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1,509 Celebrity Alaska Cruise Reviews

This was our third cruise, first on Celebrity. Other two were on NCL and RCCL. Our children preferred RCCL, but we loved the more formal cruise experience of Celebrity and the wonderful pampering. We were particularly wowed by the ... Read More
This was our third cruise, first on Celebrity. Other two were on NCL and RCCL. Our children preferred RCCL, but we loved the more formal cruise experience of Celebrity and the wonderful pampering. We were particularly wowed by the exceptional service everywhere on board. One of our group had sailed Crystal in Alaska, and could not say it was any better than the Infinity. If anything, he preferred the many more choices available on the Infinity to the smaller ship he took with Crystal. Alaska in the summer is a great way to beat the heat. So many exciting excursions to choose from. We went kayaking, hiking, took the railroad, and went salmon fishing. We were too chicken and cheap to try heli-hiking. Our daughter went for a dog sled ride (on wheels because there's no snow in the summer) in Skagway and raved about it. We booked the excursions on our own through the internet sites of the chamber of commerce of each city. All of the excursion operators were truly wonderful. Very accommodating and totally reliable. What can you say about the Infinity? I can't say enough about it. We had 4 of us in an inside stateroom, and the cabin was very well laid out. We had swim suits, shorts, sweaters, jackets, rain slickers-somehow there was room for it all. There was actually a fifth berth in the cabin-a pull out chair-and if economically necessary, two average size adults and three children could fit. The cabin steward invisibly pulls the beds down at night and puts them up during the day, and is a great help in keeping everything neat and orderly. There was always something available to eat regardless of when we returned from our excursions or how late we slept. The buffet breakfast was served until 12, at which time the buffet lunch commenced immediately. There was pizza and pasta at 3, sushi at 6 and ice cream all day (no charge). Instead of having to be herded into midnight buffets, uniformed waiters with trays of hors doeuvres and pastries patrolled all the public areas at 11:30pm. A truly elegant touch. The dining room was very formal, with a harpist or trio serenading at dinner. We thought the food was terrific. Everything was nicely sauced and very tasty. Not a simple feat when there were about 1,600 passengers on our cruise. The cremes, meringues, and flans were a particular treat, each one flavored differently, never dull. The specialty restaurant, SS United States, was spectacular, but may not be for everyone, as it lasts about 3 hours because all the food is prepared to order. An unusual treat was the spa cuisine, available for breakfast and lunch in the AquaSpa. Beautifully presented and delicious. I thought the party band, Onyx, was terrific. The two man band in the Rendezvous Longe was something of an acquired taste. Ditto the piano player in Michaels Pub. But the musical productions were fantastic-elaborately staged and costumed with wonderful singers and dancers who presented everything from Phantom to La Boheme. There was even a classical quartet that played before and after dinner in the coffee bar. Thankfully, cigars could only be enjoyed on the outside aft deck. Also, we hardly noticed any cigarette smoke, except in the crowded casino. Kudos to Celebrity for managing that matter in a civilized fashion. Also for never announcing of activities over the PA system. There really is so much more to talk about. Let me just say it was all incredible- elegance and class from beginning to end. The only negative I can think of is that it is not the best choice for singles. Read Less
Sail Date August 2003
Vancouver BC My partner and I flew from Chicago to Vancouver, B.C. with American Airlines using frequent flyer miles. We arrived in Vancouver early on Thursday August 21, 2003, and checked into our hotel the St Regis. This hotel was ... Read More
Vancouver BC My partner and I flew from Chicago to Vancouver, B.C. with American Airlines using frequent flyer miles. We arrived in Vancouver early on Thursday August 21, 2003, and checked into our hotel the St Regis. This hotel was booked through Expedia.com, as was our cruise. It was basic but clean and centrally located. We spent all day Thursday exploring Vancouver, though most of the afternoon was spent on Granville Island, which is reachable from downtown via a bridge using the # 50 bus, $2 Canadian each way. There are lots of art galleries, a brewery, a produce/ fish market, restaurants and a marina. This place is well worth a visit if you are spending any time in Van City. On our return from the cruise we spent a further two nights in Vancouver Vancouver is a beautiful city: clean and scenic, with friendly and helpful natives. We were blessed with very fine weather, sunny and in the high 70's, unusual for Vancouver to have San Diego weather! In addition to Granville island, we rented bikes and explored Stanley Park, we also toured the Gastown district and on our final day we rented a car and drove the "sea to sky" highway to the ski resort of Whistler. In Vancouver we dined at two quality restaurants: the Pacific Culinary Institute on Granville Island and the Kettle of Fish on Pacific near Howe. Both very worthwhile, especially of you enjoy fresh seafood. The Cruise: This was our first Celebrity cruise and our first to Alaska. Previously we have sailed in the Caribbean (Southern and Eastern) with Norwegian Cruise Lines, the now defunct Dolphin Lines, Sun Cruises and Carnival. We are now hooked on Celebrity, so positive was our experience. The few negative things I mention here are so that Celebrity can make the cruise experience even more positive for future passengers. I hope they take note of their passenger reviews, and I hope that you, the reader, will get some tips for your cruise on Infinity. Embarkation: the only delay next day was waiting for US Immigration officials who arrived at 12noon: we were there at 11:00am so we had to hang around for an hour. If you are going on the cruise, use your morning to explore Vancouver and plan to arrive at the Cruise terminal after 12:30pm. Once on board, we headed directly to the lunch buffet and when we arrived back at our cabin the luggage had already arrived. The Ship. The Infinity is a new ship, just over two years old, and she is beautiful. She is quite a large vessel, and seemed to dwarf other ships at the various ports we sailed to. She is the largest in Celebrity's fleet, though the dEcor is very modern, and if you're looking for a traditional ship with lots of teak and brass, you will be disappointed. There were over 2000 passengers on board but due to the size and spaciousness of the ship, we never felt it was too crowded. Due to recent outbreaks of the Norwalk Virus on other cruise lines, Celebrity staff were always visible cleaning surfaces and door handles with peroxide, especially in the public restrooms. It was great to see Universal Health Precautions being observed throughout the ship, which was-- with one exception (described below)-- spotlessly clean. The passenger demographics were: lots of Asians on board, and most people in their thirties and older. We met passengers from England, Australia, Spain and Israel. Not too many young people, although there were some teenagers fuming at the sign by the Thallasotherapy pool area that read " Children under 18 not allowed." Celebrity might like to change that one. Teenagers don't like to be called children! It seems that the crew are given one day off per week, and on our first port day (Juneau) it was obvious from the mess in the pool area that they were short-staffed. Used towels were strewn about and dirty food trays went uncollected, for hours! This was the only time that I noticed this. At all other times, the ship was spotless. Another observation I had was that some of the young people on board barged straight into the elevators without waiting for passengers to get off, which I thought was extremely irritating. If I had done that at their age, I'd have had my ears clipped by my parents. We had an inside cabin, number 2103, and we found it quite large compared to staterooms on other cruise lines we had experienced. We didn't mind having an inside cabin as we are hardly ever there during the day, although I can see the advantage of having an ocean view cabin or a verandah on the Alaska cruise. There was plenty of storage. My only gripe is that Celebrity does not provide shower gel, so bring your own! They do provide bar soap, lotion and shampoo, but as I'm bald and don't care much for bar soap I had no use for these items, and had to buy shower gel in Juneau on our first port day! In addition, I had a sore on my gum and needed Anbesol. The sundries shop on board the ship was useless. It carried none of the items I needed, such as Anbesol and shower gel, and as far as I'm concerned the shopping emporium on Infinity is a lot of wasted space. If you are to have a sundries store, then it should be well stocked or don't bother. There is a casino on board. Slot machines are tight and the only one with a consistently good payout was the Cleopatra nickel machine first on the left as you enter the Casino. I won 5,000 nickels (enough to pay for the bear watching excursion!) on a $2 bet. Not bad! But I heard from other passengers that they had not had much success on the quarter and dollar slots. Watch out at the Blackjack tables: study the rules carefully before you play. Their Blackjack rules differ greatly from those on land-based casinos. Cuisine: We took most meals, including breakfast, in the main dining room: The Trellis. Breakfast is cooked to order, a nice change from the buffet. The food on Celebrity is exceptional. It is beautifully prepared and presented, with a wide variety. The only exception was a salmon dish that one diner at our table had to send back. One couple at our table desired a kosher menu, and it was provided for them with no problem. We had fresh seafood options every day, and lobster tail and filet mignon were among the menu items on various evenings. Celebrity offered a variety of chilled soups which were all excellent. It was my partner's birthday during the cruise and as a surprise I had ordered a bottle of bubbly to be served to him-- with flutes for everyone at table-- on the evening of his birthday. Problem was, the wine steward gave away the surprise on the previous evening by announcing that this was to be served next evening. I took this complaint to customer service, and never got any satisfaction. This surprised me, given the fact that Celebrity boast about exceeding customer expectations. The staff on Celebrity is International and our waiter was from Honduras. He was excellent, but due to language difficulties there