Celebrity Millennium Cruise Review by mrs-j
- Sail Date: December 2003
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
INTRODUCTION My husband and I are in our mid-thirties. My husband had never been on a cruise before this one. My past cruise experience has been with Disney Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean, so I had a fair set of expectations for this cruise. We picked Celebrity because of its reputation for food, and because we perceived it as a mainstream, yet upscale line. We upgraded to Concierge Class and I was very much looking forward to the extra pampering that Concierge Class promised.
This review is not a chronological outline of our cruise. Rather, I have grouped the major points that are important to me when I cruise and discussed them, taking into account the entire cruise experience. To summarize my impressions of the experience, I have used a 0-10 scale on how well I feel Celebrity performed in each of these areas. I based the score and my summaries on two things: My past experiences with other cruise lines, and how well Celebrity did, or did not, live up to the levels of amenities and services that they advertise.
Fair warning: In some parts of this review I am quite negative about aspects in which I felt Celebrity was lacking. In spite of my disappointment with the line and some services and amenities, we did still have a fantastic time.
EMBARKATION / FIRST IMPRESSIONS [9/10] We arrived at Port Everglades at 11:30AM on the day of our embarkation. After handing our bags over to a porter, it was a brief walk to the pier terminal, where we were directed to the priority processing area for Concierge Class room holders. This was the first, and last, time we experienced priority embarkation or disembarkation. We signed in and were on board the ship in under ten minutes. Once on board we were offered a glass of champagne or chilled orange juice. We took the champagne and asked where we should go to make reservations for the Olympic. We were directed to the restaurant itself, and waited around awhile until someone came by and told us we needed to head up to deck 10 to make our reservations.
We explored the ship and took some photos of it, as it was still nearly empty. Celebrity thoughtfully provides an introductory note to all early-arriving passengers letting them know where food is available and what areas they might want to visit until their stateroom is ready at 1PM.
STATEROOM APPEARANCE / CONCIERGE CLASS AMENITIES [8/10] We stayed in stateroom 9050 on the Sky deck. The stateroom held no real surprises, it was roomy, thoughtfully laid out and tastefully decorated with light wood and bright (but not too bright) colors. Our deck had two chairs with blue chair pads and a small table. Inside we had a couch and a queen sized bed. There was a mini-bar in our room under the television. A nice touch - I have never been on a cruise that had a mini-bar refrigerator. Unfortunately, the refrigerator just barely chilled any beverages in it.
Celebrity's advertises many amenities in their new, much-touted Concierge Class level. Among them are plush bathrobes, fresh flowers, a fruit bowl, welcome champagne, a pillow menu, daily delivery of canapEs in the afternoon, a hair dryer, personalized stationery, a Hans Grohe showerhead and a Celebrity tote bag. The pillow menu was terrific; I requested a body pillow and my husband requested a comfort pillow. Both were astounding. The special showerhead was in fact, nothing special. And the personalized stationery was just a few sheets of paper with our room number and "Mr. & Mrs. J" laser printed on them. The canapEs? More about those under the next section.
Noise and Overhang: Many people seem very concerned about both noise and the overhang on the 9th floor staterooms. We found neither particularly bothersome. Around 9AM I heard the scraping of chairs overhead briefly, perhaps just a few seconds each day, as they readied the Aqua Spa lounge area. The sounds were muffled and brief. The overhang was actually quite nice. We enjoyed the feeling of being nestled up under it safe from the searing sun, or the rain shower that we experienced on the morning of our arrival to San Juan.
STATEROOM SERVICE [6/10] Our service got off to a strong start, but as the cruise wore on became more and more spotty. By the last night, I was highly disappointed with the service from our stateroom attendant and her assistant. I was pleased with their service on the first day, but was disappointed daily when I returned to our room in the afternoon to find none of Celebrity's Concierge Class canapEs in the room. Celebrity advertises daily afternoon canapEs as one of their Concierge Class perks but we never received any without having to ask around, in spite of the fact that we saw other attendants delivering them to room after room each afternoon. One afternoon I picked up the phone and called to request that some be delivered, as we were hungry and tired and didn't want to leave the room. They arrived and after tasting them, I stopped being disappointed that we didn't receive them on a daily basis! They tasted stale and were not at all to our liking.
