I went on this cruise with 15 of my friends to celebrate the end of the semester. I have been on a number of cruises before while others in my group have never been on a cruise. Overall, I had a great vacation because I was with friends (and the price was nothing to complain about).
Here's a little breakdown of the cruise:
Faster to the Fun - the best thing I ever did. I was on board the ship at 11:30am. Embarkation went very smoothly and our room was ready. I was sitting down and having lunch on the lido deck by noon with no lines and lots of tables available (this wasn't the case later in the day when the rest of my group got on board around 1pm).
Food. Food was really great. The dining room was fantastic - both food and service! Every night there would be multiple entrees I would want to try! Our orders always came quickly and were the right temperature. If we ever didn't like something (which was rare) our server was always happy to get us something else very quickly and always wanted to make sure that we were happy. Also, in regards to food - go to the dining room for breakfast. It is much more relaxing than the lido deck and room service breakfast was not as great. Even go to the dining room on disembarkation day - it's the best thing to do and you do have the time to do it!
Cabin. We had an interior cabin. What I thought was odd was that instead of having a drop-down bunk for our third person, a trundle bed was brought in. This took up a lot of space (that we really didn't have to begin with) and the trundle bed was always out during the day, whereas the cabins that did have bunks were put away during the day. Also, there was no hair dryer. I had to ask multiple times for one before finally getting one to the cabin. Seemed rather odd that the cabin did not come with a hair dryer automatically. And the doors did not automatically close/lock to the cabin. This to me is a fire and safety hazard.
Activities. Nothing lasted more than 30 minutes. Even the shows were 30, 40 minutes tops. It seemed that we were always being shuffled off to another acitivity. I also felt that there wasn't a great variety of activities for everyone. It seemed that they were trying to sell you something or get you to buy booze at events. Normally when I go on cruises, there are multiple events that I want to go to throughout the day. On this cruise, I would look at the schedule and not really see anything that interested me.
The ship overall. It is an older ship that has been refurbished. I've been on similarly sized ships before and loved it. I felt that the Ecstasy did not have as many places to go and relax throughout the day besides the lido deck, serenity, and the numerous bars. On other ships, I've enjoyed relaxing in the library, various lounges, and on the promenade deck. On the Ecstasy, there was no true promenade deck. I always liked to take walks around the promenade deck or relax on a lounge chair there with a good book and watch the world go by. The only deck that was similar to a promenade deck was the lido deck, but it did not wrap around the ship entirely (so you couldn't do a lap) and as you got closer to the buffet, tables were set up for people to eat. There was a jogging track, but it was not covered and it wrapped around the mini-golf course (always was kind of worried about slipping on a rouge golf ball).
The showroom aka The Blue Sapphire was okay. There were not many seats in the theater with good views unless you were in orchestra and in the front. Otherwise you either had to deal with an overhang from the mezzanine or a pillar. The seats in the mezzanine were not true stadium tiered seats so it was sometimes a little hard to see over someone's head (and I'm 5'8").
One thing that I did like was the various photo stations with the professional photographers. My friends and I got some great photos of us on the ship and there were so many different backgrounds to choose from. Just a tip for first time cruisers - if you don't like your photos, please put them in the recycling bins nearby - it helps clear up space for when more photos are put out as the cruise continues. By the end of the cruise, the photo staff had to set up tables with piles of photos because there was not enough space in the regular display areas on the walls.
Ports. We stopped in Freeport, Nassau, and Little Stirrup Cay. I've been to all three ports before. There's nothing really exciting about any of them. In Freeport, the port has free wifi so there's that. Some of my friends took a taxi to a beach in Freeport and had fun. I chose to stay on board and enjoyed the pool while everyone else was away (it was nice and quiet). I didn't do much in Nassau either. A safety warning had been recently put out recommending that all passengers take the ship's shore excursions and not to wander on your own. And since I have been to Atlantis before, I decided to enjoy the ship. While in Little Stirrup Cay I relaxed on the beach. The water was cold (which I expected for December in the Bahamas) and had the buffet that was set up on the island. The buffet was okay. In the future I would make sure to get off the boat on the first tender and then head back for lunch on board. The tender service was pretty awful. It took an hour to get back on board in the afternoon and I had left earlier because I wanted to beat the last minute rush. I didn't go on this cruise for the ports, so I wasn't as disappointed as some other folks were. For some really nice islands, I would recommend Grand Cayman or Aruba when looking at cruise iteneraries.
Overall, I had a good time because I was with friends and made the most out of it. Would I cruise on Carnival again? Probably not. I've cruised on Carnival before (a long time ago and the food was awful back then, so I was pleasantly surprised to see such an improvement in that area). The price would have to be really worth it for me to go again. I've felt that I have enjoyed cruising more on other cruise lines.