Cruising Like a Celebrity

Online Editor Monica Poling blogs and is anything but bored on board the Equinox

By: By Monica Poling

Now that I’m the seasoned cruise expert, with all of two cruises under my belt, I can say with great confidence that Celebrity Cruises’ newly launched Equinox is an amazing vessel.

Celebrity Equinox Inaugural Celebration // (c) Monica Poling 2009

From the inauguration of the Celebrity Equinox

I had heard great things about Solstice, Equinox’ sister ship, so was quite excited to be invited to the Equinox launch. Although I was a bit worried that the reality might not live up to the hype, my fears turned out to be unfounded.

Prior to my current status as experienced cruiser, my great knowledge of shipboard activities stemmed largely from what Julie McCoy would urge upon soon-to-be lovebirds. As a non-fan of shuffleboard and not a particularly big drinker or partaker in the nightclub scene, I am always worried that cruising will leave me bored on board.

Again, I need not have feared.

The Equinox, which can hold up to 2,850 passengers, has ensured that this floating city offers plenty to do for its transient residents. The shopping galleria alone took several hours of my time. The space is designed in an inviting open style. I realize all cruise press releases basically say this same thing, but the creatively constructed two-story mezzanine-style gave an upscale mall feeling, and allowed for as much people watching as it did actual shopping.

Large shop windows and the pass-through shops, a la Disneyland, made me want to wander from one space to the next. My favorite shop was a gallery of glass works — Celebrity Cruises has an agreement with the Corning Museum of Glass — and I spent much of my time admiring jellyfish shaped designs encapsulated in glass globes.

Cafe al Bacio, Celebrity Equinox // (c) Monica Poling, 2009

The pastry counter at Cafe al Bacio,
onboard the Celebrity Equinox

And just like in real life, I was able take a break from window shopping to feed my caffeine addiction in the onboard cafe. Cafe al Bacio has a stunning variety of hot and cold coffee and tea beverages. During the inaugural cruise, coffee drinks were free so this tended to be a popular location around 4 p.m. Normally, coffees run about $4 each, so I suspect this won’t be quite as popular a location during regular cruises.

While sipping an expertly prepared ice mocha (while I was on board a coffee tech was training staffers how to work the immense espresso machine), I took the time to plan out my cruise dining strategy. With only two days and 10 restaurants to choose from, I was challenged to find a scheduled that would maximize my culinary explorations.

Adjacent to the coffee bar was a gelateria, also a popular hang out during the inaugural cruise. Just across the ship, was Bistro on Five, the on board creperie. My first lunch consisted of a hot and spicy steak crepe (yum) and I knew I’d be returning to this location. Fortunately many of the onboard eateries are open quite late, allowing for a late night snack (or two).

Celebrity Equinox Lawn Club // (c) Monica Poling 2009

The Lawn Deck aboard the Celebrity Equinox

Passengers not interested in the hedonistic rush delivered from shopping or dining will still have plenty to keep them entertained. Celebrity Cruises made history when it launched the first-ever, onboard live grass area on the Solstice. Equinox also has a Lawn Club, and despite the chilly North Sea air, a park-like atmosphere prevailed. Some passengers stretched out to read, while others succumbed to the gentle pressure of the on board “gurus” who set up ring toss games, bocce ball and lawn bowling. The Lawn Deck is also home to regularly schedule Hot Glass (making) shows, organized by the Corning Museum of Glass.

With the Equinox, Celebrity also introduced its “Celebrity Life” program which offers a variety of fun, educational activities. From drink mixology and glass-blowing to health and fitness programs, passengers can quite easily fill all of their free time in the pursuit of knowledge.

The Equinox also has a high-caliber onboard entertainment program. A cut above other maritime shows (better even than the Village People when they appeared on the Love Boat), the show features pretty decent vocal talent and an aerialist, a la Cirque du Soleil. If you enjoy the review type performance, this one just may be worth seeing.

With this whirlwind activity schedule, I almost forgot that I was worried I’d be bored. Was there anything I didn’t get to do? Yes, there was quite a bit, but the one I regret the most was forgetting to take the time and enjoy the smell of the ocean from my balcony room.

But, there’s always next time.