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This is a long - log-style review. If you just want the summary, scroll down to the bottom. Equinox western Caribbean 6-29-19 – Aqua class cabin# 1560 Travel and embarkation: We arranged to fly to FLL the day before the cruise. We originally had booked a 5:30 AM departure the day of the cruise on Southwest using points. But later we decided a 5:30 flight meant a super early start and we would be exhausted once getting on board, so we booked American through the Celebrity website for a 3:00 PM flight arriving at 6:00 PM. Good plan, but American, the PHL airport, and weather combined to make our 6:00 arrival 11:30 PM. By the time we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn it was after 12:30 in the morning. So much for being refreshed when we arrived to the ship! In any case, after breakfast the front desk at the Garden Inn told us that the BJ’s “Across the street” had a nice wine selection and you didn’t need to be a member to buy wine. Who knew? We walked over and obtained two bottles to bring for Verandah enjoyment. While at BJ’s, the Florida skies decided to bring some liquid sunshine in abundance, so we called an Uber for the ride back to the hotel. At about 10:15 another Uber picked us up for the quick trip to the pier. Check in was incredibly fast. Porters took our bags, we breezed through security, and were told our keys would be waiting for us at the stateroom. We have a friend who works at the port and he was able to visit with us for a few moments while we waited to be allowed to board. About the same time our traveling friends also met us at the terminal. “Elite” and “Aqua” are both in the third group to be allowed to board, and we were both. By about 11:15 we were onboard. We were told we could stop by our cabin to drop off our carry-on but please not to linger there as the cabins were not ready. No worries, we followed instructions! We visited BLU to speak with the host to go over my DW’s food allergies and they were most accommodating. Along with our friends we visited the Oceanview café (Lido) to peruse lunch. Despite our early boarding, the Oceanview was already quite crowded. Afterwards we wandered around exploring the ship until we were told the cabins were ready at about 1:00. We really like the cabin (1560) and especially the huge overhang over the balcony. I know some don’t like this but for a warm weather cruise in July we found this allowed us to use the balcony quite a bit; without the shade, we would not have been able to use it. The shower is also nice. Service from our stateroom steward Usman was top-notch. The muster drill was held in the main theater. Celebrity has done a nice job with a humorous video to keep our attention during the drill. Holland America and Princess could take a lesson from this. After the drill our luggage arrived so we spent a little time unpacking the suitcases. We met our friends and enjoyed our first dinner in BLU. We all commented that if this meal was an indication of the rest of the cruise this is like dining in a specialty restaurant. Our waiter Luciano was incredible. After dinner we debated trying to attend the show but were just too tired. Wondering the ship we were impressed with the number of venues with live music. Sunday June 30 – Key West We ordered breakfast to be delivered to the cabin as we had an early meet time for our Key West adventure of a Private dolphin & snorkeling charter on the “Squid” by Honest Eco. We met our traveling friends at Café El Bacio at 8:00 and the six of us departed together. We took the shuttle to town and then walked the eight or so blocks to the marina, arriving right “On time” at 8:45. It was HOT in Key West while on land. We used the restrooms at the marina and got on board the Squid. Squid is a unique, custom built ship that runs mostly on battery power. This makes it ideal for dolphin watching. We did see a number of pods of dolphins, and even caught one doing a jump clear out of the water. This was a lot of fun and afterwards we went snorkeling at a reef off one of the out-islands. The snorkeling was not as clear as I would have preferred and with the current it was a little challenging to stay in place. I likely would have preferred the alternate to snorkeling in the ‘sponge garden’ where they sometimes take guests. We enjoyed the journey back to Key West and almost forgot how hot it was there until we docked. Then we trekked back to the shuttle stop. Upon reaching the ship I will say that the security staff were the meanest and most unfriendly I’ve ever experienced on a ship. First they were directing people into one of two lines to board Equinox. One of the lines was a little shorter but to reach it was a much longer walk