Background: We've cruised both Celebrity and Princess - about 10 times on each. This was our annual "anniversary present to ourselves" cruise; 2nd time on Equinox. I'm a regular "Elite" with Captain's Club, not the super-premium or mega-elite type. We had Classic beverage packages using the 123Go promotion. Both mid-50s, active, but cruising mostly to just relax.
Embarkation - arrived around 11:15, very smooth security and check-in process. Sat upstairs at Pier 18 for about 5 minutes before they opened boarding and the stampede began. On the ship at 11:50; we had lunch in the Oceanview Cafe – not very crowded that early - and then wandered a bit. Cabins available at 1:15PM.
Cabin: Concierge Class veranda cabin on deck 9 (C2), cabin 9241. Fantastic cabin - very quiet, no service closets nearby, over-sized veranda on the back side of the aft hump. Easy access to stairs/elevators. Comfortably appointed with adequate storage, although some of it's hard to get to (large over-the-bed cabinets stored a lot of stuff but required standing either on the bed or the sofa to reach. Ditto for the shelf above the closet. Life jackets are stored under the bed in crates so you lose some space there, but sufficient room for 2 large roller cases plus little stuff.) That said, we did have plenty of room for everything. Not many power outlets on the desk, so having a multi-device charging station really helped for charging Ipads, Kindles, camera, GoPro, laptop... geeky, I know. Bathroom was great; loved the glass shower. Wish there was a laundry line in it, like on Princess, for hanging wet bathing suits. There were two pegs on the wall but no line. Cabin service was the best ever, on any cruise line. Sally and her assistant, Ed, were absolutely great. DH asked if she had any memory foam pillows and 2 appeared by the time we got back from the muster drill. The cabin was spotlessly clean and they made sure we were comfortable and cared for, right up to the minute we left. Afternoon canapes were actually terrific - used to be inedible mystery spreads on circular bread, but now they're basically tapas: hummus and pita chips, corn chips and salsa, marinated olives, shrimp on chopped pineapple, grape tomatoes and marinated mozzarella and so on. Very tasty.
Ship: beautiful! Modern, elegant without being stuffy. Pool areas were busy, especially on the sea days, but I could always find somewhere to sit. Public areas were kept very clean. Wish there was a full promenade deck; limited walking areas on deck 5 and not many chairs, but there were many other quiet areas around for reading in sun or shade. The Solstice deck - bow end, way up high - was particularly nice and had a good selection of chairs, loungers and funky daybed kind of furniture. Loved the atrium with natural light, tall fabric panels and a live multi-story tree. Shops were in a mall-like setting that made it fun to stroll and browse. Recorded music throughout seemed to be played at a more reasonable volume than our last S-class cruise; we could sit near the Martini Bar and still have a conversation. This was a huge improvement for us.
Dining: Fantastic food, everywhere. Main Dining room food was portioned from adequate to OMG; most starters and entrees were sized so you could have a 3 or 4 course (or 5) meal without exploding. Selections were marked as being vegetarian, gluten-free, low-fat and "spa" which was described as healthier without sacrificing taste, and that was accurate. I had a number of the "spa" options and they were all delicious. Several options were always available - Ceasar salad, shrimp cocktail, chicken breast, salmon, steak, creme brulee - in addition to the evening's options. Service in the MDR was first rate (we had Select Dining.) Drink service was a little slow, but the sommeliers and wait staff were gracious and attentive. We were happy to find that Select dining had taken over the entire 4th deck instead of being restricted to half a deck as was the case a few years ago, with deck 3 still being Traditional set time dining. Oceanview Cafe options were too numerous to try everything but standouts were the soups, made-to-order salad of the day, sandwiches (the many breads and rolls available were amazingly good, particularly the artisan breads,) Indian curries and the salad bars. Ice creams, both soft and hard, were also terrific. Breakfast options were also too numerous to cover, but the cooked to order omelets and several "benedict" options were great. Our beverage package allowed fresh squeezed orange juice and we took advantage of it every morning. Tuscan Grill was a beautiful space, with excellent service and outstanding food. It offered a 20% discount the first night and it was well worth the upcharge. We didn't try the pool grill, Silk Harvest, Murano, Bistro on 5 or the Aqua Spa cafe. I heard reports that the specialty places were full late in the cruise, so book early if you want a specific day and time.
