Family Fun on the Equinox: Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by missthesea
Overall Member Rating
Family Fun on the Equinox
Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Departure city: We spent two days in Miami, our departure city, before the cruise. Rooms for five are really pricey on Miami Beach, yet we didn't want to be in a cookie cutter airport hotel. We found a great deal at the Best Western Inn at the Bay and Marina, and were pleasantly surprised how much we liked it. The rooms were a little dated and the building is "motel style" in some ways with outdoor hallways, and there is no free breakfast. However, the new lobby, nice pool area overlooking the marina, attached More restaurant and bar, well-stocked gift shop, free wifi and Macs loaded with software, plus very friendly employees MORE than made up for the shortfalls in our opinion. We spent time at the pool and walked to a nearby grocery store for a few items. We decided to be adventurous and walk 1/2 mile to get on the free trolley that goes up and down Miami Beach. This involved walking over a busy bridge and through a non-touristy area we were fine with, but some might consider sketchy. It was not a walk I'd take little kids on. The staff at the hotel had explained where to get on the trolley. We took it to the South Beach area and easily found access to the beach. It was evening, and while we were careful not to go out too far in the water in the dark, we spent some amazing time in the waves under a bright full moon. We then hit an ice cream shop and took an Uber back to the hotel.
Embarkation: This was fine. We wanted to get to the port early, but as things go with kids - we ended up arriving about 12:30. It wasn't a madhouse, but we did wait in a few short lines. It was probably about 25 minutes from exiting the Uber to walking onto the ship. We were greeted with champagne and our rooms were ready by 1:30. One of the few negatives happened during this time: being accosted by multiple staff to ask about buying or upgrading a drink package. We had waited to buy packages until we boarded, partly because we had a few coupons for 20% off from our TA. One staff member even told us our coupons were expired (not true) and that we should just buy from him and then try to get OBC back from Guest Relations. This was the ONLY time I felt pressured to buy anything on board.
Ship: The ship is gorgeous. The public areas are beautiful, bright and cheerful without being garish. It was constantly being cleaned and shined by smiling staff. I loved the size of the ship, big enough to have lots to explore, but not overwhelming. There was plenty of space. We never felt crowded, except for during that necessary evil - the muster drill. The drill was in a packed lounge. We did not need to wear life jackets. The vibe on the ship was a happy one. Many of us seemed to have permanent grins as we enjoyed ourselves on-board! As the week progressed, I came to love the atrium area on decks 3, 4, and 5. There were so many places to sit and people-watch. There was also frequently live music or, later in the night, upbeat dance music with people getting their groove on just a few feet from Guest Relations. There are nooks and crannies everywhere with comfortable seats both inside and out. Loungers are padded. At almost any given time, you could find a place to sit in the quiet with a book, chat with other guests, drink or dance like a fool. Yes, poolside space is at a premium. You have to be out there by 7:30 to claim a spot on a padded bed next to the pool. And yes, when I did this one day, I stayed on the lounge bed and didn't hog it all day leaving books and towels on it while I was anywhere but the pool :) If you don't care about being close to the pool, there are lots of loungers in other nearby areas that are often empty. Most of the ship is non-smoking, even the casino. The lawn on the top deck is a nice place to relax or bring a snack. The kids enjoyed playing on it. One night, the kids' club hosted a "camping" night (not all night) with teepees, a fake fire and s'mores.
Other cruisers: There was a good mix of ages and nationalities on board. Most everyone was polite and relaxed. We encountered a few crabby people, and a few people who seemed demanding or unreasonable. We ignored them.
Cabin: We had adjoining cabins, 6272 and 6274. These did not have a door between the cabins, but rather opened to small common entryway. This was nice, because we could shut our door for privacy from the kids, or keep all the doors open. The balconies also connected. Our steward connected the cabins and - at our request - emptied the minibars. Watch out for the air pressure on the cabin doors if you have your balcony door open, they can close very forcefully. Storage was fine, though we did have to use the storage over the beds for clothing, which was not always easy for the kids to reach. The beds were comfortable, including the trundle bed one of our kids slept on. The kids enjoyed the programs on the TV so much that we had to shag them out to enjoy the ship sometimes. Bathrooms were very nice, with plexiglass shower doors and lots of shelving for toiletries. We had a partially obstructed balcony, meaning that a life boat was below us. We didn't mind. It did not block our view of the sea and the horizon. Also, if heaven forbid, someone somehow fell off - they would land on the deck below, which extended out past ours a bit. (My mother-in-law was happy to hear that!) Our steward was quiet and kept the room spotless. No towel animals, but we loved the chocolates on our pillows.
