Janet and Ray Zegarski
Number of Cruises: 30+
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: January 2nd, 2005
Itinerary: Eastern Caribbean
With this sailing, we have experienced thirty cruises together, with four others taken separately. This was our fourth sailing with Celebrity Cruises and was the first week of a different type (for us) back-to-back cruise. The second part of this back-to-back was on RCCL’s Explorer of the Seas, and is reported in its own review. This cruise was a group cruise put together by a travel agent we have used on occasion, and allowed us to sail with some old shipmates and meet a number of new sailing colleagues, all at a most reasonable price. Some of the details and impressions from our Millennium cruise are as follows:
Ship Particulars: The Millennium was built at the Chantiers D L’Atlantique in St. Nazaire, France, and entered service with Celebrity in June, 2000. She is the first of the four Millennium Class ships that all are powered by the lower emission Gas Turbines, hence the designation of GTS (Gas Turbine Ship). The ship’s GRT is 91,000 tons; the length is 965 feet; the beam (width) is 105 feet; Draught (Depth below water line) is 26 feet; Cruising Speed is 24 knots; Passenger Capacity (double occupancy) is 1950; Crew (representing over 50 nationalities) is 991
Travel to Ft. Lauderdale (Pre-Cruise): With the unpredictability of the weather in New Hampshire during the winter months, we flew south an extra day early. We had elected to arrange our own air travel for greater flexibility (and lower fare), especially around the holiday. Our Delta flights were on time, full but not over booked, smooth and semi-enjoyable (why are our connecting gates always at the opposite ends of the terminal?); luggage retrieval was quick and uneventful. We had made our own hotel arrangements and did not join other members of the group for their New Year’s Eve Celebration, but did reserve space at the cocktail party the night prior to the cruise. After checking into our hotel, we walked up onto the 17th Street Causeway Bridge to take in the almost surreal sight of Port Everglades Complex without any cruise ships in port on a Saturday. All the cruise lines delayed their returns until Sunday, due to the holiday. We enjoyed lunch at a delightful spot on the Intercoastal Waterway and much of the afternoon was spent enjoying the warmth and sunshine, a welcome treat for weary New England bones. After the cocktail get together, we had a quiet dinner locally before returning to our hotel for a relatively early bedtime, after a day of travel.
Embarkation: Sunday morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at our hotel and read the local paper until time to leave for the ship. The hotel provides a complimentary van for the short shuttle ride to the ship terminal. After leaving the bags with the stevedores, we entered the terminal and found the check-in process quite orderly and FAST!!, after an initial wait while the shoreside staff got ready for the onslaught of new passengers. Since we were booked in Concierge Class, we were allowed to enter security screening by a door to the left of the ‘normal’ entry area, about five minutes before general boarding began. The short wait provided us an opportunity to meet some of our new shipmates, who we saw frequently during the cruise. By the time we had cleared the ‘preferred’ boarding security check, all those waiting for general boarding, were also well on their way to checking in. All in all, Concierge Class did not translate to any real perk, at this juncture. We still say, "Good Job Celebrity!" The cruise lines now ask that passengers complete check-in information forms prior to the cruise, mostly for security reasons, but it also allows for a quicker check-in. The "Welcome Aboard" photo was handled professionally and with great dispatch, a harbinger of more good things to follow?. One last stop prior to boarding; one has to stand at a pre-determined spot and place your cruise card into a slot and be photographed for the ships security system. Each time we subsequently left and returned to the ship, we had to insert our cruise card and the security officer could compare the photo with the passenger, while the ship’s computer tracked the coming/going. Finally, on board! We were met in the lobby by a crew member who checked our cruise card and directed us to an elevator where there was a sign for "White Glove Service". A crew member wearing white gloves pushed the elevator button for us and also the button for the deck where our cabin was located. We found our cabin easily enough, but missed the pampered feeling that one gets on Holland American while being escorted to your stateroom by a crew member. After disposing of our carryon bags, we set out to search out our cruisemates, acquaint ourselves with the layout of the ship and get some lunch. Lunch was available in the Ocean Cafe, on Deck 10. After lunch, as we were exploring the ship, and verifying the location of our Dining Room table, we noticed that passengers arriving on board were being greeted with glasses of champagne and being escorted to their cabins. Maybe we just arrived too early in the boarding process. We stopped back at our cabin and found that most of our luggage had arrived, and we met our cabin steward, who introduced himself and showed us the location of our life jackets, explained the operation of the room safe, the temperature controls, the various knobs/dials in the bathroom, pointed out the refrigerator, and told us how to contact him if we wanted anything. He also reminded us of the time of the Lifeboat Drill, required by Coast Guard regulations, for all passengers. For the drill, we carried (as instructed) our life jackets to our Muster Station. As we were leaving our cabin, at the sound of the Emergency Signal, our cabin steward was coming to check our cabin to ensure that we were not still there. Once at the Muster Station, roll call was taken, despite the fact crew members were making a sweep of all staterooms, to make sure all were unoccupied, just as they would do in an actual emergency. We felt comfortable that this exercise was competently handled, even though the crew did not verify that all the passengers had properly donned their life jackets, after the crew demonstrated how to wear the life jackets. Now! It was time to get this cruise underway!
