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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Elation

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
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Oct 16, 2015

Cosmel and Progresso

I enjoyed our cruise to Mexico.. My husband, son, his wife, and brother were with me. The service was and is always great but it seems like there were less servers in the dining room making us wait a long time for food and refills of drinks.The waiters seems over extended. There wasn't enough to serve the tables well. Our biggest disappointment concerning the dinners were the lack of the lobster meal without paying. We have always enjoyed that

night. We didn't like the idea of having to pay for it. The entertainment was also very disappointing. The music shows were very poor class and too loud. Nothing has to be so loud to be enjoyed. May I suggest family movies on the fun days at sea? It would cost the cruise very little and would be something to do. Popcorn and drinks could be offered. I know the ice cream is a pain for your servers, but is enjoyed by everyone. One of my family's big joke when planning a cruise is how much ice cream we will eat. It is fun! The ship was very clean and once again the workers work tirelessly to make the guests comfortable. Another thing that really bothered us was people smoking on ship! As nonsmokers, we hated walking through the ship and being greeted by the awful smell of cigarette smoke. My family has gone on 5 carnival cruises and will probably return in a few years. Please don't cut corners so much that you lose all the things that make cruising fun. Thank You

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Jun 22, 2014

Elation

Just got back from the 4 day Cozumel cruise. Let me start by saying that I have traveled a good bit in my life and experienced various resorts. Etc. This cruise Is mediocre at best. Not worth the money at all! You would be better served visiting Disney World or renting a room at a resort. They will price gouge the heck out of you. I'm not exaggerating! They charge you for everything. Some of the workers are pleasant but the majority are not very friendly.

I've never seen anything like this in my life. I can't caution you enough to do your research before taking a cruise. This is such a waste of money!!! Average food at best. Very bland and taste like something at Golden Corrall Small and hot cabin. Shower was nice Seriously lacking entertainment. I was bored after the first day. A lot of potential but for some reason lacks any excitement Shopping in Mexico was great

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Jun 17, 2013

Cozumel

The Wal-Mart crowd on the Wal-Mart of cruise lines. There is no better way to describe it. Budget restaurant food served in a nice dining room. You won't go hungry, but don't think you're going to experience 4-star dining. The variety of food offered was very good. Even the pickiest eater should be able to find something they like. However, the best entree I had on the cruise wasn't even on the ship. It was the Grouper entree I prepared

for lunch as part of a shore excursion Mexican food cooking class. We had cabin E-2. Cheap wood furnishings similar to what one would find in a cramped college dorm room. We were part of a group of 17 and pretty much created our own activities so I don't have a relevant comment. The Mexican Cuisine shore excursion was the highlight of our trip. It was well-run and worth the $90. We cruised with four of my wife's college girlfriends for their 35th reunion. The group included families for a total of 17 people. The ship was a good venue for the primary mission of their annual reunion: eating and talking. We always seemed to be able to find an area- day and night- to accommodate all of us when we wanted to gather as a group. We took in one show on the last night and it was entertaining. I grew tired of the constant effort to get you to buy overpriced alcohol, goods, photography and personal services. It was the height of hokey on the first night to have a person dressed as a pirate visit each and every dining guest and pretend to cut the diner's throat with an over-sized plastic dagger while a ship's photographer snapped their picture. A completely bush league attempt to make a few bucks off the "guests".

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Mar 10, 2013

Progresso-Cozumel

Went for an onboard family reunion. Had a very large group. I will have to say, with very little cruising experience, the Port of New Orleans was by far the best experience. The staff was incredible, very friendly, and since we were dealing with a young child, they did their best at getting us on and off of the ship in a very quick and efficient manner. The cruise itself was okay. We had several extremely friendly staff members assist us, including

our room steward; but overall the staff seemed very gruff and abrasive, and very overwhelming almost harassing bar staff on the lido deck. Ports of call were great, had a great time off the boat. But not being experience cruisers we were not prepared for things like set dinner times and lengthy waits for food. Food in the dining rooms were good. Variety was excellent. Service here was decent and they did do a very good job of catering to the younger kids. Lunch time? Forget about it! You better get in line before you even get hungry, because the minimum time we waited in line was 30 minutes (try doing that with a two year old). All that wait was for mediocre food at that. On the culinary side the highlight of the trip was the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake served in the dining room at dinner! Staterooms were fine, a little cramped with kids, but our steward did such a good job making sure our 8 and 2 year olds were comfortable. Water pressure in the shower was surprisingly good, but be sure to pack conditioner if you use it, because it is not offered on the ship. Beds were comfortable. Overall rooms were decently cleaned. Activities were okay. A lot of them were inside the ship, and when you are cruising to a tropical destination who wants to be sitting inside for a good portion of the day? The activities on the Lido deck were great if you are a twenty something. Less than to be desired if you have children. Kids activities seemed to all be inside, or I just wasn't in the right place, because I never saw anything geared for the kids outside at all. We did not do any excursions that Carnival offered. Best part of the trip was the family we were with. Overall not a terrible experience, a few bumps along the way, but not a stellar enough experience to want to do it again.

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Feb 3, 2013

Saturday to Thursday

Fair to good cruise, maybe. Outside of the restaurants the food was poor. On Lido and rear of Lido, the food was less than acceptable as a whole. We did enjoy the buffet of pork steak and beef steak but most of the rest was bland and some vegetables had a fowl taste of rot. The most disappointing thing to me was how bad the pizza turned out to be. In my past cruises, the pizza was always top notch with great flavor but on this trip that was

