The weather was perfect, sailing was smooth. Service was great and very clean in cabins. Food was good some nights and other nights so-so. Prime rib and lobster was very good, but the other cut of steks serve were tough and bland. Buffet breakfast was good. Some of the lunches served was ok. Casinos especially the slots are very tight, no one winning on them. Entertainment was ok. The cocktails were weak and over priced. The pictures are over priced and was not allow to take pictures at certain times.
Our very first cruise was aboard the Ecstasy in May of '06 and we were a bit disappointed. Having read the various reviews available online we had high expectations—maybe too high.
We drove to Galveston from Dallas and spent the weekend before on the Bolivar Peninsula in Crystal Beach at a rented beach house. This was a wonderful start as it gave us a couple of days to unwind from our frantic pace in Big D. I highly recommend it.
We parked at EZ Cruise Parking and found it just as advertised—secure, friendly and prompt. It was nice arriving at the terminal with our bags instead of dropping them then going to park.
Embarkation was a looooong walk from there but relatively quick and painless.
The décor on Ecstasy was indeed "glitzy and high energy" as the cruise critic said. But somehow I didn't expect the loud assault of color at every turn I found. Texans will most likely understand if I say "Southwest Airlines in the late ‘70's décor". I kept expecting the service personnel to wear hot pants and go-go boots.
We had a bit of a self caused problem with ourroom key right off the bat though—my daughter left her key in the door as we were checking out our new digs. Someone took it! But maintenance was very quick to come change the lock and even fixed a problem with a squeaky door I hadn't even noticed yet!
So far, so good, but it went downhill from there. Our experience with the Ecstasy was disappointing from multiple aspects, chiefly food and service.
The food was bland, beautiful, but bland. BLAND I Say! Texans like spicy. One of our tablemates said one evening in the middle of our cruise "It makes you want to lick dirt just to taste something!" 'nough said.
Our room steward was a joke who rarely made the beds properly (pulling the duvet up over the wadded up sheets instead of actually making the beds), never answered pages and when we complained he left us a purported swan towel animal that gave a whole new meaning to "shooting the bird"! We saw one at the demonstration that looked nothing like what he claimed was a swan so we're pretty sure it was no mistake (it didn't even use the same towels!). By the way, my kids were very disappointed about the towel animals as they were looking forward to them. We'd hear other cruisers raving about the animals their steward left—one couple told us they'd received a total of 8! Our steward left one the first night that was a cute bunny then nothing until the “swan". That's it, two was all we got.
Our waiters made a big deal about the spa menu and tried at every meal to convince me (yep, I'm heavy) to order the low-cal selections—it offended our tablemates not to mention embarrassing me! They also would make mistakes and not correct them until they were asked a minimum of three times. They were entertaining and trying very hard to be nice, but when all was said and done—I was unsatisfied.
Camp Carnival actively drove away the young teens who tried to join the advertised "teen events” in the Carnival Caper each day by telling them they had to "pre-register" at Spirals. When my daughter finally found someone in Spirals they berated her into tears for interrupting their work! When I complained at the purser's desk they claimed there weren't enough teens on board to have teen events. Funny, I managed to put together a group of 7 to play mini-golf on my own—and they all said they'd tried to "register" too, with the same results.
As for the ports of call: We enjoyed Progresso, Mexico very much. But then we like to see unspoiled small towns in any country. A few blocks in from the beach you got to see ordinary folks doing ordinary shopping from street vendors. Talk with ordinary folks sitting outside while waiting to visit the pediatrician. Negotiate with small "mom & pop" type stores for the correct exchange rate while buying a Coca-Cola made with real sugar. Ask all these ordinary folks the best place to eat? They all said "Flamingoes" on the malecon (beachwalk). So we ate at Flamingoes and found it wonderful beyond words.
The tourist market they drop you at when you leave the ship is very typical—lots of folks hawking their wares aggressively. Take a sense of humor and adventure and you can find some very nice bargains on local wares. Buy locally made hammocks, a sisal shirt (those shirts Mexican men wear that are so light and comfortable and are accepted as formal wear) or a panama hat here. Don't miss macramé goods made from an offshoot of the hammock industry they are spectacular. You'll find prices much less here than in Cozumel as they don't have to pay the import taxes the Mexican government imposes on the island.
We finished up our visit to Progresso with a tour on a double decker bus that picked us up at the tourist market. For a mere $2 each they drove us around Progresso, showing us what we hadn't seen walking and explaining the areas history and various public buildings, parks, landmarks etc. They also pointed out good spots to buy things and eat that weren't at the tourist market (I suspect they get paid to "advertise" but it wasn't too blatant). They also pointed out a "real Mexican bar" for those who wanted to brag they'd spent time in one. I'm not into the bar scene but must admit if time had permitted I'd have probably gone in that one just for bragging rights. It was small, dark and filled with Mexicans—not a tourist in sight. The tour was a good value and fun but we wished we'd done it first.
In Cozumel, my heart broke for the damage done by the hurricanes and the obviously valiant effort by the islanders to recover. They've done amazing work in a short time with little to no resources. Ecstasy docked at a repaired "International Pier" showing patches over gaping holes—but it was sturdy and we docked instead of tendering! They are most definitely open for business!
I was extremely annoyed though, by the maze of "duty free" shops they force you through to get to transportation away from the dock.
Once through, we took a taxi to the aptly named Paradise Beach. Heaven! Our waiter Eli took wonderful care of us. Fabulous food! Appetizers are meal sized—for two! I highly recommend the guacamole and conch ceviche. We could have filled up our family of four on just those two but couldn't resist the grouper fish tacos. My son ordered the fried grouper and drew a crowd for how awesome it looked! Very, very good food and no unpleasant after-effects.
Cozumel has the clearest water I've ever seen in my life. We had fun watching sea life without the need for snorkeling gear (although it's available there). At Paradise Beach, one low price gave the kids access to lots of neat beach toys, kayaks, floats, snorkeling gear etc. but you can use their chairs, lounges and umbrellas for no fee as long as you order something (at reasonable prices). Parasailing and waverunners are also available for a reasonable fee.
