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James Cooper

Age: 66

Occupation:Software Architect

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Millennium

Sailing Date: 2009-08-26

Itinerary: Alaska

Overall, we had a wonderful time in Alaska and the Celebrity staff was for the most part exceedingly helpful. The scenery was gorgeous and we were lucky enough to have no rain at all. There was some smoky haze from fires in the Yukon, however.

One of the main reasons my wife and I selected Celebrity was because of the reputation for the cuisine. The ship holds over 2200 people and there are two seatings in the main dining room, making them around 1000 people each time. Obviously food prepared to that scale must have some compromises. It was never very hot and seldom all that imaginative. The service was excellent though. While they encourage you to order wine by the bottle, they will stopper and keep your wine for the next visit. There was always a selection of 4-5 desserts and one was always some sort of chocolate item. They all looked and tasted alike. Because of the cruise line's obsession with sanitation and possible spread of disease, there are people at every door to every food area giving you a squirt of Purell hand sanitizer. For this same reason, there are no salt and pepper shakers and by the time the seasonings arrive in the hands of the busy waiter, the food has cooled substantially.

You can also get food from a large buffet area for all 3 meals. We had some lunches there and one or two breakfasts. Nothing too imaginative but it may be warmer than that served in the main dining room. There were a few absolute disasters such as cold, tough "fried chicken."

While you know you will be charged for wine and liquor, it is always a surprise to find that you will be charged for cola and other soft drinks as well. Coffee and tea (and iced tea) are free. Breakfasts are available in both the main dining room and the buffet area. However, in the main dining room, the presentation is completely lacking. Ordering "pancakes" means that you get two lukewarm, tough pancakes on a naked plate and have to wait for them to pour you syrup since you can't touch anything yourself.

We found Michael's Club a nice place to unwind at the end of the day, usually having a cocktail and listening to the pianist.

The premium dining room, called the Olympic, has more waiters, fewer diners and a bit nicer decor. The $30 premium per person is supposed to provide much finer dining, but we found it not all that imaginative. However, when I complained that my duck was not pink, they were incredibly concerned and did everything they could to make up for it while they replated my order, even comping our liquor bill.

Our stateroom was on deck 7, one of the "concierge floors," although we didn't ever see a concierge. The room staff were friendly and helpful and the veranda allowed us to see some lovely views. The stateroom is only 181 square feet, but was uncluttered because of ample storage. There really isn't quite room for the couch, the coffee table the desk chair and the desk: it was always a squeeze.

We went to one of the shows called "Simply Ballroom," which was simply awful. The young singers and dancers were very talented and nice looking, 4 singers, 8 dancers and 2 swings, but the unison choreography was boring and repetitive, and the players were all plastic, having no distinctive personalities. There were a number of songs from different periods, but the choreography was much the same. We blame this on the director/choreographer. Our opinion was shared by a woman at our table who was herself a choreographer. There were more shows, one called "Simply Boogie," which we elected not to attend.

The excursions and chances to see Alaska were, of course, the highlight of the trip. The first day, the captain got the ship within 1/3 mile of the gorgeous Hubbard Glacier, a real highlight. In Juneau, we took a special photographer's tour of the Mendenhall glacier an a whale watch. The tour was pricey but there were only 8 of us and the young woman who led it was indeed a photographer, who not only knew where to guide us but could help beginners with their cameras. We actually got within 30 yards of a pod of 17 humpback whales and took hundreds of pictures of them. Other great tours included the bear watch in icy Point Strait, and the Lighthouse Totem, and Eagle tour in Ketchikan. The Skagway Streetcar tour is a waste of time, the Whale excursion at Icy Point Strait is so crowded you can't get any boat rail space to take pictures. The Juneau one was far superior. The elevated trolley in Juneau is probably not worth $27 though.

One advantage of the concierge floor is supposed to be ease in disembarking. This never came up. However, they have a wonderful service where they will take you bags the night before and check them through to your final airline destination. This costs only $20 a person and is well worth it.

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