Good Cruise, a lot to like, but after 4 sails on the Solstice Class Ships, Celebrity is getting stale.
CRUISE SHIP: Celebrity Equinox
OCCUPANCY: 2,850 (double occupancy).
PORT & ITINERARY: Ft. Lauderdale, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Antiqua, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Ft. Lauderdale
WEBSITE: Celebrity Cruises
CABIN: 1625 (Aqua Class)
We’re 53 years old, married 23 years. For cuisine, I eat everything and my wife is a pescatarian (vegetarian and seafood). This is our 13th cruise overall, fourth on Celebrity and second on Equinox. In addition to Celebrity we’ve sailed Princess, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Holland America and NCL. We'll be sailing Virgin Voyages in 2020.
As you read through this you might think some areas are negative, but you’re paying good money to go on your cruise so I like to give a true sense of what everything was like for us. It’s very difficult to have a “bad cruise” because after all, you’re on a cruise ship being pampered day and night by the crew.
The main difference between cruises is the level of service from the crew, the amount and types of activities, and the quality of the food as you compare ships. It’s primarily the level of service from the crews that make each ship experience unique and what ultimately ensures you have a great cruise.
I’m arranging this review by topic such as Embarkation, Ship, Dining, Excursions instead of by day so you can read everything about a topic at once. At the end of this review is a “Quick Tips” section for first time Celebrity Cruisers followed by the Excursions.
PRE-CRUISE HOTEL We always come into a port at least one day early to ensure no surprises getting to the ship. For this trip we returned to the Embassy Suites 17th Street. We’ve stayed there at a few times because while it’s dated, it is convenient to a shopping center that includes a Publix supermarket and several decent restaurants. The rooms are generously large as the hotel is older. But the hotel is not really that well cared for and at this point, we’re done with this hotel especially since we finally discovered the ease of the Water Taxi on this last trip. The Water Taxi is inexpensive for an all-day pass and it drops you off at Los Olas Blvd. and other locations around Ft. Lauderdale as well as having a leg that goes to Hollywood. There is a Hilton Marina hotel just down 17th street from the Embassy Suites that has a Water Taxi stop right outside. The Taxi runs till 10pm so plenty of time to grab dinner and hop a ride back to the hotel.
Admittedly the Hilton does not rate much better than Embassy Suites when you look at the travel sites, but the ease of hopping the Water Taxi to explore the city is more appealing than the shopping center behind Embassy Suites. And if we need to go to the shopping center, it’s about a 15 minute walk up 17th Street.
The Embassy Suites does have a cruise shuttle, but we opted to use Lyft for the ride to the port and it was $14 for a standard Lyft. We had two full sized suitcases, a carry-on piece of luggage and two backpacks. All fit easily into the standard car and we were at the port in less than 15 minutes.
EMBARKATION Embarkation was quite smooth thanks to the newly refurbished Celebrity Cruises Terminal 25 at Port Everglades.
One tip, when you come up the escalator after security, you’ll come into the main waiting room area. Instead of joining the bunched-up crowd at the top of the escalator, head to the far end of the waiting room where there is a second ship entrance. We found it far less crowded over there.
The audio communications in the waiting room were very difficult to understand. Anytime an announcement was made, we had to ask the workers what was being said. Celebrity would do well to install large screen TVs above the ship entrances so we can clearly see who is boarding as they run through the various levels.
We did take advantage of the digital check-in in advance having uploaded our photos so we were able to walk onboard using our boarding pass on our phones. It was such an easy boarding process without the need to stand in lines, get room keys and such. Go straight to the waiting room and then go onboard the ship when our group was called.
Immediately after boarding we were able to drop off our carry-ons in our cabin which was awesome so we could explore the ship without lugging anything around. Our cabin cards (keys) were waiting outside the cabin. A great improvement over waiting until 1pm just to be able to drop stuff off.
THE SHIP This was our fourth time sailing a Solstice Class ship, second time sailing Equinox, with the other two being the Silhouette and Reflection. Equinox differs from the others with the Hollywood Hot Glass show up in the Lawn Club area, formerly the Corning Museum Hot Glass Show.
Equinox went through a partial dry-dock refurbishment in March of this year. All the original planned ‘revolutionized’ changes were not completed due to an issue when a Royal Caribbean ship caused some damage at the original drydock location. Equinox had to be rescheduled for another location across the Atlantic. Due to the change of location and shorter drydock timeframe, some planned changes will not be completed until the second drydock in 2021.
