Cruise Ratings
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Sail Date: December 2003
This is a review of the Carnival Ecstasy, sailing from Long Beach, California on 12/15/03, calling at Catalina Island on 12/16/03 and in Ensenada, Mexico on 12/17/03. This was a four-day cruise that returned on Friday morning 12/19/03. ... Read More
This is a review of the Carnival Ecstasy, sailing from Long Beach, California on 12/15/03, calling at Catalina Island on 12/16/03 and in Ensenada, Mexico on 12/17/03. This was a four-day cruise that returned on Friday morning 12/19/03. The short version: Those of you who would avoid the Ecstasy at all costs probably won't change your mind by reading the paragraphs to follow. This is a worn-out ship. Service -- save for some rough spots in the Panorama Grill on Wednesday -- was flawless. Most of the problems involved the sub par behavior of my fellow passengers, but ship's security rapidly addressed all of the incidents I witnessed before they spiraled out of control. I don't think it's the ship so much as the itinerary and pricing that are the problem here. That combination seems to attract a large number of people who just don't know how to behave anywhere in public, least of all a cruise. Carnival could put its newest and best supercruiser n this line and some people would still consider it the cruise from hell. Did I have a good time? Most certainly, but bear in mind that I had sailed the M/S Ecstasy once before, in January of this year. I knew what to expect before I stepped on board. Back in September, my boss told me that if I wanted to make sure I got the vacation time I wanted for Christmas I better submit the vacation request form to him by the end of that week. My first choice was to take a train trip up to Seattle and then across the top of the nation to Chicago. Appealing -- I do love trains -- except that I've done that trip four times in the last four years. Also, Amtrak is having some financial difficulties and I had visions of a sudden work shutdown leaving me stranded in the middle of nowhere. Second choice was a trip to Hawaii. Do you know how expensive a trip to Hawaii is during the month of December? I do now and it's too much for my budget to bear. Finally, a cruise! But where? I investigated a few dozen itineraries but finally grew sick of all the searching and opted for familiarity. Last January my employer flew us to Los Angeles for the three-day weekend cruise to Ensenda on board Carnival's Ecstasy. After some very brief shopping, I decided to book directly with Carnival for the four-day version of that cruise, which stops at Catalina Island before heading down to Mexico. I booked what Carnival calls a "Category 1A" stateroom, the most affordable fare on the ship. With taxes and other charges totaling $367. That's 91.75 per day for four days of accommodations, food, entertainment, and two great destinations. How could I resist a deal like that? Flying is not one of my favorite modes of transportation and I try to avoid it as much as possible, especially if I'm travelling within California. I took Amtrak's San Joaquin train from Oakland to Long Beach, with the finally 2 hours of the trip (Bakersfield - Long Beach) handled by bus due to the need to climb 4,000 feet to cross the Tehachapis into the Los Angeles area. After a short cab ride from the Long Beach stop, I was deposited in front of The Inn of Long Beach, a one-and-one-quarter star "motor hotel" that looks like it was built in the early 1960s. The rooms are clean and comfortable, the decor best described as "mid-90s Howard Johnson generic". In other words, your standard-issue unspectacular hotel room. All the same, I think I'll go through Priceline for something a little nicer for my next cruise. I checked out of the hotel around 11:00AM on Monday 12/15 and took a taxi to the cruise terminal. When I was last on Ecstasy she berthed at the San Pedro cruise terminal. Since then, Carnival has opened up its own terminal in Long Beach, next to the Queen Mary. The building Carnival is using is the huge dome that once housed the Spruce Goose (it now resides somewhere in Oregon, I believe). Registration begins at 1:00PM in the dome for people who don't know any better. For those that do know better, Carnival offers an early registration service. Hand off your bags to the porters in the parking garage (if you want to see your bags arrive on the ship in decent shape, I would suggest a decent tip), follow the signs to the Queen Mary, walk up the passageway and onto the ship, hang a left, and you can avail yourself of early registration. The caveat: You have to make it to the pier by noon. Don't worry about getting lost, a small army of Carnival employees wearing blue jackets are on hand to point you in the right direction. Starting with embarkation of my cruise today, the Department of Homeland Security requires cruise lines to collect certain bits of information from passengers prior to those passengers boarding the ship. The easiest way to supply this information is to complete your FunPass via Carnival's Web site once you have your tickets. You'll be asked to supply information including your address, passport number, and post-cruise travel itinerary. The form also asks for your Social Security Number; as of this writing that particular bit of personal data is optional and I chose not to furnish it, there were no problems. Carnival advertised the online registration as an option that would speed up the check-in process. Let me preface my next remarks by reminding you that I used the early check-in service and that this was the very first day for Carnival to implement the FunPass policy/feature. Having said that, I didn't see much advantage to completing the online FunPass. The "express line" for FunPass registration was as long as the regular line for non-FunPass passengers, the same agents were handling passengers from both lines, and the herder at the front of the line was filling up the desk slots with the other line first. What didn't help matters was a family of 20 standing at the counter that seemed to have every special need imaginable, had to argue with the agent and her supervisor over the need for the Sign & Sail Card, hassle them about stateroom assignments, and ask about a million other questions. I don't fault Carnival for this, these people seemed to be taking a certain delight in being totally unreasonable. I thought the desk staff remained thoroughly professional and diplomatic throughout the ordeal, I know I probably would have reached over the counter and throttled a couple of the SOBs if I had been on the receiving end of that kind of treatment. Travel tip: If you are traveling as part of a group, it is a very good idea to let Carnival know at the time of booking if you would like all of your staterooms in a single deck/area. As the group mentioned in the last paragraph discovered, the cruise line will reduce your options to "get over it and sail with current stateroom assignments" or "don't get over it and don't sail" if you wait until embarkation. After registering I took a couple of pictures on the Queen Mary's gangway. I guess I slipped into tourist mode right on schedule, as I was almost completely oblivious to the fact that I was taking pictures and standing right in the way of one of the QM's photographers! I apologized profusely, and he was saying "it's okay, it's okay" but I made sure that he watched me as I deleted the pictures I had taken of his copyrighted mural from my digital camera. He seemed to really appreciate that consideration. Having apologized and made amends, I fled the scene red-faced with embarrassment. About five minutes after noon, I headed over to the dome and one of the herders pointed me in the direction of the doorway for early check-in passengers. I presented my boarding pass and passport to the door guard and was waved into security checkpoint (same as going to gates at the airport). Five minutes later, I was through the X-ray and standing in another line, this time for the first of many pictures to be snapped by the ship's photographer. Moving past the first photo opportunity, up the escalators and toward the gangway, choose of one of three lines in front of squat wooden podiums. You hand over your Sign & Sail card, which is inserted into the podium, stand as indicated on a red-and-black plastic mat and stare down at the podium. BING! The second picture of the cruise has been snapped. Any time you get on or off the ship, you insert the card and that picture pops up on a computer screen. Walking over the very loooooong gangway from the dome to the Ecstasy, I couldn't help but think of the tragic accident on the Queen Mary 2 a few weeks ago, where the gangway collapsed, killing dozens of workers in the shipyard. I may be big, I may be out of shape, but I'm pretty sure I set a new speed record for crossing that thing today. I tried to charge up my Sign and Sail card at the information desk, but the purser I spoke with said their computers were down and to try again after the muster drill. Dash it all, no Fun Ship Special Foofy Umbrella Drink for me yet! I headed up to the Lido deck and comforted myself with a cheeseburger and some lemonade. I was able to activate my card after the lifeboat drill. The Ecstasy is one of Carnival's older Fantasy class cruisers, the information folder in my cabin notes a delivery date of April 1991. Although she was refurbished in the late 1990s, in 2003 she is starting to show her age. The crew keep her spic and span, but there's no way