Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by Two UK Cruisers: Busy cruise on great ship
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Busy cruise on great ship
We booked direct with Celebrity and then organised our flights for London Heathrow and hotel stay in Istanbul ourselves.
We had visited Istanbul before so returned to the same hotel, the Best Western Empire Palace. It is a small friendly hotel with all you need without breaking the bank. It is on the tram line thorough the tourist area with many restaurants directly outside the hotel. You can walk to the main tourist area at the Hippodrome and the Underground reservoir in about 8 minutes or get the tram to what was the best entrance to the Grand Bazaar.
The hotel made us feel very welcome. A buffet breakfast is included and provided all we needed to start our day without being too lavish. eggs, cereal , delicious Turkish breads, jams and honeys etc.
As our son travelled with us and had not been to Istanbul before we organised two full day tours, the first to see the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace etc. The guide was very good and looked after us well. We had More radio headphones to hear the guide when it was busy. Lunch was included and was good quality. The second tour on Friday included Dolcemache Palace, boat tour, cable car and seeing many sights on the opposite side of the bay. Again with the same company and well guided and good lunch. On Saturday morning we walked up to the Underground reservoir (5 minutes from hotel) which is really worth visiting and then caught the tram 2 stops to the Grand Bazaar. You buy tram tokens from automatic machines so it is all very easy. We had a stroll through the Grand Bazaar before it got too busy and found all the stall holders good humoured and helpful without being too pushy. In all tourist areas it is best to have a friendly confident manner when dealing with them. I bought a fake designer handbag and then a toy watch for grandson. We ate in local restaurants at night at modest prices. Some of the restaurant touts can be pushy but just say no and walk on. We always chose a busy restaurant rather than one with few clients.
We booked a round trip taxi transfer for the initial airport pickup and the collection from the hotel to the port. This cost for 3 of us a total of 46 euros for the two journeys which we thought was a good price.
Embarkation was quite smooth. We are Elite members with Celebrity due to reciprocal arrangements with Royal Caribbean so we had a dedicated boarding queue. Our son was a first time cruiser but there was no problem when I requested that he check in with the Elite desk. This took all of 10 minutes. First impressions of the ship were good, everything sparkling and new after the recent refurb and we went straight up to the café for lunch. The café always had a variety of choices for both lunch and breakfast and the table service for extra drinks was efficient. We all had the Classic drinks package and there was quite a hard sell to try to get us to upgrade. However we had decided that we would only drink within the package.
As this was a 7 day cruise with 5 port days we economised on cabins by booking Deck 6 2C category restricted view balcony cabins, 6255 for our son and 6177 for us. However the balcony views were fine and we were not disappointed. We thought the 2B category had more restricted views. The cabins were quite spacious, bathrooms are a good size with an oblong shower and a selection of toiletries.
However I was very cross when unpacking to find the top cupboards above the bed had not been cleared of the previous occupants rubbish, plastic bags, tissue paper etc. This indicated to me that the cabin had not been cleaned or checked properly. I called the room steward who apologised and I said I would not take it further. However the next day I was contacted by a senior member of housekeeping who came to the cabin to apologise and then he gave us a bottle of wine. I was not bothered about the wine but wanted a clean cabin!
Because we are used to the larger Royal Caribbean ships it took me a day or two to get used to the size of the Equinox. To be fair we were so busy with port visits that I did not properly get to know the ship until our first sea day 3 days in.
Our only gripe was Select dining. I have come to the conclusion that is mainly due to me. We have tried this on Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and now Celebrity. I like to meet new people and chat over dinner but even when I had booked in advance for a shared table we were quite abruptly being told that we would have to sit on our own and not share. I think to successfully share you have to book or arrive at the same time as first sitting. Arriving later in the evening did not work. We refused to sit one table for 4 because of the position and proximity to a large serving station and the reservation person was very rude to us. On another occasion the whole table of 12 sat for 45 minutes with menus in our hands waiting for the waiter to rake our orders, I felt like the passenger from hell as I got to know the Maître D quite well with my complaints. However we are experienced friendly cruisers and know how to be polite and know what to expect. Never again for us. We will stick to fixed sitting dining in future.
We dined in Mourano and the food and service was divine if a little over the top. We all had torches to read the menus as it was so dark. Tuscan Grill was great and suited us better. The view over the stern is breath-taking.
We didn't go to many of the shows and can’t comment on any of the activities. We used the solarium pool and whirlpools and apart from inspecting the grass on the top deck on day one did not bother again. The cruise was just too busy for anything else than get off at a port, get back on, eat and sleep! We are not complaining as we chose this cruise for the port stops. We did manage to catch the end of one of the Hot Glass shows. Also as our son was with us we did not attend the nightly happy hour for Elite members or the senior officers’ drinks. Only once I went to the Elite breakfast which was in the Tuscan Grill. On our next cruise this is where I am going every day!
The first port was Mykonos. We spent our honeymoon in Mykonos 41 years ago and this was our first return visit. We decided just to stroll through the town. Do NOT try to walk to the town from the ship. Take the $8 ship shuttle or a taxi. It doesn't look too far as the crow flies but it is a very busy winding road with no footpath or shade and is at least 2km and 45 minutes walking. We walked as far as the windmills in the old town and shopped, drank and ate ice creams. Bliss!
Next day was Athens and we had booked a 6 hour private Athens tour for the 3 of us. Our driver Apostolis was marvellous and took us to all the sights, took our photos and was very knowledgeable. This was the best tour of this type we have had. At this stage I was limping from an old foot injury so I went to the Acropolis Museum whilst my husband and son climbed the Acropolis. The museum is a must see and like many European museums, if you have an EU driving licence, you will get a reduced or free entry.
We then had a sea day before Malta. We had nothing booked but as we got off the ship a tour guide was offering a choice of taxi tours. We tool the 60 euro 3 hour tour and went to Medina, the cathedral and museum are a must see, and then to Mosta church with the domed roof. I hurt my foot on a kerb getting out of the taxi so the other two were dropped off in Valetta and I returned to the ship.
After visiting the ship’s doctor I had to cancel the Sicily tour booked next day with the ship and was given a refund but DH and son still went to Etna and the Taormina. I stayed in the cabin with room service and the cabin steward bringing bags of ice for my foot.
Our last day was Salerno and we had booked with Cruising Daily Excursions. This was in a minibus with 14 people in an 18 seater bus so plenty of room. First stop was Pompeii. Again waved our EU driving licence and got in for free. I have visited Pompeii before and found with limping I couldn’t keep up with the guide so left them to it and went and sat under a shady tree. Next part of this tour was the Amalfi coast tour on the Mamma Mia road. That’s what you all say on the bends when another bus comes toward you! Great views and great driver. We then had a stopover in Sorrento and ate at a great restaurant recommended by the guide.
In Rome we booked Rome in a Day with a private pick up from the port at 8am and then were dropped off at the airport at 5.30. What a busy day as Rome was heaving (there was a big feast day the next day). There were crowds everywhere. In the afternoon after sampling the best gelato in Rome opposite the Vatican we did the Vatican tour with pre-booked timed tickets. It was packed shoulder to shoulder with some very pushy tourists who seemed to have left their good manners at the door. As I was now walking with a stick it was difficult with people pushing and shoving on narrow stairways but my son was walking behind me to protect me. However despite being exhausted at the end of the tour it was a wonderful experience. This was my second visit and I shall go back again in winter and not on a weekend!
All in all we enjoyed Celebrity but felt they had a few staffing issues in the dining room to iron out. We booked two trans Atlantics for next year whilst on board. Less
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