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First time Celebrity Cruiser: The Expectation compared to the Reality

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Last month I wrote the below linked post comparing my Celebrity expectations to my experiences on Carnival after 10 Carnival cruises.

My expectations for Equinox (Western Caribbean) were formed after reading Cruise Critic’s Celebrity boards for 6 weeks.

 

I thought it would be interesting (to me) to now compare my expectations to what I actually experienced.  So Here Goes:

 

Service

 

Expectation:  Service will be as good, if not a little better than Carnival. Twice daily room servicing was the norm on Carnival and our needs were always met.   I expect the same on Equinox. I expect name recognition of guests to be far better on Celebrity than Carnival.  My expectation is the bartending staff on Celebrity Equinox will be more highly skilled compared to Carnival bartenders and I hope they will be just as friendly and outgoing, if not more so.

 

Reality:  Room Steward service was excellent.  We were not demanding, nor required anything particularly special, other than delivery of the Premium Celebration package on the first night, and Champagne iced on the 5th night, but our room was cleaned perfectly when we were out in the morning. Towels and Amenities were refreshed.  The bed was made.  Turndown service was perfect in the evening.  Chocolates on the pillows, drapes closed, bed made, clean towels and garbage emptied.  Twice we tipped our Steward an additional $20.

Our Steward called us by name and so did the Dining Room staff in Blu. We weren’t regulars at any particular bar, so bartenders didn’t remember who we were.

The bartenders at the Martini bar were talented.  I didn’t find any of the bartenders to be particularly outgoing.  In fact, they seemed overworked. Some of the beverage servers were far more outgoing than the bartenders.

 

Décor

 

Expectation:  I expect Equinox to look and feel much more polished, refined, and elegant than Carnival, but I don’t expect Ritz-Carlton/Four Seasons Hotels level of quality.  I expect a Grand Hyatt feel.  

 

Reality:  Expectation Exceeded.  Many of the spaces did, in fact, feel like a Ritz Carlton experience.  Particularly, the Ensemble lounge, Tuscan, and Murano.

Michael’s lounge was our Muster Station, and that area impressed me. 

Blu was nice.  My wife, and our friends all commented how much they loved the room when they entered for the first time.

The areas overlooking the Grand Foyer (Library, Earth, etc) looked particularly elegant, even though I didn’t set foot in these spaces.  

The Oceanview Café was nicer than I expected.  The furniture was comfortable and the buffets were very nicely laid out. 

The spa was luxurious.

The theater seemed a bit rundown.  Some of the seats were broken.  Its revolution time.

The pool deck and Mast Bar deck were as expected.  Many of the outdoor wooden steps were cracking and well worn.  Revolution time.

The elevators were nice.

The casino seemed dated to me.  Time for revolution.

The lawn deck needed watering.

The rocker/slider chairs outside on 5 and on the Lawn deck didn’t seem to rock much anymore. Time for new chairs.  The pads were well worn too.

 

Cabins

 

Expectation:  I expected the Aqua class cabin to be a little smaller than Carnival’s, but the bathroom to be a little larger.  I expected the furnishings to be similar, but the bed to be more comfortable than on Carnival.  I expected nicer in-room amenities.  I think the Aqua balcony chairs and foot stools will be fine for me.

 

Reality:  I purposely booked a cabin with the bed near the bathroom and we were happy with this arrangement.  It was a little tight getting into the closet, and around the bed, but it worked.  We liked having the couch area next to the balcony. My wife used the makeup table a lot, next to the balcony door, and it was good there.

We both were pleasantly surprised by the storage spaces in the cabin and bathroom. We had enough space for everything.  We brought packing cubes which we kept clothes in, above the bed, and stored our suitcases under the bed for laundry.  The door shoe holder we brought with us was helpful on the inside of the bathroom door.  The hooks held it up, and the door still closed.  The magnetic hooks we brought worked well to hold random bags, belts, and hats on the walls.  The outlets were meager, but the USB multi charger we brought with us solved that problem.

The balcony chairs and foot stools, with the table in between were more than comfortable.

 

Embarkation

 

Expectation:   I expect Celebrity has made embarkation more streamlined, and with priority Aqua class embarkation, I’m not concerned about the 2 hour lines and waits I experienced in the early days of Carnival.

 

Reality:  Expectation EXCEEDED.

Embarkation was a breeze.  We arrived at the terminal at 10:45.  There was no wait at any check in line.  We went to the Aqua class line and processed quickly.  We then went through security, with a minor blip over a mini bar sized bottle of Belvedere, then onto the ship.  I was amazed by how quicker this was than my past experiences.

