Arrival: We got in a day early and stayed at the Marriott in the BUSH (IAH) Airport. The rooms are nice and quiet. The help was very good and we even had dinner in the upper circle restaurant. The food was very good for what we were thinking. Steak and Fish was cooked to perfection.
Day 1 of the Cruise - Galveston First thing I have to say is that thanks to L.J. at the Texas Cruise Ship Shuttle (281-443-4430) we had the most fun in an hour drive ever in my life. L.J. can tell you everything about Houston and then some. He also took us around Galveston as well. We had a very nice van with plenty of windows to look out. We talked like we were long lost friends. What a way to start a cruise! We were laughing and feeling so good. No matter is much cheaper than the cruise lines bus he made the trip wonderful and we had not even got on the ship yet. If you are doing a cruise in Houston or Galveston, L.J. is your man to call!
Well now comesthe fun part. We were 3 ships in port at once. What a disaster but thanks again to L.J. our driver, even after showing us around Galveston to some of the most beautiful homes there, he got us within 50 ft of the terminal building. The line to get next to the terminal building was backed up for miles. We talked to our table mates who spent 2 hours in line before finally getting onto the ship. But L J was right on top of it and helped us right off the van. We did have to walk 50 ft to get to the building with all our luggage but this allowed us to get on the boat and walk around hours before many others. L J was our man of the hour. He even called us an hour later, after we had already got on board and was relaxing eating lunch to make sure everything was fine.
Day 1 at Sea: Finally we set sail under gray skies. No big fan fare there but that night we started the rocking and rolling. No matter who I talked with I never got a sense of people complaining about the movement. All I have to say it was awful. We were on main deck very back of the boat on the center line. We were pitching up and down over a foot and swinging back and forth 15 degrees. Pictures were hanging out from the wall. Our dresser drawers slide up and closed as we rocked back and forth. Needless to say not much sleeping that night which cut into our fun the next day since we were so tired and out of it we slept until noon.
Food in the Wind Song restaurant was good. Its better then the big restaurant chains but not 5 star by any means. I guess in my travels I have been to really great restaurants and Carnival is just not know for their food. It was good just not great or fantastic as you see in their commercials. If you want great food - Carnival is not for you. The food is good - their main concern is are you having fun drinking and gambling.
The shows were good - not top notch talent. They make up for talent by being loud. We could hardly make out what the singers were saying as they were so loud. The show was a nice diversion from the rocking and the rolling of the boat. Get ready for being bombared on where to spend your money. Sign up for the credit card, go to the art auction, play bingo... all these pitches over and over. Don't they realize we have seen this all each time?
Also be sure to get a drink card. If you drink water, ice tea or lemonade you can get that for free. Every other drink you are going to pay for. Its kind of bothered me in that they say its all included except when I want to drink something. Guess they really do want you drunk.
The boat was nice and clean. Rooms small but comfortable. No problems with smells and such.
Outside was another issue. They had these bands right next to the pool blaring and I mean blaring the music. I love to have background music but this was blasting. Try to lay in the sun and get some rest was totally out of the question. I got some sun and a headache. I had to leave the area it was so bad.
Lido deck with their bar and grill was good food. Carl's Jr level food - it was good like any bar and grill would be. Inside they had a bit more fancier food. Not a hugh selection but some things nice.
Day 2 Cozumel: We pulled into port and what a nice thing to be off and walking on solid ground. About half the people never even got off the boat. What a waste. The port is clean but you have to walk like a mile thru this special duty free shops - ok its only about 500 feet but seems so long. Right after this a nice place to shop - everything spotless and clean. Not like the real town. Spend and hour here if you wish but you really need to get out to see the sights.
