Year Started: 1988
Ships in Fleet: 10
Summary: This premium cruise line features beautiful ships on itineraries world-wide. Excellent cuisine, great service, roomy staterooms. Modern Luxury at value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Western, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Overall Service.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Families. Foodies.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Mediterranean Eastern, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Foodies. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
My daughter and I booked our first cruise ever to the Panama Canal through Cruise Encounters in Langley .B.C. They did an excellent job of arranging every thing for us and as this was a completely new experience for us (I'm 77 years old) it turned out to be a fantastic experience that my daughter and I can not wait until we can go on a cruise again. We have become 'cruisers'.
Celebrity Infinity gave us fantastic treatment and service. Tours , etc. were well organized as well was boarding the ship at the beginning of our cruise and at the end of it. The food was excellent as was the entertainment. We were never at a lose as to what to do with ourselves. Our four dinner companions and us became the best of friends by the end of our cruise. You could not ask for more accommodating staff. Our wishes were their command 'so to speak'. We had a balcony room which was more then adequate for our belongings and very comfortable. Would highly recommend cruising with Celebrity Ships.
So much has been written about the Celebrity Equinox that I will limit most of my review to suggestions about how to enjoy the ship and the (transatlantic) ports of call. It is difficult to imagine a cruise that comes closer to ideal than our Equinox transatlantic cruise (Nov.28 - Dec.12, 2011), which sailed from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Ft. Lauderdale, spending a week in the western Mediterranean and a week crossing the Atlantic. The Equinox is a beautiful ship and the crew could not be better-trained or more enthusiastic. Everyone, from the crew members who daily polished the stair railings to the cabin stewards to the wait staff to the senior officers and personable cruise director (named Que, pronounced Q), made every effort to insure that passengers had a wonderful time. The ship is German-built, and no expense seems to have been spared. It is like owning a Mercedes -- every detail is well-designed and expertly crafted, and one notices something new and beautiful about it every day. The cabins are modular and arranged in pairs, with a curved wall between each pair and a flat wall between each module. That maximizesthe space around the bed, which is in the bump out, while minimizing the total space required. This dual cabin module is a feature of inside, outside and balcony cabins, but not the larger suites. This means that cabins alternate between having the bed near the door or near the windows. It also means that cabins can be joined at the entryway, rather than having a pass through door, which can be noisy. When choosing a cabin, make sure you specify your floor plan preference. Keep in mind that the pool deck has a major overhang, and the balconies just below it are in the shade. Also, aft balconies are tiered, so they are sunnier but less private, and may have some soot from the stacks. The public areas are gorgeous and well-used on sea days. There seemed to be something going on to satisfy any taste. The enrichment lectures (three academics) and the classical musicians were fantastic. As usual, everything musical is over-amplified, so take your earplugs to all events, especially the stage shows and the talented a capella quartet. People often discuss cruise food and sometimes sound like the princess-and-the-pea: they niggle about minor details without enjoying the major pleasures. We found the food on the Equinox second to none, including our experience with luxury lines like Silversea. There are several elegant and popular alternative restaurants on the Equinox, but we tried none: dining in the main dining room was a pleasure and we felt no need to pay the hefty surcharges for alternative dining. Each menu was imaginative and beautifully presented, which is a feat considering the length of the cruise. The beef was not prime in the main dining areas, but it was flavorful, and the fish was always ideally cooked (rare when requested for game fish like tuna, well done but rarely dry for white fish). Appetizers were so tempting that we usually had two and skipped the soups and salads, which are also excellent. We had open ("Select") dining, which required pre-paid gratuities. There was never a wait early (6pm) or late (8pm), but there was usually a line at peak times (7pm). It was enjoyable to have new dinner guests each evening. The wait staff was amazing: they were good menu consultants, attentive, and very professional. The maitre d's (ours was the lovely Amelia) also did an excellent job, especially since everyone seems to want extra attention. They were always patient and cordial. Desserts are my downfall. To avoid doubling them at dinner, I stopped by the El Bacio coffee lounge each afternoon and had a sampling of the desserts there (no surcharge for the desserts). The buffet had excellent made-to-order hot items and wonderful cold foods, from salads to sandwiches to (free) ice cream. As usual, hot foods from the buffet steam trays tended to be over-cooked, which is almost impossible to avoid with self-service, but they were still flavorful. Best of all, there is a rear deck off the buffet where one can enjoy one's meal al fresco. One thing to keep in mind is that hand washing is more effective than gels at killing viruses (but gels are great for bacteria), so we always wash hands after touching any buffet tongs and before eating (most people just gel before entering the buffet area). There is a hand wash station (but only one) portside aft in the buffet area, next to a coffee station. No one else used it. The poolside grill is actually one deck up from the pool. People loved the burgers and fries there, but not the lines. We skipped lunches there, but nibbled on a napkin-full of fries when we did our deck walk before dinner each evening. They are the best fries in the world, and worth the calories. The gym is busy on sea day mornings: treadmills filled up and their use was limited to 30 minutes. Instead, consider the free stretch and ab routines run by the cordial personal trainers each morning at 0700 and 0730. When the weather is good, the class uses the top deck lawn. A lawn on a ship sounds crazy, but it is heavenly to watch the sunrise as one stretches on the (real) grass. The outdoor hot glass show also seems like a crazy idea on a ship, but it is wonderfully informative and entertaining. The three Corning glassblowers were very talented and a pleasure to watch, almost daily. They raffle a few of their items each cruise (they make three items during each show) and later auction some items for charity. One of my (free) raffle tickets was a single digit off from the winner, which is probably fortunate since I travel with an airline carry-on only and would have had no space to take anything home without having to check a bag. Raffles tended to occur about a half hour before the end of some glass shows, for those eager for a free work of glass art. It is difficult to recount all the pleasures of this cruise, both great and small. We were so impressed that we booked an "open passage" while on the cruise. This allows one to receive additional cabin credits (up to $300) on one's next Celebrity cruise, with a reduced ($100) non-refundable, non-expiring deposit. Prices quoted by the future-cruise staff seemed to match the prices we had previously found on the web. Some passengers mentioned that Celebrity has special web offers every Tuesday, but I have never had much luck with the Celebrity web site: it seems very klunky and slow to navigate. For those who want to see some photos of the ports of call and of the Equinox, the link follows: The Equinox Mediterranean and Atlantic cruise photos are online. Click on the following link, or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary. When the thumbnail photos appear, click on the slideshow option and wiggle your mouse to get the control panel and set your preferred speed. If you get a “stack overload message, keep closing it (click the X box) till it goes away. The images are degraded a little from the originals to save bandwidth, but they are still enjoyable. The first half is ports of call, and the second half is the ship itself. You may want to watch in two sessions. Enjoy! https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/EquinoxCruise1211?authkey=Gv1sRgCOjm95Xkm-GyjAE# For independent (and inexpensive) SHORE EXCURSIONS the following information may be useful. I used public transportation and never took a tour or spent more than 10 euros in a port (except for the train ticket to Marseilles, which was 16 euros round trip for seniors). I prefer taking my time and setting my own itinerary. I speak tourist-level Italian, French, and Spanish, but English-only speakers should have no problems in these ports. Rick Steves has just come out with a guide to Mediterranean cruise ports. It is worth every penny for the larger ports, but does not include the smaller ports. However, there usually is a tourist official with maps at these smaller ports, often right on the dock near the ship. Celebrity charged only a few dollars for shuttle service into port town centers, which helps since some ports are large and industrial. Public transportation is always available from the town centers to the countryside and neighboring towns. CIVITAVECCHIA (port of Rome): After our last Mediterranean cruise, we spent a few extra days in Rome. Just before returning home I was mugged (in broad daylight near the Vatican) when leaving a restaurant. For this reason, this time I flew into FCO on the day of cruise departure, took the local (not express) train to the Rome-Trastevere station and then the local train back to Civitavecchia: total cost about 15 euros, and total time about 1 hour each way. Since I was traveling solo, this was much cheaper and not much longer than the alternatives between airport and cruise port. The walk from the Civitavecchia train station to the port entry is pleasant, and Celebrity provided a free shuttle from the port entry to the ship. Although I was early and the shuttle bus was nearly empty, the bus attendant would not let me carry on my (one small) bag and she was quite nasty about it. I was unwilling to let it out of my hands, since my bag once "disappeared" in a port shuttle in Spain, so I walked to the ship with my bag in tow. It took about 40 minutes and was dicey since there is no pedestrian walkway. Fortunately, I cooled down by the time