they have to be at night to watch out for large fishing nets in this area. He said the fisherman like their nets so at least they mark them with lights, but it can be difficult to spot them in time. The second officer who answered most of our questions was a Greek woman. She told us how they have great opportunities to learn on this ship. Captain Patsoulas works with each officer to teach them how to bring the ship in and out of port by asking them their plan, then telling him what his plan would be, and then by walking them through it with them controlling the ship. I really cannot fathom controlling the movement of something as big as this ship, but I suppose like anything else you learn on something smaller and go up from there.

Celebrity Millennium: Bridge Tour

Celebrity Millennium: Bridge Tour

Celebrity Millennium: Bridge Tour

Celebrity Millennium: Bridge Tour

Celebrity Millennium: Bridge Tour

On a related subject, the next day we had an engine control room tour. I have nothing technical to say about this. Oh wait, I take that back – the ship has azipods. In order to achieve maximum speed they have to shut down some of the air conditioners. And, the engineers worked short shifts, like 4 hours and you can see why since they are in a windowless room responding to alarms and details on computer monitors. It was A LOT of computer screens and control switches.

Celebrity Millennium: Engine Control Room

Celebrity Millennium: Engine Control Room

Celebrity Millennium: Engine Control Room

Celebrity Millennium: Engine Control Room

Today I had lunch at Aqua Spa Café. They had a salad and a small seafood plate that had shrimp, a mussel, and tiny scallops. Following that I had to try the iced tea that I had heard about at Cafe Al Bacio. The white ginger pear was delicious and big enough for two people. Or, in my case, a good amount to fully hydrate one person. While having tea I met a nice couple from Anacortes who were also on their first cruise with Celebrity.

This pyramid shaped box is how Tea Forte packages their product. A day later I tried the iced pomegranate blackberry, but truthfully I liked the white ginger pear better and will likely order myself some. Click through to the Tea Forte site and see how they present their iced tea – it is really nicely done and worked well. I don’t often make iced tea because I find it inconvenient, but with their pitcher it seemed easy. On the ship one serving was $5.75 (including the tip). A heckuva a splurge for tea of any kind.

Celebrity Millennium: Misc

Like the past few days we hung out up at the Mast Bar in the afternoon. Two for one frou-frou drink specials are from 4 to 6 pm. I didn’t partake after feeling sick the day before.

We had dinner at MDR. I had the prosciutto di parma appetizer, a radicchio/radish salad, and the asian tofu stir fry for my main course. It was very good! Lots of parsley and slightly spicy. For dessert I had sacher torte. Per usual I should have stuck with the mango sorbet as it would have been easier on my stomach. Lucky me, I had a glass of Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc leftover from dinner at Olympic. Being on the sweeter side it was a good match for spicy stir fry. As a side note, the wine by the glass chardonnay that I’ve found to be the best is the Freemark Abbey. It only seems to be available in Cellar Masters though.

Richard had a spinach pastry pocket appetizer, caesar salad, and veal cordon bleu. For dessert he had the cheesecake. Both the caesar salad and cheesecake are from the everyday menu.

I’ll leave you today with a photo of the blue Pacific waters and my sock-in-progress. I did carry these around with me depending on what we were doing. My Cruise Critic username is TobyKnits after all so I figured I should live up to it.

Celebrity Millennium: Misc

Celebrity Millennium: Misc

Cruise Day 9 – At Sea

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Three weeks ago today we were at sea and all anyone could talk about was how great zip lining was the day before. It was that good. I really do want to go back and stay at Hotel Vista Golfo.

It was a very relaxing day. The only thing I noted down that we did on this day was have dinner at Olympic – which works nicely with my plan to tell you about the Chef’s Table since the food is similar.

