Tom OggReviews at aol.com
Number of Cruises: Lot
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: August 28th, 2004
Itinerary: Alaska Inside Passage
CruiseReviews at aol.com
Infinity Anchored at Ketchikan, Alaska
Summary in Advance
If you are taking a cruise to Alaska and want to see the best of the best, enjoy fine dining and have an enjoyable cruise experience, consider this ship and itinerary. First it visits Hubbard Glacier, rather than Glacier Bay. I know everyone thinks Glacier Bay is the thing to see in Alaska, but I find Hubbard Glacier much more impressive than the collection of smaller glaciers seen on larger ships in Glacier Bay.
Hubbard Glacier as Seen From the Infinity
This itinerary also visits Sitka instead of Skagway. This combination would make an excellent itinerary for someone that has already done the traditional inside passage route. Another major plus was the passenger make-up on the Infinity. While considered a premium line, the Infinity had a good number of younger people on it and seemed more geared for the 40s, 50s, and 60s than the senior set one normally would expect on an Alaskan cruise.
I was the escort and seminar facilitator for a group of 36 travel professionals traveling on Celebrity Cruise Line's Infinity sailing from Vancouver on the Inside Passage itinerary.
Pre-Cruise: I had just gotten off the Norwegian Star (see the review) and had flown from Seattle to Vancouver to board the Infinity. Upon arrival, I grabbed a taxi to Canada Place (Vancouver's main cruise port right downtown) and began the check-in process. I was aboard the ship and in my cabin by 12:30.
Launched in 2001, the Infinity is a large ship well positioned in the premium market. At 90,228 gross tons and a passenger capacity of 1,950 lucky guests, Infinity is a sister ship to the Millennium, Summit and Constellation. She offers a number of unique features and is designed in a way that makes her distinctive among the Celebrity fleet. She is comfortable and elegant, while at the same time, extremely seaworthy. I loved the Millennium class ships and the Infinity. I would sail her again in a heartbeat.
Our group was assigned outside cabins on decks two and three. My cabin (2106) was very spacious for its cabin category. I enjoyed a picture window and plenty of space for all of my automation and other travel gear.
As I entered the cabin, there is a double full-length closet on the right-hand side that was ample for two people on a longer cruise. A third door led to 5 drawers with additional storage above them. There is a room safe located above the storage, as well. The mini refrigerator is located behind a cabinet door that also houses another pullout drawer that is quite handy for storing wine bottles, or other items. The television offers several channels of entertainment and is quite visible while you’re in bed. Two more shelves hide behind the top cabinet door that offer even more storage.
The bathroom is large enough to store all of your toiletries, but using a hanging toiletry bag opens up quite a bit of space making the storage area feel much larger than when it covered with toiletry items. (I always suggest using a hanging toiletry bag) The shower is quite large and has excellent hot/cold temperature controls. The entry to the bathroom was adjacent to the hanging closets and if both doors were open, it was difficult to navigate. HINT: There is a clothesline in the shower that is excellent for drying any miscellaneous items you may have washed in the sink (be sure to bring suitable detergent.) There is a built-in hairdryer on the left-hand wall.
Outside Cabin on the Infinity
Across from the compact sitting area (small sofa and coffee table) is the desk area. There are two U.S. 110 volt outlets and two more European outlets readily accessible. The desk offers two smaller shelves on either side hiding behind cabinet doors for additional storage. I had no problem setting up my computer and printer and all the paraphernalia that accompanies them. However, the lighting that is provided at the desk would be insufficient for a woman wanting to apply cosmetics. A full mirror stretches the length of the wall over the bed, which really adds an open feeling to the cabin. I enjoyed a queen-size bedding configuration and found the bedding quite comfortable. A nightstand with two more drawers resides on either side of the bed and a night lamp with personal controls is offered on each side of the bed. All in all, the cabin was quite satisfactory.
A Tour of the Ship
Decks 11, 12 and 13
The best way to explore the Infinity's public rooms and facilities is simply to do it deck-by-deck. If you will join me, we will take the forward elevator all the way to the top floor (deck 11) and start in the most forward room, the Constellation Club. The Constellation Club serves both as the ship’s nightclub by night and its observatory lounge by day. It is quite large and offers spectacular views. There are also a good number of nooks and crannies, so while there may be hundreds of people in the nightclub, it never really feels very crowded. A band plays dance music until 1:30 am and is then replaced by the disco. The repeater’s (Captain’s Club) party is also held here. We had our welcome aboard cocktail party in the Constellation Club (along with several other groups) and it was wonderful.
