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This was our second "trip of a lifetime." Our first was also a Med cruise, aboard the Celebrity Millennium in 2004. We're a married couple in our late fifties, traveling alone. This was our fifth European cruise, the four in the Med and one in Northern Europe. About 1/3 of our 32 total cruises have been on Celebrity, 1/3 on RCCL and the other third on Princess and NCL combined. Based on our previous experiences, our expectations of Celebrity were met or exceeded on this cruise. Although there are times when we want to cruise on other lines and ship classes, no other ship designs are as good as the Solstice class ships. (On the other hand, we think that the RCCL Freedom class ships are the best design for families cruising with children.) Among our favorite features of the ship are: Blu Restaurant - Wonderful view, attentive staff, the ability to walk in for dinner without a reservation and be seated immediately, and a menu that was good. We were skeptical about Blu prior to the cruise and presumed that we'd choose to eat in the Main Dining Room most evenings. However, we ate in Blu every night but one (the Oceanview Cafe after a long day on shore). While my wife ordered Blu-specific items each night, I ordered some of the "standards" - e.g., New York Strip Steak, Shrimp Cocktail, Caesar Salad - about one out of every three nights. We realized halfway through the cruise that Blu offers very few entrees with potatoes, which was a nice change of pace and saved us a few calories each night. The Lawn Club - While some people think this is a waste of space, we really like it. On this cruise, there were several events on the lawn including a few 90 minute Wine and Cheese events in the evening. While blankets and throw pillows are set up on the lawn and musical entertainment is provided for free, waiters will serve (for a fee) cheese and wine at your blanket. One night the string quartet played, another night featured the a cappella group and Spanish guitarist. We have wonderful memories of attending one of these during our overnight stay in Istanbul. Grand Foyer - The public heart of the ship, with musical entertainment during late afternoon and all evening. Quiet and serene during sea days, energetic in the evenings. Elevators - We think the Solstice class ships have the best elevators at sea. They're fast and seem to be well programmed e.g., not stopping at intermittent floors if the elevator was full. Traveling in the glass enclosed elevators in the main atrium/Grand Foyer made for an interesting ride, especially if you were going several floors. The Hot Glass Show - While I've seen it several times over a few cruises, it's still interesting to watch for a few minutes whenever I pass by. Captain's Club Elite member benefits - Between us we received 180 minutes of free internet connection time, complimentary pressing of two clothes items, and two bags (up to 60 pieces) of free laundry. Although we traveled for two weeks, we only packed for eight days knowing that we would be able to have our laundry done midway through our trip. Captain's Club Social time each evening - Free drinks and munchies before dinner, held in a section of the Sky Observation Lounge. The "Welcome Back" tent - when the ship docks, the crew assembles a tent-like area (no sides) that has iced towels, cold water, and a few chairs to sit in. Nice feature when returning back to the ship after a long day ashore. The Sunset bar - near the Lawn Club, overlooking the stern. Wonderful place to watch the world go by as you leave port or a day at sea. Pool security - one of the few cruises where pool attendants actively and consistently removed towels on "reserved chairs" after no one used them for extended periods of time. Bravo, Celebrity. There were almost always chairs available somewhere. Ship Entertainment - overall, better than I had expected. Shows in Celebrity Theater were better than average. The Card Room - while we didn't use the card room, it was nice to see families playing cards and games together at all hours of the day. Friendly staff - especially in Blu and our cabin steward. Every crewmember greeted us with a "hello" when we passed them in a hall. Salerno port bus coordinator - We were redirected from our original itinerary docking at Naples to docking in Salerno. There was a bus service between the heavily commercialized dock area and two stops elsewhere in the dock area for boats traveling to Amalfi, Positano and Capri. Later in the day, when we arrived back in Salerno from Amalfi, there was a lone person coordinating the bus service from the Travelmar dock back to the ship. . Everyone was tired by this point of the day, and the line was long and in the sun. Several people tried to jump the line but she held firm. Kudos and our gratitude to this unnamed lady for strictly keeping passengers properly in the queue for the bus. Fast Embarkation at Civitavecchia - I believe this was mostly due to our status as Captain's Club Elite members and/or Aqua Class cabin passengers. Everyone else seemed to be standing in a long line. The "good/okay" parts of the ship: Our AquaClass cabin - The cabin was the size and layout of a standard balcony cabin. Some features were excellent (Blu), some good (upgraded bath products and towels, daily free bottled water and teas) and some were nothing special (the Hansgrohe shower panel, unlimited access to the Persian Garden - although we did enjoy the Relaxation Room at the front of the ship). Also nice was the restriction that AquaClass cabins have a maximum capacity of two passengers. On the other hand, we were right under the pool deck and heard noises a few times. The first evening was particularly annoying as kids were running above us for 20 minutes or so. The noise wasn't so bad that I would recommend against an AquaClass cabin, but I'd be perfectly happy on a lower deck, away from the noise. (Except we really loved Blu, which is an AquaClass perk.) The exercise area - good selection of exercise equipment with a great view. We used only the treadmills, which were usually available. On days when someone was waiting for a treadmill, the attendant would "remind" a person when their 30 minutes was up. Nice idea. Pools - Good but very crowded after everyone returned from shore and on sea days. At times the Solarium (air) was too cold. We were not as happy with: The lifeboat drill - no one likes lifeboat drills, but this one was worst than most because we were crammed into the photography area which was stuffy. The drill seemed to last longer than most, adding to our frustration with just wanting to get on with the cruise. Couches in the cabins - The Solstice class cabins that we've been assigned have a white, leather(ette) couch which is uncomfortable to sit or lay on. We used it primarily to lay out clothes for the next day. The jogging track - We like to walk after breakfast. The jogging track gets narrow (with deck chairs moved into it) and crowded as the morning goes on. Not so much a jogging track as an obstacle course. Oh Celebrity...why couldn't you have continued the practice of warming the Solarium pools (remember the Thalassotherapy pool?), as with Millennium class ships? Internet - while the Online Celebrity room was usually staffed, Internet access speed was frustratingly slow. I realize all ships have the same problem, but there must be a more reasonable charge for such poor service. A related item - we really enjoyed the freedom of checking e-mail anywhere, any time using our iPad with the ship's wireless Internet access. All in all, a splendid cruise to a great collection of ports on a wonderful ship with excellent weather. (Ports reviewed separately.)

