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We last cruised on the Equinox Nov 28, 2021 and joined our friend and his 2 year old son last minute for this voyage on Jan 30th.
I did an extensive review of the ship for that Nov/Dec cruise, so this review is going to focus on three things: Cruising Celebrity with a Toddler, Cruising during COVID times, and the different entertainers that were on the ship. In separate reviews, I’ll have some great pictures of the food and I’ll have a report on the two unique excursions we did while on this cruise.
Cruising with a Toddler
Most people might think my friend to be crazy, but he has been really wanting to get back to cruising and with his wife unable to have as much flexibility to travel as he has, he decided to book a cruise for just him and his two-year-old son. About two weeks before departure he convinced my husband and I to join him on the 12-night cruise. Ironically this was the same ship and itinerary we took in Nov/Dec, but since we have pretty much been to all the Caribbean islands anyway, we decided to take up his suggestions and join him.
Quite frankly, we also weren’t sure about what it would be like to cruise with a two-year-old, but between the fact that his is a very good boy and has a close bond with his Dad and the fact that Celebrity made him a Celebrity with the VIP treatment, it was a fabulous experience for all 4 of us.
Dinner can be a challenge in any situation for a toddler. Generally, they don’t always have the attention span to sit for a long meal, and on a cruise ship, there is really no way around that, but we made it work. It helps that he is used to going out to eat with his Dad, so he has had some practice as dining out.
Our friend also cooks a lot at home and tries as much as he can to give his son real food rather than chicken nuggets and fish sticks, so for that reason the children’s menu was not preferred. Instead for most meals Dad just shared his food with his son, or we ordered a steak to be brought to his son right away as the rest of us were making our way though our earlier courses. In typical toddler fashion, what he liked one day wasn’t what he wanted the next day. We had to mitigate dinner roll consumption by allowing everyone at our table to take one piece of bread and then it went onto the other table, out of sight out of mind for the little one.
We even did three nights of specialty dining, for which again he was surprisingly good. He had a good nap every afternoon, so that helped mitigate the fussiness that one might expect from a toddler. On our final night of specialty dining, we split ourselves into two groups. With the little boy and I going to the animated Le Petite Chef Dining experience, and Dad and my husband doing the Tuscan Grill. Luckily these two venues are adjacent to each other. About 45 minutes into the Le Petite chef experience, the little guy had had enough and was ready to see Daddy again. The staff brought our entrees over to Tuscan Grill where the little boy was able to sit still for his Dad and we all finished our meal together.
Celebrity has always, in my opinion, had a great youth program. The age requirements have always been 3 and older and fully potty trained. My friend knew this when we booked him and was prepared to spend 100% of his time on the cruise with his son. On the first day of the cruise, we learned that his toddler was the only person under the age of 18 on the cruise. The youth director let him know that normally the toddler play room is staffed open all day long for parents to come by with their young children for play time with the parents present. Because he was the only youth on the cruise, they would not have the kids playroom staffed regularly. But instead the youth director gave him his phone number so that he could call and arrange for someone from the youth staff to meet them there with a few minutes notice so that he could have play time at the facility. Someone from the youth staff was on call every day for just this purpose. They also let him check out a toy truck to play with in his room or on the lawn club. And speaking of the lawn club, that was another great spot where he could run around and burn off some energy. Celebrity gave him a gift of a bucket with shovel, plastic clam and starfish molds got him to play with in his room.
All of these things were great, but the best thing that they did for him during the cruise was to set up an inflatable baby pool on the pool deck Celebrity requires that children be fully potty trained to use the regular pools, so they had three engineers, youth staff and pool staff work to get this inflatable pool set up for him most afternoons. That way he could splash and play and burn off some energy all while enjoying the music of the pool side entertainers. Dad and friends could chill in lawn chairs and watch him play.
For the most part, fellow guests didn’t seem to mind having a toddler around. Most guests would tell us that they are grand parents and just love kids. I suppose the ones that were annoyed probably didn’t say anything to us. Sometimes, when the band was playing, he would want to dance, but sometimes his idea of dancing was running around, which meant the three of us adults trying to make sure that he stayed out of peoples way. Occasionally, the other guests gave him too much attention, and it would kind of stir him up, since at two he was unable to verbalize what he needed to express.
I took him to the production shows, and he really loved all the music, dancing, acrobatics, lights and costumes. He would sit still for the full 45 minutes and really enjoy the show. We didn’t take him to the feature entertainers show simply because we thought he might not find it as engaging.
There were a couple of nights when “Aunt Suzanne” offered to take him back the room and let the guys have a night out. I wanted to watch the Olympics which came on at 10 or 11 at night, so I took him back to the room and he watched Thomas the Train on a tablet, while I watched Olympics.
