WE started or cruise by flying to Fort Lauderdale the day before the cruise and we stayed at the Hampton Inn near the Terminal. They picked us up at the airport with only 1 call and about a 5 minute wait, we were very pleased. The hotel we found very clean and the people very helpful and friendly. The courtesy shuttle even drove us ( there were 6 of us ) to a local place to eat and picked us up again after dinner. In the morning we enjoyed a nice full breakfast and they drove us to the terminal. They had a great system for taking people to the terminal, you registered a time that you wanted to go when you checked in and they boarded you then by room number. They had 4 vans that they ran back and forth to the terminal. It was only about 10 minutes at the most to the terminal and the boarding process took a whopping 12 minutes. I was amazed at how well organized the boarding process was. As I said it only took 12 minutes from van to ship and we were greeted by many officers all with trays of Champagne and Mimosas. We hung around for a couple of glasses and had lunch and by about 12:30 they announced that our cabins were ready.
We went to our cabin and were greeted by the cabin attendant who we had unlock the mini-bar and open the balcony between the 2 cabins which he did with a smile. I can't begin to tell you how nice it was to have a balcony the you can actually use, we could recline in our chairs with our feet on the foot stool and still have room to move around the balcony. Another nice touch in the cabin was the bottle of Champagne chilling, and the fresh flowers and fresh fruit everyday during the cruise. The Rose that they put in the bathroom really likes the humidity in the bathroom and it bloomed beautifully.
We are all of our dinners in the main dinning room at 8:30pm, we probably would change that next time, it was a little too late, it normally took 1 1/2 to 2 hours to eat dinner so it always made for a late evening. We really liked the way that they had the Cafe set up with all of the stations there was never a long line for food.
Our group were all ballroom dancers so we were always in search for good dance music, We normally found that the lobby on 3 had some good dance music every evening from about 5:00 to about 8:00 and the the Sky lounge on 14 they played some good dance music as well. There was one DJ in particular called Crazy Prince who actually had some really good Ballroom music and he would play it for us at different locations of the ship, even in the Disco when it was relatively empty.
After sailing several cruises on Carnival, we were wonderfully surprised and pleased that they do not allow smoking in any of the clubs (amen). I don't believe that they allow smoking in the casino either so it was a good smelling ship...
We thoroughly enjoyed all of the ports that we visited however I will comment on 2 of them. Barbados had beautiful beaches but the downtown shopping area was dirty and smelly very reminiscent of downtown New Orleans. St. Maartens and Dominica were our favorites and so very beautiful. In St. Maartens we sailed on the Americas Cup 12 meter challenge and loved it and in St. Thomas ( St. Johns ) we loved the snorkeling.
I could go on for hours but I won't
The disembarking process was so well organized that we were off the ship and through customs in about 20 minutes, we unfortunately chose a later flight because we were used to the confusion at Carnival in Galveston so we would up with a 5 hour wait at the airport.
At the end of the day, I would highly recommend both Celebrity and the Equinox to ant cruiser and if you are going out of Fort Lauderdale, The Hampton inn is a very good choice.