Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by Darshan1
- Sail Date: October 2012
- Destination: Eastern Mediterranean
The ship is big, the second largest I've been on after the Carnival Magic. Celebrity is known for their ability to make crowds seem smaller and passenger flow more intuitive. That was largely true here although more true on the Celebrity Summit. The Summit has the advantage of being a much smaller ship, but my point is that the Equinox doesn't entirely give you a "crowd-free" feeling. Still embarkation and debarkation were incredibly fast. Both tour companies and airport transfers told us they were aware that the Equinox runs like clockwork to the point that everyone gets everywhere early.
The ship's size was really only a problem at certain meals because the Equinox had oddly short sit-down times for breakfast and lunch, meaning the buffet would be overcrowded. Also, Celebrity would do well to recognize that with limited sit-down times combined with the majority of their own shore excursions stretching through normal lunch hours meant that they needed not to close down buffet stations between 2pm and 4pm. There wasn't a big variety of food (pizza, desserts, a few pasta dishes, hot dogs) and a large number of hungry passengers. But overall, crowd management was excellent.
The staff was fantastic including our stewards, waiters, and guest services. We have sailed Princess once (the Grand Princess just before its refit) and have heard many times that Princess was once the equivalent Celebrity, but that Carnival had drained the money out of the line. While our trip on the Grand Princess was certainly nice, I now think the "rumors" are probably accurate as the crew on the Equinox seemed less stressed, happier, and far more numerous. For example, our steward on the Equinox had an assistant and we saw several other stewards in nearby "regions". Our poor steward on the Grand Princess had been visibly exhausted the whole trip and we never saw another soul helping him.
Our room was a special-needs/handicapped room although we hadn't requested one. For a standard interior stateroom, it seemed enormous. We'd been given a special-needs room on the Carnival Victory in 2009, and had been happy, but the layout of the Equinox's cabin had thoughtful advantages for someone in a wheelchair such as a door that opened with a push of a button and a second set of shelves for hanging shirts and pants that could be reached at wheelchair height or folded out of the way if passengers wanted to use the closet at "standing" height. The beds were comfy. Neither of us are good sleepers, and we'd heard the Mediterranean was rougher sailing than the Caribbean. Overall, we slept quite well and were very comfortable.
The ship's public areas varied from perfectly adequate to quite nice. The ship's design appears to mostly have a theme of "sea bubbles" combined with some representation of woods and trees to form an overarching theme of nature. As you'd expect, the sea bubble aspect is cheerful and attractive, but not loud or distracting. While some of the large installations seemed garish and the framed photography repetitive to the point it could be disorienting when trying to find your state room, there was also a large quantity of gorgeous art glass, and much of it made on the ship during their famous hot glass shows.
Noise levels were mostly fine, but could occasionally be raucous. Even a small band in the atrium could make the whole central core of the ship much too loud for periods and the same could be said for the pool area on Deck 14. (Our room was tucked away on Deck 8 - could not have been quieter. Check with others if you think your cabin might be closer to the atrium.)
On the other hand, the Solarium on Deck 12 is wonderfully relaxing, open to all adult guests, and a great place to watch the sea while reading or having a quiet conversation. I find the warm chlorinated air from hot tubs helpful for my breathing, but if that's not for you, you might prefer the Sky Observation Lounge which is also quiet, but where you would be more likely to be asked to buy a drink. I had a little trouble with the fumes of their disinfectant, Oxyvir-5, as I don't do well with the odor of eucalyptus, but that tended only to be in elevator areas. Other cleansers were more pleasant and citrusy. The smoke-free casino was truly smoke-free.
Food was mostly delicious in the main dining room, including many beef, chicken, and fish entrees. While the menu is not as clearly helpful as Carnival's for those on restricted diets, the waiters took my numerous allergies quite seriously, which was an unexpected and appreciated gesture. One special dessert they had made for me with gelatin, kiwi and raspberry was incredible. I also enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables at the buffet as well as delicious croissants. Lunch and breakfast menus were not as considerate of special diets, and that is an area for improvement.
Lectures and music performances were enjoyable. The cruise director, Damian, made a point of saying hello to me and amiably answered a few questions about himself and his background. Unexpected issues cropped up with onboard credits and disembarkation times, and the guest services staff resolved both more or less instantly. There were two plumbing problems with our bathroom, and that was a bit frustrating as we are experienced enough cruisers to take it seriously when advised only to put bath tissue in toilets. However, we were quick to report the issues, and the staff was quick to respond.
Some tips for potential Equinox passengers and first time Eastern Med cruisers:
This is the first ship I've been on where you can't launder or iron your own clothes in a laundry room, and laundry/dry cleaning services aren't cheap. Consider bringing a de-wrinkle spray (not a travel iron!) and some mild soap if you'd like to hand wash some items.
Passports were taken from all Non-European passengers at boarding, and Celebrity really should have prepared us for that in their "What to Expect at the Dock" form. It was very wise to collect passports as it apparently expedites entry into various countries, but a lot of passengers were unhappy they were not advised to bring other picture ID, so do bring at least a photocopy of your passport and carry it separately from your passport itself.
While the age range of this sailing ran the gamut from newlyweds to elderly, there were few people who had mobility issues. For example, we didn't see a single hoveround or wheelchair. I suspect this may be because Eastern Mediterranean ports do not lend themselves well to people who can't walk on uneven pavement, often at steep inclines, but it may also be that Celebrity did not do a great job of providing enough options for guests with trouble walking. While my mom (age 68) managed more or less without difficulty on these shore excursions (several of them qualified as "strenuous"), I have heard that Holland America does a better job appealing to older guests, so if mobility is an issue, I might look there even though this sailing was pretty close to perfect.
