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Celebrity Equinox Review Jan. 21 – Feb. 1, 2016 Cabin 9358 EMBARKATION Quick and easy. Arrived at Terminal 18 at Port Everglades at 10:45 AM and we were boarding the ship at 11:10. By far one of the best embarkations ever. Terminal 18 is the best place to embark a ship. It’s built to handle and process crowds quickly. We were welcomed with the traditional champagne, mimosa or orange juice (a nice Celebrity touch). We were cruising with 12 others. CABIN We were in an aft concierge cabin on deck 9. Solstice class cabins are my favorite at sea. Our cabin was in great shape for the most part. The deck furniture is showing some serious wear and tear. Chair arms are in need of varnish, the finishing on the foot stools is peeling off and the chair seating is starting to fray. But other than this the cabin was in terrific shape. Our cabin attendants, Selvino and Valentino were wonderful. We didn’t have many requests for the few times we needed something their response was very quick. They kept our cabin spotless! SHIP CONDITION Overall, Equinox is in stellar shape. She is well cared for and cleaned constantly and it shows. It’s not easy keeping ships of this size in outstanding shape. Crew works tirelessly to keep her clean and beautiful. We love the S-class ships. While they are mostly similar ships, Equinox remains among our favorite of all. FOOD & BEVERAGE The first thing I did when we boarded was went to make specialty dining reservations. All 14 in our group were purchasing the 3-night dining package so I knew it was important to do this immediately. I ventured back to Tuscan Grill where Goran took great care of us. Within 15 minutes I had booked all three restaurants on the evenings and times I wanted for all 14 in our group. Since all of us had a great onboard credit, booking the 3-night package was a good use of some of the credit. We were all surprised to discover that Silk Harvest was our favorite specialty restaurant of the cruise. I think everyone in our group of 14 agreed on this. In Murano we were at two tables with two different waiters. Our table had Mariana who was superb. When the sommelier was not available to pour wine, she stepped in and did it. Our other table was unable to get drinks and ended up going out to the Ensemble Lounge bar to get their own drinks. A very similar situation happened when we dined in Tuscan Grill. Our end of the table was served drinks quickly initially while folks at the other end of the table were never asked for drink orders. Bar service the rest of the meal was slow to non-existent for our entire table. The entire staff in Tuscan seemed a bit harried throughout the night. The food in all the Specialty restaurants was good but the food and service in Silk Harvest definitely stood out as the best among the three. We ate in the dining room the other evenings. The food was very good to excellent. My only meal that wasn’t up to par was the evening I chose turkey with stuffing. The turkey was stuffed with a sausage so there was actually very little turkey and the bread stuffing on the side was about the size of a tablespoon. It was odd as this was typically a good choice on past cruises. The second formal night menu (I know it’s now called Evening Chic…more on that later) was a traditional great formal night menu….beef wellington, lobster tail, rack of lamb and duck ala orange. Everyone enjoyed this meal very much. Our wait staff (Marius, Antonnine and Vladimir) were wonderful. We looked forward to our evening dining each night. ENTERTAINMENT There was a nice mix of live entertainment onboard. The house band “Take Five” was very good and had the crowd dancing when they were in the Sky Lounge for late night music. Southern Blue, the jazz quartet that we listened to nightly in the Ensemble Lounge was outstanding. These young ladies can play! The guitar duo, Tea for Two were OK. Some songs sounded really good; others sounded terribly off key. The shows we attended in the theater were also very good. Jason Bishop, the magician, did amazing illusion tricks while also being very funny. The Beatles tribute band was fun and comedian Wayne Cotter was funny (as a comedian should be). The Liars Club featuring the captain, cruise director and comedian was hysterical. While we had seen the “words” they were describing on previous cruises, but the back and forth banter among the three “liars” made for a very funny show. CHIC ENVIRONMENT This much talked about change to Celebrity’s dress code was interesting to observe on this cruise. While a handful of people dressed down on “evening chic” nights, there was still a large number of people who dressed like they did on traditional formal nights. There were still some tuxes and gowns and by and large there were a lot of suits or sports coats and ties on gentlemen and cocktail attire on women. I actually didn’t feel there was much difference in the atmosphere from the past. There wasn’t a drastic downgrade in attire in my opinion. I think the toughest thing for people is trying to figure out just what “evening chic” really means. I say, don’t worry about it. Dress the way you feel comfortable and enjoy the evenings. I saw a lot of wonderfully dressed folks on this cruise. CREW There is no question…the crew on board Equinox were much happier than the crew on Reflection two months ago. They smiled, were friendly, helpful and seemed to enjoy their jobs. The difference was so noticeable. Several crew members told us how much they love Capt. Leo and Hotel Director Christophe. Whatever they are doing for the crew needs to be done fleet wide. It definitely works and makes a different on Equinox. Staff that regularly made our days enjoyable were K from the cruise activities staff that hosted trivia daily. I’ve been on a lot of Celebrity cruises (nearly 30 now) and he was by far the best, funniest and efficient (yes, I said efficient) trivia host we’ve had. I definitely see K being promoted to a cruise director someday soon. I hope Celebrity sees that, too. Alejandro, the current cruise director on Equinox, does a great job, too. We’ve sailed with him before and he is genuine and funny. Our cabin attendants, Valentino and Selvino took perfect care of our stateroom. There is a definite noticeable cutback in the number of bar servers (I’ve noticed this over the past 18 months, too). In nearly all bar areas, you often had to go to the bar to get a drink instead of bar servers taking orders and serving you. We often met up with some of those traveling with us for Sailaway or pre-dinner drinks in Ensemble or the Gastro Pub. While there were bar servers and occasionally we’d