We usually cruise with Royal Carribean, but this itinerary appealed to us as a way back from a South America trip, so we decided to see what Modern Luxury is all about while wearing our Diamond Plus Royal Caribbean goggles. We have four ... Read More
We usually cruise with Royal Carribean, but this itinerary appealed to us as a way back from a South America trip, so we decided to see what Modern Luxury is all about while wearing our Diamond Plus Royal Caribbean goggles. We have four previous cruises with Celebrity, the first ten years ago, and we thought we knew what to expect.
Embarkation in San Antonio, Chile, was interesting. It is a commercial port trying to be a cruise terminal. After an hour and a half bus ride from the Santiago airport and checking in at a warehouse near the edge of the port, we were loaded onto yet another bus for a ride to the ship at the dock. We’ve seen better and we’ve seen worse, so we just went with the flow. We were in our cabin by 1:30 PM and our bags were delivered around 4:00 PM.
The cabin, 7049, was clean and comfortable. With more storage space than we needed – a first. Situated next to the hump cabins, we had an extra large, shaded balcony. The balcony door did not have a handle on the outside, just a slot to grab and pull the door open. The door was hard to open without a handle, but since it was designed that way, we lived with it. The toilet decided not to work in the middle of the night 4 out of the 15 nights on the cruise. Guest Relations said it was a known issue and they were working on it.
Every crew member we encountered was smiling and said good morning or good evening – from restroom attendants to senior officers. Wait staff were attentive and efficient. Whomever is in charge of setting up disembarkation for port days did not do such a good job in Manta - more on that later.
Oceanview Cafe – We disliked the Oceanview Café because it is so crowded with people wandering around trying to assemble a meal that it’s like the “Zombie Apocalypse” - as one fellow passenger described it. There is no clear delineation of flow for the serving lines and people just butt in where they please. We avoided eating meals there. When we did stop in for a snack, we noticed that the wooden chairs needed a good cleaning – there was so much dirt crusted on the back of one chair that I scraped some off to show one of the supervisors and merely received a shrug in response.
MDR – We used the MDR for a few breakfasts and lunches just to steer clear of the buffet. A table for two may as well be a table for four, six, eight, or more since they are jammed together so closely that one cannot walk between the table. Service was good and the menu selections standard. We also ate some breakfasts and lunches in the Solarium Café, where it was easy to get a table and the selections were more healthful than other venues.
The MDR in the evening was not at all pleasant and we only dined there on 10 of the 15 nights, opting for specialty dining on the other five evenings. The tables are very close and the other diners, probably deaf from the over-amplified music venues, seemed to shout their conversations during the meal. Shouting waiters added to the din. Not at all a pleasant atmosphere. The food, however was very good, well presented, and right-sized portions. Had the food not been so good, we would have avoided the MDR in the evenings because of the noise levels.
Specialty dining – We ate in Qsine only once. The Qsine food was delicious but the menu on the electronic tablets was hard to understand and the waiter did little to help explain what was an appetizer and what was a main. Give me a regular menu. Sushi on 5 was wonderful, with a very attentive waiter and a wide variety of sushi to choose from. The Tuscan Grill was our favorite and we ate three evening meals there, and enjoyed a light morning breakfast and specialty coffee drinks there on most mornings. We enjoyed the atmosphere and service of the Specialty Dining venues, especially when compared to the MDR and Oceanview.
Since this varies from ship to ship, I won’t go into detail. The production shows were very good – but too over-amplified to be pleasant. Earplugs helped. The guest entertainers were also very good and not quite as over-amplified.
We booked the cruise primarily as transportation back from a land tour in South America, and not for the ports of call. We did walk around in Arica, Chile, and Georgetown, Grand Cayman, but did not book any excursions.
The stop in Manta, however, is worth noting. Having been there before, we were undecided about going into town for a look around. The ship announced that free shuttle buses would be provided from the ship to the town center/shopping area. After the announcement was made that the gangway was open, we went down to the promenade deck to see how long the line for the shuttles was and determine if we should wait a while.
There was no line – only a large mob of approximately 250-300 people waiting for the yet-to-appear shuttle buses. Celebrity did nothing to establish or control a line. When the first shuttle bus arrived, the mob surged and all 300 people tried to get on the first bus. We saw a fight breakout at the steps to the bus and one man trying to pull another man off the second step of the bus. At that point I ran down to Guest Relations and told them they needed to get security out there and that one fight had already broken out. I went back outside to the promenade to watch the most unorganized shuttle bus system I had ever witnessed. We decided to avoid the melee and have a peaceful day on the ship.
One would think that Celebrity had never organized a port day or a shuttle bus system before. It was certainly a poor example of Modern Luxury.
The Infinity made a feeble attempt to cut down on chair hogs with a few little folded placards placed on the pool and solarium loungers in the mornings, however with no enforcement, the chair hogs just pushed the placards aside and set up camp.
I witnessed chair hogs “reserving” loungers and sunbeds as early as 6:00 AM, using a variety of towels, flip flops, magazines, paperbacks, and large plastic clips to hold the towels in place. Often those same loungers were “reserved” hours later – and on port days “reserved” all day long until the hogs returned from their excursions. Not once did I see any of the pool staff removing the chair hog nests. With no enforcement in place, more and more people started “reserving” loungers and sunbeds. Another poor example of Modern Luxury.
Disembarkation from the ship in Fort Lauderdale was well organized, until we reached the Customs and Immigration lines. There were four agents to process some 2,100 passengers. Signs for “US and non-US” were not apparent and there was insufficient line management so that yet another mob formed adjacent to the bag retrieval area. We settled down in some chairs to wait out the mob, and only later discovered the mob was trying to get through the “Non-US” lines and the “US” line was almost empty. We gathered our bags and were through the immigration check in under 10 minutes – happily leaving the growing “Non-US” mob to be processed by only two agents.
No wonder the Fort Lauderdale port has such a bad reputation on Cruise Critic.
After watching Royal Caribbean turn into floating county fairs, and with Celebrity losing their “premium” luster to the mass market, it’s time to expand our horizons and find cruise lines that cater to grownups and offer a more genteel way to cruise. Read Less