A Memorable Experience On an Excellent Ship

Celebrity Equinox Cruise Review by maxnest

Trip Details
This was our second "trip of a lifetime." Our first was also a Med cruise, aboard the Celebrity Millennium in 2004.



We're a married couple in our late fifties, traveling alone. This was our fifth European cruise, the four in the Med and one in Northern Europe. About 1/3 of our 32 total cruises have been on Celebrity, 1/3 on RCCL and the other third on Princess and NCL combined.



Based on our previous experiences, our expectations of Celebrity were met or exceeded on this cruise. Although there are times when we want to cruise on other lines and ship classes, no other ship designs are as good as the Solstice class ships. (On the other hand, we think that the RCCL Freedom class ships are the best design for families cruising with children.)



Among our favorite features of the ship are:



Blu Restaurant - Wonderful view, attentive staff, the ability to walk in for dinner without a reservation and be seated immediately, and a menu that was good. We were skeptical about Blu prior to the cruise and presumed that we'd choose to eat in the Main Dining Room most evenings. However, we ate in Blu every night but one (the Oceanview Cafe after a long day on shore). While my wife ordered Blu-specific items each night, I ordered some of the "standards" - e.g., New York Strip Steak, Shrimp Cocktail, Caesar Salad - about one out of every three nights. We realized halfway through the cruise that Blu offers very few entrees with potatoes, which was a nice change of pace and saved us a few calories each night.



The Lawn Club - While some people think this is a waste of space, we really like it. On this cruise, there were several events on the lawn including a few 90 minute Wine and Cheese events in the evening. While blankets and throw pillows are set up on the lawn and musical entertainment is provided for free, waiters will serve (for a fee) cheese and wine at your blanket. One night the string quartet played, another night featured the a cappella group and Spanish guitarist. We have wonderful memories of attending one of these during our overnight stay in Istanbul.



