Archive for October, 2012

Cruise Day 4 – Cartagena, Colombia

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Our first day in port! Frankly, I knew nothing about Cartagena other than the misconception of what you see in Romancing the Stone which was actually filmed in Mexico and that the US Department of State says Columbia is still dangerous for Americans though security has greatly improved in the tourist/business areas of Cartagena and Bogota.

We arrived at 7 am and our tour was meeting at 8 am. I had heard a few people say that they preferred room service for early port days like this; we decided to give it a try. Its not exactly room service though as our butler brings it, puts out a white table cloth and lays out all the food you ordered on the little glass table in our room. Richard had scrambled eggs and sausage links. I had a sausage link and a bagel with lox and capers. I made my own strawberry hibiscus tea from hot water that we ordered, while Richard had coffee. Sadly the orange juice that you get from room service is Minute Maid instead of the fresh squeezed OJ that is served in Blu.

Frankly, I don’t understand how room service works well for early tours because the earliest time slot in which you could request a hot breakfast was 6:30 to 7:00 am. You could request continental only prior to that, but really, that hardly makes it more convenient than going up to the Oceanview Cafe (buffet) and getting it yourself.

Coming into Cartagena:

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Our tour was one we joined through Cruise Critic Roll Call; it was through Mr. Emerald. There were 17 of us at a cost of $42 each plus tip for the guide and driver. Our guide was Niba and our driver Roberto. The mini-bus we were on was air conditioned and held probably 25 people so we had some room to spread out. Unfortunately I have no photos from the actual tour since I forgot my camera! The tour made the following stops: La Popa Hill and monastery, Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, the Pierino Gallo Plaza where Mr. Emerald’s store is (all of the ships recommended stores are here), the walled city for a stop at Las Bovedas (The Dungeons) which is more shopping, and a walking tour to the top of the wall and into the Church of San Pedro Claver.

La Popa Hill and monastery, with a distant shot see you can see how it stands out above the city. This was the first stop on our tour.

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Iglesia Pedro Claver dome in the distance. I was impressed by this church. It’s the closest I’ve seen to the cathedrals in Europe, outside of Europe.

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Niba was a wealth of knowledge about every area we went to as well as historical and current topics about Cartagena and Colombia. Of course, since the tour was through Mr. Emerald we had 45 minutes shopping time at his store and the Pierino Gallo Plaza. I hadn’t planned on making a purchase, however the spirit and freedom got the better of me and I came home with a beautiful pair of earrings.

Colombian Emeralds from Mr. Emerald

Cartagena isn’t exactly high on my list of places I’d like to return to. There were a lot of very poor areas around the city and the beaches were not exactly nice. If we were to go back (and that would only happen if we were on a cruise that stopped here) I’d spend all my time in the old city.

The tour departed at 8:15 am and we were back to the port at 1:20 pm. Lines to re-board were long. One nice thing about Celebrity is that they pass out ice cold wash cloths as everyone was sticky and hot after walking around in a humid 81 degrees.

Back on the ship…

Once again I had lunch at the Aqua Spa Café. This is the food I love – light, fresh, no preservatives. Today I had a small Greek salad and the portobello sandwich. The sandwich was one quarter the size you’d expect, served open faced with grilled portobello, red bell pepper and onion. It was tasty and just the right amount of food when eaten with the salad. I have to say, so far, between eating a healthy breakfast in Blu and a healthy lunch at Aqua Spa Café there is no way I am going to gain weight on this cruise. I am actually finding myself to be quite hungry – even with a small bite with tea and the 3 tiny canapes before dinner. Not that I’m complaining, there is plenty of food available at all hours of the day. I’m very happy to have the healthy options and glad that I don’t feel as if I’m stuffing myself while at the same time enjoying quite tasty food.

