I want to start by apologizing if this is somewhat lengthy and drawn out. I just wanted to help any first time cruisers who are asking the same questions that I asked before I sailed.
This was our first cruise and we had lots of questions and unknowns as we planned our trip, especially when it came to ports of calls and excursions. I chose not to book excursions with Carnival because we had friends who had sailed on the Elation the previous year and they did their own so we kind of tried that. I did read alot in the forums and sought advice there and I applied some of it towards our excursions. Overall that plan worked well for us and we saved some money. I will go more in depth when I explain what we did later on.
I wanted to be at the terminal by 11:00 but my dad insisted on doing a side trip first so it was after noon before we arrived and there were some lines but after parking the wait wasnt bad at all. It is a process and for a first timer you learn quick to listen to what they are telling you and just "go with the flow". As a side note, we got our wires crossed and tipped the porter less than we should have. Oooops! Some people actually tried to bring alcohol through the terminal with their carry on's. DO NOT do this because it is 100% inspected and will get confiscated. There were lanyards with plastic sleeves for sale in the terminal for $4.oo so we did that and I am glad we did. I didnt like the plastic ones from the casino, even though they were free. Even at 12:00 our cabins were ready, which was cool.
CABINS- E170, 172 and 140
We had 3 and they were pretty nice. I wasnt expecting the Waldorf so I wasnt disappointed which was the same attitude I tried to use for my whole cruise and that worked fine for me. When we first arrived the cabin was hot and the AC just wasnt blowing very hard at all. I called Guest Services and let them know and I "ordered" a fan as well. A couple of hours later maintenance came and made an adjustment inside the vent(after taking the vent cover off) and I asked him to leave it off, which he did. The last day he came back and replace the cover. When asking GS for a fan they will want to know why you need it so be fore-warned. Dont ask your steward for one because GS will place the order with him first.
We didnt bring the large over the door organizer like some do but we did bring a smaller one and that worked well for us. The "medicine cabinet" holds alot of stuff. The water pressure was great but watch that hot water because it will scald you. Turn on your cold first then blend in the hot to get the desired temperature. The water tasted fine to me. I even used it in my CPAP machine at night. Our steward, Lindell, was great and took good care of us. I got a BoB the first day and I used the bucket as an extra ice container because the cabin ice bucket is just too small. The small personal cooler might be a good idea to bring along but Lindell always had ice in both.
We booked with "anytime dining"(Lido deck 10 aft) and I am so glad we did. Anytime dining was in Tiffanys or The Imagination dining rooms, with Tiffanys being buffet. We only ate in the Imagination twice and I really didnt care for it. The wait staff was incredible but we just dont get into the fancy plates of food. And I am going to say this but please dont bash me too hard, haha, but I didnt care for the warm melting chocolate cake. Tiffanys was pretty good and there was plenty of food and desert. I enjoyed the salad bar more than anything and I did get tired of all the cheesecake. At breakfast I always had an omelet. They are really good, as are the sticky buns, which come out every other day or so. The friut bar was very good too. The Elation had elegant dining one night and we didnt take part in it but I think the next time we will pack some nice clothes and participate.
I do wish that Carnival would enforce its policy of no bathing suits in the dining rooms. They may in the others but at Tiffanys some people would ignore the policy and I think that if there were a drink and ice cream station near the main pool you would not see this as much. And for those who enjoy a decent Reuben sandwich I would not recommend getting one at the Deli counter in Tiffanys. They were horrible, but if you order one from room service they are better. We used room service and enjoyed the food and convenience.
As this was our first cruise we really didnt have anything to compare to. We enjoyed the shows, especially the Punchline comedy shows. The Karaoke was fun to watch, even though it was rough on the ears sometimes. Personally, the Wind show in the Mikado was my favorite. Get there early though. Now alot of people say stay out of the casino but my oldest daughters boyfriend made enough that he actually went home with the same amount that he left with. He did pretty well on the penny slots and got enough points to earn free drinks for the rest of the cruise on the 3rd day. My mother won at Bingo so they had fun doing those things.
Before you arrive just remember that Progresso is not developed anything like Cozumel. Personally, I really enjoyed my time there but I spent 4 years in the Navy and have been throughout the Bahamas and Carribean so I kind of knew what to expect. The pier is miles long and you CANNOT walk on it.
As I said earlier we did not book an excursion for Progresso. We were undecided what we wanted to do there, and there is alot to do, but we couldnt decide between going to Merida or to Uxmal. First of all you have to get off the pier and that is a process in itself. After debarking there is a shopping area which was okay but we opted to spend more time in there when we returned. After going through this area you come to the area where all the different tours are waiting, by their corresponding signs. We approached a AutoProgresso rep. and she had a book of all their excursions and we wound up making our decision right there and we picked the Technotel excursion. It was $35.00 PP and included all of your food and drinks and it was at the Technotel resort, which I thought was pretty nice.
