I meant to post this in the review section after I polished it up - never found the time-so here is our unproofred review of our back to back cruise this past November
Carnival Ecstasy 9 day B2B Review - November 15th - Diary of a ... Read More
I meant to post this in the review section after I polished it up - never found the time-so here is our unproofred review of our back to back cruise this past November
Carnival Ecstasy 9 day B2B Review - November 15th - Diary of a Cruise Addict
When shopping for our third Conquest Cruise out of Galveston DW and I (both in our early 40s) stumbled upon some amazing cruise rates for the 5 day Ecstasy cruise. While we loved the Conquest and understood the shortcomings of the Fantasy Class from our Inspiration cruise (almost 5 years ago) we went ahead and booked two cabins for ourselves and DS(11) and DD(9). Having only done 7 day cruises we became convinced that 5 days just would not cut it and booked the four day "chaser" to get a nine day cruise for about 2/3 the price of a 7 day Conquest cruise! We'll do a day by day and let you know why we think we made a great decision! We did 7 of our 8 hr drive from Mission TX the Night before. We used some "choice points" to stay at a Comfort Inn about an hour from the port. Having just moved to Mission TX, (and wanting to spend dollars on Cruise Tickets instead of plane tickets) Galveston is really our only choice (though we'll do NOLA for the right deal).
Day One - Embarkation - "BEER GOGGLES in the Cabin"
It is truly amazing that Galveston is back in business so soon after hurricane Ike. There are still patches of complete devastation, but life goes on where this is not the case. We did lighthouse parking and were at the terminal at 10:30. Had to wait longer than on our Conquest cruise, which surprised us, but we were still onboard by noon. It was cold and overcast so they had the hot tubs and the pools roped off. We were worried that we had made a mistake with this cruise as the welcome buffet was lackluster and the art-deco styling of the Panorama Grill is a bit worn so it looks real old. It just felt like they were skimping on everything the first couple of hours and we were not sure if it was because it was an older ship, a 5 day, or because Uncle Bob was not in charge anymore. It was just annoying little things-nothing big. Fortunately we only felt this way for about five hours. The welcome aboard show was first rate - we really liked Rosie, the lead singer, and at first glance the CD seemed OK. Dinner was excellent and our waiter, Kitten, made a point to know our names and did everything right with a wonderful smile on her face. She was absolutely wonderful. On the whole, a good first day that would have been great if there weather was better. A note on our Cabins - Carnival has a deal where you get upgraded from an inside to "two portholes" right at the bow of the ship. This was a super deal - there was a lot less foot traffic up there so it was super quiet except in port. Just over the bow thrusters - it sounds like you are in a wind tunnel. The floor plans are proportionately correct - the cabins that appear to be bigger actually are. The only drawback is that the portholes are not traditional portholes - that were described by DD as Binoculars. To fit a rectangular cabin into an angular section of ship, the cabins are set back from the hull. Our kids cabin had a four ft deep "cave" where the window would be and then the two portholes were at the end of 2ft long tubes. After a few cervesas DW and I dubbed these the "BEER GOOGLE" cabins.
Day Two - At Sea - "Where are all the Straight people?"
It was overcast through our whole first sea day - no fighting for deck chairs this day. Fortunately, the hot tubs on V-deck also remained "undiscovered country" for most of the cruise. We stayed in one most of the day occasionally joined by other couples who "happened to be" female-female. This was a real tough day for me. After each couple left, DW would punch my arm for enjoying the situation a little too much. The Captain's party was OK - and the Lobster Dinner was excellent. The show was after our 2nd seating dinner, so we tucked our kids in with a movie and hit the disco. Yep there were a lot of women on this cruise, and they seemed to like each other - a lot. Finally, DW in her best Melanie Griffin imitation, asked me "Sherman, where are all the straight people?" (think bonfire of the Vanities). She then suggested we turn in early - worked for me.
Day Three - Cozumel - "The Friends of Bill W. meeting..."
We've been to Cozumel at lot and we knew exactly what we wanted to do....Rent a car, go to Mr. Sanchos, and then Drive around the back side of the island. Again the weather kept it from being a great day but we had fun doing everything we set out to do. The Carnival Pier, Puerto Maya has been rebuilt and is better then ever. Only thing I did wrong was renting from Alamo instead of Executive. We were very pleased with the car we got from Executive (on our last cruise) - a brand new Laredo. I ended up renting a 15 year old POS from Alamo. Some of the recent threads on cruise critic regarding car rental scared the heck out of us - so I went we a company I knew and tried to get a car with full insurance for what we normally pay without insurance. We certainly got what we paid for. Back on board we reclaimed our spot in the hot tub where CD-Steve (over the intercom) gave us our best laugh of the day. "The Friends of Bill W. meeting scheduled for tonight has been cancelled due to lack of interest." The production show "Extreme Country" was great. CD Steve went up to the top of my CD appreciation list when he put his electric fiddle under his chin. He was AWESOME and its just fun to watch him enjoy what he's doing. Rosie's Rendition of "I Hope You Dance" was something we'll never forget. Apparently there was a repeater party that night - we didn't get our invitation till after the party had happened and there was also supposed to be a deck party but it got rained out. DW was scared to go back into the Estrogen filled disco - so a little Casino time was in order. Nice new nickel machines that kept us busy for $20 each. You can bill your sail & sing card with no fee or commission - right at the machine - and cash out if you wish.
