Check-in was smooth and easy in Auckland. We checked in a couple of hours early, checked out our stateroom and went back ashore for an hour or so.
Our stateroom was clean, except for some mildew in the shower. Shortage of hangers and no corded hair dryer -- just a wall-mount in the bathroom that my wife can't use, but our stateroom attendant, Santanos, looked after both quickly.
We had Concierge Class service -- fresh fruit and (small) canapes in our room every day. On time and fresh. I have seen reviews that some people did not get these every day, but we did, without exception. Our cabin was always kept clean and neat by the service staff.
We found all staff on the ship to be courteous and pleasant. There didn't seem to be a change in their attitude after the tips were handed out (which I had seen reported in another review). Food got a bit tiresome by the end, but there is lots to choose from. Don't forget the poolside grill and the AquaSpa grill for a bit of a change.
The ship is clean, but not as finished asthe Jewel of the Seas we travelled on a couple of years ago. Some things, like draperies and towels, are starting to show their age. The gym equipment is all in excellent shape -- all working and all leather unworn.
The TV picture on every regular TV on the ship was off-colour due to the fact that we were in the southern hemisphere and the TVs were set up for northern hemisphere. LCD TVs in the lounges and gym worked fine.
Our dining room service was nothing short of spectacular. Our waiter, Dimitar, is just about to be promoted to assistant maitre d' so he knew his stuff and advised us of what entrees to avoid and what was really good. He made arrangements for creme brulé for one of our tablemates every night, even though it was only on the menu for one of the nights, and when one of the people at our table couldn't find something they liked on the menu, he got something from the Olympic restaurant for them.
Drinks on board were expensive but we brought a bottle of rum in our checked bags and some wine in our backpack (when we went back ashore in AKL and again in Napier) and no one questioned us, even though the documentation says that they will make you walk the plank if you do bring liquor aboard. No need to go to great efforts to hide it, at least for us. The soda card is pricey at $70. Grab a 2 litre bottle at the occasional port if you don't want to pay $5 per day for soda.
One hidden value for beer is the aft bar on deck 10 where a pint (maybe not quite a pint) of Heineken draft is only $4.75. I recall that just a 12 oz/350 ml bottle elsewhere on the ship was about the same price.
I did take one of the bottles of wine I brought on board to the dining room and paid the $25 corkage. I probably wouldn't do this with a cheap bottle of wine but I had a very nice and fairly expensive wine so it was a lot cheaper than what I would have paid for the same wine on board.
Entertainment was very good. The ship's singers and dancers put on great shows and the string quartet on board was excellent and seemed to play from from late afternoon through dinner and afterwards in various places on the ship.
Shore excursions on this trip were VERY expensive if booked through the ship. Generally 2 to 3 times what you could pay by organizing it yourself. Many ports require a shuttle to get from the port to the main city/town. Celebrity offered a (pay) shuttle bus service but, in most cases, you could use public transit, walk or get a cheaper/faster ride in a cab (if you had 4 to travel with).
We missed Milford Sound due to very high winds, but saw Dusky and Doubtful. Incredible scenery. Make sure you go on deck for these -- it's just not the same from the Cosmos or your balcony.
The itinerary we signed up for showed an 8 AM arrival in Melbourne with a 6PM departure the next day. On our final itinerary papers arrival had changed to 8 PM, which we did not see until part way through the voyage when someone mentioned the loss of a day in Melbourne. We were not happy with this change and have submitted a complaint to Celebrity. This cruise already had 4 sea days in it and the 5th was not welcome, especially since the weather was still a bit cool, just short of the summer down there, and sitting by the pool involved blankets.
Arrival in Sydney is spectacular. Docking is at 7, but you get to the harbour mouth at about 5, so get up for it. I thought 5:30 would be early enough, but it's not quite. Still had the opportunity to enjoy the last mile or so of the entry. The approach to the bridge and opera house are everything you imagine they might be.
The ship parks right between the bridge and opera house at the international terminal so everything is really close by.
In Sydney, make sure you do the bridge climb. It's not cheap, but everyone asks you if you did it on your return. Also, if you're a walker, take the bus from the quay to Bondi Beach and walk to Coogee Beach, then bus back. About a 2 hour walk.
Debarkation was smooth (no extensive customs procedures, and no favouritism for particular nationalities as in FLL or MIA). We had a flight out at noon, so took a train (station at the end of the quay -- a 3 minute walk) that runs every 15 minutes to the airport (15 minute ride) for about AU$20 per person. If you have more than 2 people a cab is about the same price per person.
Oh, we awoke on the last day to no electricity (no light, no water, no flush), a fact which seemed to be lost on staff walking around when I went up to the dining room to investigate. They greeted me like nothing was wrong! The stateroom staff had to download all baggage by hand after about 1am, so I felt good that I had my stuff out by 11. Obviously hot breakfast was out of the question, but the kitchen staff had ample food out in the morning, given the circumstances. Eventually, power was restored, just in time to have a shower and debark.
We had paid a fuel surcharge (US$140 per person), which, at the time of our booking, seemed reasonable, given the price of oil. By the time we sailed, however, the price of oil had fallen to less than 1/3 of its peak and my enquiries about a rebate were not considered. I think a rebate or credit should have been in order.
This is a great trip if you like to walk -- each of the cities visited had great walking self-tours and hop-on/hop-off buses. It is not like a Caribbean cruise, but that was actually quite refreshing. Souvenirs are available if you want them, you are not inundated with hawkers at every stop.
Overall, I'd give the Cruise Line a 6, the ship a 7, food a 7 and the staff a 9.
I have had a terrible experience with Celebrity. I had planned a family reunion with 27 people on Celebrity's Alaskan cruise. When I was told that infants under 6 months of age are not permitted, I reached out to Celebrity's Special Needs Department. I spoke with several supervisors, none of who could explain their policy and respond to my question as to why the threshold is 6 versus 5 months (our baby would have been 5 months old by the time of the cruise).
It was utterly impossible to engage in a meaningful conversation as each of them reiterated, "It's the policy and we don't make exceptions," as the response no matter the question asked. At one point, a Celebrity representative explained that the policy made sense because "babies don't make the decision about whether to cruise, so we (i.e., Celebrity) have to look out for the interests of the baby." When I requested to speak with the person who created the policy, to gain a better understanding, the response was, "He will not speak to you -- he's a Vice President."
