Shopping, Champagne and Cirque du Soleil | Celebrity Cruises


Cruise virgin Simon Gage sets sail on Celebrity Reflection, the newest mega ship from Celebrity Cruises, and rather likes it

The dining room on board Celebrity Reflection

The dining room onboard Celebrity Reflection

Everyone has an opinion on cruises. On the one hand, I’ve heard “You either love them or you haven’t been on one” a lot. On the other, a luxury travel agent confided to me that, as far as much of the industry was concerned, cruises are strictly for “the newly wed, overfed or nearly dead”.

One friend, used to jetting around on smart holidays, was only persuaded to go on a cruise on the promise that if he didn’t like it, his cruise-loving friends would pay his way. Reimbursement in full. That’s how confident they were. As it turned out, my uncertain friend had booked his next cruise before he disembarked from that maiden voyage. But then that was a gay cruise and by all accounts they’re pretty much Sodom and Gomorrah on the waves.

Due to some sort of teething problems, the opening scene of my cruise was actually more Schindler’s List (complete with people in uniforms barking orders as we lined up with our papers) than anything Marilyn Monroe had worn a tight dress in

With stories like that balancing each other out in my head, it was with images of the opening scenes of Titanic and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in mind – you know, hat boxes, excitement, waving from the side of the ship, maybe some light tickertape – that I took planes and coaches to somewhere chilly in the Netherlands to board the good ship Celebrity Reflections. Which, as you will have noticed, has the word “celebrity” in its name. The word “celebrity” in something almost guarantees loveliness, surely!?

Celebrity Reflections is one of those ships so immense that it has surely graduated to building status, albeit a building that you can float out on. Due to some sort of teething problems, the opening scene of my cruise was actually more Schindler’s List (complete with people in uniforms barking orders as we lined up with our papers) than anything Marilyn Monroe had worn a tight dress in. “It’s not usually like this,” people everywhere told me. “Please don’t let this be your first impression.” Oh, OK then.

Once through and up and along and across and along again, I got to my cabin – or “Stateroom”, as they’re called here, probably because that makes them sound less claustrophobic. As Marilyn declared when she walked into her cabin in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, it’s like a room. Only smaller and with things sort of welded in, which gives it something of the feel of a caravan styled à la Designers at Debenhams-type feel. But not in a bad way. There’s a big chunk of sea right there, visible from your bed, and the bathroom, with its shower pod and curved up corners meaning the floor becomes the wall, is actually really cute and a little like being in a space movie.

The library onboard Celebrity Reflection

The library onboard Celebrity Reflection

We were given a tour of some of the bigger suites and they are mightily impressive, especially the main one which has a glass box shower out over the water and a dining table big enough to seat the London cast of Les Miserables.

Down to dinner and you realise why some quite lazy people love cruises. There’s limited choice (all good, by the way) and not far to go. On your way from cabin to restaurant, you’re also not going to bump into people not on the same holiday as you: no-one will try to sell you anything, take you into their brother’s bar, or steal your handbag. It’s abroad for people who are afraid of abroad. By which we mean Americans.

And with cruises being generally heavy on Americans, levels of service tend to the American end of things. Our waitress was so delighted to be our server that she could hardly contain her waters as she guided us through pretty much every item on the menu. Americans love that. We Brits just wanted to be left alone. In fact, at tea the next afternoon, one smart British lady asked in a whisper, “Do you think there’s any way of getting another glass of Champagne without being grilled about how every single item on this table is?” There wasn’t, unfortunately.

Quibbles aside, there is definitely an air of glamour about a cruise of this type – the glamour of a time gone by. People do dress up for dinner and dress up quite high; the main dining room is a vast and exciting place that really does seem like a scene from a film (OK, a film where at some point that dining room is going to be underwater, but a film nonetheless) and some of the spaces are so vast that the designers have been able to make real statements – a tree hanging in mid-air as you go down in the glass lifts; a vast library over two floors with pop-antique furniture; a room stocked to the rafters with brand new Apple iGorgeousness for you to use.

There’s a theatre on board, too, where they put on shows with lots of international appeal, such as Cirque du Soleil. The theatre itself is so vast that you really do forget you’re on a ship. Then there are the endless bars and coffee spots and restaurants – from tinkly bone-china and white tablecloth jobs to a canteen that could be in a department store – the galleries, the boutiques (quite smart ones), the fully equipped spa, and a gym with TRX straps and everything, making this a real world in itself.

As this is a taster of the new ship – a run round the block if you like, lasting just a couple of days – we don’t get to experience the excitement of pulling in at Barcelona and jetting into town for a day (I know that it’s not a nice experience to be on Mykonos when the ships are in, but the trippers always seem to be having a great time) – but if you had to spend a week on this ship and never get off, it could be fun with the right people. Sexy ones. In swimwear.

Would I go on a cruise again? Yes, probably. Especially if the ship was as shiny and new as this one. A little of that Sodom and Gomorrah action wouldn’t go amiss either. C