Celebrity Equinox to the Caribbean!
Wisconsin is a great place in the spring, summer, and fall. But winter? You can keep it. For December, we decided to book a Caribbean cruise for some sun n’ fun–if just for a week. In 2016, we did an Alaskan cruise that was AMAZING! Now we wanted to go somewhere warm.
Choosing this Cruise
I got addicted to reading the boards on Cruise Critic. As only our second cruise we were still newbies compared to most people on that site! Price is a major factor in on our decision, but we’re also not willing to go “bottom of the barrel” either. We don’t need water slides or raucous crowds on a cruise to have a good time. For us, a vacation is intended for us to R-E-L-A-X. Around mid-May, I started checking cruise prices and we found a good deal with Celebrity so we booked the Celebrity Equinox sailing for December 9, 2017.
Then came the hurricanes… The original itinerary was Miami–San Juan–St. Maarten–St. Kitts–Miami. St. Maarten was axed and replaced with Punta Cana, then St. Croix, and then finally switched to St. Thomas. It didn’t really matter to us. We were happy to escape the cold in Wisconsin and knew that Celebrity would get us to warm and sunny places. Any inconvenience pales in comparison to what the people in the Caribbean are going through in recovering from the hurricanes.
Prior to the cruise, we decided to spend two nights in Miami Beach–a place neither of us had been to before.
- Saturday, Dec. 9: Leave Miami on Celebrity Equinox
- Sunday, Dec. 10: Day at sea
- Monday, Dec. 11: San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Tuesday, Dec. 12: Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas
- Wednesday, Dec. 13: Basseterre, Saint Kitts
- Thursday, Dec. 14: Day at sea
- Friday, Dec. 15: Day at sea
- Saturday, Dec. 16: Return to Miami, Everglades Ecotour, Fly home
We packed up at our hotel in Miami Beach and got an Uber. After two beautiful days of sunshine, it was now pouring down rain! We arrived at the Port of Miami just before 11am. Embarkation was amazingly fast: I’m not sure we will ever beat the 11 minutes from curbside to ship. We simply got lucky.
Inside cabin, deck 7, room 7304. We felt it spacious for an inside cabin, with lots of lighting. Bed was comfortable. Room featured two soft chairs and a desk chair. No couch. Plenty of storage space. Shower worked well. Room was next to a crew stairwell but we never heard any noise. It was quiet. Easy access to elevators and stairs. We spend most of our time outside the cabin, so inside for us is not a big deal.
This is where we thought Celebrity excelled. It’s top-notch. From waitstaff to the steward to the cleaners, everyone was so friendly and welcoming. Even though we were mere “plebs” in an inside cabin, staff made everyone feel special.
Average to excellent. I know food is subjective. We had four nights in the specialty restaurants and that spoiled us!
Murano was absolutely wonderful. That rack of lamb is to die for! Tuscan Grille: I thought I might have to loosen my belt, hah! We ate in the main dining room (MDR) for 2 nights and it’s pretty much what I expect from banquet-style food. That’s not a complaint; just a fact of institutionally serving such a large quantity of food.
We also liked Oceanview Cafe (OVC) for breakfast and lunch and we were impressed by the various options and spaciousness of the set-up. Lunch on Friday was particularly nice, with large carved turkeys, peel and eat shrimp, and a chocolate fountain. OVC didn’t feel like a struggle to find a spot to eat. Also, one of us has a gluten allergy and we appreciated the alterations that could be made in the specialty restaurants and MDR.
We loved all the different spaces on the ship and felt it easy to navigate. It’s classy and elegant. The word “refined” comes to mind. It has a touch of sparkle, but it is in no way garish. Also, it’s clean…like sparkling clean. Housekeepers were always polishing, painters were always painting. We did notice large air dryers set up on the carpet all week down the hall from us, pointed at a couple balcony cabin entrances. I wondered if there was a leak of some kind?
Favorite places to lounge outside: besides the usual poor area, we appreciated the solarium on the first day (weather was a tad cooler and drizzly), the chairs up on the Lawn Club, the chairs on the Deck 5 promenade.
Inside: for quiet, we liked the Library (duh!) and the seating area by the elevators on Deck 7. We’re not big drinkers, but we liked the Martini Bar for inside and Sunset Bar for outside.
Negatives: I thought there was an overabundance of smoking spaces–one side of the Deck 5 promenade, one side of the pool bar, one side near the Mast Grill by the jogging track, one side of the Sunset Bar/Lawn Club. We would see open seats in those areas, go to sit down, and then realize…”oh, it’s a smoking area…that’s why no one is here.” I also missed self-service laundry facilities. Heck, we never even got a “stuff the bag” offer either. I also wished the deck 5 promenade was entirely accessible around the whole of the ship–I minor quibble, I know.
The shows were good, but we went in knowing the musical-type shows here generally don’t have a plot. Mostly singing and dancing. There were two particularly good female leads. We loved the acrobats! The comedians weren’t our style, but others were laughing heartily. The hot glass show was fun to watch.
However, we found daytime activities to be lacking…or at least very little that caught our eye. Especially for a cruise with three sea days. It’s not that we got bored, but we would look the “Celebrity Today” daily newsletter and just go “meh.” There seemed to be an overabundance of “medical” type seminars (botox, dental implants, joint pain). Went on the galley tour but really missed a cooking demo like we had on our Alaskan cruise on Princess. The library was well stocked and I read a couple books during some “down” time.
Almost as easy as embarking. From ship to our shuttle, it was about 15 minutes to get our luggage and proceed through Immigration. Super simple!
I’ll blog more about the ports-of-call later, but here’s a quick overview:
San Juan: Old San Juan looked better than I expected despite all the news we had seen about the hurricane damage. Vibrant buildings, friendly people. We walked on our own from the pier to El Morro and explored the fort. Enjoyed a self-guided walking tour. Wish we would have had more daylight hours at this port.
Saint Thomas: Ship docked at Crown Bay, not Havensight. We took the $4pp shared open-air taxi into Charlotte Amalie. Still a lot of hurricane damage in town and many shops closed. Some that were open, had lost power on our day there. Made the mistake of not booking an excursion (either through Celebrity or independently). We just walked around Charlotte Amalie. We’re not into jewelry, so this port didn’t have a lot to interest us.
Saint Kitts: Our favorite port for relaxing. Booked a “beach break” through Celebrity to Cockleshell Beach. PERFECT!
Miami: Booked an Everglades eco-tour and Fort Lauderdale airport drop-off through Celebrity. Enjoyed the airboat ride and appreciated not have to worry about luggage/arranging travel to the airport.
The cruise was relaxing, fun, and Celebrity made us feel, well…like a celebrity! I’ll wrap up with some concluding thoughts on cruising in a later post.
Here are some pics from the ship:
For more photos, check out my Flickr album.