Stateroom: We were on Deck 9, (Sky Deck) cabin 9067 (Concierge Class, port side, just forward of midship). The cabin measures 191 sq. ft., plus a verandah that allows an additional 41 sq. ft. (the verandah seemed larger that the specified area). On the verandah there were two comfortable padded chairs and a table large enough to easily accommodate comfortable alfresco dining. One aspect of this stateroom (and most of the other Concierge Class, at this time) is that Deck 10 has a larger footprint and thus the balconies on Deck 9 are essentially shaded for most of the day. Some may find this preferable and others find it detrimental; we are still undecided. Starting at various times during 2005 on different ships, Celebrity will be increasing the number of Concierge Class cabins, by re-designating the current Category 1A and 1B cabins as Concierge Class. This change will allow sun worshipers to also enjoy Concierge Class cruising, and add a few dollars to Celebrity’s bottom line. For passengers booking Concierge Class cabins, Celebrity provides a bottle of champagne; it was interesting being on our balcony during the sail away and hearing all the champagne corks ‘popping’. We typically book ocean view cabins (no balcony) on a lower deck, midship, but the price for the Concierge Class on this group was too good to pass up. While we have booked cabins with balconies on other cruises, we find, at least for us, on most itineraries, the extra cost for the balcony is not worth the trade off of possibly having to forego an additional cruise that year. Closet and/or drawer space was more than sufficient even for those of us that are "complete" packers. No, there is not space for the kitchen sink, but all your clothes should fit without difficulty. The bathroom is larger than ‘cruise ship friendly’, and does allow for turning around without bumping into anything. There is a programmable safe in one of the cabinets and a "real" hair dryer is provided in each cabin; Janet liked this feature. Mechanically, everything worked as expected. The cabin was usually quiet, but at times noises were discernible the hallway. It was not a major problem, but something we did notice. All staterooms on the Millennium are equipped with Interactive TV. This allows passengers to: check onboard charges; make reservations for shore excursions; order wine for dinner; there is probably something we must be forgetting.
The two beds were made up in a queen size configuration, as requested, and were quite comfortable. One of the ‘perks’ of being in a Concierge Class cabin is the choice of a variety of pillow options, including isotonic pillows. This made Ray (the pillow freak) very happy. Canapés were delivered to the cabin each day at about 5:00PM, if you were in the cabin at that time. Our guess is that you could also ask your cabin steward to leave them even if you aren’t there. Of course, there is little likelihood of starving on any cruise. There was ample room at the bottom of the closets even for all of Janet’s shoes; the desk/dressing table and the night stands contained additional drawer/shelf space for the remainder of our clothes (we do not travel light when we cruise). There was no difficulty placing the empty suitcases under the bed. Two other nice touches in the Concierge Class cabins is the complimentary use of a pair of binoculars and of a golf umbrella. Hopefully, one will only need to utilize one of these amenities.
