Review of Celebrity Equinox cruise, September 23, 2019
Category: C2 Concierge Verandah
Room: 1082 on Deck 10
Booked through: Travel agent (AAA)
Early seating, Silhouette Dining Room
Overall Rating: 4.46 out of 5.0
Flying from Boston the day prior to the cruise was simple and easy. We booked our flight via Celebrity Flights and they were able to substantially beat even jetBlue and booked us on Delta, nonstop. The close proximity of the airport to the cruise port is a huge plus and makes life so much simpler than having to take a shuttle bus from FLL to Miami. This was our first experience on Delta in more than 10 years since they filed for restructuring and cut back on destinations and frequencies out of Boston forcing us to seek out another carrier. Having flown Delta almost exclusively since the 70’s with few exceptions until they cut way back, it was good to be back with them for this sequence of flights. We did notice that there were new seats on our aircraft and while a bit thinner than I remembered, and a bit tighter in seat pitch, yet it was not as noticeable and actually quite comfortable. The updated entertainment system was a step above what we remember from other flights of years ago and even better than jetBlue’s seatback system with touch screens and earphone jacks much easier to access.
Sea Day 1 and 2, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten,
Sea days 3 and 4, Ft. Lauderdale.
The weather pre and during the cruise was typical tropical weather. We only had two days of occasional rain during the 12 day cruise and none were related to any organized systems. We were lucky.
The Fort Lauderdale airport has always been easier to access than Miami. This year even more so since we flew in a day early and took a shuttle to our hotel on state route 84. It was hot however while waiting for the shuttle.
Coming to the airport post-cruise for our flight back to Boston post-cruise was a little underwhelming in the Delta terminal, most likely due to half of the terminal being under construction and food choices very limited. Coming through security was the usual inconvenience but it was taken in stride. I did notice that while there was a somewhat adequate amount of charging stations in the gates D3-D5 area, many of the USB ports were damaged and unusable. Fortunately our plane (737-800) had AC power available and USB charging ports at every seat.
Embarkation at the brand new Celebrity terminal in Fort Lauderdale was a breeze and exponentially better than its former Miami terminal. The terminal was comfortable and bright. The only complaint is while waiting for our group to be called, the room was so “live” (voices echoing off the hard floors and walls with nothing to absorb them) it was very difficult to hear or understand the many announcements on either the PA system or by staff. Sound absorbing panels such as “Soundsoak” or an equivalent should be installed to reduce the amount of ambient and reflected sound. However, the PA system was sharp and crisp without any static or other noise emitting from the speakers. This is a vast improvement over the Miami terminal. We were told we could bring a case of bottled water aboard, so we purchased a case for $3.00 at Big Lots, placed a luggage tag on it and checked it through when we got to the pier. It was delivered to our stateroom in one piece with our luggage. What we didn’t drink during the cruise we gave to our cabin attendant.
We were able to secure the same cabin this year as we had last year. The beds seemed to have new mattresses and were quite comfortable. The gentle swaying of the ship at night made it easy to fall asleep every night. The cabins on the Equinox at 194 sq. ft. are 9 sq. ft. larger than most other ships we’ve been on which come in at 185 sq. ft. The nine extra feet make a big difference in comfort. We found the thermostat easy to use and kept the room at our constant temperature. The bathrooms, especially the shower, have plenty of room to turn around in. There was ample storage space in the bathroom with plenty of drawers and cabinets. The main cabin also had plenty of storage with overhead storage units above each bed. The ample storage helped de-clutter the room. It was also nice to have two 120 VAC outlets at the desk for various chargers and for use of the hairdryer. We did pack a small 12-inch 4-port plug strip as we’ve done on just about every cruise and it made charging our electronics a lot easier. It was always unplugged during the day and obviously was not confiscated during the check-in procedure.
Wait Staff / Maitre D’
Our Assistant Maitre D’, Georgios, was always front-and-center, and helped my wife with her dietary requirements if there was nothing on the menu she could tolerate. Fortunately, there was much more on the menus this year than last year and the few times a problem developed, he took ownership of it with seemingly little difficulty to produce an adequate meal for her. He made it seem so much easier this year than last. Our server Sahkile was on top of her game and very personable, and the assistant waiter Ronan had a very distinguished and professional air about him. Top notch all the way! If anyone reading this happens to have him as their Maitre D’, ask him about doing the “hokey-Pokey!”
