This was our 12th cruise with Celebrity; we have been very satisfied customers and have developed a fondness for what was our first cruise line. Our previous cruise with Celebrity had been on the Silhouette in October 2012, although the continual trimming of many of the niceties from earlier cruises was evident, the essentials were still sound and we rated it as one of our best cruises. With this background we were totally unprepared for the experience of the Millennium – our feelings ran through shock, horror, disgust and sadness, mixed with complete bafflement at what Celebrity was trying to achieve. If this had been our first cruise with Celebrity it would have been our last, with the benefit of past experiences we will use Celebrity again, but another experience similar to the Millennium would probably be our last.
First impressions at embarkation were not good, the decor as we entered the ship was dour and tired and in need of replacement. On further exploration we could see that various parts of the ship had been updated – those where additional charges applied – but these jarred with the shabby state of the “free” areas and gave the impression of a two “classes” ship.
Our stateroom was fine and we were well looked after by our stateroom attendants, unfortunately the corridor in which we were situated had a permanent smell of blocked drains and seemed to form a “rat run” for some of our less desirable travelling companions – more on that issue follows.
Our experiences in the main dining room were disappointing. The food varied between the OK and the inedible – it was never “special”. It bore the hallmarks of mass catering and on several occasions had clearly been standing for a “while” before being brought to our table. The low points were a dish described as chateaubriand, containing nothing related to fillet beef, that was tasteless and mushy and a steak Diane that could not be chewed. The service was as good as could be expected from the clearly overloaded waiters and I have no criticism of them as individuals. The dress code was consistently flouted by many other guests - eg shorts and T shirts at dinner in the main dining room - I never saw any of the recalcitrants challenged.
The Oceanview self service restaurant was very poor. The food was unappealing, the scrum to obtain it equally so – the removal of trays meant that four trips to the self service counter were required during a normal breakfast. There were insufficient tables for busy times, when a table was vacated it remained full with the dirty crockery of the previous occupants, the tardy clearance of the crockery combined with a very cursory wipe of the table with a not too clean cloth created a very distasteful and unhygienic eating environment. Guests picking food from the service counter with their fingers was an increasing and unchecked concern
On the upside the overall entertainment was some of the very best we have enjoyed on our cruises, the production shows were excellent and the enrichment talks on Buddha, arranged especially with the port destinations in mind were outstanding. Top marks also to the Cruise Director – for the entertainment programme and his genuinely friendly approach. Similarly for the Captain’s Club – this was probably the best hosting we have enjoyed.
Although the ship was disappointing the destination ports were not. This was our first visit to the Far East and we found it enlightening and enthralling – especially Vietnam
Every cruise we have been on has contained at least one group of people we have wished were elsewhere, but the ships have always been full of so many pleasant people that it was never an issue. On this Millennium cruise there were very many people with whom I never wish to sail again – their rudeness, boisterous behaviour, scruffy appearance and general demeanour did not belong on a supposedly luxury cruise ship.
The continual cost cutting and consequential removal of many “niceties” over the last half dozen years or so is well known to regular Celebrity cruisers and whilst unwelcome to us, has not previously adversely affected the essential features of a Celebrity cruise, the food, the service, the ambience – and of course we along with others have benefited from the resulting price competitiveness of Celebrity. This cruise was different, mediocre food, poor service because staff were overloaded, the jarring behaviour of many other guests - suggest that the focus on cost and price has led to fundamental changes to the Celebrity cruise experience. This was not a luxury cruise – I am sure that many people, enticed by Celebrity’s advertising/image to have joined a cruise for the first time, will have been surprised by their experience. Similarly it was also clear from onboard conversations, that many long term Celebrity cruisers are of the view that standards have become unacceptable and will cruise elsewhere in future. Celebrity needs to decide who it wants to be – a luxury cruise line or a commodity cruise line that sells on price.