Celebrity is a premium cruise line with beautiful ships and top-notch service, a step above parent company Royal Caribbean.
In 1997, Celebrity Cruises was acquired by Royal Caribbean International, parent company to Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, and it now operates as a sister company under the RCI umbrella. While the acquisition was something of a disappointment for the Celebrity employees and their fans, it did keep Celebrity ships on their keels and has kept the line going strong. At the time the line had just three modest ships, the Galaxy, Horizon and Century. As od now only the Century remains in the fleet, the other two having been traded to some of the European subsidiaries of Royal Caribbean International.
In mid- 2000, Celebrity launched the first of its four 91,000-ton "Project Millennium" ships ( four sister ships; Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation), intended to establish Celebrity as a credible competitor to Crystal, but for a rather younger clientele. These ships signaled the beginning of a new era of technologically sophisticated cruise ships, including innovative, more environmentally friendly, gas turbine propulsion systems and pod propulsion systems that make a ship far more maneuverable.
Unfortunately, time moves on and things like gas-turbine engines have become too expensive to run in today's high fuel pricing environment. And the propulsion pods on these ships have been known to require maintenance on several occasions spawning a lawsuit between the cruise line and the maker. When a pod goes bad a ship must usually be dry-docked for a repair requiring canceling a cruise.
Internally, the most striking features about the Millennium class of ships are three-deck atriums and gigantic 25,000 sq.ft. spas, including a solarium and health club. There are full-service floral conservatories created by the noted Parisian floral designer, Emilio Robba, on board -- the first living flower gardens at sea. Exterior glass elevators provide panoramic ocean views.
Innovative alternative restaurants on each of the ships pays homage to celebrated ocean liners of the past. Originally, these hugely popular restaurants offered custom designed menus by noted chef Michel Roux featuring authentic recipes from the grand era of shipboard oceanic transversal. It should be noted, however, that as of January, 2007, Celebrity has ended it 15-year relationship with Michel Roux as executive chef, with no replacement announced. The line still boasts a superior culinary claim, however, and with its galleys designed for optimum freshness in preparation and serving, and the cost per passenger for food services remaining roughly the same as before, so far it does not appear that much has been lost.
Newly boarded passengers are greeted with a "welcome aboard" mimosa or a glass of sparkling wine. During their cruises they'll find an array of tempting shops in the Emporium complex, a spa café dining option with the focus on healthier, low-fat ingredients, poolside fashion shows and wine tasting, a revamped sports deck, extensive golf programs, and the innovative Acupuncture at Sea program. They'll enjoy the singing of roving a cappella groups, and will be offered a seminar or two on such topics as astronomy, photography, personal investing, or history.
Millennium-class ships feature some of the the largest suites at sea; over half the staterooms have private verandas, including six disabled-access suites with balconies. Celebrity's "signature" features include the piano bar/martini bar known as Michael's Club, the elegant Cova Cafe of Milan for coffee, and the AquaSpa, which, be assured, richly merits attention. Art-lovers will revel in the line's remarkable collection.
In January 2004, Celebrity unveiled Celebrity Xpeditions, offering small-ship adventure cruising in the Galapagos Islands aboard the program's 2,842-ton, 98-passenger namesake. These casual, 10-night Galapagos sailings include unique and active shore excursions such as snorkeling and hiking, as well as a pre and post-cruise stay in Quito, Ecuador.
In 2006 Celebrity put the Celebrity Century in dry-dock for $55 million refurbishment including the addition of new suites and many features found on the Millennium-class vessels. Details are in the individual review for Century. Mercury is slated to receive the same treatment in the first half of 2007.
A new class of vessels known as the Solstice Class started emerging late 2008. Four of these vessels have now been delivered approximately one year apart. The sister ships; number one named Celebrity Solstice, number two; Celebrity Equinox, number three; Celebrity Eclipse; number four Silhouette and number five Reflection, are 122,000 gross tons and carry 2850 guests (the last two carry slightly over 3000 guests). They are 1033 feet long and 121 feet wide. Their added size allows Celebrity to offer larger standard staterooms, a higher percentage of balconies and an exceptional range of guest-inspired services and amenities.