I had reserved space on a Famous Fury Snorkel tour that picked us up from the pier at Paradise Beach. Our waiter made sure we connected and didn't get left behind. The snorkeling was awesome! It was truly a "pinch yourself" experience. If I had made a list of the top things I'd like to see at a reef—I would have checked off every single item. From the moment we entered the water we were surrounded by colorful fish I've only seen in tropical fish stores and aquariums—so close I could actually touch them! Our guide was in the water with us leading us over Columbia Reef and the famous Palancar Horseshoe. He frequently dived down to chase up sea turtles and other sealife closer to us (although the water was so clear it seemed they were really close to start with), he brought up a live conch for the kids to touch. Really amazing. Highly recommended.
One note: Famous Fury also runs a tour with the cruise ships' shore excursions. It's more expensive and had about 100 people on it. Our tour only had 18 people aboard. Famous Fury uses a number of beautiful catamarans with steps that drop down into the sea. I have mobility issues so this was absolutely perfect.
Back aboard Ecstasy, I had trouble getting hair conditioner delivered to our room. What a letdown from the high of snorkeling for the first time.
Oh, one note on entertainment aboard. It was fine, but I think we missed the "best" shows because we aren't night owls. That was a mistake on my part. We booked the late seating because we eat late at home. That meant the late show, but by the time we finished dinner (typically around 10:30) we were ready for bed.
Disembarkation was slooooow. I don't fault Ecstasy for this. We were the last color called and it takes a while for 2,500 people to go through customs. We arrived in Galveston at 7:30. Disembarkation "self-assist" began at 8:00. We were back at our car at 1:00 pm. Next time I'll do "self-assist".
All in all we discovered we like the slow pace we had on our cruise (since we don't do late night), coupled with exciting ports of call, then slow pace again. We found cruising a good vacation for us. But we also found you get what you pay for—our next cruise won't be on Carnival.
This was my 14th cruise--first time as a solo cruiser. I booked this 8 days out and got a 1A R54. The embarkation was a bit long as there was a wedding party to be boarded first. The room was worn around the edges, stained carpeting, mold and mildew in the bathroom. However the location turned out to be a good one considering we had to go around Hurrican Katrina and had a rough sea day. Many people were sick until dinner the first sea day. The food was ok, the deli being the best bet.
The shows were adequate--the comedians were good. The equipment in the gym was up to date as well. We docked in Cozumel late because of the storm. I took an excursion to Passion Island which didn't leave unitl 2:30. The beach was beautiful but buggy. The next day we returned to Coz unable to dock at Calica because of the currents. I took the ferry to Playa del Carmen then shopped in the afternoon. The weather was very hot but no rain. The aft pool was never crowded but it does have rust evident.The ship needs attention it is worn around the edges. I will stick to the newer ships.
First time cruiser here, I had read all of the Ecstasy reviews and convinced myself I wouldn't let it bias my opinion and just judge for myself.
Okay, so it was an old ship but my wife and I were quite amused by the 70's era deco. Everything worked, well there was a few elevator "incidents".
We really liked the oceanside cabin, it was very soothing watching the ocean go by. We stayed on the Riviera deck.
My wife and I enjoy good food, we both found the food very tasty and the portions satisfying, of course if you had a big appetite you could order more.
I read all of the pre-tipping horror storys, we never had any problems or dirty looks.
We took our own excursion on Cozumel and the kids went on a Carnival run tour. A little pricey (ship tours), I think the best options is to ad lib it when on shore as many locals offer excursions.
Embarking and disembarking went without a hitch.
My hat goes off to LJ of Texas Cruiseship Shuttle! I read a review here on Cruisemates.com and gave him a call. He has abig fan and has more facts and trivia about Houston and Galveston than you can imagine. He mad the ride to Galveston enjoyable.
Overall I believe we got a good deal for the money.
Well, I have now been on a more modern vessel than my last Carnival cruise. I went into this one with an open mind as to what Carnival had to offer over other cruise lines I have been on in the last few years. I will qualify this by saying I was a chaperone for band students on this trip and was not allowed to drink and had a midnight curfew. With that said, on to the review.
Embarkation for this trip was through the Port of Galveston, Texas. Our group arrived and we were hustled along through the boarding process. I would comment that the various personnel behind the counter were apparently working from different playbooks when it came to who was authorized to charge to a room card and what the initials meant next to each of their names. Our lady said that I had to initial each person in my room's name, otherwise they WOULD NOT be able to charge and this would be entered into the computer. The lady right next to us, waiting on another chaperone in our group, said that if the chaperone hadto initial next to their names or they WOULD be able to charge on their room card. She did it one-way and I did it the other way. Once we were on board, we both checked and found out that ALL of the cards were ACTIVE to charge on our room's accounts. Thus, if you do not want other persons in your room to charge on your account, check with the purser's desk once you board.
The walk up the companionway to get to the Ecstasy was all right. If you are handicapped in any way make sure you make it known at curb side so that you can get some assistance boarding. We stopped for the mandatory boarding photo. Went up another passageway to the Boarding ID photo and whisked right on in to the ship. When we actually boarded the vessel, it was nice having the elevators in the main lobby working and not being occupied by the crew as they were moving luggage. We went to our rooms and checked them out.
Rooms and arrival of luggage
Our room was M92 and it was advertised as being 185 square feet of space. I was looking forward to the extra footage over the 154 and 172 sq. foot rooms I had been in on other vessels, but there was no real difference. Inside staterooms are inside staterooms. There was no real size difference at all. The room safe was a key operated safe. You had to get a key from your room steward. The keys were kept in a closet near the rooms. You had to turn in your key the last night onboard.
Our luggage arrived faster than any other cruise line I have been on, bar none. There was plenty of closet space and shelves for clothes.
