by Bill Fletcher
August 11, 2001
This was our first cruise something I had wanted to do for a long time so expectations Were running high. The flight to Istanbul via Amsterdam went smoothly as did our collection by celebrity staff from Istanbul airport, with us and our baggage safely loaded on the bus we made our way through the hot busy streets of Istanbul anxiously awaiting our first glimpse of Millennium.
Having read the Celebrity brochure from cover to cover-countless times you know the ship is going to be big, but that still doesn't prepare you for the initial sight of the ship in dock. There in one of the oldest cities in the world in fact the original crossroads of the world peacefully laid at anchor lays this floating tribute to the 21st Century at least 11 decks rising from the waterline, dwarfing all around it. You can't say Millennium is beautiful in the classic lines of ships but you have to admit it is an awesome sight to see the sheer size of it in those ancient surroundings.
Embarkation was a relatively painless procedure and took no more than 30 minutes; having boarded the ship we were left to our own devices to make our way to our cabin but had no difficulty in doing this. Millennium is an easy ship to find your way around. Our stateroom was a cat 2a with balcony not large 170sq foot, but ample for the two of us and very comfortable. Our steward introduced himself as soon as we arrived at the room. He did a magnificent job throughout the Cruise and seemed to have a sixth sense that told him when we were going to leave the room. The only problems we had with our room were minor and certainly did not cause any inconvenience other that having to have new key cards made as the lock on our door went faulty.
As I said before I don't believe that looking at Millennium on the water she can be called a beautiful ship. She was designed as she is for a specific reason, to transport over 2000 paying guests in comfort to their selected ports of call. This she does spectacularly well, I find it hard to believe that a ship of her size can travel at 24 knots.
With a noise level that is almost non-existent. Standing on the veranda in the early hours of the morning it is almost impossible to perceive any noise at all other than the sound of the sea and maybe just the slightest electrical motor sound.
Being an early riser I took the opportunity to explore the ship fully when there were very few other people around, also being my first cruise I wanted to make sure I saw everything. I didn't want to get home and have someone say to me, didn't you have a look at this or that and me not have a clue what they were talking about. I can honestly say that I don't think there is a square inch of the Millennium that is not cleaned daily. The ship is immaculate; the level of cleaning and maintenance would put almost every 5 star hotel to shame. All the outside glass is washed as soon as the ship reaches port and there seems to be a non-stop army of cleaners. Our cruise was a sell-out and every cabin was occupied, but the ship never seemed crowded. It must be a tribute to the designer because even on sea days there were always plenty of quiet areas both inside the ship and outside for people to just sit and watch the world go by.
We like most other people were really looking forward to the food on this trip not just because of the frequency and availability of it but also because I have eaten in both Michel Roux restaurants in the UK and they are some of the finest. I have to say that we found the food to be disappointing and certainly didn't exceed our expectations.
Talking to several confirmed Celebrity cruisers we found that they had the same opinion. In their view the food on this cruise did not compare to their previous Celebrity cruises and was definitely below par for the line. The main area of complaint was the metropolitan restaurant for the evening meal, whilst served and presented excellently the food was bland and had a frozen feel about it. As a large proportion of the food is procured in the USA and flown in I would presume that it would have to be frozen for transportation .I could be wrong about that and I am open to correction but that's the way it tasted. We ate in the Olympic one night and it was well worth the additional cover charge. I had Steak for the main course and it was not the best I have ever eaten but the other courses more than made up for that. The absolute star of the evening being the Cheese course, which was not only delicious but served with great knowledge and enthusiasm by the waiter. The Ocean Grill is the daytime heart of the ship and it would be hard if not unfair to criticise a restaurant that must serve thousands of people many times a day. The ocean grill has four buffet stations two open and two fully stocked and ready to open as soon as the first ones become low on food. In this way the queues never get too long.
