Carnival Ecstasy Review 10-22-2011 sailing out of New Orleans -Our Final Ecstasy Cruise
This was our 5th Fall Ecstasy Cruise. The first 4 were out of Galveston, our closest home port. We hate to see the Ecstasy leave TX so we wanted one more cruise on her before she goes to the East Coast. We will miss her. She is our favorite. We love the smaller ship and the great affordability and value we get on the Ecstasy. This cruise cost us $322 per person for 5 nights, Ocean View, Empress deck, the best location on this ship. You just can't beat that. The triumph will cost us a lot more out of Galveston.
Day 1: The embarkation at New Orleans was a breeze. Easy to find the port and the parking garage (tho expensive at $80 for 5 nights) was right there next to the ship and porters were waiting to take our luggage from our trunk. We got inside in about 2 minutes, had to wait about 30 minutes in line for documents, were on board by 1230, ate lunch, and then our rooms were ready at 130. We always get room E60. (You can find the piece of paper I put in a crack near the window where it was creaking 4 years ago. I put the paper there then to stop it and it's still there....and no creak.)
The first day was great as is every day on a cruise. Last year, we found things on the Ecstasy less good than normal and my review shared that disappointment, but not this year. It was the old Ecstasy. The service was "excellent" and the food was "very good". I always like "fish" dishes a lot on Carnival, but never on Royal Caribbean. Carnival really does fish well. I do hate the Caesar salad with the Anchovy dressing. It is horrible. We like the new menu, and "comfort food" selection, although I never got it. My wife got it a time or two and liked it. Still the buffet, has better desert selections than the MDR. I am not a fan of the breakfast buffet, but I think that is because Royal Caribbean's breakfast buffet is excellent. I do like the omelet station. They are delicious and worth the wait in line.
We tried "Your Time Dining" for the first time on Carnival and really liked it, just like we do on Royal Caribbean. It was different, however, in that we had a different table and different servers every night. I have liked having the same servers in the past, but I have to say it was very good. We got several nice tables, mostly by a window. All servers were nice and the "extra tip" issue was not there. Tips are automatic, but we always tip our servers extra at the end of the cruise due to great service all week, but this time, we never had the same server twice. They were just as excellent as they could be, and I assume they knew no extra tip was coming. I felt no guilt about not tipping extra because it wouldn't be fair to tip only the last night servers and it wouldn't be fair to us to be expected to tip them all, so it was money saved for us and I guess it's ok for them. They seemed happy, and even more attentive than last year, but it was more money saved for us, making the cruise even cheaper. When we got home, an email was waiting saying that Carnival is upping the Automatic tipping amounts. I wonder if this has something to do with it? It doesn't bother me. Also, I noticed that when buying drinks the receipt does not have a place to add extra tip for the server. On Royal Caribbean, there is and I always add a dollar extra. So I saved money there too. Never noticed that before. I spent much less on tips this cruise. There is no better vacation deal than a cruise. Some people I know just don't get that. They think it's too expensive. Its cheaper than anything else we do.
The only negative today was that the windows in our cabin were dirtier than normal and also in the Dining room, spoiling the wonderful sunset view.
Day 2: Sea Day This was a great sea day as they all are. Sea days are my favorite. I like the ports, but would just as soon have mostly sea days. I see a Transatlantic in our future. The day was perfect.
There was a "Technical problem" for most of the day and many of the cabins were without AC and toilets. The common areas were mostly without AC and there was limited elevator use. Our AC and toilet was working so we were lucky, but many passengers were getting really upset by the time it was repaired at 4:30 PM. Those who spent the day on deck, didn't even notice. It was great outside! Anyway, it was no inconvenience to us and forgotten quickly by everyone.
Day3: Progreso, Mexico We have been to Progreso several times and have been to Merida, DzibilchaltÃºn, and Terra Bonita ranch and enjoyed them all. We had never been to Progreso itself, so we decided to just get off and see what we could find to do. We had a great day. True there is not much there, and the water is brown and dirty and nothing like Cozumel, which we already knew, but it's all you can do out of Galveston or New Orleans on a 5 day cruise, so it's better than nothing and very enjoyable to us. We had 1 hour massages on the beach for $25 each. Amazing!. On a cot on the beach listening to the surf and feeling the breeze reminded me of our trip to Costa Maya, which we loved. We had a good lunch at "Bubba's". We had an enjoyable city bus tour for $3 each riding on top of the open air bus. The whole day was very relaxing and fun. Shopping was typical of Mexico, but unusual in that the street venders and musicians were everywhere, and even came up to you while eating in the restaurants or sitting on the beach. They were polite and went on their way, however, when you said, "No, Thank You". It makes me uncomfortable, but you can't blame them for trying to make a living.