She has a lot of European styling throughout, it evokes the feel of a classic ocean liner with many modern touches. Yes that is real grass up on the Lawn Club, Deck 15. It’s a fun place to gather and they have lawn games like Bocce to play. The Solarium Indoor Pool is one of the nicer indoor pools at sea.
One ‘revolutioned’ addition is the Retreat Sundeck up on Deck 15 forward reserved for Suite guests only. From what we could see there is very little shade up there, it really is a SUN deck.
Two more ‘revolutionized’ additions are the Cabanas and the large screen on the Lawn Club on Deck 15 aft. More on these later.
Aside from those two obvious changes, the only other noticeable change for those who have sailed her before would be the new carpet in Concierge Class and above cabins and the change of Silk Harvest restaurant to Le Petit Chef (at QSine).
The glass elevator areas behind the Grand Foyer on Deck 3 opens all the way up to Deck 15 allowing you to hear the bands and anything else going on all the way to the top of the ship. This is a good and a bad thing. The good is that you can be on any deck and hear the music. The bad is that if you’re just trying to play a game in the Game Room, read in the Library or work in the iLounge, the band sounds like it’s right in the room with you. The sound travels very well. Consider that when looking at the cabins directly adjacent to the rear elevators.
Most everything in terms of food and shops are laid out on Decks 3, 4 and 5. Oceanview Café (buffet) is on Deck 14 as is the Mast Grill and the Aqua Spa Café is in the Solarium Pool area on Deck 12.
CABIN: AQUA CLASS 1625 Our cabin was on Deck 11, Cabin 1625 near the aft of the ship on the port side. This cabin is part of the Aqua Class. We usually try to book an aft cabin because the vibrations from the engines helps us sleep though the vibrations were barely noticeable inside the cabin. Cabin 1625 was also very convenient to the aft stairs and elevators just a short walk away. Just one set of stairs up to the pool deck and two sets of stairs up to the Oceanview Café.
We booked the cruise while onboard the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas. Yes, you can book cruises for both cruise lines while onboard an RCCL or Celebrity ship. We then had the reservation transferred to our Costco Travel Agent. We purchased the basic drink package and when the Premium package went on sale before our cruise, we upgraded to that package. Note that as of October 2019, the drink packages are going up per person. You really have to drink a lot of alcohol or coffee to make that worth it.
The cabin itself is really no different than your standard Veranda room but with some extra perks for being in Aqua Class. Such as breakfast and dinner in the Blu restaurant, flavored iced tea each afternoon, afternoon snacks and the plush robes with slippers and other accessories as well as access to the Persian Gardens in the Spa and one bottle of Champagne. Being up on Deck 11 gave our cabin plenty of protection from the sun and rain thanks to the deck 14 overhang. It was like having an extended awning over our balcony. We heard no noise at all coming from the pool deck as it was not directly above us but in front of us.
The bathroom layout in the Solstice Class ships is among the most efficient of any cruise line. The space allows plenty of room to stand at the sink with the arrangement of the shower and toilet. There are plenty of cabinets and shelf space and even the trash can is tucked away. The Aqua Class provided an enhanced shower with additional body jets to go with the standard overhead shower. The shower controls are really nice with the water pressure and hot/cold controls separated so if you need to turn off the water during your shower, it comes right back on at the same temperature as when you turned it off. The shower is small, but functional and includes sliding glass doors so you don’t have to worry about shower curtains sticking to you during a shower.
Inside the cabin there is a decent-sized closet, but the dresser / drawer space is somewhat limited, just four drawers. A trick learned from a fellow Celebrity traveler is using 12” x 12” collapsible cubes placed in the cabinet above the bed. This cabinet can easily hold 8 of these cubes and we’ll put our underwear, socks, t-shirts and other stuff in there. Note that those cabinets above the bed are scheduled to be removed as part of the revolution so they may disappear after the 2021 drydock.
Another great tip is to get a wall hanging, canvas shoe rack and hang that on the bathroom door. We’ve used that for most every cruise we’ve been on.
Our room steward, Jonathan, was among the best we’ve ever sailed with. His attention to detail and going out of his way to stop what he was doing to unlock our door for us was above and beyond.
POOLS The Equinox has two pools, one outdoor and the Solarium indoor pool.
The main pool on Deck 12 is split into two halves by a walkway over the center. There is covered seating up underneath the Deck 14 walkway on either side. The back of the pool area features some oversized round padded seats and there are some padded loungers tucked between the ‘sails’ on either side of the pool area.
