1. General Comments: A pleasant cruise with good weather; this was our second Panama Canal transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic. We are regular cruisers; this was our first time on Celebrity.
We booked an Aqua Class stateroom on the ninth deck, and this included the Blu dining room. Details below.
The cruise had seven sea days that were relaxing.
2. Embarking: We made our own flight arrangements for this cruise, but we did use Celebritys hotel in San Diego, the Sheraton Marina, a nice hotel convenient to both the airport and the port. We were bused to the port around noon. The security line was a bit long, but we were on board by 1PM. Our cabin was ready for us; one suitcase arrived before 2:30 and the second bag arrived at 5:30.
We were over 2,000 passengers of all ages, from infants to seniors in electric scooters. Nationalities were across the board: US, British (160), Belgians (over 40), Swiss, Germans, Canadians, Brazilians, etc. As the ship was next headed for Harwich, England, it appeared that some of the Europeans were going to continue on home on board and not fly.
3. The Celebrity Infinity (from perspective of Aqua Class): The cabin is the same size as any other verandah cabin but with nicer amenities. Despite its size, there are adequate storage drawers and closet space for the two weeks. [My wifes contrarian comments: The storage and closet space looks very good before your suitcases arrive. I do agree it was adequate, but only because I had mercilessly edited the clothing I packed down to only those items I absolutely knew I would wear and brought along a Magellans valet travel tray to corral my cosmetics in/on the desk (there are no drawers in the cabins desk, just large open shelves.] There are only two 110v and two 220v outlets in the room. The bathroom is compact but it does have storage shelves under the sink. The shower is a walk-in type with a great multi-nozzle system. Suitcases fit well under the bed. The cabin has a small safe and a small refrigerator (never used it and kept it locked). There is a TV that receives movies, some cable news (depending on reception), shipboard activities, and other channels. You get a daily planner in your cabin the night prior. You need to read it carefully as there are no announcements on the PA system other than the Captains 10 oclock bridge report followed by a very brief summary of the days activities. If you want a newspaper, a four-page news summary (in various languages) is available daily around noon in the Guest Services area. There is a children/teens area and programs for them. I defer to others with children to comment on this part of the ship. Library is very small; bring your own reading.
4. Meals: Food in the Oceanview buffet - which almost everyone uses for breakfast and lunch - is good. There are plenty of choices at both meals, and you can eat as much or as little as you want. It is a bit hurried, though, and not a place for a leisurely meal.
As we were Aqua Class, we did not use the main dining room. I dont know if we could if we wanted as our dining tips that had to be prepaid when booking were earmarked for the Blu staff and not the dining room staff.
Blu: We stopped by Blu after we boarded. A waiter on duty recommended we do not appear at 7 (our usual dining time), but come earlier or later. The room seats 100, and they have about 200 guests. The waiter was correct in his advice. We found we could get a table no later than 6:30. Arriving later meant that we would have to wait until around 8PM. So much for open dining in Blu. We found service and food in Blu to be excellent. The menu is different from the main dining room. The menu is not twigs and leaves it is well-prepared regular cooking with maybe a bit less starch and a bit more emphasis on vegetables. If you feel calorie deprived, you can easily make up the shortage with their excellent breads, wines, and desserts. Other than a few tables for large parties of six or more, tables are for two with two tables set relatively close together. If you wish to chat with your neighbors, you can, and if you (or they) do not want to, its no problem and no affront.
While the dinner service runs fairly well, breakfast service does not. The issue seemed to be that each breakfast order is different and cannot be premade in the kitchen. Thus, breakfast service is slow and does not work when you have an early shore excursion. We avoided trying to do breakfast on these days in the Oceanview buffet due to the crowds there, and we found the AquaSpa Cafe to work for a good and quick breakfast. The above being said, an unhurried breakfast in Blu on sea days was pleasant.
We made reservations on-line for both Qsine and the SS United States specialty restaurants. Both, in their respective ways, were excellent. Qsines food is excellent and the presentation is completely unusual. However, it works. The United States copies the first-class dining room of its namesake. This includes something not seen on any ship we have been on: the large amount of space between tables. Those were the good old days. Both restaurants were worth the extra charges.