lost. The salad bar was great and always full, we did enjoy it very much. The room was perfect except for a faulty smoke alarm. On my first shower it sounded and brought to our room a couple of employees. We were advised to close the bathroom door while showering but that failed to fix the problem as it sounded two more times during the cruise. After the second and third alarm, I requested it to be fixed or have us moved to another room. After a disgusted look neither of the maintenance workers responding said a word, they simply turned and walked away. No resolution was made and no answer given when I asked if any other passengers had this issue. Blank looks with no response, I was not at all impressed. All of the activities we participated in were wonderful. Stay away from Progresso, it is a waste!!!!!!!!! Passion Island by Catamaran was fantastic and worth the $70 per person cost. The sad part was not having enough time to see Cozumel as the excursion was 5hrs. Of all my Carnival trips, this was the worst by far. Aside from what was mentioned above, the cost to drink on ship was way over board. $7.50 for a beer and $10 to $14 for drinks. I find it sad that such prices exist when we spend so much on other area's of the cruise. Progresso was truly a nasty place to visit. From the time you are off the dock until you are back, there is a constant nag of people trying to sell. Transportation was to town was nice with air-conditioning and no smell, however, after your money is spent the ride back is old, worn out and stinky. Very sad part of the trip but it equaled the vision of Progresso. As most people use coffee to exercise nature in the morning, I use grape juice, which brings in my final thought. I packed a bottle of Walmart juice in my luggage but had forgotten it needed to be in my carry on bag. This of course is my fault and I accept that fault. When my luggage arrived the juice was of course gone but a cute note was left accusing me of smuggling. At guest services I requested to have it returned but got no answer, I must assume denied. On my second request, I was informed an email was created and I would be notified later. Upon entering my room a call came in where I was asked the brand and then informed it was an open container and would not be returned. My reply was simple, if it was opened then someone on your ship opened it. No reply, no sorry, no anything. Was there a real need to have the juice as a whole? No, it was purely a matter of principle to me and simply has cemented the overall dissatisfaction for this cruise while all the others had been perfect in every way. One bad trip out of five will not ruin my desire but it will likely push me to Mobile Alabama away from Elation and New Orleans.

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Dec 21, 2012

Progresso Cozumel

Wanted to take my elderly mother on a cruise so I chose this 5- day itinerary. I was a bit concerned because my husband and I typically cruise on larger newer boats. Also our previous 2 Carnival cruises on the Glory and Liberty were somewhat disappointing as we felt customer service and attention had gone downhill. No need to worry. This ship was recently updated and very clean and up-to-date. Hated that you could not go from stern to aft on most

decks, but otherwise enjoyed the smaller ship. Wait staff and cabin stewards were superb! Best personal attention of any cruise I've ever been on! Selections of food have decreased, but food was good, if not superb. Clean and spacious cabin. Have always hated the Carnival orange though. Never at a loss for something to do on the ship. The activities and shows are good.

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Nov 28, 2012

Mexico

The crew was very nice. The entertainment was very bad. I have taken many cruises, and this by for was the worst entertainment I have ever seen I guess the food is ok, but you can tell that the economy has effected them as well. The quality of food has really gone down hill! Very clean and nice cabin. It was good but the entertainment was very bad. Too expensive, bought the excursion off the ship for a lot cheaper price.

Went with friends and family.

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Oct 1, 2012

New Orleans to Progreso and Cozumel

For my first Cruise, the ELATION was a great choice, me thinks! It was very easy to get around on, and the staff I encountered were ALL very friendly and eager to please. Our cabin Steward Marty was very helpful, providing us with anything we asked for - just left a sticky note on the mirror, or ask him in passing. Our waiters in the Imagination Dining Room were over the top in friendliness and service. Sorry I didn't get their names, two guys!

I get the feeling that almost all the prior reviews were by unhappy cruisers, not the pleased ones who didn't bother ! We had no problem getting food, getting on & off the ship, and finding our excursion in Progreso. The Cruise line tour of UXMAL Mayan ruins was great, with guides Alejandro & Umberto, and driver Juan; our bus was very comfy and AIR Conditioned - yea! We could have booked privately with AutoProgreso, and saved about $30 - more later~ Summation - This ship was clean, the food was great, the service was great, and I'd do it again in a HEARTBEAT! Loved the dining room foods - Chateaubriand, grilled Mahi-Mahi, Lobster *CHOCOLATE MELTING CAKE* ! variety was superb. You could order as much or as Little as you wanted, as many appetizers, or main dishes - or Chocolate Melting Cakes! LOL! The buffet was decent - not overly great, and the lines WERE Long, at times - but it was a good alternative. The Deli made good foods, including Omeletts for breakfast, and some super grilled sandwiches. I was not overly impressed with their 24-hr Pizza, but I'm no Pizzaholic. My main problem was the price of the Alcohol drinks onboard - wow - know where they make SOME of the bargain cruise price BACK ! Remember to take your bottle of WINE on board, get the steward to supply wine glasses, and take some TO Dinner! Also - do NOT try to sneak clear alcohol beverages onboard in water bottles ~~ heh heh ~ won't work!! Interior, fake window ! but mostly -very nice - good beds, pillows a bit thick (bring my OWN next time!) - we had more than enough storage room, and put our suitcases UNDER the beds. two nice roomy closets & shelves too. The bathroom had a nice large shower, with curtain that did stay closed ~could have used a seat or a shelf in it ~ The TV was an old one, but it worked just fine. The stewards made the room up 2 or 3 times a day ! They would bring Ice for our little cooler, which we kept in the bathroom, on the Tile floor. Room was quite clean, didn't notice anything dirty, and the staff were ALWAYS cleaning around the hallways. I didn't do much onboard activities, except one show, which was pretty good - IF you like that sorta thing - I don't really go for "Shows" - the music and the dancers & singers were really good, mostly about the age of Rock & Roll - band was good too. I tried the Casino a few times - won't bother NEXT time! I'm not a "big" player, and thus never seem to Hit anything - There were comics performing a lot, and night clubs with dancing & music of various types. I just didn't get into them ~~THIS time ! Don't miss the Mayan Ruins at UXMAL! NOT the "most popular" but one of the most Majestic! Lesser touted than Chichen Itza, but well worth the ride, not Crowded, and CLOSER to Progreso. We did use the cruise line sponsored one, with an air conditioned bus, ride was about 1 hr 45 min. Most of the way out, one of our guides, Alejandro, gave lots of historical info, which was very interesting. He and Umberto were both very fluent in English, Spanish AND Mayan - they ARE Mayan !! If you go on this tour - be prepared for LOTS of walking, rough terrain, and if you want to CLIMB - you can ! the "Great Pyramid" - - not the "Magician's Pyramid" - is available to clamber UP, and there are NO rails, and it's HIGH! But the climb is worth it - I DID it - and survived ! People with problems going up & down steps or navigating rough terrain or hills, might have trouble. Nice shops in & out of the ruins, State park kinda place. Good prices, but watch for "calculator inflation" think I got slightly ripped off in one ~ Our interior cabin was on the "Upper deck" in the stern (rear) of the ship. We did hear some engine noise, but it was rather gentle, except for one time when I think they had to dodge a random Tug boat!? I went up on top to see what happened, but had no way to find out - we didn't stop - so it was fine ~~~ Our excursion was a little pricey, at $79, thru Carnival - but my travelling friend wanted to be sure there was a Restroom on the bus - which she never USED - the destination UXMAL had excellent and sparkling clean facilities! We could have saved $30 each by booking privately with AutoProgreso, and I wish we HAD - I am sure their guides were Mayan as well, and they all seemed to speak very good English for we Touristas! I was a little overwhelmed by all the PHOTOGRAPHERS - seemed to be one in every Corner ! Photos of *ME* are not my favorites, so we only purchased a couple - they threw away HUNDREDs of photos at the end of the trip! Summation - I'd ride this "old" ship anytime ! The crew and the staff and all the rest of the trip was SUPER !

