Year Started: 1988
Ships in Fleet: 10
Summary: This premium cruise line features beautiful ships on itineraries world-wide. Excellent cuisine, great service, roomy staterooms. Modern Luxury at value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Western, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Overall Service.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Families. Foodies.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Mediterranean Eastern, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Foodies. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Luxury Travelers. Singles.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
We took a two week Spain and Transatlantic Cruise on Celebrity Equinox in November. We left home a few days early and spent three days in Madrid, then took the high speed train to Barcelona where we spent two more days before we boarded the Equinox. Madrid and Barcelona are both interesting cities with lots to see. We thought Spain was pretty easy to visit even thought we don't know much Spanish.
In Madrid we took the Airport Express bus from the airport to the train station and the metro from there to a stop a few blocks from our hotel, Francisco I. Everything went very smoothly even with bags. The location of the hotel was great, right on the pedestrian mall and the hotel was very nice. We visited the Royal Palace, The Prado Art Museum, and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The city is very easy to get around on foot. We went to Casa Patas for a Flamenco Show and had hot chocolate and Irish Coffee at San Gines. The food was great and we were able to get along with very minimal Spanish.
We took the Metro backto the train station and took the train to Barcelona. The train ride was smooth and very easy. We took the Metro from the train station to a stop near our hotel, NH Hoteles Barcelona Central. The hotel was very nice and in a great location. We did a fun Tapas Walking Tour the first evening and then spent the next day on Montjuic. We walked all the way up to the Castle. The views were amazing. We visited El Poble Espanol. There is an entrance fee to the village. I thought it was fun, but it is mostly shopping and restaurants. We walked to the Barcelonetta area and had very good sea food for dinner at Saluda del Mar. Then we went to a Flamenco concert at the Palau de Musica which was good. We wandered around the market and the Gothic quarter the next morning before we boarded the ship. We took a cab from the hotel to the port. We had been in Barcelona before so we did not go to Sagrada Familia.
Ship check in was easy. Our room wasn't ready until 1:00 so we had lunch at The Bistro on Five which wasn't crowded at all. All aboard was at 3:30 so we decided we didn't have time to go back into the city. Sail away was at 5:00. The Equinox is a beautiful ship. The public spaces are well maintained. The one thing that always bother us on the S Class ships is the scheduling of the dance bands in the foyer on Deck 3. Lots of people dance and the dance floor is very small with the steps from Deck 4 ending right on the dance floor. It just doesn't work! We were in Aqua Class which we liked a lot. The cabins are about the same as regular balcony cabins, but eating in Blu was a great experience. I think the food was better than the main dining room and probably a little healthier depending on what you ordered. The atmosphere was very nice: open seating at whatever time you liked and mostly tables for two. Breakfast in Blu was really good, too. Service was great except for the sommeliers. They seemed overwhelmed and we had trouble getting service and then problems getting more wine poured during dinner when the bottle was in an ice bucket away from our table. Red we poured for ourselves! Our cabin steward was great.
Shows and entertainment were pretty standard. One of the production shows is a Cirque type show. I like the regular production shows better. The Elton John tribute by Neil Lockwood was very good. Some of the musical groups were not as good as we have had in the past. The speaker on forensics who talked several times on the cruise was interesting. The other speakers who talked on culture and history and astronomy weren't quite as good.
Our first port was Cartagena where we wandered around on our own. Cartagena is small and we docked right in town. The city has a number of Roman Ruins that are all well signed and easy to find. We had lunch at a local bar. Our next port was Malaga where we participated in a private tour to the Alhambra in Granada. The Alhambra is beautiful and well worth the long bus ride. The next day we docked in Cadiz and did another private tour to Sevilla which is another beautiful city and again worth the bus ride. The next day was Lisbon which we did on our own. We used Rick Steve's book on Lisbon and wandered around the Alfama and Baixa areas. We had lunch and pastry in town and tried the cherry liqueur. It was fun, but not as memorable as Granada and Sevilla. We had a sea day and then stopped in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We did a ship's tour for a half day into Teide National Park. It was a big bus, but it was pretty good. The volcanic area was interesting to see. The rest of the day we spent on our own in Tenerife having lunch and walking around. We were there on Sunday so it was pretty quiet, many shops were closed.
The next seven days were at sea. We kept very busy. The ship scheduled dance lessons, speakers, and lots of activities so we didn't get bored. Seven days of ship in a row were just too many for us. I wouldn't do that many sea days again. We had very good weather, fairly warm with a few showers and no high seas. Customs in Fort Lauderdale was really slow, almost an hour in line. We did a ship's excursion since we had a late flight. The bus tour was good, but the boat portion was pretty boring but better than sitting in the airport.
