11 Santiago (Valparaiso) Holiday Cruise Reviews

I requested a refund for the cruise we just took on 12/20/2014 - 1/7/2015. Silversea clearly cheated their naive customers, who paid for the 6-star cruise but received a 2-star experience at best. - The food was terrible, and they ran ... Read More
I requested a refund for the cruise we just took on 12/20/2014 - 1/7/2015. Silversea clearly cheated their naive customers, who paid for the 6-star cruise but received a 2-star experience at best. - The food was terrible, and they ran out of even of that in the end. There were hardly any fruit, stale nuts and terrible frozen fish. -The TV was not working properly. - The new in-residence entertainment team was inexperienced, vulgar with no singing talent. - No aerobic classes or instructor for the first half of the cruise - some passengers complained about dirty carpets and leaking windows Every single passenger complained about this and more. A shameless rip-off by Silversea Read Less
Sail Date December 2014
Christmas is supposed to be magical and so is a cruise! Our 16 member family boarded the Celebrity Infinity in Valparaiso, Chile on December 2012 and it was magical! The ship is beautiful and was awesomely decorated for the holidays! It ... Read More
Christmas is supposed to be magical and so is a cruise! Our 16 member family boarded the Celebrity Infinity in Valparaiso, Chile on December 2012 and it was magical! The ship is beautiful and was awesomely decorated for the holidays! It had Christmas written all over it from gingerbread towns, Christmas flowers (red Poinsettias), the holiday music everywhere, to the best Social Host that kept the ship alive (I believe he was Argentinean, funny and fun!), showing up at all unexpected places, keeping people happy and entertained at all times. The ports of call were incredible: from Chile to Buenos Aires, what can you not love about it? Everything from sea life to nature to glaciers. The meals were excellent, as was the service. The cabins are beautiful (we had verandas and some preferred the Ocean Views because of the smaller children). They have a great feature on this ship: connecting rooms for bigger families with children. The kids Club and Teen’s Club as stated by the kids themselves, were great!). The Dining Room staff was so accommodating for such a big group and treated our ‘younglings ‘with so much care! Would definitely recommend and return on a Celebrity cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2012
This cruise truly was a dream come true for me. We lucked out weather-wise - and the only turbulant waters were while at sea, and they were fun times - not at all alarming. The waters around "the Horn", in the Antarctic area and ... Read More
This cruise truly was a dream come true for me. We lucked out weather-wise - and the only turbulant waters were while at sea, and they were fun times - not at all alarming. The waters around "the Horn", in the Antarctic area and at the various ports were amazingly calm, and if there were rough times it must have been while we were sleeping. We, my youngest daughter & I, enjoyed every day aboard ship, and each port of call provided special joys for us. I must mention how much we appreciated our Captain, Rik Krombeen. He seemed determined to make the cruise "special" for everyone. His announcements were clearly given, with many humerous touches and we enjoyed hearing his "Hi, It's me again" when he'd call our attention to something special that we'd have missed otherwise. Our room steward, Farid (?), was the greatest. He was so efficient, and yet so friendly and willing to share with us, even though we knew we were interruping his work routine. He definitely left a couple of extermely happy travelers, and we hoped that HAL realizes what a great asset he is in conributing to a guest's overall enjoyment of the whole trip. We were made to feel special by so many members of the Veendam's crew - waiters who remembered our names after we first met them, the Lido staff, Cruise Director Patti Honacki, etc. etc.- so many smiling faces made for a truly happy trip. (We met just one unsmiling, rather dour faced "seater" in the Rotterdam Dining Room on two occasions.) I especially enjoyed the friendship that came with participation in the daily TaiChi sessions with Lifestylist Prince. He was great - and it was fun to progress through the series of lessons, feeling more relaxed and at ease after each session. I have a multitude of wonderful memories that will brighten my days through the years ahead.... Thank you to HAL and the entire crew of the Veendam. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
This was my first cruise ever and it couldn't have been better. I traveled with my mid-70s parents and they loved it too. We really lucked out weather-wise and made all of the ports of call. I particularly liked Puerto Montt ... Read More
This was my first cruise ever and it couldn't have been better. I traveled with my mid-70s parents and they loved it too. We really lucked out weather-wise and made all of the ports of call. I particularly liked Puerto Montt and Stanley, Falkland Islands. Puerto Chacubuco was good only because we had an awesome shore excursion (En Patagonia). Other people didn't particualarly like this stop. The itinerary was great, how they brought us to a beautiful glacier on Christmas morning so we could have a "white christmas". Antarctica was spectacular - could have used another day there since a couple spots were fogged out. I had considered one of those national geographic expedition-type trips that are big $ and get to step foot on Antarctica, but I really don't feel like I missed much, especially since we got to see penguins up close and personal in Punta Arenas and Falklands. Picking up scientists in Palmer station was also a fun and interesting thing to do. Our captain did an amazing job helping us to see some of the real highlights of antarctica, especially navigating down the Lemaire Channel where the other ships didn't dare to go. The sea days were almost as fun as the shore and antarctica days. Lots of fun activities, speakers, trivia, movies, bridge, etc. The shows were mostly good - I liked the variety of the people brought on for one night's show only (Daniel Bouchet, Fabio Zini, Juan Carlos) I liked reading the daily newspaper and getting the sudoku every day. Good selection of news and movie channels on the TV, plus ability to see reruns of ship speakers that were missed. The staff was all good - captain, cruise director Patti, our steward Sam, etc. Our room was OK and on the Main Deck. No issues with room temperature. The food, especially the desserts and prepared salads in the Lido were great. Lots of variety. Nice touch when they served special treats (gingerbread & hot chocolate at the christmas shows, finger food for the bowl games on Jan 1, snacks at midnight on new years eve) I have only a few minor complaints. The ship's shore excursions are too expensive. They seem to cost about double what it might cost if booked independantly. The tendering process at Puerto Montt took 2 hours before any independant travelers could get off. A few food items were bad (I couldn't even look at the lobster thermidor). I was sleeping in the sofa sleeper and the sheets were clean but old (permanent stains and holes). I only called room service a couple times, but it was sometimes slow (for example, took an hour to get ice delivered). I loved the Crows Nest but it got way too smoky in the Antarctic. Due to regulations, people couldn't smoke outside or on their balcony so the only smoking areas were the casino & crows nest. Overall great trip and good value. I would recommend this cruise to others. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
We arrived in Santiago de Chile 5 days before our cruise. After spending very nice days in the Valley del Maipo and in Vina del Mar we boarded the Celebrity Infinity in Valparaiso. Boarding was smooth, well organised and quick. Once on ... Read More
We arrived in Santiago de Chile 5 days before our cruise. After spending very nice days in the Valley del Maipo and in Vina del Mar we boarded the Celebrity Infinity in Valparaiso. Boarding was smooth, well organised and quick. Once on the ship we went to see our room. We were happy to see that it had a good size and we did not felt claustrophobic despite being an inside room. The bathroom was smaller than in other ships and it had an unpleasant smell. In general, we thought that the room itself had somehow not very good ventilation despite the air conditioning. As a matter of fact each time we spent some time on the room we started to have a sore throat. We realised that our neighbors were probably having similar problems because they always tried to keep their door open while inside their room. Although we have cruised already a couple of times on an inside cabin, this was the first time where we had the feeling something was wrong with the air of the cabin. The rest of the ship, we found it to be very nice. Celebrity Infinity has already several years of life, but it is a nice, elegant ship. We have liked it very much and it was a pleasure to be on board of this lovely ship. We took this cruise because of the itinerary. We were very excited about sailing around Cape Horn and about being in the most southern inhabited places of South America. Sailing was most of the time smooth. Cruising the Cape Horn, the Strait of Magallanes and the Beagle Channel was absolutely great. We were extremely lucky with the weather. Of course it was cold and windy, but in overall the cruising experience was lovely. We did avoid one port because of possible weather difficulties. That port was Punta Arenas. I guess the captain and co. took the right decision in not going to that Port. Other ports were Ushuaia, Puerto Madryn, Punta del Este, Montevideo and Buenos Aires. All of them interesting and different. We have enjoyed travelling to Punta Tombo from Puerto Madryn to be among the Penguins. It was so lovely!! Although it takes more than 2 hours each way to go there, it was really worthed! We have also liked very much Punta del Este although it seems a very expensive place to spend some time. For example, the real state was advertising apartments with a rent of about US 30000 per month (yes thirty thousand dollars)!! Local people told us that there are several celebrities which come to Punta del Este over Christmas and apparently are able to pay those rents. Montevideo was also interesting. However, we had a not so nice surprise there. We were there on December 31st and it happen to be that on that day in Montevideo, the people have the custom of playing with water and color sprays. To our surprise we have received full buckets of water while walking on the street. We were not amused at all. If we would have known this was a custom, we would have been prepared for it and maybe we would have even played with the locals. But we were not informed at all. It would have been good that the ship employers, which in several languages provided port information and safety tips, could also include this information in their programs. Food at the Celebrity infinity was very good. So many options! We have enjoyed sampling from the nice variety in the buffet restaurant and also in the main dining room. Wine was expensive though. We both love to have a good wine with our dinner and we found that the imported wine selection was not worthed for the price being charged. However the wines from Chile (Carmenere)and Argentina (Malbec)were to our opinion better value for money. It is a pity that wines are always so expensive on cruise ships!! For us a wine with dinner is not a luxus. It is a quite normal part of the meal. It is a pity that Celebrity does not offer good quality wines at reasonable prices like the Italian style cruise liners do.... Service was friendly and accommodating. The shows magnificent, specially the Gaucho Show "Diablos de la Pampa". One thing, that I particularly have enjoyed was having the movies with subtitles. I am hard of hearing, so I mainly read the subtitles. This was great on this cruise. I wonder why others do not do it although every CD nowadays provides the opportunity of having subtitles. There is however one more issue, which we found it has room for improvement at the Celebrity Infinity. This was the health providers at the ship. For the first time in one cruise we had to go to the Doctors office. The reason was, my husband had a thrombosis 10 days before the cruise, so he was taken anticoagulants. They had to be monitored. Our house doctor was always in touch with us per telephone and he recommended for my husband to have a blood test every second day. We knew the range in which the values of the test had to be. So my husband went to the health office at the ship and found out that for this simple blood test, he had to pay almost US 100 because he had to see the ships doctor (US 70) otherwise he could not have the test done. I mean, if you are being monitored by another doctor, and everybody who has had a thrombosis knows what the blood test should look like, why this unnecessary cost? It was disappointing but fortunately my husband could have this test done in the ports of call. Results provided on the same day, very efficient, they could even send the results to us per email if we wanted so. How about the cost? US 10 per test. What a difference right? In any case, we have enjoyed this cruise. We felt safe with Captain Margaritis. We have also liked Cruise Director Alan and the enrichment lecturer, who was very well informed and provided excellent insights in the wildlife of the region. As I have written above we liked the Celebrity Infinity. We will be looking for another opportunities to cruise with this lovely ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
My husband and I were very excited about the cruise: 20 days from Valparaiso to Rio over Christmas and New Years. Our cabin was just fine, and the ship was running smoothly. The first port, Puerto Montt, was interesting despite heavy rain. ... Read More
My husband and I were very excited about the cruise: 20 days from Valparaiso to Rio over Christmas and New Years. Our cabin was just fine, and the ship was running smoothly. The first port, Puerto Montt, was interesting despite heavy rain. Then the Veendam headed out for two days at sea. Next stop: Punta Arenas. Unfortunately, the ship moved into code red with noro-virus. What my husband thought was noro-virus was really appendicitis. He was moved into the ship's medical facility until we could reach Punta Arenas. The medical staff on board was overwhelmed by the virus outbreak so, although they did all they could for my husband, he was filled with antibiotics and morphine, and we hoped we would reach port in time for surgery. Since the staff was overwhelmed, my husband was sent back to our cabin each night because there was no one in the medical facility who could be on call throughout the night. Fortunately, he survived, but we had to disembark from the cruise and spent the rest of the "vacation" in a hospital in Punta Arenas. That said, our brief impression of the Veendam was positive. As I said earlier, the cabin was very comfortable. We chose late seating in the dining room, and the wait staff was attentive and polite. The food was attractive and very tasty, and the wines were fairly reasonable. Relatives traveling with us, who completed the cruise, reported that the boat's staff seemed to get more and more overwhelmed as the virus continued to spread. They said that toward the end of the cruise, even the members of the string quartet were serving passengers in the buffet area, since all self-serve lines were closed. But our relatives, too, praised the ship and loved the itinerary. We were in cabin D417 on the Lower Promenade deck. I worried about privacy, since people on deck would be walking right past our window, but the tinting prevented anyone from seeing in during the day, and at night we closed the curtains. Although the promenade deck has lights on at night, they do not shine into the cabin. There was plenty of room in the cabin. The beds are very comfortable (we split them into two singles). And the bathroom is huge by cruise ship standards. It has a tub and a shower. On our last cruise, on RC Brilliance of the Seas, the shower was a tiny scrap of real estate in the corner of a small bathroom. Although we were in the rear of the ship, it was quiet. Despite our bad luck, we would definitely cruise with Holland America again. But we also learned a hard, hard lesson: never travel outside the US without extra medical insurance. My husband has Medicare, which works only in America. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Who should Go? This is not a Caribbean party cruise or a European cultural cruise. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise and want to experience a similar landscape in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the cruise for you. I have now seen the ... Read More
