San Francisco Bay Area
Celebrity Equinox: Premium cruising on an equisite ship
The 2,852-guest Celebrity Equinox takes premium cruising to new heights with a mix of classic Celebrity Cruises amenities and flourishes tailor-made for this equisite ship. Our recent sailing on Equinox shows that there's no compromise when it comes to onboard experiences as cruising begins to emerge full-throttle from the pandemic.
Passengers will enjoy the cosmopolitan charm of this large resort ship that has has all the signature Solstice-class signature features — creative dining options, chic and spacious accommodations and the Lawn Club — plus new additions.
For us, highlights of the ship included the 10 stellar restaurants, the first-rate personalized service, the wealth of inviting bars and lounges, the wellness options on board — including heated loungers in the Persian Garden — and the laid-back Southern Caribbean itinerary that included all three ABC islands as well as four full sea days.
Who will like sailing on Celebrity Equinox
If you love style, cutting-edge trends and luxury cruising at a portion of the price, then this is a good fit for you. Celebrity Cruises is popular with guests in their mid-50s and older who are looking for a low-key, relaxing getaway in stylish accommodations and without the hubbub of a 6,000-passenger megaship — Celebrity limits its ships to a capacity of 3,000 guests. Keep in mind, though, that Equinox can also accommodate multigenerational cruise groups and families, especially those who want to enjoy upscale amenities at a great value.
Where Celebrity Equinox sails
Home port: Ft. Lauderdale
As on all Celebrity Cruises voyages, your base fare includes drinks, Wi-Fi and gratuities at no additional charge. Drinks are those included in the Classic Beverage Package. Premium spirits, craft beers and specialty coffees cost extra.
Top dining options
We were blown away by the quality of the restaurants on Celebrity Equinox. There are two main free dining venues: the multiple-level Silhouette Dining Room and the large buffet-style Oceanview Cafe (featuring servers instead of self-serve). But you'll want to save up for the first-rate specialty restaurants on board.
Try to make reservations in advance or purchase a specialty dining package prior to sailing. We had a hard time choosing from these top-rate alternative restaurants:
- Tuscan Grille: This sophisticated venue combines northern Italian cuisine with some steakhouse choices for the ultimate grill experience at sea. Savor fine Italian wines and panoramic views of the sea along with your Caesar salad, made tableside. We had an arugula and goat cheese salad, the rib eye steak and a veal marsala, all of them perfectly prepared.
- Le Petit Chef at Qsine: Here's the venue everyone will be talking about. While dining on a four-course meal, you'll be entertained by an animated story projected onto the tabletop (and on the edges of your plate), with each digital short, featuring a tiny chef, tailored to the course being prepared for you. While I found it a bit distracting, most others seemed enthralled by the combination of 2D computer graphics and sound effects. Certainly, it's a one-of-a-kind experience, seen on Equinox and a few other Celebrity ships.
- Murano: Indulge in a savory multicourse meal featuring modern and classic French cuisine. I had the lobster, prepared tableside on an open fire, with a mushroom cappuccino soup appetizer, while Mary had the rack of lamb. Don't forget the superb wine list, which accentuates your experience.
- Sushi on Five: You'll find upscale sushi and Japanese dishes at this tastefully decorated venue. We started with the chicken gyoza and the sashimi salad and ordered the green roof tuna and Alaska California rolls with wasabi and soy sauce. Open for lunch and dinner.
- Luminae (Retreat Class exclusive): We didn't spring for the upgraded accommodations but we were treated to the two exclusive restaurants on board, Luminae and Blu. We especially liked Luminae, with gracious, attentive service and freshly prepared dishes. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Blu (Aqua Class exclusive): Here's a healthy dining option that fits in with the wellness vibe found throughout the Aqua Class offerings. We were feeling guilty for all the indulgences during the cruise, so we chose the lump crab martini for an appetizer, the fennel salad and a heavenly Grilled lamb chop salad with rocket, goat cheese, red onion, roasted red peppers and balsamic glaze.
More informal venues include Cafe al Bacio for coffees, the Mast Grill for poolside fare and the AquaSpa Cafe for healthy eats during breakfast or lunch.
