Number of Cruises: n/a
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: August 17th, 2001
Since we are frequent Holland America cruisers, this was an opportunity to try out Celebrity Lines, in their huge new "Infinity" at 91,000 tons, and 2000 passengers.
As we might expect, each line has its own good points, so we'll just try to compare features, and leave the reader to judge which line might suit you better.
We stayed in Vancouver a few days prior to the cruise, at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, just across the street from the cruise terminal. This is an ideal location, as we were able to walk from the hotel with our bags (on wheels) to the terminal.
Check-in was very efficient. We arrived at 12 noon, and were in our cabin by 12.50. A steward took our carry-on bags, and showed us to our cabin.
Cabins are a little smaller than HAL, at 170 sq. ft. vs HAL's 194 sq. ft. However, one wall was mirrored, which gives an impression of more space, and Celebrity picks up a few points by providing refrigerators (Stocked with Coke, etc.. @ $1.95 per pop) and Bath Robes. A minor annoyance is that the hangers must be disconnected from the rail before they will come out of the closet. The cabin had a big round window, about 3 feet across, a good desk and chair. and a small sofa pull-out bed. The ship has only been in service six months, so everything was spotless. Cupboard and drawer space was more than adequate.
We made our way to the Oceanview Cafe for lunch, Cafeteria style. There was a line-up. but not long, and at the end of the line, Celebrity picks up some more points by having waiters to take your tray to a table, and bring you your choice of drinks.
Before going aboard, I couldn't imagine how they could handle 2000 passengers in a restaurant, or anywhere else on the ship, but they did it without any apparent effort, not only in the restaurant, but also in the theatre and lounges, and everywhere else on board. Somebody certainly deserves credit for the planning that made this possible.
I should mention that before making our way to lunch we had made a reservation for a later night at the premium restaurant "ss United States", and also checked our dining room table for location and size (Six people)
Infinity features: On both sides of the ship there are fast, silent, glass-walled elevators on the OUTSIDE of the vessel, looking out on the ocean. A great feature.
The Aquaspa is excellent, with a big sea-water pool, hot tubs, saunas nearby. No charge. Another good feature here is that in addition to plentiful towels, there are plaid blankets to dry out in lounge chairs after a swim.
The many varied lounges are excellent ranging from the intimate "Michael's Club, for cigar smokers, to the Cova Cafe de Milano. A very classy spot, where Jacqueline plays an Irish Harp, and sings in the evenings. Many specialty coffees are served here, and unlike HAL's Java Bar, there is a charge for items ordered. Other lounges, like the Martini Bar, or the Champagne Bar, were all comfortable, usually with piano music, and well frequented.
The first night out was Casual attire, so we had a chance to meet our table mates and check out the restaurant and waiters. The Trellis restaurant is on two decks, but is nowhere near as beautiful as Ryndam, for instance. However, the food was good, and well presented. Our waiter Dragan, is from Yugoslavia. His assistant Marcos, is from India, and the Asst. Maitre D" is from France.
They all did an excellent job, and overall, the food and service probably comes within about 10-15% of the Holland America standard.
Later in the week, we dined at the ss. "United States" restaurant and as promised it was a great experience. A wonderful intimate atmosphere soft piano music, attentive waiters, and excellent food prepared or finished at the table. All in all, a memorable experience.
My only criticism here is the cost of the wines recommended with each course, which range from $28.00 to $72.00 per glass! Only a dedicated gourmet, I think, would order many glasses of wine with this meal.
And so...On with the show ! Celebrity puts on a full-scale musical on the first night out, which is unusual. This first show "They Got Rhythm" was excellent.
This is a large 900 seat theatre, with good sight lines,and comfortable seating. It features a revolving stage, and descending trapdoors for special effects. There were three full-scale musical shows in all, and the final one was so spectacular, it had the audience comparing it with the big Las Vegas extravaganzas.
Music. We found the music for listening or dancing very good on Infinity. There was a small combo that played for dancing in the Rendez-vous Lounge, and on several occasions, the full band played Big Band Music for dancing, in the big Constellation lounge,high up on Deck 11. The music attracted a lot of good dancers, who were a pleasure to watch and also the ship provided two "Dance Hosts" to take care of the single ladies. One of these hosts was also an excellent pianist playing for his own amusement between times.
Well, let's see, How are things stacking up so far? I believe Celebrity's philosophy is "Anything you can do, we can do better" and they do try to do that.
But it doesn't always work. What can't they do ? They can't make TEA ! At "Afternoon Tea" 4.p.m. passengers may pack up pastries, little sandwiches, etc. Then they may select a teabag, put it in a cup, and fill with water. This is not afternoon tea, as I understand it, and a quick visit to any Holland America Explorer's lounge, with its white-glove, fine china service, with string music should demonstrate what afternoon tea is all about.
The Captain's Party. This traditional event was somewhat different from the norm. In Infinity, the atrium stretches over three decks.And for this occasion, the gala-clad passengers arrived on any one of these decks where champagne and canapes were served. Then the Captain descended the central staircase, and introduced his senior staff members, lined up on the stairs. That was it..
There was apparently no opportunity to meet the captain or to have photos taken with him. It was very different from any Captain's party in any Line I have seen, and vaguely unsatisfactory.
Final notes. The age group on this ship was much younger than any seen on Holland America. In addition, since it was August, there were many children on board. They were well served by junior programs. Our cabin service was quick and unobtrusive and for those who ordered meals in their cabins, the choice was good, and the delivery fast.
On this Alaska cruise we had an excellent commentator called "Judy" who did a great job of telling us about the history of the area, and how glaciers behave.
So, what's your choice so far.? If Celebrity ever learns how to make a decent cup of tea, they'll be very hard to beat. And yet, Holland America somehow has a classier way of doing some things, even if their music and entertainment cannot touch Celebrity.
You decide, and don't forget to compare the price per day, for similar accommodation.