were one or two misunderstandings. A nice touch is the linen tray covers and linen napkins that are provided at the buffet meals in the Oceanview Restaurant. The fresh orchid on each table of the dining room is another touch of class. We attended an elegant afternoon tea one afternoon, also in the main dining room. Our table was for six people, and we were blessed with wonderful dining companions. Aside from ourselves, there was a couple from Brooklyn, New York, and another couple from Toronto,Canada. We got along so well that we met at the Martini bar almost every evening before dinner. The bartender, Victoria, was wonderful. Her secret ingredient? "I shake them with love." The Specialty Restaurant On one evening we dined in the SS United States, the ship's specialty restaurant. This is well worth the extra expense of $25 per person. Many of the dishes are prepared tableside and presented in the style of the old ocean liners. The chef provided an opening "amuse": asparagus wrapped in smoked wild salmon. After dinner coffee was presented with a tray of petits fours I dislike cheese, and as one of the four courses offered here is a cheese course, they allowed me to choose two appetizers instead. I highly recommend the Lobster Veloute and Steak Diane. We dined here on one of the formal evenings, and wore tuxedos. The only complaint I have about this restaurant is that I had to ask twice, and wait, for my water glass to be filled. Any restaurant that claims to be of this standard should never have a customer have to wait for something as basic as this. Activities and Excursions: Ports of call were Juneau, Skaguay and Ketchikan. We took the local Juneau blue bus service to see the Mendenhall Glacier. It is $10 round trip, and a substantial savings on the $39 being charged by Celebrity. We also took a floatplane excursion in Ketchikan to an isolated area in the Tongass National Forest, where we saw black bears catching salmon from a river. We also saw bald eagles, mountain goats and, as we flew back to Ketchikan, we saw a pod of Orcas swimming in the Sound. This trip cost us approximately $250 each, and was a much better value than the $350+ being charged by Celebrity. In Skagway we took the White Horse Railway to the Canadian border. This was the only shore excursion we purchased through the ship. We did much better by going it on our own for the shore excursions: We got better deals on shore than by buying through the ship. The highlight was the morning we sailed into Yakutat bay and saw the Hubbard Glacier. It is awesome and magnificent. We got within a half mile of the glacier wall, and we could hear it thundering and cracking. Bring loads of film or memory cards for your digital camera. Also lots of warm layered clothing! We actually saw a piece of this glacier calving into the bay. They also had Rangers on board to answer questions and a naturalist who gave excellent lectures on the geology and fauna of Alaska. You will learn a lot by listening to these experts. The Spa. There is a huge Spa on board the Infinity. It consists of a large Thalassotherapy pool which is heated sea water with bubble jets: very relaxing after a morning hike through the rain forest! There is also a large men's locker room with Sauna and fresh clean towels. Nearby is the Persian garden, a spa oasis in tile and mosaic, with Turkish bath, herbal steam room and thermarium with a variety of showers. There is also an Aqua Spa Cafe serving lighter and healthier fare for lunch. I have some complaints about the spa service: First it is run by Steiner Inc., not by Celebrity. Their staff seemed to use the Persian Garden an awful lot as a shortcut to get from Port side to Starboard and vice-versa. I resented this as I had to pay $99 for the privilege of using the Persian Garden for the duration of the cruise. In addition, one of the thermariums,—the Sahara Room-- was out of order for at least two days of the cruise. My biggest complaint is that I ordered a massage before the ship left port (they offer a 10% discount on day one if you order before sailing) and then at the time of my appointment, the massage therapist offered me a deep tissue massage. I accepted but he didn't tell me that this was $30 more expensive. I didn't realize this until I was checking my receipts that evening. When I took the problem to the spa staff, I was made to feel that I should pay for what I got. The problem was I didn't order it, it was offered to me as an option and I was never told it was a more expensive option. It seems that the staff of Steiner Inc., the people who run the spas on Celebrity, need some education about ethical business conduct and customer service. I didn't like their attitude, which was snooty and condescending. That's all I have to say abut that: it was one of the few negative experiences I had on this vacation. I did eventually get my refund, but I had to make efforts to get it. By the way, when comparing notes with other passengers, it seems that Steiner Inc. try to get customers to take more expensive services all the time at the Spa. I think they need to tell you if the price is different to what you think you'll be paying. Not to do so is grossly unfair. They also have a heavy sales pitch for their products, which are outrageously expensive compared to other brands for similar products. Entertainment: from the morning trivia quiz in the library to the Broadway style shows in the theater, we have no complaints about the entertainment on the Infinity. Our favorite was Nathaniel Reed, the talented soloist and Piano player who did an outstanding job every evening in Michael's lounge. We were also entertained by a harpist and a string quartet who played well during dinner or at various times and places throughout the ship. Despite my complaints, I have to say that the Infinity and its staff scored very highly. We will definitely choose Celebrity again. We joined the Captain's Club, a sort of frequent cruiser program. We also enjoyed the coffee morning "Cruise Critic" party where we met some of the staff, and other cruise critic members. I hope the comments offered here will be of help to others taking this cruise and with this ship. I also hope Celebrity can learn from what I have written here. They do have a quality product. But they should fire Steiner Inc. and run the spa with their own staff. Read Less
Sail Date August 2003
We just returned from the Alaska Inside Passage Cruise and we are still dreaming about this wonderful experience. We boarded in Vancouver, after spending the day there. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we managed to see a few of the ... Read More
We just returned from the Alaska Inside Passage Cruise and we are still dreaming about this wonderful experience. We boarded in Vancouver, after spending the day there. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we managed to see a few of the highlight before boarding the Infinity. This was our first cruise and the first time I had ever been on a boat, small or large and I was very apprehensive, armed with seasick pills and all the nerve I could muster, we boarded to be greeted by Champagne, Mimosa, or Orange Juice and a very friendly person who took us to our Sky Suite, via the beautiful glass elevator. Our suite greeted us with a bottle of Champagne, Fresh Fruit, and a beautiful room with a large veranda, comfortable deck chairs and the privacy and peace we were looking for. The suite comes with a butler, who made himself very scarce. In fact the only negative I have about the trip was the butler who was very lazy and hard to find. The rest of the crew made you feel like it was their personal goal in life to make you happy. I cannot say enough about our waiter Mert, and his assistant Vittala. They made every dining experience pure pleasure. These young men were professional and pleasant and absolutely nothing was too much for them to do. One night I couldn't eat another mouthful when we came to dinner, and I did not order an entrEe, Mert said "you must eat something, I will get you what ever you want". My comment was to him thank you, but tell me, do you get a commission if we eat". We both laughed. The entertainment, the dancers and singers, were as professional as some New York show I have seen and very enjoyable. The variety acts were good, but I don't care much for jugglers or magicians but I realize they have to have something for everyone. We only attended one of the late night parties as we took shore excursions at every port and enjoyed them tremendously, except perhaps were a little disappointed in the Totem Pole excursion, it really wasn't too interesting. But the shopping in town was fun. We loved the art auction and purchased three painting and two auctions. It was fun with the photographer taking all the pic's around the ship, they were a little too costly but we bought all of them including the video, (which isn't very professional, but a nice remembrance) perhaps they could change the music on the Alaska video it sounds very much like the X rated music. The last night was a sad one as we hated for the cruise, our new friends, the wonderful crew and just the whole experience to end. We hope to take another Infinity cruise next year and I think once you are on the best boat it will be a hard act to follow. Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
We just returned from the Alaska Inside Passage Cruise and we are still dreaming about this wonderful experience. We boarded in Vancouver, after spending the day there. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we managed to see a few of the ... Read More
We just returned from the Alaska Inside Passage Cruise and we are still dreaming about this wonderful experience. We boarded in Vancouver, after spending the day there. Vancouver is a beautiful city and we managed to see a few of the highlight before boarding the Infinity. This was our first cruise and the first time I had ever been on a boat, small or large and I was very apprehensive, armed with seasick pills and all the nerve I could muster, we boarded to be greeted by Champagne, Mimosa, or Orange Juice and a very friendly person who took us to our Sky Suite, via the beautiful glass elevator. Our suite greeted us with a bottle of Champagne, Fresh Fruit, and a beautiful room with a large veranda, comfortable deck chairs and the privacy and peace we were looking for. The suite comes with a butler, who made himself very scarce. In fact the only negative I have about the trip was the butler who was very lazy and hard to find. The rest of the crew made you feel like it was their personal goal in life to make you happy. I cannot say enough about our waiter Mert, and his assistant Vittala. They made every dining experience pure pleasure. These young men were professional and pleasant and absolutely nothing was too much for them to do. One night I couldn't eat another mouthful when we came to dinner, and I did not order an entree, Mert said "you must eat something, I will get you what ever you want". My comment was to him thank you, but tell me, do you get a commission if we eat". We both laughed. The entertainment, the dancers and singers, were as professional as some New York show I have seen and very enjoyable. The variety acts were good, but I don't care much for jugglers or magicians but I realize they have to have something for everyone. We only attended one of the late night parties as we took shore excursions at every port and enjoyed them tremendously, except perhaps were a little disappointed in the Totem Pole excursion, it really wasn't too interesting. But the shopping in town was fun. We loved the art auction and purchased three painting and two auctions. It was fun with the photographer taking all the pic's around the ship, they were a little too costly but we bought all of them including the video, (which isn't very professional, but a nice remembrance) perhaps they could change the music on the Alaska video it sounds very much like the X rated music. The last night was a sad one as we hated for the cruise, our new friends, the wonderful crew and just the whole experience to end. We hope to take another Infinity cruise next year and I think once you are on the best boat it will be a hard act to follow. Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
