Nov 18, 2010 - Nov 15, 2010
Wife and husband went with 3 friends
Day 1 Boarding
Arriving at 11:00 we were quickly processes. At the x-ray machine they made me take our luggage and cooler to be checked by hand. We had packed a bottle of champagne in my luggage and and cokes in our cooler. They move the cokes to ensure that there was not a layer of beer underneath. Next time I will carry the bottle in plain view just to skip this step. After being checked in we had to wait in the waiting area. When it was time to board we waited until the VIP boarding was done then we were lined up to board. This went very smoothly and the gentleman who had been entertaining us while we waited (nice touch) ensured that we boarded in the order we had checked in.
Lunch was available and so we found a table and camped out until it was time to go to our rooms. The inside dining was noticeably less crowded than the dining out by the pool. When we were allowed into our rooms we were greeted by our room steward. Our checked luggage had not arrived. We made sure to find life jackets and the the 12 hangers in our closet. We decided to take the "Get to know the ship" tour. We were walked to all the important parts of the ship and told about the theme and decor. We found the information about the layout of the ship invaluable in the coming days. This is a tour that we will take our first time aboard any ship.
When it was time for muster we arrived at our station (without life jackets) in the Sapphire Showroom and listed to the instructions. When that was over we went to the rail to watch the ship pull away from port. After about 45 minuets of waiting our cruise director came over the loud speaker to inform us that there was a security check being preformed and that there would be an announcement before we departed. True to his word he announced the departure with enough time to get to the rail to see the ship pull away from the dock.
We attended the welcome show, and have decided that we will be skipping them from now on. After being on a cruise or two you know all the information now. We then went back to the room and found our luggage and the "Fun Times". They have condensed the activities and the schedule did not seem as overwhelming as before. When we made it to dinner (late dining) we found the waitstaff wonderful and smiling as always. Then it was time to hit the clubs. The DJ in Stripes was fantastic as was the live band. We stayed until two and then I went to bed while DH closed the place down.
Day 2 At Sea
We made it to breakfast in the dining room, food was great. We wondered the ship and got to know her better, admire her wall art. We made it for lunch in the dining room as well. We will be doing this again. This was a day of relaxing and sitting by the pool. It was small but never seamed to be overly busy. Never noticed the smell of smoke either. Hit up the art auction. Mostly for the free champagne. It was interesting to learn about the different artist. IF you enjoy art make it point to go. If not, skip it. Also watch the papers they hand out for you to fill out for "free" things. One of them was a credit card application. Watched the pg comedy act before dinner. We tried late dining for the fist time. We will never do it again if we can help it. There weer nights that we didn't get out until after 10:30. Caught the R rated comedy show after dinner. I am really glad that Carnival decided to follow through with this. Then it was off to bed for me.
Day 3 Cozumel
Woke up early for breakfast before the "everybody loves rays" excursion. We docked 30 minuets late (I think due to late departure in Galveston) . The good news all carnival excursions were informed and ready to roll when the ship pulled in. Maybe not so for excursions not booked through carnival. The guides on the sting ray excursion were polite and knowledgeable. They were constantly looking out for the welfare of both the rays and guest. Very happy that we brought reef safe/biodegradable sunblock so that the wildlife might be more protected. It worked very well with both my fair skinned hubby and I coming back on board after 6 hours in the sun with nary a tan line. We never reapplied. :) BTW Sunscreen name and brand: Natural Sunscreen by Goddess Garden. I WILL buy this stuff again. Shopped on the pier. Lots of different stores. Something for everybody. Make time to look around and check the prices. You will be surprised in the difference of price between 2 shops for the same item. Bought a beautiful shawl, earrings, prepackaged candy, and rum cake. OH! And also some color changing nail polish that I just had to have :) Went back on the ship to grab lunch. Much to our dismay the only thing open was the pizzeria and deli. Next time we will think to order room service. Again waiting for late dinning was just the pits. It seemed like there was just noting to do. No fault of Carnival this was our own doing. Again dinner was excellent, out wait staff was superb. We were all able to talk about our day and catch up. Skipped all the shows and went straight to stripes. Music and crowd were fun and surprisingly awake for a port day.
