I had a wonderful eastern Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity's Equinox from November 16 to 26, 2012. Wonderful, but not perfect, and the negative comments below should be understood as describing what I saw as imperfections in the kind of cruise that keeps me cruising.
Embarkation and disembarkation. I had filled out the online check-in forms at the Celebrity website so everything was ready for me when I arrived at the Equinox. I was through the formalities, had my shipboard card, and was sitting in the Bistro on Five in a matter of minutes. Disembarkation was just as efficient. My group was to be called at 8:30am, and that was when it was called. It was just a matter of walking off the ship, picking up my luggage in the designated area, and going on my way, although with some regret that the cruise was over.
The Equinox. This is a lovely, well-maintained ship with tastefully decorated public areas. Every surface is polished and shining, and hand sanitizers are available outside the restaurants and on boarding the Equinox. Ship's personnel often wield these sanitizers which encourages their use. Smoking is restricted to a few places and I did not see -- or smell -- any indication of smoking outside those areas. My stateroom was on the 11th deck, starboard aft, and at times there was a peculiar smell in the corridor. The aroma was variable. Often it seemed to be a strong disinfectant or cleaning compound, but on occasion the smell was definitely sewage. A cabin steward said the ship was having trouble with the drains in that area. In my own stateroom on the first few days of the cruise there were times when the toilet would not flush, and then apparently would flush on its own several minutes later. By the end of the cruise the toilet was operating properly, but from time to time there was still an odor in the corridor. At no time was there a smell in my stateroom.
The availability of ship's officers is unimportant to me, but I know many cruisers value the opportunity to interact with the captain and senior personnel. From what I could observe on the Equinox there was plenty of occasion for this and officers were in the Grand Foyer between certain hours for contact with the passengers. The Inside Celebrity tour mentioned below ended with lunch with a ship's officer.
There were about two dozen children aboard the ship, but I rarely saw them. I know the ship had a program for children, and while I know nothing about it I have to give it high marks for keeping its little charges busy and apparently well behaved.
Stateroom. Drawer space was scarce in my stateroom and I wound up piling my things in large compartments above the bed. This solved the problem, but in an otherwise well-appointed and -furnished stateroom more drawer space would be appreciated. The balcony got a lot of use on this cruise, and the chairs there were unusually comfortable (or possibly I was super-relaxed.)
Service. My cabin steward and the servers in Blu were all one could hope for. From my experience I would say they could not be complained about. I received uniformly friendly and efficient service in the Bistro on 5 and the bars. A waitress in the Passport Bar went far out of her way to help a member of our party find the ship's charge card that had fallen out of the passenger's pocket. Personnel in the Ocean View Cafe could be harassed or distracted when the cafe was working at capacity, but it is, after all, a cafeteria and I don't think one can expect the same level of service as in a sit-down restaurant.
I had no problems with Guest Relations, but in the morning and evenings there were often six to eight passengers waiting in line at the Guest Relations counter. Senior Equinox officers were aware of this and appeared to accept it as a normal part of doing business.
Food. I ate all but one dinner in Blu, and I have decided that my future sailings with Celebrity will be in Aqua class. Blu was perhaps the high point of the cruise. Every meal was excellent, and I believe the Blu galley has a particularly good way with lamb. I had a rack of lamb and two other lamb dishes that were superb. Other memorable main courses included saffron fettuccine on Thanksgiving Day. If the Pilgrims could have had a meal like that the lives of countless turkeys would be spared. The one dinner I had away from Blu was in the Ocean View Cafe, and it was good for cafeteria food. I had a lamb curry that would have been excellent had it been warmer. The regular coffee in the Ocean View was weak and to my taste the worst coffee on the ship; but the bar there could make espresso or cappuccino that was as good as Blu, and I intend that as high praise.
Tours. I usually travel independently but on this cruise I took two ship's tours. I learned about the Celebrity Inside/See How It's Done tour on Cruise Critic and signed up for it on the Equinox. The tour went from the bridge to the engine control room and was worth every cent of the $150 charge. Highlights included being on the main corridor of the ship's working area. It is called I-95 for a reason, and I was pleased to see my steward listed on a bulletin board as the star steward for the period. Ship's personnel bustle along here, and you get a feel for the activities of a ship that the passengers do not normally see. The crew's cafeterias (did you know that separate crew cafeterias serve different ethnic foods?) were on the tour, and we went through the area where the forward mooring lines and anchors of the Equinox are stored. The ship's HR officer conducted our group and handled a range of questions with ease. Despite the scores of nationalities in the crew traditional shore-based rivalries have not been a problem, she said. Her present personnel problems involved people of the same national group. As HR officer she handles both hotel and sailing personnel and thus reports directly to the captain.
The other ship's tour I signed up for was of the Akrotiri archaeological site in Santorini. In my experience, Greek guides are usually a cut above and our guide was well above the norm. She was well informed and an excellent communicator. One needs a guide for Akrotiri and the ship's tour was well worth it.
Summary: I had good food, good service, and a good stateroom on this cruise, and the deficiencies were minor, but more drawer space would be welcome, as would more people working Guest Relations during busy hours, and better coffee particularly in the Ocean View Cafe.