When most people disembark a cruise for the final time they usually declare that cruise "the best ever" if they've had as good a time or better than they expected. So what can be said when the experience far exceeds any previous cruise experience and sets the standard for any future cruises? That description is what we would apply to the 11-night "Ultimate" Caribbean on the incredible Celebrity Equinox from which we've just returned.
This was our first cruise on a Solstice Class ship and we'd heard and read a lot about this "new" type of ship design and all that it offers, which was a major factor in selecting this ship. The itinerary was of little to no interest to us since we had sailed almost the identical itinerary in March 2010 on RCCL's Jewel of the Seas (our EQ experience was so outstanding that no comparison can or will be made between the two).
We are in our late 40's and have sailed 11 times previously, predominantly on RCCL. This is our 4th sailing with Celebrity having previously sailed on the Meridien, Millenium, and Century. We usually take cruises of 10 - 15 days and book a Junior Suite/Sky Suite or better. Food, ambiance, cabin space/ship layout, and service are of primary interest to us. Entertainment, shore excursions and on-board activities are secondary. We use the internet daily.
Within the first hour after boarding (which was flawless) we were exploring the ship and knew at once that this was truly a spectacular vessel. Modern with a slightly retro/mid-century feel; elegant yet "usable", whimsical in places without being cheesy or overdone. From the design of the Silhouette Dining Room to the aesthetic of the specialty dining venues it was readily apparent that a great deal of thought went into creating this wonderful ship. And the lawn - phenomenal! We took off our sandals and walked barefoot in the grass during sailaway. How unbelievable is that?
Our cabin (Sky Suite 2125 on Deck 12) was lovely with plenty of space, a wonderful verandah (double the width of standard balcony staterooms), and a stunning bathroom with the same eye to design as the rest of the ship.
The food, no matter what venue, was sensational. Breakfast we mainly enjoyed on our verandah with the wonderful services of our butler. For lunch the buffet offered a wide array of options to fit any taste. If you chose to only eat in the Silhouette Dining Room for dinner you would be more than happy. However, the specialty dining venues are not to be missed. While each one charges a supplement there is no way a person could enjoy such sensational food, beautifully presented with such friendly attentive service for the price at home. Each was noteworthy and memorable and well worth the fee. The same is to be said for Bistro on 5 and Blu - both sensational.
The service throughout the Equinox can only be described as stellar. Everyone was friendly, smiling, talkative and engaging. A guest on this ship really is made to feel like they are welcome and appreciated. There is nothing that the staff won't do for you. Our Butler (Edwin) was outstanding as was our table waiter (Farouk) and his assistant (Eduardo). Our cabin attendant (Carlos) and his assistant (Jose) were efficient, amiable and always ready with a bright smile and a warm hello. When they said "Have a nice day" they truly meant it. All bar servers and waiters were always smiling and attentive and gave their personal touch to each guest. The Officers and Management were always present and interacting with the passengers, setting a wonderful standard for the rest of the staff and crew. Never have we seen such an engaging "team" as the leadership of the Equinox.
We purchased the Premium Alcohol Package. This is absolutely worth the cost and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend it or purchase it in the future. With the premium package basically all beverages are paid for: lattes at Cafe al Bacio, bottled water (both still and sparkling), Vitamin Water/Gatorade, sodas, and of course all cocktails and wines by the glass (with the exception of wines at Cellarmasters). A typical day would include a bloody mary, beer or glass of wine with lunch, bottle of San Pellegino with lunch, latte after lunch, bottle of water for working out, Vitamin Water for after, beer/wine late afternoon, martini before dinner, wine with dinner, and after dinner liqueurs. All included and totally worth it.
Deck space is plentiful as are the chaise lounges. While there were some "chair hogs" (hey, there always will be - sorry) it was never a problem finding a place to sit. The canopies that flank the pool on the upper deck are a great touch for those wanting to be on deck but out of the sun. Again, a wonderful well thought out detail. The Solarium is a great during the day for a quiet place to read or have a swim. At night a light show transforms the pool area and Solarium into a work of art and is also used for two night time dance parties.
We went to a few of the shows and they were very good for the most part. Equinox - the show, as others have mentioned, is wonderful. The Corning Glass Blowing show is informative and really fun to watch. The fitness center was great and never crowded in the late afternoons. Suite guests receive complimentary admission to the Persian Gardens throughout the cruise as well.
This review could go on and I'm sure I left a lot out but it's long enough. Only superlatives can describe the ship and her crew - Fantastic, Phenomenal, Spectacular, Outstanding, Exceptional.
Yeah. We had a good time.