First, to set context: My wife and I have been on 25+ cruises on 8 cruise lines. This review is about our experience in a Celebrity Penthouse Suite on the Equinox, a Solstice-class ship, our first cruise with Celebrity. Prior to this ... Read More
First, to set context: My wife and I have been on 25+ cruises on 8 cruise lines. This review is about our experience in a Celebrity Penthouse Suite on the Equinox, a Solstice-class ship, our first cruise with Celebrity. Prior to this cruise, our most recent cruises had been multiple stays in the highest-level suites on Oceania and Regent as well as multiple trips in butler-serviced rooms on the Paul Gauguin. If you’re interested in our perspectives about the highest-end Celebrity experience in that context, read on!
Summary: All things considered, this was the best cruise we’ve ever taken. The ship was in excellent shape, food and wine were outstanding, and the staff was amazing. We’ve already booked multiple additional cruises in the Penthouse Suite on Solstice-class ships. More detail on each of those topics is contained in the sections below. Please keep in mind that this is about the top-end experience on Celebrity, your mileage may vary.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: The process of getting on the ship was very smooth, on a par with what we experienced in the Owner’s Suite on Oceania. We boarded the ship at Terminal G in Miami, where there were separate security and check-in lines for Suite and Premier passengers. After check-in, a representative escorted us up the boarding ramp and we were quickly scanned in onto the ship. Celebrity staff with champagne was waiting just past security check-in.
After we got on the ship, we were directed to Michael’s Lounge, a lounge available only to Suite-class passengers. Michael’s is a nice lounge, and we enjoyed it later during the cruise. However, it was too crowded during check-in—too many people in too small a space. A tip for other travelers: Consider going into Michael’s and getting a beverage, then sitting in the Ensemble Lounge just outside Michael’s.
Getting off the ship at the end of the cruise was also very easy. They let us off early and we walked down to baggage claim/Customs. The Suite-class bags were set in a specific group, we grabbed our bags and walked through Customs. Less than 10 minutes from the time we checked out on the ship until we were out of Customs.
Ship: We sailed on the Equinox, which is currently scheduled for dry-dock during spring of 2019. Given that schedule, we expected that we would see a “worn” ship…and from a poor experience on a recent cruise on another cruise line, we decided we’d look closely to see what that looked like.
We were very pleasantly surprised. The ship was in beautiful condition. Granted, we were staying in a Penthouse Suite, but we also went to pretty much all of the public areas. Carpets were in great shape, we didn’t see any leaking pipes, rust, or large areas of flaked off paint. Furniture on the decks and the deck floors were well-maintained. All things considered, the ship was in the best condition of any ship we’ve been on. It was also decorated in a style that suits us nicely. I don’t know the correct term to describe it, just look at pictures online and you’ll see what I mean.
Food: We like to eat “European style”—multiple courses, subtle spicing, a couple of hours for dinner. We ate many of our meals in Luminae (the Suite-class only restaurant). We also ate in Murana (the upscale premium “French-ish” restaurant, Sushi on 5, the Spa Cafe (in the solarium) and the Oceanview lunch buffet. In addition, we had food delivered to our room from Silk Harvest and the Tuscan Grille.
With just a couple of exceptions, the food was very good—at least as good as anything we’ve had on any other cruise line, and much better than most of them. Food was cooked properly and had subtle but complex spicing. We had chateaubriand in Murano, the best beef I’ve ever had, and I almost never eat beef. Desserts were very good; we typically don’t eat desserts, but the chef did some great things with high-quality chocolate, so we didn’t even try to resist.
It was also very nice that we could ask for things to be prepared a specific way, or to have things brought from the main dining room to Luminae, and the chef always accommodated us. Basically, if the ingredients were on the menu, he could make something for you. He even cooked some Filipino dishes for us (e.g. adobo) that weren’t on the menu but which were outstanding. I won’t list everything we ate (you’re welcome!), suffice it to say that virtually everything was great.
That does bring me to the “with just a couple of exceptions” point. We had two fish dishes that weren’t good. One was a trout dish, one was sea bass. On both, the filets were too thin, and the fish was overcooked. All of the other fish we had—three kinds of tuna, shrimp dishes, various Indian fish dishes—were quite good, so we know that it can be done properly. If I decide to try sea bass on future Celebrity cruises, I’ll make sure that they’re steaks (not thin filets) and that they’re not overcooked. But hey, two dishes that were exceptions out of 33 meals with about 3 courses each…I’ll take it!
Wine/Spirits: We like to try new wines, and we like to try special wines. From the start, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of wines available in Lumniae and the wines and spirits that came with the Premium Beverage package that is one of the perks in the Penthouse Suite. If you found something that was more highly-priced than the Premium list (e.g. a Penner-Ash pinot noir), you only paid the different between the per-glass price and the top limit on the Premium list. And if you bought a bottle, you got a 20% discount.
We found several new wines that were outstanding. They were high-end wines, and the 20% discount was very much appreciated. The sommeliers served the wines appropriately, and were great at making recommendations. We’ve found a few new favorites, and I plan to send Celebrity an email a few weeks ahead of our next cruise to ask them to have some of those in stock.
If you like spirits, there’s a good selection on board. One of the perks with the Penthouse Suite was a couple of bottles of spirits. I chose a 12-year old McCallan single-malt Scotch that’s only available on cruise ships. And when we got on the ship, there was a bottle of Perrier-Jouet waiting for us.
Staff: The staff on the Celebrity Equinox was outstanding, the best we’ve ever had. Every member of the staff that we encountered seemed to have an honest passion for making sure that we were having a great time. It’s obvious that this comes from the top down—hats off to Captain Kate McCue. By the way—she was a great captain, made a very enjoyable announcement every day at 10, and made a point of interacting with all the passengers. The crew in general made a point of being out and about and interacting with all the passengers.
I can’t say enough about how good the staff was. We had the best butler we’ve ever had (Izzy), our room steward was the best (Wilford), the dining room staff in both Luminae and Murano were outstanding (Yan!), and the sommeliers were top-notch. In addition, everybody else we saw was very helpful and pleasant, no matter what they were doing.
Crowd Management: This was the largest ship we’ve ever cruised on and it had the most passengers. We were concerned that we would feel “packed in”. Interestingly enough, the ship never felt any more crowded than the smaller ships we’ve sailed. Sure, the buffet at lunch was crowded…but on a “per square foot” basis, it didn’t feel any more crowded to me than those other cruise lines I listed above. There was just more square footage :-)
Whenever we went to public areas, we were always able to find someplace where we had space and weren’t crowded. I guess that’s because the bigger ship has more public areas and lots of things people would be interested in. Or maybe it’s because we just weren’t going to the places where everybody wanted to be!
Leaving and boarding the ship in ports also never felt crowded. We got off and back on the ship at times when most people would have been doing the same thing, but the lines were never long and they always moved smoothly. Only took a couple minutes to leave or re-board the ship any time we did it. It seemed to me that Celebrity had the process tuned very nicely, did a better job than the other cruise lines we’ve been on, and that continued all the way to final disembarkation.
Okay, so you made it to the end of this long-winded review. Hopefully you found some useful nuggets in there. As you can probably tell, we’re very excited about sailing with Celebrity again in the future! Read Less