I reached the ship, and check-in was a breeze. That shuttle was my only negative experience on the whole cruise, and it was my choice to walk. LIVORNO (for Pisa, Lucca, and/or Florence): Spending 2 hours by train each way to visit Florence made no sense to me, especially since I rented a place on the Arno near the Ponte Vecchio a few years ago. Instead I opted for Pisa and Lucca by public bus and train. The new Rick Steves guide to Mediterranean cruise ports gives all the details you will need. I had not seen Pisa since my childhood (it has not changed) and Lucca was new to me. Both provided charming walks and historic sights. In Pisa the walk from the central train (or bus) station to the Field of Miracles (Leaning Tower) is delightful. Pisa is a university town on the Arno River (like Florence), with great photo ops along the way. Lucca is an old walled city. The promenade along the city walls is beautiful, and some of the old mansions and guard towers with views are impressive. It was easy to spend half a day each in Pisa and Lucca. Including Florence would have been too much travel in too little time. Again, the Rick Steves cruise port guidebook gives great suggestions and has useful maps for all three cities on your own: Pisa, Lucca, and Florence. TOULON (actually the yacht harbor Le Seyne-sur-mer): Celebrity provided a bus for several dollars into Toulon (about 20 minutes away), but I preferred to take the local bus to the Le Seyne train station, and from there the train to Marseilles. The train leaves around 0800 and 0830, then about hourly except mid-day. If you exit the ship early and walk through the yacht basin (follow the pedestrian signs to the town center), a local bus will take you the 2 miles to the Le Seyne train station (Gare). It leaves the port area around 0730 and 0745, in time for the early trains. Its stop is at the intersection about 100 yards east of the yacht harbor entry (look for the bus shelter on the cross street). Walking to the station would be too far. Later in the day, a cross-harbor ferry (public) took passengers to the Toulon train station, but this was not mentioned in the ship's port guide, and I do not have details. Historic central Marseilles is only about a mile across, so it is easy to walk from the St. Charles (main) train station down the hill past the "Arab" street market to the picturesque waterfront. From the waterfront one can walk up the hill to the beautifully renovated Charite museums (ethnographic and archeologic) and/or catch the public bus from the waterfront up the hill for fantastic views over the harbor from the Notre Dame de la Garde cathedral. Again, The Rick Steves cruise port guidebook gives all the information and maps you will need for a wonderful day in Marseilles, and the train ride to get there is along a beautiful coastline. BARCELONA: Our ship docked at B terminal about a mile from the Columbus (Colom) tower. There is a port shuttle bus just outside the terminal for 3 euros round trip to the tower (worth it since the port is industrial). From the tower it is a short walk to the Metro station, where a day pass for the entire metro and bus system in Barcelona is only 6 euros. I took the metro to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, then the bus to the historic Barrio Gothic (old cathedral, city museum, Picasso museum), then the metro to Parc Guell north of the city, then back to the Eixample District for the modernista architecture, then a walk down the pedestrian zone Las Ramblas, and then back to the ship at the end of the day. Montjuic and its museums (or Montserrat and its shrine) would have taken an extra day, best when cruises have an overnight in Barcelona. Again, the Rick Steves cruise port guidebook gives all the information you need to enjoy Barcelona on your own (and on the cheap). CARTAGENA: Very few guides have any information about this port, which is the sleeper of the cruise: small beautiful, and easy to access. Simply walk off the ship and all sights are an easy walk away. Just pick up a free city map at the tourist information booth on the pier. The must-see sight is the Roman amphitheater and museum. The city has been active since Roman times, and its buried history is gradually being unearthed. A beautiful new museum is on the pedestrian street near the ship. It takes you underground and then up and outside to the amphitheater, from where you can continue out and around to the beautiful views from the old fortress on the adjacent hill. Alternately you can take the elevator from street level to the fortress overlook, but the approach from the amphitheater is much more dramatic. By chance there was a Renaissance street market going on during our visit: great photo ops if you check my photo link elsewhere in this review. Just strolling the streets of Cartagena in good weather is a joy, even if there is no special street market going on. PONTA DELGADA (AZORES): The crossing from Gibraltar to the Azores takes almost two days and is often the roughest part of the cruise (per the weather and sea charts that I followed before departure). We had moderate waves hitting us broadside, but the Equinox was amazingly stable considering its tall superstructure -- just a gentle roll that was no problem at all. I am a poor sailor (afraid to tackle the Antarctic seas) but needed no motion meds and lost no appetite. Azores guidebooks in English are hard to find: the best are written in German, with good maps and hiking information. The surroundings of Punta Delgada look like Ireland -- small farms in green rolling hills, with cows occasionally blocking traffic. Idyllic. One can easily walk from the ship to the center of town, which has a nice historic feel to it since the Azores were the way-station for shipping treasure from the New World to Europe ever since the 1500's. There are some nice gardens and old churches, but taking a local bus into the countryside is the most rewarding option. At 0825 a bus left from the waterfront west of the ship (look for all the bus stands) and traveled round trip to the caldera lakes of Sete Cidades, one hour and 5 euros each way. I did not want to miss the ocean crossing, so I stayed aboard the bus for the round trip. A German couple on our ship got off the bus at Sete Cidades, walked to the next town, and took another bus back. Caution: buses are few and far between, and there is no way to join the ship if you return late. If the high cost of onboard internet annoys you, the Ponta Delgada library, in the center of town, has free internet access and great washrooms. Any local person can help you find it, and city maps are available on the dock. FT. LAUDERDALE: One way airfares US to Europe are outrageous (more than double the corresponding round trip fares), so I opted for a Choiceair.com open-jaw itinerary through the cruise line (still about the same price as the US-Europe round trip). Because I travel with one small carry-on only, even on cruises, I was able to walk off the ship at 0630 and was at the airport (by taxi) and through security and at the gate by 0700: a personal record. My flight did not leave until 1130. Usually I am able to fly standby on an earlier flight, but everything was booked this time. Fortunately the Delta Sky Lounge let me wait there (and have breakfast) since I am a gold elite flier and they now allow free access on any transoceanic itinerary (they stretched the rules for me on this domestic segment of the itinerary). This is a great new service from Delta that I learned about on a vacation to Hong Kong a few weeks before the cruise. It is worth checking into if you are a frequent flier. I have even used it to shower between long haul flights, although not all Sky lounges have showers. Hope you enjoy your cruise as much as I did. Bon voyage! P.S. Again, for photos of the ports and ship: The Equinox Mediterranean and Atlantic cruise photos are online. Click on the following link, or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary. When the thumbnail photos appear, click on the slideshow option and wiggle your mouse to get the control panel and set your preferred speed. The images are degraded a little from the originals to save bandwidth, but they are still enjoyable. The first half is ports of call, and the second half is the ship itself. You may want to watch in two sessions. Enjoy! https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/EquinoxCruise1211?authkey=Gv1sRgCOjm95Xkm-GyjAE#
My wife and I recently completed the six day repositioning cruise from Bayonne, NJ to San Juan PR on Celebrity Summit. It was our sixth cruise overall and first on a Celebrity ship. Also, Summit is the smallest vessel we have sailed. Our sailing dates were October 23 â€“ 29, with stops in Bermuda and St. Thomas.
Summit will be dry docked after Christmas to be "Solstice-ized" so I won't spend too much time talking specifically about the ship. I think most of the changes will be occurring topside with perhaps a few of the lounges being modified for the new specialty restaurants. Here are our overall impressions.
Crew: I should start with the crew because you can't upgrade them and you don't need to. We did have to prompt our stateroom steward a few times for missing items, like shampoo or towels. But once we asked he came through with a smile.
Cabin: We had a balcony stateroom on the Sky deck, right below the Resort (lido) desk. The cabin was adequately roomy and we liked the configuration of the couch closest to the windows. This seemed to create easier access tothe balcony. The balcony itself seemed a little deeper than previous side balconies we have had, though not like an aft balcony. On Summit the Resort deck extended about 12 feet beyond our balcony. As a result we only had direct sun when the sun was very low. Also we could not look up and see the night sky. The door to the mini-fridge and the door of the mini-fridge open in opposite directions. This was cumbersome from time to time.
Shops: I have never seen so many square feet on a ship dedicated to shopping. There must have been eight to ten distinct shops plus kiosk type desks in the center of the ship. This long line of shops plus the photo gallery below served to cut off the theatre from the rest of the ship. I did have the chance to buy a pair of $2.29 nail clippers and was disappointed that Celebrity does not sell a biodegradable sun lotion that is becoming increasingly preferred in the Caribbean.
Dining: We were impressed with the roominess of the buffet area on the Resort deck as well as the main dining room. Most of the food on the buffet was only average and pizza was poor, it was bready and they were pretty tight with the toppings. The burgers by pool side were quite delicious though. The food in the MDR was tasty but not the best I have ever had at sea. The servings were more the sufficient. Cleaning one's plate might not leave room for dessert. The top dessert we had was the soufflé.
