Antarctica was one of our must see places and is pretty much only able to be seen from a few cruise liners a couple of times a year. We chose the Celebrity Infinity to deliver our cruise needs as we are Select cruisers with Celebrity and have cruised on the Infinity previously. The Cruise itinerary was round-trip from Buenos Aires (2-16 February 2014), featuring ports in Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn, Argentina; Port Stanley, Falkland Islands; and Montevideo, Uruguay and also included cruising around Cape Horn, Chile. And in Antarctica with Paradise Bay, Gerlache Strait and the Schollart channel. We also cruised around Deception Island (instead of Elephant Island due to bad weather).
We took a taxi from the hotel (Sheraton Libertador in BA) to the check-in terminal building (50 pesos) at about noon. The Embarkation Process was a bit disorganised and consisted of a very long line outside to check-in our bags, this took around ¾ of an hour, once inside the building we went through security straight away as we had priority boarding (Concierge cabin). We then had to queue again for the cruise check-in (around another 20 mins). We then needed a shuttle bus to take us to the ship which was docked several piers away, the drive through the container terminals was very interesting (like in a shoot-out movie set). Finally, we were on the ship at around 1.30pm and our room was ready, our bags arrived around 4pm.
We had Concierge cabin number 8158, and it is our first time in Concierge (we obtained an upgrade when the prices dropped just after final payment was due). The cabin itself is nothing different than a standard balcony room. In my opinion, the service and extras that concierge provide extra to the balcony room are all pretty much not worth the added expense, I don’t think I would pay for it.
We regularly had breakfast at Café Al Baccio (coffee and muffins), lunches were shared between the Oceanview café, the MDR and Bistro on Five, and we were always in the MDR for dinner. Food can be so subjective, but we enjoy what Celebrity offer in quality (looks and taste), quantity and variety.
We usually both like to participate in the on-board activities, however, due to this itinerary with so much to see from the ship, we really only attended the Cruise Critic rollcall gatherings and as many of the trivia sessions that we could. This meant missing some of the Celebrity life lectures, of those that we did attend these were in the main interesting but, one of the three presenters was rather poor in both his delivery and his information. The entertainment was good to great depending on the act for the evening. The music around the ship was very good.
We did not use any of the ship’s tours on this cruise. We were blessed by having several fantastic CC members so we elected to join the CC rollcall organised tours. One of whom (Hotshot80) had done this cruise several times already, he organised some tours himself and also helped others organise their tours using his firsthand knowledge and previous contacts. The first port of Ushuaia, we went to Martillo Island with Pira tours. This enabled 20 people to walk among the Magellanic and Gentoo penguin colonies (also some King penguins), while most visitors have to stay on the boats. We cruised around Cape Horn and then went to Antarctica for several days cruising along with Deception Island. This was due to upcoming weather making Elephant Island too rough to cruise around. Apart from the spectacular landscapes and seascapes, the oceans were teeming with wildlife, several types of whales (Humpback, Sei, Fin), Penguins, Sea lions, Seals, Dolphins, birds such as Albatross, Gulls and Skua and some Orca.
The Falkland Islands (Malvinas) was the next port and Port Stanley is a lovely little place, we had a tour to Volunteer Point using Patrick’s tours (also Hotshot80). Colonies of King, Gentoo and Magellanic Penguins, we were able to get very close and it was just magnificent. The car ride there (4WD) was not for the faint hearted and is an experience in itself. The next port was Puerto Madryn, we decided to stay aboard due to myself having a sore ankle, otherwise we would have toured to the Valdes Peninsula (organised by Sonomamist) where there are many sea lions and penguins. The report of the tour from friends was that it was good but a very long drive. Next was Montevideo, Uruguay (organised by Chumby and Hotshot80) where we went to the Varela Zarranz Winery and had a city tour with Flamenco tours. I didn’t partake of the winery tour but did sample some wine while waiting for the others to join me for lunch with wonderful food and more sampling of the delicious wines.
We disembarked on Sunday, February 16 and did the shuttle bus back to the terminal building where we went to get a taxi back to the Sheraton Libertador. The taxis at the cruise terminal were wanting between $25 and $55 USD or 250 pesos (instead of 50 pesos). So on principal, we walked to the nearest hotel, around 10 minutes and caught a cab to the Sheraton Libertador hotel for 20 pesos.
While I enjoyed the ship, it is an M class and I like the S class ships better. To me the whole solstization has not worked in the Infinity’s favour. The Cellar Masters area is underutilised and was a waste of space and I prefer the original layout with the two bars (the Martini bar was one of them). Perhaps Bistro on five should have moved to where the Martini bar is now. Despite the refurbishment, there are parts of the ship that are old and tired. The service overall was good but the service from some staff was great.
Overall thoughts: The itinerary, the amazing amount of wildlife and our fellow cruise critic members (The Infinity Icebreakers) made this cruise so wonderful.
Cheers Mic (and Rosie).