First of all, our cruise was affected by Hurricane Katrina that hit the Gulf Coast a week earlier. Carnival cut our cruise short by one day and they cut out the Progresso, Mexico stop. Carnival leased three of their ships to the federal government in support of relief efforts and the Elation was taking over the Ecstasy 4-day cruises. Ecstasy was one of the Carnival ships leased out. Carnival was very generous giving everyone a $50 on-board ship credit and a 15% refund on the cost of the cruise. We were lucky. The rest of the Elation 7-day cruises got cancelled.
This was our fourth cruise and have sailed on Carnival , Royal Caribbean, and Princess in the past. Believe it or not, we liked Carnival the best. Carnival had the best service.
Embarkation: This did not go well but was probably not Carnival's fault. The Elation and RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas were both late getting into port from their previous cruise. We arrived about 11:30 AM and it took us over two hours to get on the ship.
We parked at EZ-Cruise and paid for our parking in advance ($45) www.ezcruiseparking.com and saved about $25 over using the Galveston City Parking. Even though EZ Cruise has a shuttle to bring everyone and their luggage back and forth from the ship, I suggest you drop off your luggage and passengers before parking at EZ Cruise. EZ Cruise is only a two block walk back to the west side of the cruise terminal. Same goes for when you get back - Leave car passengers and luggage at the terminal and the driver walk to EZ Cruise to get the car.
The Ship: The ship was in excellent condition. The food was great and the entertainment was excellent. The crew members were very friendly. Activities during the day seemed a little light compared to previous cruises. The exercise facilities were the best I have seen so far on a cruise ship.
Shore Excursions: I did the two-tank dive in Cozumel arranged through Carnival. We dove 80 ft at the Santa Rosa Wall and 45 foot at Punta Tunich. The dive was run by Sand Dollar and was very well managed. In Belize, my wife and I did the snorkel trip to Horseshoe Reef and Caye Caulker where we snorkeled with the Stingrays and Nurse Sharks. The operator picked us up right at the ship and we rode their boat about an hour to Horseshoe Reef to snorkel. Then we rode about 30 more minutes to the Stingrays. It was awesome. On the way back we passed a lot of private islands including one owned by Bill Gates.
One Problem: The only problem we had on the ship was with one of our room keys. Carnival got a bad batch of key blanks and I never was able to get a key that worked. Fortunately, my wife's key worked. This created a problem if I needed someone to let me into my room. Sometimes it took 15 minutes waiting on them. They previously had the same problem with past cruisers Gold Cards and didn't have any Gold Cards for the cruise.
Debarkation: This went great. We took advantage of the self debarkation and were on the road by 7:45 AM. One tip - They tell everyone to be in the theater by 7:15. Get there by 6:45 AM and get a seat in the back of the 1st level because that is who they let leave first. They also say that breakfast starts at 6:30 AM but we got there at 6:15 and they were already serving. For self disembarkation, you need to be able to handle all of your luggage by yourself so think about that while you are still at home packing for the cruise.