Grand Foyer - The public heart of the ship, with musical entertainment during late afternoon and all evening. Quiet and serene during sea days, energetic in the evenings.



Elevators - We think the Solstice class ships have the best elevators at sea. They're fast and seem to be well programmed e.g., not stopping at intermittent floors if the elevator was full. Traveling in the glass enclosed elevators in the main atrium/Grand Foyer made for an interesting ride, especially if you were going several floors.



The Hot Glass Show - While I've seen it several times over a few cruises, it's still interesting to watch for a few minutes whenever I pass by.



Captain's Club Elite member benefits - Between us we received 180 minutes of free internet connection time, complimentary pressing of two clothes items, and two bags (up to 60 pieces) of free laundry. Although we traveled for two weeks, we only packed for eight days knowing that we would be able to have our laundry done midway through our trip.



Captain's Club Social time each evening - Free drinks and munchies before dinner, held in a section of the Sky Observation Lounge.



The "Welcome Back" tent - when the ship docks, the crew assembles a tent-like area (no sides) that has iced towels, cold water, and a few chairs to sit in. Nice feature when returning back to the ship after a long day ashore.



The Sunset bar - near the Lawn Club, overlooking the stern. Wonderful place to watch the world go by as you leave port or a day at sea.



Pool security - one of the few cruises where pool attendants actively and consistently removed towels on "reserved chairs" after no one used them for extended periods of time. Bravo, Celebrity. There were almost always chairs available somewhere.



Ship Entertainment - overall, better than I had expected. Shows in Celebrity Theater were better than average.



The Card Room - while we didn't use the card room, it was nice to see families playing cards and games together at all hours of the day.



Friendly staff - especially in Blu and our cabin steward. Every crewmember greeted us with a "hello" when we passed them in a hall.



Salerno port bus coordinator - We were redirected from our original itinerary docking at Naples to docking in Salerno. There was a bus service between the heavily commercialized dock area and two stops elsewhere in the dock area for boats traveling to Amalfi, Positano and Capri. Later in the day, when we arrived back in Salerno from Amalfi, there was a lone person coordinating the bus service from the Travelmar dock back to the ship. . Everyone was tired by this point of the day, and the line was long and in the sun. Several people tried to jump the line but she held firm. Kudos and our gratitude to this unnamed lady for strictly keeping passengers properly in the queue for the bus.



Fast Embarkation at Civitavecchia - I believe this was mostly due to our status as Captain's Club Elite members and/or Aqua Class cabin passengers. Everyone else seemed to be standing in a long line.



The "good/okay" parts of the ship:



Our AquaClass cabin - The cabin was the size and layout of a standard balcony cabin. Some features were excellent (Blu), some good (upgraded bath products and towels, daily free bottled water and teas) and some were nothing special (the Hansgrohe shower panel, unlimited access to the Persian Garden - although we did enjoy the Relaxation Room at the front of the ship). Also nice was the restriction that AquaClass cabins have a maximum capacity of two passengers. On the other hand, we were right under the pool deck and heard noises a few times. The first evening was particularly annoying as kids were running above us for 20 minutes or so. The noise wasn't so bad that I would recommend against an AquaClass cabin, but I'd be perfectly happy on a lower deck, away from the noise. (Except we really loved Blu, which is an AquaClass perk.)



The exercise area - good selection of exercise equipment with a great view. We used only the treadmills, which were usually available. On days when someone was waiting for a treadmill, the attendant would "remind" a person when their 30 minutes was up. Nice idea.



Pools - Good but very crowded after everyone returned from shore and on sea days. At times the Solarium (air) was too cold.



We were not as happy with:



The lifeboat drill - no one likes lifeboat drills, but this one was worst than most because we were crammed into the photography area which was stuffy. The drill seemed to last longer than most, adding to our frustration with just wanting to get on with the cruise.



