To Infinity and Beyond
Chris Roberts – 29-10-2008 - Celebrity – Celebrity Infinity
We flew from Heathrow to San Francisco with American Airlines, our preferred airline, via Chicago where we cleared customs and went through the obligatory Immigration Inspection, now all fingers on both hands and a photo, it makes one wonder what they will want in the future! From Chicago we had a further 5 hour flight to San Francisco, made all the better by being upgraded to First Class.
We had pre booked transport and on arrival at San Francisco Airport we were transferred to the Hyatt Hotel at Fishermans Wharf where we had arranged pre cruise accommodation. The hotel was to the usual Hyatt standards and very reasonable at travel agents rate, two days for the price of one.
We had given ourselves a day to explore San Francisco and it was a short walk across the road to board the cable car and purchase an all day passport, $11.00. What a marvellous means of transport! We were whisked down town and took care of the shopping list before walking through China Town and experiencing a very pleasant Chinese lunch. It was then back on the cable car and a visit to the Cable car museum which was very interesting and entry was free.
Fishermans Wharf with its multitude of shops and attractions was a must and we spent an enjoyable afternoon being the typical tourist. I must admit that San Francisco is one of my favourite US cities and somewhere I would like to return to, to spend more time exploring.
Next morning after a walk along the sea front it was back to the hotel and a taxi to the ship, less than a mile away, but with the luggage too far to walk. Embarkation was slightly delayed and check in was somewhat chaotic, however once the check in assistant had been helped by 3 other people we were straight on board the ship and greeted by a welcomed glass of Champagne. We were then guided to deck 10 where the lunch buffet was in progress.
After lunch we explored the upper decks and had a guided tour of the Aqua Spa facilities, the normal free draw was held and to my utter amazement I won a prize for a full body massage. We then proceeded to our oceanview stateroom on deck 2, reasonably spacious with plenty of drawer and hanging space.
After the obligatory Boat Drill it was up on deck for the ships departure from San Francisco across the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge had been cloaked in cloud the previous day, but cleared for our departure which made sailing out of San Francisco a very impressive experience.
The ports of call for this 16 night cruise were Catalina Island, Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Puntarenas, Panama Canal, Cartagena and Ft. Lauderdale.
The first two ports were tender ports and generally worked quite well, I imagine with the vessel having just returned from Alaska there was not a need for tendering, and incidentally the crew were all looking forward to the warm weather, the last two Alaska cruises had been very cold.
In most of the ports we just wandered ashore browsing the local markets, however in Cartegena we went on a tour of the old city which was most interesting, well organised and highly recommended.
We missed the port of Huatalco due to approaching Hurricane Odile.
A point to note at Ft.Lauderdale when disembarking to fly back from Miami International is that the Airport Authorities have introduced a new rule banning Check In until 5 hours prior to departure, this may affect guests returning on an evening flight departure.
The feature of the Cruise was the Panama Canal and was a testament to the builders of 100 years ago.
On the sea days prior to the Panama Canal there were three very interesting Enrichment Lectures in the main theatre covering the history through to the building of the new locks system, the theatre was packed on each occasion.
The Infinity picked up the pilot at 06.00 hrs and navigated Miraflores locks from 08.15 to 09.40 and Pedro Miguel locks from 10.20 to 11.10 hrs, raising the ship 85 feet up to the level of Gatun Lake to which it proceeded through the Narrow Gaillard Cut and on to arrival at Gatun Lake at 2.00pm. We anchored there for an hour to enable passengers to disembark on tours of the Panama Canal. From comments of people that took the Panama City tours that half the tour was in the dark and not a lot could be seen!
At 3.20pm we entered the three Gatun locks, 1.6 miles long and descended 85 feet to the Caribbean, exiting at 5.40 pm and proceeding to Cristobal Pier to embark the tours.
Distance travelled through the canal was 54 miles and the toll fee for Infinity was $245,000 cash, cheques and credit cards are not accepted.
It takes 26 million gallons of water from Gatun Lake to fill the locks and raise Infinity through the three locks to lake level.
The Canal Authorities provided detailed broadcast narration throughout the transit that was very informative.
Every passenger was given Panama Canal Transit Certificate, a nice touch.
For the transit we chose to view the canal from the Constellation lounge, above the bridge. To obtain front row seats you need to be up very early, I was there at 04.00hrs and was not the first. You can choose any outdoor deck space but we chose the air conditioned comfort, it can get very humid on deck, and very wet in the rainy season, we were fortunate to have a dry transit.
The Infinity was up to the usual high Celebrity standard with the staff always ready to please, with nothing being too much trouble and our stateroom steward, Antonio, very attentive and friendly and the room in excellent condition.
The entertainment was very good and the shows spectacular and a special mention to Ventriloquist Don Bryan who was amazing and Allan King the Cruise director.
Dining on board was more than taken care of with the Breakfast, Lunch and Evening buffets in the Oceanview Cafe. Together with the usual buffets were individual stations serving waffles and pancakes, Asian breakfast and lunch, frittatas, pizza, pasta and salad bars and frozen yogurt and ice cream.
By the pool at the Breezes Pool grill there were hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs and torte.
The AquaSpa Cafe served healthy choice food for those watching their weight!
Our table in the Main Restaurant, ‘Trellis’, was very entertaining and our waiter ‘James’ was unbelievable. The menu was as usual extensive and we found all but some the main courses delicious. There was a lot of Pasta and Couscous based main meals. On the final Gala night there was filet mignon and lobster.
There is a new menu system on Celebrity which is still being ‘tweeked’ according to the Maitre’D and Patricia, Guest Relations Manager.