I chose the itinerary because I wanted to see more of the British Isles. My Celebrity tier level was Elite, but I had no idea about how far I was from attaining Elite Plus or Zenith tier status. This cruise was my 9th aboard Celebrity.
I stayed one night at the Amsterdam Movenpick CIty Centre, because it was extremely close to the pier, e.g., less than a block away. The room was nice, with a great bathroom, shower (no tub), comfortable beds, and a nice TV. Because I was tired from the overnight flight from North America (United to IAD to Toronto, Air Canada from Toronto to AMS), I decided to take my dinner via room service. The breakfast buffet was good, but it had the usual bottleneck of the omelet station holding up the line. A bell person took my bags except fo the carryons, and took them to the lobby for shipment to the ship that morning. Check-in and check-out were a breeze.
Embarkation was also a breeze, but if you're mobility challenged as I was--I was still recovering from neurosurgery on my spine and needed a walker or a cane to get by--I could not see where the disabled assistance desk was--a point I was going to make to a staff member who criticized me for standing in line but who needed w/c assistance to board the ship. Nonetheless, I accepted the proffered wheelchair to board the ship after checking in, and the person who wheeled me aboard advised me that my Aqua Class cabin on Deck 12 was not yet ready for occupancy so he parked me in the Library until that time came. I walked carefully to my cabin, 2147, and noticed that the key card slot had been covered with a scanner that read your key card to open the door. Nice touch, Celebrity!
As anybody who stays in Aqua Class cabins--which was new for me, because I usually book Concierge Class cabins--can tell you, one perk is a dining room devoted to Aqua Class guests. It's called Blu on Deck 5 Aft, and opposite Qsine, and right angles to Tuscan Grille. Don't be fooled by deck plans: Blu is larger than it looks.
I mentioned earlier my problem with mobility, which was aggravated by the absence of my walker from the baggage compartment of the Air Canada plane I took from Toronto to AMS. I needed help to track it down and decided to make friends with a Guest Services person named Keith (I think that's his name). Those reviewers who say that Guest Services staffers are lousy had never met Keith, who worked w/me to track down the walker. Turned out that the walker had been flown to AMS on embarkation day, but there was no time to get it to the ship before it sailed, and it will be flown to another airport in a few days. Keith made time in his busy schedule to call me in my cabin to update me on the walker's whereabouts. Finally, three days later in Invergordon, Scotland, my walker magically appeared outside my cabin door! Thank you, Keith!
I mentioned that Aqua Class guests have access to a dedicated dining room called Blu. The room is very nicely decorated, with a giant white rose on a panel. There are two, four, and six-top tables, along with eight to 10 person circular tables. I usually sat at a four-top table behind the hostess stand. The hostesses were very nice ladies, and the wait staff were great, too. The restaurant is dedicated to healthy eating using smaller portions than what you get in the MDR.
I also ate in the Lawn Club Grille and the Tuscan Grille. I ate at the former establishment on the first night after the ship sailed from Amsterdam. The temperature had declined to around 50s F, and the restaurant thoughtfully provided warm blankets to ward off the chill. As anyone who has dined at the Lawn Club Grille, it's a place where people can make their own flatbread pizza and cook their own steaks at the grills. But I never saw anybody serving as their own grill meister at the fire that night--perhaps because they were exhausted from the flights and embarkation? Come hungry to this restaurant, because you get a lot of food for the for-free charge of $45/person: A starter includes the aforementioned flatbread pizza, salad, followed by two entrees--a cut of beef (I had ribeye and grilled shrimps, shareable sides (baked potato) and mac 'n cheese. You also get a choice of beverages (I had San Pelligrino sparkling water and red wine), and a dessert.
In addition to the Lawn Club Grille, I also ate at the Tuscan Grille on Deck 5 Aft. This is a steakhouse that you usually find in the Tuscany region of Italy, and in Florence. You really need to come hungry when you dine here, because you eat a lot of food, including soup, salad, pasta, a main course, and dessert. The wine and the water always flow, and your glass is seldom empty. Service here, as with Blu and Lawn Club Grille was excellent.
