Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Cruise Day 6 – Barbados

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

(January 15)
I had nothing pre-planned for Barbados. Neither did our friends Margaret and John so we decided to venture out together. If you walk through the port stores at Barbados, when you come out the other side you’ll find a taxi queue where you can get a driver on the spot. Also, there was free wifi in the port building.

Some people say Barbados is their favorite island. I’m not entirely sure why – the downtown area looked nicer than the other islands, the beaches looked like they had soft white sand, but I didn’t see much else about it that made it stand out in my mind. I wanted to see Harrison’s Cave – evidently no one else did, but they didn’t speak up so off we went. One thing I did like about this island is that it had open grassy fields, the kind of place you could have grazing animals.

Harrison’s Cave

The cave was interesting if you’ve never seen this sort of thing before (I had not). Once was enough though. The biggest drawback to the cave is that you get there, wander down from the visitor center to the cave entrance via 1 working elevator, then you wait around to go into an area that describes how the caves were formed (25 mins), then you watch a video about how the caves were formed (25 mins), and FINALLY you get to actually go into the caves on a tram. So from the time you’ve arrived at the parking lot it was about an hour before we actually went into the caves. Oh, and at the rate they sell tickets they expect 4 people per bench on the trams, but the reality is that they only comfortably fit 3 people.

Despite all that – the caves were very interesting and I’m glad I’ve seen them. The tour guide did a nice job of pointing out various formations and telling us stories while we were in the caves.

Tropical garden outside the caves

Barbados

Barbados

Barbados

Barbados

In the caves

It was extremely humid and warm in the caves. Water drips constantly from the ceiling – which makes perfect sense because if there wasn’t moisture dripping, there wouldn’t be formations of stalagmites and stalactites.

Barbados

Barbados

Barbados

Barbados

At the port

On this day we were in port with 2 other ships, Carnival Valor and one from Fred Olsen. I don’t recall which ship from Fred Olsen. We were actually pretty lucky on all our ports with the number of other ships that were in port with us.

This is the Fred Olsen ship on the left. It sailed out of England across the Atlantic during the polar vortex. Passengers on it told us that it was quite a wild ride.

Barbados

Barbados

The Atlantis submarine was another tour option. I am somewhat claustrophobic and would really not be that comfortable doing the submarine thing. Yes, that is despite the fact that I was willing to do the caves. When you go into the caves you are in quite a large space with open caverns.

Barbados

If we ever find ourselves in Barbados again I think I’d opt for a nice beach resort. Some place with good food and drinks. Or just stay on the cruise ship! Which is not to say that I thought Barbados was bad, only I don’t recall there being much else to do there.

Cruise Day 5 – St. Kitts

Friday, February 28th, 2014

(January 14)
For St. Kitts I had signed us up for a tour with a small group of folks we met on the Cruise Critic roll call. As it turned out, it ended up a very small group because the other 2 husbands bailed. The tour was booked through Beulah Mills and our drive was Calvin. I would recommend Beulah, the tour was as requested and our driver was personable and drove safely.

After a brief tour through the town, we headed to our first stop – Palm Court Gardens. This historic property and garden has a lovely view, lush gardens, pool, jacuzzi, and restaurant. We visited only to tour the property and gardens, but you can also buy a day pass if you’d like to use the pools and spend the day there.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

Our next stop was a viewpoint where you can see Nevis in the distance if you look one direction and in the other direction you look over the Marriott Royal Beach Resort, Royal St. Kitts Golf Course, and Half Moon Bay.

Nevis in the distance

St. Kitts

This photo cracked me up. Coincidentally we were at the viewpoint at the same time as friends who were on a different tour. John took our picture – he took 3 shots and I didn’t know why, but when I saw these I had to laugh. The way the wind was blowing there was no hope of not having wild hair.

St. Kitts

Looking towards the Marriott and golf course

St. Kitts

Standard size jack donkey. He looked happy and healthy. If it wasn’t for the monkeys I may have had my picture taken with him, but I have no interest in getting crapped on by monkeys.

St. Kitts

Ottley’s Plantation

This place is gorgeous. It used to be a sugar plantation. Now it is a luxury resort, complete with spa and restaurant. Our driver told us that all sugar growing ended on St. Kitts because they were losing money. Islanders do not want to do the work so immigrants had to be brought in from Africa (I don’t recall which country), by the time housing and wages were paid there was no profit. And here I thought it was only a US problem that the locals don’t want to do hard work!

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

The next series of photos are from a short jungle walk through the woods at Ottley’s. I’d really recommend clicking through the first photo and viewing these in large format on Flickr.

