AustinKearney

AustinKearney
Third Mate

Hometown: Dunwoody, GA
Joined: 09/26/2016
1
Cruise
2
Reviews
21
Helpful Votes

About AustinKearney



Following

AustinKearney's Past Cruises

Celebrity Equinox

September 2017 - Celebrity Equinox to Caribbean - Southern

First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

Celebrity Equinox September 15 – September 25, 2017 Miami – Grand Cayman – Aruba – Bonaire – Curaçao - Falmouth Cabin 9204 Introduction This was our 21st cruise and 1st time sailing Celebrity. We’re long-time Royal Caribbean cruisers and liked the Southern Caribbean itinerary. Hurricane Irma had struck Florida and Georgia five days earlier and Hurricane Maria was several days east of the Lesser Antilles. More on Maria later. Key West was the final stop and was swapped with Falmouth, Jamaica as Hurricane Irma had effectively closed the Keys. My wife, Joanne, and I are Diamond Members with Royal Caribbean with garners you Elite status which is the comparable level on Celebrity. Embarkation Day We scrambled at the last minute to make plane reservations versus driving from Atlanta. The hotel we booked for the night before the cruise, in Coconut Grove, was still closed due to Irma. We rebooked at the Hampton Garden Inn, just south of the airport. I think half of Miami was still without power. Boarding was smooth and quick and we were aboard by eleven. The crew offered everyone a complimentary glass of champagne as you entered the ship. It was a bit early so we just headed to the Oceanview Café for some coffee. At our muster drill in the Equinox Theater, there were lots of cabin numbers called out for guests that hadn’t checked in. The ship’s rumor mill, during the week, thought between 200 to 500 people missed the cruise due to the recent storm. I don’t know if it was true. We watched the departure from Miami from the Sky View Lounge forward on deck 14. Glass on three sides affords a great view. I also discovered my favorite spot on the ship. The Martini Ice Bar on deck 4. I had Joanne try a Cosmopolitan and she was hooked as well. They serve up a wonderful selection of adult refreshments. After dinner we headed to the Equinox Theater for the biggest disappointment of the cruise. Comedian Brent Pella was the headliner and he simply was not funny. I think he must have been a last minute fill-in for an act that couldn’t make the cruise because I doubt seriously that he was working elsewhere. Quite a few people walked out. Despite the entertainment flop, my first-day impression of Celebrity, the Equinox, its crew, dining, the ship’s bartenders, etc. is overwhelmingly, “I’m doing this again!” Dining I thought the dining on board was generally excellent. We had breakfast on three or four mornings in the Silhouette dining room on deck 3. It was very nice. The Oceanview Café serves up a huge variety of selections for breakfast or lunch. We didn’t try it for dinner. It’s roomy and easy to get a seat and hanging signs mark what’s being served at a particular station. Walk your plate aft and you can dine outside. One lunch time, they would slice off a fresh tuna steak for you and custom grill it to your liking. I said: “just walk it through the kitchen” and my chef seared it for a few seconds each side and seasoned it. Perfect! The Equinox makes all of its ice cream aboard and there is an ice cream station scooping up all your favorites. Sadly, it’s closed for breakfast. For the cruise, we opted for the flexibility of ‘select’ dining on deck 4 in the Silhouette dining room. We were seated for dinner each evening by hostess Maria. She is the cutest Russian smoke-show you can imagine. (Hope Joanne doesn’t read this.) She seated us every evening in the same section so we developed a rapport with our waiter, Jorge, assistant waiter, Riordan and wine steward, Belinda. There are several specialty restaurants on the Equinox but we didn’t try them, we liked the Russian smoke-show staff and food in the Silhouette. Just a small footnote on breakfast, if you order OJ in the Oceanview Café, there is a drink charge. Down in the Silhouette dining room you can get all the juice you want with no charge. I found this odd. Entertainment The Equinox served up a nice variety of entertainment for the cruise. We had the ship’s own singers and dancers put on several shows. One evening there were four singers who put on a Jersey Boys, Frankie Valli, Four Seasons revue. They were very good. Another evening was the excellent magician Trigg Watson, who had appeared on Penn and Teller’s “Fool Us” TV show. Singer/Impressionist James Stephenson had a good show and did an encore show in the afternoon on our last sea day. Several