Celebrity Millennium Cruise Review by 2travelers2go
- Sail Date: May 2011
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Deluxe Ocean View with Balcony 2C
Although I selected Celebrity, I would not recommend them due to my personal experiences and will never do business with them again. Their awful website, poor customer service on the phone and lack of follow-up information, even after paying in full, results in the conclusion that I will not book another cruise nor accompanying land tour with them. The frustration and energy expended trying to get basic information from Celebrity simply is not worth the effort, in my opinion. Especially when paying thousands of dollars up-front!
Despite multiple phone calls and e-mails to Celebrity, we never got confirmed information (hotels, timeline, etc.) about our land tour until we actually got on the bus after disembarkation when they handed us a sheet with the daily itinerary and times listed, along with an excursions list. They had told us that due to possible fluctuations they couldn't provide any of this information ahead of time. Bullfeathers. The sheet they provided us on the bus was obviously mass-produced and printed in quantities so Celebrity clearly knew what hotels we were staying at and approximately what time we would be in certain locations. So why don't they give this same information to customers beforehand? I believe the main reason is that you cannot try and plan any excursions on your own and are forced to use the ones Celebrity offers.
This is a similar tactic to warning people not to book cruise excursions other than with their excursion companies because you might get "left behind." On both the cruise and the land tour, I booked excursions directly with local AK companies who were VERY professional and accommodating and were able to shift our reservations accordingly. These local companies in AK are very familiar with the cruise ships and their livelihoods depend on good service!
I must say that the best information I got was right here on Cruisecritic from other passengers who had been on this ship/cruise/land tour - much more valid information than I ever got from Celebrity itself. One caveat, however, is that you must be mindful of certain individuals on the forums who are Celebrity-influenced advocates who sing the Celebrity song, give you pro-Celebrity advice and will quickly attack anyone who is critical of the line.
Important note: Illness struck both passengers and crew members on this cruise. While the captain provided a letter saying it was Norovirus, as of the date of this writing the CDC has it listed as "unknown." The U.S. Health Service boarded the ship in Juneau and we saw them inspecting the kitchen. So perhaps the illness could have been food-borne - such as food poisoning? While we did not become ill, and most passengers did not, more than 100 did. Those that reported it or sought medical attention were confined to their cabins for the duration of the cruise. While it is certainly understandable that those who are ill with something potentially communicable should be confined until contagion is ruled out, I would be very upset if I found out what I really had was a case of food poisoning and was confined for the duration of the cruise for that reason. Remember, you get no refund for illness - no matter the cause! So in my opinion, the captain declaring it was Norovirus before the CDC or other authority had confirmed it was premature, but certainly warranted all the extra precautions.
Embarkation in Vancouver: A nightmare. No other way to describe it. All told, waited in line(s) for almost two hours. When finally getting inside the main doorway, a Celebrity rep barked out that everyone had to put their cell phone/cameras away as there could be no photographs. This was no where near the secure area which housed any official gov't personnel so the only reason I can guess is that a photo of the zigzagging Disney-like line isn't good for business. When finally reaching the counter, the new employee serving us had very limited English skills and needed to ask for assistance from three different people, including a supervisor, who she had great difficulty understanding. We had signed in on line, but she had no idea how to retrieve any of the information in the computer! In addition, she had no idea what I was telling her when I asked to fix my on board account credit card, as it was erroneously my travel companion's card information. So now we are stuck with having to figure out what expenses belong to who, as it is all on one card. Pretty bad start, all in all.
Ship: The ship is very well-designed and everything appears to be clean, functioning and in good order, at least to my novice eyes. I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever about the ship itself or its maintenance. The cabin we had was spacious, well-designed and had plenty of room for two including so much storage space we didn't even use it all. However, the "soft" items on-board needed significant improvement - our linens were in awful condition; towels and sheets were mismatched, the colored towels had lots of bleach stains, the coverlet on the bed was seriously pilled and frayed, and the mattresses were sagging and worn. Certainly not up to the so-called higher standards Celebrity seems to pride itself on. So be prepared - your average hotel chain has much better quality linens and bedding than Millennium does.
Staff: Divided by categories; service staff and the "professional" staff. The service staff were absolutely flawless - from our stateroom attendants to the guys cleaning the pool area, every one of them were hard-working, pleasant to deal with and professional in demeanor. They earned every penny they get, which probably isn't much. The so-called professional staff were another matter - the guest relations staff were curt and abrupt, the cruise activities folks were condescending and talked to people like they were children, and the managers of the restaurant areas were not accommodating at all.
But by far the worst, and a HUGE disappointment on an AK cruise, was the so-called on-board "naturalist" named Milos who was responsible for providing factual and interesting information about AK and its environment/wildlife. IMO, he completely failed and was an absolute waste of time. Just because someone has taught in a college environment and got a bit of "filler time" on local PBS stations does not make them a good fit for a cruise ship audience. That's how he presented his information - as though he were talking to bored college-age students. As an example, he spent the first 30 minutes of his first presentation talking about HIMSELF trying to impress everyone with his professional and personal history, to include family photographs. Thirty minutes!! After this less-than-stellar introduction, which was not impressive, he then proceeded to talk about the downfall of the dinosaurs - like most of us had never learned this in elementary school. Even during the Hubbard Glacier portion, he rambled on with information so simplistic in nature it was laughable, coupled with slapstick humor which was not. But I'll give Milos this, he ALWAYS got his pitch in multiple times for additional purchases whether it was liquor-laced hot chocolate or his little self-published booklet of anecdotes which included de rigueur photographs of ... himself. What a huge let-down and one of the reasons I would NEVER recommend Celebrity for an AK cruise since learning about the environment and animal species can be so important.
