We boarded the Elation (leaving Galveston) with little effort and not a lot of waiting in lines. We showed up at around 1pm. We were pleased with the location of our cabin on the Empress Deck near the Atrium. It was a great location for getting around.
Our last cruise (also with Carnival - Celebration) had us on the Main Deck and it was too low to the water. When you looked out your window, the waves hit the window. The Empress Deck is higher up and no waves were hitting our window. The view was great.
There were 3 of us, crammed into a handicapped cabin with a roll-away bed. The clothing rack was designed for a wheelchair level so we were unable to hang all of our clothes up. With 3 people, there wasn't room for our suitcases either. It was a major inconvenience. They should not have crammed 3 of us into a handicapped room. We had absolutely no room to turn around, at all. Best advice, ask about your room first when booking for more than two. We paid around $1,100 per person (New Year's). Had it been another month, I think the price would have been around $400-$500 per person for the same cruise.
It rained our first full day onboard. We made the best of it by playing a dice game with the friends we were sailing with.
The food in the Tiffany (Buffet, open seating) Dining room was okay but not remarkable. The midnight buffet's in there were great.
Our dinner was in the Inspiration dinning room (late seating). Our dinner team was nice, but VERY slow. It took an average of two PLUS hours each evening and we felt that was way out of line to have dinner. Every night we were among the last to leave. The food was good. The two men in our group wanted more than one entree and were told no. Two nights, the waiters did not even attempt to open or serve us the Champaign we brought to celebrate with. It was disappointing that we had to drink it unchilled. Also, when we asked for more tea or sweetener for our tea or butter, it took 30-45 minutes to obtain. One night, some people from our table left because they were fed up with the slow and not-so-good service.
The Vegas style shows were fair. The first night's show was the best in our opinion. The Comedians were okay -- one guy borrowed material we had already heard from another comedian.
They have Bingo a couple of times a day but you must pay extra for this either by cash or by charging it to your sail and sign card.
The bands (one reggae and one country/oldies) were pretty fair but in our opinion, not enough variety and they didn't play much on the Lido Deck. The Discos really didn't play disco, they played hip hop or whatever the DJ wanted. We thought there should have been a better variety, especially on the lido deck where the same band played each time with one exception.
The casino was nice and the slots were very loose the last night. I donated the whole trip until the last night and was able to win my money back plus some -- I thought that was great.
The photographers are pretty good, but you can only purchase wallets and smaller photos if you purchase the 8X10's first at $20 each. I could have bought $2,000 worth of photos, literally. My husband wanted to purchase the ones taken after the first formal night and we spent $120. The second formal night's pics were the best but you cannot exchange once you've purchased. My recommendation is to throw away the ones you know you will not buy daily and then after the last formal night (Friday), pick out the ones you really want. That way, you aren't stuck with photos you don't want after seeing the rest.
The wind blew hard everyday but the last. Be careful on the Lido and Sports Decks if you go up there. The waves were tremendous, so be sure to take motion sickness pills or use the patches even if you think you are immune.
We booked two excursions through the ship. They promote for you to hurry up and book due to availability. My advice is to take your time unless it is an excursion you know will be popular with few time slots like swimming with the Dolphins in Cozumel.
At Progresso, we decided to take a taxi to Merida to shop. At the pier, we asked for a cab driver that could speak some English. We were assured our driver could understand and speak some English, but that was so not true. He didn't understand a thing. We made the best of it anyhow. We paid $70 for a van (five of us) round trip, 3 hours of shopping. The sidewalks are narrow and since this is the capital of Yucatan, it is highly populated with people everywhere. The shopping there was disappointing.
We did however visit a church that was fabulous near the plaza. The inside is amazing and I recommend you visit if able. We felt that we should have just stayed in Progresso on the beach, there is a nice area and some shopping, too. Others told us they were bombarded in Progresso by people asking them to shop at their stores, and were turned off by this. The weather was nice, but really windy. One family told us they took the excursion to see the ruins and loved it.
