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Celebrity Millennium Cruise Review by Steph27: More Style But Lacking in Substance

Celebrity Millennium 2
Member Since 2007
628 Posts

Member Rating

Cabin 3.0
Dining 2.0
Embarkation 2.0
Enrichment Activities 2.0
Entertainment 2.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Fitness & Recreation 3.0
Public Rooms 4.0
Rates 4.0
Service 2.0
Shore Excursions 2.0
Value for Money 2.0

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More Style But Lacking in Substance

Sail Date: December 2012
Destination: Asia
Embarkation: Singapore

This much anticipated occasion of reuniting with a familiar acquaintance had been in the planning stages for almost two years. The agony and the ecstasy of waiting so long added to the excitement. Before anyone thinks this is going to get juicy I should clarify that the occasion was a Southeast cruise and the acquaintance was the Celebrity Millennium. The last time we sailed on a Millennium class ship was six years ago on the Constellation. However with "solstilization" what is old is new again and we looked forward to seeing the improvements since the April 2012 refurbishment. Like assessing an old flame that has had some major Botox you see the improved exterior but wonder if what lies beneath is a shallow personality. Would the cruise and refurbishment be tantamount to being dazzled by all the bells and whistles only to be sullied by bad behavior and broken promises?

Unfortunately that was the case. While the Millennium had some classy new venues including Cafe al More Bacio, Bistro on Five, Qsine, Blu and a bevy of new aquaclass staterooms, the final result was more style but lacking in substance.

We had reasonable expectations for this new journey since our last Celebrity cruise on the Solstice a year and half ago. We expected to be returning to the comfort and familiarity of a good friend. However, the embrace was lukewarm and the result was more akin to feeling like a jilted lover. By the end of the cruise as in many relationships it was evident that we had ultimately grown apart. Being past Celebrity cruisers we had always thought they offered great value and service once onboard. We were sailing at the Elite level for the first time and were ill prepared for what was to unfold over the next two weeks

We arrived in Singapore at 6:00 am on an overnight flight from Shanghai. The next day we checked out of the Fullerton Bay Hotel (which was fantastic) and boarded the ship with our luggage. We were standing on the gangway when the Celebrity crew started frantically running back and forth anxiously requesting everyone's passport. Why was this not done in the cruise terminal? It seemed very unprofessional and slightly intrusive. While we were later told that the Singapore port authority insisted on stamping each passport, Celebrity should have anticipated this and planned accordingly. The passport "inquisition" created a 3 hour delay departing the port. This was only the beginning of discovering that the Celebrity Millennium was not organized, poorly staffed and blamed everyone but themselves for any problems.

The Captain and Tenile:
Captain Tamaras was one of the few bright spots and was great when he was not absent. He made up the lost in Singapore by sailing at 21 knots. However, with the exception of attending a few public events he stopped making the daily announcements. His absence was quite mysterious as was the presence of any of the senior officers walking around the ship. The other standout on the ship was Jennifer, the concierge. She is a superstar and very bright and energetic. Nothing was ever too much trouble and she was conscientious and always smiling through the chaos. How she ended up on this ship with such mediocre staff was amazing for us but must have been torture for her.

The Room: As mentioned above we had an Aquaclass room which was one of the new ones added during the refurbishment. Our stateroom 1141 was located aft overlooking the wake. The view was superb but the room itself was surprisingly basic. It could have easily been mistaken for just a standard stateroom. The orange sheer curtain, red upholstered sofa, strange headboard rails and bland wood panels made us grateful for the abundance of overnight port when we could stay at a nice hotel. We removed the curtain and covered the sofa with the foot rolls from the bed. The Hansgrohe showerhead and shower glass door were the only accoutrements that reminded us that the room was Aquaclass. The room was thankfully clean, and since it was less than a year old in good shape.

The Food:
Everyone says food is subjective. However everyone also knows the definition of awful. Not only was the service in Blu poor but the food on many occasions was uneatable. This was in sharp contrast to the light and healthy food on we had in Blu on the Solstice. The meals on the Millennium were very disappointing. A pasta dish had so much salt that even the server advised against it. The clam chowder had no clams and was actually a loaded baked potato soup, not chowder. The fish dishes were dry and overcooked. The risotto was drowning in dark sauce. Sound yummy? The matre never smiled and it looked like he hated his job. We only ate breakfast in Blu once and due to the poor service decided to eat in the Oceanview or sometimes Olympic with our Elite status. We ate dinner in Olympic on the second night and had a wonderful meal. We also dined in Qsine twice and very much enjoyed the theme and the excellent food. These meals redeemed Celebrity somewhat but did not excuse the poor food elsewhere. The food in the Oceanview was uninspiring and average. I often had Asian food as the other items were unappealing.