Public Areas: This a medium large ship, with a passenger capacity of 1950, we seldom saw any real congestion. There is some congestion in the area of the Ocean Cafe at times, and outside the Dining Rooms just prior to meal times. The Dining Room congestion can easily be avoided by timing your arrival 5-10 minutes after the stated opening time. In a sense of fairness, we need to note that we did not spend a lot of time taking notes in all the public areas. In most cases, our opinions are based on casual observations while moving about the ship at different times of day/night, and conversations with other passengers.
Medical Facility (Deck 1): Fortunately, we did not have any reason to visit this area of the ship.
Grand Foyer (Decks 3 to 5): This was a focal point of the ship that many passengers used as a meeting place. This is where the scenic elevators are located and they provide easy access to many of the public areas of the ship.
Online@Celebrity Internet Center (Grand Foyer, Deck 4): Celebrity made Internet connection easy, if not inexpensive. Laptop access from your stateroom is available with rental of Celebrity’s ‘access kit’ ($10.00 rental charge). Wireless ‘hotspots’ will be available on Millennium in March 2005. Different levels of access packages were available, as were computer classes. Computer classes were actually held in the Beta Computer Room on Deck 3, or in the Cinema/Conference Center on Deck 3.
Guest Relations/Purser (Grand Foyer, Deck 3): As is usual, this was a busy area, especially since it was also the location of the Captain’s Club Hospitality Desk, the Concierge’s Desk, the Shore Excursion Desk, and the Future Cruise Sales Desk. The representatives staffing these areas seemed very pleasant, knowledgeable and accommodating.
Metropolitan Dining Room (Aft, Decks 4 and 5): Very comfortable feeling dining room with soothing color scheme. Large windows provide many sea views. There are very few tables for two; if that is important to you make sure your travel agent emphasizes this request on your reservation. There are also many very large tables, seating ten to twelve passengers. You may wish to confirm your table seating with the Maitre d’ immediately upon boarding the ship, if table size is very important. The carpeting and draperies did an excellent job absorbing noise so that table conversations were easy, if the table was not too large. The dinner menus were of a quite nice variety, each night providing at least a meat entree, a fish entree, a chicken or other fowl entree. There was also the "opt out" section on the menu; each night there was always available: a Caesar Salad; a steak; a fish dish (the fish varied, sometime the same as the entree). Everything that we had ordered was fine nothing was exceptionally memorable either in taste or presentation. Celebrity had been one of our favorite cruise lines due to their fine dining and service. It was reassuring to see that they remain "a cut above" most of the rest. We say that knowing that the quality of one’s dining experience is a very subjective matter. For breakfast and lunch, the dining room offers "open seating"; as you arrive at the dining room, you are escorted to a table that has space available. Once the table is full, the orders are taken. Only the lower portion of the dining room was used for breakfast and lunch.
Cova Cafe & Patisserie (Grand Foyer, Deck 5): Coffee/espresso bar, also providing snacks. This is also where passengers could enjoy the wine bar each evening and enjoy the music of The Flagship jazz band or the Pomerania Quartet.
Michael’s Club (Forward, Deck 4): This is where one would usually find the talented pianist, or her mechanical ‘magic’ stand-in. The bar here seemed to have more generous pours than some of the others, but this did not always mean that pours were as generous for those at tables in Michael’s.
The Emporium (Midship, Deck 5): Normal selection of Logo wear, Resort wear, Perfume, Sundries, Liquor, Jewelry, and also a Tuxedo Rental shop. Prices seemed typical of shops aboard cruise ships. There were also a number of Specialty Boutiques, with prices that gave meaning to the "specialness" of the merchandise. This is also the location of the Art Gallery where the daily, or more often, Art Auctions were held.
The Olympic Restaurant (Aft, Deck 3): This is the Millennium’s specialty restaurant seating a maximum of 140 guests. This magnificent dining room contains the original paneling from the A La Carte Restaurant aboard the legendary RMS Olympic (sailed for the White Star Line from 1911 to 1935, the precursor ship of the Titanic). Meals are served pre fixe ($30.00 per person), or "Pre Fixe Menu Exceptionnel", which entails an additional charge of $27.95 per person, and includes wine servings with each course. We did not find this to be an experience worthy of consideration to repeat; food was excellent, service was definitely not up to the same standard (the wine service was almost condescending/surly). One gets the feeling that P. T. Barnum would have loved this place.
