Ok, here is my attempt to review my family cruise. My wife and I took our 6th over all cruise, 2nd on Carnival. We took our 7 year old son with us for his 1st cruise. To say that my wife and I love cruising would be an understatement. While we have not been on as many as some people here on Cruise Critic we go as often as we can afford to.
Travel to the port in New Orleans was a little confusing. We planed to and did park at the Fulton St. parking. But when I pulled into the parking garage I was not even sure that I was at the Fulton St lot. But at that point I was tired of driving around downtown New Orleans and wanted to be off the road. But Fulton St. was cheaper by $20 I think then the terminal parking and the shuttle was right their to get us to the terminal.
There did seem to be an issue with how many people Carnival had checking people in. One line (left side of the terminal) had about 8 people checking you in. While the right side only had 4, and my luck we got in the right hand side and waited longer then we could/should have. The only reason I mention it is because we noticed at least 4 other Carnival people standing and walking around that I'm guessing could have helped check people in.
The Elation is an older smaller ship. I understand they plan to dry dock her in September so hopefully some of the things I mention in my review will get fixed. For instance the putt-putt coarse is in need of repair. It's not unplayable it is just torn up and needs to turf laid down. Nothing that I would not expect to see on a ship that sees 1,500 to 2,000 people a week. Other then the putt-putt the rest of the ship really didn't look bad at all. There are a few things here and there that might need a coat of paint or a little fix job but again nothing that causes the cruise to be unpleasant.
We did let our son go to Camp Carnival. He seemed to enjoy the times he did spend there. We only took him after dinner (around 7) 3 different nights. He liked the activities they had planned at that time better then the activities that were planned during the day. We did do the Build a Bear (both times it was offered). There is an extra fee for this but the staff made sure the kids were happy with the animal they picked out. The second time we went they had 2 free Carnival shirts for the animal to wear in the box, I thought that was nice.
Service - Here is where I was greatly disappointed in this cruise. We like a large table to meet new people. We started out at a table for 14 the first night of the cruise. My family of 3 were the only ones at the table the first night. The second night we show up for dinner the matradee catches us and tells us that the other large family that was assigned our 14 top had 5 people that wanted to join them for the rest of the cruise. So we got kicked off our table without a lot of say about it. The matradee did offer us a private table which I turned down since we like the large tables. I asked for a large table instead, hopefully one that had a child around my son's age. We were seated at a 10 top with a lady her daughter and 3 kids. Here is where things get interesting. During the first day at sea before the 2nd night of dinner my son and I meet a family that has a 7 year old son also. The two boys hit it off and became friends. The other couple (and their 3 kids) told me they had the early dinning also but that they had received a card saying they had requested a private table after the 1st night of dinner. They had not requested a private table they also liked the larger tables. Back to the table we sat at the second night, honestly the people were not very friendly, they gave the impression they would rather be eating alone. After dinner we ran into the friends we had made and agreed to see the matradee about seating us (their 5 and my 3) together for the remained of the cruise. At first he said he could not help us that he only had small tables for seat us at but not a large one that would hold the 8 of us. After I informed him that I had been kicked out of my table that night he told us to show up the next night and he would take care of us. The weird part the friends we had made were seated with the same family the first night that we ended up seated with the second night. And the husband noticed notes on the matradee's screen that that family had requested a private table. So my question is why did Carnival move the family that did not request a private table (my friends) instead of the family of 5 that did request the private table. We were able to be seated with our friends for the rest of the cruise but it was at a different table every night so we had different wait staff every night so they were not able to really get to know us and our likes and dislikes. Which I think affects the level of service they are able to provide. Honestly I got the impression every night that we were an inconvenience to the waiter who's section we were seated in. Like I said this is an area that we have always loved about cruising and we were more then disappointed in it this trip. Carnival could have and should have handled it better then they did.
We did not do a shore excursion in either port. We just walked to the beach in Progresso and played in the sand and surf. My wife got an hour long massage for $20 and she said it was fabulous. In Cozumel we just shopped and got some get prices on jewelry. Then we asked the cab to take us to a public beach and we did a little swimming and snorkeling. We love the clarity of the water down there.
We had an inside stateroom. Which is what we like. They are kind of small but we don't mind, we don't spend that much time in them. It was different having the roll-away bed in the room for our son. The cabin steward left it up the whole time. We didn't mind and it was not in the way, was just different.
The food was good, not great but good. Other then the above mentioned issues with the service and how things were handled by the dinning staff the food; quality, presentation, etc. was good. I will mention that I was a little disappointed at the dessert selection every night. Carnival seemed to have the same 4 or 5 things on the dessert menu every night with only 2 or 3 new things to try. We are use to it being the other way around, 4 or 5 new things to try and 2 or 3 regular things that most people like.
Entertainment was good over all. We really enjoy the shows onboard ship. This trip however there seemed to be less what we consider normal cruise shows. The 2 shows we went to were good but we would have liked to have seen more. We did go to the "love & marriage" show while is always funny. Maybe things have changed in the last 7 years (our last cruise) but we remember there being more broadway style shows. We missed having a show to go to a few nights.
Activities - Here is another area that I took exception to this cruise. The "Fun Times" that is delivered to your stateroom every night said that the main pool was to be open till 12:00 am every night. Two nights in a row we promised our son we could go swim after dinner and the show. So we headed up to the pool at 11:00 pm only to find the pool already closed. The second night this happened I went to guest services to see why. I was told that we had made better time then they thought and we were getting close to Cozumel so they had to drain and refill the pool otherwise there would be no pool the next day to use. While I can understand the need to do that I was not given a reason for it being closed the night before nor did they seem to care that they were not following their printed "Fun Times" schedule. I was even told by the guest services lady that maybe I should plan my fun better so that my son could swim. That really made me mad. I informed her that I was planning my fun just fine allowing for 1 hour of swimming with my son. But they closed the pool early not once but twice which affected my ability to have fun with my son and made me look like the bad guy because I broke a promise that I made to my son that we could swim. I was not happy. To top off that whole experience I was never even asked my name. That was not the only time we noticed the times/information in the "Fun Times" was not correct. My wife said she noticed they closed the pool early the last night at sea also. And then the "Fun Times" said that those families traveling with children that were apart of Camp Carnival could go wait at Camp Carnival for Disembarkation so that the kids could play video games and other things. Well guess what, Camp Carnival was not open and there was not a person around Camp Carnival to ask about it. So we ended up sitting around while our son was board and kept asking how much longer and why can't we go do something. Everything else was closed also, putt-putt, swimming, etc.
Summary - It was a very good 1st cruise for our 7 year old son. Being only 5 days gave him and us a chance to see if he would enjoy the ship and things on the ship as well as tell us if he was going to get sea sick. Thankfully he did NOT! So we enjoyed our time together and the friends that we made but having sailed on Royal Caribbean more then Carnival (only our 2nd time on Carnival) I don't think we will be back on a Carnival ship for a very long time. Unless it is next to free.
I hope this review helps. I tried being honest and fair. There are many things this cruise has to offer people, there were just issues that we experienced that had they not happened it would have been a much better cruise. Thanks.