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Bob McGorkic

Age: 49

Occupation:firefighter

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Elation

Sailing Date: May 16th, 2004

Itinerary: Progresso, Cozumel, Belize


Parking-
We have now tried both the Port Authority parking and the Dolphin Parking lot. The price is about the same. (You can pay $7 more for a covered space at Dolphin.) The port authority system has you drop off your bags and passengers, at the terminal and drive, down a private road, to the parking lot. There you pay $60 to park for a week. A bus brings you back. You do not have to wait long for a bus, once a bus pulls behind the bus you are in, it takes off for the terminal. They usually do not wait for the bus to fill. As long as there is another there, they leave. You can complete the process in 20 minutes. The only thing time consuming is the drive back to the terminal. Depending upon the time of day, there can be quite a bit of traffic going to the terminals. After the cruise it is a simple procedure to get on a bus and return with your car for your passenger and bags. This may take 20 minutes.

The Dolphin parking lot advertises that this is “The quickest way to the ship.” DO NOT BELIEVE THIS! Just about every other way will probably be quicker. We arrived at 11:40. We waited, with our baggage for exactly an hour before we could get on a bus. There were people, on our bus, that had waited since 11:00. The busses have to deal with people leaving the ship, and their baggage. They load them and then unload them. Then they load you and your baggage. This is very time consuming.

After the cruise we were at the curb at 9:30. We stood there for about an hour before we could get on a bus to our lot.

We were told by our tablemates that across the street from the Elation is the “EZ” park (Easy Park?) parking lot. They charge $35 and you carry your own bags across the street to the ship. This is not the easiest of walks, but is possible.

The best thing might be to stay at a Galveston hotel that allows you to park your car there for the week. They will also usually shuttle you to the ship. If not you can take a cab.

The Ships, R = Rhapsody, E = Elation

Food locations: While E has more lounges and places to eat, the main dining room on R is very large. It is two stories with a open area in the center. This gives you a roomier feel. E has two smaller formal dining rooms, with low ceilings. On E, navigating from one dining room to the other is impossible without going up or down a flight of stairs, they are on the same floor but not connected by a hallway. You have to walk up and down a flight of stairs, walk to another stairway, then back up or down to the dining room.

Both ships have casual dining areas.

As mentioned in other reviews, for the same price, the staterooms appear to be a little larger on Carnival. This was nice.

Entertainment: E appears to have more music venues than R. The musicians on both ships are very good.

The main show room on E is the Mikado Lounge. This place is terrible for seating. Someone in a previous review mentioned the columns and seating arrangements. They were being kind. There are 10 to 15 columns scattered about the small auditorium. Unless you are in the first few rows, you WILL have one OR MORE of these in your view. I would venture to say that half the people in the theater have really bad seats. The seats are made up of round booths. This means that half of the people will be required to turn sideways to see the stage.

The main theater on R is large and most of the seats offer good views.

The one other thing that stands out about the main shows on the Elation, compared to Rhapsody is the time schedule.

On both ships there is a late and early dinner seating. On R there are two shows. While the early eaters are dining, the late seating is enjoying the show. This is around 5:30 or 6:00. While the late dinner seating is going on the early diners are enjoying their show. This is at 8:00. I thought that this was a really good system. This also allowed the casual diners to pick a show that is best for them.

On E there is only one big show and this starts at 10:30 every night. Once the cruise director comes out and talks about the next day’s activities or whatever and two acts are seen, the show goes beyond midnight. If one has had a full day of activities, this is hard to stay up for.

On R the shows are mostly variety entertainment with a headliner. This might be a magic act or whatever. We enjoyed the shows very much.

On E, two of the shows were the big Vegas dance shows. You know, g-strings, giant feathers etc. Not our taste.

Food-

Several reviews have mentioned that they thought the food on Elation was sub par. I thought they these people might have been just picky eaters. They were right. I tried three omelets. All of them were not that good. They were over cooked to the point of being black on the edges. When they were folded over, they broke in half. I could list things like cold and gritty clam chowder, unrecognizable “Southern fried chicken”, and a poor pizza selection. I have forgotten how many things were found to be served cold by our tablemates and us.

The desert selection on Elation was nothing to rave about. The cheesecake is dry according to everyone at our table. The cookies at lunch look like they just came out of a Chips Ahoy box. Each day they have a “Sweet Treats” serving from 3:30 to 4:30 in the Tiffany (casual) dining room. This always consisted of only little triangles of pound cake and a few things you could put on it if you wished. For example, Chocolate syrup, coconut, etc.

E did have a 24 soft serve ice cream machine. You could get chocolate or vanilla.

Elation does have a place to BUY better deserts. You can get special coffees and better cheesecake, etc. here. We tried it once for an afternoon snack. The other people there agreed that it was NOT the best carrot or chocolate cake we have ever had. They also SELL real ice cream here.

By comparison, Rhapsody has a large selection of fresh made cookies and pastries that is served at lunchtime. This stays out, in the Windjammer Café for most of the afternoon. Since we had a late supper seating we would make a habit of an afternoon snack in the Solarium. This included, for me, some of the best oatmeal/raisin cookies I have ever had.

Both ships had a place where you could get hot dogs or hamburgers almost any time.

On E the selection of food for lunch was just not that good. The selection on R was much better, for both breakfast and lunch. The omelet cooks on Rhapsody, in the Windjammer Café, were good.

Pool Deck-
Elation probably wins this one. E has a water slide and might be a little larger. R’s pool area is nice but probably not as fun for kids.

