Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Elation
Sailing Date: March 20th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Important things to have prior to going on cruise: Birth certificates, waterproof cameras, power strip for stateroom, wine, suntan lotion, motion sickness pills, waterproof container to put ship and shore card into, money, etc, that you can wear around your neck, comfortable shoes, hat, and remember to put colorful ribbons on your luggage so that you can find it quickly when you disembark. Also be sure to purchase trip insurance prior to going. It is inexpensive, but well worth the money (about $29 per person).
This cruise went well. We made all 3 ports without a hitch. We were on time for each port. There are only 2 seasons in the caribbean - hot and wet. There really is no winter/summer.
We went on the Chichen Itza tour in Progresso. I was very impressed. We were there on the spring equinox day so it was a big event there if you're there til 5. Since we had to leave, we missed the big event. But this excursion is well-worth the time. It is THE myan site in Mexico. Expect the weather to be very hot. It was 108 degrees the day we went. Take plenty of water and wear a hat! Bus that excursion goes on is air conditioned and has a bathroom. They also serve you lunch on the bus. There are 2 opportunities to shop on this tour - once on a quick bathroom break, and again at Chichen Itza. We found lots of bargains at both locations.
Not much else to do in Progresso. Progresso is not really a town, it is a new man-made port. Our guide said that it was the biggest port in the world - about 5 miles. We were the only ship in port that day, but I think they're going to grow as more ships come in. Don't try to walk from the port to the nearest town, Merida. They don't recommend it, and there are free shuttles to the town. There is a nice little beach at the end of the port, and I saw a lot of people there. Warning to those thinking about eating there - a group of people on our boat ate in Merida, and they were all sick the next day. Don't eat there unless you know for certain the place you're going to is safe. Better check with the ship staff and ask around.
Next stop was Cozumel, and we've been there before. Don't bother with signing up for excursion. There are cabs everywhere, and you can save money and do your own excursion when you get off the boat. WE took a taxi to Channakab park for $10. Then our 4 family members went to the park. It is very big, and you can snorkel, swim, sit on the beach, drink beer, eat lunch, see the jungle life, or even swim with dolphins. Very nice park. They even have modern bathrooms and free lockers with keys.
We then took the taxi back to port, and spent the rest of the day shopping and eating/drinking at Carlos and Charlies. Not many bargains here, but it is a very fun island to snorkel, and just have fun.
Last stop was Belize. 2 of us booked the intertube jungle tour. 2 other family members took the bike ride to Altun Ha. We all loved our excursion. My son an I did the intertube jungle tour. It was totally awesome. (No mosquitos - it was the dry season, and our tour guide said the bats eat all the mosquitos anyway). We were tubing in a rainforest mountain stream through caves that was clean enough to drink out of. The water was very clean, cool, and very beautiful. Then we ate at a restaurant called Cheers on the way back. Very unique restaurant, but very rustic.
It takes about 10-15 minutes to take the ferry from the ship to the port, but it is a beautiful ride there.
Belize City seems to be a bit on the absolute poverty stricken side. Our tour guide tried to convince us it was "laid back", but when we saw the armed guards with machine guns outside the local bank, we did not think "laid back" was the property term for this city. The port has some very nice shops, and there was live music and nice restaurants. But, don't venture beyond the port area very far, it did not seem safe and there were beggars, free wheeling tour dealers, and somewhat very poor people outside the port. I also noticed that the port area had a parking lot area that was reserved for tour buses, and it was secured by an iron gate with a guard on duty to keep unwanted traffic out.
Probably want to be sure that you book an excursion in Belize, otherwise you may not see much (unless you want to take your chances).
I spoke to others who took the snorkeling tours in Belize and they absolutely loved these. The outlying islands are very beautiful with lots of opportunities there to scuba and snorkel.
Ship activities: There were 3 art auctions on the ship, and I found that I attended all of them. The auctions really are a bargain, and you really will get a deal on what you buy. Additionally, the art auction dealer will buy back your purchase if you should find it cheaper off the ship, or if you have buyers remorse. He was right, when I got back home, I checked our purchase price with the going price for the 2 works of art we bought. We did get great deals -about 40% less than what you'd pay at a gallery. Most pieces go for around $280 (includes frame and mat). some go as high as $13,000 but that was a rarity. Even if you don't buy, go for the free champagne and the art education. You'll have fun, and who knows, you may win a free art print. We one a free art print!
The food was about the same as the last cruise we went on. It was ok, but not exceptional. I tend to stay away from high, high, calorie foods, so I had my fill of fresh fruit, veges, croissants, cheeses. My 2 teen sons ate a ton of the hamburgers and they loved the pizza. I have not had the pizza yet, but someday I may do so.
We booked an inside cabin this time, and we were fine with it. Just need to be sure to bring a clock with you so that when you turn on the light, you know what time it is.
The # of sea days and port days is about right for this cruise - 2 day of rest, 3 days of ports, and the last 2 days for rest.
This cruise was a spring break cruise, so we expected to have a large # of kids on this ship with mostly teen drunken party goers. If there was a lot of loud drinking, we did not notice. Our cabins were very quiet at night, and we were never bothered by rowdy people.
The parents who did bring children seemed to do a good job making them behave. I did not see many problems. Only thing I did see was a few rowdy young teens who were throwing dishes over board, throwing a deck chair overboard, and a bucket overboard.
If you are repeat cruiser with Carnival, don't miss the repeat cruiser reception. They gave me drink, after drink, after drink. The cruise director, Jorge Solano, stopped over and visited with us for about 20 minutes.
Also, I was impressed with the entertainment on this boat. They were really good. There were 3 different comedians over the course of 3 days, and they were all excellent for a cruise ship.
One word of advice about Galveston. It is not a resort town. If you leave out of Galveston, and you drive, stay at the Holiday Inn on Seawall boulevard. You can leave your car there for the week for free, and there is a free shuttle to/from the ship pier. Can't beat that. Otherwise, expect to pay $70 for parking.
Be sure to see The Strand which is across the street from the pier. It is Galveston's downtown shopping area. About the only thing to see in Galveston, except for the cruise ships.
Embarkment and Disambarkment went well. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. We were off about 1 1/2 hours after leaving our room. Not bad at all!
I would recommend this cruise especially to those like me, who drive from the midwest. It is shorter than driving to Tampa or Miami, and the ports of call are decent too.
For those of you making your own flight arrangements, Galveston Limo is about the only company who provides transportation to/from Hobby or Bush airport. Cost is around $50 for one person. Otherwise, you'll have to rent a car from Houston.