Ours was a group of 18 people, all first-time cruisers. Ages ranged from mid-20's to mid-40's, and 75% of the group were gay men. For anyone who might be wondering, same-gender couples raised nary an eyebrow among the ship's crew or our fellow passengers, making it a very comfortable experience for all.
Travel To Port of Embarkation
We took the midday Celebrity Cruises train from Anchorage to Seward. The train is comprised of single-level domed cars with a dining car (really they just serve snacks). Food and drinks served throughout the 4-hour trip. Although the views were spectacular and we got some wonderful pictures, for my part I felt that the trip was about an hour too long. Since our group was split between cars, we observed that the level of service and quality of tour guide varied significantly from car to car. We were fortunate to have a gregarious and knowledgeable guide in our car.
We were in Sky Suite 6145. It was about the size of a standard hotel room, which is large for a ship, since it serves as extra bedroom for the Penthouse, and thus has Penthouse-level appointments. The cabin features a nice, wide balcony with partitions which easily opened to balcony next door (and could have opened to Penthouse too). This worked very well for us, since fellow members of our group were staying next door in room 6143 (a Concierge Class room). The balcony has no cover, so there is no privacy to be had and in the event of rain or high wind/mist we found it unusable. Even so, when the weather was nice (especially during our dramatically-close approach to Hubbard Glacier), we found it a huge asset for the cabin.
The room has a flat-screen TV that worked well once we realized we had to turn off the VCR. It also features a sofa that I assume folded out into a bed. There is no dresser in the room, just a closet. The closet has two sides, each 2.5 feet wide. One side had a closet rod, the other side had three shelves, although the safe takes up half of the middle shelf. The light only worked on one side of the closet.
Another great feature for this stateroom is the huge bathroom. It was done up with lovely dark-marble tile (although several of the tiles were cracked). The shower was big enough for two people and it also has a standard-size bathtub. There is a dual vanity with two medicine cabinets (we only found out the mirrors swung open on last day of cruise). There is an in-wall hair dryer and a standard consumer hair dryer stowed under the sinks.
The fit and finish of the room was nice on the surface, but there were enough dings and scratches to give the feeling of an opulent hotel gone slightly to seed. I assume this will be addressed when the Millennium goes in for its solsticization next year.
It is worth noting that this sailing was immediately after a sailing which saw a sizeable outbreak of norovirus. This meant that some of the standbys such as bingo and galley tours were cancelled, self-serve food and beverage stations were instead manned by the ship's crew, and crew members aggressively plied everyone with hand sanitizer. This didn't really dampen the cruise, but it made it slightly different from what others may experience.
For all that Millennium is an enormous ship, when it came down to it we found that the dining options were not as plentiful as we thought they might be - again, something that will be improved next year.
Metropolitan (main dining room) - I found the food here ranged from very good to excellent, something I found quite remarkable given the number of plates prepared for each meal. Our waiter, Agustinho, and assistant waiter, Igor, were simply marvelous. They remembered every person's name, and we had a great time joking with them. Even with this, they made sure that all food was delivered promptly and to the right person, and it was rare that a water glass went empty for even a moment. I especially wanted to mention the Assistant Maitre'd, Manny. My partner has an allergy to garlic; it turns out that they are prepared for various food allergies and even prepare those dishes in a separate kitchen. Manny made sure that my partner had a copy of the next night's menu each evening so he could choose what he wanted and they would make sure that it would be prepared without garlic. This level of accommodation really impressed us and is one of the reasons that we will be returning to Celebrity.
Olympic Restaurant - Wow. This is every bit the fine dining experience it is billed as. We were fortunate to be able to reserve the Wine Cellar room (which seats eight people) for two nights. The food was exquisite (the foie gras with duck rillettes en feuille was divine, and the dessert crepe with the delicious strawberry/Pinot Noir sauce was addictive), and the service was remarkable. This can lead to a long dining experience (our first dinner there too four hours!), but it is extremely enjoyable. Again, they were able to adapt to my partner's food allergies and he really enjoyed his meals there.
Cova Cafe - I wanted to live here! Our group had a standing meeting time of 9 AM in Cova Cafe each morning, and it became my habit to go there to enjoy a double cappuccino (or two or three) each morning, as well as one of their delicious pain au chocolat or other pastries. As the day went on they switched to serving delicious mini-sandwiches at lunchtime and canap‚s at dinnertime. These mini-sandwiches and canap‚s were the same ones that our butler brought to our stateroom each day and they were quite delicious. Additionally, in the evening Cova was frequently the venue for the ship's string trio, which was simply lovely. Cova Cafe was without a doubt my favorite dining outlet on the ship.
Riviera Grill - This was the place to go for a quick burger, hot dog, or nachos. Nothing great, and the food was occasionally served lukewarm. It was a decent place to get a quick snack.
Aquaspa Cafe - Others in our group loved this venue, but nothing there ever appealed to me, and the one time I went to get a smoothie I was told they would have to go to the other end of the ship to use their blender and it would take 15 minutes. Um, no.