The Crew:
This was the area where Celebrity rated the most disappointing for the entire cruise. The Guest Relations staff is poorly trained and incompetent. While the itinerary for Southeast Asia was new and the first time sailing to this destination, they just used this as their answer to anything that was not going to plan. The major fiasco with obtaining our passports upon arrival in Laem Chabang is regrettable but the manner in which Celebrity handled it was abominable and inexcusable. While some passengers may be better geared to embracing the chaos, the majority of us were not so fortunate. Standing in line for over 2 hours in a hallway to the conference room to retrieve a passport was bad enough. But then having the crew yelling out staterooms numbers at the top of their lungs and then having a second crew member repeat it as if at a cattle call for those further away was disgraceful. They also handed out passports without looking at them or checking the seapass card. Consequently some people received the wrong passports and then returned them. The people going on ship tours were in the theater and apparently faced their own anguish over this fiasco. Some people on ship tours never received their passports and the tours left without them. When we returned to the ship from our overnight in Bangkok there was a letter from Celebrity about the delay getting off the ship. Big surprise, they blamed the Thai authorities and accepted no accountability!

Round two involved the infamous Vietnam visa and landing cards. Unfortunately Celebrity did a poor job or explaining on the ship who needed which visa and when staying overnight. One couple applied for the group visa not understanding this did not cover them for an overnight tour. When the day came to retrieve our passports in Phu My for Saigon, Celebrity did a much better job. The Millennium sent out a pilot boat and the Vietnamese authorities joined the ship shortly after 3:00 am. However, I did hear from other passengers that they still had trouble getting their passports returned. They asked one of the guest relations reps to find out what happened and were just told to wait. Apparently the Captain was there too and could not get his passport either!

The crew could also not get most simple things right. Something as easy as telling us the bus number for our excursion in Halong Bay seemed too hard. We arrived from the tender and walked off the dock and were told to go to Bus #38. There was only one bus for this tour and it was #37. While standing in line to exchange money I noticed a man who wanted to know when a particular lecture was taking place. The crew member was impatient with him. The passenger was persistent and had to explain that the title of the talk was highlighted on the top of the program but the time area showed a totally different subject. The crew member got on his radio and then told the passenger they would discuss the topic he saw at the top even though it was not listed in the program. Exchanging money on the ship was fun. You stood in line forever only to be told that you could only get a small amount or none at all as they had run out. They also did not do a good job of explaining that they would not take back Vietnamese Dong. Some people were unhappy being stuck with unused currency.

We took two ship sponsored excursions. The first one was Hoi An On Your Own. This was a bit of a misnomer as the guide insisted on marching us down the street in Hoi An for a 30 minute tour only to show us the Chinese Market which no one cared about. We also had to negotiate with him on the time we would return to port. He said 1:00 pm which meant we would only have 1 hour on our own to either have lunch or explore Hoi An. Everyone was very unhappy and after some tense conversation he agreed to let us return at 2:15 pm.

The second excursion we took was laughable. It was in the port of Halong Bay and was supposed to be a Countryside and Shopping tour. It was quite funny because there was no resemblance to the tour description and the actual tour. It should have been called "The Bathroom Tour". Twenty minutes after leaving on the bus we were told we were stopping for someone to use a bathroom for 5 minutes. Many people got off the bus and twenty-five minutes later we were finally on our way. Then 20 minutes later we stopped again for someone else. This time almost everyone got off the bus and the wait was about 25 minutes as we watched some passengers who were buying fruit. We finally made it to what was supposed to be the Yen Tu Pagoda except you have to take a cable car to get there but we were at one of the temples at the base. We were told to wander around and everyone kept asking where the nuns and monks were. It was finally explained that we were not really at the pagoda but just some associated buildings at the foot of the mountain. Next we were told we would go see a farm. When we arrived, there was no farm. It was a ramshackle house where we were supposed to look at their bedroom and living room. It was embarrassing to most of us to intrude on these nice people. Our bus also suffered a gas leak which required making a ramp for the bus in several places including near the railroad track so the damage did not get worse. At one point the bus driver backed us out into oncoming traffic and it was hard to watch. I sat there nervously in my seat as we straddled the railroad tracks watching the large trucks barreling down the road and praying they would stop. I also wondered how often does the train come? We made it out only to stop 25 minutes later for yes, another bathroom stop! This time I made good use of the time and used the western facilities. It was a very nice bathroom and I wish I took photos of not just this one but the first two as well. The shopping never happened because the guide said it was not good. We actually had the bus drop us off before the pier at a night market and we walked the 20 minutes back in the dark. We were also supposed to enjoy a drink at a local hotel but that did not happen either because we ran out of time. Most passengers on the ship took the trip to Hanoi.

