We set sail for a 11 day cruise from Ensenada Mexico to Hawaii. This was our first cruise with Celebrity. Over all our cruise experience was positive.
We flew into San Diego to meet Celebrity representatives. There were several representatives at baggage claim. We were quickly led to a drop off location for our luggage and given instructions to meet our transfer to the ship. The bus ride to Ensenada was extremely long. Close to two hours. The scenery was a mixture of poverty and pretty coastline. Upon arrival in Ensenada, you are let off the bus to check in to a hotel, then hussled back on the bus to be taken to the ship. The whole process from the airport to the ship was about three hours. Be prepared as this is very tiring after a long flight.
Our cabin was on the lower floor, an outside cabin. Plenty of room for two people. Lots of storage area, suitcases fit under the bed, drawers in the closet, a small vanity in the bathroom and a large picture window. We do not spend a lot of time in the cabin, so thiswas plenty for us. Cabin steward was wonderful, always around when we needed her.
The food was good, not excellent but well prepared. We did not like the alternate dining alternative for the evenings. If you did not want to dress up and dine in the dining room for dinner, you could make reservations for a casual dining experience on the tenth floor. If you are expecting a buffet, this is not the way it is done. You are served from the same menu of the formal dining room. So if you are tired from the day or looking for just a quick bite there is no choice unless you order room service, which is also very limited. A major drawback for us. Also on a 11 day cruise men are expected to wear a tie, 6 of the 11 nights, more than half. Something most men would hate, as my hubby does.
The entertainment was lacking. The variety was not great, nor the shows. We seen better on the Royal Carib. They even had performers who performed more than one night. So if you did not care for the entertainment you were subject to it another evening.
The iternary was good. We spent two days on the big island, two days on Maui, two days on Ohau and one day on Kaui. Our biggest complaint was the bus tours. We spent more time on the bus than actually visiting our destination. All the islands are very easy to get around on. If we would have know this, we would have rented a car. Definetly do this! The bus tours were very tiring, though we were able to see a little bit of everything. We did not care for Robert tours, which catered to all of the islands. The tour guides were long winded(talked too much) and were definely on an agenda. We did rent a car on our last day on Oahu and it was a great way to go.
Tours we went on:
Volcano National Park- spent more time on the bus than out, terrible lunch. So many bathroom breaks, especially at tourist traps Waterfall hiking tour- best excursion we had, easy walk, though the description called it moderate Waimea Canyon and Fern Grotto- stayed a whole twenty minutes to see the canyon, the grotto we stayed less, tourist trap!!! Iao Valley and Maui Oceanic Centre- once again stayed a whole twenty minutes in the canyon, an hour and a half in the oceanic centre. Nice places both, but too little of time there Little Circle Tour- ten to twenty minutes at each stop, nice places but once again rushed Haleakula Crater- long drive but scenic, stayed at the crater less than 30 minutes, very cold and foggy, saw little(not cruise line fault) but be prepared it can happen
We sailed in November and found there to be very few kids and mostly retired couples on the ship. So it was very relaxing and very dead on the ship after 10:00. Not the kind of ship if you plan to party all night. But suited us fine. They had a wonderful warm water pool, spent several days there.
Left the ship around 10:00. We were one of the last ones off. We were in no hurray, late flight. Some people found the wait long.
Overall we would sail with Celebrity again. We would not take bus tours from the ship. We would arrive the day before embarking the ship. It would be less tiring.
This was my 3rd sailing on Celebrity's Millenium Class ships and enjoyed it as much as my last 2. The service on the Infinity was a slightly a notch slower than the Connie and Summit, but hey, we're in Alaska. Food, as always, was terrific, the shows not as great as on the Millie, but still good. I did miss a good comedian. Embarkation was smooth, (I do love concierge class for this reason), but our room attendant was expecting and a little lax in service.
The scenery and great weather more than made up for the lay-back attitude of the staff (which were not unfriendly, just tired, I assumed).
The Infinity is still a beautiful ship.
We just came back from our fabulous 7 day cruise on the Celebrity Infinity. This was our 5th cruise, our first on Celebrity.
In a nutshell, the experience was the best EVER. We traveled with my two sisters and their husbands, and my husband's two sisters and their families, which made for a lot of fun.
The weather was perfect - in the 80s - amazing for Alaska, even though our final port in Sitka was foggy, causing the excursions to be cancelled for the day.
We stayed in a "Family Suite with Veranda" in the aft. Our cabin was EXCELLENT. We had a near 300-sf deck on the corner of the ship, with fabulous views and privacy. The food and service was excellent, and the spa treatments were outstanding. Infinity has a very very well equiped gym, and the fitness director had excellent classes, with varied selections to chose from.
The Martini Bar was the BEST, as well as the service of each and every member of the crew we encountered.
We will definitely travel Celebrity again. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Too short for Celebrity?
We had no unrealistic expectations -- or so we thought. We knew this was only a two-night cruise. Two days in port...board in Vancouver… in port until 5 p.m. …wake up in Victoria and spend the day there… back in Vancouver the next morning. It was not the usual seven nights or more routine, but we were disappointed in Celebrity nonetheless. We have been on five short cruises -- three on the Radiance of the Seas, one on Vision of the Seas and one on the Sea Princess. It makes a nice break between the longer cruises, and we are so close we can drive to and from the pier.
Celebrity does not usually have two-night cruises. This was sandwiched between a Hawaiian cruise and the first Alaska cruise of the season. And we were made to feel like poor cousins -- kind of unwanted. Like people who are merely taking up space until the REAL passengers come on board. Celebrity has a good product. The ship was spotless as usual. There was a lot good about it, and if I had not cruised so many times withthem, I might not have noticed the lackluster attitudes and things that were missing from the norm.
We arrived at the pier early. There were no long lines. We got to the check-in desk and almost the entire staff is brand new -- and we are the FIRST passengers they have ever checked in. The young gal who checked us in was very nervous. She took all our documents, passports, cruise ticket, charge account info sheet etc. She asked to see our credit card, checked it over and handed it back to us. Then after a few minutes she asked if we would be paying in cash. "No, we will be paying with the credit card you asked to see." She asked for a supervisor to come and check over everything she did, just to make sure she didn't make any mistakes. So check-in took at least four times longer than normal. (The last day of the cruise we got a notice from the ship's bank to pay our bill in cash, because after all that, she still wrote down that we would be paying in cash!) We just went down and they scanned our card again.
We were greeted upon boarding by some of the great Celebrity staff bearing champagne! We were both in high spirits and looking forward to a fantastic time. Our cabin wasn't ready because we boarded at about 11:30 a.m. No problem; we expected that. We were able to go to our cabins at around 1:30 p.m., an hour after they said they would be ready. During the two hours we waited, we toured the ship and took videos and still shots. This is always a good time to do it, because there aren't a lot of passengers on the ship yet.
