Celebrity Millennium – Holiday Cruise- Dec 21, 2013- Hong Kong- Singapore (SE Asia)
I wanted to share our experiences on the Celebrity Millennium Dec 21- Hong Kong- Singapore Holiday cruise. This is an honest assessment; the good, the bad and the ugly.
This was my second Celebrity Cruise after sailing on Celeb Reflections this past summer on a Med Cruise. After our Reflections sailing, we felt we had finally found our cruise line and booked this cruise along with another Celeb Med cruise in June 2014.
Our port was the new Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong. It’s brand new and they don’t have their operations down yet. Suffice it to say we did not get our luggage until nearly 10pm. By which time, we were too tired to do anything but eat at buffet and go to bed. Not off to a good start and Celebrity seriously needs to get with port authorities to figure out how to expedite luggage to the cabins. Many fellow pax groused about the same thing so already they got off on the wrong foot with their customers. If you sail in our out of this port, be advised there are not many taxis around. Try to pre-arrange if possible. I found a great online private transfer service- www.blacklane.com who specializes in Asia. They act as a broker with private drivers in many, many cities. I booked them for Hong Kong airport pickup to Kai Tak port while at my airline club in Shanghai waiting to board fight to HKK and 3 hrs later when I landed, I had a text that my driver was waiting. They were flawless and prices very competitive. For example, a 9 pax van from Singapore port to airport was $45; ship quoted me $160.
First impressions when walking on board, the ship was definitely showing its age but the public places were still clean, if dated.
Cabin- Our cabin 1140, an Aqua Class on Deck 11 was small but had an awesome balcony. It was an aft cabin with by far the largest balcony of the Aqua Class cabins. I highly recommend this cabin if you sail her and balcony size is important. It was right over the deck 10 aft bar (never did find out its name- we called it the Sad Café), but we were never bothered by noise. Probably because the staff at that bar was so disinterested, that no one really cared to sit out there for any length of time other than smokers. More on this later. Cabin was small and unlike Reflections which has overhead storage over bed, this cabin was egregiously lacking in storage. You have to bring a lot of clothes on a 15 day cruise; not sure where we’re supposed to put them. Bad layout to say the least. Not sure when these cabins last had a makeover but if it was recently, they did a lousy job. Our cabin steward was nice and perfectly competent and unobtrusive. As someone else also mentioned in their review, the thermostat never really worked properly in our cabin either.
Dining- We obviously were entitled to eat at Blu and did so only 3 nights for a variety of reasons. Some days we got back from tours so tired and late, that we didn’t have it in us to clean up in a hurry and those days we ate at buffet. Other days we spent off the ship (total 4 nights overnighting in Bangkok, HCMC and Halong) The food at Blu while good, was not up to the standards that had been set on Reflections. It was good, not great and IMHO, certainly not worth the extra charges for an Aqua Class cabin. The service was awfully sloooow. Again, an entirely different experience than the one I had on Reflections. Maitre’ D was very nice as were all staff. It just took forever to get service and once we placed our orders, the dishes were brought at record speed so that you could finish your meal in less than 30 min. Just in time for that glass of wine you ordered an hr earlier. ‘Nuff said.
QSine and Olympic however were stellar. QSine’s staff was phenomenal and service excellent. Sommelier was great. Food was very good, not quite up to Reflections, but very good nonetheless. We ate here twice
Olympic- Food was phenomenal and service was STELLAR. What you would expect in a 2 star Michelin restaurant in Paris. Whoever trained that staff needs to be walked around the ship and give refresher courses to staff at other dining venues. We ate here twice.
Il Bacio Coffee Bar- great coffees and excellent service. I think barista’s name was Annie, make sure SHE makes your coffee concoction. Service phenomenal here as well.
Buffet- Food selection was fantastic and for most part, all dishes were excellent and very tasty. Best pizza I’ve ever had on a cruise ship. Great omelets as well. Good choices of salads and sides, gourmet sandwiches…etc. No complaints here. Great alternative to formal sit-down dining.
Entertainment- Didn’t go to a single show but was told by other cruisers the entertainment was very good. Can’t help you here.
Bars and Lounges- Generally speaking, most bars seemed understaffed or they just weren’t making an effort to ask pax if they wanted to place a beverage/drink order. Many pax I spoke to felt that was because so many of us were on Bev packs, that Celeb may have issued an edict not to offer up drinks to pax that have bev pckgs and to let us work for them. We were all just scratching our heads because it certainly was a recurring theme in most bars/lounges and egregious at the Deck 10 Sad Café.
