Personal Info and cruise history: Myself (Rangerdog), DH and DS traveled on the Ecstasy July 21-25. This was my 9th cruise (with 2 more upcoming: Sensation on Sept. 1st). We've sailed Carnival, RCCL and Norwegian so I have several cruises in which to compare. We sailed on a 4 day cruise to Cozumel.
Travel to ship and embarkation: We traveled to the port in our own vehicle, since we only live 45 miles away. We parked in the EZ Cruise parking. We used a $5.00 internet coupon, so we only paid $35.00 to park. The lot was elevated and the staff was very friendly. The shuttle picked us up, with our luggage, about 5 minutes after parking and drove straight to the ship. We arrived at the port at 11:00 and went through security and Fun Pass check-in with NO LINES. They allowed us to start boarding around 12:15. We were on the ship and in our room at 12:45. We were eating in the Panorama Grill at 1:00pm. Embarkation was very smooth, organized and the staff were very friendly and helpful.
Cabin: After boarding at 12:30, we proceeded straight to our room (R 153) and it was ready. Our room was located midship, starboard side, oceanview. We were watching them load luggage from our window. We had a bunk bed for our son. We had plenty of room for the 3 of us and we are NOT small people. The bathroom shower had a soap and shampoo dispenser, which was very handy. There was also an amenities basket containing toothpaste, razors, lotion, dental floss pick, moisturizer and several other things. The room was very soundproof and we hardly heard any noises. The new bedding was WONDERFUL!! I've never slept this good on a cruise! We went to eat lunch and our luggage was outside our room about 3:00pm.
Dining and Food: We ate dinner in the Wind Song dining room at 5:45 at table 266. This was a table for 6 and Carnival did a GREAT job of placing us with another family of 3 with a son the same age as my son. Our waiter was John from Indonesia and our asst. waiter was Marcel also from Indonesia. They were very friendly, fun, efficient and accurate. After the first night, Marcel knew that we all drank tea w/ lemons and sweet and low and our glasses never went empty. As I said earlier, this was not our first cruise, and we thought the dining room food was the best we've ever had. The portions, taste, appearance and quality was more than what we expected. We ate in the dining room every night. For lunch and breakfast, we ate on the Lido deck or in the pizzeria/deli. We had the Panorama buffet the first day. It was all right, but nothing wonderful. The Lido deck breakfast, the hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, pizza, Caesar salads and deli sandwiches were great! My son ordered room service and said the peanut butter sandwiches, ham sandwich and cookies were also good. Of course we were very spoiled with having pizza and ice cream at midnight every night!! Also, the hot chocolate was wonderful, but the machine only worked the first 2 days. Interesting fact: there are NO straws available anywhere on the Ecstasy!! I don't know if this is standard on other ships, but we've never noticed this until this cruise.
Ship's Facilities: The Ecstasy has all new bedding, which was wonderful. Our cabin curtains were a little worn with a couple of holes. The bathroom is showing signs of wear, with a few tiles missing and other discolored tiles, but everything functionally worked well. Even though this is an older ship, she is in pretty good shape. There were a couple of stains on the carpet in several places on the ship, but nothing major. I'm sure other people could nit pick the ships facilities to death, but my opinion is that the ship is in pretty good shape, and being on a cruise is better than being at work!! The Ecstasy staff was always working hard at cleaning, polishing, organizing and disinfecting. I would sail on the Ecstasy again!
Service: Cabin Steward: Our steward did an excellent job in keeping our room clean. He also kept our ice chest full of ice (we brought our own cooler with cokes). He also honored our request to have the bottled cokes and water removed from our counter, so that we had more counter space. As far as his personality, he wasn't really outgoing and very friendly. We had to speak to him before he would speak to us. This was NOT an important issue to us, because he did provide excellent service. I'm just an outgoing person and I love to talk and socialize with people and this wasn't his style. I guess he was all work and no play.
Waiters: As I said earlier, our waiter and asst. waiter were wonderful. Not only did they do an excellent job in providing quality service, they were fun and I even danced with them!!
Cruise director: Our cruise director was Rebecca Llewellen. She did a good job in keeping things organized and running smoothly. However, we feel that we've had more entertaining cruise directors on other cruises.
