So much has been written about the Celebrity Equinox that I will limit most of my review to suggestions about how to enjoy the ship and the (transatlantic) ports of call. It is difficult to imagine a cruise that comes closer to ideal than our Equinox transatlantic cruise (Nov.28 - Dec.12, 2011), which sailed from Rome (Civitavecchia) to Ft. Lauderdale, spending a week in the western Mediterranean and a week crossing the Atlantic. The Equinox is a beautiful ship and the crew could not be better-trained or more enthusiastic. Everyone, from the crew members who daily polished the stair railings to the cabin stewards to the wait staff to the senior officers and personable cruise director (named Que, pronounced Q), made every effort to insure that passengers had a wonderful time. The ship is German-built, and no expense seems to have been spared. It is like owning a Mercedes -- every detail is well-designed and expertly crafted, and one notices something new and beautiful about it every day. The cabins are modular and arranged in pairs, with a curved wall between each pair and a flat wall between each module. That maximizesthe space around the bed, which is in the bump out, while minimizing the total space required. This dual cabin module is a feature of inside, outside and balcony cabins, but not the larger suites. This means that cabins alternate between having the bed near the door or near the windows. It also means that cabins can be joined at the entryway, rather than having a pass through door, which can be noisy. When choosing a cabin, make sure you specify your floor plan preference. Keep in mind that the pool deck has a major overhang, and the balconies just below it are in the shade. Also, aft balconies are tiered, so they are sunnier but less private, and may have some soot from the stacks. The public areas are gorgeous and well-used on sea days. There seemed to be something going on to satisfy any taste. The enrichment lectures (three academics) and the classical musicians were fantastic. As usual, everything musical is over-amplified, so take your earplugs to all events, especially the stage shows and the talented a capella quartet. People often discuss cruise food and sometimes sound like the princess-and-the-pea: they niggle about minor details without enjoying the major pleasures. We found the food on the Equinox second to none, including our experience with luxury lines like Silversea. There are several elegant and popular alternative restaurants on the Equinox, but we tried none: dining in the main dining room was a pleasure and we felt no need to pay the hefty surcharges for alternative dining. Each menu was imaginative and beautifully presented, which is a feat considering the length of the cruise. The beef was not prime in the main dining areas, but it was flavorful, and the fish was always ideally cooked (rare when requested for game fish like tuna, well done but rarely dry for white fish). Appetizers were so tempting that we usually had two and skipped the soups and salads, which are also excellent. We had open ("Select") dining, which required pre-paid gratuities. There was never a wait early (6pm) or late (8pm), but there was usually a line at peak times (7pm). It was enjoyable to have new dinner guests each evening. The wait staff was amazing: they were good menu consultants, attentive, and very professional. The maitre d's (ours was the lovely Amelia) also did an excellent job, especially since everyone seems to want extra attention. They were always patient and cordial. Desserts are my downfall. To avoid doubling them at dinner, I stopped by the El Bacio coffee lounge each afternoon and had a sampling of the desserts there (no surcharge for the desserts). The buffet had excellent made-to-order hot items and wonderful cold foods, from salads to sandwiches to (free) ice cream. As usual, hot foods from the buffet steam trays tended to be over-cooked, which is almost impossible to avoid with self-service, but they were still flavorful. Best of all, there is a rear deck off the buffet where one can enjoy one's meal al fresco. One thing to keep in mind is that hand washing is more effective than gels at killing viruses (but gels are great for bacteria), so we always wash hands after touching any buffet tongs and before eating (most people just gel before entering the buffet area). There is a hand wash station (but only one) portside aft in the buffet area, next to a coffee station. No one else used it. The poolside grill is actually one deck up from the pool. People loved the burgers and fries there, but not the lines. We skipped lunches there, but nibbled on a napkin-full of fries when we did our deck walk before dinner each evening. They are the best fries in the world, and worth the calories. The gym is busy on sea day mornings: treadmills filled up and their use was limited to 30 minutes. Instead, consider the free stretch and ab routines run by the cordial personal trainers each morning at 0700 and 0730. When the weather is good, the class uses the top deck lawn. A lawn on a ship sounds crazy, but it is heavenly to watch the sunrise as one stretches on the (real) grass. The outdoor hot glass show also seems like a crazy idea on a ship, but it is wonderfully informative and entertaining. The three Corning glassblowers were very talented and a pleasure to watch, almost daily. They raffle a few of their items each cruise (they make three items during each show) and later auction some items for charity. One of my (free) raffle tickets was a single digit off from the winner, which is probably fortunate since I travel with an airline carry-on only and would have had no space to take anything home without having to check a bag. Raffles tended to occur about a half hour before the end of some glass shows, for those eager for a free work of glass art. It is difficult to recount all the pleasures of this cruise, both great and small. We were so impressed that we booked an "open passage" while on the cruise. This allows one to receive additional cabin credits (up to $300) on one's next Celebrity cruise, with a reduced ($100) non-refundable, non-expiring deposit. Prices quoted by the future-cruise staff seemed to match the prices we had previously found on the web. Some passengers mentioned that Celebrity has special web offers every Tuesday, but I have never had much luck with the Celebrity web site: it seems very klunky and slow to navigate. For those who want to see some photos of the ports of call and of the Equinox, the link follows: The Equinox Mediterranean and Atlantic cruise photos are online. Click on the following link, or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary. When the thumbnail photos appear, click on the slideshow option and wiggle your mouse to get the control panel and set your preferred speed. If you get a “stack overload message, keep closing it (click the X box) till it goes away. The images are degraded a little from the originals to save bandwidth, but they are still enjoyable. The first half is ports of call, and the second half is the ship itself. You may want to watch in two sessions. Enjoy! https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/EquinoxCruise1211?authkey=Gv1sRgCOjm95Xkm-GyjAE# For independent (and inexpensive) SHORE EXCURSIONS the following information may be useful. I used public transportation and never took a tour or spent more than 10 euros in a port (except for the train ticket to Marseilles, which was 16 euros round trip for seniors). I prefer taking my time and setting my own itinerary. I speak tourist-level Italian, French, and Spanish, but English-only speakers should have no problems in these ports. Rick Steves has just come out with a guide to Mediterranean cruise ports. It is worth every penny for the larger ports, but does not include the smaller ports. However, there usually is a tourist official with maps at these smaller ports, often right on the dock near the ship. Celebrity charged only a few dollars for shuttle service into port town centers, which helps since some ports are large and industrial. Public transportation is always available from the town centers to the countryside and neighboring towns. CIVITAVECCHIA (port of Rome): After our last Mediterranean cruise, we spent a few extra days in Rome. Just before returning home I was mugged (in broad daylight near the Vatican) when leaving a restaurant. For this reason, this time I flew into FCO on the day of cruise departure, took the local (not express) train to the Rome-Trastevere station and then the local train back to Civitavecchia: total cost about 15 euros, and total time about 1 hour each way. Since I was traveling solo, this was much cheaper and not much longer than the alternatives between airport and cruise port. The walk from the Civitavecchia train station to the port entry is pleasant, and Celebrity provided a free shuttle from the port entry to the ship. Although I was early and the shuttle bus was nearly empty, the bus attendant would not let me carry on my (one small) bag and she was quite nasty about it. I was unwilling to let it out of my hands, since my bag once "disappeared" in a port shuttle in Spain, so I walked to the ship with my bag in tow. It took about 40 minutes and was dicey since there is no pedestrian walkway. Fortunately, I cooled down by the time I reached the ship, and check-in was a breeze. That shuttle was my only negative experience on the whole cruise, and it was my choice to walk. LIVORNO (for Pisa, Lucca, and/or