If we go through the port door to the deck we pass the Tower housing Notes, the Infinity's music lounge. Here you can listen to whatever music that you like while you relax in comfort. While I didn't spend any time in notes, it looked to me that folks that love music couldn't be separated from it.
The Infinity's Mast Bar
The Infinity's Mast Bar was a hit with those folks that spent the days cruising the inside passage and Hubbard Glacier.
The Infinity's Pool Area
Moving aft, we get our first glimpse of the pool area located on deck 10 below us and are passing the traditional line of lounge chairs that reside on the upper pool level. At the aft of the pool area resides the sports and children’s area.
The Conservatory Floral Boutique
Moving into the first door opening facing forward at the pool is where we find the Conservatory Floral Boutique. This is such a great spot! If you would like flowers for your cabin, or to celebrate a special occasion, this is the place to come. It is just wonderful being in the Conservatory, as the floral arrangements and bouquets are staggering.
Ship Mates Fun Factory
Continuing aft back down on deck 11, we find the entrance to the Ship Mates Fun Factory and the Video Zone. Infinity had over 100 children on this particular sailing and other than pirate night, when the children visited the Trellis Restaurant to sing everyone a song, we never were aware they were on the ship. I suspect that the Ship Mates Fun Factory is why. I was wishing I was a kid again because of the variety of fun things they were doing. They even have their own little swimming pool on the aft section of the Fun Factory. This brings us to the aft stairwell that takes us down to deck 10 and the aft fantail where many in our group preferred to dine for breakfast.
Moving still forward we come to the Oceanview Café, the main buffet area of the Infinity. The Oceanview Café offers four buffet lines serving the same food. One of the best things about the Infinity is that there is always one, or more of the buffet lines available. If you wake up at 11:30 am, the late breakfast line is still open and it finally closes after the lunch buffet opens and so it goes all day long. There are several drink stations and two separate pastry stations that start serving ice cream during and after lunch. There is no charge for the ice cream and juice is served the entire day. In the rear of the Oceanview Cafe is the waffle station in the morning and then the sandwich and salad station for lunch. On either side towards the aft section of the restaurant are omelet stations in the morning and pasta stations for lunch. All in all, it was wonderful.
The Infinity's Pool Area
The pool area is awesome. There are two swimming pools (salt water) and 4 Jacuzzis. Towels were plentiful and plush. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the pool area and would give it high marks. I strongly urge you to view the glaciers from the Jacuzzis, as they have a wonderful view that is not packed with people and you can jump out to take pictures whenever they present themselves.
The Aqua Dome
The real treat on the Infinity is the Aqua Dome. First, the AquaSpa Café offers healthy choice dining all day long. It serves breakfast in the morning and I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh fruit (papaya every morning) juice, yogurt, and other healthy choices. Lunch time sees a wonderful selection of creative salads and usually a specialty item, as well. If you are into healthy food, you will love this place. Finally, a small dinner buffet was on hand that I enjoyed one evening when I had simply stayed in the AquaSpa too long to make dinner. It was wonderful.
Then, as if that were not enough, two salt water Jacuzzis call the AquaSpa home. They are excellent Jacuzzis set right at the correct temperature and offer soothing action.
The AquaSpa "Racks"
The thalassotherapy pool is actually one huge spa with two “Jacuzzi racks” that you can lay out in to enjoy the bubbles, as they float you above the rack, it is simply wonderful. Four water stations offer water massages in the perfectly heated water. The temperature inside the AquaSpa is hot and humid resembling the conditions of a hot house.
The AquaSpa Beauty Salon
Forward of the AquaSpa lies the AquaSpa treatment area starting with the Infinity’s beauty salon, the aerobics and exercise room (excellent Cybex equipment). The balance of the area is for massage and spa service private treatment rooms.
The Infinity Fitness Center
The fitness center has all of the equipment needed to sustain an excellent workout.
Decks 8 and 9
Decks 8 and 9 are entirely passenger cabins with the exception of “Words” the 2-story library that resides just forward of the aft stairwell.
Decks 6 and 7
Decks 6 and 7 are all passenger cabins with the exception of "The Tower" I never did figure out what was in there. Perhaps in your review, you can tell us.
The 2nd story of the Celebrity Theater resides within the most forward portion of deck 5 and offers wonderful views of the stage.
Moving aft past the forward stairwell we enter the Emporium. This shopping area is quite large with several shops offering logo items, jewelry, clothing, sundries, duty-free liquor and lots more.
