Just returned from the Sept. 17th "Wine Cruise" aboard the Millie. First, let me say we had a lovely vacation with good friends. Stayed one night pre-cruise at the Pan Pacific and could not believe the convenience of staying right at the cruise ship terminal. After affixing our Celebrity luggage tags, we called for a bell hop who would see that our luggage was loaded on the ship. We then took an elevator to the parking garage and walked on from there. We met up with some fellow cruise critic members at Doolin's Pub the evening before and have to compliment Doolin's and their staff on providing wonderful service in a slightly chaotic atmosphere.
We had chosen this cruise for the "Wine" theme after hearing of previous wine themed sailings and the type of experiences it had offered. In our case, I found that aspect to be sorely lacking. Oh there were the usual (for fee) wine tastings and pairings, but I have seen those also available on our other cruises with Celebrity. Not one "no charge" event revolving around the wine theme was presented. On past voyages I read there were vintners brought on for lectures from various wineries along our pacific coastal route but we had a naturalist on board for our cruise. Not to take away from this lecturer (who I understand was very good) but "Where's the Wine?" Although disappointed, I did not let it affect our overall vacation.
This was our first cruise on the Millenium and we found it to be holding up fairly well but she is in need of a little makeover in certain areas (chipped bathroom sink, rust on balconies, etc). But the ship was clean, the staff were friendly and the food was good. What is noticeably lacking though is sufficient staff to maintain the level of service and excellence we have all come to expect from Celebrity. Now I am not speaking of poor crew members, rather the lack of enough of them to handle the guests in an adequate fashion, most noticeably in the food and beverage staff, although the cabin stewards seemed more overworked than normal and that in itself is saying a lot. A cutback in crew (while helping the bottom line economically) definitely affected aspects of the cruise experience. Waiters tried their best to accommodate more tables assigned to them but it affected the courses arriving in a timely fashion. Upon arrival in the dining room most evenings, we had an inappropriate wait time for the assistant waiter to fill water glasses and/or bring a bread basket. Wine stewards seemed in extremely short supply and unfortunately we had issues most evenings getting serviced. In the past, service on our Celebrity cruises was far superior. Now to comment on the new menu: Let me first say that we do not cruise for the food alone as I think some might do. But being served and not having to cook are a distinct part of my vacation. And the prospect of enjoying "fine dining" on our vacation is always appreciated. The new menu has been instituted since our last cruise with Celebrity in September of 2009. The always available choices are good and with the added "daily choices" there is a sufficient variety of items offered. But in my opinion not the distinctive 5 star menu which we have enjoyed in the past. We had a "nice" dinner each night and that is all I have to say on the subject. A huge source of frustration for us was in room service which we usually only use for breakfast. Our order is quite simple, just coffee, juice, cold cereal and milk, ordered by placing a card on our door before retiring. Of the 4 attempts at room service, we only managed to get it once. Twice it simply never came, even after a phone call was placed to guest services and the other time, it came without milk. So far below our customary Celebrity service expectations.
Entertainment: A variety of shows are offered so as all aboard will find something that pleases them while on vacation. We do not expect the cruise line to cater to our personal preferences alone. We usually enjoy those we choose to attend. I always like the production shows and they did not disappoint.
Our ports of call were all places we had not been to before and we enjoyed them all. We took the ferry out to Protection Island in Nanaimo for lunch at the Dinghy Dock Pub. Afterwards rode the free shuttle around town before returning to the ship. We visited the famous Buchart Gardens in Victoria which were beautiful. In Seattle we did the Underground tour and our tour guide Terrilynn was probably one of the best guides we have ever experienced. Her ability to relate so much history in a humorous and interesting manner was marvelous. And I would recommend anyone planning that tour to request her as their guide. We rode a cable car in San Francisco from Powell & Market over Nob and Russian hills before ending at Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square & Fishermans Wharf. Got off right in front of the Buena Vista Cafe where America's first Irish coffee was served in 1952 and of course, proceeded inside to enjoy one! On our 2nd SF day one of our friends had pre-planned an excursion for us to visit several wineries in the Russian River Valley. I gave a 5 star rating to the Robert Young Estate Winery where we had a great visit and the wine was superb!
Unfortunately a similar excursion, planned with the Monterey Wine Trolley, but had to be re evaluated as the trolley itself was reportedly broken as of our morning arrival and was replaced with a van that could only accommodate half of our original tour group. We opted out at that point and spent the day in lovely Monterey, walking along the coastal trail, visiting Cannery Row and sampling wine at the Baywood Tasting Room, as well as stopping for Chowder in a bread bowl along the wharf before returning to the ship.
Catalina was our last port before reaching San Diego. Again we enjoyed a long walk beside the sea and the ambiance of the quaint town. We planned an overnight in San Diego and were met by an unprecedented 100 degree day which took a lot of wind out of our sails. We managed to do the HOHO Trolley tour with Capt. Bob but due to the heat wave only hopped off once in Coronado to see the famed Hotel Del Coronado and the lovely beach. Ventured back out after the sun went down to the Embarcadero and Seaport Village ending with dinner at "The Fish Market" which we would recommend. We stayed at the Best Western Bayside which had a complimentary shuttle which picked us up at the cruise terminal within minutes of calling upon our arrival and also scheduled us for a 6:30 trip to the airport the following morning (again only a 10 minute ride). The hotel was clean, ample for our needs, conveniently located to both port and airport and even would have provided a free continental breakfast if we hadn't left so early. In addition, we were able to print out our airline boarding passes using their computer in the lobby with free internet service. Great for a night pre or post cruise.