The thing about using AutoProgresso is that you catch a bus there(still on the pier) and they take you to their "bus terminal" in town where you will wait until your excursion leaves. There are restrooms at their terminal as well as some shops. We did buy some items there because after you leave the terminal you will not come back. We haggled and had fun with the locals. We got some decent buys and liked the friendly people who were just trying to make a living. It was extremely hot in Progresso and I had the foresight to pack my Camelback that I had used in the Army and it was a great idea. Not only could I have 4 bottled waters on hand but also had pockets for other items so it did double duty. Bring one!!!
We left the terminal at 10:15 and made it to the resort by 10:45. On the way the tour guide(Mario) explained the return process like where to meet and at what time and which bus. The bus leaves Technotel around 1:45 so you get a good 3 hours there, which is plenty of time when you have all the drinks you can drink and it is hot. The younger folks can drink alcohol there so watch them. Upon arriving we ate first then hit the beach. There are some nice covered areas with chairs and a table at the beach as well as 2 nice pools and modern, clean restrooms. The water isnt as nice as Cozumel but it is still a nice beach and alot of fun. The Mariachi band was a hoot! The best drink at Technotel is the Mayan drink and it packs a punch. Their Margaritas are okay but the Pina Coladas were a waste of time. For some reason Corona comes in a can and they arent free. The cost is $2.00.
Now Cozumel is completely different than Progresso and highly commercialized. Upon debarkation you enter the shop area which is very nice and head for the larger shopping area on land which is where all of the exccursions are located. The only thing I actually booked for us on this whole trip was a van we rented, through ToursPlaza.com, which lasts for 3 hours. Each additional hour is $40.00. We rented an 9 passenger van with a driver and he will take you anywhere you want to go and he will wait at each stop. We asked his opinion and he wound up taking us to Chocolate tour(very interesting and free samples) then to the Tequila toour(learned alot about real Tequila and free samples) then drove around the commercialized and residential part of the island as he explained some of the history. I learned alot of things I never knew about Cozumel. He also stopped at a grocery store for drinks and snacks(they keep an ice chest in their vans for drinks). The beer at this store is only $1.00, which surprised me.
The East side of the island is incredible and there are some great places for photos there. The east side is government owned and protected because of its beauty and the Sea Turtle nests. The nests have stakes beside them to mark them and there are around 6000 right now. We stopped for snorkeling at Playa Palancar. The snorkeling is decent and the have gear to rent and kayaks as well. We ate out of the restaurant(a waiter walks around the beach taking orders) and the food was good. Their Habanero sauce is very good. The bathrooms needed to be cleaned but its a nice place. We then drove back to town for shopping. My youngest daughter wanted to go to Margaritaville for a shirt so the driver gave us an additional 30 minutes for free.
To get to the ToursPlaza buses and vans you will have to walk a little bit. When you come off the pier turn left and go all the way to the end of the shopping area then turn right and walk to the parking area where you will see all of the buses and vans lined up. We already knew who our driver was(his name was provided in the email when I booked the van) so the process was relatively simple. I highly recommend ToursPlaza as an excursion but keep in mind that I only used the van rental excursion and I cant speak for the others. As a company I think they do a very good job.
The weather for our cruise was great the whole time. It did rain in Cozumel but only after we had embarked. As first time cruisers we had a slight learning curve to deal with but it wasnt too bad and after we learned the layout of the ship things got easier. I learned early on that I had 2 places on the ship which became my favorite hangouts. The first, and where I spent alot of time, was just aft(or behind) Tiffanys on deck 10(Lido). This is a very nice area overlooking the Serenity deck with tables and chairs and it is on the stern so you get a nice breeze in the shade and watch the wake of the ship. You can sip a cup of coffee or eat your dinner as the world goes by. Very nice. The other spot was on the Promenade deck 9 just across from The Drama Bar. There is an area of the ship right there that is built wider than the rest of the ship and you can sit at the windows and see the side of the ship and the water.
All in all we had a great cruise and the Elation might be a little older but I loved the decor and the artwork as well as the Atrium. Sure, there are a few slightly noticeable signs of wear but nothing even remotely major. The crew and staff work hard to keep her looking good and it is a very clean ship. I read a review of the Paradise(sister ship to the Elation) and I couldnt believe some of the remarks that were made. Do not go on a vessel that sees thousands of travellers per year and expect the Waldorf. Its common sense. If you set your expectations too high then you WILL be disappointed. Keep it realistic and have fun!!! I cant wait for my next one.