Innovative Features: Lawn Club, Glass-Blowing Show
Exceptional alternative dining venues
Artwork from Celebrity Galaxy
Celebrity Equinox Overview
By Kelly Ranson, Cruise Critic contributor
The 122,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox, the second ship in Celebrity Cruises' innovative Solstice class, launched in summer 2009. As a sister ship to Celebrity Solstice, which debuted in November 2008, Equinox brings back everything we loved about the first-in-class.
Expect the same interesting onboard features that made Celebrity Solstice such a knockout. These include The Lawn Club, a dedicated area on the top deck of the ship that features real, growing grass, where passengers can play croquet or golf; the Hot Glass Show, the first glass-blowing studio at sea; large, standard staterooms, 85 percent of which are outfitted with verandahs; and Quasar, a mod-futuristic disco that's James-Bond-meets-"The Jetsons."
In fact, there's really not that much differentiation between Equinox and Solstice, aside from some decor and colour palette changes. Yet, Equinox really does leave a lasting impression -- it is just as beautiful as its predecessor, featuring the same contemporary, chic-yet-classy style. And you won't feel crowded on this ship, which offers a clustered setup (entertainment forward, restaurants aft) that allows for excellent passenger flow and easy navigation.
Celebrity Equinox boasts 10 restaurants, covering all genres from French to Asian-fusion, carried over from Solstice -- though some have taken on a slightly different look in hue and design.
The main dining room, Silhouette, was done up in shades of brown and cream on Solstice. On Equinox, the look is more playful with white, red and black accents. The two-deck restaurant is open daily for waiter-service breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner is offered in two seatings -- one at 6:15 p.m. and another at 8:45 p.m.
Those more interested in a casual dining experience can head to the Oceanview Cafe on Deck 14 aft. From breakfast and afternoon snacks to dinner and late-night bites, there is something to suit every taste in this large, open venue. Plus, there are no trays in the cafe -- you can pick up individual white plates and bowls (in a variety of sizes!) surrounding the food stations, and servers are on hand to take your food to your table if need be -- meaning it is less like an old-school cafeteria. Tea, coffee and juices are available in there all day.
All of the alternative dining venues are located in one handy place -- on Deck 5 toward the stern of the ship. The offerings include Silk Harvest, the Asian-fusion eatery; Tuscan Grille, the Italian steakhouse; and Murano, the popular fine-dining venue. Dining in Silk Harvest costs $30 per person, Tuscan Grille is $35 per person, and Murano will set you back $45 per person.
Editor's note: Try the Goat Cheese Souffle as an appetizer in Murano -- it is to die for! And a quick design note: In Murano, the wine cellar has been moved from the restaurant entrance to an alcove within to allow for better passenger flow.
The AquaClass restaurant, Blu, is also located in this area and is open for breakfast and dinner. This restaurant is reserved for passengers in AquaClass spa cabins. Suite passengers can also make reservations, subject to availability. Its white contemporary design makes it a light and airy venue. The menu there is dubbed "clean cuisine" -- which generally is just a healthier take on entrees. Bistro on Five, Celebrity's first onboard creperie, features a larger front-of-house cooking area, so the crepe-making process can be a part of the dining experience. You will pay a $5 supplement to dine there.
Cafe al Bacio is again a popular spot for daytime drinks and muffins. I love the huge green armchairs there; it's a perfect spot to relax and stare out to sea -- or, if you like to people-watch, get a chair facing out onto the walkway! The Gelataria Bar, for icy and sweet gelato, is located beyond Cafe al Bacio.
The AquaSpa Cafe on Deck 12 provides healthy alternatives such as dried fruit and raisins, salads and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. There is no extra cost to dine there.
Again, like its sister ship, Equinox's cabin decor is clean and neutral with a dark-wood trim throughout. Fun fact: The designers specifically chose warm, rather than bright, colours so that ocean views would be more prominent.
There are a total of 1,426 cabins, ranging from luxurious Penthouse Suites (there are two) -- which are each comprised of floor-to-ceiling glass doors, a master bedroom, a separate living room, a bar and a piano in a whopping 1,291 square feet -- to oceanviews (176 square feet) and insides (183 to 200 square feet). For families, there are 121 interconnecting cabins and four oceanview family suites, which are 575 square feet each. They feature two bedrooms and one shared bathroom -- perfect for your brood.
There are a total of 30 wheelchair accessible cabins for disabled travellers.
