To begin, my wife and I have been on 4 Carnival cruises and 1 Royal Caribbean. This was our first "short" cruise, having only done 7 day previously. We had been on the Ecstasy when the ship was only 2 years old and doing the ... Read More
To begin, my wife and I have been on 4 Carnival cruises and 1 Royal Caribbean. This was our first "short" cruise, having only done 7 day previously. We had been on the Ecstasy when the ship was only 2 years old and doing the Eastern Caribbean. In fact, she was Carnival's newest fun ship. Boy, how fast times change. This ship has a tendency to have a lot of partying and small children, so beware if this bothers you. We were fortunate to pick a weekend that had neither one! EMBARKATION We were fortunate enough to book a category 12 suite (thanks MBNA VISA) and went straight to the Skipper's Club lounge. We were checked in and our Sign n' Sail card activated. We were then escorted by a Carnival representative, right by all the crowds, to a private elevator. We had our photo taken and the rep obtained our room keys. He led us straight to our suite. Total embarkation time: 8 minutes. STATEROOM/SUITE We could see by the open cabin doors that the rooms had received new bedding and curtains. Goodbye to the black fabrics! Our suite was spacious, although nothing compared to the suites on the newer ships. 2 twin beds converted to a king (a little disappointing). There was a walk in closet, good-sized bathroom with whirlpool tub (broken). We had a refrigerator and bar area located near the large sectional sofa and sitting area. The balcony was a decent size with 2 upright and 1 lounging chair. The overhead light on the balcony was broken but did not spoil our nights out there. The cabins need some sprucing up in terms of dEcor but were well kept, overall. The grout in the bathroom seemed dingy and in my opinion, cruiselines should utilize easy to clean Formica or fiberglass in the future. The bathrooms in the suites were not as large as expected. Due to the whirlpool tub, anyone over 5 ft 8 inches will have to bend over to shower. My head almost reached the ceiling and I'm barely 5 ft 7 inches! FOOD The quality of food had greatly increased since our last Carnival cruise in 1996. We had begun to tire of the same menus each time and were pleasantly surprised to find Lobster tail the first evening (a first on any of our cruises). There were no chicken dishes from which to choose, oddly enough. The pizzeria, located in the Panorama Grill, had delicious pizza and fabulous chicken Caesar salad, but be prepared to wait awhile. The new Rolls Royce Cafe located along the promenade offers gourmet sweets (the Chocolate Ganache and dipped Strawberries are to die for) and cappuccino (very good). They do charge for this cafe but the cost is minimal and worth every penny. The food in the Panorama grill for lunch has also greatly improved. Hamburgers, hotdogs and french fries are still usual fare but carving stations for turkey, roast beef and roast pork have also been added. The Panorama Grill has also added a nacho bar with all the fixings. Of course, the salad bar is well stocked, for those who can't go without it! The midnight buffets are "condensed" and somewhat less extravagant than on the 7-day voyages. I've never found the food on any cruise to be memorable at the midnight buffet. It's more about presentation. We were very disappointed not to find Chocolate Decadence, a must on any Carnival cruise, for dessert. I guess the guests on the longer cruises ate it all. For those of you who see it on a menu, GET IT. You will cruise just for that alone! SERVICE This is one area, which I feel Carnival needs to improve. Gone are the waiters who remember your likes and dislikes and who cater to your every whim. Our waiter brought us the dessert of the night and when asked about a dessert menu (they're not on the regular menu anymore), he rattled off what was available. Others around us got their dessert menus, but alas, not us. He seemed "put out." Taking the dessert menu off the dinner menu must be a cost cutting approach for Carnival. Maybe people will simply settle for the Baked Alaska or Cherries Jubilee, which seem to have been wasted in the past. The room steward was probably the worst we've ever had. The room was always clean, but nothing more. Dirty glasses stayed on the coffee table; napkins and sugar packets were dropped on the balcony and left there. Robes, supposedly a benefit of a suite, were not there when we arrived. We had to call and ask for them. He/she (don't know, we never met them!!) also insisted on putting the beds back together each day. This meant going through the trouble of moving the end table each time. Because of my wife's birthday, I called the Bon Voyage department and had the suite decorated and a cake waiting ($32.00). We also got 2 very nice key chains. The cake was HORRIBLE. It looked wonderful but the gourmet, white icing tasted more like wallpaper paste (possibly Marzipan). We thought the cake may have been bad so we saw the Head Waiter (in charge of the Bon Voyage dept.) and complained. He seemed a little bothered and said the cakes were fresh. He did send us another, but it was a duplicate and we chose not to eat it. We were hoping for something chocolate. I have found that the service is proportionate to the age of the ship. When the Ecstasy was new, the service was spectacular. Our waiter, Babu, told us he and most of the others were going to the new ship (the Sensation in 1993) along with the then Cruise Director, John Heald. I've noticed that John is usually on the new ships on their inaugural sailings. Our service on the Holiday in 1995 was a step down, the Festivale in 1996 a bit worse and the Ecstasy this time, worse still. Don't get me wrong, the service was still better than most restaurants on land, but there's definitely a correlation. PUBLIC AREAS I felt that the public areas and decks were well kept for a ship nearly 10 years old. Carpeting was a little worn but not ragged and upholstery seemed new in some areas. The familiar smoke smell seemed to have been "removed" since my last cruise. This may be due to the limited smoking areas now. Decks could have used some "sprucing" up but were nowhere as bad as I had heard. The Grand Atrium at night is still my favorite. I could stand there all-night and just stare. What a sight! The overall dEcor is a little "scary" during the day and almost retro 60's, but at night, it all makes sense. The Blue Sapphire Lounge is very nice at night and provides a perfect venue for the great shows. The rotating stage is a nice touch. The pool areas were somewhat crowded, but nothing to complain about. We never had a problem finding deck chairs as long as we were on deck by 12:00. Usually you have to be there at 8:00 to get a chair. My wife was extremely disappointed as the water in the "hot" tub was ice cold. ENTERTAINMENT Peter Gibbs was the cruise director and did a nice job; however, my favorite has, and will probably always be John Heald. The main show, Oba Oba du Caribe was titled the same as we had seen 7 years ago but was NOT the same show. The vocalists, costumes, special effects and dancers were wonderful! Carnival certainly has cornered the market on Las Vegas style shows and this is what outweighed any cons there were. The expected Bed Time Story was the same and I have grown tired of it as well as the Ten Dumbest Questions Ever Asked, but for first time cruisers, they seem to be crowd pleasers. The Late Night comedians were funny, but certainly not worthy of HBO or Comedy Central. EXCURSIONS There were many from which to choose, however, we picked the Blue Lagoon tour. It offered a 45 minute boat ride to Blue Lagoon Island (only 1 rum punch pp). Upon arrival, you could snorkel or swim with the Dolphins. We chose to hit the beach and stretch out. The Big Red Boat also had passengers on the island so privacy was impossible. The BRB even had a complimentary buffet for their passengers (Carnival, are you listening?). Pack a lunch from the ship as hamburgers are $5.50 each, with no fries or drink. If you enjoy just swimming and laying out, skip the tours and take a taxi or water taxi downtown to a local beach or hotel. Save yourself a lot of money. PORT OF CALL Nassau was the only port of call for this cruise and having been there twice in the past, our expectations were low. Nassau has added several piers to accommodate numerous ships at one time. We used to dock right on the main street but this time, we were several piers out. The Disney Magic, The Big Red Boat, The Sovereign of the Seas and a Holland America ship were all docked in a row. Nassau has also started to revamp the downtown area. The view, which was once dreary, is now alive with colorful buildings, terminals and walkways. A definite improvement and nice surprise. The ship is usually in port for a full 24 hours, so there's plenty of time for shopping, beaches AND some nightlife at the Atlantis resort casino on Paradise Island. CASINO Carnival does have some of the largest casinos at sea and we never felt crowded or had difficulty finding my wife a slot machine or myself a seat at the blackjack table. Winnings were decent, but certainly did not pay for the cruise! DEBARKATION If you are fortunate enough to have an early flight, you get to disembark earlier than other passengers. If your flight is 12:00 noon or before out of Miami and 1:00 or before out of Ft. Lauderdale. We had a 12:15 out of Ft. Lauderdale and were VERY nervous about getting home on time to see our little ones. We obtained special luggage tags from the Purser's Desk (be prepared to show your airline tickets!). They called the early flights first and we found ourselves at the airport by 11:00. Overall, I would cruise Carnival again if the price were right. Dollar for dollar, Royal Caribbean has my vote but Carnival offers a great cruise experience and also offers the choices of a fun filled or relaxing getaway. I recommend Carnival to my friends and relatives and have heard nothing but praise. Read Less
This is my really long review of the Ecstasy Voyage on Jan 20th, 2003. It was a 4-day cruise to Ensenada and Catalina. It seems that every time I'm on this ship, they do something different, so I'll give you my opinion of how I ... Read More
