Panama Canal Cruise - First Time Cruises: Celebrity Infinity Cruise Review by TheGoomba

Celebrity Infinity 4
Member Since 2012
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Panama Canal Cruise - First Time Cruises

Sail Date: October 2012
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Our first cruise, we did everything backwards but don't regret our experience. We booked based on our availability of vacation time off from work and how exotic/different the destination would be. So over 1 day, we picked this cruise line/destination without doing any research about 7 weeks before the sail date from Ft. Lauderdale (we did plenty of research after booking). My review will cover our departure from California and the first day impressions on the ship, followed by a quick wrap up of the overall trip.

We booked flights independently through American Airlines to fly into Ft. Lauderdale the day prior. Quick review is that this was horrible through AA! We initially had a non-stop flight that landed at 5:00 p.m. local time, AA cancelled this flight 5 days prior to us leaving over what we saw on the news as seats coming apart on their own. We were now seated separately and leaving at 12:10 a.m. that morning, they offered to sit us together if we paid an additional More $35 fee per person. To be fair, they offered a full refund but booking new fares would cost us $150+ from what we originally paid. So after changing our departure plans and not getting any sleep, we arrived at Ft. Lauderdale.

We stayed at the Sheraton a few minutes away from the cruise port. We called them ahead of time and asked if they offered airport pick up, the answer was no so we ended up taking a cab. Only to arrive and see that there was an airport shuttle dropping off other passengers. This was the only set back at the Sheraton, the rest was pure accommodation and I would recommend them. We were allowed to check in at 9:00 a.m. (check in is normally 3:00 p.m.) and they allowed us to check out at 2:00 p.m. the next day (normal check out is at noon). We booked a shuttle through Sheraton to the cruise port for $10 and they handled the luggage, couldn't be more than happy.

Arrived at the cruise port and what a mess! Huge line to get in, there was staff outside apologizing and handling out a form saying there was a full customs check from the previous cruise that has delayed boarding the ship. Although plenty of people were saying it was due to some outbreak where they had to clean the ship?? not sure and honestly didn't care but we had to wait forever to get on. After about over an hour of standing and seeing aqua class ticket holders skip to the front of the line, we finally get checked in. Only to take a long walk around a corridor to find out there's another 30 minute line before you can board!

Finally on board and we're on the same floor as our stateroom. We find our room and are quiet happy with the room itself and the huge window. If I had to be picky, it would be the set of 6 small drawers with a height clearance of a few inches and our window view had a huge mildew/orange stain that appeared to be within the glass (took pictures, don't see an area here to post that in review). We don't drink alcohol and based on advice we got here on cruise critic, we had our stateroom attendant to clear out the mini bar fridge and put in our 24 pack of diet pepsi which we purchased in Ft. Lauderdale.

Our first dining was going straight to the buffet and trying all kinds of snacks before having our first dinner on the ship. We were both happy with the food and there honestly was no lines, this trend continued until it became a zoo on port of call mornings (which I expected). We never had an issue finding a seat to sit down an eat on any day.

We briefly returned to the stateroom to find our luggage delivered, we then spent the next hour settling in and emptying out our luggage. We had 3 carry-on's and 2 big briefcases which all fit snugly under our beds. The few hours before dinner we toured the ship and took some photos.

Dinner time! we got dressed and were very happy with the receptionist and initial waiters. We selected open dining to come and go when it was convenient to us. Our first night didn't go very smoothly, there was a wait time of about 20 minutes between a soup and a salad, followed by 25 minutes before our main course, then another 20 before having our dessert. We were offered wine, but never any soft drinks. We looked around and spotted a diet coke at another table and finally inquired during our main course. This lead to disappointment as we were brought two room temperature sodas with no ice, poured into glass. Sad to say, we didn't order soft drinks the rest of the cruise. Regarding the wait time, we didn't feel like complaining since it was our first night and we weren't sure if this was normal or expected (read later). The food itself was great!

