Celebrity Millennium - 14 November 2008 - 9 nights cruise from Sydney to Auckland
This was our third cruise and our first with Celebrity. We were traveling for the first time with our 7 month old son. No time like the present to get ... Read More
Celebrity Millennium - 14 November 2008 - 9 nights cruise from Sydney to Auckland
This was our third cruise and our first with Celebrity. We were traveling for the first time with our 7 month old son. No time like the present to get him into cruising right?
Getting there and Embarkation
We traveled from Canberra to Sydney on the morning of the cruise. We actually took a Murray's bus which was quick and cheap and took us straight into central station. We caught a train from Central to Circular Quay were, once we stepped out of the train station, we had fabulous views of the Millennium docked at the International Passenger Terminal.
Our paper work said embarkation started at 3.30pm. We arrived at about 1.00pm and found almost no queue. At the terminal you first need to drop your bags off with the guys with the trucks. Make sure your bags are labeled with your cruise luggage tags and make sure you take your passport and booking info with you (unlike the guy we saw digging through the back of the truck to try and find his bag to retrieve something.) Next you will pass through security x-rays, which for us only had about 3 people in the line. Next you will head upstairs and fill in your outgoing passenger card and cruise line health sheet. Then head to immigration and the finally onto check-in. The whole process only took us about 10-15 minutes, but chatting with another passenger later, he said he left the ship to go and take some photos from the dock only to find he had to queue at the back of the security line with passengers that were checking in and he had to wait over an hour and a half.
We originally booked an inside cabin for the three of us. A few weeks before sailing we noticed we had been upgraded to an ocean view, on the same deck, just across the hallway on deck 2. We were traveling with our 7 month old son and the room was all ready with our cot and infant life vest. Our cabin steward Douglas was great, the room was always made up in the shortest times and all requests to him were completed quickly and with a smile. We found the room to be just as expected. One side of the room was a wall of mirrors which meant the room never felt small. We ended up leaving our cot up the whole time rather dismantling each day and we still had room to sit on the small sofa. The bathroom was big enough for one person at a time. We were pleasantly surprised to find the shower was big enough for us to shower with our 7 month old in our arms without banging our elbows.
Weather and Sea Conditions
The weather was a mixed bag, rainy on the way across the Tasman, and then mostly clear, partly cloudy days around 20 degrees. The rain on the way across didn't affect the seas, which were pretty flat. We never felt sea sick, but on the first day we felt a bit drunk while walking down the passageways, as we would stagger and bump the walls. Dunedin was windy and freezing, but apparently just a few days earlier the weather was in the 30s. We never thought it warm enough for laying by the pool, but some did while we were cruising around White Island and when in port in Tauranga.
Ports and Shore Excursions
With tours, my husband and I were a little limited as we were traveling with our 7 month old son. We couldn't take any taxis because we didn't take a car seat with us. Our plan all along was to just check out the cities were possible, but mainly just relax and enjoy the ship. Luckily New Zealand is close enough for us that we can return at another time when our kids are older and really get out into the wilderness. We could have done bus tours, but we would never have done any of the ship tours because they were far too expensive, especially when converted from US to AUS Dollars.
NZ Fiords - We arrived in Milford sound early in the morning (7.30 - 9.30am) and because of the second time change (clocks go forward one hour on first day across Tasman and again on third day) there weren't that many people around. The naturalist commentator said it was the clearest he had seen Milford Sound in all the cruises he had been on. It really was beautiful with light hitting all the fresh greenery on the steep mountain walls. Because of recent rain there were lots and lots of small waterfalls cascading down and the large waterfalls were really gushing. Within only 30 minutes of entering the sound, the weather closed in and it started to rain. So bad luck to anyone that didn't wake up early enough to view the sound with the clear skies. We then cruised through Doubtful Sound from approx 12.15pm - 1.45pm and Dusky Sound 2.45pm - 5.00pm.
Dunedin - The ship offered a shuttle into town for US$6 per person each way. We didn't go into Dunedin but had a quick walk around the port town. We only stayed out for about 45 mins as it was windy and freezing cold.
Christchurch - Port of Lyttleton, the ship shuttle into town was US$7 per person each way. As it's a working port you're not allowed to walk out of the port. There is a free shuttle bus that takes you out of the port into the town of Lyttleton. We then caught the public bus (#28) into Christchurch. It cost NZ$2.80 each and included a 2 hour transfer which you could use to get back to the town of Lyttleton within 2 hours. One of the stops on the bus route was a cable car ride to the top of the mountain/crater rim. The driver of the free shuttle was very helpful and explained how to get the public bus. We walked around Christchurch city for a few hours looking a various shops and craft stalls set up in the square.
