My family and I just returned from our first cruise. Included in the family are myself, my wife and two daughters ages 7 and 9. We sailed out of Galveston on the Ecstasy. We live in the Dallas area and decided to drive down the night before; this didn't exactly work out like we planned so we wound up leaving early on Saturday morning and arrived at the EZ Cruise parking about 11:00 in the morning. We had not made reservations for parking and when we arrived at the lot they asked us about them and when I told them that we did not have reservations, they gave us the Internet rate anyway. Guess who we will be using in the future? After a quick shuttle ride to the port we started the process of getting on board. There was a little bit of a line but still it only took us about 20 minutes to get through the line and the gentleman that checked us in made sure that we understood everything and answered any questions that we had plus he made it a point to engage our daughters in a little chat and kid them about not spending too much in the shops on board. I just thought that this was very nice considering the number of people that they deal with each cruise.
Once we got onboard we headed straight to the Pursers desk and this wait was longer that the embarkation line. Got the Sail and Sign cards handled and then went to the Lido deck and purchased the Fountain Cards (this was the way to go for us as they more than paid for themselves). Since they had signs up saying to wait until 1:30 before trying to get in your cabins (I'm not one of those that think that the rules don't apply to me), we ventured over to the Hamburger / Hot Dog line and had the first of many delicious burgers of the trip.
The ship was very clean and the crew more than courteous. I can't recall a single time on the cruise that we passed a crew member that they didn't speak and smile. We had room R114 on the Riviera Deck which put us a little forward of dead center on the ship. We found that it was easy to get around and depending on where we were headed next from the room it was a short walk to the correct elevator to take us there. The room was always clean and spotless and we never wanted for a thing while there. I am sorry that I can't spell the room stewards name but she went by Suzana. I do believe that she has some kind of mystical power since on the first day when we met her I let her know that we were not really planning on eating in the dining room that night and that she could do the turndown service at her leisure. From that day on she seemed to know if we were eating early (not in the dining room) or if we were going to the late seating in the dining room and had the room prepared for night. It was almost spooky the way she seemed to know.
Won't go into much about the ship other than it was always clean like everyone has reported here in the past. There was one day that we had a little rough water, nothing that I would consider bad but apparently there were quite a few that had some problems with it. The crew actually put the little paper bags out by the elevators and they seemed to disappear fairly quickly. I told my wife that no rougher than the seas were if you were getting sick from it then maybe finding some other way to spend a vacation other than cruising would be the smart thing to do. It's a ship on the sea so don't expect it to be like riding down the road in a new Caddy.
Only went to the Dining room the last two nights and did enjoy the meal but heck we had just as much fun eating at the other places on board too.
As far as the activities, my daughters went with the Carnival Kids group to catch one of the song and dance reviews one night and my wife and I caught the midnight adult comedy show another night. We were just having too much fun doing our own thing on our vacation and refused to make hard and fast plans every night. We also hit the hay early the two nights before shore days as well. Can't say that any of us feel like we missed anything by not going to more of the shipboard activities.
My daughters liked the few things that they did with the Carnival Kids groups but they were allowed to pick and choose themselves what they wanted to do and there were several things that they said were just to baby for their age group so they just hung out with Mom and Dad. We go on vacation as a family so their Mom and I want to spend time with them and not pawn them off so we can do our "Own Thing".
We only went on one shore excursion and it was not through the ship. I had heard about Nachi Cocom on the boards and talked my wife in to going there while we were in Cozumel. Dad is now the official hero of the family. No it doesn't have beach toys for the kids, no there isn't planned activities for everyone and no it doesn't have huge crowds and beach parties. It does have an absolutely beautiful beach, fantastic pool with Jacuzzi and swim up bar, it does have a couple of 4 foot green iguanas, the bartender will take a coconut that your children find and cut it open and make them a frozen drink from the milk, you will get all you can drink and plenty to eat (try the grouper in butter and garlic), and you will feel like it is your own private oasis. We loved it and both girls wanted to know if we could come back even before we left. My wife told me it was probably the best day she had ever had at a beach. Guys I am telling you if you want to score some big time brownie points take the family to this beach. You will have to have reservations since they only take 100 people a day but just look for it in the ports of call threads and go there.
Disembarkation was.....it was disembarkation. We did the self assist and were in group 22 again we waited until we were called and I am pretty sure we were about the only ones that did. There were folks who had opted for the assisted disembarkation in line in front of us. I know this because as we were coming down the many ramps to get in line for the customs lines I saw them going over and getting their luggage and getting in line. I'm not gripping about it as we were prepared for this to take a while (at least an hour and a half from stepping off the ship until we were through customs) but I get POed by people that think the rules don't apply to them in these kinds of situations. Just be courteous and wait your turn. I do believe that next time we will do the assisted disembarkation and just enjoy the show.
In summary it was our first but it won't be the last cruise, in fact my wife is already looking to make reservations for the next one.