The bathroom was average. The shower stall was longer than some I have been in on other lines. The showerhead was workable for a 6'4" person. Onboard Day 1
This was my 13th cruise. Thus, I had a lot of other trips with which to compare this cruise. We began the usual get familiar with the ship and the location of bars, theaters, pools, grills, and casino. Shortly before departure there was the mandatory "life jacket" drill. We started in the forward lounge and were then escorted to our boat stations. This drill took a bit longer than others I have been on. I do not know if it was a different type of inspection for the ship or if this is normal for Carnival. I have sailed from Galveston on the Rhapsody of the Seas and their drill did not take that long.
With the "life jacket" drill over, we began to relax a bit and watched the vessel leave the confines of Galveston. It was an easy journey out of the port and we were soon underway and outside the breakwater. The real cruise had begun. We hung out on deck until shortly before dinner and then made our way to first seating dinner (supper to those of us down South).
We were seated at table 102 in the Wind Star dining room. It was set up for ten (10) and was by the "kitchen" and a window. Lamine was our waiter and Victor was the assistant waiter. Both did an excellent job with our table of nine new cruisers and me. Once I had told Victor that I was an ice tea drinker, I never ran out. The meals were average cruise ship fare. The appetizers were well received and tasty. The salads were somewhat plain. There was no "Caesar" salad on request as there usually is on any other vessel. The filet was cooked correctly and was tender. The various fish dishes were tasty, according to my table companions. The desserts were somewhat uninspired and bland. The coffee was good. We finished with plenty of time to talk and we were not rushed in any way.
Day 1 Main Show The Blue Sapphire Lounge was not well situated for the shows. It was more of a flat lounge area with no "theater" style seating on an incline. The stage was large. The entertainment was good, but nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary. The dancers were energetic and the singers were adequate (any one of the entertainers could dance or sing me under the table, but that is the way it should be). The band was good.
The Carnival mascot (their smokestack) appearing during the opening show was "LAME". At least we did not have to listen to the normal boring cruise jokes.
The comedian was average and not really exciting or overly entertaining.
I did not make many of the lounges on day one. There was salsa music going on in one, I believe it was Stripes. There was rock and modern menu items going on in another (Chinatown). I avoided the Starlight Lounge with its karaoke show as the karaoke sounded like someone skinning a live cat. The casino was active and there was plenty of room for anyone to play. There were several other lounges, but I did not visit them.
Meals outside of the main dining rooms
The Panorama Bar & Grill is the main area to "graze" or eat outside of the formal dining rooms. It had buffets, omelets to order, waffles, pancakes, and normal breakfast staples. In the rear of the room is the pizzeria and deli. There was almost always someone at the deli. Since I had to turn in relatively early, I did not check the closing time for the deli. I do know that it was open at 12:30 a.m.
There was a Mexican food buffet one night. It was a decent Mexican food buffet. There were NO beans in the taco meat. Way to go. The enchiladas, sopapillas, chili rejenos, and Mexican rice and beans were good. The staff for this meal was very friendly.
Day 2 AT SEA
I was up before my charges. I left the room at about 7:30 a.m. I headed for formal breakfast in the Wind Song dining room. My mission was to get eggs Benedict. To me, this is the telling meal for a breakfast dish on a cruise. I was disappointed. The eggs were overcooked. They were poached hard. There were no runny yellows in the eggs. That mixes so well with the Hollandaise sauce if it is done right. Oh well, I presume they are trying to avoid E. coli or salmonella. My table companions were from San Antonio and Fredericksburg, Texas. We had a good chat. It was their first and second cruises.
I holed up on the Promenade Deck and began listening to a book. I drifted in and out of the book, watching people walking by and talking to some of the kids in our group. After a while, I moseyed up to the Lido Deck and talked to the "Chaperone on Duty" and took in the sights. The pool was in full use. The ping-pong tables were alive. People were coming and going from the Panorama Bar & Grill and the outside snack bar was doing a lively business. Sunbathers were everywhere. I was relaxing in the breeze and the shade sipping on a Mr. Pibb (sorry no Dr. Pepper).
A group of us went to formal lunch. It was again in the Wind Song dining room. It was good. The selection appeared to be in line with most other cruise ships for lunch.
The afternoon was spent lounging around listening to my book and just being lazy. I went on "Chaperone Duty" in the mid afternoon and stayed in the shade. We observed that a few people were already getting "sun roasted" by not using sunscreen. They would feel it later.
This was formal dinner night. We had an enjoyable time sitting with our group. Lobster tails and steak were the fare of the day for me. The tails were typical "Caribbean spiny lobster". They were tasty and the steak was good. The appetizers were good. However, again dessert was a disappointment. Nothing was "succulent or really taste stimulating. You expect the desserts to be real closers on a cruise ship and for the second night in a row, it was bland.
The main show was better tonight. It involved a spin-off on the Broadway show "The Wiz", but they just named it "Oz". There were other numbers from other shows and it was entertaining. Again, I have seen much better on other cruise lines, but it was worth watching.
After the show, we roamed the onboard shops and then headed to the lounges to check out the music. The kids were having fun and were found almost everywhere. They were "banned" by us from the Promenade Deck Lounges and Casino. They could go to Spirals Club and the Video arcade on the Promenade Deck. The Explorer's Club (library) and the Neon Lounge seemed to be fun spots for them as well. Several of them listened almost daily to the musicians on the Empress Deck in the Grand Atrium.
We visited by the pool and then went to the Panorama Bar & Grill for before bed snacks and drinks. With Cozumel being tomorrow's main feature, we hit the room and got to sleep.
Day 3 Arrival in Cozumel
When you are traveling with high school kids, don't expect to sleep late. They want to, but I figured that when I woke up in the morning, get dressed and get out of the room and leave them a wakeup call. I went up to the forward observation platform and watched the sun coming up and the flying fish lead the ship into Cozumel. It was a relaxing start to the day.
I headed to formal breakfast once again. I had to try the eggs Benedict one more time. They were still overcooked. I met some people from Dallas and Houston at breakfast. One of the people there knew me by name. I was somewhat taken aback. She told me that she was a young man's mother who was friends with my youngest brother. You may meet someone you know; so don't believe that about never seeing them again. We all talked about cruising and the enjoyment of it all. These were first time cruisers as well.
