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janca

Millennium Transpacific 4/25/13 Review

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Just returned from an awesome Transpacific on the Millennium and thought I would do a quick review while still hanging out in Alaska. I went with my dad for this trip and we really enjoyed ourselves. Just for background, we generally do a Transatlantic cruise every year and had never been to Asia before this trip. I am 34 and he is 58.

 

Pre-cruise:

 

We flew to Beijing a week before the cruise and had a private tour arranged for 6 days through China Highlights. Our guide, Lili, met us after we cleared immigration and customs. We had applied for the Chinese visa about 2 months prior to the cruise and had no issues obtaining the visa.

 

I can’t say enough about how great our trip with China Highlights was – we had a driver and guide for the entire trip (3 days in Beijing and 3 days in Shanghai) and saw everything on our itinerary. I can elaborate if anyone wants details on the pre-cruise portion.

 

Embarkation:

 

We arrived at the port around 10:45AM on the day of embarkation. The staff indicated that the check-in lines would open around 11:30AM, but that Chinese immigration officials would not be there until 12PM to start the boarding process. Around 11:45AM, the lines finally opened and we were all checked in within a few minutes. Then, we had to wait around a bit for security and immigration to open. There were not really any great directions given at this point, but we were sitting in Bistro on 5 by about 12:30PM, so it was not really all that painful. I do have to say that my major disappointment on the cruise was all of the complaining and rudeness from some of the other passengers. If there was a line involved for anything, you were guaranteed to have to listen to 20 minutes of complaining about how someone has visited these ports on 30 other cruises and never had to stand in line before or people trying to push to the front because they shouldn’t have to stand in a line (sorry – mini rant got away from me!). This started while waiting for security to open – people were very concerned that they would not be the first ones on and insisting that the Celebrity person open up the ropes for them to jump in line.

 

One thing I did like was that Celebrity handed us an immigration sheet upon check-in that fully outlined the procedures for each port that we would be visiting. It was accurate and gave step-by-step instructions for what to expect.

 

Stateroom:

 

Rooms were ready before we finished our lunch at Bistro (which was fabulous – I had the Mexicano crepe and it is my new favorite). We were in a Royal Suite 6134 and it was a surprise I planned for my dad. He had no idea that we had changed from a balcony to a suite until we checked in at the suite line, but he thought we had a Sky Suite, so it was great seeing his face when he walked into the Royal Suite. When the butler came around, I was ecstatic to see a familiar face – Izzy was the room steward my husband and I had on the Equinox in 2009 and he had been promoted to butler since then. He was fantastic the entire cruise and did so many things to make the trip memorable.

 

We did have one issue with the room. After the first night, the room was so cold that we had to have several blankets on to sleep at night (and we generally like it fairly chilly while sleeping). The engineers were in every day for 3 days before it was fixed, but it finally straightened out after they did something with the air flow in the ceiling.

 

Drink Packages:

 

We had the Premium Alcohol packages that were purchased in advance. I believe this was our 4th cruise with the packages and I would not want to cruise without it. Bar service was excellent and we had our regular places on the ship where the servers would bring over our usual order as soon as we came in. We did not tip anything on top of the 15% already included in the package throughout the cruise, but did tip at the end for the ones who took such good care of us.

 

Ports:

 

Jeju Island, South Korea – Unfortunately, winds were very high and we were unable to get into the port in Jeju. The Captain tried twice, then came on the PA and said that he was going to wait for a bit to see if the winds died down. The winds actually picked up during that time, so we headed back out to sea to go to the next port. Shore excursions booked through Celebrity were automatically refunded, along with about $20/person for port fees.

 

Kobe, Japan – we docked on time in Kobe and then had to deal with immigration. According to our handout and the numerous announcements by Steve, the cruise director, Japan required all passengers to disembark to clear immigration and no one was allowed back on board until everyone was clear. Steve announced that if we did not have an immediate need to get off to catch a tour, we would be better off waiting for the rush to die down and he would announce when the rest of us should get off (we had a tour later in the day). Following Steve’s instructions, we waited and then disembarked and walked right through immigration, receiving the proper stamp on the landing card we had been issued.

