I will start with a little background on us. We have been on 17 cruises, five of which were on Celebrity. My husband is 49 and I turned 50 on this cruise. We had been away from Celebrity for about 5 years and wondered if it was as wonderful as we remembered. I am pleased to report that YES it is.
Our trip began on October 9th flying from Spokane, Washington on Southwest Airlines, and having no issues whatsoever, my favorite way to fly. Our pre-cruise stay was at the Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise port South and we enjoyed our stay, especially the courtesy airport/cruise port shuttles. We were lucky enough to already run in to fellow Cruise Critic People at this point, so that made it all even more exciting.
The next day our shuttle went smoothly, but arriving a little early, 11:15, we were set out among those still debarking. A bit of confusion, but not bad and we found our way to check in fairly easy. This was extremely fast and we only waited a brief 15 minutes after getting our Sea Pass card to board. I had forgotten that Celebrity greets you with a glass of champagne, so was please to have that in my hand the second I stepped on the ship. Mimosas were also offered.
I quickly bought my soda package for the 14 days at $5.00 a day, and then we wandered up to the buffet. We were early and it was easy to get our first meal onboard and a wonderful table. When the ship was full this area could get extremely crowded and unpleasant at times. My favorite discovery here was the ice cream area that served several different kinds of ice cream selection and was open most of the time.
Around 1:00 the door area to the rooms were opened, and we took our carryon down. We had room #2188. There was an engine sound throughout the 14 days, but it was constant and did not bother us at all. Our window was a large round one and we loved being down close to the water. The bed was extremely comfortable and we slept better than we do at home. Love that rocking!!!
We went out to explore and found the Infinity to be in wonderful shape. The staff are always smiling and greeting you at every turn. I LOVED the fact that smoking was very limited and to walk in to the casino without a wall of smoke hitting me was a treat for sure. If all other factors between cruise ships were the same, I would choose Celebrity for that reason alone.
Back in our room getting ready for Muster Drill, we witnessed a US Border Patrol boat arrest two people on a small boat and seize their vessel as well. Several other police boats surround them and even a helicopter flies overhead. It was quite an exciting scene right outside our window. Muster Drill on Celebrity now involves going to a designated lounge area, and your life vests stay in your room, hopefully never to be touched by your hands ever. Not sure if it was because there were a big group of German speaking guest onboard or not, but everything announced was done both in English and German.
Our luggage had arrived upon our return from Muster, and we unpacked and really dug in for our wonderful 14 days ahead. First night dinner is semi-formal, and we dressed and went up to Deck 5 for our Select Dining arrangements. I had pre-reserved times for the entire 14 days, but found I did not need to follow it exactly. It was no problem to get a table for 2 around 6:00 every day.
We got to know most of the wait staff as we rarely sat twice in a row at any one serving area. It was very good service in every station we were at. Ruby our head dining room host, and assistant, Gabrielle, were top notch!
This was the first night of my quest to have 14 nights of Escargot. This is one of my favorite dishes and rarely do they serve it more than once on other cruise ships. This dish is on the everyday menu on Celebrity so it is with great joy I report that I was successful in my quest and found each and every day's to be top notch Escargot.
We went to the show and during the course of the 14 days; we saw three productions shows by the singer and dancers. Kudos' to these young people for being able to remember and perform three different productions. Sometimes I can't even remember what I went downstairs to get when I get there and they remember hugely intricate dancing and singing numbers. I enjoyed each and every one. Also appearing was a male singer, female singer, violinist, acrobatic couple, ventriloquist, piano player, comedian, and a magician. Sorry I did not get the names down. Just wanted to show the huge variety. Our only wish was that they could have had a comedian perform more than one time.
On the first sea day we were scheduled for our Cruise Critic Roll call Meet and Greet at 10:30 in Michael's Club. We so enjoyed meeting those we connected with and had some special times later with a few of them. Thank you to the staff that appeared to say hello. We especially enjoyed the Food and Beverage Manager, Oswald. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was out and about on the ship every day.
Our first Port of Call was Grand Cayman. We ordered room service for this morning and I wrote in a banana, which did make it this one time. The other two times I wrote it in on our room service breakfast, it did not make it. They were always very prompt, if not early, with room service breakfast.
We were very early and got on the first ferry over to Grand Cayman. It bumped against the ship a bit, but no indication of what was to come. Apparently, as I learned from one of the staff, they stopped the tender from taking anyone over at midday so some people did not get to go on. The wind and waves picked up steadily throughout the day.
