Why we chose this cruise: Our cruises are usually itinerary driven. We selected this cruise because of the two-day port stop in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.
Background information: We are veteran cruisers. This cruise on Equinox was our 28th cruise overall and our second on Celebrity (our first was on Infinity in 2014). Other cruise lines that we have cruised on include Oceania, Disney, RCI, Cunard, Holland America, Princess and a few others (some no longer in existence). We do not have children and usually do not travel with friends. I am somewhat disabled (walk with a cane and tire easily) so that condition must be taken into consideration on excursions.
Pre-Cruise and Hotel Information: We flew to Fort Lauderdale from our home location and spent two nights at the Hilton Beach resort (booked independently). The hotel was very nice and we enjoyed the big room, the pool area, and local attractions. We had a marvelous dinner at Steak954 at the W Hotel next door to the Hilton. Our transfers to the ship were done with a limo service from the hotel.
Ship Information: Equinox is one of the Solstice ships built for Celebrity and has been in service since 2009. The 121,000 GRT ship carries approximately 2800 passengers and this cruise appeared full because of the unique itinerary.
Embarkation: Embarkation was rather slow and took quite a bit longer than a cruise we did on Oasis of the Seas a few years ago (at maximum capacity of 6200 passengers). Our rooms were ready fairly early and our bags arrived to the room right after we sailed.
Cabin: We selected an Aqua class cabin on this ship. The cabin was very roomy and well-maintained and we enjoyed the large couch and the walk-in shower. More details are noted under the cabin review.
Activities: We did not participate in activities on board, preferring to relax and read on days at sea. We also did not see any of the entertainment on-board.
Dining: With the Aqua class cabin, we were allowed to dine in Blu, which is reserved for Aqua class passengers. With the unique itinerary (some nighttime activities) and specialty restaurant bookings that we made, we only ate here twice, but it was by far the best food on the ship. The two specialty restaurants were wildly varying in quality. Both of the restaurants charged a fee. Silk Harvest was excellent, with high-quality Asian food served family style. Tuscan Grille was very disappointing. I had a Caesar salad that was stale and we both had the carbonara pasta that didn't resemble any carbonara dish we have had and was tasteless and the pasta was overcooked. A clue to these two restaurants: Silk Harvest was jammed and very noisy with happy customers; Tuscan Grille was half-empty on the night we ate there. We did eat quite often in the large Oceanview Cafe (Buffet) because we liked sitting outside. The food was mostly bland, with some good fresh salad ingredients and passable pizza being the best selections.
Bar Selections: We upgraded from the Classic to the Premium drinks package on the first day, for only $10 a day per person. This was a wise decision, as we could sample beers and wines up to $13 a glass and have most mixed drinks (we usually drink wine and beer but would occasionally have a rum drink). The beer selection was excellent, especially in the Gastropub. The wine selections were also good. The bars of choice for us were the Oceanview Bar (outside aft of the Cafe on deck 14), the Sunset Bar (outside on deck 15) the Gastropub (Deck 4) and the Ensemble Bar (deck 5).
Service: Service was varying in quality, with many of the bar staff being indifferent (and often rude) with very few exceptions; other passengers besides us commented on the rudeness of the staff in the Gastropub. The wait staff was excellent in Blu and in Silk Harvest. Our cabin steward did a decent job although we didn't see him very often. The staff at Guest Services was very good. Many people on-board (including my spouse) had difficulty with the room keys being demagnetized. My spouse got a new key four times and he was not alone having this problem. One other note: I was mostly a lurker on the ridiculous roll call for this cruise (it was many pages and thousands of responses), but I did register with Celebrity for the Meet and Greet. I never received the invitation.
Internet: The shipboard internet was pretty good and we able to get 50% off the second package. It was slow during certain times of the day, but we usually were able to get to sites and my spouse did some work while on-board with relatively few problems.
Public Areas: Equinox is a beautiful ship, with attractive public spaces, a 12-story atrium and soothing choices for fabrics and colors. Some of the seats in the public bars were ridiculously low, causing problems for persons with disabilities (like me). The pool area is very nice, but we did not spend a lot of time there. The lawn area on deck 15 is pretty cool and we regret not seeing the Corning glass show. Public restrooms were clean and well-maintained. The shops looked nice, but we don't do much shopping these days, so we did not buy anything on board.
