Cruise: Elation: out of Galveston, 2/20/05-2/27/05 Family: Husband age 43, Wife age 34 and 6months pregnant, and son age 3.5
Departure day: Parked at EZCruise Parking (on the web, $5 off for booking via their website) for $50 including ... Read More
Cruise: Elation: out of Galveston, 2/20/05-2/27/05 Family: Husband age 43, Wife age 34 and 6months pregnant, and son age 3.5
Departure day: Parked at EZCruise Parking (on the web, $5 off for booking via their website) for $50 including car cover. They bussed us right to the terminal. We arrived at the terminal about 3pm. We walked right into the luggage drop off and handed off 3 of our six bags. No problem. We went into the main terminal, up the stairs and started the screening etc process. My big carry-on (about a 25" model) fit through the xray machine just fine. The lines were not long at all and we were through the check-in process and pics taken and walking onto the ship by about 3:35.
We went to our room and found it ready and waiting. It was nice sized, outside cabin, with a king sized bed made up and a pull down twin from the wall. Our nearly 4yr old was a bit daunted at the height (4' above the floor) so we did not use that bed at all. The room had ample storage, a desk/vanity w/ drawers, and a nice sized bath. There was room to walk on the window side of the bed (stepping over the big built-in lifejacket storage box) and around the foot of the bed (about 2.5') The shower was about 3.5' long with a removable shower head which allowed me to easily give the kidlet his showers with me in there with him. We had brought a 6-pack size cooler and our steward kept it pretty well stocked the whole trip allowing us to keep some juice, soda and water cool at all times. The stewards kept our room up nicely as well- we didn't get towel animals the last two nights though which disappointed our son.
The stains on the carpets in the halls outside of all the staterooms are VERY noticeable. It was obviously a leak as it spreads from the interior cabin side about 3 / 4 across the hall. But the public areas are nicely kept. I didn't notice any smell in the hall except near a crew passage which sometimes smelled faintly of garbage (I'm guessing drifting up from below). We were in the dead middle of the ship (M152) and I was still going the wrong way until like day 4 of the cruise.
The muster drill was boring but not overly painful. We went first to a lounge area. Our son was given a plastic bracelet (identifying muster station) to wear that he did NOT want to put on. We finally got it on him about 3hrs later. We then proceeded outside, wearing jackets, and stood for about 15min. Then it was over.
We were supposed to sail at like 4pm, but due to some late flights we didn't leave port till almost 6:30. We tried the pizza and it was fine. The goat cheese pizza was really good.
We had late (8pm) dining. We found the formal dining food to be good- about on par with your average fare at say a TGIFridays or similar. The appetizers were of laughable proportions (4 small shrimp on the shrimp cocktail). The salads were more decent sized. The entrEe main meat dish was mostly a decent size- 8oz salmon fillet, 10-12oz of steak etc. The quail/duck dish one night was very tiny though. The sides served with the entrees though were laughable, too. Literally one big bite of broccoli and a single small red potato or a 1/4c of rice artfully arranged. I ordered an entrEe + the vegetarian version one night just to get a decent amount of veggies. Kid meals were the usual. They served a fresh fruit cup which was nice as the only "veggie" they offered kids were French fries. The best meal was the second formal night (Friday). Dh had prawns and I had the salmon that night. The first formal night with the lobster- well the lobster was about as bland and boring as lobster could be. Dh didn't even eat it all. Our waiters were great and they really looked out for Joe. The water they served was excellent. The second night they started pouring me two glasses. The rear dining salon had really funky lighting that would dim and brighten at will.
We ate breakfast every morning on the 10 floor, Lido deck, Tiffanys. It was the same every day (which got boring after 6 mornings). Eggs, pancakes or French toast, sausage links, bacon, ham, toast, bagels, eng muffins. Plus made to order omelets. (never got one of those) There were pastries, cold cereals, some coldcuts/cheese, plus honeydew and cantaloupe every morning. (never a different fruit which also got boring) Always juices, coffee, hot chocolate, reg milk, skim milk and chocolate milk. Plus the 24hr pizza and soft serve. Amazing how many folks ate ice cream at 8am. Breakfast got hopping about 9pm. We never ate bfast in the formal dining rooms. Oh- and the coffee was uniformly not very good and the water from the dispenser tasted of plastic hose. (I drink a LOT of water- be smart and get the water from the beverage girls with the cart- it's much better quality.)
