Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 3 - Cruising the Gulf of Thailand

We slept well and are so grateful for a day of rest. Since arriving in Shanghai on December 6th it has been non-stop movement in China and Singapore. We are very happy to sort of do nothing today except relax. I forgot to mention that yesterday afternoon I got stuck in the elevator all by myself! The doors would not open on deck 11 or deck 10. I decided to try deck 3 and that worked. I used the stairs to get back up to deck 11 and then called Guest Relations to report the malfunction. I have a fear of elevators to begin with so it was a brief but unpleasant encounter.

On a more positive note the Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle (Connections Party) is today at 11:30 am. There are also a few lectures to attend.

The weather looks great today! It is forecast to be 82F with moderate seas. There was an announcement made that we are sailing at 21 knots which is rather fast to make up the lost time due to the delay leaving Singapore. We have been assured that the Captain says we will arrive on time in the port of Laem Chabang for Bangkok.

Sunrise over the Gulf of Thailand
This seems like a good time to provide some details on the Celebrity Millennium and the crew.

Celebrity Millennium 

Celebrity Millennium
As I mentioned earlier the Millennium was launched in 2000. Below are some statistics:

Number of passengers: 2136

Tonnage: 91,000

Length: 965 feet

Beam: 105 feet

Maximum cruising speed:  24 knots

The Crew:

Captain: Zisis Taramas. He started his career with Chandris cruises (later merged with Celebrity) as a deck cadet in 1985. He became Master of the Millennium in 2005. He returned from vacation in November when he rejoined the ship in Lahaina, Hawaii.

Hotel Director: Darren Tiller. He is from the UK and previously worked at various Caribbean resorts. Apparently he overseas the entire hotel operation on the Millennium. According to Celebrity this includes everything you see and experience onboard.

Cruise Director: Steve Gayda. He is Canadian and been in the cruise industry for 13 years.

Executive Chef: Michael Fernandes. He was born in Mumbai and has worked at hotels in India and Dubai. He joined Celebrity in 1998.

Concierge: Jennifer. Her bio was not listed on the sheet with the other officers. However, she is a superstar and very personable. Celebrity Millennium is very lucky to have her!

Sea Day

This morning we decided to try breakfast in Blu. We only ate breakfast there a few times when sailing on the Solstice. When we arrived the restaurant was about half full.

I ordered the bagel with smoked salmon and a smoothie. My mother ordered toast and fruit.

Blu Breakfast
Passports and Vietnam Visa

Following breakfast we went to Guest Relations to ask about the return of our passports for Bangkok tomorrow and about the Vietnam visa process. We waited in line for about 5 minutes and then asked one of the three guest relations staff about getting the Vietnam Visa. We were handed a form to complete for a Vietnam Landing Card. This was a bit of a surprise since we had nothing in our room describing this. If we did not ask about it I fear that we would not of had the visa processed. The form stated that we would need a photo if we were staying overnight in Vietnam and the visa would cost $50.00. I unfortunately I forgot the extra photos I had at home. We were told that the ship's photographers could take our photos but that they were going to try to use the photos from the Seaspass cards. They just didn't know if the Vietnam authorities would accept them. For those not staying off the ship overnight they could use the ship visa and no photo was required and the visa would cost $30.00.

This was all very disconcerting that there was so much conflicting and ambiguous information. To top it off the first person at Guest Relations told us that we would collect our passports at the Guest Relations desk tomorrow. However, we overheard someone else say they would be picked up at the Conference Center. We decided to speak with Jennifer the Concierge to sort all of this out. Thank goodness Jennifer is very competent. She told us that it might be better for us to get the photos done on the ship for the visa. She also confirmed that we would be picking up the passports at the Conference Center shortly after arriving in Laem Chabang tomorrow.

We went over to the photo area to speak with the photographers. We asked the one from South Africa about taking our photos for the visa. He was very nice but when he checked with his colleague, she stated that it would not be possible because they were preparing for formal night and did not want to switch to a light background. I said "so the fact that you won't take our photos means we cannot get a Vietnam visa?"

She didn't seem to really care but could tell we were upset. It was now 10:00 am and she said to check back in a few hours to see whether they could do it or not. We were not happy but hopeful that this could get sorted out.

