Great First Cruise on Celebrity! Veteran cruiser trying Celebrity Reflection (Feb 16 -- 23)
Background to review:
With our children grown and no longer cruising with us, we usually book a suite for the extra amenities offered. On this cruise, we booked the Aqua Class veranda room, deck 11, 1586.
Besides our Hawaii cruise on Pride of America, which was exceptional and our cruise on NCL Pearl to Grand Cayman, this cruise ranks as one of the top three cruises we have experienced. I am not saying that everything on the Celebrity Reflection was the greatest, but the combination of the ship, the crew, the entertainment, the excursions (excluding San Juan), the food, the friends we met, and of course the spa, made for a perfect week. Congratulations to Captain Bouzakis who I met on the first sea day and he asked me to report back at the end of the week.....well Captain, I am impressed!!!
Overall Evaluation: (more detail comments appear below)
- The Reflection is a great ship for cruising. Easy to navigate, colorful, and well maintained. It should be, it is NEW! Not too big to get lost but large enough to offer a variety of activities. The non-smoking rules are also a benefit for nonsmokers. Just stay away from the Mast Bar.
- Our veranda room was very comfortable, had ample storage and a good view from the balcony.
- Food quality was good to superb everywhere, not just in the specialty dining areas like on other ships. I will comment on the BLU later in this report for AQUA CLASS diners.
- General dining room (Opus Room) offered a good variety, with excellent quality, great service and never a waiting line whenever we went there.
- Entertainment was typical for cruise ships. Better than average with some highlights. The last night's duo with the cruise director Paul singing was outstanding. These Guys also were outstanding everywhere they sang.
- The Spa was adequate but not as great as may be advertised. I have had better on other ships. This is the one area where I spend a lot of my time.
- The staff everywhere was as friendly and helpful as can be. Their attitude of "can't say no" and willingness to go the extra mile to please the customer permeates from Captain Bouzakis throughout the entire staff. This attitude is clearly demonstrated by the visibility of the officers throughout the ship. On the first sea day, the Captain stopped and talked to Wendy and I without knowing us nor that we were not Celebrity Elite status.
AQUA CLASS VERANDA and BLU:
I booked the AQUA CLASS room to get access to the SPA and also to have the availability to eat in the BLU restaurant for breakfast and dinner. The room was typical for balcony rooms in size but did have adequate storage. The showers in the AQUA class rooms are great with the side jets and overhead shower head.
Embarkation for the Aqua Class was a breeze. We arrived at 11:30 and were on the ship within 30 minutes.
We were NOT impressed with the breakfast offering in the BLU. In fact, after the first day we ate breakfast in the OPUS and one day we tried the buffet. I like EGGS BENEDICT and other options available in the OPUS. The BLU has a limited menu for both breakfast and dinner. The food quality in the BLU was good, just needs more variety.
Bistro on Five: This is a great place that did not seem to be very busy. Upon embarkation, we went to the Bistro on Five so we could have a quiet meal without the crowd at the buffet. There is a $5.00 charge but worth every penny. The crepes are OUTSTANDING.
Opus Dining Room: Good variety, excellent quality, and good service. We attended the Special Bruch on Thursday and this was probably the only meal that I would skip when I cruise again. Food was plentiful, great variety, but the organization was lacking and hectic with some people being seated and others just arriving and taking seats. I would rather have gone earlier to another restaurant and has a nice sit down breakfast.
Tuscan Grille: OUTSTANDING, OUTSTANDING, OUTSTANDING. I had the filet (huge) and a side dish of the lobster pasta with alfredo sauce (also an entree). Ate too much but totally enjoyed every bite.
Oceanview Cafe: Good variety, food was adequate. It is a buffet. They do offer EGGS BENEDICT.
AquaSpa Cafe: I ate there every morning after my workout at 7:00. Had cereal and fruit before I picked up my wife for breakfast. Great place to go for an early morning light snack. Never was crowded at 7:00 -- 8:00.
BLU: Mentioned before that I enjoyed the quality of food just not the limited menu. I did like the option that the BLU was always available for Aqua Class for dinner between 6 -- 9 pm without a reservation. This option did not force us into a schedule but allowed us the flexibility I enjoy.