Couches in the cabins - The Solstice class cabins that we've been assigned have a white, leather(ette) couch which is uncomfortable to sit or lay on. We used it primarily to lay out clothes for the next day.



The jogging track - We like to walk after breakfast. The jogging track gets narrow (with deck chairs moved into it) and crowded as the morning goes on. Not so much a jogging track as an obstacle course.



Oh Celebrity...why couldn't you have continued the practice of warming the Solarium pools (remember the Thalassotherapy pool?), as with Millennium class ships?



Internet - while the Online Celebrity room was usually staffed, Internet access speed was frustratingly slow. I realize all ships have the same problem, but there must be a more reasonable charge for such poor service. A related item - we really enjoyed the freedom of checking e-mail anywhere, any time using our iPad with the ship's wireless Internet access.



All in all, a splendid cruise to a great collection of ports on a wonderful ship with excellent weather. (Ports reviewed separately.)
maxnest’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin 1582
Best feature of the AquaClass cabins is access to Blu Restaurant. Cabin is on starboard side of ship, which was preferable for this itinerary. Standard size but with upgraded towels and bath products. Nearly directly under walking area between Solarium and outdoor pool so some noise on rare occasions i.e., kids running one evening. Overhang from deck above offers nice shade. Centrally located, high up for good view and lesser motion sensation. Couch uncomfortable to sit on. Two reclining chairs plus slightly larger, higher table which is better for eating on the balcony. Free bottled water and teas provided daily. Not much bathroom counter space. Shower design on Solstice class ships is among the best at sea. Good but not great storage space for multiple week cruise.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Athens (Piraeus)
    Note: The night before arriving at Athens, Celebrity sent a short note to each cabin that included the statements “Recently, strikes and protests have been taking place in Greece, primarily in Athens” and “While in Athens, we recommend that you remain alert to your surroundings and be aware of the potential for spontaneous demonstrations, and avoid large gatherings.” We arrived the first day after three days and nights of strikes and protests. There were no demonstrations or strikes scheduled for our day in port.
    My wife was a bit under the weather on this port day, so I ventured into Athens on my own, via taxi at a cost of 22E including tip. I spent over an hour on the Acropolis and some time at the forum area below. These are great areas for photographers. Entry fee to the Acropolis is 12E each.
    However, one of the highlights of the entire trip was a visit to the new Acropolis Museum. This is a modern, well designed and informative museum! (Unfortunately, no pictures or video allowed inside.) If you like ruins, and the Acropolis in general, the museum is an absolute must see. Allow at least an hour for your visit. Entry fee is 5E per person.
    On my way to Syntagma Square, I visited Hadrian's gate and a temple behind it. Interesting area if you have the time, but don't worry if you don't have the time to visit it.
    Here's where the day gets interesting. I then walked to Syntagma Square. Most of the videos that you've seen of riots in Athens were made here. My nose started to burn, then my eyes, about two blocks from the Square. It was from tear gas left over from the previous night's riots! It bothered me a few more times during the twenty minutes I was in the Square.
    While I was taking video in front of the Parliament building, a Greek TV interviewer and cameraman came up to interview me! At that point I realized that I was the only person in front of the Parliament building. The interview lasted only 30 seconds and they seemed to lose interest when I told them that the tear gas was bothering me. Afterward, I wondered if they were filming an "everything is back to normal" message.
    After a bit more touring, I took the train back to Piraeus. (I boarded at the Monistiraki station just outside the ancient forum area. Trains leave this station in two directions. Make sure you’re on the train platform whose destination is clearly marked as Piraeus.) When the train arrives in Piraeus, the easiest way back to the ship terminal is to exit the train station and proceed directly to the dock area across the street (but don’t enter the dock areas, stay outside the fence along the main road.) Then walk for 25 minutes with the water always to your right until you reach the ship terminal, which is on the other side of the port. It’s a safe walk, easy to do. The cost of the train was 1.6E from Athens to Piraeus.
    Athens can be a hot, dry city. Plan your day well, drink plenty of water, and wear comfortable shoes.
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  • Istanbul
