Home / The Cruise
Jim & Kathleen
Bob • Chilliwack, BC
MIke & Carol
Boynton Beach, FL
Carole & Danny
The Villages, FL
Sandra & Bill • Cumming, GA
Paul & Gail • Leeds, UK
Sheri & Terry
Lake Geneva, WI
David & Mickie • Chicago, IL
Michael & Mary • Findlay, OH
On November 19, 2014 we disembarked in San Diego, CA from Celebrity’s GTS Infinity after a 15-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal with many friends both old and new. This is the review that I kept going back and forth about doing or not doing. Guess I am doing it. As my buddy Bob says, “If you don’t do it, you will be sorry later.” He knows I have a review and website for every trip we have been on (you can see the others here). It’s how we remember our journeys for every trip we have been on. They are like our online photo albums. So here goes.
This cruise was very special to us for a lot of reasons. First, we had already done a Panama Canal transit. It was our first Celebrity cruise. It sold us on sailing predominately with X (that’s what cruisers call Celebrity) for most of our cruising vacations. This cruise was our 17th with X. We took that first one through the canal from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego back in 2004. It embarked on November 4 and we were on Infinity in aft cabin 9162.
So back in June of 2013 we were talking to our best buddies, Bob and Judy and we decided we should do another cruise. Bob wanted to see the new canal (which was supposed to be finished by the time we did this cruise—it wasn’t—see my Ports of Call page) and the rest of us just wanted to cruise together. So we looked at Celebrity’s Panama Canal transits. Lo and behold we found one that departed from Fort Lauderdale on the exact same day as our original X cruise 10 years earlier and amazingly enough it was on Infinity. So being the unrepentant romantic that I am, I immediately called my travel agent and asked her to book us the same cabin. Which she did. Ten years to the day, same cabin, same ship.
I am going to address this right now as I am already sitting here with tears in my eyes as I type this. We have been sailing and vacationing and spending time with our best friends Bob and Judy for almost 10 years. We have never had better friends. We have both become part of the others families. We planned this cruise together and were super excited back in June 2013 to book it with them for November 2014. Little did we know that a little more than a year after we booked it (in June 2014) we would lose Judy to cancer. Thankfully we were able to convince Bob to go forward and join us on this trip or it would not have been the same. We took this trip in Judy’s memory and she was with us every step of the way. If you never met her, all I can say is that she was both the oldest and the youngest of the Martini Mates and was missed terribly by all who knew her.
Which brings me to the fact that as soon as we booked it we decided to invite all the members of our cruising group (The Martini Mates) to join us as well. And to a person, they all did. We are quite a unique group and if you are on Cruise Critic you may have seen our flashing pins. Prior to this sailing there were 12 of us who actively sailed together and others who have joined us on other cruises but on this one we got the core group together. And we inducted six new members on this cruise as well.
That pretty much covers the pre-cruise stuff until we took off from Seattle.
We never fly on the day of embarkation. Too dangerous. Weather can delay flights. Ships can be missed. We always fly at least one day before and in this case two days. Bob drove down from Chilliwack, BC to fly with us from Seattle. When we had first booked the cruise I had used miles to book the four of us first class seats on Alaska Air to Fort Lauderdale. Kathleen and I have flown to almost all our international cruises in business or first class and since Bob and Judy never joined us on those, they never got to fly first. Knowing how much Bob LOVES (sarcasm) to fly, I thought this would be a great surprise. Sadly, Judy never got to try it but the three of us did enjoy the first class experience.
Rather than taking a town car to the airport as we had in past cruises we decided to park Bob’s car at the airport for the almost three weeks we would be gone. We wanted to park the car indoors at SeaTac and found that the MasterPark garage had a 30-day deal for $199. We weren’t going to be gone for 30 days (only 20) but this deal worked out to a lot less than if we had just paid for 20 days at any parking lot we could find where the car would be parked indoors. If you are leaving a car at an airport for any more than two weeks, check the monthly rates as they may be cheaper.