that they can hide some of the wear and tear. Carpets (so far) don't have the dirty stains that others have written about, though I noticed several spots on the Main deck where that carpet was threadbare. In the Panorama Grill on the Lido deck, the blue-and-chrome striping along the walls show scrapes and scratch marks up to four or five inches long in some areas. This is the last year for Ecstasy to sail the West Coast route, this fall she will be repositioned for short-term cruises out of Galveston and the Paradise will take her place. I sincerely hope she gets an overhaul before heading off for Texas, otherwise Carnival will deserve every ounce of negative press it gets for dumping this worn-out tub on that port. I've read many comments about the Carnival Drink of the Day being heavy on the juice and light on the alcohol. That was not my experience last night. I sucked down five (and in those tall glasses each drink is really a double) Fun Ship Specials between 7PM and 11PM and I was feeling no pain by the time I staggered back to my cabin. Either Carnival has amped up the booze content network-wide, or I was under the ministrations of a Panorama Grill bartender that knew how to mix a lethal drink. As a result, my timing is a little... fuzzy... regarding certain events last night. My station for the muster drill was Station C, in the Chinatown bar on the Promenade deck. Not looking forward to climbing so many flights of stairs (I'm on the Main deck), I grabbed my lifejacket about fifteen minutes before the start of the drill and caught an elevator to my destination. When the elevator door opened, eight other people clutching lifejackets stared back at me. Heh. On my last cruise in January, I don't remember the drill as taking more than 15 minutes from start to finish. This crowd was a little more animated, however, and didn't seem to grasp the concept of paying attention, to the point where one of the green-hatted crew members actually pointed at a group of people and snapped into the microphone "I NEED YOU TO SIT DOWN AND BE QUIET **NOW**!" This happened after about five somewhat more polite attempts to get them settled and quiet, so it wasn't as if they didn't have fair warning. They were also the last group of people to enter the bar and they didn't look happy about it, I'm guessing that other crew had to flush them out of their cabins. Time from start to finish was 40 minutes. We were late in leaving Long Beach due to a computer problem in the passenger terminal, we were scheduled to depart at 5:30PM, actual time was about 7:15PM. I remember it was not long after I made my Lido deck debut because the clock on my cell phone said 7:00PM right when I stepped off the elevator. Many of the people at the bar were concerned that we would be late in arriving at Catalina. The bartender assured them that this would probably not be the case, as the island is only 25 or so miles from Long Beach. Food and service in the Wind Song dining room were both flawless, no complaints. That's it for my dining room experience and review. You see, my only other cruising experiences have been corporate events where dinner was a mandatory social function. Though food and service has always been top rate, there's something about enduring multiple dinner seatings with fellow employees you don't know, don't work directly with, and (in one case) don't particularly care for that has really put me off the dining room for now. I awoke Tuesday morning around six, remarkably clear-headed given last night's alcohol intake. Showered and shaved, headed up to the Lido deck for breakfast. Ate a made-to-order ham and mushroom omelet, hash brown pucks, and croissant at an outside table, watching Avalon slide into focus. And now, a short break for a public service announcement: People, please don't feed the seagulls. Please, please, please don't feed the seagulls. I'm sure that the mother who let her toddler toss pizza crust to the birds thought it was a cute scene, the way they would swoop down to catch the food in midair, the way they barked and begged for more. I don't think she thought it was very cute when her little boy ran out of crusts and four screaming gulls cornered him to demand more. If you feed them, you attract more of them, they become aggressive, and the outer decks become not so pleasant for a while. Don't feed the seagulls! Now, for my own peeve: Where's the bacon? There was no bacon to be found at any of the buffet stations. They had ham, they had sausage, but no bacon. I recall reading that other ships now have someone doling out strips of the bacon, but there wasn't even that service. Is this yet another cost-cutting measure? That's cheap, Carnival, real cheap. So I don't go ashore, I don't do dinner seatings, so what, exactly, does someone like me do on a cruise? In a word (well, two words): Chill out. Back in the real world, I work for a mid-size mortgage company. Beyond the paperwork, beyond navigating all the state and federal lending laws, beyond understanding the underwriting guidelines, the number one key to success on the job is talking to people. That's what I do for a living. Don't misunderstand me, I love my job. I love what I do. I give people the means to obtain the American dream, the biggest purchase they'll probably every make and at the end of the day I always feel good about what I've done. But this is my first real vacation in a long time and I want to enjoy the silence. I want interaction to be optional. I want to isolate in my cabin all day, order room service, and watch the silly Travelog video over and over again, and sleep whenever I want for as long as I want. And now you know how I spent most of yesterday as we were anchored off of Catalina. After breakfast I came back to the room to update my cruise journal, then turned on the television for a bit and watched the cruise video mentioned in the previous paragraph. A suggestion to Carnival: Consider offering the Travelog in DVD format? I would have purchased it had that option been available. After the cruise video I watched the tag end of Down With Love, one of my favorite films of 2003, then headed up on deck with the Mighty Mavica to take a few pictures. The camera is huge, has a "14x" zoom lens, can do still images or movies up to 60 seconds long, and always ends up as a conversation starter with any photography buffs that see it. After wandering around decks for 90 minutes I ate lunch and then headed back to my cabin (for those of you who keep track of such things, I was in M149) and sat on the bed. I leaned back to rest for a moment before taking off my shoes, and then woke up about four hours later in that very uncomfortable position. A quick hot shower to untie the knots in my neck and back, and I was back on the Lido deck for dinner. Tonight, the buffet cooks were doing an Italian theme with chicken parmigiana, some sort of pasta in a spicy tomato/cheese sauce, and blackened zucchini. For buffet style eating, this was some seriously good grub. I then wandered through the Promenade deck to watch the various photography sessions taking place for formal night and made small talk with folks as I passed from bar to bar. By the time I was getting bored it was midnight so I headed over to see the comedy act in the Blue Sapphire lounge. The comedian on stage was Geechy Guy, and he had his moments but they were few and far between. To be honest, though, I was distracted by a table full of obnoxious drunks that were sitting near me. I guess others were bothered by them too, since a trio of security guards made a point of standing right behind them. The drunks meekly left about 10 minutes after security arrived. Also what bothered me were the parents (and I use that term loosely) who persisted on bringing very young children into a show that was advertised as age-restricted to 18 and older. It was listed that way in the Carnival Capers and the announcer repeated it right before he introduced Geechy. I noted that the majority of those "parents" and their children exited the room at warp speed when he started doing the female anatomy jokes. Breakfast this morning on the Lido deck: Second verse, same as the first. No bacon in sight. There are maintenance workers crawling all over the ship, painting, hammering, and so on. Squeezed off two dozen nice shots of the ship and surrounding area, including one of a sea lion sunning himself on a buoy. If I didn't know any better, I would swear that the sea lion was striking a pose for all of the people taking pictures of him. Or her. Hard to tell at a distance, probably hard to tell even from up close unless you're a marine biologist. Even remembered that my camera could take short movies, so when I was back on board I did a panorama view of the skyline. Also of note was the large Mexican Army patrol truck that moved slowly down the access road. As it turned back to head back to the main road, I noted the three young soldiers in the back with assault rifles slung over their shoulders. I obeyed my gut feeling and did not point the camera in their direction. Some of my fellow passengers started partying early today. Assuming the ship made it to port on time, they were down the gangway no later than 8:30 and slamming down shots at Hussong's by 9 and I was off the ship around 12:30. Some of them were so inebriated that slotting the Sign & Sail card into the podium at the security checkpoint was impossible. I'm surprised that most of them could even find their Sign & Sail cards. Just beyond the checkpoint was the alpha male of last