Beverage packages: worked fine without upgrading. DH doesn’t drink alcohol and I’m good for only a few per day. Not much wine selection by the glass – basically one of each vareital, but the selections were tasty. Despite reading reports to the contrary, I could NOT get a smaller or lower-grade martini at the Martini bar. No problem getting other drinks, although it would have been nice to see a complete list somewhere. Each bar had a "menu" listing only a few suggestions, not everything they served. It sometimes required an extended round of "Can I get on the Classic package?" to settle on something, but overall we were happy to have Classic. We drank about 50 bucks of specialty coffee, bottled water and fresh OJ every day alone.
Other passengers: Mostly older on this cruise - average age 50-70 with a few families and 20-30-something couples thrown in. I hope this isn't a trend, but we witnessed some incredibly bad behavior on the part of some of the older crowd. "Take this away - it's awful." "Get me a Manhattan, and it had better be colder than the last one." "These chairs are too soft. Why don't you have comfortable chairs?"
If you're reading this because you're booked on Equinox (or any other cruise, really) please: be nice. Civility shouldn't be discarded on vacation. The crew worked very hard and we found the service everywhere to be exceptional. Can't we all remember how lucky we are to be cruising at all? Relax and be nice.
Fitness Center: adequate, with many treadmills and 8 or 10 ellipticals, weight machines, free weights. But they could stand an upgrade here, as many machines weren't functioning right or at all (two mills were repaired in St Thomas) and there was a definite musty smell, kid of like Eau de Wet Dog. Some classes were free, most had a fee. Weight machines use Kg, not lbs, so be prepared with a conversion chart. Never saw the trainers out and about; they seemed to be limited to private (for a fee) consultations or classes. There was, however, poolside Zumba daily - sometimes twice a day - with Andres the very attractive Zumba guy, no charge. I really, really enjoyed learning Zumba with Andres.Really.
Entertainment: DH is a classical musician and admittedly out of touch (intentionally) with popular culture, so the only show we saw was Equinox-The Show, which is kind of a Cirque de Soleil knock-off. I enjoyed the pool band – love steel drums! But they didn’t play that often, which was surprising. Classical string “Chroma Trio” played light classical in the atrium and Ensemble lounge and we did enjoy them several times. A solo guitarist played acoustic pop (John Mayer, Coldplay, Gavin Degraw) very well, but he left the ship with us. Members of the Celebrity Orchestra played Big Band in the atrium a few times and many people danced. Never saw the jazz quartet. Also never made it to any of the theme parties because we crumped out too early. But there seemed to be a lot of variety, mostly after 5PM. On sea days there were a lot of activities during the day with ship’s officers, and many more without. We also really enjoyed the Hot Glass Show; the glass lowers were part comedian, part artist, which made for an entertaining show.
Disembarkation: not bad; we had Express as we had a 10:30 flight and little luggage. One tip for Captain's Club members: do NOT use the special CC departure lounges if you have Express Walk-off. That isn't clear in the documentation, and at least on our cruise, so many people took the Express option that they were (according to staff) placing luggage in a line starting in the middle of the night. We were in the Elite lounge at the other end of the ship, enjoying a coffee when we were rescued by one of the cruise staff, who knew they would open a second gangway and placed us near it. We were off the ship and in a cab before 8AM. Thank you, Daniel on the cruise staff. You rock.
As I said - Best cruise ever. We booked next year's cruise while onboard, same cabin, same cruise. Can’t wait for next January.