You might think that after finally becoming a landlubber after 12 years at sea I would be keeping my feet firmly on terra firma! Well you’d be mistaken especially when given the opportunity to visit a ship that’s attracted a huge following since her launch in March of 2001. So there I was leathered up filtering through the heavy London rush hour towards the port of Harwich. A journey that would take three hours in a car thankfully takes me 90 minutes and as I finally turn into the port I catch my first glimpse of the Celebrity Infinity.
X marks the spot and the ship even at a diminutive 91,000 tons towers over the English East Coast. A quick change in the car park and one leathered biker has been transformed into a smart tour escort, though I must say that it feels very strange to walk up the gangway not wearing a tie…. Too many years as a Cruise Director – I still find myself saying hello to random strangers in the supermarket!
Be warned the first challenge when visiting Harwich is finding the Port’s embarkation building – fortunately after visiting many times from the other side I remember you have to walk through the train station.. others aren’t so lucky so like any good ex cub scout I use my ‘Mountain Leader’ badge skills to gather up the stragglers.
The welcome from the crew is bright and cheerful and after receiving my green armband our guide Ruth leads us onboard. I am asked to bring up the rear, no sniggers please and after a thorough security check I am briefly left trying to maintain my important role as the rearguard whilst holding up my trousers and retightening my belt. Who says men can’t multitask!
Infinity along with her other Millennium Class sisters has recently enjoyed a 30 million refurb which is often referred to as Solcistizeing, introducing some of the award winning new features from the Solstice Class. Stepping onboard into the central atrium it’s immediately clear why so many refer to this as the ‘pretty ship’ which trust me is unusual for an ocean going vessel. A beautiful tortoise-shell onyx stairway dominates the stately heart of Infinity and I quickly befriend a Greco example of some of stunning artwork that defines this ship.
Our first stop is the USS United States Restaurant. This classy French themed for-fee eatery is a regular feature on all Celebrity Ships and as a lover of the history of the old ocean liners the original memorabilia from the last winner of the Blue Riband is a delight. Ruth informs us that the restaurant is actually going for its first Michelin star…. This would be I believe an industry first and a true reflection of the confidence in the incredibly high standards of cuisine onboard! Sadly we don’t have time for a taste test but the aroma of the kitchen prepping for the evening was enough to get me salivating.
Before I cause myself to stop writing and start eating lets talk about some of the other incredible dining options onboard. There’s the exclusive aqua-class fine dine healthy eating of Blue through to the truly innovative quirky fun of Qsine where Ipad menu’s, sushi lollipops and Riedel rolling crystal glasses compliment an option for you to make your own cupcake! As a bit of a foodie I think a trip on here would have me living up to the old Cruise Director boast – you walk up the gangway and we roll you back down! Even the buffet on the main pool deck boasts a brand new SPE certified ‘health through food’ program where ingredients are selected seasonally, locally and sustainably.
As a keen gym lover I am pleased to find Infinity has dedicated some prime space to the pursuit of sweaty perfection. Treadmills with a sea view overlooking the bow almost make you believe that your efforts are powering the ship in some kind of giant hamster wheel scenario.
Acupuncture, tooth whitening, massage and a dedicated range of treatments just for men are just some of the highlights that the new Aqua spa by Elemis. If you get a chance try the seaweed wrap and massage, imagine me covered in green seaweed wrapped up in tin foil and gently baked for 60 minutes… maybe you had to be there but it was certainly one of the most relaxing experiences of my life to date.
Ruth took great pleasure in showing us a good range of Celebrity’s accommodation and amazingly all 25 of us even fitted into the standard inside cabin! That gives you an idea of just how spacious they are. I’ve always been of the opinion that your cabin is only a place to rest your head at the end of the day because there is so much else to enjoy onboard but with the recent addition Reverie Dream Mattresses I might struggle to even get out of bed, let alone the cabin!
One thing that would drag me away from the comforts of my cabin would be the tremendous range of bars onboard. From the Martini Ice Bar (where I naughtily drew my name as the Ice was frosting over) to the panoramic Constellation lounge with its floor to ceiling windows. But my personal favourite haunt would be Cellar Masters. As a keen wino with a weakness for malbec and syrah the innovative enomatic dispensing system is revolutionary. The only downside is that now I can’t use the excuse… but they only have it by the bottle darling…
After a fine dinner and some excellent conversation it was time to sadly head home. As Ruth says her farewells she jokingly reminds us all that the gangway security have our passports so there really is no way of hiding behind a pot plant until she sets sail for Norway. As we head back down to deck four we pass the Celebrity iLounge – tax free iPad’s at $250 a pop…. Do I really need my passport?
Jenny West (my boss) and the co-founder of Planet Cruise recently asked me to host a cruise offering me the chance to pick any ship from any company in the Industry. Its kind of like asking Charlie to choose one thing from Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and although I am notoriously indecisive and have a reputation for torturing waiters with my vacillating up until today I only had one ship in mind. Now happily another 11 have been added into the mix. Wish me good luck. I’m going to need it!