This is my really long review of the Ecstasy Voyage on Jan 20th, 2003. It was a 4-day cruise to Ensenada and Catalina. It seems that every time I'm on this ship, they do something different, so I'll give you my opinion of how I felt things went. I feel I'm brave for writing this review, so don't flame me for having an opinion! For starters, I sailed with my mom and we had a great time and will sail Carnival again. We booked an OV guarantee, but used the Kelley method to find our cabin - and we were assigned U197. So woohoo, this is a two category upgrade! My dad dropped us off at the pier. We arrived approximately at Noon, just before the tour busses arrived. It took about 30 minutes to stand in line and check in. Definitely get passports. It made things so much easier. This ship is an older ship, so you get both sign and sail cards and room keys. This time was different, because we were then told to go through the terminal to the other side and wait for our boarding group to be called. I've never done it this way before, but the room was full and they began boarding shortly after we arrived. It took us about another 30 minutes to get onto the ship because we had to walk through the metal detectors, then outside, then we got our picture taken, then we walked up the stairs, then walked to the WAY BACK of this long line. Once we got up in the line to where we saw the top of the stairs, we saw many people cutting into line, and there was no Carnival/Security employee there to make sure this doesn't happen. But the passengers weren't too angry with that, but many did voice an opinion that this needs to be fixed (along with many things on the ship). Anyone know when the last time was that this ship went to Dry-dock? Ok, we get onboard, and since I knew where our room was (and my way around this ship), we didn't have any trouble finding our room. When we walked down the hallway, it looked as if there had been a parade going through our hallway. The carpet was absolutely filthy. It was supposed to be orange/red, but it was dark brown (and only in the center/traffic area). We wondered if all decks were like this. We explored later and found that it was only on deck 6 (upper deck). Note: We didn't go looking for carpet stains, ok ........ my mom is taking this ship on the Bare Necessities Cruise on Feb 28th, and her room is on the Main deck. She wanted to find her room. Once we found her room, we saw that the main deck is decorated in blue and the carpet looks great. We wondered why the Upper deck hasn't been cleaned since the war of 1812. Mom joked that the Ecstasy gave its carpet-cleaning machine to the Elation! Anyhow, ok so then we go to the Lido deck and find that there were a normal number of seagulls visiting us. There also was a patient Carnival employee trying to chase them away with a broomstick. It seems that this was her only job (as rudely pointed out by her superior in front of EVERYONE in the Panorama restaurant). The turkey was so good, so juicy and tender. We actually weren't very hungry, but went back for seconds. At the Blue Grille, the neon sign is falling apart. It's the B in Blue. At first it was blinking. Then it just stopped working, then it fell off! LOL, I hope it wasn't during a busy time! It took a really long time for our luggage to get to us. The last piece arrived just before 7 pm. So again, this was a first, as it's never taken that long for all of our pieces to get to us. Also, we smuggled liquor and soda on board and made our own drinks. Some people do, some people don't. We do! The first night we weren't hungry for dinner so we didn't go. We were also a little upset at the fact that if we wanted late seating dinner that night that we'd miss the game shows and activities going on around the ship. So we opted to skip the dining room the first night, but then shared a room service sandwich later. I've had good experiences with room service before, but this time it was great! They said they needed 20 minutes, but were there in 5! We gave them an extra tip. We also asked for menus to be delivered because, like, there were NO menus in our room! How were we supposed to know what to choose from? Sigh. Oh, by the way, this has happened before! Our Cruise Director was Matt Ross. Naren and I nicknamed him "Sir Talks-a-lot" when we sailed the Ecstasy on Dec 27th. Well, Matt was still on board and was still as "Talky" as usual. He's a good first time cruiser CD, but if you've sailed before, he just talks way too much! For example, he was explaining that there were booths selling stuff on the Atlantic deck. He could've just said that the gold and silver was beautiful and that we should check it out. Instead, he proceeded to describe each type of chain, and the benefits of this type versus the others. Sigh. Matt, shhhhhhh! In our room, we met Oscar, our room steward. He was friendly and attentive, but his memory wasn't too good. We asked for and he brought for us; extra blankets, extra pillows and didn't touch the air conditioner upon request. We also asked for the safe key, but ½ way through our voyage, the key wouldn't come out of the keyhole. Even though maintenance crews came in and WD-40'd the keyhole, it still didn't come out. Sigh. (On the last night before leaving for dinner, we asked Oscar to remove this himself while cleaning, as we literally couldn't remove the key. He forgot to do so - then woke us up the next morning to get the key out! He admitted he'd forgotten to remove it!) Sigh Sigh. Oscar made the cutest little animals for us. One night it was a creature holding a mint. He was a good steward, but didn't vacuum the floor ½ way through the voyage. It would've been nice because our Formal Night outfits left specks of glitter ALL OVER our room! It was also ALL OVER the bathroom! The next day in Catalina, we saw how many of the tours were leaving first thing in the morning. We thought that since we have to tender into the island that we'd wait till mid morning to get off of the ship, therefore - avoiding the lines to get off the ship. We arrived at 8 a.m., and would leave at 4 p.m. At 11 a.m. that morning, Mom and I saw that there was a 2-hour wait to get off of the ship! Then, we heard from the purser's desk that the line at Catalina to get back onto the ship was 1 hour long! We then decided that we wouldn't get off of the ship. We played cards instead. Being from Southern California, we have been to Catalina many times before, but STILL! For those families that had never been there, why should there be a 2-hour wait? This DEFINITELY went on our comment card! The weather was really beautiful that day, and we talked with many people who had a great day. I'm glad they got out and enjoyed it! That night was formal night. I'm glad we had late seating because it took a long time for my hair to dry, and it was nice to watch the sunset through our VERY DIRTY WINDOW! It's like we paid for a window we couldn't see out of. Incidentally, when Naren and I sailed on this ship in December, we also couldn't see out of our window. At the end of the December sailing, we wrote on our comment card that they needed cleaning, but apparently the crew needs longer than 3 weeks to clean that many windows. The dancing show that night was good, but I felt that the crowd didn't totally appreciate the fact that these people were dancing for them. The bend-y Russian couple was GREAT! I swear she doesn't have a spine! Anyhow, the crowd really wasn't very enthusiastic for the dancers or comedians. I guess I was the only one who felt they actually deserved more than they got! The ship didn't rock very much. The worst of the sea moving was when we were coming into Ensenada at 6:00 in the morning. The ketchup bottles actually slid off the tables in the Panorama bar and grill. Wednesday we were in Ensenada. The weather was PERFECT! It wasn't too sunny, or cloudy, or windy, or anything. It was mild 70s with perfect conditions for any tour. Mom and I didn't have any specific ideas for what we wanted to do, so we get off of the ship, and there are people doing Bufadora/Shopping/Lunch tours for $13 each/adult. This is compared to the Bufadora/Shopping/Cultural Center tour provided by the ship for $27. So apparently, there are cheaper ways to see Ensenada. Our tour guide, Andrea was the cutest little thing, very nice, informative and a great guide. We went to the Bufadora, the tide was great, the Bufadora buffed, and it made for great pictures. Don't forget your sunglasses! On the way home, we stopped at a roadside stand and got Pineapple Tamales for $.70 each. They were really good, but some people on the bus didn't like them too much! I feel that our tour took us to many more places to go, see, and do than the tour operated by the Ship, and it was cheaper! I got Naren many little things but I can't say here (in case he's reading this!). Our Tour guide, Andrea said that the little kids that beg aren't poor. The parents choose to live that way. The kids can go to school and get jobs, but the parents opt to sit on the street and beg for money. The money doesn't go to the kids and the families. It actually goes to their pimp, and in exchange they get food. The kids aren't homeless, they just look like they are - for the sympathy factor. She said she understands that it's heartbreaking to see them looking like that, so if you want to help them, give them candy or food, not money. Then maybe they'll actually go to school. At dinner, we had the 8:30 seating. Yes, we were still awake at 8:30, but we took naps each day to be able to stay awake during all hours of the night. Our assistant waiter was by far the best asst. waiter I've had EVER! His name was Vladimir, and he was from Slovakia. The other waiter was from South India, but I couldn't read his nametag. He was good, but didn't hold a candle to Vladimir! Our food was good. I had mainly chicken/diet dishes. I had a bite of Mom's steaks though. The lobster was good. The Chateaubriand really was tough, and the New York steak wasn't very tender either. Both had good flavor, but not too tender. The Jerk Chicken, Turkey Dinner, Pasta dishes, fruit soups, and Salmon were all fantastic. The best dinner was the giant prawns. I had 2 ½ dinners. Shhhh don't tell! A few times I had pizza on the Lido deck and that was really good too. The "make your own salads" were really a good thing, but they didn't have a sandwich bar. So I had to make my own sandwiches out of lunchmeat and rolls. The Jerk Pork was way too dry. Not even the gravy could help it. I had even met up with Rhona, who I met through the Message Boards here at Cruise Critic. Before sailing, we emailed back and forth about the different