Our group have all been to Cozumel several times and wanted to snorkel. We were told by the excursion desk that we could snorkel at Passion Island. We paid $69 each (X5) through the ship only to find that wasn't the case at all. You take a one hour, bumpy bus ride and then a 20 minute boat ride to the island (three hours there, one and a half hours back). They serve you Corona, Tequila, Margaritas and Sex on the Beach, unlimited. The food was Guacamole, grilled chicken, fish, fruit, all you can eat. It is a nice beach, but not clean water because the wind blows right into the beach. NO snorkeling whatsoever. This was the Cruise Director's favorite pick and highly recommended.
Several others on that same excursion understood the same thing we did and were just as upset as we were that we paid so much just to go to the beach. Knowing Cozumel the way we do, we could have gone to several beaches and not spent that kind of money. We felt ripped off even if we had intended to actually go to Passion Island and layout on the beach. We should have booked our excursion outside of Carnival.
When we returned, we went to make a complaint, but the excursion desk GUARANTEED us that no how, now way, would they EVER tell us we could snorkel there, even though 3 adults in our group heard them say it as well as the other two groups of people that said they were told the same thing. They didn't want to hear from us, nor hear what we had to say, period. I noticed others trying to make a complaint, too that fell on deaf ears. Cozumel was a waste of our time and money, but it is a beautiful city. From past experience, I recommend La Mission Restaurant for a great lobster and steak.
Belize is very hot with no beaches, but a beautiful (and very poor) city. We snorkeled Goff's Cay, known as Gilligan's Island by the locals. It was through an excursion booked through Carnival (Extreme Tours). We enjoyed it a lot and felt it is the highlight of our trip. The reef is the 2nd largest in the world. Well worth your time.
The (Extreme Tours) boat, however, is another story. I personally was scared because the wind was so high and the waves were, too. While the tour guide was talking, we were side-ways with the waves and it felt like we were going to capsize. Our group all lives on a lake and we're avid boaters, but this scared us. Once they took off, everything was okay. The captain got sand in the motor, which also scared us, thinking we were stranded, but it worked out okay.
Another family's adventure on that same tour was not so great. They did fear for their lives, most on their boat were crying, they did not get to snorkel and had to be towed back. When they went to complain, we were at the Atrium bar and couldn't help overhearing. The Carnival staff did NOT want to hear anything, nor take any responsibility for anything, nor make any refunds, period. The 25 or so people demanded to speak to someone higher up and finally got to talk to the hotel supervisor, also with no satisfaction. Later, one family involved told us Carnival offered them a partial refund on their (non)excursion.
It is a huge turnoff that Carnival promotes these tours, takes your money and then doesn't want to hear from you when things go bad. I think they bear in the responsibility of it and I am assuming they push them because they get a cut off of the excursions they sell.
New Year's Eve was part of our trip. The ship did not properly prepare for 2,000 plus people to be on the Lido Deck that night and consequently, there were way too many people there, broken glasses, stepping on toes, smashing feet, very windy, stumbling, boat rocking, standing room only, etc. It was NOT fun.
The pools were closed everyday except the last two days. Another great disappointment -- they were broken.
Room service was very prompt -- we asked for coffee every morning and they did not disappoint us. They didn't bring sugar when asked, but they were prompt.
The Gala Buffet is a sight to behold. Best advice, do not miss it and take your camera. They do feed you 4 times a day and I think I heard 10,000 plus meals are served everyday.
The Matre'D did not come to our table once, yet you are expected to tip him in addition to the $69 per person they tack onto your sail and sign card immediately upon arrival. We did not feel a tip was in order because our dining room experiences left a lot to be desired. All drinks (sodas, cocktails) have a 15% gratuity added automatically.
The room steward turned our air off every time we left the room. We like our room cool, so that was frustrating. Our toilet broke but they fixed it fairly quickly.
The ship's decor is very nice -- be prepared to walk up and down the stairs a LOT.
I think Progresso and Belize are new stops, so they will likely get better as time goes by. But if you are there to shop, you may be disappointed.
Despite all the negatives I have expressed here, we did manage to have fun, we made the best of our trip.
If you asked me to recommend this cruise, I would be very torn to say that I would. I think our experience must not be the norm, but then again, they didn't give us great reason to recommend it.