We just returned from a Feb 15, 2010 "Ultimate Caribbean" sailing on the Celebrity Equinox. I'm the first to admit that I should have known what I was in for, as my wife and I had sailed on a two-day inaugural travel ... Read More
We just returned from a Feb 15, 2010 "Ultimate Caribbean" sailing on the Celebrity Equinox. I'm the first to admit that I should have known what I was in for, as my wife and I had sailed on a two-day inaugural travel industry cruise on the sister ship Solstice and then again on a Solstice New Year's Cruise in 2009.
Equinox is a clone of Solstice with more earth tones and a slightly different motif. Our biggest complaint on the holiday cruise back in 2009 was the overcrowded feeling and the daily fight to grab a poolside chair each day, especially on sea days. We thought this was unique to the holiday cruise syndrome, but after just sailing in mid February, I can attest to the fact that it is ALWAYS a problem. There is simply not enough space around the pools. It is ironic that the aft section of the upper decks is covered with a grassy lawn reserved for Croquette and Bocce ball, rather than making sensible use of the extra space for sun worshipers. (Let's be candid folks, these are not two of North America's most popular sports)
Let me begin with what was good about our cruise: "The Ultimate Caribbean" itinerary offers up some off the beaten path destinations including The Cayman Islands, Cartegena, Columbia, Colon Panama, Puerto Limn Costa Rica and Roatan Honduras and Cozumel. I am in no way suggesting these are terrific ports of call, BUT they do offer a change of scenery from the "been there, done that islands of St. Marten, St. Thomas, Nassau, Barbados, etc.
As is true with Solstice & Equinox, the cabins are comfortable and offer state of the art entertainment systems with Apple powered interactive flat screen TVs. A very nice touch which included a contemporary selection of both FREE and Pay for View movies and the ability to track your shipboard charges in real time. We were happily surprised to find the wireless Internet speed to be among the fastest of any ship we have sailed. I highly recommend bringing your own laptop if you like to keep in touch with home via Skype or email from the comfort of your cabin.
Celebrity offers a wide selection of breakfast and lunch buffet items, with my favorite being the freshly made Chicken Salad ? This was our sixth sailing with Celebrity and we were pleased to find they still make their own salad dressings and soups which we find to be superior over other similarly priced cruise lines. The theater is beautiful and Celebrity continues to use a LIVE ORCHESTRA in most of their stage shows compared to music on tape which is the case on most other cruise lines. We found embarking and disembarking a breeze and overall, the service was very good.
Now allow me to move on to the not so perfect elements of our Feb 15, 2010 cruise: The ship feels crowded with over 2800 passengers. We especially felt the passenger crunch on sea days when trying to secure a deck chair around the pool. We had to rise and shine EARLY to secure a spot and chairs were pushed together like sardines. (WE HATED THAT). This particular cruise was comprised of a very elderly and international passenger manifest. We are in our mid fifties and were among the younger couples, which seems odd for Celebrity which I thought was seeking the "Baby Boomer" crowd. As a result, we were nearly run over by several electric carts and wheel chairs during the eleven days. Our cabin was an aft cabin on the fantail on deck eight. Unfortunately, many days the hallways smelled like a nursing home with that unforgettable and highly undesirable stench of urine. Many of the passengers were in their 60s, 70's and even 80s. Many were from Quebec and spoke French and there were also a fair amount of Brits, Germans and Portuguese on this sailing.
I'm guessing this is why the entertainment was not the least bit contemporary. With the exception of several comedians we had seen on other Celebrity sailings and a highly talented female singer who impersonated other singers, the entertainment was just too outdated for our taste. Other performances included an acapella group singing old standards, an opera singer, a very talented electric violinist, and the same old, same old Broadway reviews by a troupe of young college kids. There was also a very mediocre juggler that we have seen on scores of other cruise ships. They also featured a Cirque type show that was a clone of the show they present on Solstice.
It would be enlightening to see Celebrity book entertainment that has relevance to "Baby Boomers" and those in their 30s and 40s instead of those born in the 1940s and earlier. Why not play CURRENT MUSIC, rock & country classics from the late 60's, 70's and 80's? What's wrong with being a little "hip" and making the baby boomer generation happy? We've sailed on Holland America several times and I have to confess that Celebrity seems to be attracting the same age group if not older has HAL. The most BROKEN part of the operation on Equinox is the "Anytime Dining" option. Traditional seating is only available at 6:00PM and 8:30, which is both too early and too late for us. We opted in for Anytime Dining. Now it's bad enough that you are required to pre-pay your tips with this option, but the really dysfunctional part of "Anytime Dining" is that despite making a reservation, you will likely still have to wait up to 30 minutes by standing in line for a table, especially on the formal nights if you want to dine between 6:45 and 7:30. What is the point of making a reservation if you have to stand in a line of 30 other upset passengers whose reservations were also not being honored? This program CLEARLY needs much work and we found it sorely disappointing. Also, unless you ask for the same section each night, you will miss the advantage of having the same waiter each night that gets to know your likes and dislikes. This Christmas, we made our first sailing on Princess on the Royal Princess for a 14 day Amazon cruise. I think we were spoiled by the small ship concept with a passenger load of only 750 souls vs. 2800. We MUCH PREFER the small ship experience but sadly, the industry is moving away from smaller ships and building bigger and bigger vessels which are becoming the destination, rather than the ports of call. If you like having a room in a "Shopping Mall" atmosphere these new ships will satisfy your needs. I long for the golden age of cruising when with smaller ships made it possible to actually recognize faces and easily make new acquaintances.
On a final note, we really enjoyed the Silk Harvest Restaurant. It's an Asian Fusion dining experience where we dined on three different evenings. The food and service was delightful. Of course their prices have gone up to $50 a couple. For lighter fare outside of the traditional dining room, we also enjoyed the "Bistro on Five" which features crepes and Panini sandwiches.
If you are a spa person, make sure you wait until later in the cruise on port days and negotiate your massage treatment. As the cruise comes to its final days, it isn't unusual to negotiate a $190.00 seventy five minute massage down to $120.00. Celebrity does provide a relaxing and soothing spa experience, provided they don't try to push Elemis spa products down your throat at the end of your treatment.
My wife and I have decided that after six cruises on Celebrity, this will probably our last, as we continue to seek a smaller ship experience in new ports still to be discovered. You could not pay us enough to take a cruise on the new Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas.....a ship I like to call a floating Mall of America! I hope you find this review helpful. And Happy Cruising! Read Less