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My husband had a cruise through the Panama Canal on his bucket list and this cruise on the Celebrity Infinity coincided with his birthday. We had been looking at Royal Caribbean itineraries and was surprised (and disappointed) to find that RC had ceded the Panama Canal routes to their new sister company Celebrity. I booked the cruise on the Celebrity Infinity without his knowledge and surprised him with it during a family vacation 11 months before departure. The good news - we sailed out of San Francisco during Fleet Week. The bad news - there was a huge convention in town in the days before we sailed and hotel rooms in the city were very expensive. We booked 2 nights at The Donatello through AirBnB, used some United miles to book 2 business class tickets, (over) packed our bags, and off we went. We booked a private pick up from SFO through Super Shuttle (ExecuCar) and were met promptly by a very nice driver in a large clean SUV. Even with traffic (baseball playoff game that night) it didn't take long to get to the hotel. We had dinner reservations at LuLu that night and walked the 1.2 miles each way. Next day we visited Fisherman's Wharf, had lunch with my husband's aunt and cousin at Water Bar on the Embarcadero and actually saw our ship in port. The next day we went to a diner (Jersey style) for breakfast, checked out, hopped in a cab, and went to the port. Our check in time was 11:30am and we got there around 10:15am. A Holland American ship had arrived that morning and the curb area was a zoo (people arguing over our cab before we were even out of it). Porter took our ship tagged bags and we walked back to Fisherman's Wharf. We came back about 11am and check in was open. A few minutes in line to get our SeaPass cards and off through security. The escalators were down so we either had to wait for the elevator or walk up stairs to get to the gangway. We chose the stairs - not great but not too bad. Photo ops abounded. We politely declined and no one pressed us. Once on board we headed for the pool deck to await the start of the airshow featuring the Blue Angels. This happy coincidence was a great way to start. Talk about a bird's eye view! All hallway doors were closed - cabins wouldn't be ready until 1:30pm. This surprised us as the ship was in port a full day and only a few passengers stayed to take the next cruise. Hallways were opened on our deck at about 1:15pm and I took our carry ons in to unpack. This was our first time in a suite. Our experience was so great that we will do our best to never sail without being in a suite again. We had a walk in closet and spacious balcony and enough room in the cabin that we didn't feel cramped. Our bags were very late coming up (first in last out?). Our butler John and cabin steward Pamela had to go down to search for them. After our lifeboat drill (no vests) we were underway. We sailed past Alcatraz and right under the Golden Gate bridge as we headed south towards Mexico. An amazing experience. It's difficult to summarize a 16 night cruise in a few paragraphs. The highlights were the crew especially our butler John, cabin steward Pamela and the entire staff at Luminae restaurant. We LOVED that we had access to this restaurant instead of being tied to the main restaurant and a set dinner time. If this is your first time in a suite note that gentlemen need long pants and collared shirts for dinner. We tried to go to dinner one night with my husband in shorts and he had to go back and get changed. Not a big deal. The food at Luminae is very good and the service is excellent. We found out that you can order from any other restaurant (except the specialty restaurants) such as Blu and Trellis (we called it the Plan B menu). We could order apps from Plan B and entrees from Luminae. We ate ourselves silly the first few days (when you're on a cruise ship for 16 nights you better pace yourself). The barman Siraz walks on quiet cat feet. After the first night we would sit down and within 30 seconds an iced glass with cold Corona and lime would magically appear. If the glass was getting empty another would show up. After the 2nd night the entire staff knew us by name. Afternoon tea was fabulous. There were days we didn't eat lunch because we'd eaten too much at breakfast. John would appear at about 4pm with his cart of coffee, tea, savories (little sandwiches), and sweets (the chocolate cake w/chocolate mousse and ganache and macadamia nut cookies were my favs). If we weren't there he would leave us a plate based on what we ordered the day before. He would bring me 2 containers of skim milk with it..... This would hold us until we went to dinner at 8:00pm. There were several nights that we had to wait to be seated. Never more than 5 minutes. Luminae is for all suite passengers and only seats about 60 at a time. They never rush you no matter how crowded the restaurant. Every night brought new people to meet from around the world. We made so many new friends. There are 1,000 time changes on this cruise (slight