CELEBRITY INFINITY HAS LOTS OF HOMEWORK TO DO BEFORE THEY GET A PASSING GRADE FROM ME
During our recent trip (Sept. 19, 2008) trip to Alaska on the Celebrity Infinity, I made the mistake of thinking that the Celebrity of the past was the Celebrity of the present.
To start our trip, we opted for a Vancouver two-night package and our arrival went smoothly. We did, however, get a note from Celebrity (after the final payment) that the ship would not be boarding until after 8 p.m., but figured the hotel would allow a late checkout.
The Hyatt did...instead of the 12 p.m. checkout, we were allowed the room until 1 p.m.
So now we were left to hang out in the lobby until 4:30 p.m. when the bus would take us to the ship. After visiting the places we had already been to the day before, we happily boarded the bus at 4:30 and were off to the dock only to be told that we needed to sightsee a little and be back around 8:30 or 9 p.m. Sightsee!!! What the heck did they think we were doing for the last several days?
So we hung around another hotel at the dock until then. We were thankful that we were healthy...I can just imagine what those with disabilities were going through. Some even paid for another night, so they could stay in their room at the hotel until the 4:30 trip to the dock.
Once aboard the ship, we unpacked in our small inside cabin. We have taken many cruises and knew that it would be small. After all, we came to see Alaska! To say the staterooms needed updating would be an understatement...I spotted set-in stains on the spreads and cigarette holes in the carpet and specks of mildew in the shower, but again....I came to see Alaska.
Since my husband and I enjoy the freestyle type of dinning, we chose the buffet each night, but there again what a disappointment! Choice is not in the Celebrity vocabulary. They offered one type of meat at the carving station and usually one other casserole type meat, fish or chicken (all dark meat). The vegetable selection was limited to perhaps two each night and the meal was served cafeteria style with the staff serving (kind of like high school).
Entrees were hidden under lids with the dish name written on the eye-level plastic enclosure, and many had trouble reading it. One dish labeled vegetable lasagna turned out to be a Greek dish with lots of eggplant and ground meat. I'll bet the vegetarians loved that one! After talking with the maitre d', we were offered steaks (for my meat and potato husband), but we didn't have the heart to eat steak while others munched on casserole surprise.
And so it went, food-wise, but I must say each staff member was wonderful and tried to be helpful. The scenery was everything we expected, and our trip to Hubbard Glacier was on a clear and glorious day. The ship's captain inched close enough for us to get some wonderful pictures.
To wrap up the trip, we stopped in Astoria for a booked tour to Cannon Beach. Here again, what was the Celebrity line thinking...a school bus awaited us. If you were over four feet tall, you needed to be in the back of the bus where the seats were higher and Lord forbid you got the seats over the tires. However, the tour guide was great, but the cruise line needs to let people know when they book a tour what type of transportation is involved. We had onboard some with disabilities who were having a tough time getting on and off and getting comfortable...and oh, for air-conditioning, we had the guys open the windows. Again, high school all over again.
And to add insult to injury, the ship's re-boarding ramp was steep enough so that even a mountain goat wouldn't dare try it.
As a retired teacher and writer, Celebrity has their work cut out for them if they expect to keep up with the cruise lines that have freestyle dining down to a science. I did talk with several of the staff on the ship to voice my suggestions, and they assured me they would be sent to Miami (didn't believe that for a minute).
So in closing here are the tips for the Celebrity line and by the way, see Alaska; it is really beautiful:
1. Don't board your ships at night, and if you have to, arrange a true late checkout with your hotel partners; 2. Have more choice on the buffet; I can eat pizza and salad at home (and have someone from NCL show you how to do it right); 3. Work on updating those depressing staterooms and stock in some bleach for the shower mildew; and a great idea would be in-room coffee service (less spilling of coffee as travelers take it to their rooms). 4. Offer steak at least once to everyone and maybe even a real lobster tail (I don't think the folks in the dining room even got that.); 5. Don't use school buses for tours; and if you do, write it in your brochure; and lastly 6. Keep all your staff; they are wonderful, and they only thing that is saving you.