    What an incredible city to visit! While Celebrity provides a shuttle between the dock and the Grand Bazaar ($10 each for the day), we used a taxi (10E, which was way too much) and the modern public tram from the dock to the "Old City" tourist area (cost of 1.75TL each from Old City to dock).
    In the Old City, we visited the Topkapi Palace, Haga Sophia (AyaSofia), Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar.
    My favorite was the Hagia Sophia Museum (Ayasofia Muzesi). This former Christian basilica is now a museum. It’s not a “museum” in the traditional sense and the interior retains centuries old wall decorations and paintings. Do not miss this site. Entry fee was 20TL each.
    At the Topkapi Palace, we visited the Chamber of Ancient Relics where we saw the staff that Moses used to split the Red Sea, sword of David (of Goliath fame), arm and a piece of the skull of St John the Baptist, and relics of the Prophet Muhammad. In the nearby Chamber of Treasury was an incredible collection of jewels and artifacts. Also worth walking to was the Baghdad Pavilion. The cost of entry to the Topkapi Palace was 20TL each.
    The Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque was interesting, but not as compelling as I had expected. Each person is required to cover their legs and shoulders. We prepared for this by wearing long pants (me) and Capri pants (my wife). However, if you arrive wearing shorts or a top that exposes your shoulders, you will be provided with a cloth wrap to cover yourself. You’ll also be required to remove your shoes before entering, with a plastic bag available to carry your shoes in. There is no entry fee.
    The Basilica Cistern, located underground with an entrance across the street from the Hagia Sophia, made for a short, cool respite from the heat of the day. Worth a 30 minute visit. Entry fee was 10TL.
    We entered the Grand Bazaar twice, once getting lost on our exit. The Bazaar is overwhelming to the senses, which may make it a less desirable shopping experience than you expect. In general, we found better bargains at the small shops and vendors in the area outside the Bazaar. Overall, worth a visit, but you may not want to spend all day inside.
    Last stop was at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, located on the edge of the Hippodrome. Very interesting if you have the time. Entry fee was 10TL each.
    By the way, the cruise up the Dardenelles from the Aegean Sea into Istanbul makes for some great near shore sightseeing. Make sure you’re up on deck for at least some portion of the multi-hour transit.
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  • Kusadasi
    The main attraction at this port isn't Kusadasi itself. Rather, the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus are the highlight of the area.
    We used the services of Ephesus Shuttle to visit the Ephesus area. My review of their excellent service can be found on TripAdvisor.com at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g297972-d1916582-r115553038-Ephesus_Shuttle_Tour-Kusadasi_Turkish_Aegean_Coast.html#REVIEWS
    First we visited the House of the Virgin Mary. It's believed that this is the house that Mary lived out her life after the death of Jesus Christ. She was watched over by St. John, who brought her here and who lived in nearby Ephesus. This site is very well maintained and worth a visit if you’re religious. Note that while the foundation and some footer stones on one side of the house are original, most of the house is rebuilt over the centuries. Entry fee was 13TL each.
    Ephesus has some of the best, most well preserved ruins I've ever seen. In particular, the Terrace Houses are a must see. The entrance fee to the Ephesus Archaeological Site is 20TL each, while the Terrace Houses (inside of the Archaeological Area) are optional at an additional fee of 15TL each.
    Our last stop was at the St. John Basilica, where many believe St. John (one of Christ’s Apostles) is buried. While interesting, it paled in comparison to the other sites we saw that day. Entrance fee was 5TL each. This seems like a great area for exploration. We found Turkish people to be among the friendliest anywhere.
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  • Mykonos
    We found Mykonos to be the least interesting of the ports on our cruise, although we stayed in the town and didn't venture out to other parts of the island. Visitors to beaches and areas outside the town seemed impressed.
    Two of the most interesting aspects of Mykonos are the many twisted, narrow streets that run through the city and the windmills, which can easily be reached on foot.
    The dock is within sight of the town but could make for a difficult and dangerous walk (due to traffic). Celebrity ran a shuttle service from the dock to the north edge of town. The fee was $10 each passenger for the entire day.
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  • Naples
    Due to an overcrowded port day in Naples, our ship was redirected to the port of Salerno. This was a pleasant surprise since we'd visited Naples on three previous occasions.

