Well, I had read all of the competing reviews of the Carnival Ecstasy but the price was right and the timing was perfect so we took the plunge. Unfortunately, we had less than two weeks to plan and by the time we got our cabin booked, we got the very last outside cabin on the Riviera (the lowest) deck. Lets say our expecations were running low. Well, what an amazing surprise.
The embarkation out of Galveston was smooth and the room was a delight! It was roomy, had a nice flat screen TV and a spotless little bathroom. The entire cruise was one pleasant surprise after another. The service was friendly and excellent across the board.
The food was very good -- not as good as some we've had on some high-priced cruises, but still good.
The entertainment was simply terrific. We went to see "Blackjack" play each night at the China Town venue. They played a bit of everything from Country to Disco and even hard rock and were truly outstanding! The bigger shows were also very good. Daily activities bordered on silly: hairy chest contest, newlywed game, etc., but were harmlessenough.
Shore excursions were a bit pricy but very well organized and run in a professional manner. No regrets on either one. Only negative on the whole cruise was the art auction -- the auctioneer was rude and pushy but it was easy enough to get up and walk out. Overall, an excellent vacation and a tremendous value!
I would not hesitate to book this cruise again. In fact, I think I will.
My wife and I live in San Antonio so we decided to drive down the morning of the cruise. We left San Antonio at about 9:00 am, and got to Galveston about 1:00 PM. We had reserved parking with EZ Cruise, pulled into the lot, got our ticket and were told we would have to be placed in another lot "about a block away." We had to wait in a line of cars for the shuttle to lead us there, to a lot in a very seedy area about 3/4 of a mile away. But we got parked and the car was there when we got back, and for $30 for five days, it wasn't bad.
We arrived at the terminal at about 1:30; we had no idea what cabin we had. We had booked a 6A ocean view guarantee and all we had on our docs (electronic and other wise) was TBA -- report to the VIP desk. We found a porter and he said to follow him, we were lead to a table and given green tags that said U-108. We were grinning from ear-to-ear, we gotan upgrade. Out of four cruises we had never received one, but have always read about them on these boards and fully expected to wind up on the Rivera deck again. We thought maybe if we booked through Carnival maybe our chances were better, so we called our PVP and booked it. Now we were on the upper deck and getting VIP check-in.
We got to the long line for check-in and a lady there checked our names, and said yes, you need to go to VIP check-in, we passed by nearly 300 people in line, went into an office, sat down and had our keys and sign and sail card given to us, told to have a great cruise, and directed on where to board. We got our sail away pictures taken, then our security pictures taken and we were on the Ecstasy by 2:00 pm. Not bad, one hour from getting into town to getting on the ship.
Because it was after 2:00, we figured we might as well find our cabin on the Upper deck and see how the upper deck folks lived. We found our room, opened the door, and started to do the cha-cha, the upgrade fairy had hit us right between the eyes, U-108 is a suite, with a king bed, a sitting area with an easy chair, and the cabin is at least half again as large as a standard stateroom, with a balcony. Instead of the claustrophobic bathroom, we had a large (relatively) bathroom with a whirlpool tub. Wow! At about that time there was a knock on the door. We opened it to find our steward, Cakra. He introduced himself, gave us his pager number and his work hours and asked us to call him with anything we needed. We asked him for extra pillows and that was all we could think of, as we were still in shock from getting this upgrade. Of the four cruises we have had, Cakra is easily the best steward we've had. If you get him, treat him right.
We did go up to the Lido deck and get a drink of the day, walked around the ship, found where everything was and went back to our cabin and sat on our balcony, with our drinks, watching the sail boats and tug boats going down the bay. The life boat drill was easy, although we did start the sail away before we were done, but we still had time to get to our balcony in time to sail out of Galveston bay.
We had late dining in the Windstar dining room. The food was fabulous, although our waitress was definitely lacking in skills. My wife never had her chair pulled out for her, unless I did it (which I did after the first night), we never had a waiter or waitress place our napkins in our lap and often had to ask to have our tea refilled. One night I asked for lobster and duck. During dessert my waitress asked me if I still wanted the duck. I declined as I was really too full by that time and was kind of disappointed. But the quality of the food never suffered, only the service. The very best dining room dessert is the melting chocolate cake. I had it every night with the vanilla ice cream.
On the Lido deck, of course, the pizzeria was packed and the pizza was very, very good. The crust was soft, almost like homemade, and the variety outstanding. I had the Rueben sandwich, and it was also very good. I just wish they would provide potato chips with the sandwiches.
All of our sea days were rocky. Of all the cruises we've had, I've never felt the boat rock as much as this one. Even when the seas looked relatively light, the boat rocked a lot. My wife and I had no problems with it, but a lot of dinners went uneaten a couple of nights.