The Solarium indoor pool is air conditioned and features padded loungers on wooden frames. They can be a bit uncomfortable for a long day at the pool and the backs do not come up very high. Reading on these loungers can be a bit more difficult if you like to basically sit up while reading. But it is lovely sitting in cooler comfort vs. baking in the sun.
Pools are open late on Celebrity, as late as 10pm on most days. We enjoy the occasional after dinner soak and swim, the nighttime lighting is especially pretty in the pool area.
COCKTAILS & COFFEE Cafe Al Bacio / Gelateria The Cafe Al Bacio is always very busy due to the normally great coffee and tea drinks they provide. I say ‘normally’ because for the first time in four cruises on Celebrity, the baristas on this cruise were disappointing. They seemed to favor speed over quality of the drinks. Some drinks were lukewarm, I had two cappuccinos that barely filled one third of the cup, Americanos that tasted like they were the last coffee dregs in the pot two hours ago. Actually the coffee flavor overall was much more bitter than on previous cruises, it tasted like they are using a much lower quality coffee blend than in the past.
But there was no consistency and never a really good cup of coffee from this barista crew. Until now this has been a solid go-to coffee spot for me and one of the reasons we go with a drink package since my coffees are included. This cruise, the crew simply wasn’t cutting it and it wasn’t worth the aggravation after a while to be bothered with them. I also noticed that the Mocha drink tasted off and saw that they’re using a chocolate powder instead of chocolate syrup to make it now.
My wife always gets iced tea here as they have a wide variety of teas to choose from. The brand of tea is still the same and they still have the wide variety of flavors.
The Gelateria was quite sad. Nothing like when we first started sailing Celebrity four or five years ago. The inside of the case was always wet with moisture, the gelatos were melting and simply did not look inviting. The gelato sandwiches were especially sad. Not much filling and again they were melting and looked wet from the case. First time sailing Celebrity we skipped this altogether because we didn’t see anything worth paying extra money for. We didn’t even want the free scoop of gelato that came with being in the Captain’s Club.
World Class Bar Most Celebrity reviewers will rave about the Martini Bar and the “show” but we much prefer the World Class Bar on Deck 5. The only place on board where you can get a really good cocktail.
They only make a limited number of cocktails that are displayed in the menus, but they are incredibly delicious. On this cruise, Jay was the master mixologist and continually made the best Old Fashioned for me each night. Note that this is a rum based Old Fashioned, not bourbon or whiskey. My second favorite drink was the Johnnie Walker Citrus Gold. We would have one or two drinks before the 7pm show, then grab another after the show to talk to dinner. If you like a really good drink, sample the World Class Bar.
Slush Bar This was a disappointment for us as Celebrity opted not to open this bar at all during our cruise. It was supposed to be open on Sea Days, but never did. These are essentially alcoholic milkshakes and this was our afternoon treat on the other ships.
Sunset Bar Lovely view looking aft on the ship, often a great place to meet and mingle with other guests as it’s always hopping. They make a decent Margarita on the rocks. Smoke can be prevalent as there is a large smoking section on the Port side.
DINING We never use assigned dining for any of our cruises (except Disney because it’s required) and on this cruise we had the option to use Blu as our main dining room as it comes with the Aqua Class cabins.
Note that on the first night of most sailings, Celebrity offers 30% off specialty dining for that first evening’s meal. You’ll usually find the folks outside the buffet area ready to take your reservation. Also look out for specials as the cruise goes along. For the final four or five nights of our 11-night cruise, they were offering 2 for 1 specials to dine.
BREAKFAST: For breakfast you have four options depending on what you feel like that day. Aqua Spa Café in the Solarium pool area. Oceanview Café (buffet). Main Dining Room (or Blu or Luminae if you’re in those categories). Café Al Bacio (Deck 5)
The buffet and main dining rooms will offer a full breakfast while the Aqua Spa Café offers a healthy alternative and Café Al Bacio offers sweets and continental items.
AQUA SPA CAFE (in the Solarium Pool area, Deck 12 Forward) If you’re in the mood for something light and (yes) healthy, for breakfast, visit the Aqua Spa Café in the Solarium. ANYONE can eat here, it’s not a paid extra for Spa users, all guest onboard can partake of the light fare they offer such as avocado toast, bagels with peanut butter and fruit, fruit plates and breakfast bars. For an additional fee they also make smoothies, fresh pressed juices and a few other items, but the coffee, tea and the items put out each day are free for all guests. If you have the Premium Drink Package the Smoothies are included, I enjoyed the Antioxidant smoothie.