 

Main Dining Food

 

Expectation:  We will be dining at Blu for most dinners and I expect it to be good too, but I don’t expect to be blown away by the food.  I plan to steer away from basic steaks and chops but intend to ask for double portion of the short ribs, which apparently is everyone’s fave. I know we can ask for multiple Apps, Entrees and Desserts if we want, and can also request items from the MDR menu and the staff will go out of their way to accommodate if possible. (yes, I’d like the escargot and onion soup from the MDR menu, please.)

 

Reality:  The food in Blu for dinner was good but not great.  We were in Specialty restaurants on both chic nights, so maybe that was a factor in the menu choices on the remaining nights but we weren’t impressed.  It was nice to have the option of ordering of the everyday appetizer and entrée selections, but that got old quickly. Surprisingly, on one night, the waiter offered us the complete MDR menu since we were having trouble finding anything we liked.  We didn’t accept the offer because we knew the distance on Equinox to the main kitchen was problematic and we didn’t want to cause problems.  Breakfast, on the other hand, was amazing in Blu.  Everything was so good, but I wasn’t fond of the fingering potatoes or the hash browns. 

 

Buffet

 

Expectation:  My expectation, compared to Carnival, was the buffet may be a let down for variety, but will be stepped up a notch for quality.  I didn’t expect as many options but I expected the choices I make to taste good and will probably be a little better than on Carnival.  I feel the pizza will not compare to Carnival and sometimes, one wants a good tasting delish pizza at midnight.  I think the burgers at Mast Grill will be ok, but not special.

 

Reality:   The food selection, variety and quality at the lunch buffets were excellent.  I thought the food was tasty, and there were plenty of options to choose from.  I was pleased.  I didn’t eat at the buffet for lunch or dinner.  And the only thing I ate at the Mast Grill was fries.

 

Room Service

 

Expectation:  I expect Celebrity room service to be better than Carnival.  The Aqua Class room service breakfast menu looks appealing to me.  I hope it’s good. 

 

Reality:  I only ordered room service once for early coffee and croissants because I knew I’d be waking earlier than my wife.  On the door knob menu I requested 8am delivery.  It arrived at 8:05am.  It was nice to have coffee on the balcony. After experiencing the amazing Blu breakfast service on the first morning, I didn’t want to miss that experience by having room service on subsequent days..

 

Specialty Restaurants

 

Expectation:  We have reservations for Tuscan Grill and Murano for one night each, just to give us some variety from Blu.  My expectation based on many reviews I’ve read is both are very good but Murano is better.  I plan to spend the $20 or so for a really good steak in Tuscan and will probably order the Chateaubriand for Two in Murano because my wife likes Filet Mignon. I don’t think we will be disappointed in either.

I plan to try the sushi from Sushi on 5, perhaps takeout for a picnic on the lawn on one of the sea days and I expect it to be very good.   No plans to try Silk Harvest.

 

Reality:  As expected, I liked Murano better than Tuscan.  I thought the service and food was better in Murano.  I did NOT order the premium steak in Tuscan, because I didn’t feel it was necessary.  I did share the Chateaubriand and the Sauteed lobster in Murano and it was excellent.  On the last day, I decided to try Sushi on 5 for lunch.  I didn’t expect reservations to be required.  The restaurant was full and was told it would be a 1 hour wait for a table and take out was unavailable because they were too busy.  We didn’t go to Silk Harvest.

 

Pool Scene

 

Expectation We will be slowing it down a LOT.  I expect the pool goers to be a much older, quieter group of people.  I expect it to be even quieter and laid back than our experiences at Secrets resorts, which were older, and adult couples only, still managed to be fun with pool volleyball games, and a lively swim up bar. I have a bit of a concern that Celebrity will be TOO quiet for us and I’ll miss the “party in my brain” feeling, which I like too.  I don’t expect nearly as many kids, but I don’t remember so many kids on Carnival either, because we never travelled Easter school break week.

 

Reality:  I was totally surprised by how young the average age was on our cruise. Spring Break was definitely a factor, as was this was a pretty inexpensive cruise compared to many other sailings.  We were not around on the 4 port days so I’m only judging the 2 sea days. The music by the pool was varied, and really very good.  We loved it.  There was an officers/guest volleyball game which had a big crowd one afternoon (Guests won.  Sorry Captain Kate.)   Simon, the Cruise Director led a number of poolside activities and it was surprisingly fun and not boring at all.   I did, in fact, have the “party in my brain” experience I like.

 

Daily activities

 

Expectation:  I don’t expect to participate in most of the onboard activities arranged by Celebrity, but you never know.  I will probably try some out.  I actually may participate in some of the spa/gym classes, even though there’s a fee, to work off all the food and alcohol I’ll be consuming.  Maybe I’ll learn Yoga.

 

Reality:  I didn’t participate in any daily activities.  Not even Yoga.  I was happy by the pool on sea days, and we went to day beach clubs in 3 of 4 ports, and Conch trained and walked around Key West on another.  I didn’t feel I needed to activities to enjoy myself and I didn’t feel bored either.

 

 

Spa

 

Expectation:  I understand Celebrity Equinox spa is run by Canyon Ranch.  I expect it to also be expensive and we probably won’t be booking any spa treatments.  If we had huge OBC’s we might book some, but we don’t.  I expect the gym to be smaller but sufficient. , and expect, as Aqua class guests, to also have access to steam, sauna, and the relaxation room with heated loungers.  I plan to take advantage of this.

 

Reality: We didn’t book Spa treatments, although I did consider an appointment with the acupuncturist.  The Spa looked nice.  The gym was bigger and nicer than I expected.  I went to The Persian Garden twice for the sauna mostly.  The sauna was nice as were the tropical rain and Spring rain showers.  The aromatherapy steam room was stinky and the heated tile loungers are overrated to me.  I feel like someone should be sanitizing them between users.

 

Shows

 

Expectation.  I expect the shows on Celebrity to be comparable to Carnival and we’d probably miss most.

 

Reality:  We went to shows more than I thought because our friends wanted to. The 3 singer/dancer shows  (Topper, Elysium, Live) were just “OK.” to me.  I found them a bit boring.  The singing was good.  The dancing wasn’t my style, and the costumes were inventive.  None of these shows did much for my tastes.  I may be spoiled, living near and working in NYC and having seen a lifetime of Broadway shows.  The 2 comedians we saw were terrific, and Ashlei-Amber Harris did a great Whitney Houston tribute performance. 

 

Nighttime Entertainment

 

Expectation: I’ll get the feeling I get from the grand pianist playing in the center hall of Nieman Marcus.  Talented performers playing background music while we sip cocktails. (or shop)  I know there will be more, but I expect Jazz trios; Guitar vocalists; Pianists; Cellists; and maybe a four piece band in a corner of the lounge, with the sound of the snare drum rat-tat-tatting in the room.  To be honest, I expect to be bored by the entertainment, and this is something I’m not looking forward to.   I’d love a big crowd in the Sky lounge, rocking out to a great band from 9 to midnight, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I am, however, looking forward to the Silent Disco.  I’ve seen a few videos on youtube.  Sometimes the crowd is big and lively, and sometimes there are six people trying to have fun.  I hope there’s a lot of people having fun with this. 

 

Reality:  The music on board was far better than I expected.  The performances weren’t boring at all, and we had a great time.  The Abba Karaoke in the lobby was fun to watch and sing along to.  The Cardinals were a great house band.  The two women singing in the Ensemble lounge were super talented and the Silent Disco was absolutely AWESOME and there was a huge crowd there.  They offered the silent disco 3 nights.  We went on the first. There was a huge dance party on the pool deck the night of the moon party and people were rocking out and having a blast.  So surprisingly good. 

 

Casino

 

Expectation: The casino will be smaller than on Carnival, but also busy at night.  I’m hoping there is at least one Texas Holdem table if I want to play some low stakes poker during the day or at night.

 

Reality:  The casino was disappointing.  Many older machines sprinkled with a few new ones.  I played a little and was actually surprised I won as much as I did.   I got creamed at Roulette.  I was betting big on #24 and twice the ball leaped out, at the last second, and moved to #36.  I think it was rigged. (not really.)

There were no cash games of Texas Holdem, but there were tournaments.  I played in one with a $60 buy in, and lost. 

 

Guests

   

Expectation:  If I had to stereotype my EXPECTATION of Celebrity guests, from just reading these boards, I would compare it to the crowd at Lincoln Center, sitting around the fountain, waiting to go in to see the NY Philharmonic; the NYC Ballet, and some going to see a Jazz Trio perform and others waiting to go into the Metropolitan Opera House.   There are some young people but mostly older, and some well behaved children, but not many.  People look nice, and this is how they want to have fun on that day.   Personally, I feel like I can fit in to either crowd, Times Square, or Lincoln Center.  It depends on my mood.

 

Reality:  Overall I thought most guests were younger and much more lively than I expected.  People were having FUN, and laughing, singing, dancing, drinking, partying, gambling, and generally enjoying themselves.  There were about 100+ kids on board who didn’t bother me at all, and there was a fair number of older cruisers who were also having a good time.  I know, from Carnival experience, timing and destination has a lot to do with the cruise demographics, but I’d definitely do another Caribbean Spring Break cruise again on Celebrity.

