Celebrity Millennium: Solsticization Review
With the recent revitalization of the Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Cruises has nearly completed its impressive $140M Solsticization initiative – the process of upgrading the Millennium-class ships with Solstice-class features. All that is left of the project is to return to the Celebrity Constellation to add AquaClass staterooms and a Celebrity iLounge in May of 2013.
Earlier this year, I was able to tour the Celebrity Infinity for the day, and I just returned from a sailing on the Celebrity Millennium in Alaska. While onboard, I had the pleasure to chat with Sheldon Thompson, Celebrity Millennium’s Hotel Director who was onboard while she was in drydock just over a month ago. So let me break it all down for you and provide a detailed Solsticization review of the Celebrity Millennium.
In addition to my cruising experiences, I’ve gained a lifetime of remodeling knowledge from my father who has trained me as an apprentice carpenter under his residential construction company. We are both cruising aficionados with an eye for quality craftsmanship in home and ship building, and we both agree that – while some of the existing areas of the ship, mainly the worn and stained outer deck coatings, could use some polish – the excellent new Solsticized features of the Millennium have been installed with great precision and care. The implementation is even more refined than what we saw on the Infinity with transitions from the new spaces to the old blending better together.
One of the larger undertakings of the Solsticization process was the addition of 43 new rooms on deck 11 – 37 of which are AquaClass ones, plus 6 inside ones – and 17 new outside rooms on deck 3. The new rooms on deck 11 displace the Fun Factory kids facility to a stretch of space once part of Cosmos Lounge, and the ones on deck 3 required the reconfiguration of the existing cinema and conference center into a smaller more utilitarian space. These fresh rooms integrate extremely well with the older spaces and, for the time being, give off that new ship smell.
While the existing rooms received upgrades such as flat-panel televisions previously in 2009, they were not left without the addition of a new feature this year. The bathrooms now sport an attractive floral art panel that doubles as a convenient nightlight when the main lighting is turned off. According to the hotel director, the bathrooms also received new toilet seats, and the suites got new TVs and audio systems during the latest drydock. In addition, full balconies were attached onto the once only glassed Celebrity suites opposite the midship elevators.
Wining & Dining
The biggest improvements to the public areas of the ship came with the addition of many new bars and restaurants. Exclusive to AquaClass guests, a portion of the main dining room was walled off to introduce the healthier alternative, Blu, to the ship which surprisingly required no reduction in capacity. “It’s actually funny because that’s the perception that guests have that we’ve lost all these seats, but we’ve actually gained,” says Sheldon Thompson, the hotel director. In fact, the reconfiguration of the tables resulted in more overall seating.
Also new to the Millennium is the extraordinarily unique specialty restaurant, Qsine. The top deck midship space once allocated to the underused Extreme bar is now home to a very fun and tasty culinary experience where there are no rules save for no food fights. Here you choose your desired order and quantity of 20 international dishes, selected from iPad menus, that have all been given a delightful twist. This fantastic restaurant deserves its very own review which will be coming shortly.
Back downstairs, the former champagne and martini bars just forward from the main dining room have made way for Bistro on Five and Cellar Masters. The crêperie onboard the Solstice-class ships is a favorite of mine, and Bistro on Five onboard the Millennium offers the same great experience. After cutting open the side of the ship to slip in a prefabricated galley plus the casual new décor, the chefs here cook up delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus dessert crêpes. With only a $5 cover charge, this culinary destination is not to be missed.
On the opposite side of the ship, Cellar Masters is ready to pour wine samples by the automatically-dispensed glass in a richly decorated lounge. And fear not because the Martini Bar has not been removed but rather relocated to the former internet cafe space off the grand foyer. Here the modern décor is accentuated with a chilled counter that is topped with a thin playful layer of ice, and the adjacent vodka-tasting Crush bar features an ice and bottle filled central channel.
Also off of the grand foyer is the once undersized coffee bar and lounge. The Cova Café has been replaced with Café al Bacio and a space that has now expanded into the formerly walled off oval card room, and across from the coffee bar is a new gelateria. The resulting lounge is open and relaxing with plenty of seats for all.
And lastly, Michael’s Club now acts in part as a pub with an ample selection of craft bottled beers available.
Lounges and Retail
While most venues onboard have either grown, been divided or reassigned, the Cosmos Lounge has, in fact, lost a portion of its space. When the Fun Factory kids facility was removed to add staterooms to deck 11, it was relocated here by walling off the port side (left side) of the lounge just off from the dance floor and creating for them a great new play area with a fantastic view.
While this effective blind spot in the observation lounge and reduced seating prove unfortunate on Alaskan itineraries when climate-controlled viewing areas are at a premium, the new light blue and metallic décor in the lounge is very pleasing and does make the room feel as large as it once was. Also, the loss of that part of the lounge is somewhat inconsequential to the non-smoking majority of passengers as it was formerly the smoking section of the lounge.
With the increasing popularity of Apple products, the Celebrity iLounge has become ever more a staple onboard Celebrity’s fleet, and now the Millennium has one of the Apple-specific internet cafes and Mac learning centers onboard. Being a Mac myself, I’m pleased to see how well these venues have taken off for Celebrity.
The iLounges once pulled double duty as retail centers for Apple products as well, but now the Millennium sports a dedicated Celebrity Innovations Apple store alongside the other shipboard shops. Although much smaller, this shop is a dead ringer for Apple stores on land down to the white back-lit paneling and gray floor tiling.
The upper decks have also been spruced up nicely with handsome new outdoor furniture and stylish shade structures around the pools and jacuzzis. And thanks to the additional staterooms on deck 11, there is also a nice new open deck right above them. The hotel director believes the reason it’s not already there is due to the high winds this new space is prone to experiencing, but I still can’t help but hope for this area to be made into a Lawn Club with some windbreaks and its own bar one day.
Solstice-class features that make Celebrity the excellent “Modern Luxury” brand that it is are now common place across nearly all of the line’s fleet, making the Solsticization of the Millennium and her sisters a resounding success.