SILHOUETTE DINING ROOM We only had one dinner here when we joined some fellow passengers after an excursion. The service was exceptional as always, but the food was meh. The starters were not bad, but my “rigatoni with prosciutto and crème sauce” was literally devoid of flavor. I could have ordered something else, but my wife was less than enamored with her entrée as well. As I knew this would be only meal in here, we just let it slide as we very much enjoyed the company of new friends.
BLU Restaurant (Aqua Class only) Our first-time having access to this restaurant and we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food, especially the starters. Breakfast here is a combination of traditional eggs and the like along with some healthy choices.
For dinners, we ended up ordering 2 or 3 starters because they sounded, and tasted, so good. The entrees were generally good to incredible. Blu was the most consistently good dining experience we’ve had on Celebrity for a ‘main dining room.’ Hostess Marianna was simply incredible, always smiling and always ready to accommodate our requests. Wayne and the entire staff inside Blu were impeccable in their service from the first meal to the last.
Note that if you are in Aqua Class, the Blu Host can book your reservations for any of the restaurants on board. You can also ask if they are offering any specials for the restaurants.
SUSHI ON 5 Sushi on 5 continues to improve each time we eat there. The rolls are completely on par with some of our regular sushi restaurants at home. First off for a vegetarian, it may not be worth it. Check the menu before you book to see if you even want to eat there. If you eat seafood, there are plenty of options and they are quite good. I honestly can’t remember the rolls as we had two or three of them, but they were all good. This is an ala-carte menu so you pay about US market value for the sushi. We didn’t find it priced much differently than the many sushi restaurants we visit around Atlanta.
TAJ MAHAL INDIAN DINNER This was a special dinner offered one night on the ship and on our sailing it was a $40/pp charge. The dinner was held inside Sushi On 5 and featured an incredible selection of Indian Dishes. The menu will most likely vary with each sailing, but our dinner consisted of samplings from everything on the menu. Anything we wanted more of, they would bring it out. Some of the dishes included Samosas, Dal Tadka, Palak Paneer, Aloo Gobi, Butter Chicken, Hriyali Jhinga with Mango Salad (Shrimp), Murgh Tikka (Chicken), Chicken Cafreal.
We joined another couple to make it a party of four and absolutely LOVED this meal. Celebrity is known for good Indian food in the buffet, but this was a step above what you get there. Well prepared, well seasoned, more spice and kick on a few dishes. So glad we spotted this dinner in our app prior to boarding. Note that as of our sailing, this dinner was only offered on sailings longer than 7 days.
OCEANVIEW CAFE (Buffet and Ice Cream) This is a really good buffet as far as cruise standards go. A quick tip, there is a second Café Al Bacio on the port side of the ship as you enter the Café. Coffee only, they don’t have the specialty teas, but if you want a cappuccino or latte, you can get it right there. It’s also a full service bar.
For breakfast the buffet does not really change. One thing I love at breakfast, and it’s my guilty pleasure on Celebrity, is the Fried Toast in the English Breakfast section. Add a slice of cheese, maybe a slice of ham, place a poached egg on top and you have a great egg on toast.
For lunch and dinner, be sure to walk around the entire buffet at lunch and dinner as those do have some great variations. There can be some unique items are tucked away in a place you might not expect. Celebrity is known for the Indian cuisine in the buffet and it’s quite good. Not as spicy as you might get in a restaurant which makes it a perfect place to explore the cuisine if you’ve never had it. Throughout the cruise they will have theme nights to honor cuisines from Mexico, Italy, India and others.
For the most part, breakfast, lunch and dinner, this buffet really hits the spot with outstanding dishes, with a few misses of course, like the pizza. Their dough still tastes like flour even after its baked.
For salad, they have a very good salad bar, two actually, and most lunches I would put together a nice salad starting out at the salad bar and then adding either cold cuts or some of the hot meats to the top. You can make a great taco salad adding beef, onions and cheese sauce from the Mexican station for example. One day they had wonderful fajita style beef and I laid that on my salad.