Let’s start with Chef’s Table since it was on October 11th and Cruise Day 9 is actually October 15th. Before departing for the cruise we had heard that there may be an option to attend chef’s table. I was a little put off by the cost, but Richard said it sounded like fun. A cruise critic thread said that chef’s table only happened if there was enough interest and that maybe getting a group together to ask about it would be a wise approach. However, we found out on board that the maitre’d was not interested in talking to groups at all – he would only take requests from individuals or couples. No matter, we asked our butler to inquire about chef’s table and we got an invite.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

By definition from Wikipedia: A chef’s table is a table located in the kitchen of a restaurant, reserved for VIPs and special guests. Patrons are served a themed tasting menu prepared and served by the head chef. Restaurants can require a minimum party and charge a higher flat fee. Because of the demand on the kitchen’s facilities, chef’s tables are generally only done during off-peak times.

On the Millie the chef’s table begins in the wine cellar of The Olympic dining room with champagne. Once the group has gathered and been introduced you walk through The Olympic into the galley. The staff all stop and cheer for the guests as you walk through to your table. The galley is all stainless steel, lots of noise, and a flurry of activity. At the time of our seating it was the lull in between the early and late dinner seatings, but while we were enjoying our meal the galley was pushing out dinner for the late dinner.

Our food was prepared (or at least finished) by Executive Chef Jason Banyon, table side. Joining us at dinner was Food & Beverage Manager Evan Willemse. We were presented with a tasting menu in which we could choose from 2 options for our appetizer, soup/salad, main, and dessert course. Two wines were served and glasses were refilled frequently. Unfortunately they would not let us keep the menu – I don’t understand why as they supposedly print menus on board. What you see below is from memory so I may not be exactly correct on some of the dishes.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Amuse-bouche – this was a bite of sausage with some type of foam on top.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Appetizer – Smoked Salmon & Peekytoe Crab Parfait, layered with avocado, salmon caviar, creme fraiche, petite greens. Available in Olympic.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Soup/salad – Wilted salad greens with deep fried goat cheese. Fairly similar to Qsine Greens.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Palate cleanser – if memory serves this was mango lime sorbet with a raspberry and chocolate swirl.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Main course – I’m pretty sure I had Loup De Mer, grilled Mediterranean sea bass, red pepper melange, crispy eggplant, balsamic syrup, sauce niçoise. Available in Olympic.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Richard had red meat that I believe was Steak Diane or maybe in this case Filet Diane. I love how they presented the vegetables with this.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Dessert – Floating island with chocolate cream sauce. Available in Blu.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

With the first few courses we were served Kistler 2006 Sonoma Chardonnay. Looking at their website I realize I don’t know which chardonnay it was. This was followed by La Braccesca (Antinori) 2008 and that’s all I’ve got. It was red. Both wines were very good, in contrast to the rest of the less-than-impressive wine that was being served on the ship. Seriously, if it was by the glass it was not very good. And if they served it at a wine tasting – forget about it, total waste of time and money. The only good wine on the ship had to be bought by the bottle.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

It was a fun night and worth doing one time. However, I don’t think I’d do it again. Seeing the dining room in full operation was the great part and talking with the other guests was interesting to say the least, but the food was not significantly different than going to Olympic. That is why I wouldn’t do it again – I wanted the food to be truly special too and it wasn’t.

Along with the dinner and wine pairings you get a copy of Excite the Senses. Cost was $279 per couple.

Celebrity Millennium: Chef's Table

Dinner at Olympic

We had dinner for 4 at Olympic a few nights later.

Honestly, the way I feel about Olympic is that there is some very good food available, but you have to be VERY CAREFUL about what you order. If you are not you will be served so much rich food that you will feel sick (many people I talked to felt sick after eating here). Too many dishes on this menu are based on heavy cream, creme fraiche, or goat cheese. It is overwhelming. Even some of the dishes that aren’t dairy based are overly rich.

I had: Warm Goat Cheese Souffle, Heirloom Tomato & Buffalo Mozzarella Salad, Olympic Lobster.
Richard had: Diver Scallop Wellington Style, Hazelnut Coated Lamb Rack.
Others in our party had: Smoked Salmon & Peekytoe Crab Parfait, Crispy Pork Belly, Les Petits Filets.

