PART 1 (the text was too long, so I had to split it up)
This is the official review of the back-to-back (four night and five night) cruise that my family and I took on the Carnival Elation. My wife and I have been married for twenty years and we have three beautiful daughters, ages 16, 11 and 8. I am quite wordy and this review will be lengthy, so please excuse me in advance.
CHECK-IN and BOARDING:
We live just 45 minutes from the cruise terminal in Mobile and arrived promptly at the parking garage at 8:45am. The security guard there informed me that they do not let anyone in until sometime between 10:00 and 10:30, so we would have to turn around and come back later. We did just that and arrived the second time at 9:45 and were second in line to get in. We parked, unloaded and were waiting inside the terminal building before 10:00am. Everything was sort of roped off, so we just waited, along with about one hundred other people and a wedding party, until about 10:30, when they allowed us to go through the security line and check-in and get our sail and sign cards. That process took about ten minutes and then we were instructed to wait until about 11:15 when boarding would begin. They gave us a boarding zone 1 card and said that they would follow the appropriate order. Promptly at 11:15, they allowed the few VIP members to board, followed by all of us in zone 1. We were on the ship at about 11:25 and went straight to the Lido deck to the buffet to have some lunch.
There is really not much to be said here. We had an inside stateroom (E32) that could sleep up to five. I foolishly decided that my family of five would be perfectly fine to stay in one stateroom for nine days and regretted that decision almost instantly. The room was fine and clean, but just too crowded for all of us, especially when it was time to get ready to go anywhere. We were stepping all over each other. That being said, my family travels extremely well together and we work as a team to get things done, so it wasn't really that bad. We tried not to leave anything on the floor and to be considerate of each other and it worked out fine, although, in the future, I think I will always try to book two staterooms (like I have on the Freedom of the Seas). The only problem with the room was that it had that familiar smell of urine in the bathroom. I am very aware of bad smells and this one was driving me crazy. At first, I thought it might be the toilet brush, so I left a note for the stateroom attendant to change it, but that wasn't it. I have had the same problem in my last three cruises and have just learned to live with it. If you keep the bathroom door closed, it doesn't affect the rest of the room. I am not sure what causes it, but it is not worth complaining about on a full ship with nowhere else to go. Our attendant's name was "I made" from Indonesia and he was the silent, keep in the background type. He came by and introduced himself on day one and that was pretty much the last time we saw him. He did an excellent job and we had no complaints.
ONBOARD THE SHIP:
Like the other Fantasy class ships, the elation is rather quaint and yet was big enough to hold over 2600 people! Being that we cruised during summer vacation, there were hundreds of children on board with several bigger family groups (complete with matching shirts) as well. From my pictures, you can see just how crowded the pool deck was at times, although that did not really bother me, as it was expected. The most important thing for my wife and I was that we could get a couple of deck chairs on the second level overlooking the pool so we could constantly see our eight year-old. She is an excellent swimmer and stayed in the pool for hours at a time, but we always wanted to be able to directly see her. The bar service at the pool was generally excellent, and we never had to wait more than a few minutes if we wanted something to drink. The music on deck was good and they had a real steel drum, which is always a welcome sound. There were the typical activities on deck that were enjoyed by most people. The ship in general was in good repair, although, there were a few cosmetic problems here and there. The most frustrating thing was that one of the two glass elevators in the atrium was not working, causing a significant delay at times. My family and I always take the stairs when we can, there were just some times when we had to take my youngest up to Camp carnival on deck 12 from our deck (7) that we like to use the elevator, other than that the ship was fine. We enjoyed the various music venues/lounges and the live piano music in the atrium was a nice touch. There were ample (and I do me ample) photographers available throughout the ship to take pictures...and the fact that they gave you a card with information on how to find your pictures was nice. The best thing about taking the back-to-back trip was that we were able to decide during the first cruise, exactly which activities we didn't want to miss on the second cruise. My two oldest daughters really stepped out and participated in the salsa dancing class, disco dancing class and the Thriller dancing class. We also enjoyed the game-show style shows immensely. The cruise director (Steven Knisley) and his staff were wonderful and definitely added to our enjoyment of the cruise.
To be continued...