This was the second cruise for our family. Parents are 50 and 53, twins are 13. We tried to do this cruise on a budget, as much as possible. We were there for relaxation, and for great scenery.
The ship is beautiful. We did not find it to be run down or otherwise in disrepair. The food was great. Only complaint was the night that we decided to skip the sit-down dinner, we discovered that the dinner buffet had a limited menu. However, the breakfast and lunch buffets were great and the formal dinners were always good. I am on a special gluten-free diet and the waiters made sure that I always had my food prepared to order.
Bring Dramamine. The ship was rocky in the rain. We only had to take the pills on the first night, and then we were fine.
The entertainment had its ups and downs. The acapella group, Port Authority, was wonderful and appealed to all ages. The dancers were OK, did better with the variety numbers, rather than their Broadway interpretations. The ventriloquist was very funny, I think his name was Mark. Brent Nixon gave great talks about the wildlife.
Don't feel like you need to spend extra money on a balcony or window. We had an inside stateroom and we were fine. Yes, all four of us and our belongings in one room. How much time did we spend in the room? Not much. There are so many places to sit and watch the scenery. Don't pack too many articles of clothing. We splurged on laundry halfway through the trip, spent maybe $60, and handwashed some small items. Roll them in a towel to take out the excess water and hand them on the line provided in the shower. It was worth it not to have more clothes than you really need. On Wednesday, they offered a laundry special of $29 for whatever you could fit in the bag, but we had already turned in three bags of laundry.
Definitely dress in layers. We had a rainy week. Bring a sweater or sweatshirt, maybe a fall-type coat and a waterproof raincoat. My daughter put a $5 poncho over her jacket and she was fine. Hats and gloves might be needed, but we really didn't need them on our trip.
Absolutely invest $5 in a bottle of spray waterproofing for shoes. We sprayed our shoes (sneakers must be all leather, it doesn't work on mesh) and wore light weight hiking socks. Our feet never got wet, even though it rained every day.
An outlet extender is useful for charging I-pods, cell phones, etc. We took the advice of other cruisers and brought along a hanging shoe bag for the closet. This was great for shoes, belts, socks, hats, and other small items.
The gym was nice and the indoor thallosotherapy pool was heaven. It's like a large hot tub. Kids are allowed in this pool, since it is usually too cold to go in the outdoor pools. My husband and I took a couple's massage class for only $59 for the both of us on the last day at sea. The instructors were very attentive and it was a good deal. I also won a raffle for a free hour of acupuncture. It helped my neck that was sore from carrying a heavy backpack around the airport. Very calming.
The kids had a great time running around the ship, and we felt that it was safe for them to do this. We did make sure that either they were together or with a friend. They checked in with us from time to time. I have to say that I was disappointed in the teen center. We were directed to Celebrity by three different travel agents who specifically said that Infinity was a good ship for kids. I think that the Fun Factory for younger kids is well organized.
However, the teen center is a small room. They had a Wii, videos, TV that could only be used if the teen center activity person was there, which was not at all times. There was supposed to be a music library for I-pods, but this was always locked up. Also, you couldn't listen to music if someone wanted to play a video game. The teen staff was apathetic. I know that teens themselves can be apathetic, but the staff shouldn't be that way. The last night at sea, there was a teen dance party in the Constellation Club. Otherwise, there was no other place for teens to hang out and listen to music. One ping-pong table at the other end of the ship was used by all ages. My kids still had a great time, and they met some nice friends. They tried to participate in as many activities as possible. I just think that a ship this size could have had a few more spaces for kids, or at least more than one dance, which apparently was well attended.
We tried not to blow our budget on shore excursions, but we wanted to see Alaska, not just at the port. In retrospect, I regret not booking a whale watching tour. The kids saw a whale off the boat, but we didn't. It was so rainy and foggy, that it was hard to see anything sometimes. But, we still had fun in each port.
Juneau: we rented a car for $57 from Rent a Wreck. It was not really a wreck (kids were disappointed), just an older Dodge Intrepid. We were able to drive all over and see Mendenhall Glacier, the salmon hatchery, and Auke Bay, where a lot of the whale watching tours go, but alas, no whales while we were there. Ate at Tracy's Crab Shack, right at the dock, which was a lot of fun if you like crab legs. Talked to several native Alaskans and got a feel for life there.
Sitka: we rented a car from North Star car rental for $75. Saw salmon running in two places, totem poles, raptor center, Fortress of the Bear has two rescued bear cubs and a petting zoo with pigs running all over the place! We picked berries in Sitka National Historical Park while talking to a young lady who was picking berries so she could make a pie for her nursing home residents.
Ketchikan: We arranged for a kayaking tour with Southeast Sea Kayaks. This was not through the cruise ship, we found them by doing a Google search. Very nice, picked us up at the dock and returned us to the dock. We opted for the shorter 2.5 hour kayak tour, since the time in Ketchikan is very short. You have not lived until you have sat in a kayak with float planes landing right in front of you as you try to paddle out of the dock area to a quiet cove. It poured the entire time, but it was a highlight of our trip. The guides were great, gave good instructions and safety was their priority. They give you rain gear, but I think that getting wet was unavoidable on that day. I would like to mention that our feet stayed dry!!
Victoria: The ship arrives at night, most things are closed. We spent $8.50 for a cab into town, stayed for an hour, and then came back to the ship. Unless you really like to shop, I would skip this port. Butchart Gardens are a 30-45 minute ride, not much time to see them, so we didn't go.
Disembarkation: We opted for the self disembarkation. We kept our luggage in the room and just walked off the ship the next morning. No problem. Plenty of taxis were waiting outside of the ship. We stayed at the Moore Hotel the night before and the night after our cruise. It's a nice budget hotel, two blocks from the fish market. Ask for a room away from the street side. It's an old building, but they have renovated most of the rooms. The desk clerks were very nice, the room was clean and we actually had two rooms with a bathroom in the middle for $121. Can't beat it.
We would definitely cruise again, and we would consider Celebrity again.