It was time to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary. After honeymooning on Carnival Legend, we chose to spend our trip aboard Carnival Ecstasy on a five day itinerary to the Bahamas including Half Moon Cay, Nassau, and Freeport. This would be my 12th cruise overall, and my 9th with Carnival.
My wife and I have been on 9 cruises together including this one. We are both in the 26 to 28 age range and have cruised from 3 day trips to 7 day trips including Bahamas, Mexico, Belize, Grand Cayman, and Roatan.
I understand the value of these member reviews and appreciate those reviews in which I have read. With that said, this our account and view of the beautiful Carnival Ecstasy.
The new terminal at Port Canaveral was very nice. We got to the terminal by shuttle at 11:45 and we had our Lido Lunch at noon.
Carnival Ecstasy has had a refurbishment that has added Carnival Waterworks, balcony and extended balcony staterooms, and the addition of the Serenity area at the aft portion of the ship. We saw no visible signs of wear and tear and the entire ship was very clean and tidy. The pool area was very attractive with scenery and vibrant colors. There was music played on a speaker system, but there were occasional "island bands" playing music on the Lido stage. The lounges are the same as all Fantasy class ships but with different names. Most are accessible through the Promenade deck, where the main traffic flow runs. The casino is also on this deck, where we donated a lot of money and were a little disappointed in the attitude and energy of the dealers. Usually the help you to enjoy donations, but this time they seemed to be just doing the routine. Different from Carnival Legend, there were more smoking tables and slot machines than there were not, but with ample space for all of the guests. The Punchliner Comedy Club was in the aft lounge, which was only used 3 of the 5 nights. The comedians stayed on the ship the entire week. There were two of them, with a family oriented show and an adults only show on the nights they performed. The dance club, karaoke club, and the forward show lounge were also located on the Promenade. The Metro Bar, midship on Promenade, was designated "smoking" so be aware if you have issues with smoke. It sends to meander both ways from the bar down the promenade.
Our stateroom was ready shortly after lunch. We were on Empress Deck 7 and were able to walk from the atrium lobby to our room without any stairs. This deck is one of my preferences on Fantasy class ships. Our room was Port Aft room E 214. This was one of the balconies added on the not so recent refurbishment after Hurricane Katrina. It did have a flat screen television that was wavy the entire trip but we didn't watch much TV. We were directly below the dining room which was no problem until the waiters "dance show" around the same times every night during that particular dinner service. Other than that, it was completely quiet. We were two decks directly down from Lido and the Aft Lido Buffet. This location was particularly pleasing because of a little known stairwell at the very aft part of the Empress deck that leads up to Serenity and further up the Lido Buffet restaurant. Also, our balcony gave spectacular views of our ports of call, seemingly that all of the action was on the port side. The dividers on these balconies lacked the "privacy flange" as we called it that extends the divider about 8 inches towards the ocean, so we were able to very easily see onto other balconies and well as have our balcony viewed by other guests. There are two chairs on the verandah, one of which reclines, and one table. The balcony has ample space for two people with plenty of standing room remaining. We did enjoy our balcony very much and it is well worth the splurge.
We only visited the Main Dining Room once, on embarkation night, to celebrate our anniversary. The menu on Carnival Cruise Lines hasn't changed for a while, except for which nights they are used, so we are used to the food selections. For this reason, we choose to eat at the Lido Buffet most nights. We can sample most of the selections offered on the menu at our leisure.
The Buffet, as mentioned before, serves most of the selections on the menu at the main dining room. For instance, on Cruse Elegant night, Prime Rib, Lobster, and Shrimp are the main attractions on the menu. I was able to get two slices of prime rib, medium, from the buffet but there was no lobster or shrimp. Usually one of the pastas and appetizers find their way to the buffet as well with a huge selection of deserts and salad items.