times during the cruise, a couple of the ship’s dancers would conduct dance lessons in the lobby on deck 3. If your cha-cha isn’t as smooth as your instructor’s, catch them on stage at some point and you will understand why. The Corning Glass Museum puts on daily glass blowing demonstrations and it is so different, I would make a point of catching a show or two. A guest lecturer on the cruise gave talks each day about the history and settlement of the Caribbean. He phrased it “The Spanish Invasion.” If you missed the live talk, one of the ship’s TV channels would replay it later. Joanne attended a Galley tour of the kitchens on our first sea day and found it very interesting. The ship had several musical entertainment groups that played at the pool and other of the public lounges and watering holes around the ship. They were very good as well. Miscellany As Equinox was sailing east to the A,B,C islands from Grand Cayman, Hurricane Maria was shredding Dominica on its way to make a bull’s eye hit on San Juan as a Cat. 4 storm. Our weather for the entire cruise was excellent. Captain Costas Nestoroudis, in addition to his daily 10 a.m. update, kept passenger informed on Maria and we were generally 500 miles south of the hurricane while in the Caribbean. We actually closed in on the storm as we sailed north to Miami. Cruise Director, Rich Spacey, must have clones and doesn’t sleep. He was everywhere aboard. He also introduced every show on board had two TV channels to himself and was funnier than any hired gun comedian aboard for the cruise. Vegas Baby, could be his next gig. By “excellent” cruise weather mentioned earlier, I am including the electrical storm we sailed through on the short jaunt between Aruba and Bonaire at 4 a.m. We awoke to the thunder and watched lightning bolts blast a mile from a cloud to the sea below, lighting up the ocean. We watched out our balcony window and Joanne was tempted to dress and head up to the Sky View Lounge in the middle of the night to watch the fireworks. Electrical storms at sea are a cruise bonus in my book. As a side note: we observed a tiny little bird on our balcony hitching a free ride to Bonaire during the storm. It kept its head under its wing catching zzz’s during all the light and noise outside. Cuteness overload. As we docked in Aruba, there were 16 idle oil tankers and 3 oil drilling platforms anchored a bit off shore to the south of us. There is a sand bar out there to anchor on. Aruba is 17 miles off the coast of Venezuela and I’ve read recent articles that the government of Venezuela won’t or can’t pay the shipping companies for crude oil shipments leaving the country or refined gasoline and diesel fuels being shipped back. It’s a sad situation if you are stuck living in Venezuela or happen to own an idled oil tanker. I can’t help but notice the differences between Royal Caribbean cruises and our first time with Celebrity. I would rate the quality of the dining experience to be a notch higher on the Equinox. This includes the food preparation and variety as well as the glassware and china used. I would judge that the entertainment is generally better on Royal Caribbean ships. The average age of the guests on the Equinox was older, with fewer young couples and almost no children aboard. I think we had six kids aboard and I personally, only saw two young children. Royal Caribbean would be more family oriented. As Diamond members on Royal Caribbean we each received one day of free Wi-Fi during the cruise. With Celebrity, we each received 90 minutes of free Wi-Fi. This is a more practical deal as you can download your email, take a peek at the news, confirm airline reservations and spread this out over the entire cruise, not just one day. In summary we were delighted with out first experience with Celebrity Cruise Lines and specifically the Equinox. We’ll be back. See you there. Austin Kearney Dunwoody, GA pepperdog@mindspring.com

Read Full Review »

Allure of the Seas

September 2016 - Allure of the Seas to Caribbean - Eastern

Sweet Cruise on Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas

September 4 – September 11, 2016

Ft. Lauderdale – Nassau – St. Thomas – St. Kitts

Cabin 12672

 

Sweet Cruise on Allure of the Seas

 

Introduction

 

This was our 19th cruise and 14th with Royal Caribbean. Last Fall, we sailed on Allure’s sister ship, Oasis of the Seas. Trust me, a week is not enough time to get familiar with a ship of this size, so we had to book again on this class of ship to catch all the cruising features we missed the first time around. Still not enough time, so we booked another cruise aboard the Oasis for early next year.