There are other food outlets around the ship as well as a goodly number of bars. We can recommend the Italian gelateria. At dinner one night a couple noted that the Ocean Grille, in the back of the Oceanview Cafe, was a great place for a casual grilled dinner. You cannot go hungry or thirsty on board.
5. Dressing for meals: For this two week trip it was three formal, and all the rest casual. A good number - perhaps half - of men at formal nights were in tuxedos or suits; some who did not want to dress up just did not appear for these meals. You get the specific dates for dress (and all time changes) in the initial daily program in your cabin when you board.
6. Shore Excursions: A word of advice: make your shore excursion reservations on-line! Otherwise you will either have to use the not-so-user-friendly on board TV system to make your reservations or stand in line on board at the excursion counter. The on-line billing goes direct on your credit card and not on your shipboard account. If you know the ports of call and want to travel by yourself, then, of course, you dont need the ships tour office. Celebritys tour prices are not cheap; you are paying for the convenience of having the ship organize the tour rather than you doing it after you get ashore. Also, if you obtain your tour through the ships staff, you have support when there is a problem.
Concerning tours in Guatemala and Costa Rica: Most tours are long because it is a distance from the port to get up into the mountains. In Guatemala, it was 90 minutes each way for the Antigua tours. In Costa Rica, it was 2 ½ hours each way to get to the Monteverde area. This included around 20 miles of unpaved roads. Also, pay attention to warnings concerning Colon, Panama. Ship tour personnel and tour guides made it quite clear that visitors had no business wandering around in town. Stay in the shopping area pier-side, or take a tour that passes through the town.
7. Shipboard entertainment: The ship has a daily schedule full of activities for all tastes: sports, lectures, bridge, bingo (for serious players!), etc, etc. Two lecturers on board were popular: Al Goldis, a retired general manager and scout, knew everything there was to know about baseball. Martin Harrington Uncle Marty is a citizen of Panama and provided a series on all aspects of that country. He also provided commentary on the PA system as the ship transited the canal. We did not attend any of the shows on board; the bits we saw looked good. The casino payoffs did not seem to be much worse than Las Vegas. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have your picture taken by the shipâs photographers--pricey, but a good souvenir. There are various venues for night owls.
8. Tipping: Not a problem if you sign up for the recommended amounts (for cabin steward, waiter, asst waiter, and head waiter). The amounts are charged to your shipboard account. As I said earlier, if you are Aqua Class, you pay tips when you book. You only need to tip separately (cash) the person who brings your room service breakfast. Your bar bill automatically adds 15 percent.
9. Settling of Accounts: During your cruise, anything you purchase on board (drinks, souvenirs, tours, duty free items, photos) is punched into a computer; you sign one copy of the ticket and you receive a copy. You can track your account on the ships TV channel. We received a paper copy about the half way point in the cruise; we received a final copy the night before disembarking. However, anything you charge that last night (bar, shopping) will not appear on that copy. Keep your receipts so that you can check the amount you see on your credit card bill at home.
10. Disembarking: We signed up for the ships valet luggage service. Our bags went out of our cabin the night before, and we did not see them until we arrived at our San Antonio airport. The service costs, I believe, $20 per person, plus whatever the airline charges. Celebrity will tell you what restrictions there are concerning airlines and routing. You get different luggage tags the night before as well as your boarding passes for your flight(s) home. Our morning procedure was that we had to be out of our cabin by 8 and in the specified waiting lounge by 8:15. Announcements were only made in the waiting areas. We were called to leave at 8:30, and we arrived at our gate at Fort Lauderdale Airport at 10:30. It took nearly an hour to get through customs/immigration (sequestration shortages), and it took about another half hour to get through TSA security at the airport.
11. Conclusion: We would classify this cruise as very good bordering on excellent. Celebrity advertising does not equal reality. Yes, we would sail with Celebrity again (Aqua Class), if timing and itinerary meet our desires. If anyone has questions, send me an e-mail at LTC519@satx.rr.com.
San Antonio, TX