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LIVE BLOG - First time Celebrity Cruiser - Reflection 1/31-2/10/2020


Scuba_Tom
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As promised, here’s my review of last night’s Veuve Clicquot Dinner:  

 

The cost was $150 per person and consisted of a 5 course menu with wine pairings.  Good news - it was so much more! This has easily been the best meal of the trip; the food was excellent, the wine was delicious and our wine glasses were never, ever empty (or even CLOSE to empty).  There’s no way we would have been able to drink the full amount of champagne and wine that was poured. Each course was presented and explained by Murano’s executive chef, except the main course which was presented by the ship’s executive chef, and the dessert courses which were presented by the pastry chef.  Each wine pairing was presented with an explanation of the wine and the reason for the pairing.  

 

The details - the evening started out in Cellar Masters at 7pm with a champagne cocktail that consisted of Veuve Clicquot Rich and a splash of a lychee martini.  The drink was very fruity and sweet and a great way to start the evening. We were joined by one other couple and a crew member, DiDi, who was our host and is the art director here on the ship.  Our sommelier for the night was Vicktor, the ship’s Cellar Master. Remember the scavenger hunt I mentioned a few days ago where one of the tasks was to propose to a crew member, and Elle proposed to a random crew dude we saw in the elevator?  Well, he walked into the room at Cellar Masters to pour our first champagne cocktail and it turned out that he is Vicktor, the Cellar Master himself. How fitting. :)

 

We then made our way to the wine cellar in Murano for the dinner.  Up next was an amuse bouche, a shrimp dish with three different caviars, served with Veuve Clicquot Rich (this time sans the lychee martini addition of the welcome cocktail).  Interestingly, this champagne is recommended to be served on ice. The wine is given a dosage of about 60g/l, so the idea is that the ice helps mellow it out the sweetness. The pairing with the shrimp (and roe...and caviar) felt a little forced but that is the game you play with label-based dinners.  The wine had aromas of sweet fruit and the taste was sweet and creamy with a floral taste on the backend.  

 

Next was a rosé poached pear salad paired with a Veuve Clicquot Rosé.  This was a contradictory pairing as the dish was very sweet and the wine very dry.  It was an amazing pairing that brought both aspects to a meeting point in the middle - the dish lost a lot of its sweetness while the wine became less dry.  The bubbles had strawberries on the nose and a toasted almond flavor. I thought this was one of the best pairings of the evening.  

 

We were then served crudo of sea bass with the V.C. Yellow Label.  This was a complementary pairing as the slightly salty seafood (and caviar that was served with it) went very well with the dry champagne.  Aromas of ripe apple and new tennis ball. Flavor was strawberry with a light toasted creamy taste on the finish. 

 

The next course was pan seared scallops that were served with a Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay.  Another complimentary, classic pairing of a buttery chardonnay with a deliciously prepared scallop that had a hazelnut crumble on top.  The wine had citrus aromas with light smoke while the flavor was the classes buttery-ness of Chardonnay, with oak, hints of honeysuckle, and caramel.  

 

The next course is where things got interesting.  For the main course we got filet mignon with potato purée.  Vicktor changed up our pairings and opted to pour two different wines for this course.  The first was the Caymus Red Schooner 6 Malbec. This malbec is rare because the grapes come from the Andes mountains while the wine is actually made in Napa, CA (they must use Amazon Prime 2-day shipping).  The wine has earthy and leathery notes on the nose that blossom into plums and chocolate on the palate with a hint of smokiness. The wine is smooth, with very light tannins.  

 

The other wine was a Pascual Tose Reserva Malbec (2015) from Argentina.  This wine had some oak on the nose that turned into a black cherry flavor.  The wine was light-medium tannins that came across strong when compared to the Schooner.  The majority of the table preferred the Red Schooner when tried on its own, however, once the dish was in front of us we all were unanimous in choosing the malbec as the favorite pairing.  I love food and wine!  

 

For dessert, we were served an apricot soufflé paired with the Veuve Clicquot Demi-Sec - it was fantastic!  This demi-sec sits at around 30 g/l of sugar and is traditionally decanted prior to serving, but Vicktor opted not to decant because it tends to flatten the bubbles.  The wine had aromas of creme brûlée and is incredibly fresh and bright while tasting. The dessert raised the vibrancy of the wine and it was a fun pairing. 

 

At this point we all had full bellies and full livers.  Our officer host had to excuse herself to close down the art gallery, and the rest of us called it an evening.  I think this dinner is nearly at the level of a one Michelin star equivalent experience. Overall, I’d give it 9.7 wine corks out of 10.  It’s an amazing experience that food or champagne lover should not be missed.    




