This “Eastbound Panama Canal” cruise on the “Infinity” beginning on October 8 was our 24th on Celebrity among more than fifty overall for my wife and me. This was the second of our B2B cruise after doing the “Pacific Coastal” ... Read More
This “Eastbound Panama Canal” cruise on the “Infinity” beginning on October 8 was our 24th on Celebrity among more than fifty overall for my wife and me. This was the second of our B2B cruise after doing the “Pacific Coastal” cruise starting on October 1. We've also posted our review for the first one and some of those comments are repeated here.
We very much enjoyed this cruise as the very good food and great service from your staff and crew members continues to be top notch. We are also happy to now be “Elite Plus” with the additional perks like the 240 minutes of internet and even more laundry options.
We continued our stay in Cabin 3104 which was comfortable and quiet, even though it was very near the Grand Foyer atrium and the Guest Relations desk. Our housekeeper, Edi, did a great job keeping our cabin neat and clean while being “invisible” while we were relaxing there. That approach is perfect for us.
The Guest Relations staff members were very professional and helpful. We were pleased to see GR Officer Garmen Zhang whom we met on our B2B2B cruises in Asia a year ago. Melissa was also accommodating. Our OBC from Celebrity and CruCon, our travel agent, was immediately posted on our account which helped us to plan how to spend it. On other cruises, it took four or five days so this was the fastest ever.
Cruise Director Luigi and Activities Manager Nacho were OK, but nothing special. After a few nights, we got a little tired of Luigi’s introductions at every show requesting the increasing tens of thousands of “holas”. They seemed more suited to a different cruise line as other CDs and AMs on Celebrity have been classier. Others seemed to like them so it's just a matter of personal taste.
We had been in “Select Dining” during the first cruise. We appreciate that Celebrity has many tables for two for that option, but most of them are so close together that you might as well be sharing a table. We talk to many other guests during the day and later in the evening, but we prefer to have some “down time” from these conversations at dinner. Also, my wife has trouble hearing which can make these interactions difficult. So, we switched to a table for two at “Early Fixed” at the 6:00 time for this one and our private table worked out much better.
The food and service in the “Trellis” MDR continued to be excellent. Our waiter, Mega, and her assistant, Anthony, did a great job quickly taking care of us each and every evening. Our sommelier, Mercy, provided helpful advice for our wine choices. Rodman always had our bottled water ready for us at our table. So, we were very happy to have the same group of servers rather than being at different tables with different servers each night with “Select Dining”. We usually order our favorite dishes from each menu, but we tried some new ones this time and they were also very good.
The Oceanview Café provided many options during the day and late into the night. We particularly liked the Indian/Asian selections and fish and chips. We also enjoyed the hot/cold drinks and desserts in Café al Baccio. The bartenders in the lounges were efficient even when they were very busy. DeJean in the Rendez-Vous was particularly helpful and made the best Grasshoppers we’d ever had. Adi Putra and Willie provided excellent service in the casino, Constellation Sky Lounge and other venues.
We were pleasantly surprised that the Classic Beverage Package was now allowing up to $9 for beer, wine and liquor drinks. In the past, the beer offerings under $6 were mostly lagers and lighter brews so it was nice to be able to have Guinness, Boddingtons, Sam Adams and other more robust options. The downside was that Bailey’s, Amaretto, Frangelico and most other liquors are now priced at $10 which seemed a little petty. We spoke to the Beverage Manager about that on the first cruise. Sorry I don’t know his name, but it was not Anti from the second cruise who is very personable. He was a bit abrupt when we asked him about that saying “it’s been like that for months”. He didn’t bother to explain that you can now pay the difference if it’s over $9 as we’ve done when we’ve had the Premium Package. We didn’t find that out until much later in the second cruise when one of the servers, Rodman, told us about it.
Another odd twist was that you can’t get cans of soda even though some venues open a can in front of you and pour it into a glass. We suspect that it’s a cost-saving measure, but we’re not sure what this change really accomplishes for such an inconvenience to your guests. Unfortunately, this sort of thing contributes to people’s perception that Celebrity is “nickel and diming” them. That’s certainly not the image that they’d like to present so we hope that they reconsider this policy for future cruises.
We continue to support “Evening Chic” with my wife in her dresses and me in my suit or tuxedo. We understand that other guests aren’t as interested in doing this as we are, but it’s nice to see some still like it as much as we do. We often joke with other guests who feel the same way that we need to keep “Evening Chic” alive!
All three production shows were very good as usual and the singers and dancers were quite talented. We really enjoyed the “Swing@Sky” show in the Constellation Lounge. The entire cast kept up the high level of energy for a very long time, even though the waves were high and the ship was rocking. We saw it during the first cruise and both times it was the very best of that type of event on all of our cruises. This was the final cruise of that cast's contract so they will all be new on the subsequent cruises.
