My husband and I had been planning this trip for about a year and when we finally got underway the excitement was palpable. We travelled from Perth, Australia to Dubai for a four day stay then onto Barcelona.
We were lucky enough to have a few days in Barcelona before our sail date and loved this vibrant city. We stayed in an apartment in El Raval about 100m away from Las Ramblas and took the hop on/off bus tour over two days to all the interesting sites.
The bus stop for the shuttle bus out to the ship was within walking distance of the apartment so we trundled our suitcases a couple of blocks and were at the terminal within 15 minutes. Porters took our bags as soon as we stepped off the bus and directed us inside.The check in procedures were very easy as we had completed everything on line prior to leaving home in Australia and within minutes we were walking down the passage way to the beautiful Equinox.
The entry onto the ship was on the 3rd deck with the Martini bar to the left and waiters circling with champagne, mimosas and juice. We grabbed a couple of mimosas and headed to the bar - with a premium beverage package already purchased we decided to make the most of it. The martini bar staff were fantastic and let us know when the cabins were ready.
We chose concierge class as a bit of a treat, my 40th birthday and our wedding anniversary combined, and we loved the stateroom straight away. Deck 10, #1014. The size of the bathroom was astonishing, the apartment we had in Barcelona had a bathroom so small you couldn't sit on the toilet and close the door without hitting your knees!
Our room steward, Eduardo, was a lovely man, very quiet and hard working, we asked for an ice bucket of ice on the first day and he kept it filled the whole trip. The room was always immaculate and the room service was also very good - even at 3am! We used the large umbrella several times on shore and the binoculars were good for checking out what was happening on the bridge.
Our itinerary was port intensive but as we had been to several of the stops before we had a few extra days lounging around the solarium while everyone else went off to explore. The weather was unfortunately not kind for the whole of the trip but we didn't let that spoil the fun. We had fierce trivia matches with fellow guests, lost consistently at the casino , watched a few shows - all good, had a 5 star cooking lesson with the Murano chefs and then the best lunch ever, a fantastic brunch with food and ice sculptures, lots of shopping in the ports and onboard and all in all a great time.
The food in all outlets was excellent, yes even the buffet was good quality though we didn't eat there often. We tried all three specialty restaurants and decided on Tuscan Grill being the best for service and steaks but Murano for pure class. I had a particularly lovely experience in the main dining room when I asked about the availability of escargot - I was informed that unfortunately they did not have any at all this sailing and had substituted crab stuffed mushrooms. I am allergic to crab so my waiter, Victor, asked the chef to make me some with cheese and garlic sauce (similiar to the garlic snails I was craving) and they were absolutely brilliant. He then put in a standing order for me so anytime we were there for dinner I could have this as my starter. Now that's service. It was done with a smile and made to seem effortless and I made sure to put Victor down on the staff appraisal cards as top notch.
As we have travelled a lot, we did our own thing on the shore excursions and found it to be easy to see Pisa from Livorno and Pompeii from Naples without assistance. Venice overnight was a riot as we had a high tide and splashing through St Marks square in a foot of water after enjoying a great meal at a local trattoria was indeed fun. We then did a ship excursion the next morning to see the Doges palace, a gondola ride and a glass blowing demo. The best part was the italian guide the ship hired, she was extremely knowledgeable and quite funny and made the entire tour relaxed and entertaining. Dubrovnik was a beautiful port and even though we nearly got blown off the medieval wall due to a rain storm, we still managed to enjoy its charms. The last stop was Kotor and I had won a ship excursion called highlights of Montenegro. Well, high was right, we went up an extremely high mountain in a large tour bus on a one lane road with 25 serpentine bends and drop offs to make your toes curl! I think they should tell you before you go that if heights are not your thing you should not do this one! However, we made it there and back and the views from the top were magnificent as was the snow! That was a bit surprising in late spring - I told you the weather wasn't kind.
The last two days were at sea and we just really relaxed, the staff were great in nearly all areas and the only small complaints we had were the dealers in the casino looked bored most of the time but when you did have a game going they just went through the motions and dealt really quickly without much interaction and the pool butlers only came out from the bar and asked if you wanted a drink if their managers were around.
These are minor things in the overall scheme and as we are bar flies anyway we just got up and got a drink if we wanted one fast.
As concierge guests we had priority disembarkation which didn't really work for us as we had an early flight out and just got up early and took our own luggage off. I was sorry to say goodbye to the Equinox but as we are already talking about our next cruise holiday, I don't think it will be long before we meet again.