Ship's photographers: As always, the ships photographers were everywhere, but they did not pressure you or push you into taking any pictures. We were also very impressed with the selection of various backdrops used for pictures throughout the ship. The used motorcycles, cars, pianos as well as stairways, libraries and waterfalls as backgrounds. They also had a picture station on the Promenade deck set up that you could dress up in all different kinds of outfits to take pictures. Their selection in picture backgrounds were very different and lots of varieties to choose from. However, the photo gallery was VERY small and cramped. Due to lack of space, they rotated their pictures daily. If you missed finding your pictures one day, then they were gone the next.
Entertainment: Being a musical person myself, I tend to be very critical of musical performances. Their entertainment shows were great and very enjoyable. The Country show on the last night was AWESOME!! Not only because of the country theme and most people were from Texas, but they also sang "Rocky Top" and I'm a Tennessee Volunteer through and through!! They ended the show with Lee Greenwood's "I'm proud to be an American". Everyone was on their feet and not many dry eyes. The live show band was great, too. They had a 30 minute show one afternoon and we sat in the Blue Sapphire lounge and listened to them. They played jazz, big band, swing and other styles. This was very enjoyable. Overall, all the entertainment (dancers, Atrium music, bars) was very relaxing and enjoyable.
Ports of Call: This was a 4 day cruise with Cozumel as our only port of call. We docked at the Puerto Maya pier. All the shops on the pier had no power due to the hurricane. However, they were open for business and were very friendly and positive. Several of the shop walls and ceiling had damage, but they were working at getting them repaired. We took a $6.00 cab ride to Carlos and Charlies in downtown Cozumel. We went through several shops at the mall like Los Cinco Soles. As we were in the cab, I noticed lots of hurricane damage. Roofs blown away, walls missing, trees down, powerlines down, etc. However, I was very impressed with the Mexican people and how hard they were working at cleaning, repairing and putting their lives back together while still being cordial and friendly to all the cruise guests.
Tips/Gratuities: Our tips were put on our sail and sign. The tips were $40.00 a person, which was $120.00 for our family of 3. I'm assuming our steward and waiters knew that we paid, because we were not given any vouchers to present to them. I really think Carnival needs to print out vouchers so that we have something to give them on the last night, so that they know we paid. We tipped room service $2.00 each time we ordered. We also tipped our shuttle driver at the port and our baggage handler ($1.00 per bag).
Weather/Sea Conditions: Having never sailed during hurricane season before, I was a little concerned with how rough the seas might be. WOW, was I surprised. This was the smoothest cruise we've ever had. We could barely feel the ship moving. With several TD's and several hurricanes in the past month, I really thought the seas would really be churning. The only rain we had was a quick 5 minute rain shower on our first sea day. After arriving home, I think this shower must have been from TD Gert. I didn't even know there was a TD in the Gulf and over the Yucatan. We never had any weather problems and very smooth seas!!
Disembarkation: Our final Sign and sail bill was under our door at 6am and needed no corrections. We decided we would try the self assist debarkation. They called for all self assists at 7:30 am and we were off the ship by 7:45am. It was nice not having to look for your luggage. There were a lot more people using this service than I thought would. There were probably around 200-300 or so, but the line moved quickly. Once outside the terminal, our EZ cruise shuttle was waiting. We were in our car pulling away at 8:00am. We were at Cracker Barrel eating breakfast at 8:30am. If you don't mind hauling your own luggage, I would certainly recommend this service because you bypass a lot of the crowds once you're off the ship. The shuttles and port traffic was not even busy and we liked that.
Past Passenger Benefits: Well, this is one area that Carnival could learn from Royal Caribbean. With the exception of the Gold Sign and Sail (past guest color), there were no acknowledgments/benefits or parties for past guests. The Carnival past guest party is only on 5 days or longer. RCCL has the past guest coupon book, welcome back party and a welcome back gift. This will not keep us from sailing Carnival again, but the past guest benefits and recognition would sure be nice.
Overall, we would give this ship an 8 rating. The dining room food was a 10 rating. The entertainment shows with the Ecstasy dancers were a 10. Other entertainment would be an 8.