We left for our cruise on Jan 29 2005, my wife my two sons and me. We flew from Vancouver B.C., to Houston, TX, via Phoenix on America West Airlines. It was a good quick flight at a reasonable price but ill pack a lunch next time (the peanuts just don't hold you over). We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express by the airport -- great room at an awesome price. I highly recommend it. The next day we had arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at our hotel to take us to Galveston. We used Texas Shuttle Service (owned and operated by L.J. Cromier). L.J. gave us a short tour of downtown Houston before dropping us of at the pier.
Embarkation: This was the quickest I've ever had getting on a cruise. Being non-U.S. citizens our line was very short and we pretty well just walked right on. I think the picture-taking took longer than the paperwork.
The boat: My first impression of the Elation was good. When you first walk in you are in an eight story grand atrium -- the most impressive I've seen. Our cabin was fine, nothing fancy and more room then we've had on other boats (Royal Caribbean for example). We had a few minor problems with our cabin (a picture had fallen off the wall) and our cabin steward took care of it right away. I didn't really like the layout of the boat. It seemed like we were always having to walk past the casino and the bars that allowed smoking. The shops were great with very helpful staff.
Dining: We had requested an early seating and when we got on the boat it was changed to the late seating so I had to stand in a line for 90 minutes to see the maitre d' and we were put on a waiting list. On the second night we got changed to the early seating. Our waiter and assistant waiter were good at taking care of all our dining needs. Our assistant waiter, Valentina (from Bulgaria), was very good with the kids. The food was good but not great. I had to keep remembering the great deal I got on the cruise, then the food tasted a little better.
Entertainment: We were not impressed with the entertainment. We actually had to walk out on one of the comedians making ethnic jokes.
The ports: Definitely the highlight of the trip we didn't get any excursions through the boat.
Progresso: We went the Mayan ruins, Dzibilchaltun, and then we shopped around in Progresso. Total cost for the day minus shopping $120 and that included a private guide at the ruins and taxi rides.
Cozumel: We went to Chankanaab Marine Park where we snorkeled and my wife and boys swam with the dolphins -- total cost $380.
Belize: We took a tender boat from the ship to the city and walked over to the marine terminal and took a water taxi out to a little island called Caye Calker. It was very nice and easy going. We had lunch there and did a bit of snorkeling. We were too late to get a boat to take us out to the reef (the second biggest barrier reef in the world). The snorkeling around Caye Caulker wasn't that great, but the place was charming and well worth the trip over. We felt rushed there being as we had to get the 3 o'clock taxi back to the ship. Total cost for the day, $90 lunch included.
Disembarkation: Again this went very smoothly. We carried our bags off the boat and we were off by 10:00 a.m. We had arranged with L.J. to pick us up by 10:30 am and he didn't pick us up till 11:30 a.m. His explanation for being late was that this time worked better for him. He then with us as his captive audience proceeded to tell us about the merits of U.S. foreign policy. He took phone calls in between his talk and ended up overbooked and dropped us off at the wrong terminal. If we didn't have a late flight we would have been screwed.
All this being said, we did have a good time overall, but I think we'll try a different cruise line next time.