It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I approached my third Celebrity cruise having read a number of recent reviews from Critics returning from Equinox. Declining standards, poor service, 'no chocolates', expensive drink etc etc. Well i suppose it all depends on what you expect from a Cruise. If it is to have your every wish fulfilled at the click of your fingers by willing slaves who are only there because you are paying them to satisfy your every whim then perhaps you might be disappointed. If on the other hand you hope for excellent service from underpaid and overworked staff who retain a smiling face through all adversity then the Equinox is certainly the place to be.
Yes there were no chocolates on the pillow every night and the special MDR lavish brunch was gone and perhaps we did have to wait a little longer for our drinks to be served but these were minor factors in what was a wonderful cruise.
Once again we enjoyed the pleasure of an aft stateroom from which we could enjoy the sun rise and set and the room was kept in impeccable order by Sharon and Sheldon who were always on hand with a cheery greeting be it 'have a lovely day' or 'enjoy your dinner' etc. I have to admit to a constant feeling of guilt as we set off for a sumptuous meal or a lovely day out while they slaved away morning and night to ensure our comfort.
The MDR was our chosen spot every evening and the food was, as usual, outstanding served by the jovial Aston and the serious but polite and efficient Sergey who seemed to know what was required before being asked. The sommelier Vladimir ( a ringer for Basil Faulty - without the rudeness) was seriously overworked and constantly under pressure from his superior and many of the waiters, Despite this my glass was rarely empty and my special Hungarian desert wine appeared at just the right time.
The entertainment it has to be said was mixed. The Equinox singers and dancers were excellent and Scotty McLean the comedian had me literally in tears. I profess to sleeping through a few of the shows but this was more due to tiredness and good wine than the quality of the performers. The Cruise Director was to be honest a bit disappointing. While he was efficient he did not really attempt to bond with his audience. It was all a bit formal and scripted but I have to admit he had a fantastic singing voice which for some strange reason was only allowed to be heard on one night and that as a result of an artist taking ill.
The Enhancement talks were very interesting but I really have to question the fact that they appealed to such a niche audience. I felt particularly sorry for Sophie Ibbotson whose talks about her treks in and knowledge of the regions of Northern India, Pakistan, Afganistan, Kasmir etc were fascinating but received audiences rarely reaching two dozen. The highlight of these talks was the 'bonus' presentation by astronaut Woody Spring which was hidden at the bottom of the Equinox Today presentation without any fanfare or pre announcement by Cruise Director. Woody's talk and his subsequent availability to talk and sign photographs was a rare opportunity to meet a 'real personality'.
A cruise is of course a lot to do with ports of call and on this cruise these met and exceeded expectations The beauty of Santorini and the Amalfi Coast, the sheer scale of Ephasus and the Parthenon, the gales in Mykonos and the history of Valetta were a wonderful mix. While we took the Celebrity excursions on three occasions I was somewhat irritated that in the 'What to Do' talks on board we were not offered the options of Do It Yourself ifn fact we were actively discouraged by scare stories and frankly insulting comments in particular about Civitiaveccia. I dread to think what Celebrity guests arriving in my home city of Belfast are told. On Santorini we were fortunate to find the boat trip to Oia which for 25 Euros took us to this beautiful village, bussed us up the cliff road and gave us a bus tour back to Thira with as much free time as we required. Also in Salerno a 15 minute walk along the seafront took us to the Amalfi ferry 16 euro return to Amalfi with the opportunity to see the magnificent coastline at a leisurely pace.
All in all an excellent cruise with swift and efficient embarkation and efficient, if somewhat early disembarkation.
Roll on Cruise No 4.
Love being at the aft end of the ship with uninterrupted views of sunrise and sunset and port entry and departure. Our stateroom staff Sharon and Sheldon were more than excellent and well worthy of reward above and beyond the paid gratuities.