Number of Cruises: 15
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: January 3rd, 2005
Itinerary: South America
By putting 2 cruises together “Back to Back” we enjoyed a wonderful itinerary – 28 relaxing days with visits to 13 intriguing ports of call. From Fort Lauderdale to Buenos Aires aboard Celebrity’s “Infinity” Jan3 - 31, 2005.
To start I will introduce us – we are a family group who often cruise together. We are Ann & Ross from Vancouver, Canada both still working for a living and the Planners of all our trips (I am the “Travel Fairy” for the gang). My Dad, Fred, joins us on all of our travels. He is from Quebec in the summer and Florida in the winter. On this trip we were also joined by Cousins, Norman from Bethel Vt., Norman & Joyce from Kansas. A friend, Ernie, from Ottawa rounded out the group.
Jan 3 - Mon
We arrived (all 7 of us) at the Fort Lauderdale pier around 11am. Porters were on hand to take our mountain of luggage and deliver it to our staterooms. We entered the Fort Lauderdale terminal (yes, there are lots of chairs to sit in while waiting to board) and were efficiently placed in the boarding holding area line up with chairs to sit on. Cruise Critic friends recognized Ross & I and came over to Meet & Greet in person. By the time we introduced our selves and the gang to the 3 Cruise Critic couples it was time to proceed through the security area to the check in desk. All said and done we were on the ship within 1 hour of arriving at the terminal building. We quickly dumped our carry-on luggage and headed up to the Ocean Grill for lunch. After lunch our luggage arrived in our cabins so it was time to unpack and get our rooms organized. Then off to explore the ship till 5pm and the life boat drill. Once this was done we proceeded up to the back deck for our privately organized (by Charlotte) Cruise Critic Sail Away party. It was especially fun to quickly get to meet a lot of very interesting people that I had been chatting with for months on the web.
My comments on the Infinity & Celebrity.
The Infinity is a lovely, modern, new ship. I enjoyed the exterior glass elevators – going up & down and watching the ocean is much more fun than looking at someone else’s back!
I found the computer lab to be excellent. Great instructors who offered various types of classes on sea days. The internet café was separate and a great place/way to stay in touch with family at home. The price of $2. per e-mail was something I could live with. The negative to this was they notified you when you received an e-mail by putting a message on your phone. The negative part was that the message usually arrived on our phone in the middle of the night - this very bright red light would start to flash on our phone and continue to flash till we woke up and turned it off.
The food was excellent – no matter where we ate – from the Aqua Spa to the main dinning room to the Ocean Grill. So too was the service – we had great waiters who really looked after us well – to the extent that we gave them more than the recommended tip. It never mattered what we felt like eating, even if it was not on the menu, they would find it for us somehow!
Don’t miss the “Grand Buffet”!
We really enjoyed the pools – especially the Aqua Spa pool. The fully equipped gym was ready to help each of us keep fit. For the walkers – joggers among us 5.5 laps around the top deck = a mile. The spa & beauty salon offered a full range of services by well trained professionals.
The Infinity dancers were excellent and each of their shows (4) were very well done. Great costumes, lots of energy and enthusiasm. The Pampas Devils were also excellent and I could have watched their show several more times. Unfortunately the balance of the guest entertainers they had on these 2 cruises did not appeal to me. I felt that the comedian was less than funny and the singers boring.
But that is the luck of the draw.
Our cabin was very compact and I could have used more storage space as we were on for 28 days (I did over pack) however we managed. Once our suitcases were unpacked they were quickly taken away to a storage room till the end of our voyage. The fridge was less than cold so did not use it. Instead we got ice from our room steward to cool our drinks. Our room steward made sure that there was always ice in our ice bucket (made from filtered water). The silver water jug of filtered drinking water was kept full & fresh. The bathroom had a good amount of storage as cruise ship bathrooms go and large shower. We got bathrobes to use so did not have to pack any. Included amenities are as is normal; shampoo (but it is out of a wall mounted dispenser in the shower and no conditioner) hair dryer, cotton balls, & Q-tips.
We put the safe to good use for all of our valuables as the ship is a cashless society! At least until your bill arrives.
Unfortunately Celebrity does not offer self serve laundry facilities so remember some cloth pins and soap for washing out items that you do not want to send to the ships laundry. I also had brought along suction cup hooks that I stuck to the mirrors - then with a hole punch to made holes in the dailies etc. They made a great place to hang up little things thus keeping the cabin neat & the desk clear for my laptop.
The ship is kept very clean and the service by the room attendants and food service staff wonderful.
I found that the Shore Excursion Desk did not seem to know what their tours really did and would give you incorrect information just to sell the tour. Thank goodness we were doing mostly private tours that were already pre-arranged.