Art/Photo Galleries (Midship/Forward, Deck 4, starboard): Typical cruise ship photo gallery, with the added feature of interspersed pieces of art (both ship’s collection and auction items). There is also a shop selling 35 mm and digital cameras and related items as well as the normal film and disposable cameras.
Celebrity Theatre (Forward, Decks 3, 4 and 5): This venue is primarily a theater, not merely another multi-purpose room. All the seats are fixed in place facing the stage, with the floor sloped downward from the rear toward the stage. This provides good sight lines from all but a few areas (as far as we could tell). There is a very large stage, with fore and aft sections that can be raised above stage level, or lowered below stage level, allowing for greater artistic interpretations. Sound levels and special effects are well presented. Overall, this an excellent entertainment venue. This was also the sometime home of Bingo!!
Rendez-Vous Lounge (Midship/Aft, Deck 4): This seemed to be a popular venue situated just forward of the entrance to the lower level of the Metropolitan Restaurant. Pre-Dinner cocktails and dancing, as well as After-dinner drinks and dancing added to the draw of this venue. During some mornings/afternoons (depending on port time) this was the place to be for Trivia competition.
Platinum Club (Midship/Aft Deck 5): Despite this appellation on the deck plans, the daily newsletter referred to this area as the Martini Bar (port side) and the Champagne Bar (starboard side). Either type drink, or any other type, were available on either side, which was good since smoking was allowed only on the port side of most public lounges.
Fortunes Casino (Midship/Forward, Deck 4): Active venue most times; as is usual, there were many more losers than winners. Basic cruise ship table games and large number of slot machines. At various times during the cruise there were Blackjack and Slots Tournaments held here. Hours of operation, on sea days, typically were 0900 (slots) 1000 (tables) until late, when in port, the casino is closed until back at sea.
Cinema and Conference Center (Aft, Deck 3); Besides being the Cinema, was also the venue for Catholic Mass each day, as well as periodic lectures on topics such as: Feng Shui; Unclutter Your Home; Acupuncture at Sea; Digital Photography. There were usually two different films screened each day. The seating is slightly raised at the rear. We were only there for a couple of talks, so cannot comment on how suitable this venue is for viewing movies. Alas, there is no popcorn to be had, a la Holland America Line. Hmmm? Maybe that is why we didn’t stop by for any films.
Words (Grand Foyer, Decks 8 and 9): This uniquely named library is very large, with an extensive collection. While located on two different decks, entry is only from Deck 8 (Deck 9 has an "Emergency Only" exit). Hours were dependent upon port schedules, but typically there were some morning hours, afternoon hours, and early evening hours each day.
Notes (Grand Foyer, Decks 6 and 7): This is Millennium’s music library which houses a quite impressive collection of recorded music. For those not wishing to be confined to this venue, I-pods are available for rental.
Riviera Pool (Midship, Deck 10): The pool seemed adequate for the number of passengers, since crowding did not seem to be a problem. A crowded swimming pool on a cruise ship should be life’s worst problem. Pools are open 7:00AM, or 7:30AM to 8:00PM; adjacent Whirlpools opened at the same time and closed at 9:00PM each day. It is still a mystery why the different opening times on different days.
AquaSpa/Aqua Dome (Forward, Deck 10): This area is identified by each name on different deck plans. The pool area is of the retractable roof design type, there are also a couple of whirlpools. This area is supposedly adults only, but some under 18 year olds were seen in the pool area. It was not always discernible if parents were anywhere nearby. Within the Aqua Dome there is a Spa Cafe, and some tables and chairs. This had some lighter/healthier food options. This enclosed area appeals to a number of passengers, but Ray finds it too reminiscent of a "hot house", although on our cruise the dome was opened (at least partially) some of the time. Our guess is that this is another area where cruise lines attempt provide options for differing passenger preferences.