For dinner I had the caprese salad appetizer which wasn’t as good as I had hoped, mostly due to beefsteak tomatoes that weren’t ripe. Then I had a radicchio salad with craisins, nuts, and a creamy vinaigrette of some sort. Really, the best thing to do with salad dressings was to ask Rosys what he recommended – he never steered me wrong. My main entree was rib eye steak that was served with boiled brussel sprouts and a disc of fried mashed potatoes. Richard had a salad wedge of iceberg lettuce with tomato and blue cheese dressing. He also had the rib eye. For dessert I passed on the kiwi sorbet and had tiramisu instead (couldn’t resist). Everything was good, though we thought the rib eye was odd – not a normal rib eye.

Leaving Cartagena. A very busy port.

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Celebrity Millennium: Cartagena, Colombia

Cruise Day 3 – At Sea

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Three weeks ago today I remember thinking, “Wow, I cannot believe it’s Tuesday – the second day of the work week and we are on vacation, losing track of which day it is.” I bet you can guess what I had for breakfast. No need to re-hash that so let’s talk about our stateroom.

When we booked this cruise it was about 60 days before sailing. We had pretty much decided on a Sky Suite which if you’ve been on a cruise you know that a ‘suite’ is not really a suite with a separate bedroom, its just a bigger room. During our conversation with the booking agent we decided to take a Suite Guarantee which means we would likely get a Sky Suite (as opposed to any of the bigger suites), but we would not be picking the exact room. At about 45 days prior to the cruise our cabin got assigned – Accessible Sky Suite 9121, 351 square feet, 57 square foot balcony.

I would describe the Sky Suite as being more like your standard hotel room in size whereas a standard cabin on a cruise ship is tiny. This room had 5 feet of walking space between the end of the bed and the cabinetry. On our last cruise (Dawn Princess, standard balcony room) the two of us could not walk past the end of the bed at the same time as there was only 2 feet of space from the foot of the bed to the cabinetry. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that there was enough storage for a 15 night cruise.

Celebrity Millennium, Sky Suite 9121

Celebrity Millennium, Sky Suite 9121

This cabin is port side, immediately below the pool deck, but it’s at the tail end of the pool deck so while its not underneath deck chairs it is underneath the ping pong table. I worried about this somewhat. Reviews online were mixed. The benefit to this cabin is that it’s very convenient to the stairs and midship elevators, and also the smoking area.

As an accessible room there is some additional square footage over a non-accessible Sky Suite since the occupant may need room to park and maneuver a mobility scooter. Research online showed that some people use deceptive tactics to book the accessible rooms in order to get more room and other people take it upon themselves to give the stink eye to able bodied people booked in these cabins. This cabin was assigned to us by Celebrity, we did nothing deceptive to get it and in reality we may have preferred a regular bathroom over the accessible bathroom. I did read online that people had issues with the shower getting water all over the bathroom. The entire bathroom is setup with a drain around it, but there is also a raised row of tile that keeps almost all the water in the shower.

Celebrity Millennium, Sky Suite 9121

In the end, any worrying I did was needless. The room was plenty quiet – there was no noise from the elevators or stairs, and little noise from the ping pong table. For the most part the ping pong table is located over the balcony, not over the bedroom area. The only noise we had which was slightly annoying was the slamming of doors that went to some crew area on the pool deck. It really was no big deal though.

I should probably talk about the balcony too. It was relatively large and was furnished with 2 chairs, 2 footstools, and a side table. We are not sun worshipers so the deep overhang blocking the sun was of no concern to us. However, as you can clearly see it does impact photos taken from your balcony. Even though the elevators are immediately forward of the cabin, they really could not see onto the balcony. If you were out leaning on the railing then folks in the elevator could see you, but so could anyone else who was out at the edge of their balcony.

Celebrity Millennium, Sky Suite 9121

Celebrity Millennium, Sky Suite 9121

Here is what the storage looks like. When you first enter the room there are floor to ceiling mirrors, then the closet, then the safe/drawers, followed by the fridge, and finally the desk area. There are also 2 small drawers in each of the bedside tables. Yes, I realize our cabin looks like a complete disaster in these photos.

