Celebrity Equinox

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Part 1: The Ship 

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Celebrity Equinox is a beautiful ship. She seems relatively new with a clean look and modern furnishings. As usual on Celebrity, we were greeted on board with a welcome glass of champagne. After dining at the buffet lunch in the Oceanview Café on Deck 14, we made our way to our cabin on Deck 8. Located in the center near the stairs and elevator, it was closer to the aft side than forward. We unpacked, finding all the cubbyholes and shelves to put away our things. The bathroom was the best ever on any ship we’ve encountered. It had adequate counter space, enough storage, extra toilet paper and tissues. And the shower was the best. Plenty of room to move with a soap dish, bar soap, and even a thick steel rod to rest my foot on when I shaved my legs. Lotion, shampoo, more bar soap, and conditioner were other amenities along with robes for each of us. The shower head was forceful enough and the hot water was nearly instantly available. Amenities also included small glasses for our toothbrushes.

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Our room had a desk, a flat-screen TV above a console with drawers, and an enormously long couch where another person could easily have slept. Our balcony let out from sliding glass doors, and even this was a generous space with two chairs and a small table. The drapes folded over each other so no light shone through at night, and no peephole in the door also ensured a dark interior. The bedding was soft and the pillows comfortable. The safe was large enough to hold my iPad, and the room also came with a stocked fridge. Cabin service was excellent, and we still got chocolates on our pillows each night although no towel art on this cruise.

We explored the 15 decks before the lifeboat drill that was held without life jackets in a lounge or dining room, depending on your muster station. Then it was time for dinner. We skipped the first night’s show since it was a juggler, and that’s my least favorite entertainment. All the other shows were great and varied between the ship’s singers, dancers, and acrobats to a ventriloquist and a variety of solo singers.

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Deck 15 has a grassy lawn area where you can sit and watch the view, or observe a Hot Glass Show during the voyage. Deck 14 has the Oceanview Café and the outdoor grill. Overlooking the pool below are many lounge chairs, some undercover to provide shade. This ship had more shaded seating spots than I remember from other cruise lines. Even the pool areas on Deck 12 had wide overhangs to protect the lounge chairs. If you got too humid, you could sit in the solarium with its covered glass roof and air-conditioning. On Deck 5 by the life boats are a few scattered chairs on an outside deck but not many, and you can’t walk all the way around the ship there.

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The shops inside the ship did not have merchandise that appealed to us. It was one of the poorest selections that we’ve noted, at least for our tastes. Not even the costume jewelry attracted me except for their occasional sales. These were held in a crowded corridor instead of a lounge like other ships. They had the usual souvenir logo items, resort wear, hats, liquor, fine jewelry. All seemed pricey.

In the evening, musicians played in the central atrium on deck three. This was generic-sounding except for a cello player. A small dance floor here sufficed since there wasn’t anywhere else to hear dance music except after 10pm in the Sky Lounge. This is a shortcoming of this ship that has limited lounges with dance floors. There’s a Gastropub that serves small plates and beer; another lounge with occasional piano music; a Martini bar. But nowhere else with a dance floor. The Sky Lounge forward on Deck 14 was a favorite place of mine for quiet daytime sea views and for the evening cocktails for Elite members. But it would have been nice if they’d had dance music here earlier instead of the atrium where you’re in view of people several decks high. That’s not very private. Regarding the music, these same bands played by the pool. We like Caribbean music when cruising and sitting outside, and this group played the same generic tunes you get on the radio. But overall, we loved the ship, the relaxed environment (few kids running around) and the excellent service.

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Coming Next: The Food and the Ports of Call

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Writers Conference on Cruise Ship

Cruise with your Muse aboard Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas.

Fun-in-the-Sun Conference sponsored by Florida Romance Writers.

FRW Cruise2017

Join us to see the beautiful blue seas of Cozumel with Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Hoyt and Special Guest Speaker Michael Hauge.

Guest Speakers

Sail from Fort Lauderdale on Thursday, February 16th, 2017 and return to port on Monday, February 20th, 2017.

Editor/Agent appointments, writing workshops, and social networking events.

Interior Cabin: $480.72 per person with a $50.00 on board credit per cabin
Promenade $441.47 per person
Oceanview $563.22 per person with $100.00 credit per cabin (H)
Balcony category E3 $642.47 per person (E3)
Junior suite $1050.72 with $300.00 credit per cabin

These prices are only sample fares, contact our travel agent at 305-666-1010 to get the current pricing. Promotion offers are frequently available at lower prices.

