This was my husband's first ocean cruise, and by the afternoon of embarkation day he said, "we HAVE to do another cruise soon!". I think he's hooked!
A little background info: My husband is 55 and I am 46. Our children are grown and out of the house, but we both work full-time outside of the home. About once/year we take a long vacation like this one, usually alternating every other year between an active vacation (bicycle ride across a state), and a more relaxing vacation (lying on a beach somewhere). I have only taken one other ocean cruise, and last year we took a river cruise (bike to barge tour) on the Danube together.
For this cruise, embarkation was a breeze...of course we couldn't sleep the night before so got up and arrived super-early to Port Everglades, pier 18. That place is a well-oiled machine. We were on board with the complimentary champagne in hand by 11:45am. After a quick trip around the ship to orient ourselves we found a spot in the Oceanview Bar for drink #2 and some lunch. There was a lot of pressure from the wait/bar staff to upgrade drink packages (always a big push for that day 1 & 2), but once they learned we had the premium package (yes, it's worth every penny!), they didn't ask again. The service was flawless that day and remained so the entire cruise.
Cabins were opened for use by around 2pm, so we went for a look. Our cabin was spacious, had plenty of room for storage, & was spotlessly clean. Muhammed, our cabin attendant, learned our schedule by the second day. He kept our room refreshed and provided fresh ice each afternoon, per our request.
Pre-cruise we had purchased a dining package to be able to try 3 of the specialty restaurants on board, and our first reservations were for embarkation evening. Because I have taken other cruises in which the food quality was not particularly great, I was very much looking forward to the dining aboard the Equinox. We dined at Silk Harvest that first evening, Tuscan Grill 4 days later, and Murano two days after that. All provided unique dining experiences that we will never forget! Service was exceptional, the food was creative and delicious. The Main Dining Room certainly wasn't a shabby affair, with the two-story wine vault and gourmet fare! Each evening the menu offered remarkable options, and our waitstaff/sommelier were exemplary. We also had the pleasure of trying the new Sushi on 5, which was delightfully surprising! We both love sushi, which did not disappoint, but what we most enjoyed was the ability to try different kinds of sake that we hadn't before because many available were included in the premium drink package. If you dine there, you should also try the table-side wasabi prep--fascinating!
As for the entertainment, we went to several of the evening shows, which were all quite good. We also attended a couple of the Beyond the Podium speaker seminars, which we enjoyed. Although we did participate in the daily lotto, we are not big gamblers so did not use the casino at all, so we can't speak to that. Of special note were the cruise director, Damian, and activities director, Justin. They were both wonderfully entertaining--we actually looked forward to their informational show on TV each morning which would describe the activity lineup for the day!
This was the 10-night Ultimate Caribbean, so our ports of call were: St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, and St. Maarten.
In St. Thomas we opted for a ship-sponsored excursion, and honestly this is the one that was most disappointing. The excursion was billed as a combo sight-seeing/beach time trip, but after we were dropped off at the beach we were expected to find our own way back to the ship! So in addition to paying more for the excursion (as you usually do when you book through the ship), we were forced to pay additional money to hire a taxi. Unacceptable.
On the other islands we either did our own thing (as in Barbados), or we booked an independent tour, and those experiences were all good. On St. Kitts we took the Grand Tour of St. Kitts with Thenford Grey Tours--there aren't enough good things to say about this--he was a knowledgeable, personable guide. That experience was worth more than we paid. In St. Maarten (we had an overnight in that port), we took a Local Food and Rum Tour, which was also very good. All of the ports felt safe and were clean.
Overall, our experiences on this cruise were extraordinary!
This cabin was less expensive due to having an obstructed view because the lifeboats are being stored a little below and to the outside of the balcony. We were curious when booking the cabin about exactly HOW obstructed the view would be--this is your question too, I'm sure. The view was obstructed, although not completely. You could still see the ocean/views, although not as well when sitting in the chairs on the balcony. And the lifeboats definitely got in the way of taking unobstructed photos from the balcony (you could always see the tops of the lifeboats at the bottom of each photo). But for us, those things don't matter (just crop the photos!). The reason we get a cabin with a balcony is to escape...have time for ourselves....and this cabin/balcony provided exactly that, at a little less cost than some of the others. Absolutely worth it and we would get this cabin again!
While the beginning of the tour was good, for the last half of the tour we were dropped off at a beach and were expected to take a taxi back to meet the ferry to our ship. Since the excursions through the ship generally cost more than independently-booked excursions, AND there's a guarantee that they will get you back to the ship on time, I expected better service than just being dropped off at a beach to grab our own taxi. I was VERY disappointed in the level of service provided on this excursion.View All 195 St. John Tour Reviews
The tour encompassed several points of interest and the tour operator was knowledgeable and personable. An excellent value and I'd highly recommend!View All 293 Island tour Reviews
The walk up the pier into town was long and fraught with those offering taxi rides. But it felt safe. We walked around town some and did a few "excursions" on our own: Barbados Cigar Factory and Agapey Chocolate Factory--both fascinating!
Although the tour guide was a little late, the tour was interesting. Interspersed with some other local information, as well as food/drink, it was a good combination.View All undefined undefined Reviews
The port itself was efficient and clean. The hotels in the area seem a little worse for wear.