My husband and I needed to escape the long, cold Chicago winter, so we decided to cruise on Elation in late March. First, we love (can I say that in all caps - LOVE) New Orleans. The city is just such a great place to spend time. No matter what you like, it's there. So after arriving there the late afternoon prior to our cruise and enjoying the night on Bourbon Street and in the French Quarter, we grabbed some cafe au'lait and beignets at Cafe DuMonde on the morning we embarked the ship and then headed over to the terminal.
Embarkation, including parking, was a breeze. The VIP lounge was set up very well and it was mabe 25 minutes from the time we left the car in the garage until we were walking on to the ship (we arrived at 11:30). We're platinum and had a grand suite, so our room was ready. We dropped off our carry-on bag, unpacked a little bit, checked out the suite and the balcony and then wandered the ship a bit before grabbing a bite to eat on the Lido deck.
First impressions were fantastic. The ship was very well kept, clean, and funny enough, the orange and teal color scheme matches all this spring's clothing that is currently in the stores. We joked that if you wait long enough, everything comes back into vogue, and the decor here certainly proved that point very well.
The layout of this ship is one of the older layouts, which I really appreciated. Rather than the waterpark at the back of the ship on deck 11, there is a smaller, round pool, whirlpool, and kiddie pool. The ship was pretty full, but it never felt overly crowded except on the first sea day, when we had trouble finding a spot to hang out on the main decks - we eventually did find a lounge chair on Deck 11, overlooking the main pool area, but not before waiting for about 90 minutes on the Serenity deck, hoping that something would open up. (our first pass of the main pool areas and even the back pool areas gave us no luck) There were plenty of chairs being "used" by folded towels, books, and single flip-flops, but the deck attendant freaked out at the idea of moving these things so that my husband and I and the other two couples that were hoping for a seat could use them. She stated it was "against the rules" for either her or us to move them - clearly not so, since there was a notice in the Fun Times stating items could be removed after 40 minutes ... but rather than argue with stupidity (although we tried), we kept wandering until we found a place to sit.
As it turned out, we were far better off near the main pool area. I have never been so well entertained by a crowd as I was on this ship. The crowd was a mix of Alabama and Arkansas spring breakers - a lot of college kids, but a lot of younger and older folks as well. I think (seriously) 70% of the ship was from Arkansas, 20 from Alabama, and the rest of us from everyplace else. The dance floor on the Lido was overflowing into the area where there were normally chairs, and all ages were line dancing and generally having a great time. They had to clear the floor by playing "bad" songs in order to do the mixology contest - these people were seriously having fun, and not in an obnoxious way. It put a huge smile on my face to watch.
Food service, food quality, and dining room - overall it was very well done and things went well. I never could seem to get a cappuccino - not sure what the deal was there, but it wasn't a huge deal for me, so I quit asking after the third day. Our table mates were a hoot and we really enjoyed our wait staff as well.
Ports - Cozumel is Cozumel. Been there a million times and would go back a million times. I love that port. We wanted a quiet, laid back day, so went to Paradise Beach, where they have a lot of new toys. We had a blast watching the kids (and adults) on the giant airbags - someone lays on them and someone else jumps from the top of a big floating iceberg or ladder-looking thing onto the airbag and sends the person below flying - it was very entertaining! The food was good, the beach was clean and the pool beautiful. Afterwards, we grabbed a cab for the downtown area and made a stop at the Mega! store to pick up some things my daughters had asked for and then went back to the ship to watch the pier runners.
Progresso - this was our first visit to Progresso and we really enjoyed ourselves. We used AutoProgresso and went to the TechnoHotel for the day. My hubby was a little less than comfortable in the city area, but I often travel to Managua, so it really didn't phase me. One tip - NEVER NEVER NEVER pay what they want the first time they name a price. I felt really bad for a little girl who paid $5 for a cheap fan. Someone next to us wanted one and I told them to offer $1 - they did and got it. Poor kid looked like she was going to cry, but it was a lesson learned, I guess. The hotel was not quite as nice as Paradise Beach, but was very pleasant. There were only 4 lounge chairs, but plenty of tables and chairs around the main pool - there was another pool as well, a buffet (that changed over time) with fruit, nachos, really good chicken, rice, beans, varied veggies, tortilla chips and melted cheese, and an open bar - not bad for $35. The beach was also pretty nice and we'd go back here as well. I think there are other things I'd like to explore first, like Uxmal or some of the cenotes, but it really was a nice place to spend the day.
The entertainment on the ship was really good as well, although the male singer on the main stage was not nearly as good as the female ... she is definitely stronger. This ship still has a showband and a live band that performs classic rock up near the casino as well as a guitarist in the main lobby. The pianist at the piano bar is changing over in a couple weeks, but if you get a chance to see Martyn Gast, do - he's not a traditional piano bar player - but we found him very entertaining. You'll know (because he'll tell you over and over) that he played the Phantom in London, but he really did do a nice job with some of the standards (think Frank Sinatra), anything from Broadway, and that kind of thing - no real sing-along songs were done, but we still had a good time.
The Grand Suite spoiled us rotten. I would definitely book this again - but the 4th night, a storm came up and the divider between the "living area" and the bed was not tight, and it squeaked and screeched all night. Guest services fixed it before the next night, but it probably wouldn't have been an issue then anyway as there were no waves. The water pressure in the shower was great and I enjoyed the balcony and the tub a lot. It was nice having all the extra storage and outlets, too - if I could afford a suite every time, I'd do it!
Elation is a nice, older ship. Don't expect the bells and whistles of the newer ships with the 2.0 upgrades, but you won't have to deal with the Playlist Productions thing either .. The comedy club is plenty big enough for the size of the ship and it wasn't a problem getting a seat - again, if you go into this knowing you don't have a waterpark or a ropes course (or Guy's Burgers - the only thing we missed!) you'll have a blast. I still love the fantasy class ships, and Elation is now my favorite from this class (since Imagination went to the west coast). If we could fix the scaredy cat on the Serenity and keep the chogs at bay, this ship would be my ideal way to decompress. Loved her and can't wait to sail on her again soon!