 

Hailing from Atlanta, the first adventure of our vacation was riding out Hurricane Hermine, at a friend’s home in Orlando on our drive south.

 

We stayed at the Crown Plaza not far from the port on Saturday prior to boarding the Allure Sunday morning. The staff was very friendly, our room was clean and comfortable and for $102 you can’t go wrong.

 

 

 

Port Everglades – Sunday 9-4-16

 

If you’re driving to the port, you want to look into Park ‘N Go. They transfer your luggage from your car to their mini-bus and then unload it again at the terminal facility for you.

 

We arrived at the pier at 10:30 and were quickly processed aboard. I’m recovering from knee surgery earlier this year and am wobbling around with a cane until I can fully chase cars again. At least five terminal cruise personnel offered me a wheel chair service or elevator ride to ease the boarding process. I said no thanks but it’s nice to know the help is available if you need it. Getting off the Allure a week later, I had the same type of offers of assistance in the terminal.

 

Nassau – Monday 9-5-16 (Labor Day)

 

We’ve been to Nassau on multiple cruises. It’s always a wonderful port to visit. No other cruise ships were in town, however, we were moored across from a U. S. Navy warship, the USS Lassen (DDG-82) an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer. I used its hull number to Google it and learn what type of ship it was. Google responded “BADASS.” A five inch deck gun, two Phalanx CIWS 20mm cannon, AEGIS Combat System Radar, two helicopters, torpedoes and a boatload of vertical launch, multiple flavor, missile tubes means this ship can unleash more devastation than all of WWII’s combatants combined. I mean, this ship can shoot down ICBM missiles raining on you from space and launch nuclear armed Tomahawk Cruise Missiles back at you. Yes, that kind of BADASS. Prior to recently moving to its new homeport of Mayport, Florida (Jacksonville) it sailed around the Spratly Islands (The Great Wall of Sand) that China has built up. So much for the line of death China decreed in the South China Sea. The R&R in Nassau, I’m sure was well earned for the crew of the Lassen and their families over the Labor Day weekend. Party-on, U.S. Navy.

 

Dining

 

Prior to the cruise, we purchased a four-night specialty restaurant package for $90 each. The mystery is, you can’t specify the restaurants you want until you get on board. The come-on is basically pay for three and get a fourth free. After boarding we were having coffee at the Café in the Royal Promenade. Having made plans for Giovanni’s Table that night, the couple we were sharing a table with booked dinner at Chop’s for $15 each with a roving waiter. That is a good deal versus the usual single meal price of $39. All of the specialty restaurants had agents roaming the Promenade offering discount dining deals for the first night. Keep that in mind.

 

The Windjammer Marketplace on deck 16 is too small for the ship. On the TV screen in your cabin, you can check the wait times in any of the ship’s dining venues at any time. Very often, for breakfast or lunch, the Windjammer shown as red, which means the lines to get in, began when you stepped off an aft elevator on deck 16. Instead, head to the American Icon dining room on deck 3. You can opt to order off the menu or try the buffet.

 

We had lunch one afternoon at the Sabor Mexican restaurant on the Boardwalk on deck 6. The service was so-so and the food forgettable and not worth the added cost. It would not survive on dry land as a Mexican restaurant for long.

 

Our specialty restaurant choices were Giovanni’s Table (twice), Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. I think the 150 Central Park dinner was my favorite, but their menu was limited.

