Preface: This review was composed by weatherguy on Saturday, October 12, 2013, and covers my personal cruising experience on cruise ship, Celebrity Millennium's 15-Night Panama Canal cruise between the travelling dates of September 22 to October 7, 2013. I will furnish a shortened version, and then followed by a lengthier, detailed version for those who crave more details.
1.) Shortened, condensed version to the review, first:
*** Highlights & disappointments of the Celebrity Millennium cruise through Panama Canal from September 22 - October 7, 2013, provided by weatherguy. ***:
A.) Service -- Outstanding service, and second to none, with regards to stateroom service and dining room service. They handled everything I threw at them, in both areas. My dining room waiter had me out in record speed time, one night in as little as 35 minutes, when I explained to him that I needed expedited service so I could make it to the 7 PM shows in time, with 6 PM traditional dining time.
Stateroom service also was AWESOME, after I explained my expectations of what was needed each day. I was never interrupted in the morning, and he expertly knew when to come & service each day without interfering with our daily plans.
B.) Cabin -- I secured a veranda balcony cabin upgrade 3 days prior to sail date, after taking a courtesy upgrade first to Oceanview, one week before sail date. This was a fantastic location on the ship, with NO obstructions to the view, and TWICE the amount of balcony space than those balconies above me on decks 7 & 8.
Almost everything in this stateroom cabin worked from the beginning: All the lights, shower & faucet, hot water, drains, electrical outlets, & toilet. The only real problem was the key card didn't work, outside the room, and needed an electrician to re-code the door key access. Air conditioning worked really well. For a 13-year-old ship, the accommodations were really great with new furniture, and I wouldn't have even known this ship was that old, as it is WELL-taken care of. The shower stall is spacious for cruise line standards, with a rectangular-shaped shower stall and shower curtain.
C.) Cleanliness of Public Areas: The service staff saw to it that this ship is kept in top, ship-shape! I never remember seeing any visible litter or sloppiness anywhere. Tables were quickly cleaned in the Oceanview Cafe' and I never had any difficulty finding a table -- even when dining in the morning. That's a milestone accomplishment!
The décor of this cruise ship is what I refer to as simple. It's not gorgeous like the Crown Princess cruise ship and not flashy like some Carnival & RCCL cruise ships, but just simple and plain. The ship is in remarkably SUPER condition, considering it's a 13 year old cruise ship. The condition of the ship is the best condition I've seen maintained for a ship this old of 13 years.
Minuses, (Major Disappointments):
A.) Shore Excursions -- This is where 1 of 2 most MAJOR failures were that I experienced. Tour excursions had FALSE advertisement on one of my volcano tours, and the 2nd volcano tour I learned had a 50% failure rate of seeing the caldera. For me, the heart of taking this cruise was experiencing the thrill of seeing volcanoes up-close, and watching lava rivers (Pacaya volcano). This did NOT happen as advertised! Shore excursions botched this big time, failing to take us, up-close and did NOT see lava rivers, as advertised.
B.) Food menu selections & food quality -- Again, the 2nd of 2 MAJOR disappointments. Of all my 16 cruises that I have taken, without a doubt, this is FIRMLY the WORST dining room selections offered & well below-average quality of food pedaled-out, during dinner time, in the Metropolitan main formal dining room that I've ever encountered in 16 cruises. Fancy names of entrees could not live up to a fancy taste. I kept anticipating each night, for dinner, it would eventually turn around and get better, but NO WAY! Consistently, BELOW-average quality food each night, along with undesireable & unwanted entrees were offered each night in the main formal dining room. Golden Corral even serves better food than this place, as do many land-based restaurants in the U.S. far exceed the quality of food and food menu selections than this cruise ship!
The only saving grace to avoid the poor quality & undesireable entrée selections was to order steaks. This is about the only area that Celebrity Millennium could handle that was acceptable and fairly decent quality. Many was the time I was stuck with having to order from the LEFT side of the menu which was a fixed-menu, vice the variably changing side of the menu on the right side of the menu each night. Be ready to ask for translators to translate in English what these entrees are, on the right side of the dinner menu each night!
I finally decided upon dining up in the Oceanview Café a couple nights as an alternative. This was also a major disappointment with menu selection offerings and generally poor quality of food. I'll get in to the specifics later.
C.) Entertainment ~~ The entertainment became quite repetitive and predictable from night to night. 3 appearances by vocal impersonators, when 1 show could have worked instead of 3 redundant shows. 2 xylophone performances & 2 pianist performances, when 1 of each would have been sufficient -- so I felt a bit of redundancy of similarly "repeat" shows, when they could have thrown in some more creative variety shows like a hypnotist show, Cirque du Soleil show, sky-dancing contortionists, and even a physical comedian act. RCCL and NCL both have implemented the dynamic, visually-captive Cirque du Soleil shows and sky-diver shows, so why NOT Celebrity?? Because of the lack of creativity, this meant some dull, repeat shows for night time theatre venues, and a rather dated, old approach to the cruising entertainment of yester-year. Zzzzzz!
Also you get NO Quest game show, either, with Celebrity cruise lines -- another downer. Evening entertainment seemed rather one-dimensional, outside the Celebrity Theatre show venues. It was either music up in Cosmos lounge or music in Rendezvous lounge or music in Michael's club.
What the cruise director should have done is thrown in some variety game shows -- interactive audience game shows, during "prime time" like NCL does. Unless you're a music listener or dancer, you will be BORED -- very BORED with the one-dimensional "prime time" activities from 7 PM onward. Very dull and uneventful evenings, after you're done seeing the Celebrity Theatre nighttime shows which only last about 45 minutes to 1 hour long.
Good thing for me is that I am an advanced beginner dancer, and I danced quite a bit in the Rendezvous lounge, but MOST people are not dancers, and thus will become bored. It's pretty sad to see when a cruise line advertises the Fortunes Casino as a highlight activity for nighttime activities.
