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2 Middle East Spa Cruise Reviews

We decided to go to Venice and Florence for a pre-cruise vacation prior to embarkation. Venice was as magical as we remembered and our stay at the Locanda Orseolo was perfect. This was our second stay, and the owners and staff are the ... Read More
We decided to go to Venice and Florence for a pre-cruise vacation prior to embarkation. Venice was as magical as we remembered and our stay at the Locanda Orseolo was perfect. This was our second stay, and the owners and staff are the consummate hosts. The hotel is in a great location being in a quiet area right off of St. Marks Square. Florence was a nice stay at the Hotel David. The hotel is a very good value, extremely clean with lots of hospitality touches. The location is a little off the beaten path. It was fine for us because we are avid walkers, but it might not be for those with mobility issues. The train ride from Florence to Civitavecchia was easy. Upon arrival in Civitavecchia we caught a cab to the port. Embarkation was smooth. There was a separate line for guests in Aqua Class, but it seemed that all lines moved efficiently. We were a bit concerned about having to check our passports with the ship, probably more out of fear that we would lose our claim checks than of the ship losing our passports. We always travel with multiple copies of our passports, so in the event we would have to get replacements it might help. Since our itinerary included stops in Egypt and Israel, we understood the reasons for the passport collections. Our first impression of Equinox was WOW! The ship is stunning;every attention to detail was made. The ship is sleek, modern, sophisticated and has an understated elegance. The centerpiece of the atrium is a huge tree suspended in a gorgeous colorful crystal planter. It combines art and nature and it made me smile every time I rode the glass elevators and read the signage "Here Comes the Sun". We were so happy we booked in Aqua Class. We enjoyed the private access to the spa and the Persian Gardens were wonderful. The little perks (daily bottled water, fruit, flavored teas) were nice, but the best part to us was dining in Blu. We absolutely loved it. The cuisine was a bit lighter than what is typically served in main dining rooms. The fish entrees were divine and the intimate setting had us hooked. It was evident that the staff worked as a team, but kudos to Gusti and Artur who were generally our head waiter and assistant. They were exceptional and made our dining experience outstanding. We had one little hiccup with the sommelier, but it was quickly and courteously corrected. The ambiance in Blu is beautiful and we looked forward every evening to eating there. Our cabin was extremely comfortable. The bathroom was spacious and felt full size. The vessel sink, glass tiles, fantastic shower all gave it a "spa" feel. We also liked the fact that the automatic fan kept the mirror and glass shower from fogging which added to the spacious feel. The bed was great and the linens are of high quality. Our cabin stewardess Elvie worked very hard to make sure everything was perfect in our cabin. She was delightful to talk to and made us feel like we were coming home every time we saw her in the hall or near our cabin. Some of our favorite spots on Equinox were Bistro on 5, we ate lunch there multiple times and loved the Parisian crepe for dessert. My husband, who has a sweet tooth also enjoyed the desserts at the Cafe Al Bacio along with a specialty coffee. The cruise director, Drew Pavlov was the best one we have had on all of our cruises. He was funny, articulate, and informative. We enjoyed his MC'ing, his silly nightly jokes and the late night game "Liar's Club". We also enjoyed the battle of the chefs. I got to be a "Celebrity" judge which was a lot of fun. The entertainment on the ship was mostly hits with a few misses. The West End show singer was very good, as was the violinist. The stage shows were average, and the comedienne was not very funny. The Cirque de Soleil show looked to be spectacular, however the theater was packed and even though we arrived a few minutes before the late show started we ended up having to stand and really could not see much. My suggestion would be to have reservations, or some type of ticketing like RCL does for their ice shows. We attended the hot glass show and it was very interesting. I wish the glass items could be sold but understand that it is a non-profit. We can not say enough great things about Equinox. The staff was unbelievable, friendly, polite, hard working and attentive. The ship is beautiful, and pristine. We will definitely be back for future vacations. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
