Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Reflection Cruise Review
Newest of Celebrity's fab five, Reflection seduces in many ways, but a few evolutionary changes were disappointing
Ranging from small, tapas-style meals to full-on dining experiences, Celebrity Reflection offers 12 different restaurant options—an impressive array we struggled to stay on top of during the course of a one-week cruise. Four of these are headliner attractions requiring surcharges that range from $35 to $45 per person, and although each offered relatively good meals, a couple of these options seemed overpriced; two others are quiet cafés where a $5 add-on buys a subdued setting and a few food items not found elsewhere on the ship.
But our meals in the main dining room—Opus Restaurant—were consistently satisfying, and the ship’s buffet venue—Oceanview Café—offered an excellent selection, so the fancier alternatives need not be a priority. For those who wish to try the various surcharge venues, note that discount packages were readily available at the start of our cruise.
Like its counterparts on the other Solstice Class ships, the main dining room on Reflection is a handsome room cast in silver and white tones. The two-story venue is dominated at one end by a silver and glass wine tower (though, curiously, we never saw any waiters inside).
Overall, we had good meals here—only a few dishes missed the mark. One side of menu remains unchanged throughout the cruise, with a series of popular items: shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad (available with chicken or salmon), French onion soup, broiled salmon, grilled New York sirloin, chocolate cake, apple pie à la mode, and crème brûlée.
We chose most of our dishes from the right side of the menu, which changed nightly. Starters we enjoyed included a bay scallop and shrimp ceviche served with fried plantains and avocado, a classic wedge salad that was nice and crisp, and a dollop of saffron risotto graced with a scallop and pair of shrimp. There was a double-baked blue cheese soufflé topped with red onion marmalade that was rich and decadent (we skipped dessert that night!). There was a fine salade niçoise, hearty enough for a light entrée, and we enjoyed the shaved prosciutto and arugula salad. The “vine ripe” tomato and red onion salad with blue cheese was a letdown, sunk by flavorless tomatoes; we shouldn’t have bothered with Caprese salad another night, which was similarly unimpressive.
Entrées that stood out included a grilled snapper filet served atop a perky stew of chorizo and garbanzo beans, and we loved the brussel sprouts that accompanied a competently prepared rib eye. The Caribbean lobster on the second formal night was a pair of smallish tails that were reasonably succulent. Perhaps our favorite dish was the sesame-crusted tuna steak, served with sticky rice and steamed bok choy—nothing groundbreaking, but a delicious lighter meal.
Desserts were a little more hit-and-miss. The petite banana fondant was nicely played, and the warm chocolate lava cake packed a predictable wallop. But the plate of “domestic and imported” cheese was totally unimpressive—little better than pre-sliced sandwich slices—and we found the panna cotta bland.
There were no surprises on the breakfast menu, but a good array of options was available. There were eggs cooked to order—poached, scrambled, fried, omelets, plus eggs benedict and a Greek frittata. We tried the fruit plate—melon, pineapple and grapes—and found it okay. Oatmeal was fine, and our server retrieved some whole walnuts to accompany the raisins and brown sugar. There was broiled Scottish kippers and steamed smoked haddock, along with French toast, banana pancakes and Belgian waffles. On the last sea day there was brunch, an inviting spread replete with sushi bar and chocolate fountains. Lunch on sea days was definitely worth trying, uncrowded and unhurried.
We opted for Celebrity Select dining plan for our cruise, meaning we could have dinner any time between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. (traditional dining seatings were at 6 and 8:30 p.m.). Thankfully, there were plenty of two-tops available, so we never waited more than 5 minutes to be seated. Breakfast was served from 8 to 9:30 a.m. daily (earlier on disembarkation day), with one sea day devoted to the elaborate brunch buffet from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch was available on the other sea days from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m.
