Just got back from the 10 day Eastern Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity Equinox. It was a great cruise. We had worried a bit about weather but figured if Celebrity was still sailing that part of the world at this time of the year, our chances were pretty good. It turned out great. It only rained on us once, and that was in the afternoon when we were ending our tour at Ephesus. Obviously, the weather can't be guaranteed but as I said, my mind was set to rest by the very fact of the cruise taking place and my confidence was rewarded.
First time on Equinox. Second time on Celebrity. Have cruised a few with Crystal and once with Silversea. Our first experience with Celebrity was on the Millennium a few years back. Some of the quibbles we had with the cruise line then were similar this time, but just quibbles. Would definitely cruise again with Celebrity.
First things first: The ports were amazing. A ten day cruise and only two sea days. Highlights were Ephesus, Rhodes, Delos and Naples (Pompeii). In Ephesus and for Pompeii we took Celebrity excursions. Both had excellent guides. I know a lot of people shun the cruise line tours, claiming overcharging but our experience in those two ports were good enough to reassure us for future trips. They are pricey, but the convenience and oversight make them worthwhile, at least IMHO. In Rhodes we had our own driver and guide and that was of course also excellent. Both ways of arranging tours worked for us. We looked after ourselves in Delos (Mykonos), Santorini, Athens and Messina.
We were in Concierge class. After we booked our cruise, we told some good friends and they decided to come along. When they called, they were offered immediate upgrades to Solstice Class. I understand--luck of the draw and all--but it seemed a little weird that the people we had convinced to join the cruise were now eating in a separate dining room. They tried to invite us to the "Blu" but no dice! So in the end the four of us ended up eating once in Silhouette together, a couple of times in the speciality restaurants, and a couple of times in the crepe restaurant. We heard that there were other people in the same situation. Just seems silly that Solstice guests have to just make friends with other Solsticers, find other venues, or eat alone!
We didn't like the main dining room. Service was okay; food was okay; but we generally felt rushed and the tables are way, way, way too close together. We had hoped for Select Dining--didn't make the short list--and found the early seating a bit early and the late seating a bit late. Ate breakfast once in Silhouette and again, just felt uncomfortable at how close tables were to each other. Although the dining room wasn't full, we were still all grouped together like we were in a diner and the staff wanted us handy to their stations.
We liked the Tuscan Grille and ate twice in Silk Harvest. Food was excellent. Staff really nice. Perhaps a little overdone on the "Are you enjoying yourself?" interruptions.
Loved the Cellar Masters bar and bartender.
Dealt with the Concierge once and he was very helpful, arranging for our very early departure on the last day.
The cost of the Celebrity cruise was so very reasonable that the "nickel and diming" of the charges for drinks etc. was only moderately annoying. That being said, my husband and our friends did feel strongly that charging for a tour of the ship operations was way out of line. Trying to figure out the cost benefit of the various drinks packages was also a struggle. Personally would prefer to spend a few hundred more for a ticket and have basic beverages included. (Soft drinks, water--the occasional beer or house wine..). Also, something quite weird: we were all encouraged to buy tix for a shuttle bus in Mykonos "in order to avoid long ticket lines outside." Never saw a long ticket line. Actually never saw a ticket line at all. Also never saw anyone asking for a ticket. That $8.00 per person was definitely a questionable charge.
One thing we really liked was the diversity of the passengers. People were very friendly, not at all affected, and there were enough Brits, Irish, Aussies etc. on board that general good humor prevailed.
Beware, however, if you like the occasional cigarette. Places for smoking are very restricted and can get quite crowded. No smoking indoors at all. Which made it a bit chilly for an after-dinner inhale. Passengers in those predicaments agreed that while they all understood that smoking is a filthy disgusting habit, fact is, some people still do it. There was quite a bit of grumbling that the staff (apparently) have a room on board where they can smoke but mere paying passengers have to brave the elements. On the other hand, the shared annoyance made for a spirit of camaraderie that was also, in its way, appealing. Does seem like one bar where the remaining tobacco fiends could gather would be popular--at least with the Europeans on board.
From one extreme to the other: smoking to working out! The fitness facilities were great. Would be nice to have more room for individual workout routines a la body sculpting, crossfit etc. People were fitting themselves in and around the machines to do their pushups, situps etc., particularly when classes were in session in the only open space.
Celebrity might also like to remind some of its staff that pushing to the front of buses/tenders to be first off or jumping lines in the Oceanview cafe in front of passengers doesn't send the right message. A few people commented on such experiences.
Overall, loved the ports, liked the staff and the other passengers. Ship was in great shape. Food overall was fine. A few too many "extra" charges. Would be nice to stay in ports later in the evening for the opportunity to dine ashore. Looking forward to another Celebrity cruise sometime soon. And the Equinox would definitely be first choice.