I recently went on an amazing 11 night cruise as a result of attaining ‘Admiral’ status in the Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara Club Cruises training. One week before sailing I was advised that I had the opportunity to sail on the beautiful Celebrity Equinox, one of the five Solstice Class ships in the Celebrity Fleet. A hectic week followed organising childcare, flights, hotel in Rome and train tickets so that my husband and I could enjoy this amazing opportunity.
We arrived in Rome Fiumicino airport and caught the Leonardo Di Vinci train to Rome Termini station. We dropped our luggage off and immediately set off to explore and were immediately struck by the numerous Roman antiquities everywhere. The magnificent Colosseum with its dramatic lighting is a sight to behold, especially whilst enjoying pizza and Prosecco.
Next morning we enjoyed the sight-seeing opportunities before heading to the cruise terminal. We saw the monumental Spanish Steps, gorgeous Trevi Fountain and awe inspiring Pantheon. Had we had more time we would have crossed the river Tiber to see the Vatican City – we will definitely return to Rome and this will be first on our itinerary.
We took the train to Civitavecchia where we checked in and boarded the fabulous Celebrity Equinox. We set sail at 6pm for a day at sea passing between the toe of Italy and Sicily, before arriving the next day in Santorini. Celebrity Equinox has a crew ratio of one to every two passengers. 85% of all the spacious stateroom cabins have sweeping balconies. The 5* dining is truly amazing and the crew are very friendly and attentive, without becoming overbearing. There is a unique Lawn Club with real grass where you can play mini golf, boules and croquet. The Corning Glass Blowing, where you watch glass blowing demonstrations is a great feature of this ship, as is the Martini Bar where the cocktail waiters put on a great show when producing their delicious drinks.
We arrived in Santorini in the early afternoon to be greeted by the spectacular sight of Thira town perched on the top of 300m high cliffs. The beautiful Greek island of Santorini is part of a small, circular archipelago on the edges of a large volcanic caldera, the result of a violent volcanic explosion. You can clearly see the central point of the caldera from the beautiful whitewashed town of Thira set on the cliff top.
We tendered in from the Equinox to the small port below the cliffs and chose to take the cable car to the top rather than the donkey ride up the meandering donkey trail. The contrast of the dark cliffs against the white washed houses with blue windows and doors made for spectacular views. The attractive blue domed churches stood out just like in the picture postcard images. As sunset approached, we found a great taverna in an elevated position overlooking the caldera to enjoy a drink whilst watching the sun slowly sink into the sea – beautiful!
The next day we arrived in Istanbul, a fascinating city worthy of an extended visit. Our stay was overnight so we had the whole day, evening and morning to visit the amazing culturally rich city at the intersection of Europe and Asia. From the port we boarded a shuttle bus to the Grand Bazaar in the cultural centre and headed for the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately as it was Friday, a day of prayer, non-Muslims are not permitted inside the mosque so we moved on to the magnificent Topkapi Palace built over 500 years ago and the original residence of the Ottoman Sultans for some 300 years – a fascinating visit. Next we saw the Sophia Museum which was originally an Orthodox church later converted to a mosque and is now a museum.
After lunch we visited the Grand Bazaar which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. We were warned that we could easily get lost as none of the exits were numbered in any logical sequence – luckily we managed to keep our bearings. If you are looking for Turkish carpets, spices, Turkish Delight, jewellery or just genuine fake goods, this is the place to visit.
The next day we decided to stay on board to enjoy an empty ship with reduced cost spa facilities before everyone got back on board to head off at 2pm for Kusadasi.