After many weeks of research, debate, and planning, we finally decided on this Celebrity Equinox Transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Rome, followed by an additional week in Rome, (preceded by a long weekend in Fort Lauderdale).
We were taking our yearly major vacation, as well as celebrating a milestone birthday, so the trip needed to be special and unique. We can't imagine making a better choice than this cruise.
We booked through American Express, using many points and cash, because AMEX provided at least one category upgrade and other perks. We booked a veranda stateroom on Deck 7 in the middle of the ship. The location was perfect with the entrance to the corridor just off the Team Earth space overlooking the Atrium. Loved it.
Stayed the weekend at the W Hotel, right on the beach. Got upgraded to a 1400 sq. ft. suite which was actually in the condo tower of the hotel. It was very luxurious and at first we thought it was a bit over the top in size for just a weekend, but then it rained all weekend, and we were happy to have so much space to hang out. The service was top-notch. Though the main lobby/bar (under the pool- literally and visually) was packed and hopping on Saturday night with a great DJ and lots of PYTs drinking and dancing the night away, the same space was a quiet, comfortable space for coffee in the morning, or for reading in the afternoon over a glass of wine. Major bonus: Acura is previewing its new SUV, and offered reserved chauffeured rides to most anywhere within a 5 mile radius. We used this free service to get to the Galleria, and more ly - to the Equinox on cruise day!
We had read several reviews that suggested arriving LATER on embarkation day than the masses. We took this advice (we were in no hurry to leave the W) and arrived around 3:00PM to an empty terminal. We walked straight to the check-in desk and then immediately onboard. The entire process took about ten minutes. The sheer size of the terminal, with thousands of seats, let us know that we made the right decision. Instead of waiting in what had to be a noisy crowded hall for hours, we enjoyed a great lunch at a beachside cafe, made some last minute calls, and read the morning paper. We were greeted on board with glasses of champagne and were soon on our way. The Ship
Equinox has been described many times in previous reviews, so I won't repeat except to say that despite all of our research and belief that we knew what to expect - Equinox is bigger, more beautiful, better designed, and frankly, just more fabulous than we expected. Wow is the word. The Cabin
After spending the weekend in 1400 sq. ft. of luxury at the W, we prepared for a big letdown in our 200 sq. ft. veranda cabin. No worries, it was perfect. Comfortable size, big balcony, just the right amount of storage, spacious bathroom, big flatscreen TV, modern fabrics and finishes. Our luggage was delivered within an hour. We unpacked and were relieved that all four bags fit under the bed. We filled the closet, overbed bins all the drawers, and the bookshelves. Perfect fit. BTW, the balcony/veranda was much larger than we expected with comfortable chairs and plenty of room to walk around. There is a great selection of movies available; but the surprise was the music catalogue. They had everything. We never used our iPods in the cabin as intended.
Let me preface this by stating we had never taken a cruise before. Many friends and fellow travelers were quite surprised that we chose a 14 day transatlantic on a luxury ship as our first, but we decided that if we were going to do a cruise we'd go all the way.
We also wanted the many sea days to allow us to actually relax, recharge, and be able to enjoy the whole experience. We typically vacation in major cities, fully booked all day and night, and we wanted frankly, a big chill of a trip. No stress, no rushing, no email, no responsibilities. We were not disappointed.
Celebrity delivered on every count. Every crew member encountered over the two weeks was professional, kind, and courteous. We wondered how they could maintain such good spirits, especially after so many straight days at sea, and with fellow passengers sometimes acting like spoiled brats at best, and rude idiots at worst. Two thumbs up for the crew, and to Celebrity's HR Dept. Our room attendant, Frank, was unobtrusive while always taking great care of the cabin and every request.
We were actually surprised at the low-key demeanor of the staff. There was no high pressure hard-selling of drinks by the pool waiters, no pressure to buy trinkets, no rushing - ever, nothing seemed to be a problem. Nice.
One of the most impressive aspects of this cruise was how clean the ship was at all times. Crew members were constantly cleaning. Day and night. Even cleaning outdoor glass railings in the rain. The ship was spotless.
We were booked in Silhouette for the late seating; 6:00PM is far too early for us to have dinner. We booked a table for two instead of a common table of ten. At first we thought we might prefer sitting with strangers at a big table, but in the end we were glad that we chose a two-top. The couples at the tables on either side of ours became fast friends, and we all looked forward to seeing each other at dinner every night; sharing stories, advice, planning to attend events together, and sharing bottles of wine. Perfect.
The food was exceptional from day one to day fourteen. We ate dinner in Silhouette most nights and were rarely disappointed. Lots of choices, meats always cooked as requested, wonderful appetizers, great salads, good soups, and again - great staff. Our waiter and his two assistants (Tamara and Aleksander) were wonderful. Our sommelier was fun and provided good advice and perfect service. It was nice that unfinished bottles were stored until you wanted to finish them, and could be sent to any of the dining venues by request.
We also ate breakfast at Silhouette a couple of times, and highly recommend the Express Breakfast there on port days. We also ordered breakfast from room service which arrived hot and on time. Typically we had breakfast from the buffet stations in the Oceanview Cafe. The Oceanview was the spot for decent sushi in the afternoon, late-night pizzas, and lunch almost every day. The variety was welcome, we never had a problem finding a table, and the crew as always was on the ball.
We dined in Murano for my partner's birthday and it could not have been better. The food, including an amuse bouche of salmon mousse, escargots in puff pastry, fois gras, the thickest, perfectly grilled lamb chops, filet mignon, lobster tail, a fantastic cheese course selected from a beautiful cart, and delicious desserts was more than worth the surcharge. A meal of this quality would have cost us $300 back home, here it was $60. Service was as good as it gets. Bravo to the chef and staff at Murano.