The Emporium (Another Section)
There are scheduled sales that take place almost daily that are advertised in the daily newsletter, the Celebrity Today.
The Cova Cafe Milano
The Cova Cafe Milano Pasteries
Continuing aft through the Emporium, we enter the area known as the Cova Café. On the starboard side of the Cova Café is a specialty coffee bar where one can load up on cappuccino and lattes (for a charge) and on the port side is a bakery offering all sorts of taste treats.
The Martini Bar
Skirting the top level of the Grand Foyer, we enter a lounge known as the Martini Bar (Starboard Side).
The Champagne Bar
On the Port side resides the Champagne Bar, These lounges actually reside on the second floor of the Rendez-Vous Lounge one deck below and share the same music and entertainment. This is a great place to meet for pre-dinner cocktails, if you are dining on deck five in the restaurant.
The Trellis Restaurant
The 2nd level of the Trellis Restaurant resides within the entire aft section of deck 5.
Going down the staircase in the Trellis Restaurant on deck 4 takes us to the lower level and a good number more tables. The Trelis Restaurant is a beautiful dining venue offering great menus and wonderful service everyone in our group thoroughly enjoyed.
The Rendez-Vous Lounge
Leaving the restaurant, going past the aft elevator bank, we enter the Rendez-Vous Lounge. This is one of the main cocktail venues on the ship and offers dancing every evening before and after dinner. Our group elected to spend a good amount of time in this lounge and used it for one of our meeting places.
The Internet Café, “Celebrity On-Line” is on the starboard side of the ship. The Internet Café offers a reasonable access speed and is available for open usage for $.75 per minute and several bulk purchases make it as low as $.50 per minute are available. There are a good number of screens here and even more on deck 3. In-cabin access is also available for those that want it, but it somewhat pricy at $25 per day (including 50 minutes usage) and then what ever package price you have signed up for after the 50 minutes. Unused minutes do not roll over from day-to-day.
Fortunes Casino is the next entertainment venue and everyone seemed to love the casino. Folks in our group actually made money and walked off the ship on the positive side after gambling the entire cruise. This seemed like an unusual event on most of the cruises I have been on. There are lots of slots and gaming tables and the casino never seemed crowded.
Fortunes Casino Bar
I am not sure what they were selling there, but this bar was always packed when I walked through the casino. It is an attractive bar, and I suspect that is the reason it was so popular.
The Photo Gallery
Moving forward we enter the ship’s photo gallery. This is a rather huge area compared to other ships, but it allows one to find their photos a little more easily.
On the port side of the ship was my favorite venue, Michael’s Club. Michael’s is a piano bar and the lady that played there was a very talented entertainer and had everyone rocking in their chairs nightly. The atmosphere, service and entertainment created a perfect blend of sophistication that everyone enjoyed.
Forward of Michael’s Club was the lower part of the Celebrity Theater.
The Grand Foyer
Shore Excursion Desk
The forward area of deck 3 is made up of passenger cabins until one gets to the Grand Foyer. This is the location of the Customer Relations Desk, the Bank, and the Concierge and the Shore Excursion Desk.
United States Restaurant
Aft on the port side resides the United States Restaurant. This is the Infinity’s signature alternative dining restaurant. There is a $30 cover charge to dine there, but my personal experience would warn you against it..
United States Restaurant Place Setting
On the Millennium, I enjoyed the alternative restaurant, however on the Infinity, I found it to be more of a poorly executed performance, than 5-star dining. A group of us (18) made reservations for three tables of 6 and were looking forward to a fine dining experience. I sat at a table for 6 and our assistant Maitre d' began his charade with a condescending pseudo French accent and attitude complete with hand gesticulations introducing the evening's specials. He adamantly demanded that everyone try the cheese appetizer. He claimed that the sea bass was not the typical Chilean sea bass, but a very special Spanish one that was, well, ohh LaLa! The message was sent with the manual gesticulation of the fingers joining and bouncing off the lips of the Assistant Maitre d'.
Bottom line, I took the guy's suggestion against my better judgment. The cheese dish was OK, but the sea bass was foul. As the evening unfolded, the invasiveness of the servers became almost comical. The dinner was all about the act, not the dining experience; too bad. In all fairness, everyone else's entree was excellent, it was just the sea bass that was over the top. Nevertheless, the guy should not have sold it so aggressively without knowing it was truly excellent, which it was not.
By the way. I saw our "Assistant Maitre d'" bussing table in the AquaSpa buffet the next morning and wondered if he was as embarrassed, as I was. I would skip this dining venue, unless you hear from other folks on your cruise that it was great.