I recognize that companies must have policies, but they should makesense and customer-interfacing representatives ought to be able to explain them. I have less of an issue with the policy itself -- my issue is with the lack of competence and professionalism on Celebrity's part. For example, one of the more senior supervisors, Travis, promised to research the issue and call me on August 5. When I called to follow up on August 12, I was told I would receive a return phone call in a few minutes. I did not receive a call from Travis until August 21, over 2-1/2 weeks later. He claimed to have needed extra time to look into the matter. I respect a person's need for more time, but as a matter of good business protocol, he should have called me no later than August 5, as promised, and he should have updated me on the status of my request.
If you are considering Celebrity, but have special requests or needs, I would caution you against cruising with them based on my experience.
Returning to Celebrity Cruises after a number of years absence (sailed on Zenith six cruises) was somewhat of a disappointment. Since Celebrity Cruises was acquired by RCL, Celebrity has lost some of its gleam, no longer the fine Greek cruise line of the past. That being said, onto the position cruise on the Celebrity Millennium during April 2008.
The Millennium now eight years old is in need of a complete refurbishment from top to bottom, everything is worn and dated from the staterooms to the public areas and mostly the outside areas need maintenance.
Since either Carnival, RCL or NCL own the bulk of the cruise lines these days, the past grandeur of cruising with its service, excellent food, above average entertainment and traditional aspects, Celebrity Cruise Lines has joined the ranks of generic -- and I mean generic everything -- I truly missed the wonderful cruising experiences I had on numerous cruises on Celebrity's Zenith pre-RCL and miss Celebrity's touches a lot.
Embarkation at Ft. Lauderdale was quick and easy, since after 40 plus cruises I ignored the request by Celebrity to board after 1pm and arrived at the pier about 11am.
Buffet lunchon the Lido deck the day of departure was nothing special and remained so for the entire 15 day cruise.
Late sitting in the main dining room has its advantages and my waiter and wine staff were very attentive and dining was unhurried. The food is another review (good to fair) and I will avoid boring you in this review about what needs to be fixed. One bright spot is the Olympic Restaurant ($30 per person), where the service and food was a throwback to the "good old days" of cruising (thank you Royal Viking Line and Crystal Cruises) which was standard for them.
Entertainment is abundant each evening throughout the ship and most is good to very good. One exception is the production show "Classic" in the main show facility. The production was too highbrow for the audience and most left the performance before its end.
My stateroom (7003) was the surprise of the cruise because I selected the cabin overlooking the bow of ship for the Panama Canal transit since the Millennium has no forward outside observation areas. Anyhow, the cabin was the size of a mini suite on most ships (approx 230 sq feet) and had a huge four foot diameter window facing the bow.
Since this was a "position cruise" the ports of call were not important, the star was the Panama Canal and after eight transits the canal never ceases to excite me. What a wonderful day it is doing the transit.
I would have liked to have had a couple or three more ports of call added to the itinerary to break up the four 2 and 3 days each sea legs. The ports of call were nothing to speak about particularily in Mexico. Acapulco is tired, PV is better and poor Cabo, it is a tourist nightmare.
Debarkation in San Francisco was as good as can be expected given that in SF the pier is run by the local unions at their pace. I had to ask to leave the ship 45 minutes after my assigned time in order to get my luggage, taxi to the airport and make my return flight to Southern California.
All in all, Celebrity still outshines Carnival, NCL and Princess and is on a par with Holland America and RCL. Would I cruise again with Celebrity? The answer is YES and as a matter of fact I am taking the new ship Celebrity Solstice on her first scheduled Transatlantic/Mediterrean cruise in April 2009. Also have a group taking the Celebrity Mercury roundtrip from the west coast to Hawaii in November 2008 (looking forward to seeing the Mercury again, it has been 8 years since I sailed on her).
Embarkation This cruise departed from Fort Lauderdale and we arrived at the port about 2PM. There were already plenty of people at the pier, but we had no problem getting through the check in process. Within 30 minutes we were onboard the ship and we were able to go directly to the staterooms. Was a little dissappointed that our luggage took as long as it did to get to the cabin. The boat drill was done at 6PM and while waiting for the drill on the balcony, we could actually see our bags still sitting in one of the bag cars on the pier. It was about 8PM when our bags finally arrived to the cabin.
Stateroom We had a balcony cabin, port side forward. The cabin was nearby to stairs and elevator bank, so it was always convenient to get to pool deck or below decks. Our stateroom attendant was great!! He made sure everything was acceptable and did a great job throughout the week to ensure our satisfaction.
The bed was great, except I will never get used to the rounded corners that they seem to use on thebeds. Was actually quite suprised at the size of the bathroom. The shower was bigger than any other cruise I had been on and was a pleasant suprise to be able to turn around without bumping against the walls.
Dining Rooms/Food The food was excellent. We ate in the dining rooms 4 nights and then ate in the buffet area the other evenings. Not sure which I enjoyed more!!! The buffet food was excellent each time we ate there. The only thing that probably made the dining room better was the personalized attention from the waiter. Breakfast in the buffet was also very good and had a wide variety of options each morning. Had lunch two days in the spa cafe, which offered healthier selections. It was unbelievalbe!!
Crew and Ship Shape Dru, the CD was great and very personable. Ran into him the first day and he took the time to talk and welcome us aboard. He also acknowledged us later in the week when we bumped into him again! The rest of the crew was also great and always did what it took to ensure you were satisfied. One night the bartender had to run to get another bottle to make my drink. He apologized numerous times for making me wait! Likewise, Luka at the pool bar was an exceptional bartender, both during the daytime and evening events held poolside.
The ship was in excellent condition. The crew does a great job keeping it clean and well maintained. The public areas were in great shape and you would never know that the ship was as old as it was. Everything looked brand new.
The casino was good and I won some money back by the end of the week, so that was a good thing!
The only complaint that I really had was that they were selling the soda package before the ship left port, but they had no cups! They continued to sell the packages and said we would get the cups the next day while in port in Key West, but we never got them. However, the bartenders just filled up a glass for us anytime we wanted. The larger cups would have been handier as we wouldn't have had to go back to get refills as often.
Ports of Call Key West: We just walked Duvall Street and did some shopping there.
Grand Cayman: We decided to take the tour out to Hell and back. It was very entertaining.
Cozumel: Fifth visit here, so we stayed onboard the ship and took advantage of the spa that day.
Belize City: We did the canopy tour and had a blast on the zip lines. Only disappointment was that we were not there long enough and when we got back to the port from the tour, all the shops had closed and the last tender was waiting to take us back to the ship.
Debarkation This went very smooth as we were on a departure prior to noon, and we were one of the first groups off the ship. However, getting a cab to the airport proved to be a challenge as the taxi stand guys were not taking people first come, first served. It took probably an additional 25 minutes to get out of the port than it should have taken due to the line for cabs and some people walking right up to the front of line and getting a cab ahead of others.