One area that you can really see the cutbacks from our first sailing 4 or 5 years ago to today is the cheeses, both in the buffet and all around the ship. Celebrity used to have a wheel of blue cheese out on the buffet for most all lunches and dinners. That was completely absent on this cruise except for the Italian lunch. And the cheeses that were out there, cheddar, provolone and others just didn’t have much flavor. They’re clearly using much cheaper cheeses than they used to and it really shows in the lack of flavor. Small thing I know, but the high-quality cheese is one thing that used to separate Celebrity from the other cruise lines.
The desserts are VERY hit or miss, especially the cakes. They look great but oftentimes don’t have much flavor or they’re dry. One of our favorite desserts were found during “Mexico Day” when they had a dessert bar of churros, tres leches cake and other Mexican desserts. Those were great.
The free ice cream is not bad and you really can’t complain about it because it’s free. 😊
PROGRESSIVE LUNCH: At the time of our sailing, this was $25/pp. This special lunch was served twice on our cruise in the Tuscan Grille where menu options from Tuscan Grille, Murano and Sushi On 5 were offered in a single seating. It was a great way to taste flavors from the various restaurants if you so choose. We had food from all three restaurants and while it was nice sitting right up against the rear windows of the ship, this lunch was ok, but not something you have to do. You might want to save the $25/pp for a dinner or drink.
TUSCAN GRILLE, MURANO, LE PETIT CHEF We did not visit any of these restaurants for dinner while onboard.
Tuscan Grille was disappointing on our last cruise with Equinox, its menu is stale and has not really changed in 4 years so it was a pass for us. The pasta dish we had during the previously mentioned Progressive Lunch was overcooked, which shouldn’t happen in an Italian restaurant.
Murano, again the menu is stale and hasn’t changed in 4 years so we didn’t see the need to spend extra money again for a meal we can easily order at home for much less.
Le Petit Chef (at QSine), which replaced Silk Harvest, has a VERY limited menu because your food has to match the animations. We were not impressed with the menu options and fellow cruisers confirmed the food is not worth the upcharge. We had no desire to pay for a dinner gimmick. I should note that we enjoyed Silk Harvest twice on our previous cruise. We also enjoyed the original QSine concept multiple times on Reflection.
THE CABANAS As part of the revolutionized Equinox, birdcage like Cabanas were added to the Lawn Club on Deck 15. In a word, both the cabanas themselves and their placement are odd. We have paid for cabanas and retreat areas on other cruise lines and in our opinion these were simply not worth paying for.
First, the Cabanas are out in a public area, they are not in an area that requires access to keep out traffic and noise. When we pay for a cabana, we’re looking for a sanctuary away from the noise of the rest of the ship, that’s part of what you’re paying for. These cabanas are next the hot glass classes going on, next to the large movie screen where they show movies during the day, the lawn games are going on to one side and there is traffic continuously moving along the outside of the ship heading to and from the Sunset Bar along with people laying out in the lawn club. So you are literally paying for the privilege to sit inside a birdcage, not the use of a private area.
Both the concept and execution of these particular cabanas was a fail for us to warrant paying for them. Your mileage may vary.
INTERNET and CELEBRITY APP MUCH improved over our last sailing two years ago. I purchased the standard internet package, unlimited use for the entire cruise. The WiFi was reliable across most everywhere on the ship. The main issue was that Celebrity blocked Instagram from working after Day 4 of the cruise. No explanation from the iLounge tech, but both the App and the website were blocked from the Ship’s WiFi on the standard internet package after Day 4. That’s usually how I share photos from my travel so I stopped tagging Celebrity when I posted from ports. Every other app and website worked so long as the address was .com.
The Celebrity App was clearly re-skinned from the Royal Caribbean app and it actually works. You can start using the app in advance of your sailing but you cannot add anything to your Calendar until one day before sailing. Once onboard, you can use the WiFi for free to simply access the App to check schedules and you can send text messages to anyone onboard via the app. Again, you can do this for free, no charge. We found the schedule was completely accurate and some of the restaurants have menus you can review. Celebrity has greatly stepped up their digital game.
HOLLYWOOD HOT GLASS CLASS On our previous sailing this was still the Corning Museum Hot Glass Show. Now it’s run by the Hollywood Hot Glass company out of Florida where you can sign up for 20 minutes classes and make a unique souvenir to take home.
Price of the class varies depending on what you decide to make, there’s a set fee for the class and then an addition feel depending on the item. You can make paperweights, glasses, pumpkins, fish and other assorted items.
We each made tumblers and really enjoyed the process. The instructors do most of the work and you simply have to follow along. You get to choose the colors, blow into the pipe to blow out the glass, use the paddles to flatten out the bottom and so on. All in all a very entertaining and unique experience on a cruise ship. I’d recommend you do it at least once.