Just returned from my first Celebrity Cruise which was aboard the Infinity out of Vancouver, B.C. on July 25, 2003. This was my 14th cruise but I say without hesitation, that this was the best. INITIAL COMMENT: I write this endorsement ... Read More
Just returned from my first Celebrity Cruise which was aboard the Infinity out of Vancouver, B.C. on July 25, 2003. This was my 14th cruise but I say without hesitation, that this was the best. INITIAL COMMENT: I write this endorsement of Concierge Class with some reservation. There are= only so many Concierge Class cabins on each ship. The more people who know about it will just make it more difficult to book them. So, lets keep this information to ourselves, OK? CHECK IN: We opted for Concierge Class cabin 9065 (Sky Deck) and in my opinion, the upgrade is well worth it and then some. We arrived at the dock (Canada Place) with a friend who was not in a Concierge cabin. After the initial sorting, we were all assigned a Processing Number (21). Then we were separated from our friend and sent though an express line for Concierge Class and Suites where we were registered and given gold identification cards. We then entered a large area crowded with people waiting to proceed through American Customs. (And no, I don't know why U.S. Customs was doing business in Vancouver, B.C. but I'm sure someone here will educate me). They were only working on Group 11, so we assumed we would have a long wait. However, within a minute or two, there was an announcement for all passengers in Concierge Class or Suites to come forward. At that point we were moved to the front of a very long line and immediately processed through Customs and allowed to board the Ship. Our poor friend then spent the next two (2) hours in that crowd waiting to get on board. As you can imagine, the speedy check-in alone made the extra charge worth it! But, the benefits of Concierge Class only started there! THE CABIN: We think the biggest improvement is the upgraded linens, the goose down duvet and the PILLOW TOP MATTRESS PAD, which completely eliminated the dreaded crack in the middle. The pillow choices were great (we took goose down). The daily color change for the towels and bath rug was an unexpected surprise, especially when I realized that the room steward was changing the colors of the cue tips each day so they matched the color of the towels!! There were so many other little touches -- binoculars, padded balcony chairs, larger table, upgraded Frette bathrobes, golf umbrella (which we used in Juneau), fresh cut flowers in the cabin and the bathroom! The level of service was also very good. In Concierge Class, there is a special enhanced room service menu. We used this to order in-cabin breakfast service every night before bed. Unlike other cruise lines, where the food arrived with a sudden knock on the door, with Celebrity, we received a phone call each morning to tell us breakfast was on the way up. It was such a nice touch and avoided the awkwardness of a surprise early delivery. Another great move was the room steward cleaned the railing and the glass panels on the balcony every day! (I have been on suites on the Rhapsody of the Seas and on the Grand Princess where this was not done.) It was something you noticed and appreciated every day when you looked out your balcony doors or sat out there with a cocktail! On the issue of the overhang, I have to admit that I became a little obsessed with this issue after lingering around these boards too long before the cruise but once on board, the overhand from deck 10 above did not bother us at all. (We also did not have any problem with noise from the pool deck.) THE SHIP: The Infinity is a beautiful ship! During the week, we discussed what it was about this ship that was so nice. We came to the conclusion that it was an understated elegance in the decoration. The ship's interiors are beautiful and well done without being "over the top." I think this was what bothered us so much about RCI's Voyager of the Seas -- way over the top without the elegance (see my review from last year). The main foyer area with the long white drapes and onyx staircase is beautiful as are the main dining room and the theatre. (I didn't quite understand the burning boxes in the walls of the theatre, but if you didn't think about it, you were fine!) The SS United States restaurant was also wonderful. The goat cheese souffle, Steak Diane and chocolate souffle were TDF (to die for). Don't miss the following: - Wonderful fresh pastries every afternoon in the Cova Cafe. The Ship's Bar Manager, Tonya, from Sweden always seemed to be right there and was one of the friendliest officers on board. - A full Sushi Bar each afternoon on deck 10..and I said FULL Sushi Bar! Not just California Rolls. Everything including broiled eel and hot sake! - Pea Soup in a bread bowl to keep you warm while at the Glacier! - Probably not entirely legal, but we borrowed a couple of= the wool blankets from the pool deck and kept them on our balcony for chilly days! - Champagne on boarding and Hot Chocolate upon returning to the ship after a day in port! - Take all the digital pictures you want! You can download them to the ship's server as often as you need to and, at the end of the week, you can burn all of them on to CDs for $15.00 per CD. Each CD can take up to 700 megabytes so that's a lot of pictures! The staff is very helpful and will guide you through the whole thing. - The Arabian Gardens in the spa. For $17.00 per day, you can use multiple steam rooms, saunas, heated benches and showers. I think the best were the small steam room with the smell of Eucalyptus and the Lemon tropic shower. It was very relaxing and very warm!! They may have a discounted weekly rate. I'm not sure. - Low Cal, Low Fat spa lunches in the Spa Cafe were also good. I had these between my normal lunch at the buffet and my late afternoon cheeseburger and pizza snack at the Breezes Pool Cafe! (Just kidding!!!) AND THE GREATEST IDEA ON AN ALASKAN CRUISE IS Ta-Da!! The Thalassotherapy Pool. This is the covered pool forward of the main pool on Deck 10. It is an adults only pool that is kept almost as warm as the hot tubs. The salts and minerals in the water are great. It has stainless steel pipe bleachers to lay on in the pool and large curved overhead pipes with flowing water to massage your neck, shoulders and back. It was just great to come back chilled from an outing off the ship and jump in for your daily self administered spa treatment. And while I understand that they originally wanted to charge for this pool, there is no extra charge now. FOOD: Without reservation (no pun) the food aboard the Infinity was wonderful no matter where you were. The Main Dining room service is great (except for a recurring problem with the wine steward). If you don't see anything you like on the dinner menu, the waiter told me you can ALWAYS order off the menu for a strip steak, chicken or a fish dish any night of the cruise. The food at the buffet on deck 10 is also very good. Always fresh, good tasting and the views from this casual dining area are magnificent for breakfast, lunch and/or sushi! Homemade ice cream is also great as are the omelet bar in the morning and the pasta bar at lunch. Last year on the Voyager, the food looked good, but was just plain bland and tasteless. On the Infinity, everything looked great and tasted great! The Pastries on the Voyager looked good, but always tasted like sponge cake. On the Infinity, an eclair tasted like an eclair! It was wonderful! THE PORTS: Juneau: The Tramway up the mountain in front of the ship dock was great. Beautiful nature walks from the top. The forest was beautiful. Skagway: A bit of a Disney-like experience but still fun for what it is. We took a motor excursion up the pass rather than the White Pass Railway. We had been told the train was nice but limited since they don't stop on the way. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride up and back. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and stopped at several places for pictures and to view waterfalls. The cost was also about a third of the cost of the train. The trip cost about $35.00 per person. Hubbard Glacier: I guess I expected to see a big blue ice cube floating in the water. Boy, was I wrong! We came so close to the glacier. The sound of the cleaving of the ice and it crashing into the water was so intense! We spent about 1/3 of the time in the Constellation (deck 10), 1/3 on deck and 1/3 on our balcony. It was a once in a lifetime experience. Ketchikan: I think this was the most American City. It was cute but unless you were on an excursion, not a lot to do. We were originally anchored out but were able to dock at 3 p.m. next to the Summit when the Dawn Princess left the dock. Prior to this, the tender service was great so long as you were Concierge Class or in a suite. There were special tender passes left in the cabin the night before by the room steward. That morning, we were directed away from the crowd and sent to Michael's Bar to wait instead of the main theater. They had coffee and pastries there for us. After just a few minutes, we were put in the front of the next tender group to leave. I think it saved a lot of time since there were a good number of people waiting in the theater. Vancouver: Loved this town. We stayed for a few days after the cruise and had a wonderful time. RANDOM NOTES: - Michael's Bar is no longer a cigar bar. I quit smoking in January, but was told that the cigar bar was now up in the Constellation on 10 (but I didn't see anything to indicate a cigar bar up there). - The ship's