Number of Cruises: 6
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Elation
Sailing Date: July 10th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
For the past 6 years I have been taking annual cruises with my family. We usually cruise with NCL or Royal Caribbean, which we have always been very pleased with, but this year we decided to give Carnival a try. We booked a 7 day cruise on the Elation for 11 of us, ranging in age from 7 years old to 85 years old. We were scheduled to leave on July 10 and make three stops in Progresso, Cozumel, and Belize, then return to Galveston on July 17. Over all, this was not an unpleasant cruising experience; however it was not exactly wonderful either.
To start out on a few good notes, the Elation is a beautiful ship, especially Tiffany’s, which is a restaurant on the lido deck. It is a pretty new ship so I expected it to be in nice shape. We had a cabin on the Upper Deck, and our cabin steward, William, was very friendly. We always ran into him in the halls and he would stop and talk with us. He did an excellent job keeping our room clean and making the cute little towel animals that we have come to expect on cruises. The service at the purser’s desk was also excellent. The lines were often very long and slow to get up to it, but they were very friendly and helpful when it was finally our turn. The embarkation and debarkation processes at the beginning and end of our trip were surprisingly easy. We got to Galveston at right about noon, and it took no longer than 15 minutes to get on the ship. (I would recommend EZ Parking if you plan on driving to the port.) We also managed to get off of the ship rather quickly.
The ports of call were beautiful and the excursions weren’t bad. We reached Progresso on Tuesday and our family booked the Corona Beach Break excursion. The beach was disappointingly small and right next to the highway which made it loud and the waters weren’t as clear as other beaches. But if all you are looking for is a beach to lie on and an open bar, this excursion will do just fine. Cozumel was a much nicer experience. We went on the Playa Mia Beach Deluxe excursion, and it was fabulous. The beach was much bigger, the waters were clearer, the drinks were better, and there was a ton to do. They had a water trampoline, kayaks to rent, an inflatable climbing wall in the water, hammocks on the beach, and a big restaurant to eat at. I would highly recommend this excursion. In Belize we took the Belize City and Baboon Sanctuary Tour. It was a bus tour through Belize City for about an hour and a half, and then we arrived at the Baboon Sanctuary which was run by some locals. They had a small museum to walk through then they took us on a 30 minute hike through the jungle to find the baboons. They baboons that we were looking for were actually black howler monkeys, and when we found them it was amazing. Our guide got the male to howl at us, and it was incredibly loud. It sounded like something out of Jurassic Park. We even got to feed them cashew fruit and they took it right out of our hands. It was a great experience.
The days at sea were not as much fun. Unless you are under the age of 12, there is not much to do on the ship. The other cruise lines I have been on offered a lot of fun things to do during the day, and this ship seemed to have nothing. We wanted to try to go to an aerobics class one morning, but they were charging $10 a person just to do yoga. I would think that if we are paying them almost a thousand dollars a person for our vacation, we could at least take a yoga class without shelling out some more money. Most of their classes were like that, and I was not at all pleased about it.
One of my favorite things about the other cruises I had been on was the shows after dinner each night. Especially NCL, their shows were amazing! The entertainment on the Elation was horrible! The song and dance numbers looked like a cheap Vegas act. One night there was a balancing act and a comedian lined up. The balancing act was okay, but nothing spectacular, and the comedian was hardly memorable. He told a few jokes for about 10 minutes and then wanted us to buy his CD. It felt like his whole act was just a teaser for the real jokes you will hear if you make that purchase.
The most exciting thing about most cruises is meal time. On the Elation I almost dreaded going to the dining room each day. The food was extremely disappointing. There were very few options on the menus, and what you got was very often not what you expected. The fish was often undercooked and tasteless, and the steak is either rare or well done, I don’t think they are capable of cooking anything in between. The desserts were also disappointing and the cakes were always dry and impossible to eat. The service was not great either. Our waiter was very nice, but also very slow with our service. He was in charge of two tables, including ours, and it seemed to me like he was playing favorites. He always served them first, and we just had to wait our turn. We thought at first that maybe it was because they just got to the dining room sooner than we did, so we decided to be early for the rest of the week. We would arrive each night just as the doors were opening and we got to our seats quickly, but it didn’t help. Even when the other table was late to arrive, our waiter would always just wait until they got there and serve them first. We ended up being the very last table left in the whole dining room on most nights. Other tables were getting served their desserts as we were ordering. It was very irritating to feel like we had to take a back seat to this other table. There were a few times that I wanted to just pull up a seat at their table just to get some service. Dinner began at 5:45 and we usually did not get to leave until 7:30 at the earliest.
I was glad to hear that there was an internet café on the ship because I am currently enrolled in a couple of online classes at my university. I brought my laptop with me for that very reason. We had the option of either purchasing 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. We decided to get the larger plan just to be safe. The man at the internet café who was assisting us was extremely abrupt and rude to us. When we asked questions he would speak to us like we were complete idiots. His entire attitude was very offensive. Then we found out that the service was ridiculously slow. We were glad that we bought 250 minutes because we spend most of the time waiting for the connection to go through. After a couple of days, however, the connection just failed all together. When I would try to send my school work, every time I hit a button it sent me back to the login screen causing me to lose all of my work. It was incredibly frustrating and it was impossible to ask for help without getting attitude from that same man. We finally went to the purser’s desk to complain and they did offer us a full refund, which helped a lot, but it doesn’t help me get caught up on all of the class work that I missed.
Overall, I cannot say that I did not enjoy my vacation. If you are looking for some down time to relax and get a suntan, then this is a great cruise to go on, especially if this is your first cruising experience. However, if you have cruised with NCL or Royal Caribbean before, prepare to be disappointed by the Elation, because it cannot even compare. I would recommend this cruise to people with young children, but I will not be cruising with Carnival again.