The Celebrity Infinity
After a quick 2-day but very full stay in Barcelona, the six of us—three couples who are old college friends—boarded the Celebrity Infinity. We were greeted with glasses of champagne, and found another bottle of the bubbly, as well as a bottle of wine in our room—one from Celebrity and the other from our fantastic travel agent, Bob.
The Infinity was a little tired, but still beautiful. In service since 2000, it was ready for the refurbishing that was scheduled for November. That said, the ship’s atmosphere was one of relaxed elegance—-and to say that the cruise line did whatever they could do to ensure our happiness would be an understatement. We got to know our cabin steward and our table’s waitstaff, from the servers to the sommelier. Within two days, they knew our names, our special wishes, and would bring a sampling of the chef’s specialties if no one at our table happened to order them, as well as an extra dessert or two. They were genuinely concerned about the few times that the food wasn’t cooked quite to our liking. And, their personal connection was no small task in light of the ship holding just under 2200 passengers.
Celebrity made sure that we had plenty to do. There were eight dining locations, including specialty restaurants; a Canyon Ranch spa; a fitness room; a casino; stores; various ship activities; and of course, the pools and hot tubs. There were health and wellness classes, and we took a tour of the ship’s massive kitchen on one of our two at-sea days. The stores and the casino were closed most days, though, as they could only be open when we were at sea—-so we had fun in them at night.
It’s true what they say about food on a cruise. There is so much of it—-and hats-off to Celebrity, we really enjoyed-to-loved almost everything we ate. Someone asked me when I got back, “Was it a 3- or a 5-lb cruise?” Thankfully, only a three—we did a lot of walking.
I also made a key discovery on our third day—-there was no extra charge for room service, as long as the delivery took place between 6:00 am and 11:00 pm. I say “key” because I’m used to having coffee as soon as I wake up (at home, our coffee pot is on a timer), and I want that coffee in a relaxed atmosphere before rushing off to start the day. From day four on, Mike and I began each morning with a fresh pot of coffee delivered to our room, had those cuppas on our balcony, and watched either a beautiful sail into port or caught a glimpse of a sea turtle in the Mediterranean.
Then, it was off to the races.
Le Petit Chef ™ and The Tuscan Grill
After coffee, we would meet the group for breakfast—-an extraordinary buffet of breakfast and non-breakfast food that accommodated a variety of cultures. Most evenings, we had standing reservations in the main dining room, but we also dined at two of the specialty restaurants, Le Petit Chef™ at Qsine and The Tuscan Grill.
Le Petit Chef™ was the most creative approach to dining that I’ve ever seen. Individual projectors above the table focused on each of our plates. Then, a tiny animated chef proceeded to catch and prepare the course that was about to be served. The following is a video from one of Celebrity’s other ships, the Edge. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYKUBgIjeiU The video shows dessert, but picture this happening before every course.
How do you follow that? You can’t. However, our dinners at the Tuscan Grill were probably the best ones that we had on the ship.
I know a lot of you have cruised, so apologies if this is old news—-many of you could likely add to this list. For those of you who haven’t cruised, though, here are a few things that we learned from the experience and by talking to others on the ship:
- First and foremost:), order coffee from room service to have while you’re waking up. But order it for delivery after 6:00 am (or whatever time your ship states as acceptable) so there’s no extra charge.
- Schedule or not-to-schedule—-this one could go either way for you. We took an excursion every day that we weren’t at sea, deciding to take advantage of seeing places that we may never get to again. The upside—-we saw and learned so much. The downside—-I couldn’t wait for those days at sea for some R&R—-and both of them took place toward the end of the trip, so it was a long wait. Before we started the trip, I had had visions of reading and drinking frosty drinks by the pool—-a relaxing Mediterranean cruise. It wasn’t relaxing by a long shot. We did have deck time, but I would’ve liked a little more of it. That said, I’d probably do the same thing all over again. I can relax in FL.
- When you are scheduling excursions, be aware of the length of the tours, especially if you’re scheduling them on back-to-back days. Two-or-several 8-hour excursions in a row can be wearing. Plus, the days start early—-meeting times were typically 8:00 am or 8:15 am.
- Research your ports ahead of time, as sometimes you have to travel a distance to sightsee. We met people who decided to explore the ports where we docked, rather than committing to the cost and schedules of excursions. In some ports, you could do that. Others, though, were working ports that didn’t offer a lot of touristy things to do. And btw, the city of Rome is about an hour’s drive from Civitavecchia, where the ships dock for the port of Rome.
- Stamps and postcards. This may sound old school, but we mailed postcards to our granddaughter from nearly every port (btw—-she loved getting them:). I tried to be efficient, estimating how many stamps we would need, and buying them at the little store as we boarded the ship. Problem—-it wasn’t like going from place-to-place in the US. We boarded in Barcelona, so the stamps worked for postcards bought in Spain but not for any other port. If you’re going to send postcards, buy the postcard and stamp together, and mail it while you’re in that country or at the customer service location on board the ship. If you mail it on board, though, be sure that there’s enough time for the postcard to go out before the ship leaves that country because they won’t mail it again until they’re back in that country. Or just mail it when you get home:)
- Your cabin should have enough room for what you need for the trip, but be aware that space can be tight. At a friend’s suggestion, we brought an over-the-door shoe holder and hung it on the bathroom door. It was a good organizer for things that we wanted to grab quickly at eye level.
The entire trip took just over two weeks, and what started out feeling like we’d be away for an eternity transitioned into, “Wow, that flew by.” There was a lot to process, but what really struck me was how different I felt at the trip’s end—-I realized how narrow and removed my focus had become in recent years, as I had come to look at the world through a long-distance lens. At the end, the relationships that we had made on board, the history we had learned, and the cultures we experienced made the world a smaller place. I look forward to that continuing.
Bon voyage for now—-
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