Our first stop was in Cozumel. We went shopping, and then hopped a cab to Chankanaab Park. We snorkeled a bit, sat on the beach, had a Pina Colada and went walking in the nature park. We then hopped a cab to Carlos and Charlie's. My wife had a rum punch, I had a Yard of Carlos and Charlie's special. Wow, it was a big drink.
The next day was Progresso. We had been there a couple of years ago and had gone to Chichinitza when you could actually still climb the pyramid, so this time we chose Uxmal. These ruins are actually in a mountainous area of the Yucatan and were neat to see. But if you have never been to Chichinitza, see it instead. Our tour guide Roque was very pushy and we thought kind of rude. Telling other passengers to be quiet and to wake up and listen, what he had to say was important. Then we found he was trying to sell a Mayan calendar to us. Don't get me wrong, it is rude to fall asleep when someone is speaking to you, but it is also rude to fuss at your customers because you hadn't gotten your sales pitch in yet. At the ruins our guide was Carlos, who had you stand in each place for 20 minutes so he could explain what you were looking at, but if you asked a question the answer was, I don't know. He took us to 4 different areas and took up 1-1/2 hours of a 2 hour tour. There was so much we missed because he was so long winded. We enjoyed seeing the ruins, but not the tour guides.
We saw every show, the comedians were very lacking, but the Ecstasy dancers put on fabulous shows, lots of costume changes, and action. The singers were wonderful and we hated to see the shows end. The Extreme Country show was especially good; make a point to see it.
Capt Scala was very involved in the happiness of his passengers and took several opportunities to meet and greet with everyone.
Besides the disappointing tour guides in Progresso, this is by far best western Caribbean cruise we've had. From the friendliness of all the staff, the professionalism of our steward, the shows, food, and our upgrade cabin, we had a wonderful trip.
We did the self disembarking which started at about 8:15. We actually waited for our number to be called, and when we heard it and headed to the elevators, they were packed with people trying to get off. But even with the crush, we were off the boat, through customs and in our car by 9:00. Very quick and easy, and I highly recommend it. Just a hint, use the porters. They go directly to the front of the custom lines and you don't have to wait in line. Speeds things up dramatically for a $5 to $10 tip.
Let me say up front that I have not been on a cruise in over 10 years. This was my first and probably last experience with Carnival. My previous trips were 7 and 10 day trips on Royal Caribbean and Holland America. We picked this particular trip for several reasons:1 -- It was located close to home. Although we ultimately flew down to Houston, it was within driving distance. 2 -- My wife had never been on a cruise and wanted to try it out to see if she was OK with cruising. (She doesn't like small, enclosed spaces.) This turned out to not be a problem at all. 3 -- The price was right.
Carnival only offers their transfer service from Houston Interconnential Airport, not from the much closer Hobby airport. It's a 90 minute bus ride from IAH down to Galveston. It's probably at least a 45 minute ride down from Hobby to Galveston.
Embarkation was quick and orderly. Finding our way on board and to our cabin was not a problem. The cabin itself, on the Rivera deck, was a pleasant surprise. The bathroom was much largerthan I remembered from my previous cruises. Arranged as a single king bed rather than two twins, there was still plenty of room for us. The size and furnishing in the cabin was never an issue.
We discovered that the safe in our cabin had been closed and locked by the previous guests. It took three phone calls to the purser's desk to get someone down to unlock it so that we could use it.
The weather was lousy -- too cold to spend much time out on deck, especially at night. But that's to be expected in January! What we found on board the ship was at best satisfactory and at worst, downright poor. There was always something to do on board. We found ourselves taking part in some of the activites, especially some of the trivia contests. Even though our cruise was full, there were plenty of places where you could find some (relative) privacy if you wanted.
Don't expect any great dining. I admit that I am somewhat of a food-snob. I live in Dallas, where there are more good restaurants that I could ever expect to visit. Dinner in the dining room was OK, but nothing that I would rave about. My wife and I typically each had different entrees. By far the best things were the steaks. The rest of the entrees, from what we could see of them, just looked kind of bland. The same was true of everything else that came with dinner. Bland. Ordinary. Nothing spectactular.