We had room service on most mornings. It was always delivered punctually with a phone call about two minutes before it arrived. For some reason on the last two nights of the cruise, we did not receive breakfast service menus when our room was turned down for the night. We had to call around to find them. On the last night of the cruise it was especially annoying as there were no stateroom attendants in the hallways. I tried dialing the Stateroom Services line, the Room Attendant line, the Guest Services line and finally the Concierge Class line from the phone and no one picked up at any of those numbers. Finally, I spent about twenty minutes waiting in the hallway until I found an employee taking other passengers' room service requests from their doors and asked him if he could get us one.
At this point I was regretting giving our stateroom attendant and her assistant a generous tip just a few hours earlier. Our room service not only slacked off at the end, but downright disappeared after the tip envelopes were handed out.
SHIP AREAS AND ACTIVITIES [8/10] I had read many criticisms of the design of Millennium-class ships. From the dreaded overhang to the lack of a full track around the promenade level of the ship, many people have found many things to criticize about this class of ships. I had studied the deck plans so I knew what to expect. I found the layout to be a little crowded at times, and I don't think it did wonders for traffic flow. There were some very congested areas on the ship. But with over 2,000 passengers, I don't know if there was any design that could have improved upon this.
Celebrity has many lounges and bars. The Cosmos lounge at the front of the ship is where many of the evening's recreational activities are held. We thoroughly enjoyed that area and the view that it offered. The Extreme sports bar at the front of the ship wasn't nearly as crowded. I didn't stay there long because the chairs in that lounge were poorly designed an extremely uncomfortable. Other lounges on the ship include the upscale Michael's Piano Bar, the Platinum Club which houses the martini bar and the brightly decorated Rendez Vous lounge. A coffee bar, the Cova Cafe, is located midship and offers higher end coffee drinks such as espresso and cappuccino.
The lounging and sunning areas on the ship were plentiful, but on sea days there were rarely chairs available anywhere. The Aqua Spa has an enclosed lounge area near the Thalassotherapy pool which is quite nice. The pool had at least four hot tubs around it and nicely padded deck chairs which were filled to excess whenever the weather was warm and the sun was out. The jogging track was on the deck above and was surrounded by more lounge chairs (these were non-padded). There were more of these available so that's where we spent our at-sea days. Many of the areas were served by roaming bartenders, and attendants handing out cold cloths, which was very nice. The afternoon sorbet out by the pool was fantastic as well.
There were miscellaneous activity areas: A shuffleboard section, a ping pong table that seemed out of place on a lower deck and a basketball court. The Fun Factory, an area for kids, was located aft of the ship and was a ghost town. We also found an arcade somewhere on the ship, I can't recall where. It was a ghost town as well.
Cruise Critic Party: One of the biggest disappointments on my cruise was that Celebrity once again dropped the ball on the Cruise Critic party gathering. I had heard of this happening at least once before on a recent Millennium cruise but did not expect it would happen to us. I arrived back at my stateroom at 11PM one night to find our invitation to the Cruise Critic party. That was all well and good, except the party had occurred at 11AM that very same day! So I missed a chance to get to meet the Cruise Critic folks on board our ship. I was very disappointed in Celebrity's screwup.
THE ELEMIS SPA [7/10] My husband and I both booked a massage for our first at-sea day on Monday. My husband loved his massage, and I found that my masseur, "Oz", was one of the top three massage therapists I've ever had. Unfortunately, the massage had to end and the hard sell of the Elemis products had to begin. I did not like feeling pressured to buy products, and neither did my husband. Disney never resorted to hard sells after their massages, and I don't understand why Celebrity, a line that tries to market itself as "upscale" resorts to such low-end tactics. One of our tablemates did fall for the hard sell and purchased $159 worth of products. When she told us this, she also told us she regretted doing it and how much the hard-sell put a damper on her fantastic massage.
METROPOLITAN DINING ROOM - FOOD QUALITY [8/10] SERVICE [7/10] The Metropolitan Dining room has a beautiful blue ceiling overlooking the expansive two story dining area. On the aft end is a huge set of picture windows which were always dark during our cruise as we had the late seating. We were seated at a table for 8, but there were only 6 of us. By the second night, the extra chairs and place settings were removed, giving us ample room.
