Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Celebrity Reflection
12/7/13 to 12/14/13

Due to the length of the review, it is in two parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top and bottom of the page.

Page 1  -  Embarkation; Ship Restaurants, Bars, Other Venues and Cabin

Page 2  -  Dining; Entertainment; Activities; Ports of Call

 

Dining ( Link to Menus )
We had early dinner seating in the Opus Dining Room.  We were at a table for four with Craig and Robin; but a table for two was right next to our table; which, in effect, made it a table for six.  The couple next to us were Josephine and Nick from New Jersey.  They were great table mates and just a lovely couple.  We thoroughly enjoyed their company at dinner; as well as other times around the ship. 

     

       Craig and Robin                                                   Josephine and Nick

Our table location was not the best, in fact it was back in a corner at the rear of the dining room.  At first we thought about changing because we wanted Craig and Robin to experience the glamour of the main area.  However, our waiter, Rhys from the Philippines, and assistant waiter, Milos from Serbia, were just outstanding.  Probably two of the best we have had in a while, so we didn't want to give them up.  Rhys was the experienced professional and friendly waiter; and Milos, although very professional, had a mischievous side.  With the combination of great table mates and waiters, we had no desire to change or to go to any of the specialty restaurants on this cruise.

     
Rhys                                                Milos

As usual, the food selection and quality were very good; but we did find ourselves choosing appetizers and desserts from the left side of the menu more often than usual. Those are food choices that were available every day.  Of course that could have something to do with the fact that we love Caesar salad and escargot.  Since we have been on many Celebrity cruises and are familiar with the various dishes, we know which items we prefer and which ones we don’t want to have again.

We were pleased to be invited to the Captain’s Table on the first sea day.  Our host was the Chief Engineer, Manolis Voulgaris from Greece.  He was such a friendly person and he seemed to enjoy having dinner with the group.  We really liked him and were so glad that we had been given the opportunity to share the time with him, as well as the other guests at the table. 

With it being a seven day cruise, we only ate in the buffet a couple of times.  We ate lunch in port twice and one time each at the Porch, Bistro on Five, and Mast Grill.  The buffet was good both times that we did eat there and the selection was quite adequate.

 

Entertainment

We were thrilled to once again have Alexander Yepremian from New York City as our Cruise Director.  We really enjoyed him two months earlier on our New England/Canada cruise on the Celebrity Summit.  He is Celebrity’s youngest Cruise Director and was previously a production singer with Celebrity and Azamara.  He is very friendly and his goal is to meet every passenger on the ship.  Since he was out and about all day and night, he probably accomplished his goal.  On this cruise his mother and father were cruising with him.  Carol got to visit with them for a while in Bacio's, and says it's easy to see where Alexander gets his gracious manner.  I was fortunate to be able to get a photo of Alexander with his mother. 

     

With it being a seven day cruise, other than the Welcome Aboard and Farewell shows, there were only five other shows.  We were surprised that three of them were production shows.  On prior seven day cruises, we only had two.  We therefore only had two individual performers; but they were good ones.

 

Performers –
Pianist Craig Dahn was one of the best musicians we have seen on a cruise.  He was a protégé of Liberace and is a real showman.  At the age of 16, he won a competition among 2,000 pianists; which gave him the opportunity to perform with Liberace for a show.  Liberace later had him perform regularly with him in Las Vegas.  Since he did a Lady Gaga tribute during the Welcome Aboard show where I took photos of him, I didn’t take my camera to the full show a of couple nights later.  I wish I had, since his outfit was something else.  He even had Swarovski crystal encrusted shoes.  If you have a chance to see him, don’t miss it.  He is just outstanding.

     

The other performer was West End star Lindsey Hamilton.  This was the third time we had seen Lindsay and it was basically the same show with the same songs and jokes.  But we still enjoyed listening to her. 

     

Production Shows –

Center Stage – This was a traditional type production show with a mix of singing, dancing and some aerialist acts.  It had more of the Broadway type music, which we enjoy.  The highlighted aerialist, Haley Rose, stole the show.  She was quite talented and would perform some other feats in the other shows.  It is difficult to get decent photos of aerialists and other acrobatic performers, since they are normally moving so fast on stage and the lighting is not that adequate for photos.  So the photos included for the shows are when they have slowed way down.  The same issue goes for the dancers; but they slow down more frequently.

