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British Isles Cruise on Infinity 5-13-13 Review


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Here is a review of our 11 night Infinity British Isles cruise for 5-13-13:

 

Background:

My husband and I have mainly cruised in the Caribbean with Royal Caribbean. We took the Silhouette out of Bayonne last year and were very pleased with Celebrity (and enjoyed the Elite benefits since we are Diamond on Royal). The last 3 cruises we have taken were all on some of the “latest and greatest” new ships – Oasis, Allure and Silhouette - all a few months old when we sailed - the ship was the destination. We were a little apprehensive about sailing on an older, smaller ship, but were pleasantly surprised!

 

Pre-Cruise:

Since we had planned to go to Normandy on our day in Le Havre, we decided to go to Paris for a few days prior to the cruise. Neither of us had been to Paris and we loved it. We did not find any anti-American sentiment that we had heard about and were treated very well. We flew into Paris and had pre-arranged with the hotel to have a car (and driver) waiting for us, which made for an easy transfer to the hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Sainte-Beuve, which is a small boutique hotel (22 rooms) in a pretty, quiet neighborhood (6th arrondissement, near Jardin du Luxembourg). I think I first saw this hotel recommended on CC ports of call. The people who run the hotel are very personable and helpful. The rooms are small, but well-decorated, clean and comfortable. Breakfast was a treat, with giant, flaky, warm croissants and baguettes with fresh butter and jams, fluffy omelets, fresh fruit, teas and coffee – these were all served in their cozy salon. The hotel is a bit pricey, though we got 30% off for staying 3 nights. We had pre-purchased the Paris Pass and had a wonderful time exploring the city on our own. The Metro was easy, even for a beginner – we preferred that over the Ho-Ho bus, which seemed slow. We walked to several restaurants near our hotel and were treated to memorable dinners and wines. We took the Eurostar to London (from Gare du Nord to Pancras Station). It was a quick, comfortable journey (around 2 hrs) – 62 euros per person. It was easy to take a taxi to our hotel from Pancras Station.

 

We stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London. They had upgraded us to a suite so we had a gorgeous room with a terrace with a view of the Eye (but I must say we missed our little, friendly hotel in Paris). We had hired a guide, Bryan Gorin, to take us around all day in London. He was having issues with his taxi that week so asked his buddy, Graham Woodhouse to tour us around instead. We had a memorable day – his knowledge and personable nature made it well worth the cost. The highlight for us was Churchill’s Underground Bunker.

 

We had Silverfleet Cruise Ship Transfers take us to Harwich the day before the cruise. They picked us up at the hotel at 12:45 and took us to the Premier Inn Harwich (about a 2 hour trip). They have comfortable vans (6 people in ours), professional drivers and are reasonable ($115 pounds each round trip). The Premier Inn is an inexpensive, no frills, clean, comfortable and friendly place. They had a fairly decent restaurant attached where we ate dinner and breakfast (this hotel is not in the town so there is not much close by). There is also a store right there for drinks and snacks. We asked for a taxi for the morning that picked us up around 10:30. The trip to the ship was 5 minutes – you could walk, but people at the hotel advised against it.

 

Boarding:

The whole boarding process was comfortable and easy. When we arrived around 10:40, the baggage was taken by some very nice British baggage handlers. We went into a room with some tables and chairs where a few people were waiting. They said we could go aboard at 11:00. There was a little place to have coffee next to that room. At 11:00 we were allowed into registration – the British hospitality was amazing! The people were so sweet and apologizing profusely for being slow or making a mistake. Security personnel were also very polite. We were on board in no time, with champagne in hand.

 

The Ship:

I thought the ship was in great shape and we didn’t really miss too many of the features of the S class ships. It was also pretty easy to navigate and it was nice to have 3 sets of elevators.

