Celebrity Cruises Announces Early Debut for Equinox

February 18, 2009

In an increasingly familiar move, Celebrity Cruises has announced that its newest ship -- the 122,000-ton, 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox -- will launch ahead of schedule. The new maiden voyage for the second ship in Celebrity's innovative Solstice class will depart on July 31 rather than August 8 as originally announced. Last year, Equinox's sister ship, Celebrity Solstice, debuted earlier than originally scheduled, miffing many who thought they were booked on the inaugural.

Celebrity Equinox's new inaugural, an eight-night Norwegian Fjords voyage sailing roundtrip from Southampton, will depart on July 31 and visit Stavanger, Flam, Geiranger and Oslo. The original maiden voyage is a 10-night "Grand Europe" cruise visiting Paris (Le Havre), Cherbourg, Vigo, Cartagena, Barcelona and Gibraltar, before ending in Rome (Civitavecchia).

For those flexible with dates, the line is extending an offer to passengers already booked on the August 8 cruise to combine the 10-night "Best of Europe" cruise with the newly announced eight-nighter. Those who book the full 18-night cruise will received onboard credit of $200 per stateroom and $300 per suite.

A Celebrity spokesperson tells us that all passengers booked on the original inaugural have been contacted prior to the announcement and given the opportunity to move to the new eight-night Norwegian Fjords sailing. Any applicable refund (since you may be sailing eight nights rather than 10) will be given back to the passenger.

Inaugural season "expansions" have become the rule rather than the exception. Besides the aforementioned Celebrity Solstice, which debuted three weeks earlier than originally planned, Royal Caribbean revealed in December that it had added two "pre-inaugural" cruises to Oasis of the Seas' schedule. In both cases, some Cruise Critic members voiced discontent; those who couldn't switch to the new “first” sailing felt robbed of the true inaugural experience.

As a sister ship to Celebrity Solstice, Equinox will boast all of the same interesting onboard features. These include The Lawn Club, a dedicated area on the top deck of the ship featuring real, growing grass, where passengers can play croquet or golf; the Hot Glass Show, the first glass blowing studio at sea; large standard staterooms, 85 percent of which will be outfitted with verandahs; Quasar, a mod-futuristic disco; and a selection of 10 restaurants onboard, covering all genres including French, steaks and chops, and Asian-fusion.

Members are already chatting about Equinox's new maiden sailing. Join the discussion here.

--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor

Photo courtesy of Meyer Werft