Who should Go? This is not a Caribbean party cruise or a European cultural cruise. If you enjoyed an Alaskan cruise and want to experience a similar landscape in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the cruise for you. I have now seen the Alaskan, Norwegian, New Zealand and Chilean Fjords and I enjoyed each one for different reasons. Our cruise straddled the Christmas-New Year's holiday, so there was a good mix of young and old since there were many extended families on board. NCL did a good job on the Christmas and New Year's Eve activities. Keep in mind most of the ports require tendering and the ocean this far South can be rough. There were significant delays tendering in Punta Arenas, Ushuaia and the Falkland Islands due to inclement weather. I spoke with people on Celebrity and they had similar issues. The cruise lines work very hard to make this a safe process, so patience is required. One note: Chile requires a $132/person visa for US citizens when arriving at the airport. Argentina has an $18/person departure tax. If you cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, I believe you don't pay either one and save $150/person. Probably not an issue unless you have a family of four and pay $600 in visa/taxes. Ship The Norwegian Sun was adequate for this type of cruise. A medium size of about 2000 passengers, it does not have a lot of the outdoor and sport amenities found on the Caribbean mega-ships, all of which would be useless given the cold and windy conditions experienced during most of the cruise. NCL uses a Free-style dining system and unlike some previous NCL cruises, we had no problems with waiting or slow service because we ate between 6pm and 7:30pm. The food was good in the standard restaurants and excellent in the specialty restaurants. The on-board entertainment was better than normal; maybe because it was a holiday cruise. We had an Oceanview room, which was fine. If you get a Balcony room, try to get it on the Port side if traveling from Valpo to Buenos Aires and Starboard the other way. NCL arranged several interesting lectures on the regions we visited. Embarkation I recommend staying in Vina Del Mar or Buenos Aires the night before your cruise. Both are excellent places to spend some time and eliminate the stress of rushing to the ship. In Valparaiso, where we started the cruise, the embarkation was slowed by the transfer bus availability from the immigration building to the ship. The actual cruise check-in was completed aboard the ship and went very fast. I think the delay was due to the number of buses available and checking in at the peak time. We waited about 1 hour in a comfortable lounge area with a bar and some small gift shops for the transfer buses. Ports/Shore Excursions I usually pick my cruises based on the port of calls, so I will spend more time on this portion. I normally like to do independent shore excursions but this cruise stops at ports that have limited independent options. I always recommend using a cruise line shore excursion if you don't want to worry about travel logistics and getting back to the ship on time. Also, the shore excursion people get off on the first tenders, which made a big difference on this cruise. Independent tour operators, restaurants and shops took US dollars at every port and city we visited. It is best to have smaller denomination bills for obvious reasons. Santiago/Valparaiso/Vina del mar- We arrived three days before the cruise started to see Santiago, Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. We stayed in Santiago one night at a great little hotel called Hotel Orly and toured Santiago on our own. Most of the sights are in a compact area that is pedestrian friendly and safe during the day. We took a full day tour with Think About Chile tour company to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It worked out good because they picked us up in Santiago and dropped us off at our hotel in Vina del Mar and kept our luggage safe during the tour. We stopped at the Bellavista winery on the way to Valpo and then had a tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. It was $96/person but lower if you have more people. It takes about 2 hours from Santiago to Valpo without any stops. Puerto Montt- We booked a tour through GV Tours (Gail and Veronica) for $75/person. They use a nice mini-bus, which was full of people from our cruise ship. The tour hits the highlights of the Puerto Montt lake district area including Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas, Fruitillar, Petrohue falls, and Lake Esmeralda. The tour also included an excellent salmon lunch and a stop at a small farm. The tour lasted 8 hours and they claim they never missed a ship departure time. On a clear day Mt Osorno dominates the landscape. I highly recommend getting away from the Puerto Montt town and touring the lake district. There are several independent tour operators waiting at the port. I saw a short 2-hour tour of the lake district for $15/person. Puerto Chacabuco- Take a cruise line shore excursion if you ship stops here. There are no reliable independent options and nothing close to the port. We took a bus tour through the Rio Simpson valley, which was basically a 3-hour roundtrip bus ride to a National Reserve where we took a 30-minute hike. It is beautiful scenery but it rained most of the trip. The highlight of this stop was cursing through the Fjords that surround Puerto Chacabuco. The Andes drop right into the water here and the rainfall makes it very green and lush. The sun came out later in the day and we had a great sail through the steep Fjords. Sunset was about 10:30pm. Cruising the Chilean Fjords- We spent two days cruising in and out of the Chilean Fjords. The water was calm and scenery beautiful. A lot of waterfalls, islands and glacier capped mountains but surprising little visible marine life. Day time highs were around 50 F but windy. Punta Arenas- We opted to take an expensive cruise line shore excursion to Torre Del Paine. The trip was great. We saw a lot Guanaco's, rheas and condors. The lakes are an amazing milky-blue color and the famous Torre "horns" made a brief appearance. The weather is very unpredictable and changed by the minute, and it is always windy. This was on my list of "must see" places in the World, so I paid the steep $1100 for this one-day excursion. I don't believe all the cruise lines offer this trip, but ours was sold out before the cruise started so book early. The most popular day excursion at this port was the penguin trips. Ushuaia- Sailing the Beagle channel before Ushuaia was very scenic and this is the best chance to see glaciers up close. Six glaciers come down to meet the Beagle Channel. We passed these glaciers in the morning before arriving in Ushuaia. I believe you see these during the evening if traveling from Buenos Aires to Valpo. We hired a taxi with another couple in Ushuaia and went to see a glacier near Ushuaia and then Tierra del Fuego. The cost is $110 per taxi and 4 people can squeeze into a taxi. The trip was about 3-4 hours. Tierra del Fuego is beautiful and worth the trip. Ushuaia also has a nice downtown area for shopping and souvenirs. There are several independent land and boat tour operators waiting at the port. Rounding Cape Horn- This was a highlight for many passengers on the cruise. After a rough first two days at sea, we were concerned about the conditions around this infamous area considered to be the most dangerous in the World. Well, it was like a swimming pool. Our cruise director said it was the most calm NCL had seen in two years. We circled the Cape Horn Island and saw the lighthouse and Memorial. It is my understanding this part of the cruise is usually cancelled due to rough seas. Falkland Islands- We took an NCL shore excursion to the Lagoon Bluffs to see penguins. I think this is the best spot on the cruise to see penguins because of the variety, population and scenic backdrop. We saw Gentoo, Rock-hopper (cool eyebrows) and the famous King penguins (smaller cousins to the movie-star Emperor penguins). All the other stops on the cruise only see Magellan penguins. The tour is via 4-wheel drive vehicles and part of the ride is very rough. The Lagoon Bluffs is a beautiful beach and cove area where thousands of penguin come to breed. We saw a lot of baby penguins like the movie. Great photos. It had sun, rain, sleet and hail all in the one hour we were at Lagoon Bluff. It was fun to watch the penguins when it hailed. It was like a free massage for them. There is a small cabin that serves tea, coffee and pastries, which is included in the tour. Port Stanley is small but nice and scenic town. It is fun to go to the pubs and talk to the locals. The three we went to were Deano's, Victory and Globe taverns. Victory is popular with the British soldiers stationed in the Falkland's and they have some great stories. Puerto Madryn- Yes, our first port where we actually docked since Valpo. We had a late start since it was New Year's day and we stayed up till 3am the night before. We teamed up with eight other people on our cruise and took an independent tour to the Peninsula Valdez for $50/person. There are tour operators waiting outside the dock area to book independent tours. It was a long two-hour ride through the barren Peninsula Valdez to reach an area with Magellan penguins and huge elephant seals. A beautiful coastline on a very sunny and warm day. We also stopped at a small national park museum. We also saw a lot of Guanacos along the way but mainly in the distant. Many other passengers went to the Punto Tomba, probably the best place for penguins outside of the Falkland islands. Montevideo- Civilization again and we docked. Although there are several interesting shore excursions, I recommend walking around the old town and downtown area of this city. The port is less than 10 minutes walk to the old town and stop by the Port Mercado to see the grilled meat restaurants. We hit all the major sights in three hours, had a grilled steak lunch at a restaurant Hillary Clinton ate at, and went to the beach for a few cocktails at a cafe. There are excellent antique markets on the weekend. I bought an antique Kodak Brownie camera for $15. Buenos Aires/disembarkation- We were scheduled to fly out of Buenos Aires that evening, so we decided to take an NCL shore excursion, which kept our bags during the tour and dropped us at the airport afterward. In fact, we never touched our bags after leaving them outside our cabin the night before until arriving at the airport. We took the Best of Buenos Aires Tour, which included a three-hour tour of the city and then a visit to a Gaucho Estancia. I had been to Buenos Aires before and I recommend staying at least two days to see the sights and experience this great city. The Estancia was nice with folk dancing, music, Gaucho horsemanship, horseback and wagon rides, and a huge grilled meat lunch. It is a nine-hour tour getting to the airport around 5:30pm. The cruise met all my expectations. I will mention a few complaints from other fellow passengers: 1) Some had limited time on shore due to tendering delays, 2) The food was not as good as some past cruises, 3) shore excursions were pricey, 4) there should be more activities during days at sea. Happy cruising! Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Wow, Well this is my first cruise review but I have done thousand for hotels, so I will try my best. My cruise was from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires for Xmas and New Year with my two kids. Well Im going to write my review in parts, ... Read More
Wow, Well this is my first cruise review but I have done thousand for hotels, so I will try my best. My cruise was from Valparaiso, Chile to Buenos Aires for Xmas and New Year with my two kids. Well Im going to write my review in parts, and for my journal of each day check my blog: Embarkation: After a 3 days stay in Chile ( you can check here my blog: http://celebrityinfinity.blogspot.com/) I arrived to Valparaiso Port for a fast "check in" it just took me like 10 minutes, then I took a bus so I didn't walk like ... a lot, well I arrived in front of the ship and it was incredible the first time I saw it and it was incredible, well when I arrived to the ship I was escorted to my cabin with a champagne oh and my kids supposedly with orange juices but they were mimosas, well. Room: My room was 9009 and it was located Forward, near the elevators, When I enter the room I thought that it was going to be more little but not it was big, not so big, I also met my stateroom attendant, JosE from Philippines. The room was good I have a veranda of view to the port side, it has the pricey mini bar and the t.v. with channels in spanish, yeah for my kids, and a little bathroom. After this we decide it to go to a tour of the ship.Oh and I also understand why it is important the midship Overall Ship: It was big at the first time I was getting lost and tired, it´s an awesome ship, it has many things except that the things for kids are missing. I would said that this is more for adult, sorry for all parents reading this, but yes this is more for a couple. Oh when I go you will not know that it has more than 8 years, the only old thing I saw it was the hairdryer in the room that was really old. But well maybe it will be because it was in dry dock for 3 weeks. Food, Buffet, Ocean View : Well at the first days it was not so bad they also give very good mexican food, but all the days was almost the same thing, it was good specially the ice creams, try the banana with ron, It was not so bad, but at least they change some things, oh and their desserts were not so good as I expect. But well the good thing is that you can also eat in the AquaSpa that is healthier. or in the Trellis but is very early. The Trellis: A very good restaurant to have dinner, they always give you a different thing, thats what I like it, well the bad thing is that you need to get dress every day, oh and the formal nights were good, the 3 were one in xmas one in new year and the other the 2 of January, that the last one is the cool one. The food here its excellent. And my waiter Cristos was excellent, but Carlos that is for wine, that was the best person in all the cruise if you see him please tell him a big hello from Mexico. Activities: The activities were good, well the trivias were very bad and short, and some activities were never done. There was only one activity for families: Bingo, and I never won :( but well, they were some other activities but more for kids. Oh and about the Bingo, I like it very much, its very cool specially with the activity staff: Ezperanza, please if you see her tell her how is her spanish, also they were two more persons of Canada and Mayela from Mexico. Also the Enrichment Series they told me it was very good Children Club: Well for my 8 years old girl it was good the activity during the day but when it was the party well that was more as a free time, and guess what I bought the V.I.P Pass and I didn't use more than 50 dollars and it cost 200, well they also give you a xclub kit, that is like 40 dollars plus a Backstage in the Theatre and a Bridge Tour, that was very good. And for my 13 kid, well it was also like free time almost all day. He might not have a good time but he is more an adult so there was no problem. Entertainment: It was very good, the shows at night were incredible, also the Starring you wow I just love it. It was one of the things I really like, and this was for all persons, oh and I wish I could saw completely the Global Show, but my kids were sleeping and it was 11:30 p.m. so I go. Overall its very good the Shows and all the things Shopping: One word: pricey, except for the sales, The Emporium is pricey in almost everything, at least they have their 10 dollars things, the clothing was good and not so expensive. But the photos, o.m.g. 20 bucks for one photo, well minimum, you need to buy the ones from Xmas and New Year , plus the special elegant ones, thats like 60 dollars. Or more. But the photos were good. In Ports: To tender is the worst thing ever and each time it get worst, in Puerto Montt well not so many problem, in Punta Arenas we were at 7 Celsius and need it to wait like 30 minutes well for Punta del Este, very hot, and like 40 minutes, and just because they put 3 boats more. In Holidays: In Xmas it was good they give you a (I don't know how to say it) with a ... sorry I just don't know how to say it but it was good, very familiar. In New Year the worst thing for kids, my little girl I need it to take her to the Club in New Year and then I went to the Constellation and when I was getting to pass with my 13 years boy, they didn't have a paper to sign up so in the line I just heard the Happy New Year oh my god, I decide it to go to the Martini Bar with my second favorite waiter from Colombia, Karen a very good service, then we went to get my daughter and went to sleep... Oh and one thing its very disorganized, also there was some problems with a man that broke the nose of another men. Service: I think it was a very good service although I didn't heard the same from many persons, I loved the service from everyone, except one that was in the Guest Relations, she is from South Africa what a bad service she gave me, but the whole entire crew give me a very good service, well specially, like I say it Carlos and Karen, wonderful people, but Alan King was just wow, the best cruise director very funny, just the best person. Disembarkation: It wasn't so bad, I went off at 8:45 it was fast and kind of smooth. Well here was my long and long review, and I could continue, if you have questions just send me an email to oav1995@gmail.com its just for cruise things. Im just putting some ports, because CC don't have all In Punta Arenas I did a tour with the ship very good explanation but we didn't saw many penguins Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
