Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by Hestia: Ultimate Caribbean = Ultimate Cruise Experience!
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Ultimate Caribbean = Ultimate Cruise Experience!
First week back from our vacation and I had to share the awesome cruise experience with others who may be on the fence about cruising with Celebrity (as we were for several years). We have cruised before with Carnival (twice), Royal Caribbean and Princess. We are a family of three ranging in age from 8 - early 50's. We have enjoyed all of our cruises to date and were attracted to the Equinox due to the hot glass shoppe and the wonderful itinerary. We were expecting a cruise experience similar to our prior cruises and were more than pleasantly surprised to reflect upon this cruise as our most fantastic cruise experience to date!
We drove to Fort Lauderdale (from Ontario, Canada) to catch the March 21st sail on the Celebrity Equinox. We pulled into our pre-reserved hotel (Hyatt Regency Pier 66) early the morning prior to the cruise. We were so delighted by the excellence of this hotel! It is a small resort set upon the intercoastal More waterway very nearby the cruise port. Our room was on the ground level and had a lovely lanai area facing the waterway which was lined with some exquisitely gorgeous yachts largely due to its proximity to the public marina. The room was immaculate, cool, spacious and very comfortable. The best part of our day spent there was poolside. Hyatt Pier 66 boasts a very large heated pool complete with waterfall! Lounging upon the deck chairs and being served by roaming waiters completed our love for this space and it will certainly be our hotel of choice next time we are in the area. In addition, the staff was fantastic! Our early morning arrival (caused due to the lack of planning over what turned out to be the tail end of Spring break somewhere in the world) meant that we travelled many more hours than planned without the benefit of a hotel room en route. The Hyatt graciously changed our accommodation to allow us an early morning entry to our room at no additional charge. The valet also made us aware that we could leave our vehicle in their secure parking facility for the duration of our trip for less than it would cost us to park at the pier - an offer we graciously accepted!
Cruise Day! Check-in & Embarkation
In the morning, following an excellent hot buffet breakfast in the hotel, the kind valet attendants secured us a taxi which came directly to our vehicle and assisted us with transferring our luggage. We travelled the few minutes it took to arrive at the cruise port and entered with ease.
From the moment we unloaded the taxi, our experience with Celebrity surpassed every other cruise experience to date. There was plenty of staff on hand to direct us to the correct boarding area. After disembarking the taxi, transferring our luggage to the baggage handlers (who graciously offered us baggage tags when I remembered we didn't receive any before we had left!), we entered the port building. After a brief stop by security (we had some leftover bottles of coke in our carry-on luggage that needed to be checked out), we were on our way to checking in.
The check-in staff were friendly, helpful and amazingly efficient! From arrival to checking in our luggage to boarding the ship took us under 30 minutes. We were shocked by this as our prior experiences have always involved a more substantial waiting period! While still commenting on how impressive the streamlined process was, we embarked upon the ship and that is when the cascade of extra special treatment began with a chilled glass of champagne (fresh squeezed orange juice for the young girl) and personalized friendly greetings.
About the Equinox
The first thing we noticed about the Equinox is what it didn't have compared to our prior trips. There was no massive foyer in the middle of the ship with all the glitz of some of the others we've experienced. Oddly, it wasn't missed one bit! The ship is beautifully laid out, very open with its glass elevators and many of its best features open to balconies as you ascend to the upper decks. The computer room, games room and library levels are completely open and overlook the vast atrium housing the glass elevators. At no time did I ever feel "closed in" on this ship. It was very comfortable and getting around was never a big problem. My one critique of the ship is about the sparse locations on the middle activity floors (computer, library and games rooms) and the lack of public washroom facilities which usually necessitated an elevator ride up or down several floors to locate a public facility with a child in tow.
We did not feel continually pursued by vendors to buy things on board. Certainly there were plenty of opportunities to spend money but it was subtle and not "in our face" - a fact we very much appreciated!
