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   Cruise Travel - Reader Reviews

Welcome to Your Favorites, where you have the opportunity to share your travel experiences with fellow Internet Travelers around the world.

Celebrity Cruise Line

MV Infinity

Your Rating:Five Stars
Reviewed by: Anne Miller
# previous cruises: 1
Date of Trip: July 27, 2001
Itinerary: Alaska

This was my first cruise, and my family's as well. I wish I'd had chance to cruise the Inside Passage at age 6 or 9, as my grandchildren did this year -- or in my 30's, as my daughter and son-in-law did; but even at 69, it was a terrific experience, and all of us hope for more cruises in the future. Sailing the beautiful Alaskan coast, in the handsome Infinity, was a perfect way to go!

Public Areas
Infinity, being a new and beautifully decorated ship, features a number of comfortable public areas, most of which we used and admired. My grandchildren spent lots of time in the children's Fun Factory on Deck 11. Their parents loved the viewing from Constellation Lounge on the top deck. They all liked the heated indoor "therapy" pool (to them it was simply more fun to feel those jets and bubbles, without thought of any "therapy". We were pleased to be wrong about two rumors: there was NO charge for this pool, and the children WERE allowed to use it; Perhaps there's been a misunderstanding because adults must accompany children in that pool. My son in law and the two children loved the hot tubs outdoors around the Breezes pool. They did swim once or twice in the outdoor pool, but for our week's cruise we had cloudy weather, mostly in the 60's, making for pretty cool breezes. We adults used the casino a few times, but found the payoffs very very slim compared with those on various riverboats or Las Vegas slots. The casino decor is very handsome,Egyptian theme, and the smoke there was less annoying than in most Lower 48 casinos.

Celebrities Theatre is very comfortable, with its banquette seating and little tables; and its decor is suitably splashy. We liked the large video monitors on both sides of the stage. On the pool deck, there are a great many chaise lounges, both in the open and enclosed, with heaps of soft lap robes to keep out the chilly breezes. This was another favorite family area for watching the ever-changing Inside Passage scenery. Another area that was fun for us was the photo display lounge on Deck 4, a much used pass=through en route to the theatre or casino; it was always interesting to look at the many photos taken by the ship's photographers. Incidentally, we never felt any pressure either to pose or to buy. In fact, the photography was so low-key that we didn't even realize some of the photo ops were available, or we might have done a few more. We appreciated the availability of sets of photos of the public areas, the glaciers, etc. -- at very reasonable prices. I noted a number of excellent group photos of large families, reunions, etc. -- what a marvelous chance to get everyone together for a group picture while they are all dressed up for the formal dinner! I'd read some cruise reviews complaining about the photographers being "in your face" but we found this to be absolutely without basis in fact. If you wanted a picture, the camera person was there; but except for the photo at boarding (and who wouldn't want that??) we were always the ones to make the request. Now, on to the tour of public areas. I liked Words, the library, for quiet late night reading, when the children were asleep in my stateroom. It's a pretty, comfortable, well lighted library; but it's really weird to have all those books locked away behind glass, with only a few hours each day when a staff person is there to check out books. I think this system has been made necessary because so many volumes were being taken and never returned; but it certainly prevents most people from using the library as a source of books. Instead,a it using the books and magazines brought from home.

The Oceanview Cafe buffet area on Deck 10 with its expansive windows and its quirky round "portholes" in the floor (the kids loved them), as well as its outside dining area at the stern, would have been a fine place just to sit and watch the scenery during the day. Alas, at meal times it was noisy and chaotic, so that we much preferred the main dining room whenever we had time for its leisurely pace. I ate outdoors several times, being the least affected by cool breezes of m family; and this was a delight. The children made good use of the pizza bar, which was a boon some evenings. They had their favorite food, and we had the elegant dinners while the kids ate bread and dessert! We liked the Trellis Dining Room,too, with its "Titanic" style string ensemble and its bevy of attentive servers. The ambience of this room attracted us far more than that of the Cafe, and we found that on the Open Seating days, when preparing to go ashore, the main dining room could put out a meal as quickly as the cafeteria, with a lot less noise!

I liked the small quiet seating areas to be found all over he ship; and the rows and rows of deck lounges (not much used). The art on this ship is as striking as I'd heard! We did take a video of one --I guess the word is "strange" -- item, a row of what appeared to be sprouted potatoes in a long glass case. They did resemble space aliens or some other weird forms, and they made us smile. Mostly, though the art works were impressive, and fit the spaces well. We went through the video arcade once or twice, finding it always crowded and very noisy -- and why spend a precious moment of this cruise shut away in a windowless arcade?? But it was always busy. We didn't use the cocktail areas much; one night I watched a bit of karaoke (such a lot of untalented people~), and it was a good venue for cooking demos and lectures. All the seating on this ship seems to be designed for maximum comfort! Not a public area, the galley was available to us on an unlisted tour (you have to ask Customer Relations) and it was an unbelievable experience, one we all enjoyed. I also got to tour the other semi-public area, when I tripped on the pier and cut my eyebrow, necessitating a trip to the ship's infirmary. It is modern and seemed well equipped and staffed, and I was taken care of quickly to get me on m next shore excursion; the doctors made sure I followed up by seeing them daily, and I was very pleased with everything done for me. However, the person in charge of taking down written information was possessed of very limited English, and had a lot of trouble doing this job, so that it took far, far longer than it should have. The two-story main lobby is breathtaking, and well arranged for locating various areas. We all loved the glass elevators -- what a great idea for enhancing the viewing opportunities! -- and with these plus the other fore and aft elevators, and lots of stairways, there were almost never any long waits. All in all, the public areas get 5 stars. Though this was my first cruise, I have stayed at many hotels and resorts that could take a lesson from the Infinity's designers in terms of comfort and convenience.