 

We then had to go back through the terminal to wait in line to get back on the ship after everyone had cleared. Again, there was another round of loud complaining about how disorganized this was and why should people have to stand in line. On the contrary, I thought it was extremely organized and the line moved quickly once the ship was clear. I just don’t know what people expect when 500 people are all going the same place. There is going to be a line involved. The more orderly, the better and Celebrity told us exactly what was going to happen.

 

We went on a tour in the afternoon to Mt. Rokko and a sake brewing museum. It was a Celebrity excursion and we enjoyed it. On our second day, we just walked around on our own and did some exploring.

 

Tokyo, Japan (Yokohama) – we did not have to go through the whole clearance process again when we docked in Yokohama, thank goodness. We took a ship’s tour to Tokyo that included highlights of Tokyo and a trip to the TV tower. Again, it was a good tour and the view from the top of the tower was awesome, as it was just getting dark out. On our second day, we again just walked around on our own and did some exploring. I would love to go back to Tokyo again for a longer stay – was a really clean and vibrant city.

 

Petropavlovsk, Russia – this port was rather a nightmare, but not for any reason that Celebrity could control. Apparently, Russian authorities had to inspect each individual passport, page through all of the pages in the passport, pass the passport to another person to inspect, and then chat about what they had for breakfast. We had a tour scheduled for 9AM (Celebrity tour). When we met in the theater, the Celebrity employee was giving regular updates and basically saying that once a batch of passports was cleared, they would announce the tour number and those people could come up to the stage to collect their passports. After waiting for about 30 minutes, they announced that we could go anywhere we wanted and that announcements would be made over the PA system so we didn’t all have to keep sitting there. We went back to our room to wait. Around 10:30AM, our bus number was called, so we were able to pick up our passports. Then, we had to wait about 30 more minutes for the first tender to be cleared. As we were leaving the ship, Russian authorities again had to inspect our passports.

 

The tour itself was very good – although, the town was not anything great, the museum was excellent and we stopped at a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church (it was Orthodox Easter). I enjoyed seeing the town.

 

When we arrived back at the ship around 3PM, we found that many of the tours still had not been cleared. The ship offered refunds to anyone who did not want to go, but they also ran the tours for people who still wanted to go and kept the ship in port far later than originally scheduled. It will be interesting to see if Celebrity keeps this port on future itineraries because it really was difficult. We also found out that the Russian authorities took a break from 12PM to 1:15PM to eat lunch in the Oceanview, so no tours were cleared during that time.

 

Another interesting note was that one of the Japanese entertainers onboard was not able to disembark because Russian authorities would not clear him, so he ended up having to cancel shows in Japan and sail all the way to Alaska.

 

Food:

 

MDR – we had late seating (8:30PM) at a table of 8 and had very cool tablemates. We had a good time every night and really enjoyed getting to know them. Overall, food was good to very good and what I expect of Celebrity. Our waiter and assistant waiter were excellent and really did a good job. We were on enhanced noro precautions by the end of the cruise, so they had to serve bread, butter, etc. to us.

 

Oceanview – dad said it was decent (I don’t generally do buffets), but he stopped going when they started serving instead of allowing self-service.

 

Bistro on 5 – ate here several times, including embarkation day. Loved it every time!

 

Olympic – we did the wine connoisseur’s dinner on one of the sea days, which was very enjoyable and something we tend to do on every cruise. I believe there were about 20 people who ended up doing it that night, but we were at a table for 4 with another couple and had a blast with the pairings. Delicious.

 

We also ate one night in Olympic for a regular dinner and I was disappointed that they did not have a steak on the menu, as I usually order a filet mignon at the specialty restaurants. They did have the chateaubriand for 2, which we ended up ordering.

 

Chef’s Table – this was the highlight of our cruise. We had a table in the galley, hosted by the Chief Engineer. Executive Chef Donovan prepared many of the courses tableside and the wine pairings were top-notch. We received a picture of the group at the end of the meal and also received a copy of the Excite the Senses book in our room the next day. The book is huge and I am really looking forward to trying the recipes as soon as I get home.

 

Qsine – we ate here one night. We had previously eaten at Qsine on the Reflection in December, so we knew what to expect. It was good, but I would have preferred Tuscan Grille or Silk Harvest on the ship instead of or in addition to. We probably would’ve eaten more in the specialty restaurants if there had been more options available.

