BACKGROUND INFO: I'm a single traveller based in Auckland who loves to cruise. I was in need of a last minute holiday and the deal here was just too good to pass by. I've travelled a lot round NZ and have been to Australia many times so I wasn't too attracted by the ports of call - rather I was looking to have a relaxing holiday and enjoy the onboard experience.
EMBARKATION: This was extremely smooth and speedy. I was in my cabin within 5 minutes of being dropped off at the pier by a friend. (TIP: use the baggage tags that come with your documents to avoid having to stand in line to get your baggage tagged).
STATEROOM: I had a verandah stateroom which was a real luxury for me as usually the single passenger surcharge make them way too expensive. We had great weather during the cruise so I really enjoyed being able to idle away time on the balcony. For one person the stateroom was more than adequate in size and included a sitting area plus the balcony. There was tons of storage space and I probably didn't even use half of it! Once I had unpacked the suitcase could neatly be stowed away under the bed.
There has been much criticism that the staterooms on Millennium are tired and I would agree to a certain extent but they are hardly shabby. The fabrics now look dated, but nothing that could not be easily remedied by replacing the soft furnishings (scheduled for this year?). As it was I would say that the stateroom compared to a 3.5 to 4 star hotel. The bathrooms are essentially constructed of plastic (ie no marble or other luxury fittings), but quite frankly that did not bother me.
My Stateroom attendant, Anthony, was wonderful! He even knew my name BEFORE I got to the stateroom! He got to know my movements pretty quickly and kept the stateroom tidy at all times.
One thing to note if you are looking at Concierge Class on Deck 9 is that this deck is right under the overhang from the resort deck above and would not get a great deal of sun. I felt that Deck 7 (where I was) was almost ideal. It was wonderful to watch the sun setting from my balcony with a glass of NZ wine in hand!
DINING: This was the biggest disappointment for me because I was unlucky with my table assignment in the Metropolitan Restaurant. I was assigned a table for 8 and on average only 3.5 people turned up each evening and my dining companions did not prove to be the best. I should have moved, but the table was in a great position (right at the bottom of the stair connecting the two levels) and our waitress was truly wonderful.
At the end of the day I thought that the food in the Metropolitan Restaurant was of average quality. There was nothing truly awful but I found that many of the entrees were bland and lacked imagination. There were a few moments of excellence - some of the hot appetizers were outstanding and the odd entree. Desserts were generally good.
However despite some misgivings in the Metropolitan Restaurant I would give a 10/10 for the food at the Spa Cafe - all the meals there were extremely delicious, beautifully presented and as an added bonus they were healthy! Don't miss this option at lunch time.
I'm not usually a fan of the buffet restaurant on ships, but the Ocean Cafe was a pleasant surprise. It was well laid out with plenty of tables with panoramic ocean views and best of all you could take your meal to the outside terrace at the rear of the Ocean Cafe and enjoy it in the sunshine. Very pleasant! The food in the Ocean Cafe was a little ho-hum, but there was a good choice and I always found something to suit. They did quite a mean curry! I also liked the afternoon tea options and the sushi bar - like another reviewer I got into the habit of taking pastries or sushi to my cabin at the end of the day to enjoy on the balcony!
One of the eating highlights of the trip was the Aussie BBQ that they did on the final sea day before Sydney. They set up an authentic charcoal fired BBQ on the pool deck and served exotic fare such a kangaroo, emu and crocodile! It was all freshly prepared and tasted really good!
I did not try the Olympic restaurant.
SHIP INFO: Each time the Captain spoke over the loudspeaker he would always wish us a pleasant day on the 'beautiful Millennium.' To a large extent the ship is quite beautiful, in a restrained sort of way. There is much use of light wood paneling throughout the ship and I particularly like the wonderful collection of modern art. The public rooms are elegant, although they did lack any kind of 'wow' factor. Perhaps again this can be put down to the fact that the ship is now 8 years old.
I like the covered heated pool area next to the spa and fitness center. It was a great pool to soak in at the end of a busy day. The pool area was good but got very busy (as expected) on the sea days. However there were plenty of other quieter deck areas to get away from the crowds. The one thing about the outdoor areas that took me completely by surprise was that not all the decks are teak covered. I've mainly travelled on Cunard where teak is the norm and found the sprayed on asphalt (which is definitely starting to look tatty) an extremely poor substitute.
I didn't use the spa but the gym was large and well equipped and never too busy. Like most cruise ships nowadays classes cost extra.
SERVICE: I thought that the level of service throughout the ship was excellent. Wherever possible staff make the effort to get to know your name. They did a great job in the Ocean Cafe to keep the place tidy (Sooo.... much better than in Kings Court on QM2). I have some extremely pleasant memories of the key staff I came into contact with on the ship, and that for me makes a cruise even better.
ENTERTAINMENT: I never really do the entertainment on a cruise but the couple of shows I saw were reasonable. However there were plenty of complaints about the quality of the entertainment as there has been on just about every other cruise I have been on. Nothing changes! I did think they could have had some local cultural shows (eg a Maori singing group) particularly given that Millennium was cruising these waters for over 5 months.
PORTS: I wasn't on the ship for the ports but I can say that the ports themselves (generally situated outside the main town centers) were very pretty and made for great sailaways. Celebrity laid on transfer buses for a fee and there were more grumbles about that cost. It was just a case of working out the public transport options or paying the cost.
We couldn't get into Dusky or Doubtful Sounds due to terrible weather but fortunately the weather had cleared by the time we got to Milford Sound and so we had a wonderful couple of hours in there. It is one of my favorite places on the planet!
DISEMBARKATION: Generally OK except that a large number of bags were delivered to the wrong area and had to be moved, which took time. I had a mid afternoon flight home so the delay was really no big deal, although you did have to wonder who was organizing it.
CONCLUSION: I can rate this cruise in two ways. On a 'value for money' basis it scored a perfect ten. Where else would you get a four star accommodation, all meals, entertainment and resort facilities for under US$100 per day?
If you take the cost factor out of it I still would say that the Millennium offered a good cruise experience. There were good things and bad things as you would expect. I would not describe Millennium as a true 5 star luxury ship. Part of that is because it is now 8 years old, but also I felt that the dining experience was less than perfect and it suffers (at least for me) from being a large ship, where attention to detail is much more difficult. However, they try very hard, service is excellent and so overall, while it may not be 5 star, it certainly just ranks below it.