Carnival Ecstasy 05-12-05 through 05-16-05
Well, I have now been on a more modern vessel than my last Carnival cruise. I went into this one with an open mind as to what Carnival had to offer over other cruise lines I have been on in the ... Read More
Carnival Ecstasy 05-12-05 through 05-16-05
Well, I have now been on a more modern vessel than my last Carnival cruise. I went into this one with an open mind as to what Carnival had to offer over other cruise lines I have been on in the last few years. I will qualify this by saying I was a chaperone for band students on this trip and was not allowed to drink and had a midnight curfew. With that said, on to the review.
Embarkation for this trip was through the Port of Galveston, Texas. Our group arrived and we were hustled along through the boarding process. I would comment that the various personnel behind the counter were apparently working from different playbooks when it came to who was authorized to charge to a room card and what the initials meant next to each of their names. Our lady said that I had to initial each person in my room's name, otherwise they WOULD NOT be able to charge and this would be entered into the computer. The lady right next to us, waiting on another chaperone in our group, said that if the chaperone had to initial next to their names or they WOULD be able to charge on their room card. She did it one-way and I did it the other way. Once we were on board, we both checked and found out that ALL of the cards were ACTIVE to charge on our room's accounts. Thus, if you do not want other persons in your room to charge on your account, check with the purser's desk once you board.
The walk up the companionway to get to the Ecstasy was all right. If you are handicapped in any way make sure you make it known at curb side so that you can get some assistance boarding. We stopped for the mandatory boarding photo. Went up another passageway to the Boarding ID photo and whisked right on in to the ship. When we actually boarded the vessel, it was nice having the elevators in the main lobby working and not being occupied by the crew as they were moving luggage. We went to our rooms and checked them out.
Rooms and arrival of luggage
Our room was M92 and it was advertised as being 185 square feet of space. I was looking forward to the extra footage over the 154 and 172 sq. foot rooms I had been in on other vessels, but there was no real difference. Inside staterooms are inside staterooms. There was no real size difference at all. The room safe was a key operated safe. You had to get a key from your room steward. The keys were kept in a closet near the rooms. You had to turn in your key the last night onboard.
Our luggage arrived faster than any other cruise line I have been on, bar none. There was plenty of closet space and shelves for clothes.
The bathroom was average. The shower stall was longer than some I have been in on other lines. The showerhead was workable for a 6'4" person. Onboard Day 1
This was my 13th cruise. Thus, I had a lot of other trips with which to compare this cruise. We began the usual get familiar with the ship and the location of bars, theaters, pools, grills, and casino. Shortly before departure there was the mandatory "life jacket" drill. We started in the forward lounge and were then escorted to our boat stations. This drill took a bit longer than others I have been on. I do not know if it was a different type of inspection for the ship or if this is normal for Carnival. I have sailed from Galveston on the Rhapsody of the Seas and their drill did not take that long.
With the "life jacket" drill over, we began to relax a bit and watched the vessel leave the confines of Galveston. It was an easy journey out of the port and we were soon underway and outside the breakwater. The real cruise had begun. We hung out on deck until shortly before dinner and then made our way to first seating dinner (supper to those of us down South).
We were seated at table 102 in the Wind Star dining room. It was set up for ten (10) and was by the "kitchen" and a window. Lamine was our waiter and Victor was the assistant waiter. Both did an excellent job with our table of nine new cruisers and me. Once I had told Victor that I was an ice tea drinker, I never ran out. The meals were average cruise ship fare. The appetizers were well received and tasty. The salads were somewhat plain. There was no "Caesar" salad on request as there usually is on any other vessel. The filet was cooked correctly and was tender. The various fish dishes were tasty, according to my table companions. The desserts were somewhat uninspired and bland. The coffee was good. We finished with plenty of time to talk and we were not rushed in any way.
Day 1 Main Show -- The Blue Sapphire Lounge was not well situated for the shows. It was more of a flat lounge area with no "theater" style seating on an incline. The stage was large. The entertainment was good, but nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary. The dancers were energetic and the singers were adequate (any one of the entertainers could dance or sing me under the table, but that is the way it should be). The band was good.
The Carnival mascot (their smokestack) appearing during the opening show was "LAME". At least we did not have to listen to the normal boring cruise jokes.
