With the impressive overall quality of food onboard Celebrity Reflection there is little need to spend extra on speciality dining unless you feel like a treat. Even Oceanview, the cheerful buffet venue on Level 14, takes things to a new level with tasty International dishes that belie the restaurant's casual surroundings.
Celebrity didn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to dining on Reflection, sticking instead with familiar options. In the main dining room passengers can choose from traditional dining (6:15 p.m. for the early seating and 8:45 p.m. for the late) or the more flexible Celebrity Select Dining, which allows them to eat in the main dining room any time between 6 and 10 p.m. Bookings for Select Dining can be made online up to four days before the ship sails or once onboard. Or, like us, you can simply walk-in whenever it suits you. We never had to wait longer than five minutes for a table for two although we did notice a queue on one formal night.
Opus (Decks 3 and 4): The main dining area, Opus, occupies space on Reflection's third and fourth decks. It's an elegant venue, decorated in deep browns and silvers, with bright white tablecloths and crystal as far as the eye can see. The vast space -- which accommodates 40 more seats than its counterpart on Celebrity Silhouette -- is stunningly designed, though tables are a bit too close together making private conversation difficult (although this can be a good way to meet fellow passengers if you are so inclined).
Menus in Opus offer appetizers, soups and salads, entrees and desserts, and they're flexible enough to accommodate specific dietary needs. You'll choose from a variety of options, including favorites like shrimp cocktail, escargot, prime rib, rack of lamb and crème brulee. Food is generally good, with appropriate portion sizes and some surprises on the menu, like the beef Carpaccio or frog legs. Do ask your waiter what they recommend as suggestions are usually spot-on.
Vegetarian and healthier options are identified on the menu, but if you have specific dietary needs (vegan or gluten-free), discuss them with the maitre d' before your first meal, and ask specific questions about the menu items you select. Breakfast is available from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Deck 3 and lunch is served on Deck 4 from noon to 1 p.m. on sea days.
Luminae (Deck 3): Only guests staying in suite accommodation can dine at Luminae, an intimate restaurant seating just under 100 passengers that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The space is elegant yet contemporary with decor that ties in with the reflection theme onboard. Large picture windows let in plenty of light, lending an appealing shimmer to the restaurant's gold-and-chrome design accents, and two separate rooms create a refined atmosphere. Luminae never feels busy, even when it is full.
Breakfast includes staples such as granola, omelettes and pancakes along with a few surprises like huevos rancheros -- a tasty Mexican breakfast dish. Lunch is served from noon until 1 p.m. and includes a choice of three appetisers, sandwiches and entrees and a couple of desserts. At present, there are just two lunch menus which alternate each day. While this isn't a problem on port intensive itineraries where most passengers prefer to eat onshore, the current Luminae lunch offering could become somewhat monotonous on longer sailings.
Dinner is a different story with a completely new menu each day plus the option to order from the main dining room menu. Meals begin with an amuse bouche followed by appetizers including creamy truffle risotto, beef tartar and smoked trout with hearts of palm. Mains consist of buttered poached lobster, ricotta cavatelli with duck Bolognese and venison ragout. Serving sizes are sensible to allow room for moreish desserts such as mascarpone cheesecake, coconut tapioca and chocolate mousse with cherry marshmallows.
While the food is exceptional it is the service that lifts Luminae to new heights. With a team of highly-trained and attentive waiting staff attuned to passengers' likes and dislikes, it is almost precognitive at times. Whether you prefer relaxed, friendly service or a style more in keeping with the elegance of the venue, the wait staff quickly work it out after a day or two. Not everyone will be able to afford to dine here, but for those who do, Luminae delivers on its promise of a "deliciously exclusive dining experience".
Luminae is open from 8 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. for breakfast, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 6.15 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. for dinner.
Blu (Deck 5): Passengers who have booked AquaClass cabins or suites will eat at Blu, a private restaurant serving lighter "spa-inspired" fare. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. and includes a variety of healthy starters including a Blu yoghurt parfait with granola and blueberry compote and our favourite, a bespoke bowl of muesli prepared tableside. Hot dishes range from buttermilk pancakes and French toast to smoked salmon and asparagus frittata.
Blu features a similar dinner menu to Opus with a choice of three appetizers, four soups and salads, a salad entree, three main entrees and three classic grilled meat dishes. Some meals are similar to those served in the main dining room, though the presentation at Blu tends to be more refined. If you prefer a quieter, more personal dining experience Blu delivers although it can lack atmosphere, particularly early evening. AquaClass passengers do not have to pay extra to dine here and suite passengers may book tables on a space-available basis for free. The restaurant is otherwise off limits to regular passengers. It's open for breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9.30 a.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Oceanview Cafe (Deck 14): Oceanview Cafe is Reflection's buffet area, serving breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. The menu changes each day, but every-day options include cooked-to-order eggs and omelettes, a salad bar including a mix of lettuce and toppings, and a cheese bar that includes American standards like cheddar and Colby in addition to brie, gouda and the like.
Pizza, Mexican, Indian and Asian choices vary, so one day you might find sushi and the next soba noodles. Indian selections are particularly good, with chicken masala and tandoori chicken, all of which have just enough kick. Live cooking stations with customized pasta options and a selection of sauces (bolognaise, marinara, alfredo) feature as well as made-to-order stir-fries with meat, seafood, spices and sliced vegetables. Tables are generously spaced which, combined with floor-to-ceiling windows, gives a relaxed, open feel to this popular dining area. Drinks table service is speedy and we never had to wait for a seat, even on sea days.
