We had a great time on the Trans Atlantic cruise and I will gladly go again and again. That said, let me qualify the above statement by saying that I will gladly go again and again as long as it isn't on Millennium, and as long as we get to cruise with our Cruise Critic friends. Don't get the wrong impression. Millennium wasn't bad, but it was inconsistent. When compared with our cruise aboard Infinity, last March, it just couldn't compare. That being said, I will attempt to review Millennium on its own merits, and keep my comparisons to Infinity to a minimum.
This was our fifth cruise, second Celebrity cruise and first Trans Atlantic cruise. If you've never done a sea-days intensive cruise then you don't know what you're missing. I heard many people saying how glad they were when we reached Labadee, so they could finally get off the ship after five days at sea, but I wasn't one of them. I thought the five days was a good start, but wished we could have another five days. SEA DAYS ARE WONDERFUL! I digress, so back to the beginning.
We began our Trans Atlantic adventure with a flight from Portland, OR. I'm mentioning the flight for a couple of reasons. First, our flight took us to Fort Lauderdale, by way of Chicago, and it was the best flight I've ever had in and out of Chicago. The Southwest flight crew was top-notch, and the landing in Chicago was so smooth that even the flight attendants were unaware that we were landing. They thought we were still a few hundred feet off the ground when I said, "Wheels down," a split second before we touched down. Second, we were blessed with the opportunity to hear Howard Putnam, former Southwest president, speak a couple of times while crossing the Atlantic. We left Portland a few days early, and spent a couple of relatively uneventful days in Miami. Our flight from Miami to Barcelona, with a layover in Madrid, was arranged by Celebrity. I thought it kind of quirky that Celebrity had us getting off a flight in Madrid that was going on to Barcelona, but later learned that everyone got off the plane in Madrid, and that the continuing flight of the same number was aboard a different aircraft. We were delayed for more than 2 hours in Miami, because the Iberia Airlines flight was short one crew member, but that only meant that we had more time to get to know some other Trans Atlantic cruisers on our flight. It also meant that we would only have to spend 2 1/2 hours in Madrid, rather than the expected 4 1/4 hours. We finally arrived in Barcelona, about 5 minutes earlier than expected, got our luggage and passed right through customs. I'm not sure why some people have problems with this part of their trip, but in my many trips in and out of the country I've never been inconvenienced. We met with the Celebrity representative and other than some worry when one of my pieces of luggage was left alone on a cart after all of the others were sent on, the transfer from the airport to the pier was a huge success. We got there about three minutes earlier than I anticipated and boarded the ship immediately, at 2:30 p.m. The one piece of luggage that was orphaned at the airport was delayed an extra couple of hours, but did show up shortly before dinner.
If you read other reviews, you will note a discrepancy here. When we arrived at our cabin, #2132, we found that it didn't have the new bedding. In fact, the bedding in our cabin was well worn, and the bed cover was stained. Also, we didn't receive the mattress topper we had requested, thus making our bed feel like two twin beds shoved together. We got the mattress topper on our Infinity cruise, and the difference was noticeable. Other than the bedding problem, we were satisfied with our room, which was otherwise as expected. We did go directly to Guest Relations, after boarding the ship, and requested that the contents of the refrigerator, and in fact all alcohol, was removed from our cabin and it was gone before dinner. Millennium appeared to be a bit worn, and this confused me because I had read comments of others who had recently cruised on this ship and said that it had been upgraded. In fact, it looked like a ship that was more than seven years old. Our cabin attendant was OK, but not nearly up to the expectations that my previous four cruises lead me to expect. Others have mentioned that it appeared that there had been a staff reduction. This was noticeable in the cabin attention. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.
