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Our Background: We are a married couple, retired early, and we were traveling with my sister-in-law and her husband. This was cruise number 8 for us and number 2 for our friends. This was our 3rd cruise on Celebrity and our friends 2nd. Our ages range from the 40s to the 60s.
Flight to San Diego: Our flight was arranged by Celebrity, and we had no problem with the flight. We flew on Delta. We changed planes in Salt Lake City, Utah.
San Diego Stay: We stayed at the Sheraton Marina Hotel. We have stayed there before, and we were happy with the arrangements. We did think, though, that the rooms we had last time in the West tower were newer and nicer. The hotel was decorated for Christmas with a beautiful large tree and many other decorations.
When we arrived in San Diego on Friday evening, December 3rd, it was in the low 60s, and sunny. The very next day it turned chilly and it rained off and on all day. Saturday, we took the Trolly tour and rode the Trolly most of the day to places like, Old Town, the Gaslight district, Balboa Park and the Zoo area, Coronado hotel and beach area, etc. The Trolly is a great way to see San Diego. You can get on and off wherever you want and pick up the next one to continue the tour. We bought our tickets ($20 pp for all day) at the hotel and got a ride to Seaport Village where we started our tour. My brother-in-law wanted to get off and shop at the last minute in the Gaslight district, and I felt bad because of the quick decision, I didn't have time to tip the Trolley tour guide, but we did have her again at the end of the day, and we had a chance to talk to her. She was great, as were most of the others.
Embarkation: We had a transfer by bus from our hotel to the pier, and all went smoothly. They handled our luggage, and we got to the pier around 1:30 or 2 pm. The ship didn't sail till 9 pm, but we were onboard within around a half-hour. Embarkation went very smoothly. They had snacks available in the terminal, but embarkation went so fast that we didn't have a chance to grab anything.
Once onboard, we were given the choice of champagne or orange juice and led to our room by a white-gloved steward. Nice touch Celebrity!
The Ship: We had been on the Infinity once before, so we already knew our way around. The Infinity is a beautiful, very clean, well kept, and very classy ship. It carries around 2000 passengers, but it never really seems crowded. The ship has the usual night-clubs, bars, and theaters. The main show room, the Celebrity Theater, is two-story and has good site lines.
Infinity has a wonderful aqua spa, sauna, and a thalassotherapy pool. I did not use any of these great amenities, but others said they were wonderful. There is no charge for the thalassotherapy pool on the Infinity. There is also a very large gymnasium with a sea view for those who wish to work off the calories from all the good food. There is a very good size pool and whirlpool on resort deck. My husband says that there is a walking track, too, but there's plenty of walking just from forward to aft on a ship this size. The ship was beautifully decorated for the holidays!
Sail-Away Party: There were around 250 members of a large cruise board on this cruise, and we were invited to a sail-away party in the Penthouse Suite. Our hosts were wonderful people, and it was a great start to the cruise. We met many wonderful people on this cruise which helped to make it so special.
Our Room: We had a balcony guarantee which turned out to be room 8011 which was forward of the ship. There were only two other passenger rooms ahead of us. The room has plenty of drawer space, and a good amount of closet space, but for me, on a 15-night cruise, I could have used a bit more closet space. There was room under the bed to store the suitcases. There was a glass table and a loveseat (which made into a bed) next to the balcony, and there was a dresser with mirror, also. The balcony had a small table and two chairs. We were happy with our room.
Room Steward: Our room steward, Wilbert, was excellent. We asked for extra washcloths and to raise the head of my bed a bit, and he did both. He always had the extra washcloths, and the room was kept spotless even though I liked to sleep in on sea days. Our ice bucket was always full, and our water pitcher was always full. We were very pleased with our room steward.
Room Service: I only ordered room service once, but I had a nice chef salad brought to me by my own room steward. The salad was fresh and very good...service was also good.
The Weather: The first few days out of San Diego were a bit chilly, and we had some rough seas. The captain said we had the tail end of a storm. My husband thought it was the typhoon from the Philippines. Not sure about that, but, many were a bit seasick the first few days, including me. The weather stayed a bit chilly till we got close to Hawaii, and then you saw everyone out on pool deck soaking up the much awaited sun.
Kauai was our first port, and it was very windy that day. Other than that, we had excellent weather in Hawaii. It was in the low 80s with sunshine for the other ports. It stayed warm for the first two days leaving Hawaii, and then it got chilly again. It was too chilly to stay out on deck the last two days returning to San Diego.