We took a 5 day cruise from Miami FL to Key West FL and Cozumel Mexico on the Celebrity Millennium. We arrived at the port of Miami at 2:45pm. Went thur custom and check-in took 15-20 mins. When we got on the boat the crew welcome us with a complimentary glass of champagne. We then made our way to the top deck(11)to meet the rest of our group(total of 18) and eat lunch. The boat took off around 4:45pm. My mom&I made our way to the room on deck 7(7009 with a window view). The room was nice 2 twin size bed, sitting area with table&chair, pull out sofa. The screen on the 22' LCD tv displayed our first&last name. We thought that was cute.
The overall cruise was boring. The food was OK, entertainment SUCKED as far as the band and dj. Bingo,karaoke, comedy show, broadway at sea show and the night clubs were aight. We(me&my party of 18 which vary from age 23-50yrs)think that the cruise ship is for the older retired non-partying grandma's & grandpa's. The dj knew that everytime he saw us he had to puton some feel good(electric slide, cupid shuffle)music. On the fourth day which was the sea day four of us started the electric slide no one joined in. So after that song he then played Cupid Shuffle about a quarter half of the pool deck got in on the fun, it was amazin and fun.
So we said we will probably never cruise with celebrity again. Our next cruise is this November on Norwegian Sky to the Bahamas. I'm so excited I will post a review about this cruise to. So until next time that's all folks.
Ship: Celebrity Eclipse Cabin: Aqua Class 1552 Sailing: September 28, 2011 â€“ 16 Night Western Mediterranean Cruise Mates Reviewer: Mermen
email@example.com â€“ Gary
(Note: While on our cruise, we developed four substantial "newsletters" complete with photographs and details on the =X= Eclipse which we e-mailed out to family and friends. I was unable to upload these "live" newsletters because they are in .pdf format. If you have Adobe Reader and would like to read and view our newsletter broadcasts from the Eclipse, please e-mail me with your name and e-mail address and will be happy to forward to you these 4 newsletters with pictures and port reviews).
It always seems like a whirlwind before we secure our best friend, "Bear", double check the note we leave for the house and pet-sitter, lock up the house, and drive down the freeway to the SFO airport parking garage. Such was the case the week of September 19 with medical appointments, family get-togethers, and last-minute crisis at workâ€¦whew! We made it to the airport and waited for our first leg from SFO to Chicago. Second leg was Chicago to London. We were fortunate to have enough airmiles to upgrade our trip to 1st and Biz Class there and returning home. (By the way, if possible, select BC seats on the upper deck as it is less noisy and a more relaxed, attentive service). There were hit and miss points to United's service, but this review is not about the airlineâ€¦If you are interested in our airline review, feel free to drop me an e-mail and I will reply.
My partner and I elected a 4-night pre-cruise in London at the Grosvenor House, by Marriott. Our second time staying here and it was an excellent choice â€“ as it is in the Mayfair District, directly across the street from Hyde Park and walking distance to Harrod's, all bus (double-decker and HOHO), Buckingham Palace, and a huge assortment of pubs, restaurants and other tourist options. This area is unbelievable sleepy at night, so there is not an abundance of loudness and city-noises. If you are interested in our hotel and pre-cruise review, feel free to drop me an e-mail and I will reply.
A Celebrity Coach picked us up in the mid-morning, directly in front of our hotel. There were only about 20 pax on our coach. It was a leisurely 1 Â½ hour drive into Southampton with a 15-minute rest stop along the way. We boarded the Eclipse around 1:30 pm, after a 2-hour wait. There was a hold-up at the terminal because of a mild norovirus outbreak on the cruise which has just disembarked, so the staff was working diligently to rid the ship of unwanted germs. There were some crabby people waiting, huffing and puffing, but the longer they took to disinfect the ship actually made us feel a whole LOT BETTER!
After boarding we bypassed the multitudes which were grazing at the "Welcome aboard Buffet" and headed straight for Bistro on 5. What a great deal. For $5, this specialty restaurant serves up some amazing and filling crepes â€“ savory and sweet. They also serve fresh salads, soups and desserts. We ended up eating at Bistro on 5 three times on our cruise and never once had a disappointing meal or service. By the way, I highly recommend the Cowboy Crepe, yum!
A Little about the Celebrity Eclipse:
We have only been cruising for about 12-years, so we do not quite have our Masters in the High Seas, but we have sailed many times with 95% of our cruises on Celebrity. The other two were on Princess (a dreadful experience for us, as noted in another review â€“ staying on the banks of the Amazon would have been better) and Carnival (which was fine for a first cruise to get my feet wet).
Our Aqua Class cabin was 1552. This was our first time on a Solstice-Class ship. For years we have been sailing on the Millennium Class and enjoy Concierge Class, forward. Our AC cabin was approximately in the same position and deck, relatively speaking, as our former cabins, on M-Class. This is the deck just below the Aqua Spa and Solarium, close by the stairs. Our cabin was very nice and provides sort of a "bump-out" veranda, which is close to two times the size of an average veranda. The views forward and aft are amazing â€“ as well as directly out to sea. We also like being directly below the Spa. Our impression of the Eclipse as we were making our way to our cabin was that she was so much larger than the M-Class ships (by close to 1,000 in occupancy more) but it seemed very familiar and intuitive too, the deck plans were very similar. We found our way easily and were enjoying cocktails at the Sunset Bar, meeting fellow board cruisers, of course stopping at the Lawn Club to actually step onto the grass to make sure it was real! Sure enough. Although we didn't spend any more time on the grass, it was fun knowing it was there and providing a comfortable spot for others to picnic, listen to music or play bocce ball. The glass-blowing studio was cool to step into as well and observe their hand blown works of art.
While at the Sunset Bar having cocktails after embarkation, we met another cruiser who was griping and complaining about Blu. He said that he and his wife couldn't be PAID to eat there againâ€¦He said that Blu served Couscous with everything. In fact, he said the food was bland, flavorless and "dreadful with all the couscous they serveâ€¦" Actually, he seemed to be running his mouth negatively ("insights" as he called it) for the entire cocktail hour. Nothing positive was in his vocabulary, what a way to start the cruise! He also stated that the times they did eat in Blu, he had to "stop over at the buffet" to fill up afterwards. Really?
Blu: Because we stayed in Aqua Class, our dining room was Blu, which is considered a "specialty restaurant". Suite guests are permitted to eat there for $5 pp / per meal, although friends of ours who were in a Celebrity Suite ate there many nights and they claimed they were not charged. We had listened to a lot of feedback regarding Blu prior to our cruise and were anticipating a quieter, healthier option for our evening meal. To say we were not disappointed is a great understatement! We actually were blown away by the level of service from our waiter to the restaurant manager and Maitre'd. The menu was simply delicious and amazing every night we were there. There were a couple of standard entrees which were always present, but we enjoyed other options such as: Squab, pasta (every night our waiter brought a small bowl of hot and savory pasta to sample), lobster, scallops, fresh and salt-water fish, pork cutlets, lamb, filet mignon, rabbit, frog legs and chicken. Blu does not serve rich sauces over everything, but instead a lighter reduction. The portions seem a bit smaller and you do not feel obligated to have 4-courses. Many nights we skipped a course or two. The food is plated beautifully and the flavors were very good. We had a table for 2 every night, with a gorgeous view of the sea, and most every night enjoyed light conversation with neighbors dining around us. Oh, and would you believe, we did not see couscous on the menu one night? How very strange (LOL!). Not only, but we didn't see anyone walking away food-deprived. We could not think about food after eating dinner in Blu. Somehow, I think that those who complain about the quantity of food in Blu, would complain anywhere â€“ even in the MDR.
Aqua Spa CafÃ©: was probably our favorite for breakfast as they serve lighter options. Simply enjoyed grabbing a yogurt and granola or fresh fruit and juice most mornings. Of course they also prepare low fat / low sodium hot dishes as well. For lunch they serve wonderful light salads and fresh grilled chicken or salmon â€“ sometimes cold soups. Throughout the afternoon the cafÃ© runs a self-serve soft frozen yogurt machine with cones or small bowls. The only two flavors we found were vanilla and chocolate, alternating.
Bistro on 5: See above.
Tuscan Grille: This was our favorite specialty option for dinner. Again the staff was amazingly attentive. The courses were plentiful and gastronomically prepared! We ate here twice and rolled out each time, LOL! Your server will place a fresh plate of Antipasti in front of you before you begin anything: cured meats, olives, roasted garlic, pepperoncini, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and cheeses. This is all served along side freshly prepared and warm Ciabatta, French bread or dinner roles / bread sticks, with a very fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side. Truly an unforgettable Italian meal, with warm and friendly service! The thick cut pork chops were amazing, as was the seafood pasta dish. Everything we sampled and grazed upon was fabulous.
