This was the seventh cruise for my wife and me. The last five had been with Royal Caribbean, a cruise line which we have come to love. For this Alaska cruise, we thought it would be interesting to try their sister line, Celebrity. This then is not so much a cruise review as a comparison of Celebrity and RCI.
EMBARKATION and DISEMBARKATION We have never had any real cause for complaint in this category. There was the usual short line up to get on the boat (we always try to arrive an hour before the earliest announced boarding time), but Celebrity does get points for an extremely speedy and efficient disembarkation. One tip for families who have spent the night before the cruise in a downtown Seattle hotel. The taxi fare to the dock is about seven dollars. Your hotel may urge you to take a "shuttle" in a town car or limousine which will cost you ten dollars each.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS Celebrity Infinity seemed a bit "institutional" compared to the RCI ships on which we have cruised. We missed the interesting art displays in the corridors and the stairwells, and the extravagant atrium which had been a feature on all our RCI ships. Having said that, additional art works seemed to appear on the walls as the cruise went on. My family think I was hallucinating, but I suspect that the ship was in the process of replacing or rearranging its art collection. I still feel that the overall decor was more to my liking on the various RCI ships on which we have cruised. The Deck 10 Oceanview Cafe restaurant on Celebrity Infinity was in my opinion much less attractive than the Windjammer restaurants on RCI. Celebrity has attempted to add food stations, but there is still a bit of a high school cafeteria feel to the layout. The decor of the main dining room was roughly the same on both cruise lines, and we certainly couldn't fault the service. There have been several comments on this web site that the Infinity was showing its age with threadbare carpets and rusting iron work. We saw no evidence of this, but overall RCI gets top rating in the First Impressions category.
LIBRARY On RCI, my wife and I always make a beeline for the library as soon as we arrive on board, knowing that by day two the shelves will be half empty. This was not the case with the Infinity. A nice cosy library and an ample quantity of books, so the nod here goes to Celebrity.
SERVICE It seems to me inevitable that there will be some dining room waiters and cabin attendants who you really like and some with whom you just don't click. 90 percent are in the former category, and overall we found the service on both RCI and Celebrity excellent.
AMENITIES We missed some of the things that we have come to take for granted on RCI such as the mini golf course, a large swimming pool and the rock climbing wall. My wife and I are well past the rock climbing age, but it is fun to watch. And no towel animals? Aw, come on Celebrity. Points here to RCI.
LOUNGES I am sure that this is a very personal thing, but we found the lounges on Celebrity rather more to our liking than those on RCI. In the past, we have groused about RCI lounges not being available for all passengers, either because they were reserved for special functions or were only available to select passengers. Not so on Celebrity Infinity, and most of the music was spot on for our demographic; quartets playing quiet jazz, classical music, swing, or show tunes. Celebrity gets my vote in this category.
SPECIAL PROGRAMS The entertainer/naturalist Brent Nixon on Celebrity Infinity deserves all the rave reviews which he has received, and may have been the highlight of the cruise for my wife and me. On the other hand, I remember an incredible series of cosmology lectures on one of out transatlantic crossings with RCI, so no preferences here.
SHIP STABILITY We have run into some pretty rough seas in the North Atlantic. I remember one particular crossing where we had waves breaking over our stateroom window. In what I think were much calmer seas, several passengers on the Celebrity Infinity were profoundly seasick. I wonder if older ships like Infinity lack the roll suppression technology which we found on our newer RCI ships. DINING One of the major surprises! Given the comments of other cruise critic writers we were prepared to be disappointed in the food, but far from it. I think Celebrity Infinity may have a new executive chef in the person of the French born Pascal Mullier. The food was great - the best cruise food we have ever had, so the points here go to Celebrity.
WHINING I know alcohol is one of the three ways that cruise lines make their profits, but $40 a bottle for the cheapest wine package seems outrageous. If you resist the package wine deals offered as you get on board, you can order a decent Beaujolais in the dining room for $24.
So which to choose overall? Celebrity Infinity or one of the five RCI ships on which we have cruised? A tough decision, and it would be fair to protest that I am comparing one older ship with five newer ships. Still, first impressions are important, and I think my overall vote has to go to RCI.