Our first cruise so we had no comparison but we thought it was a fantastic, inexpensive way to vacation.
The ship was beautiful and clean. I couldn't believe the number of staff present. Embarkation was so easy. We pulled into the port parking garage, a staff member swiped our credit card ($80 bucks for 5 days) and then we pulled up dropped off our luggage to a seacap with a tip and we're directed into an elevator. Waited in a couple of short lines and 45 minutes later we were on board having a burger on the lido deck. They told us on shore that rooms would be ready at 1:30 but while eating at 12:30 they announced all rooms were ready.
I read the lists of must brings and ended up not using most of it. Didn't need the overdoor organizer, there was plenty of space in our oceanview cabin. Thankfully didn't need any of the meds or duct tape and saw no need for the highlighter either, since the Funtimes comes with a handy tear off section. Didn't need the fan for white noise as we were in a nice quiet hall. We also brought too many clothes. Never used the casual shorts and tees we brought for daytime. We were in swimsuits/coverups or our nicer evening clothes.
My must brings next time will be simple, an extension cord and a battery operated clock (the electric one loses time everyday due to the the ships electricity). Also hair conditioner since the sun and wind are not kind to my curls.
The one change we would make would be to opt for my time or early dining. The late dining was too late for us and made us feel tired to eat so much so late. We found the food mostly good and had great service. Buffet quality food for the most part, but we're not picky. Tipped our our mdr staff extra because we enjoyed them so much. We were seated at a table of 10 and never had a full table, usually it was 4 of us. A different couple showed up each night. The first night was a younger couple with two teenage sons. The one son kept his sunglasses on the entire time and wasn't really happy with anything so we were glad they never reappeared. I don't know why two teenagers ended up at a table of mostly 50plus couples. My husband really enjoyed the fried chicken and I loved the chocolate melting cake.
The lines for the buffet and grill were shorter than I thought they would be, we never waited more than a few minutes and we always managed to find a table to sit at.
We didn't notice any deck chair hogging and the only place it was hard to find chairs together was on the serenity deck. We didn't find it until mid cruise, but it's definitely nicer there with comfier chairs.
We spent less on alcohol than we had budgetted, both of our shore excursions included open bar so we drank little back on board those days, tired from sun and tequila. 6 something for a beer, 2.42 for a soda and about 9 bucks for a margarita including autotip on board. The drink servers on the pool deck come around toooo often. You get tired of saying no thanks.
Went to see both shows, Rock and Win It and thought both were entertaining although not Chicago type quality that we are used to. We enjoyed the comedian and listened to a lot of awful karaoke with just enough good singers to keep us interested. Played bingo but thought 20 bucks for a 3 card game was a little pricey. Played some blackjack and managed to break even after switching tables from sitting with some people who were making me wince with their bets to a guy playing 200 bucks a hand that I really enjoyed watching play. Minimum blackjack bet was 6 bucks, you could bet 5 and then 1 on whether you'd get a pair. Never saw that before but I'm sure its casino advantage knowing Carnival.
The slots seemed very tight and we never saw anyone win.
We really enjoyed both shore excursions. We went to an all inclusive beach break in Progresso, Hotel Reef Yucatan. The food was just ok, but the beach, bus ride and alcohol were terrific. We also went to a beach break in Cozumel, Playa Mia, they had delicious food and terrific alcohol. Both had beach chairs, umbrellas, hammocks and staff organized games. We didn't notice of lot of difference in the water in Progresso and Cozumel and actually enjoyed the Progresso tour more because of the bus guide and his stories. Seemed like more authentic Mexico versus commercialized Cozumel. Progresso had a little bar right before leaving port with a pool, food, games and selling small coronas 3 for $5. We spent some time there before boarding and I think some spent the entire day there.
Disembarking was pretty disorganized and took about an hour longer than expected, apparently based on announcements because people weren't not waiting for their zone to be called and were congesting the area.
Loved the Elation and can't wait to cruise again. I think smaller/shorter is better for the first cruise and now we're ready for something bigger and longer.
Final comment is that we really enjoyed cruising from New Orleans. Not just because we enjoyed the craziness there for 2 days first but because it drew a lot of cruisers from the southern states, and being a northerner I have to admit, Southerners are just so much nicer. Between the staff being so pleasant and then the fellow passengers always starting conversations we were in for a rude awakening once we got back up north. Got a rude guy at a hotel followed by a disinterested waiter in the restaurant and we both said, WE WANT TO GO BACK!