LAWN CLUB / CELEBRITY CENTRAL MOVIES As part of the “revolutionized” Equinox, a somewhat large video screen was added to the back of the main Lawn Club area where they show some daytime and nighttime movies. The further you sit back from the screen the better the image. In fact, if you sit on the last row of the Hot Glass Class benches, those are great seats for the movies. Celebrity offers these awkward and barely functional padded loungers on the ground that are supposed to sit up on their own. They were not comfortable at all.
The sound is decent, though they could turn it up a bit louder as the engine rumble does come through from the stacks right behind the movie screen. It is a nice addition, but not nearly as good of an experience as the Movies-At-Sea on Princess.
Celebrity Central looks like it received a much-needed projector upgrade and we enjoyed three movies in there over the course of the cruise. Sound was pretty good so if you want to sit and enjoy a film, it’s a much better experience than it has been in the past.
Note that we had some issues with people vaping during the movies up on the Lawn Club. E-Cigarettes are not permitted in that area of the Lawn Club, but there were no personnel to ask the people to stop. We ended up having to move back to the Glass Show area to watch the movie.
ENTERTAINMENT The worst part of any Celebrity Cruise, in our opinion is the main entertainment in the Equinox Theater. This is no slight to the Celebrity cast and crew as they are all extremely talented. But they are given terrible material to work with.
The original shows honestly feel like someone went to a Cirque du Soleil show and said “Oh I can produce that.” No, no you can’t and you shouldn’t.
First off these shows run forever. Elysium has been on our last three cruises stretching back 3 or 4 years. We have previously reviewed that show as the worst original production show at sea and we’re not alone based on the discussions with our fellow cruisers. Topper started out ok for a few songs, kind of an Alice In Wonderland Meets a Magic Hat kind of vibe, but then we bailed because there is no sense of flow or story. We didn’t bother to attend Life which was offered on the final night of our cruise. Here’s hoping at some point Celebrity can ditch the ‘we’re above everyone else producing high class art’ mentality and get to producing fun entertainment for their cast to perform.
Usually the visiting acts are worth attending, but they were hit or miss on this one.
Uptown was essentially a Motown review with three incredibly talented and energetic singers. A highly entertaining act that involved a lot of audience interaction, comedy and a finale that literally had the entire theater on their feet singing and dancing along. They even did an encore. Easily the best show of the cruise and one of the most entertaining shows we’ve seen at sea.
Singer Savannah Smith was a powerhouse singer and she put on an entertaining show. She had a lot of energy despite a very mellow crowd. She also did a miraculous job staying upright when a portion of the stage started rising too early and she tripped approaching it. All in all an entertaining 45 minutes.
Comedian Rondell Sheridan was brilliantly funny. It almost hurt to watch him at times he was so funny and a perfect comedian on a cruise ship. His barracuda story was simply brilliant. Highly recommend his show if he comes on board your sailing.
Comedian Rich Aronovitch was ok. He had moments of brilliance, but was not consistent. Singer Darren Dowler first showed an awful video to pitch us on how awesome he is, but his first 20 minutes of the show were pretty good. Then he started doing bad impressions and the show went downhill from there.
Donovan and Rebecca are incredibly talented athletes who are a 5-minute act in a larger show, not a 45-minute show on their own. We left after the first song when they started video clips from “America’s Got Talent” to show how awesome they are. Apparently they kept showing MORE videos throughout their act to convince you how awesome they are.
Magician Bobby Borgia got screwed by the very poor audio-visual setup on the Equinox. He was doing up close, sleight of hand tricks in the audience. In order to show that to the theater they used a live roving camera. The video delay was almost 2 seconds from that camera to the video screens. It was completely distracting and unwatchable. It’s also inexecusable. I work in video production and there’s absolutely no reason for a camera hard wired into the house to have that much of a delay. We have less delay with satellite shots from across the globe. We might have enjoyed that show if the audio and video were in sync on the screens. We had to leave after 5 minutes.
The bands and performers around the ship were awesome. On Shuffle in particular was a killer band with a fantastic lead vocalist showcasing a wide range of music styles. The Drift Live duo were also great. The Equinox Orchestra performed a set in the Grand Foyer that was a lot of fun. So if the main theater show doesn’t work for you, you’ll often find great entertainers around the ship.
