I am finally finished my cruise review. I apologise to everyone who reads this that it is so long.
This cruise was my second on the Celebrity Equinox. Last year my wife and I did a Caribbean cruise and thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so we booked the eastern Mediterranean cruise while on board. We travelled to Rome on Sunday, arriving there Monday morning for a 4 night stay before the cruise on Friday. Rome was great but the hotel we stayed at was not. Even though they advertised that they had air-conditioning they neglected to say they do not turn on that air-conditioning until mid-May. We were four in the room (myself, my wife, daughter and her boyfriend), it was beginning to warm up in Rome and to say the least the room for sleeping was quite hot and uncomfortable. When I complained after night two about the air-conditioning, the front desk clerk told me the air-conditioning was in fact not broken but not yet turned on. What a misrepresentation by the hotel. While in Rome we visited all the main tourist attractions, the Coliseum, the Vatican (we were told to go in via the museum entrance, the crowds are supposed to be less there, and while very busy with lots of people, the line-ups were in fact non-existent-on the other side there were long lines), the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and oh yes, did I mention shopping? We did a lot of that too. We also ate a lot. I was warned before we left to be extremely careful of pickpockets but we found that as long as one is careful and aware of his/her surroundings, Rome was safe, we walked all over, took the subway and even mingled amongst the crowds. We even visited Florence for the day. We took the fast train from Rome Termini station and were in Florence in an hour and a quarter. (The digital read out on the train said 252 km/hr.) Florence was great for seeing the architecture and leather shops.
The evening before the cruise we met up with a number of other Cruise Critic members at a restaurant in the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon. This was an absolutely wonderful evening, meeting all those with whom I had been blogging the past months (one of the most prolific boards, that is still going strong weeks after the cruise is over), with all the people, music and dancing in the piazza. It was an experience that we will not soon forget.
We travelled Civitavecchia by Rome Cabs (great service, on time, friendly drivers and I would highly recommend them to anyone arranging transfers in Rome.) We arrived at around 11:30 and embarkation on the Equinox was extremely well planned out and easy. The one thing I did not like was that they took our passports and returned them at the end of the cruise. We had no option and I guess it was something that Celebrity was required to do.
The ship was as clean and as beautiful as the last time we were on her which was a year ago. Everything sparkled. After we got on board, with our mimosas in hand and took care of a change of who was staying with whom in our staterooms (adjoining on deck 8, amid ship) we went to Bistro on Five for lunch. In general, we found that the average age of passengers seemed to be younger than it was during our Ultimate Caribbean cruise in April of 2011. We were lucky in that the price of the staterooms were reduced three times over the year between the time that we booked the cruise and the time that I paid in full. I was able to take advantage of the price reductions such that I paid approximately one half the original price.
Service on the Equinox was nearly perfect. From our room attendants to the wait staff in the dining room, the bartenders in the Martinin Bar where we spent many an evening and even the staff at Guest Relations all seemed to genuinely want to help make our cruise experience the best it could possibly be. I have to relate a couple of experiences just to "prove" how wonderful the service really was.
One day I went down to Guest Relations to tell them that my shipboard account was not working. While talking to the fellow at the desk, I told him that I recognized him from our last cruise and that he had been very nice to me in helping deal with another problem that I was having with my cell phone provider at the time. When we got back to our stateroom later in the evening there was a bottle of wine and a card from this guest relations officer thanking us and offering his services if we had any other issues.
I tried and liked very much the no sugar added strawberry ice cream in the main dining room. One evening, even though it was not on the menu, I asked our waiter if there was any left and he told me that while he thought not, he would check. He was correct, there was none left but he also told me that they would make fresh and the next evening and until the end of the cruise, there was no sugar added strawberry ice cream. Fantastic service.
While the staterooms, main dining room, service, bars were great, there is need of improvement in the Oceanview Cafe variety and quality. We ate there for a few lunches and I would say that the food was only middle of the road. While the formal entertainment on the ship was also only middle of the road, the entertainment in the atrium and other non-traditional venues was great. One evening there was a 60's show with go-go dancers who rode up and down in the glass enclosed elevators, all the while dancing to the music.
Ports of call
MESSINA -- It was a nice sleepy town. (The fact that it was Sunday could have had something to do with it.) We wandered around a bit and after a couple of hours we returned to the ship. When the ship left Messina, we were close enough to land in the evening that from the dining room windows we could see Mount Etna that was smoking.
ATHENS -- We got off the ship and took a taxi to the Acropolis. The driver wanted us to hire him for the day but we did not want to do this as after the Acropolis all we wanted to do was to wander around the Plaka. This is exactly what we did. We took a taxi back to the ship but the fare was more than double the fare earlier in the morning. We were too tired to fight with the driver.
RHODES -- We wandered around the old city for the day. We had a souflaki lunch and even had the pleasure of watching a flash mob perform. I liked Rhodes the best of the Greek islands that we visited.
SANTORINI -- Was beautiful. After we arrived via tender we waited in line to take the cable car up the mountain. Our daughter and her boyfriend rode the donkeys up the hill. They wandered around the rest of the day but when they got back to the cable car the line up was so long that they started to panic. If they would have gone to the back of the line they would have missed the last tender back to the boat. (They were lucky that they found someone at the front of the line that they knew and who allowed them to "push in". My wife and I wandered around for the day looking for buildings with blue domes, found a few and took many wonderful pictures. We went to the cable car to return to the bottom on time.
KUSADASI -- We arranged a private tour. We had a driver and a tour guide "D" who was simply wonderful. (Ephesus Shuttle) She was such a warm and personable person. She was very knowledgeable. We visited Ephesus, the Virgin Mary's house and a silk carpet cooperative. "D" made our trip. We cannot thank her enough.
MYKONOS -- We took the tender to shore and the when we got there, the sky opened up and it started to pour. We went into one souvenir shop, bought T-shirts, saw a couple of red roofed buildings and we went back to the boat and took it easy the rest of the day.
NAPLES -- We arranged for a private tour for the day. This was expensive but for the four of us I figured that it would be worth it. We toured the Amalfi coast, visiting a number of towns along the way. Ravello was beautiful. We visited a number of shops and while we were doing this a marching band went through the town square. What an opportune moment. We went for a nice lunch in a quaint mountain side restaurant and then drove to Pompeii. There we wondered around on our own for about an hour. The driver took us back to the ship in plenty of time. The tour was great and the driver was a very pleasant gentleman but I do wish he would have been more talkative providing us with more detail instead of leaving us on our own.
In general the vacation experience, Rome, Florence, the ship, the ports of call was a wonderful time. We met great people on the ship, warm and friendly and saw places that I only dreamed about. I will miss the ship and the people but I am looking forward to our next Celebrity cruise.