I got my charges up. I sent them off to eat breakfast. At about 9:00 a.m. we prepared to disembark in Cozumel. This was the most messed up disembarkation that I have ever been a part. The stairways were crowded from the Riviera Deck back up to the Atlantic Deck at the mid ship stairs. The down elevators were all packed. So, we went up in the next elevator and then rode it back down. The situation was cured and we got off the ship five to ten minutes ahead of our companions.
We gathered up at dockside and then were checked off. We caught our taxi and went to Mr. Sancho's beach. It was a nice beach. The beach was clean, the water gorgeous, and the attendants were courteous and helpful. They had a sand volleyball court. The tables, umbrellas and chairs were free. We purchased drinks from them. A Coca Cola was $2.00. A few people order light meals. We stayed there for about three and a half hours and then headed back to the ship. The kids did some light shopping in the "curio mall" and then we re boarded and ate a late lunch. I went back to the Empress Deck and lounged while listening to my book and watching people go by.
The ship's departure that afternoon was interesting in that a sister ship the Sensation was also in port. The ships went through their departure horn sounding and replies as we departed. Shortly the beautiful azure water of Cozumel gave way to the deep blue of the depths.
Dinner that evening was below average. The tenderloin I had was anything but tender. I requested a different entrée. It was a chicken course and it was adequate, but it was not what I wanted. Other diners at my table had the tenderloin and they said theirs was "tender". I had Lamine bring me another tenderloin for another go at it, but it was tough as well. I left it there. I had read the menu in the hallway and saw several desserts that looked promising. The waiters did not take our dessert order, but instead brought everyone a Grand Marnier Soufflé. It had vanilla sauce and was all right, but it had too much of an egg taste to it. One out of eight kids ate it and thought it was good. The rest took a bite of it and then asked for ice cream. I asked for the chocolate cake. It was plain and uninspired. A scoop of vanilla ice cream helped.
The kids had a free evening. Some spent time on deck playing shuffleboard, ping-pong, talking to each other, watching the stars, playing cards, and what not. I relieved one of our nighttime chaperones and let them go to the show. I was told that it was a western themed show and was the best of the week. I was glad they got to go, as I am not a country music aficionado.
There was also a scaled down version of the grand buffet in the Wind Star dining room tonight. The food at it was somewhat bland and lacking quality and taste. The presentations were interesting, but not awe inspiring. I think those days are gone on most cruises. We snacked a little and then headed for bed.
Day 4 AT SEA
I let the kids sleep until they wanted to get up. I got up at 7:00 a.m. and headed up to the main deck. I ran across my wife. She was chaperoning in a different room. We got five chaperones together and went to breakfast in the Wind Song dining room. This was the last chance for eggs Benedict done the right way. They were oh so close, but still overcooked more than I would have liked. I had to switch off to the French toast. It was good.
I headed back to my nook on the Empress Deck and continued my book. Several of the kids came by and thought that they were catching me sleeping (I rest with my eyes closed) and as they would ease up to "surprise me", they would stop suddenly as my eyes open looking directly at them. That got to be a game as the day went on.
Lunch came and went. Good soup and an average club sandwich.
The afternoon was spent around the pool deck watching the kids play. I headed to my room to pack and get my stuff out of the way before night and dinner. We cut the kids loose to play and be kids. Some of the chaperones headed to Chinatown Lounge to dance and listen to old time rock and roll. It was supposed to be disco, but they never got there. This was no real loss. We ended the night here and headed to bed. My charges took my advice and had their bags packed and placed in the hallway to be picked up. I just topped my bags off and put them in the closet and carried them off the next day.
Day 5 arrival at Galveston
I was up before the sun. I got dressed and headed up to the observation deck to take pictures as we approached Galveston. There weren't many people up with me. After taking some pictures, I went to breakfast with my wife and several of the chaperones in the Panorama Bar & Grill. I had a continental breakfast and then headed to my room to roust my charges out of the room and make sure they had their belongings. We went to the Blue Sapphire Lounge to wait for our color to be called. Being that we did not have flights departing, we waited until almost 10:45 a.m. before we were called to disembark. You do not want to be RED. Leaving the ship was easy and took a few minutes to gather up the kids' luggage and head for the curbside to await our buses. There were no problems with customs on departure.
For most of our group this was a first time cruise. There were a number of shortcomings on the cruise that were not handled well by the Ecstasy Staff.
There was supposed to be a trivia contest. Several of the kids went to play and no one from the ship showed up to hold the contest. There was supposed to be a shuffleboard contest. Again, no one from the Ecstasy Staff showed up to run the contest and several of the kids were again disappointed. This happened at a few more events and the kids were disappointed that the games did not come off.
There were no cards in the card room. You had to bring your own or buy two decks from the gift shop at $6.50.
There was a showing in the Explorer's Lounge of some artwork by the staff of Park West Galleries. When I started to enter, I was told that the lounge was being used by them to show off their art and that I had to wait to enter. That was too bad. I would have liked to see what they had on this trip for sale later that day. I usually attend at least one art auction a trip. He was somewhat surprised when I was the only person to identify a Rembrandt that none of his "guests" could tell him who the artist was in their conversation at the close of the showing. I have purchased from them on RCI and Princess, but after this rude treatment, I will reserve my funds for someone who wants my business. They tend to be full of themselves and push what they want to get rid of at the time.
I am sure that other cruise lines are now doing it, but you should not be charging your passengers for cookies that are made in the galley. They should be given to them.
The staff of the photo shop was the most discourteous group that I have come across on any ship as to an entire section group. I had asked about some photos that had been placed on the board several days in a row of my daughter and wife. I was actually told to come back when I had spare time. I was there at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. That seemed like spare time to me. I was told that they did not know what the person looked like in the picture that I was searching for even though I pulled three pictures to show them the sequence numbers that were appropriate for the shot (one on either side), a group picture with the person in it, and a portrait of the person. I was told to come back the next day, as more photos would be posted (although I had already been told by another staff member that that sequence was all up on the board). I was told that they would have to check on it and if I could, get with them on the Monday we arrived in port and they would check on them. This was all unacceptable.