The AquaClass spa cabins on Deck 11 are also back -- and we were lucky enough to stay in one during our two-night preview cruise. The 192-square-feet AquaClass cabins give you access to the AquaSpa relaxation room, the Persian Gardens with heated loungers, and Blu restaurant. But, there are in-cabin perks, as well. The cabins are filled with lovely fluffy bathrobes and towels, as well as AquaSpa amenity kits. During each cruise, occupants are provided with fresh iced tea, water and canapes on a daily basis. The 53-square-ft. balcony found in each spa cabin is large enough for sunbathing and includes a small table and two loungers. You also get an upgraded (and healthy) room-service menu.
Beyond that, one of the biggest treats is the bathroom -- it's packed with expanded spa products (foot spray, lip balm, relaxation mist), and the shower is ultra-luxurious with its five-head Hansgrohe shower tower. There is even a ledge for ladies to rest on when shaving their legs. The bathroom mirror in AquaClass cabins also manages not to steam up after a shower -- a genius idea.
There is ample storage in both the bathroom and the cabin -- remember, they were designed on the advice of a panel of women brought in by Celebrity. The wardrobes are filled with quality hangers, and there's plenty of drawer space, too, to tuck your bits away.
The flat-screen televisions, as on Solstice, feature interactive elements powered by Apple computers -- using a small keyboard, you can make restaurant and shore excursion reservations, check onboard accounts and watch films and shows. Channels include a good range of news, sports, children's and shipboard programmes.
One minor change has been made in cabins based on passenger requests. The safes, which were taking up valuable storage space in closets, have now been moved to cabinets beneath the televisions and above the mini-bars.
Wi-Fi is available across the ship -- including cabins -- and packages are available from the Internet cafe on Deck 6.
Grand Old Favorites
X marks the spot once again! The absence of the big white "X," typically found on Celebrity funnels, was a notable omission when Celebrity Solstice debuted. Diehard fans will be glad to know that it has returned on Equinox.
The Lawn Club and Hot Glass Show areas, which debuted on Solstice, are both back. The viewing area at the Hot Glass Show has been expanded, just slightly, to make room for more spectators.
The fabulous Martini Bar with its ice-topped bar also makes a welcome return and remains one of the most popular before-dinner drinking spots. Try a Flirtini cocktail there -- a yummy (and potent) concoction of Champagne, Vodka, Triple Sec and pineapple juice.
If you like shopping, there are a total of 18 venues at which you can spend your cash. From the Galleria Boutiques on Deck 5 to the shops on the Boulevard on Deck 4, you can buy everything from glitzy jewellery to your daily necessities.
New and Nifty
Celebrity Tastings -- a bar space near the retail area that hosts samplings of wines and other libations -- was the only concept Celebrity execs said wasn't as popular as they hoped it would be on Solstice. It's back, but it's now part of a partnership with mixologists from Liquid Chefs, featuring high-end cocktails and muddled drinks with unusual ingredients (like liquid nitrogen) from about $8. It's an interesting concept, although it is too soon to tell just how popular it will be.
If you've been on Solstice, you likely remember the hauntingly beautiful art room near Michael's Club, sporting a pattern of ant tracks on shiny, dark tiles. On Equinox, this space has been designed in shades of brown and orange and is full of sparkly lights that shine down from the ceiling. A bench has been added so passengers can sit and admire, rather than just pass through.
Also new: Following complaints about the lack of sun bed spaces, Celebrity has added extra space to the Solstice Deck -- and an additional 100 loungers.
Although there were no children on our two-night pre-inaugural sailing, Celebrity Equinox does cater to kids. Celebrity's "X-Club" youth programme is broken into five tiers: Toddler Time for those younger than 3; Ship Mates for 3- to 6-year-olds; Celebrity Cadets for 7- to 9-year-olds; Ensigns for 10- to 12-year-olds and Admiral T's for teens. This ship doesn't have the kid focus of sister brand Royal Caribbean, but the facilities on Celebrity Equinox are definitely top-rate and include a basketball court for family sports fun, forward on Deck 15.
Among the new and expensive artwork onboard Celebrity Equinox, you may also spot some familiar -- even old-school -- pieces. Some of the artwork was recently moved from Celebrity Galaxy (which was transferred to sister line TUI Cruises).
If you're a fan of the cruise line and are looking for the Celebrity experience on a new, modern and classy vessel, Equinox won't disappoint. And, with its big-ship facilities, Equinox is a hot pick for first-timers, too.
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