 

Captain Kate:

The Captain was awesome.  She came to the Cruise connections party and was visible, front and center, at many cruise activities.  She was a great ambassador for our trip and I can see why she is so popular.    I’m a fan.

 

Overall:

 

We loved our Celebrity experience, and if the prices are right, Celebrity will be our new cruise line of choice.

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Glad you enjoyed X and had a fun cruise... You picked a good week..Welcome to Celebrity...

What's next?

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2 minutes ago, hcat said:

Glad you enjoyed X and had a fun cruise... You picked a good week..Welcome to Celebrity...

What's next?

 

Mediterranean summer cruise but 2020 is likely.  My daughter is getting married this summer. 

 

I'm done with the Caribbean.  Too many trips there.  Time to expand my horizons. 

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22 minutes ago, mfs2k said:

 

Mediterranean summer cruise but 2020 is likely.  My daughter is getting married this summer. 

 

I'm done with the Caribbean.  Too many trips there.  Time to expand my horizons. 

 

Re our conversation on another post....Mediterranean cruises do seem to be very expensive at present....

 

Consider extending your horizons, Asia isn’t looking that expensive....We have a fantastic itinerary booked on Eclipse pre her refit in October 2020...Tokyo to Singapore via Taiwan and Vietnam...

 

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on the expectations and reality of your cruise, I think your responses will be really useful especially for those considering Celebrity for the first time...

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for your interesting review. I’m glad you had fun on Equinox. We haven’t sailed on Equinox, but we did enjoy having Captain Kate as Master when we were on Summit. The Mediterranean is wonderful! We went there for our first cruise, and (several cruises later) we’re finally heading to the Caribbean later this year. I guess we’re contrarians😂 

Edited by Silkroad

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7 minutes ago, chemmo said:

 

Re our conversation on another post....Mediterranean cruises do seem to be very expensive at present....

 

Consider extending your horizons, Asia isn’t looking that expensive....We have a fantastic itinerary booked on Eclipse pre her refit in October 2020...Tokyo to Singapore via Taiwan and Vietnam...

 

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on the expectations and reality of your cruise, I think your responses will be really useful especially for those considering Celebrity for the first time...

 

Thank you..

We considered Asia however, my DW would like to see Europe first.  She's never been there, and I've only been to France and Spain.  We really want to see Italy.

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6 minutes ago, mfs2k said:

 

Thank you..

We considered Asia however, my DW would like to see Europe first.  She's never been there, and I've only been to France and Spain.  We really want to see Italy.

We've done two Mediterranean cruises on Celebrity and loved them both, you might want to try the shoulder season (May and September) instead of June, July and August, it will be less crowded, a little less expensive and slightly cooler.

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Taaa Daaaaa!  Yet another X convert!!  Thanks for sharing your reality, it sounded like a very fun cruise. 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, julia said:

Taaa Daaaaa!  Yet another X convert!!  Thanks for sharing your reality, it sounded like a very fun cruise. 

 

 

 

Yesssssssssssss! 

 

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33 minutes ago, mfs2k said:

 

Thank you..

We considered Asia however, my DW would like to see Europe first.  She's never been there, and I've only been to France and Spain.  We really want to see Italy.

 

Totally understand. Europe does have so much to offer. 

 

We are lucky enough to have Europe in our backyard with the options of city breaks, villa stays and  land tours and all available only a short and relatively cheap flight away. While  a cruise in Europe only gives you a ‘flavour’ for each port/city it does enable you to get an overview of places you want to return to...

 

Whatever you choose for your next cruise keep posting and let us enjoy your planning and cruise with you!

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Thanks for you well thought out comparison. Really enjoyed reading your expectations and reality.

 

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Two things I forgot to mention:

 

The pizza on Equinox was better than expected.

 

The shortribs were worse than expected.  So many people raved about the shortribs, and I expected to be blown away.  The portion I got tasted good, but the meat was very tough.  

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Good review..sailing Celebrity 11 day southern Caribbean in Sept....last 2 cruises have been on NCL big ships, which I enjoyed...

 

looking forward to the differences...

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43 minutes ago, chemmo said:

 

Totally understand. Europe does have so much to offer. 

 

We are lucky enough to have Europe in our backyard with the options of city breaks, villa stays and  land tours and all available only a short and relatively cheap flight away. While  a cruise in Europe only gives you a ‘flavour’ for each port/city it does enable you to get an overview of places you want to return to...

 

Whatever you choose for your next cruise keep posting and let us enjoy your planning and cruise with you!