areas of the Ecstasy. Her and her family were having a great time, and it was nice to catch up with them. They were really nice. In our off hours, we played at the Casino. We even entered the slot tournament, but didn't get into the second round. We didn't win a damn thing at the Casino either. However, Naren had won $180 in that casino when sailing last December. So, I guess it's really a matter of luck. We also played the $750 bingo game, and were 1 number away from winning! Sigh. We even rubbed ourselves for good luck. We still didn't win. Bijo, a friendly casino staff member was really nice. It was good to meet him. He was from South India (Kerala). In our wanderings around the ship we also found that the port side Atrium elevator was still broken (from the December trip), and the Bingo board was also broken. On the Lido deck, port side, the women's restroom doors also had an interesting time shutting. You wouldn't think they actually shut. It was strange. From Wednesday onward, the card room (next to the Men's Restroom) also smelled like a line from the bathroom broke into that room. It smelled like someone went to the bathroom in the card room! Ugh, that was gross, we couldn't stay in there! Also, the library's hours and game selection are limited, so if you like a particular game, you'd better bring it! The purser's desk will actually give you two decks of Ship Cards, so that's cool! Overall, the ship needs to be "spring cleaned". There are always people cleaning the food eating areas and handrails, but they forget to clean "all" of the ship it seems. The Blue Sapphire lounge was also really dirty and we couldn't figure out why, because the crew has plenty of opportunity. We had a great time, and made our own fun, so we will sail again. We just feel that if we're going to pay money to go on a vacation, that the "resort" be kept clean. This was not the case on the Ecstasy. I hope that when you sail on her again, the ship will be cleaner for your enjoyment. April 2003 Read Less
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We cruised the 4-day from Los Angeles on 2/10/03. The cruise was pretty much what we expected from Carnival - the Burger King of cruise lines. We hate the smell of cigarette smoke, so we have to flee from many areas of the ship. We were ... Read More
We cruised the 4-day from Los Angeles on 2/10/03. The cruise was pretty much what we expected from Carnival - the Burger King of cruise lines. We hate the smell of cigarette smoke, so we have to flee from many areas of the ship. We were hoping for a good deal on the Drink of the Day, but that item costs $6.25. Ridiculous. On the QE2, the two specials of the day are nice cocktails for $3.75 either. We weren't expecting much from the dining experience, and didn't get it. The food is very institutional, and made in large quantities and held at the ready. I was crammed in with strangers, and the serving was rushed. On different nights the waiters sang O Sole Mio; Hot, Hot, Hot; and the Macarena. Please jettison the Macarena. It caused pain to everyone I observed. The biggest travesty was the news that Carnival will no longer serve the traditional flamed desserts. Our waiter got us all to order the Cherries Jubilee on the third night, and then informed us upon serving that Carnival will no longer flame the desserts. Ostensibly this is because an anonymous, litigious passenger got flaming goo in the lap. I am more willing to believe that Carnival is using this as a cost-cutting measure. You can save a lot of money in flammable liqueur by not flaming. We were served a dab of vanilla ice cream with some canned cherry over. As a tablemate remarked, there was nothing jubilant about it. The fourth night, our waiter brought out the baked Alaska, and the story was the same. Yet he expected everyone to eat the Alaska. That same night, he totally forgot to serve me one of the courses I had ordered, and I said nothing, because it wasn't worth it. So, pluses: The room on the veranda deck was to our liking. We spent much time relaxing there. The cruise director was talented, and he conducted entertaining passenger-involvement skits. The shows were elaborate and good. Minuses: A loud, rude crowd of passengers, too much cigarette smell, drinks over-priced, over-stressed service staff, too much emphasis on buy, buy, buy, something or other. Conclusion: For our next third cruise we'll try Royal Caribbean. April 2003 Read Less
Background- This was my 4th cruise, 2nd on Carnival and my husband Chuck's 3rd cruise, 1st on Carnival... It was a surprise birthday gift for Chuck and he didn't know he was going on a cruise until the morning of sailing... ... Read More
Background- This was my 4th cruise, 2nd on Carnival and my husband Chuck's 3rd cruise, 1st on Carnival... It was a surprise birthday gift for Chuck and he didn't know he was going on a cruise until the morning of sailing... I am 41 and Chuck turned 55 during the cruise... Pre-cruise hotel- We stayed at the Sheraton Biscayne Bay for 2 nights... The room was clean, but we had to call housekeeping to replace a lamp and 2 light bulbs... The pool was small, but not crowded... The restaurant was empty, but the food was ok. We were able to check in for the cruise with Carnival on the morning of sailing, which saved a lot of time at the pier. Embarkation- Since we checked in with Carnival at the hotel, we were amongst the first to board the ship... We arrived at the pier at about 11:30am and were allowed onboard at 12:30, just after the keys were delivered to the embarkation area. Cabin- Our cabin was on the Empress deck, just behind the international information desk. It was a good location, midship and easy to get to... When we first got in, the cabin was clean although there was no amenities basket as Carnival promises and we couldn't find the room steward to put the beds together until hours later. There were 2 robes hanging in the closet, soap and glasses in the medicine cabinet. The room is a nice size, with one open closet, two with doors and shelves inside one, and a desk with 4 drawers... plenty of storage space... The safe in the cabin was small, square shaped, and required a key which we got from the cabin steward... There is no hairdryer and only one outlet. Service- Our waiter, Jesus from the Philippines, and our asst. waiter, Balina from Bulgaria, were fantastic... They were there when we needed them, did not flinch when we made a special request, and our wine was at our table each night waiting for us... Our room steward, Diego, was an elderly gentleman who should retire... He was slow, did not speak much English, and seemed to pass all his work on to his assistant... When we asked why we didn't have an amenities basket, he said that there were none on the ship... After talking to the purser's desk, we were told that there WERE *some* on the ship, but we had to ask our steward for it... When we asked Diego once again, he said he would ask his supervisor... We didn't see him again until the last morning of the cruise. Dining Room- We were seated at a table for 8, next to a window, in the Wind Star dining room... The Head Waiter came to our table the first night and introduced himself, but we didn't see him again until the last night (Chuck's birthday AND tip night).. . As I said previously, our service was flawless and I will tell you about the food in another section... All of our tablemates had purchased the cruise through the same online auction that we used, and all but 2 were from the same state as us... Our tablemates consisted of a mother and daughter from Indiana, a gentleman (my age) and his friend, a couple, probably in their early 30s, and us, all from the Chicago area... The couple came to dinner on the first two nights, and then none of us saw them after that... We don't know if they switched tables or just didn't eat in the dining room. Pool area- We had no trouble finding lounge chairs at the pool, plenty were available. I was disappointed though that there was no live band on deck as I had on the Imagination last April... There was a DJ and occasionally a live steel drum with background music... The daily activities were the usual, horse races, trivia, ice carving demonstration, and of course, the hairy chest contest. Food- Skip this if you don't want details... I'm a foodie, so it mattered to me... Chuck and I ate in the dining room for all dinners, one lunch, and 3 out of 4 breakfasts... the other times, we ate on Lido deck... Breakfast in the dining room- same menu every day... the lox was delicious and hand cut, the omelettes were hot, but the eggs Benedict were very dry. On Lido deck, the eggs were ok, the coffee was strong, but the bacon was great... Lunch in the dining room- I had only a California roll appetizer and chilled avocado soup... both were very good and all I missed were the chopsticks... Chuck had a burger with guacamole, grilled onions and bacon, and it was excellent... On the Lido deck, we had pizza twice, with Caesar salad, which was wonderful, but another day we opted for the buffet, which was just fair... Dinner- I love dinner... we were not afraid to order multiple appetizers and main courses, and we did. Here is a little rundown of what we had and what we thought of it... Appetizers- Mussels and shrimp gratinee, great- duck breast with liver mousse, ok- crab cocktail, more like a crab salad, eh- grilled portabella mushroom, delicious- gazpacho, spicy but good- cream of wild mushroom soup, wonderful-shrimp cocktail, puny but tasty- lobster bisque, to die for-escargot, deeeeeeeelicious-french onion soup, standard- hickory smoked salmon, yummy-broccoli cheddar soup, not Wisconsin... Entrees-Beef Wellington, tasty but tough for tenderloin- Rack of Lamb, perfect- Seafood Newburg, very good- Lobster tail, couldn't have been better- Prime rib, perfection- Grilled shrimp, huge and garlicky (yummmm)-Sirloin steak with 3 peppercorn sauce, very tasty- Veal Parmesan, tender and delicious- Chateaubriand, once again, tasty, but tough for tenderloin- Sea Bass with citrus vinigarette, tasty but not hot- Pork tenderloin medallions with Porcini Sabayon, yummy but on the dry side, a bit overcooked... Desserts- The Grand Marnier Souffle was the best, everything else was ok... I did have a cheese plate one night, with a glass of port, and I think that was my favorite. Debarkation- We were among the first group to get off the ship and our luggage was easy to find. Debarkation started at about 10am and we were