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16th June on The Equinox: Operation Warm & Happy

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Quick question- what was the price for the weekly pass for the Persian Gardens? And did they actually offer a day pass?

 

I'd have to go back and look at my receipt, but I think it was $120 plus gratuity. The only "day pass" that I know about is what was the access included when you got a spa service.

 

--bruce T

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I'd have to go back and look at my receipt, but I think it was $120 plus gratuity. The only "day pass" that I know about is what was the access included when you got a spa service.

 

 

 

--bruce T

 

 

Thanks! I have seen prices ranging from $75 for a six day pass to almost $250. Quite the range! I think one of the prices I saw was $119 which makes sense with your recollection. We originally booked aqua class to have the full-time access, then when the price of the cruise went down after our final booking we got upgraded to a suite, but that meant we lost the spa access. We got the “go best“ 4 perk options that included $300 in onboard credit and I figured we’d spend it getting the spa access. Glad to hear it will be within our credit budget! Thanks.

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DAY 7 - SEA DAY

A chance to rest and relax on the way home. As I'm getting ready for breakfast, About this time, my cell phone pings with an incoming message. I look down at it and see:

42710136644_a0c0200555.jpg" width="442" height="500" alt="IMG_1865"

OK, I'd say that we were pretty close to Cuba.

 

After breakfast, I headed to the Spa for another session with Nicky the massage therapist. While waiting for her in the Persian Spa, I grabbed the closest thing to a selfie that you'll ever see of me:

29555191648_f3d572cdef.jpg" width="500" height="400" alt="IMG_1866"

The spa was comfortable, but very... blue. Blue decor, blue lights, and blue water outside. But hey, when in Rome you're gonna find Italian food, amiright? In any case, Nicky did another outstanding job of easing the aches and pains.

 

Walking back from the spa, I grabbed a quick picture of the Cuban coastline:

29555187868_76315245de_z.jpg" width="640" height="512" alt="IMG_1869"

EDITORIAL COMMENT: This is a place I'm torn on visiting. On the one hand, it'd be great to see thee sights and culture of the place that so many of my Cuban friends were born and grew up in. At the same time, the "cultural education" tours and visits that are now allowed to the island seem... well, artificial. And it's not very clear to me how much the locals benefit. But, this is not a political forum or post, so 'nuff said.

 

After lunch in the OceanView, it was off to the Casino. Why? Isn't it a little early? Mark and I had a mission - to spend his $50 free play award from the slot pull! I had stars in my eyes thinking about how much money he was gonna win based on his continual luck on the cruise. So, off we went for Mark to win... $0. Zip. Nada. Maybe he was due for a loss. Or maybe the slots were set a little tighter for the last day of the cruise? :confused: Excuse me while I look for tin foil to make a hat out of...

 

The rest of the day was uneventful. I went back to the cabins to get everything packed up - Felix and Bregor were going to start picking up bags at 6pm. They had already stopped by and dropped off our two bottles of sparkling wine (these were going to be souvenirs for my Florida peeps).

 

I did take a break to head to the iCafe to print out some information on HP printers for our dinner tablemates. Unfortunately, their printer was not behaving well - but although not formatted properly, the printouts were clear enough for them to know what models to look for. While there, I got to listen to someone complain to the iCafe attendant for a solid 20+ minutes. To sum it all up: he was unhappy that his Internet plan was working exactly the way it was supposed to, which wasn't good enough for he and his kids. He wanted to speak to the officer in charge, who was currently at the volleyball tournament. He was also unhappy about this.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Buck up, li'l soldier! I wanted to offer to call him a WAAAAAAAHmbulance, but sat on that impulse. Some people just can't have a good time if they don't have the chance to take out their frustrations on the servants.

 

We left our bags outside the rooms, found Felix and Bregor to thank them (and deliver the rest of our tips), and we were off to a delicious dinner in the Silhouette. Yusuf and Rexon were outstanding as always, but no there was no Jaya to be had - fortunately, I had gone back to Silk Harvest after dinner the previous night to tip he and John. And of course, my new best friend Sarvan came through for me again:

29555186358_863540581b.jpg" width="400" height="500" alt="IMG_1870"

Mark and I tipped all three of these gentlemen very well - they were a major part of our cruise. If you end of on Equinox, you ought to think of looking for them.

 

I can't mention a great dinner without mentioning my tablemates - Mom, Dad, G1, and G2. The Gs are wonderful, and with you as parents they're gonna grow up to be great young women. To the folks on the other side of us... well, I hope we weren't too loud or obnoxious. We would have enjoyed getting to know you too, but you guys seemed pretty happy to keep to yourselves.

