This was a two week round-trip cruise out of San Diego featuring two long ocean passages, interrupted by a whirlwind tour of four Hawaiian ports. My wife Norma and I had never been to Hawaii, but we had crossed the Atlantic on a sister ship (Celebrity Millennium) back in 2004, and we enjoyed very much that Celebrity experience, as well as the extended time at sea.
This cruise had an interesting beginning. On April 22, the Infinity was late returning to port because of heavy weather, and her departure from San Diego was necessarily delayed by almost 5 hours. Faced with this challenge, the folks at Celebrity bussed awaiting passengers to the local convention center, where we were very well fed and cared for. Our luggage was transported to the ship, and Celebrity even managed to move their embarkation/registration process to the convention center, making good use of this down-time. Under the circumstances, we think that the folks at Celebrity did an admirable job. We met a lot of nice people at the convention center, and we did not find this delay to be a serious concern. But many passengers were irritable and grumpy; regrettably, when dealt a few lemons, not all passengers chose to make lemonade! More on this later.
The demographics of this cruise were unusual. This was a very much older crowd that we had experience on any of our previous cruises, and a surprisingly large number of them had serious mobility problems: wheel-chairs, walkers, canes, and motorized carts were definitely in vogue! This skewed demographic was the topic of conversation at our dinner table. Our best guess was that a disproportionate number of older Americans with health and mobility problems are attracted to the Hawaiian itinerary; an itinerary which takes place entirely in a USA-context, with reliable and familiar health services, unilingual-English language services, US dollar currency, etc.
Onboard, it was deja-vu all over again! Celebrity Infinity is almost a clone of Millennium, so we felt immediately at home. Celebrity has four of these wonderful French-built ships, and we think their size (91,000 tons) is just about optimal. Their pod-propulsion systems provide a smooth ride which is pretty much free of the vibration problems sometimes encountered in more conventional cruise ships. On the return leg of our journey we had two days of fairly heavy seas (20-28 foot swells) and it was barely noticeable. One negative -- although these are well thought out and well-appointed ships, we did note quite a few signs of wear and tear; so we suspect that a cosmetic refit may be on the horizon.
Onboard entertainment was pretty standard fare of this cruise – three glitzy ‘production shows’, and the usual smattering of good vocalists, comedians and magicians. Lounge entertainers were generally very good: special kudos to the versatile ‘cover band’ which played all over the ship. The worst-entertainer award goes to the pianist/vocalist in Michael’s Club. To our ears, this entertainer had serious ‘pitch problems’, rendering Michael’s Club off-limits for the duration of the cruise – too bad!
In our view, Celebrity offers a superior cruising experience at a very attractive price point. The staff are generally superb, and the cuisine is clearly a cut above (for example) Royal Caribbean and Holland America. And, the Celebrity ships are quieter – public announcements are restricted to a single noon-hour session, entertainment in the pool area is reasonably restrained, and noisy activities like Bingos and those terrible art auctions are generally well isolated and contained. This contributes to a good and restful ambiance onboard.
As noted earlier, we had never been to Hawaii, and this itinerary visited four Hawaiian ports. Frankly, we found the two stops on the Big Island of Hawaii to be a bit of a bore. We would have much preferred a longer stay in Honolulu, and we heard many passengers express a similar view. The visit to Maui was interesting – and one day duration was just about right. Excursions were in high demand at all the stops, and many late-comers did not get their first choices. A lot of the very same people who had been complaining about the San Diego Conference center episode were complaining about this too.
Would we recommend this cruise? Yes, if you like an itinerary with lots of days at sea. If you really want to see Hawaii, a conventional land holiday is probably a better idea. For our part, we really liked the cruise. The only negative was the disproportionate number of unreasonably demanding and downright grumpy older passengers; but I’m not sure what Celebrity Cruises (or any other cruise line) can do to try to cheer these folks up.