Arrived in Charleston and was advised by security to drop off our luggage and come back out of the port to park for an hour. Upon re-entry we were told because we had Faster to the fun, we had priority boarding and should proceed to lane ... Read More
Arrived in Charleston and was advised by security to drop off our luggage and come back out of the port to park for an hour. Upon re-entry we were told because we had Faster to the fun, we had priority boarding and should proceed to lane 1. We paid $119 for parking for the week. We sat for about an hour in line after paying. The people in charge then released all of lane 1 - priority boarders to park. That was pretty cool! We parked in the garage, walked to the bus, wait for about 10 minutes before boarding and being taken to the port. Once entering the port, we told the person at the door we had priority boarding and they sent us to a check-in with 1 person in line.
We went straight to our cabin M2 and dropped of our backpack and went straight to lunch. [CON] The bathroom floor was squishy with an odd smell. The floor was covered with the same blue covering that was in the shower. It was odd. [PRO] Our cabin was clean. I pulled back the sheets and checked the mattress for bedbugs and clean sheets. All appeared acceptable.
We walked straight to lunch. Of course Italian was the theme, always is on embarkation day. [CON] Disappointing there was nothing new. Old ship, old menu. The pasta was rigatoni noodles and they were not fully cooked and difficult to eat. Salad bar was hum drum. Plain iceburg lettuce. Was hopeful for mixed greens or a spinach option as I cannot eat lettuce. They removed the larger cups and replaced them with a very small cup that required frequent refills throughout the meal. [PRO] The sauce on the rigatoni noodles was really tasty. The grilled chicken was out of the world and a bowl of veggies with no lettuce was just fine for me. I went to the gift shop and bought a giant cup and held 3 of the cups from the lido buffet, no need to continue refilling!
The was our first cruise on the Ecstasy. We walked around the ship. She was almost identical to the Fantasy, which we really enjoyed. I preferred the decoration on the Ecstasy better than the Fantasy. [CON] We proceeded to walk down the Promenade deck and could not. Walking past Pixels, toward the Casino, was a SMOKE CLOUD and horrible smell. There was a wedding reception in one of the clubs and the wedding party clearly had a lot of smokers. This was EXTREMELY frustrating. Because most pictures on Elegant night are on the Promenade, we could not visit many of the scenes. I love the candy shop; we coud not go because I couldn't hold my breath long enough to get there. I wanted to visit the $10 store, coffee shop, shopping desk, Comedy Shows, dance clubs, the cool rolls royce/vintage motorcycle and rebooking desk and couldn't because of the smoke. I understand there are smokers that need a place to smoke. But to allow smoking on the hallway where many activities take place is ridiculous. [PRO] The weather was beautiful most days. We spent most time outdoors on the Serenity Deck, playing putt putt, over looking the pool, funshops and blue safire lounge. Saved a fortune by not being able to visit the rebooking desk, coffee shop, candy store and casino!
We went back to our room and received a knock on the door. [CON] Our stateroom host, xxxxxxxx said [and i quote], "My name is xxxxxxxx, I am your stateroom host. So I am clear and there is no misunderstanding, I work in the morning and night and you must choose if you want me to service your stateroom in the morning OR night; we do not do both." I was a little miffed at his introduction. I reviewed the sheet and said, "OK. So, there is no option for both morning AND night. I have to choose 1 or the other, correct?" He just said, "Yes." I reviewed the sheet he was holding for me to complete. I said, "Morning. We will need extra towels and ice please." He handed me his card and said, "ok." We NEVER received the ice from him. I always went and got it myself. We NEVER received extra towels from him. I called him once during his break and asked for the previously requested towels. I stopped him in the hall other days to get extra towels. We had the opportunity to speak with him. He was always the first steward on the hall working and the steward on the hall working. He worked 2 shifts; but between him and his helper, they had to clean 37 rooms. He was always discombobulated and running behind. He had 1 month left on his contract and was clearly ready for a break. [PRO] We always had clean towels regardless of how frustrating it was to get them. I needed the exercise anyway; so walking to get ice, where irritating; but beneficial!