Florence): Spending 2 hours by train each way to visit Florence made no sense to me, especially since I rented a place on the Arno near the Ponte Vecchio a few years ago. Instead I opted for Pisa and Lucca by public bus and train. The new Rick Steves guide to Mediterranean cruise ports gives all the details you will need. I had not seen Pisa since my childhood (it has not changed) and Lucca was new to me. Both provided charming walks and historic sights. In Pisa the walk from the central train (or bus) station to the Field of Miracles (Leaning Tower) is delightful. Pisa is a university town on the Arno River (like Florence), with great photo ops along the way. Lucca is an old walled city. The promenade along the city walls is beautiful, and some of the old mansions and guard towers with views are impressive. It was easy to spend half a day each in Pisa and Lucca. Including Florence would have been too much travel in too little time. Again, the Rick Steves cruise port guidebook gives great suggestions and has useful maps for all three cities on your own: Pisa, Lucca, and Florence. TOULON (actually the yacht harbor Le Seyne-sur-mer): Celebrity provided a bus for several dollars into Toulon (about 20 minutes away), but I preferred to take the local bus to the Le Seyne train station, and from there the train to Marseilles. The train leaves around 0800 and 0830, then about hourly except mid-day. If you exit the ship early and walk through the yacht basin (follow the pedestrian signs to the town center), a local bus will take you the 2 miles to the Le Seyne train station (Gare). It leaves the port area around 0730 and 0745, in time for the early trains. Its stop is at the intersection about 100 yards east of the yacht harbor entry (look for the bus shelter on the cross street). Walking to the station would be too far. Later in the day, a cross-harbor ferry (public) took passengers to the Toulon train station, but this was not mentioned in the ship's port guide, and I do not have details. Historic central Marseilles is only about a mile across, so it is easy to walk from the St. Charles (main) train station down the hill past the "Arab" street market to the picturesque waterfront. From the waterfront one can walk up the hill to the beautifully renovated Charite museums (ethnographic and archeologic) and/or catch the public bus from the waterfront up the hill for fantastic views over the harbor from the Notre Dame de la Garde cathedral. Again, The Rick Steves cruise port guidebook gives all the information and maps you will need for a wonderful day in Marseilles, and the train ride to get there is along a beautiful coastline. BARCELONA: Our ship docked at B terminal about a mile from the Columbus (Colom) tower. There is a port shuttle bus just outside the terminal for 3 euros round trip to the tower (worth it since the port is industrial). From the tower it is a short walk to the Metro station, where a day pass for the entire metro and bus system in Barcelona is only 6 euros. I took the metro to Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, then the bus to the historic Barrio Gothic (old cathedral, city museum, Picasso museum), then the metro to Parc Guell north of the city, then back to the Eixample District for the modernista architecture, then a walk down the pedestrian zone Las Ramblas, and then back to the ship at the end of the day. Montjuic and its museums (or Montserrat and its shrine) would have taken an extra day, best when cruises have an overnight in Barcelona. Again, the Rick Steves cruise port guidebook gives all the information you need to enjoy Barcelona on your own (and on the cheap). CARTAGENA: Very few guides have any information about this port, which is the sleeper of the cruise: small beautiful, and easy to access. Simply walk off the ship and all sights are an easy walk away. Just pick up a free city map at the tourist information booth on the pier. The must-see sight is the Roman amphitheater and museum. The city has been active since Roman times, and its buried history is gradually being unearthed. A beautiful new museum is on the pedestrian street near the ship. It takes you underground and then up and outside to the amphitheater, from where you can continue out and around to the beautiful views from the old fortress on the adjacent hill. Alternately you can take the elevator from street level to the fortress overlook, but the approach from the amphitheater is much more dramatic. By chance there was a Renaissance street market going on during our visit: great photo ops if you check my photo link elsewhere in this review. Just strolling the streets of Cartagena in good weather is a joy, even if there is no special street market going on. PONTA DELGADA (AZORES): The crossing from Gibraltar to the Azores takes almost two days and is often the roughest part of the cruise (per the weather and sea charts that I followed before departure). We had moderate waves hitting us broadside, but the Equinox was amazingly stable considering its tall superstructure -- just a gentle roll that was no problem at all. I am a poor sailor (afraid to tackle the Antarctic seas) but needed no motion meds and lost no appetite. Azores guidebooks in English are hard to find: the best are written in German, with good maps and hiking information. The surroundings of Punta Delgada look like Ireland -- small farms in green rolling hills, with cows occasionally blocking traffic. Idyllic. One can easily walk from the ship to the center of town, which has a nice historic feel to it since the Azores were the way-station for shipping treasure from the New World to Europe ever since the 1500's. There are some nice gardens and old churches, but taking a local bus into the countryside is the most rewarding option. At 0825 a bus left from the waterfront west of the ship (look for all the bus stands) and traveled round trip to the caldera lakes of Sete Cidades, one hour and 5 euros each way. I did not want to miss the ocean crossing, so I stayed aboard the bus for the round trip. A German couple on our ship got off the bus at Sete Cidades, walked to the next town, and took another bus back. Caution: buses are few and far between, and there is no way to join the ship if you return late. If the high cost of onboard internet annoys you, the Ponta Delgada library, in the center of town, has free internet access and great washrooms. Any local person can help you find it, and city maps are available on the dock. FT. LAUDERDALE: One way airfares US to Europe are outrageous (more than double the corresponding round trip fares), so I opted for a Choiceair.com open-jaw itinerary through the cruise line (still about the same price as the US-Europe round trip). Because I travel with one small carry-on only, even on cruises, I was able to walk off the ship at 0630 and was at the airport (by taxi) and through security and at the gate by 0700: a personal record. My flight did not leave until 1130. Usually I am able to fly standby on an earlier flight, but everything was booked this time. Fortunately the Delta Sky Lounge let me wait there (and have breakfast) since I am a gold elite flier and they now allow free access on any transoceanic itinerary (they stretched the rules for me on this domestic segment of the itinerary). This is a great new service from Delta that I learned about on a vacation to Hong Kong a few weeks before the cruise. It is worth checking into if you are a frequent flier. I have even used it to shower between long haul flights, although not all Sky lounges have showers. Hope you enjoy your cruise as much as I did. Bon voyage! P.S. Again, for photos of the ports and ship: The Equinox Mediterranean and Atlantic cruise photos are online. Click on the following link, or copy and paste it in your browser if necessary. When the thumbnail photos appear, click on the slideshow option and wiggle your mouse to get the control panel and set your preferred speed. The images are degraded a little from the originals to save bandwidth, but they are still enjoyable. The first half is ports of call, and the second half is the ship itself. You may want to watch in two sessions. Enjoy! https://picasaweb.google.com/efschlenk/EquinoxCruise1211?authkey=Gv1sRgCOjm95Xkm-GyjAE#
CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION -Sophisticated, Subtle, Warm and Welcoming Cabin 1243
Holyland Cruise-October 18th to October 31st 2010
PROLOGUE.. We had booked this cruise instead of our usual Trans-Atlantic because of the opportunity to visit Israel, the cruise was booked in July 2009 for departure from Rome on October 18, 2010. This was a port intensive cruise and with mobility problems we realized we would need private group tours and with much luck we managed to do it. Our wisest move was to hire a guide in Israel through Guided Tours immediately.
Last year on another cruise we visited and toured Rome and I was overwhelmed with it's history and beauty and unabashedly sobbed at the Trevi Fountain (yes, I threw coins in even though I knew I was coming back). Nothing had ever prepared me for the Rome experience.
Our adventure began with Parrot Pop having food poisoning the day before our departure and on the way into the airport realizing that for the first time in more than thirty years of traveling we had forgotten our passports and the livery driver could not/was not allowed to turn back. A friend came to our rescueand went to our home in the middle of rush hour traffic delivered our passports to us at the airport.