Perhaps the only thing as much fun as going on a cruise, is the anticipation of going on a cruise. It starts with exotic pictures in cruise brochures, and ends with the final step off the gangplank and onto your ship. In between are mentally "walking the ship" via deck plans, day dreams about perfect days at sea, and of course, the step you're enjoying now, reading reviews. While my memory is fresh and my body still automatically craves sushi at 5:30pm, I will do my best to give my impressions of Celebrity's Millennium.
Forgive me if I skip how many pairs of underwear I packed. The same goes for the co-pilot's name on my flight, what I had as an appetizer, or why I didn't wear my wife's stockings with my tux this trip (a long story). I will focus on the ship, the service and what you can expect YOUR vacation to be like.
To set a base line, we were a group of 24 Fiftyish friends with most of us having known each other almost 30 years and on some years with as many as 44 going. Ourgroup cruises every other year President's week to celebrate being friends and not being dead yet. The cruises began as a "once in a life time" year 2000 group vacation, aboard the SS Norway. Deciding cruising wasn't the worst thing in the world, we followed that with Grand Princess, Explorer of the Seas, and Infinity. This was our fifth, "once in a lifetime cruise".
We were so impressed with Celebrity on our last outing, that for the first time we repeated a cruise line. Keep in mind these are my impressions. I'm a 53 year old guy from the New York area. I eat in some of the best restaurants and see the best shows. I also love mystery meat on a stick from a sidewalk vendor and laugh at a well executed pratfall. You are not me. Your mileage may vary
To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the Millennium being tired and old have been greatly exaggerated.
THE SHIP While all Millennium Class ships are virtually the same, I would be depriving a future cruiser hungry for information if I didn't describe it.
The moment you swipe your seapass and cross off Millennium's gangplank you know you're in for a wonderful time. The Grand Foyer is a classic study of perfect "Goldilocks Elegance".
Don't look for that term in any architectural glossary, I made it up after two martinis. It means, not too much, not too little, but just right.
The marble on the deck three floor of the atrium absolutely sparkles, reflecting the dark wood and gold lettering of surrounding guest services desks. The backlit marble Grand Staircase glows soft amber and large swathes of tapered cloth form columns on each side.
From above the fat and juicy sound of a clarinet spirals down from the quartet that is playing. To the right of the stairs, the Olympic dining room with the lush wood and gold trim from the White Star Liner "Olympic" and tables set with fine crystal seems almost surreal. It is 11:30 AM and I'm drinking champagne that was handed to me with a warm "Welcome Aboard" from a white suited crew member. If I died then, it would be with a smile.
Beyond the Grand Foyer, the ship is just full of comfortable spaces that entice you to sit down, have a drink, eat some food, relax and enjoy. Almost every space is a gem, and it will be very easy for you to find your own personal favorite.
The Main restaurant, The Metropolitan, could almost be a stage set for the sea-going Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes".
The two levels of seating are surrounded by oversized portholes, and an entire two story glass wall facing aft. There is a wood steel grand staircase and those traditional curved "art deco-ish" steel railings are everywhere. Wood columns trimmed in gold support the ceiling, which is predominantly colorfully backlit glass. On two occasions a quartet played on the top level of the grand stair. Entering the Metropolitan on formal nights from the upper level with the orchestra playing, in my tux with the ever so ravishing "She who must be obeyed" on my arm, was about as good as a day in midwinter gets.
The Buffet area on deck 10 also doubles as a casual eating area at night. It is another wonderful windowed lined space. In the morning the way the sunlight plays around the room is very relaxing. Some very neat things in this room which are often overlooked, or perhaps overstepped, are the large acrylic portholes IN THE FLOOR which allow you to look straight down to the sea. I did notice, however, only few people liked to sit on them.
The Workout room on the ship seemed adequately equipped. I walk through it once with a drink while filming my wife's Pilates class. On a cruise I don't work out, I employ "Zamgwar-nomics" The more food I eat, the less the cruise cost. Those who did work out daily really enjoyed the space, with its' bow facing panoramas of windows. One member of our group did point out however, that if you're tall, and walk on the treadmill, you can't see out those same windows.
I meant to try the treadmill to see if it was true, but became detained on pool deck by a grilled burger and a perfect Bloody Mary.
Fortunes Casino is roomy and your typical ships' casino. Full of glitzy lights, big statues and ringing slot machines. It did have one large difference from all previous shipboard casinos I have been on. It gave me money, or rather returned a small portion of the vast sums of my money that have been living in ships casinos since 1990.
It was good to see my money again. I missed it.
Forward of the casino is the ship's piano bar, Michaels' Pub, which thus far, is the most beautiful a lounge as I have ever seen on a ship. White wooded panels line the room. Leather chairs and comfy couches are grouped in intimate settings. It is the kind of space you might mentally create if you envisioned what a classy room on a ship should look like. It never seemed very busy which struck me as odd because it is such a comfortable room. I actually wonder if it got more traffic when it was a cigar bar. My gang did have several rounds of after dinner drinks in the room one night and enjoyed it.
In fact this ship seemed full of small practically perfect, never crowded spaces. Considering we were there on peak vacation week, with a maximum passenger compliment, that says a lot for the ships design and flow.
Between decks eight and nine, was Words, the ship's Library. It is a surprisingly large and nicely decorated with globes and other "Library-obilia". The walls are rich wood. There are soft yet adequate reading lights, several big inviting chairs and plenty of books. The two floors are connected by a semi spiral stairwell. It is a really nice room and always one or two folks enjoying it.
Notes, the ships music library no longer exists. It is now an acupuncture area. I never had enough martinis this trip to pay to have pins stuck in my face. Perhaps next time.
The Emporium shopping area is really rather nice. It has the feeling of many small shops rather than some in your face ship's shopping area. Once again it was abundant with wood and brass, and the stores carried nice stuff. I actually purchased several things from the shops.
It was unique to see a ship purchase with my signature on it, without a bar tip added in
The Cova Café in the Grand Foyer falls under the category of a must visit spot.
Taking a break from the sun to enjoy a yummy cappuccino (extra charge) and some excellent music was heaven. Of course if you skip the music and coffee, the pastries (free) themselves are worth the visit.
Packed full of blooming flowers on Deck 11 is one real piece of eye candy, The Conservatory. While it is really just a flower shop, rather than a public room, entering it several times and smelling the fresh flowers caused my heart to skip a beat.
The heart skipping a beat may have also been caused by the amount of bacon and corned beef hash I was eating daily, but I prefer to think it was the flowers.