We sailed the Celebrity Millennium 3 times prior to her refurbishing in April 2012. During these 3 sailings, she had become one of our favorite cruise ships. Based on that liking, and earlier pleasant sailings on the older Celebrity vessels Galaxy and Century, we assumed the Solstice class ships would be superior to the earlier Millennium class, thus we sailed a Mediterranean B2B in 2012 on the Solstice and booked our Asia B2B2B, Singapore to Vancouver, BC trip, for 2014 on the favored Millennium. Though the Solstice had not meet our expectations, we were extremely disappointed, when Celebrity suddenly eliminated one of Millennium's scheduled Asia segments leaving us no choice other than to cancel our 2014 Asia trip, and replace it with comprehensive Europe sailings on a new Celebrity ship. Nonetheless, we targeted the same, originally offered Asia Millennium itinerary again for 2015 when Celebrity repeated its initial 2014 itinerary.
Luckily, the opportunity arose to choose our then still favorite Millennium for an ad hoc stint to Alaska in June 2013, prior to the anticipated 46 day long Asia voyage in 2015. At first, we planned to sail her as a B2B, butafter some consideration decided to stay for several days exploring Anchorage-Denali-and the Copper Valley area before returning south. Thus, we bit the bullet of repeated unpacking, luggage handling and additional checking in procedures by using a different cruise ship from Vancouver, BC Canada to Whittier, AK to book the Millennium for our return voyage from Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC Canada.
Upon returning home, we cancelled all bookings for our 2014 and 2015 Celebrity cruising, extremely grateful that we "survived" the 7 day lasting trip just endured on the Millennium, our previously favorite cruise ship.
Below follows a somewhat detailed report with pictures delineating our experience and consequent disappointment.
Prior to "refurbishing" in April 2012, the Millennium was a well-designed ship with good traffic flow, plenty open deck spaces, friendly and efficient crew, impeccable dining room personnel, the usual adequate dining room menu, ok lunch buffet selections (mediocre in the evening) and tasteful, warm decor throughout. She was in generally good condition, except for some cosmetic wear and tear plus minor blemishes, but, we assumed, was surely to rise like a phoenix from the ashes, after refurbishing, - to be even more beautiful and better than before since she was also to undergo the highly advertised enhancement of “Solsticizing” as part of the refurbishing process.
We arrived in Seward, AK port @ about 13:00 hours, anticipating that we would then be able to immediately go to our stateroom. The check in was fast, efficient and painless; so indeed, we were on board by 13:25 hours. We were greeted with the question, whether we would like to go to the buffet for lunch or to our stateroom first. Our choice was the stateroom to lie down after a few strenuous days of exciting exploration and adventures between Anchorage and Fairbanks and an early morning train departure.
Our ship’s escort leading the way to the stateroom found the hallway door to the rooms still closed, thus surmised the rooms may not be ready. By now it was 13:35 hours and we made our way to the reception desk asking for access to the room. At that time wheelchair bound, citing the need to lie down and having scheduled our boarding to co-inside with the customary access time to the stateroom.
The receptionist then called the International Customer Service Representative who introduced himself, grimacing a smile, as Steven De Winter; a curt, unpleasant, slimy chap who arrogantly stated that he had not yet released the announcement for stateroom occupancy. Therefore, we could not go to our stateroom until he announces that they are ready. Wheelchair bound, I pointed out, that I really would like to lie down, that it was now past 13:45 hours and customarily, staterooms are available at the latest @ 13.30 and room stewards likely moved on to getting checked-in luggage ready for stateroom delivery. His reply was, that Celebrity is a very special cruise line and does things much different than other cruise lines, but I would be welcome to go down to the sick-bay and lay down on a stretcher until he releases the rooms for occupancy.
Less than 3 minutes later, his loudspeaker announcement released all cabins.
The stateroom was as expected from previous sailings. The room steward introduced himself later that evening “checked in luggage arrived by mid-afternoon. The lunch buffet featured the previously experienced lukewarm, dried out “Paella” (in name only) and other standard buffet style fair including the heavily watered down lemonade.
Except for the “Paella-Welcome-Specialty”, the buffet choices remained more or less the same throughout the 7 day cruise. A circumstance particularly unpleasant as the main dining room was closed for lunch every day, except on the first sea-day and the last sea day, opening for the Brunch Buffet in which all daily breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet choices were lined up together, but now were presented among Ice sculptures and other colorful decorations.
