We are a couple in our early 50’s/60s, currently from the USA. We have cruised a fair bit over the last 15 years, predominantly with Celebrity. We cruise more for the ports and less for the ship board activities and entertainment. This is a review of our recent Equinox cruise from Rome to Barcelona via Istanbul and the greek islands, a dream itinerary, which we booked as a last minute replacement for a long-planned cruise later in the year, which we had had to cancel. I am usually the “uberplanner”, researching ports and booking private excursions months in advance. This time we did a mixture of joining other people’s tours, small group tours, ship tours and “winging it”! We usually travel Aqua class, this time we had a 1A hump cabin with select dining. Here’s how we got on!
We flew to Rome on United, four days ahead of our cruise. We upgraded to Economy Plus for the extra legroom and lucked out mealwise as they inadvertently loaded asian vegetarian meals on board, and the vegetable curry turned out to be far better than the usual “chicken or pasta” offerings. Our flight landed early but we waited half an hour on the tarmac for a gate and then 1 1/2 hours in the arrivals hall to pass through immigration. FCO is still chaotic (mid-May) as a result of the recent fire. (Italian immigration came back to haunt us at the end of our trip transiting through Geneva as our passports were only stamped very faintly at FCO airport). Once past immigration it took us another half hour to find our bags which had been taken off the carousel and left in different areas of the baggage hall. The one nice thing at the end of all this hassle was to find that well over 2 hours after our flight landed, our driver was still waiting for us. Thank you Romecabs!
There is a 6 hour time difference between home and Rome. We shifted our body clocks 3 hours before we left, took a 2 hour nap when we arrived and really didn’t notice any jetlag for the rest of the trip. Amazing!
Quiet cabin near the aft stairs. Bed is by the verandah. This is a hump cabin with an oversized balcony. It is 2 decks above the smoking area on deck 5. I did smell smoke a few times, but was never sure whether it came from the smoking area or an illicit smoker on one of the other verandahs. Current cabin stewards Jenny and David are excellent.
We booked a transfer from the hotel to the port with Romecabs. They were punctual, had a clean, modern vehicle, and the driver was excellent. I would highly recommend them.
We docked at Salerno and had joined a private tour organised by someone on our roll call. The tour company was AP tours, and our tour visited Herculaneum, we climbed up to the top of the crater of Mt Vesuvius and then visited Ravello and had lunch at a lovely seafood restaurant overlooking the bay. We paid extra for a professional guide at Herculaneum, and he was well worth the money. He really brought it to life. We had no trouble getting back to the port although we did hear that some other people got caught in traffic, and the ship waited for them and sailed late.
We joined a private tour organised by someone on the roll call. We toured with PK tours and took their half day tour to the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion. It was a long drive there and back. We stopped off at a nice restaurant for lunch. Our driver had a hard time finding a place that was open for lunch at 11am as it was a Sunday.
We had an overnight in Istanbul. We had visited before and wanted to see a couple of places we had missed on a previous visit and revisit a couple of old favourites.
On the first day I booked a morning tour of Suleimaniye Mosque and the Chora, and an afternoon walking tour of Sultanahammet that visited the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and ended at the Grand Bazaar. We booked both tours with Effendi Travel who we had used before and they threw in a free lunch, which was fabulous.
The first tour was good, but our second tour started an hour late because they were waiting for a few passengers who were stuck in traffic. The guide for this tour had a high squeaky voice and was hard to understand, and even though we started an hour late she didn't extend the tour an extra hour, so we felt a bit cheated. I remember the walking tour being better last time.
We walked back to the ship from the Grand Bazaar, following the tramlines. At a leisurely pace downhill it took about an hour.
The second day we didn't book a tour. We walked from the ship to Takshim square and back again. It was raining and the cobbled streets became very slick.
We have been to Mykonos before so this was a lazy day for us. We strolled through the town to the windmills and then walked back and ate lunch at the Sunset Grill in Little Venice by the water's edge.