exaggeration). The first one being the first night - the clocks go back an hour. It's in the daily journal that gets put on your bed each night but we missed it. When we got up the next morning we missed breakfast at Luminae (closes at 9:00am) so we headed for the buffet. NEVER AGAIN. On RC the lines for fresh made eggs and other custom items are well delineated and spread out. The buffet for other items - breakfast meats, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc - have 2 stations in 2 different locations. Plenty of room for everyone to move around and easy to know where the line ends. Not on Celebrity. One big circle in the middle of the room - no way to know where lines start and finish. Confusing and aggravating. Milk is kept in dispensers that are not chilled. A glass of skim milk was beyond warm. Gross. Vowed never to go back in there and we didn't. If we wanted lunch and didn't want to go to Luminae (closed for lunch on in port days) we went to the burger/hot dog grill on the pool deck. Hot dogs were grilled not boiled, burgers were juicy, and their steak fries were really good. No trays to pick up food for more than yourself tho...... We would have rated the Food excellent were it not for our experience with the buffet. I would suggest talking this cruise in April not September or October. The weather from Mexico to Columbia was HOT AND HUMID. Miserably so. We had to use tenders in Cabo - with the rough bay water and the heat and humidity it made for a rough day (loved the snorkel trip though). Must give Celebrity kudos - there were 3 ships anchored out in Cabo - us, the Holland America that we saw in SF, and a Carnival ship. Only Celebrity greeted passengers at the Cabo dock under a canopy with iced towels and flavored ice water as we waited for a tender to go back to the ship. Celebrity worked with local water taxis to get everyone back without a long wait. They had the iced towels and water at every port. We saw that Holland American ship and few times - they never had it. Great perk! We were surprised to find that there was no bin of towels to grab from as you left the ship for your excursion. Some of our excursions said to bring towels. If we hadn't gotten them from the pool before we left we would have been SOL. Overall we think this cruise could have been at least 2 days shorter. We woke up the day after we went through the canal to find that we'd turned around and ended up back at the port we saw before we crossed the jetty into the Atlantic. We crept through the canal as other ships passed us like we were standing still. We saw the Holland American ship come from behind us during one of several two days at sea blocks, pass us and disappear. We were creeping along. We also had 3 medical evacuations including one by helicopter. We also saw 2 people pass out from the heat. This was an older crowd (we felt like the youngsters and we're in our early to mid 60s) and we hope all passengers are well and back home. We didn't take advantage of the nightly entertainment as much as we should. Was going to play BINGO until I heard that cards were $40 each. There were lectures about each port and especially about the canal. If you couldn't attend them live they were rebroadcast on the TV. My husband doesn't gamble. I like to play Blackjack. $10 table was fun and filled with like minded players. Most of the dealers were friendly. If you come across Anton he'll lighten up if you talk to him and ask him questions. Witnessed a slot tournament one night. Lots of high energy. Michael's Lounge was a lifesaver for us the morning we missed breakfast - they found pastries and fruit for us even though it was way past breakfast. The bar is always open and there's a special excursions desk in there. Eric and Jackie were very helpful. We cancelled our initial excursion in Costa Rica (I didn't think I could take the heat) and they tried everything to book us something else. We stimulated the economy with some port shopping instead (they had Cuban cigars here). Regarding excursions...... we love to snorkel and there really was only one chance to do that in Cabo. Went to the beach in Puerto Vallarta (great time - good value). We found our own excursion in Guatemala. We took the Eco Cruise and Gatoum locks tour in Panama and saw one of the new mega bypass locks in action. We weren't in port very long in Cartgena. The boat ride to the beach excursion takes 2 hours of your time round trip. I think were only at the beach 90 minutes before we had to go back. The island was nice, the water beautiful. Not enough time. Had some young boy try to board our boat when we stopped to view and hear about the fortresses on the way out. I don't think he was going to rob us. Probably to beg for money. Our guide yelled at him and you could hear him fall into the water as our boat sped away. Not fun. We were told that we would LOVE Celebrity. We were pretty loyal RC cruisers until this cruise. Now it will be a Sky Suite on a Celebrity cruise or we don't go. Booked 2 more cruises while we were on the ship. Alaska here we come!