The pool decks are excellent. At first glance they seem to be too small for the size of the ship, but once again were just right. There are two main pools with two hot tubs. The lower level had plenty of padded lounge chairs, and upper level had an abundant amount of standard lounge chairs. The piercing blue of the sky and the water, the drinks from the mast bar, and reggae music made for two wonderful sea days. I could have used more.
If you want a deck chair poolside rather than in one of the many, many spaces with more than enough empty deck chairs around the ship, get your butt up early, and put it in one, as one member of our group faithfully did. Then share it when you go for lunch or a massage. Don't expect to saunter out at 11:30 after sleeping in and find prime seating left. Don't expect it after 9:30 for that matter.
My award for the most relaxing place on the ship goes to the thallasotherapy pool in the spa. Soft new age music fills the air. There are large plants hanging from the columns that support the glass roof. Padded teak lounges fill the room. To the side are linen cabanas with tables and chairs. No one under 18 is allowed in. The pool is really one giant salt water hot tub. On the sides are these "Bubble lounge benches". After fifteen minutes of sitting on one, every problem you've ever, had going clear back to that zit you had before the prom in High School, melts away. I visited it every day. I miss it now.
Thallasotherapy: It's as much fun to do as it is to say.
While I'm on the topic of the spa, most of our gang enjoyed the spa treatments, particularly the hot stone massages. I enjoyed the free sauna daily and showered in the men's changing room after, as they had very good showers. I once lucked into a free day pass for the Persian Garden. For free it was real nice, I wouldn't pay to do it twice.
Possibly the only disappointment in this ship (or any Millennium Class Ship) is that there is no wrap around exterior promenade. For me at least, walking around the top of the ship in the morning is not as "shippy" as doing miles around the ship on a promenade. Between the shade and the sea, it's hard to beat. It brings out a sense of a time when ships were "the only way to cross".
Any promenade however is better than hearing an alarm go off for work. I visited Millennium's promenade daily just to watch the sea woosh (surely a nautical term) by and feel what hair I still have, blow in the wind.
The open air cafe on deck 11 aft is better than a nice space on the ship, it's priceless. It pays homage to glory days of Ocean Liners with their huge teak fantails.
Although my experience is limited, the Oceanview cafe is as good an outdoor gathering space as I have seen on any newer ship. There was teak everywhere. It's in the tables, decking, rails, even the bar. The wood almost emits its own warm glow at sunset and sunrise. It was the perfect place to meet up with friends, have a drink and watch the stars and ships twinkle in the distance.
The Platinum Club is the ship's martini bar. It became a daily haunt all of us. The furniture is grouped in sets between large portholes which scream out "this is a ship damned it". The room is completed by the most perfect martinis, served perfectly.
In the day this area (and every area lined with these oversized portholes) is bathed in a wonderful wash of natural light and ocean views. At night the lighting is intimate enough to hide the fact that you have spilled gin on you tux.
Take this from one who knows.
On deck 11 forward is The Cosmos Lounge which during the day is just the GREATEST place to take a sun break and enjoy some outstanding views. It has floor to ceiling glass, a "starry theme" to it, comfy chairs and is a great place to sit and play captain and commander as you over look the bow. At night we had a blast dancing there. I also frequently crossed through the Rendez-Vous lounge, which was your average, comfortable, small show lounge. I never used the internet café, but I saw it. I also frequently passed through the Extreme Sports Bar, a small cocktail area on Deck 11 poolside, which seemed to be the "teen" place to hang.
SERVICE What seems to set Celebrity aside from the other cruise lines I've been on is how quickly everyone learns your name, and the genuinely warm way they greet you.
After one day, the Mast Barkeeps greeted us by name as we passed. Our beverage waiters no longer need our cards and the assistant waiter had the non-alcoholic drinks on the table as soon as we sat.
Our Martini waiter after one day had the name of each member of our large group memorized. He knew your drink. He knew approximately what time we would, like gin worshipping zombies, begin arriving each evening, and nightly reserved our drinking area. In fact crew members we didn't even know seemed to know us by name.
I found this amazing since I need to remember which way to put my pants on. I can only assume the ease of learning our names, had been reinforced by seeing them hundreds of times on bar receipts.
Some members of our group did have issues with their cabin steward, however, others wanted to take theirs home. One couple found CC service not worth the extra price, another found the CC service incredible. Their Steward actually tied their sons tie for formal night, and folded the kid's clothes that were on the floor.
I had a room charge issue at guest services which was resolved (at considerable length) but the staff was extremely courteous. At dinner, we were happily given a kid's only table for the children in our group. The table was (as requested) immediately next to the parents and with the same waiter. The waiter actually cut the youngest girl's meat. Our three tables were all located close enough for table banter during dinner. I didn't meet on person of the ship I wouldn't consider a professional
CABINS We were all on deck 7 aft and occupied standard balcony cabins, CC's and the FV on port side aft. The rooms were small, in fine shape, with no horrible wear and tear. One did have a moldy shower curtain that was quickly replaced. One had very worn deck furniture. They chose not to ask for it to be replaced. I'm certain it would have been. The Corner FV was fabulous with a HUGE balcony and if you can get it you should.
FOOD Buffet: I am not a big lunch buffet guy on any ship. That being said the lunch buffet is nothing special and in fact bland. What is special however is the "antiphonal" food that is available aside from the buffet. There are the waffles, pancakes and omelet stations in the morning. The Pizza, and pasta bar all day. The deck grill has French Fries that are akin to Belgium frits. The deck grill also has the crispiest bacon and all the fixin's for a perfect BLT. In the Spa Café I had a great grilled tuna and wonderful chicken wraps. My wife got a four cheese grilled cheese from the Deli aft. Then of course, there is the 5:30 sushi bar which was unique, wonderful, and sorely missed.
Main dining food was very good with some dishes (the Lamb Shank, and stuffed Cod) exceptional. The lamb Shank was so good, many of us asked to have it again another night. I personally noticed no drop in food quality since our '06 cruise. I did see many dinner offerings I don't remember. My tablemate (a meat and potatoes guy) however, felt some of the menu items had gotten too "fru-fru". Perhaps it is the fabled new menu slowly slipping in.
The Olympic was exceptional and the dining experience was as glorious and long as all other guests have indicated. We had no problem putting our Captain's Club reservation in well in advance.
ENTERTAINMENT Being lucky enough to make my living in the theater, I tend to be very picky about cruise ship shows. On Infinity in 2006, the entertainment was like the pizza, it was okay as long as you didn't come from New York or Chicago.
