Cruise Lines: Celebrity Cruises
This was a return cruise on the Millennium after sailing on her in January 2016. I'm sad to say that the attention to detail to detail and food quality and presentation has dropped in that time.
on two occasions we had bugs in our food - once was in a salad in the main dining room, and when the salad was sent back to the kitchen for a replacement, the replacement also had bugs. The third salad was fine. We had an apology sent to our cabin of four small under-ripe strawberries dipped in chocolate (I would have preferred a verbal apology). The second occasion was weevil bugs in the cereal in the Oceanview Cafe - an apology on the spot, but no further acknowledgement that the issue had been addressed.
This was a Holidays sailing, so we were on board for Christmas, Hanukkah and New Years. Previous Christmas sailings with Celebrity had seen them go all out with the food with a Christmas Day brunch in the dining room with Ice Sculptures and various food stations, with egg nog avaialable. This time saw nothing on the menu for breakfast or lunch that was remotely Christmas related, and there was only turkey on the dinner menu that was close to Christmas- not even any Christmas pudding available for dessert. Even the OceanView Cafe didn't have any special display of cakes to show it was Christmas. The only thing food related was a display of gingerbread houses at the entry to the OceanView and on the Grand Staircase but they were there all cruise.
We had also booked for the New Years Eve dinner in Tuscan Grill, which was sold as a special five course event and priced accordingly at $99 pp, but the whole evening was rushed like they were trying to get us out as quickly as possible (we were out in an hour and a half!). The only dish worth mentioning was the steak which was cooked to perfection and just melted in the mouth, the lobster on the other had was like rubber.
In general, none of the food across the ship wowed us like it had on our previous 10 cruises with Celebrity, and it feels as though they are starting to wind the ship down for retirement once the new Celebrity Edge ships are launched.
Bar staffing seemed very disorganised as well, and there was always a significant wait for drinks and understaffing in key areas - eg inadequate bar staff in the theatre before shows, inadequate staff in the martini bar prior to dinner seatings, and rarely enough Pool Bar staff on sea days, however if you went to less populated areas, such as lounges during sea days, they had more than enough staff - some readjustment of rosters in required. It may also be related to the fact that they are now including the drinks packages, so don't want to make it too easy for people to get a drink.
on the positive side, cabin staff were excellent. Celebrity have recently changed their staffing in this area with a single cabin steward responsible for a smaller number of cabins (rather than a Head Steward and Assistant responsible for a larger number). This works well, and you get to know your Steward much better, and they are responsible for all things cabin related. The Chief Housekeeper - Mila, was exceptional. One of the port days saw a large number of passengers return to the ship just as a downpour of rain hit. As they were queued to reboard, she was running out with umbrellas and towels just to keep everyone as dry as possible for their comfort - she was saturated in the process, but this is the type of service we have grown to appreciate from Celebrity in the past - I just hope it returns to other areas of the ship.
We chose this cruise because it had an overnight in Bilbao to enable us to go to Pamplona for Running of the Bulls. The itinerary was excellent with some great stops along the way. There is so much to see in Spain that you could take this cruise again and see completely different things.
This ship is a great size to keep interactions personal without getting too big like some of the mega-liners. Staff would remember your drinks, ie cocktails, or specialty coffees.
We had originally booked on the cruise after this which was scheduled as a Chinese New Year Signature Sailing, but when Celebrity chartered the ship, we moved to this cruise as the itinerary was almost the same.
The service was generally what we had come to expect from Celebrity from previous cruises, but there were a couple of standouts such as Maria in Cafe al Bacio and Sever, one of the somelliers in the main dining room.
While most people go to the buffet for breakfast and lunch, give the main dining room a try, as the food there is as exceptional through the day as it is at night.
If you get the opportunity, try the progressive dinner (limited spaces available) which samples the food and experience in each of the specialty restaurants on the ship (one restaurant per course).
We did have a slight change to our itinerary (extra night in Hong Kong) as a result of bad weather. Even delaying our departure we experienced 18ft waves the day after Hong Kong. The ship was prepared, putting out extra paper bags around the ship for ill passengers affected by the high seas.
Overall a great cruise and some very interesting ports (particularly Vietnam).
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