Overall This was a fabulous cruise and I would highly recommend it.
Parking: We arrived in Galveston around 10:30. We parked at EZ cruise parking. We paid $35 but the price went up by the time we returned from the cruise. It is now $45. For $10 extra they will put a cover on your car. We unloaded our luggage from the truck and only had to wait about 10 minutes until a shuttle van came. EZ cruise employees loaded our luggage in the van. We were at the cruise terminal by 11:00. EZ cruise employees found a porter and loaded our luggage right onto the porter's cart. We tipped the porter and walked to the entrance.
Embarkation: We had to wait in the terminal for about ½ hour. They did not open up the lines until 11:30 (except for travel agents). We went through the security checks then we had to go to check in with cruise employees. They had a separate line for non-US citizens and we did not have to wait at all. We walked right up More
while there was a long line for US citizens. We were on the ship and eating lunch by 12:15.
Muster Drill: This went slowly. We were lucky we met in one of the lounges so it was cool and air conditioned. It just ran on for too long because by the time we took our life jackets to our room and went back on deck the ship had already pulled away.
Decor and upkeep: The ship's dEcor is pretty unusual, lots of different colours. It all seems to go together and work though (in most places). The Mikado and Cole Porter lounge were quite nice. The Jekyl and Hyde lounge was a little unusual. They had these red and white statues and at night when the music is playing the eyes light up and the head moves back and forth. A very strange effect. Everything was kept up and clean in most of the public areas. During the cruise many employees were cleaning. If a cup or glass was left in a public area it was quickly picked up. The only thing I noticed was that on the main deck the carpet down the entire length of the hallway was water stained. In some areas of this hallway there were was a "musty" smell. Also there were laundry bags along the hallway at most times. The odd time I caught a whiff of a sewer smell in different areas of the ship.
Dining and Drinks: We had early dining in the Inspiration dining room. My sister and I "linked" our reservation and were seated together at a table for 4. It was very private with just us and our husbands. Perfect since I do not get to spend too much time with my sister. We ate in the dining room every night. The food was very good. Sometimes we couldn't decide what we wanted so we ordered 2 starters or entrees. The meat was always cooked exactly the way we requested. The service we received from Sladjana and Svetlana was impeccable. We were very impressed. They remembered our names and preferences after the first night. We ate breakfast and lunch in the dining room twice. The food at breakfast and lunchtime was good. I found it a little awkward though because it was open seating and you are seated with different people every time. On the final day of the cruise our waitress recommended that we eat breakfast in the dining room because Tiffanys would be very busy. I'm glad we took her advice. After going through immigration we had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room. We ordered room service for breakfast once. It was delivered promptly and had all the items we ordered. All other meals we ate at Tiffanys. There was a buffet set up at 11:30 at night in Tiffanys. It was good for a quick snack. The food in Tiffanys was standard buffet fare. Edible but not super good. I tried the pizza and calzones and they were OK. We took 12 pops with us on the cruise. Carried on in plastic grocery bag. No hassles at all. We only drank 10 of them (and I am a big pop drinker). There were so many other things to drink that were included in our cruise fare. There was water, juice, iced tea, coffee, hot chocolate and tea in Tiffany's 24 hours a day. The water was very good. No need to buy bottled water. I only purchased 4 drinks the entire cruise. They were quite strong. My sister attended the past guest party and they had free drinks that were also very strong. I went to the midnight buffet "viewing" but did not bother to go back when it was time to eat. The lines were crazy. My sister waited in the long line and said the buffet was pretty "ravaged" by the time she got to it.
Cabin: Our cabin was an oceanview cabin on the main deck. It was a good size and clean. There was more than enough storage for the 2 of us. There was a small shoebox sized safe in the closet. There was a small ice bucket and several bottles of pop and water on the dresser. The pop is very expensive. The bathroom was a good size. I had been expecting much smaller. There was a very large medicine cabinet with lots of shelving that held our toiletries. Lots of towel racks. They were great for hanging wet bathing suits from. There was a basket in the bathroom with some toiletries ie. razors, Listerine pocket packs, small toothpaste, hand cream and dental floss. The shower had shampoo and Lever 2000 shower gel in a wall mounted dispensers. The TV showed 3 movies daily playing over and over. There were a few regular channels that were slightly fuzzy and channels showing ship related programming. Many of the talks such as the excursion and disembarkation talk were replayed. I didn't really watch much TV there was too much else to do. On the regular channels they showed both the movie Titanic and Castaway, a bad omen? LOL. The cabin steward came in the morning when we were at breakfast and at night to turn down the bed. He never came in between to bring ice or anything. I did page him once during the specified times and he never responded to our page. I do not know what his name was as I only met him once. That is when I went looking for him to return a bottle of toilet cleaner he left on our bathroom counter. Basically I feel that he gave only average service. It doesn't seem like he went out of his way at all. I had read many reviews where cabin stewards seemed to make more of an effort.
Activities: We spent a lot of time in the pools and hot tubs. We usually went to the pool on the veranda deck because it was less crowded. We never had trouble finding a lounge chair anywhere we wanted to sit. The hot tubs in the spa area were never crowded. There are also very nice showers with 5 shower heads in the spa area. I enjoyed finding a shady area and reading a book. We attended all the game show activities and they were very funny and we really enjoyed them. We also went on the galley tour but skipped the napkin folding and ice carving demonstrations afterwards. My brother in law also participated in the slot tournament.