Mostly Highs (and Some Lows) on the Celebrity Infinity Panama Canal Cruise

Celebrity Infinity Cruise Review by NJWeddingPlanner

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Trip Details
My husband had a cruise through the Panama Canal on his bucket list and this cruise on the Celebrity Infinity coincided with his birthday. We had been looking at Royal Caribbean itineraries and was surprised (and disappointed) to find that RC had ceded the Panama Canal routes to their new sister company Celebrity. I booked the cruise on the Celebrity Infinity without his knowledge and surprised him with it during a family vacation 11 months before departure. The good news - we sailed out of San Francisco during Fleet Week. The bad news - there was a huge convention in town in the days before we sailed and hotel rooms in the city were very expensive. We booked 2 nights at The Donatello through AirBnB, used some United miles to book 2 business class tickets, (over) packed our bags, and off we went. We booked a private pick up from SFO through Super Shuttle (ExecuCar) and were met promptly by a very nice driver in a large clean SUV. Even with traffic (baseball playoff game that night) it didn't take long to get to the hotel. We had dinner reservations at LuLu that night and walked the 1.2 miles each way. Next day we visited Fisherman's Wharf, had lunch with my husband's aunt and cousin at Water Bar on the Embarcadero and actually saw our ship in port.

The next day we went to a diner (Jersey style) for breakfast, checked out, hopped in a cab, and went to the port. Our check in time was 11:30am and we got there around 10:15am. A Holland American ship had arrived that morning and the curb area was a zoo (people arguing over our cab before we were even out of it). Porter took our ship tagged bags and we walked back to Fisherman's Wharf. We came back about 11am and check in was open. A few minutes in line to get our SeaPass cards and off through security. The escalators were down so we either had to wait for the elevator or walk up stairs to get to the gangway. We chose the stairs - not great but not too bad. Photo ops abounded. We politely declined and no one pressed us. Once on board we headed for the pool deck to await the start of the airshow featuring the Blue Angels. This happy coincidence was a great way to start. Talk about a bird's eye view! All hallway doors were closed - cabins wouldn't be ready until 1:30pm. This surprised us as the ship was in port a full day and only a few passengers stayed to take the next cruise.

Hallways were opened on our deck at about 1:15pm and I took our carry ons in to unpack. This was our first time in a suite. Our experience was so great that we will do our best to never sail without being in a suite again. We had a walk in closet and spacious balcony and enough room in the cabin that we didn't feel cramped. Our bags were very late coming up (first in last out?). Our butler John and cabin steward Pamela had to go down to search for them. After our lifeboat drill (no vests) we were underway. We sailed past Alcatraz and right under the Golden Gate bridge as we headed south towards Mexico. An amazing experience.

It's difficult to summarize a 16 night cruise in a few paragraphs. The highlights were the crew especially our butler John, cabin steward Pamela and the entire staff at Luminae restaurant. We LOVED that we had access to this restaurant instead of being tied to the main restaurant and a set dinner time. If this is your first time in a suite note that gentlemen need long pants and collared shirts for dinner. We tried to go to dinner one night with my husband in shorts and he had to go back and get changed. Not a big deal. The food at Luminae is very good and the service is excellent. We found out that you can order from any other restaurant (except the specialty restaurants) such as Blu and Trellis (we called it the Plan B menu). We could order apps from Plan B and entrees from Luminae. We ate ourselves silly the first few days (when you're on a cruise ship for 16 nights you better pace yourself). The barman Siraz walks on quiet cat feet. After the first night we would sit down and within 30 seconds an iced glass with cold Corona and lime would magically appear. If the glass was getting empty another would show up. After the 2nd night the entire staff knew us by name.

