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Review of our first cruise post shut down: Celebrity Reflection November 13, 2021 7 night Eastern Caribbean and Bahamas


NBliving
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I know “Live Reviews” are the current trend, but I can’t seem to find time to do one onboard AND enjoy my vacation, so here is a post-trip review for you.  Our sailing was the second trip out for the Celebrity Reflection.

 

This review is going to be fairly long and go day by day.  Feel free to ask questions or for clarification. I will give our impressions of food, entertainment, and cruising in general at the end of the review. Hopefully it helps some of you in your planning or in getting you back onboard a beautiful cruise ship!

 

First a little about ourselves – DH and I are in our late 50’s, live in the Hill Country of Texas and love to travel - both land and sea adventures.  During the CoVid shutdown, we travelled to 6 National Parks and thoroughly enjoyed the history and beauty of the United States.  BUT we watched with interest as cruises started happening again and in May of 2021, we decided to plan our return to sailing and booked this cruise.  There was a Power Up Point promotion going on at the time and we would get double points for this cruise!  A quick word about my PUP experience.  After our last cruise in January 2020 I had 112 Captain’s Club points (Classic Member).  I kept an eye out for any PUP offers and when we took this cruise I had 170 points (Select Member) all from doing the silly quizzes and watching videos!  We earned 75 points with this cruise in a Concierge Class cabin. 70 for our cabin and 5 the Go Green promotion which added an extra night’s points for our stay (not doubled). 

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Because of the fluctuations in cruising and ports these days, we decided to look at this vacation as mainly a chance to be onboard again.  We made plans for port days, but knew we may have to scrap or change them. One of the reasons we booked this cruise was because it had a stop in the Dominican Republic.  That was the one port we had never been to on this itinerary, so we thought it would be fun to experience something new.  Welp, that port was cancelled about a month before our sailing date 😞 .  We also had an excursion for St. Thomas cancelled, but I found another one to take it’s place.  We decided to do our own thing in San Juan and Nassau.  Since our ship was just returning to cruising, we were not able to check in the typical 45 days prior. We didn’t get the check in button on our app or on the website until October 19th. I had read enough on CC to know that a check in close to your sailing was not unusual, but I will say it was a bit stressful worrying if our cruise would take place. My advice for anyone cruising now is to be flexible!  I so appreciate the CC members who have been posting reviews because that really prepared me to be ready for any changes.

 

It was finally time to pack for our cruise! We left from Austin, Texas 4 days early because we were spending some time on Singer Island at a Marriott Vacation Club.  When we decided to do this, I don’t believe X had begun the CoVid testing pre-cruise.  We could have cancelled this pre-cruise mini vacation, but we had a great airfare of $100 round trip so really didn’t want to.  We bought the home testing kits (3 of them in case one failed) AND made an appointment at a CVS testing site about 15 minutes from our hotel as our back up plan. I made our appointments 2 weeks ahead of time.

 

We woke up Thursday and decided to keep our CVS appointments and use our home kits as back ups instead. It looks super easy to do yourself, but we just decided the CVS route might be less stressful – we are on vacation after all!  We thought the test would cost us something so we had our insurance cards out and walked in to a bare looking CVS.  It turns out, that this location has become strictly a CoVid testing facility.  They schedule appointments every 15 minutes and so we were the only ones inside at this point.  We gave them our driver’s licenses – they did not take our insurance cards. The receptionist found our appointments, gave us each a swab and told us to swirl the swab inside each nostril 10 times.  That was it! They would call me in 15 minutes or so and let us know the results.  We had to create a CVS my chart so we would have the results available to show at the port.  We were called in 20 minutes and both were negative!  Happy dance ensued!!

 

Friday afternoon, we left Singer Island for the Embassy Suites by Hilton Boca Raton. We normally wouldn’t stay this far away from the cruise terminal, but we had to return our rental car to FLL Saturday morning and the rate was good. The big excitement as we checked in was that the omelet station is now open!! LOL, it’s the small things these days…

 

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Day 1 Embarkation

We dropped off our rental car and caught an Uber.  Next stop – Port Everglades! Yay!! Our Uber driver was 84 years young 🙂   The Reflection was sailing out of terminal 29.  It seemed a bit unorganized as we pulled up.  The luggage racks were lined up as Uber drivers were directed in a very unorganized way to pull up and let passengers out.  The porters were very friendly and helpful though and we were soon luggage free and heading to the terminal entry.  

