We are longtime cruisers, with at least 13 cruises and over 110 days at sea. My point is we have cruised before; Caribbean, Transatlantic, Bermuda, Alaska, Pacific coast. We’ve been on Princess, HAL, NCL, Carnival and Celebrity. With that background here is my review of my Pacific Coast cruise on Celebrity’s Infinity 9/17-24/2017.
We booked this cruise based 100% on the itinerary. It started in Vancouver, then Seattle, Astoria OR, sea day, San Francisco, Monterey CA, Santa Barbara CA and ended in Laos Angeles.
The Infinity is beginning to show its age. The décor and artwork are not up to today’s standards, wear and tear was evident in many places, but all things considered it is a good ship. The staterooms were bigger than I expected and the baths were spacious compared to many others. The ship’s layout was pretty typical, we had no trouble finding anything and after a day or so easily found our way around the ship.
The entertainment seemed to be a cut above what we’ve seen elsewhere. The magician Chris Funk was very entertaining, funny and mystifying. He did an evening show and an afternoon up close show. Both were well attended and well accepted. Lou Gazzara is a very talented singer from Las Vegas that also did an evening show and an afternoon performance. The final headliner was a Billy Joel tribute performer that played piano and sung. I didn’t record his name but I wish I had, he was also excellent. And to show he was willing to do whatever was needed for us to have great entertainment, the piano player for Lou Gazzara couldn’t perform that night and he filled in on the piano.
But we all cruise for the food don’t we? Breakfast and lunch were as expected, all the standards and more (a poached egg station?) were available, no surprises, no disappointments. Our dinner staff was excellent. For some reason there were 6 empty tables around us and our seven top was our staff’s only table. The five dinners we ate there were all first rate. No complaints.
Qsine is a $45 specialty restaurant that is as much an experience as it is a meal. Every diner is given an iPad as the menu. There are 20 choices and if you like you can get them all. Each is a small plate and I believe we had 7 plus dessert for the two of us. Each item was a work of art and even though the menu described the items each was a surprise when it hit the table. I highly recommend checking it out.
It’s very hard to get everything perfect, and the two failures on this cruise were bad enough for us to decide we will not return to Celebrity.
The first was the Chef’s Table dinner. These are usually only offered once per cruise and only seat a few people. We had 8 guests and an officer at the table. I think the best way to describe the Celebrity’s Chef’s Table (CTC) is to compare it to our last Princess CT. The Princess CT (PCT) started the day before, we all met with the Executive Chef and Sommelier to discuss the menu and our likes/dislikes/allergies, etc. They then went off to prepare the food and wine pairing. The CTC started with an invitation in our cabin stating time and place to meet. Both CTs met outside the galley. PCT gave us all white chef’s jackets and taught us proper handwashing technique before allowing us to proceed. They then brought us into the galley where we again met the Executive Chef and the Sommelier. There was an ice carving on a table surrounded by appetizers on a spoon and a small glass of wine for each of us. The next app was also served there, with another wine. We then toured the galley, hung up our jackets and were led to a table. Each seat had a small loaf of bread with our name written in chocolate for a place card.
CTC met outside the galley, we posed for a group picture, then went on a brief galley tour. From there we were led to our table and found our seats by the paper nametags.
On the PCT we were served more appetizers (a total of 6), each arriving on a tray with fresh cut flowers. Followed by soup and sorbet. The main course was Roast Veal Shank and Beef Tenderloin carved tableside, followed by dessert.
The CTC had one appetizer, soup and salad. Sorbet was on the menu but not served. Main course was a choice of Filet or Turbot. Dessert was a “Chocolate Sphere. “ a hollow ball of chocolate filled with a fruit filling. They told us that usually they light the chocolate and it melts into a smooth dessert but for safety they would not light them. Instead we had to use our spoons to break our way through the hard shell to get to the inside. It may have been good melted, but as served everyone just had a few bites and pushed it away.
PCT cost $200/couple, CTC was $250/couple. We left very disappointed.
