As always I will preface this review with the rejoinder that these are my thoughts and mine alone. Others on the same cruise may disagree with me as may any who read this.
We originally booked this cruise in the winter of 2010. It would be my wife's and my 2nd transatlantic and on our favorite cruise line - Celebrity. However, things sometimes have a way of getting in the way. Because of long term health problems, my wife opted out of the cruise. After much discussion with her and family, I decided that I would continue on the cruise as a single. We live 3 ½ hours north of Boston. I drove there and used a Park/Sleep/Fly arrangement at the Embassy Suite Logan Airport Hotel.
Using Celebrity's air program I was able to book a non-stop flight from Boston to Rome and left Boston on the 27th arriving the next morning in Rome. The flight was uneventful and the service was very good. Meeting up with 4 other folks from Cruise Critic we had pre-arranged a cab to our hotel, the Hotel Parlemento. Located in the heart of Rome, midway between the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, it was an excellent choice not only for its' location, but also for its amenites and superb staff. I played tourist over the next 3 day, both on my own and with new found friends from Cruise Critic (C/C). One of the C/C group was extremely involved in planning for the group. She had arranged bus transportion from Rome to Civatecchia and on Sunday morning, October 31st, C/C members staying around the city made their way to our hotel where the bus showed up promptly. The drive to the port was uneventful and took about an hour. The weather was gray, wet and a bit gloomy. We arrived at the ship about 12:30.
Check-in and first impressions.
After leaving the bus and turning our luggage over to porters, we made our way into the cruise terminal. Although a bit busy, the lines moved quickly. The check-in folks were pleasant and efficient and I was onboard by 1:15. I headed immediately to my cabin (7286) for a quick look-around. The cabin was ready, so I quickly unpacked my carry-on and headed to the Oceanview cafe for lunch with friends. My initial impression of the ship was that it was beautiful and well laid-out. My opinion would not change over the cruise. This class ship, while large, is easy to get around and has good a "good" flow to it.
I was booked in Cabin 7286. This was a category 1A located on Sunrise Deck (deck 7). Its location was directly across from the amidships elevators, starboard side and being on the aft angle of the "hump", it had a rather large, deep balcony. The bed was situated near the balcony, which IMO made for easier movement. As a single traveler, I had no complaints about the size of the cabin, nor its' storage capacity. Having said that, I think a couple who didn't pack carefully, would find storage a bit limited for this two week voyage. The closet was smaller than I am used to on other ships and had no enclosed drawers (but again, as a single traveler, storage was more than adequate). On the same side of the room as the closet was a couch and small table. Celebrity had moved the safe from this closet to one of the drawers located on the opposite side of the cabin. There was a dresser like piece of furniture that contained 4 drawers and was where the small refrigerator and adequate safe were located. A small dressing table and mirror were attached. Above this was a 32" flat screen televesion set. A large (queen sized) bed completed the furnishings. (This bed could be separated into two twin beds). Above the bed was a large storage area and there was plenty of room under the bed to store suitcases. Individual reading lamps were located on either side of the bed. The room lighting took a little getting used to but once learnt, was easy to use. A nice feature is a dimmed night light that stays on in the bathroom. All in all the room is extremely comfortable.
As mentioned earlier the balcony was larger than normal because of its' location on the angle of the hump. It was the depth of the balcony that increased the size from that of the "normal" sized balconies. There were two chairs and a round table. I would spend a couple hours a day out there with a glass of wine and my Kindle, just enjoying life at sea. My steward and his assistant were as good as any I have had in over 20 cruises. They patiently explained the workings of the lighting to me (twice). One afternoon, realizing I had locked my key in the room, I called reception and the assistant was up (from his break I am sure) within 5 minutes with a smile and his key. They always greeted me by name and and task I asked of them was done quickly and pleasantly.
Food is too subjective a subject for me to discuss in detail, but I will say that while I feel that the quality of food has declined (throughout the industry) over my years of cruising, I never once experienced hunger pangs. I love the layout of the Oceanview Cafe as compared to the "normal" buffet line on other ships. With many stations located throughout, there were rarely any lines. Mornings saw "eggs to order" and lunches "pasta to order" amongst many, many, many other choices.
I was seated at a table for eight on the main level of the Silhouette Dining Room for my early dining. Other members of the table were people from the C/C group. Two would leave us on the 3rd night as they decided that early dinner was not to their liking, especially on the ports portion of the cruise. Our waiter and his assistant were friendly and efficient, but busy and did not interact with the table to any extent.
I also ate at the Bistro on Five, Murano's and Silk Harvest. It was in the latter two (upcharge) dining venues that the former quality of food and service were re-vitalized, IMO. The food at both of these venues was superb and that was matched by the service. I enjoyed the experiences of both tremendously.
Entertainment. I only went to 3 or 4 of the evening shows. The production shows were not really different than others I have seen over the years. I believe the only truly different thing is the enthusiasm of the performers. On this trip, they were OK. Most of my evenings were spent with friends enjoying other entertainment offered throughout the ship. It was varied and pretty good. The cruise director, Dru Pavlov, and his staff were busy, entertaining and approachable. One hiccup occurred on Veteran's/Remembrance Day. Announcements were given that instructed the veterans of a function in their honor would be held in the Observation Lounge at 10 a.m. When we arrived some function or another was being held and we were directed to a side room where some chairs were set up. A crewmember was coming in and out. Nothing happened. Phone calls were made. A half-hour after the designated time as most of us vets were preparing to leave, the assistant cruise director came in and said this would do at all and directed us into the Observation Lounge where coffee and water was served. Another 10-15 minutes and Dru and the Captain arrived. Dru gave, what in my opinion, was a poorly conceived, hesitant, extrempraneous speech thanking us for our service. For the most part, the veterans just sat around doing what we do best, exchanging stories. I have never felt the need to be recognized for my service, but I was offended at the lack of respect shown by the ship's staff in the one particular meeting.
