A sign of good vacation is a sense of sadness as it comes to a close. My mood right now makes it pretty clear that this was a FANTASTIC vacation. We just got off the ship, after being on for 14 nights, and it was a sad event to step off for the last time. I was originally hesitant about doing a 2 week cruise (the longest we have ever done), but I am now jealous of those who we have met who have booked to stay on the cruise even longer.
I totally agree with Brad. If it wasn’t for the bloody internet pricing and speed as you will see below, I could stay longer too! The ship itself wasn't perfect, but the itinerary, the people (some to most of them) made it a great vacation.
This has been the 8th cruise that Steven and I have gone on together. Our first on Celebrity, and our first in Asia. Starting in Singapore, we hit ports that took us to Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Hanoi, and finally Hong Kong. Steven will be writing a post to sum up the ports (although you can read more about our One Night In Bangkok here). Right now I want to talk a bit about the cruise itself.
Before going on any vacation, I try to do lots of research. The best place to read up on cruises and cruise ships is on cruisecritic.com. What I read there scared me quite a bit about this ship. There were so many negative reviews about the Celebrity Millennium, and very few positive. While I certainly found there were a few problems on the ship, in my opinion the positives more that outweigh the negatives.
We knew the Millennium wasn’t the biggest or newest ship in Celebrity’s fleet, but it had gone through a big renovation a few years ago to update the common areas and amenities. Many of the reviews on cruisecritic.com talked about how run down the ship felt. After having been on this ship for almost 2 weeks, I can report that these people have no idea what they are talking about. Or (more likely) they are the types of people who can only find the negative in anything. I will give them that there are a few tiny areas that could be fixed up (some of the elevator buttons and cabin door numbers are worn out), but other than that we found the ship extremely clean and well maintained.
One thing about the ship that I just loved was the glass elevators. Normally the elevators on cruise ships are slow and never come when you need them. These elevators are smooth, reliable and I think they are programmed well. Yes, is random, but it is the small things that impress me.
We tend to be food snobs, but we have realistic expectations when it comes to cruise ship food. We understand that when you are cooking for 2,000+, you aren’t going to have the same caliber of food as an evening at Per Se. So our rating of the food in the main dining room is a solid B. For the most part, nothing spectacular, but definitely edible and tasty. A few misses (they can’t seem to do a tuna steak rare), but we never left the dining room hungry.
The big problem we had with the dining room was with the service. The wait staff were all friendly and attempted to be as helpful as they could - but I think they were just understaffed, especially when it came to drink service. For the first half of the cruise, we often wouldn’t get asked if we wanted drinks until the main course was being served! And forget about being asked for coffee over dessert! I did feel a bit sorry for the woman doing drink service, since it was obvious that she had too many tables to cover. Things seemed to improve over the second week, so it appears that they recognized the problem (or had enough complaints) and properly staffed our section. But more importantly, we didn’t let the poor service ruin our dinner. We enjoyed the people we were sitting with, so the longer dinner just meant more time to spend with them!
Thankfully, our seat mates were awesome. We actually had the ugly lights come on a few times which was our cue to go. Lucky for us, our table was the best looking of the bunch so we didn’t mind. I’m sure the staff did though, they had to clean around us on quite a few occasions.
There are two specialty restaurants on board, of which we only tried one: QSine. Steven will be posting a separate review of that. The other restaurant is Olympic. We did not try it, but we spoke to those who did who gave it good reviews.
On the scale of cruise ships, I would rank the buffet on the Celebrity Millennium above what we have experienced on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, but below every Carnival ship we have been on. (I know everyone gives Carnival a bad rap, but recent troubles aside, we think they are a great line and we love to cruise with them. We find their food great). For breakfast the buffet on the Millennium had a number of omelet stations set up, so there was rarely any waiting. For lunch and dinner these transformed into stir fry sections -- they big issue there is that stir fries take a while to make, so there was often a bit of a wait. The rest of the food on the buffet was fine - although not as much of a selection as we were used to on Carnival.
I did find the buffet to be reliable, always a salad and some meat dishes that satisfied my meat needs. I have to say that I’m proud to announce that I did not have one buffet dessert or piece of bread from the bread girl. Oh, and for shits and giggles I did take a peanut butter egg, but didn't make it past the nasty peanut butter sauce.