I will say that one young lady in the photography staff did not fit into this mold. She was the exception and I believe her name was Gillian. She was courteous, interested in resolving and fixing my problem (lost photos), and she came through on her promise to find them and have them waiting for me. Thank you, Gillian. I did note your service and courtesy in my comment card to Carnival.
There were also other positives that occurred as well. The purser's staff was courteous and prompt in their dealings. The bar staffs were all friendly. Our room steward was prompt and efficient. As mentioned above, Lamine and Victor did a great job in the formal dining room. The wait staff in the Wind Song that I dealt with at breakfast and lunch was courteous and friendly. The "golf pro" went out of his way to make several of our kids feel good with his friendliness and helpfulness. They were up by his area every day to play shuffleboard and he made it a point to have the pucks and sticks present for them when they arrived. He talked to them and made them feel at ease on the ship. I believe he was from Canada. The pizza was as good as any cruise line I have eaten pizza on in thirteen cruises. The hamburgers were first rate.
If I did not have other cruise experiences with which to gauge this cruise, I would have very little to comment about except for personnel issues (good and bad). Please don't get me wrong I had a good time. However, I have sailed on NCL, (RCCL, RCL, and RCI), Celebrity, Princess, and Carnival and I would not purposefully sail on a Carnival Cruise Line ship again. They are good for the money you are spending, but I would rather spend a little more and go with a cruise line such as Royal Caribbean. There were limited activities for everyone on board compared to other cruise lines I have sailed on. Our wait staff was good and this comment is not aimed at them. The overall dining experience and the food was not as high in quality, choice, and taste. The menu choices and overall quality of the meals were not up to par with other cruise lines. There also was not as much room to sit on the Promenade Deck and relax. The computers should be moved to a Media Room that would offer some privacy to users if they need to conduct business while on the ship. I did, but I was not able to do so due to the openness of the computer screens and the ability of others to watch what you were doing.
I think the main draw for our group on this cruise was the location of the ship compared to our homes and the length of the cruise. I am looking forward to our family cruise in July 2005 on the Explorer of the Seas. Woo!!! Hoo!!!!
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.
Pre-cruise: We arrived in Galveston a day early and stayed at the Baymont Inn and Suites on 63rd. I highly recommend this facility if you are looking for clean, reasonably priced lodging. They have a good location, nice clean rooms, internet access throughout the building (wired and wireless), free breakfast, and free cruise parking is offered.
Parking and Embarkation: We were going to park at EZCruise but the morning of the cruise Galveston had a huge amount of rain. I tried getting to the lot prior to going for the cruise and the streets were over curb deep in water. I called EZCruise and parked at the Port of Galveston, Lot A. It was $10.00 more than the other, but I feel it was money well spent. From the time that I dropped my wife and luggage until we were sitting on the Lido deck eating lunch was 1 hour. We were allowed VIP embarkation since we had paid for a suite.
Cabin: What can I say about this? We had a Category 12 suite on the Upper Deck. We did this because we were celebrating our 30th anniversary. The cabin wasabsolutely marvelous. Unfortunately, I fear we may be spoiled and if we are able to cruise again, we know we won’t be able to afford the suite. It was a great treat to us. Our cabin steward was Parinda, from Thailand and she was a delight! Parinda came by our cabin about an hour after we "moved" in. She gave us ways to contact her, informed us of her normal work hours, let us know she would be there when we needed her and out of our way the rest of the time. She took excellent care of us and the cabin, provided us with beautiful towel animals each night, and made sure we always had clean towels and ice in the bucket. FYI, you can connect components such as DVD player and Play-stations to the new televisions. They have component and S video hookups on the bottom rear of the flat panel.
Progresso: We took the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruin tour through Carnival. It was reasonably priced and gave us peace of mind. The tour was good, and our guides were very funny and knowledgeable. I came away with a much better understanding of how advanced the Mayan civilization was. We did not shop in Progresso or spend any time at the shops on the pier.
Cozumel: We were able to dock in Cozumel and were right at the city when exiting the boat. We took no tours here but spent the day shopping. I would have been much better off springing for a tour. My wife really enjoyed the shops and stores which line the main street. A bit too much! For the most part everyone accepted "No" when you said it politely with a thank you. There was one exception to this. Some guy was selling timeshares and he was very pushy. Just kept following us down the street until my wife told him we were not going anywhere with him. He saw he had pushed her a little too far and backed off then.
Dining: We were seated at the 6:15 seating in the Wind Star dining room and had a blast! Our waiters were Rubon from Honduras, and Gino from Peru. They were the best you could hope for. As they got to know us and our likes they would make suggestions on different menu items. We had an excellent group of dining mates. We were the old folks at the table. There were 2 couples on their honeymoons and 1 young man had brought his mother from Germany for her birthday and a cruise. It was so much fun being able to visit with them and hear their stories. Our Maitre’d was Orhan from Turkey. He was always there to greet us when we came in, came by the table frequently during the meal to check on us, and always made sure there was something going on. The staff interacted well with the guest.
The food in the dining room was excellent with 2 exceptions and we were warned. The lobster was tough and rubbery and the lobster bisque was so strong you couldn’t stand the taste. Our waiters immediately asked if we would like something else and also made suggestions for other items.
Formal night was Tuesday, the 1st full day at sea. Guest were dressed in everything from jeans to tuxes and formals. I will say this; those who wore jeans had very nice, ironed jeans on. They for the most part wore very nice shirts and in some cases ties. I had no problem with the way anyone was dressed. I had taken my tux but opted for a suit when I saw that tuxes were in the minority. The important thing is that everyone had a great time and enjoyed a fantastic dining experience.
We also enjoyed food on the Lido deck. They had a good variety each day for lunch. We could find nothing to complain about here, but then we are simple people and not very demanding as long as what is hot is supposed to be and what is cold is supposed to be.
