We had a wonderful time on the Elation August 9-14. There were good and less-than-good things about it, but as we said before, there's no such thing to us as a "bad" cruise! The Elation is an older ship, which we knew, but the only way you could really tell that was from our cabin...no couch (just a backless stool under the desk/dresser), very old tv set, chips in the paint/porcelain in the bathroom, medicine cabinet doesn't close all the way, but the shower was very big, great hot water (actually can scald yourself if you aren't careful!) and good water pressure, plush robes in the closet that you could use (all VERY large, one-size-fits-all), and the beds are very comfy. Our room steward, Purna, was from Bali, and he was the sweetest, happiest, and most attentive guy! Always went out of his way to call us by name and greet us any time we saw him, even way down the hallway! Enjoyed our towel animals and chocolates on the bed each night. Our cabin, and the whole ship, are kept spotlessly clean, as you would expect. So we were fine with our "cheap" inside cabin..
We used the Fulton Parking garage...that's definitely the way to go if you are driving. $8/day for parking on the top (uncovered) deck of the garage, then they shuttle you to the cruise port, pick you up after the cruise, and drop you at the garage to get your car...we were on the road 20 minutes after debarkation!
Embarkation process was very fast...we arrived at the cruise port at 11:15 am and were on the ship eating at 11:30. No lines, no waiting, no hassles...just do your check-in online the night before and print up your boarding passes/luggage tags so everything is in order when you get to the port. Cabin was cleaned and ready for us by 12:30. Luggage was delivered around 1 pm...one bag was later, but not a problem....Purna delivered it to us himself, with a big smile and apologies for being late. Debarkation was delayed a little by slightly later arrival back into New Orleans, so we got to eat a good breakfast and wait in the restaurant until our number was called. We were in no hurry to leave, so that was fine. Waited about 20 minutes in line because they were calling multiple numbers of groups to debark...got off the ship about 10:10 am, shuttled to Fulton Garage and were on the road home by 10:30.
Food was good, but not outstanding. Some things weren't very hot on the buffet, and some things were obviously left over or re-used from previous meals. Hamburgers were cooked ahead of time, so were pretty dry. The main dining room was pretty good for our nightly meals...we were put on the late dining, which we didn't really like, but the early dining was already full by the time we booked our cruise, so that is understandable. They also have an option for "anytime dining" but I'm not sure how/when you have to sign up for that - I think you have to do that when you book your cruise, if you want that flexibility. We just felt that the later dining made us miss out on a few of the evening entertainment options...but more about that later. The "elegant" night was the second night of the cruise (first sea day) and they did have lobster & shrimp, and prime rib on the menu...some reviews I saw said they didn't offer lobster, but our cruise did. Hubby got the lobster/shrimp, and said it was just OK...my prime rib was rather tough, and I had a flat iron steak and a "filet mignon" later in the cruise that looked/tasted exactly like that prime rib, just with a different sauce...like I said, I think they re-use things they have left over, so no food is wasted. But our waiters Luis and Luis were both very kind, attentive, helpful, and friendly, and we only had one other couple at our table of 10 each night (2 nights we had one other couple join us). So the food wasn't bad...we tried some things we weren't used to, like Strawberry soup (wonderful), frog legs (hubby ate those, not me..I'm not that brave), etc. Each night's menu has one item like that (something you've never tried, but wish you could) like escargot (snails...really?...I'm not that curious!), sushi, alligator, etc. So if you're braver than me, you can try that...
Entertainment was probably the biggest "disappointment" we found on the Elation. There is a Welcome Aboard show the first night, a Rock and Roll show, and a Win show at night. We sat in the balcony the first night, and it was so incredibly loud that we were miserable. So if you go to the shows stay on the main floor. Tried a few minutes of the Rock and Roll show and walked out before the first song was done (had hoped it was 50's kind of rock and roll, but way too modern for us!). Tried the Win show (game show format...how can you mess that up?), but again walked out before the end when they went to a Las Vegas-style revue. So we didn't enjoy those nighttime shows. We did a few trivia games in the daytime, and watched a little bit of karaoke, but for the most part we didn't think the entertainment was nearly as good as other ships we've been on. There was one comedian that we liked, his name is Mutzie, and he is a Christian man from New Orleans...he was clean and funny, and had large crowds at his shows, since there were a lot of families on board. He had a lot of interaction with the audience, and tended to base his comedy on talking to the people in the crowd, so everything he did was very impromptu. He liked to tease people from Alabama (putting in his "Bubba" teeth and acting like a redneck)...very funny.
There were two comedians on board, and they both did a little bit during the Welcome Aboard show so you could get a taste of their comedy...now they both did a "family-friendly" show early evening, and an "adult" show late...we steered clear of the adult one, even though Mutzie says he never cusses in his shows. There were a couple of "game show" type shows, like a Newlywed game, and a Family Feud game, but they asked some "shady" questions...we just heard a few minutes of the Newlywed game while window-shopping outside the theater...glad we didn't try those. I had heard they had some 40's swing music on the ship somewhere, but they didn't...we checked everywhere, and it was non-existent, so that was disappointing. They had lots of bingo games, and everywhere they were pushing stuff that cost extra, like shore excursions, jewelry, "coupon books," raffles, etc. There was one thing we discovered on the last day...a "piano and tea" party in Dukes lounge on the 8th (?) deck in the middle. It was actually a tea party, with table service, hot tea with a variety of herbal teas, scones, tea cakes, and tiny sandwiches (cucumber, salmon, etc) and a guy playing the piano and singing. It was "older" music, not as old as we like, but still restful and soothing while you drink tea and watch the water out the big windows. We really enjoyed that...I think they do it several times during the cruise, but it's not advertised a lot. Just check on your daily schedule for the Piano and Tea time at Dukes, around 3-4 pm.
