My husband and I are a male couple from San Francisco, CA. Legally married in our state, together 14 years. This information is important to us personally as a family but also to this review. Read on...
We flew to Vancouver on Thursday, May 9. Arrived late and fell into bed. Got up to a sunny beautiful sailing day. J had the foresight to iron some shirts before we re-packed for the pier. We figured there'd be no iron in the stateroom and we were right!
Embarkation: Celebrity bore no responsibility for this TOTAL NIGHTMARE. We arrived to a very confusing set up on the curbside bag pick up. Pushy passenger were already showing their colors. Oh well. Then we got in a line and were handed a tag that read 1:30 pm which was the approximate time we queued up. We also got a slip of paper that said embarkation would take 2 hours due to customs/immigration. We laughed and said "no way..." WAY! Apparently 3 ships (Rotterdam and Golden Princess) were embarking along with Millennium. 7,000 eager passengers ready to board early for lunch, etc. It was stressful because there really were no announcements made about why it was taking so long. And then we came to the US Immigration station. And it was clear that American know-how was contributing to the snafu. I was so proud. NOT. Oh well, we finally boarded.
We went to our stateroom which seemed small at first but grew on me. I was so hungry and stressed out that it took an hour to feel sort of human again. It's embarrassing to admit because it's' such a "luxury problem" compared with fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico or other folks I see everyday in San Francisco. Some food, a few soft drinks and we were back on track!
Sail Away Fun! Sunny and so pretty. Before we sailed away we watched float planes take off and land. Already sold on the balcony stateroom! I was already taken with the utter beauty of the land. We sailed beneath a giant green bridge and everyone on deck cheered up to some kids on the bridge. It was great.
Dining So I'm not gonna do this day by day. Just by category.
Dinners at the Metropolitan We loved this place. We did 'select dining', electing to dine at 8. Table for 2. We met our waiter Oscar the first night and requested him every night thereafter. He was personable, charming, and very efficient. As was Pobhrino our asst waiter. We loved the views from the tables. Large, round windows. Lots of late-evening light! (Alaska, after all).
Food was good. Dabbled in the steaks once before we realized that it was best to order a bit on the rarer side. That way the steak was perfect when it arrived. Otherwise, a bit dried out. Coq a Vin was really good. Anything chicken. Salmon was really good. Desserts were sort of disappointing. But there was so much more throughout the entire ship that I wasn't too disappointed.
Olympic Okay so here's where our couple-status was sort of an issue. We really looked forward to the dinner at the Olympic. It was Icy Strait Point night. Dressy Casual. So we get there. The maitre d' says "table 12". We are marched by all the romantic window tables for 2 right to a four-top in the back corner by the kitchen. I hate sitting by kitchens. I mumbled something to J. He agreed and got someone's attention and asked that we be moved. They put us right by a window, cozy table for 2.
We are both in our late forties. We have been "out" for a long time. This was pretty clearly about the staff mis-reading the nature of our 'date' and putting us at a 'guy-guy' table. I think a bit more sensitivity on this could make a nice experience even better. From there the service, the food, the setting... all amazing. Scallop Wellington followed by Duck confit. Terrific. We booked for another night but reneged because we wanted to get to the show and also to see our friends in the Metro one more time.
Buffets -- Lunch and Bfast Pretty happy with this fare. It's a lovely space on deck 10 (I think...) Great views. Food is various and tasty. Don't miss the waffle/pancake station located aft. Many of the breakfast stations closed at 10. So we sort of missed more variety by getting up later. We didn't really do too many lunches earlier than 3 pm due to excursions. Be warned that the only thing available that late is pizza and pasta (and dessert!) But I have to say that the pizza and pasta were really good. Esp. the pasta station.
I sort of regret we never had the sushi during the week. But maybe next time...
I had breakfast at the Aqua Spa cafe one morning. Just after working out. It was really cool. The inside atrium pool area has tables and wooden chairs. It was fun and felt classy.
Lounges The only one we spent any real time in was Cosmos on deck 11, fore. Afternoons, esp at sea, it gets crowded. There are great comfy chairs to watch the passing wonder. We repeated this ritual a few times. One high point was the day that happy hour turned into a whale-watching party. We saw several Orcas from the ship! Splendid.