 

The Cabin:

We were able to snag one of the 5 aft AquaClass cabins since we booked early (we really like being in the aft and prefer Blu for dining so we were able to have both on this cruise). We had 1138, which I would definitely choose again. It has been discussed on CC that 1140 has the bigger, more private balcony, with 1138 and 1141 the next biggest and 1130 and 1133 have the smaller balconies with less privacy. Since there is a smoking area on the starboard side of the Sunset Bar, I chose 1138 which is port side (1133 and 1141 are starboard and 1140 in the middle). We never had any smoke or soot out there, but being a spring British Isles cruise with cool weather, we didn’t use the balcony a great deal. When we did have a nice day, it was wonderful –it is about half sunny (and open for people below to see you) and half shaded (and private). There was rarely anyone on the sundeck above (just saw 2 crew members cleaning/painting) and the people below didn’t really look up much. Though 1140 definitely had more privacy, I think the huge flag that whips around in front of that balcony would have driven me nuts (it may not really be an issue - we never talked with the people in 1140, but I am guessing it might be for us). The people in 1130 were pleased with their cabin as well. It was great to run down a few steps to the buffet or bar for a quick bite or a drink.

 

The cabin was the usual AquaClass cabin – great shower, adequate storage and space. The bed was wonderful –we slept well, just not enough (too many late nights and early mornings). Ray and his assistant were some of the best cabin attendants – the cabin was kept spotless and they helped with anything we needed. Our little hallway was quiet – no noise issues, except some cabin creaking when the seas were a bit rough. There was minimal noise from the Sunset Bar – when the balcony door was closed, there was no noise.

 

Entertainment:

My husband loves to listen to live music in small venues and there were some excellent musicians on this cruise. Ric Steel, Will Foraker and Rob Ondras rotated through the hang outs at night entertaining everyone – we heard many positive comments about these musicians. They took requests and were very personable. The strings group, Fiore Trio, was also excellent and we enjoyed listening to them with our afternoon tea.

I didn’t get to any of the nightly shows – I heard that most were very good. They usually started at 7 and 9 each night.

There weren’t a lot of planned activities with so many port days, though the 2 sea days had the usual lectures, game show recreations, bingo, trivia, spa, etc. We prefer to read when not in port. There were many lovely nooks for reading. We loved the Café al Bacio for reading while sipping some tea. The Solarium was also a pretty quiet, peaceful place to read.

The casino tends to take your money, but I ended up having some good luck on my special slot machine. I won a $500 dollar pot and had a lot of flashing lights and loud music, etc, which was lots of fun. I also won $250 once and a couple of $150 pots, but of course put much of it back in. I did keep some and ended up using it to give some extra tips to my favorite staff members.

 

Food:

As usual, there was no lack of food. We avoided the buffet, if possible, but ended up there for some early breakfasts before early tours or a late lunch after a tour. The food was pretty good for a buffet, but as others have said, the set- up is not great. Unfortunately, some people aren’t on their best behavior in a buffet situation. For breakfast, the made to order eggs Benedict bar (“Poached Eggs and More” at the very aft portside of the buffet) was good and not too busy. They had the eggs partially poached and English muffins partially toasted so it was pretty fast. There were Mexican ones with guacamole, Scottish ones with salmon, etc. Of course the waffle bar was very popular. At lunch, the soups, sandwich fixings and salads were quite good. The ice cream was good (until you tasted the gelato at the gelateria on 5 which had a $3 fee for 1-2 scoops, $5 for 3-4 scoops).

 

Room service was great. The breakfasts were fast, hot and quite good. We ordered cheese and cracker platters in the late afternoons on the balcony to have with a glass of wine – it was a nice selection of cheeses and crackers.

 

Blu was run very well on the Infinity, in our opinion. The MD, Mr. Popa, kept a watchful eye on everything. We had a few issues on the Silhouette with service and food prep, but the waiters on this ship were extremely attentive and the food was prepared as ordered. We never had to wait long to get a table (5 minutes max). Most experienced Blu people know this, but for those who don’t, you can order escargot, shrimp cocktail, onion soup and Caesar salad every night even though it is not on the menu. Others have talked about ordering things on the MDR menu, though we stuck with the Blu menu. There were some misses, but we enjoyed most things. The staff there is amazing, especially Glen, Gabriel, Islam and Maria. The sommelier, Maggie, was a lot of fun and helped us choose wines every night. We had the premium alcohol package and she took our cards the first night and learned about what we liked and didn’t like. From then on she would come to the table soon after we arrived and see what we wanted to start with and then later after we ordered would help us pair the wine throughout the meal. If we didn’t like it, she would bring something else. It made for an excellent experience. There were some wines we wouldn’t have tried without her suggestions and they ended up being favorites.