We all had TSA pre-check and got right through security, spent a pleasant hour in the Alaska first class boardroom and then had a very nice flight to Fort Lauderdale. Smooth, easy and about 5 hours. Arrived on time, all luggage intact and off to our pre-cruise hotel.
We were staying at the Ocean and Sky Resort which is located on the beach, just south of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Since I had done the air, Bob had booked the hotel (also with points). It was a nice place—your typical Florida beach resort hotel. We had a king room with a condominium (the one next door-see below) view. We did have a verandah and if we went out on it, we could see the ocean on our right. It was clean and well taken care of. Would I stay there again? No. But only because it was too far away from the port for me. If am going on a cruise, I really want to stay where I can see my ship from my hotel room when I get up in the morning. We did that when we sailed to Hawaii in San Diego in 2012. This time I just felt like we spent an awful lot of time driving back and forth to downtown Fort Lauderdale and the port area. But for a free hotel (booked with someone else’s points—it was PERFECT!)
We had a number of things planned for the day before the cruise so we had flown in on November 2 (we sailed on the 4th). First we wanted to have lunch with the amazing Bert and Annette who were our table mates on our first Panama Canal cruise back in 2004. We hadn’t seen them in 10 years but had been corresponding all that time and it was GREAT to see them again. It is amazing that they have not changed a bit in that time. Annette is still totally in charge and Bert is still the smartest person I have ever met. After a great lunch with them at their country club (scary/spooky place with all the security—Annette says it’s like the afterlife in the movie Defending Your Life) we drove up to our other best buddies place.
Mike and Carol Preisman are the other two of the six original Martini Mates and they live just north of Fort Lauderdale in Boynton Beach. We wanted to pick up some things we had had shipped to them pre-cruise and to see their neighbors Hans and Barbara who we had sailed with on Azamara Quest in SE Asia back in 2010. Had a great time catching up with them and we also found our two newest Martini Mates, Paul and Gail who had flown in from the UK the day before and spent the night at Mike and Carol’s. We had a nice visit, grabbed our box and Paul and Gail as well, and headed back to Fort Lauderdale to drop Paul and Gail at their hotel where they would spend the night, pick up Bob at our hotel and then head back to meet our Cruise Critic roll call for a pre-cruise dinner.
A word here about Cruise Critic. If you are friend or relative who doesn’t cruise then you may not know what it is so I need to explain. If you cruise and don’t use Cruise Critic then you are NUTS! It is an amazing website that houses just about every piece of info on cruising that you can imagine but beyond that it also has forums about every aspect of cruising and Roll Calls for every cruise that sails. This is where you can go to meet the people who you will be cruising with before you cruise with them.
Why do this? Well for us it will show you the main reason we cruise. We both work in places that are not conducive to socializing. Our neighborhood where we live has a lot of turnover and because of these two things we don’t have a lot of friends at home that we socialize with. We do have family and Bob (about a hundred miles away) but that’s it for us. So we cruise to meet people. To socialize. Cruise Critic does that. It lets us meet a lot of great people (like just about every friend we have) before we cruised with them and many of them have become life-long friends. We have friends from all over the world that we met through Cruise Critic. I can’t say enough about how valuable we have found this website. I should mention that you can also meet people on your Cruise Critic roll call that you can share private shore excursions with and we highly recommend this. It’s how we met other great friends who have come to see us and we have visited them.
On this cruise we had an OUTSTANDING roll call. More than 100 people signed on and I would guess we had about 50 who were truly active. I always set up a website for every cruise we go on (The Infinites site is here) and this one had some of the most active participation ever!
We had planned a number of activities on board but our first planned meeting was the night before the cruise when we (everyone who was in town and available) met at Bravo Ristorante in Fort Lauderdale for dinner. It was a well attended affair, the food was great, the wine flowed and we had an OUTSTANDING time. It was great to see old friends and to meet new ones. If you are sailing out of Fort Lauderdale, call this place, ask for James and he will set up your group.
