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Old December 9th, 2008, 06:38 PM
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Default Millennium - review - AKL-SYD

We just returned from a 14 day Auckland-Sydney cruise on the Millennium.

Check-in was smooth and easy in Auckland. We checked in a couple of hours early, checked out our stateroom and went back ashore for an hour or so.

Our stateroom was clean, except for some mildew in the shower. Shortage of hangers and no corded hair dryer... just a wall-mount in the bathroom that my wife can't use, but our stateroom attendant, Santanos, looked after both quickly.

We had Concierge Class service... fresh fruit and (small) canapes in our room every day. On time and fresh. I have seen reviews that some people did not get these every day, but we did, without exception. Our cabin was always kept clean and neat by the service staff.

We found all staff on the ship to be courteous and pleasant. There didn't seem to be a change in their attitude after the tips were handed out (which I had seen reported in another review). Food got a bit tiresome by the end, but there is lots to choose from. Don't forget the poolside grill and the AquaSpa grill for a bit of a change.

The ship is clean, but not as finished as the Jewel of the Seas we travelled on a couple of years ago. Some things, like draperies and towels, are starting to show their age. The gym equipment is all in excellent shape... all working and all leather unworn.

The TV picture on every regular TV on the ship was off-colour due to the fact that we were in the southern hemisphere and the TVs were set up for northern hemisphire. LCD TVs in the lounges and gym worked fine.

Our dining room service was nothing short of spectacular. Our waiter, Dimitar, is just about to be promoted to assistant maitre d' so he knew his stuff and advised us of what entrees to avoid and what was really good. He made arrangements for creme brule for one of our tablemates every night, even though it was only on the menu for one of the nights, and when one of the people at our table couldn't find something they liked on the menu, he got something from the Olympic restaurant for them.

Drinks on board were expensive but we brought a bottle of rum in our checked bags and some wine in our backpack (when we went back ashore in AKL and again in Napier) and no one questioned us, even though the documentation says that they will make you walk the plank if you do bring liquor aboard. No need to go to great efforts to hide it, at least for us. The soda card is pricey at $70. Grab a 2 litre bottle at the occasional port if you don't want to pay $5 per day for soda.

One hidden value for beer is the aft bar on deck 10 where a pint (maybe not quite a pint) of Heineken draft is only $4.75. I recall that just a bottle elsewhere on the ship was about the same price.

I did take one of the bottles of wine I brought on board to the dining room and paid the $25 corkage.... probably wouldn't do this with a cheap bottle of wine but I had a very nice and fairly expensive wine so it was a lot cheaper than what I would have paid for the same wine on board.

Entertainment was very good. The ships singers and dancers put on great shows and the string quartet on board was excellent and seemed to play from from late afternoon through dinner and afterwards in various places on the ship.

Shore excursions on this trip were VERY expensive if booked through the ship. Generally 2 to 3 times what you could pay by organizing it yourself. Many ports require a shuttle to get from the port to the main city/town. Celebrity offered a (pay) shuttle bus service but, in most cases, you could use public transit, walk or get a cheaper/faster ride in a cab (if you had 4 to travel with).

We missed Milford Sound due to very high winds, but saw Dusky and Doubtful. Incredible scenery. Make sure you go on deck for these.

The itinerary we signed up for showed an 8 AM arrival in Melbourne with a 6pm departure the next day. On our final itinerary papers arrival had changed to 8 PM, which we did not see until part way through the voyage when someone mentioned the loss of a day in Melbourne. We were not happy with this change and have submitted a complaint to Celebrity. This cruise already had 4 sea days in it and the 5th was not welcome.

Arrival in Sydney is spectacular. Docking is at 7, but you get to the harbour mouth at about 5, so get up for it. I thought 5:30 would be early enough, but it's not quite. Still had the opportunity to enjoy the last mile or so of the entry. The approach to the bridge and opera house are everything you imagine they might be.

The ship parks right between the bridge and opera house at the international terminal so everything is really close by.

In Sydney, make sure you do the bridge climb. It's not cheap, but everyone asks you if you did it on your return.