Day 1 - Embarkation is really quick and easy in Barcelona. I have done it twice and it has taken less than twenty minutes to get on the ship both times. Lunch at the Windjammer before mid-day! Had a good tour of the ship before muster, ... Read More
Day 1 - Embarkation is really quick and easy in Barcelona. I have done it twice and it has taken less than twenty minutes to get on the ship both times. Lunch at the Windjammer before mid-day! Had a good tour of the ship before muster, which did not include those dirty life-jackets that no-one wants to drag over their head. We watched a quick change show called Flash & Fever, which wasn't very good. My Time Dining was smooth and efficient and it was an all round relaxing first day. Day 2 - A strange noise in our cabin kept us awake most of the night, and although we told the front desk, they said call us when it happens again, which wasn't particularly helpful. However, full English breakfast at the Windjammer (including nearly cooked sausages!), was followed by the Crown & Anchor talk where we won a lint roller in the raffle. Yes, a lint roller! Gordon the cruise director comes from a small village a mile or so away from us in England so we had a bit of a chat. We did the afternoon quiz with a nice couple from Minnesota - it was too cold to relax on the top deck. It was formal night so we dressed up to watch five minutes of a "Broadway" show. The dinner was however great, although the lobster appears to have shrunk to shrimp size and has been re-named shrimp. Day 3 - The strange suction noise was back, which prompted DW to have another little chat with the front desk. This time they said that as soon as we heard it, whatever time, to call and they would send someone to sort it out. I staggered out of the gym like I had done 15 rounds with Iron Mike before breakfast wondering whether 15 minutes of looking at exercise machines should really be that tiring. We went to see "Gotta Dance", 'a nice family film' in the movie theatre, but most of the day was spent reading in the Solarium wondering what real sunshine felt like. Bruce Parker, the Motown singer, was great and so was dinner. No sooner had we got into bed and the noise was back. This time a plumber came immediately and sleep was restored. Day 4 - Actually went on one of the scary gym machines today. Fortunately paramedics were on hand to helicopter me to the Windjammer for breakfast. Went to a pyramids lecture in the theatre that, with the lights on, looks a bit like our village hall - except not quite as smart. It really needs refurbishing RCI. Erky from Turkey did his "Who Wants To Be A Royal Caribbeanaire" quiz, and I have to say he was hilarious. I couldn't believe RCI have been lucky enough to have this guy for seven years and he isn't even assistant cruise director. Easily the most talented cruise staff member we have ever come across. Watched another movie; something with Eddie Murphy in, before an afternoon beer and a quiz. The entertainment for this evening was Tommy Bond, a superb pianist. Now I don't want to sound like a bit of a heathen, but I felt under-whelmed - there are plenty of talented musicians in the band, to have one as a headline act was a little like watching a recital. Just my personal opinion, but I don't think it was good enough for a cruise ship - he was, but not as a show. Day 5 - Alexandria, Egypt day. We had arranged a tour to Cairo with Ramses via the Roll Call board on Cruise Critic. Three couples joined us for a trip that cost literally half what the cruise line were charging. Sammo, our guide, was great, and despite a false dawn, where the captain explained we may have to go to Port Said and delay the stop for a day, off we set at around the speed of light on a motorway journey of around three hours. Before we knew it the fog had been replaced by smog and the pyramids were in sight. They are of course magnificent, but I couldn't help but pay closer attention to school-kids running up and down them, trashy tourist camel rides, hawkers, and poor little kids trying to sell us postcards for, "One dollar mister." As the world's most precious monument to history I couldn't help but think it should be given to someone who would look after it better like UNESCO. The Sphinx was perhaps more impressive, although a lot smaller than I expected. Obligatory tourist photos of a strategically placed hand patting said Sphinx or holding up the Great Pyramid were taken before a trip down the Nile on a Faluka to the Hard Rock Cafe, where we had lunch, before a quick trip to the papyrus factory and the night race back to the