Just back: CARNIVAL-ECSTASY- Review (1-27-07/2-1/07):
Arrival in Houston: We arrived at Houston International Airport a bit late, but were able to get to the rental car shuttle quickly to be taken to the main rental-car terminal. Got our ... Read More
Just back: CARNIVAL-ECSTASY- Review (1-27-07/2-1/07):
Arrival in Houston: We arrived at Houston International Airport a bit late, but were able to get to the rental car shuttle quickly to be taken to the main rental-car terminal. Got our car with no problems we had reserved from Enterprise Rental. In fact...to our pleasure we received an upgrade and a sporty red car to use to drive down to Galveston. The drive down from Houston to Galveston was a breeze.....almost low flying in fact...with me trying to keep up with the traffic.I had to slow down cause the speed limit was 70....but then I was passed constantly by everyone. Seems that part of the interstate is left alone by the highway patrol...no one got pulled over and most of the cars were doing at least 85 mph! We got to Galveston and Enterprise's driver took us to the cruise terminal. I want to say that Enterprise did a VERY good job for us. In fact we were not charged the $40.00 'different drop-off fee' leaving our rental in Galveston instead of returning it to Houston. This happened on our other trip also, so I am not sure if we were just lucky again...or they just waiver that charge all the time. We were told we would have to pay it by the phone reservations operator when I made reservations, which is common and acceptable. We had used them before on our previous cruise and will do so again. I highly recommend Enterprise Car Rental Service.
Embarkation: We both completed the Fun Pass online...but everyone was told to stand in the same line, so this slowed things down a bit. The line was long by the time we arrived at the terminal around noon and we didn't get on the ship till after 1:00 PM. I do want to mention that in the Carnival terminal waiting area for the Ecstasy...they do not offer to pax any drinks/juice/refreshments of any kind. I would not expect this normally, but with our last RCCL cruise...they did serve those in the waiting area. A nice beginning while waiting for our cruise with RCCL.
Cabin: We got on the Ecstasy and headed for our 2 cabins....getting lost along the way. Our cabins were on the Rivera Deck: R26 & R20. We had booked 2, 1A cat. originally with bunkbeds, but with price drops we were upgraded to 2, 5A cat. cabins with 2 porthole windows. To view photos of our cabins, check out my photo online album. The link to it will be listed below with my signature. My cabin was very large, being 185-sq. ft. with twin beds that can make into a queen bed. New flat screen TV is mounted in the corner of one wall, with a half shelf under it. A small end table between the beds, one standard chair (not an armchair) with another small end table beside the chair. 3 closets with a safe and shelving in one closet., 2 terry-cloth robes are in the far closet with extra blankets and pillows. A medium size vanity table with a stool with plenty of drawer storage and a large lighted mirror above the vanity. The bathroom was REALLY large compared to RCCL's cabins, with a shower that had plenty of room to even shave my legs in! No medicine cabinet, but a nice shelf along the entire length of the mirror/sink area with small storage under the sink area. Plenty of towels every day...twice a day if used during the morning...replaced in the evening during 'turn down' service. The 2 portholes are within 1 window frame and the area between the wall and porthole is recessed, thus allowing me to be able to climb into this recess area and sit by the portholes to look outside. It was a nice area to sit stretched out with pillows behind and under me to drink my hot tea in the mornings watching the ocean waves ripple by. Curtains shut over the entire window area...and do keep out the light pretty well. The beds were fine, however, my DF had to ask for 2 coverlets to be placed under her sheets for added softness. She did have back pains throughout the cruise. I slept fine on my bed with only 1 coverlet under my sheets. The location of our cabin was the lowest pax deck and I did not experience any engine noise or vibrations at all.
Panorama Bar and Grill Buffet: My DF and I made our way to the Lido deck for the buffet in Panorama Bar and Grill for lunch after arrival. This buffet dinning room is spread out in 5 separate areas. The main food is in a wrapped bar with hot foods when you first enter. Drink bar is located midway within the dinning area with the salad/fruit bar in the middle of the buffet dinning room. In the very back is the deli/pizza/cocktail bar. The dessert bar is more toward the back center area. I found getting to all these different areas quite a challenge due to getting around the crowds and going to so many separate locations for different foods/drinks. By the time I sat down, half my food was cold because the 1st line/food bar you have to stand in when you enter the buffet is for the hot food. We only ate in the buffet 3 times in all. We opt to have lunch and breakfast in the main dinning room thereafter. The buffet was such a 'zoo' with so many pax we did not enjoy our meals in there at all. However, I do want to mention that the Ruben Sandwiches are very good, but waiting for it can be VERY long....even after waiting in the other lines for other food items to eat with it added to that wait. The chairs/benches are made of hard-molded plastic and not very comfortable in the buffet, but there are nice seating areas right outside on the back end and side of the ship with nice tables and chairs to eat at while watching the ocean. Of course you can take your food out to the pool-deck area also, which would be much more comfortable and less crowded than in the inside dinning area. The food we had was typical buffet food...nothing special.