Unfortunately, extraordinarily inattentive dining room personal failed to serve coffee or water, or juice until after one was seated for quite some time, almost having finished the first course of brunch. Moreover, very unpleasant, was the fact that no-one of the dining room waiters cleaned up the tables of those people who had left, or the used plates on our table. Thus, we were surrounded by seven tables, fully laden with dirty dishes up to and including our departure from the dining room. The personnel, largely Serbian, Slovenian and Croatian servers, avoided eye contact, and were certainly not inclined to clear tables; presumably, that was to be someone else’s responsibility who was apparently not in attendance.
Dinner at the dining room had sufficient choices of well-prepared good quality food, we were served by some excellent waiters and some so, so “but still OK waiters in the “my time dining” section of the upper level.
Less pleasant was the bickering of some female waiters on the outer buffet deck, who among themselves discussed their misfortune, disappointment and unjust treatment experienced working on this ship, without any regard to nearby sitting guests who could not help overhearing their loud complaints while clearing tables with disgusted faces.
The ship itself is in desperate need of eliminating the obvious signs of neglect without subjecting on- board passengers to its upkeep, repairs and maintenance.
There were too many issues to mention: an example of some is:
Mint tea bag hunt,
Broken Solarium windows,
Missing top railing on upper aft decks,
Double loungers placed next to pool get constantly wet from water plashes
Loungers on upper decks remained unusable and tried together
Loungers were dirty and partly broken
Balconies added in recent “upgrading improvements” are in part not covered and lack privacy
In the meantime complaints from outraged passengers on board the Millennium have escalated. Thus, without going into further details, as I am resenting the time already spent on the unpleasant task re-living the journey, I refer to the reviews of others and the complete failing of Celebrity’s Cruise Ship Millennium’s operational functions in Seward and Ketchikan, AK were they prematurely disembarked all passengers.
Celebrity cancelled its remaining Alaska sailing season 2013 for the defunct Millennium, planning to maneuver her into dry dock for taking care of the desperately needed maintenance and repairs. Unfortunately, these obviously needed repairs had not been done prior to subjecting boarded and sailing passengers, including those booked for August/September, to despair, inconvenience and costly repercussions in addition to their now ruined holidays.
Well done, Celebrity - you are “truly special and do it very differently”, reverberating the statement of STEVEN DE WINTER, the on Board International Customer Relations Executive.
About the critic
I am 51 years old, married, a Navy Captain, this was our 6th cruise, 3rd with celebrity.
There is no doubt upon arriving at the terminal, seeing the beautiful Equinox you can expect great things. She is three and a half years old and looks magnificent. The best way to offer meaningful commentary is to address each element separately.
as many other passengers have commented, this process was outstanding. We were aqua class room 1650, 11th deck starboard side aft. From the time of arrival to the terminal at 11:20 to being on board was 15 minutes. That said, our next objective should have been to make a bee line for the Oceanview cafe. The stateroom hallways were sealed off so roaming the ship or beginning the inevitable weight gain process at Oceanview were the only options. By the time we elected to get a bite to eat at 1230, there was absolutely NO place to sit. We were with another couple and eventually found separate seating. The rooms were available at 1:15.
Family of 6, ages 12 to 73. Cruised on RCCL, Carnival, NCL, Princess. We heard good things about Celebrity and wanted to try the newer Silhouette ship. We stayed on Deck 11, Aqua Class.
Embarkation/Debarkation: Very smooth and speedy. Grade: A
Ship's Appearance: Other than some odd artwork, ship looked very nice. Grade: A-
Food: Blu restaurant was quite good. Buffets were ample and tasty. One day they served an excellent brunch. Room service the best we've ever seen. Grade: A
Fitness Center: Machines were being used longer than the suggested 20 minutes, causing wait times. For 3100 passengers they need more machines. Grade: B-
Nightly Entertainment: First two shows were subpar. Acrobat show was very entertaining. Illusionist from Ireland rather annoying. Headline singer excellent. RCCL seems to have better overall entertainment. Grade: B
Ports: Cocoa Cay was fun. Been to St. Thomas and St. Martin so many times. Would rather see new islands like St Barts, etc. Grade: B
Cruise Director: Stuart was just okay, kids thought he was a dork. Grade: C
Ship Activities: For families, there isn't a lot of structured games, karaoke, or contests. Celebrity falls way short in this area vs. other lines.There were no pool contests. Kids activities rather weak. Basketball hoop in front of ship, forcing the kids to play in gale-force winds. The Family Feud game had 15 people show up. At times we became bored and just wandered to the buffet. Grade: C-
Cabin: Aqua Class cabin was fantastic, lots of space, great bathroom and shower. We opened the balconies to our three adjacent rooms. Outstanding. Grade: A
Staff: Overall, the staff was courteous and helpful, but I wouldn't say they made any impression like some staff on prior RCCL journeys. They needed to smile more and be friendlier. Some were indifferent and seemed like they didn't care for their job. Grade: B-
Casino: Typically tight slots, staff indifferent, poorly-executed tournaments. One Texas Hold Em table that was full with the same people every night. Grade: C
Ship Vibe: This is the area that would probably cause our family not to return to Celebrity. After 10 PM the ship basically shut down. The cruise director didn't inspire. Celebrity is definitely “stuffier” than other lines, even though this was a Christmas cruise. Grade: C-
Overall: The ship's layout was very easy to navigate. The lawn on the top deck is ill conceived. Most of the space is wasted. Why not build a putting course or movies under the stars? We liked the food quite a bit more than other lines. The cabin was perfect. Entertainment decent. Staff okay. Activities disappointing. Ship vibe less than stellar.