 

We thought we preferred quiet tables for 2, as opposed to sitting with people we don’t know (on Silhouette there were a few tables alone in Blu and others in a row so you often had people close by on either side and we liked the private ones). On this ship the tables for 2 were all next to another table for 2 (about a foot apart), but we actually had a wonderful time meeting new people. We always greeted the other couple and then tried to determine if they wanted to chat or not. It seemed that everyone wanted to chat so we had some interesting conversations and sometimes tried to sit with those people again. Out of many breakfasts and dinners, we only were seated next to someone who was not pleasant once (and we had a good laugh after they left because of some outrageous statements). We noticed as the cruise went on that they tried not to seat others next to that couple unless necessary – maybe that’s a good way to get private seating :).

 

We found our favorite place for lunch was Bistro on Five. They were often quiet and the manager and staff were very friendly. I loved the beef Panini and the Italian crepe (dessert crepe of banana and nutella). The soups were also excellent – it was well worth the $5 charge. We had the made to order breakfast crepes also, which were excellent. This was open usually from 8AM until 12:30 AM so if you missed the usual times for breakfast, lunch or dinner for some reason you could get something good here.

 

We loved Qsine on Silhouette and were looking forward to going again on Infinity. Most of the food was good, but our favorites (lamp chops from M’s Favorites and BBQ pork spring rolls) were not as good as on Silhouette. It may be that we had a late lunch and an afternoon wine tasting so weren’t that hungry, but we just weren’t as into it this time around.

 

We went to the SS United States connoisseur dinner that had specific foods paired with wines ($95 each for 5 courses plus pre-dinner canapés and champagne - 2 choices for each course including different wines for each choice) – it wasn’t well-advertised – our sommelier asked us if we were interested. It was very good and a lot of fun – of course, as the night goes on, it gets even more fun (they refilled the wine glasses, if “needed”). The sommelier talks about the wines as he serves them. We had 2 other couples at our table that we enjoyed dining with – it was a great evening with impeccable service.

 

We went back there for dinner another night and again had a wonderful dinner. The goat cheese soufflé was my favorite dish.

 

Ports:

We had never been to any of these ports so we were looking forward to this itinerary. It is a very port intensive cruise, especially when you have been trying to see the sights of Paris and London for a week pre-cruise. With the only 2 sea days at the end, everyone we talked to was pretty tired by the time they arrived. There is only one tendered port on this cruise – St Peter Port needed tendering and it was an issue for some since it was also the shortest day (left at 3PM). Luckily, we received priority tendering since we were Elite and could get onto the next tender when we were ready. Most got numbered tender tickets and waited for their numbers to be called. I think the early risers were fine, but we talked to some who waited a long time to get a tender and then only had 45 minutes on the island before they needed to be back (last tender was at 2:30). We had a private tour from 10-1 that ran long and when the driver brought us back at 1:50, the line for the tender was about 200 people long and got much longer soon thereafter – luckily the line went pretty fast. I would suggest booking tours early and getting your tender ticket number as early as possible (and get back to the tender dock by 1:30 to avoid the lines). They may have the kinks worked out for future cruises.

 

Le Havre: Took Overlord Tours with William to Normandy – was a private tour booked by CC Roll Call people. This was phenomenal – we saw amazing sights and heard amazing stories. The people of Normandy love Americans, per our tour guide from Normandy, because of our actions in WWII. When our guide heard that 2 of our group of 8 had relatives buried in the American Cemetery in Normandy, he called ahead to have them arrange a ceremony for us. It turned out to be one of the most moving things I have ever seen. My father’s favorite uncle died there and I had found his burial info on-line and bought flowers for the grave in a little Normandy village. One of the people at the cemetery (a wonderful and beautiful place) greeted us and the other person in our group with a relative there and took us to the graves by golf cart. He had a little ceremony with sand from Omaha Beach and French and American flags and thanked us for our relatives’ sacrifice. The 4 veterans in our group saluted the graves – it was so beautiful and there were no dry eyes in our group.

 

St Peter Port: We were very interested in the German occupation history of this island, having read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which details this. We hired a guide, Steve Martin, who took us around in a taxi for 3-4 hours, showing us things from the book, as well as the Occupation Museum, bunkers, etc. while circling the whole island. We saw some gorgeous scenery and heard many interesting stories about the island.

