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Copyright © 1995-2002 
Linda Coffman

April 27, 2003
Transatlantic 14 Days/Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona


by Sue Clark


We are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, married a couple years ago - all kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual style. We especially appreciate the atmosphere on formal nights where Celebrity is doing a good job of “gently enforcing” the dress code. We spend a great deal of time relaxing in our cabin rather than joining shipboard activities, so for us a suite makes a lot of sense. Since we love sea days and we had not visited any of the port cities in Europe, the crossing seemed like a perfect voyage. It was.


On our first cruise with Celebrity, a 14-night cruise on Mercury a few years ago, we became acquainted with Captain Adamidis and his wife Joyce. Joyce and I keep in contact by email and it’s always wonderful to see them again; they make the cruise very special. We also sailed with them last September on Millennium. When we first sailed Millennium we weren’t sure we would like it due to the size. We loved it! She is still the most beautiful ship we’ve sailed. My favorite public room is the Platinum Champagne & Martini bar; I love the lavenders and grays and the crystal light fixtures.


Since this trip involved transatlantic air, we booked it through Celebrity because the fares were better than I could find. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the day prior to sailing and Celebrity put us in the Hilton, which was a nice but nothing special hotel. We chose not to use the Celebrity transfers and used a taxi to the hotel and the next day to the pier.


Sunday morning we ordered room service breakfast and dressed for boarding. We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 11:00 and after turning our luggage over to the longshoremen went into the terminal to wait for the doors to open. The door for Captain’s Club and suites was opened at 11:15 and since we had all our paperwork in order, we were headed onboard within 10 minutes. A waiter with glasses of champagne greeted us at the gangway entrance into the 3rd level Atrium. This is a really class touch that Celebrity has added during re-branding. Since it was a bit early for our suite to be ready, we took our champagne to the Cova where we could sit quietly and watch the activity on the level below. After a short while, I couldn’t wait any longer and we headed for our Royal Suite (6141). 


Royal Suite

Even though we have had a Royal Suite before it still excited me to enter it. The walls are wood paneled and the carpet and soft furniture are off-white. The dining area has a table for four and an inlayed parquet wood floor and is surrounded by mirrors and cabinets. There is a desk near the sliding doors that comes with a computer – Internet access for this whole trip was $100. The bedroom has the same colors with the entire wall that makes up the headboard of the king-sized bed done in padded leather [mock-leather?]. In a small alcove near the sliding balcony doors is a dressing table. I love having a dressing table all to myself and out of view of the rest of the cabin. The area in which it is located could stand better lighting, but being prepared I had a lighted makeup mirror so the dim light at night didn’t bother me. There are plasma-screen TVs in both the living room and the bedroom and a CD player in the living room. We always take a folder of our favorite CDs with us, but we like the Jazz channel available on the Celebrity system so well that we rarely play our own CDs.


Suite Dining

The suite is 538 sq. ft. with an additional 195 sq. ft. of balcony; room for two padded teak lounge chairs, a table with four chairs and a small Jacuzzi tub. Perhaps the only drawback is that there is only a partial cover over the Royal Suite balconies – the rest is open and since these suites are located in the aft area of the ship that sticks out from the area above, all of the cabins above can look clearly down on you.


The bathroom is done in marble and has two sinks on a long vanity, plenty of storage space, a marble shower and a great Jacuzzi tub with another shower. On our last trip I used the (bathroom) Jacuzzi almost every day, I love the jets that massage up and down your back so I was quite disappointed when the tub didn’t function well and the back jets didn’t move. We reported it and after several days of repairs, they succeeded in getting it to work [sort of work].


Our Butler was Elias and the Cabin Attendant and assistant were Kinga and Alex. They were very professional and we enjoyed their service immensely. We had several cocktail parties prior to dinner and Elias made sure the champagne was chilled and that our appetizers were delivered right on time.


