Brief details about us. We were 3 women in our 60s traveling together for the 12 days. We were in Royal Suite 6139 for the cruise portion. We had the Land Tour of 5 days before boarding the Millennium in Seward on May 20. I will review the ... Read More
Brief details about us. We were 3 women in our 60s traveling together for the 12 days. We were in Royal Suite 6139 for the cruise portion. We had the Land Tour of 5 days before boarding the Millennium in Seward on May 20. I will review the land portion first. We flew into Fairbanks on Sunday, May 15 and were met at the airport by a rep who put us and others on a bus to the hotel, Sophie Place. It was nice and built during the pipe line housing crisis so all rooms were suites and nice big living areas with 2 queen beds in our bedroom. Large dressing area outside of the bath with 2 basins.
We were fortunate in that we had the tour guide, Julie, who is top notch but also we had Billy and John who had been tour guides for other companies and were joining Celebrity this season so had the first one with us then the next week they had their own tours to lead. So we got the great service of 3 guides. Billy and John would sit around in the middle area of the bus so intermingled a lot.
Before going on to the tour I want to say that Celebrity provides a very nice motor coach and driver that is dedicated to your group the whole 5 days. This meant we were able to leave our large bags if we wished stowed on the bus until the last night when we were brought the bags to repack for the ship if necessary. Our carry on bags were put outside of our hotel door each morning and picked up and put on the bus so we did not have to deal with them at all if we did not want to. We could also leave things in our seats overnight like snacks and bottled water if we wished as the bus was secure at all times. We were also lucky as we were the first group of the season and only had 32 on a 50 passenger bus so could spread out some.
The riverboat cruise on Monday was good, not great, There were a lot of other groups with us as this ship held about 250 or so. I know some were from Princess Cruises as they come on their buses. Too many kids running around.
On Tuesday we rode the domed train car to Denali and Celebrity uses an independent company for this tour. They attach their train car to the end of the regular domed train. From what I could see in the other cars before we boarded this domed car was much nicer. We only had 32 on our cruise tour so had plenty of room in the domed area and the restaurant on the lower level was able to get most in quickly for breakfast. It snowed the last part of the train ride fairly hard and snow was building up quickly. This snow did not stop until we were well in Denali so the day was dreary. Most were glad to see the snow but for me it was just a mess to deal with getting round as snow melts when it hits you so is just cold rain. But weather is not in Celebrity's control. The trip into Denali Park was on a Bluebird bus with the ranger driving. She was good but the trip was long and slow. The main road is only paved the first 5 miles or so then it is gravel. We had a few photo stops when appropriate and our ranger was good at spotting the wildlife that was present. The ranger took us to our hotel at the end of the tour. This was our longest day and we ended up eating dinner at 9:30. The lodge had just opened and we had no heat in our room upon arrival but that was fixed while we were at dinner. Fixed too well as it would not cut off so we were at 85+ most of the night. This was the only big negative on the tour. Out other complaint was we were not given the option to have a 2nd room at either of the places (Denali and Seward) that did not have room for a rollaway bed and for the price we paid to be in the Royal Suite, that should have been an option. We did ask before the tour if we could book another room but the cost was over $900. But both of these place had empty rooms when we were there and the offer when we arrived at a decent price would have been appreciated. In both Denali and Seward the rooms were tiny.
On Wednesday we had a 6 hour bus ride to get from Denali to Anchorage. We left about 11:00 and then stopped at Talkeetna for lunch which is a quaint town with a lot of Mom and Pop stores and places to eat. We got into Anchorage about 5:00 pm. We did stop on the way at the Armed Services memorial which seems to be in the middle of nowhere but they said on a clear day with the memorial at your back you can see Denali in all of it's majesty. We never had clear days to see it. But the memorial is worth the stop and done very well in it's simplicity. We were given a map as we entered Anchorage and it had all of downtown mapped well so we could figure out dinner and shopping options. All were very walkable and we chose a Thai place called Ginger that was the best Thai restaurant I have ever been too for taste, options, and food quality.
Thursday morning we got up and went to the Native Heritage Center which is well done. We got to see demos of the games for the Alaskan Olympics and outside there were 6 different types of homes for the different tribes/clans native to Alaska. All was presented well with people at each house to explain things if you had questions. They also have a theater where mini movies played about every 25 minutes. We returned to downtown Anchorage for lunch then went to Seward in the afternoon. This was about a 3 hour ride. We had rain off and on most of this afternoon but thankfully it eased off as we got into Seward. The lodge is nice but as I stated above, small rooms.
Friday we were picked up and all bags that were to go to the ship were taken so we did not see them until they were delivered to our cabin. We had a boat ride on Resurrection Bay that was just OK but again not the tour's fault as the whales just did not appear. We were again 32 people on a large boat so nice to move around and not crowd others.
We boarded the ship about 1:00 and there were no lines when we were dropped off. Being in a Royal Suite put us in the shorter check in line but all were moving fast. We were met and personally escorted to our suite by one of the housing officers which was a nice touch. We dropped off our carry on bags and went to lunch at the buffet which we found to be very good. Food is subjective but the few times we all went there we found things that were good to us.
