Background & pre cruise:
We’re 60 year old Australians with 13 previous cruises on different ships (and many different cruise lines) with which to compare. This was our first cruise with Celebrity.
Our overseas holiday included 3 cruises. After this cruise we would do the B2B Transatlantic to England followed 3 weeks later by a RCI cruise to Norway.
During our booking process we were mistreated by Royal Caribbean International’s Australian office who handles Celebrity cruises. When we booked with our travel agent who is owned by RCI, we were told we could use our Celebrity Future Cruise certificates. Although we had been assured when we purchased them on our last RCI cruise that we could use them on any future cruise regardless of the deal offered; we were surprised to be told after our final payment was made that they were not allowed. Apparently Australians can only use them if they pay the full brochure price for a cruise!
After several phone calls and emails between us, the RCI office and their travel agent; we were offered two choices – use the certificates but lose the $200 on-board credit or pay an extra $200 and keep the certificates. As we felt that it would be unlikely that we would ever pay the brochure price in the future, we took the first option.
To make matters worse we were also refused an on-board credit as shareholders for the same reason!
As a footnote; we were given a shareholder on-board credit for the 2nd cruise but refused any credits (future cruise & shareholder) for the 3rd cruise, even though the requests were made together. In the past we've had no problems using Future Cruise certificates and shareholder on-board credits on Princess.
After a long flight from Australia we stayed two nights in San Diego at Hampton Inn. We can highly recommend this hotel - their free shuttle from the airport was prompt, handy location, nice rooms and great free buffet breakfast. Finally we used their free shuttle to the ship. Although we could have walked, this was a good idea as the hotel shuttle went past the long line and stopped at the baggage drop off point, where our bags were collected direct from the bus.
As boarding reportedly did not commence until 11.30 am, there was long lines also inside the building. These lines kept moving at a reasonable rate and we spent the time talking to our fellow passengers around us.
Once on board, we found our inside cabin where we left our hand luggage and went for lunch.
Built in 2001 and refurbished in 2011, the Celebrity Infinity was in a good condition.
Our inside cabin was one of the largest cabins we have had with ample room around the double bed and good use of mirrors to make the cabin seem larger. Unfortunately it was probably the hardest bed with the thinnest pillows we have ever had. The suitcases fitted under the bed.
A night light in the ensuite was handy for middle of the night visits; but, having all the cabin ceiling lights on one switch made night time difficult when one partner retires before the other. The space between the wardrobes and the ensuite could have been wider as the wardrobe doors could not be open when using the ensuite – we prefer the open style walk-in type robe.
We had no problem getting the contents removed from the small fridge supplied but it didn't really keep anything cold. Our cabin steward was friendly and seemed efficient at his job. Unfortunately he was hard to locate as most of the other rooms he did were in another section of the ship.
Interestingly on our following B2B cruise we relocated to a balcony cabin. Here the bed was softer, the fridge performed better and the cabin steward was always available! Taking this further, we noticed Celebrity have 2 classes where passengers in suites can eat in their exclusive restaurant and even have reserved seating in the theater on certain nights.
Food & drinks:
Overall we found the standard of food and the service in the main dining room to be excellent. Fixed-time dining enabled us to get to know the other 2 couples. Also our wonderful dining room staff got to know our preferences. We didn’t have any problems with cold food but maybe we were lucky as table was close to the elevator from the kitchen. The lobster on the formal nights was very enjoyable. Wine choices and price were similar to other cruise lines.
For breakfast & lunch, we used both the MDR and the Buffet. The freshly made waffles at the rear of the buffet were great for breakfast. We felt that the buffet was not as well laid out as RCI and often involved a lot of walking to find the food. The AquaSpa Cafe was a suitable alternative for a quick breakfast. The free ice-cream (not soft serve) in the buffet was very enjoyable.
The one off Grand Brunch in the MDR was a good idea but needed to be advertised better.
Although we didn't use Qsine and the SS United States specialty restaurants due to the excessive costs, we received negative comments from CC members who did.
Staff and service on board:
We were surprised to receive two complimentary champagne bottles and flowers. Also each formal night, chocolate coated strawberries were delivered to our room. Although we had not cruised with Celebrity before, we were invited to the Captain’s Club Celebration and given priority tender access. After discussing our problem of having our on-board credit taken off us, we were assured by our fellow passengers that this didn’t happen to Americans. As a result, we raised our disappointment with the Future Cruise and the Captain’s Club consultants – the later did attempt to compensate us with a free laundry voucher. After still not receiving any satisfaction, we then approached David Gross, the Guest Relations Manager who listened patiently to our complaint of losing our promised on-board credit. Unfortunately he also received a negative reply to his email to RCI Australia but did confirm that our “VIP” status was the company’s attempt to try and pacify us. Surely it would have been better to have just reinstated our on-board credit of $200?
The ship has a full daily schedule of activities and a good selection of guest lecturers (much better than RCI on a later cruise). The gym was well equipped.
A 4 page daily newspaper printed for Australia as well as other nationalities was popular and much appreciated. The availability of having your account on the TV in the cabin was handy.
There are no coin operated launderettes on board and unfortunately the $20 laundry bag special is usually only available to Select & Elite passengers.
On cruises we enjoy the shows in the evening. The singers & dancers did a superb job – especially impressed with their Irish dancing in the final show, “Celebrate the World”. Even more impressive was the fact that this was their 1st cruise on this ship. The guest entertainers were also good. The little revolving tables between every second seat were handy for drinks.
Patti, the cruise director tried hard but we could not warm to her.
Shore Excursions & Destinations:
We normally try to avoid shore excursions organised by ships as we feel that they were too expensive. The 3 private Cruise Critic tours that we joined were great; at Puerto Quetzal (used Celebrity transfer for private walking tour in Antigua), Colon (mini bus for locks & Panama City), and Cartagena (city tour).
Armed with maps & information collected before the cruise (supplemented with detailed free local maps picked up on land), we easily explored ourselves at the other 3 ports.
As we were doing a B2B in a different cabin, we could not find information about when to shift. Finally after some confusion, both the old & the new cabin stewards assisted us. After we packed our luggage that was in the drawers, we realized that our numerous hanging clothes could not be hung on a rack for transportation as they had secure coat hangers – these had to be awkwardly carried by the cabin stewards.
Although we were staying on-board for the Transatlantic, we had to go ashore and join the long line to satisfy US customs. After this lengthy process, we found free internet & supplies across the road from the port at a seafarers center & shop.
Although we were disappointed with our treatment pre-cruise by the company, we enjoyed this cruise and found all areas to be above average overall.
As this company does reward loyalty like Princess, we are unsure if we would cruise with Celebrity in the future.