There were four of us traveling together: Me, my wife and our two sons (ages 14 and 18). We booked a grand suite (U114) for us and an ocean view (U118) for the boys. We stayed in Charleston the night prior to ensure there were no unexpected difficulties on embarkation day. Let me say from the beginning that while I appreciate the Charleston cruise port being relatively close to our NC home, the port itself is way undersized and, in my opinion, barely capable of handling a cruise ship with 2,000 passengers. We had priority boarding (being suite passengers) with a scheduled check-in time of 11:30. We arrived at the port to begin the drive-through check-in process at 10:40. Glad we arrived early. While we moved fairly steadily through the line past the first two tents (preliminary check-in and baggage check), there were about 30 cars ahead of us at the parking tent. We paid for parking and sat in the car in line until 11:35, when port officials opened the parking warehouse. From the parking area, we were shuttled to the terminal and processed through fairly quickly. We were onthe Ecstasy by 12:05. Unfortunately, our rooms would not be available until 1:30. We made our way to the Lido Deck and picked up our Bottomless Bubbles stickers. We purchased beverage cups here, too, only to find out later they weren’t really necessary, as we were given the full can of soda every time we requested a drink. (On past cruises when we’ve purchased BB or similar beverage packages, we’ve been given only a tall bar glass with fountain soda.) Lunch from the Mongolian Grill was pretty good.
We went to our cabins at 1:38 and found them to be in very neat and clean condition. For an older ship that was scheduled for dry dock a month after our sailing, I was very impressed with the appointments and general condition of everything in our staterooms. The grand suite was fairly roomy (we usually book a suite on Princess, having found them to be some of the roomiest suites in the industry). There weren’t really separate living and sleeping areas, but rather a single room with a king bed, counter and drawers along one wall and fold-out couch near the balcony wall. There was a walk-in closet with drawers and hanging spaces on each side. And there was a bathroom that was fairly roomy. Getting in and out of the jetted tub/shower was a bit challenging, as it was quite a step up and over the side of the tub. I’m guessing it was raised to accommodate plumbing and components of the jet system. There was a single sink, a wall-mounted hairdryer and plenty of towels. There was a small refrigerator in the living/sleeping area, but, frankly, it never got much cooler than room temperature. The HVAC system had no thermostat. Rather, cabin comfort was regulated by adjusting the flow of cool air into the cabin by way of knobs on the three HVAC supply grilles. The suite was quite warm when we first entered, but quickly cooled down within an hour or two. If anything, we had to reduce the cool air supply during some parts of the cruise.
The boys’ ocean view cabin was quite big enough for them. It also was clean and well organized. Their cabin had only a small shower and no hairdryer. There was also a single chair and a smaller TV.
The lifeboat drill was a prolonged process that took much longer than any other we’d previously attended. Following the disorganized briefing portion, each group was led to their lifeboat and directed to stand in rows to simulate preparation for boarding. We were then dismissed. I would estimate the entire drill process lasted about an hour.
We used many of the ship’s food venues during the course of our cruise. Overall, we found the food in each to be of good quality, but prepared with little seasoning. For the most part, it was bland and lacking in flavor. We had selected traditional dining and sat with the same passengers for dinner each night in the Wind Song dining room. Tina, our server at Table 337, was fantastic! She was personable and efficient, remembering each guest’s name and drink preferences on the first night. The only complaint I might have about the menu offerings would be that on some nights, it was too difficult to select just one main course! There was a good selection of upscale meal choices. Again, it’s just a shame that most of the food was somewhat bland. One choice that was on the menu each night was the Flat Iron Steak. Don’t be afraid to order it; it was quite tender and flavorful!
One thing that surprised us was that smoking was permitted in bars we had to walk through to get from one place to another. Don’t get me wrong; I used to smoke cigarettes and don’t mind if others do. But I prefer to avoid the odor if I can now. It was our first cruise and this was something we had not encountered on other ships.
We did not go to any of the shows. My wife and I generally like to simply relax while on cruises. The main show was a Motown performance and there were comedians also.
In Nassau, we had booked a day pass to the British Colonial Hilton through resortforaday.com. We would highly recommend this for anyone who doesn’t embark on an excursion and just wants to sit on the beach or at the pool and be pampered! In Freeport, we walked through shops at the port, but spent most of the day at the ship's pool.
Sailing back to Charleston was uneventful. We arrived in port around 5:30 AM. Although we had priority debarkation, we decided to linger casually, since we had only a 3-hour drive home. However, debarkation was where the small port’s inability to cope with 2,000 passengers was most evident. There seemed to be no order to debarkation, with people just getting in the long debarkation line at will. Once inside the terminal, we had to depart the line to find and claim our bags, then get back in the ever-lengthening line that, fortunately, moved fairly steadily toward the US Customs stations. We noticed that some passengers carried their own bags, but got in the line for porters, since it was moving faster. Customs agents were overwhelmed. We were summarily waved through without questions or requests for passports once the agent saw my military ID. Outside of the terminal, there was a line of shuttle buses, but they weren’t boarding anyone and it seemed like it would be quicker to do the bag drag to the parking warehouse. It was! We got to our car before the first shuttle left the terminal.
Bottom line: We prefer smaller ships and I’d sail on the Ecstasy again without hesitation. If I’ve missed anything or can respond to specific questions, please let me know.
I sailed with 3 friends on a 4-day trip to Nassau and Halfmoon Cay from Port Canaveral. I have been on 3 similar cruises aboard the Carnival Sensation and the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas. This cruise, while "satisfactory" overall, was significantly below the quality experienced on the Sensation and somewhat below the Monarch's quality. Main complaint: Rather mediocre food in the dining room; some dishes were served cold or lukewarm and had to be sent back. Lido deck buffet was fine throughout; no complaints there. Pizza actually was above average. As for entertainment, I also would give the theater show a "C" compared to previous cruises. On a more positive note, the Neon Bar piano-bar guy was excellent (too bad the table service was slow.) Karaoke shows also were above average. One area where the cruise was outstanding was the fast boarding procedure and quick disembarkation. However, a friend ran into an inspection snag -- her carry-on cooler bag, which had been allowed on other cruises, was judged a couple of inches too big, so she had to empty the contents into other bags and abandon the cooler. A ratherunpleasant start to her cruise. The Halfmoon Cay private-island experience was good to excellent, although some shade trees would have been nice. One big demerit: One stairway to the beach had dangerous rocks half-covered with sand at the bottom, and we saw a few guests trip and fall. A lawsuit waiting to happen. Given my two previous cruises aboard Carnival, I was surprised the cruise line didn't give me a perk or two, such as a free drink coupon or something. Except for the attentive steward, I didn't feel particularly welcome or appreciated on this cruise.
I am sitting here on the Ecstasy, a cruise that I took for myself, by myself for purely reflection & "recharging". I thought I would also like to give a personal and fair perspective about the cruise. I will try to do this daily, but, depending on satellite communications, and the "slower than dial-up" speed, please bear with me.
I have been on the Elation, the Ecstasy's sister ship, and fell in love with cruising. Just havine been off the Conquest in September, I felt that the ship was SMALL in comparison, but, as comfortable as an old friend. She was decorated in garlands of greenery, red and gold. I saw a few Christmas trees, but not so overdone it was nauseating. There was also a large Menorrah (sp?) present. It was all actually very simply done, but warm & beautiful. Sorry, no pics, as I did not bring my camera. As I stated, I took this trip solely for "Me Time", and did not even think of a camera when packing.
Anyway, back to the ship - In the true styles of the 90's, the Ecstasy is somewhat bathed in Neon.It is her personality. The decor promotes "party".
I chose the option "Your Time Dining", as I did not want to be tied into any time restraints, although, to be honest, I have skipped nights in the dining room before for the Buffet for that purpose. I was seated promtly. The hostess asked if I would mind sharing, I told her ok. My table mates were first time cruisers, and asked me about the ports they were going to. We chatted over dinner, and I have to say that dining with them was a joy. One or two things I noticed about YTD - the waiters did not seem as 'intuned' to each other as I have witnessed in the past. Our table was near the server station, and there seemed to be a lot of chaotic flurry. Maybe because it was the first night? I went around 6:45, and there were also many families (note to self-go later if at all possible) with small fussy children or infants in our area. 2 couples actually asked to have thier tables changed mid-way between appetizer and main course! The St Louis ribs were as expected - fall off the bone great, and so much that I couldn't finish as always. I skipped dessert - but did go to the coffee shop and picked up a slice of Apple Crisp for a snack in the middle of the night on my tiny balcony (Another story). It was Gargantuan! I actually thought it was 2 or 3 servings...but was only one - and well worth the $2+ price.
The room - I was in one of the Verandah Suites. Priced considerably less than a balcony, but upon entering, I understood why. The cabin itself did not seem much bigger than a standard balcony I had before - The bathroom was a little larger, and the shower was comfortable, as I am on the 'fluffy' side, and I did NOT get attacked by my shower curtain. There was a wood floor entry way, and, more than adequate storage. I was surprised - NO HAIRDRYER!!!!! - not a good thing, but I always bring my own anyway. Now, for the 'balcony', if you can call it that. 10ft x 30ish inches. now pictur a deck cair facing out toward sea, and your knees are just about on the railing. NOW I know why they are cheaper.