Staff-

Rhapsody promotes itself as “The Friendliest Ship”. While I would say that there is nothing wrong with Elation’s crew, R was probably friendlier and more professional. But this is like comparing an “A” to an “A+” score. The casino staff on Elation were very nice. (Even though I won on R and lost on E.)

Conclusion-
We had a good time on both ships. But the best part of the cruise on Elation had to be our tablemates for dinner. My wife and I tend to keep to ourselves but these people were so much fun. We compared days ashore and supported each other in games and activities.

If I had to choose I would pick the Rhapsody over the Elation. The food and the entertainment were superior on Rhapsody. Part of this was due to the poor seating situation, and times, on Elation. We will probably always choose Royal Caribbean over Carnival in the future.

Ports-
We have never taken a ship-sponsored excursion and probably never will. This is not to say that ship excursions are bad. They serve a valuable purpose and there is a place for them. Sometimes you can save money by booking your own excursions but there are risks involved. It is not for everyone. There also some things that are best handled by the ship. It just depends upon what you want to do.

Progresso-
Not much here. This is a place to get transportation to another place. You can choose between several Mayan ruins sites. The distance to the ruins range from 15 minutes to 2.5 hours. The “pier” is five miles long. There is a bus that takes you to the city. As soon as you get off the ship, you enter the cruise ship terminal. This is a new facility that offers all the same excursions you can find on the ship for about 60% of the price. If you go into town you can get them for about half price.

The bus lets you off in a little tourist area of the city. We took a $5, open-air bus, tour of the city. This lets you get off to see something and then catch the next bus if you wish.

DO YOUR SHOPPING IN PROGRESO! The prices are mush better here. I stopped to look at one of those hammock swings. I asked the price. “$50!” my disinterest cause him to say, “Today only $35.” I shook my head. He said, “How about $25?” I started to walk off. He said, “OK, $13” Around the corner there was a guy with a sign advertising them for $10. You will not get deals like this in Cozumel. I bought my wife a shell necklace for $4.

Progresso is not a very good place. While we never really felt threatened or unsafe, we were offered cigars, cocaine, and hashish.

Cozumel –
There are several things to do here. We have always just rented a scooter to do this. My wife loves sitting on the back of a scooter even though a little car is just $5 more. They are easy to find and rent. They are just outside the gates of both terminals. (Don’t believe the car rental salesmen who will tell you that they are not available.)

You can see Mayan ruins in several locations. The best is reported to be San Gervasio in the center of the island. But it is not the easiest to get to.

There is a road or path that goes south from the ships that is just for bicycles and scooters. This road takes you to several places. Going south in order:

Chaakanaab Park – Very pretty. Snorkeling, dolphins etc. $10 each admission.
Playa Corona – This is a little beach café with tables and umbrellas. There is no admission charge. It is probably one of the best places to snorkel or dive from the beach. Entry is easier than some other places. They will watch after your bags and gear while you swim. All they ask is $1 for a table and 1$ for showers. They also sell drinks etc. Their prices for renting snorkeling gear was very reasonable. You can get everything you need for $8 - $10 a person

Paradise Peach – This is connected to a resort. This place is VERY NICE. A beautiful beach, nice umbrellas, a bar area you won’t believe, kayaks etc. Sometimes they have a live band. Cost: 0. All they ask is for your bar business. Bringing in your own drinks is not allowed.

El Cedral Mayan Ruins – Just go a little further south from Paradise Beach and you will see a large arch on the left. You can’t miss it. You have to pay an admission fee.
There are other things, such as a wildlife preserve, on further south, but we have never gone there. People say that the wildlife preserve is great.

Grand Cayman –
We walked on shore without a plan. As soon as we got off the tender we saw a nicely dressed man holding up a sign that said “Tour of Island”. We asked him how much. $15 each. “When does it depart?” “When you are ready.” We toured the island with five other people from our ship. We saw the Turtle Farm, Hell, Seven Mile Beach, The Governor’s home, the Run Cake factory and more. He could not have been nicer and more knowledgeable. It was more fun than we could have imagined.

Belize-
There were all kinds of excursions offered from the ship. The ship anchors four miles out to sea. The excursion seemed to be designed to prevent one from actually stepping foot on the mainland. A boat picks you up from the ship, takes you to a small island or up a river or to a landing where you are picked up by a bus. We wanted to see Belize.

We waited until all the excursion people had their turn to leave the ship and we took a tender to shore. There is a tourist compound on the shore. This is nothing more than a place where you can by souvenirs. Note: There is an open-air market outside where you can get slightly better deals. But you can’t just leave the compound unescorted.

We saw a small woman holding up a sign that informed us that we could be driven anywhere we wanted to for a fee. After talking with her we decide that we wanted to go to the “Baboon Preserve”. We asked if we could see the driver and the vehicle before putting down $40 each. She said that she would take us herself. For $80 we had our own driver take us to the jungle and there a very knowledgeable guide took us in to see Howler monkeys. This was a trip of a lifetime. Howler Monkeys are indescribable.

http://208.55.3.170/spanish/guide/pa/pa05.html
http://www.watauga.k12.nc.us/staff/felkera/Howler_3.JPG

This was not a “Preserve” in the way you might be thinking. This is just an area of 25 sq miles with as many people as monkeys. (About 1500) The tour through the city and the 30 mile drive from town, along with all the strange animals that are in Belize made this one of the highlights of the entire cruise. We are ready to go back to Belize for a week. But don’t misunderstand; Belize is a very impoverished country. There are only three traffic lights in the entire country. They had four until a hurricane damaged one. This is an adventure.

Our driver was Marcia Garcia. She attended the most prestigious high school in the country and went to university. Her website is:
http://www.cbelize.com

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