The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed to the port. Our plan was for me to drop Kathleen and Bob at the cruise port in our rental car, then I would take the rental car back to the airport and take a taxi back to the cruise port. They are less than a 10 minute drive apart. This is where we had the closest thing to a disaster on the entire trip. We got to the cruise port, I dropped Bob and Kathleen with the luggage and I took the car back. I was so excited about how quick things were going that I jumped out of the rental, ran to the taxi line, jumped in a cab and within 15 minutes I was back at the cruise port. I walked up to Kathleen and Bob and said, “let’s go!” It was then I realized that I had left my computer bag (with my $4000 MacBook Pro, my iPad, my back up drive, $500 cash and so much more in it, in the rental car I had just returned. You see I had thought I was going to be responsible for it but when I got to the rental car return I looked in the back (which had an all black interior) and I was in the garage so everything was really dark and my computer bag is black and I am old…you get the picture. I just didn’t see it. I thought that Bob or Kathleen had grabbed it. When I realized they didn’t have it, I freaked out.
Long story short, I jumped in a cab, went back, found the car we had returned empty (YIKES!), got a guy from Budget (they rock!) to go check for the bag in the employee only area (while I am kicking myself repeatedly) and gave him a HUGE tip when he came back with the bag 15 minutes later. Was in a cab, back at the port, fully signed in, onboard and eating lunch in Bistro on 5 within 30 minutes of finding it. So everything went from absolutely awful to just fantastic in under an hour. Phew!
But for you future cruisers out there, we had a great embarkation. There were only three ships in port that day (Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale can handle many more) and we were at the terminal that usually handles the really BIG ships for RCL (Oasis and Quantum of the Seas which each house 4500+) so little old Infinity with barely 2,000 was a snap for this place.
One lesson we have learned with cruising is NEVER try and have lunch in the buffet as soon as you board. If you do, you will just be part of a crowd that has no place to sit, is standing in endless lines and so much worse. If you are on an X ship that has a Bistro on 5, go there. Bistro on 5 serves outstanding panini sandwiches, crepes, soups and salads. There is a charge (currently $7) but it is easy to get into and so far not many people think to do it. There was no line and 11 of us easily found a place to sit and had a wonderful first meal onboard. We were also thrilled that before we even finished eating lunch (before 1:00 pm) the announcement was made that cabins were open. WOW! As soon as we were done eating we headed up to drop off our carry on luggage and then head out to see the ship.
I mentioned that we had done the Canal on Infinity in 2004. What I haven’t mentioned yet is that this was also our 7th cruise on Infinity. She was for a while, our home away from home. It seemed like we couldn’t take a cruise without sailing on her. Once we booked another ship and she was subbed in to take its place at the last minute. Which is perfectly OK with us as we love her.
But our last Infinity trip before this one was 2008. We’ve done lots of cruises since then but just not on her. And since then she had had a pretty dramatic refit. In 2008, X introduced a new line of ships, the Solstice class. We have sailed on two of them ourselves (Solstice and Eclipse) and after they were all built (there are 5) they decided to make some of the changes they had built into the Solstice class to the Millennium class of ships as well. (Infinity is one of those). The biggest changes were the addition of some additional cabins that increased the ships pax capacity by around 300. We did notice that things were a touch more crowded at times when a great part of the pax were trying to do the same thing (like eat, see a show, get off or get on the ship) but not terrible.
We did love all the other changes that were made in the Solsticizing. My particular favorites were the removal of the “solarium/florist” on deck 11 which was replaced by a new alternative restaurant, Qsine. We had eaten on Qsine on Eclipse last summer and would again on this trip. More about that later. Other great additions were Bistro on 5, the underused Cellar Masters and a new dining room for Aqua class pax called Blu. Since we were not in Aqua class we did not experience Blu but I can say that they just cut it out of half of one side of the upstairs dining room, so it’s not real big. On the Solstice class ships, it is a very nice, separate dining room. We have booked Aqua class on our next cruise (summer 2016 on a Solstice class ship) so we will let you know how it works.