DAY AT SEA - As I said earlier, I woke up very early - which is not umusual for me as I have worked 7p-7a for many (too many) years. Around 0430, I decided to call for some rolls and a pot of coffee, and waited for the sun to peek up over the horizon. then, after daylight arrived, I went back to my bed and made it a very lazy morning. I did something (only because of the daylight) that I would not normally do considering how the Veranda balconies are situated. I left the door open and listened to the water as 25 feet of the ships hull pushed through, Between that and the whistle of a light wind, I was rocked to sleep by the ship and an ocean lullaby.
My cabin stewards are great! Everything is there within moments of asking. I did receive a fruit basket with a bottle of Chardonnay, but never have liked it. I asked Dumrong if he and his crew would like a drink on me, and left the bottle with a note. When I returned ALL of his team came by and stopped me in the hallway to say "Thanks"
A late breakfast on the Lido was in order. Nothing spectacular, Usual Carnival breakfast fare, but the coffee seemed to be more bitter than usual. No problem, Bloody Mary took its place! One thing is for sure - Someone in Miami needs to consult a true southerner on how to make good Sausage gravy, and turn those hockey pucks into fluffy biscuits. I have been on 4 different CCL ships, and not one can bake a biscuit worth a dang!
Still quite chilly, actually, for the better part of the day & afternoon it only reached high 50s - low 60's.
Trust me, the temps did not deter the kiddos from the pool or hot tub. I was actually quite surprised at how many there were. Not just tots and infants, but many teens and tweens romping around. I actually thought I would go to the Serenity deck, but too chilly, and I figured the wind over Aft would only make it more uncomfortable. I will save that for tomorrow while everyone is in Progreso.
Late afternoon & early evening was spent wandering the decks, listening to music, and of course, heeding the call of the slots! Didn't win, but didn't lose either, so I had a little fun & broke even.
I decided to skip dinner in the MDR, as it was 'Elegant Night', & I will be doing the "Chef's Table" tomorrow evening. Will let you know how it is.
I was up well past 3 am last night. by the time I woke, it was after 1230! Didn't bother me.....I was not planning on getting off ship in Cozumel. Probably go to Chankanaab tomorrow via taxi and spend a few hours there.
Anyway, I mentioned lots of kids this cruise. I was walking & exploring last evening, and even after 12am, little 'packs' of teens & tweens were at it playing elevator tag, and hanging around the Lido deck. no adults around. I do believe several looked about 10 or 12 (or at least acted like it). Now, I do not profess to be the "kid cop", but I wonder just how much the parents know what is going on...or if they expect crew members to watch over their little ones. I AM NOT saying all kiddos are bad or irresponsible, but I know, if I had the chance to run around without supervision, I did whatever I thought I could get away with. The real danger are the adults out there with rather seedy motives. At least the majority of the kiddos were in small groups, I only saw a few out wandering alone.
One thing I noted was the Casino is quite small.....and very odd shaped. Not that I would expect it to be the size of the casino on Conquest, this is a smaller ship. The layout was veryhaphazard in respect to smoking vs non-smoking tables & slots., and there really is no way of escaping some of it. Non-smoking player tables very close to designated slots, and very small banks of non-smoking slots surrounded by designated smoking areas. I admit, I am a smoker, but I do see BOTH sides of the proverbial coin. A little more planning could have been done to keep both sides happy.
I also felt the Internet Cafe was oddly situated in the Empress Lobby. While submitting my contribution last night, line of people were getting pictures taken. One couple even sat at one of the computer desks with a small child (maybe 18-24 mo) and allowed them to bang away on the keyboard until the manager had to intervene. A small partition of frosted glass or even a counter height wall would section the area off better. Carrying a laptop would be better - but I really do not want the added parcel when travelling.
All I can say is 'The Chef's Table" is a definite must do!!!! On the Ecstasy, it is done on port days as not to conflict with the Captain's Celebration and Elegant Night festivities. If there is enough interest, they will do it twice (Progreso & Cozumel evenings).
We met in the Atrium Bar at 630 pm, and were escorted by the chef to the galley for a tour, accompanied by champagne & 4 different tastes of appetizers that the ship offers on their menus. I won't go into much detail about that, as not to 'spoil' any surprises for those of you planning on going, but let me say - I will NEVER turn my nose up at something as bizarre sounding as 'Avacado (sp?) Cheesecake' before I try it. It was absolutely wonderful!
After the galley tour, we were led to the Explorer's Club, and to a wonderfully set table for 12. A selection of wines was offered to accompany the 7 course meal to follow. Each dish was exquisitely prepared and served while the chef described the dish. (NOTE: Please let them know AHEAD of time if you have any food intolerances or allergies, and they will advise you if substitutions are available. ie: Chocolate, shellfish, etc.) You had better wear your loosest clothes, and guys, I am serious, if you cannot loosen your belt another notch, don't even bother to wear it. The meal was absolutely wonderful. Finally, after coffee & dessert, we left at about 1015pm. I felt as if I could use a wheelbarrow to get me to my room!
8am came pretty quick, and the ship slid into Cozumel. Several shore excursions had to be cancelled due to rough seas. The gangway was temporarily closed for about an hour when the Celebrity Century docked. Not sure which ones, but I do know that I prayed for everyone going to the mainland by that crazywater craft they call a ferry! It didn't seem too cool, or too warm - just very, very windy, so I ditching Chankanaab & will sign off here to go into port for a little shopping and a good stiff Margarita, then, back on board to watch the 'Great Race' back on board before sailaway!!!
So far, it has been a great cruise! There was an announcement from the Bridge that we had to pass through some rough seas, and it was not wrong. Last night we hit head winds from the north over 30kph, and the seas were choppy. I could only last for so long, and went to my cabin around 10pm. (Crazies - remember September? ). Well, I did not fare as well this time around.
The sun rose to glass seas and a beautiful blue sky. Spent the day chillaxin' and went to the casino to cash out account.
Dinner was "so-so". The onion soup was cold - YUCK! I ordered the veal parm, and found it to be quite tough. The Team waiter asked if I wanted anything else, but I declined. It was not only mine, but the table next to me also ordered onion soup & veal parm - and both were hardly touched. I have to be honest, this was the very first meal I did not enjoy. (well, except for the aforementioned biscuits & sausage gravy) The waiters seemed overwhelmed on the YTD side, but still tried to be attentive.
I walked about the ship last night, and ventured into a few of the bars to experience the different surroundings. There is definitely something for everyone. Still, many kids out & about spending last minute moments with newly made friends. Not as much elevator tag going on, but the few who indulged made it difficult as only the starboard side elevator was working. One thing that DID bather me was the group of teens and tweens sitting at bars. While it is true that this is the place to get sodas on your card, I really do think the bartenders should have been a little more assertive on asking them to leave the bar area once served.I do not blame the kiddos for this, but Carnival staff for allowing it to happen.
A few last minute purchases were made, and I returned to my room & ordered a ceasar salad with grilled salmon. Great choice! Watched a little tv & off to sleep.
Woke early this morning and headed for the MDR. Breakfast was wonderful and served quickly. Up to the Lido to wait for zone callouts.
Debarkation was smooth UNTIL reaching baggage claim. Then it became an absolute nightmare to get bags. My zone was 3, which meant I had to walk half the terminal to claim them, and them back to the other end to get in line. Back in line for Customs. This is the part where the worst lines are. porters jockeying for position in lines where the U-turn is made just before the actual Customs Desk. The line for passengers with passports did move more quickly, but it was still quite long & slow. I just wonder how Galveston is going to manage with a ship the size of Magic coming. Finally, after almost an hour, I was out the door to my car, and on my way home.
All in all, except for the few 'bumps', it was a good cruise. I have seen posters & reviews comment on the demographics of the cruisers on the Ecstasy. I do have to say that it is a very diverse and colorful mix of passengers. I will say that I cannot wait to get back on in February
We just got back from our second cruise on the Ecstasy. It was just as good as it was last year. Maybe a little better because we knew our way around this time. EVERY employee on the ship is soooooooo nice. It is great to be spoiled. Hard to come back home after being treated so good for days.
I just want to let the employees of the Ecstasy know that I appreciate all of the care that was given to the 7 of us. I couldn't have asked for more. I loved my waitors so much I gave them a big tip the last night. Also, Mario the Matre D spent alot of time talking to people on the cruise. He was hilarious!! Cruise Ecstasy!! It's great.Next year I will be doing the Jamaica cruise on the Conquest. If the Ecstasy offered the cruise I would be right back on board with them!!!!
About Us Mid 50's, pretty laid back, 8th cruise on CCL, 33rd overall.
Boarding was crazy as the Ecstasy did not dock until 10:00 a.m. due to propulsion problems. The situation was handled as well as could be.
The doors opened at 1:20 and boarding began about 3:00 p.m. We arrived at the port about 1:30 and the line was very slow moving -- no one's fault. We were finally on board about 3:20. We did not depart until 6:30 since it took a great deal of time to load supplies.