The photo staff was very nice and did not push the photos. They did not take pictures of us leaving the ship in all ports (only in about 2/3’s). Photographers only came around the dining room to take pictures on 3 nights. Plenty of space in the photo gallery for people to congregate and inspect the pictures. The photos were spread out so that the cruisers were not bunched together. As we were on for 2 cruises back to back they started a file of photos for me. I would pick our photos off the boards and they would put them in my file folder. At the end of the 2nd cruise I went down and viewed all the photos and bought only a few of the very best.
On this cruise for the very first time we got to try out the medical facility – not a good thing to have to do. They had way too few chairs for the crowd waiting to see the doctors. People had to stand for up to an hour while waiting. My husband was given a shot and medicine + a BIG bill and the medicine did not seem to help – I went back to the over the counter medication I had purchased at home and packed. We managed; but, I do not have a good review for the medical staff. Four days after my husband’s visit the ship put out notices that if anyone had diarrhea they should go to see the doctor for a free consultation. When I went back to question my husband’s bill they told me he was treated for an upset stomach not diarrhea so he had to pay - he had diarrhea – the ship’s doctor gave him medication for diarrhea. Further out of our group of 7 – 4 had to visit the doctor. Services not rendered were charged for on 2 of the bills. When I went down (and stood in line again) they redid the bills, deleting the items that should never have been there in the first place. A nurse gave me a weak excuse about how busy they were.
I found the bank staff very pleasant about cashing my traveler’s checks and providing me with small bills to go ashore with. (US money was accepted in all ports of call).
The Guest Relations desk staff seemed in need of training as they never seemed to know the answer to any questions. Worse did not seem to care about finding you the correct answer. Several did not seem to have a sufficient command of the English language to allow them to even understand the questions (I think our waiters had a better command of English).
The Bridge instructors on the first cruise were very nice and just wanted everyone to play bridge and enjoy themselves. They were happy to have players play social bridge as well as duplicate bridge. On the first cruise on sea days they normally had over 20 tables of bridge. Unfortunately on the 2nd cruise the Bridge instructors/co-coordinators only wanted people to play duplicate bridge. They made it so difficult for the passengers who were only interested in a fun game of social bridge to play that after the 2nd sea day we just stopped even trying to go to play bridge.
The guest lecturer was very interesting! I liked that his lectures were constantly replayed on the TV, I could listen to the lectures in the evening – as I liked to spend my daytime hours doing other things than sit in a lecture! There were just too many fun things to do on the ship!!!
The Captains Club Party was very well done. More elegant that any that I have ever attended on Holland America. The Infinity really made the occasion seem special and exclusive! This party; hosted by the Captain and the Captain’s Club Hostess, Elizabeth in the Constellation Lounge on the second formal night of each of the 2 cruises. Each of us received a proper, printed invitation to this event. The cruiser who had cruised the most often with Celebrity was honored as well at this event.
Hosting a Back to Backers party was also a very nice touch as it gave us a chance to get to know who was staying on for the whole month – this party could have been earlier in the cruise.
The Cruise Critic Party was really a lot of fun – it was so nice to meet all the people I had been chatting with for months on the internet. I wish other lines would support CC! Of course as for me being a B2B cruiser I got to attend 2 CC parties!!! These were both held in the morning of our first sea day in Michelle’s Club and we each received Cruise Critic Pins. We were also given sticky back name tags to write our names on and some cards to write down our names & addresses on to exchange with friends.
The ship held 2000 passengers but never seemed crowded!
The only other comment is in regards to Celebrity’s shore staff in head office. They all need a course in customer service. I called their customer service number for answers to a few questions (remember 1 was booking a double cruise for a group of people and the logistics made it a challenge at times). I was treated at times OK but generally very poorly and seldom did I get a proper answer to my question. Several times I was given false answers. Good thing the service on the ship is totally the opposite to what one gets from Celebrities land based staff!
Jan 4 - Tues At Sea
A very relaxing day spent exploring this wonderful ship. I took time out to decorate our cabin door – Canadian theme. This was a very popular move it tourned out. Many fellow passengers came by to take photos of my decorations. I received lots of compliments on my decorated door! In the afternoon I enjoyed playing rubber/social bridge in the card room. I also started my routine of walking 2 miles every morning before breakfast to try to keep it so that my cloths would continue to button & zip even with all the fabulous food I was consuming. At 7 the whole gang gathered each evening for cocktails – a very important ritual which was never missed!!!! Had to work really hard in the galley each day getting a cheese tray made – just wore my poor finger to the bone dialing room service :>:>:>!
Jan 5 - Wed At Sea
Another truly relaxing day where I enjoyed taking a computer class in the morning and bridge in the afternoon.