Oceanview Cafe is open 6.30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast (10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for late breakfast), noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for afternoon tea and 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
Mast Grill (Deck 14): The Mast Grill, located one level up from Oceanview on Deck 15 overlooking the pool, serves up burgers, hot dogs and fries. It's open from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
AquaSpa Cafe (Deck 15): The AquaSpa Cafe, located in the Solarium, is only available to those aged 16 and above and provides healthy and convenient breakfast options -- such as granola and fruit - and salads and made-to-order dishes like grilled salmon for lunch. Delicious yoghurt parfaits are available during breakfast for an additional charge unless you have a Premium Beverage package. In this case, the parfaits are yours for free as these menu items are billed as a 'drink'. The cafe also serves tea, coffee and juices throughout the day. Open 7.30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast and noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch.
Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours a day with a choice of sandwiches, pizzas, salads and desserts. Full or continental breakfast is also available. Suites and concierge class cabins have a more extensive menu to choose from.
Whether you fancy a simple burger or elegant haute cuisine, there's sure to be something to satisfy at one of Celebrity Reflection's many specialty dining venues. Enjoying a meal at one of the half a dozen for-a-fee restaurants is a real treat with innovative cuisine, well-spaced tables and attentive service. Overall the food quality and service is superb however costs can quickly add up. That said, it is worth allowing a little extra in your holiday budget for at least one specialty dining experience.
All of the specialty restaurants can be found on Deck 5 with the exception of Lawn Club Grill and The Porch which are located on Deck 15. Keep an eye out for discounts on embarkation day when specialties tend to be quiet; otherwise bookings are essential for most venues. Murano, in particular, tends to fill up very early during each cruise.
Murano (Deck 5); $50: Food at Murano is rich and decadent, with traditional French dishes such as foie gras, creamy bisques and a cheese course. Diners can order a la carte or indulge in the six-course tasting menu, featuring an appetizer, soup and salad, fish course, palate cleanser (sorbet), meat course and dessert; all of the dishes except the sorbet can also be found on the a la carte menu. There are two choices for each course on the tasting menu, and there's an option of a wine paired with each (which raises the surcharge to $89). An intimate Champagne afternoon tea is served in Murano on sea days and includes a glass of champagne, live entertainment and some of the best scones on the high seas for $25 per person.
Qsine (Deck 5); $45: If you prefer formal, fine dining Qsine may not be for you, but this fun restaurant experience was a major hit with our party of three. Upbeat staff guide diners through their "dining journey" and how to place orders using iPads then waiters bring out the food in the order of their choosing. With its animated iPad menus, quirky serving styles and relatively simple food (think fish & chips and beef sliders), Qsine is ideally suited to multigenerational celebrations as there is something to suit every diner regardless of age.
Meals are served family style so if one person at your table of four selects a dish, four servings are usually brought out, regardless of whether all four people want to eat it. We circumvented this by asking for half-serves at the beginning of our meal so we could try more dishes without filling up. Don't miss the chocolate tombstone cake for dessert, even if you are full.
Tuscan Grille (Deck 5); $45: A prime aft location ensures this stylish yet charmingly rustic restaurant is a popular choice, especially when the ship is at sea or anchored in picturesque ports. Steaks are the star at Tuscan Grill, though pasta-lovers have plenty of options too, with ravioli, lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese and lobster linguine Alfredo all on the menu. Caesar salad prepared tableside adds a touch of theater. It is best to dine early so you can enjoy the view before the sun goes down. Tuscan Grille is open 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Cafe al Bacio (Deck 5): Those who enjoy coffee can get their caffeine fix at Cafe al Bacio & Gelateria, which also offers gelato and Italian ices at an adjoining stand, all for a la carte pricing. Cakes and other goodies in the refrigerated cabinet change throughout the day and are free. With its comfy seats and large picture windows, this licensed cafe is also a delightful spot to relax with a glass of wine. The warm service and relaxed atmosphere make it tempting to linger at any time of day. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Bistro on 5 (Deck 5); $10: Bistro on 5 serves up Celebrity's famous crepes, both savory and sweet, along with a selection of other items such as panini and gourmet burgers. This restaurant remained very quiet throughout our cruise, perhaps due to the fact the free restaurants onboard are so impressive. It is a good choice for embarkation day if Oceanview is busy. Open 11 a.m. until midnight.
Lawn Club Grill (Deck 15); $45: Part pizzeria, part open-air grill, passengers serve as the grillmasters, seasoning and grilling up their meats or baking their pizzas with assistance from Celebrity chefs. If you don't want to do your own grilling, the chefs will also cook everything for you on request. Lawn Club Grill is open for dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Porch (Deck 15); $25: Instead of serving the usual soup, salad and panini The Porch on Celebrity Reflection was operating as a raw food and seafood bar at the time of writing. Diners could choose from a compact menu featuring the likes of steamed mussels, steak tartare, chicken wings, jumbo prawn cocktail, and lobster bisque, with the majority of dishes served cold. A seafood tower with jumbo prawns, mussels, chilled lobster tail, scallops and seafood salad costs an additional $5. Despite being one of the most affordable upmarket for-a-fee restaurants, The Porch remained virtually empty during our cruise, even on sea days. Whether this venue continues to operate in its current format on Celebrity Reflection remains to be seen. Open noon until 3 p.m. for lunch and 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. for dinner.