We arrived in Rome in rainy weather on the 16th with the streets filled with tourists/pilgrims under a sea of umbrellas following guides. The next day, Sunday the 17th, was an exciting and wonderful day as first Saint for Australia, Sister Mary MacKillop and 8000 Australians were going to be there. Sunday was absolutely gloriously warm and bright. Whether at the Spanish Stairs, the Trevi Fountain or Piazza Navarone (rumored to be where they raced chariots) tourists and families alike enjoying the day. We had never been to Piazza Navarone and it was filled with cafes and white umbrella tables, artists, majestic fountains, statues, gelato shops, pigeons, and lines of tourists following paddles and flags. Pigeons atop of the statues and the beautiful water fountains and a gentleman playing a guitar. Rome at it’s best on a such a beautiful and glorious sunny October day.
EMBARKING THE EQUINOX
Embarkation was easy, Parrot Pop was put in a wheel chair and taken to a special line, our pictures taken and we were taken to our cabin. After having been on the Soltice in a handicapped cabin I was taken aback by the size of the cabin. The location of the cabin was ideal, mid-ship, steps from the elevator and the library and because of it’s quirky location a deck which jutted out at an angle.
It took a newcomer to let us know the decorative wood blocks over the bed were storage cabinets and between that and the two double rods in the closet there was sufficient space even for an over-packer. The bathroom with the new shaped showers was quite efficient and the glass covered storage space and drawers made the bathroom area workable. Oh yes. we also used our shoe bags for storage on the bathroom door.
The only complaint with the cabin was the rounded shape of the bed at the bottom which made moving around the bed difficult, the shape of the bed may be “attractive” but not ideal.
Our room steward Arnell was determined that our cabin be ship shape and our clothes if we left them sloppily were always folded neatly.
SILHOUETTE DINING ROOM
Compared to the Soltice I felt the dining room was extremely well managed and very attractive. The food choices as on all ships isn’t as extensive as it has been previously. There were always classics like steak, salmon, chicken, etc on the left side of the menu. On the right were several new items plus the daily recommendation, the “Chef JCV Dining Room Recommendation” of the day. Whereas I had a problem with lack of seasoning on the Soltice the food on the Equinox was maybe not a WOW factor but was quite tasty and presentation was always front and center.
An experienced and elderly frequent cruiser at our table requested a salt-free diet and every evening staff would discuss the menu for the next night. Many guests ordered two shrimp cocktail as an appetizer which the staff was delighted to oblige. On the last evening a tablemate sent back her soup. The waiters brought her a fresh bowl, they couldn’t understand that Europeans aren’t used to eating three meals a day and all she wanted was her “steak and chips”.
At the last minute we chose Select Dining, which I felt, had advantages, as it was located on the side of the second floor dining room, but we missed the camaraderie of the same table every night.
What can I say about this wonderful specialty restaurant? Murano and it’s staff is an experience in culinary dining and service and I’m only sorry we were able to go once. Some of their specialties are served in the main dining room, but they aren’t quite the same. It seems as if the Murano has their own kitchen and chef and from the famous goat cheese soufflé to the rack of Colorado lamb each dish had that WOW factor. There seems to be a group of staff for each table that concentrates on you and your meal. According to a staff member the dining room is sold out each night, except when they are in an overnight port and deservedly so.
The buffet café was the same design as the Soltice. Whether lunch or breakfast it was the same selections every day. One problem was on the days at sea the café was mobbed. Once you put a hat or bag down at a spot (the café was kept immaculately clean by the staff with them constantly cleaning off tables and removing dirty dishes) that if you turned in the wrong direction you couldn’t find your mate or your table. Had a woman asked if we saw their husband, when I kiddingly told her he went off with a younger woman she wished her luck lol I myself searched on the wrong side several times. Wonder if a number on each table would help? No trays were available sadly and you were left to juggle plates.
Decided that I wanted a fresh hamburger and onion rings. Once we found a table in the shade I wish we gone earlier in the trip to have lunch and people watch
AQUA SPA CAFÉ/Indoor Solarium
This was my secret hideaway. Having to stay out of the sun I would go early down to the Café and have a quiet and healthy breakfast and lunch. There are only eight tables and they fill up quickly. One morning at sea I went down a bit later and the chaises were all taken, many being held with books or personal possessions. Eventually, the pool butlers emptied the items after guests complained. One a.m at 7:30 saw a man put down a few items and leave with two books (this was a day at sea when the area was quite busy) and did not return until almost 10:00 a.m
BISTRO ON FIVE
A quiet lunch seemed in order one day and we visited the Bistro and I ordered a pannini which was so big it would have fed four people. Parrot Pop had delicious homemade soup and a salad. When he asked for anchovies the waiter said they didn’t have any but would get them and he did. He insisted we had to have crepes for dessert. All of this for $5.00, definitely a must try
Okay. so they don’t have rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, but they do have the Cruise Director Dru Pavlov, a charming and gracious young gentleman who made everybody feel at home. All around the ship were little areas where there was either guitar music, a string quartet, dance lessons and one night in Israel they had a belly dancer entertaining with many guests joining in.
One of the things I don’t understand is why the ship had only English entertainers, not that they were bad, they were actually very good. Our very favorite was Paul Baker actor/singer from the West End. Brooks Aehron a celebrated English concert pianist entertained for several nights.
The Equinox production shows in general were pretty well done with the now “mandatory” cirque type performers and the theatre was packed solid each evening.
You never had to go far for entertainment on the ship, nor places to sit and have a conversation or drink.
Seat saving raised it’s ugly head one evening when a row of seats was being held and no amount of cajoling by the Celebrity Hostess would cause this man to give up his seats to all the guests asking.
Using a mobility item we discovered the secret elevator to the bottom level of the theatre. So, if you have a walker or use a wheel chair, you’re no longer a second-class citizen in the theatres. There was no need for us to be at the highest level anymore with possibly a poor sight line.
Sad to say I was very disappointed in singer/player in Michael’s Club, Katie Guglielmo. She played with only a few written notes she claimed and everything she played sounded alike.PORTS OF CALL
This for us was a disaster and a warning to others. We had joined a group that we met on a board back at the end of June and directions for meeting were miscommunicated the day before. By the time we met up with the group there was no room for us. So, Parrot Mom flew back to the ship to sit in the hot tub and have a few “moments”. If only she had realized that there was a boat outside the gates to take her to Capri…. oh well, next time.
We had a wonderful tour going to Taormina (a tourist town) and glimpsed a wedding party going into the huge church, found some potent Cream of Limincello and soaked in the wonderful atmosphere. We were taken the charming little village of Castelmola where we had lunch overlooking Mt. Etna and then back to Messina where our guide showed us the famous clock tower that rivals the one in Munich for the moving figures. It goes off at noon, but we hadn’t arrived there until after 4:00 p.m.
Took a bus into the Old City and wandered around. For many of us it was a pilgrimage to visit an old Jewish Synagogue that had originally over 150,000 Jewish residents who were sent off to the Concentration Camps and much less than 100 returned. An emotional moment was when I observed a family from California, a family of a mother, father and two daughters, the father pointed out his family name on a plaque in the Synagogue his family left before the “cleansing”.
Found Corfu much less expensive than Rome even with gelatos and souvenirs and friendly people. Charming area and would love to go back one day
Through Ramses tour we had arranged with a group to tour the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. We personally opted to tour just the first day and I’m so glad we did. The Giza Pyramids and the area were a sight to be hold
It was wonderful seeing the Giza Pyramids, police on camels, horse and cart drivers racing through the area giving rides and the persistent vendors. The area where the three Pyramids can be seen together with the desert in the background and tourists riding the camels on the dunes is one of those moments that will be in my book of memories forever.
The Sphinx was a bit disappointing in that is appears beaten up and much smaller than I expected in the evenings there is a light show and many cruisers/tourists stay overnight. The Government didn’t seem to have done much to protect these wonderful treasures in past years.