A couple of other notes about the dining room. For dinner, you had assigned tables. No problem. But breakfast and lunch were open seating, since there were a lot of other options on board for these meals. Our first morning at sea, we went to the main dining room. We told the hostess that we would like to be seated by ourselves. We were immediately led to the only 2 available seats at a table for 12. Now I have nothing against meeting new people, but we had specifically asked to be seated by ourselves. When we mentioned this again we were led all the way across the dining room and seated at the table closest to the door leading in to the kitchen. Certainly not the quietest table in the restaurant. That same day we returned to the dining room for lunch. Again we asked to be seated by ourselves. Again we were led directly to the 2 available seats at a table for 8. We told the person who was seating us that we wanted to be seated by ourselves. He told us that was not possible. When asked why the hostess did not mention that to us, he passed us off to a man whose name tag said he was the assistant maitre'd of the dining room. He told us that we could not be seated by ourselves. At this point we had made our way back to the hostess and asked her. Apparently at some point we used the word "private" -- to which the assistant maitre'd said something like "Oh, if you had said that you wanted a private table, that would be no problem." But he offered no apology for the rude behavior and insisted that the problem was ours and not his. With this we left and did not return for either breakfast or dinner.
And while I am on the subject of the dining room, make sure you don't show up late for dinner! The last night of our cruise was the night of the NFC Championship game. We were watching this game, which went into overtime, in our cabin. Our dinner time was 8:30. By the time the game was over and we made our way to the dining room, it was about 8:45. Our waiter immediately informed us that we were too late for the salad or appetizer as they had already been put away. We would have to settle for just having the entree. At first I thought he was joking, but he insisted that there was no way for him to bring us the missing courses.
Do you see a pattern here? As our cruise went along, we realized that everyone and everything onboard this ship had been well trained in following a very rigid plan or script on how everything was to be done. We never met any staff or crew member who showed the least bit of initiative when it came to seeing to the needs, desires or wants of the guests. If you didn't like the way it is, too bad. If you don't show up on time, too bad.
The buffet dining was OK. Again, nothing great. Some of the best food was the pizza and the made to order sandwiches on the back end of the Lido deck.
In Cozumel we opted for the deluxe trip to the Isle de Passion. This was a great trip to the beach. Not crowded at all. Free beer and watered down liquor. Light buffet lunch. Probably still overpriced (like all of the shore excursions seemed to be) but both my wife and I had a great time.
The ride back to Galveston was rough, but again, that was a function of the weather and time of year. We ran into a cold front in the Gulf and enjoyed 30 knot winds and 18 foot seas on the last day out.
A couple of random items -- I spoke to our room steward only twice -- about 15 minutes after we first got to our cabin and again on the morning of disembarkation. The total converstaion lasted about 30 seconds. Not that I didn't try. I called him on the phone 2 or 3 times and never got a response.
And I'm leaving the best for last -- disembarkation.
On the day that we arrived in Galveston at the beginning of the trip, our bus from the airport was met by a Carnival employee who talked about the embarkation procedure. She also told us that on the Monday of our return, she would only have one bus available to take us back to the airport, so it was important that we be some of the first people off of the ship. This fact I filed away, not knowing how signigicant it would end up being.
Due to the rough weather, the captain announced on Sunday afternoon that we would be arriving in Galveston about 90 minutes late -- 9:30 instead of 8:00 on Monday. Also Sunday afternoon we found under our door special luggage tags and instructions on where to wait Monday morning since we were using Carnival's airport transfers. These tags should have allowed us to be some of the first people off the boat. Sunday night my wife and I opted to keep our luggage in our cabin, as Carnival allows and suggests. This "self assist" was designed to get you off the boat faster.
So on Monday, we had our tags on our bags and made our way to the appointed place on the ship to wait to be escorted off early as part of the airport transfers group. This did go off as expected and by 10:00 we were off the ship and clearing customs. We soon found the Carnival representative (the same one from the previous Thursday) who checked us in and directed us to our bus. Now Carnival tells you not to schedule your return flight before 2:00 PM., and it's a 90 minute drive to the airport. Therefore if you are not going by 12 noon, you are going to be in big trouble.
Well, as time went by on the bus, more and more passengers came on board. Around 11:30 there was a discussion among the passengers about the times of their flights. Some were as early as 2:00 pm, ours happened to be scheduled for 2:30. About that time another Carnival person came on board, did a head count and said that we were waiting on another 22 passengers. Just before 12 noon my wife and another passenger went to discuss the situation with the Carnival employees. We were told that despite the fact that there were passengers who had 2:00 pm flights, the bus would not leave until the other 22 passengers were present. Apparently here is where that statement from the previous Thursday about having only one bus came into play. They had to wait for everyone, even if it meant that some people didn't make their flights.
When asked if there was any one else that we could talk to, we were given a business card for Carnival's guest relations and told to call the 1-800 number.
Did you know that it is $135 for a cab from the Port of Galveston to Houston Interconnential airport? I know it now, because we ended up sharing a cab with the other couple who had the 2 PM flight. At 12 noon as we were getting our bags off the bus, I asked the other passengers if anyone had flights before 3 PM. About a dozen hands went up. I advised that they might want to consider alternate transportation because this bus was not leaving until 22 other people showed up. (Thanks to our cab driver, we all made it to the airport on time. But not by much!)