Food and Service
Food and service were both very good, though of course the buffet had minimal service (but waiters were always available to carry trays if needed). Our Trellis waiter, Amando, was just outstanding, as was the assistant, Ivica, and the satellite staff. After one day, they knew our beverage preferences, and had the children supplied with hot chocolate as soon as they sat down. The displays of food in the buffet were always both tempting and very handsome. We could have lived on the bread! What a variety, what excellent texture and flavor! We also loved being able to request exactly what we wanted in the Trellis, so that on at least two nights we indulged in our own versions of Surf and Turf. Presentations in that dining room were stunning. We learned in part why this was so, on our galley tour, as we saw each plate depicted in a photograph so the waiters would arrange it exactly the same.

We were pleased with nearly everything, and were amazed that they could manage to serve eggs and beef exactly as ordered, even though sometimes they held them briefly at the serving station while we finished a previous course. Having seen the menus from other cruise lines, I found the lunch selections a bit sparse (we rarely chose lunch in the Trellis), and we were surprised not to find any Alaskan King Crab on any of the menus, ever! -- but really didn't mind. It was something of a disappointment that the Infinity doesn't provide souvenir menu copies as most lines do. Sharing the food report with friends is one way to sell a cruise! I've noted before that the children loved the pizza bars, and we also took advantage of the pastry and afternoon tea items in the Cova area. I did stay up to see, and get a few bites from, the utterly astounding Grand Midnight Buffet, but for our family, operating on a four-hour time delay from home, th very idea of staying away to eat again at midnight was impossible, even if we had had room after the sumptuous dinners. Oh, and of course the one big complaint about food - American family with kids: why on earth are soft drinks not one of the beverages included, at least at the buffet and dining room? I've seen numerous complaints about this in reviews. I know why alcohol has to be extra, but Cokes are really pretty cheap when served in bulk, and to be charged $2 plus tip every time seemed a bit high.

Our cabins were on Deck 8, two adjoining Premium Veranda rooms, and we found them handsome and comfortable. We kept the connecting door open most of the time, which was an added convenience. All the mirrors certainly make the room seem more spacious! It's so good to have a sofa (even if we spent little time in the room). Bathroom is compact but very well designed, with a roomy shower (but they need to provide written directions for its use!) and plenty of soft hot water. The room was quiet; we almost never heard noise from the halls nor from the next room. Closets and drawers were plentiful; I used the safe a lot; and I only wish my beds at home had as much space underneath! We could stow all our suitcases and purchases under the bed! Only two negatives: when the sofa bed was opened and made up, as they did at dinnertime, there was no room to get to the balcony, so we'd have to re-fold the bed, as we often wanted to be outdoors in the evening. Also, the two bedside lamps, which OK for reading in bed, aren't tall enough for good reading light on the sofa, and ALL the other lights are on a single switch, so either you have to light the whole room with full brightness or you're in the dark, except for the bedside lamp. At the very least the rooms need lights over the desk area! It was more inconvenient for me because the children went to bed earlier than I did, so the lights had to be out, but I'm a late reader, so I headed for the library.

We all went to the big Broadway stage show, and liked the choices of music, but our consensus was "Cliff Notes with sequins." I suppose the shows are Vegas type, a lot of glitz and loud sound, and of course the shows must appeal to a wide range of tastes. You can't please the 9-year-old like the evening of impersonations of famous performers. The aerialists aren't our thing, and the pianist should stick to magic. He substituted volume for accuracy (and of course the orchestra covers a lot of his mistakes). But we are longtime lovers of Broadway theatre, and we thought the ensemble singers and dancers, and the tenor, were fine. It was just fun to have a chance to attend these shows as part of the free on board activity list. We just wouldn't book a cruise simply for the entertainment. On the other hand, the harpist, the string ensemble, and the lounge bands were all very enjoyable.

I've covered most of our on board activities; we spent a lot of time just watching scenery and listening to the very interesting and helpful information which came over the loudspeakers on decks, in public areas, and on our room TV. This was especially good to have as we cruised the many islands and bays of the Inside Passage, and on our day at Hubbard Glacier. We also liked having the Tlingit native Americans in costume on board that day. We went to the first bingo game, but thought it horribly overpriced, slow paced, and not worth the time or money. The children and I had fun watching the Newlywed Game, and I sat in on a couple of other lectures. Our three shore days were simply wonderful. This trip was a retracing of the path my husband took when he was stationed in this area with the Coast Guard fifty years ago, and I'd brought old photos: we could see the very same scenery around us, and it was a thrill. He never made it back, so we came here in his honor and memory. Juneau, first stop, began with very light rain, but gave way to clouds and even brief sun. All week we had sixties temps and lots of clouds, but rain only this day and again when we got to Ketchikan. We'd come from humid nineties temps at home, and as long as I wore my Celebrity Lines windbreaker (bought the first day on sale), I was perfectly comfortable in short sleeves under it.

