This review is written primarily for the benefit of first time or infrequent cruisers (which my family falls into). Frequent cruisers probably have different expectations and more experiences, which may make my review less helpful. Our experience is 1 Princess Alaska, 1 Disney Caribbean, and 1 Viking Germany.
Room Sky Suite (7309) with three people. Two adults and a teenage girl. We upgraded for the room and were not disappointed. Our suite was the aft corner. It is large, had a real bathroom and a wrap around veranda, which was one of the largest on the ship. The couch folded out and the room could easily accommodate 4 people. The room looked very little like a ship stateroom and much more like a very nice hotel. As a suite we got 2 nights in specialty restaurants as part of the package. Given 3 people in our room, it was a good deal. Look online for photos of the room (SkySuite S1). The photos online are an accurate representation.
Butler Service We More
were excited to use the butler service, based upon the good reviews. Overall, this was nice, but nothing to brag about. We had him unpack, which was a disaster, as he made more confusion, not less, and we were required to be present. It was uncomfortable watching him work, so we went on the veranda. Other Butler reviews are good, so it may have been our dumb luck. The only good thing about having a butler, was that you could avoid all the people on the phone or in line at guest services. If you needed anything we simply called the butler’s cell phone. Room service, reservations, etc. were that much easier. He was very nice and accommodating. My daughter definitely got her use from the butler and was spoiled the entire cruise.
Currency Exchange (will repost on forums) Celebrity lied to me repeatedly on this topic. I called numerous times and even the day before we departed. Each time they said “we exchange Euro for dollars, at the going rate set before the cruise. We do not make a profit and do this as a service for our passengers. But, we only take cash or travelers checks.” I then asked the rate that day and it always coincided with the market rate, often near 1.30 or 1.31. I checked this at least 4 times before departure.
The first day on the ship I took my dollars to guest relations and asked to buy euros. They said the sell rate was 1.37 and the buy rate was 1.24. The market rate that day was 1.31. I was shocked and they said it was always that way. Very disappointed, to say the least. Either they have very poor communication or are deceptive on purpose. Be aware.
There were two ATMs on board. The one in the casino dispensed dollars. The one at guest relations dispensed Euros, but was not always working. The fee was $6 to get cash. The exchange rate depends on your bank. Luckily, ATMs were easy to find at each port. The policy did not cause any problems, but the lies or miscommunication (depends on your perspective) was disappointing.
On Board Credit We negotiated an On Board Credit (OBC) of $1,000. Since we don’t drink the OBC has limited use. We decided to use it for a child’s soda package, massages and one excursion. They do not allow you to spend your OBC in advance, so we were concerned about getting our massages on sea days. The Celebrity booking agent advised us to book in advance, pay by credit card and then cancel/rebook once on board to use the OBC. A refund would be applied to my credit card and the rebook would use my OBC. I thought this was odd, but did as told. I called a separate time and was given the same advice, so long as the cancel/rebook was done 24 hrs prior to my appointment or excursion. I thought all was well until I was onboard and began to cancel and rebook, as instructed. I was told I could not do that, but instead I would get an additional OBC if I cancelled. Since I doubt I could spend $1,000, nearly $2,000 was impossible. It took some very stern, but persistent complaining. I hate to do this, but had to. I spoke to the Asst General Manager, showed him my documentation (yes, I had copies and notes on all conversations on my tablet ... names, dates, emails, etc.). He said this is a common problem and promised to rectify which he did. I asked for a letter from him stating the fix (in case needed) and he happily obliged. All’s well that ends well, but it was part of a recurring theme. The booking agents and the ship crew do not communicate very well with each other. The ship’s crew always did what they had to do, in order to fix problems. What a wonderful crew!
Bookings Ignore the online hype and supposed limited availability of spa and dining reservation slots. They try to trick you to book in advance. The ship was full, yet everything was available the first day on board. I recommend not worrying in advance about specialty dining or spa appointments. Spend your first couple hours onboard making the reservations and all will be fine. In fact, other than a massage it seemed every other “reservation only” activity had space available without a reservation any day during the cruise. I had a massage on a sea-day, yet my therapist had two open slots that day. No worries. They even had people all over the ship trying to convince you to book appointments for dining, excursion, and spa throughout the trip.