Where does one begin about the food on this ship? The main dining room selections were that of a solid 4-star restaurant, if not better. The portions were just the right size and as with all other cruises, you could have more than one selection or seconds or thirds of the same. We like the fact they seem to be implementing better portion control which leads to much less waste (and less expansion of the waistline!). The food was superbly cooked and the presentations were excellent. The variety on an 11-night cruise was excellent with no repetition of entrees.
The buffet seemed to be steps above those of other ships. There seemed to be more servers serving selections from the buffet onto your plate than we’ve noticed on other ships where it is generally a free-for-all. There were many shields over the food areas to prevent contamination from people and plenty of serving utensils. The food always seemed to be plentiful and as always made from scratch in the galleys. There were plenty of choices to answer just about any diet or tastes. One day there was a Greek Festival with many home-made choices. The Moussaka was absolutely outstanding as was the Baklava and some of the other dishes I sampled. This was certainly steps above any local Greek restaurant I’ve been to at home. The day after the Greek Festival was the German Festival with what appeared to be home-made German knockwurst sausage and Bratwurst. They were the best I’ve ever had. The buffet was open late into the night for that last minute cookie, ice cream, pizza, or coffee. The “only” complaints I can offer are that on sea days it can be difficult to procure a table in the buffet area, but this is par for the course with almost any ship buffet. If you want a burger or hot dog you have to go out by the pool, and the burgers are overcooked. I understand why that is done for health reasons. It would be nice to be able to have burgers or dogs available in the main buffet area as well.
We went to the Tuscan Grill one evening for dinner and it was without exaggeration a 5-star restaurant. The appetizers were exquisite and some were offered in half-sizes. After sampling a few of them I was full, but persevered for the filet mignon steak which was just perfect. Add to this the seemingly never ending bottle of wine for the six of us and it was one spectacular dinner, one which we’ll definitely do again on next year’s cruise on the Solstice. We heard the other specialty restaurants were equally as good and some of our newfound friends frequented the Murano numerous times during the cruise and could not stop raving about it.
Throughout the central part of the ship on the mid-levels were a few other small dessert, coffee, and gelato stands all with excellent selections. Add to that the many small bars all over the ship, especially the martini bar, you’ve essentially got one constant party going.
Shore Excursion Desk
We had little interaction with them as we had booked some of our excursions ahead of time on line or through the Celebrity phone app while aboard the ship. The times we did have to visit them, they had all the answers and seemed to be based on actual experience and not just a script. When tickets for one excursion never appeared in our stateroom, the desk immediately provided duplicates.
Additionally, the SED was able to assist with any problems in either booking shore excursions or dealing with the aftermath of either failed excursions or those that did not live up to expectations. They also had to deal with the effects of an excursion that unfortunately ended in the crash of a tour bus with a car and as occupants of the bus they handled the entire situation with the utmost of professionalism. Aline and her staff were there every step of the way to ensure all were adequately treated in the Medical Center and for the remainder of the cruise.
Future Cruise Desk
We met with them a few times during the cruise as we were gathering information for a future cruise for 2020. After looking at least a half-dozen options with numerous prices, we settled on the Alaska cruise out of Seattle. They were totally unfazed with our various itineraries and pricing requests. For the time being, we are booked and are now exploring pre and post cruise hotels and excursions.
This is one area that was somewhat improved over last year’s cruise. While the same acrobatic shows were still being performed, the other entertainment was much improved. As noted last year, the acrobatic shows were okay and after two of them they got stale fast and we left in the middle of the third show then. This year one show was enough and we just hung around with other friends in some of the many bars. However, the other transient entertainment was very good and somewhat improved over last year. We still miss the Vegas-style production shows as on other cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean.
The one thing we notice last year was the spotlessness of the ship in every location. That was still true this year and the crew were always wiping surfaces and cleaning and mopping floors. This is probably by far the cleanest ship we’ve been on in every sense of the word.
We cannot commend the staff enough. From the attentive wait staff and Maitre D’, to the cabin stewards, and everyone in between, they are all top notch and very knowledgeable. They were always eager to answer our questions regardless of their areas of expertise, and if they didn’t know the answer they always got it for us.
On Board Shopping
Of the ten ships we’ve been on with various cruise lines, they’re all pretty much the same and offer very similar items. We noticed there seemed to be an increased amount of ship-specific and brand specific merchandise over what we saw on last year’s cruise. What stood out were some of the clerks in the stores and their “bubbly” personalities, especially Riri, Anja, and Lisa in the general merchandise stores, and the fellow with the suspenders in the liquor store. We cannot comment on the high-end stores upstairs as we had no interest in what they were selling.