This morning the Infinity hosted the Cruise Critic party. Our opportunity to meet one another and to put faces to the people we had been busy chatting with via the internet for months.
Time in the afternoon for a game of social bridge.
Jan 6 - Thu Oranjestad, Aruba 7 – 9
We arrived in Aruba bright and early in the morning – I watched the ship dock while doing my laps up on deck. As we have visited Aruba before we only walked around the town of Oranjestad doing a bit of shopping.
Jan 7 - Fri At Sea
Another relaxing day with time to swim in the pools. Another game of bridge in the afternoon.
Jan 8 – Sat Transit the Panama Canal 6 – 4
We were in the Panama Canal by the time I made it up on deck in the morning. I was in plenty of time to enjoy our transit thru the Gatun Locks at around 10am Once into Gatun lake our ship had to anchor and await our turn to proceed to through the rest of the Canal. We were given permission to proceed at approximately 11:30am. The Infinity started the slow glide through Lake Gatun toward the Gillard Cut. On the way we met several freighters and even the US submarine Illinois. We exited out through the Mira Flores Locks on the pacific side of the Canal at approximately 5pm. The Panama Canal never fails to amaze me! Imagine something designed and built over a hundred years ago is still working and functioning well today! (Now if they could do this with the Panama Canal why can’t they make a car that will last past the warranty period???)
These giant locks move huge ships up and down in a matter of minutes without any pumps – YES Mother Nature using GRAVITY does it all!
It took over 10 years, more than $325 million and roughly 80,000 people to construct this inland waterway, which saves nearly 8000 miles of travel. The world’s biggest short cut opened on August 15, 1914.
FACTS: Length of each lock chamber 1000 ft
Width of each lock chamber 110 ft
Depth of each lock chamber 83 ft
Minimum depth of water in each lock 41 ft
With of each lock leaf 64 ft
Thickness of each lock leaf 7 ft
Height of lock gates 47 – 82 ft
Diameter of main culvert 18 ft
Weight of each towing locomotive 55 tons
Weight of lock gate leaves 390 – 730 tons
Length of canal, deep water to deep water 51 miles
Shoreline of Gartun Lake 1100 miles
Fuerte Amador, Panama 6pm – 11:30pm Tendered
Once through the canal, our ship stopped here and those passengers who wanted to could go ashore went via tender. We went just so we could say we stopped in Panama. There were a few souvenir shops to take your money (that was about it). Until the USA turned the Panama Canal over to the Panamanians in 1999 this island was off limits to all except US Military. We hurried back to the ship as we did not want to miss either dinner or happy hour!
Jan 9 - Sun At Sea
A relaxing day and today the ship celebrated a nautical crossing of the equator! Yes King Neptune with his court arrived to welcome new comers to the Equator. They held a “Kangaroo Court” whereby selected crew members were tried for various crimes (The Executive Chef for causing all of our cloths to shrink) and of course we the passengers always found them guilty so that they had to accept their punishment which was:
1) To kiss the fish ( a lovely big salmon)
2) Get a cream pie in the face
3) Get thrown into the pool
This was great fun and a wonderful photo opportunity.\
Jan 10 - Mon Manta Equador 7 – 6
We were up early here in this port city located along the central part of Ecuador’s Pacific Coast. Manta is the country’s second largest port. This area is known worldwide for its pottery and panama hats. The Province’s climate is dry- to humid & subtropical, with an average temperature of 25 degrees centigrade.
Our private tour guide was waiting for us at 8:30 at the foot of the gangplank.
We enjoyed a city tour of Manta with a visit to the archeological museum of the central bank to see its collection of pre-Columbian artifacts highlighting the region’s culture.
A visit to Montecristi an ancient town founded in 1628 to see how the famous “Panama Hats” are woven from the dried leaves of the paja toquilla, a special straw obtained from certain palms of the Ecuadorian coast. Here we were at a crafts market where 2 ladies (both in their 90’s) were demonstrating the weaving of the hats. It takes a minimum of 3 months to weave 1 hat and this is a cottage industry. The hats can only be worked on in the early morning or late evening when the straw is moist from the dew in the air. This was a good place to buy souvenirs.
I really liked our time at the vegetable ivory nut factory. This nut grows in huge clusters on a type of palm tree that is only found in Ecuador. A lady demonstrated how they use a band saw to cut this very hard nut so that it can be made into buttons, jewelry, carvings. Buy your Ivory nut carvings here at the factory as they are much cheaper than at the souvenir stalls. They sell wonderful little carvings of shepherd’s & nativity scenes that will make great Christmas Tree decorations for $1. each.