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Apr 18, 2012

none

I would like to say that I was really disappointed while cruising; this was my husband and I first and last cruise. The food was great in the dining room; the food up on the outer deck wasn't good. It was cold and some entrees were overcooked. It was not a good dining experience especially after waiting in line as if you were in a cafeteria. The wait staff were friendly and attentive and the food in the dining room was better. For the amount

of money I was disappointed to have to stand in long lines. The room was okay and it was acceptable; although the t.v. was outdated. This is the millennium; I visited another cruise members room and it had a flat screen in the room. The shower needed a barrier to avoid water from getting all over the floor. the activities were really geared towards those who go to the night club and those who gamble. Karaoke was fun and entertaining, the comedians in my opinion were boring. The excursions were okay. In a nutshell; the trip was okay. after day 3 I was ready to get off the water and do something else. Would I cruise again; probably not, would I recommend that others cruise? yes I feel that everyone should experience it at least once for themselves.

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By Anne_CR

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Feb 12, 2012

Caribbean

While it was nice for my husband and me to get away, the Elation did not live up to my expectations. The ship's decor looks outdated, the food in the dining room was awful, and the housekeeping staff was always crammed into the hallway near our cabin. Our excursion to Chichen Itza was meant to be a one-hour guided tour with a one-hour self explore period. Instead, our group was manipulated for an hour and fifty minutes while our Mayan tour guide

embellished stories about each building, often going into totally unrelated topics and holding us hostage in the scorching sun while he rambled on about god knows what. Cozumel was a nice day window shopping, but I don't need to go back ever again. Food on the buffets was okay, but the constant closing of the buffets became a major problem. If we decided to wait until the lines thinned out, we were usually too late. We subsisted on ice cream for most of the week. The food in the dining room (evening dinner) was downright awful. I didn't finish a single entree all week. By the end of the week I was very frustrated with the food selections, lack of availability, and the constant rumbling of my stomach to be full of something other than ice cream. Stateroom had one electrical outlet which meant it was a coin toss to see who got to use it. Plenty of storage for clothes, but nowhere to store empty suitcases. Bathroom was tiny, with what appeared to be black mildew on the shower floor tiles. It was covered with a small rubber mat to keep us from slipping while the ship rocked. Our medicine cabinet seemed to have dry-rotted hinges which made a horribly loud creaking sound anytime we opened it. Other than the totally outdated color scheme it was adequate, if not a little disappointing. We didn't participate in many of the activities because of the large amounts of alcohol being consumed by the other passengers. We watched karaoke almost every night, which culminated with the last show of the week, Carnival Legends, in which some of our fellow passengers were selected to sing in character (Cher, Tina Turner, Neil Diamond, etc.). That was a lot of fun, especially since we'd seen them all in their vacation attire during regular karaoke. Go to Chichen Itza. It's one of the seven wonders of the world, so it should be on your list. However, when you get there, do your own guided tour & enjoy yourself. If your tour guide is Julian, I'm sorry, but you're about to be suckered into some really tall tales. Bring a book on the site and do it yourself. In Cozumel, plan to do a little window shopping (trust me, there is nothing for sale there that you NEED), then spend the rest if the day relaxing under the palm trees near the gangway mall. Overall, it was an okay vacation. However, for the money, I'd have preferred a different type of vacation, with a clean hotel room, better choices for food, and less consumerism...everything is an extra on a cruise, including the pamphlets they try to sell you at Chichen Itza! The casino is a smoking-permitted area, which you must walk through to get to the dining rooms, so that's sort of gross. It also has the very faint odor of sour carpet/urine. The dining room always seemed to smell like fish, and not in a good way. The housekeeping staff always seemed to be knocking on our cabin room door, which got very annoying. The ship needs a serious update in terms of decor; it looks straight out of the 80s. Food was less than mediocre, which was hugely disappointing since there are two full days at sea with no opportunity to eat anywhere else. I won't be recommending the Elation to anyone.

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Jan 29, 2012

Mexico

I experienced the worst service at debarkation on the Carnival Elation. My parents are older and need assistance getting on and off the ship. The Elation made the experience deplorable and I will never sail with Carnival again. While my wife, daughter, grandchildren and friends were waiting for us after debarkation and made numerous cell phone calls to check on our status; my 89 year old blind father asked the staff how much longer it would be?

The Carnival employee replied it will be a long time for you. We were first told that we were waiting on wheel chairs but other families walked out in discussed came back to report that wheel chairs were being returned and stored in another area. When sufficient chairs were available, staff to push the chairs were not made available. Stateroom staff were great

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Jan 19, 2012

cozumel and progreso

We went on this cruise for our 38th anniversary. The waiters , cabin steward and everyone who worked on the cruise were so nice to us. They wanted to help us every way they could. We had a great time. We always do when we cruise. The food in the dining room was really the only thing I was not happy with. They had replaced New York Strip steaks with flat iron steaks. They went with a cheaper grade of steak. I couldn't hardly cut the steak

so I didn't eat much of it. I also ordered the Veal Parm. I have never seen a Veal cutlet so hard to cut with a knive. It seems they had really made the menu cheaper. The cuts of meat had really gone down hill. There was fried chicken and meatloaf that was just like the Buffets at any Ryans or Barnhills. Very disappointed. The room was great. It was very clean and our cabin steward was very nice. The activities were really good. We love to play bingo and watch the shows. The Simple Friends group were great.!! Enjoyed them so much we looked everyday to see where they were playing. The legends Show was so good. Karioke was a lot of fun. We didn't go on a excursion. We just walked around Cozemel. We ate at Pachos Back Yard and enjoyed it very much. We went to a supermarket. This may seem funny, but we owe a grocery store so this was very interesting to us. Saw the way their cut meat and the different foods they sold.The people were very nice and the store was very clean. Overall we really enjoyed our trip and will cruise again one day. The dining room food was the only thing we were disappointed in.

