Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a 7 night Eastern Caribbean cruise in January on Celebrity Cruise’s newest ship, the Reflection. Here are some of my thoughts, impressions and tips from the experience.
The Ship and the Vibe
The Reflection is the newest in Celebrity’s line of Solstice-class ships, and she’s beautiful. The decor and ambiance is right in line with Celebrity’s tagline of modern luxury–clean lines, elegant but not flowery, fun and playful without crossing the line to garish.
One of the features that distinguishes the Solstice-class ships is the artwork on board, including this fun sculpture in the main elevator lobby, where a live tree has a “reflection” underneath it.
You can even pick up an iPad at the guest services desk that has an art tour of the ship loaded, and take yourself on a self-guided art tour for a couple hours.
My fellow passengers were a good mix of ages. Since I was traveling in mid-January, there weren’t many kids on board, so the mix appeared to be mainly couples and groups of travelers ranging in age from their 20s and 30s up to their 80s or more. While senior travelers were certainly well represented as they are on most cruises, I was struck by how many younger people were on board. Celebrity appears to be doing a good job of appealing to the boomer and younger generations.
The service on board was almost uniformly excellent, a great combination of friendly and helpful. My cabin steward seemed to have a knack for sensing when I was out of the cabin and making sure things were tidied up by the time I got back (and twice a day cabin service is definitely something you can get used to!).
Standard cabins on the Reflection are compact but comfortable, with lots of thoughtful touches, like large beach towels to take with you on shore excursions, hooks in the shower to hang your wet bathing suit up, and a TV with great music channel options including 70s and Soul.
I strongly recommend booking at least a balcony cabin or higher category. It’s worth the (usually small) additional cost over an inside or ocean view cabin to have your own outdoor space, especially on sunny sea days when the pool deck can get a little crowded. One of my favorite things was sitting on my balcony watching the water, and it was a great place to have breakfast when I ordered room service.
Tip: Consider booking a cabin in Celebrity’s Aqua Class when the rates for Aqua Class are just a few hundred dollars more than a regular balcony cabin (the rate difference varies by sailing). Aqua Class guests get to eat breakfast and dinner in Blu, a private dining room, as well as complimentary access to the Persian Garden area of the spa, which has lovely heated ceramic beds.
If you really want to splash out, there’s the Reflection Suite, a 1600 square foot two-bedroom suite with the famous over water shower and a private deck with your own hot tub.
I am a traditionalist when it comes to dining on a ship; I prefer the late seating in the main dining room over “flexible” dining, because I like having the same group of people and the same wait staff over the course of the week, but Celebrity provides a variety of options to suit any style. I’m also not a fan of the buffet as I like sit down and be served when I’m on vacation, but the few times I went into the buffet for mid-afternoon snack, I was struck by the variety of offerings.
Tip: if you’re new to cruising, you may not realize that you can sit down and be served breakfast and lunch in the main dining room most days. Room service is also available, at no additional charge (although it’s usually served by your cabin steward, so you might want to add a little extra to their gratuity).
The Reflection has a number of alternative restaurants in addition to the main dining room and the buffet. I didn’t get a chance to try the Lawn Club Grill, where you can grill your own flatbread and steak, or Murano, the romantic continental cuisine restaurant, but I did try:
Qsine ($40 surcharge). It’s hard to describe Qsine–it’s quirky and fun (you order off an iPad), with playful dishes such as the soup in test tubes with souffle combination pictured above. Well worth trying.
Tip: if you’re traveling solo or as a couple, it’s worth waiting until you’ve met some nice people on the ship and going together as a group, as that way you’ll get to try more dishes. The menu is a little overwhelming for 1-2 people.
Tuscan Grill ($35 surcharge). I loved my dinner at the Tuscan Grill: mozzarella and tomatoes, a pasta Bolognese and a terrific steak. Plus the view of the lighted wake of the ship is mesmerizing.
The Porch ($5 surcharge). The Porch is on the top deck, and serves paninis for breakfast and lunch.
Bistro on Five ($5 surcharge). I liked the crepes here so much I ate here twice. They feature both savory and sweet crepes and are open late if you’re craving a midnight dessert.
Tip: this or The Porch is a great place to go when you first board the ship, rather than the buffet, as if the cabins aren’t ready yet, lines can be long for the buffet and it can be hard to find a seat.
A Few of My Favorite Things
I cruise to relax, so it’ll come as no surprise that I spent a lot of time in the spa on this cruise, especially the Reflection Lounge, where you can relax and enjoy the view of the sea before or after your treatment.
Tip: as with resort spas, treatments onboard can be expensive. Look for daily specials, as well as packages that are available on the first day of the cruise. Also, one complaint about onboard spas is the strong pitch for beauty/spa products following your treatment. I have found that a simple statement that you’re not interested in products takes care of that, especially if you come back to the same person for additional treatments.
Another favorite quiet place was the adults-only Solarium Pool, where I came to read but found myself just looking at the changing colored lights of the fountain.
The Sunset Bar at the aft of the top deck is another great place to chill.
Overall, a cruise is a great way to disconnect. Internet access is expensive, so it encourages you to stay off-line (although I did find myself connecting again when we were in port in places where my phone had service. What can I say, I’m addicted to Twitter!).
Final Thoughts: Affordable Luxury
I think Celebrity strikes a great balance between the affordable pricing of the mass market cruise lines, and the luxury of the high-end smaller ships. You’re on a big ship, which gives you plenty of options and choices, but the ambiance and service distinguish Celebrity favorably.
This was my fourth cruise (and first on Celebrity). I confess, as an independent traveler, I was convinced I would hate cruising, until I tried it, and fell in love with it. For me, it’s the most relaxing type of vacation there is, and that’s something we all need once in a while. I thought this Celebrity cruise was the best yet, and I can’t wait to get on another Celebrity ship.
Editorial Disclosure: I paid retail price for my cabin. Celebrity Cruises was kind enough to cover a few onboard extras. All views and opinions are strictly my own.
Sail with Sheri: I’ll be leading a group on the Celebrity Solstice, sailing to Alaska from Seattle this summer. Join me! The package begins on August 14 with 2 nights in Seattle, then we depart August 16 for a 7 night sailing. Packages start at $1840 per person, and include 2 nights hotel in Seattle with breakfast, a half day Seattle tour, the 7 night cruise, a whale watching shore excursion in Juneau and more. Email me for more information!
Photo Credits: Author