Background: My husband and I are in our 40's-50's. We've cruised many times on various cruise lines. We brought our 14 year old daughter and a friend of hers who is also 14. Our daughter has now cruised 6 times and this was her friends 3rd. We cruised on Celebrity in December of 2007 and had such a horrible time that Celebrity decided to aid us in another trip. I'm glad that they did as I had a much better trip this time around.
Pre-Cruise: We made our own arrangements to fly from Colorado 2 days in advance since March weather here tends to be unpredictable. Easy flights via Houston and a short cab ride took us to the Embassy Suites on 17th for 2 pre-cruise nights. The Embassy Suites is a nice hotel with a lot of shopping opportunities nearby. We'd planned on spending Saturday using the water taxi service which is supposed to be within walking distance, but due to rain, we made different choices. There is a shopping center directly behind the hotel with a Publix grocery store, a nail salon, a liquor store, and various other shops. Across 17th street and down a half a block, there is another liquor store and a Winn-Dixie market. Enough choices for any forgotten items. The girls and I made appointments to have manicures and then went shopping for some bottled water and soda which we stowed into our fold-up spare suitcase. Then we had our nails done. The Embassy Suites has a very good breakfast and an evening reception with soda, beer, wine or (limited) mixed drinks. They also offer snacks; Evening one had popcorn, pretzels, and potato chips. Evening two had popcorn, pretzels, and goldfish crackers. The girls used the pool (outdoor) while we drank mai-tais. Evening one we tried to go to the Outback Steakhouse around the corner, but the wait was longer than we wanted, so we went across 17th to Chuck's Steakhouse. The meal was fair...my filet was good while my husbands' mahi-mahi was overcooked and dry. My daughter had ordered her kabob medium-well and I'd judge it to have been medium-rare. The salad bar was okay, but nothing great. Evening two, we'd planned on going to the Outback early, but it was pouring rain so we decided to eat at the hotel. I'd read (either here or on tripadvisor) that the hotel restaurant was horrible with poor food and poorer service, but was surprised by the quality of both. None of us was really hungry enough for the dinner menu, so we asked about sandwiches...they promptly brought out the lunch menu (saying that dinner would cost slightly more but it didn't) and allowed us to bring our drinks (and seconds) from the managers reception. I was very pleased with the restaurant and the service. The hotel was sold-out. It did make getting seats both at breakfast and at the reception difficult. Sunday morning, the hotel offered an Easter egg hunt for all kids. Ours joined in and I've got a great picture of 2 teenage girls being hugged by the Easter Bunny....something to save forever!
Travel to Port: We got a cab on Sunday at noon (checkout) and went to the pier. Compared with our December trip, check-in was a breeze. We were on the ship in less than an hour. Our room wasn't ready, so we went upstairs after our champagne greeting to the buffet for lunch. We knew where the pizza, pasta, and ice cream were and had no lines that first day.
Ship Info: The Millennium is nearly identical to the Summit. We didn't do our usual "learn the ship" routine, as we'd spent 2 weeks on the Summit just 3 months before. The only couple of small differences we noticed were that there's no dedicated teen club (though we were told that there would be one in a couple of months), the Aqua Spa is laid out slightly differently, and the Bar at the Edge of the Earth is called Cosmos and is very different in style. The artwork is different on this ship, but still not really my style, though the pictures in the hallways are (mostly) quite nice.
Stateroom: We had a coveted corner family veranda on deck 9 and I know why folks love them so much! What a great use of space!! The room has a hallway leading to a second locked door (great for stowing snorkel gear). 2 doorbells which the girls had to try out a number of times. The room itself is wider than any I've ever stayed in and the divider gives a sense of privacy. The room had a queenish sized bed already made up and a twin on one wall (made up...we never did see it as a couch) and a loveseat which converted at night to a double bed. The bathroom was nearly identical to the 3 that we had on our previous Summit trip, although much of the under-sink storage was stocked full with tissues and toilet paper. I was VERY glad that I brought the over-the-door shoe holder, as this arrangement would have been quite tight for 4 of us. 2 closets and one stack of 6 drawers plus a lot of storage along the long desk area in the main room. The girls room had 2 nightstands with 4 drawers each and a double cabinet for more storage. The girls had a small TV in their side of the room which was not interactive, while we had a larger interactive one on top of the cabinet with the mini-bar/refrigerator. The balcony was fabulous. It was equipped with a table (non-movable) and 2 chairs and also 3 loungers and a small movable table. We could easily have had 15 people on that balcony.