I had two sources of entertainment. One was my nightly visits to the Fortunes Casino where I played the penny slots. The other was my increased association with my Celebrity Roll Call group of folks I had met via the forum posts, followed by the Sailaway party at the Sunset Bar, Deck 15 Aft, and then two days later at the Meet and Greet on the first Sea Day. That event was followed by a Battle of the Sexes Slot Tournament with dollar machines. I didn't do that well on the machine that we used, which is was a good reason why I prefer penny slots: better bang for the buck. A third source of entertainment was occasional visits to the iLife Mac lounge on Deck 6, midship. One reason I chose Reflection as the ship to do this itinerary was that the iLife lounge had iMacs rather than MacBooks for guests use. I use an iMac at home, so I was pleased to see that Reflection was similarly equipped. I chose the Reflection for a '13 cruise of the Med for this reason, too.
Ports and Shore Excursions:
This was the first port of call, and I had booked a Vintage Train Ride that included a Cream Tea snack aboard the train. Because of my mobility issue--I was still without my walker-the guide was willing to push me to the train platform, and I boarded the train car.
As I'm not a hot tea drinker, I asked the wait staff if they had any other beverages, and sure enough they did--a Capri juice was available. So I drank that and ate the scones and other items on the table. The train trip ended nearly an hour later, and I was again taken in a wheelchair to our bus to continue the ride through Kent and back to the pier. Another staff person was available to push me through embarkation; and then things hit me like a ton of bricks: I had forgotten to tip the guide and the pushers! Throughout the day, the weather was either rainy or very cloudy.
Throughout the past year I had anticipated visiting Scotland, the homeland of bag pipes and poet Robert Burns. Sadly, though, my visit was not to be: I had barely reached the bus when my feet froze and I nearly fell to the pavement. After climbing the bus steps to my seat, the guide advised me that she couldn't take responsibility for me as a mobility challenged person. I replied about what she recommended, and she said that I have to leave the tour and return to the ship. This excursion would be cancelled for me, and my money refunded. I was taken back aboard ship via wheelchair and escorted to the Medical Center for examination by a ship's doctor. A few hours sleep later, I found my walker out in the hallway, and took it inside. Hallelujah!
Because of continuing mobility issues that were relieved mostly by the miraculous return of my walker, I still missed the opportunity to visit Scotland, and to buy my Mom's driver her promised Clan Campbell scarf.
Belfast, Northern Ireland:
Like a bear awakening from his hibernation in his den, I was able to take myself on an excursion that visited the Titanic Experience in Belfast. This museum focused more on the construction of that ill-fated liner and the aftermath following the ship's sinking. One interesting portion of the visit was a gantry crane ride that showed how the ship was constructed--very Disney-like ride. Fortunately, the weather cooperated by sunny skies and slightly warm temperatures.
I had booked a Cruise Critic Roll Call shore excursion earlier this year that focused on the Beatles. The tour operator was called Mop Top, and they included a cute tote bag w/water and an apple. It was a privately-arranged tour that also included a fish-and-chips pub lunch with beer. There were two vans with a total of 20+ Roll Call members on the tour. I had advised the tour operator that I had a walker that collapsed, and they were able to accommodate me. The tour took us all over Liverpool, visiting various places where band members grew up, started playing their songs, and where some songs' lyrics mentioned various places like Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields, we exited the vans and had brief walks to the locations. One such location had a small model of the Yellow Submarine outside a souvenir shop. I entered the retailer and bought a couple items. I should mention here that "Yellow Submarine" was one of my fave Beatles songs. After a couple more stops including one that showed us Paul McCartney's former home on very nice street, we then returned to the city center and parked near the pub that served us the fish-and-chips lunch. It was very good, considering that I seldom eat fried fish because of the hidden bones I expect to encounter. The chips--fries to us Yanks--were good, too, made tangy with sprinkle of Heinz Malt Vinegar. Beer was great, too. Sated with food, we walked back to the van for some more touring of Liverpool and a return to the ship. I should also mention here that the cruise line offered a shuttle service for people who had difficulty walking on the inclined plank down to the pier. I didn't know about the shuttle until some security staff members called out to me and told me that a shuttle van was available to take me to the plaza to meet the vans and the guides. I used the shuttle to return to the pier later that day.
