We cruised last Christmas on the Silhouette and had a wonderful time, so we couldn't resist the opportunity to try it again this year. Seven days didn't seem like quite enough, so we opted for the Ultimate Christmas Cruise on the Equinox. Although the Equinox looks a lot like the Silhouette -- same class, most of the same amenities -- it was an entirely different experience for us. It was, however, delightful in its own right.
We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the morning of the 20th, purchased our transfers at the airport, and were on the first bus over to the terminal. Happily, the ship was ready for boarding by the time we arrived, and we flew through the embarkation process and boarded within a few minutes of arriving at the terminal. No lines! The crew welcomed us aboard with complimentary champagne and we sat in Cafe al Bacio and cooled our heels until the lunch buffet opened in the Oceanview Cafe. The cafe filled up quickly, and to make room for our fellow passengers, we decamped to a quiet nook on the 14th deck and waited until the staterooms were ready, around 1 p.m.
Our stateroom, a veranda room, was comparable to the one on the Silhouette. It was clean and roomy enough for three of us (a married couple and 11-year-old girl). We love the design of these rooms -- plenty of cleverly carved out storage space and a comfy queen size bed. Our daughter slept in a berth that the cabin attendants lowered from the ceiling each night. She said her bed wasn't quite as comfortable as ours way, but the upper berth will do for a small, lightweight person. The bed linens were high quality. Some of the towels we were given, however, were showing their age and should probably be retired. And one day, there was a shortage of clean beach towels, and our attendant had to "scrounge" for us before we left the ship. As always on Celebrity, however, our cabin attendants were wonderful and cleaned the room twice daily. On three of the nights, they left cute "towelimals" for our daughter, and of course, chocolates on the pillows.
We took most of our meals in the Silhouette (main) dining room, and they were quite excellent. Most of the time, we found selections on the daily menu that sounded good to us, and when we didn't, we could choose from the list of Celebrity favorites on the left side of the menu. Celebrity's servings are small, which is a good thing in our book -- we could guiltlessly enjoy multiple courses that way. Our daughter was bored by the children's menu, but there were always things on the regular menu she could enjoy. As has been our experience in the past, our wait staff was superb. Our head waiter, Edgar, took our daughter under his wing and frequently suggested dishes she might like to try. We had no trouble finding well-priced wines on the wine list, and, I supposed, because we're from a large metropolitan area, we found the cocktails to be reasonably-priced. We did not purchase a drink package because it would not have saved us any money; if you only drink moderately, you can do fine without one.
There were two brunch-type meals, one on Christmas Day, and one on our third sea day. They were, of course, delightful and replete with lots of ice sculptures, chocolate fountains and carved fruit.
We ate in Oceanview a few times, mainly for lunch or late afternoon tea. It was quite good as well. We ate at Silk Harvest one night as a special treat. It was divine! The wait staff there was also quite solicitous towards our daughter. We dined once at the Bistro on Five. My husband and I also visited the Molecular Bar a couple of time and enjoyed some really interesting cocktails there, and we all enjoyed Cafe al Bacio.
We're not that much for regular ship activities, though we enjoyed the Equinox Theatre every night. The ship's singers, orchestra members, dancers and acrobats were quite good and so versatile. Their performances including a Cirque du Soleil-type show, a Broadway revue, and a rock 'n' roll revue. Good stuff. One four of the nights, we enjoyed seeing guest performers, including a circus-type act, Playing by Air; two American Idol finalists, Kim Caldwell and Elliott Yamin; Nashville guitarist/songwriter Ric Steel; and commedian/illusionist Chipper Lowell. We didn't like the AI acts as much as we liked Playing by Air and Chipper. Ric Steel was delightful, but then, two of the three of us like country music. We took in the Hot Glass Show twice, and we played Bingo some, too. I had a couple of lovely, though overpriced, spa treatments and swam laps in the Solarium pool.
We had five ports of call -- St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica, and St. Maarten. We bought only one shore excursion (a tour and beach stop in Dominica), but took self-arranged tours on Barbados and St. Kitts. We'd wanted to go to the beach on each of the islands, but it rained on St. Kitts and Barbados. We were able to join reasonably-priced tours in both places simply by going to the taxi stand at the cruise port. We had no trouble arranging inexpensive taxi transit to the beach (Magen Bay on St. Thomas and Dawn Beach on St. Maarten) at the pier. On Dominica, we found that a shore excursion was a better deal than what we could arrange for ourselves, so we reboarded and made a last minute purchase at the Shore Excursions desk. Just a word about that: The shore excursions SEEM expensive when you see the price list. As we found on Dominica, however, sometimes the ship offers a better deal than what you could arrange on your own.
I cannot comment on the children's programs. My daughter says they're "lame" and she preferred to stick with us. She loved the evening theatre shows, the pools, and the Hot Glass Show (she's why we went twice), though.
The one complaint I have -- and let me stress that this is NOT Celebrity's fault -- was that people can forget their manners. For example, twice, adults cut in line ahead of my daughter while she was waiting for food in Oceanview. A couple of times, people tried to close elevator doors so we couldn't board, even though there was room. There were a couple of bands of unsupervised children that roamed the ship and generally acted out -- running, screaming, talking way too loudly, riding elevators, and plopping down on the front row of the theatre. Once I saw other patrons get up and take other seats when the kids sat down. At least with the ill-mannered kids, Celebrity staff did intervene on a regular basis. I still wonder where their parents were, though.
Ten relaxing days flew by all too fast and we were all too soon back in Florida. Disembarkation was as easy as embarkation. We had a late morning flight (which ended up being delayed because of weather), and the ship placed us in group five. We were called within a minute or two after disembarkation began, and from ship to taxi took us no more than 15 minutes. Painless.
Would we do it again? Absolutely. It was a great experience!