The Infinity is definitely a half-step below Celebrity's other Millennium class ships. Maybe 'slipping toward mediocrity' is more descriptive. Had this been a Carnival or NCL cruise I would be pleasantly surprised with the experience. Had this been a Royal Caribbean or Holland America ship, it would have lived up to my expectation. However, it wasn't the Celebrity experience we've come to expect. We just hope this was more about the Infinity than a trend toward mediocrity with Celebrity.
If I had to describe the Celebrity Infinity in one word, it would be 'tired'. At lease, that was how my family experienced the Infinity on our recent holiday cruise.
This was our 6th cruise on a Celebrity ship, my 15th overall. After sampling about every cruise line, my family feels that Celebrity sets the high bar of the big cruise lines. Typically, their sailing experience is a cut above Holland America and Royal Caribbean and a couple of cuts above Carnival and NCL. And if food is your passion, we've found Celebrity to be on par with Cunard's mega ships.
That's why our recent experience on the Infinity was a tad disappointing when measured against Celebrity's high standard. There was a systemic attention to detail on the Infinity, unlike our experiences on the Century and the Millennium.
But, before I get into my annoyances, I'll give Celebrity a "thumbs up" on my perennial beef with my other five cruises. Finally, it's possible to get a good cup of java on the Lido deck! They have significantly improved the strength of their coffee and added half-and-half instead of that disgusting non-dairy creamer. Obviously, other passengers were appreciative, too, as they ran out of half-and-half midway through the cruise. Also, their specialty restaurant is a real jewel in the midst of mediocrity. It is worth every bit of the $30 cost and is not to be missed. We booked it every other night! The pizza station was a real hit with my kids as was the fresh chocolate croissants every morning.
On the down side of things, let's start with something as simple as the bedding. Celebrity has installed some very cute single beds that curve on the end, making an eye-pleasing curved double bed when pushed together. The problem comes when the bed is used as a single. Apparently, Celebrity does not have a twin flat sheet that stretches the length of the bed, meaning the steward cannot tuck the bottom sheet under the mattress. Now, this may be fine if you are less than 5'6", however, if you are taller and your feet approach the end of the bed they are no longer resting on the sheet, but the underlying mattress or mattress pad. I never realized such a small detail could be so darn annoying, especially at 3 am in the morning. I learned to make my own bed by shorting the top of the bed, under the pillows, and tucking in the sheet on the lower end. I found out I was not alone. Several other passengers I spoke with had discovered the same thing and were remaking their beds every night, too! It's surprising the cabin stewards haven't figured this on out. I would suggest Celebrity either does away with the curved beds or purchase longer sheets.
Next on the list of annoyances were the mechanical systems of the ship. A malfunctioning anchor delayed our departure, and subsequent arrival, by two hours one day. It was a daily guessing game as to which elevators worked. Our electrical outlets, TV, and mini-bar all had periods of inoperability. Thankfully, our toilets and plumbing worked perfectly, something we couldn't say about our last cruise on the Galaxy! The exercise equipment was well used. Only 1/3 of the cardio machines were fully operable. Most didn't have the audio or the TV working and on others the heart rate monitors were inoperable. On two occasions the men's sauna was not working. Finding a key to a locker was almost impossible. There were plenty of empty lockers, just no keys. I had to check my valuables with the spa staff.
I am a big foodie. One of the primary reasons I switched to Celebrity from Holland American and Cunard is because I found the food a step above the others. I don't know if it was just the Infinity or if Celebrity is slipping toward Royal Caribbean's mediocrity, but the food was definitely a half-step under what I've experienced on other Celebrity ships.
Also just as hard to find as half-and-half was a lemonade tap that worked. There are six lemonade stations in the Lido restaurant and one in the spa cafe. Of the six stations in the Lido, one will always be working. It's your job to find the one that works! I've never had getting a glass of lemonade consume so much time. My tip to future cruisers is to either stay with ice tea (which never seemed to run out) or go to the spa cafe for lemonade, which never ran out during their opening hours. This is because the highly attentive staff that runs the spa also serves the specialty restaurant, the SS United States, which is the one culinary bright spot on the ship. The problem is that the spa cafe is only open a few hours a day.
