Transatlantic Cruise on the Celebrity Equinox
10/27/15 to 11/9/15
Due to the length of the review, it is in 5 parts to help with the download time. The links to the other pages are at the top of each page.
Page 1 - Pre-Cruise in Barcelona, Spain
Page 2 - Pre-Cruise continued; Embarkation and Ship
Page 3 - Ship Continued and Entertainment
Page 4 - Ports of Call: Valencia, Spain and Malaga, Spain
Page 5 - Ports of Call: Lanzarote, Canary Islands and Tenerife, Canary Islands
Barcelona - Day 4
We were once again using Barcelona Day Tours (www.spaindaytours.com) for the day’s adventures, so we took the short walk to the meeting place. This time the large van arrived early in the arrival window. We would be driving north into the mountains to visit Montserrat. Our tour guide for the day was Lisa from Ireland. She had lived in various areas of Spain for many years and was most knowledgeable. She was such a nice person and did everything possible to make our tour enjoyable. It was quite a change to listen to her Irish brogue rather than the Spanish accents we had become accustomed to.
On the ride to Montserrat, Lisa provided us information about Spain in general and the areas we would be seeing. Our first stop was at the base of Montserrat mountain. The name means saw or serrated, since the mountain appears to be serrated like a handsaw. The weather around the mountain was not good. There was way too much fog and it was taking away our view of the mountain. The main peak rises 4,055 feet above the valley floor.
We were able to see the funicular station and some of the cars on their way up the mountain.
We would be taking the van up 2,362 feet to see the famous abbey. Lynn offered to take photos for everyone. We took her up on it, even though it was an obstructed view of the mountain.
When we got to the abbey level, the fog was even worse. We walked down to a viewpoint where we could barely even see the mountain. We were so disappointed. Lisa told us to be patient, since it can move in and out.
She was right since it did clear up some, and we were able to get a partial view of what was around us. It was strange to see the lone Maple tree that showed off its fall colors on the side of the mountain. I was surprised there weren’t more of them on the mountain. In the below photo of Carol, you can see how much had cleared away from the building right next to us that we could barely see a couple minutes earlier. There were still a lot of clouds; but at least we could get an idea of what was around us.
There was an unusual statue of stacked blocks near one of the viewing platforms below us. We had barely seen it five minutes earlier when it was in the clouds.
As we walked back up toward the abbey, we could see the back side of the cathedral where we were heading.
Along the way, Lynn pointed out a piece of art with a unique style. It was a reverse sculpture. Rather interesting how the stone was cut out to create the effect.
Continuing our walk past the modern abbey facilities, Lynn pointed out the Monserrat emblem on a window. It shows a saw on top of a mountain to represent the serrated appearance of the mountains.
We then passed by another reverse sculpture, that was much larger.
Lynn pointed out what she called the “oh my gosh railway”. We could see a section of the very steep tracks on the side of the mountain shrouded in the clouds. It was quite apparent how it got its name. It looked more like a water fall than a railway.
We finally arrived at the main abbey buildings. It was in a lovely setting with the large stone mountain behind them.
After passing through the main door, we saw some very nicely decorated crypts.
We were in the courtyard in front of the abbey basilica. The façade had statues of saints above the doors.
In the center of the courtyard was a large circular floor decoration where people were standing in the center to have their photo taken as well as to pray. It is modeled after the Vatican floor in Rome.
Lynn took us into the basilica, which was already pretty crowded. We were there to see the statue of the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia; as well as listen to the Montserrat Boys choir. We had arrived over 30 minutes before the choir was to begin singing; but there were very few places to sit in the large church. After Carol got situated, I went about taking photos of the beautiful interior.
The stained glass windows were just incredible with their vivid colors. I wished that I could have gotten an unobstructed photo of the gorgeous rose window.
Around the edge of the church are ornate hanging candles. These represent Catalan style of jewelery-making in the early 1800's.
There was a very long line waiting to walk up to see Our Lady of Montserrat, or the Black Madonna that was in an opening above the alter. Since I didn’t think that I had time to see the statue close up by waiting in line; I put on my telephoto lens, hoping to be able to get a photo of her. It was quite a challenge, since as soon as one person moved out from in front of the statue another would move in front and block the view. It wasn’t the best way to get a photo of it; but it does show what she looks like.
I preferred to go outside to see if the clouds had cleared, rather than sit waiting in the church for the choir to sing. The clouds were still around; but most of the people weren’t, since they had been moving into the basilica. I was able to take some panoramic photos of the abbey; as well as some of the terrace area.
