We last sailed on Reflection five years ago so knew what to expect and we had done the Italy and Greek islands itinerary a few times before. Malta was the exception and one of the reasons why we went back to Celebrity instead of our preferred line Princess.
We were pleased to find the ship in very good condition as it was relatively new when we first cruised aboard it. The officers and crew we met were all very friendly and seemed to be happy in their work.
We were assigned “Select” dining, so once on board we requested second sitting on a table of eight. The first night we booked into the Murano restaurant and had an excellent meal in very nice surroundings. Our request for second sitting was honoured the next day and we ate in the MDR for the rest of the cruise with two other couples. Whilst the meals we had were sometimes not great our table companions were a pleasure. Food is a subjective topic but I like mine hot and unfortunately it wasn’t. Our table waiter picked up on my disappointment and impressed me by ensuring subsequent meals were as hot as possible.
I was also impressed with the variety of desserts in the Ocean View buffet restaurant and the food choices were also very wide. Unfortunately again for me the hot foods were just not hot enough and even the heated up pasta from the pasta bar was let down by the luke warm sauces poured onto it. Needless to say I didn’t bother much with the buffet food. I did however visit the Mast Grill everyday as the cheese burgers were to my surprise excellent. I had always rated the Princess burgers as superior to Celebrity’s, but that has now changed.
As the ship had over 600 kids aboard the age range of passengers was very wide. This for us was preferable to being on a ship full of coffin dodgers. The onboard activities were therefore well attended and fun to be a part of. The highlights being the silent discos and the Sky Lounge late at night was always buzzing. Lewis the CD and Nacho the activities manager energised the evening activities and deserve a mention. Nacho’s dances lessons on the sea days were really good too.
Comparing Celebrity with Princess is not easy as they both offer similar standards of food, service, and levels of luxury. Where Princess score for us is the evening entertainment. We enjoy ballroom/Latin dancing and the Princess ships have more floor space compared with Celebrity. The atriums on “Royal” class Princess ships make the foyers on the “Solstice” class ships pathetic by comparison. Celebrity’s Martini bar becomes the hub of nightlife once the live band leaves the foyer, but it just never had the same vibe you find in the “Crooners” bar on Princess.
We could see no difference between the cruise lines however when it came to dressing up for the Chic/Formal nights. Being a European cruise with a variety of nationalities on board there were definitely more people “glamming” themselves up. Even on casual attire nights people looked smart, with guys still in shorts looking a bit out of place.
Having the alcoholic drinks package included in the cruise price was ideal for us and for a further £84.94 I upgraded mine to the premium package so I could enjoy my favourite beer, Peroni. We certainly made the most of our packages particularly in Café al Bacio but I doubt if I would upgrade again. I will just pay the difference on any premium beers and cocktails etc instead.
Other than the Martini bar, our next most frequented bar was the Sunset bar at the back. For sail-a-ways it was extremely busy and therefore not as relaxing a place to be as Celebrity would have you believe. Even the solo guitarist/singer was drowned out by the noise at peak time. Whilst the lawns surrounding it look inviting they are not used and seat space is therefore limited particularly if you wish to avoid the smokers on the port side.
The addition of a TV screen over the main lawn was worthy and for watching the Golf Open ideal but compared with the Princess TV screens it was tiny. Being close to the Lawn Club grill made it almost redundant as the volume had to be limited due to the restaurant’s proximity. The sound and visual effect you get from the huge screens on “Royal” class Princess ships is awesome however.
As expected with the number of kids on board the outdoor pools were packed, and sun beds crammed in around them. We however, prefer the quietness and civility of the Solstice deck and finding free sun beds, even on sea days, was possible with some searching. Whilst we liked this area it was slightly inferior to the adult only “Retreat” area found on Princess ships.
Overall, it was another great cruise. The only failing being that ten days was too short. We would certainly recommend Celebrity for anyone who has not tried them before. If however we were to choose between a Celebrity “Solstice” class ship and Princess “Royal” class ship on a cruise with the same itinerary and price we would pick Princess.