DISEMBARKATION Incredibly simple. We were Group 13 and were walking off the ship around 8:20am. Once off the ship all we had to do was stand for a facial recognition camera and get our bags. That’s it. No customs, no hassle, just pose and grab the bags.
We picked up a Lyft outside and were at our airline gate at FLL about 9:00am.
I will note we were the only ship in Port Everglades that day so traffic was incredibly simple getting out of the port. If there was a ship at Terminal 21 it would have been much more hectic and slow getting out of there as all traffic has to pass by Terminal 21 on the way out.
WRAP-UP (Excursions below) While there is a lot to like about Celebrity, the four cruises have gotten progressively less enticing than the previous. By that I mean our very first cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette was amazing from entertainment to food to events to staff to the full experience on-board. Reflection was a bit of a let-down from Silhouette and these two cruises on Equinox the cutbacks from Celebrity are starting to show.
We’re paying a premium to sail Celebrity and you expect that step above the others to justify the costs. But with the continuation of really bad theater shows, decline in the coffee service, raising costs of dinner and drink packages and stale menus in the restaurants, we’re taking a pause from Celebrity. When we do sail Celebrity again it’ll be because of a port heavy, interesting itinerary so any shortcomings and repetition on board won’t matter so much. There are so many ships out there that look they have more to offer for what we’re looking for in a vacation so we’re going to do some exploring.
As I always tell my friends, “if you have a bad time on a cruise, you worked really hard at it.” It’s not that we had a bad time on Equinox, it’s just time for us to look for new adventures on other cruise lines. If you sail Equinox tomorrow, you will have a good time and meet some great people, especially at the World Class Bar.
FIRST TIME CELEBRITY CRUISER TIPS I mentioned this earlier in the review, but the Aqua Spa Café in the Solarium pool area (deck 12 Forward) is available for all guests, not just Spa or Aqua Class guests. Great light breakfast and lunch options.
If you don’t want a drink from the bar in the buffet, simply tip over the card on the table with the advertised drinks of the day. That’s how the waiters know there are no drinks needed at this table and they won’t bother you.
The Martini Bar is a great place to relax, read and play games during the day. It’s full of natural light with large, oversized chairs. The bar generally doesn’t open until at least 4pm.
The very last row of the Equinox Theater on both decks has high top chairs with a bar to hold your drinks. We call these “escape seats.” You can see the beginning of any show and if you don’t like it, simply get up and leave without disturbing any of your fellow guests.
A great balcony cabin to consider on the Solstice Class ships is the very last cabin on either side of the ship. These feature an angled balcony that allow you to see down the entire length of the ship forward, great for picture taking or relaxing outside. See Cabins 8341 and 8330 on the Equinox Deck Plans for two examples. These are on most all decks.
I mentioned this earlier in the review, but there are two ship entrances in the Waiting Room of Terminal 25 in Port Everglades. When you reach the top of the escalators, move all the way across to the other side of the waiting room where there is a second ship entrance. We found this far less crowded than the first entrance.
EXCURSIONS We did excursions in St. Thomas, St. Croix, Barbados and St. Lucia. We stayed onboard at Antigua and St. Maarten, though I’ve included some notes about both as we’ve visited them in the past.
ST THOMAS We booked the BOSS submersible adventure through the ship. This is a one-man submersible unit that is essentially a huge diving bell over your head and you ride on an electric scooter underwater. Essentially snorkeling without the need to snorkel. I really enjoyed this as I don’t really snorkel and it was neat to go underwater and see the fish up close. I was admittedly nervous about getting into the unit, but it was actually quite easy to get in and out of the unit in the water.
You get about 20 minutes in the unit and there are 3 or 4 groups of people who go out at a time, up to 50 people total. When you’re not in the BOSS unit, you’re free to lounge on the boat, go for a swim or snorkel. You’ll have about an hour of snorkel time when you’re not in the unit. Captain and crew were awesome, putting everyone at ease in the water and ensuring everyone was comfortable in and out of the units.
My video of the expedition is here.
ST. CROIX Our first time to this island as very few cruise ships stop at this island, only about 40 each year. We booked an independent tour, Taste of Twin City Food Tour to sample some of the local cuisine. This was a fantastic tour led by a wonderful young woman who took us to places we never would have ventured on our own.
If you book this tour, know that you’ll have to catch a taxi from Fredrickstad where the ship docks to Christianstad on the other side of the island, about 30 minutes. There are taxis right inside the port area and when we sailed it was $16/pp round trip for the taxi. The taxi stop was about a 20 minute walk to the tour meeting point.
