Our family took the 10 day cruise to the Southern Caribbean on March 16, 2012. We are a couple in our 40s with 2 teen daughters. We had taken the girls on several short Royal Caribbean trips, and then last year we took our first Celebrity cruise on Eclipse without the kids. We loved it so much, we booked the Equinox cruise for all of us for this year.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale a day early and stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn North Cruise Port. We do NOT recommend this hotel. People rave about it on Trip Advisor but our experience was much different. Even though the hotel had a free shuttle to the port, we took a cab. The hotel wouldn't take us to the port until 1 p.m. and we wanted to be there earlier. We got to the port at about 11:15 and almost walked right on board. They have redone the terminal and it was phenomenal. We had our champagne and burgers from the Mast Grill by 11:30.
There was only one bad experience on this ship, so I will tell about it first. The muster drill. Be prepared...it is a joke. They crammed us into the photo area and it was mass chaos. Then when people complained about it being so awful, the staff member in charge of holding the sign for our area chewed us out and said that if the passengers on the Concordia had listened to their crew members they wouldn't have died. What??? Does she honestly believe that? I found out later that she worked in the overpriced dress shop and wasn't even part of the real "crew". They kept telling us if there was a problem we should all come running to the photo area and jam ourselves in there to be safe. Right...like I believe that would be a safe area. I know they have to do the muster drill by law, but they could have handled it WAY better.
That was it. The rest of the cruise was 100% the best we have ever had out of 7 cruises. The ship is wonderful. We had two rooms in Aqua Class because we loved eating at Blu on the Eclipse. I didn't think they could improve on the food, but the food in Blu on Equinox was even better. And, of course, the wait staff was wonderful. One night the girls ordered duck and when they tasted it, they didn't really care for it. The waiter asked if it was fine, and they said yes, even though we encouraged them to order something else. The head waiter was secretly watching them and he could tell they didn't really like it. He came over to our table and said directly to the waiter, take this duck away and bring the lamb chops. Within 2 minutes, the girls were enjoying perfectly done lamb. Just one example of how they paid attention to your needs.
We also ate at the 3 specialty restaurants. Our favorite was Silk Harvest. We love Asian food, and all I can say is...we didn't realize how unflavorful the food we get her at home really is. Wow! I wish we had eaten there more than once. We also enjoyed Murano (how can you not love that goat cheese souffle and the filet mignon). We ate at Tuscan too, and it was good, but not great. I think we would skip that and do one other others twice next time. Also we ate at Bistro on Five 3 times. The crepes are fantastic, and we had regular crepes and then dessert crepes as well.
We went to several of the shows. Enjoyed the cirque show, the comedian, and the magician/variety show. The violin player was good, until the end when he brought his kids on stage. Its cute for 5 minutes, but 25?? Not so cute. We also went to the Broadway show put on by the ships singers. We thought it was pretty good, except my hubby, who hates musicals. But he did say the singers were better than we'd ever heard on previous ships.
The girls didn't do any of the ship sponsored activities, so I can't comment on them. They laid in the sun, read books, and ordered a lot of room service. They are pretty laid back and enjoyed the down time from school. They said it was their favorite vacation ever, and they've been on 3 R.C. cruises.
We had five port stops. St. Thomas, where we took the Ferry over to St. John and went to Trunk Bay. Beautiful. St. Kitts where we did the zip line with the ship. Don't bother. The zips are ok, but the tour itself took forever, and we were too late getting back to shop. Barbados where we did the catamaran sailing tour with Calabaza. That is phenomenal. If you are lucky enough to be able to get a tour with this crew...take it!! In Dominica we took the Bumpiing Tour with Levi. Visited Champagne Reef, Titou Gorge and Trafalgar Falls. Perfect day and perfect trip. I highly recommend Bumpiing Tours. Levi is 100% professional and makes sure you have a great time. In St. Maartin, we went to Le Gallion beach. If you like a quiet "locals" time beach, go here. They have a restaurant on site and you can rent chairs as well. Unfortunately, after 2 hours, we got rain. We headed back to the port and shopped a little, but when it started to pour, we gave up. We will have to try that again sometime. One nice thing, though, when we got back to the ship and walked in soaking wet, we were met by a crew member giving you a warm, dry towel so you didn't freeze from the air conditioning!
A few other notes: we hit the fitness center 9 out of 10 days. Never had to wait for a machine, and on port days (we went early before we docked) it was practically dead. It is very clean and orderly. The attendant even brings you a cold towel while you are working out. Hmm...why can't I get that at home? Also we ate breakfast several times at the Aqua Spa Cafe. If you like a light, healthy breakfast, try this. Fruit, oatmeal, yogurt, museli. Very nice.
We don't drink, so I can't comment on the bars. We did hit the Gelateria almost every night. The girl there was wonderful. She remembered us after the first few times, and was very friendly. Also got cookies at the Cafe Al Bacio almost every day too (amazing that I only gained 4 pounds!) And the girl there started getting us our "usual" too. Can't say enough about how friendly the entire staff was.
Oh...we loved the Aqua Class rooms. Very quiet, despite being under the pool deck. Also we ate the fresh fruit they gave every afternoon and were thankful for the bottles of water to take to the fitness center and on shore. Our steward and his assistant went out of their way to make things perfect. Once they found out we weren't night owls, they started cleaning our rooms early, so when we got back to the room about 10:30 it was all set. I don't think we will ever sail on Celebrity again without booking Aqua Class. Now we are spoiled!
Disembarkation was simple. We met in the theater and waited about 15 minutes and then walked off the ship, got our luggage easily and went right through customs. Couldn't have been smoother.
Sorry for this long review, but I like to read long reviews to get good ideas and advice for when we cruise, so I tried to cover it all here too. In the end, the only thing that matters is that this was a perfect trip, and we were sad to have it end. We are already searching for the next celebrity cruise to take!