Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by Mollyswhiskers: Celebrity Equinox - 7 day Venice to Istanbul
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Celebrity Equinox - 7 day Venice to Istanbul
Since the cruise started in Venice I arrived a few days early to enjoy that beautiful city and surrounding area. To keep costs down I booked a hotel in Padua/Padova (Hotel Al Cason) and paid half the cost of my sisters staying in Venice. The train ride was 15 minutes and depending on the train you choose was 3-9 euros each way. The hotel was an easy 5 minute walk from the train station.
EMBARCATION: The day of embarkation was easy. We walked from the train station over a bridge to the "people movers" (moving sidewalk) that took us to the dock. I had all the Celebrity boarding papers, Turkey VISA, and passport at the ready so it was smooth. We did wait for our son who had nothing ready, but it still did not take long. We boarded by group numbers and so we waited in comfortable seats and Celebrity provided cold water. Not as fast as my last departure from Fort Lauderdale, but ok. Immediately after boarding the ship we greeted and served champagne and/or juice. Our party of 10 More split up to check our rooms and agreed to meet for lunch at the Ocean View Cafe.
CABIN: Our cabin was 6126 - unobstructed balcony. I usually check this out, but we discovered we were above the Equinox Theatre and could slightly hear the music when entertainment was in progress. We were usually out so this did not bother us too much considering the price we paid for the cruise which included a free beverage package and credit. The room was nice and the bed very comfortable. The bathroom amenities were nice, but we noticed they were not replaced as often as on previous cruises. We had to ask for shampoo and soap as the little bar got thinner and thinner. Also, the nightly mint on the pillow is gone - we had one chocolate coated oreo cookie one night only.
FOOD: Good selection at the Ocean View Cafe where we had out breakfasts. Cheerful server calling out good morning every day and coffee server with cart promising smiles with his coffee. The other food servers were not as friendly as on previous cruises. Best time to get your bottled water for your day's excursion as it was sometimes difficult to find unless you stood in line at a bar. They sometimes ran out of water at the ship exit for daily excursion. You can only get one bottle at a time. Inconvenient if you want to keep one in your room and need bottles for the day excursion. Drink package included spirits and it was fun trying the different bars. Some of the young ones with us upgraded and had an adventure at the Molecular Bar with very unique servings and top floor with very fine scotch and bourbon. Dinner at the Silhouette restaurant was good most nights. Unfortunately, the fish was not very good - especially the sea bass which I usually love. It was a thin piece and not seaoned well. A couple of diners sent it back. Our main waiter, Wid, was very friendly and shared much information with us. His assistant was not as friendly or knowledgeable. Portions smaller than before, but for me this was ok and you can always order more as my son did every night.
PORTS OF CALL: Nice selection of ports. We took no ship excursions due mainly to cost considerations and felt private tours would be less crowded. The woman sharing information about the ports of call was not up the same caliber of previous speakers I experienced on Celebrity ships. No interesting facts, just chatty shopping/restaurant tips I did not find very helpful
Dubrovnick: We walked to the Old City. It was a good 1/2 hour walk so there were fixed fare taxis at the dock (I think 10 euros-no need for local currency) and also a bus for 1 euro. Very nice town and take a look at the forts. Daughter bought beautiful 18k gold "button" earrings (you'll see them).
Corfu: Once again we walked into town and had a delicious lunch. Buy some of their seasoning packets if you like Mediterranean food. I bought souvlaki, moussaka, etc seasonings and they were inexpensive and proved to make delicious meals with minimal effort at home. Also bought an olive wood mortar and pestle - beautiful and good deal if you shop around.
Katakolon- Very close walk to town. If you want to go to Olympia - as soon as you exit the port gates you will see buses that will take you there for 10 euro. We had been to Olympia so we just stayed in town and took advantage of all the free WIFI and looked around.
Santorini: You will have to decide to take the tram or donkey up the steep hill to town. Although the ship recommends against it we took the donkey up (even my 70 year old sister) and it was fun esp. for the younger ones in our party. We took the tram down to the tender boats after waiting in a very long line. Allow lots of time to get back to the ship. We took the bus to Oia and it was a cute little town. The bus is very cheap, but crowded. We wanted to take a taxi back, but could not find one even at the taxi stand. Go to Oia first then come back to Santorini to assure you make it back to the ship on time.
