The Celebrity Infinity Alaskan Cruise was a good experience and I would recommend doing it - once. Before I dive into a more detailed review it's worth noting that I start with a bias - I love cruise vacations. I've been on at least 14 that include itineraries within the Caribbean, Mexico, the Mediterranean and now Alaska. I've sailed on 4 different lines (Carnival, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity) and have found that Celebrity Cruises meet my needs and wants the best. Overall, I like the Celebrity experience for three primary reasons: the ship interiors reflect an understated high end design, the food quality is excellent, and the service is consistently well executed. Despite my preference for Celebrity, I've never been on a cruise I haven't enjoyed. I like being on the water and the overall experience of sailing on a ship. I like visiting different ports of call without the hassles of packing and unpacking. I find the value of a cruise exceeds, dollar-for-dollar, a comparably priced land based vacation. Finally -- if I am on a cruise I am also on vacation so what's not to enjoy?
Regarding the Alaska experience - it was wonderful but I'll never do it again. One morning at 6am, when we were sailing through the Tracy Arm Fjord, I was wearing 2 layers of clothing, a cable knit sweater, a rain jacket, gloves, a hat and was wrapped in a wool blanket. While I was bundled up in the cold morning mist, watching cruise attendants try to sell $9 "souvenir" mugs of hot chocolate to other frigid guests, I quietly thought to myself, "did I really pay for this experience?" While the Tracy Arm Fjord, and indeed all the nature I experienced in Alaska, was beautiful and even breathtaking, it was also cold, windy, rainy and cloudy. It was toward the end of summer (early September) so I expected this. I also realized that I prefer warm weather vacations. I'd still recommend going to Alaska because it's worth seeing. I took advantage of being there -- I saw black bears, humpback whales, glaciers and took active tours that put me in the middle of the scenery. It was great. But once was enough!
It was disappointing for me to see so many people never venture past the utterly fake "Alaskan" experience of small-town ports designed and staffed by the cruise lines or their affiliates. If you are headed to Alaska and your only experience is a short walk from the ship to the next "Tanzanite International" jewelry store my recommendation is don't go! If you are going to spend your time and money on an Alaskan vacation then go and see it! Get out there and experience it! Put yourself in the center of what Alaska has to offer. It's truly wonderful -- despite the weather.
When deciding on a cruise I find the choice of ship is as important as the destination itself. The Celebrity Infinity is a "Millennium Class" ship -- meaning that it shares the same general blueprint design of the Celebrity Millennium ship. There are 4 ships in that series -- the Millennium, Infinity, Constellation and Summit. The Infinity was completed in 2001. I sailed it in 2004 and remember being impressed. In 2008, Celebrity celebrated the inaugural sailing of their first new class of ship in nearly a decade -- the Solstice. The Solstice is bigger than the Millennium ships and features many new innovations and entertainment venues. Since then a total of 5 "Solstice Class" ships have been released: the Solstice, Eclipse, Equinox, Silhouette and the Reflection. Within the last year, each Millennium Class ship underwent a major multi-million dollar renovation branded as a "Solsticzation." Through this process the older ships were outfitted with some of the new innovations and entertainment venues found on Solstice Class ships. Since I've sailed on the Solstice, Eclipse and Equinox I was anxious to check out the new and improved "Solsticized" Infinity.
As I mentioned, I love being on the water and the experience of sailing on a ship. I could take a cruise to nowhere and thoroughly enjoy myself. I chose this Alaska cruise equally for the experience of Alaska as I did for the experience of sailing on the newly remodeled Infinity. It didn't disappoint. The ship looks fantastic -- fresh and new despite being more than a decade old. It was fun to experience new venues like the chic Martini Bar, unique specialty restaurants like "Qsine" and "Bistro on 5," as well as other public venues like the "Cellar Masters" wine bar or the re-purposed "Michael's Club" which is now a micro-brew pub. The new Infinity felt like a smaller and more intimate version of the Solstice Class ships.
If I was disappointed by anything it was some of the food options and inconsistent service experience -- which was surprising given the consistently great experiences I've had on so many previous Celebrity cruises. The Infinity's upscale ocean liner themed restaurant, the S.S. United States, offers French cuisine similar to the "Murano" branded restaurants found on Solstice class ships. The similarities end there. The service was way off, the food wasn't prepared well (deflated souffle's among other obvious mis-steps) and a faded decor in need of its own refresh all contributed to the disappointment. I don't think this venue was touched during the renovation and I didn't feel value for the extra $40/person charge. Based on previous experience this should have been one of the "highlight" dinners of the week. In contrast, the new "Blu" restaurant was superb! Blu is a contemporary restaurant venue available to guests who book "Aqua Class" rooms. It's small, minimalist in design, with a focus on contemporary cuisine and modern service (attentive but not stuffy). Unfortunately, I only ate there once. My partner and I were traveling with a friend who was booked in another class of room and Celebrity staff would not allow him to dine with us in Blu -- even for a fee. This was extremely disappointing. The venue was seldom full at the times we chose to eat and they could have easily accommodated him. I understand that Celebrity needs to ensure a consistent experience for those who book in a higher class of room -- but I can think of several easy solutions to this non-issue which became a service issue in my eyes. All this reference to "class" really did take me back in time: were we sailing on the Titanic? With regard to service overall, I could list many other inconsistencies but by far one of the biggest problems was the lack of bar service. It often took 10 minutes or longer to get a single drink order placed during peak times. This was the case at every bar we tried and was a consistent frustration that I, and many others, expressed throughout our cruise vacation. Celebrity -- you are not only disappointing your guests you are leaving money on the table! Fix it!
Speaking of class, the staterooms are divided as such and include Standard Cabins, Concierge Class or Aqua Class. All these cabin classes are roughly identical in size but differentiated by their location on the ship and other "amenities." In my opinion, with the exception of the fabulous "Blu" dining venue available exclusively to Aqua Class guests, the list of amenities does not justify the price difference. A better robe? A pillow menu? A "free" bottle of low quality sparkling wine? Afternoon "canapes" which are ridiculously small? A "fresh" flower which ended up being a single alstroemeria stem that was never replaced all week? A shower with multiple jets with barely enough water pressure to matter? Are these "amenities" really worth hundreds of dollars more per person? It's ultimately up to you but my advice would be to save your money and book a standard cabin, bring your own better bottle of champagne and order room service as an alternative to afternoon "canapes." Beyond Aqua Class there are several types of suites available which offer larger rooms and higher levels of personal service which might be worth the extra cost depending on your expectations and vacation budget.
Overall, this was a good cruise vacation. Alaska is spectacular if you're willing to be a little adventurous and see it beyond the immediate port of call. It's certainly worth doing once in your life. The Celebrity Infinity is a beautiful, small (by modern standards) ship that's well maintained with a good variety of entertainment venues and restaurant choices. The food and service on this cruise was inconsistent in areas but good overall and I would still recommend choosing Celebrity over other lines. I'm giving the cruise product 3.5 stars because it was good, not great. But I did have a great time. After all, I was on vacation.