We had done an overnight Junk in Halong Bay the night before which was fantastic. If the Celebrity excursion was my only experience in this port I would have been very upset. However this tour was so absurd that we just laughed about it later.

The best part about the cruise was all the overnights in port. Being able to spend 2 days each in Bangkok, Saigon and Halong Bay was fantastic and what drew us to this itinerary in the first place. There is a saying that goes "don't be sad that it is over just be glad that it happened". In our case we were ecstatic it was over and not sure what exactly happened!

I am happy to say our time off the ship was great which is reflected in the port reviews. However, the low quality of the stateroom, terrible food, inadequate staff and disappointing ship excursions convinced us that Celebrity was taking us for granted. When you are with someone for a long time sometimes you forget to show appreciation. Celebrity made this exact choice. It seemed like they had us at their mercy and they just didn't care. To add insult to injury a few weeks after returning home I received a letter from Celebrity's President Michael Bayley about how they spoiled us on Millennium! They have that partly right. They spoiled the cruise for us by their inadequacy, lack of planning and professionalism. I should also add that on January 7th two weeks after we came home I cancelled a cruise I had booked many months earlier on the Infinity sailing in August 2013. The reason for cancellation was solely based on our experience on the Millennium. The woman from Celebrity didn't even care why I was cancelling. She just provided the cancellation confirmation. I received my deposit back the next day.

I completed the questionnaire on the ship but never heard one peep about it from Celebrity since we came back. By contrast, after our Solstice Cruise in May 2011, I mentioned my disappointment with the pillows in Aquaclass but also said what a fabulous time we had. A week later I received repeated calls from Celebrity trying to speak with me about the pillows! How times have changed.
It is true that relationships require a lot of work. However, sometimes you need to decide when it is just too hard and you cut the cord. Sadly that appears to have happened here. Good bye Celebrity and hello again to Crystal and Oceania. Less

Published 01/30/13

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Cabin review: 1141

AQ 1141 was very basic. Nothing special at all. It was hard to believe it was Aquaclass. There was a orange sheer curtain, red sofa, strange bed rails and boring bland walls. The bathroom did have the Hansgrohe showerhead and a glass door for the shower. The best thing about the room was the location overlooking the wake. However this was also a negative as they still allowed smoking on the terrace below on Deck 10 and the smell of smoke especially while touring Halong Bay was quite annoying.

Port and Shore Excursions

The passport fiasco on the ship delayed us by over 2 hours. We finally left the ship and met our driver from Oriental Escape. The drive to Bangkok was long in both directions. Over two hours going and almost three hours coming back. We lost most of the first day but still did an evening dinner cruise on the Loy Nava down the Chao Prhaya River. The food was just ok but the sights at night were wonderful. We stayed overnight at the Siam Kempinski which was pure luxury and so much nicer than the ship! We did not want to go back to port. Loved our room and the pool which we enjoyed for a few hours before we returned to port. We spent the morning at the Grand Place, Reclining Buddha and the Jim Thompson House which were all great. Took taxis and one tuk-tuk from the Jim Thompson House. A wonderful visit.

Hoi An Walking Tour

We did the ship tour "Hoi An on your own". The drive to Hoi An was about 90 minutes each way. We had a great lunch at Morning Glory. The ancestral houses and assembly halls were very interesting. Our favorite was the Tan Ky house which is located next door to Morning Glory. We looked at many of the shops but it was too hot to contemplate any clothing purchases. The stores are all open to the outside and do not have a/c. We very much enjoyed Hoi An and the lush countryside of Central Vietnam.

Halong Bay

We did an overnight in Halong Bay on the Halong Violet. The name of the company changes from Cruise Halong and is now known as Heritage Line. ( The was the highlight of the entire cruise for us. We arrive in Halong Bay at 1:00 pm. After a delay 40 minutes to tender to shore, we walked to the Royal Pier where our private tender was waiting to take us to the Violet. Apparently there was someone waiting for us at Bai Chay when we arrived but we did not see them. It would have saved us the walk. It took about 40 minutes to get to the Violet by tender. We saw some beautiful scenery. When we arrived they showed us to our room which was the Cloud Suite. This being a luxury junk, we had a beautiful room with wood floors and floor to ceiling windows. I was traveling with my mother and the bed could be made as a king or pulled apart for two twin beds. We also had a gorgeous bathroom with lovely shower and huge bath tub. The food on the Violet was delicious. They served a dinner with many options and also a yummy breakfast. The events included a visit to the floating museum and village by row boat which was magical. The water was clean and emerald green. We also visited a cave and the next day a beach for swimming. Everything was done very professionally and such a difference than Celebrity. We did not want to leave. The Violet only holds 12 people and it was wonderful to spend the time relaxing on the junk. During the night we anchored and you could see a few boats which were lit up nearby drifting near us. It was one of the best excursions I have ever done! When we came back to the ship the next afternoon we had a ship tour which was called Countryside and Shopping. The tour was awful. There was no shopping, no farm, and we only saw the buildings at the foot of the mountain for the Yen Pagoda. You actually have to take a cable car to the real Yen Tu which was 20 minutes from where we were. We stopped three different times for a bathroom break. It was the worst tour ever.

