Let me preface this by setting the scene for the trip: There were 7 girls total split between 2 rooms. We were long time friends and this was a fun little reunion cruise, with no expectations other than a good time. All of the girls had been on at least 1 cruise prior to this one (Carnival Celebration in 2001 together) and a few of us were veteran cruisers (This was my 11th cruise - 7 on Royal Caribbean, 3 on Carnival and 1 on Norwegian).
EMBARKATION: This was probably the smoothest part of our trip. 5 of the girls waited in line outside while the other 2 went to park the cars. The shuttle service was speedy and efficient. Also once we got inside the line took maybe 10 minutes to get through and the staff on land was helpful and friendly.
CABIN: Pros: The cabin was good,a small clean room. The beds were always made up the room was always kept neat. Cons: our cabin steward never once introduced himself or said 'hello' in the hall or room. The halls always had the faint smell of sewage. We drank the 2 Diet Cokes on the first night and they were never replaced even after requesting it.
DINING: Pros: the hamburgers and pizza were really tasty up on the Lido deck; dinner was the 1 time that our entire group was able to really sit down and talk. Cons: Dinner - the average wait time for us to get water or menus was about 7-10 minutes (our waiter was never anywhere to be found - his other tables received the same treatment); typically there will be a wine steward or someone from the bar who will come around to each table to take 'adult' drink orders - however this never happened unless we sent someone from our group to find them and even then they would act inconvenienced, each of us decided to order our own bottle of wine and then have them re corked each night, when our orders were initially placed they only got 3 out 7 bottles correct; due to our waiter not being around, our orders were always the last in the kitchen and therefore guaranteeing that our food was cold EVERY night - also the quality of Carnival's food has always been their biggest weakness in my eyes; our waiter's group of tables were always the very last to leave the dining room making us miss 2 shows after dinner.
DAYS AT SEA: Pros: These days were always spent lounging in the sun; we never had an issue finding 7 chairs together; the upper deck (1 up from the pool level) was really quiet and the breeze felt great(!) Cons: I feel that the ship was desperately understaffed - it was next to impossible to find a waiter while up on the deck to take a drink order; due to the lack of waiters, there was always a really long line at the bar - we would wait for about 10 minutes and then give up and go get some juice or iced tea from the self-serve area; there were also not enough activities to fill even a 1/4 of a day at sea let alone 2.
EXCURSION: We booked the Playa Mia Deluxe Beach Break. This was by far our WORST experience on this trip! I'm going to start with the cons and end with the pros. Cons: due to the headwinds our ship pulled into Cozumel 2 hours late therefore causing all of the Ecstasy passengers to be the LAST guests to arrive at the beach and thus resulting in there being NO MORE CHAIRS nor anyplace to just lay our towels(!!!); the beach was overcrowded (there was absolutely no limit to the # of guests they allowed to book this excursion - and there were also 2 other cruise ships that beat us to the beach); poor service from wait staff (this could have been due to our poor location on far corner of the beach) - if we wanted a drink we had to get up and walk to the bar (I realize how lazy this will sound, however we were promised waiters) which was actually a really far walk on really HOT sand; the food buffet was sub-par (cold food and they were always out); here's the best part - there were MICE on the beach!!! Pros: the bus ride to the beach was very comfortable and well organized; when we got up to get the drinks, they were really good; we were able to leave the beach within 1 hour and take a taxi back to the city for less than $5 each
DEBARKATION: Pros: we did the self-assist with the bags and were off really quickly; customs took no time at all (except for the jerks in front of us who forgot to fill out the paperwork prior getting in line, thus taking up 15 minutes of every one's time because they didn't follow the simple instructions (this is still under pro because it was still the fastest check out I've experienced); the shuttle back to the cars was quick and easy. Cons: The hallways were claustrophobic and crowded; we decided to do breakfast in the dining room that morning and it was by far the worst breakfast that we had, the waiters were rude and the food was bad (yes, it really was BAD)
OVERALL: We were able to still have a good time despite Carnival. We actually made more memories due to the jokes about the bad service and food than we might have if everything had gone as expected. Once I got home I immediately called my travel agent and informed her of my experience, she then surprised me by NOT acting surprised at all to hear about that experience on the Ecstasy - she of course apologized, but said that I wasn't the first that she heard that from. She then directed me to Carnival's guest relations line to let them have it, she thought that it might have more impact if both of us related my experience. The only reason that I even felt obliged to pass this information on is because I had already booked another cruise on the Carnival Conquest for Labor Day weekend and I was so turned off by this experience that I wanted to cancel my future trip, which I have since done and booked another one with Royal Caribbean. The most irritating thing is that when I very politely (trust me, I was polite) told the guest relations agent that I was going to cancel my future, already fully paid for trip on the Conquest and book with another cruise line, her response was, "I completely understand and do hope that you'll book with Carnival again in the future!" I mean, seriously?!
My dad put it best by saying, "What did you expect? You get what you pay for and Carnival is the equivalent of Motel 6"
I will NOT book with Carnival again. They had a chance to save me as a customer when I called, however they dropped the ball and lost not only me as a customer but my other 6 cruise mates and anyone else that I tell about my experience.
If you do choose this cruise, I really wish you the best!