Qsine: Our least-favorite dining spotâ€¦Drat! We were really looking forward to trying this specialty restaurant as we had heard so many good things, and read a lot of reviews. I think this theme restaurant was a hit with the Brits on board, they seemed to really be enjoying their time. We ate here once, and probably won't return, although our experience wasn't dreadful, just sort of over-the-top, in an unsatisfied way. We're both Californians and fortunate that living in the Bay Area offers us an amazing opportunity to enjoy some fine fusion and cultural cuisines. We're not big foodie snobs, and sometimes enjoy a restaurant's "theme" but Qsine was a little far-reaching, IMHO. Many guests were dumbfounded with the menu being on an iPad. We both own one, so no novelty there. Ordering from the non-descript menu was interesting. I wish they provided real, live pictures. We sampled the Chinese and Mexican options and were left thinking, "that's it?" Really not a lot of flavor or authenticity. We both felt Qsine was over-rated. The theme was fun, but the food was mediocre in our opinion. The food servers, while really pleasant, seemed over-board and gimmicky with their, "Let's travel around the world tonight, for your first courseâ€¦." They did this with each option, and the food just did not resemble the cuisine we have had in these parts of the world, or even in California for that matter!
Moonlight Sonata Dining Room: Unfortunately, we did not dine in here during this sailing. We've enjoyed the improvement the MDR on the =X= ships has made over the past couple of years. We enjoy the string quartet when they play in here as well, but as Blu was our MDR, we missed out on this voyage. We did pass by to look at the posted menu a few times and it looked scrumptious!
Mast Grill: Yum! Grilled cheeseburgers, veggie and chicken burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, nachos, tacos, grilled cheese, onion rings and fries? Sometimesâ€¦you just have to have it. We ate here for one or two lunches and loved it. Their freshly baked cookies were amazing!
Oceanview CafÃ©: Probably our favorite for lunch. Every day was a different theme: Italian, seafood, Mexican, Tex-Mex, American, Indian and Asian (Japanese, Dim Sum, Chinese and some Thai), sandwich bar, soup and salad bar, pizza and calzones, pasta barâ€¦wow, you name it, and the Oceanview CafÃ© had it! There are several stations set up for easy access, and hardly ever a wait. Tables were easy to find. We always found something to eat or try and enjoyed the flavors for the most part. The food was not bland at all. We ate here for dinner once or twice as well and enjoyed a very quiet and peaceful (much-needed) dinner. I think my only negative with respect to food at the Oceanview was, 1) their pizza and calzone station. Calzones would have interesting ingredient combinations such as: BBQ chicken, zucchini and Garbanzos with Fetaâ€¦strange things like that. Good ol' Italian meats / cheeses were rare to find. Same with the pizza. Small negative 2) was that the Fish n Chips were not the best I thought. Granted we had some good F n C while in London, but the ship's seemed overly greasy and not a lot of taste. Since the ship contained 95% British passengers, this seemed odd to us.
CafÃ© Al Baco: This is the "coffee house" which is known as "Cova" on former M-class ships. The coffee was good. The service awful. The pastries, desserts and croissants were very good. The service was horrid. We gave them a couple of tries, and found we were not the only pax who decided not to try them again. Too badâ€¦
Murano: We did not try Murano, but wished we would have. The dining area for this specialty restaurant seemed very intimate and quiet. We checked out the menu and it seemed that it largely held what was on the M-class specialty restaurant's menu (Oceanliners, Normandie, the Olympic, etc.). We purchased a 3-night Specialty dinner pass and was able to use it twice in the Tuscan Grille and once in Qsine. Maybe we'll try Murano next time!
Room Service: There is something to be said about coffee and a leisurely made-to-order breakfast while sitting on your veranda watching the waves and world go by. The room service menu in AC and Concierge Class is enhanced, greater than a typical state room's menu: breakfast, lunch or dinner offers a good variety of hot and cold options. We ate dinner once in our room and a couple of late night snacks (French fries or apple pie ala mode calls at a certain time, LOL!). We enjoyed breakfast on our veranda a couple of times and enjoyed the morning immensely.
I think food is largely a subjective thing, but with an individually unique experience. We all have different tastes and desires, and hopefully everyone can find something on this large ship to enjoy. For a floating hotel, Celebrity does it right on the Eclipse. As you can see, there is no shortage of culinary options on the Eclipse. We enjoyed all of our meals, and found something good in every venue! Celebrity knows how to treat their guests, and their guest's palate!
Our stateroom was nicely appointed, with ample storage (including over the bed!). The bathroom was perfect with more drawers and cabinets than we've ever seen on a ship. The shower head and shower panel with the glass sliding door took it up a several notches for us. The cabin came with the typical up-scale items which Concierge Class has, with a few more things. There was an electric kettle with a full array of teas. A nice spa pack (lip balm, facial mist, designer creams and eye products, etc.). Nice (LARGE) spa robes and slippers and fresh bottled water delivered twice daily! There was a reed and oil room diffuser as well, which we really liked â€“ not strong at all. Because the Eclipse is mostly positioned out of the Southampton, UK port, its clientele is largely British, and we had a delightful time meeting them.
While in Venice, a woman who sat in front of us noticed our "accent" and asked if we were American. When we confirmed we were, she was relieved and said, "Finally!" She stated there was going to be a "party" on board because there were only about 38 Americans on the cruise. I couldn't believe it. A party? For what, because we're Americans? My partner and I just thought the whole idea was lame, giving further credence to the adage of the "Ugly American". Why not enjoy who you're with, and where you are? Had we wanted to surround ourselves with Americans, would have stayed at home and done something "American". We actually enjoyed getting away from our customs, ways of speaking and thinking, and meeting the Brits, and other nationalities. I guess we find solace in experiencing new things, places and people.
Sadly the Aqua Spa does not have a Thalassotherapy pool like the M-class ships. Still, the solarium was large and could accommodate a lot of people. At both ends of the indoor pool (which was not super-warm more warm / tepid) were beautiful prints of flowers: tulips, and lilies I think. There was a fun-to-watch water feature too at one end of the pool. With the relaxing new-age music playing, it was easy to get mesmerized by watching colored ropes of water dance around. There were plenty of chaise lounges! I think this was the first cruise we have been on, where we didn't feel the need to rise at the crack of dawn to grab a chaise before the chaise hogs claimed them all, and left unoccupied for the day! We always found a place to lie down and read, rest or nap. Security was prevalent in this area, and we actually saw them removing a few passengers' belongings, from a "saved" but unoccupied chaise. Go Security!! There were two or three smaller hot tubs in the Solarium as well.
I cannot speak for the women's facility, but the men's was a huge disappointment. On M-class ships, there are abundant lockers, and freedom to dress, shower, etc. Not the case on the S-class ships. In the actual locker / changing area, there were only 3 tiny square ottomans. Without thinking, a guy would sit down to dress / undress, and lay a towel or gym bag, etc. on the other small ottoman. This area is super-cramped and it is not easy to get into the little alcove of lockers. Forget bending over to pull your socks on, unless you want to do the "butt bump" with your neighbor. There are no real options on where to dress either, besides your cabin or in a stall. There were three very large and private showers with small benches enclosed therein. This was a nice feature. The dry sauna (no fee) inside the men's changing room was nice and it was HOT at all times. No cold-plunge showers next door, as on the M-class ships. The sauna could hold about 6 men comfortably. Again, much smaller than the M-class ship. I don't understand why the S-class (who totes the "Spa" cabin and package) would downsize this area? I was not impressed with this layout and thought it was definitely several steps down from M-class. Again, a big disappointment.
The caveat with staying in Aqua Class, besides dining in Blu every day, is having unlimited access to the Persian Garden. The PG on S-class is again, very different from M-class. Not bad, just lighter â€“ brighter and different. You must use a key card to swipe to gain access to the PG, so we never saw anyone "sneaking in". It was never loud either. You swipe your access card and as you walk in, directly in front of you are about 9 warm-tiled chaises, overlooking the sea. Floor to ceiling windows are throughout the co-ed PG. To the left of the tiled loungers is the steam room, which was very nice. To the right of the tiled loungers was a dry sauna. Not as hot as the men's cedar-sauna, but it did the trick. There were ample towels and ice water with sliced fresh fruit. There were also two "experience" showers in this room. It was nice to come in with the iPad, and lounge for a few minutes. I liked that there were no "squatters" hanging out here, LOL! I've noticed on M-class where some couples come into the Persian Garden and just hang out all day (with food, drinks, books, iPod, nail clippers, etc.) Not so here. I have a feeling that if anyone were to complain, they would be all over it. Again, a very good experience, although I prefer M-class, the PG was enjoyable.
