January 2016 - Celebrity Millennium to Other (Asia/Africa/Middle East)
...... the kind of X-cellent cruise experience we've come to expect. We did a B2B (01/03/16 and 01/17/16) to tally one full month aboard Celebrity Millennium. Overall, anything I might add to the review that detracts from the overall 5 Star rating I gave this cruise experience are minor nits.
Millennium is the oldest ship in Celebrity's fleet. It goes in for a major overhaul in April but will return to it's home port in Singapore from which the varied Asian itineraries it sails from the October to May time frame originate. So, it's old but Celebrity runs an excellent maintenance program but it's hard to make the older technologies work as well as the newer ones. This accounts for any of the downside of our experience.
When Celebrity introduced it's Solstice Class ships the medium range plan, ahead of the introduction of it's new H Class ships in 2018, they embarked on a plan to "Solticize" the Millennium class ships. My only nit about this is that in doing that, they ended up cramping the space of the Main Dinning Room, the Metropolitan, when they added Blue (Private dinning for Aqua Class) and most recently, Lumiere (for Suite Class).
I'm a bit put off by this sort of thing. One of the best parts of cruising for us is the dining experience, sitting with new people and getting to know them over the time frame of the cruise. In my view, that's become impaired by this approach. Our enjoyment of this has also been impaired by the implementation of Select Dining (in NCL's terms: Anytime Dining). My view is that if you want to sail on ships with a clear class structure, sail with Cunard. If you want to dine whenever, sail with NCL. I'm disappointed that Celebrity has tried to broaden it's appeal by mimicking what other lines are doing. In the past, I've viewed the best aspect of Celebrity Cruising as the feeling that you are experiencing an upscale vacation with a great guest demographic coupled with a welcoming, friendly, and family crew culture. That is still definitely present and it is the primary reason we keep going back to Celebrity, this our 32nd and 33rd Celebrity cruise. I just don't want this to slip away as Celebrity tries to remain competitive in a very competitive industry. I've made my views clear to them every opportunity I get to comment on it. Pretty sure they are listening.
The Asian itineraries are fantastic. You visit a wide range of ports in Asia and get to experience multiple Asian cultures. These include ports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China (Honk Kong) and the Philippines. While you can do this using other modes of travel, cruising to these ports is ideal for us ..... all-inclusive and pack and unpack once!
Singapore, the originating port, is a fantastic city. It is safe, easy to navigate, spotlessly clean and has fantastic food, entertainment and cultural experiences. The Marina Bay Cruise Terminal is huge and marvelous like most buildings in Singapore. You can get a free tour. I would have liked to but never got around to it. Taxis are easy to get and since you spend a day in Singapore as part of some of the cruise itineraries, this is important. You're also about a 1/2 mile from an MRT station that's an easy walk. Not all the trains stop there so there can be a 30 minute wait but it is an important gateway to the city. Hotels can be pricy but for smart shoppers who take advantage of the competitiveness of this sector of the Singapore economy, you can find good deals at less than obvious hotel chains. I recommend these. We stayed at the M Hotel which is convenient to the MRT (light rail) and very near the Marina Bay Cruise Terminal, where Millennium is ported. Moderately priced in the low $100 USD range per night. There are also many Boutique Hotels offering interesting accommodations and good prices. The Majestic and the Wanderlust are two of them.
Avoid high end, touristy dinning. It is very expensive. There are literally thousands of clean, much more interesting places to eat in Singapore famous for Hawker stands/street food. Just do a Google search. I also have to mention it: MacDonalds. Gasp you say! Not so fast. Right down from the M Hotel on Anson Street, there is one of the coolest MacDonalds I've ever been in. Way different that in the good-'ol USA. Still features the same burgers and fries but the ordering process is hi-tech, much like you'd expect everything is in Asia.
Things to do in Singapore: Too numerous to mention them all but recommend Marina Bay Gardens (Gardens By the Bay), the Zoo, Singapore Botanic Gardens, The Hop-On-Hop Off Buses (originate at the Suntec Center) ....... this bus allows you to stop off at China Town and Little India to experience all the cool shopping there.
I could spend hours talking about the rest of the ports. I'll mention just one more: Ho Chi Min City, HCMC or Saigon. Especially if you are an American, make the effort to go there. Saigon is an interesting blend of Communist propaganda and booming entrepreneurialism. The Communists in Hanoi tried hard to implement a Soviet style system throughout Vietnam after the fall of the democratic Republic of South Vietnam in 1975. There was famine and desperation. 2.5 million Vietnamese fled the country. It was a miserable failure and produced a change in policy called Doi Moi in 1986, pretty much like Glasnost in Russia where there were expanded personal freedoms, less censorship and most importantly, capital markets and land ownership. Saigon is a vibrant city with, at first appearance, little changed from it's French Colonial beginnings. Wide tree line boulevards, beautiful architecture and great food. Things to see are the Liberation Palace (the old residence and former command headquarters of the President of South Vietnam) and the War Remnants Museum. The later was moving if not filled with anti-American and anti-French propaganda. Both well worth a visit. Also make sure you visit the Binh Tay market. Fascinating.
If you've made it this far, you're probably wondering about the rest of the ports or the reviews of the ship, the boarding process, cabins, ship's food and entertainment, all that.
*** EDITED 2/10/16 BY CRUISELINE.COM TO REMOVE PERSONAL INFORMATION ***