I can't be certain if it was the luck of my week, or the fullness of the martinis, but the caliber of entertainment on Millennium was for the most part, exceptional.
The Cova Café actually became a place I stopped at frequently, much more than on Infinity. It was a perfect venue for the superb A Cappella group which performed. It almost had the feeling of a private performance. I was sorry more from my group didn't get a chance to hear them. I also on two occasions relaxed to the quartet.
The musicians on the ship were unbelievable good.
The party band at the pool has got to be one of the most versatile groups I had ever heard on a ship. Poolside, as a reggae band, they sounded as if they were all related to Bob Marley. At the night-time deck party- they were a hot dance band. Playing in the Rendez-Vous lounge or up in Cosmos, their range ran from smooth jazz to an absolutely astounding rendition of "unchained melody" that would have given the Righteous Brothers cause to pause.
By far the best group on the ship was the house band when it performed Big Band Classics on formal night. It absolutely changed the attitude of the whole ship. Both the Platinum Club and the Rendez-Vous lounge were packed to the max and people were dancing on both levels as Sing-Sing-Sing wailed away. We were sad when our 8:30 seating opened because we wanted more. If I had a vote I would say both formal nights should feature the House band. After their three sets, passengers in large numbers just wanted to dance. And we did.
There was guitarist who sang around the ship that this time out I really didn't get to enjoy much, as our schedules didn't match. However, judging by the several numbers I heard him sing, he was very good.
I only found the pianist in Michael's lacking. Not as a singer, or musician, but as a piano bar performer. He was not able to read his audience. Every time the whole place would be on the verge of a whopping big sing-a-long, he would switch to some low key dirge, to the confusion of all. I heard the comment "maybe he doesn't like sharing the spotlight with the audience".
The Magician and the comedian in the main theater were also both great. I stopped in on each show and stayed to the finish. The comedian actually almost caused me to be late for my martini seating.
I wouldn't have missed martinis in fear that the world would have turned upside down.
MAINTENANCE I've never put this category in a trip report HOWEVER, since there is so much scuttlebutt in regard to it, I'm throwing my two cents in.
I have yet to be on a ship that didn't have a nick or a ding somewhere. I'm in much worse shape than the Millennium is, and I do sit-ups.
Maintenance is constant. During last week while we were heading down the gangplank in Puerto Rico, they were ripping up the rugs in the Olympic, replacing the rugs in an aft elevator lobby, Glass was being broken out and replaced and the deck railings were being hit with varnish remover, scraped and sanded. And those are just the things I noticed. Yes, some wooden deck furniture I could see from my balcony was beat up from the salt air and the constant "bleaching" that goes on day in and out to kill germs. I'm sure anything that might bother anyone is on a list to be replaced, and probably will be before you cruise. If it isn't replaced and ruins your cruise when you catch sight of it, you need to spend more time in the martini bar.
One person in our group did say to me the rugs were in terrible shape. I never really noticed that, but am glad now that I didn't pass out on one.
OTHER STUFF For me the ship is the thing. I do know, however, for others it is merely transportation. For those who require this stuff I will gladly provide the following;
Casa De Campo: Beach break was great. We were on the beach at a beautiful resort from approximately 10AM until 1:30PM. Open bar- No food.
Others in my group also raved about the excursion to Catalina Island. They said the snorkeling was super, guides were great, also free drinks.
Tortola: Loved the Bathes. I didn't meet the virgin, Gorda.
Puerto Rico: We did a great hike (on our own) around Old San Juan, and had a wonderful Mojita in the fabulous courtyard setting of "Il Convento" hotel next to the cathedral. Those on the trip who went to the Rain Forest hated it. Too much bus- Too little rain forest.
Pre-Cruise Hotel: We Stayed in the Best Western Oakland Park Inn. We enjoyed it FAR more than the Holiday Inn Express on 17th Street. It had clean rooms, great food close by, a super pool, wonderful staff, free breakfast and a fun tikki bar. My Wife & I even enjoyed the area better that 17th Street. I would not hesitate to stay there again. It was VERY REASONABLE. You may read my review on TripAdvisor.com
WHAT EVERYONE ELSE THOUGHT Those who have followed any of my trip reports know that before I exit the particular vacation I'm on, I ask gaggles of perfect strangers as well as those I'm traveling with, "How did you enjoy the week?"
This time out I spoke to 35 shipmate strangers.
26 were predominantly prior Princess or Celebrity guests and found the ship, food and service wonderful.
2 were Royal Caribbean and NCL customers and enjoyed it so much, they doubted they would go back to RCCL or NCL.
1 was a Princess Cruiser who felt Princess ships were much nicer but the Celebrity food and service were much better. She indicated her next trip would be with Celebrity.
2 found the food and service wonderful but that the ship was old and needed a dry dock.
3 found the quality of the ship significantly less than their previous Celebrity and were very disappointed.
1 gave a response that indicated that this had been an awful week.
In our group of 24 almost everyone gave the ship an 8.5 out of ten. Three of The Newbie cruisers in the group gave it a 10. Two friends who were first time Celebrity Sailors gave it a 7 and felt they enjoyed Princess much better.
All the kids in our group (except 1) gave the ship 9.5 or higher. Their favorite things were the "free" food, pizza , pool and freedom. Todd Jr. Gave the ship a 6. He said the food was great, but the ship wasn't modern. Interesting thoughts indeed from a young man 1/5 my age on his first cruise.
For me, as long as I'm not sitting in a life boat singing "Nearer My God to thee" any cruise is great. While I love Celebrity (Celebrity is now the Official cruise line of me) I am all about the ships. The one negative I had, is that it for all purposes Millennium is a carbon copy of Infinity. THAT IS A BAD THING food and service wise. I'm sure I would find the same on Summit or the Constellation. As far as cruising in February goes, I do like exploring new spaces more than going new places. President's week 2010 Celebrity's Solstice class or one of the Expanded Grand Class ships of Princess will be getting my vote for or next "once in a life time cruise."
Until then, I wish you all full drinks, smooth seas, and happy sailings.
I will never sail with Celebrity again! This was our 2nd cruise with them. The first time was with Century, which was a very good cruise.
We had a terrible time making things right on the 2nd cruise. Had a cruise discount we were supposed to receive; it took over 2 months to get it, after trying desperately to get it from early December, 2007, to a week after the cruise itself.
We received absolutely horrible treatment by Celebrity. I believe they deliberately make it difficult/impossible for customers to get the discount, hoping customers would just give up.
Also, the ship was not as clean as it should be, and the staff quality was very spotty; some of them were downright rude.