We wanted to see the Turtle Farm, so I had researched how to catch a bus, which was really a van. It is $2.50 each way per person. We found this extremely easy and reasonable. The turtle farm was $18 each unless you did the extra lagoon part of their park. We chose to just see the turtles. They told us we could come back to upgrade the ticket if we liked the look of what we saw of the extra part. We did not think it worth it, so just stuck with the Turtles. They were amazing, raging in size from egg to Table Size. They had a pick up pond area and we each mastered picking up a turtle without getting too splashed. That was a lot of fun!!! Across the street from the turtles is a Dolphin encounter area. You can go in free of charge, but if you wish to get in with the dolphins there was a $20 (if I remember correctly) fee. The minute we wanted a ride back we were pleased to see a bus immediately.
We had also read about snorkeling right near the cruise ship and we always bring our snorkel and mask so we headed down to the Eden Rock Area. I am noticing the waves are quite large. We walked past Paradise restaurant where there is also a ladder to go into the water, and on to Eden Rock Dive shop. We rented a locker and still noticed the waves were quite large hitting the rocks. That is all there is, rocks and a ladder. No beach! I talk to the dive shop guy asking if this was worse than usual and he stated that it seemed to be odd, some were big and then a lull. Divers were going out with all their dive gear so we decide to do it. Hind site of course is 20/20 and the smart thing would have been to get fins and possibly a life jacket from the dive shop. Of course that was hind site, and we just went in with our sandals. Most places this is just fine, but this was a day for fins.
It is very murky water probably due to the waves kicking up stuff. Eden Rock and Devils Grotto are quite a ways out, but we get out there quickly. It was the getting back that we found extremely difficult. The undertow was terrible and even though I was swimming as hard as I could I seem to get no where. I know that in this situation you are to swim parallel to the shore and that is what we did. It was scary watching the waves crash in front of us at the rocks and realizing it is very much worse than when we got in.
We had purchased new masks and snorkels for this trip and mine was fogging a lot. Dealing with a bit of panic, and my fogged mask, I was getting exhausted. The dive shop guys came out to the ladder with a rescue float and they direct us how to get in at the point we finally get near the ladder. They throw me the float but the rope slips out of his hand. It was okay the wave washed me in at that point and luckily they were there to grab us into the ladder. YEAH we were safe!! All the dive people were in safe too.
Just a word of caution to anyone that swims without fins like we do, maybe at this area, if the waves are big, use some fins!!! After we are safe up at the shop we notice the Grand Cayman authority rescue boat had come over to this area. The dive shop says they did not call them, so I assume they were watching us struggle with binoculars and came over to help. Thankfully we did not need them, but it was nice to know they were around.
We ate at Paradise celebrating that we were safe and sound. Upon coming back to the tender area we notice the line is long, and it is very very hot so we decide to have a drink on a shop balcony and watch the line for awhile. One poor lady had become overcome with heat and they were all doing their best to give her first aid. Eventually they took her away in an ambulance, and we pray everything turned out well for them.
When we decide to get in line we see that the waves are so bad they are crashing over the tender walk way to the tender. When we got on we walked in ankle to calf deep water on the walk way, but get on the double decker ferry type tender. When we got on the tender at the ship, we entered on the bottom level but for some reason when we get back to the ship we exit from the top layer which we are sitting.
The waves are so bad it takes two attempts to even get the ferry up to the ship. The ladder they put across rises up and down in the ships door area and at points people attempting to make a dash at it have to crouch down to near kneeling to keep from hitting their head as the ladder surges upward. One big waves rips the ladder upward and off and we again have to line up and hook back on. This is an insurance adjusters nightmare I would say. We see the railing on the ladder is hugely bent now. What if that was someone's head? We think this is a huge risk and are amazed that they did it. We are all finally back on and on our way to the next port.
Our next port of call is Cartagena, Columbia. On the sea day before I had been informed that the Rosario Island Tour I had booked for us was canceled due to lack of participation. Disappointed, we book Cartagena by Land and Sea. We got off the ship easily and immediately onto an air conditioned bus. Our group was there early so off we went. It was hot and humid and the cool of the bus was appreciated. We went to San Felipe Fortress and walked to the top dodging the many many many vendors, which insist you need their jewelry or whatever it is they have. We are not shoppers and were dismayed a bit when we did the stop at a shopping area for about 45 minutes. It does not say that on this tour, but that was the case. The boat portion was nice and all in all we felt like we had a good tour. The port area here has very good WIFI connection for very little price and it is beautiful with parrots around to be enjoyed.