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Jan 4, 2012

cozumel

My first and possible last. The ship was at full capacity with 800 kids onboard. The ship is small with only one tiny pool, and it wasn't even heated for winter. The entertainment was terrible, and the shows sucked. They were not the professional shows I expected. The food was so so and the dining room portions were tiny. Of course you had to order 2 or 3 of everything to be a regular portion. The room on R level with a window was fine but it was

very rough the entire time. The staff was nice other than the guy at customer sevice. Disappointed by what was available during off hours. Room Service sandwich at 3 am was good. Small but ok. Television in the room was very bad. Bathroom tiny. Beds were pretty comfortable. Shows were terrible. I don't gamble but heard it was a rip off. We were in bed by 8 each night. Don't do Passion Island in Cozumel. Do book SOMETHING in Progreso. DOn't just go it alone. Very scary place. The water in Cozumel is beautiful, but I think just fly there and stay. Maybe try another cruise line but Carnival was a rip off with their extremely high drink prices.

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Jul 26, 2011

family reunion

It was a very bad experience, especially for some of the people I was with being their first experience on a cruise. We will never use your cruise line again Within the first 5 minutes of the trip after boarding we asked a question and the crew member was rude. It was down hill from that moment. The food was not prepared timely, it was cold. During dinner on several occasions there was no drink machines working or no ice. The rooms were not that

clean,and often activities were shut down early. Horrible, many times it was not prepared timely, it was cold and there was never any ice or drinks at times. It was okay, never really cleaned good, but the steward was very nice. Upon entering and asking questions of the staff, they were really rude and unapproachable. The activities were okay. The only thing I enjoyed about the trip was the Family I was with. We will never take your cruise ship again. Guest services were really rude. The crew seemed to have been in bad moods, and you take a cruise for the service. I am still asking myself what happened on this cruise. I have never experienced this type of unproffesionalism among so many before.

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Jul 18, 2011

Mexico

I have never in my life been as upset with anyone as I am with Carnival's "customer service". I have been on eight past Carnival Cruises and would have never considered another cruise line. The treatment I have gotten has been unbelievable. I booked my cruise on 04/22/2011 for my 10 year wedding anniversary and was encouraged to buy the insurance for my husband and myself for an additional $98.00 so if anything happened I could get a refund. Well

one week later I found out I was pregnant and I called and was told that I wouldn't be able to go on the cruise but my money was non refundable, which I didn't know or I wouldn't have bought the insurance! So now I paid 398.00, can't go on the cruise due to Carnival's policy and can't get my money back. I have called multiple times trying to understand how this makes any since and was hung up on today. DO NOT BOOK WITH CARNIVAL!

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Jun 6, 2011

Cozumel and Calica

It was absolutely amazing! I met so many people that I really love and I'm so happy I met them. If I could live it over again, I would definitley do it! The food was so yummy! I ate at Tiffany's every single night! They have the best dang ice cream ever. I think it was really good for people around my age who loved to go off and hang out together with our families, but I don't think it'd be good for families who want time together with peope my age

or older. I loved Cozumel! I did the Playa Mia beach excursion (excuse me if I spelt that wrong), and that was pretty fun! I didn't really go into town at Calica, I was so worn out from the day before, I slept until 5:00pm the day we were at Calica until two of my guy friends from the cruise came and woke me up. I only went to one show and it was the show "WIN!" and I loved it! I think over all it is one of the best ones you can find. I was in Circle C but I never did any of the things with them. On the last day, you will probably want to cry because you've had so much fun! I promise. It was so yummy! If you eat anything it Tiffany's it better be the ice cream because it is the best ice cream you will ever have in your entire life! It was always clean! The people who clean it do a really good job with not moving your stuff to where you can't find it. Oh, and they have the towel animals! They look so cute too! I didn't do a lot of the on board activities but a lot of people that I talked to, that did said they liked 'em and from what I saw they looked like fun. If you can do any excursion, do the Playa Mia beach! I had soooooo much fun at that! You can swim, or float, and if you want you can get a kayak and go out around the boxed in area in it. They also have the water blow-up ice burgs and water trampolines that you can go on that are really fun. If you do this excursiuon, wear shoes because I didn't and the sand gave my feet so many blisters. Oh, and by the way, the sand basically feels like litterbox sand.....I would know! (:

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Mar 20, 2011

Cozumel

We took our family (2 teenagers ad a 9 year old) and had a GREAT time. There were activities all day long for the kids and the adults. The food was ok - kids loved it. The rooms were clean, the ship was clean, the staff was friendly. The beds were comfortable - nice sheets and nice pillows. I would definiteky recommend it. Great value for the money. Adequate. Lot of variety. The seafood selection was always good. Kids loved the hammburgers.

Great beds, great sheets, great pillows. Small but clean. Great shower pressure also. Quiet and slept till 9 every day.

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Mar 20, 2011

Cozumel

We took our family (2 teenagers ad a 9 year old) and had a GREAT time. There were activities all day long for the kids and the adults. The food was ok - kids loved it. The rooms were clean, the ship was clean, the staff was friendly. The beds were comfortable - nice sheets and nice pillows. I would definiteky recommend it. Great value for the money. Adequate. Lot of variety. The seafood selection was always good. Kids loved the hammburgers.

Great beds, great sheets, great pillows. Small but clean. Great shower pressure also. Quiet and slept till 9 every day.

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Feb 28, 2011

Cozumel and Calica

You get what you pay for, hopefully. Overall reasonable value for your hard-earned dollar, with some issues that were not experienced on other ships. We almost exclusively ate in the dining rooms because of the variety of foods offered and the service available. I ate the fish entry every evening and was totally impressed with the presentation as well as the taste! Couldn't wait to have the warm melted chocolate cake for dessert to top off

an extraordinary experience. Ample size with large bathroom. Little or no drawer space with 4 in our cabin, so luggage stayed on the floor the entire trip. We probably overpacked like most people but I was expecting somewhere to place my luggage. Not terribly impressed compared to other cruise lines. No dating game or other activities for married couples. My children tended to avoid the ship's camp because the activities were somewhat boring for them(age 6 and 12). The towel folding experience was well attended, as well as bingo. Many people seemed to enjoy the games played around the pool during the day; last man standing, hairy chest competition and ice carving. I purchased online before the cruise; Xel-ha was an excellent value in Calica. We rrented a vehicle and drove ourselves around Cozumel. I will probably travel Royal Caribbean or Holland America next cruise. There were many subtle little things about Carnival that I found frustrating. The overall bang for the buck was decent, but I will spend my money elsewhere next time.

