We started out with a group of six middle aged fok(50-63), heading down to New Orleans on the Megabus. An inexpensive form of transportation that puts all types of society in one place. We decided to leave on Friday night the 17th at midnight so that we could spend two full days in New Orleans before the cruise. It was very very cold in Atlanta, and none of us were dressed appropriately for hanging out on the street waiting for a bus, but we finally boarded, and headed out of town. We were about two hours out of Atlanta, when the bus pulled over, and they informed the riders that there was an incident on the bus, and that we would be moving soon.
We were actually pulled over waiting for the Alabama State Police because someone on the bus was drunk and showing aggresive behavior. The police showed up, took him off the bus, asked him a bunch of questions, told the driver that the gentleman(using the term loosely) would behave, they put him on the bus again, and we started on back down the road. Our goal of course was that we would all sleep on the bus and wake refreshed in NOLA, this did not happen, but I finally got some good sleep right before we got there. The bus has two scheduled pick up/leave off spots, Montgomery and Mobile, and one rest area pit stop ( a truck stop with clean rest rooms) in Evergreen AL.
We arrived in NOLA at 7:30 a.m. and headed to our hotel to see if we could leave our luggage there, we had requested early check in, but our rooms were actually ready, and we checked in. Four of us were at the Staybridge Suites in the Central Business District-two blocks from the French Quarter. Right across the street from Mother's Restaurant. The other two stayed at the Lafayette Hotel. We all enjoyed our hotels, but I think that since the prices were the same, the Staybridge won hands down. It included a nice hot breakfast, and was closer to the French Quarter, but book early, seems the prices rise the closer to the date that you book. The Lafayette Hotel did not have a breakfast, and was further from "the action".
We all loved New Orleans, at least the parts that we walked through. It is a city full of tourists. I was so glad we stayed outside the French Quarter though, the noise level never quit there. We ate at Mothers for breakfast that first day(recommended from a friends college days), we also ate at Capdeville's, and Remoulade(fantastic oysters). We played the perfect tourists, saw the World War II museum (a must see for history buffs) the French Market, Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, did a street car ride, I did not get to Cafe de Monde, so I am still Beignet free...LOL.
On Monday the 20th, we headed to the port. My DH and I and two of our company had FTTF, we got to the port at 10:30, were processed but didn't get on until 12. We did tell our steward that we were leaving our carry ons in the room, we put our wallets in the safe, and headed up to the Lido deck, and since it was cool, it was crowded inside. The other two in our party, were right behind us, as one of them was handicapped and walked with a cane. So we all did have lunch together that first day. We were a group of six, but we all wanted to spend our cruise time differently. We had anytime dining for dinner, and we did dine together on Monday and our last night. When we requested dinner for 6 people we had a 20 minute wait time the first night, and thirty minute wait the last night. The other nights, we were seated immediately (party of 4 or 2).
As far as activities, our newbie friends did it all, bars, dancing, shows, room service, I dont think they gambled and they were never able to find a hot tub with any room in it, so they may have to cruise again.
The "girls" played trivia, went to Karaoke (they didn't sing, they watched), read books, watched movies, and relaxed. My DH and I hung out on the lido (we smoke) played trivia, read, relaxed, and caught a movie on the ships movie channel (DespicableMe II). The only people I saw in the pools were kids, it was quite chilly on this cruise, and windy enough to shut down the Sports Deck (putt putt and jogging area) on the days we were at sea.
We did do an excursion though Carnival while in Progreso-the Uxmal and Hacienda Ochill-it was FANTASTIC. Our guide was Carlos, and the driver was Eduardo, we felt very safe, informed, content and educated when we were done. The ruins were beautiful, every thing I had hoped for, this was one of my bucket list adventures. My DH didn't know what to expect, and he was blown away by the ruins, and the beauty of the Hacienda. I saw a lot of tours here in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, etc, but I didn't see any children on any of the tours. Dont let this deter you from taking your kids, seeing things like this makes them want to learn history.
In Cozumel we visited El Cid, a time share/hotel resort that does day passes for 20.00. Last year it was 18.00, the year before it was 15.00. With the cold front coming south however, the seas were choppy and cold. I opted for the pool (which was even cooler than the ocean) did a few laps and then sat out in the sun. Part of your payment goes to a meal credit for 10.00, which we stuck to the last time we were here, but this time we wanted to try some "real" food, and ended up paying 13.00 out of pocket, so meal for two was 33.00 dollars, and we ate well.