Ocean Cafe - The buffet venue. We jokingly nicknamed it "The Trough", though I will admit this is trifle unfair. I walked through and while the food smelled appetizing, the selections didn't thrill me. Those in our group who did eat there reported the food less than stellar in general, though the fish and chips did get high marks.
Room Service - We ordered breakfast in our stateroom on the third day of our cruise. I should have spoken directly to our butler, who could have gotten us anything off the breakfast menu in Metropolitan. Instead, since it was late, I just used the form provided and hung it outside our door, ordering a Denver omelet and juice for me and cereal, hash browns, and bacon for my partner. Our butler delivered breakfast on time and set it up for us on the balcony. It was rather underwhelming. My omelet was lukewarm-to-cold, and my partner's bacon was left off the order completely. We did not order room service again.
We joined in on several of the trivia games and really enjoyed them. The Celebrity Life hosts were generally well-prepared and fun, although there was one session where the time was different in the daily newsletter and their internal schedule. The Assistant Cruise Director did an admirable job of coming in slightly late and covering for the mistake.
There was also a "minigolf tournament", which was played in Extreme around the existing bar setup ("Go around that bar stool, off that table, across the carpet and into the cup."). Honestly, it looked pretty cheap but my partner enjoyed it.
The only other activity we saw was Star Chefs, a variation on the "Iron Chef" competition featuring two of the chefs from the dining venues around the ship. It was a lot of fun. They pulled two people out of the audience to help chefs cook, and then pulled three more out of the audience to serve as judges. Ian, the Cruise Director, did a great job keeping the excitement up and keeping it light and fun
Our cabin steward was Luna. She was delightful! Luna always a friendly smile, and always greeted us by name. We never actually saw her in our stateroom, but our room was consistently cleaned, new towels provided, and the bed turned down in the evening.
Our butler was Elmerio. We had some initial difficulty between what our expectations might be and a bit of a language barrier as well. The first night onboard, I asked him about reserving the Wine Cellar room in Olympic. In the ensuing confusion (what I was asking for, whether he had the power to do that, how many in our party, etc.) I finally just gave up and spoke with the maitre'd at the Olympic. For the next few days we didn't really ask for anything, something I think he found distressing. Eventually we talked things through a bit more and we got a better picture of what services he could provide.
Elmerio did a great job providing high tea and canap‚s each day. The last night of the cruise, we realized that between our group we had four unopened bottles of champagne. I asked Elmerio if we could chill them down and if we could get a couple of extra champagne glasses, since we were expecting 10-12 of our friends to join us. He came back an hour later with the champagne chilling, a dozen champagne glasses, a spread of canap‚s and a couple of plates of potato chips. We really appreciated the extra effort he put into this.
Elsewhere on the ship, whenever we had any contact with the ship's crew they were always extremely pleasant, friendly, and helpful. About my only complaint was that some of the baristas at Cova Cafe need a little extra training on how to properly pull a good espresso, but if that is the worst I have to say, I'd say that I have very little to complain about!
With the exception of the aforementioned Star Chefs, we skipped all of the entertainment in the Celebrity Theatre. The performers that we did see/overhear were OK, but nothing too exciting. The a cappella group was engaging for a few songs, but that was about it. The one standout group of performers was the string trio. These young ladies were a joy to listen to and watch perform. I had an opportunity to see them play a set in Cova Cafe one evening and it was extremely enjoyable. I would make an effort to see them perform more often on our next cruise!
Port & Shore Excursions
In Juneau, we rented a car. A review of that trip can be found here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?p=29513832#post29513832
Skagway's excursion was the White Pass Railroad up and then back down from the pass. It was a fun trip up the mountain. We took all kinds of pictures and had a very enjoyable time. I do wish we had opted for the bus back to town, though. The train ride down was long and much less interesting.
Because I was experiencing some foot pain, at Icy Strait Point we stayed on the ship and relaxed.
In Ketchikan, based on the recommendations on Cruise Critic, we booked a trip flightseeing over Misty Fjords with Island Wings. What a great trip! Incredible views and Michelle provided a very personal and informative narrative throughout the flight. This was extremely enjoyable and we would book it again if we ever found ourselves in Ketchikan again.
Disembarkation went smoothly. We gathered in Olympic at 8 AM and waited about 20 minutes, and then were called to go. The only bit of confusion was that the luggage was laid out in unmarked areas in the pre-customs area of Canada Place, so trying to figure out where your luggage was located was a bit of a trick. Fortunately after a very brief search we found all of our luggage. Since we were going to walk around the city for a bit, we stored our luggage with the luggage storage place next to the convenience store in the receiving area of Canada Place. They only take cash, but fortunately they take US or Canadian dollars. The cost to store our luggage for six hours was US$24.
This was an amazing trip, and in response to the question of whether we enjoyed ourselves or felt it was worth it, I will say that we put down a deposit on a cruise to Alaska in 2013 on the last day of cruising. We're looking forward to cruising with Celebrity again!