Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cruising the Pacific Coast on Celebrity

I feel like I’ve been talking about this trip forever and am amazed it’s finally here.  It actually has been quite awhile since Celebrity Cruise Line first invited me to cover their Pacific Coastal Wine Cruise.  I have cruised many times, but not in a few years, not as a travel journalist and never on a themed voyage.  I was able to work this trip in with a British Columbia adventure and bring along my longtime friend Lynn.

The Celebrity Millennium set sail from one of my favorite places, San Diego.  It’s one of the few places where you can count on perfect weather and it didn’t let us down as we had an 80 degree, bright and sunny day. There were some issues that kept us from boarding immediately, and it was definitely not organized at the San Diego pier, but by early evening Lynn and I were in our Veranda Balcony Suite with sparkling wine in hand.

I will get into more detail about the Celebrity Cruise on my third day, when we are at sea and I have a chance to meet with some of the staff, however, I can say it is the perfect size ship for me. I’ve never been on a mega ship and I’m not sure that I’d like to trade in learning my way around and seeing the same people again for an indoor ice skating rink or a roller coaster. The Millennium does have a wide selection of food choices (Main Dining Room, Olympic specialty restaurant, Spa Cuisine, endless Buffet), a huge gym, outdoor and indoor pools and whirlpools, a casino, shopping and theatres.  What more could two women want?

Since this is a wine cruise there are events scheduled every day that give passengers the opportunity to taste wine and/or learn about wine. The introduction, or Wine Expo, was held just after sailing. Passengers were offered champagne or wine, with an assortment of cheeses and breads.  We also had a Chocolate Fountain, accompanied by fruits and marshmallows. I nibbled (dinner was only two hours away) and chatted a bit with one of the organizers of the wine events, Larry Nicer of Kobrand Corporation. He told me about the seminars, tastings and dinners to come and I wished I had time to attend more.

Celebrity Cruise Line
Celebrity offers quite a selection of wine on board from around the world. I had brought a few bottles with me from British Columbia (you can bring two when you embark) and was looking forward to trying some of theirs too.  Lynn and I also purchased their Premium Non-Alcoholic Beverage Plan, which included unlimited Soda, Bottled Water (including Vitamin Water), Juices, Smoothies and Specialty Coffees. It’s one of a half dozen plans that are offered for those who don’t want to get hit with big drink bills in the end.
Lynn and I had dinner on night one at the main dining room, the Metropolitan Restaurant and hoped the food was a sign of things to come for the next 10 days.  I started with a delicious Baked Goat Cheese appetizer, followed by a Mushroom Cappuccino soup which was light and not too salty, the way I like it.  For a main course I had the Moroccan Lamb Stew, which was very tender and full of flavor. Dessert was one of my favorites, Crème Brule and it lived up to my expectations.

We’re on the 8:30 pm sitting which means we have plenty of time to get ready for dinner, but not much energy to do much after.  We did hit the casino briefly and I’m happy to say I started day one $8.50 richer thanks to a slot machine. My gambling goal -- to play for an hour and walk away in the plus column – was met and it was time to retire for the night. Our first port was coming up in the morning. On Catalina Island we had a full day scheduled of Zip Lining, boat riding and lunch at Avalon Grille in between..

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