Now, back to the trip. After checking out the room and going out onto the balcony, we rearranged the living room furniture. I like to have the couch and loveseat opposite each other rather than in an L-shape. Now, with it feeling like home, we began looking at the Daily Program and other information and goodies provided. We found that we had been given the wrong dinner seating; that provided us the impetus to head out of the suite. We changed the seating to early dinner and then went to the spa to make an appointment for a couple’s massage. When we returned our luggage had been delivered and we began putting everything away. Jim’s tux and several other things were sent for pressing. Then we checked to make sure everything was ready for our small sail-away party. The lifeboat drill was at 3:15 and went smoothly, although lasting a bit longer than usual because it was done in several languages. We rushed back to the cabin.


Our guests, most of whom we had only met online through the Cruise Critic message board, began arriving. Soon, Joyce, her son Haris and the Hotel Manager’s wife Antonella joined us and with the three blasts of the whistle we were sailing. Several bottles of champagne later, it was time to end the party and go down to dinner (casual attire). We were seated with another very nice couple at a table for eight and had an enjoyable dinner. We remembered to tell them that we don’t often go to the dining room for dinner and not to wait for us if we aren’t there by 6:00. This was fortunate because we only ended up eating in the dining room three times. With the time change and traveling we were too tired to do anything after dinner and after a nightcap on the balcony went to bed.


Day 2 was a sea day. This gave us ample opportunity to roam the ship and relax in preparation for dinner at the Captain’s table. We had breakfast in the suite and later met Joyce for a cappuccino in Cova. The weather was fairly cool and windy but the area around the pool was full. We chose to spend most of the time reading and watching the sea go by. Time went by very quickly and soon it was time to join the other Captain’s table guests in the reserved area of the Platinum. It was a great mix of guests, some other friends of the Captain, another man from Denver, Roswita Arnet (from Celebrity HQ) and most notably John Maxtone-Graham and his wife Mary. I didn’t realize who he was when he joined the group, but noticed the tall man in the kilt. John is the noted author and lecturer on ocean liners; we not only enjoyed all his onboard lectures but also had the good fortune to have several conversations with him. After a glass of champagne and introductions we were lead through the dining room to the Captain’s table. This for me is the biggest honor one can receive; I remember on many early cruises seeing the people seated there and assuming that they were very rich, famous or some other type of VIP. Some are… and some are “just regular people” like us. Following dinner the Captain was to give the “Welcome Onboard” speech in the theater, but as we were again, very tired we declined going. The show that night was the Broadway hits and everyone said it was the best they had ever seen.


Day 3 we were at sea until 3:00 when we docked at Kings Wharf, Bermuda. After breakfast in the room we attended the first of John Maxtone-Graham’s lectures and then the Cruise Critic/Connections party in Michaels Club. About 40 people attended and Leigh, the social hostess, hosted it. After about an hour and a half of socializing we all went to the grand stairway for a group picture. We browsed through the shops onboard a little and then returned to the cabin. 


The weather cleared just as we were docking and, as we love to do, we watched from the chairs on our balcony. It was so pleasant out there; sunny but not too hot that we decided to skip this port. We took some pictures of the fortress on the hill near the dock and did a lot of people watching through the binoculars. When the sushi bar opened at 6:00 at the Ocean grill (10 aft) we went up so I could give it a try – excellent.  There were eight or ten different types and they were all good. Jim opted for pizza that he said was good.


Days 4-8 were at sea. Our routine is pretty much the same each day, breakfast and dinner in the suite and a lot of relaxing so I’ll just hit the highlights. We attended John Maxtone-Graham’s lecture each morning; in fact, we looked forward to them so much we scheduled everything around them. Each day following the lecture we would stop in Cova and have a cappuccino. By this time we had gotten to know several of the Officers and staff so we were often joined by Leigh Vincent-Lambert, the Social Hostess, Hotel Manager George Livertatos and his wife Antonella, or the Captain and Joyce.


We had two early evening cocktail parties with people from the Message Boards and enjoyed meeting everyone. Elias chilled our champagne, delivered our hors d'oeuvres and always checked in during the party to make sure everything was ok.


