Prior to this cruise, we had always sailed with Princess except for one sorry cruise on Holland America. At the urging of our daughter (also our TA) who got us a good deal, we decided to take a cruise on the Celebrity Equinox to see what we may have been missing. Our cabin had provision for a third passenger so we invited my sister to join us.
Embarkation: living on Vancouver Island, we've found that flying from Seattle to Orlando on Alaska Airlines is the easiest and most direct way to get to cruises originating in Florida. Our cruise left Fort Lauderdale on Feb. 24 so we flew into Orlando on Feb. 23rd and drove down to Fort Lauderdale arriving at the Port at 2:30 PM. We dropped off the bags and my sister and drove to FFL to drop off the car. Back by taxi at 3 PM ($16)and we walked straight up to the counter, collected our cruise cards and walked on board. There was no one to greet us or direct us to our room. Fortunately I had studied the ship plans on line and was able to locate the cabin quickly. At 3:30, the Safety Drill was held - we were directed to Murano on deck 5 to watch a video. I thought it was poorly done compared to what we experienced on our last Princess cruise.
Cabin: we had a Concierge Class balcony on Deck 10 aft. Compared to Princess balconies, we found the cabin seemed smaller, probably due to the shape which was a long rectangle compared to the more square Princess cabins. With this shape, the distance between the foot of the bed and the wall was rather tight. The trundle bed was actually a small sofa with a mattress which was laid on top at night. It would not be comfortable for anyone over five and a half feet tall. My sister also place the small coffee table with a pillow or two beside the mattress to ensure that she didn't roll onto the floor. Storage space was poor compared to Princess but the shower was definitely better than on Princess.
Food: Overall, I would rate it a tie between Princess and Celebrity. My wife missed the Princess souffles and I missed the waiter grinding the pepper mill. Neither of us are "foodies" so I often ordered from the "always available" chicken, beef or salmon. I preferred the Princess choice of soups.
The Oceanview Cafe we found to be very disorganized with lots of "cutting in" as people tried to find specific foods. We were surprised one day when we had a 12:30 excursion and went to the Cafe at 11:30 to get a bit of lunch and discovered that all the stations had been closed to allow for the change from breakfast to lunch - I don't ever recall a similar situation on Princess. The seating was nicer than on Princess.
We never ate breakfast at the Oceanview Cafe, either going to the Main Dining Room or having room service which was an adventure. Although Room Service called ahead and was prompt in delivery, the order was often incorrect - one time we got sausage and oatmeal (neither was ordered) as well as coffee in tea pots which didn't keep it warm. The MDR also was an adventure - it was only one the last day that the toast was actually toast and not warm bread. Service was hit and miss (getting a second cup of coffee) and there were no "specials" on the breakfast menu which Princess offers.
We normally avoid the specialty restaurants but my sister and I did have a meal at Bistro on Five which was excellent and worth the $5 cover charge.
Activities/Entertainment: there were lots of Trivia quizzes as well as Wii bowling. The Hot Glass Shows were great as were the shows we went to especially the illusionist (Martin Brock) and the comedians (Tony Daro and Glen Hirsch).
Excursions: we took a ship excursion on each of the Islands. The excursions are not as well done as on Princess - you walked (or in case of Barbados a shuttle) to the end of pier and looked for a small sign with the tour name on it. Not as many shopping stops as on Princess tours - perhaps a reflection of the locations rather than intent?
Disembarkation: this is one area where Celebrity is definitely better than Princess. We were not requested to vacate our cabin early (we had a 10:00 disembarkation time)even though we did leave at 8:30 and went to the card room until 9:50 when we went to the Theatre and by 10 we were told we could leave. It was nice to see that Boward County had the shuttles/taxis nicely organized and it only cost $15 including tip to get to the airport (the shuttle wanted $15/person and was packed tight).
Summary: the Equinox is a nice ship with some "wow" features but also some negatives (why have both the card room and the library on stateroom decks so no public washroom is available). Given the lack of self service laundry and the similarity in the cruise experience, we'll be staying with Princess.