My advice: Take this cruise if you don't care about the food and if you don't expect to get even decent service. Also, drive to the pier and park yourself! Their attitude of just not caring was obvious in just about everything.
After I got back, I read something that said that Carnival was the world's most profitable cruise line. No surprise there. My experience was that they provided only the bare minimum.
Fortunately, this has not ended our interest in cruising. We are already talking about a 7-10 day trip somewhere in 2009.
Hope this review helps!
The Carnival Ecstasy, I was told is the Party Ship...How true! There is a lot going on on that ship...shows, contests, music, talent shows, dancing, give aways,kid's programs all of which I was not interested in. I wanted peace and quiet, time to relax, unwind, and recharge. I was able to find plenty of private space among the full 2400 passengers on the ship/800 kids. Plenty of peace and quite and places to go away from the crowds. We had no trouble finding a table for our family of 4 or a quite corner for just my husband and I. Party, yes, if you want or relax in peace and quiet. You CAN have both on this ship! What you missed you can catch a video replay on TV if you want.
The ship had been more recently re-done and though I was warned about the bright "Elvis colors", I think some repainting had been done and overall, the ship had a very pleasant atmosphere. Even the gym where I expected hot pink was in muted grays, with excellent equipment btw, and tough Spin Class instructors! The staterooms were comfortable forthe 4 of us,though we didn't spend too ,much time there. There was a flat panel TV with 2 movies showing daily around the clock.
The staff was super attentive to our every need. They were friendly and smiled a lot. They seemed proud and happy to work there. If you took the time to ask what country they were from they were eager and proud to tell you. I asked about the crews life on the ship and found it a very interesting lifestyle.
This was my first cruise in 30 years...though ships have changed a lot overall it was a comfortable journey with fantastic destinations. I won't hesitate to consider cruise travel on this ship again!
If you like to hang out with people who drink and smoke, then you'll love the Carnival Ecstasy.
My family of 6 sailed out of Galveston for a 4-day cruise, stopping for a day in Cozumel, Mexico. We were attracted to Carnival because of their Kids Carnival program; our kids are 9, 7, 5 and 6 months.
Of the multitude of people we cruised with, only a small percentage were children. This made the kids program pretty desolate. Our kids were often the only ones to show up for activities, such as sports contests and game tournaments. So, they were a little disappointed in the kids program.
One thing I was really looking forward to was the food. There are many reviews stating how excellent the food is. I have to say I was a little disappointed. The food was, for the most part, very good. But it wasn't "excellent" as many had claimed. Actually the sit-down restaurant had the best food (and service) on the ship.
Our cabins were small, but quite adequate and clean. Unfortunately, we could smell the cigarette smoke from other cabins coming through our vents. We were unaware thatguests were allowed to smoke in their cabins.
Speaking of cigarette smoke, there were people smoking (and drinking) all over the ship. Thankfully, the restaurants were non-smoking, but all the lounges and patios and cabin hallways were smoke-filled. It felt like a big party boat.
The ship offered activities all day and shows at night. But since we were keeping up with the kids, we only attended an "Austin Powers Dance" class. It was pretty fun.
The service on this ship was really outstanding. The staff was always pleasant and helpful. We really appreciated how clean everything was kept, including our cabins.
Cozumel was rather uneventful. We chose to walk and shop, and the mall area was very commercialized, and fairly expensive. It was hard to get the feel for actually being in Mexico. The weather was very hot there, while all our days on the ship were mid-60s. We would definitely pay for a shore excursion if we went again.
The overall feel of the ship can be summed up in this experience: We arrived early to a lounge to get good seats, and as we were waiting to watch the football game, a woman behind me said, "My friends and I are going to be using a lot of profanity during the game, so you might want to move your kids to a different area." Her statement was confirmed by her vulgar t-shirt. I knew she wanted our seats, but what could we do?
Even though we didn't fit into the party atmosphere, we don't regret going on this cruise, and the kids said they had a great time. Perhaps next time we'll fork out a little extra $$$ for a little better vacation.
It is true. You get what you pay for.
I am going to write my review in sections. Hope everyone enjoys reading it and hope it helps people with their upcoming cruises. I always enjoy reading everybody's reviews.
PARKING EZ cruise parking that I booked online for $30.00 for 5 days. Easy to find and good service. I will say that when we returned I noticed that Lighthouse parking didn't have that many people waiting in line and we had to wait for a while in order to get back to our car. It was not that long, but just wanted to share the info.
