Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers
Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Elation
by Maria Korengel
Western Caribbean
April 4, 2004

As a preface, this was our 8th cruise (7 of the cruises were on Carnival).

We booked our trip thought a travel agent and didn't have any problems however the air add-on was $399 per person and we could get the air for $250, the savings was too great to not book it on our own. I know the whole "Carnival will hold the ship for you", etc. but for that kind of money, we booked our own. Flew in the day before as we're from Cincinnati and getting to Houston doesn't get us there in time for the boat on Sunday - so limited our risk a little since we booked air outside of Carnival. Others we sat with at dinner had booked air through Carnival and had to fly out at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday to make it in time, the timing we picked was much better.

Arrived into Houston at 5:00 Saturday and caught the Galveston Limo Shuttle service (had to wait about 30 minutes for the shuttle as it is not personal - they pick you up on their own set schedule running every 1.5 hours). Cost was $50 per adult and $30 for our 8 year old.


Stayed in the Holiday Inn on the Beach in Galveston. They have a free shuttle to the pier in the morning so we booked our time slot upon arriving and had no issues with the hotel whatsoever. This is a great hotel going through renovation and everything was very nice and clean. Very helpful front desk and the pool area was very pretty. You could walk to the Rainforest Café, etc. but their shuttle would take you there and back.

Arriving at the Pier - was dropped off at the front of the "warehouse" where you unload and porters in brightly colored shirts will gladly help anyone. We rolled our own luggage into the warehouse and got in line for the 2 men sitting with manifest telling you your cabin number. You (or they) marked your bags and you left them behind a chain fence (I assume that is where they are checking the luggage for anything that would be a security threat). Mass chaos but not really that big of a deal, we were so excited to get on the ship that it didn't matter at that point.

We booked a guarantee inside lower room (category 4a) and received an outside 4a - it was a nice surprise and the window was neat - for the first day or two, we didn't really look out that much but hey, never turn your nose up at an upgrade. This was our 7th Carnival and only time we received an upgrade. Room was definitely adequate for 3 people (2 adults and child). All Carnival rooms look alike so if you've been on any ship or seen pictures from any other ship - this room looks just like them all.

Our room steward was great, never saw him but we had a soft sided cooler that we kept in the room and he always filled it with ice and put additional sodas in the bag if we had run out - we brought on 4 6-packs of plastic bottle diet cokes.

Dinner time - we were in the Inspiration dining room at the 5:45 seating - since we had a child with us, we wanted the early seating. Nice table for 8 (they put a chair on the end to make it 9) and we were seated with another couple (who we met on Cruisemates) and it worked out wonderfully - they had 2 little girls.

First night we explored the ship, saw the shows (which were all great). However, the lead male singer looked a little like a grown Macaulay Calkin - freaky.

Progresso - There is a beach right off the shuttle if you just walk down two blocks. Lots to do there, restaurant, etc. Plenty to do there, don't believe what you've heard that if you don't get to Merida you won't have a good time. This is why, we went to Merida - took the $10 per person bus (which is a city bus) and got into the busy Mexican city. And that is exactly what it is, busy, busy Mexican city. No one speaks very much English and we could hardly find the "straw market" that was suppose to be there - the shopping in Progresso is much better. We only stayed about 20 minutes and got back on the 45 minute bus ride and went back to Progresso - waste of time! Unfortunately, we didn't see the beach until we were back on the pier shuttle going back to the ship - many people told us they had a great time at that beach. IF YOU LEARN ONE THING FROM THIS REVIEW IT'S TO SHOP IN PROGRESSO. It's hard to spend your shopping money in your first pier but believe me, this is the place to do it. Everything was much cheaper in Progresso. We bought our little on a $5 Mexican guitar which was $18 in Cozumel. Belize has good shopping too but Progresso is your best. Now, you're not going to get the jewels that you would in Cozumel but for souvenirs, etc. this is the place to do it. They even had those rope swings for $5 - these were $25 (same exact ones) in Cozumel - and you couldn't barging down but to about $18-$20 - believe me we tried.

Cozumel - we went to Chankaab park - unbelievable park - lots of people but it didn't feel crowded at all. We brought our own masks and snorkels and right there in the beachy area (little lagoon they made) you could see all kinds of pretty nice sized, colored fish. You could swim out of the little inlet they made into the open ocean and snorkel to your hearts content - all for admission into the park of $10.00 - this includes lockers, showers, facilities, there is a gift shop, restaurant, etc. everything you could want. You can rent all the water stuff there too.

In Cozumel we did the Royal Swim with Dolphin Discovery - this was amazing. We had the swim with the dolphins (which is more interaction than the dolphin encounter) and swim with the sea lions too - all of this was so amazing I can't tell you enough about it. We booked outside the boat directly with The guides were top notch and the place was run by compassionate trainers. I'm not really that big of a dolphin person but once you do this you are just on a "high" from the experience that I can't even describe it to you - just amazing. The swim with the sea lion was just as great, this sea lion was like a dog playing with us.

