This was a bucket list cruise for my wife which included our wedding anniversary so a lot of thought and planning went into it or so we thought. It turned out our anniversary was on the day we crossed the international date line and thus disappeared!
We rented a house in Honolulu for 8 days before boarding and for those who say the island is not worth spending time on I would refute that. We traveled about the island every day swimming at different beaches, snorkeled Hanauma Bay twice. We climbed Diamond Head, ate off food trucks had Moco Loco, attended a Hawaii University football game shopped the flea market at the stadium hunted down Macadamia pie and generally had a great time. We did not venture into or have time for Waikiki.
We booked an Aqua Class A1 deck 11 aft cabin after careful consideration of a number of factors from being on the top aft of the ship in potential rough seas to the price of the cabins in addition to reviewing some truly frightening reviews of the ship and itinerary on CC.
In hindsight we were smugly happy with our choice.
We boarded in Honolulu on Nov 2nd at 12:30pm since it is a smaller and older port the vehicle line to get to the boarding area was slow. Once out of the vehicle boarding went smoothly, one of our friends was with us as her husband was returning the rental car. She soon realized she did not have her boarding information but did have her passport.
In spite of this we navigated the boarding with few problems.
We were told she could not drop her luggage without her boarding info. We simply placed luggage tags for our cabin on their bags and the problem was solved. They allowed her to proceed and enter the que after verifying her on the passenger list with her passport. Once she made it to the check in counter it was clear sailing.
From drop off to walking on the ship and receiving a warm welcome and glass of champagne was all of 15 minutes.
Our cabin was ready at boarding and our luggage was in our room by about 3 a bottle of sparkling wine chilling in ice awaited us.
We met our Cabin Steward Mario who did an exemplary job and his service was impeccable for the length of our cruise.
An A1 cabin on deck 11 is like having the run of the ship to yourself. It is quite and convenient the deck below with the bar and outside dinners never intruded and truth be told it was voyeuristic at times to stand at the balcony rail and look down unobserved.
Each morning we would walk out on the balcony and greet the day and if not a port day and weather permitted we would dress and head down the corridor and and walk the 11th deck for a half hour then slip down to the 10th deck and swim for a bit then hot tub for a short while before heading to the spa for a steam or sauna then shower. On the way back to the cabin to dress for breakfast I often picked up a muffin at the Aqua Spa Cafe if open. Their muffins are a 3rd the size of those offered in the coffee shop so slightly more responsible.
One negative point with Aqua Class is we found the house coats supplied too thick and had our room Stewart supply us with waffle ones which were lighter.
We would then face the day by going to Blu for breakfast were the service was prompt, friendly the food prepared and portioned correctly for our taste.
I am not a big orange juice drinker and will not drink processed juices of any type. The fresh squeezed orange juice offered at Blu became part of my morning routine as well as the Mango Madness smoothie.
After breakfast we would go to the Olympic restaurant and I would have a coffee Americana and my wife would have a Cafe Mocha offered to Captain's Club Elite passengers.
We did try the MDR for breakfast once as it does have a diverse menu but the service was not as prompt. They do have kippers not offered in Blu due to the smell I was informed.
We enjoyed the Gala brunch that is offered in the MDR once during the cruise, much better use of food and resources then the old Midnight buffet.
We also enjoyed the buffet offered at breakfast a few times on port days and thought it better then Princess which we cruised just 9 days before boarding. One does have to walk all the way around the buffet before making a selection as the 2 sides are different. The fish and chips offered every other day at lunch were excellent and the burgers at the outside grill were also very tasty.
The ice cream they offered at the counter was very difficult to pass up in addition I have a mild addiction to peanut M&M's which they also offer.
During the 18 days we dined in Blu every night we were on the ship save one night for dinner at the Olympic on our pho - anniversary. Olympic as always was fine dinning with the expected impeccable service.
