First, it's a shame Carnival is leaving Mobile! It is such an easy place to get around and everyone is so friendly there. Hopefully someone else will move a ship there and the city can continue to show its friendly southern hospitality. This review will be long but we want to give you all as many details as possible.
We went down two days early and stayed at the Microtel Saraland. It was more than adequate for us and being able to leave the car there while we cruised was nice. Saraland is only about ten miles from Mobile and there's a Super Wal-Mart along with some restaurants very close by. We had dinner at Wintzell's Oyster House (the original on Dauphin St in Downtown Mobile) and it was excellent in terms of both food and atmosphere. On Sunday we took the 45 minute drive to Dauphin Island for the day and enjoyed a nearly desolate beach where we found several large shells and saw plenty of stingrays and jellyfish. It was the closest thing to a deserted island that either of us had ever experienced. We ate dinner that night at Beaudeans just across the bridge (Mobile side) of Dauphin Island. It was "ok" but nothing to write home about.
I surprised KYLUCKYGIRL with a Limo ride from the hotel to the ship. Booked thru Modern Limos and the rate was surprisingly affordable. I had to wonder for three weeks if they'd show up in some 1950's model limo but it was a very nice, long, ten passenger, black super stretch limo and that started off the day in a very special way!
We arrived at the terminal at about 10:00 a.m. and tipped a porter who took our bags and proceeded inside. Once they checked our passports we went upstairs and had to sit for about 15-20 mins until they opened the security checkpoints. Proceeded through there easily and were at the ticket counter where we checked in and were given a Zone 1 card (first group to board after Priority). We were on the ship by 11:15 a.m. and after quickly putting cash on our Sail and Sign cards at Customer Service we went to lunch on the Lido Deck.
All of the Carnival employees in the terminal were very friendly and the ship staff were also friendly during embarkation.
After lunch we took our own "tour of the ship" and it was fun watching KYLUCKYGIRL's face as she experienced her first ever "fun ship cruise". The rooms were ready at 1:30. We were on Riviera Deck in a port hole cabin and were surprised with the amount of room and storage space that we found there. We also had two bathrobes which was a surprise.
Richard, our cabin steward, and Geda (sounds like "getta") introduced themselves and we dropped our bags and headed back up to see more of the ship.
The muster drill lasted about 20 mins or so and then it was time for sail away. We stood out front as we departed Mobile bound for Mexico and boy is that horn loud! LOL.
The Elation is older, but well maintained. There are minor things that I'm sure people could complain about and I have no doubt they'll fix those in dry dock. But overall it was a beautiful ship. We especially thought Tiffany's with the peacock decor was pretty as was the Mikado Lounge, the Imagination Dining Room, the Atrium and all of the public areas. We found it to be very clean, but yes, there are little things like very small ornamental fixtures that are ocasionally missing or some window tint peeling but nothing at all major and you really have to look for these things to find them.
We used our two Fun Days at Sea by hanging out on the Serenity Deck at the rear of the ship. PERFECT place to hang as it's calm and no kids allowed there. We didn't notice an abundance of chair hogs but we did get out early both days to get us good chairs and we'd take 20-30 mins every so often to go get some lunch or something to drink.
We had pretty rough seas from Weds night thru Friday night. Thursday night and all day Friday were 8 to 10 foot waves and they had signs on the doors from the Lido deck out to the port and starboard decks that said High Winds and you couldn't go out there. We did feel the ship rock quite a bit and they put out barf bags by the elevators on Friday but we didn't see anyone use them.
We had late seating in the Imagination Dining Room and were seated at a large round table with four other couples. Bernardo was our waiter and he was a little on the shy side, but he did a great job and by the end of the cruise was showing us card tricks and other things. Although we traveled as just a couple, it was kind of neat sharing the experiences of the day with others and hearing what they did during the day over dinner. Plus you get to see what everyone else orders and our table always had a wide variety of entree's and appetizers.
The food was just "ok" most nights. The Warm Chocolate Melting Cake is indeed as good as advertised and is offered every night. Some entree's seem to be better than others...the Lobster and Shrimp were delicious but the Flat Iron Steak was very tough. Most of the pasta based dishes are good (from what we had and what others at our table said).Portion sizes are small of most things, so if you're hungry then go ahead and order two of whatever you want.
