This was my 6th cruise but first from Miami and first aboard Reflection.
- Getting there: After much research, we opted to drive and park in the port's fouri-level parking garage. Too many unhappy stories about Premier Parking and other off-site lots that are much cheaper than the $20/day port parking but sounded like high potential for bag-dragging or break-ins. The port garage was quick and simple. Suggest drop off your bags at the terminal (baggage handlers will take checked bags) then park and make the short walk back to passenger check-in. CAUTION: The floors and parking areas are not well marked so be sure to remember where you parked your car!
- Boarding: Very efficient. As Aqua Class we were afforded some shortcuts. (Dumb move by me: Don't pack your short-blade Swiss Army knife with corkscrew. You'll have it confiscated and returned on debarkation.)
- The ship: Captain Boutakis runs an immaculate ship. It was spotless and crew members were always busy cleaning and polishing. The crew was universally friendly and took extra steps to make sure you were tended to on all occasions. Our cabin steward, dinner table staff, bar staff and event staff were all wonderful. Celebrity and Reflection impressed us enough we signed up for a Med cruise in June.
- The food: The open buffet was very good for breakfasts and lunches. Lots of variety with good, healthy options. We dined in both the Opus dining room and our special Aqua-class "Blu" restaurant. There were ups and downs and food quality in Blu and more options in the main dining area -- plus we missed the interaction with other travelers that opening dining at larger tables offered in Opus. We split our time 60/40 between the two venues but did not use the other specialty dining rooms.
- Entertainment: We were really worried after sitting through an ear-splitting opening night at sea that provided a sampler of the acts/entertainers we would see later. Thank God, every other night was a tremendous success. Our benchmark for excellence had been the Celebrity Allure of the Seas entertainment we enjoyed in January. Reflection did very well, after discounting the first evening's poor experience.
- The ports: This was our first time in San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. In these cases we opt for whatever "overview" excursion will show us the geography. For San Juan and St. Thomas this meant sight-seeing bus tours. Our consistent observation on all three excursions was that the buses/transports were not well engineered for out-the-window viewing. Unlike European buses, looking up was a real challenge, and most of these tours were up and down mountainsides or traveling through cities where you needed to see elevations (up and down). Imagine looking at elephants but only being able to see their knees. On the up side, there were occasional stops and the opportunity to get out and enjoy panoramic views. Our St. Maarten excursion included a bus tour with a pontoon barge crossing of Simpson Bay from the Dutch to the French side of the island. It was wonderful. We had a little rain but it reminded us of Hawaii -- rain then sunshine... and repeat. The scenery from water level was great. And the French side certainly reminded us of our years in France. While English was spoken, it was clear French was preferred. Loved it!
Debarkation: Again, a very easy process. We were luggage tag "11" and had a special waiting area for Aqua class in the Opus dining room. We were off the ship about 30 minutes after the walk-off folks who decided to drag their own bags. For us, baggage was delivered to airport-style carrosels (sorted by luggage tag number). We were through customs and immigration in 15 minutes and into the garage to get out car.
Leaving the port: We elected to drag our bags to the car, which was not a big deal. Leaving the garage we zipped trough the tool booth where the attendant scanned parking ticket. It was a quick credit card transaction and out of the lot. Signs to Interstate 95 were clearly marked and we were on our way home.