I live thirty minutes from Galveston so it was a simple matter to drive over on the morning of the 3rd. I was traveling with three friends and we arrived around 11AM. We always park at the EZ Cruise parking. By making reservations on-line you can park for $35 for a five day cruise. The people at the parking lot are very helpful and we were taken without delay to the port.
After checking our bags at the curb I was expecting to have a long wait in line to go through the security area and board the ship. On the two previous Ecstasy cruises embarkation was a long and tiring experience. It seems that the Port of Galveston must be listening to the complaints from cruise critic members because this time embarkation was handled very efficiently and in less than thirty minutes we were boarding the ship.
Our cabins were not ready so we went to the Lido deck for lunch. We were met with another pleasant surprise, the Mongolian Buffet. I have always thought that the Ecstasy had the best hamburgers but with the Mongolian Buffet they are now second place. Within an hour the cabins were ready and we went below to stow our baggage. The cabins haven't really changed and are still at best utilitarian. There is not really any place to comfortably sit except on the bed. The cabins are small but do have adequate closet and drawer space. The cabin attendant was very good and kept the ice bucket filled, plenty of clean towels, and the room in neat order at all times.
I was in need of gaining a few pounds and found doing so to be very easy. The food in the buffet was edible but nothing spectacular. The main dining room was a very pleasant experience. The waiter was very good despite having a lot of tables. Each night the menu had entrees that were tasty and nicely presented. Two of our table mates ordered a complete Indian Dinner and were kind enough to share it. It was very good and I was impressed that Carnival was willing to prepare this as an off-menu item. Since I wasn't overly impressed with the buffet the grill on the Lido deck became my venue of choice for lunch. The Ecstasy still has the best hamburgers of any of the ships I sailed. They cook them on the grill as you wait and serve them hot. All in all I think the Ecstasy holds its own with other ships when it comes to food.
One of the nicest things that have been added to the Ecstasy in its last retrofit was the Serenity Deck. It isn't in the most convenient place but worth the effort to reach. The young lady who was the attendant was extremely nice and did an excellent job of enforcing the adults only rule. There were nice lounge chairs, two hot tubs, and an area that was shaded. The serenity deck became my favorite place to relax, read, and nap. Being just below the pizza preparation area, the nice aroma drifting down around noon always let you know it was getting close to noon. I also enjoyed the 3PM Tea Time on sea days, the pastries were delicious and the waiters were very attentive.
The shows in the main show room were nothing special. It may be because I had seen them before but after several years I did think that some changes would have been made. The show band was good but most of the singers and dancers were what one would expect at a high school musical production.
Another pleasant surprise. In the past self-assist was a nightmare with a mad dash being made by passengers creating long waits. Carnival seems to have gotten a handle on this situation because this time when your deck was called the process was efficient and you got off the ship in a short time. Also clearing customs has also been made much more efficient. In less than thirty minutes from the time our deck was called we were at the curb and on our way to the parking lot. I hope this was not a one time event and that in the future embarkation and debarkation continues to be handled efficiently.
Carnival is still the "party" group but for a quick get-away the four and five day cruises out of Galveston are a bargain as long as you don't drink too much. I took my first cruise on the Ecstasy some years ago and will always remember just how great I thought she was. In truth, the Ecstasy isn't nor never will be a ship with a lot of "wow" but she offers her travelers a cruise that is worth the money.