around a building, and they directed people who were obviously having a challenge walking in the heat into the longer distance queue. This just shows a total lack of care for the guests and to be honest, makes the TSA look pretty good. After reaching the actual security screening, someone chastised me for not putting my camera into a tray. Well, on 30 prior cruises I’ve never needed to put my camera in a tray, so why on this one? Once onboard I needed to stop at the front desk to get change for tips and future shore days. While there I mentioned the security treatment as the “Worse experience in 30 cruises” and they took down my cabin number but I never heard anything further from anyone. This episode cost the Equinox ½ star from the total review. We had a little bit of late lunch in the Oceanview. I don’t recall the rest of the afternoon but this was the least special dinner in BLU. We were the latest of the cruise (as we had a late lunch) and ended up with a different waiter. Perfectly okay, but that was all. His assistant was also less than the best. On the way out we spoke with the hostess who said she would try very hard to get us a table with Luciano. Before dinner the Captains club invited all members to the sky lounge for the welcome back party. This was very nice with many officers attending. Monday, July 1 – At Sea We had a very enjoyable sea day on Equinox. The only negative to report is that Celebrity really needs to do a better job policing “Chair hogs” on sea days. Early in the morning (before 8:00) nearly every lounger in the solarium or near the pool has towels with clips, t-shirts, paperbacks, or whatever placed on them. Yet walk through there at 10:00 and there is nearly no one actually sitting in these loungers. There were a few family groups on board that obviously had one person go early and “Reserve” a dozen or more loungers all in a row. We witnessed the obviously frustrated pool staff looking up and down the empty rows while folks searched for a couple of chairs. On the positive side, there was a very nice cruise critic meet and greet. Captain Kate and many officers stopped by to say hello. The Captain also asked if the original roll call starter was there, any they were. We enjoyed the thermal suite for a while. While the main dining room is open for lunch, the offerings in the Oceanview looked better. We’ve been on this class of ship before but the Oceanview had such variety like we don’t recall ever seeing. The fresh fish being fillet and then cooked right in front of you is incredible. They made up a special order of grilled (rather than breaded and fried) Calamari for my DW, and it was delicious. There was a “Canada day” party in the Sky lounge which we attended. Most of the officers were there and we played Canadian trivia. Great fun. We enjoyed our Elite happy hour for a while before dinner and were very pleased to have Luciano back as our BLU waiter (as he would be the rest of the cruise). Tuesday, July 2 – Costa Maya, MX We enjoyed breakfast in BLU and met our traveling friends at 9:00 to depart the ship. I had come down late Monday with a case of “Pink Eye” so we found a pharmacy in the port complex (there are at least two) and for $11 they sold me antibiotic eye drops. Those worked perfectly and a few hours later my eye already looked much better. Based on cruise critic recommendations, we had booked an all-inclusive day at “Jaime’s at the Blue Reef.” Getting there was easy after navigating through the port complex. They really do NOT want folks leaving the port! 10 minutes in a taxi and we were dropped with at the Blue Reef on the Malecon. We had a very nice a relaxing time, but we will not do this type of beach day again. For one thing, it’s hard for us to stay on the beach for four-five hours. For another, we really don’t drink. I will say the food was very good and service terrific. But $50/person is a lot if you are not consuming huge amounts of alcohol (as the family near us obviously was!). The beach is very fine powdery sand and everyone is doing the best they can to prevent the huge amounts of sea grasses from washing up on the beach. We tried to go out to the reef to snorkel but getting there was a huge challenge so we never made it. We would do the beach at Costa Maya again but not at an all-inclusive. Returning to the ship we had a relaxing late afternoon and another great dinner in BLU. Wednesday July 3 – Cozumel, MX We went to the pool at 7:00 to enjoy some quiet pool time. We then visited the thermal suite until about 8:15. We rushed back for quick showers to make it to BLU before their 9:00 closing (or so we thought). Arriving at 8:45 we were surprised to find the door closed. The hostess saw us and waved us in. They had adjusted their