Dining: We had a table for 4 on the upper level of the main restaurant. We had main seating, which I prefer to late seating when traveling with kids. Our waiter, Walter, was a treasure. His assistant Carlos was not. Walter made us smile consistently and when my daughter had trouble with her meat, he cut it for her (much to the amusement of her friend!) Carlos dropped items on the floor and didn't pick them up, reached across each of us regularly, didn't refill water glasses, didn't clean up used plates, etc. Walter knew that Carlos wasn't helpful, so he did more than his share to make up for it. The food was okay. There were a couple of outstanding dishes (notably the lamb shank and cous-cous), a couple of less-than-great ones, and the rest was average. The buffet hasn't changed from one ship to the next in 3 months. It was acceptable. The Aqua Spa had the same offerings as the Summits' and we did avail ourselves of the poached salmon one day. Delectable, if you like salmon!
Activities: Celebrity needs improvement in this area, in my opinion. Yes, there's always a sale going on somewhere, but what about free things to do? I do not watch TV onboard. I'm not interested in 2nd run movies. I did go to the cooking demonstration and it was some of the better entertainment I had. We also went to the ice/fruit carving demo. Amazing what the ice guy could do when the head of the swan suddenly fell off mid-carve....it became an eagle with "interesting" wings.
Casino: I guess that this one falls in "Activities", but I'll just do a small mention. Summit's casino had no smoking at any table games and the complete port side and the casino was less smoky. Millennium had smoking at everything except for the port side slots (but many more table games which made the room much more crowded). Millennium paid better on the slots and was busier, in general.
Kids Club: Our daughter has always participated in the children's programs onboard ship. However, with a friend along, they only did 3 activities...the Cocktail party, (something else), and the teen T-pool get together at 11:45PM (mostly because that was the only way they'd get to try out the adults-only pool). They were the only teens to go to that, and they cut it short to give the supervisor a break. The teens were supervised by 2 guys...something I've never seen in a kid's club. For the first time EVER, I didn't tip the kids club folks.
Service: I've already mentioned Walter and Carlos. Now it's time to talk about our main room-steward, Bertalino. Because I've been on these boards for a long time and have sailed X, I knew that I could request the refrigerator to be emptied. So, minutes after we arrived, we met Bertalino. When asked if we had any special requests, I asked for a total of 4 bathrobes (we only had 2), ice in the mid-afternoon, and for EVERYTHING in the room which costs money to be removed. He replied that he'd lock the mini-bar. No, I had things to put in there (the aforementioned water and soda). He then tried to shove it all onto the small shelve above. I told him that it would be simpler if he'd bring a box or a bag and I'd do it myself, which I ended up doing. (The bottle of wine disappeared a number of times from our stateroom, only to be replaced within a day or so). Well, from that moment on, Bertalino either avoided us or grumbled. We were close enough to the restaurant that the afternoon ice became a jaunt I took to fill up 2 glasses which I'd then pour into the ice bucket. (This is the first time I'd noticed that in the late afternoon, there are small sandwiches and desserts available along with salads and pasta. Those sandwiches were great on our balcony with our late-day iced tea, fruit juice (perhaps spiked), or ice water. In the end, I wrote a comment card about Bertalino and his surly attitude, wrote him a note suggesting that he consider a different job, and over tipped his assistant who tried to make up for his lousy service. The final evening, we still hadn't received our tip vouchers or any envelopes for tips immediately prior to dinner. When I asked Bertalino about that, he stated that he'd get them in our room while we were at dinner. What good would that do us? So, he grumbled loudly enough for some of our neighbors to ask what was going on. Apparently, they'd had good service and couldn't figure out why he was so abrasive to us. (The assistant knew what Bertalino had been up to with us and tried his best to help us out). We like the service of putting tips onto our credit card, but ended up tipping above for both the assistant room steward and Walter, our waiter. We also had a minor problems with one bar-waitress. After she took our order at the captain's cocktail reception (for returning X guests) and never brought our drinks, we simply tried to avoid her. We did see her spill a full drink all over 2 passengers at a show, however.
Entertainment: I generally avoid production shows. We went to one, a Broadway-show review, and weren't impressed. The comedian was a hoot, however. I doubt that folks with youngish kids or the older set enjoyed him much at all, as his humor had to do with being a teen in the 70's and being the parent of a teenage girl, now. Stuff that I could certainly relate to. The girls went to that show and enjoyed it, as well (they say), but they wouldn't sit with us. We also went to the last show and were grateful that we'd skipped the piano player on the first go-around. We were sorry that we'd missed the acapella group, though, and considered going to their farewell show. However, we had to get up early the next day, so we skipped them. They were GOOD!
