A Return to the Celebrity Equinox

Celebrity Equinox
Photo By: Jeremy T. Hetzel (Creative Commons)

After a very stressful encounter with US Immigration at Miami, and I have to say it takes a special kind of bully to treat people with such contempt and disregard knowing they are unable to say or do anything about it.  Our American friends reassured us that they receive the same treatment.  Shame these officials seem to forget we are tourists and visitors to the States and not criminals.  Anyway, rant over, we had a restful 24 hours in beautiful Fort Lauderdale at the Gallery One Doubletree Hotel, and if you have a few spare hours in Fort Lauderdale, it’s well worth spending a couple of relaxing hours on the inter-coastal waterway on the narrated water taxi ride.  We then embarked on the Celebrity Equinox for our second cruise on this particular ship.  Although we have completed over forty cruises, this was our first Transatlantic crossing.

The embarkation process at Fort Lauderdale was hassle free, speedy and efficient, and as is often the case, we did not have to wait too long before our cabin was ready.

Just like on our previous journey on this ship, the cabin was clean and well decorated, but there are still not enough drawers in the room.  We had a concierge balcony cabin this time, as keen football fans, we were relieved to see there was a Sky Sports news channel on the to.  We  are trying to speed up the process of obtaining Elite Plus within Celebrity’s Loyalty programme.

Whilst I am on the subject of Celebrity’s generous loyalty programme, we were concerned to hear that due  to the large number of Elite and above Captain’s Club members on this crossing, there would not be the usual two-hour daily gathering, instead there would be a voucher system enabling members to get three complimentary drinks.  As it turned out, this didn’t have the negative impact we were worried about as many members still met in the Skyview Lounge.  But it does leave us wondering, how Celebrity will cope in the future with the growing membership of their loyalty programme which surely must be one of the best in the industry.  Presumably at some point Celebrity are going to have a capacity problem.

I guess at this point I should mention the itinerary for this cruise across the Atlantic which involved stops at Ponta Delgada In the Azores, Lisbon in Portugal, Cadiz, Malaga, Alicante and Barcelona in Spain for disembarkation.

One thing that we unexpectedly found hard, and, maybe it’s an age thing, was the amount of times we had to put the clocks forward.  Five times over the course of one cruise is the most we have ever done!  Obviously this is a consequence of crossing the Atlantic, nevertheless we did find it tougher than expected.

We never thought it would be possible to recreate the ambience that the smaller ships possess, but they seem to have cracked it on the Equinox.  As far as we are concerned, the interaction with staff can make or break a cruise, everybody on the Equinox was so friendly, and the staff on guest relations were some of  the best we have ever encountered.  As usual the staff in the main dining room were friendly and accommodating, but even the staff in the buffet were happy and smiley,which in our experience is not always the case.

Last time we were on board the Equinox I criticised the officers for not being very visible, sadly this is still the case with some of the senior officers,  but happily there were plenty of friendly junior officers often around in the Skyview Lounge,  who always took the time to come and talk to us, something that we really appreciate.

Just a couple of gripes and they are my usual ones. The food can be a bit boring and repetitive, unless you want to pay for specialist dining, where the food was of an extremely high standard.  As usual, the spa treatments were grossly over priced.  I often wonder if the agencies that run these spas, have the outdated opinion that only rich people cruise.  Happily those days have long gone.  However it did seem to us that there were more discounted offers on this cruise, although personally they still did not represent value for money for us.

As regards the ship itself as you would expect, it was clean and in good  decorative order, and unusually there were no roped off areas.

Having previously visited some of the ports of call on this cruise, we only booked two of the ship’s excursions, and one of them was transportation to the beautiful city of Seville, where we were given three hours to explore independently.  Obviously this was nowhere near enough time, and we intend to go back for a couple of days in the future, but we recommend if time is limited, you should take in the views at Metropol Parasol, because you can wait a long time in line at Torre Giralda, and you should also visit Plaza de España with its beautiful buildings and grounds.

Our other excursion was a city tour  with tapas and wine tasting at three venues in Malaga, which we thought was fair  value for money and great fun.

We love Lisbon and Cadiz which we explored independently and believe both of these cities are well worth a visit.

Unusually, we disembarked the Equinox a day early in Alicante, purely because we have a house only an hour away, so it made no sense to carry on to Barcelona, and then have to fly back, particularly as we have been there before and will be again.

Normally I would offer an appraisal of the gym, but for the first time ever on a cruise, I spent very little time in there as I am having surgery on my shoulder when we return to the UK, but from a brief visit I can only repeat what I said on my last review of the Equinox,the gym is large, clean and very ell equipped.  I should also mention there were a lot of outdoor classes including Zumba which seemed very well attended again unfortunately because of a painful shoulder I was unable  to participate.

Generally there seemed to be a lot more activities and entertainment on this ship, presumably because it was a transatlantic crossing with lots of sea days, there were even matinee shows in the afternoon.  We didn’t go to many shows but enjoyed the ones we did and from what we heard from fellow passengers, the shows we missed were of a high standard too.

In summary

We thoroughly enjoyed this transatlantic cruise, and after two sailings on the Equinox, after the first I said this ship lacked character, which I would not say now, we have grown to appreciate this ship, so much so that we shall complete the reverse transatlantic in October, and stay on for a back to back.

Generally the staff were helpful and friendly as were the junior officers we met.  Once again, thanks to the Captain’s Club, all be it unofficial on this cruise, we have met and made some new friends from across the pond in the US, just like the ones we cruised with on this occasion, friends we met in the Captain’s a club four years ago.

We are big fans of Celebrity, we always feel we are returning to extended family when we cruise with them.  We only wish the staff in the offices of Celebrity UK were as friendly and helpful as their colleagues on board ship, but that’s another story.