The evening horn just sounded as a neighboring cruise ship leaves port, the Caribbean breeze cools gently from the south and my skin is still warm from a day spent skipping waves on jet skis, drinking banana rum, sunning in Orient bay beach and taking in a quick lunch from the Marigold marina before heading back to this stunning ship...thus sets the environment to begin this review. As a disclaimer let me say I embarked as a skeptic; scarred from a previously cheap and uncheerful experience on NCL, my wife and I are in our 30s and were excited to spend this week aboard the new Reflection with tears of joy instead of tears from frustration.
In short, if you're not interested in reading the full, detailed and unbiased review: the Reflection is a beautiful ship, two thumbs up, top notch service, excellent food, a great range of ages and activities, 6 plus stars, I'd recommend it to my mother and when we cruise again this is the company we'll be motoring with to sea!
What follows is a blow-by-blow account of each of the ship's "experiences":
What a breeze! We booked this cruise as Aquaclass, which I highly recommend over a regular booking, and we sailed through the embarkation process. We arrived at the Miami port by taxi around 130, dropped the bags off at the sidewalk and made our way to the registration area after a quick flip of the passport and ticket. Aquaclass and Suites have dedicated lines so instead of standing behind at least 75 to 100 other people, our line had one couple in it and we finished with all of the formalities within about 15 minutes of arrival and had champagne in hand and smiles on our faces.
The Aquaclass rooms are perfectly quaint; we stayed on the port side in 1511 which made for an easy trip up to the "relaxation room" in the spa area or a short jump up to 12 for the fitness center and locker room and beautiful sunrises going south and sunsets coming back north. We did not have any banging from above, as we read in previous reviews that the starboard side of the ship is just under the fitness center and can make for some early mornings when the brutes start dropping the weights at 0700. We appreciated the shower and essentials upgrade of Aquaclass as well as the better pillows, and room service menu that includes berry plates and smoothies that we had delivered every morning.
Also, I need to give a shout out to Cyril, our room magician...I have to say magician because it seemed like every time we left, within minutes the room was turned...he uses the force, no doubt.
Drinking and Dining
Since we were Aquaclass we had the option of dining in Blu so I cannot comment on Opus, the main dining room. Blu was awesome, so great in fact that for the last two nights we cancelled our specialty restaurants at "The Lawn Club" and "Murano" because we couldn't justify spending the extra 40 quid per person when Blu, as our main dining experience, was so good. The menu changes daily and I had everything from scallops to grilled rack of lamb, grilled rib eye, veal chop, crab, seafood risotto, lobster, etc...all cooked perfectly with really amazing service as well. To put in one more plug for Blu and our server for most nights (Andy you are awesome!), the portion sizes are perfect and every night we left perfectly satiated and not as stuffed as I expected from previous cruise experiences.
The specialty restaurant we did choose, Qsine was fun and the real genius is in the presentation. The servers really have a good time playing clever tricks on the patrons. I wont give away any spoilers but it all starts with an ipad and twenty choices, my wife and I chose six of the twenty and over-ate by about two courses;I'd recommend sticking with three like they tell you...but it's difficult when there is so much to choose from. I'd recommend going here as an early booking because our experience was a bit marred watching the table next to us get all of the surprises about 3 minutes before we did ? If you do want to dine in a specialty restaurant remember you get 50% off if you dine the first night of the cruise!
We chose the premium non-alcoholic package and it was well worth it! I think this is the best value package for those people who don't want to drink booze all day but still want an unlimited supply of San Pellegrino or Perrier, Evian to take ashore, espresso drinks, smoothies, freshly squeezed juices, Red Bull, etc. Also, if you like wine they have the "Enomatic" wine system at Cellar Masters which isn't included in the alcohol packages and gives you access to some really great wines to try (we enjoyed quite of few helpings of Far Niente, Erath, Caymus, Opus One, Cakebread and Girgrich Hills to name a few)...AND if you buy the $100 card on day 1 you get an extra $30 credit which was awesome. We did one wine tasting but was fairly unimpressed as it seemed to be the cheaper wines with people running around like mad trying to get their money's worth and a good buzz with no real instruction on the varietal, nose, palate, etc. We had the occasional cocktail at the Martini bar (awesome awesome place to start the evening, go Rollin!) or the Molecular bar but didn't feel like we had to booze it up all day for the package. But others who sit at the bar ordering successive whiskeys and wake up to bloodies first thing greatly appreciated the full package...one note, if you decide to not get the premium package, if you want a more expensive beer (for example a Dogfishhead 90 instead of a Heineken) you pay the whole price of the more expensive item, not the difference...a lesson many people learned the hard way with disappointment to follow.
Other foodie things
We loved eating at "The Porch" and did almost every day for a five dollar surcharge...small price to pay to be away from the crowds, on the top deck by the lawn in such an idyllic setting with great food and stellar service! Late night munchies were easily handled with the Ocean View Cafe and Room Service; not spectacular but spectacular isn't needed after a night at the Martini bar.
The Mast Grill is a great spot to grab a burger, or two...and an excellent burger at that!
We went to the Oceanview cafe once for lunch and there were a lot of different offerings; however, it is a madhouse and people get pretty aggressive when the fresh platters are coming out.
One thing I did miss that I've seen on other ships is the midnight buffet with the ice sculptures and desserts, fancy displays, etc. That seemed to be missing or we just missed it!
First recommendation...if you want to "Fly at Sea" with the Flywheel course, I recommend reserving your time slot as soon as you get on the boat. There are only ten cycles per class and it fills up quick...we waiting until day 2 and couldn't get a spot until day 6. Byron is the man and even with an injury he worked us to the max...I would have "flown" every day if I could. We also did the TRX class with Ellie and had a great time...I got screamed at for failing on my ins and outs, it's nice to be pushed a bit, even on a cruise. The gym itself is excellent though busy between 730 and 0900, which is expected...seems to calm down after day 2.
We didn't take advantage of the Celebrity Life activities too much though we enjoyed happening upon the magic shows, the 80s dance party, the "Celebrity Iron Chef" (which was a bit of a bust, but great attempt), and a few other random events. I'm sure there are a lot of things we missed on this cruise as there is a ton going on; but we enjoyed exploring the ship, finding a quiet spot on the lawn to thrown Bocce or play ring toss and entertaining ourselves...which was easy on a ship like this!
As easy as embarkation. We had a later time slot at 0930 which meant we could have breakfast at Blu and enjoy a coffee at Bacio while we waited. We had no problems with the baggage and everything was on the proper carrousel. The taxi line is pretty long so I recommend some patience and a pair of pants (depending on the weather.)
All in all it was an excellent cruise and I would definitely cruise with Celebrity again. I may try the Eclipse next time as it seems to be less "suite" focused; but I'd sail on Reflection without hesitation.