     

       

     

      

     

Momentum – This was advertised as a “blend of different genres of music”.  They were different; but more importantly, we thought the show was not that entertaining.  I am sure some people enjoyed it; but it was not to our taste.  We did enjoy the aerialists and acrobatic acts.  It is truly amazing how these people perform acts requiring so much strength and balance.

     

     

     

     

     

Reflection the Show – The last production show was just outstanding.  The music and dancing included more current rock songs and was quite good.  The show was billed as a Cirque du Soleil type show.  Probably because there were so many different type of acrobatic acts.  The displays of strength and talent were phenomenal.  Haley Rose is also an amazing contortionist. 

     

       

     

      

     

     

     

Broadway@Sea Matinee Show – On the afternoon of the last day of the cruise at 1:00 PM, there was a Behind the Stage Door show in the Reflection Theater.  Several members of the cast were there to answer questions from the audience.  They told about their backgrounds, life on the ship, aspirations, etc.  We had a similar session on our previous cruise and once again I enjoyed getting to know more about the performers that had entertained us.  Unfortunately, some audience members who came in late, asked several of the same questions that had been answered before they got there.

Shortly after the Q&A ended, the Broadway@Sea show started at 2:00 PM.    The performers sang songs from old and new Broadway shows. The singers each picked out their favorite songs they wanted to sing for the show.  They really put their heart into the songs. 

       

     

For the last song, Alexander joined in and sang with all the singers. 

Sin City Comedy Show
This cruise had a late night comedy show from Las Vegas.  It was presented at 11:00 PM on four nights in the Celebrity Central Theater that only holds 200 people.  I had read that we should arrive early, since it fills up quickly.  We arrived a half hour early and by the time the show started, there was standing room only and people couldn’t even get in the door.  They even added a fifth show on the last night at 10:30, since so many people couldn’t see it earlier.  Before the show starts there is a film showing old time Las Vegas along with some comedy sketches from movies.  It is worth getting there early to see.

I believe the Master of Ceremonies name was Donnie Engels.  Since I didn’t see it in print, I’m not sure I got it right.

     

He introduced a burlesque dancer named Vanessa, who does a very tame striptease act.  She ends up with more clothes on than many of the people on the pool deck. 

     

Donnie then returns and he is the first comedy act.  His routine wasn’t very long, but it was funny.  Vanessa then returns for another short dance.  The burlesque really seemed unnecessary; but I guess they were trying to make it more like their Las Vegas show.


Then we had the main attraction, Kathleen Dunbar.  Oh my goodness, was she hilarious!  Her jokes, expressions and whole demeanor were so good.  I just loved her show.

       

The show was well worth staying up until midnight to see.  I don’t know if the same comedians are on every cruise; but if they are, don’t miss them.

 

Activities ( Link to Dailies )

I have attached a page with the Celebrity Today daily paper listing all of the activities for the day.  They can be accessed from the button at the top of each page or by clicking on the above link.

Cruise Critic Celebrity Connections Party - We had a very large group participating in our Cruise Critic roll call, www.cruisecritic.com.  Celebrity sets up an event for ships that have at least 25 people signed up for the party.  The party was scheduled at 10:15 AM on the second sea day at the Sunset Bar.  This was the first time we had ever had one of these parties scheduled at an outdoor venue.  This ended up being a problem, since we had very strong winds for both sea days and the party had to be moved to Cellar Masters.  When I went to the Sunset Bar at the assigned time, there was no one there.  I asked a waiter about the party and he told me the location had been moved.  Since there was no formal announcement of the change, I was surprised that as many people showed up as there were.  We had some of the ship’s officers attend including Captain Athanasios Peppas from Greece.  Cruise Director Alexander was also there.  Since I had arrived late due to the venue change and due to a scheduling conflict of mine, I couldn’t stay very long.

     

Captain's Gala Reception - Prior to the first production show, on the first formal night, was the official welcome to the cruise.  The captain, Athanasios Peppas from Greece, welcomed guests with a champagne toast after introducing the ship's officers.

