This was our 5th cruise on a Fantasy Class ship on Carnival. We chose this cruise primarily because it cruises out of New Orleans, goes to Mexico instead of Bahamas and most, importantly… it was Cheap! We aren’t picky travelers, nor do we need 4-star luxury. What we look for in a cruise is a good deal and lots of opportunity to relax and spend quality time together. This trip was just my DH and I " no kids.
Stayed at the Bienville House pre-cruise and was very happy with hotel. Close to French Quarter and for the rate we got, well worth it! We chose New Orleans as our embarkation port due to the short drive from home (10 hours) and the fact that we wanted to go out on Bourbon Street pre-cruise " Nuf said!
We chose to park at Fulton place Parking " DH dropped me and the luggage off at the pier around 10:30, parked the car and took shuttle back to pier. Embarkation process was smooth " we were on board drinking our fun ship special by 11:30 (at least I think it was 11:30 " I have no watch on vacation) " as soon as we had gone through the process of picking up our sail and sign cards, they took our Group 10 cards from us and told us we could board " never had to sit and wait at all!
We knew going into this cruise that the ship had not been upgraded and we weren’t expecting anything more than we got! Yes, the ship is showing some age, but we enjoyed her quite a bit. Having sailed on the Fantasy class ships, we already knew the layout, what was where, what bars and rooms would have karaoke, comedy, etc. It makes it very easy to get around on the ship!
Small complaint… The Serenity area could be way bigger! But even that wasn’t a huge issue except for the rainy days (more on that later)… in fact, the area two decks above Serenity became my favorite place " the aft pool and hot tubs were never crowded, there was a much better breeze than on Serenity, and the crowd was livelier than below, but not as loud as Lido Pool.
We booked a porthole room on Riviera deck..or as we like to call it " the Low Rent District! We spend so little time in the cabin, why do we need more? Cabin was just fine " clean and properly stocked. Our steward was great " and invisible! Our cabin was all the way forward, but even going between the cabin and Serenity (all the way in back) wasn’t bad " the ship is small enough that it isn’t a great distance.
This is an area that I am not a good resource for. DH and I have both had lap band surgery, so our ability to eat is greatly diminished. I did find the food choices not great " especially during the day. Carnival should think about changing their menus " having sailed each fall for past 7 years, we knew what was on the menu each day before we event hit the dining room or Tiffany’s. There are so many foods I have a hard time eating, that I basically just nibbled when I found something I thought I could eat.
Dinner was ok " again, same menu as previous cruises " nothing to rave about, but no real complaints either. Wait staff was fine " and Warm Chocolate Melting Cake was as good as ever!
This has to be the biggest disappointment as far as the cruise goes for me " but not unique to this particular ship. Carnival is called the Fun Ship… but honestly, I don’t think it’s that much fun " especially at night. We had late seating for dinner and after dinner, there were few options to enjoy the night " everywhere we went (other than Comedy shows) were sparsely occupied and nothing was extremely fun or exciting. As for the Comedy Shows " why oh why does Carnival continue to book these adults only shows in the smallest venue possible? There were at least 6 Adults only shows on this ship and I believe each one was Standing Room Only " we didn’t even get into two of them and we were there 20 minutes early. This happens on every cruise we have been on.
Daytime entertainment " I have no idea, as I mentioned, we spent our days on Serenity and Aft Pool decks so I don’t know how things were. I will say on our rainy days at sea (we had 2 plus our day in Cozumel), there weren’t a lot of options. That’s where Serenity really disappointed me. It was basically the only spot on the ship that was outside and covered so of course EVERYONE wanted to be there " not a problem except for the people who decided to use two chairs per person " one for their behind and one to prop up their legs. Understandably, lounge chairs were in the rain, but that left half of the chairs un-usable for others. One thing I liked about the RCCL ship we sailed on in the past " they had open decks all along the ship, most of which provided some shade/cover from rain, with lounge chairs " a great place to read or catch a little nap. Carnival could do something like that.
Ports of Call
Progresso… For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Carnival goes to Progresso. It’s poor, not all that pretty, and the people selling their wares on the beach are so totally annoying. However, since we always make the best of a situation, we enjoyed more than a few $1 Sol beers (our personal favorites) and a $10 massage on the beach!
Cozumel… we had planned to spend the day at Nachi Cocum, but the hard rain made us re-think those plans. We forfeited our deposit and just walked around a bit. Took a taxi to Carlos N Charlies, since we had never been… quite honestly, not sure what all the hubbub is about " it was loud, smelly and full of 20-somethings wanting to find the biggest drink possible. We stayed for a minute, then turned around and took a taxi back to ship, found a chair and enjoyed the aft pool (of course it had stopped raining by this point).
Not really fair of me to review this " our process was so simple and easy it wasn’t even funny. But then again, there were only 400 of us getting off the ship. Tropical Storm Karen caused us to spend an extra two days in the Gulf. When we finally made it to NOLA on Sunday afternoon (instead of Saturday morning), we were given the option of disembarking or staying on board, using the Elation as a hotel room and going off to visit NOLA. We chose the second option, since we didn’t want to start our drive home Sunday afternoon at 4:00. Only 400 people of the 2400 onboard chose that option, so getting off Monday morning was painless and we were on the road headed home by 8:00 am.
Overall, we had a great cruise. Yes, there are things that disappointed us, but nothing so bad that it ruined it for us. In fact, we booked our next cruise while on board and will be going on the Sunshine for spring break! If you are looking for 4-5 star accommodations and dining options, the Elation might not be for you " but if you just want to get away and enjoy a cruise, this is your boat!