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Noreen411

Reflection - Review - Ultimate Caribbean - April 2, 2018 - April 13, 2018

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Who are we?

 

I am Noreen. 49 years old and turning 50 on the cruise. I am a Senior Vice President at an Investment Banking Firm in New York City. I will be the author of the report.

 

Scott is my husband. He is 48 years old. He is an Independent Contractor in New Jersey and Co Owner of BounceU in New York.

 

I’m attaching a picture of us so you can put a face to the name. This picture was from our January/February 2018 Cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas.

 

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Note - I am writing much of this review from memory. I sent myself some text messages throughout the trip as little reminders to help me. Between the texts and pictures hopefully I capture almost everything.

 

I write these reports kind of like a journal for myself to look back on. It will have a lot of details, maybe too much detail in some cases. Just wanted to put this caveat out there.

 

 

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History

 

To provide some background...All of our prior cruises have been with Royal Caribbean. We are Diamond Plus in their Crown & Anchor program (the reciprocal benefits make us Elite with Celebrity).

 

This will be our first cruise on Celebrity.

 

Any comparisons I make will be to Royal Caribbean since that is what we know. Most recently we have sailed several times on Anthem of the Seas

 

 

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I’m trying to use Tapatalk on the IPad for this since it should let me add the pictures more easily, but it’s acting a bit odd.

 

In the past I just used the internet version of cruise critic to type, then would add pictures from my phone, then go back and edit.

 

It quoted my whole first post rather than just starting fresh. Then I edited to delete it.

 

Let’s see how this response works...

 

 

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Can't wait to see what you think when comparing Celebrity vs RCL. My wife and I have only done two (Navigator (2) and Oasis (1) RCL ships out of our fifteen cruises and LOVED both classes and while we've never tried Celebrity I'm very curious too see what you thought about the differences and how they're the same?;p

 

Mac

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Planning

 

I knew I wanted to go somewhere fun for my 50th Birthday. I originally wanted to do a cruise to Europe with a port stop in Venice but with my birthday being in April, ships aren’t sailing to Europe yet. I also wanted to go to Alaska but again my birthday is in the wrong month for Alaska.

 

Luckily, Scott’s birthday is in June so I may try to convince him to do either Europe or Alaska next year for his 50th birthday. I am one year older than him.

 

We thought about a land trip to Venice and Paris, with a side trip to Euro Disney (or whatever it’s new name is) since Disney World is my other favorite vacation. I wasn’t as excited about having to do all the packing/moving/planning that a land trip would require.

 

Several people said why not celebrate my birthday a month later when I could cruise to Europe, but as childish as it sounds I want to be away on my actual birthday since it’s a big birthday.

 

I considered a Panama Canal Cruise but was worried I may be bored as I only found an older ship doing this sailing. I like newer ships with all the bells and whistles. Luckily, I didn’t go with this option since the one I would have booked: 4/2/18 on the Infinity was cancelled due to propulsion problems.

 

I considered a regular Caribbean sailing in one of the unique suites on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships but the itineraries are pretty boring. I almost booked a back to back on Harmony of the Seas in one of the Loft Suites, but after thinking about it more was worried that the last day of the first leg would have a different vibe on the ship with most people disembarking the next day, then the sort of wasted turnaround day in Florida. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do so scrapped that idea.

 

I stumbled on the Celebrity Reflection 11 night Ultimate Caribbean cruise when poking around the website in July 2016. The ports are interesting, there is an overnight in Aruba, I’ve never sailed Celebrity and have wanted to. This is looking pretty good. The only suites available were either Sky Suites and Celebrity Suites even almost two years ahead of sailing.

 

We decided to book a Celebrity Suite. The Sky Suite reminded me of the Junior suite on Royal Caribbean which is very nice but something we book normally and I wanted some a little different for my big birthday. The Celebrity Suite reminded me a bit of the Grand Suite on Royal Caribbean which is also a very nice cabin. I was a bit disappointed not to be able to book one of the bigger suites even this far in advance, but figured we would be happy with the Celebrity Suite.

 

On 7/26/16 I spoke with Brenda, my friend and travel agent, and she got us booked. We are in cabin 1126, A Celebrity Suite. There is a special where we got the Go Best promotion with our booking which includes $300 On Board Credit (OBC) fo the cabin, premium beverage packages for both of us, internet packages for both of us, and prepaid gratuities.

