Background-Single traveler 22 cruises on Celebrity, Elite Plus, 1 each on Cunard, Holland America, & NCL.
Embarkation was smooth as silk, boarded the ship 40 minutes after arrival at the port in Civitavecchia, did two nights beforehand in Civitavecchia at the Hotel San Giorgio (Nice **** service)
Offship Facilities-I was happy to see Celebrity/RCCL putting more resources into some of the off ship facilities. After seeing the changes in several ports and then discussion with some of the senior officers, they confirmed that the company is upgrading its port facilities. Choice Air seems to improve in quality/selection each year. Shipboard excursions have improved drastically from the old spin around the city in a bus, to a more comprehensive list of activities to fit in with most lifestyles and budgets. They also seem to exhibit a much more obvious presence with their representatives at airports then I’ve seen in the past. My suggestion-promote Choice Air more than they do especially for open/multi leg cruises. My experience has been most people don’t know about it, or the arrival guarantees, and potential cost savings that can come with it.
Ports-All were beautiful, but really enjoyed Nice the most. We also visited Marseilles, Barcelona and Tenerife. Nice is a wonderful walking city, and our weather that day was beautiful. Barcelona gorgeous as well, but weather there wasn’t as kind. Even though we had an overnight stay in Barcelona, the shuttle buses stopped running at 8:30PM, I thought they could of at least ran them till midnight as the taxis from Las Ramblas were pricey. In that regard felt bad for the crew as some of the dining room staff didn’t get out till 10 or 11 pm and without any shuttle buses running it didn’t really give them the chance to at least get a few hours in such a lively fun city.
I do wish though that in regards to the ports, it was more consistent for port transportation. Some of the ports transportation to the city is free, other ports you pay for each time you ride a bus, other ports you pay for a daily pass. Some you pay in Euro’s, some you pay in dollars, or on your Sea Pass. Just wish it was uniform one way or another. My suggestion- offer a fixed price port transportation pass, charge $25, stamped on your sea pass like a beverage package, and you get the convenience of no paper tickets, and you’re set for whole trip.
Ship itself- In a word stunning. Love that Celebrity is a learning organization, and took the best characteristics of the previous vessels and rolled them into this one. It has a much smarter use of space, without a lot of dead spots. Speaking of dead spots the internet wasn't one of them, since we had a strong signal all 15 nights and 16 days. Also liked that with Reflection they seem to be trying new things rather than just resting on a completed project. New options on dining and entertainment are currently being tried while others are on the drawing board. I think they said used to have 7 production shows, now they have more than double that. There are new items being introduced on the menus currently, and I had heard that the menus of Qsine and Murano are next to be trying some some new additions
Although not a fan of Sushi myself, was happy to see the concept “Sushi on 5” introduced. The Bistro although a prime location was certainly not well visited venue before, so was glad to see them trying new ideas. My feeling is the Sushi concept will generate more interest than the Bistro ever did for certain demographic markets onboard.
Activities- Excellent activities staff. Maarten the Cruise Director and Liam the Activities manager were superb at their craft, and you could tell they genuinely love what they do. They literally are running from one event to another especially during the sea days. My only criticism is they really have slashed the activity staff too thin. With 3100 passengers it just seems they need to have more than 1 cruise director, 1 activity manager and one additional cruise staff member onboard. They did have a two DJ’s on as well (just temporary), but too little staff for the work involved. Those three worked their tails off to make every event a success.
Entertainment-It was better than on previous cruises, and they gave the audience what they wanted in most cases. We had two performances of Tenors of Rock, which exceeded any expectations I had. Where I think they really excelled was when they took the dancers and singers OUT of the theatre in put them in smaller venues. The shadow dancing at the martini bar was fun and fresh, having the singers in the lobby and at Celebrity Central in different musical genres was a nice fun musical surprise. I especially liked the Disco night tributes, as well as the mermaids and mermen poolside at the indoor pool.
I also really enjoyed it when they upped the entertainment from a G rated format to a PG. They did a great job with “The Tonight Show” and “Liars Club” as two examples where it was a little naughty fun. Also it was clearly stated in program and before the show that it would contain some adult content, just in case that wasn’t your cup of tea. Was so glad to see new ideas, and shows being done in house, and that Celebrity is constantly testing new ideas on individual ships then rolling them out to the fleet once they are proven winners with the passengers.