Cellar Masters, their wine bar was our meeting place for pre-dinner drinks. Service was good when you mosey up to bar and ordered a drink, otherwise pretty nonexistent if sitting at a table. We learned quickly that we needed to go to bar to place orders and then, they would bring drinks to table. Wine choices were terrible. Just really pedestrian wine at inflated prices but we made do. Reflections had a much more extensive and robust wines-by-the-glass list.
Michael’s Pub- Supposedly a “craft beer” bar. Pretty pedestrian choices here as well, but since I’m not much of a beer drinker, it didn’t really matter.
Sad Café- Deck 10 Aft- And then there was this bar. Don’t even know where to begin but this bar needs an overhaul. Most days you could find the staff joking amongst themselves while their pax died of thirst and neglect. Not sure what the problem is here but if there was one thing that turned off almost every single fellow pax I spoke to, was the absolute lack of service and overall staff demeanor at this bar. Dirty dishes would sit on tables for hrs at a time, no one would pick them up, things would get blown around and I would see the same French fry for 3 days on the deck. One day it was raining and dirty breakfast dishes were overflowing with toast, egg yolks, pancakes- you name it- on to the tables and eventually the deck. And those dishes sat there accumulating rain for HOURS. It was disgusting and provided a hell of a view from my cabin directly overhead.
This is one major reason why I will rethink future Celebrity bookings. I expect that of maybe an MSC, but certainly not a line that prides itself on being a “premiere” liner. I can’t quite figure out if it was just a poorly run ship, if this is standard for Celebrity, or if Reflections was just an exceptionally run ship.
Guest Services- Staff was very congenial and professional but seemed incapable of responding to major issues. More on that later. I do want to recognize Raul and Sandra who were both very responsive to any of my needs or inquiries.
Itinerary- PERFECT!!!!!!!! I cannot say enough about what an ideal itinerary it was. It was the perfect amount of time in port for a “taster” of that given city. We booked an overnight junk through a private operator in Halong Bay and it was the highlight of our trip. Fellow pax that went to Hanoi regretted it because roads were so bad and trip took too long. We had an amazing overnight cruise on the Victory Star, which I highly recommend. Our ship skipped Chan May Port (Hue/Danang/HoiAn) because of weather and we ended up spending 2.5 days in HCMC/Saigon. We had originally planned on a 1.5 day overnight in Saigon and used the extra day to go to Vung Tua which was a great little beach city about an hr from Phu My port. Bangkok we overnighted 2 nights (NYE/NYD) and that was a treat. Laem Chabang is 2.5 hrs from Bangkok so make sure you arrange your tours before you arrive. I cannot tell you how many pax were stranded on the ship because the ship’s tours were sold out and all private tours were sold out. We used Oriental Escape (www.orientalescape.com) for our transfers and arranged private tours with them and could not have been happier with their services. Anyone on future sailings that has private tour questions, feel free to PM me. Happy to help.
I am hooked on sailing and exploring this part of the world. I would actually take this cruise again in Dec 2014 were it not for the ship. I won’t sail Millennium again. Too bad Celebrity can’t substitute a different ship for this itinerary. You can do this sailing 4 years in a row and always have new things to do. If you’re contemplating a SE Asia trip, don’t think it through any more, just do it; you’ll be thrilled beyond your wildest dreams.
Lastly, I do want to warn anyone sailing on this ship in a balcony veranda cabin, that my friend traveling as a single in a dbl occupancy cabin on Deck 7, got locked out of her balcony at night when the ship was swaying in rough seas. The sliding glass door slid shut and the handle popped into the locked position leaving her stranded on her balcony for 30 minutes until her cries for help were eventually heard by the people in the cabin next door. We reenacted the situation several times and each time the balcony door would pop into the locked position. Although she made Celebrity aware of the issue, they seemingly downplayed it. A warning should be on each and every door that the handle needs to be in the down position if you step outside. The response from Celebrity was simply unacceptable. My friend was traumatized. She asked to speak to the Hotel Mngr who never called, asked to get a copy of the incident report- nope- Celebrity wouldn’t do it. Just deplorable customer care. Her hand was swollen to three times the size because she banged on the door so hard trying to be heard. She eventually went to get acupuncture onboard and asked Celebrity to at least pay for that. Nope. Not even a future cruise credit for her nightmare. Shame on Celebrity. Parents and fellow travelers consider yourselves warned...
In closing, I boarded this ship as a Celebrity loyalist with intentions of sailing Celebrity whenever possible. I leave still in search of a cruise line I can call my own.