be served, more often than not, we had to go to the bar to get drinks. The drink packages have definitely changed the way bar service is delivered. In some ways, it nice that you aren’t being asked all the time if you want a drink. On the other hand, sometimes it would be nice if there was a bar server around more often to take a drink order. SOUND LEVEL I have been complaining about the over-the-top loud music on Celebrity ships for the past 18 months. It was one of the things that made us start looking at other cruising options for the future. The level on Equinox was far more “reasonable” and one evening when it was overly loud in Ensemble, the crew kindly turned it down a bit. I didn’t notice any rap music blaring on the pool deck and only heard it when we walked through the Martini bar. Definitely an improvement on Equinox this time around. Let’s hope it stays that way. PORTS OF CALL We have been to all of the ports on this itinerary several times. But when you travel with those who are new to ports, it’s fun to show them places we love and explore new places on familiar islands. This cruise, we did two Celebrity excursions. We normally don’t do that but with a big group, sometimes it’s easier to go this route. The first was using the ship’s ferry to St. John for the day. It’s cost effective (about the same cost if you do it on your own) and offers the convenience of being picked up at the pier where the ship docks – kind of. While we docked in Havensight, we were the third ship at the very end of the long pier. For a simple excursion, it was extremely disorganized. First, our ticket said “meet on the pier at 9:30.” When we walked off the ship, there was nothing indicating where shore excursions were to meet. It took a few minutes to make our way through people to find a three foot tall sign on the ground that said “shore excursions meet here.” Very tough to see with so many people around. But what happened next was a serious problem. We were informed we needed to walk about ¾ of a mile to the ferry. While I didn’t mind at all, we did have some in our group and many on the excursion that had difficulty walking this far. Nothing on our ticket nor information indicated that it would be a long walk to the ferry. Celebrity claimed they didn’t know we would be docked so far out so they hadn’t made arrangements for shuttles for those who had difficulty walking. We were actually in port for more than 90 minutes before our scheduled meeting time. Things happen and it’s how you react that makes the difference. This isn’t the first time Celebrity has docked in this position at Havensight. They should have been able to arrange for some type of shuttle service. They must have got the message because there was a shuttle (golf cart type that held about ten people) when we returned in the afternoon. The day on St. John was wonderful as usual. I hired a safari taxi that spent the day with our group driving along the beautiful north shore beaches and onto Coral Bay where we enjoyed lunch at Shipwreck Landing (a favorite hangout of ours). We returned to Cruz Bay where the guys enjoyed drinks at Woody’s and the girls headed to Mongoose Junction for some great jewelry shopping at Caravan Gallery. Our other Celebrity excursion was in St. Maarten. We overnighted here and enjoyed a catamaran trip the next morning on Golden Eagle. Great crew and boat. There was only about 20 or so on the trip so there was plenty of space on board. There was one snorkel stop (not great snorkeling according to those who tried) and a beach stop. Lots of run punch and great sandwiches were included. Loved chatting with the crew and would recommend this excursion. The evening before we asked the owner of the liquor store we normally visit (Gulmohar’s http://www.gulmoharsxm.com/) for a restaurant recommendation. She sent us to L’Auberge Gourmande (http://www.laubergegourmande.com/) in Grand Case. The food was amazing. From the French Onion Soup to the fish selections and filet, everyone raved about their meal. I originally wasn’t wild about overnighting in a port but this meal made it worthwhile. In St. Kitts, we booked with Thenford Grey and headed to Nevis (http://www.thenfordgreytours.com/). We took the public ferry to Nevis where we were met by our guide. We started with a visit to the Hermitage Plantation, an adorable resort made up of small cottages with a pretty view of the ocean. We also visited Montpelier Plantation and Nesbit Plantation. All three were interesting and different from one another. We had a very nice day touring the island (hadn’t been there before). In Barbados we toured with Carson Moore. Stopped at my favorite pottery place, Earthworks (www.earthworks-pottery.com), and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Atlantis Hotel (http://www.atlantishotelbarbados.com/) at Bathseba. While it was a little on the pricy side ($35 per person), the location was beautiful and food was great! SHIP DEMOGRAPHICS This was definitely an older crowd. Ten night and longer cruises generally appeal to an older crowd. This cruise was no exception. I’m almost wondering if the answer for us and cruising Celebrity is to cruise the longer cruises. It was much more like the Celebrity we know and love. Knowing the demographics of sailings and adjusting activities, music, etc to appeal to that crowd is important. It didn’t take much to figure out that the demographics on this sailing weren’t into rap music. I think Celebrity would do well to pay attention to who is sailing on their ships and appeal to the things they want and enjoy. THE LITTLE THINGS There were some noticeable little nice touches that we saw on this cruise. • Wait staff walking around the Oceanview Café and outdoor seating area with trays of pastries. • Michael, one of the waiters that works the Oceanview Café in the morning would push his coffee cart while signing and greeting passengers. His smile and friendliness made you feel good. • The barrage of wasted advertisements that were constantly being stuff in our door have stopped. There is now one sheet of paper inserted into the Celebrity Today each evening that has combined all the advertisements into one. Great way to save paper and ink and not constantly giving us ten sheets of separate ads per day that we simply threw away. FINAL COMMENTS We were much happier with our Celebrity cruise experience on Equinox than we were in November on Reflection. While we currently don’t have another Celebrity cruise booked, I feel much better that the cruise line we love most still had much of the best of Celebrity on board Equinox. Maybe we’ll just book longer cruises on Celebrity ships in the future!