     

Captain’s Club Events –
The loyalty program for Celebrity is the Captain’s Club.  The Captain’s Club Hostess for the cruise was Ti-Ann from the Philippines.  She was just a very sweet person and very hard working.  I was surprised that she didn’t have an assistant, like we have had on other cruises.  Even though she had her hands full with a lot of work to take care of, she always smiled and went out of her way to help the Captain’s Club members.

     

As Elite members, Carol and I were able to go to the special breakfast each morning in Murano.  It is a very limited light breakfast; but the main benefit, other than a smaller group, is that we can get free cappuccinos or lattes. 

Other beverages are also available for no charge.

Ti-Ann went around the room and made sure that she greeted each person, every morning.  After first meeting someone, she remembered the guest's name and used it when she spoke to you.  She was very impressive in her role, and a credit to Celebrity.

We are also entitled to attend the Elite Cocktail Hour between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM in the Sky Lounge.  A limited selection of free drinks are offered; as well as some appetizers.  It is a very nice benefit.  Since we had early seating, we could only stay until our 6:00 PM dinner seating.  Most nights we just went to the Ensemble Lounge to have drinks with my son and daughter in law, since it was more convenient to the Opus Dining Room.

     

We also took advantage of the private departure lounge.  On the prior cruise, there was standing room only and a long wait to disembark for many people.  On this cruise, the departure lounge was in Tuscan Grille and it was a real pleasure. There weren’t that many people in attendance and it was a comfortable waiting place.  I am sure it was because there were a lot less Elite level guests on the cruise.  Ti-Ann let everyone know when their numbers were called and she assisted where needed.

Beyond the Podium –
I normally like to attend the presentations by guest lecturers.  When cruising in countries I haven’t visited, the lecturers usually provide valuable information about what to see and/or history of where we are going.  For some reason, none of the topics appealed to me on this cruise.  They didn’t seem to be relevant to our ports or of interest to me.  I did go to one for a while and there were less than ten people in attendance; so apparently I wasn’t the only one that didn’t find the lectures appealing.

Bridge Tour –
We have been to many bridge tours and enjoy them.  We were particularly excited about this one, because Ti-Ann had invited my son and daughter to join us.  Since this was their first cruise, we knew that they would be thrilled to get on the bridge.  A staff member told everyone about the many controls and the ship's navigation.  He talked for a long time and everyone was enjoying it.

     

     

I always like to look down to the ocean through the windows on the floor that are near the outer edge of the bridge.  These assist with docking.

The Captain came out on the bridge to check on things and was surprised to find a tour going on.  Carol seized the opportunity and asked if he would take a photo with Craig and Robin since it was their first cruise.  He was happy to do so, and we also got one with Carol.  The Captain quickly left the bridge before others got a chance to ask him for photos.  Smart man!

     

I always like the wide view from the front of the ship that is available from the bridge.  We could also see some of the crew areas under the helicopter pad.       

     

Engine Room Tour –
While at the Captain’s Table, the Chief Engineer told the guests he would send us invitations for a tour of the engine room.  The engine room tour is actually a tour of the engine control room.  Because it is a relatively small area, only nine people at a time are able to tour it.

     

It was interesting to see all the video screens showing the engines and generators, along with others showing other areas around the ship.

     

The Chief Engineer did a very thorough job of explaining the operations of the engine room.  Once again he was such a pleasure to be with.  He teased Carol because she was sitting in his chair.  She told him that she only travels first class.  I took a photo of him with Carol; and then he actually suggested that he take a photo of me at the control panel holding a mouse.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and were most appreciative for the opportunity.

     

Ports of Call

San Juan, Puerto Rico
After almost two full days at sea we were supposed to arrive at San Juan at 3:00 PM.  However, due to the strong winds we had encountered shortly after leaving Miami, we didn’t get to the dock and able to leave the ship until 5:00 PM.  As always, the sail into the Port of San Juan is lovely.  Ships pass by the fort of El Morro as they enter the port area.    After two days at sea, it was especially nice to see beaches, rocks and crashing waves.

     

     

Once we passed by El Morro, we could see the port. Not far from the port was the Castillo de San Cristóbal.  We have not yet visited there and would have had we arrived in port earlier.

     

We also passed by La Fortaleza, which is the official residence of the Governor of Puerto Rico.

