This will be, for the most part, a fairly positive review. However, no cruise is ever without a hitch or two.
This was my 3rd cruise (not counting many cruises onboard Aircraft Carriers during a 24 year Navy career). Second cruise on Carnival, one other on Celebrity Mercury. It was myself, my wife (both in our early 50's) and her mom (age not given to protect the innocent - actually me). It was her mom's first cruise. She suffered a stroke 5 years ago and is doing pretty well but we did borrow a wheel chair to assist her with moving about on the ship. She normally just walks with a cane.
Embarkation: Arrived at the San Diego Cruise Ship Terminal at about 12 (noon) as planned. I anticipated getting on the ship by about 12:30, taking my mother-in-law for a short tour of the ship before it got too crowded and then having lunch on the Lido deck. That was the plan anyway. Going through the Carnival check in process was a breeze. When it was time to board the ship however was when the problems began. My mother-in-law was in her wheelchair and my wife was pushing her while I was taking care of our carry-on luggage. I don't know if it was port security or Carnival personnel but we were directed to 2 different gangways to get on the ship. I was directed to use the normal gangway and enter the ship on the 4th deck (Riviera Deck). My wife was directed to use another gangway that entered on the 3rd deck (easier to enter with a wheelchair). I was told that only one person could accompany the wheelchair bound person and that I would have to enter the ship on the other gangway. This effectively split us up on 2 different decks with most passageway's blocked while the stewards were cleaning the rooms. This is monumentally STUPID. I had no way of knowing where they were going to direct her to meet up with me, nor did she know where they would send me. It ended up taking about an hour for us to find each other on the ship. Stressing my wife is not exactly the best way to start a cruise. I will be communicating this incident to Carnival. Once we did find each other 4 decks apart in the grand atrium we were able to relax a little and have lunch. Then it was off to the Pursers Desk (per Carnival's Special Needs Department) to find out about the mustering drill for wheelchair bound people. After waiting in line for a short while, I was able to find out that neither of the Pursers Desk individuals really had a clue what to do. They told me to just use the elevators to get to my mustering station. At the elevators (during the drill), there were no Carnival personnel to tell the healthy (but very lazy people) that they could not use the elevators and that they needed to use the stairs. So we had to wait about 15 minutes before we could finally get on an elevator. Then it was up to the Jekyll & Hyde Lounge for instructions. This was where we finally got some useful information from ships personnel stationed there. First, my mother-in-law and wife were allowed to remain there while I went out to the lifeboats to muster. Second, we were told that we should make sure our stateroom was registered with the Purser's desk as a special needs room. That way, when an emergency arises, we are to stay in the stateroom until an escort arrives to take care of my mother-in-law. So after the drill was complete, once again I found myself waiting in line at the Purser's Desk. To bad they couldn't have taken care of this the first time I was there. Or for that matter, since Carnival knew several weeks in advance of our cruise of our wheelchair bound guest, that they could have flagged our stateroom as special needs from the get-go. So at the end of all this, we did have a good lunch of burgers & fries. We had requested the 6:15pm early seating for dinner but got the 5:45pm seating instead but that was no big deal. We had a table for 8 by a window so it was really nice for my mother-in-laws first cruise. We had great table mates, a couple from Ketchikan, Alaska and another couple from La Mesa, Ca who were also traveling with their wheelchair bound father. Our table staff of Anna and "C" (his name is actually much bigger) was very proficient and professional. Not really chatty like some but great just the same.
Stateroom: We were in Riviera 174 (Oceanview) and it was fine. It had a fold out bunk but we had requested a rollaway for my mother-in-law. It was cozy, but we made it work. We had the 2 singles pushed together against the window and her bed perpendicular to ours along the opposite wall. We still had space to get to the bathroom with no problems. The portable wheelchair we brought just folded up out of the way. The room has some signs of wear & tear, but it was still pretty good. No problem with the bathroom and the shower was fine as well (some issues with inconsistent shower water temps but plenty of hot water). One thing that did surprise me was that our big luggage did not fit under the beds. We were able to do this on Carnival Spirit. No problem, we still had plenty of room for storage. Our cabin steward was fine but unremarkable. Pluses - he kept our portable cooler filled with ice. Minuses: we did not get our Past Guest Invitations until late, the night before and I had to track him down to get debarkation luggage tags (everyone else already had them and were starting to stage their luggage in the passageway).
First night: Dinner was good, met our tablemates and had a great time. Went to the Welcome Aboard Show, hosted by the cruise director, Stuart Dunn (from Perth, Australia). The show was ok, the comedian Alan Bursky was a bit flat and they should look for someone better. They only have one show at 10:30pm on the first night. Then off to bed.