 

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Thank you for the review. The food and wine pairings matched our experience on Equinox. We had a full table, 5 or 6 couples. I'm glad to see they still held the event with only 4 guests. We were also given our choice of a complimentary wine event for booking this dinner.

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Our day in St. Lucia started with room service breakfast out on our balcony.  This time, the ship docked on the starboard side. The port is small and we got to look past the terminal out into the the inland which was nice.  Getting off the ship was a lot easier than the day before as we walked right off.  

 

Our chosen shore excursion was privately booked with Spencer Ambrose and we spent the day at Sugar Beach in the shadow of the St. Lucia Pitons.  The boat picked us up near the dock, sped out to Sugar Beaches (with a few stops along the way) and dropped us off. Beer and rum punch were freely available and there were some lounge chairs along the water’s edge that were open to the public (Sugar Beach is at resort, and their fancy loungers chairs cost $50!!).  Lunch was provided by the tour and consisted of rice, pasta, green banana salad, and jerk chicken - it was delicious and plentiful. The beach also has a marine preserve area for snorkeling. Elle and I agree that this area was some of the best snorkeling we have ever seen. The coral and fish life are abundant and it was very stunning to see.  At the end we even saw a small school of squid which was amazing to watch them dance around in the sunlight.  

 

http://spencerambrose.com

 

After coming back to the ship and getting cleaned up we had an invitation for a sail-away gathering at the front of the ship on the heli-pad.  It was so much fun to say goodbye to St. Lucia from the bow of the ship. Once we got into the open ocean, the wind was whipping around pretty good and they kicked us out for safety reasons.  Sad that our visit was cut a little short, but still a fun experience to enjoy.  

 

After the sail-away gathering, we had a very quick turnaround to get for dinner and we started our evening with a drink at the Ensemble Lounge.  Running out of time, we took our drinks into the Tuscan Grill where we were seated at the window with a lovely view of the ship’s wake. So in the span of less than an hour we went from the very front of the ship to the very back.  How fun is that!

 

I forgot to take pictures of the food menu, but Elle and I decided to come back on a sea day so I’ll grab them then.  When it came to the meal, I ordered the pork belly, minestrone soup, half serving of lobster pasta, and the veal. The waiter told me that the Chef has not been happy with the cuts of veal on this trip so I changed it up to the ribeye.  I appreciated this note. Elle ordered the meatballs, carbonara, and the filet mignon. We also split the burrata after the appetizer (so much delicious food).  

 

The food was delicious and overall very good.  The carbonara was ok, but the pasta itself was a little thick and heavy and the sauce way too runny for a true carbonara.  For sides we got the cacio e pepe, which was more pepe than cacio, and the broccolini, which was more broccoli than broccolini.  Both cuts of steak were cooked to the perfect temperature and had great flavor.  

 

I did have an issue with my ribeye though.  This cut of beef was not the best (I’m assuming it was the same butcher as the veal!).  The steak was just a bad cut and had a lot of tendons that were hard to cut. I picked through it and managed to find some tender, quality pieces of meat.  Since the flavor was good and I ate enough for an elephant I didn’t say anything. I’ve had poorly cooked meat before and bad cuts. This was obviously not the fault of the chef.  Like a corked bottle of wine, ‘stuff’ happens.  

 

Wine was suggested to us by the sommelier who did very well pairing a glass across multiple dishes.  In fact he paired the glasses across all the courses (with exception of my lobster but pairing one glass for Alfredo lobster and ribeye would be a spectacular feat 🙂

 

I enjoyed the Caposaldo Chianti and Elle enjoyed the Masi Valpolicella.  Not a lot of review was happening as we both were enjoying each other’s company and the food.  Both wines were very smooth with light tannins and did very well with our dishes. 

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19 minutes ago, Scuba_Tom said:

The food was delicious and overall very good.  The carbonara was ok, but the pasta itself was a little thick and heavy and the sauce way too runny for a true carbonara. 

Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes but is very hard to find prepared correctly outside of  Italy. It is actually the Pasta of Rome and most chefs there pride themselves on how they prepare the dish. It should never be runny or have any cream in the sauce. Our last time in Rome I mentioned to our chef at a top rated Rome restaurant how in the US cream is usually added to Carbonara sauce, he told us if he did that in Rome he would be exiled forever. LOL

 

BTW I love your blog and we are following every post.

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On 2/5/2020 at 9:51 PM, Catkim22 said:

Thank you for this and I’m enjoying the live blog! QQ - do you know if Veuve dinner offered on every ship and is this something we can book prior to departure? 

