This was a cruise that was planned more than a year ago- a Christmas cruise with friends. There were 4 of us from the Atlanta area-three of us are retired, and one still works. ( I work part time now, but I have so much fun at work, I don't feel like it's work).
I was the driver, and a smoker, so about every hour and a half, we made a pit stop. I drove from Oxford, used some back roads and cut out a lot of the Atlanta traffic. We got on the highway in McDonough, and it was no time at all until we were at stop # 1, the Macon Cracker Barrel. LOL, it is my go to for my pit stops. We stopped later to fill up the tank, and then we stopped at the Florida Welcome Center. I was sad to see no more free orange and grapefruit juice. Not in the budget anymore. We got to our hotel-the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Airport around 4:30.
There were two reasons why I booked this hotel-they had an indoor pool, and the prices at my normal Holiday Inn Express on Blount Island had sky rocketed. Well they were remodeling, and the pool was non existent, and once they added all the taxes, the prices were comparable to the Holiday Inn. The hotel was nice, quiet, well landscaped, and they had an onsite restaurant which was good! I didn't eat healthy, but I was happy when we left dinner. Their breakfast was very good-free when you are an IHG member (or I didn't notice the charge) otherwise it was 15 dollars. To me that was too high a price. so glad it was included. The hotel also offers a shuttle service to the port ,which I didn't know about until we arrived, but we needed to hit the road early when we got off the ship, so parking our own car worked well for me.
DH and I are platinum, our friends were Suites, we basically parked, found a porter, walked into the line, and onto the ship. DH and I had cruise cash on our account, but the folks in the ports didn't see that, so we had to explain that we didn't need to put cash on our account. This separated us from our friends, but we caught up with them when we got on the ship. From the hotel, to getting on the ship? 30 minutes tops. Fastest boarding we have ever done in any port. Disembarking was a disaster- not sure why, but folks who think they are going to get off faster by taking their luggage with them, need smaller luggage they can handle.
The Ecstasy is a Fantasy class ship, in other words if you have been on one, you know the lay out. I don't believe we cruised full, but this class of ship never seems full except for the first day lunch on the lido.
The more we cruise, the less we do, and the faster the days go by. Five day cruises just don't seem long enough. We went to one comedy show with Al Katz, very funny, very adult. We played miniature golf (when the ship was not moving) and DH beat the heck out of me. We went to the Make it With Michaels twice, and enjoyed making a Christmas tree ornament that looks like a wreath, and one day we made a card. It was supposed to be a letter to Santa, but I already had what I wanted, a cruise with my DH and friends.
We were on the Empress deck, Cabin #7, a porthole. We enjoy this area, it is close to activities, but far enough from the atrium and elevators that you don't have hall traffic or noise from the bar and parties. The bed was comfy, and I slept very well, and went to bed early (11) every night.
Because our friends eat early at home, we chose early dining. We had great table mates,
not such great service, not bad, but they often forget our coffee refills. One night, one of our tablemates went and got the coffee. The staff apologized profusely, but forgot again the next night. I would not choose an assigned time dining again. It seemed that dinner took too long, more than an hour and a half each night-and I feel that that was time I could have been doing something else. Not sure what, but something. Food on the lido was ok, the cakes have really improved!
I did donate money to the casino, as did my DH and my BF. The entire casino is smoking, not just part of the casino, and even though I am a smoker, I think that part of the casino should not be.
Service overall was very good. Our steward and assistant were great, the girl who worked in the 10 dollar store was fantastic. I had purchased a watch, and it stopped within 12 hours. She replaced it, no problem, and the second watch died once it got wet. It wasn't water proof, it was my fault, but she still replaced it. There were two guys who cleaned ashtrays, I think they made friends with all the smokers. They worked non stop.
We had two ports-Nassau-where we created our own excursion. We got a cab to Ardastra, the Bahamian Zoo. It was pretty pathetic compared to American zoos, but to see the Flamingo show, be a flamingo, and feed the lory parrots by hand was a once in a life time opportunity. Think of something that you enjoyed back in the 60's. Nothing computerized, nothing upscale, just a fun experience. And yes, we want to go back. We got a cab back to the port, and had lunch at one of the restaurants on the main road. Next time I will eat on the ship- 57 dollars, for 12 wings, two cokes and two small conch pies (appetizer for 10)
Princess Cay was great, sunny, warm and the water was clear and fantastic. However, I do recommend water shoes ( l left mine on the ship) I strongly recommend sun screen ( I left mine on the ship), and we had booked the Coastal cruise, which was cancelled due to high winds. The waves wouldn't bother me, but some one hurling off the side of the boat, would. We still had fun, and don't stay on the ship when you are there!
Overall we had a great time, we didn't want to leave the ship, and we did talk about booking a back to back in the future. The couple across the hall from us, was doing one, and then I saw her go pay for parking-they decided to make it a B2B2B.
We have three future cruises booked, so would I go again? Heck YES!
I had read about a sewage smell on the ship, yes there was, but not throughout the ship. Only near the casino area. I think it might be a clogged drain in the bar area. So don't panic, cruise happy!
Good size for two people. Water pressure was poor in the shower, but the water temp was pre set and very good. We decorated our door, and the staff enjoyed it. Being at the end of a hall, they were they only ones who got to see it.
We got a cab from the port at 5 bucks each, and he came back in two hours and took us back to port. The zoo is pathetic compared to those in the US, but we had a blast seeing the Flamingos, and feeding the Lorry parrots. You hold a piece of apple in your hand, raise your arm up, (be a tree) and they land on your hand and eat from fingers.View All 72 Ardastra Gardens Reviews