Occupation:Information Technology Director
Number of Cruises: 9
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Ecstasy
Sailing Date: January 9th, 2004
Itinerary: 3-day Cruise (Ensenada)
This was our 9th cruise, 5th with Carnival. Just my wife and I, no kids this time. As a Christmas present to each other we decided on a weekend cruise instead of buying gifts, and after a two year absence from Carnival, we decided to go with them again. In the interim period we have been a number of times with Royal Caribbean and Princess so inevitably there are going to be comparisons made. Let's be honest, every cruise line and every ship has their pros and cons. Before we get into the details, be assured that we had great fun and certainly had a most enjoyable time.
As most of you already know, Carnival now have their own place at Long Beach next to the Queen Mary. Unfortunately, it's still a bit disorganized there and although we didn't have to wait too long to get onboard, there were plenty of long lines. Since we only booked on Christmas eve, we took a guaranteed outside room on the Riviera deck and upon arrival at Long beach were upgraded to the same category of room on the forward Empress deck. Our room was easy to find with the gangway leading straight on to the Empress Deck.
We dumped our carry-on stuff and started to explore the ship. It appeared to be identical to the Elation we had sailed on before but with a totally different décor. While the interior design of the Elation is certainly garish, it was still relatively easy on the eye, but I found most areas of this ship to be quite stark, and distinctly dated. The Panorama Bar & Grill lighting and décor was frightful with lighting that made me look like a Blue Man from the Las Vegas show of that name. It reminded me of a 50's Diner with the blue neon lighting and turquoise plastic seats! The blue theme did seem to permeate somewhat throughout the ship. Built in 1991, the ship is starting to show some signs of wear although it was clean. The main theater exhibits the same problem as the Elation with lots of view obstructing columns. There are plenty of bars, some with entertainment, and a lively Casino.
We managed to view all the shows in the Blue Sapphire Theater and were very impressed with all the guest artists and the dancers. The late-night comedians were very funny with lots of audience participation, some of it by design and some of it not. We even went to see the talent show. I usually hate watching these uncomfortably embarrassing shows but this one was so expertly produced that it was very entertaining. They combined Karaoke singers with a mock American Idol competition including judges, one of them being deliberately and hysterically obnoxious!
Food and Drink
Carnival's drinks are expensive. We bought a can of Bud and a can of Bud light that came to $7.49! From that point on we survived on our own private stock. (Don't ask - there are plenty of chat rooms on the Internet about that subject). Carnival's food is excellent and surpasses the quality of found on many so-called higher class cruise lines. Carnival even serve lobster on a 3 day cruise. I had the lobster followed by the softest prime rib I have tasted in a long time!
The service staff on this cruise all did their job professionally and efficiently. There could have been a little more effort to go the extra mile and be a little friendlier but I cannot fault the service except for the bar staff who could be a bit surly and terse at times (Maybe selling over-priced drinks sticks in their throats as well).
This is probably the only area that I felt was completely wrong. Could be I'm old fashioned but honestly, there really were a lot of scruffy and sometimes obnoxious individuals on board. On formal night I'm sure there were only about 3 men on board with tuxedos. People were turning up for the formal night dinner dressed in jeans and t-shirts. Although nobody got completely out of hand, there was a general rowdiness complete with the perennial drunken morons who shout and heckle during the shows. The Saturday night comedian did an excellent put-down of one of those pathetic individuals. Despite that we did meet some really nice people and made some new friends.
There is so much to like about Carnival's ships and they certainly live up to the reputation of being fun ships but sorry Carnival, we're going back to Royal Caribbean only because you allow a complete lack of decorum on the 3-day cruises. I'm not suggesting you aspire to be like some of the other cruise lines that can be quite snobbish at times, but at least try harder to get your passengers a better sense of appropriate attire - it does make a difference to the overall experience. I am not alone in this assessment. I know of a few first time cruisers who were quite excited about going on this cruise expecting a certain degree of elegance only to be disappointed because of the general demeanor of the passengers.