Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Ecstasy
Sailing Date: November 23rd, 2001
Pre CruiseWe live in San Diego, and had never actually taken a cruise from the West Coast, so we actually enjoyed not flying in a day ahead. We drove to the pier, and parking was abundant. The charge was $10 a day, payable immediately.
EmbarkationCheck-in was very easy. We got to the pier at a little after Noon. My mother-in-law uses a wheelchair, and a Carnival rep. escorted us to special assistance check-in. After giving us our sail and sign cards, we took the elevator up to the boarding level where another Carnival rep. got us our room keys. One more stop to get our photo taken for the sail and sign card, and we were on board. Our one bag we left with the porters made it to our cabin fairly quickly. (We actually planned on carrying it on board our selves, but it was too big for carry on size x-ray machine).
Our CabinWe had cabin M-106, a Category 6B outside cabin, right in the middle of the ship. The cabin itself was very functional, and there was plenty of storage space. We are now totally spoiled, and prefer a balcony cabin, but for a three-day cruise we didn’t think that it was worth the money to go for Category 11 or 12. We met our Cabin Stewardess, Erika from Romania right after the lifeboat drill. She put both beds together for us, and did a good job keeping the cabin tidy. We did get one towel animal on the second night of the cruise. At the Captain’s cocktail party on the second night, Erika was also one of the servers, and when she saw us sit down, she ran over immediately to offer us appetizers. I thought she did a very good job overall.
The ShipFor a 10 year-old ship, the Ecstasy was in pretty good shape. We did not notice any strange smells, the elevators worked for the most part, and the carpets showed only mild wear and tear. If you like neon and flashy colors, the Ecstasy is your ship. The ship’s layout is very easy to navigate. The bottom three passenger decks have staterooms only. The Empress deck has staterooms as well as the photo gallery and the Purser’s desk. Continuing our way upward, the Atlantic deck has the kids play room, both dining rooms, (named Wind Song and Wind Star) as well as the library, card room, shopping area and lower level of the main show lounge, called the Blue Sapphire lounge. The next deck up is the Promenade deck. Here you will find the upper level of the Blue Sapphire lounge, the casino, the Metropolis Bar, the Chinatown club, the Rolls Royce Café, Stripes Dance Club, the Society bar, the Starlight Lounge, and then outside at the aft of the deck is the kids pool. The Lido deck has the main pool and Jacuzzis, the snack bar and then at the aft of the ship is the Panorama Bar and Grill, which is where breakfast and lunch are served as well as an alternate dining spot for dinner. There is also a pizzeria at the aft end of the dining area as well as another bar. The Veranda deck has another pool and Jacuzzi as well as another bar. The Sports deck has the Spa and gym, and finally the Sun deck is where the jogging track is.
ServiceThe service that we experienced on this cruise was good. I already mentioned our Cabin Stewardess above. We requested early dining, and when we checked in noticed that our dining was late, at 8:00. (Carnival does not guarantee dining assignments by the way.) We saw the Maitre D’ a few minutes after boarding and requested a change to early seating. He said that the ship was full, but he would see what could be done. We would have to go to the 8:00 seating on the first night. When we retired to our cabin for the evening, there was a card in our room saying that our dining time was changed to 5:45 PM for the rest of the cruise. When we came back from Ensenada, there was another card showing our “final” table assignment, which turned out to be a very nice booth for the four of us. Our dining room waiter ended up being Arnold from the Philippines. He was very personable, and it would have been nice to have him the entire time instead of just two of the three nights. Our Assistant Waiter was Jan from the Czech Republic. He was also very personable, but I thought he had too many tables. It always took him more time than usual to bring us bread and water. A couple of times Arnold ended up doing Jan’s job as well as his own. Overall, we thought that the service was better than our last cruise on the Destiny in January 2000, but could still use some refinement.
FoodIn the main dining room, the food was very good. Carnival has made great strides in their food quality over the last few years. However, the menus didn’t change from our cruise in January. That’s not all bad, as I did get to repeat some of my favorites. I had a very good veal as well as Beef Wellington on this short cruise, while my wife enjoyed the fish. We used the Panorama Grill for a couple of breakfasts and lunches. The food was good there as well as in the pizzeria. When the Panorama Grill was busy, the food was hotter and tastier. When the crowd thinned out, the hot food did not stay hot very long. Overall though, we like Carnival’s food better than both Royal Caribbean and Princess. Your mileage of course may vary. In the main dining room, the food was very good. Carnival has made great strides in their food quality over the last few years. However, the menus didn’t change from our cruise in January. That’s not all bad, as I did get to repeat some of my favorites. I had a very good veal as well as Beef Wellington on this short cruise, while my wife enjoyed the fish. We used the Panorama Grill for a couple of breakfasts and lunches. The food was good there as well as in the pizzeria. When the Panorama Grill was busy, the food was hotter and tastier. When the crowd thinned out, the hot food did not stay hot very long. Overall though, we like Carnival’s food better than both Royal Caribbean and Princess. Your mileage of course may vary.
I did have one massage at the Spa. Before the massage started, I told the Steiner masseuse that I was not interested in buying any of their products. That worked well, and I had a very relaxing massage without the hard sell afterward. One negative of the spa however was the overpowering aromatherapy smell. It was so strong, that my wife, who is allergic to most aromatherapy products, started to wheeze after just a few minutes of being around the spa. Needless to say, that made the comment card!
Ports of Call
This cruise had only one port, Ensenada. We did not go on the cruise for the port, but we still wanted to walk around town. We took the shuttle from the pier ($3 per person round trip) and walked around and did a little shopping in “downtown” Ensenada. There were some excursions offered, and the guide on the shuttle from the pier tried to sell us one of their tours to the “blow hole” (which I heard was not all that exciting) and to the local flea market. We can say that the weather was pleasant, and we did have a nice day.
The entertainment was very good. We enjoyed one of the lounge acts, “The Curveball Brothers” tremendously. My in-laws liked both of the stage shows, and we also liked both of the comedians we saw. We started out ahead in the casino, but in the end, the house came out the winner. We did hit one bingo game (for the free cruise), but as usual, we did not come away with the grand prize. One art auction was held on Sunday (the sea day), but we did not attend. The on board entertainment is always one of Carnival’s strong points.
We thought that debarkation was handled fairly well. Since it was a short cruise, we did wheel our own bags off the ship. My in-laws were able to get off first due to the wheel chair, and we left when the first color was called. We got outside to the curb just seconds after they did, got the car, and were on the way home by 9:45 AM.
We had a nice long weekend, and would like to do this type of cruise again. I am sorry that Royal Caribbean is pulling out of the short cruise market from L.A. because I think the competition is good for Carnival. Overall, the ship was fine, the service good and even the weather cooperated. Would we take Carnival again? Sure. Even though there are some things about the line that annoy us, (the singing waiters, for example), we are usually pleased with their overall product and enjoy their ships.