Anna and the King

We decided to go to the lecture about Anna and the King. It was held in the Celebrity Theater. We sat up on top on Deck 5. We joined the talk about 10 minutes late. It seemed we had not missed much yet as he still was talking about the importance of history and hadn't even mentioned Thailand yet!

Lecture Anna and the King
The lecturer realized he was running late so he quickly started speaking about Anna from the King and I. He mentioned her fictionalized life and how she created a public persona what was different from reality. Why she did this was to make her life more interesting. There was apparently no romance between Anna and the King of Siam. He talked a little about Yul Brenner and the play and movie versions. We had not learned too much when the end of the hour came and he started quickly clicking through different slides. It seemed like the lecturer had read up on the subject but this was not his expertise.

Cruise Critic Meeting 

We left the lecture feeling disappointed and not knowing much more than when we arrived. It was now time to go to the Cruise Critic meeting which was being held in the Cosmos Lounge on Deck 11 forward. It took us sometime to figure out how to get there. We arrived before the meeting started. In the past we have missed the meeting all together as we either were not notified of the meeting time or forgot about it.

Cruise Critic members in the Cosmos Lounge
There were a lot of people at the meeting spread out across the lounge. It is just a guess but perhaps there were 75 people attending. The Cruise Director, Hotel Director and the Captain were also in attendance. The cruise director spoke for a few minutes to welcome everyone. He then introduced the hotel director and passed the mike to the captain.

Captain Taramas welcomes us to the Cruise Critic Party
Everyone was in a jovial mood for about 5 minutes but that quickly changed. People started asking questions  to the cruise director and hotel director about getting our passports back for Bangkok and about the problems with photos for the Vietnam visa. Also people were confused which visa they required for Vietnam. The cruise director was flummoxed by all the commotion. He said regarding getting the passports returned, "we will let you know". How could he possibly know just by looking at us if we were spending the night off the ship in Bangkok? A lot of people were upset about the photo request for the visa. The hotel director obviously sensed the hostility in the room. After a few chats on his radio he announced that they were setting up a desk in the Guest Relations area within the hour with the Documentation Officers to address any questions about the passports and visas.

After the meeting we stayed behind to speak with the Captain. Someone who looked a lot like Michael Steel, the former head of the Republican National Committee was speaking with him. He talked about dumping water when they were leaving Cairns, Australia and also about our quick escape from the freighter in Singapore. The Captain said because we are cruising so fast it will cost $100K more for the fuel. He joked that he would send me the bill!

We enjoyed our chat with the Captain and then it was time for lunch. It was actually a little past lunch so we settled for pizza.


Cookie with topping for dessert

The pizza was a little "doughy" but otherwise tasty. After lunch we walked by the pool area and then went back to our room to sit on the balcony.

Celebrity Pool
The pool area was very popular but we decided to return to our room to rest.

Aquaclass on Millennium

We are booked in Aquaclass (A1) in stateroom 1141 which is located aft overlooking the wake. I prefer aft rooms as they are very quite and allow a great vantage point to view scenery on both sides of the ship. The only downside is that it may get hot back here but we will find out. The aft Aquaclass balconies are a nice size. Ours is slightly angled but you still can see toward the left without difficulty.

Balcony AQ 1141

View below of Deck 10 terrace area
It was a little warm on the balcony but not too bad. There was not much of a breeze which made it feel hotter.

I read in the room and made some notes for the blog. Mother slept for about an hour. Last night at dinner the  Sommolier had us sign up for one of the wine events taking place on the ship. It is called "Tour Around The World". For $25 per person you get to sample various wines. Around 2:00 pm we went to Cellarmasters to try the wine.


We were given a sheet of paper that listed the wine by country and then by red or white. This was to not only rate the wines we were tasting but also to keep track of how much we drank! I liked the French Bordeaux the best and one of the whites from Spain the least. They had wines from the US, Australia, Spain, France, Italy and I think one other place which escapes me.