Lunch was more hit and miss. Ate in the formal dining room once. I got mine to-go as the kidlet needed a nap and got cranky. I had CA roll for an appetizer (nasty rice, but the crab was real) and then a yummy shrimp salad on sun-dried tomato baguette. Dh ate lunch in Tiffanys several times and said it was good. I ended up at the grill on the Lido deck which served burgers, some sort of "sloppy joe meat", hot dogs, veggie burgers etc. They were decent quality, the potato salad and coleslaw and fries were tasty, too.
Other impressions about the ship etc: it moved more than I thought it would. If you think you might have issues with motion sickness be prepared. (we don't have those troubles) It was very noticeable at time and would even throw off your balance as you were walking. (and our weather was great, btw) The gift shops were nice. Got a couple of cool toys for the kidlet and some misc stuff. Some of the T-shirts/sweatshirts etc do go half price the last day so hold off on those purchases till then. The daily drink specials were decent $2.95 with a nice kick. (I sipped on my husband's drinks so I could try them out.) Lots of opportunities for formal pictures and a fair amount of ambushing you for pics, too. Grin and bear it- you don't have to buy any of them. (the formal shots are $20 for an 8x10, the smaller ones are about $8) The layout of the ship is pretty confusing- there is a great map at the information/purser's desk (7 floor atrium) but the little maps they give you when you get on board aren't very helpful. There are several laundries with irons and soap/softener for you to buy. The washer/dryers are like $2 each. The main pool/hot tubs are very busy. Try the hot tubs/pool on the rear upper deck above Tiffanys. Much less crowded. The water in the pools is salt and at least for us was pretty chilly. The kidlet didn't mind, but I did. LOL. The hot tubs are nice and warm. I had a fancy dessert cake at the Musical Lounge one night- a bargain at only $2 for a big slice. Their dessert prices are very reasonable. The cappuccino etc is more expensive. I had one on Saturday morning as a treat- got the grande with a shot of syrup for $4.25 total and when I picked it up it was half foam. I complained and the girl looked at me like I had a third eye and said it was cappuccino. I agreed, but said that doesn't mean that it's half foam. I had her take the foam off and there was literally only a half cup of coffee there. I asked the pursers desk to take it off my card and they did. We didn't do the casino or the lounges etc so I won't report on those only to say that they appear nice. The library smelled strongly of stale cigarette smoke- maybe it used to be a smoking lounge?
We went to the Friday night show in the Mikado. Had the daily drink special there and the "las vegas" style show was entertaining. The kidlet highly approved. Ordered room service once. The portions were small so if you're hungry order two of something. Got it in about 15min or so (ordered it around 6pm) and tipped the server $1.50. Internet cafe is 75cents a minutes. They offer a few deals (Monday and Saturday I think) where you spend 10min on line or more and get 5min credited back to your account. The packages are like 100min for $50. Ouch. Saw internet at each of our ports except Belize for like $1-2/hour. The gym was decent- but not many classes and at $10 a pop, they're pricey, too. Plus the workout room was HOT. The spa seemed nice and they had good specials- especially Saturday with a 25min facial for $30.
