Do you ever find yourself reminiscing? It’s Throw Back Thursday, #TBT, and I was thinking about some fun scenes from my traveling past like my first trip in Lufthansa First Class. I know those were the old seats, but I really didn’t care.

And then there was this….the cigar lounge. Yes, I was excited….even at 9am.

But there was more, and it had nothing to do with Lufthansa other than they were the airline who brought us to this beautiful ship, Celebrity Reflection.

Taken as we left to explore Venice on 11/5.

Which we then sailed to beautiful and historic places like Ephesus, Turkey.

Celsus Library. I love the blue sky!

And Dubrovnik, Croatia.

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Yes, I’m feeling a little nostalgic this #TBT. The best thing about all of this, I got to experience it because of miles and points. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

-MJ, August 7, 2014

Of the many questions I get on cruising, one of the most difficult for me to answer is the quandary of the solo cruiser. For the well partnered among us, I’ll elaborate. When you see a price for a cruise, it is usually based on double occupancy. If you select “1” for the number of travelers when you book a cruise, you are likely to pay for 2. Of course, this is not always the case, and I have seen some cruise lines offer a cabin for a “single” price from time to time. In all cases, I’ve found those sales accidentally. Further, some cruise ships, NCL Epic comes immediately to mind, are equipped with single occupancy cabins….an innovation which is making an appearance on more ships. And that is a good thing.

Provence, France. Trying out panorama feature on iPhone 4S.

For those times where there is no special pricing or a single occupancy cabin, Celebrity Cruises has introduced a benefit for its Captain’s Club members. If you’re sailing solo you’ll now receive double Captain’s Club points. Here’s the text from an email I just received from Celebrity.

Captain’s Club is happy to announce a new benefit for solo travelers. When you sail with us as a single traveler in a stateroom, you will earn double the amount of Club Points*, based on stateroom category and number of nights sailed. This applies to all sailings on or after July 1, 2014, and to all Captain’s Club members including Preview members.

While I think I might prefer the lower price if sailing solo, that just doesn’t happen very often. At least there’s some recognition here for solo cruisers.

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A poster on Cruise Critic is reporting that Celebrity has introduced a real embarkation day benefit for its Aqua Class guests, lunch/brunch in the Blu restaurant upon boarding. I’ve reached out to Celebrity to see if this is going fleetwide, but have yet to hear back. If so, this is a real enhancement for the Aqua Class product, which I’ve sailed twice and frankly would have a hard time booking another Celebrity cruise in another class of service. Yes, I love the Celebrity Aqua Class experience that much.

Embarkation can be stressful on a large ship, and stress is the one thing that should be most avoided on a cruise. The stress can come from dealing with the masses as they fight their way to the birthright “embarkation lunch” in the buffet restaurant. In fact, MrsMJ and I have taken to lunching at a favorite Miami restaurant prior to boarding our last few short get-away cruises and skipping the madness entirely, or if we are boarding a ship with alternatives to the buffet that are open on embarkation day we head there, even if it’s a restaurant with an upcharge.

Assuming this possible change for Aqua Class guests goes fleetwide, it’s one more reason to book an Aqua cabin with Celebrity.

-MJ, May 16, 2014

I really enjoy cruising with Celebrity, and they have rolled out a very tempting offer for anyone thinking of booking a cruise soon.

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Celebrity’s “1-2-3 go” promotion is back. With this package, if you book a cruise you can choose one of the following offers:

  • Classic beverage package for two (which can be worth almost $100 per day)
  • Free pre-paid gratuities
  • Up to $300 in on board spending money ($100 for a 3 to 5 night cruise, $200 for 6 to 9 night cruise, and $300 for a 10 night or longer cruise)

It’s hard for me to say which of these is the best deal. Depends on the itinerary, the length of the cruise and individual preferences. I do like the choices offered. Are you booking a cruise soon?