The latest upgrade the Celebrity cruises is the "Solsticization" of the Millennium class of vessels. The first vessel to receive this treatment was Constellation in 2010 with the remaining three receiving their upgrades with the next two years pending the availability of dry dock facilities. The upgrade process requires about 15 days.
If it's luxury without pomposity at a reasonable price you're after, Celebrity may well be your cruise line.
While the line's adherence to a traditional dress code (two formal and two informal nights on a seven-night cruise), music library, dedicated chess area, floral conservatory, and subdued décor might suggest otherwise, these are actually quite upbeat ships, with eagerly frequented casinos, floor shows, cabaret lounges, and piano bars. Honestly, with so many Greek staff members, especially officers, how could the line be pompous? This, after all, is a cruise line, that offers delivery of pizza right to your cabin.
These ships' technologically advanced interactive television systems enable you to order wine for dinner, book shore excursion, or play games of chance without even leaving your cabin. Cabins are spacious, and include such goodies as hair dryers, in-cabin massages, and in-cabin dining from the restaurant menus, including full breakfast service. Suite amenities are conspicuously superior to most mid-market lines', with butlers serving meals in-suite and assisting with unpacking and packing.
Celebrity's new Concierge Class offers premium ocean view staterooms with plusher furnishings and service-related perks like priority check-in. Originally available only on Millennium-class ships, the program has proved so popular that it is now available fleetwide, and continues to be expanded.
Celebrity's entertainment isn't up to the level of Royal Caribbean's or Carnival's. But the most glorious spas afloat take some of the sting out of that.
On the Solstice-class vessels the AquaSpa cabins offer fast and open access to the ship's thermal suite of steam baths, rain showers and saunas. These staterooms also come with special dining in a restaurant called "Blu."
On one-week Caribbean and Alaska cruises most passengers will be well into their 40's and 50's. During vacation and holiday periods, of course, a lot more families are evident. On longer cruises, including Europe and South America itineraries, retired seniors predominate. While children do cruise during vacations, some Alaska cruises and aboard Century's Caribbean cruises, these ships are unapologetically primarily for adults.Shore Excursions
The Xpedition series offers unique, and sometimes even extreme, experiences in Celebrity's ports of call, such as the Galapagos Islands or the ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. Options in other parts of the world include a visit to the Kremlin in Moscow, exploration of Easter Island, marlin fishing in Mexico, zodiac and helicopter tours in British Columbia, bear-watching in Alaska, and a private tour of the NASA space center in Houston. Celebrity Journey will go to remote areas of Antarctica, Brazil, the Chilean Fjords and other faraway regions of South America. Celebrity Quest's itineraries in Europe include the Black Sea.
Described in detail on the line's Web site, www.celebrity.com, these excursions can be booked online up to ten days before sailing. Obviously, some of these adventures go beyond the usual four-hour bus tour, but well-planned and efficiency optimized, you find them to be on par with the luxury cruise lines in terms of quality and price.
While Celebrity is frankly adult-oriented, their Club X program offers excellent activities for children year-round. Youth activities are arranged by age groups, which vary between high and low seasons: Toddler Time aged 6 to 36 months; Shipmates aged 3-6, Celebrity Cadets aged 7-9, Ensigns aged 10-12 and Admiral T's aged 13-15 and 16-17. 18 year olds are welcome to use the teen facilities. The youth program maintains the same hours whether in port or at sea: 9 a.m. to noon; 2 to 5:30 p.m.; and 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. Group babysitting is available in the youth room for children ages three to 12, from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., at a fee of $6 per hour per child. Private babysitting is available in your stateroom for $8 per hour per child, with a maximum of two. When Mother and Pop are scheduled to dine formally, "Parents' Nights Out," are declared, and youth counselors take children to a pizza party, at no extra charge.
