We were attracted to this cruise as Mobile was the closest port of embarkation to our home and the price was right. We paid about $350 each for a four night cruise from Mobile to Cozumel Mexico and back.
We arrived at the Port terminal around noon on a Thursday for a 4pm sailing. From the time we entered the parking garage to stepping on-board the ship was an hour and a half. The parking process is very smooth. Drive up to the baggage drop off area and drop your bags then park the car. You must pre-pay your parking either with a credit card or with cash. (The cash line moves much faster). Cost was $75 ($15/day or portion there of). The deadline for boarding the ship is 2:30 but if you wait much past noon to park your car, the lot will be filled and you'll have to park at a satellite lot that will incur more time to get back to the terminal.
The ship carries around 2200 or so passengers and we were told that it is always full so be prepared to stand in line to go through security and then get in another line to give Carnival your credit card information for your Cruise card which serves as your door key, ID, and charge card on the ship. The security screening was oriented toward screening out any liquor or weapons and was not as thorough as an airport screening.
Once on board, you can proceed to the Lido deck and eat in the Tiffany restraurant. There are sandwiches, pizza, or a hot meal line....it's pretty crowded....remember 2200 others have the same idea.
At 1:30pm, you can proceed to your stateroom where our bags were neatly placed outside the door. We were pleasantly surprised by the spaciousness of the cabin. We had the standard interior stateroom on M deck that had a nice sized closet, a chest of drawers, a very ample bathroom with a full size shower, sink, medicine cabinet and toilet. The bathroom was tile and it and the rest of the ship was absolutely spic and span. The bed was two twin beds push together to make a king size type bed and the bed was very comfortable and the linens were of high quality. The TV in the room was an old style tube TV that had a movie channel, CNN, CNN spanish, and a couple of rotating programs like the science channel plus the on board ship's channel for announcements and a channel that showed the ships's current location, speed, wind, and water depth.
We shared an eight person table in the Inspiration Dining Room for the 6pm seating. The food was fabulous! My wife is allergic to Monosodium Glutemate (MSG) and we were told that there is no MSG aboard the ship in any form.
You can order anything on the menu and have seconds if you desire. The famous Chocolate Melting Cake, lived up to its reputation as the best chocolate dessert you've ever tasted. There are several different themed bars on board that offer various styles of music for dancing or listening. The musicians were all Filipinos and were all uniformly good. The vast majority of the crew members are either Filipinos, South Asians,or Eastern Europeans and to a person, were helpful, cheerful, and provided absoutely first rate service. They were a joy to be around.
There were some negative issues however. The right side of the ship allows smoking on open deck spaces and the casino, Jeckyll and Hyde, and Gatsby Bar and the Drama bar allow smoking also so if you're bothered by it, it tends to keep non smokers from these areas. Also, since they prohibit you from bringing alcohol on board, drinks on the ship are pretty pricey. The cost of the drink includes a 15% gratuity and a 6% tax which prices a glass of wine or a beer at more than $6 a piece. The dining room had a very nice wine menu but the same service charges apply. The last negative item was the quality of the entertainment. There was a production of 'Rock', sort of like a history of rock and roll that was well done but the production of 'Win" was disjointed and not very well choreographed or acted.
There were a lot of different shore excursions you can sign up for in Cozumel. We took the glass bottom kayak tour of a reef followed by snorkeling at Chakanaab Marine park. Even Though it was early February, the air temperature was in the high 70's as was the water temperature. A bit cool, but you soon got used to it. The glass bottom kayak was a little bit of a disappointment as the 'glass' was actually plastic and after having been dragged up on the beach many times, was rather opaque. The snorkeling was fantastic however and was the highlight of our time in Cozumel.
Cozumel is Ground Zero for cruise ship visits in the Caribbean. We were one of 5 ships there. Needless to say, the entire downtown shopping district is reliant upon the cruise trade. Everyone speaks English, prices are in dollars, and credit cards are accepted.
Disembarkation was slightly faster than embarkation as passengers are disembarked by zones. Still, you have to clear customs so don't plan on a speedy get-a-way. It took us about an hour from leaving the ship to driving our of the garage...most of which time was spent waiting in line for customs.
Overall, it was a great experience. The Elation while not new, is in very good shape and spotlessly clean. The crew is friendly and the food was excellent. I would recommend it to anyone and am already planning my next cruise.