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Martin Hawkins

Age: 40

Occupation:IT Consultant

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Ecstasy

Sailing Date: November 11th, 2004

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera

My wife and 2 teen daughters went on a 4 day cruise to Cozumel from Galveston. This was I think the 4th cruise since the Ecstasy was in dry dock and I think it really showed. The condition of the ship was excellent and the crew was refreshed and ready to serve.

Embarkation: We live only on 20 minutes from Galveston and I had prepaid our parking thru EZCruise Parking. I think they were an excellent choice for parking; our space was reserved and ready for us the minute we pulled up. After a quick shuttle ride to the Terminal our driver instructed us were to go and were to be upon our return. I did the Fun Pass online and we were directed to the shortest line by an attendant; the paperwork process took only a few minutes. Next we were directed to the gangway were our boarding picture was taken and our Sail and Sign cards were activated. One note, I understand that on some vessels the Sail and Sign card is your door key as well, but not on the Ecstasy. You are issued a separate door key similar to what you find at most hotels, which means you have to keep up with 2 cards which was sort of inconvenient.

Cabin: Our cabin was on Riviera R86 which was an inside cabin on the forward section of the ship. I found this to be a very convenient location, very near the stairway/elevators which lead to the Atrium. This is the central artery for the ship, you really can’t get anywhere without going thru here first. It was also the only stairway/elevator that leads to the Sports Deck and the Blue Sapphire Lounge. We were very pleased with the décor and arrangement of the cabin which included the 2 pull down bunks. With the beds up and the twins pushed out of the way we felt we had plenty of room.

Food: Main dinning room: The menu in the main dinning room was varied and interesting. There was something for just about everyone. We enjoyed trying new things and the service as prompt and courteous. Eating here was perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of our cruise.

Panorama Bar and Grill: We ate breakfast and lunch here exclusively. The Pizza and Grilled sandwiches were great! Hamburgers and hotdogs were ok as was the rest of the food here. My only complaint was the décor; the blue neon lighting at night was awful! I can forgive the rest of the ship décor, but this was nauseating. It was like eating under black lights.

Room Service:
this was an unexpected thrill. Room service any time of day or night! FREE!

Service: Our room steward was like a ghost, I think we only talked to him once but every time we went back to our room it was clean and neat. The girls discovered room server very early on, even ordering a plate of potato chips once. On deck, if you set a cup or plate down, someone was right behind you busing the tables or asking if you needed anything else. During peak pool hours I saw plenty of drink servers and didn’t have any problems getting served. I found the internationality of the crew very interesting and spent a lot of time talking to many of them about their native country and about life onboard the ship. A really great crew I think.

Activities/Shows: We went to 2 of the late night shows and one of the comedians. The shows were Vegas type entertainment with singing and dancing. The costumes were nice and the girls were cute, but it was by no means Vegas (very G rated). The comedian was very funny but I think he stole almost all his material from Larry the Cable Guy. Not much of a dancer, but the dance clubs were ok, I would have loved to sit and listen to the piano player but the smoke was so bad I couldn’t stand it. The kids really enjoyed the Kids Carnival activities, we sailed on an off peak week and there were relativity few kids onboard. I guess this mean they got extra attention from the crew. They combined the 12-17 year olds into one group which means that the activities were either too childish or too grown up for some.

The Casino: a real let down. The table games were fairly standard, but they play blackjack with the dealer cards face up. Kind of takes the fun out of playing that way. The slots were average but very tight! I enjoy playing nickel slots and was disappointed to find there were no interesting games like I Dream of Jeannie or Wheel of Fortune they only had Reel Em In and 2 other games I have never seen before. If I had to guess the slots were paying off at like 85% maybe.

Shore excursions:
In Cozumel we docked at Puerto Maya, which starts off with the Duty Free shopping mall after which is the Maya shopping center. It’s a real maze, designed to force you to run this gauntlet of vendors selling touristy crap. There are no bargains here! The object is to find the exit as fast as possible. Once free of this obstacle we took a taxi to Paradise Beach, which is THE BEACH in Cozumel. Can’t say enough about this beach, clean white sand, blue clear water, free entrance, plenty of umbrellas and chairs, great snorkeling, massages and henna tattoos and no vendors hassling you. They have great prices on their food and drinks too. If you go, ask for Tom, he’ll make sure you are enjoying your stay.

Debarkation: I’m not sure if debarkation was a pain or if we were just tired and ready to go home. I missed the meeting the night before that explained the debarkation procedure. So not surprising we were very confused as to where we needed to be and when. That being said, we wasted a lot of time worrying about were we should be and when! We made it off the ship around 11:00 am and were picked up promptly again by EZCruise and on the road by 11:30. All in all it wasn’t that bad of an experience, just part of cruising I guess.

Summary: Perhaps I had too high of an expectation. Since this was our first cruise, I didn’t know what to expect. I spent many hours online researching the cruise and excursion trying to make sure that this is what I wanted to spend my money on. My only experience that I can compare this cruise to would be going to Las Vegas. I’ve been there several times and have a BLAST every time! I would compare the Ecstasy to a weekend at the Westward HO. Not a luxury hotel by any means but close to all the excitement. If relaxing by the pool or drink yourself silly is what you want to do, then I think a cruise is for you. I on the other hand have far too much nervous energy. After few hours relaxing by the pool and I got bored and wanted a change in scenery. I doubt I will take any more cruises, but it really had nothing to do with the quality of the ship or the service we received.

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