by CR Jones
April 23, 2005
I chose the Carnival Ecstacy for my first cruise because the itinerary coincided with the dates and destinations that my wife and I were looking for. Let me just say that the best thing about this cruise was dining at Gaido's in Galveston.
We started off with a good attitude and expecting good things. The decor of the ship is gaudy, to say the least, but that is okay. Vegas is gaudy but it is still fun. After dinner in the main dining room, which was mediocre but acceptable, we attended the first night's show. We did not know it but this was not really a show but rather an infomercial designed to tell us about all of the "wonderful" things that we can puchase on our "...fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,..." funship cruise. (Did I mention that they told us this ship is fun?)
And therein lies the whole problem with the Carnival concept; the hard sale. The cruise director and crew spent the next 5 days "informing" us of all the things that we could buy. Telling us which shops to go to in Cozumel (the one's in which they, presumably, have contracts.) Charging $20 for bingo tickets, $2.50 for a coke, $5.00 for a beer, $3.50 for a bottle of water. Marketing the art auctions until I wanted to grab the prints (no, they are not originals) and hurl them overboard. We decided on a cruise for relaxation, not to be hounded day and night by venors peddling their wares.
The food was plentiful yet uninspired. I doubt whether anything was actually prepared from scratch on board (The wait staff, though, was excellent.) If eating pizza and ice cream at midnight deadens your palate enough then you may convince yourself that the food in the main dining room is excellent. Conversely, if you eat three meals per day, like a normal person, you will be sorely dissapointed.
Cozumel was wonderful. In the future I will fly there directly.
Calica? Please! The itinerary said Calica or Playa Del Carmen. This was misleading. Calica is basically a rock/caliche crushing facility operated by Vulcan Industries. Being that there is a small industrial docking facility there, Carnival obviously negotiated a deal to dock on the cheap. It is a $10 cab ride to Playa Del Carmen, which is nice enough yet overly touristy.
Once back on board and out of Mexico, I could not wiat to get back to Galveston. I had been told that I was having fun so many times that I finally receded to my cabin and watched a movie (which only come on at certain times.)
Debarkation was hectic but bearable. The crew had little to do with us at this point being that it was ovious that they had gotten all of the money out of most passengers that they were likely to get.
But fresh meet was only a few hours away!