We just came off a cruise on RCL Allure of the Seas, but Carnival had great last minute prices, and our schedule was open so we jumped. It's not fair to compare the world's largest cruise ship to one of the smallest and oldest, but there are some physical issues on the Ecstasy that could be improved. To begin, I have to say the cruise itself was good. Our room steward, MDR waiters and bar staff was great. The interior of the ship was spotless, indicated by the constant presence of crew members cleaning and dusting every surface. My concern is the exterior of the vessel. Granted, it is 28 years old and near the end of its' service life, but we've been on old ships before and they manage to look better. The photos below show that it is sloppy maintenance, not age that is showing. There were many rusty areas that clearly need paint. We heard that they just came out of a yard period, and if so, they did some interior work, but clearly nothing exterior. Our cabin porthole was like looking through wax paper due to a large paint smudge on the outside. (see photo)
Ok, enough of that. Being a small ship, there aren't a lot of bells and whistles like the mega liners but the kids activities we saw seemed to be enjoyable and they were broken up by age groups. The main shows were ok, but the nightly music trivia games in the atrium were well attended and a lot of fun. The 6 deck open atrium layout of this class of ship makes it easy for many people to have a good view of whatever is going on, and the sound system is excellent.
The various music groups ran the gamut of decent to excellent, with the surprise being the violin duo. With programmed backup tracks, they played contemporary as well as classic rock tunes that drew a large audience wherever they were.
Another surprise was the fact that we had no issues finding deck chairs! This being cruise number 21 for us, it's a first. We had two sea days and there were still many places to lay out and relax. There was a definite absence of roaming waiters on the upper decks, so we had to go down to the pool deck to get drinks every day.
We are not impressed with embarkation in Jacksonville. There were several chokepoints and they didn't seem too efficient. Debarkation was fast though, and we were off the ship 15 minutes before we were scheduled. Maybe it was because they started with deck 7, which is where our cabin was, so we got off before delays started.
Carnival is not always our first choice of cruise lines, but you have to admit, they have some good deals and any cruise is more fun than sitting at home!
The cabin is average size with more than adequate storage. There were two closets, so we each had our own, The cabinet storage and drawers were also more than we needed. The bathroom storage is lacking extra shelf space, but there were a lot of towel racks to hang our toilet kits on. NOTE: THE CABIN WALLS ARE ALUMINUM!!! This means that if you use wall magnets for hanging THEY DON'T WORK! We found that the bathroom door was steel, so we used the back of that to hang a few. Friends of ours used the ceiling to attach their magnets,
We took the "Top 10" tour. The description said we would get several free samples at the stops we made. The first was a rum cake factory. small and crowded and the samples were less than a mouthful. You could taste a few of the dozen or more different flavors. Next was a Rum distillery which also had a sample - a mouthful of pina colada, then to the tasting room where it was $10 per person to sample. A stop at Atlantis resort was ok, but you are limited as to where you could go and what you could do without paying for a day pass. Fort Fincastle and the Queens staircase was the next stop and there were many vendors, but prices are lower by the port. Last stop was the Fish Fry area where we did get a decent free Bahama Mama drink, and paid for a pretty nice lunch.View All 351 Island Tour Reviews
Jacksonville is a big city and has been trying to improve their tourist value. There are many things to do, but we really didn't spend too much time looking around. The port area is almost primitive compared to others. Because of a low bridge exit to the ocean, ships are limited in size and smaller Carnival ships are the only departures. There is a LONG ramp you have to walk up to get on board, but the slope is gradual.
We rented a cabana for 6 of us, and it was totally worth it. The smaller cabanas have lounge chairs, storage counters and cabinets, air conditioner, and a misting fan. Also provided are foam floats, a cooler with soda and water, and lots of snacks - fruit, salsa, chips, veggies and such. They sit right on the beach, away from the main crowds, but close to the restrooms.View All undefined undefined Reviews