We set sail on the Ecstasy (our first cruise) on Thursday, Dec. 21. We parked at EZ Cruise Parking (as recommended by so many) and we were on our way to the terminal. It took quite a long time to embark, but we finally got on board. We found our way to our cabin (R98) and much to our pleasure, we found that our luggage was already there. We grabbed our life vests and headed to our muster station for the lifeboat drill. Afterwards we stood on deck as we pulled out of Galveston, headed toward what we hope would be better weather.
During the cruise we ate in the dining room for dinner and breakfast every day, but one. Our service was impeccable the first two nights; on the third, it seemed like no one ever came around for beverages. My daughter had to wait about 15 minutes to order a Coke AFTER she had already been ignored the first time around. The food was good, but nothing really stands out in my mind as being fantastic, except for the white and dark chocolate mousse (served on formal night). The pizzeria and the sandwiches were really good. We ate there several times. Even though I never had a burger or hot dog from the Lido deck, they smelled awesome and my husband said they were pretty tasty. Breaksfast was very good. The lunch buffet changed daily. Indian, Mexican, and American themes were served.
One thing I would STRONGLY suggest is to get an early seating for dinner, if possible. The reason is that if you have an 8:00 seating, the first show starts at 8:45--no way to make it. We were so tired each day, we could not stay up until 10:30 for the second show to start, so we never made it to one of the shows, which I heard were pretty good. Also, the initial Camp Carnival meeting was held for our children's age group the first night during our dinner time and we missed it; after that, we never really hooked up with them. They should have made this meeting at a time when ALL people could attend and not miss their dinner time. Also, if you eat breakfast in the main dining room, don't expect to get a table for just you and your family; if there is room at a table for 10 that isn't full, you will be seated there. We thought this was fine and ended up meeting some really great families this way. However, we could tell some people didn't like being seated this way.
We walked past the casino several times, but only gambled once. I lost $20 in 5 minutes and decided to leave the gambling to the ones with better luck than I. The casino was quite busy most of the time.
They run spa specials on every day at sea, but formal dinner night. They did a girls (age 10-17) on port night for $40. My daughter went, met some interesting young ladies, and had a good time. I booked a massage/seaweed wrap. I thought it was a special for $129. They told me for the full-body massage, it would be a little extra. I should have asked how much extra. It was $229. I didn't say anything, because I thought that for two hours, this was a pretty fair price. The massage therapist analyzed my body and encouraged me to buy some products based upon what my body needed. I'm a sucker, I guess, and bought the products, which were very pricey. Hopefully, it will help me. Overall, the treatment did feel good and it worked out a lot of those stress knots that are all over my back. A lot of men were getting treatments, as well.
We had an inside cabin, which was in a pretty good location of the ship. The rooms were small and we got somewhat clausterphobic after a while (especially with the two teens together). We spent little time in the cabin. If we wanted to play cards or read, we went to the Lido deck or Panorama Bar and Grill. The rooms were clean and the mattresses were very comfortable. The housekeeping staff does a terrific job and we enjoyed seeing the towel animals awaiting us each evening after we got back from dinner.
Even if someone missed a meeting like we did, they should have an entire section of the Capers that has a schedule of ongoing activities for each age group. Families can choose what activities they want to participate in or not. For our kids' age (12-14), we only noticed one activity that was scheduled. We saw several teens wandering aimlessly around the ship the entire trip. I think they were trying to meet each other. Camp Carnival definitely caters to the younger group (ages 5-11) and I think they do a good job. I just wish we had seen more activites for the older ones.
The ship was very clean and well-maintained. It could stand an update...looks very 90's in a lot of the areas, but that is a minor complaint. I'm more into some place being clean and well-taken care of, instead of updated. The ship was decorated in many of the main areas for Christmas. The cruise director, Stuart, was very nice, but we hardly ever saw him around the ship (I don't know if this is common, or not). We saw him at the excursion talk, the debarkation talk, and at the Captain's Cocktail Party. That was it or I could have just missed him.
There are activities going on all day long (except there isn't a lot on port day). There were all kinds of seminars in the spa, there was wine-tasting one day, trivia games, bingo (you gotta pay), the Newlywed Not-So-Newlywed Game (this was hilarious--had some great contestants), Deal or No Deal, ice-sculpting demonstration, hairy chest contest, bands playing, laying by the pool, relaxing in the hot tub, the casino, the card room, the library, and so much more! LOTS OF ACTIVITIES!!!
We opted to go out on our own. We got off at the Punta Langosta pier in Cozumel and quickly we found a car rental agency. We rented through Executive. I think we paid too much, but I didn't want to spend the little time we had in Cozumel haggling. We spent $100 on a Jeep Wrangler with zero deductible insurance ( I HIGHLY recommend this type of insurance if you are driving in Mexico--even for a day). We explored the island and downtown San Miguel. We drove past some of the beach clubs and decided to hit Play Mia. They have a lot of activities (both included and not included in the admission price). They had a big plastic iceberg people can climb and then slide down (my son LOVED this), a water trampoline, paddle boats, kayaks, pool, etc. For an extra charge, they have jet skis, a banana boat ride, snorkeling, etc. They have several packages, but we just got the basic--$12 admission. We bought beer $3 each and the wait staff was very friendly. By renting our own vehicle, we got there about 45 minutes sooner than the cruise ship crowd. After we left Playa Mia, we went the LONG way around to San Miguel. We drove around the island and saw some beautiful water and jungle. There isn't much on the east side of the island, a few beach bars and restarants every 5 miles or so. Next time, we will stop in at one and try it out. My daughter was anxious to get back and do some shopping. When we got back to San Miguel we did a little shopping, but be aware, they don't haggle much with you there.
THINGS THAT DIDN'T IMPRESS ME:
1. The cost of drinks...yes, to get a beer (with gratuity added) was $5.46. They had daily drink specials, that are $3.75, but if you forget to tell them (like I did) that you don't want the souviner cup, they will serve your drink to you in that and charge $6.75 (my mistake). A lot of the daily drinks didn't appeal to me...too much sweet stuff.
2. The way they really push you to spend money bothered me a bit. They strongly encouraged us to book an excursion through them if we hadn't already done so. We had our picture taken soooo many times. The 8x10 photos were $19.99. We only bought one and it was from our formal dinner evening (how often do we all get dressed up?) I will say, most of the photos taken were very good. We were strongly encouraged to add more gratuity on top of what we had already paid (this was discussed at the disemarkation talk), we were encouraged to go shopping at the stores onboard. We all have a choice of whether we want to spend the money, or not, it just seemed like there was a bit too much emphasis on it.
MY OVERALL TRIP EXPERIENCE:
We had a good time on a nice ship. Would we do it again? Absolutely. I would probably sail on another ship, just to compare the experiences.