There are lots of excursions to do. You really should take one. Also I got one thing to say to Carnival phone operators. Please learn more about what the ship does and how it all works. They kind of messed up our excursions. Telling us that one was sold out when it was not. Thanks the the GREAT people on the boat they exchanged the excursion and FULLY refunded our money. YEAH! We took the 4x4 trip. We got to drive thru town with our guides Rrrrrrrod (yes I spelled it right - got to roll your R's) and Al. This was very interesting to see how people really lived. Exciting and safe at the same time. Then we made a short stop and finally did some real off roading including a very sandy stretch. We got shook up with our wonderful "Mexican massage" as our guides called it. Nothing hurting mind you just alot of up and down and shaking. I am a big man (6'3") but drove ok and had no issues. My wife loved it and was laughing the whole time. If you are pregnant or have back issues you are not going to like this trip. We got to see a real Mayan ruin (most of the others you see are fake ones - not real at all). Got our picture taken and then got a bit of rain. Very fun! We then stopped on the beach to spend an hour. We took a walk, a swim, a hand made mexican lunch. It was all so very nice. Finally our trip back to the ship where we got some great night pictures.
The only issue is that wish we had 2 more days since there is just to much to do. Other beaches and ruins to explore.
The comedian at night was great. The Karaoke was a total blast. Loved the rules! Everyone claps - if you don't - you get to sing and the leader picks the song for you. Its very funny to hear the Old Spaghetti song done off key. There were a lot of great singers on board and alot of drunks trying to be great singers. It was a great show.
Midnight buffet was a disappointment. Again it was nice but I have seen better displays at hotels. It was nice but not top notch. Again Carnival is there for the "fun" not the food.
Day 3: Calica The ship does move all night but there is only 10 miles between Cozumel and Calica. Where we go I don't know since we had fun in the evening.
What a dump when you get up. You are parked at a rock pile. There is nothing outside like in Cozumel. Be sure to rent a taxi or one of the excursions since there is nothing else you can do. Here again Carnival made a mistake. We checked out their web site for excursions. We were looking forward to seeing actual Mayan ruins but online nothing was open. Again we got to the ship and low and behold they have some. Again the Excursion desk took care of us and exchanged our tickets to do what we had wanted from day one. Its just confusing when their web site says one thing and really its something else. But was very happy to go to Tulum. Here is the shortest day you have to be back on board by 3:30. Not much time to explore. You typically drive south where all the things are. On the bus excursion, you are forced to stop at the tourist trap to by trinkets. We were delayed by one couple buying something and they great fully waited 20 mins. We finally got to Tulum and WOW. It was fantastic. Right on the cliff over looking some beaches what a beautiful site. My wife and I took over 50 pictures here alone. What a piece of history and with the white beaches and blue waters you had some absolutely beautiful shots. We walked all over the place and had a great time. We even got back to see the Mayan pole dance. The bus was full of everyone ready to go back when we got the bus. We were the second to last to board only being 2 mins late. I could have stayed a few more hours at this beautiful place.
The night entertainment was a sword swallowed and more comedy. Great show lots of fun. I even got a drink called a Mai Tai. My one drink of the year my wife and I share.
Day 4: At sea on your way home. Again the night came but no stars. Cloudy all the way and again we got to rocking and rolling. It was funny to watch people walking hitting each side of the hallway. Yet they called this moderate to minor. Spent the day going to shows and eating. Stayed away from the Lido deck with the loud music again. There was no place to sit in the sun without having blaring music at you. Seems they thought we were all 20 something's looking for a great party. Well this cruise was full of old people 60+ and a lot of us middle agers. Even had 1-2 yr olds on board. This was a very mixed age group with most being over 60.
The show again was loud but good. The only problem was to get a good seat had to get there when there were doing bingo. You have better odds of being thrown overbard and then saved by dolphins then winning this thing but alot of people still tried. Most everyone did stay away from this.
We then listened to Karaoke all night laughing with the singers since they were being thrown back and forth on the stage. We did however do a standing ovation for the song "Proud to be an American". Since this ship leaves from TX, you will find that 80% of the people on board are from TX. Just got to get used to them all talking funny y'all! HAHA!
