We decided to go to Venice and Florence for a pre-cruise vacation prior to embarkation. Venice was as magical as we remembered and our stay at the Locanda Orseolo was perfect. This was our second stay, and the owners and staff are the consummate hosts. The hotel is in a great location being in a quiet area right off of St. Marks Square. Florence was a nice stay at the Hotel David. The hotel is a very good value, extremely clean with lots of hospitality touches. The location is a little off the beaten path. It was fine for us because we are avid walkers, but it might not be for those with mobility issues.
The train ride from Florence to Civitavecchia was easy. Upon arrival in Civitavecchia we caught a cab to the port. Embarkation was smooth. There was a separate line for guests in Aqua Class, but it seemed that all lines moved efficiently. We were a bit concerned about having to check our passports with the ship, probably more out of fear that we would lose our claim checks than of the ship losing our passports. We always travel with multiple copies of our passports, so in the event we would have to get replacements it might help. Since our itinerary included stops in Egypt and Israel, we understood the reasons for the passport collections.
Our first impression of Equinox was WOW! The ship is stunning;every attention to detail was made. The ship is sleek, modern, sophisticated and has an understated elegance. The centerpiece of the atrium is a huge tree suspended in a gorgeous colorful crystal planter. It combines art and nature and it made me smile every time I rode the glass elevators and read the signage "Here Comes the Sun".
We were so happy we booked in Aqua Class. We enjoyed the private access to the spa and the Persian Gardens were wonderful. The little perks (daily bottled water, fruit, flavored teas) were nice, but the best part to us was dining in Blu. We absolutely loved it. The cuisine was a bit lighter than what is typically served in main dining rooms. The fish entrees were divine and the intimate setting had us hooked. It was evident that the staff worked as a team, but kudos to Gusti and Artur who were generally our head waiter and assistant. They were exceptional and made our dining experience outstanding. We had one little hiccup with the sommelier, but it was quickly and courteously corrected. The ambiance in Blu is beautiful and we looked forward every evening to eating there.
Our cabin was extremely comfortable. The bathroom was spacious and felt full size. The vessel sink, glass tiles, fantastic shower all gave it a "spa" feel. We also liked the fact that the automatic fan kept the mirror and glass shower from fogging which added to the spacious feel. The bed was great and the linens are of high quality. Our cabin stewardess Elvie worked very hard to make sure everything was perfect in our cabin. She was delightful to talk to and made us feel like we were coming home every time we saw her in the hall or near our cabin.
Some of our favorite spots on Equinox were Bistro on 5, we ate lunch there multiple times and loved the Parisian crepe for dessert. My husband, who has a sweet tooth also enjoyed the desserts at the Cafe Al Bacio along with a specialty coffee.
The cruise director, Drew Pavlov was the best one we have had on all of our cruises. He was funny, articulate, and informative. We enjoyed his MC'ing, his silly nightly jokes and the late night game "Liar's Club". We also enjoyed the battle of the chefs. I got to be a "Celebrity" judge which was a lot of fun.
The entertainment on the ship was mostly hits with a few misses. The West End show singer was very good, as was the violinist. The stage shows were average, and the comedienne was not very funny. The Cirque de Soleil show looked to be spectacular, however the theater was packed and even though we arrived a few minutes before the late show started we ended up having to stand and really could not see much. My suggestion would be to have reservations, or some type of ticketing like RCL does for their ice shows.
We attended the hot glass show and it was very interesting. I wish the glass items could be sold but understand that it is a non-profit.
We can not say enough great things about Equinox. The staff was unbelievable, friendly, polite, hard working and attentive. The ship is beautiful, and pristine. We will definitely be back for future vacations.