Celebrity Millennium: A sleek ship with premium features
Celebrity Millennium, a mega-liner that debuted in 2000 (I was among the passengers on her maiden voyage and again in 2014), more than holds her own today after a refurbishment in May 2012 in which she emerged with many exclusive features of Celebrity Cruises' Solstice class ships. After a few nips and tucks, she shines like a star of the premium line's fleet. She has a sleek feel, even at 91,000 gross tons, and can carry 2,138 guests to exciting destinations without too much crowding.
This Millennium-class ship's Solstice refurbishment came with many award-winning features such as spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms, the AquaClass signature restaurant Blu and the addition of verandas to her chic suites. Like other ships in the fleet, the contemporary interior design is vibrant and inviting, enriched by a diverse art collection in the public spaces.
Who will like sailing on Celebrity Millennium
If you love great food, contemporary interior design and top-flight service, then Celebrity Millennium is an ideal choice. Although the cruise line was once the province of baby boomers, there are quite a lot of millennials who find the atmosphere more conducive to their lifestyle. The ship appeals to travelers who like big ships with lots of space that sail to exotic ports.
Where Celebrity Millennium sails
Summer: Celebrity Millennium sails around Alaska from May to early September.
The ship features cruise itineraries that range from 10 to 20 nights. Some of the most popular destinations that this ship visits include Alaska, China, Vietnam, Thailand and Japan.
Where we sailed & what we loved
Our most recent cruise was unique in many ways as it allowed passengers to sail to Hawaii and disembark there, which, because of an archaic 1920 maritime law, can’t be done unless you start out from a foreign port, which we did, Ensenada, Mexico. Passengers needed to get to San Diego to be taken across the border. It didn’t begin so seamlessly, with massive delays in San Diego, where 600 passengers waited to be bused across the U.S. border. But once we got underway it was smooth sailing across the Pacific to the heavenly Hawaiian islands.
The food, especially at night in the Oceanview Café on deck 11, is some of the best buffet-style dining afloat — much of it made to order.
Top dining options
Mr. B smiled broadly as we entered the Olympic restaurant. The charming, Turkish-born maître d’ is proud of his reservations-only room where passengers pay a surcharge of $45 each (exclusive of wine, $89 with pairings) to dine. Once you sample the perfectly prepared fare, you can understand Mr. B’s enthusiasm. The service is seamless and the courses are outstanding for a ship restaurant. According to Mr. B, many guests return for encores during any given cruise. Past passengers, he says, especially return for the Dover sole, chateaubriand, Olympic lobster, soufflés, crepes and French artisan cheeses served at the perfect degree of ripeness and temperature.
We dined at Olympic at a table for two by the window, hovered over by attentive waiters. We did the whole nine yards from a wild forest mushroom cappuccino and a warm goat cheese soufflé to Dover sole, Loup De Mer, an assortment of mouthwatering cheeses and crepes cooked at our table. There are more options, of course, but they would have to wait for the next visit. In fact, we already know we will order the chateaubriand and the seared milk-fed veal tenderloin.
We loved the quirky, hyper-eclectic Qsine, where everything is different, from the fine thin-walled wine tumblers placed just so on their sides when you sit down to the iPads used to order dinner. You should put aside preconceived notions of what fine dining should be and just submit to the fun and the food.
The iPad menu lists 20 individual small-plate dishes drawn from multiple cuisines, mixed and matched in intriguing ways. Each course has its own presentation eccentricity. For instance, the Vegetable Du Jatour is a half dozen small glass jars, each filled with a different purred vegetable and eaten with small spoons. Slider Party is two little patties topped with cheddar presented still sizzling on cast iron and accompanied by little brioche buns and the usual burger condiments. Another course is offered in what looks like a shadow box with many compartments. The dessert menu is on a Rubik’s Cube-like device. That’s right, quirky.