All the way forward on deck 11 (on the same deck as the AC cabins) is the "Relaxation Lounge". Cushioned loungers and whicker chairs with ottomans fill this area, along with quiet new-age music and ice water with fresh fruit added. This room was seldom full, and another nice place for the AC passengers to pass the time away. Many were napping, peacefully away. There is a spiral staircase which takes you from this lounge to the Persian Garden, locker rooms and Spa area. Nice touch! Michael was the Spa Manager on the Eclipse. In our opinion, not as dialed-in as Charmaine (Spa and Training Manager). Kind of awkward and got the feeling he never really "fit in" there.
The entertainment did not seem as rewarding as on our last cruise. I guess it's "hit or miss" with the ship and group of entertainersâ€¦at least in our experience. We walked out of a couple of shows, but also enjoyed some others. Nothing really amazing stood out this time, which was sort of a disappointment. Maybe we've seen all that there is to see?
I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed sailing on a ship which held mostly British passengers. It was truly a lovely experience sailing with pax who were respectful and kind! Usually we have to fight to get off an elevator before those waiting get on (why is that even an issue?). We noticed when we got on an elevator (or "lift") everyone would say, "Hello". Likewise, when a pax departed the lift, those remaining in the car would say, "goodbye". Simple things like manners and greetings were a breath of fresh air. It seemed they were all interested in who we were, where we were from and what we had to say. Polite, cordial, just a wonderful experience traveling with our Brit friends, from across the Pond.
We found Celebrity to have continued on with the same format in games (newlywed / oldywed game, Bingo, Celebrity vs. Pax water sports and basketball). Nothing new there. I wish =X= would kick that up a notch or two, but I know so many cruisers love these things. Maybe some day we will too. Of course there were a lot of cooking demonstrations, wine pairings and excursion / port reviews. Have to give Princess the nod with port and tours education though. =X= has some lectures, but nothing really reached out and grabbed us. For example, on a Mediterranean cruise, it would be worthwhile to have something daily related to the ports of callâ€¦not just the "shopping in your port" lecture. Something like "wines from Italy", "History of Sicily and the Mediterranean", "The Roman Empire in Spain", maybe some travel videos thrown in with the lectures. Make the itinerary a celebration and saturate the cruiser with where they will be spending their time, and money!
On this 16-night cruise we enjoyed 8-days at sea (Aaaaahhhhh) and 8 amazing ports:
Southampton: Our embarkation and disembarkation point. We waffled back and forth on whether we wanted to do our pre-cruise in London our Southampton and London won out again on this cruise. We are looking forward to experiencing more of this fine city, some other time. On our post-cruise, we enjoyed a tour through Windsor Castle. That was a fun experience! Our guide got us right up to the opening gate so we were one of the first in line.
Seville (Cadiz), Spain: The last time we were at this port, we did a Â½ day tour in Seville, which was remarkable. On this cruise, we wanted to hang out in Cadiz itself, to see what this sleepy town was like. Got on a HOHO bus and toured around the city a couple of times, getting off to walk along the embarcadero back to the cruise ship. It was a lovely walk as we strolled through a beautiful botanical garden, saw many wild parrots and enjoyed marveling at the architecture of this old city. The weather was amazing and the view was spectacular. Cadiz is a great "do-it-yourself" port, if you just want to hang around town for the day.
Cagliari (Sardinia), Italy: Cagliari is the capital of the island of Sardinia. We got off of the ship and since we had a couple of hours before the green open-top bus picked us up, strolled along the city square. We found a cozy little cafÃ© where we were able to sample some local Lemoncello and top it off with fantastic Gelato! Cagliari (the "G" is silent) reminded us a little of San Francisco, or Lisbon, as the city is built on hills. Great for walking! The open-top bus ride was a waste of time and money, in our opinion. They promised us sightings of Pink Flamingos (not that it was the reason we took the tour) but we did drive by them. Actually, it was a fish hatchery where the Flamingos camp out to eat the krill, or fish. Soâ€¦.kind of a big let down. I didn't think there were a lot of interesting sights to see at this port, but the town-square / shopping area was hopping! However, once off the 2-hour bus ride, found some local merchants who let us sample delicious hard cheeses, crackers and freshly pressed olive oil. The shop keepers were so friendly. We walked away with purchasing several pounds of pasta, a few bottles of Lemoncello (Ssshhh!) and a few containers of olive oil. Abbondanza!
Palermo (Sicily), Italy: The Eclipse docked in Palermo, on the island of Sicilyâ€¦steeped with heavy former influences of the MAFIA (which means "Death to the French is Italy's Cry"). As soon as we stepped off the ship, we stepped on to a Coach. Looking back, I wonder if it would have been smarter to just walk around the city? Palermo has got to be one of the most frenetic cities we have experienced. New York or California' traffic and crazy-driver mentality does not hold a candle to Sicily's Palermo. Grid lock could last an hour, without a budge. Cars come at every and any angle, jockeying for position. Think, "Bumper Cars" at a circus, with no rules. Seriously! Well worth the cost, our tour comprised of the Cathedral of Palermo and the Monreale. Photography was allowed in both places. We saw the most beautiful mosaicsâ€¦and most were in solid gold, just amazing! We didn't have to travel far, but because of the severe congestion, it took Â½ a day. Our first option was to take the HOHO and we are so glad we didn't. Taking the ship-guided tour meant that we would be guaranteed to be back in time before the ship set sail. Last but certainly not the least, we enjoyed the most flavorful cannelloni we have experienced. Perfecto!
Venice, Italy: The city of 117 islands, and bridges to connect most of them. Nothing prepared me for this city. I think I woke up around 5 AM just as the Eclipse was being quietly tugged (pulled) into Venice, along the canals. As the sun threatened to break over the water, we began to make out the churches, shops and homes along the water in the canal passage ways. Well, I'm not too much of an emotional traveler, but felt this overwhelming, "This is it!" overtake me. It was surreal and magical. We finally made it to Venice! After the Eclipse docked, we boarded a water taxi (Vaparetto) to take us to the city square. We purchased a 4-hour Venice tour from =X= and were glad we did. It included the Vaparetto to the city square, a 90-minute Gondola ride (amazing!) and a visit to St. Mark's Square and the Doges Palace with the Bridge of Sighs. We broke away from our tour group later, as we didn't want to see a card making / paper shop, and enjoyed lunch at a canal-side cafÃ© and just enjoyed shopping. Hit the jackpot on this tour. We're not huge shoppers, but will save our dollars for the right purchase and we found it here: stunning hand-blown Murano fused wine glasses, in rich colors, Murano jewelry and figurines for family were included in the treasure hunt. I'll tell you what; we have never seen so many women's shops with such beautiful fashion, and the most interesting bounty of high heels one could imagine. It was fun just to walk around and look in the shop windows. Leaving Venice was sad, and we vowed to come back to stay for longer than a day.
Kotor Montenegro: Kotor is just a little south of Croatia, in the Adriatic Sea. Sailing into the cove was awesome. We sailed through a beautiful serene fjord to tender in a turquoise cove. Two movies which were partially filmed in this lovely cove were, "Casino Royale" and "Master and Commander". We really enjoyed this port on foot, walking around the medieval town encased in it's very-high stone walls. Time looks like it never passed by in some places of this town. There was a spirit of camaraderie with the locals we met. We had fun getting lost in the many alley-ways within the fortressed old city, people-watching and enjoying the sites. It reminded us somewhat of Tallinn, Estonia.
Cartagena, Spain: This was a fabulous port, and really a big surprise for us. The city and port were beyond clean and presentable. You can see the pride the city takes in their heritage and location on the Mediterranean Sea. Cartagena is a Spanish Mediterranean city and naval station along the Southeast Iberian Peninsula. We toured this great city on foot as well. The highlight was the Roman Amphitheater built in 300 AD, but only discovered a couple of decades ago. This is a great port to just get off the ship and putz around at your leisure. But do try to visit the amphitheater. It was well worth the time and entrance fee, so amazing!
La Coruna, Spain: We felt right at home as we sailed into port. We San Franciscans can tell you all about our fog in the City and how it can be thick as split-pea soup! Some days the fog will sit heavy all day, and visibility is good for only a few feet. This is how it was sailing into La Coruna. We took the liberty to get off the ship and walk, and walk, and walk (about 2.5 miles) to the Tower of Hercules. The walk was fun because it was along the embarcadero the entire way, so we were able to enjoy views of the beach and water. The fog slowly lifted and we were rewarded with a very pleasing, sunny day. After touring the outside of Hercules, we took a local bus to the downtown area, got off and walked about the city. It was a holiday, so many of the shops were closed. We found a city garden to walk through, and did some last minute port-shopping for small bottles of booze to smuggle on board (Ssshhh!) and other little chotskies. Our last port, but a fun stop!