The dessert menu, from what I remember, had several liquor souffles, a sampler of many desserts, and the most basic choice which was ice cream and sorbet.

Would I eat in Olympic again? I suppose so, especially because when you book a suite you get 1 or 2 dinners included at no charge. If I were to go again I’d try the Quail and Arugula Salad and the Crispy Pork Belly. Many of the entrees looked good and were not overly rich – really, the one to avoid was the lobster which was cooked in heavy cream.

*Please forgive the photos. That hazy, dreamy look is because we used Richard’s cell phone which has a cracked lens.

Cruise Day 2 – At Sea

Monday, October 29th, 2012

We woke up early for our first day at sea. Having the first couple days at sea was one of the nice things about this itinerary – you get to relax up front and we really needed relaxation time.

Prior to the cruise I was looking forward to trying Blu so that was my choice for breakfast this morning. Blu is a small dining room, only serving passengers booked in aqua class (breakfast, dinner) and suites (breakfast only, unless space is available at dinner). We were seated at a window which was nice. For this first breakfast and many more I had the muesli, prepared table side. A waiter, “best muesli maker” Mohamed, comes to you with a rolling table. The waiter has a bowl each of granola, overnight oats soaked in soy milk, raisins or craisins, cubed apple, pecans or walnuts, brown sugar, grapes, banana, and yogurt. He also has a couple of milk options and honey. Your choice of ingredients are scooped into a large bowl, mixed together, and then transferred to a small bowl. They like to use a bit of milk to blend it together. For this I take my own almond milk since I don’t drink dairy and don’t care for soy. On this morning Richard had french toast with syrup and fruit compote. It looked good and was a small portion, in line with the healthy aspect of Blu. We also had fresh squeezed orange juice.

Breakfast menu in Blu. This menu does not change day to day. Like all the photos here you can click on the photo to see a larger version, you know, if you actually want to read the menu.

Celebrity Millennium, Blu Breakfast Menu

Celebrity Millennium, Blu Breakfast Menu

My muesli. I’m hungry just looking at it even though we’re about to eat dinner as I’m typing this. Definitely recreating this at home. My mainstays are oatmeal with almond butter or oatmeal with pumpkin so this will be a good way to change it up.

Celebrity Millennium, Tableside Muesli

After breakfast we wandered around the ship, getting a better feel for the layout and location of various things. We wandered through the casino and then stopped in the photo gallery to look at our embarkation photos since we bought a photo package that gives us a digital copy of all of our photos at the end of the cruise. I don’t think I would buy the package if we took a cruise every single year, but since we haven’t had any photos taken of us for 5 years (since the last cruise) I thought it would be worth it. Buying the package in advance of the cruise saved us $60 for a cost of $240. I’m not the best person to judge my own photos, but I do think we got some good shots. After the photo gallery we took a stroll through the galleria shops which seem to be about the same on every cruise ship – jewelry, alcohol, souvenir clothing, dressy clothing, perfume, bags, and watches. Of course there is a small section of practical needs like razors, sunblock, and sore throat lozenges.

I was not very hungry at lunch and Richard didn’t want anything at all. We walked up to the Aqua Spa Café as I had heard they had healthy options. They did indeed – each day at lunch they had two different options that were already plated and salad options. This day I had a purple cabbage leaf, 3 shrimp, several slices of avocado, and a couple of grape tomatoes. It was the perfect size.

Tonight is formal night and the first night that we will eat in the main dining room, The Metropolitan, which I will now refer to as the MDR (main dining room). On embarkation day we stopped to talk to the assistant maitre d’ about our table assignment. It was a good thing we did as we had requested a large table and been assigned to a 2 person table. A 2 person table is so boring. We enjoy dinner at larger tables because you meet people, have conversation, and you get to see meal options other than what you ordered. It was no problem to change tables. We were switched to a table for 8 in the center of the dining room (table 214).

