We are a family group of 14 ranging in age from 15 to 77. None of us had sailed with Celebrity before, but Im pretty sure many of us will again. All but one of us had cruised before; most of us have been on 10 to 18 prior cruises, so fairly experienced but certainly not experts. Between us all we have sailed with Royal Caribbean, Princess, NCL, Carnival, and Sitmar. On this voyage we did a back to back trip sailing out of Vancouver to Seward and then back.
Each of us loved this trip! The itinerary, the ship, the crew, the food, the excursions, were all really, really good. Of course, there was the random meal that wasnt a favorite and the occasional crew member that rubbed someone the wrong way. Some excursions were better than others. As a whole though, it really was an outstanding trip. Because this was a back to back we had the opportunity to visit each port (except Seward on turnaround day) twice.
Hubbard Glacier day was very cold one week, but we got within a mile and half of the glacier. We could see and hear the glacier calving, which is a marvel. It was overcast and drizzly, so we couldnt see the surrounding mountains; didnt even know they were there in fact. The next week it was sunny and warm. We could only get to about six miles from the glacier and couldnt see or hear calving this time. We could see all of the mountains and the grandeur of the spot better than the week before. Im not sure which I prefer, once we saw it up close and personal but couldnt see the big picture, the next week we saw all of the surroundings, but couldnt get right up next to it. Both were incredible.
Two of our group disembarked in Seward and took the train to Anchorage. The other twelve of us were fortunate enough to get back on the ship for another week of cruising. The back to back process was very smooth. Ten of us were kayaking and we just got off like you would in any port. They had given us a transit pass that allowed us to bypass the check in process when we returned to the ship. We had a special line to go through where they just issued us another sea pass card. Two of our group had stayed on the ship. They were asked to meet in one of the conference rooms with all of the other back to back guests and were ushered down to have another sea pass card issued to them. Super easy and very smooth either way you do it.
The Millennium is a lovely ship. Shes showing her age a little, but is still beautiful. We had aft cabins on both decks seven and nine. The aft cabins on nine were very noisy because of the bar area right above them. The cabins on 7 aft were wonderful. All of the aft cabins have enormous balconies and being aft they are mostly protected from the wind. Some have questioned if there is soot, but we never saw any. We had two lounge chairs, four outdoor chairs, one larger dining height table and one small occasional table on our balcony. The rooms themselves are fairly typical for many cruise ships; small but comfortable enough.
One thing I noticed and we all agreed was that it rarely felt crowded on the ship. Embarkation day in the buffet, debarkation day in the buffet, a couple of times as we waited for the theater to open were about the only times it felt crowded. Go to Bistro on 5 on embarkation day for a quiet spot out of the crowds. Its always easy to find a nice quiet spot to sit and have a drink or to visit. I was impressed by the overall intimate feel of the ship.
Since we were a large group and wanted to eat together each night we had early seating in the Metropolitan dining room. The first week we were 14 people and were at two neighboring tables. We switched back and forth between the two often so that we could all vary who we were eating with. The second week we had gone to 12 people so we were moved to a large table that could seat all of us. Most of the food and the presentation were very good. We found a few things we didnt care for, but asking for another choice was always accommodated. The bar staff, sommelier, and maitre d were attentive and prompt.
The foods on the buffet were pretty hit and miss. Sometimes there were jewels to be found, other times not so much. The pasta station where you can create your own pasta dish, the sandwich station where theyd build a sandwich to your specs, the omelet station, etc. were always very good, but often had long lines. The flow of the buffet seems awkward. I do appreciate that its not all one long line, but smaller stations. It just seemed to be hard to navigate. Id usually walk the entire thing before picking up a plate to decide where I wanted to go. That was fine for me, but my mom cant walk long distances and it was difficult for her. Room service offered a good variety, but quality was spotty. We also ate at the Bistro on 5 a few times, which we thoroughly enjoyed. The $5 upcharge was well worth the quieter, intimate atmosphere. The crepes and Paninis were wonderful. We did not try any of the other additional charge restaurants, so I cannot comment on them.
Our two 15 year old girls did some of the activities in the X Club and enjoyed them. There were probably 25 teens onboard each week. I saw quite a few younger kids out on scavenger hunts and doing a talent show. I talked to one couple that said their child was enjoying it so much they had a hard time getting him to leave. I was worried our 3 teens would be bored without a rock wall, water slides, etc., but they werent. They had a great time and say this is their favorite cruise so far! The average age onboard seemed to skew younger than I had expected. Id guess the average age was mid-50s with many people both older and younger. It was a really good mix.
