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Kenneth Eden

Age: 65

Occupation:retired high school teacher

Number of Cruises: 84

Cruise Line: Celebrity

Ship: Celebrity Equinox

Sailing Date: 2014-04-5

Itinerary: Caribbean

Another wonderful ship from the SOLSTICE CLASS

A couple of "misses" in the Silhouette (MDR)

Well planned, plenty of room and storage

Impossible to do everything, day and night, 24/7 something for every one and their tastes

the excursions we booked while aboard the ship via interactive TV in our stateroom were an excellent value

We flew DELTA from Newport News to Ft. Lauderdale. This was a first for us, we let celebrity book the air, which gave us a lower rate than delta and assured seats which Deltas web site would not allow. We paid the extra $$ for our luggage and had a typical flight, cramped seating, pretzels.

Richard booked the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale on line. Their website said walk to mall, there is no mall, unless you call Big lots and Walgreens a mall. The real malls are miles away. We took a cab, the shuttle would not get us, cost $35.00, however, we insisted on a receipt, and suddenly the rate became $25.00, and the hotel refunded it in cash. The room the motel and the breakfast were nicer than most, and we would use it gain, closest to the port, too.

We boarded without a glitch, we are high priority members with Celebrity and had Concierge Class cabin.

We know the Solstice class ships very well, having sailed REFLECTION and SILHOUETTE this past year, and we have a preferred cabin location, so we made our way, champagne in hand to our cabin. The layout here as with most new ships regardless of cruise line, is pretty much the same. T\here were five large dresser drawers and two large over the queen size bed storage cubicles, and ample closet space, as well as ample storage space in the bath. A bottle of Balnc de Blanc and fresh fruit and a stocked honor bar were the embellishments. Our travel agent provided a ship board credit.

We had dined in the Ocean View Cafe prior to the cabin visit, having priority privileges due to our concierge cabin, and had found the place immaculate and the food awesome the selection wonderful and the service, by that I mean, being served iced tea, and busing used plates as were needed, to be efficient and friendly. This is the time I run to the main dining room to see if our table request has been honored, late seating, table for two, and our request had been taken care of. We despise open seating as we prefer our waiters for dinner when we are not dining in a specialty restaurant.

A word on the buffets, I am not a great fan of them, not on land nor at sea. I dislike pushing and shoving and cold hot food and warm cold food, and the general appearance of "slop" presented for helping ones self to. One major, self billed premium line, when they run out of an item, that's it, when they have sticky and filthy spoons and serving pieces, they remain, wet trays are used, and the passengers they cater to are grumpy and obnoxious. Tables are not bused quickly.

Here is the Celebrity difference: none of the above ever occurs at any Celebrity buffet, be it breakfast, lunch or light snacking.We partake of as many and as needed meals in their Ocean View cafe as we wish, in fact, we both often find that the buffet is nicer than the breakfast or lunch offered in the MDR. It also helps that the service crew members up there are so genuinely nice and eager to make the visit a pleasant one.

Pizza made with real pizza dough crust, not the usual cardboard kind, gluten free pizza and pasta, fresh salads, infinite combos here, home made dressings always in all dining venues, Indian, Asian, English - English breakfast any one?, whole carved turkeys and steamer roasts, duck at a buffet? Yes, and more than any omelet choice than even the best 5 star hotel has dared to offer. Gelato, ice cream, sorbet, made on board,fresh fruit and cheeses, tons of smoked - freshly sliced off the slab - smoked salmon, - the list could go on and on........... We have been on the best of the best ships, and nobody, not know how offers this, and to 2,800 passengers daily? Come on......

My general rule of thumb in the MDR first night is, there is only one chance to make the first impression and it had better be good. The table was locate in a semi private area, only two tables for two were there, a pillar with draperies provided the privacy on two sides. Larger tables flanked the perimeter of this area, and we really felt a sense of quietude there. Our waiter and his assistant were delightful from the first hello. We had the same sommelier each evening, he was one of 22 in the Silhouette, which is the MDR on the Equinox. Our wine and preferred cocktails were ready each night upon our arrival, and the chefs recommendation was offered for our perusal each and every meal by or waiter. We had only two "misses" in the MDR with our ordering, and that was corrected without a second thought.

One side, left, is the dinner menu's always offered selection, shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, escargots, fresh Caesar salad, roast chicken, cedar planked roast salmon, sirloin strip steak and more, up several notches from many other cruise lines and the dinner menus themselves were top-rate,on the right side, Oysters Rockefeller, lamb shanks, Cornish hen, lobster, turkey, duck several times, rack of lamb, Beef Bourgingnon, daily made fresh pasta and sauces, house dressings, a true cheese course, and more, up-scale items, the selections unbelievable, considering how many portions and passengers were to be served. Incredible, and delicious, all at proper temperature, beautifully prepped and presented.

