Celebrity Equinox 2013
Itinerary Show Voyage Map = ports at anchor
10th February
- Fly to Miami, USA
& stay overnight
Monday-Transfer to Fort Lauderdale
& embark Celebrity Equinox
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-Cozumel, Mexico
Thursday-Costa Maya, Mexico
Friday-at sea
Saturday-Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
Sunday-Colon, Panama
Monday-Cartagena, Colombia
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-George Town, Cayman Is.
Thursday-at sea
22nd February
-Fort Lauderdale, USA
disembark and fly o/night to UK
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The 2nd of a new "Solstice-class", Celebrity Equinox in Southampton on her delivery in July 2009.

Full Ship Report at Celebrity Eclipse/Equinox Gallery >>

Our first attempt at this itinerary was cancelled by Celebrity back in 2011 when they redeployed the ship to Europe. But determined to get to the Cayman Islands and to visit some new places, we tried again. The only difference was Costa Maya, Mexico instead of Roatan, Honduras and while Costa Maya was a bit disappointing, I suspect Roatan wouldn't have been that much different!

The photos of Celebrity Equinox & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

Click the link to follow our adventures as posted on-line, or read on....

Saturday 9th February
Packing isn't the ideal way to spend your birthday but things got worse when we checked-in online and found that, even having upgraded to Premium Economy, Peter, Lesley, Andrew & I had no choice of seats, were split-up and boxed-in the middle of the plane, so I was not in a good mood! But Chinese Takeaway for dinner that evening with Dad improved matters and was a nice send-off.
Sunday 10th February
Flight to Miami, USA

And with an afternoon flight, it was good for a change not to have to set-off in the dark! It was even better knowing we were heading somewhere hot and were leaving a cold winter's day behind!

Show Picture Full Size Our Premium Economy seats even turned out not so bad after all and Peter happily chatted with the guy next to him. I watched new film "Lincoln" (very good but rather long) and indeed the whole flight seemed much longer than its 9 and-a-half hours and we were all weary when we arrived in Miami.
(left) Our British Airways Boeing 747-400 "Jumbo Jet" to Miami, Florida

In-Flight Catering
British Airways say that the meal you get in "Premium Economy" is chosen from their "Club World" menu and as Andrew doesn't eat fish, I was quite looking forward to a second portion of the Potato & Smoked Salmon starter. However, the starter turned out to be Coleslaw. A number of other passengers had clearly noticed but needless to say, I was the one to mention it to the Stewardess! Not that she could do anything other than apologise at 45,000ft over the Atlantic!
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The all-too-familiar queue for US Customs & Immigration was tedious at about 45 minutes but we were then efficiently met and transferred to our hotel, the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach, where we arrived around 8.45pm local time - or 1.45am by our tired body-clocks!

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Monday 11th February
Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida
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Built in 1956 as the Hotel Yankee Clipper, it was designed to resemble an ocean liner and with facilities to match, it once attracted such stars as Marilyn Monroe. Lately, its reviews are mixed but it was refurbished in 2010 and it provided us with a comfortable night's sleep - and its beachfront location was just brilliant!
(left) The Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach, once the iconic Hotel Yankee Clipper, built in 1956.

Peter & Lesley had a room in the main hotel but ours was on the 9th floor of the Annex, a more modern building over the road, connected by a bridge. During the night, I thought the room noisy, until I opened the curtains and realised that the noise was the sound of the surf on the beach!

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The Patio Pool The Hotel, Bridge & Annex Ft Lauderdale Beach The view from our room
(in the Annex)

After a Full American Breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we strolled along the beachfront, enjoying the sun and the warm sea breeze before joining other passengers on our transfer to the ship.

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Fort Lauderdale Beach from the ship; our hotel is to the right but also marked is the Pier 66 Hotel, where we stayed in 1993 & 1996

Celebrity Equinox
Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale

It was just a short drive to the Cruise Terminal and with "Priority Boarding", we were safely aboard by 12.30pm, although our luggage took rather longer to turn-up, arriving during "Lifeboat Drill".

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Liberty of the Seas
(2007: 154,407grt 3,634pass)
from the condominium owners
beside the main channel
Ft Lauderdale Beach
Sunset over Miami

From our ship, we watched Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas (2007: 154,407grt 3,634 passengers) as she departed by the same route we later followed around 5pm, passing the condominiums lining the main channel, where owners waved us off from their balconies!