When I returned to the basilica, I couldn’t believe how many people were in there to see the choir. There was barely standing room available. I was able to squeeze into a spot where I could stand next to Carol. It was really uncomfortable. It defined the expression “packed in like sardines”.
The choir was quite good; but they would only sing for 10 minutes. We left after five minutes, since it really was so uncomfortable to be in that type of crowd. We didn’t want to experience what would happen when everyone wanted to leave at the same time when the music ended, especially with Carol on her scooter. I honestly don’t know how we were able to leave, since even the foyer area was solid people. It was fortunate that we had been at the back of the church, or we wouldn’t have even attempted it. When we escaped, we headed down the hill to find the cafeteria, since it was already after 1:00 PM. By leaving early, we also hoped to beat the crowd that would be heading that way shortly. We were able to get right up to the counter, buy some items and find a table. Shortly after we began eating, the crowd arrived.
After lunch, I went down to the original scenic overlook, since the clouds had opened up some. I was thrilled that it was clear enough to see the valley floor thousands of feet below us. It didn’t last long before the clouds returned; but at least I had been able to see a little of what the view looks like on a clear day.
Even with the less than desirable weather, we had enjoyed the visit. Montserrat is a special place. We were glad that we had been able to finally visit there.
After we got back to town, I went walking around Las Ramblas to enjoy the city and look for a restaurant for our last night in Barcelona, while Carol began packing. Fortunately, since we use T-Mobile for our cellular service, we receive free international data when traveling. It is a huge benefit. The internet speed isn’t the fastest, unless you pay to upgrade it per day; but it is more than adequate for email, Facebook, Twitter, basic web surfing and most of all GPS maps.
While walking, I could look up reviews on the different restaurants as I passed by them. One of the places I had come across was a bar named Boadas (http://boadascocktails.com/en/). It is proclaimed as the oldest bar in Barcelona and supposedly has quite nice cocktails and an old world personality. I normally don’t drink much alcohol at home; but when on vacation, I like to try different beers and drinks; so I thought that Boadas would be a nice place to stop in to. I was right. It was quite a small place with the bartenders in tuxedos. It had more of a British feel to it than Spanish. I was originally just going to get beer; but decided to try the cocktail of the day called a Bits. The bartender told me all the ingredients, which sounded interesting. When he prepared the lovely concoction in front of me and poured it into the martini glass, I knew that this would be a special drink. It was indeed! I would have loved to have a second one; but I had to find a restaurant for dinner.
I was looking for a restaurant that wasn’t right on Las Ramblas, since they have more potential to be tourist traps. Instead I found a small restaurant named Julivert Meu (http://www.julivertmeu.com/), that had excellent reviews. The restaurant looked tiny from the street; but was actually quite a nice size with several nicely decorated rooms. There were many fascinating decorations and objects all over to look at. It had a very comfortable atmosphere.
After having several meals with mainly Spanish dishes, we were hoping to find something different. The waitress and, I believe, restaurant owner’s wife was very sweet and helpful. We ordered one salad to share, since the waitress said it was more than enough. It would have been enough for four people and was quite good.
Carol was concerned about getting another meal with tough meat. She assured us that their meat was most tender, so Carol once again ordered a steak and I ordered a sausage dish. The waitress was correct; the meal was outstanding.
I wish we had found the restaurant the first day, since we would have returned several times. We hadn’t planned on getting dessert but I had read that they had wonderful Crema Catalan; so Carol and I ordered one to split. Too yummy!
After dinner we walked along Las Ramblas appreciating the beautiful illuminated buildings. We also had our last Bailey’s ice cream of the trip. We would miss that wonderful treat; but it is probably best that we aren’t able to get it at home, since we don’t need the extra calories.
Our pre-cruise visit to Barcelona was almost over. We had been able to see so many gorgeous places and were so glad we stayed long enough to fully enjoy Barcelona
Barcelona - Day 5, Embarkation
As usual when on vacation, I woke up early. I had already had my coffee and pastry breakfast; but I still had more time to kill. I decided to walk down to the Boqueria Market while it wasn’t as crowded. While walking through it looking at all the various foods, I came to a stand that was selling fresh fruit in a cup. After being tempted all week by fresh fruit in the local markets, I succumbed to the urge and bought a cup. It was so very good. The fruit was fresh and sweet. I probably should have gone there every morning for breakfast rather than having a pastry or croissant.
We had scheduled a pickup for our transfer to the ship at 10:30 AM, which would get us to the terminal by 11:00 AM. Once again we used Royal Road Transfers. A cab would have been cheaper; but the cabs just weren’t large enough for our luggage and Carol’s scooter. Once again we had a large van, which was quite roomy and comfortable.
I was surprised how long it took to get to the port, since it didn’t appear to be that far away; but the driver took Las Ramblas to get there, which was pretty slow. It didn’t matter to us, since we weren’t in any rush. Once we got to the Columbus statue, I thought that we were almost at the terminal; but there were still several streets to navigate to get to our terminal. We finally arrived and got to see our home for the next 13 days, the Celebrity Equinox.
We walked into the terminal, went through security and were able to quickly get to the reception desk to check in and receive our key cards. After that process was completed, an announcement came over the loud speaker informing everyone that it was time to board the ship. We were on the ship by 11:15 AM, a new early record for us.
The muster drill was scheduled for 4:15 PM, and we were leaving the port at 5:00 PM. We always arrive early to make sure we get chairs for the drill. Our muster station was the Murano Restaurant. It always amazes me how many people arrive right at the assigned time or later and complain that they need to sit down and there are no chairs left. If they need to sit down, they should arrive early when there are plenty of chairs. I will say that there were way too many people having to stand at our station and others. As usual, it did start late because of all the late arrivals. When they finally started making a few announcements something went wrong with the speaker system and there was silence for over 10 minutes. The crowds got restless and loud. Finally, the drill started at 4:37 PM. We were so glad to have seats. I did eventually give a person that had a physical problem my chair, which was OK, since I was tired of sitting so long.
Equinox was the only one of the Celebrity’s S Class ships that we hadn’t cruised on before. All of them are relatively similar and we enjoy this class ship very much. I must say that the Equinox had a very high level of service by the staff and all seemed very happy; which is always nice to see. We also found the officers to be much more involved with the passengers on this cruise. It was very much like what we experienced with Celebrity's Azamara line.
Our captain was Michael Karatzas from Greece. He was a friendly fellow and provided the ship with entertaining announcements. Some with cute jokes that many had heard before; but it was nice to have a captain with a sense of humor.
The numerous public rooms are shown below by category.
Dining Rooms/Food Venues (Links to Menus)–
I have included copies of the menus for all of the dining rooms along with photos of some of the food items at the Menus link just above and at the top of each page of the review.
Silhouette Dining Room – This is the main dining room in the ship where we ate all our dinners on this cruise; as well as most lunches when we were at sea. It is a lovely room. I don’t understand why it wasn’t named the Equinox Dining Room, since we weren’t cruising on the Silhouette.
Oceanview Café – We prefer the island style buffet venues over the traditional long serving table type, since it allows more people to serve themselves at one time. With there being plenty of space between the islands it allows traffic to move pretty well; which is important when hundreds of people are running between islands with plates in their hands.
The seating areas runs along the outside windows of the restaurant. At lunch time it was crowded; but there were always empty seats somewhere.
The one area where people were regularly lined up to be served was the ice cream counter. With only one person serving most of the time, people did get frustrated with the wait. More people were lined up also because the soft serve ice cream machine that was previously out by the Mast Grill area was no longer there; so the only place to get free ice cream during the day was the Oceanview Café.
The area just outside the buffet offers a large covered area; as well as an open area with a view to the ocean to dine. It seemed to be popular on this cruise with the mild weather. The extension coming out from deck 15 is part of the Sunset Bar. It provides additional covered area for the buffet. From the railing on the back, you can get a nice view of the aft balcony cabins and the wake.
Luminae – This is the new restaurant that is only for suite guests. There are no set seatings in this dining room. Guests can eat anytime the restaurant is opened. It is located on the starboard side of deck 3 and was created by taking away space from the Silhouette Dining Room. It is a tastefully elegant room and felt quite comfortable to me. I would have liked to try eating there; but that will have to wait until some day when I book a suite.
I thought that the fluted light fixtures added a nice touch.
Bistro on Five – We used to enjoy going to this restaurant when it was just $5 per person. It was a nice venue for boarding days, since it wasn’t crowded like the buffet usually is on those days. It was also a nice change of pace for a different lunch. But now that it is $10 per person, it just doesn’t make sense to me to go there. I think that I am in the majority, since I never saw many people eating there this cruise.
Blu – This is the dining room reserved for guests in the Aqua Class cabins. It is a lovely smaller dining room with anytime dining. The rose wall decorations are just stunning. We look forward to trying it next year when we are booked in Aqua Class for the first time.