 

FYI: They took our passports this afternoon and didn’t give them back until after we were out of Ireland. They said it was a request of Ireland Immigration. We had to go to the 3rd deck to relinquish them and were given a receipt and then picked them up a few days later. There was a line for passing them in but it was very quick when picking them up (announced that it could be one person per family). As is commonly recommended, we had photocopies of our passports with us. They said we should all have a photo ID with us when in port, so if you only have a passport for a photo ID, you may want to bring a second one (and a photocopy of your passport).

 

Cork: We booked a Butler Tours ECoach bus tour. This was inexpensive (20 euros each) and took us around that area of Ireland for the whole day. We went to Blarney Castle and were there for a couple of hours to kiss the Blarney Stone, tour the castle and grounds and shop at the Blarney Woolen Mills (great shopping there), drove through Cork City, Charlesfort and went to Kinsale. We had time for lunch in Kinsale and went to an Irish pub to have delicious fish and chips and beer. The driver was actually very good and for the price, this was worthwhile. If you want a more personal experience, some people on the cruise had booked smaller vans through Butler and had a great day (8 people each, I believe).

 

Dublin: My husband did the Guinness ship’s tour. The tour as a whole was not memorable per my husband, but the time at the Guinness factory was fun and a great place to get gifts.

 

Liverpool: We did a private Fab Four Taxi Tour for 3 hours with Danny. He was amazing! We absolutely loved this tour of wonderful Liverpool and enjoyed all the inside Beatles information. For 50 pounds you get a personal tour, complete with old pictures of the Beatles, some that others do not have (from Paul’s brother, Michael) and the real story about the Beatles then and now. Our favorite tour!

 

Belfast: We didn’t do any tours at this port – we needed a break.

 

Glasgow: Wonderful tour with Charlie of Discover Scotland Tours. This was in a 16 seat van – we had a great tour of Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and Stirling Castle. This countryside was lovely (my favorite area on this cruise) and we enjoyed the day immensely.

 

Iverness: A fun tour with Exquisite Scotland with K. We saw gorgeous Scottish Highlands, Shin Falls, Dunrobin Castle and a fantastic falconry show that was the high point of the day for us.

 

Captain’s Club:

Events for this particular cruise:

Coffee Break 8-10 in Trellis Restaurant (4 starboard)

Social Hour 5-7 in Constellation (complimentary drinks from menu - for other drinks can use beverage package or can be charged to Seapass)

 

To plan ahead – not sure if they are the same, but may help (we booked a wine and food pairing as soon as we boarded and then saw that there was a free Captain’s Club wine tasting at the same time):

-wine tasting was at 3:00 on the St Peter Port day (leave port at 3)

-Elite Elegant Tea was at 3:00 on the last sea day

 

Elite coupons seemed the same as last year – very happy with the free laundry (30 items for each of us) since we had been away for a week when we boarded. Our cabin attendants whisked it away the 1st morning and it was back the next afternoon.

 

Staff and Crew:

Everyone we dealt with was friendly and helpful except one of the fresh squeezed juice people in Oceanview Café. My husband asked for 2 orange juices (had the beverage package) and the guy gave him a lecture on how he should know better than ask for 2 at once, etc., etc. My husband knew about the drink rule and always took my card if he picked up 2 drinks at once, but it just didn’t occur to him at 7 AM when getting orange juice. Anyway, not a big deal, but it started his day off wrong.

 

Money Tips (I know others have gone over this but I had to do some searching to figure all this out):

You need 2 types of cash for this trip: euros for France and Ireland and pounds for Guernsey, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. The pounds may be labeled differently in different countries but are still accepted (ie., Scottish pounds are accepted in England).

The ship has a limited amount of cash to exchange (I was able to get some pounds one day, but they were out a couple of days later). The ATM in the casino gives you US dollars and the ATM on 3 (by Guest Relations) gave out Euros.

I suggest planning ahead since there may not always be an ATM easily available prior to you being picked up for a tour. Many places take credit cards (such as castles where the admission is in addition to the tour cost), but some didn’t or had a minimum for credit cards. Though using your debit card at ATMs in the country you are in may be the best deal, you may want to get some euros and pounds before you go.

