We went on the Carnival Elation 5 day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso.
This was my first cruise in 15 years and my first with my twin daughters (2.5 years old) and husband.
We spent the night in Mobile at the Hampton Inn which was very nice. I thought we would have a view of the boat from the room, but we didn't. It was still a very nice hotel at a reasonable price. Breakfast was included, parking was an extra $10. They have a park and cruise package, however we didn't use it.
We decided to park at the port. We got to the port right around 12 noon. Embarkation was fine. There were lines, but I didn't think the waiting was excessive. Everybody was nice and helpful. One of the carnival people saw my husband and I struggling with our carry-on's and the girls who were getting loud and let us get in the VIP line. So, if you are traveling with young children, get them a little riled up and they may have mercy on you as well. From parking to being on board was about 30 - 45 minutes.
After getting on the boat, we went to the Lido deck to grab lunch. They let us into our rooms at exactly 1:30 p.m. We checked three bags and they were all there before 6:00 p.m. We went to check out Camp Carnival (we preregistered online before we got there) and got our cell phone and we played around with the girls a little. Later that night they had a "Welcome Aboard" party for the kids in one of the clubs (Jekyll and Hyde, I believe), which was fun. The girls got to dance and play with balloons. We left when they started doing games.
As we had the kids, we mostly ate at the buffet on the Lido deck. Camp Carnival will take the kids to dinner on certain days. We always wanted to eat with our girls, so we never did use that option.
After reading reviews before I left, there was a general consensus that the food was not hot on the ship. Well, I agree. It was weird because when you get it, it seemed to be hot on the line, but when you got back to your seat, the food was just slightly above room temperature. The plus side is that we never had to worry about the food being too hot for the girls. If you are one of those people who really like hot, right off the grill food, you'll be disappointed. The food was consistently warm every time we ate. And the room service food was really cold. I ordered the roasted NY strip sandwich and it appeared that it came right out of the refrigerator. My husband ordered the reuben sandwich and fajita and they were both cold. We did order chocolate cake one night and that was good. And you can always get chocolate chip cookies.
My husband and I signed up for Anytime Dining. We only ate in the dining room once. We went around 7:30 pm and had to wait for about 20 minutes (they gave us a little beeper/buzzer). We went to the dining room to eat and were seated right next to the service station (where the bring the food) and EXTREMELY close to another couple. We might as well have been sitting all at one table. I was disappointed with the service. On my last cruise, I remember dinner being kind of fun with a lot of banter with the server. Well, our servers appeared to have been really busy and preoccupied. Dinner seemed to drag on FOREVER. It seemed we had to wait a long time for everything (for someone to ask what we wanted, drinks refilled, etc). At one point my waiter came by the table, gave us the dessert menu, and just stared at us. After a few seconds I realized that he wanted our order right then. Luckily, I already knew what I wanted to try (thanks to CC) so I was ready. The food was really good, I had the shrimp appetizer (please order more than one of these, there are only like 4 shrimp), the steak (it was huge! I split half with hubby and I was still stuffed), and the chocolate melting cake. The food was still kind of lukewarm, but I was fine. We went on the "dress up" night. A photographer came in the middle of dinner to take a photo, which was fine. I saw several people decline and it didn't seem like a problem. Surprisingly, this was the only time we were approached to take photographs other than when we got off on an excursion. I read that the photographs were kind of annoying, but we hardly noticed them. We were harassed more by people wanting us to purchase drinks.
Camp Carnival was great. I couldn't have asked for better. One of my girls didn't want us to leave her, but one of the counselors assured us that she would be fine. She was crying when we left, but when we snuck back to look in on her a few minutes later, she was fine. The counselors change diapers and let you know if they had to change your child when you got back to pick them up. There appeared to be about 6 or 7 kids in our children's age group. We frequently went to check on them (they have monitors right at the entrance) and they always appeared to be supervised and doing an activity. A tip here is that if you plan to be back after 10:00 p.m., let them know ahead of time. They called us in the middle of the comedy show to see if we were planning on using the paid babysitting after 10:00 p.m.
Our room steward was fine. I'm not sure if he was outstanding, but he was adequate. We had to ask for toilet paper one night because we ran out, we had to ask for extra breakfast room service tags, etc. So, no real complaints there.
We went to one show called Win. If you plan on going, get there early. There are really no good seats on the second floor. Unless you are on one of the circle couches right in front, every other seat is a partial view. My DH and I got there thirty minutes early to the early seating and all of the bottom level was completely full and the top level was getting there. And there were people standing up in the back. I wasn't a big fan of the show at all. I thought the singing was extremely mediocre from both the male and female lead. I was kind of bored. But other people seemed to really enjoy it, so I supposed it's just your preference. We didn't go to any other shows.
I thought the comedy show was really funny. The adult show is definitely adult. A lot of cursing. On the last sea day there was a magician in the library. I was so disappointed. He talked about India and politics for 15 minutes (I guess waiting for other guests to arrive) and then did literally four tricks that a 10 year old would probably do.
That night was like a midnight Mexican buffet and party which was fun. We took the girls and they danced a little.
Last sea day we just rested up and got packed. I was sooooooooooo tempted to get a massage at the spa, but I missed all the awesome spa deals from earlier, so I didn't bother. The girls went to Camp Carnival and met Funship Freddie and got their faces painted. We also did the build a bear workshop.
Disembarkation was fine. No real lines getting off the boat and we found all of our luggage. It took a minute to find a porter to help us with our luggage, but once we did, we got to go through the "porter" line and it seemed shorter than the line with people who were carrying their own bags. From the time that we were called it took us about 40 minutes until we were in the car and on our way home. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the snow storm so it took us an extra couple of hours to get home.
And I had the worse case of motion sickness when I got home! I was fine on the boat until the last day when we had rougher seas and I took some Dramamine. When I got home, I felt horrible. I was incredibly dizzy and nauseous, I could barely function. I couldn't take Dramamine anymore because it knocked me out, so I got Bonine which helped and didn't make me as sleepy. Luckily I was scheduled to go back to work for a couple of days, and I needed every last minute. I think I got over the motion sickness after about 5 or so days.