Ecstasy Cruise-April 23, 2009 & April 27, 2009-Back to Back I am 47 and went on this cruise with my DW 42. The second leg of the Back to Back was my DW's birthday cruise. This was our fifth and sixth cruise, all with Carnival. This was our first time on the Ecstasy. The first leg went to Cozumel Mexico. The second leg was supposed to go to Progresso and Cozumel. We stayed in an inside room U131 on the Upper Deck on the first leg and in an ocean view room U129 on the Upper Deck on the second leg. This was the first time we ever sailed without a balcony room. We drove down from Dallas to Galveston the day before our cruise. Hotel: We stayed at the Hilton on Seawall BLVD in Galveston. The room was very nice. It over looked the pool and had a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Being HHonors members we had a free continental breakfast in the morning. Embarking: We took the free hotel shuttle and headed out to the terminal at 10:15am.. I followed the shuttle to the San Luis Hotel to pick up more passengers. We parked our car there for free for the cruise. On the shuttle there was a big family group that was celebrating their Grandmother's 73rd birthday on the cruise. Happy birthday, Grandma. We arrived at the terminal around 10:45am. At the terminal a porter took our luggage immediately. We immediately checked in. We had a short wait before we boarded. We were in zone 2 for boarding. There were plenty of chairs to sit in. We boarded the ship at 12:05pm. Since our room was not ready yet we headed to the Lido deck for lunch.. After lunch we headed to our room to drop off our carry on luggage in our room. We next explored the ship. On the Promenade Deck we saw the Shopping Talk person, Christie K. We asked her on how the shopping was in Progresso. She said they did not have good quality of diamonds there. She also said that you got better prices in Downtown Cozumel than at Carnival's pier. Since we were supposed to be Cozumel twice, we decided to do our major shopping on the second leg in Cozumel. The Ecstasy held the Muster Drill at 3:50pm. Our muster station was on the Lido deck. Unfortunately the Captain decided to do sail away during the Muster Drill This was the second time out of five Carnival cruises that sail away was done during Muster Drill. Carnival, please stop the practice of Sail Away during the Muster Drill. Ship: The ship was laid out nicely. It was easy to navigate. The decor was nice. The cabins had flat screen TV. This ship does not handle the waves too well. The entire 9 days the seas were either slight or calm. In slight seas you felt movement. I would hate to be on this ship in moderate or rough seas. My main complaint is that all of the outside windows were filthy. There was no attempt either in Galveston or in Cozumel to clean the windows. Room Stewards: Our room stewards were excellent in cleaning our room. I am sorry I did not get their names. They were magic. The room was cleaned by the time we got back from breakfast and the turn down service was complete by the time we got back from dinner every day. They kept our ice bucket full. We met both our room stewards in the hall on Saturday night on the first leg. We explained to them that we were doing a back to back and we would be moving to the room directly across the room hall. Sure enough on the day of the second leg our second room steward had our room ready by the time we got back from breakfast at 9;30am We were able to move our luggage to our new room. Dining Room Staff: On the first leg we had table #100 in the Wind Star Dining Room. Our eight table mates were on their very first Carnival cruise. Our dining room waiter was excellent. I am sorry that I forgot his name. After the first night when we ordered iced tea, he had the sweeteners and lemon already on our table when we arrived afterwards. He was very helpful in explaining some of the items on the menu, asking on how our day went, and memorizing our names. What is amazing about this he saw us in the dining room at the beginning of the second leg and said hello to us. The next day we were eating lunch in the Lido buffet. He saw us and asked how we were doing. We also saw him on the last night of the cruise. He remembered us and said hello to us again. On the second leg our dining table was 146 in the Wind Star Dining Room. We had 6 new Carnival cruisers and one repeat couple at our table. Our waiter name was Madre. He and his assistant were excellent. Cruise Director Staff: Cruise Director, Steve Cassel, was excellent. He was very funny in the events he hosted. In the X-Treme Country review show he was excellent on the fiddle. In the talent show he was excellent on the violin. He also did a juggling act on another show. He was very good. The only complaint I had with Steve is our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet did not go off as planned. We had made arrangements with Host Mach of Cruse Critics. He made the suggestion for us to have the Meet and Greet in the Neon Lounge at 2:30pm on Tuesday, the first sea day. Our Cruise Critic roll call agreed to this. I talked to Steve on Friday on the First leg to confirm the Meet and Greet. He said he would confirm with the Hotel Manager and have it posted in the Tuesday Capers. Our Cruise Critic Meet & Greet was not posted in the Tuesday Capers. Members of our roll did meet in the Neon Lounge anyway. One other issue is that they were setting up the Neon Lounge for the 3:30pm Tea Time. We moved 2 rooms down to the Card Room. Some of the roll call members missed the meet and Greet because of the confusion. Now it is possible Steve could have missed this because he was busy trying to scramble to arrange new activities because of the extra sea days we were having due to the missed ports.. Steve's assistants were wonderful. I went to many events and trivia contests. (I won two Ship on a Stick playing trivia) All of them were very nice. Shows: As this was a back to back cruise the shows were repeated on both cruises. Any show we saw we only saw once. We never went to the Sail Away shows. We saw the X-Treme County, The Juggling Show, the