One change (or really just something that got totally retrofitted) is the gym. After having to endure the old and decrepit machines (especially the stationary bikes which I use) on Century on our last two cruises, Infinity had an entirely new gym with all new machines. The bikes (three uprights—YEAH!) were outstanding with superb video and programming. All touch screens. Thanks X! This rocked. And even though the listed hours had a 6:00 am opening, I was always able to go at almost any time. In fact, sometimes I got there at 6:00 and found the gym (especially on port days) half full.
Other than those changes Infinity was her usual amazing self. And her crew (as we have always experienced with X) was OUTSTANDING.
Our cabin was exactly as we had left it 10 years before :-). Actually we have sailed in that cabin one other time before this and both agreed that we will NOT book it again but more about that under “The Ugly” below. Suffice it to say that it was a typical cruise ship cabin but because it was an aft cabin on a Millennium class ship, the verandah was huge. And they gave us plenty of chairs and lounges and we did seem to spend a lot of time out there.
If you want some superb and detailed pics of Infinity, click here to go to Mike and Carol's site.
Let’s start with food. So much of cruising is about the cuisine. It was generally good. Some of it was really good. I can actually say that I ate the best single plate of food I have ever eaten on this cruise. (More about that later).
Breakfast for us on 90% of the days on board was our typical granola and and yogurt in the Aqua Spa cafe. The cafe is located next to the T-pool (one of our favorite places on Infinity). We would meet Bob at his circular table each morning after I had worked out. My only criticism of breakfast was that it would have been nice to have blueberries. The only way to get blueberries was to buy a yogurt parfait for $6. SIX DOLLARS??? For a 6 oz. yogurt parfait when an entire lunch at Bistro on 5 is only $7? That’s ridiculous! On two mornings (one was disemarkation) we ate in the buffet. The omelets were good but I can’t believe I was on an X ship for 15 days and never had a waffle. Shame on me.
One more thing before we leave the Aqua Spa is a shoutout to our superb waiter, Carmelo. He was there every morning and even though he didn’t actually serve us (it’s a buffet kind of thing) he came by our table and said hello, cleared away dirty dishes and just basically made us feel VERY welcome.
After food in the Aqua Spa cafe, we headed down to Cafe al Bacio (the Infinity’s espresso bar) for coffee. Two things about coffee—first, most of the coffee on board (especially the buffet and the Aqua Spa cafe) is horrid. X still hasn’t figured out coffee in those venues. Second, while most everyone on the ship without a beverage plan has to pay for coffee, we, being Elite Plus in Celebrity’s Captain’s Club (their loyalty club) get our espresso free anywhere on the ship. More about Captain’s Club later. The espresso (cappuccinos, lattes and Americanos) is very good. And their muffins and pastries (which are free to all) are outstanding especially the carrot muffin.
Lunch for us was mostly the buffet. A couple of our secrets. If you want a great salad, get some lettuce and other bits and pieces from the buffet and then head to the pizza station. Not as much for pizza as for the wonderful roasted and marinated vegetables they have out. Grab those for your salad. If you are lucky, there are even big chunks of Italian salami (found that on only ONE day). They also have fairly decent garlic bread. The pizza itself is just OK. I told a friend about it (Hi Danny) and he tried it and I asked him how he liked it. He said it was OK. I asked him if it was take out at home would he order it again. He said, “No way!” That about sums it up.
Other lunch hot spots were the burger grille outside by the pool. Excellent burgers. And you can ask for grilled onions and bacon. They give you LOTS of bacon if you smile and make small talk. And the fries are to die for. I mean really outstanding fries. You get them at the burger bar or the sandwich bar at the back of the buffet. Speaking of the sandwich bar, we learned after a couple of days to always check the sandwich of the day at the sandwich bar first. That way if they have one you like, it makes it easier to choose what to have for lunch. That’s what we did. A salad was usually the fall back or if we weren’t having a HUGE dinner, a burger. All were excellent.