 

Bars/Entertainment:

 

I was a little apprehensive to see how the layout had changed since the last time I was on Millennium in 2008. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I enjoyed the location of Cellar Masters and think that it is actually better than the Solstice-class ships because you have to walk through it to get to the dining room. People tended to stop and check it out to have a drink, whereas on the Solstice-class ships, it’s a separate, dark room that no one goes into.

 

Shows – I went to all of the production shows and enjoyed all of them. I saw a couple of the guest entertainers who sang, but did not see the comedian, juggler, or illusionist. Our tablemates said that they were impressed with the entertainment and had gone to most of the shows.

 

Lecturers – I believe there were 7 lecturers onboard. There was someone talking about baseball history, the former director of NASA, history of the ports, English royalty history, the Titanic, and all kinds of other things. It was really hard to be bored on all of the sea days with all of the activities going on.

 

Disembarkation:

 

We did a Celebrity tour that included a 5 hour cruise to the Kenai Fjords and then a drop-off at the airport in Anchorage. The tour was fairly good, but the final part where we collected our luggage before getting onto the bus to head to Anchorage was rather messy. It was a combination of a lack of clear instructions and people not listening at all to what instructions there were. It all eventually got straightened out and the bus ride was very scenic, with good commentary by the driver.

 

Overall:

 

A great cruise with fantastic crew who provided excellent service. I never did meet anyone who was affected by noro, but I did hear a count of 100 or so at one point. Celebrity did require that everyone get off of the ship in Seward for a deep cleaning. I believe 1200 passengers from the Transpacific continued on for the next cruise, so the ship arranged tours for everyone.

 

Well, this got a lot longer than I thought it would be when I started. Feel free to ask any questions you may have!

 

-Jen

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Hi Jen -

 

I agree with you that the complainers were a real drag! What a negative bunch!!!

 

I think we sat next to you and your Dad at the Reidel seminar. Nice to meet you both!

 

Joe

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Hi Joe,

 

Yes, that was us at the Riedel tasting! Dad and I enjoyed meeting you and Jeff too. Sorry to say that we never did get to Blu - needed just 1 more sea day to fit everything in :)

 

Forgot to mention a couple of things in the review. Dad and I did several of the wine-tastings on the sea days, which we really enjoyed. Most of them were repeats for us, but still always fun. There was a great group of sommeliers on board.

 

-Jen

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Jen

 

Many thanks for your thorough review. Not only did I enjoy reading it but the content is great preparation for our transpacific in 2015. It sounds to me that Celebrity did very well considering it was the first time they had done the itinerary. Unfortunately, the 2015 includes Russia again - it was to have been Dutch Harbor instead on the cancelled 2014 cruise but the replacement 14-night Tokyo to Vancouver also included the Russian port. Perhaps they will rethink!

 

Thanks again.

 

Sue

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Please allow some contrary opinions from another passenger on this cruise. Long time lurker coming out of the shadows.

 

Shanghai: The OP was able to board the ship VERY early in the process. However, there soon developed a very long queue in the boarding tunnel. The cause was a bottleneck resulting from Celebrity doing ID photos immediately as you boarded the vessel. Yes, right there on deck. Several issues with that.

 

Photos on other cruise lines are regularly done at the time of document check and credit card swipe. I have no idea why Celebrity thought that having three photo locations would suffice for a ship of over 2000 people. What compounded the problem was poor ventilation in the tunnel (plus lack of water for a long time), but that was nothing compared to the complete lack of announcements from any kind of Celebrity officer or official. People waited as much as 2.5 hours in that line, with nary a sight of anyone with stripes on their shoulders.

 

As for any complaints about the Chinese officials....they were quite efficient at their jobs, and there were minimal lines at their locations. The same could not be said for ship personnel.

 

Jeju Island: While I have traveled enough to know that you cannot always make a port, I've also been on several ships that "made up" for missing a port. Sometimes the bar was open "on the house" for a while, sometimes there were other apologies. Nothing here. Perhaps the loss of shorex revenue was all Celebrity was willing to part with.