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Our Accommodation on board
Our C2-grade Concierge-class cabin was similar to the one we had in 2011. Located aft on deck 12, its balcony was sheltered by the overhang of the cafe above. (see note below)

As with most modern cabins, it was comfortably appointed, although drawer-space for two people is not generous and wardrobe access is a bit tight when the bed is set as 2 singles.
( Above: C2-grade Balcony Cabin no.2144 )
The bathroom and shower are reasonably spacious however, with adequate storage for 2; and of course we had our complimentary bottle of bubbly!

Lesley & Peter meanwhile, were next door to us, with the same S1-grade corner Sky Suite that Andrew, Gerry & I shared aboard Eclipse last year!
(right) S1-grade corner Sky Suite no.2146 - complete with Butler, Bubbly & nautical touches!
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But whereas our cabin steward Sohas and his assistant proved excellent and always there when you wanted them, Lesley & Peter also had a butler, who was less than reliable and rather too familiar.

Beware of Cabins below Cafes!
Two years ago aboard Eclipse, we had been beset with noises at night from the Oceanview Cafe on the deck above but I chose cabin 2144 this time because it was well aft and next door to Peter & Lesley's suite. Although technically still under part of the cafe, Sally & Frank had been in this same cabin last year and not reported any problems, so I figured we would be in the clear!

Unfortunately, there were overhead rumblings on the the first night and I mentioned it at Guest Relations the following day, asking them to employ the "special measures" I new to be in place for night working. Things did improve but not a lot and while it wasn't as bad as it had been in 2010 aboard Eclipse, Guest Relations were keen to appease us, regularly leaving us messages requesting updates and eventually admitting that the problem had been resolved on the new Celebrity Reflection by extra sound-proofing!

Tuesday 12th February
A Day at Sea
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After "Shrimp Louis", "Forest Mushroom Soup" and an excellent "Aged Prime Rib" for dinner last night, I even surprised myself by managing 60 lengths of the Solarium Pool at 7.15am!

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On the balcony Food-tasting Fayre
A Taste of Equinox
Sushi Platter from
Silk Harvest
Sample dishes from
Tuscan Grille
Sample dishes from

While the others sun-bathed in the morning, I investigated A Taste of Equinox, a promotional event for the speciality restaurants on board (for which there is an additional cover charge!) but with lots of free samples! The Filet Mignon from Tuscan Grille was excellent, as was the Chinese Pepper Steak from Silk Harvest but the Normandie Lobster from Murano was simply divine! I then went on to have a Mediterranean Crepe for lunch with Andrew in the Bistro on 5! Shameful, I know!

That evening, as Elite members of the Captain's Club, we took advantage of the complimentary drinks & canapés from 5-7 every evening in the Sky Lounge. The Appletinis may be half the size of the $10 ones but they're just as lethal!

The Silhouette Dining Room
Apart from the carpet, this is identical to the Moonlight Sonata aboard Eclipse, and with a table for 4, our stewards this time were the diminutive but highly attentive Tanto and his rather dishy assistant, Sasa. (pronounced "Sasha"!)
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(above right) Sadly, I took no photo of the Silhouette but the Moonlight Sonata Dining Room on Celebrity Eclipse is virtually identical
In addition to the nightly-changing menu, there is always a fixed menu of Celebrity Favorites >>, adding to the choice. The menus do though follow a pattern and were identical to those we had aboard Celebrity Summit last year but this time I felt quality and presentation were rather better. And the Maitre d' was quick on the scene when Andrew sent his steak back for not being well-done enough!
Souvenir Menus:-
Dinner Night 3 >> & Desserts >>, Dinner Night 5 >> & Desserts >>, Dinner Night 9 >> & Desserts >>, Last Night Menu >> & Desserts >>

Tonight was the first Formal Night and we took the opportunity of a formal photograph. Unfortunately, our choice of location was not good and the results later proved disappointing. The evening closed with the Captain's Welcome Toast in the Theatre, followed by the first big production show, "Remix"; not that popular, judging by the limited audience. Loud, brash & modern, it was the usual "mish-mash" but of even less memorable songs.