We were disappointed that there was no show this evening on the ship. We are always disappointed now in the missing shows on port days. We really used to enjoy the special acts that were brought onboard. We do like the comedians and the new comedy club, although we do not attend the "Adult" shows. The comedian "Mutzie" was really good. The Stage shows are wonderful always, no matter how many times you've seen the same one. They usually have different singers, so that makes it a little different. Steve Cassel is always excellent as a Cruise Director. The ship entertainer, "Jerry" is amazing...exceptionally amazing and has a huge audience wherever he plays on the ship. The band "Cooper's run " was very good too.
That evening, at the "Welcome Back" party, we were again amazed at the amount of free drinks and hors d'oeuvres to all who attend. We always enjoy it and think it is a really nice gesture from Carnival. At the party, we heard from the captain that there was a tropical storm , "Rena", heading for Cozumel, which is where we were heading. He said we'd be gone before it got there, but we were worried about our much anticipated day at Nachi Cocom.
The midnight deck party was really fun. We were too full to eat, so we didn't, but it was a nice night and enjoyable. We always end the night with a snack on the back of the Ecstasy, looking at the ship's wake and the starry night. We will really, really, miss the Ecstasy.
Day 4: Cozumel We started this day getting ready for our day at Cozumel, knowing that a Category 3 storm was due here tomorrow. The sea was really rough, but the sky was cloudless for the most part. An announcement was made that most excursions would be cancelled due to the rough conditions. We were only going to sit on the beach at Nachi Cocom, so we decided to go ahead and hope for the best. So glad we did! It was another excellent day at Nachi Cocom. Our 4th time there and each time is perfect. There were about 25 people there and the conditions were wonderful. Lots of wind and no rain and partly cloudy all day. It was weird, seeing no parasailing, snorkeling, jet skis or anything on the water. I'm sure lots of folks were disappointed in their day, but ours was perfect. We were disappointed in only one thing today. The ship parked at the International pier due to weather conditions, right next to the newer pier that Carnival usually uses. It is not as nice, but ok. Lots of people were disappointed, but we were really disappointed more when we got off and Carnival personnel were at the end of the pier near the shopping area, shouting at us to not shop here, but walk to the other pier to shop. We thought that was in poor taste, but I guess they are contractually obligated to do that. Seems unfair to the venders there, but I think most folks shopped there anyway.
Back on the ship that evening, we were again disappointed that there was no show, but we always have a great time no matter what is or is not going on. There was also virtually no dancing and music in the clubs unless it was very late. I guess we need to stay up later for that.
It was a very rough sea night as we escaped Hurricane Rena. Many were seasick, even my wife, who has never been seasick in 13 cruises, but she was over it pretty soon and it didn't spoil our evening. We love the rocking of the ship when sleeping and always sleep like a log on the ship. We even have Carnival pillows at home!
Day 5: Sea Day Perfect! Just perfect! Not a cloud in the sky and barely a ripple in the sea as well. It was my wife's birthday and the whole day was excellent. We spent a lot of time on deck sitting in deck chairs in a secluded area taking in as much of the beautiful view and sea breeze as possible on our last day. Before dinner there was a Farewell Party in the Chinatown lounge where free drinks abounded again as in the Welcome Back party. It wasn't well publicized or well attended, though it was open to anyone. People must not have known about the free drinks. I'm not much of a drinker, but I can drink those little Whiskey Sours all day when they are free! The waiters sang to my Wife at dinner. She looked beautiful! I could do with about 10 more days just like it. Again, I see a Transatlantic in our future...one day.
Carnival just takes too many photos. We always buy one, maybe two, as a memento, and didn't even look for all of the ones taken. It would take all day! I don't mind the photo stations set out for volunteer photos, but it is really a bother forcing photos during dinner in the MDR, and exiting the ship at ports. I wish they would stop that. On the last evening, they didn't take any at dinner and it was a noticeable improvement, not being interrupted during dinner. The photo prices are higher and even more are wasted. I just can't believe they make money due to all the wasted ones, but maybe they recycle them somehow.
Only once were we offered coffee after dinner with dessert, but when asked, it was always happily served. Just noticed they didn't offer it like they used to. Also, they just placed baskets of bread on the table instead of coming around and serving it. I like that better and I'm sure the servers do too.
I noticed that every time you made any transaction, you were called by name. Then come to find out, that was on the opinion survey we got via email as soon as we got home. I did notice. The crew and staff are extremely friendly and try to make your vacation great and worry free.
Disembarkation: It was even more of a breeze that embarkation! We did Self Assist so we could get off early and get on the road. We had a 7 hour drive home and had to work the next day, so we wanted off early. We ate breakfast in the buffet at 630 and saw an Amazingly beautiful sunrise over the Mississippi River bridge in New Orleans. Breathtaking. Then they called for us and we were off the ship by 730. Customs was not even up and running and the agents just took our declaration page and let us go. Took about 5 minutes from being on the ship to in our car and headed home. Wow! That never happened in Galveston!
We had another great cruise on the Carnival Ecstasy. We will miss her. Thanks for the Memories.