May 20-30, 2003
Hawaii and Transpacific to Vancouver
days - from Honolulu to Maui, Kauai & the Big Island of Hawaii
& then a 5 day high speed Pacific crossing taking us back to our
home in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Since Sept. 02, we have cruised 3 times prior to this Infinity cruise;
HAL to Alaska; Crystal Harmony, 14 days Panama Canal; and Celebrity
Mercury - coastal California and Cabo San Lucas, r/t from San
We want to cruise more and are looking for a
line that's more affordable than Crystal etc. and still has some
premium touches and better quality food. We weren't very happy
with the food on the Mercury and are happy to report that the rumors
we've heard about the Millennium class ships having better food are
The worst part of cruising for us is not the long line for embarkation
and debarkation but having to fly great distances to get to the
cruise. You might want to skip this section because it is basically a
rant about a difficult trip to Honolulu. Aloha Airlines flew us to
Maui from Vancouver, BC. We grabbed an Aloha inter-island connecting
flight to Honolulu.
We were met by efficient Celebrity reps in Honolulu who looked after
our luggage and took us to a van for the short trip to the Aloha Tower
where the Infinity was berthed. A beautiful sight! The lines were long
for security & embarkation but the magic of the Captain's club
card put us in the shortest line and quickly on board.
We booked veranda cabin 8006, Category 2A which was about the same
square footage as the recent Mercury cruise we took but the cabin
storage and design were far superior. The similar sized cabin on the
Mercury was so unappealing that we paid for an upgrade. We like the
newer ships; cabin ergonomics are being improved in gigantic leaps.
The bathroom was cruise ship tiny but well organized, with chrome
railings bordering glass shelves at shoulder level and counter level.
It held our bathroom stuff easily. The compact shower over the tub was
squared off and had room for my shower seat and I still had some leg
room. There was a sturdy grab bar on the wall at the rear of the tub
and what I thought was another grab bar. It looked just like the other
one but it was vertical and held the shower head and its hose. It was
just to hold those things but could easily be confused with the sturdy
bar in the same tub. Be careful in there. Efficient, artistic, simple
industrial design. Love those newer ships. In the cabin there was a
storage closet or cabinet that held everything we had brought, and the
wall opposite the bed was fully mirrored, giving a feeling of
spaciousness. Our luggage fit under the bed. A love seat across from a
mirrored wall with a vanity were in front of the sliding glass doors
to our veranda. Sitting on the veranda as be glided into a dock at
Nawiliwili is a particularly nice memory. Celebrity mentions in their
brochure that they are choosing colors and mirrors that are geared to
the smaller spaces, and they are right. It had a great feeling. Floor
to ceiling sliding doors led to the pleasant veranda.
Our good friends Micky & Laurie joined us in a balcony cabin
nearby. We had considered Celebrity's new Concierge
Class which adds some amenities; thicker robes, extended room
service hours, flowers, champagne etc. The cabin, however, is the very
same but the cost is much higher just for a few goodies. Crystal has
an open house where you can see different cabins during their cruises
but the myriad of Celebrity balcony configurations is a well kept
secret. A deck and floor plan on the internet can tell you a lot but
the views and privacy factors are sometimes a shock on the first day.
The expensive sky suites with oversized verandas are not very private.
Those verandas are very visible from the big pool and recreation
It was the most slipshod life boat drill we have ever experienced. It
was held at the ungodly hour of 10:30PM, Hawaiian time, which was the
same as 1:30 AM Pacific time and 4:30 AM, Eastern Time. It took all of
our strength to remain awake late enough for the drill. We followed
the instructions in our cabin and reported to the muster station and
were told that we had reported to the wrong place.
The blithely officious staff sent us to yet another deck where we
were instructed to return to where we first reported. Eventually we
gathered under the lifeboats/davits and were then dismissed without
any crew members taking passenger attendance for this drill. It was a
true mess of people milling around, not sure where they should be.
