April 2016 - Celebrity Equinox to Europe - Western Mediterranean
I was disappointed with this cruise because I had high expectations since my friends who have cruised over 10 times, including 3 times in the Mediterranean, highly recommended Celebrity for its food. I went on this cruise with my husband and my father. My friends who recommended Celebrity also went on this cruise (they had 4 adults in their party). We were celebrating my father's retirement and I was taking my father on his first cruise and his first time in Europe. My friends, family, and I were all highly disappointed in the quality of the food in both the main dining room and in the buffet. My friends dined at all 3 specialty restaurants and the only one they enjoyed was Silk Harvest. My family and I also ate at Silk Harvest and that was the best meal we had on the trip. Barcelona was just an okay city and the food there was just okay as well. We were disappointed in Mallorca because no one explained to us that we would have to walk for about 30 minutes to get to the end of the pier to get a taxi into town, and when we finally got a taxi, he ripped us off by charging my family $10 Euro more than my friends' taxi to get to/from the same locations. Instead of taking a taxi, you should stand in line off the ship and pay the $5 Euro roundtrip fee to use the special bus that picks up and drops you off right in front of the ship. When we tried to pay to take the special bus one-way back to the cruise ship, they refused to allow us onto the bus and said we had to pay for the roundtrip ticket from the cruise ship. No one told us this in advance and this was not explicitly written in the cruise ship newsletter that you could not purchase a one-way bus ticket. Since we refused to spend any more money in Mallorca after getting ripped off by the taxi driver, my family walked a little over an hour back to the ship. Since Mallorca was our first port, this was an awful beginning to my father's first cruise experience. Fortunately, Malta was an interesting port to cruise into, so be sure to wake up to watch the ship enter the city or stand outside on the top decks to watch the ship sail out of the city. The main negative experience we had in Malta was that it was freezing cold on our Three Cities Harbor Boat Excursion and our excursion lasted an extra hour because the wind was blowing so hard that our boat could not dock, so we had to return to a different location and board a different boat in order to dock in our final destination. Since our excursion lasted an extra hour, we didn't get to spend as much time as we had wanted in Valleta. We enjoyed Taormina and the Ancient Greek Theatre. We paid for the cruise's bus to get to/from Taormina On Your Own and then paid for our own tickets for the Greek Theatre -- we were lucky there was no line at the ticket window. We did not appreciate how one of the public bathrooms at Taormina said that donations to use the bathrooms were optional and then after you climb the stairs down to the bathrooms, a woman was sitting there demanding $1 Euro per person in order to use the bathrooms. Also, the public bathrooms in many locations do not have seats, so you have to be prepared to squat. The bathrooms at the Greek Theatre did not have toilet paper, so be sure to bring your own toilet paper at all times since this came in handy at many locations throughout our trip. In Naples, we visited Pompeii via the cruise ship's excursion. We loved our tour guide, Vito, but we were disappointed at the end of the tour to see that we had only covered about less than 1/4 of the entire Pompeii city on the map. So, if you are in good shape to walk the entire city yourself, you may want to look into purchasing your own tickets and going through Pompeii on your own. Rome was the highlight of our tour and we loved every minute of it since we booked a private van service (Rome Private Guides) that picked us up right outside of our ship and brought us back to the same location, and it included our own private guide. Five of us shared the van and it cost us the same amount per person if we had purchased a full day excursion from the ship. The benefits of having your own private guide is that the van can drop you off and pick you up closer to the various sites than a bus can, and you can customize your trip. So, we went to Vatican City and saw the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, and then we went into the Colisseum, walked through the Forum, and stopped by the Trevi Fountain. We also stopped at a nice restaurant for lunch that was recommended by our driver (I can't remember the restaurant's name). Another added benefit is that our driver knew where all the nice restrooms were in Rome such as letting us use the restrooms at his friend's hotel that was right across the street from the Vatican. Corsica was disappointing unless you are a Napoleon fan, and the various maps we had were useless since most streets didn't have names written on them and the names of the important places that the ship recommended you visit did not have the same names as the actual locations or as the maps. So we got lost in a small area and ended up walking around in circles. The cruise ship also doesn't tell you that the little outdoor market closes up around 1 pm, so be sure to check that out in the morning since that is the main highlight of Corsica. If you like beaches, there is a small little beach you can lay out at and/or swin in (walk all the way to the left side when you disembark the ship), and it's a great photo spot. Our final stop was Florence/Pisa, where we took the cruise's excursion to Pisa. We enjoyed Pisa and were especially pleased that even though our excursion warned us that we would not be able to walk up the tower, our guide surprised us by saying that he had limited tickets we could purchase to walk up the tower, so we purchased those tickets for $29 US per person and walked up the 250+ steps, which we thought was totally worth it. We also learned that Pisa is Pinocchio's hometown, so be sure to buy some Pinocchio souvenirs for family/friends. I had the best gelato in my life (coconut and chocolate flavors) at a little hole in the wall gelato place to the left of the Il Turista restaurant that was our group's meeting place in Pisa. Besides the food on the cruise ship, another disappointment was that I purchased some items from the spa and I was not informed that I would be charged Spain's 21% VAT because our cruise ship sailed out of a port in Spain (we sailed to/from Barcelona). So, be aware of this extra charge for your purchases! I would not recommend cruising in/out of any Spain ports because of this crazy tax. The ship missed out on sales because I would have bought more things on the ship if I wasn't charged the 21% VAT. The cruise ship tried to make it up to me by adding some money to my cruise ship account, which was a nice gesture, but they did not give me back the full 21% that I was charged -- I took photos of the receipts they gave me for my purchases that did not include the 21% VAT and my dad kept every single cruise ship newsletter that never mentioned the 21% VAT, but my cruise ship bill added the 21% VAT to my purchases. They said that I could get my 21% VAT back at the airport, which I did, but be aware that you have to stand in line for at least half an hour to an hour or more at the airport, and they charge you an administration fee so you do not receive the full 21% back. Also, if you want to receive your refund in cash, they will only give it to you in Euros. If you have children, I would not recommend this cruise ship since I barely saw any children on the ship and when I walked past both the children's and teens' centers, they were completely empty. The entertainment on the ship was mixed and included a very insulting activities director and a very insulting comedian, so if you do not like crude insulting humor, which my family and I do not, then you will be offended. The cruise ship's band at the Equinox Theatre was the best entertainment highlight. If this is going to be your first time in Europe, I recommend that you consider a land tour instead that takes you to more recognizable cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, Venice, Florence/Pisa, and Rome. To end on a positive note, the majority of the cruise ship's staff were friendly such as our room attendant (I forgot his name, but he was super fast and great), our main dining room servers Orville Anthony and Aleksie, Sam the head of the main dining room who took my friend's dinner order every evening for the next day's meal because she has severe food allergies, the fitness director Bayonaro (?), and the spa director and spa staff. I had massages with both Mary Jane and ChiChi, who were both great, and I also did an acupuncture session on my first day on the ship with Dr. Harry Yu for my TMJ (jaw pain), and the session worked so that I did not have any pain for the rest of the cruise.