We took the Infinity to the Southern Caribbean in her inaugural season and everything was still like new! We decided to have lunch before it got too crowded, so we went up to the resort deck for the "welcome aboard lunch buffet." We started down the food line and I noticed some thing missing. I asked about the beef roast that was NOT under the heat lamps. I stopped and asked the server about it and he said he would check into it. After a while I noticed it was there! So my hubby went and got us some sliced roast. They also had the traditional Welcome Aboard cake they ALWAYS have on the first day of their cruises. I was still happy at this point.
The weather cleared up and the pool deck was bathed in sunshine! It turned into a beautiful warm day in Vancouver. We went up to the pool deck and sat by the pool in the sun. It was around 2 p.m. and I was wondering when they would take the nets off the pools and hot tubs.
We went down to our cabin. The door was shut, so we knew it was ready. We walked in and almost immediately I tripped over the big humps in the carpet by the bathroom door. That was my first clue that this was a wheelchair-accessible cabin. In the brochure our cabin (#9121, Sky Suite) does not show any symbols, so this was a complete surprise. We had a big bathroom, but no tub and no long walk-in closet. Instead there was a larger area by the front door to park a wheelchair. This would be a great cabin for those who need it, but I would not go out of my way to book one. I like the standard ones better. I wanted to hang my dress in the shower to help get the wrinkles out, so I found the cord coming out of the wall by the shower and pulled. A red light came on! I immediately knew what a stupid thing I just did -- I pulled the emergency cord. Jim called down to the guest relations desk and told them about the "bonehead" thing I did. They said and emergency light did go on up at the bridge. I didn't know! I have never seen one of those before. I did eventually find the laundry cord that I was looking for in the first place.
Jim asked some staff members by the pool why it wasn't open yet. They said it should be open soon. So I changed into my suit and we went up to go for my first swim on the ship.
We got up there and found a nice spot by the pool. My hubby ordered a drink and we were happy. After about an hour Jim called back down to guest relations to find out WHY the pools and hot tubs as well as the Thalassotherapy pool were still not open. They told him Canadian health inspectors were onboard and they could not open the pools until they got around to inspecting them. O.K., NOW I was getting unhappy. I saw someone with an ice cream cone walk by. I said, "If I can't swim, I am going to drown my sorrows in ice cream. I waited in line spending my time deciding what flavor ice cream to have. When it was my turn, I asked for a one-scoop Rum Raisin cone, please. He said he just ran out of cones. I could have a dish. I looked at him like, do you mean to tell me that there are no cones on this whole ship? I didn't want to have a dish by the pool, so I just left aggravated. His attitude bugged me – like, "take what you can get". He wasn't going to bother getting any cones.
We went to our stateroom to gather up the life jackets and head down to the casino for the lifeboat drill. I do appreciate the fact that they make everyone actually go to the lifeboat decks and line up under the boats. Some other lines don't do this. Even though it is a pain, it would probably make a big difference in a real emergency.
After dropping off the life jackets in our cabin, we went up to the sail-away party. The pool band, Legacy, was very good. The activity staff was enthusiastic, and at around 5 p.m. they finally took the nets off the pools! There was no sign of our Cruise Director Don Fluke yet -- I thought he would be at the sail away party. When I heard the Electric Slide I finally felt like I was on a cruise! We went to the bow to see the ship pass under the Lion's Gate Bridge. The Ryndam was ahead of us and the Vision of the Seas was still at Balantine Pier. Looking back towards Canada Place, it looked like a post card.
Our nice butler had appetizers ready for us in the suite. We spent some time on the balcony enjoying the view.
Dinner on the first night was casual. We were assigned a table for eight on the main level of the dining room, at the foot of the stairs, next to the pretty, expensive crystal table.
Our table mates were a family of four women (grandma and her daughters and granddaughter) from Vancouver, and a woman with her daughter from the Portland area. My husband said it was his harem. We had a nice time with all our table mates and felt lucky to be seated where we were. The waiter was good, but the assistant could have been a lot better. He was very slow at refilling the water. I asked him what else was offered besides water for dinner and he said lemonade or juices and then left. He didn't ask me what I wanted. I had to ask the waiter for water when my glass was empty. I noticed no one else had anything but water because they were not asked if they wanted anything else -- except wine or alcohol, of course, and coffee or tea after dinner. The food was excellent as usual. We hade prime rib and it was cooked just right and not cold. But I did notice it was unusually thin. When I got home, I looked at and old video from a previous Celebrity Millennium cruise. I had taken a shot of the prime rib, and it was definitely thicker. I wonder if Celebrity is cutting back because of the higher meat prices? You can order more than one entree. If you are a hearty eater I would suggest getting two of the prime rib. It was fine for me, but not for my husband.
They had a show in the theater with the Celebrity singers and dancers the first night. I wasn't too impressed with the female singers, but a couple of the male singers were first-rate. I couldn't help thinking that the female singers wouldn't have made it very far on American Idol. After the show, we donated some money to the casino and turned in for the night. You know you are on a short cruise when the first night of the cruise you get the tip envelopes!
Victoria was cold and cloudy when we first pulled into port. We tied up at the new pier at Ogden Point. There was a sailing regatta that day, so we saw dozens of sailing vessels pass by. We had a cozy eggs Benedict breakfast in the suite served by our very competent and friendly butler. We had decided to stay on the ship instead of going into port. We scanned over the daily activities -- bridge, paddle tennis, darts, volleyball, computer class, library, afternoon trivia, checkers... O.K. now I am getting the idea that the staff isn't exactly putting themselves out on this day. There was no martini tasting, napkin folding, cooking demo, veggies carving, slot tournament, wine tasting or hairy chest contest on this cruise. It was cold and rainy, so the outdoor pool wasn't an option. Thus we decided to go into Victoria after all. I noticed that we received no port information sheet in our cabin – no walking map of Victoria, etc. They usually have these at the guest relations desk or where you get off the ship. But when we got to the port building the locals had some for free.
We took the $5 shuttle bus to town and walked to some of our favorite little shops, including Rogers Chocolates for our traditional cherry and rum raisin chocolates.
We walked to a cute outdoor craft market, then down to the waterfront along the docks. They have adorable little boats that do harbor tours. We decided to do the 50-minute tour. It was fun. The tour guide/captain has lived in Victoria all his 65 years. He had some great stories to tell about Victoria in the old days and how it has changed. I would recommend these tours to anyone. Afterwards we walked around the grounds of the Empress Hotel, went inside and looked though a couple of shops and then back to the bus to take us to the ship.
When we arrived back at Ogden Point, the Norwegian Star was next to us! This was the first time I had seen the Star. We noticed it had no passengers onboard. I can't say I like the paint job on the Star.
It was very cold and windy now, and we were happy to be back on the warm ship. We had a nice lunch in the Palm Springs Grill.
After lunch, we went to the Thalassotherapy pool to see if it was crowded. It was packed with people. There was hardly room for one more body! I decided to try the coffee here. I also tried a "healthy dessert" with my coffee.
After the big lunch and dessert, I could hardly keep my eyes open and I was still chilled from the cold wind so we went back to the cabin for a nap.
