We had high hopes as we boarded the Reflection. The ship is beautiful. Our balcony cabin spacious, and the interior cabin for our children also a good size. The physical presence a nice place to call "home" for the week.
Overall, it was a nice vacation. Was it worth the expense? Not really. It has been awhile since our last cruise, and whether it was this cruise line or cruises in general, it was no longer the relaxed, all inclusive vacation I remembered. To me, it has become a week long sales pitch.
As we boarded, the pitch for drink packages. While we waited for our cabins to be ready, we were encouraged to walk around. At the spa, there were plenty of packages and services available for a fee. At the gym, more services available for a fee. Hungry? You have the buffet and main dining room, but why not try one of the specialty restaurants - all for an added fee, of course. And don't forget the shops, casino or one of the many bars.
The general activities were a mixed bag. Zumba was popular poolside. We enjoyed the "friendly" feud and chef's cookoff. The musical entertainment was generic shipboard type - nice, but not outstanding. The evening entertainment shows were oddly timed. Early seating for dinner was 6 and late at 7:30. The evening shows began at 7 and again at 9:30. For those eating at 6, you either missed dessert or a good bit of the entertainment, or you waited until the later show. We did appreciate Santa's appearance Christmas Day. He had a gift for all of the kids under 18. It was a nice touch!
While the ship had almost 800 children on board, I don't think the cruise line is geared toward truly accommodating older children (ages 11 and up). My youngest was offer the kids club upon boarding. It was basically a yes/no question. No real pitch to make her want to participate, and she said no (an itinerary of the club's activities was left in her stateroom each night - they never could get her age group right, and I don't think it would have mattered).
Service: While the staff were accommodating, it felt more like job function rather than attentive. Robotic. At the end of the trip, my youngest celebrated a birthday, and our waiter had to ask her name before they sang "happy birthday." That said, there were a few who created a signature. The assistant maitre d -Gozde - offered to show my daughter how she created a signature hair style and was ready with bobby pins the next night. Our assistant waiter, Annamarie, knew names, preferences, and was genuine in her service.
Food: It was good and several items excellent. The buffet quality was above expected. Pizza and french fries two items the entire family voted as tops. Both my kids loved the fruit infused soups. We dined one night at the Tuscan Grill. The food quality was very good - worth the extra $30 per person? Probably not. The Masthead grill was a popular spot, serving hot dogs and hamburgers. A wait line was more common than not as was a line at the ice cream area.
On ship shopping - Nothing spectacular in terms of merchandise, with sales clerks who were very pushy. Library - a nice area with plenty of reading material for cruisers to borrow. the Hideaway - a nook, but not really a place to hide. From other reviews, we thought it was a quiet area, but it's out in the open and a good gathering spot - not a quiet spot. the Lawn - an interesting space for a game of bocce or rings.
In hindsight, we likely picked the wrong ship for a family vacation. I think the Celebrity caters more to the older and "couples" crowd, not really family centric. I also question if the value of a cruise is still there. All these add on fees and constant badgering to purchase this meal, that drink and the like does cause a reason to pause.
While the cruise was not exactly as expected, we did have a good time, eat well and were able to relax - the intent of the vacation.