Having spent a few days acclimatising to the weather in Miami, which was unusually cold, we were very happy to embark on a ship heading for the Caribbean. The Port of Miami was extremely busy, as always but, with their experience of embarking (and disembarking) thousands of cruise ship passengers every day, the port authorities had us on board in no time.
We had cruised on Celebrity Reflection before and were keen to compare her in the Caribbean with our experience in The Mediterranean 18 months back, so, just to make sure we made an accurate comparison, we booked into exactly the same cabin. I wish I could say this was part of a master plan but it was actually just a strange coincidence!
The cold weather that we had experienced in Miami was caused by some very, very cold weather in the Northern states of the US and Canada. Our departure was delayed as a result of Celebrity customers who were booked on charter flights to Miami being delayed by some hours.
Unfortunately, the late departure meant that we were unable to make our first port of call in Puerto Rico, although the Captain made a valiant attempt to get us there, ploughing relentlessly forward into a headwind on full power - without success. He said that his bosses in Miami were advising him to miss the port of call due to “operational reasons” but I think that, in reality, the decision might have been based around the amount of fuel we were using!
There was, therefore, nothing else for it but to sit back, relax and enjoy the facilities on board. My first stop was the Barber Shop - for the most expensive and easily the best haircut and shave I had ever experienced. I was massaged, swathed in hot towels, clipped, shaved and moisturised in a session that lasted an hour and made my wife go “Wow!” If I say so myself, I looked a million dollars! Well, a million less the cost of the treatment anyway.
Having been so well spruced up, I joined my equally attractive wife (some would say more so!) for dinner in the Opus restaurant, where we were shown to a table right at back behind a pot plant. Having once been approached at great speed by a fellow passenger feeling a little queasy and looking for a suitable receptacle to relieve her discomfort, I knew this wasn't necessarily a good place to be and asked the Maitre D’ to move us. I’m pleased to say he did, finding us a table in the middle of the action.
When I say action, I mean as far as the fellow passengers were concerned as the wait staff were not giving us anywhere near the attention we had previously enjoyed on this ship. Whether the fact that we did not have our daughters with us was the reason for this I don’t know, but the waiters on Reflection this time around were not the entertainers we were used to. They were efficient and pleasant but just not the same.
If that sounds critical - I must say that, apart from that aspect, just about everything else had improved over our previous sailing. The quality of the food, already up a notch on other cruise lines, was excellent; the entertainment was great; and the bar staff brilliant.
We eventually made landfall in St Maarten on the Tuesday morning of the week following our Saturday departure from Miami. There are two big attractions on St Maarten. Firstly, the shopping had many of our fellow passengers in a frenzy, buying gold and diamonds like they were going out of fashion from the numerous shops in town dedicated to this fine cause. I think most of the big ones pointed out by our cruise ship shopping director were actually owned by the cruise line and, if not, they paid a hefty commission. No matter though, because we were set to experience Airport Beach, which had been on my radar for a while.
Airport beach sits at the end of St Maarten’s international airport runway (You don’t say!) and has been featured on You Tube for a while, as you can almost literally touch the aircraft coming in to land. There is a sign by the beach warning “Danger of Death” but that didn't put off literally thousands of holidaymakers wanting to experience a KLM 747 landing at (very) close hand. A bar that was, presumably, a quiet outpost before the advent of You Tube now does a roaring trade and even posts the arrival times of aircraft coming in from all over the world. Airport beach is free and well worth a visit, believe me.
Back on board we were entertained in the theatre by a Beatles tribute band, although I would have to say the make up artist for “John Lennon” seemed to have got him mixed up with Jimmy Tarbuck! His singing and guitar playing were a lot better than his impersonations though. The audience had a grand old time singing along before being given the opportunity to meet “The Beatles” on the way out. They took an interest in my dusky pink Chelsea boots, which was nice!
Most of our evenings on board were spent at the Martini Bar which features a frosted bar top on which you can while away the hours writing your name and messages of undying love for your wife. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds! Then there is the Molecular Bar that makes drinks and cocktails from unusual ingredients that are served looking like something from an O Level Chemistry lesson but without the Bunsen Burner and Asbestos sheet.
Having first had one of the best meals I have ever eaten in the speciality restaurant, Murano, we emerged into a bar that had been taken over by theatrical group who were, it seemed, performing an unlikely combination of circus and Alice in Wonderland. Perhaps not the best scenario to step into after a couple of bottles of fine wine – I was very confused! The same group re-appeared a couple of nights later leading passengers to dance – in the glass lifts!
A cruise on Celebrity Refection really is an assault on the senses with another speciality restaurant, Quisine, offering fish and chips served in a popcorn box and lots of other ingredients served in the most imaginative way they can think of. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that, because it is a taster menu, you won’t get much to eat. We ended up leaving enough food to feed a small army, certainly enough to feed the British Army without the volunteer element anyway.
Next stop was St Thomas – a beautiful outpost of the US where the citizens trade in dollars, fight for the (well fed) US army but can’t vote in their elections. We took an open taxi ride around the island which was as spectacular as it was bumpy. It dropped us off on a beautiful beach that gave us a chance to relax and get away from the two Swedish couples who had allowed us to be flat packed between them in typical style.
Sadly, after the missed port of call in Puerto Rico, where my wife had booked me on a horse ride in a blatant attempt to get the life insurance paid out, the two Caribbean Islands were the only ports of call we made on this trip. With heads bowed, we walked back to the ship before the reality dawned that were only just over half way through our itinerary. We had two full days and three nights left on board to sample the delights of the Opus menus and the Ocean view Buffet; as well as the numerous other speciality restaurants on board.
If you are a couple looking for a contemporary cruise ship with entertainment aimed fairly squarely at the adult market, without compromising totally on facilities for the whole family, then look no further than Celebrity Reflection. She’s a fine ship and a fine place to spend your holiday.
Get the facts before you go – call 01832 358083!