Embarkation at Port of Miami was fast, ten minutes at best Ship was setting sail at 4PM but started boarding around noon which is when we arrived at the Port. The ship is an older Ship but to me, it didn't show it's age too much. Nice amenities in the room. Room Staff was great, attentive and fairly knowledgeable about the goings on around the Ship. For the rest of the Staff, well, no one knew anything. Ask ten staff members a question and you'll get ten different answers. Food is scattered all over the place, restaurants have varying hours of operation as I found out the first night when everything was closed at 7pm except the buffet...HORRIBLE! Food was not edible, salad station was lukewarm, tried something that said on the sign was a meat lasagna....Reminded me of the Chevy Chase Vacation movie while at the Vegas Buffet..."I'll have some of the red stuff"....The entire trip the food at every venue was bad, small portions, lukewarm. There is free 24 hour room service with about 12 items divided into cold sections and hot...mostly sandwiches, and mostly terrible. The best meal we had was at the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau, which was included with our afternoon package, which by the way I booked in advance and not through Carnival. Had a great experience there. The cruise itself was nice, lots to do, lots of bars..you can definitely keep yourself occupied. The one and only pool was a little bit larger than a backyard pool..My cruise was part of the Concert series. I bought VIP tickets, sat in the 4th row and had a great time. The group was Foreigner..They came at us with all they're top hits. As a VIP we had a meet and greet with them before the Show, had our photo taken with them. It was well worth the price. I think regular tickets were $20 or so, VIP $100....Well done Carnival!
My cabin was nice, the bathroom left a bit to be desired but everything worked, shower was good and water hot, had a balcony which was my favorite place on the entire Ship. As a smoker, I was allowed to smoke out there, and honestly, it was so calming to sit and watch the ocean. As far as smoking goes, there were several areas where you could smoke and one bard that was divided in half for smokers and non smokers..Never had any problem fin ding a place to smoke. There were tons of excursions you could choose to go on. You could book them right on board or in advance .As I said, I booked mine in advance outside of Carnival, but many people booked on board and everyone seemed to enjoy they're excursions. It all depends on how much you want to spend. I booked an afternoon at the British Colonial Hilton right next to the port. Beautiful Hotel, very nice but smaller beach, yet clean and most importantly safe. It cost us $60 per person but came with a $40 credit for food and beverage for each of us also included towels and lounge chairs. Out of that credit we used about $65 for lunch and drinks...Great deal!! The passes are good from 9am-5pm. The Ship told us to be back on board by 5:30am...lol...Never felt rushed and had plenty of time to walk around Nassau and shop after the beach.
Getting off this Ship is another story. I had booked us and paid a little extra for "faster for the fun". It enabled us to get our luggage faster, board faster and supposedly exit faster. The debarkation process was confusing. We had two choices, carry our luggage off ourselves, or have them picked up the night before and they would be wait for us after we got off the Ship. I wanted to carry them off ourselves but was told that it had to be overhead size luggage and not full suitcases and that there might be stairs involved in getting off so we chose to have them picked up the night before. Mistake!! If you want to get off early, carry your own luggage, there are no steps at all but the line to disembark in the morning was around the Ship, everyone carried off their luggage except us. Once the gangway opened and the Ship was cleared, the process moved at a nice pace but did take awhile. We docked around 7:45am in Miami and we got off around 9:40am..the extra I paid for first off didn't matter and no staff could answer our questions as to where to go, or what to do to get off, they all had different answers...finally we just got in a line and got off. Once in the terminal we waited 5 minutes for our luggage..Keep in mind if you chose to have your luggage picked up the night before, you need to keep stuff out for the next day and then have someplace to pack it in...
Sail and Sign Card...I used cash the entire time and put about $200 on each of our cards and never had a problem with running out...you can beef up your account with cash or credit card anytime on board. If you use a credit card they will put holds on your card randomly..I didn't want that so I used cash. I took $1500 in cash with me and came home with over $1000...Of course we bought photos for $15 each, and some gifts on board. As for money needed or spent, all depends on how much you drink, what you buy and your excursions if any. Tips are put directly on your Sail and Sign Card for every drink and every meal but I paid tips in advance so I only tipped room service $5 each time. The Room Stewards are no longer allowed to out an envelope in your room for tips on the last night. My guy was attentive and personable so I tracked him down at the end and gave him $65 for the three night Cruise. My daughter who had a cabin down the hall never saw her room Steward except once on the first day...She didn't tip him.
All in all, it was fun, The Ship was nice, colorful and lot's to do. The Staff was very friendly, but not very helpful with Ship questions or locations of where things were or how to get there. Tons of walking to get to anywhere on board. It's a kind of hunt to find anything..A good tip is to get a Ship diagram which you can get at the Guest desk. It came in handy a lot. We rarely felt any motion of the Ship but once in awhile while walking in a straight line you'd wobble for a sec...lol....not bad at all...I don't think the Ecstasy gets a fair rap..It's a nice Ship!