To start let me give a little background information. My wife and I were somewhat novices prior to our Celebrity Equinox Transatlantic Cruise. This was our 3rd cruise. Our first was a Costa Magica Western Caribbean in January 2006 cruise that was cut short due to a young passenger that fell overboard during that cruise. Our 2nd cruise was a Royal Caribbean 3 night Bahamas cruise in October of 2012. This cruise was also cut short due to Hurricane Sandy. This cruise stayed in port and left 27 hours late due to high seas. It eventually departed with only a couple hundred passengers left on board. The Captain advised that it would not be able to make port in the Bahamas due to hurricane damage to the arrival port. It was labeled as the cruise to no where. We ended up only going out a few dozen miles and just sailing in a circle. For my wife and I we found it an adventure and actually quite fun. Besides that we had fantastic round the clock service, since the passenger to staff ratio was so high. Our 3rd cruise was this past November. A west bound transatlantic on the Celebrity Equinox.
This cruise was a vacation that the both of us had dreamed about for several years. We were originally booked for the inaugural Celebrity Reflection Transatlantic in November of 2012. Because of family conflicts, we had to cancel 3 months prior to that cruise. Immediately after that cancellation we booked our Celebrity Equinox TA and with that had 15 months to dream, research and plan. We also used the Cruise Critic and followed frequently the forum that was set up specifically for this cruise. We found it very helpful with our research and planning. We found friends with similar questions on this forum. Attended activities on board such as the cabin crawl and meet and greet. I would definitely recommend to anyone thinking about a cruise of this length to consider letting a Cruise Critic forum thread help you. It will enhance your experience. Guaranteed .
Now with the background out of the way, let me tell you about our experience with this Transatlantic.
Our city of debarkation was Barcelona, Spain. We arrived in Barcelona 3 nights before the cruise and stayed at a delightful hotel called Hotel Europark. This was centrally located with easy access to the metro, grocery stores and a fantastic coffee cafe across the street where we daily had our breakfast while we watched the city wake up. We booked our hotel with an online travel company about 8 months prior to the cruise. Doing this, we received a outstanding discount and payed in US $ 79 with tax.
Our choice or decision for this particular cruise was mostly based on ports and program and of course price. Our cruise length was 14 days, landing us in 6 new and different ports, if we include our debarkation port. Barcelona, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Lisbon and Teneriffe. With help from our CC forum and a little research we found plenty of time to sight see, shop and enjoy the charm of the port's we visited. During our stop in Malaga we took a prearranged tour (with the help of our CC forum) of the Alhambra in Granada. Then during our stop in Cadiz we visited the Alcazar in Seville. Both requiring about a 1 1/2 hour bus ride in each direction. And yes, we would recommend both sights to visit. Only recommendation is that you do these tours in the fall or spring. Seville is notorious for being very hot in the summer.
One thing we really enjoyed was going sight seeing the local grocery stores in Spain and Portugal. We picked up some items that we thought our family might enjoy back home. Such as local crackers, olives, olive oil, chocalates, Turron ( Spanish Candy - "highly recommend" ) and even some local cheese that faired very well in our cabin refrigerator for the duration of the cruise.
Even though we found each port to be interesting, our favorites ports of call were Lisbon, where we explored the old part of the city almost the entire day and then Teneriffe were we negotiated and hired a Taxi for the day. From the port, to the top of Mt Teide to the black sand beaches and then back to the city port. All on our own time schedule. Absolutely delightful.
Embarkation in Barcelona was a breeze. We were truly on board within 10 min. of getting off our bus at the port. Now debarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was a completely different story. It took nearly 2 hours of waiting in line. No problem getting our luggage. The problem was not with Celebrity, it was that custom control was not only understaffed but very unorganised. Lines were half hazard at best with many people cutting lines in clear view of the custom workers and the workers directing with out concern of some lines moving faster then others.
Do not know what the breakdown of cruisers that were on this cruise. Form our observation, the majority were North Americans ( US and Canadian ) Large number of Germans, French ( European and Quebec ) Latin ( South American and US ) followed by Australian and New Zealand. Very cosmopolitan which made it very nice. The majority age 45 and older with only 9 children on board.
Our Cabin number was 1069. This is a balcony cabin, 10th floor, concierge class, mid ship close to the stair well on the port side. This cabin was picked particularly due to being mid ship, close to stairs and on the port side for the west bound transatlantic portion. Being a fall cruise this allowed for balcony sun most of the day and best of all, a beautiful morning and evening view of the sunrise and sunsets. We heard no hall noise what so ever but did hear our neighbor moving their furniture one evening out of the 14 night cruise. Our bed in this cabin is situated close to the balcony which we preferred to others that had the sofa next to the balcony. The bathroom and shower were adequate as well as storage space. Our balcony had two lounge chairs with foot stools. Some maneuvering was required to get full sun or shade, but again the size was also adequate. We highly recommend this cabin for location. One negative that did bother us is that we could not hear the captains daily morning or afternoon announcements in the room. I would have to crack the door to be able to hear any pertinent information. This information was also not provided on the in room television.
