In my partial absence from the interweb this week, I’m filling in the blanks with a little Best of MJ content. Today’s post – my cruise review of Celebrity Reflection while aboard for the ship’s third cruise.

The Ultimate Word on Celebrity Reflection – Originally posted January 21, 2013

As you are probably aware, MrsMJ and I completed a 14-night cruise aboard the beautiful new Celebrity Reflection back in November. I posted a bit of an initial review at that time, and have since posted some additional photographs from our cruise. With my “Ultimate Word on Celebrity Reflection” post, I’ll be bringing everything into one cohesive tome, for your review and perusal prior to what I expect will be an enjoyable cruise should you choose to book Celebrity Reflection.

Getting to the Port of Venice Cruise Terminal

In celebration of MrsMJonTravel’s birthday, we actually traveled to Italy a few days early where we spent one night in Rome, followed by 3 nights in Florence. We spent our time in Florence at the beautiful Hotel Alessandra. Our time there was spent enjoying Florence, and my birthday gift to MrsMJ, a private tour of Tuscany including a wine tasting arranged by our fabulous Virtuoso Travel Agent, Michelle, at McCabe World Travel in McLean, Virginia. After three great days in Florence, the time had finally come to head to Venice and the beautiful Celebrity Reflection.

We arrived in Venice via Trenitalia and proceeded outside the station. If you turn right, and walk across the bridge towards the Piazza di Roma, you will see signs directing you to thePeople Mover. For 1 Euro per person, you can then ride the People Mover (which is simply a tram system), to the Maritima Cruise Terminal stop. From there, it is a 5 minute walk to the terminals. It was raining the day we arrived, so we elected to wait for the Celebrity provided bus to transport us the remainder of the way to the ship. If I had it to do over, I would have walked in the rain and avoided schlepping onto the bus with the 50 other people….rain or not.

In any event, we were in front of the terminal soon enough. There was a small line to drop off your luggage, and then we entered the terminal. Once upstairs, it was obvious that we were not the only ones to have arrived early. It was a bit of a chaotic scene as the queues were jam-packed with people. I’m not certain if they were late beginning check in because the Italian immigration authorities were slow to clear the ship’s disembarking passengers or not, but it did appear that way. MrsMJ would opine that since we are 2 for 2 on semi-chaotic embarkations in Italy, it must be an Italian thing.

We were directed to a sitting area, where we remained for about 15 more minutes before the check in lines began to move. Once they did, we were processed fairly quickly, and then went on to security. There was a bit of a wait as the gangway was backed up with passengers, but I would estimate the whole thing took no longer than 10 minutes. And we finally stepped onto the ship. I found my previous Solstice Class experience to be very impressive. Simply put, these ships are beautiful, and Celebrity Reflection continues that tradition. Elegant, stunning, and cool. Three words that don’t necessarily fit in the same sentence, but all of which accurately describe Celebrity Reflection.

Celebrity Reflection, the last of 5 Solstice Class ships rounding out the Celebrity fleet represents a few firsts as well. In comparison to earlier ships, Reflection is one deck taller. And most important to me, Reflection also introduces Celebrity’s first Aqua Class Suites. This is important because I booked one of those suites for MrsMJ and me. :) I would say the biggest difference between the Suite and a standard Aqua Class room is the size. Our room was noticeably more spacious than the standard Aqua Class room we enjoyed on our Celebrity Equinox cruise in the summer of 2010. We enjoyed a full-size sofa, ample closet space, large bath with tub, and a butler. Yes, a butler. Here are a few pictures of the room.

