Cruise Line: Celebrity Cruise Line
Ship: Celebrity Millennium
Itinerary: 12-Night Coastal Cruise
My main reason for taking this specific cruise was that there was a travel agent training 'Seminar at Sea' onboard. That meant that on the three sea days I got extensive training on Celebrity Cruises and her little sister Azamara Cruises. However, other than that is was full normal cruise for me, so I'll give a full review!
Also, this cruise was actually a "Wine Cruise". The ports were specifically chosen by Celebrity for their nearness to wine-producing regions, and there were customized shore excursions to wineries available on this 'one off' itinerary. Also, there were some wine experts onboard that held seminars and wine-paired dinners, for an extra fee of course. I don't drink for the most part, so I won't have specifics to give on that, but reviews of all of those special activities was very good.
I flew in the day of the cruise, which I never recommend as a travel agent. I figured I could get up a
However, I do want to mention that Vancouver, in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics, has built a new train that runs from the airport directly to the Canada Place Pier (lots of other stops too). You might want to look into this for your next cruise into or out of
Because my flight was so late-arriving, I took the Celebrity bus transfer. I actually didn't pre-purchase this. It was easy to find the Celebrity Cruise Line reps in the baggage area after we arrived, and I could purchase their transfer on the spot. I felt that by getting on Celebrity's own transfer I had a better chance of them 'holding the ship' with a full busload of folks enroute than me by myself in a taxi. As a general "FYI", all cruise lines work this way. If there is a ship in port, you should always be able to just find the cruise line rep in baggage claim or just past customs and be able to purchase a transfer on the spot. They just charge the cost to your room.
I've been on many coastal cruises, taking every form of transportation possible as well as trying different hotels each time. Read other "Coastal" cruise reviews on this tab of the site to learn more.
Boarding the Millennium:
Embarking was a breeze. Since it was close to
My overall opinion of the food and service on Celebrity was that it was MOST excellent. At this very moment, Celebrity still does traditional fixed early and late dining, with a few alternate options. (I will discuss them.) However, by March, 2010 all Celebrity ships will have implemented their Select Dining, which is going to be their flexible option. You will have the choice then of the traditional (fixed table, same waiter, same dining partners, same time every night) or the Select. Since most of their dining rooms are 2-story, I'm guessing they'll have one level be traditional dining, one be the Select… similar to other lines with large dining rooms.
I had late traditional dining for my seminar group. Although I thought the food and service were both good, I just really didn't like eating that late. So, I did other dining options on a regular basis. (7 nights out of 12 I wasn't at my dining table, but I always gave my group advance warning so they didn't wait for me.)
Something interesting I learned was that if you have prepaid your tips, as I was required to do in my group, and you move tables.. your original waiter keeps the prepaid tips. So, I had been like a few of my group that switched to early dining officially, my new waiter would have gotten no tips for me and I should have felt compelled to tip him on the last night. I thought that was interesting. If you were still doing cash tipping, of course this would be easy for you to tip the two different pairs of waiters if you wanted by simply seeking them out.
Two nights I ate in the specialty restaurant – Olympic. Olympic costs $30 per person up-charge and is generally worth it. The service is over the top and the food is excellent. They do all the courses with the dishes being placed and removed simultaneously, so its really fun. And they escort you to the restroom if you need to get up during your service. They also have a few dishes cooked tableside that you can order, which adds to the special feel. And, of course I didn't try it, but they have a wine cellar room that is most fabulous on this and her sister ships. It is a small room that is part of the Olympic restaurant that you can pre-reserve with wine bottles all around you. It is great for small groups.
They also offer a fixed menu that is wine-paired in this restaurant with a really high up-charge. I believe it was $120 per person, but I barely glanced at it, so I'm not sure of the exact price. If you choose to do the wine-paired dinner, everyone on your table has to participate. The wine-paired menu is available in any seat, but would be especially wonderful if you did it in the wine cellar room.
On the first evening I ate in the regular buffet, where they have pasta and stirfry made to order, and pizza almost always available. I wished they had more options at night in the buffet, but it was good for doing one night.
