Reflection of a Christmas Cruise

Reflection of a Christmas Cruise

Cruise Date: December 2013

Getting to Miami was a totally different chapter… our flights were quite alright, but our suitcases were delivered to our pre-cruise hotel the day after we had left Miami on the cruise. Hence, no clothes other than what we managed to buy in a hurry Saturday morning in Miami before going on the cruise.

Check-in and boarding in Miami, Terminal G
It was only a ten minute taxi ride from the hotel to Port Miami’s Terminal G, the departure terminal for Celebrity Reflection. We were out of the taxi at about 2:30 and with only our newly purchased belongings we opted for bringing them onboard our selves rather than risking them being left at the dock (we are not the disbelieving kind, but were rather tired from the travel and shopping spree). Just inside the terminal our Xpres Passes were checked and we could go up the escalator to the security check. In contrast to the airport, all staff at the seaport was quite courteous and accommodating. After security we entered the grand check in hall and quickly found the line for Aqua Class with only one couple ahead of us. First perk of Aqua Class was bypassing the lines for general boarding. Check in was quick and easy and within minutes we were scanning our Sea Passes onboard the Celebrity Reflection.
The boarding bridges were located on the promenade on Deck 5 forward and mid-ships. We chose the forward gangway and boarded close to the elevators taking us to our stateroom on Deck 11.

Aqua Class Room
Room 1509 is a standard AQ2 room on the forward port side of the vessel, one deck above the bridge on the corridor leading to the Relaxation Room. Boarding late had our room ready when we boarded, nice when we were bringing our own luggage so we could go straight to the room and drop the bag.
Our stateroom attendant, Paz, introduced herself quickly after we had entered our room and explained the basics of the room and asked if there was anything she could do for us. We told her about our predicament with the luggage and she arranged for complementary express laundry as well as helped us with extra supplies of shampoos. etc.

The room amenities included (and what we used)
– A Personal Spa Concierge to arrange AquaSpa® treatments – we didn’t use this service
– Daily delivery of bottled water and tea – two half liter bottles of San Pellegrino still water and iced teas with flavors of strawberry or peach alternating daily
– Priority check-in
– Express luggage delivery – we didn’t use this service
– Priority disembarkation based on travel needs– we didn’t use this service
– Complimentary shoeshine service – we didn’t use this service
– Complimentary access to the Persian Garden and Relaxation Room– we didn’t try the Persian Garden but enjoyed the Relaxation Room once
– Aromatherapy diffuser – a nice touch, not too overwhelming
– Pillow menu– we didn’t use this service
– Additional bathroom amenities, including shower gel, facial spray and lip balm – we had to ask for the facial spray and were told it had been discontinued some time ago. But our stateroom attendant felt sorry for us missing our luggage and found a couple of facial sprays for us
– Plush Frette® bathrobes
– Slippers Additional bathroom amenities, including shower gel, facial spray and lip balm – we had to ask for the slippers that ended up to be too large for my wife and too small for me…
– Oversized 100% cotton bath towels – if these were oversized we would feel sorry for people with the regular sized towels. Actually the towels seemed to be the same size as we remembered from our ocean view cabin on Deck 3 of the Celebrity Solstice 2½ years ago
– On-demand wellness programming including meditation and yoga – we didn’t use this service
– Hansgrohe® shower panel had a large showerhead with choice of regular spray and massage spray
– Fog-free mirror kept half the mirror (above the sink) fog free

Getting to know the ship
The Celebrity Reflection is a beautiful ship in mint condition. Flagship of Celebrity Cruises and only 14 months old it is clearly the star of the fleet.

Boarding Day Lunch
As we hadn’t had any meals except for our morning coffee and a croissant we headed to the Oceanview Buffet for our late lunch. Being embarkation day we were aware that it might be chaotic at the buffet, but we quickly found a table by the window and had no problem filling our plates from the great selections. Most of the other passengers may have already completed their lunch as there was a quite relaxed feel around the buffet.

Muster Drill
As we were finishing our lunch the mandatory muster drill was announced and we started making our way to our assembly station. We didn’t have to bring lifejackets and the trek from the Oceanview Buffet on Deck 14 aft to the Celebrity Theatre on Deck 5 forward to a while as many of our fellow passengers were preoccupied with their phones and not being in a hurry. This may be different if the unlikely should happen.
Our assembly station was indicated to be on the balcony of the Reflection Theatre, but when we got there we were redirected to the lower level of the theatre.
The drill itself was quite quickly completed with a video in 10 languages telling international passengers that additional information would be found in their stateroom. Then the muster station staff demonstrated how to don the lifejacket.
After a video message from the captain the drill was dismissed.

