Thursday, February 7, 2013

Day 13 - Cruising the South China Sea

I love sea days! Happy to be back onboard for our last full day on the ship before we arrive in Hong Kong. I think I am going to be a couch potato for most of the day. Reading my Hong Kong guide books and eating seem to be the main (and only!) items on the agenda.

The weather is very nice and it is about 75 F. It is bright and sunny!

Nice weather on the way to Hong Kong

We went to the Oceanview for breakfast instead of Olympic. It is just easier to walk down the stairs on deck 11 and we are on Deck 10 aft in minutes. I did a little better today with my breakfast selections. I had salmon, herring, a chocolate croissant and also added a piece of French Toast on the way back to our table. I even managed to find honey at one of the drink stations for my tea. My cold is getting worse. Besides feeling very tired I am also turning into a faucet with my congestion. I have lots of lozenges. I will do my best today to stay hydrated and perhaps just resting may stall the full onset of this dreadful cold.

Pretty good breakfast

I liked the French Toast very much! The berries and the whipped cream where on the side and added a lot to the taste of the fluffy bread. Following breakfast Mother decided to go to the Guest Relations desk to change some money to Hong Kong Dollars. I will wait and use the ATM on shore when we arrive there. We also turned in our passports for the last time. It was interesting that our Vietnam landing cards were not collected in Halong Bay. Perhaps since we departed at 10:00 pm no one in the port was interested in working late.

The Internet has mostly been working fine. Sometimes it is hard to get on but the speed is acceptable. I don't notice any difference between using the wifi in the room and the computers in the iLounge. I checked email this morning since I had not done so for 2 days.

In addition to working on our itinerary for Hong Kong, I have also been trying to formulate in my mind how I should review the entire cruise. The ports have been great but the service on the ship is sorely lacking. Because we have been loyal Celebrity customers we feel more let down. In our past 5 Celebrity cruises we always felt they provided such great value. With the disappointing food, frazzled staff and poor organization on the ship we will not be sailing with Celebrity for a long time. The cruise fare was very reasonable for two weeks in Southeast Asia but having an unsatisfactory experience on the ship does not make the money we saved worth it. I am glad I splurged on the hotels in all the ports and on our overnight Junk cruise in Halong Bay. Otherwise the entire cruise would have been horrible.

I was told that many of the crew including those in Blu were redeployed to the Celebrity Reflection before it launched. That could explain why so many people appear to be poorly trained and they just don't "click".

We had a great cruise on the Celebrity Solstice in May 2011. Now we know there is huge difference between the Solstice-class and Millennium-class ships.  They definitely provided a higher level of service on the Solstice. It appears the most well trained and experienced staff are on the Solstice-class ships. I will never sail on a Millennium again no matter the price or itinerary.

The Captain did make the announcement today regarding the navigational information on our location and cruising speed.  We are traveling at 17 knots through the South China Sea. Since we departed Halong Bay, it is only 490 nautical miles travel distance to Hong Kong.

We took a break from our reading to take a final look in the shops. On the way we passed the line dancing in the Rendezvous Lounge.


The Solsticized areas of the ship are nice but I still prefer the Solstice class over the Millennium class.

Cafe a Bacio
The spa area on the Solstice class is also significantly nicer. Some people prefer the Thalassotherapy pool on the M class. I don't use it so that is not a draw for me. The Persian Garden on this ship is so depressing. It is just a drab dark room with no windows.  On the Solstice they have the heated loungers and the relaxation room with the huge windows at the front of the ship. Millennium just feels old regardless of the upgrades. Might just be my cold clouding my judgement but I also prefer a smaller ship. Sailing with over 2000+ people is okay sometimes but going forward I have appreciated the intimacy on the Crystal Symphony with 900 passengers and the 700 on the R class ships with Oceania. I know these are both come at a higher price point but I appreciate the difference. If anything this cruise has been a good lesson to re-evaluate my cruising priorities.

I made quite a bit of progress on my notes on this cruise and on the Hong Kong itinerary.  It was now lunch time. This is my least favorite meal on the ship. I tried in vain to get something suitable from the Asian station. I was not happy with the result and though I hate to waste food, I went to get a hot dog instead. I should have taken a photo of the hot dog too.