Belize - everyone whines about the tenders but it wasn't that big of a deal. We had a tour scheduled (outside of the boat) that we scheduled for 11:00 a.m. as to not push the timing getting of the boat - maybe that is why it wasn't that big of a deal for us. Those in hurry or trying to go outside the "rules" for the tenders were whining up a storm. Seriously, just take your time and you'll be fine. Everyone said that there is absolutely nothing to do in Belize if you don't do a tour but this is not the case. Right off the tender is a great shopping area with an open air restaurant where you could get a bite to eat, drink, and an internet café for $4.00 for 15 minutes. You can actually see the water while you're answering email. We emailed our son at college and made him jealous - that's a parent's job! If you want to get to a beach, there are plenty of government run tours right there at that shopping village and you can get it much less expensive off the boat. If not, just hang out there it was a lot of fun. We grabbed one of those government tour companies to take us to the Belize Zoo - very neat experience seeing the animals up close but sorry we missed the beach here and it was so Blessed Hot that day - couldn't hardly take not being in a pool or water some place - geez if this is what it is in early April, what is it going to be in summer! We got our daughter's hair braided here for the full head $10.00 - you couldn't get that price in Cozumel.

Okay, so there you have the ports, we definitely wish we would have done some things differently - we really missed the fun time in Progresso but can only blame that on ourselves. Wish we would have loaded up on our gifts and goodies in Progresso and definitely either just hung out in the shopping village in Belize or grabbed the water taxi to a beach someplace.

Camp Carnival:
We were not impressed, they didn't go out of their way to make my child feel like she was welcome, there were out of control kids in the same age group as her (8) and they didn't do anything about it - not like discipline but at least control them. Our friends had a 5 and 7 year old - the 5 year old was in a different group than the 7 year old and all three girls wanted to be together. They do not cross over age groups - so my suggestion to you if you want your kids together - lie about their age (I don't like lying but if you want to know they way around the system). For those of us that didn't lie about their children's age, you would think the Camp program would try to at least get activities to sync up. For instance, free play wasn't a lot of fun so none of the kids wanted to go to free play - the 5 year olds free play was from 10-11 and the 7 and 8 year old was from 11-12 - so consequently we had kids coming and going at all hours from the Camp program. Now, I liked having my daughter with me so I didn't mind but my expectation was that she would "LOVE IT SO MUCH SHE WOULDN'T WANT ME TO PICK HER UP FROM THE CAMP" and this just was not the case. Camp was a great babysitting tool for many people and not much more than that . . . .I didn't just like my daughter being "babysat" - I can get that at home with someone I know who plays with her and does crafts, etc. - they didn't do much like this at all with the groups and the counselors seemed more interested in talking to each other than playing with the children.

The ship:
Very nice and well kept - since this was our 7th Carnival cruise all the ships (of this time period) are starting to look alike, it's nice because we always know where we are going just the colors and décor are a little different. Everyone was very helpful and the casino took our money, as usual. There were not as many slot and blackjack tournament as I remember but we still had fun in those that they did have - our friend even won $500 in one of them!

Our dinner waiter:
He was slow and didn't speak English very well. He took okay care of us but it took two times talking to the Head Waiter about his slow service, especially with kids. He didn't smile very much but I think it was the language barrier. We did lower our tip just a bit for him.

Kids on the ship:
Yes, there were a lot of kids on the ship since it was spring break. There was one particular crowd of kids that would play tag on the elevators by the main atrium area and it was annoying to have several kids jumping on and off the elevators. It didn't ruin our trip just makes you wonder where the heck the parents were at this time. My kids know how to act out in public, these kids certainly did not.

Getting off the ship:
I don't know why people are so hung up on carrying their own luggage off the ship, etc. because the "warehouse" where they separated the luggage was not "out of control" "mass chaos", etc. in our area - Riviera Aft there were about 50 pieces of luggage and it was so easy to find my luggage - and mine looks just like everyone else's luggage - big and black. I can't imagine dragging my luggage around the ship only to save those 5 minutes! We were the biggest area of the ship too so most other luggage tag colors had fewer bags than us. It think this is the same thing people go through for Belize tenders - they are told a procedure and they try to get around it and get frustrated. We used the "Carnival" procedure for both and it worked just great.

We had a really good time on this ship but Carnival is getting a little routine for us. The menu was the same on the last 5 cruises - over 5 years. A little variation but for the most part the same. Everything looks the same, etc. So I think next time we will try a different cruise line just for variation however this ship was just fine and we had a good vacation. Any questions, just ask.