off in less than 15 minutes. Overall- We had a great time as we went onboard with the attitude that any cruise is better than being at home... Since I had just been on Imagination 5 months prior, I was unable to avoid comparisons... Imagination was a better cruise for several reasons... I had better room steward service, the food was a bit better (although I liked the variety better on this cruise), I missed having a live band on the Lido deck, and something seemed to be lacking here... I can't quite put my finger on it though... We had the usual baby crying nearby one morning, a very nasty argument in the cabin next to us on the last morning, and one night, we heard kids running down the hallway... These are all things that I believe can happen on any cruise... As a positive, there were not many kids on this sailing and the ones that were there were out of sight/ out of mind... The weather was great except for a cloudy day in Cozumel, and the only shore excursion we took was a tour of SoBe after the cruise to kill time for our late flight out of FL... We met some people from online on the first day of the cruise, which was nice, and we ran in to them a lot during our trip... I was disappointed that Carnival advertises amenities baskets and does not provide them (not a big deal, but don't tell people they are gonna get something they're not gonna get). Would I do it again??? If I were to do a 4 day again, I might choose another ship (Imagination), but yeah, I would do it again on Ecstasy too... It was a great relaxing vacation and I can't think of a better way to spend my time... We're taking our 4 kids on Triumph in 3 months, and I can't wait : ) I know they will have a blast!09/11/00 Read Less
This was my wife's and my 3rd cruise this year and our 4th overall. We had sailed Holland America and Royal Caribbean in suites earlier this year. This trip we decided to take along our 2 children, 15-year old boy and 12-year old ... Read More
This was my wife's and my 3rd cruise this year and our 4th overall. We had sailed Holland America and Royal Caribbean in suites earlier this year. This trip we decided to take along our 2 children, 15-year old boy and 12-year old girl. Embarkation was a breeze. We had to pickup our tickets at the dock and the agent gave them to my wife without even asking for my airline ID or verification letter. We had gotten our tickets through an airline employee travel agency. The whole process took about a half hour and we were on the ship by 1 PM. We had 2 rooms on the Empress desk, just down the hall from the sofa area. Great place for the kids to hang out! We got the kids their soda cards and looked at the teen room, then had a light lunch. The lifeboat drill, to me at least, is a joke. Why Carnival has everyone meet in a large muster station and then proceed in an orderly fashion to a lifeboat is beyond me. This isn't going to happen in a true emergency. I had read about the lack of organization in the Teen program and found that true. My daughter makes friends easily, but my son needs a more structured introduction period. Not to fault the program too much, but there were a lot of the teens traveling together. There was a dance team onboard for a special program and they tended to stay together. My son and I were able to spend quality time together when he wasn't hanging around with his friends. In Catalina, my son and I went on the nature kayak trip. A lot cheaper if you just rent the kayaks at the beach yourself, and if the weather is too cold, you can cancel. Ensenada is Ensenada. My wife found great deals on back to school clothes at Quicksilver. And what a coincidence, The store is right next to Papas and Beer. It seems the more I drank the more I said Yes to new clothes. The food. We found the food to be of better quality than what we had on the Enchantment of the Seas in June. We had a table of 8 and although we usually got our food hot, we also ran behind the other tables. Service was good, but I think that our waiter needed to hustle along a little quicker. The room service menu stinks!!! Cold sandwiches are about all you can get. My wife ordered a BLT with extra bacon and was told that all sandwiches were pre made, so she ordered 4. My daughter got a very bad migraine on the formal night prior to dinner and the head waiter was able to arrange room service with the dining room food. That was a plus. Our room was right below the Neon Bar and we had a lot of noise. The hallway noise wasn't that much, but the doors let in a lot of it. We experienced a loud rumbling noise in the middle of the night. It sounded like a washing machine right above our heads. We notified the front desk and they said it could be the stabilizers in motion. I don't think that they would only be working at night, but the staff E-mailed the fleet captain about it anyway. If we were on the 7th deck I'm sure others below us would have had it much worse. We received a 15% off on our next cruise for the noise problem. We found that to be very nice of them. We enjoyed the Curveball brothers in the Chinatown bar, but were very disappointed when they changed over to Karaoke night coming out of Ensenada. This being the late night as the next day is the sleep in and recover day. These 2 guys played good 70-80s type rock music and not your typical disco type music. One more thing about the food, the pizza was very strange in that it had no tomato sauce on it. Just crust and cheese and some meat. Disembarkation was fairly easy, no announcement about the color, just someone letting everyone know it was time to go. The bags were easy to find. We had vowed no more Carnival, but after the 15% off coupon and some research we may take another cruise on them. Besides the Viking Serenade, which we've done, Carnival is the only one in town out of LA AUGUST 2001 Read Less
General views First I should state that the travel agent who booked this cruise for us cautioned us against booking on Carnival as she felt that we might find that the party atmosphere was more than we might enjoy. I can say now ... Read More
General views First I should state that the travel agent who booked this cruise for us cautioned us against booking on Carnival as she felt that we might find that the party atmosphere was more than we might enjoy. I can say now that we should have taken her advice. Not because of the party atmosphere but for numerous other reasons. Below is a blow-by-blow account of what we like to refer to as the cruise from hell. OK, it wasn't that bad. We flew from Seattle to LAX on Monday morning with no major hassles. We were met by the Carnival folks at the airport who efficiently got us on buses to the ship where we didn't have to stand in line for too long before we were allowed on the ship. Embarkation was handled very well. From there on, just about everything was downhill. You should know that we had cruised before to Alaska with Holland America on the Westerdam, which is owned by the same parent company as Carnival. I will use that as a comparison for this cruise. What a difference! Upon boarding the Ecstasy, we found our cabin (slightly bigger than on Holland America) and as our luggage had not yet arrived we went to have lunch in the Panorama Grille. More about the food below. The first sign that this would be a bad experience was the lifeboat drill. All passengers were informed that there would be a lifeboat drill at 4:30 PM (the ship was set to sail at 5:30). Much was made of the fact that there would be no smoking or drinking at the drill and that we were to proceed to our muster stations at that time. Upon arriving at the muster station we found that the members of the crew who were supposed to be running the drill were not willing to take any initiative in controlling the groups. We were about halfway back from the crew members (part of the Cruise Director's staff) making the presentation and giving directions of what to do in case of emergency but we could not hear a word that was said due to the party that was going on behind us. Numerous passengers were already inebriated and many had drinks in their hands the entire time. On Holland America, roll was called to make sure that all aboard were in attendance and a crew member checked each and every life jacket to make sure that we knew what we were to do in event of an emergency. On the Ecstasy, I may as well have stayed in my cabin. No one would have known or cared and I would have known just as much as I know now as I could still not tell you what was said during the drill. It was just window dressing for the Coast Guard. This is totally unacceptable in our post 9/11 world. Dinner on the first night was good but it would have been nice if it had been a little later or at least the ship had embarked earlier. Many of us at the early seating wanted to see the ship leave port but as it did not get underway until after 5:30 and since we had to be in the dining room at 5:45 we basically missed it. Food When we first boarded the ship we were hungry after flying for 5 hours. The ship advertised that they had 24-hour pizza available and that sounded good to me. Right up until I ate it-cold. From the pizza guy's hand to my hand and sitting at a table in the dining room took all of 90 seconds and in that time, it was cold. Shades of things to come. This was not the only case of cold food. The first full day out of LA we decided to have breakfast in the dining room where we could order what we wanted and have it served to us at our table as opposed to the buffet upstairs. Everything we ordered that morning (with the exception of some very weak coffee-you can get espresso but you have to ask for it, it is not on the menu) was cold. I ordered eggs benedict, which should have been singular as they brought me one very overdone poached egg on a cold English muffin with a congealed hollandaise sauce on it. The sauce literally looked like a candy coating when you cut into the egg. I had also ordered toast, which came cold as well. Dinners in the dining room most nights were mediocre. The first night was the best and the appetizers and desserts seem to be the best part of any dinner. High marks to the escargot and the Grand Marnier soufflE. The folks at our table ordered a variety of main courses during the week and no one ever seemed to be very impressed. As an example the lobster I had on the second night out was one tough lobster who had been in one too many fights. My wife had the pork that night which she found very