Equinox is a lovely ship, and we were not disappointed. We are a family of three, with an 11-year old who is just entering that dreaded teenage realm. Although we thought she might get bored, we needn't have worried: she had a ball! As did we.
We booked this trip back in January and had a good experience booking directly with Celebrity.
The package we booked included air travel, but not through Choice Air. As it turns out we were part of a group booking for all the other clients on this cruise who were also travelling on the same flight. This makes online check-in an impossibility, normally, but I managed to get through to a helpful gent at the airline who gave me the record locator for the outbound flight, and cautioned me about the number of other passengers on the record. We fly a lot and often check-in online, so I knew what to look out for, but I'd be very worried about the novice traveller who managed to get into the record.
No luck, however, on the return flight as the record locator was different, so we had to check-in at the airport. We got lucky and were seated together, but it could have been otherwise as it was for another two families who were travelling on the same flight back. Next time I think I'll book my flights directly and save the time and hassle. The money saved wasn't that great, so I'll go for my preferred carrier next time.
The transfer from Rome airport to the port was well organised and fast. Once we had retrieved our luggage and boarded the coach, we were at the port within two hours of landing. The longest wait was for our luggage to appear at the baggage claim area after the flight, and had nothing to do with Celebrity's transfer arrangements. It was great to avoid schlepping our luggage around the airport and over the pavements, and a real plus to have a comfy, plush and air-conditioned ride to the ship.
Embarkation was ultra fast, in part due to the non-existent queue for check-in. We had to wait to go through security, but it wasn't very long at all. Once we got our seapasses we ran for the ship!
Equinox is a beautiful ship and we rapidly discovered that the distance from one venue to another is not very far. Most venues were separated by decks, but within a given deck you might find four or five venues throughout an area (ie, Deck 5 had Cafe al Bacio, all the specialty restaurants, the Molecular Bar, boutiques, photo gallery, and entrance to the upper mezzanine of the theatre).
Our stateroom was aft on deck 11, and our cabin attendant, Jose, and butler, Arnel, were terrific. We loved having afternoon tea and canapes, and found that no request was ever a bother. We spent many a morning having breakfast on the balcony and watching the ship's wake. Bliss.
We dined all around the ship, and had many of our dinners in the main dining room (select dining), so we were upstairs and had the same wait staff, which was terrific as they were wonderful: Jefferson and Jasper, aka the JJ Connection! We also had Karin, who was a terrific and friendly sommelier, and she never once steered us wrong, so we were very pleased. It gets busy for dinner from about 8pm onwards and we did see people queuing, but we never had more than a minute's wait, even when dining at 7.45pm.
Our other dinners were at Murano (decadent French food - go for the lobster!; and impeccable service, but not stuffy) and at Silk Harvest, which was our go to restaurant in the end. The concept is terrific and the sushi was the best I've had outside of Hawaii.
Lunches were split between the buffet and the Mast Grill (best cheeseburgers, ever!). And breakfast was usually in our stateroom, although we did have breakfast a couple of times in the buffet, but I didn't find it so thrilling. I enjoyed the odd morning slowly waking up over an Americano and pastries in Cafe al Bacio.
This itinerary was heavy on port stops, and we didn't want to overload ourselves with full day itineraries, so we booked a few excursions and decided to DIY a couple of the ports ourselves. Excursions booked through the ship were for Santorini (good, but not much time at all in Oia); Athens (site visit to the Acropolis, and drive by for Constitution Square as it was so hot and windy); and Naples (ruins in Pompeii). We booked an independent tour of Ephesus, which ended up including the House of the Virgin Mary as we arrived in Ephesus on a day when they were still observing Ramadan and it meant that Ephesus was closed until 1.30pm. Celebrity was a bit naughty claiming they had "preferred" access to the site before 1.30pm, as it turned out that no tour company did and the site was subsequently overrun with tourists the moment the gates opened. We did manage, however, to get some terrific photos of a totally empty Ephesus, which gives you a better idea of what it might have looked like all those years ago. We DIY'd Istanbul and Mykonos (thanks to Rick Steves' terrific guidebook) and had the most fun there of all the visits.
There were lots of activities on the ship, most of which we missed because we spent the majority of our time on the ship by the pool (mainly watching all the Italians scout and claim multiple sun loungers for their tanning pleasure). But I did enjoy the aqua fitness class, which is more challenging than you think! And we had great fun watching the pool volleyball tournaments, as well as taking part in the poolside quizzes. Despite what I had read here prior, you can get sun loungers, you just need to be diligent and get down to the pool no later than 10am and then relax on your lounger. We saw many instances of loungers having been "bagged" for hours, with no occupants and lots of other people walking around looking for a place to relax. It would help if the ship's crew were better about enforcing the 30-minute absence policy.
The kid's club seemed very well run and our 11-year old was very entertained. They structured the club by age groups and had different activities for the groups. We saw some of the 9-12 year olds engaging in a scavenger hunt around the ship, and it was nice as they were working together as a group and had fun. We were in the height of the summer hols, so there were lots of kids in the club.
We enjoyed the theatre performances of the musical review and Cirque-style shows. The singers, dancers, and acrobats certainly work hard and were terrific. Kudos to them as it's especially challenging to have a balancing act while the ship was sailing through a bit of choppy water. The theatre space is top notch and feels like you're in a land-based space. Terrific acoustics and lighting as well, we just couldn't fault it at all.
We spent lots of time by the pool and on the lawn, so we enjoyed the resident band, and the musical stylings of Salvatore. Our particular favourite was a starry night picnic on the lawn, with Sal rockin' out on a medley by the Doors. Great stuff and a memorable evening.
Disembarkation was fast and efficient, with a fast transfer to the airport.
In summary, this was a wonderful holiday. We were sad to leave Equinox after 12 days of being pampered and catered for, but we will be back soon!