Sail Away
We watched the sail away from our balcony while sipping the complementary bottle of champagne delivered to our room while we were out. Finally we felt like being on a cruise and had time to relax after a long flight and a morning busy with emergency shopping. Being on the port side of the ship we were actually on the side of the ship facing away from the dock, so we had a great view of McArthur Causeway rather than viewing the many other ships getting ready to sail. As we passed the entrance to the port we had a magnificent view of South Beach and Ocean Drive.

Guest Relations and Concierge
Soon after boarding we went to Guest Relations to ask if they knew if our baggage had been delivered by the airline directly to the vessel. It had not. But Maila from the Philippines was very courteous, helpful and understanding and together with the concierges Adriane Wulf and Rachelle Wever helped us a lot.
Without asking for it we were offered free laundry for the entire cruise as we explained about our limited supply of t-shirts and underwear. And we were offered a couple of Celebrity Cruises t-shirts to sleep in and a bag of toiletries.
Even on two occasions during the week we found a bottle of wine or champagne in our room with compliments from the concierges.
While we never wish anyone to cruise without their baggage, the help and assistance provided by the crew onboard the vessel was just outstanding.

Specialty Dining
One of the main reasons we choose to cruise on Celebrity is the great selection of dining options and the top quality cuisine. We had been looking forward to this for months and we were not disappointed.

What a refreshingly different take on dining. The menu is presented on an iPad with descriptions and brief animated videos explaining the items. You don’t choose a three course meal, but rather a selection of samplers that are served family style for the entire table to share. Even the presentation was different… fish ‘n’ chips served in a popcorn box, do-it-yourself guacamole and tacos, Chinese dishes served in martini glasses. Before selecting dessert we were presented with chocolate covered strawberries and pannacotta-eggs served on a grass in a cigarette-girl-style-box. Choose your dessert from a flip-it-over cube with more choices appearing as you flip the cube.

Tuscan Grille
A traditional steakhouse with an authentic Italian twist. Antipasti served while you browse the menu, great bread, excellent steaks and superb Italian desserts. The truffled parmesan fries are a must!
Once a cruise Tuscan Grille serves a lunch with a beautiful view of the ship’s wake, but a limited menu.

No doubt the most luxurious restaurant onboard. Top notch service as when our waiter noticed my wife’s black pantsuit and promptly exchanged the white napkin for a black one, so it wouldn’t leave marks on her clothes. Tableside preparation of many of the dishes and delicate presentation and exquisite desserts.
One afternoon high tea is served each cruise complete with live music, white glove service, finger sandwiches, scones with clodded cream and macaroons. And a selection of fine teas to go with your glass of champagne.

Lawn Club Grill
This is a must-try restaurant on the Lawn Club on Deck 15. Outdoors and with tasty food prepared by the best chef onboard – you! Start by baking your own pizza, sorry flatbread, it’s so tasty it rivals those found in Naples! The grill your steak, kabob or bratwurst to perfection while you pick your salad from the lawn buffet. Adding to that picnic feel the drinking glasses are like jars and cheery waiters in relaxed polo’s.

Included dining

Staying in an Aqua Class stateroom had us assigned to the Blu restaurant. This restaurant is for Aqua Class guests only (suite guests on a space available basis and a $5 cover). We had dinner here on December 25th and quickly agreed this was the only time we would go there. Compared to the specialty restaurants it was a disappointment… we got the two-top we asked for, but it was so close to the neighboring tables it might as well have been a ten-top. The waiter’s English was poor (“sir, you can eat the whole [soft shell] crab” sounded funny, but we understood what he meant) and service was rushed. The sommelier seemed to forget about our table and we didn’t have wine served until the main course. The noise level was intolerable and didn’t feel like lingering over a cup of coffee after dinner.

Oceanview Buffet
We had not actually planned on dining in the main buffet at night, but after the very filling High Tea in Murano we just couldn’t eat a full meal in a restaurant and went to the buffet to get a snack. Opposed to day time when this venue is a hectic all against all grab and eat place, at night it was quite nice. We had time to go around selecting our dishes and set a table for ourselves without fearing it being cleaned and taken while we were away to get more food. Only regret was that the waiters did not seem to have time from their personal discussions to come to ask if we wanted drinks or wine… their loss, we enjoyed the included fountain drinks.