Muster Drill: The Muster drill was held in the Blue Sapphire Lounge. It took a long time because of waiting for late pax to straggle in. After lengthy instructions we were taken outside to the lifeboats, which our area would use in an emergency, which increased the time to make the drill even longer. The crew were professional and tried to get everyone to pay attention to the instructions...which in some cases was a miracle in itself for those who have had a few too many 'drinks of the day' specials already before the drill. ***Please be considerate and be at your muster station on time. Hundreds of pax are waiting for you to show up before they can begin and would rather get the drill over with as soon as possible to start having FUN on their cruise!!!
Dinning Room Service: My DF and I had the 8 PM seating in the Windsong Dinning Room. This dinning room is totally in the aft (end) of the ship and was confusing at first to locate. You have to go all the way aft on deck 9 then when you are at the entrance of the dinning room—they do not allow you to enter there, but make you take the stairs down 1 deck to 8 to enter. Sort of confusing at first since there is an entrance on deck 9, but we got the hang of where they wanted us to go and entered from that area each night. During our entire cruise our waiters never introduced themselves. In fact all of us at our table (7 in all) made jokes several nights asking each other "Have they said their names yet?" My DF finally asked our headwaiter his name, she couldn't pronounce it to us, so we still did not know his name. Both waiters did not make any extra effort at being friendly by speaking to us or giving us any type of special service. In fact, I have receive better service from waitresses in our local Golden Corral Restaurant (buffet-steak house) in my home town! Each night our headwaiter just stood behind us, not saying a word. We just looked at him with his pen in hand ready to take your order and then told him what we wanted and he passed to the next person-no word said to anyone. When asked a question, he answered it not smiling at all. The only time I remember seeing a slight smile on his face was during the last night doing one of the 'dances' they preform in the dinning room. My DF and I were very disappointed in the services/friendliness of our personal dinning room waiters. We did not feel like the fine dinning ambience was given on this ship by our waiters at all to us!
Food in Main Dinning Room: We were both VERY disappointed with the food in the main dinning room during dinner. Every dish I had ended up being beef of some sort because the variety and selection on the menu for entrees were limited. I normally enjoy my beef med. rare except for Prime Rib and Chateaubriand which I like both rare, but it was not cooked or offered that way.I was told it could only be cooked med. rare or well done. So with that in mind, both my entrees were tough, dry and over cooked. The Beef Wellington was terrible. I have posted my detailed review of that dish at this URL if you would like to read it here: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=488401 The appetizers and desserts were very limited on our cruise. Many items had been listed online from previous pax menus on cruises which were taken in the fall-2006 (3 months earlier) were not included or served to us. In fact on the last night of the cruise, the only 2 desserts offered were Baked Alaska and Melted Chocolate Cake. NOTHING ELSE! The cake being offered each night. The Lobster on formal night was tough and tasteless. I could not eat mine and asked for the Prime Rib which (as mentioned before) was over cooked and not very good. Our headwaiter gave me a disgusted look when I asked for another entrees - his look at me; I would not want anyone to experience. However, the French Onion Soup, Lamb Chops and Escargot we had were the best dishes on the cruise we had and were very good. Our table companions enjoyed their steaks, which they ordered well done. So if you like your beef cooked well done, then you will enjoy how the beef is prepared on the Ecstasy. Breakfast in the main dinning room was fine. I ate there twice and both times had Eggs Benedict, which was prepared very nicely.
