This was our first cruise, so prepare yourself for the "cruise newbie" gushing to follow. We wanted to celebrate our 15th anniversary in a special way, and the Celebrity Infinity cruise to Alaska exceeded our expectations.
Pre-cruise: I arranged air and ground transportation myself. We flew out of Sacramento to Seattle on Southwest; flight began about ½ hour late, but landed close to on-time. We took Shuttle Express to pier 66 without any trouble—their check-in and pickup takes place in the parking structure, easily accessed by skywalk. Make sure you can tow all your luggage—practice at home! Arrived at pier at about 4:00 and checked in our luggage.
Check-in: There was some confusion about where to check in, but I suspect it may be that the dock keeps changing procedures, and not all the cruise check-in staff gets the correct info. We checked in very early, and were given numbered squares for later departure. We walked over to Pike Place Market to buy a snack and flowers. (Next time we will take smaller carry-ons so we can explore with more freedom.) We arrived back at the pier at about 6:00, but the ship had not arrived yet. Departure was scheduled for 7:30, so we checked into the waiting room. Actual boarding time was about 8:15.
Boarding: Actual boarding was easy, fun, and exciting. We entered the ship on deck 4, starboard side forward, close to Celebrity Theater.
Stateroom: We found our room, #3058, which was an inside room, but with plenty of storage space (apparently more than other cruise lines by the descriptions). Our stateroom attendants (Antonacio and his assistant Honorio) were the best, not just meeting, but anticipating our every need. We loved that there was always ice and water in our room (little things are big things to us.)
Demographics: I could not imagine a more diverse group of people than the customers on our cruise. Every age, ethnicity, and income level must have been represented. This was not a party cruise for the young spring-breakers, even though there were some 20- and 30-somethings aboard. And though there were a significant number of retirees, I never got the feeling that this was a cruise for the "nearly dead." There were also a few children and teens, all of which were well-behaved and fun to visit with.
Dining: You must understand—we're foodies. And we loved the food on the Infinity. For breakfast and lunch we frequented the casual dining options (huge buffet or healthy and delicious spa cafe), and had room service for breakfast at least twice, and it was all great. But the highlight each day was going to the Trellis dining room for dinner. Our waiter Jorge and his assistant took such good care of us, and quickly got to know our preferences. The food was consistently gourmet each time. My favorite was duck a l'orange. Portions were generous, so that I usually thought that I would not be able to finish (but I always did). A foodies' delight was the buffet brunch in the Trellis about mid-cruise. It had absolutely everything, beautifully presented amidst ice sculptures. Don't miss it!
Coffee: I gave this a separate category because of the many concerns expressed about cruise coffee. My perspective comes from being a borderline coffee snob, so while I appreciate and totally get some peoples' desire for great, European-style espresso-based coffee, I also actually like the American style "regular cup o' Joe." So here's my take: I found the coffee in the restaurants to be very good, enjoyable everyday coffee that European cruisers will probably find unacceptable (as they would any American coffee). What they (and occasionally I) want is available in the Cova Cafe (deck 5, midship), and in some of the other bars onboard.
Unique experiences: When we boarded, we received an invitation to a reception for those celebrating anniversaries and honeymoons. We had a wonderful cake and other snacks, and a fun time with all the celebrants. Our Cruise Critic Connections group met on the first full day of the cruise, and thanks to that group, we were invited to tour the galley, which was a special privilege, and quite fascinating.
Activities: It was tough at times choosing which activities we wanted to do most. We had fun at several trivia games, including "The Weakest Link" and "Name That Tune." But the standout activity for us was participating in the cruise choir, led by Artie Anderson, the cruise director. We had rehearsals on each "at sea" day, and performed on the grand staircase, singing four showtunes. All the activities were led by Artie's team of genuinely enthusiastic directors. It always looked like they love their job and have fun doing it. The only paid-for activity we did was a wine tasting, which was very reasonable (at $10 each) for what we got—wine and food to go with it. We actually learned a good deal about wine and food pairings, which is handy information, especially since we live in the Napa Valley!
Entertainment: The lounge band performing each night in the Constellation was called "Top Notch," and their name could be applied to all the entertainers. The singers and dancers in the Celebrity Theater were super high-energy. We also enjoyed the magician, but we missed the ventriloquist (by all reports people loved him, though). And the band Top Notch was made up of truly talented singers and musicians. I told them they should try out for American Idol. One night all the performers and activity directors came together to put on "Sizzle," yet another high-energy dance performance/party in the Constellation lounge. F & D (food and drink) had prepared literally hundreds of desserts amidst ice sculptures for the event.
Public Areas: The Infinity was classier than I expected it to be. Even the pictures on Celebrity's site do not do it justice. I expected cheesy glitz, but found it to be tastefully chic (without crossing the line into gaudiness). My best description of the dEcor is "modern upscale resort/spa." All the public areas are inviting, and the ship is so well arranged that we never felt crowded or inconvenienced. My favorites are the glass elevators with ocean views, and the back deck aft of the buffet. And we also enjoyed the deck around the pool. We bundled up in blankets and watched the view and dozed. The thalassotherapy pool is great, and we found the adjoining changing rooms with showers and dry sauna to be handy and enjoyable. Exercise room is well equipped; it was mid-week before I discovered where the free weights were, starboard side, forward part of the exercise room.
Shore Excursions: We kept it simple in Ketchikan. We walked over to Creek Street, poked around in shops, and went up the funicular to get the scenic overview. Be sure to chat with locals—the Pioneer Cafe is a good place for that. In Juneau, we did our own self-booked excursion to Mendenhall Glacier. You can get tickets for the Mendenhall Glacier Express (blue bus) at the kiosks at the dock, or purchase them from the driver. You may have to wait if you want a seat, or you can crowd in and stand. Our excursion was only $7 per person each way, for a total of $28. The bus driver was a likable rough sort of character, and was good about pointing out sights and eagles. At the glacier, it is well worth it to walk to the base of the waterfall that you can see to the right of the glacier. Take time (and binoculars) to spot birds, and notice the plants and flowers. In Victoria we took the Empress Tea tour booked through the cruise line. The tea is a meal in itself, and the tour was led by a knowledgeable and witty busdriver. The highlight was the 360-degree view from the top of a hill outside of town. The Hubbard glacier is not a shore excursion, but an "at sea" visit to the glacier, and was the star of the whole itinerary. Jaw-dropping, eye-popping scenery that makes you want to cry. Make sure your itinerary includes the Hubbard glacier.
Dis-embarkation: Leaving the ship was smooth and orderly, but sad. The cruise staff seemed tired, but of course still friendly and professional. We were staying in Seattle until the next day, so we planned to be in the last group to leave, at 10:20. By 9:30 the "last call for disembarkation" announcement was being made, and we did not even have to report to our waiting area. Luggage was easy to retrieve. We miss the rocking motion and the way the staff spoiled us, and have been pining for "our ship" ever since. It was a taste of heaven!