Celebrity Infinity Cruise Review by willden: Mixed Experience on Celebrity Infinity
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Mixed Experience on Celebrity Infinity
Mixed Experiences on Celebrity Infinity
We recently completed a two week cruise of the Norwegian fjords and the North Atlantic Ocean through to Iceland. Our experience was something of a mixed bag, some good and others not so good.
Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. There was nothing that was especially bad or unpleasant about the cruise - more a few relatively minor concerns plus a few on-going irritants we have with the RCCI brand. In no particular order these are:
• Michael’s Club. From what was previously a very pleasant, if up-market, piano bar this seems to have been converted into a private club for the exclusive few - WTMB! On the one occasion we ventured into the room we were abruptly informed it was an exclusive venue to which we were apparently not entitled to use even though we are Elite members. It is situated pretty much in a thoroughfare adjacent to the casino and whenever we walked past it was generally completely More empty so just for whom the venue is being exclusively reserved in anyone’s guess. It seems to us that it is a waste of valuable space and would surely be far preferable to revert to its original purpose as an albeit refined venue but open to all passengers.
• Speciality restaurants. We went to Bistro on 5 for dinner one evening; we were the only patrons even though we spread our meal over a good one and a half hours. Again, this restaurant is very visible but it always seemed empty. In fact on the evening we patronised the place we were informed by the charming waitress that we were the first customers they had had that day! Although only a nominal USD5 is charged, we found the food to be of poor standard – overcooked, chewy crepes with far too spicy fillings for our taste. The obvious underutilisation and lack of popularity of the Bistro is similar to our previous experiences on the Constellation and the Eclipse. It occupies a relatively large space in a prime position on deck 5 which, in our view, could be put to much better use.
For the first time on a cruise, we decided not to visit either of the other speciality restaurants, in this instance the SS United States and Qzine, which at USD45 a pop each are quite excessively expensive. Probably because most passengers feel the same way, neither venue ever seemed to be well patronised despite the daily hard sell and, towards the end of the cruise both were aggressively marketing two for the price of one offers as well as half price charges for a restricted luncheon menu on specific days. We strongly suggest Celebrity consider reducing prices in these establishments to make them more viable options for the average passenger.
One other point – while the menu in SS United States provides an undoubted fine dining experience, it seems to be identical to the sister restaurants on other Celebrity ships (e.g. the Murano on Constellation), so loses some of its WOW factor as one knows precisely what to expect.
• Entertainment. Real curates egg stuff, some pretty good, most mediocre cruise ship fare but entertaining enough. An operatic quartet, whom we encountered on a previous cruise, was especially good. The Celebrity orchestra was outstanding but some of the so-called Broadway type shows were distinctly ordinary despite a lot of energy from cast members.
• Library. The library is relatively small and poorly stocked but, even then, some selfish passengers saw fit to abuse the facility. On one occasion we noticed a particularly inconsiderate passenger take out eleven books!
• Condition of ship. As many other reviewers have pointed out, the Infinity is a bit run down and showing her age. But hey, she is almost 14 years old and, to our knowledge, has only been refurbished once since she was launched in 2001. While a bit tacky in certain areas she is on the whole, reasonably well maintained but, we suggest, should be scheduled for a dry-dock refurbishment before she gets in too noticeable a state of disrepair.
• Cabin. Our cabin was a Concierge class balcony on the 8th deck, port side. Comfortable with adequate storage space. The only problem – it was an inter-leading room. Our neighbour seemed to be an insomniac and had the TV blaring until the wee hours of the morning on most nights. We found to our detriment that the inter-leading cabins on the Millennium class are most definitely not sound-proofed!
• Embarkation. Pretty shambolic! There did not seem to be much organisation and, even though we were Concierge and Elite passengers, our queue seemed to be as slow as all the others.
As we mentioned, nothing overtly off putting but concerns that perhaps Celebrity management should consider to maintain the status and marketability of its special position in the cruise industry.
Now for the positives!
• Itinerary. We chose this cruise because of the itinerary and were not disappointed. We did not participate in any of the ship’s excursions, opting as is our wont to do our own thing in each of the ports visited. However, for people who have not previously visited the bigger cities of Oslo and Reykjavik, we recommend they consider doing one or other of the ship’s suggested excursions as most of the better attractions, for example for Iceland such as the Blue Lagoon, geysers and Gullfoss Falls, are some distance from the port. We had been to both these cities before and had experienced many of the recommended highlights so, on this occassion, we confined ourselves to exploring the respective ports and environs on our own.
Each of the ports were uniquely beautiful and we easily found something of interest to do in each venue. Ports on this cruise were:
ï Oslo: We docked close to downtown Oslo, starting our walking tour by visiting the imposing opera house before making our way to the city centre. Oslo is a beautiful city, and is easy to navigate. We strolled through downtown marvelling at many impressive statues and beautiful gardens. There was a choir festival on the go during our visit so every 100 metres or so, we were entertained to some folksy Norwegian choral works. The grounds of the formidable, somewhat austere Palace and adjacent gardens were also worth strolling through.
ï Kristianstad, Norway: A quaint little town but being a Sunday, most facilities and places of interest were closed save for a small food market. The main attraction, the fish market, was also closed on the day we visited.
ï Stavanger, Norway: We again just did our own thing opting just to walk through the town that has some lovely parks and fountains.