-MJ, November 29, 2013

Celebrity Cruises has announced some major changes to its loyalty program, Captain’s Club. The highlights of the changes are:

  • The addition of two new elite levels, Elite Plus and Zenith
  • New benefits depending on your elite level like discounted internet, laundry services, and drink packages
  • Pretty big changes in the way you accrue points towards elite status

Captain’s Club will now include six levels of status.

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I think the biggest change is in how Celebrity will now calculate the points needed to attain elite status. Previously, this was awarded based on cruise credits – one cruise = one credit with bonuses for higher tier stateroom accommodations, etc. Now, the points system will be reflective of both the level of stateroom accommodation and the number of nights spent on board according to Celebrity as below:

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For those exploring the Galapagos Islands aboard Celebrity Xpedition, points earned are as follows:

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Now, the new elite levels.

Elite Plus members will receive enhanced recognition including:

  • Complimentary 200-minute Internet package
  • Complimentary cappuccino, latte and espresso
  • 10% discount on any Beverage Package
  • 15% discount on any Specialty Restaurant
  • Private shipboard departure lounge with continental breakfast
  • Access to a coffeehouse style breakfast and Evening Cocktail hour
  • Invitation to the Elegant Tea event
  • Complimentary access to Persian Garden (on one port day of your choice, while the ship is in port)
  • Two complimentary bags of laundry (wash, dry, fold) on all Celebrity cruises
  • Complimentary dry cleaning of one item
  • Ability to enroll in Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society Diamond Level (Elite status reciprocity which I covered here)

Please click here to read the latest terms and conditions as well as any disclaimers.

Zenith members, Celebrity’s new top tier, will receive an impressive array of benefits:

  • Access to Michael’s Club Lounge, including Embarkation Day
  • Complimentary 1600-minute Internet package
  • Complimentary laundry
  • Complimentary Beverage Package
  • 25% off Specialty Dining
  • Priority Seating in Theater (on formal and production show nights, seats released 10 minutes prior to curtain call)
  • Priority embarkation while the ship is in port
  • Upgraded bath amenities
  • Complimentary lunch at Bistro on Five (when sailing consecutively)
  • Complimentary Extend Your Stay (where available stay onboard longer on disembarkation day)
  • Complimentary Luggage Valet service from ship to final destination airport (where available, airline fees still apply)
  • Upon reaching the Zenith tier, Captain’s Club will make a charitable donation in the member’s behalf
  • Upon reaching the Zenith tier, receive a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise (in a Veranda stateroom only)
  • At 6000 Club Points and every 3000 Club Points thereafter receive a complimentary 7-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise (in an AquaClass®stateroom)

Click here for the latest details from Celebrity on their highest level of elite recognition.

MJ’s Take

While I tend to favor the KISS method in anything, including loyalty, I applaud Celebrity for managing to remake their program, enhance benefits for its most frequent customers, and not take anything away from existing customers at lower elite levels. Enhanced internet, and complementary beverage packages at the Zenith level are a real perk in my opinion and I really love the idea of Michael’s Club lounge access on embarkation day for Zenith level customers. If only I could cruise more! :)

What’s your take on the new program?

-MJ, November 26, 2013

Celebrity Cruises is offering some pretty decent deals on peak summer season (June – August) European cruises in 2014, including 50 percent reduced deposits. If you book suite class accommodations, you will be eligible for $999 airfare from a number of airports across the USA and Canada. You can view eligible sailings online, but you must book via telephone with Celebrity or through your travel agent. Click here for details.

I’m a fan of the 10 and 11 night Celebrity Reflection itineraries from Rome. :) You can read my review of Celebrity Reflection here.

-MJ, October 8, 2013

Introduction — Status Matters – A New Cruising with MJ Series

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Carnival

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Disney

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with NCL

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Princess

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Holland America

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Celebrity

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status with Royal Caribbean

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status Reciprocity with Affiliate Brands

Cruising with MJ – Elite Status Summary

Blogger’s Note: Since this information was posted, Celebrity has announced a revision to its program including the addition of two new elite status levels and a remake of the way points are earned to qualify for elite status. MJ on Travel covered the changes here.

