This will probably be a long review so here goes. The cruise on the Celebrity Equinox was my 60th birthday present from my husband. We are both retired and it was just the two of us going on the cruise. We have not cruised a lot. Previously we have been on the NCL Gem, NCL Epic, Emerald Princess and NCL Dawn (sans DH).
We flew into Fort Lauderdale a day early on February 12th which was a good idea since our flights were delayed and we missed our connecting flight. We stayed at the Best Western Plus in Dania Beach and I would highly recommend it for pre-cruise. We took the hotel shuttle to the cruise port at 11:00 AM and the boarding process was fast and painless. We arrived at the ship at around 11:30 and we were on board with a glass of champagne within 15 minutes.
We were in cabin # 1515 which was on the port side on deck 11. It was an Aqua Class cabin which was about 8 cabins from the front of the ship. Of course our cabin was not available when we boarded so we headed to the Cafe (buffet) on Deck 14. I really liked the way the buffet area was laid out as it was easy to get around and there were no line-ups. There seemed to be plenty of seating and we never had a problem finding a table. I can't say enough about the staff and crew on the ship. By the third day the chap taking the orders for eggs/omelettes knew my name! Once we had eaten our cabin was ready so we headed down to have a look.
CABIN: I was not very impressed with the cabin considering how much you pay for "Aqua" class. Basically it is a regular balcony cabin with a few perks. You get a bowl of fruit every day and there is a bottle of sparkling wine/glasses on the first day. Later they will put some flowers in your cabin and they stay for the rest of the cruise. My biggest complaint was the lack of storage. There were five drawers which were not large and a closet. Over the bed there was a long cabinet with doors and one shelf. It was not convenient to get at things up there but that was pretty much where you had to put a lot of your clothes. For an 11 day cruise the drawers were pretty much full of socks, underwear and bathing suits. We did not plan to attend any of the "Formal" nights so all our clothes were t-shirts, casual pants/slacks and shorts. The majority of these were not going to be hung on coat hangers. I would suggest that Celebrity take of their closet space and install a set of open shelves for more storage.
The bathroom had lots of storage although I don't know why. The storage cupboards were only about 8 inches wide but they went from the ceiling to the floor so there was lots of room for shaving gear and make-up, etc. The shower had both an adjustable shower head with hose and six individual nozzles that would spray your body if you turned on that option. The nozzles were adjustable and felt great if you had sore muscles. The downside is the advertised "seat" for women to use. I was very pleased to hear about this at first because I was not looking forward to trying to shave my legs in a shower. But there is NO seat! There is a round metal bar (which is about 1 foot long) set into the corner of the shower about 18 inches from the floor. From the corner of the shower (think triangle) to the center of the bar is about 8 inches! I tried sitting on this and believe me it is not possible unless you are 10 years old. The best you could do is to use it as a foot rest to raise you leg while shaving. I suppose it was better than nothing at all but not by much.
The ship itself was beautiful with very tasteful furnishings and colour schemes. Everything was spotless although there were several areas of carpet that looked like they had been cleaned and then did not match the rest of the area.
The Lawn Club was totally unique and we did get to play croquet, bocce and bean bag toss on various days. The grass was very yellow and worn in a lot of areas. On the second last day of the cruise they tore up all the grass and were in the process of laying all new sods so the next bunch of passengers would have fresh new grass.
There were several things that we really liked about this ship. One was the Relaxation Room which was at the end of our hallway on Deck 11 and only for Aqua Class and Suite passengers as well as Spa customers. This room had about 10 single beds to lie on and it faced the front of the ship and was all glass windows so you had a great view and lots of peace and quiet.
We also thoroughly enjoyed the Solarium on Deck 12 which is the enclosed pool area for adults only. It is closed off from the two main (outdoor) pools and the stage where they play music so it is a lovely place to relax with soothing music and a very beautiful water feature. The pool in this area is only 4'9" deep so you don't have to be able to swim to enjoy it. The rest of the area is filled with very comfortable padded loungers. There is also a small cafe area here which served all healthy foods and snacks during the day.
Hot tubs: another failing on the part of Celebrity. There were two of these in the Solarium and four of them on the main pool deck. Instead of having jets of water these hot tubs had bubbling air coming out of them. The problem with this is that the tubs are very full and so the water is nearly up to your chin. With the water being churned with bursting air bubbles you were constantly getting water splashed in your eyes and face. Since the water is full of chemicals to reduce bacteria, etc. I was not impressed getting it in my eyes. The only way to get around this was to sit in the hot tub and not turn it on. I did not use it after my first experience.