I also injured my thumb badly, when a tour bus driver sped over a large speed bump at high speed (he was late going back to the ship). The ship's staff could not care less; I eventually had to pay for a wrap around bandage at the ship's infirmary to wrap my hand. This thumb is still painful (now at the end of May); and I have spent much money withmedical staff back home. Beware that Celebrity will tell you to go fly a kite if anything happens off the ship; not even a word of concern or offer of even a bandage. Their main concern is to tell you whatever happens to you off the ship is absolutely none of their responsibility.
This was just an awful ship staff and awful ship management. Never again will I sail on Celebrity.
I was contacted in the middle of January and invited to attend a seminar at sea aboard Celebrity Millennium Feb 3-10. As I had booked a group aboard the ship in the past but had never sailed on a Millennium class vessel in our 35 cruises, and since it was visiting two ports I had not visited, Campo de Caso in the Dominican Republic, and Labadee, the RCCL/Celebrity day location in Haiti, I looked forward to attending. I had to travel alone, as my wife could not get the time off on short notice.
Flying into Fort Lauderdale, I purchased the Celebrity airport transfers. We picked up luggage at carousel 4, where there was a Celebrity representative, but we were directed to bring our luggage to the carousel 1 area where they were distributing luggage tags and collecting vouchers. The transfer is quick and check-in was reasonably quick. I had only the Xpress Pass for documentation but that was sufficient. As we boarded the ship they distributed red or blue colored champagne depending on whether you declared to be a New England Patriots or NY Giants fan, as it was SuperBowl Sunday. Staff were available to show you to your cabin, if desired. I boarded about 1:30pm and the cabin was ready. Luggage, however, did not arrive until about 5pm, an hour after sailing.
There was a reception for the agents attending the SAS in Michaels Club. Dinner was at assigned tables for the second seating the first night and we "round robin'ed" the other nights. They did have a Catholic priest aboard, and had mass each day, including the first evening, a Sunday. The entertainment the first night was a Super Bowl Party in the theater with food and beverages, and TV screens in the Casino.
Day two was a sea day, and the seminar was held from 9am-4pm in a conference room, and they managed to cover all the material Celebrity and Azamara wanted to cover on both sea days. In addition to the brand information and updates, they brought in ship staff from Captain's Club, a sommelier, an onboard group coordinator, future cruise sales, spa reps and others as the shipboard schedule permitted to give specific program updates. This was the first formal night, and the evening entertainment was a Broadway-style review at 8:45 and 11pm. 11pm is really too late for a show for those with second dining. I did notice there were ample venues for music and dancing until at least midnight.
Day three I had an opportunity to tour the bridge of the ship, something not normally available anymore. There were only 3 people manning the bridge on this huge ship, and the senior officer, a woman, was a graduate of a Swiss Maritime Academy. All automated, gps superimposed over navigational charts with radar images added. I also attended a wine tasting in the morning, as we were not arriving in San Juan until 1:30pm. As I had been to San Juan many times and I was traveling alone, I chose to stay aboard and enjoy the Solarium Pool area -- adults only, warm and quiet with glass roof, special padded wooden lounges, and even a healthy food venue that I had not heard promoted. The thelassotherapy pool is terrific, and there are also hot tubs there. The pool is quite warm, but not as warm as a hot tub. As it was Shrove Tuesday, the last night of Mardi Gras, I did leave to walk 1 block to Senor Frog's to celebrate Mardi Gras for about 90 minutes before returning for dinner. The entertainment was as singer with shows at 8:45 and 10:50pm
On day four we arrived in Tortola, BVI, at 7am and berthed at a pier -- one of two ships at a pier out of 4 in port that day. As I had been to Tortola years ago, I did purchase a Celebrity excursion that provided a 25 minute ferry ride to Virgin Gorda, a stop at Savannah Beach there for 45 minutes where I snorkeled and saw the largest loggerhead turtle I had ever seen in many years of snorkeling. We then were dropped off at parking area for The Baths -- a beach with giant boulders that at one time many years ago were encased in lava. The lava has long ago been weathered away and only the boulders, on land and in the water, remain. The beach is only accessible by going down s sandy and rock path 350 yards down to the beach, and it seems longer on the way back up! The beach does have a bar and restaurant, and bathrooms available. There is also a path through boulders, running water, and pools that many people crawled through. After the ferry ride back they dropped us not by the pier but several blocks away in the downtown area -- right across the street from Pusser's Rum Store. The rum was a staple of the British Navy and the store and bar has been there for years. It looked the same as it did 15 years ago, and their trademark Painkiller drink with Pusser's rum is still as potent as I remember!
This was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and Catholic mass and distribution of ashes was available at 5:15pm. They had a 7pm Broadway-style show for the late diners, which I enjoyed. The singers and dancers were excellent. I had forgotten that Celebrity has an "informal" dress night, with jacket required, and this was the evening, so I wore my white dinner jacket over a floral shirt and fit in fine. They had a Tex/Mex Salsa dancing and late night dancing in one of the venues, where I ran into the Celebrity seminar reps and enjoyed some late night conversation with them.
On day five we arrived in Caso de Campo at 9am at a pier. The port authority provides two different bus routes. For $7 they took us to Altos de Chavon, built as a replica of the Italian town the designer was from in Italy. It was filled with restaurants, shops, galleries, and a museum and overlooks the Chavron River gorge. After I returned to the pier, I took the other bus for $5 to Le Marina, a complex of modern shops and restaurants overlooking a marina with very large yachts. There was also a super market where I discovered D. R. ground coffee available for the equivalent of $1 for a half pound. The Caso de Campo area is very isolated from the rank and file Dominican. This area is a huge complex of gated communities, expensive homes, and many golf courses. I really would have liked to go into the town of La Romano by taxi or bus, but traveling alone I chose not to do it this time. Just a cultural note: there were baseball fields all over the more industrial area near the port and they were in use all day long. This was the second formal night, and lobster night, preceded by the Captain's Club cocktail reception. The show this evening, another stage production, was at 10:50pm
On day six we arrived in Labadee, Haiti, at 9am, and tender service was provided in large tenders rather than ship's boats, so they moved people quickly. I went over to snorkel and enjoy the area from 11:30-3:30pm. The view of the verdant green, forested mountains was beautiful. The western half of the island of Hispaniola is mountainous, and Labadee is flat peninsula in this area on the northwest coast. The eastern half of the island is flatter, and that is where the Dominican Republic is located. The peninsula at Labadee has five different beach areas, one with ocean surf and the others with calm, bay water. There were ample lounge chairs, a trolley to take people from one end to the other, a flea market with Haitian crafts, and a more conventional shopping market. Food is provided in several venues, but only from 11:30 to 2pm. There were few fish evident while snorkeling, but more small conch shells than I have ever encountered. A relaxing day, and I felt that the island was not as cluttered as Princess Cay, and more varied than Half Moon Cay, some of the other "private island" areas. Back on the ship there was a comedian at 7 and 9pm. It was Island night at the pool deck with a fruit dessert buffet late.
