I returned just a few hours ago from a 4 day Carnival cruise to Baja California. In short, I was not not at all impressed with the experience.
The Ecstasy cruise ship is old and very dated. The color scheme is "loud" and tacky. The ship's crew hailed from a multitude of countries and the various accents were difficult to understand. The cabin decor is not at all warm and inviting, but rather a "modern- style" grayish green and maroon motif with strange geometric art. My two pre-teens (ages 12 and 14) were unimpressed with the whole "teen" program. Yes, the ship offers a "teen disco", but the counselors did little to help break the ice among this awkward age group so mostly my children and others stood around the room looking at each other instead of interacting. Another complaint is that the teen disco was open in the evening to kids 12 to 18 years olds. That's way too big of an age spread in my opinion. My 12 year old teeny bopper was overwhelmed and very uncomfortable in a room crowded with 16 to 18 year olds. Carnival needs to strictly break this group into 12 to 14 year olds (ONLY) from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; and then allow the 15 to 18 year old set. Also needed is a youth cruise director in the room each night (along with the DJ) who runs fun games that help teens get to know each other.
As for the casino, I have never seen worse odds. Over the course of the cruise I lost about $500.00 in the various machines and was appalled that I was also charged for my drinks while gambling.
"Rob's" Karaoke night turned out to be nothing more than a group of little girls using the opportunity to pretend to be Britney Spears. Carnival really needs to separate the children's karaoke from the adults. Or at least limit children to two songs a night. My heart goes out to "Rob" who MC's this show 7 days a week. What a guy. I hope he's paid well, because he deserves every penny he makes.
The meager TV selections in the cabins was a major disappointment. I hoped for movies on demand instead of the one or two selections offered -- neither of which were films I wanted my young-teens to watch. After weeks of homework, my son and daughter looked forward to being able to lounge in bed in the morning watching movies during their spring break, but that didn't happen.
A few more minor complaints; the 24 hour pizzeria never seemed to have enough pizza slices in stock. We had to wait every time for a piece. Likewise, the ice cream machine was always short on cones.
The activities on ship were OK. But give me a break..... $20.00 dollars for a "one-game" bingo card. That's outrageous.
I don't know who does the pairings for dinner, but my wife, two teenagers and I were seated at a table each night with a coughing grandmother recovering from respiratory infection, and the 6-year old "very chatty" granddaughter she's raising. Not a whole lot of interesting dinner conversation there. And who on earth at Carnival selected Ensenada as a port of call? What a run-down, dirty, disgusting destination with absolutely nothing to do ----unless of course you get a thrill watching water shoot up from a cliff crevice (La Bufadora), or like buying cheap silver that ends up turning green in three days. Very disappointing.
On the good side, I was impressed with the Ecstasy's cabin storage space. Ample room for everything -- and my wife is not a LIGHT packer. I also enjoyed the food selection. Pretty good. And the cruise director was funny, likeable and entertaining. The ship was clean and my kids got a kick out of the "towel" animals on their bed at night. The embarkation process was very smooth. Catalina was a fun and enjoyable stop. However skip the glass bottom boat tour. All the fish you see are the same. And you're charged on board for food to "attract" the fish. A bit of a rip off.
Will I go on another Ecstasy cruise? Not a chance! I'd rather take the $3000 the trip cost (cabins, photos, drinks, tips, parking, gambling, parking, etc) and stay at a fine resort for four days. Even with the added expense of food and activities I should come out ahead and still have enough money left over for tickets on the Catalina Express if I desire. As for Ensenada......you can have it.
Come on Carnival, you've got plenty of room for improvement.