The Celebrity Equinox truly is a beautiful ship and there were many 'WoW' moments throughout our 10 days onboard. There were also a lot of things that we felt should not have been as they were. I've covered everything that we loved...and what we didn't, below.
The things we loved:
First and foremost, the food. We had absolutely no adverse comment to make at any time. The variety was amazing with no compromise on quality. We ate everyday in the Oceanview Cafe for breakfast and lunch and the Silhouette Restaurant each evening bar one as my husband really fancied the trying the evening O'view Cafe buffet (which was ok, but not as good a selection as we'd have hoped for an evening meal). The fresh made ice-cream & sorbet choice in the O'view Cafe varied daily and was innovative and delicious. I frequently noticed fairly long queues here so I chose only to go for ice-cream when it was less busy. The steaks in the Silhouette were exceptional and always cooked exactly to order. My favourite meal by far was the lobster which was served on the second formal night. I'd previously read reviews that the buffet deserts look much better than they tasted but I never found this to be true...they definitely all tasted as amazing as they looked! The buffet curries were incredibly tasty!
The ship itself: So many parts to explore and we were still discovering different areas on the day we were disembarking! I'd read reviews before we sailed that said you could always find a quiet area to relax away from the crowds. It's surprisingly true. At times when strolling around we even felt the ship had been deserted and actually wondered where everyone else was! A visit to the pool area usually revealed all. On sea days the poolside was rowdy and hectic but you could still relax in peace on the sunbeds towards the sides of the ship or on the nearby upper decks. Yes, there were the inevitable 'hoggers' which is to be expected but vacant sunbeds could usually be found. We did have to remember which side was the smoking side though and often had to reposition ourselves to the other side when we realised we had inadvertently placed ourselves downwind of the dreaded smoke!
The friendliness of everyone onboard, crew & guests alike: American and Canadian guests are just so pleasant and always ready for a chat whether it's for a few moments in a lift or whilst enjoying breakfast or lunch on the closely placed tables. It made us realise how reserved us British are!
The entertainment: We were a bit worried that it would not match up to previous experience on the Ruby Princess 2 years ago but we had no cause for concern. Every show and production we saw was fabulous, in fact it got better as the cruise went on. Gareth Oliver the English ventriloquist was brilliant. Very clever and hilariously funny! He seemed such a regular down to earth guy too (he sat near us at breakfast on the last day which I thought was great!) The Equinox shows were also brilliant. Trapeze acts, contortionists, jugglers, dancers, singers...all amazing and on a par with the best Cirque du Soleil shows we've seen in Vegas and the UK. The Liars Club, Newly Weds and Not so Newly Weds show and comedian Al Ducharne were all very entertaining. I really liked the male quartet called Jukebox but my husband said they were too young to be doing the type of show they did! The group we really didn't like I've mentioned below!
The ports we visited: Great choice for the cruise called 'The Ultimate Caribbean'. St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, Dominica and St Maarten....loved them all and found it very easy to get onto an island tour (either as a couple or part of a small group) offered by local tour operators just minutes from the ship. We paid between $25 and $30 each for a 2 to 3 hour trip which we thought was great value (and a fraction of the ship's tour prices!) Each tour gave us a good insight into what each island had to offer. The prices generally seemed fixed which we found a lot easier than the haggling we'd been used to on previous cruises.
The Casino: A vibrant, fun and colourful place to be even if you don't intend spending a cent! It was fun simply watching others part with their virtual cash (and we were amazed at how quickly and easily those dollars diminished on the slots and tables!) The noise and atmosphere in here was intoxicating...very reminiscent of Vegas! The smoke free air was lovely too!
The silhouette dining room: A huge and glamorous place to dine in. We loved the menus and we didn't tire of eating there each evening. The staff were very efficient (though somewhat annoyingly full-on with the 'good' service...a peaceful, uninterrupted meal was sadly not the norm).
In-room television: Easy to operate the interactive facility. We would put the TV on while we were getting ready to go to dinner and we even managed to watch a film one day! It's there if you want it and plenty on it to watch. The films could even be saved for a couple of days if not finished. You could even view and purchase your onboard photos and it was fun to browse them!
