We are Royal Caribbean loyalist but we wanted to try something different so we elected to sail the Celebrity Infinity for our cruise through the Panama Canal. We flew to San Diego and spent three great days there before boarding. We were very excited to learn that the hotel we had booked was literally across the street from where the ship would dock. It was like watching TV the morning of 22 November as we sat at our bayside window watching as the ship appeared out of the darkness at 0445…what a beautiful sight!
We arrived at the port at noon where we encountered major chaos while trying to check in bags and dodging pot holes and incoming traffic. Props to the Baltimore Cruise Terminal…they are still number one with us!!
After finally checking in we were told that it was time for us to board. We were directed to deck 10 for the Oceanview Café. As with any other boarding day, seating was at a minimum. Unlike RCI’s Windjammer, the Oceanview is aft with a veranda, much to my liking. The Oceanview is not ‘open’ as is the Windjammer. As you entered, the entire center of the room was enclosed and you walked along to the various stations. There was the normal ‘cafeteria-style’ food, a salad station, a pasta station, a pizza station and a sandwich station…and an ice cream station where there were six different homemade ice creams, sorbets or sherberts made DAILY. You DO NOT serve yourself…I learned that the hard way as I reached for something and was immediately met with, “how may I help you, madam?” OK…leave the utensils alone!! There is a poolside grill that served hamburgers and hotdogs with all the fixings…and get this, the rolls were always FRESH!!!
I loved the sandwich station at lunch…they had tuna salad every day and there was always a wonderful choice of very freshly made breads. The pizza was very good as was the caesar’s salad.
Staterooms were ready at 1:30. We had a very nice room with a veranda…and a wonderful bathroom. The shower was rectangular with a curtain…PLENTY of room! You had to step over a 3” bottom rail to enter the shower so there was never an issue with water running out onto the floor…RCI should take note! Included in the bathroom was the typical shampoo, conditioner and lotion plus a glass container of cotton balls and Q-tips. There were storage cabinets under the sink if you needed the space for something.
Included in everyone’s room (not just Elite) was a very worn waffle material robe. It was amazing to see how many people roamed the ship with these robes on…not just to the pool but all around the ship. I am very partial to the nice snuggly robes in my RCI room…and we wear them IN the room!
As Elite members (RCI Diamond/Diamond Plus equivalent), we were invited to the nightly Captain’s Club event (aka Diamond Lounge) from 5-7. However, the lounge was not available on the first night or the night of the Captain’s event for their two top levels. There was a very short menu of what drinks you could order. I was drinking red wine, a friend had white…but another friend could not get a white zinfandel…wasn’t on the list…go figure! The room used for the Captain’s Club was their largest on the ship…this same room was used for trivia, parties, whatever. Unlike RCI, the appetizers they offered were laughable. Waiters would walk around with small trays of things like a slice of cucumber with a squirt of cream cheese and an olive…really?? Needless to say, there was never anything there worth spoiling my appetite with.
We had early dinner and anxiously walked to the other side of the ship to the dining room. We had very lovely tablemates from Canada who made dinner more enjoyable than the food. The first night was a sad introduction to how the rest of the meals would go. I looked over the menu and the Country Pork Chop caught my attention. As an appetizer, I had their French onion soup which was totally awesome! Just as the entrees arrived, the restaurant lights slightly dimmed…and as it turned out, for good reason. As I cut into the nicely crusted chop, my first thought was, “this is so moist.” Yep, it was moist…and bright red. How does one get a nice crust on the outside of anything that is deadly raw inside?!? So much for that dinner! The next evening I tried one of the beef dishes and was surprised to find it to be very good. As a matter of fact, all of their beef dishes were tender and tasty. That was about the best of it. Most evenings I decided the French onion soup would be a great entrée…all in all, their food was not the greatest.
Service was not the greatest either. Most of my cruising friends really like the great breads hand-delivered to the table each evening on an RCI ship. Don’t look for that simple pleasure here. They plop a small basket on the table with a few slices of bread with enough butter for ½ a slice. Nothing in the dining room impressed me at all.
Now, the ship itself is gorgeous!! There was beautiful seating no matter where you walked. There is no Centrum where you might find some form of entertainment in the evening. However, there was music of some form all over the ship all throughout the day. There were the normal activities one might find on a cruise ship, trivia being one of the most sought after. Thank goodness they have a large venue…there was at least a 100 or so at EACH game. The quiz masters all have the same rule…only THEY are right! It was interesting how they were really quick to shut down any discrepancies.
Cruise Director’s staff was good but the CD himself was the worst I have ever sailed with (guess that bumps up one of the others I disliked). He only made an appearance if the Captain was involved in something. He didn’t even make an appearance at the Cruise Critic gathering…something else that RCI is aces at. We had coffee/tea period. No welcome, no have a good cruise, no door prizes, nada.
Another difference between Celebrity and RCI…RCI employees are courteous, friendly and helpful. Celebrity employees were rude and very unfriendly to everyone. I spoke with the Head Waiter on the first night about the raw pork. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. There was another instance where my daughter tried calling us from home because she was concerned. She called at 1pm and was told a note would be delivered to me because our stateroom phone would not go to voicemail. When she did not get a call from me by 10pm, she became even more concerned at called again. I was never given the message!! I went to the Purser’s desk that night and calmly ripped into them…no response. Unbelieveable!
Although there were many negatives, we really enjoyed the cruise. We met MANY RCI Diamond/Diamond Plus members and we all decided that RCI was where we wanted to be.