Caribbean and New York/Bermuda seem to be family favourites, with more and more families heading for Alaska too. Century, Galaxy, and Mercury have separate teen discos and more extensive facilities than the line's newer Millennium, Infinity, Summit and Constellation. The Solstice class spends much time in Europe, but will have one ship in Australia and another sailing out of the New York area in 2012.
Theme Cruises and Special Programs: Celebrity offers unique Acupuncture at Sea and holistic healing "wellness at sea" programs. Special cruises to focus on photography and culinary gourmands are offered semi-regularly. Some ships have special designed and set entertainment by Cirque du Soleil.
Celebrity's "Captain's Club", a triple-tiered program offering a range of benefits based on how many of their cruises you've been on, sponsors four Captain's Club reunion cruises each year. Other loyalty rewards include complimentary one-category upgrades on selected cruises; a cruise video; priority embarkation and debarkation; a newsletter; complimentary wine tasting, and a cocktail party. For further information call 1-800-760-0654 or 1-316-554-5961.Tipping
Celebrity suggests a per person per day gratuity of $3.50 for the waiter, butler (suites only) and stateroom attendant; $4.00 for stateroom attendant in Concierge Class; $2.00 for the Assistant Waiter; .75 for the Assistant Maitre d' and the Assistant Chief Housekeeper. Children under 12 who are the third or fourth person in their stateroom need cough up only half those amounts. Tips may be added to the passenger's shipboard account upon request.
As on so many lines, a 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to beverage tabs, and you're on your own when it comes to room service, spa, casino and other staff. Gratuities to shipboard personnel are included in the fare for Celebrity Xpedition.
We departed from MLU on January 15, 2013 via Delta airlines. I had checked the price of using Delta all the way to Singapore and found using Singapore out of LA was cheaper than Delta all the way. We spent the night in Monroe on Jan 14th because of a freeze and fear of iced over roads in the early morning. We spent the night at LAX Marriott Courtyard and flew Singapore air to Singapore on Wednesday January 16 via SX11.(stopped in Narita Japan), and arrived in Singapore on January 18th at about 3:30 AM. SQ37 none stop to Singapore did not fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. We returned from Singapore on SQ 38 nonstop to LA and spent the night in LA at the same hotel.
We arrived In Singapore at about 5:00 AM on Friday January 18th and met up with our English friends that were already checked into the Marina Mandarin hotel. We looked for another couple from Cruise Critic at the hotel, but did not come across them until boarding. While in Singapore I had a tailor made shirt and Vance had a jacket made. We wereallowed to check in around 8:00 AM on the 18th, a pleasant surprise. We had dinner one night at the East Coast Seafood Company at cab ride toward the airport. One night ate at Ruth Chris steakhouse in the hotel.
On Friday, we visited the Marina Sands hotel an Eight Billion project which is a new hotel on the Marina in Singapore, Unfortunately it rained all day on Saturday so we just made our way over to the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel to meet up with other Cruise Critic members. While there my LSU hat attracted a lawyer from Vacherie, La and we chatted awhile regarding mutual friends.
We boarded the Millennium on Sunday around 12 noon and our Penthouse Suite was ready about 1:00 PM. The concierge Jennifer (Jenny) Knights from England was superb in making arrangements for us throughout the cruise. Our 74 tourist for the Komodo island tour were in the first tender off the ship thanks to Jenny.
Monday we were in Singapore, but elected to stay aboard and enjoy our cabin.
Tuesday we were at sea and ate with the Staff Cabin at the late dining for the first formal night.
Wednesday we were at sea and ate at the Olympic Restaurant in the wine room which is nice, but it tends to be a little warm, so be-fore warned.
