Where do I start? We really wanted to like Celebrity, alas it wasn't so. A little background about our cruising history: this was our 6th cruise on 5th cruise line, and first time on Celebrity. Other cruises were on NCL, Princess, RCL, and twice on MSC. We were looking forward to this short weekend cruise on Celebrity Infinity given Celebrity's reputation and accolades. We left thoroughly disappointed. I'm focusing this review on embarkation, dining, service, disembarkation and cabin. We missed most of on board entertainment so I'm not factoring that into this review.
We arrived at Port Miami around 11am. There was no line and we were in Concierge rooms, so there was a separate rope-line for Concierge check-in. First misstep of many happened here. We were a group of 4 in two staterooms and I wanted to pay all on board charges with a single credit card. The young lady directing us to check-in agents said they can only do 2 people at a time. What? I didn't insist since agents were available and there was no wait. When the agent was setting up my stateroom's on board account, she said the system can't process it because my card was tied to another room, my parents'. I ended up using another card. When we finished, I asked the agent why all 4 of us couldn't check-in together and we were told only 2 at a time, she said that wasn't true and they check-in families all the time. At the time I just thought "oh well" and went up the escalator to board the Infinity! And that was almost the highlight of this short short cruise.
Once on board, for the first half day and night we were constantly hounded by sales pitches. Even before stepping inside, they had a table set up to sell you beverage packages. Once inside there were crew members in, what seemed to me, every single open bar & lounge trying to sell beverage packages. I know crew members receive commissions if we buy or upgrade with them. However, it was clear they were not enjoying it. I got the feeling they were doing it because they needed (not wanted) the extra commission. While a polite "No, I'm all set" was all it took to escape one sales pitch, not 2 minutes later we had to repeat it again, and again, and again. It got tiring really fast.
Since we were in Concierge rooms we were able to have lunch on embarkation day in MDR. Even during this lunch, there were crew members circling tables asking if we wanted to book specialty restaurants. Not once, but twice. By this point all of us were slightly annoyed. Later that night I ordered a latte at the atrium coffee shop. Again I was asked if I wanted a beverage package. I mean I understand they needed the extra commission, but seriously?! Even Royal Caribbean wasn't as pushy as what we experienced on this cruise.
Maybe chalk it up to misplaced expectations? Given all the awards Celebrity had received on its food, our expectations were high. I thought Celebrity was once voted 'Best Cruise Line for Foodies.' Perhaps I was mistaken. The highlights of our 4 meals in MDR were beef short ribs during embarkation lunch and steaks during dinner on both nights. The rest of starters, entrees and desserts were just average. Pastries, including cakes from atrium cafe and buffet, were dry and crumbly. Only positive about pastries and cakes was that they were not overly sweet.
The buffet area was small, but with a decent amount of selections. I don't mind small buffets as long as food tastes good. No luck here. As previously mentioned, cakes & pastries were dry. I had two slices of pizza in the afternoon of our single port day, and cheese on pizza wasn't even melted all the way through. Underneath melted top, cheese by crust was still in their original shredded form. Tasted stringy. Although it wasn't all bad at the buffet. There were a few highlights. My mom liked their fries. I didn't try any but I'll take her word for it. Drip/brewed coffee from buffet was actually stronger than the paid latte I had. Same can be said for ice cream, buffet's ice cream was fresher than what I had from gelateria (had frost in them, $5.40 with service fee). Onion focaccia bread was amazing. The rest? Forgettable.
There were couple missteps from dining service at MDR. First one was half our own fault. DW and I went to MDR on 2nd night around 6:30pm to get a table for 4 while my parents went to drop off some things in their stateroom. We had Celebrity Select dining, but couldn't get the reservation for 2nd night. So hostess sat us on the upper level MDR with the early set-time dining group. For some reason it took my parents 30-minutes to return to MDR. During that 30 minutes we were repeatedly asked if we can place our dinner order. We didn't want to because we thought my parents would return at any moment. In the mean while the table next to us were also waiting for remainder of their party, and yet they were not haunted by their server to place orders. What gives? By 7pm they said we need to get our orders in because second seating was at 8:30pm. Luckily my folks arrived and we ordered within a couple of minutes. We were done by 8:00pm with desserts finished. What I don't understand is how long does it take them to set up a table? An hour? Oh by the time we left, the table next to us were still there on their main courses. Really? We were thoroughly annoyed. Instead of offering a solution (re-seat us downstairs) they kept pressuring us for order. What would that accomplish without guests present to EAT prepared food? If we had ordered and they actually brought the orders out, we'd likely return them to kitchen when my folks arrived because their food would have been cold by then.