Equinox Delivers Great Vacation

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by Host Anne

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Trip Details
Celebrity Equinox Review

Jan. 21 – Feb. 1, 2016

Cabin 9358

EMBARKATION

Quick and easy. Arrived at Terminal 18 at Port Everglades at 10:45 AM and we were boarding the ship at 11:10. By far one of the best embarkations ever. Terminal 18 is the best place to embark a ship. It’s built to handle and process crowds quickly.

We were welcomed with the traditional champagne, mimosa or orange juice (a nice Celebrity touch). We were cruising with 12 others.

CABIN

We were in an aft concierge cabin on deck 9. Solstice class cabins are my favorite at sea. Our cabin was in great shape for the most part. The deck furniture is showing some serious wear and tear. Chair arms are in need of varnish, the finishing on the foot stools is peeling off and the chair seating is starting to fray. But other than this the cabin was in terrific shape.

Our cabin attendants, Selvino and Valentino were wonderful. We didn’t have many requests for the few times we needed something their response was very quick. They kept our cabin spotless!

SHIP CONDITION

Overall, Equinox is in stellar shape. She is well cared for and cleaned constantly and it shows. It’s not easy keeping ships of this size in outstanding shape. Crew works tirelessly to keep her clean and beautiful. We love the S-class ships. While they are mostly similar ships, Equinox remains among our favorite of all.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

The first thing I did when we boarded was went to make specialty dining reservations. All 14 in our group were purchasing the 3-night dining package so I knew it was important to do this immediately. I ventured back to Tuscan Grill where Goran took great care of us. Within 15 minutes I had booked all three restaurants on the evenings and times I wanted for all 14 in our group. Since all of us had a great onboard credit, booking the 3-night package was a good use of some of the credit.

We were all surprised to discover that Silk Harvest was our favorite specialty restaurant of the cruise. I think everyone in our group of 14 agreed on this. In Murano we were at two tables with two different waiters. Our table had Mariana who was superb. When the sommelier was not available to pour wine, she stepped in and did it. Our other table was unable to get drinks and ended up going out to the Ensemble Lounge bar to get their own drinks. A very similar situation happened when we dined in Tuscan Grill. Our end of the table was served drinks quickly initially while folks at the other end of the table were never asked for drink orders. Bar service the rest of the meal was slow to non-existent for our entire table. The entire staff in Tuscan seemed a bit harried throughout the night. The food in all the Specialty restaurants was good but the food and service in Silk Harvest definitely stood out as the best among the three.

