Background Information: This was my 4th cruise, my 3rd with my family (Mom, Dad, myself, 1-brother). All 3 previous cruises were on Carnival (Legend 7-night, Freedom 8-night, Imagination 3-night). After our cruise last year, we decided to ... Read More
Background Information: This was my 4th cruise, my 3rd with my family (Mom, Dad, myself, 1-brother). All 3 previous cruises were on Carnival (Legend 7-night, Freedom 8-night, Imagination 3-night). After our cruise last year, we decided to look into another cruise line so we could experience something different. We have completely enjoyed our Carnival experiences and will cruise with them again in the future. Since we are all relative new cruisers we wanted to find something bigger, better. Our travel agent originally suggested Princess, and we were ready to book after A LOT of research, but at the last minute she found us what we thought was a wonderful cruise on Celebrity Equinox. We felt we received a great price, and were able to pick the rooms that we wanted.
Hotel Info: N/A
Travel To Port of Embarkation: We live in SW Florida, so it was a 3-hour drive for us.
Embarkation: We arrived around 1:15pm at the cruise terminal. We missed the entire line of traffic and did not have to wait for anything. Luggage was checked in, security line was short, walked right up to the counter for our 5 minute check in, and were on the ship within 20 mins of arrival. It could not have been any easier. After reading many reviews we made our decision to not get to the port early, as to skip all of the waiting time that others have had in the past.
Ship Info: Hopefully you have read a few other reviews under the Celebrity Equinox heading. You can also find some pictures of the ship online, and they make the ship look amazing...and when you walk on-board, you realize how amazing it really is. Of course it is brand new, so everything is clean and crisp. My first reaction after stepping on-board was how quiet and calm the whole atmosphere was. Elegant, sophisticated, modern, clean and crisp. There were about 12 crew members who greeted us on-board with our glass of champagne (or orange juice) where we immediately toasted our vacation start. The ship is very large, but after exploring everything, I did not feel like I was walking FOREVER to get to places like I have on previous large ships. The layout works very well. Our cruise was over the Easter holiday, so there were probably more kids on than previous Equinox cruises. This did not bother me/us, and when we did see the kids they were very well behaved. Yes, there were several "scooters" throughout the cruise, but you just deal with it. Going into this cruise, we knew that the majority of passengers would be older (50yrs of age and UP), so that was not a surprise. My surprise was the LARGE number of Canadians and Europeans.
Stateroom: Our 2 staterooms were next to each other on the 9th deck. We had the glass partition that separated the balconies removed so that we could relax together as a family. We love spending time on the balcony! The stateroom was what I feel is the "normal" size, our couch was next to the sliding balcony doors (I like this set-up!), rather than the bed being there. Although storage/closet space is small and limited (nothing less than other past ships we have been on), for 11-nights we had plenty of space to store all of our clothes. The colors of the room and the decor is great: modern, simple, and elegant. The highlight is the bathroom. No more sitting on the toilet and having your nose touching the wall and/or towels. The design is great, plenty of room to move around, the shower is awesome. After getting an upgrade and onboard credit, Celebrity PAID us $50 per person to be in Concierge Class. There are a few perks that we enjoyed: flowers in the room and bathroom, extra pillow choices, fresh fruit everyday, and a bottle of chilled champagne waiting for us when we arrived to the room the first day. These little extras were very nice to have, and made things that much better.
Stateroom Attendant: Bacca! He is from Honduras, and when we were in Roatan his wife and two children came aboard the ship to visit. It was great to see how Celebrity allows the crew to have time off to visit family when they are in their country. These people work so so so hard everyday. What was different from my experience with Carnival was that no matter what we wanted, needed, or ordered, Bacca was the one to bring it to us. When we ordered room service (day/night) he was the one to bring it to us. It made our time on-board special and personalized. He told us upfront to let him know any preferences or needs we had and he would take care of them. Down to the daily fruit we received...if we liked or disliked a certain fruit, we told him and he would always remember. Things were done timely, our rooms were always clean and organized, and he was never intrusive. It was a definite A+++ experience.