 

Disembarking:

We were given the number 5 for disembarkation. Since our Silverfleet van wasn’t due until 9:00, we had a leisurely breakfast in Blu, went back to the cabin to brush our teeth and grab our carry ons and then left around 8:30 (they were on number 32 or so by then). We found our luggage easily and were off by about 8:40. The van was there and after collecting the other 4 people in the van we were off for London. I heard them saying that all numbers had been called and everyone could leave the ship as we headed to the van.

 

Post-Cruise:

The van brought us to MyHotel Chelsea, which is very close to Harrods. It is a lovely little hotel and very friendly. They have a nice little place to eat and a lovely library/conservatory. We walked to Harrods and did some shopping and then ate at a local pub, which was a great way to end our trip.

We had a car pick us up at the hotel in the morning and went to Heathrow for our journey home (45 pounds).

 

Absolutely loved this cruise – we met some wonderful people, had some great food and drinks and saw an amazing part of the world. I am now in that post-cruise depression period – time to plan the next cruise!!

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VTCRUISING - Thank you so much for your review. You have provided such valuable information. We really appreciate it.

 

We are thinking of booking either the SS United States and/or Qsine but have not been to either venues. It seems that you preferred the SS United States over Qsine. Would you recommend one over the other or do you think it is worth it to try both?

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Great review of your cruise but I can't believe that you missed out Belfast. This is my home city and it has done so much work in the last ten years to make itsself welcome for tourists. I have to say you missed out on some great opportunities! Come back someday and give us a try.

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Thanks. Loved your review. I enjoy the M Class ships even though they are older. The British Isles is on my bucket list, but not sure when we will be able to do it.

This fall it is back to New England and Canada.

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Great review of your cruise but I can't believe that you missed out Belfast. This is my home city and it has done so much work in the last ten years to make itsself welcome for tourists. I have to say you missed out on some great opportunities! Come back someday and give us a try.

 

 

I know. I feel so bad about that - I really wanted to see your beautiful city - we were planning to explore on our own, but I was coming down with a cold and just had to get some rest. I heard from others how wonderful your city was and wished I had felt better. We will definitely go be back!

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VTCRUISING - Thank you so much for your review. You have provided such valuable information. We really appreciate it.

 

We are thinking of booking either the SS United States and/or Qsine but have not been to either venues. It seems that you preferred the SS United States over Qsine. Would you recommend one over the other or do you think it is worth it to try both?

 

 

I would try both. They are both distinct experiences. We loved Qsine (went twice) on Silhouette - a fun experience. Infinity's Qsine had great food too and I think it's worth going for the experience. SS United States is more of an elegant experience. Both served lunch on one of the sea days so that is a less expensive way to experience these restaurants.

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Very nicely organized review. I also thought that your comment regarding being a little apprehensive about sailing on an older smaller ship interesting. We left the Equinox earlier this month after B2B cruises, and while the S-class ships are visually stunning, I feel that the Century and M-class ships are better designed in some respects.

 

We were in Infinity's stateroom 1138 last year for a B2B cruises through the Panama Canal and then back again. We also had no problems with noise or smoke from below. In fact, we liked the stateroom so much we are booked on Infinity again for a set of B2B2B cruises with all legs in 1138.

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Great review! We were on this sailing. I would like to add a comment if anyone is interested in taking this or a similar trip next year: Bring umbrellas and a hooded coat as we had light right most days! Also, it is still quite cool in this part of the world at this time of year. I had 3-4 light layers on my torso for most days.

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Thanks for your review

 

We will be in on of the neighbouring rooms in just over three weeks time and it sounds like (if they are not going on leave or moved) we will have a good crew looking after the room and in Blu.

 

You mentioned the sommelier had told you about the Wine Dinner - was he in Blu and how did you find the wine service there - we will not have a package so will be paying as we go, not sure if that will encourage or discourage the sommelier

 

It was nice to hear that Infinity, which we have not been on for 8 years, is in good shape and we do look forward to it all

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Thank you for your great review,it relieves my mind about a lot of "ship issues". I am sitting here with bags by the front door, waiting for our taxi to take us to the airport. We are on the June 3 sailing and can't wait! Just a night in Chicago tonight and then a daytime flight to London tomorrow and we will be on vacation!!