Passenger Talent Show, and part of the Dream Voyage revue show. The shows were good. As mentioned earlier Steve Cassel was great in the shows. We saw all 3 comedians on the back to back. They were good. Because we were not able to go to any ports on the second leg, the Ecstasy was not able to switch out the comedians Saturday-Cozumel: We saw no signs of the Swine flu in Cozumel. No one was wearing masks. We shared a cab with some passengers from the Fantasy to Paradise Beach. The beach was great. There were plenty of lounge chairs with umbrellas. The beer was great. The nachos platter was great. The one funny we saw was a lady with a bowl a chips and dip. She walked a few feet away to take some videos. During that time a few birds swooped down and took chips from her bowl. After a few hours of eating, drinking, relaxing, and getting sunburned, we took a cab back to the pier. We did a little shopping on the way back to the ship. Monday April 27-Back to Back turnaround: Since we not getting off the ship we did laundry the night before. We packed our stuff to move it to our new cabin. About 7:50am the cruise director made an announcement that we would not be docking until 9 am. We went up the Lido deck around 9 for breakfast. When we got back we moved our luggage to our new cabin. Since we did not have a key we headed to the casino area to watch the other passengers leave the ship. Under my breath I snickered at them because they had to get off the ship and we got to stay. Little did we what would be in store for us on the next leg. Around 11 we started texting friends and family. At this time was when we learned about the seriousness of the Swine flu. We did not watch any news shows on the first leg. I called a fellow Cruise Critic member that was going on the Conquest on May 2nd. She said that there was talk on their roll call over the weekend that they would not be going to Cozumel. Around 11:30am the last call came for passengers to leave the ship. We headed to the Information Desk to be escorted off the ship. While there we discussed what we heard about the Swine flu. They replied that they did not hear anything about missing any ports. At 11:45am as we being escorted off the ship, they mentioned to us that they would start boarding the ship in 25 minutes. We were led straight to the customs agents, We gave him our immigration card, he checked our passports, and we went right back on to the ship to the information desk to receive our new sign and sail cards. At 12 noon we were ready to go. We headed up to the Promenade Deck. As we passed the Specialty Coffee shop we saw the TV was on CNN broadcasting information on the Swine flu outbreak. Standing next to us was the employee from the Coffee Shop. The spokesperson from the CDC stated that a travel advisory was issued that no nonessential travelers go to Mexico. There was a crawl on the bottom of the screen stating this. Also on the top left side of the TV screen were the words earlier today. This means to me this travel advisory was issued well before the embarkation process began. This also meant to me that we were not going to our scheduled ports. We headed to our room to relax a little bit. We watched some TV. Around 1pm we went up to the Lido Deck to eat lunch. We then walked around a little while. We then headed back to the room. At 3:45 it was announced that Muster Drill would begin in 10 minutes. When the Muster Drill began our room Stewart told us that we did not have to go to the drill since our Muster station was the same as last week. The Muster Drill was over at 4:10 pm. At that time Cruise Director, Steve, announced that the sail away would not be until 5pm. There was no announcement ever made at any time about the port situation. Tuesday April 29-Cruise to No Where: The cruise proceeded as normal until 11am Tuesday morning. My DW went to the shopping talk at 9:30am Tuesday. At 11am when Travel talk was supposed to begin, Steve made an announcement that the talk was canceled. He said they were monitoring the swine flu situation. He said the were no reported flu outbreaks on any Carnival ship or in any of the ports Carnival visit in Mexico. The would have an announcement at 5pm. The Captain's Reception was at 5pm. We expected the announcement then. When Steve got on stage he said that Captain was still in discussions on the bridge. An announcement would be made as soon as possible. Around 8pm Steve made his announcement. He said we would read from a letter that would be put into the cabins. I will quote directly from the letter dated April 28, 2009. " We know there has been recent news coverage about the swine flu in the last few days and want to take this opportunity to make you aware of some important information" "There are currently no reported cases of swine influenza on Carnival ships or in any of the ports that we visit in Mexico. However, the CDC issued a Travel Health Warning yesterday which recommended the postponement of non-essential travel to Mexico. Accordingly, we have made the decision to cancel our calls to Progresso tomorrow and Cozumel Thursday. Although we will be making a quick operational stop in Progresso today for clearance purposes, we will not be disembarking any guests. A $40 per person credit to your Sail and Sign account will be provided to cover a refund of the government fees and taxes for the missed ports. Shore excursions will be automatically refunded to your Sail & Sign account." There are 2 issues about this. 1) No alternative ports. This being a 5 day cruise there are virtually no other ports that Ecstasy could go. The closest near Cozumel would be Grand Cayman. That would be a hard stretch on a 5 day cruise. The only day we could go there would be on Wednesday April 29. The other possible port would be Key West. The Fantasy out of New Orleans was able to go there. The days the Ecstasy could have made port there were either on Wednesday, April 29 or Thursday, April 30. Since the Ecstasy could not make these ports an announcement and the letter should have stated this. This would have soothed many passengers on this issue. The Travel Health