I would like to start by pointing out that I am a grown man who chose to escort my mother on the Celebrity Infinity Hubbard Glacier Cruise. I had never been on a cruise before, though my wife and I had scheduled a cruise a few years ago for our honeymoon but had to cancel due to illness. I didn't set my expectations too high, since my mother is not in great health and I knew we would be limited in some of our activities.
EMBARKATION: Being a first timer, I was unfamiliar with some of the processes of getting on a cruise ship, but we did have our paperwork in order. There was a long line of people getting on the ship, but apparently they were checking their bags and may have belonged to a "frequent passenger" club. We went through a line with no wait, where we checked our bags with no problems. Once we got through security, we had our Embarkation Photo taken (I ended up buying this one for my mother), and then proceeded to board the ship and find our room. I was pleasantly surprised when we got on board to be greeted with information pamphlets and a complimentary glass of champagne. We went through the casino and down the glass elevator to our stateroom on the 2nd deck. While my mom wanted to avoid the muster drill, I dragged her out there and it went smoothly (we actually ended up on the DVD during the drill).
ROOM: I had heard for years about how infamously small all cruise rooms are, so I expected something like a prison cell with bunkbeds. While our room was minimal, it had plenty of space to move around, and we did have an oceanview window. My mother spent a lot of time with a walker, and the hall and room were wide enough for her to move around easily. We had our beds separated, which crunched space a little, but our room attendant (Baca) was very congenial and accommodating. There was a slight leak of dripping water from a light overhead, but as soon as I pointed it out to Baca, he said (with an accent) "This not small problem - this BIG problem!" and within 10 minutes a maintenance man showed up and replaced the panel and light. No problems the rest of the way. Baca also gave us additional towels whenever we asked.
THE SHIP: The Infinity was a much larger ship than I expected, and it took a few days to get a feel for where everything was located. After an entire week, I still feel that there were areas I never found or had a chance to explore. There are a lot of balconies, viewing areas, extended windows, and even the glass elevators that extend from the side of the ship. The pools looked great, and there were four jacuzzis that were always running, though few people swam because of the weather. Weather overall was fine, but a bit chilly for swimming outdoors. Most people swam and hung out in the Thelassotherapy heated pool and jacuzzis indoors, including myself one night. The Constellation room on deck 11 provided comfortable seating, drinking, and awesome views of the front and sides of the ship, while the buffet and dining rooms in the aft of the ship offered great visuals and an outdoor dining area. The casino was strategically located on deck 4 at midship, and was always active. While the ship never felt overcrowded, the elevators could be quite slow at times, especially during dinnertime and shore excursions.
THE CREW: The crew aboard the Infinity were very impressive. We loved our stateroom attendant, Baca, and our waitstaff (Anthony and Ramil). They all took their jobs very seriously and treated us with respect, and remembering certain nuances (Anthony would bring us both an iced tea with every meal, without asking). The guest relations people were fantastic, answering all sorts of questions about disembarkation, shore excursions, and even finding a lost pair of sunglasses for me. The captain, Demetri Kazefkis (sp?) was very entertaining when we saw him speak, and the casino dealers were overall pleasant. For those planning to spend a lot of time playing Blackjack, you already know how important it is to have a dealer that is not only competent, but pleasant and encouraging without intimidating or rushing the players. For this reason I recommend Rodolfo and Nan as the best dealers I played with. If you end up playing with a dealer named Diego, be prepared to hear him utter "Unbelievable!" every time he hits 21 or a blackjack (which happens a lot). I would also like to add that my mother needed to use a wheelchair a few times on the boat, and the crew was very accommodating about offering to help her on and off the boat for shore excursions.
THE FOOD: For a quality ship like the Infinity, I was hoping to have some of the best food I've had in years, based on reviews and what friends had told me. However, a few meals left a little to be desired, though they weren't bad by any stretch. We ate most of our meals in the dining room (Trellis Restaurant), and a few in the buffet (Oceanview Grill, I believe). I found the food in the buffet to be just a notch below that of the dining room, so if I missed a meal at the Trellis I didn't feel too bad. Our dinner companions were very pleasant, and the Maitre'D was effective at maintaining his presence but not intruding. Some of the meals at dinner were a bit bland to my taste - I would avoid the Duck a l'Orange (dry and overcooked), and make sure when you order your steak you clarify how you want it cooked. I ordered medium rare and it was perfect, but my mom ordered a steak rare and it was well-done. I would also caution against ordering any type of cake for dessert and stick to pastries and/or custards. Every cake I tried seemed to be thawed after being frozen, and contained too much water, giving it a "spongy, squishy" texture that doesn't sit well with cakes.
THE ENTERTAINMENT: I was VERY impressed with the quality of the shows that we attended. While I didn't see either of the comedians, I did catch the shows featuring the Celebrity Players, who performed three times, on alternating nights. The Broadway salute was fantastic, the Rock and Roll show was decent, but the World Celebration was the most enjoyable of all. These guys and gals are really talented, and I was amazed that such spectacular shows could be on a cruise ship. The other activities around the ship seemed to be fun, though I did not participate in much else other than an art auction and a trivia contest. I did watch the Polar Bear Swim while facing the Hubbard Glacier, and everyone had a good time with that.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: I had not planned on taking any excursions in the towns of Alaska, mostly because I wasn't familiar with the process. However, because of my mother's health, she encouraged me to take a few and I ended up going on an excursion for each of the three Alaskan stops. The fourth port, Victoria, was dedicated to me having a few pints of Guinness at the Irish Times Pub. In Sitka, I did a bike and hike, and realized just how out of shape I am. However, the young guides were very friendly and accommodating to all of us, and we got some free chocolate bars from a local Chocolate shop at the end of the trip! In Juneau, I went kayaking across Fritz Harbor, saw a few seals, and took pictures of the Mendenhall Glacier from a distance. In Ketchikan, I did the zipline canopy and wall climbing tour. All three were great, but were a bit pricey (anywhere from $75 - $175 for each one). The zip line was the excursion I most looked forward to, and while I enjoyed it, it was over too quickly. We just went down four lines, without realizing that would be it. When we finished, everyone moved to the climbing wall and we were told the zipline portion was over (that's what everyone had wanted to do).
SUMMARY: For the money, I am now convinced that cruising is the way to go. In fact, my wife and I are now going on our first cruise together next week in the Caribbean, just a week after getting back from Alaska! I hope to travel with Celebrity again in the future.