The second night was informal. We showered and dressed early so we could go to the casino and the shops before dinner. I was disappointed that a couple of the shops were not open, because they were restocking the Alaska merchandise. Also there was no booze or cigarettes because we stayed in Canada the whole time, so we couldn't get anything duty free. My hubby was particularly unhappy that they didn't have any Infinity baseball caps. He has a collection from every cruise he has been on. No Tortuga Rum Cakes either! I did get a really nice travel coffee mug with the Celebrity symbol on it from the Cova Cafe. They serve hot chocolate in them when the ship is at the glaciers in Alaska.
We had Martinis in the Martini Bar and went into dinner. We had a very nice dinner tonight. My husband talked to the assistant maitre d' the first night, telling her that his favorite things to eat on Celebrity ships were crème brulee and escargot. They had crème brulee the first night but no escargot planned for the second night. She surprised us all by serving our table escargot! Now that is going above and beyond to please a passenger!
Captain's Club perks were nonexistent on this cruise. We received nothing for being Captain's Club Select members -- no coupons, etc.; nothing sent to our cabin.
All told, we had pretty good cruise. But I think other lines have handled short cruises much better. I would not cruise anything shorter than seven nights with Celebrity again. We booked a 10-night on the Mercury for next February and we are looking forward to it.
We departed home on January 28, 2004 to prevent missing a connection as we did before on another previous trip because of weather. We spent the night in Atlanta and flew out of Atlanta arriving in Santiago, Chile on January 30. We had a beautiful room in the Santiago Sheraton Hotel & Convention Center. This city of 5 million people living here on about 117 square miles located between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. We took a tour with Hilda Cerda Chilebbtours 246 Rafael Canas Street, Flat 1, Providencia, Santiago, Chile . e-mail: email@example.com She drove the van and had an English speaking guide. We visited the working La Vega Central Market in Santiago rather than the tourist market. Having a small group of 6 we were able to accomplish this without difficulty. Tour cost was $48/p and we considered it well worth it.
We stopped in a neighborhood and visited some of Hilda's aunts and were served Empanadas (meat pies) and wonderful Chilean wine.
We were taken to the Artisan's village called El Pueblito de los Dominicos. After some more sightseeing we visited Hilda's small modest home and were treated toa home prepared meal with wine and or fruit juice. This was a most rewarding experience.
After the tour we were dropped of at the cable car ride to visit the top of San Christobal hill for a magnificent view of the city. Hilda and her guide contacted us in Valparaiso for possibly taking a tour there, but we were on the ship and opted not to leave since we had to take a shuttle bus back to the ship terminal. Hilda and her guide had been hired by another couple to take them and their luggage from a hotel in Santiago to the ship terminal in Valparaiso and they did a tour before boarding the Infinity. There was not enough room for three couples with luggage in the van.
The Sheraton Santiago Hotel & Convention center has the San Christobal Tower that has a wonderful view of the city also along with a very nice restaurant.
On Sunday Feb. 1, 2004 we boarded Celebrity's Gas Turbine Ship Infinity and watched the Super Bowl Game on the satellite hookup. We sailed from Valparaiso at 9:00 PM
Feb. 2 -At Sea - Ate in the wonderful United States Restaurant aboard the Infinity.
Feb. 3. At 8:00 AM we arrived in Puerto Montt. We visited German communities of Frutillar and Puerto Varas. Saw the Volcano Osorno and visited Petrohue Falls. We used Carlos Galindo firstname.lastname@example.org Cell phone 98224932 Tour cost was $90 per person.
Petrohue lake covers 73 square miles. Lunch was excellent and I ate things I had never seen before. We departed Puerto Montt at 6:00 PM.
Feb 4 & 5-We sailed the Chilean Fjords and the Strait of Magellan and the views were magnificent. Large Glacier feet came down to the water in some places with many water falls. Many mountains and steep cliffs to the water's edge. Cliff hanging glaciers in abundance.
We entered the Beagle Channel named after Charles Darwin ship the Beagle. On Feb. 6th at 8:00 AM we arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina Tierra del Fuego which is the community that is in the southern most location in the world other than Antarctica. We took the train to the end of the world. It was interesting, but not much to brag on, and time could have been better spent on something else. We however did enjoy the trip.
Got a picture of a Condor in the distance. Lunch on our own was excellent with a king crab being cracked and pealed and served just under the shell. The wind in Ushuaia was strong enough that the bow thrusters on the Infinity were used to keep the bow against the dock and take the strain of the bow lines. We departed Ushuaia at 5:00 PM.
Feb. 7 At 7:00 AM we docked in Punta Arenas, Chile Tierra del Fuego and had a tour company waiting for us. We used Patricia Perez Patagonian Discover Tour Company and went to the Penguin Colony and the Penguins did not disappoint us. Saw some of the town with views from high points, and had a wonderful tour. We departed Punta Arenas at 5:00 PM.
Feb. 8 We had wonderful weather and sailed completely around Cape Horn for one hour. Cape Horn had been cancelled on our itinerary but since the weather was so good we made the trip. One announcer stated it was the best weather he had seen in 30 years around Cape Horn. Other trips by other Celebrity ships around Cape Horn have been very rough with damage to the ship.
At 9:00 AM we sailed into Port Stanley, Falkland Islands with an over cast day. We just walked around the town and had lunch at the Globe Tavern. Nice visit... Not much there fighting over except there is suppose to be a large deposit of oil reserves. We sailed at 7:00 PM. We had seen enough Penguins.
Feb. 10 A day at Sea
Feb. 11. At 9:00 AM we arrived in Puerto Madryn. We took the shuttle bus to the center of town along with Ernie Borgnine who was fun to be around. Ernie was a guest celebrity aboard the ship for the entire cruise. He made himself seen around the ship and never seemed to be bothered by talking to people. He seemed to enjoy himself. He enjoyed posing for pictures and always wanted the beautiful lady in the middle. When we asked him to pose for a picture, he said: "I thought you would never ask". Puerto Madryn had a nice town square with a rather older couple doing a wonderful street side Tango. Many nice booths with arts and crafts. The square had a statue to Ferdinand Magellan.
We did not opt to take the 100 Km ride to the Peninsula Valdes which of course was on another dusty bump road just like Punta Arenas.
Watched some divers working while on the ship. Puerto Madryn is the most important national area for the practice of scuba diving. Left Puerto Madryn at 7:00 PM.
Feb. 12 day at Sea
Feb. 13 At 8:00 AM we docked in Montevideo, Uruguay. Montevideo has a population of about 1.5 million. It is the largest city, the chief port and the capital of Uruguay. It is located where the Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean meet. We visited the Casa Mario leather factory. I had previously visited Casa Mario in 1975 and again in 1991. Brought them some pictures from those days. They all had a good time looking at them and posted them on their board. We visited the Independence square and were not bothered by the rain. We had a wonderful meal down in the docks area where there are several little restaurants in one area. This is a don't miss area. They all cooked on an open fire.
We saw the monument to the Graf Spee and the mast sticking out of the water in the harbor. The German ship, Graf Spee was one of the most advanced battleships of it's time in the second World War. Montevideo under British Pressure refused to give the ship shelter when chased by British Warships and she was scuttled by her commander in about 36 feet of water when she was outnumbered in a battle. She is in the process of being raised for a museum construction.