Day 4 At Sea
Again breakfast at the restaurant. Watched the ice sculptor. It was really neat to see the ice chip away and become a beautiful Aztec Indian head. We also did bingo for the first time. It was OK. It was also the easiest way to kill time before the Match game (newlywed game) It is always worth catching. It's so much fun watching the couples interact. We tried the scrap booking session,I thought it was going to be kind of like a class/beginners guide. It turned out to be a get together of people who already knew what they were doing. So I did a little page and then left. Oh well. Guess I'll know not to go next time. It was free though (for all those scrappy people reading this, however supplies (scissors, tape) were VERY limited). Went to the karaoke and listened to everyone sing. Lots of crowd favorites, a change from the other cruise. It was fun. Had a couple of drinks (very yummy).Then we caught the comedy shows that we missed the first time. (they flip flop shows so that you can catch all four shows) Then stripes and bed.
Day 5 Debarkation
Woke up early and had breakfast in the dining room. Totally worth it. Then came back to the room, made sure everything was packed, and waited for our floor to be called. We choose to do self debarkation so that we can leave a little earlier. When they called us there was a line, but it went smoothly and I didn't feel like we were waiting long. It pays to wait until they call you.
Overall I loved the Ecstasy more than the Conquest. The smaller layout made the ship easier to learn and to navigate. While I do wish that it offered longer cruises, I would choose the Ecstasy over the Conquest next time. The crew was wonderful, the ship was beautiful and besides, I never got a chance to play on the putt-putt golf course. Guess that means it's time to book another cruise. :)
It was my 2nd Carnival Cruise, out of Galveston, TX, both good. Drove to port, no flights. Parked at Lighthouse Parking with our online reservation. Covered parking! There were all age groups represented but very few children in their teens and younger since this is mid November so there was minimal elevator playing and hallway running. The Ecstasy is a compacted Conquest ship so getting across the ship happened within 5 minutes from anywhere which was a nice change. The usual upper deck breeze was there if you went to watch waves at night but otherwise never really even had a reason for a jacket, which was good since I did not weigh my luggage down with one. On this smaller ship, there is minimal pool area so not a lot of adults got in but they did have a few hidden hot tubs if you happened to find them. Passports only needed initially to get on the boat and to get through customs back home. Only sail and sign card and drivers license needed for ports. This was my first and hopefully last time selecting to eat late dinner seating. Our friends selected late dinner due to their acquaintances selecting late dinner. It just seemed to mess up our normal schedule since we like to hit the nightlife a little sooner. The 8:15pm late dinner kept us from that until after 10pm each night. Then the comedy shows were even later AFTER that time for late dining.
There was more hip hop music about the ship than tropical music. I guess other cruise lines with the older crowds may have more tropical music. Carnival has changed their daily newsletter title from Carnival Capers to Carnival Fun Times. There was not as much fallout crap/spam in the newsletter this year. Only up to 3 pieces per newsletter (as compared to 5 last year). It may depend on the ports you go to. The Ecstasy did not get a theater screen during the upgrades but did the the big swirly water slide. I never noticed smoke being heavy, anyplace. I barely even noticed it in the nightclub disco. Clothes aired out overnight just fine.
FYI: Book all excursions through the cruise line or you will be responsible for ANY changes that screw it up. If you book through the cruise line, they will do their darnest to make it right. Luckily, no major problems this trip with excursions. As I add another cruise notch to my belt, I learn more to bring down my dream "king for a week" attitude I had on my first trip, to ignore the stupid annoyances that will happen on every cruise and enjoy the differences between ships, adventures, and people, including the kids camping out in the elevator. If you end up with a bad attitude at some point, just go sit with the elevator campers and talk to them, make up a story if you want, they won't know the difference. :)
Things I am glad I took:
$20 waterproof watch which worked well last time too. Clocks were nonexistent or not noticeable on the Ecstasy like they were on the Conquest. I constantly used my watch to match up with what was happening on the schedule for the day, which Carnival has de-confused greatly over the past year. They even made part of it perforated so it can be easily torn off, folded up, and taken with you. Took my own mug again. This time it was a vacuum insulated one by Thermos so my drinks never got watered down, ice last over a day in this thing! Packing cubes for clothes worked well again and is a permanent part of my future trips. They allow the luggage to be duffels or divided how I want, not how the luggage is divided during manufacture. Travel Insurance was not needed but glad it was there, it's minimal cost anyway.
