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Bruin Steve

Just off Millennium

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We just returned late last night from our third Alaska cruise with Celebrity...this one a 7-night Southbound, Seward to Vancouver.

 

First thing of importance to us is the condition of the ship...mainly since we will be cruising on her again in December on the Christmas/New Year's Hong Kong to Singapore cruise...and, immediately after that one, the ship is going into drydock for refurbishment. Also, we have friends who were booked to go on that one but who look to be backing out on account of fears of engine problems.

 

Well, I am happy to report that the ship appears to be in excellent condition, especially for an 18 year old ship. Of course, there are some signs of daily wear--like needing a little fresh paint outside, beneath our balcony...but you find that on all ships. Overall, it is very hard to tell the ship is as old as it is. One guest with whom we shared a breakfast table honestly thought it must have just gotten out of drydock rather than heading into it. As to any engine problems, we experienced absolutely none--everything was on schedule.

 

Embarkation was VERY smooth. We had arrived the day prior to ANC and stayed at the Fairfield Inn Midtown Anchorage. The ACT bus picked us up at the hotel at 9:00 am and we were at the port in Seward at around 1:00 pm. We are Elite Plus Captains Club and we were cruising in Concierge Class--so, either one would have merited priority boarding--but that was completely moot as there were plenty of available agents and no lines whatsoever--so EVERYONE could just walk directly up to an agent...We were onboard within minutes and sipping that complimentary welcome sparkling wine. And, as a bonus, the cabins were already available so we were able to go right to the cabin and drop off the carry-ons before heading to the buffet (unfortunately, we were too late for the Concierge perk MDR Lunch). I am not big on buffets and, for the few times we ate in this one, we found it appropriately disappointing. The main saving grace is the ice cream on the way out.

 

Our first big surprise was the timing of the muster drill--7:45 pm. When we took this same cruise in 2016, it had been a more accommodating 4:30 pm. Here's the problem with 7:45: We had made a standing dinner reservation for 6:30 pm each evening in Select...and no one told us that would be difficult. It would be sort of hard to be seated at 6:30, eat a typical cruise ship dinner and get to a muster drill by 7:45. In fact, since all of the crew has duties tied to the drill, they have to pretty much close down the dining room by 7:30 at the latest. So, everyone is pretty much forced to eat dinner very early...or wait until AFTER the drill--which lasted well over a half an hour (painful)--so,m dinner at 8:30 or later...We opted to go at 6:00--and felt a bit rushed...and, by the time we got to our muster station, there wasn't a seat to be found...a lot of kids seated and a lot of seniors forced to stand through it.

 

The first night's show was a comedian--Jim Colliton...reasonably entertaining. But, one show only--at 9:00 pm...so, with most of the ship forced to eat dinner at that time, it was lightly attended.

 

The rest of the shows were:

Saturday: "Boogie Wonderland". Mediocre production show featuring music from the worst era in music history (Somehow, though, they managed to fit Rod Stewart's "Maggie May" into the mix...Disco?!?)

Sunday: "Duo NiKa"--aerialists...VERY good.

Monday: "Elysium"...another production show...and we chose to skip this one.

Tuesday: "Sean O'Shea"--Singer/impressionist. We've seen him before--and he's very entertaining...funny...Good show.

Wednesday: "Ralph Harris"--Comedian...very funny the first half of his act...starts losing the audience toward the end...a little too much time talking to the kids in the front row and trying to hand out wisdom......but, overall, worth seeing.

Thursday: "iBroadway"--production show...better than the Disco one...of course, they get to sneak in ABBA, The Who and Queen since they've made Broadway shows out of their work...also a little Andrew Lloyd Weber, some Les Miz and ends with some Hairspray.

 

Special events:

 

The Hubbard Glacier viewing from the Heliport for Elite Captains Club (they also invited Cruise Critic members who attended the Connections Meet&Greet) was cancelled last minute due to wind, drizzle and slippery conditions, so we had to view the glacier along with the crowds from the railing on Deck 4--and run back and forth across the ship each time the ship turned half way around. The glacier was extraordinary this time--with the most phenomenal bit of calving I've ever seen--a major tower broke off and fell right in front of the ship.