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Feb 13, 2011

cozumel and calica

This review is strictly fo rthe Elation sailing out of the port of Mobile Alabama. The embarking process - luggage from cars to parking the car is excellently orchastrated. If you have ANY trouble standing for long periods of time a VIP pass is the way to go for embarkation. I would also suggest a wheelchair if there are ANY issues with walking uphill for any distance. Passengers are allowed on ship beginning at 10:30 sharp so be sure to arrive at

terminal no later than 9:30 to have a relatively short wait. there are plenty of waiting chairs if you get there a little early. . Once on board especially if your are part of the early crowd I would suggest going up to the Lido deck for lunch. As more people board the ship the lines get longer and longer. You are allowed in your room at 1:30 so be sure to check any luggage you don't want to haul around with you. However, we checked our rooms about 1:00 and were able to get in and leave our carry ons to go explore the ship. The elation was fairly clean. Our room was not so spotless on the first day but did improve throughout the cruise. . There is essentially only one interior deck for the casinos and other small show rooms. The other decks will take you outside for periods of time which is great if the weather is warm and not so windy. This particular cruise was in February and the waters were a little rough. It was not unbearable and most passengers just took a travel sickness pill and were fine. This is my second winter cruise and both had rough seas (the first had 14' swells) (this one only had 5-7' swells). Overall the cruise was pleasant but nothing stood out as a you have to see this moment. The number of photographers for this small of a ship was rather annoying. The photographers were lined up along the entire distance of the only interior corridor with ocenview windows. It felt as if you were at a state fair midway with carnies asking to guess your weight or come play thier ring toss game. VERY IMPORTANT - if you are planning on doing the behind the scenes tour of the ship make sure to make your first stop after you board the ship the excursion desk. This tour is only open to 16 people per voyage and fills up quickly. Also, if you are with a party and you have been assigned different dining rooms make sure to see the Maitre'D prior to the dining time. He is usually available about 1pm but guest services will be able to give you the exact time and place. If you wait until dinner time to try and get your party seated together it may not happen and the distance between the dining rooms includes two elevator rides on different elevators. Food on a cruise...hmmm. Well, first of all there is lots of it. some of it good and some of it not so good. between all of it you will definately eat enough to not go hungry. The Lido deck has the food. The exterior food area by the slide pool has a mongolian stir fry station on one side and a burger and chicken finger station on the other. Both are again ok but nothing special. The stirfry station does not add any seasoning during cooking so be prepared. Also there is no terriyaki sauce only soy, steak and bbq of some sort. The fries and hamburgers tasted better than I expected for the lunchroom cook style. Inside there are two food bars inside with the same selections. Try one of everything. It's part of the cruise experience. In the center you have your desserts. followed by the ALWAYS A TREAT ICE CREAM station!! Then appropriately followed by the salad and fruit station. Toward the back of the dining area there is a sandwich station and a pizza station.. The dining room food is one of the best treats on board a cruise. Here are some things to remember. You can order as much as you want. Feel free to have 2 or 3 starters and even 2 main courses if the menu has something that sounds interesting to you. Also, if you don't like what you have ordered send it back and order something different. I say this not to abuse the all you can eat food policy on cruises but because the chefs are from all parts of the world and it is a great way to experience different cooking styles. Also, contrary to popular belief and advertising food is not always available on the cruise. The exception is room service. There were several times when we went to go get something to eat and there was nothing to be had. The pizza station was open but we had to wait 10 minutes for a slice of mediocre pizza.. Dining room menu. The first, second and fifth night were very good. The third night I had to order three different main dishes just to get something that was edible. I later discovered there were several other passengers that did the same. Here are a few suggestions and comments. See if you can get a weekly menu from the dinning room to decide which night you would rather eat in one of the fine dining rooms. You can also eat your evening meal on the Lido deck. It is my understanding from some passenger comments that the Lido was serving some of the same food we were having in the main dining room. On the night that they serve lobster order two orders. The lobster tails are small and the shrimp was a little tough. The lobster bisque is in a red sauce not the white version we are used to on the Gulf. OK - I had the opportunity to physically see most all of the stateroom configurations while onboard. One note, don't be afraid to get a room by the elevator on this ship. We had a group of about 300 and several commented that they were aprehensive when they saw their room was by the elevator but was pleasantly surprised that the never heard the elevator. The interior rooms were very basic but had plenty of room. remember if you are sharing an interior room with someone you may want to bring a small flashlight to get around if the lights are off. The porthole rooms were essentially the same as the interior except there were at least two of the porthole rooms that seemed to have additional lighting. The window suite - upper deck - We had one of these rooms and ws very dissapointed that you had to crawl over the bed to get to the window. other than that it was ok. just a standard room. the Balcony suite - verandah deck - I would definately make sure you had an unobstructed view. Although I don't think the lifeboats were against your balcony they would definately block your view from your room. You would have to be on the balcony to have a view. The balcony term used in reference to the elation is more like a ...well... stoop. there is NO ROOM to sit on the balcony. There are two chairs and a small table on each balcony. The balcony size is about 2.5' by 5'. I will try to described the smallness to the best of my ability. take two chairs - face them to each other - put a 12" square table between them leave enough room to open a 24" door and you have your balcony. It is so small that you have to climb onto the chair to close the door. You can turn the chair to face toward the sea but you have no room for your legs to hang down in front of your chair. There is definately not enough room for two people to stand on the deck at the same time without being smaller in size and hugging each other While the balcony suite is worth the extra money to have the ability to not feel like you are riding in an enclosed box don't plan on enjoying sitting out on the balcony sipping mohito's. The room itself was ok as far as square footage. It was nice to have a couch to sit on instead of always having to be on the bed to sit. There are two cabinets under the tv area. The lower is for the small fridge. At first I didn't think it would be cool enough to keep food fresh much less cool drinks but I was pleasantly surprise. The middle area is a waste of space. it houses about 24 assorted wine and drink glasses. This suite is not large enough to hold five people much less a hold a party. This space would have been better left empty for use as the cruiser saw fit. The Larger Suite - I was able to view one of these cabins but did not go out on the balcony so I can't give as detailed of a report. however, as compared to the smaller suite the additional room and the location of center ship (which means a little less of the rocking motion) would have been worth another one to two hundred for a long cruise. the layout was essentially the same as the smaller suite so the biggest difference is location and a little larger balcony On board activites were ok. nothing to write home about but there was definately always something planned. The interesting part is that for most of the activities the crowds were fairly small. some of the activities only had 15 people. the largest crowd was for the bingo and dance classes. There were very few young children on this particular cruise but the seemed to have a good time. the teenage crowd were kind of bored. Remember this cruise was in February and there were only two good warm days for swimming. If the cruise was in the summer months I am sure the teenagers would have been less bored. There was one excursion in calica that offered a trip to cozumel and another city. Reports said that the travel distance was too great and they should have chosen only one city to visit. Heard great reviews from the stingray swim. i also heard great reviews from those who just chose to get a taxi and see calica cozumel on their own. The only negative I heard was for the ruins trip. The comment from the cruisers was that they saw and learned more from watching tv than what they learned and saw on the excursion. Overall the trip was satisfactory. The food was ok and the carnival entertainment ok. As I mentioned earlier we were part of a group which had about 1/3 of the ship. We brought our own entertainment which was about 15 gospel signing groups which included several grammy award winners. Our entertainment was fantastic. We had three solid days of commedians and signing groups. In fact at one point there was about 75 cruisers not in our group sitting just outside the theatre enjoying the show with us.