Okay, that's the shortened condensed version of my review. For those who thirst for ALL the nitty-gritty details, about several subject areas, I will pour in to that in my lengthy, extended review of Celebrity Millennium, appearing down below.
**NOTICE** -- I don't "sugar-coat" like so many artificial CC member user reviewers do. When it's GREAT I say it's GREAT; when it's BAD, I'll tell you it's bad, too. I tell it like it is. So following down below is the structured sequence of the lengthier review from my 15-Night Panama Canal experience from September 22 to October 7, 2013.
We're a couple in our 40's, having cruised now, 16 times on 6 different cruise lines, so I'm a seasoned veteran to cruising and have a goodly bit to compare with. We currently reside in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.A. While this cruise on Celebrity Millennium marks my 1st on Celebrity cruise lines, I have cruised on several of the other cruise lines, and on 15 DIFFERENT ships on 6 other cruise lines since 2002.
II. Hotel Information.
Our starting port of embarkation for this cruise was San Diego. Since I secured a late reservation, I did not stay near the port, but instead about 20 minutes North of the Pier at the Extended Stay America near Mission Valley Stadium, in San Diego, California, for 1 night's stay. They tried over-charging us TWICE for 2 reservations. After speaking with another couple staying there, they too, also experienced an over-charging attempt. All the accommodations were great at the motel, and is situated in a hilly, scenic area, otherwise, but it's not anywhere near water, though. Morning continental breakfast service was very scant, with only a few pieces of fruit offered, and grab n' go muffins & oatmeal in a cup offered. Coffee was served but no juices. Breakfast is not their strength here. Large rooms are, though, with spacious amounts of space owing to full kitchens and supplied kitchenware.
III. Ship Information.
This is an interesting story to tell here about the ship. When I boarded this Celebrity Millennium, I did so AFTER the ship underwent recent propeller repairs, & had been out-of-service for approximately one month. 4 cruises before mine were cancelled and 2 cruises before that were interrupted. All this stems from the need for a new 250 ton Rolls Royce mermaid propulsion pod to be installed at Grand Bahamas Island shipyard, in Freeport, Bahamas which took 4 days with 50 manufacturer technicians and 30 ship yard workers working round the clock to ready the Millennium for cruising in time for our sail date, on September 22, 2013. So I consider this the "guinea pig" cruise, as we were the first crop of passengers to board this ship, since the repairs were made. The repairs firmly held-up during the duration of our cruise, and Millennium has been completely restored & fixed now. We arrived at every port of call on time.
Celebrity Millennium is a 13-year-old ship, with its inaugural maiden voyage taken on June 17, 2000. It has a length of 965 ft, tonnage of 91,000 tons and a passenger occupancy of 2,158, based upon double occupancy.
IV. Activities On-Board the Ship.
I was disappointed that there were not interactive, audience participation variety game shows offered at "prime time" during this cruise. Only a couple interactive dancing venues, as in Dancing with the ship's officers and another dance show or two were offered, involving audience participation. So, you're out of luck if you can't dance!
There was a decent variety of activities offered during the daytime hours. Many times they offered enrichment speaker & lecture presentations on the sea days, from either an Emile Baladi (strong, thick accent that some Brits & Aussies couldn't understand); or from American, Joe Murphy giving presentation lectures on World War 2. Emile kept more on topic, while many of Joe's presentations were off-topic and didn't have anything to do with our cruise. Nonetheless, I did take an interest in Joe's presentations, especially on the WW2 talks, even though I'm not a history buff -- I was able to connect with his interesting research that he presented, and he was more understandable than Emile. He also gave a lecture talk on Roswell, NM UFO theories that I attended.
When it comes to prepping you for the Panama Canal, this is where Celebrity Millennium's presentation staff excelled BIG-TIME!! The day prior, they gave lectures on the Panama Canal, by Emile, and showed a video presentation in addition to Emile's pep talk. The day of the Panama Canal, there was narration given in the public areas on the cruise ship, but could not gain access to the narration in my stateroom, as the volume knob and electrical wiring had a short in it.
A listing of activities during the sea days were as follows: Trivia, fitness classes, (yoga & pilates which cost a fee to participate); some other fitness classes are for free, like Zumba; and some for a paid fee; arts & crafts presentations are available; music trivia; bingo; a few health & wellness seminars, including 2 talks I attended on acupuncture.
Then there were free dance classes that I attended with weather-GIRL. We always enjoy the dance classes, even if we know some of the steps already. They offered some pool games like volleyball, table tennis, and then there was some Xbox 360 games in the afternoon. There was an occasional inter-active game show offered in the afternoon from time to time but I desired more variety game shows, especially in prime time. They had boutique shop seminars, and there is a basketball court up on top, with an abbreviated jogging track. They eliminated the rest of the jogging track, when they installed new cabins on deck 11, aft, a few years back.
I also attended a couple of sessions of modern line dance with Laura, and I attended one session of Zumba, once the instructor finally arrived on our ship. That is really exhausting, that Zumba -- but it seems most the women took a fancy to it, as much a work-out as it was! It operates on the platform premise of Latin dancing, fused with aerobics, but I found it to be much more aerobic-like.
By late afternoon, they offered piano & vocals and a Beacon Street string trio of dinner music in Cellar Masters, Deck 5.
For those Karaoke believers, I did catch that on the schedule a couple times during the cruise, too.
For those of you casino gamers, there are plenty of opportunities to participate in Texas Hold-Em tournaments, lotto draw and slot machine bonus points events. There are art seminars given as well.
Excite the Senses was a marketing gimmick designed to get you to pay a fee for their culinary seminars & experiences. Most cruise lines have several activity events designed to generate revenue by charging for their activities and this culinary theme was one of them. Although they did offer a free BBQ, on the pool deck, marketed under this name. I didn't take part in it, because it didn't look any good, and one of my CC members said it wasn't any good -- the BBQ.