Food: We ate almost all breakfasts in our rooms (enjoying the prompt and efficient room service) and almost all dinner meals in the main dining room. The breakfast room service menu is not as much as at the buffet but certainly sufficient; egg choices were limited - only scrambled eggs or plain omelets. The MDR fare was very good in quality, coupled with excellent service by our wait staff. However, it was disappointing to find out that a simple change could not be accommodated. For example, a meat dish had a mushroom sauce I could not eat. I asked if they could provide the meal without the mushroom sauce added on. The manager said that any special accommodation like this would have to be done a day in advance. Huh? How in the world can you do that if you don't even know what is going to be on the menu? Holding a sauce does not seem like a huge accommodation needing a day's notice, IMO. If fast food restaurants can withhold condiments with minimum fuss, why not a cruise ship? Since many of the dishes wound up having mushrooms, I had limited selections some days.
As for the buffet, we avoided it. Particularly after the illness outbreak when you couldn't touch anything and nothing was self-serve - including drinks. The logjams of people and wait time was tiresome. Before the illness outbreak, when it was still self-serve, there were issues with people hogging food like they were starving. At the pizza bar, people would literally taking entire pies and I saw one "lady" pile up two plates with every single piece of garlic bread out of the large basket - even though others were waiting! Some of these actions may be due to cultural differences, as there were many nationalities on this cruise. But I think the staff could have politely told people to return if they needed more - not take every bit of it and leave others with nothing.
Entertainment: The comedian was very funny. We went to both of his performances and really enjoyed him. We went to one of the dance performances and walked out after about ten minutes; it was very amateurish. The casino had some penny slot machines (we are not big gamblers) and they actually had pretty decent payouts which kept us amused for awhile. The acoustic performer in Cova Cafe was very talented as were the a capella group. But after long days on excursions, we were more content to sit on our balcony and enjoy the passing scenery since it stayed daylight until very late.
T-Pool - By far, one of the nicest amenities on the Millennium was the T-pool. It is completely covered, so weather is not an issue. There are no children allowed, which keeps it quiet. The pool itself is very large, warm and has many jets so you can easily massage aching muscles. There is a small cafe there which serves healthy choices during breakfast and lunch. All in all a very tranquil area. Not counting the day they decided to do a sales pitch for spa services and actually set up a table and USED A MICROPHONE to tout their specials - which reverberated around the entire pool area! Thankfully it only lasted ten or fifteen minutes, but still - what is Celebrity management thinking when they do things like this in an area that is supposed to be tranquil?
Fellow passengers: Definitely a mature crowd but that's a plus, IMO. The majority on our cruise were certainly eligible for AARP but had a wide variety of activity levels and interests. By and large, most people were well-behaved and friendly. There were only a handful of children but they too were all well-behaved. The biggest problem I had were the larger tour groups from some cultures who didn't see a problem with food hoarding, yelling loudly, ignoring lines and pushing/invading individual's personal space. Just as we try to avoid behavior that may tag us with the "Ugly American" moniker when visiting other countries, it would be beneficial for Celebrity to educate foreign tour group LEADERS that this kind of behavior is not acceptable on their ships and is considered rude.
Ports: All the ports of call were interesting and had plenty to do. We booked our own excursions and enjoyed them all, at a price much better than what the ship offers. We also enjoyed our communications ahead of time with the AK reps; they were all extremely professional, friendly and accommodating. It was so nice to be picked up by friendly faces who were looking for you specifically and calling you by your name. We looked for companies that were family run, if possible, and those who took out small groups rather than large hordes of people.
Land tour: We opted for the #10 land tour. I would not do it again. I did not care for the agenda, and had I been able to get more information ahead of time I doubt I would have booked it. It would have been MUCH easier and more inexpensive to simply rent a car and visit Denali on our own, stopping where we wanted along the way.
The first hotel, the Aleyeska Resort was absolutely fabulous although it was out in the middle of nowhere. The hotel they use in Denali, Grande Denali, is in the worst location possible. Way up high on a hill, far from the restaurants and shops, you need to take the twice-hourly shuttle just to get down there. Very inconvenient. The complexes run by Princess and Holland are conveniently located next to each other and a simple walk across the street from the activity hub. At first glance the room looks fine, but "small touches" like a mattress pad on the bed, for instance, would have been nice. Especially when they use flat sheets which easily pull off. So much for its "Grandness".
The #10 tour then takes the train from Denali to Fairbanks and it was a disappointment. The first 30 minutes out of the park is somewhat scenic, but after that it is nothing but trees. The Celebrity train car is very nice, however, with huge windows, very comfortable seats and nice bathrooms. The dining portion is on the lower floor of the train. The chicken meal we had was by far the worst of the entire trip, and the most costly! Think of a barely boiled piece of chicken breast, then rolled in plain breadcrumbs. Yuck. We didn't eat more than a bite or two and left the rest. The waiter didn't even ask, or care, that the meal was virtually untouched. Perhaps it was fitting as it was the last time we will ever sign away any of our money to a Celebrity operation. There was a sense of relief when signing that bill for the last time!
The last night was spent at Pike's Riverfront in Fairbanks which was a very, very nice property (a little kitchy in design but excellently maintained and a fine profesional staff) and very comfortable, although it too was located out of town and across from the airport. It is on the river, and next door is a nice restaurant where you can eat outside and enjoy the river rolling by. Just be sure to bring plenty of bug spray - the mosquitos are horrible!
Bottom line: Alaska is a majestic and beautiful state filled with wonderful and friendly people. If a cruise ship is the most economical way for you to see it, then go for it. Personally, after seeing it from our ship and in the ports, I was intrigued by the Alaskan Marine Highway which is a state-run ferry system that runs the same (and more) routes as the cruise ships. If we are lucky enough to visit again someday, that is what we will look into so we can visit the ports we want as long as we want and have more flexibility.
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