hours due to the early port call today to 7:00 – 8:30. However, they sat us and we quickly ordered. Even with our late arrival we were not the last to leave BLU. We had a nice relaxing morning on the ship and for some exercise we did walk the pier and the port area. On past visits we have always gone to Chankanaab National Park and enjoyed the beach, snorkeling, and services there. But we had planned something different for this port day. Today we had prebooked a 1:00 tour at the Kaokao Chocolate Factory. We followed instructions and took a cab, arriving 40 minutes early. Our tour began 10 minutes early as everyone had arrived. This was a very different “Tour” as we learned a lot about the history of Chocolate and actually got to make our own Chocolate from Cocoa beans. This is a LOT of work! We also sampled MANY different types of chocolate. We enjoyed the time spent there, bought some more chocolates and they nicely packaged up the chocolate we made (Patties to make Hot Chocolate) to take home. They called a taxi van to take us back to the Equinox and we arrived 30 minutes before the all-aboard. The ship actually left port a little late as one of the ship’s tours was 20 minutes late returning. Dinner was in BLU and we also made the show tonight. This show was a “Journey” tribute band and they were superb. I was surprised that I only recognized a few of the songs, yet all of us really enjoyed the show. Thursday, July 4 – Grand Cayman Island We enjoyed our BLU breakfast and were on the first tender to the island, arriving about 9:45. The meeting time for our pre-booked excursion with Acquarius Sea Tours was 10:45. There were many independent tour operators at the port, but no one with Acquarius. Well, we were early, so we walked a little around town. We visited one souvenir shop where I bought a very bright tropical shirt for $12.00 and headed back to the port before 10:30. Still no one there from Acquarius Sea Tours but now at least 15 or so folks waiting for them. One family said they took their tour last year and really enjoyed it. In the meantime we had thought about ditching them as in our experience, if an independent tour provider is not there early to meet you reliability is in doubt. But we waited, and that was a mistake. Finally at about 10:55 Captain Mario shows up with his sign. He checks folks off his list, and leads everyone to the parking lot and an older mini-bus. We were among the first to board to sit in the middle. It is a 15-20 minute ride to the marina and the driver tells us a little about what we are passing. We reached the marina and headed out to the “Big John.” Boarding was fine and we found there was not enough room for all to sit in the cabin. We had a very quick safety briefing. We asked for water. Someone grabbed a reusable plastic cup, took the lid off a cooler, and dipped the cup into ice, then poured water from the same cooler into the cup. The look on my DW’s and friends faces was “Really?” I asked did they want to bail on the tour. All agreed so we quickly left the Big John before the ship left the dock. Captain Mario asked what was wrong and I explained I had a cold and drinking from a communal cup everyone would get sick. He said they had bottled water… We still decided not to join the outing and wished them well. Acquarius Sea Tours has an excellent web site. Reviews here are overwhelmingly outstanding. The price is very reasonable. But this just wasn’t for us. We went to the marina office and bought a couple bottles of water. They called a cab for the four of us. We returned to the tender dock at about noon. Back on Equinox, they were having a fabulous “All American” lunch in the lido. Full fresh fish being grilled, all kinds of great food and just a wonderful time had relaxing there. We met the chef from BLU who has been taking care of DW’s food allergies. We spent the rest of the afternoon (while it stormed outside and over the bay where we would have been on the Big John) in the solarium pool and thermal suite. We enjoyed the captains club happy hour and a great “Chic night” dinner in BLU. The lobster tails were very good. We managed to stay up for the July 4 party at the main pool. This ended up being geared to a much younger and energetic crowd so we didn’t stay long. Still this was a really great day despite (or perhaps because of) the aborted excursion. Friday July 5 – At Sea We checked the BLU schedule and breakfast today was 8:00 – 9:30, so we visited the solarium pool at 7:10 AM. We found that nearly every lounger was already “Claimed” with no one siting in them. We did finally find two quite a distance from the pool and put our gear on them while we enjoyed the pool. There was one other gentleman using the pool and we talked a while. After the