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
Ports of Call
Lanzarote, Canary Islands
After eight days without rain, it looked like our luck had run out. The forecast for Lanzarote had shown rain for this day for the last two weeks that I had been watching it. Where rain had been forecast in the other ports, the forecast would change the day before we arrived; which was awesome. But this forecast looked like it was going to be accurate. There were lots of clouds and we could see some rain in the distance. Lanzarote had recently built a new cruise terminal and dock to increase tourism. It was a large area with room for expansion. It was apparently an effective strategy, because there would be five ships in port that day.
Lanzarote was a relatively young island with many volcanos, which we could see from the ship.
I had set up a private tour for a group from our Cruise Critic roll call of 10 people with Lanzarote Experience Tours (www.lanzaroteexperiencetours.com/en). It was supposed to be on a van that would hold 15 of us, so there should have been plenty of room for everyone. When we loaded in, there was only one extra seat. I was not happy about that, since we were supposed to have the larger van. But since their larger van was also there and full, there wasn’t much we could do about it then. When I returned home, I contacted the tour company about the situation. She confirmed that we were supposed to have the larger van; but she gave it to a different group by accident. The van was still quite comfortable and roomy enough.
Our guide for the day was Nely. Now she was a gem! Very sweet and most helpful.
She provided us with lots of information about the island and its famous artist César Manriques. I had never heard of him until I was researching the island before the cruise. He was instrumental in changing the economy of Lanzarote from mainly agricultural to a mostly tourist based one. While driving to our first destination, it was difficult to imagine growing much on what was mostly volcanic rock. We did pass by a windmill that looked like it came from Mykonos.
The large cut outs on the mountains were where they had quarried volcanic rock. The rock also seemed to be the main building material on the island. I could understand why, it was everywhere.
Our first stop was Jameos del Agua. I hadn’t seen much about this attraction and didn’t have any idea of what we would be seeing. Nely told us that we were going into a lava tube. We had been in lava tubes in Hawaii; but they were nothing like what we were about to experience. While driving there, we passed by many works by Manriques along the side of the road or in the center of round-a-bouts. Since I was on the right side of the van, I couldn’t get photos of them. When we arrived at Jameos del Agua, I was finally able to take a photo of a crab statue that looked more like a lobster. There had been one just like it in a round-a-bout during the drive.
The building we entered was made of volcanic rock. There was a long flight of stairs to descend to get into the attraction. I thought that Carol would wait outside until we finished the tour; but she wanted to see what it was all about. As we walked down we could see that we were entering a large round opening in the earth. It was a massive lava tube. So large that they were able to have a restaurant/bar on the floor of it. There were tropical plants and cactus spread around the illuminated room.
The floor was rather treacherous to walk on, since it was the natural floor and quite uneven. Nely warned us to always look down while walking.
The only smooth area was the dance floor.
On one side of the room was a cave with an aqua colored pool at the bottom. We were thoroughly enjoying the beauty of this place.
The tour continued further down the lava tube with more stairs. I asked Carol if she wanted to meet us at the end of the tour; but she wanted to keep going. I told her that what goes down must come back up and that meant climbing stairs.
We were rewarded with a lovely view of an underground pool flowing through the lava tube. Nely told us that the white objects at the bottom of the pool were blind albino crabs.
When we climbed out of the tube, we came to a lovely artificial pool. The lush aqua color looked so inviting. The weather was much better than we had expected with a 73-degree temperature. After climbing up the stairs, it felt pretty warm in the sun.
We still had more stairs to climb.
When we got to the top, we entered another section of lava tube that contained a large theater that seats 550 people. There was an interesting Manriques design on the ceiling.
Leaving the theater, we were able to get another view of the artificial pool. The tour was almost over and Carol had survived. She was exhausted; but I was proud that she had been willing to climb all the stairs and was able to accomplish it. I found out after we returned home that movie star Rita Hayworth had described this attraction as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”. It is an amazing place to visit; but I guess that Rita hadn’t traveled around that much, or she would have seen others that were more worthy of that classification.