Fortunately we were sailing after school was in session in most states and therefore there were very few children aboard which was fine with us, and one of the main reasons why we chose this cruise line and this specific cruise. The few children aboard were fairly well behaved.
At this stage of the game, we’ve been to most of the islands at least once. On the second sea day we had pre-paid for a behind-the-scenes all access tour of the ship. Our tour guide John was part of the Excursion Desk staff and gave us a superb insight into the inner-workings of the entire ship. We were provided with Bluetooth earpieces to hear our tour guide, John, quite clearly. That was a welcomed addition and made for a much more understandable tour over the hustle and bustle of the galleys. We were brought inside the main dining room galleys and saw the evening’s meals being prepared. We also went into the “stores” area where all the pallets of dry goods were stored. We also were brought into the recycling area and then into the ship’s laundry. From there we went to one of the ship’s engine control rooms to see it in operation and how the azipods and engines were controlled. Then it was a walk down “I-95”, the main service corridor on deck 2 for the staff and then up to the bridge to see the how the ship is controlled. Overall it was an amazing tour and well worth the price, even for a seasoned cruiser.
We were invited to the helipad for our arrival in Barbados. It was interesting to see the docking maneuvers and how precise the steering and speed of the ship can be controlled. The island tours we took were all pretty much the same. Since we were in Barbados on a Sunday most of the town was closed except for the port shopping which was basically uneventful. While in St. Lucia we took the island experience tour which was quite interesting. Upon returning to the ship our tour bus was struck almost head-on by a car in Castries, about ½ mile from the ship. The local police, fire and EMS all responded and did minor triage at the scene which was right in front of their courthouse. Fortunately no one was seriously injured – just bumps and bruises with a few minor cuts and abrasions, although our tour guide and bus driver were transported to the local hospital for treatment. Since it was a ship-sponsored tour we were somehow able to have the ship notified of the accident and were met by the excursion manager at the dock and we were all escorted through security and checked out by their medical staff upon returning to the ship. The ship’s staff took exceptionally good care of us in their medical center. What surprised us was how fast word got around the ship that one of the excursions was involved in a crash. When we were asked a few times if we had heard about the crash to which my response was “uhhh, yeah, that was us!”
Debarkation was probably one of the fastest we’ve had and for all intents and purposes just kept on walking once our number was called to proceed off the ship, not even stopping for customs. Customs forms were not required and the only pause was very slight while carding out for the final time.
SUMMARY AND COMMENTARY
To sum up this experience, it was probably the best cruise we’ve taken to date, and one of the best vacations we’ve ever taken. A lot of this has to do with the people we traveled with courtesy of Cruise Critic, and especially our table-mates for dinner as well as the overall shipboard experience. Celebrity definitely has their act together and I hope they keep doing what they do best. All things considered, even with this our second Celebrity cruise, and on the same ship and stateroom we had on last year’s cruise, we did not raise our expectations. However, our expectations were exceeded almost as soon as we arrived at the Celebrity terminal at the pier and they continued to be exceeded almost every day and in every way. As noted above, we’ve already booked another Celebrity cruise for next year on a sister ship, the Solstice out of Seattle.
Weather and Ship’s Safety 5.0
FLL Airport Experience 4.5
Dining Room Waitstaff 4.5
Excursion Desk 5.0+
Shore Excursions 4.5
Future Cruise Desk 4.5
Ship’s Entertainment 3.0
Ship’s Cleanliness 5.0+
Ship’s Staff 5.0
On Board shopping 4.3
Children (lack of) 4.0
Included in main review.
Given the condition of the seas, this tour should never have left the dock, or the operator should have picked a calmer area to dive in.View All 12 Scuba Diving Reviews
This was a very interesting excursion and our tour bus driver and guide were very attentive. Unfortunately we literally came to a "crashing halt" 1/2 mile from the ship upon our return and fortunately no one was seriously injured.View All 300 Island Tour Reviews
Interesting tour, but the only complaint was while the tourguide was pointing out the sights, it would have been nice if the bus stopped for 30 seconds to allow us to take photos.View All 194 Island Tour Reviews
The highlight of this island was being on the bow of the ship during docking manouvers. Other than that with the island mosly closed due it being a Sunday, there wasn't much to do or see. having been there previously, we basically stayed in the port area.
We stayed pretty much to the downtown area and stimulated the local economy! We would have like to have gone back to Maho Beach but just weren't up to it due to the previous day's bus crash.