Back Up Information If you are driving to the pier, go to the pier and drop off your luggage. Have one person go park the car in one of several lots which are about 2 blocks away. These are secure lots, but not covered. They will shuttle you back to the pier, but will not permit luggage.
Enter the terminal, documents in hand to show to security so that you may proceed upstairs. Enter the security clearance line where you will place your luggage on the belt and be screened, similar to the airport. You do not need to remove your shoes.You will then enter another line to check in. If you have registered online this will take less than 5 minutes. Show your edoc, your passport and your credit card and you're done. Proceed to the photo line for your welcome aboard photos. As you enter the ship on the Empress Deck they will take your sign n sail card and take your photo for security purposes. You are then free to do as you wish. Rooms may not be available and Carnival does not make provisions for your bags, so tote them along with you and head for lunch. You will find things much calmer if you go to the dinig room rather than the buffet.
The bar area in the atrium was wild and only 2 poor little bartenders to tend to the hordes of passengers. They were out of cold beer and a bit of a fuss was made when they tried to serve warm beer. Then they ran out of glasses. We did manage to squeeze a cold beer out of the waitress after about 20 minutes, but it was an interesting study on human behavior.
There is no shortage of bars onboard so skip this one and go explore. The least active was the bar in the back of the buffet area, next to the pizzaria. Rooms were ready about 4:00. Ours was a 6a outside cabin and was the smallest cabin I think we've had. The bathroom was pretty spacious but there was storage room only for my husband's toiletry kit and my small makeup bag. No shelves anywhere. The shower is a full sized shower and has liquid soap and shampoo. There is the usual basket of samples. This week it was a razor, brunette shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toothpicks.
There is NO hair dryer, but if you call housekeeping they will send you one. There is one electrical outlet in the room near the vanity. There is a shaver outlet in the bathroom.
There is no 'frig or coffee pot. In addition to the bed there was one side chair (think dining room chair) and one bench which slides beneath the vanity.
There are 3 closets. One has full length hanging, one has short length hanging and shelves, and the third is all shelves and a safe. The safe uses a 4 number combination and is not large enough for a laptop. There are 4 drawers on the vanity. There is one end table which has no storage.
Lighting in the cabin was very dim. There is a flat screen TV but no guide for in room movies was available. To my chagrin there was no FoxNews, only CNN.
The muster drill was somewhat abbreviated because of our late departure. Rather than make people go to the boat loading site after the information portion of the drill, they just told us where it would be. We were quite glad for this since it was really warm out and we were not looking forward to standing about in the heat.
The public spaces are clean and of the usual Carnival colors. The ship, although dated, appears to be in good repair. The staff was friendly and service efficient.
Food Very subjective, but I would say it was fine. The dining room had nights when you could have escargot, lobster, prime rib, chautbriand and salmon. Steak is always available and if there were any areas of disappointment for me it was the deserts. Of course, there is always warm chocolate melting cake but the tiramasu was unimpressive, the grand marnier souffle dull and no cheesecake was to be be found. Oh well. Ironically, one of my favorite meals was the sandwich bar at the rear of the buffet. I had a really nice grilled as you order Reuben that really hit the spot on our first sea day for lunch.
The buffet is an odd spot and seems to suffer from lack of proper ventilation as floor level fans are always in use. While it does keep the floors nice and dry, it provides for a lot of drafts while eating. We had breakfast there most mornings. If you enjoy omelets, they are made at the outside buffet area.
Room service is available and breakfast can be ordered via a door hanger menu in your room that can be left on your door before retiring.
Casino The usual casino assortment of BJ, Craps, Roulette, Carib. Stud, 3 Card Poker, an automated sort of poker table, video poker and slots.
The slots take in cash but dispense it by returning it to your sign and sail card. You must cash out your sign and sail balance on the final night of the sailing. I found the casino extreeeemly tight on the slots. DH paid for the cruise at the BJ table but the happy slot players were non existent.
There were tournaments for BJ and slots.
Entertainment The show orchestra played very nice dance music at the captain's party and repeaters party. There were 2 piano bar players who were both wonderful. We really enjoyed listening to them both in the Lobby bar and the Rolls Royce bar area. Unfortunately the bars had music that would have been nice for dancing but the volume was ear shattering. The China Town bar advertised dancing and never once did we see a single couple stay in there more than 5 seconds. Everyone left with their hands over their ears, but yet the volume remained unchanged. Seemed really odd to me.
Karaoke was nightly in one of the larger bars. We are not fans of karaoke, but apparaently some people enjoy this form of public humiliation.
We saw the production show on the final night and it was very nice. A nice tribute to WW II women. Great dancing. We did not take in any of the other shows and didn't speak to anyone else who did either so I cannot report on them.
Progresso was our first port of call and we did the day on our own. We took the free shuttle into town and walked two blocks to the beach. This is not the prettiest beach around but I've been to worse. Massages are available everywhere on the beach for $15 and even $10 further down. They are not bad. The worst part of this beach area is the vendors -- they are non-stop and everywhere. All in all we grabbed a table at Buddy's, had a few beers, some nice nachos and just kept saying "no, no, no ....... no."
Cozumel is always a treat and we just got a cab and went to Paradise Beach. Nice, clean beach, pretty water, clean restrooms, very good restaurant. Each pair of chairs has a small table and an umbrella. Admission is free and for $10 you can get a wristband to allow you to play on all the toys. Good place for older children.
Spa Nice spacious place. Free steam room and sauna and very large showers if you find the ones in your room too confining. Prices were high so I skipped any of their services. They offer everythinng from facials to teeth whitening.
Shopping There are two shops on board. One a jewelry, cosmetic, liquor combo and the other with clothing and miscellaneous items. Due to the size of the ship they are quite limited so if you really like your shopping, this may not be the ship for you. There are the usual specials each day: An inch of gold, watch day, t-shirts, and costume jewelry. Liquor tasting was also available several evenings.
Bingo There was bingo held 3 times a day on most days. It appeared to be well attended.
Odds and Ends There were 900 childen on board, but it didn't seem like it. They were well behaved. Security was evident most of the time and I never saw the need for them to step in.
Ice was a bit hard to come by and we had to bug our steward a bit about it.
Bar service was less pushy than on prior Carnival cruises and the bars seemed understaffed to me.
There are no specialty restaurants (Steak House, pay extra type) onboard. Two dining rooms, the pizzaria and a sandwich place. Also a coffee shop with deserts for sale was available.
There was one formal night, which was the first sea day. Most people dressed up a bit, but I only saw one tuxedo.
We docked in Galveston at 7:40 and we self-disembarked at 8:30.
Overall Impression This was our eighth CCL cruise and I must say it seemed the most "economy class." Little things contributed to that -- no longer hair dryers in the room, no pocket sized ship maps, no postcards, notepaper or pen in the room. Bath gel and shampoo seemed really cheap. No playing cards or dominos were available for use in the game room. None of these are biggies, they just seemed like a cut back.
I left for Galveston on Thursday morning and stayed in Houston at the Embassy Suites on Sage Rd near the Galleria Mall. The hotel was very nice and the swans in the atrium lobby were a nice touch. I began my drive to Galveston on Friday with little to no traffic. I got into Galveston pretty early but was able to check into my room at the Hampton Inn and Suites on Central City Blvd near the Sea Wall. My room overlooked the ocean and everyone was very friendly and helpful. I was able to leave my car at the hotel free of charge during the cruise. I took a taxi which cost about $20 with tip and the driver was very informative and answered dozens of questions that I had about Galveston.
Check in for the cruise was fast and efficient. My only complaint at this point was when I got up to the rep for check in, she asked for the card that I booked the cruise with. I told her that I did not want to use the card, and she responded that it was for IDonly, and would not be charged. So I gave her my card, which she proceeded to swipe. Again I commented that I did not want the card used, and she told me that it would not be. We were allowed to board around 12:30 or so. The cabins were not ready so I took my carry on bags and went to the Lido deck and ate lunch. There were very few other passengers at this point so the food was plentiful and pretty good. Just your basic burgers and hotdogs. Finally at 1:30 my cabin was ready and I got to go see it for the first time. I had booked a 1A and had no idea of what it would be like. I have to say I really liked it. I was on the Empress Deck and aft. My bags came pretty quickly, actually before we even left port. My cabin was quite warm and I was trying to adjust the A/C but was not able to get the dial to move. I tried finding my cabin steward but to no avail. I was able to get the man who delivered my bags to fix it for me. After that I pretty much just wandered the ship, camera in hand. I took several photos and videos of the ship and my cabin. As I was traveling by myself I was able to go and see what I wanted to without hindering others.
I went to the purser's desk and established a cash account and let them know again that I did not want my debit card used.