night's table o'drunks, having an animated discussion with one of the security crew. I couldn't hear much but what I did hear could be summed up with "You will not be served any alcoholic drink for the remainder of this cruise and if you do not calm down you will be tossed in the brig and handed over to the authorities in Long Beach." Whoa. Crew observations: I'm not familiar with how Carnival assigns crew to their ships, but I distinctly recall that the majority of the crew that I interacted with on my January voyage were Eastern European or from African nations. This time around, I'm noting a shift to staff from Western European countries, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, and even a few North American faces from Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Asia is represented by Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand. As it was last time, the security crew appears to be almost 95% Indian. To me, it's all fascinating, to see so many faces and hear their accents and sometimes speaking their native languages. Such diversity is one of the reasons I really love living in the San Francisco Bay Area, too. Regardless of their nationality, the one thing that all of them have in common is that they provide world class customer service. I have not witnessed a single employee that has provided anything less than 100% service, sometimes going above that, to help a passenger in need. Say what you will about the physical state of the M/S Ecstasy, she is blessed with an excellent crew and to me that does compensate for some of the wear and tear. Dinner on Wednesday night... guess where? Yup, the Panorama Bar and Grill on the Lido deck! First I paid a visit to the salad bar, which had ingredients in dire need of restocking. Empty crouton containers, empty salad dressing containers, hardly any lettuce left. I decided to start with the hot food first: Rotisserie chicken, penne pasta al mariscos (the mariscos being full-sized shrimp), a blackened vegetable medley, and a crusty baguette for a dinner roll. Considering that this is cafeteria-style mass production food the Panorama cooks do an excellent job. I revisited the salad bar and the situation had not improved much, save for a restocking of the lettuce. Considering the light crowd this evening and what appeared to be an overabundance of staff on hand, I do not understand the inability to keep something as basic as a salad bar in decent condition. The Fresh Choice near my home has a sliver of the staff I saw in the dining room tonight, gets slammed during the lunch rush, yet you'll never see an empty slot in their huge salad bar. That Carnival cannot do the same with their comparatively small offering is pathetic. Oh! Speaking of the salad bar, the first sighting of bacon took place. Bacon bits, real bacon bits, not that fake bacon-flavored nugget stuff. Not that it mattered much since all that was left in the container were some leftover scraps. How about a slice of pizza, then? Sorry, said the pizza attendant, we are closed until 10:00PM. Excuse me? Isn't this the same pizza service that Carnival proudly trumpets as being available around the clock? That was the final straw. I demanded to speak with whoever was in charge and no more than 2 minutes later someone in a suit was presented as the manager. I said (politely) that I would really like to understand why the salad bar was being ignored and why the 24 hour pizza was not available at the height of the evening dinner service. I have never seen a salad bar restocked so quickly in my life. Pizza magically appeared about ten minutes later. I'm sure the entire Panorama staff now hate my guts. Oh well. I was pleased that the matter was rapidly resolved, but remain disappointed that no other staff considered the situation out of the ordinary until the boss showed up. Changing gears rapidly: There is a partially sunken steamship in Ensenada's harbor, it was visible from the aft decks of our ship. I remember it from January's cruise and always wondered about the story behind that vessel. While I was taking pictures of the steamer, another passenger told me that was the SS Catalina. It had been rotting for years in the San Pedro (Los Angeles) area, and a few years back someone towed her to Ensenada and turned her into a restaurant. That restaurant and a few other ventures bled money to the point where she was abandoned at her mooring, eventually sinking to the bottom of the harbor. The SS Catalina will probably remain there until someone raises enough money to move it, or until the port of Ensenada can no longer tolerate the thing in the way of their cruise terminal expansion plans. For now, it appears to be the Fun Ship for sea lions. I turned in early this evening. I tried to stay up late and watch the departure from Ensenada but my body had other ideas. Now we're on Thursday with the always popular Fun Day at Sea. I believe someone on Cruise Critic has the signature line of "Why don't they just call it Casino Day" and would surely fit here. I was out for the morning around 8:30 and the Crystal Palace Casino was the busiest nonfood location on this ship. I popped a dollar in a nickel machine and walked away with five bucks. I'm a high roller, yeah, baby. Went up for breakfast in the faithful Panorama Bar & Grill and there it was: BACON! Bacon bacon bacon, and more bacon! They were even letting the passengers use the tongs, no bacon wrangler in sight. It went well with some of the best scrambled eggs I've ever experienced, an enormous croissant, and a cup of coffee. Wandered down to the Promenade deck, checked e-mail and ordered a hazelnut latte from the Rolls Royce coffee bar. I don't know what desserts are offered in the dining rooms, but if the creations available in the Rolls Royce's display case are any indication, there is a world class pastry chef on board this vessel. Had a slice of strawberry cheesecake that went beyond sinful, it was that good. Up to the Sun deck next, and then up a flight of stairs to the highest observation deck on the ship. I was expecting an arctic blast of wind to smack me in the face as I walked out of the enclosed area and onto the forward deck, but no. The Pacific Ocean looks as smooth as glass today and it is very warm. Judging from the pasty white bodies arranged on the deck chairs, passengers from colder climates were loving every minute of it. So did I, and it's one of the reasons I love living in California, even if it is the comparatively chilly Bay Area. You don't have to shovel sunshine. There were Navy ships in the area doing training excersizes, every now and then you could hear the very far off pop of artillery. A Navy fighter jet paid a visit on starboard side of the ship, slowing down (well, as much as possible for a jet), dipped his wings in a hello, then screamed off. Cool. Bing-Bong-Bing go the three tones on the public address system. It's time for the debarkation talk in the Blue Sapphire lounge. Time for another cranky human observation today: Why is there so much drama over picking somewhere to sit on this ship. I've never seen so many slack jawed stares of overloaded confusion in my life as I have in the faces of people trying to figure out where to perch. Just accept that no matter where you sit, five minutes later you're going to spot a better vantage point, and 10 seconds before you reach that new location someone will beat you to it. And for those of you who arrive to shows late, accept that there are no good seats left and stop whining loudly about it. No one cares, we're trying to enjoy the show, go argue with your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever out in the hallway. Sheesh. Oh no! It's Friday morning already? I don't wanna get off the ship! NOOOO! Oh well. What else can I say about the cruise that I haven't already typed? Two words: Express debarkation. As the cruise director Dana Hodson told us during the debarkation talk, Carnival has implemented a pilot program called express debarkation. If you can physically carry off all of your luggage without any type of help from Carnival -- and that means no use of luggage trolleys -- you can walk off the ship the moment that the first color luggage tag is called. Dana said that Carnival is testing this program out on a few ships the past month. I decided to try this out. After navigating a maze of elevators and corridors (some were sealed off by Customs), I made it up to the Empress deck, through the photo gallery and into a scene of complete chaos. Total gridlock with everyone who could carry their luggage waiting in three different lines, several alpha yuppie males bumping chests when they would cut each other off... what a mess. Took about 45 minutes to make it to Immigration. I suppose that's "express" but perhaps Carnival should refine this a little, the crowding and the near fist fights were not exactly a great way to end a vacation. Oh, and Customs and Immigration are dead serious about the no cell phone rule, two people broke out their little phones while waiting in line and they were promptly seized. The passengers were not happy about it, Customs could have cared less. If your conversations simply can't wait until you're down the escalator and out of the dome, well, you're taking a gamble and you'll probably lose. My own personal encounter with the Immigration officer was pleasant and straightforward. No problems. Since I was off the ship and through government security so quickly I decided to move up my trip home by one day. The Amtrak shuttle stop is a five-minute walk from the Carnival dome... I was home at 11:00PM on Friday. I had the vacation I wanted, if not the vacation I expected. I went away happy and that's all that matters. Read Less
