Celebrity Equinox – February 2017

Come aboard with me on the Celebrity Equinox. This is a special sailing, along with the normal Western Caribbean sailing, we are also spending three nights in New Orleans for the final days of Mardi Gras.

The Equinox first set sail in August of 2009 and can carry 2,850 guests.

We arrived at the port of Fort Lauderdale, Florida early. The process of checking in as been simplified. In the old days, everyone stood in line and waited. Now you are divided by what level you are in the Captain’s Club and what type of room. When we got into line there was one person ahead of us. We got our room cards, had our picture taken for security and then went to the waiting area that was based on your standing with the Captains Club. The ship had been cleared and was open for the guests on our sailing at 11 AM and we were invited on board. Rooms were not ready but we ate and relaxed.

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This is our Coast Guard escort out of the Port of Fort Lauderdale.

The ship is beautiful. Wide open spaces but with areas you could get away and experience quietness and be alone, clean and a crew that is very friendly.

The main restaurant on board is the Silhouette dining room. For casual dining, there is the AquaSpa Café, Café al Bacio and Gelateria, Mast Grill and Oceanview Café. Specialty Restaurants include Blu, Luminae, Murano, Sushi on Five, Silk Harvest and Tuscan Grille. There is a fee associated with eating at the last four restaurants.

When the announcement was made that we could now go to our room, we were off. Our room is large; it is a Sky Suite. As you can see in the pictures, we had a king size bed, a nice size balcony and large bathroom. Our Room Steward, Wilfred did a great job of making sure our room was also clean and we had everything we needed. We also had a Butler, Roger. Roger was fun. On our first land day, almost everyone went ashore. We stayed on board. He was bored and asked us to find him something to do so at lunch he got us burgers and fries. They were still hot when they got to us.

We departed Fort Lauderdale at 4 PM on Monday. We ate dinner at  Luminae. This is Celebrity’s Suite Class Restaurant where you order off the menu. Here you will find modern, eclectic cuisine and great, one could even say, exceptional service. Our server was Ivica. He is from Serbia and full of energy. He always seemed happy. One of the other individuals that assisted was Marie. She was sweet, learned what you liked and consistently provided it often showing up with small surprises that you’d like. Bonny was the sommelier. He was nice, more reserved but always had great suggestions.

Natalia was the restaurant hostess; she was friendly and always positive. Anitsa was the maitre d and had her finger of the pulse of the restaurant at all times.

One of the advantages of booking a suite is access to Michael’s Club. Here is a place to get away and most of the time it is quiet. There is a bar here and Jole who is responsible for making sure all our needs are met and questions are answered.Barbara was one of the bartenders in Michael’s. She knew names the first night and after the first night when you went in she would ask if you wanted whatever it was you had the previous night. She was very attentive, had great ideas and a wealth of knowledge about alcohol.

We went up to the Oceanview Café for breakfast. This is the only buffet on the ship. You have so many choices and individuals are walking around with coffee refilling your cup; asking if you’d like something to drink.

Café al Bacio was one of the more popular places on board. As you can see, they had lots of sweets. These changed throughout the day and everyday was something new. This is also where you found the coffee and tea drinks.

On sea days, there are hot glass blowing demonstrations done by artisans from the Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, New York). There were three individuals doing the demonstration. One narrates, one is the creator of an item and the other the assistant. During the show, each made their own piece. It was amazing watching items made from just a little bit of clear glass and turn into a beautiful object of art.

For breakfast, we went down to Luminae. For breakfast here and in the Silhouette Dining Room you order off the menu. One individual was walking around with sweet rolls that were warm and different from the norm.

Ersilia from Italy (2)To showcase the service on board and elderly lady needed assistance and one the crew came up to her and asked if she could help. They went to a table and when Erisilia asked if there was anything else she required, the lady answered dessert in a few minutes. Erisilia stated she would be back in a few minutes to assist her with dessert, and she was. This is the level of service we saw on board.