Thursday Jan 24 Bali-- We were scheduled to visit Lombok, but the captain stated that Indonesian officials were making it difficult to remain on our schedule so the captain changed the schedule and sailed to Bali arriving much earlier than previously scheduled and on a different day. We all had to change our previously scheduled private tours. When we arrived in Bali, we just took a cab tour to Denpasar, the capital of Bali, visited a market, then stopped at the Batik factory and bought some beautiful shirts and many very reasonably priced gifts. When we returned to the dock we did not go back to the ship, but waited around for 30 minutes to go on our previously arranged Tanah Lot Pan Pacific Sunset dinner tour. We used PT.BEWISH INTERNATIONAL TOUR CO. We visited the Taman Ayun temple used by Hindu people. We visited Alas Kedaton (Monkey forest) which had monkeys just running all around free and many huge winged bats in the area. Tanah Lot temple (A Hindu Temple) was viewed from a distance since the sun did not co-operate for a beautiful sunset. We ended up eating at the Pan Pacific hotel in Bali we a beautiful view of the sea. We returned to the ship 12 hours after we left so it was a long day.
Friday we were still in Bali, but it rained so we did not go on a tour. I went ashore to just buy from the locals that were giving the hard sell on the previous day when I didn't have time to work with them.
Saturday- we arrived at Komodo Island and met our tour group with 74 of us that Art had arranged. Everything worked fine in spite of the change of venue. We received everything that was promised. We visited the village for a few minutes and then the pink beach and had lunch on board our little boat.
Sunday we went to Lombok (originally scheduled for Thursday) and did our private tour with Jane's arrangements. Visited the Lembar Harbor, the Sukarara village where weaving is done, Sengigi Beach, the Batu Balong Temple and the Banyu Mulek village. We had a very good fried shrimp dinner included in trip cost. We did drive to Mataram city and visited a Mayura floating Pavilion.
Monday - we were at sea and enjoyed some Joker Poker games.
Tuesday we were at sea and ate in the Q-sine Restaurant which was an eating experience.
Wednesday-Jan 30 we docked at Port Klang to go to Kuala Lumpur via a private tour arranged by Eileen. We went to the Batu Caves, but 276 steps was too much for us. Made a photo stop to take a picture of the PETRONAS Towers, and went up in the KL tower, and then to the Central Market and had a nice meal and did some shopping visiting Chinatown.
Thursday Jan 31 we toured Penang, Malaysia via a private tour run by Kimmy. We landed in Georgetown and then visited the Kek Loksi Temple and the Funicular. We drove through Little India, drove up Penang Hill and came down on a funicular. We past Kapital Keling Mosque and St. George church but did not get to the Botanical Gardens.
Friday Feb. 1 was a tour of Phuket, Thailand arranged by Art which was very good. Phuket is approximately the size of Singapore and is Thailandâ€™s largest island. We cruised on a Chinese Junk, the JUNE BATHRA to James Bond Island (KoTapu or Nail Island) ($6 fee to stop on the island) We cruised in the beautiful Phang Nga Bay. We had to transfer to a long tail boat for a wet ride to Ko Tapu and also to the Sea Gypsy Village. This island became famous from the 1974 Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun" starring Roger Moore and Christopher Lee- (Scaramanga). As we made our way back from a long day we noticed how active the downtown area of Phuket was. This Friday night we were invited again to the Captainâ€™s table for a formal dinner.
Saturday was a day at Sea and we had to pack to disembark the next day. It was an easy disembarkation and well organized and we toured the Botanical Gardens in Singapore on the way to the airport where we had plenty of time in the wonderful Singapore lounge to eat a nice Buffett meal complimentary to guests on Singapore's flight SQ38 none stop to LAX. We spent the night at the LAX Marriott Courtyard and flew home the next day.
We sailed the Celebrity Millennium 3 times prior to her refurbishing in April 2012. During these 3 sailings, she had become one of our favorite cruise ships. Based on that liking, and earlier pleasant sailings on the older Celebrity vessels Galaxy and Century, we assumed the Solstice class ships would be superior to the earlier Millennium class, thus we sailed a Mediterranean B2B in 2012 on the Solstice and booked our Asia B2B2B, Singapore to Vancouver, BC trip, for 2014 on the favored Millennium. Though the Solstice had not meet our expectations, we were extremely disappointed, when Celebrity suddenly eliminated one of Millennium's scheduled Asia segments leaving us no choice other than to cancel our 2014 Asia trip, and replace it with comprehensive Europe sailings on a new Celebrity ship. Nonetheless, we targeted the same, originally offered Asia Millennium itinerary again for 2015 when Celebrity repeated its initial 2014 itinerary.
