Charles Dickens was right. We are enslaved by great expectations.

The toughest thing about creating a stellar product is the eager expectation your customers develop for constant improvement. In the cruise industry, sophisticated travelers expect bigger and better - not only with every new ship launched, but in fact, with every cruise taken. Talk about a tough audience!

Lounge

Luckily for Celebrity, the Reflection, part of its Solstice Class collection, can handle those great expectations, providing the exceptional quality experienced cruisers have come to expect, combined with enough upgrades and extras to impress even the most satiated cruiser’s palate.

As you come aboard, you’re immediately aware of the innovative use of space. Inviting lounges above and below decks ensure that you never feel crowded, despite the fact that you’re afloat with more than 3000 other guests. Even the coffee shops and smaller bars – areas often given short shrift when space allocations are made – have been well-planned, inviting you to linger just a little longer and stretch your legs just a little further.

Bar

And speaking of inviting, anyone looking for a little luxe private space will adore the clever cabana-style retreats on offer at the Lawn Club. Designed to welcome you and your special someone - and even another couple if you’re feeling social - The Alcoves are cool and shady in the heat of the day but cozy and romantic by night. For a small rental fee, you can claim one for your own, then have an a la carte picnic complete with drinks, delivered in a Red Riding Hood-esque basket.

Privacy, space and luxury are the defining principles behind the design of this ship, particularly in its new AquaClass suites. The unobtrusively suave 24/7 butler service is expected but nonetheless wonderful. The pillow menu, and aroma scent selections ensure glorious sleep each night while state-of-the-art showers make mornings something to celebrate. Each well-appointed suite has a 79 square foot veranda that invites you to soak up the sun and enjoy the voyage – that is, when you’re not taking advantage of the unlimited spa access that is the most attractive AquaClass feature.

Heated Chairs

Like slipping into a tranquility tank, the AquaSpa® Relaxation Room and Persian Garden offer that softly scented, blissfully silent, endlessly comforting space that’s as close to a return to the womb as you’re ever likely to experience. Ergonomically exquisite lounges invite you to settle in, lie back and forget everything. If you can ever convince yourself to get up, you’ll find a fascinating and pampering array of spa treats to tempt you, from the infrared sauna to the aromatic steam room, the bracing cold room, sensory showers (think soft lights…pulsating water…mist…marvelous!), and even a modern spin on a traditional Hammam that will leave you feeling cleansed and refreshed like never before.

Also available to AquaClass guests is access to Blu, an exclusive spa restaurant. Unlike some spa-focused eateries where healthy options aren’t necessarily delectable and self-denial seems to be a virtue, Blu’s chefs pride themselves on creating a menu of ‘clean cuisine’ choices that are not only delightful but healthful too. Try the steak with truffle vinaigrette, for example, and you’ll never long for béarnaise again.

Remarkable though it is, AquaClass is just one of the many outstanding features of the Reflection. The quality of the entertainment also ranks surprisingly highly on the list of successes.

The Broadway-style shows that are standard fare on many cruise ships are often all about costumes and catchy songs. The meringue of the entertainment world, they’re a sweet diversion but don’t offer much substance. Through a dynamic partnership with international producer Poet Theatricals, performances aboard the Reflection achieve bold new heights – literally. Like a high-energy fusion of Cirque du Soleil and Queen, the main stage show we experienced was a stunning explosion of European-style acrobats soaring high off the stage, twisting in massive ribbons, spinning in hula hoops and executing breathtaking theatrical contortions. Below, a troupe of singers and dancers that Freddy Mercury would have been proud to claim, rocked the eighties tunes until the walls of the theater shook. Instead of the polite clapping that often follows a cruise ship show, the wild foot-stomping applause for these Reflection shows brought the performers back for multiple curtain calls. Catch the early performance and you’ll be fighting for another seat at the second show.

Sitting

Sometimes, the smallest touches are what sets one ship’s offerings apart from the competition and the Reflection has many. In the spa, a talented young physician who works part-time with young burn victims at a Shriner’s hospital, offers his expertise in the area of non-invasive skin rejuvenation treatments, at surprisingly low prices and with no recovery time required. Little wonder his cruising patients are told how wonderfully well-rested they look after their time on the Reflection! No doubt they toast themselves, taking advantage of yet another tiny but terrific touch - the ultra-chic Molecular Bar where handcrafted cocktails are a guzzle-able art form. Try the Dragonfly for a chilling, thrilling slurp you won’t soon forget.

From the small details to the overall design of the ship, Celebrity’s new Reflection is a great addition to the Solstice Class Collection – chosen by Frommer’s as their ‘Best Cruise Ships’ for 2011 and ranked among Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Five Large Ships for the ninth year. For even the most demanding cruisers, this ship not only meets, but exceeds the greatest expectations.

By Liz Fleming

First published in Cruise and Travel Lifestyles Magazine, Fall 2013 issue

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