This was 14 day cruise from Yokohama to Hong Kong, with stops in Shimizu, Kobe (for Kyoto), Nagasaki, Shanghai, Okinawa, and Taipei. We would recommend this itinerary as a good introduction to this part of Asia. This was our fourth cruise on a Celebrity M-Class ship and our twenty-first cruise overall. (But this is my first review- apologies for the length!)
The Millennium met our expectations, in part because we are very familiar with this class of ship – we had been on the Millennium prior to its most recent dry-dock, and were on the Infinity earlier this year. To our eyes, the ship was in good condition. If you looked hard, you could find some faded varnish and rust in areas exposed to the weather, but the interiors were in great shape.
We were in a standard (2B) balcony cabin on deck 8. This cabin has adequate closet space and lots of storage. The cabinetry is in warm wood colors, which I find pleasing. Our steward, Erline, was consistently cheerful, and kept our room clean and neat.
Earlier this year, we had a C3 “Concierge Class” cabin on deck 9 of the Infinity, a sister ship. The “standard balcony” cabin on the Millennium seemed to be about two and half feet shorter. But this made no practical difference to us. The bed size and storage space were the same. (The couch is smaller.) We also preferred being on deck 8. Our C3 on the Infinity had some nighttime noise from the Oceanview Café directly overhead. Our 2B on the Millennium was completely quiet.
We used “Select Dining” (open seating) in the main dining room on both cruises, and always asked for, and got, a table for two. We usually reserved a dinner table one day ahead. It may be coincidence, but I noted that when we were booked Concierge Class for the earlier trip, we were consistently seated at one of the best tables in the dining room (by the big rear window). On this more recent trip, booked in a “standard” cabin, we were seated by a window for only one dinner on the entire fourteen day cruise. (Note – this is an observation, not a criticism – I think it’s fair that folks paying the higher rate should get the better tables, if that was what was going on.)
Food in the Main Dining Room was a mixed deal. When it was good (as it was on Evening Chic nights), it was really good. One night, I had a spectacular Chateaubriand with Béarnaise sauce and another night, a very good hake served Provencal style with tomatoes and peppers. But on other nights they seemed to be economizing. Food was of lower quality, and/or bland.
I notice that even with Select Dining, the maître d tries to seat people in consistent areas, so we got to know our two servers and sommelier (Cris, Nasir, and Dwayne). They were great!
We didn’t eat in Tuscan Grill. We are in that group of the passengers who are still unhappy that Celebrity removed the “historical ship” themed restaurants from this space on the M-Class ships.
I thought the food in the Oceanview Café was good and had nice variety – but it was always a mob scene when we were there. Celebrity should look into opening and promoting alternatives venues on days when large groups of people are going to be heading for the Café at the same time. When all the shore excursions return to the ship at 1:30p, couldn’t the main dining room's lunch schedule be adjusted accordingly?
Partly because the Oceanview Café was so busy, we ate lunch twice at “Sushi on Five”. This venue has ala carte pricing, so depending on how much you order, it can be as expensive as a land-based restaurant. That being said, the sushi was really good, and the dessert we had (a sponge cake with passion fruit sauce and wasabi-flavored ice cream) was incredible.
We ate QSine once. The décor was fun, and the food was fun to look at. But with the exception of the steak, which was high quality, most of the effort seems to go into the fanciful presentations, rather than the quality of the ingredients. Go if you want to be entertained by your food, and if you have a big appetite.
This voyage had a pretty good solo singer/guitarist and a vocalist/guitarist duo, whom we overheard performing in the Rendezvous Lounge. The singing/dancing cast worked hard and showed off their ability in a variety of styles. A Motown-style R and B quartet got the theater jumping one night. The Cruise Director, Steve, struck a good balance between being entertaining without being silly, and letting us know what was available without being a shill.
We had good experiences with the shore excursion staff on this trip. Although not an issue for us, we understand that they were able to make adjustments for passengers whose tours were affected by our late arrival into Shanghai.