On the last evening I tried their "
Celebrity has the most spectacular healthy food option on the Millennium and her sister ships called AquaSpa Café. This is a cold food buffet open for breakfast and lunch in the Solarium mineral pool area of the ship. I ate breakfast and lunch here nearly every day of my trip. It was both good-tasting, less crowded, and had a great tropical spa-like atmosphere. For breakfast they had cereals and fruit. (I had a lot of muesli and grapefruit.) And for lunch they had cold dishes of various meats, seafood and salad as well as breads and desserts. I just LOVE that area. I wish it had been open for dinner as well, but, alas, the workers in this area are actually the same ones that serve in Olympic for dinner so they can't be in two places at once. If you try this ship, don't miss these great-tasting options! Most guests don't even find it. Breakfast was usually
And along with these special places mentioned, there was, naturally, open seating breakfast and lunch in the dining room every day. (I tried lunch once, breakfast never.) And TONS of options in the buffet – omelettes made to order, a poached eggs area where you could get eggs benedict but other special options, English type breakfast, cereals, Asian breakfast, waffles and pancakes etc. Various different breakfast options were available from
Lastly, I want to mention room service. Of course, if you've sailed before you know that room service is free and available 24 hours. Celebrity has a REALLY great extensive menu for room service available all the time. However, what Celebrity doesn't advertise a lot and you should know about, is that you can order off the main dining room menu and have that delivered to your room. Just ask your room steward. I did this TWICE on my cruise. Mostly because the baseball playoffs were on and my favorite team was in them and I didn't want to miss it. But once I tried it once, I couldn't resist a second night of not having to get dressed up at all and eating lobster on the bed. When Celebrity says "Starring You", I felt like it on those nights eating on the room service tray on my bed in front of my TV.
The quality of the entertainment was excellent. All music onboard is live. You'll never near piped-in music. They had a party band that played nightly by the pool, two quartets that played dancing music or just listening music, a wonderful A Cappella Quartet that played at various venues (best to catch them in Michael's Club) and a pianist that played a few different venues. All of these were popular for before dinner as well as for your main evening entertainment if you wished.
They had a good show in the showroom nightly. There were three different productions shows on three different nights. The production shows had a full cast of about 14 dancers and 4 main singers. This was larger than on most cruise ships, so it really felt more like a Broadway show than what you usually see on a ship. These were all excellent. And they had a comedian, another entertainment duo and a concert pianist that were onboard at different times throughout the cruise. As far as the timing, some nights we had the late dining main show time before dinner and other times very late after dinner. I think this made everyone happy, as there are some that really prefer their drinking and dancing before dinner and others after. Showtime for early diners was always after their dinner. (Main dining times were
During the day they had quite a few activities, plus they have a dedicated movie theatre that showed the 'movie of the day' multiple times throughout the cruise. Of course, bingo and art auctions were there, but they also had beading (I did that one and made a bracelet) and art classes. Culinary demonstrations were done a few times, and as I mentioned, there were a vew wine-related activities on my specific cruise.
The casino is always its own form of entertainment, of course. Celebrity's Fortunes Casino had all the usual stuff, with a good variety of slots and lots of table game types, including craps. There were slot, blackjack and poker tournaments on the sea days. Incidentally, the casino still had coin-taking slot machines on this ship. And be aware of Celebrity's overall strict smoking policy. Unlike most ships, the casino was not a designated smoking area.
And if you're an avid poker player like me you should know that they have recently installed an electronic poker table in a brand called PokerMate. I've played a lot of on-ship electronic poker games, but this is the first time I've ever seen this particular version. You simply take a seat and put money in the feeder to your right (like a video game). And when you're done, you get cash out slips like many casinos have for their slot machines. The casino staff didn't try super hard to help getting the poker game running though, so we didn't have games a lot of nights. I understand that the reason for the electronic tables is so they don't have to devote a dealer to it, but their total apathy was 'really bad service… not treating me famously' feeling.