pool, I went to bring back tea and fruit plates from the Spa Café. We decided to forgo the BLU breakfast in favor of enjoying the solarium. I was dry enough by that point to walk to the Oceanview café and ordered omelets to bring back. We enjoyed them on our loungers. Our traveling friends found us and said they missed us in BLU. I went back in the pool for a while with them. After the pool we all visited the thermal suite (and gladly gave up our loungers to folks looking for a few) and I believe I ended up napping on the warm stones. Leaving there late morning we proceeded to get cleaned up before lunch in the Oceanview. We had a table aft outdoors which was just delightful. The duet was playing at the sea view bar (deck 15 aft) at 1:30 so we went up there and snagged enough seating for our foursome. We enjoyed the duet. After their set it was time to get most of our luggage packed. We had our last captain’s club happy hour and an incredible last meal in BLU. I’ve always felt that cruise companies should plan the last meal to be a special one, so folks leave with a very positive experience fresh in their minds. All too often, this is not the case, but in BLU on the Equinox, this last meal was likely the best of the entire cruise. I enjoyed a filet that had to be every bit as good as a high-end steakhouse back home. Everyone raved about this last meal, regardless of their choice of entrée. Desserts were also terrific. We were all sad to say farewell to Luciano and the BLU team. There was another performance of the Journey tribute band this evening in the main foyer. We went and snagged some of the few available seats 30 minutes before the show. We enjoyed this although I will say that many of their numbers were repeats from their stage show earlier in the week. They are really good however. After the show we arranged to meet our friends for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning and returned to our cabin. We finalized our luggage and put it out for movement to the pier and called it a great day! Saturday, July 6 – disembarkation and post-cruise We met our friends outside our cabin at 7:30 and brought our carry-off bag with us to BLU. We had a very enjoyable final breakfast, leaving BLU at 8:15. Our expected disembarkation time was 8:35. We had just enough time for a necessary stop and our number was called. Hugs all around and then off the ship. There was a brief line at a “Facial recognition” station, but no other passport check or anything. Certainly the quickest disembarkation we’ve ever had at a U.S. port. Our luggage was waiting and a few moments later we were on the curb getting into a taxi. The taxi took us to National Car Rental at the FLL airport where we chose our vehicle from the emerald isle. Taxi fare with tip was $22.00. Conclusion: This was the closest to a five star cruise experience we’ve had in quite a few years. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The security process returning to the ship in Key West was simply the worst is all our 30+ cruises. I will say that at the other stops they were much more pleasant, but no one from the front desk ever got back to us. The other negative is the previously mentioned chair hog situation. Celebrity seems helpless in addressing this, but it is “Just not right.” We don’t often do warm weather cruises, so perhaps this is entirely common and expected – but why do some cruisers seem to believe they can monopolize entire sections of deck chairs for an entire day and use them hardly at all? It just isn’t right. Celebrity needs to enforce their policy and remove items after chairs are vacated for 30 minutes so others can use them. Okay, the positives – Dining in BLU was a really great experience. Is Aqua class worth double the price of a standard balcony? No. But if you can book it for $200/pp or less over the balcony rate, it’s worth it. For future Celebrity cruises we will look at the prices closely. The one thing is if you are traveling with friends or family, everyone needs to be Aqua or you won’t eat together. We found a seven night specialty dining package is less than $200/pp so that would be an option if one didn’t want to do the main dining room. Entertainment was far superior in both quantity and quality to our recent Holland America cruises. We don’t cruise for the entertainment but when it is really good it sure adds to the experience! Service nearly everywhere was terrific. The only place we sometimes waited a bit was at the bar/lounges. Being “Elite” with access to the Captains Club happy hour is a huge plus when you don’t have a beverage package, plus the service there is top-notch. So overall I am giving the Equinox 4.5 stars out of 5. This was a very nice holiday week getaway well-spent.