Ports...we didn't do any shore excursions. We went to Cozumel, but have been there a couple times before, so this time we didn't go into town. Depending on what pier you are docked at (we were at Puerta Maya, the farthest one from town) there are shopping and dining places right there at the pier. Our cruise director told us we were at the newest/best pier, and that it had the most shopping places (he was right...tons of shops, and not bad prices if you want souvenirs). We went to the port/shopping talk on ship the day before (they give you ideas of where to buy the best stuff, and give away some free prizes during the talk), but it really wasn't that worth it (hubby was bored stiff). Only if you are looking for diamonds/silver/gold/jewelry/watches it might help. I only go for the freebies...and they give you a coupon for a free charm bracelet that you pick up at the Diamonds International store in port, then when you go to other stores, they give you another free charm for that bracelet. They're cheapie, but I still like the adventure of going to find all the free stuff I can...even though you have to put up with the salesmen always trying to sell you expensive stuff. So we didn't even go into Cozumel this time, but went around to look in all the shops and get my freebies. I ended up with 7 charms for my bracelet, a free necklace, and 2 pearl pendants to wear on the necklace. We walked outside the pier, past where the taxis into town are parked ($8 one-way for 4 people to take you the 5 miles into downtown Cozumel, where lots of the same shops are). Looked at a lot of junky tourist stuff, then walked back into the port area to those nicer shops some more, then got back on the ship for lunch and sat out by the pool all afternoon until the rest of the passengers came back and it got too crowded again. We really enjoyed being on the ship when most everyone else was off in port...had never done that before. The buffets were very un-crowded, you could find a table by the windows, there was nobody by the pool or in the hot tub, so we could enjoy that a little while, and the music was quiet(er) than usual. So that was a nice day!
Progreso was a new port for us...they have the longest pier (4 miles long) so once you get past the touristy shops, they have free air-conditioned buses to shuttle you into the downtown area. Once we got to town, we signed up for a tour of the town on an open-air bus. It was a 45-50 minute tour around Progreso for just $9 per person. There is only one bus, and it was just leaving when we got there, so we had to wait for them to come back for our tour, so we walked around the bus station (little shops all over). (Be sure to go to the bathroom on the ship before you go into town..."Banos" in town cost $ and are...well, less than clean!). Just outside the bus station, there was a double-decker bus, very colorful, that also does tours for only $5, but I think it only stays in the main part of town. Our tour went all around the area, showed us the marinas, naval station, schools/government buildings, even the swamp (somehow our tour guide, Fabian, was very proud of their swamp!) We were very happy that we did this "cheap" tour on our own. Progreso is a very typical Mexican town, dirty, poor, run-down, smelly...walking around the downtown section, I expected to be murdered at any moment. Ha! After the tour, we walked from the bus station down to the beach...it's only about 4-5 blocks and easy to find. Beach is pretty crowded, and tons of places they try to get you to have a massage on the beach for $10...we just put our toes in the warm water and walked around a bit, then headed back to the shuttle bus and back to the ship. Water in Cozumel is that beautiful clear aqua blue, but the water in Progreso is an emerald green color...funny how that works, since they aren't that far apart...
The pools on ship are very small and crowded. We enjoyed sitting on the back of the ship on the Serenity section...it's a little hard to find, but you can get to it by going out the doors at the end of Tiffany's (the buffet) by the pizza section. Serenity is for adults only, so no children are out there...there are 2 hot tubs, a towel station, and padded lounge chairs and umbrellas you can use to avoid getting burned. We like watching the wake of the ship from there, and the wind is blocked so you get a nice little breeze, but don't feel like you're going to blow away. We always take canned sodas with us (can you tell we are "cheap" cruisers?), so we'd go thru Tiffany's, grab a glass full of ice for our Cokes (or an ice cream cone), and go out the back door to Serenity to watch the sunset or get a little sun. So nice...
So overall, we were pleased with the cruise. We aren't cruise experts, by any means, but from the 3 different cruise lines we've been on, I'd say this was our 3rd choice (Holland America being our favorite, Royal Caribbean our second). Just seemed like this was more of a "party" atmosphere overall, with a little lower standards of food/entertainment/clientele than the other 2 lines. But we had a great time...we relaxed, we ate, we people-watched, we laughed at some of the funny things/people on board, and we were together. It was a fun and restful time...we could sleep late, or stay up late (one night we sat up late on the upper deck behind the basketball court and watched the beautiful, full, "super-moon" shining on the water), play mini-golf, read, or just do nothing. We loved it, so don't be scared by any negative reviews you may read on this forum....also, this ship is going into dry dock for 17 days at the end of the month for a scheduled upgrade. I'm sure you will at least get some nicer features in the cabins...maybe even a new TV set! Enjoy your cruise...wherever you go! Read Less