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Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Elation
by Sean Ryan
Mexican Riviera
July 9, 2000

PREVIOUS CRUISES
This cruise was my ninth over all. It was my second cruise with Carnival, but the first on a Fantasy-class ship. My previous cruises include Premier's Big Red Boat Oceanic to the Bahamas; Celebrity's Zenith to the Western Caribbean; Majesty's Royal Majesty (currently NCL's Norwegian Majesty) to Bermuda; Holland America's Veendam to the Eastern Caribbean; Holland America's Westerdam to the Eastern Caribbean; Princess' Crown Princess to Alaska (Vancouver to Seward); Carnival's Carnival Destiny to the Western Caribbean; and Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas to the Western Caribbean. Since I had just sailed on the world's largest ship, Voyager of the Seas four weeks before the Elation, I was anxious to see how this 'smaller' ship would compare.

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THE ELATION
When we first pulled up to the pier in San Pedro, I was suprised how small the Elation seemed. However, as the week went on, the Elation became a very good sized, comfortable ship. The first three floors of the Elation are nothing but cabins. We were on the second floor, Main Deck. On Empress Deck 7, there was the bottom floor of the Elation Atrium, the Plaza Bar, the Purser's Desk, Shore Tours, and the Photo Gallery.

The Elation Atrium was a beautiful place on the ship. I rises seven decks, and is capped by a glass dome. The thing I liked so much about this atrium is that it was so wide...it is about two-thirds the width of the entire ship. At night, the atrium would light up in shades of pink and red, creating a magical atmosphere. On Atlantic Deck 8, there was the first floor of the Mikado Show Lounge, the Galleria Shops, the Card Room, Duke's Piano Bar, the Mark Twain Library, the Imagination Dining Room, and the Inspiration Dining Room. The Mikado is a nicely decorated room, highlighted with a Japanese theme with green and gold colors. Though it was a very pretty room, it had some horrible sight lines and many obstructed views. If you got here early for a show, you could get a good seat, but if you came late, it was almost guaranteed that a pole or something would be in your way. The Galleria Shops are right at the entrance of the Mikado. There is quite an impressive collection of stores in here, including the Carnival Logo Shop, many designer boutiques, and a liquor and sundries store. Duke's is the Elation's Piano bar, and here people did piano sing alongs nightly. The Mark Twain Library is a very quiet place, and is decorated in a Riverboat theme appropriately. We ate in the Imagination Dining Room. This dining room is accessible from the atrium. The dining room served its purpose; however, it was a bit dark. At times, this room seemed a bit claustrophobic, but I didn't mind since I was eating. The Inspiration Dining Room is in the back of the ship, and it is accessible from the aft elevator lobby, or down the stairs of Gatsby's Great Bar. Up on Promenade Deck 9, there was the Mikado Balcony, Virtual World, Elation's Way, the Casablanca Casino, Sushi Bar, Drama Bar, Romeo & Juliet Lounge, the Musical Cafe, the Jekyll & Hyde Dance Club, Gatsby's Great Bar, and the Cole Porter Club. The Mikado Balcony, unfortunately had some sight lines of the stage which were even worse than the main level's, especially if you sat in the back part of the top floor. Virtual World was an arcade room which featured many games that I had pretty much no interest in. Elation's Way stretches down the Starboard side of the Elation, connecting most of the main public rooms. Sofas and chairs are present down the entire length of Elation's Way. I loved sitting on one of the sofas next to a window, and watching the sea go by. The Casablanca Casino was quite large, and it featured tons of slot machines and many tables. The gambling age on Elation is 18, but this was rarely enforced. The Sushi Bar is on Elation's Way, and right across from the casino. I guess if you like sushi, you might like this place. It tended to leave a nice little sushi stench down Elation's Way before dinner. The Drama Bar was one of my favorite places on the ship. Each night, Jimmy, a guitarist and vocalist would sing songs. I just really enjoyed this. Romeo & Juliet had some unique decor, and a band played here nightly. The Musical Cafe was a closed off sitting area on Elation's Way with a bar which sells cookies, desserts, and such. I do not understand why Carnival charges for these foods. This seems really stupid to me, especially when you can go up a floor to Tiffany's Restaurant and get the same desserts on the buffet for free. Oh well, I just hope they drop the charges for these snacks. The Jekyll & Hyde Dance Club is a nice sized disco. Here, karaoke sessions take place, and it is alive with music and dancing at night. There is a Fossil Watch shop right next to Jekyll & Hyde. Going further back, Gatsby's Great Bar is a great place for a pre-dinner drink. Cole Porter Club is in the very back of the ship, and here, there are the midnight, 'R-rated' comedy shows and the past passenger reception. Up on Lido Deck 10, there is the main pool area, and Tiffany's Bar and Grill. The Patio Pool Area features a very nice sized pool, two hot tubs, a large waterslide, a stage, and plenty of deck space. Finding a chair here was rarely a problem. However, people still saved their chairs with towels as they do on every ship. There is a poolside buffet on deck where hamburgers, hot-dogs, and the regular lunch and breakfast buffet is served. Tiffany's features two buffet lines, a salad bar, the pizzeria, and another bar. On Verandah Deck 11, there are 4 Ping-Pong tables right outside of the Atrium. Going further back, there is tons of deck space and another pool in the back with two hot tubs. On Sports Deck 12, there is the Gym area and Children's World. Up on Sun Deck 13, there is the jogging track, the 'beach volleyball' court, and more deck space. The Elation was truly spotless, she is an extremely clean ship. Overall, this ship was very easy to navigate, and I became very comfortable with it since it felt quite 'homey'.