Entertainment: We went to 3 shows in the Blue Sapphire Lounge. The first evening a short dance was preformed by the Ecstasy Dancers and done very nicely with a very funny comedian. The 2nd night was a larger-Las Vegas styled show with the Ecstasy Dancers and also a couple that did an amazing modern-acrobatic dance. They were superb!!!! We would've loved for the entire show to have centered on this couple alone. They were fantastic and a 'do not miss'! The last night at sea…the 'Extreme Country' show was wonderful, lively and done very well. My DF went to the late night 'Adult' Comedy show in the Starlight Lounge and she enjoyed it thoroughly. I also went to enjoy Karaoke in this same lounge a couple of times and found it to be very fun. Dancing in Stripes Lounge tends to be more hip-hop late in the evenings and Chinatown Lounge leans toward country. There are different music venues for everyone on the Ecstasy. Each night we made our way to one lounge or another for fun with friends we had made on the ship. The deck-pool party was a lot of fun also. Line dancing and a nice Mexican buffet was served during the party. During sea days, there is so much to do entertainment wise….it was hard to pick what we wanted to do. We enjoyed the 'hairy chest' contest which was so much fun and the MC had the entire pool pax get involved with the choosing of the winner…which made it even more fun. Ice carving is a 'do not miss' on the pool deck also as well as dance classes. Even on a rocking ship (we had very high seas on the last day) it IS possible to do line dancing. High seas just make it more interesting and funny to watch and do! The entertainment on the Ecstasy was great and we enjoyed it immensely. All in all, the entertainment and activities fulfills the motto of Carnival being a…"Fun Ship".
Formal Night: MOST, if not the majority of the pax were dressed very nicely. Long formals, cocktail dresses, dress pants with 'glitzy' tops were worn by the women and suits with ties were worn by most men. There were some folks with jeans on…but I have to admit they REALLY seemed out of place and stuck out like a sore thumb with the majority of the pax dresses so nicely and formally. The Captain's Reception was held in the Blue Sapphire Lounge with appetizers and drinks/wine/champagne served by the wait staff. Music was played for couples to dance to on the stage, making it a very nice reception for all.
Gala Midnight Buffet: The Ecstasy did a beautiful display of various food. Not just desserts. All I can say is it was one of the most beautiful arrangements of food I have ever seen. We did not stay to eat any of it because we were not hungry. However I now wish we had skipped the food that night in the main dinning room and opt for the Gala Buffet instead. This buffet was held the same night as formal night. To view photos of the lovely food, please click my photo link below my signature.
Meeting Friends from Cruise Critic Message Boards (M&M): If you have never done this before…you really NEED to make sure to do it. After 2 cruises that I have taken since I have discovered the folks on these boards…I have enjoyed meeting new 'friends' on board the ships. Their friendship and comradery has made both my cruises even more pleasurable. We meet our roll call members on the 1st evening around 10 PM outside the Stripes Lounge. It was great to meet the folks I had been messaging to for months in person. It was like meeting old friends you had known forever. I felt as comfortable with them as if we had just seen each other the week before. We chatted for quite sometime, exchanging room numbers so we would be able to contact each other on ship. Also planning our next meeting place and what we planned to do on excursions. My DF and I meet several of our roll call members throughout the cruise…during Tea Time in the Neon Bar, which we were served hot tea (of choice), tea sandwiches and desserts. A very nice experience for a day at sea. We also meet them in Cozumel at Paradise Beach, which made the day even more fun. One member of our roll call sat at our dinner table during the evenings. We had not prearranged this, so it was a lovely surprise to have her dine with us. So whatever you do, follow though with going to your roll call's M&M! You will have the opportunity to meet and make some new friends, which will make your cruise more enjoyable!
Ports: Cozumel---Paradise Beach: We took a taxi on our own with folks I had meet during breakfast that morning. Shared the ride and made 3 new friends which were very nice and fun to be around. We got there early---well before 10:30 AM to get lounge chairs right up front next to the ocean with no one in front of us. Large umbrellas that span 2 chairs provided shade. No entrance fee is required, however they do 'ask' you to purchase a drink or food item while using the chairs. We were not pressured to order anything by our waiter. In fact we had to call him over to us when we decided on our drinks to take our order. So if we never called him over—which we sat there for quite awhile before we ordered, I doubt he would've bothered us again. The drinks are priced comparable to bar prices. I had a Long Island Ice Tea and paid $8.00 including tip. For $9.00 pp (as of 1/2007) you can use all their 'toys': snorkel equip., trampoline and rock-climbing iceberg (both in the ocean you swim out too) kayaks and swim boards. A good deal we were planning on doing, except the water was way too cold for us, so instead my DF did the parasailing for $50.00-15 mins. air-time. I went with her free on the boat to take photos and we both had a fantastic time on her parasailing adventure. The water in Cozumel is pristine and beautiful. One of the most beautiful ports/ beaches I have been to in my life. The local people were very friendly and were willing to bargain on prices in the local shops/stores. We enjoyed Cozumel very much!