ship. Interesting Fact: Cairo has no traffic lights and no traffic jams. Day 6 - The rowing machine was broken in the gym, which ruined all my plans for a six hour marathon work-out, so I was restricted to fifteen minutes of standing around the water cooler before racing to the loungers to stare at the sun for the morning. It was handbags at dawn in some cases, as chairs mysteriously had towels strategically wrapped around them even before the towel station opened. Went to the main restaurant for lunch, which made a pleasant change - the salad on offer was superb. Watched the Russell Crowe movie "State of Play" in the cinema. It was another formal night and although I didn't see it on the menu I did walk past a mirror and noticed that they did indeed lobster on the ship. We joined up with another couple to win the Mind Quiz in the Colony Lounge. The canvas wallets will be treasured forever. Day 7 - Suez Canal day. Undoubtedly the best day of the cruise - which included sunbathing, leaning over the balcony rail for several hours and waving to Egyptian soldiers on manoeuvres, all to the back-drop of an excited Captain Zinny, who was completing his collection of the world's seven great canals, and told us everything we wanted to know ($500,000 for our ship to go through). The day it took to go through the canal in line with a convoy of ships through a night and a day was the best cruise experience I have had. Christopher Caress, the hypnotist was the evening's entertainment - having never seen this sort of act before I enjoyed it. It may even have been genuine. Gordon did the Love and Marriage show a little later, which was just as much fun as usual. Day 8 - Aqaba, Jordan day. A regret was that we did not go to Petra. Everyone that did go said it was a fantastic experience. We made do with a trip into the coastal resort, which was a bit rubbish, and a day of sunbathing and reading on the boat. Fortunately, I had the gym to myself - it is a shame no-one saw me bench double my body weight. Day 9 - Safaga, Egypt day. When looking out at the port, there were lines of Saudi traders with carts full of what appeared to be junk. It was interesting watching them, and a little sad too. Thirty-something coaches departed for Luxor and several more were lined up to take us to Safaga, an Egyptian beach resort. Except they didn't. We arrived at a Holiday Inn some miles down the road and taxi drivers began in earnest. Everyone got back on the coach and returned to the ship. I spoke to the front desk who arranged for a disgruntled Gordon to tell everyone over the ship's tannoy that the coach trip were not exactly as described to them! Another day in the sun, reading, beckoned. There wasn't too much arranged on the ship and the Big Band experience in the theatre held no interest for us. However, this was our wedding anniversary so we decided on a trip to Chops Grill. Having only experienced premium dining on Carnival before I can sadly report that it was not even a close contest. The food was good, so was the service, but the ambience, experience, food quality and presentation, simply could not match that offered by RCI's rival. Oh, and the cheapest wine was $35, an absolute rip-off. Day 10 - Today began by working up a sweat going to the gym again, we prepared for another day of sunbathing. This time in 40 knot winds, which was a little unfortunate. Tonight was another formal night, which featured a Celine Dion impersonator. Now I wouldn't accept a five pound note to watch the Canadian warbler if she was performing in my garden shed, so I won't be a fair judge, but those that like that sort of stuff said Tracy from Coventry was great. I had given up on the lobster by this stage, but the lamb was very nice. The Battle of the Sexes game show was fun, and I was quite chuffed with myself for winning the sports trivia quiz on my own against six strong teams, ha! Day 11 - Apologies if this report gets a little samey here, but it was another windy day in the sun with little to do aboard. The evening was much better though. Martin Brock, a 24 year old Danish magician offered a youthful alternative to the usual fayre offered by his colleagues and peers. And tonight was the night I got to see RCI's famous Quest game. To this day, I still don't know whether I found the sight of people running around with false teeth dripping with octogenarian saliva in their hands, and 70 year old men in bras and lipstick, the funniest thing I will ever see, or the most disturbing! Day 12 - The six pack was coming along nicely, so a Windjammer fry up was well earned. Today's highlights featured Dollar Origami with Erky, who had us in fits while showing us how to make a T-shirt out