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.
Itinerary - Fort Lauderdale, Aruba, Panama Canal Transit, Panama City (Fuerto Amador), Puntarenas, Acapulco, Cabo san Lucas, San Diego.
Taking a cruise is always a guarantee to be one of the best ways you can spend vacation time so that you can be pampered, see new places and totally unwind. Taking a 14-night cruise ensures that the worries of the world become totally forgotten. Taking that 14-day cruise with Celebrity, I feel, ensures that you have all your dreams fulfilled, and more.
Sailing on the Celebrity Infinity surpassed my dreams.
Now maybe you are thinking here is a first time cruise fanatic, who is carried away with the glow of that first time experience. In fact I may not have cruised as often as many of you who report on this board. I have now taken 6 voyages on different cruise lines, and this cruise line, and this ship is difficult to beat in its class.
Now I must start by saying that not everything went smoothly, and I will try and share a balanced view of my experience.
2. Embarkation and Disembarkation
First impressions are so very important as this sets thescene for your time on board. Embarkation was effortless. In fact it was the least hassle I have experienced on boarding a ship. I was fortunate enough to be traveling with a Captain's Club member. We had made sure we had completed all the paperwork before arriving at the port. We were immediately whisked through a separate door to register. There were no lines. In fact there were no lines even for the first time travelers. Everyone I spoke to on board spoke highly on this experience. An attendant, who wore white gloves, escorted us to our stateroom. Our cases arrived within 30 minutes, which was impressive.
At each of the ports there was never any delay once the port had cleared the ship. The only exception that plagues all cruise ships is when passengers have to be tendered into port. I always feel that is a fun experience, as it is such a change to feel some motion from the waves. At the early stages of a port arrival where tendering is necessary, everyone assembled in the Celebrity Theater and waited for their tender number to be called. It was smooth, speedy and effortless. That short waiting time (I heard of no one having to wait for more than 30 minutes at the peak rush) is always good social time as you chat with fellow passengers in the anticipation of what the excitement and new experiences will be encountered on shore. We had to tender at two ports during this itinerary. We had a 10-minute tender ride in Panama City (Fuerto Amador) and a 15 minute tender ride in Cabo San Lucas.
Disembarkation in San Diego was rapid, with a very smooth transition to buses and cabs for onward connections.
Now to the one major downside, and probably the worst experience of the entire 14 days. When we arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport we had to wait for just over 2 hours for transportation to the port. Something had sadly gone wrong with the system. We had connections arranged by Celebrity as we had booked the US Air flight through the cruise line. The Company had also told us that if we did not take the transfer in Fort Lauderdale, we would have our transfer cancelled at San Diego. That, we have learned, is not true. Eventually 10 of us were bundled into an ancient minivan, with chipped paintwork and a broken fender! We had to have some of our luggage on our laps. We were squashed in like grade B sardines. Thankfully it is not a long journey. It is only a $9.00 taxi ride; you can even see the ocean terminal from parts of the airport! So think twice about whether or not you wait for the planned transfer. You can do it cheaply and speedily yourself.
We did however meet a couple when we were waiting and spent some time together during the cruise. So the bad events can turn out well in the long run! I always look for the positives in life!
3. The Stateroom
We had ourselves booked in a category 1A stateroom on the Sky Deck (Deck 9). I particularly like having a cabin at the aft of a ship. Usually there are deeper balconies. Also it is very romantic when you are sailing with the wake glistening in the moonlight. Celebrity also used floodlights to illuminate the wake each night.
I did manage to see in a number of the staterooms and they are all well proportioned. They are well appointed with shampoo and lotion dispensers in all the bathrooms. Each of the staterooms features a mirrored wall, which gives the impression of greater space. It is also at the end of the bed, which provides depth when you are in bed. Honeymoon couples may feel uncomfortable, or maybe not, as the case may be.
The stateroom attendants were very accommodating to our needs. When we arrived we asked for covers for the balcony lounge chairs. They were delivered promptly. We even required an extension cable for some electrical medical equipment. That presented no problem.
All stateroom attendants respond to requests immediately and with great friendliness. They are equipped with mobile phones, and when you call them from your room, they are there immediately.
4. The Dining Rooms and Eating Areas
The main dining room, The Trellis Restaurant, is a visual delight on two levels at the aft of the ship, with full-length windows, again looking over the froth made by the wake. The restaurant crew is staffed from Central America and Europe. This is the first time I have cruised and actually been totally impressed by the service provided by the assistant maitre d'. Luis, from Portugal, cared for his staff and his passengers alike. He even let our table celebrate our waiter's birthday with him. Our waiter, Juan Solis, who left the ship at the same time we did, was outstanding.
The specialty restaurant, SS United States, is very pleasing in appearance and echoes the design and style of cruise line travel in the hey-day of high-speed Trans-Atlantic crossings. The kitchen is visible through a glass window and it is fascinating to watch the calm and smooth preparation of dinner by expert chefs.
The buffet style restaurant, the Oceanview Cafe, on the 10th deck was very popular. The stunning feature up here is the series of glass windows in the floors on the bay windowed sections that enable you to look down over the ocean and the lifeboats below. That is a very different sensation. Maybe this is not for the faint hearted.
An alternative style dining facility is set up in the evening for those passengers who want something a little less formal in the evening. This is an option we never tried out as we enjoyed being with our table of 8 each evening in the Trellis Restaurant. We were a diverse group of 4 couples, with very different backgrounds and lifestyles and developed a strong bond throughout the voyage. In fact we did many things together, both on the ship and ashore. I am amazed at how Celebrity managed to match us so well. Many other tables reported a similar successful partnering.
Great light fare is served in the Spa area. This is a place well worth visiting during the day either for a breakfast or a lunch. When you are on board for 14 days it is a welcome change to experience some food that is of high quality and light on the stomach. The fresh salmon was to die for.
5. The food and wine
Celebrity is renowned for its food. The Infinity is no exception within the fleet. The menus designed by Michel Roux, are delightful. The presentation is exceptional. I have dined at the 3 star Michelin Guide Waterside Restaurant in Bray, which is west of London, England. That is Michel's home base. The food in the specialty SS United States Restaurant on board matches The Waterside in both service and quality of food. It is "a must" to try at least on one evening. Some people complained about the additional $25 service charge, and never dined there. They missed a real treat. This is what cruise food and service used to be like in the glorious past of transatlantic travel 50 to 100 years ago. Try the goat cheese souffle, and the sampler desert. The cheese board matches what you would experience in continental Europe. The wine is served with knowledge, and great care, by the sommelier.
While this restaurant eclipses everything else on board, the food served in the main dining room, The Trellis Restaurant, is fabulous. We never experienced a bad meal. Every beef dish was tender and cooked to perfection. Everyone talked of the horseradish sauce as it has a fiery kick. Wonderful! The special farewell gala dinner is always looked forward to by many passengers for the serving of lobster, and the parade flaming Baked Alaska desserts held aloft by the waiters, with the assistant waiters waving napkins in the air. There was a great level of fun and camaraderie between crew and passengers.
The food in the buffet area had a themed section each day, including, Thai, Italian, Indian, Chinese, etc. That was very popular among the passengers. The flavors are tempered to meet the palate of the predominately American passengers.
There were only a couple occasions throughout the voyage when formal afternoon tea was served in the Trellis restaurant. That was a pity that it was only on a couple of occasions. However, it was always served in the buffet area, The Oceanview Cafe, between 4.00pm and 5.00pm. The dainty sandwiches were always welcome, to keep us going for the late seating dinner.
The Cova Cafe, on deck 5, served pasties and gateaux to die for every afternoon. Indulge yourself to this free delight. The specialty coffee is served for an extra small charge in this cafe.
For the person who likes snacking on fast food, pizza and burgers were always available every day. While I do not cruise to experience this type of food, I know many people crave for the familiar daily staple from home. OK, I will confess, I did try the pizza one afternoon, and it was very tasty.