While not everything we tried at the Oceanview Café was worth writing home about, we think it ranks as one of the best buffet spreads offered among the mainstream cruise lines. It’s not just a great variety of food, but the serving area is spacious and well designed, so that even at peak hours we didn’t find ourselves struggling through a crowd to fill our plate. Although the selection changed little at breakfast, for lunch and dinner it generally took several minutes to canvass the many separate food stations available. There was sufficient seating inside that we didn’t have too much trouble finding a table, and a small aft deck had a couple dozen more tables when the weather cooperated.
For breakfast all the traditional fare was available, including fresh as well as stewed fruits, eight different cereals, cooked-to-order omelets and eggs Benedict, and a griddle pouring out Belgian waffles, pancakes and French toast. Other fare included corned beef hash, a carving station (ham), cold cuts and cheeses, blintzes offered with whipped cream, blueberries and strawberries. There was a good variety of breads—white and whole-wheat options, bagels and pastries. Fresh squeezed orange juice was available (at a surcharge).
The lunch spread included a pasta station with various toppings that could sautéed, a pizza station serving deep-dish pies and a well-endowed salad bar—all of these remained open till 1 a.m. nightly. There was also a sandwich station, with various breads and spreads. Among the hot items we tried were turkey picatta, braised beef in red wine, warm quinoa with wilted spinach, and there was a carving station that changed daily. Ethnic stations included such fare as dal makhani, vegetable curry, and chicken chow mein. For dinner, the selection was similar to the lunch offerings, if somewhat smaller, and with the addition of a sushi bar.
The dessert choices were most varied at lunch, with baked goods, pastries and more; the ice cream bar was scooping throughout the day and into the evening, with toppings ranging up to M&M size (and open till 10 p.m.).
A beverage station included complimentary coffee (definitely not Starbucks quality here), tea, and fruit drinks, available 24 hours. At breakfast a waiter circuited the seating area with a cart offering refills; at lunch, lemonade arrived on the scene. A bar located near the main entrance to the buffet had the ship’s standard bar selection. Additionally, “Mini Decanters” (355 ml) of white or red wine were available for $9.95, and a few cocktails were offered at breakfast, including a mimosa, a bloody mary and a pina colada, for $6 each.
Breakfast was served from 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. daily (the full spread wasn’t available for the first 30 and last 60 minutes of the morning shift). Lunch was offered from 12 noon to 2:30 p.m. daily, followed by afternoon tea from 4 to 5 p.m. Dinner was from 6 to 9:30 p.m., though the sushi station opened at 5:30 p.m. and the pizza/pasta station was available all afternoon and evening.
One of four marquee restaurants on Celebrity Reflection, Qsine is one of the more eccentric dining venues at sea. From the black, white and orange décor, with upside-down lamps emerging from the ceiling to create a chandelier, to a menu that happily marries Mexican, Persian and Chinese cuisine to create a globetrotting food tour, Qsine wears eccentricity on its sleeve. We had a good experience here, with a couple creative cocktails, a head-spinning selection of food offerings and a wonderful waitress who provided attentive, personalized service. But considering that meals in Reflection’s main dining room have already been included in the cruise fare, the price for Qsine—$45 per person—should give anyone pause. It’s a big up charge for ethnic food that, in quality and authenticity, compares with a meal at P.F. Chang’s or similar mid-priced chain restaurants.
Open for dinner only, the menu is presented on an iPad, which is easy to read, though we found ourselves scrolling back and forth from page to page trying to make our choices. The menu did not delineate between appetizers and entrées, but our waitress guided us in ordering. Three courses per person (plus desserts) amounted to a copious meal at Qsine, but sharing was encouraged, with a pail stuffed with forks and spoons.
A standout for us was a starter called M’s Favorites, which arrived like a toy apartment complex, with each of 12 “rooms” having its own little Middle Eastern surprise inside—olives in one top-floor unit, hummus on the second-floor, falafel at ground level, capped by a pair of lamb chops on the side. There was the Painter’s Mignon, a steak that came on a plate shaped like an artist’s palette, with glass buckets containing wine reduction, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms and mac and cheese. Desserts were equally imaginative in presentation, though we found the chocolate tombstone to be an overly-heavy slab. At the end a tray of real grass was presented, sprouting with lollipop “flowers” of chocolate covered strawberries and eggs filled with crème brûlée.
The cocktail list offered quirky versions of various classics, priced $13 each. We ordered the Qsine Sangria, which boasted 15 ingredients: Stelbach Kabinett Riesling and St. Germain elderflower liqueur, macerated overnight with fruit and rose petals to pack in the flavor. Other drinks included a Moscow Mule, a Pineapple Julep, and the Corpse Reviver #2. There is a wine list with a diverse selection, including quite a few half-bottles.
The largest of Reflection’s specialty venues, Tuscan Grill occupies a great setting—Deck 5, aft—offering wonderful sea views from almost every seat. The menu is Italian, though we found some of the dishes heavy-handed and lacking in subtlety. It’s a beautiful room to enjoy a meal, with spacious seating arrangements, and the wait staff was on their game throughout. But the restaurant carries a surcharge of $35 per diner, and although we enjoyed our evening, we didn’t quite find the quality justified the price tag.
After perusing the menu our waiter brought an antipasto plate overflowing with goodies—grilled vegetables, fat balls of mozzarella, freshly sliced prosciutto and hunks of parmesan, accompanied by a selection of breads. For starters we liked the tonno crudo—raw ahi tuna—and an arugula salad with pine nuts, drizzled in balsamic vinegar and olive oil, with wheels of fried parmesan nuzzled against. We tried three pastas, of which the best was the wild mushroom ravioli. The beef and veal lasagna was served in a skillet, and oozed decadently with cheese and tomato, while the golden saffron risotto seemed excessive with cream and cheese. We really liked the red snapper, which was simply grilled and lightly seasoned, especially compared to all that had come before.
Following such a rich meal, desserts seemed like they’d just be gilding the lily, but our waiter convinced us the dessert sampler was worth a try. It was, but we were positively stuffed from our meal.
Tuscan Grille is open for dinner only nightly, and on one sea day it was open for lunch.
Lawn Club Grill
We so wanted to love the Lawn Club Grill, an al fresco steakhouse and pizzeria sitting next to the top deck’s terrace of live grass. We arrived just before sundown and found the setting to be unique and memorable—open-air but wrapped by glass on the top and sides. You can’t really see much of the scenery off the sides (especially if other guests are along the rails), but you can certainly take in the fresh air and sunset colors. Upon entering, we strolled past a fridge loaded with chops—we liked that these were available for inspection here rather than being wheeled out on a trolley.
Dinner starts with a trip to the salad bar. The spread was decent, though we didn’t see much here that wasn’t also available at Oceanview Café (without a surcharge). Our waiter gave us the option of creating our own flatbread, using items at the salad bar, but we opted to order one off the menu—a half-and-half creation of sausage and peppers on one side, Margherita on the other. Doughy and moist, the pie was a satisfying alternative to stuffing ourselves with bread. We were also invited to grill our own steaks, but weren’t feeling it, so the waiter happily sent our orders to the chef. Our New York strip was fine, grilled right to order (medium rare) with a good amount of marbling; we also tried the filet mignon, which was a petit cut, but with lots of juicy flavor. Our desserts were a bit of a let-down: Blueberry cobbler and a chocolate chip cookie, each served warm with ice cream.
Would we dine here again? The setting is almost worth the $40 cover by itself, but we felt the food wasn't anything special. However, steak-lovers may be satisfied with the cuts, and for a unique evening at sea it’s worth a try. And yes, it’s an open-air venue: Although there were heaters to help warm the space, it can get breezy on this deck, especially when sailing (consider dining on an evening with a late sail-away from port). Note also that the Grill was open on one day (only) for lunch, with a reduced surcharge of $25.
