Our first Celebrity cruise had its genesis in February 2011, several months before the sailing date, when a dear friend, who was retiring in November 2011, decided to take this cruise to his carefully chosen retirement place: Chile! We chose to celebrate his retirement with him and, frankly, we had been wanting to do this itinerary ourselves. We are not vastly experienced cruisers as this was my 6th and my wife's 7th cruise, but we have tended to choose longer and more exotic cruises and this one fit our desires well. We've cruised on Holland America, Princess and Norwegian but never on Celebrity (or any RCI line) so this opportunity also appealed to us. We booked through Celebrity itself and had a very good experience with the agent and never had any difficulty negotiating the online experience afterwards, finding it all quite easy and confidence-inspiring, much like the other cruise lines mentioned above. We live in Florida, so only needed to book airfare home from Santiago, which we did ourselves, as we drove to Ft. Lauderdale for embarkation.
We learned early on from our retiring friend, but after booking, that this cruise would be the inaugural post-refurbishment cruise. I had read reviews and comments on Cruise Critic about such cruises and immediately became slightly leary as most of those I saw were generally rather negative. My friend said he had heard quite the opposite from friends who had been on such cruises, so I took a "wait-and-see" attitude. At first all seemed well, with Celebrity eventually acknowledging the "Solticizing" of Infinity and even starting a blog about it. Then on November 11th, less than a month before sailing, word came via email and telephone that due to the refurbishment embarkation time had been moved to no earlier than 2pm and to please not even show up before then as there was no waiting area for arriving passengers. For us this was an easily accomplished change of plans as we were driving; for others who were flying in from elsewhere, an impossible one. On our CC roll call, I was the first to mention this but soon, others began to receive the same notification; there were others who never received notification although they had booked through Celebrity too. Celebrity really dropped the ball on failing to plan for this eventuality.
Embarkation day. We arrived, as directed, after 2pm from our hotel. We were greeted happily by Celebrity staff and told us to drop off our checked luggage and to please board one of the awaiting buses for a short trip to the local convention center for check-in. This was fine except for having to handle our carry-on luggage on the bus itself. We were informed during the quick trip to the convention center that we would be provided with lunch, obtained via a "voucher", and a numbered trip ticket back to the ship. We received both as promised and found check-in went as quickly as you might expect with no problems. After check-in we were directed to the other side of a partition which separated check-in from the lunch/waiting area. This area was quite full of people but we found a seat at a table after noticing that everyone had box lunches, not quite what we had come to expect of embarkation lunches, but certainly in keeping with the overall air of the process. I immediately scouted out where to acquire lunch but, to my complete surprise, found there were no more box lunches, they were completely out. So, no lunch for us. Celebrity inexplicably had more vouchers, and apparently passengers, than lunches; whomever was in charge of this produced, in my opinion, a complete disaster. It is inexcusable that there weren't enough lunches and this experience has left me with a rather unfavorable opinion of Celebrity's ability to plan "off-the-cuff". Finally, our trip number back to the ship was called and we boarded around 5pm. Our luggage appeared while we were at dinner, which was started late. Finally at 10pm we departed Ft. Lauderdale and left this disagreeable experience behind.
Ship's clocks! What good are clocks that are right only twice a day? I had read in previous reviews of the Infinity that the clocks didn't work. I thought a refurbishment to be a perfect opportunity to correct this; apparently Celebrity didn't. Worse, each clock was frozen in time at a different time, so, at first, it would make us wonder if this particular clock was working... but none of them ever did.
We loved our cabin, 6053. We had none of the problems we heard others had with toilets and refrigerators and internet. The reception and control of our TV was awful. We often had to power cycle the control box to get things to work. Wasn't a big issue though as we don't watch TV much. We did like the interactive ability of the system. Like in a hotel, we could check our bill and order room service via the TV when it was behaving. The new beds were the most comfortable we've ever slept on during a cruise. The bath itself was the most well laid out area I've seen in a ship's cabin; if you've been on NCL cruise you'll know how odd it is to shower in a tube. This bath was efficiently laid out and even had a night light (wonderful for those "oh-dark-thirty" trips where you needn't disturb everyone with the full light turned on outside the bath) but oddly lacked a hair dryer. We loved the larger-than-most verandah; even though it is angled to aft it provides a nicer view in our opinion. However, service was mediocre; our room was often not serviced until late afternoon; we had to call more than once to have it done before dressing for dinner. We had to ask for new shampoo and soap for the bath too. Our room attendants never learned our names and my wife missed the daily towel animals we've gotten on all our other cruises.
Dining was terrific! The menu in the main dining room never repeated as it does on most longer cruises on other lines. I've never been visited by one of the chefs on other lines either; here we were visited no less than 6 nights by chefs, the maitre d' and head waiters. They seemed very conscious of the needs of their patrons and we never had a complaint with our meals at a table of six. We tried to find a reason to try one of the premium restaurants but never found one. The options for dining in the buffet area were the best we've seen; if you are a sushi-lover you'll love the nightly spread found there. Overall, we found dining on the Infinity to be a most consistently superior experience.
We found the decor of the public areas on board Infinity to be elegant and refined, understated and peaceful. Many of the areas were still undergoing the final touches of refurbishment though, so they weren't as enjoyable as they might have been. Construction on the 11th floor cabins went on all through the cruise late into the evening making enjoying the aft bar altogether too difficult. There were a number of construction and maintanence crew on board doing all sorts of things from painting to building the childrens' play area to electrical and plumbing work. The fitness area, while certainly nice, left many things to be desired; many treadmills were all but unusable, the men's sauna didn't work for at least the first half of the trip and the men's changing area was mostly unusable throughout. My wife found Cafe' al Bacio to be a quiet retreat for reading on sea days with attentive service. The on board library must be someone's idea of a joke however. I also didn't care for the Apple sponsored internet cafe where I noticed the service more inclined and friendly to those who had, or showed interest in, the Apple products being sold. At least on Holland America and Princess Microsoft teaches free classes and doesn't sell products on board (and isn't responsible for the internet cafe); Apple charges for their classes, sells products and seems to be responsible for the internet cafe on Celebrity.
Would I go on another Celebrity cruise again? Yes, if I couldn't find a similar itinerary on another line at a better price. I know that experiencing a just-out-of-refurbishment cruise is not common and don't really hold Celebrity responsible for what I had, on the back of my mind, expected from such a cruise. We are mostly itinerary driven when picking cruises, so if Celebrity is going where we want to go when we can go for an acceptable price, we will try them again, but not as a first choice. I would strongly recommend against a post-refurbishment cruise on any line though and intend to heed my own advice in the future.