There of course is the ice cream and frozen yogurt bars that are open each day at no charge. Some cruiselines charge for this feature. Celebrity wisely and thankfully does not make any charge. Nice treats to indulge the sweet tooth.
6. Soda Card
There is always a great debate on the Cruise Critic Boards about the price of drinks and alcohol on board this ship and every other one. Celebrity has introduced a Soda Card which enables the bearer to have unlimited sodas and soda water every day for the entire voyage. The charge is $4.50 per day, and is well worth the expense. Very quickly you are recognized as a cardholder and you do not have to even ask what you want to drink it is just served!
The ship usually holds any duty free alcohol brought on board until the last day when it is delivered to your stateroom.
7. The Entertainment
The production shows are among the best at sea. A new one was "premiered" during this voyage. Over the two-week there were 4 "big west-end style" production shows. The costume changes were constant, and the action was tireless. The stage facilities are fully used. The stage was risen and lowered in sections. It also has a revolving feature. Every night, as with most cruise lines in this class, entertainers appeared on stage. They are chosen to cater for all tastes. The mix of acts was well chosen, but is not the same from one voyage to the next. A couple of acts were not to my liking. What I liked was less popular with others. However, overall, the entertainment was great.
The weak link was the Cruise Director. He never allowed his personality to shine through. I always believe this is one of the most important people on board. He has two roles to play. The first is the management and administration associated with ensuring all entertainment is planned and staffed. That Mr. Fluke did well. The second is to be the "party host". He does not come across as having the personality for this, and as a result, I think the Cruise line has lost a little of the sparkle it could have.
The Theater is one of the finest afloat. It is a very pleasing design, with the often-reported dancing flames in the walls. It is large enough to cater for the needs of the passengers. I never saw it crammed to capacity. Overall it is very comfortable. Waiters are always at hand to serve drinks.
There is also a compact cinema showing recently run films. My Big Fat Greek Wedding kept being rerun as passengers went to get second doses of this piece of froth. Maybe the fact that the Staff on board is Greek, including the captain, encouraged this film being shown as often as it did.
Napkin folding, cards, cookery demonstrations, shuffleboard, trivia quizzes, karaoke and all the usual cruise activities were listed in abundance. There were a couple of speakers on board who gave educational lectures on ports of call and self-improvement. This is a welcome change from the inevitable shopping lectures.
8. The Facilities
The Infinity certainly has many public areas, enough to meet the needs of any traveler. The lounges are all large with comfortable seating and plenty of tables. The 3 main lounges are the Rendezvous, Champagne and Constellation. Each of these has one or more bars. The Rendezvous Lounge has a Martini Bar and has a dance floor that was popular before and after dinner where the Black and White Duo can be heard on most evenings. The Constellation Lounge features glass all the way around and is on the 11th deck. It is forward and sited immediately under the ship's bridge. As a result, it serves as a great sightseeing location. Constellation is used for the Captains cocktail parties as well as a regular Disco in the evenings.
Other inside lounge areas include the Words, Notes, the Conservatory, Computer Lab, Cova Cafe, Deck 4 Game tables and of course the Casino. Words is the library which boasts an adequate number of books. Notes is a sadly underused music library. It has a selection for everyone, and is comfortably situated next to the Constellation Lounge. The computer lab has a number of computers but the price is a little high. For the use of any application you have to pay $.50 (fifty cent) per minute. Of course, Internet access is available for the same price, so for those that cannot get away for the entire cruise, you can get access. We were told the speed of the connection varied anywhere from 44K to 115K. You can buy access in your stateroom for the duration of the voyage. That is one of the great advances to meet the needs of the modern world. Personally, I am only too delighted to escape Internet access when I am on vacation, so we did not make any attempt to use this facility.
Outside Infinity of course has a pool desk. The pool deck on Infinity is quite large and offers pools and hot tubs and has a large amount of deck chairs. There are also lounge chairs on Deck 11 and Deck 5. In addition to the outside Deck chairs, there are covered areas in the Spa for lounge chairs. This was a very popular spot each day.
As mentioned earlier, Infinity has two theatres. The Celebrity Theatre is where the onboard entertainment performs. This is a terrific theater. There is also the Cinema that plays recent movies. Both rooms have very good seating; however, the Cinema can fill up quickly if the movie of the day is popular (ie My Big Fat Greek Wedding).
The infinity boasts one of the largest shopping areas at sea. The Emporium is a great magnet to passengers when the ship is at sea. Special offers change most days and include the ever popular "Inch of Gold", loose gems stones, t-shirts, $10 watches, and so on. The buying frenzy never seemed to wane.
Next door is the Art Gallery, with its dedicated auction area. This always generated loads of interest, and I will confess that we both fell for its lure, and had great fun buying a number of great pieces of art at good discount prices based to that charged by galleries on land. Jennifer, the auctioneer, had arrived on board the same time as we did. She added great sparkle to the auctions. Fun was had by all.
9. The Ports of Call and Organized Tours
This Cruise did not have many ports of call for the 14 night itinerary. This was great for us. We visited Aruba, Panama Canal, Panama City, Costa Rica, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. The ship departed from Ft. Lauderdale and sailed to San Diego.
Aruba is a desert island just North of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. The official language of Aruba is Dutch but most of the residents speak English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento. Papiamento is a native language that combines words from all the above plus German and French. The Island enjoys a prevailing wind out of the Northwest therefore the western side of the Island has very call seas while the North and Eastern side of the Island has rougher seas. The island is very small measuring only 19 miles by 6 miles, with a resident population under 100K. There are a few things to see on the Island including the Eastern Shore with the pounding surf, the butterfly farm and the Natural Bridge. Golfers will also find a "desert" course in Aruba. For those that play or watch golf, the course looks a lot like the Legends course in Arizona. Of course there are water activities available such as fishing, snorkeling and diving. Like most Caribbean ports of call, shopping is a popular attraction. Aruba has nice shops with competitive prices.
One of the most amazing engineering achievements of the 20th century, the Panama Canal is an amazing sight. Knowing the history of the canal certainly adds to the 9 hour voyage from the Caribbean to the Pacific. I would suggest reading the book "A Path Between the Seas" by David McCullough for a terrific history of the canal. Of course, there will likely be a lecture on board the ship the day before you transit. During our Transit, someone from the Panama Canal Zone, boarded the ship and gave commentary as we made the voyage.
The Infinity Anchored just off Fort Amador for a few hours after the Panama Canal transit. Those who wanted were able to do a quick tour to Panama City. Organized tours were offered via coach while other did a Taxi tour on their own. The ship offered tenders to go ashore where there were a multitude of shops within 500 feet of where the tender let us off. The "government" official at the pier who personally greeted each passenger with a handshake as they arrived particularly impressed me.
The Infinity actually docked in Caldera rather than Puntarenas. We were never told why this occurred, but we do know there was another ship already docked in Puntarenas. Both Puntarenas and Caldera are quite a long distance from any area for tours. There are a number of tours offered in Costa Rica and all of them require at least 3 hours of transportation. For the Volcano tour, you'll be traveling for 8 hours. We actually took the Volcano tour and did get to see a lot of the countryside including terrific vistas of San Jose and neighboring cities. We also saw the numerous coffee plantations found below 5000' elevation. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the Poas Volcano, the clouds came and we did not see much more than.. Clouds. Our tour guide informed us that only 10% of all the visitors to the Volcano actually are lucky enough to see the crater. Oh well, some you win.... We got great pictures by visiting www.webshots.com and so have seen where we were! As part of the Volcano tour we also received lunch at a local "restaurant". The facility was very nice and offered an impressive buffet lunch along with a fair sized area with nice arts and crafts and other knickknacks popular with tourists. The last stop on the tour was the town of Sarchi which is the town famous for it's colorful painted Ox carts. The town offers some decent shopping for tourists and plenty of photo opportunities. There were other tours available including river rafting, San Jose City tour and Horseback riding.
