Before the cruise tips We stayed at Hotel Traghetto in Civitavecchia the night before the cruise and the night of our return before our flight home the next day. This took all the stress out of getting to and from the airport to the port on time. This hotel came with high recommendation on Tripadvisor and we found it to be comfortable and the service very friendly and would happily stay there again.
We used airportshuttle.it to get between the airport and the hotel. I would not recommend this company for too many reasons to list.
We caught the local free port shuttle from near our hotel to the ship, rather than pay for the Celebrity shuttle. Both leave from the same place and drop off at the same place. Both had the sign "Equinox" on the front windscreen. The difference is one you pay, the other you don't.
Embarkation and Disembarkation
This was all organised very efficiently. Be aware that depending upon where you go you may need to hand your passport in to expedite clearance in some ports so bring a couple of photocopies with you, which we always do in any case. A lanyard is handy for your cruise card which you can have hole-punched onboard at Guest relations. A money tip is to have 2 credit cards -- one which you will use to register for the onboard expense account initially -- against which they will "hold" the balance of your account -- and another which you use for your onshore purchases -- this way you can better preserve the credit limit on both cards. We then indicated the day before the tour ended that we wished to pay for our onboard account with the other card as it had better transaction fees associated with it than the one we registered initially.
The ship & stateroom
This is a fairly new ship so looks clean and in good shape. It was a good size -- large enough to afford several areas for people to spread out but not so large as to be a day's walk from one end to the other. Our outside cabin on deck 8 was a good size and well appointed. The only disappointment was not having tea and coffee making facilities in the room which seems really a basic service to supply. Having said that, room service was available at no fee but you hardly want to call for room service at 6 in the morning, and it is seems a trivial thing to use for room service. The bed was extremely comfortable and we had no trouble sleeping with the gentle rocking motion of the ship.
All were very affable and very eager to please. Every single person said good morning or good afternoon as you passed them. There were a lot of activities planned which involved interaction between officers and guests but participation in all of these was voluntary. There is obvious pride in the crew which they demonstrated on several occasions.
We only ate in the main dining areas as we didn't see the point in paying extra for the specialist restaurants when the food served in the other areas was quite good. We ate in The Silhouette Restaurant for breakfast and dinner most days, as I think you stand a better chance of getting the dreaded bug if you use the self-serve buffet. However there was the odd morning when we needed a quick getaway or the odd night when we got back from shore so late and tired that the buffet was the best solution. Food at both was of a very good standard. We enjoyed the dining experience of sitting at a set table and meeting other guests over a "proper" meal too rather than the hurried cafe-style of the buffet in the Oceanview Cafe.
If you want non-alcoholic drinks in the Dining room the only free ones are apple juice, iced tea and lemonade (and of course still water). We found all the wait staff to be very pleasant and the service was quite good considering the number of guests to be served. The food consistently got to the table at the right temperature and cooked to perfection.
I guess this is very personal because everyone has particular tastes but you would be hard pressed not to find something to enjoy onboard given the wide range of activities from sporting to trivia and games, to demonstrations such as glassblowing (worth watching, very impressive), and lectures on everything from fine jewellery to fine art.
We used the gym and it is well equipped and there were both free lessons (Stretch class, abs class) and fee-classes such as boot camp. The spa/sauna area (Persian garden) looked lovely but again attracts an extra fee. We didn't try any of the extra services such as facial/massage/teeth whitening/ hair etc.
The library didn't seem to have a lot of well-known best sellers in it but what was really lacking was a librarian to assist. It appeared that you just took a book and returned it at will - no sign out system was evident so I wonder if all the best books had gone walkabout?
It also seems a shame that these days there seems to be no church services offered, Ecumenical or otherwise, and no prayer room.
The Equinox singers and dancers were good without being great. There were individual acts, some of which were a standout and others a big miss. An excellent violinist, a female star of British muscials, and a rather hilarious magician/comedian were the best.
I cannot comment on any of the ship's tours as we did our own thing. We joined up in a freelance style with other cruisers on CruiseCritic.com and signed up for private tours. These were cheaper, we were able to pack more into the day, and in smaller vans we were able to access places that the larger tour buses just can't reach, such as high atop Positano and the fabulous La Tagliata restaurant. If doing this for Santorini or regardless of what you do in Santorini, it is good to get the earliest tender tickets possible. We got on one of the first tenders and consequently we didn't have too much trouble getting the cable cars. We returned well before the last tender was due back and so again though there was a bit of a queue it was not too long to wait and we made it back in good time. Also in places like Mykonos and Athens you will be advised to purchase tickets for the ship's shuttle service. We had read up before we went and knew the local bus prices. As an example, the ships return price for the shuttle to Mykonos was 8 Euro. We got the local shuttle which was 1.60 Euro each way. We were told there would be a huge queue for the local shuttle but of course everyone bought tickets for the ship shuttle and they had a queue, we didn't. Just make sure you check the times that the local shuttle run as when you are coming back to the ship you may get an awkward surprise if for example you plan to come back at 4.30 for a 5.30 sailaway and you find the shuttle runs at 4 o'clock and 6 o'clock -- which is what happened to us in Mykonos. Fortunately we had come back before 4 o'clock so we were fine. In Athens were just caught the train -- be warned though it is about a half hour walk from where the free shuttle drops you to the station. We didn't mind the walk though as we took in some of the sights along the way, and the train was just 4 Euros for a 24 hour ticket which could be used over and over again on the various lines.
Well you choose the itinerary to suit yourself, but having said that we immensely enjoyed this itinerary. There was a good balance of port days and sea days though there was one stretch where we had 5 port days in a row which got quite tiring towards the end! The timing of docking can make a big difference and it was good that in most cases we arrived early morning and had most of the day available. It was good to have the overnight in Istanbul to properly enjoy this fascinating city and the afternoon arrival and late evening sailaway in Santorini allowed us to witness the famed sunset (though in our case it wasn't quite there sadly!).