The veranda/balcony: We had already experienced this little luxury on the Ruby Princess and would now find it difficult to settle for anything less than a cabin with a balcony. Although I only sat on it once for any considerable length of time, it was lovely to have it. The seats were comfortable and there is a small (slightly weathered) round table too. We didn't have breakfast on it as we like to go the buffet but I spoke to some guests who did (via room service) and they really enjoyed that aspect of it. We kept our curtains open all night (even though the cabin steward insisted on routinely closing them for us while we were out in the evening!) so that we could wake up to the surprise view each time we docked somewhere new. Half the cabins were designed so that the bed was adjacent to the patio doors, the other half were set back and the huge boxy sofa was by the window instead. We were fortunate that ours was by the window but you won't know the configuration of the room until you first enter it! My husband said it all depended on the shape of the room, they alternate the design along the corridor apparently.
Now for the let-downs :-(
Overall cleanliness onboard: This was my biggest gripe...everyday! I am a self-confessed 'clean & tidy freak' and I felt that there were certain areas onboard that had been seriously overlooked in this respect. Good hygiene practices appear to be a top priority onboard (the numerous hand gel dispensers placed everywhere are testament to this fact!) but I feel it is equally important to simply provide clean, tidy and pleasant surroundings to relax in. The worst areas for grubbiness were the toilets. In all the toilets around the ship I rarely saw anyone in attendance and when I did they were not actually checking or cleaning inside each cubicle, rather they seemed to be spending far too much time folding small (unnecessary) cloth hand towels into neat little rolls just to be used once and then invariably discarded by inconsiderate guests into the wrong container after use! Consequently it was hit or miss whether you'd find a quick 'visit' either a pleasant or cringe-worthy experience. Sadly, 5 star cruises do not guarantee 5 star guests and the state some selfish people leave the facilities in after use simply beggars belief. Also, I did not initially find the toilet in our stateroom cleaned to my standards (there was that unpleasant odour emitting from the hidden areas that gave it away). Fortunately I always pack anti-bacterial toilet cleaning wipes which I'd prefer not to have to roll my sleeves up and use (well I am on holiday!) but as I was to be using the loo for 10 days I was glad I'd packed them. Rightly or wrongly I am always reluctant to make a fuss about such things as I don't want any repercussions, hence I don't tend to alert housekeeping...I just do it myself my way...it's easier!
Something that regularly niggled us was being constantly surrounded by uncleared tables...also plates, tumblers, cocktail glasses and cutlery left either sitting on the end of or under sunbeds or anywhere else the inconsiderate guest decided to abandon it. Sometimes tumblers of drinks had spilled over on the outside deck areas and were left sitting in sticky, spreading puddles which guests (and crew!) simply stepped over! This happened all over the ship but mainly around the pool areas. We found this sadly lowered the tone of the ship's elegance. Some guests seem to have the attitude that it's not up to them to take their wine glass back out of the theatre or to place their empty water bottle in the nearest bin rather than on the carpet against a wall but as I said before about 5 star cruising and the guests etc....following on from that, we did feel the crew also tended to overlook such clutter and we constantly observed them (whatever their status) casually walk past the same 'mess' several times seemingly oblivious to the fact it was unsightly. I felt this general lack of care just served to encourage more of the same mess to accumulate. Quite often I would often clear things away myself for my own convenience. This was also a frequent problem I found in the O'view Cafe. Finding someone to clear or wipe down a table at busy times was sometimes just too time-consuming (especially with your plate of food going cold!) so once you secured a table it was easier to simply move used stuff yourself onto another table that was already piled up waiting to be cleared!
Other areas of concern we observed were the food and drink splashes that had collected on the full length windows in the O'view Cafe coupled with general grime accumulating on the lower ledge of the window...not pleasant to observe whilst eating and trying to admire the view of a new port! I never saw anyone cleaning the inside windows and the outsides were 'cleaned' by a spray machine on one of the days but then left to dry naturally resulting in unsightly watermarks!
The bench seats in the O'view Cafe were really past their use by date...very grubby and food stained to the point I wouldn't sit on them unless I placed a serviette down first! Certainly not of a 5 star standard in fact I would expect better seating in my local McD's! The same can also be said of the sofas in the Library....well overdue for a good clean or replacement! Carpets in the O'view Cafe were quite often covered in crumbs and food remains and I personally felt a quick passing of a simple carpet sweeper would make a huge difference in-between the thorough daily vacuuming.
