This review covers the 2nd half of our bucket list and anniversary cruise on Millie. Honolulu Nov2nd to Sydney Nov20th to Singapore Dec7th.
We changed our cabin on disembarkation day Nov 20th in Sydney, our friends moved a cabin as well which allowed us to have cabins on the aft of the ship side by side 11th deck AC1138 & AC1140.
Our room transfer was seamless we had breakfast at the buffet and were back to our room by 8:00am, Mario our room steward informed us our new room was vacant and we could transfer our belongings. We did this in about 5 minutes just moving the hanging clothes from one room to the new one and rolling our suitcases over. We needed no assistance, our friends moving into 1140 could not access their room as it was not yet vacant . They moved their stuff into our room and safe, we locked the door and went and got our new boarding passes.
We walked off the ship before 9:00am with no delays as we had no luggage and walked up into the Rocks area as we had a Bridge climb we had booked on line for 10:00am. We arrived at the climb centre before it opened, once inside they asked if we wanted to go on the 1st walk which we did and thus began two amazing days in Sydney.
Sydney was fantastic and an Australian we met on the 1st leg had given us a highlighted walking map on which he detailed how to walk all over the town and use the ferry system. The ship was docked at Circular Quay and the city was easily accessible. We did Manley beach and had excellent fish and chips on the board walk, went to the oldest pub in Australia and drank Nelsons Blood, toured the Opera house a short walk across the harbor, took the ferry to Darling Harbor, toured the sights then walked back through the city, went to a Woolworths which I had not seen since I was a child, ate at Hungry Jacks ( Australian Burger King ). We spent 2 days in constant motion and only touched the surface of Sydney.
When we returned to Millie the 1st evening Mario opened the door between the 2 balconies our cabin flowers had been refreshed and a bottle of sparkling wine awaited us in ice, our friends transferred their belongs to their cabin and the good times continued.
That evening we sat on our aft balconies drinks in hand and looked out at the lite Sydney bridge with glowing ferries and shuttle boats beetling across the harbor. I could only smile and reminisce of a past cruise on Azamara in Istanbul were we had the good fortune of dining at an aft window table for two at the top deck specialty restaurant the sun setting and watching a similar scene as the ferries darted across the Bosporus.
As stated Mario took excellent care of us, we had roses in the room which my wife received on our anniversary they stayed fresh for almost 20 days. Our regular room flowers stayed fresh almost the length of the cruise.
Every day Mario would load our ice bucket and also fill the glass wine bucket with ice and we would place our Aqua class bottled water ( San Benedetto ) in the bucket to chill we never used the fridge. We would take 2 chilled bottles of water with us when we walked the deck each morning and there would be 2 more when we got back from breakfast. We would drink those in the afternoon and there would be 2 more bottles when we returned after dinner and the bed had been turned down. We always had water when we went ashore.
When we went ashore we would bring back ginger beer and Fanta to chill and drink on the balcony. I enjoy the different daily flavoured teas in Aqua class and would pour them over a glass of ice.
I asked for a firmer pillow and it was on my bed by the evening.
My wife asked for a bag of dry rice as our under water camera had steamed up the lens. Mario miraculously appeared with it and after leaving the camera in it over night the problem was solved. We cannot say enough about Mario we would catch him singing while cleaning cabins, he always brought smile to our faces and greeted us by name when ever he saw us. He would open the cabin door for my wife if he was close and saw her coming.
On Sydney departure day we were invited to a party on the Helipad, all the B2B cruisers were invited and there was a mix of officers and complimentary drinks. It was spectacular and a most memorable sail away, Sydney is rated as one of the best entry ports in the world right up there with Venice.
After Sydney we noticed a change in the flow of the ship, It was not just that the passengers had changed they had different expectations and showed up at different times. Venues that were slow 1st leg were jammed 2nd leg. The Blu Maitre'd had a difficult time predicting when the crush would come we adjusted our dinning times to avoid it and failed a few times.
