Caribbean Cruise 2010 – Day 1 – Departure Day

Yesterday was the start of our 2010 Caribbean cruise on board the Celebrity Equinox. The cruise would be departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Our destinations would be St. Thomas, St Kitts, Barbados, Dominica and St Maarten. Add in four days at sea (plus the departure and arrival days) and it should be a fun filled cruised.

We flew in Fort Lauderdale on Thanksgiving Day. We celebrated Thanksgiving a day early back in Arizona with our kids and Suzanne’s parents (Brett and Anne). We stayed at the Hilton Marina right across the street from the cruise terminal. The hotel was more than sufficient but nothing all that special. But hey, the room was free courtesy of Hilton Honors points! The air travel to Fort Lauderdale was also free with American miles.

After arriving around 9:30 pm, we enjoyed a couple of beers in the marina side bar before calling it a night around midnight and rose about 7:30 in the morning. Suzanne went for a walk and picked up some breakfast on the way back. We spent a very leisurely morning just kicking back in the hotel room.

With check out time at 11:00, we decided to just head for the cruise terminal. We were thinking we would just walk it, but evidently that’s not allowed so we grabbed a shuttle which was a good idea since the ship turned out to be a bit further than just the entrance to the cruise terminal. It was a busy morning at the Port Everglades cruise terminal with our ship, the Celebrity Equinox, the Holland American ships Westerdam and Maasdam, and the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas departing that morning. The Allure of the Seas is the new Royal Caribbean monster ship holding over 5000 passengers – big it was!

The arrival at the ship couldn’t have gone smoother. Shuttle dropped as at 11:30, we gave our bags to porters and waited for a registration agent for oh, maybe 30 seconds. We were comfortably on board sipping champagne before 12:00. After a brief topside tour of the ship, we grabbed a quick lunch (hmmm, must be a cruise, eating within 30 minutes of boarding!) and decided to go see which crew members we knew. It’s been a long time since we have sailed anybody but Celebrity (1992?) and have gotten used to seeing many of the crew members on multiple sailings.

First stop was the cellar master bar, where to our surprise, Sinisa was again our cellar master for the cruise. I think that makes three cruises in a row! We were soon sipping a good Pinot while discussing the wine events on the cruise. We also ran into several waiters that we had the pleasure of sailing with before.
This was our first cruise since 2005 without the kids. With Sean being in high school now, we no longer felt comfortable taking him out of school for a couple of weeks for a cruise. We have been in the habit of getting a table for four for dinner. This cruise, Suzanne went ahead and requested a table for 8 (I wanted on for two). When she went to scope out the table, she was disappointed. The table was for 12 and was actually located behind the big grand staircase that goes from the top dining room floor to the lower level. We went to see the maitre ‘d about getting the table changed. Luckily Marcel was one of an assistant maitre ‘d we had sailed with 3 or 4 times and he was handling the dinner seatings. After some brief pleasantries he sent us away saying he would take care of it and to meet him at the entrance at the start of late seating.

About 1:30 we went to our cabin to check it out – a good standard balcony cabin. Actually, it’s on the concierge class level. This means we get a butler. Why, I don’t know. I guess we can give him the cruise off! When we booked the cruise, our travel agent Lori at Skyscraper Travel, got us the concierge level for $10 more than a regular balcony, so we did it. As the cruise got closer, the price also dropped $200 so we saved even more! About 3:00 our luggage arrived and Suzanne made short work of the unpacking.

The required muster drill was at 4:15 and it’s still one of the best recent changes that you no longer have to wear your life preservers to the muster drill! Sail away was scheduled for 5:00 pm but loading delays was going to mean a departure closer to 5:30. After the muster drill, we proceeded to the Sunset Bar on the top/back of the boat for the sail away. We were meeting the Cruise Critic Roll Call group for sail away drinks. Cruise Critic is a popular cruise site that Suzanne frequents and they always get together on cruises. Celebrity even throws a party for members. We met with about 30 other cruise critic members and had a couple of glasses of wine for the sail away. It was actually our first sail away from Fort Lauderdale as despite our numerous cruises, we haven’t done a Caribbean cruise before. It was sunset and quite a beautiful sail away! Sailing past a couple of high rise resorts or condos on the channel to the Ocean was kind of fun. We went in processing, the Westerdam first, followed by us and then the Masdam (the Allure of the Seas had a later departure). It was almost like dueling horns as we passed by the high rises.

We went to our cabin and dressed for the night – it was casual and then went to our usual pre-dinner spot, the cellar masters lounge and enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of wine. When we went to dinner, Marcel had gotten us a nice table for two – at a nice window! Our waiter is from Croatia and his assistant is from Mauritius.

Dinner, as usual with Celebrity, was fantastic. Suzanne enjoyed escargot and a Turkey meatballs/pasta combination. I had Asian chicken spring rolls and a Chicken Saltimbocca. No complaints from us on the food!
After dinner, we went to the ‘Welcome Aboard!’ show which was a preview of the entertainment to come. I am probably most looking forward to the comedian Steve Caouette who was very funny and largely unscripted. I like comedians that think very well on their feet.

After the show, which ended about midnight, we had planned to go see the dance band Headlines in the Observation Lounge. Headlines is one of Suzanne’s favorite bands we have seen on cruise ships. Again, this is our third or fourth cruise with them. While touring the ship earlier, we walked out to the pool area where they were preparing to play and chatted with them for a bit. They instantly recognized Suzanne and called us over. Suzanne usually ends up singing a song or two with them at some point in the cruise. Anyways, we were a bit tired and decided to forego the midnight trip to the lounge and instead called it a night.
Tomorrow is a sea day and will be a great follow up day to this Caribbean cruise!