In the past when booking a cruise I was looking for something with more of a party scene and that was affordable.
At 36 years old my finances are better and I am seeking quality over quantity when I travel–within reason of course. Back in December I decided that I didn’t want a physical Christmas present, but more of an experience. Additionally, my spouse and I had never been on any major vacation together without the kids. With that in mind this past December I booked us a four-day kid-free getaway on the Celebrity Cruise Lines Reflection Ship sailing to Cozumel, Mexico.
I didn’t know much about the Celebrity brand when I booked them other than TV host Kathy Lee Gifford used to do commercials for them when I was a kid. I had scoured pricing for weeks and was expecting Carnival to be the choice. However, I wanted a balcony and I wanted newer and more modern. Other cruise lines were charging much more for the same thing on older boats. I managed to score an amazing deal for a Veranda stateroom (meaning it had a huge balcony) for $499 a person on the Celebrity Reflections Ship that was built in 2012.
I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit nervous and worried that I had just booked a trip on a boat with nothing but 80+year-olds and that was less than diverse. Immediately upon embarkation, I saw that not only was it diverse in terms of nationalities and age, but also Celebrity really caters to my fellow LGBT friends with special events and an all-around inclusive environment.
The ship itself holds well over 3,000 people but it never felt like it which I loved. This is the newest of all the Celebrity ships and I was eager to get on it.
We arrived at the cruise port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 10 am and easily found parking close by for $15 a day. So close by that, the back of our car faced the front of the ship. The check-in process was easy and not crowded at all. In fact, when we walked in, there were several counters open with no customers. We walked right up to one. After that we sat and waited about 45 minutes and before we knew it they began to let cruisers on the ship.
Boarding The Ship
Certain things make or break the experience. For me, it’s the greeting and reception when entering the ship and how grand the foyer is when you walk in. We didn’t enter the ship in the foyer area, but we were greeted with some really great wine. Everyone immediately headed for the elevators right there on that floor, so we took a tip from the Sea Cruisers Youtube channel–which was to walk up a flight of stairs and catch the elevator that is coming down and chances are no one will be on it. It worked!
The Lunch Buffet
On a cruise, embarkation day begins with most folks heading to the lunch buffet to eat while waiting for their cabins to be ready. We did just that and while there was a good amount of people, it wasn’t super crowded. We were easily able to get a table. The food was your normal cruise lunch fare, but above average in presentation. Previous cruise lines I had been on didn’t take the time to always wipe down the buffet making for a not so good look. I noticed Celebrity made sure that they cleaned up spilled food on the buffet and refilled food constantly. You can expect the basics like burgers, pizza, along with a pasta station and other yummy savory dishes.
Our room was huge compared to other cruise lines. I loved having a nice size vanity and a huge bathroom considering most cruise bathrooms are pretty small. The star of the room was actually outside of the room and that was the balcony. You could easily seat four people comfortably on the balcony. It was huge and wide. We spent a ton of time out there napping and enjoying meals and the ocean breeze.
The Rest Of The Cruise
If you’re like me you cruise for the food and the fact that a good portion of your dining is included in your cost. So let me just start out by saying you definitely won’t go hungry as the buffet and the dining room options included are more than enough to suffice your hunger and palette. The Oceanview Cafe buffet offered it’s share of different options with one night even being a Jamaican themed night. We feasted on oxtails, stewed fish, rice and beans and much more. In the Opus dining room you could expect a set menu of options that were available every night, and then a set of options that changed daily. We ate everything from NY Strip Steak to flank steak, shrimp cocktail, and salmon, and the portions were generous.
In addition to the eateries included in your fare, there are also about 8 premium restaurants onboard where you pay a fee. You can see all the fee-based restaurants here. We opted to treat ourselves to a traditional French dinner at Murano’s one evening. The fee was about $50 per person, but that included an appetizer, a palette cleanser, the entree, and dessert plus a selection of fresh cheeses. I also got a glass of wine. We had their popular “Lobster Murano” dish which is made and flambéed in front of you. The decor was dim and intimate and really made you feel like you were in a high-end restaurant in France.
I’ve been on five cruises and Celebrity was hands down the best when it came to cuisine. My only complaint was their dessert options were severely lacking and missing something. Even at the places where you paid, the baked goods didn’t quite scream homemade. For instance, the cupcakes had a whipped icing versus real icing and didn’t seem worth the money. They did, however, have an ice cream area at the buffet. I seen people constantly going to get some so it must have been good.
If you’ve been on other cruise lines you can usually expect lots of daily announcements. Celebrity is for the traveler who doesn’t need lots of guidance or activities and games to keep them entertained. While there is no shortage of entertainment depending on your liking– I would venture to say I found the entertainment to be lacking. A lot of the supposed entertainment was basically with the end game of making a purchase. They do have a great casino and I won $60 which paid for our parking. We did attend one of their shows which was okay and was a medley of songs from Broadway Plays. The singers were pretty good. We also attended their 70’s party which would have been better if the DJ didn’t switch to music made in the 2000’s. Don’t get me wrong I loved the idea of current music, but people came to a 70’s party for seventies music. Once the newer music started playing the party lost its memento. There are 2 nice size pools and even a basketball court for the kids. The kids can also enjoy access to an arcade.
The Boat Itself
The boat was beautiful. One thing I look for on cruise ships is lots of decks, and open areas to see the ocean. I am not a fan of boats where there is a lack of sitting areas and it’s too closed in. Luckily on the Reflection, there were lots of decks, walking space, and viewing areas to see the water.
There is lots of upscale shopping on the boat such as a Michael Kors and Kate Spade store. One of our favorite areas was the hideaway. It literally was hidden and we only discovered when we walked passed some doors which opened out of nowhere. It was filled with hidden nooks and private sitting areas for quiet reading or surfing the web. They also have an Apple Computer lab where you can surf the web, bring your own laptop and even get tips from a certified Apple person.
Cozumel is cool and I’ve been there before. I didn’t take this particular cruise with destination in mind though. It just so happened that the timing and price was right and this is where this cruise was going. Because of that I made no plans to go anywhere specific when we arrived. There are lots of options of excursions to do that you can book on the ship or when you arrive in port. However, keep in mind that if you are late getting back from a ship booked excursion the boat would wait for you. If you book an excursion on the economy and there is a problem or it’s late you are out of luck.
We booked an “on the economy” snorkeling excursion on a glass bottom boat. It cost about $45 a person and included unlimited soda, water, or beer plus the snorkeling equipment. It was a great deal that we easily booked right within the port area where the stores are. Were only in port for one day from about 8am-4:30. Our excursion was only 2 hours so after that, we hopped in the cab line and grabbed a cab to a local restaurant. We enjoyed Margarita’s and fish tacos and then made our way back to the port with still some time to spare. At the port, you can purchase souvenirs and of course wine duty-free.
Getting back on the boat was quick and easy. With 3,000 people you would expect to be waiting but, we only waited about 10 minutes.
As I mentioned earlier quality is important to me. I wanted a ship where the pool wasn’t overly crowded and the atmosphere was less party and more relaxation. I don’t want to give the impression that it was boring because it certainly wasn’t. That said if you aren’t interested in “an all the time” party ship then the Celebrity Reflection is for you.