In Juneau I got off as soon as we cleared, had a photo taken with the moose and eagle suited characters on the pier, and headed for the nearby Mt. Roberts Tramway. If you have time, do this! It offers a gorgeous view of the harbor and area as you ascend, and there are trails up top, a film and museum area, and a very good uncrowded gift shop with top quality native crafts as well as tourist stuff. One ticket is good all day, so you can go up and down several times if your schedule permits. I liked the overview, since we weren't taking any of the helicopter flights. We grabbed sandwich makings from the buffet before catching our tour bus right on the pier for the City Tour and Mendenhall Glacier trip. To first-timers who are not eager for helicopter rides, we very highly recommend the trip we chose. Our driver was a local 4th grade teacher, enjoying his summer job and doing it very well. He pointed out sites of interest and told some local history as we rode the 13 miles out of town to the Mendenhall Glacier for prime viewing of the stunning natural wonder. The roads go only a few miles out of town; this state capital is reached only by ship or plane. The tour stops for photo ops, gives time at a salmon hatchery (and we saw lots of wild salmon swimming upstream at our other stops) and is a breathtaking experience. Later we went to the salmon bake at Gold Rush Camp, another beautiful setting, with trails to a waterfall, a chance to pan for gold flecks on our own (found some!), a hasky to pet, campfire & marshmallows, folk singer, excellent salmon and pretty good side dishes, probably the best of the various salmon bakes you are offered on the cruise.

In Skagway we took the train up to the Yukon pass, and the bus back, with a stop at Liarsville gold rush camp for tall tales and songs, another fun experience; we panned for gold there, too, but all those pans were pre-salted so it wasn't the thrill! The trail the miners took across those formidable mountains. I recommend you read James Michener's "Alaska" for a wonderful telling of the gold rush story! Having read that book really gave me extra insights into and enjoyment of all the things we saw. Our day at the Hubbard Glacier, while not on shore, was like a shore excursion because the captain got us as close as possible to shore, where we could see and hear the calving of the small begs; and could observe the sea lions. The ship pivoted several times during our hours in that bay, allowing people to see all the facets of the scene from everywhere on the ship. It was an exceptional day, and one we later heard from other ships' passengers that was NOT always done. Our day in Ketchikan, though there was light rain off and on, was a truly excellent time. As in all the ports, I did some shopping (use the many coupons offered on board or at visitor centers to get little souvenir items. My granddaughter loved the hematite jewelry she got using coupons --a necklace in Juneau, earrings in Skagway, and a ring in Ketchikan.

I splurged and added a 49 cent bracelet. I took the children on a bus tour to Saxman Tribal Village where we saw the Tlingit totem carvers and a wonderful array of tall totem poles, plus a video of the clan, and authentic tribal dances in the Clan House. It was fascinating! Our bus driver was mediocre, but I had read enough about the legends to fill in the blanks. Later we went to the Great Alaska Lumberjack Show, which I very highly recommend, especially to families! My daughter and her husband took a bus and catamaran to go sea kayaking, where they had lots of closeup encounters with wildlife. They loved this trip! As for Ketchikan itself, I would like to spend a lot more time in that pretty little town. It had perhaps the best array of native crafts and Alaskan art, plus picturesque and historic areas. As for the child care situation on the Infinity, we give it 5 stars PLUS. Not only is the play area great, so are the Counselors All children under ten. A day and evening slate of activities suited to each of the four age groups made it great for opting in and out as our kids attended many tours (the bridge, the backstage area) and did crafts, acting, TV, Playstations, treasure and scavenber hunts, and many more. The last night they had a carnival, gave each child a t shirt to paint, and a backpack with art supplies to take home. There was no extra charge for any of this. We did pay a minimal fee for on the formal dinner night when the kids' area had a pizza party and films and other fun to let parents dine in peace. The second formal night the kids wanted to join us and dress up. The optional paid sitting was also offered for parents who wanted to go on shore excursions not suited to children. There were about 300 children on this cruise, 100 of them teenagers. Some stayed with their parents or nannies, but most seemed to opt in and out of the programs as ours did. We cannot praise Infinity's child care program highly enough! We'd stick with this cruise line on that basis alone, even if it hadn't all been so much to our liking.

Who Goes
There seemed to be a very wide range of ages on this cruise, just right for a town of 2000 people. Enough kids but not TOO many. Seniors, but not too many. A number of family groups. We were self-sufficient, but I met a few very friendly people, and a few who were concerned about my black eye (from the fall at Skagway) and took care to follow up on my condition. They'd make fine dinner guests. There were also a few who needed to learn to say "no" to their children. One small screamer could have benefited from a bit of skilled parenting. We thought the passenger mix was just right for us.

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