Sailing on Celebrity Equinox

River or Ocean Cruises
Sailing on Celebrity Equinox
Photo credit:
I had the pleasure of sailing on Celebrity Equinox, recently, and thought I would talk a bit about the experience. This was my first time sailing with Celebrity and, I admit, my expectations were pretty high. Celebrity is considered a ‘premium’ cruise line, along with Princess, Holland America, and Sir Richard Branson’s new venture, Virgin Voyages. It remains to be seen whether or not Virgin lives up to its presumptive designation of ‘premium’, but my money’s on Sir Richard! Celebrity is in the process of updating its fleet with a $500 million program referred to as their Revolution. Equinox was ‘revolutionized’ in June of 2019, so it was looking very modern and new. Being as Celebrity is a ‘premium’ cruise line they offer both premium services and premium amenities. There is no question that this premium-level comes at a higher price point, but when you focus on the value you really see that Celebrity delivers a lot of bang for your buck.

One of the first things to know about Celebrity is that the size of their ships is at the lower end of the “large-ship” category with a capacity of about 2800 passengers, for Solstice Class. At about 122,000 gross tons, Equinox is dwarfed by the likes of a Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ship (220-225,000 GT). There are no water slides, or laser tag, or go-karts. If you are looking for non-stop action for you and the kids, Celebrity is maybe not your thing. However, if what you want is a little more sophisticated and evolved experience (for your kids as well as you), then I think Celebrity really fills that niche.

The ‘premium’ experience starts as soon as you board the ship when you are offered a complimentary glass of sparkling wine! It continues as you take in the beauty of the ship with its stunning décor and visionary architecture. Celebrity is known for the quality and beauty of its ships and Equinox does not disappoint! Whenever you start a cruise on a new ship, it always takes a day or two to really start to notice the details. I wanted to expedite this process so I decided to more or less see the whole ship on the first day. Boy did I do a lot of walking, but it was worth the investment! Equinox really is a very nice ship with lots of elements and touches that set it apart from the competition.

Celebrity does a great job at walking the line between pigeon-holing itself as a family-oriented experience vs. an adult-only experience. It’s not family-focused, per se, but there are definitely activities on board for kids, such as the Fun Factory which is part of the X-Club Youth Program. Glass blowing classes, are also available, and the kids must be at least 8 yrs. old. There’s also a basketball court and an arcade for kids of all ages! Celebrity is savvy enough to recognize that some people would rather enjoy a more serene and relaxed environment, and for that, they have the perfect solution.

The “Solarium” is an adult-only pool and lounge area that is a very calming place to be. It’s also unique in that it has a roof. It’s perfect for people who aren’t sun worshipers or don’t like the music that pervades the pool deck, and there are ‘slats’ in the glass that when open, allow a nice breeze to come through. There is a beverage service, although sometimes it might take a bit of time to be served. There are bars close by for those who would rather get their own drink. But, as I said, it’s a very nice place to just chill if the pool deck isn’t your thing. And pleasingly, the deck chair ‘hogs’ don’t seem to live in this ecosystem.

The “Solarium”

Photo credit: James Hill/Far and Away Travel
The Solarium is only one example of Celebrity’s prowess at innovation. There are things that they do that no on else in the large ship category does. Perhaps no more striking example of this awaits passengers, outside. When you get to the 15th deck (having flown to Ft. Lauderdale from Canada in January, this was one of my highest priorities!) you immediately notice something very unusual for a cruise ship. Grass. Real grass! Equinox’s “Lawn Club” is a very unique venue mid-ship, and actually a really cool experience. Celebrity is the only cruise line growing real grass; aboard their Solstice Class ships. They play movies on a large screen, and the “Lawn Club Grill” is there to serve their patrons food and beverages. Yet another innovation in this space is the “Hot Glass Class”; a glass blowing studio. Believe it or not, they conduct glass blowing classes (for a fee), at different times throughout the cruise. You can create a real work of art under the tutelage of a master glassblower! Last, but not least, on the “Lawn Club”, cabanas (shown below) are available for rental by the day or half-day. All in all, it’s probably the coolest and most unique space on the ship!

The “Lawn Club”

Photo credit: James Hill/Far and Away Travel
Aside from these great venues, there is yet another thing that separates Celebrity from the field, and that is their dining experiences. Without question, you will sample food that is a cut above the competition, certainly outclassing any offerings in the mass market category (e.g. Royal Caribbean and Norwegian). The buffet offers great quality food and the specialty restaurants are top-notch. I sampled Italian fare at the Tuscan Grille and I must say, I enjoyed probably the best lasagna I have ever had. It was that good! The service was also what you would expect from a high-end restaurant back home.

Of course, no meal is complete without a glass of fine wine! (in my case a 2014 Barolo). Celebrity also enjoys the reputation of delivering great wine and great wine service. Their restaurants, including the main dining room, employ a complement of about 23 genuinely-certified sommeliers onboard each Solstice Class ship; providing a great service to the passengers. Guests can order from a selection of over 400 different types of wine, from the four corners of the world, and a sommelier will ensure that you get the best pairing for your meal. Solstice Class ships feature a two-story wine tower in the main dining room, which holds approximately 1800 bottles of wine. It’s a gorgeous design element of the space but also stores the wine at the perfect temperature for service.

The “Wine Tower”

Photo credit:
So, let’s put it all together. Beautiful ship, innovative and unique amenities, great service, and great food! What else can one ask for? Well, how about an award-winning pedigree? For Cruise Critic’s 2019 Cruisers Choice Awards for large ships, Equinox finished in the top ten for every single category, except Best for Families. In fact, Celebrity Equinox finished number one for Best Overall Ship, Best Dining, Best Public Rooms and Best Cruise Ship for Value. Pretty impressive!

If you haven’t yet experienced ‘Premium’ cruising, what are you waiting for? Is it the price tag? Well, remember that Equinox took the top honour in the Best Cruise Ship for Value category. That means even though the fare is a bit higher, Celebrity is delivering value on your vacation dollars.

It’s time to step up to Celebrity! You won’t be disappointed. I know that I sure wasn’t!

Where do you want to go?