Carnival Elation out of New Orleans, LA, December 22-26, 2011
I am a 43 yr old male traveling with wife and three grown children, 16-23 yrs of age, as well as in-laws and 88 year old grandmother. Party of 8.
THE CRUISE and SHIP -
The worst part of the trip was the typically cool to warm food served in the evening dining room. I like my food temperature HOT. The food was good. The food was cooked. The food was NOT hot. This issue was logistical. That being said, if the only real complaint I have on a full capacity holiday cruise is "cold food" then I think I'm doing pretty well. It certainly appeared EVERYONE went to the sit down dinners on this cruise.
The wait staff was attentive and friendly. They were also BUSY. Robert and Iryna were both a pleasure to see in the evenings. After interacting with them for two nights, I came away wishing they did not have to serve us, but could sit down with us instead. That pretty much sums it up. Hope to see them again as I plan to keep cruising.
I dressed up each night and enjoyed it. I have a business job, so coat and tie are pretty standard for me. People who did not want to dress up did not, but they still wore tasteful attire. Blue jeans and a clean Tee-shirt can be tasteful, and many displayed this type of dress every evening. There were two passengers who wore attire into the dining room which I considered, well... GROSS. Otherwise, I was not bothered.
This cruise had 800 +/- children on it. It never was an issue or nuisance to me. I believe on two occasions I observed what I would consider behavior where a parent would have intervened if present, and these were not major issues by any means. Kids just having fun really...
We had an interior cabin on the Empress Deck just down from the lobby. I felt the ship move the entire time we were sailing. I never experienced any motion sickness, but I was not in one place for very long other than sleeping. I did not take any medication but had Bonine on standby.
The cabin and bed was comfortable, but strangely enough we had an ADA room. My wife and I do not happen to be physically challenged so it must have been because we wanted rooms next to our children and family members. No difference really except for slightly wider doors, a missing drawer in the vanity and a fold down seat in the shower.
The Elation is considered a relatively older ship in the Carnival fleet. The crew's words, not mine. It looked awesome! They cleaned non-stop. I'm very aware of the affects water has on anything man-made and this ship did not look "old". My background is in mechanical engineering and practices and I was impressed in the fit and finish of the vessel.
For a thrill I recommend taking a night stroll over the bridge on the walkway accessible from the Lido deck. From the main lobby forward the Lido deck is not lit, including the walkway over the bridge. I'm assuming this is so the crew can have decent night vision. As we cruised through constant 4-6 foot waves into the pitch blackness of the Gulf of Mexico, I would perform this walk every night. I'm not particularly squeamish but that nightly thrill took my breath away. It was downright scary and fun!
If you are the continental breakfast type, I recommend ordering on the pre-printed room service forms in the cabin and have it delivered. You can then either stay in your cabin and eat, or take your prepared tray of food to anywhere on the ship you like, all while skipping the Lido deck.
Two things I read in virtually all reviews was that Carnival pizza and hamburgers are really good. The pizza was a six minute wait AT ALL TIMES. It was OK, but HOT. The burger I had was very dry. More "fixins" would be nice.
Gambling in the casino was nice. My mother-in-law won $500, but no telling how much she wagered. I'm not a big gambler, but I thought the machines were "tight". I did enjoy playing Caribbean Stud poker and will do it again. Minimum bet at the tables was $5 which may seem steep for someone who does not gamble. I thought it was.
The big hit was the brand new "Casino Vault" game which featured 3 i-Pad2's plus $500 in cash up for grabs as well as cash prizes. I put $60 in this machine, then watched the guy behind me win the only i-Pad of the cruise two turns later. Like I said... I don't like to gamble.
Flat screen TV's would be nice in the cabins. I always had the "ship's position" channel on, but it was blurry. Hopefully this update to the ship is in the not too distant future.
Fitness center and the associated locker rooms were really nice for the ships age. It surprised me how many people work out on a cruise. My son used the facilities frequently.
Saw the end of one "Liar's Club" show. It was pretty funny, but I felt I could get tired of the "characters" quickly.
Trivia was a joke. It could be so much more, but the person who did it on our cruise made it lame. She went off on a lot of tangents and even took a phone call during the game.
We showed up for TV trivia and were going to stay through '80's music trivia, which I aimed to win. There was a "problem" with the CD so the music trivia was replaced with Christmas trivia. We left. I walked by 30 minutes later and 80's trivia was being presented to 4-5 people. I'm guessing the CD "problem" was operator malfunction of the PA system.
The safe in the cabin was FREE, however I used to sail and sign card to open it only to find the instructions INSIDE the safe telling me to use another card. I had to have the safe reset by Gusti, our room steward. He was very attentive.
Bring non-iron, wrinkle free or pressed clothing with you. Although not necessary, I asked about an iron and was informed I would have to go the ironing station. They are not allowed in the rooms.
Bathrobes! Thought they were great. I found it entertaining when people wore them to the Lido deck and other places. Some were tasteful and others were not, but I would have done it to if given the opportunity.
The BLT from room service at 1:30 in the morning was pretty good.
Temperature in the rooms was not controlled by guests. There was a slight adjustment on the overhead vent, but after a shower it was flat humid in the room.
Pulling to Cozumel and back into New Orleans, it felt like the "HVAC" system was completely off and it got pretty stuffy.
I resorted to cooling off with cold water in the shower before finishing. This helped avoid sweating while dressing for dinner somewhat. Ice water came in handy as well. Beware if you do not like to sweat in nice clothes.
PHOTOS - We had many taken and I would have bought every one of them for a reasonable price. $5 per seemed fair. They wanted $19 an up for the majority of them so we didn't buy a single one. I heard rumors' of "half off" at the end of the trip but did not check since I had thrown all of ours away anyway.
This portion of the cruise could be greatly improved. I hope the transition to digital photography viewing and purchasing happens soon. Carnival touts it's environmental record. The massive waste of photo paper is definitely an area to look at.
NEW ORLEANS --
First time to NOLA. Loved it. Our party of 8 took mass transit everywhere except for our return coach ride to the airport after the cruise. $3 each got us a bus ride and transfer to our hotel two blocks from the cruise port. The hotel was reasonable accommodations for $90 a night. We rode the three major trolley cars lines as much as we wanted for an additional $3 per person.
Everyone was friendly. The prices were very reasonable throughout the city. NOLA definitely wants to attract visitors. If you have not been, I highly recommend. Took a short stroll down Bourbon Street, saw the French market, did the River Walk. Missed the WWII museum but wanted to go. Maybe when I hit a Mardi Gras in the future...
We did not do an excursion but I would feel comfortable booking one through an independent vendor. My wife and I are booked on the Magic in April 2012 and have a private excursion booked. Christmas Eve in Cozumel was wonderful. The ships lined up at the ports were cool. Horn battle when leaving was great. Shopping is all we did for a couple of hours off the boat. My daughters maximized their time off the boat and came back later than the rest of us. I did not feel insecure letting them do this.
THE WRAP UP --
Heck yes! I would do it again, and I will in a couple of months. My wife and I will be on the Magic for a 7 day cruise. FYI. Leaving from New Orleans added a whole layer to the trip. There were plenty of planes, trains and automobiles and it kept me hopping. I actually lost a little over four pounds.