Recently returned from a cruise leaving 1/25 on the Equinox stopping at Key West, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. Booked a Concierge class stateroom during the veteran’s day sale due to the great deal, including all 4 perks, for essentially the same price as a verandah. This was our 6th cruise, 3rd on Celebrity, the previous two being on Solstice in Alaska. We are in our mid 40s and normally sail in verandah cabins.
Embarkation: with the new facial recognition, it went smooth. Extra signage in the terminal caused some confusion - there were multiple concierge class signs in different locations. Once we asked, we found the correct spot to sit. Our boarding time online was assigned for 12 p.m. However, we arrived at 1015 and ended up sitting for 30-45 minutes before boarding began. The new process of dropping off bags at the room and grabbing seapass cards was a welcome change from previous cruises.
Embarkation lunch: since this was our first cruise in concierge class, we decided to do the embarkation lunch included for concierge guests in the main dining room. The lunch was good, but the limited menu (choices were salad or butternut squash soup, chicken dish, pasta dish or salmon, with chocolate cake or ice cream) and lengthy amount of time we’re not sure we’d do it again in the future. However, it was a nice way to relax and start the cruise.
We attended two cruise critic events (1) The sunset bar at sailaway. Not a lot of people attended this but we still met several nice couples. (2) a private event held in Craft Social (which was held during hours that it is closed so it didn’t impact any other cruisers). Approximately 9 officers attended including Captain Tasos (an awesome, engaging and fun Caption). There were probably 25 cruise critic members who attended and we met a lot of great people.
The ship: having been on Solstice, the layout was of course very familiar, but you could see some of the changes done by the partial revolution. New carpet in the passport bar and other areas was the most obvious result of the revolution. We read that the revolution for equinox got cut short, and the lack of staterooms in the sky lounge was a good thing in our opinion. Our cabin also had new carpet, curtains, bedding and the couch had been reupholstered.
Operations: There were a few things that perplexed us throughout the cruise, primarily regarding the hours of the sky lounge. On a few days (including our first sea day), the lounge was closed off during the day (sliding door blocking the lounge) with no explanation given. Several other times during the day it was closed for private events. Seeing as how the sky lounge is one of the best places on an S class ship to view the water and surrounding areas, it was a bit disappointing that guests couldn’t use this area. Also, there is a nice area to sit outside the buffet at the back of the ship with table and chairs and several people would gather there and at the Sunset bar each time we left a port. However, on one of those days they closed it completely for a private group. This resulted in the Sunset bar being way overcrowded with nowhere for people to sit and enjoy the view when leaving the port. And nowhere for people getting food from the buffet to sit outside and enjoy their food and the weather. The Sky lounge was also closed during this time so we were not able to observe leaving port from there either. This wouldn’t discourage us from going on Equinox again but it would nice to keep such large public areas open for all cruisers.
Food: The MDR was good as we have experienced on other Celebrity ships, with a better selection than we have experienced on Ruby Princess when we were on that ship last year. Service was good as we have experienced on Celebrity before.
The oceanview cafe was a bit of a disappointment from the buffet on the Solstice. Primarily it was due to the selections, or lack thereof, compared to our previous experience on Solstice. On Solstice, there was salad available morning noon and night (important for me, not so much DW), and the stations were changed up on a routine basis. Further, Solstice had different themes each night so there were always different dishes to try (Italian, Indian, American, Asian) and stations did not repeat the food so there was quite a variety. Equinox did not have any themed nights and the food was the same each day of our cruise and several stations repeated what was in other stations so there was about ½ the selection as what we had on Solstice. This was a disappointment when we were hoping for a new dish or two at lunch or late night snack. However, the food that was served was good.
Activities: Because we were up early each day for excursions, we didn’t stay up late for some of the nighttime activities. Strangely, celebrity scheduled some of the late night parties/activities for nights right before an early port. You would think those would be the night before the sea days. Boggling. We spent quite a bit of time at the sunset bar watching sailaways, stargazing, etc. Oneil was a fantastic bartender, and his assistant Albert was good as well.
Cabin: concierge class is no different than a verandah cabin on S class ships, so really it was just a nice clean verandah cabin. Storage and seating were adequate, although the closet on Ruby Princess was significantly better than on Celebrity. The bed was comfortable and DW enjoyed having the pillow menu in this class (choice of 3 different types of pillows). We did not like shampoo, body wash or conditioner provided (it was very watery and didn’t seem to work very well.) The DW brought her own toiletries so it wasn’t too much of an issue for us and we would recommend bringing your own. Our room attendant was Manuel and he was super friendly, helpful and checked in with us several times to see if everything was okay and if we needed anything. We did ask Manuel to empty our fridge and he was able to assist with that. We also asked him to provide us with cheese and crackers instead of the standard canapes that concierge class receives each afternoon. He also did that for us and also sometimes provided sliced fruit. He was also great about providing us with ice in the afternoon and the evenings and he provided fresh flowers in our room which was a nice touch.
We booked all excursions through Celebrity, as we are not familiar with Mexican ports, and not exactly comfortable wandering around a strange port.
Key west: here we just got off the ship and wandered around. Interesting city, but not a lot to do if you don’t schedule an excursion unless you want to sit and relax in a bar with a drink in hand! We visited the southern most point and then made our way back to the ship for lunch.
Costa Maya: We did the Chachobben Ruins exclusive drive excursion. This was well worth the extra $15 we spent versus the normal Chachobben Ruins excursion, as we were the first ones to the site in a small (10 people) van. We had the run of the ruins to ourselves with our guide, and were able to get some pictures without having to wait for lots of people to leave the picture. We also saw some spider monkeys that are less likely to hang around when lots of people are present and scare them off. We definitely recommend seeing them at least once FYI, we were stopped by federal police who were apparently looking for someone(s) outside the port. They didn’t cause a problem, but it was a bit disconcerting for those of us not familiar such issues. Our guide Priscella was great as was the driver, Raphael.
Cozumel: We did the speedboat and snorkel tour, including a 1 hour beach break. This was a great excursion, as the speedboat portion was a bunch of fun, and the snorkeling was explained well by our guide Luis. NOTE: the tour starts at Barracuda beach club, which is 20+ minutes from the dock, on the north side of Cozumel. This was not clear from the description, and we thought it was important to know. Our guide put us in a taxi with our group (there were six of us, so a great size for this excursion) and then met us at the club. The taxi fare was covered to the club and back to the ship in the price of the excursion. The club itself was nice, and had food, massages, a pool, bar, and other amenities available once you are done with the boat and snorkeling. The restrooms were clean, the free chips and salsa very tasty and the massage was excellent. We also enjoyed a rum punch and a beer. Barracuda’s only takes cash so plan accordingly on how much you may want to spend in the hour there and how much you may want to tip (which is shared with everyone working at the resort). Pictures were $15 (they took them of us on the speedboat), massage was $25 for 15 minutes, drinks $7 and other food approximately $8. Everyone at the resort was friendly and helpful, our guide Luis was awesome and we highly recommend this tour.
Grand Cayman: we did stingray city and reef snorkel here, which was a great excursion. First you ride a bus to the boat company, and then take a boat ride out to stingray city and reef. We had approximately 45 minutes at stingray city to view and pet the stingrays, and about 30 minutes or so at the reef for snorkeling. NOTE: there is an approximately 1 hour boat ride each way from the dock to the location and back, as well as an extra 20 minutes after you get back while the company sells you food and drinks. We had a quesadilla, which was a good holdover until we could get food somewhere else, and worth the few bucks they charged for it.