Tourists are definitely targeted in Acapulco. The minute you leave the cruise ship terminal, there are people trying to sell to you. Most of the people try to sell fake silver. It can be quite fun bargaining but you'll need to be careful. Never pay more than $10 for any of these items, event though staring prices can be as high as $50. Many bracelets can be purchased for $1 to $2. Do not be fooled. Unfortunately many passengers were. Of course, there are shopping tours and tours to see the cliff divers as well as other highlights of the city. Shopping in the flea markets is only a short walk from the pier but be cautious. Never pay the price suggested by the vendor. You can at least get it for half. If you buy a number of items make it a package deal. Start low and be prepared to walk away if you don't like the price. There are good bargains in Acapulco; however, you have to look for them. While we were there, we took a boat tour with locals for $6/person. That boat left from a pier next to the Cruise Terminal. There was plenty of room available and it was a great buy. The tour was about 3 hours and included a stop at an island for swimming. It was quite hokey but lots of fun.
Cabo San Lucas
The ship could not dock at Cabo so we had to use tenders to go to shore. The tender ride was approximately 15 minutes and was relatively smooth. There is a lot of shopping in Cabo San Lucas but the prices are not as competitive as Acapulco. This is certainly a more "touristy" town and they are looking to make some money. Cabo is a bit more upscale than Acapulco, and is idyllic. There is a shopping are where the tender drops you off. There prices are a bit high and they do not negotiate as much as in Acapulco. Like Acapulco, there are kids selling stuff on the streets. There are not as many as in Acapulco, but they are present. A short walk from the docks, you can find the town where there are a number of hotels and shops. You can also find some bars and eateries in this area. This is a beach resort with not real tourist sights. Make use of the seaside fun. We did some parasailing in the bay, flying high above the infinity. This is not for the faint hearted
10 Cruise Critics Party
In October 2002, Celebrity and RCL introduced Cruise Critic Parties (you can enroll directly from the cruise line web page). We enrolled for one on this cruise and ended up having 32 sign up. This passed the magic 25 required to ensure the ship hosted the party. Celebrity sent me 2 emails confirming the arrangements and saying that we would be told the time and location of the party on the night we arrived on board. Two nights went by and there was no word. So I decided to ask at the Guest Relations desk. I was told that "Head Office" had informed them there was not the required minimum number, and that the party was not to be held.
I spoke with the Social Hostess, the delightful and helpful Annali, as well as the Hotel Manager. After a couple of emails they sorted the misunderstanding up and the party was held on the 4th day. It was a simple event, with coffee and pastries. Annali attended, and I publicly thanked her on behalf of the group. The gathering lasted for about 90 minutes and afterwards we kept bumping into and chatting with the others throughout the remainder of the cruise.
We also kept meeting the Social Hostess throughout the rest of the voyage and she was most helpful to us for many other things. She is a great ambassador for the company. If you have any problems and she is still on board, have a chat with her.
10. The Spa
The Spa on Infinity is fantastic. The spa offers the usual services for Hair, Facial, Massage and alternative therapies like Aroma, Stone and Light. The spa also has a wonderful gym with new equipment as well as an aerobics floor. There is an indoor pool, hot tub and saunas available as well. The sauna has an observation window looking out to sea. This is a novel feature. Socially, this was a good way to meet others. You can also find light meals in the spa area. Breakfast and Lunch are available most days. Another nice feature of the spa is the covered lounge chairs. These were very popular among passengers.
11. The Parties
There were a number of parties aboard during our 14 days. Some of the parties were private parties like the Captain's Club Cocktail party while others were public parties. The larger private parties were held in the Constellation Lounge on the 11th deck. The public parties were usually held out by the pool although the 50'/60's sock-hop was in the Constellation Lounge. The private parties were generally cocktail parties where alcohol and canapes and gourmet bites were offered. The public parties were theme parties held by the pool. These events usually coincided with a midnight buffet that shared the theme. For island night, where everyone was wearing silly "Island" shirts, the food was "Island" food. There was also a Tex-Mex night where the food was Mexican and BBQ. The ship band Xtasea handled the entertainment for all the parties.
12. The medical facility
This is something neither of us had to use. It is based on Deck 2. We did know of a number of our fellow passengers who made visits to the nurse because of minor ailments. They all spoke highly of the service. Unfortunately a couple of crew and passengers had to be taken off the ship. The evening after we left Cabo san Lucas, a passenger became gravely ill and was airlifted off the ship by the US coast guard helicopter the following morning. The service is good. That is important as with a ship carrying 2,000 passengers plus crew, these events do happen from time to time.
This was a terrific cruise. Everyone on board had lots of fun. There was plenty of time to unwind from the daily grind. There were an abundant number of days as sea, which is to our liking. The ports of call were fun. The Infinity is a beautiful ship and Celebrity provides a great product. The cruise life lives up to it's billing. The service was wonderful. The food was outstanding, especially in the SS United States. The people on board, both the passengers and crew were a delight.
The photography studio crew provides memories through the many hundreds of pictures that they take of passengers throughout the voyage. The one feature that was a little unusual was the fact that a video was taken throughout the cruise, featuring the passengers and the events. It was premiered on the last night and was available for sale. A nice memory to take home for many.
When is the next cruise?
I do not want to be unkind to other cruiselines, in mentioning them by name. I can say that Celebrity outshines all the mid range lines. Their advertising campaign lives up to the reality. If in doubt book a cruise on the Infinity.
Just returned from the inside passage cruise and second with Celebrity. An enjoyable cruise with some negatives.
Embarkation - Arrived at the pier at about Noon but took about an hour to board as we had to wait for US Customs to arrive to clear passengers.
Food - Still better than RCCL but the gap is closing fast, good but a definate decline from a few years ago when aboard the Galaxy. Never had breakfast or lunch in the Trellis restaurant but utilized the Grill which was excellent. Dinner entrees were good most nights but were disappointing on a couple evenings. Grant Buffet is excellent if you can wait until 12:15 am to dine on Wednesdays.
Service - Good for both cabin steward and for our waiter. The assistant waiter was sometimes not to be found and the waiter had to cover some of his chores like pouring more water, ice tea, etc.
Entertainment - Verygood. Dancers and singers performed well on their three nights. Dominique Ava is a tremendous violinist and not to be missed. Her juggler/comedian husband is so-so. Don't expect much activity after 10:00 pm. Ports and Tours - Recommendthe Orca Enterprises Whale Watching Tour in Juneau with Captain Larry. We saw a pod of humpback whales feeding and a breeching by a baby whale during the tour. The White Pass train ride in Skagway is not to be missed as well as the Yukon Gold Rush tour there. Ketchikan is great for buying all the souvenirs you need to come home with. Hubbard Glaciers on Tuesday was tremendous as we got as close as three miles to the glacier.
Misc. - We had to tender in Ketchikan in the morning but the ship was able to dock later at 3:00 pm. Avoid buying the VIP booklet - not worth it! Debarkation - The worse ever after 11 cruises! After our color/number code was called we had to wait about 45 minutes to board a bus to the airport. Once there we had about another hr. wait to the ticket agent. The U.S. Customs wait is short but then the good part - you have to pay another $14 for terminal improvements before they allow you to proceed thru the security check. From the time we were called at about 9:15 am, it took until almost 1:00 pm to get to our gate.
Still a nice cruise with some problems noted above.
My husband & I (and 7 other friends) have just returned from our Alaska cruise on Infinity. We had a fabulous time! The cruise ship is lovely and very comfortable. We had a cabin with veranda. It had lots of storage space & was very well laid-out. Having the veranda greatly enhanced our cruise experience, and I would highly recommend getting one.
We had great weather for the first part of the trip; the weather was sunny and in the 70s. Our Juneau excursion was the whale watch cruise & lunch at Orca Lodge; we highly recommend this one. We saw humpbacks and orcas -- the orcas came right up to the ship! Even those who are camera-impaired got great pictures. Lunch at Orca Lodge was delicious; even those who don't eat salmon became converts. The crew on the boat was very knowledgable and very accommodating.