Entertainment: The first night the show was cancelled because of the rolling ship. We caught the rest of the shows, and while we enjoyed them, they were not the quality we expected. 2 exceptions to this; the beautiful dancing of Youri and Louda, and the show on the last evening, which featured comic Tommy Drake and fiddler Barry Van Wie (both were great). We also enjoyed the guest talent show on Wednesday night. Barry Jobe and Leigh Hussman are good vocalist but Hussman is out of her element doing country (jmho). We did not catch any of the other comedy acts.
Debarkation: A JOKE! Carnival has rules in place, no one follows them, and Carnival doesn’t enforce them. Carnival just needs to post a sign that says "Debarkation is at your own risk. Leave when you want to because we don’t care"! Enough said.
Overall, the cruise was a great experience. The first night was rough because of the horrible weather, but there was nothing the crew could do about that. The ship is beautiful and very well maintained. The staff and crew were fantastic. Everyone was polite and most spoke decent English. Some were a bit shy but no one was short or rude. We would sail the Ecstasy again in a heartbeat. One of the greatest vacations we have ever had.
My fiancé and myself arrived in Galveston on the 11th of June and we stayed overnight at the Harbor House Hotel. The hotel allowed us to leave our car there for the duration of our cruise for a nominal fee of $20.00!! On cruise day, which was the 12th, we were able to sleep in and lounge throughout the morning, checking out of the hotel at noon. We drove to the terminal, dropped off our luggage with a porter and returned to the hotel parking lot to leave the car.
The walk to the ship was short and pleasurable. We were able to walk right into the terminal and checked in. In all, it took 20 minutes from leaving the parking lot to being onboard the Ecstasy. There was an announcement that the cabins would not be available until 1:30. No big deal as we sat in chairs on the Lido Deck and drank and enjoyed the music.
When we arrived at our cabin, the room was clean and ready. I had ordered a plate of chocolate strawberries for DF and they were there ready for her to consume them! Sucha shame that something that looked so good had to be eaten. After placing our belongings in their appropriate locations, we prepared for the mandatory muster drill. Fortunately, our muster station was two levels directly above us so not a far distance to travel. After the drill, it was off to watch the Port of Galveston disappearing in the distance and watching the porpoises playing in the bay before and around us. I was able to get them on the camcorder, cool!! After that, off to explore the ship and learn our way around.
We chose to eat in the Windstar dining room every occasion we were afforded. The service was always excellent and our waiter during the evening meals was superb!! He was always caring about our meals, well mannered and the food was incredibly good. All of the people at our table were pleased with him and his assistants. We did the buffet a couple of times because the dining room was unavailable. The food was good and the deli sandwiches were well received. One morning we did room service for breakfast and the meal arrived in 15 minutes and was good as well. Overall, the dining experience was excellent.
The first day at sea was a lazy one for us but, wow, was it hot!! We stayed indoors as much as possible and explored. The seas were very rough because the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto were still in the area and we actually got a bit queasy. Off to the infirmary we went and the doctor told us that this pitching was the worst he had ever experienced himself. We also overheard other crewmembers stating the same to passengers. He recommended a sort of acupuncture for us to try. It was an elastic wristband with a button on it. It was placed on each wrist, over the pulse, and it worked!! The queasiness left us.
The beds were an issue with us. I am allergic to down and we found out afterwards that she is also. The beds, though comfortable, are almost all down. The comforter, the mattress pad and the pillows are down filled and we were miserable. At first, we thought we had the flu or some bug. When we left the ship for the docks, we cleared up, somewhat. Carnival does not have any other bed coverings or pillows so I hope they get this oversight taken care of before our next cruise.
Formal night was great and we were dressed to the max ourselves. We enjoy dressing up and we had a wonderful time at the Captain's party and the dinner afterwards.
We docked at Progresso and we chose to stay on board until the early afternoon. Then we disembarked and strolled through the mall at the pier. A quick and heavy downpour appeared and then we were able to get back onboard before the rush of the others returning from their excursions.
The next morning found us in Cozumel. The damage is tremendous and incredible. We tendered in to what is left of the dock and caught a van to our excursion. The Adventure Park and Snorkel Tour was our choice. We rappelled, climbed walls, crossed rope and plank suspension bridges and rode a zip line. We didn't snorkel as we weren't up to it on this day. When we returned to the mall at the pier, we had a good meal, listened to the music and did some shopping. The tender was already at the dock when we got there so it was quickly on and back to the ship. The ship was two hours late leaving Cozumel, but not due to the ship. Two passengers ran afoul of the law and were "detained" by the local authorities. The Captain arranged for their release and the ship left with everyone on board. I don't want to hear that Carnival does not take care of its passengers. To me, that was above and beyond the call of duty. It was not Carnival's fault that the passengers did something that was against the law. We took pictures of us leaving the port as toasted the event. That evening, we dressed up again for the Past Guests Party and had another great time. Again, the seas were rough but that was because the Captain had the ship going full bore to make up the lost time caused by the hooligans.
The last day at sea and we slept in. Later, we did the Art Auction and purchased some paintings. We almost bought a Rembrandt but decided against it at the last moment. I must say it was difficult to pass up.
Arriving in Galveston, we did not do the self assist debarkation, mainly due to our Nine pieces of luggage (LOL). We lounged in our cabin until they called our color. We were off the ship and on the curb of the street in about 30 minutes. Using the porter cut about 45 minutes off of our wait. I walked to the hotel parking lot, collected the car, collected my fiancé and the luggage and off to home we went.
Overall, our trip was a hit!! We did not want to get off and we are looking to, perhaps, do the same trip later this summer. We already have a trip planned for November and anxiously await it.
I (Phil) was merely tagging along with my wife on her annual company cruise. The Professional Insurance Agents (PIA)put this together. This was our 4th cruise on Carnival so we were given the gold Sign and Sail cards.
We really enjoyed the ship and her crew. It was apparent right away that the ship had been fixed up since we sailed her last year. Cabins had new bathrooms, TV sets are flat panel, and that annoying corner piece is gone! The beds are really comfortable!