Food: I'd read a lot lately about declining food quality on Celebrity and cruise ships in general. We felt the food in the MDR may not have been quite as amazing as our memories of dinner on the Celebrity Mercury years ago, but it was still very good. We enjoyed dinner in the MDR twice, specialty restaurants twice, port once and the buffet twice. We waited about 10-15 for a table in the MDR with Anytime Dining. Our servers were very nice and helpful with requests, but they did seemed a little rushed and busy. The room is rather loud, but what can you expect feeding over 1,000 people at a time? There was plenty for kids to choose from, including standard steak and chicken entrees, as well as a kids' menu. With our premium non-alcoholic drink packages, the kids loved having Shirley Temples with dinner. I think they subsisted on steak, cake and virgin frozen drinks all week. I know, not good - but it was vacation! Coupons for 30% off specialty dining were offered our first night, and we tried the Tuscan Grille that night as a family. We enjoyed it very much. It was not "like an Olive Garden" as I'd seen another reviewer describe it. In our case, the food was very, very good - with a great selection of appetizer and cheeses. The service was excellent. They hosted a special dinner with the Captain and officers later in the week, but we did not attend that. They gave the kids a price of $10 a person, and our final bill for the night was less than $100. Another night we tried Sushi on Five. In that case, we stopped to look at the posted menu, and a staff member approached us to offer all-you-can-eat for $35 each ($15 for kids). Service was very good, and they went out of their way to provide a plain hamburger from another restaurant for our one picky eater. The sushi, especially the eel sashimi, was good. We ate our fill. However, it was really no better than good sushi at home. Next trip we will have some take out sushi for lunch and save dinners for another place. The Oceanview Cafe, the buffet, was very good. We found lots of great choices. It was spotless, well-laid out, and only crowded during really peak times. The kids loved the ice cream bar. The only lines I saw were short ones for those waiting for waffles and omelets, or cooked to order steak. Coffee in the buffet was good quality, and fruit punch and iced tea were always available. There was bar service inside and outside in the buffet area, but few servers taking drink orders. We usually went to the bar if we wanted a drink. We liked the buffet so much that we went twice for dinner, enjoying a quiet night on the aft deck almost all to ourselves. The Mast Grill by the pool served burgers and fries at no extra charge. The desserts on board were good to great. We thought the creme brulee, flan, and key lime pie were the best. Cafe Al Bacio was one of our favorite spots for coffee and pastries. The kids quickly learned they could stop there for cookies and milk!
Entertainment: This is Celebrity's weaker area. The singers and dancers were very good, and the acrobats were great. Unfortunately, the production shows did not seem to be well-written. Many cruise ship productions are low on plot, but these seemed so especially. The "Rox" party/show mid-cruise was really fun. The singers and dancers performed out in the atrium and got many of us up dancing with them. The kids liked this one a lot, too. We did not get a chance to see the comedians (two on our cruise). There was less live music scattered through the ship than I'd like, but still some nice ensembles in the afternoons and evenings. There was a poolside band a few hours a day, and other times there was canned popular music. Overall, I thought it was a good mix of tunes for older people and more modern songs for the younger crowd. Though I did buy a piece of art from Park West years ago that I enjoy, we generally steer clear of the art auctions now, being a little older and wiser about buying art. The art auction had its own area on the ship, and auctions were not pushed hard. There were extra-fee wine-pairing and mixology classes, as well classes on helping you with your Apple iPhone or iPad. We did not try these. I did take our 9 and 11 year old girls to a free watercolor class that we enjoyed. I also attended a talk on the history of the Caribbean islands and the engineering marvels of the ship. These were low key but interesting. They still have the "shopping" lecture about each port, but I was glad to see a few non-shopping talks as well. There is an audio-guided meditation on the Lawn at 10 a.m. most days. The Corning Glass Show is really neat, but it can be hot outside watching it. Go early. Seats are limited and its fun to watch up close. With 3 kids in tow, we did not spend much time at the bars. They looked fun. I did not think we'd like the Silent Disco, but we loved it! It was held in the Sky Lounge, with plenty of room to dance or sit on the sidelines. Kids were welcome and ours danced alongside us. We did not keep them there late, or let them run wild. It was really nice to have them welcomed to something like that. It felt a little like a wedding with all of the generations on the dance floor. As I mentioned, the pool area could get crowded, but we were expecting that. There was dancing in or around the pool led by the staff, but the fun did not veer down into the "hairy chest" type contests. We did not try trivia or bingo, but they looked well-attended.