Staff had changed as well, many had disembarked in Sydney and it was noticeable, some staff were promoted to new positions and new staff boarded. We lost some of our favorite bar tenders and servers. It took a few days before Blu was up and running close to what we had grown to expect. It was never bad service but there were stumbles we had not encountered on the 1st leg. It is to be expected and we were happy for those promoted. One of the girls who worked the Gelato bar was promoted to assistant waiter in Blu she was a lovely personable young women but she was like a deer in the headlights of an on coming car for the 1st week.
The food in Blu continued to maintain high standards.
We discovered that we enjoyed eating in the MDR at lunch which is waited by Blu staff service was prompt and the advantage of controlled portions. Plus the added advantage of sitting with other cruisers for conversation.
After 18 or 19 days of the 1st leg no one was really sure how long it was as we lost Nov 13th we had a smooth daily routine in place and our sea days flew by.
The ship picked up a pilot in Sydney and he would give daily lectures in the theater to explain the intricacies of the the Australian coast and the Great Barrier Reefs. There were professional presenters who gave daily lectures on the history of Polynesia and Australia.
Even the Captain gave a lecture on navigation, cruise planning and various methods of mapping, GPS, tracking methods and fail safes used.
Captain Costas Nestourodas was a personable and striking man who my wife adored and even received a few hugs from, he did not suffer fools gentle as I can attest to after hearing him responses to pompous passengers.
There were presentations made by "Scotty" from the excursion department on what to see and do in the ports. Then there were the presentations on what was included in the various shore excursions one could buy, we did not attend these. It was information overload.
We found the Concierge desk staff very helpful and a great port resource they would hand out maps for the ports the day before if requested. They would confirm tender and shuttle times, weather conditions. We found them under appreciated and a wealth of information always courteous.
The ship activities staff did a great job and we attended the Battle of the Sex's Trivia whenever offered, this was a lot off fun and pitted the men against the women asking each gender related questions. It was well attended and as it grew in attendance it moved up to the Cosmos lounge. The men won both legs the good humored repartee between spouses was fun. The wives could not believe what their husbands knew about cosmetics, designer shoes, women's apparel and such.
They also offered diversions like a Canadian day where they set up a hockey net on the pool deck one could take a slap shot at the Activities Manager Touche who played goalie. For those with issues this was an opportunity to vent and take a "shot" at him.
They offered dance classes in the theater we usually attend but did not have time but my wife loved the Bollywood classes and Zumba and attended when possible.
She also liked the cooking seminars I enjoyed the butchering seminar were they showed how to perp & sear rack of lamb correctly.
They offered seminars were they had the arialists would answer questions in the theater and demonstrate and explain how they did certain moves. The same applied for an amazing magician who put on a hand magic seminar in the theater at 1:00pm the place was standing room only.
The shows in the theater were always well attended and since it was our 2nd leg we did not need to attend the large production shows. This allowed us to enjoy the ambiance of the ship and spend more time listening to the classical trio, listen and dance to the jazz quartet, guitarist or the piano player in a more intimate venue.
I must mention that Celebrity had a special intimate gala occasion in the Cosmo Lounge for all those celebrating a wedding anniversary while on board as well as the couples who were married during the cruise. It was hosted by Rich and they had the deck band play so we could dance. A large wedding cake was shared and champagne toasts given. It was a very nice touch.
As noted in the 1st leg review the tenders for ports worked flawless for us and we had no problem with the shuttles provided as well.
People take note most repositioning cruises use shuttles as the ports are not usually close to the wharf. Shuttles may be an unforeseen charge but minimal and the cost is not worth ruining a cruise over.
In Brisbane we took a cab to the Kola reserve and were able to beat the excursion rush by hours, we took a cab from there to the downtown area and then took the shuttle back to the ship as the $10.00 fee was much better then a cab for two at $45.00. We were charged the round trip fee but a visit to the excursion desk a day later and the charge was cordially refunded.
We did a private excursion at Arlie Beach arrange by CC members. It was 20 people in a high speed Zodiac and we made it to WhiteHaven beach which the ship lectures warned not to attempt. It was a spectacular day but demanding and the way back was at full throttle with two 250hp motors wide open. We hit a storm on the open sea, yes the same rough seas and rain some passengers complained about in the tenders. Our captain never slowed down we were in full flight for over an hour it was exhilarating for all and frightening for some.
The Great Barrier Reef we booked the ship excursion as docking times in Cairns did not allow for a private tour. In hind sight the ship excursion was a better option and we were picked up from the ship. It was a day full of activities and time passed far to quickly.
We paid an extra $45.00 to do a private snorkel excursion with a private guide. It was just 5 of us and a guide, they dropped us on the far side of the reef and the plan was to swim around the reef back to the platform or be picked up if we ran out of time. We ended up swimming across the reef and the guide was enraptured as she stated even she seldom gets to snorkel free on top of the reef. At 3:15pm she became aware of the time and we had to swim for the platform as the boat left for the ship at 4:00pm we made it by a few minutes.
It was physically demanding yet my wife is not a strong swimmer and refuses to use flippers I had no problem towing her by hooking a finger in her vest or holding her hand and keeping up with the group. Truth be told it was better as we shared what we saw, the same turtles, sharks and such together not as individual snorkelers.
Cairns had a shuttle we used the 2nd day and it was well worth it as it was over a 1/2 hour to town.
A wonderful day.
A heads up we brought our own water shoes, masks and snorkels my wife had her own snorkel vest and I brought light weight surf flippers plus a Body board we bought in Hawaii. I had a swim shirt to prevent sun burn. Having your own equipment speeds up your time and makes it more enjoyable in the water. We left some of the equipment with staff when we disembarked and they were grateful for it.
We snorkeled Hawaii, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Fiji, New Caledonia, Arlie Beach and Cairns all amazing venues for snorkeling.
In Darwin we hopped a cab and went to a market at the far side of town and worked our way back to the ship using public transport. Darwin is a why are we here port?, you are there because there is no where else to be!
We heard the Hop on N Off bus was a disaster as there were just to many people who bought tickets so difficult to get on. We walked from the downtown shuttle drop off to the ship and it was about 15 minutes and enjoyable.
Bali the Captain announced we would anchor early to allow staff who come from Bali to have more time visiting home and family a very classy move.
We were informed in advance about the Visa and were told they could not charge in advance as the fee price fluctuated. We bought our Australian visa on line before we sailed.
This was a demanding port for us and we made it to the Jatiluwih rice terraces a Unesco protected Heritage site. Once again the lectures warned do not try to get there. We did it and we saw much more but we were whipped when we returned to the ship. The extra time ashore was welcome.
We enjoyed Singapore and used public transit to get from the ship to the city, I wish Toronto's public transit stood up to theirs.
We did the expected river cruise, ate at the Hawkers food stalls in China town and toured it,went to Raffle's and had a sling, ate Curried Crab and so much more.
Disembarkation was smooth. We checked into the Marina Bay Sands, I recommend you take a city view it will not disappoint and you need to do it once. The infinity pool is worth the cost of the stay.
After 3 days we flew to Bangkok and the trip continued on land.
After all this what have we learned? Well we enjoyed Celebrity and we loved our time on Millie they exceeded our expectations and we had high expectations but Celebrity delivered.
We researched before we undertook this cruise to ensure our expectations would be met. We ensured that what we wanted to do and experience was available and we were not surprised by the cost. We spent about $500.00 over our budgeted cost for the trip but we received a lot of value for that extra money.
I do not believe any other cruise line could come close to supplying the cruise we enjoyed for the price we paid.
We will sail Celebrity again as we plan to do a few weeks of land tours in China before we board Millie for her 14 day Tokyo to Vancouver reposition this spring we are booked in Aqua Class.
Yes a most satisfying cruise.