Embarkation in Miami went quite smoothly. We had received an email the day before suggesting we come later than originally planned. We went anyway, and were seated for about 45 minutes before embarkation began. The process itself went more smoothly than I’ve come to expect.
Our veranda stateroom 8018 was quite comfortable, with decent robes, two choices of pillows, bathroom with adequate storage and lighting. The room was well-insulated; we rarely heard anyone else, or their plumbing. Our stateroom attendant Eillen was attentive and did a very good job. At many of the ports, the weather was quite hot and humid, so we didn’t use the veranda as much as we thought we would.
We had 8:30 seating in the dining room, which really was too late to enjoy eating much, so I usually had an appetizer and soup and salad. The onion soup was particularly good. The chefs did a very good job with beef, chicken, osso buco, and risotto. Fish and most pasta were hit or miss. We took advantage of specials to eat in QSine a couple of times with new friends, and had great fun. Most of the dishes were excellent. Two of the staff, Michelle and Carolla, were particularly great, but the iPad ordering system didn’t work very well, and the iPad wine list was never right. We also ate in the SS United States one evening-very disappointing. The appearance was all flash, but three of four entrees were grossly overcooked. Service was not exceptional.
The entertainment headliners were very enjoyable on this cruise. The violinist Analiza Ching was remarkable, Hector the Magician was magical, and the Finkel Brothers were singularly and together very entertaining. Comedian Fred Klett was good, clean fun. Jeremy Orens, a performer usually at Café al Bacio, was fun and engaging. Dr. Dave’s Beyond the Podium talks were quite informative and fun to attend. We participated in many of the Trivia sessions, and attended the cooking demonstrations.
We usually pick up the beverage package on a promotion, and upgrade to Premium (we’re not Elite yet). Between lattes, fresh juices, a cocktail in the late afternoon, sparkling water, and one or two glasses of nicer wine in the evening, we’re happy with how that works out. We had exceptional service from Alin in the Martini Bar.
The ship had its infamous Purell dispensers everywhere, and the public areas and stairwells were always shiny clean (and, as one crew member told me, sanitized). The crew always greeted us whenever we or they walked by. The ship’s officers were the most visible and accessible of any cruise we’ve been on.
The Canal transit was the highlight of the trip, especially after reading David McCullough’s “The Path Between the Seas”; the ports were not so intriguing. In Cartagena, we took a ship’s bus tour to Old Town- where we found colorfully costumed folks, mostly hawking beaded souvenirs. It was a holiday in Colon, so most businesses were closed, but the port area looked scary. We did the ship’s kayaking tour on Gatun Lake, from a beautiful resort, followed by a visit to the Gatun Locks. It was quite interesting to see the locks from this perspective. In Puentarenas, we took a tour arranged through the Cruise Critic forum to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Our guide stopped the bus to show us monkeys in the trees along the road. It took almost 3 hours to get there (more than the advertised 2 hours), up a narrow mountain road. The rain forest was beautiful, and there is a very developed path through it going over the many skywalk suspension bridges. Lunch at Monteverde was tasty. Coming home, the rain came down in sheets and made a long trip even longer. I was concerned whether we’d get down the road safely and before the ship departed (we did). The clearing clouds made for a spectacular sunset. In Puerto Quetzal, we took the ship’s coffee plantation and Antigua walking tour. The friendly plantation owners gave us a wonderfully informative tour and delicious coffee tasting. Antigua itself was…historical and picturesque. The group spent too much time hearing about the local American-discovered emerald/jadeite business. We had no intention of getting off the ship in Puerta Vallarta, but did when we saw a US Coast Guard cutter berth between the Infinity and the Sapphire Princess. We walked on the waterfront a little, and through the nearby mall for some exercise. In Cabo San Lucas, we joined Cruise Critic friends in walking around town. It was much nicer than I expected, and felt reasonably safe. This tendering process was the best we’ve experienced—but apparently it was hired from onshore.
We did break down and buy some internet time. Yes, it was slow, and yes, you must make sure you’ve properly logged off to stop the timer. However, we didn’t waste onshore time anymore looking for internet hotspots that worked.
Fitness Center usually had a line for equipment use. Often people were just sitting on equipment talking to others. Small outdoor track- due to humidity, often exercised by walking inside the ship. Take the stairs everywhere-you'll burn all sorts of calories!
Debarkation took a little time, and finding luggage was a bit of a hunt.
Overall, an enjoyable cruise, and we’re happy to continue to work towards Elite status on Celebrity.