Celebrity Equinox - 10 Night Best of Europe Cruise
My Australian friend Juanita mentioned back in February 2008 she was planning on coming over to Europe the following year and suggested we do a cruise together.  Excellent idea and any excuse to get me back on a ship!  But what?  It would have to be something not too expensive and she ruled out anything less than a week.  She fancied the Caribbean but that would have cost a fortune when you add flights. I was leaning towards P&O since they're reasonable priced for a fortnight in spring as she was unable to do June-September, which are costly anyway.  Then came an announcement from Celebrity Cruises - Celebrity Equinox would be having the maiden voyage from Southampton to Rome on the 8th August 2009!  Wonderful, and I did enjoy my trip on Constellation.  The only problem was it being during the time she couldn't go.  I thought I'd test the waters so phoned on the 4th March (5th there).  I put it to her, reading the itinerary from the dedicated website which wasn't supposed to be live until the 6th and it sparked her interest.  Captain's Club members could book from the 13th with it going on general sale a week later.  All we needed was a price.  I'd enquired with Mandi at Thomas Cook but she'd never even heard of it.  She did some digging and came up with the goods.  I usually book direct but she'd been so good I'd have felt terrible if I hadn't used her.  Well the 13th arrived and nothing.  It was on sale from 2pm (9am in New York) but no one could access anything this side and the prices were in dollars!  She finally got the cost around 4.30pm, by which time Juanita was in bed.  So I sent an email asking her to let me know when she was awake.  I called as soon as I received a reply and she was fine with it so I went down in the morning to get it all booked, while discussing with Juanita various options over the mobile.  The bill!  We had stateroom 7137 port side so that would be interesting.  In November I went to add my flight, since Juanita would be staying on in Italy and then flying to Paris to catch up with friends.  Mandi discovered an earlier enquiry regarding cost of deferring five days for both of us had been added by someone at Celebrity.  So they had to cancel all that before doing the flight on the 20th August.  She was informed, because it was deferred, I would not receive transfers.  On the 16th February 2009 someone from Thomas Cook phoned to tell me the ship would be early and the original 31st July cruise to the Fjords which they quickly removed, had been added.  We couldn't change but Juanita didn't want to anyway, the itinerary being the main draw for ours.  When Celebrity put out a press release about it the next day, they said it was a 'soft launch' and ours was still the maiden.  Also, booked passengers would have the option to sail on both.  Not us!  Wonder how many others weren't asked either?  I started paying it off on the 20th April, all done by the 24th.  Now it was a matter of getting into the booking.  Couldn't do it!  "Contains multiple gateways" it read.  Turned out it was because of my flight and they didn't want anything changing accidentally.  I was told how we could book the tours so I emailed Juanita with the details.  Juanita began to organise excursions on the 3rd June then hotels, her own travel plus arrangements from the port to hotel in Rome and my car to the airport the day after.  A month later I could access the booking!  While the ship arrived in Southampton on the 19th July for around 5am, my tickets didn't reach the travel agent until the 21st.

Juanita arrived in the UK on the 5th August, staying in London a couple of days before coming to me on the 7th.  There was no way someone uninterested in ships was going to get up at the crack of dawn to see her arrive.  
Oceana was also in but due to leave at 4.30pm while we were 5pm.  We caught the 10.35am bus and took a nice stroll down the pier.  There was some entertainment going on at the Promenade and American flags.
It was lovely Hotspur IV taking us over.  From the oldest passenger vessel in the area to the newest.  Andy was on and entertaining Juanita while asking why I want more photos of Oceana when I have plenty.  Not at that angle I don't!  He's so cheeky.
We had a short wait for a taxi but a couple turned up.  The driver didn't know which ship was Equinox or which the terminal was so I had to tell him.  He dropped us off at City and I had to record the monumentous occasion of Juanita at a cruise terminal about to go on one!
We went in and it was virtually empty!  I have NEVER known there to be no queue for security at that time of day.  It was like a ghost terminal!  Check in was a doddle too, but only one deckplan for two people.  The deckplan itself was just a cutaway and didn't actually tell you where anything was.  Boarding photo then on.  Juanita was getting closer to her first cruise.  How would she enjoy it?
Note my brand new Zara bag, bought the afternoon before especially to thwart the Lambretta brigade in Rome.  The bag will feature later.
When we boarded they offered champagne, wine or Buck's Fizz.  Juanita wasn't keen and would have preferred just orange but they wouldn't offer any.  We listened to the quartet in the Grand Foyer for a while.  I thought the Grand Foyer was disappointing and preferred that on the Millennium class.  We went to find our cabin, even though they said they'd be ready at 1pm.
The bed was so comfortable, more than that on Norwegian Gem.  The sofa was a little hard but there was plenty of storage space in the cabin.  The mini bar was locked and there was bugger all information anywhere.  There was one postcard of the ship, three pieces of paper and two envelopes to begin with.  A few days into the cruise they would all have mysteriously disappeared.  The bathroom was lovely, shower cubicle large enough not to hit anything when moving around.  There's even a little bar for ladies to put their foot on when they shave their legs.  The only thing I didn't like was the fixed showerhead. It makes it difficult if you just want to wash your hair and the whole things steams up.  I can't see without my glasses so had no idea what I was doing while trying to do my legs.  With detachable you can control where the water flows.  I also have a wrist injury so it's easier to hold the shower with that hand and wash my hair.  It's better too in rough sea.  You can get on your knees rather than risk breaking your neck.  You also couldn't just push the button to flush the toilet.  You had to really whack the thing or it didn't work.  Anyway apart from those mild gripes, the bathroom was fabulous.  Stewarding, on the other hand, had already got off to a fairly bad start with one hygiene bag.
We decided to go for a wander and explore our home for the next ten nights.  I had heard so many good things about Solstice I was really excited to be on her sister.  Some things had been changed apparently, but apart from coloured carpet in the main dining room and the X on the funnel being decent instead of the last-minute slapped on addition, I can't remember what they were.
We went to the Oceanview for lunch and a very fine selection they had too.  If you want some pasta, like I had, you select what vegetables you want as part of it which is fried on the spot, choose your pasta and sauce and hey presto - a hot meal!  It was really nice.  As we were eating, we were buzzed by a helicopter numerous times.
The X definitely looked nicer than on Solstice.  However, I think it would be better of they put it on both funnels like the original ships.  It looks silly being on one.  Also I wish they would drop the Celebrity prefix in the ship names.  Talk about a mouthful!  There's no ship called Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas, is there?  Celebrity whatever is just as stupid and only really used by those working for the company.  It has Celebrity Cruises on the side so doesn't need it.
The Promenade Deck is one design feature they really need to sort out because it's bad compared to other ships.  I was frustrated on Constellation to hit dead ends and being unable to walk even around the stern.  Yet on her near sister Radiance class, you not only can but also on the bow.  The Solstice class was something else altogether.  Due to the lifeboats/tenders/Zodiacs there is actually very little deck space to look over the side from.  The tenders block the majority of the view.  There's nothing nicer on a hot, sunny day than relaxing in the shade of the Prom deck and watching the world go by.  Clearly someone at RCCL doesn't think so and wants everyone to get skin cancer from the crowded upper decks after swimming in their tiny pools!
We went to Guest Relations trying to find spare copies of Celebrity Today.  Normally there's a rack but in this case there was nothing.  We eventually found them at the end of the desk, tucked away and none in English so asked and some were brought out.  Then we returned to the cabin since it was going to be muster at 4.15pm and found our cases waiting for us.  Rather annoyingly on these ships the door opens outwards into the corridor rather than into the room.  Our steward Frederick came and introduced himself and told us we didn't have to wear our lifejackets.  That was a first and also a shame.  I was looking forward to Juanita wearing her first.  They had been a bugger to find.  Normally they're in the wardrobe, either above or underneath.  In this case, they were in a basket under the bed.
Muster was certainly different.  Our muster station was the Coral Theatre, while some went to their lifeboats.  Instead of the droning speech, we ended up watching a similar film to which had been running on the TV.  Afterwards we were informed we would now receive important information, which was just all muster guides yelling over each other who they were and what they do!  You couldn't understand what yours was saying.  Nice try but just show us the film and let us leave.  It was over by 4.30pm so I went via the Solarium and gym to the forward observation area above the bridge since I'd seen it wasn't crowded during her previous sailing, while Juanita went for a cup of tea.  No chance of my dad missing me THIS time - I hoped!  There was a barber as well as ladies hairdresser.
For some reason Oceana was still there.  I had expected her to be leaving as I arrived out there, or shortly afterwards.  We had the announcement of our imminent departure but not once did they say it was the maiden voyage.  Even the Celebrity Today made no mention of it.  Maybe they'd do something to mark it during the cruise.  Bang on the hour the ropes began to be thrown, and as we moved off, we blasted.  But, like with Independence of the Seas in 2008, no fire tug escort.  It was a lovely day though, considering a couple of days earlier it had been cold and raining.  Perhaps summer had finally arrived just as I was leaving it.
I managed to capture my dad and Geoff sat down the front of the marina.  The white cap my dad wears is unmistakable.  Apparently Geoff had no trouble seeing me but I'd have to wait another twelve days until I discovered if my dad had or not.
After I'd got the former Svitzer tug Shannon for Pam as promised, which was being converted to a research vessel, I had to find my way back through the gym and solarium (which was now very busy), go up two decks and work my way to the stern and get Oceana.  There are simply no straight lines outside forward to aft on these ships apart from the Promenade Deck so it takes longer than usual.
 


Next

© Patricia Dempsey & Juanita Adie-Cooper 8th-18th August 2009
Not to be reproduced without permission