About a week before we left on the cruise, we were surprised and excited to get word that because of a promotion, we had been upgraded to an unlimited drink package. That entitled us to free “non-premium” alcoholic drinks, pop, bottled water, and coffee drinks from the coffee shop. While we aren’t huge alcohol drinkers, this turned out to be a HUGE added value. While having dinner, the sommelier would keep filling up our wine glass, since there was no issue with having to keep track of how many glasses we were having. Almost every day we would relax at the coffee shop area and enjoy a latte. Before getting off the ship for an excursion we could get a big bottle of water for free. I did have to slum it with Stoli vodka rather than my normal (premium) Ketel One, but I managed to survive. (Although for an extra $10 a day we could have upgraded to the premium alcohol package that DID include Ketel One).
Having unlimited drinks was the shit. And the martini bar was always fun. They have a frosted bar top and the bartenders tend to be showmen, pouring up to 12 martinis at a time. Lot's of fun!
However, my BIG BEEF with the drinks on the cruise is something that drives me nuts almost EVERYWHERE when it’s overlooked. I am something of a Diet Coke connoisseur, and am very picky about it. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Diet Coke (and most diet pop) has a best-before date printed on the bottom, because the artificial sweetener looses its sweetness over time. All of the canned Diet Coke on the ship was past this date, and did not taste correct. I mentioned this to the wait staff to pass on to the bar manager, and they were very apologetic about it. I was polite about it -- it’s not the wait staff’s fault -- and they can’t snap their fingers and have fresh cases of Diet Coke airlifted to the ship. But I plan to write a written comment to the bar manager to make sure that this gets reviewed for future cruises, so my fellow Diet Coke addicts don’t have to endure this horror.
We were in a category C2 cabin - a standard sized cabin with balcony. The cabin was comparable in size to other cruise ships we have been on, but the shower was much larger, which was nice. The balcony was fairly small with two chairs and a small table, but on this itinerary we didn’t end up using it much anyway.
Our travel agent recommended that we get a cabin in the “Concierge Class”, since it wasn’t much more money, and it comes with additional perks. Since we have never sailed with Celebrity before, we don’t have a basis of comparison, but apparently the Concierge Class gave us fluffier towels, bath robes, better bath products and a nicer shower head. Booking the Concierge Class also gave us priority boarding, champagne in the room on the first day, fresh flowers in the bathroom, and a small plate of hors d’oeuvres delivered to the cabin each afternoon. Overall we were very happy with the cabin.
One other thing about Concierge class is that it gives you an extra point for status on the cruise line. So we get one for cruising, 1 for concierge and 1 for a cruise over 12 days. So we rocked three points... we will soon have some status after our next Celebrity cruise. Oh and no pictures. We are slobs and the only pictures we took were of a messy room. So use your imagination.
As is pretty well known, Steven and I go into internet withdrawal if we do not have access to the net at almost all times. Being in the middle of the South China Sea is no exception. While it falls under the classification of “first world problems”, it is frustrating that technology still hasn’t reached the point where everyone on a cruise ship can have access to fast and affordable internet while on board. Actually, we would even be willing to forgo some of the “affordable” part in order to make it faster, or at least reliable.
The general rate for the internet is 75 cents per minute, but it becomes cheaper if you buy a package with multiple minutes. We ended up getting the largest package - $400 for 1666 minutes, which brought the net price down to 24 cents per minute. Yes, it seems like a lot of money and a lot of minutes, but Steven has been busy doing work for his clients during sea days, so those minutes were a necessity and got used.
The issue we had was with reliability. We can understand that access is going to be slow at times, with potentially hundreds of passengers and crew attempting to access the same satellite connection. But there were many times during the cruise when the entire system was down, and it was impossible to log-in . Even more frustrating were the times that we had access, but it was impossible to access their system to log OUT, which meant that the minutes kept ticking away. There was one day that I had to run down to the internet lounge where the staff there had to do something to force the log out. (Although to be fair, we know of others who complained and had bonus minutes added to their account, so the ship is taking some responsibility for it).
Ugh. But I survived.
Despite some of the negatives pointed out above, this has been one of the best vacations I have taken. The people we have met, the places we have seen, and the experiences we have had are unforgettable. I don’t recall having 2 weeks straight of so much fun. I really wish were staying on the ship for 2 more weeks and doing the return journey south!
I too immensely enjoyed the cruise. A big part due to the people we were with. We do have one complaint though... people are allowed to smoke way too close to the ping pong tables... it definitely messed up my game.
This article is in the category: Travel.