The Food: The food in the Trellis dining room was for the most part, excellent, in my opinion. All the beef dishes I had were of good quality, and well prepared. I did have a problem at first in getting my steaks medium rare, but after I asked my waiter to be sure to bring it medium rare, I always got it medium rare. The fish dishes I had were excellent. I had a scallop dish that was wonderful. The scallops were so fresh and lightly done. I had a seafood brochette one evening that consisted of, shrimp, scallops, salmon, and cod (I think) and it was great. The lamb that I had was excellent. We did have lobster on the last formal night. It was good, but I wasn't as impressed with it. I could have ordered another one or even two, but didn't need to.
The deserts were wonderful. My favorite is still the creme brulee and Celebrity's own home-made pistachio ice cream. The soups were, as always, excellent.
I never made it to breakfast or lunch in the dining room. I usually ate at the buffet. I was not as impressed with the buffets as I used to be. On my first Celebrity cruise on the Zenith in 1992, the buffets had food almost as good as the dining room, and better than food in the dining room on other ships that I have been on. The food on the buffets was good, but I did notice some cutbacks. There doesn't seem to be as many choices as usual for one. The buffet food was still very good, just not as good as on past cruises.
They offered hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, and pizza from 12 noon till 6 PM on pool deck. From 6 PM till 1AM they had pizza and pasta bar. They also had a sushi bar. Every afternoon at 4 PM they had afternoon tea with wonderful little sandwiches and pastries. It was hard to go hungry on this ship. They also have a healthy dining buffet in the Aqua Spa area, which is now open from noon till 8 PM.
I almost forgot, they have a waffle station in the very aft of the ship which makes wonderful homemade Belgian-type waffles in the morning. They also have an omelet station for made-to-order omelets in the morning. From 12 to 3 PM they offered soup, salad, and sandwiches besides the regular buffet lunch.
They have a nice area called the Cova Cafe which offers coffees and coffee drinks and pastries. The gourmet coffees have a charge, but the pastries were complimentary.
Celebrity brings around hors d' oeuvres (Gourmet Bites) at around 11:30 PM for people to enjoy in the lounges. They did have a few themed midnight buffets, like Hawaiian, chocolate, deserts and crepes, and fruits. On the last formal night, they had the Grand Buffet which was amazing. We didn't eat, because we had late seating, but we did take some photos.
The SS United States is a specialty restaurant that you might want to try. The experience is wonderful, and the food is excellent. Some suggestions to order for appetizers: Goat Cheese Souffle, and the Caesar Salad which is tossed at your table. Entrees: Rack of Lamb, and the Steak Dianne which is flamed at your table. For dessert, try the Chocolate Souffle. There is a $30 pp cover charge for this restaurant, but the $30 is for the tip. I, personally, thought our food and service in the Trellis restaurant was almost as good, so we only went once to the specialty restaurant. Again, it's very hard to go hungry on this ship. Great food!
Cocktails: I usually just have one or two here or there, but I have to mention a great drink that I happened upon one day in the Martini Bar. It's called a Creme Brulee Martini. It's great! It's not cheap, but it's worth it! I think the only other drink I had was an occasional Pina Colada topped with Meyer's rum, and a White Russian. Oops, I forgot about the BBC. That was good! Once or twice, I had a glass of chardonnay with dinner, and it was great. There is an automatic 15% tip added to all drinks.
Waiters and Assistant Waiters: Our waiter in the Trellis restaurant was Sasha (sp?), and our assistant waiter was Eduardo. They were both excellent! Everything was served on time and the way it should be served. We always had our water filled and anything we asked for was eagerly brought to us. We had a great time with them.
We had great tablemates! We had a husband and wife from a small town in England, and we had two ladies, friends, who were cruising together, and who were members of a cruiseship message board. We had a wonderful time with them, and it made the whole experience very special and memorable.
Maitre d': I have to mention the maitre d' because, she was amazing! She was at our table, and everyone else's it seemed, every evening. She was so concerned that we would have everything that we wanted and the way that we wanted it. She was the best! She took time to talk to us all, and to make sure we were happy with everything. She also told us of things that we shouldn't miss that would be happening on the ship. I think her name was Dominique.
Casino: There is a good size casino, and my husband did pretty well with the slots. He came out $1200 ahead. I didn't do so well, but, I still came out ahead, because he shared a little of his winnings with me. This made me able to give a little extra to my room steward and my waiters who helped to make this trip so great.
