The Panama Canal has been at the top of my bucket list for a while now and I took the view that doing anything but the full transit was going to leave me wishing for more. I chose Infinity over Island Princess primarily because of that fact Princess did 4 days at sea at the commencement of the journey from San Diego where Celebrity had a number of stops on the Pacific coast.
Embarkation was a tedious process, quick and efficient check in followed by almost a 2 hour wait and it seemed something was wrong with the systems. Loading the ship was also delayed and instead of a 430pm scheduled departure, we left after 6pm in the dark, which was a shame. Baggage appeared at about 5pm, by which time I had a long and relaxed lunch at Bistro on 5 with some great service and decent food. An early dinner in the main dining room, The Trellis and I had already forgotten about the delays in boarding.
I had an outside cabin on the third deck with a large port window, my first experience in anything other than a balcony and it was fine. For anyone considering such a cabin I wouldn't have any problem repeating the experience.
I did not choose a beverage package but pay for drinks as I consume them. I enjoy my Gin and Tonics, the occasional cold beer and a glass of wine with dinner and ended up spending a great deal less than I would have done with the beverage package.
Celebrity has increased the price of dinner in its specialty restaurant, the SS United States and I find the 45USD cover charge quite steep. I chose to have lunch there one day instead for 25USD and enjoyed a superb celery and apple soup, scallops, the filet mignon and a chocolate mocha desert which were all excellent. As QSINE is a shared experience and I am a solo traveller, I did not eat there on this occasion but heard good reviews from people who did.
I am not a big user of the buffet either, preferring to take time over my meals and have them served to me and I found the food in Trellis to be of a consistently high standard, sometimes good and occasionally excellent. The wait staff here are terrific and I have nothing but praise for the job they do three times a day. Breakfast finishes at 9am however which is a little early for my taste, especially on sea days. I chose select dining when you eat when you choose and during the 15 nights, had to wait only twice to be seated. No problem.
On day 2 we pulled into Los Cabos and took a bumpy tender ride into the port. I stayed in the harbour area and had lunch and Coronas in a local restaurant. I don't find this port has anything of interest to talk about and wasn't particularly impressed. The next day we docked at Puerto Vallarta and the weather had warmed up quite a bit as we moved south.
The entertainment on-board was much better than I had expected with some outstanding acts, notably from the xylophone player and his pianist brother, the magician Hector from Spain, the Infinity entertainment group with their Broadway and 70s Disco show were all superb. Also the expert pick-pocketer was a lot of fun to watch. I didn't see all the shows but those I did were really very good.
Kudos too to the educational sessions from both Dr Dave on the Panama Canal and the gentleman from Smithsonian Journeys were both excellent. The sessions helped in the build up to the big event, the full transit.
Further stops in Puerto Quetzal and a ships tour to the city of Antigua was an enjoyable day on land after a relatively rough 24 hours at sea during which the captain changed course to make the passage more comfortable. On the subject of the captain, he introduced himself to me on 2 separate occasions during the voyage and I found him friendly and willing to talk to his customers which is always a good sign.
A day in Puntarenas in Costa Rica where I stayed in the port area and there isn't a great deal to do other than buying the customary t-shirts, local made jewellery and eat and drink but still, a fun a relaxing day in a beautiful bay and great weather.
The Panama Canal is a spectacular experience and having learned something of its history in advance of the trip I found totally fulfilled my expectations. It took us 11 hours to pass from the Pacific to the Atlantic during which Celebrity brought a Panamanian lady speaker on-board to talk about the canal and the things we were seeing. In many ways her local input and totally professional commentary added to the highlight of this cruise, I was greatly impressed by the whole experience and would recommend it to anyone. There is nothing like the passage through the locks in a ship that has 2 feet of clearance on both sides and watching ships passing in the other direction across Gatun Lake.
We spent the night doing laps at sea prior to docking at Colon the following morning. Of all the ports I have to make the comment that that this is a run-down and evidently dangerous place and I believe the cruise lines don't do their customers any favours stopping here. I shared a taxi back to the Miraflores Locks to see the visitor center but was not at all comfortable doing so. I think that a ships organized tour is preferable here or even better, stay on the ship!
A final stop in Cartagena, Colombia was an excellent day in a beautiful city and the old town is spectacular and well worth visiting. A final two days at sea prior to arrival in Ft Lauderdale with perfect weather concluded what I would consider just about as perfect a cruise as you can get.
I found the Infinity to be a beautiful and gracefully aging lady filled with excellent staff dedicated to ensuring you have a good vacation. One of the things I love about this this ship is that there is plenty of space on the top deck and never packed. A very enjoyable experience.