We chose this cruise for its itinerary and the sailing dates since it coincided nicely with the Christmas and New Year's holiday. My husband and I have cruised multiple times before (on different cruise lines). But our previous ... Read More
We chose this cruise for its itinerary and the sailing dates since it coincided nicely with the Christmas and New Year's holiday. My husband and I have cruised multiple times before (on different cruise lines). But our previous cruises have all been in the Caribbean or the Alaskan Inside Passage, where the scenery and activities do not change much from port-to-port and there is nothing to do at port at night (besides drink). This was our first (and last) international-type of cruise where there are world class cities and UNESCO heritage sites on the itinerary. There was simply not enough time in port for any of the locations. Furthermore, the destinations of interest were so far away from where the ship docked (1.5 - 3 hours each way), much of the precious port time was spent on a bus. With the exception of Bangkok, none of this is communicated when you book your cruise or your shore excursions. Like many things with Celebrity Cruise Lines, you have to find out things on your own. Lack of communication, and sometimes conflicting information, was definitely an overarching theme of this cruise...from booking to our very last shore excursion. This was our first (and last) cruise with Celebrity.
While check-in ran smoothly, the nickel-and-diming upon embarkation was ridiculous. There were crew chasing passengers down in the terminal like they left their passports at the desk or dropped their wallets. But, nope, they just wanted to sell them a premium beverage package. Most of us were coming off of 10-12+ hour flights and were toting our luggage. We just wanted to get to our cabins and not be hassled into buying unlimited sugary drinks or cheap, drugstore wine. (Referring to the Beringer white zinfandel, among others, that was included in the classic wine package.)
***PORTS OF CALL AND SHORE EXCURSIONS***
On a map, it looks like we were not too far away from the heart of the city but in reality, we were not in walking distance to anything and there was no train/subway station nearby either.
Our second day at port was cut short by 4 hours because they wanted everyone back on the ship by 1:00 PM (instead of the scheduled 5 PM) in order to go through immigration and have your passport collected. (Couldn't they just do this at embarkation?) As a result, our day was cut in half.
The highlight of this port is Hoi An. If you are ever in this part of the world, go there! It is a well-maintained historic waterfront village full of shops and restaurants, and it is a UNESCO heritage site. Unfortunately, it takes 2 hours to get there by bus from where the ship docks. My husband and I did the countryside by bike plus Hoi An tour but it poured the entire time. This made for an absolutely miserable bike ride. I couldn't tell if you if it was scenic or not. No one wanted to stop and take photos. Stopping usually meant you had to stop in a very deep puddle. And we all had our heads down to avoid being splashed in the face by the rain. We just wanted to get through our one hour bike ride in the wet sand while avoiding the mopeds. (There was no avoiding the ankle-deep puddles.) This part of the tour should have been cancelled. I think everyone would have preferred more free time in Hoi An as we only had 20 minutes on our own.
SAIGON / HO CHI MINH CITY
We chose the Cu Chi Tunnels plus Saigon tour. This tour was not offered until we got on the ship. We originally just booked the Tunnels tour but since it had no Saigon stop, we upgraded to this one. However, since there are no highways in Saigon, you have to drive through the city anyway in order to get to the other side of it (where the tunnels are). This took almost 3 hours each way since, again, the ship was docked in a far away industrial port area.
We enjoyed learning more about the Vietnam War in this experiential way. You can go in the tunnels if you want; we did. They are narrow and dark, but you are only in them for a few minutes (short one-way trip). The stops in Saigon were a little boring because Reunification Palace seemed to be all about who gets entertained in which room. But, it is a major historical landmark so you will want to see it if you are in the neighborhood. There's just no point going inside, in my opinion.
Depending on traffic, Bangkok is 2-3 hours away from where the ship docks. As a result, 1600 of the 2000 passengers overnighted in Bangkok. We arranged our own private tours. During the day, we were with our awesome guide, Rut, from Your Thai Guide (https://yourthaiguide.com) who showed us around the Grand Palace and some temples, and in the evening we did the Hangover Tour (http://bangkokhangovertours.com) with our lovely hostess, Aya. If you are open-minded and want to experience the Bangkok nightlife, we highly recommend this tour!