The Panama Canal was the next morning bright and early. This was the absolutely highlight of all we did. Amazing!!! We went to all different areas of the ship to experience as much as we could. We had some storm hit us but it cleared and was rather exciting to watch so it did not hinder us at all. It was some serious thunder! It is exciting to see all the building going on for the new canal. Maybe someday we will come back when that is finished.
My favorite port by far was our next stop of Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Now the port area itself is pretty icky, but we went inland and it was drop dead gorgeous rainforest.
We did a private tour through TuRuBari Park. Our guide, Manuel, spoke English very well, and we enjoyed every minute with him. He gave us an area history on our way to the park, which took about 45 minutes. Once there we decided on our adventure, which could be a canopy tour, zip line, horse back riding, or superman adventure. We all ended up choosing the zip line. It was fun and exhilarating. I LOVED IT!!
Next we did a nature walk and saw all the beauty of Costa Rica and many many animals. A huge lunch followed then some chose to tram back to the gondola and 6 of us chose to continue on for a walk back. I'm so glad we did as we saw many more animals and beautiful things.
The gondola ride was a breathtaking look over all we had seen on ground level, and then we were able to purchase pictures if we wanted of us on the zip line. Very reasonable price of $7 each. Then into the van/bus back to the ship. Wonderful day!!!
We hit the port of Huatulco on my 50th birthday. This is a small but beautiful port. We chose to do a ships tour of Two Bay snorkeling. We were disappointed that the beautiful water we saw from the ship held a lot of garbage to snorkel in. ICK!!! Shredded plastic and bags at first made me think it was jelly fish, but it was garbage, the coral in the second snorkel spot was extremely healthy and amazing. If not for the garbage, it would have been incredible. The saving grace of it all was that we got to snorkel single file into a cave and observed the many bats inside. That was amazing.
Back to the port and my husband had a beer on the beach. Everyone was very willing to take no for an answer here and not keep at you as they did in Cartagena.
Somewhere going back to the ship we lost our snorkels and masks. Not sure where, but my husband had just secured them again as he had his beer, so it is a mystery. We reported this to the ship incase someone picked them up, but alas no such luck. I am looking into using our Travel Insurance to replace as they were brand new, and I have the receipt. This is something they will cover if I can get all the reports and stuff from Celebrity.
That night was extra fun as in honor of my birthday I did the Margherita tasting.
For $12 you get 6 rather large samples of different flavored Margherita's. I had quite a
Buzz going to dinner that night. At dinner they all came and sang to me and presented me with a little birthday cake. What a great experience, thank you to the staff in Select Dining!!!
We did not have a sea day between as we have had between all the other ports, so we were up and ready for our next adventure on Acapulco the next day. We booked the River Rafting through the ship. It was extremely hot, and we waited a long time out in the heat with others in their various ship excursion lines. Finally we were on an amazingly comfortable bus with great air conditioning for our hour and 20 minute drive to Papagayo River. Our guide on the bus is fantastic and tells us all the history of Acapulco. We do not see him again till we head back on the bus.
At one point we went through a two and a half mile tunnel. That was amazing.
The area was extremely beautiful. We have been river rafting twice in our area out of Riggins, Idaho so we were so excited to experience it again.
We get to the company site and then receive our life jackets, helmets, and a very good safety briefing by the company owner who is American, I think, at least he spoke perfect English. We notice at this point that his arm is heavily bandaged.
We then pile in back of transport open truck. We went a few miles down the road then pile out, are given a paddle and then are to walk down a rocky trail to the river below. Very tricky, and we all have to watch our step. Note: We are the youngest on this tour beside one young man from the Celebrity Shore Excursions team.
There are 4 boats below us. We are divided between boats and guides and our guide speaks VERY little English. We think, Oh Wow, how is this going to work? He has to check with us to make sure the words for paddling are correct i.e. Forward, back, stop, down, which is to get down in center of boat.
River is flowing very fast, with big huge rocks all around us. They never suggest taking off glasses etc. so we are thinking we will not go in the water at all, my personal preference! We load in the raft as he directs us. We do exactly as he says, but I realize right away he is doing it totally wrong. He had us all get down at one of the first rapids instead of paddling and we turn sideways and it flipped us over. Terrifying!!! Pulls shoes off and of course glasses. I tried to hang on to boat but no way does that work. My husband says he was trapped under the boat for ages thinking he was done for then. I see him and we touch pinky fingers for a brief moment but then the river pulled us apart with the water making you race down the river and into rocks. I lost my paddle on this. It takes a long time to rescue all 6 of us and we are scared. Back into the boat eventually thinking, "well it can't possibly happen again" it had to be a freak thing. All paddles and shoes are rescued but alas no glasses.
