Carnival Elation April 30, 2012 Sailing
We got to the Port of New Orleans at 10:30, and by 10:45 or so were taking Embarkation Day pictures in the waiting area. At 11:20 they announced that boarding would begin in ten minutes. We were zone 4, so we didn't have to wait long to board after the VIP's and those who needed assistance.
Upon entering the rather elegant and subdued (for Joe Farcus) atrium lobby on deck 7, we went straight to the Excursions desk to get a place on the Behind the Fun Tour. The tour would take place on the last sea day, and we anticipated that it would be a highlight of this cruise. The tour is cheaper during 5 day cruises than it is during 7 day or longer, so we thought to take advantage of the price. After we finished our business at the Excursions desk we used one of the two glass elevators in the atrium to travel up to the Lido Deck (deck 10) for lunch at Tiffany's, the Lido buffet. We skipped the lines by heading aft to the Deli. One of the nice things about the Elation buffet is the number of tables outdoors on two aft wings and along the sides of the ship. This gives you alfresco dining with an unobstructed view of something other than the Lido deck crowds.
Our rooms were ready for us at about 12:10, but there was no general announcement until 12:30. Bags arrived while we were exploring (before 1:30.) We found our table (#200) in the Inspiration Dining room. It was a table for ten on the port side of the center platform. It was a table for ten, but the table would never have ten guests seated for early dinner (or 8 or 6, for that matter.) The single-storied dining room seemed much cozier than the two-level affairs on the Destiny-class and larger ships.
Elation was smaller than other ships we've been on, and the layout was much different. The vast majority of staterooms are on the lowest decks, 4-7. Our cabin was deck 6, Upper, and the deck above us housed more cabins, the Atrium Lounge where we boarded, and the Excursion and Guest Services desk. This layout meant that all the public areas other than those I just mention were on decks 8 and higher, keeping them together for easy access via the stairs rather than the elevators; there are some cabins on deck 11 Foreword, but they don't interrupt the flow of the public areas.
The Safety Drill started about 3PM. Our muster station was in the Mikado Main Lounge. This was a lot more comfortable than being crammed into open deck muster stations on the larger ships, where you don't want to arrive early and have six rows of people in front of you. After the initial briefing, if you were able-bodied, you still had to use the stairs to go up as a group from the Mikado to the Lido deck, there to be shown where the lifeboats would be boarded in the event of an emergency.
Sail away took place at about 4:30 amidst bright sun, happy music and dancing. The last time we sailed out of New Orleans we'd been socked in with dense fog before we'd even passed the Spanish Plaza. This time we got to see The Crescent City from the river, and the views were spectacular. We stayed on deck for nearly an hour as we steamed southward past the bayous and swamps, getting some great pictures of the skyline as it shrank behind us. It takes about 8 hours to get to the gulf, but we had to get ready for dinner.
Just as we finished getting ready there was a knock on our cabin door. It's almost magical the way a great room steward seems to know the perfect time to do things. Ida introduced herself and her smile lit up the room. Of course she would never forget our names, and the room was always perfect. Her smiles and friendly conversations made our trip special.
At dinner in the Inspiration Dining Room we met Raphael, our head waiter. He and his staff were wonderful. We met two of our tablemates the first night, and as it turned out they would be the only ones to share our table at all. The dining room is one of the things that really makes cruising special, but for some, the lines and crowds on the Lido deck are better, it seems. We really enjoyed our table mates' company and conversation. It's always fun meeting new people and the dining room is one of the best places to do that.
After dinner, we wandered the ship, found our embarkation photos and stopped at the Musical Cafe for a tasty cookie before heading off to the Welcome Aboard Show with Gary Brierley our cruise director. The band was great, the dancers were great, and the comedian seemed a bit thrown off by having to do a family friendly set.
Tuesday started with breakfast on the Lido deck with a great view of the gulf. We spent some time on the Serenity Deck watching a storm on the horizon. The captain announced that there were six foot swells, and bags were taped to the walls in various places for those who felt it. Sea birds were flying around the ship and a few landed on the deck and wandered around, causing some hilarity to ensue due to ornithophobia. We just sat back and relaxed with our Kindles. After lunch we wandered the ship joining some of the games with Rachel an amazing Social Hostess with wit and attitude that kept us coming back for more trivia, Match Games and other activities at the Drama Bar whenever Rachel was hosting. Then it was back to the cabin to get ready for Elegant Night. We went to the Promenade Deck early to take advantage of all the photography stations. The CD, Gary, introduced us to the captain (who we would later see on his bridge). Dinner was wonderful as usual with steak and lobster galore. After dinner we took in the show "Just Rock" which was a new show, and quite good. There was a lot of talent on this ship!