Day 2, Ensenada, Mx: We stayed onboard for this port call. We are from San Diego so Ensenada is no big deal to us. Had a relaxing day by the pool. Have heard good reviews of the Wine Country tour (where you actually travel to a vineyard). Not so good reviews of the blowhole tour (big yawn). Carnival pushes this tour so they must make good money off it. BIG SURPRISE - Formal Night was this night as well. I am used to having Formal Night on an "at sea" day. Everything still worked ok but I would imagine some people may have been tired after spending a full day in Ensenada. Dinner was great, I had a huge cut of Prime Rib (at least 18-20 ounces). The Captains Party was also tonight and they had 2 (one at 5pm for early seating and the other at 7:15pm for late seating). We were able to attend the first one. That also meant we had to get pictures taken after dinner. So it went like this. Captains Party at 5pm, dinner at 5:45pm, then pictures until @8:15pm (felt a little rushed), then off to the Mikado Showroom for the show "Rhythm". The show was pretty good and we all enjoyed it. Then we just hung around for a little while until the "Gala Buffet" so that my mother-in-law could see the food and ice carvings. Her favorite was the sailing ship made from watermelon. Then off to bed.
Day 3, At Sea: Relaxing day at sea. Wife bought some jewelry (rings) in the store. Dinner was good, I typically get one or two appetizers', one or two main courses, and one or two deserts (yes, I am a big guy) because I like to try different things. After dinner we went to the Mikado Lounge show. Tonight they had Jesse Lopez (singer, entertainer) and Paul Lyons (comedian). Jesse Lopez sung some timeless standards. He also played a great tenor sax during one song and also did a very good harmonica instrumental during another. Over all he did a great job. The comedian, Paul Lyons was much better than the earlier comedian on the first day. While he is no Bill Cosby or Buddy Hackett, he was still pretty funny (guess I'm showing my age here). After the show, we went to the Drama Bar at 10:15pm for a "Down Home Blues Show" featuring the Elations Show Band. We stayed for a couple of songs and had a good time. The Elations Show Band is really outstanding. They also had a big "Party Under The Stars" up on the Lido Deck starting at 11pm but we went to bed.
Day 4, Cabo San Lucas: a very eventful day. This is a tender port and so getting my mother-in-law (and her wheelchair) both off and then back on the ship was quite an adventure. Both Carnival's staff and the tender staff were extremely helpful. Our plan for Cabo was to take my mother-in-law to the timeshare we own at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach to show her the model rooms and have lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was pretty hot in Cabo (on Oct. 11). We had a pretty far walk (probably a mile or more) from the tender pier around the marina to the area near Cabo Wabo, etc. This is where we planned on catching a cab to our timeshare. Fortunately, I had brought an umbrella along for my mother-in-law to use for shade. My wife and I just sweated it out. We caught a cab and had a great time at the timeshare. Then back to the ship. The "Past Guest Party" was that night at 5pm in the Mikado Showroom. We were able to attend but had to leave early (@ 5:40pm) to race back to the cabin, get my mother-in-law, and get to dinner. After another great dinner we went back to the Mikado for the evening show "Spin". This was probably the show we enjoyed the most. It really showed off just how good the Elation Show Band really is. A truly enjoyable show.
Day 5, At Sea: fairly uneventful day at sea. Was pretty cool up on deck, don't know how many people spent time by the pools. Wife and mother-in-law did some more jewelry shopping (ouch) and I bought some booze. Did not go to the Carnival Legends show that night, chose instead to pack.
Overall we had a great time. Carnival Elation is a fine ship (if a little tired around the edges). For the most part, they have a very friendly, helpful crew (Pursers desk not withstanding). Our meals in the dining room were very good and as I said before, we had great dining companions. Our breakfast and lunch we had on the Lido Deck and they were good for the most part. For breakfast, I would get up early and go to the Lido Deck (giving the women a chance to get dressed, etc.). I would get their breakfast and then bring it down to the cabin (it was easier for my mother-in-law that way). We didn't use the room service because she enjoyed having an omelet each morning. After I served them, I went back up to have my own breakfast. It worked out well. We had lunch in the buffet on the Lido Deck. Normally, my wife and I like to go to the Dining Room for breakfast but it didn't work for us this trip. We also got to meet some of the great people that we had talked to on our roll call.
We did not get to do a lot of the activities that were available on the ship (dance classes, etc.) because we were always busy with our mother-in-law. We'll just save those for next time. Would love to take the Elation again, especially after her "Evolutions Of Fun" upgrade probably sometime in 2009. For now, we are planning on Carnival Spirit to Hawaii in April of 2008.