A review of the Celebrity Infinity by a first time cruiser
As a first time cruiser who was on the Celebrity Infinity doing the Iceland and Norway cruise last week I felt compelled to write a review to clarify a few of the myths I had gleaned in the run up to the cruise. So this review is from the perspective of someone who is new to cruising yet has high standards and high expectations (especially of food).
Like many, half the excitement of the cruise was discovering Cruise Critic. I learned a lot reading the forums and roll call every week and it certainly set my expectations - but they also mislead me a little. So here is my balanced review.
So firstly, I have discovered there are 2 types of cruisers (& 2 types of cruise critic reviewers), those that are balanced and fair, with reasonable expectations and those who are going to look for fault no matter what. We met some of these one day at lunch in the Main Dining Room (MDR). We had excellent lunch of Teriyaki duck and lentils. Our neighbouring table got chatting with us and the first thing they told us was how limited the menu was for lunch, we disagreed and stated that there were so many choices for lunch at different locations throughout the ship that you were spoilt for choice. We came across this couple a number of times during the trip and they always looked unhappy or had a negative comment to make!
Some other observations:
The average age of our fellow travellers was quite a lot older than we expected (something I got from reading CC). We are in our 40s and were definitely some of the youngest on board.
I found a number other passengers quite rude and few of them acknowledged us or said "good morning". And there was a general sense of "entitlement" that meant people didn't say 'please' and 'thank you' and found it acceptable to push and shove, which we found very rude.
Also I never really understood why people felt in a rush to get somewhere. What was extremely impressive about the Infinity was that although the ship was full, it rarely felt crowded and we almost never had to queue longer than 5 minutes to get a coffee or get a table for 2 in the main dining room.
So back to day 1: we had a nightmare of a journey to get to Harwich - a 2 hour journey that took 4 hours and was very stressful- not the start to our holiday that we had hoped. Having finally got out of one traffic queue, we joined another and queued to get into the car park. After about 30 minutes we were unloading our luggage and then proceeded to park the car and get on a bus that took us to the terminal to check in. Another 20 minutes queuing and we were checking in and got our sea passes. Then through security and finally we were on the ship. Since we were on board 2 hours later than we had planned, we could go straight to our rooms. Again from reading CC, I got the impression that this process would be quicker, but not today (not that it was any worse than the typical airport checking process).
We had 6048, a 2b class balcony cabin on deck 6 mid ship towards the front. This room had an extra spacious triangular shaped balcony. Which, whilst very nice we soon learned wasn't really necessary. We did use the balcony a lot but only had 2 chairs and a small table and a regular sized balcony would have been spacious enough (this cruise wasn't a hot weather cruise so no chance to lie out on your balcony). You did get to look into your neighbours balcony, so felt a little intrusive at times. The room itself exceeded my expectations based on my reading cruise critic. There was a lot of storage space as well as under the bed space for luggage. The bathroom is small but fortunately we are both slim so it was adequate! The "peg on the shower curtain" advice from CC prevented the shower curtain closing in the already small shower room space. The room was clean fresh and space enough for 2 and our attendant was great -invisible but always seemed to know when we were out to clean or do turn down.
I couldn't fault the ship and facilities (more on those below). It looked pristine, clean and well taken care of. Since its the only cruise I have been on, I have nothing t compare it to but it was similar to a good standard 5* hotel .
Reading CC I got the impression that the food in the MDR was a little hit or miss so based on this we booked the 5 speciality restaurant deal in advance of the cruise. However, the food in MDR has been fantastic and as I alluded to in the introduction, I am a fussy eater. We had Select Dining and I would recommend making a reservation, even in peak time we only waited 5 minutes for a table for 2, whereas the line for those who had not made a reservation was considerably longer. Having said that, towards the end of the cruise we stopped making reservations and instead ate later. You are advised to avoid peak time between 6.30-8.00. Most nights we ate at 8 or later. The service in MDR has been very good and the wait staff are very attentive. They work very hard but somehow make it work. I do agree with CC that when on a drinks package and buying wine by the glass, it can be a challenge to get the attention of the sommelier but it seems that they have too many tables to cover but no problem, we just asked our waiter and soon had a refill. The food itself has been great and the portion sizes are just right and not too big (last night I had the sirloin steak and roast potatoes- the waiter told us that someone had ordered 3 portions for himself-amazing!!). On our final sea day we went to brunch. The presentation and the food was fantastic - only slightly spoilt by the feeling we were at "feeding time at the zoo" and we got the impression some people hadn't eaten for several days!
Our 5 x speciality meal package meant we could eat in Qsine twice and SS Unites States 3 times but we changed this without hassle (at guest services) because we much preferred Qsine. Qsine was fantastic and some of the most enjoyable food I have had in a long time - the sushi lollipops are delicious and not to be missed. The staff were fun and looked like they enjoyed their jobs.