Cruise includes ship accommodations, ocean transportation, meals onboard, entertainment, taxes, and port charges. Cruise fee deposit is due when you reserve your cabin and is paid directly to our travel agent. 

Pre-sail Party on Wednesday night February 15, 2016. Details TBA.

Conference fee:
FRW Members –  $160 conference fee through 7/1/16
RWA Members – $180 conference fee through 7/1/16
Non-members – $200 conference fee through 7/1/16
Companion/Spouse  $50 conference fee

To Register, go to http://frwfuninthesunmain.blogspot.com

 

The Final Journey

The Final Journey on the Celebrity Constellation
Day 9, Sunday, December 6, 2015

We arose to the rising sun over the sea, looking forward to our final day of relaxation before we’d have to disembark.

 

We were wined and dined with a wine tasting as Captain’s Club Elite members.

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Later we attended an afternoon tea in one of the dining rooms. Add in breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we were eating nearly all day.

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As we were strolling by the pool deck, I was startled to see a guest reading my cruise mystery, Killer Knots. What a thrill this gave me! Imagine the chances to finding someone with my book in their hands! I introduced myself and offered to personalize her copy. Susan was kind enough to let me take her photo:

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The rest of the day, we packed our suitcases, lounged around, and enjoyed the ocean view. The trip was almost at an end. We’d had a wonderful time, and the weather gods had been with us. Now we could face whatever waited at home with renewed energy.

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Day of Departure
Day 10, Monday, December 7, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation
We sat in Ocean Liners with other Elite members waiting for our number to be called. Pastries and coffee were available. We were off the ship by 9am. And so ended our journey. It’s time to plan the next one, after I lose the weight I’d gained.

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Labadee: An Island Paradise

Day 8, Saturday, December 5, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation

Labadee is a beautiful beach hideaway private to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. It’s at the very tip of Haiti if my geography is correct. The sea is a magnificent aqua color and mountainous terrain adds beauty to the scenery.

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RCCL (which owns Celebrity) supplies chairs and towels for all guests. All you need do is tip the beach attendant to put a chair where you want it. Then you can laze about, swim, or participate in various activities sponsored by the cruise line. Bring sun screen, sunglasses, a hat and beach sandals. It gets hot.

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Plenty of bars and rest rooms are scattered about for your convenience. The peninsula is big enough that you can even ride a free tram around to the various stops. Be aware that swimming is allowed on one side only, at the bay with its multiple beaches. The other side faces the ocean and is suitable for sunbathing and admiring the sea.

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The beach barbecue is always fun. You can choose hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, or chicken plus side dishes and cookies. Free cold drinks are available in dispensers.

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At one end of the place is a zip line and roller coaster up on a hill. Near this at the base is the shopping village, where you can buy lovely gifts for your friends at home. Mahogany bowls, colorful Haitian art, native jewelry, dolls, wood carvings and more all can be yours, preferably for cash. Bargaining is expected.

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This area had grown since I’d last been here, and I lost my cousin Janice among the warren of shops. We reunited later at the tram stop. An air-conditioned indoor section offers a respite from the heat. The marketplace is a good site to pick up gifts for folks back home. Here’s a lovely serving dish I couldn’t resist:

Bowl

I could revisit this setting endlessly. The scenery is magnificent; the bay water gentle and warm; the beaches rife with palm trees and lounge chairs. Food is provided, and there are shopping opportunities. What more could you want?

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P1050363Nancy and Janice Trio

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Coming Next: The Final Journey

San Juan Food Tour

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Day 7, Friday December 4, 2015 on the Celebrity Constellation

We took the ship’s Food and Cultural Tour of San Juan for $82.00 per person. It turned out to be a moderately strenuous walking tour so beware if you think about signing up for this one. Having seen the old city and visited the rainforest, we were looking for something different to do. This fit the bill. We got a nice tour of the city along with several food stops.

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Our first stop was for Puerto Rican coffee and a pastry covered with powdered sugar. This coffee is unsweetened but tasted good to me without adding sugar. The pastry was like a beignet, a soft warm concoction that was easy to consume but one that wouldn’t be on my daily diet.

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From here we went to a restaurant where we sat at one long table. We made our own Mojito cocktails: Add 4 to 5 mint leaves to glass and crush with pestle. Add a spoonful of natural or light brown sugar. Use pestle to blend. Pour in 1 shot of rum. Add club soda.

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Using a thicker pestle, we ground up fried plantains then added shredded (pulled) cooked chicken with Creole sauce. This Mofongo was our main dish, served with rice and red beans.

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For dessert, we headed to another restaurant for a flan that tasted more like cheesecake.

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Here we are on the ship waiting to leave port:

 

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Coming Next: Labadee

Cruzan Rum Factory

Celebrity Constellation
Cruzan Rum Factory on St. Croix
Day 6, Thursday, December 3, 2015

Our island tour of St. Croix included a stop at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Another rum factory exists on the island, and some of the tours go there. That’s Captain Morgan’s place, which our guide said is a newer facility. It’s where they make spiced rum. But the Cruzan brand is more historical and is responsible for much of the rum exported from the island.

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We began at the visitor center, where we bought $8 tickets that gave us the tour plus two drinks. For the same price, you can just get the drinks and hang out at the visitor center, which also serves as a gift shop.

Outside, our tour guide told us about the factory’s history and about some of the buildings.

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Then she led us to a series of vats under a covered structure. A brown liquid swirled around before the fermenting stage. It smelled divinely like molasses in this section.

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We followed the young woman up and down stairs, through twisting corridors, indoors and back outside while I snapped photos everywhere. The catwalks and twisting paths inspired my imagination as did the fuel tanks where I could envision a James-Bondish scene.

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Eventually, we ended up back in the visitor center where we imbibed our drinks, a pina colada and a rum punch. Note how happy my cousin Janice looks. Needless to say, we felt pretty good on the ride back to Frederiksted.

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Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
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Coming Next: San Juan

St. Croix

Celebrity Constellation, Day 6, Thursday, December 3, 2015

We docked at Frederiksted, which at a quick glance, had nothing much for tourists except for a few native market stands and uninviting streets.

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Rather than take one of Celebrity’s island tours for $80 or more, we opted to hire a cab on the pier. We found a booth offering $25 island tours, with a $8 extra fee if we wanted to stop at the Cruzan Rum Distillery. Add in a $5 tip, and it would cost us $38 each. That’s a lot cheaper than the cruise line’s price. We wouldn’t stop at the botanical garden like their tours, but we’d still drive through the rainforest.

Twelve passengers fit inside the air-conditioned van that came with seatbelts and commentary by the driver. We bumped along roads that needed fixing up into the hills with trees surrounding us, until we reached a smoother section of asphalt. Long vines hung down from trees through the rainforest. We drove along hilly roads with scenic views.

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Our first stop was the Renaissance Resort, a beautiful beachside hotel with elegant amenities and clean rest rooms. We admired the breathtaking views from here before scampering back inside the van.

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Our next stop, for a full hour, was in the larger city of Christiansted. Here we scurried around to the souvenir shops, admired the view from the water, and wished we had more time.

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Our final stop was the Cruzan Rum Distillery. I was fascinated by the nooks and crannies in this place, my imagination sending Marla and Dalton here while being chased by a killer. What a perfect complex for an action sequence. I’ll have to set a similar facility in a fictional location for a future book. This place was so interesting that it’ll be my blog post for tomorrow.

During our drive back through the forest-lined roads, I spotted the rear end of a horse sticking out from the trees. Liberated by the rum I’d had to drink, I shouted out: “Look, there’s a horse’s ass.” My fellow passengers were not amused. Wish I could have gotten a picture to prove my point, but we drove by too fast. The scenery was lovely as we headed back toward the ship.

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Once again in Frederiksted, we grabbed lunch at Pier 69 on Kings Street. The native markets didn’t hold much of interest, so we waddled our way back onto the ship for a much needed nap.

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I don’t remember what we ate for dinner that night, but here are the photos from our repast after the sun descended:

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Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
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Coming Next: Cruzan Rum Distillery

St. Maarten

St. Maarten
Day 5, Wednesday,
December 2, 2015

I needed to fortify myself with a good breakfast in preparation for shopping, so I ate another omelet with roasted potatoes, bacon, rye bread, and fresh pineapple.

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St. Maarten is my favorite island to visit. I went out on deck to watch our approach.

 

We took the water taxi from the pier into Philipsburg, the Dutch side of this island. It costs $7 cash for a round trip. As you see, many other ships were in dock that day. We went into town early so as to beat the crowds.

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The water is a vibrant jewel green. At the other end, you can shop, dine out, or lounge on the beach, all within walking distance.

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The shops beckoned to us, so we picked up our freebies with coupons from the ship and couldn’t resist many of the other wares. We stopped in the Guavaberry liquor place but didn’t buy anything as we still had a supply from previous cruises.

