My husband and I decided to take a little trip before I head back to school this week. We debated between Vegas and other types of trips, and ultimately decided the value of a cruise was difficult to beat. We have sailed two previous times ... Read More
My husband and I decided to take a little trip before I head back to school this week. We debated between Vegas and other types of trips, and ultimately decided the value of a cruise was difficult to beat. We have sailed two previous times with Carnival and decided to embark from a different port other than Galveston just for fun.
HOTEL AND DRIVING
It was about a 10 hour drive from DFW to Mobile. We had bad weather predicted for the date of travel (01/09/11), so we cut south and stayed the night in Biloxi at the IP Casino, Resort and Spa. We got a great rate on the room, which was very nice and had a beautiful view of the bay. There was a small charge to use the "wet" facilities in the spa, which we did and enjoyed very much. However, the whole place stank of cigarette smoke and the food prices were outrageous. The gambling was uninspiring with a lot of tired, extremely elderly patrons. We skipped spending any time in the casino, got a good night sleep in our very comfortable room and headed to Mobile at a decent hour, which was less than a one hour drive away. The drive from DFW to Mobile all in all was very relaxing other than some questionable threat of ice in the initial leg. Once we got out of that, it was easy going with good roads.
THE SHIP ITSELF
We have cruised on the Conquest out of Galveston before this. The Elation is her sister ship, so we knew it was a smaller vessel than some and a bit older. The decor on the Elation is done in tasteful color schemes and probably looked extremely elegant at one time. Now, though, it just looks tired, well used and in need of a face lift. Paint was peeling or missing in many places. There were gouges out of the walls in the main areas, such as the elevators and hallways. Carpets are very worn and stained. In all, the whole thing just looks pretty worn around the edges. The ship itself had mechanical issues during the cruise that caused us to be dead in the water at one point, then to limp at 6 knots into port at Cozumel extremely late. The port of Calica was skipped entirely to allow ample time to get back to Mobile. The weather in January is pretty hit or miss and we had large swells, cold rain and absolutely no sun at all. We won't be sailing in January ever again.
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
The ship activities were pretty standard fare. The Marriage Show. Guys Versus Girls show. Afternoon tea in the ship library. Hairy Chest Contest. Trivia. Casino. Etc etc etc *yawn*. We enjoy the casino, but most of the other types of activities are geared toward a personality type we just do not relate to. We are subdued people and enjoy the finer things in life, so going to stare at and cheer for someone in need of waxing just isn't our cup of tea. We did enjoy the Vegas style shows very much. This was our third cruise and we are coming to the conclusion that we probably just are not cruising types. Most of the time on ship was pretty boring. We read a lot of books. Evenings held more interest for us, with the comedian, dance clubs, live music (though it would be nice to have something other than country/western music) etc.
Service was very hit or miss this time. The steward of our room never did introduce himself to us and I personally didn't see him the entire trip long. Our waiter and assistant waiter at the late seating were outstanding and knew our names by the second night, as well as our preferenes for bread, coffee with dessert and things about our lives. The Maitre'D was fantastic and seemed to have a mostly happy crew working for him in the dining room. We had signed up for the Chef's Table, and both the Maitre'D and the chef himself came out our table to introduce themselves and chat us up a bit, which was a nice touch.
Servers on the buffet seemed very tired and cranky. Smiles were few and far between, though they did try to go the extra mile some of the time. It was not consistently bad but was not over the top good by any measure. By the end of the cruise they were dealing with some pretty unhappy customers, so I imagine it got difficult to continue to be pleasant.
PORT AND EXCURSIONS
The propulsion system for the ship failed and we only made one port, Cozumel, and that was made extremely late. Due to inclement weather (gale winds, cold rain, cold ambient air temps), we chose not to even get off the ship and just hit the hot tub on the adults only deck instead. It was disappointing for us but not devastating. We had hoped to see Calica/Playa del Carmen, but it was not to be. They needed the extra time to make sure we limped back to Mobile on time for scheduled cruise end. We left Cozumel late, apparently waiting for a part for the propulsion system and a mechanic who had been flown in to repair things - information gained only via gossip and impossible to verify as to the accuracy of it. Communication about the issues being had was scant, late, misleading and poorly handled.
