Traveling with 3000 of my best friends and only visiting ports, is not exactly what I call authentic "travel," and as such, I don't normally label myself a fan of cruising. But I must admit -- Celebrity Reflection did not ... Read More
Traveling with 3000 of my best friends and only visiting ports, is not exactly what I call authentic "travel," and as such, I don't normally label myself a fan of cruising. But I must admit -- Celebrity Reflection did not give me much to complain about. When it comes to travel, I normally prefer getting beyond the touristy "surface." But if you're going to visit the Greek Isles anyway, a cruise is certainly a lovely way to go about it -- I mean, you're kind of there to take in the "surface" anyway. Celebrity Reflection was a beautiful ship, with lovely staff and lovely staterooms. Here's what I found to be worth sharing:
GUEST PASSENGERS -- I thought Celebrity Reflection attracted a lovely group of travelers. I particularly enjoyed the cross-section -- we had all ages, older travelers, children (but not too, too many!), teens, some families, some couples, some singles, some Americans (but not too, too many!), and travelers from all over the world.
CONCIERGE CLASS -- a waste of money. Celebrity does a great job boarding and disembarking guests, so you don't really need any special privileges. The late afternoon snacks delivered to our room were unimpressive and "silly." Besides which, we could get whatever we wanted whenever we wanted it from the upstairs buffet anyway. The stateroom was lovely (and I loved the bed and bedding), but it is my understanding that all rooms are the same?
LIVE ENTERTAINMENT-- absolutely much, much better than I ever expected -- I was truly impressed.
BREAKFAST - Our favorite thing was room service. The coffee was delicious and tasted even better on our balcony with a view. Sometimes we even got up early for the sunrise. Now that's vacation!
BUFFET LUNCH -- Exactly what you'd expect from a large ship -- plentiful, crowded, chaotic, and with cafeteria style food. I was glad we often missed it while out on excursions. But it was fun being able to hop in there for a late afternoon ice cream cone, and they certainly did do a lovely job our last day "at sea."
DINNERS -- a little disappointing, but fine. I found the dinner seating times very constricting, and I was sorry we didn't do the "flex" seating (we tried to change it, but it was already booked). Our server lacked personality, the sommelier was a little hard to flag down, and service overall was very rushed. Tables were rather close together. We often were into our second course by the time the wine showed up. The food was good to very good, but never excellent (at least not by NYC standards). We ate at Tuscan one night, which had a lovely ambiance but the food wasn't much superior to the main dining room. We were sorry we hadn't tried Murano, b/c we heard that one was much better.
POOL AREA - disappointing. The pools were small and crowded and not refreshing. Frustrating when returning from a hot day of touring. The deck areas were SO crowded, you had to climb onto your lounge chair just to get onto it. Our lounge chairs were LITERALLY touching our neighbors (strangers) and there was nothing we could do about it. Not very relaxing.
BEVERAGE PACKAGE -- This was a great package, and the wines were "fine," but many of the mixed drinks, especially by the pool, had barely any alcohol -- very watered down. On the other hand, if you asked for extra booze, you got it.
PORTS: It was hard to get good information, if you want to get beyond the touristy.
Ephesus -- We enjoyed visiting the ruins, and the tour guide they provided was fantastic. We did not think Mary's house was worth the detour (and I left feeling very skeptical that she was ever really there). The extra shopping/snack stop to the "Emporivm" [sic] was artificial and annoying, and we also blew off the carpet demonstration. I would have loved it if our cruise advisors could have given us better tips for maybe an authentic Turkish lunch without a tourist scene. Note: If you choose not to do an excursion, do consider getting off the ship to explore a bit. If you get beyond the shops that border the periphery of the ship, there are actually some lovely coastline beaches, walks, and eateries. I wish I had known about them in advance. I would have chosen to have lunch by the sea.
Taormina -- We did the ground transportation, which was a good idea, since we learned there is really no other convenient way to get there. Taormina was nice, but extremely crowded. What can you do. (But I do recommend sampling the local treats: arancini rice balls, granita ices, and the best damn cannoli I've ever had.)
Athens -- We enjoyed visiting the Acropolis, but loathed the touristy Plaka neighborhood, with its tchochkes and crap. Fortunately (and no thanks to any information provided by Celebrity), we ventured, on our own, outside of that neighborhood and got to see more of the real Athens. We found a few great neighborhoods (like Monastiraki) and had a great lunch at Athinaikon in Syntagma.
Santorini -- To get to Fira (midway up) and to the top -- Oia (the famous picturesque village )-- is not easy. We took a boat to a bus to get to Oia, and then the bus back down to Fira. From there, we skipped the one-hour wait for the cable car, and walked down (with trepidation) the slippery steps instead (about 25 minutes). I think that was the right option among not very good options. Had a great lunch of grilled fish at Arcobalerio, Fira.
Rhodes -- First we toured the old town and did some shopping. We also visited the synagogue and museum (again, no thanks to Celebrity who never even mentioned it). Then we took a cab and spent the afternoon at a beautiful beach. We ended up spending half as much money than if we had done it through Celebrity's excursions.
Naples -- Since we'd already been to the Amalfi Coast (and to Pompeii), we stayed in Naples, but rather than do any excursions, we just spent the day walking the city. We went up to the top and saw the scenic view. We went out for famous Neopolitan pizza. We got beyond the shoreline eateries (which is sadly all that Celebrity's "experts" recommend).