Feb. 14 The Infinity arrived in Buenos Aires at 8:00 AM .We apparently had a mix up and did not get with the person I had made previous arrangements with to tour Buenos Aires. I think when this tour person with the same name saw my Rolex watch, he decided he would give us the tour. We toured the city, and went to a restaurant for lunch where a professional hit was put on me. My Rolex was stolen off my wrist in a split second move by a thief on a dead run as I got out of the van. He had to be waiting for the mark (that's me) to arrive. It was obviously a setup, but I have no proof of who was involved, and it is shameful that all are suspect. I really felt bad that I had gotten with the wrong person for the tour. I did not find out until I returned home and my e-mail from the real Gustavo asked what happened. I had promised the individual that I would use him for touring with four person group we had We went on a Tigre River boat ride later and to a Tango Show at night. I did not let the loss of the watch mess up the rest of our trip. Buenos Aires is a very large city with different neighborhoods. We visited the La Boca, Recoleta, San Telmo, Palermo and the docks area. The 9th of July Avenue is the billed as the widest street in the world, but it is actually four streets separated by neutral grounds. Nice restaurants in many places. We visited Evita's grave area and the large cemetery.
Feb. 15 Disembarked the ship to the Sheraton Libertador Hotel. We walked the famous Florida Street and visited the Gallerios Pacifico a very nice mall.
Feb. 16 We flew to Iguazu Falls and stayed at the Sheraton International with a wonderful view of the falls. We walked on all the paths to the falls viewing area, but did not go to the Brazil side. One would need a visa for that. People that went did not mention if it was worth the extra trouble. The view is supposed to be better.
Feb. 17. We flew back to Buenos Aires and visited Florida Street again for some more looking and shopping.
Feb. 18. Most people flew home this day, but we stayed another day and toured the Antique flea market and walked the streets viewing the many monuments. Had some nice snacks and drinks on a balcony overlooking the Antique market square watching the Andalusian and Tango dancing.
Feb. 19th We flew Home arriving on Feb. 20, 2004 Advice would be to be sure the person you use for a tour has your name. Don't assume that if he has a tour company by the name you are looking for and the same name that it is the right person. I did not ask him if he had my name. That was a mistake.
Pictures can be viewed at cruisemates.com in the Photo Gallery under Joe Reynolds Author
Sailing on the same cruise ship for the second time can be the most interesting of experiences or most boring. My partner and I experienced both aboard Celebrity Cruise Inc.'s GTS Infinity on its Jan. 4, 2004, Panama Canal sailing from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale.
Our first time aboard Infinity was in January 2003. That cruise achieved infamy when the ship's port engine failed en route from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego, and the cruise ended abruptly in Acapulco. Chaos ensued, due mainly to incompetent Celebrity staffers who were led by befuddled executives from Miami. Indeed, Celebrity's procedures could easily have passed as a Monty Python parody of modern business practices. (See my review of that cruise for details).
Nevertheless, GTS (Gas Turbine Ship) Infinity has twice seduced us and we've even booked a third trip aboard the ship for January 2005! But it is not Celebrity we find attractive, as much as it is the itineraries Infinity offers, and the magnificent vessel itself.
We've found Panama Canal transits well neigh irresistible, mainly because of the Canal's uniquely rich history, sights and sounds -- and also because nearly half of Infinity's 14-day cruise is spentat sea.
We've grown tired of Caribbean ports in general. Many are filthy, most are packed with other tourists, and some sport rather high crime rates. So we now seek itineraries offering many at-sea days.
The Infinity, itself, is a giant gem, with the functional and wonderfully inviting deck plan shared by Celebrity's Millennium-class ships (Constellation, Summit, Millennium and Infinity). The differences among these ships are mainly the names of public areas, interior colors, and the selection of (usually startlingly poor) works of art.
But what we (and many others we met during the cruise) found so completely unacceptable was the thoughtless and uncaring "guest relations" offered by Celebrity. I'll go into more detail as this review progresses, but it has now become apparent to us that Celebrity does not offer the same attention to passenger satisfaction as do other lines. And since I've detailed such shortcomings in other reviews, as well as reading of similar incidents in other people's Celebrity experiences, I find it remarkable that Celebrity's executives choose to make no changes.
Enough generalities; let's get to the specifics of our adventures during Infinity's January 3, 2004, Panama Canal journey.
After a wonderful New Year's Eve in Chicago, we left about noon January 1 and drove, non-stop, to Fort Lauderdale. Although that might sound to some a horrific journey, it was rather pleasant. Granted, it's a chancy trip that time of year, but we encountered no snow or ice, and just two brief rain showers. We took turns driving and arrived in Fort Lauderdale mid-afternoon Jan. 2.
The plan was to leave the car garaged at a friend's home in nearby Delray Beach and then fly to San Diego on Jan. 3, stay overnight, and board Infinity at mid-day Jan. 4. We then would have the car at our disposal when the cruise ended in Fort Lauderdale. That was the plan. It worked well.
We've found arriving at least one day prior to a sailing the best way to cruise. Such an arrangement effectively eliminates much of the stress involved in hurrying from home and then flying, sometimes across the nation (while all the time hoping to avoid weather, security or other delays), to arrive in time to board the ship.
One more pre-cruise note: If you ever find yourself in San Diego wishing an extraordinary meal, I highly recommend the restaurant at the Islandia Hyatt Hotel -- the restaurant is cleverly named the Islandia. I take a moment to mention it because of its good service, magnificently prepared food and unusual surroundings. That dining experience put us in a superb state of mind for the start of our voyage aboard Infinity.
A first-time cruiser approaching the port by automobile could be excused for initially mistaking the ship for a large office building. You look, and then you look again, but it's only with a conscious effort that you realize what you are gazing at is a sea-going vessel! The Infinity really is a miracle of physics and engineering. It is the final expression of thousands of design, financing, and manufacturing decisions. To approach it is an experience of awe and wonder.
Boarding her was swift and pleasant. We arrived by taxi at the pier about 11 a.m. and, after only a short wait, were allowed on the ship. . A white-gloved crewman, although seemingly bored with his turnaround day duties, cordially escorted us to our aft-facing cabin.
I find the first couple of hours aboard a cruise ship enjoyable, albeit hectic. First there's the task of meeting our room steward and informing him of the specific arrangements we desire.
Then there's the trip to the purser's desk (on Celebrity it's euphemistically entitled Guest Relations) to make sure any discounts have been correctly entered on our account and to inquire as to where the maitre d' is holding court. And, of course, there's the visit to the specialty restaurant to make reservations -- usually for the second formal night of the cruise.
All three trips, I've found, are important and an integral part of the excitement of the journey's beginning. All too often appropriate billing credits (such as those for early booking or submitting frequent traveler coupons) don't make their way to one's account and those types of situations are best resolved before the ship sails.
The maitre d' meeting is essential: I want to know what table we've been assigned and where it is located. My "cruise tips" list provides more details about table location and specialty restaurant reservations.
