An enjoyable eleven-night Southern Caribbean cruise! Our trip began in Tallahassee on February 17th as we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed at the SpringHill Suites in Dania Beach (a 10-minute drive to the port) and was disappointed in ... Read More
An enjoyable eleven-night Southern Caribbean cruise! Our trip began in Tallahassee on February 17th as we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed at the SpringHill Suites in Dania Beach (a 10-minute drive to the port) and was disappointed in the hotel as the check-in process was unorganized (a long list of people waiting for rooms) and there was no hot water for our morning shower. The hotel, as well as several others, is in a great location, surrounded by various stores and restaurants. We had a fantastic dinner at the nearby Moonlite Dinner. You definitely will not go away hungry!
For the convenience, we parked at the port - $15/day. Since the Celebrity Reflection was docked at newly renovated Pier 25, we chose to park in the mid-port garage after dropping off our luggage at the pier. We arrived around 10:30 a.m. and check-in was very organized and a pleasant process. We boarded the ship a little after 11:00 am.
Southern Caribbean Cruise
The Reflection, the largest in the Celebrity fleet, is a beautiful ship and was clean and well maintained. We stayed in cabin 9225, a veranda room. The room was well maintained and outstanding service was provided by our Cabin Attendant (Romeo)! He was very friendly and was always asking if we needed anything.
The food in the Main Dining Room was average at best, as the menus did not provide many desirable options for the main course or for dessert. Service was slow and many evening dinners took three hours to complete. While early dinning began at 5:30 p.m., the dinning room always seemed to open a few minutes late and staff never seemed prepared as they were always finalizing dinner setup. Several nights it took over 40 minutes for the first course to arrive after the waiter took our order. If you wanted refills on water or iced tea, you had to ask. However, service from the wine sommelier was excellent.
The highlight of our dining experience in the main dining room was the great conversations with our table mates, three couples - two from near Overland Park, KS and a couple from near Harrisburg, PA. There was never a dull moment at our table as the conversations were intense, focused on “fun” topics and generated great laughter!
We did elect to purchase the four night speciality dinning plan for $149 per person. Two nights we chose to have dinner at the Tuscan Grill; as usual, it was excellent. What could be better, great food, great service and a beautiful sunset to enjoy! We also had dinner in the Lawn Club Grill and at Murano’s. Service and the food did not disappoint at either venue! Food at Murano’s is contemporary French in an intimate setting. While we really enjoyed both dinners, our favorite continues to be the Lawn Club Grill.
We also found the food and service in the Ocean View Cafe to be very good and we enjoyed having breakfast and lunch there on most days. The AquaSpa Cafe also offers a lighter, healthy alternative for breakfast and lunch which we found to be a very good option.
While I have been critical of the entertainment on recent Celebrity cruises, we found the entertainment on the Reflection to be very good. Our favorite shows were: Jesse Hamilton Jr. (entertainer), Bobby Borgia (magician), Lorraine Crosby (vocalist), Jason Neistadt (impressionist), and the Production Shows: Broken Strings and Euphoria - all were excellent shows. The singers and dancers in the production shows were impressive and extremely talented. The seven piece orchestra, lead by Big Mike, was fantastic!
On sea days, I enjoyed attending the four presentations by Cruise Director Eddy Jenkins covering topics such as 10 Things You Don’t Know about Music, 10 Thinks You Don’t Know About Art, 10 Things You Don’t Know About Wales and 10 Things You Don’t Know About Crew Life. I also enjoyed attending the Beyond the Podium presentation by Paul Cirillo on the Universe and Cosmic topics and presentations by Doris Welch on Ocean Life - Whales and Turtles.
In my reviews, I always like to include tips and advice on how to make your next cruise more enjoyable. Below are a few thoughts:
1. Make it a point to make new friends on the ship. I suggest that you talk to as many people as you can in the halls, in the elevators, at the bars, and at the pool. Even if you just ask them how the cruise is going, you will be surprised how people like to talk and share their experiences. I had some great conversations we folks from Germany, Finland, England, and Canada on this cruise.