As announced in my shorter, condensed version of my review, dining room service and stateroom attendant service was superior on this cruise ship, Celebrity Millennium. So if I'm impressed, then the rest of you will be too! Many was the time that I needed to get out of the traditional Metropolitan main formal dining room in about 45 minutes' time so I could make the 7 PM show in time to get a front row seat. My server understood & complied with my expectations during the cruise. Communication is often the key to excellent service. Get with Ana on Deck 5 of the Metropolitan for Select dining if you have special needs. I was happy with her service provided. If you're in need of something, then just articulate that with service personnel and find one that is most attentive to your needs and stick with him or her during your cruise and you'll be fine.
Oceanview Café service was also attentive on most occasions. They cleaned the tables promptly and juice machines were 90% of the time well-stocked with the juices. A few times, on occasion, they didn't keep the food stocked on the buffet, though.
Stateroom service was fantastic, and we had no issues to contend with here, which I can't say the same on all my cruises. Staff made frequent eye contact in the public areas and asked about your well-being, too.
In summary, the service on Celebrity Millennium is higher than that on my previous RCCL cruises, and far higher than on NCL cruise lines, especially in the dining room.
This cruise marks one of the rarest moments in which I never had to search far to get a table in the upstairs buffet, either for breakfasts or for dinner. That was a really pleasant surprise, as it's usually a challenge to find a table for breakfast in the mornings on my other cruises, during port days; but this was not an issue.
Another NOTICEABLE enhancement to service with this Celebrity cruise line ship -->> On port days when it was raining, they have service personnel outside with a bucket of umbrellas that they open and hand to you when you're at the gangway, for transit between the cruise ship and the port terminal -- something that other cruise lines don't offer. They also enhance the hospitality experience on Celebrity by providing you with cool washcloths to take on a tray on those hot days when you arrive back to the ship's gangway, and offer you cups of water or fruit punch for refreshment inside the cruise terminal before boarding back on to the ship. So a few, nicer enhancements that the other cruise lines don't offer.
VI. Port & Shore Excursions.
I have read continuing criticisms of this Shore Excursion staff, on this particular cruise ship in past reviews, and I can duplicate those same hardships. Cesar is the shore excursions manager and he is uncaring and unwilling to make the necessary corrections for future cruisers that are needed in his under-writing tour excursion descriptions.
Celebrity Millennium's shore excursion department gets VERY POOR grades & delivers MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT, when it comes to horsing-up my port destination tours.
First, on my Colon, Panama port of call, about 10 days prior to sail date, they cancel my tour excursion. Then, when I get on the ship, they re-label that tour excursion that they cancelled, and re-offer it under a NEW name title. So, I re-book that NEW, re-labeled tour, now marketed as "Panama City Experience" tour. A few days later they cancel THAT tour -- a 2nd time I've been cancelled on in Panama. Major frustration, as most other desireable tours have now already been booked by the time they cancel on me. (Is that all, you ask??) NO! This is just the start.
Next, in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, they offer the "Pacaya Volcano Climbing" tour. In their tour description that sits in front of me, it FALSELY advertises, "experience an up-close volcanic activity and watch lava rivers." THIS IS DOWN-RIGHT FALSE ADVERTISING! You will NOT see up-close volcanic activity, and you will NOT see lava rivers.
The hike is a strenuous one, as advertised, and if you're one that is really over-weight, out-of-shape, or tires easily from up-hill climbing, then you'll struggle and will require the need for a horse. The locals go up half-way with the climbers waiting for folks to cave-in & rent a horse. They charge $30 for a horse rental. The hike is a continuous up-hill climb with several breaks taken to catch breath. I am 40 years old, have a big belly, and am not accustomed to steep climbs. I was able to do the entire hike, without a horse, but was panting heavily. It's my strong legs that saved me. But all the work exerted for this strenuous hikes gives LITTLE, very LITTLE back-end pay-out reward in terms of volcanic activity, for all you put in to it and I cannot recommend this tour, as a result. Often times the volcano top is cloud-shrouded, but there were periods where the clouds mixed-out, which affords you DISTANT pictures from a LONG DISTANCE away. I was expecting steam vents, hot springs, and bubbling mud scenes along the hike, the signs of volcanic activity, but you see NONE of this along the way. You do get some scenes of landscape of neighboring hills.
Next, the Poas Volcano, Sarchi, Country Drive & Lunch tour that this shore excursion staff offers, is a tour that should have never been offered. Once we arrive on the bus, after the fact, the tour operator announces to us, there is only a 50% chance of seeing the volcano's caldera on any given day! Say what?? If you're encountering a FAILURE rate as HIGH as 50% of the time NOT seeing the volcano's features, then this is a tour that should have never been offered, and their tour description under-writing SHOULD have informed their guests that there is a heightened chance that guests will NOT see the volcano's features, because of a fog bank that sits in its caldera. Again, shore excursion tour description underwriting did NOT address this heightened chance of NOT seeing the caldera in their tour descriptions, and they bungled yet another tour on me!
Steer clear of BOTH volcano tour excursions, because they will NOT deliver what is advertised. 50% failure rate of not seeing the Poas volcano features, and DISTANT, VERY DISTANT viewing of the Pacaya volcano, with NO lava rivers & no up-close volcanic activity.
Now I will spend time delving in to the other tour excursions that I took:
#1.) Cabo San Lucas, Mexico ~~ WeatherGIRL chose the "Premier Beach Escape" tour. To me, it's a complete waste of time to just sit at a beach all day long, as I'm a LOT more adventurous than this; but okay, I complied with her wishes, and accompanied her.