When we entered the cabin we found a white formal envelope on the bed. Inside it was a card announcing Celebrity wished to extend to us a $100 shipboard credit as a "Bon Voyage Gift" with "thoughts for a wonderful cruise."
We were not just pleased with the shipboard credit; we were flabbergasted that Celebrity would make the gesture. We had previously found Celebrity most wanting in its guest relations and, therefore, we were enormously impressed by the gesture. It turned out we were just enormously naïve.
Following the aborted January 2003 cruise -- and after numerous telephone calls and exchanges of snail mail and e-mail with Celebrity officials obviously not a bit interested in us -- we had received a call in July (Yes, July! And isn't that, in itself, a powerful communication?) from Terri Montenegro, Celebrity's director of passenger relations. She offered us a $150 shipboard credit as partial compensation for "the significant problems" we encountered at the end of the 2003 cruise.
However, when I arrived at the guest relations desk on this cruise to verify the credits that should have been on our account, I was rather impatiently told the $100 credit announcement contained in that white envelope wasn't really a Bon Voyage gift as the card said, but, rather, merely a "partial receipt" of the $150 credit awarded to us six months previously.
Well, I countered, a card offering a "Bon Voyage gift" is obviously not a receipt. Even more preposterous, I said, was the assertion that the card was a "partial receipt." What's the other part? But my comment served only to cue the peevish response delivered in a patronizing tone of voice that the gift wasn't really a gift, and she was so sorry I misunderstood.
Now I would have thought any major company -- especially a cruise line whose "product" is supposed to be an extraordinarily pleasant experience -- would be careful in addressing the concerns of an upset repeat customer. No, not Celebrity, for despite escalating the matter to the purser herself, I was repeatedly -- and with increasing impatience -- told it really didn't matter what the note said, it was just a receipt and not a gift.
I decided to surrender and shut up since I didn't want to become yet more upset before the ship had even left the pier.
I proceeded to the computer room to sign up for an in-cabin Internet connection for our laptop. During the previous year's trip on Infinity we were given two-weeks of Internet cabin access for $100. Apparently Celebrity saw another enticing way to annoy its customers, since this year the charge was nearly $400, along with a 50-cent-a-minute surcharge for time over a set minimum.
When we noted the significant price discrepancy, we were told this year Celebrity had contracted with a vendor to supply the service. We took the service, but did so muttering to ourselves -- along with several other passengers in the room who were also obviously not pleased with the hefty price increase.
Shortly after the appointed time, Infinity left San Diego. If you ever sail to or from San Diego during winter, bring along a jacket or sweater. Given the possibility of chilly nighttime conditions, coupled with the wind on the ship's decks and room balconies, you will be glad you did.
During the months preceding the cruise I had developed e-mail relationships with several people I either met on the various cruise boards or who contacted me after reading my reviews.
Such co-passengers on this adventure were Linda and her husband, Chris, from London, England; Margaret, a retired teacher, her former principal, Eric, and his partner, Peter, who accompanied her from Seattle, Wash.; Elizabeth, a restaurant owner from Topeka, Kansas, whom we had met on the 2003 cruise, and her mother-in-law, Penny; and two airline flight attendants, Ryan and Rueben, with whom I had started corresponding after they requested my cruise tips.
We met Margaret, Peter and Eric the first day at sea, and subsequently enjoyed having Linda and Chris, along with Reuben and Ryan, as our tablemates each night at dinner.
It marked the first time we had developed acquaintances during the pre-cruise period and continued the relationships during the cruise. We found it very enjoyable.
Our first stop was Cabo san Lucas -- our fourth visit to the city. We recommend the snorkeling excursion and we've heard good things about the whale watching boat trip. Other than that, we've found the stop unremarkable.
Next was Acapulco - a port that, for us, has some unpleasant memories stemming from the aborted 2003 cruise. Our previous visits to some local restaurants had been somewhat unrewarding, so we elected this year to remain on the ship for our meals.
We did, however, hire a taxi driver who, after we rejected his repeated offer of a $200 sightseeing trip, took us to an Acapulco shopping area at which we suspect some of the merchants were either his relatives or paid him a commission. In either case, we quickly were "assigned" a polite and enterprising teenager who had all the makings of a budding entrepreneur. He continuingly urged us to buy certain items from his "uncle" or "cousin," while assuring us of each item's great value. We purchased several unusual gifts and the afternoon turned into an enjoyable mini-adventure.
Infinity, I should note, provides several activities on port days for passengers wishing to remain on the ship. I, however, am quite content to remain on our balcony and doze amid the port's sounds.
During our stops at the various ports, I observed Celebrity had not significantly altered or improved security. Watching what passes for "security" always brought to mind a "Pink Panther" movie. Crewmembers assigned to X-raying packages brought onboard by returning passengers often were so busy joking and chatting with their friends that they didn't even look at their screens.
Crewmembers assigned to the metal detectors frequently ignored warning buzzers! I watched in amazement as passengers who dutifully stopped at the sound of a buzzer were told to proceed to the elevators. I found this practice to be particularly upsetting in this post-September 11th era. And, yes, I had written to Celebrity about this after our previous cruise. I received no response.
The next stop was Puntarenas, Costa Rica -- one of our favorite shopping ports. At the end of the pier are dozens of huts manned by local merchants offering items ranging from the tacky to the artistic. We usually purchase numerous wonderfully fashioned wooden boxes, puzzle boxes and other handcrafted items to take home as gifts. The prices are reasonable, but beware: the merchants expect passengers to haggle. You seldom will get a real bargain, but if you don't haggle you certainly will pay too much.
The ship also stopped in Huatulco. Although this stop eliminated one of the at-sea days we had enjoyed the previous year, Huatulco proved very enjoyable. It's a new Mexican port stop with a new pier and it is as yet unspoiled by the waves of tourists likely to arrive in the future.
Next came the Canal. If you haven't yet made the transit, do so, for it is arguably the most enjoyable of Caribbean itineraries. I've detailed Canal transits in my previous reviews, so I won't repeat myself.
As I mentioned, we had an aft-facing cabin. one of six on the extreme port and starboard sides of Celebrity's Millennium-class ships in the FV category. These cabins, or staterooms as Celebrity likes to call its cabins, have the largest balconies we've seen this side of owner's or penthouse suites, with each easily capable of holding a couple dozen people.
During the Canal transit we hosted a gathering for all of the acquaintances I previously mentioned, along with some other people we had met. Our transit this year was during a sunny day, but it was not quite as hot as some of our previous Canal crossings, with temperatures only near 90.
After the Canal we had an at-sea day before arriving at Orangestad, Aruba. This is also one of our favorite stops, although a highly commercialized one. We usually rent a four-wheel -drive car and tour the island at our leisure instead of joining one of the ship's excursions.
We learned a valuable lesson this time. I had made an Internet reservation in early December with an Aruba-based car rental company we had used on two previous cruises. It wasn't until we had left San Diego that I realized I had never received a confirmation. So I sent them an e-mail and shortly before we got to the Canal I received a short, terse note saying they had never received my reservation. And that note didn't even include an offer to make another reservation for us.
