It has become an annual winter tradition for us to escape the harsh Maine winter for a week aboard a Caribbean cruise. In January 2018 we had cruised Celebrity for the first time aboard the Summit. We fell in love with that ship, however ... Read More
It has become an annual winter tradition for us to escape the harsh Maine winter for a week aboard a Caribbean cruise. In January 2018 we had cruised Celebrity for the first time aboard the Summit. We fell in love with that ship, however it was scheduled to go through the Edgefication retrofit during our normal cruising window, so it wasn't available. We decided for 2019 we would give Equinox a go on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary.
We stayed in Miami the night before at the new Hilton Garden Inn near the cruise terminal, which is a great place to stay by the way. Embarkation was a very smooth process, honestly probably one of the best. We were sailing Aqua Class. We arrived at the recommended time provided ahead of time by Celebrity, and I'd say from the time we were in line until we were on the ship itself was probably no more than 10-15 minutes.
Once aboard, while waiting for the rooms to open up, we did the usual scoping out of the ship to see where everything was. I don't know if it's because we aren't as novice cruisers anymore, or if it's the layout of the ship itself, but it seemed very intuitive, like it all just made sense, so it wasn't too hard to find anything.
Our 2018 cruise had been a repo cruise with a super low price so we had splurged on a Sky Suite, so I was a little concerned "downgrading" to an Aqua Class room would be a disappointment, and I can honestly say it really wasn't. The room itself is smaller, mostly it's because it is narrower, but we still had a balcony and it has the same amount of seating. Storage wasn't really an issue either. We managed to store all of our clothes and belongings just fine. (Pro-Tip, use the space under the bed to store luggage!) The jet panel in the shower was great!
The Aqua Class rooms come with a couple of great perks. One is the private dining room for AC guests, Blu. Now I'll be honest and say overall I think Luminae is ultimately the best dining experience of the two. But, Blu was a very excellent dining venue. We ate exclusively there every night. Quality of food is excellent. Maybe not quite as high-end fancy as Luminae. Staff at Blu were friendly and provided excellent service. It never ceases to amaze me how the wait staff can remember names and preferences when they serve so many people. Definitely a wonderful Aqua Class perk.
The other perk I loved was free, unlimited* access to Persian Garden. Persian Garden is the thermal spa. What you will see pictured on the website is the semicircle of heated, tiled loungers. And those are great, but on either end you have a thermal, dry, herbal suite and on the opposite side an herbal steam room. There are also a couple of showers that have "tropical" and "spring" rain settings. In the changing rooms you also have wood saunas. On the Solstice class ships like Equniox, the thermal room is positioned so you can see the ocean. All the while relaxing ambient music is playing. I enjoyed visiting PG every day. (* PG of course has certain hours, and occasionally due to demand, guests would be asked to limit their use of PG to 20 minutes)
The itinerary itself was great. For us, the only new stop was Punta Cana, although due to winds and rough seas, we ended up going to Samana instead. We had a great excursion there which included a tour of some caves with cave drawings and petroglyphs, as well as seeing native wildlife. In Puerto Rico we opted to just explore Old San Juan on our own by foot and using public transportation, which included a stop at the big fort. In St Thomas we did the Secret Sands excursion that we did in 2018 on Summit. This is a great, quiet beach on the other side of the island. It's part a national park in St Thomas. Finally in Nassau we did the Blue Lagoon beach excursion which was a very nice beach day.
Other ship areas and amenities we experienced during our cruise. We really enjoyed the Solarium on Equinox. It doesn't have the thalassotherapy pool like is on Summit, but we enjoyed the standard pool there just the same, as well as the hot tubs. Seating was plentiful and we generally didn't have a hard time getting seats. One minor complaint is they seem to put all of the towels away in the later evening hours, even while the pools are still open. Now, the outdoor pool area is another story. We spent one afternoon of one of our sea days there, but it took some persistence and checking back to be able to land a couple of loungers.
Back to the Solarium, the Aqua Spa Cafe was great. We enjoyed this venue on Summit for a light breakfast or lunch. Pretty much the same on Equinox and having it there in the Solarium is great. We mostly had lunches at the Oceanview Cafe. As cruise buffets go Celebrity tends to have the best selection and quality of offerings. Seating can be challenging depending on when you go.
I'm sure there are some other details I'm forgetting, but overall it was a magical cruise vacation. We did book our 2020 cruise aboard which was great as we ended up with extra OBC for the next cruise, along with the 4 free perks as we are going back to the Sky Suites for our next cruise. The disembarkation process was mostly good. The biggest issue is that instead of having luggage in different numbered sections, the terminal used those carousels like used at the airport. The problem is your bag is amongst hundreds of other bags, it took a long time to wait for our bags to come out, and the signage was a bit confusing. But once we had our bags, we breezed through customs.
I would highly, highly recommend Equinox to anyone considering a Celebrity cruise. It was easily one of our best cruises yet. It's the ship, but it's also the amazing, friendly, and expert service of the crew. When it comes to cruising, no one does it better than Celebrity. Read Less