Silk Harvest – Unlike most of the S Class ships, Equinox has the Silk Harvest Asian specialty restaurant, rather than Qsine. The cost to eat there is $35 per person.
Murano – The French style restaurant is the most elegantly appointed of the specialty restaurants. The charge to eat there is $50 per person. We normally like to eat there once a cruise when there is a large discount offered; but we were enjoying the main dining room so much, we didn’t even consider it.
The wine room offers a private area for a large group dinner. We have had a dinner in wine room during a previous cruise and it was a most enjoyable experience.
Tuscan Grille – This is the ships steak house located at the back of the ship on deck 5 with the other specialty restaurants. The charge to eat there is $45 per person. I have heard that the quality has decreased to where it isn’t worth eating there anymore.
Mast Grill – We can always count on the Mast Grill to have very good hamburgers and hot dogs. It is the go to place when we have had enough fancy food and just want something we know will be good. This is also a place where they used to have soft serve ice cream; but it is no more, unfortunately. It is located on deck 14.
AquaSpa Café – This small restaurant is located next to the Solarium. It has healthier food items for breakfast and lunch. The spa food is pretty tasty; but they only have a limited menu. One day I did get their salmon that several people had been raving about. It was pretty good. I was disappointed to see that they are now charging $5.50 for their yogurt sundaes that used to be free.
Lounges (Link to Menus)-
I have included a link to most of the drink menus available on the Equinox. Also there is information about the available drink packages. They can be accessed by clicking on the above link or the menus button at the top of the page.
Passport Bar – This bar is located in the main lobby area on deck 3 across from Guest Relations. It is particularly popular in the evening when musical groups entertain guests in the atrium right next to the bar.
Café al Bacio/Gelateria – This premium coffee bar is always a very popular venue. The various coffees and teas are very good; but there is a charge. They also have a nice selection of fresh pastries availble to have with your coffee.
Since we have reached the Elite Plus loyalty level with Celebrity, we can get free premium coffees whenever we want. That is quite a benefit, since the coffees normally cost $5. With plenty of sea days on this cruise, I had plenty of time to get a couple of coffees each morning. A wonderful waitress/barista Zeljka from Serbia made my visits even more pleasant. She learned my full name, which isn’t an easy one to remember, within a couple of days. It was so nice for her to come up and ask if I wanted my usual coffee and call me by my name without even needing to swipe my card. She was always smiling and so pleasant.
The Gelateria is at one end of Café al Bacio. Since we each got a free scoop for our loyalty status, we had to try it. We didn’t find it any better than the ice cream being served in the buffet. At $4 for a small cup, I understood why no one was ever there.
Casino Bar – Since we don’t gamble, we don’t normally hang out at this bar. However, it was perfectly positioned as the place for Carol to use her coke package after the evening shows before retiring to our cabin.
Oceanview Bar – This is the bar that is located at the back of the Oceanview Café.
Martini Bar – This is always the most popular bar in the evening. The martinis are very good and the bartenders entertaining. It is fascinating to watch them throwing the bottles and glasses around as they are making the martinis. Plus, they have great personalities. The bar surface is chilled to create frost on it. It probably doesn’t do much to keep the drinks cold; but it is fun to play with.
I went to a martini tasting one afternoon. It was an educational session about making drinks; as well as good entertainment watching them making the various martinis. The six small martinis were also very good. I have found that everyone at the tasting has so much fun and gets to know everyone else there. It is an enjoyable activity. Try it, you might like it.
Crush – This bar is in a corner of the Martini Bar. It is also an ice bar; but is focused on serving top shelf vodkas. The area is also an overflow for when the main Martini Bar is full.
Slush – This is a new bar on deck 12 that just serves frozen slushy drinks. I didn’t see many using it; but servers around the pool might have been getting drinks from there for people in the loungers. I am sure it will be a hit on the Caribbean cruises.
Ensemble Lounge – This lounge is one of the largest on the ship. It is normally very dark and cozy. At night they have musicians playing there.
Before entering the Ensemble, there is a small sort of foyer type room. It had an unusual decoration.
Michael’s Club – This club used to be the cigar bar and has gone through different types of use over the years; but it has always retained its stately appearance. Unfortunately, it is now exclusively used as a lounge for Zenith passengers, the highest level in the Celebrity loyalty program. With there being very few Zenith passengers in total and there rarely being more than a handful on a cruise, the room remains empty most of the time. I never saw anyone in the room on this cruise.
World Class Bar – This used to be called the Molecular Bar. Under either name, they served expensive exotic drinks. The drinks are priced from $15 and up. The drinks looked great; but unless I had a premium drink package, I probably wouldn't have ordered too many of them. Fortunately for those that have the premium package, these more expensive drinks are included; even though the package normally only includes drinks up to $13.00
Gastrobar - This is a new venue that replaced Cellar Masters wine bar. It has over 40 craft beers available and offers comfort food for sale. The food prices seemed rather high for what they were serving.
Pool Bar – This is always a popular bar when the sun is shining and warm, since it is right next to the pool area.
Mast Bar – This bar is on deck 14, right above the pool deck. It is there to service people who are out on the sun decks.
Sky Observation Lounge – This is the largest lounge on the ship. It is used for late night entertainment and dancing; as well as other large functions. Each evening between 5:00-7:00, we would attend the Elite cocktail hour before dinner. This is for passengers who have reached the Elite level or higher in the loyalty club. It is very nice, since the drinks are free. They don’t use the top shelf liquors; but the drinks are quite good. They also pass around appetizers. It is a great place to meet other experienced cruisers.
This time we had the best waitress ever, Renata from Hungary. She would have our preferred drinks sitting on our normal table waiting for our group. She was great and really made the cocktail hour special for all of us.
Sunset Bar – This bar is at the back of the ship on the top deck. It is a wonderful location and right next to the lawn area. It is the standard meeting place for sailaway get togethers for people who have met on the www.cruisecritic.com roll call boards before the cruise. It is always nice to meet folks who you have been communicating with, but have never met in person.
Equinox Theater – It is a very large and comfortable theater. Like most of the newer ships, the sound system and lighting were first class. The seats had plenty of leg room. The only minor negative is that there are several seats in the back part of the theater that have obstructed views due to the support beams. I really liked the colorful ceiling pattern. During performances lights would shine different patterned lights on it to accent it.
Celebrity Central – This is a smaller venue used for some of the guest speakers, movies and some of the smaller entertainment shows. It allowed for a more personalized presentation. It is a great room for these activities; but it only holds 200 people; which was a problem for some events.
Entertainment Court – This is the area right outside the theater and Celebrity Central. Its main purpose is to be a lobby area and for people to pass through when going to the theater. This was more of an entertainment court when the Quasar night club was still open. It had recently been closed down to convert part of it over to the new larger future cruise office. Now the court is just a large hallway where they can set up tables to sell merchandise.
Hot Glass Show – This is a facility on the top deck adjoining the lawn area where a glass show is performed. With so many sea days, they had a lot of shows. I have seen quite a few of these shows, so I wasn’t interested in seeing the whole show again; but I did go up occasionaly to see what they were making. As always the staff is very talented and professional. They enjoy teaching people about their craft.
Fortunes Casino – The casino itself appeared, to me, to be well equipped for most gamblers.
Since we don’t use the casino, I really appreciate that we didn’t have to walk through it to get from one end of deck 4 to the other. The design of this class of ship has a walkway between the casino on the starboard side and shops on the port side. This means that only people that want to use the casino need to go into it.
Celebrity iLounge – This is on deck 6, where the staff did computer, iPad and other technology classes. They also provided assistance with those that were having problems connecting to the internet. On the cruise before ours, Celebrity was testing a new internet service that was very fast. Someone who was on both cruises said that they measured the download speed and it was 8 mg during the trial and only .3 mg for our cruise. Needless to say, our speed was painfully slow. I am looking forward to all the ships getting the new improved internet service before we cruise on them again.
Card Room – Located on deck 9, this room was well used on this cruise. There were many card and game players and there was rarely an empty table.
Library – The library is located on decks 10 and 11; but since there did not appear to be a way to get up to the books on deck 11, it was merely a room with a high ceiling.
Video Arcade – The ship actually has a very nice arcade. With there only being 6 kids on the cruise, it didn’t get much use.
The Lawn Club – This has always been a unique feature of the Celebrity Solstice class of ships. There seemed to be many more activities on the lawn than I have seen on other cruises. A lot of people were also enjoying playing bocce ball whenever I was up there.
Swimming Pools – The two main pools were well used, particularly the last few days when the moderate temperatures we had increased to hot. The area is nicely designed and during this cruise, there always seemed to be deck chairs available. The padded chairs and large beach towels that were available made it a most enjoyable place to chill out.
It is quite lovely at night when it is lit up.
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