OK, I admit it -- my wife and I cruise because we love to eat. We have sailed on over 15 cruises, including 3 prior cruises on the Ecstasy. In the past the food has mostly been good with some being great, and occasionally being poor. This time the food was mostly poor. I'll start with breakfast and lunch, and then I'll do a day-by-day breakdown of dinner. Note that this was a 5 day cruise, leaving on Monday and returning on Saturday.
Breakfast: As with most cruises, breakfast is the same each day. On this cruise, the bacon tasted "old" and not very flavorful. The eggs benedict was overcooked; I prefer runny yokes. My wife had a omelet and asked for salsa, and instead was given pico-de-gallo -- not the same thing at all. The orange juice was watered down. Overall breakfast was poor.
Lunch: Very poor. The Lido buffet had several choices, but few were really good. The tomato soup was excellent -- thick, and flavorful. Other soups often had way too much onion. Entrees were usually dry, presumably from being set out too long. Entrees were not very hot, so I don't think they were drying because of heat lamps. And the entrees often had little to no taste -- even the jerk chicken. Note that on Carnival, the lido buffet lunch has different selections on the port and starboard sides (unlike RCCL which usually has the same selections both sides), so check out both sides before you make your selections. The pizza was OK, but drier than in the past (read that as "needed more sauce"). The made-to-order sandwiches were good -- don't miss this at the back of the Lido deck. Out by the pool, there was a hamburger grill (they will also grill chicken); this was OK. So were hot dogs. The french fries were OK if you got them hot from the frier, but the ones that have sat a while were tough and dry. I did not try the Mongolian grill also by the pool area (new to this ship). We ate in the main dining room for lunch on Friday. The wife had fish which was terrible. I had the ribs which were OK but room temperature.
Now...On to the main dining room dinners. I'll break this down by days.
Monday: I had a steak which was really quite good -- cooked medium just like way I ordered and quite juicy and tender. I don't remember what the wife had. The odd thing is that the side dishes now are all the same regardless of what you order; I don't remember that in on past Carnival cruises. So I was served mac-n-cheese with my steak, and not a potato. Shrimp cocktail was good, and you can have this every night. Soup must not have been memorable, because I can't remember what I had.
Tuesday: This is meal most people look forward too -- Lobster and Prime Rib. And both were quite good. I had two lobsters and one prime rib (medium rare). However, the "au jus" was really a brown gravy -- good, but not really "au jus". Now, I always love the "West Indian Roasted Pumpkin Soup". But not this time. It was watery and not creamy or thick like in the past. I was very disappointed.
Wednesday: I was not very hungry. I tried the chicken fettucini. The chicken was dry, and the fettucini was too pasty and not enough sauce. My wife tried the Mahi Mahi (available every night) and it was BAD -- very fishy and dry and tough. She could have ordered something else, but chose not to.
Thursday: We both tried the chateaubriand -- mine medium rare and hers medium. It looked like it was cooked as we ordered, but both were dry. The only way I think this can happen is if it is under a heat lamp for a long time. But the worst of the meal was the lobster bisque soup. It was horrible. It smelled very fishy when served. We each took one small taste and pushed it away. Very disappointing. I wonder if anyone ate the lobster bisque that night. Why would any chef prepare something so horribly tasting?
Friday: I had the beef short ribs. It was like an overcooked pot roast. My wife had the veal parmesan and said it was very good. The French onion soup was very good too.
Well, on to other stuff. Music: The music was so-so. The ship's band was down to 5 pieces (keyboard, bass, guitar, drum, sax), and none of the musicians were great. They also had a female singer who was OK, but off-key on some songs. Other musicians were not very good. The best was probably Loraine in the piano bar, but it so smokey in there that we had too leave. No classical music at all this time. The covers on the real pianos in the atrium and also by the Rolls Royce were never removed to my knowledge. I love live music, so this was a real disappointment.
Shows: The shows were pretty good. However, most of the singing-and-dancing shows use pre-recorded sound, so of course it sounds good. The main singers sing live. The dancing was good to excellent sometimes. The two comedians were funny. The talent show Wednesday night was fun as usual. The best entertainer is Steve Cassell, our cruise director. He play the violin/fiddle and also juggles. Steve is one of the best cruise directors I've had.
My wife has multiple sclerosis, so we did not get off the ship and I cannot review the ports.
The cabin was fine. We had an inside cabin, and usually do. We had some things that needed fixing, and these were fixed immediately. The shower always had plenty of hot water.
On all of my past cruises, the ship's tap water was fine. This time the tap water had way too much chlorine, making it almost impossible to drink. I'm glad we brought a gallon of drinking water. Tip: Stop somewhere and get a gallon or two of drinking water. You'll need it if they don't change the water on this ship.
Would I go on the Ecstasy again? Probably. For the money, it is OK. Just don't expect too much. Also, I have heard that food quality on all cruise lines seems to be declining. That is too bad. Does it really cost that much more money to fix a tasty hot meal rather than a bland dry room temperature meal?