SS United States was very spacious with great staff who were playful. I had the lobster which was cooked table side and delicious. The nights I have eaten there I have struggled to get through the dessert course-probably because I had already eaten too much! Only criticism is that the menu didn't change throughout the voyage.
We have read many threads about the drinks packages but in the end decided against it since we had read the classic package didn't include fresh juice and premium coffees and we would have to drink an awful lot of alcohol to equate to $62/ day!! However on day 2 we succumbed to the allure of the classic package ($50/ day including tax) partly because we wouldn't have to worry about what we drunk and also because we found out that the classic packages does in fact include fresh juice and all the premium coffees from Cafe al Bacio- is this new or just different policies from ship to ship? I don't know but that is how it is on the Infinity.
Also at the Martini bar we were able to get smaller martinis on the classic package. I know there has been much debate about this, so there is the answer- at least on this trip. I asked the waiter and he informed me that i could order a martini, appletini or Cosmo. This area became our location of choice for pre and post dinner drinks and was very sociable and fun.
I kept a rough count and we were drinking around about $50 a day (thats 2 lattes, orange juice, tea, 2 glasses of wine and 2 G&Ts). I have to say that I am sure I have drunk more just because I have the package. It can be a challenge to drink $50 a day and I would think twice next time but its nice to know what our final bill will be (although its easy to check your bill daily).
In general I can't say enough positive things about the staff. They go out of their way to make your trip positive and seem happy to serve. There were a few exceptions but they were few and far between. As the trip went on, staff began to get to know you and your preferences and I thought they were outstanding.
I had some preconceptions about cruise entertainment and by and large that has proved to be accurate and the little we have seen has been slightly underwhelming but maybe we are the wrong demographic? At least we could make our escape from the (impressive) theatre quite easily! I would recommend the iBroadway show which was very good and the most "professional" of the shows we did see. The singers and dancers work incredibly hard.
We avoided all the cruise's excursions and organised our own at much cheaper rates. There is a feeling of "sell sell sell"on the ship. Maybe they have targets to hit? Anyway, Faroe Isles was small enough to walk around and it was good to burn off some of the calories we have put on so far! A very pretty capital city. We walked for maybe 3-4miles and pretty much saw all the sites.
Reykjavik was a tale of 2 halves. The countryside was stunning- (we organised our own excursion to blue lagoon and the golden circle tour) the waterfall, geysers and blue lagoon something very unique to Iceland - would highly recommend a dip in the blue lagoon!.... yet the town itself was rather disappointing and a little 'tired'.
My favourite stop on the journey and I wished we had more time here (arrived at 8am and left by 2pm). The weather was chilly but blue skies and sunny and still snow on the mountain peaks (which we learned was unusual for this time of year but due to a harsh winter). We took a bus excursion that we arranged ourselves, that took us to Godafoss waterfall and an old northern icelandic town. Just enough time to see both. You could get 'up close and personal' to the waterfall which was stunning and worth the 30 minute drive.
A beautiful fjord village but completely overrun with tourists and complete chaos! There were 4 cruise ships in so a population of appx 6000 in a village usually accommodating 250...... Must be lovely when everyone leaves!
We took the funicular to the top of the city and walked back down mount Floyen. Incredible views from the top. It was a rainy day so not much fun wandering around the shops. We couldn't believe how expensive it was (£8 for a coffee!)
So one observation at this point. Every time we got off the bus and were given a time to be back, someone would always be late, leaving the rest of us hanging around. Clearly they felt their time was more precious than ours!
We are gym goers and made sure we used the gym pretty much every day. Helped us feel slightly less guilty about the food and drink we consumed! It was often busy but never too packed. Similarly most other locations were often busy but you never get a sense that 2000+ people were on the ship. A good tip is try and do things a little differently to others. Most mornings we had a light breakfast at the Aqua cafe (avoiding the Oceanview buffet) and like I mentioned earlier, we tried to eat later than most. We also visited Bistro on 5 a few times for lunch. Nice food and worth the $5 cover charge for the peaceful environment alone!
We went to theCelebrity theatre for our allotted time of 8.30am and were in our car by8.50am. Very quick and painless. Sad to be back home but at,east the sun is shinning!
An excellent adventure that took us to locations I have never visited (and may never visit again) and a cruise was a great way to see them. The ship was surprisingly good as was the service, food and staff. I will probably do a cruise again but it will definitely not be the only kind of vacation I take (I know there were a number of travellers we spoke with who only do cruises). I think Celebrity do a great job at making the experience a positive one. They upsell a little too much but maybe that comes with the territory. Read cruise critic to learn about the ships, tips, roll call etc but realise we are all unique so when someone tells you the MDR food is terrible and someone else says its great, you just need to make your own mind up!!