Built in 1991, Carnival Ecstasy is the second-oldest ship in Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet. Through the years, it has undergone significant refurbishments -- including an overhaul in 2009 that added waterslides among other things -- that make it feel newer and distinctly Carnival. The ship shows little sign of wear, and you'll find plenty of glitz onboard.
Colors are bold: bright oranges, purples and blues with plenty of neon and shiny silver surfaces. Subtle, it's not. Still, the palette perfectly matches the vibe onboard, which is 100 percent fun. Passengers sail for just a short time, and virtually every minute is packed, be it dancing poolside, trivia contests, karaoke, comedy or concerts courtesy of the line's Carnival Live! concert series.
When compared with more modern mega-ships, Ecstasy, which carries 2,052 passengers, is small. It's got just one pool, and it hasn't received many of the line's newer Fun Ship 2.0 innovations, such as Guy's Burger Joint or the BlueIguana Cantina. Still, the indoor public spaces generally don't feel overrun, even on sea days. Passengers don't have to wait to get in a round of mini-golf or feel crowded out on the jogging track. That said, the pool area gets really crowded on sea days, and lines for the waterslide are long. If you want a poolside lounger, you'll have to get up pretty early or move really quickly when one is abandoned.
Ecstasy doesn't have for-fee alternative dining, so pretty much every meal will be eaten in one of the two main dining rooms or the lido buffet restaurant. While that means passengers can avoid the nickel-and-diming so often equated with new, large ships, you might wish for more variety. It also equates to long lines for some of the most popular dining options, including the deli and pizza bar, Mongolian Grill and poolside grill.
Service is one of Ecstasy's bright spots. If you're thirsty, you won't be for long; bar servers are abundant throughout the ship. At dinner, waiters and waitresses will remember your name and preferences from the first meal; by the last night, your decaffeinated coffee or side of salad dressing will be delivered to you without your even asking.
Because Ecstasy sails short cruises to the Western Caribbean, families are fairly common, particularly during the summer, spring break and the holidays. It also draws a fair number of passengers who are interested in the line's Carnival Live! series, where passengers will see music acts perform live on the ship while it's docked. South Florida residents who can snag last-minute deals from Miami also are common.
During the day, casual and comfortable dress is encouraged. Shorts, flip-flops, swimsuits and virtually anything else are appropriate poolside. Indoors, swimsuit cover-ups, shoes and shirts are required, though the code is not strictly enforced. One caveat: Men are required to wear shirts with sleeves in the main dining room, and the crew enforces this.
At night in the main dining room, men tend to wear khakis or slacks with collared or button-down shirts, while women where capris, slacks or skirts with blouses, or sundresses. The ship has one elegant night per sailing, when men are encouraged to wear suits or dress pants and jackets, and women are encouraged to wear cocktail or evening gowns. Elegant night is pretty toned down, though, with most passengers electing not to dress up.
Carnival recommends $12 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $6.10 to dining room services, $3.90 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff. Note: On sailings departing September 1, 2016, or later, gratuities will increase to $12.95 per person, per day ($13.95 for those in suites).