The sunbeds: Plenty available but crammed in without any gaps in-between, definitely designed for keeping sardines at sea where they belong! They are covered in a navy blue fabric, some of which are inevitably looking faded and worn after several months use. We had a couple of impromptu rain showers which just left the covers soaked and unusable until the sun dried them again! A major design faux pas I fear! Also, some guests had no qualms about sitting on the sunbeds with their shoes on leaving unpleasant dirty marks on them. One totally selfish (ignorant?) girl was even standing on a sunbed in high heels trying to get a good photo!!! Padded wipe-clean plastic beds would have been so much more practical, more durable and would look nicer for much longer .
Towels: Cabin towels were lovely...white, fluffy and very clean (even by my standards!) I felt they were replaced unnecessarily often even when placed on the rails for re-use as they suggest. I don't mind using mine twice but generally they were swiftly whipped away for replacement wherever you left them! Pool towels (pale blue) on the other hand were very hit and miss. Always available whatever time of day on a help yourself basis which unfortunately proved not to be ideal as it wasn't therefore possible to regulate their usage. Consequently we felt that many more towels were used each day than was really necessary. This method also didn't require towels to be returned to a central area and many were simply abandoned by selfish guests (yes, they are sadly everywhere onboard!) after use on sunbeds giving the impression the bed was 'reserved'. When collecting my daily towels I found I had to sort through the supply to find acceptable ones as some were simply too disgusting (stained and grubby) and I even doubted whether some had been washed at all! Unlike the cabin towels they never had a fresh or clean smell to them. The beach towels (pale yellow) were far too chunky and large to carry around on island trips so we opted to take the lighter-weight pool towels with us instead.
Kids: Fortunately not too many on our cruise as we chose to go during term-time but the few we encountered were particularly irritating. One particular group of 4 young girls would often be seen playing in the lifts (mucking up the glass with noses and hands) or on the outside decks flicking spoons of ice-cream around and throwing jelly sweets at each other whilst running around shrieking loudly. I would have shaken my head in disbelief at their parents....but not surprisingly we never saw them with them of course! Some kids had been given the task via the kids club to approach the guests and collect 'jokes' or ask where we were from etc. One would have assumed they would have been encouraged to be courteous when doing so but they had obviously forgotten to brief them on that bit ;-)
Our stateroom: There is much talk of these 5 amazing well travelled women who designed the cabins....hhhhm. I somehow feel they must have lost their blueprints at the last moment. We found the general design to be awful. Given the limited space available to play with, the worst thing they did was cram in an unnecessarily long cream leather-look boxy sofa which just happens to be rock hard, bolt-upright and most uncomfortable! Completely surplus to requirement too! 1 or 2 comfy fabric chairs would have been much more practical. We sat on the bed mostly which is what most people in hotel rooms do anyway! Our huge cream vinyl sofa had 2 large unsightly dark blue stains on it which is the very first thing we noticed upon entering our cabin. We immediately moved the central coffee table out of the way to the space under the dressing table. We didn't have need for it once and it was just in the way in the narrow room. The fabric cushions placed upon the sofa smelled very unpleasant and musty and the 2 smaller ones that were placed on the bed (against our pillows, yukk!) got thrown straight into a corner each day for the same reason! On the first day we left the balcony doors wide open while we went exploring the ship as we felt the room was in need of a good airing. The quilt cover was not changed for the duration of the cruise (I got a small lipstick mark on it the first day which was still there the day we vacated!) The bottom sheet and dividing sheet were changed just once half way through. The wardrobe was the most annoying thing to use on a daily basis. It was practically inaccessible because of the large sofa leaving little room to get into it and the sliding doors were stiff and didn't open fully. Twice I painfully caught my finger in the handle because of the bad design. Not a relaxing way to ready of an evening!