Another plus on location was the quick access to the spa and gym. Every morning we took advantage of the early morning free stretch and newcomer yoga class in the spa. This was followed by time in the steam room and shower all up in the spa area, and all at not extra charge. It took a hop out of bed, putting on a pair of pants, two flight of stairs and we were there. Found it a very relaxing and a nice way to start each day,
We were both looking forward to some of the extra perks to concierge class, However we were a little disappointed with our cabin steward. On checking in to our room, we noticed that the balcony railing was caked in several days of sea salt. So much that it took several rinsing of a wash cloth for us to clean it. We thought at first that this was just a simple miss during the busy turnover and preparation of our room among all the others during embarkation day. However it was more a lack of detail by our attendant that lasted throughout the cruise. We did not see our attendant for quite arrival after checking in. Our luggage was delivered late and when it did arrive I asked the steward about the fresh flowers that were supposed to be provided in our class as advertised. There was an empty vase on our end table. His response was, oh yes, I will get those later. Again, I thought he must be very busy and just forgot them. We did not receive them that day. During our 14 day cruise we saw him very sporadically and some days not at all. We noticed that the room was straightened up each day. Concierge class advertises as one of their perks, shoe polishing. The day before a formal night I did see our steward in the hall in the morning. I asked our steward if he could polish a pair of my shoes. His response was one of surprise and then he stated that he could wet them down but did not have any polish to polish them. I politely thanked him. His assistant was much more friendly. We are not picky cruisers and after that, we just let it ride. We did excuse our steward from any room service for two days out of the 14 days. Asking only for change of towels and wash cloths which we picked up at the door. They did seem appreciative. Not to discourage any of you. Fellow passengers in other cabins had only praise for the friendliness and helpfulness of their cabin stewards.
We chose for our dining experience, early dining rather then select dining. This allowed for us to get to know the same waiter day to day. The service was a little slower then select but still very enjoyable. The selection was very good. A few nights our food was cold and on our second night out, the table bread actually reached our table frozen in the middle. We let our waiter know, and he immediately apologized and corrected the problem. This never happened again. Of the 14 nights on the cruise we ate 10 evenings in the dining room and 3 evenings at the buffet. A big plus on our evening dining experience is that we had met another couple with similar interest on Cruise Critic. With a simple call to Celebrity prior to the cruise we were able to share our evening dining seating with them. Our pre cruise request for window seating was also granted. This seemed to work out very well. We ate every morning in the buffet, mainly for convenience and selection. Again this was very relaxing and gave us the chance to meet some great guest from all over the world with the open seating. We tried to skip lunch but did have small snacks.
Entertainment was top notch. We did attend the 2nd showing every evening. From clasical pianest to broadway singers, comedy acts, Tango, and even high wire acts. The variety made it interesting and very entertaining every night. There was a live band that played with the evening show, who were superb. After the show on most evenings we would try to find one of many places to dance. I am not a good dancer at all, but it was just fun getting out there to let our hair down. A couple nights we had a bit of rough weather which I personally think helped us stay in step with the swaying of the boat. The venue bands arround the boat were not all of the same caliber as the show band. At times it was a little painful. But regardless, there was always another band somewhere on the boat you could listen too.
One of the highlights that really made sea time go so fast was the Enrichment Series partially presented by National Geographic. There were several subjects covered from Spanish Art, CSI Forensic, Apple OS7, Mediterranean area history, classical music ect., ect. For this alone, I would recommend and consider a future TA cruise with Celebrity. Also, daily there were free dance lessons teaching Salsa, foxtrot, waltz, tango and disco. Also awkward for me, but fun at the same time. There were ping bong tournaments going on most days as well as one of our favorite activities being Zumba which was given twice a day. Morning and afternoon. We took this every sea day afternoon to help burn calories.
A few things that I would like see improve before our next cruise is the in room on screen navigation system. I am a geography buff so for me I wanted to know where I was. The screen was very vague and did not provide even near detail or up to date and time information. The 2nd improvement I think might make a more enjoyable experience would be better communication from customer relations and the crew. The evening we sailed through the straights of Gibraltar, I stopped by customer relations to ask if someone could ask the bridge what time would would be passing by Gibraltar. It was a first time for my wife and she wanted to be able to see Africa and Europe at the same time as we passed. This would have been very interesting for many of the passengers I think. Regardless, we got a very uninterested response with a two hour window. We waited on deck with many other passengers and eventually did see both continents. Very interesting, which by the way I would highly recommend to any future cruisers of this area. This information could have been included in our daily announcements.
Thats it in a nutshell. You ask, would we do it again? You bet. In a heart beat. .