Celebrity Millennium - February 20-25, 2012 - Western Caribbean.
OVERVIEW - Quiet and relaxing. Looking forward to sailing with Celebrity again.
ABOUT ME - I'm a 30-something female from Masssachusetts, and this was my first Celebrity Cruise. Before this I have taken 1 Renaissance Cruise (now Oceania) and 4 NCL cruises with a 5th booked for July. Because I've cruise on NCL so many times, and enjoyed them all tremendously, this review contains some comparison to them. It's my hope that I've succeeded in keeping the comparison brief, objective and relevant.
PRE-CRUISE PACKAGE - A couple snafus, but don't worry it's OK in the end. I had a pre-cruise package with round trip airfare to Miami with a one-night stay at the JW Marriot Downtown. The hotel and the city were wonderful. My only complaint is the poor communication from Celebrity's end. They failed to inform me that there were two JW Marriots in Downtown Miami, and because of a glitch with their computer system Celebrity was not able to give me my cruise documents that would have included the address to the hotel. I was told not to worry about it because the airport driver will know where to go. Unfortunately he dropped me off at the wrong one, and I was left stranded on my own to find a taxi to the other JW Marriot. I called customer service and was told it was my fault for not reading the cruise documents even though they could not provide me with a copy of these documents because of their computer glitch. Eventually I arrived in the right place after much worry and the hassle of paying for my own taxi. Again the hotel was wonderful and the next morning I went to the lobby to wait for my pre-arranged shuttle to the cruise ship. I was told to be in the lobby at certain time and the driver would come in to get the passengers. I was sternly warned not to be late because they only come once and if you miss it you're out of luck. A man showed up 15 minutes early calling for Royal Caribbean Majesty passengers. No one in the lobby got up so the man left. Well it turns out he said the wrong name and we almost missed the shuttle because of it (some of the passengers had not even arrived yet because he was 15 minutes early). All he said was, "Oh sorry I meant Millennium." How were we supposed to know that? Anyway, I'm not going to let that ruin my cruise.
EMBARKATION - Amazing! The Port of Miami is so organized. It took 30 minutes from the time I left the hotel until I was on board having a glass of champagne. I was thrilled that Celebrity still gives each passenger a choice of champagne or a mimosa on embarkation. This is something my beloved NCL used to do, but in recent years they've done away with it (much to my dismay). It's a small gesture, but it makes a big difference. It symbolizes the beginning of an adventure - all the hassle of getting there is erased and the fun begins. Kudos for Celebrity for holding on to this tradition.
CABIN - Quiet, comfortable and clean. Cabins were ready at 1:30 and the luggage arrived at 2:00 sharp. I was impressed with how quickly this was done. I had an interior room 2186. I was traveling solo, and it was only a 5 day cruise, so I didn't feel it was worth the extra money to have a balcony. The room was what I expected - spacious and clean with a comfortable bed and an adjustable thermostat. It was a treat to have a cotton bathrobe hanging in the closet along with plenty of hangers and a large safe. There was also a beach bag and an umbrella in the closet. How thoughtful. The bathroom was smaller than the ones I'm used to on NCL, but it was fine for one person. The water was hot with good water pressure. An added bonus was a container of cotton balls and Q-tips, two bars of soap, and travel-sized lotion, shampoo and conditioner. The only downside was the small bathroom and the dreadful hair dryer (lukewarm air with very little power). My room steward was friendly. However, there were a couple things that got missed. There was a pair of sock under the sink from the last passenger, my ice bucket was only filled once, I never got Tuesdays newsletter, and the worst thing of all is that I didn't get any towel animals. Sounds silly, but I love towel animals.
VIP SAIL AWAY - I don't know how it happened, but I received a special invitation to the VIP Sail Away on the helipad with the officers and about 20 other passengers. What an honor it was! They had drinks and hors d'oeuvres and the most amazing view of Miami. Thank you, Celebrity, for choosing me to part of this elite group.
POOL AREA - Quiet and clean. On sea days the chair hogs were out in full-force, but there was always plenty of seating at the tables around the bar area. Almost no one was dancing to the music and there were only a couple very reserved pool-side games. The DJ's speaker volume was so low you could not hear it on the other side of the pool. The band was a little louder, but still very low key and hardly anyone was paying attention to them. I felt bad for them. They were pretty good and played a nice mix of songs from the 70's to now. The only big complaint I have about the pool area is the lack of drink servers. They're basically non-existent. I sat for hours and no one came to take my drink order. If you want a drink you have to get up and go to the bar, but you risk losing your seat if you get up. NCL is much more attentive to their pool-side passengers.
DRINKS - Good, but sometimes hard to find. Here's the thing, Celebrity offers drink packages that allow passengers to have unlimited alcohol (note: I did not buy a package), but I noticed it's not easy to actually get a drink. At the pool there were one or two drink waiters, but you could wait hours before they got to you. And in the theater it was the same way. It's almost as if they want you to buy the package, but then make it impossible for you to use it - unless you want to wait in line at the bar. When you do go up to the bar the drinks are reasonably priced ($7-10) and they come in an ordinary glass. I noticed they do not offer the option of a souvenir glass the way NCL does, but I suppose I don't need anymore of them cluttering up my cupboards at home, lol.