    We took the local boat service (Travlemar) from the port of Salerno to Positano. Positano is a very picturesque village that rises from sea level up into the surrounding ravine. I highly recommend taking a walk up from the main beach area to the southern SITA bus stop for some great pictures. Along the way we passed several small shops, restaurants and bars.

    From Positano we took the local boat service to Amalfi. We didn't find Amalfi to be as pretty or as interesting as Positano, but the surrounding area is quite incredible. We then traveled by boat back to Salerno. The total cost for boat tickets was 25E each.

    Our day of travel lasted about 7 hours over the two ports.
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  • Rome (Civitavecchia)
    Having been to Rome for "day-trips" on previous cruises, we wanted to spend a few days and nights in the Eternal City. We made independent reservations at the Rome Cavalieri (our review of the hotel can be found on TripAdvisor at http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g187791-d190138-r115456134-Rome_Cavalieri_Waldorf_Astoria_Hotels_Resorts-Rome_Lazio.html).
    We had pre-ordered tickets (from the on-line Vatican ticket site) to visit the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. I highly recommend this versus booking with an agency or buying your ticket when you arrive. (With our pre-order in hand, we bypassed a very long line of people waiting to purchase their tickets.) It took us 2.5 hours to complete our visit, which was hot and crowded. (There were many cruise passengers on ship tours.)
    Since we had very little sleep since leaving the US the day before, we ate dinner at a small pizzeria and returned to our hotel for a great night's rest.
    The next day we visited the Pantheon (one of my favorites), the Spanish Steps (nice for pictures, but a bit out of the way), the Trevi Fountain (very crowded but a must see), the "Wedding Cake" (the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II, good but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it) and the Piazza Navona (a must see, especially in the evening).
    One of the most pleasant, out of the ordinary sites we visited was the Basilica of San Clemente, which is just east of the Colosseum area. The unassuming church exterior encompasses three levels of building, each of which you can tour - the main floor Basilica (from the 1100s), an excavated area beneath it containing a fourth century basilica, and an excavated area beneath which is the ruins of the home of a Roman nobleman destroyed in the Great Fire of 64AD. The Basilica is a bit difficult to find but well worth the visit.
    After a brief afternoon respite at our hotel (including a nice, cool swim), we went back into the city and had dinner outside at the "Night and Day" Bar Ristorante located in the Pantheon Piazza.
    Before returning to the hotel for the night, we spent some time in the Piazza Navona, just as dusk we settling in. The piazza is lively in the evening. If you're looking for a place for dinner, a drink or some people watching, this is where you want to be.
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  • Santorini
    If you've seen tourism posters of "Greek Islands" that show a view from high up down to the sea, over a blue, round roof atop whitewashed buildings, you've probably seen a view from Santorini.
    Santorini is part of a large volcanic caldera, in which your ship drops anchor. From the sea, there are only four ways to reach the main city of Thira, which is 400 meters above the dock: ship's excursion tour bus (board at a different location), walk up, ride a donkey up, or take a cable car.
    After waiting in the cable car line for approximately 30 minutes, we arrived at Thira and made our way to the local bus stop, about 10 minutes away. We then took the local public bus to Oia, from which the previously mentioned "Greek Islands" view can be found. The bus was crowded, with some people standing, and took about 25 minutes to get to Oia. At times, the view from the bus can be incredible. The cost of the cable car was 4E each person each direction. The cost of the public bus from Thira to Oia was 1.6E each person each direction.
    Oia is basically a tourist trap with a great view and plenty of small shops, restaurants and bars overlooking the sea. If you go to Santorini, you must go to Oia.
    On a previous visit to Santorini, we had rented a car and driven around the island. I encourage you to do this if you have the time. It's an island - you can't get lost.
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