Food As a suite, we had access to Blu. We also sampled Opus (our assigned dining room), Murano, QSine, Tuscan Grill, Mast Grill and Oceanview Café. This was the best food I have had on a cruise. There was the standard menu, which is all I expected, plus a unique set of menu choices every night. Magnifica! The only disappointment the entire cruise was the steak. The steak was USDA choice, at best, and then not cooked properly. Even in Murano and Tuscan Grill, they did not even sear the steak (a rookie mistake). Beyond that, the food was wonderful. QSine was a very good experience along with good food. Whatever your preference, the food exceeds expectations. Even the OceanView Café (the 24 hr buffet) had very good food. One evening in Oceanview was Greek night. We skipped dessert in Opus and visited Oceanview for Baklava. The Mast Grill was a wonderful stop for a quick burger, fries and ice cream cone. Great job on the food.
Shore Excursions We booked private tours the entire trip (sans Santorini). There we used the cruise excursion. At $75 per person, I wish I had hired a private driver. We were rushed in Oia and had a forced stop at a winery. The wine was good and the stop brief, but I could have gotten a private driver for the same fee. But, I had to use up my OBC. Many excursions were cancelled due to insufficient people signed up. Glad we had our own Godfather Tour at Sicily, because I heard the ship version was cancelled.
Entertainment and Activities This is really a matter of taste. Other than the ensemble dancers, we enjoyed the entertainment. I wish we could get a full week’s calendar of main stage entertainment, so we could plan, but I guess it changes too much, as entertainers are constantly getting on and off the ship. We had comedians, Broadway singers, an acapella group, house bands, ventriloquist, acrobats, headliner dancers and more. We were pleased. The activities were non-stop. Our daughter was going full speed from sun up to midnight with activities. She rarely did kid stuff, but told us it looked very good for the 13-15 yr old crowd. The pools, lawn club and other amenities, were first class and I never felt ripped off from a facilities standpoint.
Spa The spa staff is wonderful and the massage was top notch. I had two from the same therapist and was pleased each time. The rooms have a great mood, the therapists are high quality and the waiting room has a wonderful view out the front window. My wife said the waiting room was loud during her massage. Having a massage is always a high point for me on vacation, as I consider it the ultimate pampering. The Reflection Spa staff deserves a tremendous thank you.
Nickel & Dime mentality One thing that did bother me was the non-stop upselling, It was annoying. When we did Disney it was all inclusive, with minor upgrade options. It seemed that every minute there was another overpriced option they were trying to sell us. We said no, but it was annoying. The big shock was the Persian Garden. They market this feature heavily, but fail to tell you it costs extra. Access to such a relaxation always comes as part of a massage, but not on Reflection. Prepare to get an upcharge. I got one day in the Persian Garden as part of my suite package and used it. The Persian Garden is nice, but does not live up to the hype. It is a below average spa relaxation area because it does not have a hot tub. You must go to the public hot tub, which is outside the spa.
Service This is where Reflection shines. The staff is impressive. They are all eager to serve you and do so with a smile. We even had afternoon snacks delivered to our room, cookies at night and turndown service. The one instance of bad service was a room service order that took an hour. The butler ended up fixing the problem. I would list all the wonderful experiences, but it would be too long. Suffice it to say they made the cruise an exceptional experience. The public areas were very nice and clean. Despite a 3,000 guest cruise, I never felt crowded. Chairs, towels and service were always easy to get.
Summary I may have highlighted some of the problems we experienced, but please don’t let this get too much weight. My goal is to help my fellow travelers be aware and plan accordingly. The fact is, the experience was top notch and on a 5 star scale, this was easily a 4 star experience, bordering on a 5 star. I highly recommend Reflection and would not hesitate to take another trip aboard this wonderful ship and its great staff. Thank you Reflection for a truly memorable experience.