My family of 4 set out for a special holiday adventure to South America. What we ended up with was outrageous treatment beyond belief. American Airlines and Celebrity Cruise line's incredible callousness and incompetence nearly ... Read More
My family of 4 set out for a special holiday adventure to South America. What we ended up with was outrageous treatment beyond belief. American Airlines and Celebrity Cruise line's incredible callousness and incompetence nearly completely wrecked our holiday before it even began. When we finally made it to the ship after two and a half days the treatment and service on board wasn't much better. This cruise line behaves like a company ready to go out of business (it certainly will if it keeps this up).This is going to be a long review, but bear with me because it is necessary to include all the details to fully illustrate the incredible degree of incompetence and indifference that my family encountered on this expensive cruise. We were scheduled to sail on the Celebrity Infinity for a 14 day holiday cruise from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina which embarked on December 21, 2008. Scheduled is the operative word here. I had upgraded our cabin to "concierge class" because I wanted a balcony and decided that the extra amenities seemed worthwhile, particularly the priority embarkation and disembarkation that was promised. My two daughters, (ages 20 and 14) had an inside cabin of their own. I also purchased air transportation and port transfers and a two day add on stay in Buenos Aires from Celebrity. The first problem was that we were scheduled to fly from Cincinnati to Chicago to Miami to Santiago on December 20. When the weather in the Midwest started getting dicey, I called my travel agent on December 19 to see if there was any possibility of being routed through a hub other than Chicago. No luck there except an earlier flight from Cincinnati to Chicago which ended up prolonging the agony in Chicago. Our flight which was scheduled to leave Chicago at 3:45 pm ended up leaving after 7 pm with an estimated arrival time of 11 pm in Miami. Our connecting flight to Santiago was to leave at 11:25 pm. A couple hours prior to boarding the delayed flight to Miami, i called Celebrity and told them that I might miss the connection. Their office closed t 7 pm Eastern time and I told them the flight wouldn't even start boarding by them so I wouldn't know my situation before they closed. I was told just to call the same number and it would ring through to an after hours emergency operator if I had a problem. After we boarded the flight to Miami, I asked the American Airlines flight attendants if they could arrange for assistance at the arrival gate in Miami to reach our international gate due to the tight connection. I have health issues that prevent me from running any distance. The attendants not only refused to assist, but were downright nasty. Since we were at the very rear of a large plane, I asked if at least we could be moved to a seat closer to the front of the plane. Again I was refused. My daughters and husband ran ahead to the international terminal while I tried my best to run. My daughter got to the gate, only to be refused boarding while others who were on the same connecting flight from Chicago and who had arrived at the international gate at the same time she did were boarded. (American Airlines excuse when I filed a complaint was that they were sorry that we arrived after the flight had closed. That is ridiculous when you consider that the people standing right next to us in line were allowed to board and we weren't). All in all, 15 people from our cruise were denied boarding on this flight. The American Airlines supervisor at this gate was even nastier than the flight attendants had been. It took over an hour to re-book everyone. Meanwhile I became ill from all the exertion and stress and I lay on the floor at the gate the entire time with chest pain and my head pounding, taking medication. No one from the airline even inquired as to whether I required assistance. It was almost 1 am by the time we got the new tickets. They made no attempt to put us on a morning flight which would have still allowed for the possibility of making the cruise which didn't leave Valparaiso until 9 pm the next day. Instead we were put on a 9:30 pm flight the next night (Sunday December 21) on LAN (this meant we'd still be in Miami after the ship left the dock in Valparaiso). I called the "emergency" number at Celebrity and instead of being put through to the emergency operator who was allegedly available, I got a "we are closed" message. As soon as we got to the hotel, I checked our reservation on LAN's website but it wouldn't recognize the locator number. At 7 am Sunday morning, I called LAN and got the same answer-we don't have that locator number in our computer. So off we went in the shuttle back to the airport, and amidst hundreds of people trying to check in at American Airlines, we tried to get help. After being told by one agent that LAN did have the reservation and calling LAN again to be told the new locator number AA gave us wasn't valid, I finally found an AA supervisor who admitted the reservation had been put in the wrong database by the bungling AA employee at the gate the previous night. She reissued the tickets and we went back to the hotel. I was still not certain at that point whether we had confirmed seats on the LAN flight or if we were standby, which had been mentioned by the gate agent, so I called the "day of travel" number at Celebrity and inquired as to what I should do if I didn't get on the LAN flight that night. I was told that I should just go to the airport that evening and standby and wait. I told her that I didn't think that was a good answer because if I didn't get on this next flight, the ship would be out to sea and would be 1000 miles from the port by the next time it docked. Her answer was "just go to the airport and see what happens." I hung up on her and called my travel agent. The travel agent told me that she could get us seats on a LAN flight the next morning from Santiago to LaSerena but that it would cost nearly $800 for the four of us and we would have to pay out of our own pockets and hope to be reimbursed later. I said that I didn't like that idea and that we needed to get a more definitive input from Celebrity. Phone calls from the travel agency came in all afternoon. At one point the travel agent said that two travel agents (it was Sunday and the agency was closed) had come in and had as many as four phone lines going to Celebrity trying the resolve the issue. Ultimately, we got a call from the travel agent informing us that we did have confirmed seats on the LAN flight from Miami to Santiago and that once Celebrity was sure that we were on the flight, they would make arrangements to fly us to La Serena. Dream on. At 5 pm we picked up our hand luggage that had been stored at the hotel and coincidentally met up with another family who were to be on the cruise and had been refused boarding as well. I asked them if they had checked their tickets, because I assumed that the same mistake had probably been made with their re-booking as had been made with ours. They hadn't. When we arrived at the LAN counter at 5:30 pm(behind scores of other passengers, even though we'd been told by AA that we couldn't check in there any sooner than 3 hours before the flight) we were relieved to find that we were on the passenger list. Unfortunately, the other family was not. They were sent back to AA to try and get re-booked again. Once we were finally at the counter, the LAN agent said that our tickets still weren't correct and we spent another half hour standing there while she reprinted the tickets yet another time. Then they made a big deal of checking all the luggage tags and recording the numbers from the AA luggage receipts, as our luggage was allegedly going to be transferred to this flight. With boarding passes in hand, we called the travel agent again and told her we were headed to the gate. Again we were told that a Celebrity Agent would meet us outside of customs in Santiago and guide us to the ship. We boarded the LAN flight at 9 pm. The other family finally made it to the gate just as the flight began boarding. They had been hassled for two hours between AA and LAN before LAN finally issued them boarding passes, even though they too had been on the phone all day with their travel agent who had assured them three times that they had seats on this flight. The flight on LAN was great (much nicer than the United flight on which we returned from the trip). Comfortable seats, a decent dinner (for airline food) and a complimentary glass of wine. Movies, videos, games and music on demand were on individual screens with remote controls. LAN was to become our best travel ally. After deplaning in Santiago sometime around 8 am, we paid the arrival tax ($131 per person) and went off the retrieve our luggage. It wasn't on the flight. My husband went to stand in the huge line of passengers with missing luggage and suggested that I go through customs and get outside to look for the Celebrity agent. No Celebrity agent anywhere in sight. I did meet another man who had been on our flight who had also been bumped from Saturday's flight. He told me that our luggage was in the AA office. They had sent it to Santiago on the next AA flight (so why couldn't they have sent us on the next flight too?). I had no way of communicating this to my husband who was still back in the secure area of the airport. By that time I was in tears, and some guy who appeared to be airport personnel asked if he could help me. He wanted to direct me to a taxi of which he was probably getting a cut of the fare. My husband and daughters finally came out through customs, after having waited about 45 minutes in line to be told that the luggage was indeed in the AA office. In the process, we ran across another party of 4 people in the same situation, but they told us that American Airlines had given them free tickets to La Serena to meet the ship. I put my 20 yr old daughter in charge to trying to contact the travel agency and Celebrity as I was so stressed at that point it was hard for me to be objective. She has traveled the world to such places and Burma and all over India by herself, so she's an experienced traveler and very level headed. Again, a continuous barrage of calls ensued back and forth (now on international roam prices) all of which proved to provide false information. We were first told that a shuttle was to meet us in front of the airport to drive us to La Serena (a 300 mile distance through the Atacama Desert) and that it would be arriving soon. It was now after 9 am. At the front of the airport we met up with another group of 4 people who were also on the cruise and had been bumped from the Saturday flight. They had been in front of the airport waiting for a Celebrity agent since 6 am. The other family of three joined us, too. There were now 11 of us waiting for the shuttle. Around 10 am my daughter called again and was told by Celebrity that the shuttle was on its way. Another half hour passed and everybody was getting anxious that we wouldn't make the boat in the time that was left even if the shuttle came. The airport agent and his taxi vultures had convinced us at that point to ride to La Serena in one of their vans for $100 per person and grabbed our luggage and started hauling it to the vans. As we were doing that, my daughter made another call to Celebrity, who insisted that the shuttle was still on its way. We wrested our luggage back from them and hauled it back to the curb in front of the airport. More time passed. The taxi vultures kept insisting that they could drive us to La Serena in time to catch the boat before it left at 4 pm. That was physically impossible at this point unless they drove 100 mph the whole way. I finally had to start screaming that I was going to call the police to get them to leave us alone. It was now after 11 am and my daughter called Celebrity again and this time was told that there was no shuttle on its way! They said they had no authorization to send a shuttle and that they hadn't even gotten in touch with an English speaking agent in Santiago yet. The Celebrity agent on the phone told my daughter to get in a taxi and to try to reach La Serena on our own. She told him that would be impossible at this point due to the distance we would need to travel in the time left and his response was "stop arguing with me and get a taxi or you won't ever make it!" My daughter replied that she wasn't getting into a taxi and going on a wild goose chase and hung up on him. (Apparently he told our travel agent the same thing and she was incensed at the way he had spoken to her). We were all on the verge of despair, but we still had the option of buying tickets for the 1:30 LAN flight to La Serena, so we headed upstairs (with piles of luggage) to the LAN counter. While we were standing in line waiting to buy tickets for the flight, we received a call from the travel agent relaying a message that she had gotten from Celebrity claiming that they were sending an agent who was now on their way to meet us at the airport and take us to the port. We told her we were going to buy airplane tickets and fly there as we saw that as our only viable option and only had a few minutes to get the tickets before the flight started to board. She called back again and said that Celebrity had insisted that the agent was on the way and that it was only 2 hours to the port. At that point I realized that they were under the assumption that the ship was still in Valparaiso, which is 2 hours from Santiago. Unreal!! My daughter told our travel agent that what Celebrity had told her was nonsense and that we were going to take our chances and fly to La Serena and also told her that we wanted confirmation that the captain of the ship had been contacted and that he knew that we were coming before we got on the flight. Fortunately for us, one of the LAN supervisors noticed us and the confusion we were experiencing, along with the others in the group, and took my husband to the ticket counter, helped him purchase our tickets and expedited our luggage check in. As we headed to the gate we got more phone calls from the travel agency. We were told that we had to make it to the port by three or else the customs agent would be gone, then we were told again that a shuttle would meet us in La Serena and take us to the port (which was some distance from the airport). We were also told at that point that the captain was informed that we would be arriving in La Serena at 2:30 pm and we would proceed directly to the ship. We were told that the ship would wait for our arrival. We arrived at the La Serena airport after another pleasant short LAN flight. I went out to look for a Celebrity agent while my husband collected the luggage. Again, no sign of anyone from Celebrity at the airport. My daughter checked her phone (which had been turned off during the flight) and had text message stating that an agent was going to meet us at the Santiago airport, put us in a hotel in Santiago for 2 days and then transport us to Puerto Montt to meet the ship there!! There were now 15 of us assembled in La Serena trying to figure out the fastest way to get to the ship. Fortunately, one person in the group spoke fluent Spanish and negotiated hiring a van for us. Eleven people and piles of luggage went into a van and the remaining 4 took a taxi to the ship. We went careening through town, passing trucks and carts and a near miss of a crash or two before we finally got to the ship at around 3:15 pm. We were directed to the customs office. Fortunately the customs officer was still there. He stamped all of our passports and we headed back toward the ship and unloaded our luggage on the dock. An officer of the ship wandered over to us and gave us an incredulous look. She said that the crew