photographers on the Voyager of the Seas drove us crazy last year. To the point of causing traffic jams when trying to get off the ship. I'm glad to say this is not true on the Infinity. They are there, but will back off if you indicate you don't want a picture taken. - There is a topless bathing area on the very top forward area of the ship, but this doesn't seem to be a big-ticket item on Alaska cruises even in late July!! - This ship is wonderful but there was so much going on that we were still finding out about stuff up to the last day! Read your daily programs and don't forget a highlighter to mark it up so you don't miss things you want to do. - Although we were not able to eat at midnight (second seating) we did come down to see the Grand Buffet. It was beautiful as were the special window shades that they use that night. - The huge aft window in the main dining room was incredible. We had wonderful sunsets during second sitting, as the sun would go down as late as 10 pm or thereabouts. BRINGING ALCOHOL ON BOARD: OK this is the skinny: I don't think Celebrity really cares if you bring a couple of bottles of booze on board. We brought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of rum on board packed in Ziploc bags in our checked luggage. We carried the mixers in our hand luggage. Never a problem. I don't think there would have been if we had carried it all in our hand luggage. They don't seem concerned about it. END NOTES: In summary, the Infinity was my 14th cruise and I can say without reservation, that this cruise the best of all of them. This actually surprises me! As a side note, Celebrity and the Infinity actually remind me of my first cruises on Royal Caribbean over 10 years ago. The food is uniformly good and the staff conveys a genuine feeling that they want you to enjoy yourself. I realize that Celebrity is now owned by RCI and this doesn't comfort me. I hope they have the continuing good sense to leave Celebrity alone! I also promise to forgive RCI for my Voyager cruise last year so long as they promise not to try to "improve" Celebrity! It was a wonderful week that has restored my faith in the cruise vacation! We will be back and it will be Celebrity!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
Summit 7/11/03 - Alaska Southbound (Seward to Vancouver) Age: 40 Occupation: Business Analyst Number of Prior Cruises: 4 Cruise Line: Celebrity Ship: GTS Summit Sailing Date: July 11, 2003 Itinerary (abbreviated): Seward, Hubbard ... Read More
Summit 7/11/03 - Alaska Southbound (Seward to Vancouver) Age: 40 Occupation: Business Analyst Number of Prior Cruises: 4 Cruise Line: Celebrity Ship: GTS Summit Sailing Date: July 11, 2003 Itinerary (abbreviated): Seward, Hubbard Glacier, Sitka, Ketchikan, Inside Passage, Vancouver Beware, this is a long review About Us For this trip, I left my wife and son at home and headed off into the Last Frontier with my father-in-law. I had never done this since being married, but my wife wasn't interested in going to Alaska - her loss - and my mother-in-law thinks she doesn't like cruises - something that is inconceivable to me! We didn't plan this trip in advance, but fell upon a price I thought I'd never see again in my lifetime for an Alaskan cruise ($700pp inside guarantee), and booked it only 3 weeks before departure. This was my father-in-law's first cruise and my 5th. Previously, I had sailed on Premier's "Atlantic" for a 4-night Bahamas cruise, a 7-night Eastern Caribbean cruise on Disney's "Magic," a 10-night Circle Caribbean on RCCL's Grandeur of the Seas, and a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise on RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas. About our Fellow Passengers On our cruise, the average age was about 55. The ship was full with almost 2000 passengers on board. As usual their was a wide range of age groups. There were about 30 children on board, another 20 teenagers, and a few some honeymooners. Everyone else was approaching mid-life crisis, soon to be retired or already retired. No loud partying - just the way we like it. If you like to relax on your vacation, Celebrity is for you. The Bad News I'll start off with the exciting (read "bad") news for this cruise. Then I'll leave that bit of trouble behind and give you the good news - because, despite the problems, we were in a beautiful place, the weather was terrific most of the time, and we had a great time! Please note that this information has been culled from various sources including my own experience, newspaper articles, web reports, and conversations with members of the Summit's deck crew. On 7/9/03, two days before our cruise's departure from Seward, the GTS Summit struck a rock below the water line in Yakutat Bay after visiting Hubbard Glacier. Although the collision was obvious to the crew and many of the passengers, we were told that some passengers did not even notice the event as it was occurring. At the next regularly scheduled stop at Valdez, divers were put over the side to inspect for damage. At that time, the divers noticed that the starboard prop had a "slice" in it. However, due to poor visibility, no other damage was evident and the Summit proceeded to its final port - Seward. During this leg of the voyage, the crew noticed that the water level in the starboard ballast tank was rising, indicating a possible breach. Upon arrival in Seward, divers performed a second inspection that resulted in the discovery of additional damage. There the divers found a 140-foot long crease along the hull - as if somebody drove their car along a post and it just put a dent all the way down the length of the side of the car. In the middle of this crease, the divers discovered a 10-foot long by 5-inch high hole through the hull of the ship that breached the starboard ballast tank. It was determined that the damage to the prop was not critical, and neither was the crease. However, it was obvious that the hole would need to be repaired before leaving Seward. The repair involved welding a temporary seal to the outside of the hole, then draining the ballast tank, and going into the ballast tank from the inside of the ship. Once inside the ballast tank, the repair crew fabricated a steal box that was welded to the inside of the hull over the hole, and finally, the entire box was filled with a marine compound to form a permanent seal. Once completed, both the Coast Guard and Lloyds approved the repair plan, and the ship was finally able to sail. The repair has been approved to be kept in place and monitored on a continuing basis until the next scheduled dry-dock for the Summit in 2005. What made this most frustrating for me personally was not the fact that the ship was damaged - hey, stuff happens - but rather the fact that complete information was not provided to the passengers, and worse, misinformation was given. For a company like Celebrity who is renowned for their service, I found this alarming. We did all our check-in (documentation, ticketing, proof of citizenship, cabin assignment, etc.) in Anchorage that morning. We were never told of a problem. Then, we spent several hours on the train to Seward (with a cruise rep on board) and were told nothing. We finally found out about the problem upon getting our room key in Seward. At that time we were handed a letter that started off "As you already know......." WRONG! The letter told only about the hole in the ballast tank, the fact that we would miss our port at Juneau and that Celebrity would be giving us a $300 per cabin credit, that there would be an open bar before dinner on Friday, that excursions were available for booking in Seward, and that the ship would depart Seward at 9:00pm on Saturday. We were never told about the crease or the damage to the prop. Most importantly, we were never told that this happened when the ship was under the command of a Marine Pilot, and not the Captain - it never occurred to many of the passengers that pilots are used for anything other than going in and out of ports. Next, was the issue of not reporting what was known when it was known. The captain had made periodic announcements throughout the day on Friday and Saturday stating that the repairs were moving along as expected. The only thing we noticed was that the language regarding our 9pm Saturday departure time was changing slightly as the day went along. First it was "confident." Later in the day it became "hopeful." Finally at 9:30pm on Saturday we were told that we would be leaving "sometime after midnight." On Sunday morning we awoke to a very familiar picture - Seward. During breakfast we were told that the repairs we taking longer than expected, that we would be missing our second port of call at Skagway, that we were again "hopeful" that we would be departing by 3:30pm, and that once we were under way, we would be advised of additional compensation. We were told that we could take a tender into town and that the last tender would be leaving at 3:00pm. With this in mind, we made our way to town to find a pharmacy. There we purchased a newspaper for the sole purpose of finding yesterday's baseball scores. It wasn't until we returned to the ship that we noticed that the Summit was on the cover of Sunday's Anchorage Daily News - top of the page no less. This is where we finally learned of the damage to the prop and the crease in the side of the ship. Most upsetting (from a customer service standpoint) was a quote from a Coast Guard officer that was made sometime on Saturday afternoon. The Coastguardsman was commenting on the cruise lines statements that the ship would be leaving on Saturday evening at 9pm: "But the Coast Guard was skeptical that the ship would leave so soon. 