The Royal Suite description: The Millennium came out of dry dock a week before we sailed so we were only the 2nd group on the ship. Our room was completely redone. I have been in the Summit RS in the past so had before and after to compare. Good stuff was new furniture with leather swivel chairs in the living area, large sofa, gutted and redone bath, new bed linens, and new carpet. Bad: The 2 basins in the bath were on top of the counter which I do not like but is the current fad. Water splashed easily just brushing your teeth and there is no way to store anything on the side of the basin or to see behind where the splashing water often went. The beds were not new and you could see them sag in the middle. The new table in the eating area was an oval versus round with 2 chairs and a bench seat. All storage along the wall had been removed. The table shape made it awkward for 2 to sit on the bench side with the curve of the table. Neutral: The balcony did not have new furniture but it was not in bad shape. Overall the redo was good but in my opinion could have been much better. We had a great room steward but our butler was just there. We did not need him much and it was obvious the people in the Penthouse 2 doors down were keeping him busy so that was fine with us as we had few needs.
Being in a RS gives you the premium beverage package, all specialty dining free, and the suite dining room, Lumanie. With the beverage package we were able to try new wines and often let our sommelier suggest something different. Overall we liked dining in Lumanie. They learned our names the fist night, would sit us different places in our waiters area so we could be by the window occasionally, and most nights we could come when we were ready. This restaurant is small so they would ask us for a general time and on one night they were full at the requested time so we said later. However when some did not show up they called to tell us to come on in. That was a nice touch. The food was outstanding and we rarely ordered from the main dining room the exception being escargot 3 nights. Each night the chef would have a starter that was a surprise and very good. The chef also came out a couple of times just to visit and he genuinely wanted your feedback.
We only ate in Tuscany and Qsine once each and where both were good we found Lumanie to be great so did not repeat.
Saturday was Hubbard Bay which was nice and relaxing. The captain was able to get close to the glacier and turned the ship 180 degrees so both sides could see. This was the clearest day we had in 2 weeks so nice.
Sunday was Juneau. We went whale watching and not only saw humpbacks (which were expected) but got to see a pod of Orcas which was a bonus.
Tuesday was Icy Strait Point. Again we went whale watching but the whales were just not that active. We would see them but they were in what was described as "sleep mode" so would surface slowly and not really put up the tails much to dive. We got back on the ship for lunch and one whale was in the bay next to the ship and did the bubble feeding thing right beside us so that made the day. Icy Strait Point has a new dock which is nice but only handles one ship. The Infinity was waiting to take our place as we left at 3:00. Also for those with mobility issues, they have one gator going up and down but it is not an easy hike to the small town.
Wednesday was Ketchikan and we were docked in a good area with a lot of shops and dining places. We just did the on our own thing there and really did the only bit of shopping while on this trip.
Thursday was a sea day so a nice way to end the cruise. The only thing odd was how soon we had to get our bags out of the room to be picked up. it was 10:00 and I have never had to do this before midnight. Made us rush back from dinner to finish up our final packing.
We had no issues getting off in Vancouver as we could go to Michael's Club to wait. One of us was going home that day and the concierge got her boarding docs for her so she did not have to do that at the airport. We just waited until she got off then took our time as the 2 of us remaining were staying in Vancouver for 2 nights. Customs was quick and the lines were not too long so overall not bad. Getting a cab looked bad as the line was very long but it moved super quick so not really an issue.
We went to Sutton Place for the 2 nights and this is truly a 5 star hotel in the heart of downtown Vancouver. We were able to get a room at 9:30 in the morning which was wonderful so we did not have to check our bags. We did the Hop On Hop Off trolley and did both loops so that was a great way to see the city, the park, and Granville Island. Our only disappointment was we saw the Aquarium in the park on Friday so decided to go back on Saturday for a good visit. It was pouring rain, the line just to get tickets was long and so was the line to get into the Aquarium and they were not letting anyone in as it was full. We saw 3 buses as the cabbie drove us off to go back uptown to the shopping area for brunch. We got so wet walking around that we just went back to the hotel for the afternoon to nap and watch movies but with a great room that was not a bad thing. Our flights back the next day did not leave until 12:30 but we got to the airport to early to check our bags and had to wait about an hour. Not a big deal.
A few comments on the ship overall. We are not show people so I cannot speak to any entertainment. All of the places we went seemed to have new carpet and good furniture. But as we are not big drinkers either and had liquor in our room we did not visit any bats. I was looking forward to Bistro on 5 but during dry dock they changed it to Sushi on 5 which did not interest us at all and it was not used very much. We heard a couple of complaints about there now being no sushi in the buffet due to this. The ship looked nice with the new outside paint job. We were also pleased that except for 2 hours a day the solarium was adults only. There were a few children on the cruise but not many and the outside pool was open but it was overcast except for 1 day so I did not mind family access in the covered area for a couple of hours. All pool area was fresh and clean from repainting and all furniture looked new. But again due to the temps never leaving the 50s most days not many used either area.
One recommendation I would heartily make is if you do this, do the land portion first. It is wonderful but extremely tiring with all of the bus time and tours. We got on the ship exhausted and were glad to "park" our stuff for a week without having to move each day. Celebrity does the land tour wonderfully but it is tiring. Read Less