Celebrity Millenium Golf Cruise**
by Lilliam Larsen
There is no better way to plan a golf trip to the Caribbean than on a cruise ship. You
can play a round of golf whenever and wherever the ship docks, while avoiding the hassle of packing and unpacking at each destination. And once the golf day is over,
the cruise ship provides innumerable options for entertainment and relaxation.
I recently coordinated - and participated in -a golf trip for 12 golfing enthusiasts ... all of them women. Try to coordinate ANY trip that can cater to the wide variety of
likes and dislikes of 12 women! Selecting a cruise was the best and most guaranteed option that there would be something for everyone.
For under $2,000 per person (not including tips), the Celebrity Millennium offered the best itinerary and the best golf course choices. This included comfortable cabins
with balconies, port charges, taxes and three rounds of spectacular Caribbean golf. Transfers to/from the cruise ship terminal to each golf course were also included,
plus the group was accompanied by the resident golf pro from the ship.
Part of the itinerary also included a one-hour golf seminar by the pro, who explained the layout and challenges of the various courses the group would play, the logistics
of transportation, and some very good refresher golf tips. Attendees also had the opportunity to sign up for some individual time with the pro at the golf simulator.
Our itinerary included the following courses:
Teeth of the Dog (Dominican Republic): Ranked the number one course in the Caribbean and 34th in the top 100 courses in the
world by Golf Magazine, you will play seven of the Teeth's holes directly adjacent to the Caribbean Sea. The "Teeth" course
attracts the best professional and amateur golfers in the world. Tricky shots include a devilish dogleg and signature Dye obstacles such as elevated greens and trick of the eye trees.
Even if your game is not up to par, it's impossible to get frustrated here. The beautiful waterfront and tropical environment just naturally makes any level of golfer a happy one!
We advise using a caddie on this layout. Without the help of these experienced locals, it would be been very difficult to determine the approach to many of the holes. However, most
of the caddies are not fluent in English, so a lot of hand signals may be necessary.
El Conquistador (San Juan, Puerto Rico): The course is carved out of the mountainside with spectacular views.
Some fairways are hidden, so you must trust your game and aim at a target. The trick to the golf course is to play
it at least twice. Since you are trusting where you are aiming, because you can't see the target, playing it twice
would actually make the course more fun. Make sure you load up on golf balls prior to your round.
El Conquistador was our scheduled course, however, prior to arrival in Puerto Rico we were told the course
was booked at the last minute for a golf tournament and our group was sent to an even higher category golf course - the Rio Mar. It was a nice surprise to play the Ocean Course, which typically
allows only handicap-card-carrying golfers to venture on the links. It wasn't the most beautiful course we have seen, but it did have changes in
terrain throughout the layout and an excellent GPS system on the golf carts, which was helpful. The course was also littered with Iguanas, who
shamelessly wandered in front of our carts and our balls without any regard to safety. They certainly provided a conversation piece after the round!
Mahogany Run (St. Thomas, USVI): This course had to be carved and blasted into an area of land just less than
110 acres. With only 77,000 square feet of greens and tight winding fairways, this is real target golf with
beautiful ocean views culminating in the course's Signature holes known as The Devil's Triangle.
It took about ten seconds to figure out why the golf pro instructed us on the
proper use of the brakes for the golf carts. Most Florida golfers will find it a true challenge, not only because of the hilly nature of the layout, but having to walk
up and down the hills to reach some of the tees and the greens proved to be quite a physical experience. This course is recommended only for those golfers who are in very good physical condition.
This was certainly the most difficult course that many of us had ever experienced. Not only did we have to navigate difficult cart paths, the necessary walk to/from
the greens and tees, and the extremely tight layout contributed to many frustrations. But it was worth it! I think most of us would have played the course again if we had the time.
While the Celebrity Millennium was scheduled to undergo refurbishing after this itinerary was completed, the ship
was in good condition and offered the usual numerous options for entertainment, dining, shopping and relaxing.
One of my favorite activities is enjoying the "AquaSpa" area. For approximately $100, you
can receive an unlimited entry pass into the facilities. On past trips, this has been a great way to relax after a full day of excursions or shore-side visits. However, the golf itinerary
virtually takes up the entire day and it was more difficult to step into the spa for a short sauna on the days we played golf. By the time we returned to the ship, we had just
enough time to clean up before the early seating. On one occasion, a huge traffic jam in the Dominican Republic delayed our arrival to the ship by over an hour. The dining room
staff, however, still accommodated our group and managed to serve us the complete dinner in time for their next seating.
Adjacent to the spa facilities are a saltwater pool and two Jacuzzis, open until 10 pm daily. The outside pool was divided into two sections, and each section also had a hot tub
adjacent. The Spa Cafe featured its own menu of low-calorie items which gave us a very healthy choice of meals in a much quieter setting.
Transfers are included to/from the ship to the golf courses, but golfers must carry their bags off the ship and onto
the ship for security reasons. This is not as easy as it sounds. In Puerto Rico, the distance between the
gangplank and the bus was as long as any airport terminal transfer in Atlanta. In the Dominican Republic, we had
to carry the bags uphill to the waiting transport. St. Thomas was the shortest walk, but it was sprinkling when we
arrived and there was no protection until the tourist truck arrived. Even so, the truck had open sides and the golf
bags were stacked towards the front, so avoiding the rain was impossible. Upon return to the ship, the bags are
also X-rayed on their way in, therefore, one of the women trying to bring liquor from one of the islands was unsuccessful and the bottle confiscated until our arrival back to Fort Lauderdale.
Staterooms are comfortable and include a computerized safe for valuables. I recommend bringing hair conditioner, although shampoo is provided.
For information on the golf cruise itineraries, contact call (800) 437-3111 or visit www.celebritycruises.com.
Editor's Note: As of early 2015, Celebrity sold the Millenium ship.