We booked all our own excursions in Cozumel, Roatan and Grand Cayman and did not take any excursions in Panama, Columbia or Costa Rica. A note to anyone who is planning to take this itinerary: the "docks" in Colon, Panama and Cartagena, Columbia are at container piers. The ship docked at 8 AM in Cartagena and we were able to see the pier from our balcony. We watched in awe as FIFTY white tour buses arrived and parked in a row on the pier for all the excursion customers. The temperature in Cartagena was listed as 99F on the day we were there. We walked to the small shopping area which was at the end of the pier and to our right. There were parrots, flamingos and monkeys outside in the gardens and shopping inside. However there were too few clerks and I ended up putting my purchases back and leaving because of the lines of people and the slowness of the staff.
The warning is for people coming back from these bus excursions. I am not sure of the time but I will say 3 PM. FOURTEEN buses arrived back at the pier at the same time so that between 400-500 passengers had to line up to get back on board the ship and go through their security. There was only one gangway open with two lines of staff so all these passengers were left standing in 95F + heat and sun for quite a long time before being able to get back on board. Celebrity should really consider setting up some canopies for shade. I would suggest taking a lot of water and possibly an umbrella for shade.
FOOD: - Being in Aqua class gave us the advantage of being able to eat at Blu which is special restaurant with healthier selections. We ate here twice (once for my birthday) and it was not to my taste. We both like plain food with not a lot of spices and sauces. The food here (and in the MDR) is more gourmet and not for us. We did have one meal in the Main Dining Room and it was completely full so the volume of people talking along with all the staff gave me a headache! The staff was excellent but we ate the majority of our meals in the buffet on deck 14. The food was very good at breakfast and lunch but very skimpy at supper time. Apparently most people who cruise with Celebrity prefer the fancier food in the main dining room and the specialty restaurants so there are very few people at the buffet at supper time. We didn't starve but the carving station often had chicken or roast pork at dinner.
The hamburgers at the Pool Grill were wonderful. I would definitely recommend trying them and there was ice cream in the buffet all day until 10 PM. My husband enjoyed the pizza and he is very fussy about his pizza. We did have room service one day for breakfast and that was a wonderful treat. Everything was properly hot or cold and our room attendant called us beforehand to tell us that the meal was on its way.
I do want to make a special mention of our room attendant, Rhodalyn, who was just amazing; friendly, helpful and took care of every request within minutes.
ENTERTAINMENT: - We only went to two shows and both were comedians. Both were very good and family-friendly. There was an a cappella singing group that were excellent and performed often in the atrium on Deck 3. The highlight of the cruise for my husband was the hot-glass blowing exhibitions on Deck 15. There were two men and one woman who each created a piece of glass art during each show. It was fascinating and very informative. Some of the pieces are auctioned off at the end of the cruise for charity although the other pieces are not sold.
CASINO: I am not a big gambler so I take a certain amount of money to play the slot machines whenever I cruise. I am not sure if I am paranoid but I will mention this to anyone who is interested. I played four different slot machines (only the 1 cent and 2 cent ones) and on the second last night of the cruise I was ahead by $31.00 which I had in a slot coupon. On the final night of the cruise it seemed (??) that ALL the slot machines had been re-set NOT to pay out any money. On the machines that I was regularly winning on I was getting no special bonuses and I tried all four of the machines I had regularly been playing and eventually lost my $31.00. This was no big thing but I will make sure NOT to gamble on any cruise ship on the final night from now on.
The ship had a lovely card room with lots of games and puzzles and a beautiful two storey library with large, comfortable chairs. My only complaint about this was that one wall of each of these rooms was open to the central atrium so that when music was being played in the atrium it could be heard clearly in both the card room and the library. Personally, when I am playing cards or sitting down to enjoy a good book, I don't want loud music annoying me.
LOBSTER night: a big complaint. We knew when we booked this cruise that there were "formal" nights and that didn't bother us because we normally did not eat in the MDR anyway. Our first cruise was NCL and we really enjoy and are used to "freestyle cruising" where you do not have to dress up for anything unless you want to.
We had packed clothes to be "smart casual" so that we could eat in the MDR or the specialty restaurants if we chose to. However, on the two nights when lobster was on the menu in the MDR (and nowhere else) you HAD TO dress formally to get into the dining room. So basically we were denied this delicacy based on our choice to not pack suits, ties, dress shirts, dress shoes and an evening gown, etc. I even checked with Customer Relations to find out if we could eat in the MDR if we dressed in "smart casual" and I was told "no".
DIS-EMBARKATION - This was very well managed and we were given luggage tags for a 9:15 departure based on the time of our flight out of Fort Lauderdale. We walked off the ship and were able to quickly retrieve our luggage and head to customs. THAT was a real headache. The line was very, very long and very slow. Apparently this had something to do with the Customs officers having computers and also having to use a fingerprint scanner on any passengers from Europe. Once through that we were outside and into a taxi within minutes.
My husband and I will not be cruising with Celebrity again and that is a strictly personal choice. It is a more expensive cruise line and more formal that we like. We took this cruise because of the itinerary and the special occasion of my 60th birthday. We have yet to try Royal Caribbean and Carnival so those will be the next on our list and after that we will be going on the newest NCL ships.