We are not new to cruising, but this was our first Celebrity cruise. We are sold on the brand. Despite the fact that we can't wait to sail with Celebrity again, five stars would be an indication that there is no room for improvement or growth. If I could, I would rate our overall experience 4.5. We enjoyed three aft concierge class balcony cabins on the ninth deck. The adjoining/connecting cabin feature on the Equinox is refreshing and has a cool factor. You cannot enter or exit through the interior of the rooms. Instead, there are double doors that serve as a foyer of sorts. When the double doors are closed, you are the "connecting" cabins are encased. If you leave the door to each connecting cabins propped open or unlocked, occupants can freely move between each cabin. You access the double doors with your stateroom key. Aft balconies that "connect" to a sky suite enjoy access to their cabins through a single door that open into a spacious hallway. You control your level of privacy. We also loved how swiftly our request to unlock the partisans of our balconies was honored. It was like we had one huge, extended balcony all to ourselves. We received five-star cabin and room service. Our cabin steward was marvelous and ready to accommodate. Every dining experience, whether in the main dining room, in the cafe or at specialty restaurants, was also five-star. The staff you encounter daily understand the concepts of professionalism and customer-centered service. Everyone went out of their way to make us feel like we were genuinely on vacation. Celebrity deserves an A+ in those areas.
However, Celebrity ranks poorly when it came to a customs matter. Unlike previous sailings with other cruise lines, we were led to believe that we did not need to complete any customs forms or declare purchases in writing. The day before we returned to Ft. Lauderdale, my husband -- to my own pleasant surprise and initial shock -- bought our college sophomore a pair of chocolate diamond earrings. It is not the first time he has paid thousands of dollars on a cruise ship for diamonds, so questions were asked upfront. The manner in which my husband was approached as we disembarked was disturbing. (Hence, the less than five stars). A member of the Equinox staff approached my husband in a covert way and asked him to come with her --- no explanation or clue as to why. It all happened quickly and in the confusion, he ended up getting separated from our group. My husband says he expressed his concerns and received an apology for the manner that he was escorted to customs. Nevertheless, it should not have happened.
Much has been written about expansive renovations that will take place among the Celebrity fleet. The Equinox was fresh off a dry dock, but it is my understanding that some areas of the ship benefited more than others. There are beautifully appointed restaurants, sitting areas and other public spots throughout the ship. I specifically asked a veteran member of the staff about the staterooms. The Equinox did not get the major "revolutionized" renovation many expected. Based on previous pictures, however, I could tell that the new beige and blue color schemes for the drapes, bedding and carpet was an improvement for the cabins, giving ours a relaxing feel.
We booked about 60 days until sailing, which I consider last minute. I considered it a blessing to find three concierge class balcony staterooms next to each other. The perks -- especially the expanded room service menu -- were wonderful. I am thankful for the fast and reliable Internet service. We selected the complimentary Internet package as one of our promotional offerings. I had no issues completing some graduate course assignments by deadline. I also appreciated the ability to make reservations for any-time dining in the upstairs main dining room. The food was delicious, the service was consistently outstanding and the atmosphere was pleasing. Our servers were professional and personable, but never intrusive. Tuscan Grille allowed us to break the monotony of our evenings. Everything about Tuscan Grille fits the definition of fine dining at its best.
An overview of our port experiences: I have given up on shore excursion offerings in the Caribbean. Celebrity partners with Private Journeys, which was no help. After an initial response from an agent and my follow-up question, I did not get another email until just days before sailing. The agent's email stated that a lead did not work out and she was unable to help after all. It turns out that we were a million times better off researching and planning day trips on our own. We had an amazing time at a resort in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. For $30 a person plus taxi fare for the four of us, I was able to book one of the most memorable and fun day trips of my life. A The scenic BVI, followed by St. Thomas, was the highlight of our port experiences.
Magen's Beach in St. Thomas was crowded with guests from the Equinox and two other cruise ships, but we found a spot to set up beach chairs and umbrellas, which must be rented from the gift shop.
We have been to Nassau, Bahamas countless times. We did not leave the ship. As for Puerto Rico, this was my second and last time giving it a chance. We went there about a week before the protests. We had no idea a political uprising was brewing, but we knew something was way off and talked about it. The atmosphere was tense. With the exception of a hostess standing outside a bar, no one seemed friendly or helpful. You know something is off when cabs are lined up along the port but you have to initiate conversations to get a ride. I observed many fellow cruisers returning to the ship after a brief venture out. We walked to Walgreens and made our way back to the ship.
We did not make it to any of the shows or participate in enrichment activities. I enjoyed the solitude of the library, however.