The Panama Canal has always been a bucket list item for my wife and I. When two couples, we often cruise with called to say they had booked it we were in. The itinerary included Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama (of course) and Colombia, all places we'd never seen so we couldn't wait.
The ship sailed from San Diego, a town I've always enjoyed so we decided to go out 3 nights ahead of our sail date to get a start on relaxing. There is so much to do out there I'd definitely recommend going out early. We stayed at the Hilton in the Gaslamp District. Its close to entertainment but still only a short walk or ride to the waterfront. Something I'd never seen before are rental bikes and scooters. An app put on your phone allows you to "unlock" electric scooters or bicycles that are scattered all over the place. You're only charged for the time you use them. When you're done you just park them and end your ride. It's a lot cheaper than cabs or Uber. One little note, watch out for curbs or you'll end up with road rash and seven stitches in your head like I did...but that another story.
The Infinity had just come out of a dry dock repair of propulsion systems and arrived in San Diego without passengers. Infinity arrived later than expected and had to do some clearances that delayed boarding. Since the boarding times were compressed, everyone had to board in a shorter time. It was pretty bad. They ran out of boarding cards at some point and people with priority boarding times did not get the smooth boarding they expected. Some folks were pretty upset about it. Frankly it didn't affect us much because part of that time I was in an ER getting stitched up from my scooter mishap and as we don't have status on Celebrity we were pretty much stuck with the masses anyhow.
I do think this was more of a circumstantial situation than a problem with the processes at the San Diego terminal.
I'd read many comments about the Infinity looking worn. In some places that is an understatement. In other parts of the ship it was not visible at all. Parts of the pool deck are definitely in need of some overhaul. Restaurants, lounges and much of the inside spaces are clean and in pretty good shape. Everybody has different expectations in this regard but I can honestly say while some of the appearance of the Infinity was noticeable and a little surprising, it did not detract from our cruise experience in the least.
We were in 8124, a Concierge class cabin on the starboard side pretty close to mid ship. It was nice, but frankly nothing any more special than a balcony cabin on Carnival. Bed comfort is of course very subjective but my wife thought the beds were a little hard. Our steward brought a foam topper the second day and it was fine from there. Storage was plentiful even for two people who tend to over pack. There's not much more detail I can really provide.
The food was probably among the best we've had at sea in a long time. Ok, a cruise on Oceania a couple years ago might have been better and our first cruise on Celebrity was at least as good. I didn't have a bad meal or even a so-so meal our entire 15 nights.
We bought a specialty package of 6 meals. We did 4 meals in The Tuscan Grill and 2 in QSine. All were good. QSine was an interesting experience. It ended up being way to much food, but here were so many foods that we wanted to try. We learned later that they are really good about giving smaller portions if you just ask. taste was great, presentation inventive and fun. The staff was very helpful in navigating the menu and arranging your selections.
Food in the Main Dining Room was great, service was excellent. Frankly, had I known the food in the MDR would be so good I'd have bought fewer specialty meals.
Service and Staff:
Outstanding! Did I mention we had an outbreak of Noro on this cruise? The staff busted their butts with smiles on their faces to help do their part to keep things under control with out detracting from our cruise experience. I really can't say enough good things about the staff. Everyone was always smiling, greeting guests, often by name. We always pick a pool area bar as out daily "go to" and the guys at the Mast Bar were an absolute joy. By the second afternoon they knew our names and our drinks of choice.
Entertainment and Activities:
There were plenty I'm sure. Sorry, but we are pretty shallow in those regards. Pool bar, relaxing, reading and visiting with other guests is all we do. One couple we were traveling with went to daily lectures and said they were good. We did catch part of one show. It seemed much better than any of the shows we've peeked into on Carnival ships.
Not a great experience all in all. Again, its pretty subjective and depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Some of it was probably our choices and our expectations.
Cartegena, Colombia is probably the one city I'd like to go back to. We did a beach excursion (relaxing on a beach with drinks is our thing) but there was history and culture in Cartegena that we'd have enjoyed too. All I can say is do lots of research before booking your excursions. I wasn't too impressed with the staff at the Excursions Desk. They either didn't know or left out details about excursions like hour and a half bus rides to destinations that might have been good to know. Again, maybe some of the blame is ours.
To Sum it Up;
Despite the Noro outbreak and some less than fantastic excursions we had a wonderful time on the Celebrity Infinity. The staff was superb, the food great and it was an interesting itinerary. Not sure we'd repeat that trip. The Canal was fascinating but after 8 hours of locks I've probably seen all I need to. This was our friends 3rd transit. Everyone is different.
What can I really say about the cabin? We usually cruise with Carnival so maybe I was expecting a Concierge class cabin on Celebrity to be a little "nicer" but it was about the same. That aside, it was all we needed. My wife felt the bed was a little hard so we asked our steward for a foam topper which solved the issue. Beds are really subjective.
Storage was more than adequate for two people who tend to way over pack.
Since the ship's excursion we booked was canceled prior to the cruise I just tendered to shore and took a water taxi to a beach bar. My wife stayed aboard. The hustling was intense even by Mexican cruise port standards. Within 10 minutes I was offered drugs and female companionship multiple times.
Another day another canceled ships excursion. We went ashore with friends and wandered the Malecon area. Good lunch and a few local beers.
Hour and a half bus ride to Antigua. Advertised "rum tour" turned out to be one stop at the Zacapa visitor center. Good rums, with an interesting tasting seminar. Nice lunch at a local hotel with beautiful grounds. The visible poverty and trash along the roads was disheartening but a reality in a Central American country.
Hour and a half bus ride to the "cloud forest" We walked on suspension bridges above and through the canopy. Beautiful plants but few flowers or wildlife.
Ok lunch and a little shopping before hour and a half bus ride back to the ship.View All 28 Rainforest Tour Reviews
Don't, just don't. The tour we got did not even begin to match the glowing description on Celebrity's website. We got hour and a half bus ride instead of "Short boat ride", broken chairs, umbrellas, and water sports equipment on a narrow strip of sand and rocks. No beverages provided, even for sale, until we complained. So- so luke warm buffet with beverages for sale. All this for the astounding price of $199.00 per person. Celebrity did give us a 20% refund when we complained. Even so this was an overpriced nightmare not worthy of Celebrity.
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Everything our previous day's excursion should have been. Nice boat ride to beautiful location. Nice facilities, good food and attentive service. Very relaxing.View All 5 Rosario Island Beach Reviews
Nice debarkation, if there is such a thing. Hated to leave. Fast, efficient luggage pick up and customs processing.