Rental car reservations at most Caribbean ports are not absolutely necessary, since there are so many rental agencies. Aruba is no exception; we were able to easily obtain a four-wheel car from a company with an office near the cruise port terminal. But henceforth I will be certain to confirm well before the cruise any reservations we have made.
Celebrity's food service continues to be good -- but that's about it. We've had a greater variety of food, and food of higher quality, on other cruise lines. That is particularly striking since Celebrity, at one time, was widely praised for both its superior service and food quality.
Infinity's crew was noticeably better trained this year, with nearly everyone from cleaners to shop keepers pleasantly greeting passengers they encountered. The sole exceptions were, amazingly, the people assigned to the "Guest Relations" desk -- which is, more accurately, the "Guest Frustration" desk. On at least three occasions we passed the desk while passengers were complaining about some issues. In each case, the staffer just looked annoyed or bored.
General ship's services were generally mediocre -- for example, in the buffet restaurant we daily observed groups of servers laughing and talking with one another while they waited to escort passengers to tables. At the same time, a few feet from the gaggle of servers, a dozen or more passengers waited in line at the ice cream counter where a beleaguered server worked by himself. Only once did we see a manager direct one of those idle servers to assist.
The nightly shows this year were even worse than last year's entertainment. And while a show critique is a subjective matter, we talked with other passengers who noted the same thing: Celebrity must be saving money by booking second-rate acts.
We also found the ship's casino, Fortunes, no better than in the past. As noted in previous reviews, casinos aboard other lines are usually very busy places, with lots of folks enjoying themselves well into the early morning hours. Fortunes, however, aboard both Summit and Infinity, was usually deserted by 1 a.m. most nights and closed shortly thereafter. The slot machine payoffs are, for the most part, meager and sometimes non-existent.
On the positive side: Celebrity keeps its ships spotlessly clean. Crewmembers can be seen daily polishing and disinfecting public areas, such as stair rails and elevator interiors. And cabin stewards are always eager to meet passenger requests.
Celebrity now offers its passengers a choice in tipping: either tip in cash at the end of the cruise, as has been the routine, or authorize the tips to be deducted from the credit card you were required to post at the beginning of the trip. We elected to pay by cash at the end of the cruise, finding that procedure to be much more personal, giving us the opportunity to voice our appreciation individually to each crewmember we are rewarding.
The ship has added some "extras," such as providing cold washcloths during the day in the pool area and offering glasses of Champagne as people initially board. Nice gestures.
THE END GAME
I've read several reviews in which passengers grumbled about debarkation procedures and I have always viewed such complaints with a bit of irritation -- when you are trying to move a couple thousand people off a ship at the same time you are preparing to board a couple thousand other folks, delays are inevitable. We've viewed the procedures -- which usually are inexplicably altered from one year to the next - as annoying, but unavoidable. This year, however, was an eye opener.
We had received orange disembarkation tickets. people are always instructed to debark by ticket color to avoid pier overcrowding and to make the porters' jobs a bit easier. So, after leaving our cabin, we assembled with approximately 150 other passengers in one of the lounges waiting for our color to be called.
After more than an hour of standing and hearing all sorts of colors called, I asked the Celebrity staffer assigned to that lounge area (she was one of the dancers from the shows) when orange might be called. She said she had no idea, but if we wanted to go to the dock our baggage probably wasn't there yet, but we could go. We went.
Not only, as we suspected, were our bags there, but the dock was not crowded and we were among only a few orange passengers picking up luggage. We were out-the-door of the terminal area within 15 minutes after leaving the ship.
We've heard some reports that Celebrity plans to install airport-type baggage carousels to help speed debarkation. We certainly hope so, since debarkation is, on any cruise line, somewhat of a hassle.
So, by now you might be asking, if they found so many things to complain about, why are they booking a third cruise aboard Infinity? It's a good question with several answers:
Aside from Celebrity's horrible guest relations, the company provides a nice cruise aboard a beautiful ship that offers outstanding itineraries. And, even more importantly, several people with whom we've previously sailed have also booked the January 2005 South American Infinity cruise, so.
If you are contemplating a Celebrity cruise you will not be disappointed aboard the Infinity -- especially if you are a first-time cruiser. However, Celebrity, during its heyday, when it enjoyed a deserved sterling reputation, used to employ the advertising slogan "Exceeding Expectations." They have since wisely discontinued using the slogan as they unwisely discontinued practicing it.
That sums up the highlights of our January 2004 cruise. In essence, we enjoy sailing on the Infinity, but we continue to be puzzled by Celebrity's amazingly poor customer relations.
As I mentioned at the start, sailing on the same cruise ship more than once presents an unusual situation. On one hand, one misses the sense of exciting exploration that's inherent upon boarding a ship for the first time. However, repeat sailings allow for a substantial degree of pleasure that arises from encountering a comfortably familiar environment and associated routine.
A FINAL THOUGHT
After having read what I've written, I can almost hear Celebrity's staunchest fans bitterly chastising me for being so critical. But my reviews are just that -- criticisms based upon what we've experienced during a specific cruise..
I am also mindful my reviews are read not only by first-timers, but also by cruisers of varying experience who are curious about a specific ship's performance. Therefore, I admittedly emphasize negative aspects since they have the greatest impact on one's enjoyment.
If you wish to read my previous reviews of our experiences aboard the Summit and Infinity and cannot find them, please send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and I'll send them to you. If you also wish a copy of my Cruise Tips -- which are primarily designed for those new to cruising -- also send me a request.
Arriving in Calgary on July 6, we realized we were there at the time of the Calgary Stampede so we planned this event for the next day. The night of arrival we ate at a place called Earl's on Stephen St, the pedestrian mall, and though we just happened upon it, we ended up returning because it was so good.
The morning of the 7th we had breakfast in Calgary Tower and there is no charge to go up the elevator prior to 8:30 AM. We walked around some visiting the 20-foot tall statues referred to as the "Family of Man". The statues had the hands in the open position signifying peace to all people.
We went to the Calgary Stampede and picked up our previously ordered tickets for the night show including the Chuck wagon races. It is best to purchase the daily train ticket in Calgary so you can get on and off as you wish. No one checked the tickets, but I understand that they have spot checks and the fine is steep if you are caught without a ticket. The tickets are so reasonable, that they shouldbe purchased. After walking around the Midway and visiting the Indian Village we returned to the Fairmont Palliser to rest.
We returned to the Stampede grounds for the show and dinner. We had very nice table service delivery of drinks. We thoroughly enjoyed it and had very good seats. The seats are inline, facing the racetrack but have a table to place food and drinks on. Very comfortable after seeing that other people without reservations were eating in the back with limited visibility of the racetrack.
We were so tired that we could not stay until 11:30 PM for the entire show and returned to the hotel to rest before the entire show was completed. It did seem to be a very good show put on after the chuck wagon races.
