Our overall impression on this cruise was that it was not bad. Unfortunately, since this is our first cruise we didn't have anything to compare it to. We did reach a consensus that it was not as luxurious as we thought that it would be.
We arrived and decided to park at an uncovered lot directly across the street from the pier instead of parking elsewhere and taking a shuttle ($15/day instead of $10/day). This was very convenient and good thinking at the end of the cruise since we didn't want a delay in leaving. FYI: There are bike vendors in the parking lot pretending to work there. They will help you get your bags out of your car and take you and your bags to the ship on one of their passenger bikes. They work for tips. He was friendly (we tipped him $5).
Getting through customs took about 15 minutes. You can bring a small cooler and I was a little worried since mine was a little larger than the max cooler size. I also had it stuffed with a bunch of water and a bottle of champagne. They searched it but I had no problem getting through customs.
After getting through customs we were able to walk onto the ship. There were employees directing us to our room. In wasn't hard for us to find our room but in hindsight we were lucky considering that on some floors you can't walk the full length of the ship and you have to go to another floor to get through. It's a little annoying at first, more so if you use the elevators which never seem to arrive (avoid the elevators).
Our first impression of our room was disappointment. I put alot of thought in the location of our cabin to maximize our cruise but the cabin itself was less than what we expected. The pink color scheme throughout the ship was just too loud. The ceiling in the actual cabin was also pink (nauseating considering we were on a ship). Everything else in the room was just okay. If this were a hotel room it would be below average. It was a must for us to have a window and it was nice to have but we didn't spend much time looking out of it. In order to look out the window you have to stand on the bed. Also, there was an awkwardly placed picture in the room that further blocks you from getting to the window (possibly intentional?). In fairness, we quickly became accustomed to the room. Also, the cleaning staff came to the room twice a day to clean it which was nice.
As far as dining in the dining rooms. It was assigned seating. We were given a late diner time instead of earlier as requested which was understandable. We were seated at a table with several other couples. Initially, we didn't mind the idea however, it became uncomfortable because no one was talking to anyone else (and it is a circular table). The food itself was very good but the portions were small. We decided to go to the buffet from then on. The buffet was about as good as what you would expect from a buffet anywhere. There were no soda fountains only lemonade, orange juice, coffee, tea and of course water. Also, they had a 24 hour snack bar making pizza slices to keep you from starving. We didn't try room service there. Lastly, we went to breakfast in the dinning rooms because you can request a private table (much better experience).
We spent an entire day at sea. It seemed like we were going 15 miles per hour in order to draw out the cruise. I got sea sick. I went to our room, laid down, and tried not to look up at the pink ceiling. I took motion sickness pills which seemed to work. It lasted about a day.
Throughout the cruise they have professional photographers and photo scenes where you can take photographs. At the end of the day they post the photos in the atrium area for purchase. Everyone goes there to at least see the photos. They cost $20 for a 8X10. Initially, I said that I wouldn't buy them at that price but they were very hard to resist. These are the best photographs I have ever taken. It ended up being an unexpected daily add on expense for us.
Also, make sure you read the fine print in "Sail and Sign". They don't want you to use cash on the ship. With sail and sign they issue you an on board card that you use to unlock your door, get into dinning rooms, and make purchases. At the end of the cruise they'll charge your credit card and place an itemized statement under your door. When I booked the cruise it wasn't clear to me that they charge $10 per person per day of the cruise for gratuities. I didn't mind this so much because I later found out that no one on the ship expected or took tips. It was just another unexpected expense but in hindsight was convenient.
The entertainment on the ship was about average. Or was it considering that we were on a cruise ship? We got a glimpse of one of the shows. Being from Las Vegas it didn't impress us. The comedy show and hypnotist show were worth watching. We tried some of the bars on the ship but the party scene never seemed to take hold of this ship (maybe because it was winter?). We ended up going down to the karaoke bar in which you can watch other people get up and try to sing (hilarious!!!). On the outer decks, the jacuzzi was always full (with kids), it was too cold to use the pool, and the ping pong tables were always taken. We were lucky enough to get a golf club to play golf.
Debarking was too easy. There is a ship tv channel on your cabin tv that broadcasts debarking procedure along with various ship programs. I didn't really watch it. I figured that when the cruise is over that they would gladly escort you out. Your given a time when you can leave the ship. When we awoke we were already docked. We went to breakfast, waited about 15 minutes until our number was called, and then left the ship. We went through customs and walked across the street to our car within 10 minutes.
Overall, the cruise was not bad. The Carnival Elation is a very busy ship with alot of activities going on for everyone. There was a club for 15-17 year olds, bingo, disco club, kids camp, etc. The crew were attentive, friendly, and professional. The ship was older but everything was always clean and we had no issues. I would recommend this cruise for short cruises but caution the traveler not to expect a hotel room. Also, be prepared to spend for extras. I spent twice as much as I initially planned for the entire trip. If I cruise again it will probably be on a themed cruise on a more luxurious ship or a cabin suite.