Traveled on the December 21st Sailing of Celebrity Reflection (Holiday Cruise) out of Miami. Port stops in San Juan in Puerto Rico, Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas and Phillipsburg in St. Maarten (Dutch Side). We were in an S-1 Sky Suite, Aft corner cabin (9301). This was a last minute booking a few weeks before travel.
Just so you are aware, this review was written based on our expectations and our lifestyle. Married couple in their mid forties, traveling without children who prefer the most luxurious accommodations we can get when booking. Our expectations are high. We are also smokers (i know, boo hiss, blah blah blah). We have taken a number of cruises, always staying in Butler level suites or higher. This cruise we compared to our experiences on NCL's Owners Suite level of accommodations.
Embarkation - we arrived around 1:15pm (we live in Miami so the port is a short cab ride). We followed the signs to the "Suite Guests" area. This basically allows you to bypass the much longer standard line. After that, you do have to find the suite guests or aqua guests line and stand in that (20 minute at least). All other cruise lines that we have experienced have provided a separate suite guest check in room, with snacks and personalized service. Once we received our cards and barely a "have an nice cruise" from the disgruntled agent, we were able to follow the signs on which way to get onto the ship - no explanations, no "go that way" - nothing. On our other cruises, we were collected at check in by our butler or concierge and escorted either directly to our room or luncheon, etc. while explained the differing areas of the ship, when our luggage would arrive, etc. Once we received our key cards, we were on our own.
Once we got onto the ship and looked at where to go we were able to find our cabin quite easily. No Butler, no room attendant, nothing. No welcoming anything. We wandered around looking for a place to have a quiet drink, etc. and finally discovered that the Sunset Bar would pretty much be our home for the rest of the trip :) A most EXCELLENT staff and they were by far the friendliest most energetic staff on the entire trip. Sergio, Onur, etc - you guys were amazing!!! Sergio never missed a chance to say hi, talk to us about the trip, see how we were doing or refill our drink - by the second day this man knew our names and stateroom number by heart. We hated leaving!!
We kept checking on our room, and finally luggage arrived after sail away. FYI - Sail away on the reflection is a much more subdued affair than on any other cruise i have ever been on. Just relaxed and quiet. Totally not complaining :) Better than hearing Gangnam Style 742 times in a week :)
We met our butler around 6-ish and he asked if there was anything he could do for us - anything we asked for he could not do - book reservations, get our wine bottles from our package, tell us about the ship and the areas where we could smoke, Gordon was totally useless and moderately rude. I was informed if i wanted any kind of assistance, i had to go to guest services on the 3rd deck. Needless to say, he was no longer our butler after the 2nd day. He did not place timely Cabana or dinner reservations and of course we now had no specialty restaurant reservations for the first night (he was able to secure odd time seating on the 24th for Qsine). Our new Butler (Nalan) was a doll and treated us like we were her only guests (and was well compensated for it buy us)
The ship is brand new in the past year. All the bells and whistles you could want - except something that is glaringly obvious - why do we have high tech everywhere, yet to see a daily schedule i still must rely on a printed sheet of paper instead of interactive "whats happening" signage? near the elevator? where there are two separate maps of the ship right next to each other? Def a loss in that category.
There are only a few places to smoke on board (shush) - Sunset Bar, Off deck 5 exit from Captains Club, Mast Bar on Deck 15. Thats it. Seriously. That is it. and they are small areas to boot. You also CANNOT SMOKE on your balcony. $250 fine and you can be thrown off the ship. They also don't allow ELECTIONIC Cigarettes (seriously people its WATER VAPOR not SMOKE) because some people do not like you to even LOOK like you are smoking (but they are apparently OK with people who pick their noses and eat their findings while at dinner in a public restaurant LOL). So smokers beware.
Kids - ah, my favorite subject. People, this is an "older" person cruise line. There are no rock walls, there are no slides - there are things for kids to do - but seriously people - the elevators are not your built in babysitters. I have three grown children, and the only thing I could NOT find on this ship (other than a good butler) was a place that DID NOT ALLOW KIDS other than the casino. All bars at all times had children screaming, crying, playing on the furniture, knocking over drinks and just being a menace (granted, not the KIDS fault, its the parents fault) but come on - not a single space that was child free on 16 decks that i could just enjoy a good book for 30 minutes without having to sit in my own cabin?
Qsine was by far our fav specialty restaurant, followed by Tuscan Grill. We were not that impressed with Murano. The MDR was spotty (some dishes were terrific some where just horrific) service was spotty at best. Okie's section (Table 409) had the best service and Aleks the Sommilier was wonderful.
Our favorite indoor spot on the ship was the wine cellar - self service ATM-Like cards (not included in booze package) made it a pleasure - it was often empty and quiet - and the two gentlemen who work there were wonderful to speak to always friendly and def knowledgeable.
Arriving in San Juan after 3pm kind of puts a damper on doing anything in town other than walking around. Our other two ports of call - since it was Christmas and Christmas eve - were also mostly closed.
Sea days on the ship - they still have not been able to stop the "one person saving 10 deck chairs" or people just leaving towels for hours on end. Could never get a seat anywhere near the pool and the deck chairs on all levels and indoors are packed in like sardines.
There were a few nights with a DJ on board and out by the pool - however, it was very poorly attended (especially Sky Lounge). The live band in the lobby is OK, but it was pretty much the same thing every night.
The professional portraits are $30 each - and they are no better than the $15 on other cruise lines.
All in all we will try celebrity again on a non-holiday week, however, we will stick with NCL when the kiddies are not in school :)