We are a couple in our mid 30s and were traveling with my parents who are in their early 70s. We cruise about once a year and have sailed with Disney, Norwegian, and Carnival. This was our first Celebrity experience. We've also traveled extensively in South America and 3 out of the 4 of us are fluent in Spanish, which opened up our options in port.
We sailed on the Celebrity Infinity 12/5-12/20/2015 from Ft Lauderdale, through the Panama Canal, to Valparaiso, Chile.
Overall, it was a wonderful experience and I would sail this itinerary again and sail on the Celebrity Infinity again.
The first day: Chaos. Not only was there a public health inspection, but they were also busily trying to deal with the recent norovirus outbreak and there was some difficulty with a shipment of food. The Ocean View Cafe opened late and had minimal food and condiments were scarce. Bread, but no butter. Salad, but no dressing. The crew was serving everything, which made the process very inefficient and led to long lines and waits. The rooms were ready over an hour later than anticipated. The good news is that this was the first day only and the problems were quickly remedied and the rest of the cruise went smoothly.
Ocean View Cafe: There is an adequate variety and ample food in the Ocean View Cafe. There was always a salad bar, two soups to choose from, entrees (including local entrees from the nearest ports of call), a carving station, a pizza station, made to order pasta station, made to order sandwich station, fish and chips, a cheese station (with standards like cheddar, Swiss, provolone, etc and then usually 3 others such as blue, goat, brie, feta, etc.). In the mornings there're are several omelette stations and a poached egg station, as well as Asian and "American" (although please let it be known that most Americans do not eat pork and beans and corn for breakfast). Every evening, they have a sushi station. In general, buffet desserts are not good. They tend to lack not only sweetness, but taste (which is not isolated to the Celebrity Infinity buffet desserts, but a general observation). Additionally, some reviewers have commented that the crewmembers don't work very hard and are slow clean off tables, which simply isn't true. They were constantly working to clear tables and keep them clean. There were very few times that we couldn't immediately find a table.
Ice cream: There's an ice cream station in the Ocean View Cafe that is open from noon until midnight. They have a variety of flavors, including ice cream, no sugar added ice cream, sorbet and soft serve. They also have cookies and toppings. If you want a sandwich cookie, don't pay for it at the gelateria, just get your ice cream and ask for two cookies from ice cream place and assemble your own. If you just need a little sweet snack in the afternoon, you can get a serving of M&Ms, Sour Patch Kids, Reece's Pieces, etc. from the ice cream station.
Cafe al Bacio: There's been some discussion that the treats served at the coffee shop are not complimentary anymore. They are and probably always will be as they tend to be the same desserts served at afternoon snacks and dinner dessert at the Ocean View Cafe.
Trellis Restaurant: Our servers were wonderful. They were attentive, friendly, but professional and seemed to enjoy their jobs, which made for a pleasant dining experience. The food was really quite good and overall very enjoyable. I do agree with other reviewers that portions were inconsistent. If you ordered one entree you might get just enough to satisfy your hunger, while another entree would feed 2-3 people. There were a few dishes that we could have done without. For example, the pineapple upside down cake which was a yellow cake with a piece of pineapple sans caramelization. We ordered creme brulee almost every night in addition to another dessert to share. The creme brulee was occasionally overset or underset, but usually a great choice. In general we were done with dinner in less than 90 minutes. Occasionally it took longer and often we were out in as few as 75 minutes.
Ship maintenance: Reading previous reviews, I was expecting threadbare carpet with rust on every surface. This simply wasn't true. The ship is in very good condition, especially considering her age. Yes, there are areas that need to be addressed. For example, the bathrooms need re-grouted and ventilation systems need installed. There is mold in the grout. The grout has not rusted as some reviewers have stated. There is nothing in grout that can rust. However, there are metal strips that have rusted and in a few places rust has leaked into the grout. Nothing the stateroom attendants do will be able to remove mold or rust from the grout. There is also mold on the tiles of the showers near the thalossotherapy pool, which is really unfortunate. This needs cleaned thoroughly every day and bleached once a week and the problem should resolve. The maintenance crew works very hard to keep the ship well maintained, which means that occasionally stairwells or other areas are blocked off. This shouldn't be upsetting to passengers, but rather should engender gratitude that they're working so hard to keep the ship in top shape.