We were surprised and not disappointed that the port was changed from Calica to Cozumel, though I spent a few weeks mapping out where to go in Playa and now I had to rethink it all! Cozumel was back to normal for the most part. The dead trees everywhere showed how much they suffered. The piers are in rough shape but they are working on them.
A few annoyances were: 1. On the Lido deck only the tables in the non smoking and closest to the serving area were given ketchup/mustard setups. 2. The entire Lido deck was completely closed on Sunday evening so they could scruband buff it clean. This caused folks to detour to other decks to get across to the other end.
Overall we loved our trip and will be back again. An unofficial survey of the PIA folks unanimously agreed to do the cruise again next year!
We made it back...Thank God!! The captain kept us clear of the hurricane but it was a bumber having 5 sea days. This was my third cruise, the first on Voyager of the Seas and the second on Navigator of the Seas. I went into this with an open mind knowing full well I couldn't compare apples to oranges. Overall out of a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being high, I would rate the Ecstacy as a 7. Here's my review.
Embarkation - this was fairly simple. But a quick side note about getting to the port that I didn't realize or read and just forgot. 45 South takes you straight to the port, literally. 45 turns into Broadway. When you make a left on Kempner this street dead ends into the port. Where you're directed to turn left, drop off your luggage and then go and park. You catch a shuttle back to the port terminal. I used EZcruise and everything went wonderful. My car was intact upon return and they were courteous and prompt. This is just an open fenced car lot. It's not very big. Wereserved back in March. They were sold out for the Ecstacy cruises through I think Labor Day. So if you're cruising during the summer months make sure you reserve in advance. They shuttle you directly to the cruise terminal and unload your luggage where the porters handle them from there. Registration went well. I didn't like waiting with everyone until 12:30 (we arrived early) to board the ship. They had two guys telling corny stories and such to pass time. They told us how we were going to board and that our rooms were not ready so go to the Lido deck and grab a bite to eat. Once we were cleared to board they had two lines going for us to take pictures. This went fast we were sitting on the far side, the last group to board and we were taking pictures w/in 10 minutes of them releasing us to board. After the group picture, they had about 3 or 4 stations setup to take our sign and sail card picture. This also went very swiftly, wait time maybe 2 minutes. Onto the ship and to the Lido deck to eat.
First Impression - It's not RCCL but it is OK. For a first time cruiser I think this is perfect for them. We were a group of 6, 4 first timers, ages 18 - 57. I had two cruises on RCCL and my friend had cruised on Fantasy a couple of years ago. Yes, there's some wear and tear. But nothing like the reviews I read. If you look for it you will find it. Otherwise, it's a well run and beautiful ship. Everyone complains about the blue. I wouldn't have noticed it accept I read several reviews about it. In the atrium at night when it's lit up the walls have three dimensional building figurines on them. When you lookup at the walls it reminds me of downtown all lit up in the midnight sky. So I thought it was pretty cool. The ship is laid out pretty good. They do use every available space. Behind the Panorama Grill on both sides are decks w/ tables with an excellent view. The slide on the Lido deck is pretty cool. It was open and stayed pretty busy. The lines were never long maybe max 10 people deep at any given time.
Atrium/Promenade - Compared to the VOS/NOS, no comparison. However, it was nice and served its purpose. But O, how I missed the warm cookies served at the bistro/cafe on VOS/NOS. I missed them really bad and was very disappointed that the REAL cookies on Ecstacy cost $1.75 ( I think). Big disappointment. At least when the food wasn't that great at Dinner on VOS I could always fill up on warm cookies and ice cream. There isn't a long promenade on Ecstacy. Basically, the atrium consists of the winding stairs. You can see straight up but that's it. There isn't the long promenade you can walk down with the bars, shops, casinos, cafe and the cabins overlooking the promenade like on the VOS. It's just a small area that you can look up to the other decks. This kind of threw me off because I was expecting the promenade like on the VOS. Anyways, it served it's purpose, great back drop for formal pictures. LOL!!
Food - OK, I was a little disappointed. I always go to the dining room. I went to the dining room the first two nights and didn't go back. My waiter, Subi and assistant, Imade was not in sync. Subi didn't even know his assistants name. The dining room food was below par to me. RCCL has them beat. Yes, the TEA is AWFUL. I was quite disappointed that they wouldn't serve me lemonade. And I'm not a water person, meaning all water taste the same to me. But there was a clear difference in the water on the ship. And if I noticed it, it had to be really bad. I'm one of those people who don't purchase bottled water because I think it's a scam. So I don't know if something was wrong with the water or what but it tasted significantly different from the tap water at home (Plano, TX). Pizza was good but thank God for the hamburgers and hot dogs. Carnival has RCCL beat on this. The outside Lido deck "Snack Bar" right by the pool, grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. What more could a country girl ask for. And they serve the hamburgers with a pickle, crisp lettuce, tomato and CHEESE! Hot dogs are served with sour kraut and chili. O, guess what they have french fries. And they're pretty good. So this was dinner the remaining 3 nights. They stop serving at 6pm I think. So we would check the Panorama to see what they had and always make our way back for hamburgers, hot dogs or pizza. The Pizza and Deli at the back of the Panorama was also great and we visited them quite often. Like I mentioned early, I really missed the cafe on the VOS just because I didn't have to go all the way outside to grab a quick snack.