Day Four - Progresso - "The Flamingos were awesome "
This was our first visit to Progresso and we fully intended to do nothing but parking our butts on Corona Beach, but it was raining as the free shuttle deposited us in the market square. Auto Progresso, the established tour operator, seemed a bit pricey and it did not seem like they had anything leaving ASAP. DS was interested in Mayan Ruins since seeing "Apacolypto" and DD wanted to see the Flamingos. One of the locals was putting together tours to a resort that was not as expensive as the reef club and, for about $120, the four of us got to see the Flamingos and some ruins before being deposited at a beach hotel. We dropped off three other couples at the resort before the 20minute drive to the flamingos and the ruins. When we returned, about an hour and a half later, they asked how it was - "the flamingos were awesome - all six of them." Honestly if you want to see Flamingos go to your local zoo. Our tour did not really have guide per say - just a taxi driver. The ruins got the job done as far as DS was concerned and we can say we "did that" - probably won't again. The beach club was nice, with all you can eat and drink - nothing fancy. The weather stayed overcast, the water was murky, so it was too cold to entice anyone to go swimming. The show was supposed to be a comedian who missed the boat (in the most literal sense) so Steve did some Juggling. He's good. We lost a little in the casino. DW rewarded my understanding of her losses with a trip to the Disco and we had a really great time.
Day Five - At Sea - "Priceless" This was a much better day for the sun. The kids started to take to Camp Carnival and we made it to the newlywed game. Definitely - best answer of the show was "Do that in the bathroom" - the Question was "If you had a parrot in your room what phrase would it learn?" The "Dream Show" had some good Parts but it was not as good as "Extreme Country" We really appreciated Kitten and our bar steward. Every meal was an event and we debated staying with them for the next cruise - but ultimately we decided to see what the "aft" dining room was like. This was the Night DW and I looked forward to the most - partying like your getting off the ship without having to worry about actually getting off. We stayed in the Disco late (for us that's like 1:30) but the high point of our day came as we walked back to our cabin. Price of a 5 day cruise for 4 in two OV cabins about $800. Price for the same people for the "four day chaser" about $850. Seeing everyone's bags packed, sitting in the hall, when you have 4 DAYS left to go - PRICELESS!
Day Six - Galveston - "Seven short blasts followed by one LONG blast!"
We thought this day was going to drag and we were so, so wrong. We did sleep in till about 8:30 and had a full, sit down breakfast (for the first time) and then went back to the cabins to pack. The purser's desk tried real hard to keep us from having to do this - our cabins for the 4 day were much nicer then the "Beer Google Cabins" and the first day of the cruise we offered them as an upgrade to the next occupants but the Purser never heard back from the main office. It ended up not being a big deal. We packed in about an hour and reported to the Purser as directed at 10. There were still lots of folks on board but we got to cut the line and go see the customs guy who gave us a nice smile when we answered where we were going. The purser then escorted us back to the ship, called the steward to move our bags to the new rooms which had a welcome back gift of chocolate dipped strawberries. We finished unpacking just as the next bunch was let on board. The weather was so much better and everything was open. It was truly a drag to break way from it all for the boat drill. Our steward intercepted us and told us, since we had the same muster station, it was not necessary to do the drill again. The kids finished their home work in their room and DW and I had the best boat drill ever! This is a family board so I can't say too much, but lets just say the phrase "Seven short blasts followed by one LONG blast has a whole new meaning for us!" We enjoyed an absolutely wonderful sail-away in the hot-tub. Even went to the welcome aboard show again as they had a new comedian. A minor glitch came at our 2nd seating dinner. We had a new table in the same dining room - and our new wait staff was - well they just we're Kitty. We really wanted to try the Aft dining room so I re-approached the maitre'd and he came up with 4 seats at a table for 8 the following night in the Windsong dining room.