of a dollar. Blew the '70's music trivia quiz by a point, and another glorious wallet went begging. Doh! The evening show was the East Coast Boys, a tribute to Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. Even if you didn't like them, this was top drawer stuff. The best show of the trip. It was also the '70's Disco Party, which was fun. We visited the Starquest Disco afterwards, but I think it was a bit late for the premium age guests, and we skipped passed the tumbleweed before retiring. Interesting Fact: Somali pirates have no chance whatsoever against a cruise ship, but the captain will keep you well informed and make you feel part of the action, as it were. Day 13 - The regulars applauded as I entered the gym today. Ten minutes on the cycling machine and the staff were asking for autographs. And off to the Windjammer we go. My friend at the omelette station had been enjoying miscommunication contests for much of the cruise, but today I got what I ordered; a shame really, I was enjoying the unpredictability of it all. Today was the 'prove we've been on holiday to everyone at home day' as we attempted roasting our bodies in the glorious sunshine. Lunch at the main restaurant was followed by some more Dollar Origami with Erky - I think we were his groupies by this stage! Won the Staff trivia quiz afterwards, and I can assure you the caps will be treasured forever. Not so successful at the Beatles Trivia, and wasn't really into the Tango headline show, although everyone said it was great. It was really windy on the top deck so we just had to go to the pool party. And it was indeed amusing in an existential fashion - we just wanted to see how hard people would try to enjoy themselves. Day 14 - By now I was institutionalised. Up on top deck walking around at 5am waiting for the gym to open before two breakfasts: One on my own, and an official one with DW. Another sunny day, but without so much wind. I went to the Dubai lecture and walked out after learning the lecture had only skim-read the Penguin Introduction to Arab Folk once. A guy we had done a few of the quizzes with won $2,000 at Bingo that day, and we were most pleased for him. The Farwell Show featured aerial acrobatics that put all bar one of the previous shows to shame. Gordon belted out a couple of tunes and it was a very good show. A really nice thing was seeing everyone finding the friends they had made on the trip and exchanging phone numbers etc. It was a really nice last night all round. Day 15 - Up early and allegedly in the first bunch off the ship. It was chaos. The immigration officer was not on board to stamp passports, and although the staff did their best, they really were not prepared. A lot of old people were getting very fed up. We eventually found our way off the ship - it was not signed, so we visited several decks, and made our way into the hangar style luggage scrum. Our bags were supposed to be among the first out, but came out about an hour later. When we eventually waved our goodbyes to the ship we raced off to a whistle stop tour of Dubai before our long and tiring journey home. Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas: A tired and in some places tatty ship that is contrarily well maintained and good looking - If that neat contradiction makes sense. The pool area was too small for the number of passengers. The theatre is in desperate need of refurbishment. The Windjammer, conversely, looks as good as new and the main areas were all fine. The Seaview Cafe was shiny, as was the foyer. Having said all that a Thompson ship was parked behind us at Safaga and it could have fit into one of Brilliance's lifeboats, and the QE2 was docked behind us at Dubai and that looked like a dinghy. The Experience: This was most certainly a cruise for the oldies, but oldies are more fun that youngsters so we had a great time with people twice our age. My 3* rating for this cruise is not meant to sound harsh, I genuinely don't know how everyone has a five out of five experience on every different ship, with different weather conditions and different ports every time. This was a thoroughly enjoyable trip on a perhaps once great ship, with superb staff and incredible ports of call for history buffs, if you like that sort of thing. Classic Cruise Tip: If you are going on a transition cruise and want a balcony to enjoy the sun, before you go make sure you want to be Port or Starboard. We were lucky to have the sunshine all day every day. Erky's quiz question: How many Teets does a dog have? Answer: 42 Teeth. Yes, teets, that's what I said. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010

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