Luckily, the opportunity arose to choose our then still favorite Millennium for an ad hoc stint to Alaska in June 2013, prior to the anticipated 46 day long Asia voyage in 2015. At first, we planned to sail her as a B2B, butafter some consideration decided to stay for several days exploring Anchorage-Denali-and the Copper Valley area before returning south. Thus, we bit the bullet of repeated unpacking, luggage handling and additional checking in procedures by using a different cruise ship from Vancouver, BC Canada to Whittier, AK to book the Millennium for our return voyage from Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC Canada.
Upon returning home, we cancelled all bookings for our 2014 and 2015 Celebrity cruising, extremely grateful that we "survived" the 7 day lasting trip just endured on the Millennium, our previously favorite cruise ship.
Below follows a somewhat detailed report with pictures delineating our experience and consequent disappointment.
Prior to "refurbishing" in April 2012, the Millennium was a well-designed ship with good traffic flow, plenty open deck spaces, friendly and efficient crew, impeccable dining room personnel, the usual adequate dining room menu, ok lunch buffet selections (mediocre in the evening) and tasteful, warm decor throughout. She was in generally good condition, except for some cosmetic wear and tear plus minor blemishes, but, we assumed, was surely to rise like a phoenix from the ashes, after refurbishing, - to be even more beautiful and better than before since she was also to undergo the highly advertised enhancement of “Solsticizing” as part of the refurbishing process.
We arrived in Seward, AK port @ about 13:00 hours, anticipating that we would then be able to immediately go to our stateroom. The check in was fast, efficient and painless; so indeed, we were on board by 13:25 hours. We were greeted with the question, whether we would like to go to the buffet for lunch or to our stateroom first. Our choice was the stateroom to lie down after a few strenuous days of exciting exploration and adventures between Anchorage and Fairbanks and an early morning train departure.
Our ship’s escort leading the way to the stateroom found the hallway door to the rooms still closed, thus surmised the rooms may not be ready. By now it was 13:35 hours and we made our way to the reception desk asking for access to the room. At that time wheelchair bound, citing the need to lie down and having scheduled our boarding to co-inside with the customary access time to the stateroom.
The receptionist then called the International Customer Service Representative who introduced himself, grimacing a smile, as Steven De Winter; a curt, unpleasant, slimy chap who arrogantly stated that he had not yet released the announcement for stateroom occupancy. Therefore, we could not go to our stateroom until he announces that they are ready. Wheelchair bound, I pointed out, that I really would like to lie down, that it was now past 13:45 hours and customarily, staterooms are available at the latest @ 13.30 and room stewards likely moved on to getting checked-in luggage ready for stateroom delivery. His reply was, that Celebrity is a very special cruise line and does things much different than other cruise lines, but I would be welcome to go down to the sick-bay and lay down on a stretcher until he releases the rooms for occupancy.
Less than 3 minutes later, his loudspeaker announcement released all cabins.
The stateroom was as expected from previous sailings. The room steward introduced himself later that evening “checked in luggage arrived by mid-afternoon. The lunch buffet featured the previously experienced lukewarm, dried out “Paella” (in name only) and other standard buffet style fair including the heavily watered down lemonade.
Except for the “Paella-Welcome-Specialty”, the buffet choices remained more or less the same throughout the 7 day cruise. A circumstance particularly unpleasant as the main dining room was closed for lunch every day, except on the first sea-day and the last sea day, opening for the Brunch Buffet in which all daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet choices were lined up together, but now were presented among Ice sculptures and other colorful decorations.
Unfortunately, extraordinarily inattentive dining room personal failed to serve coffee or water, or juice until after one was seated for quite some time, almost having finished the first course of brunch. Moreover, very unpleasant, was the fact that no-one of the dining room waiters cleaned up the tables of those people who had left, or the used plates on our table. Thus, we were surrounded by seven tables, fully laden with dirty dishes up to and including our departure from the dining room. The personnel, largely Serbian, Slovenian and Croatian servers, avoided eye contact, and were certainly not inclined to clear tables; presumably, that was to be someone else’s responsibility who was apparently not in attendance.
