A little about us: This was cruise #21. #7 on Celebrity. This was our first cruise where our 24 yo son came with us, and first time with three in a cabin. We normally book inside or outside cabins. This time, we booked a verandah and ... Read More
A little about us: This was cruise #21. #7 on Celebrity. This was our first cruise where our 24 yo son came with us, and first time with three in a cabin. We normally book inside or outside cabins. This time, we booked a verandah and snagged cabin 6155, with the oversized verandah on the front reverse “Bump.” This was our first “Christmas” cruise. If you just want the summary just scroll down to the end as this is rather long.
We flew to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise. Southwest was on time with an early arrival. We stayed one night at the Ft Lauderdale/Plantation Hampton Inn. They picked us up at the airport. We traveled with local friends to the cruise port on Sunday morning as in total we were a group of eleven.
Despite countless e-mails and text messages from Celebrity with their “Board by decks” and “Delayed boarding” warnings, we arrived at the port around 10:00. Our luggage was taken immediately. Our big “Wait” was waiting for the security screeners to open, which they finally did around 10:45(?). We were promptly processed, given our boarding cards, and directed to a seating area for “Select and Elite” members.
At about 11:30 we noticed those in the “Suite” boarding area were being let on the Reflection. Five minutes later we were allowed to board. Immediately upon boarding, we confirmed our dining reservations for a table of eleven in the Opus dining room. Table 325 was confirmed. We also arranged to have dinner the first night in the Tuscan Grille as advance reservations could not help us due to our group being eleven.
We enjoyed lunch in the not yet crowded Oceanview café (after the Muster drill it was a zoo!). We explored the ship and before the muster drill our luggage was delivered and we were unpacked.
We met our room team and they suggested that they would put the mattress from the overhead bunk onto the couch, to give our son a nice bed. This worked out great and he slept soundly the entire trip. In fact, we were surprised how well the three in the room worked out. We were still able to access the verandah even while he was in his “Bed.”
Dinner at 6:00 in the Tuscan Grille was fantastic (as expected). We attended the first night’s show which was a guest entertainer who was quite good as a vocalist and as a pianist, but we enjoyed the vocals more.
Sunday morning we used the pools (which were way too cold the entire cruise – what is with the solarium pool being cool?) and hot-tubs early before breakfast. After drying off breakfast in the Oceanview was enjoyed. The ship is very impressive and further, I was surprised to find that at 10:00 not all the pool chairs had been claimed by “Chair hogs.” While we saw some signs of chair-hogging on this trip, it was nowhere near what we experienced on the Summit to Bermuda a few years back.
At 10:15 we had our roll call meet and greet. The Captain and many other officers paid a visit. This was a nice gathering and many of us stayed until after 11:00. I attended the first of the “Behind the podium” talks on football and found it interesting. When that was over, I looked around the ship for our group and finally ran into one outside the Opus. I was able to belatedly join half our group in the Opus for lunch. The other half were in the Oceanview. Lunch in the Opus was okay. At this point we were very positively surprised and started to think we were on a five star cruise! We tried to call the dining room to arrange for no added salt meals for two of our party and were rebuffed “Just tell your waiter tonight.”
Dinner in the Opus, however, dashed the hopes for a five star cruise. This was the first formal night. First off, our table had ten settings rather than eleven. The maître de insisted on double checking each of our five room’s table assignments, before admitting they had erred. They reset the table. Our waiter appeared and it was obvious he did not want to be there. At the end of the meal we learned he was a “Head waiter” who was filling in for someone who wasn’t feeling well. A “Head waiter” should mean outstanding service, right? NOT. Most everyone’s entrée was edible at best, and the menu sure didn’t reflect a “Formal night” type of menu. The Apple Pie dessert was made from tasteless apples and crust that tasted like cardboard. It was not edible. By now it was 8:15 and the second seating is at 8:30 so we were rushed out.
While sitting at Café El Bacio for some good dessert, we realized the two ladies had not ordered (nor seen the menu) for the next night. Back to the dining room where we found one of the assistant managers who we informed about tonight’s meal situation and also took care of the special orders for the next evening. We hoped that would correct our dining disappointment…
We attended the show, the first with the production company. After 10 minutes we all walked out. If they are trying to reach a younger audience, they failed. My 24 yo son said “What the h*** was that?”
Monday was another bright sunny December day. We had a nice breakfast and enjoyed being around the ship. I attended the second of the “Football” talks. We didn’t arrive in San Juan until 3:30 PM so this was really a sea day. After the ship was cleared, we enjoyed a walk around Old San Juan including along the waterfront which we had not previously done. We were back on board in time for dinner. I admit I was surprised that Reflection did not offer “Open dining” as we were in port during the entire dining hours.
