We just returned from our 5-day cruise on the Celebrity MIllennium. We left from the Port of Miami and went to Key West (6-hours in port), Cozumel (9 hours in port), a day at sea, and then back to Miami. This was our first time cruising with Celebrity, and, overall, we were very pleased.
First off, getting on the boat was a breeze. We flew Southwest to Fort Lauderdale and used SAS shuttle service to get to the boat in Miami. I can't say enough good things about SAS. I booked them online ($15 pp one way) and Steve was very responsive and professional. The shuttle van showed up at the airport within a few minutes of my call, and the trip took about 35 minutes. Once at the boat (at around 11:15 a.m.), we were ushered onboard immediately, welcomed with a cool drink and were relaxing by the pool by 11:30 am! We ate lunch at the Oasis buffet--very good and were told we could get to our room at 1:30 p.m., which we did.
The room was a lovely surprise. We had one of the least expensive rooms (no porthole and on deck 2) and it was bright and roomy and more than adequate. Lots of drawer space and plenty of hangers! Much better than comparable rooms on RCCL or Carnival. Our room steward and her assistant (Maylene and Mario) were very attentive. However, for some reason, one of our suitcases was delayed in getting to the room and we finally had to go down to Security to retrieve it around 5:30 p.m. No explanation was given for the delay, and no apology was given when I pointed out that the zipper on one of the outside pockets was broken.
The good: I was a little nervous about what to expect, since the Millennium is going into dry dock in April to be spruced up. However, we both thought the ship was lovely, not at all shabby, and beautifully appointed. The lounges, club, casino, buffet, and main dining room were very nice--there are lots of little tucked-away places onboard and I especially liked comfortable chairs on deck 3 by the windows. Our friends all raved about the casino, too.
The pool area is great--plenty of chairs on 10 and 11--and the service at the pool was great! We also enjoyed the stage shows (iBroadway and Boogie Wonderland). Lots of talent there--and very professional, from the costumes to the choreography to the quality of the singing and dancing. Also, when the cruise director sang Time to Say Goodbye, well, it just blew everyone away--she has a fantastic voice!! We also enjoyed the Celebrity Chef Cook-Off very much.
We liked the food at the Oasis buffet--especially the little sandwiches and the scones that come out in the afternoon. The pizza also looked good, as did the sushi. Also, at the Kova (?) Cafe on deck 5, there are tappas in the evening that we enjoyed, plus little finger sandwiches and pastries in the afternoon. Breakfasts here were good--the omelet station especially. Also, room service for breakfast was a nice treat--and the coffee seemed to be a tad bit better here than elsewhere on the ship.
Also, there were not a lot of kids on this cruise--it was mostly couples and some groups of college kids/20-somethings. But the ship does have activities for children and I do have to say that the children I saw were all really well-behaved and seemed to be having a good time. The college kids and 20-somethings also seemed to be having a great time, too--especially after we left Key West and were sailing to Cozumel!... and I know we had a great time, too!!!
Overall, all of the staff was friendly, helpful, and available when you needed them. The chocolates on the bed each night were excellent, especially the raspberry chocolate! Now, you may think that's a silly thing to comment on, but we are talking nice, expensive-tasting dark chocolate.... mmmmmmm. :o)
Disembarkation was also quick, painless, and accomplished in less than 15 minutes. I called SAS and the van was there in less than 5 minutes.
The bad: I was not impressed with the food in the main dining room. Nothing really knocked my socks off, though it was all fine. The service was OK, though the wine service was slow and spotty. I remember the food and the service being 100% better on Royal Caribbean! But, the other people in our party all really liked the food, and you could order as many things as you wanted... on the last night, I ordered several appetizers and salad and then had the seafood risotto appetizer for my dinner and it was more than enough. The desserts aren't spectacular, but the New York cheesecake was OK.
I do have to say that we all pretty much thought the coffee on the ship was awful--very strong and often bitter. I mean, I like a bold cup of coffee, but I had to use 5 or 6 of the little creamers just be able to drink it. And the coffee/beverage stations at the buffet were not set up logically for easy use--you had to keep crossing in front of people to get your glass or cup then get your coffee or cold drink, and then get cream or sugar. That may be nit-picking, but it was annoying when the buffet was crowded and the ship was rocking back and forth because of rough seas. :o) Also, it could be easily fixed.
The excursions: We booked the trolly and took the ride around Key West and over to the other side of the island and it was fine, given the limited amount of time we had in port. For our day in Cozumel, we had booked a Mayan cultural tour that was cancelled at the last minute so we opted for the Tulum Ruins and Beach Break. Unfortunately, due to the rough seas, we were about an hour late in docking and getting off the ship, and then the ferry was delayed by rough seas in getting us over to Playa del Carmen, so the advertised 8-hour tour had to be shortened. On the plus side, we enjoyed our tour guide and the ride to the ruins--but, because of time constraints, we only had an hour at the ruins. They are beautiful, though. Then we went to the beach club where we had a buffet that included Mayan fish (delicious!), beef frijitos (NOT what you may be expecting if you are used to the frajitos you get in the USA at Chili's or other TexMex chains, but very tasty!), black beans and rice (yummy) and some other things. It was good. Then we walked out to the beach--and it was just spectacular! White sands, blue/green/azure/turquoise/periwiinkle-hued water, and rolling waves... and the play of sunlight and shadow just could not be captured with the camera. Overall, though, I would say if you really want to see the ruins, just book the Tulum Express and don't be concerned about getting back to the ferry at Playa del Carmen--it's easy to get to and the town looked like fun to explore. The ferry ride to and from Cozumel takes about 35-40 minutes if the sea cooperates. The ride to Tulum takes about 35 minutes, too.
Our traveling companions all did some variation of the dolphin encounters (push, pull or just the encounter) and they all enjoyed themselves though they all said the photo packages were outrageously expensive. We did get a nice professional photo of ourselves at Tulum that included an informative book about the ruins and the area for just $15, so that was a nice surprise and well worth it.
Overall impression: We really enjoyed our Celebrity experience and would definitely sail with them again. I think in some ways they are a step above RCCL, although the food and dining room experience on Royal Caribbean are far superior, INHO. In fact, I have to check to see if there are Celebrity cruises leaving from Bayonne, NJ (as there are RCCL cruises) because from me, cruising from Bayonne is the ULTIMATE in convenience! I would not hesitate to recommend Celebrity and the Millennium if you are looking for a nice, relaxing time at sea.