We were taken to a local restaurant for a typical Egyptian meal and then the at least a three hour ride back to the ship. To talk of traffic you must experience the streets/roads in Egypt. Overturned trucks, broken down cars, people getting out of cars and walking and the ever-present debris along the highway.
When we arrived back at the port at 9:30 p.m. Celebrity had their usual welcoming back wet cloth. What surprised us was that there was a phalanx of Equinox Officers outside offering us cold drinks and welcoming us back and asking about our day. No sooner were we through security on the ship another officer announced that the buffet was open for us. What a great welcoming back.
The next day instead of exploring Alexandria or more touring we went outside the gates where a bazaar is set up and bought lots of tourist souvenirs, negotiating/haggling is expected. I’m having buyers regret now, the recipients loved the little purses and the coin decorated shawls and wish I had bought more
In all the years we have traveled through the ruins in Peru, villages in the Amazon, jungles in Venezuela nothing and I mean nothing had prepared me for the filth, smog and trash strewn over the streets, roads and buildings looking like they have been bombed out and we are talking about a major world city
Israel was why we wanted to take this cruise. Many cruisers had family they were going to visit and leaving the ship the area was filled with private buses and vans. At the last minute we opted to stay overnight at the Dan Hotel. Great choice as our room overlooked the Old City.
Months earlier I had contacted Guided Tours and told them that I had three things especially that we wanted to see and with limited mobility there was no way we could squeeze in much more on the first day anyhow…. The Wailing Wall, Yad Vashem which is a memorial to Holocaust victims and the Chagall Windows at the Hadassah Hospital. Guided Tours were incredible to deal with and although we had two parties cancel for illness we worked through all our problems with the help of Alon.
Driving from the port to Jerusalem I was continually contrasting the smog and dirty air in Alexandria with the clean crisp clean air, the immaculate roads, the orange groves, the grapes growing, and the plantings along the road. It was like day and night.
THE CHAGALL WINDOWS-
Our first stop was the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. Walking through the two buildings I was surprised by the shopping malls on the lower level of this world famous hospital there were bakeries, cafes, clothing stores, jewelry, etc in both buildings.
Marc Chagall designed the twelve stained glass windows representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel… I do not pretend to understand all the meaning and for any fan of stained glass a magnificent sight, because of their powerful rich colors and beauty Now, I can go back and read again what I was witness to.
No visit to Israel is complete without going and paying respects to the six million Jews that died and were killed during the Holocaust. It was an emotional journey for those of us who have lost relatives and families? Sadly, we did not have the opportunity to linger and watch the movies. Yad Vashem is somber and depressing to think of what might have been. There were groups of Israeli Women Cadets being led through, three young teens sobbing and consoling each other. A pin drop could be heard throughout the entire experience.
As we left we walked through a path of trees and I noticed names and countries. Our guide told us this was the Garden of the Righteous. Gentiles (non-Jews) of Europe who hid Jewish families. On one side was a special tree for Oscar Schindler. I had heard about the Garden, but the impact of these trees dedicated to those who helped the Jews was overwhelming. The Garden of the Righteous seemed to protect you from the hot Israel sun as you left Yad Vashem as they protected the Jews during that horrific time in Europe.
THE WAILING WALL
We ended our first day visiting the holiest of sites for the Jewish people. The Wall is alive!! It is a wonderful spot where families come with their children to pray, boys tussling in the area, daughters pushing wheel chairs with parents. I sat down and read my prayers for my family and friends and inserted a little slip of paper as is the tradition in one of the cracks.
There were so many tour buses and vans that the walk uphill at the end of the day was exhausting for Parrot Pop especially.
With those three stops on the first day we headed back to our hotel. Fortunately or unfortunately, the driver went to a hotel on the other side of Jerusalem and when he discovered the error we were taken on a tour of downtown Jerusalem to the other side to the Dan Hotel over looking the Old City The room at the Dan Hotel overlooked the Old City and that is what we saw lit up the first night and the next morning.
There was an incident that I must write about. We stopped at Little Israel a diorama of the country on our way back to Haifa. After walking through with our guide we sat down next to a group of what we judged to be young Palestinian boys. Parrot Pop struck up a conversation with one boy translating to the others talking about baseball, where we were from etc., an innocent conversation. A few moments later the girls in the group (they had been under a tree and we were under the café canopy) came over and wanted to see what was going on, the young boys were obviously having a fun time with this American tourist. The leader/teacher came over and with an attitude said “they don’t understand” and started to shoo them away, but not before Parrot Pop shook hands with the boys. Yes, they did understand…how sad.
EXPECTATIONS OF OUR TOURS
At our age we couldn’t do it all and we opted many times to just sit in the van while our fellow passengers went further to see more, visit a museum, etc. We have found that some of our experiences during the tours were of connecting with perhaps with a shop owner, petting a dog and just talking to people as we went along.
We required a wheelchair to disembark and the meeting area had been set up with several wheelchairs and stewards all set to take you down with no waiting for a chair to be returned as on other lines.
Here is where I knew that the Equinox was special. As we were disembarking the ship it was pouring rain and each group leaving the ship to meet up with their van or bus was accompanied by a steward with an umbrella and stayed with until they found their vehicle
Celebrity Cruise lines continues to be our line of choice and it’s for some of the little things. I judged that this cruise with many of the cruisers doing back to back to the US and the majority were repeat Celebrity cruisers.
Daily there are the newspapers available for Americans, Canadians, French, Spanish and German. The revolving rack was a popular spot in the early afternoon and for Parrot Pop to find the baseball scores.
For those who are finding their favorite cruise lie is no longer putting a chocolate on the pillow, Celebrity still is and it doesn’t send me over the edge if I don’t have one… a towel animal.
Mainly, the service and caring of the staff of Celebrity and particularly the Equinox whether you are asking questions, passing in the halls or need assistance they are there.
Parrot Pop and I both knew that this would most likely be the last port intensive cruise that we would take and sadly we both agree now. We started off many years ago going to the ruins in Peru when they were opened to the public, cruising down the Amazon last year and through cruising many spots that we had never dreamed about in our 55 years of marriage including on this last cruise Israel, the Pyramids, Rome, etc.. all things in our “bucket list” and more.
Lastly, a ship reflects the Master and in this case it is Captain Bouzakis and although we have never had the pleasure of meeting the Equinox and it’s staff appear to be the happiest crew we have ever met in our many, many years of cruising.
Thank you Celebrity and to the Captain of the Equinox and his crew for making this such a very special experience.
The following review of our cruise is an opinion only. It may be inaccurate in parts as to fact and is only presented here as a report of our experience and perceptions of our cruise. It in no way suggests that the reader should cruise or not cruise on the Celebrity Equinox. The reader is urged to do their own investigation before deciding on choosing the Celebrity Equinox.
Their experiences may differ completely from ours.
Personal Background We are mid 60's couple retired in Florida and formerly from New York. We have cruised on 35+ cruises on Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and others.
Embarkation We arrived by car at 10:00 A.M. on Monday at Port Everglades at the new Oasis of the Seas Terminal (Oasis was not in port). A few passengers were still leaving from the previous Equinox cruise, but the terminal was spacious and easily accommodated the new arriving passengers. We breezed through the check in process and were on the ship in 30 minutes. A sign told us that staterooms were not ready until 1:30 p.m. We made our way to the Oceanview cafe and then toured the ship.We were not prevented from going up to our deck 11 aqua class stateroom to see if the room was ready, so we would periodically walk by the room. By 12:45 p.m. we found the cabin was ready and we took possession.
Stateroom (Aqua Class): Our cabin with balcony on deck 11 Penthouse deck had plenty of room, including the bathroom which was spacious. Our stateroom class was "Aqua" at the front 1/3rd of the ship. The remaining 2/3rds of the Penthouse deck had their balconies beneath the overhang of the Pool deck above - no sun there and no suntan.
