This is the third Millennium class ship we have sailed on ; and the most recently refurbished - 'Solsticised' as Celebrity call it. Sadly, it was the least enjoyable on board experience of all 3. There are some positives for sure , but it seemed to us that since our first excellent Celebrity cruise - Caribbean back to back, in Feb/March 2011 on Summit- overall standards have slipped. In general , our main issue is that the Solsticisation programme seems mostly designed to increase the revenue opportunities for the company- not the overall enjoyment of the passenger. Thus, the lovely, spacious lounges in the original Martini and Champagne bars of the Summit , have been replaced by additional fee-pay restaurants and 'Theme venues'- Bistro on 5, Cellar Masters and the Crush bar.The Cellar Master concept, for example is great in theory but actually means that if anyone in the party wants a non wine beverage - you're obliged to get it elsewhere. Service in this bar on Millennium was always cheerful - but often slow. Not one night went by when the staff weren't obliged to go elsewhere to obtain a fresh bottle of a wine ordered from the wine list- ad on the last night of the Asia trip they had it seems 'run out' of the first two choices made by our small group- both day to day wines, advertised on the list. Qsine is another 'concept' restaurant which as an experience , is , agreed 'interesting and novel' .but everyone to whom we spoke who used it agreed that that once was enough - super service, lots of style but eventually- just a bit too much going on and somewhat overwhelming.
Turning to this cruise specifically, we travelled in the much lauded - and upwardly priced - 'Aqua cabin'. We didn't know we had booked Aqua as when we
booked some 18 months ago, we simply chose a cabin location from the proposed floor plan and thought we were booking Concierge- Aqua didn't exist on the ship at the time. Pluses? Decent shower with real glass doors; and 1140, by chance has the 'prince' of the standard balconies; double sized, room for table, chairs and a sun bed, great view of the wake; and plenty of privacy around and above.
Negatives? Aqua class really offers few worthwhile benefits for the cost, over Concierge, in our view. The Persian Garden- unkindly described by a previous Cruise Critic member as an insult to both gardens and Persia, is only a benefit if you want to spend time in a steam room. And Blu restaurant, the designated Aqua 'healthy eating option' was a very mixed experience to which my husband really did not take. We eat late - generally 8 30 pm or so; invariably this meant queuing; as the open table concept of course, precluded booking. The service was courteous and cheerful but always a bit rushed- I think the Restaurant is simply not large enough or staffed sufficiently to cope with the demand. The food was heavy on sauces and could not truly be described as 'light' so that was disappointing in itself for me. Wine was a challenge- we always take the premium drinks package so are restricted to wine by the glass; the sommelier was very proud of the fact that he had been nominated as the ships leading sommelier that month, so maybe it says more about us than him that we often struggled to attract his attention for a refill; and brand offerings by the glass were inconsistent ( a problem all over the ship actually). We tried Blu twice for breakfast, - the opening hours are quite limited and don't suit late risers. However, we went once before an early trip and my husband tried it for breakfast on his own whilst I was at a morning yoga session. On both occasions the restaurant was crowded and quite 'frantic' ; service was slow (a twenty minute wait for the food to arrive) ; and on the second occasion when hubby's breakfast did arrive, it was the wrong order and no bread or muffins were provided. A polite request to 'chase them' resulted in two orders arriving simultaneously within minutes....so overall, not a great benefit breakfast wise; and a mixed performance on the dinner front.
Trips were all interesting - the places visited were wonderful but it IS a long journey for any trip( 2 hrs or more by coach each way is not unusual) other than Ha Long Bay or the Hong Kong walk - both excellent trips by the way. We stayed overnight in Bangkok - great trip, wonderful hotel, evening boat trip and dinner, and a LOT of sight seeing; did Ho Chi Minh city in a day- long day, packed agenda but well put together trip; the Vietnamese cookery course was a terrific tour and we loved both Hoi An itself, and Da Nang. The Countryside and Shopping trip ( worst experience by far) ran woefully late - mainly due to the poor departure arrangements by Celebrity sadly - and hubby did manage to fall out publicly with the tour guide on this trip when we fetched up at the gate to the port at 7 pm- walking distance to embarkation point .... and were 'frog marched' into a hotel for a drink and scenic view 'because it was on the itinerary' , despite many passenger feeling that it was time to go back on board .
So , a long review but I hope it is useful to those looking at both this itinerary and the Millennium class ships generally. As I said above , in summary- 'Great itinerary but disappointed with the ship'.