Let me start by describing us as cruisers. For a start we are British and so were in the minority as far as our nationality goes. Were both well traveled and have cruised on Carnival Splendor previously as well as travelling on P&O, Celeb, Royal Caribbean and Fred Olsen. I have also worked on the cruise ships as a consultant for short periods of time.
We took this cruise as we wanted to visit Kennedy Space Center and thought a week in Florida taking in the Space Center, Cocoa Beach and the cruise would be a nice break.
We stayed at The Holiday in at Orlando airport and then rented a car and drove to the rent a car drop off in Cape Canaveral. They had a free shuttle to the cruise terminal. This proved to be the cheapest option for getting from Orlando airport to the cruise terminal.
Getting on board was easy, we had checked in on line 48 hours in advance so were on board within 15 minutes of arriving at the cruise terminal. Our first impressions of Carnival Ecstacy were of an older ship which was in good working order and very clean. The staff were friendly and we did a bit of exploring while waiting for our cabin to be ready. We found the ship to be very well laid out. Almost all the entertainment is on 2 decks and most of the cabins are below these decks. We managed to do the whole holiday without using the elevators, you could easily get up and down the stairs from our cabin on deck 6 to the entertainment decks or up to the pool.
The cabins are basic, we could not find a hair dryer in the cabin. The decor is very simple. The cabins are functional, there is nothing wrong with them but they are not special in any way. They are plenty big enough for 2 people. We had an ocean view on deck 6. Our cabin steward was good, he kept the room very clean and was very friendly.
We were on anytime dinning which means you can go to dinner whenever you want between 5.45 and about 9.30. We went most days at 7.30ish and never had to wait in line. My partner has a severe wheat allergy, this was no problem and she pre ordered her dinner every day and they had it all ready for when we arrived every day. The dinning room staff were the highlight of the trip and were almost faultless. Stan the maitre d runs a very tight ship. The food was good, its not as good as P&O but similar to Royal Caribbean. There is loads of choice at dinner with 2 menus. 1 that is the same everyday and 1 that changes everyday. We also ate breakfast in the dinning room everyday. They do gluten free pancakes for people with allergies. Once again breakfast was good and the service was decent too. We never had to wait to be seated for breakfast. We ate in the buffet for lunch, its busy but we could always get a seat. The food was good, the waiters kept on top on keeping tables clean and we never had a problem getting a seat. There is loads of choice, you could easily have something different every day for 7 days.
I will start with the big positives on Carnival:
Chairs by the pool: Carnival stand up and take a bow, you have done a superb job with you policy on chairs. They don't stand for people reserving chairs and if they have to take your towel off a chair they charge you for the towel. You get the towels from your cabin or from on deck where you have to leave your cabin number. This system works superbly and even on sea days there were plenty of available chairs. P&O please take heed.
I have got to say I can't fault Carnival themselves much for the whole cruise. We watched the comedian and he was very funny. The casino was well run, we played texas holdem a few times with people we met on board and it was fun and the blinds were set at a sensible level.
Now comes the negatives and these are slightly out of Carnivals control and are more to do with the other people on the cruise.
On our first night we went to bed early as we were quite jet lagged (10pm). At 1.30am I was awoken with someone banging (and I mean banging) on our door shouting TULISA TULISA let me in. There was a group of girls outside the door banging on the door. I told them there was no TULISA here and to leave before I called security. 10 minutes later and they are back banging on the door again. I called security. Someone else told them to quiet down and then a large argument started. They leave and then 5 minutes later security arrive and ask what the problem is. I explain and security goes off looking for them. Security comes back 10 minutes later and say they found 2 girls lost who's cabin was on the other side of the ship. Now if it had been another cruise line those 2 girls would have been off at the next port. I don't know what happened but we did not hear from TULISA's friends for the rest of the cruise. In general there were some very selfish chavs on this cruise. There were also some really nice people who we became good friends with. It appears this particular cruise does attract some unsavory characters. When your too drunk to find your cabin then some questions should be asked about the safety of that person being on the ship.
This ship and this cruise is about 3 star. It does not have the class of P&O's ships or the VIP experience every passenger gets on Celeb. It seams to me Carnival is very similar to Royal Caribbean. I was quite critical of Oasis of the seas 2 years ago. The only real difference between this cruise on Ecstacy and our cruise on Oasis was the age of the ship. For me you still cannot beat P&O Ventura, that ship really does have it all.
Drinks prices were reasonable, they auto add the gratuities on to each drink which does put the price up a bit.
I have to commend the crew, we sailed very close to Tropical Storm Issac and we had to change ports from Half Moon Cay to Freeport to avoid the storm. The captain made a good decision because we had calm sea's and decent weather for most of the trip.
I am left with mixed feelings about our short cruise with Carnival. Would I cruise with Carnival again?? I am not sure I would, unless it was on one of the newer ships.
Disembark was easy we were off and out the terminal in about 20 minutes.