Service: Excellent. Every staff member was smiling, helpful, and seemed very genuine. I never had to wait long for a drink. When I had to see Guest Relations about a lost card, they were efficient and friendly. Special requests were handled well. Our one small disappointment was that the Luggage Valet service was available but not well advertised. We planned to use it, but when we asked about the sign up form mid-week, we were told we'd missed the deadline. Per Guest Relations, forms were only sent to those guests Celebrity thought "would be interested". I'm not sure what that meant. I'm sure it is a time-consuming program, but if it is open to all it should be advertised to all. If you'd like to pay a little extra to send your bags straight from your room to the airport - ask early!
Ports: I think these are covered well in threads about the ports. In general, we loved all three. Celebrity's shore excursions looked very nice, but we prefer to explore on our own or book private ones. In San Juan, we walked to both forts (a long walk) and enjoyed the city. It is a lovely place full of history and feels safe to walk in during the evening. There s also a huge Walgreens and a CVS across the street from the dock. That was handy. St. Thomas was nice. We took a taxi to one of the many beaches and snorkeled. The water in St. Thomas is absolutely beautiful, and the snorkeling good as well. We saw a small ray, a small octopus, starfish.. There are so many beaches to choose from. Read up on the island to find one that suits your taste. At St. Maarten, we took a non-ship excursion on a sailboat called Random Wind. The sail was relaxing, with time to snorkel and eat a great lunch onboard. The boat held around twenty people and had a trapeze swing that let you fly off into the clear water. Our sail passed Maho Beach with the planes landing right overhead.
Kids: The ship carried 400 kids between 0-18 the week we cruised. It did not feel over-run with kids, though. They were mostly well-behaved, with no one pushing multiple elevator buttons or running amok. Our kids LOVED the kids' club, spending at least 2-3 hours there a day. We let them sign in and out, but you could decide as a parent to not give them that option if you did not think they were ready for that. The counselors were friendly and had high energy. They had pool games for them one night in the Solarium area, scavenger hunts, X-box tournaments, crafts.. One lucky child had their drawing made into a blown glass piece by the Corning Glass artists. We splurged for the VIP kids' pass for them, so they could tour the bridge and the theater. Our kids did not cry about being bored, or pine for water slides. Their only complaint was that they were only allowed in one pool most of the time, as one of the outdoor pools is for adults and the Solarium is also reserved for adults most of the time. Our kids are great swimmers, and they did not like being stuck in the 4 foot pool. Some parents and kids did ignore the rule and I never saw anyone chastised.
Disembarkation: We had a time of 8:45 a.m. assigned to gather in a lounge. We had nice breakfast, then ended up at Future Cruises (which was open till 9 am) until it was time for us to get off of the ship. The line for customs was long, but we made it out in about 20 minutes. It was a little crazy coming out onto the pier, with lots of people wandering around looking for transfers or Ubers, etc. We found a shuttle for $10 apiece to the airport with no trouble.
We loved our trip so much that we booked a week on the Edge for 2019. The Equinox was just what our family needed, and it looked like everyone else - young or old - enjoyed it too. Less
Cabin review: 2C6274, 6272 Deluxe Veranda (partially obstructed view)
Very nice. Quiet and comfortable, with a little wear noted on one couch but otherwise looked new. Cabins were adjoining.Read All Deluxe Veranda (partially obstructed view) (2C) Reviews >>
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