This was our third cruise on Celebrity our 9th overall. We were on a 7 day Eastern Caribbean itinerary during the week of March 9, 2013. Our ports were San Juan, St Maarten and St Kitts. We left from Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Passengers: 3100 on our sailing. My kids are fond of saying that Celebrity brings out their inner 60 year old.
On Board Info: There were almost no announcements made----passengers were encouraged to read and carry the daily activity sheet. There is a Cruise Director video that is on stateroom T.V. everyday as well as the Captain's daily announcement on weather and navigation. There are no in cabin announcements.
We flew into Miami on Delta the same day and transferred to the Port of Miami by cab. The price is $24 dollars plus $1 plus tip. It was easy and quick. Check-in was no more than 15 minutes and that was more walking through the lines than waiting. The one problem I did have was when the person checking us in wanted me to fill out paper work for the second cabin I had booked. I explained that I completed all paper work online and showed her the printed form. She went away for 3 minutes then came back and confirmed I was correct. No problem and we were off to go through security and to take the obligatory welcome aboard picture. You can easily bypass the line if you like. We took our picture and we were welcomed with a drink----champagne or mimosa. Nice touch, reminds me of the old days when they gave you a drink and escorted you to your cabin. Cabins were ready at 1:00pm. We were onboard by 12:20pm so we headed to the Ocean view cafe (Buffet). Note: They close the emergency doors to keep people out of the cabins until the CD announces they are ready.
In my opinion this is the best buffet restaurant I have experienced in 9 cruises. The simplicity behind the design is superb. Rarely will you have more than 2 or 3 people in front of you even at peak times and most often you simply walk up and get your food. The buffet is set up as islands, each with specific foods and signs. North and South end have hot foods and specialties (Pizza, pasta, omelet pre-made and to order, Mexican, Indian) ---these do not repeat. Middle islands are bread, salad, fruit, cheese and carving stations----these do repeat so if one is crowded go to the other. Drinks are at stations east and west. (N is the front of the ship for our purposes) Outside at the back of the ship there is plenty of space -------great place to sit eat and enjoy the view. The bar that was previously there has been moved upstairs. Drink service is available and I found that we were approached every time we sat down. Once you say you do not want service they will take your drink menu and turn it side ways so as not to bother you again. Once I realized this, I did it myself. We rarely drink before or during lunch even on a cruise. Desserts are at the sides of the N S stations -------- ice cream and candies for the young and not so young are on the NE side of the Cafe. Lastly, read the signs---- each food station has a sign that tells you what it is--- Bread, Cheese Salad and every dish also has a sign. The food was excellent---for a buffet of course. Also, there were no bacon police----you helped yourself and there was usually both Canadian and American bacon available along with carved ham. I loved the fact that I did not have to wait behind someone who was making a salad when I just wanted a slice of ham. They also had waffles available every day. Tea was served every day from 4 to 5pm and sushi shortly thereafter. Ice cream was also available by the scoop or soft frozen yogurt. If you want to help yourself there is a self-serve ice cream machine at the Mast Grill (outside one level up from the pool) and they change the flavour everyday.
With the Hot Glass show gone there is now the Lawn Club grill as well as the Porch to replace it. These are all up charge restaurants. We did not partake but the reviews were positive from others that we spoke to. Why people are fascinated with grilling their own food on vacation is really beyond me. (95% of North American homes have a BBQ Why would I pay to grill my own food on vacation? Yes! I know they will do it for you, but this is the selling point of the restaurant. We are a family of 5 and an extra $200 for a meal just doesn't make economic sense. They do sell dining packages that include all or some of the restaurants. In fact, the Lawn Club itself has disappeared. It is roped off and surrounded by Cabanas that you have to pay for. The public area is very small and has high traffic. In my opinion this area should have remained a public area since it was originally supposed to be one of the highlights of an S-class ship.
Main Dining Room: The food and service were excellent. Our waiter Jose and assistant Sheena were a 10 out of 10. The food was good as expected, this being our third cruise with Celebrity. Salads in particular were much improved and seemed a bit larger. Steaks were okay, the rib eye cut and beef wellington being the best cuts offered during the week. Our Waiter always brought us what we asked for and even seconds without question---much better than my experience on the Eclipse. We even saw our Assistant-Waiter from the Infinity and he came by to say hello every night. This was very nice!
Specialty Restaurants: Many people on the ship raved about the quality of service and food in these restaurants. Well I think about it this way, you have paid for the service twice--- $35 or more in up charge plus you lose your meal (which you paid and tipped for) in the MDR. Therefore the service and food should be to rave about. If you go, you won't be disappointed; that much is clear, regardless of how you feel about the extra fees.
Cabin: We had side by side cabins on deck three. They were connecting. The Reflection has connecting doors inside the cabin like the original M-class ships. This is a change back to the old way. It was explained to me by the housekeeping people that the old way is better for cabin Stewarts and keeping the hall ways free. Our cabin Stewart was okay. Did his job but did not go the extra mile.
Entertainment: Excellent----- there were always good seats. Again the talent was excellent. Greg Scott the violinist was superb and the production shows were excellent as well. Not sure why there is always so much criticism about the entertainment but it is a personal taste thing. The magician was okay but we saw him pull the card from the bottom of the deck. If he can't even do that without being seen, that says it all. Like I said he was okay. The band in the lobby---also the same band out on deck is awesome. They have been on all 3 of our Celebrity cruises and we look forward to having them on our next one.
Cruise Director and Staff: Paul did a great job. I don't expect to become personal friends with the CD. His assistant David is excellent and is indeed ready to take on the CD job on his own ship.
Photo Gallery: People here were wonderful Girard and Corine, Hanna and Kristian everyone really. Attentive, helpful, friendly---the best!
Guest Services: Had an issue with an On Board Credit --- Yole took care of it no problem. (All were very friendly and that includes the concierge as well.)
Casino: Same as any other ship. They entertain you while they take your money; they are very friendly and provide lots of options.
San Juan--it's okay but I would have preferred St. Thomas. We walked around and found there were really no deals to be had. It is basically a US port and even has a sales tax. No duty free here. Police were everywhere and it was safe---at least in the afternoon when we were out. Unless you are going on a tour or want to see an old fort this is really just a stop to re-provision the ship and perhaps get you to skip a meal in the dining room.
St. Maarten a favourite and a great place to shop and go the beach and that is what we did. A beautiful day with great weather!
St Kitts has definitely improved from 2 years ago. The port is cleaner and they have added palm trees. Know your prices from back home and be careful. There are plenty of guys carrying monkeys who want you to pay them for a picture----we have allergies so I was very firm with them and they respected that. Also, even while in the shopping area stay alert don't flash money or valuables---the merchants themselves will tell you this and this is good advice anywhere when on vacation.
Debarkation: They sent us a letter in the cabin that said to be in the Ensemble lounge by 10 am to debark. On this day however, the ship was being held up by the fact that customs was understaffed because of budget cuts. I heard one of the Celebrity workers say that they had more than 600 still on board when we went through. Usually debarkation is done after the 10am group leaves since that is the latest debark time that you can get. On this day they were about an hour behind. Not Celebrity's fault. Things still went very smoothly. We took a cab back to the airport and took an afternoon flight back home.
Conclusion: The reflection is a beautiful ship. I like many of the little changes that they have made to this final S-class ship. The decor and the service and staff are some of the best we have experienced on Celebrity. We loved the ship and had a wonderful time. We can't wait to go back.