OVERALL GRADE FOR CRUISE EXPERIENCE ON SILHOUETTE: B
11 night cruise in balcony cabin on level 6. Nice cabin and large deck. Bathroom is one of the best we have had with a decent shower size. The ship was beautiful and roomy with lots to do on sea days. But, the food was nothing compared to what we experienced several years ago on Celebrity or other cruise lines since. Connecting to the internet was very complicated for many, especially trying to use your own devices. Because of the quality of the food we would not wish to take this ship again.
We love the new Celebrity Summit since it has now been "Solsticized" and we are Thrilled that Celebrity Cruise lines No LONGER serves Foie Gras due to the torture invloved in creating this liver dish. Now my family and friends can finally enjoy dinig at Normandie and The Murano restaurants! We did celebrate by partaking in the "Five Senses" wine pairing dinner at the Normandie.
The ship has a Hip and Modern feel mainly in the new venues including: BLU Restaurant, Bistro on 5 cafe, Cafe al Bacio, and Martini/Crush Bar. We LOVE Blu and we think the outdoor pool area is actually nicer than on the solstice class ships. It has a better flowing design and the 2nd pool is deeper. The Solarium on the Summit is not as Stunning as on the solstice ships, however, the pool is much, much, nicer: thallsotherapy pool and 4 large spigets that will massage your neck and shoulders.
The theatre is not noticably smaller and has comfortable bench seating and better shows that we saw on the 12 day Silhouette. The Main Dining room is Gorgeous and we think much prettier than the Solstice "HollywoodGlam" style.
We love this ship and we enjoyed the 5 stops on this cruise. Also, We discovered that you can fly Business/First on American and Delta for a tad more than coach when flying into san Juan. What a treat that was!
We will continue to travel on Celebrity for many reasons, mainly the great service, outstanding food, fun Martini Bar and Beer tastings at Michaels Club.
And now that Foie Gras is no longer available we feel good that we are not condoning animal torture by spending our vaction cash on this cruise line.
We departed from MLU on January 15, 2013 via Delta airlines. I had checked the price of using Delta all the way to Singapore and found using Singapore out of LA was cheaper than Delta all the way. We spent the night in Monroe on Jan 14th because of a freeze and fear of iced over roads in the early morning. We spent the night at LAX Marriott Courtyard and flew Singapore air to Singapore on Wednesday January 16 via SX11.(stopped in Narita Japan), and arrived in Singapore on January 18th at about 3:30 AM. SQ37 none stop to Singapore did not fly on Tuesday or Wednesday. We returned from Singapore on SQ 38 nonstop to LA and spent the night in LA at the same hotel.
We arrived In Singapore at about 5:00 AM on Friday January 18th and met up with our English friends that were already checked into the Marina Mandarin hotel. We looked for another couple from Cruise Critic at the hotel, but did not come across them until boarding. While in Singapore I had a tailor made shirt and Vance had a jacket made. We wereallowed to check in around 8:00 AM on the 18th, a pleasant surprise. We had dinner one night at the East Coast Seafood Company at cab ride toward the airport. One night ate at Ruth Chris steakhouse in the hotel.
On Friday, we visited the Marina Sands hotel an Eight Billion project which is a new hotel on the Marina in Singapore, Unfortunately it rained all day on Saturday so we just made our way over to the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel to meet up with other Cruise Critic members. While there my LSU hat attracted a lawyer from Vacherie, La and we chatted awhile regarding mutual friends.
We boarded the Millennium on Sunday around 12 noon and our Penthouse Suite was ready about 1:00 PM. The concierge Jennifer (Jenny) Knights from England was superb in making arrangements for us throughout the cruise. Our 74 tourist for the Komodo island tour were in the first tender off the ship thanks to Jenny.
Monday we were in Singapore, but elected to stay aboard and enjoy our cabin.
Tuesday we were at sea and ate with the Staff Cabin at the late dining for the first formal night.
