This was the first time I had ever cruised and I'm pleased I started with a cruise to Central America and Panama Canal. The experience included some highs and lows but overall it was a great vacation. Given that it was my first cruise, and I can be hard to impress (to say the least), I was hyper-sensitive to everything around me right from the first moment we started this adventure. Embarking was odd -- we were in an Aqua Class stateroom, which has its own "express line" but our line was slower than the general boarding line. Celebrity staff on the ground were clearly disorganized but we tried not to let it bother us - we were happy to be onboard the Infinity...my lady and I went upstairs to shoot hoops on the basketball court before the ship even left because it seemed like about the oddest thing we could do.
As a newbie to cruising I couldn't believe that cruise ships don't even take one night between trips to organize, stock up and clean up to ensure they present themselves as the financial juggernauts they are. But only a few hours down-time between each journey -- and this shows to anyone paying attention. When we got on-board everyone seemed to be playing catch up to the people that just boarded, just minutes after saying goodbye to the people from the previous cruise. Odd way of doing things.
Our Aqua Class room (#9179) was supposed to be slightly bigger and better (size, tv, fancy face cloths etc) in all aspects than the next step down concierge class but this didn't seem obvious to us. For the first 24-48 hours some things that were promised, simply weren't there but then started appearing magically. And we had to go to guest relations to ask what bonuses and services we were supposed to get with our room...and at that point we could start asking for these things (like special pillows for those that need them). I figure if they're going to charge extra for this class of rooms, it makes sense that they would not only be clear about the services and bonuses you have paid for but they would make it a priority to ensure these things are actually made available to you without you having to do a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what you should be getting. With all this said though, the room was beautiful and a perfect place to call home for Sandy and I for the next two weeks. Our room was about midway, on the left side of the ship, which is the side of the ship that is up against the port when you dock (and lets you wake up to the "Welcome to Guatemala" sign the morning you arrive there). Hmm, maybe that's why they call the left side of the ship "port".
As a newcomer to cruising I found the whole experience fascinating. The ability to bask in such comfort and luxury while waking up to a new port in a new country (or entering the Panama Canal) many mornings is simply amazing, and something that I feel truly fortunate to be able to do. And it gives you permission to really leave all your problems behind. There are a few predictable downsides to cruising (like the decadent theatre of eating, eating, eating) but this wasn't going to stop me from enjoying myself thoroughly.
At this point I had better just create a couple of lists or this will be too long for anyone to read.
The good: Great service and friendly staff. We could see that all staff on the ship are trained to greet you whenever possible and it makes a difference...it makes you feel good. Our room attendant Bertolino was great: He took his job seriously, was always inquiring if we were happy with things, and he helped me pull off a great (but kind of mean) April Fool's joke on Sandy. The ship is a nice size. I know they make them larger but it was big enough for me. Aqua Class turned out to be a huge bonus for us because we got to eat in the new Blu Restaurant (four course fare, a bit lighter and healthier than in the main dining room), which is reserved for people in Aqua, as well as anytime use of the ship's new Persian Garden - a series of saunas and steam-rooms for some quiet time. Perfect. The variety of things to do, nightly entertainment, sun-soaked decks, and great destinations and excursions in central America were all highlights. And thank you Alexa in guest relations for always having a smile and being so patient and helpful.
The not-so-good: With service on the ship generally being so excellent, it really stands out when individual staff are not as friendly or professional as the others. The spa seemed new and disorganized, and has some problems to work out - with its services (we had a problem that was never corrected) and staff (some clearly bad attitudes here). I purchased Sandy a gift certificate from the spa for her birthday and found out many days later that they provided her with a different service than the one they sold me, and they charged us extra for it. They never accepted responsibility for this mistake. Another problem area we discovered for the ship on a whole was basic communication for fundamental things -- such as disembarking. In reality, the disembarking process wasn't anything like the process they described in the instructions they gave us the night before. And ship staff chose to not use the PA system as a way to keep people informed early on of what was going on and where people should be. While the food was good, it was not great. A lot of it was relatively bland and flavourless. Increasing the quality control over menu items (does anyone taste the appetizers and entrees before the dining room is thrown open for dinner?) would make a big difference to the cruiser, because eating is such a big part of the experience. But this may just be me...the hard to please guy. Oh, and all the chocolate-type desserts had a similarly odd flavour to them. Odd and similar.
But that's nit-picking. The bottom line here is that despite some problems, our time onboard the Infinity was a great experience. A nice ship with excellent staff, keeping us entertained and comfortable, while taking us to great destinations in a blanket of warmth. I would have to be seriously grumpy to not love that. We will consider Celebrity if and when we cruise again. Thanks.