Around the Ship and a Few of MJ’s Favorite Things

I have never found myself lacking for things to do on a cruise ship. Our itinerary was particularly port-intensive, which made for a slightly less relaxing, but incredibly enriching cruise. More on the itinerary later. First, let’s talk about the ship. As I mentioned earlier, Celebrity Reflection is the final Solstice Class ship to be delivered to Celebrity. I find these ships particularly elegant, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, both inside and out. Reflection includes the first Reflection Suite, which looks like a destination itself. No, I didn’t get to visit, but that cantilevered shower looks pretty awesome! I suppose I could settle for one of the Signature Suites if I had to! :)

Let’s discuss what I did get to personally enjoy. Since we booked Aqua Class, we enjoyed dining in Blu. Reserved exclusively for Aqua Class guests (suite guests can be accommodated on a space available basis), Blu features “healthier” “spa” cuisine, but healthier did not equal less tasty. Frankly, I’ve never been as impressed with food on a cruise ship as I was with Blu on Celebrity Reflection. Delicious food with impecable service. Suffice it to say, we loved Blu! On the downside, while I was not impacted, probably because we tend to eat late, there were reports of overcrowding in Blu on our particular cruise. Again, I did not experience it, but I know it happened. I’m sure our 8:30pm and later dining times were the reason we never had any issues.

We were also able to enjoy other specialty restaurants during our cruise including Lawn Club Grill, Murano, Tuscan Grill, and Qsine. All were wonderful in their own right, but Tuscan Grill was our favorite, followed by Qsine. Tuscan Grill featured wonderful pastas, great steaks, and fabulous service. We liked it so much, we visited twice, and requested the same server.

I suppose Celebrity’s typical crowd is a bit past the all-night clubbing phase, so another change for Reflection is the lack of a disco/nightclub space. MrsMJ and I had to improvise, and we had no trouble doing so. Our favorite nightspot on the ship was the Martini Bar. It’s a beautiful space with an ice covered bar, and best of all, great martinis!

In a tie for favorite spaces is the MJ’s Cellar Masters Wine Bar. A quiet spot, that was rarely crowded (wine tastings excepted) I really liked the comfortable atmosphere, and of course, the wine.

While I didn’t spend much time there, I really enjoyed what Celebrity has done with Michael’s Club. Michael’s Club features a really great selection of craft beers and other libations. The atmosphere is sedate, but just right for an evening after dinner. Hey, what can be wrong with a cruise ship bar that sells Dogfish 90 Minute IPA?!?! That’s right, not a thing!

One more favorite thing, Molecular Bar where the drinks are works of art.

There is so much more to write about that I doubt I could ever cover it all in one blog post. Frankly, 14 nights was not enough for me to visit every single space on the ship and enjoy the fabulous ports of call as well. Pool time is an important part of cruising, and Celebrity Reflection has a wonderful pool deck. Unfortunately, it was November in Europe, so the weather just wasn’t what anyone would consider pool weather. That didn’t stop me from snapping a few pictures though.

The solarium pool is very popular because it’s inside and warm during cool days!

There’s also the Lawn Club, and some really huge chairs. :)

Reflection features Alcoves on the Lawn Club as well that can be reserved for a fee of $99 dollars per Alcove in port, and $149 dollars per Alcove on sea days. I only witnessed one being used during our cruise, but I could see a market for them in warmer weather. They can be reserved online in advance of your cruise.

If you have any questions about areas of the ship or activities not depicted here, feel free to comment to the post or send me an email. I will gladly answer any question I can.

The Itinerary

Our fabulous itinerary was packed with ports. Depending on your perspective, that can be a good or a bad thing. In a perfect MJ world, a cruise like this would feature one sea day for every day in port. None of these are your typical port that I’ve visited half a dozen times. These were the kinds of places you really wanted to see! As a result, I found this cruise to be less restful than many I have taken. That is not a complaint, it is simply the truth of the cruise. It wasn’t labeled a 14-night Mediterranean Empires cruise for nothing. That said, I was truly envious of those who were continuing on to Miami (and there were hundreds) for the trans-Atlantic repositioning that featured 8 days at sea. That may sound tortuous to some, but frankly sounded awesome to me. I needed the time off. Maybe next time.