Wednesday we were at sea and ate at the Olympic Restaurant in the wine room which is nice, but it tends to be a little warm, so be-fore warned.
Thursday Jan 24 Bali-- We were scheduled to visit Lombok, but the captain stated that Indonesian officials were making it difficult to remain on our schedule so the captain changed the schedule and sailed to Bali arriving much earlier than previously scheduled and on a different day. We all had to change our previously scheduled private tours. When we arrived in Bali, we just took a cab tour to Denpasar, the capital of Bali, visited a market, then stopped at the Batik factory and bought some beautiful shirts and many very reasonably priced gifts. When we returned to the dock we did not go back to the ship, but waited around for 30 minutes to go on our previously arranged Tanah Lot Pan Pacific Sunset dinner tour. We used PT.BEWISH INTERNATIONAL TOUR CO. We visited the Taman Ayun temple used by Hindu people. We visited Alas Kedaton (Monkey forest) which had monkeys just running all around free and many huge winged bats in the area. Tanah Lot temple (A Hindu Temple) was viewed from a distance since the sun did not co-operate for a beautiful sunset. We ended up eating at the Pan Pacific hotel in Bali we a beautiful view of the sea. We returned to the ship 12 hours after we left so it was a long day.
Friday we were still in Bali, but it rained so we did not go on a tour. I went ashore to just buy from the locals that were giving the hard sell on the previous day when I didn't have time to work with them.
Saturday- we arrived at Komodo Island and met our tour group with 74 of us that Art had arranged. Everything worked fine in spite of the change of venue. We received everything that was promised. We visited the village for a few minutes and then the pink beach and had lunch on board our little boat.
Sunday we went to Lombok (originally scheduled for Thursday) and did our private tour with Jane's arrangements. Visited the Lembar Harbor, the Sukarara village where weaving is done, Sengigi Beach, the Batu Balong Temple and the Banyu Mulek village. We had a very good fried shrimp dinner included in trip cost. We did drive to Mataram city and visited a Mayura floating Pavilion.
Monday - we were at sea and enjoyed some Joker Poker games.
Tuesday we were at sea and ate in the Q-sine Restaurant which was an eating experience.
Wednesday-Jan 30 we docked at Port Klang to go to Kuala Lumpur via a private tour arranged by Eileen. We went to the Batu Caves, but 276 steps was too much for us. Made a photo stop to take a picture of the PETRONAS Towers, and went up in the KL tower, and then to the Central Market and had a nice meal and did some shopping visiting Chinatown.
Thursday Jan 31 we toured Penang, Malaysia via a private tour run by Kimmy. We landed in Georgetown and then visited the Kek Loksi Temple and the Funicular. We drove through Little India, drove up Penang Hill and came down on a funicular. We past Kapital Keling Mosque and St. George church but did not get to the Botanical Gardens.
Friday Feb. 1 was a tour of Phuket, Thailand arranged by Art which was very good. Phuket is approximately the size of Singapore and is Thailandâ€™s largest island. We cruised on a Chinese Junk, the JUNE BATHRA to James Bond Island (KoTapu or Nail Island) ($6 fee to stop on the island) We cruised in the beautiful Phang Nga Bay. We had to transfer to a long tail boat for a wet ride to Ko Tapu and also to the Sea Gypsy Village. This island became famous from the 1974 Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun" starring Roger Moore and Christopher Lee- (Scaramanga). As we made our way back from a long day we noticed how active the downtown area of Phuket was. This Friday night we were invited again to the Captainâ€™s table for a formal dinner.
Saturday was a day at Sea and we had to pack to disembark the next day. It was an easy disembarkation and well organized and we toured the Botanical Gardens in Singapore on the way to the airport where we had plenty of time in the wonderful Singapore lounge to eat a nice Buffett meal complimentary to guests on Singapore's flight SQ38 none stop to LAX. We spent the night at the LAX Marriott Courtyard and flew home the next day.
My wife and I traveled to Alaska from July 7 to July 19, 2013. We were part of a group of 57 that was put together by our local travel agent. We spent the first 5 days of our trip on land and the last 7 days sailing on the Celebrity Millennium. The entire trip was coordinated by Celebrity. Let me say up front that the cruise portion of our trip was far superior to our experiences on the land portion. I will describe each day of our trip in chronological order.
Day 1: We flew into Anchorage on Air Alaska and spent the first night at the Anchorage Marriot. It was a nice hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel we met our tour guide, Patricia, who would be with us for the entire land tour. Patricia gave us some information and handed us our room keys. We ate supper at the Simon & Seaforts restaurant. The meal was good but quite expensive (we later learned that this would be the case throughout Alaska).
Day 2: We rode the Alaska Express train to Talkeetna, about a 4 hourtrip. The ride was smooth and the train is a two story with the top having a glass ceiling which made for easy viewing of the scenery. We had a guide who was quite knowledgable. On the lower level was the dining car. Most everyone had breakfast there and that was enjoyable. I would recommend the blueberry pancakes. They were quite good. Full breakfast was around $12 and that included the beverage, not bad for Alaska standards. We were seated with a couple from Mississippi who we really liked and ending up socializing with them throughout our entire trip. We spent the night at the Talkeetna Lodge and it was very nice. Sometimes you can see Mt. McKinley from the lodge, but it was not visible during our stay. We took a river float excursion and there were only 5 people it the raft. Corky, our guide, was very knowledgable. We saw an eagle in its nest and a beaver dam up close. We had dinner that night at the Foraker Restaurant at the lodge. The meal was good and the dessert that I ordered, a giant piece of chocolate cake with raspberry filling encased in a ganache, was the best dessert I had on the whole trip.
Day 3: We boarded the Wilderness Express again for the 4 hour trip to Denali. This time we were served lunch in the dining car but it was not as good as the breakfast yesterday. The crab bisque, however, was very good. We would spend the next two nights at the McKinley Village Lodge in Denali. It was by far the worst accommodations of our entire trip. The room was dirty and it lacked amenities. They put paper cups in the room instead of glasses. To top it off, my wife and I were given a handicapped room which included a hand held shower that was mounted on the side wall. There was no way to shower except to hold the nozzle with one hand, making it very difficult to wash yourself. There was no place to put toilet articles in the bathroom and one very small garbage can for the entire bedroom. The first evening we took an excursion to Husky Homestead. This is where they raise and train dogs to run in dogsled races, specifically, the Iditarod Race. The speakers were very good and my wife loved holding the puppies. We ate at the restaurant at the lodge and just had sandwiches. The price was reasonable.
Day 4: Our second day in Denali and it was the worst day of our vacation. We took an 8 hour excursion into Denali National Park. By rule only school buses can enter the park. The road is all dirt and it rained all day. We saw very little wildlife and only left the bus to use the rest rooms. The windows on the bus got muddy and it was hard to see anything. The driver, Nancy, was knowledgeable and very nice. She stopped numerous times to clean the bus windows but they were dirty again in 5 minutes. They provided us with a box lunch and it wasn't very good. We and everyone else on the bus wished we had missed this excursion. To make up for the rotten day, we went to what was said to be the best restaurant in Denali-the McKinley Chalet. My wife and both ordered the most expensive meal on the menu-$39 each. It was a twist on surf and turf with salmon and filet. It turned out to be a very small portion with a small piece of salmon and a filet about the size of a silver dollar. It was served with barley and broccoli. The meal added to the disappointment for the day. We toured the town shops which had basically the same stuff, overpriced tourist junk. We were glad to see this day come to an end.
Day 5: We rode a bus to Anchorage where we had a quick stop for lunch on our own. We ate at the Glacier Brewhouse. We had wood fire grilled pizza and it was very good. We then traveled to the Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood. This is a ski lodge that is open all year and it was beautiful. It was easily the nicest place we stayed in Alaska. We were sorry that we only got one night there. The amenities were numerous. There was no time for an excursion so we went to supper at a place called the Double Musky. We had a feeling it was going to be good when we saw the large number of locals eating there. The food was good and the portions were plentiful. I would have liked to get a steak but they were huge (16 oz for a fillet and 20 oz for strip steaks). I wouldn't have been able to finish it and there was no way to "take it home." My wife and I got shrimp dishes and they were good.
Day 6: They gave us the morning of next day to do things so we rode the tram to the top of the mountain and the view was breathtaking. We got to stand in snow in July! There is a restaurant at the top and it is extremely expensive but the view is great. I heard of a couple who spent $160 for their meal the night before. We rode the shuttle into Girdwood and had lunch at a small place (I wish I could remember the name of it). We then boarded our bus in the afternoon and headed to Seward to meet our ship. Celebrity is the 4th different cruise line that we have been on having sailed previously on Carnival, Princess, and Norwegian. We boarded the Celebrity Millennium and it was the easiest boarding procedure of any of our cruises. We had a good first night dinner and saw a good show featuring a Motown tribute trio called Horizon. Following are some general comments about the Celebrity Millennium experience:
1) We ate all of our dinners in the Metropolitan Dining room. We had regular seating at 6:00 with two other couples from our group. This meant we had the same wait staff at every meal. My wife and I had intended to eat at one or two of the pay restaurants on the ship as we had done on previous cruises. However, the food and service was so good in the Metropolitan we never did. The food was excellent every single night. It was the best dining room food we have had on any of our cruises. Our waiter, Ali, and his assistant, Jun, were great. The maître-d, Ajay, was more involved with us than any I have ever seen.