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We ate lunch at the Barefoot Terrace where I’d been before. I had coconut shrimp, which was six huge butterflied shrimp fried in batter, along with a choice of two sides. Mine were fried plantains and rice with black beans. Janice had coconut curry chicken. Now I have a craving to cook that dish at home.

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By the time we finished shopping, we were tired and ready to return to our cabins. Having visited the island before, we’ve already taken the excursions to the French side and seen the sights. There’s a nude beach somewhere if you’re interested and it still exists. But why pay for a taxi to a beach when there’s one right there where you land in Philipsburg? My conclusion: I still love St. Maarten, and it remains a favorite port.

Dinner in the dining room that night was spinach and cheese turnover, roasted turkey with accompaniments, and a moist chocolate sacher torte. Are you hungry yet?

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Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
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Coming Next: St. Croix

St. Barthelemy

Gustavia, St. Barth (Saint Barthelemy)
Day 4, Tuesday, December 1, 2015

St. Barthelemy is a tiny French island in the Caribbean. All prices are in Euros and the language is French. Here we are on the tender ride from the Celebrity Constellation:

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We strode along the main street lined with shops, which are mostly expensive boutiques. However, you can pick up souvenirs for a decent price. Check out the supermarket. Here’s where you can buy coffee, cookies, candy, and more for gifts. This is along the main street off the tender pier and toward the right. There is a drugstore to the left side of the dock, but their items are pricey. Fancy toiletries are available if you’re willing to pay the price.

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Red sloped roofs abound on attractive housing scattered up the hillsides. Streets are narrow and very steep.

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Strolling toward the right, we passed a harbor with boats and an open-air restaurant. We’d hoped to walk to Shell Beach, but it was too far and too hilly. Along the way, we passed some old churches. The scenery is charming with lovely views of the water.

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For lunch, we chose a restaurant called Le Repaire across the street from the pier and toward the right. My husband and I shared a plate of grilled mahi mahi with rice and vegetables for $24 Euros. I had a Planter’s Punch that packed a punch for 10 Euros. The total cost came to 41 Euros, which included one liter of bottled water for 7 Euros. This comes out to more in U.S. dollars. Despite the cost, my cousin Janice and I sure enjoyed our drinks!

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My conclusion? Attractive, upscale island but too limited for sightseeing tours and shopping opportunities. It would not be on my must-revisit list.

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Back on the ship, we relaxed for the rest of the day. For dinner in the ship’s dining room that night, I selected shrimp cocktail, Caprese salad, and Braised Lamb.

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Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
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Coming Next: St. Maarten

 

Celebrity Constellation: The Food, Part 2

Celebrity Constellation: The Food, Part 2

Eating while someone else cooks and does the dishes is the best part of a cruise. We are continuing with Day 3, when we dined at the Ocean Liners specialty restaurant, courtesy of our travel agent (Adam Wolf at The Cruise Web). The three of us (I traveled with my husband and cousin Janice) soaked in the elegant surroundings while various waiters attended us. Paintings decorated wood-paneled walls, and the lighting was dim enough so everyone looked good. See that pyramid? It’s butter.

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As a starter came scallops in sauce:

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Next I chose a phyllo baked Anjou pear with Roquefort cheese. Janice had lobster bisque as her appetizer. She went on to order the lobster tail for dinner, which the waiter prepared at a side table. Look how excited she is to dive in:

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My husband and I ordered Chateaubriand for two that came with vegetables. This was prepared tableside as well and served with Bearnaise and Cabernet sauces:

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We were all presented our dinners with the silver covers as above, and then three different waiters lifted these tops from our plates in unison. The service was impeccable, better than any we’ve experienced on land in recent times.

For dessert, I ordered a dark chocolate soufflé with vanilla sauce. We also received this bon bon dish with more sweets. None of us could eat another bite.

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This meal was a highlight of the cruise. Definitely book a meal here if you are on this ship. The Tuscan Grille is another specialty option, but we eat enough Italian food at home that this choice with the extra cost didn’t appeal to us.

By my estimation, I gained two pounds on this cruise. I climbed the stairs and walked around the ship for exercise, plus we did quite a bit of trekking uphill while in the ports. And coming next are the ports of call, including what we ate on those days.

You can see more photos here: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor

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in a pair of Arizona crafted earrings and a silver evening bag for your holiday parties. Two runners-up prizes: A signed hardcover Perish by Pedicure. Enter Here: https://nancyjcohen.com/contest/

Booklovers Bench, Dec. 1-18
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Coming Next: Ports of Call