There was a lot of wasted space that could easily have been better utilised such as the solid piece of fascia under the huge sofa. This could have housed a large drawer for shoes or the beach towels. Any hooks (and these were an absolute minimum) were placed so high there was no way I could reach them (I'm a fairly short but not a dwarf at 5 foot 2 inches). All I can assume is that those 5 women must have all been at least 5 foot 8 inches! There is a shaver socket in the bathroom that is literally inaccessible to anyone shorter than medium height! Any swimwear has to be carefully washed in the miniscule basin and then hung on the 2 mega-high short pegs within the shower.....that's it....any other washing is simply out of the question! There is space for a much bigger basin so why not have put one there? There is a big void beneath the basin which could have housed more valuable storage. And for some reason the mixer tap on the tiny basin is HUGE! Simply washing one's face can cause a major flood and could give you a black eye into the bargain if you're not really careful! And as for the gimmicky steam proof mirror.....errr...it really doesn't work!
Constant intrusiveness: Equinox is a friendly ship, no doubt. But around half a dozen daily visits to your room from the cabin stewards is just not necessary. Even the 'do not disturb' sign on the door does not guarantee complete privacy. We became paranoid about the constant visits and often had to jump back into the bathroom to save our embarrassment each the door handle was rattled! Sometimes we even found our very pleasant cabin steward patiently waiting against the wall outside our cabin for us to go to dinner so he could come in and clean the shower yet again, replace the towels, turn down the corners of our quilt, place 2 totally unnecessary chocolates on our pillows etc (we collected them to take home to our chocaholic son so I didn't really mind that!!!) These constant visits are just annoying and simply not necessary and this is where I feel the standard of cleanliness around the ship is unbalanced. The cabin stewards on our deck had a little 'code' that they would use where they would place tiny rolled up pieces of paper in the door jamb so they could tell if you were in/out/had been back/had not been back etc etc. We figured this out after just a couple of days ( I'm the type that would notice tiny bits of litter on the floor!) and sometimes we teasingly played them at their game by putting the rolled up paper back as we left our room! The same irritating attentiveness is to be found in the Silhouette dining room. The constant interruption such as 'is everything ok with your food sir/madam' and the routine reading out of the whole menu (usually off my menu from over my shoulder!) is again unnecessary and annoying. It was hard to pay attention when all you wanted to do was enjoy perusing the menu at leisure for yourself and then just enjoy your meal in peace! On a plus note, we just happened to mention one evening to the maitre d' that we preferred longer breaks between courses and commendably he remembered this and from that evening onwards he saw to it that we got our wish which was a nice touch. If you get a bit too familiar with some of the waiters you do end up having to hear all their gripes about working for Celebrity which can be tiresome. Mostly they are all lovely (they have to be, it seems to be the main Equinox rule) so we didn't really mind....unless we were trying hard to get away in a hurry for a show which incidentally all start exactly on time!
Nominal fee applies: This is probably one of the things that irritated us most. It is a phrase that you will see onboard a lot...it appears frequently amongst the list of daily activities, in the additional cafes and the bistro, for ice-cream other than from the O'view cafe, some TV films, some exercise classes, for fresh fruit juice in the O'view cafe...the list goes on. It seemed inconsistent and frankly penny-pinching. Worst of all it wasn't always clear whether there was an additional charge for some things or not and it's embarrassing to have to ask before deciding whether it's necessarily worth paying for! We thought the most disappointing additional fee was for the afternoon tea. On Princess cruises this was included in the price and was beautifully done. On Celebrity the cost was unreasonably high in our opinion (can't recall the cost exactly but it was well over £20 each and it wasn't stated anywhere so you did have to ask!) Needless to say we gave it a miss!
The least enjoyable form of entertainment in our opinion was the daily pool-side singing group called Top Notch. Cringingly amateurish and boringly samey out of tune songs day after day. When they started up each afternoon we would use this as a 'time to move on' excuse! Quite honestly we were intrigued at how they managed to secure such a coveted position of resident band on a Celebrity cruise ship!
I am sure I will remember many more things I wish I'd mentioned in my review but I hope that I have been helpful to prospective cruisers on this ship. Overall we had an amazing time and we would definitely recommend the Celebrity Equinox. I realise I am in the minority in expecting very high standards of cleanliness and tidiness so unless you feel you are even more picky about such things than me, then GO, you will definitely enjoy it!!!