 

After dinner, it was back to the cabins. We have an early wakeup tomorrow morning!

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DAY 8 - PORT OF MIAMI

 

Goood morning to The Mothership!

 

Mark and I had a 10:30 reservation at Avis for a rental care, so I indicated that as a departure time. Celebrity cheerfully assigned us to Group #18, leaving the ship at 8am. Is that because we were in Concierge Class cabins? Damfino, but it was way too early for our rental car.

 

So, after reassuring Mark about a dozen times that we did not have to be off the ship at 8am, we headed to breakfast. I didn't want to deal with the crush in OceanView on departure morning, so this was our first and only breakfast in Silhouette. We sit down, and our waiter comes over... and it's Yusuf! A great chance for us to talk with him and thank him again before we leave. The breakfast was good, although not quite up to Mark's standards of quantity. :rolleyes:

 

After breakfast, we headed up to the next Level of Silhouette to the Concierge Class waiting area. Mark continued to get more and more nervous about getting off the ship, so we decided to disembark at 9. Our luggage was waiting for us, since it left the ship at 8am. Global Entry was not open, but there was absolutely no wait for Immigration & Customs. We were curbside by 9:20 - very efficient!

 

Efficient that is, until we got outside. What a madhouse! There seemed to be little rhyme or reason to how the curbside departure areas was organized. Cars, vans, and shuttle buses (many towing trailers for luggage) ducked in and out of the mess at random. And throughout all of this, I'm looking for the Avis shuttle than runs "regularly" to the ships. In this case, "regularly" means a 45 minute wait - and the bus (which also handled Budget Car Rental) was full up by the time it left.

 

A short drive brought us to Avis' city rental office:

29556191318_c39142e197.jpg" width="500" height="273" alt="Miami-Avis"

The office is literally a storefront office on second avenue - separated from budget by a small Cuban restaurant. We went inside to find that their computers were down - all agreements were being handwritten. This added about 30 minutes of wait and uncertainty... especially since they were not renting to people who didn't have their reservation number & info. Being the paranoid kind of guy that I am, I had that waiting on my phone... and after laboriously filling out the rental agreement by hand, the agent gave me the keys and we were off.

 

We spent a couple of days in Miami visiting with old friends - and like all such visits, it was mostly happy with a little sadness to see how someone had aged. We flew back to Houston on Monday, and got the girls out of the Pet Hotel. As always, they were a little miffed at us - but after a while, Sammie The WonderPuppy was in my lap trying to make me feel guilty about leaving them behind.

42711158084_20dd637b06_z.jpg" width="554" height="640" alt="IMG_E1877"

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THE CRUISE IN REVIEW

 

Was it worth it?

Absolutely. The positives far outweighed the few negatives, and we got a great price from Celebrity.

 

What could have been better?

The first general thing that comes to mind would be to cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale - which is where Equinox is moving next year. Other than that, I think that we would have stayed on the boat in Costa Maya - unless we could git a good rate on a tour to Chetaumal.

 

Did we make our aunt proud?

I sure as hell hope so. My fondest memories of her remain as those I have of of my parents - making her laugh. And trust me, she had a lot of material to laugh at on this cruise! Between that and how much she enjoyed going out to eat with Mark and I... it was a success. Aunt Sister, we miss you like hell - but we're happy you're no longer suffering. Thanks again for letting us celebrate your life, and for helping to make this cruise possible.

42523130085_1516df0f6c_z.jpg" width="640" height="596" alt="IMG_0956"

 

And with that, I'll open the floor for questions. :D

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Wonderful report; we lived in South Florida for ten years and the way you write reminds me of another person from there - Dave Barry. If you ever go back to Costa Maya consider visiting the ruins at Chacchoben; they are only about an hour away. We used The Native Choice (not through the line); small vans/groups, great guides, safe, reasonably priced and get you back in plenty of time. One ruins site is plenty for this port - that is if you can find your way out of the port area; never seen such a maze to escape the fake little village that they built there...

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DAY 7 - SEA DAY

A chance to rest and relax on the way home. As I'm getting ready for breakfast, About this time, my cell phone pings with an incoming message. I look down at it and see:

42710136644_a0c0200555.jpg" width="442" height="500" alt="IMG_1865"

OK, I'd say that we were pretty close to Cuba.

 

After breakfast, I headed to the Spa for another session with Nicky the massage therapist. While waiting for her in the Persian Spa, I grabbed the closest thing to a selfie that you'll ever see of me:

29555191648_f3d572cdef.jpg" width="500" height="400" alt="IMG_1866"

The spa was comfortable, but very... blue. Blue decor, blue lights, and blue water outside. But hey, when in Rome you're gonna find Italian food, amiright? In any case, Nicky did another outstanding job of easing the aches and pains.

