This was our 2nd cruise, but the 1st with Celebrity. We were a little put off of cruising based on our previous experience, but having scoured through the reviews of many ships and itineraries on Cruise Critic, we decided to try another cruise and we are so pleased that we did. We had high expectations for this one ... and we weren't disappointed.
The ship was absolutely amazing. Everything was clean and spotless, the staff were always courteous and friendly, the food and drink was excellent, and there was an abundance of things to do onboard or on shore if you chose to do so. As many have said before, for a ship with almost 3000 passengers and 1200 crew onboard, it never felt crowded or noisy and there were plenty of places to sit around the pool, in the spa and in the various lounges and bar areas. Although chilling out on your own balcony when the sun is shining takes some beating.
Embarkation and disembarkation was well planned, organised and quick. We were able to go straight to our cabin when we got onboard just after 1pm, and our luggage arrived within a couple of hours. Our cabin steward, Muhammed, did an excellent job looking after the room and was always so polite.
Our balcony cabin was very roomy, with plenty of storage space and a great bathroom with a good sized shower cubicle. There are 3 electrical sockets - 2 US and 1 European. The minibar fridge was compact but big enough for our needs (we didn't use the minibar itself). The safe is a good size. The hairdryer provided is good, so no need to take your own. There are 2 comfortable reclining chairs and a table on the balcony. Bathrobes are hanging in the wardrobe.
The choice of food was excellent. We ate in the main dining room Silhouette most mornings and either ordered from the menu (the poached eggs were great) or had the express breakfast so we could eat quickly when we had an early excursion. We ate in the main dining room most evenings and the choice and quality of food was excellent - crab, lobster, prime rib of beef, steak, lemon sole. There were 4 courses, none of which were too big, so it really was fine dining. We ate in Tuscan Grill one night and had filet mignon which again was excellent. There was a good choice of wines by the glass (around $6-$10 a glass). On the occasions when we ate lunch onboard, the choice in the buffet style Oceanview Cafe was good, and the hamburgers at the Mast Grill by the pool were really tasty. We didn't feel the need to try out the late evening buffet, but the chocolate chip cookies and other delicious nibbles available between 4pm and 5pm in the Oceanview Cafe were a nice treat. We took a small kettle with us, and were able to get a small carton of milk each morning in the Oceanview Cafe to keep in the minibar, so that we could have coffee/tea and cookies on the balcony each afternoon - heaven. Needless to say, we have both put on a few pounds on this cruise but they will soon come off again.
We are not big into entertainment shows, but the few acts we heard around the main foyer were very good. I watched the Crew Talent Show on the 2nd sea day and was amazed at how good some of the singers were - well worth watching. The Hot Glass Show is also interesting to watch.
We didn't choose an AquaSpa cabin, but we paid to use the Persian Garden (sauna, steam room and heated stone beds) once on board. I think it was $20 per person per day, but we paid $179 for the 2 of us for the week and used it a least one a day, so it was a good deal ... and it was heaven to chill out in there.
We mainly drank at the Martini Bar, where at $10 a glass it's not cheap, but the menu was good and the bartenders were real characters. We didn't opt for a drinks package as we aren't big drinkers and would have lost money if we had. I think on average 2 martinis and 5 Buds came to about $45.
We only took one ship excursion and that was to Santorini so that we could be on one of the first tenders and maximum our shore time. The tour was fine and the village of Oia is pretty.
At Kusadasi, we had booked a half day tour with Ephesus Shuttle. They picked us (and 4 others) up in a minibus off the ship, took us to Ephesus where we walked around at our leisure with a guide book, and then returned us to the ship. Our guide Nursen, was very informative about the history of the region. The total cost for the transport and entrance fees came to about 60 Euros for 2 people, and you can pay in either US$, Euros or Turkish Lira. There were no pottery or leather workshop stops unless you specifically wanted them, unlike the ships tours. We would thoroughly recommend Ephesus Shuttle.
In Athens, we took a taxi to the Acropolis and then walked around the Plaka area before returning to the ship, as we had been to Athens before. There are many taxis outside the port, but be sure to agree an amount before you get in the taxi. We paid 20Euros each way.
In Naples, we booked a full day tour for 6 people in a minivan with See Amalfi Coast to Positano, Amalfi, Ravello and Pompeii. Unfortunately it rained for most of the day and so the views of the coastline and villages weren't as good as we'd hoped, but we made the best of it. Only half of Pompeii was accessible because of the rain, but we enjoyed what we saw, and the sun did come out eventually. Our driver was Tony and he was excellent. We would thoroughly recommend See Amalfi Coast.
So, as you have read, we can't fault this cruise in any way. Everything was excellent and we will certainly be cruising with Celebrity again in the near future.
Some useful tips:
- take a kettle to make your own tea/coffee as the drinks available in the Oceanview Cafe aren't that great
- take a universal travel plug to use in the electrical sockets
- leave your hairdryer at home, the one in the cabin is more than adequate
- bathrobes are provided in each cabin
- organise your own tours (and post the details on Cruise Critic to get others to share the cost) - the ships tours are expensive and you will end up visiting some kind of workshop/factory (wine, leather, pottery, carpets) with loads of other passengers
Sorry this was so long, but hope it proves to be of some interest to a future Celebrity Equinox cruiser.