 

I’m not sure if it is offered on every ship, but I know we couldn’t book it ahead of time.  One of the benefits of benign concierge class is that we board first for non-suite guests.  We made a beeline for Murano where we made all of our specialty dining reservations and booked the V.C. dinner.  Well, Elle did that and I was just outside in the ensemble lounge starting my vacation 😂

 

 

On 2/5/2020 at 10:34 PM, CHEZMARYLOU said:

Thank you for the review. The food and wine pairings matched our experience on Equinox. We had a full table, 5 or 6 couples. I'm glad to see they still held the event with only 4 guests. We were also given our choice of a complimentary wine event for booking this dinner.

 

We were also apparently supposed to have a complimentary wine event, but sadly no one told us this.  We only found yesterday and do not have time to enjoy this perk.  Sad 😢 

 

On 2/5/2020 at 10:35 PM, bonedoc7 said:

We would absolutely love that dinner! Is the dinner limited to a small group? Would love to book it, but there’s 10 of us (at this point).

 

No idea, the dinner was in a small room.  10 might fit in that room, but I don’t know the limits of the dinner.  You could ask your concierge or immediately upon boarding to get a better answer.  

 

On 2/6/2020 at 12:17 AM, ClaudiaB said:

".....new tennis ball....."   

😂

 

Isn’t wine fun!

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Quick update for y’all on the shenanigans we got up to on St. Kitts.  We booked a private tour through:

 

https://www.thenfordgreytours.com

 

This tour was a land tour along the island coast with our tour guide, Thenford Grey.  Thenford is probably one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had. He is so knowledgeable and personable that it is a joy to listen to him and the descriptions he provides.  We were picked up along the dock and joined about 15 others in a small bus that was driven by Thenford’s nephew. The bus had A/C and Wi-Fi and Thenford used an in-vehicle microphone to speak so there was no concern about hearing him.  

 

The bus drove around with descriptions of various areas and stops at picturesque areas around the island.  We did have two major stops, one at Romney Manor (an old plantation) and one at Brimstone Hill Fortress (an old English fort).  At the end of the tour, we stopped at Shipwreck Bar & Grill where we could get lunch and spend time on the beach. Our group was split amongst 4 cruise ships (crazy day in St. Kitts!) and one ship was leaving at 8:00p and two were leaving at 5:00p.  Thenford provided transportation back to the ship for those that had to leave, but also provided an extended stay for those that had a later departure time. I thought that was great service.  

 

Overall, we would give this tour 9 cutlasses out of 10.  

 

After our excursion, we shopped around the port a bit, buying various souvenirs, nothing too crazy.  Typical port shopping with people trying to entice you to buy gold or diamonds or fake purses. We find it humorous, but I can see how this can be annoying.  

 

Back on the ship we got refreshed and cleaned up and headed to talk to Ross the concierge about various scheduling things and disembarkation info.  Ross helped us out and got what we needed accomplished. He’s a good chap, that Ross.  

 

We then went and enjoyed a drink in the World Class Bar with Santos and a couple of glasses of wine in Cellar Masters with Tony.  Nothing new to report on wine as we have sorta found our favorites and are sticking with them. I will try and explore some new options today.  

 

For dinner we were tired and wanted something quick so headed to the buffet/Oceanview Cafe and grabbed some quesadillas.  They are made right there in front of you on a panini type press. We both got chicken that was perfectly seasoned, tender, and delicious.  I was very impressed with the quality of food. Nothing special to drink as we both needed some water at this point, or as our Antiguan friends called it, “sky juice.”

 

After that, back to the room for some reading and a great night sleep.  Now off to St. Maarten, where we will be enjoying a food tour of both the Dutch and French sides!

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53 minutes ago, Scuba_Tom said:

Quick update for y’all on the shenanigans we got up to on St. Kitts.  We booked a private tour through:

 

https://www.thenfordgreytours.com

 

This tour was a land tour along the island coast with our tour guide, Thenford Grey.  Thenford is probably one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had. He is so knowledgeable and personable that it is a joy to listen to him and the descriptions he provides.  We were picked up along the dock and joined about 15 others in a small bus that was driven by Thenford’s nephew. The bus had A/C and Wi-Fi and Thenford used an in-vehicle microphone to speak so there was no concern about hearing him.  

 

Same opinion, he is phenomenal along with a very dry sense of humor that I was laughing so much.  I am going back to St Kitts next year, sigh 2021 cruise and will book him again just for the great tour.  Ocean view also does have great food in the evening overall I discovered in Nov.  I ate there a few times and enjoyed the selection and the different specials.  I still have 290 or so days to i get on the Reflection again but enjoying your review.   