Great on board experience on the Equinox!

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by StartrainDD

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Trip Details
This is a long - log-style review. If you just want the summary, scroll down to the bottom.

Equinox western Caribbean 6-29-19 – Aqua class cabin# 1560

Travel and embarkation:

We arranged to fly to FLL the day before the cruise. We originally had booked a 5:30 AM departure the day of the cruise on Southwest using points. But later we decided a 5:30 flight meant a super early start and we would be exhausted once getting on board, so we booked American through the Celebrity website for a 3:00 PM flight arriving at 6:00 PM. Good plan, but American, the PHL airport, and weather combined to make our 6:00 arrival 11:30 PM. By the time we arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn it was after 12:30 in the morning. So much for being refreshed when we arrived to the ship!

In any case, after breakfast the front desk at the Garden Inn told us that the BJ’s “Across the street” had a nice wine selection and you didn’t need to be a member to buy wine. Who knew? We walked over and obtained two bottles to bring for Verandah enjoyment. While at BJ’s, the Florida skies decided to bring some liquid sunshine in abundance, so we called an Uber for the ride back to the hotel. At about 10:15 another Uber picked us up for the quick trip to the pier.

Check in was incredibly fast. Porters took our bags, we breezed through security, and were told our keys would be waiting for us at the stateroom. We have a friend who works at the port and he was able to visit with us for a few moments while we waited to be allowed to board. About the same time our traveling friends also met us at the terminal. “Elite” and “Aqua” are both in the third group to be allowed to board, and we were both. By about 11:15 we were onboard. We were told we could stop by our cabin to drop off our carry-on but please not to linger there as the cabins were not ready. No worries, we followed instructions!

We visited BLU to speak with the host to go over my DW’s food allergies and they were most accommodating. Along with our friends we visited the Oceanview café (Lido) to peruse lunch. Despite our early boarding, the Oceanview was already quite crowded. Afterwards we wandered around exploring the ship until we were told the cabins were ready at about 1:00.

We really like the cabin (1560) and especially the huge overhang over the balcony. I know some don’t like this but for a warm weather cruise in July we found this allowed us to use the balcony quite a bit; without the shade, we would not have been able to use it. The shower is also nice. Service from our stateroom steward Usman was top-notch.

The muster drill was held in the main theater. Celebrity has done a nice job with a humorous video to keep our attention during the drill. Holland America and Princess could take a lesson from this. After the drill our luggage arrived so we spent a little time unpacking the suitcases.

We met our friends and enjoyed our first dinner in BLU. We all commented that if this meal was an indication of the rest of the cruise this is like dining in a specialty restaurant. Our waiter Luciano was incredible.

After dinner we debated trying to attend the show but were just too tired. Wondering the ship we were impressed with the number of venues with live music.

Sunday June 30 – Key West

We ordered breakfast to be delivered to the cabin as we had an early meet time for our Key West adventure of a Private dolphin & snorkeling charter on the “Squid” by Honest Eco. We met our traveling friends at Café El Bacio at 8:00 and the six of us departed together. We took the shuttle to town and then walked the eight or so blocks to the marina, arriving right “On time” at 8:45. It was HOT in Key West while on land. We used the restrooms at the marina and got on board the Squid.

Squid is a unique, custom built ship that runs mostly on battery power. This makes it ideal for dolphin watching. We did see a number of pods of dolphins, and even caught one doing a jump clear out of the water. This was a lot of fun and afterwards we went snorkeling at a reef off one of the out-islands. The snorkeling was not as clear as I would have preferred and with the current it was a little challenging to stay in place. I likely would have preferred the alternate to snorkeling in the ‘sponge garden’ where they sometimes take guests.

We enjoyed the journey back to Key West and almost forgot how hot it was there until we docked. Then we trekked back to the shuttle stop. Upon reaching the ship I will say that the security staff were the meanest and most unfriendly I’ve ever experienced on a ship. First they were directing people into one of two lines to board Equinox. One of the lines was a little shorter but to reach it was a much longer walk around a building, and they directed people who were obviously having a challenge walking in the heat into the longer distance queue. This just shows a total lack of care for the guests and to be honest, makes the TSA look pretty good.

