by Lee Usry
November 19, 2005
We just returned from the Elation 5 night cruise to Progreso and Veracruz. What follows is a review of the ship, activities and ports.
First, this was originally booked as a return cruise aboard the Ecstasy. Hurricane Katrina and the events of FEMA changed that, so Carnival put the Elation in service for the Ecstasy routes.
The Elation entered in service in the late 90’s and has a 2052 guest capacity. The Fantasy-class of ships are all slab sided with few balcony staterooms.
This ship represents a major step up in decor, quality, maintenance and value versus the Ecstasy. The atrium is tastefully decorated, and the color theme is much more subdued than the bad 80’s disco the Ecstasy radiates.
We had an outside cabin on the Main Deck, and with a family of three the room was adequate in size. Our cabin steward was not visible after the first day. The room was clean, the shower and bathroom area large enough for our needs and well stocked with sundries. The shower was my favorite, and when turned up felt more like a pressure washer than a shower. Be careful with small kids and the hot water, it’s enough to hurt sensitive skin. Carnival still cannot get the windows clean on the port side, and we had a view similar to a soapy glass shower door.
Tiffany’s casual dining is the second much improved area over the Ecstasy, and the food choices were good, hot and the lines were never long. The only time they were more than five minutes were at sail-away and breakfast. If you don’t want an omelet then step around the line. This caused confusion on a few mornings. Also, the Lido Grill served breakfast as well, and the choices were the same as Tiffany’s.
As noted from the Ecstasy last November, Carnival still puts a tub of ice in the drink stations at peak times. This is an invitation for people to drag their cups and hands in the ice for their fellow guests. Note to Carnival; consider the Norwalk virus and other disease threats and stop this. No excuse exists, if something is broke with the ice dispenser then take my money from the cruise and fix it.
The cruise staff members were funny, full of energy and very cordial. We enjoyed the trivia contest, name-that-tune, bingo, game show and not-so-newlywed games. All were entertaining. A couple of things missing from these events were audio clips introducing the shows and music. It seemed somewhat sterile (versus the ice tubs above.)
While on music, the Lido Deck pre-recorded music choices were bad. The volume level was low enough for the songs to be unrecognizable. The music one deck below on Elation Way was better, at adequate levels and should be switched to the Lido.
The show theatre remains a Carnival mystery to me. The layout had poles in sight lines and chairs with obstructed views. We did enjoy the round lounge table seating, as six were in the group traveling together. If you want one of these seats you’d better finish dessert quickly.
All three of the production shows were very good, with Spin being the best. The Elation has DMX lighting (for the tech geeks) and the digital effects and programming of these were perfect.
Dining choices reflect a Carnival tradition with 24-hour pizza, snack buffet’s, Tiffany’s and the two dining choices. Our group was assigned the Inspiration Dining Room and Pierre the singing Matre'D was a great addition. The food choices reflect significant improvement, and were quickly served and hot. The lobster was great!
Observations from our group were the shortage of dining staff, as they had more tables that we’ve seen on cruises past. The wait staff was nearly running to keep up.
Also, even with an evening that was past sunset the curtains were closed. This made the room darker than we’ve experienced on past Carnival cruises and other cruise lines.
Three in the group choose the Soda Card, and found ample bars and beverage service in all areas except the dining room. I had to look for the cocktail waiter on thee of the five nights for a soda.
While on the dining room topic, several reviews discuss dress at formal dinner. This was a cruise with many families, and my unscientific guess would place less than 10% of the men in tuxedos. A large number selected polo’s and khakis for dinner and the greatest number wore suits or a sport jacket. I could care less what someone wears to dinner, and even if my tablemates came in feathers it would not change the quality of my entree.
I cannot comment on he quality of alcohol aboard the ship, as none in the group drank. This was a good choice on the evening we left Progreso, as the seas turned rough and many retreated to their cabins early. This was our 11th cruise and the first to see seasick bags at the elevators and public areas.
Onboard shops were not as large as some of those on other ships and were well stocked with the usual logo merchandise. The watches and jewelry prices were no more competitive than the local Sams Club or Costco.
We were scheduled to visit Cozumel, and with the effects of Hurricane Wilma this was one of the first ships to return to that Mexican paradise. A late season tropical storm made that not a safe choice and the captain had a letter delivered to the cabin the first night informing us of a substitution being Veracruz.
Veracruz is a city full of history, civic pride and friendly people. At least 500 of the locals came to the downtown dock to watch us sail away at 8:00 pm that evening. What Veracruz lacks is the clear water for snorkeling, and a shopping list of shore excursions cruise ship passengers have grown to expect.
We ventured on our own to the aquarium and shopping area, and were in the middle of a safe, friendly environment. After the aquarium stop we shopped at the local merchants along the waterfront.
As mentioned above, this city is rich in cultural history, and with more time to spend we could have seen more.
Progreso was our first port, and the pier is isolated from town. A cab or shore excursion is required if you desire to venture past the few shops along the waterfront.
We selected the Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins & Mexican Rodeo Show and had a great time. The bus ride to the ruins was short and comfortable. The ruins are an impressive tribute to the Myans and their architecture, culture and religion. The teenagers in our group were as impressed with the tour as the adults.
The second stop was the Mexican Rodeo Show. This event included a fresh cooked lunch and native dancers. The entertainment was traditional Mexican ceremonial dance and fun to watch.
The rodeo show was in an arena next to the gardens area. The show was not a rodeo as we know in Texas, but a riding and roping exhibition. The ceremony included a flag display, roping tricks and a narrative of the traditional Mexican cowboy or vaquero.
The Elation is a welcome substitute for the Ecstasy. We live within a 40-minute drive from Galveston, and with a school age daughter this agenda has reflected a fun Thanksgiving break for three years. In that time we’ve sailed aboard the Celebration, Ecstasy and now the Elation. Age and architecture design contribute to the quality of experience, but the Carnival staff on all three ships made our vacation fun.
As with cruises and all vacations, you get what you pay for. Galveston is a drive-up port, and with 4-5 day cruises the ships are not the newest, not the most glamorous and offer ports limited to sailing distance.
We miss Cozumel! And we hope that those people that depend on US tourism return their wonderful island paradise to its original beauty. We’ll be there in March aboard the Splendour of the Seas, and I’ll report back then with what we saw.
Life’s Short, Enjoy The Ride.
Lee in Houston