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We sailed the Reflection in April on Transatlantic.  First time on this ship but not on Celebrity.   Really enjoying your honest review.  I will make note of your wine comments to open up my tastings on my next cruise - hopefully in 3 weeks (but that is another story)  I am glad you enjoyed Lawn Grill.  Ate there on Silhouette in December and was very disappointed in filet as compared to when we ate there previously.  Had great meal in Tuscan.  

 

Have you attended any of the shows or entertainment?

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So enjoying your review.   We've sailed Reflection before and we'll be on her Monday as you get off.   Completely different itinerary.   I agree, Thenford Grey does a great tour.   Last time we were in St. Lucia we did a "Cook like a Lucien" tour and 12 or so of our cruise mates went to a little place in the mountains and cooked a big dinner, all local and authentic.  Lots of fun.   We've also taken what I assume is the same food tour in St. Maarten - from the Amsterdam cheese shop?  So good.  I'll be curious to see how much the French side has recovered.  Last time we were there was about 5 months after the hurricane and Grand Case really wasn't "open".  The French pastry shop was a fabulous finale.  Hope you bought some good gouda at the shop on the way into town.   Loving your wine recs although I can only handle maybe one or two alcoholic beverages a day, and I seldom even finish either one.   I'll have to try harder I guess.  lol.   

I also was curious about the shows - particularly the non-Celebrity shows.   We usually prefer the guest artists.  

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On 2/5/2020 at 6:35 PM, bonedoc7 said:

We would absolutely love that dinner! Is the dinner limited to a small group? Would love to book it, but there’s 10 of us (at this point).

I suspect the private dining room might be a bit too small for 10.   We had a dinner party in there for 8 and I believe that might be the capacity.   Worth a try asking and with a group of 10 they may schedule a special dinner just for your group.  

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Greetings all!  The last time I left you we were headed out to St. Maarten for a food tour.  This is a tour we were planning on booking privately but the ship had a 50% off sale at some point (for the same company, and same advertised itinerary) so we booked it through Celebrity.  

 

https://stmartinfoodtours.com/tours/

 

Sadly, this food tour was a disappointment.😕  What we received and what they advertised were completely different.  The website states that the tour is 4 hours with 4 stops (including Maho Beach), includes upwards of 10 bites of food, and starts at the Carousel Gelateria Bar.  Sadly, none of the above occurred. Our tour was actually longer at 4.5 hours, but only had 3 stops with no Maho Beach, two dishes and one plate of petit fours. The Gelateria Bar was skipped altogether.  While I do understand that things can and do change, an explanation would have been nice as this is dramatically different than what was promised. Additionally, if they provide a different tour for cruise ship guests this should have also been advertised on their website so that we could have chosen which tour we would like.  

 

The food was good, but there was also no explanation as to what the food was, how it was relevant to the island, or why we were eating it.  In fact no one at any of the restaurants spoke a single word to Elle or I, or the others in our group. Food tours are supposed to be a bridge between the food, history, and culture of a region and there was zero of that.  Elle and I have taken food tours all over the world and this was, unfortunately, the worst one we have done. This came across as a bus tour with lunch spread out of three restaurants and not a food tour. Overall, I’d give it 3 toothpicks out of 10.  Because our guide provided an excellent tour of the island and the food was good, I gave it a two point bump from 1 out of 10.  

 

After some light souvenir shopping at the port, back to the ship we came.  We immediately found ourselves at the Martini Bar and enjoyed a drink or two (or three?).  Elle found a delicious chocolate martini there and I’m afraid it will be dessert for the rest of the trip for her. 😂

 

Dinner was supposed to be in the MDR but after checking the menu on the app we were not impressed and canceled our reservation.  We enjoyed some lighter fare at the buffet and enjoyed our meal on the oceanview deck and watched the beautiful sunset over a vast expanse of ocean.

 

After a walk around the ship we retired to our stateroom for reading and relaxing.  

 

Today is the first of two sea days en route back to Ft. Lauderdale.  We have the Inside Access Ship Tour this morning and dinner at Lawn Club Grill this evening, but the intermediate hours are currently open and we’re looking forward to some relaxation!


 

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This is the first time I am going to be sad when someone else’s cruise is over! I have been enjoying this blog! We don’t sail until Feb 2021 but I plan to re-read all of your blog for your wine notes. We love our food and our wine.  Of course if you book the reflection Feb 15, 2021 cruise, you can be our wine guru! Lol

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