The Cinema and Conference Center make up the balance of the aft portion of deck 3. The Infinity offered nightly first run movies in the cinema with several showings. I never attended any of the movies, but those that did said it was great.
Sunday, August 29th, 2004; Vancouver, Canada
I boarded the Infinity with plenty of time to enjoy a lunch in the Oceanview Cafe. I reconfirmed our group's arrangements and then set out delivering flyers to our group's cabins. I was looking forward to meeting them for the first time at the evening's cocktail party. My luggage arrived right on time, so I unpacked and spent some time exploring the ship. It was like deja vu, as I was just on the Millennium in the Mediterranean earlier this year and the Infinity had the exact same layout, yet completely different artwork and utilization of some of the public space.
We were to meet in the Constellation Club at 7:30 pm, so I arrived by 7:00 to make sure that everything was OK. Christina, the group coordinator aboard the Infinity met me and made sure that everything was set up. At 7:30 folks started arriving and by 7:45 all of the group had shown up. I was fortunate that this was going to be another wonderful group. I immediately liked them all and could see I was in for another great Alaska cruise. We continued with the cocktail party until it was time to make our way to the main dinning room and to our reserved tables. We had a wonderful first dining experience and ended up closing the restaurant, deep in conversation. A few of us continued on to Michael's Club for an after-dinner drink before turning in for the evening. Tammy Rafferty, the lady that entertained in Michael's Club was simply fantastic. Not only was she an excellent entertainer, she was quite personable to boot. If she is on your cruise be sure to enjoy her music and wonderful company.
Monday, August 30th, 2004; Cruising the Inside Passage
I was up early for a quick breakfast and then on to Michael's Club for our first seminar. Having just come from a fantastic group of travel professionals that were a joy to be with, I was a bit apprehensive about a new group, hoping they would turn out to be the same. The seminar went well, however I am not sure some if the group initially knew how to take my humor. We ended the seminar a tad early and made our way to lunch. I spent the entire afternoon and early evening in my cabin working on a project that was now overdue. After meeting some of the group for cocktails, we had another fantastic dinner experience, again closing the restaurant. I am not sure if it was narcolepsy or not, but all I wanted to do was go to my cabin and go to sleep.
Tuesday, August 31st, 2004;
The mo9rning was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining and there was absolutely no wind at all. We anchored in Ketchikan right on schedule at 7 am. However, I have learned that it is much better to wait for the open tender call, rather than spend your morning hanging around waiting to get off the ship. We met for breakfast and then I decided to enjoy the AquaSpa's thalassotherapy pool and the adjoining Jacuzzis before open tender call. Some of the group joined me and it was very relaxing.
By the time we got out of the AquaSpa totally refreshed, it was open tender and we made our way to shore. Since the day was so beautiful, we decided to try to negotiate a Misty Fjords float plane tour. We were lucky to find one with SeaWind Aviation and signed up for the 2:00 pm tour with the guarantee that they would deliver us back to our ship, as last tender was at 3:30 pm. After negotiating the tour, we took the typical tourist visit to Ketchikan. I stopped for a lengthy telephone call and then visited Creek Street, the Deer Park Fish Hatchery, the Totem Pole Park and then back to the Ketchikan Creek Bridge to watch people catch and release salmon. Since we had been in Ketchikan last week and had such a wonderful time at the Arctic Bar, we thought we would revisit the bar just to say "hi". We were in luck, as the owner of the bar was there. What a hoot she is. You talk about feisty, Paula epitomizes the word feisty. We ordered an order of halibut and chips from Burger Queen across the street and settled into a wonderful lunch of wine and fish. The Arctic Bar (home of the happy bears) and Burger Queen became our choices for Ketchikan's "don't miss" category. Realizing that it was about time for our tour pick up, we rushed to meet the van that would take us to our float plane. Without being redundant, the trip was excellent and here is a complete review of it. We made it back within seconds of the last tender leaving and were the last people on the last tender leaving Ketchikan for two weeks running now.
Back on board, I decided to spend more time in the AquaSpa and headed straight to it. After what seemed minutes, but was actually hours, it was time to get ready for the evening's events. We had reservations for the United States Restaurant and I was looking forward to a wonderful 5-star dining experience. We met outside the restaurant, as our reservations were for 6:00 pm when the restaurant opened. I will save you the details and get right to the brunt of it. The assistant Maitre d' was a pain, the sea bass was lousy, the harpist was too loud, the service was too invasive and basically, I didn't have a good time, at all.