Day Seven - At Sea - "The woman on the cowbell"
The weather was so much better and we lived on the Lido deck. The ship was very full, but there were plenty of Deck chairs on the veranda and funnel deck - the main pool was crowded - but we feel like that's kind of the point. How can you beet all you can eat lobster for the 2nd time in 5 days? We kind of felt like Pierce Brosen and Selma Hyack in the movie "After the Sunset" (only DW is hotter then Ms. Hyack J). Our expectations were definitely exceeded when we met "Joe the Waiter." (This review was written shortly after the 2008 presidential campaign, and it seems real funny now - anybody reading in a couple months probably won't get the joke). Anyway, Joe struck us as extremely young for a Head waiter - he had a ton of personality - our kids loved him - he paced our meal wonderfully. His assistant was equally attentive. Kitten and her crew were a very tough act to follow and Joe was even better. We were paired with another family of four and we enjoyed their company. Yes, we did the show again and the atmosphere was almost electric - someone was definitely thinking when the decided to put the show "Extreme Country" on a ship full of Texans! The singers and dancers drew energy from the crowd - especially Steve - who literally shredded his bow fiddling "The Devil Went Down in Georgia!" We shied away from the disco this trip in favor of the Chinatown lounge which had a live band.. "The Happenings" or something like that. The woman on the cowbell was great - she gave us a fever and the only prescription was - More Cowbell! (Youtube "SNL Christopher Walken Cowbell" if you are confused at this point).
Day Eight - Cozumel - "Merry Chris???"
I was determined NOT to end up at Mr. Sanchos again and we hadn't gone on a real snorkeling trip for a couple of years - so we decided on the fury Catamarans. Having been to Cozumel like 10 times, the last thing I wanted to do was pay a premium to book a shore excursion through the ship - but that's exactly what ended up happening. The newly repaired Puerto Maya pier is "Carnival County." While the excursions are run by independent operators, they all make you book through Carnival - at their prices. The alternative would have been to take a cab someplace - so we sucked it up. I think $60pp plus tips plus $10 each for a hamburger lunch (cheap laugh alert) for "a three hour tour" is a bit steep. The Fury crews, the boat, and the beach was fine - but we could have spent the whole day a Chakakanab (sp) for about a third of this price and the Snorkeling is definitely better there. So we intentionally missed the boat and the private beach became truly private for an hour or so. We then wandered down the beach to Playa Mia and crashed there for a while before taking a cab back. Maybe the highlight of the Trip was taking the kids on a Jetski for 15 minutes each - we had a blast. We usually take a Christmas Card picture on vacation and DD had a great plan for this: Build Sandcastle Christmas trees and snowmen, write Merry Christmas in Shells and Corral and pose with DS for the Picture. This became the project de-jour - we spent over an hour on this - took pictures with the box camera, water camera, and digital camera. The kids looked great! Reviewing the photos on the laptop later that night in the cabin - DW points out: "Merry ChristAmas" what the heck is that? We spelt Christmas wrong. DUH! Anyway great weather made for a memorable day - but we can't drop $450 in a port and keep cruising like we do ($75pp for Fury, $100 for Jetski, drinks at Playa Mia, Cab back). Next time, we're bringing our backpack chairs and umbrella, charging the MP3 player, renting an insured car from Executive and filling the collapsible cooler with beer, wine and cheese at the local supermarket. There are so many places to relax on the, beautiful, undeveloped side of the island - that will be an awesome day.
Day Nine - At Sea - "Old Friend"
This was our 5th consecutive day of great weather. We had saved a couple things for the last day - the couples massage class - a sit down lunch in the dining room - neither of these things happened as we could not break away from the sunshine on the lido deck. There was serious discussion about staying on for the next 5-day. The day was capped with a view of a great sunset from the hot-tub. We ventured into the steam rooms and the sauna before the pre-dinner show. We did not pack until after our wonderful late seating dinner. Still not ready for our cruise to end DW and I returned to the Chinatown lounge for our last "Cowbell Fix". We finished our cruise with an open deck walk on a gorgeous night. Every other Sunday night the Ecstasy passes the Conquest port-to-stbd as both ships are about 6 hrs out from Galveston (around midnight or so). As I mentioned at the start of this review, The Conquest is an "old friend" of ours and we're sure we'll be cruising her again soon.
Even though camp carnival did not measure up to previous experiences our kids had a great time. Some would disagree - but we were very comfortable with kids that age having free reign so long as they used the buddy system and had the cell phone with them. We tested the cell phone to cell phone connection at sea once (that cost us $10) - but we never needed it after that - just something for emergencies - way better then the walky talkies we tried last cruise.
The ship was decorated for Christmas - Nicely done!
I'm still ticked that I spent so much for one day in Cozumel. I'm not pleased that Carnival is taking advantage of the situation by forcing monopoly pricing onto their pier. I hope this does not become a trend.
The Fantasy class is a little small for us but the shows and the meals were as good as anything we've experienced on Carnival.
We're hoping the Ecstasy will sport new balconies after her next drydock - we'll be back! Read Less