Wine Tour. Perhaps I was feeling tipsy and couldn't focus?
We sat next to a very nice couple from Ontario, Canada. He is in the mining business. I don't know much about it but asked some innocuous questions about rare earth metals from Mongolia. He may have been impressed until he realized I had no idea what I was talking about. Perhaps I can blame it on the wine. Some of the wines were very good and it was a nice way to spend an afternoon.

It was now time to check back with the photographers about the photos. We were in luck that they agreed to take them. Perhaps having wine just before our photo shoot was not such a good idea. We were not the only ones having this done for the visa. We were told we could pick them up in a few hours. The cost of the photos was $12.95 each.

We may have become tired from the wine so we returned to our room to relax until it was time to get ready for dinner. Tonight we will dine in the Olympic specialty restaurant. I used the wifi in the room for a little while. It was a little slower than when I logged on this morning but still worked.

I reviewed some of the Captains Club paperwork that was left for us in the room when we boarded yesterday. With the Captain's Club loyalty program I am Select and my mother is Elite. However, we both have the same exact number of points (9) having always sailed together on Celebrity. Somehow my mother got designated as Elite which may be a mistake. Why Celebrity thinks she has 10 points instead of nine is a mystery. She gets 90 free Internet minutes, a free laundry bag service, and priority tendering among other items. Elites can have breakfast in Olympic and an evening cocktail in Michael's Club. I will become Elite during this sailing.

Dinner in Olympic

It was hard to believe but it was shortly time for dinner. Tonight is formal night so after showering and getting dressed up we went down to Deck 3 where the Olympic dining room is located. The cost per person is $40 which seems expensive but the ambiance and food are worth it. We are dining a little early at 6:00 pm.

The RMS Olympic was a sister ship of the Titanic and the walnut wood panels were original to that ship. At some point the panels were removed from the RMS Olympic and found at a suburban house in Southport, England. In order to acquire the panels, Celebrity purchased the entire house. The panels were removed and restored and then installed on the Millennium. The paneling is very beautiful and provides a great ambiance.

The Olympic menu is similar to the other specialty dining rooms on Celebrity ships. The food is continental with a French slant.

I started with the lobster bisque and my mother ordered the goat cheese souffle. Sorry I do not have a photo of the souffle.

Lobster Bisque
The bisque was very good. I don't think there was any diary.

For our main courses I had the Dover Sole Veronique and my mother had the Potato laced French Turbot.

They prepared the sole tableside.

Dover Sole

Preparing my fish
I was very captivated by our handsome Serbian waiter. I think I was looking more at him than the fish during the preparation.

The final product:

Dover Sole Veronique
The sole was fabulous! It was a great choice.

Turbot with caramelized orange and bok choy
 My mother said the turbot was also very good.

Our handsome waiter at work
Since this was formal night I expected most people to be dressed up. However, there was a table quite near us and the four people sitting there looked like they were at an outdoor barbecue. It didn't spoil our meal but it would have been nice if they could have at least worn long sleeve shirts.

I decided to have the cheese course as I had enjoyed it very much on Oceanliners on Constellation way back in 2004 & 2006. The selection of cheeses seems to have been paired down. They also don't serve it with as much flourish. No large grapes, chutney, honey or nuts. I did get a little dried apricot.

Sad looking cheese course
However we still had dessert to look forward to. I had the sorbet and my mother had the chocolate special dessert. I think it may have been hazelnut.


Chocolate dessert
They also served petit fours which were yummy,.

Petit Fours
We were very full from dinner but had a wonderful meal. As it was early we still had time to go collect our photos and to see part of the evening entertainment. We popped by the photo area and paid for the photos. They actually gave us 6 small passport size photos each. They came out nicely!

We then went to the theater for the Captain's Welcome and to see tonight's show which is called Simply Ballroom.

The welcome was not that long and the Captain who seems a bit shy in front of so many people. He made some nice remarks. He also introduced his staff.

Captain's Welcome
The captain made a toast before the start of the show.

They did several dances but the best was the Rhumba.

Simply Ballroom
We were getting sleepy so we left the show a little early and returned to our room.

Tomorrow we will arrive in Laem Chabang, the port for Bangkok at 10:00 am. We will collect our passports and take a private car to Bangkok where we will stay overnight.

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