This cruise was a first on any line for me. My SO has been on cruises before, and I have spent plenty of time on the boards to know what to expect. As every cruise is different for every person on board, I was nicely surprised by my experience on the Elation.
We arrived in the night before the cruise, which was delayed horribly due to the monster storm crawling through the country's midsection on 3/31/08, the day before we were to embark from San Diego. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express downtown. The room was absolutely peaceful and the breakfast they offered in the morning was head and shoulders above the competition's standard "danish and banana" offerings. Check-in and check-out were both a breeze.
Our five-day cruise stopped in Ensenada and Cabo San Lucas with two full days at sea. As this was my first cruise, I was awestruck by the sight of the monstrous ship before me when we arrived at the pier on the shuttle provided by the hotel. I know there are far bigger ships out there, but this was the biggest I've seen up close and personal. After yawning my way through the muster drill, my first afternoon was spent exploring the ship with camera in hand. I noticed several places where there was wear and tear throughout the ship, but it did not bother me in the least. All of the lively colors were definitely a feast for the eyes.
The Capers were an absolute lifesaver when it came to trying to find things to do onboard the Elation. I really appreciated how every time slot was broke down in detail to let me know what was going on and exactly where. I must admit, the "Piano Man" in Duke's Piano Bar was a bit obnoxious and loud. Every song was sung in the style of Elton John, and it really got old after about two songs. I avoided that bar for the rest of the cruise when possible. But aside from the negative impression gained there, I was also delighted with several of the other activities offered. I really had a blast with the Name That Tune competitions (I even won a medal at one!).
While I did not see my room steward up close and personal for the entire length of the cruise, he did a wonderful job at keeping our rooms tidy and stocked with ice and clean glasses daily. I have no complaints for our dining room head waiter, Ali, as he was an excellent server. Although he had a little trouble pronouncing my name, he always made an attempt and I appreciated that very much. The food I had in the dining room was excellent for dinner every evening. I was, unfortunately, never hungry enough to really chow down on the food available as we were at the first dinner seating at 5:45 PM and I am not used to eating a proper meal at that time of day. What I did have was thoroughly enjoyable, though. On the first night, the speed of service was very slow, but it was not due to bad service. It was, however, due to bad tablemates. We had a couple show up a half hour late the first night and it threw the entire flow of dinner off for our table as we were already halfway done with our salads when they were just ordering their appetizers. We had to wait, wait, and wait some more for them to catch up with us. Luckily, they changed tables after that first meal and we never saw them again. The rest of our dinner pals were very nice and sociable. We really had a good time each night.
While in Ensenada, we went on the Wine Country Tour. Our tour guide, Belen, was absolutely fantastic! She was chock full of information and humor. The tour itself was fantastic, too. Make sure to stop and take pictures of the flowers at the wineries. They are absolutely gorgeous! With all the wine samples being had throughout the tour, we couldn't just stop there. We bought almost an entire case of wine to take home with us. That tour was a really great value for the money. I recommend it to everyone.
In Cabo San Lucas, we took the Land's End Boat Tour, which was short, but not very expensive. Most of the other excursions there were very high in price or already sold out when we tried to get tickets. The tour didn't take off till after noon, so we had the morning to sleep in and eat breakfast at the Lido buffet. We boarded the tender to go ashore at about 10 AM, so that gave us a bit of time to walk around the boardwalk area and browse the goods being sold everywhere. I have just a couple of complaints about Cabo. First, the locals are ruthless when it comes to trying to force people to buy things from them. "Aww, come on. It's almost free!" There were things there I wanted to see and touch and maybe even buy, but I left them be due to the fear that I would be pressured into buying more more more. Just one was never good enough. Oh, and another word of warning. Don't let the "Iguana" men talk you into taking a picture with their lizard. They try to charge you $2.00 per photo you take, but make no mention of this fee until after the pics are taken. Secondly, there is little to no shade in that city. Walking around town in the middle of the day is a scorcher. Make sure to wear plenty of sun screen and a hat. The tour we purchased was great. As I mentioned before, it was a short 45-minute tour, but one can only take so many pictures of rocks! Trust me. I took probably fifty pictures of "Los Arcos" from different angles and with different lighting. It was a nice boat ride, though. It is a good buy for those who want to spend more time exploring the city and freestyle shopping.
Back on ship, the entertainment was great. I never made it to the "R-rated" adult shows at midnight. After eating dinner so early, my body just couldn't survive to stay up that late. The early shows were very entertaining, though. The hypnotist was an absolute riot!
Disembarkation was a disaster at the end of the cruise. Not only was I in a bad mood that my first wonderful cruise was ending so soon, but now I was told to stand in line and wait, wait, and wait some more for a woman from cabin U193 as she was called to immigration THREE times over the loudspeakers. So due to the holdup with that one passenger, Customs would not clear the boat for unloading of the passengers. Oh well. Personally, if I were at the other end of the boat where her room was, I'd have been banging on her door to wake her up or get her moving. After finally getting let off the ship, we waited probably about five minutes for a cab to take us to the airport. The fare was only $11.00, so cheap as far as cab fares are concerned. When we got to the airport, it was an absolute madhouse. Three cruises had all arrived in port that morning, so there were people EVERYWHERE. It took us about 45 minutes to get through the check-in line, then about another half hour to get through security. Luckily we had plenty of time to spare with the flight we had booked home.
In conclusion, my first cruise was an overall success. I will definitely be taking another one as soon as I can get some extra money and free time from work.