SHIP We have been cruising since the early 1990's long before Cruise Critic appeared and the Equinox is the largest ship on which we have sailed to date.
This was very efficient and stress-free. Our flight left Toronto a little after 07:00, and we were enjoying lunch in the AquaSpa Cafe at 12:30! Transfer from Fort Lauderdale Airport was fast and efficient, and the cruise check-in was very smooth. Celebrity has photographers on duty if you feel the need to have your picture taken, but unlike those from other cruise lines, Celebrity's photographers are polite and willing to take "No thank you" for an answer. They never bothered us on this trip.
We selected an inside cabin on deck 7. We always choose an inside cabin for 2 reasons, a) We spend very little time in the cabin, apart from sleeping, and b) Inside cabins are usually nice and dark; combined with the gentle movements of the ship this is a perfect lullaby. Our cabin was spacious and conveniently arranged. One nice touch; the light in the bathroom has a night-light feature, which helps you navigate the cabin safely without disturbing your partner after lights-out. There is plenty of storage space and a small safe. Another reviewer commented that the heat generated by the refrigerator melted a bar of chocolate he had placed in the top drawer of the console. Here's a tip: place any chocolate in the fridge rather than on top of it.
We usually took breakfast and lunch at the Ocean View Cafe and we enjoyed every meal. Some reviewers have described the Ocean View variously as a zoo or a works canteen. We disagree: the food was always good and the staff always helpful and polite. Some people either have ridiculously high standards, or they must be professional complainers. If the buffet atmosphere upsets you (but why it should is anyone's guess) take all your meals in the Silhouette Dining Room (open for lunch on sea days) or in the AquaSpa Cafe.
We had an excellent dinner in the Murano restaurant. We enjoyed Cheese souffle, Latticed Turbot (a work of art), Scallops Wellington and Sea Bass accompanied by a delicious Gewurtztraminer. The sampler desert is delicious: tip, eat the ice-cream first if you want to avoid it melting while you savour the others.
We appreciate the hard work, enthusiasm and dedication of every one of the crew members on the Equinox. With a crew drawn from 73 different nationalities you can meet interesting people everywhere on board. Everyone we spoke to was friendly and cheerful and managed to find time for a brief chat. We realise that a vacation day for us is a work day for them, so we don't like to distract them too much, but they were always polite and as interested in us as we were in them. Tip: everyone likes to feel appreciated; we find friendliness is returned every time. There were several opportunities to meet and mingle with Captain and officers and they are equally cheerful and easy-going. Captain Panos runs a happy ship.
Some crew members went over and above the call of duty and we want to recognize their efforts in making our trip so enjoyable. These are the crew members with whom we interacted most often. Firstly we must mention our stewards, Manuel and his assistant -- always cheerful and always helpful -- indeed this is true of all the crew who service the rooms in the forward area of deck 7. They work a long day, but are always friendly.
In the Silhouette Dining Room we must mention Olena who is a first-class assistant maitre d'. She always manages to find time to talk to the guests at every table, and makes everyone feel special. We must also acknowledge Dev and Santiago who provided excellent service at our table. Similarly, Sonya did an excellent job of recommending wines and keeping our glasses full. Last, but by no means least, we must include Anthony and Cecilia who are just delightful people.
In the Ocean View Cafe, Khryztyna made us feel welcome as did Denise (the only female sous-chef and token Canadian). We also enjoyed talking to Ana (Documentation Officer) Maria (Head of Housekeeping) and the excellent fellows who keep the pool area neat and tidy.
We're not interested in shopping, or in casinos, so we cannot comment on these areas. Musicals don't appeal to us, but we recognize the skill and dedication of the performers who delivered 3 distinctly different shows during our 10 days at sea. We attended several of the shows and enjoyed the speciality acts. Hypnotist Christopher Caress was excellent (he told me to write that!!!), as was pianist/singer John Bressler. The ship offers something for all tastes; like many other reviewers we enjoyed the North by North-West a capella group and the Chamber Music Trio.
The Corning Glass display should NOT be missed. We could never get bored watching these artisans, and we tried to attend as many sessions as possible. Lori, Ryan and Brandon are incredibly skilled and consistently create amazing works of art that start as a blob of viscous liquid. It was fascinating to watch the pieces develop as they demonstrate their skills. Many beautiful glass creations are displayed throughout the ship. The onboard lawn is unusual, and standing on the turf while the ship was at sea was a strange experience at first; rather like experiencing an earthquake.