Dinner for us was usually in the dining room. We never ate in the buffet. No room service for us. We ate every dinner with our friends in the dining room other than the two nights when we tried the alternative restaurants Qsine and the S.S. United States. More about them later.
The dining room shows how well X fixes things. We had requested a table for nine (there were originally 10 of us but since we had lost Judy we were down to nine) at first seating. We did not want to walk up to anytime dining with that many people. It would have taken forever to get seated. So we should have been been seated in “regular seating” on deck four. But when we arrived at the dining room door on deck four on the first night of the cruise we were told we had been moved to a table upstairs in “Anytime Dining.” Sure enough we had. The only problem was, it was a table for 7 that had once been a table for 8 and there were 9 of us. Needless to say, the first night was kind of crowded. In fact very crowded. Our plates would only fit on the table in a vertical position we were so close together. It was impossible to pull our chairs all the way into the table. An uncomfortable situation to say the least. Plus we were stuck way in the back in a dark hole near the windows. We were truly wedged into a spot that would just not fit all of us. And we had hoped to be able to squeeze together on some nights for others to join us. There would be no squeezing at this table.
We would not be happy to be like this for the rest of the cruise. Then we saw him…our hero…assistant maitre’d Jayson. (That's him with Kathleen at left.) We had sailed with Jayson on two occasions in the past and he is a doer. When you make a request of Jayson, it just happens. He had taken care of us before and sure enough he told me, “I will have this fixed by the time you come to dinner tomorrow night,” and sure enough he did. When we arrived at the table on night two, we had been moved away from the window to a spot by the waiter’s station, we had two outstanding servers (Richie our waiter and Mahesh his assistant) taking care of us and the table was big enough we could squeeze in others on other nights.
The only problem for the rest of the cruise was the speed of dinner arriving. We showed up for early seating, right on time at 6:00 and we were hardly ever finished before 8:30. This is just too long to be sitting in the dining room for a typical dinner. We do realize why this happened. Everyone else on our floor in the dining room was “anytime dining.” This meant that those tables needed to be turned over at least two if not three times each night. But our big table really was only used by us. That meant that our servers were concentrating on turning over the tables around us. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world but it did mean that if anyone wanted to see the post-dinner show they had to rush through dessert and then leave the table before others were finished.
One other wonderful thing I want to mention about the dining room is our superb (best ever on any cruise) sommelier Katarina. On our last cruise (on Eclipse) our sommelier had been one of the bad parts of our experience. He totally ignored Kathleen and spent most of the cruise trying to sell me on going to this or that extra charge wine event. It was impossible to find him when you wanted anything refilled and he ignored most of us who had beverage packages as he knew he made more money on the others.
Katarina was his exact opposite. She took care of us each night with superb wine recommendations. We did not have a package but three people at our table did and she gave them just as much attention as she gave us. She made outstanding wine recommendations from among the by-the-glass wines for them. She was always available to pour but not in an intrusive way. She could discuss wines and never made me feel like I didn’t know what I was talking about. All in all, she was easily the best sommelier we have ever had, anyplace.
One more note about Jayson. He and Katarina were easily the two crew members who took the best care of us. Some other things that Jayson did for us included: making reservations for dinner at the SS United States alternative restaurant (including a 2 for 1 discount), arranging lunch in a separate section of the dining room for our entire (30+) Cruise Critic group on the last day at sea and so much more. Kathleen and I would see Jayson during the day in the buffet during lunch and he always stopped to talk to us. On our 17 Celebrity cruises, Jayson stands out as maybe my favorite and best Celebrity crew member.
We did eat dinner on two different nights in Infinity’s two alternative restaurants. On our first/non-formal night sea day we ate in Qsine. Here is what I said about Qsine when we dined there on Eclipse in 2013:
Qsine serves interesting food. I love interesting food. Some advice about Qsine. First, go with as many people as possible. They have more than 20 items on the menu to share. The more people you have, the more you get to try. We went with a party of 10 from our Cruise Critic group and we had a great time.