MDR- Some improvements on the menu, but it needs refreshing. Still good but not great. Great hard working and smiling waiter and assistant waiter, but they do seemed taxed in the amount of people they need to serve and getting things out in a timely manner. Some nights you could have 5-10 minutes between course other nights a half hour. It seems like the waiters would line up to pick up food, rather than a smooth transition, and this created delays between the courses. I did find the management in the MDR superb and responsive, but they are working with a short staff, and I think that more than anything hinders the operation. We noticed this same pattern on our last cruise on Solstice, while the specialty dining venues seems well staffed, the MDR seems to be always short a few extra set of hands.
One thing I would suggest to other passengers, if you’re on the fence about trying the specialty dining, speak to the maître d' or assistant maître d' in the MDR to help facilitate your reservation. On more than one voyage they were able to get us a discount of between 30-50-% in the specialty dining venues just by being flexible on our day/time of reservation. I can honestly say, I’ve never had a sub-par meal in ANY of the specialty dining venues on ANY of the Celebrity ships. All the meals have been more than worth the surcharge that I paid.
My suggestion-Celebrity should offer a pre-sale 3 for $99 specialty dining package on all ships. Right now the pre cruise specialty dining packages are oddly set up, with you having to preselect dates times venues in advance (and must select different venues), and the selection process doesn’t make common or economic sense in most cases. Generally dates and times offered are fixed hours and when you get onboard you find you can realistically change it to fit any dining schedule. Simplify it offer a package of 3 with the flexibility to choose your option once onboard
Murano-Service extraordinary, great attention to detail, and presentation reminded me of a Michelin dining experience. The menu could use a little tweaking maybe add or try a new dish or two. Some of the dishes were pure classic gastronomic delights such as the châteaubriand , herb crusted rack of lamb, while others like the Dover sole véronique or Loup De Mer didn’t really seem to stand out from the pack. Although in my opinion they made up for any minor disappointments with the attention to detail and some of the delights of the other courses. Must tries were Creamy Maine Lobster Bisque, Young Spinach & Frisée Salad, and my absolute favorite the Chocolate and Grand Marnier Soufflé
Luminae-In a word, Stellar. I loved the intimacy of dining in Luminae. Every night was a warm inviting experience where you feel like you had dined there for years, and the staff treated you as an honored member of the family. Every detail of Luminae is well thought through from the basic design elements (cutlery, china, and table decoration), to the lobby design, the doors, and the layout of the table themselves. Really enjoy the menu design. It’s more abbreviated than the MDR, but the choices and portions are fresh and creative rather than just recycling dishes from the other venues.
Michaels Club-Nice place to stopover, great for help or advice. Just has that feel of a nice clubhouse without the stuffiness. The biggest asset in the Michaels’s club concierge. On more than one occasion I went there looking for advice. Who do I talk to about changing an alcove reservation? Any idea where the closest place on Las Ramblas to change currency? Any suggestions on ceramic art studios in Tenerife? All three cases, Michael’s club wonderful concierge had the answers.
Lawn Club-Hands down it’s my favorite dining experience onboard. Something about sitting under the stars, the smell of a grill and the hint of a grassy perfume nearby is enchanting. I love seeing my food being prepared and the chefs putting together dishes that are great to look at and more importantly great to enjoy. Unlike many of the venues aboard, I think the simplicity of presentation at lawn club is a smart choice. The emphasis is on the meat, the seafood and the side dishes, rather than colored palettes of designer sauces, herbs, and flowery rosettes of vegetables. It works one hundred percent. Having tried just about everything on the menu, it’s a hard to pick one or two standouts. Every steak, shrimp, or piece of lamb I tried was succulent. Especially loved the side dishes as well, served in single portion ramekins. Lobster Mac N Cheese, Sweet n Spicy creamed corn were exceptional and save room for the carrot cake or the AWESOME chocolate chip cooking served hot with ice cream. DON’T MISS IT!
One other nice thing they did with lawn club were lunches. Simplified and redid the offerings. Some of the greatest burgers you’ll ever taste ($10 surcharge). Beef was top grade, so was the presentation. I gave it am 8.5/10. Salad bar also included with the fee. My only complaint was that the fries were a bit soggy. I mentioned that to the F&B manager Clint, and he explained the trouble they had was they didn’t have a deep fryer at lawn club, but he was actively working to come up a solution so to offer top rate fries to go along with the awesome burger. I have no doubt they will.
