Embarkation was very smooth. We arrived about 10:30 am. We went swiftly through security, stood in line to set up sign and sail for about 10 minutes. We then sat fairly comfortably waiting for our zone to be called (8). Unfortunately, I was taken away from the area leaving my 15-yo sdd with everything, by security because they considered my scrapbooking hammer "prohibited." I told them there was nothing that said it was prohibited and was told it "could be used as a weapon." I told them to keep the dang thing, I could buy another $5 hammer! Nonetheless, this left my 15-yo not knowing what to do as they told us to start boarding while I was several minutes' walk away at the baggage area where they screen the bags before boarding. Still, the security folks were nice and accommodating and didn't accuse me of anything untoward. I returned to find they had called us for boarding, joined my sdd at the end of the line, and we moved quickly through for embarkation photo (whichI bought for her sweet 16!!) and boarding.
Upon boarding, we joined another couple we had met the night before on the Lido deck...the drink servers are indeed very frequent but I did not find them awful or even really intrusive. A shake of the head or flick of the hand did the trick generally. The ship is very easy to find your way around for the most part...everything is clearly labled and pretty much totally within sight right off the bat. I did not immediately go to guest services or shore excursions or anything. I visited the Mongolian Grill, as this was likely our only chance to do so before the lines hit! At 1:30 prompt, the doors to cabins were opened, and we dumped our things. Then, we returned to wander around a bit. We did do this, and then I spent some time in the hot tub. Muster was called about 15 minutes late, but I didn't mind!! That was also rather smooth, quick, and painless. Then...the bomb was dropped. Fog had us stuck. Port of Galveston closed the port---again. The captain sounded rather frustrated and promised to keep us updated-which he did, each time, stating "our situation is unchanged..." and sounding annoyed! I don't blame him. The fog was not that bad, and we can fly airplanes through thunderstorms and drive ships at night, but somehow a bit of fog renders us totally worthless?? lol So, nonetheless, as of 12:30AM on Day 1, we still were docked in Galveston. The activities still went on as planned, but without casino (don't care) or gift shops (oh well).
2:30 AM...we departed Galveston. I was forward and heard the thrusters that they use to push us off from the pier and sat bolt upright. I watched us leave port and went back to sleep about 3AM.
We woke up about 7:05 for delivery of our room service, which we had requested at 7-7:30. Good food! We ate and lounged a little and went up to deck about 8AM where we found we were going almost 19 knots, and the wind was AMAZING!!! So bad that we literally had to fight to walk forward!! It was fun though. Nonetheless, Captain is trying to make up time so we can make our ports!! I also found an additional $20 credit on my S&S card where we "overpaid" port fees. Not sure how that happens, but okay! It's money! FYI: we were NOT given a credit for leaving port 10.5 hours late (nor did I think we really should have been).
I went to the Serenity deck after the "Fun Aboard and Fun Ashore" talk at 10:30....found a chair fairly easily, albeit in the shade. Fine with me as I wanted to scrapbook! :) I note that Steve Cassel is quite funny but I have yet to see him around the ship. Still, a good an d interesting talk. Then at 1, we went to the talk on the shopping, with Martin, also fun.
This evening was the Captain's Celebration. We dressed up for elegant night, and attended along Promenade, took advantage of photo opportunities. Met the hotel director, cruise director and a couple members of the fun staff...they all told me the Captain was "right down there" but I never did see the captain. It was really rather...well, unfun, compared to the former captain's receptions. They just kind of stood in a line here and there, talking to each other. I made a concerted effort to walk up to some of the officers and staff and say hello and ask them how they were doing, and felt like I was intruding on their conversation. It felt kind of like a wedding reception line, where you were maybe just supposed to walk along and say hello and keep moving. It just felt weird. I love Carnival, but I think this new format is a "fail." Going to the main lounge, shaking hands when entering and then actually getting some introductions on stage, and brief chat, was more enjoyable-even if the drinks are not free. So, while I had a nice walk along Promenade and took pics, I didn't get to meet the captain and really felt rather like the staff felt this a necessary evil. Even the smiles seemed fake on several faces. Exception to this was cruise director Steve.
Elegant night was nice in the dining room. The lobster was a bit overcooked in my opinion, but Ramesh, our head waiter, was cognizant of the time as we told him we wanted to make the 7:30 comedy performance. We did. Our assistant waitress, Iryna (Iryana?) did a great job as well. She was from Belarus and was rather quiet but very attentive. :)
We enjoyed the comedians and their PG shows as well as adult shows. Adult shows can get very "adult" but I enjoyed them quite a bit. I enjoy comedy period!
The Xtreme Country show rocked. The dancers and singers were great, and Steve Cassel, cruise director, plays a MEAN FIDDLE!!
Day 3 Progreso
I see a lot of complaining about this port and its dinginess or dirtyness. I personally like it. It's more authentic Mexican, and wares are more authentic and the people are more "Mexican," i.e., not a bunch of US transplants operating stores in Mexico. Many do not speak English. My rudimentary Spanish easily got me through though. We just got to the end of the pier, rode the $3 double decker bus and then hung out at the FREE beach. Do not pay for the "beach break" here, unless it offers soemthing more than a beach, because the free beach is easily accessible, free, and food/drink is very nearby. We just laid on the sand on our Carnival towels.