dried out. FYI: On a four day cruise there is one formal night, the second one out and the rest of the nights are classified as "casually elegant." None of this is enforced as even on the formal night there were people at our table in khakis and Izod shirts. We ate the rest of our breakfasts and lunches in the Panorama Grille and the omelets were not bad but the lunches left much to be desired. Service On Holland America we had been dazzled by the service. From our asst. waiter in the dining room to our cabin steward, every minute the staff was at our beck and call. On the Ecstasy, it almost seemed like the staff was doing us a favor to wait on us. It is sad to say that the best service we got all week was from the man who made our omelets on the buffet line. Two incidents come to mind. The first was that fact that each night our waiter would tell us tales of woe about how poor the working condition on the ship were, how little money he made, how he hated his job. Made us feel really good about spending money on the cruise and we always felt like he was angling for a bigger tip. The second situation kept happening all week long with our cabin steward. Whenever he would service our cabin he would just make himself at home. We always found the TV tuned to the Spanish language channel (and many times it was left on) when we returned from dinner or breakfast. And many times our personal things had been moved around even though they did not need to be. The final straw was the third night when we brought another couple from our dining table down to look at pictures we had purchased. When we entered the cabin, it was very evident that he had just left and had used our cabin's bathroom to defecate. The toilet was dirty and the smell was overpowering. I am sorry and I don't want to sound like an snob, but this is wrong. Needless to say we could not invite our friends in and had to turn on our fan and just get out of there. Shore Trips I really want to find something good to say about this cruise so here it is. The shore stops were great. Catalina on the first day was very nice. We were tendered in early and were able to walk around the village, shop a little and then take a semi-submersible ride to see the underwater fish and their habitat. Beware if you take this tour. The pre-tour publicity says that you will be able to feed the fish. What they don't tell you is that it costs you $1.00 per time you feed them. Some folks spent $20+ dollars feeding the fish. What a racket. But Catalina was nice. In Ensenada we took the Shopping and Winery tour. It was very nice, the guide was good and we got an air conditioned bus ride around the town, a tour of some historic buildings, the offer of as many free margaritas as we could drink (at 10:00 am?) and a very nice winery tour complete with wine tasting (at 11:00 am?). We then spent the rest of the day shopping and eating and drinking in Ensenada. We can highly recommend lunch at Los Brisos. Really good food and huge margaritas. Don't worry about the Montezuma's revenge thing as long as you eat in a restaurant as by law they have to serve ice that is made from purified water. Besides, there is so much tequila in the margaritas that it would probably kill any germs or bacteria. Entertainment and Activities The third day was "Fun Day at Sea." What a waste. Partly due to the weather (cloudy and cool) but the real problem was a lack of any real activities or entertainment. If you don't gamble, drink excessively or play bingo, you are just about out of luck. There was much more to do on the two "Fun Days at Sea" on the Holland America cruise. And don't plan on too much evening entertainment if you are an early riser/early sleeper. On two of the four nights the only shows on board started at 10:30 PM. Considering we had arisen at 3:30 AM to catch the plane to get to the ship, it was impossible for us to stay up for the show on the first night that started at 10:45. Other shows we would love to have seen that week started at midnight or later. Not our cup of tea but if it is yours, you'll be fine. The shows themselves were Vegas style reviews, comedians and a juggler. The reviews were pretty bad by Vegas standards and even though they had larger casts and band than the Holland America ship we had been on before, they were of much poorer quality. The comedian was OK and the juggler was a joke. I think he performed for a whole 15 minutes. We stayed up late for that? There were, however, two dancers who were part of the reviews who were outstanding. They did Cirque de Solei type dance and acrobatics and were astounding but don't expect them to last too long on this ship as they are a lot better than anyone else and will probably move on to a better gig. The Worst Part That about covers the cruise right up until we got to what my wife and I call our "worst travel day ever!" During the disembarkation talk on the day before we arrived in LA our cruise director (who spoke very fast and sometimes unintelligibly with a cockney accent) received a note that he read to us that informed him that "Upon arrival in LA, all passengers would have to be check by the INS (prior to this cruise only foreign born national were checked by INS and we sailed in March 2002) before anyone could disembark." He told the group, "This won't be a problem." And it wasn't -- for him. For everyone else, it was a nightmare!They decided to set up the 6 INS agents who would check the passports of the 2000+ passengers in a small lounge at one end of the ship. They then announced that everyone should get in line at a specific time and wait to present their papers. And then everyone associated with the ship disappeared (except for the Vegas review dancers, dressed in sport coats who hardly spoke English who were seen running around doing nothing.) There were times when we felt very unsafe and that no one was in control of any situation. People would cut in the very long line and others would threaten them and yell at them with fist fights almost breaking out a number of times. No one from the crew was anywhere in sight. The lines grew so big that people were lined up in stairwells and even though we were docked at the pier at this point, if there had been a fire, surely many would have perished as there was no way to get through the huge crowd. After we got through the INS part of the line (2+hours) we were told to wait in a lounge to be escorted off the ship after the INS inspection was done. The lounge we were directed to wait in had an occupancy sign that read a maximum occupancy of 100. I personally counted more than 160 people in that lounge. Not only was it crowded but there were people sitting in the doorways and again if there had been a fire or emergency, the consequences would have been horrific. We were in a group that had early (prior to 1:00 PM ) flights from LAX. The majority of the folks in that group (about 100) missed their flights as the advertised time of disembarkation of the ship in LA was 8:30 AM and we were finally allowed off at 11:00 am. And we were in the first group off. Many of those folks ended up paying huge sums of money (which I am not sure if they can get Carnival to cover) to change their flights. We fully realized that the INS inspection was not the fault of the Ecstasy crew but we were appalled at how they handled (or did not handle) it. No supervision, no direction, no communication, no nothing from 7:45 in the morning until 11:00 AM when someone from the crew finally came to lead us off. We felt totally unsafe throughout. I want to also note that the area we were waiting in on line and after were designated non-smoking but since no one was there to tell people they could not smoke, they lit up anyway. Being highly allergic to smoke meant I got a whopping headache that took hours to go away. I should say that since we had a 12:50 PM flight, we did make our plane but just barely with a lot of help from the security people at LAX. We do feel though that we will do our best to avoid LAX at any cost when flying into LA. Normally going to that area we fly into Ontario or Orange County, much better airports line and crowd wise. To sum all this up, yes, we will cruise again but NEVER on Carnival. Not because of the party atmosphere but because of their lack of supervision and that for the first time in years of traveling, I actually felt unsafe. res0h52d@verizon.netMarch 2002 Read Less
Just returned from the Nov 20th 4 day Ecstasy Cruise. There was some good and some bad, but overall it was a great trip. Here are some of my thoughts on the cruise, the ship and the ports. ... Read More
Just returned from the Nov 20th 4 day Ecstasy Cruise. There was some good and some bad, but overall it was a great trip. Here are some of my thoughts on the cruise, the ship and the ports. Let's start with the good. I had a great 4-night trip! I thought the 4-night might be a bit of a waste of time since it was so short, but it really felt more like a 7-day cruise compressed down! The timing of the ports is great and gives you time to rest and enjoy the ports. Crew is friendly, but not overtly so like on other trips, so while my room was clean and food served well, no new cruise "buddies" among the staff. One exception was our assistant server Julia, who was great, and always said hi when I bumped into her in the Lido restaurant. Had a massage in the spa. I normally wouldn't bother; massages on the cruise ships feel like nothing to those of us who have had a professional therapeutic message. But Lenka on Ecstasy was trained as a physical therapist in the Czech Republic and was fantastic. I pulled my back the night before cruise so bad I thought I may not be able to go on the trip, and Lenka really helped me out. The Manager at the Spa was also very friendly and greeted me by name after the first night every time I went to the Spa to relax in the really hot hot-tub (It's the red one, blissfully free of children) or to stretch and work out a bit (was being really gentle due to the back). The cake was great in the Rolls Royce Cafe ($2 slice was reasonable and worth it)! Lobster was served one night in the main dining rooms. Lisa Gay and the Thrills (Blues/Jazz group) were incredible. Capt. Mike did and OK job with the Jimmy Buffet songs. If the "Adagio" team is in the main show, go see them, they are incredible. The "Dream Voyage" show (2nd production show) was good but saw it last year on Paradise (warning, one scene is a tad erotic and maybe not quite suitable for children. Overall, the decor of the ship was not as overwhelming as I feared it would be, but not nearly as nice as the Paradise last year (and don't give the excuse that the Ecstasy is an old ship, it's been in dry-dock twice in the past three years with plenty of chances for major changes like they just did on the Fantasy)! Now for the not so good re: the ship. Lots of soiled carpet in the hallways by the cabins. My room had an exposed screw holding up the a/c vent. Doors between the promenade and both the Stripes Disco and the Chinatown Lounge were missing with Caution tape over the hinges. Food was only OK, and sometimes poor in the Lido. (Paradise was a lot better .) The Ecstasy dancers must have been new because they really couldn't get it together. The guys especially were all over the place. The "Ubo Ubo du Caribe" show was bad, mainly because of the dancers. Hopefully with practice they will get better. B In Key West I just walked around. Was sunny but cool and very windy. Went to the "Ship Wreck" museum in Mallory Square, was kinda tacky though the view from the tower was good. You have to take a tram or bus (free) from the dock into town, lots of them and no real hassle. Like I said there was a lot to see, could have walked around all day but ran out of time. Nice and clean, kinda reminded me of New Orleans a bit! Will have to go back someday. In Cozumel, went to Chankannab, and it's really as good as everyone says, worth the $10 to get in. No one really hassles you there which is really different then Playa de Sol where you run the gauntlet between the cabs and the beach. Great for snorkeling, though the rocky shore and no shallow areas makes swimming tough. Beach is up behind the rocks, nice and clean and sandy. There is a small shallow (up to 4 foot) sandy beach area with mostly younger children swimming Was there late so I saw the trainers working with the dolphins. Went back to the ship for a (bad) meal in the Lido, and then off to Carlos and Charlie's. C&C is a lot of fun, a bit like a Frat Party where everyone is invited and no one has attitude! Don't go if you're prim and proper or easily shocked! (a kid was there with a video camera and has enough blackmail material on his parents for a lifetime!) Seemed to be busiest up to 5 pm (when the first of the 6 ships in port leave) according to my tablemates. I was there from 8:30 until 10:10 and it was pretty good (yes, I was drunk by the time I left!). Easily made it bad to the ship by the 10:30 deadline. Last day was at sea and a good chance to relax and rest. Skipped most of the organized activities for a deck chair and some sun. I've cruised enough not rush debarkation. Talked to my Room Steward and left bags in room until after late seating breakfast. Had to be up early anyway, I am Canadian and had to go to Immigration at 7:15 AM. We were a little late getting into port so again I didn't rush at all. Got early debarkation tags the day before (I think purchasing the airport transfer at the same time really helped get those tags) Was on the bus to airport by 10:20 and in Fort Lauderdale Airport in plenty of time for my 12:30 flight. Word of advice, If you bring only carry on's or rolling cases, no need to check bags at the port for the ship, and no need to get bags out by midnight on the last night. Just make sure you can carry your bags because you may be using stairs for a flight or two on debarkation. A cruise is all about who you meet, and I found two great groups of cruise friends to hang with (I was traveling alone) They really made all the difference. It's easy to overlook a broken door and soiled carpet when you're having fun. So I'd definitely do a short cruise again, and will likely be on Carnival again. Of course Carnival isn't perfect, but a great value for what I paid! Ecstasy is not as nice (decor, food, etc) as Paradise was last year, but nothing really bad. Here's hoping the old lady gets a thorough upgrade soon to bring her more in line with the new Carnival ships.12/02/00 Read Less
For the last eight years my wife and I have been spending New Year's Eve with two other couples on the Viking Serenade going down to Ensanada and back. One of our group is now widowed but happily for us, also goes along. Since Royal ... Read More
For the last eight years my wife and I have been spending New Year's Eve with two other couples on the Viking Serenade going down to Ensanada and back. One of our group is now widowed but happily for us, also goes along. Since Royal Caribbean no longer goes there and chose not to replace the ship on that trip, we took the Carnival Ecstasy. The following is our experience and thoughts. Embarkation: In the past we took outside cabins only. This year we all decided to splurge and go for three mini-suites. A pleasant surprise was, that by doing so, we received priority boarding at the "Skippers Club." It took no more than ten minutes. Our friends had a minor problem when one of the Carnival hostesses said she had never heard of the "Skippers Club" and another pointed to the wrong place. They too were soon on their way though. Looking at the line the rest of the passengers were in, I'm sure their comments wouldn't be the same. Walking through security, the baggage check, and the interminable walk to the ship, took longer than waiting in line. This also included dragging our carry on bag up two flights of stairs. No escalator. Our widowed friend told us that she was unable to find a porter, and carried her bags on board, for her the walk was very difficult. The line seemed endless. One jarring note. A woman using a cane as she entered the terminal, asked where the elevator was. We could see a pleasant gentleman in a "Carnival Uniform," send her happily on her way, via an elevator located outside of the security check area. So much for safety. Cabin Steward and Suite: Our cabin steward was pleasant whenever we saw him and did an excellent job of cleaning our room. However, we have been on approximately twenty cruises and none of us could ever remember our cabin attendant not introducing himself prior to sailing, and at least showing us the amenities in the cabin, and make believe he cared. This was our first cruise on this ship. We didn't know that you had to stand on the bed to adjust the cooling knob located on the ceiling. We didn't even know there was a cooling knob. We didn't know that the mirror on the dressing table, was also a door to the cabinet which held our door hangars, TV station list, room service menu, etc., or that the trash can in the bathroom was secured to the bottom of the sink, or that the refrigerator had a wrap around door that hid it when not in use. He did come when called, and answered the questions that we asked, and only that. We all excitedly passed each new discovery on via phone. The brochure advertised "in room movies." Again most ships I've been on have four films showing per day, this one seemed to have the same two every day. I was amazed that it was still possible to find films that we'd never heard of before. One time the daily newsletter advertised "Movie on Big Screen 1:00 PM!" but didn't say what it was. They must have been embarrassed. Food: This is always the most talked of cruise item and was no different here. The first night was pretty scary. The Rack of Lamb was drier than California in fire season, nothing else had much taste, The second and third nights were much better, but the fourth night was the same as the first. All the portions were small. My wife ordered two lobster tails on the third night, and when I kidded her, she told me that she thought if she ordered two, she might be able to see them. The breakfast and lunch portions were so small they were laughable, though you could get more just by asking, so it was no big deal. You could hide the corned beef hash under a dollar coin. That's a fact. They attempted a Sushi dish with Wasabe sauce that was so hard, the soy sauce wouldn't melt it. We gave up on the dining room and had breakfast at the Lido buffet. It tasted about the same as the Dining Room, but had more variety. The midnight buffet was only for people who had either missed dinner or were somewhat masochistic. The Wait Staff: The servers were very efficient, but with the exception of our assistant server, Kromena, not warm. This is not important if the service is prompt and it was, but maybe we're spoiled because on other cruises they are usually efficient and fun. Could it be because tipping is on your bill now instead of in envelopes? We all tipped Kromena extra but that was it. The Head Waiter was among the missing also, only coming by the third night for a hello, to hopefully get a tip as his doesn't go on the bill. Despite Carnival's impassioned pleas, tips are for service, and he wasn't giving any. Nor did he get. New Year's Eve: That was a blast. Carnival closed all the public rooms and sent everyone to the tenth deck. We thought that would be nothing but a mob. We were wrong. It was exciting to be with that many people and there was plenty of room. Casino: Casinos on cruise ships are not considered passenger friendly, and this one was no exception. If you play slot machines you would be better off to just give them a $50.00 bill and save the pain. The slots are much tighter than in Las Vegas and the video poker machines, which are controlled by the size of the pay out of winning hands, were the worst I've ever seen. There isn't a machine in Nevada with worse odds. Of course some people win. Some people win the lottery too, but not many. Stick to table games. The odds are still not in your favor, but you've got a fighting chance. Entertainment: After the first night I thought we were doomed. The cruise director, Greg Hunter I believe, played a game with eight members of the audience. The introduction of the eight took longer than the show. By the time the comedian came on, many people had left. However, the comedians were funny, and the two nights of dance spectaculars were exciting. We thought it was great. Purser: Are there any pleasant people working in Pursers offices? There may be some who aren't rude, I just don't remember any! They left me on hold for 12 minutes when I called to ask a question, and when I mentioned it, all I got was a pause, and a "What is your question?" Our friend got double billed for his bottle of water, and when he asked them to take it off the bill ($3.25) they told him they would do it only if the Cabin Attendant said it was true. I guess three mini-suites doesn't equate to the seriousness of perhaps being conned out of a bottle of water. Compared to some other trips, they were almost pleasant. It must be a disease. Debarkation: Really good. We never were off by 9:30 AM before. Overall: The cruise and the service overall, were disappointing. The ship is very pretty, but not well taken care of. While we saw a lot of painting going on in spots, the windows in the public rooms looked like they hadn't been cleaned since the inaugural cruise. The bars for the most part, were either noisy or smoky, and when we found a quiet room to play games, (the card room of course) they kept throwing us out for private parties. Come back to Los Angeles Royal Caribbean, we miss you! March 2003 Read Less