Tuscan Grille- Was honored to dine with the Captain on the 2nd or 3rd night in Tuscan, and again at a luncheon a few days before the end of the cruise . Obviously the company was great, and so was the food. First of all the views from Tuscan are awe inspiring having the sweeping aft views of the ships. The position and design of this restaurant just has a great feel to it. Tuscan to me anyway seems more wide open than any of the dining venues, with generous spacing between tables.
First up were the starters, a generous selection of fontina, gorgonzola, prosciutto, soppressata, and marinated olives to name a few. I followed that with the house meatballs which were kind of dry, I do miss the kobe meatballs they used to have on the menu. These were good, but not great. Our table of 7 had different dishes with beef seeming to be receiving the most succulent reviews, especially the dry aged porterhouse, and the filet, which I thought were close to the quality you might expect at Morton’s or Ruth Chris. Swordfish was a big favorite as well.
Cabin-Was in a C2 cabin. Lots of storage between the two large over the bed compartments, the closet and the 4 drawers in the central desk/storage console, plus a little more on the nightstands and the vanity in the bathroom. It’s a very well maintained ship after 4 years of use. I always look at the tile grout in the bathroom, caulking, seals on the balcony door, and the condition of the furniture and wood railing on the balcony and the bedding and linens, and no complaints about any of it. Minor thing for me were the pillows were flat, but easily remedied as my stateroom attendant Vigor, brought me a memory foam pillow, and then it fantastic. Also the mattress on the bed was reaaaallly comfortable, a friend told me later that Reflection has Celebrity eXhale bedding (linens and mattresses), it was like night and day compared to other cruises I’ve been on , this was so much a richer indulging experience in sleeping.
Since I don’t drink alcohol the first day I asked that mini-bar be cleaned out, which was done by dinner time, and I stocked it with my beverage of choice (Pepsi). Stateroom service was truly top rate. Sent laundry out twice and both times returned within 16 hours using normal service. I love the elite plus perk of some free laundry tickets, dry cleaning, etc, and definitely take advantage of them to even leave the ship with clean laundry. At least 3 or 4 times during the cruise I saw the housekeeping manager for our floor who checked in and she asked if we needed any assistance with anything. We didn’t but certainly was nice being asked.
My suggestion-Get rid of concierge class canapes. They used to be a nice selection of hors d'oeuvre with a good mixture of textures and flavors, but I’m sure because of economics now they have been whittled down to a few olives, some type of spread, and a few crackers.
Was happy to hear also that Celebrity is testing a program to do away with all the Captain Club coupons for laundry, drinks, etc, and just build those perks right into your online account. I think it’s a great idea since half the time I seem to misplace the coupons.
Art on board Celebrity- One thing I really enjoy on Celebrity is their art collection. It’s an eclectic mix of different mediums, and types. Some going back to the Chandris Family days while others are new pieces. I spend one day at sea just going up and down the 15 decks of the front and rear staircases and alcoves, and the lobby admiring and learning about the different pieces. Some I said WOW that’s amazing while others like the spray painted set of gold mini blinds I said to myself what in gods earth is that thing. Like anything though, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the vast majority of the collection is magnificent, and worth the look around at it.
Alcoves-Reflection is one of the three Celebrity ships (Silhouette and Solstice being the other two) to offer “The Alcoves”. Alcoves are located on deck 15 aft and on Reflection they number 10 in total. They have comfortable seating for four or five and are rentable by the day (from 9AM-9PM). I think they run $99 a day for port days and a bit more on sea days. We had made arrangements to reserve one for the last four days of our voyage (all sea days). The alcoves open up to the lawn facing inward, and the outside of them allow privacy from the deck pathway.
They have a retractable roof to allow your choice of sun or shade, and have a handy direct telephone to your alcove butler. They come with a daily tray of cheeses and fruit and several bottles of cold water. They also offer the use of an IPAD. To me the alcove was the perfect place to read and relax. Several of my friends onboard would drop in during the day, so we made it a shared experience. One day we had rain, so went up in the morning and cancelled it for the day and rescheduled it for a different day.
One suggestion for the Alcoves is reserve early, as some voyages the alcoves are pre-booked months in advance. You can reserve them under the dining options on the Celebrity website or by telephone through your TA or Celebrity
Other Onboard Facilities
• Future Cruise Sales-I was very impressed on how Celebrity has really stepped up the other facilities onboard. The future Cruise Sales office is now located on deck 4 is now a real inviting space, and offer some good values. In my experience in the past it never really offered any better deals than I could find online, now I find it does. It is well manned every day, and the manager and agents really work to get you some great values. For example one helped me get the same deal for a friend in the UK even though he wasn’t onboard. We were able to get the same perks and upgrades for him as if he was booking onboard.