At around 4 or 4:30 we were told to get ready for our muster drill. I went back to my cabin, got my life jacket, checked my muster station location -- the Star Light Lounge -- and headed there. While on the deck near the life boats I noticed that we had set sail. I was very excited at this point -- like a kid in a candy store. I had chosen the late seating, 8:15pm, the Wind Song Dining room. So after the drill, I just wandered the ship, getting to know my home away from home for the next few days. I got dressed for dinner and went to the dining room to see who my table mates would be. I was the first one there, and felt a little out of place. Joseph, my waiter, greeted me by name and I was very surprised. Turns out that he had already been notified of my food allergy and wanted me to know that he would be taking care of me. Gradually others began to join me. Pat, from Texas who would turn out to be who I would hang out with for most of my cruise. Tad, Candy and Jerry also from Texas, Renee from Texas (did not meet until later), Gail from Kansas and Sandy from Oklahoma. We named ourselves the divorced Medical/Educational table. All of us except Pat and Sandy were recently divorced and we were all in the Medical or teaching field in some way. I work for a health insurance company, there were 2 nurses, one medical secretary, one payroll clerk in a hospital and ohh yea, 2 were teachers. We were all around the same age, mostly in our early to mid 40's to late 50's (I was the youngest at 43). Three or four of us had grandchildren and we all had kids. So the Matri D', Hatem, did a great job of seating us. I don't recall what I had for dinner each night but I want to say it was very good and very well presented.
Aniko who is Hatem's assistant came each night to take my order for the next night's dinner, to make sure it was prepared without any dairy items. I tried to pick foods that would be easy to fix or foods that would not cause too much trouble. The chef made me a special dinner of Shrimp Vindaloo one night. I love North Indian food and he was nice enough to do that for me. Totally not on the menu! I ordered shrimp cocktail and salad for my appetizers every night.
Our first sea day, I spent going to different activities. I was not bored one bit and had loads of fun taking photos of the ship and learning different stuff. I have met so many different people! The ship hit pretty bad currents and it rocked and dipped. Lots of folks were sick. I thought it was fun! I was rocked to sleep every night in my bed! We were late getting into Cozumel by two hours, but we made up the difference by leaving later.
Tea Time I had tea with a lot of nice ladies. I sat with a lady named Selma and she was very sweet and we had a grand time.
Digital Scavenger Hunt I participated in this and had a blast. I did not win but it was fun anyway.
Art Auction I will avoid this in the future. I will keep why private.
Welcome Back Party This was very nice and I got my first pin and loved the free drinks.
Captain's Reception and Gala Dinner I had a blast and dressed up in a black/white formal, with no shoes. The ship was rocking too badly that night to wear shoes higher than an inch or two. I ended up in bare feet after trying to wear 6" spikes -- hey, I am a girl.
Cozumel Me and Pat agreed to go together and to share a cab, since the ship docks at the Porta Maya pier. It was a $7 cab ride there and $7 back and we split it. Our first stop was an internet café for me to call home and check my mail. I looked at my banking and noticed that Carnival had held $50 from my account on the very card that I had told her not to use, so I knew that I had to fix that when I returned to the ship. The call to the States cost me $1.00 and the internet about the same. Much cheaper than onboard at .75 per minute. We went to Sr. Frogs and had a blast! I ordered the Tequila Shrimp and a bottle of water. Our table mates, Candy, Tad and Jerry showed up and they seemed to be having a great time as we were leaving. After Sr. Frogs, we just walked around and shopped. I bought my granddaughter a pretty blue Mexican style dress and paid $20 for 4 t-shirts. I also went to the Hard Rock Café to get a souvenir glass, since I have collected them from all over the US and the world. The small shot glass was $13, more than what it would be in the States. I really did not care that much for Cozumel. We ended up going back to the ship after only about 3 hours.
I then went to the purser's desk to talk to them about my accounts and about why they had charged the card when I asked them not to. It did take talking to 3 or 4 different people at different times to make them understand what I was talking about. They were holding $50 on my debit plus $50 from my cash for my gratuities. I was fine with the cash being held -- that was why I had it in the first place -- but the fact that they charged the debit card was what I wanted fixed. They finally understood and agreed to release the debit, but it was not done until we docked on Thursday the 12th.
Progresso I loved Progresso. I did this by myself. My first thing was again to find a phone or internet facility and call home. Again it was very cheap. I would go back to Progresso in a heartbeat. I loved everything about it. I got a 45 minute massage on the beach for $10. I fell asleep laying there listening to the sound of the waves and the wind. I took the Progresso tour for $3 and it was very nice. I ended up going back to one of the restaurants that we passed on the tour and having 2 Pina Caladas for $4 plus they brought me chips, fresh salsa, black beans and some sort of potato. All this for $4! I made it my lunch. I got back to the ship about an hour or two before it sailed.
The one thing that I will say is that I never saw my cabin steward. My cabin was cleaned and I did get the turn down service, but I had tried paging him three times and tried to find him a few times, but never was able to. I did tell the purser's desk but they said that perhaps he just was not working on those times I had tried to find him.
All in all it was a great trip. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Ok everyone, here is my review of the Carnival Ecstasy. We sailed from the 26 May 12 to 31 May 12. First let's talk about pre-boarding, do not try and take bottles of alcohol packed in your luggage. Carnival X-Rays every piece of luggage and if you have any bottles, guess what they will not be there when your luggage arrives. What you will get is a letter telling you that it was removed. Now you can try and get it back at the end of the cruise, but if it has been opened, well it became part of the trash. Trust me, I tried and got caught. Also ladies, each cabin has only 2 A/C outlets, so if you have any hair dryers, chargers or anything that needs charging I recommend that you go to your local hardware store and get a 4 plug AC strip. This will give you a couple of extra plugs to use. Also the room lack ventilation. Bring a small fan with you packed in your luggage. This will help a lot to move the air in your room and make it alittle more comfortable when you sleep. Embarkation was a little surprise. We arrived at the port at 1:30pm and there was a long line. So the word of the day, be calm enjoy the people around you and remember the boat will be there and not sail without you. Carnival did move the line and it took about 30 minutes to finish with check in. Now the ship, I found the ship was very clean, some areas did look worn and some areas could have used a little paint, but overall the staff did an excellent job in maintaining the ship. Bathrooms were clean and common areas were clean also. My only complaint here is the sewer smell throughout the ships cabin area. Some days it was very strong and some days not so strong. Good news here, I never had any of the smell enter my cabin, which by the way was Empress deck 7, cabin E-95. This ship was a little hard to get around at first. I do recommend take an hour and walk each section of the ship. Some areas you have to go up a flight of stairs to get where you want and then down a flight to continue. I thought the ship layout was confusing. Cabins are nothing to shout about. I had a balcony cabin with bunk beds for the 4 of us. My walk in closet at home has more room. The bathroom and shower were small and the shower, well let's just say, don't plan on strong water pressure for your showers. Caution here, remember turn on cold water then add the hot water. The hot water is scalding hot and you can get burned. The staff on board were excellent, everyone that I met always had something nice to say and always greeted with "Good Morning" or afternoon. I have no complaints here. Now the one that everyone wants to know, Dining. There are two types of dining. Assigned dining at 6pm and 8pm. The other dining was "Anytime Dining". Here you can pick your time to dine. Remember one thing though, you may have to wait for a table. Anytime dining does not guarantee you a table when you want to eat. So I recommend when you book your cruise, pick your dining time so you know you have a table. Staff was excellent and my only complaint here, I drink ice tea, and I had to remind them every night for ice tea. Now the food. Carnival like many other cruise ship, have felt the crunch of the economy. Carnival is trying to do more with less and I have to say they are doing a good job at it. The meals were good. Now I did not say excellent, I don't expect gourmet food on a cruise ship, but what was available was good. My complaint here is Carnival is using more fish and chicken for their meals. Beef was available twice. Now for