I took some wire hangars which we almost through away the first night. Then we realized how handy they came in when we wanted to hang clothes out in the open to air out from being in the smokey nightclub/disco or to dry out the swim trunks. They did not have to use the clothesline space in the shower. I will take up to 6 wire hangars every trip now as the on-board hangars are difficult to move out of the closet. And no need to bring them back as we will obtain more with normal dry cleaning. Took my trusty fold-able mesh dirty clothes basket. Works every time. Room stewards can move it and move it back when vacuuming if needed and they don't have to touch your dirty clothes. Empty it into a trash bag and fold it back up to pack dirty clothes for the trip back home.
We also took carry-on sodas and champagne as allowed by the Carnival FAQs. These are items we probably would not buy on board anyhow so it just added to make the trip more enjoyable and help us to want to book future cruises knowing they are acceptable on this cruise line. Thank you Carnival for allowing them! Please allow small liquor quantities as once my starters would run out, I would be MUCH happier to purchase additional drinks from the ship bars than I do now.
Things I could do without next time:
Soap. I really have to learn to use the shampoo and soap in the showers on board. It may not be labeled aside from being yellow and green but our friends swear by it and even fill up empty bottles with it to take back home. And using the on-board soap will lighten my luggage load as well. I had one shirt I really did not wear much and could take one less shirt next time. I had one long sleeve shirt for formal night but only wore it that night. I could have also worn it again if the weather had gotten colder but that did not happen. I think I may just wear my normal everyday shoes to formal night next time to avoid taking an extra pair just for that. I do not recall if I had the sea-band with me this time or not. Luckily I did not need it. Maybe I'm getting use to the waves. Again, did not get a chance to use the Frisbee.
I can do without a faulty alarm clock next time. I forgot to check to see if the phone system had a wake up call like hotels have. I have used this clock for a few years. The thin table alarm I have worked great until the last day when it was needed most. It went off and I hit the snooze, thereby knocking it onto the floor. Apparently it hit the side of the bed on the way to the carpet and reset itself. I did not notice this until the ship shuttering into port woke us up 2 hours later! I tried this again after I got home, changed the time, gave it a good side whack, and it reset. Time to look for another slim alarm clock, don't want to risk that again by not getting up in time to get off the boat before cleaning crew comes in. The alarm on my watch is not always loud enough.
Things I wish I took:
I forgot to get travel size hair spray and had to throw in the big can last minute. I forgot to take my polarized sunglasses I bought on last years trip. Sun was bright out on deck early morning and at port. Could have used one extra pair of socks as I wore my water shoes less this trip. I forgot to put a plastic trash bag in my cooler so the melted ice water leaked out a LOT quicker.
Got up way too early, and got to port around 11am driving, stopping to eat breakfast along the way. We ended up sitting for about 20 minutes before they let people start boarding. Again, no pictures allowed in the cruise terminal (except for the professional photo that we always skip). Once on board, walk directly over to guest services to get a hole punched in your ship card so you can hang it on a lanyard, which is handy if your shorts do not always have pockets. Then head up to Lido deck for buffet lunch and to wait out rooms opening up to passengers. 1:30pm seems to be the default for getting into your room. Put the carry-on bags down, unpack some, and head back out to take the 2pm ship tour. They will still distribute the checked-in bags throughout the next few hours anyhow (since we normally check one in with extras we can afford to lose). FYI: nobody cares about your stuff as much as you. Don't believe me? Go watch some videos of "cruise luggage" on youtube.
