We are a couple of nearly 8 years that cruise frequently (him (Jimmi) 18, me (Kevin) 45). While we both agree that Celebrity is our cruise line of choice, we certainly have different opinions and I will preface this by saying that I am the picky one so we did have a few differing opinions. This was a Holy Land turned European, turned transatlantic, turned to 2 week long cruises in the Caribbean due to a whole bunch of factors. We also cruised HAL Westerdam over Thanksgiving, and were quite happy to return to Celebrity after our week on HAL. We also coupled our cruise with Christmas in Key West, which affirmed our cruising first option for vacation due to overall value. On this cruise, we were joined by a couple we met on Eclipse 2 years prior. We were all excited to see the evolution of the Solstice class and we were not disappointed with the final product.
JIMMI: At first sight the ship looks like any other S-class ship; however, after further investigation, there are clear differences... Some great, some good, some not the greatest. The positive: I'll start by talking about the basket/nest areas on decks 7 & 8. This is a great addition to the ship. This is a great place to sit and read a book in peace. The area has complimentary beverages (coffee, water, etc.) and is cozy in its atmosphere. The ship, only being two months old, of course, was in excellent condition.
This is one thing celebrity doesn't seem to miss on their ships in general, especially when comparing to HAL. A constant that I absolutely love about Celebrity is the Martini Bar. With good reason, Celebrity got it right with this bar. It's location, it's entertainment value, it's delicious specialty drinks, and the fact it's the best pace to meet other passengers. The controversial Sky Lounge was of much discussion on the boards. The downsize of the lounge and the fact it would now serve as the nightclub because of the removal of Quazar ( or Gayzar as many of us fondly like to call it on the other ships) on Reflection. My opinion? I honestly think this was a great move. The Sky Lounge wasn't small at all, like you might think. That and they really made the best use of the space. On other ships this lounge is double the size, but honestly it's wasted space. At night they do a good job with lighting to make it more club like. They have resident DJ with a mix of popular music. One downfall of this switch is the distance from the Martini Bar. On other ships, typically we would alternate between both bars since they were down the walkway from each other. Sky Lounge is a little hike to get to, but that's a small inconvenience.
The negative: The one addition to the ship that I think was a complete waste was "The Alcoves" on the lawn. At almost $150/day, who needs to be that exclusive? These are facing into the ship, which seems silly since to me facing out to the ocean makes much more sense. Maybe even if they rotated, that might even be better. The other thing that seems odd is they are just couch-type seating. No loungers for laying out. So this is just an area to sit and look exclusive while you read? I can do that for free in a number of areas on the ship. I think they fell short with what possibilities they could have done with this. They also take up a tone of space so the area I normally like to lay out on is now taken up by the lawn games they moved to avoid the Alcoves. This does seem to be a trend on cruise lines to have a "VIP" type options, which just breeds inflated elitist egos and pretension. It's sort of what Vegas did back in the late 90's with exclusive clubs and VIP rooms. Anything that can exclude some and make a small percentage feel superior seems unnecessary to me.
KEVIN: The Celebrity Reflection is gorgeous and probably the prettiest ship afloat. I don't necessarily like the S-class evolution, but you cannot deny the beauty of this ship. The game room and nest area were great adds. The martini bar was our place of choice and we love the atmosphere of the bar. The redo of the sunset bar was really well done and the area is really comfortable. While I understand the need to drive revenue, there were a few misses. The alcoves on the lawn are overpriced and I felt they should be looking out at the ocean instead of the grass. If I paid that price, I do not want to be looking at sun bathers in front of me? The art studio was a miss. It was small with no advertising with what was going on in it. I prefer the blown glass area to what this entire area has been changed into. And I did not like the decor or smaller sky lounge. Considering that it changes into the night club, I would be curious to see how much these high dollar suites hear. On top of that, many people (including myself) extended the running/walking track to go forward and run over these rooms.