Both my wife and myself enjoy wine with our evening meal and whilst we are prepared to pay restaurant prices we did find that the average bottle of wine was vastly overpriced. We were paying $24.00 plus 15% for a bottle of Pinot Grigio that we would pay $16.00 for in a restaurant or $7.00 in a supermarket in the UK. I think Celebrity is shooting themselves in the foot a little here with the prices of drinks. We spoke to quite a lot of people that said they would have had wine with dinner but just couldn't justify the price. It wasn't just new cruisers like us that thought drinks were expensive we had several people who were double figure cruisers complaining about the cost of drinks.
We enjoyed the shows we saw the cast put their heart and soul into everything they do. We never had any problems getting in to any of the shows we wanted to see and the sound lighting and technical staff were excellent.
The mainline band Prodigy were good in there sets in the Cosmos nightclub but when they had to do sets at the pool they were terrible, it was as if they really did not want to be there and would do as few vocal numbers as possible and really prolong the instrumentals so they would have to do fewer numbers. The Acapella group were four very talented guys not only were they good singers but they enjoyed what they were doing. In the main I think it would be very hard to complain about the Entertainment, as there was something for everyone.
I only have one major complaint but it is enough of a complaint in my eyes to make me think carefully about travelling with Celebrity again and if there were an alternative in the same category (i.e. Princess or Hal) I would use them.
My wife bought me this cruise as a 50th birthday present. She had been saving for it for quite some time, as she knew it was very high on my list of things to do before I get too old. We had everything planned for the May 31st cruise but a month before sailing business problems forced us to change the date to the 11th of August sailing. This took us in to the peak season not Celebrity's fault but ours so we swallowed hard and paid a further $1400.00. We were assured by our T.A. that everything that we had agreed and confirmed for our original cruise would simply be transferred and that we would have no problems.
We had specifically asked and had confirmed 2nd seating for dinner. We required this because of the ports of call, and the fact that like most other Europeans we don't get home from work until around 7pm so our normal time for dinner is between 8 and 8.30pm
Upon arriving in our cabin the first thing given to us by our steward was our table assignment for first sitting. I asked our steward the best course of action to get this changed and was told to go immediately down to the lounge where the Mait're D would be able to sort things out. My wife and I went straight down to the lounge to be met by the sight of six waiters in evening dress, seated at a long table on a raised part of the lounge with a further waiter standing a lectern virtually booking appointments. We approached the waiter at the lectern and told him that we would like to be transferred to late seating to say he laughed in our faces would be an overstatement but he certainly found it amusing. He said that it was an absolute waste of time waiting as 2nd seating was overbooked and we had no chance of getting our seating changed. When I persisted he said he would take our cabin number and go find a seat somewhere and they would call us when they could see us. So there we sat like two naughty school kids waiting to see the headmaster. Approximately 40 minutes later our cabin number was shouted out across the lounge and we trouped up to stand in front of these six waiters. Their attitude was amazing, arrogant was an understatement I was told that it was my fault that we had changed the cruise dates and that even if I had confirmed 2nd seating for that cruise I should have brought the paperwork with me if I had wanted that to count. They then said that they would move us from our table of 10 and move us to a better table of six but that was it take it or leave it, and if we had to eat later to use the alternative dining.
by this time my wife was getting distressed and I could feel my temper starting to go, so we accepted the table change and walked away.
We were determined that this upset would not spoil our vacation and as luck would have it our table companions were an enchanting couple from California travelling with their 18 year old son.
We loved the Cruise and the ship; the ports of call were some of the best that the Mediterranean can offer. We were also lucky that we had been corresponding with several other cruisers via the Internet and all met up on board. We met a great bunch of people and it all added to the enjoyment of the vacation. We will definitely cruise again I just don't think it will be Celebrity. I just can't come to terms with paying all that money for a vacation and then being made to feel like a second-class citizen.
For any of you out there going on this cruise don't worry I am sure you will enjoy it the ship is wonderful. Just make sure that if there is something that you really want to do that you get it confirmed before you go.