In addition to the whales, we saw harbor seals, eagles, porpoises, and Stellar sea lions. Our Juneau excursion was the train ride and bus excursion (train ride up and bus ride back). The bus takes you to a pseudo gold mining camp where there is avery entertaining show, and you can pan for gold. Great fun!.
In addition to our regular dinners, we also ate at the SS United States on our last night aboard. If you can afford this, do it. The food is wonderful, the ambiance superb, and the wait staff very entertaining. Our only complaint is the $15 corkage fee for bringing your own bottle of wine; we feel this is way too high for what is essentially a simple service.
My wife and I live in Toronto, Canada are both in our 50?s and this cruise was on Celebrity?s Infinity. Our first cruise was last March on the Ocean Princess and we were very impressed and thrilled with that first cruise experience. It is only natural that we would compare the two cruise experiences and many comments in this review are as a result of what we had come to expect as a result of the Princess cruise last March. For those interested, there is a thorough review posted from last year?s Ocean Princess cruise that we posted on this site (see March 2001, Ocean Princess, Michael & Frances). We are big fans of good food and wine and deliberately chose Celebrity in order to vary our cruise experience The reason we chose Celebrity was that we were told that it was ?a notch up? from Princess, especially with regards to food.
The Infinity is a stunning ship. The fit and finish and quality of materials, colours, art work, are all enough to make you walk around in awe for the first couple of days of the cruise. Unfortunately we werevery, very disappointed in the quality and availability of food on the Infinity. The ports of call on the southern Caribbean cruise are all very interesting although we did hear a few complaints about St. Croix from some other passengers. We will follow with a lot of details, but in comparison of the two cruises we have experienced, we would give the Ocean Princess cruise 95 out of 100, whereas we would give the Infinity cruise 79 or 80 out of 100. A noticeable difference in score to be sure.
FOOD & SERVICE
There was a huge difference in the quality and availability of food between Infinity and Ocean Princess. For starters, the ?welcome aboard buffet? ended on the Infinity at about 4 pm on the Saturday, and seeing as how we, along with hundreds of others, arrived after this time, it was not much of a welcome. The dinner that evening was open seating, and we joined a table of ten and made some great friends right away. I ordered prime rib that night, as did the fellow next to me, and we were shocked to find that it looked like it had been cut thin on a delicatessen slicer. We ate that plate of prime rib, and both of us promptly asked for another. The two thin pieces of prime rib made up what one would normally expect a prime rib to be. Horseradish for the prime rib did not ever arrive, even when requested. At the same meal the assistant waiter performed the interesting trick of pouring my wife a decaf coffee as requested, and then pouring me a regular coffee magically from the same pot.....some sort of special lever device I presume?
Be warned that salads were a general disaster on Infinity. Night after night, the salads appeared to be like rabbit food. Tiny pieces of lettuce, all chopped up into slivers...not a decent piece to be found. Caesar salad was offered one night, so that was a change. Soups were somewhat interesting, but another difference is that Celebrity considers a bisque to be tomato bisque, whereas Princess considers bisque to be shrimp bisque. Again, perhaps minor, but quite indicative to us.
On the night that the baked Alaska was served, the menu noted at least five desserts other than the baked Alaska. But when it came time for dessert, our waiter quickly informed us that the baked Alaska was the only choice that night and promptly served it to everyone. The menu also noted a cheese course each evening but this was never offered. I did inquire about it one night to our waiter and he quickly told me that it was ?a brie, a cheddar and something else? and he seemed quite surprised when we said we would have a plate or cheese. It arrived with three tiny pieces of cheese buried under a mound of grapes and crackers. Hide and seek for the cheese please.
The hours of availability of the food was another major issue for us. On the Ocean Princess the Horizon Court buffet was open 24 hours a day (the size and selection of course varied with the time of day or night) whereas on the Infinity you had to carefully plan your hours to eat at their buffet. It was ridiculous the number of times that the Oceanview Grille was closed. ?Closed ? was achieved by pulling down the white ?window shades? in front of all of the food. People could be spotted reaching behind the curtains to get a snack. If you went off board and came back on at about 3 pm for lunch you were practically out of luck. Besides the crazy hours at the Oceanview Grille, the burger grille at the pool only operated from 12 until 2 pm. Rather limited I would say. On the Ocean Princess this BBQ grille would operate from 11 am until 5 pm. The Ocean Princess was much more user friendly when it came to choosing what time you wanted to eat. The Infinity seemed to rely on the fact that you could almost always get a slice of pizza by the pool. Well isn?t that just great....a slice of pizza on a cruise ship line famous for fine food. It should be noted though that room service was available 24 hours a day from a fairly diverse menu, if you are so inclined to eat in your cabin.
There is a very nice place mid ships called the Cova Cafe to have specialty coffees, teas, etc. They offer pastries during certain limited hours at the Cova Cafe with your coffee, but when we were there we were told the pastries started one hour later. If you want to run the Cova Cafe and offer specialty coffees (that you pay for) then why can they not offer the pastries no matter what time you wish to enjoy your cappuccino?
One day in the whirlpool we were chatting to a passenger from New York State, who had been on the Millennium last year and was so thrilled, he booked this cruise on the Infinity. Well, he was not a happy fellow as he could not believe the difference in the food quality from last year to this year. We were glad to know that we were not misjudging all that was going on.
The exception to the rule was the absolutely fabulous SS United States specialty restaurant. But to experience this kind of service, you had to pay an additional $25/person, but I would suggest that it is well worth it if you really enjoy being pampered in a wonderful setting, all the while enjoying a limited but expertly prepared menu. Be sure to try the goat cheese souffle as an appetizer. If you like lamb, the lamb is also fabulous. The cheese course is another highlight of this dining experience, as each cheese on the trolley is described in detail by a very knowledgeable server. Wine service, general service, and attention to detail is the signature of this restaurant. The wine list is more extensive in this restaurant than the main restaurant, and the wine prices vary widely so that you can find a wine in the price range that you are comfortable with. Each course also has a suggested matching wine, all available by the glass or bottle. Dinner in SS United States takes about three enjoyable hours. This restaurant also offers some interesting salads, which are glaringly absent from the main dining room as previously noted. Tip: If you choose to make a reservation to the SS United States you should do it immediately upon getting on board as the reservations fill up quickly. The day of choice seems to be the day at sea, and those reservations go fast. You can phone directly from your cabin.
Another highlight was the gala midnight buffet on the Thursday night. It was an extraordinary exhibition of food art. They set it up and allow only photos for about 30 minutes before it is OK to start devouring it. It is complete with wonderful ice sculptures. Our only regret was that we were not very hungry as we were second dinner seating.
Note: You can take your own wine to the dining room and there will be a $6 per bottle corkage fee that you sign for. So if you feel like taking some good wine on board from home I think that it is worth doing. We took two good bottles with us from home. You can take the wines in advance to the dining room, or simply stroll in with them yourself at dinner time. We did the latter.
The cabins are wonderful. I think that all of the cruise lines have had so much experience at using every available square inch of space, that they have it almost perfected on all newer ships. Every nook and cranny is used for cabinets, storage etc. Be sure to open all doors. Once you have unpacked and got organized, everything is great. Our cabin steward and his assistant were very pleasant and took very good care of us...although all we every really asked for was an extra pillow. Our cabin was kept spotless, and the towels were changed a couple of times a day. The stewards seem to magically know when you are away from the cabin and quickly get their work done. They always greeted us with a pleasant smile and kind word.
As mentioned above the ship is stunningly beautiful. Every square inch,(except for Notes, the CD listening area, which is poorly done, almost like an afterthought) is exceptional. The details, materials, comfort, decor, etc. are all outstanding. Be sure to visit all all of the areas, and even if you do not smoke be sure to visit Michael?s Club, the cigar lounge, during the day. It is one of the most comfortable areas on the ship, and is a great spot for a quiet sit down during the day. You can enter it during the day via the sliding door beside the bar area of Michael?s Club. Be sure to allocate some time for lounging around the Aqua Spa. You will likely love the Thalassotherapy Pool. The lounge chairs on the ship are also wonderful.
