Every day’s a school day for Alyson McIlroy from Oasis Travel Lisburn as she boards the fabulous Celebrity Reflection for a unique ‘Seminar at Sea’.
Occasionally (and I do mean ooccasionally!) we travel agents get to sample whwt we sellm but we're a hard bunch to impress. I recently enjoyed a specialist, week-long seminar and familiarisation trip on board the Celebrity Reflection ... and was blown away by perfection afloat.
The 7 night Western Caribbean cruise took in Cozumel, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Labadee, kicking off in style with a Business Class United Airlines flight to Miami and a pre-departure night at the gloriously high end Turnberry Isle Resort: a 30 minute transfer. Set on 300 acres of tropical gardens with two golf courses the hotel provided a wonderful chance to relax after the long flight and the chance to explore Miami in a day! I started with an all-American gourmet breakfast at the wonderfully hip 1 Hotel South Beach, an upscale beachfront hotel right in the heart of all that’s happening; then it was off to Bayside marketplace for the ‘Thriller Experience’ speedboat tour of the bay and Star Island to see how the other half live, followed by lunch at the Hard Rock Café in Bayside. By boarding time I felt like a real celeb, but the best was yet to come!
Celebrity Reflection is designed to wow and that’s just what it does, from facilities to service.
This is a ship for all ages, from young families (the Fun Factory and X-Club have activities for 3 to 17-year-olds) to older couples, all attracted by its relaxed American vibe, good food and modern décor. Expect a majority Americans during the winter, when it’s sailing the Caribbean, but a mix of European, plus plenty of Britons and Americans during Mediterranean summer seasons. Celebrity has always been a popular choice with Northern Irish cruise aficionados and that will only increase as, from 2018, it adds Dublin departures to its attractions.
There are 1,523 spacious, well-equipped and air-conditioned cabins and suites, from 183 sq ft for an inside to 194 sq ft for an AquaClass or Concierge Class room.
There are a vast range of accommodation options on board, each with associated benefits and value-added extras –so sit down with your agent to weigh up what best suits your aspirations and budget.
The new Reflection Suite is the biggest room on any Celebrity ship and the only one with two bedrooms and balcony. It also has an all-glass shower that extends over the side of the vessel (don’t worry: you can see out, but no-one can see in!) and amazing floor-to-ceiling windows in its chic dining-cum-living room.
Signature, Royal and Penthouse Suites also pack a punch: they come with butler, outsized flat-screen TVs and a host of benefits including priority check-in and disembarkation. Benefits for AquaClass passengers include access to the Persian Garden thermal spa and fine dining options.
I had an airy inside stateroom stylishly decorated in calm neutral colours, with plenty of storage space, and fabulous finishing touches. The famous Celebrity attention to detail is everywhere: evidence of commitment to excellence and unparalleled customer care.
Entertainment on board ranges from theatre shows, jazz on the lawn (yes a real lawn!), bands, singers and pianists in the atrium and Ensemble Bar to dancing the night away in the Sky Observation Lounge. I loved the comedy club, movies under the stars, the silent disco and even karaoke (no I didn’t sing) with something to suit everyone. There’s an Internet café and super onboard shopping, while children are well catered for too, with kids clubs enjoying ‘autism friendly’ status. There’s an early dinner club for kids, plus (at extra cost) a late slumber club and baby-sitting service.
Celebrity Reflection has a massively expanded spa with thermal suite and new fitness rooms for Flywheel, the latest fitness craze, which involves exercising on bikes in the dark to loud music! Or try TRX training, which uses suspension cords for a full body workout! The two pools are fantastic and beautifully designed.
Dining is traditionally a major cruising attraction and Celebrity Reflection has enough choice to impress even the best-travelled gourmet. The Opus dining room covers two decks: serving breakfast, lunch and a choice of fixed or open dining, while, for a casual alternative, the Oceanview Café is open for buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner; the AquaSpa Café offers light breakfasts and lunch and the Mast Grill serves burgers, hotdogs and fries from noon to 6pm.
The Porch, on the lawn, is a relaxed spot for snacks, or you could try Café al Bacio and Gelateria for speciality coffee and Italian ice-cream. Both carry an extra charge.
There are five alternative dining venues – Murano for gourmet Mediterranean dining, the Tuscan Grille steakhouse, the Lawn Club Grill on the top deck for pizzas and grilled meats, Qsine for various familiar dishes served in quirky ways, and Bistro on Five for made-to-order savoury and sweet crepes. Blu restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner for passengers in AquaClass cabins and suites only.
While at sea Champagne High Tea is served in Murano by white-gloved stewards: an extravagance perhaps, but a touch of luxury that you are sure to remember.
The bars are every bit as tempting, whether you are popping the champagne corks or sipping a mocktail - great spots to socialise.
Having benefited from guided tours and professional insights from the amazing team at Celebrity Cruises, I was super-impressed – just give me a call and I’ll share my insights. In the meantime here are my 6 Top Tips: