This is my and my husband's (early 30's; professionals; from Washington, D.C.; no kids) fifth cruise and first time on Celebrity. We were excited to try a longer cruise (our longest up until now was 9 days) and to sail out of Ft. Lauderdale (a first for both of us).
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before to see friends, but this is one port I would consider flying to the morning the ship left. The port is well laid out (if a bit industrial) & located a quick 15 minute drive from the airport. On embarkation day, from the moment we stepped out of the cab & the porters grabbed our luggage, to the time that we were actually walking onto the ship was only about 40 minutes. The cruise terminal was well organized, with knowledgeable staff, quick security lines & friendly check-in staff. When we walked onto the ship, we were greeted with a smile & a glass of champagne - definitely starting out on the right note!
The Celebrity Equinox is a beautiful ship - stunning, really. There's a reason this ship & her crew won best ship in the Celebrity line every year of its existence.
On the inside, she looks less like a ship & more like an upscale modern resort. All the interior design is done in a pleasant collection of neutrals with the occasional pop of color (the chartreuse chairs in the coffee bar, the burnt red pillows in our stateroom) and light wood accents. Original pieces of art, photography, & sculpture were in every stairwell & corridor. The decks are well laid out, which never made this ship of a little over 2850 passengers & 1000 crew feel crowded.
Up on deck, every inch of the the pool deck is filled with lounge chairs featuring navy blue cushions (no more falling through cheap plastic chairs!), a pair of two-person hammocks (which quickly became a favorite spot of ours), & wicker sofas & chairs. The solarium had even more lounging options, with beautiful teak wood lounge chairs (again boasting navy cushions) & a highlight of the Solstice class: two person, private cabana chairs (a little warm, unless you were able to nab one in front of an open window). The nicest thing was that there was plenty of seating for everyone - in the sun, in the shade, in the quiet area, in the lively area. No need to get up at 6am to claim a chair on this cruise (& kudos to Celebrity for actively enforcing the "don't leave your towel on a chair & disappear for two hours" rule - they actively picked up towels "claiming" abandoned chairs after 30 minutes).
One of my favorite features of the ship was the Lawn Club. A huge span of green grass up on the top deck, the Lawn Club was the perfect place stretch out on a towel with a book. Several evenings featured live instrumental music, with couples lounging on blankets & pillows sipping wine & noshing on cheese. As someone who lives in a condo in an urban area, the ability to sit on my own patch of grass & run my toes through the green goodness was truly one of the highlights of the trip.
Our cabin, a 1C deluxe oceanview veranda stateroom, was one of the largest rooms we've ever had at sea. It was the only place in the ship where I thought the decor was a little too neutral (& the art pretty ugly), but the ample storage & interactive flat screen TV made up for that. You could do everything from check your account balance, to view photos taken, to watch live sports (we sailed during the NCAA basketball tournament), to watch FREE On Demand movies of new releases (we watched "Midnight in Paris" on evening before dinner). The bathroom, which reportedly was designed by a woman, was the most beautiful I've ever seen in a standard stateroom: relatively large, tons of storage, & (ladies, you'll love this): a bar in the shower to prop your foot on when you shave. Men will never understand how important this single feature is. The toiletries provided (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, cotton balls, Q-tips) more than met our needs. Our stateroom attendant, Flenny, was top notch, & even made us a towel animal one night (a usual Celebrity no-no!). Having chocolates on our pillows every night, something other lines have done away with, really made a bigger impact than I would have predicted! The balcony was the largest we've ever had & became a favorite place to read & have breakfast. The balcony chairs reclined a bit, although it would have been nice to have a foot rest (I know they have them in bigger rooms, but I think our balcony was big enough for one).
The food was good, both in the main dining room & in the specialty restaurants. Not nearly as many healthy options in the dining room as other lines (Royal Caribbean, for instance, has heart healthy options every night), Celebrity's chef believes in the liberal use of butter & oil. In fact, this is the first cruise I've ever gained weight on. Read into that what you wish, but it should definitely be a testament to how good the food was! While our waiter & assistant waiter were professional & a little more reserved than other servers we've had (on some ships, we've literally known their life story by the end of the trip), they delivered great service with a smile.