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Wednesday 13th February
Cozumel, Mexico
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Situated off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, there's not much to see here but Cozumel has been developed as a popular resort island for those interested in scuba-diving, snorkelling and other active water-sports.
(above) Celebrity Equinox (2009: 122,000grt) alongside one of the piers at Cozumel.
So while Peter went off to play golf, Andrew & Lesley took a ship's excursion entitled "Salsa, Salsa & Margeritas", a beach-based, fun-styled cooking & dancing outing which they both said was the best trip they'd ever done - no doubt assisted by the Margeritas!
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The Mayan Ruins at Tulum
Some interpret the Mayan Calendar as predicting the end of the World on 21st December 2012 but we're still here so my choice of excursion took me over to Playa del Carmen on the mainland (about 40 min by chartered ferry) and then by bus for another 45 minutes down the coast. Location Map >>

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One of many running wild
Temple of the Wind House of the
Halach Uinich
El Castillo
& the Temple of the
Descending God

Having seen the ruins at Chichen Itza some years ago, the similarities were clear but here the site is smaller and its buildings less dramatic in scale. However, it's easier to get to than Chichen Itza and the striking difference at Tulum is its stunning position on the cliffs overlooking the sea.

Show Site Plan Full Size The Archeological Site of Tulum
One of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayans, Tulum was at its height between the 13th & 15th centuries and is thought to have been founded for its stategic trading position, with a defendable beach-cove for canoes opposite a break in the offshore barrier reef. The city survived about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico and Old World diseases appear to have been the cause of its demise.

Protected by sea-cliffs on one side, the site is surrounded on 3 sides by a stone wall 800yds long, up to 16ft high and 26ft thick. Its most important buildings are "El Castillo", 25ft high, and the adjacent "Temple of the Descending God", thought to be the setting sun by virtue of its alignment to the Winter Solstice.

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"El Castillo"
& its protected beach
House of Frescoes Temple of the Wind Iguana
Another one!

This was an excellent excursion; on the coach they even provided a tasty "lunch in a paper-bag" but while they used a chartered ferry direct from the ship in the morning, our return was by public ferry to the main town of San Miguel de Cozumel, an $8 taxi-ride from the cruise ship pier!

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San Miguel de Cozumel
Disney Magic has just raised her anchor
Disney Magic
(1998 - 83,338grt)
Celebrity Equinox
(2009: 122,000grt)

Having seen Disney Magic at anchor off San Miguel earlier, it was rather appropriate this evening's main entertainment was an American magician, Neal Austin. He was very good!

Thursday 14th February
Puerto Costa Maya, Mexico
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Nest of Snakes!
The tour-guide on the bus yesterday told us that it is the policy of the Mexican Government to develop the whole of the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula for tourism, from Cancún in the north to the border with Belize in the south (over 200 miles). He clearly didn't approve. He also told us (with a certain ironic sarcasm) that the name "Cancún" is from the original Mayan language and roughly translates as "Nest of snakes"!

It was no surprise, given the guide's comments yesterday, that Puerto Costa Maya was little more than a cruise-ship pier and a few tourist shops and bars, in the middle of nowhere!

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Puerto Costa Maya
In the middle of nowhere!
Celebrity Equinox alongside the new pier
together with NCL's Norwegian Dawn (2002: 91,740grt 2,476 passengers)

Aside from excursions to some of the lesser-know Mayan archaeological sites, the resorts in this area offer some good scuba-diving and other water-sports opportunities. Indeed, I was booked to do a "Sea-Trek Underwater Helmet Walk" today - until I got a 'phone call at 7.25am telling me it had been cancelled, "owing to adverse sea conditions"!

So, after a walk along the pier to confirm that there was nothing there of interest, we spent the rest of the day on the ship, pretending it was a sea-day! In the afternoon, we took advantage of our complimentary Captain's Club Elegant Tea in the main restaurant. It was quite good but they still do that American thing of giving you hot water first and then coming round with the tea-bags!

There was an America comdedian on tonight; James Stephens III. Not surprisingly, his humour was tailored to his largely American audience but he was very funny. However, "this woman" next to me would insist on whooping and clapping all the time, as if to tell me I wasn't laughing loudly enough!

Tomatoes in the "Classic Caesar Salad"!
Dinner for me was Prawn Risotto, French Onion Soup and Lamb Shank and it was very nice but we had a visit from the Executive Sous-Chef, doing his PR rounds, so Andrew asked him why the "Classic Caesar Salad" always had tomatoes in it, when they are not one of the listed ingredients. (Andrew doesn't like tomatoes!)