Afternoon tea was fabulous. There were days we didn't eat lunch because we'd eaten too much at breakfast. John would appear at about 4pm with his cart of coffee, tea, savories (little sandwiches), and sweets (the chocolate cake w/chocolate mousse and ganache and macadamia nut cookies were my favs). If we weren't there he would leave us a plate based on what we ordered the day before. He would bring me 2 containers of skim milk with it..... This would hold us until we went to dinner at 8:00pm.

There were several nights that we had to wait to be seated. Never more than 5 minutes. Luminae is for all suite passengers and only seats about 60 at a time. They never rush you no matter how crowded the restaurant. Every night brought new people to meet from around the world. We made so many new friends.

There are 1,000 time changes on this cruise (slight exaggeration). The first one being the first night - the clocks go back an hour. It's in the daily journal that gets put on your bed each night but we missed it. When we got up the next morning we missed breakfast at Luminae (closes at 9:00am) so we headed for the buffet. NEVER AGAIN. On RC the lines for fresh made eggs and other custom items are well delineated and spread out. The buffet for other items - breakfast meats, pastries, fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc - have 2 stations in 2 different locations. Plenty of room for everyone to move around and easy to know where the line ends. Not on Celebrity. One big circle in the middle of the room - no way to know where lines start and finish. Confusing and aggravating. Milk is kept in dispensers that are not chilled. A glass of skim milk was beyond warm. Gross. Vowed never to go back in there and we didn't. If we wanted lunch and didn't want to go to Luminae (closed for lunch on in port days) we went to the burger/hot dog grill on the pool deck. Hot dogs were grilled not boiled, burgers were juicy, and their steak fries were really good. No trays to pick up food for more than yourself tho...... We would have rated the Food excellent were it not for our experience with the buffet.

I would suggest talking this cruise in April not September or October. The weather from Mexico to Columbia was HOT AND HUMID. Miserably so. We had to use tenders in Cabo - with the rough bay water and the heat and humidity it made for a rough day (loved the snorkel trip though). Must give Celebrity kudos - there were 3 ships anchored out in Cabo - us, the Holland America that we saw in SF, and a Carnival ship. Only Celebrity greeted passengers at the Cabo dock under a canopy with iced towels and flavored ice water as we waited for a tender to go back to the ship. Celebrity worked with local water taxis to get everyone back without a long wait. They had the iced towels and water at every port. We saw that Holland American ship and few times - they never had it. Great perk!

We were surprised to find that there was no bin of towels to grab from as you left the ship for your excursion. Some of our excursions said to bring towels. If we hadn't gotten them from the pool before we left we would have been SOL.

Overall we think this cruise could have been at least 2 days shorter. We woke up the day after we went through the canal to find that we'd turned around and ended up back at the port we saw before we crossed the jetty into the Atlantic. We crept through the canal as other ships passed us like we were standing still. We saw the Holland American ship come from behind us during one of several two days at sea blocks, pass us and disappear. We were creeping along. We also had 3 medical evacuations including one by helicopter. We also saw 2 people pass out from the heat. This was an older crowd (we felt like the youngsters and we're in our early to mid 60s) and we hope all passengers are well and back home.

We didn't take advantage of the nightly entertainment as much as we should. Was going to play BINGO until I heard that cards were $40 each. There were lectures about each port and especially about the canal. If you couldn't attend them live they were rebroadcast on the TV. My husband doesn't gamble. I like to play Blackjack. $10 table was fun and filled with like minded players. Most of the dealers were friendly. If you come across Anton he'll lighten up if you talk to him and ask him questions. Witnessed a slot tournament one night. Lots of high energy.