The Porch is a terrific addition to the Solstice Class vessels, a top-deck, open-air café serving breakfast and lunch and a dose of sunshine and sea breezes. The ambience is meant to embrace Hamptons-like luxury, and the cover—just $5—was worth it for the peaceful setting and comfy wicker chairs alone.
The food is a slight upgrade of what can be found at the Oceanview Café—the fruit selection is augmented with mango, kiwi and berries, the pastry selection is supplemented with cheese or cherry Danish and exotic little cupcakes. The main course is grilled panini sandwiches. At breakfast these come stuffed with scrambled eggs along with things like pesto, tomatoes, bacon, cheese and sausage; at lunch, the sandwich selection includes grilled chicken pesto, pulled pork, grilled vegetable, Rueben, etc. Other items available include freshly prepared waffles, a soup of the day and salads.
A dark and romantic venue specializing in distinguished French cuisine, Murano provided the top meal of our cruise, with deferential service and a soothing atmosphere. The intimate room is bathed in flattering rose and apricot tones and broken into several sections, including a private room with a single larger table seating eight or ten, flanked by wine cabinets. There are a handful of two-tops—we recommend reserving early to secure the table size you want. The add-on for dining here is $45 per person, and a five-course food and wine pairing option is also available (you can read about our wine pairing dinner at Murano aboard Celebrity Eclipse here). It’s worth it for a special night of the cruise.
Our meal started with a delicious salad of arugula and frisée, laced with ribbons of pork and croutons, and crowned by a poached egg. A wild forest mushroom cappuccino was a rich and satisfying marriage of flavors, swaddled in foam. The heirloom tomato salad showed that the ship’s chef knew what a tomato should taste like (evidence at other venues to the contrary), and we loved the slab of pork belly sitting on a parsnip purée with a thin slice of caramelized apple.
For main course we dived into the herb-crusted rack of lamb—the meat was perfectly baked, with lots of pink flesh, and accompanied by lightly steamed baby vegetables. Other entrées on the menu included dover sole à la Véronique, lobster flambéed in cognac, and a five spice crusted venison loin. A cheese trolley was wheeled to the table with a selection of nine fine cheeses, accompanied by crackers, candied fruits and honey. It was a satisfying conclusion to an excellent meal.
The wine list feature both old and new world wines, with an emphasis on French wineries. Bottles start at about $35 (Benziger Carneros or Alfredo Prunotto Barbera D’Alba), and a selection of half-bottles is also available. Murano is open nightly for dinner, and on our last sea day a champagne high tea was available from 2:30 to 4 p.m., for $25.
Bistro on Five
This is a quiet spot for panini, soup, salad and crepes—sweet or savory. With a modest up charge of just $5 to dine here, it’s worth it if you’re looking for a change of pace, and it’s open till 2 a.m. nightly. We didn’t dine here during our cruise aboard Reflection but you can read about our experience at this venue on Celebrity Infinity here.
Located next to the indoor Solarium Pool, the AquaSpa Café is an alternative buffet option for quick “spa” meals—that is, food that is lighter and healthier, though most of it is served cold. Although only a small percentage of Reflection’s guests seemed to use this spot, there are only just a handful of tables, and we found them full for periods during breakfast and, especially, lunch. Fortunately, few tend to linger long, so finding an open seat wasn’t too difficult the times we were here.
At breakfast the selection included individual plates of fruits, cereals including muesli and low-fat granola, yogurt and berries served parfait-style, and a nice selection of rolls, such as organic tomato and basil or organic carrot and sultanas, served with mango-lime or apricot-nectarine jam. At lunch there were organic poached fruits—red apple in verbena tea and oranges, pear with vanilla and star anise, etc. A modest salad bar offered lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, bell pepper, olives and cold meats— ham, shrimp and tuna. Prepared cold plates included small portions of lemon-garlic chicken breast, a Greek chopped salad, and a poached seafood salad. There was a soup of the day, and a couple hot a la carte offerings could also be ordered: broiled, steamed or poached salmon or tuna and grilled or seared pork loin or chicken breast served with steamed or grilled veggies.
