by J. Hawley
April 19, 2008
This was our fifth cruise but only our second on Carnival. We sailed the Elation this same time last year. We arrived at the cruise port in New Orleans around 12:00 directly from the airport. The porters were quick to approach our taxi and collect our bags. We were guided to a single file line that was taking people into a building and that would take us through the check in process. After getting to the upper floor there seemed to be an endless line of cruisers waiting for the security/carry on check and final check in before boarding the boat. The serpentine line moved regularly and the overall process took us a little more than an hour. It was extremely warm in this building and the air-conditioning was not on. The lady that checked us in at the counter was super nice and extremely knowledgeable about the embarkation process. If I was to cruise out of New Orleans again, I would recommend getting there earlier in the day so as to avoid the lengthy line.
Once we (my wife, 10 year old daughter, friends and I) stepped onto the boat, there was that initial "awe" as you look around at the Grand Atrium. The white marble stairway and glass elevators were very nice but we thought it seemed "dated." We had been traveling for quite some time so we made our way to the buffet. The food was good but nothing fancy -- hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and salads. After eating our lunch we stopped by the soft serve ice cream machine for one of the countless ice creams we would eat during our trip.
It was now close to 2:00 so we thought we would see if our staterooms were ready. To our surprise they were and our luggage had arrived. Our stateroom was as we expected, neat and clean and the same size they have always been. The bathroom was clean and stocked with plenty of toiletries and towels. The closet space was a little lacking due to the storage of the life jackets. This was our first cruise where the jackets weren't stored on an upper shelf leaving plenty of space for our clothes. We took some time to unpack and decided to get acquainted with the ship. As we stepped out our door, our room steward quickly introduced himself and asked if there was anything we needed. He was extremely friendly and courteous throughout the trip.
We ate dinner in the dining room each night and our wait staff, Edwin and Nelson, were superb! These guys were the best. The food was very good but I was disappointed to see that the menu was the same as the Elation's from a year ago. Regardless, there were plenty of choices and the food was very good. We ate most of our lunches on the Lido deck or the buffet and although selections were minimal, there was always something good to eat. The other alternative was the Pizza bar that always has really good and fresh pizza.
The entertainment was, for the most part excellent. The Carnival singers, band and dancers were all very talented and a joy to watch. The juggler and the ventriloquist act were, however, how should I put it? Routine? If you have seen one before, you had seen these guys. There wasn't anything spectacular about their acts. The cruise director, Big Tex, was hilarious and his dance performance had us rolling in our seats.
We had two stops, one in Progreso and the other in Cozumel. I strongly encourage enrolling in an excursion when you get to Progreso. You have to take a free shuttle along the five mile pier to just a few shops and a local flea market. There wasn't much to see and do there. We took a tour by van that we hired when we got there that took us to Merida. We paid $15 per person for about a three hour tour that was much better than hanging around Progreso. The only drawback to this tour was it didn't include an English speaking tour guide. We saw a lot of nice places but we probably missed a lot of interesting information.
Our next stop was Cozumel. We were there in 2003 just after they had been hit with a huge hurricane and it was total devastation. Five years later, they have completely turned themselves around and what a nice little city. We chose to wander on our own and take in the shopping areas just off the pier. Be prepared for the retailers to harass you to visit their stores. It didn't bother us as it was part of the culture. Cozumel was a very nice place to visit.
Throughout the week, we did notice that there seemed to be an attitude amongst some of the staff that gave the appearance that they were not happy with their jobs. It was like a looming cloud of doom. On several occasions we noticed co-workers bickering with each other. One instance, a buffet staffer was filling the ice cream machine with liquid and the container burst spilling what looked like chocolate milk all over him, the equipment and the floor. As we sat there eating our lunch, at least ten other staff people walked by this scene and either turned and walked away or completely ignored the situation. Nobody offered to help. We were appalled. He had to actually ask someone to help him and it was obvious by the reaction that the other person was not interested in helping out. She did so, but very reluctantly. One other thing we had noticed throughout the cruise. Maybe we just hadn't noticed before, but I had never seen on any of our previous cruises staff sitting in guest areas smoking and eating publicly. Some staff ducked in vacant lounge areas to try not to be conspicuous, but I thought this was very unprofessional. The overall attitude and behavior didn't take away from our enjoyable vacation, but it did seem like there was a morale problem.
The ship overall is dated and the décor needs upgrading. There was a lot of visible wear and tear and a lot of repairs and touch-ups happening that week. Many lightbulbs were out and had not been replaced and there were areas of scuffed paint and wallpaper. Some furniture showed signs of wear and cigarette burns, and should not have been used. The crew was doing their best to make sure the ship was clean at all times, but cleanliness didn't hide the obvious need for a makeover.
This was a good cruise but not one of my favorites. I will certainly do a little more research about the age of the ship before booking in the future.