 

They had a Concierge level Heliport sailaway from Icy Strait Point (with sparkling wine)...which of course conflicted with the Elite Captains Club "Elegant Tea"...I did 15 minutes on the Heliport, then ran to tea, only to find I was one of only 6 people to show up.

 

The Elite Wine Tasting was in direct conflict with the Concierge Galley Tour...I, of course, chose the wine...at least we had three tables of people for that...but the wine was disappointing--French, Chilean and Australian--no California wines...Still had a fun time...

 

Captain's Club Celebration and Senior Officer's Party were both lightly attended (There were no Zeniths onboard, only 18 Elite Plus and, apparently, not that many Elite)...which was all very nice because the Elite Drinking hour crowd was always small and service was great...

 

Cabin: We were in 9118--a Concierge class cabin, between the midship and aft elevators on the Starboard side. Cabin was nice--fairly standard...and with the "regular" sized balcony. As usual, we got fruit in the room, refreshed daily and those nightly appetizers we almost never ate...And, rather than place the sparkling wine in your cabin at embarkation, you have to request it...We did this on the second Chic night and brought it to dinner (no corkage fee) and shared it with our table--Of course, all three couples had the free wine, so we did this three different nights.

 

Dining Room: With our standing Select reservation, they sat us at the same table each night. Our waiter, Basheer and the head waiter Chang were both excellent. Once they learned we liked iced tea, it was there every night. When I showed a specific desire for No Sugar Chocolate ice cream, it was there every night--on the menu or not. Food, for the most part, was excellent.

 

Ports:

Juneau: We booked nothing in advance. Got off the ship and booked a City Tour with Mendenhall Glacier for $50 per person right at the little booths found right off the dock. Made for a nice day...We'd been there twice before and had already done the helicopter thing and more--so this was just fine.

 

Skagway: We pre-booked a Yukon tour with Chilkoot Adventures--about $100 per person--included lunch (but the lunch was pretty bad!). Nice tour anyway...drove through the pass to Carcross and back with lots of photo stops. Went to a sled dog facility in Carcross...we passed on the dog sled rides--though many on our tour took them. My wife just liked petting the puppies. We also passed on the optional train ride back. The minibus was comfortable and even more so when those who opted for the train left us...

 

Icy Strait Point: We pre-booked whale watching (about $150 pp) with Icy Strait Whale Adventures...19 of us on the boat with plenty of room to move around inside and out...Saw a LOT of whales, got great photos. Last time we visited, we did this with Misty Bay Lodge on a boat for 6 and got even closer to the whales...but my sister was with us and claims to get sea sick on really small boats--so this medium-sized boat was a good compromise.

 

Ketchikan: We booked nothing here...just walked around the shops and then sat on the curb for the Fourth of July Parade--small town America at its finest--kids on their decorated bicycles, followed by about every truck in town with balloons and banners...and way off schedule.

 

Vancouver: We didn't have a flight home until 8:05 pm, so we booked a full day tour with Land

Sea Tours--the Sea to Sky (about $100 pp)...Waterfall, gondola to a mountaintop for some hiking, visit to the mine museum and a stop in Horseshoe Bay...and then a drop-off at the airport in perfect time for our flight...made for a very nice final day...

 

Chic nights: Saw a fair mix of dress with some jackets but mostly more casual all the way don to many ignoring it altogether. Very few, if any, real formal wear...

 

Weather: We had a little rain in Seward, rain during Hubbard Glacier visit...Rest of the way was beautiful and with very comfortable temperatures. After Hubbard, I put away my rain gear/jacket and never brought them out again...Shorts and T-shirts in port every day...

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Steve, thanks for the review. We were on the Millennium B2B in May. We did hear that there was going to be some work while in dry dock but can't seem to get any details as to what is going to be work on --- did you hear anything? We are not big eaters so we pretty much gravitate to the buffet. After 10 cruises on the Millennium, we noticed that the food in the buffet is lacking in variety and taste (and no, we are not foodies). Also, the layout is awful and really needs to be updated for better flow. Any comments would be appreciated.