The last day was a sea day with the usual distribution of baggage tags, customs forms and debarkation instructions. Based on what passengers had indicated on their preregistration or on a form distributed earlier in the week, they distributed a note giving a specific place and time to meet for individual debarkation of the luggage tag color and number, and there are no announcements calling people away. It is done by walkie talkie by the staff, a pleasant change. I attended an excellent wine and food pairing session, and although I am a wine affectionado, I learned quite a bit. They had samples of chicken, pesto chicken, chocolate, olives, various cheese, and a lemon slice to use when tasting and comparing wines. Excellent session. The shows the last night were at 7pm and 8:45 and were an a capella group, other singers, and an adagio duo. Luggage had to be out by 11pm.
On arrival in Fort Lauderdale we were asked to be out of cabins by 8am. My debarkation time was 9:25am and was right on time. The luggage, customs, and transfer to the airport went very smoothly.
My overall thoughts: In conversation with various passengers, they agreed the ship never seems crowded. There are many venues for evening entertainment, music and dancing. The Solarium is outstanding. The Martini Bar, and the very talented bartender Torgi, was very pleasant, and as entertaining as Tom Cruise was in the movie "Cocktail." Service was excellent, and food was very good, but presentation was not outstanding, just very good. Lobster was large and cooked just right. Omelets and eggs to order are available, as are fresh waffles and pancakes. Pizza by the slice is available 11 hours a day, and they will make a pizza to order with your choice of toppings, which takes about 12 minutes. Ice cream is free throughout the day. The staff was very accommodating. My only complaint was that the buffet area was frequently out of glasses, substituting paper cups, some coffee machines were not working, and the mid-afternoon food choices are limited in the buffet area. There is no evening buffet, but there is a reservations only bistro area set up in the aft end on one side of the buffet area, with linen and glassware and table service. The gratuity is only $2 per person. I'm glad I made the time to check out this ship and the new ports.
After wondering for the better part of two years whether cruising was for me (my life has been filled with adventure vacations), I planned and booked a cruise on Celebrity Millennium, along with my sister, with four Eastern Caribbean stops (San Juan, Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, Campos de Camp in the Dominican Republic and Labadie, Haiti.
I live in Broward County, Florida, so getting to the boat was as simple as asking a friend for a 15 minute drive. Embarkation went slower than normal (according to cruise veterans), in large part because the Millennium had just crossed the Atlantic and as a result Immigration, Customs and Coast Guard inspection took a big longer. Nevertheless, we were on the ship within 90 minutes of arriving at the terminal, feeling positive and ready for my new adventure.
Things were going right from the start. My sister's pre-booked Spa times were in place, our excursion tickets were in our room, so we have plenty of time to explore our new ship (home) of the next seven days and have a buffet lunch up on Deck 10. The muster drill went well and I amsure by the second cruise will be a big bore. Now, on to the particulars:
Ship Millennium looks good. The various art offerings around the ship were really amazing and often thought-provoking. There is normal wear and tear. During the trip, the wood rails on Deck 11 were sanded and varnished, so it appears that there is ongoing maintenance.
Stateroom We were in a CC room on the 8th Deck. Immediately, my sister fell in love with the veranda and spent many a restful hour enjoying the sea rushing by. Rooms are a bit small by hotel standards, but there is plenty of space for storage and after all, we did not go on the cruise to sit in our room (veranda excepted).
Dining We expected this to be one of the highlights and it was. Our tablemates were Celebrity veterans returning to cruising after being part of the famous Princess "tilt cruise". Their experiences and advices were a highlight of dining. The food was really good. (NOTE: The appetizers and soups were absolutely gourmet). The Olympic Specialty Restaurant offered one of the best meals of my life to celebrate my 65th birthday and the harpist played Happy Birthday on the harp -- a real first.
Entertainment The entertainment was surprisingly good. The Celebrity Dancers and Singers put on three wonderful productions and two of their singers (a soprano and tenor) were absolutely outstanding. A pianist, Antonio Salci, put on a first rate, audience interactive concert. A guitar playing comedian, John Charles, was not my cup of tea, but others in the audience seemed to enjoy his show. Finally, two gymnasts put on feats of flexibility and strength that were truly amazing.
Excursions One of our excursions, a sunset cruise in San Juan, was cancelled -- bummer. Instead I went on a short tour with a street side vendor whose color and personality made up for the lost excursion. In Tortola, I took the Sea and See excursion from which I have some beautiful photos. In Casa de Campo, I took a trip down the Chavon River which turned into Salsa dance lessons -- unexpected, but absolutely fun.
Service The service was an absolute highlight of the trip. Staff always offered a friendly nod as we passed. Our waiters, Jon A and Mauricio, were a wonder -- coordinated, efficient, and always smiling. They definitely added to our dining. Our housekeepers kept our room spotless and the assistant housekeeper often spotted me in the hallway and went over to unlock the door for me. Even in the Aqua Spa, the services were excellent and one of the young ladies, Renee, helped my sister with a knee problem throughout the week.
The Future Yes, more cruising. Next trip is back on the Millennium for a northbound trip on 27 June, 2008. I cannot wait for those excursions!
Over at another website I've commented and questioned many of the negative reviews on Celebrity in general and comments prior to our cruise and took it all in and want to add my 2 cents.... I think it is due to the unrealistic expectations of Celebrity and comparing them to the High-end Cruiselines... They are what they are.
This was our second cruise, the other also being with Celebrity in 2004 and the choice was due to the fact that Celebrity food is supposed to at the top of all Cruiselines in this price range.
No I did not meet the Hotel manger, CD nor was invited to the Captain's table for dinner.... There is no doubt a number of cost cuttings since our last cruise November 2004 I hate to say... They ran out of escargot the third day, which was very disappointing for the kids and frankly inexcusable considering they were in drydock for a week. If you care about activities and prizes for participating they also have been scaled back.... In 2004 I did get visors and t-shirts and this time all I saw was lot's of luggage tags.The Grand Bbuffet (last formal night at midnight) had no shrimp or baby lobster tails as in 2004, but somehow we survived... Prettier to see then eat imo...
Yes some chairs showed wear as did some tiling in our bathroom. Expected on a 6 year-old ship.
