My wife and I sailed on the Elation for the December 14th-19th Amber Cove/Grand Turk cruise. We are from SC, and booked a night at the Radisson Resort at the Port for the evening before the cruise. Had planned to park at the port, but instead opted to park at the cruise parking lot at the hotel. The hotel staff was very competent, parking was a breeze, and the shuttle service was excellent.
When it came time to embark, there was a situation on board that delayed boarding. We were not told what it was, and it delayed boarding by about an hour and a half. All the embarking passengers were held in the terminal until boarding. Boarding commenced at 1:45 PM.
Our suite was ready when we boarded, so we dropped our carry on bag off, and picked up our room keys. Off to the Lido deck for lunch at Guy's Burgers. The burgers do not disappoint, but I feel they could be better.
As far as the food was concerned, for the most part it was standard cruise fare. I have always compared most of it to Golden Corral food, and that pretty much describes most of what was served on the Lido Buffet. The dining room food was your usual fare, served competently by the staff, and usually doesn't vary much from ship to ship. I once again did not get to eat at the Blue Iguana Cantina, so I cannot comment other than it looked pretty busy every day, as it is a pretty popular venue. I did try the Bonsai Sushi bar, and I found the sushi rolls to be excellent. As other cruisers have said, the menu is a little limited on the sushi, so there may not be something for everyone. The pizza was just adequate, nothing to write home about, but was pretty popular also. I did not care for the deli order I had. Ordered a reuben, it had a weird taste. It wasn't really a reuben.
My wife and I attended the Chef's Table dinner the fourth night, and I somewhat enjoyed it. My wife found very little she liked, but she can be pretty picky. The danish style roll served at the start was by far the best piece of bread I have ever put in my mouth! A lot of what was served was good, but just not to my taste. The sea bass was the best fish I have ever eaten, bar none! The last courses were a lamb roll with lamb pate, and smoked veal. The veal was smoked right at the table, and was an entertaining display. While the last courses were good, both the veal and the lamb had a "wild" taste, like what venison tastes like, and I really cant tolerate that taste. So...points deducted for the wild taste. While there were several things I liked during dinner, there were two things missing from the table......Salt and Pepper! Each item served would have been much better with salt and pepper, and there were several people looking for both items. For the items I liked, I do not feel it was a good value for the money, and I would skip future Chef's Table dinners unless I saw the menu in advance.
For the port visits, we disembarked in both Amber Cove and Grand Turk. We took shore excursions each day, booked through the Carnival app. The excursion in Amber Cove was an all inclusive visit to the Lifestyle resort. All inclusive included open bar and buffet lunch at the resort restaurant. This excursion was well worth the money paid for it, and I would not hesitate to book again. The excursion in Grand Turk, however, was not as nice. It was called "Home Sweet Home". It amounted to use of a house and beach for the duration of the allotted time, and included lunch and an open bar with rum punch, a few mixed drinks, and beer. Lunch was the highlight, it was very good. Water toys were available, and a lifeguard was on duty while people were in the water. All in all, I do not feel it was worth the money, and I would not repeat this excursion.
The ports themselves were what you would expect from the area. Amber Cove was nice, somewhat clean, and the resort was fantastic. Grand Turk was not nearly as nice in my opinion. Skinny dogs running around, not much infrastructure, slummy looking out in town. The beach area around the cruise port was nice, however.
Our cabin was a suite on the 14th deck, G5. Very nice, extended balcony, and was very roomy for a married couple. The bed was incredibly comfortable. Linens were nice, towels kept fresh. Room was very clean, almost spotless! Shiela was our room steward, and she did an outstanding job the entire cruise. I tipped her for a job well done the last day.
As for cruise activities, we attended a couple of shows, and they were nice. Your standard cruise shows. My wife and I just sort of vegged out this cruise, and did not attend many activities. We did hang around the Deck 7 atrium bar. Romy and Satria were the two main bartenders, and they both did an excellent job! I tipped them both on the last day as well.
As for the ship, I found it to be incredibly clean and well kept. The ship's staff were very nice. The room steward Shiela know our name the first day.
We booked a suite this cruise, and I must say I am sold on the suite experience. Priority boarding/disembarkation, free water in the room, robes, large TV, complimentary laundry service..the list goes on and on. Will never sail again except in a suite!
As many people have said, the ship did have a "rock' to it. During the cruise all over the Caribbean there were high winds. I honestly found the rocking to be enjoyable. We did, however hit a patch of bad seas the last night, and at about 2:30 AM the last night it woke us up with the violent pitching up and down. Apparent wind at the time was 70 mph, and all the weatherdecks were secured. It only lasted a couple of hours though, and we were able to go back to sleep.
Disembarkation was smooth, and was part of the suite experience. We were offered early disembarking, and took it. Had to be in the theater at 7:00 AM. The ship docked at 7:00 AM, we were off by 7:30, and were back to our car by 8:15. Very smooth indeed! Overall I would not hesitate to sail on the Elation in the future!
One last thing, and others have brought it up. Carnival is starting to nickel and dime cruisers for every little thing nowadays. Most notably we had to pay 5 bucks for each device to be able to use the Carnival app to text. Seems like I remember this service being free on our last cruise. So, be prepared to pay out of pocket for a few things not originally budgeted for.
Very clean cabin high up on the ship. These cabins move a little more than the lower ones. Loved the suite experience, and will never sail again except in a suite!