'I don't think that's possible Coast Guard Lt. Commander Jim Robertson said. They've got a lot of work to do.' Passengers apparently hadn't heard the official line." After reading that, we were just a bit peeved. We had been strung along with misinformation for at least a day. It appears that it had been obvious to everyone in the know that the ship would not be leaving on Saturday, yet Celebrity apparently kept that story alive until we woke up on Sunday morning. At 3:15pm on Sunday, we were told that the repairs we completed, that we were awaiting approval from the Coast Guard and Lloyds to sail, that we should be sailing by 6pm, and that there would be an open bar for the next hour. Mayhem instantly ensued at every bar on the ship. The sight of grown men and women fighting over six packs of beer was almost enough to make me wretch - and I do mean that they were walking away with a six pack in each hand. We finally left Seward at 6:30pm on Sunday. Shortly thereafter we were advised that Celebrity would be providing each passenger with a 50% off coupon for a future cruise as compensation for the delay - in addition to the previously announced $300 on-board credit per cabin. Now on to the good news! Flights and Embarkation For this cruise, we booked our own air and pre-cruise hotel using FQTV miles. We had non-stop flights on Continental from/to Newark, NJ. We arrived Anchorage at 8pm on Thursday, took a cab ($25 incl. tip) from the airport to the Anchorage Hilton. The next morning we got breakfast and walked the two blocks to Egan Center for check-in, arriving at 8:30am. We were one of the first passengers there. The check-in took us about 20 minutes. We were given a card that was to be exchanged for our room key in Seward. We were also told that we were being "upgraded" from a bus to the train departing at 12:30pm for Seward. We checked our bags there (trucked directly to the ship and delivered to our stateroom), and left our carry-on baggage with the attendants for retrieval prior to boarding the train. The concierge at Egan Center gave us information on what to do while we waited for the train. We ended up going to a Northern Lights slide show at the Arts Center across the street, walked down to the waterfront for a bit, and returned to Egan Center at 11:30am. Around 1:00pm, we were loaded onto a bus for a short trip to the train station. Each railroad car was set up with 4-person "booth-type" seating tables. We were seated with a very nice couple from northern Florida and had a great time with them. During the trip, light meals and beverages were offered and delivered right to our table by a crewmember. Simple snacks were also available in the bar car at the rear of the train. An on-board guide narrated portions of the trip and gave us advance notice of photo opportunities. The trip is about 4 ½ hours long - it may be frustrating for those eager to get to the ship. By contrast, the bus took only 3 ½ hours with an enroute stop. For the first 50 miles or so, the train parallels the highway used by the buses, and then turns inland away from the main road. The scenery was beautiful, sometimes spectacular. We were able to see large scenic sections of the Cook Inlet, a fly-in housing development with a grass runway in the backyards of the homes, a few eagles, sheep, moose, alpine glaciers, and lakes. Just before arrival in Seward, we were given additional forms to fill out - we don't why these were not given to us in Anchorage. Upon arrival at 5:30pm, we were ushered into the check-in building where we stood in line for another hour waiting to get our stateroom keys, get the now infamous letter announcing our late departure, go through security, and board the ship. We were in our stateroom at 6:30pm and our luggage was already there waiting for us. Upon boarding we were told that we had missed the first open seating for dinner and that we would have to wait till 8:30pm to eat - in Anchorage we had been told that tonight's dinner would be open seating from 6pm to 11pm and that we could go to the dining room any time we liked. Being that we had not eaten on the train, we went straight to the dining room anyway where we were immediately seated without question or comment along with several other people who had also just arrived from the train. Normally we play by the rules, but at that point in the evening we were tired, upset and hungry. We were frustrated that the "welcome party" advised us that we couldn't go to the dining room till 8:30, yet the dining room staff had no problem seating us right away. Overall the embarkation process could have gone better. Why we were told by Celebrity to be at Egan Center at 8am when no one departed for Seward until 1pm? Why did we have to check-in at Egan Center if we were made to stand in line again for an hour at Seward? Why the misinformation given to us in Anchorage about dinner that evening? This is a long tiring day, especially considering that people from the West Coast tend to fly into Anchorage that same morning, and Celebrity didn't make it any easier. This is an area that definitely needs improvement. Our Cabin We had booked this cruise at the last minute and had taken an inside guarantee. Previous to this cruise, I had always cruised outside with a verandah, so I didn't really know what to expect. Celebrity assigned us to a wheelchair accessible room on Deck 2 immediately adjacent to the forward stairs and lifts - cabin #2022. When we arrived we had to inform our Steward to separate the beds. Obviously our reservation request for beds apart had not been acted upon. The room was comfortable and about 50% larger than the standard staterooms. The bathroom was enormous by cruise ship standards. The room was decorated with veneer walls and furniture, had a mini-bar (you have to ask the Steward for the key), and a set of drawers in the closet along with the safe. Each bed had its own bedside table and lamp. Also included were a desk, chair, convertible loveseat/sofa bed, coffee table, interactive TV and VCR. Lighting in the stateroom was good. However, storage was inadequate - we basically lived out of our bags for the week. As I never got a chance to inspect a regular stateroom, I'll have to assume that the storage problem was unique to the wheelchair accessible room. Water pressure in the shower was rather poor also. On past cruises, I wanted to take the shower home with me, but not this one. Overall Level of Service With the exception of the way information about our delayed departure was handled, we felt that the service was exceptional! We were always greeted with a smile and a "good morning" by every crewmember we came into contact with. When we asked questions or advice from members of the crew we were always taken seriously and we never had the impression that the crewmember had given the same tired answer to hundreds of other people. If a photographer offered to take our picture or a bar waiter offered us a drink and we politely refused, they graciously left us alone. In the overall service category, on a scale of 1 to 10, I would give the crew a 9+. Overview of The Ship The Summit is a beautiful beast, and in almost spotless condition. The passenger to space ratio is excellent. Even though the ship was almost filled to capacity, we rarely encountered long lines. The layout is good and it is easy to find your way around. Every landing has directional signs and information about what is on each deck. The outdoor pool area is spacious although indigenous chair hogs took up many of the chairs - the outdoor pool was well used in Seward where the temperatures were in the 80s. The indoor pool (T-pool) was well used every day of the trip but never felt crowded. The exercise facility and spa looked great, although we never used them. And, the sauna's have picture windows! Food The Cosmopolitan dining room is on two levels. Dining assignments are found on a card in your stateroom upon boarding. The table numbering system is excellent with 400's on deck 4, 500's on deck 5, odd numbers on the port side and even numbers to starboard. When I travel with my wife, we prefer a table for two and we always had to stand in line at the Restaurant Manager's office to request it. On this cruise we requested a large table. Instead, my father-in-law and I were assigned a table for two - go figure. I felt that the food was excellent at every facility on the ship. The only exceptions were the scrambled eggs from the buffet line at breakfast - it's kind of hard to make good eggs when you're cooking 200 of them at once - and the first evening I got a cool prime rib. However, all meats I ordered were cooked exactly as requested. I had smoked salmon every morning, and shrimp cocktail every evening. The dinner menus varied and it is difficult not to find something to your liking. The presentation was excellent and our waiter answered any menu related questions we posed. Our assistant waiter remembered our drinks from the first day and he had them on the table before we arrived for dinner each night. Hint: even though they were not on the menu, shrimp cocktail is always available as an appetizer and New York Strip steak is always available as an entree. There is never a problem ordering multiple appetizers or entrees. If you want it, don't be afraid to ask for it. The breakfast and lunch menus in the Cosmopolitan dining room were very good although the breakfast menu never varied. The service during these meals was also very good. We did not eat at the Normandy Restaurant, but everyone we spoke to that had done so gave us rave reviews. They all said it was worth the $25pp cover charge. We ate at the casual dining area one evening. The menu was not as good as in the main dining room, but again, the food was delicious. On RCCL the casual dining was simply buffet style and not very good food. On the Summit, the casual dining is full service table seating. Our server there was very good. Important note: When we were done with dinner that evening, I handed our server our card to have the gratuity charged to our stateroom. He seemed surprised and I asked him if it was more appropriate to give cash instead. He replied that the card was fine - it was just that very few people actually tip in the casual dining areas as recommended by Celebrity. I guess that people think this is a cover charge that Celebrity keeps. Not true. This is a gratuity that goes directly to the server. Please note that most servers in the casual dining area during dinner hours are on their first contracts and almost never work in the main dining room during the length of that contract. These people work for $500 per month and never get to share in the tips given to the regular dining room staff. If you do eat in the casual dining area for dinner, please remember to tip your server. Several afternoons we ate at the Waterfall Grill on the pool deck. This is not RCCL's crappy pizza, burger, hotdogs and fries. Everything was really good, especially the pizza and hamburgers. On RCCL this area is an afterthought thrown in so people can grab a snack at odd hours and it really sucks. On Celebrity, this is a real dining venue - for fast food anyway. The breakfast and lunch buffets were excellent - far better than RCCL. One note, especially during lunch: I would suggest that prior to getting any food, you walk along the entire length of the buffet (and I mean all the way to the very back of the ship by the outdoor deck) and survey the offerings. The first time we ate lunch in the buffet area, we were finished with lunch, stuffed to the gills, and as we were walking out of the buffet we then found another serving station that we didn't even know was there. That day we missed out on carved ham, steamship round and the sautEed pasta station. BUMMER! The service in the buffet area is excellent. Trays are covered with linen. Servers will try to meet you at the end of the line to take your tray, escort you to an open table, and make sure you have something to drink. During breakfast I made a remark to my father-in-law about how I wished that they had cranberry juice in the buffet area. Evidently a waiter overheard me because two minutes later two glasses of cranberry juice appeared at our table. I asked the waiter where he found it - I thought I'd just hadn't seen it myself - and he told me that he went downstairs to get it for us. Now that's service! Entertainment I have never been on a cruise with better entertainment! I went to the show every evening. There were four Broadway-style shows. All of them were very good and appeared to be geared to all adult age groups. The cast of dancers and singers was larger than any previous cruise I had taken - 17 performers in all. The orchestra was awesome too! In addition to the regular cast, an acapella group and two Chinese acrobats were folded into the stage shows. In addition to the shows staged by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers, there were two headliner shows. The first of these was Craig Dahn, a concert pianist whom I'd seen previously on the Enchantment of the Seas. He is a very flamboyant guy and a little strange, but he is a very good pianist. However, the theme song to the movie "Titanic" didn't go over well with this group of passengers - go figure! The second headliner was Jeff Nease, an absolutely hilarious comedian who made good-hearted fun of everyone from the captain to members of the audience. The final night was a variety show with encore performances by the acapella group, the Chinese acrobats, Craig Dahn and Jeff Nease. I thought the stage entertainment was first rate! On-board entertainment included music acts at the pool and in several of the lounges. A quartet played each evening before and after dinner, and there was also a harp player and a piano player. There were two karaoke nights and although there were a few people that couldn't hold a tune to save their lives, many of the passengers were really talented. One woman was absolutely fabulous. As an encore, she did a duet with another gentleman who was equally as good. Casino The casino was quite large and had all the usual games of chance. I spent several evenings playing blackjack in the casino and actually managed to win all my money back by the end of the cruise. I even saw several people winning large jackpots at the slot machines - and that doesn't every day on a cruise ship. All the dealers were very friendly. Itinerary and Ports of Call Day 1 - Friday - Seward See Flights and Embarkation, above. Day 2 - Saturday - Seward A Princess Ship was in port at the main pier and overnight we had moved to the coal dock. Tender boats were now in use to/from Seward. After breakfast we went to the Excursions Desk and booked a 1:00pm Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise ($72.00pp) and then took a tender into town. The weather was perfect - not a cloud in the sky and temps in the mid-80s. Due to our delayed departure, Celebrity had arranged complimentary shuttles and free admission (normally $12pp) to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. It was a rather small facility (as compared to the major aquariums on the mainland's East Coast) but had quite a few interesting displays. There was a Harbor Seal tank, a Stellar Sea Lion tank, and a seabird tank (Puffins, Kittewakes, Murres, etc.) Tanks can be viewed from above the surface and below the surface. There was a hands on display for kids (and big kids) where they allow you to "pet" starfish, sand sharks, etc. This is a very interesting little place. Prior to our tour we stopped at a local waterfront eatery to get a bowl of clam chowder. Unfortunately I wasn't impressed by it - I've had much better in New England. Met our tour at the dock. The tour was run by Kenai Fjords Tours. This boats were large and in excellent condition. The tour was approx 3 hrs long. The boat takes you all the way down to the end of the bay. Along the way the captain will stop whenever an animal or group of animals is seen. On our tour we saw seals, otters, sea lions, puffins and murres, and a humpback whale. The whale put on a show for us - it was like we were at Disney! We got within a 200 feet of the whale. Immediately after the captain idled the engines, the whale breached! It continued for a total of 5 breaches! Then it showed us it tail flukes several times, and finally spent about 10 minutes slapping its pectoral fins on the water. The captain was amazed, the on-board biologist was amazed, and the passengers were in awe! We were told that a show like this is rarely seen here at this time of the year and that even in Hawaii we would have been very lucky to have seen that much so close up. Made the day stuck in Seward worth it. Returned to the ship around 4:30pm. Day 3 - Sunday - Seward Still moored to the coal dock and tenders in use. Went into town in the morning to go to a pharmacy as all the onboard shops were closed because we were in port. This is where we bought the infamous copy of the Anchorage Daily News. Returned to the ship and spent the afternoon in the pool, T-pool and hot tubs. Finally departed Seward at 6:30pm. Day 4 - Monday - At Sea (Hubbard Glacier) Weather was overcast, foggy and low 50s. Crewmembers advised us that as we got nearer to the glacier, the fog usually lifts. They also said that, believe it or not, the weather was perfect for viewing the glacier. Too much sun and you can't see the colors very well, plus the glare gives everyone headaches - even when wearing sunglasses. Because of our delayed departure we were at Hubbard Glacier on a different day than scheduled and earlier in the day than scheduled. In this regard we lucked out as we were the only ship in the bay that day and had plenty of time at the face of the glacier. We arrived Yakutat Bay area around 10am where an Alaskan Marine Pilot (we hoped not the same one as from the last cruise) and two Alaskan Native guides boarded. By 11am we had positioned ourselves on Deck 12 above the Revelations nightclub on the Observation Deck. The crew had removed all the chairs from this area for the day to allow room for the large crowds of people. They did leave all the small tables in place and people were using them to stand on to get their heads and cameras above the windscreen. We had guessed that this deck would be the best place for viewing. We guessed right! Get there early though. Once we were close to the glacier, it got very crowded. We saw several seals and sea lions sitting on small ice flows - they swam away as the ship approached. Entered Disenchantment Bay around 11:30am. There it was about 40 degrees with a light breeze. As predicted, the fog lifted, and a little bit of sun came out to enhance the colors of the glaciers. We able to get within ¾ of a mile of the glacier face, and spent almost 2 hours hovering there. The guides were on the PA system giving information about the native people and their legends about the bays and glaciers. The Captain slowly spun the boat around so everyone could get a good view. Words and pictures cannot adequately describe this place. I can only say that it is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. When the glacier calves it sounds like far off thunder. If you are patient, you'll see it calving too. If you are lucky enough to go to Hubbard Glacier on a cruise, bring a good camera with a long lens stabilizer, a good pair of binoculars, a warm jacket, hat gloves, and sunglasses. Pick your viewing spot carefully and early. The rest of the day was spent cruising offshore. Day 5 - Tuesday - Sitka Arrived Sitka at 7:00am in pea soup fog. At the sun warmed the air, the fog slowly lifted to reveal a naturally beautiful harbor area. There is no dock for large vessels in Sitka. All ships anchor in the harbor and use tenders. A Holland America ship was in port with us. We met our tour group (Russian American & Raptor Tour) in an on-board lounge and were then escorted to a reserved tender. As we were anchored at the far end of the harbor, the tender ride was almost 15 minutes long - plenty of time to check out the scenery. Our tour bus driver was a character and very informative. This tour includes a one hour stop at the Alaska Raptor Center where we were given an audience with a Bald Eagle named Volta for approx 10 minutes - The Eagle and his handler were sitting on a small stage not less than 10 feet from me. The handler gave an informative lecture about the bird and how he came to live at the Center. Then you are given some time to visit the gift shop, see the other bird pens outside, walk the nature trail and make phone calls. Next stop is the Sitka National Historic Park. It includes a small museum dedicated to the history of the battles fought between the local natives and the Russians in the early 1800s. Also on hand was a gentleman who was doing carvings. There is also a short nature trail that goes into the woods and the bus guide will point out a few things there. Not a terribly interesting stop, but that's just my opinion. Finally, this tour winds its way through town. The guide told us a few tales about the town and some of its key structures, and then dropped us off across the street from St. Michael's Cathedral - about a 5-minute walk back to the tender pier. We spent about 10 minutes there, did some window shopping (some nicer things can be had here but most prices are quite high) and then took the tender back to the ship. Day 6 - Wednesday - Ketchikan Arrived Ketchikan at 8:00am. Weather was in the low 60s with drizzle and rain all day. This is completely normal for Ketch. A nice day there is when the sky is overcast and it isn't raining. Although this was originally scheduled as a tendering port, we ended up at the dock - the Infinity was anchored in the harbor instead. There were two Princess ships at the dock. Later in the afternoon, one of these ships left port and the Infinity then weighed anchor and moved dockside. The tidal range in Ketch is huge - 30 feet or more. Because of this, the crew had to keep moving the gangway location. In the morning it was on deck 1. By late morning it was on deck 2, then on deck 3 by noontime, and finally moved to deck 4. Then the whole process reversed itself again later in the day. Our tour at Ketch was scheduled for 2pm so we spent most of the morning shopping, making phone calls and walking around. The shopping in Ketch is very good the prices for souvenirs are very reasonable. Tongass Trading Company is right at the pier. It is a large store with a very wide variety of items - they are a complete Alaskan outfitter. For this port we had selected the Totem Bite State Park & Town Tour. We met a rep on the pier and were pointed in the direction of our bus. We had a very informative driver/guide. She is a professional tour guide and has worked all over the world. The tour included a 20 minute narrated bus ride through town. Then, on to the park that is about 10 miles North of town. The tour guide provided umbrellas for the walking part of this tour. The forest trail into the park was jungle-like - Ketchikan is actually a rain forest. I thought the park was very interesting. There are several totems in the park and each one has its own story. There is also a Clan Lodge that was