Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Ecstasy
Sailing Date: August 1st, 2002
Itinerary: Baja Mexico
On August 1, 2003, we, a family of 4 members, had our first cruise experience. My wife, two daughters, 4 years and 8 years and myself enjoyed this trip very much. And here are some tips we would like to share with all of you, and wish these tips can help you make your trip better. Before I list all the tips, let me give you some background about my trip first. I weight at 195 pound with 6 feet high, and my weight at 100 pound with 5.3 feet. And we (2 adults and 2 kids) choose an interior room (no ocean view) at Riviera deck (lowest deck) due to limited budget. OK! Now let’s share our fist cruise experience with you.
For family has limit on their budget, like us – Interior room at Riviera desk is OK. I do not see the significant difference from lowest deck (Riviera) to 3 or 4 decks above. The room size, facilities, design and comfort are almost same. It is probably not worth to pay hundreds dollars more for just buy the feeling of “we are not on the bottom.” (I am referring to the regular room, not suite or special luxury room here). Furthermore, for this 3-night trip, we also DO NOT see the ocean view room is a must since most of our time were not in the room, an appox. 180 sq feet. The time we stayed in a room mainly was for sleep, and it was the time we do not want to see the light from window. Especially, for people who prefer waking up late and do not like sunshine, the interior room even will be the better choice since the room can keep 100% dark. Just away from choosing the rooms that are located near by stairs or elevators since people and elevators are making noises.
(1) Lowest deck, Riviera deck is OK to choose for limited budget.
(2) Interior room is OK to choose for limited budget.
(3) Away from shooing the room near by stairs or elevators. (Elevator and People make noise.)
I have two daughters, one is at 4 years old and the other is 8 years old. Ecstasy really has an excellent kids program. It offers different programs for different ages almost all day long (FREE of any charge from 8 am to 10 pm). We sent our kids to the Kids Camp for most of time, and they just loved it. Kids with Kids Camp and my wife and I can have free time. We enjoyed our formal dinners, watched the shows and enjoyed the sunshine on the deck, all without worrying about kids. Kids had great time. My wife and I had great time. All of us had great time. Thanks for the Kids Camp.
(1) Do not give up to take the advantage of this free Kids Camp.
Cruise offers many different foods at different locations. All tastes are above average. Specially mentioned, the dinner at formal dining places, either Wing Star or Wing Song you will be assigned in advance is EXCELLENT. Once you seat in, the waiter will pass you the dinner menu. The dinner menu shows sections of Starter, Salad and Soup, Main Course and Desert. They are many different items under each section. You can choose Every items under each section. (You are not restricted to choose only one item under each section as many other restaurants do) It is all included in your paid-fair. It is ok to miss your breakfast and lunch at formal dining area, but definitely not dinner if you really enjoy eating. However, Wasting is not recommended. Besides, 2nd night in the ship, you will have formal dining dinner night (as known as “captain night”), formal dress code is recommended. But suite and tie are not a must. I would say it more like casual formal event. Just no short and sandal. For family with limited budget, you do not need to prepare the extra formal suit for this night. Regular/ casual shirt, tie, long pant and shoes will be ok. At the last night in the formal dining room, it is your decision to give extra tips to the waiter and waitress. (We saw some people did, and we did as well even though the tips are included automatically in your daily billing statement in your room.) Note: You need to make sure which dinning location has been signed to you (it shows on your boarding card). Do not go to the wrong one (either WingStar or WingSong). If you get the wrong one, you will spend extra time to the other since one is located at the head and the other is located at the tail.
(1) First day for check-in, we arrived at 2:30 pm and did not get our turn until almost at 4:00 pm (long-line to wait). In average, it will take about 2 hours to wait in the line for check-in. Therefore, we would highly recommend people to be check-in place early. Why? First, you do not need to wait too long especially for family with kids. Second, you can get-in the ship early to study the ship and find out where is where and what programs or activities you want to attend. Third, the ship’s buffet area (ocean view) is ready starting 12:30 pm. You can start to enjoy your lunch and ocean view.
(2) Avoid using the large luggage. Instead, use mid-size luggage. Why? Even though the regular cabin is well designed for two adults and two kids, the space is limited. Mid-size luggage will be much easier to store and give you more space. (By the way, when first day you arrive in parking facility of Carnival in Long Beach, you will drop your entire luggage at parking facility to Carnival Staff, then you go to check-in station across to the parking facility. Carnival Staff will delivery your luggage directly from parking facility to your cabin. You do not need to bring your luggage to check-in station. For people who has cabin is called “TBA” (to be announce) or “Guaranteed inside/ocean view cabin, you can go see the Carnival Staff in Parking structure and they will help you to find out which cabin you have been assigned to. (Basically your cabin has been assigned before you check in your luggage)
(3) On the 2nd day, visiting Ensenada, you need proper adjust your energy (especially the family with kids because (i) you might spend the day time to join local tour and visit Ensenada, then you will have very nice formal dinner, then you might enjoy the show after the dinner, then you might want to see the midnight buffet. Now you can see what I mean. All these mentioned activities are all in one day.
(4) On the 2nd day, for the family with kids, if you send your kids to Camp and visit Ensenada in the afternoon without kids (We did that), please make sure that “do not” wait until the last minute to come back to the ship to pick up the kids from Camp (for that day, you need to pick up your kids by 4:00 pm). It was long line to wait (about 30 to 40 minutes) to check in back to ship. Please give yourself enough time to wait in the line to check in back to ship and pick up your kids on time.
(5) On the 2nd day, some people might choose to join local tour with local tour agency in order to save some money instead of buying the local tour with Carnival in advance. I personally do not recommend for those people who want to save money by doing that since (i) the saving amount is very minute, (ii) Safety issue, (iii) Quality issue and (iv) what if you can not come to the ship on time. You will have no place to file complains. You need to think twice to make this decision.
(6) Last day, Monday Morning, the ship arrives Long Beach at 8:00am. Do not plan to back to work at 9:00am. You will be checked out deck by deck and you will not know which deck go first and which deck go last. (we were lucky and we were the first deck to be checked out. It only spent about 20 minutes. Not because you choose more expensive cabin, you will have the privilege to be checked out earlier.) If luck is not on your side, it will take as long as 2 hours to your turn.
These are all we can think of that might help some families to make their first cruise experiences better. All mentioned sharing are based on our first cruise experience on 8/1/2003. We wish you and your families will enjoy your trip.