International Law has changed recently and now they do not require people to take their life vests with them to the 3:45pm muster drill. Few cruise lines still require it, but not Carnival. Our ship left port very late both times so we got to see the port night skyline in Galveston and Cozumel. Inside information told me that it was one person being escorted around town (for extraneous paperwork due to a security safety issue) by head of security of the ship that was holding up the boat at Galveston. Not sure what held us up in Cozumel aside from getting into port with an offset of 30 minutes later.
The Ecstasy has lighting around the atrium and promenade walkways that changes colors. The main area ceilings (and elevators) have led lights, some flicker. The ceilings in the library have LEDs and connecting lines that display the constellations. It really is mesmerizing to watch the colors change at night. Each stairwell on each floor has a different piece of 3-D type of art on the wall. Not the kind you have to shoot daggers through to see the image but colorful art that changes slightly when you walk from left to right. Kind of like a book example of light with the different colored pages where you can layer them to see the colors change. If you have some free time, venture to each stairwell and take a look.
We all had inside staterooms, even our table neighbors. Nightlights did not take up side table space as they were slim and attached to the bed/chair rail. The 1 foot side tables had no drawers but easily movable. There is a fake window on the far wall with drapes trying to hide that fact.
No refrigerator in our room on this smaller ship like there was on the Conquest. Good thing the room stewards keep ice buckets and coolers filled up with ice. This older ship did have slightly bigger rooms than the newer Conquest. The bathroom was also a few feet bigger. We all had inside staterooms. They have cheaper room rates and were only there to sleep and change, then head back up to entertainment or watch the waves splash from the deck, which you can't always do from a port hole window. The Ecstasy has magnets to hold the doors open. Where was this technology on the newer Conquest? A mounted magnet is MUCH easier to use than a doorstop. There were more than enough hangars for our stuff, especially since we pack light and onebag it.
Our shower would not get luke-cold, the knob would not turn all the way, even with the button pushed in. It was just beyond acceptable warmth and got hotter when it stayed on for over a minute. Waited 5 minutes for the plumber who was not showing up when our room steward came about the hallway and saw me waiting. I told him I was waiting for the plumber as requested by guest services. They like you to wait to ensure something gets fixed to your liking but this was an obvious issue so I showed the room steward who said he would wait for the plumber and work it out so we did not have to wait around. Awesome! They really do try so hard for the extra tips they get. Tip them cash to ensure they only have to share it with their assistant (who does half the work you never notice). We try to keep our toiletries bag hanging or on the desk so the stewards do not have to hassle with them while cleaning the bathroom each day. It speeds them up and they do not have to touch your personal items that way either.
Overheard someone saying the rooms did not have voicemail, which is a shame as we used it a few times on last years trip, but did not use it once this trip. voicemail is really helpful to meet up with your friends if you are currently separated. The safes on the Ecstasy are keypad operated. They do not need a card with magnetic strip like the Conquest did, hopefully this has been an improvement on all the ships and not just this one. So needless to say, the empty gift card I took for the safe did not get used. We put up a door sign with U-Glue (keep finding more and more uses for that stuff and it is stronger than Handi-Tak). Make some door decoration before your trip to put on your door too to spruce up the hallways!
As I said before, go with friends, the more the merrier, seriously, even if you are newleyweds. You'll always walk with or by somebody you know. And try to get staterooms on the same floor. One family group on the ship always did a group "hooray" or "awwwe" when they had a family member join or walk away from the rest of them wherever they were on the ship.
The ship has two cameras, one looking out over the front of the ship and one looking down on the Lido deck. The Lido camera needs to be zoomed in a little more and clarified as you can only see shadows at best. We really could not make out our own friend on the Ecstasy like we could on the Conquest. Again, the ship cams can be used as port windows if you mute the volume. Remember to tell your friends to watch your ship leave and return to port at www.galveston.com/cruisecam/
The tea almost tasted normal by putting in double the sugar. I don't think that trick worked on last years cruise. Looking at last years review, we had a Raspberry tea on the Conquest. Hopefully they have eliminated the raspberry flavor tea on all their ships. Lemonade was true and faithful and still tasty as last time (I normally do not like lemonade). Tea, lemonade, hot chocolate, water, milk, and chocolate milk always available at drink stations or buffet lines. Orange Juice and apple juice available at drink stations only for breakfast. Pineapple juice was available for breakfast in the restaurant.