had been told by the Celebrity office that we weren't meeting the ship that day. She said that Celebrity had sent a van to the airport and "waited hours and hours" for us and that we had never showed up! What airport? When? Really!! The captain obviously had no idea that we were on our way. All of this nonsense could have been avoided if Celebrity had just made the arrangements for us to connect to La Serena from the flight to Santiago when our travel agent contacted them on Sunday (and they were on the phone to Celebrity much of the day on Sunday, being put on hold and experiencing extreme frustration themselves). We would have avoided the long line to pay the arrival tax, the long line to get our luggage, and all the other frustrations, because if you had a connecting flight in Santiago to another city in Chile, you got to bypass all the arrival formalities in Santiago, and I am sure that they would have gone much more quickly at our final airport destination which was much less crowded. They made Sea Pass cards for us and we boarded the ship and went to our stateroom. It was now nearly 4 pm and the ship was preparing to leave the dock. No one else from the crew greeted us or called or made any inquiries as to any further needs that we might have. In our cabin we found a bottle of warm champagne (a concierge class amenity) that had been left in a pool of melted ice in the ice bucket overnight. No one came to bring us a chilled bottle. (We later found out the travel agency had also sent us a gift of a bottle of wine which Celebrity bothered to give to us). I was thoroughly exhausted from all the extra travel time, stress, and frustration. I asked my daughter to call our travel agent and extend to her the courtesy of knowing that we had made it to the ship, since she had spent so much of her weekend trying to help us. (The travel agent later told us that she received a call a couple hours later from someone at Celebrity who acted "absolutely giddy" that we'd made it to the ship. She told the person from Celebrity that she already knew this because we had called her hours earlier and said she "went off at her" telling her that it was through no effort whatsoever by Celebrity that we had gotten there.) After getting ready for dinner, we went to the guest relations desk because my daughter had discovered that her Sea Pass didn't reflect the beverage waiver that I'd filled out online for her before the cruise (if you are between 18 and 21 you can drink while in international waters if your parent signs a waiver) and also because I wanted to request a meeting with the hotel manager concerning the whole fiasco that we'd just been through. The beverage waiver hadn't been processed because I needed to present the form at the check in at the embarkation terminal in Santiago which obviously hadn't happened. It wasn't a big problem to take care of that issue (I just signed a new form and she got a new ID card), but in requesting a meeting with the hotel manager, I got the third degree from the guest relations person. She finally told me that I could only meet with the assistant hotel manager and that they would call me when he decided to meet with me! At dinner we were escorted to our table (for 8) and sat waiting to order. Another party of 4 (who were speaking Spanish) was escorted to our table, gave us a dirty look and left abruptly. So we ate by ourselves the first night. The next day was a day at sea, which I desperately needed to get some rest and collect my thoughts. I ordered a room service breakfast for my husband and myself, since I was still very tired and wanted a little pampering from the allegedly "special" room service selections available in "concierge class". The food took almost an hour to arrive and was cold and the order was not correct. This was a harbinger of what was to come with anything ordered in the cabin. It took almost an hour to get ice or a glass of juice in the afternoon (when you could contact the steward). After that initial experience, I ordered room service only one other time to get some pastries and fruit to take along on a very early morning shore excursion. Breakfast was on time that day but the order was still incorrect. Later in the day, I met up with other "stranded" families, who also told me that they had tried to arrange meetings with the hotel manager and were given the same standoffish story. I called guest relations three times over the course of that day and finally just before dinner, they conceded to allow me to meet with the assistant hotel manager after dinner. We had invited the couple and their daughter whom we had met in Miami to join us at dinner since they too had no one else at their assigned table. Before they arrived at dinner to join us, a man and his daughter sat at our table, whom we hadn't expected since they'd not been there the night before, and there were only two seats left so our new friends went back down to their original table. (We asked for the table to be set for 9 on subsequent nights so that the other 3 could join us, but that took 3 days for them to get right and ultimately they moved us all to a larger table on the other side of the dining room). On the positive side, the 9 of us all enjoyed dining together for the rest of the voyage. At 8 pm I went to meet with the assistant hotel manager, Alexander Zeitz. My daughter had told some of the others that I had finally arranged a meeting and they were all on hand to join me. When Mr. Zeitz came out of his office he was very upset to see the group rather than just me and said he was uncomfortable meeting with so many people at once. The others refused to budge and he finally acceded although he behaved like he was about to be attacked by an angry mob. After listening to our stories, we got a very polite song and dance about how this was all beyond his control and that he would have to relay the information from the notes he had taken to corporate because it was obvious to him that we wanted to be compensated for our ordeal above and beyond the $150 per person compensation that was their standard refund for missing a night of the cruise. He asked for our receipts from the out of pocket expenses for the airline tickets and taxi and said it would probably be several days before we would hear anything from corporate because it was December 23 and the offices in Miami would be closed for the holiday. He admitted that the message that customs would close at 3 had come from him, so obviously someone on the ship had been in contact with Celebrity's land based offices! So why all the confusion when we got to the ship?? After the others left, I ask to speak further with him privately about our accommodations. I expressed my dismay at having purchased an upgrade when apparently I wasn't getting the amenities I'd purchased. Most of the times that I'd called the cabin steward, he didn't answer his phone, nor did the main guest services line answer. I ended up looking for the pantry and getting my own ice when I wanted cold water. The concierge line never answered either (so much for concierge service!). The fancy pillows and bed linens never materialized either. The one time that we did get through to guest services about locating a light switch and a problem with the sliding door's latch, they said they'd send someone to the room but never did. What I was mainly upset about was having read in the nightly newsletter that priority disembarkation at the ports had been suspended in South America. This was the main reason why I chose to upgrade to Concierge Class. Response-more song and dance about how this would disrupt disembarkation and take longer if they gave priority to everyone in Concierge Class (because they had made half the staterooms on the ship Concierge Class, ostensibly to extract more money from the guests for no tangible upgrade in service). He said that the steward would be told to bring me ice daily and apprise me of my selection of pillows. No pillows, but occasionally I had ice in the afternoon. I still had to get my own ice from time to time. Finally after a week of frustration in trying to reach the cabin steward for anything (and I really didn't ask for much other than ice or assistance with things in the room that were problematic), I was finally told by someone in guest services that my steward's phone was broken and the he had a new phone number. Why couldn't he have told us this at the outset?! On Christmas Eve we arrived in Puerto Montt, where I had arranged a tour for my family with a private tour operator a few weeks before the trip and was looking forward to seeing the lake country of Chile more than any of the other port stops. Several of the other passengers that I knew had arranged for the same tour with this company. The morning announcer stated that if you were not participating in a tour through Celebrity's shore excursions, you could pick up a tender ticket in front of the theater, but they wouldn't be available until 10:30 am. We went to the guest relations desk and asked again if there was any possibility of getting a priority ticket, but were told-no, only guests in suites got priority tendering (this was different from what the newsletter stated of no priority tendering other than excursions purchased through Celebrity). I also asked what was the first possible time I could obtain a ticket at the theater for the tenders for non-excursion guests, and she said 10 am. We decided to go to the theater a little early and at 9:40 am we got a ticket for tender #16 (when they weren't even supposed to be giving out tickets until 10!). Finally we arrived on the shore and went out to look for our tour van. A man at the end of the pier was holding a placard for the tour company so we approached him. To my shock, he told us that the van had already left and that the tour operators had asked him to wait for us to see if we still wanted to go with him in his taxi. He gave us a decent tour but certainly not all that had been part of the original tour that I booked. He didn't have any arrangements for getting us lunch at the restaurant the tour operators used, so he discounted the trip to make up for the fact that we had to buy our own lunch. However, it was Christmas Eve and the restaurants for the most part were closed and it was 3 o'clock before we found a half decent place to eat. I spent the greater part of 6 hours jammed in the back of a Nissan with no air conditioning (it was an unusually hot day in the area), couldn't open the window much of the time because of the dusty unpaved road, and the trunk of the car kept unlatching! Frank, our guide (a Chilean native who lived in Canada for 23 years), was a great guy and we loved his narratives, so despite the discomfort, he got a substantial tip for Christmas Eve for his willingness to stick around and do his best to show us a good time. I was still pretty disappointed that I didn't get to see many of the sights that I'd hoped to see in this very quaint and scenic area (but I blamed that on Celebrity-not Frank). Back at the port, Alexander Zeitz was on hand to hand out cups of hot chocolate to the returning passengers. He asked me how my day had been and I told him that I missed my tour because of the tendering situation. He said that if I'd asked for assistance, they would have gotten us off the ship earlier. Really??? Isn't that what I'd discussed with him the night before??? I found out later that other passengers (who made it to the tour that we missed) had asked the hotel manager for priority tendering passes and she's simply given them out with the admonishment not to tell anyone else! Back on the ship, it was Christmas Eve, and I had made reservation several weeks before the cruise to dine in the specialty restaurant, the S.S. United States, as a special holiday treat. We got dressed in our formal wear and went to the restaurant at 7:30 pm. There was only one other party in the restaurant and yet they tried to seat us at the first table which was sticking out into the foyer of the restaurant. I declined that table. This meal proved to be an extreme disappointment and certainly not worth the additional $120 that I had paid for the meal. The waiters were very professional and the service was very showy. It's too bad that the food wasn't on the same level of quality. My husband and I ordered the lobster bisque, which obviously came out of a food service package. My older daughter pronounced her foie gras as excellent, though. The younger daughter ordered a Caesar salad. The table side presentation consisted of pouring the pre-made dressing over the salad in a bowl and tossing it around, adding cheese and croutons and serving it. Not your standard table side Caesar salad routine. It was average. For entrees my husband and I ordered the Chilean Sea Bass, after inquiring if it was indeed fresh since we were in Chile. We were told that it was. The girls ordered Sole Meuniere and Steak Diane. The sea bass was dry and not really good except for an interesting vegetable sauce. The table side presentation of the Steak Diane involved heating up a pre-cooked filet in some premade gravy with a few other garnishes. It was tasty but the filet wasn't top quality meat and was rather chewy. The sole was the only dish of distinction amongst the entrees. The French cheese course followed and actually was very good with a nice selection of fine cheeses. The dessert course was the most disappointing of all. My younger daughter loves chocolate soufflE and three of us dutifully ordered ours at the beginning of the meal to allow adequate preparation time. My husband ordered some sort of fruit dessert. At approximately 9:30 our desserts were served. My older daughter asked if she could order a glass of the Royal Tokay with her dessert which was $20 per glass. I told her to go ahead since it was Christmas Eve. The wine arrived in a lovely Riedel crystal glass and was superb (she let me have a couple sips). The three soufflEs looked great until we started to eat them. Under the top crust, they were completely raw. When the waiter came to collect the dishes (he didn't come to ask how our desserts were) I mentioned this to him and he asked if we wanted something else. We declined since it was now after 10 pm. So much for an awesome Christmas Eve dinner. A couple days later the head pastry chef was giving a culinary demo and I mentioned the raw soufflEs to him. His response was, "sometimes they get busy". Indeed. The ship of lame excuses. We went up to the Rendezvous Lounge to meet some of our new friends and listen to some music until midnight Mass. I was explaining to our friends what had happened earlier with the tenders and how we had missed our tour. A lady came up to us and said she had overheard us talking and introduced herself as the wife of the cruise director. She said she was very sorry that this had happened to me and that her husband had been very upset with the way the crew had handled the tendering tickets that day. She wanted me to meet her husband and offered to buy me a drink. I told her that I didn't drink, but she insisted , so I ordered a Coke and waited with her until the cruise director arrived and we were introduced. He also offered his apologies and gave us his phone number and invited me to call him if I needed any future assistance. This was the first time anyone on the ship even acted like they cared anything about me as a guest. At 11:45 they set up a buffet of Christmas cookies and pastries, but we were headed to Mass and the line was long, so we couldn't partake in the goodies. At 12:45 am after Mass, we went back but the food was long gone. I guess that's a disadvantage of being Catholic. Again, on the plus side, on Christmas morning, Santa Claus handed out nice gifts to all the children (allegedly over 200 children on the cruise). My daughter got a nice messenger bag which she used a lot on the cruise. The holiday brunch In the Trellis restaurant featured some spectacular ice sculptures, but mostly mediocre buffet selections. By around 11 am most of the tables had been used and hadn't been cleaned and reset, so we had difficulty finding seats. The rest of the Christmas festivities were unmemorable. One of my chief complaints about the food on this cruise was that the food never seemed to be at the optimal temperature, neither at the buffets nor in the restaurants. Everything was lukewarm or marginally cold, and usually extremely under seasoned. At the grill near the pool they served hamburgers, hot dogs and other fast food items. They made a big deal out of putting the bun on small griddle to heat before they placed the hamburger of hot dog on it (which held up the line greatly), but it was still stone cold when you got it. If you asked for a cheeseburger, you got a cold slice of cheese on the burger. They had nachos which consisted of a warmer filled with fried flour tortilla triangles (that were so greasy they were actually good) and a melted cheese dispenser. The both the chips in the warmer and the