The stateroom: We had an ocean view room, which was clean and an adequate size. The first day we wiped everything down with a sanitizing wipe and were surprised that our wipes didn't pick up any additional dirt or grime that had been left. The room had been thoroughly cleaned, for which we were very grateful given the recent norovirus outbreak. There were a few areas that could use some maintenance such as a piece of molding that had been broken off, grout issues previously discussed in general ship maintenance, but overall the room was well maintained. The sofa bed is quite heavy, so if you want to angle it to watch the television comfortably from the sofa, it's a 2 person job. Our stateroom attendants were very quick to recognize our patterns and would clean our room as soon as we left for breakfast and the evening show every day. They always had a backup supply of shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc in the bathroom so that we didn't have to hunt them down when we ran out. They were very efficient and we appreciated their unobtrusive efforts to make our stay a great one.
Cruise director: Admittedly, we general pay very little attention to the cruise director and make sure we bring plenty of our own entertainment so that we don't have to rely on the ship's. However, I will say that Sara was spectacular. I was a little nervous the first night when she showed up on stage with a tiara/crown on her head, but looks can be deceiving. She was precise and to the point, but still fun and personable. Her English and Spanish (and ability to switch between the two languages quickly) were excellent. She's the kind of person you'd actually want to sit down and have lunch with so you could get to know her better.
Onboard activities: The ship is small and lacks things like miniature golf, rock-climbing walls, ropes courses, bowling, etc. that you'll find on larger, newer ships, but the entertainment crew did their best to provide a variety of activities to keep passengers occupied throughout the day. The one thing they can improve on is having enough seating and making sure presenters have microphones and that background music is turned off.
Gym: The gym is at the front of the ship with a great view just under the bridge. There's plenty of equipment with rows of treadmills, ellipitcals, stationary bikes, etc. They also have weight machines and 4 sets of free weights. They have citrus and cucumber water after 7:00 am with fresh fruit to snack on if needed. Surprisingly, the gym was crowded by 6:30 a.m. every morning. Usually, ship gyms don't start to get crowded until the 7:00-8:00 time frame. Perhaps it was the older demographic of the passengers on board.
Celebrity Infinity Dancers and Singers: Very disappointing. I would not go to another show that featured them. I believe it to be a combination of poor choreography, as well as skill, but the shows simply were not enjoyable. The costumes were also often ill-fitting and not flattering to the variety of body shapes of the dancers and singers. Additionally, the fallback "dance move" was to rub their hands on each others' groins or rub their hands up and down each others' legs in a seductive, sexually stimulating way. This was done over and over again in nearly every dance. I often felt like I was at a gentleman's club instead of on a cruise ship. This really is inappropriate, especially for a 7:00 pm show. The singers were ok, but not great. There was a holiday show while we were on board and it appeared as though they had only rehearsed once or twice. They included the song Santa Baby as part of a Hanukkah medley. Really?!?
Other entertainment: The other nighttime entertainment was really great, with a few exceptions. There was pianist, flutist, violinist who were all spectacular. There were several vocalists, some of which were wonderful (ie Mark Preston from the Lettermen), others of which were just ok (and one of which made me think "hmm, this is really the best Britain has to offer..."). There was a magician who apparently had performed in Las Vegas, which gave me higher expectations that I should have had. His tricks were average, but something seemed a little off. I'm not sure if he was trying to play the absent minded magician or what was going on, but it was an awkward performance. There was also a juggler who was incredibly talented, but so crass and vulgar that his personality detracted from what would have otherwise been a great show.