My not so yummy lunch
After lunch I decided to go back to the Guest Relations desk to change some US money to Hong Kong dollars. I decided I might need the money before I can find an ATM. I waited in line for a while as there were a lot of people questioning their bills. One lady said, "How can my bill be $1100? I only went to the spa 3 times!". Another person in line wanted to know when the lecture on the Opium War was taking place. It was highlighted in the "Celebrity Today" program at the top of the page. However, the time area in the program listed a totally different subject. The passenger was having some difficulty explaining this simple fact to one of the Guest Relations people. He finally succeeded and was just told, "oh they will discuss that topic." I highly doubt he knew whether that was true or not from the 3 seconds he spent asking the question on his radio. The passenger just kind of looked at him blankly too. I don't think he knew whether to believe him either.

When I got to the front of the line I was told that they did not have any Hong Kong dollars left. They were all gone! They should really put a sign up so we don't waste time standing there.

Deflated but not defeated I decided to go to the pool area for a little while and relax listening to the poolside banter. It was starting to get rather cloudy.

I went back to the room and got ready for our last dinner on the ship. Thank goodness! We are eating in Qsine tonight which I am so grateful for. I don't think I could face another dinner in Blu.

We took the scenic route and rode the elevator down to deck 9 and then took the elevator back up to deck 11 so we did not have to walk outside. The Maitre'd of Qsine was all smiles and very happily greeted us. She is from Serbia and told us a funny story later about how she met her husband back home who is also from Serbia and works on the ship.

We had a better table tonight than on our prior visit. We were in the back room near the large window. The a/c works much better here and the room is nicer. There was a woman that had her baby here tonight. She ate in Blu last night, also with the baby. The baby cried though most of our dinner in Blu. I felt like crying too so I was sympathetic. However, when he started to squeal in Qsine it was irritating. My mother was very annoyed but I tried to distract her as we made our dinner selections from the iPad menu.

We could not come to a mutual agreement on the items so we definitely over-ordered. If my mother has something she likes she could order that over and over for every night on the ship. I like to experiment and try different things. So we had to have some of the same items we ordered on our first visit. I added a few new ones too.

Our waiter was super efficient and understood our predicament. He suggested smaller portions of some of the items which was a great idea. However, we still had too much food!

We started with the Disco Shrimp. I have read a lot about this dish since Qsine was originally launched.

Disco Shrimp
It was more of a gimmick with the blue light in the bowl. The shrimp were in a type of remoloude sauce. The sauce was too heavy that it was hard to taste the shrimp. It was good just not great.

Next came the Sushi Lollipops. I debated asking for a smaller portion but thought there were just 3 of each type instead 4. We managed to finish them though.

Sushi Lollipops
They were just as good the second time around.

While we were still finishing these the Spring Rolls arrived. There was a vegetarian spring roll and a pork one. We split them in half but I thought the veggie one was better. My mother preferred the pork.

Spring Rolls
The presentation of the spring rolls was very creative. The sauces were good too.

Our next dish was the Chitinis. This is an assortment of different Chinese dishes. It included Orange Chicken and Spicy Shrimp.

Chitinis - served in little martini glasses

Though we asked for a smaller portion there were three pieces of each item in little martini glasses. We probably should not have ordered this dish based solely on how big it was and that we can always have this type of Chinese food anywhere.

We both were feeling very full by now but we had more dishes yet to come. I told the waiter to cancel the vegetable items I had ordered. We now had "only" two more items.

My mother had her Painter's Filet again. They served one piece but also with the side items.

The last item we ordered was the M Favorites. This one is very large and we should of just had this plus maybe one other dish.

M's Favorites
The items were mostly Middle Eastern. There was a lot of choice from hummus to lamb chops to a beef dish, salad with feta, kebabs and olives. The assortment was beautifully arranged and all the items were delicious! We tried them all and made a valiant effort to eat what we could. It was a winner and I would definitely order this one again.

They also come to the tables with a "garden of chocolates". It is very cute.

Guests choosing a chocolate dessert
Now it was our turn.

We managed to save room for dessert and both had the Silver Bullet gelato.

Mother loved her meal in Qsine

We decided to walk off the meal the best we could. Since dinner took over 2 hours we passed on the evening entertainment. We admired the decorations in the lobby again. The dog reminds us of Shadow at home.

Xmas decoration

When we returned to the room we had an envelope from our stateroom attendants.

Tip Envelope

We elected not to have the gratuities automatically deducted since we are dining in Blu and off the ship so much. The attendants must be able to find this out because otherwise I don't think we would have this envelope. This works well for us as we can provide a tip for our stewards and tip if we want elsewhere on the ship. Due to our experiences on this cruise, the only tip we will provide is for the stateroom attendants and our waiter in Qsine.

Tomorrow we are due to arrive at 7:00 am in Hong Kong. We will take our own tour there but return to the ship to sleep for the overnight before disembarking the next day.

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