 

Walking back from the spa, I grabbed a quick picture of the Cuban coastline:

29555187868_76315245de_z.jpg" width="640" height="512" alt="IMG_1869"

EDITORIAL COMMENT: This is a place I'm torn on visiting. On the one hand, it'd be great to see thee sights and culture of the place that so many of my Cuban friends were born and grew up in. At the same time, the "cultural education" tours and visits that are now allowed to the island seem... well, artificial. And it's not very clear to me how much the locals benefit. But, this is not a political forum or post, so 'nuff said.

 

After lunch in the OceanView, it was off to the Casino. Why? Isn't it a little early? Mark and I had a mission - to spend his $50 free play award from the slot pull! I had stars in my eyes thinking about how much money he was gonna win based on his continual luck on the cruise. So, off we went for Mark to win... $0. Zip. Nada. Maybe he was due for a loss. Or maybe the slots were set a little tighter for the last day of the cruise? :confused: Excuse me while I look for tin foil to make a hat out of...

 

The rest of the day was uneventful. I went back to the cabins to get everything packed up - Felix and Bregor were going to start picking up bags at 6pm. They had already stopped by and dropped off our two bottles of sparkling wine (these were going to be souvenirs for my Florida peeps).

 

I did take a break to head to the iCafe to print out some information on HP printers for our dinner tablemates. Unfortunately, their printer was not behaving well - but although not formatted properly, the printouts were clear enough for them to know what models to look for. While there, I got to listen to someone complain to the iCafe attendant for a solid 20+ minutes. To sum it all up: he was unhappy that his Internet plan was working exactly the way it was supposed to, which wasn't good enough for he and his kids. He wanted to speak to the officer in charge, who was currently at the volleyball tournament. He was also unhappy about this.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Buck up, li'l soldier! I wanted to offer to call him a WAAAAAAAHmbulance, but sat on that impulse. Some people just can't have a good time if they don't have the chance to take out their frustrations on the servants.

 

We left our bags outside the rooms, found Felix and Bregor to thank them (and deliver the rest of our tips), and we were off to a delicious dinner in the Silhouette. Yusuf and Rexon were outstanding as always, but no there was no Jaya to be had - fortunately, I had gone back to Silk Harvest after dinner the previous night to tip he and John. And of course, my new best friend Sarvan came through for me again:

29555186358_863540581b.jpg" width="400" height="500" alt="IMG_1870"

Mark and I tipped all three of these gentlemen very well - they were a major part of our cruise. If you end of on Equinox, you ought to think of looking for them.

 

I can't mention a great dinner without mentioning my tablemates - Mom, Dad, G1, and G2. The Gs are wonderful, and with you as parents they're gonna grow up to be great young women. To the folks on the other side of us... well, I hope we weren't too loud or obnoxious. We would have enjoyed getting to know you too, but you guys seemed pretty happy to keep to yourselves.

 

After dinner, it was back to the cabins. We have an early wakeup tomorrow morning!

:hearteyes: Btank: I LOVE you for your kindness and your love for Aunt Sister and your brother, Mark.

 

Thanks for the comment about the frustrating way the cruise lines handle the Grand Cayman tours. Two years ago, I friend and I demanded refunds after waiting an hour in the heat and the bus had not yet arrived.

 

Regarding Cuba: I did a marvelous Azamara 10-night Intensive Cuba (plus Key West) cruise this past March/April. Six marvelous nights in Cuba: three in Havana and then Cienfuegos/Trinidad and Santiago de Cuba. Azamara is cruising to Cuba this year and maybe next but not in 2020. The ship is small (under 700 very well-travelled passengers [not me so much]) with great service. I took all the ships tours but many others did not. Go before access is closed off to us again. Beautiful architecture, 50/60's cars, exquisite churches (my thing), nice people. I did the touristy old cars, the Tropicana, the Club Parsien and enjoyed every minute. If you go, take Euros or Canadian money....save on the 13% conversion fee on US money. But GOOOOO! I the pleasure of spending time with a passenger who emigrated with his family when he was 13; it was special hearing how he found his parents' and his aunts' former homes, etc.

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Thank you for the great trip report and photos!

 

Now that I learned the secret to viewing the photos!!

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OHMYGOSH..........great review! We were on this sailing with you. Some of your photos are so similar to mine we must have been standing near one another :). I totally agree with your summary, sailing out of FLL is preferred, we also won't be getting off in costa may again unless the seaweed issue resolves itself in Mahahul.