typical for the semi-nomadic natives many years ago. The building is big enough to house several families - although not in a style that we are accustomed to. No nails are used in its construction and the whole building can be dismantled and floated to a new location as needed. When the food supply fizzled, they just moved to a better location. The end of this tour was a 15-minute visit to the park's gift shop. Even if you don't buy anything, there are museum quality displays in the shop and sample of salmon and crackers were provided to each tourist. The tour ended with a trip directly back to the pier. Day 7 - Thursday - At Sea (Inside Passage) Weather was great. Highs in the mid-70s and sunny. Scenery is beautiful. Again, pictures and words will not do it justice so I won't go into much detail. I will tell you that as the day goes along and you get closer to Vancouver the scenery gets better. Much of the afternoon is spent going less than 10 knots. At points the passage is so narrow (with mountains shooting straight out of the water on both sides), that in order to make turns, the ship has to stop completely and thrusters are used to "swivel" the ship before continuing onward. Disembarkation (Vancouver) & Flight Home Best disembarkation process of any cruise I've been on! On past cruises we had been asked to get out of our rooms, find some place in a public area and then wait for our bad tag color to be called. This made for an absolute mob scene on the deck where the gangway is located. Even though people were told to stay clear of this area, no one ever seemed to pay attention. It always left a sour taste in my mouth and is a bad way to end a vacation. By contrast, Celebrity also uses colored tags, but combines them with numbers so that there are many more groups of people. Each group contains less than 100 people. When given your tags, you are also given a letter that tells you what public room to assemble in and what time to be there. Announcements are not made over the general PA system. Instead, announcements are only made in the room where that color is supposed to be assembled. This way, you don't have a ton of people hanging out in the gangway area waiting for their color to be called. They have to go to their assigned public room or they won't be able to hear their announcement. When your color is called, a member of the crew leads your group to the gangway. And because the groups are small, the waiting times are very short at each of the stations - immigrations, baggage, customs, etc. We were asked to meet in the theatre at 8:00am. Our color was called at 8:15am. We got off, went through immigration, got our bags, went through customs and went to the taxi line - all in less than 15 minutes. Dispatchers handle the taxi lines. The line was not long and we waited for less than 5 minutes to get a cab. We told our driver we were paying by credit card. Total cost including tip was $28CAD (about $20USD). We were at the airport at the check-in desk by 9am. Because we were so early, none of the lines were long. For those returning to the US, this is the procedure at the airport: You pre-clear US customs in Vancouver so you from that point on, it's like you're on a domestic flight. There is no curbside check-in. Porters are available, but if your luggage in not on rollers, I strongly suggest you rent a cart - you'll see why you need it in a moment. You check in at your airline's ticket counter where your luggage is tagged to its final destination and then given back to you to carry through the airport. Then you are ushered through the duty free shop - there is no option to avoid it. Once out of the duty free shop, you line up to pay the YVR airport improvement fee - $10CAD or $7 USD payable in cash or by credit card. Then, on to US immigration and customs where you fill out your US Customs declaration while waiting in line to see an immigration officer. Once past immigration, you hand your customs declaration to a customs officer - most people are just sent on their way at this point but some are asked to go into an inspection room for a formal interrogation and search of their luggage. After you clear customs you go through checked-baggage security where you are subject to a random search of your luggage. At this point you put your checked baggage on the conveyor belt. Then you take your carry-on baggage through a traditional magnetometer and x-ray security checkpoint. Finally, you are free to walk to your gate. We arrived at the gate two hours before our departure. Smoking lounges are provided in the gate areas. Typical airport vendors are also available in the gate area - food, newsstand, and souvenir shop. Our inbound aircraft was 20 minutes late arriving so our flight boarded and departed about 10 minutes late. Final Thoughts Even with all the problems in Seward, I'd do this trip again in a heartbeat. The scenery is spectacular. If you've never been to Alaska or the far Pacific Northwest, you need to go! The service on Celebrity was the best of any cruise I've taken. The food was a few notches better too. Although Celebrity is still a mass market carrier, they do a lot of little things that make you feel like you're part of a first class operation: Things like a welcome glass of champagne, personal assistance at the buffet, full service casual dining during dinner hours, robes in every stateroom, real terry cloth towels in the public restrooms, padded covers and throw blankets on all deckchairs (at the T-pool the deck chairs are teak and have lumbar pillows), abundant supply of towels by the pools (unlike RCCL where they give you two pool towels in your stateroom and have none on deck), no obnoxious announcements all day long for bingo, etc. All these small things add up to a very pleasant environment on the ship. Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
7/11/03, the day we've been waiting for has finally arrived, we go to seward, alaska to day for the beginning of our cruise southward to vancouver. imagine our dismay when we check in and are handed a letter stating we will not be ... Read More
7/11/03, the day we've been waiting for has finally arrived, we go to seward, alaska to day for the beginning of our cruise southward to vancouver. imagine our dismay when we check in and are handed a letter stating we will not be leaving tonight due to the fact that they hit a rock coming out of hubbard glacier 2 days ago and divers are now working under the ship to repair the damage. damage control was on-- there would be a open bar this evening and each cabin would receive a $300 credit to spend on board. people were fairly understanding until the next night when we still did not sail and along with the cancellation of the port of juneau, we now learned that skagway would also be cancelled. luckily the weather cooperated! it was 85 degrees and the pool area resembled a Caribbean cruise, not alaska including marimba music. the bar was opened again for an hour prior to dinner. now people were becoming anxious, would we ever get to sail. met a man in the internet cafe who was working on a letter to celebrity management, possible class-action suit? the next day was sunday, i spent a great deal of it at the wonderful thalassotherapy pool in the aqua spa area. they have wonderfully designed loungers w/lumbar pillows, plaid blankets as well as large towels, and floor to ceiling windows, but people are beginning to complain about still looking at seward harbor. apricot sours were one of the drinks of the day and quite tasty. the bars were opened to free drinks once again at 3pm, music was wonderful at the pool, weather again was Caribbean- like, and many were getting a sunburn. quite a few missed the formal dinner that night, probably due to the open bar! we heard the engines rev during dinner and sail-away began. shortly thereafter the casino opened and the ship recouped most of the open bar money very quickly! my resolution was to spend very little time there, but of course resolutions are made to be broken and the next night i got my money back, winning a $250 jackpot on a jack in the beanstalk slot machine. fun, fun! mon, 7/14 up early to walk the jogging track on 11th deck. 3 times around is 5/8 mile. quite a few hardy souls were up there. foggy and cold, now people are wishing they were back in seward. stopped by the omelet station next for a cheese omelet. very difficult to remain on my dr. adkins diet with all the wonderful food around. 10 am we finally had a lifeboat drill, proof that we truly are sailing. we are on our way to hubbard glacier today. hope the fog clears so we can see. also some apprehension lingers about striking more ice or rocks. it did clear up and the glacier was indeed impressive. it even calved for us, sounded like thunder. the sun came out and the ice wall looked blue, what a sight! green pea soup was served in bread bowls and hot chocolate abounded. guess we are in alaska after all. at 4:30 an enrichment lecture was held, rivers of ice, i learned a lot about glaciers. that night a wonderful show was held in the celebrity theater. singers, dancers, and a pair of exquisite chinese acrobats performed. tuesday 7-15. we arrived in sitka at 7 am. so foggy you could barely see it, but by 9 when we exited the ship, the sun came out again. the amount of sunshine on this trip was incredible, it was as if god was trying to make up for the hole in the ship. by this time the front page of the anchorage daily news had circulated with the story of the "rock puts hole in cruise passengers' plans" www.adn.com 7/13/03. sitka is a beautiful little town. for $7 you can buy a shuttle ticket and get on and off all day at all the highlights. we headed for the raptor center where they rehabilitate injured birds. did you know a raptor is a bird who hangs on with his claws? medical treatment is sophisticated and many are able to return to the wild after retraining and flight training in a special room. those who are unable to fly again are made into educational trainers and either kept or sent to other areas for educational purposes. we next stopped at the totem park and museum which was quite interesting and was next to a very interesting trail into the rain forest. huckleberries, salmonberries, and blueberries abounded. good bear food, i didn't stay there long! had lunch at the shee-atica lodge. had a wonderful, sandwich, soup, and sampled alaskan beer which was quite good. rack of lamb in the dining room that night was wonderful, what has happened to my diet? wed, 7-16 ketchikan: a rainy day. natives here say this is their typical weather. decided to go see if we could go for a float plane ride to the misty fiords anyway. found an opening at taquan air. our bush pilot was ernie and it truly was a pleasurable flight. magnificent scenery and a landing in a quiet lake, sometimes bear are seen here, but we did not see any. salmon were jumping right out of the water however. the two men with us got out and stood on the floats, we were not that brave. after the flight, shopping was excellent right near the pier and i outdid myself. moose shirts for my grandchildren, a ring for me, alaskan fleece vests for my daughters, and an alaskan nativity scene with a rabbit fur to display it on. my views on hunting and trapping have changed since a trappers talk on the land portion of my trip. denali national park is an excellent example of a nearly perfect ecosystem and it has stayed that way for years and years with some help from the government. 7/17/03 last day of sailing was through the inside passage. again scenery was impressive and we sighted 2 humpback whales, some porpoises, and a sea otter. had dinner tonight in the normandie restaurant. you can step back in time as the ambience is of the first 1000 ft ocean liner. tableside preparation, a menu to die for, dozens of cheeses in the cheese course, and the chef michel roux's bite-size surprise dessert made it a 2 1/2 hour gastronomic experience. dr atkin's: see you on monday. all in all, despite the sad beginning, it was the experience of a lifetime. as i sit here playing a hobo jim cd and remembering sights, sounds, and quiet wildness, i know i want to go back! 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Sail Date July 2003
