This review is written with a tinge of regret having cruised with Celebrity six times before and twice on Millennium. But, this could be it for us. Celebrity certainly seems to be lowering its standards and making cut-backs. Or, is it just dumbing down? Pick up a Celebrity brochure and read the effusive and lavish descriptions - particularly about the food - and you will believe you will be treated to a 5-star luxury gourmet cruise. Unfortunately, in reality, this was just pretty ordinary with some nice bits and lots of, well, mediocrity. Oh, and all with a 15% gratuity charge.
The ship - Millennium has seen better days and is looking tired. Our cabin (Concierge)had mould in the bathroom tile grouting, stains on the carpet, dirt and grease in the patio door runners and impact damage to the furnishings. Furthermore, the pillows smelt of sebum. Frayed chairs and carpets were quite abundant in the public areas. The staff - With a few exceptions, the staff all worked manfully in trying to provide a worthwhile service. Most of the exceptions were at the Guest Relations Desk where it looked as though they were just becoming too weary in putting on a brave face in defending the ship's (and company's) shortcomings.
The excursions - These were expensive and the two we went on were poorly managed. On both, we were told Celebrity had not fully briefed the operators and they were largely left to fend for themselves - and the coachload(s) of fair paying passengers. This was reported by many other passengers who chose to go on more of the ship's excursions. Not just us.
The food - Once the pride and piece de resistance of Celebrity; now nothing much better than (I use the term again) ordinary. I'm afraid I don't call a flat piece of dry chicken escalope with one small potato croquet with a sprig of broccoli, five star dining. However, the beef and steaks were generally good, as were the soups. The sweets were again totally uninspiring and it seems Celebrity has truncated the menus by combining the once separate salad courses with the starters and mostly omitting a sorbet. Our sommelier was obviously hugely overstretched and worked her butt off to try and service her allotted tables. The buffet meals in the Ocean Grill resembled that served up in a UK motorway service station with staff attitude to suit.
Incidental costs - It now appears Celebrity is pulling out all the stops to pull in extra income during your cruise. Many events incurred a fee plus 15% gratuity (how the heck do you conspire to charge a gratuity for the use and selection of wine glasses instructions?). Whilst talking about gratuities, Celebrity has now introduced (since mid-Jan) an automatic addition of something like 28 dollars per person per day. So, gratuities are no longer optional but mandatory. Again, at variance with statements in the brochures. Surely, only a cynic would suggest this is a policy direction by Celebrity to make up any shortfall in wage settlements.
Ports of call - Ah, at last the positives. In a word "wonderful". From the moment you sail out of Sydney Harbour past the iconic Opera House with the Bridge in the background, this cruise itinerary was almost perfect. After spending two restful days at sea, it is certainly worthwhile rising for 7am to be high up on deck and experience sailing into Milford Sound.
This was a good itinerary with a nice balance of days at sea and days in port. It's certainly worthwhile adding a few days pre-cruise in Sydney and a couple of post days in Auckland. What a shame Celebrity has chosen to pull this cruise for next year. Conclusions - If you've booked this cruise, you are in for a treat with regard to the ports of call and scenery. This is a corker. Don't expect the 5-star Celebrity we were once familiar with and you won't be disappointed. Maybe that's were we went wrong.