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We recently embarked on a 10 day #MyEndlessSummer Celebrity Equinox Cruise, in the middle of winter. Read more to find out how you can experience your own #MyEndlessSummer adventure, any time of the year.
Together, my family and I have snorkeled among rainbow-hued fish in the coral reefs of the Virgin Islands. We’ve swam with dolphins in St. Kitts and wandered through the world’s largest mahogany forest to a sweeping overlook at the tip-top of Barbados. We’ve viewed a barnacle-covered shipwreck through the porthole of a submarine at the bottom of the sea and sampled dizzyingly sweet chunks of pineapple and melon from the street vendors of St. Martin. We’ve watched from a boat as the sun set behind the hills of distant tropical islands and followed a stingray through crystal clear waters off the coast of St. John. These experiences sound like a highlights reel gleaned from years of exotic travels, but believe it or not, we did all of these things in less than a week’s time, during a Caribbean cruise on the #MyEndlessSummer Celebrity Equinox
It was our first-ever cruise and I have to admit, we wondered whether we’d enjoy it. We’ve always considered ourselves to be adventurous, off-the-beaten-track travelers who enjoy the thrill of being among the first to discover a new place. Cruises- in my mind anyway- were for the kinds of people who prefer lazing by the pool all day with a fruity rum drink in hand. Don’t get me wrong, we love lazing… for about ten minutes. After that, we’re ready for action!
We shouldn’t have worried- Although you can technically opt to spend your entire Celebrity cruise poolside (and some on our cruise did just that), we found that even for the most active of travelers, there was so much to do both on the ship and off that it was impossible to fit it all in. Here are 5 reasons why I’m now convinced a cruise is a perfect vacation option for active families.
A wide range of shore excursions ensures fun for every age and ability
We had a total of five port days scheduled during our 10-night cruise, and the list of shore excursion options for each of those days seemed endless: We could set sail on a catamaran at sunset or spend the afternoon climbing to the top of an extinct volcano. Take a guided driving tour of the island or go SCUBA diving with green turtles. Kick back on a secluded beach or take a 4x4 into the heart of a rainforest. For a very reasonable price, we were able to schedule exciting activities during each of our days at port that challenged our kids and expanded their horizons, without taking any of us too far outside their comfort zone.
There were so many options to choose from, in fact, that it occurred to me we could easily take the exact same cruise every year and have a totally different vacation experience each time. I loved that the selection of shore excursions offered a special adventure for literally every age and ability. I also loved that parents could opt to enroll children ages 3 and up in Celebrity’s onboard children’s program on port days, so that younger children could have a day of supervised fun on the boat while their parents explored the island on their own.
While some cruise travelers choose to book cheaper shore excursions with outside agencies, we booked our excursions with Celebrity, primarily for the guarantee that the ship wouldn’t leave the port without us. This turned out to be a good call -- During our trip, we became friends with a family of seasoned cruisers who booked an outside tour in St. Maarten, ran into traffic, and made it back to the ship just five minutes before the gates closed! I’d much rather spend a few extra dollars and avoid that kind of stress, thank you very much!
A long list of on-board activities keeps everyone as busy as they want to be.
The Celebrity Equinox has multiple swimming pools and jacuzzis and plenty of deck space and comfortable chairs for lounging, so at least a few hours a day of swim and sun are definitely in order -- but we also found plenty of activities on board our ship to stay busy. On any given day at sea, we could join in a volleyball game at the pool, learn to line dance on the poolside deck, take a yoga class in the fitness center, play ping pong inside the Quasar nightclub, shoot hoops or play soccer on the sports deck, or get a relaxing massage or facial in the spa.
For mental stimulation, there were lectures each day on topics ranging from Mayan architecture to the colonization of the Caribbean islands. The ship’s card room was always buzzing with guests playing card games, Backgammon, and Yahtzee. The two-story library was a favorite spot for my kids and I to spend a quiet hour reading after a morning spent swimming at the pool. Near our stateroom, a 2,000-piece puzzle spread on a large table enticed adults and children alike to spend a few minutes each day piecing it together. Cozy seating areas abound on the Equinox- perfect spots for guests to steal away for a game of cards, a good book, or a heart-to-heart chat over lattes. And the lush grass lawn on the top deck of the Equinox was a perfect spot to sit and watch the sunset while out at sea.
On the last day of our cruise, we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship and got a fascinating look at what it takes to keep everything operating smoothly aboard the Equinox. We explored the kitchens and pantries, visited the engine rooms, and even got to visit the ship’s bridge and learn how the ship is steered by its captains. I can’t recommend this tour enough; we’ll never forget it!
The entertainment options made our cruise feel like a ten-day celebration.
