Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by pjsinc: Relaxing in (almost) luxury
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Relaxing in (almost) luxury
We had the 11 day southern/western Caribbean cruise at the end of January. Weather was good except during the last sea day when it was rainy and coldish. It was very sunny and hot down in all ports we stopped in. Formal evenings were on the second evening (before Grand Cayman) and on second to last evening (after Mexico). People on the whole were quite senior (we are on our late 40's) but there were quite a lot of younger travellers as well, but not kids though. Service in the ship is really friendly and excellent. Almost everyone is always smiling!
We also had a CC Roll Call meet and greet (arranged by Celebrity) on the second day where we met each other and ship's officers, but we didn't do anything beyond that with those people. Most of them had common, privately arranged, excursions together on later port days.
We really enjoyed everything on the ship, but were bit disappointed by the steaks.
We arrived to Miami Beach three More days beforehand; just perfect timing to enjoy Art Deco Weekend there. On the day of the cruise we took a taxi ($60) to Ft Lauderdale and check-in was very fast (10 minutes?) at around 1 pm when we arrived to the terminal. But as other reviewers have also said, we had to wait for about 30-45 minutes for the cabins to be ready. Quite a short wait with a glass of champagne in your hand... Luggage arrived around 3-4 pm.
Ship is newish but not brand new anymore, since it is almost four years old. It is in really good condition but the age starts to be visible in some areas. E.g. carpets around the stairwells on decks 3-5 show already some wear, silicone seams in bathrooms are starting to turn bit yellowish, the seams on wooden balcony railings are not flush anymore, paintwork on outside areas show lots of places where multiple layers have been applied without sanding the base properly causing the paint ending up flaking.
There were lots of people on the ship (our cruise was fully booked) but except on waiting the MDR doors to open and on pool deck on southern sea days, there was lots of available room. Well, breakfast time at Oceanview Cafe was usually very busy and it would have been difficult to find seating for larger parties than us two. We didn't notice that many reserved chairs on the pool deck, but there were people who routinely always took the next lounger with their stuff to keep other people at their distance.
Towards the end of the cruise there was a norovirus outbreak which caused some changes how things worked in restaurants (by adding limitations to self-service) and cabins started to look quite stark when they removed the pillows from the couches, the "lower bed curtain" (whatever that thing is called that hangs from the bed and blocks your suitcases from being visible), etc. We didn't get the virus but it was amazing to see the amount of "gentlemen" walk away from toilets without washing their hands. I almost wish that they got the virus...
Really excellent! Big, comfortable and with lots of storage space. None of the resonating noises we've observed on previous cruises on other ships and cruise lines. Cabin was very silent with no noises coming from to corridor or from the sides. On last sea day there was bit of sideways vibration due to rougher seas, but nothing worth mentioning. Our cabin had the first "rain" showerhead I've seen anywhere that doesn't dribble cold water on you when go to shower after someone else! We had a corner balcony, which turned out to be quite windy because it was catching wind from two directions. Also when the ship was underway the wind always twirled around in the balcony, usually quite strongly.
Having a suite in Celebrity meant afternoon hors d'oeuvres brought to your cabin by your butler, unfortunately they mostly tended to be sweets (cookies and small cakes) and not salty (except few small sandwiches), which I did not like. You can actually have the same stuff in the Cafe al Bacio on deck 5, so the usefulness was quite limited.
And frankly, we really didn't know what we could make the butler to do for us. He was useful on correcting one of the speciality restaurant reservations, but I could also have done it in five minutes myself... :-)
In general food was excellent, but my biggest disappointments were the steaks. Since the restaurants were all using frozen meat the steaks tended to be quite dry and chewy even when cooked to medium-rare. All the appetizers and seafood (best Ahi tuna ever!) were really good, usually really excellent. Only complaint about MDR I had was that the sommelier was really busy and usually had only time to stop by for few seconds. On the other hand the recommendations from her ended up being excellent!
Of the specialty restaurants we both most liked the Murano where we ended up eating twice. As an entree we'd really recommend the Murano Lobster (prepared on the tableside) and for a dessert they had this really fabulous flambeed crepe with ice-cream, strawberries and a special red-wine sauce. I liked Tuscan Grill the least, due to very un-Italian Italian food (and not good steak) and my wife liked the Silk Harvest the least (she doesn't appreciate sushi, which I liked there a lot). Service in all speciality restaurants was really great, pity that food wasn't at the same level. Don't get me wrong here, we really enjoyed eating in all the places on the ship (I did gain some weight) and the almost only complaint I have is about the quality of the steaks! (I might be a bit too perfectionist in regards to them...)