I hated that Craig and Robin would have to wait around an extra couple hours; but at least they were going to be able to be on the cruise.  Since Puerto Rico is a territory of the US, we were able to use our AT&T phones to talk with them.  I went up to the upper deck to see if I could see them waiting to board the ship.  Sure enough, we could see each other and wave. 

They had to wait until most of the passengers disembarked before they would be allowed entry into the secure area.  They were very glad to finally be able to start the embarkation process.  Since we had never experienced a late embarkation situation ourselves, we couldn’t advise them as to what was going to happen.  It turned out to be a very easy and well organized process.  Christian the Guest Services Manager and his assistant, Jillian, were waiting for them near the ship entry point.  We had met Christian the prior year on our Hawaii cruise.  Once again he was a pleasure to work with; as was Jillian. They checked ID’s, had them sign some forms and then they were handed their room keycards.  It was a much easier process than we had expected.  Jillian then escorted them to the elevator and answered all of their questions.

     

Since we had been to Puerto Rico many times including land trips, we didn’t get off the ship.  We wanted to spend time with family.  After dinner, I did get off the ship to take the night shot of the Reflection at the beginning of the review.  It is a beautiful ship.

The late night sail away from San Juan isn’t as scenic as in the daytime.  El Morro isn’t lit up very much, so it was a letdown; but there are some other lights to see around the city.  La Fortaleza was particularly nice.

     

 

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
It is always so nice to sail into St. Thomas.  There is so much to look at.  The green mountains seem to get more covered with homes each time we return.  I am sure the view from them is gorgeous; but I had never been higher than ground level during previous visits.  I hoped to have time to find out this time just what the view was like from up above.

     

The other thing that always attracts my attention are the lovely yachts that are normally docked in St. Thomas.  They are quite large and dwarf most of the boats in the harbor area.

Our main destination in St. Thomas is always Imperial Jewelers, www.imperial-jewelers.com .  We have been visiting this same jewelry store for 30 years and trust the owners; which is very important when buying jewelry.  We apparently are not the only people that feel that way, since the store is always packed with people.  They actually doubled the size of the store recently and it is much roomier.  Since we got there early, it was the first time we had seen it without large crowds.  That changed not too long after we arrived. 

     

It has always amazed us how they remember us when we return.  It is like visiting old friends; which I guess they are.  Both Carol and I bought our Christmas presents from Joe, the nephew of the owner Charley, who was still at home.  We were hoping to get to see Charley again, and sure enough, he did come in before we left.

After lunch, Craig and Robin went exploring on their own, Carol went back to the ship and I got to do something I have wanted to do for many years.  I have always wanted to see the view from Paradise Point; but for whatever reason, I have never been able to.  It is high up on a mountain and can be reached by a tram; which is a group of three gondolas that are pulled up on a cable.  The tram is a bit pricey at $21 for a round trip; but it is certainly a more unique experience than just taking a cab.  It had been closed for several months while they were performing maintenance and modifications to the ride.  I had been concerned that I would miss it again due to the maintenance; but it opened a couple of weeks prior to our arrival.  With the Reflection docking at Havensight Mall, it was just a couple of blocks walk to the entrance for the tram.  It is pretty easy to find by looking up and seeing where the cable ends; plus it is hard to miss the large blue building.  I was surprised that there were so many stairs to get up to the platform to board the trams.  It wasn’t a problem for me; but it would be an issue for those with physical limitations. 

           

The cars were quite roomy and the windows were clean; which is important for taking photos and just looking at the beauty as we climbed the mountain. 

     

Since the ride is right in front of where the Reflection docks, the view of it is great.  The further up you go, the view gets even wider.  I was impressed with how large Havensight Mall is when looking down on it.

     

In addition to looking down, the view along the mountain itself is interesting, especially of some of the large homes that are built on the mountain.

Once at the top of the ride, I had to walk down some more stairs to get to the main building.

The main attraction other than the view is their world famous Bushwacker drink.  At least that is what the sign said on their building at street level.  I must say it was quite delicious.  I exercised great self-control in only having one.

     

The view from the top is quite stunning and even better with a Bushwacker in hand.  I now understand why so many people visit Paradise Point.  There isn’t anything to do there other than taking in the beauty; but that in itself is quite enough.

