Ship: Celebrity Equinox Sailing: July/August 2010 Itinerary: Eastern Mediterranean Ports: Santorini, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, Naples
Cabins: Cabins were extremely comfortable. Ours was on Deck 6, with an Oceanview balcony (considered “obstructed” because you could see the lifeboats below, which we did not mind at all). Remarkably quiet, though a friend staying on Deck 3 had trouble with some sounds from the nightclub at night. Very impressive design. Thoughtful storage space throughout. Bathrooms are large, and the shower has great water pressure and constant temperatures. Very much appreciated the shower’s glass doors, which made it feel spacious (we called it the “Barbie” box shower). Great beds with rounded corners.
Dining: Highest marks to the Main Dining Room, the Silhouette. There were so many fantastic options every night we never felt the need to try the other dining venues. We had the early seating, and our exceptional headwaiter (Gary from Jamaica) and assistant waiter (Damir from Croatia) really made dining here so memorable (We miss you!) Seriously, I got choked up our last night, saying good-bye. The only off meal we had was a dish we requested to have modified; perhaps their operations make this difficult. Fish and vegetarian options were especially outstanding. Creative appetizers.
Silhouette Seated Breakfast – menu at breakfast is the same daily, which got old. Service at breakfast here, with “open” seating, was not nearly as warm as at dinner. We did not have occasion to eat here for a seated lunch.
The Oceanview Café – the buffet – was a solid option. Impressive variety. Even at its busiest, easy to maneuver. Turkish buffet is especially good. The afternoon mini-sandwiches and mini-desserts were great in lieu of lunch, especially if getting back late from a day in port. Areas for buffet improvement – eggs and egg dishes (keeping them hot), coffee, and the pastries, which look pretty but are sadly terrible.
The “healthy alternative” AquaSpa Café needs some work. Some of the fruit offered (rock hard papaya, sour berries in the yogurt parfaits) should simply not be served to guests. Nice, quiet space in the morning, though.
Beverages: We did not opt for a beverage package, and were glad we did not. The tap water on the ship was just fine. Everyone was drinking it. We did bring a case of water and Diet Coke onboard without problems. And we brought some back from individual ports. The only package we had considered was a non-alcoholic classic package. We did the math after our trip, and it would not have been a cost-effective decision. I considered doing the $5/day fountain drinks package, but the soft drinks are not self-service; you do have to go to a bartender for refills.
Service: Main Dining Room service – exceptional. Again, our headwaiter - Gary from Jamaica - was not just a great waiter, but a great person. Housekeeping – excellent. Guest Services – very good; Ana Hora (from Serbia) was especially outstanding. Online – poor. Stateroom attendant – pleasant, but not great.
Ship: Beautiful. Still felt brand-new. Design is classy, but not too formal. Everything clean and polished. The cabins themselves are the best feature. The adults-only solarium is another favorite. The pool area itself did get too crowded during the primetime sunning hours at sea. This was the only time and area where we felt there were too many people around.
Fitness: The fitness center is situated at the front of the ship, with floor-to-ceiling glass and nearly panoramic views. Very crowded at first, but most people decided to slack off by Day 3. ? Good cardio equipment and adequate weight training equipment. $12 surcharge for most fitness classes, which did tend to fill up. The fitness class room is small, and not completely closed off. They should provide some type of water for guests in the fitness area itself. Not too many “active” sports activities other than a few dance class offerings.
Entertainment: Piano player was the standout performer. The theatrical productions need some work. We attended the theatrical “Remix” show on the first formal night, and this was beyond awful. Like bad Miss America performance meets amusement park cheese. Not entirely the fault of the performers, as they are singing and dancing as if their lives depend on it. I hear the other theatrical shows were much better, but I could not get my party to attend anything else produced in-house. The comedian was so-so. The Turkish dancers were a hit. Various bands and singing groups were very good.
Online – this was the only consistently negative and disappointing part of our trip. Considering the high standards Celebrity has set elsewhere on the ship, both the technology and the service here are way off the mark. If you only need to check a few emails, it may be fine for you. However, a few words of warning about packages: First, the wi-fi on the ship is NOT high-speed. We were not told this until after we purchased a package and experienced trouble. Second, the minutes of your package will tick down, whether you are connected or not, whether your computer is powered on or off. Log-off from their log-off window only. The center was inundated with unhappy people trying to get some or all of their money back from this service. The manager of the online center does not have the guests’ best interests at heart. He even clashed with the guest services team, who were trying all week to sort out issues. If you need to work remotely at all while at sea (and I hope that you don’t), find Internet cafes in ports.
Ports – I will do extended reviews for this in the Ports section, as we did not take any of the cruise-sponsored tours. Overall, getting on and off the ship was always extremely efficient. Waiting your turn for the tenders to get over to Santorini was painful, but went as smoothly as possible.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: They do not have a system for giving receipts for luggage when they whisk the bags away to your room at Embarkation. But we were given assurances that they have never lost a bag. Do keep your passport on you, though – you will need it to board. Disembarkation was simple.
Travel to/from port – Celebrity was charging $91 per person for transportation to/from the port. We booked independently for less, and had a private car.