 

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We had the earliest boarding time 11:30.  We got there at 11:10, showed our CoVid test results, vaccination cards, passports and express pass then were pointed to the walkway to the ship! We were in our cabin at 11:29!  I was a little disappointed that we weren’t greeted with a glass of champagne, but a cool towel instead.  Hmmm, it wasn’t even hot.  Oh well!  It was so nice to be back on a cruise ship!  

 

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Our Concierge cabin was 1132 on the hump.  We started with a 1B Deluxe Ocean View cabin for $2887 total fare.  I always keep my eye on prices and in September moved to this C2 Concierge cabin and reduced our fare to $2625.  We will book a Concierge for the extra points if the price is the same or less.  The other Concierge cabin perk we enjoy is the embarkation day lunch, but we weren’t sure that was going to happen on this cruise.  It seemed from reading other reviews that some ships had gone back to doing them and others were doing them on a different day of the cruise. After checking out our cabin, we started touring the Reflection.  We have sailed on the Summit, Equinox and Edge, so we were newbies here (although it is a sister ship of the Equinox)  We stopped at the Concierge desk and found out lunch would be another day that week.  We found the Reflection to be in excellent shape.  We said she was more of a classic style of ship compared to the Edge’s more modern lines.  

 

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Lunch would be in the buffet today.  We aren’t big buffet people – even pre-CoVid!  It was nice to see the food being served by the crew.  Even in the fruit and salad section, a crew member stood outside of the station with tongs and you would let them know what you wanted, they would put it on  your plate.  We felt like they have it figured out!  Hope they continue to serve the buffet this way.  We sat outside to eat and enjoy the pretty day.  There were probably 2 other couples out there with us.  We learned that there were about 900 passengers and 1180 crew!  Wow, what a special treat for us. 

 

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We stopped by our cabin after lunch and found our luggage had been delivered!  It was 12:50.  We changed into our swim suits and went to the pool.  We had booked this cruise with the Class drink package, surfing wifi and tips.  We intended to upgrade to the Premium drink package onboard.  I had read in a review that if you do it onboard the crew member gets the gratuity or credit for it.  Since they have been hit so hard by the shut down, we decided to do it that way instead of pre-cruise.  We also wanted it to start the 2nd day just to save money. As we were lounging by the pool, a server, Ivanna, stopped by to get our drink order and she talked to us about upgrading.  We told her we were going to wait until the next day and she offered to get us the Premium drink sticker but not put the order in until the next day.  I had read that this was something that could happen so we took her up on it!  We would see Ivanna on and off during our cruise at the pool and in the main dining room.  This was her first ship assignment and she really was fun to talk with.  

 

The new muster is so quick and easy! We got an alert through the X app to watch our safety drill.  We did that while eating lunch, then stopped at our muster station on the way to the pool to check in.  

 

We were invited by phone to the helipad sailaway this first night as a Concierge guest. The sailaway was at 5:30 and we elected to have early dining, so we dressed for dinner and then went to the meeting spot.  Our voice mail said to meet at the elevators at 5:15.  We got there at 5:15 along with one other couple.  We didn’t see any X staff so we looked around the hallways.  A crew member was heading towards us and motioned for us to follow her.  We got to the helipad and were probably the last people who arrived.  I wondered if the message gave us the wrong time?  I’m not sure if they are trying to save paper or have less contact spread, but we were invited via voice mail to a few other things and I really prefer an old fashioned paper notice.  It’s easier to remember the details!  Anyway, sailaway was beautiful! We met the hotel director and a Captain’s Club hostess.  Both were very happy to be back at sea! 

 

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The Apex was sailing ahead of us!

