Having sailed on Princess and HAL we chose Celebrity this year to decide which cruiseline we would like to stay loyal to. There are pluses and minuses with each and every one, but we did book next years cruise while onboard the Millenium, so I guess Celebrity won out!
We chose the Millenium both for the itinerary and the ship itself. The Millenium is a bit smaller than what we have previously experienced and we really enjoyed that fact. At no time did we feel cramped or overwhelmed by people. The layout is really nice and I was pretty oriented most of the time. I tended to get lost alot on the larger ships.
The Millenium is more stately than many ships. I've seen criticism that she is tired, but that was not our experience. Our stateroom (C2) was immaculate. There are areas of the ship that are not 100% but we really felt that she was being very well maintained. She is beautifully decorated with a great ambiance. Neither over or under-whelming - just right IMHO.
Embarkation was extremely painless and quick. We arrived at the port at 11am and did not have to wait. Our stateroom was ready by 1pm and our luggage arrived 30 minutes after that. Our stateroom was awesome. The C2 category gave us a slightly larger cabin and we have no complaints in this department! The shower was larger than what we've experienced in the past and the pressure is to die for.
We found most of the staff to be top notch. There were some front line staff that were a little less bubbly and more subdued but quite frankly I would sooner see that than the over the top high energy we experienced on HAL from EVERY single staff member. The Celebrity staff are a bit more 'real' and authentic.
We had early seating and was very happy with our table mates. We had a great time gathering at dinner time and sharing our days with each other. We would then constantly be meeting up with the various couples throughout the ship all evening long. The only drawback from this dining option is that you miss sailaway pretty much every day.
We were a little underwhelmed by the dining room food the first few days - not that it was bad, it just wasn't exceptional. That, however, changed pretty quickly. I'm not sure if we had new staff that needed a few days to meld, but the food just kept getting better and better. We also dined two evenings at the Olympic and this is an experience that must not be missed. It is worth the $35/pp cover charge. The food on the buffet was consistently excellent EXCEPT for the coffee! I'm not sure what the problem is - read on reviews how horrible it was and thought "wow, just how bad can it be?". It is BAD. Made having a drink package worth it - went to Cafe Cove and had 'americanos' every morning, which was very good. Coffee in main dining room is fine too. Food at the spa cuisine is superb. This highly overlooked area is the prize in the crackerjack box. A must do is the lappsotherapy pool and attached light buffet.
We purchased the premium drink package and this was worth it. We enjoyed not having to sign slips and not having to worry about what our final bill would be!
Our cabin attendant, Lydia, was very attentive. It never fails to impress us how the attendants manage to very quickly assess their clients and cater to all our needs & desires! Then, they remember everything about us as the trip progresses. Very impressive!
Internet not great at all. With Princess and HAL you have wireless access from your cabin, but not on the Millenium. There are a couple of hotspots and Cafe Cova quickly became my place to relax in the afternoon, with a special coffee and my laptop! The router went down one full day which was a little frustrating, so I just resigned myself to going up to Deck 10 and relaxing by the pool!! Reading emails would just have to wait :)
Overall, the average age on this cruise was less than HAL and Princess and therefore there were many more couples in our age group (50s). We got to make many more friends than in past cruises. This, in and of itself, made this cruise our favorite to date. Also, this was a very port intensive cruise and we booked private excursions on four of the eight islands and filled them up with fellow cruise critic members. This also helped to enhance the enjoyment of our experience.
We booked our Jan-12 cruise, which we did while onboard. There are numerous incentives to do so, and as we were having such a great experience, we knew that booking with Celebrity for next year was a no-brainer. The only downside to doing this was that we received a three category upgrade and we decided to change our cabin selection. I made the mistake of not changing while onboard and when I called in once home, I was informed that no changes could be made, unless to a like-category, and I would lose the benefit of my free upgrade, even tho the new cabin we would like is a lesser category than the one we currently have. It will now cost us 200/pp more to move to a lesser category cabin. Had I known that, I would have made this change while still onboard.
We were so busy socializing with the various couples we met that we did not take in any shows, although we heard only great reviews from anyone who did attend. John, the cruise director, was very present on the ship and certainly seemed to be enjoying himself. What an exhausting job that must be!
The gym is well equipped and was never too busy to get a treadmill. Nice equipment, except that they have set it to a 20 minute maximum (25 minutes with cool down) (apparently to encourage turnover when busy), but this was extremely frustrating as I like a 60 minute workout and it was never busy. The process of resetting every 20 minutes is very discouraging when trying to keep the momentum going.
Usual chair hogs in pool area - but then, caught my husband leaving our chairs, walking away and leaving the towels behind and realized that perhaps there are less chair hogs than we think - perhaps just some people walking away, not thinking that their left- behind, discarded towels actually ties up the chair? There must be a better system out there!
Disembarkation was very quick and organized. We had a 10am time slot and were actually called off ½ hour early! A full breakfast buffet was offered until 8:30am which was nice. My only complaint is that the internet access was disabled at 8am, even though we had an additional two hours on the ship. I would have liked to use up my remaining internet credit to check our flights and just relax and surf while waiting to disembark. Once we left the ship, clearing customs, finding luggage and grabbing a cab were all very efficient and quick.
Alas, nothing in life is perfect and each experience is what you make it. We had the vacation we hoped for and wanted, which we will hopefully re-enact next year, on Celebrity Equinox!!