I just completed a back-to-back cruise on the new Celebrity Reflection, from Venice to Barcelona to Miami -- 27 days total. I was traveling as a single in a veranda stateroom on deck 7 about 2/3 of the way back. My overall experience was good, maybe 7 or 8 out of 10. There were some things very nice, and some things not so nice. I have been on a number of cruises with several other cruise lines. This was my first Celebrity cruise. Would I travel with Celebrity again? Ummm -- I don't know.
The stateroom was spacious by cruise ship standards, beautiful, and the balcony large enough for two people to sit comfortably with a small table. The storage space was oddly lacking -- only three small drawers in the main cabin and two VERY tiny drawers and a few small open shelves in the head. There was a built in couch (quite hard) that would have had space for 2 or 3 large drawers underneath, but the space was enclosed and no access provided for some reason. There was a large shelf with a door over the bed, but it was a little awkward to access. There were two hooks on the wall near the door for coats. The closet was spacious, although there were no shelves above. The bed had a curved foot, and I (I'm 5' 10") had to sleep at an angle with my feet in the middle. Not a problem for me, but perhaps awkward for some couples. They provided two bathrobes and an umbrella. There was a moderate to severe shaking from time-to-time. Often rattled the walls and objects in the room and woke me up at night. It appeared to be connected with the diesel engines. Overall I liked the stateroom.
THE HOTEL STAFF:
The hotel staff, with a few exceptions which I'll discuss below, were friendly, competent, and would generally go out of their way to do what was asked. I heard some negative comments about the butlers in the suites, but I have no first-hand knowledge.
The food was great with rare exceptions. There were always lots of choices on the menu. I stay frequently at the Bellagio and the Venetian resorts in Las Vegas, and the food on the ship, while not quite as good, would compare favorably with the best restaurants there. The service would not. The service was good, but I think the wait staff was stretched a little thin as they were not always available when you needed them. The wine available by the glass was, without exception, poor, but that's not high on my rating priority. There were several specialty restaurants (extra charge) which I did not try, but the reports I heard were generally favorable. The cafeteria had a huge selection of food which was good, although not quite as good as the main restaurant.
THE PUBLIC AREAS:
Large and beautiful. There are lots of bars, a well-stocked library that has a number of comfortable seats and is reasonably quiet, and a few cafes and snack bars (extra charge). Lots of open areas. The theater is large, but has a number of wide pillars that block visibility from quite a lot of seats. There was a casino with the usual assortment of slot machines and table games. There was only one seven-seat poker table, a converted blackjack table. The shops carried the usual theme shirts, jewelry, etc., and of course art sales and auctions if you are so inclined. There was a liquor shop on board, but if you bought anything they would not deliver it until disembarkation. The only odd thing was the Sky Observation Lounge on deck 14. In spite of the brochure, they apparently decided to take about 1/3 of it for some additional high-end suites. As a result there was no way to "observe" the out port side of the ship. It had no dance floor. The only dancing was in a small open area near the elevators on deck 3.
THE SHORE EXCURSIONS:
Generally disappointing. I had been to many of the stops before, some once and some several times. The shore excursions seemed very superficial compared to other excursions I had previously had at those same ports. Most of the times the local guides seemed to be there only to keep us together as a group, and were not otherwise very helpful. The most flagrant example was at Ephesus. This is a World Heritage site, full of historical and archeologically significant features. We hurried through in a little over an hour without straying from the main walkway into any of the side walkways or paths. We were then bused to a rug sales outlet where we spent almost an hour. A few months prior to this I had been on an excursion from another cruise and we had spent 2 Â½ hours (and no rug-sales stop). Many people eschewed the excursions and either hired a cab or had previously booked their own tours on the internet. I think I would do that if I traveled on Celebrity again.
INTERNET AND CELLPHONES:
They offer internet service both as Wi-Fi and use of their Apple computers in the computer lounge. You must either pay $.75 per minute or buy a bulk data plan for the internet. The bulk data plans can cut that rate about in half if you buy a large block. Don't expect much. The Wi-Fi connection is very slow and is frequently unavailable. It took several minutes to send an email message with a single 700 kilobyte picture attached. It was frustrating to try to use a web browser. I didn't try the Apple computers, but I expect that the problem is with an overloaded satellite link which would affect them as well. They offer CDMA cellphone service on board, but no 3G or 4G data link. So no email that way, but it did support texting. You would need a global roaming plan in place with your cellphone carrier to use it.
THE INFRASTRUCTURE, THE PROPULSION FAILURE, AND THE CREW:
(as opposed to the hotel staff). Except for a bridge tour I had little interaction with the crew. As I'm sure most of you know by now there was a failure in the propulsion system on November 6th, the second day of the cruise. The crew (and hotel staff) were actively suppressing any information about the nature and the status of the problem. As you would expect the rumors were plentiful and sometime humorous, e.g. the propeller shaft broke and they cut it in pieces to remove it. Because the ship could only run at reduced speed we skipped the next port (Rhodes) and went directly to Kusadasi. The next few ports were relatively close together, but we were late arriving at each, arriving at 10 or 11 o'clock instead of the scheduled 7 or 8 o'clock. To make up for it we stayed late, until 10 or 11 o'clock PM. Most of us were uneasy being ashore in port areas at that hour, so it was of limited utility. After a few days the captain announced that the (unspecified) problem was partially fixed, but we continued to run at a maximum of 18 knots vice the published 24 knot cruising speed of the vessel. That was sufficient in the Mediterranean to keep on schedule after the first few days. However, on the second segment from Barcelona to Miami we skipped one of the only three scheduled stops (Tenerife). Apparently the shortened distance and the in-port time saved allowed us to reach Miami in time for the publicity and VIP cruises that were scheduled right after our cruise. Many of us who were scheduled back-to-back were uneasy about setting off across the Atlantic with a propulsion problem about which we knew nothing. After a week I twice asked the "Passenger Assistance" staff what the nature of the problem was and what the plan was. I was finally told that they "... had no information on any problem and they had been told that we would proceed with the planned cruise." About two days before arriving in Miami I finally found an officer that was in position to have first-hand knowledge of the problem. He said that it was an electrical failure in one of the pods, and that the part had to be built. He said that they were hoping to get it while in Miami, but were not certain of that. Apparently the part can be replaced without putting the ship in drydock. In all this time the captain continued in his daily 10 o'clock announcement to avoid the question. We did get a memo from him just after the new passengers had boarded in Barcelona stating that the problem was partially fixed and that we were skipping Tenerife. The boarding passengers had not been told of the problem or schedule change although it had been known for twelve days at that point.