The main dining room, The Trellis Restaurant, is beautiful. It is two stories tall, with a centre atrium and is situated at the stern of the ship, with big windows looking out to the ocean. This dining room is much nicer that on the Ocean Princess because it feels much more open and spacious, whereas on the Ocean Princess the main dining rooms are separated onto two floors, one storey high each. The Princess dining rooms feel a bit confining with their relatively low ceilings.
The casino is standard with the normal amount of glitz and noise, but what else is new? We found the slots to be pretty tight, but did hear of one guy winning $20,000 at black jack one evening. One can only think that if he was playing to that level that he might have lost about as much on another night.
We found the Promenade Deck to clearly not be a Promenade Deck. You could walk towards the bow and be dead-ended, and turn and walk to the stern, and again be dead-ended. On the Ocean Princess you can walk full circle on a beautiful wooden deck, but not on the Infinity. On the Infinity it is only good for a short walk.
The entertainment in the Celebrity Theatre is fabulous. Celebrity must have some of the best performers, especially the singers and dancers, at sea. We only missed one show (the night we went to the SS United States), but all of the ones we saw were wonderful. Try not to miss any of the shows.
If you ask at the Guest Relations desk, you can sign up for a Galley Tour, which we did. It only takes about 30 minutes andt is quite interesting. Try to take a later tour, i.e. about 4:30 as at that time they are getting organized for the first seating of dinner.
PORTS OF CALL
We have an expression that we adopted after our first cruise....?the ship is the main course, the ports of call are the appetizers?. For the Caribbean we put more emphasis on the ship and less on the ports. Our port experiences were as follows.
St. Croix: We were picked up by a friend who lives there and he showed us around the island.
Barbados: Took a ship?s tour to Harrison Caves and the floral gardens. A very nice tour and one we would recommend.
St. Lucia: Took a short tour and then went Reduit Beach. We shared a very reasonably priced taxi/tour with four other people from the Infinity who were looking to do the same thing as us. We all just met and got organized at the taxi stand outside the ship.
Antigua: We wanted a day of rest so just walked around St. John?s and went back on board and treated it like a day at sea.
St. Thomas: We went to Coral World on our own and really enjoyed it. If you like fish, stingrays, etc., you will enjoy Coral World. There is a beach next to it where you can swim and snorkel called Coki Beach, but I would not recommend going to Coki Beach unless you are going to Coral World as there are better beaches on the island. If you want to get off of St. Thomas, be sure to head to St. Johns. We went there last year and it was fabulous. We would have gone again, but as we said before, we like to try different things.
It was a great week on a great ship. How could you not enjoy leaving the cold weather and getting on a wonderful ship, cruising to Caribbean ports, meeting interesting people, and having a great time. The purpose of these reviews on CruiseMates in our opinion, is to inform, compare and share. Even though our cruising experiences are limited to two, it is only logical to evaluate the two cruises one against the other. It actually cost us a bit more to go on the Infinity, but all else being relatively equal, Celebrity?s Infinity failed miserably to match the Ocean Princess in food quality and food availability.
This is not to say that we would never sail Celebrity again, because that would be too harsh a statement, but given equal opportunities, there is absolutely not doubt that we will return to Princess.
Keep those reviews coming everyone, so that we can continue to learn from your cruising experiences. Enjoy!!!!!!!!!
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.
There were six of us traveling as a group on the Infinity's west to east trans-canal 14 day trip. We are all in our 60's and have several dozen cruises on a wide variety of lines under our belts. My wife and I have dined in a number of Guide Michelin restaurants in Europe and the son of one of the other couples is CIA trained and a chef in one of Florida's finest restaurants.
The best part of the trip was the canal. The best part of the ship is the cabins and the cabin staff. We had no problems with anything in the cabin. We were all in balcony cabins on deck seven. The cabin was as fully equipped as one could ask for and the cabin attendants for each of our three cabins (different attendants) not only kept the cabins spotless, but were unobtrusive, yet available. The system of having them available by pushing a single button on the phone is a good one. The rest of the ship was also kept clean and in good order. The worst spot ever found was some finger marks ona glass barrier in the show room and they were gone by the next show.
The areas of disappointment for us all were service and food. The line puts out a great deal of publicity about the menu and the food preparation being under the ultimate supervision of a Michelin three star chef, but the experience we had left us with no desire to visit this chef's restaurant in London. For example, my wife likes fish. More than half of the fish dishes she ordered at dinner arrived overcooked and very dry. One of our friends in the alternate dining room ordered a steak, medium rare, one night. The first time it arrived it was well done, the second one arrived almost raw and the third one arrived almost well done again as the first. She gave up. The overall menu is also what I think of as pseudo sophisticated. Every and I mean every dinner has a choice of A) a white fish fillet, B) pasta, C) chicken, D) steak, E) alternative meat (lamb, turkey, veal). They all (even the pasta most nights) came with the same vegetables and everyone had a sauce which never varied from bland. The only change seemed to be the name of the dish, usually something French. We did not try the United States special dining room as we looked over the menu one afternoon and found it to be of the same pseudo sophisticated nature as the served in the Trellis dining room. We all have enough experience of what constitutes good service not to go there just for that.
On one of the rear walls at the fifth floor entrance to the Trellis dining room a menu from the SS United States (ca. 1955) is posted. If you read this menu you very quickly appreciate the difference between what is truly first class and what is offered to the passengers of the Infinity.
Our other problem was service. I admit to being eccentric, but like to finish off dinner with a glass of low fat milk on the rocks. It took four days before the waiters learned that low fat milk was available and on the thirteenth day of the cruise the assistant waiter still had to be asked to bring me the milk at the end of the meal. Other examples, in the alternative restaurant, two of us had pasta for dinner and one of us had to go and find the grated cheese as a waiter never showed up to offer it to us. The wait staff constantly removed plates from one or more persons while the others at the table were still eating. One morning in the Trellis restaurant for breakfast, I sat for almost an hour while the waiter assigned to offer pastries past me by continually. He offered other people at the table I was sitting at pastries, but not once in the hour did he ask if I was interested. Most of the wait staff seemed to be on their first of second cruise and they had large gaps in their knowledge of what was available and in what constituted good service. On the plus side, everyone was generally friendly and when asked to go something responded positively.
One of the other couple had taken the Infinity on a Hawaiian cruise last year and it was on their recommendation that we were on board. They were very upset at the deterioration in standards from their first experience.
The entertainment was about average for the industry these days, with the exception of one comedian who unfortunately was unable to get any laughs.
Overall - The downs were a disappointment, but not enough to ruin the cruise. We have decided however that for future cruises we will stick to smaller ships. The cruise director, who was less visible than any other cruise director I have ever seen, (he claimed to have been on 19 ships in 10 years, maybe a coincidence, maybe not) told us that there were almost 2,100 people on board. Listed capacity is 1950. They generally did a good job of hiding the fact that there are a lot of people on board, but it was still to many for us.
SHIP Celebrity Infinity is the third Milli class ship, following Summit and I can understand why they kept this class of ship, great ship for cruising in Alaska, plenty of windows and glass throughout. There was a slight problem with the embarkment process, seems the computers were down, so it really didn't help getting to the pier in Vancouver early, we still had to sit and wait for an hour before they could start. Once they did start, it did go rather quickly, it also helped us by having all the information filled out on-line, something relatively new for Celebrity, staff at the pier said they have just started seeing some of these forms coming in all filled in. Not that this is another push for passports, but seems everywhere you went someone was asking to see your passport and its so easy to just flip it open and show it and you are on your way.
GTS (gas turbine system) Infinity is 91,000 tons of pure luxury. At first I didn't care for the outside look of the ship, but as the week went by, I actually changed my mind,you certainly can't tell what it looks like inside compared to the outside, but it did grow on me and I now find the outside equally as appealing.
The ship is very well laid out and easily to navigate seemed to have plenty of elevators and stairs, at times some of the elevators were busy and we just took the stairs. The Trellis dinning room is on both deck 4 and 5 with lounges on both floors before the dinning room, so if you had to wait or got to dinner early, very easy to sit and have a pre-dinner cocktail. The ship's stores "The Emporium" is on deck 5 while the casino "Fortunes" is on deck 4 along with "Michaels Club". You will find the shore excursion desk and quest relations on deck 3 with the Bank as well. All these places were well put together and easy to find. The very top deck, 12 is the sports deck. I also liked how they had the public areas on deck 11, the pool deck, oceanview café and the aqua spa. I absolutely loved relaxing in the aqua spa, almost as good as a massage, what a way to spend a few hours. I would have liked to see the hours extended though and on our last "sea" day I noticed that the hot tubs inside were closed. They did still have the out-door tubs open, but I was not that brave, while others were, the sun was out, but the breeze was still on the cool side. It was still nice enough to wear shorts and read out on the pool deck, something I missed while being in Alaska compared to cruising in the Caribbean. Of course the saving of deck chairs was not an issue on this cruise either and it looked like there was enough deck space by the pools to be able to get a chair in the warmer climate.
There is a small cinema on deck 3, almost too small. One evening we went down to catch a movie and there was not a seat left, but did catch it the next day. The Celebrity theater was also very nice, not a bad seat in the house and all the way in the front on the same 2 floors as the Trellis restaurant, so easy to catch a show either before or after dinner. Seemed to be plenty of little lounges and a café for specialty coffee.
Cabin Our cabin (8053) was a balcony cabin on deck 8, nice location, almost midship and was able to use either of the elevators and stairs in the front or rear. Plenty of closet and drawer space and an average size balcony, something that is a MUST for an Alaska cruise! There is just too much you can miss by being on an inside cabin while cruising in Alaska. The day we were at Hubbard Glacier, it was sunny and not too cold, but a strong wind, so when the captain turned the ship around and our side of the ship was facing the glacier, what a nice warm place to sit and watch, listen and be amazed at this kind of nature, something that is really hard to explain. We were also fortunate to be there on a day when there was a LOT of glacier caving activity, almost non-stop. The cabin layout was opposite of what I like better, by having the bed closer to the sliding glass door and the couch and table when you walk in, but it was still OK. I did love the hairdryer in the bathroom and unlike the rest of the onboard hairdryers I've used this one has some major power, what a relief, just glad I did not lug my own. We had the typical refrigerator and safe in the closet, so that came in handy when bring back a 6 pack of beer onboard, which we had no problem bringing back, we did check first and they said it was OK. I did find the selection of TV channels to be lacking a bit, had the usual CNN, but that was about it other than a movie channel and also pay per view TV movies at $8.99 each, no thanks.
Service All the service both in the dinning room, buffet and cabin were all top notch, at times in the dinning room, service seems slow, but I think both the waiter and asst. waiter had quite a few table to attend to, so that could have been the reason for the delays. Our cabin attendant was great, always picked up cabin as soon as we left and was finished in a small amount of time. We also noticed that while eating in the buffet, instead of being able to help yourself, they served you the portions that you wanted, may-be slowed that area down a little, not sure, just something I have not seen while cruising until this Celebrity cruise.
Entertainment This area for Celebrity was not a strong point, plenty of singing and broadway type shows, almost too many, all good depending on the venue for that evening, some I loved, while others just didn't hit me. They did have a wonderful comedian and a good juggler and an opera type singer, that just didn't interest me, although he had a great voice, I was just not into that type of music and singing, but all in all, there was some kind of decent entertainment every evening. There was basically the one major show per evening, unlike Princess that may have a secondary show in another lounge later in the evening.
Ports of call Our first stop was Juneau and probably the worst day for weather, but still not a total wash. We pre-book a whale-watching excursion with Captain Larry, Orca, which was wonderful. He has 2 boats and that day he did have to use them both. Very informative and the most passengers that goes on one of his boats is 23, so you didn't have the huge crowd that some of the other tours do. We spend a few hours out with the whales and were also very lucky to see many of them and also some sea lions taking their afternoon snooze. I would definitely recommend him for this type of tour. After getting back from this excursion we did a walk through Juneau in the rain:-( Ended up taking shelter in the "Red Dog Saloon", nice rest stop and a good place to stop in for a beer before heading back onboard. by the time we finished in the saloon, the rain was almost finished.
Next stop was Skagway, where we did the first tour on the "White Pass Railroad". You practely stop off the ship and the train is right there by the pier, so we found a car and seats and set up on the trail up. I was very glad we did this excursion, it was the only time we actually got to see inside Alaska and this was awesome. The scenery through the pass was picture postcard pretty. We were able to stand outside our car, but not cross to the next and just smelling that clean fresh pine air, just couldn't get enough. Once you get to the top, they literally take the engine off the front and put it on the back, so the back on the trip up, is now the front on the trip down, there is just one single track, so they have to time these trip accordingly. The total time for this trip was 3-1/2 hours. Not sure what exactly does it, but me included, fell asleep on the way back, I've heard it does happen to a lot of passengers. They also have you change sides for the trip back down, so you can see the other side on the way back. We still had some more time to walk around Skagway and see their little town, more shopping here too.
Hubbard Glacier I think this was the highlight of this Alaska cruise for me. Words and pictures just can't completely describe this massive glacier. Want to also note, along the way there are a few smaller "hanging" glaciers, which in their own right are also impressive, but getting close to this glacier was totally amazing. When we first got there, I though OK, so this is a glacier and its known that pieces do break off, but when that started to happen on a regular basis, I was in for a show like I've never experienced before. Had no idea the sounds this could make and we were still a half-mile away. We had a naturalist onboard for this whole trip and she (Susan) was just full of wonderful knowledge along with the Cruise Director Michael Thomas. Whenever we had the slightest chance of seeing something, they would announce it and give us some valuable information, it was great!
Ketchikan We kind of left things up in the air at this stop, just were not sure about weather, this town averages 240 days of rain per year, so the chances of it being a rainy day were there, but we were in for a huge surprise, it was sunny, not a cloud in the sky. We had to first tender in here, so once we got to the pier, George wanted to see if he could get a fishing trip in, so after waiting for a few more to go, he was on his way. This was my time to get in the last of the shopping, managed to find the crystal totem pole I've been eyeing on the previous ports, but as luck would have it, everywhere I went they seemed to be sold out. I did find some store clerk to give me the name of 2 stores that could still have them, and I hit gold, found one and got it, made my day. Then I did find an Internet café and took an hour to catch up on e-mails etc. Out of all the ports Ketchikan had the most area of stores and a larger dock area. Once "Sun Princess" when on their way, we were able to take their spot on the pier, we didn't have to leave until 7:30PM that day, so we still had dock space for almost half the day.
We still had a "sea" day before returning to Vancouver, so it was a nice relaxing time to stroll around deck and see if we could spot any wild life, forgot to mention that we did see many bald eagles on the trip, they actually do look like white tennis balls sitting in the tops of trees, so I was very glad to see them. There was another spot on the way back where we were in some narrow waters and a good chance to see some "Orca" whales if they were in the main area, which they WERE, it was totally amazing to see these pods along the side of the shore. I would say a good hour we could spot them, so that was also amazing to me. To top that off, that evening at dinner, we saw quite a few schools of dolphins in the back of the ship, I was truly surprised to see so many, had not idea they went that far north, so that was a nice ending to a wonderful cruise. Originally we were assigned to late dinner and upon boarding, went to see if we could change to early, we were and were assigned a table by the back windows, so every evening if the sun wasn't shinning on us, we had great views, could not of had a better table.
I was so happy and very fortunate to be able to do this Cruisemates Alaska cruise, it could NOT of been any better, we had probably the best weather they've had all summer, the one thing I was always worried bout when traveling to Alaska. This being my first Celebrity cruise, I was totally surprised that I would like the ship and its amenities so much, can't wait to give another Celebrity ship a try.
