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Cruise Day #13 – At Sea

Another day at sea… I wonder when I’ll finally see Bill Murray?

Since I haven’t written comprehensively about the ship, I thought I’d write and share the better part of my cruise review today (which seems unlikely to change radically).


Overall, we were impressed by the look and feel of the Celebrity Infinity. Some prior reviews suggested that it was in need of its upcoming dry dock. Not so! Is there a little wear and tear? Sure. But, she has no significant/obvious flaws.

The layout is very passenger friendly—easy to navigate; nothing weird (unlike some ships were certain portions of a deck are only accessible from certain elevators). Better still, Infinity never seems (over-)crowded… though this might change once they add more cabins in the retrofit. For example, tables are always available in the buffet area even at peak dining times. The décor is pleasing to us. It’s elegant with an overall sense of a minimalist influence. And, where the minimalist aesthetic does differ (e.g., the elegantly paneled Michael’s Club), the design remains tasteful and understated. Though it’s not especially nautical in design, I’d say the ship compares very favorably with the likes of others we’ve sailed on previously. Specifically, I like it as much or more than Brilliance of the Seas (RCI) and Nieuw Amsterdam (HAL). Of course, it lacks the super-sized “wow” factor of RCI’s Voyager, Freedom, and Oasis-class ships. It’s also better than anything we’ve seen in the NCL fleet.

Here’s a photo of the main lobby:


As we haven’t sailed on any other ships in the X fleet, I can’t say how Infinity compares within the brand. I will note, however, that other passengers seem to think that X’s newer Solstice-class ships are markedly superior.


We’re in cabin #6001 on Infinity. This is a forward-facing, oceanview stateroom that overlooks that helicopter pad and bow of the ship. In relative terms, it’s very large with more than ample storage and floor space for the three of us (including room for Emerson’s pack ‘n play—which is provided by Celebrity). We opted for this stateroom for two reasons: 1) we wanted the extra interior floor space, and 2) it was markedly more affordable than a balcony stateroom. So, we have more for less. I like that!

We have only two issues/complaints/caveats. First, there is decidedly more motion this close to the front of the ship. We expected this to be the case, but I’d caution those prone to motion sickness. Ironically, the difference is most pronounced in moderate seas (say, 7-12ft) during which time this cabin has an obvious roll when other sections of the ship seem markedly more stable. Second, the bathroom is one of those areas where Infinity shows some of her 10-year age (e.g., slightly stained grout)… and, they have a shower curtain vs. a door (which we always find oddly annoying).
I should also note that our cabin steward, George, has been excellent throughout the trip. He’s not overly personable, but he’s eager to please and very efficient/effective. I think he’s probably the second best cabin steward we’ve had over the years.


Celebrity has a reputation for excellent service and food. I’d like to say that I concur, but we really don’t find it to be exceptional. It’s not that things are uniformly bad (other than perhaps our hopelessly ineffectual wait staff in the dining room, whom we just gave up on)… it’s just that things are very uneven.

Consider the buffet: Good fish ‘n chips. But, all other non-fried forms of potatoes are undercooked. Good variety/selection on the salad bar. But, the salad dressings range from mediocre to awful. The ice cream has been great in terms of both flavor and variety. But, the desserts are tasteless to disagreeable. The buffet highlights include the evening made-to-order stir-fry station (we’ve eaten a lot of stir-fry meals!), the pizza (which is respectable, though not great), as well as the aforementioned fish ‘n chips and ice cream. We’ve also appreciated the friendly and attentive service in the buffet area.