The food in the Oceanview Cafe, the nearly 24 hour buffet restaurant, was also pretty good. We ate breakfast & lunch there a few days (opting for room service breakfast most days), & really enjoyed noshing on their fresh-made sushi almost every afternoon before dinner. The hand-dipped ice cream was good & popular - there was almost always a line for it.
We liked the specialty restaurants, but came away with a favorite not many other people have: Silk Harvest. The food there was fantastic & plentiful & the wait staff & service was perfection. I don't have a single complaint about our meal there. We ended up eating at Murano twice (long story), & both times had a great meal & good service. They were very busy, but we felt like we got the same level of service we would get at a fine dining restaurant at home. The table side cooking is really something to behold! Tuscan Grille was the low point of specialty dining for us. Maybe it's because we have so many good, authentic Italian restaurants by us? Our table was so bad (right next to the kitchen) that we had to be moved, the bread was soggy, & the food just wasn't special. I admit that I'm snobby about Italian food - if my idea of "good Italian" was Olive Garden, Tuscan Grille would have blown me away.
We visited five ports on this trip, with two sea days on either end of the journey. St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica, & St. Maarten were all unique & wonderful in their own way. We walked around St. Thomas on our own (& were a little disappointed), went to the Marriott Beach Resort at St. Kitts (which was really great), were on our own in Barbados (this was our 7th time there), & did island tours of Dominica & St. Maarten.
In addition to a great vacation, we chose to cruise the Celebrity Equinox to celebrate my 30th birthday. Without being over the top about it, everyone on the ship made my day feel a little extra special, with a little cake at dinner & a few complimentary services after my massage. It was the perfect, understated, way to celebrate a special occasion.
Kids & Families
As I just told a friend of mine, who is planning a family cruise vacation her little girl, I would not take kids on Celebrity. While I'm sure their youth programs are great, there just simply weren't very many children (of any age - from infant to teenager) on board, even though we cruised during spring break time. In addition, the whole boat just feels more geared toward adults.
Maybe the only disappointing point of the ship. The massage I had was excellent, but the facilities aren't really anything special &, like any cruise service, my massage came with a hard sell of products afterward. The manicure I got in the beauty salon was the low point of the trip - a rude nail technician & a sloppy manicure, which didn't even last for four days afterward. Unless you really want a massage & can nab one of the deals they run later in the cruise, consider skipping the spa.
We weren't really sure what to expect from the other passengers on the ship. Yes, the majority of them were older than us, but we found more passengers in their 40's & 50's than on previous sailings, which was nice. The second dinner seating definitely had a younger vibe, as did the always lively martini bar. As I mentioned, there were almost no children or teenagers on board & there were also less passengers than on previous sailings who were on the other end of the age spectrum.
I'm sheepish to admit that we didn't go to any of the production shows on board & really didn't participate in many of the organized activities. We have often found these to be a waste of time in the past, & this ship may finally have been one that they were worth going to. On sea days, there were interesting lectures by officers & guest lecturers, which my husband enjoyed attending. Of course, there was also the typical bingo, casino games, & dance classes. The live music in the evenings was great - especially the jazz quartet we listened to nightly.
Debarkation morning was simple, largely due to the fact that we're light packers & chose to do the express walk-off. After standing in a rather long queue, once it started moving we were off the ship in no time. Immigration & customs was the easiest I've ever experienced & we were in a cab on the way to the airport within an hour of leaving our cabin.
As each day of our trip passed, we felt more & more at home. Every single staff & crew member we ran into - from the Captain to the guy painting (a constant, unforgiving job on a ship) - smiled, said hello, & asked how our cruise was going. The friendly service alone made this my favorite cruise journey. The beautiful ship put it over the top. It will be hard to sail a line other than Celebrity in the future.