For lunch the Lido buffet offers a "taste of nations" with a different country cuisine each day. A selection of veggies, chicken, beef, fish, soup, and a carved meat are offered regardless of the style. The Lido Grill offers cold salads, chips and salsa, freshly grilled hot dogs, burgers, chicken breast, fries, chili, and chicken tenders with all of the "fixings." There is a rotisserie station on Lido that offers Macaroni and cheese (excellent), mashed potatoes and gravy, and a selection of chicken or other rotisserie meats that are tasty. The Mongolian Wok also resides on Lido from around 12pm to 3pm offering a custom dining experience. You selected and present a bowl of veggies or rice noodles to the chef and he will stir fry you your choice of meats and sauces right before you. It takes a minute and there is usually a line but well worth the wait. I suggest going on a port day. Each wok and spoon is washed before the next guest to prevent any cross contamination or allergy situations.
Each night from 11pm to 1:30 am "Good eats" is brought to the buffet in the Lido Restaurant offering the same lunch selections. Pizza is available 24 hours, although I feel that "Pizza Pirate" has tried too hard on pizza. I appreciate gourmet but pizza should just be pizza. The deli is open from 11am to 11pm offering a wide selection of hot and cold sandwiches. Of these, we recommend the grilled cheese.
We did not partake of the small room service menu available 24 hours.
This trip appeared to be a welcome retreat for many families, reunions, and young couples. There were 47 newly-wed couples on this particular cruise according to the cruise director, Brent, who was virtually absent most of the trip. We did hear his voice over the PA very often. A Monday through Saturday itinerary was perfect getaway week vacation with a couple of days extra. This summed up our fellow guests. Everyone seemed to be a part of a large group, family, or a newly-wed couple with a wide range of ages within. There were some children but not large groups due to the timing in late September. With that being said, we ran across your usual occasional rude, inconsiderate, or entitled passengers but were not hindered by them at all. This happens in everyday life.
Half Moon Cay is the perfect beach day for sun lovers and swimmers. The water is turquoise and mostly clear. The sand is soft and white so enjoy. The Island barbecue lunch is great. We made our way further down the beach to the less populated areas and enjoyed our day very much. Restrooms are available and there is plenty of space to separate from other passengers. This was our favorite Island on the trip.
Nassau is, in my opinion, a port at which to stay on the ship. It is our "second sea day." We enjoyed the pools, Waterworks, and Lido deck almost to ourselves.
Freeport is an industrial port town adapted to cruise passengers. We purchased the "Bottom Fishing in Freeport" excursion and enjoyed it very much. It was well worth the money. There is not much to see in Freeport unless you book and excursion or use a taxi to take you around. Even on our bus ride to the fishing boat, we didn't encounter very much as it seemed to be a "regular" town with shopping centers and a few fast food places. It didn't seem like a tourist sort of place.
Behind the Fun Tour:
The shore excursion desk on our previous cruises has offered an "exclusive look" into the workings of the ship. It was well worth the $55 per person, and was a great way to spend our sea day. I won't ruin all of the surprises, but you will visit the galley, laundry, waste, provisions, storerooms, engine control, behind the main stage, crew areas, and the bridge. You will meet the Captain himself and some of his crew where you can ask questions. If you play your cards right, he will let you blow the ship's whistle. I did, and it was the highlight of my cruising career. Not a guarantee though.
This was as easy as getting on the ship. We vacated our room about 8am, had breakfast, walked down to the lobby about ten minutes after we were called and was off the ship by 9:15am. There were hardly any lines to leave the ship and multiple lines at customs made this easy to leave the port.
Carnival Ecstasy is a great ship for first time cruisers or even inexperienced cruisers. For those of us with multiple cruises, this is a great get-away ship with the normal Carnival theme. The simple thought is this: just as on land if you like or dislike a particular business you either return or you don't. If you enjoy Carnival Cruising, your experience will be similar on each ship, with some differences here and there. The bottom line is that if you like it, that's wonderful! If it's not for you, then search elsewhere. Carnival Cruise Lines provides a budget cruise vacation with great amenities, ports of call, a wide range of ships older to new, and a great value. Besides, a cruise is what you make it out to be regardless of which line you take. We enjoy Carnival, and we enjoyed Carnival Ecstasy. We got exactly what we expected, had a great time, and celebrated our first wedding anniversary how it should be celebrated...at sea.