Overall Impressions: To level set, and let you know my frame of reference going into this...this was my first cruise. I have vacationed in Walt Disney World many times so I am familiar with the 'Disney difference' - in terms of the level of customer service and cleanliness. So I hold Disney up on a pillar of sorts because of this. I felt that my Celebrity cruise met and exceeded the 'Disney difference,' and I was pleasantly surprised by this. All of the staff - even the ones I didn't know - were very friendly and helpful. The ship was kept very clean - even the public restrooms. I have a detailed eye and seem to always zone in on the dirty bits but could not find this here. Staff attentiveness and cleanliness were far exceeded for me. I enjoyed the cruise immensely and overall everything was fantastic. I loved the ship. The ports...meh. But the ship...amazing. I fell in love with the cruising experience.
Demographics: The demographics, while older than us (we are 20-somethings, majority seemed to be 40s+), were great as I wanted a cruise without a lot of children. Very rarely did I see kids on the boat. People were friendly, so age didn't matter to me.
Ship: The Celebrity Reflection. W.O.W. So beautiful inside and outside. No gimmicky slides or stuff to pull the eye, just lovely lines on the outside. Given this was our 1st cruise, I wanted one of the newer, larger ships, and I wanted a more adult oriented cruise line. The Celebrity Reflection fit the bill. I have looked at cruises throughout the years but never ended up booking....but when I looked at itineraries in the past I would always try to minimize sea days b/c I thought 'what a waste.' I actually found our ports underwhelming and always looked forward to going back home to the ship. This was a surprise. The ship is very large and there are plenty of spaces for everyone. I tended to hang out in the Persian Gardens or on the lawn club. I am not into the crowded pool scene. My friend would hang out near the outdoor pool, and enjoyed the solarium pool as well (on sea days it would turn into a wave pool of sorts b/c it is in the back of the ship). It was nice that each of us did what we wanted then we would meet back up for meals and the evening activities.
Cabin: I wanted a balcony b/c I knew an inside cabin wldn't be good (I wanted natural light) and the thought of just a window scared me. We got a balcony on deck 6 on the hump - amazing. We loved and used our balcony. It was nice to have an outside space all your own. I loved that we had a clear view below (b/c we were on the hump - there are no lifeboats). I cannot imagine cruising w/o a balcony. Cabin size was not bad. Similar to a small European hotel room - lger than some of those even. We had just enough room for 2 pp each with a suitcase. The walls are indeed magnetic and it was nice to hang up the schedule. Bathroom was lger than I thought - I loved the no shower curtain.
Embarkation: We were through security by 11:15a and were checked in by 11:30a. You just go through an xray and metal detector - you don't have to take any liquids out. We made our way onto the cruise ship and added the premium drink pkage (free Classic pkage was obtained on a promo).
Movement of Ship: people had told me you will feel the ship, but I didn't know what to expect given the large size. I have never gotten seasick. I will get carsick if I look down. I ended up bring some anti motion sickness pills just in case but never took them. I was fine. I definitely felt it moving...many times I felt drunk walking down the halls because the ship would move and I would stagger (I assure you I was sober)....but part of me was convinced the drink I had 2 hrs earlier must be affecting me. It's just an odd sensation. When the ship started moving out of port in Miami, I was walking twd the frnt of the ship and out the window I cld see the movement relative to the water....this made me feel a little disoriented, but then I looked away. I just got used to it....with the ocasional 'drunken' stumble. I seemed to notice more in the bathroom too. Other times I wouldn't even notice we were moving, but my friend would.
MDR/Opus: Wow. Loved this. Some meals were better than others - based on the types of food I like. Quality was good all around, I just wasn't a fan of the taste of certain meals. I tried fog legs...didn't care for them. I loved that I could try these if I wanted. We had the late/830p seating which was super nice. We were at a table of 10, but only 4 other people showed up. It was nice to talk with other people - added more variety.
Buffet/Oceanview: Loved the variety. Quality was good - better than I expected in a buffet. They also had healthy options - grilled veggies and fruit. I would sometimes get coffee here - they have a bar. In general I felt they were not always made as well as at the cafe al bacio...but there was usually less of a wait.
Cafe Al Bacio: very nice. no complaints other than the wait sometimes.
Aqua Spa Cafe: Loved this so much. This is my kind of food. Healthy - fruits/veggies. I would have appreciated some more whole grain pasta.
The smoothies were nice and were included in my premium drink package. The greek yougurt sundaes were amazing and also included in the prem drink package. I would usually just ask for greek yougurt + whatever fruit, else they have recipes on display.
I would usually grab food here then walk it bk to the outside seating at the oceanview cafe to join my friend (who isn't a healthy eater :) I didn't love the solarium b/c of the chlorine smell....it was not too noticable at the aqua spa cafe but i preferred to dine outside.
Molecular - loved these designer drinks. The smoking drinks are super fun.
Martini - one of our favorite places to hang out. The lychee martini was delicious.
Passport Bar - seemed less busy before dinner so to be quick we wld grab a drink here before the show.
San Juan 3p-10p - treated this as a half sea day. It was nice to walk around the fort - good view. We also stopped at Ocean Park Beach which was nice. We ate dinner in port - mufongo was delicious. We were bk on the boat after 8p. I enjoyed San Juan, but I was kind of indifferent too....I was eager to get bk on the ship.