We returned and had dinner after a nap. Then, we attended the game show in the main lounge, but skipped the talent show and the Mexican buffet, instead choosing to relax in the hot tubs on Serenity. Serenity is packed during the day, but at night, is virtually a wasteland and a beautiful place to chat, relax, and soak!
Day 4 Cozumel:
Smooth debarkation except for a lengthy line to get off the sihp. We were delayed still from leaving Galveston but it didn't realy affect us as we had the same length of time in port. We explored the shopping area at port before our excursion and then met our excursion. Stingray Beach could have been a tad more orgnanized and clear about where they wanted you when, but it was a good excursion. We went to Del Sol where we promptly saw the prices were too high, then grabbed a horse and buggy ride back to theship. This was a tad more spendy than I really felt necessary, but it was really nice to see a little of "old Cozumel."
Did not disappoint. A very good, well put together, interesting event! I was stuffed. The chef, Taunus, was awesome. He was heading back to the CCL Freedom after our cruise. He even made sure my sdd had some more of the starter he had given us the next day at lunch upon her request. The wine and champagne were most definitely free flowing. the $75 charge was not, in my opinion, particularly too much, and I did leave an additional tip.
Day 5 Sea Day:
We relaxed most of the day. We did do the Groove for St Jude, which was a karaoke event at 4 on the last sea day. Lasted only about an hour. We went to the Fun Farewell, where a $5 tip by our tablemates and a $2 tip by us (I had forgot the rest of my money on my way to it) made sure the drinks were free flowing! Then off to dinner for our last dinner, and the Dream Voyage show. It seemed this show would have been more appropriate at the beginning of the cruise, and I'm not sure that it wasn't meant to be as we were incredibly bumpy the first sea day and there was a lot of dancing. I enjoyed Xtreme Country better than Dream Voyage, I admit, but it was still worth going to.
More comedy at Punchliner and I went to pretty much all the shows. Tommy Drake was absolutely hilarious. Carl Faulkenberry was not as funny to me, although he was pretty amusing as well. Definitely like Tommy Drake more though. And what I noticed is that Tommy Drake's "adult" comedy was not "adult" just because he dropped a bunch of unnecessary curse words-which I did feel Carl did. To me, Carl's comedy was perfectly PG rated, and he made it "adult" by adding a bunch of F-bombs. Tommy's comedy was without curse words mostly but the subject matter and the comedy itself was decidedly adult.
Went well. We ate in the dining room for breakfast. Went well. Then we finished getting our things together and moved to the Promenade deck to wait. We were asked to leave our stateroom by 8:30 AM and were in Zone 22, the last zones, to be called. I didn't mind waiting outside my stateroom, but the beverage service could have been better while waiting. I was there, with my carryons, waiting from about 8 to 10 or so, and had a hard time getting water. I would get some, but they'd give me a tiny glass-I don't understand being stingy with WATER, especially on the last day. If they are going to ask you to wait outside your stateroom, they could serve you a tad better, but all in all, it was fine. Once called, we proceeded easily. At this port, we were required to trudge down and get ALL our bags, then trudge BACK, with all our bags, to the end of the line, then drag ALL our bags through customs. There were porters, but they were not easily accessible and really, IMO, there should have been more. We did proceed fairly quickly, though the line was very long. We did have passports. Once through customs, we still were not really offered porter services so we had to lug all five of our bags between the 2 of us (I had a scrapbook bag as I was the sole adult, plus each of us had one large bag and one carryon, plus my purse), the length of the building to meet our shuttle.
Kids: Not a bother. Despite being a major Spring Break cruise (almost all the passengers were from AK, KS, and TX and many on spring break), I found the kids, as well as the young adults, well behaved. There were only a couple times they were even slightly "bothersome" and that involved young teens being ... well, young teens. Truly, they were not a bother and were FAR from "ruining my vacation." They weren't running wild, didn't run into me, and did not cut in line.
Smoke: Also not a bother. The Society lounge is a smoking/cigar smoking lounge and its placement just outside the Starlight (the second largest lounge which was converted into the Punchliner Comedy Club two of the five nights) was a little weird. One did have to walk through it to get to Starlight, although really there was another way around-through the restaurant on Lido, down into Serenity, and through the doors there. But the only INSIDE way to Starlight was through Society. This did not bother me a bit, but I did "notice" smoke there..it was really the only place I noticed it at all. Not once did I notice it on Lido or the outside areas.
Awesome. Great cruise, plain and simple. My only thumbs downs were the new format of the Captain's Reception, and the requirement to lug ALL your bags through customs lines. I am not sure if it's still done this way, but in the past in other ports, i have been able to go through customs and THEN pick up my large bags. We had to walk and lug our bags quite a bit the way this one was set up.
The food was good...I really didn't have anything bad. I used the MDR a lot, but did use Lido for breakfast on port days and a late night snack here and there. Found the food to be hot and decent. Eggs left a tad to be desired. Warm Melting Cake was, of course, a hit. Also had german chocolate cake for lunch in MDR and tiramisu. I enjoyed the tiramisu, although my tablemates decidedly did not!
The ship was very easy to find your way around. I did NOT have the same problems some mention in finding appropriate elevators. They were clearly marked and well defined.
Service was wonderful. I tipped my stateroom steward and my waiter and assistant waitress extra in addition to the S&S prepaid gratuities, as well as tipping the maitre 'd. And I felt like it still wasn't enough.
I would give the Ecstasy five stars in pretty much every category.