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Dec 29, 2010

Cozumel

What an awful experience. This trip was a Christmas gift to our children and grandchildren (7 total aboard). The food was sub-standard. The service ok. Shows were cancelled. Too cold to swim. It rained. We were all cramped into our rooms. Approximately 60% of the people on board became violently ill when the ship encountered rough seas for a minimum of 1-1/2 days. In addition to sea sickness, It appears that there was a combination of a

stomach virus spreading on the ship. Three family members became ill after departing the ship. People were in the restaurant with heads down on the tables (or actually vomitting at the tables). The staff made no attempts to offer alternative entertainment, charged for infirmary services. They did provide barf bags taped on the walls EVERYWHERE. Substandard. Christmas night (Saturday) the staff must have been ill also. The food selections were very sparce. We found only sandwiches available. Cramped Lowsy Overcharged. Still trying to figure out the fees that are on my credit card!

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Dec 5, 2010

western Caribbean

This was our third Carnival cruise but we have cruised on other cruiselines 16 times. Overall we enjoyed this cruise and considered it excellent value for money. However, because it was so cheap many things suffered and I think I'd rather pay more in the future to get more. The entertainment schedule was very light and was non-existent on port days. When we have cruised with Princess we have had to make choices as there are so many activities.

On this ship we had hours and hours of down-time as there was zero on the schedule. The food was nicely presented but was frequently bland. The tiramisu tasted like a package mix; nothing creamy or fluffy about that concoction. When everyone at the table turns down seconds on lobster night you know that the lobster was less than interesting. Overcooked and tasteless. The buffet was dull and unchanging. They attempt to make it classy but it falls way short. Also, I dislike the waiters having to do a song and dance routine each night. I'd like to see them perform well as waiters not singers. Our head waiter gave us a 15 minute monologue on his life, eating habits, views of ships, all the while we were eating our entrees. The maitre d' never once came around the tables to check on his guests or the quality of the staff service. Sadly in need of supervision. The stateroom had portholes and was priced as an interior room and that was very nice. It did seem a little short of drawer space. It was clean and well maintained except for the mirror on the door which was filthy. The door is blocked open each time they clean and the steward had never looked behind the door in a long, long time. The sink clogged but was repaired promptly. There were two production shows which were quite nice with good dance routines and fine costumes. There were also two comedians on board and I liked both of them. Entertainment otherwise was sketchy. We had previously done this cruise four times on different ships and when we stopped this time at Calica we decided to stay onboard ship. Bad mistake as there was zero entertainment left on board. The library/game room was closed except for two-three hours through the entire cruise. Often the onboard activities are provided by the passengers, such as game shows and karaoke. Makes it nice and cheap for Carnival to operate the ship! I think though that I am probably in a minority in my view of the entertainment as clearly many folks were really enjoying the ship. Carnival is in the business of making $ from photographs and from selling drinks. I personally don't like to be pestered with either.

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By KLA_CR

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Nov 9, 2010

Western Carribean

This was my 3rd cruise with Carnival and the worst. The service was terrible. To begin with my room steward quickly introduced herself, however failed to leave a card in the placecard next to the door. Because she was so rushed, I didn't catch her name. I only saw her a couple of times throughout the week. I found cosmetics left in the cabinet above the sink and I never received a door hanger to not be disturbed. On Thursday I didn't get ice

and when I called for ice on Friday afternoon b/c I did't get ice again, I was told she was off duty and to call room service which stated it would be an hour. Again I didn't receive ice Friday night. The bar staff many times was too busy having conversations with the wait staff to ask for my drink order, I often felt like I was bothering them. They were not busy they were having personal conversations. I was in the store waiting to make a purchase and the employee went on for several minutes about an odd smell. The dining experience was also the worst I've ever experienced. The head waitress often got the orders wrong and then was very defensive when told the order was incorrect. At best maybe average. I've had better food at fast food places. Okay. However needs to be updated with paint, serveral places were scuffed. The "WIN" show was more like a joke. The game show part should be deleted, seemed more appropriate for kids. If not for the friends I traveled with, it would have been a terrible vacation.

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By Bob_CR

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Oct 24, 2010

Cozumel and Calica

My family just finished a cruise on the Carnival Elation out of Mobile, AL the week of October 18th. When leaving the Calica Port my 6 year old daughter got completed covered with black soot from your stack while sitting by the pool on the aft, 11th deck. When I complained to guest services they said this happens from time to time and there is no control of it. Luckily the soot was not hot and my girl was not injured but it could have easily turned

out worse. To my surprise, Carnival representatives treated the matter with little importance. There were no warning signs on this portion of the deck of this hazard. I was disappointed in the lack of response to this incident. We will plan no more cruises with Carnival due to this incident and Carnival's lack of care for the safety of their passengers. Average Okay but shower leaked out into the room. Carnival repaired next day. Steward was very good. Great for the kids, lacking for adults. Xcaret was great. Sting Ray encounter in Cozumel was fun too. Medium sized boat with lack of activities for adults. Service was not as good as the Royal Carribean. Skip Carnival and take The Royal.