Mast Grill: Last but certainly NOT the least. Did not find this until the third day and what a mistake. Absolutely the best hamburger anywhere. All you have to do is look at the line that starts at 11:30 when they open and you know something must be good. Don't let the line scare you away....it moves very fast because the staff is very organized.
I had read that the coffee on the Reflection was terrible. I concur. I bought the Premium Non-alcohol package and enjoyed the specialty coffees. Another cruiser told me she just dilutes the coffee with hot water. I tried that and it helped. If you like really strong mud, you will like the regular machine coffee.
I can summarize our dining experience by saying "The food was excellent."
Aqua Spa / Solarium / Exercise Room:
This is one area of the ship I go to every day. The exercise room has the typical equipment but has ONLY three recumbent bicycles. I like this equipment and I wish they had more of them. After all, some of us are getting older and those other bikes are difficult to sit on and the treadmills are hard on my knees.
I really enjoy the Thermal Spas on the ships I cruise and the Reflection Persian Garden has many features of other ships I have taken but not all inclusive in one area. The Persian Garden is a delight. Heated tile chairs, saunas, and cold room. Problem is, you have to leave the area for any pool or Jacuzzi experience. These items are in the Solarium where it is open to the entire ship and often crowded. It is located on deck 12.
The relaxation room you could miss if you don't know where it is. Located on deck 11 with one access down the spiral staircase from the Persian Garden. The room overlooks the front of the ship with several really comfortable cushioned chairs. Only downside is the hostess for the massage treatments often places waiting clients in the room to fill out paper work disturbing the people trying to relax.
Men and ladies locker room in the spa are adequate. Not extremely large.
DO NOT MISS the final Farewell Variety Showtime on the last night. It provides a great emotional high and a fitting tribute to a great cruise. Paul, the cruise director, has an outstanding voice and should consider singing more during the cruise. He was much better than the singer they featured one night.
These Guys were great everywhere they sang on the ship. The dance competition with the officers and guests was hilarious.
San Juan: I could skip this port and NOT miss anything. Like going to an decaying American city in the middle of the Caribbean. We walked to El Murro. Good exercise but did not feel particularly safe. Nice to see the police standing on many of the intersections. The shops along the way reminded me of going to Dollar General or the Dollar store. Cheap merchandise....mostly trinkets. I would recommend booking an excursion if you want something to do in San Juan. I will not be going back there anytime soon.
St Maartens: We had booked an excursion through the cruise ship, SMH6 Catamaran Mirabella Beach and Sea excursion. Sailing was great, crew was great, the beach was beautiful, and the snorkeling was fun but not the best in the Caribbean. Water was rough and not much to see. Did not bother me because the entire experience was fun and delightful.
Shopping in St Maartens at the shops just off the pier was very good. Many shops, safe area and very clean as opposed to San Juan.
St. Kitts: Shopping was very good at the shops just a short walk from the pier. We also booked the bus/train ride around the island: Caribbean Scenic Railway Tour (KT15A). Very informative tour of the entire island. The train ride was very pleasant with drinks offered and entertainment(singers) provided. A great way to experience and see St. Kitts. Not sure how young children would enjoy this excursion but it was great for us mature adults.
Easiest and quickest I have every encountered. We always like to walk off with our luggage. We entered the Ensemble Lounge at 7:15 and we were off the boat within 15 minutes. We were at our gate in the Miami airport by 8:30. Very organized for us.
CRUISE CRITIC MEET AND GREET:
Celebrity did a fine job of hosting our Meet and Greet in Michael's lounge. The cruise director, Paul, kicked off the meeting and introduced some of the staff in attendance. Refreshments were provided and we got to meet some very nice people who we spent some time with during the rest of the voyage.
We are looking forward to cruising on the NCL Jewel to Alaska this year. About 80% of the experienced cruisers I met on board have cruised in Alaska and loved it. With our great experience from this cruise, we are looking into another Celebrity Reflection cruise possible in Europe. I now have two cruise lines that I really enjoy: NCL and Celebrity. Some others were totally eliminated from our planning.