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

Philodendrons. Gosh I wish I had done a better job capturing the scale here. A single philodendron leaf was as large as a dinner platter.

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

Out of the woods and strolling around the manicured grounds at Ottley’s.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

This is the bar area at the Royal Palm Restaurant, on the grounds of Ottley’s. I absolutely love how they adapted this historic structure to accommodate the restaurant. For lunch, I had the coconut chicken while everyone else at our table had curried chicken salad. We all had rum punch to drink. It is the island’s signature drink, how can you not?

St. Kitts

This was the shaded area where we had lunch. The restaurant has one other outdoor room that has an ocean view.

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

St. Kitts, Ottley's Plantation

Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas and Celebrity Equinox

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

St. Kitts

Leaving St. Kitts

St. Kitts

Nevis in the background

St. Kitts

Cruise Day 4 – St. Thomas

Monday, February 24th, 2014

(January 13)
Our first day in port! I have never been to any of these port stops before. Richard on the other hand had been to most of them, but many years ago when he was in the Navy. In the months leading up to the cruise his statement to me was that he would be happy to relax on the ship and didn’t really care if we did anything in port. The cruise, for us, is mainly about relaxation, but still – not having been to any of these ports I didn’t want to completely miss out on seeing what the islands were about.

Sailing into St. Thomas

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

What this brings me to is that we had nothing planned for St. Thomas. We walked around and saw the port stores. There are the typical small stores for jewelry, jewelry, and jewelry, watches, watches, and watches, clothing and souvenirs, a drug store, and a grocery store. Taxis and tours were available very close by.

Havensight Mall – the small stores.

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

I noticed the people were nice and they were not pushy with trying to sell you things. We did not ride the tram to the top of the hill, it was $21 per person. We heard the view was good even though it didn’t look like the hill was that much higher than the ship.

St. Thomas

If you walked a few blocks further there was another shopping area with high end stores. This is a very upscale shopping area with nice paving bricks and benches. It was so hot though, that after walking around for a couple hours we wandered back to the ship for cold drinks. Most of the stores weren’t even open.

Walking area at the high end stores

St. Thomas

Carnival Valor was in port with us, as were a number of high dollar yachts including Steve Job’s yacht and one that is reportedly the 10th largest in the world, Rising Sun. There were also charter yachts like Excellence V which says it starts at a cost of $680K per week and Solandge at 1 million bucks a week. Wow! And my last “other large ships” comment is that there was a catamaran coming alongside us when we were docked, that had a mast as high as our 12th floor on the Equinox.

Carnival Valor (foreground), Celebrity Equinox (background)

St. Thomas

Venus, designed by Steve Jobs

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

Rising Sun

St. Thomas

The Massive Catamaran

St. Thomas

Back on the ship for the afternoon, I discovered the Sparkling Mint Lemonade (lemon juice, agave, mint leaves, soda water). Believe it or not, they normally charge $4.50 for this non-alcoholic beverage. Since Richard and I both have a beverage package on this cruise I can drink as many of them as I want for no additional charge. The lemonade was extremely refreshing and I continued to drink it rather often for the rest of the cruise. My other healthier, refreshing drink choice was the iced tea at a cost of $5. It is a large serving, enough for 2 people or if you drink a lot of tea/water like I do then just for one!

Beautiful Harbor

St. Thomas

St. Thomas

Finally, did you know they have motorcycle cruises? There was a group of motorcycle riders on our cruise, most (maybe all) of them were from Toronto, Canada. At each port stop they take their bikes off the cruise ship and have a police escorted ride around the island. I think that’d be super fun if you were a bike rider.

St. Thomas

I’m sure there is much more to see and do in St. Thomas. Maybe next time!

Cruise Day 3 – At Sea

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Let’s talk about the food. I didn’t bother taking very many photos of it. My camera isn’t so great with lower lighting levels so my food photos are never that good anyway. For meals, Equinox has the main dining room (MDR), Oceanview Cafe, Aquaspa Cafe, Bistro on Five, Tuscan Grill, Silk Harvest, Murano, and Blu.

I’ll give a quick overview for anyone who isn’t familiar. All guests are assigned to a dining room – in this case either the MDR or Blu for those guests in aqua class staterooms. Blu is supposed to be healthier options/portions. Suite guests may also eat in Blu on a space available basis though a $5 fee may be incurred. Oceanview Cafe is the main buffet on the ship. It is open almost all the time, but varies in how much variety is available by the time of day. Aquaspa Cafe is a small cafe offering healthy options for breakfast and lunch. Bistro on Five offers crepes and salads for a $5 fee. The specialty restaurants on this ship are Tuscan Grille (Italian steakhouse), Silk Harvest (Asian), and Murano (French). Because we are in a Sky Suite we get 2 nights free in any of the specialty restaurants.