We did prefer dinning in Blu as the service was always excellent the Waite staff always attentive and efficient the Maitre'd ran an excellent service. We adjusted our dinning times to avoid the crowds and were always seated upon arrival.
Those who say they prefer the MDR should spend time to compare the menu offerings between the two. Blu's offerings are superior in quality. Blu would have Halibut while Talapia would be offered in the MDR, Blu offered appetizers like soft shelled crab.
What one prefers and how it is cooked can be a personal preference but when it comes to quality and cost it is not up to debate.
If something appeals to you in the MDR arrangements can be made to eat there for the evening.
The Blu venue is more intimate then the MDR and as such is quieter since we traveled with another couple we usually ate at a table for 4.
The odd time we dinned alone we sat a table for 2 in Blu this means the adjoining table for 2 is about 10" away. As others have commented it feels awkward if one wanted an intimate dinner however we always enjoyed the company and conversation with the adjoining table.
We found the ship to be in excellent condition after her recent dry dock, yes there are a few spots of rust to be found but considering her age she sparkled. She was always clean and the carpets and upholstery were fresh. Staff were observed painting, wiping down banisters, cleaning elevators and prepping public washrooms.
We enjoyed strolling through her in the evening listening to the string or Jazz group and the entertainers preforming in the atrium were very good as well.
To us the ship had an understated and refined feel of elegance, so nice. Not eye popping just a feeling of satisfaction from her warm glow.
We did talk with people who were disappointed in her after recent sailings on S Class or a gentleman who tried to disparage her in comparison to a newer build HAL ship. Apples to oranges they are not the same and one needs to be aware and set their expectation appropriately.
We have sailed all the M class ships multiple times in the past and are aware of their advantages and limitations compared to S class thus our choice.
We had not sailed an M class ship for about 4 years and our last X cruise had been in AC on Eclipse. We chose Millennium because we thought she would fit the venue better then an S class ship with less people when we hit small ports that required tendering, she did not disappoint.
The tendering process worked flawlessly for us, X seems to be working hard on streamlining the process. We booked private tours at all the ports save Cairns and had no problem meeting with our group on shore. Of coarse we heard of complaints but how one can hold X or the Captain accountable for rough seas in a port is beyond me. Much better to bob in a tender then miss a port. How one can be shocked or enraged that they may be caught in a line or face a delay while boarding or disembarking a cruise ship is beyond me.
We enjoyed the entertainment but having not sailed X for a few years most shows seemed fresh to us. Some of the small acts were very good some not so much, it is to be expected.
Many had an Australian influence which is understandable as they had a strong presence on board and we were heading there.
It was nice after cruising Princess that one could arrive just 10 minutes before a show and still get a reasonable seat. They changed show times a few times due to port days and such so having flexible dining at Blu was a nice advantage.
The entertainment director did an excellent job, I do not envy him his job when it seems so many only find satisfaction in complaining.
The activities staff were always up beat and did an excellent job and my wife really enjoyed the Zumba instructor and also did Bollywood dance classes with him.
We enjoyed our interactions with all the ships staff and since this was the 1st leg of a 35 day cruise we can say they are always personable and their professionalism did not waver.
Our interactions with Guest Relations desk always had a positive out come, we required a few charges to be reversed and Shore excursions reversed a mistake on a shuttle charge with no issue. Concierge was also very helpful with information on ports.
Ships officers were very visible and often had time to engage in conversation.
Any interactions we had with staff throughout the ship were always pleasant and the bar staff were always courteous and prompt with our orders.
Though this was my wife's bucket list cruise it was not what she expected when it came to ports like Tahiti and Fiji her 2 must see destinations. In spite of some disappointment in what she had envisioned we enjoyed all the ports and had memorable days at each fortuitously the weather was always with us.
I did not attend the meeting for cruisers who were not disembarking but my wife did. She reported it was chaotic but we encountered no problems in getting our new boarding card and leaving the ship for our 9:30AM climb of the Sydney bridge.
All in all a most satisfying cruise.