This was our first cruise with Celebrity, also first time on a large cruise ship. We have previously cruised on Renaissance (now defunct), Club Med 1 & 2, and most of the Windstar ships, visiting the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and Micronesia (Tahiti, Bora Bora, etc0. We spent one night in Anchorage, AK before the cruise, took the train from Anchorage to Seward, then spent a long weekend in Vancouver after the cruise.
The train ride was scenic, but the typical overcast Alaskan weather diminished the visibility and impact of the scenery. We saw one bald eagle nest, a porcupine, and a galloping speck on a mountainside that appeared to be a bear. So much for the wildlife! Overall, the train ride was quite civlized, with an informative hostess/guide, and decent food service.
Boarding the Millennium was relatively smooth, until we got on board, when the camera station malfunctioned, so we had to wait to get our ID cards. Nobody offered to show us to our cabin, so we found it on our own (not very difficult). However, I heard some nasty comments from other passengers about the rather lackadaisical approach to onboarding. There was one knob on the wall in our cabin, the purpose of which I never did figure out. Our cabin steward Ralph did come by a little later to introduce himself, and provided attentive and courteous service throughout the cruise. The room was comfortable and nicely decorated, and our veranda was also nice --- somewhat larger than the cabins directly above us (!?).
The newly refurbished decor of the ship was VERY nice, and I spent a lot of time in the early morning hours taking photos, which I have posted on the Celebrity message board, and tried to post in the Photo Gallery (somewhat laborious process).
Celebrity did host a welcome party for the 20+ Cruise Critic guests in Michael's Lounge, with complimentary champagne and Mimosas. However, afterwards it was hard to keep track of the folks we met, except for those of us who joined together for the Dyea Dave excursion into Canada a few days later.
We were lucky to have a sunny day to view the Hubbard Glacier, but the floating ice kept the ship from approaching closer than 3 miles or so. Even so, the rails were lined with passengers looking for a good view. The best viewing was from the Sports Deck, or the Cosmos Lounge. A good "secret" spot was from the Spa fitness center, directly below Cosmos.
One of the highlights of the trip was the onboard naturalist, who gave a live presentation during the glacier visit, plus several other presentations in the theater, which were then re-broadcast throughout the day on TV. He was very informative, and an excellent speaker. One piece of information that we learned from these talks is that during June, cruise ships are not allowed to enter Glacier Bay national park, because of the need to protect the newborn seal pups. Before the cruise, we had heard that Celebrity was not one of the cruise lines allowed into the park, so it turned out that we didn't miss anything anyway.
We only did one excursion, and I heard mixed reviews from other passengers. The weather was overcast and drizzly throughout all the Alaska itinerary, and apparently the whale watching was somewhat disappointing, as the boats are not allowed to approach nearer than 300 yards from the whales and orcas. We saved our whale watching until Vancouver, and were rewarded with some outstanding sights of leaping, breaching orcas.
Entertainment was pretty good, with a great magician, a fairly good comedian/ventriloquist, and several different musical groups.
Now for the food & beverage. Admittedly, my basis of comparison is based on small ship cruising, which allows for more personal service and food presentation. Celebrity's food was fairly good in quality, but suffered from "large dining room syndrome". Let's start with the coffee, which was not terrible, but it wasn't great either. Even the fresh-ground coffee at the Cafe Bacio was pretty bad, at $5 a pop. Celebrity can do better.
Breakfast pastries were terrible, little round danish thingies fresh from the freezer case, about as appetizing as cardboard with jelly on top. Most guests turned them down. OJ was good, but the scrambled eggs definitely came from a large chafing dish, not cooked to order. Omelets were consistently overcooked, but the eggs benedict were pretty good.Lunch in the Ocean Cafe was OK for a buffet line, with good selection. Desserts were pretty, but tasteless. Bread pudding was excellent, as was the ice cream.
Main dining room service was very attentive, but again, the food suffered from a lack of attention and consistency. I had to send back my steak, lamb chops, and salmon because it was overcooked. Caesar salad was great one night, lousy the next. Desserts were all very good, especially those that were prepared on the dining room floor, such as Crepes Suzette and Cherries Jubilee.
The wine list was limited by the glass, and some offerings were not available, even though they were listed on the menu as the Sommelier's Recommendation!
Overall, still a very pleasant cruise experience. We have booked another 12-night Celebrity Cruise to New Zealand and Australia early in 20123, looking forward to it.