On the first night our maitre'd came to us and asked if we would mind hosting one of the officers of the ship on the first formal night, the next night of the cruise. We said we'd love to, of course. And so we hosted Christian, the Food and Beverage manager, on the first formal night. It was a treat as the wine flowed freely and was complimentary. Christian was a very personable Austrian man who was tall with a peaches-and-cream complexion. When he opened his mouth, however, he sounded exactly like Arnold Schwarzenneger with that accent! It was very interesting to listen to him, and very strange to hear that familiar accent come out of someone who looked so unlike Ahnold.
Ironically, the worst meal I had at the Metropolitan restaurant was on the night of Christian's attendance, though I didn't dare say anything. I had a shrimp scampi style dish and the pasta was a gluey massive brick. Other than that one fiasco, the food was quite tasty in the restaurant. I thoroughly enjoyed my filet, and the lobster tails as well. We had very genial service from Preston and Cristina, our wait staff. Cristina was always fast with the dressing and water refills. We did suffer relatively long waits trying to get our sommelier to our table, and waiting for ground pepper and other small things like that. It was not uncommon for us to be through with our appetizers and soups before the wine or drinks we had requested showed up.
CASUAL DINING - FOOD QUALITY [7/10] The Ocean Grill on deck 10 serves buffet-style food throughout the lunch hours, and an area nearby serves ice cream. There are also pizzas, hamburgers, hot dogs and fries available by the pool. Every evening a sushi bar is served at the Ocean Grill. We never ate in the Metropolitan for lunch as our schedules rarely allowed it. We dined in the Ocean Grill at least once a day. The food was good for buffet-quality food. The pizza was bland and be forewarned - what looks like a cheese and pesto style pizza is actually a blue cheese pizza. Blech. The burgers were dry and overcooked. The sushi, however, was outstanding. The Greek salad served aft of the ship at the salad bar is fantastic and authentic, but keep an eye out for it. They only serve it one day during the cruise.
OLYMPIC DINING ROOM - FOOD QUALITY [10/10] SERVICE [10/10] There is no superlative that I can use for this restaurant that hasn't been used already by someone else, so I will be brief. The food at the Olympic was fantastic. The service was also fantastic. Watching the waiters work their tables, with the sommeliers and their assistants all mulling about the room was like watching a well-orchestrated dance. I had the Goat Cheese SoufflE, which entirely lived up to its reputation, as did the Steak Diane. My husband had the Rack of Lamb and we both got chocolate soufflEs for dessert.
Our sommelier was delightful. My husband was looking at a Chilean red and our sommelier winced a bit and said it was far too tannic for his liking. He asked if we liked very tannic wines - and I specifically do not. I told him what I liked in a wine and he gave us three or four alternatives. We told him what we would be ordering for dinner and asked him which one he recommended. He gave us his recommendation and we went with that. He said, "If you do not like it, just let me know. I'll be happy to drink the rest of it myself!" He checked by three or four times to make sure we enjoyed our wine, and it was the best wine we had on the ship.
MIDNIGHT GRAND BUFFET [9/10] / GOURMET BITES [6/10] The Midnight Grand Buffet, held on the last formal night, is splendid, featuring almost a dozen large ice sculptures. Flowers and decorations are entirely made out of edible fruits, sugars and even cheeses. It is worth waiting up for, even if you might be stuffed from the lobster dinner. I took many photographs of the Grand Buffet and have included them on my Millennium photo website which is listed at the bottom of this review.
As an alternative to multiple late night buffets, Celebrity offers "Gourmet Bites" on many evenings in the clubs and lounges. These are small appetizers handed out by roaming waiters. I tried many and found the quality varied wildly from "Absolutely Awful, Where is my Drink So I Can Wash That Foul Taste Out of My Mouth?" to quite tasty. The first night of the Gourmet Bites was the most disappointing. They improved greatly throughout the cruise.
CELEBRITY THEATER / ENTERTAINMENT [6/10] We attended Celebrity's "Broadway" show, the "Classique" show, and the final night's show, the Celebrity-produced "FantaSea" show. We missed "Pure Platinum" on the first night and so can't speak about that. The Broadway-themed show began and then stopped abruptly due to a technical failure. It resumed 15 minutes later after half of the theater had cleared out. It wasn't particularly notable. I really did not enjoy "Classique", which seemed forced and jumped around far too much theme-wise for my tastes. Plus, there were multiple spotlight failures during that show as well. After leaving "Classique" I began to wonder if any major show on this ship went on without noticeable glitches. Fortunately, Celebrity truly saved the best for last. "FantaSea" was very well-done. It was a varied and classic show that left me holding my breath and anticipating more, rather than looking at my watch wondering when the show would be over, as I had during the previous two.