The “Duo Destiny” show with the acrobats Goncalo and Kinga was unbelievable. Among the guest entertainers, we particularly liked Hard Day’s Night (Beatles tribute) and Mike Price (“Rock Star Juggler”).
We were very lucky on this cruise as both bands were excellent. We saw Take 5 on our B2B2B cruises in Asia a year ago year so we were happy to see them again. They were great then and are even better now that their keyboard player is back with them. The singer and their other members are very friendly and approachable. The Bryan James Band was terrific, especially since they were billed on this cruise as a “dance band” rather than “house band” or “party band”. Bryan has a great sense to humor and his band can play a wide range of music depending on the audience and the venue. Mr. H often played the piano with them on some songs. The last night of the cruise, someone requested that Bryan’s band play “Blurred Lines”. They said that they don’t do that one, but members of Take 5 know it so they joined them on stage and played that song. It was nice to see them and the audience really enjoying their collaboration.
We hope that Celebrity keeps both bands under contract for as long as they can. We’ll just miss Take 5 on the “Constellation” by a few weeks as we’re on a B2B2B starting in November and ending just before Christmas while the band will start in January. We asked Bryan if they had booked their next gig with Celebrity and they are very interested in the “Eclipse” next spring in Europe. We are doing a B2B2B2B starting in May so we are really hoped that they can get that itinerary as it would be great to see them there for 42 nights. We hope that Celebrity can keep them both!
We always appreciate the live orchestra as that really separates Celebrity from other cruise lines. The solo performers, duos and string players are also a nice change from the usual music on other lines. About the only complaint that we’d have is that DJ Annet always had the volume in the Constellation Lounge cranked up to ‘11’ like “Spinal Tap”. I play my music very loud at home, but we had to leave every time she was there (as did many others). I wished that I had my decibel meter with me to see how earsplitting it was!
Since we were visiting countries in Central America, we did ship’s excursions in all of the ports to ensure that we’d make it back onboard on time.
In Cabo San Lucas, we did “CSA2: Chileno Bay Deluxe Snorkeling” where we saw a decent amount of fish.
In Puerto Vallarta, we did the “PVB4: Half Day Sailing and Sightseeing” cruise which went along the coast the Los Arcos and was very relaxing.
We particularly enjoyed the “GQ14: Guatemala Highland, Panajachel and Lake Atitlan” excursion as we were able to see many volcanos and a lot of the countryside.
In Puntarenas, Costa Rica, we did the “CR25: Pacific Train, Boat and Bus Adventure” and saw some interesting scenery, but also some desperately poor areas.
In Colon, Panama we did “GCM4: Portobelo and Aqua Clara Locks” which gave us more information about the Panama Canal system and allowed us to see the new locks. We also got a glimpse of the very poor areas just beyond our dock.
Finally in Columbia, we did the “CA09: Best of Cartagena” which provided a good overview of that city as we visited the Inquisition Palace and Saint Peter Claver’s Sanctuary plus quite a bit of walking through the streets.
Even though it was very hot in some locations, these excursions were worth doing despite some discomfort.
In our earlier review of the “Pacific Coastal” cruise, we noted that one area which could use some improvement was the B2B process and it’s worth repeating it for this cruise. At other B2B meetings, someone from the MDR was there to allow guests to select their tables for the next cruise, but that didn’t happen. As part of these past meetings, there have been drawings for prizes, offers of complimentary specialty restaurants, discounted excursions and/or coupons with codes for additional internet minutes in order to fill out the survey from the first cruise. The only “perks” this time were a 30% off a restaurant (only on the embarkation evening) and a card to get into the “Trellis” MDR 15 minutes before the newly boarding guests.
We were given the impression that this process wouldn’t take too long. We were told to gather at 9:40, but we were not able to disembark until about 10:40 after everyone else was onshore. We then exited the ship and had to wait almost another hour to get back onboard at 11:30. We suspect that due to regulations, there was no chance for anyone to board before that time. It would have been better to know ahead of time that the local authorities require this timing so we could have planned for these delays. We and most of the other guests have done quite a few B2Bs so all of us were surprised that it was much more inconvenient it this time.
We also had some difficulty getting extra internet time to do our survey from the first cruise of our B2B. On other Celebrity ships, the IT staff added 30 minutes to our allotment which works well. This time, we had to check with IT and Guest Relations to get a code. After several days, we got the code, but it only worked for one of us. We finally got another code later on, but you couldn’t use it if you had minutes left without having IT disable that session, log back on using the code to use the new minutes and then re-enable the old one. With this approach, there’s a lot of time wasted by Celebrity’s staff and for the B2Bs. Next time, we’re hoping that these things can be dealt with more easily at the B2B meeting.
Overall, we always have a great time on Celebrity and encourage our friends to try that line. After this Panama Canal cruise, we have twelve more booked with you in the Mediterranean, Middle East, India, Caribbean, Northern Europe and Transatlantic in the next year. So, we’ll look forward to having 135 more days to enjoy Celebrity's welcoming hospitality and excellent service! Read Less