Having had our first ever cruise last year on board RCI Mariner we decided to try Celebrity. We got a good deal on a Deluxe Veranda Cabins on Deck 8. Myself, my wife and her sister were on the cruise.
We spent the night before the cruise in Civitavecchia which worked out well except for the fact that we couldn't get taxi from the hotel to the port (this seems to be due to the fact that there are very few taxis in Civitavecchia and on embarkation days they are extremely busy taking people from the train station to ships. We waited for over an hour at the hotel and finally decided to walk down to port. My wife's sister had a sore foot so the walk wasn't ideal. We finally got to the port gate where the shuttle buses depart for the ships. However, we were told that we would have to walk an extra few hundred metres to get to the bus for Celebrity Equinox because the bus couldn't pick us up at the port gate and that this was due to the port authorities. Other ships seemed to manage to have buses at the port gate (we saw buses for HAL, Costa and Celebrity - I think it was Constellation) but no luck for us. It didn't matter if you were old or infirm you had to walk the additional few hundred metres and that was it. Eventually we teamed up with an elderly Italian couple and we managed to flag down a taxi to bring us to the ship. As a first impression of Celebrity I thought that it was quite poor customer service to expect elderly people and infirm people with luggage to walk another few hundred metres to get the bus to the ship. Maybe it was all down to the port authorities but there was pretty much zero help from the one Celebrity staff member at the port gate.
Embarkation was very efficient and quick and then we were onto the beautiful Celebrity Equinox. It is a beautiful ship, very well maintained with plush bars and public spaces.
On a cruise we like to let our hair down and enjoy the ship. We are not overly concerned with the ports of call and sometimes we just stay put on the ship and enjoy long lingering lunches and a few drinks. So for us food is a major factor. I've long heard that the food on Celebrity is great so I was expecting great things. Did it live up to its image? Well yes and no. Surprisingly we found the main dining room to be hit and miss. First off if you are a vegetarian (my sister in law is)then you may be in trouble! The menu for the MDR has just one vegetarian main course selection each evening. Now after two nights of one choice we complained and in fairness Celebrity provided at least one additional main course choice each evening. But why should a vegetarian have to make a complaint on Celebrity before they can get a reasonable menu selection in the MDR?? We had some excellent meals in the MDR - a beautiful osso bucco immediately springs to mind! However there were some turkeys literally! A breaded turkey escalope with linguine was terrible. On another evening a breaded chicken saltimbocca was even worse (and this was the chefs main course suggestion for that evening!). It was very dry and tasteless. When asked by the maitre di if everything was ok I did let her know that in my opinion it was a terrible dish. Hopefully they'll rethink the menu and take it away because they must have received other complaints about it. On another evening I had lamb, ordered rare which arrived more well done and dried out.
In contrast we found the Oceanview cafe to be excellent. I've only been on one other cruise before (RCI Mariner) so I can only compare the Oceanview on Equinox to the Windjammer on the Mariner. No comparison is my opinion. The Oceanview was light years ahead of the Windjammer. The selection and quality of food was excellent. We really enjoyed having an afternoon tea in the Oceanview with dainty sandwiches, cakes and a glass of bubbly! Pizzas were very well made as were the salads. Another great thing about the Oceanview was that it never felt too crowded.
We didn't try any of the speciality restaurants though I did hear mixed reviews about them.
The cherry on the cake though has to be the buffet lunch on our final sea day. It was outstanding and is a credit to the catering staff on Celebrity Equinox. To me it pretty much made up for the few not great meals in the MDR. The ice sculptures were amazing, the choice and quality of food was excellent and the service was good natured and efficient.
As for bars well you will be spoilt for choice. We really enjoyed the Lawn Club when the ship was leaving various ports. Funny thing though is that it can be hard to find out what beers are available in the bars. I was told that the Martini bar had a selection of all the beers on the ship. When I asked one of the barmen there for a list it caused a lot of confusion. He was starting to get a little irate with me so I just asked for a Sam Adams and left!
One thing about the bars did strike me though. Some of the staff could be a little arrogant and almost rude at times. I say some because there were other staff (and thankfully they were in the majority) who were at all times professional and pleasant.
Our cabins were lovely and the service from our attendant and assisatant was excellent. Because of my sister in laws sore foot she was confined to her cabin for a few days. Both our cabin attendant and his assistant were geuinely concerned about her and went out of their way to ensure that she was well looked after. Every day they would enquire as to how she was.
So overall I really enjoyed the cruise. I was disappointed with the MDR (dinner) and some tetchy barmen/waiters but everything else was great. Would I return? Yes if I got a good deal but if I had to pay full price I think I might give another cruise line a go. And if I was a vegetarian or vegan I would definately think twice about Celebrity.