My husband and I and another couple just returned from the 10 night Eastern Mediterranean cruise on the Celebrity Equinox. We have previously traveled on Royal Caribbean and Princess, and on a river cruise with Uniworld.
We were uniformly very impressed with the Equinox and had a fantastic time. The ship was beautiful, food was excellent, and the logistics were amazing. My only gripe was the beverage policy (which I will discuss in detail below)
Aside from this minor annoyance, we were all impressed by the Equinox. The ship is beautiful and clean, and our room felt relatively spacious. I thought that Celebrity handled the logistics -- getting on and off the boat, meal times, etc., brilliantly. Even though it is a big ship with a lot of people, we never felt crowded. There always seemed to be plenty of seats around the pool, in the bar areas, at breakfast, etc. We especially enjoyed the Sunset Bar, and ended up having a cocktail there almost every evening as More
we pulled out of port. We discovered that we could go down one fight of stairs to the buffet and get a free plate of sushi for a snack -- that was a wonderful way to spend an hour before dinner.
Regarding food, we used Celebrity Select Dining and it worked perfectly. Based on reviews on Cruise Critic, we decided to make reservations since we like to eat around 8:15 every night. We did note that there was a line for Select Dining at around 8, but not much of a line before that. With reservations, we were seated immediately just about every night. The food in the main dining room was very good, and the service was excellent.
We also ate one night at the Tuscan Grill. It was excellent and worth the extra cost IMHO. I thought that the filet I had was one of the best I have ever eaten (and we have traveled to Argentina!).
Now for the beverage policy: Celebrity has decided to charge extra for virtually every beverage on board ship, except some juices and coffee/tea in the buffet. Now I understand completely the extra charges for alcoholic beverages, and for non-alcoholic beverages and cans of soda at the bar/pool areas. But I think it is ridiculous to charge extra for coffee after dinner! This creates the bizarre situation where you can order two desserts at no extra charge, but not coffee. Also, I was surprised that fountain sodas were not available in the buffet. This is a small item, I agree, but it was irritating and seemed like Celebrity was nickel/diming us.
I felt that these charges were designed to incent passengers to buy the beverage packages. But even in the face of these charges, the beverage packages were far too expensive, and we decided to go a la carte. We are far from teetotalers (we usually have a cocktail and wine with dinner), but we did not even come close to the daily total on the beverage package. Also, we made an effort to buy bottles of water/Diet Coke etc when we were in port.
RE Tours: For the most part, we booked our own tours using services we found in Trip Advisor. That way, we usually had private tours instead of the giant buses, and the cost was usually considerably less! There is no need for tours in Santorini, Mykonos, or Rhodes -- although you should get the shuttle bus ticket in Mykonos. Two special comments about Santorini and Naples:
Re Santorini, I had a hard time envisioning the logistics before I got there. Basically, there is only one route to get back to the ship once you are on the island -- that is through the town of Fira. If you take the ship excursions, the tender will take you to a different location, but you will eventually have to get back to Fira and return to the ship from there. Once in Fira, there are two routes down the mountain to the port where you can return to your ship: the funicular and a steep 500+ step path. You can walk down the path or take the donkeys. We decided not to take the cruise excursions, but when we saw the line for the funicular from the port to the town of Fira, we decided to take a boat around the island to Oia. But we were told that the island did not permit boats to return from Oia so we had to take the bus back to Fira. Once in Fira, we found that the line to the funicular was over an hour long! We felt we had little choice but to take the path back to the port. It was NOT pleasant. The stones were slippery (from donkey dung primarily) and I saw many people falling down. And galloping donkeys kept passing by. It took us about 45 minutes to get down. I didn't think the donkey ride looked like a great alternative. Bottom line -- Santorini is beautiful but it is almost not worth the trouble. I would hope the cruise line would put some pressure on the island to come up with better ways to deal with this -- some ability to return from Oia via boat would help.
RE Naples: We had already been to Pompei (which is a must see IMHO), so we wanted to go to the Amalfi Coast. We booked a private driver, who was wonderful and gave us so much flexibility. We saw the large buses on the small winding road and we were very happy to be in a minivan.
All in all, we loved our tour and would highly recommend it to anyone. Celebrity deserves many kudos. Less
Celebrity Equinox Cruises to the Eastern Mediterranean