KEVIN: We upgraded to a C3 when prices dropped after final payment and wherein 9366. The cabin was located aft behind the life boats and we liked the location. There was a white bar outside our balcony for cleaning equipment, but it certainly did not obstruct our view. Further, we were up far enough for the jut out of the ship to also not block our view. The cabin itself served its purpose. The S-class bathrooms are some of the best bathrooms on cruise ships, unfortunately it does take away some of the actual cabin space. I am tall, so the above the bed closets work well for me, though can be inconvenient for those on the shorter side. The only complaint I had with our room was our room steward. On multiple occasions, when we were in our room, would knock and be opening the door at the same time (We did not have a DND sign for 2 days). On a different occasion, while we were sitting on our balcony mid morning, he came in and asked if he could clean the room while we were out there. That is totally unacceptable. It seemed his only cared about getting the room cleaned and that was it. Never did he go out of his way to open the door when I had my hands full or even really approach me to say hello. Further, the pillow options/menu was never offered to us. This is not a huge deal, but it is part of the Concierge package and should be offered.
JIMMI: What he said.
NO FEE DINING
JIMMI: I think as far as cruise lines go, Celebrity is probably the most consistent of the ones I've been on as far as flavor, creativity, and all around goodness. From the "always available menu to the nightly specials. Reflection had great choices for food. I guess if you are a little pickier then you might have some problems, but they always seem to have a great selection. One area I missed trying was the little food set up in the solarium. They have some great healthy options there and I meant to check them out but missed out this time. The buffet is as always full of options, at least at lunch. Breakfast there is pretty much the same thing every day, which could be good or bad depending again how picky you are. They have much to choose from, but it's again the same every day. I'd like to see them mix it up a little. Not a deal breaker though.
KEVIN: I have always been satisfied with Celebrity cuisine and I certainly was not disappointed this time. I love that they have a great combinations of classics and a creative approach to new dishes. The Opus dining room service and food was excellent. Probably the best dining experience I have had in the MDR. The buffet is better than most buffets at sea and worked for breakfast and lunch, thought there were a few times I wished lunch was opened a little later.
FOR FEE DINING
KEVIN: We dined one night in Qsine which was a lot of food, but a fantastic meal. Fun, interactive, and delicious. Well worth the $40 cover charge and service was again excellent. We also tried the Lawn Club Grill. I have to say that the while the setting is perfect, I thought the meal was mediocre and definitely not worth the $40 cover charge. No one in our group felt the need to participate in the actual cooking, but can see that it would add to the experience for some. Personally, I did not care for the flatbreads (cornmeal does not belong on pizza) nor the sides. They were offered family style and were lacking much flavor and were cold. Further, the salad bar was identical to the buffet salad bar. This area needs some work in order to justify a $40 fee. The steak was perfectly cooked and quite good, but steaks don't make the meal for me. It is amazing that they are able to get that flame broiled crunchy outside with no flame. Our server this evening (Jesse James :) ) was superb. Finally, we did try the Porch one day for lunch. This was probably the biggest disappointment of the cruise. There was nothing on the menu that warranted an additional charge. Service was appallingly bad and really the only lapse on the food side of things. For our food, we split two different sandwiches that were both good, but could have just as easily been created in the buffet and a salad that had browned lettuce. I think if the made a creative side (chips, really.) and make the sandwiches less ordinary, this place could be cool. Cupcakes were good! My current ranking of specialty restaurants is Murano> Qsine> Silk Harvest> Tuscan Grill > Lawn Club Grill.
