Just to give you a little background before I start my review of our 5 day Elation cruise November 25-30. DH and I have been on 13 cruises, 6 of them have been on Carnival. This was our 2nd time on the Elation, the 1st ship we have been on twice ( 1st time was in 2001 for a Mexican Riviera cruise). All of our other Carnival cruises have been 7 or 8 days. This was a great cruise. We really enjoyed it!
We flew in to Orlando the day before the cruise as the flights from Toronto do not get in until 12:45pm and we felt that would be cutting it a little too close to getting to Port Canaveral by 3pm ( departure time is 4pm but they want everyone on board by 3pm.) We had pre-booked a car from Budget for approx. $40 for the day and returned it in Cape Canaveral the next morning. They provide a free shuttle to the port. That gave me a good part of a day to shop on Black Friday which was an added bonus. Now it may not sound like a big deal to those of you from the US but for those of us from Canada, shopping in the US is a treat, especially on Black Friday. We stopped at Florida Mall first and ended up shopping there the whole afternoon and evening. We stayed at the Florida Hotel which is part of the Florida Mall so I did literally "shop til I dropped" that day and then just went upstairs to our hotel room. The cost for a 1 night stay is $119.
Embarkation was a breeze and very painless. After dropping the car off at Budget, they shuttled us to the pier where the Elation was docked. There were 3 other ships in port that day but each ship has its own terminal. The shuttle dropped us off in an area where you leave your bags with the porters. The line going into the terminal looked quite long but moved quickly. We had arrived at the port about 11:45am and went through security, checked in and on the ship by 12:30pm. Port Canaveral is a great port to sail out of....not crowded at all and very organized and efficient. Everyone was told to go to the Lido Deck where a buffet lunch was being served in Tiffany's. Rooms would not be available until 1:30pm. Took a look at my sign and sail card and saw that we had been assigned late seating in the Inspiration Room. Here we go again! We had asked for early seating, preferably 6:15pm. Only 1 time have we cruised on Carnival that I did not have to go see the maitre d' to get our seating changed. It is never a problem to get it changed but still a hassle each time to have to do it. We were seated at a table with 4 other couples who also had changed from late to early. Why couldn't they have done that in the first place?
We had an outside cabin on the Main Deck and it was very spacious with sufficient closet space and plenty of drawers and shelves.There were no hangers for skirts or pants so when I asked our room steward for some, he brought me some plastic ones that previous passengers had left behind. If I had known, I would have brought my own but for my past few cruises, the ships had the hangers for skirts/pants so I stopped bringing my own. Everything in the cabin looked fresh and well maintained. The beds were put together for a kingsize and was very comfortable. So were the pillows. We had a good night's sleep every night.
It started raining just as we were to set sail so we decided to explore and see what changes were made since we were on in 2001. The Elation was as beautiful as ever. The 6:15pm dinner seating is in the Imagination Room and is just across the Atrium from the shops and the Mikado Lounge. Our waiter was Ikomang who introduced himself as K and Edwin was the assistant waiter. They were very friendly and accommodating to all requests at our table. If you have the 5:45 or 8:00 seating in the Inspiration Room, you may find it tricky the 1st night. It is in the back of the ship and since the kitchen is between the Imagination and the Inspiration, you have to either go down 1 floor or go up 1 floor to get to it.
The food in the dining room was always very good. The buffet food in Tiffany's was also good.The deli was a disappointment and the pizza also wasn't as good as I remembered it although DH who had it more times than I did, thought it was good. We had most of our breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the Imagination. Breakfast and lunch are open seating and you get to meet a lot of new and different people each time. We did not try the Grill on the Lido Deck although there were always line-ups.
The Cruise Director was "Goose" Neumann and very good. He is the youngest CD we have ever had but has as much expertise and confidence as those older than him. His social hosts/hostess were also very good. All very energetic and appeared to enjoy their jobs.
The 2 production shows were excellent.....Rhythm and Spin. The Hypnotist, Jac Rene was so so ( I have seen better), the 2 comedians were great.....William Troxler and Diane Ford.
Grand Turk - it rained off and on for about 5 hours and only stopped for the last hour we were there. We set sail at 2:30pm and it looked like the sun was going to stay but we were leaving. The duty shop had better prices than the ship. The pool looked great but unfortunately most people did not get to use it. DH did go swimming in the ocean and said the water was very warm despite the rain and wind. The water was very clear and a beautiful blue.
Half Moon Cay - WOW!!!! What a beautiful island! This is a tender port and we were told to not get our tender tickets until we were ready to leave the ship. It doesn't pay to follow the rules. We had a 45 minute wait after we got our tickets. We were #14. When our # was called with #12 and #13, people with numbers like 4, 8 etc. were getting on. They got their tickets early and just went to the tenders whenever they felt like it. Also there was no one there to check what tender # you were or if you even had one. The tenders seat 250 people. The day was sunny and very warm as the captain had promised. We had a long walk along the beach until we came to unoccupied "clam shells". They cost $15 each. It turned out to be a good location as the food pavilion and picnic areas were in area just behind us. Others who got the areas closer to the pier had to take a tram to get their food. The crew from the ship bring all the supplies from the ship and cook the food on the island. Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken jerk and rice. There were also plenty of salads, fruit ( when you see pineapple get it right away as it is not plentiful and goes fast) and desserts. Iced tea, iced water and fruit punch are also provided. There is a bar on the island and the ship's bar staff are also walking around selling beer and drinks. You use your sign and sail card. It's not necessary to bring money. Even the small gift shop which sells t-shirts and a few souvenir trinkets puts your purchases on your card. The sand is like powder and the water so blue and clear and not deep as you can walk out quite far before you can swim. The water surprisingly was cooler than at Grand Turk. We stayed until 3:30pm to take the tender back to the ship. This time we walked along a paved path behind the beach and it seemed to be a much shorter walk. DH spoke to someone at the pier and was told that only one man lives on the island and the rest of the non-ship people working that day come on a daily basis when there is a ship on port. This is the most beautiful port we have ever been to. DH said they should have a cruise where the ship comes to Half Moon Cay for 3 or 4 days and tender us to the island for the day and we just return to the ship in the evening for our entertainment and to sleep and then go back to the island the next day. What a relaxing, laid-back vacation that would be!!
Nassau - It was a very warm and humid day. The last time I was here at the same time of year, the weather was the best it has ever been for me. Since we have been to Nassau several times ( not from cruises ) and know it well, we just got off to pick up our duty free items and a few souvenirs from the stores. We did not even attempt to go in the Straw Market as it was already too humid outside on the street. Except for duty-free, Nassau is expensive. Again the duty free liquor is cheaper here than on board.
Debarkation also went very well for us. We decided to do the self assist where you take your own luggage off with you instead of putting it outside your cabin the night before. It all depend how many people do it as it can be a nightmare if everyone or a lot decide to do it. The elevators get very busy early and the line-up was very long but once they announced debarkation at 7:45am, we joined the line and we were off the ship by 8:15am. We got the Budget shuttle to pick up our rental car and we still had an hour to shop before we headed back to the airport to catch our 1:40pm flight home.