 

I also had a Celebrity Passages/Next Cruise certificate from 2012 when Brenda invited me and a few others to tour the Celebrity Silhouette. It was a deposit on a future booking even if you didn’t know what ship you would sail on in the future. This gave us an additional $200 On Board Credit.

 

Random Note - We became Casino Royale VIPs (Royal Caribbean Casino Program) a few years ago. I called Celebrity Blue Chip (their casino program) to see if there are any reciprocal benefits. Unfortunately there aren’t.

 

In late February 2018 (after final payment) I noticed the price for the Celebrity Suite dropped but since it’s as after final payment, our only option was to upgrade. It was late at night when I saw this and Celebrity wasn’t open so I had to wait until the next day. There was a Royal Suite showing as available and I was hoping to pay the difference in price to get it.

 

On Saturday 2/24/18 I texted Brenda about wanting to upgrade and within a few minutes she was on the phone with Celebrity and texting me back. We are now in a Royal Suite - #1241.

 

 

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Planning Continued

 

The Itinerary:

 

The Reflection’s Itinerary is as follows:

Monday 4/2 - Leave from Fort Lauderdale, FL

Tuesday 4/3 - At Sea

Wednesday 4/4 - Grand Cayman

Thursday 4/5 - At Sea

Friday 4/6 - Cartagena Colombia

Saturday 4/7 - Aruba

Sunday 4/8 - Aruba

Monday 4/9 - Curacao

Tuesday 4/10 - Bonaire

Wednesday 4/11 (my birthday) - At Sea

Thursday 4/12 - At Sea

Friday 4/13 - Fort Lauderdale (disembark the ship)

 

Transportation:

 

We live in Northern New Jersey (Bergen County) so originally just figured we would fly to Florida.

 

We also tossed around the idea of flying into Orlando and spending a few days at Disney World, the drive a rental car to Fort Lauderdale to get on the ship.

 

Scott doesn’t like to fly as a passenger.

 

We decided to drive down to Fort Lauderdale and fly home after the cruise.

 

Dining:

 

We signed up for early fixed seating. Since we are in a suite, our restaurant is Luminae.

 

I also pre-booked Murano for April 11 (my birthday) and QSine for April 6. I booked them online using onboard credit in October 2017.

 

After we upgraded to the Royal Suite, we have all the specialty restaurants included so wasn’t sure what happens to those I pre-booked. Also I wasn’t sure how to book any others.

 

I received an email that my reservations for Murano and QSine were cancelled. I called Brenda to ask what happened and she said that since all the specialty restaurants are now included, they cancelled those previously booked and gave me back my on board credit I used. She mentioned that either the Shoreside Concierge or the Concierge onboard will book any restaurants for me.

 

I’m kind of torn about the restaurants. We have enjoyed Coastal Kitchen (the Suite Restaurant on Royal Caribbean) and assume Luminae is similar. We were looking forward to having a regular waiter/waitress who gets to know us. However, trying a bunch of specialty restaurants sounds like fun too. We’ve tried them on Royal already so are very happy in Coastal Kitchen but we don’t know what Celebrity’s specialty restaurants are like yet.

 

Jumping ahead a bit, but when I spoke with the Shoreside Concierge on 3/21//18 I booked some specialty dining for the trip. I know I can change things once on board, but I wanted to get the bulk of it set up. I left several days without a restaurant booked so we could either go to Luminae or add whichever specialty restaurants we like the best.

 

 

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Planning Continued

 

Pre Cruise Hotel:

 

Our last few cruises were all out of Bayonne, NJ so I haven’t had a need for a pre-cruise hotel in years.

 

I did some checking on Trip Advisor as well as Cruise Critic to get recommendations for a Fort Lauderdale pre cruise hotel.

 

Embassy Suites and Hyatt both came highly rated. Unfortunately, both of them were booked by the time I tried to book the night. I tried in November 2017.

 

I received a recommendation for Hilton Marina and that was available so I booked that.

 

In March 2018 I found an available room at the Embassy Suites 17th Street location that was recommended and previously not available. I booked it.

 

I cancelled my reservation at Hilton Marina.

 

Flights/Car Rental:

 

I booked our flight home early January 2018. We will be flying Jet Blue from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Newark, NJ. It’s flight #306 leaving Fort Lauderdale at 12 noon and arriving in Newark at 3:07pm. I booked the Extra Space/Extra Speed Seats 4A and 4B. I like those seats since you get through security quicker, you get to board first, and the seats are a bit bigger.