Our cabin attendant on the Eclipse was good. He was not exceptional, as we've had in the past. I think he had a couple of "off" days. His behavior was always respectful and courteous, and he would generally give us anything we needed. I don't think we ever met or really spoke with our assistant cabin attendant. These guys did their job, and they did it well. We were happy to provide them with a well-deserved gratuity.
So in short (although this was a little lengthy!) we enjoyed another fine Celebrity cruise, and will be looking forward to sailing with her in the near future. Currently we are booked for a B2B on the Millie this coming October (15-nights E to W Panama followed up by a 7-night Hawaii cruise). Looking forward to getting away from it all, and meeting new friends and making new experiences.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We both enjoy international travel and cruising immensely. While it's not possible to list the entirety of our experience, happy to share with you answers to any specific questions, or forward to you our electronic newsletters from this cruise.
Happy and safe travels to all!
worst cruise ever. royal suites are horrible, butler service is nil. Please dont bother with this cruise line, you will be sooooooooooo disappointed!!!
The Inside Passage is a fantastic voyage! However, when the cruise ship stops in Icy Straight Point, avoid any bear excursions (especially with TRECKK Outfitters)... Being experienced adventurers, we booked this excursion way ahead of time with the agreement (with TECKK) that 8 of us would be taken deep into the bush to see bears. We even told our parents they had to stay in town since they were in their late 60s/early 70s and we did not want them to slow us down. Anyhow, we get to the pickup spot and realize to our horror they have booked an 86 year old woman (with a walking cane no less) to go with us. In "shock," eager for adventure and short on time I regret we went on the excursion anyhow. That was a BIG MISTAKE. You see, in addition to booking the cane-wielding 86 year-old, TRECKK Outfitters somehow failed to disclose was that it was the beginning of hunting season! Hence, the chances of actually seeing bears was slim to none - thanks TRECKK! Another HUGE deal is that most of your time is spent riding slowly in a vanon a dirt road 13-15 miles each way. Sightseeing while packed in the van is no crowd pleaser either. In the middle of the last century the Tlingit Indians sold a very large portion of their forest to Asian loggers who decimated the forest. Therefore, all you get to see is what's left of a once beautiful forest: Tree stumps, saplings, long grass and the occasional eagle. The short of it is, the guide stated during our lengthy, slow drive through the stumpy forest that we really couldn't do all we paid to do since we had an elder with us who was quite limited physically. What the..? After peeking through some brush along the river a couple of times, he says, "Who wants to volunteer to stay in that van while we drive and hike to a more technical bear-rich area?" No one raised their hands, not even the elderly lady's daughter! Huh..? We finally convinced the daughter to stay with her elderly mother in the van and saw one bear along the river at a great distance obscured by thick brush (which was spotted by my 12 year-old daughter, not the guide). Don't let them lie to you like they did to us; TRECKK told us they actually have people out there tracking bears and, thus, know where to find them. In reality, bears regularly frequent several spots along the river and TRECKK goes to those same spots over and over and over. Bottom line is TRECKK made it sound very appealing when all they really want is to separate you from your wallet as quickly as possible. When we returned, an owner stuck his head in the van and asked if everyone had a good time. Of course, no one's going to give their honest opinion in front of a nice 86 year-old lady. Once inside the office, another owner got a bit nasty. She did not seem to understand the basis for our disappointment and our assertion that taking an elderly lady 13-15 miles into the Alaskan bush is a bit of a buzz kill, not to mention the potential safety and liability issues. She stated all she could refund despite our dissatisfaction was $20 per person. PALTRY when we paid over $120.00 plus tax per person ($960.00 plus tax in all)! I have blogged several cruise ship websites and filled out several surveys about my experience with TRECKK in Icy Straight Point. Avoid taking any bear excursion while visiting Icy Straight Point. If you do get off the boat, visit the little tourist gift shop, go whale watching, etc. but don't get sucked into any bear excursion with TRECKK. It's a complete waste of time and, more importantly, YOUR money!
Cannot say enough about the Solstice. It is a ship built with understated elegance. The service and the food are excellent. Certainly a best deal.
We were in a balcony stateroom with just the right amount of closet space and drawer space for clothes & accessories. The beds were first rate. Loved the enclosed shower- no more water on the floor.
The entertainment was wonderful- especially the special dance reviews. Also, the bar staff were there only when you needed them- they did not intrude.
The only downsides were:
Not enough activities Older passengers Disembarkation ( too long a wait)
Our February 2011 cruise on Infinity to South America and cruise tour to Machu Picchu was amazing. We flew out through Dallas overnight to Buenos Aires on American. We were able to sleep a little, so we were functioning pretty well when we arrived. One benefit of flying to South America is that there is very little jet lag. We were only a couple of time zones east of home.
We followed Trip Advisor's instructions on getting through the Buenos Aires airport and they worked very well. We paid our $140 each, went through immigration and customs, and got a taxi from the Ezezia tax stand. We already had some Argentinean currency, so we used that to pay for our cab, although they would have taken dollars. The cab dropped us off at the Pamamericano Hotel which I booked through their website (http://www.panamericano.us/index_eng.html). We felt that it was a good value. The location is central to all of the main sights, right at the Obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio. The people at the desk were very helpful. Since it was mid-morning when we arrived, we weren't able to get into ourroom. They checked our bags for us and we started exploring Buenos Aires.
We picked up our Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tickets at the main office. I had ordered them on-line at a small discount (http://www.buenosairesbus.com/en/service.htm). Since the line for the bus was long, we walked to the Recoleta area so I could order a leather jacket from the URU Recoleta store (http://www.us-cueros.com.ar/english/home.html). It wasn't quite as much of a bargain as I hoped, but was still a good deal for custom made. We ate a nice lunch at the Cafe Victoria. We found the HOHO bus stop and took the bus back to the starting point. The bus gives an overview of the city with good recorded commentary. When we got back to the hotel, we were able to get into our room. Around 8 that evening we walked through the theatre district on Avenue Corientes for dinner. We felt very safe since so many people were out. We ate at Restaurante Chiquilin. I had my first Argentinean steak which was very good. English is pretty common in very touristy areas, but away from them it is more limited. We felt safe, but we were very careful. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with very European architecture.
We scheduled a four hour walking tour with BA Walking Tours (http://www.ba-walking-tours.com/) on Saturday. I would book with them again. We had breakfast at Il Gran Cafe and then met our guide on Avenue Florida near Plaza San Martin. We walked through the downtown area to the government buildings at Plaza Mayo, then to San Telmo where we stopped for coffee at Plaza Dorrego Bar. We took cabs (not included) to La Boca where the tour ended. The tour was very good. The guide covered a lot of history and cultural information. We had lunch after the tour in La Boca at La Yunta. The food was good and they had a great show with young dancers doing Tango and traditional dances. The dancers seemed to be having a good time. We took the HOHO bus back to pick up my jacket and then walked through the Recoleta Cemetery. We found Evita's grave. That evening we attended an excellent tango show at El Querandi (http://www.querandi.com.ar/). It was very professional and showy. The theatre provided transportation, so that made it easy.
Sunday morning, we took another walk through Buenos Aires along the Diagonal Norte to the Plaza de Mayo and then to the Plaza del Congreso. We walked by the historical cafes, Confiteria Ideal and Cafe Tortoni, but they were both closed on Sunday. We had great medialunes and coffee at Cabildo de Buenos Aires Cafe for breakfast. Then we went back to the hotel and checked out. We took a cab to the terminal. The doorman had told us it would be 20 pesos, but the driver wouldn’t use his meter and charged us 30. It was still cheaper than the cruise line ($8 total instead of $40 each). No lines for check in so it was fast. We had to take a bus to the ship from the terminal. After we got to our room and relaxed a little, we headed back into town. We walked from the terminal back to Florida Street along Plaza San Martin. It was a long walk and through an area that might not be safe at night. We had lunch, walked around a little, and then returned to the ship for dinner.
I hesitate to say too much about Infinity since it is going into dry-dock for major renovations in the fall. A few things were looking a little worn, but it was still in very good shape. It is a beautiful ship. We really enjoy the layout of the Infinity. Plaza Deck 3 is the base of the Grand Foyer. The Guest Relations and Cruise Excursion Desk are both in this area along with the SS United States dining room and the movie theatre and conference rooms. The main entrances to the dining room and theatre are on Deck 4. The Rendezvous Lounge is right outside the dining room which makes a nice place for dancing and waiting before dinner. The Casino, Online, and Michael's Club are toward the theatre end of the ship. The upper entrances to the theatre and dining room are on the Deck 5 along with the shops and Martini and Champagne Bars. There are several decks of cabins and then the Resort Deck 10 with the pools, spa and fitness center, and the Oceanview Cafe. Deck 11 has the Constellation Lounge which has a great view of the ocean during the day and dancing at night. The sports deck 12 is the highest passenger level.
