After an ‘eh’ cruise on the Celebrity Summit last August, we weren’t sure quite what to think about cruising. We knew we liked it overall – it’s a great bang for your buck for a week long vacation – & we had previously thought that Celebrity was definitely the cruise line for us, but needed some extra convincing. Our week on the Celebrity Reflection in April was all the convincing we needed! It’s not an exaggeration to say that, of our seven cruises, this one was one of the best yet.
This beautiful Solstice Class ship is the newest, & largest, in Celebrity’s fleet. Despite the fact that she holds 3,000+ passengers, the ship never felt crowded. Some of our favorite features from the Celebrity Equinox, such as the Lawn Club, the Bistro on 5 & the elegant soaring atrium, are also on Reflection, but this ship also has a few new bells & whistles. Two of our favorite new spots were the hammocks on the Lawn & the Hideaway (a nice reading nook inside the ship.
9169, our category 1B Veranda Cabin, felt spacious (it definitely did not feel 194 sq ft!), comfortable, & modern. We had calm seas throughout the voyage & that, combined with the super comfortable bed & soft linens, meant that we got really good sleep on this trip. The bathroom was giant for a cruise ship, with tons of storage, consistently hot water & the first shower doors we’ve ever had on a cruise which didn’t leak water all over the bathroom floor.
The balcony was a standard size, which always suits our needs just fine. We had room service breakfast & lunch out there a few times (room service is always complimentary on cruises) & enjoyed being on the balcony as we sailed in & out of port. I know many cruisers think of balconies as an optional add-on, but they’re a must have for us; it’s just so nice to have quiet, private space.
Combine all this with the best room steward we’ve ever had (shout out to Leslie, who we also ran into at the airport on our way home!) & it was really a fantastic cabin.
We ate at many of the restaurants on board, including the main dining room, where we had a table for two in the second seating. I’ll be doing a separate post on specialty dining, but just to give you a flavor, our meals included:
– Ocean View Cafe: This is one of the biggest areas of improvement I’ve seen on Celebrity. Instead of feeling like a tired, overcrowded buffet restaurant, this space is actually large enough to accommodate passengers without having to share tables or bump into each other. After getting our food (we ate breakfast here almost daily & often grabbed an afternoon snack of sushi), we were always able to grab a table in the aft of the ship, outside, in the shade. The buffet consistently offered new, different foods – we even had dinner there one night & commented that the paella was one of the best dishes we had all week on the ship. I love that they offer international dishes, often cooked by chefs from those countries – I wish some of the international dishes in the Ocean View were offered in the dining room.
– Opus Dining Room: This was the first cruise we’ve been on in a while that the main dining room was disappointing. We always do second seating, but this one seemed especially late at 8:30pm. The service was fine, but always felt very rushed. Our section of tables was often being handed dessert menus when most of the rest of the dining room were just receiving their dinner entrees. In addition, none of the food really shined – it was just fine, which is disappointing to say. The bread basket could really use an overhaul: Celebrity bakes everything fresh on board, but the dining room bread basket always disappointed (oddly enough, we were tempted to steal bread from Ocean View, which has a wide selection!). We really want to like the dining room. I feel like a throw back to traditional dining in ocean liners where five courses was the norm & everyone enjoyed themselves. My preference is not to eat at the buffet or have to pay to eat at a specialty restaurant every night; it was just difficult to find positives about the dining room on this cruise. On the other hand, a disappointing dining room experience allowed the Ocean View Cafe and the specialty dining restaurants to really shine.
– Bistro on 5: This creperie at sea continues to be a highlight on every Celebrity cruise. Despite the fact that there’s a crepe restaurant about 100′ from my office, I never eat there & this feels like an especially wonderful treat. The food is consistently good, the service is always friendly & the nutella crepes – my. goodness. With only a $5 charge per person, the Bistro makes lunch feel a bit like a splurge, but it’s very budget friendly.
– The Porch: This is a new addition on the Reflection. It’s an open air bistro up on the top deck by the Lawn Club that feels very much like eating at a neighborhood cafe which has the world’s best view. We actually hadn’t planned on eating here, but we missed lunch in the Ocean View one day & decided to try something new. The panini sandwiches & salads we had were great, as were the giant cupcakes that came for dessert. This restaurant also only has a $5 charge per person & makes for a lovely lunch. They’re also open for breakfast, but it was hard to justify spending $5 for a breakfast panini when I could basically make my own at the buffet.
– Qsine continues to be one of my most unique, delicious dining experiences I’ve ever had on land or sea!
– Tuscan Grille: We had a really bad experience at Tuscan Grille on the Equinox, but everyone kept telling us how it was their favorite restaurant, so we thought it was worth another shot. Turns out they were right – the service was great, the food was really quite good & it was a much better experience. If you don’t have access to good Italian at home, I can see why this would quickly become your favorite restaurant.
This cruise was heavy on sea days, which is exactly what we wanted for maximum relaxation. We visited some great ports, though, which I’ll explore in detail in later posts. Our stops included Puerto Rico (where we were docked for the odd time of 3pm – 10pm), St. Thomas (where we spent the day in pristine St. John) & St. Maarten (where we spent the day on a really fun speedboat tour).
Reflection spends her summers in Europe on 11 night itineraries out of Rome, which sound positively heavenly.
This cruise had the best mix of passengers of any ship we’ve ever been on. The overall age skewed a bit younger – there were a lot of couples in their 30s, 40s & 50s, which creates such a fun vibe on board. There were several families with really well behaved children & far fewer people in the higher age group than normal.
Celebrity recently revamped their entire spa experience & now partner with Canyon Ranch, a well known land-based destination luxury spa. While I didn’t have any treatments on this cruise, B did & said it’s one of the best massages he has ever had. In addition to the massage being great, the therapist didn’t try to sell him any products afterward – a long complained about, awkward sales pitch that anyone who has been to a cruise ship spa dreads.
The Persian Garden, a steam room & relaxation area on many Celebrity ships, is particularly enjoyable on their Solstice Class ships. Heated loungers look out over the water for a beautiful, relaxing view. A variety of stream rooms & even a cold room round out the Persian Garden experience. This area is complimentary to Aqua Class guests; I bought a day pass for $25 (well worth it) & B bought a three day pass for $50.
In the U.S., the Reflection cruises out of the Port of Miami. This isn’t my favorite port – it’s old, crowded & I don’t love the hotel options nearby, unless you stay in South Beach. I’d much rather sail out of Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale.
That being said, embarkation & debarkation were both easy. Once we got to the port, we were on the ship, sitting in a lounge chair on the Lawn Club within an hour. Debarkation on the ship was easy – our luggage tag number was called right in the middle of the timeframe they had given us. The wait to go through immigration & customs was a bit long, but far faster than most U.S. airports!
Celebrity is taking great strides to attract a certain type of passenger & live up to their motto of “Modern Luxury.” Gone are the endless trivia games, bingo nights & production shows which feature someone belting out Broadway tunes. In their place are bocci on the lawn, painting classes & shows featuring aerialists & really talented dancers. The house band (when we sailed, it was The Vibes) sings nightly in the atrium a mix of 80s, 90s & popular songs from today. The music on the pool deck is selected by a DJ & is noticeably different – even since we cruised last August. The whole ship has a younger feel & Celebrity really wants passengers who embrace that. As one of the officers told me, “it’s not about targeting a specific age, it’s about targeting a lifestyle.” This may not sit well with traditional cruisers who want traditional cruise activities. Dare I suggest that maybe Celebrity isn’t the right line for them?