Sail Date: July 2004
The ship is very old and has not been well kept. We had the most expensive room on the ship, as did my parents who were traveling in another suite. The suites were quite dirty around the jacuzzi, and my parents' jacuzzi did not work. ... Read More
The ship is very old and has not been well kept. We had the most expensive room on the ship, as did my parents who were traveling in another suite. The suites were quite dirty around the jacuzzi, and my parents' jacuzzi did not work. They called maintenance and they did get it working again. There was mold around the fans on the ceiling above the jacuzzi. The Blue Sapphire Lounge is not big enough for the whole ship, but they schedule nights where there is only one performance of the show. The whole ship needs serious renovations. The interior design is 70's and just looks shabby. The design of the deck where the 2 dining rooms can be found is just horrible. The 2 dining rooms are separated by the galley, but you cannot walk from one dining room to the other. You have to go down or up one deck to get to dining room. This means you have to plan carefully which elevator to use or you will find yourself going up and down stairs to find the dining room. The food was okay, but nowhere near the quality of Royal Caribbean or certainly not anywhere near Celebrity, which I feel is the best food on the seas. Great exercise room with indoor 2 indoor jacuzzis. We had VIP embarkation and debarkation which was very nice, but the embarkation was very long and drawn out even with VIP status. The one excellent feature of the ship is that you must click in and out of the ship with your sail and sign card, which has your picture embedded in it so as you place it in the reader, they can see that you are the person who belongs to card. Security is quite good. Don't like the idea that they confiscate any alcohol you bring on board from shore excursions, such as wine we bought on our tour. We also had a heck of a time finding cocktail waiters and waitresses in the public rooms. Never had that problem on other ships. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
This was our 9th cruise, 5th with Carnival. As a Christmas present to each other we decided on a weekend cruise instead of buying gifts, and after a two year absence from Carnival, we decided to go with them again. In the interim period we ... Read More
This was our 9th cruise, 5th with Carnival. As a Christmas present to each other we decided on a weekend cruise instead of buying gifts, and after a two year absence from Carnival, we decided to go with them again. In the interim period we have been a number of times with Royal Caribbean and Princess so inevitably there are going to be comparisons made. Let's be honest, every cruise line and every ship has their pros and cons. Before we get into the details, be assured that we had great fun and certainly had a most enjoyable time. Embarkation: As most of you already know, Carnival now have their own place at Long Beach next to the Queen Mary. Unfortunately, it's still a bit disorganized there and although we didn't have to wait too long to get onboard, there were plenty of long lines. Since we only booked on Christmas eve, we took a guaranteed outside room on the Riviera deck and upon arrival at Long beach were upgraded to the same category of room on the forward Empress deck. Our room was easy to find with the gangway leading straight on to the Empress Deck. The Ship: We dumped our carry-on stuff and started to explore the ship. It appeared to be identical to the Elation we had sailed on before but with a totally different dEcor. While the interior design of the Elation is certainly garish, it was still relatively easy on the eye, but I found most areas of this ship to be quite stark, and distinctly dated. The Panorama Bar & Grill lighting and dEcor was frightful with lighting that made me look like a Blue Man from the Las Vegas show of that name. It reminded me of a 50's Diner with the blue neon lighting and turquoise plastic seats! The blue theme did seem to permeate somewhat throughout the ship. Built in 1991, the ship is starting to show some signs of wear although it was clean. The main theater exhibits the same problem as the Elation with lots of view obstructing columns. There are plenty of bars, some with entertainment, and a lively Casino. Entertainment: We managed to view all the shows in the Blue Sapphire Theater and were very impressed with all the guest artists and the dancers. The late-night comedians were very funny with lots of audience participation, some of it by design and some of it not. We even went to see the talent show. I usually hate watching these uncomfortably embarrassing shows but this one was so expertly produced that it was very entertaining. They combined Karaoke singers with a mock American Idol competition including judges, one of them being deliberately and hysterically obnoxious! Food and Drink: Carnival's drinks are expensive. We bought a can of Bud and a can of Bud light that came to $7.49! From that point on we survived on our own private stock. (Don't ask - there are plenty of chat rooms on the Internet about that subject). Carnival's food is excellent and surpasses the quality of found on many so-called higher class cruise lines. Carnival even serve lobster on a 3 day cruise. I had the lobster followed by the softest prime rib I have tasted in a long time! Service: The service staff on this cruise all did their job professionally and efficiently. There could have been a little more effort to go the extra mile and be a little friendlier but I cannot fault the service except for the bar staff who could be a bit surly and terse at times (Maybe selling over-priced drinks sticks in their throats as well). Atmosphere: This is probably the only area that I felt was completely wrong. Could be I'm old fashioned but honestly, there really were a lot of scruffy and sometimes obnoxious individuals on board. On formal night I'm sure there were only about 3 men on board with tuxedos. People were turning up for the formal night dinner dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Although nobody got completely out of hand, there was a general rowdiness complete with the perennial drunken morons who shout and heckle during the shows. The Saturday night comedian did an excellent put-down of one of those pathetic individuals. Despite that we did meet some really nice people and made some new friends. Conclusion: There is so much to like about Carnival's ships and they certainly live up to the reputation of being fun ships but sorry Carnival, we're going back to Royal Caribbean only because you allow a complete lack of decorum on the 3-day cruises. I'm not suggesting you aspire to be like some of the other cruise lines that can be quite snobbish at times, but at least try harder to get your passengers a better sense of appropriate attire - it does make a difference to the overall experience. I am not alone in this assessment. I know of a few first time cruisers who were quite excited about going on this cruise expecting a certain degree of elegance only to be disappointed because of the general demeanor of the passengers. Read Less
Sail Date: March 2004
We just went on our first cruise on the Carnival Ecstacy on Mar 26/04. I did what I thought was a lot of research on this 3 day trip but I guess I didn't get all the info. I spoke with 2 carnival phone reps, who assured me that the ... Read More
We just went on our first cruise on the Carnival Ecstacy on Mar 26/04. I did what I thought was a lot of research on this 3 day trip but I guess I didn't get all the info. I spoke with 2 carnival phone reps, who assured me that the party rep. this boat had was from the old days, even some reviews led us to believe this to be true, wrong...... This boat is very definitely a party boat and it would seem Carnival does little to discourage it. I thought we may be in trouble when, upon embarkation, we saw 2 wedding groups, 3 stagettes, and countless high school/college singles. Don't get me wrong, we have no problem with parties, but when you feel like you are out of the loop at 40, they must be going hardcore. How about the first night when we arrived for our dinner dressed nicely, not overdressed, to find 2 large groups of kids near our table, dressed in tanks, shorts, sandals, and ball caps. A Carnival no-no according to my info. The staff did nothing about this, or the yelling and swearing, with the token f-bombs thrown in for good measure. these kids were very drunk, one actually passing out at the table, and yet, in an effort to maintain that profit margin, they continued to serve them booze. I never even saw them ask for I.D. as I'm sure most were under 21. This went on for all 3 nights, but I will give them credit for at least wearing pants on formal night. Overall food was good, most staff excellent, room steward great, room very comfy for a lower grade cabin. My big problem is with Carnival itself. From the phone operators to the cruise director giving the rah-rah speech about extra tipping and giving the boat a great rating, it all about the sale. Giving truthful info would have been appreciated, we probably still would have gone as we got a great deal, but we would have been prepared, rather than expecting the old love boat idea. Dress up for dinner, go dancing after ...... Being from Canada, we had no idea it was spring break down south, this could have been pointed out. Overall I would say we had a good time that could have been much better. we have travelled a lot at this time of year, to many different resorts, and I would still rate an all-inclusive as a much better deal. Carnival has to learn when to say when on the booze and parties, but if you have ever gone to their site and tried writing them, you'll find they make that pretty tough also, I guess no news is good news. I think we will try the cruise thing again, but with another cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2004