JIMMI: There are a few new options on Reflection to choose from when it comes to specialty dinning. One of the new additions we tried was "The Porch". For a small charge of $5 you are able to have a nice lunch on the side of the ship just off the Lawn. This area on some other ships would be the Lawn Shop. Now one thing we noted that needs some improvement on would be the menu. They are serving up sandwiches with a side of chips. Really? I can get this in the buffet, and now you're charging me for it? That's a fail. They need to come up with a menu that is set apart from something you can get in the buffet. This is a GREAT opportunity to have a more "healthy" option and still provide a great meal similar to the food they have down in the solarium pool area , but make it worthwhile if we are paying for it. With seating inside of an enclosed glass area to protect you from the wind, this also held in the heat, so that might be something they might want to alter on its next dry dock. It has some cut outs for air movement, but not nearly enough. That coupled with the sun, it's a greenhouse. I really want to like this area, but there needs to be some changes before we dine there again. The Lawn Club is another new addition and in my opinion an excellent one. The atmosphere is casual and airy and it being off the lawn area just makes a great a location and replacement for then glass blowing they have on other ships. I got a filet and similar to other specialty dinning I have experienced on Celebrity, they really know how to cook a steak perfectly. They also offer a pizza as part of the dinning and where my partner was not a fan of this, I really enjoyed it. It brought back memories of Chicago corner pizzas joints of my childhood. Two things that need some attention would be the salad bar. This again is something I can get in the buffet. They should be serving us specially crafted salads if I am paying $40 to dine here. They also need to not have "family style" side items. This was a very strange way to serve this as it was small in size and got cold quickly. I will mention this later but it bears repeating, our server "Jesse James" was the best.
One night we went to Qsine for our dinner. We have been before on past sailings with Celebrity. It's consistently good and I have nothing negative to say except it's too much food, but that's what you sign up for when you go here. Skip lunch for sure. The plus on this experience was our server Patrick. He was a lot of fun and made our experience that much better.
JIMMI: Entertainment - Well sad to say we didn't see any shows. We kept ourselves entertained with the people we were traveling with this time. Though from what I heard the shows were outstanding.
KEVIN: Entertainment - We have never been cruisers who depend on cruise lines for entertainment. I usually fall asleep during shows. In this particular case, we met such a great group of people, that we did not even enter the theatre or lounges. We spent a lot of time at the Martini Bar (favorite area on the sea) and occasionally Sky lounge. There is a fine selection of movies available in your room for free or for a charge that I often fell asleep to.
KEVIN: Itinerary - With the exception of being the only ship in San Juan our ports were very busy. That being said, St. Thomas and St. Martin handle passenger traffic better than any other ports. We chose to go to St. John through the cruise line. We booked the St. John island cruise and just got off when others were dropped off for tours and headed over then Trunk Bay, skipping the coastal tour. Aside from the prerecorded "history" which was obnoxious, this option is much easier and about the same cost as doing it yourself and you get about the same amount of time.
JIMMI: I really wished that Celebrity would post LGBT get togethers in the daily news rather than having to go search for this. Currently Celebrity is posting this event on a board in front of the pursers desk. This is lame! Anyone new to cruising would never find this, and not to mention seasoned cruisers with their first time on Celebrity wouldn't know to find it here and would probably miss it thinking it would show up in the news letter like most cruise lines do. I spoke with the cruise director about this and he explained the only "non celebrity organized" events they post in the newsletter is the "Friends of Bill W." other than that, the rest are down on the board. He really didn't have a good reason for this. With as much as LGBT clientele spend on cruises, they would be smart to get us to mingle quicker because we like a good cocktail! That all being said, we did seem to find a great group on this cruise. I would say if I am guessing there were probably about 30+ LGBT on this cruise.
KEVIN: While benefitting from having the benefits of the Elite lounge most nights, I feel like Celebrity is pricing their drinks to push people into the beverage packages. While still not NYC expensive, they are highest priced at sea that I have seen. In fact, HAL was easily a third cheaper and offered BOGO happy hour drinks. Even at the higher prices, the package would not pay off for me, but we will be getting it for Jimmi.
KEVIN: The S-Class is easily my favorite class of ship sailing. Our next 3 cruises are booked on them including another on the Reflection. I still think that Equinox is my favorite of these ships and I am happy we will be back on her in a couple weeks. Overall Celebrity continues to be our line of choice... Celebrity > RCCL > Princess > HAL > Carnival > NCL is how I rank them.
JIMMI: Overall, the ship was a pleasure to sail, and we had a blast! We have decided to sail her again in 2013 so that's a good testimonial I think, right? I am going to have to try and convince Kevin to go to the Lawn Grill again ?