Aqua class staterooms come with perks, some of which are: "Lighting, sound, and aromatic elements to bring the soothing power of the sea into your stateroom oasis" - we are still trying to find the guy who wrote that. The lighting had a dimmer switch, the aromatic element was a small bottle of perfume with a wick, and we don't know what the sound element was. "Hansgrohe showerhead" - a multi spray shower that had nozzles from your knees to your head and was enjoyable. "Unlimited access to the Aqua Spa relaxation room" - the room at the front of the ship on deck 11 directly above the Bridge was available to everyone on the ship. It was seldom used by anyone. "Frette bathrobes" - extremely fluffy and heavy bathrobes more suited for an Antarctic cruise. They were soft and comfortable but too heavy for the warm Caribbean weather. "Slippers" - small and ill fitting, we did not use them. "Bottled water" - this was a nice perk and we had all the bottled water we wanted along with a bucket of ice.
There were other perks that were either ok or we did not use, or did not find them to be remarkable here. You can find them on Celebrity's website.
"Specialty Restaurant, Blu pre assigned seating for Aqua class" - not true. Blu was a big disappointment for us. We had requested Main seating and our documents specified main seating. Blu is open seating. We patronized Blu on the first night and found the décor somewhat subdued and the menu different from the Main Dining Room (MDR). Blu had more seafood and more exotic food which is not our cup of tea. We asked to be assigned to the MDR main seating and they found us a table for 2 which was very nice. Continuing on with the review of the stateroom, we found it to be comfortable, of adequate size, and enjoyable. We did notice that the staterooms at the bottom of the ship seemed to have the same size room as ours and we realized that we could have paid less for much the same room lower down. Our television was flat screen, large, and interactive. We were able to view our account, see our photographs that were taken on formal nights (most photographs were a hefty $20 each including the welcome aboard photo), order room service, and select from many free movies. The interactive part of the television took a little getting used to and at times the controls were lethargic. We want to mention here the stateroom attendant who was a wonderful person: friendly and very professional. The hours they put in on a ship are overwhelming. We saw our attendant in the passageway at 8:00 a.m. and at night at 10:30 p.m. The amount of cabins our attendant had to care for prevented just about any interaction between us. The extremely long hours and hard work of the attendant was evident to us.
Elite Member Benefits (*After 10 earned tier credits) One category upgrade prior to sailing (when available) - since we booked Aqua class and were assigned to Blu; we think this knocked us out of the box for an upgrade. We did not get one.
A premium onboard discount booklet filled with special offers -- A disappointment. On other cruise lines including RCL, coupons were valuable and entitled us to real discounts. None of the coupons on the Celebrity Equinox Elite Class were valuable unless we purchased something else first and then the coupon would give us something off on the additional purchase. We did not use any of these coupons. We felt cheated by this marketing ploy by Celebrity.
Priority embarkation, waitlist, etc., etc. - a lot of baloney. No one knew of our status or cared. "Internet" - this was a nice perk. 3 hours of wifi internet in our cabin for the 2 of us. The internet speed was excellent and we were able to email photos taken during the day on our evening internet sessions. For those without a laptop, the interactive TV had a keyboard for internet, or we could use the internet café onboard.
The ship The ship is new and clean, but disappointingly plain. We felt that Celebrity had decorated the ship on the cheap. All the "art" in the passageways and landing were framed photographs of art or photographs of odd shapes and colors. Extremely low end and unappealing. The atrium was glass, aluminum, and stainless steel with some curtains hanging for effect. Very plain and more contemporary than the elegance we were promised.
The pool deck Bumper to bumper lounge chairs and shoulder to shoulder passengers. In port there were less people at the pool but on sea days it was jammed. Crowded or not, the closeness of the lounge chairs left absolutely no room. We did not use the pool or chairs on the entire cruise because of this.
Dining There are several specialty restaurants but we did not use any of them - Murano's charge was a hefty $30 pp. Our experience with Blu was already mentioned and Blu is only accessible to Aqua class passengers. The MDR has a main level and one balcony. We were on the balcony level. We basically were presented with a menu with a predetermined selection of food -- mixing and matching was difficult or not possible. The dining room staff are extremely overworked and they have absolutely no time to interact with passengers. On our second night in the MDR or waitress had to be replaced because she became ill from the workload. We were told she was changed to an area with fewer tables. As always the staff was efficient, friendly, and always smiling no matter how hard and long they work.
Oceanview Café - a real gem, every type of food you could want, neat, clean, spacious, and a pleasure to go to. Finding a table was somewhat difficult but slightly easier then on other ships. Lack of trays made several trips necessary but this was not bothersome.
Daytime activities Little to none. Nothing at all on the pool deck. Days at sea were long and we spent much of it in our cabin and on our balcony availing ourselves to room service.
Evening Entertainment The main production shows were excellent. The most physically fit dancers and singers of any ship we have been on. The evening entertainment on other nights was extremely disappointing. A Russian classical pianist, a violinist, a guitarist/comedian, a male singer who forgot the words, and a female classical singer who mixed street humor with highbrow singing. With the exception of the guitarist/comedian, the others could put you to sleep and indeed we saw many who were. Between little to no activities during the day and poor one person shows at night, it made for a boring cruise.
Ports of Call With the exception of the St. Maarten Golden Eagle Catamaran tour, we did not book any other tours with the ship. The prices are extremely high and no longer a value for services received. We have seen some of our old tours double in price. In most ports we were able to get a taxi/van for $20 pp and were taken on a nice 2 hour tour with excellent commentary. Our 4 hour catamaran tour was $82 pp for a total of $164 for 4 hours. To add insult to injury, we had 2 RCL ships passengers on the tour with us. The RCL passengers paid less for their tickets than we paid on Celebrity, even though both are part of the same RCL company and on the same tour. We brought this to the attention of the shore excursion desk onboard and were given a blank stare. We suspect that Celebrity is charging its passengers more food, drinks, etc., than RCL is their passengers, even though it is the same company.
De-embarkation Smooth and uneventful.
Overall We have many cruises under our belts on most of the big lines and we are used to not everything going our way. We make allowances for that. However, we would probably not book with Celebrity again, definitely would not book on the Celebrity Equinox again, and would not recommend the line to others. Activities, entertainment, ship appearance - all below par. We paid a hefty price for our aqua class stateroom we were expecting more for our money. What we got was a lot of hype and being sold overpriced goods at every turn - we felt as if we were trapped in an auto dealership full of salesmen, and there was no exit. Our advice for anyone wanting to try Celebrity is to book an inner cabin on this ship, pay much less than we did, get a comparable room to our aqua class stateroom from what we understand, and purchase little to nothing. That would be a much better value for your money. We are going to give Princess another look and we are cancelling our future inaugural cruise on the future 2010 Celebrity Eclipse.
We wish we could be more positive about this ship. The crew was all fantastic. We feel the shortcomings and disappointments we experienced were the result of Royal Caribbean's management policy on how to market the ship as upscale and elegant, while doing it on the cheap, yet charging upscale and elegant prices. We have a letter of inquiry to Royal Caribbean management asking why we were charged more for the same tour as the Royal Caribbean passengers we were with. Perhaps Royal Caribbean has overextended themselves on ordering 2 new mega ships - Oasis and Allure -- and is experiencing a cash flow problem.
We arrived at the City Terminal and the sight of the Equinox was very impressive, this was my first time on a Celebrity ship, and how exciting to be trying a brand new ship, pre-maiden and a Solstice class ship at that!
This ship is the 2nd Solstice ship to be rolled out, the 3rd will be very interesting as 'Eclipse' will be based in Southampton next year after her launch, and should be very similar to this ship and will, no doubt, be major competition for P&O. Celebrity have been recently voted best UK Cruise line by the Telegraph, The Guardian, Observer Travel Awards 2008.
This ship is 122,000 tonnes and has a occupancy of 2,850, on this mini-cruise she was sailing at 80% occupancy with around 2,300 onboard, so while looking around the ship I was looking at how the public rooms coped with that many onboard, and I must say, it felt roomy and comfortable, and strangely didn't feel like a 'big' ship, infact after being onboard Ventura and Independence, this ship felt smaller, but in a nice way.
We were greeted on boarding to a glass of champagne,and went direct to our cabins and unpacked. We were in a 'Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with veranda' on the starboard side, and on entering I was very impressed with the décor, especially the full size cream leather sofa and large 32 inch flat screen tv, showing a limited range of channels, but this included a BBC Tv Prime channel and sky news, plus a tour excursions channel.
The bathroom was lovely with a corner shower, and the light wood furnishings, and raised wash bowl and single tap and looked very modern. I liked the additions of cotton wool and buds and a tissue box, but on the minus side the bath towels were too small, a bath sheet would have been nice, and I was under whelmed with the 1 ply toilet tissue (why? You only use twice as much and its just annoying!) A design minus also was the shelf for your toiletries was very narrow, and you ended up putting things on the toilet seat when getting ready to go out. Also where was the soap dish? A small thing, but it meant the wet soap was left on this narrow shelf and kept sliding around and making everything wet and messy.
The furnishings were lovely, and balcony furniture very modern with a large round wooden slat table. Don't forget to take a US plug adaptor for you electrical items though as of course this is a US ship.
I went on a tour of the cabins after lunch and was surprised to learn there are very few inside cabins, infact 90% of the cabins have a ocean view and nearly all of these have a private balcony on this ship.
The inside cabin I did view was a wheelchair accessible one and was very roomy and these cabins also have a massive 32inch flat screen tv on the wall opposite the bed!
I have described the balcony cabins, and after that I saw 'Aqua class cabin' which is the same size as the balcony (194 sq ft with a 54 sq ft balcony) for those who love 'spa life' there are 130 of these cabins located near the Aqua spa which give priority seating in Blu specialty restaurant, a spa concierge to arrange treatments, and priority to the Aqua spa of course!
Smoking on Equinox is not allowed in staterooms, corridors or on balconies.
The suites were all lovely, with butler service, the chance to have breakfast, lunch or dinner in your cabin., and of course a bath, some with separate walk in shower or Jacuzzi. And some with a 52inch tv with a 40inch tv in the bedroom!
At the top of this ship, is the 'Sky Observation Lounge' Celebrity's own Crows Nest, with amazing décor again including sweeping cream settees with purple cushions, and a large stage and dance floor. Also look out for the Lawn Club, where half a acre of real lawn adorns the deck so you can play croquet and lawn bowls. Nearby is a Hot Glass show where you can see glass blowing demonstrations which were very interesting, I was given a single rose made of glass which I will treasure.
The self service buffet restaurant called The Oceanview Café, was spacious and served everything from pasta, pizzas, tacos, hot food and salads. There was a ice cream bar with plentiful flavours and toppings, and the sweets were delicious to look at and eat. I couldn't find a decent breakfast UK tea, but there were all the other types of speciality teas in a large selection box so perhaps there was a decent one suitable for a 'builders brew' but I couldn't find it. Also I'm afraid it seems to be streaky bacon and not our UK favourite back bacon on here, but I was told the chef was seen carving a massive boiled gammon joint at breakfast so you could try that if you were hungry! The Oceanview deck was lovely and had again, wonderful modern furniture and even settees.
Keeping on the theme of food and dining areas, I must say the Silhouette Dining room was jaw-dropping WOW , I could not think how a dining room could be any better in a modern contemporary design, I have taken a lot of photos in the link at the bottom of this review to show you. We ate here on the first evening, and the food was lovely too. I had a appetizer of 'Crispy Sautéed Pork potstickers with Oyster sauce and water chestnuts, followed by a creamy Cannellini bean soup, and then grilled tournedos of beef and veal with gratin potatoes and a bordelaise sauce, The steaks were plump and melted in the mouth, I followed this with a poached pear on a ginger sponge with Vanilla mousse, and hot ! Coffee (unlike P&O's )
On the 2nd night, formal, we were lucky to be invited by a Celebrity UK representative to join him at the French Specialty restaurant - Murano, along with four other guests, The service was attentive, and included my cooked whole dover sole being filleted in front of me at the table, and my husbands crepes with a wonderful strawberry sauce being flambéed at the table to much aplomb by the head waiter.
I have taken photos of Blu, Silk Harvest(Asian cuisine) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian Steakhouse) and some food samples which can be found in the photo album.
During my cruise we were invited to sampler tastings, in the afternoon, and of course it would have been rude not to go!
The pools were lovely, with 4 Jacuzzis surrounding the outside deck one, and double bed sun-loungers. I am pleased to say there are 'Pool Butlers' on Solstice ships, who have been instructed to remove towels from empty sunbeds immediately they are left and personal possessions after a 30minute wait. I spoke to the lady in charge of poolside house-keeping and she said this was very successful, although there were occasionally arguments, but the pool butlers were big lads and stood there ground.
Photo above of pool butler in action at pool side.
There is a inside pool in the 'adults only' Solarium adjacent to the Aqua Spa.
The shops were amazing, as so were the shop window displays (see photos) really unusual. I bought a Equinox teddy for my collection $14.99, and 2 different mugs for $14.99 a pair on a special offer (usually $7.99 each). I bought one photo which was quite expensive, taken at dinner $19.95 8x10. There was also a duty free shop selling Cigarettes, alcohol etc, something not seen on P&O,
Cigarettes $60 for two cartons.
My cruise was different from a normal cruise, we sailed to Guernsey and around the Channel Islands (211 miles in all) but I can imagine the experience would be very special indeed and would agree it is one * more than P&O , little things, like at dinner, on P&O - one small roll is offered , on Celebrity Solstice class, you have your own bread selection basket with all sorts of breads and breadsticks, plus flavoured butters including lobster butter.
The ship is very modern and contemporary and appealed to us, like Arcadia, she is not a classic old fashioned ship, she doesn't pretend to be one. The shows in the theatre were of similar quality and we found them enjoyable. There was a lot of live entertainment around the ship, a jazz quartet played in the Grand Foyer before dinner, then we saw a young female pretty foursome called Inspiration strings playing , also an acoustic guitarist playing poolside while you were sunbathing, and a great dance band playing pop classics.
I hope to book a cruise on Eclipse one day soon, and I am sure these Solstice ships will have P&O quaking in their boots. But competition is healthy and perhaps all the UK based cruise lines will be upping their product and us, the passengers can only benefit from that!
120 Photos here:
We took a two week Spain and Transatlantic Cruise on Celebrity Equinox in November. We left home a few days early and spent three days in Madrid, then took the high speed train to Barcelona where we spent two more days before we boarded the Equinox. Madrid and Barcelona are both interesting cities with lots to see. We thought Spain was pretty easy to visit even thought we don't know much Spanish.
In Madrid we took the Airport Express bus from the airport to the train station and the metro from there to a stop a few blocks from our hotel, Francisco I. Everything went very smoothly even with bags. The location of the hotel was great, right on the pedestrian mall and the hotel was very nice. We visited the Royal Palace, The Prado Art Museum, and Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. The city is very easy to get around on foot. We went to Casa Patas for a Flamenco Show and had hot chocolate and Irish Coffee at San Gines. The food was great and we were able to get along with very minimal Spanish.