First off we had a lot of fun! The dining room service and food were excellent! The Panorama Grill although was not that great. The Camp carnival wasn't what we expected either. No where in the literature does it say a 12yr old can ... Read More
First off we had a lot of fun! The dining room service and food were excellent! The Panorama Grill although was not that great. The Camp carnival wasn't what we expected either. No where in the literature does it say a 12yr old can just check themselves in and out whenever they choose:( We would check our son in, only to see him moments later somewhere else;( That was big thumbs down!Also about the only thing they did with that age group was offer a disco ball and music:( Not real impressive to a 6th grade boy! Our other children were in the Juniors program which was just a glorified babysitter. They were NOT impressed. Our room steward was constantly outside our door and not invisible like on most ships. In fact, I think we only got two animals towels on 6 beds in four days:( That is is a big deal when traveling with kids and they see them in all the rooms while walking down the halls. The ship /volunteer type shows were so funny. The comedians and jugglers were exceptional. The ships dancers and singers were certainly not in the class to be entertaining for that many people. I've seen better! We always seem to read reviews about how run down and dirty the Ecstasy is. Personally, I never saw any messes and there was always someone working on something. Considering this boat really never stops, I think they do very well at keeping it clean. Since there were 6 of us we had to have two rooms. Thus we requested them next door to each other since we would have an adult in each room with 2 kids. Well, that worked out fine EXCEPT they assigned each room different muster stations for the lifeboat drills. Talk about stressful! And they would NOT change it even after pleading with them. I was terrified that if the kids were in daycare or we were off the ship my lone 8 yr old would be taken somewhere else if the need arose. SCARY! And certainly didn't make for a stressfree vacation. Another thing you might watch as we were given our bill the night before disembarkation, mysteriously our room steward had charges on there we did NOT make. The pursers office would not fix it:( Finally the room steward did. But watch your bills closely!The whole embarking and disembarking process went very smoothly as they really have this taken care of now since the last time we cruised. We enjoyed it and would certainly do it again...Although we would definitely pass up Camp Carnival, the 24 hour dining, and the Las Vegas type shows that were no better than watching a sorry cable channel, it is still a good value for the money! Read Less
Sail Date: September 2004
Ahhhhh!!!! Shucks!...It's over and I just wish someone would go to the Gourmet Grocery store down the block at 1AM, buy about 50 of everything and just lay it out for me....so I could pick out 1 or 2 items that would meet my late ... Read More
Ahhhhh!!!! Shucks!...It's over and I just wish someone would go to the Gourmet Grocery store down the block at 1AM, buy about 50 of everything and just lay it out for me....so I could pick out 1 or 2 items that would meet my late night desires to pig out! I just got back from the Carnival Ecstasy 4 Day Baja Cruise. It was my first cruise and having read all the reviews here and on a few other sites, I was expecting a shabby ship, shabby service, and honestly, was skeptical that this would not be the experience that I had hoped for.....ALAS....NOT TRUE. CONSIDERATION AND VERY EXTRA CARE: On our first night at sea, we lay several miles off Catalina Island and in the middle of the night while almost all of the ship was asleep, a passenger had a heart attack! The Captain knew that Medical Air Evac from Catalina Island costs an absolute fortune and opted, on the spot to simply turn the entire ship around and returned to Long Beach Harbour so that this person would be spared the cost and trauma of the EVAC....The passenger was immediately transported via ambulance to a Trauma Center in Long Beach and is now recovering nicely. Carnival didn't have to do this, in fact the return voyage cost thousands of dollars to the company, and the ship certainly had the infirmary capability to sustain this patient until Air Evac was arranged, however, this shows how caring these folks can be in an emergency and I applaud the Captain for this decision. The rest of the ship (except the very few who were awake at 4-5 AM had no knowledge about this incident, until it was announced at the farewell talk on Thursday night. In an emergency, this is how I would like to be treated! CARPETS: (I'd read a lot about them) - All clean and nice, on all decks ROOM SERVICE: - excellent and very fast - The 24 hour free room service was simply wonderful. Coffee each morning on the Larger than reported Balcony on my Suite V-17 Verandah Deck. Beds made each time I returned to my cabin- Turn down service with great little towel Animals, chocolate on the pillows...(AND 4 pillows on the Queen size bed instead of the expected skimpy 2 that I normally see. Baths were spacious and yes, I could reach down to get the soap without bouncing my hind quarters off the shower wall! BOARDING: - We had the VIP skippers club service and were checked in and on board in less than 15 minutes. PHOTOGRAPH SERVICE: The photographers were everywhere and the settings were great. One of my personal gripes about vacations is that when I travel with my wife, we end up with lots of pics of her, or me, and very few together...ECSTASY solved that problem for us....We have an entire album of great couples shots here for our memories....Cost is just a bit high but the quality of the photography is very good (I am also a photographer so I discriminate a lot here). SUITE: Spacious, Clean, and we could easily have slept 4 in our suite! STUFF TO DO: The Carnival Capers magazine was delivered each evening so we could plan the next days activities. Having been to Catalina Island several times before, I was a bit disappointed by my trip to the island and cut it short having seen this and done that before however the other guests did enjoy the tours. Using the Ships Tours was more expensive than if you just go it alone and explore. If I do this trip again, I will just stay on board and have a nice relaxing day on board instead. Loads of stuff for the Kids on board all day and night. MEALS: Well, what can I say. The service staff, waiters and assistants were always at our table, no waiting, moderately priced wines by ship standards, We had Lobster the first night and I asked for 2 dinners as I had heard the portions were a bit small....I couldn't eat 2 courses however....Very good. Filet Mignon, Lobster, Chateaubriand, Beef Wellington, Cocilles St. Jacques, All in all, a very well balanced and fulfilling menu (and I am also a gourmet cook)...Now, I do account for the fact that these folks are cooking for several thousand people so it is not quite up to 5 star standards but it was GREAT just the same. BOOZE: There is a bar on every corner it seems and the Drink of the day was a great buy for my group. I stayed pretty lit up for my entire cruise. DUTY FREE SHOPS: If you like buying high quality stuff like Louis 13th, Johnny Walker Blue Label, Don Julio Tequilla for about 60% off normal US Retail price, this is the place for you! Cigarettes at $20 per carton for the first carton then $15.00 for the next (In Tucson the current cost is at least $36.00/carton.....WOW. Nice selection of jewelry, knick knacks etc. at good prices too. CASINO: I won $460 starting with $50 in chips the first night of the cruise and Lost $100 the 2nd night so I didn't bother to visit the casino for the rest of the cruise....Lots of game choices but tough rules for Blackjack (no surrender) Some of the games are a bit tricky so ask about rules before you sit down if you are going to go for the big money here folks. A nice choice of games and descent slots as well....They seemed generous the first night and tougher on the subsequent nights. SHIP LAYOUT: Very easy to navigate, Elevators to all decks however after shows they are a bit slow. ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the "Vegas Style Shows" 3 out of the 4 nights and were not disappointed. Great booze, pretty girls, fairly good singers, OK Magic, Good comedians...definitely worth the time but arrive 15-25 mins early for front row seating. Bars: kareoke (hilarious), Teen club, Singles events, Disco (really fun).... FAVORITE SUNNING SPOT: I prefer to not hear the Regee Music on the Lido deck by the pool. I preferred the Stern of the ship next to the other pool looking out at the lovely ocean. The Bow observation deck was another great spot, GO up to the Sports deck if you like Star gazing at night...Its about the only dark spot on the ship at night. CRUISE DIRECTOR: Larry was informative and entertaining but he had a way of talking too much, especially at 8AM, and repeating himself that I found annoying on the loud speaker system....He could have waited until 9 or so, as it woke me up on 2 days of the trip (and of course, I had a hangover these days). ENSENADA TOUR: We opted for the La Bufadora and Winery Trip. Bufadora was nice but I could have used another hour of shopping time for those great Cuban Cigars and just to look around. The stop at the winery was Okay with the wine tasting, but not very informative or interesting. If I did this trip in the future, I would see Bufadora and pass on the winery trip....We visited Hussongs Cantina, the oldest structure in Ensenada, and had a FANTASTIC lunch at "Pappas and Beer"....it was really wild upstairs there however the outdoor seating allowed me to enjoy my Monte Cristo cigar and the waiters were funny as can be! My wife and I decided to stagger back to the ship which was about a 10 block walk in 90 degree heat....fun but a taxi might have been a better idea. TOPLESS DECK: Yep, they have one, (adults only) and it is scenic and relaxed. I had heard tales about this being a "Party Boat" but I didn't see anything out of normal descent taste. I think the party reputation is overstated. There were folks on the ship of all ages and lifestyles, adults, teens, kids etc and everyone seemed to have a nice time. TOUR AND SHIP STAFF: Everyone was just great, very helpful and they always had the answers I needed, (except at the pursers info window where I was misdirected several times) SUSHI ANYONE?: Not on Ecstasy however....They do have a "Sushi Bar" that is open from 5:30 till 8:30 but it's all rolls and no sashimi or true sushi at all....I was not pleased with this selection. Very Americanized and little good raw fish at all. My next cruise will definitely be LONGER as we always felt hurried to do this or go to that, and only one day at sea was not enough time to truly enjoy all that the ship had to offer. I will probably do an 8 day or longer next time. So, as a very discriminating first time cruiser, my overall grade of MS Ecstasy is WELL DONE... and I highly advise other first timers to take advantage of this kind of trip with Carnival. ecstasy is a great ship however and I would definitely cruise her again with no concerns. Good Cruising to you all! Paul Olson Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
I picked this short cruise as an early surprise for my mother's 80th birthday. She is unable to travel far by airplane and because she is raising grandchildren (my late sister's) our time was limited. The embarkation was a ... Read More
I picked this short cruise as an early surprise for my mother's 80th birthday. She is unable to travel far by airplane and because she is raising grandchildren (my late sister's) our time was limited. The embarkation was a breeze. I picked her up at LAX early Monday morning and we headed straight for Long Beach. We were at the terminal before the early cruise check-in opened. Once it opened, we did the early check-in and the off to wait until it was time for boarding. The wait, while long, was enjoyable. We talked to many people about our upcoming cruise and I also met with cruise critic pals Dianne and Terri. Once the wedding parties boarded, we were sent on our way. We were in the line for special needs. We were the first ones to board after the wedding parties. By 12:30, we were on the ship. The first thing we did was to check out if our room was ready and it was. We met our room steward, Handoko from Indonesia. Our cabin was decorated to celebrate my mother's birthday. The decorations and the cake were wonderful. The entire cruise was wonderful, enjoyable, and relaxing. We only attended one show (Hey Mambo). Since the last cruise I took my mother on two years ago, I have seen the aging really affecting her. She is not quite as active and she did spend a lot of time in the cabin relaxing. Since we had a room with a balcony, she could lie on the bed and watch the ocean. I think this cruise was the best medicine for her that money could buy. For an enjoyable cruise, she did not have to attend all activities or shows. It was time away from the daily grind and allowing herself to be pampered rather than the one who usually does the pampering. We had both visited the ports of Catalina and Ensenada previously. So, we choose to stay on the ship when it was in port. The ship was quiet and we almost had it all to ourselves. We were on this cruise for the cruise luxury itself, not the ports. The meals were very good, but not as fantastic as my recent (5/30/04) sailing on the Pride. I found myself comparing everything to the Pride. The Ecstasy is a beautiful, older lady. The Pride is a young lady. They really should not be compared. Our service in the dining room was fine. Our waiter and the assistant waiter were efficient with their job. But, they were not very animated or talkative. The Ecstasy has a small sushi bar on the Promenade deck that is open from 5:30- 8:30 each evening. I have never been one to like sushi, but I gave it a try and actually enjoyed it. As I recall, there were only four items to choose from at the sushi bar. Our room steward was fantastic. Every wish was our command. He filled the ice chest twice daily and brought us two Carnival Capers each night to read. I even asked him if it was possible to bring me a lounge chair from the pool area for on our balcony. The balcony is only 30 sq ft. While crowded, having the lounge chair on the balcony was wonderful. I was the only one who could lie in the sun and I did so for hours. My mother has to limit her time in the sun so the lounge chair did not inconvenience her. I spent hours in the sun and came back with a great tan. In each of my three trips on the Ecstasy, I've had a category 11 cabin on the verandah deck with a balcony. For me, the balcony is the only way to go. I enjoy the sun, without the crowd or the noise around the pool. I also like to walk out on the balcony to view the moon and stars at night and the sunrise in the morning. Debarkation was as simple as the embarkation. My mother had an early flight to return to Arizona, so we were in the first group off the ship. By 8:15am, we were in the car and on our way. I love this ship and would recommend her to anyone wishing to take a short cruise. She will be leaving Long Beach in September and after being refurbished, will be sailing out of Galveston. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2004
Pre-cruise -------------- We drove the 400 miles to Long Beach the day before our cruise. I couldn't bring myself to "throw caution to the wind and try to get a deal on Priceline" so I reserved a room at the Holiday Inn on ... Read More
Pre-cruise -------------- We drove the 400 miles to Long Beach the day before our cruise. I couldn't bring myself to "throw caution to the wind and try to get a deal on Priceline" so I reserved a room at the Holiday Inn on Atlantic. When I called, they offered a package that included "two king beds, free shuttle to and from the boat, and parking in their underground garage during the cruise." I called back the week before and confirmed our reservation and was told again that our room had two king beds. Then... we arrived and things got interesting fast. After seven hours in the car with my Darling Bride, Debora, and our two daughters, Amelia (6-yrs) and Natalie (3-yrs), I was ready to unload and begin our vacation. But, when I was checking in, the Desk Person told me that they were out of King beds. "But, I was told twice that's what I was getting" "We only have a couple of King rooms, they are assigned on an 'as available' basis." After a couple of moments of having her confirm that yes my reservation specifically said "2-king beds" and trying to explain that I never "asked" for them but was instead "told" multiple times, I asked to speak to a Manager. Now the real fun began. Turns out that EVERY manager was in a meeting and that there was NO way to reach them and that she had no idea where they were (they don't have their meetings in their own hotel) and she had no idea when somebody would be back. Meanwhile, she had no authority to do anything except put us in a room. Our first room had two twin beds. That was not going to work. I'm 6'4" tall. I haven't fit in a twin bed (even alone) since 7th Grade. The second room had one king bed. We had all the extra furniture removed and two roll-away beds brought in. Between the beds and the luggage, there wasn't an square-inch of floor visible. While Deb tried to figure out what we absolutely needed from our suitcases, I kept calling down to see if a Manager had returned. After an hour or so, we headed out to dinner. When we got back, we were told that a Manager had returned, left us a message in our room, and then headed out to get their own dinner. No, they had no idea when they would be back, but probably within another 30 minutes. We went back to our room to discover that there was no message. Over the next hour and a half, we bathed our kids and got them ready for bed. I kept calling every half-hour or so only to finally be told that they didn't actually know when (or even IF) the Manager was coming back but they were leaving lots of notes for them. At 10:00, I finally gave up for the night. The next day, stopped at the front desk on the way to breakfast. There still wasn't a Manager, but the Director of Sales was there. She said she was the "Acting Manager" today. I