Entertainment around the ship and on the non-production nights was also varied. The a capella group seemed like they were trying to be the Backstreet Boys without any instruments. On our final night, our comedy juggler in the Celebrity Theater had us laughing uproariously. He was one of the best shows we saw all week long. The concert pianist featured, Craig Dahn, was long on Liberace-flash and ego and short on real piano work. He played a lot of chords and arpeggios, which look more complicated than they are, but didn't tackle the more difficult portions of Beethoven's 'Fur Elise' on stage, which I have worked on as a very elementary pianist.
PORTS OF CALL / SHORE EXCURSIONS AND ACTIVITIES CASA DE CAMPO [5/10] - Everyone knocks on Casa de Campo and I am pleased to say it's not as awful as everyone has made it out to be, but it's not fantastic either. There's not much to do on this seemingly dull section of the Dominican Republic. We signed up for the Bayahibe Beach Break and found it a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time at Casa de Campo. We did not see the Kandela production in the evening, opting instead to head back to the ship to dine at the Olympic.
SAN JUAN [7/10] We did no organized tours in San Juan and we didn't need to. We docked and walked through the streets, taking pictures until we hit the other side of the island (it's a narrow island in the area where we docked). I got some spectacular shots at an old cemetery along the water and at a castle. We shopped a bit and had lunch in town before heading back to the ship.
ST. THOMAS [8/10] This was our favorite stop. St. Thomas is the most built up of all the islands we visited and is an eastern Caribbean port staple. Nearly every cruise ship goes here once. This was my fourth time in St. Thomas. We did the Turtle Cove Snorkeling and Sailing tour from this stop and it was the best snorkeling tour I've ever been on. The company who runs it, Doubloon (www.doubloon.com) provides a guided tour of Turtle Cove for approximately 30 minutes if you wish to follow along. There's a full hour of snorkeling, so you can do the tour and then go on your own for the next half hour. On the way back to the ship they were extremely generous with the rum punch, salsa, chips and even the Doubloon temporary tattoos. I recommend this tour to anyone who likes snorkeling, and who would love to see some sea turtles in their natural habitat.
NASSAU / PARADISE ISLAND [7/10] I had never been to Nassau and didn't know what to expect. We did no organized tour here either. The port was slightly chilly, around 70-75 degrees with no humidity. It cooled down as the afternoon wore on. We were in Nassau from noon to 6PM. We left the ship shortly after noon and walked out of the major touristy area. Nassau seemed clean and attractive. We walked down to the west bay to see the lighthouse. It took about an hour and we passed by a number of gorgeous spots, plus the Pirates Pub where we stopped for a beer.
From the west bay area we took a cab to the Cloisters on Paradise Island for about $15 for both of us. The Cloisters are hard to describe, but they are very old stones that had been left to languish, and were purchased and reconstructed in a beautiful section of Paradise Island. Pictures of the Cloisters can be found at my photo website listed below. We also went to the gardens on Paradise Island. From there we walked back to the main entrance to the island where the bridges are and from where you can easily see Atlantis. We took a $3 per person ferry ride back to our port in Nassau. Our guide on the ferry was very entertaining. Once we got back to Nassau we did some shopping in the area and saw a festival going on up at Bay Street. By this time it was 5PM and all of the walking and sightseeing had us worn out. We'd love to go back to Nassau again.
DISEMBARKATION [0/10] All too soon it was time to leave the ship. We heard during the disembarkation talk that we were scheduled to dock at Pier 31 at Port Everglades. Our flight was out at 11:50AM from FLL, so we had beige tags, indicating we were to be 2nd off the ship. There was no priority disembarkation specifically for Concierge Class members listed.
To be fair, I do not believe Celebrity could help this situation, but our disembarkation was the worst I have ever experienced on any cruise. It was the worst process imaginable. I couldn't believe how painful disembarkation was after hearing how blissfully fast it was for previous cruisers. Later, we found out that Broward County had a record number of cruise ships in port on the 21st of December (16 cruise ships, they bragged in their flyer which congratulated all of the enormously inconvenienced passengers that day for being a part of a "historic" moment.) Because Port Everglades wanted a slew of money and a "record" and didn't care about convenience for anyone involved that day, we were shuffled off the ship onto a bus that took a 15 minute drive to the Broward County Conference Center. Once there, we were not allowed to get off the bus. Instead, we were forced to sit in an overheated bus, with loud music blaring, for another hour while each bus in front of us unloaded (10-15 minutes per bus to get off all the passengers, any handicapped passengers, their carry on's, etc.)