One of the major reasons we cruise as a family is because Celebrity has a great kid's program. Unfortunately, since our last cruise, the reduced the age of the 'teen' club to include 12 - 17 year olds. My daughter had just turned 12 a few weeks prior to our cruise. I immediately determined putting my daughter in the same program with 15, 16 and 17 year olds was not in her best interest. Rather than the staff responding to my request with, "You know your daughter better than we do, if you feel it would be appropriate for her to join the younger group that will be no problem," they forced her to 'try' the older teen program for 2 days. It took three phone calls and several personal visits to finally get the manager of the program to agree to allow my 12 year old to join the 9 to 11 year old group. By that time she had lost interest (she was often the only teen her age at the program) and spend most of the rest of the cruise in the cabin reading.
We were also disappointed that Celebrity has discontinued their port talks. We relied on these talks to give us information about a port, specifically if we were docking or tendering, how far the city center is from the port, whether there will be a shuttle service, the cost of local taxi's, what port offered the best shopping and where, etc. The only port information available was a TV channel that ran continual descriptions of the various shore excursions.
And, while we are on shore excursions, unless money is no problem, you will want to have done your homework and booked 'off-ship' tour options before you get on board. You can do this on CruiseCritic.com by selecting your port-of-call and finding out what fellow cruisers are booking. Celebrity offered very few shore excursions that were under $100 per person. Most were $140 to $200 per person and did not give a discount for children. By using the 'off-ship' tour operators we saved a bundle. What would have cost us $2,900 using the ship excursions cost us $1,300. And in most cases, the 'off-ship' tour was better quality and more personalized.
Next is the entertainment. For the first time in 15 cruises, there were three nights (out of 14) there was no evening entertainment. I can't recall on cruise that didn't have a nightly show, much less none for three nights. Overall, the entertainers were not up to Celebrity's standards of the past, with the exception of the dancers and singers who were spectacular. Too bad we only had three shows during the cruise put on by this talented group!
Next, was the lack of attention and knowledge of some of the staff. Especially striking was the lack of knowledge of the sommelier staff (one recommended a red zinfandel to go with a quail?!). Other staff that was surprisingly lacking in general knowledge was our regular dining room waiters, the lido deck waiters, and the shore excursion staff. We encountered routine misinformation and apathy on a daily basis. Of course, not all staff was this way. We found the front desk and the captain's club hostess to be especially helpful.
Finally, was the near-fraudulent cruise itinerary that listed on Friday we would cruise the fjords of Chile and on Saturday we would cruise the Strait of Magellan. The absolute truth is that not one hour of Friday was spent cruising the fjords, it was a complete and total sea day. We entered the fjords at 2 am the following morning, Saturday, passing the glaciers at around 5 am, and were done with them by noon. We entered the Strait of Magellan that evening. It would have been far more honest to advertise Friday as a sea day and Saturday cruising the fjords and the Strait of Magellan.
I gave this review to the Captains Club Hostess two days before we disembarked without any thought of a response. The on board management of the Infinity indeed do respond to complaints. We were visited by the manager of almost every department I criticized during the last day of our cruise. I even unmade my bed for the head officer in charge of housekeeping, who upon seeing the short sheets said, "You are right, sir!" He told me they actually had longer sheets but no one had complained before so they weren't using them. Go figure. For the next two nights I had long sheets on my bed. It had not occurred to me to complain earlier in the cruise as I thought it was intuitively obvious that the sheets were short and if they had longer sheets they would be using them.
Summarizing our experience and those of other passengers we chatted with, the Infinity is definitely a half-step below Celebrity's other Millennium class ships. Maybe 'slipping toward mediocrity' is more descriptive. Had this been a Carnival or NCL cruise I would be pleasantly surprised with the experience. Had this been a Royal Caribbean or Holland America ship, it would have lived up to my expectation. However, it wasn't the Celebrity experience we've come to expect. We just hope this was more about the Infinity than a trend toward mediocrity with Celebrity.