AquaSpa (Forward, Deck 10): This area is referenced on deck plans and in brochures as AquaSpa also, and is found just forward of the AquaSpa/Aqua Dome pool area. This is a typical Spa/Beauty Shop set up, plus a number of specialty Thermarium treatment offerings, at higher prices. There are complimentary steam rooms and saunas for men and women. Periodic Health/Fitness seminars are offered, free of charge, with an invitation for personal consultations (not free). There are also some fitness activities (Yoga, Pilates, Spinning, and Virtual Cycling) that required an additional $10.00 fee. There was also a ‘Fit-Ball’ Seminar at a cost of $40.00, which included a Fit-Ball to take home; not sure how easy/difficult a Fit-Ball is to pack.
Golf Simulator (Midship, Deck 11): This is one of those simulators where you hit your golf shots at a projection screen and the result is determined by a computer. We cannot comment if this area was used very frequently.
Topless Sunbathing Area (Forward, Deck 14): On the two occasions we were in the area, there were no sunbathers, topless or otherwise.
Sports Court (Aft, Deck 12): This area is surrounded by netting to keep volleyballs, soccer balls, basketballs from going overboard. This area was used for various competitions/activities, as well as general passenger usage.
Ship Mates Fun Factory (Aft, Deck 12): Here is where you will find a separate pool for toddlers, small children. Also the center of pre-teen kid’s programs. Included here are: games; computers; area for arts and crafts; a stage for plays; books and an area for story telling.
Game Arcade (Aft, Deck 11, port): Arcades seem well on their way to becoming the children’s version of casinos on cruise ships. This one is no exception; it always seemed to be well populated. It contained a large variety of driving/riding experiences, some shooting scenarios, etc.
Jogging Track (Encircling Deck 11 exterior): If our collective memories are correct, five times around the jogging track equals one mile; check the plaque for exact information. The surface of impact-dampening material takes some of the strain out of jogging into some fairly strong winds, and the all weather surface also adds to the safety.
Cosmos Night Club (Forward, Deck 11): The design of this large area actually allows for simultaneous, non-interfering usage of different sections. Much of this room has large windows offering spectacular sea views. This is also the location for late night dancing, with music provided via DJ. Bingo followers also had to wend their way here for some games. This venue is use restricted to passengers over 18 years of age, after 11:00PM, and also the home of Karaoke. Eventually, this will be the location used for installation of the "Bar at the Edge of the Earth" the joint collaboration of Celebrity with Cirque du Soleil. This installation requires significant time and is usually done in conjunction with a scheduled dry-dock.
Ocean Cafe and Grill (Aft, Deck 10): The layout of the Ocean Cafe is that food serving areas are grouped in various stations: hot buffet; cold buffet; deli; fruits/salads; beverages; breads/rolls; pizza; desserts; soup/sandwiches. Some items may show up at more than one station. This design keeps lines to a minimum, but may require multiple trips for a full variety. The best plan of attack seemed to be to scout out an available table and leave something/someone to reserve it until the food is obtained. Obtaining the food first and then looking for a particular table can allow hot items to cool considerably during a search for a desired table. If you are willing to take any available table, or eat outdoors, seating should be almost immediate. One innovative design incorporated into this venue is that there are sections in the floor where passengers can sit with their meal and look directly down 10 deck levels to the sea; perhaps not a ‘plus’ for all passengers. This is possible due to the extended ‘footprint’ of Deck 10 (being much wider the decks below. Food in the Ocean Cafe was uniformly fresh, well prepared and tasty. Variety was excellent, but still a buffet, rather than table service, which some passengers prefer. The Ocean Cafe is also the location of the frozen yogurt/ soft-serve and hand dipped ice cream stations. These stations also had a variety of toppings and cookies available.
Shore Excursions: The ports visited on this cruise are ones we have visited in the past, and for the most part enjoy. They are also ports that many folks enjoy, or dislike, for different reasons, depending on personal preferences, We will not dwell on excursion options in this review, but will attempt to answer any questions that you may wish to e-mail to us.
Entertainment: This is not an aspect of a cruise that will usually determine whether or not we have a great cruise experience. We attended a number of the headlined shows and they were fine, even though they were not anything exceptional. Beyond the usual production (song and dance) shows, there were comedians, magician/illusionist, and of course the ever popular "Bingo!". The music in the various lounges/bars was pretty good. We especially enjoyed the Jazz renditions and the String Quartet that were presented in the alcove outside the Cova Cafe, on various evenings.