Initially at a loss for an explanation, he finally admitted that the tomatoes were a garnish. So it seems that if you don't like tomatoes, even a "Classic Caesar Salad" isn't safe aboard a Celebrity ship, unless you ask the waiter to "please remove the garnish"!

Friday 15th February
A Day at Sea
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The Solarium Pool was busy at 7.15am but as the weather was so nice, for the first time I tried the outside pool instead. The water was a bit chilly at first but 50 lengths proved quite exhilarating!

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The Midships Pools
Early morning!
Spacious Solstice Deck
(Deck 16 Fwd - Andrew's photos)
In the Sky Observation Lounge
(Deck 14 Fwd - Peter's photos)

After a lovely spell up on Solstice Deck, the ship sailed into rain at about 11.15am - just in time for coffee in Cafe al Bacio! In the afternoon, it was the special Captain's Club Celebration for all members, after which some of us needed a lie down!

But we had trouble with the TV while watching a movie ("Battleship"; rubbish but fun!) and had to call Guest Relations for assistance, which quickly arrived in the form of a rather cute Technical Officer who re-booted the TV and got everything going again!
This evening's cabaret was ex-West End star, Lindsay Hamilton; not really my kind of singer but a good voice! At least I had no whooping & cheering in my ear this time!

Dinner was particularly good tonight: Crab Cake, Broccoli Soup & Short Ribs (with mash, rather than polenta!) It had to be Cherries Jubilee after that! Dinner Menu >> & Desserts >>
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Saturday 16th February
Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
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For a small country of fewer than 5m people, Costa Rica is one of the World's oldest democracies and having abolished its army in 1949, is one of the most intelligently developed countries in the World. With a terrain and climate supporting a wide range of bio-diverse eco-systems, it is also one of the most ecologically responsible, with over 160 National Parks and reserves covering 1.3m hectares (5,000 sq miles) or 25% of the entire country.

Veragua Rainforest Research & Adventure Park see Map >>
In the foothills of the Talamanca Mountains, on the edge of La Amistad National Park, this private bio-reserve offers guided tours of the forest along elevated walkways and trails. Its facilities include research labs, a reptile vivarium, an insectarium and a walk-through Butterfly Sanctuary.

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Sloths are indiginous to Costa Rica
(left) a 2-toed Sloth & (right) a 3-toed Sloth!
The Butterfly Sactuary
at Veragua Rainforest Park

Another attraction is the Aerial Tram, a open-air cableway descending 1,800ft (550m) through the tree-tops to the Victoria River Canyon, where you can take a number of trails through the Primary (oldest) Forest. This 5 min YouTube video illustrates it well. Show YouTube video-clip
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The Aerial Tram
descending 1,800ft (550m) through the trees
Elevated Walkways and Maintained Trails
through Primary Forest
The Puma Waterfall

The humidity down by the river was in contrast to the cool freshness back up at the Visitor Center and I was reminded of our first visit to Costa Rica in 1994 and the beautiful Los Angeles Cloud Forest >>

Show Favorites Menu Full Size Back at the ship, it was back to the old routine; tonight's production show "Limelight" was better than average for a "compilation" show, while Dinner comprised: Crab-stuffed Mushrooms (off the Favorites Menu), Tuscan Minestrone & Rib-Eye Steak, followed by Poached Pear. All rather good! Favorites Menu >> Dinner Menu >> & Desserts >> Show Dinner Menu Full Size Show Dessert Menu Full Size

No "Fortunes" in Fortunes Casino!
Over half-way through our holiday now, and Andrew was becoming concerned that his usual good fortune in the Casino had not shown any sign of repeating itself. Indeed, aside from a small win one evening, this run of "ill-fortune" remained with him for the rest of the holiday. After his previous runs of success, this time I think they must have seen him coming!

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Sunday 17th February
Colón, Panama
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Founded in 1850 during the North American "Gold Rush" as the terminus of the new Panama Railroad, the city of Colón has since grown to engulf its neighbour Cristóbal; "Cristóbal Colón" is "Christopher Columbus" in Hispanic.

Andrew & I passed through the Panama Canal in 1994 (south-north) & in 1996 (north-south) but Lesley & Peter had not seen it before, so today's tour was to the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center.