You order off iPads (not really but the menu is listed on them) and then they bring you enough food for everyone to try a little of each dish you order. Don't worry that you won't get enough. Since we had 10 people we were allowed to order 10 dishes. But we told them to stop after nine. We were stuffed. And we had to leave room for dessert. All of the food was great. I could have used a little more spice in some of them but we loved most of it. The high point for me were the M & Ms which is a huge box of Mediterranean goodies. Delicious. Most everyone agreed on that. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
I would basically say the same thing again. Except as much as I love the M&Ms, this time I also got to try the three ceviches which were the highlight for me this time. The lowlight was our server who kept messing up. I think we (with 11 of us there) were just too big a party for them to handle. Would I go back? Absolutely. The addition of Qsine to Infinity is one of the things that happened during Solsticizing and maybe the best thing. The room itself is unusual and very cool.
And we also ate at the the other alternative restaurant, the SS United States Dining Room (USDR). This is traditional 4-star French cuisine and we have eaten there on all our six previous Infinity trips and always enjoyed it. This time though we may have overwhelmed them which I thought made their service break down a bit. In the USDR they do French service with things being prepped at the table and everything served under domes with a big reveal. There is only one table in the entire place that holds more than six people and we were seated at it. With 11 of us, they had to basically bring the entire staff to remove domes. And the fact that a few of us ordered double appetizers (not Kathleen or I) also messed up their timing. One other ding during this meal was a female waiter who felt she had to come by the table after dinner and tell us how terrible it was to be on the crew. If she didn’t like it, she should quit. It was a very strange, non-X experience.
All that said, the food was AMAZING. This is the night when I had what might be the single best plate of food I have ever eaten. Kathleen and I started with two different appetizers that were both great but we had both ordered the venison as our entree and when it arrived I can tell you I thought I had died and gone to heaven. If it hadn’t been one of our last nights on board, I would have gone back and had it again. I hope to on our next cruise. It was AMAZING! And when we told our sommelier Radu that we were having it, he recommended the perfect zinfandel to go with it. Another great sommelier experience.
So much of cruising is about food, your cabin and the ship in general, and I think I have pretty much covered those. But here are some additional random thoughts before I hit the ports of call. I want to mention some other crew that were outstanding. Our cruise director was Alejandro from Argentina. I am not sure if he was the best cruise director we have ever had, but he was certainly the most memorable. We saw him everywhere and he and his activity team (Rachel from the UK, Aida from Canada and Andres from Spain?) did a better job of entertaining us than we have ever seen before. We can’t believe that only four people were running all those activities. Alejandro and Rachel carried on what we thought was a “funny-fake” romance in all their public appearances and he got a little overboard with his intros and comments at shows but as I said, he was memorable. We won’t soon forget him. Rachel either. She will make a superb cruise director herself one day.
No cruise is perfect but X made this one about as good as it could get. Sure we had a snafu in the dining room on the first night but they quickly fixed that (thanks to the amazing Jayson) and that was it. The only really ugly things that happened were not X’s fault. One was due to fellow pax and the other to the Port of San Diego and the U.S. Customs Service.
I think I mentioned above that we won’t book this particular cabin again. We were in an aft cabin (9162) which is located right below the Sunset Bar. Whenever anyone would decide to rearrange the furniture in the Sunset Bar it sounded like a freight train was being driven on our roof. Now 90% of the time this was tolerable but we had one very ugly incident on the morning of the day we made our Panama Canal transit.
First, some basic facts you need to know. Panama Canal cruises seem to be very popular with folks from Germany. (And I know I might get really flamed for this.) These German folk are easily the rudest cruisers I have ever encountered. Both on our first Panama Canal cruise and on this one. Second, you need to know that we were not scheduled to enter the first lock of the Canal until 7:45 at the earliest.