introduced myself and said "I'm the guy in 401 that you've seen all the notes about." Poor Andrea, she looked shocked and admitted that the previous staff had not left any notes. I told her the whole sad story and she asked me "what would you like us to do?" They have a Hospitality Pledge in the room that says that if you have a problem you should alert the Management... if they can't correct it then that portion of the stay is free. I asked her to honor the pledge and give the me room free for last night. She said "no problem" and started tapping away at the computer. At one point, she said she was having a little problem with the system and asked one of the desk guys to come over and enter a discount on my bill. When he asked her how much and she said 100%, he said "we don't give a 100% discount." She gave him a look that CLEARLY reminded him that one does not tell the Director of Sales what she can and can not give. So, from all this trouble, we got a free hotel stay (we were only there the one night before the cruise), free shuttle and free parking. One last word on the shuttle. I have now learned to ask HOW BIG the shuttle is. They were using a 7-person minivan. Not a good idea since that turns out to be one family at a time. We waited a good hour until it was our turn. Day 1 -- Long Beach ---------------------- We arrived at the Carnival terminal at noon. The "regular" line reached back towards the Queen Mary for an impressive distance. Luckily, we had reserved a suite so we got to use the special Skipper's Club line. At 12:45 they opened the doors to let us in. Unfortunately, they tried to put all us Skippers in one small room with only one reception desk. Right away we saw that this wasn't going to work; there wasn't enough room to form a line so we sort of bunched up in the cramped space and the very first person at the desk couldn't seem to get their paperwork in order. The rest of us slipped back out, zipped through the security check, and went to the regular check in desks. Fast and efficient service and we were off to get a picture taken and board the ship. We were at the door of cabin U75 by 1:30. What a room! We had a balcony suite. It included a walk-in closet, bathroom with a tub/shower, a KING bed, a big vanity, TV, VCR (I don't get this, were we expected to bring videos?), mini-fridge, two chairs, two little tables, and a sectional-style sofa that pulled out into a queen bed. The door to the balcony had a hook so we could latch it open. Out there were two chairs a table and a lounge. This was one POSH cabin. We always had plenty of room for the four of us to be in it together. Deb unpacked our clothes; eight drawers and a walk-in closet with three bars and a bunch of shelves made it easy. And all the empty bags went under the king bed. We also liked the ability to close the closet (it had a sliding door and a light inside). Next stop was the Sapphire Grill on the Lido deck to get some lunch. We also visited the Camp Carnival rooms. Nat and Amelia liked them right away. They were two big rooms at the back of the boat and were loaded with toys, games, and computers. Then we went back to the cabin to try and nap Natalie. Getting comfortable was no problem. There were three airconditioning vents so we could control the temperature with no problems. Also, the curtains were heavy enough to block all the sunlight from the big windows. Nat was tired, but too excited. It took us a good hour to get her down. After that, we realized that there was no way she was going to nap when her sister was around. We got up and read through all the extra information in our cabin while the girls explored the room. We explained the rules for the balcony: nobody stands on a chair, nobody goes out without first asking an adult, and Natalie (the 3yr-old) is NEVER allowed out there alone. Otherwise, the design of the balcony railing was perfectly safe and we didn't feel nervous having them out there at all and they loved the thrill of being out there. We got dressed and headed to our 6:15 dinner seating. Right off we changed tables. The family at our first one was nice, but they only had teen-age daughters and we were hoping for one with kids closer to our's ages. The Maitre'D found us a new table right away. It had three other kids and was perfect. Dinner the first night included lobster. Natalie ordered off the kid's menu each night, but Amelia was a "big kid" and used the adult menu (though she wasn't above stealing some of Nat's chicken nuggets). The lobster was a bit salty. I had the game hen and it was perfect. After dinner they had the Camp Carnival orientation. They introduced the counselors, had us fill out paperwork about each kid and then gave us pagers so they could reach us. They also explained that it was no problem to leave kids in Camp while we were in port; we just had to let them know that we would be off the boat. After the orientation, we followed the staff up to an ice-cream party. By the end of the evening, both kids were eager to try Camp the next day. We went back to our cabin and crashed. Day 2 -- Catalina -------------------- We are bad about getting up early while on vacation. We didn't wake up until after 9:00. We hurried to get ready and caught the tail-end of the breakfast buffet. We grabbed our "going ashore" stuff and headed down the stairs by 10:30. The line looked long for the tenders but we were off the ship by 11:00. It was a cool and overcast day. The girls needed sweaters most of the afternoon. We walked over to Island Rentals (under Holly Hill House) to see about getting a 4-person golf cart. These looked great since all four seats faced forward and they offered free booster-seats (Nat needed one). Just when we got to the line they announced that they had rented their last available cart and directed everyone to their nearest competitors. Everyone scattered. Luckily, while we were deciding which way to go someone returned one, so we got it. They gave us a map and we drove off. We stopped a couple of times along the way to enjoy the view or to look at interesting plants by the side of the road. We also took the detour up to the Botanical Gardens and walked all the way up to the Wrigley Memorial. The girls loved all the different plants and the great view. We returned the cart just before the 2-hour mark and walked around downtown Avalon looking for souvenirs and food. We ate at Luau Larry's in a sort of "cave room" that they had built by enclosing a table inside a fake tree. The kids loved it, the service was great, and the food was excellent. As we headed back to the tender dock, we ran into our dinner-tablemates. Their kids had been swimming all afternoon and playing on the little beach right by the dock. We walked right on to the tender at 3:00 and were back in our room by 3:20. Natalie climbed into bed for a nap and Amelia and I went to explore the ship. We had a very nice carrot cake ($2) from the Rolls Royce bakery, ate some pizza, played on the kids' play structure near the kids' pool, and went up to the track deck where we watched a very short volleyball game; on the second hit, the guy tried too hard, the ball went up high enough for the wind to catch it and push it over the side of the ship. It was fun to stand at the railing and watch it slowly float away. By then it was getting late. Amelia and I went back to our cabin to wake her sister and mother and to get dressed for formal night in the dinning room. My girls all looked great. Normally I would have worn my tux (yes I own one) but we had so many things going on just before leaving that we had to pack in a huge hurry and ended up just throwing anything we could think of in the suitcases. By the time I reached for the tux I already had too much stuff and didn't want to deal with figuring out what to remove so I tossed in a nice shirt and figured that would have to be acceptable enough. Dinner was very good again. The other kids at the table were so tired from their day in Catalina that they all fell asleep in their chairs. After dinner, we took the girls up to Camp Carnival. Deb and I were a bit confused about what to do now that we were without children. First stop was the casino where we lost $10 of our $20 into the slot machines. Then we wandered into the theater just in time for the start of their stage show "Hey, Mambo!" I had a couple of problems with this show. First, most of the songs were sung in Spanish (totally understandable given the theme, but it made it hard for me to "stay engaged"). Second, the male singer was the "whitest" blonde guy I've seen and he looked silly prancing around in huge puffy sleeves while doing some Cuban numbers. Finally, (and this is nobody's fault), I had to look through a curve in the plexiglass railing. Try this experiment at home, take a clear glass of water and hold it up in front of you at arm's length. Now watch somebody walk by while you position the top rim so it's right at their neck. If you do it right, their head will come off and appear to float in the air a couple of feet in front of their body. Now imagine watching a whole stage full of dancers like this. Otherwise, the show was fun and there was a breathtakingly beautiful ballet segment. Afterwards, we went to "rescue" our kids. Turns out they didn't really want to see us. Natalie had made a butterfly and Amelia had done a project where they made "turtles" and raced them. As we signed them out, they both asked when the could come back again. Our cabin steward had left two happy-face cookies for the girls and an elephant