I booked this cruise during the Swine Flu scare and was lucky to get a great price, both for the cruise and the airline. I flew Baltimore, direct to Seattle, for $98 each way on AirTran. The cruise itself cost $650 PP. In Seattle, I stayed at the Marriott-Waterfront and this turned out to be a great location, as the Celebrity Infinity docks right across the street on pier 66 you cross the street and you are there! The only hotel closer to the pier is The Edgewater, which is literally partly on the water and the balconies are literally feet away from the bow of the ship. I imagine that is much fun to wake and see the ship right in front of your balcony. Tip: take the shuttle from the airport to downtown Seattle, much cheaper than a cab. it was about $10 or $12 PP, can't remember for sure. Embarkation was easy. None of the chaos that you see in Miami or other ports. People in Seattle are very friendly and that makes a big difference: they actually seem excited for you, seem eager to help you..Gosh, I it is good to get a way from DC once in a while and enjoy the hospitality of "real people."
The itinerary for this cruise was the Inside Passage (cruising), Ketchikan, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau and Victoria, Canada.
Cabin: I did an inside cabin. My previous sailing was with the Constellation, Concierge Class. And to be honest with you, I'm not sure that the amenities of the Concierge Class are worth hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more for what you get. In this cruise, the cabin was spacious, clean, quiet and with only some minor signs of wear and tare. I would rather have a few hundred dollars to spend in the cruise, than get a balcony, a flower in the bathroom and some tiny h'ordures in my cabin each afternoon. Nice surprise: the bed was amazingly comfortable.
The ship: the ship was exceptionally clean and well-maintained. Sure, there were some minor signs of wear and tare...but you see those in The White House too, and it does not make it any less special. I'm not sure what is the obsession that some people have with rust spots. I was in the maiden voyage of Liberty of the Seas and there were rust spots in that ship too, and it was brand new! Some people just need to chill or something. Rust spots are a fact of life in ships!
Dining Room: I was in table 529 and Cedric and Roberto were our waiters. I mention them by name for two reasons: 1, they were incredible & their service exceeded my expectations; 2, they were great with kids. I took my 8 year old nephew and he loved the experience: Cedric always had some fun trick for him and Roberto was very nice, too. They have a great kids menu.
The food was rich and wonderful; however, be advised that if you have "fiber issues" you might want to take fiber supplements. The diet is not very high in fiber. If there was a disappointment, I would have to say it was in the laughable portion of vegetables. Tip: take fiber bars with you or your Metamucil, you will need it!
Other Food: The Oceanview had your typical "cruise-fare" food. The Pasta and Sushi bar seemed to be popular & people seemed pleased. Tip: you can eat breakfast and lunch in the main dining room. This is a great option if you don't want to fight the crowds for tables in the Oceanview Cafe. And best yet, no need to dress up for breakfast and lunch. This is a great way to meet people, as you are seated with different people everyday.
Activities: There were so many activities on this cruise that it was mind-warping. Everyone seemed to agree that naturalist Brent Nixon was exceptional. His narrations and thoughts really enhanced the Alaska experience. From the ship I saw all kinds of natural life, including whales, seals, sea lions and eagles. The only thing I did not see were bears. For those people who are cynical about cruise ships, a cruise to Alaska makes so much sense. The scenery is so expansive and larger than life it actually makes the cruise ship feel small and insignificant, unlike in Caribbean cruises where the ship seems like a monster and towers over everything else.
Children: one thing that surprised me is how well-behaved the kids were in this cruise. I think the Fun Factory did a good job keeping kids busy and entertained. I also noticed that you always saw security guards near the pools making sure everyone was behaving in both pools, including adults. The children had fun with the Fourth of July parade through the ship. The ship's band led the parade with dozens of children following behind, with fun hats and flags. Everyone seemed to enjoy this. Shows. I did not see any of them so I can't really comment on them. But from I heard, people seemed to enjoy them.
Ports of call: The ports of call were Ketchikan, Hubbard Glacier, Juneau and Victoria, Canada. We were so lucky on this cruise. It did not rain in any of the stops and there was an "Alaskan heat wave" while were there, meaning that the temperature was perfect for people from the lower 48. People actually got sun-burned ! Ketchickan: The nice thing about an Alaskan cruise is that you do not need to book excursions in order to have an "Alaskan Experience". Ketchikan is such a small, old-west looking town that you can walk it easily. Creek Street , with its houses on stilts, seemed to be the highlight and a short walk from the dock. There are also some trails through the nearby forest & this is a nice experience.
Point of interest: people here seemed annoyed at being asked what they thought of Sarah Palin. Turns out that the infamous bridge to nowhere was supposed to link Ketchikan with the Island of Gravina and this is pork the townspeople really wanted. In Juneau, I did the Mount Roberts Tramway. The best part was that it was located right outside the ship. The six-minute ride takes you to a 2,000 foot high summit and a spectacular Southeast Alaskan view of far away glaciers, forests and sparkling harbor. While walking the trails I thought I was Maria in the Sound of Music..."The hills are alive....." At the Mount Roberts Visitors Center, I met Flo Kenney who comes from a long line of native shamans and who makes an ointment called Caribou Leaves Salve. She spends 10 days each summer scavenging for Arctic wormwood (Caribou leaves) near the town of Wiseman in northern Alaska. This ointment is meant as a pain killer, but one night during the cruise I tried it around my eyes and it took away the baggy eyes I had from lack of sleep. The Mount Roberts Visitors Center has a movie theater, two gift shops and a nice restaurant. With this venue there is no need to do an expensive shore excursion. Hubbard Glacier was exceptional, no amount of writing can describe the experience. Victoria, BC was a nice surprise. I had low expectations for this city but boy, was I wrong. Beautiful. The city seems so perfect, clean and friendly that you think it must some sort of movie set. Here we did a 3 hour pedicab tour and it was simply wonderful. We used Victoria Pedicab & was loads of fun. The guide took us through residential neighborhoods, parks, downtown, alleys, sidewalks and back to the ship. Tip: be sure you understand the rate per hour. I guess earlier there had been some drama with German tourists who thought that the rate was three dollars a hour. The rate was $30 per person, per hour & well-worth it. I strongly recommend it.
Some other thoughts. I do NOT like Celebrity's new tipping policy. If you pre-pay gratuities they do not give you vouchers anymore and this can makes for an awkward situation on the final night when some people are giving envelopes and others are not. Contrary to popular belief, the employees do NOT know who has pre-paid until the week after the cruise. I feel Celebrity should reinstate the vouches. And if people want to tip extra, they can add cash in the envelope. I loved Celebrity's new valet service: @ $20 I thought it was a great value to have Celebrity Cruises issue a boarding pass onboard & check-in your luggage with the airline, even before you disembark! I tried it and the system worked nicely. No need to deal with the stress of searching through thousands of suitcases and having to carry them back to the airport. This way-exceeded my expectations, and it made disembarkation easy & stress-free.
Thank you Celebrity for a memorable cruise.