This was the one day we completely planned on our own and this was our favorite part of the trip. I don't think it was a coincidence.
Again, we booked our own tour--a private beach picnic with snorkeling and kayaking through Island Gems--but this one did not meet our expectations as all of the private beaches they wanted to take us to were full of garbage due to the heavier-than-normal rains. The photos on their website and all of their glowing TripAdvisor reviews painted a different picture. However, the picnic food (once we finally found a sliver of trash-free sand) was delicious.
Another rainy day coupled with disappointment. We had an evening tour booked, The Singapore Night At a Glance tour. However, since it was pouring rain, 4 out of the 5 activities on that tour ended up being canceled. However, the tour was not. The tour ended up being just a 5-minute boat ride then the guide, who had no idea what to do with us, just dropped us off in the Marina Bay Sands, a gigantic high-end mall with the largest casino in the world, for 30 minutes of leisure time. (The place was so big, you could not do anything in 30 minutes.) I do NOT recommend this tour. You can do all these things on your own for less money and, if it is raining and everything is closed or canceled, it will not cost you a dime. Heading back to the ship just to meet up for the evening tour was a major hassle. I would have rather stayed out and not wasted the $84. At the beginning of the tour, they told us they were going to give us a 25% refund because the SkyPalace would likely be closed. They didn't tell us that almost all the activities on the tour would be cancelled until we were on the bus and away from the ship. Otherwise, I would have cancelled. After complaining to Guest Relations, we ended up getting a 50% refund but that was still a rather expensive 5-minute boat ride.
The next day we did the Singapore Sojourn Tour with Airport Drop-off. It was a good overall tour but, being our second day in Singapore, most of the group (including us) had already seen a majority of the sites featured on the tour. Singapore is not that big.
I was shocked to see such extended periods throughout the day without any food available. For example, after 9:30 PM, the only food available (but only until 1 AM) was the pizza/pasta station where pasta was cooked and served one person at a time--my husband waited almost 30 minutes for basic pasta and there were less than 5 people ahead of him--and the pizza pans were always empty. A late night buffet on New Year's eve would have been greatly appreciated (and needed) among the revelers.
Vegetarian options in the main dining room were a joke. One night, potatoes were listed as an entree!! The buffet was no better since most of the rotating ethnic dishes were not marked vegetarian or otherwise. There were icons that could be used to denote vegetarian, lactose-free, gluten-free, etc. items but, unfortunately, that section of the item display cards were often left blank. I felt bad for the people with food allergies. The first two days, we tried asking the staff behind the buffet if the items were vegetarian or not but, with their extremely limited English, that had no idea what we were asking. I was also disappointed to see that tofu was not an available item on the stir fry bar.
Speaking of ethnic dishes…
When one of the vegetarian entrees in the dining room was an “ethnic” item like Indian or Thai, there were not any starters, soups or salads that were of the same cultural cuisine. (For example, a bleu cheese souflée was on the same menu as a Thai-style stir fry.) The menu items did not complement one another--another indicator that the vegetarian menu was an afterthought.
On New Year's Eve, while everyone else was enjoying their special holiday menu items, the vegetarian entree in the dining room was spaghetti with marinara sauce. My husband was embarrassed to eat it surrounded by so many dressed-up guests enjoying their fine dining experience. But, he doesn't like mushrooms and the only other option was an awful mushroom risotto--I had (half of) it and it was the worst risotto I have had in my life. On the plus side, I did not gain any weight this cruise because all the food was so unappetizing. With the exception of three desserts, bread, and cheese, there was not one menu item I would order a second time in the dining room or select again from the buffet. Even the salad dressing was sub par.
I had indicated when we booked our cruise that both my husband and I were vegetarians. But there must have been no record of it in the main dining room because, for the first 2 nights of the cruise, we didn’t even know there was a vegetarian menu. (We only found out because I read it in a book that was hidden behind some catalogs in our stateroom. Most other cruise lines display all their menus at the dining room entrance.) The hostess should have known we were vegetarians, especially since we had to give our names and cabin number to her every time we entered the dining room. She could have then relayed the information to the seating captains so that we were given the vegetarian menus along with the regular menu, instead having to ask for it every time. (We had open seating dining.)