Second problem was with the only shore excursion was the only shore excursion we booked through Celebrity. We were in Santa Barbara on Saturday and my wife decided she wanted to see the Reagan Library, a $129 excursion. I filled out the form on Thursday and dropped it in the box at 3pm. On Friday morning (the excursion was on Saturday) we got a phone call at 6:22am. We had nothing planned and our intention was to sleep in a little. But a phone call at 6:22am ended that idea. The caller said she had just seen our request (shore excursion was open for 2 hours the night before) and it was no longer available. Yes, we got a very early morning phone call to tell us our trip for the next day wasn’t available.
I got madder and madder throughout the day and finally decided I needed to talk to someone. I went to the excursion desk when it opened and asked to talk to the manager. The staffer on duty asked what it was about and I said I just needed to talk to him. She said I needed to explain the whole story to her and she would decide if I could speak with him. I left and went to guest services who called him and had him come talk to me. He heard the story and promised to look into it.
A few hours later he called back, apologized, said “the girl has been reprimanded and apologized” and that we were now booked on the trip.
The tickets say to go to the theater at 8:30am. We sat in the theater until 9:45, at which point we had to tender to the pier and walk to the bus. In route the tour guide said our time would be limited to 2 hours at the Library due to our late start, that usually there was 2 ½ - 3 hours. They were ready to leave on time, the ship delayed our exit and we were cut short. No one felt there was enough time to see the library. There was also a stop at the Paramount Ranch to see some old movie sets. Everyone on our bus asked if we could skip that and stay longer but she said she had to take us. When we arrived she said due to traffic we only had 5 minutes there, but the driver said he could avoid traffic and we could spend half an hour. Everyone was back on the bus in about 15 minutes, it was a worthless stop to us.
And by the way, there were 16 empty seats on the “full tour.”
A few words on the staff and I’ll end. The main dining room staff was great. Everywhere else the focus seemed to be on them and not the guests. We were expected to yield to them when walking anywhere. They would never step aside or avoid us, we always had to give way. One waiter on the buffet are walked down the line singing “love me, love me, like I love you. I love you all my guests.” Two staff (again, not the main DR) told us “you will get a survey, please mark all employees a 10. If there is something you didn’t like write it in the comments, but you have to grade us a 10 or we won’t get raises and bonuses. Always rate everything a 10 or it is bad for all of us.”
Was it a good trip? Yes. Did I have a good time? Yes. Am I glad I went? Yes. Will I cruise again? Yes. On Celebrity? No. We have a choice where we spend our money, that choice will most likely be Princess. I had heard that Celebrity was trying to be the upscale brand to the Royal Caribbean sister brand, if so they need to keep trying.
see main review
We elected to fly in on debarkation day so all we saw was the airport and the stop and go ride to the pier. We've been to Vancouver before though and it is a great town, everyone should arrive early and enjoy it for a few days.
We rented a car from Enterprise (around $40) and drove to Sunset Beach and the Lewis and Clark National Park on our own. Great trip, saved a bucket of money, and did everything our way. Best way to see the town. And Enterprise picked us up and dropped us off. But make a reservations, they are a small operator and only had cars that had been reserved.
Why can I say? It's San Francisco. We've done it a lot so this time took the ferry to Sausalito. It was exactly what I expected, fancy stores selling stuff I didn't want and couldn't afford and fancy restaurants selling regular food at high prices. I'm glad I went bt I don't need to go back.
OK, this is really Santa Barbara (not offered as a choice so I'm putting it under LA) and we went on the Reagan Library/Paramount Ranch Excursion though the ship (usually a bad idea but it was the only way to get there, the rental car places all closed at 2:00 since it was a Saturday).
This 7 hour excursion was too short. For some reason we were late off the ship and instead of 3 hours only had 2 hours at the library. No one thought it was enough time. The library is amazing (includes Air Force One and Marine One) and the grounds are beautiful. I just wish we had time to see it all.
The park has been used for hundreds of movies and TV shows but after walking around about 10 minutes there was nothing left to see. Everyone on our bus wished we could have skipped it and spent more time at the Reagan Library. And at $130 it was way over priced. The library cost $29 admission, I can't believe a one day charter bus costs $100/person.
If you can get to the library on your own please go, but you need time to enjoy it all.