This was one of the best, if not the best, cruises my husband and myself have ever taken. This was due in great part to the fantastic bunch of people who had participated in the Cruise Critic thread for this cruise. While our group was small, it was diverse and interesting, and there wasn't one person on it that I didn't enjoy spending time with. Our group got together informally several times during the 11 night cruise, and each time was very enjoyable.
The ship set sail out of San Francisco. We had not been there for years, so we decided to do a two day stay prior to the cruise. We are so glad we did. San Francisco is an incredible town, with lots to see and do. We stayed at the Tuscan Inn, which I highly recommend. It is very quaint, and in excellent condition. Each night they have a "happy hour" where guests can enjoy free wine and appetizers. It is held in a comfy lounge area with a wonderful fireplace. There is an Italian restaurant next door to it, which was very good. The Tuscan Inn is conveniently located near Fisherman's Wharf and the cruise terminal, and it also had a Walgreen's and Safeway across the street. We had forgotten a couple of items, and we happy to be able to pick them up prior to boarding the ship. We also picked up our two bottles of wine to take on the ship.
We love hop on/hop off buses as it allows us to see a lot in a short amount of time, yet spend as much time at each stop as we want. We did the entire round trip several times, and got off at several stops. The trip included going over the Golden Gate Bridge, which I recommend to everyone. Our first day in San Francisco was horribly windy, but that didn't stop us from enjoying this beautiful city. The second day was sunny and warm, only adding to our enjoyment. We also made the mandatory tourist visit to Fisherman's Wharf, and were able to have lunch on Mother's Day at Pier 39 with one of our children who happened to be working in San Francisco for a couple of months. It was incredible to see the seals at Pier 39. While in San Francisco we also went to see Beach Blanket Babylon, which is the world's longest running musical review. It was a hoot! Before the show we had lunch at Capps Corner, a wonderful Italian family style restaurant. The food was some of the best I've had.
Finally cruise day arrived! We set sail on the 11 Day Ultimate Alaska Cruise onboard the Infinity on Monday, May 10th. While we could have easily walked from our hotel to the ship, we had far too much luggage to take ourselves. So we called a cab and off we went for a five minute trip. To take a cab from most of the hotels near Fisherman's Wharf is approximately $15, quite the bargain!
We got to the cruise terminal around 11:30 a.m. In the past, we have always been able to board immediately. However, they were still disembarking and readying the ship when we arrived. There was some confusion as to when we would be able to board. We waited about ½ an hour and we were then able to check in, however, we were then taken to another room to wait about another 30 minutes or so. While waiting to board, we met two of our fellow Cruise Critic members, Dee and Nancy. It turned out they had an aft cabin above ours, and we became friends and saw them every day! A group of travel agents was allowed to board for lunch and a tour before we were. We were a little disappointed that we were not able to go on when they did. However, we finally boarded and put our carry on bags into our room and set off for lunch at the buffet.
We were lucky enough to have the Penthouse cabin. Words cannot describe this cabin, and we are now spoiled by it!! It is 1400 square feet inside, with an 1100 square foot balcony/deck. It is on Deck 6 aft, giving us the wonderful aft view which we love. Inside the cabin there were two bathrooms, a kitchen (complete with full size refrigerator, microwave and a wine cooler), large bedroom, dressing area, a living area, a dining area (table for 8) and a beautiful foyer when you entered the cabin. The master bath had a separate toilet area with a bidet, a separate shower (bigger than the one I have at home) and a whirlpool tube, complete with a TV. It also had a "towel heater" that you placed your towel on before you got in the shower, and when you got out of the shower, your towel was nicely warmed! There was a large screen TV in the bedroom and the living area. To top it all off, there is a baby grand player piano in the living area! Our cabin quickly became our "destination" and we found ourselves spending a lot of time there. Of course since it is a suite, it came complete with a butler. Our butler was Nelson Dingle and he was by far the best we have had. We truly enjoyed chatting with him each day, and he was always available to bring us whatever we needed. We wound up eating in our room most of the days. He would set the table with a linen tablecloth and full set-up, and then serve us our meals, course by course. Two nights we had several of the new friends we had met onboard or through Cruise Critic over for dinner, and Nelson made them feel as special as he made us feel. We will definitely request him again. The cabin could use some updating, and I am sure when the ship is "Solticized" in 2011/2012 it will be. However, the bed was very comfortable, towels were great, and the cabin really didn't show signs of wear. Outside, we had a large table with six chairs, four lounge chairs, and a hot tub. The deck was ½ of the back of the ship, and wrapped around on the side, offering spectacular views every day. While this cabin is pricey, it is definitely worth it.