Lawn Club: So there have been some mixed reviews about this, but I would like to comment that I feel that this is a great feature. It is DIFFERENT! Living grass on the top deck...people were playing Bocce Ball, there were 5 putting holes, and many people took their beach towels and layed out in the sun. I do not find this to be "wasted space", but rather a different alternative that just putting MORE beach chairs out. If laying on a beach chair for hours each day to soak up the glorious sun rays is your cup of tea, there are tons of beaches in the Caribbean that are waiting for you! You should be a little more open-minded to new things.
Activities: Carnival has 1000 different activities planned each day, some good, some OK. Celebrity has a few less activities planned each day, but there were enough. It was never crazy things (no hairiest chest or cannon ball contests here), but more elegant type events. Wine tastings, Riedel Glass & wine education, Glass Blowing Shows (everyday), food demonstrations, and many other great things. The Glass Blowing shows I thought were great. Very informative, and interesting. My favorite was the Mixology class in the Molecular Bar...it's a must see!
Molecular Bar: This is the 2nd best kept secret on-board. This is a bar that almost everyone misses. It is located on deck 5 adjacent to the Art Gallery. At 5pm is "Mixology" where talented bartenders show how to make amazing drinks that cannot be found anywhere else on the Equinox. Ingredients like Dragonfly fruit, fresh rose petals, ginger infused "foam", and using liquid nitrogen as a garnish are common. Mixology costs nothing, and you get to sample a few of the drinks for free. The drinks are regularly $12 each, but if you go during happy hour, buy one for $12 and get the second for 1/2 price.
Oceanview Cafe: This is the traditional buffet on all ships. Difference? NO trays, and very few lines. The setup of "stations" is great, it reduces the lines that can form at buffets on other ships. The fact that there are no trays limits the amount of food that one person can get at a time, reducing the lines. The food I found was always good, and there were different offerings that I have had on previous cruises. Blood sausage and English Bangers in the AM were interesting. A pasta station for lunch allow you to pick your own ingredients, pasta, and sauce to create your own unique dish. Fresh egg omelets at breakfast are always good. Don't miss the fresh sushi every night from 5-9pm too. There is a sushi chef right there making 7-8 different items, and it was fresh every time.
Silhouette Dining (MDR): We ate in the MDR 9 our of 11 evenings. The other two were in Silk Harvest, and Tuscan Grille. There were some amazing and exquisite meals served here. There were a few OK items, but overall amazing. I do not understand complaints about portion sizes. Yes they are small compared to our super-sized American ways of living, but they are actually appropriate sizes. And, you can always get more or just order 2 of something. I ordered an appetizer, soup, salad, entree, dessert...sometimes I would order 2 soups if I liked the offering that night. Let me say, I never left hungry. Toney, our head server from India, and Oscar our asst. server from Honduras were super stars! Fun, polite, talkative, informative, and always were on top of everything. They made our experience over the top!
Silk Harvest: The decor was great, it definitely sets the mood when you walk in. Our service was excellent, the appetizers and sushi were awesome. The main dishes were honestly not my favorite, but the Pad Thai was very good. Dessert was good, but we were full by the end.
Tuscan Grille: This definitely lived up to the "hype" from other reviewers. The service was great. Our Sommelier recommended a great red wine with our dinners. The food looked perfect, and tasted even better. The Tuscan Onion Soup was 100 times better than the French Onion soup served in the MDR. I had the Fillet which was the best, most perfectly cooked steak I have every had anywhere. For dessert the Marble Pistachio Creme Brulee is a must! This a definite dining experience worth the extra money.
Bistro on 5: THE best kept secret on-board. There is a $5 per person cover charge, and is open from 6am-11pm. Their main focus is Crepes, but they also have Panini sandwiches and some salads as well. It is a-la-carte, but you can get whatever you like, and as much of it...there is no limit. The crepes were great and huge. By the time our sandwiches arrived, we were stuffed. The food was very good. I never saw this place busy/crowded, no matter what time of day it was. Go try it out!