Wednesday had us arriving at Progreso, Yucatan at about 8AM. Progreso has one of the longest piers in the world at approximately 5 miles long. We had a quick breakfast and raced down to the gang plank to debark for our excursion to the Uxmal Archaeological Zone and the Mayan ruins. After pictures on the gangplank, and on the pier, we followed the crowd to the small shopping area, where signs were set up for the excursions. It was easy to find ours, and after a short wait for our group to gather, we were led to the parking area and our waiting bus by Carlos, one of two guides on our trip. The bus trip to the ruins takes about an hour and a half, but we had to make a slight detour into Muna because of a sick passenger. Paco, the other guide, got off with the unfortunate cruiser and his companion to arrange for transportation back to the ship. The guides handled the situation smoothly, and Paco would meet us later at the ruins. The Uxmal ruins are a wonder! Actually, they're a World Heritage Site. We've heard stories about Chichen Itza--about the crowds and vendors and not being able to enter buildings or to climb anything. This was completely different. After the guided part of the tour we were able to walk around the entire area, climb around numerous magnificent ruins as well as the Great Pyramid and even enter numerous rooms in the buildings. The guides were very informative. We highly recommend this tour -- it was magical! Upon our return we had the Past Guest Party, dinner in the dining room and then went to the Mikado Lounge for Liars Club with Rachel, Bridget and Tom, the ACD.
Thursday morning we ate breakfast on the Lido Deck while the Elation sailed past San Miguel, Cozumel. We docked in Puerta Maya--a new and beautiful port. You enter the port through the long Dufry shop, and are greeted with the sight of a fountain in the shape of a Mayan pyramid. The port is a bustling shopping area with a couple restaurants and colorful costumed characters to pose for pictures with--for a small donation. We'd chosen the Sea Trek Helmet Dive for our excursion. It was absolutely amazing!
A group of six, we were put in a cab which took us downtown to Jeannie's Pancake House, right next door to Margaritaville. We were led through the restaurant/jewelry store, to a small beach area with a tiny covered space off to the side where we were given a short orientation about the dive. Then we were shown to the changing room to get ready. Divers helped us down a ladder and put the helmets on our heads as we entered the water. It was like entering a whole new world but it was better than Disney! The fish were everywhere! We followed our guide along a roped trail as we looked around in wonder. We were told that the helmets weight 70lbs, but they felt light as a feather as they kept us on the bottom and we moved around. Breathing was natural, and pressure as we descended was minimal. The hour passed quickly. Afterward we were shown to the restaurant, given free drinks and watched the video of our dive, which we purchased. We very much recommend this excursion.
When we were ready to leave they put us in a cab that took us back to port (the excursion operators paid for the cabs both ways, of course.) We did some shopping at the port, made some great purchases at Los Cinco Soles, and, as well as some local artwork, and returned to the ship. By the way, Los Cinco Soles is a great place to buy vanilla as well as other souvenirs. Also there is an artist in port that does amazing paintings all with his fingers, using a brush only for the smallest of detail work. Look for him -- it's really something to see him work. To finish our day we did several trivia games with Rachael, won a ship on a stick and a medal, and went "Win" a game show themed production. This is another new show wherein one of your fellow guests is at the center of the "game show" and made to do silly things while the singers sing and the dancers dance and the band plays on.
Friday was our last day on the Elation. Argh! After breakfast we had the previously foreshadowed "Behind The Fun" tour. We travelled the ship from below the water line to top of the atrium, going through the "Crew Only" doors to see things no other guests would be able to see. We went through the Imagination Dining Room to the galley where the pastry chef did a demonstration with decorative chocolate, and we saw where our meals were prepared and our wait staff gathered them up. Then it was on to the laundry where we saw giant folding machines as well as washers and dryers big enough to raise a family in. Next was I-95 where we saw the marshalling areas and how everything is moved from stem to stern. Then it was on to the three mess areas for the crew, staff and officers, and the Engine Control Room where we met the chief engineer and learned how the ship is run. We had refreshments in the crew training center and actually got to use elevators to go up to the bridge where we spoke with the captain and his officers (photos were taken.) After that we were taken back stage where the Stage Manager showed us how the productions are run and the Lead Dancer showed us the dressing room. We got to go out on the open deck in the bows where the ship's bell and spare anchor reside, and then went to the crew bar for souvenirs. It was a great tour; it was educational, interesting and May our tour guide made it lots of fun.
Before dinner, we went to the Fun Farewell Party in the Cole Porter Lounge. At dinner the waiters sang their goodbye song. Then it was on to the Punchliner Comedy Club in the Cole Porter Lounge for James Johann. We stayed for both shows--the family friendly and the adult's only -- he's hilarious! Since we packed before dinner we were able to put our suitcases out for the next day's debarkation at New Orleans.
Debarkation went smoothly and we were fairly quickly off the ship and in a cab to take us to our car (parked at Hilton Garden Inn Convention Center for the week). What a week! Elation is a great ship, and the only complaint we'd have is that we had to leave when we got back to New Orleans!