Old February 27th, 2017, 04:56 PM
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Default Carnival Ecstasy - Charleston to Nassau and Freeport – December 2016

There were four of us traveling together: My wife, me and our two sons (ages 14 and 18). We booked a grand suite (U114) for us and an ocean view (U118) for the boys. We stayed in Charleston the night prior to ensure there were no unexpected difficulties on embarkation day. Let me say from the beginning that while I appreciate the Charleston cruise port being relatively close to our NC home, the port itself is way undersized and, in my opinion, barely capable of handling a cruise ship with 2,000 passengers. We had priority boarding (being suite passengers) with a scheduled check-in time of 11:30. We arrived at the port to begin the drive-through check-in process at 10:40. Glad we arrived early. While we moved fairly steadily through the line past the first two tents (preliminary check-in and baggage check), there were about 30 cars ahead of us at the parking tent. We paid for parking and sat in the car in line until 11:35, when port officials opened the parking warehouse. From the parking area, we were shuttled to the terminal and processed through fairly quickly. We were on the Ecstasy by 12:05. Unfortunately, our rooms would not be available until 1:30. We made our way to the Lido Deck and picked up our Bottomless Bubbles stickers. We purchased beverage cups here, too, only to find out later they weren’t really necessary, as we were given the full can of soda every time we requested a drink. (On past cruises when we’ve purchased BB or similar beverage packages, we’ve been given only a tall bar glass with fountain soda.) Lunch from the Mongolian Grill was pretty good.

We went to our cabins at 1:38 and found them to be in very neat and clean condition. For an older ship that was scheduled for dry dock a month after our sailing, I was very impressed with the appointments and general condition of everything in our staterooms. The grand suite was fairly roomy (we usually book a suite on Princess, having found them to be some of the roomiest suites in the industry). There weren’t really separate living and sleeping areas, but rather a single room with a king bed, counter and drawers along one wall and fold-out couch near the balcony wall. There was a walk-in closet with drawers and hanging spaces on each side. And there was a bathroom that was fairly roomy. Getting in and out of the jetted tub/shower was a bit challenging, as it was quite a step up and over the side of the tub. I’m guessing it was raised to accommodate plumbing and components of the jet system. There was a single sink, a wall-mounted hairdryer and plenty of towels. There was a small refrigerator in the living/sleeping area, but, frankly, it never got much cooler than room temperature. The HVAC system had no thermostat. Rather, cabin comfort was regulated by adjusting the flow of cool air into the cabin by way of knobs on the three HVAC supply grilles. The suite was quite warm when we first entered, but quickly cooled down within an hour or two. If anything, we had to reduce the cool air supply during some parts of the cruise. Finally, there was a single US-style 110-volt electrical outlet and a single European-style outlet above a counter in the main living space. There were no free outlets anywhere near the head of the bed. This could pose a problem for someone who uses a CPAP machine and doesn't remember an extension cord.

The boys’ ocean view cabin was quite big enough for them. It also was clean and well organized. Their cabin had only a small shower and no hairdryer. There was also a single chair and a smaller TV.

The lifeboat drill was a prolonged process that took much longer than any other we’d previously attended. Following the disorganized briefing portion, each group was led to their lifeboat and directed to stand in rows to simulate preparation for boarding. We were then dismissed. I would estimate the entire drill process lasted about an hour.

We used many of the ship’s food venues during the course of our cruise. Overall, we found the food in each to be of good quality, but prepared with little seasoning. For the most part, it was bland and lacking in flavor. We had selected traditional dining and sat with the same passengers for dinner each night in the Wind Song dining room. Tina, our server at Table 337, was fantastic! She was personable and efficient, remembering each guest’s name and drink preferences on the first night. The only complaint I might have about the menu offerings would be that on some nights, it was too difficult to select just one main course! There was a good selection of upscale meal choices. Again, it’s just a shame that most of the food was somewhat bland. One choice that was on the menu each night was the Flat Iron Steak. Don’t be afraid to order it; it was quite tender and flavorful!

One thing that surprised us was that smoking was permitted in bars we had to walk through to get from one place to another. Don’t get me wrong; I used to smoke cigarettes and don’t mind if others do. But I prefer to avoid the odor if I can now. It was our first Carnival cruise and this was something we had not encountered on other ships.

We did not go to any of the shows. My wife and I generally like to simply relax while on cruises. The main show was a Motown performance and there were comedians also.

In Nassau, we had booked a day pass to the British Colonial Hilton through resortforaday.com. We would highly recommend this for anyone who doesn’t embark on an excursion and just wants to sit on the beach or at the pool and be pampered! In Freeport, we walked through shops at the port, but spent most of the day at the ship's pool.

Sailing back to Charleston was uneventful. We arrived in port around 5:30 AM. Although we had priority debarkation, we decided to linger casually, since we had only a 3-hour drive home. However, debarkation was where the small port’s inability to cope with 2,000 passengers was most evident. There seemed to be no order to debarkation, with people just getting in the long debarkation line at will. Once inside the terminal, we had to depart the line to find and claim our bags, then get back in the ever-lengthening line that, fortunately, moved fairly steadily toward the US Customs stations. We noticed that some passengers carried their own bags, but got in the line for porters, since it was moving faster. Customs agents were overwhelmed. We were summarily waved through without questions or requests for passports once the agent saw my military ID. Outside of the terminal, there was a line of shuttle buses, but they weren’t boarding anyone and it seemed like it would be quicker to do the bag drag to the parking warehouse. It was! We got to our car before the first shuttle left the terminal.

Bottom line: We prefer smaller ships and I’d sail on the Ecstasy again without hesitation. If I’ve missed anything or can respond to specific questions, please let me know.
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Old February 27th, 2017, 07:15 PM
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Thanks Save77,
Enjoyed your enlightening review...sounds like a nice relaxing cruise, sorry the food was so bland, but at least you didn't starve. Wonder, if some day in the future they will expand that cruise port to make it more cruiser friendly??

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