The layout of the buffet is brilliant! Never did I feel like I was standing in line forever to get a little something while my breakfast got cold. Everything was plentiful and fresh. The waffles and cheese blintzes are not to be missed at breakfast! The variety offered for lunch and late afternoon/evening snacks of small sandwiches and daily sushi were certainly enjoyed on more than one occasion.
The formal dining room was wonderful. The meals were top notch! The wait staff and sommeliers certainly are well trained professionals and they went above and beyond the call of duty to make our dining experiences memorable. Little surprises the chef would add to the menu on a whim were to our benefit and I really enjoyed the array of cold soups offered when returning from hot destinations! There was not a single night that I could not find something delectable on the menu! As tastes vary, this may not have been everyone's experience but we're an adventuresome bunch who enjoy good food and if you're the same, I'm fairly confident you will find something to your taste!
Psst. If you love French onion soup, you must try Celebrity's version! They make it PROPERLY (a rare feat) and without any bouillion. The onions are perfectly carmelized, they use an entire slice of bread (as opposed to "croutons") and smother it with exactly the right complement of cheese. Try it, you'll love it!
We spent some time in the Games Room once we found it and very much enjoyed the array of boards games made available for use. From mahjongg to clue to chess, connect 4 and other fun games, many an hour was whiled away before dinner with our young daughter. It was nice to be able to have such family time and not be sequestered in the cabin to accomplish it!
THE POOL! What isn't great about this pool? First, it's not salt water taken from the freezing cold ocean the day you embark. No, it's heated! It's sufficiently but not over-chlorinated and is crystal clear. There is a shallow side and a deeper side to suit whatever you desire.
The chairs surrounding the pool are ample. We never had trouble finding a place to be regardless of when we arrived poolside. The wait staff are plentiful, the special drinks most enjoyable and the open air design allows you to bathe in the sun or hide in the shade - truly a little something for everyone.
There is a live band who plays in the late afternoon. It can get a little loud then and usually disturbed my zen so I often chose to depart at that point. The band and singers were very good (although, when they played country music and had it representative of Canada it got my back up a little). The ship does need to tone down the volume somewhat though. The "dance floor" is unique in that it spouts water and has colour changing lights beneath one's feet. It was fun to watch those who were so inspired get up and give a little of themselves over to the music.
There is a fabulous family sized hammock on the back of the pool area (near the entrance to the Solarium). What a wonderful place to take a nap when you can snag it! There are also large cushy lounges surrounding the pool. These go early but if you're lucky enough to gain access to one, it makes a splendid outdoor napping place.
What isn't to love? The company goes above and beyond the call of duty to make everyone happy aboard their ships. We found the service staff to be incredibly friendly, most helpful and always willing to respond to any situation. We did have a couple of incidents that could likely have turned out in a less than pleasant manner but the immediate rectification by staff - even those from other areas of the ship - convinced us that Celebrity's expert training and attention to their customers is way above the ordinary. This is one reason that we will be sailing with them going forward. Provided they keep this level of attentive service, interesting and varied itineraries and respond to requests for improvements in an already full and rewarding activity program, then they will be seeing a great deal more of us on board!
This is the one place where Celebrity has room to compare what other lines are offering and beef it up a little. Some of us actually do enjoy the extracurricular learning available on other lines and, if there was one thing missing on board this time, I would have to say it was in the availability of interesting curriculum.
As far as the "extracurricular enrichment" - I failed to win thousands of dollars in the casino. In fact, I failed to win much of anything! Shame, shame on Celebrity for that! ;)
Wine tasting was something that we partook in and thoroughly enjoyed. The series of wine education seminars were well run, informative and most enjoyable! We didn't get to as many as we'd hoped to due to scheduling conflicts with other personal agenda wants but we will definitely pursue more of this experience if it's offered in the future!
I would love to give you a raving report on the kid's club and how much my daughter enjoyed it. Sadly, I cannot because she didn't go. Not once did she grace their halls with her bubbly presence. We were okay with that, really since the purpose of vacation is to spend time together in our family.
I do want to remark on the abundance of staff who went out of their way to acknowledge our young daughter and make her experience extra special. From the wait staff in the buffet who would assist her getting her breakfast or lunch tray to the table to the crew responsible for checking us on and off the ship in port, she was constantly made to feel like she was a truly important individual. I love it when people address children with the attitude that they can speak for themselves and not speak constantly through me to her. It was certainly evident that the crew aboard the Equinox respect well mannered children and, for that, I'm grateful.
The Hot Glass Show!
The Corning Museum of Glass is hanging out on the roof of the Equinox. There were two shows most, if not each of the days of our cruise. It was an amazing experience to have and watching these professional gaffers fight the elements can be highly tense by times as they struggle not to have the creation they've just spent time honing to perfection crack due to a cold blast of wind! As a glass worker on a much smaller scale, this feature was one of the reasons I booked this cruise to begin with and I have to say I was plenty impressed!
The wares created by the gaffers upon the ship over the course of the cruise are NOT for sale but do get auctioned off toward the end of the cruise. The auction benefits a Corning Museum of Glass scholarship fund so the cause is very worthy. Sometimes there are whimsical glass sculptures made, other times there are useful pieces blown and then there are those times when you witness a masterpiece in the making. No matter what is being made, the process of watching it underway is fascinating and is truly one you should experience!
There is no smoking in the rooms or balconies aboard the Equinox. There are designated smoking areas aboard the ship. Whether you smoke or don't smoke, you should be aware of this. These areas are limited so it is somewhat disconcerting when non-smokers invade these spaces and then get upset to see someone about to light up a cigarette. I think this is one area where Celebrity might assist by ensuring that the areas are better defined by signage.
As there are separate areas altogether to review the ports/shore excursions, I will summarize with this: my family and I agree THIS WAS THE BEST CRUISE WE HAVE EVER TAKEN!
We were so impressed, in fact, that for the first time ever we booked our next cruise while still on board the Equinox. I can hardly wait to once again encounter the professional staff and crew that makes Celebrity stand out on the top of my list! Less
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Cabin review: C22140
Cabin 2140 - Concierge Class 2 - Resort Level We loved almost everything about this room. The balcony was lovely and private. The deck furniture was of high quality. Amenities in the room included binoculars, umbrellas, robes, hair dryer, nicely shaped glasses, ice bucket, television, telephone and clock radio. The bathroom is definitely the nicest cruise ship bathroom we've ever encountered with its abundance of storage, clean lines and high quality fixtures. A couple of issues with the design did strike us: 1) The storage space is in two overhead cabinets above the bed, a large closet with plenty of storage for hanging clothes and small drawers along the tv/desk cabinet area. The above-head storage proved to be difficult for my child to reach. Overall, the storage space is tight. It would have been nice if there was an option for some fold down shelves to better utilize the closet area. 2) The couch was comfortable enough but the way the beds are made up with a foamy mattress atop them for sleeping made the bed somewhat narrower than the couch itself. This resulted in my daughter tumbling out on at least one occasion (partially due to rolling seas). 3) The suite is difficult to enter with the bathroom door open. Sure, it's easy enough to keep closed but the point is that future designs might take this into consideration! The room is located beneath the buffet area on the 14th deck. If you are a light sleeper, this may be an issue! We became accustomed to the scraping of chairs, rolling carts and other activity early in the morning as the buffet staff worked to prepare a luscious breakfast so it wasn't particularly an issue for us as sound sleepers. In fact, it bothered us so little that we've booked a room in a similar location for next year's cruise! It is certainly notable though and we do sleep very soundly so be aware if you are not so fortunate in the sleep department. We loved the location of this cabin as we were on the pool level which meant no cruising the elevators clad in our swimwear. It was also very convenient to the upstairs buffet and we could run up to get some nice lunch or just enjoy a few snacks on our balcony if we so desired. Of course, we could also have enjoyed the free snacks Concierge level provides but that would have involved being tied down to a set time to be in the room and we just don't roll that way :) Overall, the room was a very pleasant and enjoyable home for the 11 days we were sufficiently privileged to enjoy it!
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