Wellington - The ship shuttle into town was US$5 per person each way. We walked into town which took about 20-25mins (with a stroller). After walking up and down the main street we went on the cable car which takes you to the top of Wellington and to the Botanic Gardens. The cable car was NZ$5 each return and gave us good views of the bay, city and the ship in the distance.
Volcanic White Island - We arrived close to the island at about 4.30pm and were able to get a great view into the centre of the crater. The Captain circled us around the island once and then basically stopped so we could enjoy the view during dinner at 6.00pm. It was great viewing and we got quite close. The best place to view it from is the top deck above the pool, if the weather is poor then try the Cosmos nightclub.
Tauranga - There was no shuttle as the port is right in the town. We walked around the nice main street, then back to the ship. There are also lots of beaches around this area within walking distance.
Auckland - we had a flight back to Sydney at 12.45. We didn't do any site seeing in Auckland.
At every port there were NZ tourist info people available to answer questions and provide you with maps.
Just another note on the ship tours. We were talking with a lovely American lady on the public bus on the way into Christchurch and she said she did a ship tour the day before which was a train to the Taieri Gorge. She said it cost her US$200 each and when she got to the train station she saw she could have purchased the ticket for NZ$49. She felt a bit ripped off and hence was on the public bus with us the next day.
At 7 months old, our little guy was too young to participate in the kids club, but we were allowed to take him to the toddler room and stay with him while he played. We went up there once and he had a play with some toys and with a sit/stand and spin activity table. He seemed to enjoy it. The staff also offered for us to check out a box of toddler toys to take back to our room, we didn't take it as we brought enough toys from home to keep him occupied. The kid's club area looked excellent and we wouldn't hesitate to let him attend when he is older. There weren't very many children on this cruise so the area was very quiet.
The Cruise Director James Calhoun was energetic and exactly what you expect from a cruise director. We had the opportunity to meet him when he welcomed us to the Cruise Critic Connections Party. Our get together was organized for the first day at 10.30am and it was great to meet the other cruise critic members. We were only able to stay for half and hour as our boy was hungry and tired, but I believe the other members chatted on till at least midday. I highly recommend going to your connections party. An interesting note that James told us at the CC party was the bulk passenger make up on the ship. Approx 700 Aussies, 600 US and a couple of hundred each of Canadian and New Zealanders. First time he said that Aussies out numbered Americans on one of their ships.
As we had our 7 month old with us, and he was exhausted by 7.30 at night, we didn't attend any of the shows. This didn't worry us at all as we are not really 'show' people. So while we can't pass judgment on the quality of the entertainment, here is the schedule of what was on:
Friday 14th - A taste of things to come show Saturday 15th - Simply Ballroom show Sunday 16th - Comedian Louis Johnson Monday 17th - Vocalist & Multi-Instrumentalist Hayden Smith Tuesday 18th - Boogie Wonderland Show Wednesday 19th - No theatre show, other activities instead Thursday 20th - iBroadway show Friday 21st - Starring You Gala Awards Night, featuring fellow guests as they sing dance tell jokes etc. Saturday 22nd - Australian Phantom of the Opera Donald Cant singing
Speaking with other passengers at the end of the cruise, they were disappointed that there wasn't a show on every night.
They have an ongoing activity called 'Starring you' in which people participate in various activities and winners are picked for the Awards Show. Things such as 'Celebrity Singing Star', 'Karaoke', 'Best photographer', 'Everybody Dance' and 'Jokester'. So remember to bring your best jokes and take some good pictures along the way if you're not a singer or dancer. (Entering best photo costs a couple of bucks but you get to keep the print after people vote) There was about 20 photos entered and there were really lovely picture of the sounds, and other animals seen on various tours.
The Celebrity Today brochure listed all activities for each day, these included movies, cards, basketball, paddle tennis, line dancing, darts, bingo, several trivia sessions, board games and enrichment seminars to name a few. While we didn't get really involved in any of the organized activities, we did enjoy sitting in the background, people watching and have a laugh.
