Solo cruiser with 25 previous cruises on Celebrity, and 4 on other brands. Happily cruising since 1984. This was my 2nd transatlantic on the Reflection, and 4th transatlantic overall
Ship information- Celebrity Reflection is the flagship of the Celebrity Fleet of 12 ships. It is also the fifth/last in the series of Solstice Class ships. It has a passenger capacity of 3040, and 1240 crewmembers.
Fort Lauderdale I usually stay in the nice upscale resort hotels, but since a friend recently bought a townhouse in Wilton Manors, I stayed at a small boutique hotel nearby. It was a great choice as I was literally steps away from Wilton Blvd, and all the dining and entertainment venues you could want.
WOOPS-Of course there was the inevitable “I forgot” moment. This time it was my IPOD (got to have my music), so got creative and instead of spending $200 on a new one from Target, I instead took an Uber to the mall. I then found a cell phone repair place, that had some unclaimed ipods, and after some negotiating a virtually brand new one for $60. Then back to the hotel to load it with music from “the cloud”
Embarkation- Normally I try and arrive at the terminal mid time (a few hours after the opening bell, this time we didn’t. A friend convinced me that we should arrive early at the Fort Lauderdale port ~1030. I was really surprised as we dropped off luggage with the porter’s pier side, and then literally we were on the ship 25 minutes later, absolutely the smoothest embarkation I ever experienced.
Activities-With 7 sea days at the start of the trip, you have many “Celebrity Life” activities going on every day (sometimes every hour). The Cruise Director Rich Spacey, Activities Manager Valentina, and their activities team did a great job engaging the guests. It’s not always an easy task as there were about 1200 Captain Club members onboard as well as bout a dozen of the more seasoned Zenith members.
My hats off to Melissa Martinez the Captains Club host. She seemingly had people lined up around her desk every single time I walked by, and didn’t let up till about day 11. Always a smiling face, always willing to above and beyond to keep her guests happy. I’m guessing average demographic on this voyage were ~90% married couples over 65. Most of the guests I met onboard had previously traveled on Celebrity at least once
Beyond the Podium Speakers-Thought that Melinda Bates, Jim Kennedy and Ian Wright were good but not great. I think I’m a little jaded, as we have Mickey Live on our last voyage in Antarctica, and he’s a hard act to follow. I don’t think it was the speakers fault as much as the topics. The topics were just not ones that grabbed me.
Cabin-Sky Suite 2185 on deck 12, about 300 ft2 with a 80 ft2 balcony. This was the first time I had a deck 12 cabin. No real noise from above, as I figured there might be some noise from the pool deck above, but relatively quiet at any time of day. Not sure if I am a fan of the covered balcony though. Undecided whether it’s a plus or a minus. The Sky suite has a large amount of floor space that I never use, storage that I never use.
I do love the idea of having the butler, although I generally have little to no butler needs. For me it’s more of a psychological thing than a needs things having a suite. The silver sea pass card, access to the MC concierge is nice, as the two we had were terrific. Never really been a fan of Michaels Club itself, to me it just seems a bit dark rather than inviting. It’s great though for those that drink as the alcohol flows freely as do hors d'oeuvres. Tea time seems popular with many, but just not my thing.
Port & ShoreExcursions-Didn’t try any of the ship sponsored shore excursions this trip, three friends and I have visited these ports before, and luckily they are like walking Google Maps. I on the other hand, am not. I get lost after walking off the gangway from the ship. They ship did have some issues shore excursions issues though. One internal issue, and one external issue involving a third party vendor beyond the ships control. Internally while docked in the Canary Islands there was a total lack of organization internally getting people off the ship for excursions. It was a real mess in the Celebrity theatre, and seemingly no one in charge. Huge lines formed outside and inside the theatre. No one on excursions off the ship till about 2+ hours later, and it seemed like all the excursions returned to the ship at the same time, so real bottlenecking returning to the ship.
Next port stop in Malaga was better in the Celebrity theatre but was still lacking a well thought out plan to get people in and out. They kind of overcompensated for the errors on the first day. But made things a bit more confusing in doing so.
External issue was that we had to partially tender in one port (Ajaccio, France), and from what I was told, one or more of the planned local tenders failed to show up, so they got really backed up since the ships tenders had to compensate for the missing larger local tender(s). Long lines on the pier, with a funnel effect of passengers trying to board the smaller boats that were available. Celebrity tried to help and tried their best to provide cold water to the long lines on the pier, but many folks were just too grumpy at that point, so it wasn’t too pleasant.