Warning: As indicated in Carnival's own letter they knew about the travel warning before embarkation. As I indicated I knew it while on the ship before embarkation. According to a Houston ABC13.com news report on Saturday May 1st it was stated that Carnival said that the travel advisory was not issued until we out at sea in the middle at the cruise. That is a flat out lie. As a loyal Carnival cruiser their deceitfulness in this matter has me very mad. I contacted the Guest Care Department and the lady representative stated that they did not receive the official email notification until April 28 that we were not porting in Mexico. I asked how come Carnival did not know for over a day about the Travel Advisory. I told her what that I saw the news account on the Ecstasy at noon on April 27. She said that Carnival does not go by news accounts, but they wait for official notification. After discussing this issue she finally admitted the email she was referring to actually come from. There is no way some one in Carnival's Corporate Headquarters did not know about the Travel Advisory when it first came out. As I mentioned before I saw this notification on the TV channel that Carnival provided on the ship. You mean to tell me no one in Carnival's Corporate Headquarters ever watched the news or verified the Travel Advisory on the CDC or US State Department's web sites for over 24 hours after it was issued? I don't think so. What Carnival should have done is be truthful and inform everyone when they arrived at the terminal. They should have told everyone that they would not be going to the ports, they are trying to find alternate ports, and most likely that they would not be going to any ports. They should have given the passenger the option to cancel with no penalties. Would some passengers canceled? Yes. Would we have canceled? Possibly. Wife's Birthday: I would like to thank several people to help make my Wife's birthday special. I first want to thank Cruise Critic Host Mach for getting in touch with Carnival's Senior Cruise Director, John Heald for us. I want to thank John for contacting the Ecstasy management for us. I want to thank the Chief Purser for sending a plate of chocolate covered strawberries after the Muster Drill on the second leg. We are not sure if this was for my wife's birthday or that we were doing the back to back. We thank you regardless. I want to thank Cruise Director, Steve Cassel, for providing the bottle of Champagne at our dinner table. We like to thank our Maitre D for the chocolate birthday cake. Our tablemates and us really appreciated this. I want to thank John Heald again for the fruit, cheese, and nut basket that was in our room when we got back from dinner. Debarking: We went to the scheduled Debarkation talk on Friday at 11am. Instead of giving his talk Cruise Director, Steve announced that their was a medical emergency and that we were heading to Galveston at maximum speed. He said that they were also in discussions to see if passengers could be given the option if they choose to disembark at that time. We were told the talk would be rescheduled for 4:15. Since we were due to be at pilot's station around 6:45pm, the casino and the shops had to be closed around 6pm. After we left the talk we went to the stores to buy some of the items we were planning to buy in Cozumel. After lunch we headed to the casino. After making donations to the casino all week, the casino finally started making donations to us. Unfortunately the casino closed before we could get back all our donations. At the debarkation talk Steve again mentioned the medical emergency. He said the it was known to Carnival last night. We would be docking around 8:30pm. After the medical emergency was off the ship, self debarkation would begin. General debarkation call was at 9:50pm. With a 4-5 drive to Dallas we decided not to take this option. Many passengers did so. Our general debarkation call for zone 6 came at 8:50am Saturday. Since we did not have to go through customs, we were at the hotel van by 9:10am. I am not questioning the medical emergency. Many passengers have raised some questions about arriving in port 12 hours early. If the ship knew they about the medical emergency the night before, why was the ship not at maximum speed at 9am when we went to breakfast? We were still going at the slow pace that we have been doing the last 2 days. Why was this person not airlifted or the ship met by the Coast Guard? According to the satellite photo that was posted on the Lido deck Buffet area every day, at 6am Friday morning the Ecstasy was positioned about midway up the Texas coast between Galveston and Brownsville on a line with the Texas-Louisiana coast. These 2 options could have been easily been done for this medical emergency if it was possible to do so. Did Carnival use the medical emergency as an excuse to get the irate passengers off the ship? With the casino and the shops being closed this left us with little else to do Friday night. I am not complaining about the casino being closed as it saved me from making another donation to the casino.
After this I have to say that we are officially balcony snobs My DW loved our past balconies. She loved sitting out there watching the waves go by. This definitely would have helped on this cruise. She said we can never cruise again without a balcony. I have to agree with her. The Ecstasy is going into dry dock and will be getting balconies. Unless we can get one of those balconies at a good price, we will not sail on the Ecstasy again. Overall we had a good time. Of the five cruise we have taken we will rank this as number five. I say this because of the 5 sea days on the second leg and 8 of nine days a sea days. It got boring at the end. Doing my call to Carnival's Guest Care Department I was informed that Carnival is doing nothing at this time about the issue outlined above. She said Carnival may possible do something in the future. To be honest unless Carnival fairly rectifies this cruise to nowhere for what happened as described above, we will be hard pressed to book another cruise with Carnival.