We ate in the dining room the other evenings. The food was very good to excellent. My only meal that wasn’t up to par was the evening I chose turkey with stuffing. The turkey was stuffed with a sausage so there was actually very little turkey and the bread stuffing on the side was about the size of a tablespoon. It was odd as this was typically a good choice on past cruises. The second formal night menu (I know it’s now called Evening Chic…more on that later) was a traditional great formal night menu….beef wellington, lobster tail, rack of lamb and duck ala orange. Everyone enjoyed this meal very much.

Our wait staff (Marius, Antonnine and Vladimir) were wonderful. We looked forward to our evening dining each night.

ENTERTAINMENT

There was a nice mix of live entertainment onboard. The house band “Take Five” was very good and had the crowd dancing when they were in the Sky Lounge for late night music. Southern Blue, the jazz quartet that we listened to nightly in the Ensemble Lounge was outstanding. These young ladies can play! The guitar duo, Tea for Two were OK. Some songs sounded really good; others sounded terribly off key.

The shows we attended in the theater were also very good. Jason Bishop, the magician, did amazing illusion tricks while also being very funny. The Beatles tribute band was fun and comedian Wayne Cotter was funny (as a comedian should be). The Liars Club featuring the captain, cruise director and comedian was hysterical. While we had seen the “words” they were describing on previous cruises, but the back and forth banter among the three “liars” made for a very funny show.

CHIC ENVIRONMENT

This much talked about change to Celebrity’s dress code was interesting to observe on this cruise. While a handful of people dressed down on “evening chic” nights, there was still a large number of people who dressed like they did on traditional formal nights. There were still some tuxes and gowns and by and large there were a lot of suits or sports coats and ties on gentlemen and cocktail attire on women. I actually didn’t feel there was much difference in the atmosphere from the past. There wasn’t a drastic downgrade in attire in my opinion. I think the toughest thing for people is trying to figure out just what “evening chic” really means. I say, don’t worry about it. Dress the way you feel comfortable and enjoy the evenings. I saw a lot of wonderfully dressed folks on this cruise.

CREW

There is no question…the crew on board Equinox were much happier than the crew on Reflection two months ago. They smiled, were friendly, helpful and seemed to enjoy their jobs. The difference was so noticeable. Several crew members told us how much they love Capt. Leo and Hotel Director Christophe. Whatever they are doing for the crew needs to be done fleet wide. It definitely works and makes a different on Equinox.

Staff that regularly made our days enjoyable were K from the cruise activities staff that hosted trivia daily. I’ve been on a lot of Celebrity cruises (nearly 30 now) and he was by far the best, funniest and efficient (yes, I said efficient) trivia host we’ve had. I definitely see K being promoted to a cruise director someday soon. I hope Celebrity sees that, too. Alejandro, the current cruise director on Equinox, does a great job, too. We’ve sailed with him before and he is genuine and funny.

Our cabin attendants, Valentino and Selvino took perfect care of our stateroom.

There is a definite noticeable cutback in the number of bar servers (I’ve noticed this over the past 18 months, too). In nearly all bar areas, you often had to go to the bar to get a drink instead of bar servers taking orders and serving you. We often met up with some of those traveling with us for Sailaway or pre-dinner drinks in Ensemble or the Gastro Pub. While there were bar servers and occasionally we’d be served, more often than not, we had to go to the bar to get drinks. The drink packages have definitely changed the way bar service is delivered. In some ways, it nice that you aren’t being asked all the time if you want a drink. On the other hand, sometimes it would be nice if there was a bar server around more often to take a drink order.

SOUND LEVEL

I have been complaining about the over-the-top loud music on Celebrity ships for the past 18 months. It was one of the things that made us start looking at other cruising options for the future. The level on Equinox was far more “reasonable” and one evening when it was overly loud in Ensemble, the crew kindly turned it down a bit. I didn’t notice any rap music blaring on the pool deck and only heard it when we walked through the Martini bar. Definitely an improvement on Equinox this time around. Let’s hope it stays that way.

PORTS OF CALL

We have been to all of the ports on this itinerary several times. But when you travel with those who are new to ports, it’s fun to show them places we love and explore new places on familiar islands.

This cruise, we did two Celebrity excursions. We normally don’t do that but with a big group, sometimes it’s easier to go this route.