Our next stop was at the Manriques Foundation. The upper building is a museum of Manriques’ works and the subterranean section was his home. Visiting his home was a major appeal of this tour; since the ship’s tours and most private tours don’t visit there. The home was built in 1968 around five volcanic bubbles from the 1730 eruption that covered the area with volcanic rock. The area is very barren and dark due to it being a lava field. This makes the plants and Manriques statues really display nicely.
Many of the plants in the yard were protected by lava rock walls on the windward side to keep them from being blown away by the strong winds on Lanzarote.
As we walked around the grounds, we could see trees sticking up through the volcanic bubbles in the home section of the building.
We entered on the ground level, which is the museum section. Nely explained to us about the building and some of the artwork. The museum was uncomfortably hot; which surprised me, since the outside temperature was around 70. I have to assume that they didn’t have the air conditioning running since it wasn’t hot outside. If that isn’t what happened, I certainly can’t imagine how hot it would be in the summer months.
We finally were set free to go downstairs to explore the home. To say that the home is strange is an understatement. It is composed of unusually decorated rooms many with trees growing up to the surface through the lava bubbles, connected by narrow rock tunnels.
Very strange indeed; but very interesting. It is probably a good thing that Lanzarote only has rain 18 days a year, since there didn’t appear to be a way to close the lava bubbles to keep the rain out of the house.
There was a nice indoor pool in one of the lava bubbles. The aqua and white of the pool contrasted nicely to the black lava walls. It did look inviting.
When we got back on ground level, we walked back through the museum. It was quite unusual how the building's window was built around a piece of the lava flow to make it look like it was coming into the museum.
When we left the museum, Nely gave us some free time. Restroom stops and ice cream eating seemed to be the top choices in the group. We strolled around some other sections outside of the building. The beauty of the Manriques Foundation was beginning to grow on me. It was obviously most unusual; but it had a unique beauty.
After leaving the foundation, we passed by more volcanos. They were everywhere.
It was lunch time. Included in the tour cost was a buffet lunch at a local restaurant. It was a large restaurant that appeared to be frequented my many bus tours. I normally don’t care for this type restaurant, since the food is designed to be cheap and quick; but this place wasn’t bad.
After lunch we headed for Timanfaya National Park. This was when the weather forecast became accurate and the rain began. It wasn’t a heavy rain; but the wind was ruthless. The umbrella’s we brought were useless, since they were blown inside out. Nely tried to be cute and tell us how special we were since Lanzarote only averages about 18 days of rain a year; and we were lucky to be there when it rained. That didn’t help. At least it wasn’t a downpour. With the rain, it was difficult to take photos out of the van windows; but we could see the barren volcanic terrain. There were many volcanos in the distance; but the clouds and rain made it challenging to see them. Fortunately, we had seen lots of them on the way there; but not after we arrived.
Vehicles aren’t allowed to stop along the road in the park, so the only place we could actually get out of the van was at the large round facility containing a restaurant, shops, restrooms and some exhibits. We left the van trying to brave the elements with our umbrellas to no avail. I was getting wetter trying to make the umbrella protect me than not. Fortunately, a lava rock wall worked pretty well to stop the wind and rain. We were taken up to a large hole in the ground for a display of the thermal heat under our feet. Apparently, if you dig down a few feet into the ground, it is quite hot. The fellow performing the display attached some hay to a long rod. He put it into the hole and within seconds the hay burst into flame. We were impressed.
Close by there were metal tubes sticking out of the ground. The attendant poured some water out of a bucket into one of the tubes. Nely counted to 5 and we had a small geyser in front of us. They did it a couple times with the same result. It didn’t take long to boil the water in the hole. The ground must be really hot since the rocks around the restaurant were steaming from the rain falling on them.
The last display was a large grilling pit that the was powered by the heat of the earth. The restaurant was grilling lots of chicken on it.
We then had some free time to either get some food in the restaurant, visit the shops or use the rest rooms. Nely had pointed to the park’s emblem of a devil statue when we entered the park. The restaurant had the red emblem on many of the windows.
By the time we were to return to the bus for the ride through the park, the rain had almost stopped. But the water drops were still on our side of the van, so I wasn’t able to get many photos of this most unusual landscape. The park had been used in making several movies including Raquel Welch’s 1,000,000 BC, due to it looking like prehistoric earth. Many of the roks had lichen covering them. It was one of the few things that would grow on the lava rocks.
