Age: late fifties
Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Elation
Sailing Date: August 1st, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
As extensive travelers and past cruisers, we looked forward to introducing our adult children and grandchildren to the world of cruising. We are not picky or demanding people. Bending with the wind and going with the flow in any given situation is more our motes operant. We went onboard with the ‘you make a cruise what you want of it” attitude. However, there is a limit to anyone’s patience and tolerance. We’re sorry to say, ours was stretched to the extreme on this trip. Please bare in mind, we wish not to dissuade anyone from taking a cruise. This is only our experience we report on.
PARKING: We discovered EZ Cruise Parking online (www.ezcruiseparking.com), made advanced reservations, and were extremely pleased with the location (one block from the ship) and service we received. The attendants loaded our luggage into the shuttle, delivered us promptly to the terminal, and assisted us in finding a porter to handle our luggage. Upon our return, we found EZ waiting for us with an air-conditioned bus. Without delay, they loaded us up and whisked us back to our vehicle. We highly recommend this parking facility for the Galveston cruiser.
EMBARKATION: We encountered mass chaos at the terminal, with departing passengers pushing and shoving to get out of the terminal. Buses, shuttles, taxis, and private cars challenged each other for space to drop off and pick up passengers. One wrong step placed you in grave danger of being hit by a charging vehicle. The situation was basically a “survival of the fittest”. The police and/or port authority attempting to direct the grossly congested traffic were less than effective. After processing through the scanning station, we were directed to the Skipper’s Club while the others in our group were routed through normal check in. The clerks were cordial and efficient, but that was the extent of the VIP processing. We finished in the same amount of time the normal check in lines did. At this point, the herding of passengers began and continued throughout the cruise. Our VIP status did not afford early boarding as promised. We moved with the rest of the cruise cattle. Abbreviated instructions were given and we were put into line to get on the ship. Passenger comfort was not of priority. From beginning to end of the cruise, the rule of the day was ‘hurry, move faster, get out of the way, don’t ask questions, don’t ask for anything’.
SHIP CONDITION: The Elation’s décor was based on the Greek Muses, but the color scheme made the interior appear to be dark and small. There was a musty order to the carpets in the hallways and rooms. During the cruise, one elevator or another was being repaired. The Lido deck proved to be hazardous when the salt-water pool was open. Two four foot rubber mats were placed end to end at the ladder leading up to the slide, but the remaining exposed deck around the pool was very slippery. We witnessed a few bad falls by young and old passengers. The other malady was the ongoing severe rolling of the ship, which kept most passengers reeling and unsteady. Very few were unaffected by the intense rocking, dispelling the belief that you do not feel the motion on the larger ships. The general comments were suspicion that the stabilizers were not being activated. Throughout the cruise, sections of the ship were being blocked to the passengers due to repairs of one sort of another, making getting around the ship difficult.
CABIN: Our balcony cabin on the Veranda deck was a major disappointment. We’d expected it to be small, but the old, worn carpet, bedspreads and drapery left much to be desired. The musty odor took some getting used to. The balcony was just large enough to accommodate two plastic lawn chairs. Sitting down was like threading a needle. You had to hold the rail and skinny between it and the chair to sit down. The enormous price was worth paying to quietly watch coming in and leaving each port. The room safe was nice to have and proved to have no problems with security. The refrigerator was a Godsend for keeping our special meds cool and safe. The cabin was constantly hot due to ineffective air conditioning. We never got this issue resolved with ship’s maintenance. Our many requests were ignored.
FOOD: Main dining: dismal with little or no variation. Atmosphere music…crashing dishes and staff falling on wet floors. Getting wine and mixed drinks was quick and easy (naturally, since this was extra expense on the passenger). However, getting a simple glass of tea (one of very few freebies) took an act of Congress. It normally arrived after the meal was over. Tiffany’s: better than the main dining room with a better, wider variety. Room Service: limited menu, but very prompt arrival. Specialty cafes: only open certain hours, except the pizza bar where your choice was limited. Coffee: The coffee islands offered a very strong, bitter serving of coffee.
