For the first time ever, I have felt compelled to write a review within the first hour of returning from a cruise (albeit short). This was a mini cruise but with maximum impact.
What an extraordinarily beautiful and classy ship this is. Oh yes, from the outside it does look like a 'block of flats' but once inside it is full of intimate spaces, soaring light filled atrium and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Rarely have I been astonished by 'modern' design as I am a traditional Gal at heart and my home is Edwardian comfort. However, everywhere you look is a feast of inspired detail where no expense has been spared in the materials used, from the various marbles to the ice blue textured curtain fabric in the 'ice topped' Martini bar. We spent a good few hours exploring the ship. The marathon was made long because we had to try out/sit in/lay on every chair/seating unit/couch! You probably think I am mad, but if you want to see the best and most interesting collection of 'designer' seating then forget shops and book a cruise on Equinox. Talking of shops, to be honest I am not a great lover of cruise ship shops. But these give you the feel of being in the Burlington Arcade in London with their 'shop windows' and their elegant spaces.
I understand that Equinox is sister to the Solstice but the decor is warmer in tone and colour. I liked the 'Entertainment Court' idea. The nightclub Quasar and the Equinox Theatre, as well as a smaller cabaret space, is there on Decks 4 & 5. The theatre has a large stage with a semi circular apron and three tiers. Sight lines are excellent and the seating appears to curve around the stage. It seats around 1200 and there is lots of leg room. No need to stand up to let people through! Wide walkways and at the back of each tier there are long curving marble bars with bar stools. I have only once come across this type of 'arrangement' in a theatre and that was on Ocean Village 1 ! It works very well. The show was also surprisingly similar to Ocean Village's Planet show on their top deck rigging over the pools, with the same 'out of this world' music. It was also very like the show on P&O's Ventura. Here they use backing track for the singers to sing to and the singers barely moved, in fact when they did it was on little platforms which slide across the stage by remote control. It took a while to realise that the singers were singing as it sounded pre recorded. However that is more a salute to their talent than anything else. The costumes were stunning but the choreography was lacking. Even the best dancers look ridiculous with bad choreography. The acrobats though were extraordinary. Some even 'flew' above the audience as they performed with their 'silks' and rings. For me, the balancing act and the contortionist were highlights.
In a similar way to the entertainment court there is a 'court' of restaurants. We ate in the Italian- themed Tuscan Grille. This is one of 5 speciality 'extra charge' restaurants and the Tournedo Rossini melted in the mouth. The standard of food was sublime and the setting, across the back of the ship with a deep expanse of glass, was lovely. Each restaurant was beautifully designed but my favorite has to be (remember I'm traditional) Murano, with its private dining area off the main restaurant. Opulent. The main restaurant, Silhouette, is dazzling with its white and stainless steel. It is two tiers high and I understand the food was excellent. I did wonder why there was no Alcohol Gel anywhere on the ship for ones hands but I asked and was told, not only that I was the first to ask! but that it is normal to have the dispensers throughout the ship but the dispensers had not arrived yet. They will be in situ before the inaugural cruise. Finally, the main 24hr Buffet eatery called Oceanview Cafe was very well laid out with lots of space between each 'island' style serving station. There was plenty of room in the seating areas (one outside) with a variety of table sizes. I was very impressed. It is similar to the layout in Grand Princess but the seating area is more spacious. Again, P&O should see how it should be done and sort out Ventura!
Music varied from classical to Jazz and we were treated to a superb performance by 'All Angels' on the pool deck as we sailed away from Southampton in blazing sunshine. There was a Big Band performance in the ten story high sunlit atrium and in the Sky Observation lounge, there was a dance band in the evening. This enormous lounge, during the day, has wonderful 180 degree views over the front of the ship. It is also the only indoor space where smoking is allowed (port side). For the smokers among you (or for those who wish to avoid) smoking is only allowed in 5 areas, 1 inside and 4 outside. No smoking is allowed in the cabins or on balconies.
Now to the cabins. We had a balcony cabin on deck 9. My husband was impressed that the TV was wall hung, flat screen and fully interactive with the keyboard for the Internet combined with the TV controls. Oh, he also was very pleased with the number of power sockets (American) and that the 'Ethernet Port' was in a very convenient place! The doors to the cabin are recessed. Why? The cabin doors (and indeed the loo doors in the public toilets) all open outwards into the corridor. Although this makes for more space in the cabin, it would cause problems to those with wheelchairs, walking aids and pushchairs as one would have to block the corridor to get into the cabin and there will be no keeping of wheelchairs etc. outside your cabin door anymore! That makes the lack of width in the cabin critical. I could barely get past the curved end of the bed. The decor is soft with a cream leather sofa. The dressing table is the smallest I have ever come across, approx 2' wide, with a well lit mirror. The wardrobe is small with sliding doors barely 18" from the edge of the bed but the hangers 'hook' onto the rail - hooray. There is a very high sill AND change of floor level into the shower room. It is very small but with a reasonable corner entry shower area, with GLASS doors. The sink is an oval basin on top of the work surface. A clever way of using the narrow space it sits on, however, not child friendly. Nor is there any indent in the work surface to put your wet, slippery soap. Although there are little drawers and a tall slim, glass fronted cabinet, one is struggling for space to lay out make up etc. In the main cabin there is a decided lack of drawer space and the bedside 'tables' were mentioned by many as looking out of place (dark wood) and useless as they were basically three small shelves without sides to them, so things just fell off. The top shelf did have a 'lip' though. The balcony furniture was the same as Ventura but with a much better round teak topped table. P&O take note ! My conclusion was that the cabin was adequate. The larger suites though are out of this world. Oh, I nearly forgot. No more fiddling with light switches guessing which did what on your way in or out of the cabin - there is one named 'Master' - brilliant!
There is so much more that I could wax lyrical on but it is some of the little touches one appreciates the most. The lifts are summoned by pressing the buttons on a 'pod' standing before the lifts. The lift has arrived when the glass ceiling above and in front of the lift, turns from blue to pink (no little arrows here). There is a stand with a perspex 'ship' perched on it in the lift vestibule. This shows where you are in the Equinox and also has a flat 'plan' or map of the deck showing clearly where everything is including walkways and the public toilets. The 'Relaxation Lounge' is next to the two level Library which is a stunning space open to the atrium with its 'hanging tree' (yes it is real). The Aquaspa is gorgeous and has its own cafe and the Sports Court resembles a squash court in that it is sunken with solid walls. You can really play a game in there ! Nice touch - the Aquaspa shop and the sports shop are next to the spa and the Lawn Club. Ah! The Lawn. I really though this was an idea too far and laughed cynically when I heard about it but - it really does work. It is a HUGE area of the most perfect grass and is a joy to sit on and to relax beside as croquet or bowls are played. Very English.
I leave it to you to discover all the rest that this ship has to offer. Now, just for the record, I have never cruised with Celebrity before and the views expressed are not influenced by anyone or anything, they are genuine. We cruise 2 or 3 times a year, paid for by us and no one else. We were on this event by invitation from our travel company. We have been on various Sun Cruises ships, Island Star, Oriana, Oceana, Arcadia, Aurora, Ventura (09), Ocean Village, Seabourn Legend (09), Voyages of Discovery, Sea Princess, Grand Princess, Star Princess and NCL Jade. Would we cruise with Celebrity ? Yes. Would we cruise on a Solstice Class ship at 122,000 tons with 2850 max passengers? Yes. Never thought we would say that after Seabourn Legend, but Yes.