Service: To us, this is a key facet of a cruise that can delineate the difference between a "mediocre" and a "great" cruising experience. Good service can help mitigate minor shortcomings in other areas, and tends to remain longer in one’s memory. Conversely, poor service can magnify those same minor shortcomings. Our cabin steward was one of those "phantoms" that even if you seldom see him, you know he is around. He seemed to anticipate all of our needs, and if we had a question he was right there to ask. The cabin was kept well ordered and clean. When we did see him, he was friendly and outgoing, as was his super assistant.
Dining Room service was capably provided by our very professional waiter and his able assistant, who worked very well together. Our Head Waiter was seldom seen. By the second night, all personal preferences were noted and acted upon accordingly, and names were memorized, with each passenger addressed by name at each interaction. Ray’s water glass was kept filled, even through dessert, a quirk of his. One difference we noted on this cruise was that bread/rolls are not in baskets on the table, but offered by your servers when first seated and then not seen again unless requested. This was not a problem for us, Janet doesn’t normally eat them and Ray eats too many if they are there. This is probably a response to the viral outbreaks on a number of cruise ships, since this seems to be the norm on an increasing number of cruise lines. It would be our pleasure to be seated again at a table attended to by these two very capable individuals. Celebrity still offers wine service in the Dining Room, via Wine Stewards, rather than having the table waitstaff attend to this. This had usually be viewed as a plus by us; not on this cruise. The young woman who was our wine steward did not seem very knowledgeable about the wine list and she was almost impossible to find if you did not catch her when you first entered the Dining Room. We usually had to ask our waiter to find her and ask her to return to our table. Pre-ordering wine might have been a solution, but we usually do not decide on our wine choices until we review the entree options. However, even with this ‘hardship’, we did survive the cruise, and still enjoyed dinner each evening.
In the Ocean Cafe, service is obviously self directed, most beverage refills are offered at the tables, by crew moving through the Ocean Cafe with carts. Tables were efficiently cleared as soon as passengers vacated them. If anyone needed assistance with getting their trays to a table, a crew member always seemed to be waiting to help.
Drink service in the lounges was somewhat uneven and, overall, somewhat on the ‘less than average’ side, but passengers would be hard put to label service as either "pushy" or "aggressive". Drinks were uniformly of good size (except as pleasantly noted in Michael’s Club) and quality, and were comparably priced with other cruise lines.
Disembarkation: While never enjoyable, this was at least painless; probably the fact that we were immediately heading to another cruise made it even easier. Celebrity uses the common color tag process; colors assigned in accordance with passengers schedules/plans after they leave the ship. One difference in their process is that the colors are not announced via ship-wide intercom. Passengers are requested to assemble in various public areas at times that correspond to the different colors; announcements to proceed to disembarkation are made in these lounges, at the appropriate times. Since we were heading for the second leg of our Back-to-Back cruise, and it was sailing from Miami, we had made arrangements for a private car service to pick us up at 10:30AM. We mentioned this to the Captain’s Club Hospitality Representative and she arranged for us to receive the proper color tags to accommodate this schedule. After picking up our luggage, and clearing customs, we went outside and waited a few minutes for our driver and headed off to Miami, to join a group of friends on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas.
Final Thoughts and Recap: As mentioned earlier, of our many cruises, this was our fourth cruise with Celebrity, and the first on one of their Millennium Class ships. The art displayed about the ship is eclectic and very interesting; many pieces with placards explaining that piece’s history. The staff are extremely friendly and usually very willing and capable to be of assistance. Housekeeping was excellent, and constantly being attended to. One particular item that we enjoyed was the deck chairs on the wide (in some places) Promenade Deck, a sadly disappearing pleasure on many of the newer cruise ships. Unfortunately, the promenade does not completely circle the ship. We feel that we received excellent and more than fair value for our dollars. There are always areas for improvement, on any cruise line and/or individual cruise, but we are hardly able to pinpoint any shortcomings beyond the ones we have mentioned earlier. We are already booked for a return sailing on this beautiful ship.
Thank you for taking the time to allow us to share our experience. We hope you found it informative and enjoyable.