Just returned from a 7 night cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver on the Summit. all i can say is "wow!". we were part of a large family gathering (18 people) ranging in age from 18 months to 85 years. i had some trepidation about ... Read More
Just returned from a 7 night cruise from Anchorage to Vancouver on the Summit. all i can say is "wow!". we were part of a large family gathering (18 people) ranging in age from 18 months to 85 years. i had some trepidation about taking our kids (including the baby) on this line, as i feared it might not be as "family friendly" as the other lines would be. i have cruised on carnival and rccl in the past and considered both a very good experience. when we first boarded the ship, we did the traditional "walk around" to explore. the first thing we noticed was the signs at the pools and on the playgrounds stating that no children in diapers (even swim diapers) were allowed in any of these areas. in my mind i was gearing up for a long week. however, from that point everything got surprisingly better. the itinerary was great, but what really surprised me was the service and attitude of the entire crew on board this ship. they were fantastic. from the housekeeper to the waiter even to the wine steward, everyone on board went out of their way to make us feel welcome and comfortable. our older kids found plenty to keep them happily occupied. my wife and i were treated like royalty. the shows were top caliber and family friendly (we found the carnival shows to be a bit risque for our kids to view). one night featured a comedian that had the audience roaring (and not a bit of profanity was used! - hadn't seen that in a while). the food was consistently excellent and served in a prompt and attractive fashion. even the children's menu changed nightly. we ate at the normandie one night (without the kids) and found that to be a delightful evening. we utilized in room baby sitting three evenings - that was both affordable and of high quality. in comparison to previous cruises, we found this ship to be very classy - not cutesy and not stuffy. we didn't find our bath towels folded into animal shapes when we returned to our rooms, and the waiters didn't perform card tricks tableside. however, we never got the raised eyebrow look of "why would you bring a child on board" either. i've always seen disney as being held up as the standard for excellent attention to customer service. i think celebrity should be added to the short list for other companies to model as well. Read Less
Sail Date July 2003
Ok, I admit it. I was really, really ready for this cruise, and had every intention of enjoying it. It should surprise no one, then that I did enjoy myself. What is surprising is the degree. I have been booking my clients on Celebrity ... Read More
Ok, I admit it. I was really, really ready for this cruise, and had every intention of enjoying it. It should surprise no one, then that I did enjoy myself. What is surprising is the degree. I have been booking my clients on Celebrity ships in Alaska all summer, so I decided that I just had to try my own wares. Everything I have heard about Celebrity was good, and I had done a ship inspection of Millennium in Ft. Lauderdale in April, so I was pretty sure of what to expect. I did want a suite, and was pleased to be able to pay to upgrade immediately on boarding to Sky Suite 6120. I couldn't talk my teens into the Celebrity Suite a few doors down which was also available, as they really wanted a balcony. I told some very nice folks about the Celebrity suite though, and they enjoyed it greatly. First thing, the butler, Jonathan was wonderful. He was sweet and non-intrusive, but managed to show up every time I needed him or Julio, the cabin steward, even when it was something as mundane as helping my son knot his tie correctly. The suite was not huge, but perfectly adequate for three adults, including a lanky 6 foot tall teen-aged boy and had a lovely deep bath-tub, plenty of storage and room for three deck chairs and a small table on the lanai. There was a bowl of fresh fruit and a full ice-bucket with a nice bottle of champagne waiting for us on the table. The fruit was replenished daily by Jonathan, along with all sorts of little goodies throughout the day. We really enjoyed the breakfast service in our suite, and used it every day of our cruise. Jonathan would quietly slip my coffee tray inside the door at 6, without waking the my teens, then arrive brightly with a 2 course serving of breakfast complete with white linen and flowers. In the afternoon, he would bring me my cup of tea and little cakes for everyone to enjoy on the balcony. Before dinner he would show up with canapes. While we were at dinner, he would turn down the wonderful deep feather beds, leave good-night cards and Italian chocolates on the pillows and lay out the special body pillow I ordered from the pillow concierge. He looked great in his tails, but I could easily imagine him rocking out with my son in a band---it turned out that he also played electric guitar, and he and my son spent time talking shop. Right around the corner was "Notes" the music library, where my son set up shop with his electric guitar and headphones, and spent much of the week. I used it quite a bit too, and we found that our taste for rock, alternative and metal was satisfied by the selections. We were able to save our playlists all week. I often got my headphones and settled down to listen before dressing for dinner. Dinner was just plain fun. Our fun-loving waiter Nyoman was from Bali, and loved to do magic tricks and challenge his tables to puzzles. We often stayed long after everyone else had left to watch Nyoman's tricks and listen to his stories of home. Alex, his young assistant waiter was from Latin America, and my client's daughter (who spoke fluent Spanish) and my daughter flirted shamelessly with him to everyone's giggles (and his blushes). The food was very good, varied and fresh. The best food we had on board, however, was in the specialty restaurant, the Normandie. It was well worth the surcharge. The meal took over three hours, and we were treated royally by a well-trained team of waiters. The spa was another high point of the trip for me. I discovered the Turkish gardens the first day, and bought a trip-long pass for myself and my daughter. We both used it at least once, sometimes twice each day. I especially liked the floral scented turkish bath and peppermint scented showers. We all enjoyed the thalassotherapy pool, and I discovered that I could have a light meal nearby...cold soup and fruit and vegie plates. One of the most outstanding things that I noticed was the efforts of every single staff member, from the guy I startled while climbing out of the engine casing to the officer grabbing a quick bite at the sushi bar to greet me with a smile and an enquiry as to how I was enjoying the cruise. Everyone seemed delighted to share stories of home and showed and honest interest in my children and myself. It really made us feel at home and among friends during our entire trip. The single sour note on the entire trip had nothing to do with Summit itself. I had signed us up for a number of shore excursions, and really had an uneven experience. The rock-climbing in Skagway, Seaplane flight in Ketchikan and sportfishing in Juneau were excellent. Otherwise the shore excursions varied from hokey to downright awful. We could have enjoyed, for instance, the white-water rafting in Valdez if not for the fact that the protective gear they gave us to wear stank so horribly of body odor that it was apparent that it had not been washed in recent memory. All of our clothes, including our jackets reeked afterwards, and could not be worn for the rest of the trip. The driver and guide was informative but unfriendly and on occasion downright rude, which surprised me as he was a local high school teacher. We do not blame this on Celebrity of course, but I do think they should keep tabs on the companies they book tours with. The only unpleasant part of the cruise was, predictably, leaving the warm cocoon of the ship. The concierge and guest relations had little information about services in Seward, and I felt let down, as no help was offered to help us get the information we needed. We were leaving on the evening train, and needed information on where we could leave our luggage. We were given an address which we were told was a place to pay to store the bags---it turned out that the train officials were glad to store our luggage free of charge, as well as keep our hand-carried items locked up in the office so we could get to them throughout the day. When we assembled in the theater to await our group's call to leave, CNN was playing loudly on the screen with scenes of the war and the stock market quotes I had not looked at all week. What a rough way to leave our little fantasy world! I would have much preferred them to show the week's ship video, leaving us with happy memories of our trip. My daughter commented that perhaps someone should tell them to practice "gentle release", just as a hand-fed wild animal is allowed to leave it's comfortable cage a little at a time. Those welcoming glasses of champagne on boarding sure would have helped my mood on leaving as well! All in all, not only do we give Summit and Celebrity high marks, we are already planning our next cruise on the Summit when she is in our home waters in May of next year. I told my kids that when I get old, they needn't put me in home, just set me up in my suite on the Summit, and I'll sail happily into the sunset! Read Less
Sail Date June 2003
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