We took the Metro backto the train station and took the train to Barcelona. The train ride was smooth and very easy. We took the Metro from the train station to a stop near our hotel, NH Hoteles Barcelona Central. The hotel was very nice and in a great location. We did a fun Tapas Walking Tour the first evening and then spent the next day on Montjuic. We walked all the way up to the Castle. The views were amazing. We visited El Poble Espanol. There is an entrance fee to the village. I thought it was fun, but it is mostly shopping and restaurants. We walked to the Barcelonetta area and had very good sea food for dinner at Saluda del Mar. Then we went to a Flamenco concert at the Palau de Musica which was good. We wandered around the market and the Gothic quarter the next morning before we boarded the ship. We took a cab from the hotel to the port. We had been in Barcelona before so we did not go to Sagrada Familia.
Ship check in was easy. Our room wasn't ready until 1:00 so we had lunch at The Bistro on Five which wasn't crowded at all. All aboard was at 3:30 so we decided we didn't have time to go back into the city. Sail away was at 5:00. The Equinox is a beautiful ship. The public spaces are well maintained. The one thing that always bother us on the S Class ships is the scheduling of the dance bands in the foyer on Deck 3. Lots of people dance and the dance floor is very small with the steps from Deck 4 ending right on the dance floor. It just doesn't work! We were in Aqua Class which we liked a lot. The cabins are about the same as regular balcony cabins, but eating in Blu was a great experience. I think the food was better than the main dining room and probably a little healthier depending on what you ordered. The atmosphere was very nice: open seating at whatever time you liked and mostly tables for two. Breakfast in Blu was really good, too. Service was great except for the sommeliers. They seemed overwhelmed and we had trouble getting service and then problems getting more wine poured during dinner when the bottle was in an ice bucket away from our table. Red we poured for ourselves! Our cabin steward was great.
Shows and entertainment were pretty standard. One of the production shows is a Cirque type show. I like the regular production shows better. The Elton John tribute by Neil Lockwood was very good. Some of the musical groups were not as good as we have had in the past. The speaker on forensics who talked several times on the cruise was interesting. The other speakers who talked on culture and history and astronomy weren't quite as good.
Our first port was Cartagena where we wandered around on our own. Cartagena is small and we docked right in town. The city has a number of Roman Ruins that are all well signed and easy to find. We had lunch at a local bar. Our next port was Malaga where we participated in a private tour to the Alhambra in Granada. The Alhambra is beautiful and well worth the long bus ride. The next day we docked in Cadiz and did another private tour to Sevilla which is another beautiful city and again worth the bus ride. The next day was Lisbon which we did on our own. We used Rick Steve's book on Lisbon and wandered around the Alfama and Baixa areas. We had lunch and pastry in town and tried the cherry liqueur. It was fun, but not as memorable as Granada and Sevilla. We had a sea day and then stopped in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. We did a ship's tour for a half day into Teide National Park. It was a big bus, but it was pretty good. The volcanic area was interesting to see. The rest of the day we spent on our own in Tenerife having lunch and walking around. We were there on Sunday so it was pretty quiet, many shops were closed.
The next seven days were at sea. We kept very busy. The ship scheduled dance lessons, speakers, and lots of activities so we didn't get bored. Seven days of ship in a row were just too many for us. I wouldn't do that many sea days again. We had very good weather, fairly warm with a few showers and no high seas. Customs in Fort Lauderdale was really slow, almost an hour in line. We did a ship's excursion since we had a late flight. The bus tour was good, but the boat portion was pretty boring but better than sitting in the airport.
About the critic
I am 51 years old, married, a Navy Captain, this was our 6th cruise, 3rd with celebrity.
There is no doubt upon arriving at the terminal, seeing the beautiful Equinox you can expect great things. She is three and a half years old and looks magnificent. The best way to offer meaningful commentary is to address each element separately.
as many other passengers have commented, this process was outstanding. We were aqua class room 1650, 11th deck starboard side aft. From the time of arrival to the terminal at 11:20 to being on board was 15 minutes. That said, our next objective should have been to make a bee line for the Oceanview cafe. The stateroom hallways were sealed off so roaming the ship or beginning the inevitable weight gain process at Oceanview were the only options. By the time we elected to get a bite to eat at 1230, there was absolutely NO place to sit. We were with another couple and eventually found separate seating. The rooms were available at 1:15.
11 night cruise in balcony cabin on level 6. Nice cabin and large deck. Bathroom is one of the best we have had with a decent shower size. The ship was beautiful and roomy with lots to do on sea days. But, the food was nothing compared to what we experienced several years ago on Celebrity or other cruise lines since. Connecting to the internet was very complicated for many, especially trying to use your own devices. Because of the quality of the food we would not wish to take this ship again.
I booked this cruise July 2009 and the 10 months of anticipation were not in vain. Everything about this trip lived up to my expectations.
Embarkation was a breeze. Since we spent the night at the Hotel Traiano prior to sailing, we were at the ship by 11am, and ON it by 11:30am. We went straight to our room (1602) and it was ready. Regretfully, we checked all of our bags so unpacking would wait, but we had all our bags by 2pm. We began our exploration of the beautiful ship and marveled at all the luxurious touches throughout.
It seems no detail was left out. The ship never seemed crowded and I have no idea if it was sold out. There was no way to tell. I never stood in line, never waited for anything. All my needs were met with immediacy.
We dined in Blu nightly, but when the menu in the main dining room was more appealing, Blu accommodated me by bringing me my choice of entree from Silhouette. When we wanted to try the main dining room, we were given a table and made to feel completely welcome.
The entertainmentwas first class. I have never seen singers and dancers that were so versatile and worked as hard as these people did (but, they didn't show it). The glass blowing show was so interesting and well done. I would have liked to own a custom piece made right there, but they only sell 3 pieces per cruise.
All of the business of "getting on and getting off" the ship was handled smoothly. No going to a room and waiting, we walked off when we were ready each time. Even the tendering process was smooth.
10 days just wasn't enough and I look forward to being back on the Equinox as soon as I can.
Celebrity Equinox is one of the new Solstice class ships launched recently.
We cruised to the Western Caribbean on an eleven night voyage. The ship is ultra modern glitzy. Glass elevators, glass wine tower in the Silhouette dining venue, space age decor in the Quasar lounge, a frozen ice covered bar top in the Martini bar. We found the overall effect rather cold. Pardon the pun.
Food varied from very good to mediocre, service the same. The Oceanview Cafe had an exceptional arrangement. There were various islands of food offerings ie: salads, stir fry, hot dishes, pizza, make your own sandwich, deserts and ice cream. No trays and no following a line. A most pleasant and efficient venue.
The speciality restaurants, Murano, Tuscan Grill etc. were exceptional. Both food and service. Of course there is a surcharge for these areas, $35 and $30 per person.
At too many ports on this itinerary the ship docked at areas primarily for cargo vessels. There was nothing on shore for those not on a tour. Roatan the exception.
Would you believe a real grass lawn area on the ship? Yep it exists for those who enjoy lawnbowling.
Shows that featured the whole ships cast were superlative, the solo entertainers so-so.
The ship offers, for your convenience (?) a daily gratuity added to your on board account of $10 to $15 per person. This may be deleted by contacting the Guest Relations desk.
Sky Suite category offered a larger cabin and veranda, butler service and, depending on the length of the cruise complimentary reservations at the specialty venues.
If glitz is your cup of tea then Equinox is a ship for you. Those who prefer a cozier venue should look elsewhere.
"Here Comes the Sun was the theme song for the inaugural festivities introducing Celebrity Equinox to the cruising world in Southampton, UK, July 29, 2009.
Celebrity Equinox is the second in the Solstice class of cruise ships from Celebrity, and while it is practically impossible to tell Equinox apart from Solstice there is nothing wrong that. After all, why toy with perfection?
