Celebrity Infinity 10-night Alaska Cruise R/T Seattle Sept 16 - Sept 26, 2011
We were not originally going on this cruise. We have been to Alaska twice; the last time in July 2009. I chose this cruise for our friends who were first timers to Alaska and to cruising. The time matched their vacation time. Since it was a good deal and there is so much to do and see in Alaska, we booked, too.
The weather was not good. It was not even normal for Alaska. There was a wicked storm in the Pacific yielding high seas and higher winds. Our itinerary had to be altered twice. Thankfully, our Captain made changes that turned out for the better. Instead of Hubbard Glacier, we spent a day cruising up Tracy Arm. Instead of cruising west of Vancouver Island to Victoria, we cruised the British Columbia inside passage. That was a high light of the trip. We saw humpback whales, and orcas. It was amazing when perhaps 100 Pacific White-sided Dolphins raced toward the ship to surf our wave. Hats off to our Captain! We heard that passengers on other ships were not so lucky. They missed ports.
Cabin - Our friends had a balcony on Deck 8 starboard and they were delighted with it. We had an outside on Deck 2 port side, #2119, because we are cheap. Our cabin had a nice sized bathroom with the largest shower we've experienced. But I did not like the layout of the cabin. I would have rather had the beds head toward the window rather than be perpendicular. With the large couch and glass table with beverage tray, there simply was not enough room to move around. Also lacking was space to hang all of our wet clothes until our room steward brought some extra regular hangers.
Ship ' The Infinity was a nice size. We were located near the center elevators, so navigating the ship was easy. The theatre appeared small; but seemed quite adequate for attendance at the shows. The seats were very comfortable. Casino was pleasantly mostly smoke free. Trellis dining room was two stories with windows on the sides and a two story wall of windows in the end. We sat near the doors to the escalators used by the wait staff; yet it was not noisy, nor disruptive. The buffet was sometimes hard to understand. I found myself doing laps searching, while the food on my tray was getting cold. There were stations for pasta, pizza and Asian dishes. I was puzzled by the fact that the 'English Breakfast' station did not open for breakfast until 7:30am. On certain port days, that was too late. So, no bangers for me. A favorite spot on the ship was the indoor heated pool, a perfect antidote to the nasty weather. Alaskan cruises need an indoor pool. Constellation room on deck 11 forward was a great place to watch the scenery and wildlife out the windows.
Food ' the food was good. Our lobster was cooked perfectly despite the warning of our waiter. The hard ice cream was wonderful, especially the 'After Eight' mint with flakes of chocolate. Recommendation: offer that more often. The burger, brat, hotdog grill had tasty food for lunch. They also had very long lines. Another worker would have solved this problem. I appreciated the variety of beverages offered at the buffet such as fruit punch and lemonade. We did not eat at the specialty restaurant.
Itinerary and excursions' Ten days is better than 7. We enjoyed all the ports. We were mostly on ship excursions. Ketchikan was the start of the bad weather. Many excursions were cancelled. Ours was not. We went on the 'eagles, totems and lighthouse' cruise. Due to the rough seas our small boat could not go near the lighthouse. We were okay with that. And we were quite pleasantly surprised when we received a 25% refund since we missed the lighthouse.
In Juneau, we splurged on the floatplane to Taku Lodge for a salmon dinner. Well worth the money!!! This was our favorite experience. The flight over the glaciers was breathtaking. I held my camera by my face in the window of the plane and snapped photos like crazy with the digital camera. I figured that some would turn out and I did not want to spend the flight looking thru a viewfinder. Husband was on the other side of the plane taking video. The pictures help remind us how gorgeous it truly was. Once we landed we walked up to the historical lodge where the alder fire was started and slabs of King salmon were grilled. There was a small gift shop, a modern restroom building, some friendly dogs, and hiking trails. When the lunch bell rang we went through a buffet line and sat at large tables. They provided Russian tea and coffee; hot or over glacier ice. Alaskan beer was available. Our meal consisted of salmon or chicken, beans, coleslaw, fruit compote, herb biscuits, and ginger cookies. It was delicious. While we ate, the staff told the story about the Taku Lodge. The most impressive part was how quiet it was, especially in comparison to the crowded stores in town. Although we did not see any of the resident bears, I feel that we experienced the true Alaska.
In Skagway we took a mini bus tour to a suspension bridge in Canada. The storms had sprinkled fresh snow on the higher elevations. It was raining on us. The bus dropped some people off at the gold mining place and we went to Liarsville for a salmon bake. Coho salmon served this time. Good food, interesting singer, but not enough time to see the camp displays.
In Icy Strait Point we booked our own excursion whale watching (F.I.S.H.E.S.) with Floyd Peterson, a resident of Hoonah. Captain Floyd has a small (6 passenger) fast boat. Within minutes we saw several pods of humpback whales. After a while, Floyd asked if we wanted to look for more whale or wanted to try to see bear. We zoomed over to the shoreline across from the ship. We saw Stellar Sea Lions. Then we saw a Brown (although this one's fur was black) bear step out and walk along the shore. He ate some fish and grass, turned and disappeared. Some sun peaked out and there were rainbows right over the whales. What a day!
In Victoria, we took the city & Butchart Gardens bus tour. We did not expect much in the way of flowers on Sept. 25th. But I was wrong. The sun came out as we arrived at the gardens. It was beautiful. The Dahlias were the seasonal feature. Some were as large as a plate. We only had 1 hour 45 minutes. Needed more time there, too.
Entertainment and activities ' Mike, the cruise director was one of the best I have seen. He was everywhere, speaking to everyone. Luisa, the activities director, worked well with him. Since Alaska is a port intensive and a 'look out the window' intensive cruise we did not participate in many of the activities. I did watercolor painting and scrapbooking, regularly. Both were free, nice touch Celebrity. DH listened to naturalist speak and attended Photoshop class. The magician was good, the singers and dancers were very good. They were dancing, when most of us were having trouble just plain walking. The aerialists were amazing. There were many interesting activities but I could not leave the window to go participate. Nighttime parties appear to have been fun but we never went to any of them. The 'High Seas' a capella singing quartet was excellent. They had a good following and could have used a venue with more seating.
The Celebrity staff was top notch. Our room stewards, Sally and Dominguez were efficient and fun to talk to. Trellis Room staff, Angel and Javier, were so accommodating. Every staff person we encountered spoke to us. It felt sincere. This was the first cruise where I witnessed the head chef at the various eating locals checking on food and the servers.
Cruisecritic meeting ' this was a real problem for many. We had a large, active group of over 100. We planned numerous activities: slot pull, cabin crawl immediately after the get together, raffle, gift exchange. Based on past practice, we assumed that we would be meeting the morning of our first day at sea. So you can imagine the surprise to have our gathering scheduled for 8:00pm ' 9:00pm the first night we sailed. Many were either at dinner or on their way to dinner'so they missed it completely. We rescheduled our Select dining time in order to attend. Celebrity generously did provide champagne but some passengers were disappointed, some were very angry. Another meet and greet was then scheduled by Celebrity for the last day at sea; but for many it was too late.
Overall ' Celebrity is a wonderful cruiseline. Alaska is an amazing destination to return to again and again. However, next time I will not be on the final cruise of the season. Sometimes, the stormy October weather arrives early.