The ship left San Francisco on time. Our cruise critic group met for a sailaway party on Deck 10 Aft right after the muster drill. This was our first get together, and it was a great one, even though we didn't have a great turnout. Over 60 people had signed up for the connections party, and about 47 people had posted on the thread, but less than 20 showed up for the sailaway. But those that did were in a good mood, and we all toasted our new adventure. CONNECTIONS PARTY
The first sea day, we had our Cruise Critic Connections party in the Constellation Lounge at 11:00 a.m. We again didn't have a very good turnout, considering the activity that had been on the thread prior to the cruise, but those that were there had a fun time. The cruise director, Keith, joined us. Celebrity offers lots to do during sea days, so there is always someplace to be - even if it is in your cabin taking a quick nippy nap!!
DINNER WITH THE CAPTAIN
We were fortunate enough to be asked again to dine at the Captain's Table the first sea day. It was the first formal night of the cruise, so we put on our finest. There were three other couples who joined us, along with two officers, the Chief Engineer and the Hotel Manager. We met up in the Martini Bar prior to dinner with the Captain's Club Host, Grame. Drinks were on the Captain, and we were served some tasty tidbits as we all got to know one another. When the Captain arrived, we were taken into the Trellis Restaurant via the grand staircase. It was very elegant. We then had a delicious dinner with lively conversation and all the wine you could drink!! At the end of the evening, we received the official photograph showing all of us at the table. Quite the souvenir!!
One of the new Elite perks with Celebrity Cruises loyalty program is a happy hour in Michael's Club each night from 4:00 to 6:00. This is the best perk that Celebrity has offered, in my opinion. Each night we would meet our new friends (especially Dee, Nancy, Philip & Valia) in Michael's Club and we would enjoy the conversation, as well as the free drinks and appetizers. It was a wonderful way to relax and get to know new friends better. The Captain's Club Host, Graeme, was always there and went around to each table greeting everyone by name. Graeme was probably the friendliest Captain's Club Host/Hostess we have met, and we thoroughly enjoyed chatting with him. Other officers would also come by to say hello and were always available to answer any questions you might have.
Ketchikan, Alaska -- Ketchikan is a port that offers lots to do. Since we had been there before, we opted to do the town on our own, which is very easy to do. There is lots to see within walking distance, including Creek Street and lots of stores to buy the obligatory souvenirs for the kids/grandkids! There is also a Walmart that you can get to by free shuttle bus. That night, we had our first guests over to dinner in our suite. Mike, Judy, Nancy, and Dee joined us for a wonderful meal filled with great conversation.
Juneau, Alaska - Juneau is also a port that has a lot to do, and again one that you can do on your own quite easily. The ship docks right in the center of town. The Mt. Roberts Tramway is within walking distance, as well as lots of shops, The Red Dog Saloon, The Alaska Fudge Company, and kiosks where you can book just about any tour you want. We had pre-booked a whale watching tour with Orca Tours. We had taken a whale watching tour with them our last trip to Alaska and knew we wanted to do it again. We were fortunate to see lots of whales, seals and bald eagles. We even got to see a whale breach, and four whale tails at one time!! Orca also offers a trip to Mendenhall Glacier as part of the whale watching tour, but since we had already seen the Glacier, we opted not to take that part of the tour this time, and had them drop us off in town where we walked around, bought some adorable gourd snow people, and went back to the ship, but not before I let myself get talked into buying some fudge from the Alaska Fudge Company (thanks a lot Dee!).
Skagway, Alaska - this was our favorite port of the cruise. We had pre-booked an all day tour with Dyea Dave. It was incredible, and the most reasonably priced tour we have taken! Dave picked us up at the pier, and took us on a tour of the cities of Skagway, Carcross, and Frazier, and all the way up into The Yukon, including beautiful Emerald Lake. We had the option of going half way in the van and then taking the train back, which we had planned to do. However, we were having such a great, entertaining time with Dave, that we opted to stay in the van the entire day. We shadowed the train most of the way, so we were able to see what we would have seen on the train, plus a lot more. Dave stopped wherever we wanted to take pictures, and twice pulled over so we could see bears up close - about 15 feet from the van!! We also saw a porcupine, sheep, Canadian geese, goats, and more. We stopped for lunch at a wonderful place called The Cinnamon Cache, which had cinnamon buns to die for, along with tasty soups, salads, and sandwiches. Our fellow Cruise Critic members, Erika and Phillip, joined us and we really enjoyed talking to this interesting couple.
Icy Strait Point, Alaska - ISP is a very very small port. Unless you go on a cruise sponsored tour or private tour, there is not a lot to see. It is a tender port. We opted to enjoy a day on the ship and enjoy our cabin and balcony. ISP is known for its whales, and several other Cruise Critic members went on a whale watching tour with F.I.S.H.E.S. and saw lots of whales and other wildlife.