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We ate every night in the MDR except for one night we ate at the Lawn Club Grill.  Our waiter was Biverline and sommelier was Poorna.  Our assistant waiter changed a few times so I don’t remember their names unfortunately.  We received excellent service and I realized one of the things I missed about cruising was seeing people dress up for dinner.  We had planned to attend the theater show – a comedian, but he couldn't make it onboard because of scheduling problem (?).  They had a replacement act, but we decided to skip it.  After dinner we walked around the ship just taking in the beautiful moonlight and sea air. It was just really wonderful to be back onboard!IMG_1554.thumb.JPG.f6f90bde308df47af86090062da8b576.JPGIMG_1560.thumb.JPG.2636677a9eecbc9778502bd4ab9e6033.JPG,

 

 

 

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Day 2 At Sea

Each morning we tried to walk 2-3 miles around the track before we started eating for the day.  This morning, we ate breakfast in the MDR then had a meet and greet with a group from a social media sight roll call. It was really nice to visit and compare cruising and other travel stories.  At 11:00 I had a wine tasting to attend – an invitation from Captain’s Club for Select and above members (thanks PUP!)  Steve didn’t want to taste wine at 11 am, so he went on to the pool.  It was a nice experience.  I would say about 60 – 70 people were in attendance.  I learned a few new tips about wine drinking. 

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 I joined Steve at the pool where he took part in the putting challenge!  He was one of the finalist but didn’t win in the end…  The crew served us sherbert every day around 2:30 at the pool area – both outdoor pool and Solarium.  We really enjoyed the musical group that played today at the pool. They were a husband a wife from Argentina and their duo was called Opalira.  We found them in the app each day and would make a point to listen to them throughout the cruise. 

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 We found our way up to the Sunset Bar for some drinks and to watch the sunset.  Tonight was our specialty dining reservation at 8 so we had time before we needed to change.  Love that view of the wake and sunset.  Another thing I really missed about cruising!  

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We changed for dinner and then caught the early show at the Theater.  It was titled Broadway Boys.  I hate to say that it was just ok.  We usually enjoy the theater shows.  The 4 performers told their stories of how they became interested in musical theater – I really enjoyed that part of the show – but the singing and music just wasn’t up to what we were used to.  

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Our dinner at the Lawn Club Grill was outstanding.  There were 2 other tables of guests.  I had booked this pre-cruise during a sale and so we paid $35/person instead of $50.  I had read here on CC that only the Reflection and Silhouette have this particular restaurant.  We had the flatbread, salad bar (which was self serve), kabobs with shrimp and scallops and one with grilled veggies, filet mignon, and then I had the chocolate chip cookie desert and Steve had blueberry cobbler – mine was better 🙂 

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Day 3 Sea Day

We ate breakfast in the MDR again today followed by the pool.  In the afternoon, we played Deal or No Deal.  I had bought 3 cards pre-cruise so Steve and I shared them.  We had never played before and so for those of you out there who also have never played, I will try to explain the game.  The “banker” chooses a name from those who have registered their cards.  That person gets up on stage and plays the game.  They choose a lucky number that remains frozen.  Then as they choose suitcases which reveal dollar amounts from 1 cent to $1,000 those numbers are marked off of their chances to win.  The rest of us in the audience will win based on how many of our suitcase dollar amounts match the contestant on stage.  As the game progresses, the banker will give the contestant the opportunity to accept his cash offering or keep going to see if the big bucks will be won.  We played two games and both times the onstage contestants went all the way to the end.  After the two games were played, a third contestant is called on stage and they spin a wheel to see if they will win a free cruise, cash or nothing.  On this particular day, the last contestant did win a free cruise!

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We again ate dinner in the MDR, then went in search of a bartender who could make Steve a good Manhattan - found it at the World Class Bar!  We ended the evening listening to a solo musician (his name is Keff) in the Ensemble bar.  

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Day 4 St. Thomas

We had breakfast delivered this morning and ate on our verandah.  Ahhhh so nice! 