After reaching the actual security screening, someone chastised me for not putting my camera into a tray. Well, on 30 prior cruises I’ve never needed to put my camera in a tray, so why on this one? Once onboard I needed to stop at the front desk to get change for tips and future shore days. While there I mentioned the security treatment as the “Worse experience in 30 cruises” and they took down my cabin number but I never heard anything further from anyone. This episode cost the Equinox ½ star from the total review.

We had a little bit of late lunch in the Oceanview. I don’t recall the rest of the afternoon but this was the least special dinner in BLU. We were the latest of the cruise (as we had a late lunch) and ended up with a different waiter. Perfectly okay, but that was all. His assistant was also less than the best. On the way out we spoke with the hostess who said she would try very hard to get us a table with Luciano.

Before dinner the Captains club invited all members to the sky lounge for the welcome back party. This was very nice with many officers attending.

Monday, July 1 – At Sea

We had a very enjoyable sea day on Equinox. The only negative to report is that Celebrity really needs to do a better job policing “Chair hogs” on sea days. Early in the morning (before 8:00) nearly every lounger in the solarium or near the pool has towels with clips, t-shirts, paperbacks, or whatever placed on them. Yet walk through there at 10:00 and there is nearly no one actually sitting in these loungers. There were a few family groups on board that obviously had one person go early and “Reserve” a dozen or more loungers all in a row. We witnessed the obviously frustrated pool staff looking up and down the empty rows while folks searched for a couple of chairs.

On the positive side, there was a very nice cruise critic meet and greet. Captain Kate and many officers stopped by to say hello. The Captain also asked if the original roll call starter was there, any they were. We enjoyed the thermal suite for a while. While the main dining room is open for lunch, the offerings in the Oceanview looked better. We’ve been on this class of ship before but the Oceanview had such variety like we don’t recall ever seeing. The fresh fish being fillet and then cooked right in front of you is incredible. They made up a special order of grilled (rather than breaded and fried) Calamari for my DW, and it was delicious.

There was a “Canada day” party in the Sky lounge which we attended. Most of the officers were there and we played Canadian trivia. Great fun.

We enjoyed our Elite happy hour for a while before dinner and were very pleased to have Luciano back as our BLU waiter (as he would be the rest of the cruise).

Tuesday, July 2 – Costa Maya, MX

We enjoyed breakfast in BLU and met our traveling friends at 9:00 to depart the ship. I had come down late Monday with a case of “Pink Eye” so we found a pharmacy in the port complex (there are at least two) and for $11 they sold me antibiotic eye drops. Those worked perfectly and a few hours later my eye already looked much better.

Based on cruise critic recommendations, we had booked an all-inclusive day at “Jaime’s at the Blue Reef.” Getting there was easy after navigating through the port complex. They really do NOT want folks leaving the port! 10 minutes in a taxi and we were dropped with at the Blue Reef on the Malecon.

We had a very nice a relaxing time, but we will not do this type of beach day again. For one thing, it’s hard for us to stay on the beach for four-five hours. For another, we really don’t drink. I will say the food was very good and service terrific. But $50/person is a lot if you are not consuming huge amounts of alcohol (as the family near us obviously was!).

The beach is very fine powdery sand and everyone is doing the best they can to prevent the huge amounts of sea grasses from washing up on the beach. We tried to go out to the reef to snorkel but getting there was a huge challenge so we never made it. We would do the beach at Costa Maya again but not at an all-inclusive.

Returning to the ship we had a relaxing late afternoon and another great dinner in BLU.

Wednesday July 3 – Cozumel, MX

We went to the pool at 7:00 to enjoy some quiet pool time. We then visited the thermal suite until about 8:15. We rushed back for quick showers to make it to BLU before their 9:00 closing (or so we thought). Arriving at 8:45 we were surprised to find the door closed. The hostess saw us and waved us in. They had adjusted their hours due to the early port call today to 7:00 – 8:30. However, they sat us and we quickly ordered. Even with our late arrival we were not the last to leave BLU.

We had a nice relaxing morning on the ship and for some exercise we did walk the pier and the port area. On past visits we have always gone to Chankanaab National Park and enjoyed the beach, snorkeling, and services there. But we had planned something different for this port day.