This 12-night sailing has three formal nights, and 9 smart casual. The formal nights were well-attended, meaning a lot of folks dressed up. I think that was both from the Celebrity Cruise being more upscale AND the fact that it was Wine Cruise. Of course, you still had the casual buffet and casual sit-down dinner in the buffet, and room service to choose from. So, it is really up to you whether you wish to join in.
I had a Category 2C – Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Verandah (a regular balcony room). The cabin was officially 170 sq ft, and the Verandah an additional 38 sq ft.
The cabin was quite comfortable with a bed, vanity desk with a chair and small love seat in a sitting area. The TV was really best viewed from the bed, not the couch, so I sat on the couch to read and the bed to watch the ballgames. The table in front of the couch was large, so I could pile up my reading material on it, or had plenty of room for a room service tray.
The balcony was spacious with two chairs and a very small round table to sit a drink or a book on. I DID balance a room service tray on it for breakfast once, but I think it would have been inconvenient for two people.
The bathroom was really comfortable. A large shower bathroom-width rectangle, rather than a little circle like on some lines. The sink was fine with a nice amount of counter space, and three corner shelves. Plenty of room to store stuff. And the amenities were aplenty. Bar soaps for sink and shower, shampoo and conditioner and lotion, cotton balls and cotton swabs and a shower cap. They gave me extra shampoo and conditioner from the start (it was a long cruise, so it was a given I'd need more than one bottle of each). And they changed out my bar soap even when I didn't request it. Really great service.
In the cabin itself, storage space was good. There is a large closet where half is for long stuff, half can be used for long stuff or a pull down bar can be set down for two rows of half sized things. There was multiple drawers to the left of that, with a large shelf and then the safe above that. Two complimentary (for use onboard) umbrellas were on the shelf, as well as a totally complimentary Celebrity tote bag.
The only drawback I found was that the cabins still have 'European Style' hairdryers hooked up in the bathroom. These are the ones that are like a wand at the end instead of something that is in a 90-degree angle. I believe if you're in Concierge Class or higher (a room category I strongly suggest) then you also get a regular hairdryer in a drawer. I actually used my own hairdryer at the vanity desk throughout the cruise except for the very last morning when my own had gone with the luggage the night before. If you use the European Style one that is built in, be sure you wrap a wash cloth around it so you don't burn your hand. The wand with the heat coming though it gets really overhot.
The Celebrity Millennium:
I had toured the Millennium in
I truly love this 'class' of ship for Celebrity. The whole lot of them are regularly in the Conde Nast magazine 'best large ship' top 10. I had sailed on one of the sisters for a short 4-night coastal in 2006, but I really loved the opportunity to enjoy her for a full 12-nights. Her Millennium-class twin sisters are Infinity, Constellation and
The highlight of this ship type is the Solarium. This is where they have the large mineral water pool (free on this class of ship) in an adults-only area. There are also two whirlpools here. It is right near the spa, and has that AquaSpa Café healthy food buffet for breakfast and lunch. There is gorgeous teak furniture and potted plants around to give it a tropical oasis type of feel. I absolutely LOVE just the entire relaxing feel of this area. There are also super comfy loungers near the pool, and some are double-width for couples. Lots of folks camp out here to read.
The main drawback of Celebrity ships is the lack of a walk-around promenade deck. I REALLY missed this. I love taking a stroll after dinner in particular, and this ship type has two straight 'strips' of promenade on the sides, but it doesn't go around to the front or back. Of course, they do have the jogging track way up high that you can go around and around on, but that is in the wind and cold and not really a place you want to be at night. The only way you could see the 'aft' wake was to have one of the very popular aft-facing cabins, or see it through the back of the dining room or from the outdoor deck aft of the buffet.
Other highs and lows are that the library was pretty but they didn't have near enough number of books. And what they had wasn't really stuff you'd want to read. I found one I liked, but then decided I'd better buy books to read on my trip, which I did in the
I feel compelled to mention the spa in it's own category on this cruise. It's an Elemis spa, so it has many of the same features and services of other cruise lines. I'm finding on cruise after cruise that the service is slipping in the spa. And since these folks work for Elemis and not Celebrity, it is worth mentioning.