those out there that like prime rib. This is served the second night during the formal. Go to the Lido deck to the buffet and there you can get the same thing. At dinner they give you a small cut of prime rib. At the buffet you can ask them for the cut that you want. I had an inch cut and went back for seconds. The other steak that is being served is strip steak. Not my favorite and will not eat it again. Tough and chewy and hard to swallow. Overall the food was very good. Remember, the ship was filled and trying to serve over two thousand people is a task that only the military can achieve. You do have two menus that you can choose from. My son liked the gourmet hamburger. I have to admit, it did look good. You can combine menus and pick anything you want for your meals. This was nice and gave me more options. Overall I did not have any bad experience with the food or staff. The buffet in the morning can be a bit overwhelming. And again this depends on the time you get up and eat. One note here, there are three omelet stations. Go to the back of the dining hall to the Deli station and to the left is a omelet station that rarely gets used. You can bypass the lines and get to your table a little early. Tables were always available, so no complaints here. Here is some good news, all of the ice cream you can eat free. So like my kids, go for it. Entertainment was very lacking. We had only two shows, one for the sail-a-way, and one production "All about Country". There was the normal, comedy acts, and different small shows, but nothing else. One thing that I was very proud about, was that Carnival did have a veterans gathering for all military personnel active duty or retired. The first mate and cruise director and several staff where there to meet with all of the military personnel. Way to go Carnival!!. One thing that I was asked to talk about was the pool area and hot tubs. The pool area was large enough for everyone and lounge chair were available. The hot tubs on the other hand were full with teenagers, go figure. But good news here for all adults, there is an area under the Lido deck dedicated to adults with two hot tubs. Now here is the good news, this is controlled. My son who is 14 years old, came to check in with us and was asked to leave. Now the staff was very polite and after my son explained that he was only there to check in, the staff member said that was ok, and my son left. This was very nice to have an area for us adults. Debarkation was very smooth and quick. Carnival has come up with a good system to get there passengers off of the ship. First there is early departure. Now this is done by decks and they ask you not to come down until your deck is called. Then there is normal departure again this is done by decks and went very smooth. Now remember the ship was filled, so there was some waiting but not bad. Luggage is tagged with a number and all you have to do is go to the area with your number displayed and your luggage is there for you. Now for the not so fun stuff. Carnival like other cruise industry are there to make money. This is a business and like most businesses they must make a profit to stay in business. So prices on board are very expensive. Beer is 6.50 each and a bucket of beer with four beers runs 25.00 dollars. Special drinks run 7.50 dollars. So before you know it, you can run up a tab of several hundred dollars. One saving grace, those that don't drink, purchase a "Bottomless Bubbles" for soda. This ran about 54.00 for two and 22.00 for the cup for two. This breaks down to about 4.50 dollars per day. Now this gets you all the soda you can drink, and juice you can drink also. Be careful with there so called "Sales" again take your time and really ask yourself if you need that item. Remember, not all sales are a bargain it part of their profit line to make money. Pictures, now the staff will be taking your pictures on and off of the boat. Not cheap to purchase but nice memories, so pick and choice the one you really want. Well I have used up a lot or your time. Overall the trip was very nice and would I sail with Carnival again, properly not. I have liked Royal Caribbean and I like what they offer. If you would like more information on ports of call and pictures please free to contact me any time and I will answer your question and send any pictures. Contact me at
Take care and enjoy your cruise
Valentines Day Cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy February 14, 2011
Welcome to my review of our Valentine Day Voyage on board the Carnival Ecstasy. My wife Pat and I are retired and discovered the joys of Cruise Ship life about 10 years ago. This Cruise came about as a result of me looking at 4 inches of Frozen Ice and a Thermometer that has set a new record headed downward. I picked up the phone, called Lyndon our Faithful PVP. Two weeks later we are headed to a warmer clime. Before I continue, I do need to inform you readers that this missive is being compiled real time while underway. So I do apologise for anychanges from present, to past, to future tenses. I have been out of School for many years and did not do all that well in English Composition even then, so please bear with me. We are now on Sea Day 1. I am eating a chocolate chip cookie and sipping a Caffe Late on the Prominade while watching the calm (lucky for us) waters of the Gulf of Mexico flow past the ship's window. I alsoappolgise for any typographical errors that may be caused by the 4 (or was it 5) Gin and Tonics happily consumed by the Author while soaking the warm sun beams on the Lido Deck and listening to a very good Calypso/Ragae/Country Western group entertaining a festive audience recovering from the Hairy Chest Drunk'in Bubba Contest. Our trip begins in San Antonio where we visited our Daughter and her family on our way to Galveston. Hence 'killing two birds with one stone"; a family visit and a voyage. We left San Antonio for Galveston bright and early Monday morning on our drive to meet our Ship. A quick review of the trusty Droid Smart Phone GPS showed our trip to be 4 hours and 6 minutes door to ship. So away we went trusty GPS chirping away. All was well until we found Houston (which is about the hardest city to drive in except for maybe Tokyo). Right smack drab in the middle of traffic all buzzing along at Mach 1, your intrepid driver lost, and with 5 different options suddenly presenting themselves as to which way to take, my Trusty Electronic Copilot and GPS Navigator Nastily announced with a Mornful moan that it QUIT. So as I naturally chose the Wrong exit and we sped toward oblivion, I tossed my dear wife a folded up Map and yelled for help! She promptly rapped me up the side my head with folded map, and announced a 2 word command, that while rather fun to do is also impossible to do. Finally. after a some what heated discussion regarding both my driving and navigational skills, my wife plotted a course out of oblivion and back towards Galveston and our awaiting ship. We pulled into the EZ Cruise Parking Lot at 1214 PM after a 4 hour and 26 minute drive (of which 20 of those driving minutes were spent completely lost in traffic!) There awaited the Ecstasy in all her Glory. After a quick and painless ride in the EZ Park Shuttle Bus we arrived at the Cruise Ship Terminal. A $10 gratuity to the Baggage Porter was tendered in hopes that we would one day see our suitcases again. perhaps even in our Cabin.
This is our 12th (I think) cruise and we are exhulted Platinum VIP Status Guests. One of the nifty perks of being Platinum is one by passes the Huddled Masses as they wait forever in long, never ending, winding lines to board. With noses in air we headed towards Bright Red Signs beckoning (Snobby) VIPs. We were escorted to the head of the Security line and Xray machines. A with nary a Buzz, Siren, or Body Search we convinced the Guards we were indeed just innocent cruisers and we exited security relatively unharmed. Another Bright Red VIP Sign Beckoned us to an office where we were processed. Within 1 minute our name was called, our passports examined, and most importantly our Credit Card Scanned. We were then issued our Sign and Sail Cards, and told to board and have a great cruise. So once again as the great multitude of our fellow passengers wound their way through the never ending meandering lines, we happily sped past them and headed toward the Photographer and Gang Plank. I must say the Embarkation Process seemed to go well for everyone as folks moved along at a steady pace through the Boarding Process. We were on board the ship within 15 minutes of our arrival at the Cruise Ship Terminal. As we stepped off the Gang Plank and into the Atrium big smiles appeared on our faces. Let the good times Roll! We headed up to the Lido Deck with was crowded with happy fellow cruisers. All of the tables were taken on the Smoking Side (Yes...my wife is a Dreaded Smoker), however a very nice couple, Rick and Linda, also fellow smokers, invited us to join them at their table. We were soon approached by a waiter offering Foo Foo Umbrella Drinks which we happily accepted (after, of course, my Silver Sign and Sail Card was proffered, accepted, and signed) and we had our Traditional Boarding Toast with the Umbrella Foo Foo Drink of the Day. The sun was warm and life was good as we visited with our new friends Rick and Linda, who were on a birthday/anniversery/valentine/escape from the kids for a 5 day cruise. Several Jimmy Buffet songs and Foo Foo Drinks later it was time to find our stateroom and enter the "wonder where my suitcase is" lottery. (Note earlier reference to $10 Gratuity to Baggage Porter).
