by Stan Jakubowski
December 8, 2002
There were six of us traveling as a group on the Infinity's west to east trans-canal 14 day trip. We are all in our 60's and have several dozen cruises on a wide variety of lines under our belts. My wife and I have dined in a number of Guide Michelin restaurants in Europe and the son of one of the other couples is CIA trained and a chef in one of Florida's finest restaurants.
The best part of the trip was the canal. The best part of the ship is the cabins and the cabin staff. We had no problems with anything in the cabin. We were all in balcony cabins on deck seven. The cabin was as fully equipped as one could ask for and the cabin attendants for each of our three cabins (different attendants) not only kept the cabins spotless, but were unobtrusive, yet available. The system of having them available by pushing a single button on the phone is a good one. The rest of the ship was also kept clean and in good order. The worst spot ever found was some finger marks on a glass barrier in the show room and they were gone by the next show.
The areas of disappointment for us all were service and food. The line puts out a great deal of publicity about the menu and the food preparation being under the ultimate supervision of a Michelin three star chef, but the experience we had left us with no desire to visit this chef's restaurant in London. For example, my wife likes fish. More than half of the fish dishes she ordered at dinner arrived overcooked and very dry. One of our friends in the alternate dining room ordered a steak, medium rare, one night. The first time it arrived it was well done, the second one arrived almost raw and the third one arrived almost well done again as the first. She gave up. The overall menu is also what I think of as pseudo sophisticated. Every and I mean every dinner has a choice of A) a white fish fillet, B) pasta, C) chicken, D) steak, E) alternative meat (lamb, turkey, veal). They all (even the pasta most nights) came with the same vegetables and everyone had a sauce which never varied from bland. The only change seemed to be the name of the dish, usually something French. We did not try the United States special dining room as we looked over the menu one afternoon and found it to be of the same pseudo sophisticated nature as the served in the Trellis dining room. We all have enough experience of what constitutes good service not to go there just for that.
On one of the rear walls at the fifth floor entrance to the Trellis dining room a menu from the SS United States (ca. 1955) is posted. If you read this menu you very quickly appreciate the difference between what is truly first class and what is offered to the passengers of the Infinity.
Our other problem was service. I admit to being eccentric, but like to finish off dinner with a glass of low fat milk on the rocks. It took four days before the waiters learned that low fat milk was available and on the thirteenth day of the cruise the assistant waiter still had to be asked to bring me the milk at the end of the meal. Other examples, in the alternative restaurant, two of us had pasta for dinner and one of us had to go and find the grated cheese as a waiter never showed up to offer it to us. The wait staff constantly removed plates from one or more persons while the others at the table were still eating. One morning in the Trellis restaurant for breakfast, I sat for almost an hour while the waiter assigned to offer pastries past me by continually. He offered other people at the table I was sitting at pastries, but not once in the hour did he ask if I was interested. Most of the wait staff seemed to be on their first of second cruise and they had large gaps in their knowledge of what was available and in what constituted good service. On the plus side, everyone was generally friendly and when asked to go something responded positively.
One of the other couple had taken the Infinity on a Hawaiian cruise last year and it was on their recommendation that we were on board. They were very upset at the deterioration in standards from their first experience.
The entertainment was about average for the industry these days, with the exception of one comedian who unfortunately was unable to get any laughs.
Overall - The downs were a disappointment, but not enough to ruin the cruise. We have decided however that for future cruises we will stick to smaller ships. The cruise director, who was less visible than any other cruise director I have ever seen, (he claimed to have been on 19 ships in 10 years, maybe a coincidence, maybe not) told us that there were almost 2,100 people on board. Listed capacity is 1950. They generally did a good job of hiding the fact that there are a lot of people on board, but it was still to many for us.