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Miraflores Locks from the Visitor Center
(left) Toward the Pedro Miguel Locks & Centennial Bridge
(right) Control Building with Expansion Project works behind
Miraflores Locks
A pleasure-boat passes through the lock

Here we watched the working of the locks at close quarters, although we had just missed a tanker passing through and there were no large ships going through while we were there. We could also see earthworks in the distance, where they are building the new larger locks as part of the Canal Expansion Project due for completion in 2014, in time for the Canal's 100th Anniversary. There was a small museum but the Visitor Center was very crowded and the 3-D film in its theatre was a disappointment and not worth queuing for.
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Lock Control Center
Visitor Centre Mock-up
Pacific Canal Entrance
The Bridge of the Americas
Goethals Monument
& Canal Administration
Building (1914)
The Martyrs' Monument
with Panama City in the distance

The rest of the excursion involved a tour of the Adminstration Zone and Fort Clayton, one of a number of Army bases built and manned by the United States from 1910 to 1999 to guard the Canal Zone, until the bases and the Canal were finally passed to the Panamanians on 31st December 1999.

Read more about the Panama Canal >>

Back aboard and having left Colón, there was an extra Dessert being offered tonight, in additon to those on the menu; "Grand Marnier Soufflée". It was very good indeed, reviving memories of all those different flavoured soufflées we enjoyed aboard Vistafjord & Sagafjord "in the old days"!

Monday 18th February
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
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Established by the Spanish in the 16th century, its namesake was in Murcia, Spain. After it was sacked and ransomed by Francis Drake in 1586, the Spanish developed the Fortress of San Felipe de Barajas, famously defeating odds of more than 10-1 in the Siege of 1741 under the redoubtable blind, one-armed, one-legged Admiral Blas de Lezo. Admiral Blas de Lezo - Show Picture Full Size

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Fortress of San Felipe de Barajas
(dating from 1536; expanded 1657 & 1763)
Spanish Colonial Pavement Artist Live Art
Bolivar Park

Show Favorites Menu Full Size There was an amazing abundance of street art everywhere but in the Palace of the Inquisition, there was a shocking array of torture devices from the dreaded days of the Spanish Inquisition (1481-1834).
(left) Instruments of torture at the Inquisition Palace & (right) Street Art (Peter's photos)
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Inquisition Palace
from Bolivar Park
Simon de Bolivar
(The Great Liberator)
Bolivar Park
The Tower of
Santa Catalina Cathedral
Church of San Pedro Claver Corberó
(the Patron Saint of Slaves)

But instead of visiting Santa Catalina Cathedral, we went to the Church of San Pedro Claver, unremarkable but for its Jesuit Priest, Father Pedro Claver Corberó (1581-1654), whose devoted ministry to the slaves arriving here by ship earned him sanctification as the Patron Saint of Slaves.

A Frustrating Tour by a Disappointing Guide
Our City Highlights tour followed the "classic" format (with compulsory shopping-stops!) but the city was very crowded and the tour could have been better arranged, as all our stops seemed to coincide with the worst of the crowds. It was also impossible to hear our guide, who spent much of his time in personal calls on his mobile phone; something he later explained and for which he apologised. The City is undoubtedly beautiful and fascinating but the local tour companies need to make their itineraries more flexible; and the guides need to "get modern" and use radio-mics and earphones, otherwise next time, we'll do it on our own!

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Cartagena de Indias
from Bocagrande Beach
Bocagrande Beach
Harbour Statue
Madonna & Child
Beach Football
& Fort San Fernando de Bocachica

Show Picture Full Size Dinner in Tuscan Grille
After free drinks at the special Senior Officers' Cocktail Party this evening, we had dinner in our favourite of the speciality restaurants aboard. Similar to but with a darker interior than on Celebrity Eclipse, the ambience is not the same however. And tonight, we had problems! Tuscan Grille Dinner Menu >>

Turmoil in Tuscan Grille!
It didn't begin well. I ordered the Rustic Seafood Stew starter and found it so hot and spicy as to be unpleasant - I even thought there may have been a mishap in the galley but decided to say nothing. The rest of the meal was very good, albeit somewhat protracted, and it was only at the end that Andrew & Lesley mentioned that we had not had any Antipasti course - one of the previous special features of this restaurant. However, when the Maitre d' heard of this, he was clearly mortified but it was too late to do anything, so all he could do was offer us all a free lunch on the last day of the cruise! (see later....)