The comedian was average and not really exciting or overly entertaining.
I did not make many of the lounges on day one. There was salsa music going on in one, I believe it was Stripes. There was rock and modern menu items going on in another (Chinatown). I avoided the Starlight Lounge with its Karaoke show as the Karaoke sounded like someone skinning a live cat. The casino was active and there was plenty of room for anyone to play. There were several other lounges, but I did not visit them.
Meals outside of the main dining rooms
The Panorama Bar & Grill is the main area to "graze" or eat outside of the formal dining rooms. It had buffets, omelets to order, waffles, pancakes, and normal breakfast staples. In the rear of the room is the pizzeria and deli. There was almost always someone at the deli. Since I had to turn in relatively early, I did not check the closing time for the deli. I do know that it was open at 12:30 a.m.
There was a Mexican food buffet one night. It was a decent Mexican food buffet. There were NO beans in the taco meat. Way to go. The enchiladas, sopapillas, chili rejenos, and Mexican rice and beans were good. The staff for this meal was very friendly.
Day 2 AT SEA
I was up before my charges. I left the room at about 7:30 a.m. I headed for formal breakfast in the Wind Song dining room. My mission was to get eggs Benedict. To me, this is the telling meal for a breakfast dish on a cruise. I was disappointed. The eggs were overcooked. They were poached hard. There were no runny yellows in the eggs. That mixes so well with the Hollandaise sauce if it is done right. Oh well, I presume they are trying to avoid E. coli or salmonella. My table companions were from San Antonio and Fredericksburg, Texas. We had a good chat. It was their first and second cruises.
I holed up on the Promenade Deck and began listening to a book. I drifted in and out of the book, watching people walking by and talking to some of the kids in our group. After a while, I moseyed up to the Lido Deck and talked to the "Chaperone on Duty" and took in the sights. The pool was in full use. The ping-pong tables were alive. People were coming and going from the Panorama Bar & Grill and the outside snack bar was doing a lively business. Sunbathers were everywhere. I was relaxing in the breeze and the shade sipping on a Mr. Pibb (sorry no Dr. Pepper).
A group of us went to formal lunch. It was again in the Wind Song dining room. It was good. The selection appeared to be in line with most other cruise ships for lunch.
The afternoon was spent lounging around listening to my book and just being lazy. I went on "Chaperone Duty" in the mid afternoon and stayed in the shade. We observed that a few people were already getting "sun roasted" by not using sunscreen. They would feel it later.
This was formal dinner night. We had an enjoyable time sitting with our group. Lobster tails and steak were the fare of the day for me. The tails were typical "Caribbean spiny lobster". They were tasty and the steak was good. The appetizers were good. However, again dessert was a disappointment. Nothing was "succulent or really taste stimulating. You expect the desserts to be real closers on a cruise ship and for the second night in a row, it was bland.
The main show was better tonight. It involved a spin-off on the Broadway show "The Wiz", but they just named it "Oz". There were other numbers from other shows and it was entertaining. Again, I have seen much better on other cruise lines, but it was worth watching.
After the show, we roamed the onboard shops and then headed to the lounges to check out the music. The kids were having fun and were found almost everywhere. They were "banned" by us from the Promenade Deck Lounges and Casino. They could go to Spirals Club and the Video arcade on the Promenade Deck. The Explorer's Club (library) and the Neon Lounge seemed to be fun spots for them as well. Several of them listened almost daily to the musicians on the Empress Deck in the Grand Atrium.
We visited by the pool and then went to the Panorama Bar & Grill for before bed snacks and drinks. With Cozumel being tomorrow's main feature, we hit the room and got to sleep.
Day 3 Arrival in Cozumel
When you are traveling with high school kids, don't expect to sleep late. They want to, but I figured that when I woke up in the morning, get dressed and get out of the room and leave them a wakeup call. I went up to the forward observation platform and watched the sun coming up and the flying fish lead the ship into Cozumel. It was a relaxing start to the day.
I headed to formal breakfast once again. I had to try the eggs Benedict one more time. They were still overcooked. I met some people from Dallas and Houston at breakfast. One of the people there knew me by name. I was somewhat taken aback. She told me that she was a young man's mother who was friends with my youngest brother. You may meet someone you know; so don't believe that about never seeing them again. We all talked about cruising and the enjoyment of it all. These were first time cruisers as well.