Celebrity Cruises has a history of attentive service and fine dining. Now a division of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., the company continues its focus as they put it on “stunning ships, and inviting onboard experiences for vacationers who appreciate the finer things.” I can vouch for that as two of my three Celebrity cruises have been aboard the line’s beautiful Solstice Class ships, Celebrity Equinox, and Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity’s newest vessel.

Celebrity’s loyalty program is the Captain’s Club, and you can join after your first cruise with Celebrity. Unlike most lines nowadays, who award status based on nights at sea, Captain’s Club members earn tier credits beginning with a base of one per cruise. Members can earn an additional credit by sailing on voyages of 12 nights or longer (including cruise tours), and by booking a Concierge Class, AquaClass, or Suite stateroom.

Captain’s Club members enjoy three levels of elite status, Classic, Select, and Elite, that are awarded based on tier credits earned.

Classic members enjoy a basic level of benefits including an “exclusive Captain’s Club celebration” onboard, onboard discounts, and a one category upgrade. Select members enjoy all of the Classic benefits with the addition of complimentary pressing of two items, discounts on laundry services, discounts on internet packages, an exclusive onboard cocktail party, and priority embarkation.

Celebrity’s top tier elites are known as just that, Elite. Elite status members receive a very respectable level of benefits. My personal favorites of 90 minutes of complimentary internet, and one complimentary (wash, dry, fold) laundry bag per sailing. You can follow the red arrow to free drinks in the evenings too. :)

You can review all of the Elite member benefits here. Importantly, Captain’s Club Select members enjoy elite reciprocity with Royal Caribbean at the Platinum level, while Elite members are rewarded with Diamond status at Royal Caribbean. Elite status reciprocity is something that I will cover in its own post very soon.

In summary, Captain’s Club is a solid loyalty program. Based on “per cruise” tier credits, and with only three elite tiers, it’s also a bit of an outlier in that is both rewarding and remarkably uncomplicated. Elite status reciprocity with Royal Caribbean is just icing on the cake.

Blogger’s Note: Since this information was posted, Celebrity has announced a revision to its program including the addition of two new elite status levels and a remake of the way points are earned to qualify for elite status. MJ on Travel covered the changes here.

As you are probably aware, MrsMJ and I completed a 14-night cruise aboard the beautiful new Celebrity Reflection back in November. I posted a bit of an initial review at that time, and have since posted some additional photographs from our cruise. With my “Ultimate Word on Celebrity Reflection” post, I’ll be bringing everything into one cohesive tome, for your review and perusal prior to what I expect will be an enjoyable cruise should you choose to book Celebrity Reflection.

Getting to the Port of Venice Cruise Terminal

In celebration of MrsMJonTravel’s birthday, we actually traveled to Italy a few days early where we spent one night in Rome, followed by 3 nights in Florence. We spent our time in Florence at the beautiful Hotel Alessandra. Our time there was spent enjoying Florence, and my birthday gift to MrsMJ, a private tour of Tuscany including a wine tasting arranged by our fabulous Virtuoso Travel Agent, Michelle, at McCabe World Travel in McLean, Virginia. After three great days in Florence, the time had finally come to head to Venice and the beautiful Celebrity Reflection.

We arrived in Venice via Trenitalia and proceeded outside the station. If you turn right, and walk across the bridge towards the Piazza di Roma, you will see signs directing you to the People Mover. For 1 Euro per person, you can then ride the People Mover (which is simply a tram system), to the Maritima Cruise Terminal stop. From there, it is a 5 minute walk to the terminals. It was raining the day we arrived, so we elected to wait for the Celebrity provided bus to transport us the remainder of the way to the ship. If I had it to do over, I would have walked in the rain and avoided schlepping onto the bus with the 50 other people….rain or not.