Because we were in a suite (the smallest of the suites) we have a butler and get certain perks like afternoon tea service and canapes in our room, and eating in Blu for breakfast. Most nights as we were getting ready for dinner we had canapes – I’ll show you photos of them later. Now you see why I could have such a small lunch since I had two more opportunities between lunch and dinner to eat!

I was feeling a little rushed getting ready for dinner. As this was a formal night the ships photographers would be out in force. Since we had purchased the photo package we definitely wanted to take advantage of them. We headed down to the atrium at 5:30 and there were no lines for photos beyond having one couple in front of us. In fact, there were hardly any people wandering around at all. That all changed when we headed over to the dining room at 5 minutes to 6 pm. Everyone was crowded around in the lobby outside the restaurant. I will be curious to see if this is normal that the dining room doors don’t open until 6 pm or a few minutes past. If that is the case I won’t be heading to dinner until just after 6.

This is actually one of my favorites. I love the Titanic backdrop.

Celebrity Millennium, 1st Formal Night

Celebrity Millennium, 1st Formal Night

Since we hadn’t been to dinner in the MDR the night before we had not yet met our table mates. They were welcoming and we had a fun time. Two couples already knew each other. Our waiter was Jerome for India and our assistant waiter was Rosys from Mexico. They both did a fantastic job of remembering everyone’s names as well as our likes and dislikes.

For dinner I had a creamed salmon rillette or some such which was kind of like tuna with mayo for a tuna sandwich, but smoother. It was marked dairy free; I have no idea what they creamed it together with. Then I had a green salad with raspberry vinaigrette dressing, and the rack of lamb entree which was served with baby carrots, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. My dessert selection was coconut sorbet. It was the only dairy free item, but as it turned out it was super light and delicious. Richard had beef carpaccio, a green salad, and rack of lamb. His dessert choice was creme brulee. Everything we had was good, though I found the lamb to be tough.

Our first formal night photo with the wrong date. A corrected version should be on it’s way to me any day.

Celebrity Millennium, 1st Formal Night

One thing I noticed about Millie’s dining room is that it’s not very grand. On past ships you could enter from the upper level and the maitre d’ was always greeting guests there. On Millie the upper level (deck 5) is for select dining (passengers who can dine at any time) and one side has been walled off to form Blu. The only way for early and late seating diners to enter is through the narrower passageways on deck 4.

Entrance to the MDR from deck 4. I thought about lightening this photo, but decided against it – it really is a dimly lit passageway.

Celebrity Millennium, Main Dining Room

Approaching the central stairway in the MDR. Our table was just beyond the flower arrangement at the bottom of the stairs.

Celebrity Millennium, Main Dining Room

After dinner we went to our first Celebrity Show. It was “Simply Ballroom” and it was a fun show, nicely done. Another perk of our suite is that we have a section of reserved seats at the show on formal nights. On this night that worked out very well as the theatre was packed. It was also the captain’s welcome aboard toast which meant sparkling wine was provided to every guest.

Cruise Day 1

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Finally! It was Sunday and time to board the Millennium. Several days prior to the cruise we received communication from Celebrity not to show up at the cruise terminal any earlier than 1:30 pm due to a full customs inspection that would delay embarkation. Consensus online was that no one was waiting until 1:30 pm and hotel checkout was noon. A few minutes after 11 am we were packed and ready to leave the hotel. We hailed a cab, made the stop at Publix for a case of bottled water, and headed to the cruise terminal. We arrived there right around noon. Porters immediately relieved us of our luggage.

Our first glimpse of the Millie:

Port of Miami

To get on the ship there are a number of steps you must go through:

  • customs, there were only 4 people in line in front of us.
  • security, no delay at all. No one asked to see the two bottles of wine that were packed in my carry on.
  • cruise check in. We waited no more than 5 minutes and from here we could see that people were boarding the ship. Yay! Almost there. At check in you verify your credit card to be used of on board charges, sign a health statement, and get your ship pass.
  • security photo, this took the longest. There were probably 30 people in front of us and it seemed to take forever, which in reality was about 10 or 15 minutes. As you enter the ship, security takes a photo of you that is linked to your ship pass and is used to verify your identity when you re-board at port stops.

