This is our third cruise with Celebrity, after many cruises on Royal Caribbean. As it was our first cruise on a Millennium-class ship, I was looking forward to the newly-Solsticized Millie. Celebrity seems to have done a good job with the process -- adding new venues, but leaving the classic features (like the T-pool) intact. We booked one of the "Sweet Sixteen" cabins, forward on deck 6, and were very pleased with the large balcony, as well as the cabin location. The cabin itself was in good repair, as well as being immaculately clean. Both the deck furniture and the bedding seemed new, and both were very comfortable. Mostly, we enjoyed warm, sunny weather and calm seas for the whole cruise.
SERVICE / CREW:
We've grown accustomed to great service on Celebrity, and this ship was no exception. Our MDR staff was top-notch, although (see below) we found the food in the MDR to be somewhat lacking. We had a fabulous room steward and terrific assistant. I had worried that we would miss having a butler, but not with these guys! We never had to ask for anything more than once, and we could always find them when we needed to. Early one morning, I mentioned to our room steward that we were having a cabin crawl later that day. When we returned from breakfast, our cabin looked amazing! We even got envious looks and comments from people who DID have butlers! One minor glitch -- when my husband's rented tux was delivered, there was a problem that needed immediate attention. We were surprised when the Head of Housekeeping (a lovely lady) personally followed up to make sure that it was taken care of.
All around the ship, we encountered polite, friendly staff members. The ships' officers were highly visible at many events, and we found them to be very cordial and approachable. We had sailed with Captain Patsoulas earlier this year on our Century round-trip to Hawaii. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that he was the new Master of the Millennium.
Since this was such a port-intensive cruise, we did not get to any of the theater shows, or to the casino. We did enjoy the live musicians that we saw in the various venues, particularly the stringed-trio, and the classical / flamenco guitarist. What we definitely could have lived without was the constant loud thumping techno music, which was piped in all over the ship. It may have been appropriate for the Martini Bar, but it was just annoying, everywhere else!
We had a large Cruise Critic contingent onboard, the result of a very active roll-call. We had an unofficial sail-away party (complete with "Millie's Wine-Hounds" t-shirts, pins, and name tags), and a very well-organized Cabin Crawl. Although the staff on Millie put on a very nice spread for our Connections Party, it was scheduled on a port day, and unfortunately, more than a few people were unable to attend. Many folks were wondering why the party couldn't have been scheduled for sometime the next day (first sea day).
Sad to say, the quality of food in the MDR seems to be slipping badly -- at least on this ship. Although properly prepared, I had two of the toughest steaks that I've ever been served on a cruise ship. The fish options were limited and of poor quality. When did hake start replacing halibut on Celebrity? However, the sea day gala brunch in the MDR was very nice, with all the chefs showing off their areas of expertise. We did not eat in the buffet, except for quick breakfasts, and one evening at the sushi bar -- which was very nice. The poolside grill was a true guilty pleasure, with everything freshly made to order. Unfortunately, we did not have an opportunity to try the AquaSpa Cafe (one of our favorites on other ships).
The first evening of our cruise, we dined in the Olympic Restaurant, where the food and service were impeccable -- what a great way to start a cruise! Later, we found that the Bistro on Five is a good place to grab a quick dinner, when you come back from a long day of shore excursions. Having heard great things about Qsine, we decided to try it -- big mistake! Here again, the dreaded techo music was blaring all over the restaurant. This complicated the fact that our server (who spoke with a heavy accent) was unable to adequately explain the I-pad menu to us. When she left us to figure it out on our own, we finally just gave up and left the restaurant without ordering. The food in Qsine may or may not be great -- but personally speaking, it's just not worth the aggravation!
TOURS / SHORE EXCURSIONS:
We booked two wine country tours through X. One was in the Cowichan Valley of British Columbia, the other in Sonoma Valley, California. Both were excellent tours, with a variety of featured vineyards -- well worth the money. On our own, we explored Butchart Gardens in Victoria, and Alcatraz Island in San Francisco. In Monterey, we just strolled around Cannery Row and enjoyed the variety of sea birds and mammals in the harbor.
One serious glitch we encountered was in clearing US Customs in San Francisco. According to the printed instructions we received the day before, passengers were supposed to present themselves to the officials on board, at which time they would be cleared to go ashore. After docking in SF somewhat later than expected, an announcement was made that the Customs officials on board were now insisting that all 2,000 passengers must clear customs, before anyone would be allowed off the ship! Although the Captain and crew were doing their best to get the passengers ashore as soon as possible, there were many unhappy folks who missed their tours -- or had their day ashore cut short.
EMBARKATION / DISEMBARKATION:
The day we boarded, there were three ships (Millennium, Radiance, and Rhapsody) in Vancouver, making the embarkation process a nightmare! The port staff was clearly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of passengers. They had no idea what to do, except to shuffle people from one seating area to the next -- with little or no prioritization for suite / loyalty member status. Although we arrived at the port later than originally planned, at 1:30 pm not a single passenger had been checked in. We didn't get on board until after 3:00 pm -- thank goodness our staterooms were ready. Furthermore, the ship's departure was even delayed by more than an hour, due to the boarding process in the terminal building being such a ZOO!
Disembarkation in San Diego was somewhat better. We were off the ship and waiting for a taxi by 9:30 a.m. We spent the night in San Diego, which had an extra (but unexpected) benefit. That evening, from our hotel room, we were able to watch Millie sailing out for the Panama Canal. We just wished that we could have gone with her!