I got my charges up. I sent them off to eat breakfast. At about 9:00 a.m. we prepared to disembark in Cozumel. This was the most messed up disembarkation that I have ever been a part. The stairways were crowded from the Riviera Deck back up to the Atlantic Deck at the mid ship stairs. The down elevators were all packed. So, we went up in the next elevator and then rode it back down. The situation was cured and we got off the ship five to ten minutes ahead of our companions.
We gathered up at dockside and then were checked off. We caught our taxi and went to Mr. Sancho's beach. It was a nice beach. The beach was clean, the water gorgeous, and the attendants were courteous and helpful. They had a sand volleyball court. The tables, umbrellas and chairs were free. We purchased drinks from them. A Coca Cola was $2.00. A few people order light meals. We stayed there for about three and a half hours and then headed back to the ship. The kids did some light shopping in the "curio mall" and then we re boarded and ate a late lunch. I went back to the Empress Deck and lounged while listening to my book and watching people go by.
The ship's departure that afternoon was interesting in that a sister ship the Sensation was also in port. The ships went through their departure horn sounding and replies as we departed. Shortly the beautiful azure water of Cozumel gave way to the deep blue of the depths.
Dinner that evening was below average. The tenderloin I had was anything but tender. I requested a different entree. It was a chicken course and it was adequate, but it was not what I wanted. Other diners at my table had the tenderloin and they said theirs was "tender". I had Lamine bring me another tenderloin for another go at it, but it was tough as well. I left it there. I had read the menu in the hallway and saw several desserts that looked promising. The waiters did not take our dessert order, but instead brought everyone a Grand Marnier Souffle. It had vanilla sauce and was all right, but it had too much of an egg taste to it. One out of eight kids ate it and thought it was good. The rest took a bite of it and then asked for ice cream. I asked for the chocolate cake. It was plain and uninspired. A scoop of vanilla ice cream helped.
The kids had a free evening. Some spent time on deck playing shuffleboard, ping-pong, talking to each other, watching the stars, playing cards, and what not. I relieved one of our nighttime chaperones and let them go to the show. I was told that it was a western themed show and was the best of the week. I was glad they got to go, as I am not a country music aficionado.
There was also a scaled down version of the grand buffet in the Wind Star dining room tonight. The food at it was somewhat bland and lacking quality and taste. The presentations were interesting, but not awe inspiring. I think those days are gone on most cruises. We snacked a little and then headed for bed.
Day 4 AT SEA
I let the kids sleep until they wanted to get up. I got up at 7:00 a.m. and headed up to the main deck. I ran across my wife. She was chaperoning in a different room. We got five chaperones together and went to breakfast in the Wind Song dining room. This was the last chance for eggs Benedict done the right way. They were oh so close, but still overcooked more than I would have liked. I had to switch off to the French toast. It was good.
I headed back to my nook on the Empress Deck and continued my book. Several of the kids came by and thought that they were catching me sleeping (I rest with my eyes closed) and as they would ease up to “surprise me”, they would stop suddenly as my eyes open looking directly at them. That got to be a game as the day went on.
Lunch came and went. Good soup and an average club sandwich.
The afternoon was spent around the pool deck watching the kids play. I headed to my room to pack and get my stuff out of the way before night and dinner. We cut the kids loose to play and be kids. Some of the chaperones headed to Chinatown Lounge to dance and listen to old time rock and roll. It was supposed to be disco, but they never got there. This was no real loss. We ended the night here and headed to bed. My charges took my advice and had their bags packed and placed in the hallway to be picked up. I just topped my bags off and put them in the closet and carried them off the next day.
Day 5 arrival at Galveston
I was up before the sun. I got dressed and headed up to the observation deck to take pictures as we approached Galveston. There weren’t many people up with me. After taking some pictures, I went to breakfast with my wife and several of the chaperones in the Panorama Bar & Grill. I had a continental breakfast and then headed to my room to roust my charges out of the room and make sure they had their belongings. We went to the Blue Sapphire Lounge to wait for our color to be called. Being that we did not have flights departing, we waited until almost 10:45 a.m. before we were called to disembark. You do not want to be RED. Leaving the ship was easy and took a few minutes to gather up the kids’ luggage and head for the curbside to await our buses. There were no problems with customs on departure.