 

 

Even before Brexit, it’s funny how we always say we’re going to Europe 🤭.

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3 hours ago, villauk said:

 

 

Even before Brexit, it’s funny how we always say we’re going to Europe 🤭.

 

As an older American (59) I don’t consider Europe the same as the EU. I think of Europe as the geographical continent and not the economic union. 

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Thank you so much for posting.  I am also Platinum on Carnival my first being in 1991 for my 17th birthday!  and now I am cruising with my kids.  My mom is Platinum also but very well seasoned on Celebrity.  Well, i just put a cabin on hold for August 25, 2019.  This is last minute for me.  I have cruises booked out to Feb. 2021!  But after hearing my mom and her great Bermuda cruises for Celebrity I thought I would give it a try. although I am nervous only because it is new and I have my boys age 4 and 8 in tow.  It sure is easier to travel with what you know.  But after reading this I am going to BOOK.  So thank you for such a wonderful comparison.  I may do a similar thing!

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Just now, chipperberg said:

Thank you so much for posting.  I am also Platinum with maybe 14 cruises? on Carnival my first being in 1991 for my 17th birthday!  and now I am cruising with my kids.  My mom is Platinum also but very well seasoned on Celebrity.  Well, i just put a cabin on hold for August 25, 2019.  This is last minute for me.  I have cruises booked out to Feb. 2021!  But after hearing my mom and her great Bermuda cruises for Celebrity I thought I would give it a try. although I am nervous only because it is new and I have my boys age 4 and 8 in tow.  It sure is easier to travel with what you know.  But after reading this I am going to BOOK.  So thank you for such a wonderful comparison.  I may do a similar thing!

 

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9 minutes ago, chipperberg said:

Thank you so much for posting.  I am also Platinum on Carnival my first being in 1991 for my 17th birthday!  and now I am cruising with my kids.  My mom is Platinum also but very well seasoned on Celebrity.  Well, i just put a cabin on hold for August 25, 2019.  This is last minute for me.  I have cruises booked out to Feb. 2021!  But after hearing my mom and her great Bermuda cruises for Celebrity I thought I would give it a try. although I am nervous only because it is new and I have my boys age 4 and 8 in tow.  It sure is easier to travel with what you know.  But after reading this I am going to BOOK.  So thank you for such a wonderful comparison.  I may do a similar thing!

 

I love reading this from you. I’m sure you’ll have a great time with your family. 

 

Ps. If it’s not all you want, Carnival will still be there for you when you return. My first Carnival Cruise was Jubilee in approx ‘87-88

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Mine was on the Holiday.  I am afraid I will fall in love with Celebrity and they do t have my preferred drive to port during the winter school break.  We have been driving to Baltimore and this time to NJ.  I am SO excited to try X and the summit.  I am not one for the megaships. I love a smaller, easier to navigate ship.  I am hoping my boys enjoy the kids club.  they do not love Carnival kids club at all.  I honestly think it was too busy for them...too much going on, too many kids and too loud!

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1 minute ago, chipperberg said:

Mine was on the Holiday.  I am afraid I will fall in love with Celebrity and they do t have my preferred drive to port during the winter school break.  We have been driving to Baltimore and this time to NJ.  I am SO excited to try X and the summit.  I am not one for the megaships. I love a smaller, easier to navigate ship.  I am hoping my boys enjoy the kids club.  they do not love Carnival kids club at all.  I honestly think it was too busy for them...too much going on, too many kids and too loud!

 

This will be great for them then. Don’t listen to any curmudgeons who don’t think any children belong on Celebrity ships.

 

I asked some kids in the elevator last week if they were having a good time on their cruise and if there was enough for them to do and they said enthusiastically “Yes!”

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My only other concern is that we will bin an OV.  There are no quad verandas avilable.  and this will be the first time we are all in one cabin.  we usually book 2.  I have stayed in i interiors but not in a long time.  first time in an OV.  Kind of excited while slightly concerned..

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Posted (edited)
1 minute ago, chipperberg said:

My only other concern is that we will bin an OV.  There are no quad verandas avilable.  and this will be the first time we are all in one cabin.  we usually book 2.  I have stayed in i interiors but not in a long time.  first time in an OV.  Kind of excited while slightly concerned..

 

More reason to get out of the cabin and enjoy the ship. 

Edited by mfs2k

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Fun post!  Thanks for sharing!  After trying a few lines - NCL, HAL, Carnival, MSC, and Celebrity, we think we found a home on Celebrity.  Of course, there were lots of things to love on all our cruises, but Celebrity fits us "just right" at the moment.  Going on our first Mediterranean (3rd X cruise overall) this fall.

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