Ecuador grows roses for export to North America (apparently about 80% of our roses come from Ecuador). You can buy a dozen long stem roses for $1. at the grocery store. We ladies returned to the ship with our roses!!!
Jan 11 - Tues At Sea
Relaxing day and time to get ready for the next shore day and excursion.
I had the ships photo department print some of my digital photos. I spent a fair amount of time working on putting together Mine & Dad’s photo albums. Dad also carries his small printer and had been printing his best photos as we cruised.
Jan 12 – Wed Lima Peru 7 – 7
The cultural & economic heart of Peru, Lima once served as the seat of power for the Spanish Empire of South America. Lima is home to many fine museums. The catacombs beneath the Church of San Francisco are a sight to behold.
I had arranged a private tour and Peru Gateway Travel – Orquidea Tours provided us with a SUPERLATIVE TOUR City of Lima Tour & Pachacamac Ruins Tour with lunch for only $87.
Our Guide “Snow” was waiting for us just outside the docks exit turnstiles with a sign with our name on it.
Finding the meeting place was the hard part. In Callao/Lima you dock at a working cargo facility so you are not allowed to walk on the dock. Once off the ship you board a shuttle bus which drives you from the ship across the dock to the exit / entrance area. Once off the shuttle bus walk to the exit turnstiles and proceed through them into the crowd outside. There you will find your guide awaiting you.
Once on our air conditioned mini-bus that included a sound system so we all could hear everything the guide said with no problem we headed out to the Pachacamac Ruins:
Located 31 km from Lima this extensive archaeological complex is made up of palaces and temple pyramids. Begun in 200AD expanded by the Wari culture before being conquered and added to by the Inca . The name Pachacamac translates to “he who animated the world” or “he who created land and time” from the Wari God whose wooden two faced image can be seen in the museum. We viewed complex temples built with adobe by different cultures since the beginning of the Christian age. Ancient artifacts (that we were even allowed to take photos of) were on display in the museum and we explored pre-Columbian ruins. Through most of the buildings are now little more than walls and piles of rubble dotting the desert landscape, the main temples and huge pyramids have been excavated, with their ramps and stepped sides revealed. We climbed to the top of the Temple of the Sun for an excellent view of the coast. The Inca Palacio de las Mamacuna (House of the Chosen Women) complex has been completely excavated and rebuilt. The complex is surrounded by a garden and the roof beams are home to innumerable swallows. We spent over an hour here and by being early had the place nearly to ourselves - we were leaving just as the buses from the ship where arriving.
Our next stop was the Gold Museum - Museo de Oro del Peru with its displays of thousands of gold pieces ranging from ponchos embroidered with hundreds of solid gold plates to huge earrings. In 2001 this museum was rocked with a scandal claiming that 98% of the contents were fake. In the museum courtyard there are several gift shops – prices are much higher than in the craft market.
It was lunch time and we enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch at “Mangos” while seated on the patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
After Lunch we went to the craft market a huge (approximately 2 square block) area of stalls selling everything for a negotiated price (cheap) make sure you get some sheep skin slippers only $8. Try to make sure you have at least an hour here for shopping.
Time for our City Tour of Lima.
San Francisco Monastery: which is famous for its catacombs and its remarkable library where there are thousands of antique texts some dating back to the conquistadors. Built in the 1670’s it is adorned with striking colonial frescoes, Sivillian tile work and paneled ceiling in the cloisters. In the catacombs you can actually take pictures of the skulls & bones.
La Cathedral: on the Plaza de Armes was built in 1555 and rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 1746. Note the splendid carved stalls, the silver covered altars surrounded by fine woodwork and mosaic covered walls bearing the coats of arms of Lima and Pizarro. For Masonic Members check out the carving above the Statue of Mary.
Plaza de Armas: designed by Franciso Pizarro, also known as Plaza Mayor this was once the heart of Lima. The impressive bronze fountain in the centre is the Plaza’s oldest feature erected in 1650. Here we see the exquisitely balconied Archbishops palace to the left of the Cathedral. Here too is the Palacio de Gobierno the residence of Peru’s President. The uniformed Presidential Guard is on duty and the changing of the guard takes place each day at noon
An impressive statue of Francisco Pizarro on Horseback is on the corner of the Plaza. (Francisco Pizarro was only a mediocre horseman). This statue was originally in the centre of the Plaza however the clergy took a dim view of the horse’s rear end facing the cathedral so the statue was moved.
Running along 2 sides of Plaza de Armas are arcades with shops: Portal de Escribanos and Portal de Botoneros.
Cerro San Cristobal: This 409 meter high hill in central Lima has a lookout at the top. A huge cross built in 1928 and illuminated at night is a Lima landmark. Yes there are stairs so that you could climb to the top of the hill if you wanted to.