 

I held off booking the flight to Florida since Scott brought up an interesting idea. He suggested flying down to Orlando on Friday and spending the long weekend in Disney, then drive down to Fort Lauderdale in a rental car to get on the ship. Realizing this is Easter weekend we are talking about, we figured Disney World would be jam packed. This put a damper on that idea. As much as I love Disney, I don’t enjoy it when it’s super crowded.

 

Scott’s next suggestion was to drive to Fort Lauderdale. I think it will just be a really long drive, but he thinks it will be a fun road trip. He was so excited about the road trip, that I even got excited about it.

 

I reserved a rental car with Avis. A big Chevy Tahoe that we will pick up in Paramus NJ (maybe 25 minutes from home) and return to the Fort Lauderdale airport.

 

Our final plan is to drive the rental car to Fort Lauderdale. We will leave Saturday 3/31/18, drive straight through, and arrive in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday 4/1/18. We will stay at Embassy Suites that night 4/1 (which I already booked as a pre-cruise hotel anyway). Monday 4/2 we will drop off the rental car at Fort Lauderdale airport, then take a cab to the pier to board the Celebrity Reflection. When we get off the ship on Friday 4/13/18 we will fly home and plan to use luggage valet so once we leave the bags outside the cabin the last night, we don’t have to worry about them again until they show up at Newark airport.

 

 

 

 

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Planning Continued

 

Entertainment:

 

Our last few cruises have been on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas where you need to book your entertainment in advance. I’m happy not to have to do so for this cruise.

 

Excursions:

 

I emailed Aruba Trikes in June 2017 asking about a sunset tour for Saturday 4/7 when we arrive in Aruba (at 3pm). They recommended the morning tour instead on Sunday 4/8 so we are signed up for that.

 

I emailed Bonaire Cruisers in October 2017 and booked a 2 person golf cart fo runs on Tuesday 4/10

 

I started to think about what to do in the other ports and are leaning towards the following which don’t require any advance reservations:

 

Grand Cayman - Royal Palms at 7 Mile Beach

 

Curacao - Moomba Beach

 

Cartegena Colombia - Explore Old Walled City

 

We aren’t fans of organized tours and prefer to do our own thing.

 

I was also thinking of booking a couples massage on my birthday. Scott hurt his neck recently so decided against the couples massage and told me to just enjoy myself. He wanted me to make it a whole spa day of pampering, but I just wanted the massage. When I spoke with the shoreside concierge on 3/21/18, she booked my massage for me. I booked the 80 minute Canyon Ranch Massage plus the Rivatalizing Foot treatment.

 

 

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Two Weeks Before the Trip:

 

On Tuesday 3/20/18 I received a voice mail and an email from the shoreside concierge asking me to help them make my vacation perfect.

 

It asked for things like what type of alcohol and mini bar set up we want, what special restaurants we want booked, if we want spa treatments. It mentioned that there is a new procedure they are trying where you drop your luggage in a specially designated area and it gets to you quicker. The email also included attachments of copies of some of the specialty restaurant menus.

 

The funny thing is they left a message on my cell phone, and my sister texted me a little later saying she got a call from Celebrity Concierge asking her those questions. My sister is listed as the emergency contact, but I don’t think what beverages I want is an emergency. We got a kick out of it and thought it was pretty funny that they called her.

 

Even though it’s now spring, we’re expecting yet another Nor Easter storm. Le’s hope it’s not too bad. We have stuff to do.

 

I spoke to the Shoreside Concierge, Vanessa and then later Zoe on Wednesday 3/21/18. They were both very helpful and welcoming.

 

I told them what beverages we wanted which they said will be stocked for us, they arranged any specialty dining, set up my massage, etc.

 

I’m going to try to attach the email I received, but it’s in several pieces since I took a picture of it and it didn’t all fit in one picture.

 

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Tapatalk question...

 

It let me include a picture, but it didn’t let me keep adding more.

 

I ended up popping onto the phone to add the additional pictures, but would hoping using Tapatalk I wouldn’t have to toggle back and forth.

 

Any suggestions?

 

Thank you

 

 

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The week before the trip:

 

We did our usual pre-cruise ritual of a fashion show. We both try on various outfits that we want to bring and model them for each other.

 

This usually leads to ordering a few more things on line with rush delivery and maybe a quick trip to the mall.

 

We also started getting some things packed.

 

 

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The day before the trip - Friday 3/30/18:

 

I worked from home today which makes it easier not having to commute from Tribeca (downtown New York City) to Northern New Jersey on Good Friday.

