Embarkation was a fairly easy process. The lines were neither long or difficult. Once inside, we only waited 10 minutes to get aboard the ship. The main issue was the parking garage at the port. Carnival said we would not be able to board until 1:30pm. We arrived at 1:00pm expecting to wait. Our bags are taken in the garage and we headed to find a spot. Quickly my wife & I learned the entire garage was already full. A Carnival employee directed from the top to a make shift spot. Once aboard, we quickly learned that ship started accepting passengers around noontime. So if you want to spot in the close garage, you need to arrive earlier than 1pm.
Carnival now allow's passengers to go straight to their staterooms. A big plus from our last cruise. I will leave the comments about our stateroom to my particular review of our stateroom U137. Our room attendant Ros was great. During the entire cruise he greeted us kindly and talked about the trip. He always passed on good advice or words of caution. Apparently teenagers like to steal your breakfast orders in the evening, so Ros told us when to do so he could have it taken care of. We were very happy with his service.
Now the Elation is a Fantasy class ship. We had sailed in 2010 on the Fascination; a fellow sister ship, it became quickly apparent the Elation had not seen much in the way of updates. The Elation obviously was showing its age. My wife quickly started pointing things out that need to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. She enjoyed the Fascination's decor, but considered the Elation's dated, not that I considered them that different. Still the ship did not seem clean. Crew were constantly working on the ship during the cruise, but the ship's old age kept showing.
There were improvements to how things were done since our last cruise. The deli & pizza areas were updated. Both the sandwiches and pies were much better than 2010. The salad bar was larger and had more offerings for everyone. The addition of the Mongolian Wok was great. I loved it and the long lines show that most people enjoyed it as well. The Lido deck was always busy, with passengers eating, sunning, and swimming. The main pool needs a lot of work. It is very small compared to more modern ships and doesn't allow many to enjoy the experience.
The American food area on the Lido deck was terrible. Any fast food burger joint would be embarrassed to serve the burgers Carnival made. They were dry and bland. The chicken nuggets were pretty decent. I found most of the pre-baked breakfast and desert items on the Lido deck either dry or just down right terrible. My wife considered their cupcakes they worst she had even eaten. I agreed with her.
The Serenity deck was something my wife & I wanted to enjoy but really couldn't. It is something only added in recent years, the area is still too small. Never enough room for everyone that wants to use it. Part of the problem is there is always a few open spots because everyone does not want to lay right next to someone. Thus couples have to split up to enjoy the area. I would love Carnival to direct people to chairs instead of letting pick them themselves. Thus allowing a few more people to enjoy the deck.
My wife & I enjoyed the coffee bar on deck 9. Always good drinks and great deserts. The sweets were far better than anything served in the dinning room.
Dinner in the Inspiration Dinning room was okay. Our wait staff did a pretty decent job every night. Service was quick for the most part. The only big negative was the bar service. It was really slow. It normally took over 15 minutes or more to get a drink. I ordered a beer the first night and it took over half an hour to get to the table. The food was okay. Nothing in the dinner service wowed me. The chicken dishes were much improved over 2010. It would be great if Carnival abandoned the dinner "shows". Most of the staff were not interested in preforming or let alone could sing the words at all. There is nothing enjoyable about watching your waiter who can barely speak English try to sing & dance to American songs. I will give Carnival credit again for pairing tables were for guests open to sitting with new people. We sat with another couple of similar age and enjoyed spending time with them at dinner.
The room service was always on time and good. Normally it delivered even a few minutes early.
The best/disappointment about the food aboard the ship was the ship's brunch in the Imagination Room from 9:30am - 1pm. Our table mates agreed it was the best food of the entire cruise. I had Huevos Rancheros for breakfast one morning and it was by far the best dish of the entire cruise. My wife loved her huge stack of blue berry pancakes. Even our table mates commented how much better the brunch was than dinner. That was upsetting to us. If Carnival put as much of an effort in their brunch as dinner, the passengers would walk away a lot happier. On that note, thank you to Carnival to actually using real eggs again. In 2010, the eggs were the worst food item on the ship. In 2014, they were much much better as well as the free tea.
Due to the cruise being so short, my wife & I did not partake in any shows this time. There were more comedy nights advertised but less big shows. I heard very mixed reviews from other passengers.
The shops were another area needing an overhaul. Smaller than & more dated than the Fascination. My wife & I were not really impressed with much that was offered. The Art Gallery interest has warn off since we take a cruise every few years, and see the same pieces on sale. We bought original art done by a local Mayan artist.
I never visited the gym, but the miniature golf holes on deck 12 were in terrible shape. The astro-turf on nearly every hole is torn or damaged. Most impairing playing the game. How hard is it to repair astro-turf?
Another complaint was our disembarkation in Cozumel. Only the forward area was opened leaving 2,000 people to get off in one spot. We headed back to our room after 15 minutes and waited another 40 minutes before they open the mid-exit. When we walked off, there was no one, as people still waited to leave the forward section. They corrected this in Progreso, but I don't understand why it wasn't done in the first place. Ros our stateroom attendant did not know either, but said it would be corrected from now on.
I never saw our cruise director during the entire cruise. In 2010, I saw the director and asst. director multiple times a day. Both were always open to comments and talking with passengers. I am sure the Elation's director is a great guy, but he seemed more at home behind the intercom than talking with passengers in person.
The weather and seas were good during the entire cruise. Only the 1st full sea day, was the ocean a bit rough, but even than it was nothing serious.
I will wish Carnival would stop taking my wife & I's picture everywhere. A photo from every night at dinner was not needed or wanted. Pictures as people tried to leave the ship were un-necessary. I am sure it is a decent money maker, but let passengers make it their choice and not force awkward photos on people. Plus is allows people to move on and enjoy their cruise.