Second issue involved complimentary sparking wine for Concierge rooms. Numerous CC posts had mentioned they were able to exchange the complimentary sparking wine for something else in MDR with a small up charge. When we asked, the answer was it cannot be done after two sommeliers on two different nights checked with their supers. One sommelier said the sparking wine was given by Guest Relations, not by food & beverage. So if I wanted something different, I'd need to go to Guest Relations. We decided not to bother with it. Ok fine. We were being cheap. To us it seemed Celebrity doesn't have a standard process for guests asking to exchange complimentary wines. And when I'm on board, I don't care which department gives me what. To me, they were all from Celebrity Cruises. This whole experience left us very disappointed.
I appreciate fast & efficient service at any time. Infinity's crew met those criteria and I like it. However I can't figure out what their service model was. On other, mostly American, cruises, crew members put on a smiling face (faked or not) and try to be friendly. On MSC, crew members were polite and disappears from your space for a while before checking on you again. On Infinity, they were polite, not necessarily smiling, efficient, fast, but also in-my-face selling packages. Not going to beat on a dead horse any longer. Time to move on...
Yet another service issue. We finished our disembarkation breakfast around 8am, with walk-off scheduled to start at 8:10am. By the time we went to join the line, it had snaked around Rendezvous Lounge to the casino. We waited for a bit then decided to join the line, since there were no indication the line was getting shorter. That was 8:30am. We didn't get off the ship until 9:20am. The reason? There was only one person scanning ship cards at the end of the line. There was another line but it also had one person.
Not sure why Celebrity felt they could get away with only 2 crew manning those stations. Well being a short cruise didn't help with walk-offs, since most of guests only have a carry-on bag and 95% of us decided to do walk-off instead of waiting for baggage. Of all the cruises we'd been on, this one took the longest time to disembark.
The only real highlight of this cruise: our Concierge cabin aft of the ship. We had 7208. The room itself was a standard balcony room. Nothing special. Storage space was pretty limited. For cruises longer than 7-nights you'd probably need to use their laundry service because closet can't hold more than that for 2 guests. What really set 7208 apart was the depth of its balcony. The balcony was almost as deep as the cabin itself. There were 2 chairs, 2 loungers, and a round table on the balcony. Majority of the balcony was covered, and plenty of sun where the loungers were at. We spent quite a bit of our time on the balcony. If it wasn't for the service issues, I'd book this cabin in a heartbeat on a longer cruise. Our cabin attendant did an excellent job tidying up our room and was prompt with our requests. He was the only one we did not have any service issues with.
In short, Celebrity Cruises is one-and-done for us. Given its market positioning (premium) and fares charged, I'm unwilling to give Celebrity another chance. It just doesn't have that premium feel. I also don't understand why there are so many accolades on Celebrity's food. It was just average. I don't think being a short cruise has anything to do with it, since MDRs usually operate with menus on rotation. And how do you explain dry cakes and sub-par pastries?
I would not say we'd never sail Celebrity again. But in order for us to do so, it'd have to be an amazing deal on a longer cruise. Otherwise we are not risking our vacation time and money on a cruise line where we didn't have a good experience.
We had 7208. The room itself was a standard balcony room. Nothing special. Storage space was pretty limited. For cruises longer than 7-nights you'd probably need to use their laundry service because closet can't hold more than that for 2 guests. What really set 7208 apart was the depth of its balcony. The balcony was almost as deep as the cabin itself. There were 2 chairs, 2 loungers, and a round table on the balcony. Majority of the balcony was covered, and plenty of sun where the loungers were at.