 

When I finished working, I went to the spa to get my manicure and pedicure. I did a shellac manicure so it will last the whole trip and I don’t have to worry about it chipping. The pedicure is a regular pedicure.

 

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Once I got home we finished our packing. We both overpack, but I didn’t think we did too bad this time. We have two large suitcases, a garment bag, and we each have our rolling carry on bags.

 

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We also are packing a duffel bag and cooler bag for the car ride. The duffel bag has a throw blanket, maps, and snacks for the road. The cooler bag will have ice to keep our water, soda, and sliced apples cold.

 

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Edited by Noreen411

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Thanks for doing this review. I’m going on my first Celebrity cruise in December, so this will be interesting.

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What a great review, Noreen!! I loved the “fashion show” part - my husband and I do the exact same thing!

 

We were actually on this cruise as well, so I’m eager to read your review. I’m also very interested in your comparisons between RC and Celebrity. We’ve only cruised with Celebrity, which we LOVE, and I’m so scared to try something else for fear that it won’t measure up.

 

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience.

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Can't wait to see what you think when comparing Celebrity vs RCL. My wife and I have only done two (Navigator (2) and Oasis (1) RCL ships out of our fifteen cruises and LOVED both classes and while we've never tried Celebrity I'm very curious too see what you thought about the differences and how they're the same?;p

 

 

 

Mac

 

 

 

Hi

 

Both have their strengths but I would not hesitate to sail either line.

 

Some of the little differences were things we were more aware of.

 

Thank you

 

 

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Thanks for doing this review. I’m going on my first Celebrity cruise in December, so this will be interesting.

 

 

 

Thank you for joining the thread.

 

We enjoyed our first Celebrity cruise and want to do another.

 

 

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What a great review, Noreen!! I loved the “fashion show” part - my husband and I do the exact same thing!

 

We were actually on this cruise as well, so I’m eager to read your review. I’m also very interested in your comparisons between RC and Celebrity. We’ve only cruised with Celebrity, which we LOVE, and I’m so scared to try something else for fear that it won’t measure up.

 

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience.

 

 

 

Hi

 

Omg I thought we were the only people to do the fashion show. Glad to hear we aren’t.

 

Feel free to chat me in if there is something you saw differently than we did.

 

And how funny will it be if our paths crossed and we didn’t even know it.

 

Since it was our first Celebrity cruise it may be a slightly different perspective than knowing what to expect.

 

I had those same concerns after all my cruises on Royal that we would not enjoy Celebrity as much. You will see all the details, but it was great. Royal Caribbean also has a great product and so many choices of type of ship to choose from. If you want to try and have any questions ask away. Always happy to help.

 

 

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OK Looks like the mountain is back in the cruise critic app so I am going to try posting from here and see what happens

 

 

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The day we start the drive to Florida - Saturday 3/31/18

 

It started as a normal Saturday with going to the gym and running a few errands.

 

Around 11:45am we drove to Paramus, New Jersey to Avis to pick up the rental car. It’s maybe 25 minutes from our house. We were expecting a big Chevy Tahoe, but they gave us a huge Chevy Suburban. OMG this truck is the size of a bus.

 

This was a great idea to pick up the car from a local place rather than the airport. Besides being much closer, it was really quick. The guy working there had us out of there very fast. I drove my car home and Scott drove the Suburban.

 

 

 

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Scott loaded up the big truck with all our luggage.

 

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Everything fit with plenty of room to spare. The bigger bags all in the back back part of the truck. The smaller ones closer to the front. It’s amazing how much room there is.

 

We left the house to begin the drive around 1:30pm.

 

We were crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge a little before 4pm.

 

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We are impressed with the truck. It drives very nicely and has a lot of nice features.

 

 

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Edited by Noreen411

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Saturday 3/31/18 - Driving - Continued

 

As we were getting close to Washington DC, Scott said let’s take a little detour and drive into Washington DC and see the White House.

 

There was tons of traffic in Washington DC. We drove around but couldn’t get anywhere near the White House.

 

We took some pictures of various other sites that we saw.

 

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We were amused by the row of food trucks so we took a picture of that. We like watching various cooking shows and one is about food trucks so we were fascinated by a whole row of them.

 

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Edited by Noreen411

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Saturday 3/31/18 - Driving - Continued

 

After a few hours for the detour to Washington DC, we were back on the road headed south.

 

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We were actually enjoying the drive. Scott was excited about it all along. I was a bit hesitant. So far we are having fun with the drive.

 

 

 

 

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