Ports of Call. We visited Livorno, Italy, Cannes, France and Barcelona, Cartegena, Cadiz and Tenerife (Canary Islands), Spain. It was a great itinerary. A bit port intensive, there was only one sea day the first week.
When my wife was originally scheduled for this trip, we had booked tours with other C/C folks in Cannes, Barcelona and Tenerife. However, I canceled those tours to allow couples on the wait list to enjoy. I would just meander around the different ports. No plans had been made for Livorno. Good thing and the weather was wet, cool and damp the entire port visit. The rest of the voyage would see sunny skies and increasingly warmer temperatures as it progressed.
Cannes - I just walked around, enjoying the sites and souveneir shopping.
Barcelona - Two C/C couples and I went on a walking tour of Las Ramblas and other areas of the city. We stopped at the WalMart of Europe (El Cortes Inglese) and picked up some wine, then walked deeper into the city to a Gaudi building. We enjoyed a fantastic "all you can eat" buffet luncheon at a cafe' called La Vac Paca. We meandered back down Las Ramblas enjoying the street actors and the sites in general.
Cartegena - Again, I headed out on my own enjoying the sites of this lovely town. I soon met up with friends from the ship. One of the couples and I headed for a view from the fort overlooking an old bullring and the city in general. Transportation to and from the ship was provided.
Cadiz - In my opinion, this was the hidden gem of the trip. The two couples from my Barcelona sojourn and myself were joined by two single ladies from C/C and we headed off on our own walking tour. I was on a mission to find table linens for my wife. Once that was accomplished, we visited the Cathedral and "downtown" area of Cadiz. The two ladies became separated from us, so the 5 of us headed off on a walking tour around Cadiz. What a beautiful city on the sea this is. We walked around the complete seawall in about 3 or 4 hours of leisurely walking. We stopped at a seaside taverna for calamari and cold, cold cerveza. It was a wonderful day.
Tenerife - I had been there the previous year, but once again I headed out on my own. It was a Sunday and the vast majority of the shops were closed. I sat around having a couple of beers and people watched for a couple of hours then headed back to the ship.
Although this was a port intensive cruise up to this point, I had not overtaxed myself with tours. I walked, shopped and enjoyed at my own pace. Not a bad way of seeing these cities.
Cruise Critic. We had a very large C/C contingent aboard. So large, that we had two Cruise Connection get-togethers. We also had a cabin crawl, bar crawl, gift exchange and slot-pull (where we doubled our monies - thank you very much). These get togethers were spaced throughout the at-sea part of our cruise and helped fill the days at sea.
As I mentioned before the ship itself is beautiful and easy to get around. There were plenty of lounge chairs available around the pools and decks above it. The lawn club is interesting and a quiet place to relax and just enjoy. There were daily glass-blowing shows (where 3 of our C/C group won 4 of the give-a-ways over the cruise (including a vase won by myself). There were daily lectures from various experts. Trivia, bingo and other cruise staples were available. If one is interested in rock-climbing, ice skating, etc., etc. this is not the ship for them. However for a day that one could be as busy as they wanted or as relaxed as they cared to be, this is the cruise.
As with all good things, this too had to end. Fifteen days after it started it ended in Port Everglades, Florida and it was here that things went awry. Disembarkation, while good for some, was horrible for others. Because Royal Caribbean has designated what used to be Celebrity's pier to house the Oasis and Allure of the Seas. Unfortunately on the date we arrived, the Allure came into port. The Equinox was delegated to an old, woefully inadequate terminal. There were two or three other ships in the port as well (on a Monday), making the pier area quite congested. Customs, as seems to be usual in Florida, was understaffed. Add this to the fact that this was the Equinox's first visit to the United States this season and all the ingredients for a massive mess were in place. Apparently, the initial folks off had no problem. I was scheduled off at 8:30 and that is exactly when I was called. However, it started slowing down almost immediately. It took me the better part of an hour to get off the ship, get in line for baggage pickup and clear customs. AND, it only got worse for those after me. There was blame to assign all around. Customs for their usual understaffed, officious personnel.Celebrity for not having any personnel explaining the backup to those folks in line. Other passengers who didn't feel waiting in line was part of their package and others who thought they could get off ahead of their scheduled time only to find out that their bags were still on their original schedule (These folks could be found just outside the luggage area, milling about, waiting on their luggage. According to some folks I have talke with since luggage was hard to locate, was not in designated areas and/or luggage tags were missing. All in all a not so great ending to what was a fantastic cruise.
IMO, only a couple of glitches on this cruise. There were many, many excellent things on or about this cruise. Foremost amonst them are the wonderful folks I met and friends I made from the C/C boards (and others).
I would recommend Celebrity to anybody considering a cruise. I would highly recommend the "S" class ship for the amenities it offers. And, if you have the time put them both together on a transatlantic cruise - you won't be disappointed.