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Surf and turf at sea

Picture it -- you wriggle your toes on the cool lawn as the Caribbean sun beats down. The children splash in a nearby pool and the nice waiter splashes something over ice for you.

Then, with an almost imperceptible shudder, the whole scene starts to shift.

The vista begins slowly but surely to recede as your cruise liner casts off for another night at sea.

It's the grass in this picture that throws most people, even the cruise veterans. The idea of a lawn, with real, live, must-be-mown-regularly grass on a passenger ship is one that intrigued the people behind Celebrity Equinox, when they were designing the luxury ship.

The fact that it can be done, and that it feels so good, in a place you don't expect to find a lush piece of greenery continues to intrigue passengers on board the ship which took its maiden voyage a little less than six months ago.

Of course, no one's going to choose a ship on which to holiday just because it has grass.

But if the owners, Celebrity Cruises, go to that much bother to get something 'different' for their new baby, the thinking is they won't skimp on the design and fitting-out of the $800m (€550m) ship.

And they didn't.



Swish

The statistics -- 2,850 passengers, six Jacuzzis, three pools, 10 restaurants, 1,255 crew, 18 shops, a 1,155-seater theatre -- give an impression of the scale of this venture.

But it's the swish of the glass elevators, the billow of the muslin-drapes around the day-beds, the leather- and wood-infused scent of the wine bar, and the feel of calm space in your own stateroom that tell of the sophistication in which this particular cruise line prides itself.

It's those details that impress.

A panel of women were brought in to advise on the design of the staterooms -- there is nothing sexist about that given that most holiday decisions are made by females.

Personally, I don't care that the University of Florida was enlisted to help grow the grass, but I'm impressed that someone managed to fit three times as much storage space in a ship's bathroom as most people have in a land-based one of the same size.

So, what's to do on board when you're not lazing on your balcony (80pc of the cabins on Equinox come with one)?

Cruise veterans know there's always a restaurant to be eaten in, shops to be visited, some class of gym to be explored, pools to be dipped in or other sporting activities to be tried.

Equinox has all that . . . but they're just that bit more stylish, more elegant than what has gone before.



Pride

There are wine tastings and art exhibitions; croquet on the lawn and shows; an extensive spa and beautifully designed public areas.

The cruise line takes particular pride in its restaurants, the challenge for any ship being to feed thousands of people, three times (or more) a day, without making them feel like they are lining up beside a long food conveyor belt.

It would be too easy to pass a week or two on this ship, just enjoying the facilities (and some cruise lovers do). But guess what, because it's a ship, this 'resort' actually goes places.

Until about the middle of April, Equinox is in the Caribbean, departing from Fort Lauderdale and following a couple of different itineraries taking in the sun-kissed islands of Panama, Costa Rica, the Caymans, Honduras and other exotic destinations.

And it might not be as expensive as you think.

Prices for a deluxe balcony cabin for an 11-day trip (all meals etc included) start at €977 per person for a trip leaving Fort Lauderdale on March 29 for example. That's the cost of your cruise exclusive of flights.

Prices in the Med are higher -- although the flights are cheaper.

Equinox heads for the Mediterranean in April -- an 11-night cruise departing Rome on June 14 and taking in some of the Greek islands as well as Istanbul and Ephesus, starts at €2,353 per person for a deluxe balcony room.


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