There was near mutiny. Several passengers were bordering on missing their flights. We were two of them. 75 minutes from the time we walked off the cruise ship until the time we could get to our luggage was simply, disgustingly, outrageous. Laughably, they told us after we claimed our luggage to get on another bus to go to the airport. I told the woman there was no way I would ever board another bus there again and she directed me several buses down to the taxi area. There was no organization to the taxi area, people were all clustered around and there was no line. We ended up traipsing across grass and through bushes to find an available taxi so we could get to the airport just in time to make it through security for our flight.
For this reason alone, I am seriously considering never leaving from this port again. While this seemed to be a one-time occurrence, it was clear that the folks at Port Everglades had their priorities and their processes seriously screwed up. It was a miserable ending to what was otherwise quite a solid cruise. As I said, I don't think it was Celebrity's fault, but it certainly reflected very negatively on the entire trip.
PASSENGER MIX As I wrote earlier, we are in our thirties. Of the passengers on board, Dru Pavlov, our cruise director, mentioned that only about 100 were under 18. There were very few children on board and the ones we saw were very well behaved. There were a large number of very elderly people on board. A solid majority were over 75. My husband and I met one couple just a few years older than us and saw only a few people who appeared to be around our age. In many cases, this was not a problem at all, but a few times we felt the age difference pretty heavily. Most notably, it was very hard to get good seats for shows as they tended to fill 30-45 minutes before the show was even scheduled to begin. It seemed that our passenger mix loved to get somewhere very, very early and wait.
We also encountered some unexpected rudeness from a few elderly passengers. The "lounge chair hogs" were out in full force on this trip and it was impossible to find a good lounge chair by the pool. As we were sailing from Casa de Campo, my husband and I spotted four empty lounge chairs on the pool deck. I asked the gentleman standing next to them if they were claimed and he said he didn't think so. No towels or personal belongings were on them, so my husband and I settled down in two of the chairs. A few moments later an elderly woman with a cane and her husband came screaming at us to get out of "their" chairs, yelling that all of them were "reserved". I told her that there were no personal items anywhere near the chairs and she started waving her cane at me and yelling louder, giving me a lecture about not respecting elders and stealing her chair. I was taken aback by her horrible behavior and as we got up, all I could do was say, "You are extremely rude!" She continued to yell at us as we were leaving. An elderly woman a few chairs down saw the whole thing and offered us her chair, which we of course declined. I thought that was very kind of her, but I was shaken by the whole thing. I have never seen anyone behave so rudely in public in my life, and unfortunately, it soured me on the experience of sailing with this group.
There were other similar, but more toned-down situations. Some of the elderly passengers would just walk right ahead of us in lines at the buffet, as if they didn't see us standing there. On Bayahibe beach, I was standing in a very nice beach spot putting down our beach bag and laying out our shoes while my husband moved over a lounge chair from further down on the beach. An older woman from our ship walked right up to where I was, told me to move and without even glancing at me turned around and directed one of the staff members to put down her chair where all of our things were. Overall, I was left speechless by the rude behavior I witnessed from a few of other passengers on this cruise. I had never seen this type of behavior on my other cruises.
SUMMARY I was not as thrilled by the Celebrity experience as I had hoped I would be. Celebrity's service, productions, and even my fellow passengers fell short of my expectations for this cruise. Their food, however, did not disappoint and we were also very impressed with their bartenders and bar servers.
My husband and I talked several times on this cruise about what we wanted to do for our next cruise. He definitely enjoyed the cruise experience, and we both want to cruise again next winter. We have decided that we will probably leave Celebrity for awhile and go back to Royal Caribbean or Disney Cruise Lines for our next cruise. We'll most likely go with Royal Caribbean and sail on one of their monster ships, which tend to attract a younger crowd. Our Celebrity cruise was a nice experience, but I think we're in search of something a little different next time.
Thank you for reading this far, and if you are interested in any photos you can find them at:
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