Our only other Celebrity cruise was 5 years ago to celebrate my husband’s 60th, so it seemed fitting to choose Celebrity again to celebrate his 65th!
Last time, we were in an inside cabin, but this time, we “pushed the boat out” (or perhaps “splashed out”?) and went for a concierge class cabin, 8099. The Millennium is quite a small ship by today’s standards, which made being midship very convenient. Nothing was more than a few minutes away.
The cabin was quite small, but the balcony did have room for two nice chairs and a table. We made a lot of use of the enhanced breakfast menu as we found 9am rather early to close the restaurant, which only had a limited menu. The buffet offered more choice, but not much remained after 9.30am. Our cabin breakfast orders were generally okay (if not quite what we expected), the order form didn’t have any way of showing what should be on which plate – and one day they forgot teacups! Being British, we’d brought our own teabags (rooibos) – it’s a shame that a kettle wasn’t provided in the cabin, but the buffet wasn’t too far away, and hot water could be ordered from room service – sometimes it came quite quickly, other times it really was easier to go up to the buffet.
My husband has some problems with his sight, so we were delighted to find the cabin had very good lighting, especially if you put the lights on at the dressing table (something we didn’t discover until half way through the cruise!!).
Other little extras in concierge class were the afternoon delicacies (which were very nice, if rather small). We were also invited to a lunch the first day, but got there 20 minutes after it closed at 1.30. One morning, we were invited to a sail in on the helipad which was quite fun and a nice surprise. We didn’t really make much use of the concierge, but said hello from time to time when we were passing.
Due to the enhanced breakfast menu and location of the cabin, we felt that the upgrade was worth having, however, we’d probably have been just as happy in the inside cabin across the hall which, after all, was just as well located!
We enjoyed the cruise immensely – a few things could have improved our enjoyment, but we certainly never had cause for complaint.
On the whole, the food in the Metropolitan was bland American fare, however, the service was excellent at every level, right from being greeted at the door by an amazingly friendly hostess.
One thing we’d liked to have seen was something “local” on the restaurant menu (apparently that can be found in the buffet). We ate in Qsine for my husband’s birthday which was excellent – our welcome bottle of fizz was delivered there without any fuss.
One night, we noticed a message after getting back from a rather late tour saying speciality restaurants were half price, but we didn’t take up the offer.
Evening entertainment in the theatre was very good, however, I do wonder why they fly people half way round the world, rather than having some local talent! It was quite ironic that one of the entertainers hailed from my home city of Leeds in the UK! We did struggle, however, to find a spot to have a quiet drink some evenings – the DJ playing in the atrium was quite unnecessary and we found it difficult to talk to people in the Martini bar, which was supposed to host an LGBT meetup, but never seemed to do so successfully.
Our cabin steward was great and very efficient. We’ve noticed that towel animals seem to be thin on the ground, and I think on this ship they were in hibernation. Can’t say we really missed them, to be honest! The only niggle was that our toilet broke more than once which meant we had to use the public toilets a couple of mornings.
Daytime activities were rather thin on the ground (unless you wanted to shop, play bingo or attend an art auction, of course!). Instead, we enjoyed the indoor jacuzzis and thalassotherapy pool very much, which made the holiday very relaxing. There were no vegetable carving demonstrations, etc and Christmas Day was a bit of a non-event, although we enjoyed New Year’s Eve. We had to congregate around the small atrium as couldn’t be on deck as the winds were too strong.
One thing we did discover was a device (by the Captain’s Club) which let you take a selfie and email it to friends, something we haven’t seen on other ships.
We were quite shocked by the complete absence of any printed port information – on other cruise lines, we’ve always had a pull out giving full details of the port, local site information and a map of the area. Having said that, most of the ports were industrial, so with the exception of Keelung, simply walking off the ship and having a look around wasn’t possible, although in Halong Bay, there were things to see from getting off the tender, and in Hong Kong, there were free shuttle buses which took you to shopping centres. We went to Hollywood Plaza and enjoyed looking round and visiting both a park and nunnery next door. Our concierge did, however, send us telephone messages with port information, rather garbled and not what you need when you’re just getting up and not paying much attention! There were port / cultural lectures for each destination in the theatre which were interesting. But something written would have been useful.
Due to the fact that the docks were generally quite a way from anywhere, we decided to use the ship tours apart from Taipei where someone from Cruisecritic kindly organised a tour for 19 of us. Although the ship tours were expensive, they were well organised and informative – and without too many long shopping stops.
Needless to say, the horribly expensive internet didn’t work very well – and to add insult to injury, stopped at 7am on the last day, even though we weren’t getting off the ship until 9am. However, presumably there was free wifi at the terminal!
Where Celebrity score over other lines the most is with the staff. They are all bright, cheery and amazingly helpful. The captain was the friendliest we’d ever had (not to mention by far the youngest) and his morning announcements were brilliant (including “the ship’s position is upright, and I intend to keep it that way!”). We were delighted to see so many “stripes” in attendance at the cruise critic event which took place on our first sea day, Christmas Day, and around the ship generally. Celebrity certainly understand the value of making guests feel welcome, with tea, coffee and orange juice.
Returning to the ship after a day sightseeing was like coming home and was very well managed. We were welcomed back dockside with a refreshing cold drink, followed by a cold towel to clean hands and face, then hand gel before being greeted by the security staff. The boarding process was very quick and efficient with officers in attendance to manage the flow of people and add to the welcome. All in all, the best we have ever experienced on a sea cruise.
Getting off the ship was like saying goodbye to a friend. The captain was there to make sure we all went – something we’ve only seen on river cruises. It’s true that the ship lacks a wow factor, but that’s more than made up for by the staff who make you feel very welcome.