Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Elation
Sailing Date: December 12th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Introduction: As a Christmas present to myself, I decided to take a cruise alone. This was my third cruise and my first with Carnival. I was rather limited on the cruise line I could choose because none of the others believe in giving decent rates to single travelers. In a nutshell, the price drew me there.
Embarkation: Being that Carnival specializes in first time cruisers, I would imagine that the lines are substantial if you try to check in right at 1:30. I checked in between 2:30 and 3:00. No problems whatsoever. It was easier than checking into the airlines.
Cabin: I bought my ticket knowing that it was "guaranteed" with no specific cabin assignment. I was pleasantly surprised to be assigned an outside cabin with 2 portholes. The downside is that the cabin is located at the very front of the ship (M1). There is more movement than other cabins I have been in. My cabin was relatively small but that did not create a problem being alone. The room was very clean and sufficed. The bathroom was bigger than in my past cruises. The one major drawback, in my opinion, was that there were no comfortable chairs or a sofa present.
Food: The food was good and comparable to a Royal Caribbean cruise taken earlier in the year. The service was outstanding. There are inherent problems with trying to serve 800 people at one time. However, I encountered few real problems. The buffets were pretty good. However to fully enjoy the cruise go to the main dining room. The sushi bar offering was awesome! While on the subject of food, I was horrified at the number of grossly obese women who gorged themselves at the dessert buffets.
Entertainment: The shows were kind of weak. The comedians at the midnight shows were a lot of fun. I did notice that Carnival offered very few activities on the ship. They are prone to try to get you to spend money on other things like shore excursions and art auctions. None of which, I was particularly interested in. They really need to kick the cruise director in the butt and get him into the spirit. The most pleasant surprise of the trip was a classical trio that played before dinner in the Atrium Bar. The trio consisted of 2 violins and a piano. They were from Poland and added a decided touch of elegance. A band which was comprised of people from Japan was a kick when they sang country music.
Children: There were not too many on my trip. I will always go on a cruise when school is in session. However, if you are a parent please read this. Children do not belong sitting at a bar. I asked the bartenders to remove several children from bar stools and they gladly did it. Just because you paid for the cruise does not entitle you to take the week off from parenting. Most children looked bored to tears. They also monopolized the pools. When an unattended child was acting up they were corrected by me. Or a staff member was alerted. For god's sake the whole world is not for children. Pay off grandma and don't bring them.
Staff: These folks are from all over the world and I found them to be intriguing. They were always friendly and willing to talk. Always informative and helpful. I was recognized as a single traveler and was even chided by a bartender for not coming to her bar one night (in a playful sense, of course). My stateroom attendant was OK. He was not particularly mindful of my one request……….keep my very small ice chest full of ice.
Progresso: I was expecting Pancho Villa to ride into town. It is a dusty, nasty Mexican town with no real appeal. No good shopping. No good food. No good bars.
Cozumel: I enjoy Cozumel and the numerous bars and shops. There appeared to be some good prices to be had. Go up the street a few blocks to rent a scooter and the price will drop to $20.00.
Belize: Even nastier than Progresso. I heard the shore excursions were nice. There are no shopping bargains. That is, unless you go to the Pharmacy. Some of the geriatric crowd proudly proclaimed their acquisition of Viagra. Too much information for me!
Tipping: Carnival will automatically add $70.00 as a gratuity on your credit card bill. I prefer to tip in cash and hand it to the person whose service was appreciated. The pursor gladly removed the charge and gave me envelopes. Every drink has a 15% gratuity added to it, so I did not feel terribly compelled to adhere to the ship's tipping guidelines.
Overview: As with any cruise, it is what you make of it. There are many first time cruisers and many folks are not cut out to leave the farm for a full week. If you are not having a good time, keep it to yourself! I was pleasantly surprised to find cruisers in my age range and plenty of singles. I was seated with 3 other single travelers. All were men and in the same age range as myself (mid 30's to mid 40's). By the second night I had invitations to dine with several single women. There were not too terribly many senior citizens. Who can be as annoying as children. I will sail on this ship again due to the great rate that I obtained.