My family (Dad and his wife are 70 and 74 sons are 16 and 13)drove from snowy South Carolina to the Mobile port the day after Christmas. We booked a night at Admiral Semmes thru Expedia ($109 per night) and did park ($55) and cruise. We packed in the hotel shuttle and headed for the terminal at 11:15 am and we were on board in less than an hour. My Dad booked a suite (U88)and we could not board VIP with him, however, we got through check-in just as fast. Everyone in the port was very friendly and pleasant and the process was far better than expected based on reading all of the complaints. It was freezing in Mobile (in the low forties) when we sailed.
The Elation was as expected--older Fantasy class ship, very clean, with a friendly crew. The pool deck has not been upgraded. As we boarded, we were treated to unlimited Champagne while we waited for our rooms (available exactly at 1:30). The boys and I had a 3 person cabin with two bunks and a bed. We had plenty of room. Fortunately, the cruise boards saved me--there are NO HAIRDRYERS in the suites or other cabins and I packed one. Plush robes, plenty of towels and a fantastic steward delighted us all week. Our steward filled my soda cooler with ice every day.
The activities crew did a good job with the typical cruise fare--dance lessons, trivia, marriage game, karaoke (lots of choices!)and the Carnival obligatory hairy chest contest. There was plenty to do.
U163 was midship and right at the elevators. Other than not having a hairdryer, the cabins are spacious and well equipped. My Dad was in U88 suite which was huge!
We just shopped ate and drank in Cozumel based on concerns that the weather might not cooperate for beack/snorkle. The skies cleared and the weather was gorgeous but we had fun in town anyway.
XCaret in Playa del Carmen was good--we were more than ready to come back at 2:30 but enjoyed swimming the underground river, sunning in the pools, look at the marine life and animals, taking a nature trail and boat ride. The park involves LOTs of walking and if you have stroller or people needing assistance, this is not the park for you. We skipped the $29pp buffet and just ate sandwiches/fries for lunch.