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Trip Report Carnival Ecstasy - first and last visit

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I am not a "cruise" vacationer, but when my Aunt decided on a Carnival Cruise to celebrate her 60th Birthday, I agreed to go along. I figured it couldn't be all that bad, and I would just enjoy the company. We were four women out to relax, eat and laugh. And we laughed a lot.
Having said that, I cannot recommend a Carnival Cruise to anyone. IMHO you should spend the extra money and upgrade. It was not terrible, just not for us.

We arrived at the cruise terminal to long lines: line to check ID, another line to check in, another line to fix one mix-up done during pre check in online, another line to get your photo taken prior to boarding.

We were all carry-on luggage (that was the smartest thing we did), and therefore did not have to wait for luggage. One thing Carnival does well is decorating rooms according to occasion. For about $35.00 I had my Aunt's room decorated for her birthday and they did a good job. She was pleased as punch.

After traveling all day without any food, we thought we could find something on the ship... If you are not a fan of fried food served in a buffet line; do not arrive hungry on your first cruise day. And, if your are GLUTEN INTOLERANT you need to avoid this cruise line. Yes, they do offer Gluten free menu choices, but the bread substitutes are bland at best. And avoid the gluten free pancakes, made with rice flour, which were pasty and tasteless.

We spent the first day wandering around and exploring the ship. It is an older ship, but refurbished. The Cabins were nice, the beds were surprisingly comfy, and kept the noise out reasonably well. Hair dryers are available upon request. They do not provide hair conditioner (warning to all you ladies with long hair). After wandering around, we decided to have a cocktail before dinner. Our favorite bar was in the Atrium, where the people watching was great.

Food snob/Wine snob? Maybe. Everything we ordered for the next 4 nights came with cooked carrots as the vegetable (I'm not kidding), and that wasn't what I was expecting. I know the kids they hire try hard, but they are not experienced and it shows. After ordering a Merlot, our waiter asked if that was a red or a white wine. Overall, we turned back 2 plates of fish at dinner, 3 breakfasts that were prepared incorrectly, another 3 meals that were just bad, and finally ended up ordering the "safe" bet at the rest of our meals. However, we did have a great Chicken Caesar Salad, good waffles and omelets in the morning, and a good pumpkin soup one night. We did not go hungry.

The first day at sea I hit the gym, The workout room was crowded in the mornings, but by 9 am you had the place to yourself (bring your own headphones for the treadmill). After that I found the girls laying in the sun. Overall the ship was pleasant, not too small and enough areas with sun chairs that we never without a place to camp in the sun. The hot tubs were popular, the pool popular with the kids. By far our favorite thing was relaxing in the sun. Love the service, the music was fun, the weather was great and we had our best times there. This is what we all were expecting and the cruise line delivers. I think most of the people on the ship are there to relax, and visit with friends. There were a lot of groups of travelers onboard with us; family reunions, groups of friends, clubs, and more. Most of the parents we chatted with were very pleased with the kids activities onboard. We had a great time watching the activities out on the Lido Deck, including the dancing and the hairy chest contest!

We all had spa appointments on the first day. The spa was pleasant and I was happy to find a sauna and steam room onboard. We actually saved money by booking when we got onboard, taking advantage of last minute deals.

Late nights for us were not late at all. We were going to hit other bars, but always ended up at the atrium! The other bars were full of smoke. I forgot how nasty a room can smell after a bunch of smokers stunk the place up. We didn't go into any of smokey bars.
We did catch a few shows, some good, some not. We did not participate in any of the games, and that was probably a mistake.

We did not plan a shore excursion in Cozumel, and still don't know if that was the right thing. We ended up shopping in town, and because we were there on Independence day, we enjoyed a parade. We browsed and shopped until the pestering from the shop owners became annoying. We were prepared for that. We must have looked like 4 lost women at one point, when another cruiser stopped us and said, "If you are looking for a restaurant, La Mission was just recommended to us". That was a great tip - we found La Mission and it was a gem. I was pleasantly surprised - it is off the main strip, so no view, but makes up for that in every other aspect. The tropical decor was colorful, the tables and restrooms were clean, the service was friendly and courteous, and even the mariachi band was decent. We all ordered grilled lobster for lunch, done with a garlic butter (additional served on the side) it was the best food we had on the whole trip. I didn't even mind donning a cheesy sombrero and paying $4.00/picture for our photo.

On the last day, they like you off that ship pretty quick! We managed to pack and gather in one room and get a breakfast in before debarking. Again - carry on luggage is the way to go. They let you off the ship first as you don't have to wait for your luggage.

Carnival is oriented to a very casual cruiser, good for families and groups, good for people who like burgers, fries and comfort food. Great for kids, good for people who like games and group fun. We made it through with a smile on our faces, but won't be back on a Carnival ship.

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