Day 5: Back at Galveston. They called their debark process - relaxed. What a total farce. We took our time - since our flight was not till 6 pm that night. Got dressed, strolled around, had breakfast. Even then we still had to stand in line for over an hour just to get thru Immigration. The line ran the whole ship. I mean from Aft to Forward. It was totally awful! We stood near the end of the line hoping it would go down but it did not for an hour. Finally we just gave up and got in line with everyone else. After getting to the Immigration guys (only 5 of them for the whole ship of 2,000 - no wonder it took so long) we got stamped and walked out. No more lines atleast right out to our luggage and then out to the curb where we called our man L J who drove right up with the van. We loaded up and got out of there to the airport. We had arranged to have a tour then but we decided to just get out of there. We were still feeling the effects of the sea sickness (we would still not recover until 3 days later) so we got on a flight early.
Overall Impressions: If you want fun (meaning lots of drinking, gambling and loud music) around all the time - Carnival is for you. If you want great food and rich pampering - try another cruise lines. If you are susceptible to sea sickness - just fly down, don't waste your time on a cruise. Don't use Carnivals website to book your excursions. Do that as soon as you get on the boat - they have more choices there and the times so that you can determines which ones to do in the morning and which ones in the afternoon. If you are going on a cruise call in Galveston or Houston - call L J! Personally I am going to skip the cruising - I don't like being sea sick. I also could have used the days at Sea still exploring Cozumel and Calica!
This is my trip report for my recent Carnival Ecstasy cruise out of Galveston.
Background: This was my third cruise, the first being on "the Big Red Boat" with my then 10-year-old daughter on the now defunct Premier Cruise lines (She is 18 now). The second was in 2003 on the Celebration out of Galveston.
Embarkation: Went fairly smooth. I drove to the pier from Dallas, exactly 5 hours, used E-Z Cruise parking which I reserved on-line ($30 for 5-days). E-Z Cruise also transports your luggage with you which is nice since some lots require you to drop your luggage off at the pier first. Got to the pier at 2 p.m. went through embarktation and was on the ship in less than 35 minutes.
Ship: The ship is over 10 years old and showed some signs of wear, but overall I was quite satisfied with the condition and the crew is constantly cleaning. It was nicer than the Celebration even though the Celebration had just gone through an overhaul when I was on it.
Food: I ate breakfast and lunch each day at the buffet on the Lido deck. Breakfast was pretty muchthe same each day, but always good and plenty of variety. Lunch changed everyday and was very good, the only things I did not like was some of the items that I usually wouldn't eat anyway. One hint, if you're a dessert fiend like me you may want to get your dessert the same time you get the rest of the meal, otherwise they sometimes ran out of things. I usually ate around noon.
I always ate in the main dining room for dinner, and I felt the food was great and the service was excellent and has improved since my cruise in 2003. My favorite was the seafood Newburg on the last night. The lobster was also good. Remember, you can order whatever you want and on lobster night I also ordered prime rib for my own version of surf-n-turf.
Cruise Director: The cruise director was Larry Gustafon or something like that, anyway, he was excellent. He's been with Carnival for over 14 years and definantly has a passion for cruising. He was funny, approachable, and very talented. On one night of the cruise he was the featured entertainer in the lounge and sang songs ranging from Dean Martin and Andy Williams to Creed and Dave Matthews Band. In fact, Larry is from Vegas and also has a lounge act he plays at some of the casinos there when he takes a break from cruisin'.
Speaking of shows, the 2 Vegas shows were very good, with lots of variety and costume changes. Carnival has definantly improved in this area since 2003.
Cozumel: We rented a Jeep from Executive right off the pier, it was $40 for the day, $8 insurance, and my card was charged $53 total (I already checked after I got home). We went to the East side of the island, the beaches are beautiful there even though you can't really swim there, too rough. The negative is they don't clean them like they should, I saw a lot of trash stuck in the rocks and such.
For the swim beach we went to Mr. Sanchos beach club on the west side of the island. Free to get in and we ordered 2 margaritas and chicken nachos from the lunch counter. They have several shops in front and we found this to be the best bargain hunting and the people were very friendly and not as pushy as in-town. My cruise was in Cozumel on Monday which is the slowest day for Cozumel, only 3 ships in port then compared to 12 in port on Saturday, so that may be another reason for the bargains. The beach area was very nice but the water was pretty cool (what do you expect in February!).