Tiffany's, the buffet at the rear of the ship was always good. Even the flat iron steak there on Weds night (we at dinner there and skipped dining room after an exhausting day ashore) was better than in the actual dining room. We both LOVED the ice cream and the fruit. The fried fish on the buffet was good and on the last day they had a chocolate fondue fountain with fruits and donuts which was outstanding.
Lido Deck buffet was typical burgers, hotdogs, etc. and we only had that once but it was good too. We didn't notice anyone not using the tongs or grabbing food with their fingers or all the stuff you sometimes read on here. There were some line jumpers and a few pushy people but overall everyone was very civil and waited their turn.
Sandwich/Deli in rear of Tiffany's was good the one time for a Reuben but the Pizza left a little to be desired. The crust was good but the sauce/topping was like frozen pizza.
Breakfasts at buffets were pretty good. Omelette's are at Lido buffet and rear of Tiffanys and are to die for! The bacon on the buffet isn't crisp at all and didn't have much flavor.
Something for everyone. We watched part of the Rock Show on Tuesday night and all of WIN on Thursday night. The Rock Show seemed pretty good but it was formal night and we left to go get our pics made. WIN was not as much of a "theme" show as it was just entertainment. If you go expecting a storyline you won't get it so just enjoy each dance/song number one at a time.
The band that plays on Promenade and on the Lido Stage is an 80's cover band from the Phillipines. They are VERY GOOD and they are finishing their 6 month contract in one more cruise then they'll be off for two months before starting another 6 month contract. Talked to the bass player outside of the Cole Porter lounge before the art auction and he told me that they didn't know which ship they'd be coming back on yet.
The disco was a lot of fun and we saw one of the comedians on board and he was a riot as well. Karaoke is as expected...a few good and more not so good but it was still fun watching.
Cozumel - We went to Nachi Cocum for $48 each. It's an all inclusive that only takes 100 people at a time and includes all you can eat and drink. They keep a drink in your hand if you want all the time. The food was very good and the beach was beautiful and peaceful. You get your own Palapa and two chairs and can rent floats, wave runners, parasail, snorkel gear etc.
Calica - Short cab ride ($13) to Playa del Carmen. LOVED the town. We booked a snorkel excursion once in town and enjoyed that and also shopped. The store owners do constantly ask you to come in to look and almost seem to follow you down the street. One word of advice - Do NOT take anything there with your name on it (tshirt, beach bag, etc) or they'll constantly call out your name as you walk down the street...LOL. It was kind of funny. Plenty of bargains to be had "Almost cheaper than free" they'll say...beautiful town and public beach. Some of our table mates did Excaret which they said was awesome.
SAIL AND SIGN, ETC.
We used only cash on our Sail and Sign card. We both put down $350 on each card. $50 went to tips automatically. We bought several photographs from formal night ($21.99 each 8x10) and had drinks of the day on Monday and Tuesday for $7.25 plus tip and $12.50 on the last day because they bring it in a Whale Tale glass. Tack on some ship souveniers and the initial funds put down just about covered it all.
If you are a smoker, you can smoke in the casino if you are playing. If not, you can smoke on the Lido Deck both inside and outside and also on the front of the ship. We didn't ever notice an abundance of smoke.
Internet Cafe was like $34 for 60 mins and if you sign up on embarkation day you get 10 free mins. We ended up having a balance of about 11 minutes. Speed is pretty slow.
THE ONLY REAL NEGATIVE was that KYLUCKYGIRL's suitcase got severely damaged from the time we left it with a porter to the time it was delivered. Several holes, tears, rips, and scrapes on a new suitcase. A quick call to Customer Service and a rep was in our cabin within ten mins. They delivered a form for her to fill out once we got home to get reimbursed for the suitcase if it can't be repaired (which it can't be). We will see how that goes. But, just like flying, things can sometimes happen to suitcases and it likely was just an accident.
All in all it was a great cruise. For KYLUCKYGIRL and her first cruise it was perfect. For KYLUCKYGUY's 5th cruise it ranks right there among the others.
We would sail this ship and this itenerary again in a heartbeat.