 

Our other evening diners were spent at My Time Dining in the American Icon on deck 3. Great food, great dining! On the ship’s second formal night toward the end of the cruise, we were seated amidst a row of other tables for two. While the couple at the table next to us enjoyed their deserts, I scanned the menu and said aloud, “lobster tails, prime rib or tofu meatballs, tough decision.” The woman sitting next to and across from me, spewed red wine out of her nose.  Success! We enjoyed the lobster.

 

Entertainment

 

Prior to sailing, you really need to get online and map out and book seats in the shows you want to see during your week aboard so you get the days and times you want.

 

We took in the comedians in the Comedy Club. They were o.k. and the headliner, was excellent. We missed our “Mama Mia” reservation and everyone we met onboard for the rest of the week, raved about the show. We missed it, so you shouldn’t. Jeff Tracta was the Headliner and is not to be missed. He’s very funny and a great impressionist.

 

Also, catch Ernesto’s Jazz Quartet anywhere on the ship you can. They are just superb musicians!

 

On one of our sea days back to Port Everglades, Joanne had booked me on a ship’s tour including the bridge, kitchen areas and engineering spaces. When enquiring where I was to go for the tour I was handed an injury waiver form to sign. Given I’m not as agile with my cane doing staircases and shoveling coal in the engines, I opted out of the tour. Maybe next cruise, I hope.

 

Booking Your Next Cruise While Onboard

 

For the first time we tried this on-board service, as we are more flexible now that we’re retired. We booked an Oasis cruise next March. The come-on is, a minimal deposit, a $100 onboard credit, the flexibility to change cruises up to a point. The RCI cabin pricing matrix is now so complex, their computers can’t even keep up. It’s now a function of things like deck height, view, proximity to elevators and god knows what else. Having been home less than two weeks from our vacation, we received an email that a $500 payment was due in a few days. The message also was missing Joanne’s Crown and Anchor membership number. The RCI agent couldn’t correct anything in their own system and said we could straighten out the details once we were within 90 days of our sail date.

 

Joanne is constantly checking the RCI web site to check pricing and the on board and web prices are identical, so no benefit there. In my mind, the jury is still out on whether this will become a good deal or not.

 

Disembarkation – Pro Tip

 

I wish I could say I thought of this but Joanne read it on a Cruise Critic message board. The last day aboard, you are issued numbered luggage tags that regulate the sequence everyone gets off the ship. They also are the numbered area in the acre sized cruise terminal where you will find your bags. When you put your bags in the hallway on the last night, get your phone out and take a photo or two of them.

 

When we went to collect ours with the help of a porter, we found three of them but were missing the fourth. Our guy asked what it looked like. Joanne whipped out her phone and displayed the photo.  He told us to wait there and he went off to another area of the massive terminal. He returned in a couple of minutes with our bag. The paper tag had torn off the handle and the photo made it quick and easy to locate.

 

The Allure is a great ship with a wonderful crew and a fine vacation even if you never set foot off the ship for a week. We’ll be back. I mentioned a couple of services to help with your cruise and here are few links.

 

Crown Plaza Hotel: http://www.cpftlauderdalecruiseport.com/

 

Park ‘N Go: https://bookparkngo.com/ftlauderdale.php

 

Austin Kearney

 

Atlanta, GA

 

pepperdog@mindspring.com

http://julielondon.org/J/Home.html

Read Full Review »

AustinKearney's Tips

Miami, Florida - Half the electrical power in town was still out from hurricane Irma five days earlier.
Allure of the Seas Allure of the Seas - Plan and schedule the dates and times for the shows you would like to see using the online system.

Badges (Learn More)


Points (View Leaderboard)

3
This Week
96
Total

Recent Activity

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Allure of the Seas cruise review - Sweet Cruise on Allure of the Seas

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!

received a helpful vote on their Celebrity Equinox cruise review - First Time Cruising With Celebrity - We'll Be Back!