Dinner at the dining room had sufficient choices of well-prepared good quality food, we were served by some excellent waiters and some so, so “but still OK waiters in the “my time dining” section of the upper level.
Less pleasant was the bickering of some female waiters on the outer buffet deck, who among themselves discussed their misfortune, disappointment and unjust treatment experienced working on this ship, without any regard to nearby sitting guests who could not help overhearing their loud complaints while clearing tables with disgusted faces.
The ship itself is in desperate need of eliminating the obvious signs of neglect without subjecting on- board passengers to its upkeep, repairs and maintenance.
There were too many issues to mention: an example of some is:
Mint tea bag hunt,
Broken Solarium windows,
Missing top railing on upper aft decks,
Double loungers placed next to pool get constantly wet from water plashes
Loungers on upper decks remained unusable and tried together
Loungers were dirty and partly broken
Balconies added in recent “upgrading improvements” are in part not covered and lack privacy
In the meantime complaints from outraged passengers on board the Millennium have escalated. Thus, without going into further details, as I am resenting the time already spent on the unpleasant task re-living the journey, I refer to the reviews of others and the complete failing of Celebrity’s Cruise Ship Millennium’s operational functions in Seward and Ketchikan, AK were they prematurely disembarked all passengers.
Celebrity cancelled its remaining Alaska sailing season 2013 for the defunct Millennium, planning to maneuver her into dry dock for taking care of the desperately needed maintenance and repairs. Unfortunately, these obviously needed repairs had not been done prior to subjecting boarded and sailing passengers, including those booked for August/September, to despair, inconvenience and costly repercussions in addition to their now ruined holidays.
Well done, Celebrity - you are “truly special and do it very differently”, reverberating the statement of STEVEN DE WINTER, the on Board International Customer Relations Executive.
My wife and I traveled to Alaska from July 7 to July 19, 2013. We were part of a group of 57 that was put together by our local travel agent. We spent the first 5 days of our trip on land and the last 7 days sailing on the Celebrity Millennium. The entire trip was coordinated by Celebrity. Let me say up front that the cruise portion of our trip was far superior to our experiences on the land portion. I will describe each day of our trip in chronological order.
Day 1: We flew into Anchorage on Air Alaska and spent the first night at the Anchorage Marriot. It was a nice hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel we met our tour guide, Patricia, who would be with us for the entire land tour. Patricia gave us some information and handed us our room keys. We ate supper at the Simon & Seaforts restaurant. The meal was good but quite expensive (we later learned that this would be the case throughout Alaska).
Day 2: We rode the Alaska Express train to Talkeetna, about a 4 hourtrip. The ride was smooth and the train is a two story with the top having a glass ceiling which made for easy viewing of the scenery. We had a guide who was quite knowledgable. On the lower level was the dining car. Most everyone had breakfast there and that was enjoyable. I would recommend the blueberry pancakes. They were quite good. Full breakfast was around $12 and that included the beverage, not bad for Alaska standards. We were seated with a couple from Mississippi who we really liked and ending up socializing with them throughout our entire trip. We spent the night at the Talkeetna Lodge and it was very nice. Sometimes you can see Mt. McKinley from the lodge, but it was not visible during our stay. We took a river float excursion and there were only 5 people it the raft. Corky, our guide, was very knowledgable. We saw an eagle in its nest and a beaver dam up close. We had dinner that night at the Foraker Restaurant at the lodge. The meal was good and the dessert that I ordered, a giant piece of chocolate cake with raspberry filling encased in a ganache, was the best dessert I had on the whole trip.
