About the Reviewer: I’m a 34 year old male who traveled solo on the 1/18/16 sailing of the Carnival Ecstasy to Key West, FL and Cozumel, MX. This was my 34th cruise and 3rd time sailing with Carnival. I previously sailed Carnival in 2005 ... Read More
About the Reviewer: I’m a 34 year old male who traveled solo on the 1/18/16 sailing of the Carnival Ecstasy to Key West, FL and Cozumel, MX. This was my 34th cruise and 3rd time sailing with Carnival. I previously sailed Carnival in 2005 on the Destiny (now re-named something else) on a normal cruise and on the Carnival Inspiration for Groove Cruise in 2015. This cruise fit my travel schedule and cost as much as two nights at a hotel in South Beach for the same time frame I was looking for. I was actually getting off this ship at the end and boarding another cruise on Friday when we returned. I’m an avid lover of nightlife and good quality electronic dance music. I’ve sailed on other cruise lines including Norwegian Cruise Line (with over 20 cruises on them), Princess, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean once. I prefer to write my reviews in the order I experienced things. With that said here’s my impressions:
Day 1 – Embarkation in Miami, FL
I arrived to the pier after using SAS Transportation to get from a hotel I stayed at in Fort Lauderdale to the cruise port. I arrived to the pier shortly after 10:30AM. It was quiet and a lot of the previous cruisers were still hanging outside the terminal at that point. I went inside, presented my passport and then went through security and upstairs to check in. The check in was fast as I was there early. Next was a wait and more waiting and even more waiting. The ship didn’t start boarding until after Noon so it was forever in the terminal. Unfortunately so many people had arrived that it was standing room only in the terminal. When they started to call boarding numbers it was complete chaos trying to get into the area to board. For my first impression of Carnival, I wasn’t impressed with this embark. Norwegian would let you on the ship but restrict you from your cabins until 1:30PM. Carnival did the same thing but made everyone wait forever to get on.
Since the Carnival Ecstasy is a sister to the Inspiration I was on just a few months back, I already knew the layout and headed to get some food at the buffet before the throngs shore-side arrived. The Ecstasy buffet wasn’t as crazy looking as the buffet on the Inspiration, although the buffet food choices were just as limited as they were on the Inspiration. I was pleased the décor had changed somewhat. After finishing lunch, they said the rooms were available and I headed to my cabin.
Stateroom E56: This is a handicap interior room by a noisy crew entrance and crew stairwell. During the course of the cruise I had to use ear plugs to get sleep but otherwise for being an insanely cheap room, it was huge for one person! Upon arrival to my cabin I also had four 12 packs of water I ordered in the Fun Shops. The cabin steward was very nice and friendly but inquisitive as to why I wanted so much water. The desk was full of water. Since I was in a handicap cabin, there was tons of space to move around but that also meant the same for water in the shower. There’s no lip to handicap bathroom showers and so when you take a shower you end up washing the whole bathroom floor too! That was a constant pain but the steward left extra towels knowing I’d need them to mop up the excess water.
Touring the Ecstasy: I started on the E deck and moved my way up going deck by deck. The central atrium was mobbed with people doing cash folios so I skipped the gallery area and just headed up a deck. The library, neon bar and Wind Star were located here. The best décor of the ship was in the library I thought. Wind Star would be my dining room for Anytime Dining. It was simplistically designed with décor. Neon bar was just that with neon light structures and this was home to the piano bar and some of the solos and GLBT gatherings.
Next up was the Promenade Deck and walking forward to aft, the odor of smoke on this deck was hideous. They need to install scrubbers or curb the smoking. The open air casino was permeated with it. Traveling further aft I stopped into the China Town karaoke bar and snapped some pictures and then popped into Stripes where the odor of smoke was again prevalent. The Rolls Royce along the Promenade was a good touch by the coffee bar and then all the way aft was the comedy club known as the Starlight Lounge.
I continued to tour the ship and headed up one more deck to the Lido pool deck. It was odd to see so many deck chairs out although the weather was too cold to actually hang out there for any length of time. On the Inspiration all the deck chairs were removed for the entertainment. The Carnival Waterworks aft was also open but the winds were up and blowing all the water out into the walk way. Overall the ship wasn’t as tacky in décor in comparison to the Inspiration but still had a lot of metallic feels to it.
