All of the food selections -- from the always-available pizza and pasta to the delectable savories in the Olympic Restaurant -- were exceptionally good, beautifully presented and served with a smile and a flourish.
The Metropolitan, Millennium's main restaurant, is a two-deck-high room located at the aft of the ship on Decks 4 and 5; the entire back wall is glass. When it isn't yet dark outside, the views from almost anywhere in the restaurant are stunning. And, when darkness falls, Millennium uses a series of drop-down screens to hide the windows and the glare from the inside lighting.
Two things stand out about the Metropolitan dining room: The decor, a mix of contemporary and Art Deco, is lovely and elegant, setting the stage for the equally elegant dining experience. Although it's a large space, it's been designed in a way that makes it quiet enough to actually enjoy conversation. In fact, when seated at a large table in the middle of the lower level, probably the least favorite spot in any dining venue because of noise and activity, you'll be able to speak to and actually hear your dining companions.
Menu options run the gamut from chi-chi French-inspired cuisine, such as filet mignon with foie gras and bleu cheese topping and escargots, to more plebian roast chicken and grilled fish. Service in the main restaurant is excellent and traditional.
There are two options for dinner in the Metropolitan. Passengers can go with traditional, set seating (at 6 and 8:30 p.m.) or opt for the more flexible Celebrity Select dining option. With Celebrity Select, passengers have the option to dine any time between 5:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. and to decide whether they want to eat with their own party or at a mixed table with other passengers. They can also make specific dinner reservations for each day of their cruise online in advance, make reservations onboard or simply show up when ready to eat.
The creme de la creme of dining spots on Millennium is the exquisite Olympic Restaurant, the ship's original for-charge alternative restaurant on Deck 3 midship. It's $45 per person to eat there; dinner is served from 6 - 10 p.m. Adorned with original panels from the MS Olympic, sister ship to the Titanic, the atmosphere and presentation is as magnificent as the cuisine. I'm usually too impatient to enjoy the pomp and circumstance of this kind of atmosphere, but the well-trained teams in the Olympic made it showy and fun. The menu, which doesn't change, is wonderful, offering French-influenced selections for every type of diner. One of the most popular entrees is the melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon. The dessert platter, with a trio of pastries, each filled with a different flavored cream, was so beautiful that it was a shame to eat it -- but we did, with gusto.
In addition to the regular menu, you can opt instead for the Five Senses menu, which presents six courses paired with wines, for a higher surcharge of $89 per person.
Within the Olympic is the Wine Cellar room, used for private, wine-themed events.
Celebrity's Champagne High Tea, which takes place once or twice a cruise, is also offered in the Olympic. While a string quartet plays, premium tea and coffees, savory sandwiches and desserts are served on fine china for a $25-per-person charge.
Carved out of a portion of the main dining room on Deck 5 is Blu, Celebrity's spa-dining venue, exclusively for AquaClass passengers. Those booked in suites are allowed to dine there, space permitting. The fee-free restaurant (a $5 gratuity is recommended) is open for breakfast (7:30 to 9 a.m.), serving light meals like smoothies and muesli, and dinner (6 to 9:30 p.m.), with a changing menu of clean and simple cuisine, such as a roasted chicken breast or blackened ahi tuna. The venue is gorgeous, done in white with bright blue accents and a row of large porthole windows along one side.
All the way at the top of the ship on Deck 11 is Qsine, which has taken over the space formerly occupied by the Conservatory. The focus there is a gourmet interpretation of ethnic comfort food, served in innovative vessels -- never a standard plate or bowl -- and meant to be shared. The menu, presented on an iPad, includes standouts like Kobe beef sliders, sushi lollipops, lobster fritters, "chintinis" (Chinese melange served in martini glasses), "disco" shrimp (poached tiger shrimp) and, for dessert, beignets, decorate-your-own cupcakes and cheesecake bites. The decor is equally funky with mismatched chairs and table lamps hanging upside down from the ceiling. The cost is $45; open hours are from 6 to 10 p.m.
Reservations are required for both Qsine and Olympic. These dining hotspots book up quickly, especially on shorter cruises. Consider booking online prior to your cruise, but know that both venues take walk-ins, so it's worth checking for cancellations.
Celebrity Millennium offers specialty dining packages (for three or five visits to Qsine and Olympic) and couples' wine and dine packages (for three to five restaurant reservations, plus three to five bottles of wine), offering discounts on for-fee restaurant charges and select bottles of wine. Pricing varies, depending on the package purchased, but can save you up to 35 percent off the individual cost. Prices are subject to change.
The final for-fee venue is the casual Bistro on Five. Bistro's main fare is crepes, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert crepes. It also features panini sandwiches (steak, chicken or vegetable), soups and salads. Popular choices include the sweet banana, nutella and pistachio crepes and the savory Cowboy crepe, featuring marinated flank steak. Bistro on Five is open from 6 a.m. until "late" and requires no reservations, though there is a $5-per-person service charge.
The Oceanview Cafe, the pool deck buffet, is open 24 hours a day for coffee, tea and juice and from 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. for breakfast, lunch, dinner and mid-afternoon or late-night snacks. At breakfast, you'll find an eggs and omelet station, as well as typical waffles, pancakes, pastries, cereal and some Asian fare. Lunch stations include hot entrees, ethnic fare and desserts. The many flavors of scrumptious ice cream (served from noon to 9:30 p.m.) are not to be missed. A salad bar, pizza and pasta stations are open from noon until the late evening. Casual afternoon tea is served from 4 to 5 p.m., and at 5:30 p.m. passengers can choose from around-the-world offerings, including sushi, Indian food, a churasco grill and a stir-fry corner.
We're big fans of Celebrity's buffets, in general, and Millennium's did not disappoint. It offers both high-quality food -- rather than sad, sodden items that look like they've been sitting out too long -- and a varied menu, allowing something for all tastes. The salad bar has a good selection of fresh ingredients, rather than the wilted lettuce and pale tomatoes sometimes found on other lines.
Just outside by the pool the Oceanview Grill serves hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey burgers and veggie burgers, grilled to order. It's a perfect spot to grab a bite while enjoying the pool deck. It's open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Across Deck 10 in the Solarium is the AquaSpa Cafe. It serves light, healthy meals buffet-style for breakfast and lunch by the thalassotherapy pool. It's open from 7:30 to 10 a.m. and from noon to 2:30 p.m.
On Deck 5 by the atrium is Cafe al Bacio, a combination coffee house and gelateria. The coffee shop serves Lavazza coffee and Tea Forte for a fee. Bar drinks are also available. Snacks, ranging from morning croissants to light sandwiches, truffles and mini desserts, are free. A selection of gelato flavors costs $3 for a small cup and $5 for a large. The cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. or midnight.
Room service is available 24/7; passengers can order selections from the menu during dinner, and a door-hung card assures you'll get breakfast when ordered. Tipping for room service is customary and greatly appreciated.