My wife and I did this cruise back to back with another cruise in the Western Caribbean. We disembarked the other ship in Tampa, and took two days to drive to Fort Lauderdale, via Fort Myers and Alligator Alley. We dropped our hire car at Fort Lauderdale airport at 12:00 and took a taxi from the terminal to the ship.
We arrived at about 12:20 but it seemed to take longer than usual to get on the ship; there was a lot of queuing, and it seemed less well organised than normal. The cabins opened at 1pm, the boat drill was at 3:15 (it's now a video in the muster station) and the ship left at 4:30. We did feel that the hard sell on additions like drinks packages and specialty dining hit you as soon as you got on the ship, - can't they wait till you have at least finished your glass of sparkling wine?
We have been on a similar ship, the Eclipse, before, and our initial impressions of the Equinox were as good. This class of ship has a more contemporary feel to its interior design - an interesting contrast to RCCL's more old fashioned decor, much better in our view.
We had a standard balcony cabin on Deck 8 which was fine, a generous bathroom with shower and a decent television, but perhaps a little bit short on storage, and the couch was not the most comfortable. We had a slight problem at the start when our cabin steward did not appear, there were no welcome packs and the room looked as if it had been cleaned very quickly and carelessly. The poor assistant steward was running about trying to keep everyone happy as, although the steward should have been on at 3 pm, he did not appear till the following morning - apparently he was returning from holiday and the ship's procedures delayed him - this is something Celebrity need to sort out.
We prefer to dine at a time convenient to us and we also like a table for two. Select dining does this for us and we had booked our dining times in advance. The first night was not good, there was a long queue, and we had to be assertive over choice of table, but things settled down the following evening and it was fine after that. The dining room is very attractive and the food quality was excellent, beautifully presented and always hot -- who needs a specialty restaurant when the basic standard is so good? The waiter service was excellent and, after a few nights of different tables, we found our perfect spot and managed to achieve it for the rest of the cruise - with the help of the excellent assistant Matre D.
The sommeliers were also first class - we prefer to pour our own wine and once they understood this they left us alone, perfect. Quite a lot of people did not appear to book in advance and were left waiting outside the dining room while the maitre D's staff found a table - we felt that there was perhaps a greater demand for select dining than the ship's management acknowledged and more area needs to be given over to it.
The 'Ocean Cafe' is the buffet in this ship and it was generously planned and well organised, and the open deck area at the rear is a great bonus. The standard of service however, was not so good; tables seemed to take a long time to clear and piles of dirty plates on tables was a common sight - a pity when everything else was so good. The staff's priority seemed to be to sell drinks rather than clear.
The public rooms are generous and the cruise director's staff tried to use them all - we still feel that there are perhaps too many bars, which left some of them empty, but perhaps it was just this cruise. The other problem is the Sky lounge above the bridge at the front of the ship which is hardly used other than for captain's club events and the occasional late night disco - we like to sit and watch the sunset there but we are in a minority.
Having most recently cruised on Cunard and RCCL, the internet was a revelation, with very helpful staff and a system geared for I Pads.
Celebrity is now offering a discount for specified groups of trips booked in advance and we took advantage of the offer. The available ones included the St Johns Island tour, the St Kitts train ride, Barbados Island drive with the Harrison Caves, and an island tour of St Maartin - all were good, particularly the St Kitts train ride which is well worth it. In Dominica we booked something on the ship and again, it was fine.
We went to most of the theatre shows, generally at 7 and 9 pm, which is much better than 8:30 and 10:45; the singers and dancers were good and the final show, a sort of Cirque du Soleil with acrobats and adagio acts, was very well done, but we were not sure its our thing. The guest pianist, violinist and one comedian/juggler were good but we were not so impressed with the second comedian. Overall it was a good range, though the theatre was often standing room only in the second show if you didn't arrive well before the show started.
There was a wide range of activities during both sea days and port days, plenty of trivia, dance classes etc but why they had the 'gender wars' and the progressive trivia at night was beyond us. The bands were also fine but the main 'centrum' at the base of the main stair next to the lifts is just not big enough for a large number of people dancing. On the positive we did find the Hot Glass shows were more enjoyable than before as they also did them in the early evenings when it was cooler.
We made the mistake of trying to book another cruise on the ship, the future cruise staff were uninterested and very short on knowledge of Celebrity's itineraries, we won't do that again.
Disembarkation -- we walked off at 8:30, picked up our cases, grabbed a cab, and were in the hire car depot by 9:00am - not much wrong with that.
Overall it was an excellent cruise, good points were the ship itself, the excellent food, the entertainment and the good captain's club package. Bad points were few, and mainly related to the speed of clearing tables and the future cruise staff.