It's the first lifeboat drill we've attended that didn't
have a ship's officer watching over the hotel staff during the
drill at our muster station. There was no sense of the ships officers
anywhere at this scary excuse for a drill. I shuddered to think what
would happen in a real emergency. Celebrity needs to clean up this
safety issue on the Infinity and to have it earlier in the evening,
considering the average age of the passengers and the fact that most
everyone had a long, long day flying to Hawaii from the east and west
We enjoyed juice/coffee and rolls some mornings on our veranda. We
appreciated having separate room service wait staff and not having our
cabin steward have to stop cleaning a toilet (as they do on some
ships) and deliver our continental breakfast.
Bernardo from Goa, India, and his assistant Nigel from Bombay were
great. They kept the steel water jug full and the cabin clean, with
extra towels as needed. We wish the stewards could have a day off once
in a while.
We would be glad to make our bed and straighten up one day a week
on a cruise, so Stewards could have a day off every couple of weeks.
They had 18 cabins to clean and never stopped smiling.
THE TRELLIS DINING ROOM
Our table for 4 was perfectly located near the Captain's table,
and in front of the 2-decks-high floor-to-ceiling windows all the way
aft for my wife and me and our friends Micky and Laurie. We were near
a waiter's serving and organizing station but that never bothers
us. We like them nearby. Ruby from So. Africa was our waiter and Jose
from Spain was her assistant.
It's great not having a language barrier with waiters and
assistants. Ruby had a glorious So. African flavored, universal
English accent and Jose had been a language major at Cambridge in
England and spoke perfectly nuanced English. I don't think Ruby
will be a waiter for long... she was great and so people-oriented
without being obsequious, & Jose's command of English and his
great attitude should see him becoming a waiter soon. We'll be
cruising Celebrity again and expect to see Ruby or female wait staff
like her, moving up to a dining room asst. head waiter position. We
have seen no women in this position on Celebrity yet and it's time
they started promoting more female dining staff. Title 9 doesn't
apply to ships registered in other countries so it's a slow
The food on the Infinity in the Trellis Room was good except for
the quality of the beef. The sauces and soups were very good. We were
served the best large, succulent lobster we've ever had on any
cruise ship. Yummy! Too bad it's only served on one night.
SS UNITED STATES
The 4 of us booked one dinner at the alternative, $25. per head S.S.
United States dining room. It's a lovely room with an art deco
flair and music from the 50's. They try to overwhelm diners with
very fancy service, attempting to match the look and feel of the room.
The waiters and captains laboriously recite speeches that someone has
carefully written about the various dishes they are preparing
tableside. The bottom line is that the appetizers (goat cheese soufflé)
and the desserts, crepes, chocolate soufflé etc. are great and the
entrees weren't as good as in the Trellis dining room.
Two of us ordered steaks and had to send them back. We
were informed later that they never should have served those steaks and that the butcher dept. was at fault.
They eventually found us better ones. The first ones were really tough and impossible to eat.
They do Zabligione tableside and the waiter stirs up the mix to consistency banging a spoon
on the metal pan as he does it and it takes 10 minutes of hearing the click of the spoon
against the pan. Then the process starts up at another table. Yikes!
I know some folks have never experienced fancy
tableside food preparation but the SS United States is not the place to start. The waiters have a great
attitude but are poorly rehearsed and don't have enough background in the food they are preparing; they
just keep parroting the speech they have learned by rote while they prepare the food. They also want to
simultaneously serve all the food in synch so if one thing is ready a waiter just stands there
letting part of the order get cold while waiting for the other food to arrive so everything can
be placed on the table at in synch. Sort of like watching a 3 stooges comedy
while your food gets cold.
The SS United States needs less wait staff with
more fine dining experience. One of our party asked for some crackers with the soup course and it totally
threw the servers. We got the crackers eventually but it took a lot of patience waiting for them to fit
delivering crackers into their tightly scripted dinner service. When you make the reservation they tell you
to allow 2 1/2 hours for the meal. It's a long 2 1/2 hours. Save your $25.00 per person.
There is the Oceanview Cafe, starboard, aft of the buffet with a glorious ocean vista. It's
open for dinner with a few simple, perfectly grilled items, chicken, fish, steak, etc. and a $2.00
per person gratuity charge.