towel-animal on their bed. While we were waiting for the girls to fall asleep, Deb took a nice long bath and I discovered that our closet was big enough for me to sit on the floor, close the door, turn on the light, and read without bothering anybody. That evening the waves got to Amelia; she woke up in the middle of the night and was ill in the bathroom. I kept her on a low-dose of Dramamine the rest of the trip and she was fine. Day 3 -- Ensenada ----------------------- Once again, we slept late and caught the end of breakfast on the Lido Deck. We got back to our stateroom just as they were finishing cleaning it up. We grabbed our stuff and got out of their way. Just as we were leaving the girls thanked them for the towel animal. We got off the boat and decided to walk the short distance to the shopping district instead of taking the shuttle bus. We did splurge and take a 30-minute carriage ride once we got there. Deb and I sat in back and both girls got to sit up front with the driver; they loved it. We spent a couple of hours shopping. Nothing major, mostly trinkets for the girls. We started to get hungry and I was fed up with how pushy the street-vendors were so we made our way back to the boat. A quick lunch and it was nap time for Natalie again. Amelia wanted to get to Camp Carnival since they were doing cake decorating. I went up on deck and read for an hour before going back for Amelia. She and I sat by the pool for a while sharing some deserts and talking. When we got back to the cabin, Natalie was very upset that Amelia got to go to Camp Carnival and she didn't. She made us promise that she could go after dinner. I swear, I've never seen my girls eat so quickly. They didn't even want desert. So we took them back and then used the time to do laundry and enjoy our suite. Later, we got the girls, gave them a bath, put them in pajamas and took them back for the slumber party that started at 10:00 and went until 2:00am. Deb and I had a couple of drinks and then watched the, very funny, "adult" comedy show at midnight. When we picked up the girls, Amelia was sound asleep snuggled up in blankets and a pillows they provided but Natalie was still playing and having the time of her life. In our cabin, we found another towel-animal; it was some kind of sea-creature that looked like a cross between a shark and a lobster. The kids loved it because they had used the big beach towels and it covered the king-sized bed. Day 4 -- Day at Sea ---------------------- It was finally time for the boat to start heading home. We all noticed the difference in the ship's motion right away; the North-ward trip results in more motion. But it was still not bad. This morning we didn't even try to get to breakfast. It was almost 11:00 when we woke up so we ordered room service. They came in no time at all. The girls enjoyed the balcony and watched an aircraft carrier for a while. Then (more food) we headed up for lunch. Afterwards, the girls played in the kids' pool for a couple of hours. We ran into our table-mates there, chatted for a while, and just enjoyed the clear hot day. Amelia went to Camp Carnival again and learned all about animal camouflage while I napped Natalie. Deb went to the spa for a massage and some other stuff. She said it would have been nice except for the fact that the massage room in on the top deck and right in the front of the ship. There was too much motion there for her to really relax. We got Amelia back for a little and then both girls went to Camp Carnival for the "end of cruise" activities; they had a dinner for the kids, then they gave them Carnival t-shirts to color, and had a party. They even did face painting on the older kids. Amelia got a great cat-face put on. When we went to pick them up, they were bursting with stuff to show us and tell us. Our great steward finished up the week with yet another towel-animal. We had a monkey hanging from our VCR that evening. We ordered a late-snack from room service while the kids soaked in the tub and we packed our bags and put them out for pick-up. Day 5 -- Long Beach and Post-cruise ----------------------------------------- The early breakfast on the last morning nearly caught us. Deb didn't even try to make it. The girls and I got there as they were taking the food away. We still grabbed enough and made a plate to take back for Deb. Our color (green) was called at 9:30 as we were eating. We wandered back to the room and collected Deb and the rest of our luggage. It took us almost no time to get off the boat, clear Customs, and get our bags. We ended up spending more time waiting for the shuttle back to the hotel to get our car. Somebody took our Sorceror Mickey ball off our car while we were enjoying our cruise. This gave me the "excuse" I needed to take the family to Downtown Disney for lunch and a little shopping. We walked right in to the Rainforest Cafe at noon. They thought they were being nice by putting us right under the Gorilla, but Natalie FREAKED and we asked for a table as far away from creatures as possible. We had a great time and spent a bit of money in the shop afterward. Then we started walking towards World of Disney. We kept getting sucked in to a lot of cool shops. My beloved even found a great spider hat for her Halloween costume and some cool clothes for our "just us" trip to Couples, Negril in Jamaica in December. We finally made it to World of Disney and picked-up some antenna balls (love the pirate one) and even splurged on the big Cinderella Castle. Here's where the Disney "Magic" really showed up. As we were heading back to the car, we stopped at the restrooms. It was so nice to walk in and see a clean facility fully stocked with soap and paper towels. I finished first since both kids insisted they wanted to go in "with Momma." As I sat on the planter benches, I watched some doofus get up from another one and leave a cup behind. No more than 30 seconds later a cast member came by, picked it up, dropped it in one of the EIGHT trash cans I could see from where I was sitting, and even looked inside the can to see if it was getting full. Pristine order was restored. We ended the day by checking into the Radisson Hotel at Knott's Berry Farm (where we would go the next day) and spending the evening visiting with my good friend Val, who I've known since the first day of Kindergarten, and her wonderful family. So to sum it all up: 1. Suites are cool 2. Balconies are a "must have" from now on 3. Camp Carnival gets 4 thumbs-up (two from each kid) 4. The Holiday Inn, Long Beach needs some Manager retraining and a bigger shuttle 5. Deb has the "cruise bug" and hopes the Pride of Aloha turns out well because she want to do a Hawaiian cruise next year. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2004
Having read the numerous negative reviews about this ship, I felt I needed to add something positive. Rather than calling it a fun ship, it more properly might be termed a party ship. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th wedding ... Read More
Having read the numerous negative reviews about this ship, I felt I needed to add something positive. Rather than calling it a fun ship, it more properly might be termed a party ship. My wife and I were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary, and we found ways to celebrate from one end of the ship to the other. I feel that this is one of the easier ships to find your way about than some of the other ships that I have been on. Dining room service was great, and our cabin steward was all but invisible, but our stateroom was always made up each time we returned. The food in the dining room was wonderful. It was no problem for our waiter if we asked for seconds on our entrees, or even two completely different dinners. Also, we were given a private table so my wife and I could just enjoy each others company. There was always something going on that entertained us even to the wee hours of the morning. A favorite of mine was Karaoke. Just fun people. For us at least, the slot machines in the casino paid off pretty well. The ship was very clean, the only exception being a lot of empty beer cans on the main pool deck. I had read complaints about cigarette smell on the ship, but unless very close to a smoker I did not notice that. Shopping in Ensenada was less high pressure than of the Mexican port we have visited. Also, the merchandise started at lower prices. We went horseback riding in the hills for an hour and a half. I believe that this shore excursion is a Carnival exclusive in Ensenada, and well worth the $55.00 per person cost. Ensenada is a much more Americanized city than the more southerly Mexican Riviera cities that are visited by the cruise lines. I would think for a young married couple without children, or single folks that this is a great cruise value. I would not take my children on this cruise, nothing against the ship or the cruise line, however many of the passengers seemed to not care if their language might be offensive to others. I would not wish to expose my children to this. I probably have other info to share, and would be most happy to respond to any question that you might have about this ship. Thanks, JIM Read Less
Carnival Ecstasy Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.0
Dining 3.5 3.7
Entertainment 4.0 3.7
Public Rooms 4.0 3.9
Fitness Recreation 3.5 3.7
Family 3.5 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.5 3.7
Enrichment 2.5 3.3
Service 4.5 4.1
Value For Money 5.0 3.9
Rates N/A 4.3

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