Finally you are free to roam around the ship (except for staterooms which were not ready)!

Embarkation photo (dates are incorrect and ports are in reverse order, I have requested a corrected photo):

Celebrity Millennium, Boarding

We started to explore the ship and Richard was GRUMPY. He complained about the weight of his carry on – and it was heavy with the laptop, tablet, camera, and video camera – but I think the bigger problem was nicotine withdrawal. He got a whole lot less grumpy once we found one of the smoking areas. Smoking is limited to 3 areas port side on deck 10, 1 area on port side deck 11, and a couple of spots on the port of deck 4. No smoking is allowed on the stateroom balconies. All of this sounded great to me since I think smoking is disgusting, though Richard made a few grumbles about not being able to smoke on the balcony. He got over it though and as it turned out, he met a lot of people because they frequented the same areas he did.

I took advantage of how few people were around to take a few snapshots of the ship and of Miami before sail away.

Deck 11, port, looking toward the Mast Bar where we hung out a lot in the afternoon. This deck was never crowded during the cruise. It was so hot that only the diehard sun worshipers used the loungers up here. Actually the jogging track probably got more use than the loungers.

Miami from the Millennium

From the Mast Bar looking aft. I love this view. There were always plenty of people in the pools and even some in the hot tubs, and TONS of people in the shaded loungers. But what I love most is sitting or standing at the Mast Bar and watching the ship rise and fall in relation to the horizon. This was the best afternoon bar – Alba and Elena were awesome bartenders, always having fun and playing good music (but not so loud that you couldn’t have a conversation). Halfway through the cruise we began meeting our table mates, Dieter and Irma, at this bar from 4 pm until we had to get ready for dinner.

Celebrity Millennium, Deck 11

A couple shots of Miami and some very expensive houses across the water from the port.

Miami from the Millennium

Miami from the Millennium

The cabins were ready about 1 pm or was it 2 pm? I don’t remember for sure. Since I still have to tell you about our dinner I’m going to save discussion and photos of the cabin for another day. The good thing is that now we could leave our carry ons in our room while we wandered around the ship unburdened. Our departure was scheduled for 4:30 pm, but they were still loading stores onto the ship. Due to the late departure I figured there may not be many people having dinner in the MDR, choosing to watch us sail away instead. It seemed like a good time to go to Qsine, one of two specialty restaurants on the Millie. They were also offering a 2 for 1 discount.

Dinner at Qsine

Qsine is described as “uniquely unordinary”. The menu is on an iPad with caricatures of the menu item. When you click on the item it gives you a description of the dish and you can add it to your favorites. For the most part the dishes are appetizer sized. Having skipped lunch, we asked our waiter about how dishes most people eat. He said 6 was a good number so we picked 6 that sounded good, taking into account what I had read on Cruise Critic about some of the dishes. Oddly enough the waiter then writes down your order and takes it to the kitchen. You would think the iPad would be plugged into a docking station and would transfer the order to the kitchen. Anyway…

This is what we had:

