This is a very long review, so I shan’t be surprised if you lose the will to read on, or even to live, at some point.
Overall: We always enjoy our holidays and aim to not let silly little things, or people, get us down, but this otherwise great holiday was somewhat spoiled by Dear Other Half getting a Gastro Intestinal viral infection on day 8 and confined to cabin for 36 hours - never let the words Noro Virus pass the lips of the medical staff, it was a GI virus. However, up until then it had been a wonderful cruise with lots of lovely people to talk with at mealtimes and over coffees in Cafe al Bacio and we had a good last couple of days once DOH had recovered.
Pre-Cruise: We love character hotels, so stayed at the White Hart Inn in Coggeshall. It's an Old English Inn and is what it says on the packet. Dating back to Tudor times, it's full of wonky floors and beamed ceilings and is, reputably, haunted. We were put into a bedroom that is supposed to have a More
ghost and enjoyed the best nights sleep for ages. We thought it great value for money, at £50 for B&B for two, and a meal-deal dinner at just £9.99 for two. We enjoyed it and would stay again, a benefit of this town being the National Trust's Paycockes house which is a delightful place to visit and have a welcome cup of tea.
Harwich and Cruise Parking: Forty minutes to drive to Harwich from Coggeshall, fifty minutes to park. Harwich needs to up its game if it wants to become a serious cruise terminal. Arriving at the scruffy entrance to the long term car park, with no one to greet us or tell us where to go, we joined one of the two queues of cars and waited, and waited. Having pre-paid for parking, we assumed that there would be a separate queue for us and one for the people paying on the day, the latter option working out a lot more expensive. Not so. We were all muddled together, meaning that we waited ages as people paid at the oh-so-slow check-in desks. Then the slow unloading of luggage from cars onto wagons to take the bags to the ship, drive to a parking space and get on a transfer bus to the terminal.
However, once inside the terminal, which is bright, modern and right next to the railway station, things moved on swiftly and we were on board within ten minutes; pretty good. Admittedly we had priority embarcation, so this helped quite a bit! Up to deck 11 for a drink to start the holiday, and once everyone else had disappeared to their cabins we took a late lunch of tepid food in the Ocean view Cafe.
General Ship Stuff: First Impressions Take half a dozen chimpanzees, leave them in a room with a box of Lego, return two hours later, and there you have it: the external design of the Celebrity Infinity. With apologies to the creativeness of the chimps, the Infinity is one of the ugliest ships I've ever seen. Externally it's an ungainly mix of flat surfaces with lifeboats hanging in front of them, angular lumps sticking out at the top of the ship, housing the Oveanview Cafe, angular curves, (yes really), housing suites on one side of the ship, smoother curves on the other side housing the centrall lifts, Aqua Class cabins bolted onto the back of deck 11, a solid, flat, dark blue, angular stern broken by the curve of the multi-pane window of the double deck Trellis restaurant, a walking track that finishes as a dead end, courtesy of aforementioned new Aqua Class bolt-ons, and there you have it: definitely not a ship to drool over.
Internally it seems confused, partly Solticised with the new Cafe al Bacio, Celler Masters and a reworked Martini Bar, and still partly as it was designed to be: lots of dark wood and dark red colour schemes with dim lighting. For us, the ship somehow lacks a real "wow" factor. There is a small three-deck atrium, but activities don't really revolve around it and it ends/starts on deck three with an illuminated staircase that resembles a wedge of cheddar cheese that leads straight to Guest Relations.
Bars and Lounges: with Michael's Club now reserved for suite and Zenith guests, the Constellation lounge often in use for private functions at various times of day, and Cellar Masters and Rendez Vous given over to World Cup football matches and Wimbledon broadcasts every day, bar options became somewhat limited at times, meaning that bright and cheerful Cafe al Bacio on deck 5 and the Martini and Crush Bars on deck 4 could be very busy most of the time. The Oceanview Cafe and Mast Bar became favourites outside of busy mealtimes as there was always somewhere to sit and look out to sea.
Cabin: Concierge Class 8046 is spacious, well laid out and has an extra large balcony and this is one of the refurbished cabins. It was in very good condition, well designed, though with a very small shower area, plenty of storage and the sofa next to the balcony doors which is where we prefer the sofa to be. Cabins on deck 8 aren’t so affected by the huge overhangs that, for us, spoil the Aqua Class cabins on deck 9, and with cabins above and below these are in a very good location on the ship. Our Cabin Steward, Ambrose, was excellent, in fact probably the best we've ever had, and he was especially helpful when DOH became ill, taking him to the ship’s medical facility and returning him to our cabin in a wheelchair and being very kind to both of us.
Food: forever tepid at best in self-service Oceanview Cafe, tepid to warm room service breakfasts, good meals and service in Trellis, the MDR, on Select Dining and excellent food in SS United States. The sad fact is that at whatever temperature it's served, it all contains far too many calories.
Speciality Dining: On the first night of the cruise we took advantage of a dining offer that gave one dinner in SS United States, one in Qsine and a meal in Bistro on 5 for $70. As SSUS costs $50, Qsine $45 and Bistro $7, we reckoned this was a good deal, especially as we were allowed to eat in SSUS twice as we don't particularly like Qsine, and the standard of food and service in the SSUS was excellent.
Drinks Packages: the Classic Package was included in the price we paid for the cruise and it's full of incogruaties. You can have a glass of wine up to the value of $10.50, but you can't have healthy Vitamin Water that sells for $5.50, you can have a large bottle of "standard" mineral water, but you can't have a mini bottle of Evian to take ashore because, although it's cheaper than the large bottle of "standard" water it's classed as "premium". Complicated? Even the bar staff aren't always sure what's included and what isn't. Moral of this story: ask if what you want is included in your package before you order. Yes, it's a drag, and no, we didn't feel inclined to pay more to upgrade to the Premium Package as we don't drink enough as it is.