2. When you are on a cruise, just be prepared for the shrinkage in your clothes caused by the salt air! Apparently, several days at sea in the salt air on a cruise ship will make your clothes shrink considerably. I have been told that spending some time in the gym and taking the stairs helps with this shrinkage issue.
3. When my wife and I cruise, we each take a large suitcase and a backpack. We always distribute our clothes between the suitcases and the backpacks in case one of the suitcases is lost or delayed in arriving. While this has never happened to us, we have witnessed a full cart of suitcases rolling off the pier into the water in Vancouver and numerous carts of suitcases getting soaked in Sydney. Our backpacks are our carryon bags and we always pack enough clothes, medicines, and toiletries to survive for a couple of days until our bags arrive if they are lost.
4. When printing out the cruise bag tags, I always print a few extra copies and place them in the outside pockets of the suit cases in case the bag tags attached to the bags get lost. It just makes it easier for the luggage to get to your room.
5. Travel insurance - this is not an easy issue. I have found that most health insurance plans do not cover you when you are in a foreign country. While having insurance to cover your trip costs if you have to cancel your trip is a plus, I believe the real issue here is the health insurance issue. We always purchase travel insurance. When cruising nearby (Caribbean), I normally purchase the insurance provide by the cruise lines. However, when going to Europe or other destinations, I normally purchase travel insurance with increased coverage limits. I focus on the medical coverage and the coverage limits for medical evacuations. I have found that the cost for medical evacuations can easily exceed $50,000. I highly recommend that every traveler research this issue online and know the limits of your health insurance.
On our last two sea days we had some additional excitement on board due to an unfortunate event where a crew member had a severe medical condition and had to be evacuated from the ship. The ship had to divert to Jamaica so the crew member could be flown to Kingston for medical attention. The Captain did a good job in keeping the passengers informed. About 50 miles off the coast of Kingston around midnight we were met by a Jamaican Coast Guard helicopter and the crewman was hoisted aboard the helicopter. The helicopter crew, the Captain of the Reflection, and the many crew members onboard the Reflection involved in this complex operation are to be commended and congratulated for a job well done!
When you see these types of events on TV you are amazed, but when an event like this happens on your cruise, you have another level of appreciation for the preparations, pre-cautions, and skill and talent level it takes to make these type of operations a success. Once the emergency event occurred, the ship was at maximum speed to get to Jamaica and once the crewman was evacuated, the increased speed was maintained to facilitate our arrival in Ft. Lauderdale on schedule.
We arrived back in Ft. Lauderdale at Pier 18. We used the Express Departure (carry your own luggage). Disembarkation began around 7:30 a.m. and we were at our car in the garage within 40 minutes. In the terminal, to take the escalator, you must have one hand free to use the handrail (to have a free hand - we each use a large suitcase and a backpack). Otherwise, you have to take the elevator, which may result in a delay due to lines forming to take the elevator.
By arriving at Pier 18, we had to take a shuttle to the Midpoint Garage. Unfortunately, when we exited the terminal, nobody could tell us where to get the shuttle to the parking garage. After walking around for several minutes asking numerous people about the parking garage shuttle, we finally found a gentlemen that directed us to the other side of the terminal where the shuttles were parked. Shuttle personnel were surprised that ship personnel had not provided this information prior to disembarking.
I found it odd that we did not dock at Pier 25, the Celebrity terminal, as we were the only cruise ship in port that day. This would have made access to the parking garage much easier. While I asked several Celebrity employees why were were not docking at Pier 25, no one could answer the question. However, I did note that as we were going into immigration, they were directing folks from Canada (700 Canadians on this cruise) to a separate area. Maybe, Terminal 18 has more space to accommodate faster processing of so many foreign travelers - who knows??? Read Less