Couple of weeks ago, I did this post about 10 questions I was mulling over before I stepped aboard my first ever cruise. Now that I’ve done the cruise, it’s time to share the answers.
Please note: All the answers below are based on my cruise to Alaska (7 day round trip from Vancouver) on board the Celebrity Infinity. Answers for other cruise lines/destinations will almost certainly vary.
1. Embarkation and disembarkation – is this going to be a pain?
Yes and Yes.
Embarkation to Celebrity Infinity was a 3 hour nightmare. We arrived at Canada Place (in Vancouver) to board our cruise at 1150 and didn’t get on board the cruise until 1445. There was a first a queue to check-in to the cruise (1.5 hours), then a queue for immigration (another hour), and another half an hour queue to have your photo taken. There were sitting queues and standing queues. All in all, it was a nightmare and I had very nearly sworn off cruises even before I ever set foot on one.
Disembarkation (at port): On the first port, this took 45 minutes, with people queuing up in the corridors and stairwells. On the later ports, they were better organised, with a ticket system to let people off, but this still took upto 45 minutes. Things were much better organised if you were going on an excursion.
Disembarkation (final day): On the final day, the disembarkation was really smooth. We had signed up for the walk-off programme, which means that we carried our own bags and literally walk-off the ship. We were asked to come to the disembarkation point at 0745 and were out of the ship before the clock struck 0800. Why couldn’t embarkation and port disembarkation be so simple?
2. Crowds – How well will I cope with being on a ship with 2000 other people?
Surprisingly well as it turns out. Although it was a full cruise (2000 passengers and 1000 staff), it felt very busy, but never over-crowded. There were no queues at breakfast, lunch or dinner times. We never had to wait for a table for dinner. It was always possible to find a seat in a bar. It felt more like being in a bustling town centre on a Saturday.
Also, I have to say everyone (passengers and staff both) on the cruise were very polite and well behaved, even during the stressful embarkation and disembarkation times. On board, everyone would smile and say hello when passing.
3. The room – Am I going to like it?
Yes. Room was more spacious than I had expected, and well appointed. I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all and no sign of cabin fever. We had paid extra for a balcony room, which was really worth it. I’m not sure I could have coped with an inside cabin or just a window. Sitting on the balcony whilst cruising at sunset was one of best things about the cruise.
4. Cost – We’ve already paid a small fortune for the cruise. How much will we have to fork out onboard in order to have a nice time?
The food was all included, but we had to pay for drinks, and as we don’t drink a lot, this wasn’t very much. Drinks were priced from $6 to $10 per drink, so comparable to on land prices. They really try to sell you one of the drinks packages during the first few days, but it is not worth it unless you drink a lot, and I mean A LOT (About 10 drinks per person, per day). I found this hard-sell quite off putting. We paid for drinks as we went and for dinner you could order a bottle of wine, and if you don’t finish it, the restaurant will keep it in the fridge for you for the next day.
There were plenty of other ways to spend you money on board – casino, shopping, spa etc. but we steered clear of these.
5. Food – Is the food included in the prices going to be good enough? Is there going to be sufficient variety?
Yes. We were pleasantly surprised by the food. We ate in the Ocean View cafe for breakfast and lunch and the Trellis restaurant for dinner. Food was high quality and well prepared. We didn’t feel the need to go to the specialty restaurants during the 7 days we spent on board. (Although I was getting a bit bored towards the end – it’s likely that if the cruise was longer than 7 days we might have gone to one of the other restaurants).
6. Excursions – I’ve booked some excursions with the ship. Are these going to be good value for money?
Short answer to this is “No”. We had 3 excursions with the ship (Icy Strait point zip ride, Juneau sightseeing, and Misty fijords in Ketchikan), and although they were very good and we enjoyed them, they didn’t tick the value for money box. More details on upcoming posts. It also didn’t help that the excursion that I was most looking forward to – snorkeling in Ketchikan, got cancelled at the last minute.
7. Dress code – Cruise ships have formal nights, where dress code is compulsory. I’m not keen on this idea. Is this going to be a problem?
Not at all. I needn’t have worried. Celebrity don’t do formal nights any more, but do “evening chic” instead. Evening chic is being smartly dressed as if you are going to a nice restaurant. Of course, they are very happy if you want to go the whole nine yards and get your tux and ball gown out, but there’s no pressure.
8. Am I going to get ill? We’ve all heard the horror stories of flu bugs and noro-virus taking down everyone on the ship. I really hope this is not the case.
Not at all. Again, nothing to worry here. We didn’t have any problems virus-wise. When you are on-board, it is easy to see why. There are hand sanitizers everywhere and very soon it becomes second nature to wash your hand as you walk from one part of a ship to another. They also clean all high traffic areas (lifts, stairs, door handles, door frames, railings etc.), several times a day.
9. Am I going to get sea sick? Apparently, you never know if you are prone to being sea sick until you are on the ship. We’ve paid extra for a mid-ship cabin, where it is more stable. So we’ll see.
Yes – I didn’t think I will get sea sick (I never get train, air or car sick), but it hit me on day two. But 4 hours and a short nap later it was gone. Sea sickness was worse on higher decks and at the front or the back of the ship. So, paying extra for a mid-ship cabin turned out to be really worth it. The sea sickness made a couple of re-appearances, especially when the sea got a bit choppy, but I had the option of retreating to cabin for a bit when I felt unwell.
10. Internet (or rather lack of it) – Am I going to cope with the lack of internet?
I didn’t get to find out how well I would cope without the internet, as my husband couldn’t cope at all. So on day 2, we grit our teeth and paid $199 for high speed unlimited internet. On the plus side, it really was high speed internet (good enough for Netflix), and you could use different devices on it (but only one device at a time). On the minus side, it would get slow or drop off every now and then, not to mention the sky-high prices.
So there you have it, the answers to the questions. Overall it was a good experience, but I don’t think its suited to my travelling style at present. We did see some amazing sights, and the service and facilities were top notch, but it didn’t feel like very good value for money or time spent. In part I think this was due to this particular itinerary, as we spent a lot of time at sea and not enough at port. I’m also too much used to making my own plans, and options to do this on a cruise are limited. Would I repeat it? Someday, I’m sure, but not for a while.