The first was using the ship’s ferry to St. John for the day. It’s cost effective (about the same cost if you do it on your own) and offers the convenience of being picked up at the pier where the ship docks – kind of. While we docked in Havensight, we were the third ship at the very end of the long pier. For a simple excursion, it was extremely disorganized. First, our ticket said “meet on the pier at 9:30.” When we walked off the ship, there was nothing indicating where shore excursions were to meet. It took a few minutes to make our way through people to find a three foot tall sign on the ground that said “shore excursions meet here.” Very tough to see with so many people around.

But what happened next was a serious problem. We were informed we needed to walk about ¾ of a mile to the ferry. While I didn’t mind at all, we did have some in our group and many on the excursion that had difficulty walking this far. Nothing on our ticket nor information indicated that it would be a long walk to the ferry. Celebrity claimed they didn’t know we would be docked so far out so they hadn’t made arrangements for shuttles for those who had difficulty walking. We were actually in port for more than 90 minutes before our scheduled meeting time. Things happen and it’s how you react that makes the difference. This isn’t the first time Celebrity has docked in this position at Havensight. They should have been able to arrange for some type of shuttle service. They must have got the message because there was a shuttle (golf cart type that held about ten people) when we returned in the afternoon.

The day on St. John was wonderful as usual. I hired a safari taxi that spent the day with our group driving along the beautiful north shore beaches and onto Coral Bay where we enjoyed lunch at Shipwreck Landing (a favorite hangout of ours). We returned to Cruz Bay where the guys enjoyed drinks at Woody’s and the girls headed to Mongoose Junction for some great jewelry shopping at Caravan Gallery.

Our other Celebrity excursion was in St. Maarten. We overnighted here and enjoyed a catamaran trip the next morning on Golden Eagle. Great crew and boat. There was only about 20 or so on the trip so there was plenty of space on board. There was one snorkel stop (not great snorkeling according to those who tried) and a beach stop. Lots of run punch and great sandwiches were included. Loved chatting with the crew and would recommend this excursion.

The evening before we asked the owner of the liquor store we normally visit (Gulmohar’s http://www.gulmoharsxm.com/) for a restaurant recommendation. She sent us to L’Auberge Gourmande (http://www.laubergegourmande.com/) in Grand Case. The food was amazing. From the French Onion Soup to the fish selections and filet, everyone raved about their meal. I originally wasn’t wild about overnighting in a port but this meal made it worthwhile.

In St. Kitts, we booked with Thenford Grey and headed to Nevis (http://www.thenfordgreytours.com/). We took the public ferry to Nevis where we were met by our guide. We started with a visit to the Hermitage Plantation, an adorable resort made up of small cottages with a pretty view of the ocean. We also visited Montpelier Plantation and Nesbit Plantation. All three were interesting and different from one another. We had a very nice day touring the island (hadn’t been there before).

In Barbados we toured with Carson Moore. Stopped at my favorite pottery place, Earthworks (www.earthworks-pottery.com), and enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Atlantis Hotel (http://www.atlantishotelbarbados.com/) at Bathseba. While it was a little on the pricy side ($35 per person), the location was beautiful and food was great!

SHIP DEMOGRAPHICS

This was definitely an older crowd. Ten night and longer cruises generally appeal to an older crowd. This cruise was no exception. I’m almost wondering if the answer for us and cruising Celebrity is to cruise the longer cruises. It was much more like the Celebrity we know and love. Knowing the demographics of sailings and adjusting activities, music, etc to appeal to that crowd is important. It didn’t take much to figure out that the demographics on this sailing weren’t into rap music. I think Celebrity would do well to pay attention to who is sailing on their ships and appeal to the things they want and enjoy.


THE LITTLE THINGS

There were some noticeable little nice touches that we saw on this cruise.

• Wait staff walking around the Oceanview Café and outdoor seating area with trays of pastries.

• Michael, one of the waiters that works the Oceanview Café in the morning would push his coffee cart while signing and greeting passengers. His smile and friendliness made you feel good.

• The barrage of wasted advertisements that were constantly being stuff in our door have stopped. There is now one sheet of paper inserted into the Celebrity Today each evening that has combined all the advertisements into one. Great way to save paper and ink and not constantly giving us ten sheets of separate ads per day that we simply threw away.

FINAL COMMENTS

We were much happier with our Celebrity cruise experience on Equinox than we were in November on Reflection. While we currently don’t have another Celebrity cruise booked, I feel much better that the cruise line we love most still had much of the best of Celebrity on board Equinox. Maybe we’ll just book longer cruises on Celebrity ships in the future!
Host Anne’s Full Rating Summary
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Embarkation
Dining
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Shore Excursions
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