SHIP AND ROOM First time to cruise on the Ecstasy and I loved how it was laid out. Very easy to locate everything so I wasn't lost once. LOL. I really liked the location of our room because we had an easy time getting to a lot of the areas that we used the most. Upper Deck with connecting rooms 45 and 49. We had the best room steward. Rita for short was her name and she took very good care of us. I must also say that the bed and pillows are very comfortable.My husband had back surgery and usually after a couple of nights away from our bed his back starts hurting and his back never hurt the whole time we were on this cruise. I have even checked into buying the pillows and duvet.
DINING Windstar dining room which is located mid ship was where we ate. Our head waiter was Jimmy and he was nice. Ok let's talk food: I am not a fancy person so most of the food was good with some being great. My boys got to try food they would have never eaten at home. Everyone at our table was totally addicted to the Chocolate Melting Cake. We ate it every night and I am trying to find the recipe so I can make it at home. We ate lunch in the dining room too because the Lido deck was usually so busy for lunch. We did eat at the pizza station, and ate sometimes at the buffet. The pizza is great, but the buffet was just OK.
ENTERTAINMENT The shows are good fun and we went to all of them. The hypnotist, "Puck," was great and sooooo funny. I tried my hand in the casino but didn't win much. Bingo -- played all those but didn't poop.
PORTS Cozumel: Weather was cloudy and sprinkling rain but we grabbed a taxi and went to Paradise Beach. Beautiful place and very friendly people. Our waiter, Freddy, was very nice and helpful. The water was brown because of a storm but we still had a blast. Went on the banana boat ride and the water was beautiful further out. We also rented the jet skis for 30 minutes and I had the best time of my life. We ate there and the Coconut shrimp was very tasty. Didn't shop a lot in Cozumel because I had heard the shopping was better in Progresso.
Progresso: We didn't book any excursions and were just going to go to the beach and shop a little. BAD MISTAKE. We got off the boat, waited for a bus, got off the bus, and walked to the beach -- all the while we were being asked to buy something every step of the way. We got to what was a nasty beach, turned around and went back to the bus stop, and then went back to the boat to sunbathe in peace. I didn't like the port at all. The people I talked to that did excursions away from the city had a good time. That's what we should have done.
CLUB 02 My boys (17) enjoyed the club. They have all kinds of activities for teenagers and one of my boys even won the blackjack tournament.
DISEMBARKATION We had an easy time compared to the stories I read before we left. We did self-disembarkation which means we carried our luggage off ourselves. We were in group 16 and from the time we were called to the time we got in our car was only 40 minutes. A few tips that will help: Use the stairs. They are much faster. When you get in the LONG line at customs, get help from a porter and you go to a much shorter line. We didn't buy hardly anything in Mexico so that helped with the time also. We had to wait a good 15 minutes just for the car parking place to pick us up. We tipped the porter like $5.00, so that's the best $5 spent of the entire trip.
SUMMARY We had a great trip and met a lot of very nice people. You do use the stairs a lot but I still gained 6 pounds (that darn chocolate melting cake). One funny thing that happened was calling room service and recognizing the voice on the other end as Jimmy, our waiter in the dining room. We both laughed about that one. When you get on the boat and these nice people ask if you would like a drink, KNOW that it will cost $7.95. My husband thought they were free by the way the guy asked and was mad when he found out how much they cost. Wish I had done more stuff but there is so much to do all day long that I missed some of the things that I wanted to do. Oh well, I better book another cruise so that I could do more.
Well, everyone, we are back from our first cruise. We went to Cozumel, leaving out of Galveston. My DH and I had a wonderful time. We are both ready to go again, and we are planning this for next year around the same time.
We had no trouble with embarkation. We arrived at the port around 11:45 and were on the Lido by 12:05. We were sent there as our cabin wasn't ready. After a good burger and fries, we toured the ship. We were in awe of the ship and the crew. Everyone was so helpful and friendly. We went to the purser to put cash on our sign and sail card. We also went to check out the Wind Song Restaurant and see the location of our table. We had 220 and it was a window table. We had requested 6:15 but received 5:45. That was okay with us, so we didn't bother to change it. We then went to see if our cabin was ready. We were in M138, ocean view. That was great. We had plenty of space and storage. To use the safe, allwe had to do was put in our desired pin number. I liked that. We checked the back of the door to find the location of our muster station and headed there at 3:30. At 3:45, we were told to assemble. We missed some of sail away, but that was okay, since we needed to hear the safety information.
When we returned to our cabin, one piece of our luggage arrived. By the time we returned from dinner, the remaining bags had arrived. Our cabin was clean (stayed clean) with lots of towels (never had to ask for extra like in a hotel). Jorge was our cabin steward. He kept the room straightened and the ice bucket filled. Our waitress was Ni Gusti and Patrama. Excellent is all I can say about them. From the first night, they knew our likes and what we couldn't have, and all 8 of our names. Whenever they saw us on the ship, they called us by name. The food was good, the only thing was we didn't know beforehand that we had to order our starter, salad, and entrée at one time. We knew after that. Also, if you wanted more, or an additional entrée choice, you needed to order that early.
