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Morrie Carlson

Age: 62

Occupation:Retired Pharmacist

Number of Cruises: one

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Ecstasy

Sailing Date: January 20th, 2003

Itinerary: Baja Mexico

To be fair, I am a person who has never seen a glass of water that wasn’t ½ full. I knew that if I wanted to have a good time, I would have a good time. So our cruise on the Ecstasy met all our expectations.

INTRODUCTION
My wife and are both over 60, but young at heart. We had never been on a cruise, but had heard good things. We selected the Ecstasy cruise because it allowed us to also visit children on the West Coast for the price of one airfare.

PRE-CRUISE.
My daughter drove us to the pier on Monday, so connections from the airport were not an issue. However, I did use their bus on the return trip and was pleased with their service. Carnival had two older ladies meeting the passengers with inbound flights and they were very thorough in getting the folks to the ship on time.

EMBARKATION
We arrived at the San Pedro pier about 11am and were met with a relatively short line for getting our bags handled by the porters. Tip them $1 or $2 a bag, it is worth it. We had to get our cabin assignment there and that took place quickly. After a short wait in line, we proceeded up to the level where they check documents and give you your Ship and Sail card. Our wait in line was maybe 30 minutes and we met so fellow passengers and time passed quickly. Once at the desk the process went quickly and we moved up one more level where they did the security check. They were through but polite. Then we went outside to wait in line while they took the pictures for the ship and sail card. Your picture then comes up every time your card is inserted in the reader to verify it is you. Very impressive! The wait in line allowed us to get our first view of our ship and it was great. They are really huge when viewed in the context of a port. Once on board there was staff to direct you to the right elevator and give you a map of the ship. I think we were on board by about 2:00 or 2:30. Our bags were not at our cabin yet, so off to the Panorama Grill for a good buffet. Then we went to the 3:00 Welcome Aboard talk, which was informative about shore tours and general information. Then we headed to our cabin and our bags were already there. We unpacked and read the daily newspaper “Carnival Capers” which was extremely well done and helpful.

LIFEBOAT DRILL
This was well done and most professional. Our muster station was the show lounge. We were required to actually put on the life preservers, which was a great idea because they fasten different than the much smaller ones one wears when boating around in a powerboat. Then we were escorted to the actual lifeboat that we would use if there were a ship evacuation. Rehearsing the actual steps and location was a great idea.

OUR CABIN
We had a guaranteed cabin assignment of Riviera deck outside stateroom, so we were pleasantly surprised when we had been upgraded to the main deck, one level above. Our cabin was M64 and was located just off the elevator lobby and in the forward part of the ship. Our room steward was Ricardo from the Philippines and he did a great job. We had towel animals 3 out of 4 nights and he always seemed to be working hard. Not only did he turn down the bed and fold up the clothes I left laying around, but also he even folded the first sheet of toilet paper to a point. The room was more than adequate for two people as far as storage space and drawer space. The TV worked OK, but did not spend much time in the room. We were happy that we got an outside stateroom, it not only helps you with orientation and balance, and it was enjoyable to see sunrises and sunsets and arrivals and departures from port. The only thing different on our next cruise will be getting an outside balcony so we can have a morning cup of coffee in style.

THE SHIP
The ship looked great for a 10 year old cruise ship. It was easy to find your way around with the handy pocket maps and many “you are here” signs all around the ship. The layout made it possible for you to explore easily and see all the different ways for a passenger to pass the day. We dined in the Wind Star Dining room, but more good news about that later. The 5-story atrium was gorgeous and unexpected on a ship. The Lido deck had the Panorama bar and grills and was a great place for desserts, breakfast lunch or even a late snack. True to its name, it offered a panoramic view of the ocean. The wait staff was always pleasant. The snack bar out by the pools offered some great burgers and franks and even a small part of the buffet. Even though it was an open deck, the wind was blocked with large windows, which allowed you to be outside without being cold.

SERVICES
Again kudos to the ship and crew. The purser’s office and shore tours were easy to find and always had the answers. The Internet café was fun, and for $24.00 I got an hour of satellite Internet time which was just enough to check my e-mails each day and send a couple myself. Even though they had some transmission problems the first night, Erika, who was the Internet hostess took care of it promptly and was most apologetic. She was one of many great members of the Carnival staff. We also enjoyed our daily trip to the photo gallery and even though we did not buy all the pictures enjoyed seeing yourself. I would definitely suggest getting the picture from formal night and the special album with a night picture of the ship. Also the picture of your table partners on formal night. The library had a limited supply of books, but was a great place to read. The gift shops were loaded with souvenirs and also some needed items, like toiletries and camera batteries. Prices were perhaps a little high, but if you wanted a reminder of your cruise or a gift not a bad place to check.