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 We gathered in the theater to check in for our X Shore Excursion - FastCat 2 island Snorkeling Safari and Beach excursion.  We left the ship at 9 and simply walked through the port and met our boat captain at the end of the shops.  We got on his boat and took off.  We had to wear masks while on port property, but took them off once we got on the boat.  The crew were great and gave us safety and snorkeling information.  We got to our first stop in about 30 minutes.  This is where we would snorkel.  Steve and I prefer to bring our own full face snorkel masks and that was fine with the crew.  We saw a couple of sea turtles and some fish, but not too many.  We were out in the water for about 45 minutes.  Back on board we were offered rum punch or soft drinks as we headed to Honeymoon beach on St. Thomas.  It was a really beautiful beach.  We were told to stay on the side near our boat as we were supposed to stay in a “bubble”.  There was a beach bar and grill and chairs/umbrellas on the other side of the beach.  We were there about an hour I think.  We visited with a couple we had met at our meet and greet and had a great time in the beautiful water.  It was a short boat ride back to the port area.

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We went back onboard the Reflection to change and have a little lunch then decided to head into town and shop.  We had heard from the boat crew that there was a bus we could catch for a few dollars so we walked out of the cruise terminal and looked for a bus stop.  We walked along the street for about 5 or 10 minutes then saw what we thought might be a bus pull over so we asked how much to downtown.  It was $2/person so we hopped onboard the open air bus.  Downtown Charlotte Amalie was a typical Caribbean island downtown area.  Lots of souvenir shops, restaurants and bars.  Steve bought some jerk seasoning and after about an hour we decided to head back.  We caught another bus back for $1/person.  We were dropped off about 5 minutes from the terminal and luckily a local saw us looking lost and directed us to the terminal 🙂 

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We were back onboard by 4:00 for a 6:00 departure.  We relaxed a bit on our verandah then dressed for dinner with a quick stop at the Sunset Bar.  After dinner we went to the Martini Bar.  Such a fun place!

 

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Day 5 San Juan

We again had breakfast delivered to our room as we arrived in San Juan.  It was a dreary entry and rained a bit.  

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For today, we had booked an excursion with a private tour company called Jerry’s Adventures.  Our friends had visited San Juan in September and done a waterfall excursion with this company and highly recommended it.  I had contacted the company about a month before we sailed and was told if we had at least one other couple sign up we could go ahead.  I posted on the two roll call groups I was a part of, but had no takers.  I kept in touch with the company via email and on Monday, during the cruise,  got a confirmation email that we would meet our guide at 9am at Plaza Colon.  So after the announcement from the Captain that we were free to disembark we headed for Plaza Colon. Luckily it had cleared up by this time. I had received a text from our tour guide, Jesus, that he would be the one to meet us.  

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We were picked up and then he took us to pick up a family from a hotel just outside of Old San Juan.  Jesus was very friendly and told us about himself, Puerto Rico and the area we were going to be hiking in.  He joked about reviews that people left saying “Jesus saved us”, “Jesus took the wheel”, etc.  Because of the rainy morning, the stream along the hiking trail that we would have to traverse a few times was muddy and the rocks we had to walk on were slippery.  Each member of the family we were with slipped and fell at least once. I really feel like the operator needs to be more specific about possible conditions.  This is what is under the FAQ section:

·       You should expect to get your feet wet and sometimes muddy from the hike and weather, we will be accompanied by super friendly dogs, expect some rain because the weather is unpredictable, be ready to go over and under logs, and most importantly, have an amazing day and experience. 

 

I would say that we enjoyed this excursion but it was more difficult than described.  

 

 

After the hiking expedition, Jesus took us to a local restaurant where we sampled Puerto Rican foods and the local beer Medalla Light.  The lunch was not part of our tour price which was explained up front.  We were back at the ship by 3:40! Here are some pictures and videos of our excursion.

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Steve and one of the other clients climbed up into the waterfall:

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We relaxed by the pool for a bit and then changed for dinner.  Back to the Martini Bar for after dinner drinking and entertainment! 

 

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Day 6 Sea Day

This morning we went to Café al Baccio for coffee before we ate breakfast on our verandah. 

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 I grabbed a yummy bagel with peanut butter, banana and slivers of apple from the Aqua Spa Café to add to my room service breakfast.  I had purchased 2 - 1 day pass to the Persian Garden pre-cruise for today.  We have never sailed Aqua Class and I liked how the PG on S class has the hot beds overlooking the windows so you can look out to sea. 

