Occupation:Real Estate Development
Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Ecstasy
Sailing Date: October 21st, 2006
Carnival Cruise Lines
Ecstasy Cruise Review
Okay, the short 3-5 day itineraries of Carnival are very value priced and, as with most things, you get what you pay for. However, in large part, this cruise was not "most things." You get a lot... a real lot for your money. Granted, this is not going to be on par with the other value priced itineraries such as those of RCL or Celebrity (both of which offer a myriad of shorter cruises), but for around $400 per person, Carnival is a fantastic deal. Again, do not set your expectations unfairly high - the ships have little "wow" factor, but the Ecstasy is comfortable (bigger cabins than on most competitors, extra credit for the new mattresses and sheets), the entertainment very good, the service gracious but not lavish, and the food, almost consistently above average. I'm using a decent chain restaurant as the benchmark for average.
Food: Breakfast was boring and uninspired - same thing every day - typical American breakfast offerings. The taste and quality was good. Medium lines in the buffet - no wait at all in the dining rooms (dining rooms usually offered an entree not offered in the buffet - such as eggs benedict).
Lunch: Again, buffet good, not great. Every day was a different international theme. Strangely, Indian day was the best. It's not that Indian food is strange - very tasty in fact, but I would have figured that they were more experienced with Italian or American offerings.
Dinner: Portions small (you can always order more), menu was small but with some fairly exotic choices (Lobster on formal night was superb in every way, really). Service was very old school - 4.5 stars there.
Desserts: Excellent, almost all around. One night the selection was boring, but so what?
Entertainment: Excellent casino - slots and video poker payouts were clearly one notch down from Vegas, but if you like to gamble, so what again. It's a good time. No free drinks while gambling though, boo.
Stage Shows: I was such a skeptic, I mean I had to be dragged to Xtreme Country, but it was very good, I must say. It only took about 70 minutes anyhow, then I was free to go to the lounges.
Lounges: Pretty much stuck to Chinatown Lounge - an unbelievable 70s/80s band from The Philippines (called Lifeline, I think) played 3 of 5 night - spectacular.
Ports: Cozumel (same 'ol same 'ol) - jewelry shopping, cheesy shops, lively bars for sure, expensive shore excursions. Progresso: Not so nice, kind of third world in parts. I took the bus trip to the inland city of Merida - saw the oldest church in Latin America (1547), lots of swanky hotels, had an authentic Mayan lunch of grilled meats and veggies - all for about 33 bucks - woohoo. Not sponsored by Carnival - took free shuttle at port to Progresso center. Paid official Mexico guides there $25 for the roundtrip with tour guide (a full blooded Mayan pilgrim - very small, very personable, very nice).
Cabins: Not modern, but comfortable enough. Beds were excellent, bathroom adequate, decent hot water/water pressure. Cabin stewards exceptional - twice daily with plenty of towel animals, of course.
General feel: Okay, this is where I become a little snobby. This was not a group of sophisticated people. Lots of first time cruisers, maybe first time vacationers. Lots of college age people partying like wild. Lots of very large people - I estimate that over 60% of the passengers would be considered clinically obese. Honestly, 20% were greater than 100% of their ideal body weight. I'm not casting aspersions here, just making observations. So this is not going to be any sort of glamorous affair, I can assure you. And in my opinion this cruise is not worth more than $600 per person, regardless of cabin. Lots of people paid around $370 per person - I wasn't snooping, it appeared to be a topic of conversation for lots of folks.
So, for somewhere less than $120 per person per day, you get a decent enough room, all the food you can stand, good entertainment, smiling service, a generally good attitude among your fellow passengers, and one hell of a view. Can't find that on land. PS. Lots of people posting here seem to think the drinks are pricey. They are about 10% more than a comparable drink at a decent land based restaurant, plus they automatically add 15% as a gratuity - maybe the added 15% causes some folks "sticker shock," but you're going to leave a tip anyway, the drinks are reasonable. Especially the daily specials at $3.50 each.