We were on the Reflection on the Jan 26th cruise. To our surprise, the cruise Director Paul Baya announced that this was the Reflection's thirteenth cruise, (and yes, the ship really did feel brand new). This was also our 13th cruise (my 1st Celebrity Cruise, but my husband was on Celebrity way back in the 90's). We are in our 50's and have cruised on Holland America, RCI, Carnival and NCL -- usually with our kids during holidays or spring break. -This time, just the 2 of us.
This was also Captain Pagonis's final cruise. He was very personable and high profile around the ship and we wish him well.
We loved this cruise! We did not sail AQ or CC. Maybe you don't miss what you don't know, but I really feel we had a wonderful cruise experience without the added "perks". When booking, we didn't really think that the added amenities looked to be worth the money and I think we made the right decision for us.
We had a 1A hump angled balcony #7286, (just aft of the hump on the starboard / right side) This balcony was huge (approx. 10' wide and 12-13' at the long side and 10' on the short side), and we spent a lot of time out there.
Embarkation: We flew into Florida a few days before the cruise and had a rental car from Alamo. We returned the car to the Miami airport at 10am and then took the free Alamo shuttle to the dock. There was no line up to check in, and we quickly got registered and photos taken for the sail card and we were ready to board by 11:15am. But, we had to get into a short line, as they were not letting anyone on board the ship until 11:30. By 11:40, we were standing in the foyer of the ship with a complimentary flute of Champagne. Cabins would not be ready until 1pm, so we set off to explore the ship.
The ship is absolutely beautiful -- modern, chic, and elegant. It was a beautiful day in Miami and we were on the top deck and came across the Mast Grill. The burgers and fries were great and we enjoyed a nice view the Miami harbor from the top deck while enjoying our lunch. Then we went to relax in the Solarium in one of the big double tub chairs right beside the floor to ceiling glass walls (some panels were open for ventilation) until our cabin was ready. How relaxing to take in the views and listen to the spa music and fountain. Great way to start a vacation and unwind!
We had early seating in the dining room in the far back corner near the mirrored wine wall. It was a table for 6 and even though it was near the kitchen, this was a really nice quiet table. We met 2 couples at our table who were also from Canada. We had such wonderful dinners in the MDR, that we never once felt the need to go to a specialty restaurant the whole cruise. The food was very good and the service was excellent. Our waiters were Elizabeth and Andreea and both of these young women were a total delight. They were charming, helpful and very hard workers. We really enjoyed our evenings in the Opus dining room.
The only night we did not eat there was the night in San Juan. We arrived back at the ship late, so the plan was to order room service on our balcony. But we got back so hungry and tired, that we just went up to the Ocean View Cafe. The food was so-so, but the setting fantastic - we sat outside at the stern and watched the lights of San Juan.
We really enjoyed the itinerary of this cruise: Sea Day, afternoon arrival in San Juan, St Maarten, St. Kitts (a new island for us), and then 2 relaxing days at sea.
Here were some of the highlights of the Cruise for us.
- The ship decor was beautiful. And the art around the ship -- fresh and so interesting.
- We had a balcony cabin just back of the hump on deck 7 (7286). It was the largest balcony looking aft on the starboard side of the ship. We spent a lot of time here. We got sun and shade, had a big enough table for breakfast, and was well protected from the wind and rain. Great location in the middle of everything!
- Food in the main dining room -- never felt the need to pay for a specialty restaurant
- Our wait staff in the MDR were Elizabeth and Andreea. Delightful- charming and professional. --Best we have seen on a cruise.
- The art studio -- loved the staff -- Faith and Jackie (amazing what they could show you in an hour or half hour). I took the free watercolor, drawing class and the water colour techniques classes ($20 each)
- Evening Concerts on the Lawn: Nice Music in a great setting -7:45 on San Juan (Jefferson Ang ) and St. Maarten (jazz trio) nights
- Cellar Masters -- We got the wine card for the self-serve wine bar. The cards are $100 (you get $30 bonus if you buy it the first day ... so $130 on the card for $100) or you can get a $50 card (with a $10 bonus on the first day). They have quite a few stations of red and white wines. You can buy 1oz, 2.5 oz., or 5oz. Just help yourself to a glass and put in your card and choose a wine, then push the button to fill your glass. There is a huge price range for wine choices, so this is a nice way of tasting wines when you can buy by the ounce. You are also encouraged to take your wine with you to dinner or anywhere else on the ship. It is open 24hrs, but during peak hours a sommelier is present to give you advice.
- The Hideaway coffee bar -- very near our room and very convenient (coffee needed to be replenished more often though)
- Breakfast on our balcony- loved the egg white veggie omelets
- Hamburgers and fries at the Mast Grill -- yummm!
- Special Brunch in the MDR on the second last sea day (Thurs). Very impressive
- The Solarium -- a beautiful and very restful place to relax and read (especially when it was cool, rainy and windy). Loved the lighting on the fountain at night
- The live entertainment in the Grand Foyer and the Ensemble Lounge. These groups were very talented and always drew a crowd -- D'Revelations (the female lead singer had a wonderful voice, she could pull off whitney and celine no problem), Jefferson Ang, These Guys (A Cappella quartet), and Vivian Clement Jazz trio.