One night we had dinner in the Olympic with another couple and Joyce. The Olympic is well worth the surcharge (or gratuity as Celebrity prefers to call it). We spent some time looking at the pictures and items from the original ship that are on display in the entry. We ate in the larger white dining room; it's very spacious and elegant but I would request a table in the outer room that is paneled with wood from the original ship. At first, reading the menu seems a little skimpy as you can only choose soup or salad, but the food is so rich and filling that we absolutely waddled out. I should note here that the attire for the evening was casual but for the Olympic it is always informal to formal so we dressed up.


Kylie, the onboard cruise consultant, booked our next cruise for us, the New Years Mexican Riviera on Mercury. This is one of Celebrity’s new Escape cruises (adults only). We will be onboard with some friends from our prior Millennium trip.


Another evening we had our Couples Massage in the suite. With just a little moving of the furniture there was plenty of room for the two massage tables. We turned the lights low and had nice music playing. When it was over – and the hour went by much too quickly – we had a nightcap and crawled into bed. This is really a life I could get used to! 


One of these sea nights was a formal night and we rejoined our tablemates in the dining room. Another couple had been moved to the table and they were all surprised to see us. We had a great dinner and conversation. After dinner we went into the casino and visited with some new friends that were playing blackjack. This casino is great; the décor rivals those in Las Vegas. There are Grecian (or maybe Roman) statues on the pillars and many mirrors. If it weren’t for the noise of the machines (which I hate in any casino) I’d probably spend more time in it. 


The weather during the crossing was cool and we found the balcony of our suite to be too windy to spend much time on, but there were a few die-hards sunning by the pool even on the coolest days. The T-pool in the spa, on the other hand, was very busy as it is in an enclosed area and was warmer than the outdoor one. I like the subtle décor of the T-pool area and although the pool itself isn’t quite as nice as those on the C-class ships, there are two hot tubs that are very hot and very popular. I guess I should explain why I say the pool isn’t as nice – The pool itself is very nice and well kept but it is much larger, cooler and the jets and spouts don’t seem to have a good amount of pressure. It’s really more of a luxury indoor pool than a therapy pool.


Day 9 we docked in Funchal (Maderia), Portugal at noon. We took the Cable Car and Sledge excursion. It was well done with first a narrated bus tour of the city, a stop at a winery for a tasting, and then we were dropped off at the base of the mountain to ride the cable car to the top. After the ride up we walked to the line waiting for the traditional Sledge ride down the winding streets nearly to the bottom of the mountain. These sledges (also called toboggans) are wicker baskets with wicker seats with cushions attached to wooden sled-type runners. Two men control the sled by steering it with ropes on each side over the roadway, which I should note is shared with cars. It was a thrilling, but not frightening ride. The Island of Maderia is semi-tropical and was full of flowers during our visit. It is a beautiful place that I hope I can visit again in the future.


We returned to the ship around 6:00 and asked Elias for a dinner menu – he said there was no problem requesting en suite dinner this late because so many passengers were still off the ship. 


Day 10 we were again at sea following our usual routine and had another cocktail gathering that evening. 


Day 11 we docked in Lisbon, Portugal at 7:00 a.m. We barely woke up in time to see the ship dock and had to report for our shore excursion at 7:45. We took the Jeep safari to Sintra. It was fantastic, only 16 people had signed up for this trip and we were divided between three large jeeps with drivers. We traveled through the countryside, through a National Park, and atop the cliffs at the ocean’s edge with several stops for photos. At one small town we stopped at a family winery for a tasting (and a comfort stop) that also included several local cheeses and sausages with wonderful bread. Sintra is a picturesque town we would have liked much more than an hour to around before we started the return trip. The jeeps dropped us back at the ship. We were hot, tired, hungry and dusty so we decided to freshen up and get some lunch before we went into Lisbon. 


Here comes our comedy of errors: 1) We didn’t eat first and 2) We had a healthy “toddy” with the Portuguese brandy we had just bought and stretched out in the living room to relax. When we woke up a couple hours later (me with a large headache), all ambition to leave the ship was gone so I can’t report on Lisbon.