Well worth the 2 bucks to eat on deck or inside, in
the twilight, without having to wear long pants. Reservations need to be made with your Asst. Maitre d'
or by phone during certain hours. It was much better than the SS United States.
During the day the Oceanview buffet has a theme lunch available; European, Italian, Mexican, Asian etc.
depending on the day of the week. It looks like Mexican or Asian or whatever food and there is plenty
but it still has a certain institutional sameness.
MORE DINING OPTIONS
Celebrity doesn't stint on places to eat... there's the Breezes grill with burgers, dogs, veggie
burgers and pizza, next to the pool, the Oceanview Grill all the way aft of the Oceanview Cafe
serving soup, salad and sandwiches; the Cova Cafe with a European type
breakfast & our favorite place for eating healthily, the Aqua Spa cafe. Love that Aqua Spa!
The Aqua Spa was the place we went to eat at least one
healthy, heart smart meal per day. A great example of spa cuisine. Not a groaning board like the buffet,
just a great selection of healthy snacks, salads, soups and entrees.
The only place I ever saw the ship's officers was at
the Cova... the rest of the time they are invisible except for the obligatory Captain's party.
There is Sushi at the buffet in the evenings but no other Asian food except for one day at the buffet, in
a theme lunch. There is also free ice cream served all afternoon, and pizza and a baked pasta dish are
also available until 1AM. They have simple, acceptable, red sauce mostly,
banquet level pasta station at the Oceanview Cafe. We would always check what Horace the starboard side
pasta chef was making every day before we made a decision on what to eat when we chose the buffet for
There are a couple of omelet stations for breakfast
and when we went to the buffet we liked to go to Anthony from Jamaica's
station... he cheerfully made a great omelet every time.
THE GRAND BUFFETS
Ruby our waiter said not to miss this buffet and we stayed up for it and stood in long lines
to photograph the buffet and were then sent to the back of other long lines in order to
actually eat. We skipped the food; we couldn't handle another long line at 30
minutes after midnight. We were PO'd. We wanted some of that good looking buffet. The worst part was
that if we had gotten there later we would have been at the head of the food line; instead we
ended up in the photography line which put us at the end of the food line. Penalized for
The Grand Buffet could replace one evening meal in the
Main room; that way everyone can enjoy it. Considering the age demographic of this cruise we'd like the
buffets to be day and early evening events. The Grand Buffet and a couple more were held near midnight. I
preferred the way Crystal did it during the day with all kinds of well prepared special buffets.
Crystal also closes other dining venues during these spectacular buffets, giving some of the
hard working staff time off. I recognize the fact that some of the serving staff has to work the
buffet but many of them could be off.
CASUAL AFTERNOON TEA
It's not high tea on Celebrity. The afternoon tea on the Infinity is rather
pedestrian. No scones except on the day they have the tea in the Trellis dining room and they taste more
like Irish soda biscuits than scones, and the whipped cream is thin and doesn't stand up
well. The rest of the time, tea is held in the buffet area with tea and
bite sized desserts.
MASTER CRUISE SCHEDULE
The "Infinity Daily" lists dining venues, events and shows, but only on a daily basis. They
should do a weekly sheet outlining the dress code for each evening along with the
entertainment lineup and the special buffets. It would be helpful in planning your
dining room alternatives and entertainment in advance without waiting for the paper each day.
I know that some folks love to dress up, and I can stand one formal night, but 3 in 10 days?
It's like kids playing dress up. Same with informal...why should we have to wear a sport coat
for 5 evenings on a Hawaiian vacation? Tasteful cruise or country club casual should be the
norm in the dining room and there should be one shorts night in the dining room, in my
opinion. Tasteful cruise casual is becoming the norm on some of the smaller, upscale ships.
Celebrity also forces you to keep your formal or informal clothes on in order to be
admitted to the shows. Thumbs down on that. It's supposed to be a vacation.
The age demographic is changing to a younger crowd and Celebrity needs a more contemporary approach.
THE FITNESS CENTER
Lovely facility with modern equipment... all the goodies. State of the art. The treadmills have
the best views of the ship cutting through the sea. The recumbent exercise bikes are off in a
narrow aisle where the lights in the low ceiling are so close that you heat up immediately
using 3 of the 4recumbent bikes.