- The grand Foyer always seemed to full of activity in the evening when a group was performing. There were people dancing, and all the lounges were clustered around the Foyer on decks 3,4, and 5 so wherever you were you could hear the music. We have been on so many ships with a dead atrium area that it was nice to see this one active with people (and even dancing).
- I liked that when you shut out your bathroom light, it turned into a night light -- cool.
- The Molecular Bar -- fun!
- Free Zumba at the pool twice a day will Linell. He's good!
- Beds and linens were very comfy.
Some things that gave us pause -- but nothing that would ruin our trip
- Elevators: The elevators were pretty slow ...probably the slowest elevators we have ever seen on a ship. All the elevators had a glass wall and the back quarter of the floor was glass. I couldn't believe how many people would not go on the glass floor. I was always saying "there is plenty of room back here" -- but people would not budge. There seemed to be a lot of scooters on this sailing, and I think the elevators were a real challenge for them. Took the stairs whenever we could, but deck 7 is a bit of a hike in high heels.
- Fresh Flowers: Found it unusual that there were no fresh flowers on the dining tables and very few fresh arrangements around the ship. ... (just cafe al Bacio and they looked great there)
- Coffee: Coffee was very inconsistent -sometimes great and sometime so strong it was horrid.
- Muster Drill: We went to the MDR (without life jackets) and watched a video. Then a crew member gave directions from the other end of the dining room -- couldn't hear a thing! We didn't know where to go in the case of an emergency until we went back to the room and read the back of the door. If there is an emergency, you go the main Dining Room on Deck 4- NOT the lifeboats on deck 5. You are not assigned a lifeboat. ...... This seems strange, as I think my first instinct in an emergency would be to go to deck 5 lifeboats not down to the deck 4 dining room.
- Deck 5 promenade deck: Can't walk around the entire ship and where you can walk has the view totally blocked by the lifeboats... barely a crack to see through. Really no reason to go on this deck unless you are a smoker.
- Production shows: were OK -- not great. Nothing we haven't seen many times before. So-so dance routines with dancers lip syncing backup vocals and it seemed like the female leads just were competing to see who could sing louder. ...But lots of people did seemed to enjoy it
- Stairs: Was a bit surprised by the colour of the carpeting on the stairs -- reminded me of something you would find in an old 70's rec room (mottled, dirty beige and brown) even though it was new and clean. (I know this is nit-picky, but I did a lot of stairs, and looked at the carpet a lot)
- No shelves in the closet -- Just 3 deep drawers under the TV. And a shelf over the bed. I would bring a collapsible shelf bag to hand in the closet next time.
San Juan: We arrived in San Juan Harbour about 2:00 pm and we were out exploring the old city by 3. We just strolled around -looked at the architecture and poked in some shops. The sky suddenly opened up and it poured rain so we popped into the Pandora store and bought my daughter a charm - great timing and one gift down! Then we walked along the walls and came across a wedding. Then on to El Morro to explore the fort. The city is so beautiful and has so much character, we couldn't stop taking photos.
Saint Maarten: We had been to St. Maarten before and have been around both sides of the island. Today we just wanted a nice relaxing day and really didn't have any plans. There were 4 big ships in port. At the dock, there is a very well- organized taxi area with very clear signs about the prices to go anywhere on the island. We decided to go to Divi Little Bay. Little bay is very close to Philipsburg and is very quiet. There is a large timeshare on this beach and it is well maintained and quiet. We really liked it. I read that there was good snorkeling there, but we didn't see much - maybe needed to swim further out in the bay. The chairs were $5 each and an umbrella was $5. We spent the morning there and then in the afternoon went to Philipsburg to walk around, shop and get a drink and some free internet.
St Kitts: We had never been to St Kitts and Nevis. We decided to do the island tour with Thenford Grey. I highly recommend this trip. Thenford is very knowledgeable, personable, and professional and has a great sense of humour.
We were gone for most of the day (9am-3:30pm). We toured Basseterre, Romney Manor and Caribelle Batik, Brimstone Hill Fortress which is a UNESCO world heritage site, and then to Timothy Hill for views of Nevis and where the Atlantic Ocean Meets the Caribbean Sea. Then he dropped us of at the Carambola Beach Club at South Friars Beach for a couple of hours. He took some folks back to town, then returned to pick us up. A beautiful spot! We would very much recommend this beach if you are looking for a beach day.
St. Kitts is a beautiful island. We had a great day here. Probably one of our favourite stops in the Caribbean.
Debarkation went smoothly, but it was quite slow as there were 7 ships in port when we returned. We had a bit of a wait for the rental car shuttle as our ship was docked at the end of the line and was filled by the time they got to the Reflection pickup.
Overall, a great itinerary on a beautiful ship!