My husband and I went on our first cruise on the Carnival Elation. As most people do on their first cruise, we learned many things about Cruising on this trip.
A huge tip we could have used was to never book a cruise during hurricane season. Tropical Storm Lee started brewing in the Gulf the week before we were supposed to set sail and we did become a little worried that it might interfere with our itinerary, and well, it did. We were supposed to leave on Sept. 5 and due to the condition of the water (huge waves) our embarkation was moved to Sept. 6. So, our trip was delayed a day and our itinerary lost one of our ports of call. We were, to say the least, disappointed. Since we were already in Mobile we stayed at the Renaissance across the street from the Port. The hotel gave us a discount due to the cruise being delayed and hopefully insurance will reimburse us for that night. Carnival also gave us a 20% discount and a $60 credit on our sail & sign for the inconvenience of losing a day. They really went out of the way to accommodate and make up for the shortened cruise.
Another tip we could have used is to never leave out of Mobile. It was pure chaos getting on the ship. From the moment we pulled up men were throwing our bags onto dollies and paying for parking was insane. They claimed that they prefer cash, but the credit card line moved much faster. The lines inside were congested and not one worker seemed to have any authority over the actions of other cruisers. This might be because they were all mostly over the age of 70 and everyone ran all over them.
I do highly recommend the passport card and the Carnival funpass. Checking in took less than five minutes once we were at the counter. From there it was smooth sailing.
On board we were graciously greeted by cruise staff offering us complimentary glasses of wine. We found our room with ease where our luggage was already waiting for us. We unpacked everything (a tip from another cruiser) and made our way to the hot tub.
Our only mission on this cruise was to relax and take it all in. And we can definitely say mission accomplished. We went to a good many of the shows and wasted a lot of money on Bingo and alcohol. If anyone has the opportunity to see the comedian Kenny Miller, don't take it. He is horrible. Doug Funk on the other hand was hilarious. Corey, the cruise director was great at keeping us informed from day to day. His shows were particularly fun. I took advantage of one of the Spa specials and it was fabulous.
We took the late dinner which is something I probably won't do again because most of the good shows are happening at the same time. Our wait staff was fabulous! Very happy to accommodate and kept us entertained each night with a song or dance. The food was hit and miss. The soups were always great and the greek salad was particularly fantastic. The warm chocolate melting cake was a favorite every night except the night that tirimisu was an option. Breakfast at Tiffany's was fun to say, but nothing to write home about. The only item that changed on the buffet from day to day was pancakes or french toast. Fruit was my friend for breakfast. Lunch was always good. The Mongolian Grill was a pleasant surprise and absolutely delish. We never took advantage of room service because the only menu we got was for breakfast. I'm sure we could have called and asked for anything, we just didn't spend that much time in the room to do so.
Speaking of the rooms...they were a little dated in my opinion. Our tv was always fuzzy and skipped every other channel when using the remote. There weren't huge issues though since we didn't spend much time in our room.
At our port of call, Cozumel, we prepaid for the Dolphin Encounter excursion. It was amazing! The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. Cameras were prohibited, so the only options for pictures were the ones the facility took for us and they were waaaaayyyyy over priced. ($30 each) and there weren't any pictures taken of me and my husband together, otherwise we probably would have splurged for a picture. From there we took a taxi drive to Paradise beach and for $2 we were able to use the beach lounges, umbrellas, fresh water pool, changing rooms, showers, and bathrooms. Well worth it! And while the water was a little murky (thanks to TS Lee) we were still able to enjoy ourselves.
From there we made our way back to the shopping village Carnival dropped us off at and shopped and had lunch. Shopping was difficult with all the begging the locals did just to get you to buy their goods.
Overall, our first cruise was a great experience. Carnival went above and beyond to make the most out of our shortened trip. We will definitely be cruising with Carnival again!