The thrill of a fantastic cruise deal is a feeling we all love. I could not believe my luck when I found an amazing price on Celebrity Equinox on an incredible Southern itinerary.
Being my first time sailing on Celebrity, I was not sure what to expect. Although medium-sized, the ship was much smaller than the mega-ships I had previously sailed on. And, I was doing this cruise solo.
But the price of $75 price per day, including an ocean view cabin, drink package, basic wi-fi, and gratuities, was too great to pass up.
Here is how my 10 day adventure on my first Celebrity cruise went.
Boarding in Fort Lauderdale was easy, and I was shocked when I was told that I could drop off my carry-on luggage in my cabin until they were ready. I have never encountered this on any other cruise lines, and it was a nice note to start the cruise on.
I peeked in on my bright ocean view cabin, which was compact but well-designed. I immediately decided this would be a great place to hang my hat for the next 10 days. While the crew finished preparing my cabin, I headed up to the top decks to explore the ship. I was also eager to try out my complimentary drink package, which allowed me any drink up to $10.
My first stop was the Oceanview Café, outlined by panoramic windows, and wonderful sea views any time of day. As I wandered around, I immediately noticed a large amount of outdoor lounging space. Gone were the high thrill activities on the pool decks; in place, tons of seating and real grass for practicing golf.
I ventured on and checked out a number of venues, including Craft Social, a cool spot with all kinds of beer. I was immediately impressed with the style and décor of the ship. Despite being the smallest ship I have ever sailed on, it was still a good-sized vessel with 12 guest decks and plenty of amenities.
Usually, I spend quite a bit of time researching the ship I am going on, but this deal was so great that I did not worry too much about it. I was also highly intrigued by the Southern itinerary, so there was little debate in my mind as to whether to go or not.
The Celebrity Equinox is one of five Solstice class of ships, which was launched in 2009. This series of ships offer some unique amenities, such as a natural grass lawn and a hot glass blowing classes onboard. Thanks to its medium size, the ship can dock in smaller ports of call, which some of the bigger ships can't.
Celebrity Equinox was revolutionized, Celebrity’s term for refurbishment, in 2019, and I would say they did a very good job updating the ship. Revolution is more than a simple freshening up, but rather a goal to modernize and enhance ship design. The atrium serves as a central hub for the ship, with guest services, shore excursions, dining venues, and bars all close by.
We had 2,719 guests onboard for our sailing, which is 95% capacity. Overall, the ship design does an excellent job of dispersing passengers among the various venues. Sea days, of course, tend to feel more crowded.
Once officially ready, I headed to my cabin to unpack. Located on deck 3, it was a central location, as most amenities, including restaurants, numerous bars, guest services, and the casino, are all located on decks 3-5.
The stateroom was a decent size. The couch and small table made the room feel more functional, and it was nice to have a spot to sit and do some work or watch tv. There was a good amount of closet space and drawers, but if I was sailing with someone else, we might have struggled to find room for all our belongings for a 10 day cruise. The bathroom was reasonably sized and had good storage for toiletries and other stuff.
This was my first time staying in an ocean view cabin, and I have to say I loved seeing the waves close up. Being on the third deck, I had an excellent view, and I loved sleeping with my curtains open to see the moon; and found it very relaxing to hear the sound of the waves bouncing off the ship. I did not feel much movement compared to the higher decks.
Our itinerary spanned 10 days, leaving from Fort Lauderdale. The Southern Caribbean is a bucket list destination for me, and I was pretty excited to see that we would be visiting St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Antigua, and Martinique. These are all part of the Lesser Antilles and make up part of a volcanic arc on the Eastern boundary of the Caribbean.
These islands are characterized by sweeping vistas, volcanic peaks, and numerous beaches. Many of the ports of call aren’t as popular as the likes of Cozumel or Nassau, which makes for a different kind of cruise experience.
We had a total of 4 sea days, which proved to be quite relaxing.
Overall, I wasn’t sure about a 10 day cruise, but in the end, the time went so fast, and I would not hesitate to do it again or even go longer.
One of the main topics for discussion on cruises is food, and I ate very well on my cruise and was particularly impressed by the main dining room. Each meal started with a trio of whipped butter and a perfectly baked French baguette. That alone could have been a meal; it was that good. I dined on a number of tasty main courses, including pasta with lobster, ricotta and spinach ravioli, as well as some escargots and other meat dishes. The main dining room was busy every night on the cruise. The staff was friendly; most meals lasted around an hour and a half.
During the day, I frequented the buffet for breakfast and lunch. I enjoyed the salad selection at lunchtime, including fresh pita with beet hummus. A couple evenings, I ate at the buffet as well. I enjoyed the food, but some people commented on the lack of variety. Apparently, the ship had recently downsized the offerings due to a smaller number of passengers eating in the evening hours.
After a week onboard, I had the urge to try something new and booked dinner at Murano, a French-inspired specialty venue. The restaurant offers timeless classics such as meat, fish, and other savory items. The food and service were good, and I particularly liked the table-side meat carving and flambéed desserts.
Lounges, bars and cafes
There are 11 bars/lounges on Celebrity Equinox, which means you never have too far to get a drink. Service is always pretty quick, although pre-dinner cocktails seem to be prime time for guests and the busiest part of the day.
As part of my cruise deal, I received the Classic Drink Package, which allowed me drinks up to $10, which proved to be a lot of options on this ship. There were the standard cocktails like mojitos, along with plenty of good wine and beer. There are also premium and non-alcoholic packages.