 

Our first port of call was Grand Cayman. The water is beautiful. One of the more popular things to do is to swim with the stingrays. The stores are luxury boutiques and other than diving the island is known as a financial center for its banking. There is the Cayman Turtle IMG_7179 (2)Centre where you can swim with the turtles and learn about how they are raised, released or used for food. Seven Mile Beach which is actually 5.4 miles long but is beautiful, and Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park with colorful gardens that frame a restored farmhouse. Here you will find native species of flowers flourishing and the rare blue iguanas.There is a town on the island known as “Hell”. Here you can get shirts saying you’ve been to Hell and even a post office where you can purchase postcards and have them stamped.

A fun fact for Grand Cayman, you will find over 200 restaurants on the island which has made it known as the of culinary capital of the Caribbean.

Today is Thursday and we are in Costa Maya. We arrived about noon and will depart about 8 PM. Located in Mexico, this is the first Western Caribbean port built exclusively for the cruise ship industry. Here there is a 70,000-square foot entertainment and shopping complex with artisan markets, a private beach club, pools, restaurants and bars. In Costa Maya, you look for things like silver, leather, fragrances, jewelry, pottery, crafts and souvenirs.  There are a couple of ruins in the area; Chacchoben and Kohunlich. Chacchoben dates back to 1000 BC; this Mayan ceremonial center is the most visited ruin in the region. It is about a 50-minute drive from the port. Kohunlich is best known for the Temple of the Masks, a pyramid with 10-foot sculpted masks of the sun god running up the sides of its stairways.  Most of the shops here are the same ones you will find in Cozumel. The water is clear and you can see the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. The area around the port is natural, nothing built or developed yet.

Since we have visited many different ruins throughout Mexico and we didn’t want to shop, we stayed on the ship. Had a relaxing time. Went to a seminar on future cruises with Celebrity. There are several places I still want to visit. I enjoy sailing on Celebrity. The food is good, service is good, crew is wonderful and there are not a lot of children on board. The crew places a lot of emphasis on ensuring every passenger has a great time.

Friday, we are in Cozumel, Mexico’s largest island. It is 12 miles off the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. One of the best Caribbean ports for shopping. Here besides shopping is Chankanaab National Park, San Gervasio and Punta Sur National Park. At Chankanaab National Park you have activities like snorkeling, snuba, dolphin discovery and sea trek. The largest ancient Mayan site on Cozumel dates back to as early as AD 300 and is located at San Gervasio. At the southernmost tip of the island is Punta Sur, this is an ecological reserve where you will find mangroves, beaches and reefs.

Just offshore of Cozumel is the world’s second largest coral reef and is a part of an underwater national park. One of the reasons undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau dubbed Cozumel a diver’s paradise.

Our next two days are at sea. There is a lot going up while at sea. You have choices like the pool, hot tub, movies, contests, fitness classes, practicing your putting, different opportunities to learn more about other subjects, and of course just relax. During the time on board they had classes on how to make different drinks, how to properly cook a steak, single malt whiskey tastings, art auctions and much more.

To get to New Orleans you travel for about 10 hours up the Mississippi River. The view changes dramatically as you travel. You see oil derricks, oil processing plants and differences in vegetation.

Then we arrive in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. We got off the ship and went to a local restaurant called Mulate’s. This is a local restaurant and food was very good; serving sizes were large. The food was Cajun and they had live music. Do have to tell you that everything you have heard about Mardi Gras is more than likely true. There are millions of people and around Bourbon Street it smells, bad.

On Monday night, we were in the French Quarter for one of the parades. I ended up with some guy dumping a good portion of his drink down my back, but we had front row for the parade.  No seating, just standing. We were not told they shut down the entire area around the parade route and the area around the ship didn’t open until about 1 AM.

The parades are bright and colorful and was surprised to see a float with Harry Connick Jr. on it. They threw out beads, coins, trinkets; all kinds of things. It felt like every normal, sane adult turned into grasping children some going as far as grabbing stuff out of others hands and breaking items.

Tuesday night the ship departed New Orleans about 10 PM for two days at sea before returning to Fort Lauderdale.

Arrived back into Fort Lauderdale on March 3. There was a tanker spill of 8,000 gallons of fuel at Pier 18 where we were to disembark and got moved to Pier 25. Celebrity had set up transportation to take us to the area we were parked in.

We met some very nice people while on board. For me, the best part of being on board was the food and service we received. So, we got home on Friday and back to work on Monday.

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