Back to the stateroom and our first look at the turn down service, everything was nice and neat, had some chocolates and the attendant made an elephant out of towels on the bed. First impressions are mostly done, following is a quick wrap up.

Service overall was great, with only a few exceptions and we took the time to identify the staff members that stood out to us. Port of Call tours were organized with high attention so that people wouldn't get lost and I thought it went smoothly. Some of the best nights on open dining was asking to sit with other guests, we met very interesting people from around the world and had a great laugh. They also shared their knowledge on what to expect on other cruise lines compared to celebrity and were what made the cruise overall great.

Entertainment was great, there was maybe one or two acts where we left early but otherwise I thought it was worth attending (they had broadway shows, musicians, magic, comedy, singers, etc, different every night). Fitness center was a mess every morning and jogging on the deck was not an option since many people walk and basically block any kind of jogging rythym (a small circle, where 6 laps = 1 km). We had to deal with this until we found out that going at 6 p.m. meant you can finally use the equipment about half way through the cruise. We participated in trivia on sea days and played bingo a few times, the night life was mostly geared towards older folks (we're in our 30's) but overall we still found something to do.

Deembarkation I was not to happy about, we filled out a questionaire where we basically stated that we lived in california and were renting a car back home. This meant you're last to leave the ship! We arrived at port at 7:00 a.m. and got kicked out of our stateroom at 9:20 a.m., we headed to the buffet only to find out it was closed. Apparently the hours were stated on the newsletter but we werent aware and the cruise director didnt mention this on the previous nights show. So we were hungry and were stuck sitting at the buffet for the next 2 and half hours until it was our time to leave the ship. They should at least have some kind of entertainment or activity, instead of having guests feel stuck on the ship.

Briefly, there is a port not selectable within port reviews, which was Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala and we took the self-guided tour in Antigua. About a 90 minute bus ride and we had an entertaining tour guide for ride, many people took this excursion and the city itself and the views before getting there were spectaculor with the volcano backdrops. I would recommend this tour to anyone who is considering it.

I would cruise again through Celebrity, but I'm interested in a few other cruise lines which I won't mention that were recommended by onboard guests. I didn't like that laundry was close to $40 for one bag (thank god for clothes line in shower), we packed enough and stored our worm clothes under the bed. Water I felt like I was being nickled and dime for $2.50 + gratiuity for such a small water bottle. The overall experience was positive, but not perfection. Less

Published 11/04/12

Cabin review: 043136 Ocean View 4

Stateroom 3136, deck 3 near the aft of the ship. Very quiet except on one occasion, there was a drilling sound one afternoon on the floor above us (lounge area). Hardly heard a peep from the hallway, limited drawer space and the closet had just enough room for both of us (what needed to be hanged) This stateroom is one of the newly created cabins so it was in great shape, I appreciated the shower hanger to dry clothes considering that the ship doesnt have self serve laundry.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Was booked through ship, but vendor was cabo adventures. The best activity for us, after tendering off the ship (takes about 12 minutes), we took a sea and snorkel tour (don't confuse this with the deluxe snorkel tour which had mixed reviews before we booked). We were probably some of the youngest cruisers on our ship (31 years old), only 5 people booked this excursion with one being a crew member! a gentleman from new zealand, my wife and I, another guy from the states and a shore excursion ship staff member. Due to this, the vendor also brought along people not from the ship. A mom and daughter on vacation from mexico city, a vacationing couple, and one solo guy vacationing. We boarded a speedboat meant for 21 passengers (only 10 of us) so there was plenty of room. The guide explained the history and where all the celebritys live. Once we reached the snorkel location, we had the option of sea kayaking, access to those torpedo devices while snorkeling and some boogie board type thing. We spent our 2 hours snorkeling and we just didn't want to leave, the view was amazing and at one point I floated to an area where the fishes were surrounding me, I was afraid to strech out my arm to due the amount of fishes! haha Would definitely return just for this experience and the port is full of other activities. The guide mentioned that the best snorkel season in cabo is between october-december and the water was warm when we visited. On the way back, we toured the cabo rock and lovers beach, there was a seal that swan right next to our book looking for a snack.