In any event, we were in front of the terminal soon enough. There was a small line to drop off your luggage, and then we entered the terminal. Once upstairs, it was obvious that we were not the only ones to have arrived early. It was a bit of a chaotic scene as the queues were jam-packed with people. I’m not certain if they were late beginning check in because the Italian immigration authorities were slow to clear the ship’s disembarking passengers or not, but it did appear that way. MrsMJ would opine that since we are 2 for 2 on semi-chaotic embarkations in Italy, it must be an Italian thing.

We were directed to a sitting area, where we remained for about 15 more minutes before the check in lines began to move. Once they did, we were processed fairly quickly, and then went on to security. There was a bit of a wait as the gangway was backed up with passengers, but I would estimate the whole thing took no longer than 10 minutes. And we finally stepped onto the ship. I found my previous Solstice Class experience to be very impressive. Simply put, these ships are beautiful, and Celebrity Reflection continues that tradition. Elegant, stunning, and cool. Three words that don’t necessarily fit in the same sentence, but all of which accurately describe Celebrity Reflection.

Celebrity Reflection, the last of 5 Solstice Class ships rounding out the Celebrity fleet represents a few firsts as well. In comparison to earlier ships, Reflection is one deck taller. And most important to me, Reflection also introduces Celebrity’s first Aqua Class Suites. This is important because I booked one of those suites for MrsMJ and me. :) I would say the biggest difference between the Suite and a standard Aqua Class room is the size. Our room was noticeably more spacious than the standard Aqua Class room we enjoyed on our Celebrity Equinox cruise in the summer of 2010. We enjoyed a full-size sofa, ample closet space, large bath with tub, and a butler. Yes, a butler. Here are a few pictures of the room.

Around the Ship and a Few of MJ’s Favorite Things

I have never found myself lacking for things to do on a cruise ship. Our itinerary was particularly port-intensive, which made for a slightly less relaxing, but incredibly enriching cruise. More on the itinerary later. First, let’s talk about the ship. As I mentioned earlier, Celebrity Reflection is the final Solstice Class ship to be delivered to Celebrity. I find these ships particularly elegant, and aesthetically pleasing to the eye, both inside and out. Reflection includes the first Reflection Suite, which looks like a destination itself. No, I didn’t get to visit, but that cantilevered shower looks pretty awesome! I suppose I could settle for one of the Signature Suites if I had to! :)

Let’s discuss what I did get to personally enjoy. Since we booked Aqua Class, we enjoyed dining in Blu. Reserved exclusively for Aqua Class guests (suite guests can be accommodated on a space available basis), Blu features “healthier” “spa” cuisine, but healthier did not equal less tasty. Frankly, I’ve never been as impressed with food on a cruise ship as I was with Blu on Celebrity Reflection. Delicious food with impecable service. Suffice it to say, we loved Blu! On the downside, while I was not impacted, probably because we tend to eat late, there were reports of overcrowding in Blu on our particular cruise. Again, I did not experience it, but I know it happened. I’m sure our 8:30pm and later dining times were the reason we never had any issues.

We were also able to enjoy other specialty restaurants during our cruise including Lawn Club Grill, Murano, Tuscan Grill, and Qsine. All were wonderful in their own right, but Tuscan Grill was our favorite, followed by Qsine. Tuscan Grill featured wonderful pastas, great steaks, and fabulous service. We liked it so much, we visited twice, and requested the same server.

I suppose Celebrity’s typical crowd is a bit past the all-night clubbing phase, so another change for Reflection is the lack of a disco/nightclub space. MrsMJ and I had to improvise, and we had no trouble doing so. Our favorite nightspot on the ship was the Martini Bar. It’s a beautiful space with an ice covered bar, and best of all, great martinis!

In a tie for favorite spaces is the MJ’s Cellar Masters Wine Bar. A quiet spot, that was rarely crowded (wine tastings excepted) I really liked the comfortable atmosphere, and of course, the wine.