We sampled food at 4 restaurants, a bakery and a bar. There was nothing ‘scary’ or ‘super spicy’ to worry about, just really good food over the course of about 3 ½ hours. You’ll walk and learn history in between each sample and end up about a block away from where the taxi will take you back to the ship. We really enjoyed this tour, but then we love sampling local cuisine whenever we can.
BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS Here we booked the Mount Gay Rum Tour through the ship. The ‘tour’ part of the day was shortened due to lack of electricity in the distillery, they were installing solar panels that day. But that only meant we got to the rum tasting that much quicker!
We sampled 3 different rums, although really, the same rum, different ages. 3 years old, 10 to 15 years and 20+ years. The guide was very knowledgeable in helping us to taste the rum properly and I purchased a bottle of the Black Barrel rum. This is a good, low excursion type of tour and if you like rum, worth a visit.
One tip, inside the large Barbados Port Terminal building is a small shop called Ahha serving coffee and cold drinks. I had a delicious coconut, chocolate smoothie type of drink from here.
ST. LUCIA If you are prone to motion sickness at all, any driving tour of this island may not be for you. St. Lucia is an endless series of hairpin turns, switchbacks and very tight driving up, down and all around the hills and mountains. You may want to book a sailing or travel to a nearby beach to minimize your time on the roads.
We privately booked a 5 ½ tour through Cosol that included a 1-hour swim / snorkel, banana plantation stop, volcanic mud bath, volcano visit, waterfall visit, lunch, snack and stop at the Governor’s Mansion. While our guide, Bumpy, was awesome, this tour was about 1 hour too long. We were on the road approx.. 2 ½ to 3 hours of this tour, that was a long time to be in the car on those roads. It felt like a lot of driving to say “look at this,” then back in the vehicle to keep driving. Dropping two stops would have helped.
The banana plantation was the first stop and it was really just an excuse to stop by a roadside stand to encourage us to buy something. Yes we got fresh bananas and yes we got a short lesson on how the banana plantations work, but it was really about encouraging us to shop. The next two lookout stops were the same, beautiful views to take photos that happened to be roadside shops where we could get an exclusive discount. The lunch stop was pretty good, we loved the local dogs and cats who were hanging out outside.
Then it was on to the water taxi and our ride to the swim and snorkel stop between the Pitons. The boat ride was quite nice, but the ‘beach area’ for us to use was not exactly relaxing. The lounge chairs were mostly damaged or broken and there weren’t enough of them for everyone on the tour. The water itself was gorgeous, it was nice to swim between the Pitons, the fish were great and we were told by those snorkeling that it was quite nice with the coral. But the actual beach space was not a place you’d want to hang out for a while. The water itself was the highlight of this tour.
After an hour, it was back on the boat to get back in the van and on to the drive through volcano. In the tour literature it reads like you can do the volcanic mud bath and volcano tour. In reality, you have to choose one or the other, we chose to skip the mud bath and do the volcano tour. It was pretty neat seeing an imploded (vs. exploded) volcano sulphur spring that was boiling. Looked like a living National Geographic special happening right in front of you. The people who chose to go to the mud bath said it wasn’t worth it, just so incredibly hot and no shower or spring to rinse yourself off. If you choose to do the tour, you must be in good walking condition, you’ll be walking up and down a steep incline to view the sulphur springs.
The next stop was the waterfall that you can wade out into the catch pool and grab a photo standing directly under the waterfall. It was also a good place to fully rinse yourself of the mud if you did the mud bath.
Back in the car, and instead of traveling directly back to the ship, we returned to the same location as lunch to have a snack of bread and cheese. It was ok, but not worth making a final stop for, we could have just headed straight to the ship. All in all, a very long day and as I said, Bumpy was great, but the tour itself was just too long with too many stops.
ANTIGUA and ST. MAARTEN TIPS In Antigua we enjoyed the Reef Runners tour on a previous cruise. Inflatable small boats, 2 people per boat which you get to drive to a snorkel site. Snorkel for about an hour or so, then drive the boats back to the dock. Really fun and well-done tour.
In St. Maarten be sure to check out That Yoda Guy if you are a Star Wars fan. The owner is one of the artists who worked on the Yoda for the original movies. He has a fun collection of Star Wars stuff in his shop along with items for sale. You can also get Guaveberry and other flavored rums from the Old Man Shops, I recommend the Mango Rum which makes great daquiris when you get home.