On Board Activities: I was pleased to see that Celebrity has added more activities for the sea days. There were many things to do to occupy your time. They had lecturers, and culinary demonstrations, tango lessons, wine tasting, computer classes, golf lessons, hair care seminars, face-lift seminars, skin-care classes, line-dance class, photo seminar, ice carving, much, more, and the usual trivia games, pool games, karaoke, bingo, and shuffleboard, etc.
Entertainment: I thought the entertainment ranged from very good to excellent. The big production shows that I saw were excellent. The singers and dancers were very good, and the costumes were very colorful. The two comedians, I thought, were good, but not great. I did appreciate that they kept it clean. I missed the illusion and magic show which I heard was very good.
One person that I have to mention was an international pianist named Brooks Aehron. His first show was a mixture of comedy (Victor Borge style) jazz, rock, and classical. The next day he put on a classical concert. He was fabulous, and he received a standing ovation. He was so popular that Celebrity found some time for him to put on another classical concert. He was just excellent. He was more serious with the classical concerts, but one thing that he did that I liked was that he told us a bit of the story behind the composer and the piece that he was playing. He had some CDs for sale after the concert, and the line was quite long. He signed the CDs for us, and he was just the nicest man. He was great!
One thing I have to mention about the entertainment schedule that I don't care for is that some of the shows for the late diners are put on early at 7 PM. I had to miss a few shows because of this. I book late seating for dining for many reasons. Some of them being not wanting to miss sail-aways and not wanting to rush back from ports to dress up for dinner, etc. I wish Celebrity would change this.
There was entertainment in the other lounges that also was very good. They had a great A Cappella group and another nice duo in another lounge. The party band was Vibz. They were good, but I didn't like them as well as Onyx, the band on our last Celebrity cruise. I thought it was kind of strange for them to play country- western music one day at a sail-away from Hawaii. I like country-western, it just didn't fit the moment in my opinion. There was a Hawaiian singer before them, on pool deck, but it was kind of hard to hear her unless you were right up there with her.
Internet: The internet cafe is very nice, but a little pricey, I think. The cost is .75 per minute. This can add up fast. Still, it's nice to have available.
Ports: Our ports were: Kauai, Honolulu, Hilo, Kona, and Maui. We had all been to Hawaii before so we didn't book any ship's tours except the submarine tour in Kona.
Nawiliwili, Kauai: We just stepped off the ship and saw some cabs waiting, and we took a cab tour, it was in a van, with a young lady. We set our price before we left. We had a great tour of the island.
Honolulu: My husband and my brother-in-law wanted to climb Diamond Head, and we gals were not that anxious to exert ourselves, so we did what a lot of women would do, we went shopping. While the guys were climbing the mountain, we took a free bus to Hilo Hattie's (this was right across the street from the terminal) (the bus) and from there, we were able to get a free shuttle down Waikiki. We stopped at the Hilton Hawaiian Village for a bit, and we stopped at the Ala Moana shopping center. We met up with the guys at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (the pink one) at the Mai-Tai bar on the beach area. I was going to be searching for the best mai-tai in Hawaii, but as it happened this was the only one I had, but it was great. Thanks to Linda, Cruise Diva, for telling me about it.
Hilo: We took a cab to the old section of town and wandered around. We had breakfast, and then we toured the tsunami museum. From there we hailed another cab, and we took a tour of the island with him. We went to some of the beaches and some of the pretty areas, and to the Macadamia Nut farm. We had a nice tour around the island. We left Hilo around 6 PM, and from the ship at around 10:30 PM we saw the lava flow down the mountainside. It was magnificent!
Kailua, Kona: This was the only tour that was booked onboard the ship. Our guys went on the submarine tour in Kona. They did really enjoy it! I'm a bit claustrophobic, and submarines aren't my thing, or my sister-in-law's, so again, we went shopping. We walked along the shore and stopped at the many shops. We met up with the guys later and stopped for a drink and some appetizers. We had some great calamari, and some great mushrooms with scallops at an open restaurant (Cassandra's) on the waterfront. We tendered ashore here.
Lahaina, Maui: This was our last stop. We didn't have much time here, and we had to tender ashore, so we got going as early as we could. With me not being an early bird, that meant, after breakfast, around 9 AM. Maui is my favorite island, and I was a bit disappointed that we had so little time here. When I first booked this cruise, the time here was listed from 7AM till 11 PM, but it was later changed. Oh well, we made the best of it and had a great day.