We were in room R203, one of the lowest levels of ocean view available. We have always been higher up in the ship previous to this trip, and the difference in the quality and size of the room shocked us. Our fault - we choose a slightly cheaper room thinking there was no difference other than where in the ship the room was located. Wrong. The room was small and cramped with a large chest designed to hold lifejackets placed in the way of access to the window, so that one had to climb over it just to get in bed. The room had a light up picture of a ship that looked remarkably like the Titanic, a decoration that made us laugh in its unfortunate choice. The room was all around shabby, in need of paint and new carpet. The drawers to the vanity were in bad shape and it took some maneuvering both to get them opened and then properly closed.
Shabbiness is not the worst crime on the planet, but filth is another story. The linens on our bed when we first got into the room had many black hairs all through them, including some that looked like pubic or chest hairs. The shower as well had hairs stuck to the tiles, especially on the floor of the shower. Service for the room was prompt and it was straightened up twice daily, but we could not tell that our linens ever did get changed (I suspect they weren't changed from the occupant on the cruise previous to ours) or the shower ever washed out properly. We did get fresh ice every night and a cute towel animal as well as turn down service. Our room steward never introduced him or herself and even by the end of the sailing we had no idea who it was. The condition of the room on embarkation was pretty close to unforgivable.
As this was our third cruise, we had a good idea of what to expect. We would have preferred the Anytime Dining option, but understood having booked so late that we weren't able to have it. That is a program that ought to be expanded on all ships. Not everyone enjoys eating with strangers. However, we had a good mix of people at our table and enjoyed ourselves a great deal at dinner. We had late seating in the Inspiration Dining Room. Our waiter was exceptional, as was his assistant. The food was okay - not wonderful, not horrible - and absolutely nothing was ever served hot, which was disappointing. We were dismayed to see Carnival has stopped serving real butter (only margarine) and stopped providing real cream (only creamer) since our last cruise one year ago. We prefer whole, natural foods and this change was unappealing to say the least. We mostly avoided the buffet. The 24-hour pizza was served cold and this too was unappealing and less than we experienced in the past. Some of the cuts Carnival is making definitely are showing in the dining arena.
Drinks were plentiful and not unreasonably priced compared to our last two cruises. Alcohol content of the mixed drinks seems to have gone down in price. Duty free shopping on this ship was quite good and we came home with seven bottles of different spirits to enjoy - one of our favorite parts of cruising.
I was lucky enough to win a massage from the spa and enjoyed having this done on my sea day. Maria was a good masseuse and took good care of me. The spa area itself is in desperate need of a facelift to compare at all to the spas I have been to on dry land. It seemed little more than a few temporary walls and chairs with little to no decoration and pretty measly, short, narrow sheets on the massage bed. The massage itself was so relaxing - the ship was pitching something fierce in 7-10 foot swells, but this just added to the lulling experience for me. My massage was only supposed to be 25 minutes, but Maria gave me a full 50 minute treatment. This was a high point of the trip.
Getting off the ship in Mobile was the best disembarking experience we have ever had to date. We were off the ship and in our car on the way home by 8:00 AM with no lines, no crowd, no fussy people and no complications. The port at Mobile is fantastic and Galveston could learn a thing or two from them.
I think we are probably done cruising with Carnival. Part of this is due to our finding ourselves very bored at sea, which is likely to be the case with any cruise line if we aren't "joiners" in the social activities held on board. But much of it is also due to a steady decline in the quality of the experience on the whole, with ships getting shabbier, staff getting more brusque and less friendly and the quality of the food taking an absolute nosedive. Combine these things with a distinct lack of good, prompt, accurate communication about the troubles the Elation was having with its propulsion system and a pretty uninspiring on ship credit of $50 for the loss of Calica and the gain of much worry (after having seen what happened with the Splendor, people were seriously concerned and not much info was forthcoming about our status for hours at a time), we are unlikely to sail with Carnival again. The rates are low and tempting, but I think we have learned our lesson - that you definitely are getting what you pay for. If we ever cruise again, we will likely go with a luxury cruise line, which would hopefully meet our expectations for quality and serenity better than Carnival. I am not unhappy that we went. But I am unlikely to want to go again. Read Less