A near perfect cruise. We have been on 6 cruises previously and this was the best!
SHIP: The Equinox is magnificently designed with spacious public areas. The color scheme and decor is so tasteful, eye-catching while avoiding the usual glitz and neon. Especially being on the ship for 11 nights, you don't want sensory overload. While the ship was virtually full (350 extra attendees of a Wayne Dyer "lifeskills" conference), it was never crowded. Never waited in a buffet line and could find excellent seats in the theaters. The only crowd was in a small theater for a lecture on Ephesus by Dr. John Nichols; he was terrible giving outright incorrect answers and mis-information galor. I asked him about Cleopatra's younger sister, Arsinoe, who she had Marc Anthony's allies murder while she was in the sanctuary of the Temple of Artemis. A marvelous Smithsonian and BBC show described how a well-known Ephesus tomb of a young female is now thought to possibly be that of Arsinoe. Dr. Nichols, a supposed Ephesus scholar, said he knew nothing of this and started answering my Arsinoe inquiry with something about burial practices well before the time of Cleopatra. Not much of an "expert".
FOOD: The food was just as expected, excellent! It was very well prepared. I was especially impressed with the meats and fish. They were NOT overcooked, as is usually the case with mass-prepared food. Although the beef and lobster were expectedly excellent, the braised lamb shank and the lamb chops were my favorites. The burgers in the Mast Grill were superb "Bubba burgers" with fluted edges and all. I won the free Blackjack tournament and got a dinner for two in the Tuscan Grille specialty restaurant. The food was good, but no better than in the Silhouette Dining room; and the service was not as good.
EMBARKATION: Very smooth and no lines at 12:30pm.
PORTS: The Eastern Med ports were outstanding, combing exotic locale, breathtaking archaeological sites and superb weather. Fall is the perfect time to go with pleasantly warm days and cool evenings. The Greek isles were as expected; enjoyable with wonderful views. Turkey was tops; Istanbul is beautiful and exotic. Kusadasi (Ephesus) is spectacular and massive. It is hard to believe that only 10-20% has so far been excavated. The Terrace Houses are not to be missed with a wonderful sense of how the upper class lived. In Naples, we arranged for a private van & driver for 8 of us to go to Pompeii, Amalfi coast, and Herculaneum. I contacted many "limo" agencies and travel agents and they all said, "You don't have enough time to go to all 3 of those; only two." Only Eurolimo said, "Sure, you can do all 3 if it is OK to have about 2 hours in each place." That worked out fine with one diversion; there was a general strike that blocked the road to Sorrento and Positano (I confirmed this), so the driver took us to Ravello instead of Positano (avoiding the blocked part of the road). Ravello is gorgeous; even Justin Timberlake and Jessia Biel thought it was nice enough to get married there two weeks after we visited.
DISEMBARKATION: No problem with time slots pre-assigned.
After disembarking, we spent one day in Rome and went to the Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini. This was truly a highlight because of the way they have a small group tour the basement excavations. The lighting fills in the missing parts of mosaics and frescoes and the narrative gives a superb sense of what life was like in 1st century AD Rome.