My daughter (age 20) and I traveled on the last Australia/New Zealand cruise of the season on Millennium starting March 29th. We arrived in Sydney on March 27th and stayed at the Sir Stamford Hotel on Macquarie Street, a very nice choice across the street from the beautiful botanical gardens and a very short walk to the Opera House and the Circular Quay area. This historic hotel is beautiful and affordable - lovely, large room, luxurious bathroom, and great service. We managed to visit the zoo, aquarium, opera house and botanical gardens while in Sydney and did a side trip to the Blue Mountains. I would recommend spending as much "extra" time in Sydney as possible - it is a beautiful city with so much to do and is very easy to navigate.
The itinerary is what attracted us to this particular cruise. It is too bad that Celebrity will not sail in Australia/New Zealand next season but I understand they plan to return year after next. This cruise did not disappoint. The ports of call (Sydney, Phillip Island, Melbourne, Hobart, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga, Auckland) were all excellent, each in its own way. Serious advice: don't bother with ANY of the ship excursions - they are unbelievably overpriced, especially given the current favorable exchange rates against the US dollar. Anything you want to do can be done independently or through one of the wonderful visitor's centers in port for a least half of the cruise line cost. All ports are safe and have public transportation and friendly residents who are only too happy to help you if you get turned around. A couple of things that worked well for us - Greeter's Service in Melbourne, a free service where a volunteer does a walking tour for four hours showing you things you would never see on your own - make a reservation through the Melbourne visitor's center before you arrive. The botanical gardens in all of these cities are like a little slice of heaven and they are free. We particularly liked the ones in Sydney, Christchurch and Wellington. The Canterbury Museum, adjacent to the botanical gardens in Christchurch, is worthwhile as is the well respected Te Papa in Wellington. These are also free with a recommended donation of 5 New Zealand dollars per person (well worth it). The best "tour" we booked was with Indigenous Trails in Tauranga (itrails.co.nz). This was a full eight hour day which included Kiwi 360 (very interesting); a visit to a Maori town, including a cultural demonstration; a hike in a BEAUTIFUL remote forest, complete with waterfalls and a Maori guide who talked about the land, traditions and legends; and lunch - all for $185 New Zealand dollars. Tour operators Des and Mere (awesome people) pick you up and drop you off at the ship. There is a lot to do in the Tauranga/Rotorua area - too bad the ship doesn't dock here overnight.
The Millennium is a really nice ship. I was scared to death that it would be a dump as I read other reviews. I have no idea of what other people expect on a cruise but I was completely satisfied. My room was clean with no sign of the wear and tear that others have reported. The service by EVERYONE we came in contact with was superior. The crew is friendly and pleasant and hard working. We did not encounter even one misstep by an employee of this ship from cabin staff to waiters to shop assistants to guest relations. The food in the main dining room was good. Come on folks, they are serving 2000 people, it isn't gourmet fare but it is way better than what I pull together for dinner at home every night. We ate at The Olympic twice - $30/each to cover gratuities for the exception staff and it was well worth it. The food, service and dining room are all excellent and it makes for a very special experience. The entertainment was very good. All acts might not have been to everyone's taste (example: one night was 70's night - music, dancing, costumes etc. It wasn't everyone's cup of tea as the average age of guests on this sailing must have been 70). The production numbers put on by the young singers and dancers were great, in my opinion, especially the Ballroom Dancing set. There was a comic, magician, singers - we enjoyed them all. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the Sea Sharps, an a cappella group.
Disembarkation was as smooth as I have ever experienced. We had transfers to the airport and Celebrity arranged to have our luggage taken directly to the airport while we passengers went to a hotel in the center of the city. Our flight was not until 6pm and I thought it was incredibly thoughtful of Celebrity to make these arrangements so that we could explore the city rather than spend hours hanging around the airport. We had a room to rest in, coffee, water and tea and helpful people to ask questions of and provide us with maps and information about Auckland. We were then transported to the airport later in the day.
We were fortunate that we had good weather and smooth seas. My daughter and I have been on five previous cruises (one other with Celebrity and the others with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian) and we have always had a great time. This cruise was no exception and we agreed it was our best yet. I attribute much of that to the incredible itinerary (Australia and New Zealand are two amazingly beautiful and fun places to visit) but Millennium also played an important role in our happy and beautiful vacation. I would sail on Millennium again and probably will when we go to Alaska.