There is also Cafe al Bacio and the Gelateria, as well as room service. The cafe is a place I frequent for delicious hot and iced Tea Forte tea. They also serve espresso and small pastries. Most of the time on this cruise I ate breakfast in Blu, lunch in the buffet, and dinner in the MDR. Just like the last cruise, I generally had the muesli/overnight oats for breakfast made with almond milk. For lunch I could not resist the Indian and Thai entrees, even though they were a little bit repetitive. The only thing I wished for was sushi; it is only served at dinner time. We did also eat in Tuscan Grille one night and the Chef’s Table another night.

Heart of the Operation Tour

For the first time, we went on the kitchen tour. It is held mid-morning so the kitchen is fairly quiet. There is some prep going on, but no food is being served. After champagne, introduction of the kitchen management staff, and a question/answer session, they start leading groups of about 20 through either the 3rd or 4th floor kitchen for the MDR.

Chefs Table

Chefs Table

Food tour

Food tour

Food tour

Food tour

Food tour

After the kitchen tour each of the specialty restaurants and the Molecular Bar (shown below) are setup in the atrium, trying to attract your business for the rest of the cruise. A few of them give out samples, but mostly it is a display of the food they offer.

Food tour

Tuscan Grille

I hadn’t realized what a busy clash of colors were in this restaurant until I looked at this picture. I think it is safe to say that the lighting level when we had dinner here was much lower, muting all of these colors. Tuscan Grille has gorgeous windows looking after on deck 5. Honestly, we were not that impressed with Tuscan even though it gets the best reviews of the specialty restaurants on this ship. And to be fair, I thought I was ordering fairly easy dishes that they should have been able to knock out of the park. I had the calamari appetizer which was nothing special at all. It was large rounds that resembled small onion rings, some were quite tough. The way it was served seemed like something more appropriate to Qsine – it was on red checked paper like you would expect fries at a diner. The salad I ordered was the Bufala Mozzarella and Tomato, like a caprese salad, but the lowest quality caprese I’ve ever had. It is the simplest ingredients, how hard can it be?

For the main course two of us ordered the ribeye steak and we were both less than impressed. This is something we fix at home on a regular basis, I know what a good ribeye is and we buy our beef at a normal grocery store. This cut of meat on the ship was horrible – fully of grisly fat, nothing like the marbling a ribeye is supposed to have. There was something I ordered on the side, eggplant parmigiana I think. It was pretty good.

Someone commented to me later that they would never order the ribeye at Tuscan. Really? Celebrity’s opening description about the cuisine is, “Naturally, beef is a highlight. Our corn-fed, USDA Choice steaks have excellent marbling for added tenderness and juicy flavor.” A steak is something they should have been able to get right. Do you want to know what’s worse? Two days later I had very good ribeye in the MDR. I think I was the only person to order dessert – the tiramisu. It was okay, nothing special.

Overall the only reason I’d eat there again is if I have a suite and have ‘free’ meals in the specialty restaurants to use. Also, I will acknowledge that a different chef on a different ship may mean a better experience too.

Celebrity Equinox interior

Food tour

Chef’s Table

Richard wanted to do the Chef’s Table again, I could have taken it or left it. Why you ask? Surely a bit more attention is taken toward the food being served than a normal night in Murano, but overall it isn’t a real Chef’s Table. It is the chef serving Celebrity dishes that can be found in the specialty restaurants on the ship. They do pour very nice wine with each course at least.

On Equinox, the Chef’s Table meets at Cellar Masters for champagne and amuse-bouches. We gathered there and had a glass of champagne with Chef Tato Garcia, Food & Beverage Manager Irina Ryazanova, and Murano Manager Maja. Once the other couples had joined us Chef Tato shared with us his 3 creations – Beef Tataki with wasabi mayo, aspargus, and crispy leeks, Brie cheese with tomato marmalade, and Chicken liver and mango pannacotta. Each one was amazing! then takes a tour of the kitchens, and ultimately is seated in the Murano wine room.

The chef then led us through the upper level of the MDR and into the kitchen during dinner service. Then you get to use the crew elevator to go up one floor to Murano.