 

I didn't find debarkation anything out of the ordinary, but we waitied to be the last call off. I did think the front end loader cruising down the middle of the port 'highway' was a bit odd. Traffic was very backed up due to him, and it didn't seem necessary to move that loader at peek transfer time.

 

I just met with my friends yesterday to review our trip and we all agree this was one of the best cruises ever. Not really because Equinox is perfect, but there is something about the ship that just gels. We did another cruise booking while on-board, so I think that says it all.

 

Glad you also had a wonderful trip!

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Wonderful report; we lived in South Florida for ten years and the way you write reminds me of another person from there - Dave Barry.

 

A compliment of the highest order! I miss his regular columns.

 

--bruce T.

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I didn't find debarkation anything out of the ordinary, but we waitied to be the last call off.

 

I wanted to wait until 9:30, but Mark would have none of it. Of course, if I had waited I might have still had the delay for the Avis shuttle anyway. The better option might have been to take a cab or Uber to the airport rental location.

 

--bruce T.

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:hearteyes:Thanks for the comment about the frustrating way the cruise lines handle the Grand Cayman tours. Two years ago, I friend and I demanded refunds after waiting an hour in the heat and the bus had not yet arrived.

...

Go [to Cuba] before access is closed off to us again.

 

Interesting to hear that tours in Grand Cayman may be a long term systemic problem.

 

As far as Cuba, the potential of a reimposed travel ban one of the things that has me thinking about it. Based on your description, I may have to give it some more thought!

 

thx... --bruce T.

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And thus my first hyper-expensive glass of wine of the cruise. Hey, you only live once? Sarvan returned with an excellent cabernet:

43154814042_3c219dbdb1.jpg" width="311" height="500" alt="IMG_1829"

...and in doing so, solidified his status as my new best friend.

 

].

 

 

Do by any chance remember how much it was a glass? I might eat up all my OBC with upcharges if Caymus is available.

Thanks

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Do by any chance remember how much it was a glass?

 

I'd have to dig out my copy of the bill, but I believe that the Caymus was $22 for a glass. And it was gooooooooooooooooood!

 

--bruce T.

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I'd have to dig out my copy of the bill, but I believe that the Caymus was $22 for a glass. And it was gooooooooooooooooood!

 

--bruce T.

 

Thanks! I am going to ask on the summit. If I can get it that cheap I am all over it since we have premium already.

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Thank you, Bruce, for taking the time to write a humorous and touching review of yours and Mark's cruise! You are obviously a very loving and wonderful brother. I look forward to reading about your next cruise!

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I'd have to dig out my copy of the bill, but I believe that the Caymus was $22 for a glass. And it was gooooooooooooooooood!

 

 

 

--bruce T.

 

 

Wow! I’m surprised you could order that by the glass!!!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I am really hoping it’s not more than $22 a glass. I really want to try it and along with the premium package, that’s totally do-able! A friend of mine recently raved about this wine.

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I am really hoping it’s not more than $22 a glass. I really want to try it and along with the premium package, that’s totally do-able! A friend of mine recently raved about this wine.

 

 

Same!! We have a use it or lose it on board credit and I think we’ll have extra money after we buy a couple of passes to the Persian Gardens. This would be a perfect use of those funds!

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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GOING BACK TO MIAMI

Aaaaaaaaaand we're off!

42374249284_db2816a2da.jpg" width="500" height="172" alt="IAH - MIA"

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was born in Miami Beach, and grew up in Hollywood, FL. Normally, I would have flown in the day before; in this case; literally everyone I would want to visit with was unavailable or out of town the night before, so I decided to fly in the morning of the cruise. This would be fine with me... except, Mark is not a morning person. Knowing that he'd have a 4:30a wake up with no chance for breakfast, I decided to splurge on First Class tickets so he could eat a breakfast-like substance (and I might be able to catch a nap). I booked the outbound tickets through Flights by Celebrity, and opted for the airport transfer. IMHO, a good decision! (more to come)

 

We left for the airport a few minutes to 5, and got to The Parking Spot by 5:30. PRO TIP FOR HOUSTON: If you have to drive anywhere in Houston, 5a is the best time to leave to avoid traffic. Even if you're going out to dinner, leave at 5a. :D We loaded everything into the parking shuttle (with everything that Mark had forgot plus my bag and carry ons, we were up to 7 bags), and were at the terminal in no time. EDITORIAL COMMENT: Houston, IAH is a major airport hub. There were lots of people flying out early. Why not see if you can get some skycaps there before 6a? They'd definitely have some business... I would have much preferred doing a curbside check-in, then parked. Oh well...