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Oct 8, 2010

Western Caribbean

For the past two years we have introduced friends of ours to cruising. We had sailed last year on the Carnival Holiday and were impressed by the staff, activities, and dining. This year we were joined by last years new comers as well as another couple that had not sailed before. For weeks we told them of how well our first Carnival cruise went on the Holiday, but this year we would be going on the newer and larger Elation to the same destinations

of Cozumel and Calica in hopes of being even more impressed. What a disappointment. Unimpressed. The same food was not the same caliber as what we had had last year. We looked so forward to the food in the dining room such as the lobster tail and chocolate melting pots, as well as others. Unfortunately, we were not satisfied. Our waiter seemed unorganized in his missions even though he said he had done this for years. It appeared he only had three tables of responsibility yet the service was slow causing us to have to hurry through our food in order to make room for the later seating. The buffet food was just that, buffet. What we did miss was a place to snack later at night, besides the pizza. No, we are not the obese people that have been mentioned in other reviews, but we do like to eat when we want too. The sushi bar was great but should open earlier. The shower was great! Plenty of room and a soap (dispenser) with a great fragrance. Good A/C too. The room was kept clean and the stewards were always friendly. The rooms were nice and quiet until the children ran down the hallways, many times while with their inconsiderate parents. The shows lacked luster. We observed several great shows on the Holiday but were not at all impressed with the shows on the Elation. The hypnotist was probably the best. Apparently there were many activities for the children and teenagers such as "Lets run down the hall and see who we can disturb", or "Lets chase each other around the people that are eating", and my favorite "lets play drums on the Inspiration's dining room table with spoons....as my parents watch and say "How cute!" There was very limited parent or adult supervision on this ship. We saw several children under ten years old (several much younger) just wander about the ship by themselves. A disappointment. Our next cruise will most likely be on another companies ship.

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Sep 28, 2010

Western Caribbean

With this being my first cruise, I was unsure what to expect but I read a lot of reviews prior to sailing and it helped with my curiosity but of course you need you own experience. Overall I enjoyed the cruise! I was sick the last night due to unstable waters but I definitely wouldn't let that hold me back from booking another cruise. Breakfast: I regret not having the chance to eat there for breakfast but that will not be the case on my next cruise.

Breakfast on the ship is served in both the dining room and on the Lido Deck. Due to me waking up late most mornings we always ate the Late Risers breakfast on the Lido which was buffet style with pancakes, toast, bacon, sausage, eggs, omelets, and morning pastries. My only complaint would be that the food wasn't always as hot as I liked but I made due for the circumstances. Drinks options are lemonade, tea, coffee, or water which are complimentary or you have the option to buy the unlimited soda card but I had no problem drinking the lemonade….apple juice and orange juice are available complimentary on the Lido every morning for breakfast. You also have the choice of having breakfast in your room ordered through room service if you are not a morning person. Lunch: The first meal I had onboard was inside of Tiffany's. I decided to get a hot ham and cheese after reading reviews on how this was the best sandwich at the deli. I was not blown away by the sandwich and decided to get a slice of pizza instead. Throughout the rest of the day frequented the buffet on the Lido Deck. Here you have outdoor grill serving hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken strips, fries, etc all day. On the other side you can also find a Mongolian Grill that serves noodle dishes with your choice of beef, salmon, or chicken. Tiffany's also does a salad bar and buffet that served fried chicken, vegetable gyros, pasta, rolls, and much more, you also have the option of the 24 hour pizza, ice cream, and other deserts in Tiffany's. Dinner: The first night in the Main Dining Room was to be cruise casual but I saw many in formal attire but the food was always good here. You get the choice of an appetizer, entrée, and desert and let me tell you you can order as many things as you like. My favorite entrees would have to be the lobster and shrimp from the formal night and the cornish hen from a different night. The portions are small but you can always order more when you are done. We had lunch in the dining room on one occasion and the menu that day was okay. I ordered a salad which had very flavorful chicken and seemed to be a favorite at the table. Overall, I say eat in the dining room as much as possible I was upset I missed the Mexican buffet but I made up for it in Cozumel with the best tacos at Fat Tuesdays! Stateroom was okay, enough room to be comfortable and I am glad I had a room with a ocean view. After seeing some of the balcony rooms I would like to book a balcony or suite on my next cruise. On board activities were not bad. You had the option of karaoke, comedy, adult rated comedy, and some other shows each night. Progresso is where I would go to do shopping and to buy Mexican liquor. I was able to get a bargain on the things I bought here as many say Cozumel is more expensive than Progresso. In Cozumel, we did the speed boat and private beach excursion. The ride to the private island was alot of fun and you got to see alot of Cozumel's coastal line. Once we got to the beach we did a LONG tour in the HOT sun then we were able to enjoy the Mayan lunch buffet and open bar. After lunch we enjoyed the beautiful beach! Endless reasons why I would not do this excursion again. After we made our way back to the port we stopped by Fat Tuesday's and had a GREAT time! I def suggest Fat Tuesdays for the drinks, food, and music. Cozumel was the best time I had in a long time :)

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Sep 12, 2010

Cozymel and Calica

Wow! I had never been on a cruise before, and I am completely sold. We really had a great time and enjoyed ourselves. There were so many friendly people on the ship, both in the travelers and the employees, and we never reached a point where we had nothing to do. The food was pretty good. The dining halls served unusual foods- lots of chilled soups- but I did have a great prime rib, and the warm melting chocolate cake is great- I ate it twice.

