Friday, August 28, 2015

Celebrity Millennium Report Card

by Pa Rock
Disillusioned Seafarer

If my state lottery ever calls to say that I have won a free cruise on the Celebrity Millennium, I will demand my dollar back!

Should I run into Bill Gates during my too brief stay here in Seattle, I will recommend that he buy the Celebrity Millennium and sink it.  The ship might make an adequate sanctuary for little fish as they hide from bigger fish, but it clearly misses the mark as a luxury cruise experience.

It has been almost six years since my last cruise, and I knew that the world has taken on much more of a Walmart hue during that time – but I was shocked by how the concept of a cruise vacation has been cheapened over the years.

The Millennium offers one of the less expensive sailing packages in the industry.  The initial cost, of course, is just the hook.  Once they get you on the ship, all of the extra charges start to kick in.  The largest profit center on board has to be the Internet Café where hook-ups to cyber space are sold.  There are no internet or phone connections on the ship unless they are purchased from the cruise company.

First of all, the internet hook-up charges are outrageous.  The cost per minute is 79 cents.  Then there are the packages:  90 minutes for $59 (the one I bought), one day unlimited for $59, 240 minutes for $109, and unlimited access for the seven-day cruise for only $199. 

But it gets worse.

As soon as the minutes are purchased, the salespeople begin back-peddling and explaining how service on a ship is much slower than anywhere else.  It takes three to four times as long to do an internet task on a ship than it does on shore.  So, while a person sits nervously waiting for their site to appear, those expensive minutes just keep slipping away! 

(I got smart quickly and began searching out internet access sites on shore each day – and that saved me from having to buy additional minutes from the pirates at on board the Celebrity Millennium.)

Internet Service Grade:  Absolute and total “F”

Meals:  Shipboard dining used to be one of the best things about a cruise.  The meals were elegant and sumptuous.  They no longer are.  The food is average fare, something you could get at an Applebee’s, only the ship portions are smaller and tougher.  The vegetable side with almost every meal I ordered was green beans and carrots, usually undercooked.  The fancy dining rooms no longer have ice sculptures and food art to for the diners to gawk at as they wait for their tables.  Dining aboard the Celebrity Millennium was definitely a sad experience – regurgitated nightly.

Dining and Food Grade:  “D”

Entertainment:  As mentioned in this space yesterday, much of the entertainment was passable, and the shows featuring the ship’s singers and dancers were a bit above average.  An evening in the ship’s theatre always provided a good opportunity to sit and relax – and sometimes laugh and have fun as well.

Entertainment Grade:  “B”

Ports-of-Call:  Although the cruise ships dump their cargo (passengers) next to a ton of portside shops, many of which are owned by the cruise ship companies, it is possible to have a good port experience by getting away from the tourist shops and heading out into the real world.  I managed to do that at each stop, and was rewarded by meeting interesting people and getting to see things that the other old fat people on the cruise did not get to experience.   Our ports for this cruise – Juneau, Skagway, Hoonah, and Ketchikan – all proved to be memorable experiences, and much more satisfying than the sailing portion of the “adventure.”

Ports-of-Call Grade:  “A”

Housekeeping:  The young people who kept our cabin clean were very polite and efficient.  I could not have been happier with the service – except that we began the cruise with two small bars of soap, and they were never replaced throughout the cruise.  Shampoo must have also been at a premium, because our single tube was never replaced either.  I don’t blame the stewards for that, however.  It is more likely the result of a policy of the cruise ship company as it struggles to squeeze every loose penny out of every gullible tourist.

Housekeeping Grade:  “A-”

Casino:  Every cruise ship has a casino which is also a big profit center for the boats.   Being a natural born high-roller, I took five dollars of my social security money out of my wallet and sat down to play the slots.  I selected a “penny” slot which had a minimum bet of thirty pennies – and nearly lost the whole thing.  But then I rebounded and when my total hit $5.58, I cashed it in and pocketed my 58 cents profit.  Unfortunately, I bought a two-dollar ship’s lotto ticket on the way out the door – and lost that, making my gambling total a negative one dollar and forty-two cents.

Casino Grade:  “C.”  The experience was definitely nothing special.

Guest Relations:  There was a special area where a group of individuals worked to keep customers happy.  It also served as the ship’s lost-and-found department.  Unfortunately, I lost a couple of things on this cruise and had multiple dealings with those people.  Each time I tried to talk with them I was met with cold shoulders and patronizing attitudes.   One young man crossed a line when he snapped at me unnecessarily.  He didn’t do it a second time.

Guest Relations Grade:  “F”   (Only because my grading system doesn’t go any lower.)

Overall Cruise Grade:  “C-“

The cruise experience has cheapened across the industry over recent years, and Celebrity does not seem to have done anything to buck that trend.  Best advice:  When you’re planning your next cruise vacation, consider sailing on Greyhound. 

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