CASINO - Very quiet. That seems to be the theme across the ship. I don't gamble, but I would pass through the casino a couple times a day on my way to other parts of the ship and never heard a peep. Either everyone was losing or Celebrity clientele doesn't get excited about winning money, lol.
ENTERTAINMENT - Mediocre. I enjoyed the juggler (I don't remember his name) and the comedian, James Stephens III, but I didn't like the Broadway-type performances. I felt the voices were too shrill. It's not really fair for me to rate Celebrity's entertainment, because after sailing on the Norwegian Epic nothing can ever compare. NCL's entertainment is far superior.
SHOPPING - Nothing out of the ordinary. There were the usual duty-free shops, jewelery stores, and souvenir shops that are on every ship. One thing I did enjoy was not being bombarded daily with overhead announcements to attend jewelery seminars or unveiling's of made up gem stones invented just for cruise ships. My past NCL cruises had far too many of these "special events" but on this cruise with Celebrity there was one that I am aware of on the last day when the Captain was to present a special yellow emerald. I was tempted to go just to meet the Captain, but ultimately did not want to leave my spot by the pool.
FOOD - Delicious. I had dinner in the main dining room each night. I chose the Select Dining because it's the most similar to NCL's Freestyle Dining. The quality of the food was excellent. My only complaint was that I felt the service was slow. Dinner took 1.5 hours each night, but the staff was very attentive. Lunches were usually light and healthy at the Aqua Spa and breakfast was usually room service. I did get down to the main dining room for breakfast twice and it was good, too. Although the scrambled eggs were runny both times (I thought it was just me, but I've since then heard others mention the same thing). I never had a meal at the buffet, but while I was passing through there it looked like they had a nice selection of casual food.
SPECIALTY DINING - The Olympic is currently the only specialty restaurant. It's $40 for dinner or $25 for Champagne High Tea. I went to high tea. It was enjoyable - a glass of champagne, a nice selection of teas, finger sandwiches, petits fours, and scones. Next time I will go for dinner as well. The menu didn't appeal to me on paper, but during the Galley Tour I got to see some of the entrees in person and they looked phenomenal (see the pictures in the slide show - the link is at the bottom). I'm excited to hear that the Millennium is getting two more specialty restaurants. This will really enhance the variety around the ship.
AQUA SPA - Divine! I never went to the actual spa, but I enjoyed the buffet and the indoor pool. It was so relaxing and beautiful. It was so open and airy you never felt like you were indoors. It was like having sun without the burn. I wish every ship had one of these.
ACTIVITIES - As expected. The Millennium has the same sorts of activities as the other cruises I've been on. Some are free, some have a small fee. There are Yoga class, wine tasting, scrapbooking, bingo, etc. I always enjoy the wine tastings and the one on the Millennium was no exception. It was informative and fun. The Galley Tour was the most exciting. They take you behind the scenes and it's fascinating how much work goes into preparing the food. They also had a lecture from the ship's safety officer and it was especially relevant so soon post-Concordia. His presentation really helped us feel safe.
RELIGIOUS SERVICES - I was delighted to discover that there is daily Catholic Mass during Lent. They also have a priest for Easter and Christmas. I believe they also have pastors from other Christian denominations and a Rabbi as well during important holy days. It's not something they advertise, but if you go to the front desk they will tell you when and where.
CREW - Seen but not heard. Even the cruise director was invisible. The only time I saw or heard from her was in the theater before a show. The crew were very attentive and kind, but it's obvious they are instructed be seen and not heard. I was a bit disappointed because I really enjoy getting to know the crew while cruising - especially the ones at the pool where I spend the most time. However, on the Millennium I didn't get to know any of them. The only one I remember is my steward, but he was always very formal and as soon as he was done checking that I was all set he would disappear.
FORMAL NIGHT - Not as stressful as I thought. I dreaded formal night. When I am on vacation I want to relax which means not fussing over an outfit, my hair or makeup. I brought a couple sundresses and figured I would be barred from entering the dining room because I did not have a gown on. Many people were in tuxes and ball gowns, but there were quite a few that were not. No one stopped me or called the fashion police. I got to enjoy dinner the same as everyone else.
DISEMBARKATION - Quick. I was in the early batch because my flight was at 10. It was quick and the buses to the airport were easy to find.
ROATAN - Beautiful, but watch the bugs. I went on the Maya Key excursion. Beautiful island, nice lunch buffet, cash bar, picturesque beaches, nice selection of animals to photograph (monkeys, jaguar, birds), and a well done replica of Mayan ruins. One word of caution - sand flies (or sand fleas)! They are invisible, but leave a nasty red bite that doesn't itch until a week later.
COZUMEL - Outstanding! I took the Coba excursion (I think the actual name is something like "2012 Mysteries of the Maya"). Wow! I'm glad I chose this over Tulum. Coba is older and you can climb the big pyramid all the way to the top. The excursion also include buffet lunch at the Alux Restaurant which is in a cavern and concluded with a pre-Hispanic culture show. It was breathtaking - both the restaurant and the performance (see the pics in the slide show).
CONCLUSION - I enjoyed the cruise very much and look forward to sailing the Celebrity again in the future. Here's a photo slide show of my trip if you're interested: http://tripwow.tripadvisor.com/tripwow/ta-0459-aea2-6f3e?ln