A sample of drink prices onboard:
• Water $4.50
• Soda $4.00
• Beer $7.00-11.00.00
• Wine by the glass $9.00
• Cocktails $9.00 and up
• Spirits $9.00 and up
• Red Bull $6.50
• Specialty coffees $5.00
One of the ship's highlights is Café al Bacio, a French café with mouth-watering pastries and great coffee. Pastries were complimentary, but specialty coffees were extra.
Activities and entertainment
On my first sea day, I was rather pleased with myself as I made my way to the walking track at 7:15 am. Sadly, my glory was short lived. Walking (similar to pre-dinner cocktails) was serious business on the Equinox and I felt quite inadequate as I walked along the rather narrow track that snaked along sun loungers. It seemed a little crowded with joggers, high-speed walkers and people meandering around.
There was, however, much to do onboard; the activities and entertainment were a little different on this ship. Glass blowing, archery, and whiskey tasting were a few of the more interesting activities. One of the unique features of this ship is its top level, which is absent of waterparks or slides, but rather has real grass and a putting green. There were the normal cruising favorites such as table tennis, a variety of seminars, dance lessons, casino events, silent disco, DJ, and some themed parties, as well as get-togethers for solo travelers, LGBTQ, and more.
One of the highlights of this cruise was the live music onboard. In particular, the string duo who played in the Ensemble lounge were amazing. While the ship did not have Broadway shows, they had comedians, Irish Tenors, and other productions which were well attended.
Many of these ports of call were bucket list destinations for me. Five incredible port stops that included some of the farthest islands south in the Caribbean, including Grenada.
Apparently, many people were also excited about visiting these islands, and many of the guests I spoke to had excursions booked for all of the ports. Many of them were with the cruise line, which surprised me. In an effort to save money or get the perfect day in port, many people usually book outside of the cruise line, but this was not the case on this cruise. So a little advice, if you plan to book a Celebrity cruise and want a particular excursion, do not wait until you are on the ship; it may be full.
Our highly prized destinations did not disappoint. I loved the boat tours I took in St. Kitts that visited Nevis, which just happens to be the home of Alexander Hamilton. We visited his former stone house, which is in pretty good shape. Other highlights included a coastal tour in St. Lucia to see the impressive Pitons and an informative (and tasty) rum tour in Antigua.
The little things
Celebrity is all about the little things, those special touches that add up. No three in one mystery shampoo, conditioner and soap in the shower, but rather a well-stocked selection of great products. I was also surprised to find a good-sized bottle of lotion, hand sanitizer, and face wipes in my cabin.
Pool towels, no problem, no need to be held hostage over a fee for a towel you never signed out. They are already on the loungers, free to take. I also quite liked the dark chocolate squares placed carefully on my bed each night as part of the turn-down process.
Another small but nice touch was the variety of chilled fruit waters that they had on the dock to welcome guests back to the ship, particularly nice after a hot day in the sun. They also had crew there with cool towels to freshen up. All these little touches add up, making you feel pampered and appreciated.
What this ship is not
This cruise was an incredible deal for me and was a different kind of cruise experience. There are no waterslides, arcades, waterparks or other activities many people expect on big cruise ships. There is a kids club, but on my sailing, I only saw three kids.
Although the cocktail hour is a lively pre-dinner event, and there are numerous bars and lounges throughout the ship, it is not a serious party venue (which suits me just fine). The last event I saw on the daily calendar started at 11 pm. After all, everyone needs to get their sleep for the Olympic pace of walking in the morning.
Nothing felt hurried on this ship either. I rarely heard loud music or crazy dance music, all contributing to a more serene environment.
A couple of random notes:
• I upgraded to the premium wi-fi package for an extra $20 a day, which adds up on a longer cruise. But I wanted to be able to keep in touch with my family and check in with work. It worked intermittently in my cabin, but I did find a sweet spot not far away in the atrium by the bar (also convenient for keeping hydrated).
• I was cruising solo on this cruise, and never felt lonely. Between all the nice people I met, and plenty of activities and excursions, the time flew.
• There were very few announcements onboard. The captain made two a day (which were scheduled), giving us a brief update from what he jokingly referred to as his penthouse (aka the bridge). This was a nice touch, not to be overwhelmed with notices about bingo or sales.
• The app and the daily update (Celebrity Planner) had all the needed information, although it did not accurately show my charges.
• The sun was quite hot, especially in these more Southern destinations. Bring lots of sunscreen. The ship water is in cans with a top, so you can close it and bring it ashore.
• The dress code, no shorts at dinner for men, was enforced. People were turned away.
• People often ask what is the advantage of booking on the cruise. For this sailing, if you booked, you received a reduced deposit of $100 per person, with up to $500 onboard credit depending on the cabin type.
All in all, my first Celebrity cruise was fantastic, and the fact that I got such a good deal made the whole thing even better. In a way, I felt like I hit the jackpot with his one, and it was the most relaxing cruise I have been on to date.
This was a smaller ship than I had previously sailed, mostly the Oasis class ships of Royal Caribbean, that top out at 6,000 people. With the smaller size, I saw people more frequently, and it felt like a more intimate setting despite almost 3,000 people onboard.
Celebrity does a good job of making their customers feel special, and it is noticed and appreciated. People shouldn’t confuse their focus on quality and elegance for pretention. The crew was incredibly friendly and helpful, the vibe of the ship was relaxed, and everyone seemed to be chatting with everyone. This is a great itinerary and ship for 40 plus, but I am not so sure for families with kids or young adults looking to party all night.