CABINS
We had two cabins, an inside, and an outside across the hall. We were in cabins M40 and M42. The two cabins were virtually identical except for the window. The beds were in an 'L' configuration. There was a TV in the corner of the room. There was also a desk and vanity area. The closet and drawer space was plenty for two people...and I severely overpacked. The bathroom is a very good size, and the shower is not small at all. Overall, I feel that Carnival has some of the nicest, and most spacious cabins at sea, so they did not disappoint.

SERVICE
The service on board the Elation was overall quite good. Our room steward, Mickey was very kind and friendly. We saw him all the time, and he always had time for a conversation. He did a very good job in making up our room, and leaving our ice bucket full all the time. He also did several extra little things like bringing us cookies one night. Our waiter, P.I, was excellent. He is a 64 year old man, and he always had a smile on his face. He provided flawless service, and never had problems with special requests such as multiple appetizers or entrees. He was probably one of the best, if not the best waiter we have ever had on a cruise. Our Assistant Waiter, Roberto was also very friendly. He always goofed around, and had a joke for us. He also provided excellent service. Looking at the crew of the Elation as a whole, it seemed that they acted a bit tired and overworked. In the beginning of the week, many seemed almost grouchy, but service got better as the week progressed. The overall service on the Elation was very adequate; actually very good, but it was not up to the service we have had on several other ships.

FOOD
Since I had already been on a Carnival cruise within a year (the Destiny last summer), I pretty much knew what to expect as far as the food goes. Carnival has not changed their menus since last summer...the dinner menus were identical. Everyday, there were two options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They were the main dining room, or Tiffany's Bar and Grill. Breakfast in the dining room was quite good. The service was very good, and the food was above average. My favorite, the eggs benedict was okay, but the portions were quite small. Breakfast up in Tiffany's Bar and Grill was also very good. There wasn't a huge selection, but the food there was certainly adequate. The made to order omelets were excellent. The omelets quickly became the highlight of my breakfast! For lunch on the Elation, you could eat in the dining room, or up at Tiffany's. Lunch in the dining room was excellent. The menu was extensive, and the food was very good as was the service. It was truly a pleasure eating sit down lunch on the Elation. Lunch up in Tiffany's was almost equally as good. The hamburgers were very good...large and juicy. The buffets featured a pasta, a carved meat, and 4 or 5 other dishes which were sometimes good, and were not at other times. The Pizza at Tiffany's was excellent. As I have previously stated, Carnival Cruise Lines' pizza is the best at sea. The pizza was always fresh, and very tasty. Also available at the Pizza Bar are calazones, caesar salad, and chicken caesar salads. The Pizza Bar is open 24 hours, so you can always snack here. The salad bar up in Tiffany's is very extensive and fresh. I enjoyed a huge bowl of salad on many occasions. There were many desserts available, as well as a self serve ice cream machine which was open virtually 24 hours. Dinner in the Imagination Dining Room was pretty good. It really varied night to night. The appetizers were usually excellent, the soups were just good, the salads were okay, and the entrees varied. Some entrees were excellent, others were just okay. All of the portions seemed a bit on the small side, but that wasn't a problem since you could order another if you wished. I did notice that there were many repeated entrees during the course of the cruise such as Prime Rib, and several seafoods. The desserts were excellent, but again, the portions were quite small. I wish Carnival would change their menu a bit from ship to ship, because the menu on the Elation this year is the exact same as the Destiny's last year, and the Paradise which my parents sailed in February. Overall, the food on the Elation was very good, but it does have some room for improvement. You will definitely not go hungry on this ship!

