Celebrity Millennium - May 3rd Wine Cruise - San Diego to Vancouver
I want to start this review by saying that my wife and I took this cruise to unwind and relax. Since we have visited almost all of the ports that the ship stopped at, we didn't feel pressured to do any of the shore excursions and merely did short walking visits of most of the port areas. So if you're looking for shore excursion reviews, stop reading now.
This was our first cruise on Celebrity and our first cruise with an inside cabin. I'd like to write this review with the topics that concerned us the most, crew, accommodations, food, etc. and that is how I will proceed.
EMBARKATION: Due to a passenger suicide on the night before our departure, our embarkation wasn't as smooth as we would have hoped, having a three hour wait in the terminal on a hot day, before allowing us to board. After delaying the ships departure for nearly two hours, we finally made our way out of port at 6:00 PM.
CREW: The crew of the Millennium gets my highest points for the trip. Everyone, from Andrew the Hotel Director, down to the maintenance crew were all extremely congenial and helpful. Our cabin steward, Kerwin, went out of his way to keep our cabin clean and stocked with ice and clean towels. If we were coming down the hall, and he saw us, he would rush to our door and unlock it for us before we got there, and he always greeted us by name. Our waiter and busboy, Wiganata and Bebito, were also exceptional. They were always quick to get our meals and always kept the water glasses topped off and asking if there was anything we wanted. I give the crew, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 10.
FOOD: We ate mostly in the main dining room and the buffet on deck 10. We weren't able to get reservations in the Olympic Restaurant before the cruise departed and I never got around to stopping by, seeing if there were any cancellations. The food, overall, was good. Enough to fill you up, a good selection and prepared and presented well. All the meals were served hot and although not five star gourmet, met our expectations. The buffet had a good selection of food for every breakfast and lunch, but we never ate there for dinner. The outside burger bar was Ok, with the onion rings a bit too crunchy and the hamburger patty tasting like it had been cooked an hour earlier. The cookies at the burger bar were great! On the last formal night, we were offered a lobster/shrimp dinner. I had this, with three shrimp and a half of a lobster tail. It was tasty, but I could have used a whole tail. I had three breakfasts in the main dining room, Eggs Benedict each time (I like Eggs Benedict). The first two times the meal was perfect, hot eggs, cooked so as to be a little runny on the inside and covered with a smooth Hollandaise sauce, muffins fresh and cut-able with a fork. The last time the eggs and sauce were perfect, but the muffin was so hard that I couldn't cut it with my knife. You could drive nails with those things! I complained to the assistant maitre'd for what it was worth. I give the food on a scale of 1 to 10, a 7.5.
CABIN: For the first time in our cruising experiences, we took an inside cabin on this trip. After the first night we found that we actually liked it better than a cabin with a window. It was quieter, darker in the mornings (for sleeping in) and just the same size as the cabins that cost $500 or more for a window. All cabins had a 20" flat screen TV, a safe and a minibar. I especially liked the bathroom; the shower was bigger than most and it NEVER ran out of hot water. We've been on several cruises where if you slept in, you had to wait to take a shower because all the hot water was gone, not on the Millennium. My only gripes were that there was a constant humming, I assume from the turbines powering the generators that we could hear and feel in the walls, even when docked. I'm sure this was from being on deck 2, and was probably felt by everyone on that deck. After a while, you tended to ignore it. The other minor complaint was that the bed was just a bit too firm for my taste, but it didn't keep me up at night. I'll give the cabin a 9 out of 10.
ACTIVITIES: Like most cruise lines, there were the usual shows and entertainment. The nightly newsletter outlined all of the next day activities and you never were lacking for something to do. We only attended one show, a musical/dance number by the ships cast. It was as good as I've seen, but we just weren't interested in the shows on this cruise, so we left early and didn't attend anymore. The casino was always busy when open and we dropped a few dollars here. Not being a gambler, I didn't lose much money, but heard from other Cruise Critic people that they thought the slots were just a little too tight. The Emporium was well stocked, and we bought a few things, but watch out for the bargain watch sale! We bought two watches, mine had the look of an expensive watch but was very cheap and most of the hands on the watch were strictly decoration and not functional, and the watch my wife bought quit working after two hours. Obviously, we took them both back. I won't rate the ship's activities since we didn't participate.
FAVORITE SPOT: Our favorite spot on the ship was the Atrium/Spa area on deck 10. This is an enclosed area at the stern of the ship, just in front of the Aqua Spa. It had two hot tub/whirlpools and a larger pool-like spa that had aeration. We would sit in the lounge chairs near a window that were probably more comfortable than any others on the ship. They had pads and head pillows, so getting comfortable and just watching the sea go by was very easy. I read an entire novel on this trip, sitting here, something I hadn't done in a long time. They also had a healthy food bar here and a coffee and beverage bar too, so you didn't have far to go for some refreshment. Being that it was glass enclosed, it was bright, yet a little warmer than being in the open on deck. Very nice.
PROBLEMS: On our very first night, we ate in the main dining room at first seating (6:00). We found or table, although there was some confusion from the waiters who seated us about where our table was. Having found our table, we noticed a few things from the very moment we sat down. The windows at the stern of the ship, near out table on deck four on the starboard side, were very dirty and the tinting was flaking off in around the edges. Some form of mold or other contamination was collecting in the corners of the windows, giving the atmosphere a distinct "back alley" look. Many of the outside windows in public areas were salt encrusted and had bird droppings on them. They obviously don't clean them very often. When we looked at the ceiling, we saw a bunch of masking tape running in long lines across the ceiling panels. Our first impression was that it was for some painting project, but felt it was rather tacky to leave it up for passengers to see. When we questioned the maitre'd, we were told that that corner gets very cold and that the masking tape was to block the vents and keep the air conditioning from cooling that area. I was dumbstruck. This ship is 10 years old, you'd think they could get the venting set correctly in ten years and not require masking tape to correct a problem. I don't know how long it had been up, but it looked like it was there for some time. At the very least, you'd think someone could find something better, that looked more professional, to block the vents. I have since forwarded pictures of the windows and masking tape to Celebrity with these comments. Hopefully they can correct the problems.
PORTS: Well, I don't have a lot to say here. We've traveled to all of the ports that ship stopped at, at one time or another, so we didn't spend a lot of time ashore. The only port we hadn't visited was Astoria, Oregon. Now here's a community that does it right! They have a non-profit organization of cruise ship greeters that are stationed at the pier and around town to help you during your visit. They offered a $7.50 bus pass (per person) that made the circular trip from the pier, through town and back, where you could ride all day for the one fee. We rode the bus into town before lunch, walked around and visited shops, then went to the Maritime Museum then back to the ship for lunch. We then rode it again to the center of town, caught another bus that went up to the "Astoria Column" and returned after the visit. These volunteers go out of their way to make sure you had an enjoyable visit to their small town, and it was.
DEBARKATION: We opted for the express debarkation, where you take your own luggage off the ship at 7:30 AM. This was really nice and went smoothly. We were off within 15 minutes and customs was a snap. The customs officer said that this was the best way to leave the ship because the lines for the normal departure make it a slow process. I think we'll make this the standard way of departure from now on.
FINAL COMMENTS: Being our first trip on a Celebrity ship, we found the overall experience enjoyable and would sail with them again. Since this was a "Wine Cruise" Celebrity didn't enforce their policy on bringing wine aboard after the start of the cruise, very nice. The crew was great and the food was good. Other than the maintenance issue of the ceiling and windows in the dining room, the ship was in good condition and well maintained.