Live music aboard the Celebrity Equinox ranged from hauntingly beautiful classical music to Spanish guitar to raucous live dance music spanning the last five decades from a lively band of talented young musicians. For the disco-inclined, a DJ kept the beats going late into the night in the Equinox’s nightclubs. The Celebrity Central theater featured a different popular film each night and a wide variety of entertainers including comedians, aerialists, singers, dancers, a magician and a juggler made the nightly mainstage shows in the Equinox Theater a must-see. Up on deck 15, the Corning Hot Glass Show drew a large and enthusiastic audience each day, and the casino came alive once the sun went down, as guests tested their luck at the slot machines and roulette tables. Although my children opted to head to the kids’ club most nights during our cruise, I appreciated that they were allowed in all of the ship’s nightspots until 11pm -- This kept us from feeling like we were missing out on anything fun aboard the ship simply because we had children with us. It also led to a hilarious night of Silent Disco that our whole family enjoyed!
The food is top-notch.
I was well aware before our trip that all-you-can-eat buffets are a mainstay of the cruising experience. I imagined the cafeteria of my college years, complete with a greasy pizza counter, a salad bar, and hot plate stations featuring an unchanging spread of staples like breaded chicken fingers, mac and cheese, limp steamed vegetables, and hard, stale rolls.
This couldn’t have been further from the wonderland of food options aboard the Celebrity Equinox.
Yes, there is an all-you-can-eat buffet spread called the Oceanview Cafe, but to my shock, practically everything offered was totally good for you. In fact, I don’t recall seeing anything fried at any time during our cruise-- Instead, the many, many offerings at the buffet included delicious grilled fish, inventive chilled salads, charcuterie and cheese boards, and international specialties like Indian curries, rich Mexican chicken mole, handmade Italian gnocchi, British Shepherd’s Pie, and so much more. We were all delighted by the variety of heavenly breads made fresh each day, and visiting the dessert table gave me the feeling of waking up as a kid on Christmas morning. Since the food options changed each day and often featured ingredients that had been sourced at some of the ports where we’d spent time, I eagerly looked forward to lunch every single day of our vacation.
Most nights, we dined in the Silhouette iIning room, where our private table was ready for us at the appointed time and our kind and attentive servers made us feel like royalty. Here, too, the menu changed each night and we could have as much of anything as we wanted. Often, if we couldn’t decide between two appetizers, we ordered both, and if our server thought something on the menu was particularly good, he’d bring it to us whether we ordered it or not!
We easily could have been satisfied spending our entire vacation dining at the Oceanview Cafe and the Silhouette Dining Room, both of which (along with room service!) are included in the cost of the cruise. Just to switch things up, however, I signed up ahead of time for a specialty restaurant package so that my husband and I could try a few of the other dining options aboard the Equinox. We dined one night at Murano’s, where our lobster was prepared tableside and the service was old-school and impeccable. And on two different nights, we opted to dine at Sushi on Five, where we gorged on super-fresh sushi rolls and split a refreshing bottle of sake.
With so many delicious options available at any hour of the day, you’d think I’d come home at least ten pounds heavier -- NOPE. I gained only a pound and a half! Looking back, I think this is because most of the foods I was eating were fresh and nutritious and not particularly high-calorie, and partly because we stayed really, really busy each day thanks to all the activities that were available.
Celebrity’s kids programming is enriching, entertaining, and just plain FUN.
I couldn’t have been more impressed with Celebrity’s youth staff and the programming available for children and teens. A list of X Club activities was delivered to our stateroom each morning and our kids loved looking it over and deciding what they wanted to do each day. There were scavenger hunts and talent shows, science labs and craft projects, sports and water games and silent disco -- plenty to keep children of all ages busy and active.
Programming included activities geared just for kids as well as family games and movies, so my husband and I got to spend time with our children playing family bingo and singing family karaoke and watching family movies together in the X Factory. We also used Celebrity’s ‘Slumber Party’ feature on the nights we dined at specialty restaurants and let the kids stay late while we enjoyed a date night aboard the ship.
A big part of what made the X Club a success for my family was the freedom it gave my kids to make decisions about what they wanted to do during their at-sea days. At 12, my daughter was old enough to come and go at the X Club as she pleased. We also allowed my 9-year-old the option of signing himself in and out of X Club on his own. These options gave the kids a sense of independence and made them look forward to visiting the X Club whenever they chose. At the same time, the level of personalized attention from the youth staff made the kids feel comfortable knowing where to find adults who knew them and could help them at any time they were aboard the ship.
I suppose the best proof that we loved our Celebrity cruise is that we booked another cruise for next January while we were still on the first one! Until our return, we’ll still enjoy taking road trips to obscure places and spending time exploring new cities and national parks. But I’ll also be dreaming in the back of my mind about our next cruise to the Caribbean, where we’ll have more adventures on new islands and savor the delicious food, impeccable service and luxurious amenities that we’ve come to realize are part of the Celebrity cruise experience.