What an adventure! Our trip began in Tallahassee on December 7 as we drove to Ft. Lauderdale. We stayed at the Marriot Residency Inn in Dania Beach (a 10-minute drive to the port). The hotel is fairly new and we enjoyed our stay. We had an excellent fish dinner at the Rendezvous Restaurant at the marina about a mile from the hotel (one of our favorite spots). For the convenience, we parked at the port - $15/day. Since the Celebrity Reflection was docked at Pier 18, we chose to park in Lot 19 which was about a 100 yard walk to the baggage drop off. Check-in was an unpleasant process as the lines at security and at check-in were long – it took more than an hour to complete the check-in process. Celebrity just did not have enough staff working to handle the several large tour groups that arrived by motor coach at the same time. Also, separate priority lines are only provided for Suites and Aqua level guests; all others, regardless of your Captain’s Club level, go into two lines.
Eastern Caribbean Cruise
For whatever reason, the first few days of the cruise seemed to be a little unorganized and a little out of sync - for example, at check in we noticed that the Sea Pass cards did not have the dining table assignments, and no one could explain that, which necessitated us checking with dining room staff several hours before the dinner time for the location; this made it necessary for waiters to determine the assigned table, lead you to your table, and them not knowing where the table was located. Also, on the first day, waiters in the Ocean View Café were more focused on selling an upgrade to your beverage package than providing service. Additionally, staff had difficulty figuring out how to handle the large tour group from the Villages. Finally, there was a change of Captains on day three which seemed unusual; there wasn’t any Captain’s Talk which is traditional.
The Reflection is a beautiful ship and was clean and well maintained. However, the ship is beginning to show wear, especially in the carpets, main dining room chairs, and the wobbly tables in the Ocean View Café. However, we understand the ship will be in dry dock for service in January.
The food in the Main Dining Room was good, but service was somewhat slow as our waiter (who worked very hard) was serving 18 people at 5 tables. Drink service was basically non-existent. Fortunately, we elected to purchase a 4-diner package for the Specialty Restaurants (a 34% savings if purchased on board). We had outstanding service at those locations and excellent food at the Lawn Club Grill and at Qsine (two nights) – both were a pleasant dining experience and I highly recommend them. The food at Tuscan was also very good, but the service was average as the restaurant was understaffed.
Our main negative comment is that they have now changed the “Classic Drink Package” to not include canned soft drinks; instead, you now get a small glass of a soft drink. When I removed the ice, you were getting only 3 to 4 ounces of soft drink which meant you had to wait in line or wait for another waiter to bring you another drink. This change is unfortunate, as serving soft drinks in cans (greater selection) and not from the fountain is one of the things that had set Celebrity apart from the other cruise lines in the past. I observed a large number of unhappy guests daily over this issue. It is hard to understand why a drink package that costs almost $60 a day does not include dispensing the entire can of a soft drink. I suggest that you read very carefully the fine print before you purchase or elect as a “perk” any drink package and realize, as we found out that what you selected when you booked the cruise is not necessarily what the ship interprets what you get when you take the cruise.
The entertainment on the ship ranged from outstanding to average at best. Our favorite shows were Rock Baby Rock with Lance Lipinsky (a high-energy 50’s and 60’s Review), UpTown (Soul and R&B Review), Comedian Robbie Printz and the Production Show “Broken Strings”. These were all excellent. Regarding the Production Shows, the singers and dancers were extremely talented and were the best that we have seen on any recent cruises. We also enjoyed the short “Pop-Up” performances by the Cast of Reflection, especially the one featuring Christmas Music, and the music provided by the house band the “Accents”.
Upon returning to Ft. Lauderdale, we used the Express Departure (carry your own luggage). Disembarkation began around 7:15 a.m. and we were at our car within 20 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. Also, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that you no longer have to fill out a Customs Declaration Form is you are a U.S. citizen and you did not exceed the purchase limits.
We stayed in cabin 6251, a veranda room with a partially obstructed view. This is the first time we stayed on the 6th floor (we usually select a higher deck) and would suggest staying on a higher floor to prevent any possibility of an obstructed view. The room was clean and well maintained and the only obstructed view was when you tried to look straight down as the top of the life boats were directly below the room. Service provided by our Cabin Attendant (Dhanveer) was outstanding and exceeded our expectations!
For all but the Barbados stop, the ship requested all passengers who booked ship excursions to check in at the theater where you received the trip ticket and a number, then sit inside to wait to be released according to the tour number you were given. This process worked very well.
Following two sea days, we arrived in Antigua around 9:00 a. m. Since it was our first time to the island, we went on a ship shore excursion - a Panoramic Tour of the Island (3-hours). We enjoyed the tour and learned a great deal about the island from the driver (“Tony with the Pony” tail), but it was a long van ride over bumpy roads. The tour included two stops, one at a resort on the ocean and the second at an herb garden. We purchased a few souvenirs in the shops near the terminal building. Unfortunately, it was a national holiday and many shops were closed.View All 194 Island Tour Reviews
We arrived at Bridgetown the following morning at 10:00 a.m. We did not meet in the theater prior to the excursions. Since the ships docked in an active container dock, it was a 5-minute walk along the pier to the terminal building (shuttles were provided for those who chose to ride). Since the tour buses could not come on the pier, you had to go to the terminal building to find your excursion. This process was utter chaos. To compound the confusion, the Silhouette was also in port docked next to us and they had the same tours with the same tour names as our ship. After finally getting on the correct tour bus, we began our 3-hour tour: The Best of Barbados. The tour included three stops: Gun Hill Signal Station, an Orchid Garden, and St. John’s Parrish Church. The view from Gun Hill was outstanding and the orchid gardens were unbelievable, as most of the orchids were in full bloom. The tour and the tour guide were excellent. Following the tour, we shopped in the Market near the Terminal Building.View All 149 Island Tour Reviews
We arrived in Castries at 7:00 a.m. Since we had not been to this island, we took a ship excursion, the Scenic Drive of St. Lucia. This was nearly a three-hour tour that included two stops: The Hamilton Estate (home to Caribelle Batik/chocolate factory, Cocoa Caribe/coconut oil processor) and Pigeon Cove Beach. The visit to Batik was very interesting as demonstrations were provided making Batik fabric, the chocolate, and how coconut oil is produced. The stop at the beach was a brief stop for pictures as this area is known for being where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, it was a national holiday and many shops were closed. However, we did find a good deal on cologne in a shop in the terminal building.View All 300 Island Tour Reviews
Since this is one of the islands that was added to this cruise (replacing St. Marten due to severe hurricane damage), we elected to just walk into town for some shopping. Town was a short walk from the ship and we visited the Cathedral de Fort de France (a beautiful building) and the open air market. We were surprised by the number of fabric shops that sell the plaid Madras fabric. Everyone speaks French (but could communicate in broken English) and most shops only take Euros. A few shops near the terminal took US dollars. We found the people to be very friendly and helpful.
Upon arriving, we docked next to the Grand Celebration, a ship that FEMA had rented providing housing for the relief workers. Since we have been to St. Thomas many times, we decided to get a cab ($4 each way) into town. This island is on its way to recovery, but much work remains to be completed. It was interesting hearing the cab drivers share their hurricane experiences, and both were very proud of how the island has responded to the challenge. Both indicated that they have only had power for a few weeks. I estimate that more than half of the stores and restaurants in the downtown area are open and many more were being repaired/remodeled and very close to opening. We enjoyed our visit.