Food tour

Food tour

Once seated in the Murano wine room we were presented with the dinner menu. There is one mistake here – everyone was served the lobster bisque. After that I chose the atlantic salmon, ahi tuna, and floating island. Richard had the beef tartar and rack of lamb. Everything was delicious and the wine is free flowing (and much better quality than what they pour for any other events on the ship). *Ok, floating island is no big deal, I’ll give you that. Because of my dairy allergy I was afraid to have the panna cotta.

The night we had dinner at Tuscan we were able to talk to Chef Tato again and he happily explained how to make his amuse-bouches. He would like to open a cooking school in the future so that is something to look for if you’ve met him and enjoyed his food. It would likely be in Malaga, Spain where he is from.

Chefs Table

Here we are before the Chef’s Table dinner.

Chefs Table

Overall…

We enjoy meeting and getting to know our table mates in MDR fixed seating. We have always considered ourselves lucky with our dinner companions on our cruises and this cruise was no exception. At our table of 8 we represented 4 areas of the US – Chicago, New York, Arkansas, and Washington. Every night we had great conversation, good wine, and tasty food. Between that and not being overly impressed with the specialty restaurants, we prefer eating in the MDR most nights.

Compared to our cruise on the Millie a year and a half ago, I didn’t find the food to be any better or worse. Nothing wrong with that!

Cruise Day 2 – At Sea

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

(January 11)
First at sea day! One of the nice things about this itinerary is that it has the 2 relaxing at sea days at both ends of the trip. Let’s take a look around the Equinox. Celebrity Equinox is a Solstice class ship, commonly referred to as S-Class because there is also a ship named Solstice. She carries 2850 passengers compared to 2158 on the Millennium (the ship we sailed through Panama Canal on).

Pool Deck, mid ship.
We didn’t spend as much time here as on the last cruise. Neither of us are sun worshippers, but we usually enjoy the warmth and ocean air of the shaded spots. By my casual observation, I think you could always find a couple of loungers somewhere on the ship in the sun or shade, whatever your preference may be.

One thing we did notice is that in the main pool deck area they always seemed to be doing Zumba. Sure, it was probably only 2x per day, but it seemed to be going on more often than not when we stepped outside. It was slightly annoying due to the loud music and obnoxious songs (what does the frog say). Only once did I happen across a live band playing though I know there was live music more often than that.

Celebrity Equinox outside areas

Lawn Club on the way to the Sunset Bar, passing the Hot Glass Show.
The Lawn Club seemed woefully underutilized. There were a few games going on here. Otherwise it was just a space you skirted around when walking from the pool deck to the Sunset Bar. In my opinion, the novelty of having living grass on a cruise ship is silly. They should replace it with the best quality fake turf, put loungers on it and maybe make picnic type blankets available.

Speaking of the Hot Glass Show – we did watch part of it several times. Being from Seattle area and having seen many TV shows about glasswork and seeing some in Venice, it was only of passable interest to me. The seating area was not full either time we stopped by, but I will say that if you really want to see what is going on you need to be at the front.

Celebrity Equinox outside areas

Lawn Club near the Sunset Bar

The lawn area was rarely closed during our cruise (that I observed anyway). However, during sailaway they tried to close the port side near the Sunset Bar. Since that is the side most visible to the Fort Lauderdale webcam everyone ignored the roped off area. Can’t say that I blame the passengers, it was rather silly of Celebrity to think they can close one of the most popular gathering spots during sailaway.

Celebrity Equinox outside areas

Solarium

We almost never found ourselves in the solarium on this cruise. Last time around on Millie, I commonly ate lunch at the Aqua Spa Cafe, something that I never did during this voyage.

Celebrity Equinox outside areas

Upper Pool Deck, maybe deck 16?

Celebrity Equinox outside areas

Atrium, looking across to the library.

The atrium on Equinox was pretty. I like the suspended tree design and appreciate that it is different on each of the S-class ships. Too bad I didn’t take a picture so you could actually see the tree design!

Celebrity Equinox outside areas

Artwork near the specialty restaurants.
Overall I enjoyed the artwork on this ship much more than I did on Millie. There was a lot of fun and interesting things. There was also a book in our stateroom that identified the artist and title of each piece, and told you a little about it.

Celebrity Equinox interior

This was also the first formal night, but we didn’t have any photos taken. When I priced the photo package for this cruise it was ridiculous compared to what I paid for the longer Panama Canal cruise.

Cruise Day 1 – Embarkation

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Finally it was here – embarkation day!

We woke up early and immediately looked out the window for a glimpse of the Equinox. She was there!