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I asked Grahame, the Captain's Club host, about the drydock--asked if it were to add features from the new Edge (Something I think I read here on Cruise Critic) but he said no--said it was just more general refurbishing...I really didn't get much info...

As to the buffet, I agree that it's getting worse as far as selection--I seem to remember seeing sushi and Asian choices at one time...and other international foods. This time, it was always fairly generic--pasta in one section, one carving station, one salad section, one with tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad and sliced meats...and two sections with generic chicken, fish and pork. I never saw sugar free cookies--or any cookies--at the buffet...but at least they had them at Baccio and at the Gelato and sometimes at the ice cream station...Generally, the buffet food was pretty mediocre (we ate there for that embarcation day lunch and lunch in the ports where we got back early--ISP, Juneau, Ketchikan).

As to the layout, I prefer the Solstice class layout with the individual islands much better. With the Millennium, it's a long walk around the entire deck to find stuff.

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I asked Grahame, the Captain's Club host, about the drydock--asked if it were to add features from the new Edge (Something I think I read here on Cruise Critic) but he said no--said it was just more general refurbishing...I really didn't get much info...

As to the buffet, I agree that it's getting worse as far as selection--I seem to remember seeing sushi and Asian choices at one time...and other international foods. This time, it was always fairly generic--pasta in one section, one carving station, one salad section, one with tuna salad, egg salad, chicken salad and sliced meats...and two sections with generic chicken, fish and pork. I never saw sugar free cookies--or any cookies--at the buffet...but at least they had them at Baccio and at the Gelato and sometimes at the ice cream station...Generally, the buffet food was pretty mediocre (we ate there for that embarcation day lunch and lunch in the ports where we got back early--ISP, Juneau, Ketchikan).

As to the layout, I prefer the Solstice class layout with the individual islands much better. With the Millennium, it's a long walk around the entire deck to find stuff.

 

Thanks Steve for the reply, I appreciate it. Sadly, it looks like we might be parting company with the Millennium to Alaska. Fortunately, for us, if we want the same itinerary as the Millennium to Alaska we can take RCI;s Radiance. Have taken the Radiance and had no complaints --- the Millennium just always worked better with our work schedule.

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Hi thanks for your review. We are booked next May for the reverse sailing. We are from Oz so very worried about the cold and rain. We have done Europe and Caribbean on Celebrity so this will be really out of our comfort zone. That’s what life is all about, so very much looking forward to our next adventure. Thanks for the great info.

 

 

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Thank you for posting this review. We are doing the Northbound itinerary this August/September. We have only sailed Celebrity once before, on the Equinox, and this is our first time in Alaska.

 

Did you see any information about the "Alaskan Culinary Experience"? Based on the price ($85/person) it seems to be like Chef's Table but I am assuming the menu is geared towards the area. It is available in the Cruise Planner but with no description, no details, just the name and price.

 

We are Elite (not Plus), so I know we have access to the Elegant Tea. Will we also be invited to the Hubbard Glacier viewing and Wine Tasting? I think I would enjoy those. As for the Elegant Tea, what was included? (i.e. sweets, types of sandwiches, etc.)

 

Thank you in advance!

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Thank you for posting this review. We are doing the Northbound itinerary this August/September. We have only sailed Celebrity once before, on the Equinox, and this is our first time in Alaska.

 

Did you see any information about the "Alaskan Culinary Experience"? Based on the price ($85/person) it seems to be like Chef's Table but I am assuming the menu is geared towards the area. It is available in the Cruise Planner but with no description, no details, just the name and price.

 

We are Elite (not Plus), so I know we have access to the Elegant Tea. Will we also be invited to the Hubbard Glacier viewing and Wine Tasting? I think I would enjoy those. As for the Elegant Tea, what was included? (i.e. sweets, types of sandwiches, etc.)

 

Thank you in advance!

