This was only our second cruise with Celebrity and our third in total. We have previously sailed for 4 weeks, transatlantic both ways, with Fred Olsen on the Black Watch and then, some 9 months ago, with Celebrity on the Century from Sydney to Auckland for two weeks departing Sydney on Christmas Eve 2011. The Fred Olsen cruise was small, luxurious and intimate giving us a taste for another transatlantic crossing with a week of sea-time being acceptable.
The fact that there were to be only three ports of call on The Reflection cruise was not perfect but with the sea day in between Palma Mallorca and Tenerife before setting off across the Atlantic for seven days, we thought it would be just about bearable and we were keen to see the new ship after being on the much older Century. We made all our travel arrangements with Celebrity and, although considerably more expensive than doing it ourselves, the flights and transfers went very smoothly if slightly more complicated than necessary involving two flights and an overnight stay in London before boarding where one flight direct with better timings was available. Still, you live and learn.
Arrival at the quayside in plenty of time for boarding was nice, what followed was not, long queues, long delays and no-one on board to show us to our stateroom when we eventually got on board. Still the ship looked well and we were keen to see around. Our first disappointment awaited in our room, the stop in Tenerife had been cancelled because of an engine problem and, after Palma Mallorca, we were going to be at sea for TEN DAYS! This meant only two Ports of call at the very start of the cruise and then nothing until disembarkation in Miami, not something we would have been happy to do if we had been told. Celebrity knew about this for at least ten days before our sailing and did not do us the courtesy of letting us know, not great customer relations there I think. The compensation given of $150 on-board spend(or cash at the end of the cruise if preferred) was derisory to say the least. We had planned to meet some friends in Tenerife for a special Birthday party and had presents with us, sadly they had to come back home at the end of our cruise. I am still not convinced about the reasons given for this change of schedule and the subsequently more more northerly course in colder weather especially as we arrived in Miami well ahead of schedule after a very slow last few days at sea. We found those extra sea days to be very tedious.
The 2A 'stateroom' with veranda on deck & starboard was adequate and modern if somewhat lacking in drawer space when compared to the same level 'stateroom' on the Century. Three drawers is not enough and a lot of room was taken up by a large uncomfortable sofa where more storage could have been fitted with a little more thought for design. Another strange omission, the veranda had no exterior light for those few warmer evenings towards the end of the cruise when it would have been nice to sit there with a G & T before dinner had you been able to see where you were going. The over bed lockers were more or less useless unless you were 6ft or over and even so I found it awkward to use them. The bathroom and toilet facilities were pleasant and modern but the door 'groaned' all night unless wedged with the tail of the supplied bathrobe. We had no problems whatsoever with cabin staff but then we didn't have a 'Butler' for our 'Stateroom' (don't you just hate all these pretentious, ego inflating names, what's wrong with cabin and cabin attendant?) The bed was big and comfortable so all in all the 'stateroom' was fine, if a bit cramped.
Talking of dinner, we always used the main restaurant for ours, we're not into speciality dining and prefer our food simple. I have to say that what we got was great and never boring with plenty of choice from the changing daily menu to the always available standards or a mixture from both if so desired. we only had lunch in one 'speciality' place and I had heartburn for two days afterwards so we never bothered again. We always enjoy the formal nights and I always have a formal suit to hand with an alternative white jacket to vary it a bit. It's sad that so many others do not make the effort and indeed seem to try their best to dress down, but that's their choice. Service was great and the two waiters at our table, Victor and wife Elizabeth were the tops. It was a pity that those arranging seating at the tables were not as conscientious when placing guests. we were five men and one woman, my wife, at a table for twelve. Most nights there were only four of us there which meant a difficult level of conversation at times. We did ask for a table of six to eight when booking so I suppose that's what we got. The company was great but limited for my spouse. For breakfast and lunch we used the self service restaurant on deck fourteen and found this to be first rate. The variety of food available was staggering and the amount some people, especially breakfast, was just incredible. Suffice it to say we had our cereal or porridge and fruit in the morning and some great salads for lunch most days and enjoyed every bit of them. We had taken the 'Classic' drinks package and it was nice being able to have fresh orange juice with breakfast and a glass or two of wine with lunch along with specialist coffees whenever we wanted with no extra costs etc. This covered us for wine by the glass with dinner as well (and all our other alcoholic/non alcoholic drinks all day) and was really good value when you took off the 'on-board spend allowance' we had been given plus the extra on board spend for missing Tenerife. We know several people who ate in 'Blue' - the 'Aqua Suite' exclusive and then came and had another dinner in the main dining room as well! Another couple cancelled their booking with Blue entirely and came to the main dining room because of service problems at Blue. We just found the specialist places a bit pretentious for our tastes.