The tour picks you up from the pier and takes you to a resort called, "Me Cabo". They serve you ONE plate of food, (no buffet), and choice of limeade or iced tea. NO alcoholic beverages are included in this price. NO motorized sportscrafts are included. You also get access to their swimming pool, which also has a built-in pool bar. For $80, I'd have expected free alcoholic drinks INCLUDED with this price, as a simple 1 plate of food and access to a beach is awfully skimpy for the price paid. I do NOT recommend this tour. The most irritating part of this beach resort was the music! They were pumping out LOUD techno music all day long that was just driving me up the WALL! I spoke with several other guests on this tour with us, and NOBODY -- not a SINGLE soul I spoke with enjoyed that music. A Brit's response was, "Bloody Awful", when he described the music being played at this resort. Definitely steer clear of this tour; NOT worth the money; way over-priced, and tense, annoying Techno club music being pedaled-out all over the place here. They need to consider their audience.
I did decide to make a last moment decision to visit "Lover's Beach" with a private water taxi, when puttering around on the beach. I do recommend to go see Lover's Beach. (Why?) Because of the scenic monoliths you are surrounded by, makes for pretty backdrop picture scenes. It's a beach with a view! It is NOT offered as a part of this tour excursion. You'll have to do this independently yourself. But the pictures I obtained are so worth it when I took it upon myself to get us there, with a 10 minute water taxi that they offered on the beach we were initially taken to.
#2.) Puerto Vallarta, Mexico ~~ We mutually agreed upon the Yelapa & Majahuitas Snorkel Adventure. This is a combination tour that visits a not-so-good snorkeling site, but also visits the coastal mountain town of Yelapa, which I really enjoyed. The real HIGHLIGHT for me on this tour was the experience with the waterfall that we hiked up to! GREAT, FANTASTIC pictures I was able to obtain, as we were afforded the opportunity to go in to the lake and experience the waterfall up-close and obtain pictures. Then we took a leisurely VERY SCENIC hike the rest of the way down, crossed over a muddy river stream, and were taken to a scenic, pretty beach with a view of the coastal mountains.
We were furnished with a FULL lunch buffet -- unlimited plates of food & drink included on the catamaran that we sailed on for over 2 hours' time. The staff on the catamaran was FABULOUS! Although, the only disappointment on this tour was the quality of the snorkel site, Majahuitas snorkeling site, the other parts of the tour made up for it. The snorkeling site had NO coral reefs at all; limited fish and very mirky, cloudy waters. This is not a place to come snorkeling at.
The tour operators went way beyond their call of duty which was just to guide us on the tour and provide a meal. They went over-the-top, to put on an entertaining show, with music, costumes, and interactive dancing with us on the catamaran. I've taken a LOT of catamaran tours over the past decade of 16 cruises on 6 cruise lines, but these boys delivered!!! And I tipped them very GENEROUSLY for their hospitality and entertainment they provided!! Because the many GREAT features outweighed the snorkeling site, I can recommend this tour, with lots of energy!
#3.) Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala ~~ As mentioned at the top of this sectional, I chose the "Pacaya Volcano Climbing" tour. The ONLY attribute the tour description got right was the fact that this is a LONG, strenuous hike, that involves steep climbs, and that it is for people who are in optimal physical fitness condition.
This tour does NOT get you up-close to the volcano, and you will NOT see lava rivers, as the tour description FALSELY advertises. Believe me, this tour is TOTALLY miss-able, since they don't get you close to the "good stuff". Everything is seen from a very far distance away. I could hear the volcano huff, like a steam engine train starting, every 20 seconds or so, and in a telephoto zoomed-in lens, I could also see mud or rocks spewing up from the top, but because it's such a far distance away, the camera could not resolve the details of the spewing mud & rock. You will not get to see any red lava either with this tour. No steam vents; no sulfur deposit sites, no hot springs, no bubbling mud either, along the uphill or downhill hiking stretch. During the entire hike you will NOT see any visible signs that you are approaching the volcano. Since the strenuous, long hike uphill did NOT offer a substantial reward of up-close volcanic activity NOR any red lava flows, I do NOT recommend taking this tour, as it's not worth all the work, just to get distant volcano pictures which are often cloud-shrouded.
#4.) Colon, Panama ~~ After settling a score with the shore excursion staff, we were then booked on the Grand Tour of Panama tour excursion.
This tour starts off by taking you on a motor coach bus to a Panamanian resort hotel that has a boat launch. This is where we boarded our lake boats and took a scenic view of the Panamanian jungles. A few species of birds and howler monkeys could be spotted from the small, open-air boat that we toured on. It was raining off-and-on during the day, so it wasn't the prettiest of days, but the tour still continued in spite of the rain. Then, we were off-loaded at an island where the Embera Indian culture survives on. An introduction to their culture, and primitive living conditions is discussed and witnessed first hand. They offer to sell trinkets & hand-made crafts there. None of it is really worthy of buying, and I suppose the few people who bought did so out of being kind, feeling sorry for their unfortunate, primitive living conditions. They did have a walking dance that I participated in, since I was in the front row, basically walking in a circle a few times. We did a similar tour like this out in Fanning Island in the Central Pacific one time, during our Hawaii cruise. They have primitive musical instruments that they try & perform a tune to, and show you a couple of their ritual dancing events for celebration and during sickness that they conduct.
The final segment of this tour takes us to the highlight of the trip, the Panama Canal's Gatun Locks. These are the locks on the Southwest Caribbean side of the Panama Canal. Here we observed ships transiting from the viewpoint of standing on land looking inward toward the canal, at about 2 different levels. They also have displays of the locomotives used in guiding the canal. There are NO elevators to reach the top observing, viewing platform, so you must be able to climb a few stories worth of stairs to get to the TOP observing level. We also seen the expansion segments of the Panama Canal, from a distance as our tour bus drove by. This is new construction for more locks to the Panama Canal, slated to open in the year 2014, if on schedule. By the year 2014, the Panama Canal will reach its 100th year of operation. It is operated and maintained by the country of Panama. The lock system and flow of water works by gravity and not pumps and is considered by many to be the World's 8th Wonder of the World, a true engineering marvel that cost over 27,000 lives lost in the initial construction stages, more than 100 years ago.