In any case, our real waiter was serving us and he is on the ball. Dinner tonight was a winner and enjoyed by all. The special orders for tomorrow evening were taken efficiently. The maître de visited to make sure all was well. Have our dining issues all been resolved?
While sitting at Café El Bacio, we saw one of the chefs checking the supply of pastries. A few of us engaged the chef in conversation and it turned out he was the executive pastry chef. Our question was “Why are these treats so good when the desserts in the dining room are subpar?” We gave him examples of that evening’s “Chocolate lava cake” that was the size of a US Quarter (I am NOT kidding) and the prior evening’s “Cardboard Apple pie.” He seemed shocked and told us the Apple Pie is made fresh each day. He picked up his phone and spoke to someone and told them to bring two pieces of pie to the Café. He also told us that if you see “SPE” next to an item, that means it is very small as it meets certain dietary standards – so avoid SPE if you want more than one chew!
Well, those two slices of Apple Pie were the opposite of the previous night. The apples were tasty, the crust thin and flaky. At least 4 out of 5 for this pie! We thanked him profusely. These were the only good apple pie slices we had, though. I ordered the pie two other evenings and while not as bad as the first night they were nowhere near what we received from the chef.
Monday’s show was a Pianist. He was actually quite good and we stayed for about 30 minutes of his show before fatigue (its tough being on a cruise!) set in.
Tuesday morning we docked in St. Thomas. It’s a rare day when you are on board the only ship docking that day in St. Thomas! We had prearranged a private charter for our group to explore the out-islands. Alas, that was not to be. A taxi-van took us all there only to find a captain with a smaller, shade less boat than what we had booked. Alleged “Electrical problems” were keeping our boat from sailing. Okay, so no boat trip today. The taxi took us to Sapphire beach where we had a wonderful morning.
The taxi was there at noon when we were ready to head back and we reboarded the Reflection. We tried the grille for lunch and the burgers are passable but nothing special. After the burger we explored the Oceanview for something better.
We thought about going out to peruse the shops near the dock but never did make it ashore. We enjoyed the pools while many were still ashore. It’s a great day in the Caribbean sun!
The day remained great but the evening not so much. The highly recommended fish dinner in the Opus was served (including the two special orders without salt) and the fish was smelly and tasted like it was spoiled. These were all sent back. I had also ordered the everyday steak which was okay. The two ladies replaced the fish with Salmon but they were both served with raw insides, like they were placed on a grille for 30 seconds on each side and served. By the time they received an edible plate, it was 8:00 and the clock was ticking…
After some post-dinner discussion at Café El Bacio (can you tell we like that venue?) the three men went to guest services. We spoke with a very polite representative and made it very clear that we wanted to speak with someone from management about the two dining room disasters we had experienced. We were assured that if we came back after the show we could speak with a guest service manager.
We went to the show, a much hyped production “Momentum.” After about 20 minutes we knew it wasn’t getting any better so we left. We went back to guest services and had a very nice meeting with three people. Long story short, they promised our meals would be personally reviewed by the executive chef and that all would be well the remaining three nights. Will they???
Wednesday is Christmas Eve and we are in St. Maarten! We left the ship about 9:00 and were treated to “Snow” on the gangway and pier. Many team members were there in Santa hats wishing everyone a great day. We were docked opposite the Silhouette and it seemed the two ships were competing to see which group was more “Christmassy.” It was fun.
We took a taxi into town and walked the main shopping street several times. We also visited the bay-front promenade, but in the bright sun it was quite warm. Our immediate family visited the “Yoda guy” museum. We are Sci-Fi and “Star Wars” fans and this was a fun stop. We purchased a few pieces of his art and toured the excellent museum. We didn’t get out of town this trip and looking back that is one thing we will do on any future visit.
After a late lido lunch, we went out to peruse the shops at the port. We returned to Reflection and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon at the pool and for sail-away before getting ready for dinner.
Dinner in the dining room was outstanding and the best Opus meal of the cruise. The show was Pianist Antonio Salci. Pianists are not my thing, but he was very good and talented.
Thursday was Christmas day. We enjoyed the elite breakfast and then headed poolside to get chairs where we could watch “Santa” come by on his “Sleigh.” His arrival was promised for 10:00 and he was punctual. It was actually a lot of fun watching Santa and his many elves (dancers from the ship’s company?) and a few musicians make their way around the lido with a parade of followers including many families with children, Captain Peppas among them. They eventually headed down to the showroom and we did not follow.