We ate dinner in the Metropolitan dining room every night except the second, when we joined our entire table (11 of us) at the Olympic Restaurant. The rumored staffing reduction was observed in the dining room, and the service seem rushed and very detached. This comparison is in direct contrast to our experience aboard Infinity. It appeared that our Waiter and Asst. Waiter had to handle at least 35 percent more people on Millennium. Our food was good, but it does appear that recent changes at the top have affected the available selection. That said, I think the dining room experience is still one of my favorite parts of cruising, and to that end I do enjoy Celebrity. One thing I could do without is the whole Baked Alaska parade. One thing I don't want to do without is the opportunity to dress on formal nights. It is nice to dress for the occasion, and I appreciate the effort that people aboard Celebrity ships put into their costumes. Our visit to the Olympic Restaurant was enjoyable, but I must admit that it didn't do much for me. I know, those of you who know me will understand, but for the rest of you I must explain. I never (as in not ever) pay $30 a person to dine out, and my experience in the Olympic Restaurant was indicative of why. I can't appreciate a $30 (actually more if you consider that we'd already paid for a perfectly good dinner in the Metropolitan dining room) meal, because too many things that don't appeal to me are part of the cost. We had a nice time, enjoyed the wonderful company of our Cruise Critic friends, but neither I, nor my wife would want to dine there again. Considering the experience of our table mates the second time they visited, I'm not so sure they found it to be worth it, but I'll leave that to them. We enjoyed the variety of food served at the Casual Dining Boulevard, the Ocean Cafe and the Riviera Grill.
The AquaSpa Cafe was good for the first half of the cruise, but the hours were suddenly and seriously curtailed the second half. Waffles were always welcome, but even the waffle station was suddenly moved, without notice, at the beginning of the second week. I want my waffles, so I persisted and found that the waffle station was moved from the Ocean Cafe to the Riviera Grill. Other than visiting with friends, we never enjoyed the many delights of the Cova Cafe. Based upon their enjoyment, I must recommend that you seek out the almond, chocolate and chocolate/almond croissants. You don't actually have to buy an over-priced coffee drink to enjoy them, but if you're into that sort of thing... I don't drink coffee, so you can take my previous comment accordingly.
We enjoy going to the shows, especially the production shows, and never tire of the extravaganza. They all tend to be the same, they are not Broadway or Las Vegas, but in general they are energetic and fun. Also, at one hour they aren't too long. In addition to the production shows, I particularly appreciated the singing of Jennifer Fair. I applaud the fact that we got to enjoy her performance three times. In addition, the Adage Duo Roberto and Dorota were incredible. My wife attended the art auctions and found them to be long and tedious. Unless you have something specific in mind, have done your research, and know what you're doing, I suggest that you steer clear of buying art aboard a cruise ship. The free champagne and free artwork may make it worth your while, but remember: That is a few hours of your cruise that you'll never get back.
As has been the case with most of our previous cruises, we chose not to do any tours. We joined a group of Cruise Critic friends and did our own tour in Malaga, but chose to just wander about, on our own, at each of the other ports. Disembarkation was the usual, that is until people tried to get a bus to the airport. I find it interesting that we aren't given the opportunity to rate disembarkation when filing this review. I think it is best to arrange your own transportation in Fort Lauderdale because Celebrity doesn't seem to have a handle on how to move nearly 1000 people from the ship to the airport without causing major problems. I believe there were only two buses to handle all of the people and the problems that ensued could only be describe as chaotic. If Celebrity offers to provide transportation from Port Everglades, your best response is to just say, "No." Others have said it, and more are still likely to add similar words, but if you want to make a cruise into the best experience possible then you need to join the Roll Call for your particular cruise and get to know people. Millennium was OK, the food was good, the sea days were wonderful, but the friends we communicated with on our Roll Call, and then visited with aboard ship and in the various ports made the cruise a delight. I would welcome the opportunity to name these wonderful people, but there were so many and everywhere we turned, on the ship or on the land, we were greeted with the friendly faces of Cruise Critic friends. You might think it crazy, but my wife and I had barely crossed the gangway when we were greeted by a couple we'd never physically met. They recognized us from our picture on the Roll Call for our cruise. Moments later another couple greeted us, saying they too recognized us from our picture on the Roll Call. I can't emphasize just how much more gratifying your cruise experience will be if you join and participate with the many people who will be cruising with you, by way of the Cruise Critic boards.