I always went early in the AM to get my pick of the
bikes and to avoid having a mini flood light over my head as I exercised.
There were no disinfectant or throwaway wipes available in the gym to clean the equipment before
using it as there was on the Mercury. A lot of folks use this equipment, and Celebrity needs to keep
something handy so passengers can clean off the machines before each use. And after, even. They had
us fill out a SARs questionnaire but had no disinfectant in the Gym. Go figure.
The other reason to get up and get fitness out of the
way early is the booming music that accompanies classes held in the same room that the exercise
equipment is in.
We enjoyed the comedy magician, Carl Andrews, whom we saw on the
Mercury... he did all different material and we truly enjoyed his unique act. We used to relax in
the Rendez-Vous lounge before dinner watching the dancers twirling to the music of the Atlantic duo;
a couple of wild & crazy guys from somewhere in eastern Europe playing everything from the
Beatles to Swing era favorites. They each sang, harmonized, & they
played 3 or 4 different instruments. Jason Richards held forth in Michael's Piano Club and
guitarist Deak Dietrich could be found in the Ocean View bar aft.
We weren't much interested in the production
shows... the singers and dancers worked very hard and the 8 piece Celebrity orchestra was good but the shows
tried to do too much of too many things while changing clothes a lot. The sound system in the Celebrity
theater was always too loud; the sound guy was also running the light cues instead of just being able to
mix the sound.
We enjoyed it when the Celebrity orchestra played for
dancing or when the cruise director did one of his numbers. Hell of a band. A line from Butch Cassidy and
the Sundance kid comes to mind, "These guys are good..."
Don Fluke was the best Cruise Director we have ever sailed with. He managed to be low key
and upbeat at the same time. He kept it simple, short and very pleasant. We are not big on
the activities, but Don's demeanor caused us to attend more organized events
that we would normally. We won the movie trivia contest and the prizes were Celebrity travel alarm
clocks, not the usual T shirts or ball pens. He came on one evening to introduce one of the
headliners and performed a show stopping number (the Joel Grey part) from the musical
Cabaret with and without a German accent. Fantastic! We always watch the video of the
disembarkation info and he said it all quickly and easily. Kudos to him
and his hardworking, equally low key but always positive staff. We're hoping to take a 20 plus day cruise in the
next year or so and we would hope for a Cruise Director like him.
It's one of our favorite shipboard places... there are fiction and non fiction books on 2 decks
presided over by Andrea who is a knowledgeable librarian. All kinds of books
thoughtfully selected, from cheap popular fiction to interesting scholarly stuff.
A quiet and peaceful place to relax and read. Far superior in space, ambience and selection to the older
GOING ASHORE & RETURNING TO THE SHIP
is getting more difficult what with a lot of tendering coupled with doubled security that we
experienced in the Hawaiian islands. When you return to the pier to board the ship or to
board the tender to the ship in Hawaii, there is an additional security setup on the pier to
clear you before you go to the ship and present yourself to Celebrity security for another
clearance. This is on the pier before you return to the ship, where you have to repeat the
same process again almost immediately. This is the first time we have experienced the
doubling of the security process at any ports.
Federal law requires Celebrity to check you with their
security troops; by law they can't accept the fact you have cleared pier security and pier security refuses
to accept Celebrity's clearance process. They want to do their own.
A knowledgeable merchant selling at the pier said that
the double security is to keep the Hawaiian security people employed and that is why the pier won't accept
only Celebrity security clearing passengers. It makes you think twice before venturing off the ship again
for more shopping after lunch and a nap. Passengers coming back to the ship in waves have to
wait in pier security lines, where they have to place all of their shore bought goodies on the
conveyor to the X-Ray machine and pass themselves through a metal detector,
empty their pockets again etc. and then repeat the process moments later when they reboard the ship.