We took a taxi tour with a young lady. I suggested that we go to Iao Valley Rainforest, State Park area. We were there before, and it's a beautiful area. We also visited the Maui Tropical Plantation area, and some pretty beach areas. Surf was really up on some of the islands, and some of the best surfers in the world were in Hawaii. Maui seems to be much more populated than it was on our last trip 13-years ago. It's still a beautiful island, though. We got back to the dock area to get the tender back to the ship around 1:45, and the line to get on the tender was around a mile long. Not much exaggeration here! The last tender was to leave at 2:30, so I think everyone had the same idea to be here at the same time.
It was around 84 degrees, and the sun was hot. I have had heat exhaustion before from being in the direct sun for too long, so I suggested to my husband that we should wait at the open restaurant hotel (Pioneer Inn, the old whaling hotel) that was right in front of the security area where you boarded the tenders, and when the line was coming to an end we could just go and get in the line, with no standing in the hot sun for an hour. He didn't go for it, though.
I think he was afraid they would just leave at 2:30 and leave all the people there. The ship was to leave at 3 PM. I wasn't worried that they would leave us with all those people in line, so I told him to save my spot, and I went and waited at the hotel. I found a place to sit and had a nice cold coca-cola and an appetizer, some great calamari (excellent) while I waited to see them come up in the line. When they got up to the area to board the tender, the line behind them was just as long as before. At that point I started feeling guilty and thought I should go to the back of the line, but everyone knew they had saved my spot in line, and they insisted that I get in line with them. I got in line with them, and we boarded the tender. No problemo! The ship left around 3:10 or 3:15, so they really did move the people faster than I thought, but it all worked out.
Places to See If It's Your First Time in Hawaii: These are places that we went to the last time we were in Hawaii, and are a must see, I think.
Kauai: The Waimea Canyon. (The Grand Canyon of the Pacific)
Oahu: The Polynesian Cultural Center, Punchbowl Cemetery, the Arizona Memorial, Diamond Head State Park
Hilo: Volcanoes National Park,
Maui: Iao Valley Rainforest and State Park area, Maui Tropical Plantation area
Disembarkation: This went very well. We gathered in the Celebrity Lounge, and our color was one of the first to be called, and we were off the ship in no time.
Flight Home: Our flights home went well, but we don't know why Celebrity booked us with a six-hour wait in between flights. We were off the ship pretty early, so we hoped to check our luggage in with United, but they said we couldn't check in until 3 hours before the flight, so that killed our plans to go over to Seaport Village and have a nice seafood luncheon. We were able to get an earlier flight to Denver, but that still left us with waiting in Denver airport for around 5 hours for our next flight home.
All in all it was no big deal, but it seemed strange that our original flight from San Diego wasn't until around 4:30 PM and we got to the San Diego airport by around 10 or 10:30 AM. We had to wait with our luggage for quite a while until they would check it in. Then we had the big wait in-between flights. It just seems like it could have been scheduled a bit better. Like I say, it was not a big deal, just a lot of waiting around. One thing I should mention is that, on the flight out, we had been very careful to weigh our luggage, and we were within the limits. On our flight back, we did get charged $25 for an overweight suitcase. I didn't really bring back that many souvenirs, but the suitcases were already close to the limit, so it did make a difference.
Summary: This was a great cruise! The food and entertainment and service were all great. We met many wonderful people and had some good times. The ship was decorated for the holidays. There was a beautiful Christmas tree in the main lobby, and the grand staircase was decorated with gorgeous poinsettias all the way up. There was another Christmas tree on the staircase in the main restaurant, and there was a menorah for Hanukkah. There was a Catholic priest onboard to say Mass, and there was a Rabbi for Hanukkah services. There were also non-denominational services.
One thing that I really noticed was how nice and friendly the staff was. Everywhere I went, room stewards or waiters or officers, all were very friendly and polite. I would really recommend this cruise. It was great! I would have liked more time in Hawaii, but with the time it takes to sail round trip that would have been hard to do. I have been to Hawaii before, so I was o.k. with what we did in the ports. I did really want to go to a nice luau, though, and the ship didn't offer one at night, and my husband was afraid that we wouldn't make it back to the ship in time, so we didn't book one on our own. I did go to one the last time I was in Hawaii, though, so, I wasn't too disappointed.
Extra Personal Thoughts: This was a great cruise, but we didn't have enough warm days out on deck (this can be different at different times of the year, of course). I love to sit out on pool deck on a cruise, in the shade. I also would like to have more time in Hawaii. If we get the chance to go again, I think I will fly one way and stay a few days before the trip back. I'm glad I had the opportunity to sail across the Pacific at least once. It was quite an experience.