While I didn’t spend much time there, I really enjoyed what Celebrity has done with Michael’s Club. Michael’s Club features a really great selection of craft beers and other libations. The atmosphere is sedate, but just right for an evening after dinner. Hey, what can be wrong with a cruise ship bar that sells Dogfish 90 Minute IPA?!?! That’s right, not a thing!

One more favorite thing, Molecular Bar where the drinks are works of art.

There is so much more to write about that I doubt I could ever cover it all in one blog post. Frankly, 14 nights was not enough for me to visit every single space on the ship and enjoy the fabulous ports of call as well. Pool time is an important part of cruising, and Celebrity Reflection has a wonderful pool deck. Unfortunately, it was November in Europe, so the weather just wasn’t what anyone would consider pool weather. That didn’t stop me from snapping a few pictures though.

The solarium pool is very popular because it’s inside and warm during cool days!

There’s also the Lawn Club, and some really huge chairs. :)

Reflection features Alcoves on the Lawn Club as well that can be reserved for a fee of $99 dollars per Alcove in port, and $149 dollars per Alcove on sea days. I only witnessed one being used during our cruise, but I could see a market for them in warmer weather. They can be reserved online in advance of your cruise.

If you have any questions about areas of the ship or activities not depicted here, feel free to comment to the post or send me an email. I will gladly answer any question I can.

The Itinerary

Our fabulous itinerary was packed with ports. Depending on your perspective, that can be a good or a bad thing. In a perfect MJ world, a cruise like this would feature one sea day for every day in port. None of these are your typical port that I’ve visited half a dozen times. These were the kinds of places you really wanted to see! As a result, I found this cruise to be less restful than many I have taken. That is not a complaint, it is simply the truth of the cruise. It wasn’t labeled a 14-night Mediterranean Empires cruise for nothing. That said, I was truly envious of those who were continuing on to Miami (and there were hundreds) for the trans-Atlantic repositioning that featured 8 days at sea. That may sound tortuous to some, but frankly sounded awesome to me. I needed the time off. Maybe next time.

In order to avoid creating the world’s longest blog post, I will link to my blogs on each port where applicable. If there was no separate blog post for the port, I will link to my pictures. Our itinerary was as follows:

Day 1 – Venice

Day 2 – Venice

Day 3 – Dubrovnik, Croatia

Day 4 – At Sea

Day 5 – Rhodes, Greece (Cancelled, and spent at sea)

Day 6 – Kusadasi, Turkey (Ephesus)

Day 7 – At Sea

Day 8 – Athens, Greece

Day 9 – Valletta, Malta

Day 10 – Catania, Sicily

Day 11 – Naples and Capri

Day 12 – Rome

Day 13 – Livorno (Pisa)

Day 14 – Provence, France (More Pictures Forthcoming)

Disembarkation in Barcelona, Hotel Arts – Barcelona

Miscellaneous Items of Interest to Cruisers

This cruise, like all other Celebrity itineraries offered inclusive drink packages for sale. We don’t blink an eye at purchasing Celebrity’s Premium Drink Package. It is an investment of sorts, but I love not having to sign for every single drink you buy, and it makes your total cruise cost more predictable. As far as time in port, we booked a mix of ship-sponsored excursions, private tours through our travel agent, and touring on our own. Do what you are comfortable with, but if you can manage it, a private tour is a truly enriching experience, especially in places like Ephesus and Rome. Celebrity does offer youth programs, and there were younger people on our cruise, just not many. Most were pre school age that I saw. As DINKs, MrsMJ and I are not qualified to speak to the quality of Celebrity’s youth programs, but you can read about them here.