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Thank you for your great review,it relieves my mind about a lot of "ship issues". I am sitting here with bags by the front door, waiting for our taxi to take us to the airport. We are on the June 3 sailing and can't wait! Just a night in Chicago tonight and then a daytime flight to London tomorrow and we will be on vacation!!

 

 

You are so lucky!! Have a wonderful time!

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Thanks for your review

 

We will be in on of the neighbouring rooms in just over three weeks time and it sounds like (if they are not going on leave or moved) we will have a good crew looking after the room and in Blu.

 

You mentioned the sommelier had told you about the Wine Dinner - was he in Blu and how did you find the wine service there - we will not have a package so will be paying as we go, not sure if that will encourage or discourage the sommelier

 

It was nice to hear that Infinity, which we have not been on for 8 years, is in good shape and we do look forward to it all

 

The sommelier in Blu was Maggie. She was excellent and seemed on top of everything. We had the premium package, but we ate with people with the basic package and some without a package and she treated everyone the same. She learned our likes and dislikes and then somehow stayed on top of everything throughout the meal.

 

If you are interested in the connoisseur dinner, I would just ask her about it and she can sign you up.

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Very nicely organized review. I also thought that your comment regarding being a little apprehensive about sailing on an older smaller ship interesting. We left the Equinox earlier this month after B2B cruises, and while the S-class ships are visually stunning, I feel that the Century and M-class ships are better designed in some respects.

 

We were in Infinity's stateroom 1138 last year for a B2B cruises through the Panama Canal and then back again. We also had no problems with noise or smoke from below. In fact, we liked the stateroom so much we are booked on Infinity again for a set of B2B2B cruises with all legs in 1138.

 

 

I know what you mean. We love the Radiance class ships of Royal Caribbean, but once you have been on the bigger ones with all the bells and whistles, you wonder if you can go back. I was glad to find that we could!

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Thanks for the review. We leave in two days for the June 3 sailing. We don't go to Belfast but we go to Waterford instead. We are also in Blu and were wondering how it was compared to the S class ships. On the diagrams it looks smaller. I also booked Butlers. Were the buses full?

Can't wait to go.

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Thanks for the review. We leave in two days for the June 3 sailing. We don't go to Belfast but we go to Waterford instead. We are also in Blu and were wondering how it was compared to the S class ships. On the diagrams it looks smaller. I also booked Butlers. Were the buses full?

Can't wait to go.

 

Someone on our ship had been to Waterford when they were in Ireland a few years ago and loved it. Luckily, you could buy Waterford crystal at the Blarney Woolen Mills and even at a small shop at the port in Cork- I found a beautiful, small affordable vase and filled it with lilacs today!

 

Blu definitely seemed smaller on the M class, but the tables were better arranged IMO, so that it seemed less crowded.

 

The Butlers bus we took was full. I heard that they had filled all their smaller vans too.

 

You must be so excited - hopefully the weather will be warmer, but really it won't matter since you will have so much fun no matter what!

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I would love to hear some positive feedback from infinity main dining room.

 

I hate to give third hand information, but we did hang out with people who ate in the MDR and they all seemed quite happy with the food/service. The only negative I heard was that it was hard for one couple to get their wine from their wine package the first couple of nights. They spoke to someone about it and they had excellent wine service after that.

 

I looked at the MDR menus almost every day and they looked very good - sometimes looked like better choices than Blu. Hopefully, someone who has recently been on Infinity who ate in the MDR can reassure you.

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Thanks for the great review.

 

Was it easy to get a taxis from the Premier Inn over the Cruise Port?

 

Also did you notice if they have Dover Sole in the SS United States specially restaurant?

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Thank you so much for the wonderful review. We are on the same sailing in August so I am hoping it will be a little warmer. And thanks for the money tips--glad to know not to count on getting pounds on the ship!

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Thanks for the great review.

 

Was it easy to get a taxis from the Premier Inn over the Cruise Port?

 

Also did you notice if they have Dover Sole in the SS United States specially restaurant?

 

Yes, the hotel arranged it for us - they had a list of people who needed taxis and the preferred time. We talked with the driver and he said that they can handle all the cruisers without a problem.

 

They still have the Dover Sole - I saw someone getting it prepared tableside.

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