Ports and Shore Excursions: This cruise stopped at Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel before heading to New Orleans for the highlight of Mardi Gras. We booked ship excursions in all places. The best excursion, hands down, was the one we booked in Cozumel that had one of the sous chefs from the ship accompany our group of 15 to the Mayan Cocoa facility, to the public market, and to a beautiful local restaurant for a light lunch of exquisite tacos. Later that evening, the group met again for a tour of the main galley during dining hours followed by a special dinner that was created for us and held in the Tuscan Grille. The other excursions were fair to good, but most were very over-priced. We were also disappointed that a special pub tour in the French Quarter that we booked was canceled the day before we flew down to Fort Lauderdale (no good reason was given). In Costa Maya, we did a long tour that included the Chacchoban ruins and some time at a beach resort. Most of the tour was spent getting to and from places. In Grand Cayman, we spent quite a bit for an "exclusive" tour to a Colonial House on the beach (which turned out to be the White House; other folks spent less to go to the same location). Our tour price did include drinks and a fabulous lunch. In New Orleans, we booked the grandstand seats for the Proteus and Orpheus parades at the exorbitant price of $200 each, which included a short bus ride each way from the port. Locals sitting right near us paid $30 for the same seats. There was no handicapped seating, making it difficult for me to get to and from my seat in the stands and we missed most of Orpheus to ensure we had transportation back to the ship. Because of the cancellation of the tour on Mardi Gras, we booked an alternative tour to Houmas House outside the city. This was enjoyable (except for the tour guide who never stopped talking and also tried to sing, with bad results) but we were unable to really get a sense of the craziness of Mardi Gras itself (too far for me to walk from the pier). We also did the airboat tour to kill time on our way to the airport in Fort Lauderdale (average experience).
Debarkation: This was almost always a problem in the ports, especially in Costa Maya and for the required passport check in New Orleans when we first arrived. Everyone tried to exit the ship at once in Costa Maya, resulting in many people being late to their shore excursion meeting points (located down a very long dock). The dock area in New Orleans also added many steps to your egress, before you were finally at the street level. Our final debarkation was at a different terminal in Fort Lauderdale due to a tanker problem at the normal terminal. This did create some delays in debarkation.
Summary: Would we do it again? I would not do a cruise to see Mardi Gras in New Orleans again (we would most likely book a hotel package closer to the action). The rest of the cruise was typical for the western Caribbean, although we did like the excursion in Cozumel. After several cruises on Oceania and Disney, Celebrity is not necessarily making a case as a top alternative, although we will keep an eye on their itineraries. Their fares are usually fairly reasonable, which is one positive feature.
This Aqua-class cabin is located a short distance from the aft elevators on the starboard side. The room was quite nice, with a large couch and comfortable bed. The bathroom was nice and large, too, with a walk-in shower. We had a balcony with chairs and foot stools and a large wood table. One feature that we really liked was the recessed entrance to the room; this helped avoid collisions in the hall and made a great place for the bags before debarkation.
This was a time-killer on our way to a late afternoon flight at FLL. The "Everglades" is a sawgrass area west of the city. We had a short ride on the airboat (30 minutes) seeing two gators and some birds. We also spent some time in their wildlife sanctuary. Pretty much a "meh".View All 149 Everglades Tour Reviews
We booked the "exclusive beach break" at the Colonial mansion tour, which turned out to be similar to the less expensive "White House" tour. We did have drinks included (pretty early in the morning, so not the best conditions for free drinks) and we had a fabulous red snapper lunch. The beach was ok, with rocky conditions. The over-water deck was very nice.View All 220 Beach Reviews
This tour consisted of a lot of time on the bus going between places. The ruins were interesting, but we were there a long time and I was unable to finish the tour due to the difficult walking conditions. The beach break included a late lunch buffet and free drinks on a remote beach north of the port. We got back VERY late and had to hoof it to the ship on the long dock, hoping we would make it. Our tour guide was good.View All 179 Mayan Ruins Reviews
This was an awesome shore excursion that only had 15 people signed up. A sous chef from the ship accompanied us to the Mayan Cocoa exhibit and shops (wonderful place), then to the public market and finally to a lovely local restaurant for a light lunch. Later that same day, the group met again on-board at the Gastropub with one of the chefs. He took us on a tour of the main galley at dinner time (craziness), followed by a private dinner that he supervised (Mexican theme) that was held in Tuscan Grille. A truly wonderful experience!!View All 99 Culinary Tour Reviews
A great experience to see some of the parades on the evening of Lundi Gras, but horribly overpriced and difficult for someone with disabilities. This was a special tour that is normally not offered.View All undefined undefined Reviews