St. Thomas 8a-5p - We took a catamaran excursion to St John/Honeymoon Beach. It was a 20min drive to the dock. There were 41 pp on our boat...I wouldn't have minded less people. It was about 40min to the beach. The scenery was gorgeous. It was a bit chilly to snorkel and average fish life at best. Next time I would just hitch a ride on a dingy and relax on the beach. We has about 1.5 hours at the beach.
We ate lunch on the Reflection, then walked around Charlotte Amalie (we took at $4 cab each way - hailed it). The scenery was my favorite part. Again I kept thinking...I want to get bk on the ship. We were back on the ship around 345p.
St. Maarten 8a-5p - We had an excursion to Orient Beach at 915a. It was a 20min bus ride to the beach. We were sitting in front of
Kakao restaurant. Lovely scenery. Ridiculous amounts of hawkers - more than any other place I have been. I assume they knew we were the tourist grp too, which didn't help I am sure. We then took a cab to Marigot for $20 at 145p....meh. People told us it was like europe...pretty sure they have not been to France ever. Very underwhelmed and it was dirty. It was around 3p and we caught a cab back for $20 to Philipsburg. Took us 45min to get bk b/c an accident caused major bkup. Felt great to be bk on the ship. They delayed leaving by an hr or so b/c 12 people were missing. They came bk staggered so it was unclear if they were on an excursion but b/c of the accident and the # of pp missing seems this is why they waited.
Sea Days: We had 3 full and 1 half. LOVED these. The 3 port days were all in a row. I could not have done a 4th - too exhausting.
I loved hanging out in the persian gardens, on the lawn club, or walking the ship, or working out/taking a fitness class, and eating of course.
Dress: We wore Dresses every eve. We had 2 formal nights and loved these. We both wore full length dresses and didn't feel out of place. I usually onlly noticed pp who were dressed up. I didn't care about pp who were not. We wanted to dress up so that is all that mattered.
Activities/Entertainment: They were very good and good quality.
We saw a Fact or Crap type show that was hilarious. We saw Sin City which was also hilarious.
We saw 2 Dance shows - dance/acro/singing/gymnastics. There were some really talented performers on the ship.
An Elton John tribute - he was good. I am just not an Elton fan.
Skyview/Karaoke - this was funny and there were some good people. Although a cpl folks seemed to hog the mike.
Spa/Fitness Center: They were converting it to Canyon Ranch - see my Negatives section for more. I loved the Persian Gardens. Always found a seat. Super relaxing. Sometimes pp talked which was annoying but I tuned them out. Loved hearing the spa music and napping. Also loved the steam room.
There are 5 rooms treatment rooms - Dry/Aromatic suite, Dry/infared sauna (hotter than aromatic), Steam/Hamman, Cold Room, Showers - tropical and spring shower with lighting effects.
The heated tile chairs were superb.
Fitness classes - these were good and I broke a sweat. It was funny as the whole class would move with the ship. I worked out on the lawn club a couple times too. I saw a couple people doing yoga earlier on the top deck.
Assumptions before my cruise that I disproved:
- Sea days would be annoying - LOVED these way more than the port days. I can see why pp don't go into port.
- Port days would be amazing and the only reason to cruise. The ports were fine but not the highlight. I don't feel the need to ever vacation in San Juan or St. Maarten (before the cruise I thought about it). I would go back to the USVI but just for a beach vacation.
Negatives: Here are a few negatives that stood out for me. No deal breakers, but feel these should be noted.
- Our Sommalier service was slow at times. She was nice, but seemed very busy (she had quite a few tables). But I wasn't impressed with the speed of service. It was annoying at times as we wanted a drink/refill with what course we were eating. I think because all the other service was prompt, this was more noticeable.
- Lawn Club. For the first couple of days this was closed and was also closed on the last evening (the large portion of grass with the large chairs). The space opened up later in the cruise, but it was a let down and a bit annoying that it was closed initially and at the end just given that the hype around it. When it was open I enjoyed this space more that I intially thought I would.
- Canyon Ranch Spa conversion. Very disappointing that the fitness center was closed the first day, and the spa services were closed the 1st 2 days. I got my massage on the 3rd day (opening day) and it was very chaotic. I was taken 20min late (which was annoying as this cut it closer to the 3p san juan ship departure) for my massage and the environment leading up to my massage was not at all conducive to being relaxing. My actual massage was great (else I would have complained in the moment). It would have been nice if Canyon Ranch had offered a 5-10% discount since things were not running smooth. I get there was a changeover (which I was excited about), but if I am paying full prices I expect the full experience. And compared to Miraval or any other high end spa company, the pre-massage chaos was a turn off. Also the attendant didn't even know how to use the lockers, let alone that patrons (they installed new locks earlier that day). I ended up carrying my stuff with me. Again, I get there were kinks, but some good show of faith (either a promo or discount) would have been a nice touch to say we know there are issues, but we appreciate your patience. They also didn't seem to have discounts throughout the cruise like I have read about in other reviews.
- Persian Gardens. This was great. But I had to wait upwards of 5min sometimes just to exchange my key for a Persian Gardens pass. Would have been nice to have a dedicated line for this to expedite.
- I would love to see even more fitness classes. It was confusing since they were doing 1st come/1st served vs. having a sign-up sheet. Again because of the Canyon Ranch conversion.
- We had the Prem Beverage Package, which was great (and worth the $80 to upgrade from the free Classic we got, if for only you didn't have to think about is this over my classic limit). It was a bit annoying to stand in line for bottled water. It would have been great if there was a water only station or some kind of self service water bottle station (where you swipe your sea card).
Like I said, overall it was fantastic. We have already booked on the Celebrity Silhouette and are excited to cruise again.