Leaving the ship was a fairly quick and easy process. Carnival had it perfect and the process once our number was called only took about 15 minutes.
Overall the cruise was an enjoyable experience. My wife & I loved visiting Mexico for the first time and have already talked about returning. Unfortunately that will not be on Elation until it gets some significant upgrades. The ship is due to upgraded later this year, but I doubt that will be enough for us to return. The condition of Elation overall didn't take a lot away from the trip, but it did not enhance it either.
Cozumel was my wife & I's first visit to Mexico. To those first time travelers to Mexico, you will have to get into the port through a large duty free shop. You will be bombarded by sales people trying to sell tequila among other items. This is no fault of Carnival, just something to be prepared for. The only real issue was that the Elation only opened the Forward disembarkation area for the first hour. 2,000 people trying to leave through one gang-way takes a lot of time. They corrected this mistake later that morning and at future ports.
We took a short cab ride of 5 minutes, with two other travelers to Nachi Comon. It costs $16 for 1-4 passengers taking a taxi to Nachi. So try to find someone else to go with you to save on the cost.
Arriving at Nachi the building and area were simple, quaint, and nice. The facility will not win any prizes for its looks. Areas were in need of paint and cleaning. Still the staff were polite and kind. We were quickly shown to our chairs and asked if we would like a drink. The beach has a few dozen chairs and umbrellas over maybe a quarter of a mile. Different activities can be signed up for a price. I brought my snorkeling equipment and spent easily the first hour in the water. The beach is more for people to wade and have fun than snorkeling. Nachi can take you a better spot for a fee. I just swam at the beach and still saw a small but decent amount of tropical fish like Angel & Puffer fish. A curious Barracuda even paid me a visit before swimming away.
Back on land, I sat down to relax. The menu for food is in Peso's so don't let it scare you. You get a starter, main, and dessert with your booking. My wife & I got nacho's. Our neighbors agreed with us that they were great. The salsa has got some kick. I had Mexican BBQ ribs. The sauce was mixed of standard flavors with oranges. Different but still good. Overall we enjoyed our food. The drinks were good. I had a daiquiri that had plenty of rum, and enjoyed my beers.
The facility also had a large pool and deck area. We stayed at the beach, but other patrons enjoyed it. Especially the swim up to bar next to the pool & hot tub.
Most importantly Nachi delivered on its promise of a quieter place to go and relax on the beach. There were children, but never were they screaming and yelling. Everyone was having a good time without getting out of control. A great place to go and relax in the sun. That's what we wanted in our experience and they delivered.
Embarking from the ship in Progreso was easier than Cozumel. The duty free shop was larger and easier to make your way though. When my wife & I exited, we quickly found a representative of the tour company and they directed us to a waiting area with other passengers.
We had to wait 20 minutes until our departure time. Our group was delayed a few minutes because some other passengers had missed their tour to Chichen Itza and were complaining to our & another tour guide. They were finally convinced to join our group to Uxmal. Soon enough we were on the bus to Uxmal. Besides some microphone trouble our tour guide Diego did a good job of providing some insights about the Mayans & Uxmal for the first 30 minutes of the tour. Thanks to our driver Rocky speedy driving skills we arrived after an hour and forty minutes.
Contrary to some of the Carnival information, you will not stop for a bathroom break at some type of shop. You head straight to Uxmal. The bus was comfortable, but the Mexican roads were a bit rough at times. Carnival recommends sun screen and water. They are a MUST!!! Diego our tour guide describes the weather in the Yucatan as HOT & REALLY HOT. He wasn't kidding. We arrived to site and it was 87 degrees and left it being 95. It can easily reach over 100 in the spring and summer, so hydrate, cover up, and use sunscreen. Also eat a big breakfast. The provided lunch is a joke just like all the other reviews describe. No food is allowed in the Uxmal site. As well as large back packs, so I brought my SLR camera around my neck. My wife brought a small hiking back pack that was fine. Generally purses are allowed unless they are very large. You also need to wear a comfortable pair of shoes like sneakers, hiking boots, or cross trainers. Do not wear thin soled shoes. The stairs on the site are large and of rough stone. You need something with a lot of cushion.
The group followed Diego through a guided tour for about an hour & half. Diego did a good job of providing some interesting facts. They were probably were more insightful for others since I have already read a lot about the Mayans. Diego got a really good laugh from a woman who believed the Mayan's were descended from aliens.
After the guided tour ended, we had another hour & half to visit the sight. I quickly ventured up to the Main Pyramid and the Governor's Palace. Both sights Diego didn't have us climb since the sites are difficult to make up. For the adventurous, the Main Pyramid is a must. Still needing heavy restoration, the stairs make it the tallest structure at the sight. It gives anyone a great view of the entire area. There are not many large pyramids that you are allowed to climb anymore.
Uxmal is famous for the detailed carvings on most of the structures. The rain god Chac is found on nearly every building. For those wanting to get up close to Mayan's, I really recommend this tour. Also a big advantage is Uxmal is not nearly as famous as Chichen Itza. There were probably only100 tourists in the entire area when I was there, with ours being the largest group. So if you do not want to contest with crowds, this is a better option for you.
When finished exploring and taking photos, I returned to the entrance with my wife. There are several small shops run by the locals to buy merchandise, drinks, and a restaurant that serves fresh hand made tortillas. My wife & I did not eat them, but those on the bus who did thought it was a great meal.
Overall for any ruins, adventure, or Mayan enthusiasts visiting Uxmal is a must. The only negative was the heat. So you are now fore warned.