Is "perfection" too strong a word? Not according to the accolades given to Celebrity Solstice by the press and the cruising public when she was introduced less than a year ago. Now with the addition of Celebrity Equinox there are two of these identical sister ships, two masterpieces of design and décor.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the naming ceremony for Celebrity Equinox on July 29 in Southampton, U.K. The ceremony was followed by a two-night cruise for the media and cruise industry. While a two-night familiarization cruise is hardly enough time to gain a full perspective of the entire Equinox experience, it was enough for me to get a good look at the ship – mostly trying to divine which of the best assets of Solstice weremaintained and which were unique to Equinox.
What did I find? When Celebrity Cruises set out to design the Solstice class it was their first new class in ten years. They knew they needed something different yet enduring, and contemporary yet classic at the same time. The ship needed to appeal not only to today's cruiser, but also for years, possibly decades to come.
In the end very little about Equinox is different from Solstice, which only means that very little needed to be changed. For the most part this ship is a near perfect duplicate of the truly classic Solstice design.
The Equinox Differences
As with most Celebrity cruise ship classes, once they create a new design they then recreate the original design two or more times with little or no changes at all to the basic superstructure. The ships of any given class largely pin their identity on just a few unique décor variations usually in a few nightspots or restaurants. This is mostly true for the Equinox too. Equinox has only a few very subtle differences.
The first Equinox difference is on the pool deck called "Solstice Deck." It holds 100 or more lounge chairs than the same deck on Celebrity Solstice. This addition of deck chairs will be added to all subsequent Solstice-class ships, and chances are that it will be retrofitted to the Celebrity Solstice sometime in the future.
Why more deck chairs? The first sister ship has the world's first large patch of real grass growing on a deck, known as "The Lawn." Because "The Lawn" takes up a lot of outdoor deck space there was less room for deck chairs. It has actually been the subject of some complaints on Solstice, and to Celebrity's credit they chose to make the change on Equinox. It was not previously announced however, and may continue to be a point of knowledge for cruise ship trivia buffs.
Speaking of the lawn – how controversial can a patch of grass be? Since it is a rather large lawn growing high atop a steel cruise ship it is quite unique. But is it an attraction? Maybe not in the sense that it does anything any other patch of grass can't do, but they play bocce ball, croquet and are hold real picnics with baskets and blankets and all the trimmings except ants. You can have your fried chicken and iced tea while sitting on real grass watching the Isle of Wight pass by your starboard side. I think that is pretty cool.
Generally, the pool deck on Equinox is more like a spa than a typical cruise ship pool area. As with Solstice there are two main pools, one deeper than the other. There is no loud music, pool games or waiters pushing buckets of beer. The pool bar is so understated it can almost be missed. The Solarium area is a fully glass-enclosed pool with a distinctly modern decor. There is ivy growing up the steel bars at the deep end, another minor difference from what is seen on Solstice.
The Equinox Art Collection
In our quest to discover assets unique to Equinox, much was made of the extensive art collection onboard. When Celebrity Cruises was originally formed by the Chandris family of Greece over twenty years ago– John Chandris placed high importance on having ships filled with unique pieces of art – allowing his wife Christina to assemble the collection for each ship until Celebrity Cruises was acquired by Royal Caribbean International in 1997.
The Equinox collection features many interesting paintings, photos, sculptures, and other objets d'art from the former Celebrity Galaxy, which has now been transferred to TUI cruises (also in the Royal Caribbean family). Celebrity removed the art from Galaxy prior to the ship leaving the fleet and had the collection in storage.
Personally, I thought the entire art collection on Equinox was perfectly understated and "just right" in terms of selection and placement. Each piece seemed to enhance the ambience of the surrounding space without overwhelming it, serene and elegant at every turn.
I heard several people remark on how peaceful and comfortable every room felt aboard the ship. One guest, who had never been on a cruise ship at all before, complimented the design team on the sense of well-being Equinox invokes.
"Nothing abuses my senses," he said, and I have to agree, noting that the same has also been said about Solstice. These are classy and tasteful ships, which some prospective cruisers may find just a little sedate; although I have to say I didn't hear anyone actually expressing this thought.
Celebrity Solstice-class – What You Need to Know
Celebrity has always embraced a European feel in their cruises and this is perhaps kicked up a notch on the Equinox and the Solstice class in general. Expect to see more than a few men wearing sports coats on smart casual nights. Expect to see more, men in tuxes and ladies in gowns, on formal nights. Wandering around Equinox in the evening wearing shorts and flip-flops will definitely be frowned upon.
I was able to try a new class of staterooms for Celebrity first available on the Solstice class, an AquaClass balcony cabin. These 192 square foot cabins are meant to offer a more sensual experience with special herb-infused teas and aromatherapy misters available in every room. There is an iPod player and a special shower with the standard showerhead several adjustable jets. There is plenty of storage space and a larger than usual safe, stored in a drawer by the refrigerator.
Celebrity has extolled the accomplishments of "Celebrity's Leading Ladies" –five ladies with various cruise and travel backgrounds who advised the company on stateroom design for the Solstice class. Celebrity backed their research into various hotel and cruise ship designs to define the perfect cruise ship cabin. For the most part I see the attraction of their influence.
I can't say I love everything they decided, however. Half of the cabins have the bed right next to the closet rendering it inaccessible when anyone is trying to sleep. The other cabins have the layout reversed, with the bed by the balcony door and the sofa by the closet. This works better.
The Equinox Debut
Since Equinox is a brand new ship the line had their "A Team" onboard, many of the staff and crew coming from Solstice. This is standard procedure for new ships providing a crew already familiar with the ship's onboard procedures and facilities.
The staff was uniformly excellent, as I expected before I arrived. In my experience, it is a Celebrity hallmark for the staff to be more reserved in their interactions with the passengers, yet efficient in their duties. They are friendly but not to the point of inserting their own personalities into the guest's cruise experience. This will appeal to some people, while others may prefer more outgoing crewmembers. It is a matter of personal taste.
The food during our short cruise was also consistent with Celebrity standards. The first night we sampled the main dining room. My lamb chops were so succulent and tender I found myself chewing the bones to get the last morsels of goodness. But the sampler plates of dessert met with mixed reviews.
The Oceanview Café buffet area is a cut above previous Celebrity classes. While the nighttime pizza was excellent as expected an ersatz Eggs Benedict for breakfast had corned beef hash instead of ham, a vexing substitution.
Our second night featured dinner in the restaurant Blu - normally reserved for Aquaclass guests but open to any guest for a $5 surcharge. I went with the waiter's suggestion of pan-fried salmon which was good but not equal to the food or service of the previous night. The ambient noise at our table was a bit distracting. Still, overall the food we sampled on Equinox is sublime, and with reports of excellent repast in the specialty restaurants coming from Solstice there is no doubt Equinox will live up to the promise.
Production Shows – Another Equinox Difference
The entertainment on Equinox is another area where one will find a completely different experience than what is offered on Solstice. The show called "Equinox – The Show" had the entire audience spellbound. It featured strapping yet surprisingly nimble acrobatics within a surreal atmosphere. I've never seen anything like it on a cruise ship - definitely different and marvelous. The accompanying orchestra, as well as the other musical groups onboard, were all excellent performers.
In the end I have to say I was quite impressed by the Celebrity Equinox. If I were a ship designer I feel it is what I would aspire to build. The ship is easy to navigate, with a flow and dimension to the public rooms that promotes a sense of intimacy despite what is actually a very large ship. Reading about the length, beam, and tonnage of Equinox, it is hard to correlate the actual experience of being onboard.
Equinox actually feels more like a small ship experience. The design team was not only accomplished their mission, they exceeded it. What was that old Celebrity slogan… "exceeding expectations"? They don't use that slogan anymore, but they are still fulfilling it.
Equinox will sail a series of Mediterranean cruises this summer and fall, and then move to Fort Lauderdale for alternating eastern and western Caribbean runs. I hope to be aboard one of them with my family.