The main dining room is a different story altogether. Here, the food has been uniformly mediocre (even by cruise ship standards, which is generally mediocre-at-best anyway), and the service from our waiter/assistant waiter has been generally poor (especially for traditional—same table, same time each night—dining). Let’s start with the food: I don’t even recall much about the 3-4 meals we’ve had… and I’m still on the ship! It’s not been bad… just generally unremarkable, good or bad. The only truly enjoyable dishes are the French onion soup (best from any cruise ship’s main dining room) and the crème brulee (which, while not great, was credible by land-based standards). The rest ranged from ‘just fine’ to ‘less-than-mediocre’ in our experience. The service, however, was what finally drove us away altogether. Our biggest issue: ssssslllllooooowwwww service with tens of minutes between the starters and main course (and a similar lag before desserts). Based on overheard conversations, this annoyed our follow patrons at other tables, but it damn near made us suicidal (or homicidal, depending on the day) with Emerson along for the ride! Of course, this lag should have allowed our assistant waiter more than ample opportunity to do his work. Unfortunately, not so much! Instead, we often arrived to find no bread on the table, no condiments/cream/sugar provided in a timely manner (if at all), and coffee—which really pissed me off one night—showing up just as we’d finished the last mouthful of our aforementioned AWOL dessert. Staff on cruise ships make meager wages for much hard work, the majority of which comes from tips. As such, I’m always generous with meeting (and usually exceeding) recommended gratuity levels. This is the first—and I hope last—cruise in which I am actually going to not fully pay the dining room staff’s gratuities—not because we only ate there three times, but largely because they, in a word, sucked at providing even a minimal level of acceptable performance. Here again, we’ve heard from past Celebrity cruisers that Infinity seems to deviate (negatively) from the line’s norm.

I can’t speak of the ship’s specialty dining venue, the SS United States, as we unfortunately didn’t eat there. They require patrons to be 12 years of ago or older (which, honestly, strikes me as a bit excessive for a cruise ship), and we were unwilling to use the onboard, in-cabin baby sitting service. Had Emerson been three or older, we would have likely let her play in the supervised kid’s club during our dinner.

Finally, I should note that Celebrity probably rivals NCL in terms of beer offerings. I could get Leffe, Franziskiner, and Hoegardden aboard ship. The wine list looked pretty good too (though perhaps not markedly better than other lines). I didn’t look at the selection of single malts or other drinks (though the mixed drink menu seemed appealing).


We saw relatively few shows and guest performances (in part or whole). Therefore, I won’t/can’t comment on these other than to say that they seemed to be on par with most cruise experiences (think: performers, suitably talented to be paid, but generally not good enough for major international or even regional theatre venues). I have enjoyed the string trio’s performances–although, I think HAL’s usual string quartets are better.

In terms of port/guest lecturers, Celebrity brought aboard three for this trip. Jim—a geologist at the Smithsonian—has been excellent. His delivery is less overtly entertaining, but his passion for science is infectious. I’ve really enjoyed his lectures and (re-)learned much about geology, plate tectonics, glaciers, volcanoes, and astronomy. He reminded me of how much I loved science as a kid and why I should invest time in studying it more once again. Well done! Graham—our British naturalist—was also entertaining and well informed. For whatever reason, I didn’t connect as much with his lectures, but I enjoyed attending them. I also bet he’s a fan of Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey/Maturin series of novels, as I noticed he had a PowerPoint presentation on his laptop about Lord Cochrane (the historical basis for the Aubrey character)—now that’s a talk I would have loved to hear! Finally, we had Rod—the Australian physicist—who talked (actually rambled) about geography and history (of which, he seemed to know little, especially as he never remained on the topic of the lecture). Worse, he struck me as a self-important windbag. Boo! In any case, 2/3 isn’t too bad… and I’d have to say that this is the best educational/lecture enrichment program I’ve experienced at sea.

In the food/wine enrichment department, nothing really can compare to Holland America with its dedicated culinary showroom, guest chefs, and partnership with Food & Wine magazine. As such, Celebrity’s program seemed more typical of most cruise lines (cooking / cake decorating demonstrations, ice carving, fruit carving, etc.).

Itinerary / Ports

Single biggest problem: there were too few of them!