Docked at Nawiliwili... No tendering... many free shuttles to
shopping... a beautiful ocean front Marriott hotel with a nice beach we were allowed to
use... a pleasant afternoon with a light tropical breeze... wandered the huge semi open air public rooms
of the hotel, admiring the sculpture, art & landscaping etc...
photographed a beautiful koi pond & bought some Hawaiian slack key guitar CD's to get into
the island groove.
We tendered to shore and checked out the huge open air market happening under the giant
banyan tree situated in the center of town. Beautiful place. Extremely hot
HILO & KONA
There are two ports on the Big Island. Hilo is a more industrial port. We shuttled to Hilo
Hattie's and bought some island wear and then wandered across the street to Wal-Mart
where they had the best souvenirs with the lowest prices. And gorgeous all-cotton
Hawaiian print fabrics, very well-priced. My wife bought all that was left of a couple of them and is
trying to get more.
We took a glass bottom boat excursion at
$25 per head. It was a total rip off. Nice little boat out to see a denuded, dead and almost fishless reef. There was
nothing to see. Celebrity shouldn't offer tours that don't deliver.
We tip early in the week to insure better service. Celebrity has the cabin attendant leave the
tip envelopes in your cabin wrapped in a band with the suggested tipping
"guidelines" listed. They have added envelopes for a 75 cents per person per day for the
asst. maitre d' and 50 cents a day for the chief housekeeper into the usual tipping mix.
I think that's cutting it a bit fine. We always take care of the asst. maitre d' in our dining area when he
deserves it, and the chief housekeeper's tip should be folded into the cabin attendant tip. Vacationing
passengers shouldn't be asked to divide up and parcel out the tokes. Staff involved should
be responsible. It they need to raise the cabin steward's daily tip amount in order to
accommodate the chief housekeeper, so be it.
Celebrity seems to be trying to shame the less
traveled passengers into this multi envelope system in order to keep their employees happy and to not
effect Celebrity's bottom line.
The wait staff, buffet serving line and service personnel are obviously tired. There is no day
off for them; a half day once in a while at best. Some of them working the cafes during the
day are almost zombie like. They are fried. Close that dining room one day a
week or combine other venues and buffets so that the troops can refresh themselves a bit. They never stop
smiling though, because in the world they come from these are very good jobs that allow
them to save money to buy a house etc. To me it smacks of indentured servitude.
Management style seems to turn out all of the troops
all of the time so they can make sure that everything is covered even when the venue is not full of
passengers needing service. Rotating the closing of the dining venues would allow
time off and give the passengers something different. I don't know how many cruisers notice the crew but
we've spent our working lives scheduling motion picture and TV production crews and we know from our
own personal experience how grueling weeks are with no days off.
These nice crewpersons are tired and it shows. Crystal
manages to rotate the troops better but Crystal is also in my opinion the best managed cruise line.
We think we have found a cruise home with Celebrity. We had a nice cruise. We particularly
enjoyed the high speed run between Hawaii and Vancouver. The cruises for us are about the
voyages and the ability to relax and wind down. Celebrity fits the bill better
than most in this price range. The Infinity was a great cruise vacation. The Aqua Spa grill was a real
treat. I'm resigning myself to the fact that it's banquet food in the dining room because of the reality
of serving eight or nine thousand meals a day. Celebrity is better than most Las Vegas hotels in
the food area. We thought the internet service was a rip off price wise and we miss the
washer/dryer rooms available on Crystal, HAL etc. We also want more TV
choices when the ship is in satellite or antenna range; it's easy to do in this modern world. We loved
the library and the lounge entertainment a lot. We missed having a protected promenade deck where
you can keep walking round and round and then plop in a nice lounge chair when the mood
strikes you, away from the hurly burly of the well attended, organized hi
jinks on the pool decks. The little jogging track on the top of the ship is not long enough and too
windswept when the ship is making 23 knots and sun swept when in port.
We are looking forward to our next cruise sailing from
Anchorage to Vancouver on the brand new Island Princess on Sept. 13th.
We have the good fortune to live directly across Burrard inlet from Canada Place where we see all the
ships coming and going in the summer. We watched the Island Princess sail in under Lion's Gate Bridge and
dock at Canada Place here in Vancouver a month ago for her christening ceremony and it's a majestic ship. We
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