Another service issue in the dining room that I had never seen before on a cruise was how long it took to seat people. All of the people in charge of seating guests in the dining room had to examine the seating map very closely before seating anyone. It was as if they were seeing this map for the very first time. And, to be fair, perhaps some of them were if they joined the are in Hong Kong. But this happened EVERY time, with EVERY guest, at EVERY meal with EVERY crew member in charge of seating. After 12 days and nights, I would assume that one would eventually learn where the tables are located. This sounds like inadequate training on Celebrity’s part.
I question the ship's food safety practices when it comes to dairy products. All of the milk and half-and-half used at the open coffee stations sat in very large, non-refrigerated glass dispensers all day long. While there may have been a column of ice in the middle, I can guarantee you that the temperature of the milk was not maintained at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Adding anything from these dispensers into your coffee made your coffee taste horrible--like sour milk. Coffee from the dining room and room service was fine since the creamer did not come from these dispensers.
Small - as expected. The closet doors, cabin entry door, and bathroom door all opened into the same narrow interior hallway, which made maneuvering rather difficult, especially when both of us were trying to get dressed/get ready at the same time.
We sprung for a balcony room. While it was nice to have breakfast out there in the morning, half of our ports-of-call were in very industrialized smelly areas so we did not enjoy the balcony as much as we would have liked. Also, toward the end of the cruise, a nearby smoker was getting more and more comfortable with breaking the rules and smoking on their own balcony so that also limited our balcony use. Unfortunately, we could not find the offender so we could not report him or her.
One thing I was not expecting in a premium cabin on a premium cruise line was a white shower curtain covered in orange mildew. But that is what we had in our bathroom.
While the crew was friendly enough, I feel like Kamong (I hope I spelled his name right) and Adrian in the martini bar were the only two members that provided above-and-beyond service. They also look like they are having fun at work, which is really nice to see. The crew puts in very long hours, 7 days a week, for 8 months in a row.
If after reading this review, and you still want to cruise on the Millennium, go to the martini bar and do the flight! There's plenty to share if you don't think you can drink them all yourself. And if you don't like the sweet ones offered, create your own combination. Adrian will even let you pour your own martini tower after he mixes them for you. It's drinks and entertainment all-in-one!
The cruise ship dancers were better on this cruise (compared to others) and the one female Celebrity singer, Lily Jane, was amazing! I really enjoyed the guest performances by the Queen cover band and the electric violinist, Jane Cho--she was phenomenal! The guest magician was OK as were the acrobats. Both the magician and the acrobats did a second matinee show but you can tell that the matinee show was their "B" repertoire. On the contrary, Lily Jane and Jane Cho's matinee performances were spectacular. Outside the main theatre, the lounge singers on the ship either sang too slowly or did not enunciate the lyrics so there was nothing dynamic there.
All the game shows were up in the disco and they were mostly after 10:30 pm. On other cruises we have been on, they tend to be a little earlier in the evening and usually in one of the promenade lounges. I thought these were a little out of the way from everything else and a little late given our early ports of call, so I skipped them.
I went to the gym for a Zumba class, which cost extra plus a service charge. (I am in the group fitness industry, instructors are not tipped workers.) It was taught by a personal trainer so there was a lot of jumping jacks and running--way more than a traditional Zumba class. I also took a class with resistance tubes with the other personal trainer. It was free so it was only 30 minutes. The instructor acted as if he was still in bed sleeping and he did not bother to correct anyone's terrible form or help people who were doing the exercises completely wrong. Neither instructor introduced themselves at the beginning of class. I did not take any other classes because the instructors were so poor.
We did not find anything "premium" about Celebrity Cruise Lines. In fact, there is nothing differentiating Celebrity at all from its competitors besides price. (We have previously cruised with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Holland America and Princess and each are unique in their own way.) I found Celebrity most comparable with Princess but Princess has better food, with more options and meal times, and at a lower price. Read Less