First, a negative thing. They have a "
Another odd thing, that totally reflects on the economy right now being low and folks going on cruises but not doing the 'extra' things was a silent auction for spa services. Can you imagine being able to 'bid' for a spa treatment? My guess was that every person who bid above a certain amount probably got to have a treatment for that reduced price. I bid for a salt glo scrub with a massage for 50% of the going rate and won. The form actually says you must bid 'at least' 50%, so I think that would work most of the time. However, once you win, you need to be able to go to the spa exactly when they say. That is the downfall. The bidding box was up in the lobby by the buffet (center elevator). So, my advice is now that I'm more experienced with this is to bid when you can go right that night or the next day if they call you. You'll not be able to do a winning bid spa treatment on a sea day, when they are selling stuff full price. This bidding seemed to be always available, so if you're busy don't bid yet.
I had a challenge with this, as I bid really early on, and they wanted me to come in the next day, which was our
I had paid full price for a pedicure early on in the cruise, and that was done well and the pedicure chairs have nice massagers in them. But the gal doing it complained a little about the short length of my nails. I didn't think that was really appropriate for a spa person to be saying. So, it seemed to me that a lot of spa folks needed attitude adjustments. The economy is really putting a lot of stress on them I believe.
One GREAT thing about sailing on Celebrity is they have use of the Bell Street Pier / Pier 66 in
One of the bad things about this itinerary was that
As I've mentioned a few times, I'm a huge baseball fan an I've been to
The tour was fun, as Safeco Field is one of those really nice modern ballparks that looks old. It has a retractable roof that is of a unique style, and we learned all about the park on the tour. We got to tour the press box, on the field, the "Diamond Club" and some luxury boxes. We also got to walk along the dirt around home plate and sit in the Mariners dugout. The tour starts, and you buy your entry for it, at the huge souvenir shop at the stadium. Since I gave myself lots of time to get there, I spent some time looking around in the shop before my tour and left straight after it was done. This is a really worthwhile thing to do in
The first major stop was the
The next stop is the Astoria Column. This is a beautifully decorated wide column that has the early history of
The third stop is probably the biggest single attraction of
If you've never been to
They also have a new exhibit called the Secret Lives of Seahorses that is really spectacular. Everything you want to know about Seahorses, and lots of varieties of them are on display.
And beyond those new things, they have sea otters, a huge kelp forest with large fish and small, and a great interactive area for kids to play in and learn.
If you decide to go, I suggest you pre-purchase your admission online so you don't have to wait in line when you arrive. http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/
I just want to briefly mention the other ports on my itinerary, even though I don't have anything interesting to report about them.
Our first port was
I took my own advice on this cruise and booked a tour + transfer on disembarkation day. My husband was flying IN to
By booking a tour, I could haul my bags to locked compartments of a big coach, and then leave them securely underneath there during the tour without having to worry about them.
Anyway, my disembarkation went a little different than most folks'. First, I got shore excursion tickets and disembarkation colored tags from the shore desk rather than typical ones. And we met in a meeting room for our tour like any normal tour in a port, rather than hassling with a color or time.
We met in the showroom at
Anyway, my tour was a city tour of
And our last stop was the Farmer's Market http://www.farmersmarketla.com/ and The Grove Shopping area. http://www.thegrovela.com/ The Farmer's Market has great dining. Just about every type of food you could want is available to buy to take home to cook or eat there. This was our 'lunch' stop on the tour, so we all scattered to buy what we wanted and then there was tables and chairs in the center for you to sit and eat at if you wished. The Grove is next door has many typical stores of a mall, like Nordstrom's. However, its really neat because it is owned by Disney and it is meant to have a duplicate feel as Main
I totally loved the service and food on this cruise. I strongly suggest Celebrity, but in particular the Millennium-class ships. If you've not been on one, you're really missing out.
For wine lovers, or those that just love a coastal getaway rather than total tropics like most cruises, these coastal cruises are a great choice. Other lines do them as well, so if you're into coast and wine you've got options, and if you want this ship type you've got options.
Contact me to help you book your next dream cruise but hitting the Contact Us at the top of the page on the right!