Although we have Elite Captain's Club status via our cruising with Royal Caribbean, this was our first cruise on Celebrity. Please pardon any spelling errors. The spell-checker is not up on a lot of the terms.
Boarding the Infinity in Buenos Aires was interesting. We arrived in a cab with another couple who were staying at the same hotel and whom we'd met on our Cruise Critic roll call. There were a whole bunch of people standing in a line with their luggage. We found a large trolley, loaded it up and found a porter who took the trolley. All of the luggage had been tagged before we arrived on the pier.
With our hand luggage, we proceeded inside the terminal, asked where the Elite boarding was and were directed to the central desk where we were immediately served. There were no signs for Captain's Club or Suite guests until we went up the elevators to the next level where we completed the check in. The advice here is to not look for signs and not just get in the long line if you have priority boarding status.
Passports are taken before embarkation and they are held until the last sea day. When you get your passport back (between 1 PM and 5 PM at the conference center) it will have a paper in it that you will have to give the authorities in Santiago to get through the airport. This is the exit paper.
We boarded the ship and found our cabin. The extension cord for the Bi-pap machine was already there. We were greeted by Nyoman, our fabulous cabin attendant, who assured us that we would be getting the jug of distilled water. The luggage came swiftly and we were mostly unpacked within 15 minutes. Nyoman brought us additional wire hangers and a cork screw for the wine our TA had sent us. We found cards in the cabin denoting the OBC from the TA and the wedding anniversary gift of dinner for two at a specialty restaurant from our son and his family.
The cabin was clean with an amazing amount of storage space. We had decided upon an ocean view cabin rather than a veranda for this cruise itinerary and I loved having the deep window sill for additional storage. The luggage fit under the beds just fine. The porthole was huge. The bathroom storage wasn't very commodious, but I bring an over-the-door shoe carrier and that is a big help. There were small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and little bars of soap. I didn't use it. I have sensitive skin so I always bring my own, but DH said it was pleasant enough. I liked the fact that there was a wall-mounted holder for the magazines so our little table was clear. The towels were very scratchy. I did write that up on my comment form.
The ship is lovely. I'm a big fan of smaller ships and this one was laid out so well. There are 10 elevators on the ship and getting from one place to another was easy, with no obstructions or circuitous routes necessary. It appeared to me that they had replaced all the carpeting when they Solsticized. There are lots of small lounges where one can find a quite place to read. The gym was very small and if there was a class, there was no room on the exercise floor for others doing their own thing. The Thalassotherapy pool was wonderful. I didn't use the outdoor pool.
Though it is winter in the US, it is summer in South America. The local children are on summer vacation and there were quite a few on the ship. For the most part, the little ones were not seen, but there was a significant number of unsupervised preteens who were not well controlled. There were some cultural differences in "interpersonal communications" between the South Americans and we North Americans that we noted and we got the feeling that there was more than a little resentment that everything on the ship was not in Spanish. I have to believe this situation was caused by marketing. I felt that the cruise director's staff did a fine job in accommodating Spanish and Portuguese speaking guests. There were French-speaking passengers, Flemish-speakers, a large number of Hebrew-speakers and German-speaking passengers aboard as well. I enjoyed meeting many of them.
The food in the MDR was very good. There was a great selection every night and there is a lovely standard, unchanging menu, that is available every night. Escargot every night is a good thing. I am a very picky eater and I never left the table without having satisfied my appetite. The food was not only tasty, but creatively presented. Our waiter was extremely eager to please. The assistant waiter was very quiet and very good. The somalier was very attentive. We had a lovely group of 6 at our table and enjoyed our dining experience. We did eat at the SS United States one evening and had a fabulous meal with great service. I would definitely recommend it. I wanted to eat at Q-sine, but it is very much about presentation and my DH's idea of presentation is "knife, fork, plate and food". He would not go for it. I did get to sample some of the specialties at the Elite gatherings in the evening.
The food in the buffet left a lot to be desired. It was rarely at proper temperature. The pastries in the front at breakfast time were dry, tasteless and boring. Except for the croissants, the pastries reminded me of the stuff the budget motels buy at Costco for their Continental Breakfasts. I could not get Swiss cheese in an omelet at the buffet and it was not easy to get in the MDR at breakfast, either. After a conversation or two with some people in authority, I did get my omelet the way I like it, but it should not have taken special measures. Of the 13 day cruise I don't recall cloth napkins being in the buffet at lunch time more than twice. Towards the end of the cruise they had little, thin square napkins like one would use for a picnic. It did not give a nice impression.
The pizza is very good. The hot dogs and hamburgers at the grill by the pool were awesome. The hot dogs became my favorite lunch when not eating in the MDR. Being a Royal cruiser, I missed the Tutti Salad Bar in the MDR on sea days. The lunch menu in the MDR is small, but the couple of times we ate there, the food was good. The cookies are absolutely fabulous. I could have lived on the cookies. The ice cream often had pieces of ice in it. I was not impressed with the quality. One flavor called "after eight" had no flavor. The sushi, though tasty, is limited in selection and quickly became boring.
We did not find anything interesting at the Spa Cuisine spot near the pool. Though the fruit and vegetables are supposedly organic, everything was filled with carbohydrates. I don't care if they were organic, they were carbs and DH needs to avoid them for health reasons, so the "healthy" food wasn't healthy for him. We were not about to pay $5 for a little sandwich at the spot on deck 5.