Our group had “Christmas lunch” in Murano. This was spectacular with both food and service beyond compare. We were in a private room well-stocked with wine along the walls. Everything was superb and lunch was greatly appreciated.
Christmas dinner was the second formal night. We took photos around the ship and enjoyed another excellent Opus dining room meal. The holiday special Turkey was very good. The Scallop appetizer was very tasty. Desserts were the best dining room desserts of the cruise.
After dinner the “Guest choir” performed a number of holiday tunes in the grand foyer. They were joined by many of the ship’s officers “Caroling” in the foyer. The snow-maker was in use and it was a bit of a magical moment.
The evening show was a “Holiday show spectacular” and it was very enjoyable – especially as you consider this show, put on by the various ship’s performers from every venue on board, do this just once per year. Somewhere along the line I’m sure we were at El Bacio but I don’t recall the details.
At the close of the show it was hinted/announced that there would be a special performance in the grand foyer at 10:45. We stayed for this – and still don’t understand what it was all about. The dancers were dressed in “Sci-fi” type of costumes and the male dancers looked like robots. But there was no storyline and it just seemed weird – and we like Sci-fi!
Friday was the last day of the cruise heading back to Miami. We again did the elite breakfast, enjoyed relaxing at the outdoor pool where friends joined us to listen to the Xtasea party band at noon. Some of us even did some dancing on the pool deck. We had some lunch in the Oceanview (their large lunch croissants are delicious) and tended to the end-of-cruise packing chores.
We also enjoyed live music anywhere we could find it including one last time at the Sunset bar for “Five O’clock Somewhere.” Our final dinner in the Opus dining room was a disappointment however. Perhaps not quite the horrendous meals from early in the cruise but nowhere near the quality of the prior two days. One thing we appreciated is there is no last night “Parade” or rah-rah for the culinary team. On our first few cruises we really enjoyed that but at this point for us that is old and we often avoid the dining room on the last night for this reason. We just don’t understand how “Modern luxury” means that only three out of six dinners in the dining room were enjoyable.
After dinner the show was “Reflection – the show.” This was much hyped as the “Highest rated show on any cruise ship.” That is quite a boast when you know the types of shows that are now on the mega-ships, so we certainly went to check it out. It was certainly the best show put on by the production cast this week, we will give them that. Music from the 70’s and 80’s along with a bit of a story line made it interesting, and some of the aerialists are very talented. But the “Best show on any cruise ship?” A number of shows on our last cruise on the HAL Westerdam were better in terms of enjoyment, at least for us.
Saturday morning we did the express disembarkation and were impressed that there were many customs inspectors and thus no lines at all. We were off the ship at 7:00 and curbside by 7:10.
Well, this is a very hard cruise to rate.
The ship? Five stars. Clean and meant to impress. The one thing though that I really disliked about the ship is the “Crow’s nest” area. There is no view whatsoever to the port side due to the high-priced cabins they put into the space.
Our cabin? Five stars. We were surprised by two things: One, we did not use the oversized verandah very much at all. Two, we did not feel “Crowded” by having three in the room.
Entertainment in the main showroom – Three at best.
Entertainment other than the main showroom – 4 ½ stars.
Specialty dining? Five stars – but it HAS to be five stars if you are paying $45 per meal over and above your cruise fare!
The Oceanview café? For a buffet, it was overall very good – Four stars.
The Opus dining room? Two and a half stars. This one really hurts as “Dinner” is a major component on a cruise, especially when traveling with friends. Three great meals were offset by two horrible experiences and one that was mediocre at best.
Café El Bacio – Five stars. One of the best features that Celebrity has.
On board Customer Service – 4 ½ stars. Everyone we met really tried their best to help with any voiced concerns.
Pre-cruise Customer Service and website – 0 stars. “Modern Luxury?” I think not.
The pools - COLD! We could use the pools but our friends who live in Florida found the pools were just too cold - even the Solarium pool. What is with that? 2 stars.
Overall – Three and a half stars for this Christmas week cruise on Reflection. The concern we have is that the lower rated aspects of the cruise should not have been affected by the fact that this was a holiday cruise. After three “Excellent” cruises this year on HAL, it will be a while before we seriously consider returning to “X,” especially with their current pricing. Paying more while getting less is not how we prefer to spend our vacation dollars. Would we recommend the Reflection? With reservations, yes we would. But we feel there are better choices for a one week Caribbean sailing.