STAFF: Cabin Stewards - High marks for V15 attendants. They went above and beyond their duties to take care of us. Waiter - table 199, Imagination dining room. This man should find another line of work. He was rude, pushy, arrogant, and completely unable to understand what you wanted. On the formal night, my husband had pulled my chair out to seat me. The waiter jerked the chair out of his hand, shoved it into the back of my knees, causing me to fall into the chair, and then he shoved me into the table. He avoided taking orders for tea. You had to step out in front of him to get him to bring it to the table, normally after the meal was over. We never went back to the dining room again, ate the rest of our meals at Tiffany’s. Busboy - not much better than the waiter. Maitre’d - not a clue who this was, never saw him. Security - the most arrogant and ill mannered of all the ships crews. Sea-going Gestapo. Bar Attendants - Tiffany’s bar – good; Lido deck bar- very bad manners, disrespectful. Photo Gallery - very cute lady with nice sense of humor when she wasn’t inundated with unruly crowds. Purser Staff - Curt, short, and seeming lost as to what they were supposed to do. Cruise Director - Risa -very nice lady. Ass’t Cruise Director: Janie-best person onboard the ship, funny, entertaining, helpful. Room Service - extremely nice staff, quick and efficient. Photographers - obnoxious, rude, disrespectful…total paparazzi…would not take no for an answer, forced their photo taking on you, and became hateful if you refused.
SAIL AND SIGN: The onboard credit card took some getting used to, but proved to be better than having to carry large amounts of cash around. The one problem we saw was there was no distinguishing between an adult card and a minor’s card. We witnessed underage alcoholic drink purchases being made all over the ship. All the teens had to do was wander around and find out which bartenders would ignore the rules and sell liquor to them. The kids had an information network for their pleasure-needs up and running in short time after boarding.
Billing statements didn’t arrive until the last night with the warning that you’d be publicly embarrassed over the PA system if you were overcharged and didn’t settle up with the purser. If you queried prior to the statements were issued, you were greeted with distain. There was no way to check on your balance on the television as advertised and questions about that was not welcomed or answered.
FUN DRINK CARD: This card proved to be more hassle than helpful. You could only buy very small (six ounces) fountain drinks, which were extremely diluted. To get a bottled drink or canned drink, you had to use the Sail and Sign card and pay twice the price. Also, you had to present one card per drink when you tried to purchase more than one drink at a time, i.e. husband and wife had to present their individual cards to get a less-than-satisfying cold drink.
PORTS OF CALL: Progresso: great shopping in a primitive little street market. Cozumel: very tourist oriented town. Paradise Beach had many water toys and excursions offered. San Francisco beach was wonderful. Disembarking was not a pleasant experience. We were pushed, shoved, shouted at, whistles blown in our ears by the ship’s staff and local law enforcement, with no explanation for the heavy-handed treatment. Belize: Cannot make comment on this port since we were very distressed by this time and opted to stay onboard.
ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: Shows - mediocre. Games - only slightly better than the shows. Casino - crowded and loud. Karaoke - dominated by the unruly, unsupervised teenagers. Swimming pool - too small for the number of passengers. Closed too early each night. Ping Pong Tables - unusable due to unruly teens. Basketball court - no comment. Spas - overpriced and over-advertised, Galleria Mall - a few good sales, but over all overpriced. Photo Gallery - one of the worst issues onboard…ill organized, ill located, and ill staffed. Many people were unable to find the day’s pictures. The gallery was only open in the evening hours and in the worst location.
DEBARKATION: This only went moderately better than embarkation. The staff began shutting down the pool, game rooms, refreshment areas, and even decks the night before, leaving the passengers use of very limited areas of the ship. Our group had the orange colored tags, which put us off the ship by nine am. Make sure you put something very noticeable on your luggage handles so it stands out in the mounds of ‘tossed’ luggage inside the terminal.
TERMINAL PORTERS: This man was wonderful. He wadded in and found our luggage for us. We followed behind him as he created an opening in the crowd for us to walk through. We handsomely tipped him for his courageous effort.
GENERAL COMMENTS: CCL advertises their cruises as being the best bargain in vacations packages, XX% all-inclusive…this is far from the case. CCL neglects to mention all the subtle charges, fees, and extras you encounter at every step on board. The passenger is bombarded with non-stop hawking of this sale, that special, and other money-grabbing announcements over the PA system. Once on board, the passenger becomes the hooked fish waiting to be reeled in.
If you are an older cruiser, we suggest you pick trips during the school year. Also, from June first to November is the hurricane season. We were hesitant to believe some of the stories told on various online message boards about how the children were running amuck, uncontrolled, unruly, and totally disrespectful of other passengers. We now, without hesitation, verify this to be true. They take over the ship like an infestation. There is no such thing as a quiet night stroll around the deck. You will be approached by pot smoking, cigarette -bumming, booze-mooching teens. The open decks are littered with drunken teens until early morning. Stairways are hazardous to navigate due to children running helter-skelter and hazardous litter from the night before. Elevators are a nightmare with unsupervised, screaming children using them as play toys. Between the rude, ill-mannered staff and unruly, unsupervised teenagers, this cruise brought us to realize that the loud, rowdy, unfriendly, alcohol-driven ‘Fun Ships’ are not what we wish to sail the seas on any more. We will move on to more sophisticated ships.