Dining-FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD –I alternated between venues using Main Dining Room(MDR), Luminae(Suite Dining), and Specialty Venues (Lawn Club, Murano, Qsine-Le Petit Chef, Sushi on 5, The Porch)
Main Dining Room-Dinner here 4 nights-We had late dinner at 815 each night and had a superb waiter named Adrien and his equally superb assistant Chen serving us. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer more energetic team. Even on extremely busy nights, it was interesting to observe when a fellow guest would ask him to take a picture, or a special request, it was always performed without hesitation, and always without a smile. Never losing a beat on his primary responsibilities.
Food in MDR was very good, a nice variety and glad to see they annotate on the menu dishes that are vegetarian, gluten free, no sugar added, lactose free, and fit fare for those that have preferences in their diet. I really admired the management style in the MDR as well, at least 4 or 5 times the Asst Maître d checked in to make sure all was well, as did the ships restaurant manager.
Luminae- I thought was good, but not great this voyage. Some elements were just missing this trip. The little taste treats they bring out before the meal just weren’t the quality or originality they have had in the past. For example, one night it was a deviled egg, maybe it was the bar was set higher by other trips, but the overall flavor and execution of the meals just seemed off.
I think out of the 4 dinners and 8 breakfasts I had on Luminae, none really stood out. I remember the first breakfast I stopped in for, I ordered the smoked salmon as part of the breakfast, and the presentation was pretty, the salmon itself was gray around the perimeter, and very chewy, maybe it had been sitting out for a while?, but didn’t have the freshness I was used to.
Dinners too were nothing to write home about. I can’t think of any that were knockouts, most were a bit bland (or a bit overcooked) without the signature of Celebrity style to them. Did find I wasn’t alone in my feeling. My three table mates all agreed, something was off on it. Service was great though. Had I do it to over again, I would of said something to the restaurant manager earlier in the cruise, but I guess I just assumed it would get better, and what we were experiencing were isolated incidents.
Two of my table mates are vegans so no meat dairy fish (taste ), and their dietary needs were much different than mine, but was kind of surprised that although they ate all their meals in Luminae, every meal was a challenge for the Luminae team to put together. I would have thought there would be some standard protocol for dealing with it like they had in the MDR. I partially my fault I think for not bringing up the issue of the quality of the food with the restaurant manager, F&B manager or Hotel Director earlier (I did mention these specifics to the HD director a few days before the cruise ended). In closing I just didn’t find that Luminae was a step up from the MDR in terms of the quality of the meal offered, where in previous cruises I always have.
Tuscan Grill-Best dining views onboard, spectacular service and a hearty well prepared delicious meal. I ate at Tuscan twice, and enjoyed the experience both times immensely. The host Vitalii (A Ukranian native), was friendly and professional. The wait staff excellent, and food superb. Had a traditional meat and potatoes meal the first time (9 oz filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes). For my second visit I had a succulent sea bass with a saute of spinach and a side of the lobster rigatoni.
Also was lucky enough to be invited to a luncheon at Tuscan one day hosted by the Captain/Staff Captain Hotel Director and Senior Officers. About 20 guest total and a dozen officers. Some were suite guests, others were not, I liked that it wasn’t just a you spend the most you get the best access group. It was a nicely mixed group.
Both meals were culinary delights, and really could think of nothing they could have done to make it better
Murano-A group of 10 of us ate at Murano in the wine room. The wine room for those that haven’t noticed it is a room that seats 8 or 10 comfortably and is like a private dining room with the walls of Murano. We had a variety of dishes, some prepared tableside and a few like my rack of lamb, delightfully prepared in the kitchen.