Although the tour was a decent and satisfactory tour, the price paid is a bit steep for what is offered in this combination tour. I could personally do without visiting the Embera Indian tribe as it's no picnic seeing the primitive living conditions and customs, but if you've never seen an experience like this before, you may feel it's justifiable to pay the extra $$$ for this combination tour. There won't be any substantial shopping offered on this tour. The little gift shop that they have at the Gatun Locks really has nothing much to offer, as it's really tiny and really limited in merchandise.
Understand and know that beyond the tourist zone of Colon, that is gated, you MUST stay within the tourist zone INSIDE the port gates, and NOT venture out on foot by your own. Both the cruise line and U.S. Dep't of State website advises that the town of Colon, Panama is UNSAFE. A few crew members from the ship ignored that warning from the ship's announcement and were consequently mugged and robbed from all their belongings. When I approached the edge of the protected tourist zone, a gang of men were eyeing my male purse that I wear on my belt, very closely and staring me down with suspicious looks.
We went on a ship's sponsored tour excursion so we were in guarded condition.
#5.) Cartegena, Colombia ~~ Here we mutually agreed upon taking the tour entitled "Cartagena City, La Popa Hill, Folklore Show, and Shopping" tour. I was pleasantly surprised and happy with this particular tour excursion.
We were escorted to several different vantage point views of the city. We first made a stop at the San Felipe Fortress, after boarding a motor coach bus. There are women standing nearby with fruit bowls on their head and dressed to take pictures, but they do expect a tip, if you take pictures with them. The tour then continued onward to a monastery at the top of La Popa Hill, where SUPERB photo opportunities abound from many different angles, overlooking the city of Cartagena, with views of the sea. The courtyard inside the monastery also affords some photo opportunities.
For me, the highlight of this tour was the folklore show given at Café Del Mar. The outfit costumes used in this folkloric show were FANCY, and even MUCH better than the ship's production show costumes! They went all-out on these very photogenic costumes. The music was simple and not nearly as elaborate as the costumes and dancing. Then, they took us to the shopping square where time for shopping was given -- I believe about 30 minutes or 45 minutes tops. Weatherguy obtained coffee candies and a shirt for his souvenirs.
I recommend this tour as the price is right, and you get a number of different stops and shopping time afforded on this tour, and it is not a physically demanding tour; although I caution there is a good bit of walking through the streets, though.
#6.) Fort Lauderdale, Florida ~~ Weather-GIRL chose the Everglades Airboat ride ending at Ft. Lauderdale Airport. They have really commercialized airboating since the days I was just a kid some 30 years ago. In this tour, you will depart from the dis-embarkation pier, (about an hour late after the tour was to begin), and ride for 30-40 minutes on an un-narrated motor coach bus out West to Everglades Holiday Park. From there, we boarded a double-bladed airboat which had a roof on it and a front windshield on it. In the early days when I was 10 years old, they were all open air and single-bladed airboats with NO roofs.
The airboat will rev up its speed, but doesn't seem to go as fast as the ones I was on 30 years ago, as everyone is so conscious about safety first. Still, the airboat ride is narrated, and you will explore the back areas of the Everglades and we seen several alligators in the waters, which the guide gets you UP-CLOSE, really close to them swimming lazily nearby. In their swimming, you only get to see the top surface of their body, as they stay largely submersed in the water. Birds could be spotted, too, on this tour.
But alas! You will get to see alligators in their entirety in their alligator show presentation that they put on, back at base camp, where you board the boats. They give a talk demonstration and provide insights to the alligators' lifestyle. There's also a gift shop that sells snacks and drinks. The airboat ride lasts about 40-45 minutes, and when finished, we boarded the motor coach bus for an un-narrated transfer to the Fort Lauderdale Airport to make our flight connections.
I can recommend this tour for 1st time airboaters who've never seen a portion of the Everglades, or have never been on an airboat ride before.
We arrived at the San Diego, California pier to board the ship on September 22, 2013. 2 Celebrity ships were docked there that sunny day. I had read on the CC boards that San Diego is troublesome for embarking, but I could not duplicate those hardships that others say they encounter. I found that the embarkation process went rather SMOOTHLY with little wait in lines in the pre-boarding paper-work process and security lines. It went much faster for us than the industry average in other ports I've gone through. We are "Select" members, and this cut down some on the line wait, but even those who don't have our status, the line didn't look severely long, but a good bit longer than ours. We basically had only 2 couples ahead of us, in the Select line.
We were about an hour late leaving San Diego, but time was made-up on our first 36-hours at sea en route to Cabo San Lucas, because on our first sea day, a passenger on the pool deck had a heart attack and was pronounced dead, by the poolside, but then subsequently revived by the ship's staff, and then re-located to the ship's infirmary and stabilized until we reached Cabo San Lucas in which he was transferred to a hospital. It turned out the man had a stint put in his heart one week prior to our sail date. So we arrived a little earlier to Cabo San Lucas because of this man's heart condition.
The cabin stateroom I had secured was a result of 2 last week upgrades I underwent, in the one week prior to sail date. I first purchased an Inside cabin in the 2nd week of August 2013, with a happy hour special offered by the cruise line. Then 1 week prior to sail date I called-in for a free upgrade to an Oceanview room. Finally, 3 days prior to sail date, I upgraded one more time to a Veranda stateroom with balcony.
