The Celebrity Equinox offers plenty of chances to be entertained — and to entertain. By Charlotte Metcalf
‘We’re on honeymoon. We just love cruising,’ confided Jolene from Tucson, Arizona. We were sitting companionably in one of the four hot tubs around the pool aboard the enormous 14-storey Celebrity Equinox. With us were Jolene’s new husband, 18 years her senior, and another couple of octogenarian men from Orlando, Florida. As I listened to the Filipino band belt out ‘Roll out the Barrel’ to the passengers swarming in and around the pool, I wasn’t quite as delighted with my surroundings as Jolene, but my six-year-old daughter was clearly having the time of her life. She was happily making friends in the pool with a Russian girl and a pair of Greek twin sisters. We were on a cruise between Istanbul and Naples. I had initially balked at the idea of a week with 2,850 fellow passengers but was starting to realise that more is more as far as small children are concerned.
It was impossible not to enjoy a cruise on which my daughter spent an ecstatic week, believing she was in a floating fairyland. Every day she asked to be taken to the Fun Factory, a big play area run by a team of ebullient American girls in bright T-shirts who tirelessly entertained small children for as long as you chose to leave them there. They offered an array of activities from face painting and art classes to making fudge. There was also the X-Club for teenagers. One afternoon I found I was actually missing my daughter but when I went to pick her up I was told that she had joined the Talent Contest. Two days later parents gathered in a theatre to watch the much anticipated show, including Indian sisters performing a Bollywood dance, a fat girl demonstrating ballet and little boys wriggling with hoops. I held my breath as my daughter walked on stage with a microphone and then sang ‘Away in a Manger’ from start to finish. The last thing I had expected aboard a cruise was to be weeping at my daughter’s surge in confidence.
While she rehearsed her performance with her new friends, I was able to choose between the spa, numerous bars and cafés, a lawn on the top deck or an adult-only quiet area to lie and read a book. Mostly I enjoyed sitting on the private balcony of our stateroom and watching the sea, often lively with schools of dolphins.
We docked at Kusadasi and saw Ephesus and in the evening my daughter and I walked to the other side of the port and ate fish at a family-run seafront restaurant. We also docked at Athens where we disembarked to spend a day with friends. All my fears of being cooped up on board were unfounded.
In the huge double-storey restaurant with its sweeping staircase worthy of a Hello, Dolly! entrance, I had been snooty about dining among so many, but the excellent food and the attentiveness of the Serbian maitre d’ and Filipino sommelier quickly convinced me that I was in very good, professional hands. Around us were the ageing, formally dressed couples that you would expect on a cruise but I was pleasantly surprised to see so many families, often incorporating three generations, clearly enjoying themselves.
At the next table one night sat a woman with her daughter, a young blonde in a strapless sky-blue satin gown with an enormous bow at the back. She sparkled with baubles and wore the kind of make-up that my daughter dreams of being able to put on — blue eye-shadow and candy-pink lip gloss. Coyly, my daughter tapped her arm to ask, ‘Are you a real princess?’ She was already convinced the ship was full of them since our efficient South African ‘Onboard Liaison’ officer’s name was Princess Mpofu. ‘I sure am, sweetie,’ replied the girl in a Texan accent, kindly responding to my wink. My daughter looked across at the girl’s mother and then said in awe, ‘So she’s the Queen!’ The girl’s mother beamed and we started talking — this was their sixth cruise with Celebrity and they enjoyed it so much every year that they had no intention of trying any other cruise line.
Being a bit squeamish about organised fun and embarrassed about doing things en masse, I had not expected to have such a good time. Yet I was completely won over by the superb service and friendliness of the crew plus the sheer amount of activities on offer. It was unbeatable value for around £125 a day — especially when I was able to relax, knowing my daughter was entirely happy. We weren’t just surrounded by ‘princesses’, but the staff greeted my daughter as ‘Princess’ daily and made her feel like Cinderella at the ball. What more could a parent ask of a family holiday?
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