Pixels photographers are everywhere! We had the opportunity to speak with one of the photographers; Ivica from Macedonia. He loved his job! He loved making people smile. He always did a great job taking our photos and we bought a few. [CON] The Pixels pictures are expensive! $22.99 for an 8x10 - Yikes. It would seem they could cut costs by displaying pictures digital instead of printing every single one. I suppose with people wanting things instantly, if they can touch it, they can take it now and are willing to pay the price. [PRO] I love pictures. I love the convenience of walking to dinner and stopping to have a family portrait made. Every background has a different photographer with their own ideas on how to pose. They print all pictures so you can buy one or buy none.
Dining room - Wind Song was our assigned dining room. When we first booked, we requested a table for 2. At that time, they did not have anything available. Not a problem, we went ahead and were seated with 4 other nice couples the first night. When we got back to our stateroom, we received a note from the Matre'D Persad. He was able to accommodate our request and our table had been moved to 370. Our Head Waiter is Vigor and his team. They were phenomenal! They were friendly and encouraged us to try everything new and so we did. [CON] The 6pm dinner always seemed rushed. The menu was a bit boring. Steaks were blah. Not bad, just nothing to write home about. I hate to be served 1 piece of bread. I prefer to have a small basket of bread on my table. I understand they are cutting down on waste; so use a smaller basket. [PRO] I always enjoyed the 'Didja' part of the menu and took advantage every night. The cold soups were different and yummy. Mango was my favorite.
Dining room - Wind Star was where we had brunch. If you haven't had brunch, you should. [CON] It is much SLOWER service from tired and not so friendly servers. They put a much too large basket of bread/pastries on your table to start your brunch. They are trying to cut back, they should get a smaller basket for this so so much doesn't go to waste. [PRO] The menu is 2 sided and you can order whatever you want from either side. The food is better than the junk at the Lido deck buffet. The first brunch, I tried raisin brand crusted french toast. It was surprisingly good! They are stinggy with the syrup; so order 2 when you place your order. I also tried blueberry pancakes, omelet, crispy bacon - and it was perfectly cooked, and the best cheddar grits I have had in a very long time.
Mongolian Grill - My very favorite place to eat on the Fantasty! I could not wait to try it on the Ecstasy. [CON] They replaced my favorite snow peas with green beans. [huge thumbs down]. The food was incredibly salty. In fact, I asked my husband to try it thinking it was just me. He too agreed it was disgusting. In fact, it had no flavor except salt. [PRO] I saw other people eating it, so the food didn't go to waste.
Lido Deck - Pool area/Entertainment. [CON] The mainstage area does not have constant entertainment. What irritates me is they do not start playing music until at least lunch time. Most people, myself included are out enjoying the salty air by at least 9am and expected to hear something other than elevator music before lunch time. The entertainment was actually terrible. They had the traditional hairy chest contest that turned into a dance competition and the hairiest guy didn't win. They had mixology contest, ice carving, Groove for St Jude, short dance party, corn hole competition. Nothing that made me want to tell anyone they must cruise on the Ecstasy because the entertainment and music is awesome. [PRO] They sometimes had a guy playing steel drum and he was incredible. When they played music, it was a good variety for everyone of every age.
Events around the ship. [CON] From the shopping presentation, Bingo, Love and Marriage, Guess that tune, towel folding, comedy shows, the Brits, Balloon Animal guy, fun shop sales; there is nothing else, nothing fresh and new. If you have done this once, twice, three times is just blah...... [PRO] Cruise Director Benjamin Lambert and his assistant Adrian do a good job trying to get people involved. Benjamin also played music on the Empress Deck stage by the bar and he is really good. The Love and Marriage show is HILARIOUS. Kudos to the passengers that volunteered for that. Oh My.... My stomach hurt from laughing so hard. The 'Name that 80's tune' was a lot of fun. Benjamin is funny and quick witted. He made it a lot of fun by getting people involved and participating.