This was the BEST cabin I've had in recent years. Everything in this cabin worked, when we arrived -- toilet, faucets, drains, air conditioning, sliding doors, hot water, vent, electrical outlets, all lights, & the safe. You are provided with a hair dryer and 2 robes for use during the cruise. They also furnish your stateroom with an umbrella to use. A nice touch to this stateroom that I've not ever encountered with any other cruise line is a dim nightlight on the wall of the bathroom, in which if needed during the night, you don't need to turn on the blinding full-scale lightning.
Even though this ship is 13 years old, you'd NEVER know it, inside this stateroom. Celebrity went through the trouble of replacing the furniture. Our chair looked new. The bed was comfortable enough for me, and I easily slept each night, soundly -- in fact, I slept too well, the first few days!
My only troubling encounter was getting in to the stateroom on embarkation day. Since I upgraded just 3 days prior to sail date, the computer systems between land and the ship had not updated and thought I was still on deck 2, with an Oceanview stateroom. So they had to dispatch an electrician to re-code the lock to be compatible with the room key. Replacment & the issuance of new room key cards wasn't good enough for this lock. It required the intervention of an electrician.
The balcony on this stateroom I was in, is TWICE the size of the regular side balconies on decks 7 & 8 above me. For that, I really enjoyed having the larger balcony, and there were NO obstructions to the downward, upward, forward, nor aft, when coming out to the edge of the railing. Outside chairs were better than the typical industry average which other cruise lines give you cheap, plastic white chairs. These were better quality, wider & more comfortable chairs outside on the penthouse deck. There's no smoking anymore outside in your private balconies, because too many non-smokers complained they couldn't enjoy being outside on their balcony with the presence of second-hand smoke from other neighboring smoking balcony cruisers.
This is the 1st cruise line I've been on where bottles of shampoo are given to you, instead of using the shampoo dispenser that is fastened to the side of the shower wall & the button that is pressed. No such shampoo with button dispenser exists on the shower wall. Bar soap is also provided, lotion, and conditioner.
Towel linens are the same as any other cruise line -- the towel linen quality is comparable to a $70 motel. Same goes for the quality of soap & shampoo -- it's like the quality of a $70 budget motel.
Between 7 PM & 8 PM and again between 8 PM and 9 PM, if there was a loud musical show going on, in the Celebrity Theatre, then I could hear distant bass volume in my stateroom during those times, since we were located above the balcony side of that showroom theatre. Otherwise, all other times, it was quiet.
The area of dining was a miserable failure for this cruise ship, Celebrity Millennium -- particularly at nighttime, in the main formal dining room, Metropolitan. Dining menu selections were just down-right AWFUL! Many was the night when the menu looked absolutely UN-DESIREABLE. Nothing interested me. I can't say I've had this experience on other cruise lines. The quality of food in the Metropolitan main formal dining room for dinner was equally as bad as the menu selections.
I'm serious when I said that food at Golden Corral is better than on this ship! Many land-based restaurants in the United States can EASILY surpass the quality of food on this ship! SERIOUSLY!! Even McDonald's serves BETTER French fries than this ship. Pizza in the Oceanview Café is the WORST pizza I've had in YEARS!! ALL the pizza chains in the U.S. beat the quality of pizza served on this cruise ship -- even the lowly Cici's Pizza does! Even frozen "Tombstone" brand-pizza is better. For a cruise line that touts, "Modern Luxury" I can whole-heartedly assure you that the QUALITY OF FOOD and MENU SELECTIONS are NOT "modern luxury" quality. Anybody that tells you otherwise, is NOT playing it razor-straight with you!
Before boarding this cruise ship, I had read previous complaints from other user reviews about the food on this cruise ship, Celebrity Millennium and I can duplicate their hardship experiences.
(Is there a way out??) Yes, you can take a detour to all this unpleasantness, by sticking to the STEAK selections in the main formal dining room, at nighttime. That's an area, where they don't seem to have trouble serving up, and it's fairly decent quality, but I just didn't want to be eating steak every night. I didn't care for the Caesar salad; no where NEAR as good as on NCL cruise lines. The French Onion soup is so hot you need to wait 30 minutes to bear tolerating the piping-hot soup. It's a painful experience if you dig-in right away to the French Onion soup, so be warned!
Even the Salmon served on the left portion of the every day menu at dinner time in the Metropolitan main formal dining room was DRY when I ordered it, lacking in flavor too. One of the worst salmons I've had on cruise ships. The Canadians at my table duplicated the same DRY salmon that I had the night before. One time I ordered a fish entrée, and it came so SMELLY, and such powerful odor, it was repulsive.
Leaving this FOOD BEHIND was a HIGHLIGHT of this cruise! Yep, yep, yep! Happiness is seeing this cruise ship food in my rear view mirror! The food on my Carnival Conquest cruise from 2011, was FAR SUPERIOR to the food served on this cruise.
About the ONLY thing POSITIVE that I can say about ANY of the food quality or selections is the FRUIT. The fruit was consistently FRESH and quite flavorful -- MUCH better in ripeness compared with the industry average. Many times it was a delight to have pineapple aboard this ship -- served so ripe, soft, and sweet! It was better than some desserts.
Speaking of desserts, you only get 3 (changing) choices for dessert in the main formal dining from one night to the next. They do also offer you a fixed-dessert menu which are items that are always available. In general, the dessert items served in the main formal dining room at night, were what I'd say were slightly above-average for the cruise line industry. There were some occasional tasty desserts, but nothing that was really memorable.
I stepped upstairs to the Oceanview café for dinner on a couple nights. They have a pasta station and meat station, where they prepare your order to your own custom specifications, right before your eyes. While I can see some people would enjoy having this custom-made to order freshness, I come up there to get food on the go fast, and I really don't desire having to wait on 3 or 4 others ahead of me in line just to get something as simple as pasta.
