Background Info - We are newlyweds, taking the Equinox for our honeymoon. I am 29, and my husband is 34. This was my 8th cruise and our 4th together.
Hotel Info - We arrived in Rome 2 days prior to embarkation. We stayed in the Albergo del Senato right next to the Pantheon in downtown Rome. It was the ideal location - walkable to everywhere including the Vatican, Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the best gelato in all of Rome (although there's really no bad gelato in Rome) at Giolitti. The hotel was fabulous. It is not comparable to an American hotel, so obviously the bed was less comfortable and the shower smaller than what you'd get at a Marriott. But, it's Europe, so we arrived with adjusted expectations and were exceptionally pleased. They upgraded us from a regular room to a Junior Suite so we lucked out with a little sitting room and a view right to the Pantheon from our bedroom window. The desk staff is very kind and helpful. There is a complimentary breakfast too, which we enjoyed both mornings. If we go back to Rome, we'd stay here again in a heartbeat. Cost for 2 nights was 480 Euro.
Getting to the Ship - We took a cab to the Crowne Plaza St. Peters in Rome and used Celebrity transfers. It might be pricier and less adventurous than arranging transportation on our own, but we felt it was the easiest move for us. It worked out beautifully, and took only about an hour to arrive at Civitavecchia.
Ship Info - This ship is breathtaking. It has an open floor plan that pours sunlight down into the main foyer. With a few thousand people on the ship, I was amazed that it NEVER felt crowded. There are so many places to be and things to see on so many different floors. We never felt sandwiched in or part of the cattle call with our fellow passengers as we have on so many other cruises.
Stateroom - We stayed in Aqua Class, deck 11, room 1606. We were lucky enough to snag one of the balcony cabins "on the hump." The extra large (perhaps double or triple sized?) balcony was my favorite place to read, relax, and look out on the ocean. Having a balcony cabin meant never feeling guilty hanging out in my room. It really changed the feel of the trip for me in a positive way. I'll never cruise without a balcony again! The room was beautifully and tastefully decorated with a super comfortable bed. It had a glass shower (thank goodness - nothing worse than a shower curtain that sticks to you), and a toilet with lots of leg room (get the hint, NCL!) We had no problem with storage, and after requesting extra hangers had all of our clothes stored away in the closet, drawers and overhead compartments. Luggage went right under the beg. Super easy. Being in aqua class, we had free iced tea, bottled water and fresh fruit in our rooms. We really appreciated these extra little perks. And the mini vase of fresh flowers was also lovely.
Dining - Our favorite thing about the ship, next to its beauty and cleanliness, were the Specialty restaurants. We ate at every one, our favorite being Murano. The table side prepared fillet was incredible. Tuscan Grill and Bistro on 5 (creperie) are also not to be missed. My mouth waters thinking about that nutella, banana and pistachio crepe right now! Tuscan Grill provided amazing service and absolutely divine kobe beef meatballs and pasta. But, the view is what will really take your breath away there. We also enjoyed Silk Harvest. It's hard to believe you can get good Chinese food on a cruise ship. Celebrity really has got it going on. Because we stayed in Aqua Class we dined in Blu, the healthy lifestyle dining room, rather than the main dining room. We only ended up eating there twice between all of the specialty restaurants and several dinners at the buffet after exhausting days in port. However, our two nights there were amazing. The food might be "healthy" but what it lacks in fat content, it makes up for in flavor and presentation. Try the lamb chop salad entree - you won't regret it. The buffet is set up in stations, so you can forget long buffet lines. And truly, the food is good. It's like Wegman's salad bar "on crack" if you understand the reference. Many options, healthy and non-healthy. Avoid the pizza though, unless you're 14 or under and that's your main staple. Try a fresh belgian waffle at breakfast. Desserts are hit or miss. Some are delicious, some should be passed over. Such is life. If you want a real treat, go for the gelato on deck 5. A scoop of coffee in a waffle cone that's been dipped in chocolate with jimmies took the cake for me. It's $3.75 for a cone with 1 or 2 scoops. Worth every penny.
