My husband and I arrived at the port and parked in the 5 Star lot across the street at about 10:30 a.m., we walked around a bit because the sign said no entrance until 11:00, but then we noticed some people going in so we went back to our car and got our luggage and walked back across the street, dropped off our luggage in the middle of the pier area, walked into the building, through security, and right up to a check-in employee because we had our Fun Pass completed (they were asking everyone if it was complete and sending people in 2 different directions). It took 3 minutes to do the paperwork, we were given a Zone 3 pass. The sign said they would start boarding at 11:30, but at about 11:10, they started boarding the handicapped folks, zone 1, etc. They called our zone a few minutes later, we took our boarding picture, then walked back outside across to the Elation where we went up a gangway, took our Sail&Sign picture and headed for the Lido deck which was quite a few flights since they board you on deck 3 which would be anti-climactic for a first time cruiser. We were having our first DOD at 11:42!
Since this was Spring Break time, the ship was almost completely full, 2554 cruisers including 900 children! But Camp Carnival does a very good job and we weren't overwhelmed with the kids at all. There were also lots of college aged cruisers, most of whom were very calm and quiet. There were 2 small groups of Spring Breakers (3-4 guys) that were obviously drunk the entire time and some getting into a bit of trouble, but they were at all times very entertaining! By about the 3rd day, most of them had had their S&S cards adjusted so they could no longer purchase alcohol, so things got quieter by the day after Cabo. There were never any problems with huge groups in any one area or long lines, etc. Our cabin (E61) was very quiet since the only people walking by that area are the ones that live forward of the cabin. We were conveniently close to the stairs by the atrium, but never had a noise problem.
Our cabin was very clean and the bed very comfortable as usual. George, our cabin steward did a great job even though we didn't see him too much. We had a great towel animal every night and he kept everything very clean.
We ate dinner every night at 8:30 in the Imagination dining room where the food was excellent every night. The lobster was great, my husband had 2 of them. Our waiter was Bonijan who was also our waiter on the Paradise in October 2006 and he remembered us, even called my husband by name at the door of the dining room as we were entering the first night! That made our dining experience even more special. Our Assistant Waiter, Pande, was also extremely efficient, but pretty quiet. We were originally assigned to a 6-person booth, but don't usually like sitting so tight with strangers, so we were first in line to talk to the Maitre'd and asked to change to a regular table, so we ended up at a 10-person table with a group of 2 couples traveling together and another couple on their honeymoon from Arizona, they were all very nice and interesting to talk to.
We spent quite a bit of time at the Atrium bar, it's a great people watching place and had 2 great bartenders there, Inge from the Ukraine and Sayed. We also spent 4 of the 5 nights in Duke's Piano Bar because of Damian Brell, the piano entertainer from New Zealand. His piano playing is amazing and he's VERY entertaining with his rapport with the crowd. He's by far the best entertainer we've seen on any cruise. He's leaving the Elation on 4/24 to start recording his debut album (he played some of his originals for us) in the L.A. area and I'm sure will be missed by his cruising followers. He said he may never come back to a ship, depends on the success of his other exploits.
The ship in general was in excellent shape, everything extremely clean. The tables on the Lido and in Tiffany's were always immediately cleaned up and reset. They were doing quite a bit of painting outside and sanding and refinishing many of the railings around the ship, so everything was clean and bright and shiny. Even our OV window in our cabin was very clean (compared to ones we've had in the past). There were crew members everywhere cleaning something at all times.
All the crew we saw greeted us with a smile and/or a Hi, many spoke more than that. Every bartender and store employee was very friendly, we never saw any crew that didn't look like they weren't enjoying their jobs. We spoke with many of them asking them about their families, where they're from, how long they've been on the ship, etc., they really open up when you express an interest in them (instead of treating them like servants, as we've seen a few times).
Debarkation was easy, we left our cabin at 7:55 with our carry-ons, had breakfast on the Lido, then sat just outside the casino on the promenade deck. We were group #9 and were called at 9:05 so went to the forward stairs to head down to deck 3, but there was a long line on the stairs and then in the middle hallway on the Riviera deck, but it did constantly move. We went back down the gangway and the Immigration folks took our declaration form and didn't even look at our passports or ask us anything. We went into the luggage pick-up tent, immediately found one of our suitcases, but the other wasn't in the #9 area so my husband asked one of the monitors and she looked around and around and finally found it in area #10. We walked back across the street to the 5 Star parking lot, loaded up the car, paid our parking fee and were driving down the street at 9:45 and on the way home (sadly).
We again had a wonderful Carnival cruise (which keeps us loyal cruisers) with no problems at all and lots of fun!