Shore Excursions: We prebooked 3 excursions. In St. Thomas, we did a catamaran sail and snorkel, as it was listed as being with turtles. No turtles and yucky/murky water conditions. We did see a group of squid, which we'd never seen before while snorkeling. They powered us to the island, but brought us back under the jib (sail). They had a limited open-bar on the return, so it was pleasant. We also did a catamaran sail and snorkel in the Dominican Republic, but the water was filthy (read that to mean bottles, a doll head, trash, etc) and the swells were around 4'. They powered us both ways and didn't much care if anyone enjoyed themselves. I might recommend the St. Thomas excursion, but definitely do not recommend the other one. Our third excursion was in Fort Lauderdale and it was an airboat ride with the chance to "pet a Florida Panther" (which is why I booked it). Well, the cub was a 3 week old baby mountain lion and slept in a carrier. No touching allowed. My daughter did hold a baby alligator ($2 extra), a bearded dragon, and a boa. A bit hokey, but with a 2:45PM flight, I guess it beat sitting at the airport.
Condition of the ship: Millennium needs some work, but is no worse than many ships I've been on. Peeling paint, rails which desperately need varnishing, frayed carpet, stains, shattered panel of safety glass above the T-pool.... Things which a premium cruise line would care about weren't taken care of as well as they should be.
Fellow Passengers: As this was Spring break time and a 7 day cruise, the demographics were considerably different than on the Summit in early December. I only counted 2 scooters. There were more than 500 kids younger than 18. I'd guess that the median age was 30, due to the number of kids. Most adults fell into our age range. Also, they weren't as rude as what I'd seen on our previous cruise. Kids were (mostly) under control, except for the few who enjoyed pushing every button on the elevator. I (lightly) stepped on one of those brats in my dress heels, when his friends ratted him out to me. There were a huge number of chair hogs, though, and the pool butlers didn't care. I just took a chair which only had towels on it, removed the towels, and put my own bottom on it. No one once complained that I'd taken their chair.
Disembarkation (or is it debarkation?): We had 3 different sets of luggage tags delivered to our stateroom (Bertalino took our first debarkation information form as well as our tip sheet...a total no-no on his part which guest relations laid into him for when we enquired as to why we were given the same form more than once. Didn't make him happier with us). So, we filled out two forms. I don't understand how they ended up giving us 3 conflicting luggage tags, but we used the ones we were told to use for the excursion. We were instructed to meet in the Gamma room, but that's where customs was set up. So, a bunch of us waited outside. We got off the ship with the folks who toted their own luggage and into a mess in the warehouse. We were lucky to find our luggage and get to the bus for the final excursion.
FLL airport on the final Sunday of Spring Break: Not a title that cruise-critic uses, but one which I needed to comment on..... In a word...CHAOS. Check in worked out well, but at the gate, we were told that the plane would be 1 ½ hours late due to mechanical problems. Since we had just over an hour to make our final connection in Houston back to Colorado Springs, I ended up in a line for over an hour. Well, they thought that the connection would wait, as it was their problem, and they gave us vouchers for a meal (too bad we'd just eaten!) We flew back to Houston and discovered that the plane did leave and that there was no way to get home that night. New line and the employee says that they'd be happy to help us find a discounted room. However, when I pulled out the vouchers and the "courtesy book" that they'd already given us, she changed her mind and offered us a room for the night. Actually, she gave us vouchers for 2 rooms, dinner, and breakfast at the Wyndham in Houston. However, our luggage was going home without us. So, we went to baggage and collected toiletry kits to help us through the night. A shuttle took us to the hotel, the gift shop had contact solution, and we got fed. They did mislead me, though, when I inquired about the morning shuttle. They said it would be no problem to catch it, but in the AM I found out that it only runs every half-hour. So, we had to pay a cab to get back to the airport. Once there, we got delayed in security as we "set off alarms" because of last-minute flight changes and no luggage. Imagine me and 2 teen girls getting patted down in full view of other passengers! (Husband was taken elsewhere). The TSA women were nice, though, and explained to all of us why we were selected for such special treatment.
Summary: I'm glad that Celebrity gave us a chance to try them again at minimal cost. I don't think that Celebrity is going to see a lot of business from us, though. They bill themselves as "premium" with a price-tag to match. Much of the entertainment and activities aren't "my thing". The food is okay, but nothing great. The service is "hit or miss". I guess that we'll use them again if the price is right, but husband and I agree that Regent is worth every extra penny...Celebrity just isn't. If we're looking for a fun cruise, we'll use a mass market (daughter still loves Carnival and the food isn't that big of a deal to me) as long as the price is good and it isn't NCL. If we're looking for a great cruise, Regent delivers. Read Less