Today we had prebooked a 1:00 tour at the Kaokao Chocolate Factory. We followed instructions and took a cab, arriving 40 minutes early. Our tour began 10 minutes early as everyone had arrived. This was a very different “Tour” as we learned a lot about the history of Chocolate and actually got to make our own Chocolate from Cocoa beans. This is a LOT of work! We also sampled MANY different types of chocolate. We enjoyed the time spent there, bought some more chocolates and they nicely packaged up the chocolate we made (Patties to make Hot Chocolate) to take home. They called a taxi van to take us back to the Equinox and we arrived 30 minutes before the all-aboard. The ship actually left port a little late as one of the ship’s tours was 20 minutes late returning.

Dinner was in BLU and we also made the show tonight. This show was a “Journey” tribute band and they were superb. I was surprised that I only recognized a few of the songs, yet all of us really enjoyed the show.

Thursday, July 4 – Grand Cayman Island

We enjoyed our BLU breakfast and were on the first tender to the island, arriving about 9:45. The meeting time for our pre-booked excursion with Acquarius Sea Tours was 10:45. There were many independent tour operators at the port, but no one with Acquarius. Well, we were early, so we walked a little around town. We visited one souvenir shop where I bought a very bright tropical shirt for $12.00 and headed back to the port before 10:30.

Still no one there from Acquarius Sea Tours but now at least 15 or so folks waiting for them. One family said they took their tour last year and really enjoyed it. In the meantime we had thought about ditching them as in our experience, if an independent tour provider is not there early to meet you reliability is in doubt. But we waited, and that was a mistake.

Finally at about 10:55 Captain Mario shows up with his sign. He checks folks off his list, and leads everyone to the parking lot and an older mini-bus. We were among the first to board to sit in the middle. It is a 15-20 minute ride to the marina and the driver tells us a little about what we are passing. We reached the marina and headed out to the “Big John.”

Boarding was fine and we found there was not enough room for all to sit in the cabin. We had a very quick safety briefing. We asked for water. Someone grabbed a reusable plastic cup, took the lid off a cooler, and dipped the cup into ice, then poured water from the same cooler into the cup. The look on my DW’s and friends faces was “Really?” I asked did they want to bail on the tour. All agreed so we quickly left the Big John before the ship left the dock.

Captain Mario asked what was wrong and I explained I had a cold and drinking from a communal cup everyone would get sick. He said they had bottled water… We still decided not to join the outing and wished them well.

Acquarius Sea Tours has an excellent web site. Reviews here are overwhelmingly outstanding. The price is very reasonable. But this just wasn’t for us. We went to the marina office and bought a couple bottles of water. They called a cab for the four of us. We returned to the tender dock at about noon.

Back on Equinox, they were having a fabulous “All American” lunch in the lido. Full fresh fish being grilled, all kinds of great food and just a wonderful time had relaxing there. We met the chef from BLU who has been taking care of DW’s food allergies. We spent the rest of the afternoon (while it stormed outside and over the bay where we would have been on the Big John) in the solarium pool and thermal suite.

We enjoyed the captains club happy hour and a great “Chic night” dinner in BLU. The lobster tails were very good. We managed to stay up for the July 4 party at the main pool. This ended up being geared to a much younger and energetic crowd so we didn’t stay long. Still this was a really great day despite (or perhaps because of) the aborted excursion.

Friday July 5 – At Sea

We checked the BLU schedule and breakfast today was 8:00 – 9:30, so we visited the solarium pool at 7:10 AM. We found that nearly every lounger was already “Claimed” with no one siting in them. We did finally find two quite a distance from the pool and put our gear on them while we enjoyed the pool. There was one other gentleman using the pool and we talked a while.

After the pool, I went to bring back tea and fruit plates from the Spa Café. We decided to forgo the BLU breakfast in favor of enjoying the solarium. I was dry enough by that point to walk to the Oceanview café and ordered omelets to bring back. We enjoyed them on our loungers. Our traveling friends found us and said they missed us in BLU. I went back in the pool for a while with them.