 

Kobe: As described, all passengers had to be ashore for immigration. At some point, people had to get off, so not all were as fortunate as the OP in "hanging back". In fact, had more done as he did, the process would have taken even longer to accommodate those who straggled. Again, as in Shanghai, the issue was the lack of any kind of officials from Celebrity in the "holding pen" inside the cruise terminal. No announcements, no signage - just many hundreds of people waiting and wondering. The lack of any kind of attention to people was disturbing. In addition, the lack of any kind of queue management is the fault of Celebrity. They were aware that 2000 passengers needed to be in the terminal and did nothing to have staff or crowd control in place.

 

Yokohama: The lack of communication followed at the next stop. After an afternoon arrival, I headed into the terminal before dinner. Wanting to look around, what to my amazement but a free shuttle bus to the train station. But, did the cruiseline ever bother to tell guests in Celebrity Today about the availability? Or maybe with a flyer on the door? No - once again it was a tight-lipped management that didn't think that passengers needed to know anything. Adding insult to injury, the front desk and concierge denied that they kept it a secret. As the concierge said: "We told anyone who came to our desk to ask if there was a shuttle". Simply, that is not customer service.

 

Petropavlosk: Communication snafus reached their zenith this day. While the delays with Russian immigration were not the fault of Celebrity, their communication strategy was. No announcements in the staterooms, and announcements over the public PA system were not heard in the Theater (and vice versa). The OP was off the ship early, before the comm blackout occurred. Those with late morning or afternoon tours often waited in the Theater for up to 5 1/2 hours. And due to the poor communication, were often in the dark as to their specific status. And again, the grumbling was about the Celebrity response (or non-response) to the issues at hand.

 

At one point I decided to time the interval between the CD's announcements over the public PA. In spite of assurances that "we will keep you informed", the shortest interval was 45 minutes, the longest 1:20. That is just poor customer service. Plus, the messages from shorex in the Theater were not communicated outside, nor were they accurate or timely.

 

Service Staff: For as bad as management was, bar staff was superb. MDR staff was very good, but wait staff in Oceanview was just going through the motions. Could they all have been approaching the end of their contracts?

 

Officers and Management: Perhaps they were all consumed with issues of Noro. However, in all of my dealings, they were quickly dismissive of any complaints or concerns. After receiving out and out lies from the concierge, I gave up trying to have any conversation with him. Guest services was busy arguing with myself and other guests and the Hotel Director was MIA. I did not meet a single guest who said they saw him during the crossing. And I asked a lot of folk.

 

Probably more that I could add, but I wanted all to know that it wasn't all sunshine and roses as the OP suggested.

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I mentioned many issues that we encountered - from immigration to room issues to restaurant issues. My apologies if you the only thing you got from my review was that it was sunshine and roses. In fact, there was very little sunshine on the trip, including snowing on the balcony one morning (which I also happened to love, but I'm sure others may not like). I did receive several roses on the trip, so I guess that part is true. :)

 

My opinion is that it was a great cruise and I would not hesitate to do it again.

 

-Jen

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I mentioned many issues that we encountered - from immigration to room issues to restaurant issues. My apologies if you the only thing you got from my review was that it was sunshine and roses. In fact, there was very little sunshine on the trip, including snowing on the balcony one morning (which I also happened to love, but I'm sure others may not like). I did receive several roses on the trip, so I guess that part is true. :)

 

My opinion is that it was a great cruise and I would not hesitate to do it again.

 

-Jen

Thanks for your review!!! Love your attitude!! A transpacific is on my bucket list! :):)

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I think between the two "reviews" it becomes pretty balanced. Lots of plusses and apparently some minuses. On the plus side, we were on the millenium for 28 days in asia and it's a good ship...Steve is one of the best CD's we've had on any ship. On the minus side, celebrity doesn't do well with new ports....they don't do their homework and seem to wing it...as a result they just don't have people stationed where they could help, etc. Many of the problems weren't really due to Celebrity, but perhaps if Celebrity threw some people at the problem (on the dock) it would help. As far as communications on the ship, that's an area where Celebrity has never been good...they just don't know how to let passengers know what's happening when something goes amiss.

 

Sounds like it was a good cruise with hiccups....thanks for the reviews.