Where I went & what I loved
Our nine-night voyage originated in Ft. Lauderdale and stopped in Nassau, Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. Because the ABC Islands (off the coast of Venezuela) are so close to each other, our back-on-board time wasn't until 11:30 pm on Aruba and 10 pm on Curacao. Because everyone on the ship was not only vaccinated but had to provide a negative COVID test within 48 hours of departure, we had great latitude to explore on our own rather than staying in a confined bubble tour.
We took advantage of low-cost ship excursions in Nassau (a fun Pearl Island Beach Day outing), Aruba (Sailaway Snorkel Cruise) and Curacao (a bus tour of island highlights and Mambo Beach). We struck out on our own on Bonaire and also made a long day of it on Aruba when we met up with a local friend for a late afternoon drink at Big Mama's Grill at Baby Beach with its friendly, relaxed vibe. It was our first trip to the ABC islands ... but it won't be our last!
On board, with four full sea days, we had plenty of time to explore. Our favorite spots on the ship turned out to be:
- The Sunset Bar on deck 15, which we claimed as our own. The bar had sweeping views of the ship's aft and wake, and in the evening had talented acoustic guitarists and vocalists.
- Craft Social on deck 4 was always hopping, with craft beers, well drinks, a friendly barkeep and an assortment of sports on the TV monitors throughout.
- Cafe al Bacio on deck 5, a sunny spot with great coffee drinks, was a great way to break up the day.
- The pool deck on deck 12 was a highlight— not for the pool (too small and shallow to do laps) but for the lively music trivia contests and the availability of lounge chairs.
- The Sky Lounge on deck 14 was our late-night go-to spot where we wound up dancing to a DJ or a live band most nights.
We stopped in at the Retreat Sundeck on the top level (empty on a blustery day) and the cozy Retreat Lounge, with its friendly staff. It turned out to be one of the easiest places on the ship to chat up fellow passengers. Both are available to Retreat Class guests.
We didn't spend much time at the casino, with its assortment of Texas Hold 'em, cash games, slots, craps and all the rest, or at the shops, with a wide variety of upscale merchandise from the likes of Kate Spade, Swiss and John Hardy.
And we'll note that Celebrity has turned the muster drill into a quick and efficient video that guests can watch from their staterooms in this era of physical distancing. Nice.
Here are some of the other signature features on Equinox:
During the day and into the evening, several guests found poolside bliss at the enclosed Solarium. It features an indoor lap pool, small waterfall, thickly padded lounge chairs and a soothing, colorful LED array.
We didn't see many guests taking advantage of the freshly manicured Lawn Club on the ship's top deck, but it's a staple of the Solstice class.Go ahead, pretend you're at a country club, kick off your shoes and feel the blades of real grass between your toes.
I frankly didn't know what to expect with the Silent Disco, but we headed to the foyer, grabbed our noise-canceling headphones and switched from the orange to green to blue channels for different dance songs (hits from the '70s to '90s, mostly) played by the ship's entertainment director and two DJs. Everyone with the same colored earphones would groove to the same tune, often sampling the other channels to see which songs they preferred. Great fun!
The Library on deck 10 was an unexpected delight and made for a cozy reading spot where we could binge on a wide variety of classic and genre fiction as well as chat up strangers.
While Celebrity can't compete with some of the more elaborate stage productions found on Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and other lines, it does offer a diverting night's entertainment, held in the ship's Equinox Theater. You'll find three hourlong stage shows — we especially enjoyed "Live" — with dancers, aerialists and singers, along with comedians and specialty acts performing pre-dinner and post-dinner shows.
Next to the theater, the smaller Celebrity Central was the gathering place for movies, late-night improv and lectures about the ports from local experts.
Fitness, wellness & enrichment
Celebrity is especially known for its wellness offerings, and we were impressed by the wide array of wellness, fitness and enrichment options each day. These include morning stretch and yoga classes (extra cost), mixology classes, Cognac tastings, tech lessons in the iLounge, arts and crafts events and a wonderful hot glass class where participants got to mold their own glassworks.
