After reading the recent horrendous reviews of the Celebrity Millennium, I was really very worried that we had chosen the wrong vacation. My experience was overall decent (but not excellent). There are no "WOW" moments on the Celebrity Millennium - but it was still a nice vacation. In my opinion, Celebrity is not a luxury line but it's slightly above average. If you want luxury, book Seaborne or Crystal. I've sailed Celebrity around 10 times (of over 30 cruises) and this was a standard Celebrity cruise. I had also sailed the Millennium around 10 years ago when she was newer. I think the ship looked pretty good for her age and was well maintained and clean. For any of the "good stuff" on board expect to pay extra or buy one of the many packages offered.
This is the review for the itinerary starting in Singapore with stops in Vietnam, Thailand and disembarking in Hong Kong. On this trip we saw some of the most wealthy communities on earth and some of the most poor and desperate ones. We visited communist countries, democracies and monarchies. We had some of the best food on earth, and some of the absolute worst. We saw the tallest skyscrapers and the most squalid, smelly shanty towns. I'm in my early 40's and traveled with a group of 12.
Reading the other poor reviews - keep in mind that an Asia cruise is quite physically demanding. The excursions are long and the weather is either sweltering hot (usually 100 degrees) or cold. If you are not a strong walker the streets are not accessible so it would be quite a difficult trip. There are stairs everywhere. I think anyone booking this type of cruise, should consider the hot weather and physical demands of this type of vacation before booking - the cruise line can't control the weather or the experience outside of the ship. Again, this is not your typical relaxing vacation. If you want that, go to the Caribbean.
For this review I'm going to focus on the SHIP instead of the ports of call which were simply put - amazing.
PROS: We started in the shiny new terminal at Singapore - beautiful architecture. We were on the ship around noon - but couldn't get into our rooms until 2pm or so. Some in our group snuck in behind the closed doors and found their rooms ready - ours wasn't until later however - but no big deal.
CONS: The crowd did get a bit restless and pushy getting on the ship. When they first opened the "gate" our fellow travelers were quite pushy and a bit mob-like.
PROS: Overall the staff went above and beyond for really any request we had. I think they try to do the best they can within their abilities set by corporate.
CONS: None - we had no poor interactions with the crew.
PROS: Our room was clean and decent. Not bad - maybe 3 1/2 stars. The towels were decent and our stateroom attendant (Graziella) was super nice and handled any and all requests with a smile. Bed was comfortable but pillows not the best.
CONS: Plumbing issues - We had three drainage issues (2 with shower and 1 with sink) both corrected (and then re-corrected) quickly with a call. A/C can not keep up when the temps are over 90 degrees - we did call and got it adjusted once. Still - A/C could not keep up with the heat outside. We asked to be moved but it never happened.
DINING - Drink Package
PROS: I (and many in our cruise group) booked the Premium Drink Package. This was approximately $900 (yes NINE HUNDRED) add-on. I liked not having to sign receipts - and also not have to "think" about the bill later. I also enjoyed getting "free" (if you can call it that) bottles of water and coffees from the coffee bar on deck 5. Patricia there is a doll and we enjoyed seeing her each morning. She remembered our drinks and made them with a smile each day.
CONS: Difficult to justify the price. Keep in mind that we did two overnights and were away from the ship often. Celebrity also has LIMITED wines by the glass (try to find ANY of the Sauvignon Blanc's by the glass - I did NOT ONCE get one on the menu I wanted - they were always out of stock - EVERY time). If I wanted to buy a bottle (not on the package) that could be done of course for an extra fee. You also cannot use the drink package for the wine machines in the wine bar and the regular wine bar didn't seem to be staffed very often. ***My worry is that as Celebrity pushes their "guests" into packages they will probably just cut the selection and quality of drinks on board to enhance the bottom line***
DINING - Ocean View Cafe
PROS: This is the ships lido buffet. Food was OK and service was decent. For breakfast they had omelet/egg stations and a decent selection of food. Breakfast usually started at 6:30 and went until 11:30. I love the hamburger bar out by the pool - definitely a guilty pleasure.
CONS: The quality of food is similar to Royal Caribbean and Carnival. (OK - but not excellent) There are no WOW moments here. Everything is processed and the ingredients seem to come from a factory. I don't blame the cooks here - I think they do the best they can - typical large cruise cuisine. Also - hours need to be adjusted. Often we had early morning excursions but breakfast didn't start until 6:30 which made things quite crazy and bustling. I along with other cruisers were waiting for the curtains to rise on the food because we were stressed about making our excursions on time. If you want excellent buffet cuisine, book a luxury line or go to Vegas.
DINING - Room Service
PROS: The ONLY positive is that you can book on the TV.
CONS: Celebrity room service is a JOKE. Poor selection of food and expect 45 minutes to get your food. I believe the selection is slightly better for Concierge class and above. If you expect good room service book a luxury cruise line.
DINING - Main Dining Room
PROS: Good service.
CONS: Beef dishes are difficult to get right on a large ship - this is no exception here. I would rate the food as a 3.5 out of 5 and service 4.5 out of 5. It was difficult to find a cocktail server and the wine by the glass selection is a joke (considering they push the drink package). Again, if you want an amazing meal book a luxury line. No WOW moments here either.
DINING - QSine
PROS: QSine is fun and quirky but one of the biggest disappointments on the Millennium. The staff (Mimi is great) makes it fun and the presentation of the food (if you can call it that) is creative and again, fun. This could be an amazing dining experience but it's not.