The Activities Staff David, Nick, Doddy, Jaey and Sarah organized the Trivia games with great patience and made sure we never cheated (not that we would even consider cheating, of course). The Zumba classes with Nick were always well-attended.
On the last sea day, one of us opted for the $150 See-How-It's-Done tour, and it was worth every penny. Our small group visited the bridge, the mooring deck, the helipad, the backstage area of the theatre, the crew mess and bar, the engine control room, the main galley and the ship's store rooms. The tour was followed by an excellent lunch in the Tuscan Grill. There was just one downside to this: while we were exploring these areas, Captain Panos was presenting a lecture on navigation. Most of us on the tour would have enjoyed listening to his talk, but no-one can be in 2 places at once. Sorry Captain, next time for definite! Sarah (Activities) guided us expertly around these restricted areas, and we met some very interesting people including Jonathon (Bridge), Damier (Mooring Deck), Bogdan and Stephanie (Theatre), Dave (HR) (crew mess, bar and facilities) Christos (Engine Control Room), Marius (Galley), and Earl (Stores). Thank you all for an excellent tour and the delicious lunch.
We took two side trips through Celebrity; the Bananas, Train, Boat trip in Costa Rica, and the Gatun Lock trip in Panama. We were not impressed with the Bananas, Train, Boat, excursion, but perhaps it was the wrong trip for us. We hoped we could spend some time on the canals, but that seemed to be the shortest section of the trip. The banana packing plant was nothing special -- you can see bananas being packed by watching How It's Made on the Discovery Channel. The train section was the worst. An asthmatic diesel engine struggles to haul two (yes, just 2!) coaches at a snail's pace through some woodland where you might see some monkeys. Big deal. The aquatic part was the most interesting, but as mentioned, it was also the shortest. We did see a caiman, an iguana, a Basilisk lizard, some birds called Kiskadees, some egrets and 100s of crabs. We can't honestly recommend this trip.
The excursion to the Gatun Lock was far superior to the Costa Rican trip. We had an excellent guide who was a mine of information about the canal. His informed commentary added another dimension to this trip and we were very pleased to be able to watch 3 huge ships move through the lock. We'd recommend this trip for anyone interested in ships and history.
We had no complaints about the ship, her crew or any of the activities or meals we enjoyed on board, but we want to suggest a few small improvements that we believe might make a difference to people's enjoyment of a trip on the Equinox:
1)Portion Control. We enjoyed every meal we ate in the Silhouette Dining Room, but we noticed that if we ordered a cut of meat we were never able to finish it because the portions were just too large. A nicely cooked and well-presented pork chop was delicious, but two of us working together were unable to finish it. We were similarly defeated by a lamb shank and a pork schnitzel. We hated sending food back to the galley, especially when many of our servers are from countries were food is not always plentiful. Would it be possible to let dinners select the amount of meat they want, so nothing goes to waste?
2)Daily Schedule. The daily newsletter includes a schedule of activities, but how many people think to carry it with them when they leave their cabins? Would it be possible to post enlarged copies of the schedule in prominent locations (for example, near the elevators)?
3)Having the beverage section of the AquaSpa Cafe open during all daytime hours (not just during breakfast and lunch) would provide an opportunity to get refreshments on deck 12 forward.
4)Add a few more speakers/presentations with topics unrelated to selling the ship's goods/services, especially on sea days.
5)Disembarkation. As other reviewers have mentioned, this process seems to need some improvement. It was nowhere near the smooth, efficient operation we experienced when we embarked. Confusion led to chaos as people milled around trying to discover what exactly they were required to do and where they were required to be. The officer and staff on duty managed to get things under control, but it was a disappointing end to an otherwise excellent cruise. Perhaps this situation was related to the problems the US has with its Customs and Border Protection people, if so Celebrity cannot be held responsible, but we hope they will make every effort to streamline the disembarkation process for future cruises.
We would definitely sail with Celebrity again, and have no hesitation recommending the Equinox and her crew. We select our trips according to the itinerary, and we have already seen a great deal of the Caribbean. Perhaps our next trip will be a Trans-Atlantic crossing, or the exciting idea of rounding Cape Horn.
Bon Voyage Equinox!