Celebrity Equinox Review
I was kindly invited to a one night preview cruise on this brand new ship in July 2009. Now Celebrity are a premium brand and have generally enjoyed a very good reputation. In 1998 we cruised on the then ‘new’ Mercury, which was a pretty large ship in her day, being 77,000 gross tonnes. We were pretty impressed at the time, although we have yet to return to Celebrity.
In the past decade Celebrity’s fleet has continued to grow under Royal Caribbean’s wing and each class of ship has been bigger than the previous. The ‘Solstice’ class weighs in at a hefty 122, 000 gross tonnes. The burning question is: “Can Celebrity still offer an upmarket experience on such big ships”? Judging from my visit the answer is a definite “Yes”.
As always, the Celebrity’s décor and art-work is cutting edge, almost like a floating modern art gallery. The ship had much retro style furniture and décor inspired by late 1960’s/early 1970’s. In fact a lot of it which would not have look out of place on board the QE2 when she was launched or on the set of the classic TV programme: ‘The Prisoner’.
Physically the ship reminds me a little of Royal Caribbean’s ‘Radiance’ class, a favourite of mine. It was probably the extensive use of glass, a very tall atrium (complete with gravity defying tree) and a covered pool (with a dancing water-jet fountain).
My deluxe balcony cabin was, erm, ‘deluxe’. The balcony was of reasonable size, there was a double bed and a large LCD TV. The cabin was argueably a little narrow, but well laid out. It was ceertainly quite long. There was a very long sofa which could probably accommodate four persons. There was a big wardrobe and loads of draws. (Life jackets were stored under the bed as not to waste wardrobe space). The bathroom was bigger than many on board rival ships, with the shower had sliding glass doors. This was great as I’m fed up with shower curtains that stick to ones back like superman’s cape. Interestingly the cabin doors opened outwards, which saved space. There was also an interesting method of making cabins adjoin, which you would have to see in action, as I can’t easily explain.
The unique and very breathtaking ‘Silhouette’ main dining room is not easy to descried, but here goes: it looks like a scene from the ‘Snow Queen’, being predominantly white with silver adornments and crystal chandeliers. Large supporting columns looked like bones, so if you had a table in the middle, one felt like Johna being swallowed by a giant whale.
I ate in the ‘Silk Harvest’ an Asia style, speciality dining room. The staff appeared to ignore the menu and just brought our party everything on the menu! The variety was very impressive as was the quality: ranging from Chinese dishes to Japanese Sushi. The ‘Orange Chicken’ was particularly good. The ‘Ocean View’ Café was very spacious, with food ‘islands’, and had an open air lido section at the stern. You could immediately tell that it was an upmarket buffet by the square china plates provided. Many of the food offerings were quite exotic too.
The theatre was state-of-the-art technically, but it’s design reminded me of a traditional Victorian theatre. It had two horse-shoe shaped balconies, rather than the traditional sloping shaped auditoriums that are on most new ships. The theatre is of course bigger than most London Theatres, but still felt relatively intimate. ‘Equinox – The Show’ was one of the best I’ve ever seen afloat and featured nine superb high-wire acts and jugglers, as well as the more conventional singers and dancers. The costumes were elaborate and almost ‘organic’ like. If this was now the standard of all the Celebrity in-house shows, they have definitely raised their game considerably since 1998.
The ‘Lawn Club’, featuring a real grass lawn and Croquet players, was charming and unique. However I’m not sure how many guests would really get the chance to utilize it during a cruise. The ‘Hot Glass Show’ (Corning Glass Blowing) was novel too.
The ‘shops on the boulevard’ and the ‘Martini bar’ were stand-out public spaces.
The ‘Sky Observation Bar’ did what it said on the tin. It was perched high on the bow of the ship and was very spacious, with full length windows. It featured a bar (of course), a small stage and dance floor.The only negatives I have about the ship were: 1) there was only a partial promenade deck and not a full wrap around one. 2) The Quasar disco was far too small for the party crowd that were on board our preview cruise, but I suspect the normal Celebrity clientele are not always so insomniac. 3) Some areas of the ship had piped music which I find annoying 4) There were no hand-sanitizers provide (have they not heard of Norwalk and Swine Flu?) and no lifeboat drill, which would seem to both be very foolish oversights. Maybe Equinox is so big that she is unsinkable?
Like all big ships, if you have mobility problems there is a lot of ground to cover on board this vessel. There are only two main stair towers, but the ample lifts are big and fast. What Equinox lacks in ‘intimacy’ she makes up for in space and facilities. (I did notice a hot-tub with hydraulic chair for disabled passengers).
In short, Equinox is a very big, very classy, spacious ship. If you are looking for a more upmarket contemporary American experience and enjoy posh nosh – this is it. I think Cunard may have met their match sailing from Southampton.
See my slide-show, below: