April 17, 2005
We are a couple from New Jersey aged 55 and 62 and have sailed well over a dozen times on Celebrity, Princess, NCL, RCCL & Disney, and this was our second cruise on the Infinity and our third on an M-Class ship. We have sailed on 3, 4, 7, 10 & 12 night cruises, but this was our first 14 night cruise. We were sailing with a group of 24 family & friends. We booked this sailing over a year and a half in advance to get a certain cabin and for the Itinerary which had sea days in between most of the port stops. Unhappily several months after booking they changed our departure port from San Diego to Ensenada, Mexico and dropped our Aruba stop substituting Jamaica and Grand Cayman, but we stayed with it. However, we were not happy about Celebrity charging us for the bus transfer to Ensenada!
We met our bus to Ensenada at San Diego airport at around 11AM where they loaded our luggage on a truck and after a 15-20 minute wait loaded us onto a nice bus. It was comforting to actually see your luggage placed into the truck. The 2 hour bus trip was not as bad as I had imagined, but a San Diego departure would have been much nicer. The buses all stopped at a Hotel in Mexico around 5 minutes from the ship where they did your check-in inside the hotel's large banquet room. It was efficient with laptops and passport scanners and we had our boarding/stateroom cards and were back on the bus in about 15 minutes. Upon arrival at the pier your bus load of guests passed through the scanners and was on the ship in minutes. Our sailing was delayed from 7PM until about 8:30PM due to some late arriving buses. (This delay did not affect our first port arrival time)
As we boarded we were greeted with champagne and escorted to our cabin by a white gloved attendant. We dropped off our carryon luggage and immediately walked around to reacquaint ourselves with the ship. The ship was clean and well maintained and very easy to navigate. We then went to the buffet area and had some lunch. Many folks disembarked and went exploring in Ensenada. The ship had the usual run of shops on board, but unless I forgot to bring something from home or looking for a postcard or small souvenir, I am really not interested in "shopping" in the onboard stores. I feel the same way about the art auctions, nice to stroll by and see the artwork on display, but I'm not on vacation to sit through an art auction (free champagne or not).
We requested late seating dinner (8:30PM) at a table for 6 with family & friends and were dining during sail away. Our waiter Madison and assistant Silver were both very personable and efficient. We asked Madison in advance for a nightly shrimp cocktail each and he seemed happy to accommodate our request. During our 2 week cruise we had occasion to request various items and he came through for us every time. A few of us enjoy Celebrity's crème Brule for desert and had requested it in advance several times and it was always delivered with a smile. On a few occasions Madison needed to check with the assistant maitre'd Viktor for approval and our requests were never denied. One person at our table felt like having spaghetti and meat balls and presto the next night there it was! All the beef entrees we ordered were cooked perfectly, even mine which I like extremely rare.
One night 7 of our group dined together at the U.S. specialty restaurant. ($30 per person) I had failed to order the goat cheese soufflé on a previous sailing, but made sure to order it this visit. I must say that it was as good as I had read about on the various cruise review websites. My friend described it as being better than the best cheese ravioli filling she ever tasted. The service there was impeccable, the harpist was wonderful and the meals were good, but not what I would describe as exceptional. I had the rack of lamb and several at the table had the lobster & scallop entrée and others the steak Diane. The only item that was not very good and was sent back was the lobster bisque. We were surprised to see how empty the restaurant was, as that night we were one of only three occupied tables.
Our first stop after a sea day was Cabo San Lucas and I loved it there. We strolled along the walkway at the water's edge and decided on a boat trip to see the famous Arch and Lover's beach. There are many people along the shore offering boat trips of all types, we looked over several boats and finally decided on one that met our liking. The boat had nice bench seats a glass bottom viewing area and a canopy for shade. It was $10 per person and lasted about an hour. Then we took a cab to Hotel Melia San Lucas where for a $10 per person deposit you were given a towel and free use of their lovely pool and beach area including chairs, pool floats, etc. When we turned the towels back in they returned the entire deposit, so it was basically a free day at a lovely resort. Upon a recommendation of a resort guest we walked down the beach and ate at "The Office" a restaurant on the beach completely shaded by dozens of giant beach umbrellas. The food was good and the margaritas were 2 for 1 and delicious. The beach vendors were quite overbearing, and the little children selling Chiclets were everywhere. One cab driver told us not to buy anything from the children as then they will not go to school.
After another relaxing day at sea our next stop was Acapulco. It was very hot and walking anywhere was out of the question. We went a crossed the street to visit Fort San Diego and then returned to the ship for relaxing day in the pool. A few in our group took a private taxi van and had a nice several hour tour for a reasonable price. In the evening we went to LaPerla, the three tiered restaurant with a view overlooking the cliff divers. We had made 7PM reservations online and ate dinner while watching both the 7:30 and 8:30PM dive shows. After the show the divers came up to the restaurant for tips and posed for photos with anyone interested. Dinner was $36 per person and included appetizer, meal and desert, drinks were additional. The restaurant also offered a drink package, where you could occupy a table to see the dive show and receive 2 drinks for $18 per person.
