Overall- My wife and I decided to take our 2 oldest grandchildren, ages 10 & 6, on their first cruise. For the most part, we are very easy going, just enjoy things as they happen, and can make the best out of any situation. I believe ... Read More
Overall- My wife and I decided to take our 2 oldest grandchildren, ages 10 & 6, on their first cruise. For the most part, we are very easy going, just enjoy things as they happen, and can make the best out of any situation. I believe the same way on a cruise. If you go into the cruise with a great attitude expecting you are going to have a good time, you will. Does the particular boat represent the newest and nicest gadgets and amenities in cruising? No. But it is still well-maintained, although showing some signs of age since it is the oldest boat in the Carnival fleet. Yes, you see the differences between this cruise and a high-end cruise just in level of care and the small touches by the staff. But overall, as what I was expecting for the money paid, I cannot be unhappy at all with our 5 day cruise. It was a great time with the grandchildren.
Cabin- We were in cabin R-166 (Riviera Deck 4) with an oceanview room, category 6B. It was mid-ship, but was located directly above the gangway used for disembarkation at ports. It tended to be a little noisy from that aspect, but not at bad hours of the day obviously.
Dining- We dined 2 times in the main dining room. The first was on debarkation night and then again on formal night. On our day in Cozumel, we were off the boat later in the afternoon, and our shore excursion included food, so by the time we got back to the boat, we weren’t ready to eat. It was just a late night pizza run before bedtime. The selections were great in the dining room. The maître d provided us with a copy of the week’s menus in advance so we could plan accordingly with the grandchildren which meals might have the most appeal. Also, as a word of warning, regarding the 24 hour pizza. This is just one of those little things you tend to notice. The pizza is available 24 hours apparently if it is convenient for them to make it. Two separate times, we tried to get pizza and were told to come back in 10 minutes, and when you did, it was generally 10 more minutes. Apparently, there was not much multi-tasking going on. They would sit there and make up a bunch of pizzas in advance and then cook them. And as long as they were making the pizzas, there was nothing coming out of the oven. You would think that perhaps one staff member could be making pizzas and the other one cooking so there was a steady flow of pizza coming out for guests. That was frustrating and it seemed like such a simple thing that could be fixed, but the Lido deck seemed to be not on top of guest service.
Embarkation- Embarkation was pretty easy. We used off-site parking and were dropped at the port. We paid about $7 a day for off-site parking. It was farther away than the last time I sailed out of Miami, but I can’t really complain. The drop-off and pick-up was smooth and timely, and although about 6 miles away, it worked out okay. There was very little line when we arrived at 11:00 am and we had completed all check in process and assigned to wait for further boarding instructions by 11:15. Our zone was called from the waiting room about 11:45 and we immediately boarded. We had one lost piece of luggage where the tag came loose and we had to finally claim it at Guest Services around 6:00 pm that night.
Entertainment- With the 2 grandchildren, we didn’t do too many of our normal entertainment options. We visited one night with the PG-rated Comedy show with them. We also visited the Motown show by the Carnival singers and dancers and the kids did seem to enjoy both of them. We also went to the Hasbro Game Show, which is available on this boat. I thought this would be something the kids would really gravitate towards and really was what I expected to be the highlight of the onboard activities for them. However, it only happened 1 night on our cruise, and honestly, it is more geared for adults than children. Some of the promotions and videos I had seen featured families participating and I thought that would be awesome. We got there early in hopes of getting our family picked to participate. However, I got picked to be on stage by virtue of answering a Trivial Pursuit question correctly. So then, I’m on a team with 3 other adult strangers from the boat. It was empty for me personally, because I wanted to participate with my family. There are 2 really “games” they do and the second one is strictly for adults because they use props that are heavy and kids can’t hold them up. So, although it was fun, it was a bit of letdown from what I thought it was going to be because of lack of kids being able to participate in the games themselves.
Recreation- One of the reasons we booked this cruise was because it at least had a version of the Water Works Park aboard. It is not the full blown version like on some of the newer ships, but it did have one large slide, and then several other smaller slides. We felt like that would be perfect for the ages of our grandchildren. The slides were indeed a winner. Now having said, I would use a word of caution. There were several mornings when the slides were supposed to be open at 9:00 am, but didn’t open until 9:45 as they were cleaning the decks. I was a little disappointed because it would seem to me Carnival should plan the appropriate cleaning needed in such a way to honor the opening time. Also, be forewarned that when the winds reach a certain level, the park closes for safety concerns. On our last day aboard, which was a sea day, the water park was closed until nearly 2:30 pm. Use your time wisely. When it’s open and you can slide, make hay while the sun shines! Lines are much shorter early in the day. We tried to zig when others zagged---get up early and slide while others slept in. We also tended to try and slide later in the afternoon when others left to go get ready for dinner. Even at its worst in terms of lines, the large twister slide was never longer than maybe a 10 minute wait. Water shoes are a plus—because bare feet, slick concrete, and lots of wet areas mean a lot of kids took nasty spills.
Service- After 10 cruises, we finally decided to try room service for the first time. That was probably because of having a 10 year old and a 6 year old and they were fascinated with the concept. We used room service twice. Food was delivered within 10 minutes both times. They had a few items available that weren’t available elsewhere also. As I said earlier, the overall service wasn’t stellar. It was average. Needs were met, tables were cleaned, but there was never a sense of urgency in any of the crew movements.
Shore Excursions- Despite having some issues with the Carnival staff regarding shore excursions prior to our sailing, everything was fine once we got going. We did a hop-on; hop-off trolley tour in Key West. Our grandchildren were a little bored with that trolley ride. Children under 12 are free of charge, so as you purchase the tickets via Carnival, you do not have to choose the option to purchase tickets for those 12 and under although it is listed as an option to buy.
Value for Money- Although we hail from Orlando, our choice was limited on departures from Port Canaveral, which would have been ideal. The cruises there were either going to be short trips to the Bahamas, or a week-long cruise on the most expensive boats. So, going to Miami allowed us to go with a 5 day cruise which we felt was appropriate in length of time for them. We gave up some of the nicer amenities, but the cruise was affordable to us, and that’s my bottom line---I don’t want to pay for more than I need, but I want to have certain things that I expect. If money weren’t an object, we would have gone with a newer boat and more frills, but I felt the value for what I got on the Ecstasy was very good.
Debarkation- Unfortunately, our debarkation zone was one of the last to be called. We finally were allowed to leave around 10:30 am. The one thing we discovered in the process of going through Customs was a challenge when traveling with grandchildren. Upon boarding, Carnival asked for birth certificates or passports and we accommodated that. However, once you leave the boat, US Customs decided they wanted to interrogate our family because we were not carrying any type of notarized document from the parents saying we were allowed to be traveling with the kids. There was nothing I could find in the FAQ’s that would have prevented this. If known about, it’s a very simple thing to provide and have ready. However, Carnival didn’t require that for us to take the kids out of the country, but then Customs wanted it upon bringing the kids back into the country. Sort of odd. They asked our grandkids specific questions about their parents before letting them continue with us. Again, it would have been very easy to have had ready if only we had known, but nowhere did I see this as a possibility. So, grandparents traveling with grandkids may want to take notice of this. Read Less