Activities - Because this trip was so port-intensive, with only 2 sea days, we didn't take advantage of as many activities as we usually would. We spent most of our downtime, relaxing, reading or in the casino playing Black Jack or 3 Card Poker. My husband also played in 2 poker tournaments, which he enjoyed, but didn't like the electronic dealers. Black Jack dealers were friendly and fun to talk to. We also loved chatting with other people at the tables. It's so refreshing, as an American, to be surrounded by all nationalities of people. We also saw some dance classes taking place and wanted to make it to a cooking demonstration and wine tasting. But, unfortunately, we were too busy to take advantage of these things. We'll have to save that for a more relaxed Caribbean cruise next time!
Service - The service on the ship is absolutely top notch. Our last two cruises were NCL, and they simply pale in comparison. Staff is friendly, attentive and consummately professional. I can't say enough about our restaurant servers and wonderful stateroom steward, Carlos. They really made for a wonderful experience.
Entertainment - We went to 1 show in the Equinox Theater and I believe it was called Equinox, The Show. It was a Cirque du Soleil style production and completely wowed us. If you pick one show to attend, pick this one! We caught a lot of live music around the ship like the a capella group, Aquadio, and latin singer, Nestor Santurio. Both knocked our socks off. Truly excellent musical entertainment. Perfect to dance to, or enjoy with a glass of wine in a cozy chair.
Ports - We visited Sicily, Athens, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey and Naples. I'll review these separately to spare you, if you're still even reading at this point! I will say that Santorini has now become our favorite island of all time. It is strikingly beautiful and like nothing we had ever seen before. We will most certainly be back. Overall, the ports were the perfect mix of educationally interesting cities and ruins with relaxing island days of beaches and wine tasting. And ending with pizza in Naples, the city of its origin, might have been worth the entire trip alone!
Improvements - In the interest of giving a balanced review, a few areas could be improved upon. However, these in no way majorly impacted our experience, as we are mostly laid back and easy to please. First, someone became physically ill on the bus during our excursion in Sicily. Granted, it was a long ride to Mount Etna and back, and I felt badly for this woman who clearly was in distress. However, instead of Celebrity arranging a way to bring the ill person back to the ship away from other passengers, she continued to ride the bus with us after our stop in Taormina. The woman's husband claimed it was "motion sickness," however an hour and a half after getting off the bus in Taormina, I saw her throwing up in the street. I have suffered from motion sickness many times, and it does not occur this long after getting off the bus! I was upset that on the 2nd day of our trip, we were being exposed to someone who might have a virus. I think there should be a policy for those who become ill on a Celebrity excursion to have alternate means of returning to the ship to protect other passengers. We all know how quickly and violently noro can spread. All other excursions were perfectly smooth. On a different note, we enjoyed room service about 6 times on our balcony. It was a great wake-up call for early excursion days. The food was mostly yummy but the eggs came cold and the smoothies came at room temperature. It was still good and always on time, but perhaps a better system could be arranged for keep the food at the correct temperatures. Clearly, it didn't stop us from ordering again and again though!
Disembarkation - This was 95% easy. For some reason, due to miscommunication and an issue with a suitcase moving trolley, a bunch of people trying to self-disembark were clogging up our transfers meeting area, making it hard to figure out what was going on. However, I don't know if this was the fault of Celebrity, or the fault of a few people who began standing in the wrong place and others unknowingly followed them. After about 5 minutes of anxiety and not knowing where to be, we found our station and all was well. It was cake compared to the waiting for an announcement we've done on Carnival. But, I get the feeling our disembarkation didn't go as smoothly as it usually does with Celebrity. Either way, we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. Almost totally painless.
Summary - Overall, this cruise was far and away the best we have ever taken. The ship is truly stunning and has something to offer for everyone. Foodies, you've met your match. Music lovers, go and enjoy. Sun worshippers - you will love the pools and padded loungers. For honeymooners like us - we will never forget the amazing ports, pampering service and perfectly luxurious cruise vacation on the Celebrity Equinox.