• Background Information: Spring break cruise to get to the sun after a LONG winter! Traveling - myself (48), DH (49) and DD (17). Previous cruises on Carnival Legend (2008) and Carnival Freedom (2010).
• Travel to Port of Embarkation: We flew into Houston Intercontinental on Friday - the day before sail date - direct flight. Not really any good options to get to Galveston so we rented a car and drove down - note this was actually cheaper than a limo or airport shuttle or even Carnival's transfers.
• Hotel Information: We stayed at the Hilton Resort Galveston. We arrived late in the day so did not really have any time to enjoy the hotel's facilities. Hotel was VERY accommodating. At check in we talked to the Bell Captain and were able to choose our shuttle time to the ship - we chose 12:30. Got down early and since others did too, we actually left as soon as there were 15 people to fill the first van! Yeah!!!They offer free parking to guests that are cruising - and they have a very slick "system" for managing the parking. After filling out a form (car info, return date, disclaimer, etc.) you park in a large lot behind the San Luis resort (the Hilton is part of that complex) I hope they continue that even after the new ships come to Galveston. They load the luggage and family members on the shuttle and then the driver of the car follows the shuttle to the parking lot, parks, and then gets on the shuttle. NOTE: It did not appear that the lot was secure or monitored but maybe it is - DON'T leave valuables in the car. We ate dinner at the Rain Forest Cafe - good food. There is a nice Kroger Super market about a block away - we bought bottled water. Also there is an Ihop next to the Rain Forest Cafe for a good breakfast. The beach is across the street.
• Embarkation: A little confusion getting off the shuttle at the port - lots of porters around but they really did not act like they wanted to help us - that's fine - I always make sure we can carry (pull) what we bring! Finally a carnival employee pointed us to a door - went to a large warehouse where a Carnival employee directed us where to put our luggage (according to deck). They have extra luggage tags if you need one. After dropping off the bags we went to the main check in point. Everything moved smoothly. Yes, there was a wait. I think we were on the ship by 1:35. One note - you cannot check a case of bottled water or soft drinks, so you have to carry it on. ALSO, they do check the water. After security they took the water over to a table and took some out, shook them, and then put them back. They looked at about a half dozen bottles, making sure to check the ones in the middle of the case. However, it was interesting that they did not inspect the couple of open water bottles we had in our bags that went through the x-ray. Oh the nice part of getting there a little later was that we could go right to the room. DD was worried about luggage but we got it about 5:15. Had time to unpack all but one bag (mine of course!) before dinner.
• Ship Info: Love the remodeled Ecstasy!!! I had sailed on the ship in 2005. What a nice change! The palm trees around the pool are nice. The serenity deck is nice - although we did not spend much time there. The pool area aft where the water works and slide are is incredible. And even when the slides were going and kids were playing it was not noisy. We actually found this area more pleasant than the main pool - just not quite so loud with the music and announcements. This ship may not have all the amenities of some of the larger ships but I think it has character. And it is very well maintained.
• Activities: We played putt putt golf on the top deck one day - lots of fun, great course. Went down the slides both in port and at sea - the highest one was closed the first sea day because of the strong winds. They are awesome and the twisting tube slide is fast - be warned if you are wearing a two piece!!!Went to the previous cruisers "party" - free drinks and appetizers! Our favorite was the whiskey sour. We went to the welcome aboard review show - it was okay - got a preview of the comedians who were very funny! The Country show the second night was very enjoyable - no not Broadway, but it was fun! But the best part of this show is that the cruise director plays the fiddle in it and he is FABULOUS!!! I cannot say enough about how much fun we had watching him. He played "Devil Went down to Georgia" and no maybe not the best voice but the fiddle part was so good - even watched him break a few bow strings (horse hair actually)! Comedy shows were big on our list - we saw all but one and they repeated them so if you missed one you could catch it a different night. Each performer did an early show (PG-13) and a late show (R). But the late show was not raunchy - lots of laughs! Also, DD and DH enjoyed the family comedy show on the last day. Also watched the NCAA final four in the Society bar and had a blast, lots of cheering for both teams! The Society bar is also the "only" officially sanctioned place where you can smoke cigars. If you want to enjoy a stogie out on deck, you probably won't be harassed if you stay in one of the designated (cigarette) smoking areas. They want happy passengers that buy drinks and look the other way.
• Service: Excellent service! And very responsive to issues. The first night in the dining room it was obvious that they were out of sync in our area. This was fixed the second night with a different wait staff. Our room steward was nice- got our DD extra blankets. The bar staff was very accommodating! We still think the Legend may have been slightly better but this crew was great!
• Port & Shore Excursions: We did the Cycling and Cave adventure in Progreso. Had fun! Since there have been lots of posts asking about that excursion I actually am posting a separate review of this excursion. And then went shopping and to Senor Frogs in Cozumel. We had been to Cozumel before so we took it easy this time. It was great being able to walk off the ship in both ports as the tenders have always made my DD sick.
• Summary: An excellent shorter cruise! This ship is not getting older but getting better! Yes, there are a few things that are we could "complain" about but overall I would rank this cruise an A. By the way, the Freedom we would have given a B. We would definitely sail on this ship again.
• Stateroom: On such a short trip we knew we would not spend much time in the room so we booked a cabin on the Main deck about mid ship - maybe slightly aft. This room was perfect - very little motion and close enough to all activities but not a traffic path. We rarely heard people in the hall and only heard the people above us of next to us a couple of times.
• Dining: We prefer the early dining (6:00) and we were assigned the Wind Song dining room. We lucked out and got a table for just the 3 of us! It was great! Not all the food is great - but all of it is good! Some highlights: the lobster and shrimp on the second formal night - the lobster was sweet -the best we have had on a ship- and could have been served at any fine restaurant ashore - the mozzarella and tomato appetizer, crab cake and, stuffed mushroom appetizers are all good! The main thing was the service - our waiter, Eric, was very good and the crew "shows" got the whole dining room hopping.
• Children's Clubs: Club O2: DD loved the Club O2. Her words: First day was more of an organizational day. As a 17 year old they did not participate in all the activities - more a place to meet and then go. The dance parties were fun and the movie night was decent. Because this ship is older, the club area is smaller than those on some of the newer and bigger ships. But, it was still very fun for our DD and is in contact with the kids that she met.
• Disembarkation: Oh so sad to see it end! But very easy. Since we were spending the night in Houston, we did not rush off the ship. We did the "relaxed" or "zone disembarkation". We were off by 10:30. But you do have to be out of the stateroom by 8:30 (we were late). One note: you can bypass some of the lines after getting off the ship and collecting the luggage if everyone in your party had a Passport. We did and it probably saved us 20 minutes of waiting. The hotel shuttle was a little slow - we waited 20 minutes or so but they had to drop off people so maybe that was a delay.