I did not go by the coffee bar this time to check prices but should we have to? I mean really, keep prices down to $1 per drink if you really need to keep the kids from playing there but trying different flavors should not have to cost extra money on top of what was paid for the trip. Raise every room price by $2 to account for the extra coffee cost if you have to to make it free for those few who would like it. It probably can not cost any more than the free sushi does.
Dinner menus appeared pretty much the same as it was on the Conquest ship we were on one year ago. I got prime rib on the night it was offered. I won't do that again as it was too fatty for my taste. Luckily for me, everybody that ordered lobster and shrimp that night pushed the shrimp all my way as I was the only shrimp lover at the table. As usual, I usually had two servings of shrimp for an appetizer. The (french) onion soup was good too. The top of the chocolate melting cake was harder than I remember it being last year on Conquest but the rest of it was good. I should have gotten the baked alaska, it looked good.
On this cruise, breakfast times did not change much except for the last morning, check your newsletter the night before! Breakfast menu was the same every day as we ended up getting up in time (are you serious? yes) to make the open seating restaurant for all of them this trip. We hit lunch in the restaurant once I believe, other times the buffet. The buffets had the same food every day from what I could tell (one burgers, one wok, two itallian). The restaurant provides a quieter environment than the buffets and you can let the waiter do the food hunting for you. The sushi spot was good once you could find it. Most of the time you walked right past it without knowing it until you asked an employee. It is kind of hidden on the Ecstasy between walkways. The third night of the trip is when most people realized where it was and it had a long line when it opened at 5pm that evening.
As far as 24 hour advertised food goes, it really is only the pizzeria and the pizzaria on our last cruise was actually closed for 1 hour per day so it was not 24 hour food at all. We did not have an opportunity to find out if the one on this ship closed for an hour or not. Most buffets are closed one hour between meals. Sushi is only open after 5pm. The candy store was only open 2 or 3 hours per evening? I never happened to walk by it when it was actually open. Maybe the only REAL 24 hour food is the self-serve ice cream dispenser with cones and limited room service menu. That is a shame as there was no selection of food places at the Cozumel port and most buffets were shut down at the time we walked backed onto the boat hungry around 3:30-ish. The pizzeria and deli are hidden at the furthest back point of the Lido deck.
Elegant night is also the night they close part of the open buffet seating for the Camp Carnival kids. They had option of pasta shells, red marinara sauce, meatballs, and something else when I passed by as they were setting up.
This should not have to be a constant section by itself for each ship. C'mon Carnival! The Ecstasy ship has its own elevator issue, but different from the Conquest issues. They may have been installed long ago before smarter elevators hit the scene. I have come to the conclusion that the elevator up/down buttons are one in the same as far as the elevators are concerned on this ship. Constantly an elevator would stop on a floor, people would be waiting for an elevator going the other direction and nobody get in or out of the elevator, then it would continue where it was heading. I saw this myself many times as I hit the elevator up button, nobody else was around and the down button was not lit. An elevator stopped and opened where I was, nobody got in or out, and it continued on its down path. At some point in the past, Carnival must have split a single elevator button into separate up and down buttons but did not upgrade the electronics behind them. It is a shame as this would have greatly sped up the elevator usefulness by at least 30%. Many times people got confused and tired of waiting and took the stairs instead so when the next elevator did stop on the floor, there was nobody at all in the hall. Note that this was not intentional play done by children either as normally expected.
The elevators did not all ding either. Out of the four closest to our room we normally used: one was a no-dinger, one was a sick dinger, and the other two had a single ding, no matter if the elevator was going up OR down. Normal operation for elevators to have one ding for up and two for down. The no-dinger constantly screwed people who were waiting, including us. It would get to the floor, open, wait, and close, because you did not know it was there unless you looked directly at it or people inside made noise. A few times I realized it was there because I noticed the button was no longer lit on the up/down panel on the other side.
