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C Steffen

Age: 30

Occupation:Computer Specialist

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Ecstasy

Sailing Date: March 21st, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Cruise Review – March 21, 2005 – Western Caribbean

Before Leaving – We stayed at the Hilton in Galveston. Wonderful room and they will park your vehicle for free for the duration of the cruise. The Hilton is great with pretty good customer service and very nice rooms.

Embarkation – Things went really smooth. I only waited in line for about 5 minutes. Only two ships in harbor the day we left. Luggage was delivered to our room before we left dock.

Casino – We actually decided to cruise instead of our usual spring break trip to Vegas. The ship’s casino is a great place to lose money. The table games are even more against you than they would be in Vegas. Most of the table games have a $10 limit. I have yet to see a blackjack table that was $5, and the tables are all 8 deck with no surrender. Three Card Poker is $5, but the pays are terrible (30 to 1 on 3 of a kind). In fact the only game that I found that gave you the same odds as Vegas was roulette. When roulette is giving some of the best odds on the ship, spend your money elsewhere. Slots seemed pretty tight with very little variety, though they are not really my thing.

Food – The food was really quite good. Not 5 star good, but certainly passable. The Captains dinner was better than most. My wife and I made our own version of surf and turf (prime rib and lobster). Don’t be shy about ordering more than one meal, as the meals in the dining rooms tend to come in smaller quantities. We ate all of your breakfasts on the Lido deck at the grill, which might be the best meal of the day. Large variety of standard breakfast entries, with juices, milk and coffee. Had one lunch in the dining room, and it really wasn’t any different than the pool side grill. Burgers and fries from 11:30 to about 6:00, with pizza served 24 hours. We went the entire trip without buying a drink, but the drink waiters seemed to be everywhere. Drinks are a little bit on the crazy expensive side for my taste.

Shows / Entertainment – The “Vegas-style” shows were pretty poor. The ship premiered a new country show while we were on board. Hopefully it will get better with time.

Shopping – The Ship’s galleria was pretty good. Really good deals on liquor. The liquor store manager spends time while in ports making certain that the ship has or matches the best deals that you can get at the duty free or other reputable shops. Johnnie Walker Blue for $120! My wife bought a watch (again, pretty good price) and you can get cheap t-shirts if you wait until the last night of the cruise. In Cozumel, the duty free (Dufry’s) shop on the pier has a little of everything. The Americanized shops at the pier are fun, but no real deals to be had. Go into town to find the best shopping. We didn’t really shop in Playa, but I would guess it is about the same.

Staterooms / Conditions Aboard – Our stateroom was great (Upper Deck, U144). When we arrived, the room a had a strong odor of onions, but that went away pretty quickly. I never met our steward, but our room was always in great condition. I was initially concerned about the size of the room, but found that it was more than adequate for two. The TV had the three networks broadcast from New York and two movie channels that played the same movies over and over again (I know that you are not going on a cruise to watch TV, but I am a total news junkie – CNN or Fox would have been nice) . Our outside window could have used some serious washing. The ship seemed to be well kept in general, with no real noticeable problems. All of the elevators have bells to announce their arrival, and a number of them sound absolutely terrible.

Day One – Galveston, Out to Sea: The muster went pretty well. Of course it is too long and no one wants to do it, but it went pretty fast. We opted for the burgers at the grill (which were very good). We explored the ship, checked our excursions at the shore tour desk and unpacked.

Day Two – At Sea: You can’t appreciate the size of the ship until you jog it first thing in the morning. It is big. Breakfast on the Lido deck was great. Spent most of the day on deck and roaming the ship. Dinner was the formal night, with everyone looking great. Take as many pictures as you can – we did. A couple of them turned out very well, and the enlargement prices aboard ship are pretty reasonable. Our table companions made bad small talk about politics. Just an enjoyable day aboard.

Day Three – Cozumel: Make certain to sign up for the shore excursions early. We signed up online before we left, and had no problems, but a number of people that we spoke to were disappointed with lack of availability. We chose to go to the dolphin swim at Chankanaab National Park (www.dolphindiscovery.com). It was outstanding. We arrived a bit early by taxi (an adventure in it self – one of the craziest car rides I have ever been on. They drive like maniacs!) and toured the park. There is a great beach and simulated Mayan ruins. The Dolphin swim is a lot of fun, and very recommended. We left, again by taxi, to shop and roam Cozumel.

Day Four – Calica / Playa del Carmen, Out to Sea: I had read reviews describing Calica as a gravel pit, but I thought they were being figurative. The dock at Calica is literally a gravel pit / cement plant. Not a great way to greet tourists. We took the cavern and beach tour. The cave swim (cenotes) was the highlight of the cruise. The tour guides (Ruben and Raoul) were a bit talkative, but did a great job. The day ends with 3 hours on the best beach I have ever seen, with water so clear and blue that it looks fake. Reluctantly, we made our way back to the ship and played in the ship’s Blackjack tournament. We didn’t make the final round, and were beat-dead tired, so we went to bed.

Day Five – At Sea: Not much happening on ship this day. Some pretty good deals at the stores. Went to the debarkation gathering with the cruise director. The entire debarking process, from this point forward, was confusing and poorly organized. Lots of conflicting information, lots of wrong information. Packed our stuff, and left it outside our cabin.

Day Six – Debarkation: Go through the immigration process as soon as possible, then go for breakfast. Don’t bring luggage through the immigration process. Try to figure out the amount that you spent the night before and settle your sign and sail account before hand. I received 4 different answers from 4 different people as to the amount of liquor allowed off the ship. I still don’t know what the real amount is, but the customs process was lax enough not to matter. Finding our bags was easy, getting out of the cruise terminal was impossible. Plan on waiting at least a hour for a hotel shuttle. We weren’t in a rush, so it was no big deal, but if you are catching a flight, plan accordingly.

Overall – Very satisfied with our first cruise. Everything was pretty much as we expected, and the value was well worth it. Some things to consider bringing: Room deodorizer – We brought one of the Oust fans and are glad we did. Power strip – only one outlet in the room. A power strip is a must. Bottled water – You can pay for it on ship or try the drink bars – or you can bring your own. $2.50 for a 12 pack, instead of a bottle.

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