Oh No! We realize our guide is awful. The other three boats are just fine. I know we should have been paddling and off we go again. He does not give us paddle directions as he should and we head for a rock. He says "Back" but too late and we hit and over we flip again into the rock. This was the WORST one. We were lucky not to go down in the hole where the water pulls you down life jacket and all and holds you there and you can't come up. I shot down river trying not to hit the rocks. My backside hits but just bruised and no injury. The water is over me and I can't get a breath. When I try to breath water goes in and so little air. There is no end to these rapids. I am truly scared for my life. This is it, the water is doing us in. I am thinking "Dang I only made it to 50 and one day". I am completely alone way ahead of all the boats and people, but after what seems an eternity they finally get to me. They throw a rope and for a brief moment the boat is over my head, but then the same guy who rescued me the first time pulls me in. Thank God!!!! All were already rescued before me, so we now all stop to recuperate.
I am shaking from head to toe and even as I write this, my heart is pounding in my chest. I ask if he is new and the answer is no and they have never had a two time turn over ever. Oh lucky us. We want to walk out but it is impossible.
Four of us refuse to get back in to this man's boat but my husband and another gals husband are brave and they take another young man who is along training to be a guide in this guys boat. I experience for the first time what I had done in Riggins Idaho and all the normal rowing directions I have had before. We have no more trouble at all.
My husband said they followed right behind and did exactly the rowing we did.
Six of us are traumatized and most likely will never raft again, but the other 18 in boats that had no problem probably will tell you it was wonderful. I can tell you none of them would get in this guys boat, so they all recognized it was operator error as well as we. Language barrier was just ridiculous in this situation. One of the gals told me that during her rescue they were yelling at her in Spanish and she had no idea what they were saying.
We get to the pull out and I hug my new guide for not dumping me again. WE ARE ALIVE and so glad to be on firm ground again.
We learned later the English speaking owner usually does the guiding and since he was injured they pulled in the young man we had and obviously he did not have enough English to do this.
We did have a very tasty lunch before getting back on the bus. Upon getting back the 2 other couples went immediately to be checked out by the ship's doctor and to report about this incident. We were just bruised so we did not got to the doctor, but we did report it. The next day we interviewed with the shore excursion representative, Carolina, and she could not have been more wonderful.
The owner of the tour and the guide had reported all of this and the shore excursion rep. that was on with us. We were concerned that this never happens to anyone else and that the minimum age of 10 on this tour be raised. I can't even imagine if my child was 10 and had gone in that water. Also if someone quite elderly either went in that water. I guess it is extremely rare that anyone goes in, but it is a possibility and they should rethink the safety here.
We were pleased to receive a bottle of champagne from Carolina and half back on our tour as a good will gesture on Celebrity's part. As I said, our main concern was to make this tour description just a little more accurate. They had a promise from the owner that this young man would never be a guide on a ship's tour again, and that only English fluent guides would lead ship tours.
We were very happy to have a sea day after this. Next up was Cabo San Lucas and this turned out to be fantastic and renewed my faith in WATER. We did the Chileno Bay Snorkel trip from the ship and the catamaran Tropicat was one of the best I have been on. It was large and clean with huge bathrooms.
The crew was wonderful and the snorkeling was perfect. Some of the best we've had in a while. On the way back the mai tais, margheritas, and beer flowed. It was a perfect port day for us.
We had another day at sea which was very windy and cool, typical of the area. Sadly it was time to pack and we were amazed at how fast 14 days went. I wonder how many days in a row we would have to do before I felt ready to go home. Can we say WORLD CRUISE!!!!
We always found something wonderful to eat in the main dining room and really enjoyed the Brunch they had on two sea days. There are never enough sweet chocolate things for me on cruise ships and this was no exception. We found we ate a lot of ice cream on this cruise and it was always a winner. The Oceanview Buffet was the usually buffet fare, and I am never disappointed, as I never expect too much from this. I did quite enjoy the made to order pasta station.
All staff, without fail, did an impeccable job at what they do. They all seem so happy, it is a joy to be around them.
Disembarkation was a bit slower than planned, but once in the line outside of the ship, it went fairly easy. Luggage was a breeze to find, and we were off to the airport with Super Shuttle. It was a pleasant end to a fantastic cruise.