My family and I left on a cruise out of Mobile on September 20th. We are from Baton Rouge and decided to try staying at a hotel that had the park and cruise option. We were not disappointed with this decision. We stayed at the Microtel in Saraland. For $123 we got a very nice room with two double beds, continental breakfast, parking for the week and free shuttle to and from the cruise. It made life so much easier. They were able to give us two adjoining rooms - my parents and my 3 year old in one and my husband and I and our 16 month old in another.
When I woke up on the morning of the cruise, I felt horrible - bad cold, congestion, etc...I decided to go to a walk in clinic because I was afraid I would get worse while on the cruise ship. I looked in the phone book and just chose one at random....it was a really great place. I explained the urgency (i.e. I have a cruise to catch) and I didn't even sit down in the waiting room. They found me a pharmacy that was open to get my antibiotics, gave me a shot of steroids, and had me ready to go in less than an hour. I hope that no one else feels sick before their cruise but it is worth keeping the name/number on hand in case of emergencies - http://www.medcare-al.com/index.html.
Because the hotel shuttle took us to port, we had no problems getting on the boat. The whole process took a little less than an hour.
The Elation itself is actually pretty beautiful. It isn't as "neon" and heavily decorated as other Carnival cruises I have been on and it didn't feel like and old, worn ship to me. We had to rooms next to each - M96 and M92 and they were a lot larger than others I have been on. The bathrooms/shower were very roomy. In our room we had a King size bed (two twins together) and a crib that they provided - it was very comfy and Lucas (our 16 month old) enjoyed it more than he would have a pack and play. My parents next door had the King size bed and one bunk that the room steward folded into the wall every morning and set up every evening. Our rooms always remained cleaned, the room steward filled our little cooler every evening, and all was comfy.
I was eager to check out Camp Carnival - we went on the day we arrived on ship. We gave them our children's information and they gave us a cell phone to use for the entire cruise. We could call them and they could call us and we were given a phone number so that we could call each other from our rooms. My 3 year old, however, wasn't interested in Camp Carnival and barely spent time there.
She and I did do the Ice Cream Social Spa treatment where she got to have her first mani/pedi. The lotions were vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry and they could choose their own colors. The only disappointment was the ice cream itself...it was just soft serve out of the regular dining room served in bowls. I thought it would be something more exciting for the "social."
The biggest disappointment for us was the food. Breakfast at the buffet was mediocre, at very best. It was the same everyday and very basic.....we did the breakfast in the restaurant once and thought it was just okay too....Eggs benedict were a little dry. The lunch buffet was not that great either. The highlights were NY deli station that made great sandwiches and the pizza.
We did the sit down dinner every night. Our waiter was good but not the friendly, funny, I want a photo with him at the end of the cruise type. The food was okay....my favorite being the prime rib (on formal night) and the french onion soup (on the last night) and the chocolate/white chocolate pudding (on the 4th night..I think). But honestly, the food just wasn't what it used to be. In some ways it was good...I didn't feel like I had to stuff myself silly at every meal. I actually made it through a cruise without gaining any weight...but we were really looking forward to something much better.
We stopped at Cozumel first. We all took a cab (a van...it cost $22) to Chankanaab Park....we had fun swimming and all but don't think we would go back. It wasn't really that great...It cost $19 for each adult, $17 for our 3 year old and free for the 1 year old. The beaches were "man made" and you had to take stairs down to the ocean which ended up being really deep (over my head and I am 6 feet tall) and pretty rough. Also, there were way to many waiters hounding us to buy drinks. After that, we took a taxi (a van again...same price) downtown and did some shopping and had lunch. We took a cab back to the cruise ship ($12) and did some shopping there before boarding again.
The next day we went to Calica. we had already purchased tickets to XCaret online at their website because you got a discount....it took about 5 minutes via taxi to get there ($24). I cannot even describe XCaret....I think you could spend a week there and not see and do everything. We did the underground river..it was sooo amazing. We got the admission plus....and it included a locker, scuba gear, towels, and a lunch buffet. This lunch was the best Mexican I have ever had.....so many choices....fruits I had never heard of and even a display of Mexican candy where you can help yourselves. Tea or some sort of fruit juice was included. We all tried the juice - I have no idea what it was. It was sooooo good. It wasn't punch. It almost looked like coconut milk. The shops by the port in Calica are ridiculously expensive - make sure you do your shopping in Cozumel.
The casino on board was fun but WAY TOO SMOKEY. They need to make it non-smoking! Ugh! My hubby and I learned to play Let it Ride and had a great time.
The people that took the photos before each dinner were F A B U L O U S ! They were so patient - Abby loved having her photo taken at each scene. We ended up spending more money than we planned on photos...they are soo good though!
All in all, it was a reasonably priced and easy family vacation. We would do it again...if we could find another great deal. And the five night cruise felt long enough with the two children.....