 

Check-in was painless, and off to the security line we went. Mark and I have had TSA Pre-Check almost since it came out, and love the faster screening. EDITORIAL COMMENT: TSA, I love keeping my shoes on... but what's the point of keeping my belt on if you always ask me to remove it after I set off the magnetometer and try again? I've gotten to the point where I just take the belt off anyway. So, through the magnetometer I go, trying to hold up my shorts to prevent an episode of public nudity. In the meantime, Mark is in line for the body scanner - he has a bunch of metal in his leg plus his suspenders with metal clips, and we've found the scanner to be easier for him.

 

So I round the corner from the magnetometer, tell the TSA agent that he's mentally disabled and have to wait for him (and they are always polite and understanding about this), and turn around to find our carry on bags and... no belt. Really? RANT: I wear a size 42 belt. Did you honestly think that was your belt? Did you need one that badly? I would have chipped in a couple of bucks!

 

Fortunately, I had a spare belt... lovingly packed away in my luggage. So, I am now cursed with walking through IAH to the United Club (about 27 miles) holding my shorts up with one hand while carrying a bag with the other. Do they have stores that sell belts at IAH? Of course! Are they open at 6am? Not so much. After 40 minutes in the club, we left for the gate (another 13 miles). On the way, I stopped at every open store looking for a luggage strap, piece of rope, bungee cord... with no joy.

 

Our flight left on time, and it was great! I got us bulkhead seats, which gave Mark a little more legroom. The flight attendant showed up at the appropriate time with something that resembled an omelet like substance, which I immediately handed to Mark (he's a growing boy). I enjoyed my 4 grapes, 5 cantaloupe cubes, and two slices of orange... and before we knew it, we were on final approach.

 

Ahhhhh, Miami International. Like I said, I'm from Miami. I love Miami and South Florida. That being said, there is only one airport in the world that I hate more than MIA. La Guardia can't help it - it's the best airport that the 1960's has to offer - but it continues to amaze me that MIA can provide LGA levels of service despite having gone through multiple $billion in renovations. Again, if I could have I would have flown in the day before - and that would have been to Ft. Lauderdale. But, time was limited and we had First Class tickets so we could get our luggage quickly... except we were at MIA, and nothing happens quickly if there's a good opportunity to delay it.

 

So, we're down in Baggage Claim waiting for our bags. I see people with Carnival, Norwegian, MSC, Royal Caribbean signs... but no Celebrity rep as reassured by the friendly reservations agent on the phone. Not that big of a deal... unless you're travelling with a mentally disabled brother. You could see the waves of anxiety radiating from his body as he asked every 30 seconds what we would do if nobody from Celebrity showed up. It's a little hard to be reassuring while you're trying to manage three carry on bags while trying to keep my shorts from dropping to my ankles... but wonder of wonders, when our bags arrived there was a person standing about 15 feet away with a Celebrity sign and looking somewhat befuddled.

 

I did a quick dive into my mad - and of course, I couldn't find my belt - then it was time to follow our friendly Celebrity rep ("I was expecting a lot more people on your flight?"). She took us to a set of chairs about 50 feet from a very poorly identified Royal Caribbean transfer desk. There, we sat - and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally - by a remarkable coincidence - when they had enough people to fill a bus, a bus magically appeared. I pulled my shorts up and walked another 12 miles to our bus. RANT: C'mon, Celebrity, you can do better than that! Are you really saving that much on bus runs? And there was no bus staging area closer? I saw buses stopping literally at the next set of doors...

 

So, we leave MIA - and fortunately, traffic was pretty good! A little congestion on the Dolphin Expressway due to some construction, and then we pass by Miami's latest malignant growth (not my photo):

28224425027_f5828563a1.jpg" width="500" height="281"

 

Yep, it was Marlins Stadium. This was the first time that I had seen it in person. RANT: This is what you tore down the Orange Bowl for?

 

But enough about that. I can't let this get me down, because we're almost at...

 

Let me say I am loving your touching story. I can relate well as I currently live in Hollywood (Pembroke Pines) but also!....am about to cruise for first time ever - and on Equinox). I Am quite enjoying all of these local references as I agreee fully!

 

Yes I fly out of FLL whenever possible and YES I am still sour they tore down the O.B. (Very) prematurely for the subject of your lovely photo! Hehe. But good for you in all of your caring efforts I must mention! So nice! 🙂

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I can relate well as I currently live in Hollywood (Pembroke Pines)... I Am quite enjoying all of these local references as I agreee fully!

 

Very familiar with the Pines - my Dad used to have an office at Pembroke Rd & 68th, and all of my HS friends lived near Perry Airport.

 

--bruce T.

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