As an introduction, I am hardly a novice cruiser. My husband started up and staffed ship's hospitals for about a decade, so I served as a hybrid between pax and crew on about 6 or 8 cruise lines and have been a passenger on several others, perhaps 12 or 15 in all. Several of these stints were truly maiden voyages where the entire ship was newly built with completely inexperienced staff. I mention this because many of the inadequacies and equipment failures were chalked up to the Infinity's "upgrade" to Millennium class, after which we were the second voyage. I must say, there were more "glitches" in the first three days of the "new and improved" Celebrity Infinity 's second voyage around S.A. than in a week or two on other cruise lines.
Now, hopefully many of these refit issues have been resolved. But it was the attitude of onboard staff and subsequently management, that brings me to post this now. And the realization that they didn't even correct the billing mistakes I pointed out on the invoice while on board. Also, the client-specific issues may not change from year to year.
I booked in August. The first problem was failure to receive an invoice for the cruise from either the cruise line or the travel agent by deadline. Celebrity canceled our reservation and planned to keep the deposit. I was able to get this reversed by the agent, and indeed got a lower fare in September for a higher class of service (Aqua class).
We never received boarding instructions, direction to the cruise terminal, or anything like boarding passes despite many phone calls to Celebrity and Continental. Embarkation was inefficient, luggage long delayed and for half of the ship, access to suites was impossible for many hours due to repeatedly faulty key cards. The drill was conducted in 3 languages, took 45 minutes in a stifling, SRO lounge, and we never were directed to lifeboats. The minibar was barely functioning, bathroom fixtures leaked repeatedly, and the room heating was defective. The spa, which was the only alternative for a shower to a lake in our bathroom, had poor lighting, no place to hang dry clothes, extremely slippery floors and very poorly maintained thermal rooms with nonfunctioning door handles or no doors at all. The outdoor spas were consistently intolerable with extremely hot water in the torrid places and cool water closer to Antarctica. The gym equipment was not functioning properly because of the extreme heat in the room, and spa staff were focused on sales rather than the comfort or safety of passengers using non-revenue features.
Guest Relations was a nightmare, with long lines daily throughout the cruise and no acknowledgment or apologies for the many deficiencies all were experiencing. The concierge spoke minimal English.
The most difficult problems involved unruly children and teens, coupled with parents who ignored prohibitions, and security staff who were unwilling to confront them. So for example, children ran and jumped in the pool area and cafeteria at all hours of the night (over guest suites), teens jumped in and played handball off a wall with small hard balls in the adult only "relaxation" Thalassotherapy pool, and babies were brought, in diapers and pool toys, into this area which is not sanitized except with salt. Teens played (prohibited) boomboxes in the open pool/deck areas right under the eyes of security, and were present on deck with drug paraphernalia in the mornings after obviously partying all night. The only time ships staff did intervene was when I reported unsupervised children hanging from the ropes/yardarms on an upper deck!
Entertainment was extremely variable in quality, some superb, much mediocre. The library offered no videos or other diversions, there was no guide to what was available on TV, and books apparently were of the "found" variety rather than selected for quality or relevance to the voyage. The onboard enrichment programs were so-so, but the only practical port information had to be obtained by repeated trips to shore excursions, because all of the ship sponsored port talks were sales pitches for tours.
The food in the Aqua class restaurant, BLU, was superb as was the service. The main dining room, however, served fish and steak that were inedible, and even the highly popular sushi bar got less and less attractive later in the voyage because all food is brought in from the states, despite some of the best and freshest fish and meat in the world in the regions we were cruising. I was very sorry for people experiencing all of the other disappointments and not even able to eat well.
Disembarkation instructions were extremely limited and VERY late in coming (the last newsletter on the last night). We were not warned of the cutoff time for Internet, and coupled with the many times during the voyage that internet was unexpectedly not available or interminably slow, quite a few purchased minutes (at typically exorbitant cruise rates) were foregone. We were not given information about tipping or alterations from the "automatic" tipping scheme, were not even given our invoices in order to correct mistakes (supposedly they were available on TV, but this system never worked), and when mistakes were pointed out, had no way to check whether they were corrected (and incidentally, I now realize that they weren't) because I NEVER received a final accounting even after the cruise by mail, as was promised. People had apparently been allowed to give their folio #s orally in the lounges and restaurants (instead of supplying a card), so there may have been quite a bit of freeloading if our invoice was at all typical.
I expressed all of my health and safety concerns to staff while on the ship, with only the most serious being addressed. Reportedly, the onboard Guest Relations staff was still reeling from the complaints from the prior voyage, when even more accommodations were "not ready for prime time" or not ready at all---the whole upper deck still held containers by one report. After the voyage I wrote a lengthy letter to the President (because the disembarkation survey was extremely limited compared to other cruise lines) and received a brush-off written by apparently quite a junior staffer---after 6 weeks, and two or three follow up calls to land based guest relations.
The bottom line is, beware of post "refit" cruises, though they will be advertised as elevating your cruise experience immeasurably; it might take multiple voyages before they are even functioning normally! Beware of Christmas cruises, unless you are on a line that does a better job of enforcing security and protecting adult spaces. And I would have to add, beware of Celebrity which is one of the least responsive cruise lines I have every experienced when there are problems.