Equinox Cruise December 21, 2012 10 days Caribbean St. Thomas, St Maarten, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica
Embarkation: Couldn't have been easier. There was only one person in front of us and with having all the paperwork done on line in advance, things went very quickly. Got on the ship and the party was already started with the Oceanview Buffet open and great entertainment by the pool.
Room: Having an inside room, of course it was small. However, everything was well set up and you felt that you had plenty of room. It was also pretty and with many different areas for storage, we had no problems. One thing I did on this cruise I had never done before was to bring my own hangers. The cruise lines usually never supply enough, but although I am sure you can ask for more, they are usually the fat wooden ones and they take up a lot of room. I brought the thin hangers that you may have seen on one of the shopping networks and I could fit in twice as much clothes in the closet! Just a little tip! Only took me 25 cruises to figure that out! No towel animals this trip, but there was turn down service with chocolates. Cabin steward did a nice job and we had no complaints. He asked if there were any special requests as soon as we got on and he made sure the items we requested (ie: extra towels, etc.) were always there.
Dining Room: On our past Holiday Cruises, even though we requested a big table, we never get our wish as the big tables seem to be reserved for families. Also, I think years ago, the cruise lines tried to match up people at tables based on age or whatever criteria they used. In recent times, not so much. However, we were pleasantly surprised that we did get a large table for 8 and the other couples at the table were all around our age. Some were even members of our Cruise Critic Group. We had a great time with everyone and one couple lived only 20 minutes from us so hopefully we will see them in South Florida. The food was good for the most part but I found that sometimes there was usually nothing I wanted from the day's special menu or I wanted everything!!! Luckily, if you do not want the special selections for the day, you have a choice of Salmon, Steak, etc. that you can get daily. The food was good, but my husband did have some issues with the pastry. They even brought the pastry chef over to talk to us and he apologized as he said he had a new chef preparing the lava cake that evening! Nice touch to care enough to bring over the pastry chef. Most desserts were good and there was a nice variety . Most of the food was also excellent especially the meats which were very well prepared.
Oceanview Buffet: The buffet had a lot of choices, but they were basically the same every day. Knowing I am going to have a big dinner, I don't like to have a big meal lunchtime so I opted for a sandwich, a slice of pizza or a little pasta. The sandwich area has deli meats, cheeses and salads (chicken, tuna, egg, potato, pasta, etc). They will make panini's for you with these items. At another area, they slice fresh pork or turkey or roast beef. So, I got these meats from this area and brought it over to the sandwich area, selected some cheese and had the panni made this way! Others who saw me do it thought it was a good idea so I thought I would pass along that hint. This is the first cruise I have been on where dipped ice cream was available for free on the ship (other than in the dining room) They usually only offer soft serve. This subject was brought up on other cruise critic reviews I read before boarding this ship as a not to be missed treat. They had lots of choices of flavors, however, many thought that the ice cream was a bit gritty (low milk fat content). I usually opted for the sorbet which was super refreshing especially when getting back from a tour of a warm Caribbean island. The buffet was basically OK, but most recently we had been on the Carnival Dream and their buffet was better.
Specialty Restaurants: We only tried one Specialty Restaurant which was Il Bacio. For $5 a person, you could have your choice of a Panini, savory crepe and dessert crepes or you can have all three!!! It happened to be very good and very good value for $5!!!
Cruise Critic: People on our cruise from the Cruise Critic Blog arranged their own sailing away party at the Sunset Bar at 4:00 on the day we left. From what I understand, it was so freezing not many people went. Since we signed up for the cruise critic party, we did receive an invitation in our room for a cruise critic function the following day which was held in one of the bars on the ship. The ship provided pastries and coffee. It was nice meeting the people we had been blogging with for months. Also, the captain and other crew members took the time to come to the party to meet us.
There seemed to be a lot of activities on this ship that my husband and I wished to attend. We took part in a lot of the trivia activities and met a lot of other people who enjoyed this activity so we always had a group to have fun with. Met a lot of nice people this way. There were also cooking seminars and Melinda Bates who had worked in the Clinton White house did a few seminars about entertaining at the Whitehouse throughout the all the years and how things changed through the years with each administration. It was most interesting. We also took a tour of the galley and went back stage to see how the theater productions work.
Although we did not take advantage of them, there were a lot of competition type activities involving passengers and the crew which I thought was a great idea and made you feel that the cruise line wanted to be very involved in your cruise experience.
The shows were typical cruise type shows with a cast of dancers and singers. The Broadway Show and the Cirque Du Soleil type show were very good.
The Acapella Group Lemon Squeezy was one of the best things on the cruise. I think everyone soon became Lemon Squeezy groupies. 4 young guys from Sweden who were so fantastic I think we almost made it to everyone of their appearances around the ship! They usually performed for 15 minutes at different venues around the ship.
A lot of performances of bands and special events were held in the Grand Foyer area. This is basically a very small area and only a few people are lucky enough to get seats to actually see the performers in this area. There is other limited seating which would allow you to hear, but not see what is going on. Not a great set up. We usually got there early if there was something we especially wanted to see, especially the Squeezy's as we started calling them! Everything was very lively, especially when they had the 60's show and everyone was dancing and the dancers were using the elevators as go-go cages!!!
Since it was a Christmas Cruise, Santa appeared and following a Christmas parade, Santa had gifts for all the kids. Additionally, all passengers received gifts in their rooms
The Hot Glass Show was very interesting and an unusual feature for a ship. Naturally, on a ship you cannot have open flames as they do in most glass studios so a special oven had to be created especially for this ship.
The Lawn on the top floor was also a nice touch and although we didn't take advantage of the functions there, several people had fun laying on the grass with Margaritas and chips! The Sunset Bar also on the same floor was the only place that guests were allowed to smoke cigars. My husband took advantage of that area and the waiters were very attentive and he met some fellow smokers to hang with in the afternoon.
Captains Club Special Events: Our level with the Captains Club is select (not the top level), but there were a few special cocktail parties we were invited to which were very nice. Also, being in the Captains Club, we received coupons and I was able to take advantage of 25% off an internet package which came in handy. Since many people traveled with their I-Phones or I-Pads, there was no problem getting on one of the computers in the computer room.
Excursions: We did 2 excursions from the cruise line. Having been in these islands several times, we opted to go shopping and not do any special tours. We toured the Harrison Caves in Barbados and took a tour around both sides of St Maarten (French and Dutch). The tour in St. Maarten would have taken us back to the boat, but we opted to stay in town on the Dutch side and go shopping. There is also a beach there, so we took the opportunity to have lunch at one of the restaurants by the water.
Disembarkation: You can leave the ship early if you wish to carry off your own bags. We did not choose this option. Since we live only 20 minutes from the boat, we got off the boat later than those who had planes to catch. We had breakfast and then there were plenty of places to sit while waiting to get off the ship. The lines once we got off were a little long going through customs, but really not bad. We had parked in the Park & Fly/Cruise in Ft. Lauderdale near the port. It is less expensive than parking at the actual port. Within 5 minutes of leaving the terminal, the park and fly/cruise bus was there. We have used this facility many times and they are always consistently good.
All in all, it was a fantastic 10 days with a lot of wonderful memories and we made some great friends which, in my opinion, is always the best part!!!