Health club I used it a couple of times. Very nicely appointed. Lots of machines, treadmills, ellipticals, etc. Beautiful location (deck 4, forward). Wt area is small. Large group/class area. I liked the space. Esp when we were cruising up a BC channel on the first day at sea and were hemmed in by mountains on both sides as far as the eye could see. A workout with a view!
Costa Cafe A little coffee bar/cafe on Deck 5 (?). Heard a sweet string quintet there a few times. Also the barbershop quartet there as well. Most surreal moment of the cruise was when we heard a guitarist/singer crooning "Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd late one evening. It was so fun. Sort of captured the 'anything can happen' feel on this ship.
Casino I settled in for some slots the last day (sea day). Fun fun fun. Slots are not too tight-fisted. Won some money... nice
Stateroom We really enjoyed the stateroom. Although we spent less time in it than I expected. I really loved it when we cruised Hubbard Glacier. Seeing it from the balcony was such a treat. And closing the sliding door was nice too.. to stay warm! The stateroom was the same size as the Norwegian Star we'd cruised on 18 months earlier (Mex Riviera) But the designers made the bathroom (shower) bigger on the Millennium so the cabin is a bit smaller. But the larger shower feels so normal it is totally worth it. One weird problem: READING LIGHT? Really none to speak of. Bring a book light if you don't want to flip on the overheads. Stateroom service was really nice. Low key, attentive, consistent.
Public Spaces Millennium is a gem, an angel when it comes to public spaces. Such an eye for comfort, function, and taste. The alabaster staircase to the 4th deck is such a treat. Make sure you traverse it at least daily. You'll feel fabulous, as my people like to say. The glass elevators are tucked to the side, just off the port side. Nice touch. No garish planters or tacky mobiles. I like this ship.
Decks are tastefully decorated with wooden deck chairs. Wool blankets are provided as the days get chillier. Never used one but loved the classy look and feel of it.
The decks are gorgeous venues from which to take in what was arguably the most spectacular scenery of my life. On one nearly-balmy night, around 10, we saw Coral Princess passing us on port side. It shimmered on the glassy surface of the water. These kinds of images populate my memory. Millennium was the perfect place to capture them.
The bad news: Millennium is a great ship. Her passengers tended to be, at least on this cruise, mostly white, middle class, middle age and older. Not so bad. But I have to say that there was a disturbing air of "every party for itself". Groups did not seem to be interested in even making small talk with others. People did not speak to us on the elevator and we stopped trying after a few days. The spirit of "we're on this great cruise together... isn't this cool?!" that I had on the Star in Mexico was nearly absent on this trip. I missed it keenly at first but then I adjusted.
The gay thing: I accept that a lot of Americans in particular are a bit testy about the social issues surrounding gay marriage, civil rights, etc. I understand that folks are sort of freaked out and don't know how to react. If you don't see gay people in your daily life, or know any, you probably will be surprised when you see some on board. NO, we don't have wigs or platform shoes. We're pretty shy about public displays of affection. But on at least 3 occasions we felt targeted for being a gay male couple. Once at a table where a man from Toledo refused to speak to us, let alone acknowledge our presence. Another when the adjacent table on formal night had a family of 4 at it. A teen girl was taking great delight in pointing at us and giggling. She even got her mother to look. At no point did the parents tell the kid to stop it. Bad manners + bigotry? Finally, we noticed that the photographers repeatedly skipped our table during picture time. We were never asked to stop to take romantic photos in front of stupid backdrops. This is a stupid, small matter. But it was noticed. We brought it up and got defensive responses from the photo staff. Oh well.
Bottom line: Everyone on this cruise could have stepped up the cordiality and sociality. If you are on a ship with 2000 others don't expect a private vacation. Go to Sandals for that.
We intend to repeat this cruise in May 2011. We are bringing J's parents and any of our other friends we can cajole. It was that fantastic an experience. So don't get me wrong. as "Millennium Approaches" we are sure there will be more "Angels from America".
Seward is not listed below so I want to give a special note to the Major Marine outting. Great ranger-led talk. Up-close glacier viewing. Saw orcas and humbacks, sheep, bears, sea lions, eagles. Terrific.