After dinner, I turned in (narcolepsy). I slept like a new born baby.
Wednesday, September 1st, 2004; Cruising Hubbard Glacier
Other than the viewing times for Hubbard Glacier, this was a total work day for me. I know, "boring"! When the viewing time for Hubbard Glacier started at 3:00 pm, I met some from our group in the hot tub to take in the beauty of the glacier.
Hubbard Glacier Actively Calving
After two hours of Jacuzziing and jumping out to take pictures as they presented themselves, I was ready to head downstairs to relax. Hubbard glacier, to me, is one of the most wonderful sights in Alaska. The glacier is huge, but it also has its own personality. You just have to experience it to understand its power. After spending some time in the AquaSpa, I made my way down to my cabin to get ready for the evening's dinner and entertainment. The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were performing an early show entitled "Let's Rock" and since I had not seen any of the shows yet, I decided to take this one in. It was great and it always amazes me how they can pull these shows off given the dynamics of a ship. Another great dining experience in the Trellis restaurant and I was off to bed.
Thursday, September 2nd, 2004; Juneau, Alaska
The weather had turned nasty and it was cold, rainy and windy as we arrived in Juneau at 8:00 am. After lingering for a while, some of us debarked the ship to do some shopping and exploring. A small group of us wanted to do a Mendenhall Glacier landing and started to negotiate for a helicopter. However, the weather was not going to cooperate and the helicopters were not going to fly in the afternoon. I needed prizes for the "Ideas for Prizes" so made some purchases and then went back to the ship to drop them off. I had been bragging about the crab legs at the Hanger Restaurant, so we made our way through Juneau to visit this excellent restaurant. They were not serving crab legs during the lunch period (only as an entree) but did have 120 pounds of fresh halibut. We all had halibut and chips and it was excellent. From there we headed down to the Red Dog Saloon. Phileas Poon, the famous piano player/entertainer that has worked at the Red Dog for 32 years, was not working during our visit last week on the Norwegian Star, but he was working today. This guy is so much fun. We enjoyed him so much that we stayed for three sets. After some last minute shopping, we boarded the Infinity and decided to spend some time in the AquaSpa's thalassotherapy pool and Jacuzzis. I was so relaxed that when it came time to dress for dinner, I decided to simply dine in the AquaSpa buffet and head for my cabin. It turned out to be an excellent choice as I went to sleep the second my head hit the pillow.
Friday, September 3rd, 2004; Sitka, Alaska
While we arrived in Sitka around 7:00 am, I decided to wait for open tender and spent the morning back in the AquaSpa. I had become addicted to the "rack" in the pool and found it so soothing and relaxing, that I simply could not stay out of it. This morning was great, as everyone was getting off the ship and I had it all to myself. After hearing that the ship had gone to open tenders, a small group of us climbed into a tender and then made our way to Sitka's tender wharf. It brought back bitter-sweet memories, as the last time I visited Sitka was on September 10th, 2001. I flew home that day and then took my wife to the airport on September 11th, 2001. Hearing of the events at the World Trade Center on the way home, I ended up returning to the airport to pick her up. The group of agents that were cruising with me, all got stuck in Sitka for almost a week, as they decided to stay for the evening of September 10th.
Sitka really is beautiful. We walked the town, I made several telephone calls and then we headed out to the Raptor Center and spent a good amount of time wandering its trails and taking in its beauty. The salmon were in full run and the stream was chock full of fish making their way to spawn. After a quick lunch (you guessed it, halibut and chips) we made our way back for the last tender to the ship. An afternoon visit to the AquaSpa (I am in a rut) and then off to a formal night dinner and a show.
Saturday, September 3rd, 2004; Cruising the Inside Passage
Today was the day for our second seminar so I was ready to go early. We held it in Michael's Club and it went great. The group had come together quite nicely and were enjoying one another's company. When the seminar was over, I was going to head up to get some lunch and when I stepped outside on deck 10, I discovered that it was a stellar day. The sun was shining and it was quite warm. I wasted no time in getting my bathing suit on to enjoy the bonus day of sunshine. It felt great!
Our group gathered prior to dinner one last time to share business cards and auction off some of the items folks bought and were now wondering why. We enjoyed our final dinner together and then I went to my cabin to pack for my return to San Diego.
Sunday, September 4th, 2004; Vancouver, Canada
I was off the ship early and grabbed a taxi to the airport (about $30 Canadian) to board my Alaska Airlines flight to San Diego. I was glad to be going home.