Each evening for Elite Captains Club member an above, the Sky Observation Lounge cordons off a section for these "elite" souls, for the express purpose of a get together, from 5:00pm to 7:00pm, where select cocktails, beer and wines are offered free of charge, with complimentary canapes and hot hors oeuvres, with smiling service in a congenial atmosphere. We were there every night, and still made time for dinner and the shows.

Once during the cruise we attended a captains Club wine tasting, which offered four flights, non expensive, one we ordered later in the MDR. This tasting lacked some finer points we have found on other cruise lines at similar events, such as no fruit, cheese or palate cleaners, and there was no spitting out of the wine. But, we did order one bottle, so it served its purpose.

Seems as though the long line and shaking the hand of the Captain has diminished of late, blame it on the noro virus, we are told. We were presented to the captain, Captain Micheal, as he prefers to be called, and low and behold, we had sailed with him when he was Staff captain on the Chandris SS Victoria, and Celebrity SS Meredian and MV Horizon. He of course remembered one of our now retired captains from both Chandris and Celebrity ships, Captain Pagonis, who just last year retired while we were on the Summit in Bermuda.

We started our first port day with breakfast in the cabin, served on our balcony, fine, except coffee for two was only coffee for one, as one pot was missing from the order. No big deal, I could have called and ordered another, but let it go.

Our first port was Grand Cayman, and the Equinox was there along with Nieuw Amsterdam, Carnival Breeze, Silhouette and Oceania Marina. so, figure approximately 15,000 plus passengers could conceivably be rampaging St. George or Seven Mile Beach. We had booked "Tiki Beach" tour, at seven mile beach, and it w.a.s. MOBBED. The beach is broken up in sections, our being "Tiki". We rented an umbrella, $20.00, $10.00 of which was refunded when returned. For this we also got a free punch, not a drop of rum just punch. Bathroom and changing area clean. We had a beautiful beach experience there, rented an umbrella, and enjoyed our first beach visit in many a cruise.

For Christmas I gave husband as a gift certificate for Murano, the French alternate restaurant that the Solstice class ships offer, and we went there for one of two meals during the cruise, and it was heaven on a plate, the food, the table side prep, the menu, the quality, the atmosphere and everything that makes up and elegant dining experience.

We miss Murano, or Normandie, or SS United States et cetera, as the names of the restaurant vary per ship, and decor in most instances, menu happily, remains true throughout the fleet, save for Xpedition. We a particularly fond of the Peakie toe crab with caviar, diver scallops, lobster bisque and mushroom cappacino, salads offered here only, lobster prepared table side as well as table side prepped Dover Sole, the most gorgeous rack of lamb at sea, and I know of what I speak here, heavenly souffles and ices and bakery confections, and the marvelous cheese trolley which all add up to one of the very finest dining experiences at sea, in all honesty, it is similar to dining in the Cunard Line Grills. We reserved one more night in this heavenly piece of Paris at sea.

Celebrity is the only cruise line that has a glass blowing studio on some of their ships, through a partnership made with Corning Glass Works. We attended one work shop and learned a lot about this ancient art. Items made during the cruise are auctioned off for "the Cure", for cancer. Starting bids are at $1,000.00 per item. A special piece is made for the kids in the group whereby the kids draw what they would like to see blown in glass, one drawing is selected, and made, the child whose item is made gets to keep the item.

Replacing Qsine, one of the alternate restaurants on the Solstice Class is the Asian Fusion "Silk Harvest". We reserved on dinner there, and enjoyed the appetizers, or starters, which included soup, spring rolls, crisp wontons and shrimp. Very good they were. The mains were a little disappointing to us, not too spiced, and not very imaginative. Service was exceptional. There is a separate sushi menu available and exotic drinks.

It has been many years cruised to Cartegena, once in fact, on the MS Mermoz. Back then it was a dusty dump, dangerous city. It has grown, become very modern, with some interesting shops selling emeralds and art. Emeralds are NOT from the large jewelers found throughout the Caribbean, buyer beware.

We opted for the horse drawn carriage ride, one of the excursions offered on the ship. The old city, a UNESCO site, is quite beautiful with colorful bougainvillea and brightly painted shuttered houses and cobblestone streets. It is a nice alternative to the fortress trip, which we did do years ago, and found it to a long hot trip. It hit 97 degrees this day of the carriage ride. Oppressive humidity, too.

