WHO? My husband and I are both young fifties, low-key, beach loving Michiganders. We had only cruised once prior to this trip, and that was on a different line while traveling with two college-aged daughters (and one of their friends). We chose this cruise because of timing and price basically. We had planned to drive to Florida (as we'd done many times in past winters) and just spend a week at a cheap beachfront hotel, soaking up warmth and reading away the days. But I figured out that it would be both warmer and cheaper to cruise down to the Bahamas instead!
EMBARKATION: We stayed overnight in Atlanta (at above mentioned daughter's house) and got up very early to drive to Cape Canaveral. Carnival advised cruisers to arrive between 1:30 and 3 pm for our 4pm sailing. My husband dropped me off at the curb with our carry-ons and gave our larger suitcases to a porter to check in. Took him about 10-15 minutes to wait his turn for the valet parking before meeting me back at the line. I should have gotten into the line while waiting for him but didn't think it would be fair to then have him 'cut in'. Alas, most others did have one or two people get in line (then the rest of their group just walked up!). Overall, the line moved well and the entire check in process took less than an hour. We had filled out the 'fun pass' that came with our carnival documents, as instructed. But didn't realize we needed the customs forms filled out as well, so that took a few extra minutes. Upon receiving our Sail and Sign cards (doubles as the room key) I pointed out that it said we were scheduled for the 5:45 dinner as opposed to 6:15 as requested (and verified over the phone after booking). The Carnival rep checking us in assured me that it wasn't a problem and everything was fine. Once onboard we headed down to just check out where our cabin would be and were happily surprised to find it ready for us! So we dropped off our carry on stuff and headed to the Lido deck for a quick lunch.
CABIN: Since this was to be a 'cheap' vacation we had booked the very least expensive option, which was an inside cabin with bunkbeds. Luckily the cruise fairy was kind enough to get us upgraded to a king sized bed. We were on the Riviera deck and basically one of the very front cabins. It seemed like this cabin was slightly bigger than others along our hall and we had plenty of space. It was kind of nice to have a 'pretend' window with drapes on one wall - less claustrophobic feeling! Our big suitcases fit under the bed and there were lots of shelves and drawers to put all our stuff away, so the room didn't feel cluttered (and thereby smaller). I had read on a thread to bring extra hangers, which came in handy as I like a lot of stuff hanging to get the creases out! One of the perks of having a 'cheap' windowless room is how dark it stays in the mornings - nice if you want to sleep in! It was not the cleanest room (actually found a medicine capsule on the floor) and we never met our room steward, although several staff we saw along our hallway every day were always very friendly and said hello to us.
SHIP: Not having cruised much, we don't have a lot to compare the Elation to. The dEcor is pretty extravagant, kind of Vegas-like (and we are not fans of Vegas). Definitely showing it's age and constant use as there were broken mirror tiles and institutional looking restrooms in the public areas. The ship also rocked considerably, although the waters were relatively calm. Others who had cruised many times commented that the rocking was much more noticeable on this ship. I had taken ginger tablets to ward off the evil motion sickness spirits and no one I talked to ever felt really sick from the rocking. Just very noticeable! Kind of nice when we laid down to sleep at night but not so much fun when I was balancing on one foot while shaving my legs! My husband has a terrific sense of direction and had no trouble navigating our way around the ship after the first afternoon. I have a rotten internal compass and was always pleasantly surprised when I got where I was going when alone.