After the pool we all visited the thermal suite (and gladly gave up our loungers to folks looking for a few) and I believe I ended up napping on the warm stones. Leaving there late morning we proceeded to get cleaned up before lunch in the Oceanview. We had a table aft outdoors which was just delightful.

The duet was playing at the sea view bar (deck 15 aft) at 1:30 so we went up there and snagged enough seating for our foursome. We enjoyed the duet. After their set it was time to get most of our luggage packed. We had our last captain’s club happy hour and an incredible last meal in BLU. I’ve always felt that cruise companies should plan the last meal to be a special one, so folks leave with a very positive experience fresh in their minds. All too often, this is not the case, but in BLU on the Equinox, this last meal was likely the best of the entire cruise.

I enjoyed a filet that had to be every bit as good as a high-end steakhouse back home. Everyone raved about this last meal, regardless of their choice of entrée. Desserts were also terrific. We were all sad to say farewell to Luciano and the BLU team.

There was another performance of the Journey tribute band this evening in the main foyer. We went and snagged some of the few available seats 30 minutes before the show. We enjoyed this although I will say that many of their numbers were repeats from their stage show earlier in the week. They are really good however.

After the show we arranged to meet our friends for breakfast at 7:30 the next morning and returned to our cabin. We finalized our luggage and put it out for movement to the pier and called it a great day!

Saturday, July 6 – disembarkation and post-cruise

We met our friends outside our cabin at 7:30 and brought our carry-off bag with us to BLU. We had a very enjoyable final breakfast, leaving BLU at 8:15. Our expected disembarkation time was 8:35. We had just enough time for a necessary stop and our number was called. Hugs all around and then off the ship.

There was a brief line at a “Facial recognition” station, but no other passport check or anything. Certainly the quickest disembarkation we’ve ever had at a U.S. port. Our luggage was waiting and a few moments later we were on the curb getting into a taxi. The taxi took us to National Car Rental at the FLL airport where we chose our vehicle from the emerald isle. Taxi fare with tip was $22.00.

Conclusion:

This was the closest to a five star cruise experience we’ve had in quite a few years. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The security process returning to the ship in Key West was simply the worst is all our 30+ cruises. I will say that at the other stops they were much more pleasant, but no one from the front desk ever got back to us.

The other negative is the previously mentioned chair hog situation. Celebrity seems helpless in addressing this, but it is “Just not right.” We don’t often do warm weather cruises, so perhaps this is entirely common and expected – but why do some cruisers seem to believe they can monopolize entire sections of deck chairs for an entire day and use them hardly at all? It just isn’t right. Celebrity needs to enforce their policy and remove items after chairs are vacated for 30 minutes so others can use them.

Okay, the positives – Dining in BLU was a really great experience. Is Aqua class worth double the price of a standard balcony? No. But if you can book it for $200/pp or less over the balcony rate, it’s worth it. For future Celebrity cruises we will look at the prices closely. The one thing is if you are traveling with friends or family, everyone needs to be Aqua or you won’t eat together. We found a seven night specialty dining package is less than $200/pp so that would be an option if one didn’t want to do the main dining room.

Entertainment was far superior in both quantity and quality to our recent Holland America cruises. We don’t cruise for the entertainment but when it is really good it sure adds to the experience!

Service nearly everywhere was terrific. The only place we sometimes waited a bit was at the bar/lounges. Being “Elite” with access to the Captains Club happy hour is a huge plus when you don’t have a beverage package, plus the service there is top-notch.

So overall I am giving the Equinox 4.5 stars out of 5. This was a very nice holiday week getaway well-spent.
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Cabin Review

AquaClass
Cabin A1 1560
We really like the cabin (1560) and especially the huge overhang over the balcony. I know some don’t like this but for a warm weather cruise in July we found this allowed us to use the balcony quite a bit; without the shade, we would not have been able to use it. The shower is also nice. Service from our stateroom steward Usman was top-notch.
Penthouse Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins