Thursday, August 20, 2009

Celebrity Equinox - Luxury Touches Here, There and OK, Not, Everywhere...But There Are Lots of Them!

We decided to spend our day in Naples by taking the ferry over to Capri. While people were lined up probably 50 deep to buy tickets for the 10:30 am ferry I walked down the ticket booth and found virtually no line for the 10:00 am ferry. We had run, but we made it. (I figure people were still standing in first line as we approached Capri!)


Capri, unfortunately, was overrun with tourists. Unlike our visit some years ago, the funicular had long lines so we opted for the 20€ taxi ride to Capri Town. It was worth the premium to avoid that additional line. Unfortunately, the crowds at the top were no less as we tried to wander the streets and visit the shops. Too many tour conductor paddles and throngs of people following them.

“My” pizza restaurant was still there and we had some great pizza and awesome views, though the rose wine was terrible. (Some sort of Italian yuk rather than a rose de Provence.) Talking to the waiter he was said he had heard of New Jersey as the place second generation Italian Americans move to after their parents emigrate to New York. He, like I, called it “the migration” to New Jersey.

After lunch it was just too crowded to be enjoyable, so we opted to just go back to the ship. At 32€ per person roundtrip times 4 people it was kind of an expensive disappointment, but alas such are the reasons I encourage people that can to travel during months other than August when all of Europe is on holiday.

Speaking of Europeans on holiday, Americans are definitely in the minority on the Celebrity Equinox. There are large contingents of British, Spanish and Italians. Quite a number of Israelis (which is interesting since Israel has two port calls) and some French are also onboard. It makes for a very nice mix.

Before dinner we had a glass of wine at Cellar Masters. While I hate the name (it seems far too Royal Caribbean) the venue…including the artwork…is very upscale and it is a rather underutilized lounge. There is a wide range of very good wines by the glass and a complimentary cheese and bread presentation. Later in the evening a string quartet was playing. Luxury? I think so.

Last evening we ate at Murano, the “fanciest” restaurant on the ship. It was quite a pleasure to be dining in a quiet stayed venue rather than the rather frenetic, though nice, main dining room. The food was excellent. I started with Diver Scallop with Black Truffles in a puff pastry. (I could have done without the pastry shell, but the dish was excellent and the presentation wonderful.) Next up was a Mushroom Cappuccino Soup with a side of a mushroom sorbet. Excellent, with a wonderful presentation. (My DW had similarly high quality lobster bisque.) For our main courses my wife had Surf & Turf which was absolutely beautiful and extremely well prepared with perfectly cooked lobster tail and melt in your mouth fillet mignon. I had excellent Sautéed Turbot. Desserts were very good (if not necessary) and the wine list was limited but of surprisingly good quality and range.

Frankly, my dinner made me think of Regent Seven Seas Prime 7 with its oversized steaks and crab legs which are pushed as “luxury”. It is not. Celebrity’s well proportioned and frankly, stunning, Surf & Turf presentation and foaming Mushroom Cappuccino soup is how “luxury” is to be done. (Even the potatoes were presented two ways…and formed into a small flower, which was understated rather than tacky.)

Now, for the not so great.

The pool is, for me, just too busy. It is nothing like pool games and giant LCD televisions blasting music videos, but for me there are just too many people. (There was a very good guitarist playing live music.) Fortunately, there are many spaces and places on the Celebrity Equinox so you can find a semi-private and quiet area to sun or snooze. Far forward on Deck 15 affords you a very nice view, breezes and some solitude.

There are lots of people, so feeling exclusive is not going to happen regularly as you travel around the ship to the more exclusive venues. However, Celebrity has taken the approach of disbursing the passengers rather than accumulating them. So, for example, the pool has many different areas which are visually or physically broken up rather than fixed with lounge chairs stacked as close together as humanly possible, and the lounges are on different levels with public spaces or elevators adjacent to them to keep the areas feeling smaller.

Keep in mind that I have never been a fan of pool clubs or beach clubs. Many people love them. People watching is a way of life for more than a few folks. So, there are many very happy people enjoying the Celebrity Equinox pool areas. (Interestingly, and I guess consistent with my comment, the indoor Solarium pool area is NOT crowded and you can regularly find lounges right in front of the pool or next to the glass overlooking the sea.)

The bar waiters have slowed, but not stopped, the pushing of drinks and bottled water. Late yesterday you could not find a waiter without a drink of the day on his/her tray and you needed to avoid eye contact or you would get the question. Bottled water (two sizes) also seems to be ubiquitous on waiter trays. Mind you, they are not coming up to you pushing it ala NCL or Carnival, but for me it is a sore point.

I have had some wine issues, but I will leave them for another post. Nothing which ruined an experience, but along the lines of “Huh?”.

All in all, I am very happy to be here and am very, very relaxed.