Pre-cruise On 3/27 we boarded the AA red/eye flight from Miami to Santiago de Chile where we arrived early Friday morning. Three Ladies from "Celebrity" welcomed us in the baggage area and guided us to the transfer bus. We spent the next 3 days at the "Sheraton" hotel: Nice lobby with an attractive bar, great pool with an outdoors restaurant, rooms newly remodeled (but bathrooms in need of renovation!). The personnel was very friendly. The concierge Naomi helped us to organize a knowledgeable private driver for a four-hour city tour and for Saturday a visit of a smaller vinery. She also took care of our dinner reservations: "Aqui està Coco" and "Ox" - two excellent restaurants. "Celebrity" had also a special desk at our hotel to book excursions and the transfer to the ship.
Overall we had a very positive impression of Santiago: Friendly people, clean, safe and well-organized city with beautiful sites.
Embarkation in Valparaiso - CC stateroom 7206 Boarding was easy and fast, without the usual "Welcome bubbly" - but in our stateroom waited a bottle of real Champagne in an ice bucket, which we opened on our huge balcony (22 x 10 feet). This was the perfect start for a unique cruise! A short talk to the restaurant manager resulted in one of the best tables for two in the dining room and then we met our friendly stateroom attendants Ramonito and Birad - the best stewards we ever had on a cruise.
Food and entertainment Good choices for breakfast and lunch in the "Oceanview" restaurant on deck 10 - excellent food and service (by waiters Jorge and AndrE) in the "Trellis" dining room. Only disappointment was our one time "Rodizio"-dinner in the casual restaurant: No welcome, bad service, tough and overcooked meat. Just the opposite was another evening when we enjoyed a perfect service and an outstanding meal during a wonderful dining experience in the "SS United States" specialty restaurant. We didn't attend any production show, but enjoyed the Chilean flutist Viviana Guzman, the entertaining baritone Stephen Fisher-King and the funny comedian Jeff Nease. Other highlights were: "Headlines" (Band), Pablo Rodriguez (Guitarist) and the "Rendez-vous" Quartet, while the Acapella Group, the String Quartet and the Jazz Trio were pretty boring.
Excursions and ports La Serena-Coquimbo: Nice and informative ship tour, but nothing spectacular. Machu Picchu: The one in a lifetime event! Our deluxe option offered the unique "Monasterio" hotel in Cuzco, very interesting city tour and a (not so good) dinner in a "tourist trap" restaurant (We would recommend to eat dinner at the "Monasterio"). Day 2 started with an unforgettable train ride with the "Hiram Bingham" Orient Express, followed by the fantastic and awesome visit of the "Lost city of the Incas". Our guide Fernando brought Machu Picchu to live and filled us in on the fascination of Inca history. The trip back to Cuzco on the Orient Express concluded the day with an excellent five star dinner, wine and entertainment. After a second night at the "Monasterio" we had to fly back to Lima in order to rejoin the "Infinity". Manta-Ecuador: We stayed on the ship (and got the pool for ourselves!). Panama Canal: We saw the sun rising over the Pacific (!) and enjoyed breakfast and most of the day on our big balcony - cruising through the six locks and Gatun Lake. Thanks to the very informative lectures of Colonel James Reid and naturalist Milos Radakovich we could appreciate the hard work that was necessary to build this wonder of the world. Cartagena-Colombia: We hired a taxi for an extended visit of this beautiful old town and the impressive fort. Our luck: Just at the end of the trip (at the ship terminal) our taxi broke down but we made it back safely. Ocho Rios-Jamaica: Having been in Jamaica before, we stayed (nearly alone) on the ship - another sunny pool day.
Ship, Dress code and Conclusion "Infinity" is in good shape; we liked the size, layout, art and amenities. While most of the officers ignore the passengers - they don't greet or talk to you - the rest of the crew is very friendly and helpful. They work hard and deserve their gratuities and often even an additional tip. In general passengers were well dressed - on formal nights most men in tuxes or dark suites and also on informal evening ladies impressed by elegant outfits. One questions remains: Men wearing "Speedos" at the pool are often criticized - but what about obese and overweight women showing their not so young bodies in Bikinis?
We were so lucky having the chance to visit Machu Picchu, travel though the Panama Canal and to enjoy this well organized cruise. We had to book another cruise while on board: Early 2009 we will be on a much smaller ship - Azamara's Journey - and we can't wait to be at sea again.