Celebrity Reflection Cruise Review by CruisingBrian: First Time Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
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First Time Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
This was the inaugural Mediterranean cuise for the new 3,046 passenger Celebrity Reflection and I was thrilled to be there! Being the newest and the largest of the Celebrity fleet, I never felt that this ship was larger than any of their others. They certainly have not compromised an ounce of service or ammenities to add to the size. And the ship still feels intimate and special - unlike the gargantuan ships in their parent company, Royal Carib.
I was lucky enough to have switched from a Concierge Class cabin (194 sq ft) to an Aqua Class Suite (300 sq ft). I was charged a nominal fee - the cabin was available, Celebrity wanted to fill it, I fit the bill. And I am glad I did. The Aqua Class "Suite" - as far as I can tell only available on the Reflecton - is much larger than the standard cabin, and gorgeously appointed. You can actually move around the bed without hitting the opposite wall! I was in 2121 directly under the Solarium - which I nick-named "Hot -n- Humid" - More but was not disturbed at all by any noise from above. I didn't hear a thing. The cabin was a few feet from the spa, gym and the forward elevators, which was very convenient, and one floor below the Oceanside Cafe at the other end of the ship. The accommodations were sharp and clean in hues of brown. The large bathroom had tile walls and floor, a mosaic back-splash, a Decolav bowl-sink, full bath-tub with Hansgrohe shower and bath jets. Beautiful Egyptian-cotton towels and robes. The suite was assigned an English Style butler, a cabin attendant, and an assistant attendant. The butler, Nalan, from Turkey seemed disappointed that she could not unpack for me. She was eager to please, and always there with a smile. I found out later that 2121 was one of 13 cabins and 2 Penhouse Suites that she was overseeing. Very efficient, very gracious, and I highly recommend.
The gorgeouse main dining room, OPUS is spectacular. The decor is a 1960's space age look reminiscent of Disney's "Tomorrowland" and very effective. Okay ... it was very dark; difficult to read the menu and more difficult to see the person across the table from you. However, the food was delicious and the service impeccable. As I do on all Celebrity ships, I inquired about cinnamon ice cream (first had in 2000 onboard the Millenium) and Mohammad, the maitre d', said he would look into it.
For the first time ever, I experienced the specialty restaurants on this voyage. MURANO is fantastic - very upscale, very continental, very delicious. The room is stunning and the food spectacular. Watching the staff debone the Dover Sole Veronique or prepare the Potato-Laced French Turbot table-side is a treat. And the service is again impeccable. THE LAWN CLUB GRILL was perhaps the most fun I have had dining on a ship - making your own flat-bread (with the help of the chef) is a major photo-op! Bring your camera! Sitting outside by the lawn as the sun goes down over Istandbul, the smell of grilling meats, the ocean breeze, and (again) the superb staff .... don't miss THE LAWN CLUB GRILL. TUSCAN GRILLE is a darkly appointed Italian Steak House. Anti-pasta to begin, delicious salads, and fantastic pastas. They have a significant wine list as well. And again - the service is fantastic. It was a little difficult to eat Italian food after being in Rome for three days, but I managed!
The best, however, is BLU... not to be missed. BLU is billed as "clean cuisine", and it is fantastic. The room is gorgeous. All done in royal blue and white ... an elegantly simple room with delicious simple food. I ate there the rest of the trip - never bothered with OPUS again. Carla, my server, was fantastic - And Ludovic, the Maitre d', is personable and engaging. (Check out his smile!) The second night in BLU? Mohammad from OPUS found me with cinnamon ice cream made just for me. Now THAT is special service!
OCEANSIDE CAFE, the "buffet" on 14, is well organized and never seemed too crowded. The room is decorated in a refreshing colorful palate of orange, yellow, and lime green. Very nice - but could use one more coffee station.
Embarkation was a breeze - this has become a painless process. Disembarkation was just as quick and easy. Because some of the port stops were short, many people returned to the ship at the same time - so this caused long lines and delays. But this was a minor annoyance.
Major annoyances? Celebrity is up-selling everything. I received a phone message daily from one department or another trying to sell me on an art auction or a spa treatment or a ... This is in addition to the advertised specials that fall out of your "Reflection Daily".
Need coffee? Do not order a coffee on five! They will charge your cabin/seapass. (Hint: Free coffee on seven in "The Hideaway" with paper to-go cups, lids, and sleeves!)
Like to gamble? The casino onboard is brand new, loud, and pretty comfortable - although there doesn't seem to be any air conditioning ... But don't expect to come out ahead. Not one "jackpot" in 11 days. Not one. In the old days you would see the casino host and an assistant paying jackpots over $1000 by hand. Not any more. No alarm bells, no assistants, no big wins. And come to think of it, no bar service. If you want/need a drink, you have to get up and go to the bar yourself. Table games, I don't know about - but the staff looked bored beyond ...
Speaking of bars - this is a major money maker for the cruise industry. So there is now a bar at every turn. Just in case you can't make it from one end of the ship to the other without imbibing ... your are covered here ...
I didn't go to any of the shows ... so I can't report on the entertainment. Other than to tell you that the Reflection Theatre is brand new, comfortable, and gorgeous!
The ports were well-selected. However, on this trip it rained every day. One does not really expect rain in the Mediterranean. But there you have it. Umbrellas and parkas and wet shoes. Santorini is gorgeous even in the rain; Mykonos has very little shopping and the beaches are empty in the rain; Istanbul is obnoxious in good weather or bad - very crowded, very pushy, a real turn off. Do not go into the Grand Bazaar - you may not make it out alive! Ephesus is hard to see while treking through the mud; dittto the Acropolis in Athens. While driving the Amalfi Coast outside of Naples, the sun broke through and we have a great day in Positano, Sorrento, and Pompeii. My nose may have even been a but sunburned at that point!
I booked all my shore excursions independently and recruited Roll Call members to join me. This is the first time I have been so actively involved in organizing ports - but it worked out really well. I will say that the two ports I arranged with "Cruising Excursions" were the biggest disappointments. Lack of information, lackadaisical attitude of the guides, a real waste. Viatour came through well in Rome, as did local travel agents in Instabul, Kusadasi, Naples, and Santorini.
The Roll Call members that we met and toured with were lovely people - a bad tour can be infinitely better with a nice group of people. And I was always surrounded by fantastic Cruise Critic members.
Despite bad weather and a few bad ports, this was a trip of a lifetime for me. The ship was stunning, the crew/service flawless, the food outstanding, and company insightful and engaging. I will only ever cruise with Celebrity - they deserve my praise and my business. And I will continue to utilize Cruise Critic for infomation and introductions!
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