Shopping: We bought a few souvenirs in Progresso and Cozumel. But be warned that the prices are jacked up. My sister is fluent in Spanish and overheard one vender tell the other to put the prices up because we were "from the boat". We bargained the prices down on everything that we did buy. In Belize we didn't buy anything as we found the island we went to very expensive (San Pedro). We bought a few things from the Carnival gift shop. They had nice $10 watches. They had some overpriced things on board but some reasonably priced items too. We didn't go looking for anything very expensive, mostly we just bought little trinkets. They had a store called Bijoux where everything was $10. They had purses, scarves, watches, hats and costume jewelery.
Excursions: We took all Carnival excursions.
Progresso: We went on the Corona beach break ($35). This excursion took you on a double-decker bus to the beach where it was all you can drink included (pop, water and alcohol). We thought we would spend time in the water but it wasn't nice at all very dirty. We ended up walking a block to the shopping area for a little while. My brother in law stayed at the beach and got very drunk off the free Coronas. I drank Pina Coladas which were very good but not very strong. We returned to the ship by 1200 and went for lunch at Tiffanys. If I had to do it again I would just take the free shuttle to the shopping area.
Cozumel: Here we went on the Catamaran sail, snorkel and beach party ($55). This was a great excursion. We went out on the catamaran and they took us to a place to snorkel. We took our own snorkel gear but it was included for those that didn't have it. When we were in the water they fed the fish tortillas to attract them. The water is so blue there, we had a great swim. They take pictures of everyone and they can be bought for 12$ each. They sell water cameras on the Elation but we bought some at Target before we went and they were cheaper from Target. Underwater cameras are a must have for the snorkeling excursions. After the snorkel they opened up the bar. They had pop, beer and margaritas. They blast the music and there is a large area on the boat for dancing. We went to a secluded beach. There is a restaurant and restrooms there. For free there are floating mattresses, Kayaks, lounges and umbrellas. We spent most of our time there in the water. After 2 hours we went back on the catamaran and back to the ship. This was a half day excursion. After lunch on board we walked into Cozumel to look at the shops. Our last stop was Senor Frogs. Warning the drinks are very strong LOL.
Belize: This was my favourite stop. We went on the Shark/Ray alley snorkel ($79). A speed boat picked us up at the ship and took us to a small island to get our gear. On the way we saw wild dolphins and many birds from the boat. We went to an area where the sharks and Rays congregate. They threw sardines in the water and it was like a feeding frenzy with many sharks and rays. When we got in the water the shark mostly disappeared as apparently they are shy, but we were able to see the Rays and other fish. The rays weren't shy at all and didn't mind being petted and touched. We went swimming away from the boat and were able to see the odd shark although they were mostly swimming away from us LOL. After the snorkeling we went to San Pedro Island for a buffet lunch of chicken, rice and beans. There was also a cash bar. Fruit punch was free. We had a few hours to go shopping. This island is very expensive so we didn't buy a thing although we did stop for ice cream. The ride back to the ship was about 1 ½ hours. It was a very full day and we couldn't stop talking about how great it was.
Entertainment: We went to most of the shows. The 2 shows by the Elation dancers were very good. Two of the comedians were very funny. Thomas brown was the best. The third comedian wasn't funny at all. The balancing act by Lubo was pretty good. There was also a variety show by a fellow who played the saxophone and harmonica. I didn't enjoy it too much but the "older" passengers seemed to enjoy it.
Pictures: I swore I would not buy the "over priced" pictures before I went but I ended up spending about $200 on pictures. I bought formal portraits of me and my husband together and my sister and me. We ended up getting a portrait of all of us blown up to 16x20 on canvas for our mum. The formal portraits were totally worth it for me. I would never get the opportunity to dress up and get pictures taken with my sister who lives in another country. They had really nice backdrops and we went around and had tons done and bought the best. The portraits that we didn't buy were the silly ones they took out and about the ship. Like the pictures taken with a pirate as we were exiting the dining room one day or pictures with funship Freddie (who thinks up this stuff?). We had photo finishing done on the ship. The pictures turned out very good. The price isn't bad. It's $6.48 for 24 prints but be warned instead of being a few dollars more for double prints it is double the price.
Disembarkation: We were a little late docking in Galveston and the immigration guards were a little late getting on board so they didn't start processing people until a little later. As a non-US citizen we went through immigration separately. It took about 30-40 minutes to go all through the line. The US passengers had a way longer line to go through. After we went through immigration we went to breakfast in the dining room. We had pink coloured tags and last to be called. We waited up on the Aft Lido deck behind Tiffanys. I took cards and we enjoyed our last few hours relaxing. There were crowds of people on the Promenade decks and around the Lido pool. We stayed away from the crowds. We ended up getting off the ship close to 11 am. It was a madhouse when we got out to the terminal. There were big lines waiting for shuttles and the traffic was very backed up. It was complicated by the fact that there was a biker convention on and many streets were closed. It took 45 minutes to wait for the shuttle to get back to the parking lot. EZ park only had 2 mini buses and 1 van going. Dolphin parking lot had big full size greyhound type buses so the line for the Dolphin lot moved way faster. Less