The Ecstasy needs better indication of which floor you are on when coming off the elevators or up the stairs. Each floor has one floor letter sign on each side which is hidden by support pillars. The elevators did not ALL have the floor numbers and floor letters listed with the description of what was on that floor. The push-button panel lists only the floor name. The floor INITIAL and NUMBER was usually listed overhead the elevator doors once inside one. It was not obvious to everybody that the floor names initials were all different and they matched the elevator panel letters. Oh, and please fix the few elevator hallway arts that are obviously broken a little on this ship. They do NOT look like they were purposely designed broken.
Here is still one complaint I have that all ships (and buildings) could improve on. Make half elevators up only and half down only. This would speed up travel. This would also create an "express" from top to bottom or bottom to top as the elevator resets. People could wait at the correct set of elevators. People would not have to sprint to catch a farther elevator from where they are standing. People would not have to make way through other passengers going the other direction. Example: people wanting to go up could wait at the elevator grouping with an up arrow and not have to deal with other people waiting to go down (who would be over at the down arrow elevators). Please add this paragraph to your review if you think it would help. Maybe eventually somebody in charge of elevator design will take the hint.
Another elevator/stairs request: Add slides! They do not use electricity are can be used in the event of an emergency. They make going downstairs fun and fast for the half of passengers that would prefer to use them and free up the elevators. Have each slide only go down one floor at a time so kids don't get going too fast. Your slides work well for the water park, make them work well to help the elevator wait situation which happens on most/all ships. Escalators would be nice too and more consistent than elevators but probably more of a hazard to small children than a slide.
Someone in a Dream ship review mentioned an odor when walking around the corner from the stiars going towards the cabins. We had the same issue. A garbage chute or sewage, difficult to determine. It was a faint smell only smelt if you walked right next to the elevator wall. Our cabin was on M deck Odd numbers. I could accept bad design on an older ship like the Ecstasy but to still have the same problem on the newest Dream ship?
Events and entertainment:
Ice sculpting on Lido deck was about 20 minutes. He made an indian face with headress which you did not realize until he stood the glass up. Starts out at 300 pounds, and ends up half that weight after he shaves off his creation. We watched the match game (newlywed game), great laughs as always with passengers contestants. Our table friend intended to join the mixology contest but found out minutes before it started that she was suppose to sign up for it the DAY before. Uhm, hello? Nobody mentioned that to her wherever she found out about it to begin with.?!? Somebody was slacking at Carnival on that one. I missed lasertag but caught them setting it up (or it was happening when I saw this). Looked like the giant floor of a moonbounce on the big stage. I could only assume the contest was held inside this thing.
We went to the art auction. We did not go last year and may only go again if there is nothing better to do for a couple hours. Kinda boring and kinda long, lasted about 2.5 hours I think. We did however win one of the "free" art raffles. I say "free" because for whatever the reason they do not have these available on board for the winners to walk off with? Hello? No, instead they charge the "winners" $35 for shipping and handling of these PRINTS without a frame. This is no way free. We got to chose between 4 different PRINTS of which one we wanted, and they overcharge us for shipping so they can make money on the deal I guess. They also hand everybody who stayed at the auction until the end a free small print when you leave the room. The champagne only last the first round or two if you are lucky to get a second. That may be partly why it was boring. They also try to get you to enter a raffle by having you fill out your info on a credit application, so we tore that up. And they try to trick you by never saying it is a credit application. You have to notice it says that once they hand it to you.
Other indoor events still exist like the daytime trivia games, and bingo. It would seem that more exciting indoor games would be hosted but they just don't for whatever the reason. Perhaps they are hoping that everybody likes the casino. Here is a tip to cruise coordinators: not everybody likes to gamble at the casino. Or what about a no-gambling casino for people who like to play for "FUN"? The scrapbooking event (Get Scrappy) was seriously lacking in materials as they only provided paper products, glue, scissors, and stickers. All day karaoke, all day different dance classes, paint your own pottery room (w/small fee), and 1 day FREE scavenger hunts would be nice additions.