They have a sushi sectional up front which I never sampled, but they also have cooked Asian food as well next to it. They call it "Asian Delights" This is so misleading. There's nothing delightful about this Asian Delights. As I approached it, not only did it LOOK nauseating, it SMELLED nauseating, but I braved it anyway and tried a couple small pieces -- YUCK!! Just absolutely TERRIBLE! It's not even food the way I understand the definition of food to be.
I wish I could report better news about the food quality and selections, but it's just NOT going to happen on this ship, until they make some managerial staff changes with the Sous chef and other chief personnel. Most cruise line food quality is slumping and on the way DOWN, DOWN, DOWN; as it's processed food. And on this ship, it's really gone in to the dumper!
If you want to spend more money to escape these unpleasant menu selections & low-quality, you do have 2 options:
#1.) Qsine -- "French cuisine", $45 a head
#2.) The Olympic -- "uniquely unordinary", $45 a head
These 2 restaurants are specialty restaurants, and they'll burn your wallet in half! An outrageous $45 dollar cover charges applies per person -- THE HIGHEST CHARGE of any specialty restaurant I've seen in my 16 cruises on 6 different cruise lines!
The couple of folks who attended these restaurants SWEAR it's worth every penny. It better be, for that kind of price!
Qsine has a Scandanavian motif inside, I thought, whereas The Olympic has a look reminiscent of the Titanic décor motif, (from the motion picture). Even though I didn't dine in either one of these, I did take pictures at both of these locations by the end of the cruise.
In other areas.....
The coffee bar on deck 5, Café al Bacio, had a few choice dessert items in their cooler that were interesting in trying. I especially enjoyed their Lemon Meringue Pie. This was probably among the BEST desserts I'd had on this cruise ship, and this one was a keeper!! Don't miss it! It was served at the coffee bar. And it was FREE; no need to pay; although coffee specialty drinks were a fee here.
No comments on the restaurant "BLU" as that restaurant is reserved for a higher-paying crop of guests who are booked in Aqua Class Suites ONLY, and doesn't apply to me.
I did have a couple hamburgers on the pool grill early-on in the cruise. They were acceptable. How hard is it to louse-up hamburgers?
They did have an ice cream parlor. 2 of them. One was a paid-only Italian Gelatos across from the coffee bar on Deck 5, and the other was a FREE ice cream bar, up on Deck 10 in Oceanview Cafe, where they had a number of flavors to try. As for the FREE ice cream quality, on Deck 10, I'd rate it ABOVE-average quality, compared with the cruise line industry average, and creative flavors, too, I thought. So this is a little nugget you should explore is their ice cream bars as I found them to be decent, FOR CRUISE LINE standards. It's still NO substitute for Ben n' Jerry's ice cream nor can it compete with the most premium brand of U.S. ice cream brands, either, but it's still worth a try -- maybe you'll find a flavor you really like!
X.) Children's Clubs
I was told there was a total of about 20 kids on this entire cruise. I can't comment on the children's club activities here, since we didn't bring any along, but they do have a dedicated area for kids, called the Fun Factory.
In other areas....
They do have a ship's library on-board which is 2 stories, but it's not big, though. It is open 24-hours a day for those book readers. There's also a computer lounge for internet access on Deck 6, mid-ship, port side. The cost for internet useage is $0.75 per minute -- a typical outrageous charge for ship internet access. The computers are all iMacs.
The cruise director, Rich, is responsible for all your ship-wide entertainment. He does make himself available outside the Celebrity theatre, starboard side, Deck 4 at the end of each theatre show, nightly, so that's nice to see that he offers to make an announcement to publicly mingle with the people, as some other cruises I've been on, they go off and hide after the show. I found his appearance & personality a bit dorky & goofy, but somehow I warmed-up to it anyway. He fits the mold well in his Liar's Club appearance up on deck 11 in Cosmos lounge.
In a general overall sense I felt that the nightly Celebrity Theatre shows were just average, and very "vanilla". They don't have the dramatic sky dancers, like Royal Caribbean; they don't have Cirque du Soleil production shows like Norwegian Cruise Lines, nor the fancy contortionists that NCL has. They don't have the elaborate costuming of Carnival & Princess. So you're really not left with much firepower to say that Celebrity has any 'trademark' signature on their broadway shows, in relative comparison to the other cruise lines. So this is a let-down. The productions shows are usually quite vanilla. Average costumes, and on 2 of the 3 production shows, average music. There was 1 production show that I enjoyed the most, entitled "Boogie Wonderland", mostly for the music that I connected with. The dancers & singers on this ship are like everywhere else -- they come a dime a dozen, and nobody really stood out as being SPECTACULAR here. The live orchestra band they had was a bit below average in quality I thought.
As I announced at the beginning of my summary portion, there was repetitiveness in seeing the same type of show over again. For instance, 2 xylophone shows; 2 pianist shows, and the same female impersonator vocalist appeared TWICE. Then, another Male impersonator vocalist appeared -- so a total of 3 vocalist impersonators. It's just too many times of the same content! I'd have liked to see them include MORE variety like a Hypnotist show, like NCL & RCCL does, or physical comedian show/juggler on another show, a sky dancer or Cirque du Soleil show. But Celebrity lacks this pizzazz in creativity, so that it's just run-of-the-mill shows.
They had a Beatles tribute band, an Almost Elton John (impersonator again), 2 comedians, a guitarist from Omaha, Nebraska; The Finkel brothers and father, (xylophonist, pianist, and actor); a Latin dancing show, and 3 production shows, which were mostly mediocre.
They had some themed parties up on Deck 11 in Cosmos Lounge, like the Totally 80's night that I participated in, and either a 70's or 60's theme party, too. On rare occasion they had a game show at night, as in the Liar's Club Comedy Game Show, but no teams were assembled and no interactive audience participation, which is disappointing. They offered a "Dancing with the Officers" competition, where 8 volunteers are selected from a bowl of names to participate. I counted 5 women and 3 men who were selected, and I was not one of them selected who signed-up.
