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.
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,
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.