  • Spring Rolls – Baby back spring rolls with white truffle BBQ sauce and vegetable melange spring rolls with cilantro and sweet and sour sauce. Served with chipotle coleslaw. We received 2 pork and 2 veggie rolls. Both were good, but the pork were a bit heavy for my taste. The coleslaw with chipotle seasoning was
    delicious, smoky and not too hot! This is one I’d like to recreate at home.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Lobster Escargot – “Lobster & escargot fritters with parsley garlic butter sauce.” This was interesting. I thought it was going to be lobster cut and served in an escargot dish, but actually I believe it was lobster and escargot chopped together. It was okay.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Treseviche – “Tiger shrimp and bay scallops with lemon juice, tequila, cilantro, tomato and jalapeno oil. Salmon with yuzu citrus, cucumber, vodka, and basil. Sea bass with lime, red onion, choclo, avocado and EXVOO.” These were all delicious. No, I don’t know what choclo is either.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Soupe and Souffle – Chilled soup: celery root, green pea, and tomato basil. Hot souffle: Crab and asparagus, lobster and yellow corn, cheddar cheese. I swear the waiter said the pea soup was supposed to be green pea mint which didn’t taste of mint at all, tomato which tasted like salsa, and corn which I passed on. The soups were served in test tubes. The souffles were okay. I would pass on this one next time.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Painter’s Mignon – Filet Mignon with palatable pleasers. This is served on a painters palette with the ‘pleasers’ in small paint jars. You get two small filet mignons with sauteed mushrooms (brown), mac’n cheese (yellow), truffle oil mashed potatoes (white), creamed spinach (green), red wine sauce (red). We enjoyed this one very much. So much that I forgot to take photos of the serving dish until after we had sampled everything.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

    Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Persian Kebob – “Skewered tender chicken, garlic and spices with vegetables, yellow rice pilaf and tooni sauce.” The veggies were green and red bell peppers, and onion served on a bed of saffron rice. The chicken was very moist and this dish was quite good, but we were very full at this point.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Cupcake Affair – “Red velvet and vanilla cupcake with playful garnishes, strawberry, chocolate, and peanut butter frosting.” The frosting was served in individual pastry tubes. The strawberry frosting and vanilla cupcake were ok, but nothing special. The red velvet was tough. I wouldn’t order these again.
  • Celebrity Millennium, Qsine

  • Silver Bullet – “Refreshing gelato, mango, strawberries, coconut, and berries.” Richard thought it was okay. I didn’t try it as I need to limit my dairy intake.

Overall it was good and we enjoyed the variety. I’m not sure it’s worth $40 per person above paying nothing to eat in the main dining room, but it was worth $20 per person. They do adjust the dishes slightly depending on the number of people. For example, I received one each of the two types of cupcakes since it was just for me. I believe if I had ordered the filet mignon only for me it would have only come with one filet. The rectangular plate you see with the filet is about 6 x 8 inches. The silverware is on the large size.

Wonder where we are going from here? This is our itinerary:
Day 1 Sun, Oct 07 Miami, Florida; depart at 4:30 PM
Day 2 Mon, Oct 08 At Sea
Day 3 Tue, Oct 09 At Sea
Day 4 Wed, Oct 10 Cartagena, Colombia; 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Day 5 Thu, Oct 11 Colon, Panama; 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Day 6 Fri, Oct 12 Panama Canal (Cruising); 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Day 7 Sat, Oct 13 At Sea
Day 8 Sun, Oct 14 Puntarenas, Costa Rica; 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Day 9 Mon, Oct 15 At Sea
Day 10 Tue, Oct 16 Puerto Quetzal,Guatemala; 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM
Day 11 Wed, Oct 17 At Sea
Day 12 Thu, Oct 18 At Sea
Day 13 Fri, Oct 19 Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM
Day 14 Sat, Oct 20 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; 7:00 AM to 2:30 PM
Day 15 Sun, Oct 21 At Sea
Day 16 Mon, Oct 22 San Diego, California; arrive 6:00 AM

Garden 2012

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

I don’t believe I’ve said anything about my garden this year. It began in a whirlwind along the lines of “if we’re going to have a garden this year we need to get plants in the ground NOW.” This was at the beginnning of June and we hadn’t done anything – hadn’t pulled the weeds, hadn’t added compost, didn’t have any starts, hadn’t bought any new seeds.

As usual we’ve had some successes and some failures or semi-failures.