After exploring the ship it was time for muster drill and cast off. Muster drill took seemingly forever as not everyone was attending like they were supposed to. Once muster drill was over there was a party on the pool deck. The cruise staff introduced themselves and then led cruisers in what would be several of the same line dances performed throughout the cruise (Cupid Shuffle, Electric Slide, even the Macarena… yes I said Macarena, etc!)!! I wasn’t expecting a lot as this was Carnival but so far the music was a complete let down. I swear the DJs only had the same 10 songs in their playlist!
Once the ship sailed out of the channel past South Beach it was time to head inside and get ready for dinner. I dressed up for dinner but dining solo was not something I enjoy doing for dinner so I did a table share. The first night of the cruise the table share was a ton of fun, I met some people from my area and we talked quite a bit. Our waiter Ricardo was amazing. The service from him and his assistant was just great and he always remembered my name the rest of the cruise although I never sat in his section again. I was always around his section but never in it. The wait staff performed for us and then tried to get me to dance to Gagnam style. I was all set with that. I’ve never been on a cruise line where they sing and dance for you at dinner. I guess that’s why they’re called the Fun Ships?
While the dining room service was great, the food was a whole other story. The food was salt laden and the meat was super fatty. I know I didn’t pay a lot of money for the cruise but the food quality was prison grade. I’m not a foodie at all but the food on Carnival, even the Inspiration, is so subpar that I would give it as punishment to prisoners. Couldn’t go wrong with a fruit plate so I did that every night for dessert at least to try and balance all the sodium I was putting in my body.
There was a gap in the schedule after dinner so I went back to the cabin and purchased the wifi for work. I did the 4 day $35 mid-grade package which was enough for me. I didn’t need to stream anything. The connection speeds were fastest during the night and early morning hours but during the daytime hours they weren’t that overly bad either in comparison to NCL’s wifi which is horrid. I give props to Carnival for having a good wifi for an affordable price.
Blue Sapphire Entertainment: WELCOME ABOARD SHOW
Dubbed as the all new welcome aboard show, this show featured the towel animals conversing along with the Cruise Director Adam. The show was a little light on entertainment value and I was losing interest. The production cast did a couple of numbers and the show was over. I could’ve missed it with no issue.
I decided post-show to check out the Stripes Nightclub. I walked in and was overwhelmed with the amount of people who were smoking in there. I dislike smoke and I can’t understand why Carnival allows it so much. NCL has a stricter no-smoking policy for their nightclub venues. I wasn’t feeling the vibe with the music or the smell so I left and went to bed.
Day 2 – Key West, Florida
Our port time was early and if you didn’t get up you’d have missed the whole time in port. I got up around 7AM just after we finished docking and headed to the dining room for breakfast. It was a cold day in Key West so dressing up in layers was essential. I didn’t have anything planned except walking the island. It’s a small island and walking friendly. I went to get some supplies for my next cruise at the Walgreens by the Starbucks. It was going to be my last Starbucks fix for a while. I went to the Southernmost Point on foot and then circled back to the lighthouse and went to the shops along the way on Duval St. I stopped by the Bourbon Street pub for a quick drink towards noon and wandered back to the ship. It was a lazy port day but at least there was stuff to walk to.
Back on the ship I grabbed lunch at the buffet before heading out on the back deck to watch the ship sail off. It was cold, overcast and very windy. As we sailed away I noticed for the second time Kone elevator operators hanging out in the passenger area aft. For those that may not have known, over Christmas this ship had a mishap which resulted in a crew member’s fatality due to faulty elevators. Seeing them re-assured me that the elevators were not safe and I continued to take the stairs the entire cruise. My thoughts go out to the crew member’s family and to the crew on the ship who had to witness that horrific scene (not to the idiot who filmed it and got it aired all over network tele in the USA).