On the 8th we were up early to catch the Rocky Mountaineer Rail train that left at 6:30 AM. This is promoted as the most spectacular train trip in the world. I haven't been on the Orient Express yet. Breakfast was on the train and we were on the first seating. Those on second breakfast seating were served coffee and rolls etc. until they got to eat breakfast. The next day the seating preferences would be reversed. The trip to Kamloops was filled with wonderful scenery and Vance and I took advantage of the opportunity to take many pictures. Spirits on the train were complimentary and we had a very nice breakfast and dinner in the dining car. Rocky Mountain Railtours offers two types of service, The Gold Leaf and the Red Leaf. The Gold is more expensive but well worth the difference in service.
When we got on the train in Calgary we were given a paper which shows how the trip is divided into sections from 1-7. Each section had mile markers, which corresponded to the mile markers on the side of the track form 0-100+ from East to West. The section numbers decreased from 7 to 1 going east to West. When a new section was entered the numbers returned to "0". This allowed one to figure out when various different sites were being approached. The Continental Divide was the highest elevation on the trip at mile 122.2 of section 7 the first section out of Calgary. I think the elevation was 5280 feet. We passed through Banff at mile 81.9.
We traveled 391 miles to Kamloops at an average speed of 35 mph, and then left the train to spend the night in the Comfort Inn. Kamloops is in section 2. Section 3 & 4 go towards Jasper, which we did not do on this trip. On this trip we traveled sections 7,6,5,2 & 1.
Our keys were given to us on the bus from the train to the hotel making it very convenient. Our luggage actually arrived before we did since it traveled by truck rather than by train. This was another wonderful service. We attended a $25/person dinner show at Two Rivers Junction Theater, but I would not recommend it. The meal was a buffet and the show was only so-so. Apparently Jennifer Lopez was in Kamloops making a movie. Our train attendant asked if we had seen her. My wife promptly responded that she did not think that Ms Lopez would be at the Comfort Inn.
The next morning we were off bright and early departing at 6:30 AM to make the second leg of this Mountain Journey from Kamloops to Vancouver (276 miles).
We arrived in Vancouver on Wednesday July 9th at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel to find our bags in our room.
On the trip we passed places with names like Jackass Mountain, Jaws of Death Gorge, Hells Gate, Black Canyon tunnel, Batchelor, Bow River, Nicola River, Frasor River, Thompson Canyon and Revelstoke.
This was a most enjoyable trip and I would definitely recommend it.
In Vancouver on Wednesday we walked into Gastown and looked around doing some shopping. We decided that the steam clock was off by a few seconds. The next morning we asked the doorman for a recommendation on a place to eat breakfast. He directed us to Scoozies, which turned out to be a most wonderful place to eat in Vancouver.
Thursday we bought a two day pass on the double deck red busses to tour Vancouver getting off and on at the designated stops. This is a wonderful way to tour Vancouver. We, however, only used the pass for one day. We stopped for some time at Granville Island before returning to the Fairmont Waterfront.
The Island Princess cruise ship came in to the Canada Place dock and Gavin Macleod (played the part of the Captain on the Love Boat TV series) was on the sidewalk. He was very nice and we took a picture with the Island Princess in the background. He now works for Princess Cruise lines in Public relations. The Island Princess is the first cruise ship to be Christened in Vancouver. When Gavin asked if I was sailing on the Island Princess, I had to be truthful and mention I was on the Infinity. He took it in stride as the true professional that he is.
About 4:00 PM we took a 20 min sightseeing seaplane trip around Vancouver since it was such a pretty day. There is nothing like an airview to see a city. Later that evening we went back to Granville Island to have dinner at the Bridges Restaurant, which was very good but overpriced. We spent some time in beautiful Stanley Park with a wonderful view of the Lion's Gate Bridge.
Friday Morning we again went to Scoozies for breakfast before getting packed and having our luggage taken from the room and brought to the pier to be loaded on the ship. Our luggage did arrive, but mine was a little late. Since I had previously had lost luggage, I was a little concerned, but all was OK once it arrived. It had simply been taken up the wrong elevator and finally found.
Friday evening we sailed out of Vancouver on the GTS Infinity starting the completion of our sailings on all four of the Millennium Class ships by Celebrity Cruises. We ate the first night in the United States (Infinity's specialty restaurant) at $25/person charge which covers tips. The service is impeccable and the food is excellent. The specialty restaurants have their own special kitchen and chefs and you can see the kitchen through a glass.
The next day Saturday was a day at sea on the way to Juneau. The heated pool spa was enjoyable for this day.
Sunday July 13th we arrived in Juneau and strolled the city. It was overcast so we did not go up the Mount Roberts Tram. We noticed signs stating "Welcome Summit." We did not see the GTS Summit in Juneau and later found out that she tore a 10 foot hole in her hull coming out of Yakutat bay hitting an underwater rock attached to ice. She apparently went to Seward for repairs, then continued her cruise. Apparently the repairs will carry her until her scheduled dry dock.
We did take a Helicopter tour to a glacier and rode dogsleds on top of the glacier. The weather was clear on top of the Glacier and the scenery was spectacular. The mushers sleep on the glacier and spend about one or two weeks up on the glacier before coming down. They had to move the camp once when the snow froze and the dogs could not run. It was not very cold, until the dogsleds started to move and the wind showed you some of Alaska coldness. This tour is expensive, but worth it.
Monday July 14th we arrived in Skagway and walked around the town shopping before our 11:30 AM departure on the White Pass narrow gauge railway.
The left side of the train has the best view on the way up and we switch places on the way back so the other people would have the best view coming down. Complimentary water is furnished. Photography was best done from the open parts of the train to eliminate the glare and reflections in the windows. This is a recommended trip and last about 3 hours. We had lunch before departure and no need to bring food. There is no food available on the train.
Tuesday July 15th we arrived at Yakutat Bay to view the Hubbard Glacier. We were able to get close and had a most magnificent view of the beautiful blue color. We had lunch on the verandah with the glacier close by. We could hear the cracking and saw some mild calving. This night we had dinner at the Captain's table with some wonderful wine being served. The lamb was so good I accused the waiter of having it done in the "United States" kitchen. He said "Of course". Someone else, however stated it was done in the regular kitchen.
Wednesday July 16th, Ketchikan was rainy and misty. We went up the funicular to the Cape Fox lodge restaurant and had very nice chowder soup. We did some shopping as expected. When we arrived in Ketchikan, we disembarked by tender, but when another ship left the Infinity had a dock spot. We met at the pier for our Misty Fjords tour by seaplane. Misty Fjords is another recommended tour. The views of the Tongass National Forest and the Fjords is magnificent. We landed on a pristine lake, which was beautiful except for the large biting Alaskan Mosquitoes. The pilot backed the seaplane up to the bank and we were able to get out of the airplane and walk around on shore. I didn't know you could back up a seaplane. We saw several sheep, a bear and some mountain lakes spilling over as waterfalls.
Thursday July 17th we had a sea day and had to pack for disembarkation on Friday. We had no trouble with disembarkation and took a taxi to the Hampton Inn near the airport in Richmond and stored luggage until check in. We took the complimentary shuttle to the Richmond mall shopped around then saw a terrible movie. We later checked into the hotel and went to an Asian night market that was interesting. I sampled some of the food but the wife would have nothing of this food so we went to Dem Bones for some very good ribs.