Formal night was great. We attended the captain's reception, but since we went after dinner, we didn't try any of the hors devours. Captain Scala was friendly and talkative, which we liked. The cruise director was Kirk, didn't get his last name, but he kept us informed of the onboard activities and what to expect in Cozumel.
I wish I had ordered 2 lobsters, because they were rather small. But that was okay. I only tried one dish I didn't like. I know not to order it the next trip. We didn't try the chocolate melting cake, it looked pretty rich. But, we did have a banana cream pie to die for. We enjoyed our food and the service was great. We had sandwiches and pizza from the panorama grill. Very good. Breakfast and lunch at either the Lido or Panorama was good. Oh yes, we attended the Grand Gala Buffet. It was beautiful as we were allowed to take pictures of the sculptures before they opened it to serve. Many food items were displayed.
We attended the musical revue, Dream Voyage, and it was very good. We did not attend any comedy shows. There was dancing on the Lido the night of the Mexican buffet. Many cruisers participated.
We didn't purchase any excursions, but we did tour downtown Cozumel. We docked at the pier right in town. Thank God for the tricycle taxis that take you from the ship to the end of the pier. The Fantasy was docked next to us. The Celebrity and Grandeur of the Seas was docked farther down from us. The water is simply a beautiful blue.
Disembarkation was not bad. As you all probably know, we were fogged in on our return to Galveston. We had zone numbers for our luggage (we had put extra markings on ours, made it easy to find) and we had passports, and the lines moved quickly because they had several customs officers working.
Many of you have probably made this trip before, but it was fantastic for us. A lot of you made it easy by answering my questions and then by my reading others' questions and the answers. We really look forward to cruising again.
You're going to have a FA N T A S TI C time! Make sure you close your mouth really tight when you go down the slide. The pool is salt water. And it's disgusting! We did Fear Factor and one of the kids puked because he ate onions covered with chocolate syrup, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, mushrooms...it was funny but I'm glad I didn't do that one. I had to squish berries with my chin. Make sure you don't become the first person for Fear Factor.
They have mini golf, but don't bother playing when it's windy. I liked that I could make my own pizza. I liked the arcade most. At camp carnival you can play PS2 and you can play foosball. The food was good. It was fancy in the dining room. My mom said we had to try something new each day , but it was GOOD! My favorite was French onion soup. I went to 2 shows in the Blue Sapphire Lounge and I liked them. I got to play volleyball and it was cool because the wind went with us and it was easy tohit over the net. But we also got 10 nets because the wind would blow down too.
I liked the buffet where the pool is because I get whatever I wanted to. You should try the danish for breakfast. The juices were great, too. I liked the fruit punch the best. Usually I mixed up fruit juice and apple juice. It makes it good. For lunch I usually got a hamburger and french fries. Then I usually went swimming for a little while and then I had to hurry and dry off to go to camp carnival. Try to make at least 1 or 2 friends. It's more fun. That's all I can think of right now.
This was our sixth cruise overall and our second on Carnival, the previous Carnival adventure being a poker cruise on the banana boat turned low-rent cruiser "Jubilee" back in 2000 (I no longer see this hulking junk heap in Carnival's inventory of ships so it must have been given a merciful retirement); therefore, we accepted an invitation from a family member for a group cruise aboard the Ecstasy from Galveston to Cozumel/Progresso, Mexico with low expecations. This trip lived DOWN to those expectations in spades.
Launched 1991, the Ecstasy was touted as being "updated" after spending six months as a floating hotel in New Orleans after Katrina. to that end, we found new LG flat panel TV screens, apparently new telephones and some new countertops in our room. But the matresses were well worn and sagging and towels/wash cloths showed much wear (and this in the premium, first class rooms).
The gawdy and extremely dated "big city" skyscraper motif of the ship's interior obviously hasn't been touched in years if ever. The low ceilings and poorly lit interior (especially in the main dining room) which were a hallmark of the Jubilee were alsopresent on the Ecstasy. This is a dingy, dated boat. Carpeting, hallways, lights, even signage...nothing outside the rooms has been updated. It's not retro...it's just old and down at the heel.
We arrived near the cruise terminal in Galveston early to find not one, but THREE cruise ships at anchor. The terminal is designed to handle one cruise ship, a maximum of two, at a time. It is woefully inadaquate for three and the boarding process turned into an absolute nightmare with boarding passengers snarled outside the terminal in a traffic jam that took some of them more than three hours to navigate. We were lucky in that we arrived before noon. Our crawl through hell to reach the ship lasted only an hour and a half. It was far worse for later arriving passengers. I heard one unconfirmed story of a fist fight between one driver and another attempting to cut in line.
