My husband and I have been cruising for over a decade. Until recently, we stayed closer to home in the Caribbean travelling with both Princess and Royal Caribbean. We decided to chart new waters and head across the ocean to Europe to experience the turquoise waters of the gorgeous Mediterranean.
For our maiden Mediterranean voyage we selected the 11-Night Celebrity Equinox to Turkey and Greece leaving from Rome. When we arrived in Rome two days before sailing, we took a shuttle service from our hotel in Rome, the Cavalieri Hilton, to the cruise ship in Civitavecchia, which is located an hour and a half outside of the city center of Rome. The cruise line arranged for the shuttle service and everything went perfectly. Boarding the ship went very smoothly and in no time, we were settled into our room.
This ship was absolutely stunning. It was love at first sight. The decor was elegant and tasteful and really gave off an aura of luxury without being gaudy or over the top. Plus this ship is fitted with many unique on board destinations such as the glass blowing workshop, and the lawn club- a country club on the top deck.
Our cabin balcony had a gorgeous view of the sparkling blue sea. Closet space within the cozy cabin was adequate but the drawer space seemed very limited. It was also very difficult for us to communicate with the cabin stewards and we felt like we were constantly repeating ourselves. If I had to give a letter grade to the service of the staff on this cruise ship, it would be a "B-" because of the difficulties that we had with them. I felt that in comparing the past service we experienced with Celebrity to our current assistance on this Equinox ship, the staff was slightly less attentive and considerate on this voyage.
There are over 10 specialty restaurants to choose from and we did in fact have a few wonderful meals at the fantastic and very authentic French restaurant, Silk Harvest and the Tuscan Grille. We enjoyed eating our breakfast and lunch at both the double deck, Silhouette, and the laid back Ocean Cafe which served everything from coffee and sweet pastries to pork roasts and creamy pesto pasta. I thought that the dinners in the main dining rooms were delicious, but we the service was lacking a little as we had to get up to ask for the wine steward to come to the table. Our dinner companions were lovely and very social, so we enjoyed eating with them every evening.
After our yummy dinners, we would attend one of the cruise's entertainment shows that were offered every night. Although not comparable to the shows that we have previously seen on some of our Royal Caribbean cruise, we mostly enjoyed the provided entertainment. Despite feeling a little old for the disco, the Quasar is really a knockout! If you have college age children I am sure they will be thrilled to spend every night at such a funky nightclub.
After at the ports of our destinations, we took guided tours through the cities of Ephesus, Istanbul, Athens, and Rome. For this particular cruise, we decided not to participate in any of the excursions offered through the ship and instead organized our own activities. Our two favorites were in Istanbul and in Rome. In Istanbul, we went on The Historic Tour with a company called The Other Tour. The tour itself lasted from 9am to 6pm and we were able to see everything from the Turkish baths to local Turkish market place along with the bustling urban life of Istanbul. The tour guides on each tour were extremely knowledgeable and really taught us a lot about the history of the locations and the current culture today. Disembarkation at the end of the cruise was the most organized I have ever seen. We were off the ship and on the bus to the Rome city center in no time.
After the cruise ended, we decided to stay in Rome for a three more days to really get a good taste of the Italian culture before we would be departing on our plane back to the United States. We did a Rome Food Tour with Eating Italy Food Tours that was fantastic. It started around 11 in the morning and finished up at 3 in the afternoon. Our tour guide offered us a taste of authentic Italian food in a traditional neighborhood combining great food with history and culture. I think it is better to consider the excursions that the cruise ship offers but don't feel limited to just those ones. It is so easy (and a better value) to plan outings on your own and for us, our favorites cities were the ones where we didn't follow the excursions of the cruise.
Overall it was a great cruise and we loved everything that we saw. We have been on many cruises and our best experiences thus far were with Celebrity Cruise Lines. I suppose everything starts and ends with the ship and the Equinox is truly spectacular. The room, the food, and the entertainment were all fabulous. The food especially seemed to be of higher quality and more creative with the offerings than on previous cruises. My husband couldn't get over the quality of the fitness facilities on the ship. We were blessed with perfect weather and the Eastern Mediterranean is such a beautiful place that it was hard not to enjoy all the ports we stopped at, especially in Istanbul. Overall, this was a 5 star vacation that we are still talking about!