Travel to Rome was from Manchester with Lufthansa via Frankfurt, after an overnight stay at the SAS Radisson at Manchester Airport. Aircraft from MCR to FKT was amazing , so much leg room and very attentive cabin crew, we went Lufthansa because my wife hates Heathrow where it takes ages getting from one terminal to another, so we went via Frankfurt where moving from one terminal to another STILL takes quite a while but if you follow the stripes (red for one set of gates, green for another etc.) it is difficult to get lost.
Flight from Frankfurt to Rome was OK, until we got to Rome airport, you know that sinking feeling you get standing by an airport carousel, watching all the suitcases going by, peering for yours?
It took well over 30 minutes for my first case to appear and the second case was a further 5 minutes behind!, fortunately other Celebrity travellers on that flight were in the same position, so the awaiting coach to the port was waiting a little longer than planned.
Thus we were late arriving at the ship and "missed" the usually niceties of boarding a Celebrity vessel, we did get the Champagne but had to make our own way to the stateroom - never a major problem.
First impressions of the ship were excellent, OK we only went from Deck 3 to Deck 10 but via the amazing Equinox glass lifts, where decks flash before your eyes. Through the Library and on to the stateroom 1207 Sky Deck Concierge C1 class.
As we got to the stateroom door we were greeted by our cruise companions, who had travelled via the "dreaded" Heathrow and arrived 4 hours before us!
Having already started to explore "WOW! they said this ship is amazing it takes cruising to a whole new level" - so maybe the hype hadn't all been hype after all.
The mandatory safety drill was attended, but WITHOUT life jackets - yippee!! jackets are very bulky and are so easy to put on these days that anyone could do it, how much practise does it take to join 2 pieces of Velcro?
Time to dress for dinner now, first sitting Silhouette Restaurant.
Silhouette is absolutely stunning. Watch out for the wine tower at one end ( a temperature controlled "cage" for red wine - 15000 bottles of the stuff)
Wait staff were, as ever, super attentive and very very pleasant.
Being diabetic I always opt for the soft drinks package on Celebrity cruises, first night at dinner I show my card to the waiter, ask for a diet cola and thereafter drinks come to my table every night, not rocket science I know but just a little touch that impresses me.
Oceanview Cafe (top deck buffet) was an area that pre-cruise, I had doubts about, I was always impressed with the buffets on other Celebrity ships and I wasn't sure how that could be improved on - How wrong I was!
Well laid out, hardly any queueing except for the FREE ice-cream bar, a feature still retained from other ships of the fleet.
There are 4 Speciality restaurants Tuscan Grill, Murano, Silk Harvest (oriental) and Blu but I think that is mainly for Aqua Class passengers.
We visited Tuscan and Murano, wonderful food in both locations, Tuscan overlooks the stern and on a nice summers evening will give a great ambiance, it was even great in November.
Equinox Theatre, Large , comfortable, no little drinks tables like Millennium and Constellation instead you get a drink holder in the arm of your seat.
A slight problem with the new large ships is the necessity for columns to hold up the balcony area, I think there are 5 on Equinox and sitting behind one of them would give a restricted view of the stage area, but naturally these seats are always the last to be taken and usually by late comers - be warned!
Shows on Celebrity ships are always varied.On this Transatlantic cruise there were 3 production shows, getting better each time and culminating in a Circe De Soleil type show.
Speciality acts used for other night were up to the usual Celebrity standards, pianists, guitarists , comedians ( David Copperfield and Jeff Stevenson) and a fantastic act David Mayer playing a Xylosynth - yep a xylophone combined with a synthesiser.
Michael's Club is a nice relaxing atmosphere pre and post show and although the resident pianist is very good - can anyone who has seen Perry Grant on Constellation, make a truly objective assessment?
Other night time venues are scattered around the ship, I know I'm probably a creature of habit, but when I find a venue that suits me I tend to stick to it.
I will however give mention to the Celebrity Central area just outside the theatre where performers such as a steel pans player ,the a capella singing quartet and the 4 girls in the string quartet played 15 minute sets after the shows.
Now have you ever heard an orchestra playing at the bottom of a lift shaft? You can on Equinox the 8 glass lifts midships are in an open area that goes from Deck 3 to Deck 14 and every night , music of some form is played on Deck 3 between the 2 backs of 4 lifts, jazz groups, dj's or the full Celebrity orchestra. You can listen to the music on any of the decks above.
I'd read much about the 1/2 acre lawned area on the top deck gimmick I thought
Not at all its a great place to sit and relax or just walk around, and outdoor games Boules and Croquet are played there.
The Hot Glass Show is up there too, Mr Sceptical (me) thought another gimmick- WRONG AGAIN.A wonderful show 3 fantastic glass blowers from the Corning Institute. I spoke to some passengers who had been to the show 6 times because every show is different although NONE of the items made are sold - except for 3, one from each of the glass blowers that are auctioned to provide scholarships at Corning for future glass blowers.
Another positive - you can walk from the restaurant to the theatre WITHOUT walking through the Casino, you skirt it rather than walk through, incidentally the SLOTS payout for this Transatlantic cruise was over $ 1.3 MILLION dollars - the Casino is perhaps well named FORTUNES.
The arrival in Ft Lauderdale was easy, I opened the curtains of the balcony window to be greeted by the sight of Oasis of the Seas RCI's new Super liner together with another RCI ship, so 3 adjacent berths with RCI ships total cost almost $ 3 BILLION dollars and a capacity of nearing 10,000 passengers - cruising has sure come a long way in the last 10 years.
Because the UK flight don't leave Florida until early evening we were "forced" to take the Everglades Tour, an OK tour but on our 4th visit to Florida one had hoped for a bigger choice of tours.
Flight back to the UK was with BA World Traveller + , nice !!! BUT this time via the "dreaded" Heathrow and then the shuttle to Manchester.
So did Equinox live up to the hype? It certainly did
Would I recommend Equinox to anyone? I would , but always aware that what suits some people wont suit others.
Am I looking forward to sailing on Eclipse's maiden voyage in 2010 and its first Transatlantic crossing in October? I'm counting the days :)