Celebrity Millenium Ship Inspection, 9/19/11

A day of mixed messages, is what I am going to call it.  Though I am not a big sailor or seller of Celebrity Crusises, in the last couple years, they have gotten some great reviews on their new ships.  And the people I know that have sailed them, have raved about the service, the programs, the food, etc.

I am glad I know all that, because, just based on the event I attended yesterday, I'd have a hard time really pushing anyone to try Celebrity.  First off, we met in the dungeon of the Residence Inn in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter.  Definitely, downscale.  And right off the bat we get a briefing on Celebrity's latest "brand identity" campaign:  Modern Luxury.  This is to differentiate from "traditional luxury".  Cris DeSouza, the Celebrity channel manager putting on the presentation had a series of slides to illustrate, with, you know "Mercedes Benz, traditional luxury, versus Audi, modern luxury", etc...one of the examples was Ritz-Carlton, traditional luxury, versus W Hotels, modern luxury.  I am pretty sure I drove past W to get to the Residence Inn...and the comparison might have been easier to illustrate from a conference room there.  I have to say, most cruise lines DO have there events at places like W and the Beverly Hilton, or at least a full-on Marriott.  Residence Inn stinks of budget considerations...not really the message, when you are trying to sell modern luxury.

All that aside the presentations were good.  We also got to hear from some travel industry veterans and the Corporate Groups people.

Then we went over to the Millenium and stood in line.  Took nearly an hour to get 50 agents onboard.  Ridiculous.

But, finally, we did get aboard, and ran straight to lunch.  Lunch was good to great.  Celebrity prides itself on the quality, and the presentation, of their food.  I have to give them kudos on the presentations...they were uniformly excellent.  We started with a grilled Portobello mushroom with some sweet and savory sauces spritzed on the plate,and a dollop of some creme fraiche based something.  It was the best! 
And then a soup that was (and I am not being a smart alec, I really can't remember) a cream of "something".  Way too salty.  With all due respect to Mario and Rachel and all the other second tier cooks on The Food Network, salt is cheating.  We are all predisposed to like the taste of salt.  Witness the popularity of pretzels and potato chips.  But salt is for snacks and comfort food, it has no place in cuisine that is taking the high road. 
The other interesting part of the soup was that it was drizzled with sherry.  Again, if you are trying to be "modern luxury" I don't know where sherry fits in.  My great grandmother used cooking sherry, and I am sure the Queen Mary kept lot's of it in the pantries for their fine dining in 1958...but, these days, not so much.
The next course was a nice salad.  Now salad is salad, and not much you can do, but, again, an artful presentation saved it.  The greens came in a bunch, tied at the bottom with a thin slice of cucumber, and resembled a bouquet.  Nice touch. 
For the entree I chose braised short ribs.  Now, the beef was fall-apart tender, and served with a swoosh of mashed potato, a few carrot slices and a tempura green bean, for a nice looking plate...but, short ribs?  Again, my grandmother made some killer short ribs, back in the day...not sure, but if I was shooting for "modern luxury", I'd have gone with duck or an interesting fish or something....
Desert was a chocolate cake, warm, on a bed of chocolate sauce with a weepy whipped cream and some crushed almost around the plate.  Very pretty, but pedestrian in taste.

So, now, on to the ship...we had to hurry through, as we were running very late, but I did get to see most of the main public spaces...and the overall impression was "tired".  They kept telling us how things were going to look after April, when the Millenium get's "Solsticized".  That is to say, she is undergoing a $50 million face lift, and refit, to bring the decor and amenities up to Solstice-class standards.  Not a moment too soon.  Even though she is only 11 years old, the Millenium's interior was out-dated when she was built.  All dark woods and velvet furnishings.  Very "traditional luxury".  I am glad they are getting away from that look.  I sincerely hope I can do another ship inspection as she makes her way back to Alaska in the spring, and after the new look is installed.  In fact, several of us observed that they might have been better off to leave this whole event for then.  Certainly the ship is devoid of any kind of "WOW" factor as she is.

The one exception was the meeting spaces.  They are numerous, well laid out, very flexible, perfectly located and extremely comfortable.

So, right now, on this ship, about the only thing I would be pushing would be Corporate Meeting-type groups.  For that purpose she is excellent.  As to your basic 7 day Caribbean thing...I would definitely steer my groups and clients to the newer Solstice-class ships, if they are up for giving Celebrity Cruises a whirl.

As always, if you are interested in more information on Celebrity, give us a call at 760.265.3687 or "like" us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DaveHolmanTravel