Playa: Did the Tulum ruins/Xel-Ha tour. I was disappointed in Tulum. I was there 5 years ago and it was wonderful, we went on a Sunday and it was not commercialized at all and I did not see any buses. This time, it has all kinds of construction up front including a shopping mall area and there were over 50 buses in the parking lot, it just wasn't the same. BUT, if you haven't been before it's still worth the trip, it's amazing how intelligent the Mayans were.
Xel-Ha was nice, clean and refreshing, but we only had 2 hours there and I would have preferred more time. There was a couple at our table that went to Xcaret and raved about it, which I felt was a very good recommendation since the couple complained about almost everything else on the cruise. Xcaret is only a 5-minute taxi ride from the pier at Calica and you can walk up and get your tickets.
Overall: I love cruising with Carnival, it's a very affordable vacation and I love being pampered. Both cruises have exceeded my expectations. I think most people who complain about Carnival are looking for the proverbial "Champaign on a beer budget" type cruise, I on the other hand look for the best value for my vacation dollar and Carnival is it. I could afford a "nicer" cruise on another line with possibly better food, but I also know I will pay for those luxuries and I am content with what I receive with Carnival.
Another thing, Carnival now has 5 other cruise lines under it's corporate umbrella and I think that helps Carnival improve because if something works on one line, they probably adapt it to the others.
Our 3-day cruise on the Ecstacy was our first cruise. I was a little nervous by some of the bad postings I read prior to sailing. We had 4 adults and 3 teens in our party. Everyone had a great time!
We stayed at Best Western Long Beach using the "cruise and stay" package. They give you a shuttle to the port and store your car (secure, underground lot) while you are gone. We did the early check-in on the Queen Mary--very easy and no lines at around 11AM. Around 12:00 we got in the short line for boarding because we did the early check-in. When we boarded around 1PM our rooms were ready. I found the rooms to be very clean. It is an older ship but in quite good repair.
The food was very good in the dining room and at the buffets. The portion sized in the dining room are small, but that's a good thing! There are so many courses for each meal and many choices. You can't leave the table hungry! The pizza bar is wonderful (they will always make a fresh pizza if you askand there are some great, creative varieties. We never had to wait longer than 7 minutes for a fresh pizza. The ice cream bar is very basic, mostly just soft-serve. We had no problem using the soda cards. All the staff was very friendly and helpful.
Debarking: If you can swing it, do the "self-assist debark" You have to carry your own bags but we were off the ship by 8:20 (debarking started at 8:00! As soon as you get off the ship there are porters to help with the bags.
We all felt that the cruise was a terrific bargain. We spent about $600. per person for the entire trip, including cruise, driving to CA, and 1 hotel night. We are already planning our next Carnival cruise!
I went on this cruise with a college friend, and it was the first cruise for the both of us. We went looking for a good time for Spring Break. This cruise was the best week of my life. The staff was incredibly helpful. We boarded with no problem whatsoever. The rooms were large enough. I recommend taking an electrical outlet strip...there is only one outlet in the room, and the strip came in handy with two girls. Alcohol was not too pricey (as this was a major concern for us college kids!) In Catalina, we just walked around and enjoyed the town. If you decide to do an excursion, I would wait and just pay when you are on the island..I hear it is cheaper. In Mexico, we went to the blow hole (La Bufadora), where there was a lot of bargain shopping.
If you are looking for a good time, Papas and Beers is a must! The dress was mostly casual with dressier attire required for the evening. The comedy show on Tuesday night was horrible, but the one on Wednesday night definitely made up for it. Ialso recommend room service, because it is free! If you are still up at 4 am, you can just call and have whatever you'd like delivered. The worst part was when we were trying to exit the last morning. The line was pretty long to get off the ship, but once we made it past the ship doors there was really no problem. It is 10 dollars a day to park in the parking garage. The waters were not rough..just a little bit on the Thursday back to Long Beach. Beware of the sail and sign card...it can make you feel like a millionare :-) Have fun and enjoy your cruise! I would definitely go on another.
This was our third Carnival cruise. The others were 10/24/2004 Elation and 4/24/2003 Jubilee. Overall we had a great time! Food was great as usual, we had fun in the ports, went down the slide, the usual stuff! Had no indication of mechanical problems with the ship and it was clean.
The few hiccups we experienced were the following: the a/c in the cabin was not up to par. Not cool at all and little force behind it. We paged the cabin steward. He came in, made note of our concern and left. That was about 9am first day at sea. When we returned to the cabin that afternoon the room was still uncomfortably warm.
On Wednesday morning the television suddenly shut off and made a popping sound followed by a shreaking sound. Then the distinct smell of burning wire filled the cabin and the hallway. Our neighbors all asked us what happened. We paged the cabin steward and told him what happened. He entered the cabin, agreed with concerns. He then made a phone call from the cabin and said someone would look into it. Again returning later that afternoon thesmell was still very strong and the room temp was still warm and the TV still not taken care of. That evening, we went down to the pursers desk and spoke with Shae Dillon at the desk. She made note of our two concerns at the time and said someone would be up to the cabin soon. We explained that we were on our way to a company arranged dinner in town and could not wait in the cabin for this person. We later learned that the cabin stewards are "bonded" and allowed to enter the room freely but no other "service" persons could without our being there.
Upon our return later that evening about 9:30pm, we saw that the TV was still not fixed,the smell was still very bad and the a/c was still not working properly.
The next morning before leaving the ship, we went to the pursers desk and again spoke to Shea. She assured us that the Audio Visual and the AC folks would be in our room by the time we got back to the cabin. The TV man came about 15 minutes but the AC man was a no show after about a half hour. We chose not to waste our day waiting for maintenance, but instead enjoy our few hours left in Calica. When we got back from a wonderful day of shopping, instead of the air being fixed properly, they simply removed the vent cover. The hole was kind of creepy, but it did blow with more force, although still not cold.
Now to put the icing on the cake...the floor in front of the bathroom gave way everytime we walked over it and our table captain was totally annoying and anal, asking where our table mates were over and over and asking our cabin numbers and name about three times in the same seating.
Regarding this point, since this was a company arranged cruise the gratuities were prepaid, it would seem to us that if we all showed or if none of us showed, the gratuities to the dining room (agreed not the maitre d) were already paid and the dining staff would not be suffering a loss.
Our booking agent, who was on the cruise with us, has our written concerns and will be passing them on to CCL corporate.
The impression we left with is that many of the staff aboard the Ecstasy had a dismissive attitude and could care less.
There were several outstanding crew members, too! Two of the waitstaff were very good and we saw them everywhere we went, whether it was on the Lido deck or in the Blue Sapphire Theatre or at the gangway selling water.
There was a young lady, we regret not to have gotten her name-she was from Ireland, made it a point to check in with us at each of the five happy hours the company had arranged in various clubs. She was genuinely interested in us and that we were having a great time.
The past guest party was fun. We noted that there is a door to access the lounge via the sports deck, bypassing the staff at the main door greeting you and taking your invitation.
As we said, overall we had a great time! We will be sailing Carnival again, but not the Ecstasy. We so very much enjoyed the cruise on the Elation with CD Chris Roberts, we would love to know where he is assigned and book that cruise, regardless of its positioning.
Also, there is so much to see and do in Calica/Playa. We feel this port should be as long or longer than Cozumel.
Phil & Liz
I chose the Carnival Ecstacy for my first cruise because the itinerary coincided with the dates and destinations that my wife and I were looking for. Let me just say that the best thing about this cruise was dining at Gaido's in Galveston.
We started off with a good attitude and expecting good things. The decor of the ship is gaudy, to say the least, but that is okay. Vegas is gaudy but it is still fun. After dinner in the main dining room, which was mediocre but acceptable, we attended the first night's show. We did not know it but this was not really a show but rather an infomercial designed to tell us about all of the "wonderful" things that we can puchase on our "...fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,..." funship cruise. (Did I mention that they told us this ship is fun?)
And therein lies the whole problem with the Carnival concept; the hard sale. The cruise director and crew spent the next 5 days "informing" us of all the things that we could buy. Telling us which shops to go to in Cozumel (the one'sin which they, presumably, have contracts.) Charging $20 for bingo tickets, $2.50 for a coke, $5.00 for a beer, $3.50 for a bottle of water. Marketing the art auctions until I wanted to grab the prints (no, they are not originals) and hurl them overboard. We decided on a cruise for relaxation, not to be hounded day and night by venors peddling their wares.
The food was plentiful yet uninspired. I doubt whether anything was actually prepared from scratch on board (The wait staff, though, was excellent.) If eating pizza and ice cream at midnight deadens your palate enough then you may convince yourself that the food in the main dining room is excellent. Conversely, if you eat three meals per day, like a normal person, you will be sorely dissapointed.
Cozumel was wonderful. In the future I will fly there directly.
Calica? Please! The itinerary said Calica or Playa Del Carmen. This was misleading. Calica is basically a rock/caliche crushing facility operated by Vulcan Industries. Being that there is a small industrial docking facility there, Carnival obviously negotiated a deal to dock on the cheap. It is a $10 cab ride to Playa Del Carmen, which is nice enough yet overly touristy.
Once back on board and out of Mexico, I could not wiat to get back to Galveston. I had been told that I was having fun so many times that I finally receded to my cabin and watched a movie (which only come on at certain times.)
Debarkation was hectic but bearable. The crew had little to do with us at this point being that it was ovious that they had gotten all of the money out of most passengers that they were likely to get.
But fresh meet was only a few hours away!
My party of four cruised from Galveston for our third cruise. Embarktion was a bit confusing because there were three ships leaving at about the same time. This made downtown and parking congested. The police and the parking attendants were wonderful however and made this crowded day as easy as they could. Once on board we were delighted to find a very nice buffet on the lido deck. The ship was in great condition and decorated nicely for Christmas. There were lots of familes on board with many children. This is not a big concern for me but I do tire of the teens running wild on the elevators. My biggest complaint is that children are allowed in the lounge for kareoke. Although I am not a huge fan of this type of entertainment, I find having three giggling eight year olds singing, " I feel like a woman" a bit too much. I had hoped that the teen club would have served as a better place for that.
The food in the dinning room was well served and wonderful! They had great choices and we were able to taste manynew foods. The buffet food was typical but good. The shows were a bit odd on this cruise. I can't really figure out what the problem was, choreography, sound technicians? The two vocalist left alot to be desired.
Our ports were Cozumel and Playa de Carmen. At Cozumel we went to Chankanaab? IT was very nice but at this time of the year the surf was strong and you had to be careful not to be swept into the rocks. The water was cool but not cold. The mall at the pier was decorated very well. We enjoyed our time shopping and milling around there. At Playa we rented a car and drove to a beach near downtown. It was great, I believe it is called Tucan? We then drove past Xelha to a beach that had a great restaurant. Since the winds were strong, we did not swim there.
For the money we spent, the cruise was fantastic. I would happily reccomend this ship and cruise. We are now searching for our next cruise and have not ruled out doing this one again.
Different ship, same story?
I chose this title carefully based on cruising this same route on the Celebration exactly two years earlier from the port of Galveston.
The Ecstasy replaced the Celebration on the 4 and 5-day sailings from Galveston in October. With a newer, larger ship you would think Carnival would have upgraded the service, food and attention to detail to match the newer vessel, but unfortunately it hasn't happened yet.
Our family of three sailed the 5-day agenda with port calls in Cozumel and Calica (Mexican for gravel pit). What follows are our opinions on the ship, the agenda and ports and our impressions of what Carnival is clearly targeting for cruisers aboard the Ecstasy.
Built in 91 and with accommodations for slightly more than 2000 passengers the ship is one of Carnival's slab sided Fantasy-class vessels with few balcony staterooms. She has aged well for a ship this old with nice deck space, ample size cabins and graceful styling when viewed from the ports of call.
The staterooms all benefited from a change in linens during a recent clean up and it is obvious that some public areas got a fresh coatof paint. The bad news is that whoever painted had little if any knowledge of what masking tape was for. Every single light fixture on the Lido deck had paint streaks on the glass. My teenager did a better job painting her closet. Also, paint runs and drips were evident along the wooden deck areas as well.
