The very best thing about Reflection emerged over the course of the week. I’ll summarize it in one word – vibe. The vibe on the ship was cool, fun, lively. Half way through the week I stopped and realized how much fun I was having, how happy my wife was, and realized we had already had an amazing vacation. And we had 3 nights and 2 sea days left to enjoy! I tried to put my finger on it, but I think it has everything to do with a ship designed to elicit that exact experience. The Lounges, bars, the library, Hideaway and game area surround the atrium, on several levels. The atrium itself is of course beautiful. Yes, it has a tree and that's cool. The lines, lighting and ambiance are clean and elegant. As the week wore on, we kept finding ourselves enjoying those areas, talking or watching the entertainment that would spring up on schedule but felt at times spontaneous. Mission accomplished.
Thanks to some excellent research and advice from a friend, we booked out 25th anniversary cruise on Celebrity Reflection. This was just our second cruise and we were please to book this under the 123Go! promotion for about 10% LESS than HAL or Carnival. Our friends kept telling us how this would be a significant step up from our prior Carnival Legend cruise, which we loved. That was true. Legend was a beautiful ship when we cruised with her in January 2009 and we had a wonderful trip. Celebrity Reflection did indeed carry us to a higher state of joy.
Part of that joy was found in new people we met through our CruiseCritic Roll Call. All that we met in person were pleasant and fun to meet; and a few have become friends. That will be an ongoing blessing – thanks to CruiseCritic.
It amazes us to spend a full week on a ship holding over 3,000 passengers and almost 2,000 crew members, and not feel crowded. Aside from the rush on embarkation for lunch and the muster drill, we rarely felt much of a crowd.
We never saw overcrowding or had to wait for service, either at the bar counters or from servers attending to tables and booths. The Martini Bar became a favorite meeting spot. We loved the iced counter and saw some amazing pouring demonstrations. The curtained couches were perfect for pre-dinner conversation. Likewise, the Ensemble lounge offered quieter music/entertainment. Michael’s was virtually empty when a large group of us were looking for a place to talk – so perfect!
The Sunset Bar (aft, deck 15) and Sky Lounge (bow, deck 14) were virtually empty when we visited them. We only had one drink on deck while sunbathing, but again had no trouble getting served at the Mast Bar.
We attended just one show in the Reflection Theater, a Broadway revue of sorts. It started out fairly pedestrian, but as it went along we became impressed with the voices, dancing and production. Of more interest for us was the entertainment at venues all around the ship. The guitarist, pianist, a cappella group and Vibes party band and DJs were all entertaining. The most fun was an elaborate dance routine that happened in the atrium. The dancers were dressed in an Alice in Wonderland motif and worked through a long series of current and classic dance standards (Katy Perry, Pink, etc.), working across the dance floor, up and down the main stairway, then several got into the atrium’s glass elevators and went up and down with random passengers.
This was one area that didn’t quite meet our expectations. The food in the Opus main dining room was very good, but rarely great. We chose “select dining” for the flexibility of time and opportunity to dine with different people. While we will likely choose that again in the future, we did find that some wait stations and staff were far better than others. While we had no trouble getting service from any sommelier, one (Plamen) was superb. I think a well-placed tip to the maître d at the start of the week might have smoothed things out a bit.
We went all-out on the 2 formal nights and had a lot of fun with that. I didn’t notice many, if any, ignoring the guidelines those nights. And just once I saw a guy in line for dinner in a Harley t-shirt and jeans. That didn’t bother me.
The only specialty dining we tried was Bistro on 5 – and it was wonderful. The crepes are interesting, delicious and well worth the $5 upcharge. We also had an excellent Thai Coco soup. We decided against the more expensive venues, and friends who dined at Murano said it wasn’t that special.
The layout of the Oceanside Buffet is very user-friendly. The food was as good as expected, especially the Belgian waffles, ice cream, bacon, etc. I took CruiseCritic advice and got sushi on several nights which I carried to our cabin for an appetizer while getting ready for dinner.
We’re from Florida and had little interest in getting a poolside chair. We had little trouble finding deck chairs which we would turn toward the sea. That, and the wind, we expected. What we didn’t expect was how much we loved the Solarium. We went in one breezy day to see if a hot tub was free. It was, and right next to it we found an open cabana-style lounger for two. After a nice soak, we got into the lounger. It was among the most comfortable places I’ve ever been in my life. Lying there in total comfort, facing out to sea, was simply fantastic. The Solarium’s waterfall, fountain and gentle music combined to make it an exquisite experience. (And those loungers can turn a full 360 degrees, so another day we turned it toward the center.)
I ran twice on a treadmill. The exercise equipment was modern, well maintained and not crowded.
What we didn’t see….
In perusing these review, there are of course testimonies to bad experiences or other issues people had with their cruise. I developed some worries which all proved unfounded. We didn’t notice music that was uncomfortably loud, no rap except one very popular current song. The only time music seemed loud was in one of the bars. We didn’t notice anyone drunk, no one loud or obnoxious. The coffee is very strong at every venue and I didn’t note any significant difference between the coffee at Opus, the Oceanside buffet, The Hideaway or room service. It was all rich, strong and quite good.