One aspect that I find makes quite a big impact on how nice a sailing can be is the amiability of the guests. Although this was an elegant ship and not exactly a no-frills itinerary, our fellow passengers were among the friendliest we've sailed with and not the least bit snobbish. On most of our sailings, we've met plenty of nice people, but on our one trip out of Fort Lauderdale, it was surprising how many people were bored with cruising and, crazily, unhappy with being on vacation. In contrast, I'm much more likely to want to trek all the way to Civitavecchia considering our fellow guests. It was a nice mixture of the globe -- Americans, Canadians, Europeans, Australians, Latin Americans, and Asians, and it seemed like just about everyone was having a wonderful time.
Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
AcropolisI was expecting the Acropolis to disappoint, but it did not. The Parthenon and other buildings were impressive, and made more so by the details given by our guide (Effie from Navigator Tours) and the views from the top are fantastic. If you are worried about falling at the Acropolis, I would say to still go on the tour as the stairs are not the problem. You can get fairly close to the top without running into the slippery surfaces that cause the falls. However, the area that is level with the Parthenon can be very difficult to walk on unless you're quite careful. We did see more than one person with a cane both there and at Ephesus, so it can be done. I want to add that several couples complained loudly about the cruise line's "Highlights of Athens" tour which apparently had a terrible guide (also Navigator) who did nothing but talk about a jewelry shop and did not offer views of the Acropolis as promised. I've heard more than once that there is a lot to appreciate in Athens besides the Acropolis, but I've heard the opposite as well. Based on my experience and what I heard from others,we were very glad we risked the "strenuous" excursion to the Acropolis.View All 268 Acropolis Reviews
City TourWhile the tour (guide Aref with Tura Tourism) had a few hitches - trouble hearing the guide with faulty radios, trouble keeping up with him, it was still fantastic, and I would highly recommend tiring yourself out by doing a "complete Istanbul" tour if your ship stays overnight. The Blue Mosque is incredible from the outside, the Topkapi Museum has one room of mosaics that is stunning, the Grand Bazaar is a little more like a fancy shopping mall than I expected, but if you step off the main hall, it's fascinating and you won't get lost if you tell the shopkeepers "Gate One" because they can point out the way to the exit. The Hagia Sophia was nice as was the Spice Market. The Underground Cistern was skippable in my opinion, but the true highlight was the Bosporus Cruise. Incredible. Friends we met said the less famous Sulemaniye Mosque is incredibly beautiful on the inside, and seeing that mosque (from the ship) lit up by a perfect crescent moon was incredible.View All 52 City Tour Reviews
EphesusThis was the same tour with Irene, but Ephesus is incredible. Definitely be careful on slippery rocks. Lots of beautiful ruins, especially the Celsus Library. For someone who wasn't impressed the Roman Forum, this was much more worthwhile, and I think having a guide telling us about what we were seeing was a big part of it.View All 232 Ephesus Reviews
House of the Virgin MaryOur tour was with Irene and Tura Tourism (booked through the ship) and went to both the Virgin's house and Ephesus. The guide was informative and friendly and she paced the tour well for the most part so as not to be exhausting but also making sure we got places on time. The House of the Virgin was more interesting for views along the way as well as the religious history Irene told us about along with the geological and ancient political history of the region. The tour company gave us complimentary flasks to fill with holy water we could gather ourselves at springs below the Virgin's house. A neat experience.View All 77 House of the Virgin Mary Reviews
Panagia Tourliani MonasteryGoing to the Eastern Mediterranean at the end of the season mostly seemed like a great idea considering how few crowds we had to deal with, but the disadvantage was evident in Mykonos. The weather wasn't great and the island certainly was not at its prettiest. Our terrific guide, Mia with Navigator, made our day though with a terrific history of the island, the mythology of Delos, and details about island life on Mykonos past and present. The Panagia Monastery was unexpectedly gorgeous. It's small and pretty on the outside, but on the inside it looks more like you've stepped into a treasure vault than a church. You won't get much time inside, but it's small so it will be enough. Mia's story about the importance of the monastery to the island (often used by the residents as a refuge from pirates!) also made this memorable. The tour also stopped by Elia Beach (nice enough if nothing special), a stop to take photos of Delos, and we got an ouzo sample in a pretty square across from the monastery. A great day despite the dreary weather.View All 7 Panagia Tourliani Monastery Reviews
HerculaneumFirst, the city of Naples is beautiful from the port. Only Piraeus (Athens) was unpleasant and that because of diesel fumes from other vessels. I would love to go back and do a city tour of Naples instead of Herculaneum as Herculaneum seemed lackluster after Ephesus and the Acropolis. Our guide Fabio did a great job providing knowledge of the history of Herculaneum, but it was a bit rushed and there were more uneven and slippery surfaces. Overall, I would say Herculaneum is not visually impressive compared to Ephesus, but entertaining if viewed as a puzzle being unraveled that continues to teach us about life (especially that of the wealthy) of Ancient Rome. The tour also stopped at a cameo factory - nothing special, but a pretty store and interesting (if environmentally disappointing) that they make high end cameos from seashell there instead of onyx or carnelian. Overall, I liked this tour, but unless you're a history buff, I might recommend something else.View All 65 Herculaneum Reviews
Oia VillageGreat. Santorini is beautiful as its reputation. Do believe your excursion personnel when they tell you to think twice about walking down to the pier instead of the gondola. The gondola looks scary from outside, but is not at all. Meanwhile, the path doesn't look that bad from a distance, but apparently it's rather difficult to avoid "donkey business" and you end up needing a shower the moment you're back on board. The owner of a great art and souvenir shop, Delphini, in Oia Village helped us find our way to some great views of the classic blue domes. Our guide Joy (I think with Navigator tours) was friendly and informative. Santorini was great!View All 161 Oia Village Reviews