Sea Days: we were blessed with super smooth, calm seas throughout our cruise, plus relatively “warm” temperatures for the places we visited, though sea days were a little breezy though usually sunny. As always, there were the usual activities organised by the spa, shops, and art gallery designed to part us with our money, plus an Apple store where prices are definilty lower than in the UK. We enjoyed spending time reading, drinking coffee, chatting to people, sitting on our balcony and taking longish walks around the ship. All very relaxing.
Ports: because of DOH being quarentined, we missed Lerwick and when we got to Gerainger the next day DOH wasn’t released from the cabin until 4.30pm so we had very little time ashore, then in Bergen the next day, as it was a shuttle port and DOH was feeling unconfident about leaving the ship for any length of time we stayed on board and enjoyed a peaceful day. We’ve been to Gerainger and Bergen several times so we didn’t feel too bad about stating on board.
Faeroes: we loved this visit; the islands were not at all what we’d expected. We took the ship's brief coach tour to explore the landscape which was very good and with an excellent guide. It’s a place that we’d long wanted to visit and we weren’t disappointed.
Reyjkjavik: we took the ship’s Golden Circle with Lunch, which is probably "the" tour to take from Reyjkjavik. This would have been so much more enjoyable but for us tourists. Add a couple of thousand people from a mega Costa ship to around the same from the Infinity, add again all the tourists who arrive by plane, put them all on coaches that arrive in the same places at pretty much the same time and instead of an in-touch-with-Iceland experience you get multi-national ants trying to crawl over the same ground, all trying to get a place at the same viewing point to get the perfect photo to record the less than perfect moment. But, for all that, it was a very good day out, especially with our very good guide.
The approach to the stunning Gullfoss waterfall was diminished by us hoards, actually queuing on the environment protecting walkways to get to the front of the barriers to 1) get to see the waterfall and 2) to attempt to take a photo whilst fending off determined ants with thump-you rucksacks strapped to their backs and forgotten about. We then had to line up to descend down the wooden staircase to the lower viewing area. We lucky Celebs were dropped off at the higher level, at the top viewing area for Gullfoss, so downhill was OK, but the poor old Costa crowd were dropped off below, with a long, lumbering climb to the top and with a number of older people really struggling with all the steps. Two-way ants on a staircase, now that made a good photo souvenir.
Worth going? Yes, for the experiences of seeing where Iceland is becoming two islands, centimetre by centimetre, year on year, as the Eurasian and North American plates pull this volcanic isle apart, watching the geysers erupting with the sideshow of unsuspecting tourists standing downwind of the plume getting a warm shower, seeing the power of Gullfoss and having a very enjoyable lunch at the Geyser centre.
Gerainger: we were really lucky that Celebrity had booked the new Sea Walk for us, meaning that we didn’t need to tender ashore, unlike the people on the other large ships in port with us. It was fascinating to watch the Sea Walk being attached to the ship and a novelty to walk ashore. We first visited the village of Gerainger many years ago on a very small Fred Olsen ship, the Black Prince. Then, we were the only ship in port and the village had only an hotel, a giftshop and just one or two cafes. It was so peaceful and calm. This time there was a new landing area for the tender boats and ferries, lots of new cafes and shops and hundreds and hundreds of people milling around. The scenery is still as stunning as ever, but quiet and peaceful it isn’t.
Being Ill on a Cruise Ship: being diagnosed with a gastro intestinal infection on a cruise ship is an interesting experience. The Medical Centre want to see you immediately you report having a tummy problem, yet they expect you to walk down to them, thus giving you the chance to spread the virus en route. Plus this condition came on so suddenly and violently that DOH didn’t have the strength to walk and so needed a wheelchair to get him there and back which I was expected to push; DOH is very tall, I’m not. Thank goodness for a strong and willing cabin steward who was really so good about all of this.
We were thankful that we had a good sized balcony cabin, so that DOH could sit on the balcony in fresh air. To be confined to an inside cabin must be a strain and make an already unenjoyable situation worse.
How did DOH get this? Our hygiene routine is pretty good. We always wash, wash, wash our hands to try and keep viruses at bay, use the sanitising gel to help keep bacteria at bay, try to remember to use our knuckles for the lift buttons and to not touch the handrails on the stairs. But we are forever shocked by the behaviour of some of our fellow passengers: no hand washing after using the toilet and, when the hand gels are unsupervised, walking straight past them into the self service restaurants and for this reason we try to avoid the buffet style meals. There should be a firm rule that anyone who fails to wash their hands after using the toilet is thrown overboard; I’m sure that would help to reinforce the importance of good hygiene! And yet, with all our own anti-illness precautions, still DOH got ill. We’ve cruised more than twenty times and always been fine, so this time we were just very unlucky.
There are some minor positives to this sorry tale: the medical centre didn't make a charge for their services or medication, we were allowed free pay-to-view films in the cabin until DOH was allowed out again, and and since we’ve returned home we’ve received notice of compensation in the form of a future cruise-credit voucher. There's a silver lining to every cloud!
We are booked to sail again on the beautiful Eclipse in October, and we can’t wait to get back to sea, this time without incident, fingers crossed, and with the “benefit” of using the bug-compensation cruise credit voucher. Less
Celebrity Infinity Cruises to the British Isles & Western Europe
Cabin 8046 benefits from a larger than usual balcony. On one side the balcony is a metal wall, meaning that the balcony is very sheltered. Being on deck 8, you don't get the problems with the massive overhangs of deck 10 which, in my opinion, blight the cabins on deck 11. 8046 has been refurbished and was in excellent condition when we sailed.