Zucchini: major success this year! We expanded the garden into a previously unused area (read: barren, rocky soil). Dumped on several loads of semi-composted horse manure, got it partially rototilled, plucked the largest rocks and weeds. Threw down some black plastic and planted 6 Black Beauty zucchini starts purchased from a major hardware store. A couple weeks later I added 3 more starts that I grew from seed. I didn’t have much hope. The starts seemed so fragile and the ground I planted in them was barely passable for anything but weeds and salal.

Look at what we got! It really is a miracle. The plants are enormous and they’re producing zucchini far faster than we can eat it. I have picked 15 LARGE zucchinis and numerous smaller ones. Past years I literally only had 2 small zucchinis to harvest after a whole season of growing.

Garden

Garden

Garden

Yellow Squash: I have two plants. So far they’ve each produced a single squash, but they have more blossoms in various stages of development.

Garden

Peas: almost a failure. I started my seeds indoors in water/paper towels. When the plants had grown to about 9 inches tall a resident deer munch a whole bunch of them down to 4 inches. Fresh peas are my favorite vegetable; I was not pleased. After adding a hotwire the peas were able to recover as you can see below. Some peas have already been blanched and frozen as they are outproducing what I can eat fresh.

Garden

Garden

Garden

Kale: all I have are two volunteers from last years seed. One is going gangbusters and the other is the tiniest kale I’ve ever seen. Have harvested from this plant twice.

Garden

Rainbow Chard: I didn’t think I was going to have much success, but lately the plants are doing well. Have harvested 3 times.

Garden

Carrots, Short Round Carrots: the tops are about 8 inches tall. In the past we haven’t had great success. The nice thing is the horses like to eat the carrot tops so if the carrots are too small to clean for human consumption we just give them to the horses.

Garden

Green Onions: are they really supposed to take so long to grow? I’m hoping to be able to harvest a few soon.

Green Beans: this is the first time they’ve appeared in my garden. These are supposed to be a bush variety, but they found the fence. They seem awfully slow to grow and some of the starts actually died, but maybe we’ll have a few green beans to eat in a few weeks.

Beets and Rutabaga: the beets seem to be awfully slow this year. Last year they were hit and miss. I got a few fist sized beets, a few smaller than that, and plenty of greens. Hoping for some good beet greens AND some beats this year. Nothing big enough to harvest yet.

Rutabaga is a first for me. To be honest, I don’t know much about it or even if I like it (though I do like all the root veggies I can think of). They appear to be doing well though when I was talking to my grandpa he said they are susceptible to worms which can ruin the crop.

Almost forgot to mention: the tomatoes. The deer ate the top of both of my plants and I suspect we won’t get any ripe tomatoes at all this year. I also have Walking Onions, Garlic Chives, and Chives – all of which are doing well.

Pumpkin

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Last year during the holidays I would bring home a can or 2 or pumpkin every time it was on sale. One day R was in the pantry when he said to me, “how come there are 8 cans of pumpkin in here?” I said, “because after the holidays I won’t be able to find it in the store and I don’t want to run out.”

About a month ago I ran out. My pancakes have been so blah since then. They’re just not the same without pumpkin. Even making them with cinnamon or blueberries isn’t as good as pumpkin.

Last week R said he knew a store that still had pumpkin so he went and got me a can. Just one can.

Pumpkin

Do you see where this is going?

Pumpkin

That is a full size laptop.

Pumpkin

And a normal 12 oz can of Coke.

Yep, it’s one ginormous can of pumpkin. I couldn’t be happier. 🙂 The very next morning I made pumpkin pancakes and the day after that I made pumpkin pie oatmeal. I believe a week has passed and I’ve had pumpkin in my breakfast every single day.

Pumpkin

Bisquick, chia egg (< 1 tbsp chia mixed with 1/4 cup water, let sit for 15 minutes), almond milk, and pumpkin. Topped with coconut 'oil' (at room temp it is solid like softened butter) and real maple syrup (because I am not supposed to eat corn). Now I need to break my Bisquick habit and make them from scratch.

Pumpkin

Yum.