DINING ROOM/FOOD: I am a pretty picky eater and had read a lot of comments regarding the food, so I didn't have big expectations - just hoped to find something decent. We had breakfast in the dining room as well as the Tiffany area other mornings. Both were fine and each had strengths/weaknesses. The omelettes made to order in Tiffany's were fresh. One day I had a fabulous one and another morning the cook added tomato that I didn't want and the whole thing was so greasy I couldn't eat it. I had eggs benedict in the Imagination dining room that were pretty good as well. We wanted quick lunches and appreciated the speedy cafeteria style set up, going to different stations for pizza, salad, drinks, etc. Fresh fruit was always available which we enjoyed. The pizza was not so great, but I am really picky about fresh pizza and the couple of slices I tried tasted like the frozen kind. I think I'll pack my own bottle of salad dressing next time too, because I didn't care for any of the ones I tried. The salad bar itself was very good and the staff kept it refilled nicely. The first evening we went to dinner at 6:15 as originally scheduled but discovered that we didn't have a table at that seating. The matre-di was very polite and quickly found seating for us and assured us it wouldn't be a problem in the future. Dinners were so-so. Appetizers were great and eventually I learned to order several appetizers/salads/soup to fill up. Main courses were never as good as they sounded on the menu, but desserts were reliably yummy! On our last evening several at our table ordered the seafood sampler that turned out to be a real winner. Our wait staff were superb. 'Juice' and Simon were friendly, efficient and informative when we didn't understand the menu. Our eight dinner companions were both older and younger than us, but we had a wonderful time together. We never felt the need to order room service but one evening we ended up calling them for some ice since we couldn't reach our room steward.
PORTS: We loved all three of the ports we visited. In Nassau, we went to mass at a nearby church, then returned to the ship for a change of clothes and lunch. Later we took a taxi to a beach on Pleasure Island and spent a couple of hours relaxing in the sun. Half Moon Cay was our next stop and the sky was overcast as we tendered over to the island that morning. But the sun soon broke through and the day was glorious. We walked down the beach and found a couple of chairs at the far end where it was pretty quiet all day. We pulled the chairs into the shade eventually because the sun was pretty intense. The water was refreshingly cool and very comfortable after the initial plunge! Lunch was served at the pavilions near the busy part of the beach, where the spring break crowd partied all day. The grilled chicken was delicious and the fresh fruit was wonderful. They seemed to run out of several items toward the end - I think all that sun and partying made for a hungry group of cruisers! Grand Turk was very laid back and peaceful, once we made it past Margaritaville near the port. We took a taxi into town and my husband rented snorkel gear from a wonderful woman transplanted from South Carolina, at the Sea Eye (Eye of the Sea??). The taxi driver recommended her shop when we inquired about a snorkel trip. However after we rented gear she told us that the snorkeling from the shore was every bit as good as what we would see if we went out on her boat (with the divers). Very nice as she could have just taken our money and sent us out on the boat. We swam right across the street from her dive shop and later walked along the shoreline to Governor's Beach. About a ½ hour walk and a bit rocky in parts but not really difficult for us (relatively good shape). The snorkeling was even better here and we had a great afternoon. Attempted to have a margarita before getting back on the ship but the bartender was drunk (I am not kidding!) and we couldn't get through to him! We ended up enjoying great frozen ones back on board.
ENTERTAINMENT: We saw the hypnotist twice (adult show at 11 one night) and he was pretty entertaining. Went to a couple of dance lessons which were really funny because the ship was rocking so much it was tricky to walk let alone dance! Watched a little of the big singing/dancing show one evening but we weren't really into it and I almost fell asleep. We did have a lot of fun watching karaoke a couple of evenings and the crowd was in great spirits and very supportive of those brave enough to sing for us. The piano bar was a pleasant surprise we stumbled upon one night. We don't get into the casino stuff so didn't venture near there. Tried bingo one night as we'd heard they might give away a free cruise. They didn't, and it took them forever to sell the bingo sheets and raffle tickets and get everything set up. The game itself went very quick and we didn't win : ( On our day at sea, we wandered into the art auction where we found shade and a free glass of champagne, but didn't buy anything. Later we discovered a mini-golf course up by the running track. The rocking of the ship actually helped my game!
DEBARKATION: Since we totally overpacked we chose to have Carnival get our big suitcases out the night before we debarked. Tip: packing up takes twice as long as you think it will! In the morning we took our carry on stuff down to Lido and had a lazy breakfast. Since we were in no hurry for this vacation to end (and no plane to catch) we carried our coffee out to a table in the sun and waited till they were ready to throw us off the boat. Since most of the passengers were long gone, it was easy to find our luggage and go through customs. Waited about 10 minutes for the valet to bring our van around and were entertained watching spring breakers trying to get their luggage into the trunk - a very tight fit which demanded a lot of kicking...
Overall we had a super vacation!