MY FIRST CELEBRITY CRUISE
We board Celebrity Cruise ship ‘Reflection’ after a short transfer from Rome; setting sail into the thick balmy afternoon air. Our direction takes us out along the jagged Mediterranean coastline then out to a vast expanse of ocean. This is our first ever cruise. We’re unsure what to expect…an enormous floating hotel with anything and everything you can think of in one sprawling space that, incidentally, gets you from one brilliant and totally stunning location to the next…in a nutshell that’s what it is it but it’s this and so much more.
This particular Celebrity Cruise ship spans 15 decks (there’s no deck 13, which took a while to register!) Each floor surrounds the central atrium where glass fronted lifts spend their days carting people between levels. This is also the spot which really makes you contemplate the sheer vastness of the ship; from the ground floor right up to the top deck where you can view its journey. We board and spend the first two hours exploring each floor, restaurant, and bar. We locate the gym (where we proudly start each day,) the sauna is impressively glass fronted and ocean facing and the basketball court (although this goes unused it’s good to know it’s there!!). There are two swimming pools; one inside and one out. Additionally, there is an enormous theatre space, retail shops, outdoor cinema and a top deck devoted to sunning yourself. There’s also a library, a games hall and if there’s anything I’ve missed it’s guaranteed they have that too!
Our room is moderately sized, bright and functional. We excitedly embrace the private balcony where sun loungers and a breakfast table make our little abode for the next few days that bit more exciting.
Day one is all about settling in, finding our bearings and getting stuck into the onboard cuisine. We first sample the highly recommended Sushi on Five (floor five) restaurant. The vegetarian (Husband) is more than catered for (they even have his dietary requirements noted) and offer up some alternative options before he gets a chance to request them! The food here is great: it’s fresh vibrant produce that’s been whipped up while we wait. The wine list is pretty great here too!!
Day two brings with it an early morning wake up in Cinque Terre. As the sun rises so do I, just in time to watch the Italian scenery draw in closer ahead of our arrival. We have an entire day to spend exploring this infamous stretch of coastline. We’re excited! We stay committed to our morning routine, with the husband heading straight out to the gym and me pitching up with my yoga mat out on a deserted front deck. Al fresco yoga, sauna and fruit smoothies for breakfast allow for (and counteract) the indulgence that’s to come. Once we disembark mid-morning, we jump on the local train and hop between ports, stopping at one,Monterosso for the most incredible swim in crystal clear water (this is a must) followed by a glass (or two) of local prosecco up in the old castle. The view here is incredible with ocean views not to be missed! We then hop back on the train for our lunch reservation in Riomaggiore at Gamblero Rosso; incredible local and freshly caught seafood. I have anchovies cooked four ways ahead of a classic vongole while the husband goes for a local sweet walnut ravioli.
We exhaust ourselves in amongst the rich green ancient coastline that connects these small ports before heading back to the ship where dinner comes rounds all too quickly. We sip yet more prosecco (making the most of our holidays) as we leave the coastline behind us and once again head out for an evening at sea with the boat sailing towards our next destination.
While I wait for the husband to get ready ahead of dinner (it’s usually this way round!!) I make the most of our balcony and, to my utter surprise, spot dolphins swimming alongside the ship. I inevitably squeal more than loud enough for the Husband to hear and come racing out and see them too. Quite a spectacle and so exciting to see! Inevitably we then proceed to spend our entire meal trying to spot more and discussing our sighting!
We dine at Murano, the French style restaurant that without doubt is our favourite. They pull out all the stops (not just for us but for all the diners). Flambé lobster is a speciality that perhaps only the Husband (vegetarian) leaves without trying . The dishes are French classics with added wow factor, beautifully cooked and artfully presented. This is refined cuisine, a carefully curated menu that really does go the extra mile. We opt for the wine pairing menu and happily let the sommelier woo us. We later even view the impressive wine cellar that boasts an endless collection (over 1600 bottles) of premium and vintage wines. At this stage we’re now both excited to be onboard and exhausted from everything we’ve managed to pack in.
The next day we once again rise just early enough to see the ship approach the harbour of Ville Franche. We continue with the early morning routine we’ve committed to and feel good for it!
Our third day consists of a kitchen tour. We meet the head chef that leads an incredible team of 275 chefs. We are given a tour of the 16 kitchens which span several decks and attemptto comprehend an almost incomprehensible operation that the chefs relentlessly work to, day in, day out. Feeding 1600 guests over an hour then doing the same just an hour later, day after day, plus catering for all the speciality restaurants completely blew our minds! The immaculate kitchens that are run with a military organisation like which you’ve never witnessed. This gargantuan undertaking of feeding all aboard and to such a high standard is truly awe inspiring. It’s mad in fact!!! So impressive!! We’re borderline speechless!
While on board we also sample Ocean View Café where food is served buffet style through the day. We even pass by the silent disco which is always brilliant to watch. And naturally we try out their Tuscan restaurant. My love for Italian food is huge! Portions are generous, fresh and tick all the boxes. With every meal we’re surprised by how intimate each restaurant feels, (other than the super sleek white wash two floor main dining room) the restaurant seats around 200 people but manages to feel even more intimate and that absolutely appealed to us.
Our final destination is Barcelona. We’re eager to disembark to meet friends for a late lunch in one of our favourite cities. We can’t wait to sit by the beach and eat endless freshly made paella. Ahead of our lunch we head out on the Chef’s market Discovery, the head chef accompanies us to the local and largest food market in Barcelona. Situated just off Las Ramblas the chefs take us round their preferred stalls, talks produce, quality and what to pick up where. Food is bought and will be prepared for a bespoke dinner for guests that evening. For any foodie who is experiencing Barcelona for the first time it’s worth signing up for.
Throughout our entire stay (we did half of the Mediterranean cruise offered) we found ourselves becoming more and more fond of this incredible way of holidaying. It’s so rare that you can get around to as many different countries, experience such varied cultures, landscapes and cuisines so easily. You can absolutely see why people holiday this way, time and time again. My excitement for the forthcoming launch of Celebrity ‘Edge’, the brand new and very design led ship which is launching this December has definitely been compounded by this trip….stay tuned!!!