Michael's Lounge was a lifesaver for us the morning we missed breakfast - they found pastries and fruit for us even though it was way past breakfast. The bar is always open and there's a special excursions desk in there. Eric and Jackie were very helpful. We cancelled our initial excursion in Costa Rica (I didn't think I could take the heat) and they tried everything to book us something else. We stimulated the economy with some port shopping instead (they had Cuban cigars here).

Regarding excursions...... we love to snorkel and there really was only one chance to do that in Cabo. Went to the beach in Puerto Vallarta (great time - good value). We found our own excursion in Guatemala. We took the Eco Cruise and Gatoum locks tour in Panama and saw one of the new mega bypass locks in action. We weren't in port very long in Cartgena. The boat ride to the beach excursion takes 2 hours of your time round trip. I think were only at the beach 90 minutes before we had to go back. The island was nice, the water beautiful. Not enough time. Had some young boy try to board our boat when we stopped to view and hear about the fortresses on the way out. I don't think he was going to rob us. Probably to beg for money. Our guide yelled at him and you could hear him fall into the water as our boat sped away. Not fun.

We were told that we would LOVE Celebrity. We were pretty loyal RC cruisers until this cruise. Now it will be a Sky Suite on a Celebrity cruise or we don't go. Booked 2 more cruises while we were on the ship. Alaska here we come!
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Cabin Review

Sky Suite 1
Cabin S1 6118
We had done some research before we left and saw that this cabin had an obstructed view. The lifeboats and the pulleys start on deck 5. On RC the lifeboats are tucked under the balconies - we never saw them in any balcony cabin we ever had on RC. Celebrity sticks them out in the open. Perhaps as Celebrity builds new ships they'll change this. It was more than annoying considering we were in a suite. I corresponded with Celebrity prior to sailing asking for specific considerations. Denied, denied, denied. They did offer us first chance at another suite if one opened up. At +$17,000 we declined. It really only affected us as we went through the Canal we couldn't see the sides from our balcony. Still annoying though.

The Sky Suites have a bathtub, however, it's a BIG step into that tub (no separate shower) and you're standing up high when you finally get in. It's a BIG step out too. There are handrails to grasp on the way in but not much on the way out. I always felt as if the bathmat was going to slip out from underneath me.