GYM
The gym and workout facilities onboard the Elation were very complete, and adequate for this ship. The gym itself features several treadmills, stairmasters, weigh machines, and a free weights area. There was an aerobics area as well. Two hot tubs were located in the gym too. There is a locker room area for men and women. Each is complete with lockers, showers, a steam room, and sauna. Up a deck, there is the jogging track. I personally love the jogging tracks on Carnival since they are isolated from the pool activities. I also love how they are padded like a real jogging track. I feel that these jogging tracks are much more practical for a ship than the huge tracks which encircle the pool on other ships such as Voyager of the Seas. Those types of tracks are frequently blocked by chairs and people waking from one part of the ship to another. With the jogging track up top as it is on the Elation, it is practically reserved for those who choose to run or walk on the track. You cannot really be disappointed with the gym facility on the Elation.

ACTIVITIES
The Elation featured many activities. As it is with any Carnival 'fun ship', there is always something to do. There are game shows, contests, pool games, karaoke, tournaments, ping pong, shuffleboard, volleyball, demonstrations, bingo, and many other things. The arcade is a very good sized facility, but it is usually overrun with smaller children. Camp Carnival, the kid's program seemed to please everyone as the little children were always kept busy. One thing I did miss on this ship was Internet access. On our previous cruise on the Voyager of the Seas, the Internet cafe came in very useful, and I really missed it on the Elation. Not to worry, there are plenty of things to do on board the Elation.

ENTERTAINMENT
Entertainment the week I was on board the Elation was the best I have encountered on any of my nine cruises. The entertainment was presented by the Cruise Directory, Lenny Halliday. He was very friendly, but nothing that special. He did sing one night, and I enjoyed that. The two production shows were quite good. One of them featured lasers and other high tech special effects. We had three comedians during the course of the week, and they were all excellent. Each one did a main show and a midnight 'R-rated' show. The comedian the last night, Lowell Sanders was one of the best comedians I have seen on a ship. Another night for entertainment, we had a fiddler. This guy was completely impressive. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment on the Elation. It was the best I have had on a cruise.

NIGHTLIFE
Few ships can compare to the nightlife offered on the 'Fun Ships' of Carnival. There are sing alongs in Duke's Piano Bar, Jimmy sang at the Drama Bar, an excellent band played at Romeo & Juliet's, a band played in Cole Porter Club, there were strings in Gatsby's Great Bar, the Jekyll & Hyde Dance Club was jamming until the early morning hours, and as always the Casablanca Casino was roaring all night long. I personally spent much of my time in Jekyll & Hyde dancing the night away! This lounge was quite strange; not my favorite club on a ship (like the Vault on Voyager of the Seas or Point After Dance Club on Carnival Destiny), but it served its purpose well. Jekyll & Hyde played music late into the night until around 3:00 AM, and sometimes later. If nightlife is your thing, you will not be disappointed by the Elation!

WHO GOES
Everyone! We had a full ship of 2699 people...it was actually over maximum capacity, meaning that there were several roll away beds in use in addition to the upper births and sofa beds. There were many families on our cruise, as well as large family reunion groups. This meant that there were many kids and teenagers. We had about a dozen honeymooners, tons of couples and singles. There were older people and younger people. This cruise attracts a wide variety of people, and this mix of people creates a very fun environment. Since the Elation leaves from Los Angeles, I'd say that 60% of the people on the ship were from California. The average age was probably 35-40.

EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION
Both embarkation and disembarkation left a lot to be desired. The embarkation process was incredibly slow. We had to wait in a lounge, then in a line for check-in, and then another line for our room key. It took about an hour and ten minutes from the time we got off the taxi to the time we were on board the Elation. Unfortunately, embarkation was the better of the two processes, because disembarkation was even worse. The best way I can describe it was organized chaos. We were told to be out of our cabins by 9:00, so we were out by 8:45. by this time, breakfast was not being served anymore, and the waiting ensued. People did not start getting off of the ship until 10:30, and we were off by 11:15. I'm sorry, I know customs may have held up the ship for a while, but it is ridiculous to not start letting people off until 10:30! On my last cruise, Voyager of the Seas, they had 1,000 more people than the Elation did, and everyone was off the ship by 8:30. I was completely unimpressed with the embarkation and disembarkation process on the Elation, and Carnival really does need to work on this procedure.

MEXICAN RIVIERA ITINERARY
This was the first time we have done this itinerary, so it held our attention much more than the Caribbean since we have cruised to the Eastern Caribbean twice, and three times to the Western Caribbean.

SUNDAY, JULY 09, 2000 -- San Pedro, California (Port of Los Angeles)
Today, as we drove down the highway, we saw the Elation approaching, and our excitement increased. After the hellish embarkation process, I toured the ship, got a bite to eat, and then went to the muster drill. After muster, I watched as we pulled away from the pier in San Pedro, and set sail for Puerto Vallarta. We then went to early seating dinner at 6:00. After dinner, I went to the show, and eventually ended up in Jekyll & Hyde. Dinner: Casual

MONDAY, JULY 10, 2000 -- At Sea
Today I slept in, had breakfast, and then ran a couple miles and worked out. It was a very cool day outside, as it was in the 60s all day. This was very enjoyable for me since I live in Texas, and this was a welcome change in weather! Today I participated in some activities, and just mainly took it easy all day. We then went to the Captain's Cocktail Party, had formal portraits made, and went to dinner. Afterwards, I went to the show, and enjoyed the nightlife that the Elation had to offer. Dinner: Formal

TUESDAY, JULY 11, 2000 -- At Sea
Today I did basically a repeat of Monday. It was a little warmer today...in the 70s, but still very pleasant outside. Today, I saw several whales while sitting on deck, so this came as a welcome suprise! After dinner, I went to see the comedian, then went to Jekyll & Hyde, and then to the midnight comedy show. Dinner: Casual

WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2000 -- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
This morning I woke up around 6:30 to watch us pull into port. From the observation deck above the bridge, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen as the sun rose above the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. I then went to eat breakfast, and we headed down to get off the ship for our tour. We chose to take the Countryside Tour...mistake! We boarded our nice, air conditioned bus, and headed to a shopping area in downtown Puerto Vallarta. After this, we boarded our bus for a ride to the Mexican country. Well, when your bus is extremely comfortable, the tour guide can barely speak English, and the ride was frankly, boring; the ideal circumstances arise for a little nap. I fell asleep for a while, and apparently we made some periodic stops in little towns where locals would hassle you to buy something that you never would have thought about buying if the locals were not harassing you in the first place. That is basically what this tour consisted of...going from one market to another. In my opinion it was highly uninteresting, and if I wouldn't have caught up on much needed sleep, I would dub it a waste of time and money. When we got back to the ship, I ate lunch and then napped a little longer. I then walked to the market by the pier for more hassling. I did find an Internet cafe about a block from the ship. It cost $2 US for 30 minutes, so I was able to check my email and such. I then headed back to the ship for dinner. After dinner, I saw the show, and headed up to the deck party as we departed Puerto Vallarta at around 10:00 PM. This was my least favorite port of call. Tonight, we hit a squall line at around 1:00 am. Deck chairs were blown overboard by 100 mph winds. There was intense rain and lightening everywhere. This was the worst storm I have encountered while on a cruise, but the Elation handled it quite well. Dinner: Casual

THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2000 -- Mazatlan, Mexico
This morning we woke up excited, ate breakfast, and headed down to the pier for our much awaited horseback ride. We had booked our horseback ride before the cruise through Randi, and independent Horseback ride operator (www.mazhorsebackride.com). She offered a horseback riding experience for half the price of the one offered on the ship. We met Randi at the gangway along with some other people I had met online before the cruise. She took us by taxi to a fishing port where we boarded a water taxi for Stone Island. Here, we met up with our horses, and started our ride. We rode on the horses all around the island through coconut groves (there are over 1 million coconut trees on the island), estuaries, small lakes, and down the beach. This was fully guided by Randi and Miguel. After our ride of about 2 1/2 hours, Randi took us to a local restaurant on the beach where she bought us drinks. We stayed here and talked most of the afternoon, and eventually ordered some great quesadillas. This was a truly enjoyable day. When it was time to go back to the ship, we were pretty sad since this was one of the best shore excursions we have ever taken. I highly recommend it. We departed Mazatlan at around 6:00. After dinner I went to the show and Jekyll & Hyde after that. Dinner: Casual

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2000 -- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
This morning, we woke up early so we could experience Cabo San Lucas in the little time we had. We were only there from 7:00 am until 12:30. We boarded a tender and took that into town. Here, we purchased water taxi tickets to Los Arcos Beach. They were $10 per person round trip. Los Arcos Beach is absolutely beautiful. It is one of the prettiest beaches I have EVER seen. There are stunning rock formations along this beach including the famous arch. The water on the Sea of Cortes side (the beach facing downtown Cabo) was very clear and calm. There was excellent snorkeling here, and the beaches were a little more crowded on this side. A five or ten minute walk takes you to the other side of the peninsula where there is the Pacific Ocean beach. Here, there are huge 10 to 15 foot waves crashing into the rocks. It is recommended that you do not swim on this side because of the dangerous rip currents. The few hours I spent here were amazing. Like I said, this is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, so don't miss it! We then took the water taxi back to downtown and waited in the long line to tender back to the Elation. I really wish we could have spent more time here! We departed Cabo at around 1:00, and we then cruised by the rock formations of Los Arcos. Here, many took photographs of the famous arch rock formation. The rest of today was like a typical day at sea. The second review show was shown tonight after dinner. Dinner: Formal.

SATURDAY, JULY 15, 2000 -- At Sea

Today I slept in, ate breakfast and took it easy. It was almost cold outside (50s and 60s), so I didn't stay up on deck too long. I went to watch 'Titanic' in the Mikado, but fell asleep, so I headed back to my cabin. Here, I packed my bags. I then went to dinner and the comedy show. After that, I said some of my good-byes, and headed to Jekyll & Hyde where I danced till about 3:00 am. Dinner: Casual

SUNDAY, JULY 16, 2000 -- San Pedro, California (Port of Los Angeles)
We docked this morning at around 7:00. I slept until around 8. We were out of our cabin by 9, and we headed up to Tiffany's to wait. Breakfast had stopped being served, so I missed that. We then waited forever until we disembarked. We eventually found our bags, got in the taxi, and arrived at LAX by noon. We then boarded our Southwest Airlines flight back to Houston. The cruise was over =(

ODDS & ENDS

  • The Elation is a fun, fun, fun ship!
  • The first and last day at sea are quite cool outside. It is a welcome change from the warm, muggy Caribbean.
  • Randi's Horseback Ride was the best!
  • Carnival, please do not charge for things at the Musical Cafe!
  • Trays are needed at Tiffany's restaurant badly! Many ships forget the little detail of how hard it is to carry multiple plates to the table.
  • The ship is quite smooth, there was a little bit of rolling, but that is to be expected in rougher waters. She handled a severe squall line beautifully.
  • We saw whales and dolphins on several occasions.
  • Carnival is very strict about bringing alcohol back onto the ship. If you have it, they will confiscate it and give it back to you at the end of the cruise. You cannot buy alcohol in port and drink it on board unless you sneak it on somehow. They do this so they will have increased revenue with bar sales.
  • Carnival, PLEASE reverse the itinerary so more time can be spent in Cabo San Lucas, and a little less in Puerto Vallarta!
  • We had 2,699 passengers (71 over max capacity), and the ship did not feel crowded. There were very few lines the whole week.

IN CONCLUSION...
I thoroughly enjoyed my week aboard the Elation. She is a very fun ship, with tons to do. I really enjoyed the Mexican Riviera itinerary...it was a welcome change from the Caribbean. Overall, the ship was a very comfortable, manageable size. We will probably wait to do Carnival again when the Carnival Spirit comes out. The Elation is an excellent cruise value, and I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat!

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