The ship left Galveston nearly EIGHT HOURS behind schedule (the same as our initial cruise on the Jubilee from Vancouver, BC in 2000). With a cruising speed of about 19 knots (just under 22 mph), there was no way we were going to arrive in Cozumel on time. We were initially told our 9:00 AM arrival would be pushed by one hour but we were nearly 2:00 pm in docking leaving shore excursions cancelled and virtually no time to do anything but grab a quick meal onshore and do a bit of shopping before getting back aboard after dark. Scratch one port of call.
We were more than three hours late in arriving in Progresso (for which we were given no explanation and for which there was no excuse) and with a 2 hour bus ride to Mayan ruins, we had time only for a cold brown bag lunch on the bus before returning to the boat well after dark and just before departure. We had only two hours at the ruins and of course, no time for anything in the city....didn't matter....from what we could see, Progresso is no where near ready to be a cruise destination. To give them credit, they are obviously working on it, but in a country ripe with need for improvement, Progresso is a glaring example of a place that desperately needs every dollar it can generate. One word describes it: NASTY.....even by Mexico standards.
As for the service on the Ecstasy....on a scale of 1 to 10, it is a rock solid 3. In the casino, several of the table game dealers were so poorly trained they had no idea whether or not a straight beats a flush in Texas Holdem. One dealer, obviously learning her trade through OJT, was so slow it was like watching paint dry to suffer through a single dealt hand. It was painful...I felt sorry for her. Carnival wasn't shy about taking its 10% pot rake though.
Dining room staff was a bit more adaquate but not a night went by without at least one mistake in meal delivery. Steaks were bland and meal selection limited. DO NOT under any circumstance order a baked potato on this ship.
Back in Galveston, we were more than three hours in getting off the boat and through customs. I'm not sure who to blame here, customs or Carnival, but we were told the be ready to leave the vessel at 8:00 am. We easily could have gotten another two hours of sleep and waited for only 2 hours in the buffet instead of nearly four.
Does anyone from Carnival's headquarters ever take any of these cruises as a passenger to actually see it's like out here?
If you are a first time, tight budget cruiser, Carnival and perhaps this ship will give you an absolute baseline from which to judge future expecttions. As for me, TWO STRIKES and Carnival is OUT. I wouldn't take another cruise on Carnival IF IT WERE FREE.
We set sail on the Ecstasy (our first cruise) on Thursday, Dec. 21. We parked at EZ Cruise Parking (as recommended by so many) and we were on our way to the terminal. It took quite a long time to embark, but we finally got on board. We found our way to our cabin (R98) and much to our pleasure, we found that our luggage was already there. We grabbed our life vests and headed to our muster station for the lifeboat drill. Afterwards we stood on deck as we pulled out of Galveston, headed toward what we hope would be better weather.
FOOD: During the cruise we ate in the dining room for dinner and breakfast every day, but one. Our service was impeccable the first two nights; on the third, it seemed like no one ever came around for beverages. My daughter had to wait about 15 minutes to order a Coke AFTER she had already been ignored the first time around. The food was good, but nothing really stands out in my mind as being fantastic, except for the white and dark chocolate mousse (served on formal night).The pizzeria and the sandwiches were really good. We ate there several times. Even though I never had a burger or hot dog from the Lido deck, they smelled awesome and my husband said they were pretty tasty. Breaksfast was very good. The lunch buffet changed daily. Indian, Mexican, and American themes were served.
One thing I would STRONGLY suggest is to get an early seating for dinner, if possible. The reason is that if you have an 8:00 seating, the first show starts at 8:45--no way to make it. We were so tired each day, we could not stay up until 10:30 for the second show to start, so we never made it to one of the shows, which I heard were pretty good. Also, the initial Camp Carnival meeting was held for our children's age group the first night during our dinner time and we missed it; after that, we never really hooked up with them. They should have made this meeting at a time when ALL people could attend and not miss their dinner time. Also, if you eat breakfast in the main dining room, don't expect to get a table for just you and your family; if there is room at a table for 10 that isn't full, you will be seated there. We thought this was fine and ended up meeting some really great families this way. However, we could tell some people didn't like being seated this way.
CASINO: We walked past the casino several times, but only gambled once. I lost $20 in 5 minutes and decided to leave the gambling to the ones with better luck than I. The casino was quite busy most of the time.