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 We learned very quickly, we are not really Persian Garden people – oops!  I guess better to be out $70 each than the price of an Aqua Class stateroom! Actually we do have a cruise booked for April 2022 in an Aqua class stateroom,  It is a really good deal and when I’ve looked to try to replace it with a regular Verandah room it isn’t any cheaper.  After about an hour max in PG we went to the Solarium and just read and relaxed the rest of the day.  It was a rough sea day and we had fun watching our buddies from the meet and greet get sloshed around in the “wave pool”!  Another beautiful sunset while we listened to Opalira and then we saw a moon rise on our way to dinner!  

 

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Day 7 Nassau

Going in to today, neither of us were too excited about this port.  We have been to Nassau twice before on land vacations.  Loved those trips – one to Atlantis and one at the Baha Mar Resort.  We thought we might just stay on the ship.  The night before our Nassau day, we googled “best beaches in Nassau” and came up with a few options.  It was between walking to Junkaroo Beach or Cabbage Beach by taxi.  That morning we woke up and looked at our map and thought we could just walk to Cabbage Beach and get our morning walk in.  I had found directions to the public beach entry.  So off we went!  It was about a 45 minute walk.  A little warm, but not too bad.  We had to hop over some puddles of water bubbling out of a grate – yuck! 

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The entry was just as described in the article I read.  

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Once we came over the sandy path, we saw an incredible stretch of sand and ocean!  Gorgeous!!  We succumbed to the vendors renting umbrellas and chairs, but said no to the pineapple drink package. For those of you who want to try this beach, here is my tip:  walk past all of the vendors and umbrellas to the wide open expanse of sand.  Park yourself on a towel there – it was shady the whole time we were there! The water was crystal clear!  It ended up being the perfect beach for us.

 

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 For lunch, we saw on our map a restaurant called Viola’s in the Sunrise Beach Clubs and Villas complex.  Steve had talked with “a guy” who said when we were ready to eat lunch he would escort us in the back way (beach side).  We also needed wifi to check in to our Southwest flight so Steve had made sure the restaurant had wifi we could use.  We split a fried fish sandwich and it was very good!  

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We had met another couple from the Reflection and so at 3:15 we left with them and took a $10/person taxi ride back to the cruise terminal.  We were trying to just have the 4 of us in one cab for social distancing purposes, but the taxi organizer kept trying to put us in a taxi with other people in it.  We thought we finally had achieved our goal when they ushered 2 more people into our taxi.  Ugh!  Fortunately, these two ladies were also from the Reflection.  So it was all good!  Back on board we went to the pool for a little bit before we changed and went to our last dinner in the MDR – boo hoo…  Tonight in the theater was a production I had seen on a social media sight.  It is “Broken Strings”.  We hadn’t been back to the theater since the Broadway Boys production.  I was really hoping this would be a good production and I was not disappointed.  It was a very well done show with a good story line – although my husband couldn’t follow it without words lol.  Great singing and dancing too.  Glad we went and a great way to end our cruise!  

 

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We stopped at our two favorite bars – The World Class Bar and the Martini Bar for a last drink and goodbye to the bartenders. And I found a cruise duck!IMG_1806.thumb.JPG.a06168707a3c64fc5ba1acfbe33225a8.JPGIMG_1812.thumb.JPG.43568640bcef86d298356645069be5cb.JPG

 

 

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Day 8 the end

We ate our last breakfast in the MDR and visited with a very fun couple – another great thing about cruising is meeting all of these really nice people.  Then we headed to the Tuscan Grille – we had another voicemail that that was where we could wait to be called as a Captain’s Club member.  When we got there I noticed the sign said for Elite and above – oh well, we were invited 😉 .  We also had been told in some fashion to wait in a section of the MDR as a Concierge Class guest.  We stayed til they practically kicked us off.  Our flight wasn’t until 1:10 out of Miami so we weren’t’ in any rush.  Our luggage was waiting so we went through customs, showed our passports and ordered our uber.  It was $63 by the time we actually ordered it, we looked earlier and it was closer to $75.  Our driver was disappointed to learn our final destination as he said he would just drive back to Ft. Lauderdale without a passenger.  Didn’t make us feel bad, but thought I’d mention it.  We booked a different departure airport because the direct flight from FLL to Austin wasn’t until 4 pm and we didn’t want to wait around that long.   

