Flew to Ft. Lauderdale 2 days early to be sure no problems with January weather. Stayed at the Renaissance Cruise Port, just 5 min / $6 shuttle away from port and walking distance to many restaurants and the water taxi tours of the famous homes/ yachts/ canals. Nice upscale boat harbor / safe area. 15 min / $15 taxi from airport.
Our first cruise was an inside cabin on the QE2, then we discovered Balcony Suites on Carnival and RCI, now we've discovered Celebrity and the Celebrity Equinox! Could this be the customer progression the cruise companies dream for? I guess we're onboard! We've only been on eight cruises, but this 10 Day Ultimate Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox was one of our best experiences.
The Jan 28-Feb 7 itinerary was really relaxing, 2 days at sea, then 5 daily stops, with 5 days at sea at the end ... nice!
From check-in to return the level of service, the itinerary, the beautiful clean and comfortable ship, the friendly crew, most of the dining, activities and entertainment were exemplary. As our first Celebrity cruise we felt that the line's market positioning was validated as premium in class without too much added expense.
The ship itself is quite amazing. High tech, German engineering and modern nautical design come together for customers. Though a big ship, it did not feel big except in the main dining room. Yet there is so much space you can find yourself alone and quiet for extended periods of relaxing time. Hallways to the staterooms twist and turn, have unique shapes, stopovers and decorating that make you forget how big this ship really is. The ship is new and scrupulously clean. The stateroom was clean and very comfortable with generous bathroom and balcony. I really missed the hand held shower on a long hose we have seen on other cruise ship showers. I hear they have that in Aqua Class and above. Concierge Class with fresh fruit and flowers each day was nice.
If you like music, it is everywhere, live and recorded! Amazing audio engineering has different music in side by side areas, somehow not interfering with each other.
The officers and crew are everywhere ready to help and saying hello, ala Marriott. The "Retail Therapists" in the several shops were helpful. Roving waiters from the bar were available, always in sight but not pushy on the drinks. As for drinks, only an odd and expensive daily beverage package was offered, and we thought it very strange that there were NO wine packages available! The selection of German wines that we like was very limited and expensive. No Argentinian Malbec was available! Good thing we brought along our two bottle limit. Just walked through the huge, busy and glittering casino.
We tried all four specialty restaurants. All were really great in both food quality and service, well worth the extra charge. Asian, Tuscan, French, Crepes with excellent menu, service, quiet sophistication without being brassy, and TASTE in the food! So as Cruise Critics, we found things so good in the specialty restaurants we were forced to find little details out of order ... one night the first serving of butter was too soft, the second too hard .... yes, these restaurants were that good! And they were a welcome break from the main dining room that seemed crowded and loud, as we feel most are. The food in the main dining room was disappointingly average, we felt with a bland theme. Not much taste. Soups seemed watered down. This seemed strange because as we get older we need MORE taste! (Average age of the inhabitants of this cruise being 50s-60s). Pretty good service in the main dining room though. The Ocean Cafe for breakfast and lunch had an amazing variety of good tasting selections. We didn't enjoy the Aqua Spa healthy food offerings, nor did we do more than tour the luxo workout areas and spa. Others said they were both of superior quality.
The entertainment, as reported by other reviewers, was not up to the standard of the rest of the ship. We found the production shows in the main theater to be over produced and lacking in viable content. Lots of flashy computerized lighting, an overly loud and rough band, some recorded music enhancements, great dancing, very limited but good singers, could not overcome a very bad script, worse choreography and stranger costumes. Substantially lower in quality than RCI and Cunard shows we have enjoyed before. The saving grace was the series of smaller performances. The White House history lecture series put on by the former Social Secretary to President Clinton was fascinating. The ventriloquist was one the best we've seen. Several small dance music and Caribbean bands, classical strings, Katie's piano lounge, that evening guitar player were all excellent.
Good quality "Celebrity Life" activities and demonstrations covered all the usual cruise ship adventures. Some were quite unique to the Equinox like the glass blowing studio, specialty restaurant samplings, lawn bowling and putting on the nearly 2 acres of grass topside. Captain's Club members were treated to multiple, very nice events.
Only one thing seemed amiss, the Celebrity-arranged bus transportation to the Ft. Lauderdale airport after the cruise. And I'm not sure if this was a problem with Celebrity or with their transportation company. But after we left the departure hall there was mass confusion and no one to shepherd you to the correct bus for the airport trip. And a long frustrating wait. Better to take a taxi.
So thanks for a really nice vacation Celebrity! We'll be back!