We recently returned from the Equinox 12 night Venice Overnight sailing. Following is a brief recap of our experiences. Overall, we had a terrific cruise. Some parts were spectacular and others perhaps a minor disappointment.
We were picked up in Barcelona by Barcelona Day Tours to give us a 4 hour highlight tour ( and help us stay awake) We booked this with another couple we met on CC. The information was great and we had a taste of all the "important "sights. We had a 2-night pre stay at the Grand Hotel Central in Barcelona. It was a very nice, excellent location and good amenities. It has a beautiful rooftop infinity pool, but unfortunately, we had several days of cold rain so we never enjoyed this feature. Staff was terrific. Barcelona was beautiful and we did not let the rain stop us from seeing everything and having some great food.
The hotel was just a short cab ride to the port. We arrived at the port about 11:30 and the port was very busy. Funny -- we were directed to a "priority" security line (we are Elite) and it had just one security scanner. The "regular" line had four scammers so the folks in the regular line got through security WAY faster than those in the priority line. There were several different actual check-in lines, for Elite- Suite- general passenger etc. and all seemed to be moving efficiently. There was a duty free shop after security and it was evident that one could pick up additional wine/soda to bring on board.
The Equinox is a beautiful ship with a terrific staff. We had a AQ cabin on deck 11. The cabin is adequate, but we find this type of cabin to be a bit deficient in storage. There is storage (like over the bed) but it is somewhat cumbersome to use. The bathroom is very nice. Because of the itinerary, we were not able to fully enjoy the AQ amenities, ( A first world problem for sure!)
Food in our opinion was good (not great). We were assigned Blu dining and ate around 8:30 most evenings. We were not picky about a particular table location or staff and had quick seating. We dined either by ourselves or with another couple to two. It was our first time in Blu. Dinner was good but nothing really blew us away. We did enjoy the Blu breakfast more than we expected. We had just one breakfast in the dining room, no lunches and dinners in the MDR. Except for the Bistro on Five, we did not do any other specialty dining. We attended the Elite Cocktail hour for maybe 20-30 minutes ( prior to it ending) and only on 4 or 5 nights. We thought the last sea day Brunch was not as nice as a previous cruise. While the food presentation was pretty, the food was really much of what is available in the dining room or the Cafe. Same with Elite "elegant" tea. One day ( towards the middle of the cruise) there was a $20 bottle wine special in the Cafe. We picked up a bottle. We also picked up a bottle in Dubrovnik and one in Italy and we were allowed to bring it on board. We did not have the drink package. We drank the Dubrovnik wine, and brought the Italian wine home.
The minor disappointment---the entertainment, was in our opinion, below par. We went to many shows and often felt like we wasted our time. As an example, the headliner one night was a lecture/demonstration by a pickpocket. The production shows were OK and while many liked the Cirque show, (the performers are amazing) we thought the music and costuming was distracting. Luckily, this cruise was not about the ship entertainment but more about the ports.
On to the ports. Nothing can really describe the beautiful experiences we enjoyed. As this was our first time at many of the ports, we did the usual "highlights" tours. We had a combination of self-tours and semi-private tours booked. We had NO Celebrity tours. We used See Amalfi Coast in Naples (6 of us) and used Rome in Limo in Florence and Rome. (8 of us) I can highly recommend both companies. Drivers/guides were waiting for us, were knowledgeable accommodating and provided wonderful experiences for us. In Dubrovnik, 6 of us picked up Absolutely Dubrovnik at the pier (not pre booked). They also provided a great day.
We did self-tours in Ville France (Monaco), Kotor and Venice. Our Venice self-tours were very successful We took the people mover from the ship to the Vaporetto station, bought a 24 hour ticket and used it as a hop on-hop off. We took it down the Canal the first afternoon and looked at the sights while listening to the Rick Steves narrative we had downloaded. We are dinner in Venice and then returned to town the second morning.
We are very frequent RCCL cruisers (over 50 cruises) with a few Celebrity cruises and some cruises with other lines. We had considered Celebrity a step above RCCL, and only considered Celebrity when planning this vacation. Frankly, although we had a fabulous time, we really did not consider this ship experience to be any better than RCCL. We will continue to sail both lines but will let itinerary and price be more of a determining factor rather than the particular line.
I hope future cruisers on this type of vacation enjoy the vacation as much as we did.