My idea of entertainment is watching everyone and everything on the ship, so the only three shows I saw were the Welcome Aboard show ( I do this on ships I haven't cruised on ), the towel animal theatre (cute for the whole family) and one adult comedy show. I guess to some, having someone cuss every other word is funny, but to me that went out with George Carlin and Richard Pryor and there has to be some other way to be funny, because it wasn't. I noticed my friend nodding off during the show, and I kept looking at my watch to see if I left for the ladies room, would I be missed? I left.
Cabin- I let my DH choose what level we stayed on, and he loved the location of being on the Empress level, as it was close to the FUN, (i really like the Riviera because when you get back sopping wet from an excursion you are at your cabin), but the Elation being an older ship has the life jackets in a huge box, in one corner of the cabin, and this eats up a lot of space. We were adament about keeping our bed as a king, but E9 is a smaller cabin to begin with, so thankfully we are not stay in our cabin people. This is a port hole cabin in the front of the ship, so traffic of people in the hall ways was minimal. I never heard any one being loud in the middle of the night.
Which brings me to service on the ship. Because we had the silly box in the room and the steward had placed the bottom of the bed, flush with the box, when he made the bed he just pulled up the covers, and never tucked the sheets back in. I guess I could have done this myself, but I was on vacation, and from past Carnival cruises expected it to be done. One day, DH pulled all of the bottom sheet back up, and when we got back to the cabin, the bed was made (???) but the pulled up sheets were still pulled up from the bottom of the bed. So not so great on the stewards service. We did have to ask for an ice bucket, which was brought in a few hours, I put the large water in it to keep it cool. The next day there was a plastic larger bucket, so I put the water in that, but the next day the plastic bucket was gone.
Food was not that great. It was OK in the MDR, but never hot. The lido deck was OK, but one morning, the day we did our excursion, we decided to eat up there, we all got the scrambled eggs, and after three other people took one bite and spit them out, I figured I didn't have to even try mine. They said the eggs tasted rancid. We did try the Sea Day brunch, the steak and eggs were good, but since the meal comes with potatoes lyonaisse, why did they give us french fries too? Not sure, and I dont think they were either. Service in the MDR was slow, and when we really wanted to get out and do something on the last evening, it was even slower. Our waiter that night wanted to flirt with all the ladies in our party, and when none of them seemed interested, he went off to another table and flirted there. The "girls" left before dessert was served. Ordered, but not served.
We had ordered Faster to the Fun, which was a huge benefit on our last cruise, but didn't pay off on this one. Our luggage, which they said would be there when we got to our cabin, was no where to be seen. Our cabin, which was to be ready when we got on, well it wasn't. I went and talked to guest services, it was like the Spanish inquisition, they had lots of excuses, and we walked away feeling that nothing had been resolved. I would have been happy with "I'm sorry" , but I got excuses. Then two days later I got a letter from Guest Services, stating that they had been trying to get a hold of me. We went down to Guest Services and they said that they refunded my FTTF charge back to my Sail and Sign card. She said they dont' promise that our luggage would be at our door when we got there(the people on shore did) but they did check with our steward, and the cabin wasnt ready. And so, they felt that we should get a refund. Thank you Carnival.
The interior public spaces on the ship are beautiful. Open areas on the promenade deck, plenty of seating in the theatre, dining rooms have table clothes, and are set beautifully. But things are falling apart. One night I went into the ladies room on the lido deck and after I closed the door to the stall, the handle fell out and I become locked in. I hammered on the door, screamed for help for 10 minutes, and finally a man walked by, heard me yelling and asked a woman to come in to see what was wrong. She did come in and ask, and I asked her if she could pick up the handle and get me out of the stall. Which she did, and I thanked her, and she said, I dont know why you used that one, the door was off the hinges earlier today. Well, that will teach me...it was on it's hinges when I stepped in.
Because we had FTTF, we were issued disembarkation #1, but because an ice storm had swept the deep south the day before, our bus home was actually cancelled and we scrambled to find a rental car that would get us back to Atlanta, and once that was done, we were actually part of the last 10 off the ship.
Overall I had a great time. I dont cruise for the food, or the sheets or the shows. I cruise to see more of what I haven't seen before, and this cruise fullfilled that requirement. I was with friends, I met my roll call friends, and I saw the ruins that I have always wanted to see. Would I cruise this ship again? Only if it's the only one that goes to Progreso so that I can see Chichen Itza. Would I cruise Carnival again? In a heart beat.