We did not buy jewelry (gold/silver) "by the inch" on-board this time like last year. Mainly because the $4 clasp they add on (and do not tell you cost $4) is not real silver like the chain you pick out. My wife had a minor allergic reaction to the clasp.
"No thank you" x 20. Dinner picture with a pirate...who has cheap costume fabric, sharpie mustache and beard? Uhm, hello? Didn't this lose entertainment value 30 years ago? They do develop the photos super quick though! Ever thought about getting other peoples photos to put on the internet?
There were the nightly shows which I think we will pass on from now on unless one of them just really peaks our interest. They are still the same silly shows the crew are forced to perform. A nice welcome is that Carnival recently changed their itinerary to now have two comedians per cruise perform on at least two different nights, so we'll still attend those shows, and they are separate from the regular big room shows now. They each perform a PG show and an R rated show. This will also help disperse show attendees so no single show will be jam packed beyond room capacity.
I still hit the Stripes disco every night which mainly played club hip hop but that is also based on the only people who request songs. Request something completely different and you are sure to get it since the DJ's get tired of having to play the same stuff all the time. The piano bar guy was good at Neon Bar but the amplified speakers were so loud we were only there an hour and never went back. It did not need speakers, it was a small to medium sized room. It did have a cool atmosphere with different neon bar signs covering the walls. The piano guy did have a great voice, humor and great playing abilities. We never got to catch the main karaoke group this trip as something else was during that same time, be it late-dinner, comedian, or something. The ship band did their best to sing popular American pop songs with their accents and played some songs slower but they got through them well enough to be entertaining one way or another.
Security was mainly concerned with the no drinks on the dance floor policy (to prevent people slipping on spills). Very few minors tried to get into the adult club on this trip. The patrons will be lighter the first night as people are still getting settled in and tired depending on how far they had to go to get to port. The patrons will be lighter the last night as they are getting packed back up and have to get up early for port the next day. The last night will also have some different people who you never saw there the rest of the trip. These people are probably the same "holiday patrons" that only go to nightclubs on holidays on the mainland.
Excursion in Cozumel, Mexico:
Since the "Swim with the dolphins" excursion was already booked solid by the time we booked our trip, we took the "Swim with the Stingrays" excursion which I am sure was completely booked before you got on the boat. Good to do this excursion at least once. Part feeding and petting the stingrays and part snorkeling with them and other colorful fish in an enclosed fence area. Being my first snorkeling experience, it would have been helpful if the instructor had mentioned that saliva would get into the mouthpiece and that it was not necessarily water. I tried to get good seals on my mask but water crept up in that too. Perhaps a 5 minute pre-snorkel try-out with different sizes would have been beneficial. The trick to snorkeling is to NOT PANIC. I had to force myself to breathe calmly so I could enjoy the snorkeling part. With a little water in my mask and breather tube, it was not a problem so long as I kept my face down. The instructor should have had everybody start out with their vests blown up in case they needed it without knowing it. You can always let air out easier later.
The stingrays feel like you are petting a freshly made casserole dish of jello. They come right up to you feeding them and brush their fins across your legs in one foot deep water. Being an enclosed area, the caretakers trim the stinger barb on them so tourists do not get injured by accident. They say the stingers are like fingernails and trim them every 4-6 weeks. A couple people mentioned they got their feet sucked. I imagine the dead fish feed may feel similar to water shoes in a stingrays mouth. Nobody got a foot hickie though.
Waterproof memory card Pelican Case kept our id's and money safe and dry in my zippered swim trunks. We did put on our own reef-friendly sunscreen before we left the boat for the day and really glad we did since we were in the sun the whole time for the excursion. Hats were not allowed in the stingray areas. Waterproof camera took some nice pictures again in the snorkeling area. They want to charge you for pictures petting the stingrays in the other area. Pricey photos, cd photos, and $50 dvd that they just made of your own group. Still a good memory to keep though, we got the DVD with the stingray spitting at my wife as she kissed it. There was no beach nearby port so we just got back on the boat after the excursion and after going through the tourist shops.
