We recently returned from a fabulous 12 night cruise aboard the Equinox. We spent 2 days in Barcelona pre-cruise, staying at the Hotel Monte Carlo.....a great little hotel on Las Ramblas, with large, quiet, comfortable rooms & an exceptional staff. On our first night in Barcelona we ate at 336....a wonderful little fixed price restaurant with top quality food. The second night we ate tapas at Bodega Biarritz 1881-just off of Playa Real. You can't go wrong eating there. We tried nearly half of the 25 different tapas offered, & all were wonderful. Don't miss a visit to La Boqueria when in Barcelona.
Monday morning we left the hotel just before 11, taking a taxi to the pier. Embarkation was a breeze & we were on board the ship & had a mimosa in our hand before 11:30. We explored & were just finishing lunch when the announcement was made (about 1:30) that the rooms were ready. We had booked a guaranteed concierge class room, & were assigned 1038. I was a little concerned that it was so close to the elevators that noise might be a problem, but we never once heard the elevator. Only occasionally did we hear any movement at all, either above us or beside us. Celebrity has done a good job with soundproofing, or we had some very considerate neighbors!
The ship itself is beautiful, well kept up & clean. I am not sure if we were sailing at capacity, but we never felt crowded anywhere on the ship. The staff are friendly & very accommodating. We considered it a bonus that there seemed to be lass than 20 children on board, due to sailing after the start of the school year. Our room was well laid out, with enough storage for the 2 of us. The bath was spacious, with plenty of cubbies. And it had a dim light that was always on, which made it nice for middle of the night bathroom stops. The bath products provided were fine....I did not try the face cream, but the body wash, shampoo & conditioner were fine. Shower was spacious compared to past cruises. But we often used the much larger showers in the changing rooms in the Aqua Spa. Hubby also used the sauna in the men's changing room every day.....there is no charge to use that one. However the steam room & aromatherapy sauna in the Persian Garden have a charge unless you are Aqua Spa class. As for the Concierge Class room.....there is nothing noteworthy about them. The daily "appetizers" were not great, the fresh fruit was 2 green & 1 red apple, & the fresh flowers were were tucked away where they were barely noticed. We booked this class since the rooms seemed to be in a good location, with no public areas either above or below them, & the price difference (on the guarantee) was less than $50 per person at the time we booked.
The food on the ship ranged from very good to excellent. On our first formal night (of 3) the beef tournedos were comparable to a high end steakhouse quality....we cut them with a butter knife. We had chosen Select Dining & never had to wait to be seated. We went to dinner with new friends several nights & the remainder of the time we opted to sit at a "shared table" where we met some very interesting people from all over the world. Three nights we opted to eat in the buffet, as we just didn't feel like getting dressed for dinner. We always found plenty of choices for breakfast, lunch or dinner here. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants. Nor did we see any of the evening entertainment on the ship, as we were exhausted.
We had the option of several different promotions when we booked, & we chose the Classic Alcohol package(about a $1200 value, as it also included the gratuity). It was so nice to just hand your card over & know that we wouldn't have a large bill waiting for us at debarkation (our bill showed nearly 4 pages of zero's). Our package covered all beers up to $5, which suited my husband as it covered Red Stripe. Wine or mixed drinks up to $8 were also covered, which included the Reisling that I like to drink. This also covered any soda pop, fresh squeezed orange or grapefruit juice, or the bottled water we would grab for shore excursions.
This was a port intensive cruise. The first 4 days were exhausting! First stop wan Cannes, where we took Celebrity's excursion called Nice & Monaco On Your Own. We enjoyed exploring both cities & especially enjoyed seeing the famous Monte Carlo casino. Day 2 stopped in Livorno, & we did another ship excursion to the Cinque Terre. We visited 3 of the 5 towns, going by ferry between them. Day 3 was Rome. We had been lucky enough to hook up with a private tour with 4 other folks through Cruise Critic.......this was the best tour of our trip. It was arranged through Miles and Miles.....our guide was Francesco & he was fabulous. Because he was maneuvering us through Rome in a Mercedes mini van, he would drop us off near the front entrance to most attractions. We visited the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Colloseun, Circus Maximus, & the Knights of Malta Keyhole, along with many other sites we drove by, all before lunch. After lunch at a great little local spot, we were met at the Vatican by Fredrica, who showed us the highlights of the Vatican Museum, Sistene Chapel & St Peter's. On the return ride to the ship, Francesco showed us a DVD of Pompeii, as most of us were going there the next day. Day 4 had us in Naples, on another private tour with 6 others that I found through Cruise Critic. We arrived at Pompeii before the gates opened, & had felt like we had the place to ourselves for the first 90 minutes. Our tour guide through APT Tours was very knowledgable. Pompeii had not been near the top of our list of things to do on this trip, but it ended up being our favorite tourist attraction. Then we enjoyed the spectacular views along the Amalfi coast, stopping in Positano for about 90 minutes & then Sorrento for about 2 1/2 hours, before taking the ferry back to the ship. We so needed that next day at sea, to relax. Then we stopped in Kotor, Montenegro.......a little hidden jewel. We were met that day by friends who were sailing in that area, so we spent the day with them, exploring the town. Sail away from Kotor was breathtaking. Then on to Venice.....our room was starboard side, which gave us spectacular views of Venice as we sailed in. We had visited Venice before, so just wanted to wander on our own. We left the ship & walked to the people mover ($1 Euro cost each way) which took us to the Piazzale Roma area where we bought 24 hour Vaporetta passes for $24 Euro each. Riding the 1, 2, or N boats will take you down to St Mark's. Be sure to get off periodically & explore the side streets....that is what Venice is all about. Then it was another day & another country as we reached Dubrovnik. Prior to the trip I had planned that we would walk the old city walls. But we changed our mind upon hearing there were over 800 stairs to climb as you went around. We opted to do the cable car...but once we arrived there we found about 300 people in line ahead of us, & only 2 cable cars running that hold about 30 people each. So we chose to take a taxi to the top of the hill. It was a nerve wracking ride up a one lane road, but our driver stopped about 1/4 mile from the top where we had a spectacular view. The cost of the taxi was the same as the cost of the cable car....95 Kunas per person. Although We were told on the ship that Dubrovnik had joined the EU & would use Euros, we found that in many spots they were still accepting only Kunas. We did feel that you needed to be part mountain goat for many of the places we visited......this is not a trip for anyone that has trouble walking or climbing.
Our favorite part of the ship was the Sunset Bar on the 15th deck, by the grass. Lionel the bartender from Jamaica was outstanding. This is where we went for every sail away...sometimes sitting at the bar & sometimes sitting on the grass. We also enjoyed several of the glass blowing shows up there.
Debarkation was easy....we left the ship about 8, located our luggage within minutes & our taxi dropped us off at the airport by 8:45 (cost about 38 Euros as I recall).
The entire trip was amazing & one we will never forget. Each day we would look at each other & say " it can't get any better than this!". And then the next day would be incredible. We would do it again in a heartbeat! If you have managed to read through this, the best advice I can give you is to register with Cruise Critic as soon as you book your trip, & hook up with other CC members to book your excursions. Although the Celebrity excursions were fine, the private tours we did were so much better. Happy sailing!