The entertainment on the ship is good, if fairly standard. The production shows are enthusiastic. They include a pair of flyers who are very good. The musical groups range from a ballroom dance band, to the more modern dance band, pianists, a guitarist, and the acapella group. Our first evening on the ship we were overnighting in Buenos Aires and a local group of dancers did a tango and traditional dance show which was fun. We also had two speakers, Rod Jory and Graham Sunderland who talked on various aspects of culture, history and nature. They were always fun to listen to, but not always terribly informative.
The food on Celebrity is consistently good. Not 5 star great, but well prepared and varied. We always enjoy dinner in the dining room. There is usually something on the menu that we like. We tried the SS United States this cruise and had a great experience. The food was definitely better than the dining room and the service was wonderful. Food in the buffet is fine; we usually head for the pizza or salads rather than the hot food line. The burgers from the grill are good.
Infinity spent the night in Buenos Aires so we had another day to sightsee. We took a ship's excursion to an estancia for a Gaucho Fiesta and lunch. The riding show was exciting, but we didn't understand everything that happened. We were disappointed that no one explained. We had the opportunity to take a short horseback ride, just 10 minutes en masse around a field. The food was good. They served empanadas and wine before lunch. Lunch was a variety of salads and meat. The first serving of beef was overcooked so it was a little tough, but they brought another serving out later that was great. There were also sausages and chicken. I really liked the chicken.
Tuesday we were in Montevideo, Uruguay. I arranged for a walking tour with Liz Cowley of Real English Tours (http://www.realenglishtours.com/). We met her in the morning outside the port area. She took us all through the old part of the city and gave us a good background on the history and culture. The older part of Montevideo is pretty run down. Some of the buildings are now being renovated. We had a great tour. Liz did warn us to be careful with bags, etc. After she left us, we stopped at Don Peperone for lunch of a chivito and beer which was good. Then we returned to the ship to meet our afternoon tour to the Juanico winery. We drove by small bus through the countryside to the winery. We stopped in the vineyard to taste the grapes. Then we had a wine tasting in the wine cellar. They also served a variety of meats, cheeses, and empanadas which was great.
Wednesday we spent at the beach resort, Punta del Este, Uruguay. We tendered into town and spent the day wandering around on our own. Pay attention to the signs on the pier after you get off the tender and turn right. We didn't and wasted about 45 minutes going the wrong way. It is on a peninsula and we walked through town and around the peninsula. We stopped for lunch at El Pobre Marino. We had very good shrimp and empanadas.
Thursday was a sea day and the rest and relaxation were great!
Friday we had a full day excursion to Peninsula Valdez from Puerto Madryn. Puerto Madryn is a big city right on the coast, but we didn't see much of it. Our excursion went into the World Heritage Site to see wildlife. It was a long bus ride, but worth it. We saw guanico, rheas, matas, sea lions, sea elephants, armadillos, and penguins. The penguins are really interesting. Their burrows are spread out over a huge area. They also lined up on the beach like they were staring out at the ocean. We had lunch at Estancia San Lorenzo, a very good lamb barbeque.
We had another sea day on Saturday. We went on a bridge tour through Captain's Club. They also had tours for Cruise Critic members. We went on deck in the evening and were able to see the Southern Cross.
Sunday was in effect another sea day, since we sailed around Cape Horn in the afternoon. We were lucky that it wasn't rough, although it was windy and cold. We sailed all the way around the island of Cape Horn. We could see the weather station and seamen's memorial.
Monday we docked in Ushuaia, our last port in Argentina. We did a Tierra Mayor hike in the morning. It was a good hike - not too long or too strenuous through gorgeous country. We walked across a valley through an area of beaver dams and ponds and then up the side of the valley to a waterfall. Beaver were introduced from North America. We spent the afternoon walking around the town and had a very good crab lunch at Moustacchio. That evening we sailed along the Beagle Channel past a beautiful area with a series of glaciers.
Tuesday we tendered into Punta Arenas, Chile. Our excursion was a bus ride to the historical site of Fort Famine and to the reconstructed Fort Bulnes. It was mostly just a long bus ride which unfortunately seemed disorganized, not one of our better excursions. When we returned to town we stopped at Estancia Rio de los Cierros and had a tour, snacks, and a dancing demonstration which were all very good. We had some time to walk around the town before we returned to the ship. It has a central plaza with a number of beautiful colonial buildings. There was a small tourist market in the plaza and another at the dock.
We were at sea on Wednesday going through the Strait of Magellan and out into the Pacific. We entered a storm when we got to the Pacific so it got really rough. The ship had a definite list. They said we had 100 mph winds and 20 foot waves. At dinner, our waiter was even a little green. They had to cancel the show scheduled in the Constellation lounge because it was so rough. The captain took the ship through some islands when he could to avoid the rough seas.
Another day at sea, cruising the Chilean Fjords. We wound in and out through the islands and inlets. It was beautiful. The sea was still fairly rough in the morning but had smoothed out by evening.
Friday we tendered into Puerto Montt. Our excursion included a short walk through an alerce forest (type of cypress tree, very old and tall), a stop at a German museum, and some time in Puerto Varas. The activities were all pleasant, nothing outstanding. Puerto Varas would be a good place to wander around, we bought some great chocolate. After we got back to Puerto Montt, we walked down to the fish market and tourist market. I always enjoy the local markets; this one was amazing with lots of shellfish and fish. We found a little restaurant, Iguana, and had empanadas. I liked the seafood filling best. I bought some necklaces from a local who spends his summers in Colorado! The area was on alert for the tsunami from the earthquake in Japan, but we didn't have any problems.
Saturday was our last day and a sea day. The big band show that had been cancelled earlier happened in the Constellation. I always like having the last day to wind down and get ready to leave. It was especially good this cruise since we were leaving for the cruise tour to Machu Picchu the next day.
The tour to Machu Picchu was a really good trip even though it was expensive. It was very intense and tiring. Most days we were up at 4 or 5 and going until 7 or 8 in the evening. The days were highly scheduled and we had very little time on our own. Two more days would have been wonderful, but would have made it even more expensive. I am sure I could have booked it myself for less, but it was easier to have everything handled by the cruise line. We saw a lot and they took very good care of us. The hotels were 4 and 5 star and most of the meals were very good. We had good breakfasts each morning in the hotels. You needed to be in fairly good shape since we had lots of steps and walking. A few people in our group had a hard time getting around and while the tour director tried to make accommodations for them, I think they had a hard time.
We left the ship Sunday at 8:30 and took a bus to the terminal. The baggage pick up felt a little disorganized since we had trouble finding the tag for our luggage tag color. We had trouble finding our group, too. Our tour director, Lucero, was very upbeat and well organized. We had a bus ride from Valparaiso to the Sheraton Santiago that took about 2 hours. We had one stop on the road for coffee and restrooms. We didn't have any touring on the way to Santiago. We arrived about 11:30. The hotel provided juice and cookies while we were checking in. All of the check-ins for the hotels were a little slow. The hotels had to have copies of our passports and would not let Lucero email them or provide them ahead of time. The rooms were not ready that early, so we had lunch and then went to our room. The Hop On Hop Off bus stops right outside the Sheraton, so we bought tickets from the office in the lobby (http://www.turistik.cl/en/productos/santiagoturistik/index.htm). The HOHO bus gives a good overview of the city. We rode the bus to the old center of the city, the Plaza des Armas. We walked around the plaza and saw the colonial government buildings and cathedral. It is a beautiful city. We also walked to the old Market. It would have been fun to have lunch there. Then we walked to the Plaza Constitucion and saw the Palacio Moneda where the President's offices are. We found the HOHO bus and took it back to the hotel. We were able to see quite a lot of the city in a short time. The bus spends a lot of time in a newer area that we could have skipped. We went to Plaza Azul for dinner as a group. Dinner was great: pisco sours, empanadas, tilapia or salmon, and dulce de leche crepes.
Monday we were up at 5 for our flight to Lima. We had to check in individually. Lucero kept track of everyone. The airports were all a little chaotic, so it was nice to have someone telling us where to go and what to do. She helped with the check in process by getting us to the front of the line when necessary and providing a list of all of us with our reservation numbers to the check in agents. We went through immigration and customs in Lima. Our first stop was the Larco museum for lunch and a tour. The risotto we had was okay. Meals everywhere were slow. The tour of the museum was well done. It has thousands of Pre-Columbian artifacts: pottery, jewelry, and figures including a collection of erotic art. Then we did a city tour by bus and on foot. Lima has a beautiful old town. We stayed at the Hotel Melia Lima which was very nice. The staff was helpful and the rooms were pleasant. The neighborhood near the embassies is very safe, but there are not many places around to eat or shop. The hotel restaurant was good, but on the more expensive side. The bar where we had dinner served small plates that were very good, especially the Peruvian sampler.