After I returned to the ship, I went to deck 15 to take some more photos before and during sail away.  I couldn’t believe that the Rising Sun yacht we had seen two months earlier in Bar Harbor, Maine was now in St. Thomas with us. It is the 10th largest yacht in the world and was originally purchased by Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison at a cost of $200,000,000.  The 453 foot long yacht has 82 rooms.  It is currently owned by media tycoon, David Geffen.  It is almost half as long as the Reflection.

The sail away was quite nice as the sun was going down.     It had been a nice port day.

     

 

St. Maarten , Netherland Antilles
Once again it looked like we were going to have a beautiful day.  That was important, since we had a tour booked with Bernard’s Tours, www.bernardstours.com.  We had heard about this company on Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor.  They were highly regarded and had great ratings.  The six hour tour only cost $45 per person.  It would cover both the Dutch side we were docked in and the French side of the island.  We would also get to swim in the beautiful blue ocean water.  It sounded like a great way to spend the day.  It was indeed!

We were to meet at the main tourist information center, which was decorated for Christmas. 

I particularly liked the cool Santa in his sleigh.

     

We met our tour guide for the day, DJ Dave.  He prefers to be called DJ rather than Dave.  He actually is a part time DJ and singer.  He had a great personality and knew so much about the island.  We really lucked out, since he was a real pleasure to be with.

The van was larger than we needed; which is always a good thing, so it wouldn’t be too crowded.  It was also equipped with a sound system, so everyone could hear DJ’s conversation.  We originally had 7 people in our group.  Then one couple split off later when they met up with a group that was running late, since they were on a different ship.  Carol had decided not to go on the tour, so it was one other couple joining Craig, Robin and me.  A nice benefit of using Bernard’s Tours is that they provide free cold water, sodas, beer and rum punch from a very cold ice chest all day long.  It was appreciated.

Our first stop was at the Iguana Farm.  The farm was still in the development stage for a major renovation.  Apparently they are upgrading it and putting in other attractions; as well as planting more trees.  DJ said that that after it is completed, there will be an entrance charge. 

There were many iguanas running around, some pretty large.  Since this was scheduled to be just a 5-10 minutes stop, we didn’t get to feed the iguanas.  DJ said many of them hang around in the trees; but they are hard to spot, since they blend in so well.  I did find one good size one resting in a tree.  He blended in quite well and was not easy to spot from a distance.

     

They also had pigs running around the grounds.  A large yellow python and a monkey were in separate cages; but the iguanas were definitely the main attraction.

After returning to the van, we made a quick stop at a scenic overlook just after we got over to the French side of the island.  The French side is the north side of the island.  DJ pointed out the license plate from the Dutch side of the island.  He proudly noted that it said “The Friendly Island” on it.  From everything we had seen so far, it had been quite friendly.

We then drove a short distance to a beach to look around and stretch our legs.  The hills and terrain were different than we had previously seen. 

     

The beach itself was quite scenic.  We climbed up the raised platform to get photos from a higher viewpoint.  The clibmb was worth the effort.

     

     

DJ told us that there was a fellow down by the water that would show us sea urchins and other creatures if we were interested.  Craig and Robin enjoyed learning about them as well as holding some of them. 

     

Our next stop was what we had really been looking forward to, Orient Beach.  It is one of the most popular swimming beaches on the island and we would be staying there for 1.5 hours.  The water color is just stunning. 

     

The cost to rent a chair and umbrella is $5 per person.  There are very few areas on the beach where you can just lay down a towel.  Most of the beach is covered with the chair vendors.  Orient Beach is a clothing optional beach.  Fortunately we were on just the topless area rather than the full nudity side further down the beach.  There weren’t many people participating in that behavior; which was a good thing, since most were well older than me.  There were quite a few people doing the parasail surfing, which looked like a lot of fun.

     

     

The wind was very strong that day and the waves were good sized, so we knew that we would have to be careful if we went in.  But the water was so inviting, we couldn’t resist it.  The water did feel so good and it was just such a lovely color.  We didn’t have to walk in very far before the water got up to our waist.  The waves were quite strong.  After getting knocked down under the water a couple of times, I had my fill.  The waves had won and I would have to just enjoy looking at the water from the beach chair, which was fine with me.

