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My wife and I won a "free cruise" when we bought into a time share a couple of years ago. TAV was the name of the service that administered the "free cruise," which of course was limited in dates and ships. Carnival Ecstasy was one of the ships and this (leaving Jan. 18) was one of the dates. By the time we paid the fees to TAV associated with the cruise, we came up about $20 each short of what we would have actually paid to go on the cruise ... so it wasn't free :) But ... we decided to make the best of it. We have cruised five previous times on Royal Caribbean and had great experiences. We knew this was an older Carnival ship (second oldest) and read many reviews on Cruise Critic (that were very helpful). We left our children at home, and flew down on Sunday thanks to frequent flier miles. We got a free shuttle from the airport to our motel (Courtyard by Marriott) and paid 10 apiece for a shuttle to the ship on Monday morning. We got to the port around 11:30 and got right into the waiting area, where we chatted up other travelers. It should be noted when we left Minnesota on Sunday it was 15 below zero ... so temps in the 70s meant we had a 90 degree difference. All good so far! We stayed in the lowest tier of room, but only used the stateroom to sleep. It was about what we expected, maybe a little dirtier than it should have been, but quieter than expected. The casino is open air so the ship is smoky. I guess we knew that coming in, but it's a complaint of people who don't smoke. The food was just fine ... hey, much better than we eat at home. We sat at a table with four other couples who were great dinner companions (I hope we were as well). The shows were entertaining, good singing and dancing. My wife liked the Mongolian Barbecue on the pool deck. We also used the workout room a lot. Service was very good in the dining areas and by the cabin steward. No complaints there. We didn't take part in too many shipboard activities. Obviously, it's a smaller ship, so there is a lot less to do on board, but we expected that to be the case. Key West was a nice stop, a little cool. We rented bikes and tooled around town and bought the only thing we forgot to bring -- sunglasses. We had to be back on ship by 3, so spent the afternoon being lazy. Cozumel was Day 2 ... we got right off the ship when it docked at noon and rented, on a whim, a scooter for 50 bucks. We spent the day beach-hopping around the island, and ended up driving on a complete circle around the island (40 miles). A little hairy in town, but I drove like a maniac and figured people would get out of my way! Day 3 was a day at sea, the weather was cloudy and cool. We just tried to relax and work out and graze the buffet lines. Check out in the morning was really nice. We had an early flight, so walked off the ship with our luggage and got to the airport by 9 a.m. for an 11:30 flight. In summary -- the cruise was exactly what we expected. We did something I bet some people don't do -- we didn't spend one red penny on board ship. How about that? Having said that -- we would have spent money to buy a CD of all the pictures that were taken of us. That wasn't offered. And we didn't love the pictures that much to buy them for 20 bucks each. I guess some Carnival ships do offer CDs of all the pictures. Some other people have commented that generally people were rude. I would say one thing about that -- the $50 "all you can drink a day" feature was used by a lot of people, and I think if you throw down 12 drinks a day "just to get your money's worth" you are going to be more rude than usual. Plus, there were very few families on this cruise (given it was during the school year), so mostly people who were there to party (but most of them were older, so yeah). Almost any cruise is a good cruise, and I would say this was a good one. However, and I hope this is the spot to say this ... given the choice between Carnival on a similar itinerary or Royal Caribbean, I would pay more for Royal. To me, the dealbreakers are that Carnival has too smoky of a casino area (and the area around it gets smoky) and the people traveling on it are a little too edgier. Hope that doesn't offend anyone.

A good January getaway for two Minnesotans

Carnival Ecstasy Cruise Review by Lamar Cheeks

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2016
  • Destination: Caribbean
  • Cabin Type: Interior Upper/Lower
My wife and I won a "free cruise" when we bought into a time share a couple of years ago. TAV was the name of the service that administered the "free cruise," which of course was limited in dates and ships. Carnival Ecstasy was one of the ships and this (leaving Jan. 18) was one of the dates. By the time we paid the fees to TAV associated with the cruise, we came up about $20 each short of what we would have actually paid to go on the cruise ... so it wasn't free :)

But ... we decided to make the best of it. We have cruised five previous times on Royal Caribbean and had great experiences. We knew this was an older Carnival ship (second oldest) and read many reviews on Cruise Critic (that were very helpful). We left our children at home, and flew down on Sunday thanks to frequent flier miles. We got a free shuttle from the airport to our motel (Courtyard by Marriott) and paid 10 apiece for a shuttle to the ship on Monday morning. We got to the port around 11:30 and got right into the waiting area, where we chatted up other travelers. It should be noted when we left Minnesota on Sunday it was 15 below zero ... so temps in the 70s meant we had a 90 degree difference. All good so far!

We stayed in the lowest tier of room, but only used the stateroom to sleep. It was about what we expected, maybe a little dirtier than it should have been, but quieter than expected.

The casino is open air so the ship is smoky. I guess we knew that coming in, but it's a complaint of people who don't smoke. The food was just fine ... hey, much better than we eat at home. We sat at a table with four other couples who were great dinner companions (I hope we were as well). The shows were entertaining, good singing and dancing. My wife liked the Mongolian Barbecue on the pool deck. We also used the workout room a lot.

Service was very good in the dining areas and by the cabin steward. No complaints there.

We didn't take part in too many shipboard activities. Obviously, it's a smaller ship, so there is a lot less to do on board, but we expected that to be the case.

Key West was a nice stop, a little cool. We rented bikes and tooled around town and bought the only thing we forgot to bring -- sunglasses. We had to be back on ship by 3, so spent the afternoon being lazy.

Cozumel was Day 2 ... we got right off the ship when it docked at noon and rented, on a whim, a scooter for 50 bucks. We spent the day beach-hopping around the island, and ended up driving on a complete circle around the island (40 miles). A little hairy in town, but I drove like a maniac and figured people would get out of my way!

Day 3 was a day at sea, the weather was cloudy and cool. We just tried to relax and work out and graze the buffet lines.

Check out in the morning was really nice. We had an early flight, so walked off the ship with our luggage and got to the airport by 9 a.m. for an 11:30 flight.

In summary -- the cruise was exactly what we expected. We did something I bet some people don't do -- we didn't spend one red penny on board ship. How about that?

Having said that -- we would have spent money to buy a CD of all the pictures that were taken of us. That wasn't offered. And we didn't love the pictures that much to buy them for 20 bucks each. I guess some Carnival ships do offer CDs of all the pictures.

Some other people have commented that generally people were rude. I would say one thing about that -- the $50 "all you can drink a day" feature was used by a lot of people, and I think if you throw down 12 drinks a day "just to get your money's worth" you are going to be more rude than usual. Plus, there were very few families on this cruise (given it was during the school year), so mostly people who were there to party (but most of them were older, so yeah).

Almost any cruise is a good cruise, and I would say this was a good one. However, and I hope this is the spot to say this ... given the choice between Carnival on a similar itinerary or Royal Caribbean, I would pay more for Royal. To me, the dealbreakers are that Carnival has too smoky of a casino area (and the area around it gets smoky) and the people traveling on it are a little too edgier. Hope that doesn't offend anyone.
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Cabin Review

Interior Upper/Lower
Cabin 1A
we took down the bunk bed and made the beds side by side, which I think was illegal :) Bathroom was small, but managable, and bathroom could have been cleaner.
Empress Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

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