We had fantastic savory and sweet crepes at Bistro on Five, and had cappuccinos every afternoon at Bacio and gelatos there too. We ate lunch at the AquaSpa Cafe one day and had burgers at the Mast Cafe on another. We attended food tastings and a paid wine tasting, all were fun and good.
We opted not to buy any of the drink packages. We wish that they offered a package that included wine, beer, and cocktails because we like it all. Buying a separate package for every liquor type would have cost thousands. As it was, we drank plenty.
We highly recommend the Martini Sampler at the Martini Bar. I won't describe it except to say that we innocently ordered two on the second night of the cruise, and quickly made many new friends at the Martini Bar. The preparation and service of the Sampler is quite a spectacle. Jaws dropped, including our own. The best $37 spent in a long time. Speaking of drink prices; cocktails were excellent with generous pours at half the price of similar drinks at the W. Very reasonable.
I can honestly say that this trip was made even better than it had to be by a great member of the crew, Marko, a bartender in the Sky Lounge. Celebrity should be grateful that Marko is there because we definitely spent more and enjoyed evenings more because of Marko. He provided great drinks, fun conversation, perfect service, and made us and the many regulars at his bar feel like we were all old friends hanging out at our neighborhood bar. Even when we only had coffee, it was a better experience at "Marko's bar".
We were warned that this cruise would be more sedate than the Caribbean cruises, with an older, more sophisticated crowd, and this was the case. We were half the age of half the passengers, but loved it. We met some incredibly interesting people of all ages from all over the globe; world-travelers with lots of stories to tell. Though the disco and bars were not packed after midnight, we found enough younger passengers and some who were young at heart to have a blast whenever we wanted. Got to give it up to hard-partying (and incredibly well-dressed) Italian women, and the never-stop-dancing group of ladies from Mexico City who made some of the nights even more fun. There were people from so many countries, due in part to the many flights cancelled by the volcano, that if you are even remotely social you could have met many fun people and had a great time.
Actually, anyone who could not or did not have a great time on this cruise probably should have just stayed home.
We enjoyed the shows that we saw, though we missed more than we attended. We regretted missing some, but we were just being lazy. One of the best and most surprising things about this ship was just how easy it was to find quiet places to read or nap or just chill. With thousands on board, we never felt crowded, never felt rushed, never waited an unusual time for anything. There are musical groups all over the ship all the time, but they are easy to avoid if you want peace and quiet. BTW, we never heard a thing while in our cabin. Sound isolation is outstanding.
The gym was big, well-equipped, and using it was mandatory considering how much we ate everyday. The spa was beautiful. We splurged on a couples massage, facial, and reflexology multi-hour experience. It was very relaxing, but perhaps we are spoiled by Bliss Spas, because the treatments were not up to our expectations. Many others loved it though, so maybe it's just personal preference.
The Corning Museum of Glass shows were very good. If you've never seem artistic glass-blowing, you should love it. If you been to the Hot Shop at the Tacoma Museum of Glass, you won't be blown away. Either way, it's worth an hour of your time.
We're not gamblers, but we spent some time in the Casino at the slots and watching the regulars. It's entertaining even if you don't gamble.
The shops were very nice. We only wish the Men's store had a larger selection. We were happy to find that prices on everything, from cocktails, to souvenirs were NOT outrageous and, in fact, were usually much less than we expected.
There is so much to do and so many venues to experience, that we intend a return to Equinox just to get to all the things we missed.
Ports We enjoyed Lisbon, Cadiz, Seville, Barcelona, Villefranche, and Monaco. I won't describe these days except to say that getting off and on the ship was easy and seamless. We enjoyed every port and city. The only negative was that the amount of time on shore was always too little. We'd prefer dropping a port and allowing more time in the others. We do know from our quick tastes that we will return to Seville and Barcelona soon. We travel quite a bit and are very comfortable striking out on our own. We're not tour bus types, and found it easy to get where we wanted to go in each city. We used local subways and trains in most places, and even rented bikes for the day (5 hours) in Seville.
Reaching the port Civitavecchia was almost a disappointment. We were ready for Rome, but not ready to leave Equinox - even after two weeks. We could do a back-to-back in a heartbeat.
We took the shuttle from the dock to the port entrance and then walked our luggage the ¼ mile to the train station. Try to buy tickets on an Express train to Rome; we were at Termini Station in a flash. The station is busy and crowded, but nothing compared to NY's Grand Central, so no need to be intimidated. We made our way to the taxi stand and were at our hotel, the St. Regis Grand in five minutes. The hotel is a Cesar Ritz original, grand without being ostentatious, and ideally located. We were upgraded to a suite, complete with butler service. Gorgeous, spacious, luxurious with perfect service about sums up the experience.
This was our first major cruise, so the only references we have to compare it against are our other travel experiences. Overall, we LOVED the Equinox; the ship, the crew, the food, the experience. Compared to our vacations to Paris, London, Vancouver, Playa del Carmen and just about every major American city, there is no comparison when costs are considered. This cruise, including our drink tab, spa bill, excursions, extras, and tips costs much less per day (less than half) than any significant vacation we've ever taken. Just our hotel in London cost more for one week than the total costs of this 14 day cruise. This cruise wins, hands down, when comparing value. We are checking our calendars already planning the next Celebrity cruise. We hope to return to Equinox.
Furthermore, without exception, every seasoned cruiser that we met on Equinox told us that the ship was the best they'd experienced. Even some who had been on 30, 40, even 72 cruises, all said Equinox was the best, especially the best value compared to Silverseas, Oceania, Seabourn, or some of the others that costs 2X or 3X as much per day.
We think that Celebrity has two new devotees who will be returning sooner than later. Read Less