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Leaving on the MIllie on 05/24, glad to hear ship is good. I have heard so many complaints. To me a cruise is what you make it, if you dont like the color of the carpet or the meatballs are smaller then just order more. The color of the carpet never made or broke a cruise for me.

On another thread someone brought a tape measure and was complaining that the cabin wasnt the same size as described. Come on now get real.

I love meeting new people, I love the experience. If I do have a problem, which is rare, I find someone to talk to right away so they have the opportunity to fix. If you wait till you return home no one can fix anything, and you are probably still complaining about something that could have been fixed.

The transpacific sounds wonderful. I have dont the TA 4 or 5 times time for a new adventure.

Norma

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Thanks to both posters for their reviews. My husband and I were booked on the similar voyage for 2014 until Celebrity cancelled all the reservations and eventually changed the itinerary so much we weren't interested. Some day I would still like to do this itinerary.

 

What was the temperature like?

Were any of the sea days rough?

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Thanks Jen for the review. You did a good job of describing out experience as well. It was a good trip, but the biggest group of complainers that we've ever seen.

We were stuck in the mess at embarkation the same as AveSaloon. The problems seemed to be a combination of things, including a huge group of b2b travelers who need to come back on board. The Chinese official we dealt with didn't seem to have a clear idea of what to do with all of us. The id photo procedure was the same at it always is on Celebrity.

The delay in Kobe disembarkation was because not everybody got off the ship as they were told. Like a lot of other people, we could see them on their balconies from the dock.

The good was much improved over our last cruise (last year) and, all and all, it was a great trip

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Thanks for both reviews. We also have experienced Celebrity at its best and worst.

Because they do somethings so well one often wonders why they are not more consistent... in doing it right of course.

We were once stuck in a "tunnel" while boarding for several hours and no one came along to give an explanation for the delay.

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Just to be clear, I had a good time on the cruise overall. I was quite pleased with the ports themselves, Qsine was a delight, Olympic was very good overall (save the soupy risotto that got sent back), and the bar staff were some of the best I've found at sea.

It was a good trip, but the biggest group of complainers that we've ever seen.
There is complaining for the sake of complaining and there is complaining when there is basis. Many of us found significant basis for complaints.
We were stuck in the mess at embarkation the same as AveSaloon.
Confirmation.
The id photo procedure was the same at it always is on Celebrity.
And since other lines are successfully able to integrate that with other pre-boarding procedures, perhaps Celebrity should consider that. FWIW, Crystal uses a system that puts your photo on the keycard, which would also eliminate the gangway issues when photos don't match up (which happened often on this crossing, I heard).
We were once stuck in a "tunnel" while boarding for several hours and no one came along to give an explanation for the delay.
Again, showing this is not an isolated experience but rather evidence of a failure of shipboard management to deal with these issues.

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If I do have a problem, which is rare, I find someone to talk to right away so they have the opportunity to fix. If you wait till you return home no one can fix anything, and you are probably still complaining about something that could have been fixed.

The issues were brought to management as best as possible, and while onboard. The front desk was dismissive to most and hostile to some. The HD was MIA, and requests to speak with him were shunted aside. A far cry from his welcoming letter where he expressed that he was there to assure a wonderful cruise.

 

These are not "bashing" posts. Rather trying to express some of the low points, while other folks talk about the high spots.

 

All in all....a schizo cruise. Great highs, terrible lows. Was it a disaster - no. Was it a triumph - no. Was it probably, on balance, an average cruise on Celebrity? I fear that the answer may be yes.

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What was the temperature like?

Were any of the sea days rough?

 

Temperatures in China and Japan were fairly nice - 65F was about the average that I remember. Once we started heading north, it was a lot chillier with lows around 32F and highs between 38F and 45F most days. It did snow one morning at sea and it snowed while I was on the tour in Petropavlovsk as well.

 

The sea was pretty calm until we hit the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska with about 3 sea days left. Then, it was more of a rocking motion, but it was noticeable. I do not get seasick, so I enjoyed it, but maybe someone else will chime in if they had problems with the movement.