Debarkation was smooth (no extensive customs procedures) (and no favouritism for particular nationalities as in FLL or MIA). We had a flight out at noon, so took a train (station at the end of the quay... 3 minute walk) that runs every 15 minutes to the airport (15 minute ride) for about AU$20 per person. If you have more than 2 people a cab is about the same price per person.

Oh... we awoke on the last day to no electricity (no light, no water, no flush), a fact which seemed to be lost on staff walking around when I went up to the dining room to investigate. The greeted me like nothing was wrong! The stateroom staff had to download all baggage by hand after about 1am, so I felt good that I had my stuff out by 11. Obviously hot breakfast was out of the question, but the kitchen staff had ample food out in the morning, given the circumstances. Eventually, power was restored, just in time to have a shower and debark.

We had paid a fuel surcharge ($140 per person), which, at the time of our booking, seemed reasonable, given the price of oil. By the time we sailed, however, the price of oil had fallen to less than 1/3 of it's peak and my enquiries about a rebate were not considered. I think a rebate or credit should have been in order.

This is a great trip if you like to walk, each of the cities visited had great walking self-tours. It is not like a Caribbean cruise, but that was actually quite refreshing.

Overall, I'd give the Cruiseline a 6, the ship a 7, food a 7 and the staff a 9.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 10:05 PM
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Inchman,

Thank you for the great review. Australia/New Zealand is on my list of "must do" cruises.

Did you post this to our "Reader Reviews" section. It would be great if you would.

Thanks,
Mike
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Old December 10th, 2008, 10:08 PM
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Couldn't find the link to do so, but I see it now. I'll post it over there, too.
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Old December 10th, 2008, 11:06 PM
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Hey Inchman,
could you post it in the Australia/New Zealand forum as well, please?
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Old December 12th, 2008, 09:06 PM
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We were on this cruise also. Just got back after spending some extra days in Sydney. Have to readjust to the northern hemisphere. Will add some comments to your review later this weekend. Good review..
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Old December 13th, 2008, 04:16 PM
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Many thanks for the posting!

We are doing this cruise from SYD to AUK on the same ship this February, then returning to SYD on the HAL Volendam. I would be VERY interested to hear what you did on the port stops as I am still trying to work out what we will see and not see. There appears a lot to choose from.

I am a professional fine art photographer and I am always on the lookout for interesting scenery, florals, buildings, etc.

Again, many thanks!
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Old December 13th, 2008, 05:56 PM
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I'm no pro, but I really enjoy photography, especially architectural, and there's lots of it available on this trip. I took over 1500 shots and am still in the process of working through them and identifying the keepers.

It's hard to pick a place that has the best subject matter, to be honest. Each port area has its own, unique, features. Napier, Wellington and Melbourne were probably the most unique for architecture (that I saw, anyway) with Tauranga/Rotorua and Dunedin (and, of course, the fjords) more for landscape work. The walk from Bondi to Coogee in Sydney offers some great vistas and unique rock outcroppings.

Some great landscapes are available of the harbours in that great morning light (particularly Lyttleton/Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin) on arrival every morning, but you'll have to be up early... generally about 5:45.

Speaking of getting up early, if you like touring around, I'd recommend the late sitting or using alternative dining as trying to get back to the ship to be ready for the 5:30 sitting would really cut into touring time.

The Taieri Gorge Train in Dunedin had some great shots from the platforms between cars but there is an awful lot of bright yellow in the gorge that overpowers photos, even with pp, due to overgrown gorse. I'm not sure if it stops blooming, so it might be gone when you're there. Book the train yourself on line, but do so in advance, as it was full. Make sure you spend at least a bit of time on the platform on the back of the last car for best views.

We took a taxi out to a winery in Napier... about $NZ25 each way... don't go too close to noon though, or the tours are all booked up by the ship (a call might help). We went to Church Road winery. The staff was very pleasant and they have a small but interesting museum as part of the tour. The wine is very good, too!

We don't like organized walking tours, but every stop has self-guided walking tours available which we did everywhere but Tauranga (rent a car and go inland at this stop). Walking tours are best if you need to spend more time setting up your shots, or want to head up an alleyway not on the tour, needless to say. Just go to the i-Site in each town when you arrive. i-Sites are in every port you stop at in NZ and an excellent source of information and either sell, for a reasonable price, or give away walking tour booklets.