cheese in the heated dispenser were stone cold. The ice dispensers were frequently out of order and galley pans of partially melted ice lay about on the counters for ice service. The Spa cafe occasionally had interesting and tasty fare that seemed to be prepared with a little more care than the other venues. I don't drink coffee, but a review book on cruise lines that I purchased before the trip said Celebrity had the worst coffee on the high seas. My husband agreed. One morning at the Spa cafe my husband saw a woman approach one of the attendants and ask who had made the coffee. The man replied that he had and she proceeded to tell him that it was the worst coffee she'd ever had. My guess is that they have bad coffee on purpose so that they can sell more in the Cova Cafe, which actually served good coffee for a price. The pastries in the Cova Cafe were frequently quite good. My husband and I bought a pass to the Persian Garden for the entire cruise on the third day of the cruise. It was, in our opinion, overpriced at $249 per couple, but we wanted to spend time together relaxing in the steam rooms and sauna and the only other sauna option was in the men's or women's locker room. We were pretty disappointed with the spa. On our only previous cruise, we had all bought spa passes on the Norwegian Pearl whose spa was magnificent. Those passes were only, If I recall correctly, $60 dollars per person, and included exclusive use of the thallasotherapy pool, individual spa tubs, a private sunbathing area with a great view at the front of the ship, sauna and steam rooms, and other amenities plus an excellent locker and changing room. The Infinity only offered two small steam rooms and a sauna. The locker rooms weren't inviting and there wasn't a comfortable, private, dry area to change clothes. After a few days, my husband complained that whenever he went up to the spa, there were no locker keys available. After paying $249 for a pass, I felt that they could at least have a locker available for him and I called Alexander Zeitz. He assured me that he would "look into it". The next afternoon as he was passing me by the elevator, he mentioned that the spa had "re-keyed" all the lockers and getting a locker should no longer be a problem. My husband decided to just go up to the spa early in the morning, get a key and keep it all day and use my key card to get in the room, since you had to surrender your key card to get a locker key. At the end of the voyage, when I went to settle my account, I found that I had been charged a $24.95 gratuity on the spa pass, even though my receipt clearly stated that the gratuity was included in the total price of the pass and $249 was listed as the total charge. I complained but they refused to remove the gratuity from my bill. Keys were another issue. They had to redo mine three times to get it to work in the disembarkation ID machine. My younger daughter got a couple of keys and none of them ever worked the entire time to allow her to charge anything. I received a notice in the cabin a few days into the voyage stating that they didn't have my credit card on file (even though I had filled out all of the information online weeks prior to the cruise) and that I was a cash account with a $500 spending limit. I surmised that this was because, once again, since I hadn't presented the paperwork with a signature at the check in at the terminal in Santiago, they couldn't process my credit card. I never did go down to straighten this out before the last night. I guess I just "got busy" like the pastry chefs. I didn't plan on spending anywhere near $500 at an enterprise that could apparently care less about my satisfaction as a customer. Other than the spa passes, the only thing that I bought was a small souvenir for my daughter and a sugar free chocolate bar. I thought a good chocolate fix would help reduce my stress but to my dismay the bar was hard as a rock and had obviously melted at some point in its storage, from observing the white "bloom" that covered it. I returned it to the store and the attendant did graciously give me a refund. Tendering continued to be a fiasco throughout the voyage. When we arrived at Punta Arenas, having learned a lesson from our previous experience, we just went down to the front of the theater really early, despite any announcements to the contrary, and got an early tender ticket. Later in the afternoon, we walked back to the dock after shopping in town with our friends and their young daughter. The weather was sunny and mild but I could see that a squall was looming out over the water. There were at least a couple hundred people standing in line on the dock which had only intermittent partial little shelters (like a line of bus stops with no sides and very short overhangs), waiting for tenders. The squall blew in a few minutes later and pelted us with rain, wind, and ice pellets until most of us and our shopping bags were soaked. I had purchased waterproof jackets for my husband and daughters especially for this trip, and they were glad to have been wearing them. The tender tried to come in, lurched, bounced, and struggled trying several times to dock before it was finally successful. My husband was afraid that the tender was going to capsize from the rough seas, but fortunately we made it back to the ship without incident. We were two hours late leaving port here because the anchor winch malfunctioned. At the last tendered port at Punta Del Este, again we had the situation of hundreds of people waiting on the dock for tenders. This time the sun was blazing, but at least there was a canvas shade. The last tender was supposed to leave at 5 pm in this port and the ship was to sail at 6, but the tenders didn't get all the passengers back on the ship until almost 6:30, even with extra tenders rented from local vendors that were put into service shuttling passengers. I had arranged for another private tour to see the penguin rookery at Punta Tombo when we arrived at Puerto Madryn. Other passengers had asked to join me and by the time all was said and done there were 24 people traveling with me in the group. (because I had arranged the same tour as the cruise offered for $193 for only $90 per person). I tried to call the staterooms of the other passengers to inform them of a time and place where we would meet before disembarking. I wondered what was going on when I didn't get any replies to my phone messages. I later received a note on my stateroom door from one of the other passengers that said that my voicemail didn't work. I called another passenger who was also on the ninth deck and realized that her voicemail wasn't working either, so I assumed that the same problem existed on the whole ninth deck. I placed a call to guest services and they said-you guessed it-"we'll look into it". I mentioned the problem to Alexander Zeitz when I saw him later and he responded," We had a problem with that on previous voyages. They were supposed to have fixed that when we were in dry dock." Well, I guess that they didn't! And p.s. my refrigerator doesn't work either, it's about 65 degrees and my sliding door won't lock (because some broke the locking mechanism) and the wind whistles through the door! Another passenger told me that Alexander Zeitz had commented to them that there seemed to be far more passenger complaints on this trip than usual. I bet! One of the elevators had a fire in the control box and stopped between decks while loaded with passengers, several days before the end of the cruise, and was out of order until we reached Punta Del Este (obviously they needed to obtain the burned out parts to repair it). Once the cruise reached warmer latitudes, we found to our chagrin that the air conditioning in our cabin didn't work adequately. I opened the balcony door for some cool air, but frequently had to close it due to cigarette smoke wafting in from other balconies (where smoking was not allowed). New Year's Eve was interesting. Normally, the Constellation Lounge is off limits to anyone under 18 after 11 pm. The family that my older daughter spent a lot of time with on the cruise had a 17 yr old son and wanted him to be with them and their extended family in the lounge one evening. They hadn't checked ID's the previous evening and this particular night the crew decided to be stringent and kick him out. When the mother complained and got into an argument with the crew members, citing the fact that small children had been in the lounge on Christmas Eve after 11 pm, the crew member said that had been different because those youngsters were children of crew members! Again, a meeting with Alexander Zeitz ensued and a notice appeared in the daily newsletter informing everyone that parents needed to sign a waiver if they wanted their 12 to 17 year old child with them in the lounge after 11 pm on New Year's Eve. At 11:05 pm on New Year's Eve all children under 12 were kicked out of the lounge and were running around the hallways screaming that they were kicked out of the lounge. The next day a notice appeared in the newsletter admonishing parents to control their children; otherwise crew members had the authority to do so and would. On the second to last night of the cruise, I received a letter from the hotel manager informing me that I was being offered 15% discount on a future cruise as a gesture for the problems we had suffered at the beginning of the trip. I was incensed. She got an immediate hand delivered reply from me indicating that I felt that was in no way adequate reparation for what had occurred or for the poor service I'd receive on the cruise. Alexander Zeitz had told one of the other "stranded" passengers that corporate had not wanted to offer us anything at all and this was being offered as gesture from the crew. He also invited us to join him in the lounge for a drink the following night before dinner in Punta Del Este. I wasn't too keen on this idea, but it wasn't an issue because the tenders were so late in Punta Del Este that I knew that he wouldn't be back on the ship until well after dinner started. He later came to our table and offered us a complimentary bottle of wine with our dinner. Again, I don't drink, so I suggested that the other family (who had shared our ordeal in Miami) who were now dining with us choose a wine to their liking since they were wine aficionados. My daughter suggested that she and I ask for a glass of the Royal Tokay with our dessert that had been so delicious in the U.S. United States. The sommelier grudgingly agreed and we were served two glasses of dessert wine. This was a harsh, acidic wine which was more likely a Muscat, which had also been on the wine list. There was no way that this was the same wine that we were served on Christmas Eve. The sommelier became upset and insisted that it was the Royal Tokay. I should have insisted that he pour me a glass directly from the bottle, but at this point in the cruise, I was so tired of dealing with these people that I just let it ride. In the middle of this last dinner aboard we had another exciting experience. The ship hit a mud bar in the channel which we were passing through in the Rio de la Plata (we could see all the mud churn up in the wake because we were dining in directly in front of the picture windows at the stern)and did about a 40 degree tilt to one side. Fortunately, we didn't capsize or run aground but the Poseidon Adventure came to mind for a minute or two. Later in the evening, the cruise line presented the guest talent show as entertainment in the theater. My daughter was one of the finalists in the dance contest. There had been preliminary competitions in different categories throughout the cruise. It was an interesting show and I felt that it was a nice concept that apparently had been an innovation of the cruise director, Alan King. Afterward there was an appetizer and dessert buffet in the Constellation Lounge. Unfortunately for all the kids under 18, the show finished after 11 so they couldn't attend the party. There was a crème brulee bar and other marvelous artisanal desserts. It proved that the culinary team could put together quality food service if they tried. The final aggravation was the last morning of the cruise when we were transported to the hotel for the post cruise package in Buenos Aires. About 100 of us were dumped into the lobby of the Emperador Hotel, again with no Celebrity representative in sight. Everyone waited in a huge line only to be told that we couldn't check in until 3. The representative showed up after an hour or so later when most people had finally gotten their luggage stored and had already left. She was present dutifully from 9-6 each subsequent day to sell tours. When we finally did get to check-in, we were pleasantly surprised at the excellent rooms we'd received. The bottom line- South America was fascinating and we'd like to explore it in depth someday soon-on land! We met several wonderful people on the cruise with whom we hope to cultivate lasting friendships and our children had a wonderful time with their peers. Celebrity Cruise line appears to me to have serious management problems-extreme lack of communication, breaks in the chain of command, major inconsistency in enforcing regulations and procedures, maintenance of facilities and equipment so lacking that in some instances would border on negligent, and obviously bad morale among employees to engender such poor service and indifference to customers. In my opinion, the quality of service, food, lodging and amenities on the cruise weren't worth half what I paid and the incredible degree stress and aggravation they caused me at the outset degraded my enjoyment factor of what value remained to just about zero. I wasn't alone in my opinions. I encountered many other passengers in the course of the cruise who swore they'd never cruise on Celebrity again, or expressed intense disappointment that the cruise experience on Celebrity had seriously declined since previous cruises they'd taken. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior ... Read More
EXPLORER & ANTARCTICA EXPERIENCE CRUISE - DECEMBER 15, 2008 - JANUARY 4, 2009 (VALPARAISO TO RIO) DH and I are both 50 and this was our fifth HAL cruise. We have also sailed on Princess and Norwegian. We chose HAL as 10 years prior we sailed on the old Noordam from Rio to Valparaiso on our honeymoon. We were excited to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (New Year's Eve) by doing this itinerary again. The added bonus of Antarctica, which had always been a dream for us, made this a cruise we'll never forget. AIR - HAL arranged the air from Vancouver to Valparaiso, and Rio back to Vancouver. We were booked on Air Canada flights from Vancouver to Toronto and then Toronto to Santiago. It snowed the night before we left Vancouver which caused several flight delays. We were extremely lucky our flights were not delayed at all. We landed in sunny warm Santiago on time at 12:30 PM, a 5 hour time difference from home. We went through two separate lineups - one to pay the $132 US each reciprocity (airport) fee and then through customs. A HAL rep greeted us in the luggage claim, checked off our names and then guided us to another HAL rep to a waiting bus. Our checked luggage was put on a truck that went to the ship and was delivered directly to our stateroom. It took about an hour from landing in Santiago until we were on the bus. The drive to Valparaiso was 1.5 hours. After check-in at the terminal we bought 2 bottles of wine which were free to take on board on embarkation day. We then went through security and onto another bus which drove to the ship. We arrived too late for our embarkation picture to be taken however we were able to get one made up with a picture taken later in the cruise. We just had enough time to drop our bags in our stateroom, freshen up and grab our life jackets for the lifeboat drill. It was 1 hour before sailing - which to us was cutting it way too close! SHIP The ship was decorated throughout with colourful Christmas trees. The front office was decorated with fresh flowers and poinsettias which looked quite festive. The tree lighting ceremony took place at 7:30 PM the first night and Christmas carols were sung. There was a nativity scene on the lower promenade level atrium and a few Christmas trees with white lights which were quite pretty. The lower atrium had a mirrored wall reflecting millions of colours. The main dining room was decorated with stars hanging from the ceiling and white poinsettia garlands around the upper inside. STATEROOM Our stateroom was 3345 - just steps away from the lower promenade atrium (and right beside the self-service laundry). This was the quietest stateroom we'd ever been in and we never heard any noise from the adjoining staterooms, above, below or the laundry room at all. The stateroom was quite spacious with 2 large twins put together, a love-seat and chair. We each had our own closet space as well as a closet for coats, shoes etc. There