Onboard musicians: Several musicians and bands throughout the ship--Bandmates, Soundtrack (Latin band), Julia (pianist and vocals), Roberta (guitar and vocals), MoonShine Duo (guitar and vocals), etc. It was really great to have live music throughout the ship.
Rooftop Terrace: The concept is nice, but there are still a few kinks that need to be ironed out. They played a new movie most days and would show it about 3 times per day. They keep the furniture tied up underneath the screen and whoever goes to the first viewing has to untie the furniture and drag it to the location from which they would like to watch the movie. Why the furniture wasn't set up ahead of time or why it had to be tied down every night is unclear to me. Additionally, as the name implies it is on the top level with no wind guard to keep the breeze down. Traveling at 18-22 knots on the open sea can create a bit of a breeze which makes it difficult to hear the movie and at times uncomfortable to have the constant wind in your face.
Speakers/naturalists: They had 4 different speakers for this particular cruise, which I was initially excited about, but ended up rather disappointed. They had someone to talk about the Panama Canal who was very informative. They had someone to talk about the night sky, who was also informative. One night he also did a stargazing event, which was nice. However, both of them talked about future talks they would give, but then they never showed up on the agenda again. MickeyLive does a very nice job of balancing information and entertainment and I thought he was the best of the 4 speakers. Milos is a naturalist who lives onboard the Celebrity Infinity and is fine...if you enjoy 7th grade humor and sitting through an hour of said humor to get about 10 minutes of actual information. Not my cup of tea, but some passengers seemed to enjoy him.
Guest services: Limited interactions with them, but on the few occasions we required their services, they were kind and helpful in a timely manner.
Fellow passengers: As long as passengers are understanding and realize that life happens and can roll with the punches, they'll be fine. Unfortunately there were several complainers and very rude passengers. On the first day in the Ocean View Cafe, we came across some incredibly unkind people. One man yelled over and over at a crewmember that the food was "gross, just gross" because there was no salad dressing for the salad. Another complained that the food was cold--just by looking at it--even though there was clearly steam rising from the food in question. Another man very rudely told a crewmember that he wanted a plate when the crewmember handed him a shallow salad bowl, which could have held whatever food item he was planning to put on the plate. On another occasion, I overheard a woman in the hall around 11:00 very loudly proclaiming that "if our rooms aren't done by the time we get there, I'm going to call and make them come and clean it. We're in and out of the room all day and we need it to be clean." Perhaps she failed to realize that because she was in and out of the room so much, she wasn't allowing her stateroom attendants time to actually clean it. I assume these are the people who write the negative reviews that make us all wonder if our vacation will be a disaster and then we get there and it's actually spectacular.
Cartagena, Colombia: You can take a shuttle or walk from the ship to the port entrance. The port is actually very nice with numerous animals to see including black geese, iguanas, macaws, parrots, tucans, ducks, a condor, etc. There's a shopping area, as well. I recommended taking a quick look at prices before heading into town so that you can make the best decisions in terms of quality and price. If you don't find something better in town, you know what to expect when you get back. There's WiFi at the port for $5/hour or a certain amount of data. We initially planned to walked outside of the port and get a taxi for about ~$5 one way to the Walled City. "Taxis" (meaning someone who will drive you around in a car and give you a tour) are waiting as soon as you leave the animal preserve. They asked $20 per person for a 3 hour tour. We walked a little further on, almost to the point of leaving the port and got one of these same "taxis" for $30 for the four of us. He took us to around Cartegena, to a couple of forts, to the new town, to an emerald museum (you'll notice that every emerald shop calls itself a museum in Cartagena) and finally to the old town, which is the only place we wanted to go.
He took us to a shop and stood outside to make sure we didn't meander to another shop (so that he would be sure to get his commission), then took us to see several statues, etc. We had asked for him to help us find a place to use WiFi and a public restroom--neither of which ever happened and by the end, we just wanted to get back to the port. When we got back he told us he expected a $10 tip. In the end, we paid $40 for 4 hours and only saw a part of what we wanted to. The point is, there are options. Be persistent until you get what you're looking for and don't settle for the high prices of the taxistas waiting to pounce.