The biggest question of the day was what time to head over to the ship. I suggested 10:30 am so we’d be getting there just before 11. Richard thought it would take 10 or 15 minutes to get a taxi so he wanted to be in the lobby at 10 am. There was a taxi dropping some folks off at the hotel so we were immediately on our way and at the port by 10:20 am. Outside the port building it looked busy – there were still many folks that had disembarked that morning, waiting for transportation and some folks like us arriving early. We actually missed the porters entirely, got to the embarkation door for suites and elites, and still had our luggage. We turned around and found the porters, got rid of most of our luggage.

Back in line, we were just inside the doorway of the building. The line was only about 20 people deep, but they were not yet letting anyone through. Just before 11 am they started processing people through security and into the check-in lines. The check-in folks didn’t seem quite ready as it took them a good 5 minutes to find our sea pass cards, but no matter – we’re about to board our ship!

Seapass cards

Sea pass cards in hand we made a quick stop at the photographers and then headed upstairs. One side of the terminal was setup for elites/suites, aqua class, and one organized group. Water was provided, maybe coffee too – I didn’t pay much attention. After a short wait they announced that we would begin boarding the ship (I think it was around 11:30 am). The elites/suites area was first to board and we were among the first few people on the ship. The only very minor disappointment was that they directed us to the forward doors so rather than entering the ship for the first time mid-ship in the atrium we were at the forward elevators. Of course, welcome aboard champagne and orange juice was being handed out.

We had 2 main goals: upgrade our drink packages from Classic to Premium and check our table assignment for dinner. Actually the drink package upgrade was Richard’s goal, I was happy to take a ‘wait and see’ approach to upgrading, but he was set on it. Since we had booked this cruise on the 1-2-3 GO promotion the Classic package was given to us at no additional cost. Upgrading to Premium is $11.50 per day, per person. Upgrading can be done at any bar or by any staff member who is selling drink packages. They will usually have at least 1 table setup to promote the packages upon embarkation.

We found an assistant maitre d’ inside one of the main dining room (MDR) entrances. Once again we had been assigned to a 2 person table despite having asked for a large table. The situation was easily remedied and we were moved to the center of the dining room at an 8 person table.

Silhouette Restaurant, commonly referred to as the MDR.

Silhouette Restaurant (Main Dining Room)

Silhouette Restaurant (Main Dining Room)

The announcement that staterooms were ready came just after 2 pm. Besides wanting to see our room, it is finally time that we can get rid of our carry on bag. I’ll show you photos and talk about the benefits/disadvantages of our room in about a week.

Next thing we knew it was time to head up to the Sunset Bar for sailaway. Our fellow Cruise Critic roll call members planned to be there, along with lots of other cruisers who know what a nice location it is at the top, aft end of the ship for watching us depart.

Leaving Fort Lauderdale. The weather had been nicer today, it must have been around 70 because it was neither too hot or too cold outside.

Sail away

Sail away

Sail away

Pre-Cruise

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

What, you didn’t know we went on another cruise? It is becoming a distant memory for me too, which is why I like to blog about it. Then I can look back and re-live the whole experience. I will tell you upfront that I did not take as many photos as I did last time. Just like last time though, I plan to blog our vacation day by day as it occurred.

A month ago, on February 8th we flew to Miami. With all the crazy weather and flight delays we were glad that we were flying in on Wednesday even though embarkation wasn’t until Friday. Our cruise was departing from Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale so we took a taxi from Miami to our hotel ($100), the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach.

The hotel was nice, nothing terribly special, but it was in a good location fairly close to the cruise port and right on the beach front. And it was free since we were able to use Richard’s Starwood membership points. You could walk to the vantage point at the entrance of the cruise port to watch the ships come and go (we didn’t do this as the weather was mostly rainy), or walk north from the hotel to a small shopping area. CVS Pharmacy was a popular donation, a 1 mile walk.

Our room was on the top floor of the tower, in the front corner. This put us further from the beach, but also afforded us a view all the way down to the cruise port and also northward along the beach. Would you believe it that our hotel room was smaller than our stateroom on the ship? We had a good laugh over that.

Pre-Cruise, Jan 9 2013

Pre-Cruise, Jan 9 2013

Pre-Cruise, Jan 9 2013

Pre-Cruise, Jan 9 2013

As a side note, there was an earthquake in Cuba on this day before we left for the cruise. It was at 4pm eastern time. We did not feel it, but it was widely reported on the news as it was felt in southern Florida.

On this last evening in Florida we had dinner at Bimini Boatyard and were able to meet some fellow Cruise Critic roll call members. It was a good meet up spot and a fun time.

Tomorrow we board Celebrity Equinox for a 10 day Ultimate Caribbean cruise!

The itinerary:

Cruise Itinerary

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