Ephesus: Due to much less cost then the Celebrity excursion and the distance to Ephesus we hired our own private tour, EPHESUS SHUTTLE/CURIO TRAVEL. It was perfect. I was a little worried because I booked this tour for 12 people who were depending on me for a good time. It was perfect from beginning to end. Alex met us on the dock as arranged and whisked us to the comfortable bus. His knowledge of Ephesus and modern Turkey was impressive and very interesting. He has a friendly demeanor and we all felt comfortable asking him questions. We had young and very mature adults and Alex kept a nice pace so all were able to keep up and enjoy the sites. Be sure to include Mary's House and the Terrace Houses. I read some reviews that complained about the shopping side trips, but we felt no pressure, We did spend alot of time and money at the rug weaving school and just a short look at the leather shop - all within our control. I appreciate the fact that each person could pay individually for their tour and credit card payment was available at no charge. In fact I changed to this company after booking with someone else that asked for cash up front and we needed to buy our tickets for each site ourselves.
Istanbul:The best of the ports. Due to time constraints we booked again with the same CURIO TRAVEL. They were able to slightly customize their standard tour to meet our needs. Gizem was our tour leader - very sweet and again good English and very knowledgeable. Both tours were generous with their time and we never felt rushed. A few of us stayed an extra day as it is impossible to see everything in one day. So glad we stayed and saw the Blue Mosque on our own. It is a must see - don't forget your own headscarf and cover your legs and arms. Also, took the tram to the spice market (very easy to do) and bought the best turkish delight there. Out hotel and everything was so clean there. Remained alert to the political situation there, but all was calm.
ENTERTAINMENT: Really a big disappointment compared to past cruises. The singers, dancers and choreography were mediocre at best. The comedian was corny. The best was the Cirque du Soleil like act, but of course not up to the standard of the real Cirque du Soleil shows. My past experience was SRO to see the shows because of the quality of the acts, but this time people were leaving (I learned to sit on the aisle so I could leave too) early in the show and there were always seats available. In the past I had taken a transatlantic cruise, now I would have to think hard about Celebrity because you need good entertainment with so many sea days.
DISEMBARCATION: Like the other reviews, I agree this was a MESS. Three ships were docked and immigration was backed up so they delayed our departure. We had booked a private car take us to our hotel and Customer Service called the service for us to tell them we would be delayed and to wait for us. There was some confusion about what group numbers were being called so we just went down to the exit and there was our group. Once out you are on your own. It was pouring rain and their were conflicting signs about where to get our baggage (need more signs that are accurate). Celebrity had a few umbrellas they were running between the door to immigration and the ship exit. We snagged one and followed the crowd. It was a madhouse - we got through immigration and found our luggage and were standing in a line we thought to exit. My son went ahead to scout why the line was not moving. People in the front were just standing there because of the rain. I went outside to find our hired car and ran around looking for our sign and driver. Meanwhile our party made it outside and we stood in the rain waiting. Finally we went to the taxi queue and waited for over one hour in the rain without an umbrella (Celebrity took our umbrella at the immigration entrance). People were jumping the taxi queue and finally everyone surged and more chaos. I grabbed a little taxi and stuffed 5 adults and all our cruise luggage into it and off we uncomfortably went. I did contact the hired car company, ISTANBUL TRANSFER TOUR, to express my disappointment their drivers were not there for me and our friends who had an earlier departure. They insist they were there, but I find it strange both parties were not able to find their drivers when I saw many drivers holding signs at the exit area. Don't depend on a taxi to get you to the airport or hotel, but book a dependable car service.
Lastly, still no questionnaire from Celebrity Less
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Cabin review: 6126
Our cabin was 6126 - unobstructed balcony. I usually check this out, but we discovered we were above the Equinox Theatre and could slightly hear the music when entertainment was in progress. We were usually out so this did not bother us too much considering the price we paid for the cruise which included a free beverage package and credit. The room was nice and the bed very comfortable. The bathroom amenities were nice, but we noticed they were not replaced as often as on previous cruises. We had to ask for shampoo and soap as the little bar got thinner and thinner. Also, the nightly mint on the pillow is gone - we had one chocolate coated oreo cookie one night only.