 

Now we are home awaiting our January cruise aboard the Apex in a Sky Suite! 

Final thoughts:

Food – MDR food and service was excellent.  I think there was one dish Steve wasn’t especially pleased with, but overall everything was well prepared and delicious.  The Lawn Club Grill was excellent. Steak was perfectly cooked to our order.  Although we both ordered steak in the MDR as well and it was perfectly cooked as well. 

Entertainment – we loved the acoustic duo Opalira the most.  We found them on the X app and made most of their evening shows.  The solo performer Keff was good but we would have preferred if he had his background loops pre-done instead of having that be part of his show.  The other groups were ok, but we’ve heard better.  As I said before, we weren’t impressed with the Broadway Boys. "Broken Strings" was excellent and what we have come to expect from X.  We talked to other passengers who went to other Theater productions and were not impressed.  It might be that the Reflection is so new to sailing again that the performers aren’t as prepared as they will be in the future.  I’m sure it will improve. 

 

Concierge Stateroom – we loved our slanted balcony and the footstools!! Afternoon snack - we tried to let our cabin attendant know we would prefer fruit and cheese instead of the hors d'oeuvres.  We met our attendant on day 2 and forgot to make our request. When we saw him again on day 5 we asked him to bring fruit and cheese instead or to skip us for the snack.  We kept on getting the same thing.  We don’t like to eat some of the items because we didn’t know when they were delivered so were a little wary of eating something that has sat out for too long.  Anyway, next time we have a Concierge room we will try to make sure to express our desires sooner.  We did receive a voicemail invitation to the Concierge lunch at some point during the week.  We declined to go because it seemed silly when we could just go eat in the MDR for lunch anyway. On embarkation day, it is a nice treat because it’s not available to everyone. There was a bottle of wine when we first arrived which was nice.  In past cruises, I would ask for it at some point because I knew it was a perk, but always hate having to ask…

Cruising – we are so glad we took this particular cruise.  It was very special to be on a ship with only 900 passengers.  Almost every day we would receive a gift.  We left with 2 bottles of wine, 2 nice beach bags, 2 lanyards, a card holder and a nice framed photograph of the ship. The entire crew was very happy to be working again.  We heard about their families and their home countries during CoVid.  When we would start to say how hard it was to have cruises cancelled, we had to stop ourselves because these wonderful people were out of work for close to 2 years!  We are so thankful that X found a way to return to cruising in a safe, healthy way so the employees can come back to work and selfishly, so we can enjoy cruising again.

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Thank you for your great review! Can you please describe the rules regarding mask requirements and the degree to which passengers followed them. For example were masks required in inside areas of the ship?

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13 minutes ago, edgee said:

Thank you for your great review! Can you please describe the rules regarding mask requirements and the degree to which passengers followed them. For example were masks required in inside areas of the ship?

Once we stepped on to the ship, we could take our masks off.  We did not wear ours at all onboard.  There were some people who did.  When we got off the ship at in St. Thomas, we had to wear our masks while walking through the port terminal.  This wasn't enforced and some people chose not to wear their masks while walking outside. 

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Your review was fantastic, our last cruise was on the Reflection in Feb 2019

and we cannot wait to go sailing again. We are in the Millennium next February.

I notice that you have an Aqua cabin booked and also that the PG is not something that you will pay for in the future. We too have that opinion but, the reason we 

sail Aqua is because of Blu. The restaurant is fantastic, ask for a table around the back. It is like having your own private restaurant and the breakfasts are made to order. The service in there is fantastic.

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5 hours ago, swigso said:

Your review was fantastic, our last cruise was on the Reflection in Feb 2019

and we cannot wait to go sailing again. We are in the Millennium next February.

I notice that you have an Aqua cabin booked and also that the PG is not something that you will pay for in the future. We too have that opinion but, the reason we 

sail Aqua is because of Blu. The restaurant is fantastic, ask for a table around the back. It is like having your own private restaurant and the breakfasts are made to order. The service in there is fantastic.

We are looking forward to trying Blu!  Thanks for the table recommendation.

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