This Mediterranean themed restaurant is open only to guests staying in AquaClass accommodations, an alternative to Opus Restaurant for the select few (suite guests are also welcome when tables are available). As we were booked in a standard cabin, we didn’t dine here during our cruise, but the menu looked appealing. Celebrity describes the food as “clean cuisine, lighter updates to your favorite dishes.” The wine list placed an emphasis on organic, biodynamic and sustainably produced wines.
Open daily from 11:30 a.m. till 6 p.m., this open-air grill on Deck 15 overlooks the main pools. The menu was short: hamburgers, turkey burgers, vegetarian burgers and hot dogs. Nothing was cooked to order, but a steady line during peak lunch period kept the burgers relatively fresh and juicy; French fries were not so great, but a fresh supply was provided on request. Beer and soda was available here, and a full selection of drinks was available next door at the Mast Bar.
Two room service menus were available: One for breakfast (available for delivery between 6:30 and 10:30 a.m.) and another available from 11 a.m. to 5 a.m. Orders could be made using an interactive feature on the TV monitor, but one look at it and we realized we could order by phone faster than it would take to learn this feature. We could also order from the pre-printed breakfast menus that could be hung on our door the night before.
So we called our order in and were told to allow 30 to 40 minutes for delivery; our stateroom attendant arrived with the order 38 minutes later. The breakfast tray was heaped with big plates, far bigger than necessary, and each was covered with a metal top; croissants were in a basket, wrapped in a cloth napkin. Packets of jam and half and half were on a separate plate, there was a container of sugar and substitutes, and salt and pepper shakers. A piece of linen covered the plastic tray.
We specified eggs over easy and they were arrived closer to over medium. But they and a side of bacon were hot. An order of French toast was delivered on a separate big plate, with syrup but no butter. An order of oatmeal was topped with milk, but there was no brown sugar, as we had requested—the oatmeal had been sitting a bit and, though still relatively hot, it was sticky and not so appetizing. An order of sliced melon was delivered on yet another plate, for which there was no room on the table. Our coffee was hot, and the grapefruit juice was real juice. A container of fruit yogurt had been set against the oatmeal during delivery—it arrived warm.
Other menu options at breakfast included eight cold cereals ranging from Fruit Loops to All Bran; omelets (available with ham, smoked salmon, cheese, spinach, veggies, and egg whites were an option); sides of sausage, grilled ham and hash brown potatoes were available, as were buttermilk pancakes. Croissant, pain au chocolate, Danish, muffins and toast (white, wheat, bagel, English muffin) were on the menu, along with various preserves and syrup, plus a selection of fresh fruit, yogurt, juices, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and milk. The regular menu encompassed a modest selection of hot and cold items for lunch or dinner. These included a plate of crostini, crispy vegetable burek with cucumber-yogurt sauce, honey-sesame chicken wings, an "Asian teaser" (spring rolls, satay, wontons), soups and salads. Main courses included turkey club or grilled ham and cheese sandwich, burger and hot dogs, spaghetti Bolognaise, fettuccini Alfredo, pizza (Margarita, pepperoni, veggie). There was also grilled salmon or seared chicken breast with tomato pesto; these were served with mashed potato, rice, creamed spinach and/or grilled vegetables.
Our room had a small fridge stocked with various drinks. Hard liquors included 50-ml “nip” bottles of Tanqueray gin, Skyy vodka, Jack Daniel’s bourbon, Barcardi rum, Dewar’s scotch, Remy Martin VSOP, a quarter-bottle of Chandon brut classic sparkling, splits of La Crema chardonnay and Kendall Jackson cabernet sauvignon, and Coors Light and Heineken in cans. There was one can each of Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, ginger ale, club soda and tonic water, plus Evian and Perrier water. A 15-percent service charge was applied to all minibar purchases. A small selection of additional beer and wine was available by the glass through room service.
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