I took an opportunity to grab a nap before heading to the dining room for dinner. I had a different waiter tonight and did a table share again. Tonight’s table share was a bit more awkward. I was the only solo at the table and people just weren’t talking. Why share a table if you want to dine in silence or be lovey dovey with someone? I found that a bit rude of the guests but didn’t let it get me down. It was the formal night of the ship. I dressed in a button down shirt and dress pants and was allowed into the dining room with no issue. I was told since it was a short haul cruise that the dress code is not strictly enforced and it wasn’t. The meal itself was disappointing. Tonight was prime rib and it was awful. I asked for it medium and it came medium but it was overcooked on the outside and the toughest piece of rubber meat I’ve had at sea in a good long time – if ever! The food quality was seriously disappointing. The fruit plate was on point though!
Blue Sapphire Showtime: MOTOR CITY
This was the first big production from the Carnival Ecstasy staff focusing on the sounds of the 60s, 70s and 80s with classic hits such as Dancing in the Street, Respect and Brick House. I watched both the first and second show. Once the show is over they try and get you out on the city (ie. atrium) and then get you to stroll the ship from venue to venue to get you acquainted with them. I returned for the second show as I was bored before retiring for trying the Stripes Nightclub. I lasted one song in there and was done. I went to bed hoping for sun the next day.
DAY 3 – Cozumel, Mexico
We had a late arrival into the Cozumel in the afternoon so the morning was leisurely. I had breakfast in the main dining room and then went topside to find it not only sunny but warm! I couldn’t get back to the cabin fast enough to get changed into a bathing suit and head topside. I went high up on the deck where the funnel was and grabbed a lounger. I stayed there reading my magazines and watching the ship arrive into Cozumel. As we docked next to an Aida cruise ship, their soot was landing on me so I went in and got some lunch.
I decided to head out to the pier and see what was going on, if anything. No excursion was booked, just another lazy day hanging out. The Carnival pier insists on sending you through the bottleneck of the duty free shops. It’s SO annoying as shoppers stop and clog the access ways. There are armed guards who make you stay inside the store. I was beyond annoyed going through it so decided to make the most of the Carnival contrived shopping mall at the end of the pier. I went outside the Puerto Maya entrance and walked a mile south towards downtown Cozumel and the downtown pier NCL uses. I was melting and forgot to grab a water from my cabin before heading out so I headed back. Who wants to dehydrate on vacation?
Back inside the port I went to the Fat Tuesdays and sat at the bar looking out at the ship on a swing and got a water and beer. I found myself sitting at the Carnival crew party they were having there. Since we were docked until 10PM, the crew, especially those in areas of the ship closed when the ship were in port were having a grand time with the food and the music and the drinks. Crew always know how to party better than guests – this was no different.
I got back on the ship and changed for dinner. So many people were still ashore the dining room was empty so I sat by myself and did some work on the wifi. A nice couple next to me struck up a conversation with me at the two top. I felt bad tonight for the assistant waitress in that section as the head waiter who was nice to me was being a complete jerk to her. She was astute to me still eating when she went back for the desserts and didn’t get mine. I finished eating in her absence and he yelled at her for it. I’m laidback and there was no need for that. I wasn’t waiting that long at all. She handled it well given he wasn’t quiet about it. She deserves a promotion to waitress. Wish I could remember her name!
I decided to stop by the Gender Showdown in the Blue Sapphire. It was a pretty weakly attended game show for those who decided not to get drunk while shore-side in Cozumel. The questions were silly but it was something to do. Tonight’s featured entertainment was the pool deck party at 11:15PM. I watched the ship cast off from Cozumel before heading back to the cabin to change quickly for the party.
The pool deck party kicked off with the typical line dance songs. The cruise staff seemed amazingly disinterested as it was the Assistant Cruise Director running the show. They literally did the same line dance songs they always did and within 30 minutes were running out the back side of the stage area to their crew area. I have never seen a more disengaged cruise staff than on this ship. They were not Fun but rather seemed drab and just going through the motions. I’m not sure if they’re nearing the end of their contracts or what but they were not fun and not very good at keeping the fun going! I just gave up and went to bed. Fun ships… boring.
Day 4 – Sea Day heading for Miami, FL
Another grey overcast cool day in store on the Carnival Ecstasy. This morning the main dining room was closed for breakfast only leaving the buffet. So many people partied hard the previous night that it was nearly deserted. That was fine for me!