ï Torshavn, Faroe Islands: This was the only tender port but the tendering was very efficient and swift. Public transport is free circumnavigating the town and its environs on a regular basis with buses arriving promptly every twenty minutes. So, a good tip is to catch any Red bus - it will take you on a scenic tour overlooking the port and surrounding areas. If one chooses, the service can easily be used to “hop on, hop off” to visit some of the town’s attractions such as the cathedral and the ultra-modern grass covered Nordic House that houses a concert hall, theatre, restaurants and art gallery.
ï Reykjavik, Iceland: As mentioned, we had visited Reykjavik previously when we toured extensively taking in the geysers and hot springs, Gullfoss Falls, the thermal power plant and Pingvellir National Park where the fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates that is gradually tearing Iceland apart, is clearly visible. If one has not visited these attractions then a ship’s excursion or private tour is almost mandatory.
We therefore stayed in Reykjavik itself for the day plus we were docked there. The first day we opted to do a walking tour through the downtown area visiting, inter alia, the shopping district, the impressive cathedral and the infamous phallic museum (which, had it not been for the pensioner’s discount we received on the admission fee, would have been a complete rip-off!). We then purchased tickets for the hop on, hop off bus that offered a scenic drive around the city, the most notable attraction of which is the striking Pearl Observatory, comprising the observatory, a number of restaurants and a conference centre, that offers majestic views of the city and surrounding areas.
The next morning we followed the crowd and ended up doing a delightful walk from the ship along the shorefront to the city centre passing a number of unique statues, a restaurant and entertainment park made entirely of scrap metal, and an awesome sculpture of a Viking ship along the way. About a ten kilometre round trip but well worth the effort.
ï Lerwick, Shetland Islands: we really enjoyed this visit to a bit of Scotland in the middle of the North Atlantic! We walked our socks off through the town, its many gardens, flea markets, dockside attractions and the old fort overlooking the town.
ï Geiranger, Norway: Without doubt, the highlight of the whole trip. It is a majestic fjord. The sail in to the town of Geiranger takes a good four to five hours and one is gobsmacked by the beauty of the many waterfalls, snow-capped peaks and sheer majesty that greets one as the ship slowly meanders its way through the fjord. The famous Seven Sisters waterfall is everything it is drummed up to be and the town of Geiranger itself, is so beautifully situated it literally takes one’s breath away.
We docked using a “floating dock” which was interesting, unique and an attraction in itself. Our visit included a strenuous walk through the magnificent cascading series of mini waterfalls and then a bus drive to the two most scenic viewpoints on either side of the town offering awesome views of the town and the surrounding mountains.
Surely one of the most beautiful places in our wonderful planet?
ï Bergen, Norway: Our last port of call and the only day of the trip where we had really bad weather being greeted by heavy rains as soon as we docked. Bergen apparently, is not called the rain capital of Norway for nothing! A complimentary bus service takes passengers from the port to the centre of town, returning to the ship at regular intervals throughout the day. The weather was pretty miserable but we still managed to get to see some of the sights of the city including the cathedral (currently being renovated), the famous fish/food market and the picturesque coloured houses one sees in all the picture postcards of Bergen. Fortunately, the weather cleared so, along with all the other tourists from the four cruise ships that were in town that day, we opted for the funicular ride up the mountain overlooking the city. The funicular ride is very efficient and quick so the formidably long queue waiting soon dissipated and we were soon on top of the mountain with great views of the city and surrounds. Well worth the journey.
• Elite perks. This was the first cruise for which we qualified for Elite status benefits. These included some very welcome free internet minutes, complimentary laundry (wash and fold), an
evening “happy hour” with complimentary drinks and snacks, as well as an exclusive continental breakfast venue serving a range of smoothies, fresh fruits and speciality coffees in addition to the usual range of breads and pastries, cheeses and yoghurts.
• Captain’s Club. Marlene, the vivacious Captain’s Club hostess on board the Infinity was quite simply the best, most efficient and hard-working we have yet experienced on any of our previous Celebrity cruises. Highly visible and on hand to attend to Captain’s Club member needs she invariably gave the impression that nothing was too much trouble.
• Staff visibility. One or other senior staff member, be it the Hotel Director, Staff Captain, Executive Chef or the Master himself, were noticeable around the vessel on most occasions, while virtually the entire senior officer contingent were on hand during functions such as the Captain’s Club reception.
• Service standards. We have always been impressed with the quality of staff training within the RCCI organisation. Staff, with very few exceptions, are invariably well trained, approachable, friendly and courteous always seemingly willing to go the extra mile. Our experience on this cruise was no exception. Our cabin attendants, Luciano and Francisco (two native Indians from India!!) were especially attentive and efficient.
We had pre-arranged a ship’s excursion to Windsor Castle that dropped us off at Heathrow well in time for our return journey to South Africa. As such we had priority disembarkation so we did not experience the frustrations many passengers apparently had regarding lack of transport from Harwich.
The trip to Windsor was interesting and gave us a good insight into this historical town. We recommend it to other passengers seeking a seamless transfer to the airport but who have a few hours to kill before their flight.
All in all, we had a great cruise. Indeed, despite the few irritations one experiences on any holiday, what is there to really complain about when one has the good health and good fortune to even be able to cruise anyway, and to be able to see so many unique and beautiful places with cruise ship ambience and convenience?
Life is good! Less
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