We used to love Celebrity but now when we sail with them, it's just OK. If I spend that much money, I should get more than fine. This was our twenty first Celebrity cruise and other than our upcoming cruise to the Galapagos on Flora, this is probably our final X cruise.
Embarkation: Very smooth. No special Coronavirus testing even though we cruised during the start of the crisis. We arrived at the pier around 11:30 and were sitting in the buffet having lunch at 12:15. Staterooms were ready right at 1:00 and bags arrived before muster drill. Had one of best cabin attendants we have had ever.
Stateroom was nice but as usual with S-class ships, not enough storage. Originally we had booked an Aqua class stateroom but the folks who had booked Aqua with us were unable to join us for a variety of reasons so with other friends on board and wanting to eat dinners in the main dining room with them, we changed to regular verandah stateroom 6244.
We have stayed in this type of stateroom before and have enjoyed it. Our only complaint before has been the lack of storage. Those cupboards above the bed are kind of worthless as they are just big, open cabinets. But we recently read on a Cruise Critic board about some great baskets/bins you could get at a Dollar Store that collapsed to go into your luggage and then fit perfectly into these cupboards when unfolded. They worked SUPER. And since they only cost a $1.00, by the end of the 10 days they were not doing that great, but we just left them behind.
I should also mention we had a great Cruise Critic Roll Call. More than 100 couples active on the site and most of them showed up at the Meet and Mingle. See my pics.
Let's move on to the important stuff—the food. Usually we would do most dinners in the main dining room with friends at early seating. This time since we were stopping in New Orleans and might be having dinner at odd hours while there, we decided to opt for Select Dining. This means we didn't have a set time for dinner, but we could make a reservation, especially since we were a party of 11 and those tables are rare. So I made a reservation for the first night and I even called earlier in the day to verify that we were good to go. I was told we were all set. But when we arrived at the dining room, they had no record of it and told us it might be as much as an hour until they could seat us. No one was willing to wait an hour so we kind of split up. We went up to the buffet where we had a really nice steak. Even thought we don't usually eat dinners in the buffet, this was very good.
The rest of the week this was our dinner schedule, a real mix. We had dinner in the dining room most nights. We also had a late snack in the buffet on our two nights in New Orleans since I was either coming back from being off the ship or heading back out to take pictures of the evening festivities. On another night we had dinner in the Lawn Club Grille which is Reflections outdoor specialty restaurant. That about covers our dinners.
As far as the quality of the food and service, we give the Lawn Club Grille incredibly high marks. I am not a steak person but I had the best ribeye steak I have ever had. And the service was outstanding. In the buffet, we were totally impressed with the selection (even a lot of outstanding Indian food which we had never seen before), food quality and the service, although sometimes it was hard to find a member of the bar staff to take a drink order or get us a glass of wine.
The dining room on the other hand was pretty much mediocre. Maybe we just expect too much but after twenty+ Celebrity Cruises their menu is very tired and needs to be refreshed. Most nights, there are at least two dishes on the menu that we have seen for 15 years and they weren't that good the first time. And the service was not up to Celebrity standards either. Most nights it was OK but a couple of them it took forever to get served. We had menus in minutes, then it took 20 minutes to get appetizers and another 35 minutes after that to get entrées. That's just not the Celebrity we love.
We did lunch most days in the buffet and enjoyed it. We also did a special hamburger lunch back at the Lawn Club Grille as well as a sea day lunch at The Porch, Reflection's outdoor seafood restaurant. It was EXCELLENT! Enjoyed all the food and outstanding service. I love their seafood tower and their sangria, although I did think the lunch we had in the same place in Iceland in June was better.
Breakfast was usually a muffin (or two or three) and latte/Americano in Cafe Al Bacio or the buffet for something more substantial if we knew we were going to be out until late. We did do the Elite breakfast a few mornings but were totally unimpressed
Moving on from the food, we can't say a lot about the entertainment because we didn't see any of the shows. We aren't show people on ships. When we are on a cruise, our predominate evening preference is socializing with friends. Most nights would find us at the Elite reception in the Sky Lounge before dinner and then in the World Class Bar after dinner. One of the highlights of our June cruise in Iceland had been meeting Oleksii, the most amazing bartender in the world in that World Class Bar (a very special bar that is affiliated with a particular world-wide bartending contest). Well, one of the best part of this cruise was seeing Oleksii again. When he first saw us he just about jumped out from behind the bar to come and give us a huge hug.We also had a great time with Oleskii's bartending partner, Santos. Both of these amazing guys taught an outstanding Mixology class one afternoon that we took and LOVED! If you get a chance and like to make great cocktails, take it. We had done a Mixology class on HAL a few years ago and it cost about $20 more (this one was $35 and you got three drinks) and was completely hands on while the HAL one was just a lecture.
A note about the ports. We took this cruise to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We are really not Caribbean people. We loved New Orleans and Mardi Gras was a blast. We did not do any ship's tours or excursions. We were in New Orleans from dinner time on Sunday until late night on Tuesday. We were out and about a lot. If you take this cruise, just know that the ship docks really close to downtown (like a 30 minute walk to the French Quarter and only a 10 minute walk to a parade viewing area) so you DO NOT have to buy X's expensive seats in the bleachers. Most of the people we knew who did, wished they had just done what we did and walk where we wanted to go. I blogged all about our days on shore at www.jktravelredmond.com. Lot of photos as well.
On Grand Cayman we went (on our own to the Crystal Caves. They were awesome and worth the trip. Pics at the same web address as above. In Cozumel we had booked a private off-the-beach snorkel experience but it was cancelled due to too much wind/heavy surf.
To sum up, the Reflection is a wonderful ship, sparkling clean with an awesome crew. Since this was our second time on board, we would clearly sail on her again and again...except for the fact that we (after 20+ Celebrity cruises) don't have any other mainstream Celebrity cruises booked. We are sailing Celebrity's Flora in the Galapagos but that's one of their expedition cruise ships. We doubt we will be sailing on one of their ships again (unless coerced by friends ) in the future. Our next cruise is on Holland America and after Flora, we are doing a river cruise with Viking followed by a Viking Ocean cruise in October 2021. If we like Viking, we probably will make them our mainstream line of choice.
Why have we made this decision? Because of a lot of things but mostly due to Celebrity moving on from us. I fully understand their need to attract a new clientele but they can't forget their "used to be loyal" long-time customers.
The new Edge class ships have no interest for us. And they have taken X's focus away from the S and M class ships. Reflection's crew was GREAT but there are not enough of them. When we started with X in 2004 we always had a stateroom attendant who had an assistant and had to cover about 15 staterooms. Now we have one person and they cover 25 rooms. In the bars where there might be 100+ people, there are two bartenders and two servers. And we heard from many of them that they were leaving the ship at the end of the cruise to go to Apex. They were some of the best people on board.
Another reason we are moving to Viking is for what Viking Ocean does not have. They don't allow kids under 18, they don't allow smoking, they don't have photographers, they don't have casinos, they don't have art auctions. Those are things that we have never liked on X and will be glad to be rid of them.
Great attendant, comfortable room, good water pressure, no storage.
New Orleans was awesome. We just did our own thing.
We stayed with friends.
Went to the Crystal Caves. If you haven't been—go!