Mast Grill
The best cheeseburgers and hot dogs in town or at sea! With plenty of fellow passengers by the pool we were surprised to be able to walk straight up to the window and had our food prepared to order in a matter of minutes.

Al Bacio Café
No day without coffee. And the only place to get decent Italian espresso style coffee is at Al Bacio. The baristas take great pride in preparing each cup of coffee as if in Italy. In the mornings it was great to go get takeout coffees to bring back to the room to enjoy with the room service breakfast on our balcony.

Sea Day Christmas Brunch
On the second morning of the cruise, the regular breakfast service in the Opus Dining Room was replaced by the grand brunch buffet. We had a great two top by the window and next to a nice couple from Switzer­land. The buffet was elaborate with all the dishes you could imagine (actually the dishes familiar if you had visited the Oceanview buffet for breakfast or lunch) but still with a grand setup, ice carvings and stations with carveries, pasta made to order, pancakes and waffles, chocolate fondues and a ton of desserts.
This was our only visit to Opus and it seemed the tables are as close together as in Blu, but the larger room may reduce the perceived noise level.

Tree Trimmers’ Late Night Buffet
On Christmas Eve a grand buffet was set up in Bistro on Five. The line was long but moved quickly one way only past the buffet and through the venue. We were greeted by two senior hospitality officers with a cheery “Merry Christmas” and handed paper plates and plastic utensils. The buffet was a selection of savory and sweet dishes we loaded onto our plates and took to our room…only to disappoint us, but then again we may not actually have been that hungry.

Our stateroom was on the hallway leading to the Relaxation Room and through there we had access to the spa area and the “secret staircase” leading to the spa reception. My wife had a pedicure and a massage during the cruise. While she enjoyed the treatments she was turned off by the overselling of products after each treatment. Apart from these treatments we didn’t make use of the spa or fitness facilities.

Shows and Entertainment
We opted out of most of the entertainment, but did enjoy the Christmas Caroling in the Reflection Theater on Christmas Eve, the juggling comedian on December 25th and Reflection the Show, the grand production show featuring aerialists, contortionists and the resident singers and dancers in a rock extravaganza.

Casual Christmas at Sea
As our gala clothes were “trapped” in our baggage being held hostage by the airline, we had to resort to t-shirts, jeans and sneakers as our evening clothes. This made for a much more casual Christmas than we had planned, but no one made any comments (other than understanding and supporting when told the story) when we entered the dining rooms. However, we didn’t attend the Captain’s welcome reception and show in the Reflection Theater as we wouldn’t have been properly dressed.
On Christmas eve we did have an opportunity to speak to the master of the vessel as Captain Athanasios G. Peppas walked through each dining room to great each and every table with a “Merry Christmas”. A very nice touch!

Detour and Delay
While we were getting ready to go to our farewell dinner in the Lawn Club Grill the captain came on the intercom in the cabin. This is not a thing that happens regularly as we had to turn on the TV or be in a public area to hear his daily morning address. With the words “This is the Captain. I have diverted the vessel’s course…” we held our breath as he continued “due to a medical emergency as we have to disembark a passenger in Nassau on the Bahamas”. With the rest of his message he explained that we would sail close to Nassau to disembark a fellow passenger and that he would later give details as to how much of a delay we would experience.
This evening we had a beautiful view of the lights of Nassau as the vessel drifted off the harbor while a tender was sent ashore with the ill-fated passenger. While we were there we saw a Disney cruise ship and two Carnival cruise ships leaving port, probably the vessels we saw the next morning in Miami.

Following our detour to Nassau on the last evening of the cruise our arrival into Miami was delayed for an hour and we entered Government Cut as the last vessel in line.
Staying in Aqua Class we had access to the Concierge disembarkation lounge on Deck 4 in the Opus restaurant. We left our room short after 8 o’clock and quickly found a table to sit with our roll boards. It took about an hour and a half before our number was called and we could proceed to the gangway on Deck 5.
Having beeped out one last time we were on the gangway and in the terminal, down the escalators to the airport style baggage hall in minutes. Our bag was on the belt when we came to the belt and then had to make our way back through the flow of disembarking passengers and passengers looking for their bags … this could be streamlined a bit, but was actually not that bad.
The line for immigration and customs was fairly short and the border officers were all smiling, collecting the customs cards with a “Merry Christmas” and we were then leaving the terminal to find ourselves in a long line to get a taxi. By this time each taxi was discharging passengers for the next cruise to make room for passengers going back to the city, hotels and the airport.