Dublin, Republic of Ireland:
I was too tired from the Liverpool excursion the previous day and advised the shore excursion and Guest Relations crew not to expect my appearance at the theater to get my bus #. The tour I had booked was a three hour visit to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. C'est-la-vie on my part to miss this opportunity to visit one of my fave beer style brewery.
Cobh (Cork), Republic of Ireland:
This tour primarily visited a city called Kinsale and Blarney Castle, with time-out for a nice lunch that included Irish music and an Irish dancing demonstration. At one point, we got out of the bus and looked at the harbor for Kinsale, and the guide, whose name was Annie took my mug shot. Then we went to Kinsale for a walkabout and returned to the coach. On the way to lunch, Annie talked a lot about what we would be eating and experiencing during the meal, and received a hearty consensus for leaving the meal in mid-dessert so that we could arrive at Blarney Castle. I mentioned to Annie that I had no intention of climbing a whole lot of stairs and then going upside down to kiss the stone. She advised me that was OK and suggested visiting the Blarney Irish store instead. After the tour members exited the coach, I had to visit the Men's room and then found the shop, which billed itself as "the world's largest Irish store." I bought a nice gold men's ring and looked around at other merchandise such as sweaters and tweed jackets. Not knowing how my size translated into Irish sizes prevented me from buying these garments. Not to worry, because I didn't hav the room in my suitcase to accommodate these clothing items anyway. After sitting awhile in the seating area outside the shop, I returned w/the other tour members to board the bus. After counting the tour members, we set off to return to Cobh via Cork. Annie talked a lot about Irish schooling, the economy, politics, etc. I asked her what Jews did for worshipping in a country filled with churches, and she replied that there were synagogues for Jews, but not a lot of shuls. We returned to the pier and I worked my way up the steep gangway w/my walker. I was exhausted by the full day's touring, and decided to do a room service dinner instead of dining at Blu. Because we were docked there overnight, the casino would be closed for business that evening. No problemo, I would entertainment myself by watching HGTV on the telly in my cabin.
The next morning I was called by a member of my roll call group telling me that they were waiting for me. I advised her that I was too tired from my ship excursion to join them, and to go without me. Instead, I visited the Solarium Pool, one of my favorite parts of the ship, and one I wished I had visited sooner except for all the excursions and my mobility issue.
The ship sailed promptly at 4 PM from the dock enroute to Amsterdam. That evening was formal night, something I failed to note in the newsletter. I didn't care, so I went dressed casually for dinner at Blu and then to the casino for more pleasurable pain.
Sea Day 3:
The ship was enroute to Amsterdam, and I spent the day relaxing and packing for home.
I wanted to do disembarkation using the wheelchairs, but the staffers were thin on the ground for this duty. Instead I took my walker and got in line for disembarking the ship. Because I had transfers to the airport, my luggage was tagged, taken to the hold on the last night of the cruise, unloaded and placed aboard trucks that would be unloaded at the airport and claimed by the guests. I have to mention here that the gangway leading to the luggage reclamation area in the terminal is a very long walk, even with a walker. The bus trip to the airport was uneventful, but then the driver seemed to get lost inside the perimeter; either that or he knew where he was going and was "running out the clock" to help the truck crews with the time to unload their vehicles of unclaimed luggage. I also have to advise fellow guests that AMS airport is a madhouse, especially if you're mobility challenged. Fortunately, I was serviced by two people who knew how to navigate the airport and were able to get me to where I needed to go. That said, service in the wheelchair waiting area was also slow, and I decided to walk to my gate. Because my walker was checked to IAD, I couldn't use it to get to the gate. I was offered and accepted the help of two kind people who not only took one of my carryons w/her as we transversed the airport via the moving sidewalks, but one of her friends also got me a free cart. I thanked them for their great assistance, and found my gate. Then I visited the magazine stand nearby and got snacks before my first flight boarded. That flight was to Frankfurt, Germany, an airport I had a bad experience with nearly 20 years ago. Fortunately, I had help this time around with a special services staff member who took me and some folks who needed help to get to our gates. I reached the gate just in time for boarding and the flight attendants showed me my first class seat. Wow, first class seating! An experience worth writing home about--but I'm doing it here in this review!
