My wife and I travelled with friends who were celebrating and important wedding anniversary, we are
in our late 50's early 60's and whilst we are well travelled our friends are not. None of our party had been on a cruise before which made booking quite daunting. It was vital we chose the right cruise line, ship and itinerary as a wrong choice could put us off cruising for good.
We booked through Thomas Cook and thought their help, advice personal touch was exactly what we required. I am not good on a boat and my greatest fear was to be ill during the holiday especially as it was costing a fair amount of money. We wanted a balcony room and were advised to go mid ship, deck 9 and port side - this we did and it was sound advice. I think we were lucky with the weather and sea conditions but I can honestly say I never once felt uncomfortable and would not even know I was on a ship.
The journey was really good, flight bang on time and comfortable, transfers were well organised and getting on board was really quite simple. By midday we were having lunch still gob smacked by the size and beauty of the ship. We went to our room and part of out luggage was already outside the door, the rest followed after about an hour which we all thought was more than acceptable. Really, really impressed with the room - more space than I was expecting and in pristine condition. The bathroom was well designed, lots of room and storage along with a shower that gave you excellent pressure and hot water immediately, every time. Have to say the bed was the most comfortable I have ever slept in and really wanted to take it home with me, slept very well every night. Our room was kept very clean and our only moan was there was no shower gel given only soap - we mentioned this and the problem was sorted immediately.
The ship itself is magnificent - obviously being new helps but you can see all the staff are very proud of their work place and everyone treated it with respect and was constantly being cleaned by the friendly staff. The lifts can sometimes be an issue but is having to wait a few moments longer a really big problem?- no.
Our worst fear was this could be 'Butlins' on Sea (no disrespect to Butlins) but it really was not, there are plenty of different bars you can visit which suit all types of people. We felt you could make of the holiday whatever you wanted it to be - we enjoyed the quiz's (did not do very well) and the music every night on deck 3. Thought the band was excellent with good variety. In other bars there was classical or disco's - it was your choice. It took us a few days to get ourselves organised and think once we did we enjoyed what the ship had to offer even more. The entertainment was on the whole very good - obviously some shows were better than others but that is personal choice. We enjoyed the Elton John show and the final show of the trip which included some very interesting acts.
Two other things we really liked - there was a wide range of different nationalities on board and we spoke to Australians, Americans, Canadians along with many others from Europe and New Zealand - all were very friendly and in the main were very happy to spend a bit of time sharing their life experiences. All staff members wear name badges along with the country they come from - think it is about 60 different ones in total and apart from two or three they were all wonderful and did their best to make you welcome and ensure you were happy.
We had select dining in the Opus restaurant and have to say the food and service really was first class. There were two formal evenings and on the first evening we ate at the Tuscan Grill (paid extra) - it was very, very good. The food and service was exceptional but far to much to eat for us. The second formal evening we ate in the buffet - again the food was really good and the presentation and attention to detail was fantastic. When you understand how many meals they prepare during the course of the day to the standards they set themselves is is mind boggling!! We all felt the quality of the food throughout the trip was excellent - even the burgers at the pool bar were exceptional!!
The itinerary was a big reason for selecting this cruise and on balance we made exactly the right choice. Prior to travelling a lot of research was carried out and we chose to go with private tours rather than use the ones on offer from Celebrity. Have to say we made the right choice - lets be fair we were lucky there was four of us to share the cost but the flexibility and personal attention was most welcome. We were not waiting around because one or two people were late returning to the tour and were able to see places that the bigger tours/coaches could not reach.
Sicily - booked through Sicily Limousine Service. Excellent guide, nice clean comfortable vehicle and we thought excellent value for money.
Athens - took the open top bus from the port. Not impressed with Athens, traffic a real problem and would not rush back.
Ephesus - have to be honest and say I was worried about this trip. Lots of different reviews about not feeling safe etc. We booked though Osman Tourism and have to say this was one of the best trips. Really good driver and guide, included lunch away from the crowds and such history quite stunning.
Rhodes - should have spent more time in the old town. Did an open top bus trip and not the best I have ever been on but still quite nice. Our fault about the old town - felt we missed out.
Santorini - Our Guide was Martin - really great laid back guy who clearly loves the island (don't blame him) and we really enjoyed the trip. Stunning views and the only negative was the wait (about an hour) to get back to the dock using the cable car service.
Mykonos - we booked a day at the Saint John Hotel - 70 Euro to include breakfast and a massage. Spent the day by the pool and relaxed. Well worth the money - collected and took you back to the ship.
Naples - Booked with Italy Limousine - went to Positano, Amalfi etc. Crowded places but stunning.
Celebrity's attention to detail is well worth mentioning - a nice welcome back to the ship after each trip, cold towels and drink along with a nice smile. Chocolate on pillow each evening and staff who are friendly and approachable at all levels. Had our photo taken with the Captain and we had chosen not to dress formally for dinner - I explained to him that was not really what we wanted to do and I was only dressed in shorts. He said to me it was our cruise, our choice and he would be very happy to have his photo taken with us - nice touch.
When booking we thought this was an expensive holiday but when you break down the cost per person, per day for what you get it is not expensive at all - in my opinion the complete opposite. We had the Premium drinks package and thought we got very good value for money - the drinks on board are not cheap especially if you want the nicer wines, cocktails and spirits.
To sum up we are glad we chose Celebrity and Reflection as our first cruise, we had a great holiday and although we will not go on a cruise for every holiday in the future there is no doubt we will do so again in the future.