Food and Service
We thought the service on board was excellent. Our waiter and assistant waiter were lovely and all other waiters and servers we met were great. We had the early seating for dinner, and had a small table for just the three of us. The menu was different every night and always included fours choices for Appetizers, two or three soups (usually one cold one) and two or three salads, four mains and about five dessert choices. Our waiter always brought around a tray with a selection of the desserts so you could see what each looked like before ordering. Often this meant we ordered dessert when we really hadn't planned to. The Baked Alaska parade on the second formal night was a bit of a laugh, and the dessert was ok, but it just didn't live up to the one that my mum cooks. The lobster was great as were the crepe suzettes.
We had breakfasts either in the main dining room or in the buffet. The main dining room was always less crowded and it was nice just to relax and have someone bring us our meal. Up in the buffet there was a large choice, but not of the things we normally each for breakfast. There were three or four egg/omelette chefs around cooking eggs as you like them or omelettes with any choice of about 15 fillings. The croissants were also nice. Bar staff always had a Bloody Mary special for breakfast for $2 if you like that sort of thing.
We had lunch again in either the main dining or the buffet. The main restaurant was closed for lunch on port days. The buffet food is ok, but we didn't really eat any of the pre prepared dishes as they weren't very hot. We had the freshly made pasta a few times where they cook up your ingredients in a pan then add pasta and either a cream or tomato based sauce. At least it was always hot and fresh. The sandwich bar at the aft of the buffet made lovely sandwiches or rolls if you just wanted something light.
Afternoon tea was served at 4.00pm and it made us laugh seeing people queue up for more food as though they are starved and haven't eaten for days.
Tea and coffee was available 24/7 as were a large variety of free water based drinks such as Punch, Pass-o-guava, American style lemonade, apple juice and iced tea. There were at least three different drinks of the day, each day. Alcoholic ones were $5 plus 15% gratuity and non-alcoholic ones were $4 plus 15% gratuity.
There were two formal nights, which were quite fun. Pretty much everyone we saw was dressed up for the occasion, which was nice.
We thoroughly enjoyed to food, particularly the fact that we didn't have to cook it, serve it up or clean it away.
During your cruise you are required to fill in a disembarkation questionnaire. On it you detail what arrangements you have for disembarkation day, such as flight times, and whether you will be using ship transfers or making you own arrangements. We asked guest relations how much the ship transfers were to Auckland airport and couldn't believe they were charging about US$60 each. We decided to catch the Airbus http://www.airbus.co.nz/home/ which was a short walk from the pier (few hundred meters about 10 mins) which cost us NZ$15 each.
As with most cruises, you need to have your bags packaged and outside you door by midnight the night before. Our disembarkation meeting time was 7.40 and we were led off the ship at about 7.50. Disembarkation was very smooth and quick and our bags were waiting for us in the correct color and numbered area. We were at the Airbus stop by 8.00am and at the airport before 9.00pm.
If you wish the line to charge the gratuities to your sea pass card, you must sign a request delivered to your room. On the request you list how many passengers you are paying for and you have the option at the bottom to add any additional tips to whomever you like. We chose to prepay as it meant we didn't have to get any USD.
Make sure you bring you swimmers for Thalassotherapy pool in the Aquaspa. It's a large heated (about 34 degrees) pool with pressure jets under a glass roof. It was never crowded when we were there and it was really relaxing - it's also adults only and free.
Pack a jumper if you plan on being outside viewing the NZ Fiords.
Be prepared for the photographers. We had about five photos taken at each formal night, plus embarkation photos, portraiture photos, debarkation at port photos etc. At least they weren't very pushy about doing them, if you said not thanks they left you alone. Unfortunately the photos are very expensive. US$16.95 for embarkation/port photos and US$20 for formal night or portraiture photos. They did have package deals with were for 6 photos, cruise DVD, leather wallet and some stock photos for about US$110, but that was just too expensive for us. I also asked if you could purchase the digital file for a photo, which of course you could - for US$75 per file. I was hoping that they would discount the photos on the last day, but nope, buy them or they will just throw them out.
They make a DVD of each cruise, so if you want a good souvenir make sure you participate in the activities so you appear in the video.
Our ship was booked out, but it never felt full. The Cosmos lounge/nightclub on the top deck was a great place during the day with great views and not many people.
On debarkation day, avoid the ocean cafe buffet. It was so busy up there that you couldn't get a seat. You're better off going to the main restaurant for breakfast.
We had a really wonderful, relaxing cruise; especially given we were traveling with our 7 month old - Who I have to say was the perfect child. He didn't squeal during dinner, he slept 10-11 hours each night; he played quietly while we did various activities and he looked very spiffy wearing his tuxedo bodysuit. Read Less