I loved the cruise despite my fish-out-of-water experience as a recovering surgery patient and a near-disastrous absence of my beloved walker. I was thwarted from visiting Scotland and Dublin, but was able to visit Liverpool, Belfast, and the area around Southern Ireland. I made some friends from the Roll Call group, and will make some more friends from the Coral Princess Roll Call group for that trip this coming February. I liked dining in Blu, which took me away from the MDR. I continue to like dining at the Lawn Club Grille, the Ocean View Cafe, and the Tuscan Grill. I liked playing at the casino and drinking the wines I had ordered. Lastly, I gave Guest Services staff members a shout out for acting like a bloodhound to track down and deliver my walker to me at Invergordon, Scotland.
Would I do Aqua Class again? Maybe, but preferably with a lady friend to be my dining companion. Sitting by myself in Blu is depressing and takes away the pleasure of being w/nice table-mates in the MDR.
Note to other travelers: I had booked my flights using a special service called SkyLux, which offers Business Class flights at a deep discount. I heartedly recommend them if you don't want to pay crazy fares sit in Business Class seats. You will only find these kind of seats on international flights but not on domestic flights. I found the Business Class seat experience a great one, with reclining seats, great food and beverages, and great seat entertainment. Ditto for the first class seat I had aboard my homeward bound flight aboard Lufthansa from FRA. Lastly, if you're mobility challenged, please accept whatever assistance is available to you, especially in foreign airports. But make time for them because on some days like Sundays, the staff available for the assistance might be rather thin.
I had originally booked a Concierge Class cabin, but asked my travel agent if I could upgrade to Aqua Class instead. Sure enough, I had an Aqua Class cabin on the port side and access to Blu. This class had access to other amenities such as bathrobes, slippers, a pillow menu, a complimentary tote bag, complimentary use of the binoculars and brolly (Brit speak for umbrella) and a weird shower nozzles. What was weird about them? They spouted water at various parts of my anatomy and there was no sheet of directions in the shower enclosure about their use. I noted in my cruise line comment survey that no pillow menu was available in the cabin, and no pitcher of iced tea was replenished daily. I did have afternoon canapes though. The balcony was equipped with two loungers and a table, and the view was partially obstructed by a strut supporting a Deck 14 venue above me--was it the pool or the Ocean View Cafe? I'm glad I didn't smell the horrid odor of cigars or cigarettes from my neighbors, whom I barely saw except in the hallway on or their entry to their Aqua cabin. Would I book Aqua Class again? Maybe if only to get access to a dining room that had better service than the MDR. But the other amenities offered to Aqua Class guests weren't worth the cost, and were basically the same as what guests receive as Concierge Class cabin occupants. Perhaps I ought to book a suite if I really wanted great perks like butler service and another exclusive dining room, but I don't think I can regularly afford suites on my retirement income.
No shore excursion were performed. I simply stayed in my hotel room and relaxed there.
The Titanic Experience was very good because it described how the ship was constructed and fitted out. Later, I bought a snack from the cafeteria on the ground floor and waited for our bus to come pick us up. There was a Disney-like gantry crane ride that took riders through the shipyard.View All 20 Titanic Memorial Reviews
I visited Kinsale and part of Blarney Castle--the retailer area. I didn't enter the castle to kiss the stone because I had no stamina to climb the steps. I bought a gold ring from the retailer which billed itself as the "World's largest Irish store." The luncheon had very nice food and we treated to Irish singing and several sets of Irish dancing.
As described in my review above, I booked the tour using CC's Roll Call Mop Top tour operator. The tour was very good and offered fish-and-chips with beer lunch as part of the package. The guide played various Beatles songs and took us to various locations such as Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields that were mentioned in the songs' lyrics or in the Beatles' band members' lives. We also saw the house where Paul McCartney lived as boy.View All 38 Beatles Tour Reviews
A great train ride with an English Cream Tea at a table where I sat w/3 other tour members. Then we rode on a bus through various towns and heard stories about smugglers and one of England's wealthiest persons--the guy who founded Oakley, the company that made eyeglasses and sunglasses. The guide was very knowledgeable about his subject matter and he was nice enough to push my wheelchair to and from the train platform.If only I had remembered to tip him handsomely!View All 2 Gardens of England with Historical Steam Train Reviews