My girlfriend Judy loves cruising. So do I! I'm 35 - 54; she is 55 - 64. We especially love sea days. Plus we are running out of Caribbean islands to see, so we wanted new ports and even more sea days than we usually get on Caribbean itineraries. So this was an obvious choice, especially since my girlfriend had taken a cruise with her lady friends on the Solstice just a month before.
We live in South Florida, so it was just a twenty-minute drive from Judy's house to the port. We were dropped off at the port and were on board in ten or fifteen minutes. We were handed some sparkling wine and directed where to go. Unfortunately it was the wrong direction so we had to walk back and go the other way. Not the best start, but we did pick up more champagne.
We unpacked, did the muster drill, and then finished unpacking. Then we headed to the main dining room to check on our table. Judy and I always have the second seating and a table just for two; we wanted to make sure. We did have a table for two, and it was right next to another table for two. We lucked out; that table next to us was occupied only on one night, then that couple switched to the first seating.
Later we had our first dinner. Thoughts on the MDR:
We weren't lucky with our waiter M and bread and water person N(names not used here because I gave them a bad review by name on the comment card.). M barely talked with us except to remind us to fill out the comment card. N was a bit slow and inattentive, plus her personality wasn't a good fit to deal with the passengers. Judy was upset on the lobster tail night; she thought M should have asked her if she wanted more. She saw diners at the next table get three servings after being asked by their wait staff. M never asked us, and Judy never asked him. The wine girl Ana was really good (although we only drank the two bottles Judy's travel agent had waiting for us in the stateroom). The soda girl (forgot her name but she was from Mexico) was really good; after the third night she remembered we liked a can of Diet Coke and a bottle of San Pellegrino with each dinner, and it was there waiting for us.
I enjoyed the food. I don't remember any standouts (aside from the Grand Marnier souffle), but I don't remember any big disappointments either. There was one or two small ones; one dessert didn't work for me and I had to order another one. I like trying new things and there were enough of them to try. There were also old standbys like onion soup. Judy loves shrimp cocktail and had that every night.
Specialty restaurants: We ate at the steak one and the Asian one. Great settings, great service, great food and presentation, but WAY too much of it (not that that is a problem!). Plus Judy wasn't feeling well both nights and had to go back to the stateroom early. Both times the waitstaff graciously had the leftovers and desserts sent to our room! I found room in the minibar for it and we ate them over the next few days. Definitely worth the upcharge. Next year we will try the third one we missed this time.
Stateroom: we loved it. Since we love sea days, and had six in a row and then two in a row after the first port, we spent a lot of time in that stateroom just relaxing. (All those activities listed every day in the circular? We tend not to do any of them). I spent a lot of time on the balcony sunning, reading, and drinking Jack (we got a bottle for the room). I also spent a lot of time lying in bed doing word puzzles and just being there with Judy. Unfortunately our room steward P sucked. Three times I had to call to have him bring room service menus (we love room service breakfast in the morning) because he didn't leave us any. We also had to make a special trip to the guest services desk to get our comment card and our luggage tags for disembarkation! The backup guy sucked also. I had called for a bottle of San Pellegrino a few times, and one time the backup guy forgot to bring a bottle opener! Even though I had the soda card, he had charged me three times (only noticed in time once to have the charge backed off). I am also pretty sure he was scoping out Judy in her bedwear.
We liked the TV available. Our favorite channel is HLN, but that only lasted two days. Then we watched our second favorite, Fox News, and after Judy would fall asleep, I watched my personal favorite, Cartoon Network! Something for everyone!
Let me lighten the mood by mentioning The Molecular Bar. We loved stopping there and having one of the unique concoctions before heading into the show. One of the best parts of the whole cruise was the bartender who was there from six to seven o'clock, Sludjana (full name used because I praised her on the comment card!). She was fun to talk to as she made and served the drinks. She also worked at the coffee bar, and made that fun to go to. Unfortunately she won't be back next year when we come back; she will be in Asia on the Eclipse!
We also enjoyed the clubby feel of the Ensemble Bar, a perfect place to enjoy specialty bourbons! The public spaces on Celebrity Equinox (the bars on the stern, the Sky Bar) are done really well.
Entertainment: it doesn't take much to keep us entertained. We don't expect much when we take a cruise. Which was a good thing on this ship. The musicians that played in the public spaces (foyer, various bars) weren't really that good. The group that played behind the acts in the theater was pretty good. The acts themselves were hit or miss, mostly miss. The worst was the guy who did his Dean Martin act from The Rat Pack show. The best by far was the comedy juggler Pete something. He was great as both a juggler and a comedian. Damian the cruise director was pretty good staying enthusiastic through it all.
Can't forget about the buffet on the fourteenth deck. There was enough variety to keep me enjoying the food for all fourteen days. I loved the Indian food, the ice cream and the other desserts, and being able to get Red Bull on the soda card. Unlike another ship on another line, we didn't have to search hard for open tables to sit down at.
The Mast Grill was a favorite of ours. Those were really good burgers and fries! We came back from one port tour cold, tired, and famished. Those made-to-order burgers really hit the spot!
