It was freezing cold as low as 29F at Mobile, AL when we got there around noon. We dropped our luggage at the terminal (make sure you print your luggage tags and have them stapled and ready) and proceeded to the parking structure. The terminal charges $15 per cruise night (not per the actual 24hr term) thus we paid $60 on entering the parking structure.
It took about an hour to be in line to get to the checkin counter. Compared to the other cruise terminals I've been to, this felt too long especially with a demanding 3 year old. As soon as we entered the ship, we were offered *free* champagnes throughout each floor which was nice. The muster drill was conducted at one of the indoor lounges and we didn't have to wear the orange life jacket like at the other cruise.
Ship & Activities
Elation is an old vessel and the decoration is a little tacky and the layout is not intuitive. It's got the mini golf in the top deck but the weather was too cold/windy to play. And about the activities, we had the good old Carnival stuff (hairy chest competition, marriage game, battle of sexes, art auction, show, comedians). The sauna (which is beyond the spa desk but *free*) was nice. The picture guy at the white grand piano makes the output a little blurry and you look really nice - a must buy!
Dining at the Lido Deck
A huge disappointment in every aspect. The buffet at the Tiffany's seemed much smaller with limited selections of cuisine and there was a huge line of people all the time. The indoor selections included Salad & Fruit Bar, Cuisine of the day (French, Italian, American, depending on the day), and the Dessert station on top of the 24hr pizzeria. There were two outdoor stations at the pool side that served American (burger/chicken/fries, etc) and Mongolian BBQ. The concept of Mongolian was genius but the taste was a disappointment as the food was too bland (they used the liquid way too much) and I really missed the good old Chinese station in the other Carnival ships. One of the chefs at the Mongolian kinda seemed like a Soup Nazi as if everyone had to know the rules of ordering food there. The last day had a huge desert and cookie selection and I liked it a lot, although one of the item was chocolate sushi - literally chocolate inside rice - GROSS! The cuisine of the day on the last sea day was American that served Southern fried chicken, collard greens, corn bread dressing and such, and along with the hamburger station outside, the experience almost felt like we were at the Golden Coral.
Dining at the Dining Room
Like I said above, the buffet line is so long that it's actually faster to sit down in the dining room and have them serve you for breakfast/lunch. I liked the menu selections and the quieter meal than up in the Lido deck. The service was alright and slow. They didn't offer more coffee and some requests were not met but I didn't make a big deal. The formal night was on the 2nd night and I enjoyed seeing my 3 year old gulping the lobster tails. The 3rd night was Dec 25th and I was surprised that they didn't serve ham and such.
Since this was our 3rd stop in Cozumel, we didn't go outside the gated area. We did a little shopping at the port shopping area and came right back and enjoyed the quiet pool/hot tub. This was the only nice-weather day where you don't feel chill wearing just a t-shirt.
Yes, we hit a bad, really bad storm on the 4th day. I started feeling myself tossed up in the air from the middle of the night before and by the morning I could not get up due to nausea. I couldn't even crawl to the bathroom to vomit. (I usually don't get sea sickness) The bad wave continued the whole day and everyone in the ship got sick. Some crawled to the middle of the ship in pajamas and laid down in the floor. One of the staff said they hit the same bad wave 3 cruises before and a few times before, so apparently this was not unusual at the winter cruise on Elation. This whole day was just wasted trying not to vomit.
Wake up and get yourself ready before 7am. I would suggest to order a room service the night before or just get ready early and have a breakfast at the dining room because the line for a last hot breakfast up in the Lido deck is just enormous. The staff really try to kick you out because I was still sleeping in the bed at 7:30am and our room crew opened my door twice.
This is a good value for the money, especially for those who can drive down to Mobile, AL and have a little get away for 4 nights, but there's nothing WOW about the Elation and the service and food could have been better. I would not take the Elation again, rather, after that bad storm, DH and I decided that we are pretty much done with the cruise for a long time. :-(