About us - mid 50's, pretty laid back, 8th cruise on CCL, 33rd overall.
Boarding was crazy as the Ecstasy did not dock until 10:00 a.m. due to propulsion problems. The situation was handled as well as could be. The doors opened at 1:20 and boarding began about 3:00 p.m. We arrived at the port about 1:30 and the line was very slow moving - no one's fault. We were finally on board about 3;20. We did not depart until 6:30 since it took a great deal of time to load supplies.
Back up information. If you are driving to the pier. Go to the pier and drop off your luggage. Have one person go park the car in one of several lots which are about 2 blocks away. These are secure lots, but not covered, they will shuttle you back to the pier but will not permit luggage.
Enter the terminal, documents in hand to show to security so that you may proceed upstairs. Enter the security clearance line where you will place your luggage on the belt and be screened similar to the airport. You do not need to remove your shoes. You will then enter another line to check in. If you have registered online this will take less than 5 minutes. Show your edoc, your passport and your credit card and you're done. Proceed to the photo line for your welcome aboard photos. As you enter the ship on the Empress Deck they will take your sign n sail card and take your photo for security purposes. You are then free to do as you wish. Rooms may not be available and Carnival does not make provisions for your bags, so tote them along with you and head for lunch. You will find things much calmer if you go to the dinig room rather than the buffet.
The bar area in the atrium was wild and only 2 poor little bartenders to tend to the hordes of passengers. There is no shortage of bars onboard so skip this one and go explore. The least active was the bar in the back of the buffet area, next to the pizzaria. Rooms were ready about 4:00. Ours was a 6a outside cabin and was the smallest cabin I think we've had. The bathroom was pretty spacious but there were storage roomm only for myhusbands toiletry kit and my small makeup bag. No shelves anywhere. The shower is a full sized shower and has liquid soap and shampoo. There is the usual basket of samples. This week is was a razor, brunette shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste and toothpicks.
There is NO hair dryer but if you call housekeeping they will send you one. There is one electrical outlet in the room near the vanity. There is a shaver outlet in the bathroom.
There is no 'frig or coffee pot. In addition to the bed there was one side chair (think, dining room chair) and one bench which slides beneath the vanity. There are 3 closets. One has full length hanging, one has short length hanging and shelves and the third is all shelves and a safe. The safe uses a 4 number combination and is not large enough for a laptop. There are 4 drawers on the vanity. There is one end table which has no storage.
Lighting in the cabin was very dim. there is a flat screened TV but no guide for in room movies was available. To my chagrin there was no FoxNews, only CNN.
The muster drill was somewhat abbreviated because of our late departure. Rather than make people go to the boat loading site after the information portion of the drill they just told us where it would be. We were quite glad for this since it was really warm out and we were not looking forward to standing about in the heat.
The public spaces are clean and of the usual Carnival colors. The ship, although dated, appears to be in good repair. The staff was friendly and service efficient.
Food: very subjective but I would say it was fine. The dining room had nights when you could have escargot, lobster, prime rib, chautbriandand salmon. Steak is always available and if there were any area of disappointment for me it was the deserts. Of course, there is always warm chocolate melting cake but the tiramasu was unimpressive, the grand marnier souffle dull and no cheesecake was to be be found. Oh well. Ironically, one of my favorite meals was the sandwich bar at the rear of the buffet. I had a really nice grilled as you order Reuben that really hit the spot on our first sea day lunch. The buffet is an odd spot and seems to suffer from lack of proper ventilation as floor level fans are always in use. While it does keep the floors nice and dry, it provides for a lot of drafts while eating. We had breakfast there most mornings. If you enjoy omlets, they are made at the outside buffet area.
Room service is available and breakfast can be ordered via a door hanger menu in your room that can be left on your door before retiring.
Casino: The usual casino assortment of BJ, Craps, Roulette, Carib. Stud, 3 Card Poker, an automated sort of poker table, video poker and slots. The slots take in cash but dispense it by returning it to your sign and sail card. You must cash out your sign and sail balance on the final night of the sailing. I found the casino extreeeemly tight on the slots. DH paid for the cruise at the BJ table but the happy slot players were non existent. There were tournaments for BJ and slots.
Entertainment: The show orchestra played very nice dance music at the capt. party and repeaters party. There were 2 piano bar players who were both wonderful. We really enjoyed listening to them both in the lobby bar and the rolls royce bar area. Unfortunately the bars had music that would have been nice for dancing but the volume was ear shattering. The China Town bar advertised dancing and never once did we see a single couple stay in there more than 5 seconds. Everyonne left with their hands over their ears but yet the volume remained unchanged. Seemed really odd to me. Karaoke was nightly in one of the larger bars. We are not fans of karaoke but apparaently some people enjoy this form of public humiliation.
We saw the production show on the final night and it was very nice. A nice tribute to WW II women. Great dancing. We did not take in any of the other shows and didn't speak to anyone else who did either so I cannot report on that.
Progresso was our first port of call and we did the day on our own. We took the free shuttle into town and walked two blocks to the beach. This is not the prettiest beach around but I've been to worse. Massages are available everywhere on the beach for $15 and even $10 further down. They are not bad. The worst part of this beach area is the vendors - they are non-stop and everywhere. All in all we grabbed a table at Buddy's, had a few beers, some nice nachos and just kept saying "no, no, no ....... no"
Cozumel is always a treat and we just grabbed a cab and went to Paradise Beach. Nice, clean beach, pretty water, clean restrooms, very good restaurant. Each pair of chairs has a small table and an umbrella. Admission is free and for $10 you can get a wristband to allow you to play on all the toys. Good place for older children.
Spa: nice spacious place. Free steam room and sauna and very large showers if you find the ones in your room too confining. Prices were high so I skipped any of their services. They offer everythinng from facials to tooth whitening.
Odds and ends: There were 900 childen on board, but it didn't seem like it. They were well behaved. Security was evident most of the time and I never saw the need for them to step in. Ice was a bit hard to come by and we had to bug our steward a bit about it. Bar service was less pushy than on prior Carnival cruises and the bars seemed understaffed to me. There are no specialty restaurants (Steak House, pay extra type) onboard. Two dining rooms, the pizzaria and sandwich place. Also a coffee shop with deserts for sale There was one formal night, which was the first sea day. Most people dressed up a bit but I only saw one tuxedo. We docked in Galveston at 7:40 and we self-disembarked at 8:30.
Overall impression: This was our eighth CCL cruise and I must say it seemed the most "economy class". Little things contributed to that - no longer hair dryers in the room, no pocket sized ship maps, no postcard, notepaper or pen in the room.. Bath gel and shampoo seemed really cheap. No playing cards or dominos were available for use in the game room. None of these are biggies, they just seemed like a cut back.