We found our state room Ocean View U160. Opening the door we greeted our new home for next several days. Carnival, in all of its Marketing Genius, had left us each a Welcome back Platinum Cruiser Letter signed by non other than the CEO Himself. These letters addressed to both Pat and I, listed the various perks we would receive as VIP Guests. I kind of thought it was a very nice gesture. There was also a very nice plate of Chocolate Covered Straw Berries for us to snack on. Pat had a special letter addressed especailly to her which I am not so sure is a good thing. You see this letter was from the Casino Operators, Players International, welcoming her back as a Very Important Player (Not good for me or my Wallet) with a gift and an invitation to cocktails in the casino before it opened to the commoners and more conservative gamblers. Again, a very nice gesture. Then not to be out done, there was a knock on the door and another letter from Carnival Management arrived, informing us we had been awarded a $50 credit to our on board account since we are Stock Holders in the Corporation. Next, Pat was very happy to receive (I thought) a very nice Bouqet of Flowers delivered by Bon Voyage. These Lovely Flowers had been ordered from Her Very Generous and Handsome Husband as a Valentine Present to her. (Fortunately she did not see all of the Red Roses that were on the way to other Lucky Wives/Girlfriends/Mistresses that had been ordered as Valentine Gifts from shall we say more generous spouses/boyfriends/customers who "sprang" for real Roses rather than Common Flowers. We found the safe, locked up passports, cell phones (that had been turned off), and Casino Cash. We then decided it was time for a pre "Safety Drill" Cocktail. So off we went. Being the safety conscious type we are (you never know if you are on the next Titanic) we eagerly awaited the call to muster station. The only thing I can say is The Muster Drill/Safety Briefing can only be describe for us as "Quite Civilized". Our Station was located on the Lido Deck. We sat down with a libation (obtained just before the Bars Closed for this all important event) and were happily surprised to see chairs being arranged. Yes, we all sat comfortably as the drill began and the "in case we sink" instructions were given. Everyone paid "rapt attention" in comfort, while happily sitting down. No more standing at attention while some junior ship's officer who thought she was still in "Her majesty's Royal Navy and we passengers were Sailors from HMS Bounty, gave us a verbal Cat o Nine Tail Ships Brief, which would describe my very first Carnival Cruise 10 years Earlier. And Yes, before we knew it that wonderful Sound we all were awaiting Blasted our ears; the Ships Horn Announcing we were Underway! As the Ship slowly made her way down the Galveston Channel, Pat and I rapidly made our way to the nearest Bar for a post departure Libation. We returned to our Stateroom and were happy to find that our luggage had arrived. My Ten Dollar Investment had Paid off. Our two suitcases were in our stateroom and not on their way to Bombay! I happily retrieved my 6 mini bottles of Crown Royal that had not been confinscated by the Whiskey Police and was quite relieved that I would not have to make the walk of shame to the Naughty Room where whisky smugglers are paraded in front of their fellow "law abiding" passengers. Our State Room Steward Tomas introduced himself and asked us to please let him know if we needed anything at all. As is my usual custom, I slipped Tomas an extra (pre departure) gratuity which has always insured impeccable service from our State room stewards. Tomas seemed to be quite happy with his "Windfall". As Galveston Island disappeared below the horizon, Pat happily headed to her waiting wagering machines of chance. As Bells Rang, Wheels Whirled, and Handles were pulled the Casino came to life and happy cruisers and Pat prepared to part with their money. We had late dining and headed to our 8:15 seating with visions of fine food. My poor wife Pat is Celiac Intolerant (meaning she is allergic to Wheat). Carnival does an excellent job of catering to guests with Food Allergies. The hostess went over the evening menu with Pat and the picked out her dinner. She then went over the following evening's menu and took Pat's Special Order. Once again we are quite pleased with the manner in which this was handled. We enjoyed our first dinner on board and are anticipating the dinners to follow After dinner Pat headed to the Casino and Slot Machines. I head to bed. I enjoy sleeping while the ship is underway and as usual was out like a light. Sometime during the night my eyes opened and I realized our cabin door was wide open. I have no idea how long it had been open. The door had not been properly closed. I was shocked! I consider myself very lucky that a group of cheerleaders did not sneak in and take advantage of me while i slept! Day 2 at Sea The next morning our alarm clock went off at 7AM on the dot with a knock on the door by Room Service delivering our morning coffee. A quick glance out of our porthole window confirmed we were out at sea somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico. The morning dawned bright if not just a bit chilly. After a nice breakfast prepared at the Panorama Omelet Station I explored. I discovered a lovely (quiet) dining area at the very aft part of the ship where one could enjoy one's repast while watching the ship's wake and see where we had been. One level down was the New Serenity Adult only area. This is a very nice area with 2 hot tubs, chaise lounges both in the sun and an area with ample shade. I am certain that Bar Service is of course Available. The fact that Children are Banned ensures the peace and quiet we old folks enjoy. Bar Service is of Course Available. Speaking of Kids, there are more on board than I would have thought considering School is in session. It is a good thing there are no Truant Officers Allowed on Board Carnival Cruise Ships. Although one sees kids one does not necessarily hear them. The kiddos are kept busy by the various Ship Board Activities designed to keep them out of everyone's (especially their Parent's) way. After a nice breakfast we decided it was time for Bloody Mary's. The morning special ($4.95 until noon) were enjoyed as we sat at the Pool Bar (Smoking side) on the Lido Deck. After the Morning Libations, Pat headed to (where else the Casino and her beloved slot machines and I explored the ship. I really enjoy the days at sea. I pretend I am Horatio Hornblower as I walk the decks in search of a Wench and CatoNine. (Oh wait, wrong character) :) It is nice to enjoy the fresh air and warm sunshine. They have entertainment such as Raggae Music, Drunkin Bubba Hairy Chest Contests, etc. at the Swimming Pool area on the Lido Deck. Or one can remove onself, with Kindle and iPod in hand, to the Serenity Deck. We had a nice lunch in the Main Dining Room where we shared a table with an interesting couple who winter in Texas and Summer at their home in the United Kingdom. Pat returned to (where else) the casino and I headed up to the Pool area to check on the temperature. The morning started out a bit cool but as our Ship Steamed Southard the day warmed nicely. The Calypso/Raggae/Country Band was playing again and the music was great. The next thing I knew I was in a Lounge Chair sipping a Gin and Tonic with the warm sun shining on me, and enjoying the tunes. What a great way to spend the afternoon. As the evening approached I headed up to have an afternoon coffee and cookie while working on this missive. Carnival issues color coded Sign and Sail Cards. First time cruisers get blue and red cards, 2nd to 9th time cruisers get gold cards, and 10th on up get the platinum (silver) cards. As I sat and people watched I realized I was seeing a lot of blue cards and first time cruisers. As a Stock Holder in Carnival Corporation I was happy to see smiles on all of these first time cruisers. Pat and I enjoyed our pre-dinner cocktails at the Deck 9 (Dreaded) Cigar Bar where smoking is permitted. All I can say is I am sure all of the Rabid Anti Smokers were/are quite unhappy to see all of the people there having fun. I would like to point out, that there are a few smoking lounges where smoking is permitted and others where it is banned. (For instance, smoking is permitted in the Casino, since it seems most of those dreaded smokers are also gamblers.) However smoking is NOT permitted at the Casino Bar or in any of the public area where people tend to congregate. I made the mistake of visiting the on board duty free where a nice shiny new Citizen Watch jumped out and made me purchase it. I decided that instead of tossing a couple of hundred bucks away at the Crap Table, I would wear my shiny new watch around. I must say it looks good on my skinny wrist. The second evening at sea is the "Formal Night". Since many of our fellow passengers were well so dressed, I decided to join in and donned a nice pair of slacks, neck tie, and sport coat. I must admit I looked quite spiffy with my new Citizen Chongraph strapped to my wrist. We were joined by a couple of thousand Lobster Tails at Dinner. I am not sure why but for some reason the service at ort table is way below par. Everything seems to be moving quite slow and I noticed the folks at nearby tables eating while we were waiting. I generously slipped our head waiter a $20 bill on our first evening, and am now wondering if my generosity was in vain? We shall see. After a nice dinner Pat of course headed to her beloved Slots and I to the Piano bar. One thing about cruising, whenever you get a lot of people together one sees a lot of different behavior. Most good, some dumb, and some bad. Here we are in a Piano Bar; the piano player singing, the patrons enjoying. Some Bozos at the rear of the room were carrying on a loud conversation and disrupting the performance. What **** Heads! They knew exactly what they were doing and couldn't care less. I guess those must be the "low class folks" my snobby neighbor refers to whenever talking about typical Carnival Cruisers. My rocking bed beckoned. I am sorry to report that the door stayed closed and locked all night so no cheer leaders were tempted. Day 3 â€“ Progresso (Merida) Mexico As you know the Yucatan Penninsula was the home of the Mayan Indian Population. So Pat and I decided to broaden our Horizons on this cruises and we signed up for a tour of the Xcapa Mayan Indian Ruins. We were up at 5:30 AM to prepare for our trip back into time. Our ship docked at Progresso bright and early at 7AM. Passengers (us included) streamed off the ship with smiles and with water bottles in hand we headed towards awaiting buses. Some folks were off to tour the various Ruins, some headed to the beach, some into Merida, some to explore, and some to drink Mexican beer. We boarded our bus along with 60 other fellow amateur archeologists and away we went. It was about a 45 minute ride and all along it our trusty tour guides kept us informed of different minituae along our route. I must admit it was quite informative; I now know why Flamingos are pink! The ruins are quite interesting. One must stop and reflect that this was a culture that was extremely advanced. Their Mathematics and Astronomy rival that of today. The city we visited was founded 200 years BC. After our visit to the ruins we visited a Cemetery where we learned why there are different colors on the crypts. It seems if the deceased were Pure Mayan his new home is painted a bright blue, green, or yellow. We then proceeded to a small town inhabited by modern day Mayans where we visited a big (surprise) Catholic