Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Celebrity Equinox - Settling In Made Easy

We arrived at the Celebrity Equinox at noon with our luggage efficiently taken and we were quickly ushered through security and to Concierge Class check-in, where we were met by no line at all. In about five minutes we were onboard. It was, pretty much the most efficient check-in ever.

With our staterooms not ready until 1:00 p.m. we went to the Oceanview CafĂ© for a bite to eat. This space quickly reminded me that its design and variety of foods makes it a truly superior “buffet” (albeit the various stations make it anything but a “buffet”). I had small portions of three types of curries (beef, shrimp and veggie), while my DW had some fresh pasta and the kids had Vietnamese stir fry.

One bad thing struck me; something I had not seen on Celebrity before: There was a very aggressive push for the Drink of the Day and bottled water. I found myself trying not to make eye contact so that I would not get another pitch. Hopefully this will be the exception, but it was a very unwelcome start to my cruise.

Right at 1:00pm our staterooms were ready. A bottle of Celebrity champagne (actually more like a very light Cava) greeted us along with a bowl of fruits, fresh flowers, etc. Sherwin, our steward, made himself available almost immediately. Our luggage was delivered to our staterooms before 2:00 pm. Very efficient.

I am not going to review the staterooms again, but do want to note that it is possible to have the balcony divider opened, so we have free access to the kids’ stateroom and visa versa. It is a very nice and convenient feature. (It pretty much makes the need for interconnecting staterooms antiquated if you have older children.)

Another nice touch: the mandatory muster no longer requires you lug your life jackets. A short video and you are done. Again, very efficient.

As we pre-booked our specialty dining, we took a walk around the ship, easily setup our internet, and then settled onto our balcony with our champagne for the 6:00 pm sailaway.

We had dinner in the main dining room. The room is large and attractive, and we have a great private table adjacent to the Captain’s table with a wonderful view of the Wine Tower/Cellar. My escargot and my DW’s beet salad was OK (not bad, just not memorable), our Caprese salad and lobster bisque was better and my lamb shank was actually quite good (and I would note that it is not easy to make a good lamb shank, no less have it offered on a larger cruise ship). My DW’s steak was as ordered, but not memorable. The one thing that got to us was the sort of frenetic pace of things; something somewhat ubiquitous for a cruise’s first night.

It is worthy of note that there were a number of “difficult” passengers who insisted on this or that, showed up for the late seating rather than dining at the assigned early seating, etc. Celebrity’s staff really shined here with a “We will make it happen” approach rather than the more normal for larger ship approach of “Sorry, we cannot help you.” And it was all done with smiles and class. I was impressed…even though it did make our dining experience less than relaxing. (We will be dining in Murano, the nicest of the specialty restaurants for the next two evenings, so I think our dining experience will be much improved; not that last evening was offensive…just not what we prefer.)

Meanwhile, the kids were busy. They had their respective activities with the kids programs, made some friends, spent some money in the arcade and then returned to their stateroom for some late night room service and a movie on the very high tech television system. They are very happy.

After dinner we found our way to Michael’s Club; a decidedly quiet and classy space with a truly excellent classical guitarist for my after dinner whiskey. I remembered Ryan from my Pre-Inaugural Cruise on the Celebrity Solstice.

A nightcap on our balcony and a nice way to end our first day onboard. I am looking forward to settling in and enjoying our cruise over the next two weeks.