2) In contrast, the buffet served on board was the worst we have ever experienced on a cruise ship. Stuff was spread out all over the place and hard to find. Sections of the buffet were closed and various times of the day. I had breakfast there several mornings and my wife and I ate one lunch there. Each time I was disappointed. I tried several versions of eggs in the morning and they were never good. Pancakes, waffles, and French toast were served at the far end of the buffet area and inconvenient to get to. The buffet opened at 7:00 AM and some sections opened later. I would have preferred 6:00 AM as I am an early riser. The staff in the buffet area was fair at best.
3) Our cabin steward, Nonet, was excellent. He answered every request promptly and greeted us every time we saw him. I heard from others on the ship that they never saw their cabin steward. We were so impressed with Nonet I gave him an extra tip even though we were automatically charge a tip before boarding.
4) Ship disembarkment for excursions and the subsequent reimbarkment was handled well.
5) Our room was okay but our balcony was not. We had a partially obstructed view even though our cabin was not listed as having one. There was a pole on one side and a protruding corner on the other side. The balcony door worked funny and my wife and I actually got locked onto our balcony one time because of the handle on the door. The shower in the bathroom was the biggest that I have ever seen on a cruise boat.
6) The nightly shows were pretty good but they featured only one act that lasted an hour or less. A little more variety would have been better.
Day 7: This was a sailing day. My wife and I went to the gym. It is all machines with no free weights. To have a class you have to pay extra. The ship sailed near the Hubbard Glacier which was neat to see and provided some great pictures. The evening's entertainment was the ship's singers and dancers and they were good.
Day 8: This was our first stop in Juneau. We did the "Whale Watching, Orca Point, and Mendenhall Glacier," excursion. We rode on a very spacious and comfortable closed in boat. We saw several whales. They fed us lunch at Orca Point. It was good but not a lot of food was given. After getting off the boat, our bus took us to the Mendenhall Glacier. We enjoyed seeing this glacier. The evening's entertainment was a comedian who was not all that funny.
Day 9: We stopped in Skagway. We went on the Alaska Gold Rush Highlights excursion. We first rode a train along the mountains where the gold rush miners traveled. We met our bus at the Canadian border and drove into Yukon Territory. The bus driver, Davy, was very entertaining. We walked on a high suspension bridges which was neat. We had several scenic stops on the way back to Alaska. In Skagway they fed us a great buffet lunch that included ribs and salmon with plenty to eat. Then we heard gold miner stories by a re-enactor who taught us how to pan for gold. We all found some gold dust and we had ours made into a necklace for my wife. The evening's entertainment was again the ship's singers and dancers this time with a different program.
Day 10: We stopped at Icy Strait Point which was in Hoonah. We took the "Bike Trek and Ziprider" excursion. We were a little worried about an 8 mile bike ride, but the pace was very slow and the road was mostly flat. It was a nice way to see the town which is completely controlled by the native population. We stopped at a tree with an eagle's nest and actually saw the eagle fly right over us to the nest. We then took a bus ride that lasted over a half hour to go up 5,000 feet to ride the Ziprider. The ride up was worth it as the Ziprider was awesome with a 5,000 foot drop with speed up to 60 miles per hour. The evening's entertainment was a violinist who was very good and also funny.
Day 11: This was our last stop at Ketchikan. We took the "Ketchikan Highlights and Lumberjack Show," excursion. We could have done without the trolley ride around Ketchikan but the lumberjack show was quite entertaining. We had lots of time left for shopping and there were a lot of places to shop in Ketchikan. The show was once again the ship's singers and dancers with a different program.
Day 12: Our last full day on the ship and it was a sailing day. We made it a relaxing day and spent some time at the indoor pool and hot tubs. The last evening show was the violinist and the Motown tribute trio again.
Day 13: This was disembarkment day. The disembarkment procedure was poorly handled by Celebrity. We had to report to the theater at 8:15 and we sat there until well after 9:00. Since our flight home didn't leave until 4:10 PM we all took the Vancouver excursion. It was okay but we would have preferred and earlier flight to get home. We had a direct flight from Vancouver to Newark on Air Canada. It was the longest check in procedure we have ever experienced lasting about an hour and a half with numerous levels of security and customs. The Air Canada flight had a screen that showed movies and other things with a nominal fee for headphones or you could use your own as we did. That made the flight goes quicker. However, it was a 5 hour flight and Air Canada gave us nothing to eat.
In conclusion, Alaska is an interesting place but it did not live up to the hype that we had been told by so many people who went there before us. I would recommend that anyone planning to go to Alaska only take the cruise and skip the land portion of the package.
