We flew to Rome the day before and caught a bus into town for only 4 Euros each. We stayed at the Marcello Royal hotel. They have been remodeling the rooms and they are small, but comfortable. Breakfast and internet was included. Breakfast is on the roof in a spectacular setting.
We caught the train to the port the next morning. Check in was quick and easy and we were on the ship almost before we knew it.
The Equinox crew certainly lived up to its reputation for providing good service. The ship is very comfortable. We liked all of the extra investments in environmental enhancements. The design of the ship made it extremely quiet and provided very smooth sailing.
Our stateroom was larger than on Holland America. The bathroom is very well designed and the shower is very comfortable. There is a a wonderful shower system. The shower is oval shaped which makes it more comfortable. There is also a bar in one corner for ladies to put their foot one to shave their legs. There was ample closet and drawer space if you remember to put your suitcases under the bed. There was also a lot of storage space in the bathroom. The balcony was unobstructed and very comfortable.
Aqua Class passengers have access to a special dining room called the Blu. It serves smaller portions with a focus on healthier food. For us, it was perfect and we never made it to the main dining room except for the brunch on the second sea day. The crowd in the Blu also provided a more intimate setting and you got the feeling of sailing on a much smaller ship. It was certainly a highlight for us, but I can see that the meat and potatoes crowd would be disappointed.
Ship operations at all of the ports were efficiently handled and we never had to wait. We left the ship early in the day and missed many of the crowds and returned back in the early afternoon as it was getting hot. That gave us time to soak in the hot tub and get ready for dinner.
We used Rick Steves' book as a reference and things worked out well. The Cruise Critic folks on board were also great resources and we made many friendships. The captain altered the itinerary to go from Rome to Athens due to a threatened bus strike. I am certain that this cost the company thousands of dollars but gave us a great experience in Athens. To top things off, this turned out to be a national holiday so the entrance fee to the Acropolis was waived (we still had to pay for the Acropolis Museum).
In Santorini, we caught the public bus to Oia and back. It was easy and inexpensive. It only ran on the hour in the morning, but ran quite continuously later in the day. We seemed to have missed the lines on the cable car so we didn't resort to the donkeys.
In Chania, we just walked to town and spent the day there. It was a beautiful place with lots of cute side streets. We did the same thing in Rhodes and had a very nice day. I think the folks that went to the Acropolis were disappointed and wasted most of their day. Mykonos was a great place for walking around town and going to the beach.
Our hands down favorite was Ephesus. We had a pre-arranged tour with 14 Cruise Critic folks and it could not have been better. We got to see everything for a fraction of the price of the ship tour. Whatever you do, don't miss the Terrace Houses in Ephesus. It costs a little extra, but these houses are well preserved and the money spent on admission goes to support the ongoing work. Surprisingly few people took advantage of this.
In Naples, we caught a bus to the train station and then the train to Pompeii. You have to buy the bus tickets at the sundry shop just before the stop. The train tickets were 4 Euros each round trip. The train was packed with teenagers headed to the beach on a beautiful Sunday. The boys were quite rowdy, so it was an uncomfortable trip there. Pompeii is amazing. We downloaded Rick Steves' audio guide application onto our iPhones and that worked well to get us through Pompeii. The return trip was much more comfortable.
The evening shows were interesting and varied. "Equinox the Show" was simply stunning. Get there early if you want a good seat. The theater fills up fast on that night, with good reason. The musical groups around the ship were also good. The standouts were the Equinox Orchestra, Top Shelf - a male quartet, and the classical guitarist.
All-in-all, this was our best cruise ever. We have been dedicated Holland America cruisers, but the ship and crew have made it difficult to consider anyone but Celebrity.