I did get to participate in ONE of only 3 Celebrity Theatre shows that had BRIEF audience participation offered, which was the comedy show of Buzz Sutherland. Then I participated in the Thriller dance on-stage, the prelude to the 80's party night. On many other nights weather-GIRL and I casually danced in the Rendezvous lounge on Deck 4 to Cha-Cha, Waltz, Rhumba most often, with an occasional Salsa, Meringue & swing tune. As I've said before, if you're not a music listener or dancer, then the prime-time evenings will become very boring as it's one-dimensional and top-heavy on music & dancing everywhere but not much else to offer, outside the nighttime Celebrity Theatre shows, during prime time evenings & nights. This cruise line lacks creativity, which is a strength of NCL.
I really wish this cruise director & cruise line would offer The Quest Game Show, more audience participation game shows, and inter-active theatrical shows, that incorporates the audience, like Norwegain Cruise Line does. It becomes much more entertaining to take part in the entertainment rather than sitting back all the time as they stand n' deliver, without interaction. They're obviously targeting a particular clientele, namely an older, more sedate audience. Getting a front row seat in the Celebrity Theatre was easy and not nearly as competitively ferocious as getting in the front row on RCCL, NCL, or Carnival.
As for your evening music variety -- you generally get 3 choices for music at PRIME TIME, in the evening hours:
Choice #1: Upscale Trio -- an older 3-person band that plays light, easy-listening music which is very danceable by couples. Weather-GIRL and I spent a goodly amount of time dancing to their music in the Rendezvous lounge. Although none of these 3 musicians are superbly talented, the lady Florence, is VERY NICE, has the best intentions, and even makes an attempt to learn the guest names who attend her music, and thanks them for coming to her lounge. She's very inviting and pleasureable. Their music selections are still VERY desireable and nice to listen to. The dance floor is QUITE small as most are in these cruise ship lounges. They play the most appropriate & fitting music for this class of clientele on this cruise ship, in my estimation.
Choice #2: D'Revelations Party Band -- This is a larger band, playing up in Cosmos Lounge Deck 11. Their repertoire consists of variety party band music from the 80's, 90's, and today. Usually pop music and variety mix. They are VERY LOUD, and it's difficult to talk with fellow passengers when they're playing. The dance floor here is bigger. We went to listen in a couple times and I danced to their music a few times, but was not my choice band selection, because of the music played and they're just too loud for my taste.
Choice #3: The Garnettes -- This is another small band of 3 musicians that specialize in jazz music. They play in the smallest lounge of Michael's Club and there is no dance floor. I listened in on them a few times. I'm not a fan of jazz music, though.
Other musical appearances were the Beacon Street string trio, playing classical music in Cellar Masters and occasional country music played on select evenings.
There were some interactive theme party nights, like "Totally 80's", 70's, and 60's night. I participated in the show of the Totally 80's night, appearing on-stage for the prelude on the Michael Jackson's Thriller dance session.
It took a bit longer than they expected to disembark us from the ship, as another one of those mandatory Coast Guard inspections was required on the ship, before exiting. Our scheduled tour excursion left 1 hour late, at 10 AM, but we got off the ship by about 845 AM, as I recall. I've had much longer waits getting off other cruise ships, so disembarking wasn't terribly long, considering the hold-up by the Coast Guard inspection. Waiting in the customs line on-shore, was about a 20-30 minute wait going through that.
I feel that Celebrity cruise lines severely overcharges their guests for what is given in return, which is really NOTHING appreciably different than what the other cruise lines offer in 95% of all areas. The food quality is no better and I found it to be WORSE than other cruise lines. The difference is that RCCL, Carnival, and NCL prices are priced much better within the reasonable bounds of good taste, and provide a similar experience at a fraction of the cost. Plus, Celebrity has no seaside jumbotron screen for movies outside like Princess, RCCL, & Carnival has; Celebrity has no water park or waterslides like Carnival & RCCL does, no outside adventure activities like RCCL; no spectacular Cirque du Soleil production shows; no sky-dancing shows -- so what do you have to offer your guests, Celebrity, that is commensurate to justify the over-priced cruise rates? It's the class of people, isn't it? That's not good enough for me, to justify the cost-to-benefit ratio.
Sure the service at the gangway is a nice touch and added service with refreshment, cool towels, and umbrellas given, chocolates on pillow, nightlight in bathroom, but is it truly worth the extra $500 - $1000 more of extra price-gouging over the other cruise lines?? I think not.
The undesireable menu selections and LOW-quality of food is DEFINITELY not worth paying extra money to this cruise line, for what is pedaled-out in the main formal dining room of Metropolitan or Oceanview Cafe', and the Shore Excursion department has some serious underwriting problems with inept or otherwise incompetent, uncaring staff members that are totally clueless as to how some tours REALLY operate, in comparions to the tour description. They're completely unaware of the volcano tour problems that don't deliver what is promised in the brochure tour description.
Dining room & stateroom service was GREAT; Cabin was GREAT. Food was lousy; menu selections were terrible, and shore excursion department has MANY problems that were unforgiveable, considering this was a cruise that was to be all about visiting the volcanoes for me, personally.
Entertainment was run-of-the-mill; nothing special, "vanilla" and ordinary. Too many repeat-style shows, and nothing outstanding really. Evening entertainment is rather one-dimensional with top-heavy on music & dancing. Celebrity Millennium lacks variety, creativity, and pizzazz in their entertainment venues on-board and NOT near-enough interaction with audience participation.
Because of their over-priced cruise rates, poor-quality food, shore excursion problems, and un-original, run-of-the-mill entertainment, all supports my decision to avoid Celebrity cruise lines in the future.