I sailed with my husband, our 15 month old son, and my husband's parents on the Carnival Elation out of New Orleans on a 5 day cruise on 10/20/12. We had VIP status because we had booked a Grand Suite. This was my 3rd cruise, my husband's 2nd, and baby's and grandparent's 1st. I was quite pleased with how easy and smooth the VIP check-in process went. My husband and I also sailed previously out of New Orleans and arrived when it said to on our boarding pass and I can remember waiting in a rather long line. This time it was nice to walk right into the building and up to the VIP stand for assistance. It took about 10 minutes for us to be checked in and we bypassed the photographer and proceeded to get in the long line to board the ship.
A brief side note, while waiting in the VIP line outside to show our boarding pass and passports to get into the building, I overheard one of the workers telling another worker about a passenger who was desperately trying to find someone who could text her a picture of her driver's license. She showed up with NO ID! Then I also saw a woman present a white piece of paper for her "birth certificate". She was politely told that wasn't official and sent to the side with a few other people to wait. I'm not sure if these people got on the ship or not, but I found it funny and sad they got that far and didn't have the proper documentation.
It took us about 20 minutes of steady shuffling to get onto the ship. We showed up around 11:30 am and were on the boat by 12:00 pm. Once we entered the atrium, I sent my family up to the Lido deck to grab a table and I headed to the excursion desk to book the "Behind the Fun" tour. I was very pleased that I was the first person to sign up. I also took the opportunity to go ahead and grab my "Bottomless Bubbles" sticker at the table in the Atrium. They were also selling very nice Carnival travel cups with lids for $4.95 when you bought your sticker. I got one b/c I thought that it would make a very nice souvenir and it would be easier to carry my soda around deck than the cup they give you at the bar.
It was a little chaotic up on the Lido deck, but I found my family and we all grabbed lunch. My poor in-laws just jumped into the first line they saw. They were a bit overwhelmed to say the least. I explained to them all the other kinds of food they had around Tiffany's and they ended up getting salads. I grabbed some fruit and yogurt for my little one and pizza for my hubby. By this time it was 12:30 pm and one of the staffers came around to say that the cabins were ready.
We were all very impressed with the size of the Grand Suite. I had seen pictures online, but sometimes rooms look bigger than they really are. I could say the room is about the size of your standard motel room. There was a fridge, which was stocked with soda that I had the room steward remove. The deck was HUGE!!! All four of us stood out there at once and we weren't crowded at all. There was a big heavy wooden door, not a sliding glass door, so we had to be careful our son didn't pull it shut on his fingers.
The only complaint I have about our arrival in our cabin is that the crib I requested wasn't in there. I called the steward and he said he was planning on putting it in the room later when he did the nighttime turndown service. I understand his logic, but I had a 15 month old who was 2 hours past his usual nap time. I asked for a crib right away and he said he would have one sent. About 30 minutes went by and I went down to guest services to see if they could help. The girl called and said it was on the runner's list. The crib finally arrived about an hour after I requested it. I found out from the runner that he was the only staffer for all guest requests at that time. All the stewards were on break until 3 pm. I felt bad for him. He seemed a little stressed out. He even had to take a request call while he was in our room. I was just happy to have the crib and put my son to sleep.
We went to the dining room for dinner that night. I was worried about who we were going to be seated with because my greatest fear was ruining someone's vacation by having our child at the table. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that our family was seated at a table all by ourselves. We were seated in the back of the Inspiration Dining room and looking around it seemed like every party that had a small child with them was also seated at a table by themselves and we were also in close proximity to one another. I think that is a very smart decision on Carnival's part. Even though we were surrounded by kids, my husband still had to take our son out before the main entrees were served. His schedule had just gotten so messed up. However, he did very well on the 2 other nights we ate in the MDR.
I have to take this opportunity to say what a wonderful waiter Antonio was. I ordered my son the fruit salad the 1st night and on the 2nd night, Antonio had one in front of him right after we sat down. He also made sure to bring out all the other dishes I ordered for him as quickly as possible to prevent possible meltdowns. On the very last night, I had to take my son and walk around with him a bit between the entree and dessert. When I came back to eat dessert, I put him in my lap because he was not going to sit in his highchair. Antonio came and asked me if he could hold him so I could have a chance to eat my dessert. So they danced around in front of me and Antonio made him laugh and giggle so much. Antonio went above and beyond what a waiter is expected to do and I really appreciated it.
The food in the MDR, the Lido deck, and room service was all very good. I didn't eat anything I didn't like. My in-laws had the meatloaf one night and they didn't care for it, but they think that is because it had sausage in it. There were some lines for food but I never had to wait more than 5 minutes for anything. I was very pleased that there was always something for me to feed my son. The only complaint I would have about the food service is that I had been told there would be whole milk available. However, whenever I asked for whole milk, I was given 2%. It's not such a huge deal, I just found it weird that no one seemed to know what whole milk is. That being said, whenever we needed any milk for our son and it wasn't out, someone was always happy to go get us a few cartons.
My husband and I had previously been to Progreso and Cozumel and gone on excursions, so we decided not to do anything like that this time, especially since we had our 15 month old with us. In Progreso, my mother-in-law and I got off the ship and went shopping in the little market that is right there at the cruise terminal. I bought some vanilla and my husband a luchadore mask. In Cozumel, we took a taxi to Paradise Beach. We'd heard good things about it and I didn't think we could get our money's worth from going to a place where we paid $45-$50 for all you can eat and drink. The cab cost $20 to get there and $15 to get back. I was stressed about holding my son in the car, but what are you gonna do. We made it in one piece. My in-laws just paid the $2 for the chairs and my husband and I paid the extra for the water toys. In hindsight, I probably wouldn't do that again. We only climbed up on two of the toys and it was exhausting swimming out there and climbing up. But it was fun. I'm not sure $24 worth of fun. My son had a lot of fun playing in the sand and the ocean. The water is very calm so it wasn't too rough for him. I was happy we could sit under the shade of some palm trees because I have very fair skin and I worry about burning. We had no trouble satisfying the food and drink minimum. I thought some of the drinks were overpriced, but the food was good. We stayed for about 2 hours and then the boys headed back to the ship while my mother-in-law and I shopped at the mall. She ended up buying some t-shirts.
On our very last sea day, my father-in-law and I took the "Behind the Fun" tour. If you have a chance to do this, I highly recommend it. It took about 3 hours, but it didn't seem like that at all. It was so cool seeing the kitchen (galley), the laundry, where the crew hangs out, etc. We even got to see how they recycle on board and how they deal with waste they can't treat on board. The best part was going up on the bridge and meeting the captain. My father-in-law was in the Navy, so he really enjoyed seeing how this ship differed from the one he was on during the Vietnam war.
All in all, we had a very relaxing and enjoyable vacation. Everywhere we went, Carnival employees were happy and always smiling at our son. I know some people think we are crazy for taking him with us, but I wouldn't have enjoyed a minute of it if he hadn't been there. I think we will wait until he is old enough to go to Camp Carnival before we go on our next cruise. Even though we had a huge cabin for him to run around in, he did get a little frustrated not being able to run around and play. I'm glad we were able to go into Camp Carnival the two days at sea and play for a few hours in the morning.
I would definitely recommend sailing on the Elation. We will probably choose another ship next time because I always like to try new things, but I'll have no problem sailing on the Elation again in the future.