Day 12 we docked in Gibraltar at 11:00. Since the ship was moving very slowly we were able to sit with our coffee on the balcony and watch the approach. The Rock is certainly something to see; it was particularly impressive because the morning was somewhat foggy and suddenly it just seemed to appear out of the fog. We had the “Rock of Gibraltar” tour booked here, but if I go back I won’t book a tour because everything is nearby. We were taken in 8 person vans on a short tour of the area and then went up the Rock. We toured Michael’s Cave, which has interesting stalagmites and stalactites and we stopped to see the Apes. These are the only wild monkeys in Europe. They are wild, but used to humans and will grab anything that they can get. I was warned not to have any jewelry or loose clothing, so I removed my earrings (luckily). We were busy taking pictures of them when I spotted a baby sitting on a rock at the side of the road – I though it would be interesting if Jim could get a picture with both me and the ape to give a sense of their size. The little one immediately jumped on my arm and as Jim tried to take the picture, the little guy tried to bite me – he didn’t break the skin, but did make a bruise (it made a great story back on the ship). And… Jim didn’t get the picture. As I attempted to coax the little guy back, a bigger one jumped on my back – Jim got that picture! So that part of the trip ends well. After the tour we stopped at a Pub and had fish and chips and then returned to the ship.


Day 13 we docked at Malaga, Spain at 7:00 a.m. Here we had booked the tour to the Caves of Nerja. It involved a long bus ride with a mediocre guide who spent most of his time teaching us how to pronounce Nerja and gave us little information about the area. The cave was really spectacular but had many stairs to climb and some of the people had difficulty.


After returning to the ship, we said goodbye to some new friends who were disembarking to spend a few weeks there, got a bite to eat and then headed back out for a horse & carriage ride through the city. That ride was great. Our driver didn’t speak much English and our Spanish is pretty poor so we had a great time trying to communicate - most of it laughing.


Day 14 was a sea day and the realization that the trip was almost over set in. After breakfast we went to the photo gallery to check for any last photos and didn’t find any we wanted and then delivered a few invitations to our last cocktail party. As we wandered through the ship we ran into many of our new friends and said our goodbyes. At 1:00 we met Captain Adamidis & Joyce and George & Antonella in Cova and then went to the buffet for lunch with them. We had a wonderful time – then it was back to the cabin for the dreaded repacking. It actually went very quickly and then we settled back with our books until time for the cocktail party. Everyone came including Captain & Joyce, John & Mary Maxtone-Graham and a few special friends we’d made during the voyage. We ate hors d'oeuvres and finished off the champagne and then said our goodbyes. We watched the clock and then went to the dining room as early dinner would be nearly over to give our envelopes to the staff and say our goodbyes to the tablemates we’d hardly gotten to know.


Day 15 Barcelona. We were notified that our original 1:00 flight was canceled and that we had been rescheduled on an early flight. We were to meet in the Atrium at 7:45 and would have a special bus to take us to the airport. When I saw the number of people in the Atrium I began to wonder how we were all going to fit on a rebooked flight. When we arrived at the airport they were offering “bumps” because it was overbooked by about 40 people. The offer was so good that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend the day in Barcelona so we took it. We were put in Hotel Fira, a four star hotel and all meals paid along with a nice amount of Delta Dollars. We walked up to the museum a couple blocks away, then had a huge lunch at the hotel. In the afternoon we had a four-hour bus tour of the city that stopped at several locations. I fell in love with the architecture of Gaudi and want to go back to Barcelona to really visit the city.


We flew home the next day and after 26 hours of flying and airports were glad to be home. Now it’s back to real life.


I want to give special thanks to Captain and Joyce Adamidis, Hotel Manager George and Antonella Livertatos, and Social Hostess Leigh Vincent-Lambert. These people really made this trip special. Additionally I want to compliment Richard Fain and all of Celebrity management for the new “rebranding.” I appreciate all they are doing to keep Celebrity at the top of its market category.


One sad note: Joyce informed us that several days into the next sailing, Dominique, the head Sommelier who had served us several times at the Captain’s table, passed away due to a heart attack. We offer his friends and family our sympathy. We, and no doubt many others will remember him fondly.

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