We were cruising for our anniversary for the second time. The first was on the Monarch of the Seas(RCI) two years ago. We lucked into the cruise due to my sister buying a vacation club and then be relocated to Alaska. She wasn't able to use her points so we used them to book our cruise.
We booked the OV guaranteed rooms and ended up on the Aft of the Empress Deck. The rates for the OV guaranteed were only $30 more than than the Inside Guaranteed. It was nice having the window as we could tell when the sun was up. Our previous cruise we were in an inside cabin and it was like being in a cave.
Embarkation-Embarkation was smooth.We arrived in New Orleans at around 11:45. We parked at the Fulton Place parking as it was $12 a night. There was a free shuttle that dropped us off at the port. It was actually close enough that walking wouldn't be out of the question. We were on the boat and in the buffet enjoying lunch in about 30 minutes or leaving the shuttle.
Rooms- The room was plenty spacious for the two of us. The bed was comfortable. My wife did request a pad and extra pillow which was promptly added. Our steward Mal was excellent. The room was always cleaned with fresh towels. There were of course the obligatory towel animals and chocolates on the pillows every night. If you don't bring an alarm clock you can get a wake-up call which arrived as scheduled every morning. Definitely bring a power strip as there is only one plug. The TV was archaic but we didn't come for the TV. The only complaint about the room was the water temp in the shower. It would fluctuate wildly from hot to cold at any given second.
Food- There was plenty of options for breakfast however the quality wasn't real high. It was akin to the quality of a continental breakfast at a hotel. The pizza was good but there was always a wait for it. Lunch in the buffet was good. I enjoyed the burgers and the wife liked the deli. The food in the main dining room was good to great. I've seen some reviews indicating the food in the MDR was cold. I did not have that experience. My food was always at least warm and usually hot.
Dinner- We ate dinner in the main dining room every night. I know some people like the convenience of the buffet but I enjoy being served on vacation. I did walk through the buffet a few times as I had heard the same food was being served in both places. While there was some of the same dishes being served in both places there was more variety in the main dining room. We did the Your time dining option which I liked. We never waited to be seated. We were always seated on a two top which my wife liked. In the future I do want to try an assigned time to sit with the same group of people all cruise long. There were several people who did that and made cruise friends. We did miss out on that by sitting by ourselves at dinner.
Breakfast/Lunch- we split our time between the main dining room and the buffet. There was plenty of selection however it was just okay.We mainly ate lunch in the buffet as we liked the flexibility to come and go. The food was good. The 24 hour soft serve was nice too.
Progreso- We booked a tour of Chichen Itza once we were in-port. It was $49 per person which was significantly cheaper than booking the tour on board. It worked out very well as we were the only people on our cruise who booked in port so we ended up with our own personal tour guide. The tour was with Autoprogreso which is the same company that runs the carnival tour. The ruins were neat and there was a lot to see. Since it was just us the guide took us to a local restaurant near chichen Itza for lunch. The food was excellent.
Cozumel- Again we did our own thing and took a taxi to Chankanaab. The park was very well maintained and there was plenty to do here. My wife wanted to get up close and personal with some sea lions so we did the sea lion encounter. There were five other people that did this at the same time. She said she still had plenty of time with the sea lions and was very happy with the experience. There was also snorkeling, a nature trail, a pool, and dolphin swims there as well. We ate lunch there and the food was excellent here as well.
Sea days- The first day at sea the going was a little rough. Walking down the halls was a challenge but neither of us got sea sick. Later that afternoon the seas did calm down and the rest of the trip was smooth sailing. There were plenty of activities on board. A lot of the activities were aimed at selling something. If you enjoy drinking don't worry everywhere you go on board there is someone ready and willing to fetch you a drink. The karaoke had a live band and there were very good. It was the same band that played the shows at night.
The shows were entertaining and the singing and dancing were better than expected. I have a background in competitive show choir and theater and didn't expect the quality of the shows to be up to par. The costumes were a bit cheeky (IE the thongs under the dresses weren't always hidden from view) which was a little distracting but hey that probably drew some crowds that may have otherwise not gone.
We went to the family friendly comedy shows as we don't care to be bombarded with profanities. The comedians were alright. Had I paid to go see them I wouldn't have been happy.
Debarkation- Unfortunately debarkation was not smooth. This was not Carnival's fault as customs decided to do a full inspection of everyone leaving. Apparently this is not the norm and something they do randomly. I felt the employees did a great job of adjusting but you can only do so much with government workers. Once we finally did clear customs our shuttle picked us up and dropped us off at our parking garage.
Misc- The ship decor does appear dated but it was clean and well maintained. The cruise directors and entertainment staff were excellent. They were funny and did a great job facilitating the events.The little things made this special.Bathrobes in the stateroom. Crew members we would interact with would remember our names. Our waiter would see us coming and have our drinks ready as soon as we set down without waiting for us to order. Our steward noticed my wife was trying to fold a towel elephant and helped her get it perfect.
All in all we were very satisfied with our cruise. We would not hesitate to sail again with Carnival on the Elation or otherwise. I definitely recommend using Autoprogreso for the excursions in Progreso. Chankanaab is a great option for families in Cozumel. Fulton Place parking was a good deal as well.