My review is late but I am planning an Alaskan cruise for 2013 and I am relying on this website even more now than I did back when we did our first cruise on Elation Dec 26th to Dec 31st.
We were a group of 10 doing a family reunion with ages from 21 to 67. I didn't find anything in disrepair and the ship was lovely and decorated nicely. I saw nothing unclean at all. It's definitely more of a "young" crowd in everything on Elation from decor to nightlife. We had a wonderful cruise. We were mostly first-time cruisers except for a few veterans in the bunch. We were limited on dates and the Elation out of New Orleans was our only logistical choice.
Pre-cruise: we all stayed at Drury Inn just off Bourbon street. GREAT hotel - free dinner, easy walk to Bourbon street, but parking was not free. We all drove personal cars from ATL and Texas so we just drove the 9 blocks down to cruise terminal. Parking was easy since we got there early and porters for luggage worked great.
Embark-Disembark: We had booked a suite and paid for all rooms on one credit card so we had some special perks as a whole group. We got there at 10:30 am and we were on board by 11:30 - we the first ones on board. It was foggy and drizzly so we didn't stay out too much at sail away. It was sold out ship and if we didn't have priority boarding, there probably would have been some lengthy waits. Tip on disembark: if you choose to self disembark, you can get up VERY early and leave the ship as early as 6:30 am (I think) even though the instructions probably say 7:30 am or so. We were through customs faster than you can blink at that time. We were the first on the ship and the first off the ship. No one ever questioned our baggage or opened anything at all during embark or disembark.
Cabin-Grand Suite was BIG. We were able to easily entertain and seat all 10 of us in the suite before dinner for cocktails. Weather was not very warm so we didn't use the nice balcony as much as I hoped. Balcony is a bit smallish. Bed was comfy and the bathroom was nice. I peaked at the ocean view and interior rooms of the others in our party. No one had any complaints about their rooms.
Food-Overall it was very good. We ordered multiples of many things and our wonderful dinner wait staff didn't even blink. It was a crowded ship so services wasn't perfect but they were very good. The chocolate melting cake is really spectacularly good! Trust me. But..very filling. None of the main dining room dinners disappointed us, but some of the Lido items were just so so. Many desserts looked nice but were bland. But hey - it's a buffet for 2,000 people. No matter what - there was plenty of food 24/7, just be prepared for long lines. We got the soda cards and they are worth it if you don't want to drink cocktails all the time. Drinks were EXPENSIVE but probably no more so than any other cruise lines. We also plenty of our own booze on board and snuck out in cups and such while we walked around the ship.
Casino-we all enjoyed it more than I thought we would and a few in our party did pretty good at black jack tables and roulette.
Ports-Cozumel was GREAT, but a bit cool. We all split up - some shopped and loved it. Some hung out at bars and loved it. I did Nachi Cocum with DH and we LOVED it. One did the ATV adventure and loved it. Two did the snorkeling and part was cancelled due to weather and the snorkeling portion was pretty chilly. Progresso - ICK. We were bombarded with peddlers immediately - Cozumel was respectfully tame compared to Progresso - very aggressive and ANNOYING. Carnival - you should put a STOP to that. It really deters from enjoying what little we did while walking around. The public bathrooms were AWFUL. if you did not tip, NO toilet paper, and in some cases, NO ENTRY even without making a fuss. I'm not kidding. I heartily recommend either purchasing a Carnival sponsored excursion or just staying on the ship - do not venture out otherwise in Progresso. However, some in our party didn't have the same experience and found some out of the way shops they liked. Two of our party did the ruins tour and really liked it. I think if we did the Carnival sponsored beach party, we would have liked it because it looked like peddlers were banned from that private beach by wire, chain link fence.
Entertainment- OK - not bad, but not great. I didn't care for the one show we saw (it was NOT the "Rock" show - I wish we could have seen that one.) We really did enjoy the karaoke and piano bar the most and the karaoke winners performed in the show on the last night. That was fun. I hear there was plenty of night life for the younger 20-something crowd after us old farts went to bed at about midnight.
Miscellaneous-Professional pictures were insanely expensive and we plopped down a truckload of money on them. We should have WAITED until the last day - there were specials them for package deals. I found the ship layout kind of wacky in that you were rarely able to walk from end to end on the same level without having to go down stairs one level and back up. Odd, but we really didn't mind it. We just got a little lost sometimes.
I don't think I would do this cruise again simply because I would choose a warmer itinerary in late December at a Florida departure instead. However, based solely on the ship, I would cruise the Elation again. It was fine for us, but we are easy to please.
We are not using Carnival for Alaska in 2013 simply because they don't offer the itinerary I want. Plus, Carnival is great if you want to please all ages because there is a lot of night life and "zany" happenings. However, in Alaska, it will just be DH and myself and we are 'mature' cruisers - dare I say it...seniors - oh no! We care more about quiet and port excursion choices and much less about entertainment.