I've also posted some pictures of this Alaska cruise in the Cruisemates Photo Gallery: http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=589 http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=591 http://www.cruise-forums.com/gallery/view.php?id=596
Donna Nye Tuesday Chat Host Cruisemates.com
Review: I am planning to write this review more about the Infinity and Celebrity cruises than the Alaskan Itinerary. Alaska's cruise season starts in May and ends in Sept. The weather is normally rainy, cold and over cast. We had sun and warm days on this trip but don't ever plan on that in Alaska. Me first cruise there 14 years ago in July was cold, rainy and overcast for 9 out of 10 days. This was my 27 cruise and number 12 for my partner and I together.
Booking: We booked our Premium outside, balcony cabin through a cruise wholesaler we found on CruiseMates. We paid a give away price of only $949.00 PP plus fees. We booked our own air from Philadelphia to Vancouver via Denver on United. The cost of $550.00 PP was an over $300.00 PP savings over Celebrity's air option.
Getting there: Our day of sailing flights left on time and we arrived in Vancouver ahead of schedule. The walk form the gate to the customs area is a long one. As we turned the corner to the customs area we was the lines. Twelve orso very long lines with lots of Asian families with children. It took well over an hour to make it to the head of the line as most of people in front of us did not speak English and only half the Custom gates were open. The long process was the only down side of the trip. Once we got to the Customs agent we were through in a flash. We found our waiting bags and headed for the exit. We pasted the line for the Celebrity bus but at $15 PP each way we took a taxi. They take credit cards so no need for Canadian money, just make sure you tell your driver that is how you are going to pay. The trip to the pier at Canada Place cost $30.00 Canadian with tip - about $21.00 US. The half hour drive from the airport to the pier gave us a chance to see some of Vancouver's beautiful Architecture. Our driver even stopped at a liquor store so we could buy some provision for cocktails in our cabin. Our bags were taken curbside at Canada Place not to been again until they reached our cabin. We were directed through security and into the terminal, this was a snap, no lines. Once inside the main terminal a women told us to take a seat with hundreds of other passenger and wait for our name to be called. When I told her we were past passengers and Captain Club members she walked us over to the next available agent and we were checked in and on the ship in less than 15 minutes from the time we left the taxi. I almost didn't join The Captain's Club, which cost $35 for two, once you have sailed with Celebrity. The Club offers many other benefits besides the express check in. There are free wine tasting, spa discount, cocktail parties, discount future cruise coupons, etc. Celebrity, like many other newer cruise ships has on plastic card that is you identification, room key and charge card all in one. You can put away your wallet on board. Not only were we on board quickly but so was our baggage.
The ship: WOW, where do I start? The Infinity in the second of Celebrity's Millennium class vessels. Her sisters are Millennium, Summit and Constellation. Their dark blue, white and yellow exterior colors along with the big X high above their eleven passenger decks sets them apart from most new builds of the other cruise lines. At 91,000 tons is one of the largest ships cruising Alaska. One never feels crowded on her and it is hard to believe that there are 1950 other people on board. We stepped on board we here lead to our cabin by one of the ever smiling staff, via a glass enclosed elevator over looking the sea. We marveled at the use of all the fine woods, marble, glass, brass, custom carpets, etc. Even after a year an a half she looked brand new and was spotlessly clean.
Cabins: Our cabin #8061 mid-ship on Panorama Deck, better know as deck eight (all the elevators have a voice announcing the deck number not name). Our Cat. 1B, 194 sq. foot plus balcony cabin was well appointed. Use of fine light woods, walls of mirror, soft colored fabrics gave the room a look of an elegant resort room on land. Queen size bed (convertible to twins), nightstands, built-in desk with drawers and storage cabins, large closes with lots of hangers and drawer space, safe, mini bar, hooks, sofabed, lounge chair, cocktail table all added up to a very nice cabin. The bathroom was compact but well laid out. Our private balcony had two chairs and a small table and the sliding doors were easy to open and provided a great view. Except for the fact that it was smaller with no butler service it was a pretty as our penthouse suite on the QE2. The use of material as throughout the ship was the finest. If you like the idea of butler service and larger suites there are many to choose from. The top priced suites a the largest I have ever seen on a ship. The Cat. 2 cabins are slightly smaller than our but equally as nice. Even the smaller standard outside and inside cabins were larger than on other ship. If I was cruising on the cheap, cheap, I would have booked one of the lower priced inside for $599.00 PP plus fees for out cruise. Our cabin would not have been too good with extra persons, as the sofsbed when open would not allow any room to move around. Our cabin attendant keep things in perfect order. He brought our morning coffee on time and even provided refills on request.
Public rooms: All the public room are beautiful starting with The Grand Foyer, a three-deck Atrium. It's highlight is an onyx staircase between decks three and four. The main business area on deck three includes the Shore Excursion office, bank, and guest relations. The cinema, used for talks and first ruin movies is also on this level. The seat used in the cinema are the MOST uncomfortable of any ship I have sailed on. They don't tilt and there is no knee room. Everyone complained. I does not make sense when everything els about the Infinity is so perfect. The Constellation lounge on deck eleven, is comfortable and contemporary with fantastic views on three sides. It gets lots of use both day and night. The Celebrity Theater spans three decks, seating 900, in grand style. There is a series of flaming torches behind glass that, on closer look, are actually fabric lit by under-lights. Up on deck four you'll find Fortunes, an Ancient Egyptian Style Casino, is not your typical flashy gambling hall but rather a stylish large venue for those who like the games of chance. Just outside the Casino and next to the photo gallery is Michael's Club, an evening only spot for drinks and a good cigar. This is a lovely under used room, too bad more men don't still smoke cigars. The Emporium, the ship's huge shopping mall is beautiful. Lots of high end stores with designer names and prices to match. Deck five contains the Rendezvous Lounge, the Martini Bar and the Champagne Bar. These rooms are all beautifully designed and furnished with rich woods, marble, and comfortable chairs.
Food: This ship is a foodie's delight. The Trellis Restaurant is the ship's main dining room. Breakfast lunch are served here open seating, while dinner is a typical main or late seating. This lovely two-tiered restaurant is a huge, and has aft facing windows that extends from floor to ceiling. Tables size ranges from two to ten with most being six's or eight's. Cuisine was excellent, with the menu featuring traditional, nouvel and vegetarian options for each of five courses. Service was friendly and perfect. Casual dining options included The Oceanview Grill and Cafe, the buffet restaurant on deck ten. The grill has omelet stations in the morning, that become pasta stations at lunch and serve pizza in the late afternoon. The is also an International station the changes every day, Italian, French, Asian, etc. There are even two ice cream counters. At dinner the Cafe becomes a semi-wait service area for casual dinners. Running along both port and starboard of buffet are raised and projecting table areas with full ocean views and floor set portholes that allow one to look down into the passing sea as you dine. Aft of the Cafe is an outdoor dining area with a bar and teak wood tables and chairs. The Oceanview Grill, poolside serves burgers, hot-dogs and fries. There is a weather protected area for eating in this area also. The AquaSpa health club forward of the main twin pool and whirlpool (4) area, has it's own buffet. Here for breakfast and lunch you'll find lighter, healthier fare. The AquaSpa's thalassotherapy pool which is domed over has two more whirlpool spa and a large area of teak lounge type chairs, running down one side and cabana like table and chair areas on the other. Both offer full ocean views will enjoying your lighter repast free on children under 18. Cova Cafe Milano offer free pastries at set times of the day but charges for coffee in various forms. The SS United States, Infinity's alternative restaurant, is excellent. The cost is $25.00 for a four-course meals that include a cheese course and worth every penny. Only problem you have to choose between either salad, appetizer or soup. Not that you'll go hungry but most American's are use to having appetizer, soup or salad, which they serve in the main dinning room. The wine list has many outstanding vintages at hefty prices. You can order by the glass but some of these run $20.00 or more per glass. We did find nice bottles in the $30 -$40 range. This is like going to a 3 star restaurant on land, jacket and tie or even tuxes are the dress code, even when the rest of the ship is casual night. We went two nights and as Captain's Club member we reserved weeks in advance of sailing. DON'T miss this dinning experience. If this is not enough to eat the butler lite bites in the bars lounges around midnight and there is always room service which we did late one afternoon for huge chocolate chip cookies and tea.