Master Cellars: This I think is the 3rd best kept secret on-board. Most of the wine tastings and wine pairing demonstrations are held here, but that seems to be about it. It is a very dark lounge area, but comfy as well. Inside are Ergonomic Wine dispensers, 3 to be exact. Each holds 6-8 wines that pour 1oz, 4oz, and 6oz wine samples. You purchase each pour using your SeaPass card. It's great because you can sample some very expensive wines that you may never be able to otherwise. Why buy a $100 bottle of wine when you don't have a clue what it tastes like? I sampled an amazing Amarone wine for $2.75! Make sure you stop by and check it out.
Service: We wanted to try Celebrity because we heard that their service levels were the best for large ship cruises. I would like to say the servie everywhere we went was top notch. Every crew member always said hello, good afternoon, or good evening and always with a smile. Friendly, helpful, and always available. My biggest observation was that the crew was always there. Bartenders were always in the bars and always greeted you immediately. In the MDR they were lined up at the door (sometimes 10 servers) to greet you into the dining room. Our stateroom steward??? Amazing!
Port & Shore Excursions: We also chose this particular cruise for the ports of call: Grand Cayman, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Mexico. We had been to Grand Cayman and Cozumel on previous cruises, but the others were all new. Grand Cayman we just strolled around the town with no plans, had a few beers, and that was about it. Colombia we negotiated our own personal taxi after we got off the ship ($70 including tip for 4 of us, for 3hours, with our own personal driver and guide). The Old City is where it's at. History, architecture, beautiful landscape and flowers. My only complaint is that no matter where you went, the street vendors were everywhere, and always in your face...literally. Every 5 steps another person put their sellings up to your face. I was happy to leave because of that. Panama was great. I love this country. We took the train along the canal to the other side (Panama City) and got a great view of the rain forest, crossed the Continental Divide, great history, and spent time at the Mira Flores locks on the canal. We were fortunate to arrive about 20mins prior to a ship going through the locks. We got a prime spot on the top level and watched the entire process of a ship entering and leaving the locks. It was like you could reach out and touch the ship it was so close! Costa Rica was another great country, we saw a banana plantation, rode a train and saw sloths and howler monkeys, and rode a small boat on a canal where we saw Cayman (similar to crocodiles), iguanas, bats, and many birds. Quite breathtaking wildlife. Roatan was not my place at all. I did not have high hopes for this stop from the beginning and did not have anything planned. We walked into the town and did a little shopping along the way. Be warned: you will be approached by younger gentleman that appear to want to help you find a ride or to show you the area, but they never leave your side. They will walk with you and hold a very polite conversation with you, but if you go along with their plan, they will expect a "tip" for being your "tour guide". Just say NO. Finally Cozumel. We did the Tulum Mayan Ruins tour w/ beach break. The ruins I thought were amazing, with great history. I believe I enjoyed the Mayan Ruins in Belize better, as our guide was much more informative there and you could actually walk up on top of the ruins, where here in Tulum you could not. It was very beautiful being right on the Caribbean Sea and beach, but our guide I did not think was that great. Plus we were rushed for time, only spent maybe an hour at the ruins itself. The beach break was OK, had a buffet Mexican lunch which was good, but then only 45mins laying on the beach. We needed more time.
Entertainment: There were some good things going on here. The Circus Show was good, the comedian Jim McDonald was good, and the ventriloquist/comedian was good as well. My brother and I did not see many other shows but my parents did and they enjoyed them very much.
Disembarkation: We were the last group to leave. We had a relaxing breakfast, took our time leaving our room (around 9am), and spent about 45 mins in the theatre waiting to be called. It was pretty painless.
Summary: What I would like to say is this: Celebrity Equinox was amazing! We had about as perfect of a cruise as could have been. Being "critical" about everything is somewhat of a waste of time. I have read so many negative things about some very small stuff that it amazes me. If you want a bigger room, get a suite. If you want personal service, get a suite (it comes with a butler). If you dine in 5-star restaurants everyday or have your own French trained chef in your home kitchen for all three meals everyday, then stay at home. If you want to have a vacation that is relaxing, with great service, great food, with people who treat you with respect and do everything they can to make your time enjoyable, then you should definitely try this cruise. Please be open minded and flexible. No matter how good any person or company is, everyone makes mistakes. It's how they react and change the situation that is important. Read Less