The bed, pillows, and sheets were pretty comfortable. We had an armchair and a couch too. The balcony was without a table which would have been nice for morning coffee. One of our new friends didn't have one either but saw that the suites on either side of her did. She asked for one and her butler found one for her. The "lounge" chairs on the balcony are actually short chairs that recline with footstools.
Deck 9 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Snorkeling
    There is no dock for cruise ships in Cabo so the ships are anchored in the bay and you tender in. It was rocky, hot, and humid that day. The tender ride was miserable. Once on the dock we lined up and walked to our snorkel boat. Not much shade on the boat. We took off after a briefing and passed the arch and heard some history. Then we took off along the coast to our snorkeling location. Warm clear water yielded some beautiful fish some, literally, right underneath you. Put my face in for the first time and was in the middle of a school of decent sized fish. The 45 minutes went quick.
    View All 59 Snorkeling Reviews
  • Rosario Island Beach
    We were in port for a very short time. It was a brief walk from the ship to the dock to the boat that would take us to a private island in the Rosario Archipelago. The boat ride there took 1:15 as we were given safety instructions and stopped several times along the way for various sites including the fortresses. At the fortresses a canoe pulled up along side us that contained several young boys. One of the boys tried to climb aboard our boat. Don't think to rob us but to beg for money. Our hosts didn't see or say anything to these boys until we were getting ready to speed away with the boy still clinging to the side. Passengers shouted to our guide who yelled at the boy. We could hear him fall into the water as we sped away. Not fun. Once on the island it was beautiful though not enough chairs in the shade. The pool didn't look like it was filtered but the sea water was warm and clear. There were clean bathrooms and plenty of soda and bottled water. Local beer was $3.00 per can. Snorkeling equipment and kayaks were available at no additional charge. Lunch consisted of cerviche, broiled fish, coconut rice w/raisins, fried plantains. There was chicken for those who didn't want fish. Because the ship was leaving early we didn't stay long. Would have been nice to have been able to stay at least another hour. Return trip was only 45 minutes. There was a shuttle bus to take you back to the ship so you didn't have to walk in the heat and humidity.
    View All 5 Rosario Island Beach Reviews
  • Gatun Locks
    This was an eco-tour along with a tour of the Gatun Locks. We started at the port and walked a few steps to a fully air-conditioned bus. Bus took us through the city of Colon (during rush hour) to a Melia hotel where we could use the restrooms before walking out past their beautiful pool and down several steps to their dock where an open air boat awaited us. We toured in a circle around the lake nearest the hotel. We were disappointed not to go out to the main lake of the canal to get to the Gatun Locks. We saw a sloth, monkeys and birds. No crocodiles. After an hour it was off the boat, back up the stairs, one more bathroom break and back on the bus for the short drive to the locks. We drove over the new bypass lock for the panamax ships (saw one in the top lock) to the visitor center for the Gaton Locks. It is a hike to get up the stairs but well worth it. The guide in the visitors center was very knowledgeable and we were fortunate to see 2 ships in the east bound locks (one on its way out and the other right in front of us) and 1 in the westbound lock. Stayed there about 45 minutes and then back over the new lock to the ship.
    View All 37 Gatun Locks Reviews
  • Puerto Quetzal (Antigua)
    This was in Guatemala. Port looks relatively new. We couldn't find an excursion that we liked through the ship so we did some research and found the hot spring pools at Santa Theresita. There were tours but we contacted the resort directly. They answered promptly and we arranged private transportation and chose from their spa menu. Oscar greeted us at the peer and off we went in the hotel van to the resort. It's a good 1:15 from the port. Easy drive past lots of sugar cane fields to Amatitlan. The hotel has rooms that look like underground bunkers. Nice and cool, well appointed. There was a group of American doctors staying at the hotel that were in Guatemale to perform humanitarian surgeries. The resort only has 15 rooms but has 2 pools including one for kids with slides, etc. The spa has thermal pools that are heated by the volcanoes (you'll see 2 of them smoking). There is an attendant who makes sure you do the circuit correctlly and on time (first circuit is 10 minutes per pool. then 5 minutes per pool). There are 4 pools - Hottest, cold, hot, hotter. After our pool circuit we had 90 minute massages (in lieu of 50 minute massage + 50 minute coffee/cocoa scrub), then a private steam room with thermal tub and cooling shower. Smoothies come with your visit, however, there was a warning from the ship not to eat or drink anything if we didn't know exactly where it came from so drank only the bottled water we brought from the ship. Oscar had us back to the ship in plenty of time. A tour bus filled with passengers from our ship arrived sometime during our time there but they only stayed about an hour and didn't have full access to venue like we did.
    View All 311 Puerto Quetzal (Antigua) Cruise Port Reviews
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  • Beach
    At our designated time we walked to our bus and were whisked away to the Hyatt Ziva hotel. About a 20 minute ride. We had full access to the beach, lounge chairs, lobby bathrooms, showers, umbrellas and pools. Lunch and adult beverages was included. Great relaxing afternoon.
    View All 75 Beach Reviews
  • Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)
    we had booked an excursion that included zip lining, horse back riding, and a boat trip. The heat and humidity were affecting me adversely and I didn't think I'd be able to do such a long excursion in long pants (for the zip lining and riding) so we cancelled. We wanted to go to the beach, however, the beach at the port is black sand and the water doesn't look very inviting. We went shopping at the port instead. We met people who found a local food store and bought local coffee there and paid much less than we did.
    View All 276 Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera) Cruise Port Review