There is no doubt upon arriving at the terminal, seeing the beautiful Equinox you can expect great things. She is three and a half years old and looks magnificent. The best way to offer meaningful commentary is to address each element separately.
as many other passengers have commented, this process was outstanding. We were aqua class room 1650, 11th deck starboard side aft. From the time of arrival to the terminal at 11:20 to being on board was 15 minutes. That said, our next objective should have been to make a bee line for the Oceanview cafe. The stateroom hallways were sealed off so roaming the ship or beginning the inevitable weight gain process at Oceanview were the only options. By the time we elected to get a bite to eat at 1230, there was absolutely NO place to sit. We were with another couple and eventually found separate seating. The rooms were available at 1:15.
Stateroom & steward
Our room in aqua class was very nicely appointed with the sofa located next to the balcony. The bathroom was very nice and the shower noticeably larger than the one on Ruby Princess. Gents, if you are waffling on upgrading to aqua class, your ladies will LOVE the shower! The only adverse comment I have to make is noting that unfortunately for us, the crew hallway entrance door was directly across from our stateroom, the slamming of the door was constant. No ship diagram online points this out, there was no way to foresee this. I had spent so much time finding the perfect room (staterooms above and below, down the hall to avoid noise, etc) this was disappointing. Of note, if you are planning Aqua class I advise NOT to book rooms on the 12th deck for 2 reasons. Your view above is obstructed by the cantilevered deck directly above plus there are also public spaces above you. If you don't care and are a heavy sleeper, enjoy.
I have been in many rougher seas as was this case. Both Sea Princess (crossing the Bay of Biscay) and celebrity Summit (sailing down to the lesser Antilles in January) fared better than Equinox. Specifically the boat shimmies a lot in rougher seas. Unfortunately even in the end of March, temps were cool and seas rough. We experienced 12 foot waves leaving Cartagena sailing north as reported by the Captain. Her tall narrow profile makes her intrinsically less stable than less tall ships. Waves were also hitting us from the sides which only exaggerated the problem. Rocking is to be expected on any cruise, shimmying was the problem.
Docked alongside Island Princess in Cartagena it was very easy to appreciate the 15th deck lawn garden, absolutely marvelous and breaks up the chasm of steel seen on all other cruise ships. Sipping cocktails in comfy padded teak chairs and looking out over the huge lawn imparts a feeling of being in the park. Installing the lawns takes up critical ship board space but is well worth it by adding unparalleled ambiance.
The ship has a lot of open space and other than the Oceanview cafe at key times or the pool area mid-day, crowds were not a problem. There are simply not enough lounge chairs available. Our cruise was sold out. At one point after receiving my Mast Grill burger, I was forced to walk all the way to the back of the ship to sit down to enjoy it.
The ships profile is beautiful but it is my opinion the smoke stacks appears disproportionally small ( silly individual perspective)
Being active duty Navy, fending off the inevitable weight gain was essential, the gym was nice. Specifically here is what it has to offer:
16 treadmills, 12 ellipticals, 6 stationary bikes, all Life Fitness brand. Equipment consists of 3 abdominal, 7 lower body, and 8 upper body machines. The gym Is good sized at ~4680 SF plus a workout floor for spin and other classes. I did not take any classes. They also offer floor mats , large exercise balls,and a full complement of dumbbells
This element is tricky to comment on. If you suffer from a mundane pallet as I do, Blu will disappoint,It's a funky shi shi fru fru (what the hell is this) menu. If you are adventuresome and love an eclectic mix of ingredients thrown together (such as mac and cheese in red peppers, wild game cooked in funky stuff), odd cold soups you will be in heaven. If, like me, you prefer food you recognize on the menu, made in its authentic manner such as beef stroganoff you may wish to eat at the main dining room Silhouette. Blu tries too hard to create different recipes that are bizarre, and their portions very small. Twice I asked for seconds for entrees that were actually normal such as Kobe style beef in pasta shells........ they only give you three smaller shells. The honey glazed meat loaf was three small bites with maybe an ounce of mashed potatoes, really???
We ate at silhouette once and only had to show up and were seated immediately. Aqua class offers this option. The food in silhouette was delicious. All food except Blu was outstanding, the burgers from the mast grill are a must have, smothered in caramelized onions, bacon and cheese.
The variety of food on the Oceanview cafe is amazing. German, Italian, Indian, Tai, Asian,)
Despite my general distaste of the Blu menu, their service was unmatched and the maitre'd even arranged for a filet mignon from the previous night to be cooked for me. It was cooked to perfection. They knew our name and room number upon arrival each night.
The entertainment was mediocre as has been pointed out by others save one show. There is their signature show which was fantastic and in my opinion is a knock off of circ du Sole's ?Kah?in Vegas. The theater was designed explicitly for this.
The comedian was also hilarious. A second late night show was added rated R
For everything embarkation was, disembarkation was NOT! This too has been noted by many others. Things you may wish to consider when arranging a flight back home. We had a 10:50 flight back from Fort Lauderdale. My decision to do this was based on several factors
1. How many other cruise ships are there arriving? This impacts cab availability and airport check- in. I bought a subscription to Cruisecal.com and this allows me well in advance to know exactly how many cruise ships are in any given port at every location including our arrival back home to Port Everglades. I recall arriving back to Fort Lauderdale in January 2005, there were 6 other ships in port Everglades and 4 in Miami, the airport was a mess!
2. We were flying out of FLL versus Miami, going to Miami adds significantly to the required departure time plus it's a much busier airport.
We were told to be at the theater at 0715 for self-disembarkation, I knew there may be a problem when I was at Oceanview at 6:15 for breakfast and it was packed. I quickly finished my breakfast, grabbed most of the bags and headed straight toward the theater by 6:40. I was dismayed when I saw an enormous line by the 5th deck Elevators snaking its way back towards the theater. Suffice it to say, get there early and be sure to know the exact location, the theater was the wrong location and all of us has to double back. As we began to disembark, people started to enter the line from the opposite direction angering the hell out of us who had been patiently waiting for over 1/2 hour. Then suddenly all the handicapped people needed to be let off further delaying the process. Then, adding insult to injury we arrive at customs to find 2 agents only for US and Canadian citizens. RCCL/Celebrity have plenty of money to pay for additional customs agents. It took an hour to get past customs, travelers beware. I have never taken this long before. More agents began showing up but by then we had already waited an hour.
From the point of lining up at 6:40 AM on board ship, till making it past security and at the gate in FLL took 1:50 minutes. Keep in mind only 2 cruise ships in port. Cabs were lined up at the cruise terminal and both the check-in desk and security lines were nothing at the airport. As it turns out we had plenty of time, our flight was at 10:50 AM.
Lessons learned- I travel a lot but made mistakes in Cartagena and Cozumel by not knowing the exchange rate ahead of time. This slip on my part wound up costing me extra when I was required in both cases to use local currency. While most ports accepts USD, I had run out and had to get to the local cash machine which only dispensed local currency. Pay in local is fine as long as you are not taken for a ride with the conversion rate.