Nobody’s Perfect

OK…with great ports, great service, and a glowing review, it can’t all be that good, right? Well, actually it can, but there were a few hiccups along the way, some I was impacted by, and some I just heard about. Port security in Venice was interesting. On day 2, returning to the ship for sail away from Venice, there was a security setup by the port outside the ship. One mobile x-ray for nearly 4,000 guests. We returned early and didn’t really have a problem. Others were not so lucky and I heard the line got really long. To top things off, you had to go through security again onboard the ship.

From my perspective, the biggest service issue during the cruise was a mechanical issue that developed during the night when we were sailing towards Rhodes. The Captain called it a “technical problem” but it was later learned and reported online that the issue was electrical. Long story short, we had to sail slower than planned, which is why we missed Rhodes, and continued directly to Kusadasi. It also made us late into Valletta, so we missed out on our self-purchased Hypogeum tour tickets. That is an important reminder about touring on your own and your contract of carriage with the cruise line. In reality, they aren’t responsible for stopping at a particular port. If we had booked that tour through the cruise line, our tickets would have been refunded. Since we did not do that, we were on our own. We did have travel insurance, but the price of the tickets vs. the use of my time to file a claim just is not worth it in this case. Frankly, beyond these two things, the problem did not impact our cruise, though it did make for an extra sea day on the trans-Atlantic cruise. If there is one thing that I would have changed about the whole experience, it would have been this.

The folks traveling on the trans-Atlantic crossing did not find out until the day before that the problem would impact their sailing, deleting one port and adding a sea day. It just struck me that there was, in my opinion, a lack of information about the problem. Granted, not everyone is a junior wannabe sailor like myself, so maybe I was the only one looking for a better technical understanding of what happened. There were complaints of crowding at Blu, and some didn’t like the crowds at the Captain’s Club evening receptions either. You can read all about those with a quick search on Cruise Critic. I’m sure these issues were experienced by some, just not by me. Otherwise, I can’t think of a thing that Celebrity could have done better.

The Bottom Line

Celebrity Reflection is currently sailing 7-night Caribbean cruises before returning to the Mediterranean this spring for the summer sailing season. We enjoyed a phenomenal cruise on Celebrity Reflection. A beautiful ship, fabulous itinerary, and great service. I really did want to stay on board for the trans-Atlantic crossing! :) I would jump at the chance to sail Celebrity Reflection again. Enjoy your cruise!

- MJ, January 21, 2013

Look no more. Celebrity Cruises is advertising a Double Your Gift Card holiday offer. If you purchase a gift card from Celebrity, they will match the value of the card up to $500 dollars depending on the length of itinerary if the gift card is used to book a cruise by January 31, 2013. For itineraries of 4 to 7 nights, Celebrity will match up to $200 dollars. For itineraries 8 nights or longer, they will match up to $500 dollars. Purchase your Celebrity Cruises gift cards by December 31, 2012, online or by calling 800.305.9153. Other terms and conditions viewable here.

Updated with more pictures.

I posted a bit of a mini review/initial impressions of Celebrity Reflection here. I included a few photos in that post. Since then, I have managed to upload more photos. Rather than wait until I complete my comprehensive review, I thought I would get the photos I have ready online now for those of you that are interested. My photos are organized by port of call, with a couple of specialized folders containing ship pictures, restaurants, etc. Here’s what I have so far. I will update the links as I get the photos ready to go, and include the index in my overall review. In the meantime, if you have any questions about Reflection, please comment to the blog, or email me. I’ll be glad to tell you what I think. We had a great cruise and really enjoyed Reflection.

Photos of Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity Reflection Specialty Restaurant – Qsine

Celebrity Reflection – Dubrovnik, Croatia

Celebrity Reflection – Athens, Greece

Celebrity Reflection – Valletta, Malta (Don’t laugh at our choice of a walk on/walk off bus) :)

Celebrity Reflection – Catania, Sicily

Celebrity Reflection – Naples and Capri

Celebrity Reflection – Rome

Celebrity Reflection – Livorno (Pisa)

Celebrity Reflection – Provence, France

Post Cruise – Barcelona

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.