The gym was big and well equipped, with guests using the facility at all hours. And the Spa offered a wide range of facial and body treatments. I opted for a Swedish massage (extra cost) and felt refreshed and relaxed for the rest of the cruise. The next day I returned to hang out in the Persian Garden (extra cost for non-suite guests) with its warmed tile seats.
Bars & lounges
The Martini Bar
With an atmosphere inspired by ice and snow, this enchanting frosted bar was the place to be in the heart of the ship. Guests could grab a drink before dinner, while others made a night of it. We hung out at a table at the edge of the bar and wound up chatting over drinks for 45 minutes with a cool couple from Connecticut and their adult daughter.
Honestly, we barely had time to visit all the lounges and bars on board during our nine-night voyage. In addition to the Martini Bar, Sunset Bar, Craft Social and the Sky Lounge nightclub, other inviting spots included the classy World Class Bar in the middle of the action on deck 5, the Passport Bar on deck 3, the Destinations Bar on deck 4 and Ensemble on deck 5.
Sky Observation Lounge
We headed to the Sky Observation Lounge on sea days to socialize, settle into a comfy seat and to wind down with a cocktail. The lounge features floor-to-ceiling windows for scenic views of the passing landscapes.
Not everything was perfect on board. Among the misses:
- Internet on the ship was just awful, and lots of guests complained about the sluggish to nonexistent connectivity. If you were thinking the down time during the pandemic gave the cruise lines time to upgrade their WiFi, well, it didn't happen. I measured the Internet speed and the speeds clocked in at 3.6 mebabits per second down (15 times slower than home) and 0.26 megabits up (100 times slower than home) — even after an Aruba network extender was added to my stateroom.
- The whirlpools (or Jacuzzis if you prefer) on the ship, like on most cruise ships we've been on, had only lukewarm water. Not sure if this is a safety issue or to save on heating costs, but we didn't bother.
- Quasar, styled as a modern nightclub with a retro touch, was mostly empty on most evenings that we peeked in.
Celebrity Equinox keeps it simple with a handful of cabin choices for 2,852 passengers when sailing at full capacity. Room categories are:
Veranda Stateroom: 192 square feet, featuring a king-size bed (or two doubles), seating area, flat-screen TV and 54-square-foot veranda.
Concierge Class Stateroom: The same layout as a Veranda Stateroom but with a dedicated concierge. We stayed in a Concierge Class stateroom on deck 10, which was comfotable enough for resting up between trips to the public spaces and catching up on the news on the TV, though we shared the view that the bathrooms were too cramped. One standout feature was the eXhale bedding with Cashmere mattresses — the bed provided some of the better night rests we've enjoyed over 30-plus sailings.
AquaClass Staterooms: The same size as Veranda and Concierge staterooms, these come with premium bath amenities, a massaging shower head, complimentary fitness classes, complimentary dining at Blu, unlimited access to the Persian Garden and a personal spa concierge.
Suites: As part of The Retreat, your suite offers a long list of luxurious amenities, a Personal Retreat Host, private dining in Luminae and exclusive spaces, including The Retreat Lounge. Sky Suites measure 300 square feet, Celebrity Suites are 394 square feet, Royal Suites come in at 590 square feet and the luxurious Penhouse Suites are a generous 1,291 square feet, with larger verandas for all suites.
Other cabin options are the Ocean View Stateroom, at 176 square feet, and an Interior Stateroom at 183 to 200 square feet.
Editor in Chief JD Lasica sailed on Celebrity Equinox as press and his fare was comped by Celebrity Cruises. See Cruiseable's Ethics & disclosure policy.
How about you? Have you sailed on Celebrity Equinox? We'd like to hear about your experience.
Interested in a cruise on this ship?
For pricing, itinerary information and to reserve your spot on Celebrity Equinox, contact a Cruiseable travel consultant by email or call 1-877-322-3773.
Top highlights on this ship
- Lawn Club
- Martini Bar
- Sky Observation Lounge
- Equinox Theater
- Luxurious accommodations
- Wonderful specialty restaurants