The glass-encased Qsine, which sits on the topmost deck, has a dedicated galley staffed by a half dozen very hard-working cooks. Each dish is prepared to order — the French say a la minute — and immediately served. Anyone who has suffered through cruise ship dishes made earlier and served less than hot will cheer this attribute. One good example is Spring Rolls — the pork filled one is delicious — which arrived crunchy-hot. Maitre d’ Alex, who opened the restaurant when it debuted in 2010, is caring and welcoming, and the wait staff provides a joyous dining experience. With so much on the menu to try, come hungry. And with so much that is unusual, bring your sense of exploration too.
Wherever you dine aboard the ship, you can expect contemporary menus created by a James Beard-featured chef that offer a good balance of classic favorites and global tastes. Additional options aboard Celebrity Millennium include:
- Main Restaurant: Feast on up to 29 selections, with most dishes changing every night to give you a variety of classic and contemporary choices.
- Blu: Featuring "clean cuisine" menus, this specialty restaurant puts a fresh twist on your favorites dishes. AquaClass guests can enjoy the restaurant at no extra charge for breakfast and dinner.
- Bistro on Five: The stylish eatery showcases crepes, paninis, salads and desserts.
- Oceanview Café: This casual dining area includes a pasta bar, freshly made pizza, grilled steak, hamburgers and more.
- The AquaSpa Café: This restaurant serves up healthy alternatives that are quick and easy for on-the-go cruise passengers.
Because specialty dining is popular, you might miss out on getting a reservation if you wait to book when you get on the ship. One way around this is to purchase a Specialty Dining Package ahead of time. (Ask for it when you contact a Cruiseable travel advocate.)
Also, if you have a special diet, make sure to tell your travel consultant because Celebrity Cruises is happy to accommodate many different kinds of dietary needs including vegetarian, kosher, no-sugar-added desserts, food allergies and other dietary needs. They just need advance notice.
Activities & entertainment on board
This ship is jampacked with fun and games from bingo to disco and beyond -- it's all listed in your daily newspaper that's placed in your stateroom.
During our sailing, we enjoyed five glorious days at sea while spending time at the fitness center and pool, reading, attending lectures and getting pampered at the spa.
The ship offers three Broadway-caliber production shows per night, with 6:15 and 8:30 pm seatings. You'll also find a teen disco for children ages 13 to 17, theme parties for adults and comics and musicians in the lounges and nightclubs.
Bars & lounges
You have a wide selection of bars and lounges to choose from, several with talented bartenders who put on a high-energy show preparing a mix of classic and contemporary martinis. You might want to pair a rare vodka with a portfolio of fine caviars.
- Michael's Club: Look for fine whiskeys, scotches, Cognacs and bourbons alongside craft beers, sporting events on flat-screen TVs and live musical performances.
- Cellar Masters: Sample both familiar and unknown wines from around the world, and check out its Enomatic wine-by-the-glass dispensing system.
- Cosmos Lounge: Enjoy great views from the observation lounge, Cosmos, where you can also dance under glowing lights in the evening disco.
Tip: Inquire about pre-paid drinks packages to get extra savings on your favorite beverages.
Tips on where to go in Hawaii
One by one we arrive at the heavenly Hawaiian islands of Kauai, the Big Island, Maui and Oahu. We are regular visitors to the islands so we never book a shore excursion from a cruise line, we go off on our own, usually to the beach or a few favorite restaurants. But just about every passenger did take a shore excursion as evinced by the crowds in the lounges waiting for tours to be called.
While other guests head off on organized tours of Volcano National Park, ziplines, botanical gardens and Hilo Hattie, we hit our favorite lunch spot, Hilo Bay Café, about a five-minute drive from where the ship docked. On Kauai we always race off to the Marriott Hotel (by foot, although there's always a shuttle) and swim, then we go over to Mariachis across the street for margaritas, chips and guacamole. On the Kona side of the Big Island we meet friends who take us to an amazing beachfront restaurant called Lava Lava Beach Club, where the food is to die for. In Maui we shuttle to shore and walk around Lahaina for a little retail therapy (great little shops) and stop for a drink at Fleetwood's on Front Street.
Of course, Hawaii is just one of the many destinations Celebrity Millennium visits, so check out Cruiseable's travel guides for the ports you have in mind.
Don't be shy about using the services of your own Celebrity Personal Concierge, who's available to handle all your cruise details from making special dinner reservations to recommending spa services to knowing if you like Perrier Jouet with two crystal flutes delivered to your room at sunset. Available to all guests, the service can only be arranged once you get on board.
There are 1,079 cabins to accommodate 2,138 passengers. What's nice about Celebrity Millennium is that there are cabins to suit a wide range of budgets. The largest category available is oceanview staterooms (867 are oceanview, and 623 of those have balconies). The ship also offers 50 suites, ranging from deluxe penthouses to elegant Sky Suites. All staterooms and suites come with the luxurious Reverie mattress, with its patented airflow design, a safe, mini-bar, air conditioning and complimentary use of terrycloth robes.
I've sailed on Celebrity Millennium twice. On its maiden voyage, we had a fabulous suite in the back of the ship where we could watch the wake, which we did at breakfast and during a few dinners we had sent in.
On our second sailing two years ago, we had a Signature Stateroom with balcony. Our stateroom was surprisingly comfortable for this seafaring couple more used to suites. Our room featured a balcony, big bed, small flat-screen TV, robes, plenty of towels, mini-fridge, hairdryer, shower and a few Hydro-Minerale Aquatic Spa toiletries. Our two pleasant room attendants, Gratiela and Allen, were efficient at keeping our stateroom shipshape.
These spa-inspired staterooms feature indulgent amenities like a Hansgrohe shower tower and custom-blended bath products to help guests feel renewed. An AquaClass Spa Concierge can help arrange all your spa appointments. You'll also get complimentary access to the relaxing Persian Garden as well as exclusive access to the Blu restaurant, which serves breakfast and dinner.
There is wi-fi available for a fee and a very accommodating Internet staff to help set it up. It does work at a snail’s pace, so plan on spending a few bucks each time you email home or friends. If you have an Apple device that you need help with, there is a shop on board dedicated to the brand.
Fitness center & spa
The fitness center suited us well with enough equipment to ward off gaining cruise pounds. There’s also a lavish spa and salon.
Expect a mostly older group of middle income passengers with a sprinkling of young couples. (Celebrity is not widely known as a family-friendly line, but the ship does come outfitted with programs and personnel to accommodate families with young children.) North Americans make up the majority of passengers, though your mileage may vary depending on the itinerary, of course.
Some exasperating moments, of which there were a few:
- A fitness group took over the main pool from 7 to 10 am daily, much to the chagrin of those of us who enjoy pre-breakfast lap swimming. After many complaints, they were moved to another pool.
- Finding a table at breakfast and lunch at the Oceanview Café proved to be difficult.
- Fitness center equipment seemed outdated, with TV screens that didn't work.
- Lots of prime time lines in the main dining rooms.
- No delivery of USA Today to cabins -- you must fetch your own.
- A fee to use the steam bath (while the sauna is free0. Also fees for some exercise classes, but not Zumba, which is offered twice a day and is very popular.
- A $2.50 charge for fresh-squeezed orange juice at breakfast.
- I love sailing to Hawaii but probably wouldn't do it via Ensenada again unless a cruise line can do better at getting passengers across the border more seamlessly.
Ready to cruise?
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Top highlights on this ship
- Dinner at quirky Qsine, whose unique, delicious fare costs $45 a person
- Pool butlers at your service
- Our deluxe balcony stateroom, which was surprisingly spacious and very comfortable
- Rejuvenating in the 25,000-square-foot Canyon Ranch SeaClub spa