Since I have been to Cozumel over 10 years ago, they have rebuilt the port area and now have a tourist trap section at port that people can walk to. Many years ago, they only had taxis waiting to take you downtown.
FYI: The Tortuga Rum Cake costs twice as much on the ship as it does in the tourist trap in Cozumel. T-shirts galore in the tourist traps...probably imported from China. Mexican blankets of the same size varied between $16 and $6 in three different shops along the same tourist trap strip walkway at the port. My wife got a good sized shawl for under $10 at one of the shops. Only saw hammocks and hammock chairs in two shops, very limited selection. I assume there would be a better selection at a port closer to the Yucatan where they are made so I am unable to compare prices to what I have bought at online importers.
Friends, Tips, Windsong dining room:
We went with friends again which definitely enhanced the experience. We also made friends at the dinner table as we selected to sit at a big table with strangers. They are no longer strangers and we may even hang out every now and then back at home since we all live in the same city. Our waiter and assistant got use to our table by the second night. I can not say the same for the other passenger tables in the Windsong dining room as we were probably the loudest table in the place. As usual, the waiter knew our names when we went to open seating for lunch on the second day in the other restaurant. Only one of the two main dinner restaurants are open for breakfast and lunch, this is standard on cruises as most people will do the Lido deck buffets. Wish I could learn peoples names as quick as the wait staff does! We tipped our waiter the last night of the cruise which he will share with his assistant. Nobody cared to tip the Matre'D envelope they put in our stateroom for some unknown reason. That envelope is not shared among the waitstaff at all. We have no clue if we even saw that person once. We did the default standard $10 per person per night tip that gets shared among all crew members and automatically put on your bill when you board. We also tipped our room steward himself some extra the morning we got off the ship. He dealt with the plumber so we didn't have to wait and always kept the ice bucket and cooler full and the bed had towel animals nightly as we requested on the first night. Some times they will only do them if there are kids in the room. Our all-women table friends group got a towel-man on their bed one night which scared the heck out of them when they walked into the room. But they took pictures and laughed about it later at dinner.
FYI first timers: Please do not rush down to exit the ship ASAP. This crowds the walkways and stairwells. They WILL call out each floor, one at a time, to leave the ship. There will not be a traffic jam from the people leaving the boat. We did have to stop for a train which decided to stop and go back from where it came (who knows why) but that only took 5 minutes or less. Everybody will normally get off MOST ships between 9:00am and 1:00pm. If you fly, plan for a late afternoon flight back.
Since we got up early enough, we have time to eat breakfast before they start calling self-assist people to debark first. We ate breakfast and met more new people we had not seen on the ship before. Headed back to the room and since we onebag it, invoked our luggage into backpack mode and left. No wheels or heavy huge bags to drag us down. With passport and customs slip filled out the night before dinner, zoomed through the quick line to customs. Birth certificate line is MUCH longer. Got on the waiting shuttle back to the car and headed home.
Definitely getting use to this method now. If you are unfamiliar with this method, do a web search for onebag. Even though we bring along a cooler for sodas, it folds up for the trip back. It is extremely wonderful to have our luggage on our backs and zip down the stairs and around people with their giant luggage. And for most of them, they also have another bag or two that they checked the night before and will have to hunt it down at the terminal once they get off the ship, but not Us. My new bag with shoulder straps made its first trip this time. I will have to improve my homemade sternum straps as the extra weight of actual luggage made them too tight at the loosest I could get it. But the backpack straps were still a joy to use compared to the traditional hand carrying or wheeling tip-overs.
I would enjoy going on the Ecstasy again and wouldn't say no to another trip on the bigger Conquest, but both ships will be leaving Galveston and going back to New Orleans, LA in October 2011. Bring on the Triumph and Magic to replace them!