Background information: This is my 7th cruise overall, DH 5th, and our 2nd on Celebrity Equinox. We did this exact same cruise last year, so it is hard to not compare our experience this time around with then. Some things were improved. We were disappointed to find that some things were changed or done away with that we enjoyed last year.
Hotel information: We stayed at the Sleep Inn, a budget hotel with $5 shuttle service to the pier. Convenient to a Walgreens, grocery store, and dining options. The staff was friendly and the shuttle from AP and to the pier was prompt. However, the room could have been cleaner, and the breakfast could have used some more healthy food options. It was adequate for one night.
Ship information: Beautiful and well maintained. It was tastefully decorated and felt more like a boutique luxury hotel than a cruise ship.
Activities: With a different Cruise Director and Activities Staff, felt that this area was improved from last year. The activities seemed more organized, energized, and as if they were trying to appeal to a somewhat younger crowd. Especially enjoyed the Masquerade Interactive Theme Party early on in the cruise.
Service: Cut backs from last year were noticeable, both in cabin service, and in dining. Waiters in the buffet never seemed to want to make eye contact.
Port & shore excursions: Shore excursions were on par with that offered on other cruise lines/ships. We have been to these islands enough times now to know when to take an organized tour and what we can do on our own. We most enjoyed the zip lining in St. Kitts (done thru the ship) and the beach in St. Maarten (short cab ride).
Cabin: It seemed that there were fewer staff from last year doing the same amount of work, and we rarely saw our room steward. Our room was always cleaned and maintained, though. We are low-maintenance people, anyways, and didn't really have any issues, other than that our refrigerator never worked, but we didn't use it much anyways.
Dining: Food in MDR was very good, as was in the Murano. Service in the MDR was good, except for the last night, when it was very slow. We had the drinks package, and found that it did not include many of the same wines that were available to us last year. We enjoyed, last year, the service from our Sommelier who was a wealth of information on what wines to pair with what dishes. This year, it seemed like we were offered the same limited choices at every meal, even though Celebrity boasts that they have an extensive wine selection.
Entertainment: Enjoyable, if not outstanding.
Disembarkation: This went smoothly. No problems whatsoever.
Summary: There are a few other things that I would like to mention, and as I am not sure which category to put them in, I will add them here. One, we really missed the small sandwiches that used to be offered in El Bacio. If this is a cost-cutting measure, It hardly seems worth it to get rid of them. I suppose, though, if we hadn't been on the ship last year, we never would have noticed. Two, we were both disappointed to find out that drink prices had gone up and some drinks (certain wines, martini's) were no longer included in the drink package. It would have been nice to know this before we booked. Three, while dinner in the Murano was wonderful (our waiter Todor was exceptional), I had an unpleasant experience at the end of the meal when I was served a scalding hot cup of coffee, took a sip, and burned my mouth. It really was so hot that I thought for several minutes that I would need to see the ships doctor. The assistant and head waiters (not Todor) just stared at me as I explained what happened, then I was told "that is how the customers like it." Fourth, and finally, there were communication issues between the land office and the ship, with information on what was to be included in our booking, that was never transferred (our specialty dining voucher, ship transfers, and special occasions that we were celebrating). Guest relations were helpful in getting most of these things resolved.