We booked a tour from our Celebrity Roll call with Smile. The tour had 10 people and we were picked up on the first day and brought to Saigon and then on the second day had a tour and returned to the ship. The Smile tour was just ok. They brought us to a lacquer store when we arrived in Saigon which was not on the itinerary. We left and went to our hotel instead by taxi. The Smile guide hardly explained anything and also decided we should skip the Bin Tay market but we insisted on going there and he relented. We saw the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, post office and the history museum. Our last stop was the Ben Thanh market. Saigon is a sea of motorcycles. I hired my own private guide from Viator for the first day and we spent the day shopping. We had a great time. My favorite store was Khai Silk. We had lunch at the Temple Club and then followed that up with Ice Cream at Fanny's downstairs. The ice cream is all natural and yummy! We went to a water puppet show the first night and enjoyed the 45 minute performance but would not lose sleep over missing it. We stayed at the Saigon Nikko Hotel. It was nice but we would have been better off at the Sheraton which is closer to town.

City Tour

We booked a tour from our Celebrity Roll call with Smile. The tour had 10 people and we were picked up on the first day and brought to Saigon and then on the second day had a tour and returned to the ship. The Smile tour was just ok. They brought us to a lacquer store when we arrived in Saigon which was not on the itinerary. We left and went to our hotel instead by taxi. The Smile guide hardly explained anything and also decided we should skip the Bin Tay market but we insisted on going there and he relented. We saw the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, post office and the history museum. Our last stop was the Ben Thanh market. Saigon is a sea of motorcycles. I hired my own private guide from Viator for the first day and we spent the day shopping. We had a great time. My favorite store was Khai Silk. We had lunch at the Temple Club and then followed that up with Ice Cream at Fanny's downstairs. The ice cream is all natural and yummy! We went to a water puppet show the first night and enjoyed the 45 minute performance but would not lose sleep over missing it. We stayed at the Saigon Nikko Hotel. It was nice but we would have been better off at the Sheraton which is closer to town.

We loved Hong Kong and spent the first day exploring Hong Kong. We went to the Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden in Diamond Hill. The garden and buildings are beautiful. It is hard to image this is located in busy and chaotic Hong Kong. We enjoyed visiting the Chinese Arts & Crafts store near the Star Ferry and looking at the shopping arcade at the Peninsula Hotel. We took the Star Ferry to Central and then went to the IFC mall and had a snack before going to Hollywood Road for antiques and shopping. It was a busy day! We were docked overnight but had dinner at Aqua Tokyo which is located in Kowloon at One Peking Road. It was a five minute walk from the ship. The food was great and the view phenomenal, but close to what we had at the rear of the ship. We watched the light show from the restaurant which seems so overrated. Personally we thought the skyline of Shanghai was more interesting. The Ocean Terminal was not our favorite place. It was hard to find our way back to the ship. There were very few signs for Millennium and we met many other passengers who were also lost. You had to walk through the mall to get to and from the ship. Easy to do in the morning when the stores were closed but a real challenge in a crowded mall. On the second day we went to Macau which was very crowded right before Christmas. It was sort of disappointing. There were too many people and the Turbojet left often but immigration was very slow each way. I am glad we went but would probably not go back to Macau. When we returned from Macau we went to have dinner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. They have a fabulous buffet in the Clipper Lounge. I am so happy that we ate her. It was fantastic and one of the best meals we had the entire trip. We then went to the airport where we had left our luggage earlier in the day. We had checked in online for our Cathay Pacific flight but just needed to check our bags. The Cathay flight was in Business Class to San Francisco. It was one of the best flights ever. The seat, food, IFE all great! Looking forward to flying Cathay again for a return trip to Hong Kong.

We had 36 hours to spend in Singapore. We actually stayed at a hotel since we arrived at 6:00 am on an overnight flight from Shanghai. We loved how clean and interesting the city was its modern shopping malls and historic buildings. We stayed at the Fullerton Bay Hotel which is right on the Singapore river overlooking the Marina Bay Sands. It was fabulous! We ate lunch at Raffles at the Tiffin Room and enjoyed the curry buffet. The Christmas lights on Orchard Road were not to be missed!

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