Hubbard Glacier - how can you describe Hubbard Glacier....you can't. The views are spectacular beyond belief. It was a wonderful sunny day, and we had invited our Cruise Critic group to join us on our balcony as we sailed into and away from Hubbard Glacier. Needless to say, the view from our balcony was great. We were lucky enough to have one of the Celebrity speakers, Murray, as part of our Cruise Critic group, and he was gracious enough to answer everyone's questions even though he wasn't "officially" on duty! We served pastries and cookies, along with mimosas, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, and I think everyone had a wonderful time. Nelson, our butler, assisted with taking group shots with everyone's camera!
Sitka, Alaska - Sitka is a very small town. It was raining a little as we tendered into the town. One of our fellow Cruise Critic members (Linda) had arranged for several of us to take a tour with Sitka Tribe Tours. It was a great tour. Celebrity offered a similar tour with this same company, but it was half the price to book it on our own. We started with a tour of the city. We stopped at a beach area where there were at least 15 bald eagles on the ground surrounding a fish carcass. It was a great opportunity to see the bald eagles up close and we got some great pictures. We then went to the Sitka National Historical Park where we walked through the beautiful rain forest. Our next stop was for a native dance performance, which was very interesting. Linda even joined the dancers on the floor!! From there, we went to the Alaska Raptor Center where care is given to injured bald eagles until they are able to return to the wild. There was an informative talk, and we got to see several bald and golden eagles up close. I highly recommend this tour.
Sitka was our last Alaskan port, and since we sailed at 2:00 p.m., we again invited our Cruise Critic group for a "Sailaway Toast to Alaska" party at our cabin. A fun time was had by all, more great views and photographs, and a little sadness as we knew our cruise was coming to a close in just a few short days.
Victoria, Canada - our final port was Victoria. What a quaint little town. Again, since we had been there before, we opted to do the town on our own. We took the shuttle into town, and then asked how to get to Fisherman's Wharf. Turns out we could have walked from the ship and gotten there much quicker!! We wound up taking a harbor taxi (little boat) to Fisherman's Wharf. Other than a couple of places to eat, there isn't anything there, and I don't recommend even spending the time to see it. We did see some cute house barges though.
Our third sea day/night brought quite the surprise. We had invited more of our new friends (Linda, Phillip, Ken, Philip and Valia) to join us for dinner. It was the second formal night, however, none of us felt like dressing up, so we thought we would have our lobster dinner in our cabin, dressed casually. Of course, Nelson was doing his normal wonderful job of serving dinner course by course. However, I had not been feeling well (bout of motion sickness), and I had to excuse myself when the entrees arrived. My husband continued to entertain our guests. Nelson even came in at the end of the dinner, along with two other butlers, and carried a flaming Baked Alaska!! Kudos again to Nelson. After everyone had left, the ship really began rocking. All night long you would feel the ship sway to one side, hang there for a moment, and then bang back down. The next day we found out why....25 foot swells and 50 mile per hour winds!! It didn't surprise me that motion sickness had hit me! That was probably the worst seas I have been in. We found out the next day that TVs had fallen and broken, and glasses, bottles, and plates had been broken in the bars and restaurants!
Because we were in the Penthouse, we dined a lot in our cabin rather than in the main dining room a lot. We had dinner twice in the main dining room and once in Destinations, the casual dining area. We did eat breakfast once in the main dining room and a couple of times at the buffet. We never had lunch in the main dining room. We loved the made to order sandwiches at the aft end of the buffet, and had them most of the time. Our one disappointment in the food was the waffles. We typically love the waffles in the buffet, which normally are made when you order them. This trip they were made ahead of time, and they just didn't have the same taste as those right off the waffle iron.
We disembarked in Vancouver, Canada. It is a beautiful sail into Vancouver, and I enjoyed that last morning on our deck watching the views go by. As Elite members, we went to the specialty restaurant to wait for our color to be announced to disembark. Coffee, tea and pastries were served to those who wanted one last thing to eat!! We had arranged to take the Celebrity shuttle bus to Vancouver airport, and all went smoothly both on the shuttle and at the airport. However, I know several people's luggage did not make it to the airport, or got there at the last minute or late. Celebrity did not offer "luggage valet service" on this cruise. That is a valuable service which I wish they offered on every cruise. There is an extra charge for it, but worth every penny. When you put your luggage out the night before you disembark, it is picked up and you don't see it again until you land at your home airport! No dealing with the bags. We sure missed that perk on this trip.
I highly recommend this itinerary and this ship to everyone!! So much so, we've booked it again for next May. Thanks to all the Cruise Critic members and other new friends (Joe, Pat, Len & Chris) that we met while on board for helping to make this such a memorable cruise. Read Less