Equinox 2n Pre-Inaugural Cruise 27-29 July 2009
We arrived at the City Terminal and the sight of the Equinox was very impressive, this was my first time on a Celebrity ship, and how exciting to be trying a brand new ship, pre-maiden and a Solstice class ship at that!
This ship is the 2nd Solstice ship to be rolled out, the 3rd will be very interesting as ‘Eclipse’ will be based in Southampton next year after her launch, and should be very similar to this ship and will, no doubt, be major competition for P&O. Celebrity have been recently voted best UK Cruise line by the Telegraph, The Guardian, Observer Travel Awards 2008.
This ship is 122,000 tonnes and has a occupancy of 2,850, on this mini-cruise she was sailing at 80% occupancy with around 2,300 onboard, so while looking around the ship I was looking at how the public rooms coped with that many onboard, and I must say, it felt roomy and comfortable, and strangely didn’t feel like a ‘big’ ship, infact after being onboard Ventura and Independence, this ship felt smaller, but in a nice way.
We were greeted on boarding to a glass of champagne, and went direct to our cabins and unpacked. We were in a ‘Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with veranda’ on the starboard side , and on entering I was very impressed with the décor, especially the full size cream leather sofa and large 32 inch flat screen tv, showing a limited range of channels, but this included a BBC Tv Prime channel and sky news, plus a tour excursions channel. The bathroom was lovely with a corner shower, and the light wood furnishings, and raised wash bowl and single tap and looked very modern. I liked the additions of cotton wool and buds and a tissue box, but on the minus side the bath towels were too small, a bath sheet would have been nice, and I was under whelmed with the 1 ply toilet tissue (why? You only use twice as much and its just annoying!) A design minus also was the shelf for your toiletries was very narrow, and you ended up putting things on the toilet seat when getting ready to go out. Also where was the soap dish? A small thing, but it meant the wet soap was left on this narrow shelf and kept sliding around and making everything wet and messy.
The furnishings were lovely, and balcony furniture very modern with a large round wooden slat table. Don’t forget to take a US plug adaptor for you electrical items though as of course this is a US ship.
I went on a tour of the cabins after lunch and was surprised to learn there are very few inside cabins, infact 90% of the cabins have a ocean view and nearly all of these have a private balcony on this ship.
The inside cabin I did view was a wheelchair accessible one and was very roomy and these cabins also have a massive 32inch flat screen tv on the wall opposite the bed!
I have described the balcony cabins, and after that I saw ‘Aqua class cabin’ which is the same size as the balcony (194 sq ft with a 54 sq ft balcony) for those who love ‘spa life’ there are 130 of these cabins located near the Aqua spa which give priority seating in Blu specialty restaurant, a spa concierge to arrange treatments, and priority to the Aqua spa of course!
Smoking on Equinox is not allowed in staterooms, corridors or on balconies.
The suites were all lovely, with butler service, the chance to have breakfast, lunch or dinner in your cabin., and of course a bath, some with separate walk in shower or Jacuzzi. And some with a 52inch tv with a 40inch tv in the bedroom!
At the top of this ship, is the ‘Sky Observation Lounge’ Celebrity’s own Crows Nest, with amazing décor again including sweeping cream settees with purple cushions, and a large stage and dance floor. Also look out for the Lawn Club, where half a acre of real lawn adorns the deck so you can play croquet and lawn bowls. Nearby is a Hot Glass show where you can see glass blowing demonstrations which were very interesting, I was given a single rose made of glass which I will treasure.
The self service buffet restaurant called The Oceanview Café, was spacious and served everything from pasta, pizzas, tacos, hot food and salads. There was a ice cream bar with plentiful flavours and toppings, and the sweets were delicious to look at and eat. I couldn’t find a decent breakfast UK tea, but there were all the other types of speciality teas in a large selection box so perhaps there was a decent one suitable for a ‘builders brew’ but I couldn’t find it. Also I’m afraid it seems to be streaky bacon and not our UK favourite back bacon on here, but I was told the chef was seen carving a massive boiled gammon joint at breakfast so you could try that if you were hungry! The Oceanview deck was lovely and had again, wonderful modern furniture and even settees.
Keeping on the theme of food and dining areas, I must say the Silhouette Dining room was jaw-dropping WOW , I could not think how a dining room could be any better in a modern contemporary design, I have taken a lot of photos in the link at the bottom of this review to show you. We ate here on the first evening, and the food was lovely too. I had a appetizer of ‘Crispy Sautéed Pork potstickers with Oyster sauce and water chestnuts, followed by a creamy Cannellini bean soup, and then grilled tournedos of beef and veal with gratin potatoes and a bordelaise sauce, The steaks were plump and melted in the mouth, I followed this with a poached pear on a ginger sponge with Vanilla mousse, and hot ! Coffee (unlike P&O’s )
On the 2nd night, formal, we were lucky to be invited by a Celebrity UK representative to join him at the French Specialty restaurant - Murano, along with four other guests, The service was attentive, and included my cooked whole dover sole being filleted in front of me at the table, and my husbands crepes with a wonderful strawberry sauce being flambéed at the table to much aplomb by the head waiter.
I have taken photos of Blu, Silk Harvest(Asian cuisine) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian Steakhouse) and some food samples which can be found in the photo album.
During my cruise we were invited to sampler tastings, in the afternoon, and of course it would have been rude not to go!
The pools were lovely, with 4 Jacuzzis surrounding the outside deck one, and double bed sun-loungers. I am pleased to say there are ‘Pool Butlers’ on Solstice ships, who have been instructed to remove towels from empty sunbeds immediately they are left and personal possessions after a 30minute wait. I spoke to the lady in charge of poolside house-keeping and she said this was very successful, although there were occasionally arguments, but the pool butlers were big lads and stood there ground.
Photo above of pool butler in action at pool side.
There is a inside pool in the ‘adults only’ Solarium adjacent to the Aqua Spa.
The shops were amazing, as so were the shop window displays (see photos) really unusual. I bought a Equinox teddy for my collection $14.99, and 2 different mugs for $14.99 a pair on a special offer (usually $7.99 each). I bought one photo which was quite expensive, taken at dinner $19.95 8x10. There was also a duty free shop selling Cigarettes, alcohol etc, something not seen on P&O,
Cigarettes $60 for two cartons.
My cruise was different from a normal cruise, we sailed to Guernsey and around the Channel Islands (211 miles in all) but I can imagine the experience would be very special indeed and would agree it is one * more than P&O , little things, like at dinner, on P&O - one small roll is offered , on Celebrity Solstice class, you have your own bread selection basket with all sorts of breads and breadsticks, plus flavoured butters including lobster butter.
The ship is very modern and contemporary and appealed to us, like Arcadia, she is not a classic old fashioned ship, she doesn’t pretend to be one. The shows in the theatre were of similar quality and we found them enjoyable. There was a lot of live entertainment around the ship, a jazz quartet played in the Grand Foyer before dinner, then we saw a young female pretty foursome called Inspiration strings playing , also an acoustic guitarist playing poolside while you were sunbathing, and a great dance band playing pop classics.
I hope to book a cruise on Eclipse one day soon, and I am sure these Solstice ships will have P&O quaking in their boots. But competition is healthy and perhaps all the UK based cruise lines will be upping their product and us, the passengers can only benefit from that!
120 Photos here: