We had such a wonderful time and I have to thank everyone for their reviews and opinions. They really helped us make our vacation choices.
First off, my husband and I have only been on two cruises. We are 38 and 33. Last year we were married on RCI Monarch of the Seas out of Fort Lauderdale. The 12/28 New Year's Elation cruise was our first Carnival cruise and we chose it due to price and itinerary (we wanted to see Belize). We had a terrific time and cannot say enough great things about the ship and it's crew. I had read a few negative reviews recently about the crowds, the kids, rude crew etc so I was a little nervous about what we may experience. We had absolutely no problems with any of the above. Maybe we hit Tiffany's at odd times, but I never stood in line behind more than 5 or 6 people. I never had a problem getting a drink from the bartender and we didn't pass a crew member that didn't say Hello or Happy New Year. We were even able to get deck chairseveryday that we wanted them. Maybe we were traveling under a lucky star J.
We arrived in Houston on Saturday 12/27/03 and stayed the night at the Courtyard Marriott by Hobby airport. The hotel was nice, but we were stuck without a car. The only restaurant in sight was Damon's at the Marriott. It was a short walk and the food was pretty good. My husband was very happy because they had an entire wall of big screen TV's and they were showing the Sat night football game. The hotel shuttled us back to Hobby Sunday morning so we could pick up our shuttle to Galveston. We used Galveston Limo and the ride went smoothly. We were on a shuttle by 11:30 am and arrived in Galveston by 12:15pm.
Embarkation went very quickly. We gave our luggage to a porter and headed in the building. The longest line we waited in was the Sail & Sign line. We had completed the Fun Pass online.along with everyone & their brother. There were at least 75 people in front of us in the Fun Pass line. There were about 10 people in the "traditional" line. Our line moved at a fairly steady pace though. Then we had our picture taken and headed on board. We were in our room (which was ready for us) by 1pm.
After we dropped off our bags in our room we headed for lunch on the Lido deck and then wandered around the ship. We actually saw dolphins swimming at the port. I couldn't believe my eyes. We saw several more in port while we were waiting to debark on the last day. Keep an eye out!
Our room was midship on the Riviera deck. The way the ship was rolling, I was glad we were on the lower deck although we were never sick. Yes, the carpeting was stained in the hallway and the choice of colors in the room was not attractive. It appeared there had been a water problem at one time. However, I didn't notice a smell and our room was clean. I didn't notice any mold in the bathroom. The little bowl of toothpaste, razors, floss, shower gel, etc was very nice. Our room steward, Gary, was always pleasant and helped us out with any request we had.
We were assigned the 8:30 seating in the Imagination dining room. Eddie & Sammy took great care of us. They were prompt and brought us two of things we didn't even ask for. It was great to be able to sample different dishes. Our service in the dining room was excellent! We had 8 people at out table and we loved our tablemates. The Carnival computer did a great job of matching us up. All eight of us were about the same age and had alot of the same interests. Most nights we were the last table out of the dining room. This was not due to service, but because we were all talking so much. We went to shows together and hit the midnight buffet. I feel very lucky to have met such a great group of people. Sammy and Eddie did a wonderful job at dinner. They were terrific and we enjoyed getting to know them. On the last night our table made sure to slip both of them some extra cash so they would know how much we appreciated them.
Rain, Rain, Rain. It didn't just rain, it poured. All Day! The wind was blowing and the ship was rocking. I didn't see or hear of anyone getting sick, but we could definitely feel it. I was disappointed that I couldn't sit on deck, but watching a storm at sea was really cool. It was truly amazing to see lightning strike at sea and to watch the swells around the ship. It is a sight I won't forget.
We met the other posters from Cruise Critic for a meet & mingle in the Drama bar. Thanks Patti (P2Lockhart) for arranging the get together. It was fun to meet everyone and finally put a face with a name.
Other than eating, which I did several times on Monday, I didn't find too much to do. The rain limited the activities, in my opinion. I'm not a big gambler, so that wasn't my cup of tea and I had my shore excursions already planned so I didn't need to attend that talk. I wanted to check out the Trivia, but it was so crowded due to rain that I couldn't get close enough to hear what was going on.
Tuesday - No rain & sunny Progreso: We took the Dzibitchaltun ruins tour through Carnival. We took a half hour bus ride to the ruins. Our guide Manuel Espinosa was great. He was incredibly knowledgeable about Progreso, the ruins and the surrounding area. We had never taken a trip to see any ruins so we were not disappointed with Dzib. I have heard that Chichen Itza is amazing, but we just didn't want to take the bus ride to it. I particularly enjoyed the ride through Progreso. The town has not become touristy like Cozumel yet. There were houses with mules parked outside and signs all over town to "Vote for Poncho". Manuel explained that the shopping on the dock has only been there for a couple of years. He said that many of the farmers are leaving their crops to come to town to try to sell to the tourists. The income that comes from the cruisers is a steady income and they can make more than farming. I feel lucky to have seen Progreso before tourism takes over.
Wednesday - Sunny Cozumel: We docked at the Puerta Maya pier. This was a much nicer pier than the International Pier. We took a cab ($10) to Playa Corona to snorkel. We got there about 9:45am and got a palapa right by the water. There was no admission fee, but we had to rent masks and fins (we bought the snorkels on the ship $5 each). The masks & fins were $8 per person. The day was beautiful and the snorkeling was good. We had only snorkeled once before and we have never been to Dzul Ha or Chaankanab so I can't compare. The dos equis and sol beer was $3 and the chips/salsa was $2. Several snorkel excursions came through so it would get pretty crowded, but then clear out again after they left. We stayed here until about 1pm. Then we went back to the ship to change. We headed downtown by cab ($6) to shop and have lunch at Pancho's Backyard.
Thursday - Sunny & VERY windy Belize: Tendering to this port was an exercise in frustration. Yes, I know that the carnival shore trips get priority, but it was still an aggravation. We had booked the Coral Breeze excursion and needed to get tender tickets. The Capers stated to be in the Cole Porter Lounge to receive the tickets at 8am. We got to the lounge at 7:30am with Patti & Todd (P2Lockhart) and their family (also on the Coral Breeze excursion). We sat in the front to be sure we were first in line to get the first tender off the ship. Other cruisers started to trickle in and there were about 40 or so people waiting for tender tickets. At about 8:05 two staff members walked into the back of the lounge and said they were there to hand out tender tickets so come on up. At that point a mad rush to get a ticket happened. Luckily, Patti's husband Todd happened to be at the back of lounge. It all worked out and we were on the first tender, but I thought they could have handled it much better. It was like a free for all for tickets. It didn't matter that we were there first or how long we had waited. We were told to come back to the Cole Porter lounge at 9am to go board the tender. From 9am - 9:45am we were told it would only be 5 more minutes. That got old pretty quickly.
Finally at 9:45 we were led to our tender. The tender we were on held about 50 - 60 people and was very fast. The people in the back of our tender were drenched before we made it to port. The ones in front were being bounced all over the place. I would suggest finding a seat towards the back, but still under cover.
The Coral Breeze excursion was fabulous and Belize was beautiful. There were only 12 of us booked (all from the Elation and from the CC message boards) and we were picked up at the port and taken on a 30 minute ride to Caye Caulker. The lunch requests were turned in and we headed out to snorkel. When we got in the water we saw many rays. Our guide Leon picked one up that was about two and a half feet in diameter. He then let my husband hold it. He was thrilled. There were a couple of nurse sharks in the area and we saw a few more when we got back in the boat. We were then taken to the coral gardens to snorkel. However, we didn't get to see too much there. The winds were VERY strong and were creating quite a current. Leon didn't think it was safe to take us too far over the reef. I was disappointed but I had to agree with him. Better safe than sorry. Lunch on Caye Caulker was very good. We both had the shrimp fajitas. As we were sitting on the island I felt like we were in that Corona commercial. After about an hour of relaxing on the beach and touring the island we all loaded in the boat and headed back to Belize City.
Two of our tablemates were on the ill-fated shore tour to Goff's Caye purchased through Carnival. They felt there was some sort of mix up since it was New Year's day and possibly the vendor paid another boat to pick up the passengers. She said the boat was too small and was over loaded with people. When they made it to Goff's Caye the tour guide said they did not have snorkel equipment for anyone, but the next boat would bring it. She said that the next boat had snorkel equipment for it's passengers, but none for the previous boat. After they spent an hour or so on the island they were ready to go. As a group they told the guide that they wanted to go back to the ship. Again, he loaded everyone into the small boat and headed back to the ship. As they pulled away from Goff's Caye, the boat was stuck in the sand since it was too full. They were tugged out to deeper water and were on their way. About halfway there the engines stopped. The captain said the engines were about to overheat and had to be turned off. My tablemate said that she could see the panic start and a couple of women were about to cry. Everyone started putting on their life jackets. The wind was very strong that day and they really did fear the boat would capsize and someone would get hurt. Finally, the captain was able to get them back to the ship. The group went to the purser's desk and complained. They were originally offered a refund of the shore tour and a $50 credit towards a future cruise. I don't think that made anyone happy. A meeting was arranged for the next day in the conference room for the passengers involved, the shore tour manager and the hotel manager. They offered the passengers a refund of the price of the tour, a refund for any snorkels or underwater cameras they bought and a refund of 1/7th the price of the cruise. The refund was taken off the sail & sign balance before the end of the cruise. Our tablemates were happy with that and thought it was reasonable.
New Years Eve: After dinner we went to the Lido deck about 11:15pm with our tablemates. The weather was warm and only a little windy. The band was playing and it was a great party. We went up one deck so we could look down at the band. There was a big countdown at midnight and the ship blew it's horn four times. The entire ship was lit up. Everyone was throwing streamers or blowing their noisemakers. It was just so nice to be celebrating with good company and warm weather! I didn't see any champagne in the hot tubs, but the crew was passing out plenty of it.
Friday & Saturday During our two sea days we hung out on deck, soaked up the sun and ate.a lot. We sat at the back of the ship and didn't have any trouble getting deck chairs. I didn't witness a lot of chair saving, but I wasn't really paying much attention either.
What was good: The service. I cannot say enough about the crew and staff on the ship. We thought they were all very friendly and accommodating, especially in the dining room. The public rooms. I did not find the public rooms too gaudy. They definitely were themed, but I thought it was interesting to see how each room was done differently. The elevators. I know others have complained about this, but we did not have any issues with the elevators. Compared to the Monarch, we thought we were in elevator heaven. There were three sets and we rarely had to wait for one.
What needed improvement: The food. Some nights in the dining room were excellent, (sirloin steak, filet mignon), some were just plain bad (lobster tail) but most were fair. Breakfast at Tiffany's was ok, but the omelets were good. The pizza and ice cream were always great.
The shows. We went to the Rhythm show, the Spin show, Lubo's balancing act and the talent show in the Mikado. We only had problems finding seats on two nights and that was our own fault. We had the 8:30 seating for dinner and we sat and talked to our tablemates until about 10:40. By the time we made out way to the Mikado all of the seats were gone. The nights that we made an effort to be in the lounge by 10:20 there were plenty of seats. I thought Lubo's act was amazing. The things he could balance on his head was unbelievable. The rest of the shows were ok. The midnight comedians were only ok too. I didn't find them all that funny.
Waiting to debark. We were waiting to hear our tags called while sitting at a table by the pool. We could not hear the announcements. All week we could hear every announcement outside until it was time to leave. I'm not sure why the speakers outside stopped working on the last day.
What was bad: There wasn't anything I could classify as just plain bad. Ok, maybe the lobster tails. Other than that, we had a fabulous time.
The following are just my observations and opinions. I really didn't feel crowded or overrun by children during the cruise. I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of lines and how easily we could move about the ship. The couple of incidents did not in any way lessen our enjoyment of the cruise. However, by day seven (2nd consecutive sea day) I think the kids were starting to get cabin fever. They seemed to be less interested in organized activities and more interested in running throughout the ship at full speed. I think maybe a seven day cruise is too much confinement for some kids.
Kids in the hot tubs: We saw hot tubs completely filled by young kids. I even saw one with water wings on jumping from the side into the hot tub. We didn't want to get in them, but I felt sorry for any adult that wanted to try.
Kids in the elevators: We saw kids (approx 8-12 yr olds) sitting on the floor of the elevators eating ice cream and holding the door open so the elevator would not move from the floor. We also saw a different set of kids sitting on the elevator floor playing cards. Again making it difficult to use the elevators. We also saw kids playing tag by running down the stairwell and darting on to the atrium elevators at the last second. We were almost trampled trying to get off the elevator.
Debarkation: We had a 4:40pm flight and we were on the Riviera deck. This meant we were the last off the ship. We didn't care though. Our choices were to wait on the ship or wait at the airport. We had each purchased 2 liters of alcohol and you are allowed 1 liter per person. We had to get in the duty line at 7:30am to pay the duty on the two extra bottles. However, the agent that reviewed our customs card signed off without charging us. He waived the duty and that was a nice surprise. Then we had to wait for our colored tags to be called to go through immigration. Once it was called it took about 20 minutes to get through the line. Then we had to wait for our tags to be called to get off the ship. By 11am we were off and headed back to Galveston.
We had a wonderful time, met great people and would not hesitate to take this cruise again. It made for a memorable New Year's and fun way to bring in 2004.
Space on this ship is more than adequate. Cabins are roomy for a ship and so are the bathrooms. Since this is a fairly new ship, everything is in really good shape. Food was much better than expected and entertainment was first rate. Dining room staff made me feel like I was their favorite cruiser, even though they do this day in and day out for many months at a time. Weather was awful during this cruise (12/14-12/21/03); overcast, windy and cool except for Progresso and alternate port of Calica.
Couldn't land in Belize at all because of rough water and no water excursions in Cozumel for same reason. Captain and crew, however, kept everyone informed of conditions and found an alternate port quickly. Ship is absolutely gorgeous although a little inconvenient to get around . . . really big and a lot of walking is required. Disembarkation is a mess once you get off the ship...people everywhere, cars everywhere, no convenient way to get around it. Would go again, but would probably park car in Houston and take a shuttle to ship.
This was our 17th cruise, 4th on Carnival, 3rd from Galveston.
Parking: Good system, similar to most ports. Drop off your bags then go park the car. There are 3 "official" parking places. Contrary to the competitions signs the official lots DO take credit cards for payment. Shuttle bus service back to the lot is prompt. Please note that you are NOT allowed to bring luggage on the shuttle. Please drop it off at the pier. The driver tells us that the new lot (which has an interesting advertising campaign) is cheaper and will transport your luggage to the pier but there is not round the clock security and there have been problems with vandalism.
Embarcation: Moved quickly. From entering the building to walking up the gang way took 25 minutes.
Ship: The ugliest ship I've ever been on. Even though the designer has cut back on his use of neon, the colors are awful. I actually had trouble relaxing the first few days because the colors and design elements were sooo garish. Eventually, though it did all just blend in to the subconscious but gads, it's ugly.
The ship is in good repairand the only big thing we noticed was that none of the clocks on board worked. It was perpetually 11:25 everywhere on board.
Ports: This itinerary was Progresso, Cozumel and Belize. Progresso is the spot for Chichenitza which is a fabulous trip. The bus ride is 2 1/2 hour drive but not bad. Luxury busses with good narration on the way there. The guides spoke very good english and were enjoyable. The trip home we had a short informational segment to answer some questions then everyone napped. Cozumel: What a great place. Been here dozens of times and still love taking a cab to Chankanaab and relaxing on that beautiful beach. The local restaurant there is quite good, especially the ceviche and Mexican octupus. Hey and don't forget the Sol Cerveza! Belize: The cave tubing excursion was cancelled due to heavy rains the previous week so we did a city tour and had an enjoyable time strolling about. Nothing particularly grand abut the town other than the Anglican church and the shopping area is done up quite nice but hey, it's a shopping area so what can you say. There are two pharmacies there that do an out-the-door-and-down-the-way business. No perscriptions are needed and the pharmacist at one shop is an American expat who can answer all your questions. i.e. Viagara is advertised at $8 per tab and RetinA is $15/tube.
On previous trips we had snorkeled here and the experience was one of the best we'd ever had.
Food: Typical Carnival fare. Beef was generally very good but chicken and fish were very dry and disappointing. The buffet seemed to have fewer choices than I recall from previoys Carnival trips and there was a good deal of grumbling among the passengers about that, but I never went hungry - cause, hey it's Carnival and there's 24/7 ice cream!
Beverages: Drinks were a bit more this trip but quality was good. No complaints.
Service: Service was just fine. Friendly staff. The ship wa only on it's sixth run out of Galveston, having previously sailed from California. The staff tells us that the Texas crowd is much friendly and less demanding and they seemed to be happy in their new port. There is no wine steward and wine service is handled by the waiter so some evenings we were well into our meal before receiving our wine and that was a bit bothersome but otherwise things were okay.
I do find the nightly routines by the waiters tedious and wish they would reduce it to once per trip. It seemed every night just as we were preparing for desert or coffee our wait staff disappeared. I think Carnival would do better to consider leaving entertainment to entertainers and food service to waiters. However, the skits were not as lengthly as they had been on prior trips so there was that to be thankful for.
Entertainment: Quite good. Although the best entertainment of all was provided by a group of guests. We had a gathering of about 30 cross dressers on board and they provided quite a show daily.
Casino: Quite a few jackpots were hit so some of the slots were pretty loose. The tables were very crowded and they need to reduce the seats per table and simple add tables. 10 per blackjack table is just unmanageable. Also using a 10 deck shoe significantly increases the house's chances. We came out ahead but it was less enjoyable and we spent less time in the casino than usualy because of overcrowded tables.
Disembarcation. Went as smoothly as it can with 2,000 plus people, most of whom are incapable of following directions. We were in our car headed home by 9:20.
Overall: Nice cruise, nice staff, mediocre food, okay entertainment - ugly boat.
This is my review of the Dec.22-29th sailing of the Elation from L.A. to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. My husband and I were on our honeymoon. We had never cruised before.
Embarkation: We got there at 12:30 for a 1:30 "official" embarkation. The line was already moving, but slowly. The ticket agent who signed us in was very friendly. Finally, we boarded the ship and found our cabin. After embarkation, we had a couple of hours before the muster drill, which went smoothly. It's dull, but after that the fun starts!
Cabin: We were thrilled by our cabin! We had booked our trip through Priceline.com (great price!), so we were a little nervous about what we were getting into. It was an outside cabin with portholes, right up near the front of the ship, on the Empress deck. It rocked quite a bit, but we liked that. The portholes let in tons of light, which was good because I tend to be claustrophobic. The cabin itself was much larger that I expected (even the shower's big enough for two), and we even got bathrobes and toiletries. There was plentyof drawer and closet space, and I didn't even use the hanging shoe bag and hanging sweater bag I had brought (as recommended on the message boards). Our steward was nice, but I guess I was expecting more of him. We asked him for four drinking glasses, for instance, and most days only got two. Also, dirty glasses were never taken from our room.after awhile we had to take them up to the lido deck ourselves just to get them out of there. We were also supposed to get beach towels brought to us each day for our excursions, but one night he forgot them and we had to hunt him down the next day so we could have some. He did occasionally fold towel animals for us, and every morning and evening we got fresh bath towels, which was nice.
Dinner: We had the 8:30 late seating in the Imagination dining room. 8:30 is a little TOO late, in my opinion, but 5:00 is too early, so I guess I prefer 8:30. The dining room is COLD! We were seated at a rectangular table with four other couples. That meant 10 of us at a table that was designed to seat 8. They had placed a second small table with ours, which meant the couple arriving last had to sit across from each other instead of next to each other. Needless to say, they were very unhappy about this! One of the other couples at our table was very grouchy and unfriendly, but fortunately, they went straight to the maitre'd after dinner to be moved to an earlier seating. We were glad to see them go. Besides, then there was room for each person to sit next to his/her spouse.
Our waiter was named Sabby, and he was very rude the first night. He argued with pretty much everyone at the table when they placed their order. Most of us were new to cruising, and we didn't know the system of ordering the appetizer (AND soup.I thought you could have either appetizer OR soup), plus the entree and sometimes even dessert all at once. That first night, I made the mistake of looking at the "chef recommends" section to order my entree.turns out I was ordering another appetizer instead of the entree. It was confusing that first night and he acted all put out that we didn't know what we were doing. In addition, he never once offered seconds to anyone, and was annoyed on following nights when some of the men ordered two entrees right out of the gate. On the third night, a second couple from our table asked to be seated at another table because of Sabby. I think the maitre'd must have spoken to him after that, because he did get better. Not great.just better.
On one night, they brought a cake to our table to celebrate our honeymoon. It was a pretty big cake, big enough to share with our tablemates. The funny thing was that they brought a cake to another couple at our table too, who weren't even married. I guess it was a mistake, but Sabby wouldn't listen when they tried to tell him. Oh, well, they sang "Happy Honeymoon to You" to all four of us.
Food: The food was okay, but nothing to write home about. Most of the food was served lukewarm. We always had LOTS to eat, though. The portions were not as small as I had heard. The pizzeria is always open, with a few gourmet varieties as well as pepperoni or cheese pizza, or Caesar salad. The Lido deck serves yummy (and big!) cheeseburgers all afternoon. The breakfast buffet runs late, if you're a late sleeper like I am. The desserts in Tiffany's are pretty to look at, but flavorless. The soft-serve ice cream is good. The lobster in the dining room was a little tough, but my husband was always pleased with the steaks and prime rib. The grilled salmon on my last night was yummy. There is a sushi bar open in the early evenings, but we never tried it. Our tablemates said it was good.
As for beverages, I tried the iced tea in Tiffany's and the Cappuccino in the dining room. I didn't like them. Mostly I drank the diet coke I brought. (We hand-carried two 12-packs of diet coke and two bottles of wine onboard.we also smuggled in a fifth of vodka in Dasani water bottles.) The martinis in Gatsby's Great Bar were good, and a great price considering we ordered them with Bombay Blue Sapphire Gin.
Formal nights: I really loved the formal nights. I had bought two formals and couldn't wait to wear them, and I couldn't wait to see my husband in his tux. Most of the ladies were dressed to the nines, while the men wore dark suits (very few tuxes). It was wonderful to see everyone looking so nice! On non-formal nights, the dining room was full of blue jeans (and baseball caps and cowboy hats.a huge pet peeve of mine, even at McDonalds), and even men who hadn't shaved that day. I realize it's everyone's vacation, but there are always alternatives other than the dining room if you don't feel like shaving that night. JMHO.
There were lots of picture opportunities that night, with different backgrounds and photographers set up in several locations. I recommend having your pictures taken at lots of different locations on formal night, to make sure you have lots to choose from. We bought lots of pictures, because they turned out nice.
Night life: We are real night-owls, and were very excited about having a non-stop nightlife. However, on the first night the ship was DEAD. I guess everyone was tired from traveling to the ship, because after that it got much livelier at night. The dance clubs were not very good, though. Romeo and Juliet had a live band (not very good) that didn't draw very many listeners (I wanted to spend a little more time in there, but the room was so cold I couldn't stay). Jekyll and Hyde had dance music playing, but it drew mostly teenagers and they didn't dance much. The music in there was not very good for dancing at all, in fact. Even on Disco night they didn't play disco songs. The DJ (named Colin) was young and inexperienced and wasn't even familiar with most of the songs that are perennially popular for dancing. He played a few (not all) of our requests, and when he actually did play our requests, people would come dance until the songs were over and he went back to playing what he wanted. Then people would leave in droves. It was amazing. We enjoyed the casino a lot, and spent a lot of time just hanging out with a couple from our table.
Entertainment: The live shows were pretty good. The comedians were funny (Cameron on two nights, and another guy on a couple of other nights). The dance shows were called "Rhythm" and "Spin". We liked "Spin" best. We skipped the talent show (they showed video of the talent show later on the cabin TV and it looked pretty lame), and we skipped the kids' Christmas show.
Workout room: We went to the workout room every day except for two. Often we found the bikes all taken (our preferred form of exercise) so we would walk/jog around the track on the top deck. One day it was so windy up there, my husband's glasses blew off his face and almost off the deck! It was fun to play up there in the wind, where we were shoved around so much by it. Also, the view up there was always fantastic, especially in Mazatlan.
Puerto Vallarta: We took a two-hour excursion called "Mayan Beach Party." We just wanted a chance to play in the ocean. It was a 25 minute drive to the resort where they had a nice pool and some lounge chairs on the beach. The weather was overcast and I was cold, but the surf was nice and the water was warm.
Mazatlan: We didn't really want to shop, so we didn't go to the "Golden Zone." We were virtually accosted by taxi drivers who wanted to take us there, though. In fact, for a little while we didn't think we'd even be able to walk out of the passenger terminal because it seemed to be blocked off to all but taxi passengers. The taxi drivers would not help us find the way out. Finally, we just opened a huge gate that led out to the street and walked for awhile. It was a nice walk, but very hilly. We walked along the BEAUTIFUL shore and enjoyed the first sunshine we'd had the whole trip. The scenery here is much lovelier than what we saw in Puerto Vallarta. Then I got blisters and we decided to head back to the ship and maybe grab a taxi to the swimming beach. However, the weather turned cloudy and chilly just then so we stayed on the ship for the rest of the day. We enjoyed having the water slide, pool and hot tub mostly to ourselves.
Cabo San Lucas: Finally the weather was warm! We took a two-hour snorkel and sail cruise to Land's End. The water was COLD and there weren't many fish to see. My husband got stung by a jellyfish or something. He got some little welts, but they weren't much worse than a bee sting. The rock formations there are AWESOME and we had a great time despite the cold water. The only way to get back on the ship in Cabo is to take tendering boats. We were told the last tendering boat would leave for the ship at 11:30, but at 12:00 the line for tendering was still REALLY long, and by the time we got to the ship it was 12:50!
In conclusion: I would definitely recommend cruising to anyone! The weather on our trip was crummy, but there's no way to control that. Most of the public rooms on the ship were COLD, which was somewhat disappointing because we had planned the trip to Mexico so we could be warm for a change! The weather was finally sunny on the sail back home, and the Lido deck was then really full of deck chairs with people so glad to finally see some sun. We had such a fabulous time, though, staying up late, sleeping in late, getting waited on, and just having time for ourselves. We got to meet friendly people and eat all day (tee hee). We will definitely cruise again. Next time, we hope to take our kids with us (my husband has two and I have three, all aged between 8-15 years old.)
We left on a one week to Mexico aboard the Elation. The cruise was wonderful. The ship was great, the food was great and the service was excellent. We would definately go again. The shore excursions were all great with the exception of Deer Island at Mazatlan. Save your money.
It was a tent on a barren island. We were able to Kayak but not go into the water because of the Jelly fish. One man in our party didn't heed the warnings and got stung 3 times. I also did not like Mazatlan. Too many vendors and not my idea of a vacation destination. Loved Puerto Vallarta and Cabo. Would HIGHLY recommend the Los Caletas Shore Excusion in Puerto Vallarta. Paradise. Relaxing. Wonderful.
Our cruise ship, the Carnival 'Elation', was to leave port from Los Angeles and set sail down to Mexico. The orginal itinerary had us going to Puerto Vallarta first, then Mazatlan, and finally Cabo San Lucas. However, due to a problem with too many cruise ships being in port at once, our itinerary was reversed, which meant that we sailed all the way down to Cabo San Lucas first, and headed back towards Puerto Vallarta.
Our cruise director, Greg, assured us this was a good thing, as it meant more time for us in Cabo San Lucas, which he claimed as being the best port. However, to leave port, you should first have your luggage, and unfortunately not all our luggage made it to Los Angeles at the same time as us. When we were leaving Calgary, they informed us there was a problem with one of the cargo bays on the airplane, and that approximately 60 pieces of luggage would be left behind. United Airlines assured us the luggage would be sent out on the next available flight, and that our luggage would arrive by 5:30 p.m. One problem however,the cruise ship was leaving at 4:00 p.m. so we wouldn't have time to stick around. Fortunately most of our luggage made it, and we were only missing two suitcases, one belonging to Melanie and the other to Sheryl. (Luckily, being women, they had multiple suitcases, most of which did indeed arrive).
Carnival Cruise line couldn't have been more accomodating, and they had the delayed luggage routed to Cabo San Lucas, our first stop. So in 2 day's time, Melanie & Sheryl would be able to pick up the rest of their luggage, which was delivered right to our cabin. Carnival Cruise also gave them $100 credit to buy anything they couldn't live without for the first 2 days. Once again, being women, they bought shoes. Just kidding. Another couple from Calgary who were in the same situation told us that Carnival couldn't help them, because they had won their cruise, but had booked their own flight. To make matters worse, not a single piece of their luggage had arrived, so they had nothing for their first 2 days on board. This is something to think about for those of you who are thinking about booking your cruise & flight separately. If anything goes wrong, i.e. delayed flight, lost luggage, Carnival won't be held responsible.'The Elation' Despite being well aware of the scientific principles behind buoyancy, one is still amazed that such a huge structure can float. How big is the Elation? It's actually of comparable size to the Titanic, I did some quick research:
The porters brought all our luggage to our room, which was located on U deck, near the rear of the ship. It certainly wasn't the quietest room, you could hear a lot of noise at night, but it didn't bother me. The room was about 100 square feet, which for 4 adults isn't a lot of space. Somehow 4 beds were squeezed into this tiny area, 2 bunkbeds, a regular bed, and a bed on the floor. Once you throw a dresser and a bathroom in there, and unpack all your luggage, there's about 2 feet of actual walking space.
In general, all the food is located on the rear end of the ship, and all the entertainment is near the front end. The place where you end up eating the most is called 'Tiffany's', and can best be described as a cafeteria-style dining room that's open 24 hours a day. In the morning they have eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc, all served buffet style. For lunch they have hamburgers, chicken, steak, etc. For their midnight buffet, they have a chef preparing giant crepes, and of course the pizzeria is open 24 hours a day! In short, if you go hungry on a cruise ship, you've got a problem. They say the average weight gain on a 7 day cruise is 5 pounds and I believe it. I found the food to be delicious, but the cruise booking agent said if we had ever been on a Royal Carribean Cruise (supposedly the best food of all the cruise lines) we would find a huge difference in food quality. However, talking to people who had been on both Royal Carribean, and Carnival, those claims are unfounded.
'Tiffany's' is just ONE of the dining rooms available to you. The main dining room, the one where everybody goes to for dinner, serves breakfast & lunch as well. In addition, there is also a sushi bar, and a large buffet available on the main outside deck (Lido deck). Conceivably, you could stuff yourself 24 hours a day on the cruise ship.
There are 2 formal nights where everyone dresses to impress, but the rest of the time you're just expected to wear decent casual clothes in the dining room. Hopefully you will be seated with some great dinner companions like we were, because you'll be spending 7 dinner nights with them! If you can tell right off the bat you're not going to 'mesh well' with your dinner guests, politely take the maitre d' aside and ask to be moved.
Our maitre d', Merwyn from India, was superb, and catered to our every whim, he even brought me gourmet macaroni & cheese. His assistant, Victor from Russia, was also great, and both of them chatted with us quite a bit during the cruise. One note, you are expected to tip your table staff, which was no surprise to us, but what did surprise us was learning that these guys are paid absolutely no wages. They are not American citizens, and thus are not required to be paid any minimum wage. This is the way it is on all cruise lines, not just Carnival. Merwyn & Victor pointed out that Carnival treats them very well, and of course they can live & eat for free, but their wages are based entirely on tips. The 'suggested tip' is $25 per person for your maitre d' (for the entire week) and $14.50 for the assistant waiter. They have 4 tables (2 tables at the early seating, 2 at the late), with approximately 10 people per table, which means conceivably they could earn $1000 in a week, if everyone pays the recommended amount. However, many tables are full of kids, and I guarantee most parents won't be shelling out $25/kid, and some people are just jerks and don't tip. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the head waiter takes a percentage of the tip. These guys also seem to work 18 hours a day, I see them working bright & early in the morning, all the way into the dead of the night. Your cabin attendant will also be expecting a $25 tip from each person, so when you book your cruise, tack another $100 on to it in your head.
When you book your cruise, you'll have a choice of being seated for the early dinner (5:30ish) or the late dinner (8:00ish). Personally, we liked the late dinner, because all the entertainment starts right after the late dinner. With the early dinner, you'd be sitting around bored, waiting for the late dinner folks to finish. Plus, when you're at port in Mexico, you can stay longer without worrying about coming back on time for dinner.
We didn't see much of our cabin attendant, Yul, in person, but it is their job to be discrete. You could certainly see his effects though. If you leave your cabin for more than a half-hour, expect to come back to find it all tidied up. Once a day Yul would leave chocolates on our pillows, and make animals out of our towels. Overall, I thought he did an excellent job, and the general consensus on the ship seemed to be everyone was pleased with their cabin attendants.
Our cruise director, Greg, was excellent. The cruise director is basically your M.C. for the entertainment in the theatre (Mikado Lounge), and he did a great job. Greg was very funny, and really seemed to get involved with the crowd. The rest of the staff was excellent as well, and were 100% courteous and considerate at all times. According to Greg, 'The Elation' has been rated #1 in the Carnival fleet via the passenger feeback forms you receive at the end of the cruise. Apparently 'The Elation' was rated #1 in cleanliness, entertainment, staff, and food, although I have no way of verifying this. Greg really did seem to be proud of his crew though.
Each night, in the Mikado Lounge, you are treated to at least one entertaining show. There were 2 Las Vegas-style revue shows that were pretty decent. Obviously this isn't Broadway, so don't expect too much and you won't be dissapointed. In the Mikado Lounge there are quite a few seats that have views obstructed by poles, so get there early if you want a good seat. Often times there will be a bingo game before a show, so sit through the bingo game, and acquire yourself a good spot.
There were a few comedians, each of which had a regular show, and then an 'adults only' show later on around midnight. I found the comedians to be really good, especially 'Jarome'. Jarome is a young black guy who I thought was really talented, and made fun of all the quirky experiences you'll find on the cruise ship. Jarome also gave a bonus show in the Mikado Lounge during the entire debarkation process (end of the cruise), which as experienced cruisers will tell you, can be the most boring part of the cruise.
There was also a talent show, which was alright (every 'talent' was singing), some funny audience-participation skits, and of course a world-famous fiddler! I'm not sure if they're on 'The Elation' all the time, but if the classical music girls are performing, be sure to check them out. They are 3 blonde girls from Poland, who play wonderful classical music, and are very easy on the eye. If I had my way they would have their own show in the Mikado Lounge!
There were a few 'party nights' on the main deck, outside, but it wasn't used as often as I imagined it would be. I always pictured everyone using the pool a lot, but hardly anyone did at all, except for little kids. Mind you, the weather wasn't the greatest coming out of Los Angeles, and when you're at sea it can get pretty windy. Unless you're a sucker, don't buy the drinks on board. They're $7.50 a pop ($10 Canadian!) and they are watered down. Do what we did, and sneak your alcohol on board in your suitcase (they don't check luggage). Sneaking alcohol on after this point is much trickier, when you come back on board after a day in Mexico, they scan your stuff and 'hold your alcohol for you' until you disembark. Just bring a few bottles of Vodka, and make your own drinks with the free orange juice & lemonade!
Our first stop, on our reverse itinerary, was Cabo San Lucas, which is apparently the nicest port of the three. It definitely seemed nice enough, but looked a lot like the other two ports to me. I swear the same litle girl sells chicklets in all 3 ports. We just walked around the Cabo San Lucas boardwalk, there really wasn't much to see besides a few stores. Cabo seems to be the most modernized of the 3 ports, and the cleanest. It might be a good idea to look up some highlights of the city first, so you don't end up just walking around all day like we did.
The second stop was Mazatlan. You'll want to take a taxi from port, otherwise it's a long walk to anything worth seeing. Don't worry about there being a shortage of taxis. You'll see many glorified golf carts zooming around dangerously, those are the taxis. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, negotiate a price with the driver before you get in the taxi. Point to a spot on your map, ask how much, and then offer him half.
We had our driver take us to the Mazatlan beach boardwalk, and started near the cliff divers, and worked our way towards Senor Frogs. We never made it all the way to the so-called 'Golden Zone', but I don't know why you'd want to go there anyways. Ask any local about The Golden Zone and they'll just laugh. They'll tell you that the Golden Zone is for suckers, and if you want any sort of real deal on jewelery, you need to go to the less touristy areas. Senor Frogs was fun, but pretty pricey.
Our last stop was Puerto Vallarta, and was the stop I was looking the most forward to, because we had reserved ourselves a spot on the 'Unimog Outback Adventure' tour. It's $80 a person, but it's about 7 hours, and in my opinion well worth it. If you don't know what a Unimog is, they're very powerful off-road vehicles designed for the German army. The tour takes you deep into a Mexican Jungle, and you stop off at a small village that gives you a true sense of what most Mexicans live like. You are also given a lot of information the the plants & trees in the jungle. Along the way you're fed all the alcohol you want, and at the end there is a buffet, with more alcohol, and a very nice beach to swim at. At $80 it's one of the pricier tours offered by Carnival (although not by much), but everyone who goes on it says it's worth it. Until the Unimogs came up, I had planned on renting dune buggies, which would have been a blast as well.
Things I'm Glad I Brought My own alcohol An alarm clock Multiple electrical outlet adapter (there's only one plugin in your cabin) A video camera Photo ID
Overall, I think Carnival is a great way to go, althought it's the only cruise line I've been on so I really can't compare. I would definitely cruise on Carnival again, and I really can't think of any complaints. If you have any questions feel free to give me a shout.
We had a wonderful time on The Elation to Mexico. This is our third cruise on Carnival and I am anxious for more.
Boarding on this cruise went very smoothly for us - we got to the pier about an hour and a half before the stated boarding time and there were already tons of people there. There were a lot of Carnival reps availabe to direct us to the correct areas and the only confusion was that there was no clear indication that you had to check your bags with the porter before you entered the terminal. I think we were on the ship within half an hour of arriving. We had the same experience on two San Jaun sailings with Carnival. Other cruises we have been on have taken up to two hours. Note that carry on baggage is checked very carefully and if you have any liquor with you it will be taken away and returned to you on the last day of the cruise. (This goes for any liquor purchase in ports). We do not drink but fair warning for those of you who do- drinks are about 5$ apiece.
Our Cabin (we received an upgrade from 1C to 4C) was fairly plain but had more space than many cruise lines. We were eating on the Lido deck by 12:30.
The ship has beautiful public rooms, my favourite was the inside boulevard or promenade that ran the length of the ship. A great place for people watching and eating sushi. You can even sit in the massage chairs although be prepared for quite a rigorous workout - not recommended if you have back problems.
The food in the dining rooms was excellent, with lots of seafood and capuccinos and espressos served without additional charge! I didn't care for their desserts but then I am extremely fussy in this area and prefer rich, moist desserts, Carnivals seem to be dry and they all taste diet. We had most of our meals in the dining room because of the availability of the espressos and capuccinos so we can't comment on the buffet meals in the Lido. It was always packed with people so that is probably a good sign.
Entertainment was adequate - the stage area appears slightly worn and the quality of the revues is not as good as on some other lines. They did have an excellent comedian on one night. One thing to make note of is that the show lounge fills up quite early and the seats in the balcony do not have good sight lines so you need to get in there about a half hour before the show starts to get a seat on the main floor.
We went on tours in Mazatlan (Sierra Madre tour- 7 hours)which was excellent and in Puerto Vallarta (countryside adventure) which was also good. The Carnival tours seem to be more reasonably priced than many of the other cruise lines. I would recommend a tour in Mazatlan since the city is not very attractive and the shopping is very kitschy and overpriced.
The ship is four years old and is kept very clean but is does show some signs of wear - nothing that will affect your enjoyment. My one gripe is that the bathrooms could have received a bit more attention.
Disembarkation was a nightmare but the blame for this could be Immigration and not Carnival. If you are planning flights home after the cruise I would definately suggest you not book a flight before 3:00 P.M.
This was a most enjoyable cruise and worth taking a second time.ehogan
I'll preface by saying this was my first cruise. I was afraid I would be claustrophobic with 2000 other passengers as well as 900 crewmembers but the ship never felt crowded. There was plenty of space to move around and many quiet spaces when you wanted to avoid people. The ship was also cleaner than I expected. I expected that with 2000 passengers there would be trash here and there but that was not the case.
Just as I had heard, there was lots of food. It was decent food, but nothing great. The wait staff was attentive and once ordered, the food would come quickly. Once each evening the wait staff would entertain the diners with an amusing dance like the Macarena or sing a song. It was kind of cheesy but some diners seemed to enjoy it.(not me)
The fitness area was not good. There were some pneumatic machines and some dumbbells, four stationary bikes and five treadmills. One of them was broken. It seemed to be the most cramped room on the ship. There was a steam room, a dry sauna and two whirlpools in the fitness area andthey were all adequate.
The pool area was not as crowded as I though it would be. I had read horror stories about people hoarding chairs and claiming them hours before they intended to use them. I did not see any of that behavior on this cruise. There were always plenty of lounge chairs available. The pools were smaller than I imagined them to be and most of the time they were empty of people. The aft pool often had no water. I was disappointed that the pools and whirlpools closed at dark.
The biggest disappoint of the cruise was not getting to go to Belize as scheduled. The ship's propulsion system malfunctioned and we ended up spending two days in Cozumel. There are worse places to stay but I was looking forward to snorkeling in Belize. It is supposed to be one of the best places for snorkeling.
The second biggest disappointment was Progreso. There is not much there. We opted to take the Kayak Adventure excursion. We were hoping to see lots of birds and wildlife but there was not much. The highway next to the mangroves probably drove most of the animals away. Or it could have been that part of the area looked like it was being used as a dump. The guides did not point out anything of interest and did not seem to know anything about the few birds that were there.
The best part of the cruise was getting to meet new people while we ate. Our table ended up hanging out together for most of the cruise. I guess people are just friendlier when they are on vacation! The staff was the hardest working people I have ever seen. I never saw any of them just sitting around. They were constantly serving or cleaning and they were always smiling. If I take another cruise it will be because of the people - both the guests and the crew.
Well, here is my review of the Carnival Elation. I sailed on her as part of a singles group cruise leaving, Long Beach, California on April 27, 2003. The group was coordinated by www.singlescruise.com, which does about one cruise a month, mostly on Carnival. This travel agency was just awarded Carnival's Travel Agent of the Year for 2002.
I flew into Los Angeles (LAX) on Saturday, April 26, 2003 from Denver. I met a friend there who flew in from Portland, Oregon and another friend from Hermosa Beach, California. The three of us drove down to the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach. As we were driving down, we were taking I-405 and planning to get on I-710. However, the southbound ramp from I-405 to southbound I-710 was closed for construction. The only warning of this were two electronic signs just before the I-110 interchange, which we missed seeing. We got off the freeway at the next exit, and wound our way onto Long Beach Blvd. which took us to where we needed to go, although it was a little longer than we expected. After we checked into the hotel, we metup with another group and went to Busters at Alhambra Bay. It was an interesting bar, but they had a live band going which made it hard for us to talk. We then decided to head back to the hotel and had a wonderful time chatting in the hotel bar. The next morning, I took the Blue Line train towards downtown LA. I got off at a station to go to a McDonalds for breakfast and had a yogurt parfait. After that, I checked out of my hotel and another friend took me to the terminal.
Recommendations: If you can, by all means go to the port city the day before the cruise. It will get your vacation started that much earlier, and you don't have the stress that air travel has become on the first day of your cruise.
I arrived at the Long Beach cruise ship terminal at about 10:45 a.m.. Passengers from the last cruise were still disembarking so it was a little hectic around the loading and unloading area. If you arrive early, they request that you check-in on board the Queen Mary. This wasn't bad, but it is a bit of a walk from where you park. This port is where the porters definitely earn their tips. After I checked in, they had us wait outside the dome until they began boarding passengers. This occurred around noon, but it could have occurred sooner. There was a wedding on the ship that day while it was still in port (it was held in the Romeo and Juliet Lounge) so they had them board before anyone else. At about noon, they let people board the ship. The man in front of me going through the metal detectors tried to get on board with a pocket knife. Carnival security made him check it at the pier. I was a little frazzled when they took my welcome aboard picture before the security photo. I thought I had missed a step since I was used to the procedure at the Port of Miami where the welcome aboard photo is the last thing you do before you head onto the ship. At any rate, I was on board the ship and chowing down on pizza by 12:30 p.m. or so.
Recommendations: Be sure to wear good walking shoes. You will definitely need them at the terminal. They could have more signage near the parking structure on where to go.
THE SHIP: B-
While showing some wear, the ship was excellent. The carpet in the halls could used to be replaced, but that was the only place that I noticed carpet stains (or could it have been the lighting?). There were a few burned out light bulbs here and there, but nothing major to report. A couple toilets flooded in the public men's rooms, and maintenance could have taken better care of the mess (like turning off the auto-flush on the flooding urinal!) Also, there are no paper towels in the public restrooms, and the hand dryers sounded very sickly. In the main show lounge, sight lines are horrible from most of the seats. and there are obstructing polls just about everywhere you turn.
Enough of the gripes, and on to the good points. The rooms are quite spacious considering all you do in them is sleep, shower, change clothes, and, well, you know. Carnival now has shampoo and shower gel dispensers in the showers. The public rooms were well decorated. This is when Joe Farcus was entering his "toned down" phase. Although there still is neon in the casino and disco, this is the only place on the ship where it is evident. Most other lighting is either indirect or recessed. However, the ship does have a slight purple hew, especially at night. The piano bar also had a neat black light effect, and everything was fairly easy to find (especially if you are used to Carnival's Fantasy-class ships)
My dining room staff was excellent. I ordered a Coke one night using a "fountain fun card" and never had to order one again in the dining room. I never had any problem getting an extra roll, which were usually warm. In fact, I had to shoe them away several times trying to give me an extra slice of tomato bread. My dining staff was always friendly and seemed to love their jobs. I rarely saw my cabin steward, but when I had to call him on a leaky shower head, it was taken care of immediately.
This was definitely the weak point on the cruise. While food in the lido deck cafe was good, the dining room food was disappointing. On the first night, I ordered a steak medium, and it came back medium-well On the second night, I ordered my prime rib medium. It came back mooing. In hindsight, I should have returned that to the kitchen so they could finish cooking it. The lobster bisque had almost no lobster in it. Several of us at our table thought we were served bean soup by mistake. When they served soufflé and the baked Alaska, they just gave it to us without asking, although we could have requested another selection then. That said, they were pretty good.
PORTS OF CALL:
PUERTO VILLARTA, JALISCO, MEXICO: B
This is an attractive port city with the mountains rising up just past the city. There is a Sam's Club right across the street from the cruise ship terminal in case you forgot something important. I took the countryside adventure and then the beach party tours, and was mildly disappointed in both. The countryside adventure was boring, and it ran late so I almost missed my beach excursion. At the beach, there was no locker room to change in, so we appropriated a restroom for our needs. The water was warm, but the current was strong that day so playing in the surf was challenging. I gave up when I was pushed under by a wave and drug almonds the seafloor for about five feet. Also, Mexican authorities have a bad habit of dumping raw sewage into their oceans. My swim clothes smelled of raw sewage the rest of the cruise.
[Pastor Mitch, please skip ahead to the next paragraph.] After the beach party, a group of us went over to Senor Frogs for drinks. The cruise director actually recommend we avoid going to Senior Frogs despite that it is one of Carnival's "recommended stores and restaurants". The restaurant was about 90% cruise passengers that day. I had two pina coladas in the yard-long glasses, and the bar had a conga line going with free tequila shots for everyone in line. Needless to say, I was bombed worse than Baghdad when I returned to the ship. I have no clue how I made it to dinner that night, but I could have sworn that the ship was rocking, even though we were still tied to the pier. I heard that some people in our group were having much difficulty returning to the ship. I won't go into details, but there are a few taxis in Puerto Villarta that were in need of cleaning that night.
Recommendations: [Welcome back, Pastor Mitch.] Next time, go to the jungle. There were several people in my group who did that and loved it. Also, the symbol for the United States Dollar and the Mexican Peso are both "$". Most places were giving an exchange rate of US$1.00 = MEX$10.00, or MEX$1.00 = US$0.10
MAZATLAN, SINALOA, MEXICO: B-
In this port I did the Sierra Madre tour. It was an excellent chance to get away from the resort properties and see the real Mexico. We stopped at a factory where they make adobe, a craft shop (I picked up an onyx dominoes set for US$20), a Church and canteen for a soda in the town of Concordia (about 40 km or 28 mi east of Mazatlan) and a canteen for lunch in Colima, Mexico (about 70 km or 40 mi east of Mazatlan). We were on a 40-foot bus going up and down streets that were better navigated by burros. At the end, they let us loose in Mazatlan's Golden Zone for shopping. Since all the stores are jewelry stores, I just wandered around for an hour and went back to the ship. Several second-class taxi drivers (second-class taxis are about like golf carts) offered me a ride, which I politely refused every time.
Recommendations: There really isn't much to do in this port. If you do go to a beach, stay out of the ocean! Local authorities dump raw sewage straight into the ocean, and the smell is horrendous.
CABO SAN LUCAS, BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR, MEXICO: A-
My only gripe with this port is that we were there for way too little time. Fortunately, Carnival will fix this problem when they introduce the Carnival Pride to this route in September. Until then, this is by far the most attractive port on this itinerary. I did the Land's End and beach party excursion. The Land's End tour was interesting, but the beach party was fabulous. The water was cool, but clear. I had a lot of fun playing in the surf. The beach had a very sharp drop when you got into the water so you could stay close to shore and still be able to jump around up to your neck.
Recommendations: If you want to go to the beach, this is the place to do it! If I could, I would hold off on taking this cruise just so you can spend more time in port until the Carnival Pride makes its first run on this itinerary on September 21, 2003.
SHIPBOARD EXPERIENCE: A+
I love sea days, and these were by far the highlight of the cruise. Carnival really kept the fun flowing. I never got bored at any one time. The shows were good, if you like Las Vegas revue type shows. The live bands were good, and I especially loved hanging out in the piano bar after the late night show. at about 6:30 p.m. PDT on Monday, April 28, a pod of Orcas breached near the ship giving everyone who saw them a thrill. I even got the courage to do the hairy chest contest which, considering you can count the hairs on my chest with one hand, took some guts. Needless to say, I didn't win (I thought it was the scary men's chest contest!). I had a great time bonding with my fellow passengers.
When we were at sea, the weather was relatively cool. I was used to the Caribbean where it is down right hot. Here, the temperature never really got out of the 60s on sea days, so I felt like I couldn't enjoy the pools.
As for the cruise director, Simon Pendergast. To me, a good cruise director is one who is out there without dominating the show. I felt Simon did a good job as the cruise director. He was good at getting the crowd to join him in loosening up a little without being obnoxious.
One thing to note on this cruise; the ship changes to Mountain Time after you go to bed on Monday and converts back to Pacific Time after you retire on Friday. This must be heck on the crew, but Puerto Villarta is on Central Time, and Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas are on Mountain Time. The rule of thumb is that if it is formal night, you change your clocks before you go to bed.
Recommendations: If anyone is bored on a ship it is because they actually tried to be bored. There was so much I wanted to do but I really didn't have the time or energy to do it! Be sure to read your "Carnival Capers" every night before going to bed and plan out your next day,
They got this part right! You don't have to wait for hours on end while the cruse staff hunts down that one person who doesn't think they have to report to immigration before they get off the ship. You now clear customs on the pier. That said, they had two lines accepting passports, and one of the scanners was balky, so this process took longer than it needed to. I made it off the ship and to my bus to LAX in plenty of time. While we did have to wait until the bus filled up, I was off the ship, through immigration and customs, and on the way to the airport in about an hour. While a cab might have been quicker, it would have been much more expensive since the Long Beach pier is about a 45-minute freeway ride from LAX. After I checked my bags, the ticket agent recommended I head over to the Bradley International Terminal and eat at the food court there. This turned out to be a good idea since the selection there is much better than at the terminal I was at. I went back to the terminal and made it in plenty of time for my flight home.
Recommendations: Cruise lines (and the INS) don't need to hold passengers hostage while they hunt down a wayward passenger. It would be easier for everyone involved to do the immigration process on land since everyone has to get off the ship anyway. Port of Miami, did you see this?
I had an excellent time. While I may prefer the Caribbean, I could do another cruise to the Mexican Riviera. I would hold out until they spend longer in Cabo San Lucas, though.
Embarkation - this process was utterly disorganized. People were all over the outside area. You had to find the porters to drop off the baggage and then try to figure out where the end of the line was. God forbid you cut in front of anyone. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get on the ship. This was the longest I've ever waited. Good thing the weather was nice. However, once we got inside the building the process was very quick.
The ship itself is not the prettiest Carnival ship I have been on. I felt it was too dark and dull. I dress in those tones but I don't want to cruise in them! The ship is showing it's wear as after all it is 4 years old. We heard that she is going into dry dock for renovation. Hopefully they will breathe some color and life into her.
The service was good. Our waiter on a couple of occasions messed up our orders and sometimes if we ordered extra he forgot to bring it. But he did have several huge tables of folks to accomodate. We never hadto wait for our water to be refilled. I have to say here that as good as these folks are the dining room service could be improved upon. Sometimes for breakfast the waiters were rather slow and acted like they did not really want to serve us. by all means do eat lunch and dinner in the dining room. The food and choices are much better. Breakfast is the same every day at the Lido deck and dining room. One thing we did not care for is that breakfast in the dining room is served at 9am. Early seating lunch is at noon and then dinner at 5:45 or 6:15. by the time we finished breakfast it was time for lunch. I have been on other ships that started breakfast earlier than that. The food was very good, no complaints at all.
The cabin steward always kept our room clean and we rarely ever saw him.
Ports of call - Puerto Vallerta - is the most quaint village of the 3 visited. They have cobblestone streets and LOTS of shops and flea markets. If you go on the beach be prepared to be hawked by vendor after vendor. We rented a car here and drove to the Predator set. I don't know what this costs for the tour but I'm sure it's not worth it. It is a dusty and bumpy ride. I could not believe that tour buses go there, I would be fearing for my life driving to get there. The set consists of the burnt out helicopter, eatery, and booths of merchandise. There is a nice lagoon area to swim in with a rope swing and natural rock slide. Driving along the coastline and stopping for pictures was the best bet then back into town for shopping. You need to haggle with the people. Offer them 75% below what they are asking and then meet somewhere in the middle. It is guarenteed that you will find it cheaper in the next area!
Mazatlan - we rented some little "glorified" golf cart type cars called "zini". They were right off from the trolley that you must ride from the ship. There are only 2 in the whole city and went for $25 1st hour and $50 for 3. We asked to use them for the whole day and rented both. We offered $60 each. We had a blast, especially the guys driving. We drove all over in the old Mazatlan area. We went to the golden cathedral. There is a flea market here and the prices were even better than in PV. So do the rest of your shopping here! We then drove along the coast to shop in the Golden Zone area. Mazatlan I thought was just as scenic and a little bit cleaner but it lacked the charm of PV.
Cabo San Lucas - you only have about 4 hours here. Take a tour! We heard the whale sight seeing and snorkeling was good. This is the 1st place in MX I have ever been to that when the ship comes in at 7 the shops are not open. Some opened at 9 but most at 10. They did not want to haggle and the prices were highest here. Again take a tour, then before you leave you must go to Cabowabo cantina and get yourself a Waborita (margarita). They are excellent! Have several while you walk back to the ship. This is also a tender port. They say the last tender leaves at 11:30. We were there before then but did not actually get on one til noon.
As for the shows on the ship, I think they could have been better. We have seen some excellant shows and comedians on other cruises and this was about as bad as it gets. I was disappointed in the shows to say the least.
Debarkation - took us 3 hours from when they 1st starting calling the color tags. We were early flighers so we got off the ship 1st. Now I don't know if this process is because of the port but this was my 3rd cruise since 9/11, yet the 1st time that every individual had to punch in their sign and sail cards and go to immigrations/customs. Usually you went to customs if you were over the amounts allowed. Oh, they only allow 1 liter of alcohol per person. As for getting the baggage it was no worse then any other place.
Another disappointment was for past carnival cruisers they usually have a cocktail party before dinner. Not here, it was scheduled right in the middle of our dinner so we did not attend! While we still enjoyed this cruise I don't think I would do this iten or ship again. Since this was my fourth CCL cruise I will take this with a grain of salt but they need to do better on this one. Please though don't let me sway you against this as the ports where nice. Oh and one thing I almost forgot, be sure to watch for whales starting The Tuesday morn til you leave Cabo. We saw many whales and I even heard them singing early in the morning, now that was worth it all!