was storage space under the bed for our luggage. We were surprised to see that we didn't have a mini refrigerator. The washroom was average size with adequate storage space for our personal toiletries. The wall-mounted hair dryer got too hot after 20 seconds. Luckily there was a portable hair dryer (in HAL bag) in one of the dresser drawers to use instead. We were somewhat disappointed that we only received one canvas HAL bag this cruise. On the Explorer cruise we took 10 years ago, we each received one HAL canvas bag, rain poncho, small Spanish dictionary, small South America guidebook, mini binoculars, journal and wooden pen. SERVICE Outstanding. Our stateroom was attended to by Agus and Ikhwan who were quite efficient and not intrusive. HAL seems to have cut their staff as they seemed to be responsible for a great many staterooms. The same also seemed to apply in the dining room. DINING - We chose second seating dining at 8 PM at a table for two. We opted for formal dining as it was a holiday cruise. DH grumbled at first at the thought of bringing a suit, shoes etc. but next time will consider renting a tux, not to mention the extra luggage space that will be saved. Our waiter was Paul and his assistant was Theodor. Our wine steward was Dino and his assistant was Joseph. All men were quite pleasant the entire cruise and never stopped smiling. The maitre'd always stopped by our table each night, called us by name and would inquire how our day and meal was (how he remembered everyone's names we don't know.) The meals were excellent and nicely prepared. We enjoyed the chilled soups whenever they were on the menus. A latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate could be ordered after dinner at no extra charge. It was disappointing to note that some men and women wore jeans on formal and smart casual evenings (obviously they hadn't read their Welcome Aboard literature which clearly stated no jeans). Anyone paying this amount of money on a cruise can at least afford a pair of dark pants don't you think. The maitre d' should have gently reminded these people to either change or suggest eating in the Lido Cafe instead, but it seemed he didn't want to rock the boat. We once skipped dinner in the dining room and went to the Lido Cafe - where anything on the menu was the same as the dining room anyway. Then you could see what you wanted to eat in advance. We ate breakfast in the dining room just once. Several times we ordered in-room dining where the meals were always delivered on the dot. At the Lido Cafe there were a number of make-to-order stations for eggs benedict, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage. You name it they had it. Some days it was hard to decide what to have. For lunch in the Lido Cafe there was a great variety of pasta and sauces, wraps, grilled sandwiches and salads to choose from. We tried to avoid eating where people served themselves - not everyone used the hand sanitizer or used the tongs. The pool area had a few kinds of greasy pizza slices; also at the Terrace Grill you could order a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger or hot dog. PHOTOS Each 8x10 picture cost $14.95 - pretty steep and the price adds up. Many photos were not bought - perhaps many more would have been bought if the price and size was reduced. Almost every night the ship's photographers were set up to do portrait or green screen photos. They were also visible on deck during scenic cruising and at the various ports. SHOPS Just a few "dam" souvenirs and the usual expensive jewelry. There were few people in the shops the entire cruise. The souvenir South America T-shirts were a bright cayenne pepper colour which we never saw anyone buying. Also for sale were light jackets with an Antarctica patch sewn on and these didn't even have a hood. CASINO This was one of the smallest casinos we'd ever seen on a cruise ship, and hardly anyone ever in it. There were penny slot machines with no one ever sitting at them. We usually enjoy the slot machine tournaments but there didn't seem to be much interest so we didn't bother. BINGO We never bothered to check this out. GYM We never bothered to check this out. SPA Did not use however DH had his hair cut for $25 and they did a nice job. ART AUCTION We never bothered to check this out (not even for the free glass of champagne LOL). LIBRARY We rented a few DVDs ($3 each) to watch in our stateroom on sea days - "Message in a Bottle" and "Pirates of the Caribbean - World's End" which was aired on TV just after we watched it of course. SHOWS The one and only show we went to in the Queen's Lounge was a comedian named Tom Sutton from Britain. He was one of the worst comedians we'd ever heard. His material was either political or quite dated - references to Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie. Some people walked out of the theatre and I wished we had done the same - we should have chosen to do our laundry instead. DRINKS We purchased a card for $56 which entitled us to 10 cocktails. The frozen (strawberry or lime) margaritas were the best and ended up being $1 cheaper than you would pay individually. MOVIES Among the movies we saw in the Wajang Theater were the "Dark Knight", "Swing Vote" and "Christmas Vacation". These movies were broadcast on TV the following day. LAUNDRY $2.00 (8 quarters) for the wash cycle and the dryers were free. We found the best time to do laundry was after dinner otherwise everyone tried to go there at the same time, usually on sea days. CRAFTS Creative Christmas Crafts class hosted by the party planner who explained that HAL had not hired a crafts person this cruise. She brought a large plastic container filled with construction paper and glue she'd gotten from the children's area! Her suggestions were to either make a wreath out of hand prints (no thanks) or a Santa to hang on our stateroom door. Some ladies walked out at this point (I wished I had) but I stayed, made a lame looking Santa that I would have been embarrassed to hang on our stateroom door. I didn't attend any future crafts sessions. PORTS We had visited each port on our previous South America cruise. The only shore excursions we took were in Punta Arenas, Falkland Islands and Rio de Janeiro. Puerto Montt The tender took about 15 minutes and docked near the Angelmo artisan market (about 30 artisan stalls). We walked about a mile to the Paseo Mall. The mall had 3 levels with a food court including KFC and Pizza Hut, and on one level there was a tiny McDonalds kiosk selling ice cream. Ladies take notice - when going to the bano (bathroom) - take your paper first from a giant roll before going into a stall as there was no paper provided inside. The mall also had a large supermarket called Full Fresh where we bought pisco in a dark Easter Island decanter and Artesano pisco sour which was already mixed. We walked back to the Angelmo artisan market selling hand-made woolen caps, scarves, jackets etc. We had bought a lot of this stuff 10 years ago so we only bought a few postcards. Punta Arenas Patagonia Experience - Otway Bay tour (we did this 10 years ago). The bus ride was about an hour and we stopped a few times to see rheas by the road side. The weather was overcast but did get a bit sunny. There was a large parking area (a few people had come in taxis), washrooms, a small cafe and a few souvenir kiosks. It was about a mile walk along roped boardwalks out to the Magellanic penguins. We saw many penguins, which marched in comical lines down to the water. A viewing platform was available to see the penguins in the ocean. A trailer back on the pier sold woolen hats, sweaters, gloves and souvenirs. I bought a woolen alpaca hat (flannel lined) with ear flaps for $5, a souvenir penguin mug and a book on Antarctica. That alpaca hat was the best $5 purchase I ever made when we cruised in Antarctica!!! We split the cost of a taxi ride into town for $10 with another couple. In the middle of town was a square with a statue of an Indian with a golden toe - if you touched it legend states you'll return again some day (and here we were!). Around the square were a number of handicraft tables. DH bought a hooded alpaca sweater and a hat. Ushuaia, Argentina Very picturesque with the snow capped mountains all around. We docked at 1 PM and the wind blew fiercely as we walked off the ship. We went through a security building then out to the town. We walked along San Martin, the main street, with several souvenir shops. We stopped at Laguna Negra, a chocolate shop which had a little cafe in the back where we enjoyed bottles of Cape Horn pale ale. Cape Horn We were out on deck at 7 AM where it was windy and overcast to witness passing the tip of South America. We thought there was supposed to be a monument with an albatross but we didn't see one. Antarctica cruising (December 23) It was quite foggy and snowing lightly (how often can you say you've been on a cruise and it snowed?). We could just make out the mountains and the ice made it quite an awesome thing to see. We saw our first penguins far off on land in the distance. People wore an odd assortment of footwear - from flip flops with socks to high heel sandals. A group of people came on board from Palmer Station to give a slide presentation of the research they do which was quite interesting. In a corner of the Crow's Nest was a "Base Camp" which was a tent recreating the Shackleton Antarctica adventure. Maps were on display of where we would be cruising in Antarctica. A TV played a DVD of the movie "Shackleton" over and over. DH and I watched the 2 hour movie one afternoon with a tango class in the background so it was hard to hear some parts of the movie. This base camp should have been set up in a small room elsewhere on the ship. Antarctica cruising (December 24) A beautiful morning with spectacular views of icebergs as we retraced the route we went the day before, which was completely different without all the fog. Many people remarked this was a surreal experience seeing this and it was so awesome to describe. We passed by the Argentina and Chile research stations. In the afternoon we went up on Lido deck aft for the "Penguin Dip" in the pool. It was cold though the pool water was warm. Waiters were ready with cups of hot chocolate as we came out of the pool. Certificates of this event were delivered to our stateroom a few days later. Antarctica cruising (December 25) We started the day by seeing Adelie penguins on an iceberg! The sky was clear and blue but cold. We stayed out on deck until 10 AM - rushed in to have our pictures taken with Santa in the Queen's Lounge - then went back out on deck. We saw the Esperanza research station belonging to Argentina. About 42 people live there with 2 school teachers, and the children are considered part of the Argentinian school system. All the dining room staff wore Santa hats and most people dressed formally for dinner. We passed by Elephant Island just before dinner - DH went outside and took pictures but we were not close enough to see any elephant seals. Sundown was 11 PM and sunrise 4 AM. Stanley, Falkland Islands We had originally planned to do OBT Sparrow Cove and were wait-listed on the Volunteer Point Penguin tour. The night before we got confirmation for Volunteer Point. We got onto the tender at 6:45 AM, and the water was so choppy we almost didn't make it to the dock. If it had been any worse they probably would have discontinued the tender process. There were 48 people on our tour and we went in groups of 4 in Land Rovers (these are shipped to the FI, but the tires are specially ordered from the UK). Our guide and driver was Neil, born in the UK and now a resident of FI. Apparently he had been waiting since 6:15 AM for us to arrive (we were an hour late), and apologized for not shaving LOL. Neil told us about the FI war of 1982 of which there were still land mines in the ground but were roped off. He said when a cruise ship is in, everyone pitches in do driving - lawyer, doctor, dentist etc. All education is free in the FI and tuition and expenses is paid if you further your education in the UK afterward. Medical and dental expenses are also free. The countryside was pretty bland, bleak and very windy. Part of the way was off-road and quite bumpy in some spots. At Volunteer Point there was a small portable with toilets and info. Bag lunches were provided consisting of a ham or cheese sandwich, bottle of water, roast chicken chips and an apple. We had 2 hours to see the penguins. Ground rules were don't run, let anything flap, talk loudly and stay outside the ring of stones which served as a perimeter for the penguins. Inside the ring of stones there were a number of baby penguins still with some of their fluff. Wardens wearing bright green fluorescent vests ensured that everyone obeyed the rules. The king penguins we saw were awesome! They just stood there and posed while we took close-up shots. Down at the beach, the water was a tropical turquoise blue and the sand a very fine white powder like talc. There were king and gentoo penguins here. This was the most incredible experience to see these animals up close. The only other place in the world to see king penguins is on South Georgia Islands. Our tour guide let us off close to the whale bone arch where we walked back to the tender. We only had 30 minutes so we went into Capstan Gift Shop, a really nice gift shop selling penguin souvenirs, cards, DVDs, glassware and all kinds of things. Buenos Aires, Argentina We were awakened at about 12:30 AM by the captain announcing over the PA of "bright star, bright star, cabin XXXX" which sounded like an emergency code of some kind. We asked our dining room waiter about this and he said a female passenger had had a heart attack and passed away that morning. It was sunny and warm. It was mandatory to take a shuttle bus from the ship to the cruise terminal as the ship was docked in an industrial area. We walked up to the Florida pedestrian mall which stretched for 6 blocks and branched off another 6 blocks. We took a taxi to the Recoleta and had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe and then walked back to the ship. The Filipino crew show was awesome to watch - we don't know when they ever found the time to practice! Montevideo, Uruguay The cruise director announced over the PA that docking would be delayed by one hour so all tours would depart an hour later. Some people complained of this as we had only traveled about 87 miles from Buenos Aires the previous evening. The cruise director explained that the appropriate arrangements had to be made so that the husband of the deceased passenger could disembark with her body. It was overcast and a bit cool. We walked up the street where shops were just opening. Many buildings looked old and rundown, and the streets and sidewalks were uneven. DH collects stamps so at the main post office he bought a first day cover of Ano Polar Internacional canceled with a penguin stamp. The fellow who helped us apologized for dressing so casually - as it was New Year's Eve the custom around mid-day was that people threw their old calendars, day-timers and water from buildings at people below in the street!!! We later watched as a bunch of people getting on and off a bus got drenched with water. We were careful crossing the street but a few seconds later we both got wet - I just looked up, smiled and waved to the people laughing. I looked like something the cat dragged in LOL as we walked back to the ship. At a small wine store across from where the ship was docked we bought a bottle of Maria Zarranz MEtodo Champenoise Extra Brut wine from Uruguay ($25 US) which we used to bring in the New Year that night. We received a congratulatory card from the captain for our 10th anniversary. In the dining room we found New Year hats at our table. The New Year's Eve Gala Dinner included caviar and seafood cocktail and lobster. For dessert there was a chocolate tower filled with mascarpone mousse and crème de cacao and had Happy New Year 2009 in gold lettering. The maitre'd brought a small cake with a candle on it (white icing with chocolate cookie crumbs on the outside and devil's food on the inside) and he and our waiters sang a lively Filipino tune, wishing us a happy anniversary. We had the cake delivered to our stateroom. All of the public lounges were decorated with paper streamers and sparkly confetti. We went to the Queen's Lounge around 11:30 pm which was already half full at this time. We picked up blowers and noisemakers as we went in. We got a good seat off to the side, and each table had 2 balloons, black top hat and star confetti and paper ribbons. It was quite noisy with everyone blowing their horns and turning their noisemakers. Waiters made the rounds with free champagne 20 minutes before midnight. The stage had been converted to a dance floor with rails at the edge so people wouldn't fall off. Big screen monitors on each side of the lounge counted down the time to midnight. At midnight the whole lounge erupted with noise and a net of balloons was released from the ceiling. What a mess was left on the floors throughout but of course was all gone the next morning. New Year's Day We had New Year's Day brunch at the Pinnacle Grill ($30 each). We'd never eaten at a restaurant on a ship with a cover charge. There were about 25 people who came and we were offered a glass of champagne at the door. The buffet area was set up in the back and consisted of various seafood (jumbo shrimp, crab legs, herring, salmon and caviar), cold cuts and cheese, roast beef and salads. Breakfast items such as omelets were made to order. A dessert tray consisted of assorted squares, pastries and freshly dipped chocolate strawberries. White and red wines were served. DH had 5 servings of caviar. We were so stuffed we went back to our stateroom and rested for the afternoon. Went to the Dessert Extravaganza at 11:30 PM that was set up on tables around the pool. There were ice sculptures, a chocolate fountain, a few crepes stations and quite an assortment of pastries. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil We were out on deck at 5 AM as we sailed into Rio, past the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf. We chose the 8 hour Rio Extravaganza tour for both days in Rio for these reasons: (1) in case the weather didn't cooperate one day, (2) we were guaranteed seeing the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf and (3) safety - we'd read it wasn't very safe to be roaming around in Rio (even by taxi). The first day it was about 33 degrees and humid. We drove to Sugar Loaf first. We were glad we were on a tour as we bypassed everyone standing in line for tickets. The tram stopped at one level where you got off, took pictures and then went to the next level. Our tour description stated lunch at a seafood restaurant but was at a barbecue restaurant instead. A number of tour buses were already there and we sat at a table for 10. We helped ourselves to the salad bar. Platters of food were brought to the table like rice, puffy cheese puffs, fried bananas and french fries. Huge skewers of meat (lamb, beef, pork, sausage and chicken) were brought around and were sliced onto your plate with a huge knife (careful not to move LOL!!!) Dishes of vanilla soft serve ice cream with fruit cocktail were served for dessert. Corcovado. The tram ride was 20 minutes through the Tijuca Forest with lush greenery on both sides. There were chachaka trees with large yellowish hanging fruits. It was quite an amazing incline when we arrived at the station. Again we were glad we were on a tour and bypassed the crowds. We boarded a narrow elevator (only 5 people at a time) then up a few escalators (the highest in the world?). There were a few souvenir shops all selling the same little statues and souvenirs. Back at the bottom of the tram station there was a Hard Rock Cafe kiosk. DH wanted to buy a ball cap but they would not accept US dollars (he bought one later at a HRC kiosk in the terminal where the ship docked). We bought a poster of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf signed by the photographer for $82 US. Our bus drove past the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches which were packed. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (disembarkation) We waited in our stateroom for our ticket (luggage) number and colour to be called for our tour. At the end of our tour, we would be dropped off at the airport. It was overcast and cooler which was a bit of a relief. Our tour bus was full and we went to the Corcovado first. It was quite windy and raining slightly when we got there. Once we got up to the top we were told the elevators weren't working as the winds were too high (felt like a hurricane). We walked up the few steps to the Corcovado. It was completely misty in some spots. Our lunch stop was at a different barbecue restaurant where the food was essentially the same as the day before but just as good. Our tour guide phoned ahead to Sugar Loaf in case the trams weren't operating. They were - it was windy with intermittent rain. We drove past the beaches again, completely deserted this time. We were dropped off at the airport around 5 PM. Everyone's luggage from the ship had been put onto trolleys but not in a totally secure area. Our flight to Miami was not until 10:15 PM but we got in the ONE lineup for international flights anyway. It took 90 minutes to get to the first security desk. An AA rep had our e-ticket printouts. Then we waited another 30 minutes to check in our luggage. We were given boarding passes for all 3 flights (Rio-Miami, Miami-Dallas Ft. Worth and DFW-Vancouver) however for the first flight to Miami we did not have seat assignments and were told to deal with the AA rep at the gate before boarding the plane. We went through security into a confusing mess of people. Half a dozen other people at our gate were also without seat assignments. We never thought to check our flight status on the Internet on the ship and we could have averted this confusion altogether. We managed to get home safely with all our luggage intact. Overall, we had an awesome vacation and would do this itinerary (especially Antarctica) again in a heartbeat. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
This was a difficult and disappointing trip for us. Difficult because my wife was ill for about 9 days, disappointing because of the lack of class we experienced with many of the passengers and a decline in the quality that we had ... Read More
This was a difficult and disappointing trip for us. Difficult because my wife was ill for about 9 days, disappointing because of the lack of class we experienced with many of the passengers and a decline in the quality that we had previously enjoyed on other Celebrity cruises. This review also includes our experiences on a side trip to El Calafate, Argentina, before embarking on the cruise. This was our twelfth cruise, fifth with Celebrity and third aboard Infinity. Also, this was our second time doing this itinerary - the first time was in 2004 (also aboard Infinity). That particular trip was outstanding, and perhaps, this is partially the reason that this second trip paled in comparison. Since this was going to be our second time in most ports of call, our planning emphasized visits to new locations and/or doing different activities. In most instances, we enjoyed the excursions in 2004 more than those that we did on this cruise (with 2 notable exceptions). So, by the end of this cruise, we had concluded that we had done it right the first time around. A Christmas Cruise This is the first time that we have done a Christmas or New Years cruise. I have always resisted booking a holiday cruise because there is a significant cost premium for these cruises. But the timing of the cruise ship worked perfectly with our work schedules, so we took the plunge. Now that we have done it, I will never do a Holiday cruise again. Are a few extra decorations, feeble Christmas activities, and a New Year's party really worth the 75% premium we paid? Absolutely not. Also, I did not enjoy having over 400 kids traveling with us. At times, they really strained the resources of Fun Factory. With most of the 3rd and 4th berths occupied, I can honestly say that this was the most crowded ship we have ever traveled on. We have a 5 year old, and I missed the attention she's gotten on prior Celebrity cruises. The Ship It has been 4 years since our last trip on the Infinity, and the aging of the ship is noticeable. The ship is in need of some TLC, so I hope that it gets a much needed refurbishment soon. As expected, the wear and tear is most apparent on public areas such as the Trellis restaurant (furniture), the elevators (broken buttons, worn out paneling), and the Thalassotherapy Pool (rust). The Service I am happy to report that the service we received was, for the most part, excellent. The staff in the dining room and our cabin attendants did a great job. The Food We like simple food, so we typically don't have much to say in this area. However, we did notice that the quality and variety of the food in the Trellis restaurant has deteriorated considerably. We kept seeing the same food (especially meat) presented with a different sauce over and over again. On the plus side, I can not recommend enough the Rodizio dinner that was offered as a casual alternative on the Oceanview cafe on several days during the cruise. It was excellent. As word got out, reservations became hard to get. We ate on the United States restaurant, and the experience was excellent, except for a pushy sommelier that kept trying to sell a bottle of wine to us, even though we only wanted a glass each. Passengers This was the first time that we travel on a ship where the majority of the passengers were not from the US. I would guess that 60% to 65% were from Latin America. Of those, the great majority were from Mexico (around 1000 passengers). My wife and I were both born and raised in Latin American countries, so I was disappointed, and sometimes embarrassed, by the rudeness and lack of class exhibited by many of the Latin American passengers. I saw people picking food with their hands on the Oceanview Cafe, cutting of lines, incessantly talking during shows, blatantly disregarding the rules (for dress code, age limits, behavior), throwing discarded bingo cards directly at the cruise staff (actually hitting her on the face several times), and trying to sneak into the Persian Garden on several occasions. Also, there was significant Spanish foul language from the younger crowd. My personal favorite was having our neighbor smoking cigars in his underwear on the balcony next to ours. What a sight! I truly believe that most of the passengers on this ship had never been on a cruise before, and did not know how to behave. This does not mean that we did not meet some very nice people during the cruise. We met some great families from Mexico, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. It was also a pleasure to share our daily experiences with our tablemates from Hawaii. Over the years of cruising, my wife and I have formulated this theory: the best cruises are the ones that have a general mix of passengers, with no particular group dominating. This cruise has reinforced that belief. Children's Services In our four prior Celebrity cruises, we never had more than 50 kids on board. While we think that the facilities, programs, and staff for young children are outstanding for groups of that size, they were struggling with such a large number of kids. Typically they have 5 counselors, but for this trip they added an extra 5. The lack of truly special programs for Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day was disappointing. Also, I knew that it was only a matter of time before Celebrity (and all other cruise lines) would figure a way of monetizing the children's program. By adding a few perks (such behind the scenes tours, costumes), re-branding existing programs and offering unlimited time at the Fun Factory (including premium $$ hours), Celebrity has created a program called VIP. In our cruise, they wanted $220usd per child for this program - which was absurdly overpriced. We did not sign up our daughter. The fact that only 9 children out of the 400+ children on board signed up for the program speaks loud and clear. Please note that kids are now allowed in the Thalassotherapy Pool, if the are with their parents. So, the peace and quiet of the area has been somewhat compromised. Travel Journal December 14 - Our goal was to try different things on this trip. That also included the airline. We decided to fly with COPA from Orlando to Buenos Aires via Panama City. We found chaos in the Panama City airport flying down to Buenos Aires and coming back home. For some reason, about half of the passengers seemed to have duplicate boarding passes, which made a mess of the boarding process. We were directly affected by this on our way down. The seats on the plane were very tight and uncomfortable, and the food was bad. This was our first and last experience with COPA. December 15 - Buenos Aires We arrived in Buenos Aires around 5:30am, and after immigration found our driver fairly quickly (we arranged all of our transfers in Buenos Aires thru DeFrantur). We made it to our hotel around 7:00am. The Claridge Hotel has good reviews in TripAdvisor, but we found the front desk personnel to be arrogant and unhelpful. The location of the hotel, near Florida street (a pedestrian shopping street), was not a good choice for us. That street seemed to have a sea of humanity every day (maybe because of holiday shopping). It was full of people trying to get you into their stores, street performers and beggars. On our previous trip, we stayed in Recoleta, a neighborhood we enjoyed much more. Even though our ship was departing from Chile, we came to Argentina first in order to visit the Glacier National Park near the town of El Calafate. So, today was an in-transit day. We finally got our room key around 11am and took a shower and a nap. Around 3pm we visited the Recoleta area and the market that is outside the cemetery on weekends. With an early flight the next day, we called it a day very early. Since we were coming back to the Claridge after our visit to El Calafate, we left 2 large suitcases with the hotel and took only 2 small ones to El Calafate. December 16 - El Calafate Our flight was at 8:30am, and we had schedule a transfer at 5am at the hotel. (Why so early? Well, having experienced Ezeiza airport before, we knew that we might need 3 hours to get to the gate.) The driver never showed up, so at 5:45am the hotel's driver took us to the airport. We were lucky and the line at the Aerolineas Argentinas counter was very short when we got there. Our flight left on time and we had a pleasant 3 hr flight to El Calafate. The airport at El Calafate is tiny, it had one gate. However, it is a modern facility. El Calafate is a small town in the middle of nowhere, whose only reason to exist is to serve as gateway to the Glacier National Park about 45 miles away. The town has a feel of a small alpine village, even though it sits at the shores of Argentino Lake. We found the people living there to be very nice and helpful. Our hotel, Calafate Parque, was very good and had a great location (one block away from the town's main street). The staff was great and I would recommend it to anyone who visits the area. The local operator (Prestigio) that picked us up at the airport offered a variety of tours to the Glacier Park, so we booked 3 tours with them for the next 2 days. That afternoon a contacted another operator (Cerro Frias) that offered a 2.5 hr horseback ride and dinner at a local estancia. I was a little concerned about my 5 yr old managing such a long ride, but she did great. We went up a small mountain and the views were amazing, including the horns of Torres de Paine on the Chilean side. We saw plenty of local wildlife and tons of wild flowers. Then, we went back to the main house and had an asado (BBQ) dinner. We had a great time! December 17 - El Calafate We typically prefer private tours, but a private guide will add little value here as everyone ends up in the same places anyway. So, on this day we joined a bus tour to the Perito Moreno glacier. We had about a 1 hour ride to the entrance of the park where you will pay an entrance fee of around $10usd. As were getting close to the glacier, the guide offered an optional 1 hour cruise to the south face of the glacier. We accepted the offer and had great views of the glacier (however, if you are doing the all glaciers boat tour at any point during your visit, I would skip this in favor of spending more time at the time in trails that face the glacier). After the boat ride, we were taken to the main visitor center, which has a decent restaurant and clean bathrooms. In front of the main building there is a trail and walkways that you follow downward. From these walkways, you get great views of the glacier. The sound of the ice cracking was amazing, and we were lucky enough to see a large caving while we were there. A memorable experience. December 18 - El Calafate Our second tour was an all day boat ride in a large catamaran to see 3 other glaciers (upsala, onelli and Spegazzini). The boat was packed with people, but each person gets a seat. As were seating down, one of the staff members announced that they had a few spots left in the VIP area. I jump at the opportunity and it was money well spent. For the extra money, we got very wide and comfortable seats in a great location (on the top floor with captain). We also got unlimited free drinks (such as coffee, hot chocolate and sodas). The VIP area also had 2 small balconies from which to step out and take pictures. We were very comfortable during the whole trip and avoided the mass of people trying to take photos below. I truly recommend that you pay the extra money and reserve seats