My husband, five-year-old daughter and I recently disembarked from a 13-day transatlantic cruise on the Celebrity Equinox, departing Fort Lauderdale for Malaga, Spain. We selected this particular cruise as a way to cross the Atlantic prior to a 10-day vacation in France. It proved to be a good call -- the many positive aspects to the voyage overwelm any of the minor shortcomings (and they were so minor they do not deserve mention).
We are comparing our experience to a transatlantic cruise we took aboard the Carnival Breeze in November 2012, as well as a shorter cruise on the Disney Dream in 2011. In short, the Equinox blows the Breeze right out of the water in almost every respect. The price differential between the two cruises was relatively insignificant, suggesting either Celebrity is aggressively pricing or Carnival needs a service attitude adjustment, or both. Whatever. We are all about Celebrity now. Disney provided an excellent experience as well, but at a premium price. Is it worth it? Disneyfiles would say yes, but for us, the jury is not out on that.
The demographic on this transatlantic was similar to Carnival -- the mean age was on the older, retired side, with families with young children in a decided minority. There were only 27 children on the Equinox (representing about 1% of the passengers, which was similar on the Breeze). We were not surprised, but were very pleased with the reception our daughter received at Fun Factory (great hours, enthusiastic staff -- we would not have seen her at all if we hadn't coaxed her to come and have dinner with us once in a while). The dining room was ready to cater to kids, with a limited children's menu for fussy palates as well as several evening selections on the adult menu that were appropriate for children (pasta, unadorned meats, etc.)
The food on the Equinox was simply excellent. I have read criticisms on Cruise Critic that the quality has apparently gone downhill, but would dismiss this kind of statement out of hand as overly particular on a huge ship hurling out thousands of meals an hour. Compared to Carnival, we were thrilled. Compared to the Disney Dream, we considered the quality to be close to par. The service we received as Select Diners was impeccable and thoughtful -- a special shout-out to Ana the hostess for always taking care of us, and our serving team of Miltor, Hariadi and Jelena, who provided a warm reception every evening and great recommendations. There were three formal evenings on this cruise, and would advise that you plan to either dress appropriately for them or skip them. Many gentlemen wore tuxedos, or suits. The women were often dressed to the nines -- break out the sequins, ladies! Carnival was a bit more laid back. (We actually saw some folks in sweat suits in the Carnival Breeze dining room on non-formal nights. And it was about as attractive as it sounds.)
We loved the family entertainment on the Disney Dream -- no surprise there -- and hated all of it on the Carnival Breeze (dancers to canned music, or comedy shows that were completely full 30 minutes before the curtain). The Equinox came up short on family shows, but delivered hugely for the adult members of our party (once again, thanks to Fun Factory for fully occupying our daughter!) We especially enjoyed two amazing classical concerts (a Polish violinist and the amazing Elliott Finkel, a pianist of great talent). We loved the juggler and the hypnotist comedian. We thought Phillipa, the self-important London singer with the okay voice but condescending sense of humour, completely blew, but enjoyed complaining about her with the other passengers the next day (so it was fun after all). Big thumbs up to Celebrity for providing such variety and pleasant diversions during our nine sea days (a lot of sea days, but it really went by quickly).
Our veranda cabin was similar to the Breeze and the Dream, give or take a few cubic feet. It was fine. We liked the bathroom products -- a nice touch. We also liked the on-demand TV for kids (not that we watched it much, but at least it was there. Disney Dream had wonderful kids TV, and Carnival Breeze had next to nothing).
I will not spend much time on the ports of call -- we have learned that managing your port experience is completely up to you. As on other cruises, we are independent travellers who plan our own outings. But I will note for others that renting a car in the Azores was easy as pie, and we were able to easily locate all the sites on the cruise tour without difficulty, as well as a few that were not (such as the amazing hot springs at the volcanic beach). Similarly, we rented a vehicle to drive from Cadiz to Sevilla (which was also easy, but would counsel others to reserve in advance. We were able to get a car at the train station as walk ins, but we were one of the last ones to be successful). In both cases, the option was a good deal financially compared to tours. For you hardy Gibraltor travellers, take note: you can walk up the road to the top of the rock, if you are in shape to do so, at no cost. (We took the tram up, and hiked down the road, which was a great day. But wear runners. And leave shiny jewelery on the ship -- those Barbary monkeys will try to steal it, as one unfortunate woman we saw found out, receiving a nasty scratch)
Embarkation and debarkation were flawless. The Disney Dream was a nightmare (both arriving and leaving), Carnival did a great job on embarkation and a dismal job on debarkation. With the Equinox, we cruised on and cruised off. Maybe 15 minutes for both processes. It could not have been handled better.
All told, we were thrilled with our cruise, and would not hesitate to recommend the Celebrity Equinox to others.