The entertainment was fine. Ceasario, the guitarist is fabulous. We bought his CD. He played in Michael's Club and in other areas of the ship as well as a concert for the show one evening. The production cast are just awesome. These youngsters are full of talent, energy and enthusiasm. We enjoyed their shows. The magic show was great, but I'd seen it twice on RCI and it hadn't changed. Those who hadn't seen it before really enjoyed it. The Tango show was definitely a "must see". There was dancing until early in the morning and plenty of activities during the day. We were never bored.
The weather was with us. At each port we were told that we had an unusually pleasant day. I tend to bring good weather with me so all of you are welcome to bring me along on your cruises. On the day we rounded Cape Horn, the water was calm and the winds, though chilly, were tolerable. The captain said that in 9 years of Celebrity sailing this route, this was only the 4th voyage where the weather permitted the ship to get close to the islands and turn around. The naturalist on board was on the PA system explaining what we were seeing and giving us great information. The naturalist and the other speakers were interesting and I would watch them on TV in the cabin early in the morning. It was great to not have to spend time in a lecture hall.
After rounding the Horn, the seas of the Pacific were rough so the captain changed course so that we had a smoother ride. We were also closer to shore so we had more scenery. The crew was very visible. There were always high-ranking officers interacting with guests. I liked the feeling of intimacy it invoked.
The scenery sailing through the Chilean Fjords, The Straights of Magellan and the other passages is just gorgeous. We saw glaciers all over the place. It is truly a beautiful part of the world.
I tried out the Persian Garden on a port day with the Elite coupon and was not at all impressed. I would have preferred the non-coed steam room on a Voyager or Radiance class ship of RCI which is free and I don't need a bathing suit. The free sauna in the locker room looks out to sea and is not co-ed and much nicer than the Persian Garden. I would certainly not pay for Persian Garden.
The best thing about the casino is that it's smoke-free. It was a pleasure to be able to drop a few quarters in the video poker machine and not have to hold my breath while walking through it.
Ports of Call were interesting. I think Puerto Montt was my favorite because of the vistas of volcanic mountains in every direction. We went to Otway Bay to see the penguins and they were just adorable. There are not very many there in comparison to Punta Tombo, but the ride was shorter and we had an excellent guide on our private tour. All the tours we did were pre-arranged private tours except for Punta Del Este where we got a tour on the pier. It was fine and not very expensive. Wait until after 10 AM and the boat has emptied a bit more. The prices will drop.
The ports are, for the most part, in cities. Either metropolitan areas, industrial areas or resort areas. One has to go outside of the urban areas for scenery.
We were given certificates for sailing around "The Horn". They were selling tee shirts that said something like "I sailed around Cape Horn" but it was a zoo trying to get one and, for me, no $20 tee shirt was worth the mayhem going on outside the buffet on deck 10 to buy one. That was the only time I realized how many people were on the ship because it seemed they were all there trying to get a tee shirt.
When you reach Chile, you will be given a paper that you have to take ashore with you every time you are in Chile. It's an agricultural declaration. Don't even think of bringing any food off the ship. You will get in trouble. You will have to hand this in when you disembark in Valparaiso. Save it.
We learned that we could have used American currency all over, even in Chile, though all the stuff on the Internet says you can't.
I can't say enough good things about the fabulous crew on the Infinity. Each and every crew member we interacted with was polite, well-trained and intent upon making us comfortable and welcomed.
One crew member does not get good marks and that is a young woman named Valeria who is on the cruise director's staff. She was in charge of the progressive "team" trivia game and on the last day, when one team was 11 points ahead, she bowed to pressure from losing teams to change the way points were scored by "betting" on answers so that the team with the most correct answers was not the winner. After speaking to Mr. Gayda, the cruise director (whom by the way was wonderful) the team was given equivalent prizes, however it did leave the team who knew the most answers with a bad feeling. Even Mr. Gayda had never heard of "betting"on the trivia answers. We've played trivia on many cruises and progressive trivia on transatlantics and we've never seen this "betting" either. Being 11 points ahead is not an unfair advantage when the score is based on knowing the answers to the questions. If you take this cruise and find her doing it, put a stop to it. It's unfair.
I got to be one of the chefs in the cook-off on the last day and had a wonderful time. I and the assistant sous chef won first place. I got to keep the paper toque (now quite a mess from the luggage) and was awarded a nice bottle of champagne which we gave the somalier to chill for dinner and we shared it with our table mates. We came home with 5 tee shirts, scads of pens, decks of cards and luggage tags from playing trivia. We gave away a lot of the "swag" we just enjoy playing the game.
There were two Cruise Critic Connections parties. They served cookies, tea and coffee. There was also a lovely reception for Captains Club Members and the Elite perks were really, really nice. The status offers much better benefits than Royal gives for the equivalent status.
Disembarking was painless. You have to take a bus from the ship to the terminal. We were able to get a trolley for the luggage and were off the ship, on and off the bus, through agriculture and immigration and out the door in less than 30 minutes.
We enjoyed our cruise on the lovely Infinity. We had good weather, good food and made some awesome friends. I just don't have room here for all you probably want to hear so you may email me at email@example.com for more information. I did keep a travel journal.