We took the shuttle bus about 9:30 into the town. Do not walk. There is a nice selection of tourist stores right off the boat. We bought a tour from the shuttle operators to go to the colonial city of Merida. $25/person and kidlet was free. (the cost through the ship was about $40/person) We took the small double decker bus tour for $2 first. The town in authentic Mexico and for all those who don't know that means pretty poor housing etc off the beach and some beggars and semi-aggressive vendors. The beach is decent and there were plenty of restaurants and shops right there at the beach (3blocks from where the bus drops you off). The tour to Merida started about 10:30. It was about a 30min drive while the guide talked about the region. The outskirts of the town are filled with familiar sights- Costco, Sams, Burger King, car dealers etc. But inside, the town is quite nice, lovely architecture. They showed us through some of the nicer neighborhoods, stopped at a monument that was done in Aztec/Mayan style (policeman to stop the traffic for us to cross), and then dropped us off for 1hr10min at the town square. The church is really nice 1700s and stark, European styling (not gaudy like many Mexican churches). There were some vendors in the central square with hammocks, misc crap and such. I saw some lovely clothing boutiques that I didn't get to go to (with kidlet in tow) that showed beautiful, natural/linen/cotton looking dresses and tops. There was one place in the square which had similar items and I was quoted $20 for a top. Some places want pesos so I changed over $10 at a "farmacia" for some sodas- saying "cambio en pesos okay" (change in pesos okay) and was able to buy my son a small toy at a local five/dime place. The vendors got more aggressive as we headed back to the bus. Oh- and I got a yummy mango sorbet for 20pesos ($2) at a store on the square. We then headed back to Progresso, pausing for a few more sights and were dropped off at the terminal at 1:30pm. (the ship left at 3pm) I bought a magnet and a few little similar items and we got back on board and took the kidlet to play in the kiddie pool as we waited to leave port.
Port: Cozumel We had originally wanted to do the Nochi Cocum resort that I found here, but just couldn't get it organized in time so decided to go to Paradise Beach instead. I had hoped to get dh/kidlet on the submarine first, hoping for cheaper rates off the boat- but it just didn't work out- there weren't anyone selling tickets for it at the terminal. Saw one place "el cicuid" or something like that, a resort that was giving away their place for the day with a free ride. I was afraid it would be a time-share sort of thing once we got there so we didn't do that either. The terminal forces you through this collection of stores with lots of vendors trying to get you to come into their stores. Carlos/Charlies and Senor Frogs are RIGHT there though. We took a taxi for $13 to Paradise Beach. It was about 8miles outside of the city. The ride wasn't very harrowing to me at least although we almost creamed a moped on the way back in. (it was the mopeds fault) Paradise beach was very nice- with a resident pelican or two posing for pics on an old statue in the water. Dh got the wristband, but never used it. We had excellent guacamole, I had a fish sandwich, dh had a fancy quesadilla, kidlet had chicken tenders, plus a margarita (good) and a few sodas and waters. Total bill was $47 and I tipped our waiter like $8. We were there for about 4.5hours. Plenty of lounge chairs, umbrellas, some hammocks. Bought a few shirts- polo and long sleeve tees for $20 a piece. Said hello to Paradise Tom as he walked through the beach meeting everyone. Changing rooms were nice and right there as well- also bought kidlet some sandtoys (at the vendor there) for >gulp< $10, but it kept him happy. The vendor had a little bit of everything- even Mexican boyfriends, the man were as, lol! There was hair braiding, massages, and airbrushed tattoos right their, too. Taxis were waiting to take us back to the terminal so for another $13 we were back and walked onto the ship with no issues.