Embarkation: Can you believe it I missed my flight from Newark to Miami at 7:15 AM! Newark airport traffic was a nightmare and by the time I parked my car hopped the shuttle, etc., it was too late. Well, no problem, Continental ... Read More
Embarkation: Can you believe it I missed my flight from Newark to Miami at 7:15 AM! Newark airport traffic was a nightmare and by the time I parked my car hopped the shuttle, etc., it was too late. Well, no problem, Continental just put me on the 9 am flight. (No charge flight was not full) Arrived in Miami about 12:30 PM snagged a cab and hit the pier about 1 PM. As soon as the cabbie opened the trunk and pulled out my suitcase there was someone from the port to load it into one of those big yellow cages and off it went. Arrived at the cabin around 3 PM. I walked into the terminal building through security they X-ray your bags just like the airport and got into the queue to check in. The line moved pretty quickly and I was in my cabin by 1:45 PM. On the way in to the ship they snap your photo. It was the only photo I ever found later in the galley and I looked horrible. Needless to say I did not buy it. Even though I have been on Fantasy Class ships before it took a little getting used to Carnivals cabin numbering scheme. One I remembered it getting to and from the cabin was no problem. Carnival has toned down the embarkation a lot. There was no sail away ceremony, no Kathie Lee singing anymore (thankfully) and since there were no other Carnival ships in port no yelling contests. One thing I liked was that the lifeboat drill was before we sailed which allowed me to watch the ship sail out of Miami while sipping the drink special. I do not drink until after the drill. Overall embarkation set the tone of the cruise It was much quieter than my previous Carnival Cruises (Imagination 1996, Sensation 1997). More like my 1998 Monarch of the Seas cruise. The Ship: Decor & Condition The ship had a New York theme to it. Very bright and glitzy. It was all decorated in the Grand Atrium for Christmas yet it was not overdone. Being Jewish I appreciated that. The entire ship was clean and in good ship shape except for lift #3 which kept taking forever to close. Carnival acknowledged the need to repair it. FOOD: Outstanding much improved over 3 years ago! Had the New Zealand rack of Lamb, the first night, Lobster Tail the second night (was in port the third night skipped dinner) and Chateau Briand (SP?) the third night. Our Waiter Zolton was outstanding and the assistant waiter Dae very good. Both were very friendly and attentive. They remembered my name after the first night. Zolton even came up to me in Cozumel to say hello. I didn't recognize him out of uniform. The head waiter was also very attentive. They all earned above average tips and by default so did the Maitre'd. My table mates were pleasant although it was obvious that were not going to be lifelong friends. I ate breakfast in the dining room once. I try to enjoy at least one "formal" breakfast at sea. Had orange juice French toast and coffee. Ate the rest of my meals in the Panorama Restaurant or outside on the Lido Deck food was very good but I have a few minor quibbles. First, hot dogs and hamburgers were only grilled outside not on the inside lines. All lines should have them. Second, why can't Carnival provide cafeteria trays? I saw many people juggling multiple dishes on their arms. Third, Carnival's scrambled eggs were runny. I think they are fake. The pizza is still the best I have ever had. Carnival is famous for its 24-hour pizza. Bar Service was excellent. I noticed that the drink prices have gone up about 10% since my last Carnival cruise three years ago. To their credit the bar hops are much less pushy then they used to be especially on the pool deck. CABIN: For a single person on a 4-day cruise my cabin (inside.E185) was spacious. Much more storage room then I need. The Ecstasy has old-fashioned cabin safes with keys that you must return or be charged $40. The Cabin Steward's name was Celia. His service was outstanding. The room was kept spotlessly clean and he picked up and organized whatever clutter I had. My ice bucket was always full. However had only one towel animal made (Larry the Lobster). I even tried leaving towels around to get more animals no such luck. :( Carnival did provide something new this time. A goodie basket with various samples (razor blades shampoo's candy, etc.) but it was mostly geared toward a female. Still I did use the disposable BIC Men's Razor. On the last night Celia emptied the contents of the basket into a bag so I could take it home. ENTERTAINMENT: This was the one area where I was disappointed. I think Carnival really short changed this cruise. For example there was no deck band only a DJ playing music on the deck. Also there was no rock band like The Curve Ball Brothers on this cruise. I really missed these elements. There were two comedians on board both in my opinion were OK not great like Happy Cole was a few years ago on The Sensation. The first show "Ubo Ubo de Caribe" was OK, The second show "Dream Voyage" was much better. There was the usual disco called Stripes which mostly played music not to my taste like rap and such. Also the cigarette smoke was overwhelming in there. Was in there for the singles party that's it. Makes me think my next voyage will be on The Paradise. Next door The Chinatown lounge was largely unused. Our Cruise Director was Steve Casel. The best musician was the keyboard guy (forgot his name sorry) who performed on the Promenade Deck opposite The Metropolis Bar. I asked him why they made him perform in the hallway he replied that is where Carnival was trying him out. He could make that keyboard sing. I attended one of the art auctions made for good entertainment for 2 hours. Oh and free champagne :-) I made about $30 in the casino playing slots. Lost in the first round of the slots tournament but I do that just for fun anyway. Next cruise I will enter the Black Jack Tournament as well. Also made $3 betting on the wooden horse races. Don't miss the Newlywed, Not So Newlywed game. Its a riot. Key West: We arrived in Key West about 7 am on Tuesday Morning. Took the Trolley tour Very interesting They took us all around the Island downtown and southernmost point. Even pointed out the house that was renovated by Norm and Steve on "This Old House" plus many other historical houses. After the tour I walked around Duval Street for an hour bought a loofah at The Key West Sponge Factory then I picked up some miscellaneous souvenirs. Key West has a lot of bars and nightspots. Carnival should consider making this an evening stop. Maybe in at 3 PM out by 9 PM. Cozumel: The pier in Cozumel has been expanded (I think) since my last visit in 1996. There is now a long duty free shop, which you can walk through if you want on your way to the taxi stand. Fat Tuesdays is still there. We were docked alongside The Celebration. The ship arrived early which means they moved up the time of "The Island Adventure Snorkel Tour" by a half hour. I don't recall hearing the announcement of the change. As a result I missed my tour. Carnival refunded 75% of my money. Taxis are $5 each way. The Mexican cabbies drive like New York City taxis minus the traffic. I think that's why Cozumel has speed bumps on the main road. Still a taxi is the best way to get around Cozumel. Cozumel is the most fun of all the ports I have visited and that fun can be summarized in 3 words "Carlos and Charlie's". C & C is the wildest most fun bar I have ever visited. I got there about 5 PM and waited for my friends from the ship to arrive. Meanwhile I drank Margaritas with 151 proof tequila. Quickly I made new friends and partied and danced the early part of the evening away with both "new" (met at C & C) and "old" (ship) friends. There's no point to staying sober here. They do a tequila conga line thing where they pour shots of (free) tequila into your mouth as you dance by. As was the case with a lot of people I just made it back to the ship before it sailed at 10 PM. Once on board I showered and changed again then headed for my favorite onboard party the deck party where I danced and continued drinking until about 1 AM. We did a conga around the Lido Deck. Debarkation: This was the easiest debarkation ever. I had covered my suitcase with giant letter "J"s all over it which made it very easy to find. The whole ordeal was 5 maybe 10 minutes from ship to bus. I took the Miami Seaquarium tour since my flight was late, not until 8:30 PM. The tour was worth the extra $16 or so it cost vs. taking a taxi straight to the airport. The Seaquarium is old and small. It obviously cannot compete with newer aquatic theme parks like Sea World. Still I enjoyed the park it was three hours plus driving time. I was going to go from the airport to South Beach for a few hours but Continental would not check my bag until 4 PM and one of the Carnival representatives I spoke with about it advised against it due to traffic. I stayed at the airport and bought a book to pass the time. The flight home was a disaster. Due to mechanical problems the flight was 2 hours late. On top of that the plane was still having mechanical problems and we ended up having to be switched to a different MD-80 this made us another hour late. All in all I did not get home until 4 am. Continental did not offer us any compensation so I will be writing a letter on this. CruisinJoe@aol.com12/12/00 Read Less
PRE-CRUISE We left Las Vegas for LA the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hilton Port of LA/San Pedro under the Park and Cruise Program. Had joined the Hilton Honors Club online (free) and was automatically upgraded to a balcony ... Read More