We mostly frequented Molecular Bar where we really enjoyed lots of different (and usually good) concoctions, with and without liquid nitrogen. :-) Service was enthusiastic (Sergei and Andrew) and we were able to taste lots of drinks that were not listed in the two pages of the bar menu. They do NOT server regular/normal cocktails there at all, but please do not hesitate to tell them what kind of drinks you like; they will be able to recommend something really spectacular. Almost all drinks in this bar are $12, so if you plan to be here often (we did) premium alcohol package is recommended. Music in this bar was better than anywhere else in the ship, contemporary pop/club.
Martini Bar is another bar were we sometimes visited, guys there have always a show on-going, throwing bottles and shakers, pouring 5-10 drinks at the same time etc. There is actually a YouTube video (search terms in YouTube "epic bartending") where you can see Larry and Hector (who were the bartenders on our cruise) showing their skills. This bar is somewhat noisier since it is next to open area where there was usually a "band" every evening. It was also fuller since everyone seemed to want to have their pre-dinner drinks there.
We ended up liking the Molecular bar more due to music, excellent drinks and due to fact that the drinks in Martini Bar tended to be quite strong compared to exact measures in Molecular Bar. If you want to maximize you money to alcohol ratio, go to Martini bar. :-)
There are also huge number of other bars in the ship (was it 15?), but we didn't really visit them all. Some people have here been complaining that e.g. in pool area they were bit annoyed that pool butler kept trying to sell them drinks, we had a bit opposite experience. Most of the time we wanted drinks we had to walk to the pool bar to buy one since all butlers had disappeared. And of course immediately getting back to our table/loungers there would be several pool butlers walking past seeing if we wanted something to drink. :-D
We really didn't go to any of the shows (except one, the Remix), we are so easy to please on vacation and we were on the cruise just to relax. I got the impression that the entertainment is geared to somewhat older clientele with lots of material from 50's to 80's. Especially the programs on the deck 3 foyer seemed to be consisting of bands and groups targeting the over 50 age groups... Since this was an area in the middle of the ship, open up to deck 15, those shows could be heard on all bars around the central shaft.
We only had two; in Panama the "Panama Canal Railroad Journey by Dome Car & Bus", which was basically a train trip to Panama City, driving around there with a bus and finally driving back to the ship. Lots of interesting things to see and we were able to observe Queen Elizabeth going through the canal as well.
In Cozumel we took the "Tulum Mayan Ruins Express", which was nice enough, but the distances back and forth made the ruins area time a bit too short. (BTW, note that you're no longer allowed to climb the ruins.) Also one notable thing for ALL excursions in Mexico that leave Cozumel is that they involve 30-45 minute ferry (speedboat) ride to the mainland. I've never ever been as seasick as I was during that ride. All the windows of the ferry are actually painted over so you cannot see outside, which would help people who have tendency to seasickness. There is a small open area on the rear, but with very limited space. So take you seasickness meds with you!
Oh, and in case of all mainland excursions in Cozumel, the excursion ends at Cozumel downtown, not even close to international pier (15 km / 9 miles away) and you have to pay for your own transportation back to ship. This is clearly stated in the excursion description and explained (several times) by the tour guides, but it still seems strange that after paying for the excursion you still need to pay more (only $8 per taxi though) to get back to the ship...
On other ports we arranged trip by ourselves or just took a taxi downtown. Note, several parties have here been complaining about the constant pushy selling of things and that is very much true on the excursion side as well. The daily newsletter always has open positions to lots of excursions but usually no info at all for people who want to see things by themselves. There was a magazine in the cabin which explained some things of all the Celebrity ports, but even that was targeted for people who'd want to buy diamonds (be prepared to see Diamonds International a lot) and watches on the port area. Useful info like "How much to pay for taxi from port to Cartagena old town?" was somewhat missing. Finding out that the price is $4-5 instead of the $20 we just paid was bit annoying...
Was not really fun (also because the trip was so nice that we hated to leave). Breakfast that morning was quite rushed with very limited selections and with norovirus making it even more difficult. We had a middle disembarkation group number (21 out from 30+?) but were still rushed from our cabin (by announcements telling people to leave their cabins) quite early to the theatre, where the wait was about 30 minutes. When our turn came up we walked off the ship to customs, picked our suitcases and then queued in the immigration for almost two hours. Announcements in the theatre told that there were no queues... Right. One annoying thing was that they were not even trying to enforce the group numbers so we had quite a lot of 25-30 numbers already in front of us. My recommendation would be to get off the ship as soon as you are ready to leave, don't bother waiting for your group number! Less
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