It'll definitely be warmer for you in Feb, than it was for us, so you might not cover as much ground walking as we did, but I'm sure you'll find lots of subject matter.
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Old December 13th, 2008, 06:21 PM
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inchman,
Your review was very good and thorough, so I'll just add a few comments of my own here.
The ship was mostly clean, but did show lots of wear. Our cabin was very clean (I was a little worried about this aspect from some of the reviews I've read here and elsewhere.) The carpet did show wear, but our bathroom was very clean except for some mold/mildew on the shower vent. The green TV image was hard to get used to and the programming choice was very limited, but that's not why you cruise...right?. We took a cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires several years ago on NCL and didn't have a green image on the TV. Those sets were of the CRT variety too. Friends in a Family Cabin had the same kind of TV as we did, and their's was OK. Our balcony door was extremely hard to open. Once, I pulled it off its track trying to open it.
Our cabin attendants and all the staff were very friendly and helpful as you mentioned.
Our dining room service was hot and cold. We were at a table for six, but one couple never showed, so we had four most nights and on four nights, just the two of us. Our waiter was very friendly, but not as efficient as some of the others near us. Sometimes, we had to wait over 30 minutes for our appetizer. The table of eight next to us were usually finished with their entree befrore we got ours.
We bought a couple of bottles of wine on board in Auckland and even mentioned to the security screener that we had wine with us and did we need to pre-pay a corkage fee. We were told it was OK and no fee was necessary.
The ship singers and dancers were good, but I thought the the other entertainment was rather limited, although the "famous/well-known" Australian male and female vocalists were pretty good.
We tried the Olympic restaurant and were disappointed. It seemed to be all about the service, which was a little overpowering. The food was no better than the dining room and the selection was modest. We didn't think it was worth the $30 extra per person.
We booked our own excursions outside the ship's offerings. We like the smaller, more intimate groups of 12 or less, so that's what we did in Napier and Wellington. For Napier, we did a scenery and winery tour and in Wellington, we did a Lord of the Rings tour. Both were excellent.
We were also disappointed in our arrival time change for Melbourne. We tried going into town that night, but the tram from the dock area into town was so packed, we just gave up and went back to the ship. Melbourne has a greeter's service, which is free. You book well in advance online and are put in a group of four. You are met at the Information Center in Federation Square by a volunteer. He or she will take you on a four hour walking tour of the area. Some volunteers also take you on public transportation in addition to the walk. Our guide was very friendly and knowledgable. It was well worth it! We also took an all-day, hop on-hop off, Captain Cook harbor tour in Sydney. This was also very convenient for seeing all the Sydney Harbor sights at your leisure.
We were disappointed in not being able to go into Milford Sound but we understood the Captain's concern about our safety due to the 50-70 knot winds in the Sound. There were about 30 passengers who had taken an overnight tour to Queensland from Dunedin and were to get back on the ship by tender in Milford Sound. Since they couldn't, they were flown to Melbourne and put up in a nice hotel. they were given tours, their meals, and new clothes at Celebrity's expense. We talked to one of the couples left behind, and they said they had a great time while we were at sea for two days.
On our arrival in Sydney, like you, I thought I got up in plenty of time to see all the harbor sights as we sailed in. When I got on deck, we were just going by the opera house, so I managed a picture of that and the bridge as we came into the dock area. We were supposed to dock at 7, but it was more like 6.
The power outage didn't affect us as much, since we were staying over and didn't have an early disembarkation time.
I would give the cruise about the same rating as you.
For what it's worth, the scenery in New Zealand was outstanding... a 10. It was some of the best we've seen on our many cruises.
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Old December 14th, 2008, 03:03 PM
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Inchman, JimmieD:

Great information, thank you!

Now I am REALLY getting hyped about the trip!
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Old December 16th, 2008, 12:16 AM
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I would also like to add my thanks as it made interesting reading.

It also seems funny to me that this X cruise is probably the cheapest in price compared to the other lines doing this route during summer.
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