We enjoyed the Martini Bar on many evenings as we listened to music in the Grand Foyer. It can get busy right before mealtimes, so if you want a seat, get there early. The bartenders put on a great show! We loved Michaels Club and most evening would find us there listening to music. We went up to Cosmos a few times for shows and its a lovely bar, but didn't have the intimate feel some of the others do. It is a great place for scenic cruising though! We also enjoyed the Ocean Bar. Its a great spot to sit while the ship is in port, you can watch the goings on in the harbor and on the pier. Cafe Al Bacio was also a favorite spot. Order iced tea sometime, the presentation is lovely!
The few things we were not impressed with included the Improv Group. We gave them about five chances over the two weeks and they would be funny for a little bit then drift off into the odd or macabre. There was one skit they did about kidnapping and killing children. Really! One of the room stewards of the four that we had wasnt the best. The other three were very good, though. The one that wasnt great seemed to just be distant and aloof. He never did bring ice to a room that had asked him to, he often forgot to bring some of the paperwork that room needed. Fortunately, with all of us doing the same thing wed soon discover that something was missing and could rectify it. While disembarking they have you go down to either a conference room or Michaels to wait while for your number to be called. There was one couple in our color group that did not appear so we all waited and waited while they were repeatedly paged. Not a big deal, but those conference rooms get hot and stuffy with 50+ people crammed into them.
Overall, we loved this vacation, the destination, and this ship and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Icy Straight Point Hoonah is maybe the weak point in this itinerary. There is not a pier so everyone has to tender in. Tendering went smoothly. We did the zip line the first week and had whale watching planned for Juneau so didnt want to do that here also. The second week about half of our group went bicycle riding. The rest of us stayed on the ship for a day of relaxing. There just isnt much to do here.
Juneau was a great time. We did whale watching with Harv and Marv. It was so good the first time that I did it again the second week. We were fortunate enough to see bubble net feeding both weeks. The Harv and Marv crew is outstanding and Id highly recommend them if you want to experience the whales. After whale watching we stopped at Mendenhall Glacier viewing area for about 15 minutes. The first time it was a mob scene and I wasnt looking forward to doing that again, but the second week there was almost no one there and down one of the trails there was a BEAR eating salmon! I was psyched! Whales, eagles, and bears all on the same excursion! (wed seen eagles flying around the shore during the whale watching) The Red Dog Saloon and Alaska Brewing Company store are worth visiting if youre a beer aficionado. Lots of shopping here and the Tram to the top of Mt Roberts is worth it for the close ups of the eagles that make the treetops there their home. You can also hike down from the top of Mt Roberts and there were bear sightings reported from that hike.
Ketchikan is a charming little town. Exploring on your own, flight seeing over Misty Fjord, and shopping are all worthwhile here. Creek Street is fun as is going up the Funicular and walking down Married Man Trail to the salmon ladder at the bottom. We walked to the salmon ladder twice and it's fascinating to watch. Lots of great shops here. Im not big on jewelry shopping, but our two 15 year old girls had fun going from store to store to collect the free charms. My sister and a niece did do some jewelry shopping and were happy with what they found. There are quite a few t-shirt stores and some great stores with Alaska items that you dont see most other places. Flight seeing with Island Wings was outstanding and highly recommended. You can also take the city bus to Totem Bight State Park and Saxman Native Village.
In Seward we did a half day kayaking trip with Kayak Adventures. It was a great trip! Our guides were wonderful. Most of us had never kayaked before and they had us out paddling and feeling comfortable in no time. They showed us a salmon spawning area, eagles, porpoises, and various sea life along the shore. It was a very nice, relaxing time. Id do it again in a heartbeat. If youre lucky enough to have Buddy as one of your guides, you will enjoy his gentle soul and his respect for where he lives.
Skagway is a cute little town, but its quite a hike to get in there! There are golf carts running people back and forth to the city bus. The golf carts are free; the city bus is either $2 for one trip or $5 for hop on hop off all day. We did not do the train which is probably the number one thing to do. Two of our group did a helicopter flight seeing trip, which they raved about. Most of us just wandered into town and did sightseeing and shopping. Some of us ate lunch at the Red Onion Saloon, which was reasonably priced and very tasty.