The pool area had streaked tile, obvious rust around the perimeter steel band at the main pool and more rust and tarnish on the polished rails and grab handles. The signature Carnival pool slide looked almost black with weathered paint and mildew.
The aft areas of the ship smelled like wastewater, with the smell more obvious in the Society Bar and the entertainment areas.
The Promenade Deck has the Blue Sapphire Lounge where the evening events were held. Almost all the seats had some obstruction from stainless covered support poles and the balcony seats were too low to the ground to not have obstructed view caused by the people in front of you.
Also on this deck is the Internet access area and Fossil Watch Shop. Carnival forgot to adequately light this area at night, so with black keyboards and slow high-speed access the value for dollar spent here is poor.
Carnival also needs to train more than one person to staff the Fossil shop. On both the days at sea the shop closed for 90 minutes while the attendant went to lunch. He posted a sign in the door each day with his time to reopen for business. Hello Carnival? Are you listening? Use one of the small army of deck attendants that pester you to purchase the daily-overpriced drink special to staff this shop for lunch. Label it cross training and use it all over the ship.
The Lido Deck is well laid out, and except for the pool area described above is clean and well staffed. The Panorama Bar and Grill served food for what seemed twenty-four hours a day. The food was fresh, but bland and not labeled at the actual tray. Some dishes were not recognizable from one of the food groups, so we avoided much of the fare here. We did enjoy the pizza and ice cream, but did get frustrated at the daily shortage and breakdown of the fat free yogurt side of the machine. The "closed for repairs" sign was laminated and looked like it was used daily on more than this cruise.
Breakfast was the best meal served here, and the omelets were excellent. The balance of the meals on this deck was best described as good hamburgers and fast food fare. Some of the outdoor tables on this deck are over the water and right on the rail, and this offered a great view.
The Atlantic Deck features both dining rooms and the shopping areas, and also looks to have benefited from a recent overhaul. The dining areas were clean, neat and well staffed. The bad news is the service on this cruise was slow. We missed the Carnival Returning Cruisers Party due to dinner exceeding ninety minutes in length. Our waiter tried twice to serve us the "today's special dessert" instead of showing the menu. We corrected him both times. Also, since sodas are extra, and must come from the cocktail waiter we saw this person one night in the five we were aboard. We felt like the additional purchase of a "Coke Card" was a waste of money if this were one of the places it was accepted.
The shopping areas were small, well stocked and offered no real bargains on jewelry or watches. The local Sam's Wholesale Club has more competitive prices, even with the additional sales tax charges. Liquor and tobacco products seemed to be the best selling items here.
Our cabin was on the Empress Deck, and I'd strongly recommend a reservation on this level. With slow elevators, and many stairs to climb this deck made the trek to the activities and dinner easy to manage. The cabin was adequate in size, clean and well stocked. The room safe requires a key, is small and located in the closet. Royal Caribbean offers a safe large enough for a camera or two, is accessible with the room key and is much easier to access. This seems like a simple fix. Carnival depends on the aging system of plastic keys, while the industry cruise ship and hotel standard is to use credit card size readers for access.
We paid the money for an outside cabin, and the view was best described as looking out a shower door covered in soap scum. We felt this was a waste of money as long as Carnival cuts corners on cleaning.
One note, the temperature varied considerably, and the thermostat consisted of a knob on the vent that only attempted to regulate airflow. It did little to change the temperature. We took a small fan that made the room much more comfortable, as we use a ceiling fan at home. I would bet in the summer sailing months the room temperature would be warmer than most would expect.
One 110v plug is in the cabin, and a simple 1250-watt hair dryer tripped the breaker. I called the pursers desk twice and was placed on hold for a total of 28 minutes. The assistant purser told me "guests in line at the counter had preferred access to their services", and I threatened to walk my wet, towel covered 46-year-old body to the atrium and join in the line. The breaker took almost 30 minutes to be reset.
Ports and Agenda: Cozumel offers much to do, and this time we went to Chankanaab Park. It was beautiful. We snorkeled right at waters edge, saw many species of fish and did the dolphin swim and snorkel tour. My entire family loved the facility. I would go again and do the taxi ride and arrange for my own extra events here and avoid the Carnival price markup.