The Vision of the Sea was in Colon, Panama when the Equinox docked. This was a sultry hot and humid morning, and we had elected not to take any excursion, since we had done the canal by train and visited Panama from previous cruises, and we wanted to enjoy the ship and just shop at the pier. Each port area seems to have things that differ from the others, and anywhere in Panama you can count on hand made and sewn items made by the Cuna Indians, the charming indigenous Panamanian natives. Hand carved bone items and woven items are also must see items here. Mulas, hand fashioned and colorful fabric items are the key things here. There is a Farmacia here, nothing like one in the States or Canada, but, you can often find what you may need.

The first big production show of the cruise was called "Limelight" with typical Broadway tunes presentation, and this one was excellent, long on talent, costumes and choreography, The second was celled "reMix", and what a show this was.

This offered and olio of popular tunes, from today and disco, to the '50's to today's new chart busters. The vocal artists were perfection, singing movie tunes, up to and including Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ricky Martin. High energy and expensive costumes and lighting plus the ships live band made for one highly explosive evening of sheer energy, iced by the acrobatic and areal artistry that Celebrity has become famous for. Imagine a version of Britney Spears "Toxic" followed by Ricky's "She Bangs". It doesn't get much better than that.

In all of our cruises we had never been to Costa RIca, and this was one of the reasons we booked this particular Celebrity cruise over others. Our shore excursion was "Caribbean Train Boat and Bus". The bus was from the ship to a banana plantation, which was closed on Sunday, so were able to only walk around this plantation with our guide . The boat was a boat trip through a river in a rain forest, where we saw much natural beauty, egrets, a small blue heron and two Jesus Christ lizards, so named because they are able to skim across the water. The river is beautiful, local houses line the river banks. The train is an old train once used for passenger use from the Pacific Coast to the Caribbean coast. The train has been cared for and rebuilt, and has a WC on board, it is pen ar, closed roofed. We saw many howler monkeys and a sloth along the way. It is up to the animals to be seen, not by man, so animal encounters vary,

Limon, Costa Rica is to put it mildly, seedy, and best not strolled through. Our guide Monica and driver Freddy were excellent on this trip. In the water from our cabin balcony in the Equinox ernes, terns and dolphins frolicked throughout most of the day.

Belize is another can of wax, or is it worms. We heard it was awful, we merely took the Beach Boar trip, and that was enough not sandy, just while hard packed sand, cloudy water and a restaurant tht had only nachos and chicken with rice, and a primitive toilet system. The boat ride was long and not very interesting, and well, we just tacked this place up to another place to have seen. This was another first, we had never been to Belize before. Dining is its calling card, we hear. I for one, was less than impressed.

So, Cozumel, a favorite of ours, we have seen Cozumel grow from dirt roads and the tackiest of shops, to what it is today, a first rate tourist city in beautiful Mexico. It is a long ride, and even longer walk, from the pier to the downtown. In were the Disney Fantasy, Silhouette Carnival Glory, and a fav of ours, Celebrity Summit. Always busy, Cozumel never seems crowded. The taxi is $8.00 for two each way. At eh very end of the waterfront downtown is the Forum, a high end shopping area. On the second floor is a kosher Israeli/Mexican restaurant, "Jerusalem. It overlooks the harbor, on this day, the Disney Fantasy. The food is incredible. We had shwarama, shredded chicken with assorted dipping sauces and salads, a a chicken schnitzel, preceded by home made pita style breads, hummus and chimichiri sauce. It was wonderful, and the only meal we had off ship. We ambled around for trinkets, and we bought our son a work of art, a solid-heavy cuff bracelet, inset with leather bands, signed in the verso by the artist. Again, shopper beware, buy silver from the ships recommended shop, it is guaranteed.

The third show was the stopper of all shoes ever on a ship. The show, "Equinox, the Show" was made for the Equinox Theater, which was purpose-built for this and other shows that are heavily into acrobatics and aerialist performances. The aerialists literally fly thought the room three decks above. Costumes are stupendous to say the least.

I could go on and on about this cruise, the food, the crew, captain, decor and the beauty of the ship, the duck a l'orange, the drinks, stars and performers, the under the star shows, the new on-coming CANYON RANCH SPA, debuting fleet wide, but, what I will say, we have booked yet cruise, and our loyalty points just keep adding.

What more can two guys that have been on 84 cruises with many lines on many ships have to ad to what we now consider the best cruise line at sea.

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