Now that you know these two facts, here’s what happened. At around 4:15 AM on the morning of our canal transit the furniture (chairs and tables) began to be moved around above us. Not lifted and moved quietly but dragged from one place to another. At first I thought it was an over-zealous crew member trying to get a jump on his days work but it continued for at least 20 minutes. There was no way we could possibly sleep through the racket. I finally got up and got dressed to go up and see what was going on. And yes, I was mad.
So when I get up to the Sunset Bar I found two women moving all the chairs and tables by dragging them all over. They were putting their belongings on them to reserve them so that later their friends would have good viewpoint for the crossing!!! Are you kidding me? At 4:15 AM??? Three and a half hours before we would be going through the first lock??? When I asked them if they realized that there were people trying to sleep below them, I discovered they were German and that only one of them spoke English. She replied, “We have a right to this! We won’t apologize in anyway. Go away!” I argued with them for a few minutes more until another German passenger who had been sitting nearby working on his computer told me to get lost before he did something about it. See what I mean? I would have confronted him but I didn’t want to wind up having to leave the ship at the next port. Rudest people ever. Totally entitled. All we were entitled to was a full night’s sleep but not to these idiot dunces. (I fully realize that this does not mean that all German people are this way but suffice it to say we saw and overheard many other exchanges with German pax that left us believing that it was a pretty standard thing.) Browbeating crew, asking for ridiculous service and more. What pigs! And that’s why we won’t book that cabin again.
(Note from Kathleen: we did not experience this issue on our 1st time in this cabin which is why we booked it again.)
Twice! Two years ago when we returned from Hawaii to San Diego I booked a 11:15 flight home to Seattle. We had sailed into San Diego on two previous occasions before our 2012 Hawaii cruise on Century. Once in 2008 and our original Panama Canal cruise in 2004. On both of the first two we were off the ship and in Palm Springs (a 2.5 hour drive) having lunch with my parents by 11:30. So when we sailed in 2012 I thought, no problem getting to the airport (which you can see from the ship) before we needed to check in at 9:15. This was not to be. The entire ship was held by Customs until around 9:15 while I blew a gasket trying to get off. We made our flight by literally minutes.
This year we weren’t flying home from San Diego, we were driving out to see my Dad in Palm Springs. So I felt like we were totally OK. We were meeting friends of Bob’s for lunch about 30 minutes from the port. We were scheduled in the last group to get off around 10:30. That was fine with us. Until we got off. First, those that had early flights were in the same boat as we had been in two years before. I will say this now, until Customs and the problems at the Port of San Diego are fixed, don’t book anything off the ship until after 1:00 pm. I was told by at least two people that prior to 2010, Customs used to board the ship in Cabo and clear everyone prior to arriving in San Diego. That meant we could get off the ship as soon as it tied up. Just like you can in Fort Lauderdale, Seattle and Vancouver.
Then once we got off the Port let us down in a huge way. When you leave the ship you go down the gangplank until you get about halfway to the terminal. Then (with all your carry-on bags) you are forced to descend two flights of stairs. There is an elevator that holds about 20 people max for those who are handicapped or need assistance but when a ship is disembarking more than 2,000 people, this tiny elevator is not adequate. But it only got worse once you got downstairs. There was absolutely no one directing anything. There were no lines, everyone was just pushing towards the door to get into the room where the luggage was. Then a huge crush to get out of that room and out the door to where the ground transportation is. All through one little door. The biggest problem is that once people get passed the two guys from Customs collecting forms (never looking at them so it seemed totally superfluous) they got to the door outside and stopped cold trying to figure out which way to go to get a cab, a shuttle or whatever. The entire thing was mass chaos. It shouldn’t be. It isn’t in other ports. This isn’t Celebrity’s fault. It is the ports. They need to fix this.
It was a wonderful experience to be back on the GTS Infinity, especially with all our Martini Mates and our Cruise Critic roll call.
It wasn't Europe or Asia but one of the ports yielded a once-in-a-lifetime experience—and we did it!