Celebrity Infinity Immersive Wine Cruise - September 2013
We booked Aquaclass on the Celebrity Infinity. Included in the cruise deal (we booked through Iglu) was free car parking at Harwich and the Classic drinks package.
The car journey into Harwich was easy, the car park is well sign posted and there are plenty of staff there to guide you where to park. We arrived at 11 am, the advertised opening time for parking. Just before you park your luggage is taken from your car at a drop off point and transported to the ship. At the car park there was a shuttle bus waiting to take us to the ship which was moored close by.
This was a fairly quick and painless experience. There was a long row of check-in staff which meant a short queue and wait to obtain your sea pass. You do then have to run the gauntlet of the photographers wanting to take your picture before boarding or those who want to sell you a drinks or dining package but we just politely smiled and declined all offers. Tip: wait till you get on board, have a good look round, see what deals are being offered before parting with your well earned.
With Aquaclass you fast track security (you are given a red card which acts like a magic wand). We had our own security check-in line which had about 6 in the queue whereas the great unwashed (I jest) were in a queue of at least 50. One of the 50 was well peeved that we had moved through so swiftly and attempted to climb over the rope barrier, only to be accosted by a member of the Aquapolice who gave him short shrift. I believe he did not pass go and did not receive his $200 on board credit
The security checks are not as thorough as airports so no need to remove shoes or belts. Through security and safely on board! From arrival at the car park to getting on board must have been no more than 20 minutes. I was well impressed.
On board you are greeted with a glass of bubbly or Buck's Fizz (well the ubiquitous Celebrity Blanc de blancs). The ships tannoy announced that the ship was still being prepared but passengers were able to make use of the Oceanview Cafe buffet on deck 10. We went straight up to our cabin and were pleased to see it was already prepared for us. Our cabin number was 1133, one of the 4 new cabins on Deck 11 built at the back, sorry, aft when the ship was "solsticized" in December 2011.
Cabin 1133 is a lovely cabin with a decent sized balcony that comfortably takes a table, 2 chairs and 2 foot rests. Immediately below is the Sunset bar on deck 10. The port side of this outside bar allows smoking and our cabin is on the port side. I can categorically state that smokers below do not affect you in any way when you are on your balcony (I am totally smoking intolerant), nor does any smoke/soot/odours etc. from the ships funnel have any affect whatsoever. There are no privacy issues either. Only if you have your deck chairs near the balcony can anyone see you. You are only really visible to those in the bar if you were to stand close to the edge of your balcony and they would have to be looking up. To the right of the cabin is a stairway which conveniently leads down to the bar. (I did the journey in 16 seconds on day one!) This stairway is really only used by those who reside on deck 11. The door is heavy but well dampened so it doesn't shut with any great noise. I was not bothered in any way by the noise coming from the bar when on our balcony. You cannot hear anything from the bar when you are in your cabin with the door closed. The view is fantastic, it is totally unrestricted, save the Maltese flag that flutters in the wind to your left on port days and below where the canopy of the bar overhangs.
I can't remember how long we had to wait for our luggage to arrive but I would say it came about 5 pm which wasn't an issue as we had brought an overnight bag onto the ship with us. Another perk of Aquaclass is a complimentary bottle of Celebrity own label Blanc de blancs (looks and tastes, ahem, a bit like Champagne and widely available on the ship for $7 a glass or "free" with Classic drinks package).
Aquaclass guests have their own private dining restaurant Blu, others can't pay a supplement to get in. The food is excellent and in the main "healthy". You obviously have the MDR option, Oceanview Cafe (aka feeding time at the zoo), or pay for the speciality restaurants. We were regular visitors to Cafe al Bacio (CaB) as they do speciality teas and coffees (as well as alcoholic drinks) the vast majority of which are in the price range of the Classic drinks package. Tip: If in doubt just ask your waiter.
We never chose this cruise for the entertainment element and didn't visit the theatre once. Saying that there was a singer/pianist (Jeremy Oren) who appeared at CaB afternoons and evenings who was excellent and interacted well with guests during his entertaining routines. He has a huge catalogue of songs and always played the many requests that were made.
Nothing to report I'm afraid as we had our fingers burnt on our first Celebrity cruise 2 years ago and vowed never to pay again and to organise our own trips in future. Our first port of call was Le Havre which gives access to e.g. Paris and the Normandy Landing Beaches. I felt really sorry for the American visitors who were likely making a once only visit of a lifetime to the beaches and to the cemeteries of their fallen ones only to find all the US cemeteries were closed due to their Government 's shutdown....absolute disgrace!
The waiters and room attendants were fantastic and they deserve every penny our gratuities provide them. Special mentions to Dennis our stateroom attendant and his assistant whose name I'm afraid we didn't catch. Nico in CaB and particularly Anil, Jeffry and Kennet in Blu. Having read many questions posed on this site about the drinks package, can I just say the Classic package gives everything you need unless you insist on expensive wines and top brand spirits. If you are pleasant and courteous to the bar staff (I was amazed how many guests were not) they provide you with what you want, within reason.
Infinity is a bit smaller and older than our previous Celebrity ship the Solstice but still retains an excellent standard of food and service in my opinion. We spoke to many fellow passengers who were "well cruise travelled" and in general they all say that cruising standards have slipped a little over recent years, but Celebrity is still up there as one of the best cruise lines.
Obviously it all comes down to personal preference and if you try hard enough you can find fault with any service you purchase but to me Celebrity Infinity is a very good ship with in the main excellent, friendly, helpful staff and despite some recent negative reviews on this site I would be happy to recommend this ship to anyone.
Finally if anyone is interested and wants to contact me I am happy to answer any questions, particularly about our cabin and provide photos if required.