 

-Jen

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Temperatures in China and Japan were fairly nice - 65F was about the average that I remember. Once we started heading north, it was a lot chillier with lows around 32F and highs between 38F and 45F most days. It did snow one morning at sea and it snowed while I was on the tour in Petropavlovsk as well.

 

The sea was pretty calm until we hit the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska with about 3 sea days left. Then, it was more of a rocking motion, but it was noticeable. I do not get seasick, so I enjoyed it, but maybe someone else will chime in if they had problems with the movement.

 

-Jen

 

Jen

 

Many thanks! It is really for us to have some idea of what to expect.

 

I know my husband will be delighted if it snows on our balcony. I hope you remembered to get you camera out and record something you are not likely to see too often.

 

Sue

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Temperatures in China and Japan were fairly nice - 65F was about the average that I remember. Once we started heading north, it was a lot chillier with lows around 32F and highs between 38F and 45F most days. It did snow one morning at sea and it snowed while I was on the tour in Petropavlovsk as well.

 

The sea was pretty calm until we hit the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska with about 3 sea days left. Then, it was more of a rocking motion, but it was noticeable. I do not get seasick, so I enjoyed it, but maybe someone else will chime in if they had problems with the movement.

 

-Jen

 

Thanks! I agree that 65F is pleasant enough, that'd be nice excursion weather. And snow on the balcony? Definitely a moment to remember.

 

Rocking motion wouldn't bother me either as I pretty much grew up on boats and ferries.

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I am booked on the revised 2014 eastbound trans-Pacific from Yokohama to Vancouver. We are scheduled to stop in Petropavlovsk. The last time I

had this port on an itinerary was in 2007 on the HAL Amsterdam. We docked. Someone mentioned that the Millennium had tender services at this port. Is this true? Also, last time we did not need a visa. Just had to show passport. Could someone please tell me if a Russian visa is now required. Many thanks.

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I am booked on the revised 2014 eastbound trans-Pacific from Yokohama to Vancouver. We are scheduled to stop in Petropavlovsk. The last time I

had this port on an itinerary was in 2007 on the HAL Amsterdam. We docked. Someone mentioned that the Millennium had tender services at this port. Is this true? Also, last time we did not need a visa. Just had to show passport. Could someone please tell me if a Russian visa is now required. Many thanks.

 

We did tender in Petropavlovsk. I think they had 4 lifeboats in the water going back and forth. It was a very short tender ride (less than 5 minutes).

 

If you were on a Celebrity tour or a private tour through an agency with a printed confirmation, no visa was required.

 

-Jen

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I just received a response to my email to Mr. Bayley, CEO Celebrity. I was told that there was indeed a heating problem on the ship. Yes, the restaurant, Qusine was too cold to eat in without a blanket, yet the indoor pool was too cold to sit in without thermals and yes many cabins were too cold to sleep in without several blankets. But so what, suck it up. What a response. It beings tears to my eyes that Celebrity falls in the ranks of so many other cruise lines that feel that an appropriate response is, "We understand, but we refuse to do anything about it!"

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Your report "hits the nail right on its head". Celebrity failed to deliver what should have been a marvelous cruise.

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I just received a response to my email to Mr. Bayley, CEO Celebrity. I was told that there was indeed a heating problem on the ship. Yes, the restaurant, Qusine was too cold to eat in without a blanket, yet the indoor pool was too cold to sit in without thermals and yes many cabins were too cold to sleep in without several blankets. But so what, suck it up. What a response. It beings tears to my eyes that Celebrity falls in the ranks of so many other cruise lines that feel that an appropriate response is, "We understand, but we refuse to do anything about it!"

 

And what should be done at this point?

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Leaving on the MIllie on 05/24, glad to hear ship is good. I have heard so many complaints. To me a cruise is what you make it, if you dont like the color of the carpet or the meatballs are smaller then just order more. The color of the carpet never made or broke a cruise for me.

 

Will post a review on our Alaskan cruise next week but just wanted to address this. You are sooo right. We didn't know what to expect before boarding Millie....she was fine! Old carpet? I don't know...maybe.... Worn buttons on the elevator....I suppose.... Ummm, I would say that Millie was in pretty darn good condition overall. I wouldn't worry about a thing! BTW - burgers and hot dogs from the grill were AWESOME!

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