Church built back in the 18th century. Last but not least, was a stop at a 'modern' resort on the beach where 'lunch' was served. We all agreed that the "lunch" we were treated to made everyone really appreciate the fine food we are enjoying on board the Ecstasy. As we were waiting in line to re-board our ship I noticed lots of smiles among our fellow passengers. We visited with one lady and her daughter who had just visited the local Rum Factory. I know why they both wore big smiles. We headed back to our cabin. Awaiting us was another nice gift from Carnival to their Platinum Cruisers. We both received a nice Logo Notebook along with Ecstasy Pins. As I recharged my batteries ship was underway once again, now on course for an overnight sail to the Cozumel. There was a knock on the door and there as a plate complimentary hor de vours, a welcome snack, complements of Carnival (I think). Dinner this evening was quite good (well for everyone except poor Pat). I am happy to report that our servers seemed to be doing a bit better this evening. As I mentioned earlier Pat has food allergies and Carnival does an excellent job (usually). Pat's dinner that had been preordered the prior evening was Gluten Free Pasta and Chicken that is specially prepared. Her dinner was very late in arriving but alas it tasted just great! (More to follow) Pat returned to her beloved Slot Machines after dinner, and I just kind of wandered around. I became enamored with the Crap Table but am proud to say I left with nary a wager and headed to bed with visions of 7's and 11's dancing in my head. Day 4 â€“ Cozumel We awakened on this 4th day with the sun shine beaming in through our Porthole Window. Our ship is headed towards Cozumel where we are scheduled for an on time arrival at 8AM. Alas my dear poor Pat had been a-wake, and ill all night long. It seems that the "Gluten Free" pasta that had tasted so good at dinner the evening befoe, had "Glutened" her. She (correctly I think) has decided that somehow her Pasta was not Gluten Free.) Since Carnival does such a good job with special menu's and prepared food, we decided the failure was at the lowest denominator, perhaps the server or junior cook. That is why it tasted so good (you see gluten free food tastes bad!) Somehow Carnival has blown it. I am not sure if the problem was the kitchen or the server, but somehow they missed the mark! Poor Pat is Sick as can be as our Ship pulled into Cozumel. She will remain in the cabin until the gluten is out of her system. You see this food allergy causes her intestines to become inflamed (yep it is painful) and swollen closed. This is what Poor Pat is dealing with. Me? I shall enjoy a quiet ship while in Port and the rest of my fellow passengers are off at Senior Frog's drinking Tequila Shooters. It sure is a good thing I have visited Cozumel before. So I shall go by myself and have a quiet shot of Tequila as I salute Cozumel. I decided to spend some time pool side while Pat hopefully rid her body of the Toxins from which she had been poisoned by the prior evening's dinner in the Main Dining Room. Actually, it is quite nice to have the whole ship to oneself while 1,782 fellow passengers are ashore. I assumed the "moniker" of Aristotle Onassis as I enjoyed Gin and Tonics Pool side in the warm Yucatan Sun (while Jackie was ashore entertaining the Governor of the Island. Wow did that guy have it made, even if he did have to purchase Jackie) Pat joined me for lunch at the Panorama Buffet. She seemed to be feeling a bit better but did not eat very much as her internal system is still on tilt. (Last time it tilted this badly she spend 4 weeks in a Hospital and we "prepared for the worst") I have to admit I have wondered if the value of my Carnival Stock will drop very much after we file the 'lawsuit'. After Lunch Pat repaired back to our stateroom as I returned to Poolside with my Kindle Electronic Book in hand. Mr. Kindle and I watched the Lido slowly fill up as my fellow cruisers returned from their various shore bound excursions. I suspect some of them had sampled tequila shots! I had a nice visit with the lady lounging next to me. We discussed the joys of a Cruise Ship Vacation. She has cruised on both Cunard and Carnival and had some interesting reflections on the different types of cruisers the various lines attract. We both agreed that Carnival does indeed offer good product for the value. Oh, by the way, Cunard has a very strict dress code in their Dining Rooms. The British do know how to dine properly. Finally the Carlos Santana Noise (I mean music) drove me away as we sailed away from this Island Paradise and our ship turned to a North West bound heading towards (sob) Galveston. So with ears ringing, I headed do to the cabin to check on Pat. One thing I have noticed on this cruise and on all of our other cruises is the how clean and well kept the Ship is kept. Empty glasses, plates, and assorted flotsom seem to be instantly picked up by personnel armed with brooms, mops, and containers. I must leave soon to meet Pat in the Atrium for Cocktails while a Piano Concert is scheduled in the Main Atrium. I think it is a good sign that Pat is up and about and considering a libation. Hopefully the Crohn's Toxins have not done too much damage to her delicate insides. I shall return to this missive soon, perhaps tomorrow. While I am gone I would like to ask that you readers bid me good luck as my anti-gambling at the Crap Table (re: my fancy new wrist watch) resolve has crumbled. Pat decided not to eat in an attempt to help her recover from her health problems caused by the dinner she ate had eaten the night before. She did visit with the hostess in the main dining room to let her know that somehow her dinner the night before had caused her problems. Of course the Hostess, and Maitre d' assure her that was impossible. She just wanted them to know that there had in fact been a failure. I have no doubt that they checked into what/when/how Pat's Gluten Free meal had been prepared, and realize they could never admit that they were at fault. (Read Lawyers) We just wanted them to be aware that there had been a problem. We had (my) pre-dinner cocktails at the "Society Cigar Bar", which, you guessed it, allows cigarette smoking. While there I had a very interesting conversation with Alan, the Bartender, who is from Lima Peru. He is a very knowledgeable fellow and we discussed Carnival and the company's different Policies. I suspect Allen will go places within the company. He is very representative of Carnival's Personnel and their good attitudes towards Guest Relations. It made me feel good about being a Stock holder (sadly my holdings are quite small) and my future value of my investment. I think I shall increase my holdings, as they say on Wall Street. I dined alone, since Pat was off food. Our table mates were missing as well, so I had the table to myself. The group of eight next to me very graciously invited me to join them for dinner, but I declined. The Hostess, Maitre d' and even the waiters all inquired about Pat's well being and wished her a speedy recovery. I must way that my solo dining table service was impeccable and I enjoyed a nice dining experience. After dinner I stopped by the Casino to wish Pat good luck and headed to bed. I find I usually sleepy by the time the late dinner seating is over, which is usually around 10PM. I think next cruise we may try the Any Time Dining which everyone who says is great. I thought about how our ship was sadly steaming homeward bound as I fell asleep.
Day 5 â€“ At Sea Homeward Bound Our last day at sea dawned beautiful. Blue skies and bright sunshine has warmed the day as our ship steams steadily northwest ward. I grabbed my trusty Canon Camera, which has been giving me trouble this whole voyage, and headed up to the Lido deck. Although I have 2 batteries for it, I have decided both are worn out and need replaced. Sometimes my camera will happily snap way, other times it goes on strike. I am happy to report that this morning it decided to work and I was able to get some nice shots of the blue waters as we chugged along. I enjoyed a lovely breakfast outside at the aft area of the ship while enjoying the warm sun shine beaming down. My fellow sea borne sailors all seemed happy as we greeted the new day. I returned to our Cabin to find Pat feeling better as she announced she had recovered from her recent Gluten Poisoning. We were both quite relieved. (One cruise she ended up spending 2 days in the ship's infirmary, had an ambulance ride to the hospital where she spent 2 weeks on our arrival in New Orleans. ) I must point out this is NOT the Cruise Lines fault. She had experienced a Crohn's attack and in those days no one was aware that Wheat (Gluten) seriously aggravates the condition. We happily headed up to the Lido deck and the Luncheon Buffet where she could hand pick her meal, insuring that it was gluten free. She chose Fish, Salad, French fries, Sushi, and some sort of Jello for dessert. Our friends Rick and Linda, the nice couple who invited us to share their table on the sail away day, joined us and we enjoyed a nice meal. Afterwards, with Kindle in hand, I headed to the Serenity Area where I spent the afternoon reading the Latest Nikki Heat Novel while watching our ships wake disappear over the horizon. Sadly this is the last day and our cruise will soon be over. I am not sure if it is me or if the temperature really is getting steadily colder as we steam along. Tomorrow is debarkation day and as Platinum Concierge Guests we are offered Priority Debarkation. Being lazy, I have decided to pack my "Steamer Trunk" sized Suitcase tomorrow morning and after lowering its "Landing Gear" we will wheel our stuff of the ship. Stay tuned to find out how that goes. For now I see a Martini in my future and am looking forward to dinner. After retrieving Pat from the Casino, we headed to the Society (smoking permitted) Lounge for our pre-dinner cocktails. We again had a nice visit with Alan before heading off to our final dinner. I did tip both the Maitr 'd and the Jennifer our Hostess because they did go out of their way to insure that Pat's Gluten Free meals were provided. It was not their fault that the one gluten failure occured and I am sure they took steps to prevent future mishaps. Our two table mates missed dinner again. I suspect they decided they preferred the more relaxed upstairs dining venue. I gave our cocktail waiter one last gratuity which he was so very happy to receive. Just before our dinner was delivered a nice bottle of wine was presented to Pat with compliments from the Casino. Gosh we were sure showered with nice little gifts. I can only wonder why? ($$$) Our two waiters wished us well and thanked us profusely for the extra gratuities. My theory on gratuities is to tip generously. These folks that provide the service are not well paid. So extra is very highly apprecitated. I have also found that these generous offerings I make do indeed (usually) pay off handsomely. For instance, if a $1 bill is laid down on the bar along with ones sign and sail card one will almost always find that an extra large pour is added to ones libation. In other words almost a double for the price one. That works for me! GALVESTON ARRIVAL AND DEBARKATION or EXTRA FREE DAY AT SEA I awakened early on Saturday Morning. There was a beautiful full moon shining down on us. I felt the ship was barely moving. A quick peek outside the Port Hole Window confirmed we were barely making way due to heavy fog. I would estimate the visibility as less than Â¼ mile. Every 2 minutes the ship's Fog Horn would sound. I headed upstairs and using my nifty new