CONS: The problem with QSine is the cuisine. For your $40 fee, you get fried fish and chips, tacos and egg rolls, hummus with pita bread, cheeseburger sliders and sushi rolls on lollipop sticks. Seriously, this is the menu. Albeit all of this is presented in a fun - joke like way. QSine is bar quality food served in creative wrappers. They have a good start with the Lobster Escargot but that's the only thing on the menu that comes close to justifying the $40 fee. The iPad ordering is only a guideline - the staff mostly does what they want. We didn't get ANYTHING we added to our favorites and complained about it. When we went back for a second visit here (We pre-paid before hand..ugh) we got what we asked for and we realized the staff was just saving us from ourselves. The "healthier" options were inedible. The soups and veggie dishes were basically baby food. Bland and I'm not exaggerating, pureed into test tubes. Meatballs and Ceviche were not good choices either. QSine is fun but not haute cuisine and it's not possible to justify a $40 premium with the way the menu is currently. I hope they fix this as it *could* be one of the best experiences at Sea. Today however, if you like fried, unhealthy food in a beautiful environment you will love QSine.
DINING - Bistro on 5
PROS: Nice atmosphere and good service. I liked eating here but the menu is limited to crepes and a few sandwiches and salads. There is a $5 fee too - no big deal. Food quality was good. I recommend this place for lunch.
CONS: I wish the menu was larger and healthier. Crepes are OK but I would like to see more salad and dinner options here. Not a good option for Dinner.
DINING - Olympic
PROS: This is the best dining experience on the ship and the only place that justifies a premium. However, It will set you back $40 to eat here - It was worth it and we went here three times (one for high-tea which will set you back $20). This is the only Luxury dining experience on the Celebrity Millennium. I would compare this to the fine dining option on Holland America which is very similar and only charges $20.
CONS: We talked to the maitre d and we were shocked to learn that the fee for Olympic will rise to $50 soon. Celebrity is apparently going to push passengers into yet another package for dining. "specialty dining packages". I think this is a mistake. I don't know if i'd pay $50 but I do very much dislike going to the main dining room, so maybe I'd buy a package if forced. Celebrity has the highest prices for speciality dining I've seen on a cruise line. It's things like this that justify choosing a luxury line over Celebrity.
PROS: The two gym instructors were very friendly. But I feel bad that they have to work in this place.
CONS: Smelly, old equipment, and crowded. This was the worst ship gym experience I've ever had. Many machines broken and the free weight area rusty and too small. Celebrity - PLEASE invest in your gym experience. Very disappointing. Gross. Classes are way overpriced.
PROS: I had two great massages here - Jenny was terrific. Highly recommended.
CONS: Very expensive (typical for Celebrity) Expect $200+ for a massage.
CONS: Internet service on the Celebrity Millennium is a Joke - and the Joke is on anyone who tries to use the Internet on board. I didn't expect much after reading reviews so I wasn't very upset. I was better off using my data plan with Verizon on my iPhone over attempting to use the ship. It's funny to me that Celebrity invested so much into building such a beautiful computer room and Apple store only to offer such a poor surfing experience. I'm in technology so I know they could fix this but I guess it's all about the bottom line here. Celebrity must make a killing on the Internet fees. They must have a lot of laughs about this in the corporate offices. Be careful about sighing out too - the clock keeps on ticking and it's 75 cents a minute (unless of course you bought a useless package) so watch out!
PROS: Well, I guess the peace of mind knowing the ship won't leave without you if you book with Celebrity.
CONS: We did a mix of self touring and some ship excursions. ALL of the ones we found on our own (TripAdvisor is a great resource) were much better than the ship tours (and much less expensive). If you do your research and find a good local tour operator you will be fine. The ship docks several hours away from the big cities so overnight trips are recommended. The highlight for us was Ho Chi Minh city - we stayed at the Intercontinental Saigon Asiana which was truly a 5 star experience. Celebrity Excursions are overpriced and crowded. Keep in mind that the Internet does not work well on the ship so if the ship changes course it will be difficult to contact a private tour operator while on board.
PROS: Apparently I'm a very loyal customer. Celebrity calls me an "Elite" customer which I think is the highest level. There is a cocktail reception nightly but I had a drink package so it was of no use to me. There was a coupon for 90 minutes of free Internet and a free bag of laundry waiting for me when I arrived.
CONS: Unfortunately, despite all of my loyalty I never felt that Celebrity was returning the favor. I did get a few coupons but nothing that really makes me encourages me to be loyal ONLY to Celebrity. One of the other coupons is for 10% off the spa but only on port days - (really?) I didn't get priority embarkation and there are only the 2 useful coupons. Upgrades NEVER happen (at least never on any of my 10 previous sailings with Celebrity) Celebrity should look at the big airlines - they know how to do loyalty programs. Captains Club is a joke.
Overall we had a fun and interesting vacation. The Celebrity Millennium is a fine ship with ok food - but it was not really a luxury experience. There were no WOW moments on board (with the exception of paying $40 for fried food in QSine.)
The biggest positive comments have to do with the Staff and the Itinerary which were excellent. My biggest complaints are with the Gym, Room Service, Internet, Ship Excursions, Captain's Club and QSine all of which are a joke. Worse of all is the feeling that I've been market-tested to spend the most money possible on board. At every turn there are choices to make about packages and on board revenue opportunities. The staff is forced to "sell, sell, sell."
All of that said, I must be crazy as I'm already booked on the Solstice for next year (all of our friends booked so we will have fun). I'll be in a suite and have higher expectations on that ship which is newer and my cruise fee includes a drink package. Despite this, I'm going to start doing more All-Inclusive lines (like Crystal and Seaborne) which after you add up all of the packages and add-ons are a better value and provide that "WOW" experience. We probably spent over $5,000 each after all is said and done. I don't enjoy all of the transactions and additional fees and packages that Celebrity pushes. I had a lot of fun but I left the ship feeling as if my on board spending behavior was pre-tested by a focus group at corporate.