Port: Belize City
Let me just say, I TOTALLY LOVED BELIZE. Okay, now on to the business of the report. We booked on-line through Coral Breeze tours with Paul. I sent dh on a cave tubing tour for like $60 or something including lunch and kidlet and I went on the ray/shark/snorkeling tour for like $90 for both including lunch. We went to the lounge at like 8am-ish to pick up a tender ticket. It was a bit confusing, but not horrible. Carnival needs to organize this better though. We got on tender 2 (instead of 1). It seemed like it was taking a long time to get the ship tours off the boat so we didn't get called until about 9:45. The tender ride was about 20min in. We got off and asked for directions to Coral Breeze. They were just a few steps away, but didn't have a sign which "could" have made it harder to find them. We settled up (cash only) and dh went on his tour and kidlet and I got on their boat and off we went- there were about 8 folks in dh's tour and about 12 in ours. It was about 25min to Caye Caulker (pronounced Key Caulker). They picked up masks for us and bait for the sharks/rays. Then about 8min to the snorkeling site. Most everyone got off (kidlet and I stayed on board) and snorkeled around the reef area for about 40min or so. I jumped in the water and it was cool, but not uncomfortable. Then we went like 3min in the other direction once everyone was back on board and then they started throwing bits of fish overboard. The nurse sharks were about 4' in size and would come right up and "pop" the surface as they sucked in the bits of fish. Kidlet was delighted with this. Coaxed him onto me in the water and we watched the rays. The tour guides brought up several rays so we could easily pet them. The tour guides/helpers etc were very pleasant, friendly and really did their best to reassure my son, help him on/off the boat and watched him for a few minutes so I could get my head in the water and see the rays swimming around. We then went to lunch on Caye Caulker (tasty) and enjoyed about 1hr15min on this little island. Perfect little "Caribbean" fishing village- just like you imagine you'll find. A few trucks etc but most people drive golf carts, bikes or just walk. It's that small. Then 25min back on the boat to Belize City. Kidlet and I walked around a bit, I got him a shark tee shirt, me a tee shirt ($26 total) and a nice polo ($20) for dh. Then we stood in line for the tender back to the ship- that took about 20min. Dh got back to the ship right about 4:10 (departing at 4:30 supposedly- he too stood in line for about 20min to get back on board). He totally enjoyed his tour too. He recommended using old beat up shoes vs the water shoes since it is quite a hike to the river. He said his lunch was really good and AYCE, too. We highly recommend Coral Breeze and we saved like $60 booking through them vs on the ship- oh, and the ship tours that dh saw? Had like 40+ people in a group where there was only 8 in his.
Then there were two days at sea to get back to Galveston which when you have a kidlet is really 1day too long- resting is not in a 3.5yr olds vocabulary. He did spend 2 dinners with camp carnival and a few hours here and there with them, too- but overall he wanted to be with us and I was prepared for that. The camp was nice- friendly teachers. It wasn't terribly crowded (about 15-20 2-5yr olds) most of the time. They give you beepers to wear.
Debarkation We did the "self-assist" where we carried our own luggage off the ship. We were called to immigration about 7:30. It was a BIG line, but moved quickly- like less than 15min. We then went to the Mikado theater about 8:30 and waited. We never heard them call for self-assist so I'd go when they call for those people who have early connecting flights. As it was, we went and stood in the debarkation line about 9:15 and it was very crowded and "cattle-pen feeling" as you go down stairs etc. They check your customs sheet as you leave the ship and then it's better. Beware the fast moving escalator at the terminal. Kidlet tripped and a nice terminal agent hopped right on and helped him down the rest of the way. (another big thank you to that kind man as both dh and I had lots of luggage and were struggling to reach him) We walked more/less right up to customs, breezed through and then we had to make it through the gauntlet of folks trying to get on busses to go to the airport. Dh got "yelled" at by one woman who thought he was trying to cut in line, but we made it through to the EZ park station (nicely marked once you get there, it's at the end). They put us right on and we were back at our car by 10:30 so just a little over an hour to get off the ship and to our car. Wasn't too bad, just CROWDED. I'd seriously not want a flight out of Houston before 2pm though so you wouldn't freak about the possibility of missing your flight though.
Overall, I'd give Carnival/Elation a B, Progresso/Merida a B-, Cozumel a B, and Belize an A. My complaints on the comment card were: need better maps to the ships layout, need more fruit/veggie offerings, and need a better side chair in the cabins. They're just wooden chairs with a small padded seat. Not comfy. We spent about $400 on our sail/sign card and that included the $210 for gratuities. I also bought about $80 worth of stuff in the gift store. The rest was for about 10 drinks, internet time, and pictures. I took $400 with us. We spent about $240 of it on tours, food/drink, trinkets etc off the ship. We weren't really on a budget, but I don't buy a lot of touristy stuff, either and since I'm not drinking (due to pregnancy) and dh doesn't want to drink alone, that saved us quite a bit, too.
Feel free to email me with questions. Read Less