Everyone in our group enjoyed the meals, and especially the presentation with the large silver presentation covers. The maître d, checked in on us a few times, and after some wonderful deserts (the chocolate soufflé is to die for), our 3 hour visit ended with 10 fully satisfied diners
Qsine-Preface this by saying I enjoyed visits to Qsine in the past , as I think I tried it 4 other times, but did feel it was running out of steam so was glad to see them trying something new. It was quirky it was fun, but always annoyed that you use an Ipad to make your selections, but then ultimately the waiter took your order using a pad of paper since the Ipads weren’t connected to anything. You really had to reach group conscience on what you ordered or if the waiter was good, he/she would kind of guide you to reach a decision
Qsine is now Le Petit Chef (at least on Reflection), so what is Le Petit Chef? It’s a fun informative 3D visual mapping of your meal that is presented between the 5 courses of your meal. Initially I thought it would be too gimmicky for my taste, but instead I really enjoyed it (I ate there twice). I liked it for several reasons
• I expected it to delay dining courses, and it didn’t. The show only lasts about ~2minutes or so (total of 5 shows)
• It’s informative and funny-was nice learning what ingredients go into each dish
• It’s funny, and volume and noises of the show are low enough that you can still talk and here others observe things you may not of
• It’s scalable, using the technology, you can make the venue any type of dining you want, simply by changing the menu and performance, as the restaurant serves more as a blank slate
So what’s the experience like? The restaurant darkens, then your dining table and your dinner plate become the stage for Celebrity Cruises “Le Petit Chef”. He’s a quirky chef about the size of a saltshaker that’s determined to hunt down and deliver your meal. Five succulent courses, each seemingly prepared before your eyes by the driven little guy and his wit and resources. In between each 2 or 3 minute show, the room brightens and his proud wait staff has your next course tableside to eat. Excellent concept and execution, and don’t let the fun and performance fool you, the food was terrific, original, and flavorful. It was five courses starting with a bouillabaisse, filet of beef, lobster tail, rice pudding brulee, and a vanilla ice cream sundae. So for example while your lobster is harvested from the sea. The entire dining room table is the ocean, or while your ice cream is being made, your entire table is a background of a massive winter wonderland. It’s really quite remarkable the visual and audio effects do to enhance the meal rather than distract from it.
Lawn Club Grill-Lawn Club continues to be my favorite dining venue onboard. To me it’s the ultimate in at sea dining. I ate there twice for dinner and once for lunch. They have a nice variety of dining options with steaks and chops being big favorites of mine. All their dishes have a signature/style of their own. From simple things like the side dishes such creamed corn or lobster mac n cheese, to the main course offering such as the lamb chops, salmon, to the kabobs were all were excellent both in preparation and delivery. Two in particular desserts are must tries one being the hot chocolate chip cookie, and the other being the carrot cake are melt in your mouth delicious.
Alcoves-Next to the Lawn Club are the alcoves. Eight private hideaways you can rent for a 9AM-9PM day. They advertise as being suitable for a party of 6, but I think 4 is more reasonable. Rental fees vary from $149 to $249 a day (dependent on whether a port or sea day. Included in that fee are a cheese and fruit plate, an on call butler, 6 beers, and bottled chilled water, and a bottle of wine or gray goose. Fees and amenities are somewhat negotiable. For example I don’t drink alcohol so they were nice enough to offer a seafood platter from The Porch (shrimp, scallops, lobster, mussels, and cerviche) instead of the alcohol. Luckily too the port day we selected they were renting them for $99. Like anything its supply and demand, and never hurts to ask if they have some wiggle room to customize it to your own needs/budget.
Entertainment-To me anyway most of the musical acts onboard were like elevator music, I would pass by the different ones (Linda Capewell, Fiesta Duo, Pipoka Duo) without stopping. None really engaged me with a unique take of a song, or a different arrangement to have me stop and listen.
A few things they did on the entertainment front that they did really well though, Celebrity Life Game Shows
• Liars Club
• Are You Smarter than a Ships Officer
• True or False
• The Challenge
• Frisky Feud
• Wheel of Fortune
• The Wedding Games
• 60 Seconds or Less
A few of these are “Adult Themed” which I like even better. They seem to get the best laughs and larger audiences. They do a disclaimer before the act stating that they might use words that might be deemed uncomfortable to some, but fairly tame with only an occasional use of stronger words for a needed joke or line. I only wished these shows lasted longer than 30 minutes, maybe try a few for an hour might be nice.
A second part of the entertainment onboard I found spectacular was when the Cruise Director Rich Spacey/Activities Manager Valentina cohosted events with other singer/dancers/performers such as
• Disco Never Dies
• Silent Liquid Party-This was spectacular, combining Silent Disco with Mermaids, Male and female dancers and acrobats all in the Solarium
The things that made these come alive was the energy that Rich and Valentina brought to the game. Only a small handful of CD/Activities Manager have a great chemistry that really comes out in free flowing performances. This pair certainly does. I really prefer these off stage performances over the production numbers of years past as those all seem to blend together even when the dancers and singers are very talented
Disembarkation-The simplest I’ve ever experienced, 630 met my travel mates at Café Al Baccio, and we walked off 3 minutes later with our luggage in the Civitavecchia port. The car we arranged for was 50 feet from the pier, never saw anyone from Italian customs or immigration till we arrived at the airport.
Summary- All in all a great cruise with a very few minor bumps in the road. Someday would love to do a b2b onboard, but always happy to see Celebrity is a learning organization that never rests on its laurels, but instead charts new territory in the travel industry. Read Less