In one area we passed by a structure that showed the various multi colored layers of striated earth.
Earlier before we first entered the park, Nely had pointed out a large group of camels. They were too far away to be able to get photos of them, so she promised to stop there so we could get photos after we left the park. Since the rain had now stopped, it was much better timing. There are apparently 300 camels living on Lanzarote. They used to be mainly work animals at farms; but were now just used as a tourist activity. Lots of people were visiting there to take a camel ride. We enjoyed just looking at the unusual looking creatures. I am sure they thought the same about us.
For our next stop we were in for a real treat. We were going to see the Los Hervideros or the Boiling Pot. It was an area along the coast where the water comes rushing in to create what looks like a boiling pot of water. A rather large one at that. In the below sequence, you can see how the water comes crashing in.
The winds that had beaten up on my umbrella earlier were now providing an awesome display of the power of wind and water. The crashing waves and resulting sprays all around the area were quite a site. I thought that was all we were to see; but Nely told us to follow her to where we were walking on the lava rock above the crashing waves. There were paths throughout the area that took us to openings where we could look down into the water streaming into the caves under our feet. Very impressive. I had to take a video of the action. This actually did look like a pot of boiling water.
I found the path to where I had seen a few people standing on the side of the boiling pot. What a great location to witness all the power. This was a great stop. I couldn’t believe how many different and enjoyable places we had seen on this tour.
On the drive to our last stop, we passed by some salt flats and piles of salt produced there. I was starting to enjoy the different looking terrain, especially since the rain had stopped.
For our last stop, we were going to a vineyard for a wine tasting of Lanzarote’s wine.
What was most special about the stop was to see the unique way that the grape vines were grown in Lanzarote. Because of the strong winds, each vine has to be protected by digging into the earth and planting the vines below the surface. A short rock wall is then built to protect against the prevailing winds. This type setup also directs the moisture to the plant’s roots. It certainly makes planting and harvesting much more labor intensive.
The grape vine mounds seemed to go on forever up into the mountains. It is certainly something that one must be sure to see if visiting Lanzarote; since I don’t know if it is done like this anywhere else in the world.
On the drive back to the ship, I thought about what an excellent tour we had on such an interesting island. Even with the rain in the national park, Lanzarote was a much better port stop than I had expected. Having never heard of Lanzarote until we booked the cruise, I now appreciated that it was on the itinerary.
Tenerife, Canary Islands
Our arrival into Tenerife was just spectacular, with the early morning sun illuminating the towns and mountains. We even had a little bit of a rainbow. I had forgotten what a lush beautiful island that Tenerife was. It was even more beautiful after spending the previous day on the lava rock island of Lanzarote. We did have a chance of rain during the day; but hopefully it wouldn’t be an issue.
We had just visited Tenerife a year ago and saw the main tourist destination Mt. Tiede National Park. I had originally just thought about walking around the town of Santa Cruz, where the ship docked. A major benefit of joining a CruiseCritic.com roll call is that it is so easy to join a private tour. Laura and Andrew asked if anyone on the roll call wanted to take a tour with www.feeltenerife.com to see the northern part of Tenerife. Since it would primarily be a walking tour, I joined the group of three other couples, while Carol took a ship tour that would be mostly driving around Santa Cruz.
Our group met at the GastroBar on deck 4, so we could leave the ship together. When we exited the Equinox, our tour guide for the day, Jamie, was waiting for us with a sign. Unlike the previous ports, the Tenerife dock area was very narrow and there was no room for private vans to park. There really wasn’t enough for the ship tour busses either, so they were arriving, loading and leaving while others took their parking spots. Fortunately, Tenerife has a free shuttle to take you off of the dock and to a spot near the terminal where you can catch other transportation; or in our case walk to Jamie’s van.
He turned out to be a splendid tour guide and so enjoyable to spend the day with. He stopped many times for us to be able to take photos from some of the most beautiful vistas on the island. Since we were traveling in a van, we were able to stop and travel where the large ship tour busses couldn’t go. He also gave us interesting history and information without overloading or boring us with it. I plan on using him again next year for a tour to a different part of the island, since he did an outstanding job of showing us the island and allowing us to experience it like a local.