Now to mention a "Major Fail" (I used those exact words on the comment card). I have been on ships from four different lines over the past year and a half, and by far the worst Internet service was on this ship. It was frustrating trying to connect, both in the online center on the sixth deck, and on our handhelds using Wi-Fi in the stateroom. Even worse, we thought we were using one account, and it really was two (twice the charge). When I handed in my comment card, I even personally mentioned all these negatives I have mentioned here to the crew member.
Let me say that the guest relations staff was top-notch, even when explaining problems to them. I filled out a comment card the fourth night about a few issues, including needing toothpicks, and the next night they were available at the dining room. I even got a letter in the stateroom a few nights after thanking me, and after we got back Judy got a phone call thanking her for bringing problems to their attention!
The casino had my favorite (Dean Martin's Wild Party) and her favorite (Da Vinci Diamonds) slot machines. I doubled my money! I was tempted to play craps, but if the dice aren't with me, the money isn't either.
What else? The port calls! Judy always likes paying the extra for the ship's tours because she doesn't like waiting in line to get into museums, and she doesn't like worrying about getting back to the ship in time. We went to Ponta Delgada in the Azores, then Cartagena and a bus ride to Murcia in Spain, then Barcelona, then we docked in La Seyne-sur-Mer in Provence and took a bus trip to a town on a hill called Le Castellet, then a small town by the sea called Sanary-sur-Mer, then Florence, then to Rome to fly home.
All the trips were really interesting. My personal favorite was the amazing city of Barcelona. I can't even tell you what exactly about it was so great. Judy was not as impressed as I was; she thought the Sagrada FamÃlia was, well, "gaudy" and designed by Tim Burton.
We were in Florence on April 29, on a Sunday, part of an Italian three-day weekend. It was a zoo; we could barely move around through all the people there that day.
The two small towns in Provence, the one on the hill, and the seaside town, were very nice, and the people there were warm and friendly.
Disembarkation was pretty smooth. The flight home was not. The line to get on the airplane in Rome was another zoo (although there was hardly any walking once we got into the terminal). I didn't sleep the whole ten hours to Philadelphia. Luckily we had a row of two seats to ourselves way in the back of the plane. Clearing customs and going through security again at the airport in Philly was the absolute worst part of the trip! Good thing Judy had ordered a wheelchair, because we had to walk from one side of the airport to the other and it got us through the grossly inefficient security line slightly faster. Hopefully next year we will get a direct flight home to Fort Lauderdale from Barcelona. After the long flight from Rome, the three-hour flight from Philly to FLL was not as bad, but it still sucked. There is a reason why we hate flying.
Did I cover everything? One little thing that really added to the trip was the (more-or-less) daily crossword puzzle, and the printed news fliers for each country. It was fun reading the American news, and the news from Canada and the UK (hockey and soccer scores; was a real blow to read how the Panthers lost their last game in the second overtime!), and even the Russian news from the words I could sound out!
I can't really speak to the pool since we only got into our suits once, on the first day. Other than that we got pretty lazy and spent most of the day in the stateroom. I did get active a few days; I went all over the ship to find all of the art described in the glossy book in the stateroom. As the other review mentioned, the promenade deck didn't go around the stern, and was blocked by the lifeboats. I usually find the jogging tracks on ships too crowded for when I get motivated to do some exercising so was a little disappointed.
I think I saw a total of ten people under the age of eighteen the whole trip (definitely saw the baby at the nearby table at dinner though!). Since we don't know from having children, and also not many parents will take their kids out of school for two weeks soon after spring break, I don't think we will see many children on board next year either.
We enjoyed the festive atmosphere on the ship as we transited to the Med and saw the Rock of Gibraltar slide by. Now we had been thinking about doing another transatlantic at some point, and when we read that the Equinox would be going to Gibraltar next year, AND ending in the amazing city of Barcelona, AND adding another day for SEVEN straight days at sea, we booked for next year, same ship, same sailing, even the same stateroom! Because the reservation computers were down both times we looked into it, it took a few tries, but we got it booked, and got the five hundred dollars in ship-board credit too.
So there are only forty-nine more weekends to get through until April 15, 2013, when we set sail for Nassau, Bahamas; then SEVEN sea days!; Tenerife, Canary Islands; Lanzarote, Canary Islands; sea day, Lisbon, Portugal; Gibraltar, United Kingdom; last sea day, Barcelona, Spain.
Guess we liked it, even with all the negatives, since we are doing it again.
Ask for more lobster tail!
Make sure we get only one internet account and double check.
Don't get the soda package. Even with all the mineral water, Red Bull, and soda that I drink, it still wasn't a bargain. In fact it was a mistake.
Check every receipt and check the folio on the tv to make sure we are getting charged correctly.
Take our jackets with us on the tour bus even if we don't think we need them; living in South Florida, we forget how cold it can get in April "up north", even in Europe.
Run the numbers to see if the drink package makes sense. With tips, we spent almost eight hundred dollars on alcohol - those Molecular Bar drinks are twelve dollars plus three sixty in tip each and they add up fast!