Boarding the Elation: We got lucky. We arrived about 1:30pm for boarding. The "premium" boarding line was empty so we and others were told by Carnival personnel to use it rather than the regular line. I thought check-in and boarding were fairly quick (maybe 20 minutes tops). Kudos there.
Our room:Very generously sized, with a King bed for me and my spouse and a "pull down" bed for our 15 y.o. daughter. Beds were comfortable. Bathroom was also quite large and the shower had amazing water pressure. Toiletries in the shower included shampoo and body wash and a basket on the sink had other samples. Plenty to storage space (we over-packed a bit as we didn't know how much dressing up we'd want to do). The t.v. was older and its picture was sometimes fuzzy but that wasn't an issue as we rarely had it on.
Steward: Our cabin steward was very good. Our room was tidied twice a day. I don't think he knew our names but he was always very pleasant and More
left the room in impeccable order.
Waiter: Just wonderful. Oswaldo took care of us the few times we used the MDR. He knew our names right away and was so much fun. LOVED his dancing routine (you have to see the waitstaff "perform"!).
Adult only pool area: Great. Very comfortable chairs and a much quieter area. We had excellent weather, with a fair amount of sun (a few clouds) and a fairly well behaved crowd of adults around us. Staff kept chairs dry (it rained briefly one day) and the area clean.
Pizza: Surprisingly good pizza in the casual dining room (Tiffany's). Had it twice.
Romeo and Juliet Lounge: Good band (Erin and the Elation band?). Fun "superstar live" kareoke, in which guests can sing with the band. Daughter (who sings well) really enjoyed this, and we enjoyed the band in general. Erin sang very well!
Public areas: Very pretty although a bit smaller than what I had envisioned.
Almost everything else was boring, yucky, or sub-standard, particularly the food.
The Main Pool: it is quite small and ice-cold. We barely got in one day. The music on the main pool deck was almost completely "canned," almost no LIVE music at all. The area around it, with the grill restaurant right there, was usually pretty crowded, too. Smoking is permitted in this area so this was sometimes an issue although not too much.
MDR: Aside from the wonderful service, we found the food mediocre. Presentation was "nice" but food quality was just not very good. My shrimp cocktail contained "medium" sized shrimp (not large and certainly not jumbo) and only four or five of them. These were "limp" and very lackluster. The tomato and mozzarella salad was fairly gross with pink tomatoes and the most flavorless fresh mozzarella I've ever eaten. The soups were pretty good, however. The chicken breast was was overcooked and rather dry. My spouse said his steak was "okay" and daughter said the pasta was pretty good. The desserts were only okay, too. The cherries jubilee not only was not flamed table-side but tasted like they used canned cherry pie filling. Yuck. The molten chocolate cake tasted like Betty Crocker--no worse, no better.
Tiffany's: The high school cafeteria competed pretty well with this place. We tried a couple of meals at the buffet and found the food very bland, fatty, and tasteless. The desserts were similar--cafeteria style and no better. The salad bar was okay, but nothing special. Worse still, there were often lines for pizza and sandwiches (I waited 20 minutes for pizza one day). The dining room was fairly crowded at meal times but not too bad at "off" times.
Activities: Not much to do. What they did have wasn't very interesting and a lot of it (as others have noted) was geared toward selling stuff: Art shows, spa products, bingo, casino, etc. A few games and sports areas are on board but are nearly always taken up with kids or teens. The library was only really "open" a few hours a day so its difficult to get extra books or games there. Perhaps worst for us, the O2 teen club was closed a lot of the time and had only a few activities during our time there, despite there being many teens on board who could have used things to do. This really annoyed us as one of the reasons we took the cruise was the much touted O2 club for older teens with "all" it had to offer.
Port: Cozumel was okay but highly touristy. Difficult to walk five feet without someone trying to sell you something. Many excursions were available but most seemed to cost more than we wanted to spend for 2-4 hours of fun. Many other tourists, however, had a great time on these shore excursions so don't take my word as gospel. On an up note, we did go to Margaritaville and ate better food than we did the entire cruise (the guacamole was freshly prepared and good).
The "ugly": Other guests. Not all of them, of course, and not our tablemates, who were very, very nice. But another reviewer put it well: Carnival is certainly the "Wal-mart" ship and attracts a NOTHING fancy, no-frills crowd. Folks dressed in very sloppy clothes, shuffled along around the ships, talked too loud, and seemed to eat piles of fatty food non-stop. Few looked anything like the crowds I generally pictured as "cruisers." It was an eye-opening experience and not one I want to repeat.
Do we regret our cruise? No. The good weather and relaxation on the aft deck was alone probably worth the cost. Will we pick a different line/ship next time? Yes, indeed. Less