PRE-CRUISE We left Las Vegas for LA the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hilton Port of LA/San Pedro under the Park and Cruise Program. Had joined the Hilton Honors Club online (free) and was automatically upgraded to a balcony room. Champagne and full American breakfast included. Room was quite comfortable. The Hilton watched our car for the cruise duration and shuttled us back and forth to the pier as part of the Park and Cruise. All in all...worth every penny. EMBARKATION Arrived at the pier at 11:00 and was onboard by 12:30. Carnival is just initiating the Skippers Club in LA, so personnel were unsure of the routine for CAT 11 & 12 Suite passengers. Basically, we got VIP check-in and boarded among the first cruisers. Curbside porters take baggage leaving you with carry-on for the X-ray machines. Security is tight with everyone getting checked closely. The embarkation personnel were very friendly and upbeat. Had to show birth certificates and photo ID along with cruise docs. Pier is undergoing construction so it's pretty basic, but lots of seating available. This is the place where you get your "Sign and Sail" cards (one for each person including children). Just have all your paperwork from the cruise docs completed and check-in is quick and hassle free. There are lines, though, so be patient. Overall: Efficient process considering the amount of people checking on board. BOARDING As we boarded the Ecstasy, we inserted our Sign and Sail card into a slot and a photo was recorded for the security camera. This is used each time you embark and disembark the ship at ports to assure the correct person is matched with the card. We entered the ship at the atrium level and were immediately struck by the bright colors and festive dEcor. Ship personnel directed us to the correct elevators for our suite, as there are lots of elevators, stairways and hallways to get lost in! We were impressed by how clean and well maintained the ship looked. Overall: Exciting, smooth introduction to the Ecstasy. CABIN SUITE Suite U102 - Upper deck. As first-time cruisers we were unsure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised. Walk-in closet with hangers provided, shelves to stack shoes, etc. and a full length mirror. Bathroom with shelves for toiletries, glass shower doors and whirlpool tub. Lots of towels. Two twin beds (a bit firm) with a nightstand in between. Large vanity area with 8 dresser drawers. This is where the only plug in the room is located, so bring a power strip! TV, VCR, refrigerator (not very cold) and bar is attached. Sitting area with pull-out sofa bed (double) sectional, coffee table, two side chairs and a large window. Door to balcony is heavy, bring a bungee cord to hold it open if you want. Balcony has two chairs and one lounge chair and worth the price of the suite by itself. We had seen postings from other cruisers about the "worn out look" of the furnishings and occasionally about unpleasant odors, however we found the furnishings quite satisfactory and no odors anywhere on the ship (except the wonderful smells from the galley). Complaints about the suite: fridge could be colder, bars in the sofa bed might bother a light sleeper. Overall: Great! Our cabin steward, Anne Marie, was attentive and accommodating. And the balcony was WONDERFUL!! FOOD We ate dinners in the Wind Star Dining Room with a wonderful wait-staff. The menu changes every night so you never get tired of the same food. Everything from Steak to Lamb to Chicken to Fish to Lobster to Pasta dishes. Our waiter, Regino, made us feel quite special each meal and made sure no one left hungry. You can get two or three of anything. We had purchased a Soda Card ($18) and had unlimited soft drinks for the entire cruise. With soda at $2.50 a glass it was worth it. We alternated breakfast at the dining room or the Lido deck where it was buffet style. The Lido deck breakfast was faster on mornings we had to be ashore for tours. There was also a buffet-style for lunch with a grill for burgers etc. This is also where the midnight buffet and the 24hr Pizza were located. You certainly won't go hungry on the Ecstasy! Complaint: Ice cream bar needs more topping choices. Overall: Variety of food outstanding - availability of food outstanding - buffet typical for that style - dining room meals while not 5 star were certainly a strong 4 star. TOURSTry and decide on your tours before you get on the ship as they fill up very quickly. The secret is to put your carry-on in your cabin and immediately go up to the shore tour desk and fill out the tour request and drop it in the box. You can do this even before they open. This way you are almost assured the tours you want. CATALINA ISLAND Beautiful island. Be sure and rent one of the golf carts. We got a special.. 3hrs for $60 for a four-person cart. You can go all over the place in them, although they give you a map with a scenic route to follow. We signed up for the "Inside Adventure Tour" which takes you to the top of the island where you visit an airport. Along the way you get to see the buffalo roaming free and the tour guide is funny and a resource of facts about Catalina and its famous residents. HINT: This tour, on a bus, takes you on a very windy, narrow road with hairpin turns...definitely not for those afraid of heights. I found it too much for my level of comfort. My daughter took the Eco Tour which takes you around the island on a power raft with the intention of seeing dolphins and sea life face-to-face. It is a bit rough at high speeds, but highly recommended. The shopping is wonderful in Catalina and there are many places for lunch or drinks. You have to be ferried from the ship to the pier, but it goes quickly and you can get some great shots of the Ecstasy. Complaint: Not enough time on the Island. Overall: Enjoyable day! ENSENADA Welcome to Mexico! As we disembarked we were greeted by a Mariachi band and some native "savages" for a great photo opportunity. It was also raining a bit, which put a damper on the day. At the foot of the ship is a grouping of merchants selling everything from liquor to Mexican art. HINT: Check the prices in town before you buy here, plus the prices seem to get lower here by the end of the day when you are getting back on board the ship. We took the "Scenic Gold Coast Tour" with a great tour guide, Juan. Great tour and a lot more comfortable with regard to heights (the road is fine). It takes you on a private tour of the Casino and two resorts. Free drinks (the Margarita is authentic!) and lots of scenery and history. My daughter went horseback riding and advises that the experience is great with horses for all levels of riders. The shopping is all you expect. Great bargains and remember to try and talk down the prices. I never paid more than half the tagged price! WARNING: Don't be upset by all the little children begging with paper cups and homemade necklaces. Its just tourist trapping according to our tour guide. A polite "no thank you" and they will leave you alone. Bring good shoes and a sense of adventure and you will bargain shop successfully. Overall: Great shopping, great tours and great food. Don't forget to visit Papa's & Beers! Bring lots of film, the scenery is wonderful. ECSTASY ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment was varied and there always seemed to be something to do. Galley Tours, Bingo, Horse Races, Contests, Poolside dance lessons, Art Auctions and more during the day. Casino, Shows, Dancing, great music and comedy into the night. Our Cruise Director, Matt, was funny and accessible. Overall: If you wanted to be entertained, something was happening all the time. That's why its called the "Fun Ship" I guess. However, if you wanted to sit alone by the pool or in the lounge, no one bothered you at all. MISCELLANEOUS The gift shops were not too expensive and seemed to be well stocked. The stabilizers must have been working quite well as movement was at a minimum the whole cruise. Everyday they posted the photos taken the day before by the photography staff. It was great fun trying to find yourself among the masses of pix. No pressure at all to buy any. Check the Capers (ships newspaper) delivered to your cabin each evening for the info about the next day's activities. It is probably the most informative directive on the ship. Room service is a real treat. We placed an order for 6:30 am coffee each night at bedtime and really enjoyed the coffee on the balcony each sunrise. DEBARKATION There is a brief information session the night before the end of your cruise given by the Cruise Director. If you follow the instructions, Debarkation procedures go quickly with immigration and customs. All the luggage is put outside your cabin by midnight the last evening and is picked up by the porters and miraculously appears at the pier when you leave the ship. The morning of debarkation, everything is done in order by color-coded groups. We got our color called, papers filled out and stamped about 8:00 a.m. and then went on to breakfast. At 9:30 our color group was relaxing in a lounge awaiting the word to disembark. Unfortunately, a few reluctant cruisers failed to get immigration and customs paperwork done and held the ship up until 11:30. But eventually we left and met our luggage and Hilton shuttle driver. SUMMARY We had a marvelous experience. I really believe cruising is a state of mind as well as a change of scenery. We expected to have a wonderful time, and did. We expected there to be some lines, and there were. What we did not expect was the wonderful service, sincerely friendly staff and moments of pure "fun". Carnival is not for those cruisers looking for quiet, elegant, stately sailing. Carnival delivers on its "Fun Ship" advertisement. Our little group ranges in age from 30 to 57 and each found their own experience to be quite memorable. Would be cruise again on Carnival or specifically on the Ecstasy? Lets just say the Carnival brochures are back out on the coffee table and we are back on the bulletin boards researching! E-mail me with any specific questions at LVANGEL113@aol.comApril 2002 Read Less
Carnival Ecstasy Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 0.0
Dining 3.5 0.0
Entertainment 4.0 0.0
Public Rooms 4.0 0.0
Fitness Recreation 3.5 0.0
Family 3.5 0.0
Shore Excursion 4.5 0.0
Enrichment 2.5 0.0
Service 4.5 0.0
Value For Money 5.0 0.0
Rates N/A 0.0

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