Our third cruise, the second on a Celebrity ship, was wonderful. We were looking for a week of warmth and sun, without cooking, cleaning, or the screaming of little children, and Celebrity definitely delivered!
We made our own arrangements, flying via Southwest to Ft. Lauderdale, and staying at the Hyatt Place Plantation the night before. We had rented a car at FLL and dropped it off at MIA, then took a rental car shuttle to the Port of Miami. The flight was ahead of schedule, the hotel was clean and the room nice, and we were able to stop by a nearby Target for a few forgotten things.
Upon arriving at the Port of Miami about 11am, we were directed to a very short line for Concierge Class passengers. We checked in and were directed to a small lounge to wait until the ship was ready to be boarded. Our lounge contained CC and AQ passengers. Those passengers staying in regular veranda, outside and inside staterooms were standing in line. Another lounge was across More
the way for suite passengers. We boarded the ship just after 11:15am.
We were greeted by the crew with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine and immediately bypassed the various crew to head to the Shore Excursions desk. We booked one excursion through the ship, the Champagne Cat in St. Thomas. We had sufficient OBC to more than pay for the excursion and were told we got the last two tickets. Once the excursion was booked, we headed back up to have a nice lunch. We chose to have lunch at the Bistro on Five, which has a cover charge. I believe we were the first passengers to head there for lunch. Other open venues were the buffet, The Porch, and the AquaSpa Cafe. We had great service at the Bistro, and we relaxed there until the staterooms were available about 1pm.
The stateroom was beautiful, clean and had fresh fruit, flowers, and a chilled bottle of wine. The mattress was nicer and more comfortable than ones we had slept on before. We almost never saw our attendant, but communicated with notes as to our preferences. Our attendant kept our fruit choices in the room throughout the cruise as we nibbled first thing in the morning or after returning from other activities. While there is plenty of fruit available in other locations, it is nice not to have to go out to get it or call and wait for room service. The TV service is powered by Apple, with many choices of mostly US stations, a number of movies on demand that were free as well as a selection of newer ones for an added fee. The TV was on a swing arm that could be positioned to watch from the couch or the bed. The veranda was normal sized and included two chairs, two foot rests and a table.
The Opus Dining room is the same as the other S-Class ships from Celebrity, and the 4th floor is all Select (Flex) dining. We had great service most nights. We did have dinner in two fee added venues, the Tuscan Grill (Italian Steakhouse) and The Lawn Club (backyard grill style). The service was great in both. We had the fillet in both, and thought it was better seasoned in the Lawn Club, although we liked the other choices better in Tuscan.
The art studio was a nice touch, and I participated in fee-added activities to make a bracelet and pendent. Each activity was $20 for about 45 minutes of time.
The OceanView Cafe, the buffet on this ship, was open most hours. We particularly enjoyed the fresh scones served from 4pm to 5pm daily. We also had a couple of small lunches there, and actually used a table in there as our "camp out" on a number of sea days after the lunch rush. While the staff was often a little bit lax in cleaning off the tables, when we found an empty table and requested from a passing crew member that it be cleaned off and wiped, they were quick to do so. The bar servers quickly learned that I liked regular service and had the premium beverage package.
Our other favorite place, the Cafe' Al Bacio, served a very tasty cup of tea that was a higher quality than what was available in the dining room or the buffet, and had nicely comfortable chairs to spend a few hours reading a book.
The evening shows in the main theatre were not our favorite, and we heard from various passengers very different opinions of them. We did enjoy a few smaller shows in Celebrity Central, including a comedian, game show, etc. We also enjoyed the shows put on by the bartenders at the Martini Bar as they entertained the guests. As is common of the other S-Class ships, there was entertainment in the foyer of the 3rd floor at various times, and some of the covers sung of tunes from the 70's, 80's and even 90's were decent. We also enjoyed the music from the 80's themed party in the night club one evening. We do not ballroom dance, and did hear a few complaints from guests looking for that activity in the evenings, but we were thrilled to hear music that was more our type.
This cruise visited San Juan, PR, where we docked in Old San Juan. We hiked up the hill to visit El Morro, before returning to the ship for a pleasant dinner. Our second stop was St. Thomas. Due to a recent storm, the Catamaran excursion we scheduled announced that we would not be visiting St. John, but rather an alternate location. Upon leaving the ship, we boarded an open air transport for a 15 minute or so ride to a marina, and enjoyed a pleasant boat ride to an island they called "Big St. James". We had about an hour to snorkel (fins and masks provided), followed by a nice ride back with refreshments. Our third port of call was St. Martin/St. Maarten where we shared a cab with another couple to Orient Bay for a couple of hours in the sun. Only the St. Thomas trip was a planned excursion through the ship.
On the last morning, we enjoyed a nice breakfast in the main dining room and didn't feel rushed. We returned to our stateroom from breakfast to finish cleaning up and gathering our things about 7am. We did not feel rushed to leave by our stateroom attendant, even though he had a great number of rooms to prepare for new arrivals. During Disembarkation, we were invited to hang out on the 5th floor of the Reflection Theatre with other CC class guests, where beverage service was available. We were delayed beyond our expected time to disembark, due to a back up with CBP, but were released within 30 minutes of expected time. We had a private shared shuttle reserved for our trip from the Port of Miami to FLL, and waited only a few minutes after we called from the curb. Less
Celebrity Reflection Cruises to the Eastern Caribbean
Since the ship does not arrive until 3pm, it is difficult to plan much in San Juan. We hiked up to one of the old Spanish forts, run by the US National Park Service, and toured on our own. We like being able to stop at the CVS just off the pier for any last minute things we might need.
Having been to this port before, we simply caught a cab to the beach. We got to Orient Beach shortly after 8am when very few people were out. We walked up the length of the beach to get the lay of the land, and settled on a pair of chairs and umbrella for a few hours of sun time. The cost of $20 included the chairs, umbrella, 2 drinks and use of the facilities. About 11:30, when the ship tours began to arrive and it began to be crowded, we headed back to the ship for lunch and time out of the sun.
Following a relatively short ride to the boat, we embarked on a 30 minute or so trip to a nearby island where we were given snorkeling equipment and allowed about 60 minutes. The tour operator described the area well, including where not to go, and gave a quick orientation to the equipment. A beach was available, but it was very small and not really designed for spending time on. The operator was reasonably well prepared for emergencies, with a large first aid kit, including an AED device.