 

As Elite Captain's Club members, you WILL get the elegant tea, the Heliport glacier viewing and the Wine Tasting...plus the usual perks--5-7 drinks in Cosmos (except embarkation day and the day of the Officers' Party), one load of laundry (30 pieces ) each--no later than day 4 and 90 minutes of free internet each...

 

The elegant tea had your choice of a number of teas, some very little "sandwiches"--like a rolled slice of meat on a tiny piece of bread...and a selection of little pastries.

 

The wine tasting had four wines--a sparkling wine, a white, a rose and a red...

 

I don't recall seeing "Alaskan Culinary Experience"...but for $85 pp, it sounds like it would be what you think...

They did constantly sell the "Crab Shack"--$39 pp--Lunch at the Pool Grill Day 2...and the "Alaskan Inspired Dinner" (a "special seafood dinner"--$49 Day 4 in Qsine. The program also listed a "Connoisseur Dinner" with paired wines-- Day 5, 7:00 pm in Tuscan Grille "Fee Applies". But, again, I never saw the words "Alaskan Culinary Experience"...

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As Elite Captain's Club members, you WILL get the elegant tea, the Heliport glacier viewing and the Wine Tasting...plus the usual perks--5-7 drinks in Cosmos (except embarkation day and the day of the Officers' Party), one load of laundry (30 pieces ) each--no later than day 4 and 90 minutes of free internet each...

 

The elegant tea had your choice of a number of teas, some very little "sandwiches"--like a rolled slice of meat on a tiny piece of bread...and a selection of little pastries.

 

The wine tasting had four wines--a sparkling wine, a white, a rose and a red...

 

I don't recall seeing "Alaskan Culinary Experience"...but for $85 pp, it sounds like it would be what you think...

They did constantly sell the "Crab Shack"--$39 pp--Lunch at the Pool Grill Day 2...and the "Alaskan Inspired Dinner" (a "special seafood dinner"--$49 Day 4 in Qsine. The program also listed a "Connoisseur Dinner" with paired wines-- Day 5, 7:00 pm in Tuscan Grille "Fee Applies". But, again, I never saw the words "Alaskan Culinary Experience"...

 

Thank you so much! I feel like I'd probably rather have a "crab shack" lunch on land, but my dad is a fan of seafood so we will have to look out for the "special seafood dinner".

 

And even though we have a balcony I am now very excited for the Helipad glacier viewing (weather permitting :D)

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Hey Steve...

Perhaps our paths will cross again and we will actually meet each other. We sailed together this past Christmas.

On the 4th while you were in Alaska, we were in your hood (sort of) Huntington Beach for the week. It was a road trip and Friday driving through your town, my car thermometer hit 117-degrees!

 

We will be on the Millennium for 2-weeks next month and I was glad to hear you found the ship in good shape.

 

Do you think the late muster drill is an ongoing normal event in Seward to accommodate later arrivals?

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Yeah...we came home from Alaska and walked right into a heat wave...If there’s a saving grace for us, it’s that there’s typically about a ten degree temperature drop from the bottom of the hill—where you drove past—up to the top-where our house is. Still, though, it IS hot! Of course, we leave again Saturday for Eastern Europe.

 

My understanding is that the 7:45 muster drill is the new normal...because they have so many late arrivals with the 8:00 pm sail away and everyone flying in to Anchorage.

 

Hopefully, we will sail together again on some future cruise...

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We are doing this cruise as a group in August. Do they still do the ABBA sing along one night? I've been looking for someone who has recent copies of "Celebrity Today" from the Southbound voyage but no luck so far.

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We are doing this cruise as a group in August. Do they still do the ABBA sing along one night? I've been looking for someone who has recent copies of "Celebrity Today" from the Southbound voyage but no luck so far.

No ABBA singalong. I kept the Celebrity Today programs from the cruise but am clueless as to how to scan and post them.

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No ABBA singalong. I kept the Celebrity Today programs from the cruise but am clueless as to how to scan and post them.

 

Just your your cell phone to take photos of them, thats what I do when I post them to travel blogs.

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