Celebrity Solstice Class
My wife and I have made 10 cruises with Celebrity Cruise Lines, The latest was in Celebrity Solstice. We have sailed in 5 different Celebrity ships including the Century, Millennium and Solstice classes. While the technical and engineering advances are indisputable, if you have cruised in a Millennium class ship, the passenger amenities in the Solstice class are a classic example of progress being change, but change not necessarily being progress. In comparison to the Century and Millennium classes Solstice was too crowded and all chrome and glitz. Although cabin locker and drawer space the Millennium and Solstice classes MAY be the same, storage space is much better laid out and more accessible in the Century and Millennium classes. Celebrity is currently "Solsticing" the Millennium class; I hope they don't go too far because in my opinion they have definitely "Carnivalized" Solstice.
For openers, there are only two banks of elevators, forward and midships. The 8 midships elevators are glass; your elevator choices are between acrophobia or claustrophobia. If you are acrophobic there are three ways to get to Oceanview Cafe aft on deck 14. In all three you would haveto use the forward elevators. On deck 11, you would have go aft and up several flights of stairs; on deck 12 or 14, you would have to cross a weather deck. Not a pleasant task in bad weather. The only way get to the main or specialty dining rooms without using the midships elevators or stairs is use the forward elevators and walk aft. The Library, Card Room and other public spaces overlooking the Grand Foyer also are unusable by passengers who have a problem with heights.
Additionally, the pool in the Solarium in the Solstice class in not a therapy pool as in the Millennium class, nor is it heated; you usually find more people around it than in it. You could hardly call the hot tubs heated either. The sign for the spa says to limit use to 15 minutes; good advice, any longer could result in a severe case of frost bite.
Trays are not used in the Oceanview Cafe. Bring one with you; we sure wished we had. There also are no food service lines; just food service stations, about 10. Consequently there is no traffic flow, resulting in a lot of people milling about. One group is checking out what's available at the food stations while the other is trying to get back to their table while balancing plates or bowls of food.
Here is how you would have to manage a breakfast of juice, coffee, milk and/or yogurt, and a plate of hot food. You put your silverware in your pocket, get your coffee and juice, then find a table; put those items there. Go get your plate of hot items and milk; if you also want yogurt you put either the milk or yogurt in your pocket. Then go back to your table and hope it hasn't been cleared or usurped by another passenger; by this time your coffee is cold. Your could reverse the fetching order; your choice is cold coffee and hot food or hot coffee and cold food. Unlike revenge, meals are not better served cold. You can be of good cheer though in the knowledge that the ship doesn't have to be bothered with policing or washing the trays.
After many attempts I finally decided the definition of insanity was, indeed, repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. Alas, I eventually gave up on the 400 yard poached eggs. I call them 400 yard poached eggs because that is the distance I estimate the average golfer could drive one off the tee. You can get them either hardened or case hardened. If you want a drink before the show in the Solstice Theatre, take it to your seat with you and hope the other passengers do likewise because the leg room between rows of seating is restricted making drink service a challenge. Also sitting any length of time if you have leg issues can be painful. The Ensemble Lounge, Michael's Club and the specialty restaurants on the 5th deck are the only spaces in the ship up to Celebrity's past standard of elegance.
With the exception of the poached eggs, the food in Solstice was on a par with other Celebrity ships we have sailed in; and the service provided by the crew was up to Celebrity Cruise Lines' high standards. It is not my objective to discourage people from cruising in Celebrity, far from it. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, just hated the ship. We even booked our next two cruises onboard... in Celebrity Infinity. Celebrity will continue to be our first choice; however, we will NEVER cruise in another Solstice class ship. If the only choices were between a Solstice class ship and another cruise line we would not go or seriously consider the other cruise line!
We were disappointed in some of the changes made on the Reflection. We have thoroughly enjoyed Aqua Class and Blu dining on Eclipse,Solstice and Equinox.
Reflection had many more Aqua guests and squeezed the tables together,but should have been made larger. Also,there were children and a baby for dinner, completely inappropriate. We love children and babies,but dinner should be for adults.That is why we pay exrea for Aqua Class.
We enjoy dining in Blu. Breakfast time was a fiasco. Yhere were not enough waiters. The little sofas in the cabins were not sofas,but slabs of wood with hard pieces of foam on top. The quality of the food at dinner was just fair. I guess we cannot expext gourmet.
Our cabin attendant was superb. His Name was Ozy Fortado and he was the best we have ever had in 24 cruises. We are going again in April on the Equinox and hope everything will be as wonderful as it was when we were on there in January of this year. Happy Sailing.