Day 3: We boarded the Wilderness Express again for the 4 hour trip to Denali. This time we were served lunch in the dining car but it was not as good as the breakfast yesterday. The crab bisque, however, was very good. We would spend the next two nights at the McKinley Village Lodge in Denali. It was by far the worst accommodations of our entire trip. The room was dirty and it lacked amenities. They put paper cups in the room instead of glasses. To top it off, my wife and I were given a handicapped room which included a hand held shower that was mounted on the side wall. There was no way to shower except to hold the nozzle with one hand, making it very difficult to wash yourself. There was no place to put toilet articles in the bathroom and one very small garbage can for the entire bedroom. The first evening we took an excursion to Husky Homestead. This is where they raise and train dogs to run in dogsled races, specifically, the Iditarod Race. The speakers were very good and my wife loved holding the puppies. We ate at the restaurant at the lodge and just had sandwiches. The price was reasonable.
Day 4: Our second day in Denali and it was the worst day of our vacation. We took an 8 hour excursion into Denali National Park. By rule only school buses can enter the park. The road is all dirt and it rained all day. We saw very little wildlife and only left the bus to use the rest rooms. The windows on the bus got muddy and it was hard to see anything. The driver, Nancy, was knowledgeable and very nice. She stopped numerous times to clean the bus windows but they were dirty again in 5 minutes. They provided us with a box lunch and it wasn't very good. We and everyone else on the bus wished we had missed this excursion. To make up for the rotten day, we went to what was said to be the best restaurant in Denali-the McKinley Chalet. My wife and both ordered the most expensive meal on the menu-$39 each. It was a twist on surf and turf with salmon and filet. It turned out to be a very small portion with a small piece of salmon and a filet about the size of a silver dollar. It was served with barley and broccoli. The meal added to the disappointment for the day. We toured the town shops which had basically the same stuff, overpriced tourist junk. We were glad to see this day come to an end.
Day 5: We rode a bus to Anchorage where we had a quick stop for lunch on our own. We ate at the Glacier Brewhouse. We had wood fire grilled pizza and it was very good. We then traveled to the Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood. This is a ski lodge that is open all year and it was beautiful. It was easily the nicest place we stayed in Alaska. We were sorry that we only got one night there. The amenities were numerous. There was no time for an excursion so we went to supper at a place called the Double Musky. We had a feeling it was going to be good when we saw the large number of locals eating there. The food was good and the portions were plentiful. I would have liked to get a steak but they were huge (16 oz for a fillet and 20 oz for strip steaks). I wouldn't have been able to finish it and there was no way to "take it home." My wife and I got shrimp dishes and they were good.
Day 6: They gave us the morning of next day to do things so we rode the tram to the top of the mountain and the view was breathtaking. We got to stand in snow in July! There is a restaurant at the top and it is extremely expensive but the view is great. I heard of a couple who spent $160 for their meal the night before. We rode the shuttle into Girdwood and had lunch at a small place (I wish I could remember the name of it). We then boarded our bus in the afternoon and headed to Seward to meet our ship. Celebrity is the 4th different cruise line that we have been on having sailed previously on Carnival, Princess, and Norwegian. We boarded the Celebrity Millennium and it was the easiest boarding procedure of any of our cruises. We had a good first night dinner and saw a good show featuring a Motown tribute trio called Horizon. Following are some general comments about the Celebrity Millennium experience:
1) We ate all of our dinners in the Metropolitan Dining room. We had regular seating at 6:00 with two other couples from our group. This meant we had the same wait staff at every meal. My wife and I had intended to eat at one or two of the pay restaurants on the ship as we had done on previous cruises. However, the food and service was so good in the Metropolitan we never did. The food was excellent every single night. It was the best dining room food we have had on any of our cruises. Our waiter, Ali, and his assistant, Jun, were great. The maître-d, Ajay, was more involved with us than any I have ever seen.
2) In contrast, the buffet served on board was the worst we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Stuff was spread out all over the place and hard to find. Sections of the buffet were closed and various times of the day. I had breakfast there several mornings and my wife and I ate one lunch there. Each time I was disappointed. I tried several versions of eggs in the morning and they were never good. Pancakes, waffles, and French toast were served at the far end of the buffet area and inconvenient to get to. The buffet opened at 7:00 AM and some sections opened later. I would have preferred 6:00 AM as I am an early riser. The staff in the buffet area was fair at best.