The hotel stored our excess luggage, so we were down to one bag and our carryons when we left on Tuesday. We were up at 5 again. The flight to Cusco took about an hour. We could really feel the over 11,000 ft altitude in Cusco. We had coca candy and the hotels had coca tea to help prevent altitude sickness. Shops at the airport sold oxygen bottles. We took buses into Cusco and toured Koricancha/Santo Domingo, a Catholic church built on the remains of an Incan temple. The Incan construction is amazing. In the temple, the blocks are so well made that they fit together without mortar and with no space between. The Inca walls stand up to earthquakes that destroy the Colonial buildings. Then we drove through the Sacred Valley to Pisac for the local market and tourist market. There were lots of things to see and buy. We had a snack on the bus and then shortly after we stopped for a very good buffet lunch at Muna Restaurant. The food was mainly Peruvian, even cuy (guinea pig). The location in the countryside was lovely. Then we went to Ollantaytambo and toured the archaeological site. All through the Sacred Valley you can see hillsides that the Inca terraced for agriculture. At Ollantaytambo, you can walk up through terraces to a ceremonial center at the top of a hill. It looks steep, but if you take it easy, it is not bad. Another tourist market was just outside the walls. We then drove back to Yucay to the Sonesta Hotel Posada del Inca. The hotel in an old monastery and beautiful, but we didn't get to see much of it since it was dark when we arrived and dark when we left the next morning. We ate dinner in the bar where a musician was playing local pipes, much different than the Peruvian musicians that seem to be in every city in the world. I bought some baby alpaca scarves in the gift shop.
Wednesday we went to Machu Picchu. We had another 5 am wake up. We took buses to Urubamba and caught the train to Aguas Caliente, just outside Machu Picchu. We took the Vista Dome train which was very comfortable and included a snack each way. The train ride is gorgeous, along the Urubamba River and through the mountains. The river was really high and wild. We saw the beginning of the Inca Trail. We took a bus from the train station to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The guides divided us up by physical ability for this tour which I wish they had done earlier. Darwin, our guide in the site, had been guiding there for 31 years and was very good. Our tour lasted about 3 hours. We walked all over the area. When we arrived everything was clouded over but throughout the day the clouds would break away and then reform. It made for a very eerie, but beautiful day. We had rain periodically. The valley is beautiful and would be worth seeing even without the ruins. The Inca construction is amazing. The one major disappointment with the whole tour happened here. According to our original itinerary we were supposed to have lunch at the Sanctuary Hotel at the site and then have more time on the site on our own. Instead we left the site and had lunch in town, so we were not able to wander the ruins on our own at all. Instead we had time in town, which was not worthwhile. The lunch at the Cafe Inkaterra was good, but we would rather have had no lunch and more time in Machu Picchu. The town is very touristy. We took the train back to Urubamba. The crew performed a native dance and an alpaca clothing fashion show. We were supposed to take the train all the way to Cusco, but they were having problems with the tracks, so we took the bus to Cusco from Urubamba. We stayed at the Novatel in Cusco, again a very nice hotel in a great location, but we didn't see much of it. We had dinner in the hotel and then walked to the plaza and around a little. The shops were just closing around 10:00. Cusco seems like a very interesting place, I wish we had had more time there.
Thursday was the last official day of the tour. We slept in until 6! We visited some very interesting ruins at Saqsaywaman just outside Cusco. Again we saw the huge blocks of stone fitted tightly together. Some alpacas were grazing in the area. We flew back to Lima and returned to the Hotel Melia Lima where we had a farewell lunch. Lucero helped us with our plans for the next day. Our flight didn't leave until evening, so we had the whole next day on our own. We spent the afternoon wandering around the area near the hotel. We saw some beautiful houses, with lots of security everywhere. We saw a couple of places we could have eaten, but we ended up having a very good dinner at the hotel. I had ravioli, with a Peruvian filling and sauce.
Friday's breakfast at the hotel was included with the tour. We were able to say goodbye to Michael and Judy with whom we had spent a lot of time on the tour and who had been at our table on the ship. We really enjoyed their company. We checked out and left our bags at the hotel. We took a taxi to Mira Flores which is a lovely area along the coast with lots of restaurants, hotels, and shopping. We stopped first at some tourist shops. As we were walking around we saw a sign to the pre-Inca site, Huaca Pucullana. We walked there and took a very good tour. Then we had a nice lunch at Cafe Haiti at an outdoor table. We walked the rest of the way to the Larco Mar area right on the cliff overlooking the ocean. We walked along the coast and then had a drink and shopped a little in the shopping center and had one last ice cream. The ice cream was wonderful everywhere on the trip, especially the dulce de leche. We got back to the hotel in the afternoon and had some wine before our shuttle to the airport. We had a great last day. It was nice to have some time on our own to do what we wanted.
Our flights and connections all went well. Our bags did miss the connection in Dallas, but the airline delivered them to us that evening. We had a wonderful trip, but it was really exhausting.
This was our 14th cruise, but the first on Celebrity. Previous cruise lines have included mostly Princess and the defunct Delta Queen & Orient Lines. It is convenient to compare Celebrity Millennium (1950 Passengers) against Princess since we had followed nearly the same itinerary on Grand Princess (2,600 Pax) the year before.
Also, we just wanted to relax on the ship and nearby shore points. Unlike all previous cruises, Itinerary and Shore Excursions were of very little interest. Climate on the Veranda really was top priority.
We went to the San Juan PR departure port a day early. The Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel has a superb location -- and a staff that can turn over a full house quickly & easily on cruise days (which is nearly every day in San Juan.) But their food service should be avoided due to poor materials. The Ti-juana Restaurant across the street provided an excellent Mexican Dinner and Four-Piece Mariachi Band.
Celebrity’s highly-regarded food and service came through superbly – except for the frustrating inadequacy and errors of their verbal communications:The ship itself is beautifully designed with many striking, beautiful, and/or functional features. For example superior use of sculpture, shape and color, no sense of crowding, and reliably-fast elevators. (Not the 2009, always-broken elevators on Grand Princess.) Food: Over 90% of both complex and ordinary dishes were unusually delicious. Buffet and Dining Room Staff were plentiful and immediately helpfully-attentive to Wife Christine who walked slowly with a cane. Purser / “Guest Relations” Staff were uncharacteristically friendly and helpful. The Director of Food & Beverage fixed diluted Manhattan Cocktails – immediately. Entertainers were brilliant: Amy Abler (Piano) played 50% more notes than I have ever heard in the “Pennsylvania & Beer Barrel Polkas” – lying with her back on the floor ! Kathleen and her Four Saints impressively covered Patsy Cline, Peggy Lee, and many other girl singers during Happy Hour. Happily the Maitre‘de gave us Dinner-Table Companions who were exceptional: Three veteran Commercial Pilots and their excellent wives who were all a lot of fun, very interesting, and quite accepting of us.
All of the above were at least 1½ Stars above Princess. The following Information Services were Two Stars below Princess:Pre-Cruise, Easy-to-Read, Shore-Tour Information was difficult to get. Mail requests were not honored, and internet downloads were bewildering in format and length. Upon boarding you are given a MICROSCOPIC Deck Plan. An ordinary, hand-held, Magnifying Glasses is not enough. Guest Relations managed to print out an 11 X 14 inch Deck Plan which showed Buffet Deck 10 pathways which were actually walled off. “Conservatory” sign pointing the wrong way on Deck 11. The daily paper described one island as: “20 miles wide and 6 miles long” (a Third-Grader’s view of a map). Loudspeaker announcements gave wrong times for events. The Cabin TV set could not be tuned to a specific channel – you have to step through all 25. Nor does it display an adequate “Menu for Interactive-Ordering of Room-Service Food”. The Concierge Class promise of a Daily Room-Service Menu was denied by the Cabin Attendant (who was just returning from a “Honeymoon in Tunisia”). In the middle of the Cruise, a tired Bath Mat appeared: Woven Lettering “Celebrity Cruises X Concierge Class”, faded four shades, a hole worn in it, and three bites out of the edge. The Final Insult was the usual detailed Statement of On-Board Charges, slipped under the cabin door on the final night: Three pages, covering some 80 items, in miniature, 6-point type, printed with a minimum of ink.
SUMMARY: Overall, we very much enjoyed our trip and thought it was worthwhile. Celebrity is a great value. We just wish they had an old-fashioned, AT&T-Type Service Observer on their Public Information Channels.
Chris & Dave Lee, McLean, Virginia