After resting for a bit, I decided to walk down the beach.  I had read that the beach can get very crowded; but it wasn’t too bad that day.  I had seen that a large sail boat was very close to the shoreline with lots of people watching it.  As I got closer, I could see that it was in trouble.  With the strong winds blowing it toward the beach and it’s propeller in the sand, I don’t know how it would be able to get back into open water.  The waves were almost pushing it over sideways.  We didn’t stay long enough to see if it could be rescued.

After we left Orient Beach we headed to the capital city of the French side, Marigot.  We stopped along the road to get photos of where we were going.  DJ described what we were seeing and pointed out a wrecked ship that we would pass by. 

     

The traffic into town was very heavy.  DJ said that there is only one traffic signal on the whole island; but it wasn’t in Marigot.  It was very slow going. 

When we finally stopped, DJ recommended that we go to a French bakery for lunch named Sarafina’s.  Since we only had thirty minutes, we had to rush.  It was a great recommendation. The sandwich and pastry were outstanding.  If I am ever back, I will definitely return to Sarafina’s.

The town itself was quite crowded.  There was a large market area that we just didn’t have time to explore.  We could have shopped rather than eaten; but I know we made the right choice.  There was an unusual statue in the square dedicated to the St. Martin market women. 

We could see Fort St. Louis up on the top of a hill.

After the quick visit at Marigot, we headed for Maho Beach.  This is the famous beach that is located at the end of the airport runway. The beach itself is quite lovely; but it was very steep.  We watched kids, slide down the sand into the water after waves came in.  It looked rather dangerous to us. 

     

The highlight of the day is when the very large Air France jets land, since they are so low that it looks like the people on the beach could almost touch them.  Unfortunately, we would only be able to spend about 40 minutes at that beach.  The plane schedule showed that we would miss any large planes by about 15 minutes.  We sat at the Sunset Bar right on the beach watching a few small planes land.  Then we saw a larger plane approaching.  It was a medium size USAir plane.  It arrived early, so at least we got to see something other than just the small commuter planes. 

     

We got back in the van and made a short scenic viewing stop on the way back to the ship.  It was a harbor on one side and a barren area on the other where a new hotel development is going to be built.

     

While on the last leg of our drive, we passed by a very strange looking cactus.  I don’t know what kind it is; but I had to take a photo of it.

DJ drove real slowly while we were approaching the main town of Phillipsburg so we could get photos.  We could see where the Reflection and other ships were docked.  We also got to see the very inviting beach that is located in the main part of town.

     

We were very pleased with the tour.  DJ had done a great job and we got to see quite a bit of the lovely island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. I will certainly highly recommend Bernard’s tours in the future.  I went back to the ship while Craig and Robin took their last opportunity to search for more souvenirs.

At 5:00 PM, we were on deck 15 once again to watch our last sail away of the cruise.  Thank goodness we still had two more sea days before the cruise was over.  One week cruises just fly by way too fast.

     

Disembarkation

I had read complaints about the disembarkation at the Port of Miami terminal.  There had recently been some major delays and confusion.  We were concerned about it, but since Craig and Robin’s flight was at 2:00 PM, we were not concerned about them missing it.  Our assigned time was between 7:45 AM and 8:15 AM.  We waited in the Tuscan Grille; which was not crowded at all.  It was rather pleasant.  Not the norm for disembarkation day.  We were called to leave at 8:15 AM.  We are used to having our luggage in areas marked off for the group number we had been assigned.  With this terminal, we had to go to an airport type carousel to find our bags.  Since each carousel had numerous numbers coming out, it took some time for our luggage to finally appear.

Then we had to go through immigration and customs.  I couldn’t believe how long the lines were.  It seemed to take a long time; but we were out of the terminal by 9:00 AM; or a total of 45 minutes.  Not miserable; but a lot slower than we are used to.

Recap

We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise on the Reflection and getting to spend time with family.  We normally try to book cruises to visit new and interesting ports.  This time it was nice to be able to just enjoy the ship and not worry about running around trying to see as much as possible.  But probably most of all it was such a pleasure to be able to share the cruising experience with one of my sons.  Now he understands why we love to cruise so much.

 

   

 

 

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