The next day we were in Huatulco and we took the ship's excursion called Sail & Swim. It was a nice tour of the various bays/coves and as we sailed along a group of dolphins swam with the boat. We also got to see two sea turtles swimming along the surface of the water and one had a sea gull riding on it's back!
On one of our sea days a group of us that "met" on a cruise chat website like this one all got together and toured each other's cabins. It was well organized by a few of the group and very nice to see all the various options on board and especially nice to view the Penthouse which one of our group was fortunate enough to occupy. We were able to see a few cabins whose verandahs are a tad larger than others in their category, etc. We took away some great information for our next booking on an M-Class ship.
Our next stop was Puntarenas, Costa Rica where we took the Corobici River rafting excursion offered by the ship. There were 6 or 8 to a raft and each had their own guide. Very enjoyable.
After another day at sea we started our passage through the Panama Canal. We were fortunate to have one of the corner aft cabins and had a great view of the locks and sights along the way. That evening around 6PM we docked at Cristobal Pier in Panama. The pier housed souvenir vendors a few shops and some local entertainment. The ship staff indicated it was not safe/advisable to leave the pier area.
Another day at sea was followed by a stop in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We took a short cab ride to the Sunset Beach Resort where for $20 per person you were afforded all the food, drink & amenities of that all inclusive resort. The beach and pool areas were nice. We swam & sunned and enjoyed some jerk chicken and many of the frozen drinks before heading back to the ship.
The next day we arrived in Grand Cayman and took a cab to the beach opposite the Courtyard Marriott where $10 rented you a beach chair and included the non alcoholic beverage of your choice. The water was warm, clear and beautiful. It was sad to see the damage that still remains from last September's hurricane, but we noticed improvements since our last visit in early January. We love Grand Cayman!
One more relaxing day at sea and our wonderful vacation was over as we docked in Ft Lauderdale. We had an 11:40AM flight and had no trouble or delay in disembarkation or in grabbing a cab for the quick trip to the airport.
Captain Club: As Elite level members we had a constant flow of invitations for events to attend. While we attended quite a few, we were not able to attend them all. The back stage & behind the scenes tours were the best. The Captain's Club Representative Elisabeth Lundberg was a delight and was hostess for a few tours/events; she's a definite asset to the Celebrity staff.
On this trip we had the honor of being invited to dine at the Captain's Table, which was a first for us. It was wonderful and we were all able to ask many questions and exchange information on various issues all while we enjoyed fine wine and a delicious meal. They supplied us with a complimentary photo of the entire table along with the seating chart, nice touch.
We always found the Celebrity staff very friendly; no matter what they were involved in doing they would always have a smile and a friendly greeting every time you passed. Our Cabin attendant Faruk and assistant Danny were wonderful. When Danny would see us coming down the hall he would run and open our door for us. It was amazing that when we ran upstairs for a quick breakfast our room would be all made up when we returned!
The entertainment was typical cruise ship fare and for the most part good, with the exception of one evening's Magician act. The young dancers and singers were a delight to meet and really gave each performance their all.
The food was what we have become to expect from Celebrity. The evening selections were good and as previously mentioned they are very accommodating with special requests. It is nice to have linen napkins and placemats at the Oceanview Cafe buffet where the staff is waiting to carry your tray to the table. The midnight buffet was magnificent as always, and while others were helping themselves to various exotic items my interest was focused on the big salted pretzels from the bread display. They were delicious, almost as good as being at Yankee Stadium!
We have come to enjoy Celebrity's food and service, we love the quiet "no public address announcement" policy and usually look to Celebrity first when we are ready to book a cruise. While we obviously favor Celebrity this would not be an honest review if I failed to include the few negatives we encountered on this sailing.
The pools were not kept very clean. The outdoor pool constantly had sand & debris in the bottom. They did empty and refill the pool during our sailing and they should have taken the time to clean the bottom before refilling it. The Thalassotherapy Pool had a greenish/brown slime ring around it the first day which got progressively worse during the course of the cruise.
Several in our group were disappointed to find out that the ship ran out of Coors Light beer a little more than half way through the trip. I guess it seems trivial unless that's your favorite drink...but it was nice that several days they offered 2 for 1 priced frozen drinks at the pool.
Last but certainly not least was a situation that personally put a damper on my vacation, but it is something that the cruise line had no control over. This section of my review might be removed by those that approve the posting of cruise reviews, but I will include it anyway. There was a group of over 300 French vacationers on this sailing and while I feel meeting and socializing with people from all over the world is one of the great things about the cruise experience, this time was the exception. I have never encountered such a rude, nasty and confrontational group in my life. Good manners are something that many people are lacking and we know we will encounter that everywhere in life, but this went way beyond the absence of good manners. Many of these folks would go out of their way to be nasty and confrontational to the point of some in their group saying "Americans" and then spitting on the floor in front of various American passengers. It was totally unprovoked and made for some very tense situations and was frightening at times, definitely something we never wish to encounter again. We appreciated that the cruise line stationed extra security people around the pool area where many of the incidents occurred, but the tension felt by many passengers was something they could do little about.
In summary, we had a great time and would go again in a minute. No vacation is ever perfect, nor do we expect it to be. We have always found that you take away information from each cruise that helps you to better enjoy and prepare for the next one, and hopefully you will share that information with other cruise lovers on sites like this one!