After plenty of research in to various cruise lines and ships, my boyfriend and I booked our first cruise aboard the Celebrity Equinox, leaving Barcelona on a Western Mediterranean cruise on the 4th July. Our choice was dictated first by the ports of call, then by the service/food/amenities on board the ship. We were not disappointed!
Being in our mid-twenties, we were a bit worried that there would be an age gap between us and the majority of the passengers onboard but there was actually a huge range of ages - id say the majority were perhaps 45-60? We met people from all nationalities, though it was mostly americans, canadians, brits and australians. there were not too many children, as it was out of the UK school holiday time, but they did make their presence known in the pool! Perhaps this was one of our very few gripes - that the pool and it's rules were not observed, often resulting in kids dive bombing and soaking everyone around them - although this was only a tiny thing, and there is an adults pool in the solarium if you want to escape the noise/splashing! Zumba took place by the pool twice each day but I just couldn't bear to jiggle about in full view of the top deck in my bikini (especially after all those extra calories on board...)
We met so many people who were on their 4th, 5th or even 26th cruise - when experienced cruisers choose the same boat, you feel confident that you've made the right choice! As first timers, we didnt really know what to expect - so I guess I should start with what impressed us the most - the food!! Apparently the average cruiser puts on 10 pounds in a week - we certainly pushed that theory to its limits, with all the fantastic food on board - my boyfriend put on 4 kilos and that was with going to the gym every day! (I'm still yet to weigh in!) honestly, there was something for everyone - even the buffet in the ocean view cafe is probably one of the best buffets you'll ever experience. If you wanted, you could have a three course meal picked from a menu and served to you for breakfast, lunch and dinner - but there really wasn't a limit. Once, my boyfriend ordered the lamb and was presented with the beef - when he let the waiter know, he was incredibly apologetic, and returned with a rack of lamb in a matter of moments. If you wanted steak with lobster tail on the side, it was yours - if you wanted three starters, three mains and three desserts, you could have it! We tried the three speciality restaurants too - Tuscan grille was our favourite, and we would suggest picking this on a night when you are due to sail out from a beautiful port - we dined there upon leaving kotor, Montenegro, and it was beautiful. Look out for "brunch" in the silhouette restaurant, in place of breakfast, in your "celebrity today" leaflet - so many people that we met missed this, and it was incredible! Ice sculptures, chocolate fountains... I won't spoil it all for you, it needs to be seen to be believed.
The other thing that really wowed us was the service . The waiters, bar staff, pool butlers, stateroom attendants & every other member of celebrity staff really could not do enough for you. We were appalled to overhear the way that some other guests spoke to some of the waiting staff, they work such long hours and always with a smile on their face. Often, the waiter you had at dinner at 10pm the night before will be the same person serving your breakfast at 7am the next morning...
In terms of the entertainment, it was a bit of a mixed bag - the "equinox" (a cirque du soleil type show) was incredible and certainly our favourite of the trip. There were a few singers, a comedian, a magician, a pianist and a few nights where the on board entertainment crew performed (these were just a bit too cheesy for us - everything else that we saw was pretty good). Aside from that, there was a very good vocal quarter who sang in celebrity central most evenings, and a few game shows - the Mr & Mrs one was very funny. Bob and Manuel were excellent as Cruise Director and Activities Manager; it was great to see the officers playing pool volleyball one day and everyone watching! Be sure to go to the excursion talks in celebrity central the evening before each port - you'll be provided with lots of useful information if you haven't done too much research beforehand. Beware that they may scaremonger you in to booking transport from some of the piers to the city centre unnecessarily - we nearly spent 5 for a transfer to the coach park in Naples when there was a free transfer bus at the port. We booked one trip with celebrity (Pompeii & mount Vesuvius - our guide Diego was amazing! Be warned, this is not for the faint hearted!) and another with cruising excursions (Florence and Pisa - an absolute disaster!) Excursions through the boat did seem to be very expensive, we found our own way around in each of the other cities - much cheaper, and more fun!
We chose not to take a drinks package as we are not big drinkers and the juice/water/tea/coffee from the ocean view cafe was perfectly fine. If we had bought one of the packages I think we would have been ordering cocktails with our breakfast to try and get our monies' worth! The drinks in the bars were not that expensive (comparable to London pub prices - $7 for a glass of wine, $6 for a beer) but I was very aware that it was too easy to just swipe drinks to our sea pass and end up with a nasty surprise upon disembarkation day! (You can check your account on your tv at any time, or even your photos - apparently they have a face recognition system whereby any photos taken by the onboard photographers will appear on the tv in your room, although this didnt work for us!) the bars stayed open until late but I did not feel that this was the kind of ship where I would want to get too tipsy (it almost felt too sophisticated, especially on formal night!)
We would probably book an ocean view room or balcony next time as our inside room did feel a little dark at times, but then we spent so much time on the top deck or out and about on port days, that it probably wouldn't be worth the extra money...
Overall, I could not recommend this cruise ship or the itinerary enough - we absolutely loved it and cannot wait to book another cruise with celebrity (Eastern Med, here we come!!)