Tuesday 19th February
A Day at Sea
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Even with no Antipasti course at dinner last night, I had too much to eat and so slept poorly! The sea was also choppy in the night and when I arrived for my swim in the Solarium Pool at 7.15am, I found it had been emptied. Fortunately, the outdoor pool was fine and the air warm, so I had already done 20 lengths by the time Lesley arrived. The rest of the day was a typically hot and rather humid sea-day in the Caribbean.
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The Ensemble Lobby
"Still Life for Leisure"
by Jorge Pardo (2009)
Our Formal Portrait
Second time lucky!
"Equinox - The Show"
A colourful extravaganza!
Poolside at Night

This evening's show was "Equinox - The Show!" (also seen in 2011). With woodland nymphs, jungle drums, acrobatics and sexy costumes, once again I found it imaginative and brilliant. Andrew isn't keen on Cirque du Soleil-style shows but I still think this is quite the best show I've seen at sea!

Tonight being our second Formal Evening, we were more successful this time in our choice of photographer and the results were much better. Dinner too was all my favourites: Oysters Rockefeller, Smoked Tomato Bisque and Broiled Lobster! We passed on dessert, although that didn't get us out of the obligatory "congratulations hoopla!" that followed! Dinner Menu >> & Desserts >> Show Menu Full Size

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Wednesday 20th February
George Town, Grand Cayman
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Situated south of Cuba and north-west of Jamaica in the middle of the Western Caribbean, Grand Cayman is the largest of a tiny island group that remains under British sovereignty, rather like Bermuda.
(above and below left) Laying at anchor; Celebrity Equinox from one of the large local tenders, going ashore in Grand Cayman

Unlike Bermuda, however, there are no docking facilities for cruise ships, which anchor in the bay off George Town, the capital; but unlike last year's disastrous tendering operations aboard Celebrity Summit, today the ship chartered the local 300-person tenders and Andrew, Lesley & I were all easily ashore by 8.15am for our tour, while Peter went off to play golf again. Show Picture Full Size

It was a rather whirlwind tour and I wasn't sure at first about our mini-bus driver. He seemed rather impatient and at the sight of 2 other buses at our first scheduled stop, he just raced past and (Cartegena guides, please note!) took us instead to the second stop, which was much quieter.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Situated in the middle of the eastern end of the island, the Gardens were opened by The Queen in 1994 and the present level of cultivation is in marked contrast to the somewhat barren landscape of its surroundings, with a Heritage Garden, Woodland Trail, an Orchid Garden and more Iguanas!

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A Typical
Cayman House
Blue Iguana The Floral Colour Garden, Pergola & Ginger Flower
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park

It was a pity we couldn't stay longer because it was such a lovely place to stroll quietly and there was much more we didn't see, on this whirlwind tour! For our next stop, we returned to what should have been our first - and our driver still seemed annoyed that there was another bus here!

Show Picture Full Size Pedro St James (left) Andrew's Photo
The oldest surviving structure on the Islands, the original stone manor house was built in 1780 by wealthy landowner William Eden and became known as "Castle Pedro". However, it was destroyed by the elements and rebuilt many times until, abandoned and neglected, it was restored in 1996.

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Pedro St James was also the birthplace of the first Caymanian Parliament in 1831 and is today a National Historic Site. The short presentation in its Multi-sensory 3-D Theatre was way better than the Panama Visitor Center and in such an idyllic setting, I fell in love with the place; everything except its old outhouse kitchen that is! (right) Lesley in the Kitchen! Show Picture Full Size

At this point, our driver was keen to get us to our next rendezvous without delay and he hurtled along to where he believed it was, only to find that our charter-boat was at another location; so off we hurtled again! The good thing was that we still got there first and hence were able to get the best seats on the boat out to Grand Cayman's No.1 tourist attraction, Stingray City Sandbar.

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Stingray City Sandbar
Where people stand amongst free-swimming Stingrays
at your feet
Lesley & the "Captain"
& one of the Stingrays!