Not listed on the tour package, but after leaving the castle fort, we took a 25 minute spot to do souvenir shopping. All the stores looked identical from the outside and varied little between shops. The prices were negotiale even though it was a store front, we picked up some nice souvenirs.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Part of a deluxe package to visit the castle fort, inquicision palace, and tour of the city. Being in Colombia itself was a treat and the locals were very nice (non merchants), saying 'welcome to our country', 'enjoy your stay' (we speak spanish). This part of the tour was around 20 minutes, I enjoyed the scenic view of the fort and walking up was also fun. I wished we could of stayed an extra 20 minutes or so to explore, but the guide would come yell at you the second you ventured away from the group. Once you reach the top, theres about a 5 minute stop at a souvenir shop.

City Tour

Part of a deluxe package to visit the castle fort, inquicision palace, and tour of the city. Being in Colombia itself was a treat and the locals were very nice (non merchants), saying 'welcome to our country', 'enjoy your stay' (we speak spanish). This part of the tour was over 60+ minutes and in my opinion was the best part. I loved the colonial style buildings and the long walk through the town, many small vendors along the way but none were too pushy. Would definitely be interested in a longer city tour if I were to visit again.

Palacio de la Inquisicion

Part of a deluxe package to visit the castle fort, inquicision palace, and tour of the city. Being in Colombia itself was a treat and the locals were very nice (non merchants), saying 'welcome to our country', 'enjoy your stay' (we speak spanish). This part of the tour was around 30 minutes, I did enjoy the history aspect and seeing the devices, but it was very packed and we had to breeze through some exhibits to make room for other tours.

Rainforest Aerial Tram Tour

About an hour and 20 minute drive to reach Gamboa, the sightseeing along the way was nice and my first experience of a highway ride outside of US/Mexico. The Tram itself was not very good in my opinion, we managed to see a toucan for about 4 seconds and an iguana laying on some leafs. The guide said that the location is very lively from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., sadly our ship didn't arrive until 9:00 a.m. to the port. Once the tram ride reaches the summit, theres a brief trail that leads to a tower with some spectacular views. I took took some pictures from here and also saw Gamboa again the next day when we travesed the canal. Probably the best part of the exursion was here. Heading back down the tram it began to rain and the staff at gamboa handed out rain coats and provided a turket sandwich lunch. After this we viewed some small exihibits for reptiles, fish/crocs/turtles, butterflys, and a garden.

Been here in the past when i was younger, we mainly walked around the shopping area. We initially walked to Walmart to get some snacks, then took a $5 cab ride for 2 people (instructed the cab driver to drop us off at diamonds international, which is the beginning of the shopping strip). Took some great pictures, we'll do an activity if we visit again. Big negative was reboarding the ship, we were instructed to be back by 2:45 p.m., we got back at 1:45 p.m. and it took over an over of standing in the hot sun before boarding. Once we reached the front, they were out of water to pass out, it was horrible.


Our first 'activity' and this did not disappoint. We had a great time and would recommend doing this activity again. There is some streneous hiking involved and some upper body stregth is required if you don't 'zip' fast enough by you braking early. The experience and scenic views are amazing, even after the zip lining is over, there is a river nearby full of crocs. We walked over and took some pictures after the excursions before heading back to the ship. My only complaint would be the equipment, it reeks of sweat and the gloves were very worm/wet/dirty. I would advise you to bring a baseball cap to protect yourself from the smelly helmets and potentially your own zip lining gloves if you don't want to use their worm gloves. Not listed on the tour, but there is a great flea market directly off the port, got some great soveniers and we walked to a local grocery store to buy cheap costa rica coffee to take home.

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