He had a very nice van and quite colorful. It made it easy to spot when we were looking for where he was parked. The van was quite comfortable. I sat in the last row of seats, which was actually the roomiest and quite comfortable. My only complaint, which I discussed with Jamie, was that he needed to have a sound system so that we could hear what he was telling us in the back seat. He had said when we got on the van the first time that he didn’t use a sound system because he thought it was less personal. I suggested that if he had clients sitting in the back row that he really needed one if he wanted to be heard. Hopefully he will take the advice. I will check with him next year before our tour with him.
Our drive out of town allowed us to see the lush mountainous Tenerife landscape. Our first stop allowed us to take a panoramic shot with Mt. Tiede in the distance, the cities below and the lovely coastline.
Jamie then drove to another scenic overlook to where we could get more photos of the lovely coastline. On the way, we could see a rainbow in the distance.
At this stop, in addition to the coastline, we could look down on the banana plantations. In the middle of one of them was a dragon tree sticking up above the shorter banana plants. It was the first of many that we would see. I had not seen any the previous year and thought that dragon trees were only found on Madagascar.
We then started the drive down to sea level on a very narrow road that snaked down the mountain. And it did snake with so many curves. But the views were spectacular. We stopped midway down to take photos.
Jamie told us about the area and where we would be going. It was then that I noticed the picture on the back of the van of the back of Jamie’s head. I thought that was rather clever.
Our destination was the town of Garachico. It is a lovely town and unique as a coastal community, since there are no large hotels in the area. This is due to there not being any beaches.
Strolling along the coastline, the town had made park areas on the volcanic rock overlooking the ocean.
I thought it was interesting how they had walled off a cove with a wall. When the tides came in, the water would gush through the tubes in a controlled flow.
At the end of the walk was the Fort of San Miguel built in 1577. There was a small island in the ocean not far from the fort.
Our next destination was to the city of Icod de los Vinos for a wine tasting. The town’s name indicated that this was the place for wine. It was also the place that had some dragon trees. After Jamie parked the van, we started our walk into town. He pointed out a loaded banana plant. I had never seen one with such a large flower at the bottom of it.
I was too fascinated by these trees. Jamie said that the oldest dragon tree on the island was in this town. It was 1,000 years old. But first we would walk around town a little. It was another lovely place. He pointed out the old wooden balcony on one of the older homes.
He also pointed out how plants were growing out of the roofs. After he pointed it out, we would notice them everywhere.
At last we arrived at the granddaddy of all the dragon trees on the island. It was a big one and looked very old.
We walked down the narrow streets to where we would have the wine tasting. Rather than a vineyard, it was in a private home that had been set up for wine tasting.
Jamie showed us the courtyard and explained that courtyards like that are located in the center of many of the older homes in Tenerife.
The wine tasting was led by a lovely lady from Cuba. She was so entertaining and taught us a lot about the various wines. The wines we would taste were all whites. Each one had a story. They were all delicious. The cheese and sauces they served with the wine were quite delicious. This was a great wine tasting event.
After the wine tasting, we drove to the town of La Oratava. While walking to the main town area, I saw the Church of La Concepción. Since it was Sunday and there were services going on, I just snuck in to get a peek at it and a couple of photos.
Walking around was a real treat. This was such a gorgeous town.
They also had their share of Dragon Trees.
The town was on a hill, so some of the roads were quite steep.
We felt like we were walking in a ghost town, since the streets were so empty.
Looking down a hill, I could see the twin towers of the Church of La Concepción I had just visited.
Our last stop was in the town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, another beautiful town.
Once again, the streets weren’t crowded with people. We were having a great time. This had been such an enjoyable tour. It had been so nice to be able to see the real beauty of Tenerife, rather than the barren area of Mt. Tiede. I did thoroughly enjoy seeing Mt. Tiede the previous year; but this tour had shown me why so many people choose to visit Tenerife for a vacation spot.
During the walk, Jamie took us to a building with a lovely courtyard and colorful tile work.
We stopped at a small cafe for a restroom break and small snack, since we chose not to waste time for a large sit down lunch. Jamie told us that we needed to try a coffee drink called Barraquito. I got it and a pastry. The Barraquito was quite good and could become habit forming if we were staying in Tenerife longer.
After our break, we continued touring the town. It was such a beautiful town with so much to see. There were quite a few dragon trees in La Laguna. I was starting to get the feeling that they weren't that special since, they were pretty common on Tenerife.
We passed by a large gray building with a fountain in the courtyard. Jamie then took us to another building to show us the large courtyard with wooden balconies.
It was time to head back to the ship. I wished we could have stayed longer. When we arrived at the port, Jamie was able to drive the van right up to the Equinox, since the busses were no longer there. It was much more convenient. When we were saying our good byes, Jamie gave each of us a bottle of the delicious sauce that we had enjoyed at the wine tasting as a souvenir of our visit. Quite a generous and kind gesture.
We could see a rainbow at one end of the ship, so as soon as I got onto the ship, I headed up to deck 14 to take some photos. It was strange to actually see the end of the rainbow going into the ocean.
With this being our first Transatlantic cruise, we had no idea if we would enjoy being at sea for seven days in a row. For many it is a chance to relax and just have down time. Since I retired in 2013, I have plenty of downtime and can relax very easily and frequently in our warm south Florida environment. So boredom was more of a concern, even though I had plenty of books to read on my Kindle if needed. I had recently purchased a MacBook that would allow me to work on the many photos I take during a vacation. It would also mean that I could begin writing on this review before I arrived home. With the many activities, especially the great podium speakers on this cruise, I really didn’t have much free time during the week. I was able to get a lot done; but much less than I planned. I still had time to look out at the view we would have each day.
Many people ask what there is to do while at sea for seven days while crossing the Atlantic. To show what the ship activities were for this cruise, I have copied the itineraries for the days we were crossing from the daily Celebrity Today information paper. Here is a link to them.
What surprised me the most was the pleasant weather we had during the crossing. Most of the time it was sunny and in the 70’s; until the last two days when it moved into the 80’s and the humidity increased. The seas were also very mild. I didn’t see any other ships the whole time until we got close to the Bahamas, except for one sail boat that we saw one morning when we were 700 miles from the Bahamas. Can’t imagine what it was doing out that far, since it was a small boat.
Because we were traveling west, we had to set back the clock as we moved into different time zones. We set our clocks back one hour five times over seven days. It worked out quite nicely, since it gave the crew and passengers a lot of extra sleep. I don’t think the time change would be as pleasant on the eastbound TA’s. Of course, since we would be at sea, we wouldn’t have to wake up early for an excursion.
The crossing was a very pleasant experience. So much so that we are looking forward to doing another one next year after a Mediterranean cruise.
With us arriving at Port Everglades on a Monday, we were able to use the newest terminal that is used by the Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ships. Since we had flown out of Miami and were returning to Fort Lauderdale, we needed to find a way back to the Miami airport, where we could catch a shuttle to the offsite parking where our car was waiting for us. We had originally thought that it might be nice to take the Miami tour excursion that ended at the airport, since we don’t get to Miami that often. Since that tour started at 7:15 AM and would cost $50 each rather than the $30 transfer that left an hour later, we decided that we would skip the tour and just take the transfer.
Disembarking the ship was very easy. We waited in the Tuscan Grill until our number was called just before 8:00 AM. The hallways weren’t crowded and there was no line to get off the ship. Quite pleasant and unusual. Since the terminal is large enough to handle ships twice the size of the Equinox, there was plenty of room to spread the luggage out in the main hallway. The line to immigration/customs just had a few people in front of each agent. It was very well organized and ran very smoothly. When we exited the terminal, we had to find the bus for the transfer we were taking to MIA. The bus just had one other couple on it. Around 8:30 AM, I asked the driver when we would be leaving to see if we had time for a restroom break. He said it would be another half hour. When we finally did leave just after 9:00 AM, there were only seven other people on the bus. Apparently the MIA transfer isn’t that popular. But it was an easy way to get back to our car.
When we booked this cruise, we were uncertain if we would like a Transatlantic cruise. We now know the answer to that question is that it is indeed a most enjoyable experience; just like most cruises. I was so glad that we finally got to spend some quality time in Barcelona, since it is such a great city for tourists. The other ports were much better than I had expected; and I had high expectations for a couple of them. We were blessed with very good weather throughout the cruise and met some lovely people. What more could we have asked for. It was a great cruise!
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