Our family of 4 just returned from a 4-day Carnival Elation cruise. Our group contained my husband & myself in our 50's, my daughter & her husband, age 27. We live in NJ, but had flown out 2 days ahead of time to San Diego where Lisa & Dan live. We spent one night at the Marriott Gas Lamp, a gorgeous hotel. The kids live within walking distance of the pier, so we didn't have to take a taxi or park at the pier. Embarkation must have taken all of 15 minutes - what a great way to start a cruise.
I think that the service on this ship was absolutely wonderful. This is the first time we've cruised with fixed seating at dinner. We were pleasantly surprised that our group of 4 was given a booth for 4 in the Inspiration Dining Room at the 5:45pm seating. I never even knew that would be an option. Our servers became like family: Tatiana from Russia & Laima from Lithuania. I loved how all the servers sang O Sole Mio on the 2nd night and on the 3rd night we joined them as they all did the ChaCha Dance. On the last night they serenaded us with a Carnival version of "Leavin' on a Jet Plane". The whole dining room experience was very enjoyable. (I'd also like to note that I thought the prices of the wine bottles was quite reasonable.)
That being said, I must admit that I felt the food was rather average. There were some really great things - I loved my prime rib. It was much more tender than the filet mignon, steak or Beef Wellington. The desserts were wonderful - especially the Chocolate Melting Cake which we had almost every night. On our last night, we had 2 special Halloween desserts. I had the pumpkin cheesecake topped by a ghost made of phyllo dough & it was scrumptious. For breakfast we ate at the buffet, mostly getting eggs or omelets at the outdoor omelet station - the chef making them did a fabulous job. If you like eggs, don't miss eating here.
Activities: This was the best part of the cruise. I have to say that Carnival keeps you entertained!! We had so much fun participating in all kinds of games & such. We played Entertainment Trivia, "Win, Lose or Draw", "Name That Tune", "The Amazing Race", Halloween Trivia - we had so much fun. I even won a bottle of champagne from "Name That Tune" on the last night!! And we won 2 "ships on a stick" - if you've cruised Carnival, you know what I mean. We also played ping pong & miniature golf - this was a riot. The wind blew all the golf balls into the same spot on every hole, plus the ship was rocking a bit. You will get a lot of laughs out of this game - no skill required to play, but bring your camera!
Cabo: We did an excursion in the morning, the Clear Bottom Kayak trip. We left the ship at 8am, traveled on a small motorboat out to where they keep the kayaks. I had been really excited about this excursion. Unfortunately the water was sort of murky & I couldn't see much in the water. And we found that the kayaks became easily swamped by the waves made by other motor boats. A number of kayaks had to paddle over to our guide's boat & get the water dumped out. The problem with this type of kayak is that it doesn't have any scupper holes to drain the water while you paddle. But we really enjoyed going to Los Arcos & seeing those beautiful rocks. The water was churned up by the wind so the snorkeling wasn't very good.
Afterwards, we took one of those crazy water taxis over to where The Office and Mango Deck are located. Boy, did we have a great time here! Decided to go to Mango Deck first because they have 2 for 1 drink specials. The margaritas were huge & delicious!! They cost about $6 each. We ended up spending $80 & we got 8 of those huge margaritas, guacamole & chips appetizer, a bucket of 5 beers, and 4 entrees. And the entertainment was great - they had an emcee running all kinds of contests (involving drinking, of course) & he kept us all very entertained. Afterwards, my daughter & her husband ran over to The Office for a drink, while Bob & I hit the beach. I just have to warn you that you will be overwhelmed with vendors no matter where you go to eat or drink. But otherwise, we really had a lot of fun in Cabo.
The first evening of the cruise there was a Liquor Tasting outside the shops. This was great - I was able to buy 2 bottles of Amarula, an African fruit cream I fell in love with on another cruise, for only $26.95!! That was like getting one bottle free. This stuff is like Bailey's, only smoother. They also had a deal available the first night only - 5 tiny bottles of flavored Cruzan rums in a plastic container. You could buy the rums & take them back to your room, the only alcohol you could do this with. I snatched one up & so did the kids. So did everyone else around me - I saw one guy picking up 5 of them! This was a great deal - I mixed them at various times with the fruit punch or passo-guava juice in the buffet, or soda.
The cabins were quite nice. We had 2 cabins across the hall from each other, R92 & R94. We had an oceanview, Lisa & Dan had an inside. There is no fridge in the cabin, but you get fresh ice twice a day. No hair dryers either, but I knew that ahead of time. They do provide you with a few cans of soda & a large bottle of water which you can purchase. The beds are heavenly!! I can't stress this enough. They do not exaggerate when they say the Carnival beds are comfortable - sometimes I just loved lying there, with my cozy comforter pulled up to my chin. It was great. The bathrooms are nice & roomy - large tiled shower containing shower gel & shampoo in a wall dispenser. They also give you bar soap. There is a large medicine cabinet over the sink. Our cabin stewards did a great job of taking care of our cabin & we got 3 towel animals - I think that's the most I've ever received on a cruise.
This was a Halloween cruise & Carnival did a great job celebrating the holiday. There was a costume contest for kids & for adults - I only saw the one for the adults, but it was a lot of fun. My favorite was the guy who dressed up as Gene Simmons of KISS - he was great. I'm happy we got to be onboard around the holiday - I hadn't expected them to "do it up" so well. Most of the action took place at the Drama Bar, which became one of our favorite places to hang out day or night. This is where a lot of the activities & games took place, so it wasn't really all about drinking. It was just in a great location in the middle of everything.
All in all, I was very impressed with Carnival - it was our first time sailing with them. The ship has a more dated look than we've seen on other ships, but we were very happy with the wonderful service & attitude of the people who work for Carnival.
Disembarkation: We ended up being Group 25, the absolute last group called. We could not just walk off with all our luggage as we've done on other cruises, which was a shame because we only had to walk 2 blocks to the kids' apartment. But by the time we left the ship, the new group of cruisers was waiting to get on. It all went very smoothly, including turning in our customs' declaration.
All in all, a fun-filled cruise. I highly recommend it if you like to have a good time.