FOOD
Once again we were truly lucky. Got two great sets of table partners, the Wong’s from Vancouver BC and the Griffiths from Fresno. We ate most of our dinners together and then would go off and have our separate adventures the next day and tell each other about the fun. Our headwaiter was John from India and speaking as a person who moonlights occasionally as a server, he was great. The table was always gorgeous, with different napkin folds each night. His team waiter was Iwan from Indonesia and he was also very professional and seemed to enjoy his job. The maitre’d was Heinz from Switzerland and not only did he have command of his dining room, but knew how to make each night an event. He also came by our table almost every night and made the cruise a memorable one. They have open seating for breakfast and here again Carnival makes sure you have fun. Rather than letting you sit alone, you sit at a table with 4 or 6 other guests. Although you did not know them at the start of breakfast, by the end of the meal you have gained some new friends. All of the meals were good and also presented very artistically. Don’t be afraid to order two entrees or two side dishes. The portions are small, so you won’t get gain two much weight. Lunch we normally had on the Lido deck so have no real information to share. Suffice it to say that unless you are a snobby elitist, the food was good, service was great and the ambiance fantastic. The gala midnight buffet was another special occasion. Bring your camera and take picture of the food and ice carvings. Each night the waiters would sing or dance for us or with us and both my wife and I “shook a leg”. One the final night, they gave us a small poster depicting the ship and we had our table partners and wait staff autograph it.

PORTS OF CALL
Catalina

This small island off the coast of California has lots to see. The ship actually goes north or south during the night and then harbors in the morning, as Catalina is only 26 miles off the coast. When we awoke in the morning, we were at anchor about a mile off shore. What a view! We did not have a scheduled tour here, but would do one if we taker this cruise again. It gives you a better chance to cover some remote areas of this interesting island. We did however rent a golf cart and take a self-guided 1 hr tour of the surrounding hills ($30.00) This was fun and saved us some walking.

When the ship harbors, you reach shore by using tenders, which are boats that hold 40 folks. This means waiting in line, but at the most it was 45 minutes. As you get on the tender on level 3, you realize just how huge the ship is. The return trip to the ship was quicker, as everyone is not returning at the same time.

Ensenada
This was another fun stop. This time the ship docked at port, so there was easy access on and off. Carnival’s photo ID method really helps ease security concerns and also keeps good track of passengers. At this stop we took the city and shopping tour. It covered the old convention center and a downtown winery. Plenty of free margaritas and dos equis beer at the convention center. Also free wine at the downtown winery. If we do this again we will take the wine and country tour so we can see more of the countryside. The bus parked downtown so we could go shopping and have a place to leave our packages. Ensenada’s tourist shopping area is a cleaner version of Tiajuana’s tourist shopping area. We made the obligatory stop at Pappa’s and Beers and were happy we did. The bus took us right back to the ship.

ENTERTAINMENT
Starting with the 1st day and almost non-stop, there was always something to do. Our cruise director was Matt Ross and he definitely liked his job. He was genuinely friendly to cruise guests and made you feel at home. The shows although not as good as Las Vegas shows that you pay $50 or $100 for were still very high energy and the entertainers were very professional. There were three comedians, Jerome, Lowell Sanders and Steve Carte. They were all funny and worked hard to find out what worked with each audience. Jerome’s late night adult show was no raunchier than an HBO special, and funny. All the other shows like Shipboard survivor, Newlywed Game, etc. were amusing and again brought much laughter.

CASINO
Although not the size of a casino on shore, there were certainly adequate slots and table games and the casino staff was knowledgeable. Did not spend much time in casino.

DEBARKATION
Simple math answers this question. 200 passengers divided by 6 customs checkpoints equals a 2-hour wait. However, once again Carnival managed to make this a fun experience. The regular dining rooms were open, so we got a full and filling breakfast. Our bags had been picked up the night before about 11pm, so we just had our carry ons. Our waiting area was the City Lights show lounge. We arrived there about 8:30 am and were able to find a comfortable seat with a good view of the harbor. To our surprise, Jerome, one of the 3 comedians, came out on stage and gave us a 2 hr impromptu show that had us laughing and helped pass the time. Even though our bag tag color was the last one called, the wait was less than expected and really quite pleasant.

Once our tag color was called, there was one more line for customs. It moved along steadily and soon we were at the customs desk. These folks were polite and quite professional. Then we went to a room identified by our tag color and easily found our bags and off to the airport bus, (a bargain) Even though the driver (not a Carnival employee) somehow managed to forget to load my wife’s large bag, 2 of the nice Carnival ladies at LAX who were meeting arriving flights were able to track down the bag and it was delivered to us at the airport in plenty of time, Then Southwest managed to misdirect both of our bags on our return trip to KC, but they found them and delivered them to our home the next day, saving me from having to carry them.

CONCLUSION
Carnival is committed to making your cruise a “fun experience”, although not necessarily a “perfect” experience. But then again, life is not always perfect! We were so pleased that we have already booked a seven-day cruise on the Carnival Pride going to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazaltan in January 2004. Well-done Carnival!

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