Cabin - It served its purpose...somewhere to sleep and change clothes. My first inside cabin. I missed the balcony and will probably book balconies from here on out. Everyone says the inside rooms are so dark. I was a little paranoid going into it but it's not any different from going into a dark room. You see light through the cracks at the bottom of the door and the Ecstacy has a board on the wall that lights up. Not bright, just a dim light behind a picture. Perfect I think if you have kids in the room. I fell asleep with it on several nights and it didn't bother me. I actually liked the bathroom. The shower was larger than the cylinder shower tube on the VOS. The shower curtain was not a big deal. I guess I just don't understand why Carnival won't invest in sturdy and durable shower curtains. You can get them all day long at Wal-Mart for $2 or $3. Plenty of storage in the closet as well as shelves. Suitcase fits under the bed. You might need to bring some hangers if you packed a lot of clothes you need to hang up. We ran out after I unpacked my things. I missed the interactive TV on the VOS that showed your sign and sail account, dinner menu and room service menu. Room service menu on the Ecstacy was very limited. More things are available through room service on the VOS. Movies were good. Yes, I know why are you watching TV on a cruise...because I was on her for 5 days. SMILE!!! Hitch, Robots, Ms. Congeniality II, Coach Carter. I hadn't seen any of these movies so it was GREAT for me. The down comforters are quite cozy. The ship is always COLD to the point where you need long sleeves or a sweater/light jacket. We had them bring us an extra blanket for our beds at night. It was really cold. O, there's not a thermostat in the room. I can't remember if there's one on the VOS or not.
Entertainment - this is another area that was disappointing. Everyone says the "FUN SHIP", so I was expecting wild and crazy games all day every day. New creative ideas. NOT, they were the same games pretty much as on VOS. They did have Survivor and Fear Factor which VOS/NOS did not have when I cruised. So those were pretty cool. But I kept expecting more because everyone says they're the Fun Ship. I know we were on her 5 days but other than the two games mentioned above everything else was the same. Yes, I missed Quest. The clubs were cool, just like anything else it depends on the crowds in the club that make it or break it. The Lido deck DJ was pretty cool. He played ole' school music most of the time. Just a good groove to kick back and relax. Midnight Comedian was extremely vulgar so I left. A few curse words here and there is what I expected and adult topics. I think he went over the edge...dirty vulgar topics and language. I didn't attend any shows. I tried but I didn't like the layout of the Blue Sapphire lounge. I think it was just a personal thing. I'm short and I couldn't find a good seat if I didn't sit in the front. This ship had karoake all day every day. Way too much in my opinion. By the second day I was sick of it. The casino served it's purpose. I gave my donation. They had penny and nickel machines. My DS won $31 on her first try on the nickel machine. But that's about as far as our luck went.
Kids - They said we had over 600 kids on board. Either Camp Carnival kept them busy or they were somewhere I didn't find. There was probably the same 15 - 20 kids on the Lido deck every day. They were well mannered and basically enjoying the pool and slide. Yes, they hogged the jacuzzi but that's just kids being kids. I didn't notice any misbehaving, unruly kids. Kids hang out in hall ways and elevators so I would see the same two or three groups in these spots. But as they explored the ship I seen less of them. I think they found the nook and craneys just because we were on the ship for 5 days straight.
Debarkation - no customs...straight off the ship onto the EZCruise shuttle. Whoever thought of self assist debarkation...I LOVE YOU!! Yes, I had to tote my luggage up two flights of stairs but I'll do that any day not to have to find my luggage in a warehouse. The carousels by color like at the airports are a wonderful thing on RCCL at the Miami port.
Things to Note - Most of their formal pictures were 8 X 10, $20. I thought this was a scam. They wouldn't sell you a 5 X 8 unless you purchased the 8 X 10 first. The day to day pictures were 5 X 8 so I didn't understand why the formal photos were not 5 X 8. Well I do understand, they were trying to make a profit. But I don't believe this was fair. Once you purchase the 8 X 10 you can purchase a combo pack. This included one 4X6, 2 wallets and one 5X8 for $10. These four pictures come on one sheet of 8X10 paper. You cut them out yourself. If you order hot tea, they use Lipton tea. So I'm still puzzled why the tea in the dining room and on the Lido deck was horrible. They have $10 gifts in the Galleria store. I didn't notice until my roommate made mention of it. They have ice cream and low fat yogurt. The ice cream was yummy. They have toppings, ice cream cones and bowls available. Casino charges a 3% ser charge to use your sign and sail card. The dessert wasn't all that great. However, my lil' sis' found the real desserts at a lil' cafe across from the Internet cafe. O, the Internet Cafe is not private. The computers are on tall bar tables setup on the side of the hallway to the Starlight lounge. The library is not open 24X7, they open an hour in the morning and an hour in the late afternoon.
Yes, I did get bored about the 3rd day. So off I went to explore which is how I stumbled upon the decks at the back of the ship behind the Panorama Grill. There were things happening on the ship all day long, I just expected more "fun" activities on the Lido deck besides the normal hairy chest contest and newly wed type games. On the Lido deck the DJ played from about 10ish/11ish to 1 or so and then they would play a game or two and then the Calypso band would play in the afternoon. I guess I was expecting fun interactive games on deck all day. What they offered was entertaining but I expected more because they are labeled the "Fun Ship". I didn't see any chair hogging and the weather was spectacular. Actually the area on deck between the stage and the grill always had deck chair/lounges available. I also liked how Carnival how tables and chairs along the sides of the deck in the shade. This was excellent for us because we lounged on deck playing cards and what not enjoying the music.
I now agree that Carnival does need a private island, for hurricane times. One more thing, I thought for sure we would go to New Orleans and then on to Key West because of Hurricane Emily. When they cancelled Cozumel, I thought to myself I told them to go to Key West safe from the hurricane. Later that day in the elevator a gentleman said the same thing. I told him I thought the exact same thing, especially since they knew the hurricane would hit Cozumel. O well, thank God everyone is safe.
Overall - I'll try Carnival again. Mainly because I have a half off cruise due to Hurricane Emily. But I really want to try one of their newer ships to see if they compare to VOS. As mentioned before you really can't compare the Ecstacy to VOS/NOS. These are to totally different ships. BLOT - cruise Ecstacy as your first cruise and then try VOS/NOS. You'll fall in love with VOS/NOS and only cruise Ecstacy for a weekend getaway. If cost isn't a factor cruise VOS/NOS. If it's your first time and you don't know if you can stay on a ship 7 nights cruise Ecstacy to test yourself. If you are totally clueless but what something nice cruise VOS/NOS. If you're cheap cruise Ecstacy.