Celebrity Millennium, Storage

Celebrity Millennium, Storage

Celebrity Millennium, Storage

We had no less than three people looking after us in our room. First, our butler Anton. Mainly we could call him if we wanted dinner reservations and he brought us afternoon tea, followed by canapes. Our room steward was Benjie – he was a great guy, super personable and cheerful. Benjie had an assistant working for him named Kadek. He was shy at first, but by the end of our cruise Benjie had taught him well as he was much more comfortable starting a conversation.

Celebrity Millennium, Towel Animals

So on to our day on the ship…

The day was spent mostly relaxing and wandering around the ship. We had our Cruise Critic Roll Call in the Cosmos Lounge mid-morning. The captain, hotel director, and cruise director were all there. They said this was the largest roll call they have seen. I was able to put some usernames to faces, but didn’t meet too many people. I think everyone was a little bit shy to get up and mingle. Sparkling wine, orange juice, and pastries were provided at the event.

Lunch, once again, was at the Aqua Spa Café. Today I had what was billed as “Hearts of Palm and Grilled Artichoke”. It consisted of a bed of mesclun lettuce with sauteed mushrooms, a few slices of artichoke, and a few hearts of palm. I also got a plate of prosciutto, cantaloupe, and grapes. Small portions, just right for a light lunch. Normally I will say these portions would not be enough food for me at lunch, but considering dinners on board are large and we get tea, tea cakes, and canapes in the afternoon these have been the right portion.

Dinner, our second night in the MDR, was fun. It was nice to be dressed more casually as well and the space didn’t feel as hot as the night before. The temperature on the ship was surprisingly warm. I am usually too cold in air conditioned spaces, especially if wearing sandals or short sleeve shirts. Yet on the Millie I was rarely too cool so I would guess the temperature was closer to 76 degrees instead of the typical 72.

I tried escargot for the first time (though if you were reading you know that I had another dish the first night that had escargot in it). It wasn’t bad, but as I’ve said about calimari, the reason you’re eating it as the way it’s fried and seasoned (calimari) and the butter/garlic it’s cooked in (escargot). The closest thing it reminded me of texturally is shrimp and you know what I’m thinking right now? Cooked slug reminds me of shrimp. For the most part I’ll stick with shrimp. Besides trying two bites of escargot, my appetizer was sesame crusted tuna. Now are you picturing a thick slice of tuna like you would get on sushi? Yeah, me too. It was paper thin. It was served with caviar and tiny diced red onion. My soup/salad course was a chickpea tomato spinach soup that was spicy and tasty, much like something I’d make at home. Main course was seafood with orzo rice. Richard had barolo braised beef with sage gnocchi as an appetizer, waldorf salad, and a lemon herb chicken with penne pasta and baby carrots. Dessert for me was lemon sorbet (as light and fluffy as the day before) and Richard had crepes suzette with flambeed cherries. This was one dessert he was truly disappointed with as the whole dish was cold when you’d expect the flambeed cherries to be warm. We had a substitute waiter this evening and when Richard asked about the dessert he said, “sir, it has ice cream, its supposed to be cold.” Oh well, I think the issue is there are too many people and too much of a fire hazard for them to flambe tableside. In all fairness he offered Richard a free crepe at Bistro on 5 that he promised would be hot.

And tomorrow we go to Cartagena…

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

Pre-Cruise Travel Day

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

I know, I know – you all want to hear about the cruise, right? We’re almost there. Just have to get through this day of traveling from Seatac to Miami, tomorrow I’ll write about boarding the Millennium.

Friday night we stayed at and had dinner at the Seatac Hilton. It was okay, not as nice as I would expect. It was at least very quiet in our room. We were able to get some sleep, despite getting up at 3:30 am. At 4:30 am we got the shuttle over to the airport. Check in and security were easy, and we departed at 6:30 for Atlanta and then on to Miami. The great part about it is that we had first class seats on both flights. This makes a huge difference in your comfort level on the flight as you get on the plane first, off the plane first, food and drink are included, the flight attendants are more attentive, you generally get your own bathroom for a smaller group of passengers, and even your luggage is delivered first at baggage claim. I didn’t even mention how much more room you have because I am already taking that for granted!