on the VIP section when making reservations. The views the glaciers and icebergs from the boat were amazing. As part of the tour, we had a picnic lunch on the shore of a lake with small icebergs. The lunch was prepared by our hotel. Our daughter had a blast. We added a dinner and show at an estancia called El Galpon del Glaciar. So, on the way back they dropped us at the ranch about 1.5 hours before the program began. We had the opportunity to go horseback riding again, watch a farm hand sheer a lamb, ate a great dinner, and watch a descent show. For the price, it was a very good choice, but I would recommend not combining this with a full day tour like we did. We were worn out, and got to the hotel around 11pm. December 19 - Buenos Aires I wish I had scheduled more time in this region and less time back in Buenos Aires, when I planned this side trip. We had a great time here, and it would turn out to be the highlight of our trip. We got back to Buenos early afternoon. This time we flew into Newberry airport near downtown, so we were back to the Claridge hotel in no time. We took it easy the rest of the day. December 20 - Buenos Aires When we were planning the trip, we decided to take this day to visit Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. It is 1 hour away from BA via ferry (Buquebus). We bought the tickets via their website about 2 months in advance, which turned out to be a great decision as the ship was sold out. The trip to Colonia was underwhelming. The historical part of town is tiny and can be seen in 2 hours. We had a very good lunch in a local restaurant, and did a little bit of shopping. Given the hassles of immigration (you are going to another country) on both ferry trips, I would not recommend doing this trip just for a day. Too much work, for such small payout. December 21 - Santiago My wife woke up with a fever, and was not feeling well. However, we had to catch an 8:30am flight to Santiago, and we pressed on. The check-in line for Aerolineas Argentinas was huge even though we arrived at the airport at 5:30am. It took about 1.5 hrs to check our luggage in, but we made to the gate with plenty of time. My wife was not doing well at all when we finally landed in Santiago. I had arranged a transfer with SportsTour from the airport to the hotel, but when we got out of customs no one was waiting for us. I called them to see what was going on, they said someone would be there right away. 20 minutes later and still no show, I called again and said if I don't see anyone in 2 minutes and would take a taxi. About a minute later someone from another company showed up and told me that he had been hired to take us to the hotel. The bottom line: SportsTour forgot about us and they ended up calling someone else to take care of us. We arrived at the Santiago Park Plaza, and as soon as we got there, we ask the front desk to call a doctor. The doctor was in our room in 20 minutes. My wife was diagnosed with bronchitis and given some antibiotics. A lot of rest was recommended. So, that killed our plans for the rest of the day in Santiago. I can not speak highly enough about the staff at this hotel. They showed genuine concern, and the fact that they got a doctor so fast was impressive. December 22 - Valparaiso My wife was still not feeling well but was doing slightly better. The day before I gave our contact at SportsTour a verbal whipping for non-performance. They promised that they would arrive on time for our transfer to Valparaiso. 15 minutes after the agreed time, SportsTour was no where in sight. Our representative gave me the cell number of the driver and, of course, I called him. He said that he was having trouble with the van and that he was going to be there in 10 minutes. To say that I was concerned about beginning a 90 minute trip in a van with mechanical troubles would be a major understatement. Four years ago, SportsTour gave us a great tour of Santiago; this time around they failed miserably. We made it to the pier around noon, and there were no lines. We were aboard by 12:30pm. We took care of spa appointments, reservation in the United States restaurants, and then my wife's fever returned. December 23 - Day at Sea My wife went to see the doctor, and she was diagnosed with the Flu. She ended receiving respiratory treatments for the next 3 days, and pretty much was out of commission in our cabin for the next 4 days. December 24 - Puerto Montt On our previous trip, I noticed that driving in the Puerto Montt region was pretty easy, so I arranged a car rental thru the local Hertz agency. Their brought the car to the pier and collected the car when we returned. My original plan was to go horseback riding in the morning, and then circle Llanquihue Lake in the afternoon. My wife stayed aboard the ship, so my 5 year old daughter and me collected the rental car and headed to Quinta del Lago. This working ranch sits between the 2 main volcanoes: Osorno and Calbuco. The ranch is owned by a lady from Washington State and her Chilean husband. We had a great time riding the hills of this beautiful land. After 2 visits, I think the best way to enjoy this region is by doing some kind of activity, such as river rafting or horseback riding. This region begs exploration, and not in a bus. Even though the rental worked out fine, there are plenty of taxis that will give you a tour just outside the pier entrance. They may not speak good English, but you don't need an interpreter to appreciate the beauty. This is a tender intensive itinerary. When we booked this cruise a year in advance, we specifically asked if "priority tendering" was still one of the benefits of having a Concierge Class cabin, and were told that it was. Well, when we met our cabin steward, he told us that Celebrity had recently stopped giving priority tender tickets to CC cabins. I was angry, and let the concierge know that I had private excursions in every port and needed to be out the ship early. The next morning, priority tender tickets showed up in our cabin. With tickets and help from some of our cruise critic friends, we were able to take early tenders on every port. I was told that in some ports, people had to wait up to 2 hours to tender the regular way. Yikes!!! December 25 - Day at Sea Christmas Day. I thought that Celebrity would have a full day of special activities for the kids, but the only thing that they did that different was a rather disorganized children's parade through the ship and a quick visit with Santa. All kids got some kind of gift. My daughter got a child-size bathrobe, which she loved. My wife and I have always enjoyed the Spa on our Celebrity cruises. This was no exception, but the prices are really getting out of hand. With so many days at sea, we purchased passes to the Persian Garden at the beginning of the cruise. Because of my wife illness and lack of time, we did not go there enough to warrant the price that we paid. For those of you that will be traveling on the Infinity in the next 6 months, I can not recommend Dora (from Hungary) enough. She has to be the best masseuse that I have encountered in over my 10 years of cruising. Ask for her in the Spa. December 26 - Day at Sea The weather was very overcast with low clouds, which limited somewhat the view of the Chilean fjords. However, the scenery was still spectacular. December 27 - Punta Arenas Our experience in Punta Arenas 4 years ago was underwhelming, so this time we looked for something outside the typical tours. I bumped into a website for a local ranch that offered several types of activities, such as trekking, hiking and a small zip line canopy. They arranged a program for us, and we decided to go with them. Our trip to Fundo San Fernando turned out to be an expensive disappointment. Our program called for a 2 hour hike to Cerro Campana, followed by lunch, then some canopy or horseback riding. The family of the Fundo was our hosts, and they were a very nice. However, the Cerro Campana hike turned into a 4 hour ordeal (I guess highly fit individuals can make up the hill and back in 2 hours, but there is no way the average person can do it that fast) and threw our whole day out of sync. My wife (feeling slightly better) was bored to death, as she waited for us in the main house with our daughter. In summary, this is a work in progress as a tourist attraction, and maybe in a few years, they will have all the kinks worked out. December 28 - Ushuaia On our last trip we visited Ushuaia first, and then Punta Arenas, which gave us the opportunity to see the 5 large glaciers a few hours away from Ushuaia. This time around, I got up at 4am, and missed them because we passed them earlier that night. What a disappointment! For this port, we contacted local operator Canal - they had provided once of the best excursions during our first trip. We visited the national park last time, so this time we did a 4x4 trip to Lake Fagnano. I am happy to report, that they did not disappoint. We had a great guide and enjoyed our ride thru the Fuegan forest and a BBQ lunch next to the lake. Even my wife's spirits were lifted during the day. I can not recommend them enough. December 29 - Day at Sea We had nice weather as we visited Cape Horn. December 30 - Day at Sea We went to see a comedian/juggler on this night. He was so bad that he was getting heckled by the kids in the front row. Overall, the nightly entertainment at the theatre was very poor. The production shows have been around for years now, and the rest of the entertainment was mediocre at best (with the exception of a comedian on the next to last night of the cruise - he was pretty good). I think Pampas devils have been in every Celebrity cruise we have been on (at least it seems that way), and trust me they are not that good. This is another area were a decline in quality was evident. December 31 - Port Stanley With some other CC members, we arranged a private excursion (with Neil Rowlands) to Volunteer Point to see a King Penguin colony. There were 14 of us. In essence, the same tour that Celebrity offers under the name "A Day with Royalty", but 30% less in cost. In our previous trip, we visited the rookery at Kidney Cove and had a wonderful time (at that time the trip to Volunteer Point did not exist). The opportunity to see King Penguins seemed to be worth the long trip to get there (2.5 hours). We found the trip to Volunteer Point too arduous. The last part (well over 1 hour) has no roads, and progress is very slow. What these Land Rovers can do, is truly amazing. Although the payoff is outstanding: 3 rookeries (King, Gentoo and Magellanic), we found the trip over there (and back) painfully long and rough. I must say, that some of the other members of our private tour though that the whole experience was great. Having done 2 tours in the Falklands, I would recommend the excursion to Bluff Cove rookery as a better alternative. Save the long trip to Punta Tombo in Puerto Madryn (which is also long, but over a paved/gravel road the whole way). After a long day, we still had a formal night and New Year's festivities ahead of us. I found no sense in Celebrity's holding the main party at the Constellation Lounge and requesting that all children be removed from the location by 11pm. As expected, most families ignored this rule. In addition to the Constellation Lounge, other parties where simultaneously held at the Rendezvous Lounge (with Latin Music), Michael's Club (with a string quarter) and the Cova Café (with members of the Celebrity orchestra). All locations were packed by 11pm with no seats to be found. I don't understand why the Trellis restaurant or the Celebrity theatre were not used. We roamed the ship until midnight, trying to stay awake. We did the countdown at the Rendezvous Lounge, and went to bed soon after. January 1 - Day at Sea My wife was finally starting to feel a little better. So, we enjoyed the ship together for the first time in our trip. We had dinner on the alternative restaurant on Deck 10 aft. We ended getting a show with our dinner. For about 1 hour, we went passed several whales (some of them very playful) that were heading south for the summer. This is the first time we had seen large whales in the open ocean, so it was a thrill for us. Those in the main dining room went unaware of the show outside as no announcement was made. January 2 - Puerto Madryn In Puerto Madryn, we contacted local operator Huinca Travel for a tour of peninsula Valdez. On our previous trip, we used Huinca for an excursion to Punta Tombo, which was excellent. At that time, the owner of Huinca, German Beck, gave us a great tour. His company has grown a lot since then, and he no longer has time to do the tours himself. We have stayed in touch with him since our trip 4 years ago, so we were so happy to learn that we would join us in our tour as a passenger. We had a great time with German and our guide. I recommend them without hesitation. I was a little disappointed in that our visit to Peninsula Valdez was between whale season and the peak of the sea lion season. However, we saw seals, sea lions and penguins (mostly from a distance of 50 to 100 feet. I must say that the color of the ocean on this area was truly remarkable. Having now visited both Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdez, my recommendation would be as follows: (1) if your trip falls within whale season or the peak Sea Lion breeding season, go to Peninsula Valdez (see the penguins in the Falklands or Punta Arenas); (2) if your visit falls in between whale or sea lion season (or if can not enough of the penguins) go to Punta Tombo. For either tour, the distance that you will travel in total is the same. January 3 - Day at Sea The wind really picked up. Fortunately the wind was in the direction the ship was traveling, so the incremental ship movement was minimal. Around 5:30pm, the captain announced that because of the high winds for tomorrow, we would skip Punta del Este and instead, head directly to Montevideo and spend 2 days there. We really did not like Montevideo during our last visit, so this change to the itinerary was unwelcome by us. January 4 - Montevideo We had a private excursion set up in Punta del Este for this day. However, we were able to cancel with no problems. During our first in 2004, we arranged a city tour. That tour was really bad and spent 2 hours touring residential areas. Since the city itself did not warrant more than half a day, we walked out of the ship with no plans. Once we got to the area where the taxis are waiting, we asked the supervisor where to go off the tourist path and do some horseback riding. He suggested the Minas region in the center of the country. I usually do a lot of research before any trip we make, but this time we decide to just take a chance and go with the flow. Wrong decision!! After a 2 hour ride from Montevideo, we arrived at a vacation center in the mountain region usually reserved for employees of the electricity company of Uruguay. I do not kid you when I say that this place look like the hotel in "The Shining" movie. We got off in the main courtyard and were welcome by sad music blaring from a speaker from the 1950's and some very elderly people being wheeled around by staff dressed in white. It was so bad, that it was funny! We got there around 11:30am and were quickly informed that the horse trip would be at 3pm. So, that took care of that. Then we asked about eating lunch, and were told that the restaurant would open at 1pm. Fortunately, our driver convinced the restaurant manager to let us eat early. Our second stop was a waterfall called "Salto del Penitente". At this point we were skeptical about everything, but the name held promise: "Jump of the Penitent". After a 30 minute ride, we arrive at the waterfall. My wife and I looked at each other, and just starting laughing. My cabin shower had more water falling than this cascade. What a joke! After that, and because my daughter was starting to feel ill, we told the driver that we had enough and wanted to go back to the ship. This may our worst tour ever! January 5 - Montevideo After yesterday's fiasco, my wife and I decided just to do a little shopping and return to the ship quickly. January 6 - Buenos Aires The end of our trip. We were able to disembark quickly, and had secured transportation from the pier to our hotel for the day in advance. Our plane was not leaving until 3:00am that night, so we booked a room for a day at a hotel not worth mentioning. We did some shopping and then got some rest before leaving at midnight for the airport. After a very disappointing and difficult trip, we were ready to go home. We love to travel and we love to cruise. So, we look forward to better vacations in the future. Major bad luck and some bad decision making on our part seemed to doom this one. However, I do hope that Celebrity addresses some of the issues discussed above. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007

Find a Cruise

Easily compare prices from multiple sites with one click