SPA: They run spa specials on every day at sea, but formal dinner night. They did a girls (age 10-17) on port night for $40. My daughter went, met some interesting young ladies, and had a good time. I booked a massage/seaweed wrap. I thought it was a special for $129. They told me for the full-body massage, it would be a little extra. I should have asked how much extra. It was $229. I didn't say anything, because I thought that for two hours, this was a pretty fair price. The massage therapist analyzed my body and encouraged me to buy some products based upon what my body needed. I'm a sucker, I guess, and bought the products, which were very pricey. Hopefully, it will help me. Overall, the treatment did feel good and it worked out a lot of those stress knots that are all over my back. A lot of men were getting treatments, as well.
CABINS: We had an inside cabin, which was in a pretty good location of the ship. The rooms were small and we got somewhat clausterphobic after a while (especially with the two teens together). We spent little time in the cabin. If we wanted to play cards or read, we went to the Lido deck or Panorama Bar and Grill. The rooms were clean and the mattresses were very comfortable. The housekeeping staff does a terrific job and we enjoyed seeing the towel animals awaiting us each evening after we got back from dinner.
CAMP CARNIVAL: Even if someone missed a meeting like we did, they should have an entire section of the Capers that has a schedule of ongoing activities for each age group. Families can choose what activities they want to participate in or not. For our kids' age (12-14), we only noticed one activity that was scheduled. We saw several teens wandering aimlessly around the ship the entire trip. I think they were trying to meet each other. Camp Carnival definitely caters to the younger group (ages 5-11) and I think they do a good job. I just wish we had seen more activites for the older ones.
SHIP: The ship was very clean and well-maintained. It could stand an update...looks very 90's in a lot of the areas, but that is a minor complaint. I'm more into some place being clean and well-taken care of, instead of updated. The ship was decorated in many of the main areas for Christmas. The cruise director, Stuart, was very nice, but we hardly ever saw him around the ship (I don't know if this is common, or not). We saw him at the excursion talk, the debarkation talk, and at the Captain's Cocktail Party. That was it or I could have just missed him.
ACTIVITIES: There are activities going on all day long (except there isn't a lot on port day). There were all kinds of seminars in the spa, there was wine-tasting one day, trivia games, bingo (you gotta pay), the Newlywed Not-So-Newlywed Game (this was hilarious--had some great contestants), Deal or No Deal, ice-sculpting demonstration, hairy chest contest, bands playing, laying by the pool, relaxing in the hot tub, the casino, the card room, the library, and so much more! LOTS OF ACTIVITIES!!!
EXCURSION: We opted to go out on our own. We got off at the Punta Langosta pier in Cozumel and quickly we found a car rental agency. We rented through Executive. I think we paid too much, but I didn't want to spend the little time we had in Cozumel haggling. We spent $100 on a Jeep Wrangler with zero deductible insurance ( I HIGHLY recommend this type of insurance if you are driving in Mexico--even for a day). We explored the island and downtown San Miguel. We drove past some of the beach clubs and decided to hit Play Mia. They have a lot of activities (both included and not included in the admission price). They had a big plastic iceberg people can climb and then slide down (my son LOVED this), a water trampoline, paddle boats, kayaks, pool, etc. For an extra charge, they have jet skis, a banana boat ride, snorkeling, etc. They have several packages, but we just got the basic--$12 admission. We bought beer $3 each and the wait staff was very friendly. By renting our own vehicle, we got there about 45 minutes sooner than the cruise ship crowd. After we left Playa Mia, we went the LONG way around to San Miguel. We drove around the island and saw some beautiful water and jungle. There isn't much on the east side of the island, a few beach bars and restarants every 5 miles or so. Next time, we will stop in at one and try it out. My daughter was anxious to get back and do some shopping. When we got back to San Miguel we did a little shopping, but be aware, they don't haggle much with you there.
THINGS THAT DIDN'T IMPRESS ME: 1. The cost of drinks...yes, to get a beer (with gratuity added) was $5.46. They had daily drink specials, that are $3.75, but if you forget to tell them (like I did) that you don't want the souviner cup, they will serve your drink to you in that and charge $6.75 (my mistake). A lot of the daily drinks didn't appeal to me...too much sweet stuff.
2. The way they really push you to spend money bothered me a bit. They strongly encouraged us to book an excursion through them if we hadn't already done so. We had our picture taken soooo many times. The 8x10 photos were $19.99. We only bought one and it was from our formal dinner evening (how often do we all get dressed up?) I will say, most of the photos taken were very good. We were strongly encouraged to add more gratuity on top of what we had already paid (this was discussed at the disemarkation talk), we were encouraged to go shopping at the stores onboard. We all have a choice of whether we want to spend the money, or not, it just seemed like there was a bit too much emphasis on it.
MY OVERALL TRIP EXPERIENCE: We had a good time on a nice ship. Would we do it again? Absolutely. I would probably sail on another ship, just to compare the experiences.