• Captains Club Desk-Very helpful and again well manned station. Was glad to see them at their own location rather than just adjoining guest relations. They had their hands full this cruise as I heard they had 1500+ elite and elite + on board.
• Spa-Found Canyon Ranch a welcome addition. Did try an 80 minute deep tissue massage and it superb. Previously using the old spa services, I would have given them average at best. This time though, I didn’t have to listen to a spiel about buying products that I’ll never use. The massage was done with hands, not just elbows, and she knew 100% about trigger points and using the massage to get me the best benefit. Pricey for a massage at $225 for an 80 minute on a sea day, but was able to negotiate down to $177.
• Gym-As you might expect top rate. Equipment is new and maintained and best views you’ll find in a gym anywhere. They have personal training as well as a good variety of group training (spin classes, pilates, walks. My understanding was the PT sessions run about $80/hr for a one on one, substantially less for any of the group classes
• Casino-Like any casino, great place to go if you want to leave with less money than what you came in with, but at least here it’s friendly
• Buffet-didn’t really try it other than a breakfast or two, a salad or two, and a daily ice cream, but it was always clean and tidy, and well watched over by the F&B managers
• Decorations-As we were on for Halloween, a brilliant display of all hallows decorations were masterfully and artistically created on the main staircase and in front of guest relations. It’s hard to put into words how much of a masterpiece it was, hats off to whoever conceptualized and the created the idea, as was really in awe of the creativity and detail of it.
• Announcements and the Daily-PA Announcements are kept to a minimum, except for Captain’s daily update at 10AM. They tended to run ships drills for crew on port days, so as not to really interfere with passengers coming and going.
My Suggestion-You should try and say thank you in person and use the Attention to Detail cards and mention outstanding staff members by name when you see senior officers. I always follow up when I arrive home and send a letter or email to Celebrity (yes, some people still write letters), of any standout performers of the team onboard.
Debarkation-Miami was a mess for debarkation. Ship arrived about 3 or 4 AM, but really didn’t start moving guests till about 9AM. Quite a few announcements kept us in the loop that the terminal was backed up, and invited us to stay onboard rather than stand in line at the port. Once inside the terminal things moved slowly, luggage was spread over a large area, so many folks complaining. There was only one small bottleneck exit from the cruise terminal, so it was extremely congested even outside.
Summary-All in all, it was a top rated performance by Celebrity. They gave me what I was looking for R-E-L-A-X-A-T-I-O-N, treated me like an honored guest, always with a smile on their faces . They provided extremely good value for every dollar spent. I already miss the “Mr John, do you need help with anything” , and the attention to small details that they provided. In a few small cases where I found a small problem, they did everything in their power to correct it immediately. To me that is Modern Luxury.
My Hats off to Captain Bouzakis , Hotel Director Niyazi Kormaz, F&B Manager Clint Kelu, GRM Julie Sherrington, Cruise Director Maarten Breuls, and Activities manager Liam Ryan who made this a spectacular holiday rather an just another cruise. I hope to sail with each one again. They genuinely share a love and pride for what they do, that coupled with an excellent teamwork skillset so even with our 9+ sea days, their combined effort and enthusiasm made this voyage appear seamless.
Atmosphere-Always makes me feel fantastic to see such a multinational group of people getting along so well. We had 73 different nationalities onboard between staff and guests. There was everyone from a man from Tibet, to a group of friends from Norway, South Africans, Indonesians, Phillipinos, Belgians, Egyptians, Israelis, Vietnamese, English, Irish, Kiwis from New Zealand, Germans, Chinese, Croats, Russians, Ukrainians, it was a regular United Nations…… and closer to home Canadians and even a family that lived 25 miles from my house in New York. Literally it’s such a small world. It truly fascinates me to embrace our differences and share the commonalities with fellow guests and the onboard team, to me anyway it’s one of the true pleasures of cruise life.
One additional note- As we arrived into the port of Miami on November 5th. We were boarded by the USPHS (US Public Health Service) team and the ship was subjected to a unannounced POSI (Periodic Operational Sanitation Inspections). This was done immediately upon pulling into port, and the crew had essentially been at sea for almost 10 days straight. Not surprisingly the team onboard Reflection scored a perfect 100% on their inspection. As we used to say in the Navy, Bravo Zulu (congratulations) to the men and women onboard Reflection for this well-earned perfect score. Read Less