I never dreamed I would see a dog on board until this Celebrity cruise and when I did, I saw TWO. One was being wheeled around the self service restaurant in a child's pram by a crew member following, whilst the owner picked trough the food on offer (she couldn't wheel the pram and collect food at the same time!) we saw this disgusting sight twice. We saw the same little Yorkie draped over the owners arm like a dish cloth, in one of the bars as well. The other dog we saw several times on deck 15 and on two separate occasions saw it using the much fabled lawn at the 'Lawns' club as a toilet, urinating and poo-ing on the famous grass where people later walked barefoot. We actually saw the owner trying vainly to hold a piece of plastic at the dog's rear end attempting, unsuccessfully, to catch what it was doing. We wondered if those people who paid an extra premium to use the cabanas knew that some of them had been liberally doused with doggy piddle several times? Is this the sort of sight you want to see when taking an after lunch turn around the deck, I know I don't. If Celebrity continues to permit this they will lose custom.
Entertainment? Well I think the less said there the better, we stopped going to the theatre shows after four so I cannot give a true critique of that aspect of the cruise, which is probably as well going by those we had the misfortune to sit/sleep through. The live music was much better and appeared at various venues throughout the ship during the day and evenings. It is a pity that there is no real dance floor on a ship that size as the only area available was a postage stamp sized space at the foot of the stairs on deck three made even smaller by the presence, slightly to one side, of a huge artificial flower. Poor design again when considering the main target customer pool is middle aged to elderly folk, most of whom enjoy a little turn around the dance floor of an evening. Music by the pool was often pleasant, exciting & appropriate or sometimes loud, aggressive & annoying. Neutral score there then.
Selling played a huge part of the itinerary on the Reflection and if you went on a cruise to buy bling and 'Art Works' then this was the ship for you, with plenty of expensive bargains to be had apparently, well they must have been bargains, the vendors kept telling us and the the 'Artworks' looked like genuine pictures alright. The casino is something I know absolutely nothing about and I only ever passed through on my way to somewhere else. Looked to be a lot of ways to gamble if that's your thing. Not mine so nothing to say about it.
The outdoor swimming pools were closed a lot of the time and the indoor one most of the time, we only ever managed to get into it once near the start of the cruise. The hot tubs were nice but often crowded and the various sunbeds, mattresses, cocoons and double sized hammocks around the solarium were comfortable and relaxing. Pity about the indoor pool but it didn't like the Atlantic swell splashing in great waves from one end to the other most of the time. I don't understand why they didn't drain it.
The biggest problem we had came right at the end of the cruise, or strictly speaking after we had been disembarked. The U.S.Customs and Immigration folk at Miami had a huge problem coping with all those people leaving together and we were left standing in a queue for over two hours before clearing through. The coach booked by Celebrity to take us to the Hilton hotel and our day-rooms picked up some wrong people and was delayed and then went to the wrong hotel before eventually leaving us all at the Miami Airport Hilton where no rooms had been booked for us despite us all having the paperwork from Celebrity. No help from the emergency number so we all just left in disgust to spend six or so very uncomfortable hours in Miami Airport departure lounge which is not an experience to be recommended. Poor show to finish a very mediocre cruise on Celebrity, you really need to try a lot harder.