Four first time cruisers here. We chose the Elation because we all live in San Diego and we received a great rate, we are best friends and all could get this time off at work. This was a 5 day cruise with stops in Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada Mexico. Embarkation was fairly easy, we arrived around 1:30 and were on the ship within an hour. We all had checked in bags and had heard horror stories of people not receiving their bags until a few days later, luckily that didn't happen to us, as soon as we found our room, our bags were waiting patiently for us at the door. We all brought on one bottle of wine or champagne in our carry-ons and had no problems with this.
From the moment before you walk on the ship, you will bombarded with photo ops. These photo opportunities will last throughout your trip, so if you don't end up with a good photo, don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to practice your poses! We ended up hanging out in our rooms for a little bit on the Riviera deck to put our clothes away and then went up to explore the ship and eat lunch. At first we were bummed our room was so far down from the top deck, but we quickly appreciated it as we always opted to take the stairs to get our exercise..and we needed it after all we ate!!! The rooms were surprisingly spacious. We had 2 to a room and this was perfect. We had lunch on the Lido deck which had hamburgers and chicken and was really good. Every day there is a drink "special" but we quickly learned the special is only special to Carnival because they charge much more for these than a regular drink. Drink prices were reasonable though; beer ranged from 4.50 - 6.00 and cocktails were from 5.25 - 8.00...depending on what you got.
After lunch and drinks it was time for the lifeboat drill, we had imagined ourselves with the ship sailing off with a drink in hand an lying out by the pool, but instead we sailed off in 3 rows of people adorning life jackets on the upper deck...that was probably the most disappointing part of the cruise, but life could be worse!
On the second day it was a fun day at sea, we mostly laid out on the deck and drank. We didn't make it to breakfast that morning but the rest of the cruise we always ate on the Lido deck or at Tiffany's. All offer mostly the same stuff. Hashbrowns, sausage, bacon, eggs, french toast. The eggs looked like something you'd fine in prison, but the rest was pretty good. For lunch we mostly ate at Tiffany's. Every day they had a different theme, such as Mexican, Japanese, NY deli, etc. Of course you could always opt for the salad bar, which I thought was pretty good. Most of the buffet food was pretty greasy. If you are looking for gourmet food, this is not the cruise for you. We ate in the formal dining room each night, which offered the best food of the cruise. The lobster dinner was awesome, the steaks were okay, but a little tough, desserts were always a treat, the tiramisu was great. Our maitre d' was awesome as was his assistant Martina, she was so cute and even hugged us and cried on our "last supper." We were always treated with excellent service and made to feel very special. Anytime we needed a picture taken they were always willing to take one. Most nights they did a little dance. On formal night we got to meet the captain and take pictures with him. There is also a sushi bar open nightly from 5:30 to 8:30, this was always nice as we had a late dinner seating and sometimes needed a light snack. The midnight buffet was extravagant, but we found the food more delightful to look at then to eat. Most nights as a midnight snack we would go to the 24 hr pizza bar. My favorite was the margarita, this was always a nice option after a day and night of drinking!
Our First port of call was Cabo San Lucas. We opted to do the boat and beach club tour. We went on a catamaran and and saw the sites and then went to a beach club. The tour bus then dropped us off if we wanted in downtown Cabo where we went and got some fish tacos for lunch. The second port of call was Ensenada. We went on a winery tour and blow hole tour. The winery tour was okay, there were some cheap options for wine as low as 5.00 per bottle. The blow hole tour was neat, the ride there was very scenic and beautiful. Our tour guide Melanie was awesome and so informative, she was very helpful in pointing out where to eat and shop. I would go on the tour again just because of her!
We saw only a few shows, we went to the comedy show which was okay, the comedian resembled a carrot top personality and he was pretty funny. We went to Karaoke night which provided a lot of laughs, the bartender was making fun of the people with us and seemed to be having just as much fun as us. We didn't bring any kids on the ship, but we did see the "camp Carnival kids" running around. They looked like they were having a ball. We saw them once in the night club dancing around and they all looked very happy. I would definitely recommend this cruise for people with children. There was a good mix of types of passengers...everything from younger couples, to families, to groups of singles to groups of freshly out of high school kids and middle aged couples and groups.
There was definitely a lot going on every day and you will get a little brochure of the activities to choose from. We never saw the fitness room, but we did jog around the olympic track on the upper deck which was nice. Our cabin steward was great and was there for us anytime we paged him. Over all this was a great experience. The ship was clean and the staff was polite and friendly, we really felt like they were there to serve us and make us happy.
Debarkation was a little longer, but not too bad. I would say it took about an hour to get off. We were able to go eat breakfast in the formal dining room before hand. I would recommend this cruise to any first timers such as ourselves. The next time we cruise we will probably take another cruise line just to see how this one compares, but I would definitely take Carnival again in the future.