Here’s a summary: we really liked Buenos Aires (and look forward to seeing a bit more of it in a couple of days). Both Stanley and Ushuaia were interesting to visit and good for brief wildlife encounters (great with Emerson!). Puerto Madryn would likely have been better with a wildlife-related trip, but the town itself was perfectly enjoyable too. And, I’m looking forward to Montevideo tomorrow. The ‘cruise-by’ port calls (Elephant Island and Cape Horn) were generally too brief to make them feel like anything other than a day at sea. And, of course, we feel cheated of a more in-depth visit to Antarctica, especially as we had to endure the full, bi-directional Drake Passage crossing anyway.

This brings me back to my original point: we’ve essentially spent 9 days doing nothing but cruising. It’s sort of the reverse of our only other 14-day cruise, aboard the NCL Jade, where we spent 4-5 days cruising and 9 days in port. Of course, going into this cruise, we knew this would be the case. However, we thought that sea days would be easier with Emerson. Wrong! This might be true for a day or two. But, in rough seas with a sick child and a ceaseless monotony of days, everyone starts to suffer from ‘cabin fever.’ As a result, we all became increasingly bored, lethargic, and cranky (roughly in that order). I strongly believe this is why this week (with more days on land) has been markedly better than last week (with almost all days at sea).

Having not experienced a long stretch of days at sea without a young child, I can’t really say how much we would have liked or disliked this itinerary under different circumstances. I suspect it would have been somewhat better, as we’d at least have had much more time to relax alone and together. But, I can’t say we’d have loved it. Overall, this was a good experience to have had in this context since at least the journey had a purpose (i.e., days at sea were needed to get to/from Antarctica). However, it will cause us to reexamine subsequent itineraries, specifically looking to minimize (or at least better distribute) days at sea. We’ll likely also reconsider some of our longer-term plans, such as doing an around the world cruise (which could be miserable?!?).


While it’s not over, I think the trip’s been successful in meeting our goals and objectives—ticking the boxes for South America and Antarctica, as well as adding a few countries. Argentina’s been a pleasant surprise. I’m not sure that we’ll rush back (as we have other places to go), but I think we’d both be predisposed to returning. Ditto for the Falkands. Antarctica is more complex: part of me is predisposed to never returning (the Drake Passage, again? Bah!), but another (perhaps growing) part finds it a more compelling prospect now than ever (though likely on a ‘proper’ expedition). In any case, a return to Antarctica is off the list until after completing the current travel project.

As for Celebrity, though this review may seem critical (which by definition it must be), we’re generally not picky people. Overall, it’s been an okay experience—a sort of weak mix of Holland America and Royal Caribbean. I wouldn’t go out of my way or pay a premium relative to others to sail aboard the line again. But, I’m not going to swear them off either. Like every other cruise line, Celebrity has its positives and negatives—though it seems remarkably devoid of highs or lows across the board. As such, we don’t think X marks the spot for the top of the ‘near luxury’ or ‘premium’ cruise line market. In that segment, we enjoy HAL far more. And, based on this single cruise, I can’t say that I’d rather sail on Celebrity over either Royal Caribbean (its ‘mass market’ parent) or NCL (which, ironically, has been the source of my two favorite cruises, despite that line’s obvious limitations).

One Response to “Cruise Day #13 – At Sea”

  1. Denise Dickerhoof says:

    Paul & Libby – we met at Dick’s birthday/retirement party. I sat to the right of you, Libby, and am a fellow lover of travel. Have so enjoyed your posts on this trip! I’m sorry you didn’t get to see more of Antarctica, especially after enduring the Drake Passage! I’ve done that myself, and it is rough. Just wanted to let you know that if you ever decide to do a return trip, they now have trips that allow you to fly to the coast and start there, thus avoiding the passage. I plan to do that when I return with my husband (he has never been). Don’t ever want to see the Drake again if I can help it! Anyway – keep posting… I enjoy traveling vicariously through you!

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