CELEBRITY EQUINOX: March 11, 2011
EMBARKATION: Smooth and speedy, we had no problems at all. We had flown to Fort Lauderdale the previous evening so that we had no tension about getting to Port Everglades on time.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: What a beautiful ship! Greeted by Celebrity's lovely glass of champagne, we wandered around the boat until our stateroom was ready (about 1:30). There is really intriguing art-work all over the ship. Women—don't miss the black and white photographs of celebrities from the 1950's that are in the bathrooms throughout the ship.
CABIN: Room 1033, an inside cabin, was immaculately clean and very well planned. We had abundant storage space we didn't even use. The big-screen television was nice and clear, although we did not plan to spend much time watching the television. We did, however, turn to the classical music station on the television (no picture aside from the titles of the music played). The variety of free on-demand movies seemed large, although I was not sailing to watch movies in my cabin, so I didn't note them too carefully. There was quite an array of television channels that came in clearly, including most of the major news networks (BBC, MSNBC, CNN, etc.)
The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were just perfect for me. The shower was exquisite. Note that shampoo and conditioner are provided as well as skin lotion, Q-tips, and cotton balls.
Very, very good. I think that Celebrity's regular food items in the main dining room are a far cut above the other lines I have sailed. Celebrity does particularly well with meats and pastas. The Ocean View Cafe, the buffet, is great without the long lines. The food is served in a series of little "stations" or "pods" and lines are almost non-existent.
Between 4 and 5 PM the Ocean View puts out tea sandwiches and really good British scones. The scones are much closer to English scones than I've found anywhere in the USA. We lucked out and were seated at table 158 in the Silhouette, the Main Dining Room. It's a quiet area with a lovely view of the ocean. Service is meticulous and the waiters were wonderfully attentive.
I have heard people complain that the servings are small. For me, there's no reason to go hungry. Order a second serving if you want or order an extra salad, soup, or appetizer. I would much rather have a small serving than see a lot of food go to waste. I think that the serving sizes are perfect. I never ordered a second serving, although a couple of times I did order two appetizers because I could not choose between two intriguing candidates.
We went to two of the three speciality restaurants and they were simply fantastic. They were a great value because I could not imagine getting such meals for less than $100 per person on land. Both the Tuscan Grille and The Murano are well worth a visit. Service is exquisite, the presentation and ambience are fantastic, and the food is really superb.
The Murano's Dover Sole was fantastic. The Tuscan Grille is particularly a challenge. You have to go into training and exercise all of your Jedi Mind Tricks to make certain that you do not over-eat there. It's too easy to get replete before your first course arrives. Next time I go, I will avoid ordering the soup and eat less bread. Nothing's wrong with the soup and bread, but balancing what to eat and how to eat it is an art here.
On two days the Murano offered a "high tea" in the English style with LOOSE TEA! It's an occasion for tea lovers to rejoice. I had pots of Lapsang Souchong, my tea of choice (I know it's not the most popular). It's a gorgeous experience. The String Quartet plays as the AUTHENTIC clotted cream is served (no whipped cream here, that you so much!).
BARS: Don't miss the Molecular Bar where drinks are made with dry ice, liquid nitrogen, and other touches. This is NOT a stunt but rather a place for very delicious and beautiful concoctions. Watch the bartender carefully as the work is striking.
Michael's is a great place for the classic drinker. The ambience is rather like a British Men's Club of the 19th century. The Martini Bar had a remarkable bartender/juggler who entertained as he mixed drinks.
Cellar Masters is another great space. If you like wine, they have an excellent menu and also offer various wine-tasting activities.
Overall, I rate this highly. Please note, gentle reader, that I am the kind of person who really enjoys cruise shows. The talented ensemble of singers, dancers, and acrobats were wonderful. They appeared the first night and gave us a taste of what to expect. Their first full-length show, "Limelight" was a tribute to Broadway and I loved it. Their Circus show was very impressive and their final full-length show was called Remix. My only complaint is that both Remix and the Circus show were accompanied by canned loud, pounding music that seemed to be an annoying blend of the insistent bass beat of both disco and heavy metal music. Please, Celebrity! The Celebrity Orchestra can and should be the only accompaniment. Louder is NOT better. The Circus show would be much better with lighter, softer, somewhat quieter music. The Heavy Metal underscore of Remix overshadowed the lovely voices of the wonderful singers. Please turn down the music on Circus and Remix! The Celebrity Equinox Orchestra was great and their music should stand on its own without the pulsating backdrop of Heavy Metal.
The "guest" entertainers were fairly good. I especially liked Mario D'Andrea and his different styles of playing the guitar. The magician, Jamie Allen, was British and I appreciated his rather low-key approach. I dreaded another manic Las Vegas magician and almost skipped the show, but Allen was great with his rather laconic British sense of humor and his lack of glitz. Definitely give him a try.
I really like the fact that a classical music quartet is available and wish they had more time. I also really enjoyed the Manny Kellough Jazz Quartet; they have an outstanding vocalist. Martin Andales who sings and plays the guitar is also fantastic. The A Cappella Quartet, Juke Box, is adorable and I'd like to see more of them without the backing of an orchestra, which tends to obfuscate the idea of "a cappella". Overall, it was a great blend of talents and music.
Maria Kelly was without a doubt the best Cruise Director I have known. In previous cruises the Cruise Director has been a shadowy figure—I've passed them on board and smiled a bit and they ignored me. Maria was approachable and eager to talk with and greet the guests. She was fresh and enthusiastic and made the entire experience more exciting. She really gives the impression that the Celebrity Equinox CARES and listens to guests. I noticed that she really set a tone that I appreciated a lot: sincere and lively. In previous cruises I've been on the Cruise Directors tend to be men who are a bit remote or diffident or sarcastic or seemingly apathetic.
The quartet of Rachel, Michelle, Jackie, and Shoni "Cash" were wonderful and should be commended for friendliness, unfailing enthusiasm, fairness, and exuberance. They were a wonderful group. I was reminded, once again, that one of the primary reasons I choose to cruise is to participate in activities and a strong activities staff makes the experience much more vivid and enjoyable. The trivia contests were very enjoyable. Every afternoon there was a "name that tune" style of trivia contest. I loved them although they could be difficult. It was be fantastic to have another one each day—they are very popular. I would love to have a "classical" or an "opera" or more Broadway Name That Tune competition.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT:
Lower the music on some of the shows; you don't need to blast out people's eardrums!
The point is the singing and the dancing and the acrobats!
Perhaps announce the afternoon(s) of the High Tea in advance. We had reservations at the Tuscan Grille for the same day as the High Tea. We were able to scramble to change our Tuscan reservations, but available times at the Tuscan and Murano get scarvc mid-way through the voyage. Certainly it is ill-advised to enjoy the High Tea on the afternoon you plan to eat at a specialiy restaurant.
The Solarium and its lovely swimming pool is an exquisite place. The Aqua Spa Cafe, which offers a healthy alternative breakfast and lunch is not to be missed.
The Cruise Director and the Activities Staff provide a great time. Cabin size is superior and layout is brilliant.