For most of our group this was a first time cruise. There were a number of shortcomings on the cruise that were not handled well by the Ecstasy Staff.
There was supposed to be a trivia contest. Several of the kids went to play and no one from the ship showed up to hold the contest. There was supposed to be a shuffleboard contest. Again, no one from the Ecstasy Staff showed up to run the contest and several of the kids were again disappointed. This happened at a few more events and the kids were disappointed that the games did not come off.
There were no cards in the card room. You had to bring your own or buy two decks from the gift shop at $6.50.
There was a showing in the Explorer’s Lounge of some artwork by the staff of Park West Galleries. When I started to enter, I was told that the lounge was being used by them to show off their art and that I had to wait to enter. That was too bad. I would have liked to see what they had on this trip for sale later that day. I usually attend at least one art auction a trip. He was somewhat surprised when I was the only person to identify a Rembrandt that none of his “guests” could tell him who the artist was in their conversation at the close of the showing. I have purchased from them on RCI and Princess, but after this rude treatment, I will reserve my funds for someone who wants my business. They tend to be full of themselves and push what they want to get rid of at the time.
I am sure that other cruise lines are now doing it, but you should not be charging your passengers for cookies that are made in the galley. They should be given to them.
The staff of the photo shop was the most discourteous group that I have come across on any ship as to an entire section group. I had asked about some photos that had been placed on the board several days in a row of my daughter and wife. I was actually told to come back when I had spare time. I was there at 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon. That seemed like spare time to me. I was told that they did not know what the person looked like in the picture that I was searching for even though I pulled three pictures to show them the sequence numbers that were appropriate for the shot (one on either side), a group picture with the person in it, and a portrait of the person. I was told to come back the next day, as more photos would be posted (although I had already been told by another staff member that that sequence was all up on the board). I was told that they would have to check on it and if I could, get with them on the Monday we arrived in port and they would check on them. This was all unacceptable.
I will say that one young lady in the photography staff did not fit into this mold. She was the exception and I believe her name was Gillian. She was courteous, interested in resolving and fixing my problem (lost photos), and she came through on her promise to find them and have them waiting for me. Thank you, Gillian. I did note your service and courtesy in my comment card to Carnival.
There were also other positives that occurred as well. The purser’s staff was courteous and prompt in their dealings. The bar staffs were all friendly. Our room steward was prompt and efficient. As mentioned above, Lamine and Victor did a great job in the formal dining room. The wait staff in the Wind Song that I dealt with at breakfast and lunch was courteous and friendly. The “golf pro” went out of his way to make several of our kids feel good with his friendliness and helpfulness. They were up by his area every day to play shuffleboard and he made it a point to have the pucks and sticks present for them when they arrived. He talked to them and made them feel at ease on the ship. I believe he was from Canada. The pizza was as good as any cruise line I have eaten pizza on in thirteen cruises. The hamburgers were first rate.
If I did not have other cruise experiences with which to gauge this cruise, I would have very little to comment about except for personnel issues (good and bad). Please don’t get me wrong I had a good time. However, I have sailed on NCL, (RCCL, RCL, and RCI), Celebrity, Princess, and Carnival and I would not purposefully sail on a Carnival Cruise Line ship again. They are good for the money you are spending, but I would rather spend a little more and go with a cruise line such as Royal Caribbean. There were limited activities for everyone on board compared to other cruise lines I have sailed on. Our wait staff was good and this comment is not aimed at them. The overall dining experience and the food was not as high in quality, choice, and taste. The menu choices and overall quality of the meals were not up to par with other cruise lines. There also was not as much room to sit on the Promenade Deck and relax. The computers should be moved to a Media Room that would offer some privacy to users if they need to conduct business while on the ship. I did, but I was not able to do so due to the openness of the computer screens and the ability of others to watch what you were doing.
I think the main draw for our group on this cruise was the location of the ship compared to our homes and the length of the cruise. I am looking forward to our family cruise in July 2005 on the Explorer of the Seas. Woo!!! Hoo!!!! Read Less