There is only one more thing I want to say about the first flight. We were scheduled to get breakfast and since I can only eat a limited amount of eggs and no dairy I requested a “strict vegetarian” aka vegan meal. I really didn’t know what I’d get since I fully expected the regular meal would be eggs of some type (it was). I was pleasantly surprised to get a hearty breakfast of spinach, tofu, asparagus, and tomato with a side dish of fruit, and a bagel. It was more than I could eat and even though it was still airline food, I was happy that it was more than a bowl of fruit. Why yes, that is Land O’Lakes butter that they also brought me. You’ll have to forgive them that I suppose.

Delta Airlines, Vegan Breakfast

We arrived at Miami mid-afternoon and took a taxi to our hotel for the night. The taxis had many flat rate zones; it cost $17 and took 15 minutes to get to our hotel. This night we stayed at the Westin Colonnade in Coral Gables. It’s a gorgeous hotel inside with several spaces that are well suited to weddings and other events. It was a little confusing to navigate from outside to the hotel desk to the guest rooms due to two different sets of elevators (one elevator never seemed to work) and a one way escalator. Once you figured out how to get to/from your room it was a nice hotel with large windows and big, clean rooms. Food prices were a bit ridiculous – we had salads and one drink for dinner for $60 and buffet breakfast for 2 was $50. The food was good, but the price still crazy high.

We also had a not-so-nice surprise when we got home and saw the hotel charged us another $67. Not knowing what this could be for, Richard called and was told it was 2 internet access charges and mini-bar. Considering we didn’t even have a key to the mini-bar we were a bit miffed. They said the would reverse the charges (except for the single internet access charge which was correct), but it was an unnecessary hassle.

View from our hotel room.

Westin Colonnade Coral Gables

Other than the hotel we didn’t see much of Miami or Coral Gables. We did make two trips to Publix (a grocery store) that was within walking distance of our hotel. Before departure I had sourced out locations to buy shelf stable almond milk since I wanted to take that on board with me and I didn’t want to pack it in the suitcase. The next morning on the way to the ship we stopped again for a case of water.

There was knitting too. This is what I accomplished at the airport and in flight. It’s a Pomatomus Sock in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, colorway bittersweet.

Cruise Socks

Pre-Cruise

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Now I know I didn’t say anything about it publicly on my blog or on Facebook because you can never be too careful with your online security, but most of this month we were gone on vacation.

It all started a few months ago when Richard said he would like to take a vacation. Normally I can’t drag him away from work so this was quite a surprise. The next surprise was when he said he wanted to take a REAL vacation, far away, and that cell phone and internet connectivity were not requirements. Now we’re talking!

We like cruising and find it very relaxing – you unpack one time on the ship, you always know where you’re going to sleep, you know where you can eat, and you can do as much or as little as you want. When I started looking at cruise options we were considering a pacific coastal cruise (too close to home), the Mediterranean (too far from home, too much jet lag), or the Caribbean (wrong time of year). Around five years ago we said we were going to go through the Panama Canal so I looked at that option now, but I thought it would be too long – we’d have to take 2 weeks and 1 day off of work. However, Richard said let’s do it! We booked it and then told our employers…luckily they didn’t say no since we had already locked it in.

The cruise we booked was on the Celebrity Millennium, 15 night Panama Canal from Miami to San Diego, departing on October 7th. On October 5th, three weeks ago today, we left our house and headed to Seatac the night before our 6:15 am flight to Miami.

Nothing but first class all the way for us on this vacation – here we are leaving our house for Seatac. Off we go!

Vacation Departure

Photo courtesy of Jim, Unchained Limousine Services. Thanks Jim! Do we look relaxed yet? I think not – we were glad that the time for vacation had arrived, but we were still uptight about making our flights and worrying about all of our luggage making it to Florida.

Re-entry

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

A return to the reality of daily life. No more constant greetings of “good morning madam”, no more being waited on all day and having someone pick up after you, no more 4 course dinners…

It is good to be home though.

Celebrity Millennium

Celebrity Millennium docked at Puntarenas, Costa Rica. October 14, 2012. Starting this Friday I will begin posting the details of our vacation, day by day as it went from October 5th to October 22nd.