Review: Celebrity Infinity
Cruise - Ocean Cruise
Following the path between the seas and a little more
53 people found this review helpful
About a year ago Jean and I watched a fascinating Episode 3 in the Channel 5 “Big, Bigger, Biggest” series that described the building of the Panama Canal. About the same time we met with Susie, our holiday guru, from Haslemere Travel; following which we found ourselves booked on Celebrity Infinity to cruise the Canal with add-ons in San Francisco and Las Vegas.
This trip ticked two boxes, we would see first hand the engineering wonder that is the Panama Canal and we would break our duck on America.
We’ve cruised before with Celebrity so were not surprised to enjoy the same excellent quality of stateroom and dining afforded to Aqua Class passengers. In particular, restaurant Blu, complimentary afternoon canapés, daily iced tea and preferential booking for spa facilities.
The cruise was for 14 nights beginning with a flight from Heathrow to Miami and an overnight stay in the Sheraton Airport Hotel.
Of the 14 days on board 7 were at sea, one of which was the canal transit. For most of the time we enjoyed glorious sunshine and despite nearly a full complement of passengers there always seemed to be loungers available for those of us who are not too good at early rising. This availability maybe as a result of day time entertainment that included fitness, dance, IT, quizzes, board games, poker tournaments and lectures.
On board evening entertainment was excellent and varied, a classical string trio, a “dinner” jazz quartet, a pianist/vocalist, a guitarist/vocalist all of whom performed on different days and times in the bars and coffee shop. The main theatre saw very talented comedians, a young lady violinist, a classical pianist, circus acts as well as a superb song and dance troupe and resident band that supported the “headline” acts.
Shore excursions were equally varied and well supported as demonstrated by the numbers the excursions team expertly despatched to the awaiting coaches at each of the docksides at Cartageña, Colón, Puntarenas, Puerto Quetzal, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. Typically the excursions included city/rainforest/countryside visits, folkloric shows, tequila distillation and tasting, coffee plantations, gardens, monasteries, museums, scuba diving, off road driving and horseback riding. Those excursions that Jean and I enjoyed were all hosted by very pleasant and knowledgeable local guides and the transfers to and from the ship were in spacious air conditioned coaches.
The “big day”, however was 12th November, cruising the canal. Celebrity Infinity was given her entrance time by the Signal Station and with the Pilot on board we arrived at the first of the three Gatun Locks at 7.45am. We cleared the locks, towed carefully by the canal side “trains” forward and aft just before 10am passing Gamboa at noon before arriving at Pedro Miguel Locks just after 1.30pm.
It took just over an hour to clear this lock and another 90 minutes before we arrived at Miraflores, the third and final lock. Another 90 minutes passed before we were on the Pacific side of Panama and another 2 hours before we passed Balboa.
During the crossing we also had the benefit of seeing work in progress on the third and wider lane of locks that should be operational in 2015. In all, our crossing from Atlantic to Pacific oceans had taken about 12 hours during which time we had been able to witness the huge scale of the project that started in 1881 and was completed in 1914.
Anyone thinking of taking this cruise might like to read David McCullough’s book, “The Path Between The Seas”. This is a fascinating chronicle of the trials and tribulations that faced those building the canal. It is an invaluable aid in helping to understand the sheer size of the project in terms of the men and machines employed; the acreage of the “canal zone”, the volume of soil excavated and moved, the depth of the locks, the size of the gates and not insignificantly the loss of life through accidents on site and disease.
We disembarked at San Diego of 20th November in heavy rain….the first since embarkation and flew to San Francisco. We stayed at The Hyatt on Fisherman’s Wharf; an absorbing place with a lot of history, and multitude of shops and bars with live music. Three worthy of mention are Jack’s Bar, Lou’s Fish Shack and Cioppino’s (Italian).
We were told that Alcatraz was a must do and very popular so we pre-booked through our travel agent. The tour is self guided with an excellent audio guide supported by a series of posters, exhibits and a short performance by one of the staff in former guard uniform that described part of “life” in the prison. Well worth the $20, (“Seniors rate”).
The “Big City Bus” is a very good way to see more of the city including China Town and the Golden Gate Bridge. For the more energetic traveller the walk of a mile or so from the bridge to Sausalito, a really chic waterside town is a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.
November 24th saw us in Las Vegas staying in The Bellagio with a fountain view room; the illuminated display in the evening made it well worth a few dollars more! Almost on a par are The Flamingo, Caesars Palace, The Venetian and The Paris. The range of stage shows was amazing making choice very difficult, we chose Dancing Queen and Country Super Stars, the latter starring Shania Twain and Willie Nelson on the night we had tickets.
Whilst there’s plenty see and do in the city the Grand Canyon is nearby and another must do. There are various transfers available to south and west rims; light plane, helicopter, limo, Harley and Hummer. We chose a coach trip with Grand Canyon Tours; a bit cheesy but we travelled in a large air conditioned, bright and shiny coach with a very knowledgeable driver/guide and we saw a lot of the Nevada and Colorado countryside.
At 270 miles long and 18 miles across and 1 mile deep in parts the canyon is breathtaking; films and photos just do not do it justice. Visitors are well catered for at the south rim with a museum/souvenir shop at Bright Angel Lodge that served an excellent hot dog and Tennessee Mud, (Bourbon, Amaretto, black coffee topped with cream), very welcome on a cold day.
To quote our American hosts … we had a truly ”awesome” trip.
53 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.
Silver Travel Advisor Recommended Partner: Celebrity Cruises