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Stingray City Sandbar Show Map
On a sandbar between West Bay & Rum Point, we were able to stand on soft sand in about 4 feet of the warm Caribbean, while free-swimming but very tame Stingrays darted between our legs!
(left) Andrew and his unwanted baby squid and (right) Kissing the Fish - ugh!
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The Stingray City Experience
The whole thing is extremely well-rehearsed but not rushed in any way. You are free to climb down the ladder into the water whenever you are ready, while the boat crew hold these beautiful creatures still for you to touch them. They also provide bits of baby squid with which to feed them; and the Stingrays of course already know the drill! Andrew was really keen to feed them but for some reason, they wouldn't take it. Lesley & I meanwhile had the "full treatment" from the crew, including the obligatory "kissing the fish" (which we both did but they even made me do twice!), a back-massage for Lesley from the Stingray's flippers and lifting it up out of the water, so that it would spit in my face, to everyone else's amusement but mine - very nice, I must say!

Being able to be in the water with these strange but magnificent creatures all around you is an amazing experience, as well as being great fun. I wouldn't have missed it for anything!
See lots more photos of the Stingrays and all the places we visited on this cruise on my account at Captain Martini >>

Grand Cayman's lack of proper cruise ship berths doesn't seem to have made it any less popular; when we arrived this morning, two Carnival ships were already dropping anchor nearby....

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(left) Carnival Paradise (1998: 70,367grt)
(right) Carnival Freedom (2007: 110,239grt)
(also right: Atlantis XI 48-person reef-submarine)
Jolly Roger (1986)
rds scale fun replica of Columbus' galleon "Niña"
Carnival Freedom (2007: 110,239grt)
Mariner of the Seas (2004: 137,276grt)
(distance: Celebrity Equinox - our ship!)

When we returned to our tender pier later (thankful that the dreadful passenger queues were not for our ship!), there were no fewer than five ships all waiting at anchor!

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Carnival Freedom &
MSC Poesia 2008: 92,490grt
Mariner of the Seas
(2004: 137,276grt)
Carnival Freedom
departing Grand Cayman
Mariner of the Seas &
MSC Poesia 2008: 92,490grt

I had mixed expectations of Grand Cayman but ever since reading John Grisham's edge-of-your-seat thriller "The Firm", I was curious to find out if it was still as "British" as Bermuda. It isn't but neither has it become as over-developed as Nassau in the Bahamas. I quite liked it; and we celebrated a fabulous day ashore by opening one of our free bottles of champagne on our balcony!

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Thursday 21st February
Last Day at Sea
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It was the usual sort of "last day"; for the others, enjoying the hot weather and taking the opportunity to finish topping-up their tans, while for me, just putting-off the packing as long as possible! The difference today though was that we had the offer of a "free" lunch in Tuscan Grille to make up for the other evening.
(left) Afternoon Poolside & the Officers' Pool Volleyball Tournament attracts a few watchers

Show Picture Full Size Andrew & Peter preferred to stay in the sun but Lesley joined me at an aft-facing window table. Service was good, the White Bean Soup excellent and we had extra lobster in the Saffron Risotto, as well as sharing a Crispy Crab Cake - delicious! Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size

Hiatus in the i-Lounge at 11pm!
Before turning-in after dinner, many like us wanted to check-in online for their flights tomorrow but the ship had lost its internet connection and no-one could get online for nearly an hour. Eventually, the i-Manager contacted the Bridge and someone had to re-align the ship's antenna (apparently!). It made me think - how we used to manage perfectly well without such new-fangled things!

Friday 22nd February
Fort Lauderdale & Miami Airport
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Early disembarkation at 9am was easy; it was US Customs & Immigration that was a pain and it was nearly 11am before we got on the bus; then we had to wait for everyone else! Arriving at the Sheraton Miami Airport at 12.30pm, all hopes of some sightseeing in Miami evaporated as we were told we had to check-out of our day-rooms by 4pm, even though our flight wasn't until 10.50pm! Biding time with a burger in the restaurant still meant that we were in the Terminal by 6pm.

Show Picture Full Size Miami Airport & Home - eventually!
Fortunately, we were able to check-in early but we still had 6 hours to kill. The woman at the check-in desk recommended that we "go and get lost!" in the vast Terminal D duty-free shopping area - and we nearly did but boy was it tedious!
(left) Map of Miami Airport's vast terminal layout
After a nice meal and an 8 and-a-half hour overnight flight, by taxi we were home by 2pm next day, tired!

NB: The photos of Celebrity Equinox & all the ports visited on this cruise can be found on my account at Captain Martini >>

See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

Cruise Mileage: 3,167 nautical miles
Total Mileage to date: 172,903 n miles

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