chronograph determined the fog horn would sound for 5 seconds at 2 minute intervals. I used my Droid Phone Recorder Application to record the Horn from outside as it sounded. So hopefully I will have a nifty new Ring Tone for my phone. (Yes folks my Droid Phone ring tone is now the Ships Horn!) Pat and I have decided to lug our suitcases off with us when we disembark. The jury is out as to whether or not we made a good call or a major blunder since our wheel along steamer trunks are heavy and clumsy. I am certain there are elevators in the Cruise Terminal, I HOPE! As I was having my breakfast, timing the fog horn blasts, I noticed the ship and stopped, and the fog horn was no longer honking. Shortly thereafter our Captain came on and advised us that the port was closed due to zero visibility and we were anchored at the Pilot Station. And as ATC used to advise me when I had to enter holding awaiting for weather the 'delay is indefinite". It is now 8:30AM and we are still awaiting for the visibility to improve. I am not sure just how much RVR (Sea Visual Range) these guys need to navigate but I suspect they need a bit more than the 600 foot runway visual rangne I could land my Jumbo Jet in. I feel sorry for the passengers on shore awaiting our arrival so they can depart on their Cruise. My guess is we will arrive at the Galveston Island Cruise Terminal between 10:30 â€“ 11:00AM. Boy am I worng on that ETA! The Captain just came on and said we were still holding awaiting weather minimums to improve so we can make our approach into the harbor. He said he will make another announcement in an hour, which tells me there is not much improvement in the forecast. This is weather and no one can control it. February is Fog Season in this part of the world. I remember 3 "zero zero" landings in a row all in Houston one year. Around 4 PM the ship got underway. The electronic map along with the Mornful Moan of the Fog Horn showed we were proceeding toward Galveston. About 5 minutes later we came to a screeching halt (well OK, we slowed to a stoop). The Captain came back on and annouced that the visibility improved somewhat, then it went back down. Shorty there after the Captain informed us all that we would in fact remain out at sea overnight and would proceed off shore to a point where they could open the Shops and Most Importantly, The Casino. We all enjoyed our extra night at sea as everyones Luggage was returned to them. My FaceBook friend Mach (of Cruis Critic fame) sent me this map of the Ecstasy's Travels while awaiting the fog to clear. You can see where we left and went back out to sea completing a large Triangle Course which returned us back to the achorage where we awaited the Fog to Clear. Thank you Mach! I must admit I did feel a little guilty eating dinner in the Main Dining Room that would was really intended to be enjoyed by the poor folks stranded on shore in Galveston awaiting our non-return. AN EXTRA Â½ DAY and FINALLY HOME I awakened this morning to the feel of an idle ship. A quick peek out of the porthole window confirmed that we were still fog bound. Since the fog horn was not blowing I assertained that we were at anchor. Around 9AM the Captain came on to inform us that the Port of Galveston was still closed due to zero visibility caused by the sea fog. Finally around 10AM a quick peek out of my porthole window showed the visiibilty rapidly increasig. It was really amazing seeing all of the ships that we were anchored among as they slowly became visible. We went up and had a nice breakfast on the Lido Deck and I did notice a bit of excitement among my fellow sailors at the notion of going home for real. By 11 we floating were under blue skies and warm sunshine as the ship began to make way towards port. We were informed that there were 3 ships all headed in at the same time and we would be mooring at Pier 10 instead of the Cruis Terminal. The Cruise Director came on and gave us a briefing on how disembarkation would be handled. After docking they would call Â½ deck at a time to proceed to the forward showroom where we would clear Customs and Immigration on board the ship. We would then return to our rooms, pick up our luggage and self-disembark where buses would take us to the Cruise terminal. As Platinum guests, we were called in the first group to clear customs and disembark. It worked quite well for us. As we waited in the fast moving line to meet with Immigration I learned there were only 39 Platinum guests on board. I must say this did surprise me. After clearing customs and immigration, we lugged and rolled our wheeled suitcases down to level 3 and were soon off the ship where we boarded an awaiting bus. From the time we were called to clear customs to the time we were in our Car at the was 2 hours, which all things considered was not too bad. I have read that some of the later passengers disembarking that day encountered a horror scene. We did not. So with smileS on our faces we pointed our Rav4 toward home.
Ecstasy was a very disappointing cruise. The food was terrible, staff was not helpful, entertainment was weak and the stateroom had a terrible odor. I would not do another Carnival cruise for free.
Ecstasy 5-night 12-27-08 New Year's Cruise!
Friday Headed to Galveston the day before the cruise, there is still a lot of devastation on Galveston Island. We saw large boats lying on their side along side the road and even in neighborhoods, lots of debris along the roads and caught in fences and numerous blue tarps still over roof tops. The Strand is little more than a "ghost town. The locals told us that if it weren't for the cruise business and their customers their city would not be as populated as it is now and it's only about 50%.
We stayed overnight at the Hilton on the Seawall and ate at The Spot overlooking the beach. We did a little last minute shopping and headed to the hotel.
Saturday There was lots of fog all day, all evening and even into the early morning of departure, but the sun came out and we were ready to cruise! The ship was in port before 8 am.
We arrived at the ship at 11:15, walked straight up the stairs, through VIP and were the first two people through the photo line and onto theship -- Wow!
We called and text our friends and family, dropped my husband's Blackberry phone into the ocean accidentally (we have insurance) then went to our cabin E-244 to dress for 1st night's dinner. I left $5 and a note asking our cabin steward (who we never saw and that's okay with me) to leave me an extra pillow and a blanket. When we returned to our cabin, both items were there.
At dinner, we were assigned a booth for 6 people, all were our age, one was a honeymoon couple on their first cruise and feeling motion sickness, they left during appetizers and we never saw them again. Unfortunately, we did see the other couple again, we went to the maitre'd and asked for a table change after missing the next two nights at dinner. We thought of the NCL commercial where the man keeps talking and talking and talking, well it was something like that. Anyway, the maitre'd moved us to a beautiful table and we very much enjoyed our last dinner there. We tipped him on the last night by the way.
Even though the sun was shining through our cabin window, we slept 11-1/2 hours the first night, after going to bed at 7:30pm! That's unheard of, I guess we really did need some rest.
Sunday We got up the first day at sea -- ahhh -- had breakfast on the Lido, read and people watched on the aft area in lounge chairs, had an early lunch and watched some Sunday afternoon football which was showing all around the ship. Tonight was elegant night and we had the prime rib, pumpkin soup, cherries jubilee, all were wonderful, we walked around the ship and went to the cabin to prep for Cozumel.
Monday Got up for breakfast again on the Lido as we pulled into lovely Cozumel and enjoyed the 83 degree temp and sunshine! We did the Dune Buggy Tour leaving at 10:00 and loved it, they prepared and served us food on Playa Bonita consisting of guacamole, salsa, chips, chicken, rice, tortillas, soda and water. We walked the beach, picked up some sand and shells and relaxed. We returned to the ship and had the sushi; we always look forward to the sushi! We turned in early to prep for Progreso. Before you say anything about Progreso, we LOVE Progreso, we have friends there and it's one of our favorite ports of call.
Tuesday In Progreso we stayed all day long on the beach, eating, visiting, buying fun stuff and enjoying the heck out of the day! The temp was 85 degrees and sunny, I got a massage on the beach, it's always a treat and we had an awesome day. Back on the ship, we ate in the Panorama Grill for two reasons, 1) the dreaded table mates, 2) didn't want to dress for dinner. The food in the Panorama was okay that night, but nothing to write home about; once we had our ice cream, it did however fill the void in our tummies. We went to the show tonight for the first time, the comedian Brian Tassell was good and our cruise director Steve Cassel did a wonderful juggling act. He is a multi-talented man and very, very well spoken and polite. We saw him many times around on the ship. We went to our cabin, watched TV and fell asleep by 10pm -- sweet.
Wednesday New Year's Eve at sea, went up for the yoga class, breakfast in the dining room -- I always love to eat breakfast in the dining room, I had salmon, bagel, turkey bacon, 2 eggs and coffee. We went to the gift shops to spend our on board credit which WAS on our sign and sail cards at arrival -- nice. I bought some T-shirts, a coffee cup, some earrings and other little things.
The sea was like glass until about 11:30am, it was so eerie and beautiful at the same time and remained calm all the way back to Galveston. Ate a light lunch, walked around the ship, went to the specialty coffee shop on the promenade and had latte's and the carrot cake. We returned to our cabin and our customs info was there along with party hats and blow out horns for the festivities later. I spent some time filling all the customs paperwork out while thinking of what to wear to our last night, New Year's Eve dinner without the "dreaded" table mates. At our newly assigned, lovely table, we had clam chowder, rib eye steak, apple dessert and the cheese assortment -- excellent!
The New Years celebration parties were held in several areas, there was food, music and specialty champagnes if you cared to purchase them. At midnight, the Captain came on the speaker and did the 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 countdown and blew the ship's horn. It was all very fun.
Thursday With our luggage (and we intentionally packed less than ever and did just fine) we were the second and third people off the ship and headed for customs. We were off the ship and in our car by 8:30am. We have a 6 hour drive ahead of us but as we were leaving Houston, I received a phone call from Carnival, I had forgotten ALL my hang-up clothes in the closet! How could I have done that? I've never done that, but at any rate the lady said I had two options. They would ship my clothes to Miami and they would mail them on to me or I could come back and pick them up.
I told her I'd come right back and be there in about an hour, she told me where to come and I thanked her. We returned to the port, I handed security my sign and sail card and told them my story, they had me sit and wait. The nice lady took my sign and sail card and went to find my clothes. After about 30 minutes, she returned with my clothes and a smile on her face. I thanked her for all her trouble and we headed back towards Galveston again.
Excellent cruise in every way -- way to go Carnival!