I spent the day reading the remaining magazines I brought with me at the pool deck in a wind sheltered alcove and staring at the Norwegian Pearl which was alongside us and then pulled ahead of us. I did a workout in the ship’s gym which was quite extensive for a ship at sea. During my work out they announced a medical emergency on my deck and on the side I had my cabin on. I hope the person was able to be saved as they had a lot of medical equipment out in the hallway when they opened the fire doors. Later that afternoon while I was getting ready for dinner they had another announcement about something in the fuel separator area of the ship. This sent crew up and down the crew stairs by my room and more announcements could be heard in the crew area. Again the fire doors were closed to my section of the deck and crew were donning fire gear. I poked my head out and the steward told me it was just a drill. I was done with this non-sense as the announcements were still going in the back in the crew area. It made me seriously uneasy at this point. I continued on with my vacation keeping an ear to the PA system for any more announcements.
Tonight’s farewell dinner table share was actually the best of the whole voyage. I met several people who were traveling together and decided to try a random share. They all knew each other but they were friendly and talkative. Finally some decent dinner conversation with a ton more fun! Wish I had met these ladies earlier in the cruise. It was a nice dinner but again the food was something else. The baked Alaska was interesting as was the meat dish again. Salt everywhere! I can’t fathom why people might have cardiac issues while sailing on the Fun Ships!
After dinner it was time to re-pack the suitcase, leave a stack of clothes for crew welfare, get the documents ready for debark and then head to the theater for one last show time.
Blue Sapphire Showtime: THE BRITS
A British invasion takes over the main show lounge for the night with hits from the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and many other British icons. Sorry, no Spice Girls here but it was an enjoyable performance. Again they brought everyone out to the atrium after the show to get people engaged and to continue the fun. I went for both shows before heading back and putting out the luggage for the night. I decided to check out the comedy club and stayed for a bit before eventually retiring for the night.
Day 5 – Disembark – Miami, FL
I had disembark breakfast in the open aft dining room. It was pretty quiet given the ship was in full on announcement mode for the Easy Walk-Off folks to leave with their luggage. I tried to stay in my cabin as long as possible as I was going next door to the Norwegian Pearl and the terminal was not opening until 10AM for new guests. It was raining and cool outside. I vacated the stateroom 30 minutes late and went up to the Promenade deck until they asked the remaining 25 guests who were still on the ship to get off. I was off the ship by 10AM and on my way through customs. If only the embarkation could have been as organized and flowing as the disembarkation, it might have left a better first impression.
To sum it all up, this was an experiment to re-try Carnival as my cruise line of choice – Norwegian Cruise Line – is going through a lot of turmoil with a new CEO. I thought it would be nice to go someplace besides the Bahamas for the pre-cruise cruise. Looking at the positives, the crew were great (minus the cruise staff) and very attentive and friendly to me. Stateroom stewards, dining room servers and front desk helpers were all excellent. The production shows are always a good time with the understanding that they’re not Broadway performers but rather cruise ship performers. Were some of the songs not the greatest for their voices, yeah but I can’t fault them because they were clearly having a good time.
That’s just about where my praise ends. Carnival’s unusual practice of allowing smoking so prevalent on their Promenade deck and specifically their nightclub led to me not going into it and cost Carnival significant bar revenue losses. I didn’t buy the drink package and I’m thankful I didn’t. It would have been a waste! I live for nightlife and this was an epic fail on all counts by Carnival. Get with the times and fix your smoking policies! I don’t want to smell like an ashtray leaving your club. Also, hire DJs who know who to play songs and get them to play CURRENT songs (cupid shuffle every night?)!
The food was another major area of disappointment. This was prison food in both what was offered on the menus (comfort foods?) and what was actually given to guests to eat. It wasn’t palatable. Thank goodness for fruit plates! Lay off the salt Carnival… you’re going to kill people! Also, hire a meat chef who knows how to cook a prime rib! The cruise staff were also a miss. They wanted to get a party going and then constantly sneak out the back hoping no one would notice.
To be on a Fun Ship means you’re to have fun. This ship bored me to death. If it wasn’t for the port calls and the day of sunshine in Cozumel and the work I had to do, I might have gone stir crazy on this tub. I guess the experiment failed. If Carnival is the ship used for the charters I take then I have no choice but otherwise, definitely not sailing on the Ecstasy or most likely Carnival as a normal passenger again. Next line to try is MSC. Read Less