It took us five minutes to get to the airport and 1 ½ hours to get to our flight gate at the Vancouver airport departure time 12:55 PM. We had gotten to the airport in plenty enough time. You just never know how things are going to go. I had spent plenty time in preparing for this trip, and yet at time of check in, my electronic ticket had not been issued. The agent had to issue the ticket at time of check in.
We arrive home safe and sound Saturday July 19th around 11:30 PM CST.
My wife and I thought we were going on a great relaxing 14 day cruise through the Panama Canal. Oh were we wrong! I could not believe our ship was going to become the largest floating daycare/ uncontrollable group of children on the open seas. I think what bothered us most was that the ship gave the impression they had no idea about the number of children so we will not hire any extra people to handle the number of children. I probable should add that we had 535 children on board. I do not want to imply that all the parents and children were out of control, but the number was very large. I could probably spend several hours recapping all the incidents that were dealt with or not dealt with from not keeping diapered kids out of the whirlpools to the kids being completely without any parental control. The ship's response to controlling the situation was to put a short item in the daily cruise notes that the situation should be handled by the parents. Did they really think this would help? I know their response would bethat we really tried. My point still remains that the ultimate control is with the cruise line since all had to sign the same rules of conduct agreement. This cruise line lost more future customers on this than they can even imagine. I know my wife and I will definitely look to other cruise lines. I think the worst part of this is the cruise staff that we dealt with from our cabin steward to the waiters to the wine steward was fantastic. The food was great. The service by all that we encountered we exceptional especially in the SS United States dining room. It is just a shame that the cruise line knowing they had this large group coming and they did nothing to control it. We did learn to deal with the pool situation but it basically meant we did use the pool after 11:30 in the morning, so you do learn to adapt to the situation but should I have had to do this?
The cruise line also needs to hire someone to improve embarkation and disembarkation so that they don't find two and three hour lines acceptable. I guess I do have to admit we had a good time within limits. Just one quick note to those that have read comments on Celebrity ships : They still cannot figure out how to keep people from sending someone out to reserve large numbers of deck chairs, in most cases where the individuals might not even get to pool for several hours. Then to make matters worse, they could not even control people having two chairs, obviously one in the sun and the other in the shade. How nice considering some were just happy to find one!
I believe the cruise line could have contacted people pre-cruise by email so we could have prepared for the situation we were going to have. Maybe others might not agree, but with the negative publicity the cruise line created this is not going to make it as how to improve your business!
Celebrity Cruises heavily advertises their five star cruising. We just completed our third Celebrity Cruise and have done about 20 in the last seven years, ranging from Silversea to the now bankrupt Regency. The Infinity really does do some things with five or more star quality and smoothness, but there are plenty that may not even equal the unfortunate Regency. Let's look at a few.
Their premium restaurant is called the United States, and it is truly wonderful. We would be hard pressed to find many land-based restaurants this good and have not seen any at sea. You do pay $25pp extra, but it is a dining experience not to be forgotten-wonderful rack of lamb in browned phyllo dough, superb fillet of sea bass, and terrific cheeses and desserts. On the other side of the coin is the Ocean Buffet. Food there is, at best, mediocre, and having the steam tables hot enough to keep the food hot is a concept foreign to the buffet manager. We made a special effort one morning to get there just as it opened to see if the food even started better than luke-warm. Trustme; it does not! As with the trend on RCCL owned ships there is a charge for nearly everything imaginable. The coffee bar does provide free pastries in the AM and cookies in the late PM, but coffee and tea start at $1.95. The Trellis, the main dining room, falls somewhere in between these two. For example, our table for eight found the filet mignon kabobs and some veal dishes excellent. Five of us ordered the duck l'orange and not one even found it edible. Fish was often dry. Soups were done nicely, but desserts also had considerable variability.
The inconsistency did not confine itself to food and drink. They use a seventeen person production performance, most of whom are very talented. The choreography and costuming come in clearly below Princess and HAL - not to mention Crystal. Performances by individuals ran the same. One production show, "Classique," was up to the standard expected on the large ships. A comedienne was hard pressed to evoke audience laughs, and a comedy juggler/jack of all trades mastered none. We have probably seen five to 8 different ship jugglers in the last five years and at least 12 comics. This juggler would finish dead last, and the comedienne next to last. In fairness to her, it was a holiday audience with many children and great cultural diversity so she may have been forced to modify her act unbeknown to the non-responsive audience. The main show pianist was a crowd pleaser and had great personality as well as talent. Mr. Carr, the Cruise Director, seemed bored with his job although a number of his assistants were very friendly and helpful. Activities aboard were not scheduled with much consideration of the passenger getting to participate in as many as possible. Rather they were jammed together, almost as if to say let the staff get this over so they can do other things more interesting. Only one lecturer, as compared to HAL or Princess having 2-4 when the cruise has seven or more days at sea. He was well informed but hardly charismatic.
Embarkation was very disorganized compared to HAL, Princess, and Crystal to compare against other larger ships, as opposed to RSSC and Silversea. Most frustrating was Celebrity sending out a solicitation prior to sailing to pay about $35 to join their frequent cruiser program which is free on most other lines. One of the chief alleged benefits of this was to be priority boarding. When we got to the Ft. Lauderdale terminal, we were told that priority boarding was "not in effect" for this cruise. While there are some other benefits, we would not have paid the fee had we known that feature was not important to them. We had a Sky Suite; however, it was about the same size as a deluxe cabin on HAL or Disney. It was nicely furnished, and the butler and stewardess did a very good job. In the philosophy of charge the customer wherever you can, recent in room movies were $8.99 as opposed to free.
The Infinity is a beautiful ship, quiet, and smooth. Their Canal itinerary is a good one with stops included at Aruba and Cabo San Lucas as well as traditional stops. With the holiday cruise there was constant running by children down the corridors even at 1 or 2 AM. Several people complained, but the front desk was indifferent. They said to call security which, of course, could never get there before the kids were long gone. Attempts to get them to have a security person walk the corridors in the 10 PM-1 AM time frame fell on deaf ears.
As you can see the infinity experience leaves one in a quandary-lots of good things and some that are just plain unacceptable. We may use Celebrity again, but I think we will stick with some smaller ships such as RSSC or Crystal with maybe Princess or HAL thrown in here and there.
One word describes the whole cruise.....marvelous. We had a cabin on the stern (8176) and it was as comfortable, if not more so, than any stateroom mid-ship. No vibration, noise (except for the neighbors) and a great view!
Food, service and ship's personnel were professional and extremely courteous. Can't say enough nice thing about our Cabin Attendant, Rodell or our Waiter/Assistant, Volkan and Teddy.
Speciality restaraunt (USS United States) is money well spent....makes on understand why they used to call the "luxury liners."
Only glitch occurred in Ft. Lauderdale airport. We found out, after waiting in line, that bags, boarding passes, etc. were done ahead of time and you check bags, etc. in the BAGGAGE CLAIM area. Suggestion you check with someone before you experience the wait.
Still think Celebrity is the best "bang for the bucks", but why not, they've spoil us.