Overall, the staff went out of their way to accommodate the little guy, sometimes it seemed like too much attention as every where we went, we were greeted by a Greek chorus calling out his name.
Cruising During COVID and Mask Times
Cruising has been back in operation since June of 2021, and the overall percentage of passengers that have tested positive has been microscopic compared to on land. In fact, in Dec 21 or Jan of 22, if an average cruise ship was a state, it would have been the safest state in the country in terms of percentage of COVID cases on board. Everyone who is age eligible is vaccinated and tested. In the case my friend’s son he was not age eligible for the vaccination, so he had a PCR test at home, an antigen test at the pier, and another test before disembarkation. On top of that, all the workers on the cruise ship were wearing masks, and for this cruise, which may have been the last cruise to require it, guests had to wear masks when public areas indoors and not actively eating or drinking.
In our staterooms or outdoors on the ship, we were not required to wear them. In some of the ports, we were required to wear them when going ashore or when not actively eating or drinking. Truly this was no big deal. Hopefully science will tell as to whether or not the masks actually do anything to mitigate the spread of COVID or other infections, but this was the protocol at the time, and we could stay at home and not wear a mask, or go on a cruise and have to wear a mask sometimes. We obviously like the latter option much better!
We only had to wear the masks for a few minutes at a time. Even my friend’s son wore his. He was so cute because when we’d finish a meal, we’d say to him “Lets get your mask on” and then he would so cutely say “Mask On”. He’d only needed it until he got outside or back to his room. This is not like traveling on a plane where travelers have to wear a mask for hours at a time or being at school all day with a mask on.
Cruising during this period, when the CDC oddly decided that they would issue a warning against cruising, meant that many passengers cancelled or just didn’t book. That meant that we had only about 880 guests on our cruise. Dining was virtually open seating, though we did usually come no later than 6:30 because we had a small child with us. It also meant that the buffet was navigable. I have often complaints on a full ship that the lunch buffet was completely overcrowded with no place to sit. If the weather is not conducive to folks eating outside on a full ship, it can be impossible to find a place to eat at lunch. That is such a shame because the lunchtime buffet food is pretty darn good, but if there is no place to sit, you can’t enjoy it. I really loved the fact that only ½ the tables were ever occupied. Most days we were even able to get one of the large round booths which worked well for a somewhat squirmy toddler. We were so spoiled. I know we will miss these days when ships are sailing full again.
Celebrity features three basic types of entertainment: Production Cast, Touring Featured Entertainers, and house bands/performers. The production singers and dancers put on the juke box musical shows that they feature in the main theater, and sometimes a pop-up show or another special event.
The touring artists are specialty acts like singers, violinists, singing groups, and comedians. Traditional these acts might come and go mid cruise, but with COVID, I believe that they are coming on ships for a few weeks at a time and then moving on to another ship. These artists generally perform with the live orchestra in the main theater. Shows are about 45 minutes. The final category are the house bands and performers that might perform poolside or in the smaller venues or provide the dance music for the parties. While the production shows and house bands were the same entertainers featured during my Nov/Dec 2021 cruise, the guest specialty acts were completely different.
There were several outstanding female vocalists in the production cast but the blonde who sang “Sound of Silence” stood out to me most. I also enjoyed the dancers airialist and acrobats. That acts never get old to me.
They had two house bands, one which specialized in ballroom rhythms for standard and traditional songs. Guests who are ballroom dancers can now find a time set aside just for them every evening with live ballroom music. Several guitar and vocal soloists and duos also performed in the lounges as well as a classical violin and guitar duo performed quite often in the ensemble lounge.
My favorite act had to be Icelandic Violinist and vocalist Greta Solome. She represented Iceland in the real Eurovision song contest but was also somehow involved in the music for the Will Ferrel comedy Eurovision the Story of Fire Saga. She even sang the Oscar nominated song Husivik My Hometown during the show.
My next favorite act was the Shamrock Tenors from Belfast, Northern Ireland who sang a great variety of traditional and popular Irish songs. They really made their sets fun with humorous lyrics and infectious energy. Finally, rounding out the list of guests were a musical comedian and David Tan a classical piano player who played movie themes. He and Greta even gave an assist to the Shamrock Tenors who are normally 4 strong but had a member that had to quarantine in Miami due to a COVID exposure. They said he’d be back soon, but the help from Greta and David was quite endearing and we got to see more of their talent as well. That enthusiastic collaboration between artists is one of the things we have loved about the entertainment on Celebrity. They even collaborated on an encore performance in the atrium on the last night of the cruise.
The final entertainer I enjoyed in the theatre was a master of the Zylosynth instrument. Very fun and entertaining.