The shops at the Carnival pier are newer than downtown, and offer the same merchandise. Cozumel shopping is not the best bargain for most merchandise of value.
Calica was the second port, and in 2002 we identified the port as a gravel pit. Carnival has upgraded this port, so now it is a gravel pit with a tacky flea market. We did the Xcaret Park tour again, and Carnival should be ashamed at how they manage people and lines for the buses here. No excuse exists for the pushing and confusion that families endured for their vacation dollars.
Xcaret was very beautiful, but requires much walking to see most of the sights. Don't miss the elevated open-air chapel at the top of the hill. The views are majestic.
Good and Bad: Most of the bad is described in the above text, and all can be fixed or at least improved on. Carnival has several million cruisers within a few hours drive of the Port of Galveston that are attracted to a less than 7 day cruise. At present the Ecstasy is the only game in town for short cruises and Carnival clearly knows they can cut corners.
Bad news travels fast, and with the grade B levels of maintenance and service people that return for second and third cruises aboard this ship will dwindle in number.
So, with all that said, we had a great time. My family works hard and plays hard, and this was our 6th cruise, the 4th on Carnival. We will not sail on one of Carnivals second tier vessels again until we read and hear better reviews. It has been said "you get what you pay for" and this ship, agenda and level of service clearly exemplifies exactly that.
Just returned from the 4 day cruise out of Galveston on the Ectasy. I have sailed out of Galveston on the Celebration twice so was really looking forward to a "newer, larger ship.
We parked at the EZ parking $30. for a 4 day cruise if you reserve ahead. They were great.
Check in went smoothly. We were on ship by 12:30 and found our stateroom on Empress. Bedding looked brand new. Since we did not have our luggage yet we went up to the Lido deck for some lunch.
I was very disapponted in the buffet, reheated mistery casseroles,very bland, the people behind the counter seem very bored & unhappy, I hoped this was only because it was the 1st meal and maybe they needed to restock the ship, but the disapointment continued the whole cruise, runny undercooked eggs for breakfast, soggy bacon.
The diningroom was great, staff friendly & helpful.
In cosumel we did Passion Island it was wonderful.
We also had the best Cabin Steward, Clinten from India. They do have a problem in the Starlight lounge, there is a smell in there that depending on where you sit smells likemildew or ar times sewage. The cruise director was great, I could have done without the assistant cruise directors middle school jokes, 4 days of fart jokes get old after the 1st day. Over all we had a great time, I hope the Ecstasy is just working out the kinks of this new port. Or maybe I have out grown carnival
This was our first cruise, so wanted to share our comments.
Getting on the ship was easy. We did early check-in at the Queen Mary at 10:30 am, walked around, and at 11:30 am stood in the line outside the terminal. They began boarding around 12:15 pm and we were on board by 12:30 pm.
Our cabin was on the Empress Deck, and it was cleaner and larger than we expected. Windows were dirty but guess they are hard to clean with the quick turn-arounds. Cabin steward was nice, helpful, and responsive. Luggage arrived by 4:00 pm.
While ship is slated to be replaced later this year, it was cleaner than we expected. Smoking is only allowed in a few areas, which is good. The musical shows were so-so. We had bar coupons in advance, but they seem to offer no benefit. Anything in excess is charged to your account.
We took the wine country tour which was enjoyable. Bus takes you 45 minutes outside of Ensenada and you visit 2 wineries. La Cetto is the better of the two.
Biggest disappointment was quality of the food. The buffets are of less qualitythan the Las Vegas buffets. Some of the food in the main dining rooms is poor. Orange juice was watered down. We ordered rack of lamb one night and got some type of lamb roast. We sent it back for another entree. Lobster tail was tough. Portions are small. We expected great food and lots of it, so was disappointed!!!! Probably will not take another Carnival cruise just because of the food.
Drinks are pricy... including sodas. Note: you can take wine and champagne with you on board. No limit .. we had 4 bottles between the 2 of us. We were not charged any corkage fees.
Overall, it was a fun time for a 3-day cruise.