Progresso-Corona Beach: We took the free shuttle you board right outside the docking area down the 5 mile pier, which drops you off at the out-door market/shops. This area is pretty large with locals selling their jewelry, T-shirts, etc. I found it a lot fun to bargain with the locals on prices. I was not put off with any of them coming to me trying to ‘make a deal’. However, I have been to Mexico before and this type of ‘selling’ is part of their culture and I found it fun as well as giving me an opportunity to bargain for items I wanted to buy. Just keep in mind….the locals are not trying to be ‘pushy’. This is their livelihood and part of their culture, so just go with the flow and you will have fun and get great deals! We then left the market area and walked a couple of blocks to Corona Beach. Lounge chairs under palapas were located all along the beach area. We were helped and served by a nice local waiter who was there for our every need. He gave us such great service we asked to take his photo. The Margaritas served on this beach are the best I have EVER had in my life. They were equivalent to 3 mix drinks-alcoholic wise. In fact, my DF had brought a can of juice with her and had to put some juice in her drink to ‘water it down’ cause it was so stiff! I ended up doing the same to the last ¼ of my drink also. We ordered a plate, or I really should say a PLATTER, of Guacamole Dip with a basket of Corn Chips and it was wonderful. Fresh avocados with onions and tomatoes tasted fantastic. All in all I only paid for my drink and food: $4.00-drink/tip & $2.00-dip/tip+ $6.00 for the best drink and food I had the entire cruise! ***One warning about Corona Beach: the local folks do approach you CONSTANTLY trying to sell their wares. All you have to do is smile and say “No, gracias” a couple of times and they will move on. Only once did I have to add an “Adiós, Por favor “ to one seller before he walked on. They did not spoil our time on the beach, but for some folks who do not like this type of ‘intrusion’ you might not want to sit directly on the beach but sit inside the bar area. We enjoyed Progresso and enjoyed the lovely and friendly local people. We had a fabulous time at this port of call!
Staff on the Ship: Other than the before mentioned dinning room waiters at our table, the entire staff on the Ecstasy were friendly, helpful and great. Each and every time we passed a staff employee they always smiled and spoke a cordial welcome to us. Every time we asked a question, we were answered politely and helped. Our steward was great…giving us an extra bucket of ice twice a day (after asking for one the first day) and had our room prepared/cleaned properly. The crew imparted an atmosphere of ‘come party with us’ on the ship, which enforced Carnival’s motto as having ‘Fun Ships’. Music and laughter was expressed throughout the ship by the staff and crew. All in all, service on the Ecstasy was great.
Debarkation: We did not do "self-assist" and left our luggage out our cabin door before midnight on the last day at sea. We handled our carrry-ons ourselves. We did have to wait quite awhile before our color tags were called, but just enjoyed a longer breakfast in the buffet. Finding our luggage in the crowd was a challenge but we managed. It did take more time than I had expected, making us leave the ship well after 10 AM.
Leaving for home: We had to rent our 2nd car through Hertz Rental due to Enterprise being all reserved that day. We did call 2 months before our cruise to try to reserve with Enterprise but were unable to. Therefore, we had to wait outside in the cold for almost 25 mins. for Hertz shuttle to pick us up. The Hertz rental pick up/shuttle area is at Terminal #1 downstairs. Their shuttle picked us up and took us to their off site rental building to get our car. It is at least a 10 min. drive from the terminal. They were very disorganized at the rental office and it took me over 30 mins. to get my car!!! And that was NOT waiting in line time...that was for the agent to log in his computer 4 different times to get my rental cost/car assignment right! I had my reservation number with me...so that was not the problem. The problem was this particular agent didn't know what the heck he was doing and was trying to charge me double the quoted price when I made my reservation! Or maybe he did know what he was doing and was trying to pull a fast one over me cause I am a women?!!!! I will NEVER use Hertz in Galveston ever again! I will stick with Enterprise Rental. Enterprise was great when I used them before. Due to Hertz taking so long with our car assignment….we did not have as much time as we had planned to tour Galveston. We only were able to drive around The Strand to look around that area and then head back out the interstate to Houston. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before boarding our plane.
Arrival at Home: Feb. 1st , we arrived at DIA to find the coldest day of the year greeting us with temps at minus 10 degrees below zero. My DFs, DH was picking us up and it took him from 4:30 PM till well after 8 PM to go 60 miles from our home town! There were tons of car wreaks on the interstate due to the bad weather, but we made it home safe and sound finally.
All in all, we had a great cruise and a great time on the Ecstasy. She is a nice ship, even though her décor is very outdated and in bad need of a facelift with less neon lights and less bright, garish colors. It was fun to sail in the Western Caribbean and have some ‘Fun in the Sun’ on our 5 days cruise!
Please view my photos: ****Cruise Photos on Carnival: Ecstasy-->Click Here: http://family.webshots.com/album/557602758BFevzH?vhost=family&vhost=family
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