Disembarkation went well. We bought a Celebrity bus transfer to our Hong Kong hotel. We were called ahead of schedule, so we had less of a wait than we expected. The design of the Kai Tak cruise terminal in Hong Kong requires lots of walking from the gangway, to immigration, to the bus lots. I hope they can make the flow more efficient when they complete all areas of the terminal.
Some impressions of the ports and excursions follow:
Yokohama – On the outside, one of the most beautiful cruise terminals I’ve ever seen – curving wood walkways and green lawns facing an attractive skyline. On the inside, we were directed to a long, slow-moving line to get to a check-in desk. It took over an hour to get to check-in, but things improved after that.
Shimizu – We took a Celebrity excursion to the Hakone area for a lake cruise, and aerial gondola ride to a volcanic area. This would have been really nice if it hadn’t been pouring rain the entire day. (And it was too rainy/cloudy to see Mt Fuji). But the lake boat (a mock galleon) was picturesque and the volcanic area was dramatic. So I don’t regret the trip.
Kobe (for Kyoto) – Five stars! The first day we took a Celebrity excursion to the “Golden Pavilion” in Kyoto, followed by a Japanese dinner featuring a dance by an exquisite “maiko” (apprentice geisha). Highly recommended! The second day we visited three famous shrines in Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari (with its hundreds of red gates), and Ryoanji (known for its Zen rock garden). Kiyomizu-dera and Fushimi Inari were very crowded, but it was possible to find some quieter spots away from their entrances.
Nagasaki – We took another Celebrity excursion to the Peace Museum commemorating the Nagasaki atom bombing, and another aerial gondola to a hilltop viewing station (more fog and rain!!). The museum was excellent. It seemed that cruise passengers who had prepared in advance to see Nagasaki on their own, saw more than we did on this excursion.
Shanghai – Our entry into the Shanghai port was delayed by the remnants of a typhoon, though our personable captain had worked quite hard to get us to port as soon as possible. We had toured Shanghai extensively on a previous trip, so we planned to visit on our own by subway. Because of the shortened day, we spent all our time walking the riverside promenade at the Bund. Whatever you do, make sure you plan to be on the Bund at twilight when they turn the building lights on – this is one of the most spectacular urban sights in the world!
The Shanghai subway system is modern, easy to figure out, and has signs and announcements in English. But it takes an hour, at best, and one or two transfers to get from the Baoshan Port to the Bund. And the stations are very crowded with long transfer passages– not for the faint of heart.
Okinawa – We went on a Celebrity shore excursion that visited Okinawa World (with a folk village and limestone cave) and Shurijo Castle. Although interesting to hear a bit about Okinawa’s unique culture, I regret not visiting some of the World War II-related sights instead.
Taipei – We went on two Celebrity shore excursions. The first visited the 101 story Taipei 101 skyscraper, and a large active Buddhist temple complex. The second tour visited several buildings erected by the Chinese Nationalists: a museum, a military memorial, and a memorial to Chiang Kai-Shek. It is interesting to see these twentieth century buildings, that were built to resemble a traditional Chinese (e.g. Beijing’s Forbidden City) style. Taipei appears to be an orderly, attractive city. (Note that the port is some distance away from the Taipei.)
Hong Kong – We had been to Hong Kong before, so took the Celebrity shore excursion to Lantau Island. This was a more rural area, so visiting here is a respite from crowds. The long aerial gondola ride from the Po Ling Monastery and Buddha statue, back to the north side of the island was incredible.
This cabin has adequate closet space and lots of storage. The cabinetry is in warm wood colors, which I find pleasing. Our steward, Erline, was consistently cheerful, and kept our room clean and neat. The cabin was completely quiet (quieter than a more expensive cabin we had on deck 9 on a previous trip). Having been on the Millennium in 2013, I noted that they had put new flooring in the bathroom. Although forward of the most forward elevator lobby, we had no issues with motion on this cruise.