Entertainment: Celebrity's nightly Broadway style shows were great. Most passengers gave raves reviews. The only complaint here was that on some nights the show time for second seating was at 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM for early seating. We don't want to see the evening show before dinner when we would rather leisurely dress and meet friends for cocktail. There was music in Cova Cafe Milano nightly and the lounges had bands and trios for dancing. There was a late night DJ as well. First run movies where shown some nights, but only at 9:00 PM, right in the middle of our late seating dinner.
Passengers: The age range was from 20's to 70's with the average in their 40's and 50's, much younger than my last Alaskan cruise. We saw lots of families with two and three generations. There were many large groups of Asians, Australians, and East Indians traveling together. There were some younger children but not many, we even saw a few very young infants. There two wedding that took place on board before we sailed. All in all it was a very nice mix of first time and veteran cruisers.
Fitness: The AquaSpa on the Infinity has to be one of the best fitness facilities aboard ship. Forward on deck 10, this large area starts with the Thalassotherapy pool and twin whirlpools. The beauty salon and men's and women's changing rooms just forward. Only the men's has a steam room. There are many treatment rooms and lots of natural therapy treatments offered. All the forward is the gym which is well equipped and has a view over the bow of the ship from the treadmills. This are can get quite busy early in the mornings and late afternoon. There are sign up sheets on each treadmill.
The Itinerary: Sailing out of Vancouver we cruised the inside passage on day our first full day at sea. The weather was party cloudy and chilly. Day two the docked in Juneau. Alaska's capital, for now anyway. This is a walkable town with all the same touristy stores you find in the Caribbean. We did not take any of the overpriced ships tours but walked around town in the morning. After lunch on the ship we took the $5 bus each way to Mendenhall Glacier. Weather went from sunny to cloudy to rain, that is Alaska for you. Next stop was Skagway, a small town that can be walked in an hour. That afternoon we took the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway to the Summit at Fraser, BC. The scenic 3 1/2 hour, round trip, train ride was $82 with tickets purchased at the train station, cheaper than if bought on board the Infinity. Weather from sunny and warm. The highlight of any Alaskan cruise is a trip into a glacier bay. On day four the sun shined brightly as we sailed into Hubbard Glacier. We spent the late morning and early afternoon enjoying the activity of the caving glacier. Next stop Ketchikan, small fish town that is the salmon capital of the world. The ship dropped anchor and we tendered in the morning but the Infinity docked in the afternoon after two other ships sailed. The main shopping area next to the docks has the same tourist traps as the other ports visited. The ship offered lots of tour but you can do much better booking on line prior to sailing or from the many tour offices that line the streets as you get of the ship in all the ports. We opted not to take a tour and just walk around on our own watching as the town folk went wild on the this warm and sunny day. We was youngster shirtless riding their skateboards down the streets and shop keepers just sitting outside their shops soaking up the sun. The town was quite empty in the afternoon after the other two ship sailed and many of the Infinity's passengers went on tour. Our last day was spent cruising back to Vancouver via the Inside Passage. We enjoyed the sunny day on deck viewing pods of Orca, killer whales and the local wildlife. Day seven we cruised back into sunny Vancouver docking about 8:00 AM. We where given tags for our luggage the night before based on number and colors. The Captain's Club Members and those with early flights got off first. This was the fast and most orderly disembarkation ever. We were off the ship by 8:30 AM at the airport for our 10:55 AM back to Philadelphia by 9:00 AM.
Overall: Both my partner and I enjoyed this Alaskan cruise very much. If you have never been there I think you will like it. It is not your typical warm weather cruise. Celebrity is one of the best cruise lines out there and the Infinity is right up there with the best large ship sailing today. We did like the fact the Celebrity has a dress code of two formal nights (tux or dark suit), two semiformal (jackets and tie) and three casual evenings (shirt and sacks). Most passengers followed these codes and saved the jeans and shorts for daytime wear. We can't wait to return to one of these Millennium class vessels soon. From what we were told by several staff members Celebrity rotates much of the staff between the four ships. I think you will enjoy any of these beautiful sisters and like Celebrity as much as we do. We are just hoping the our next cruise over New Year on NCL's brand new Norwegian Dawn is a good.
Just got off from my very first cruise on the Infinity. It was excellent.
Getting on board ship was easier than I thought. We arrived early at about 1:00 PM. It took about 10 minutes total(including stopping for free rum punch at the duty free liqour store) to get from our taxi to our stateroom. It was a very easy process for early arrivals. We did stop at the duty free liquor shop before getting on board and slipped some rum and a 6-pack of coke (because it's cheaper than on board) into our carry on bag. We got on board no problem.
The overall trip was great. No real complaints. One thing we did not realize was the dinner seating assignments. We thought we had late seating but realy had LATE SEATING WAITLIST. There was a huge waitlist for late seating and they did switch our dinner time mid-week. We actually kept early seating because we liked our dinner companions so much. That makes the trip.
There were not many hidden costs on board. Naturally all alcohol was not free($4.50-$6.50) for the average beer or mixed drink. Soda is about $2.25 percan so if you have kids ask about the soda card. It costs around $34.00 for unlimited soda for the week. Also the Cova Cafe coffee bar was extra but a great place for cappacino(about $2.50 for non alcoholic coffee.)
The Aquaspa was amazing. I am not big spa person but my wife and I had a couples massage and it was incredible. The ultimate cruise experience. All spa treatments of course cost extra. The first day on board they offer a free tour of the Aquaspa and show you each room and explain all of the treatments. The Thallosotherapy pool is however free. I read that when the ship first sailed it was an extra fee but that is NOT TRUE anymore. The thalosotherapy pool is an incredibly relaxing saltwater pool with massaging beds. I highly reccomend it.
All of the food on board was excellent. A wide range of choices. Dinners were very gourmet and delicious. I have to admit though, being a pizza junky, that the gourmet pizza bar was my favorite. There is definately something for everyone. There is litteraly something different every hour from pasta of the day, hot dogs and burgers to filet mignon. Also the 24 hour room service is absolutely free and excellent. We ordered breakfast in our room on days we had early shore excursions.
The best shore excursion we experienced was Scorkel(formerly called Snuba). If you ever wanted to try Scuba diving you will love this. The only difference from scuba diving is that it the air tank stays on a raft above water. You have a regular mask and mouthpiece with an air tube about 18 feet long. This is not helmet diving, which we originally thought when we saw the picture in the excursion booklet. We dove down 18 feet to the ocean floor and swam around a sunken ship. AMAZING!
A note on motion sickness.
There are FREE motion sickness pills at the Guest Relations desk. They have Bonine. It did not make me drowsy and I did drink alcohol while taking it.
This was my first time on a ship. Everyone told me that you do not feel a thing when at sea. Not true. You do feel movement. I think the first night we hit some rough water. It was nothing that dramatic but I felt slightly queasy because of the side to side movement. It did not seem this bad all week. The full day at sea actually was fine. I did not feel a thing. Overall it really is not bad but your body does realize that you are moving.
Disembarkation from the ship was easy also. On the last day they serve an early breakfast and call passengers by group to disembark. It was a smooth process. We ate breakfast and took a nap by the pool until we were called(you have to leave your room by 8am). We walked right of the ship, through customs and were escorted to taxi. Our flight was not until 4:40 PM but they do let you check your bags several hours early if you came from a cruise ship. This freed us up for our long airport wait which really was not so bad(there are several cocktail lounges at San Juan Airport.)
Overall the trip was excellent. If you are going on Infinity you will love it.
If you have any questions you want to ask a first time cruiser please ask.