In order to avoid creating the world’s longest blog post, I will link to my blogs on each port where applicable. If there was no separate blog post for the port, I will link to my pictures. Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 – Venice

Day 2 – Venice

Day 3 – Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 4 – At Sea

Day 5 – Rhodes, Greece (Cancelled, and spent at sea)

Day 6 – Kusadasi, Turkey (Ephesus)

Day 7 – At Sea

Day 8 – Athens, Greece

Day 9 – Valletta, Malta

Day 10 – Catania, Sicily

Day 11 – Naples and Capri

Day 12 – Rome

Day 13 – Livorno (Pisa)

Day 14 – Provence, France (More Pictures Forthcoming)

Disembarkation in BarcelonaHotel Arts – Barcelona

Miscellaneous Items of Interest to Cruisers

This cruise, like all other Celebrity itineraries offered inclusive drink packages for sale. We don’t blink an eye at purchasing Celebrity’s Premium Drink Package. It is an investment of sorts, but I love not having to sign for every single drink you buy, and it makes your total cruise cost more predictable. As far as time in port, we booked a mix of ship-sponsored excursions, private tours through our travel agent, and touring on our own. Do what you are comfortable with, but if you can manage it, a private tour is a truly enriching experience, especially in places like Ephesus and Rome. Celebrity does offer youth programs, and there were younger people on our cruise, just not many. Most were pre school age that I saw. As DINKs, MrsMJ and I are not qualified to speak to the quality of Celebrity’s youth programs, but you can read about them here.

Nobody’s Perfect

OK…with great ports, great service, and a glowing review, it can’t all be that good, right? Well, actually it can, but there were a few hiccups along the way, some I was impacted by, and some I just heard about. Port security in Venice was interesting. On day 2, returning to the ship for sail away from Venice, there was a security setup by the port outside the ship. One mobile x-ray for nearly 4,000 guests. We returned early and didn’t really have a problem. Others were not so lucky and I heard the line got really long. To top things off, you had to go through security again onboard the ship.

From my perspective, the biggest service issue during the cruise was a mechanical issue that developed during the night when we were sailing towards Rhodes. The Captain called it a “technical problem” but it was later learned and reported online that the issue was electrical. Long story short, we had to sail slower than planned, which is why we missed Rhodes, and continued directly to Kusadasi. It also made us late into Valletta, so we missed out on our self-purchased Hypogeum tour tickets. That is an important reminder about touring on your own and your contract of carriage with the cruise line. In reality, they aren’t responsible for stopping at a particular port. If we had booked that tour through the cruise line, our tickets would have been refunded. Since we did not do that, we were on our own. We did have travel insurance, but the price of the tickets vs. the use of my time to file a claim just is not worth it in this case. Frankly, beyond these two things, the problem did not impact our cruise, though it did make for an extra sea day on the trans-Atlantic cruise. If there is one thing that I would have changed about the whole experience, it would have been this.

The folks traveling on the trans-Atlantic crossing did not find out until the day before that the problem would impact their sailing, deleting one port and adding a sea day. It just struck me that there was, in my opinion, a lack of information about the problem. Granted, not everyone is a junior wannabe sailor like myself, so maybe I was the only one looking for a better technical understanding of what happened. There were complaints of crowding at Blu, and some didn’t like the crowds at the Captain’s Club evening receptions either. You can read all about those with a quick search on Cruise Critic. I’m sure these issues were experienced by some, just not by me. Otherwise, I can’t think of a thing that Celebrity could have done better.

The Bottom Line

Celebrity Reflection is currently sailing 7-night Caribbean cruises before returning to the Mediterranean this spring for the summer sailing season. We enjoyed a phenomenal cruise on Celebrity Reflection. A beautiful ship, fabulous itinerary, and great service. I really did want to stay on board for the trans-Atlantic crossing! :) I would jump at the chance to sail Celebrity Reflection again. Enjoy your cruise!