3) Our cabin steward, Nonet, was excellent. He answered every request promptly and greeted us every time we saw him. I heard from others on the ship that they never saw their cabin steward. We were so impressed with Nonet I gave him an extra tip even though we were automatically charge a tip before boarding.
4) Ship disembarkment for excursions and the subsequent reimbarkment was handled well.
5) Our room was okay but our balcony was not. We had a partially obstructed view even though our cabin was not listed as having one. There was a pole on one side and a protruding corner on the other side. The balcony door worked funny and my wife and I actually got locked onto our balcony one time because of the handle on the door. The shower in the bathroom was the biggest that I have ever seen on a cruise boat.
6) The nightly shows were pretty good but they featured only one act that lasted an hour or less. A little more variety would have been better.
Day 7: This was a sailing day. My wife and I went to the gym. It is all machines with no free weights. To have a class you have to pay extra. The ship sailed near the Hubbard Glacier which was neat to see and provided some great pictures. The evening's entertainment was the ship's singers and dancers and they were good.
Day 8: This was our first stop in Juneau. We did the "Whale Watching, Orca Point, and Mendenhall Glacier," excursion. We rode on a very spacious and comfortable closed in boat. We saw several whales. They fed us lunch at Orca Point. It was good but not a lot of food was given. After getting off the boat, our bus took us to the Mendenhall Glacier. We enjoyed seeing this glacier. The evening's entertainment was a comedian who was not all that funny.
Day 9: We stopped in Skagway. We went on the Alaska Gold Rush Highlights excursion. We first rode a train along the mountains where the gold rush miners traveled. We met our bus at the Canadian border and drove into Yukon Territory. The bus driver, Davy, was very entertaining. We walked on a high suspension bridges which was neat. We had several scenic stops on the way back to Alaska. In Skagway they fed us a great buffet lunch that included ribs and salmon with plenty to eat. Then we heard gold miner stories by a re-enactor who taught us how to pan for gold. We all found some gold dust and we had ours made into a necklace for my wife. The evening's entertainment was again the ship's singers and dancers this time with a different program.
Day 10: We stopped at Icy Strait Point which was in Hoonah. We took the "Bike Trek and Ziprider" excursion. We were a little worried about an 8 mile bike ride, but the pace was very slow and the road was mostly flat. It was a nice way to see the town which is completely controlled by the native population. We stopped at a tree with an eagle's nest and actually saw the eagle fly right over us to the nest. We then took a bus ride that lasted over a half hour to go up 5,000 feet to ride the Ziprider. The ride up was worth it as the Ziprider was awesome with a 5,000 foot drop with speed up to 60 miles per hour. The evening's entertainment was a violinist who was very good and also funny.
Day 11: This was our last stop at Ketchikan. We took the "Ketchikan Highlights and Lumberjack Show," excursion. We could have done without the trolley ride around Ketchikan but the lumberjack show was quite entertaining. We had lots of time left for shopping and there were a lot of places to shop in Ketchikan. The show was once again the ship's singers and dancers with a different program.
Day 12: Our last full day on the ship and it was a sailing day. We made it a relaxing day and spent some time at the indoor pool and hot tubs. The last evening show was the violinist and the Motown tribute trio again.
Day 13: This was disembarkment day. The disembarkment procedure was poorly handled by Celebrity. We had to report to the theater at 8:15 and we sat there until well after 9:00. Since our flight home didn't leave until 4:10 PM we all took the Vancouver excursion. It was okay but we would have preferred and earlier flight to get home. We had a direct flight from Vancouver to Newark on Air Canada. It was the longest check in procedure we have ever experienced lasting about an hour and a half with numerous levels of security and customs. The Air Canada flight had a screen that showed movies and other things with a nominal fee for headphones or you could use your own as we did. That made the flight goes quicker. However, it was a 5 hour flight and Air Canada gave us nothing to eat.
In conclusion, Alaska is an interesting place but it did not live up to the hype that we had been told by so many people who went there before us. I would recommend that anyone planning to go to Alaska only take the cruise and skip the land portion of the package.