Colon, Panama: We walked around the port shopping area and used the WiFi at a little cafe. It was $5 for unlimited time and data. Then we got back on board and had the thalossotherapy pool to ourselves.
Manta, Ecuador: This was perhaps our favorite port. The ship provides a shuttle with two stops in town--one at the beach (Playa Murcielago) and another at the Plaza Civica, where they set up a shopping area. People come in from far away for the few days a year that cruise ships stop in port in order to sell their wares. We took the shuttle to the Plaza Civica, where they had "taxistas" lined up ready to take passengers on tours. We walked a couple blocks up the road and got a regular taxi who took us to Montecristi, waited for us for over an hour, and took us back in to Manta for $30. In Montecristi, we walked around. There are several shops that sell the famous Panama Hat and have ladies outside demonstrating how to make the hats. There are a wide variety of styles and quality to choose from. Most of the hats are actually made in Cuenca--so if you're looking for a large factory, you'll have to plan it for another trip.
Our taxi driver tried to help us find more shops when we didn't find the hats we were looking for in the first few we came across. He also gave us information about the Manta and Montecristi as he drove us here and there. No hidden agenda, just available and willing to talk. We ended up buying hats from the stands in the town square for $20 each. They're not high quality, but will serve the purpose we bought them for. We gladly gave our taxi driver a $10 tip. When we got back, we took the shuttle to the ship, ate lunch, and then took the shuttle to the beach. We were there on a Saturday so there were several locals there as well. It's a dark sand beach and the waves were fun to play in. The water was cool, but not cold. The There's a KFC a few blocks up from the beach stop that has free WiFi.
Lima, Peru: The port is in Callao which is a less than savory area of the city and very industrial, so the ship provided a shuttle that took us to the Plaza de San Miguel a little further into the city. The port was not set up to receive cruise ships. There was a section where they were doing work and the traffic was down to one way. What should have taken 10-15 minutes, took 45 minutes due to poor planning on the part of the port. At San Miguel, there's a shopping center and movie theater. There are the obligatory taxistas waiting to take you on a tour of the city. We walked over to the shopping center and found a real taxi driver to take us to La Molina where we met a friend and had lunch with her. On the way back, we took a taxi and drove past Miraflores (but unfortunately didn't have time to stop), where there is a beautiful seaside park and free WiFi. The taxis one way to La Molina (about 20 km from San Miguel) was $10. If you just want to go to Miraflores, I suggest walking a few blocks and getting a real taxi to take you to Miraflores for a few dollars instead of taking a "taxista" who will take you on a tour to see things you don't want to see for a lot of money.
Arica, Chile: Arica was lovely. They rarely see cruise ships, so were very kind and hospitable. There were taxistas at the port, but they weren't pushy like in other ports. They had a small market set up across the street from the port with several vendors and musicians. From there, we walked up to the Morro de Arica where there's a museum and monument about the Chilean-Peruvian War. The hill is steep and you can take a taxi if you'd like, but even my aged parents were able to walk up without too much effort. We stopped at the city center and took money out of an ATM and used the internet for about $.50 for an hour. We had lunch on the ship and then walked about a mile to Playa El Laucho, which is a great little horseshoe shaped beach. There were a handful of locals there and very few tourists. The water was quite cold, but there were great shells to be found. As we set sail from Arica, there were several dancers and musicians who came to the port and danced and played until we pulled out.
Valparaiso, Chile: We took the lightrail in Valparaiso and went to church (as we landed on Sunday), then we took a bus to Santiago, visited with friends and were at the airport in the evening with plenty of time to spare. There was a transportation strike going on and some concern that we wouldn't be able to leave. International flights were the only ones leaving. This wasn't the first time that we've encountered a transportation strike in South America. Always plan for an extra day to get home...just in case.
Overall: This was an excellent vacation and I would recommend it to any reasonable person. If you're nitpicky or a complainer, you might want to choose something else. Read Less