VIFP / Birthday Celebrations: Actually a nice gesture, Carnival sent my husband and I both a liter bottle of water for being repeat customers. That was helpful since the 2 cases of water I preordered were almost not enough. For our birthdays, carnival gave us a non-transferable gift card. [CON] My husband got a $50 gift card for the spa and I got a gift card for a free 6x9 photo at Pixels. GREAT. He went for a massage only afterwards to be charged $98. When I looked at his receipt, they deducted the gift card and charged an 'automatic gratuity' of $20 for the therapist. What the hell is an 'automatic gratuity'. This makes me IRATE! If you are automatically charging me a fee, it is NOT a gratuity! A gratuity is something that you earn after performing a task AND is at my discretion. [SIDE NOTE: Later in the evening, while in the Saphire Lounge, we heard at least 8 other couples complaining of this same issue as they too experienced this with the "free gift card". [PRO] My Pixels gift card was truly a gift. I got my 6x9 picture free, no questions asked!
Amber Cove - The port is beautiful. The area the ship had to dock is very narry. We watched the captain navigate, backing the ship to the dock. Very Impressive. The port has a pool that is free to use. There are additional features that cost a small fee; ZipLine, kayaking, canoeing, etc. We took the excursion - Discover the taste and traditions [I think]. We boarded bus #1. The driver was Orlando and Tour Guide was Juan. Juan was incredibly knowledgable and entertaining. We visited the city, a gift shop, a church, a mock plantation, a mock Brugal Rum factory and had a traditional Dominican Republic lunch. [CON] For the amount of time we spent standing in Central Park watching a parade, we could have visited shops or the beach. We did visit one shop. The Power went out while we were shopping. They had a few people on the street trying to sell us their goods and would not take no for an answer. My husband had to step up for a lady and tell the man she said NO for him to go away. 1 US Dollar equals $45 Pesos in Dominican Republic. [PRO] The Brugal Rum is very smooth. The Coconut Pineapple and Mango/Peach came home with me. The Dominican lunch was a stew with local veggies, broth, chicken and rice. The Dominican Coffee is unbelievably good and I don't even drink coffee. The organic Dominican chocolate was delicious. I would have liked to spend a little more time at the plantation. We had a dance contest with the local dancing girls and that was fun! The fresh fruit is gorgeous and delicious. I love fruit and seeing the ladies walk down the street with fruit baskets on their heads was cool.
Grand Turk - This port used to be my favorite. If we ever return, we will take an excursion. [CON] The outside excursion vendors were like vultures on the beach. They argued with each other, tried to take customers from other vendors. The chairs are free to use; they would set up their umbrellas between chairs and when unknowing passengers would sit, they would pounce telling them they owed $20 for the use of the umbrella. The port belongs to Carnival and they should do a better job at controlling this. This is not acceptable and should not happen. [PRO] If you visit the other side of the pier, behind the astronaut display, the beach is quiet, no vendors. The beach is natural and not well maintained; so swimming with small kids would not be advised. It is rocky and has lots of conch shells.
Half Moon Cay - [CON] This was my second cruise to Half Moon Cay and the second time my visit was cancelled due to the weather. [PRO] A day on the boat is better than a day at work.
Alcohol - [CON] This was a nightmare! Previously, the night before the last morning, carnival would deliver your alcohol to your stateroom. This is no longer the process. On the morning of debarkation, all 400 people who purchased alcohol stand in line. They have 2 lines. The line on the left with the ships 2 slowest workers will help all people who are picking up confiscated items and alcohol purchased off the ship. The line on the right with the ships 3 fastest workers will help all people who are picking up liquor purchased in the funshops. If you purchased liquor in the funshops and off the ship, you must standin the line on the left. The letter told us to be in line at 6:30. We were in line at 6:10 and were about 50th in line. The process took us about an hour! It was absolutely ridiculous. Most people in line, from the grumblings were just as upset as I was. [PRO] I am a fast learner and will NOT purchase alcohol again while on a carnival cruise; not on or off the ship. The PRO is, They have saved me money!
Disembarkation - Disembarkation was exceptionally fast. No hiccups, issues or [CON] Our vacation was over. [PRO] Faster to the fun allowed us to disembark with the platinum and diamond class people first. NO long lines or waiting. It was awesome! Read Less