Staff very efficient and first class with our room always clean and the Dining Room staff attentive, polite and very personable.Food
Breakfast Buffet - Good, loved fresh waffles strawberry's and whip cream.... Pecan Buns (2 days) were incredible.... Rest as expected, made to order omelettes or eggs, cereals,scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, muesli, smoked salmon....
Lunch - Spa was very nice, buffet okay, plenty of choices, good desserts (particularly pecan Pie, Tiramisu, Croque en Bouche).... Pasta bar & Pizzas Sandwiches, some neat choices, Philly Cheesesteak, Cuban, Croque Monsieur were specials each day along with wraps.... Hamburgers, Dogs & Fries poolside.... Average, but fine...
Afternoon Tea - Nice idea, well done, good choices, some better then others.....
Sushi - 5:30-9:30 Very decent, above average.... Tuna & Salmon stood out for me.... Included Miso soup.
Ice Cream - Hard & Soft serve.... Approximately 8 flavours changed daily a little soft.
Dinner - Happy every night, except the lobster tail was badly over done and tasteless. Ordered meat rare and except for one occasion served properly (maybe medium rare). Nothing exceptional, but all above average and as expected when serving 1,000 per seating.
Entertainment - Shows were quite good, the first comedian was very funny, the other who sang, played instruments was fair to good.... Singers & dancers above average.
Found the Entertainment staff a little distant or hard to find and almost nonexistent. Poolside band was below average (okay at best). Other entertainment seemed quite good.
Lots to do, very nice ship.... Smooth embarkation (shuttle stopped first at Princess and there was a line that looked 200 yards long) and then at Celebrity we were on in 15 minutes. Disembarkation was delayed 30 minutes.
Every time I ask is 11:00-11:30 too early for a flight and always told not to try it... We were off (45 minutes late), called and changed our flight and still at the Airport, checked and through customs @ 10:45.
Used the gym and did like it.... Brand new elliptical trainers and treadmills (with tvs).
300 kids on board, including our 2, and I seldom saw any problems or acting up, which was actually more obvious from some seniors on board, who complained and never seemed happy.
Son 10 used the programs & 13 year old daughter made friends.
Wine.... Brought 2 bottles on board no problem and twice bought cheaper bottles for the room because if they wanted me to check them I did not want to bring them back. Was not stopped.
As for dress.... People do dress casually and I will agree there are some (very few instances) where I would have asked them to leave the room. Otherwise in the Caribbean I wore slacks on the 5 non formal nights, three times with Tommy Bahama shirts, twice long sleeve shirts and sandals (closed toes) and never felt out of place. Wore dark suit formal night, spouse did not wear pantyhose....
These are just some quick thoughts and I certainly think Celebrity does a great job and is a first class line for the price paid.....
On a 1-10 scale it was an 8+ as we did have almost perfect weather.
We just returned from this cruise and were left with several strong impressions about the overall experience. We have been on several cruises, but 1st cruise with our 1 year old daughter. This was a 7 day cruise originating from Ft. Lauderdale to the Caribbean, that went to the following ports: Dominican Republic (Casa de Campo), Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and Nassau.
Overall, we found Celebrity Cruises to offer excellent, friendly service throughout the ship. This included the different dining rooms (main dining, Premium restaurant (The Olympic), casual dining, ocean cafe - where they escort you with your buffet plate if you need help carrying your food, Sushi bar, Pizza, and pool grill). The state room attendants and room service were also first class, being very responsive and considerate to us and our baby who celebrated her first birthday on the ship. We found the Sommeliers to be the brightest folks to liven up the dining experience. The presentation of the food was also very good. Several premium spirits, wines are even tastings are offered, which make for a more unique experience.
The best Ports were Puerto Rico and St. Thomas. In PR,we took a shore excursion to the Bacardi Rum Distillery and City tour…this was fantastic, the only complaint was that we didn't have enough time to do everything! Our little one even enjoyed herself here and at the huge fort near the port we had docked. St. Thomas, was hot, but beautiful. The tram to the top, was a quick way to get a dynamic view of the terrain and coastline. This port is definitely a shopping Mecca, that doubles the amount of alcohol that can be imported back to the US.
Our biggest frustration and disappointment, however, was in the overall diversity of the ships food choices and people - both the other cruisemates and staff. I grew up in the US and am of Indian origin, having lived in the US all of my life, aside from basic ignorance or curiosity, I honestly never felt a hint of discrimination toward me or my family because of our heritage or diverse tastes. I did not find this to be direct on the cruise, but several experiences over the course of the week, let us to this comment. For starters, if you are a "meat & potatoes" type, this is a great cruise for you, as there are virtually no choices - except for Sushi - of Asian, Mexican or Middle eastern food, e.g. Indian (no curries, tandoori chicken, naan, dosas, etc), Chinese (not even a single egg roll, peking duck, dim sum, etc), Thai (no Pad Thai, Panang curries, Satay, Lebanese (no falafel, gyros, hummus) , Spanish/Mexican (no paella, or even Tex-mex fajitas, burritos, etc.)….with food being such a big part of the experience, we found that lack of spice to leave a very bland taste in our mouth.
As we had been on cruises before, we never had a problem with this, and actually look forward to this part of the cruise. We did ask several of the staff from these parts of the world, why this was the case. We were told that Celebrity doesn't keep the spices on board, that mostly Americans travel on this ship and they don’t eat this type of food….well, that didn't seem very American to us, as the US thrives on diverse cuisine, as does the UK where many passengers were also from. This striking difference coupled with what we perceived as significantly fewer Asian staff - which we learned Celebrity had stopped recruiting compared to other cruise lines.
We also felt slighted a few times when we were seated in the main dining room for lunch and the Olympic Restaurant. These were open/unassigned seating, however, when asked to be seated on a different table, and there were plenty available, which were not afterward used, we felt that the maitre'd did not want to seat us on the better the tables. This didn't happen every time, but enough to feel like he wanted to put us to the side, or "out of site" from the other guests. Now, I think we are good looking couple in our mid-30s and got many compliments on our daughter's behavior and our appearance, but we did not feel like we received due importance or interest initially…we did however, get excellent service after being seated at the table. We also didn't see nearly as many Asian families, as expected, despite this being a 2000+ passenger ship.
For the kids under 3, there isn't much help here. We did get baby sitting one night, but it seemed to be hard to get and booked for other couples we had met. The kids pool was broken, although there were nearly 40 young children sailing, and there were NO high chair available except for the last lunch of the cruise.
So, all in all, a great experience, regarding the service quality and food quality of the continental and Italian variety, but much to be desired in the diversity of the food selections and the people - both cruisemates and employees - along for the experience.