The food at the Grill on the Lido deck is not very good, but we ate most of our meals at Tiffany's, which is pretty much buffet style. I never ate anything I didn't like in Tiffany's, and there were a lot of healthy options. I actually probably lost a few pounds on the cruise since I had so many healthy options, and that's what I prefer anyway. I liked the sushi as well. It wasn't gourmet sushi, but if you like a California Roll or a Spicy Tuna, you will enjoy the sushi. The staterooms were SMALL and salmon pink. I was surprised to find out the boat was built in 1996-the decor in the rooms (and the colors, and the Zenith TV) seemed much more dated than that. However, the beds were uber-comfortable, and do you really go on a cruise to watch TV? I did like that they had different movies each day, and if I felt like taking a rest for thirty minutes or so, I did always have something to watch, but my time was not consumed by TV. The people servicing the rooms were extremely polite and hospitable. I loved the towel animals on the bed each day, and the chocolate mints they brought each night, in addition to turning down the sheets. They were fast, too! There were quite a few onboard activities to do, and you never reached a point where you had nothing to do. Some were hokey, but all were enjoyable. I enjoyed watching the line dancing (though I already knew the dances) and the karoke was a lot of fun, which we did each night. The art show is a complete waste of time, and the fact that is says "free champagne" is a ripoff- I waited twenty minutes and never got my champagne. All of the artwork was overpriced, and there was very little I liked. Bingo is apparently a hot commidity on cruise ships, which I could care less for, but everyone that did participate seemed to enjoy it, and I saw someone win 5K, so it can't be all that bad, right?! The casino was a ton of fun, but took all of my money. I would have preferred the alcohol to have been free in here, but then again we weren't in Vegas. Duke's Piano Bar was a ton of fun, and while we didn't spend a lot of time at the Lido Deck, it seemed there was always something going on up there. The comedian on board was hilarious if you don't mind X Rated comedy, which we didn't. If you're a fan of Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes, you'll like the guy on board-he's on par with them. We went to the Romeo and Juliet bar one night, and they had kind of a bluesy house band that was really good. Poor Jeckyl and Hide bar- they always had good music, but NO ONE hung out in there. They just couldn't get a crowd going. It was the closest thing to a nightclub you could get to on the ship. Music was always good there. We didn't do any excursions- we set out on our own each day and ended up saving a lot of money by doing so. It may have taken a little extra time to orchestrate this, but even car rentals were negotiable in Cozymel- so if you're paying for an excursion, you're paying for convenience. Our trip was really enjoyable! The Carribean was beautiful, and riding out onto a Catamaran in Playa del Carmen and snorkeling was by far our favorite thing we did on the trip. We booked this at a walk-up stand after paying $13 for a cab ride into town (no matter how many people you have it's $13, and you have to do this-there's nothing in Calica), and then $35 a person for the boat ride and snorkeling- MUCH cheaper than the excursions, and I think we had a better time. We really enjoyed the casino (face up blackjack was great, but bring cash- this is the one place cash is accepted, and if you use your card there's a 3% fee tacked on), and Duke's Piano Bar occupied a lot of our time as well. Be prepared to pony up for alcohol- what we did learn is the Foster's Oil Cans contain about 3 beers worth and were 6.95 a can, which was by far the best deal, since a Bud Light was 4.50. Alcohol in Cozymel and Calica was dirt cheap, so if you want a Corona and a shot of tequila while walking down the street, it's only a dollar! There is no point in bringing pesos because everyone preferred American dollars, but be forewarned- bring plenty of ones, tens, and fives- they want the American dollar, but never have the change to give you, and will give it to you in pesos. Wear a watch (we didn't do this and regretted it, your time changes constantly on your cell phone and you can't keep track), bring a backpack, wear LOTS of sunblock, and be prepared to buy some pictures- we really liked a lot of them they took, but they are pricy. All in all, we loved the trip, and will definitely be going back. My fiance and I were the only ones that went, and next time we will take a group, but it's very easy to make friends on the ship.

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By JB_CR

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Aug 9, 2010

Cozumel

The ship was clean. I like this smaller ship compared to the larger that I have been on. The food was just fair in my opinion. No complaints with staff whatsoever, they were delightful. Only complaints were too many children left to run up and down the halls unsupervised. The elevator wait was very problematic especially during debarking process. Ignorant people would simply jump in front of us to get the elevator despite the fact that we were

there first. I will probably avoid Carnival for all future cruises as they are too Family/Kid Friendly for my needs. The entertainment was lackluster. Cozumel stop was very disappointing. Snorkeling was enjoyable, but island nothing to write home about. Beach was just ordinary - nothing special like St. Thomas, Aruba or St. Martin. I honestly don't know why the cruise lines even have Cozemel on their itinerary. I won't be going back there. Fair Small but clean Shows were lackluster and not very good singing or dancing. Skip Cozumel - very disappointing. Had a large group (18) so we made our own fun. Loved Dukes Piano bar for the sign along. Loved the sushi bar. Just too many kids constantly underfoot. Wait staff was excellent.

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Jul 19, 2010

Western Caribbean

This was a wonderful cruise aboard a sparkling clean ship with a great crew. Despite numerous cruises over the years I've never been on a Fantasy-class ship until now. Wow. What was I missing? Fun and a great layout! The dining room food was amazingly good. The dinners were easily among the best I've ever had on a cruise ship - and I mean with any cruise line. Entertainment was wonderful. Great bands, singers, shows. It was a homerun of

a cruise! Superb food - especially in the dining room where dinners rivaled the best restaurants I've eaten at. Great pizza. Great deli sandwiches. Great sushi bar! We had a Grand Suite and it was spacious and beautiful. Excellent furnishings and service. The usual Caribbean cruise activities, but they are fun nonetheless. We didn't do excursions. We've been to all the Caribbean ports dozens of times so we like the ships these days. The port of Mobile is a great place to drive to, although it is challenged by having a larger ship in port now that the Holiday has been retired. It was a relaxing 7 night cruise to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Beautiful sunshine and calm seas every day. Great service, great food, great entertainment, and a charming and helpful staff made this a cruise to remember.

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By Gene_CR

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Jul 18, 2010

Western Carribbean

Carnival has a great idea for those interested in cruising...low price, great ports of call, lots of fun on the ship. However, Carnivals low price fare attracts a very low class of people. Severe obesity was the norm instead of the exception. Plan on waiting in the dining halls behind people who have no business eating anything for days or even weeks. Parents with absolutely zero parental skills ruined many of the on-board activities. Signs reading

no children in hot tubs were ignored. Our excursions were delayed or shortened by our severely obese passengers who could not keep up (walking, snorkeling). Our next cruise will be with a more expensive cruise line. We enjoyed the ship and the ship's activities, but we will not vacation again with Carnival due to the type of low class people on the cruise. I understand my review sounds as if I am a snob...well I am. The majority of Carnivals passengers seemed to be uneducated, unskilled, unprofessional welfare recipients. The food was good...not great. We enjoyed the fine dining experience. Our children enjoyed tasting the different types of exotic foods. My suggestion to Carnival is to stop serving hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and fried chicken; they should cut out all desserts outside of the fine dining hall. People who have no business eating hot dogs and hamburgers were lined up for several hours a day every day gorging themselves. By changing the menu, Carnival would turn away many of the low class people from cruising thereby attracting a more profitable clientele. There is absolutely no way Carnival made a profit on these obese passengers. I believe many people cruise just so they can eat all day long. Our room was great. The four of us slept great and our room was neat and clean. The on-board activities would have been fun for our family, although far too many children and teenagers were running around breaking things and cursing like a bunch of drunken sailors. On our last day, we attempted to play mini-golf. About 25 kids and teens were playing on two holes refusing to advance for almost an hour. They were cursing and acting like fools. If you do not retrieve a ping-pong ball and paddle by 8:01am, you will not get to play ping-pong with your children. Kids would check-out the ping-pong paddles at 8:00 and keep them until 8:00pm so that no one else could play. Forget about the swimming pools unless you like children and teens jumping on you while you are standing in one place. The hot tubs are not hot. I asked one of the employees if the hot tubs were broken; they told me they do not heat up the hot tubs because of the children. I found that strange due to the no-children signs posted. Of course, there would be 15 children in a 8 person hot tub at all times. Stay away from Progresso, Mexico. Not much to do unless you visit a private club. Jamaica was O.K. We visited the Rose Hall Plantation. They rush you through too fast. Our friends snorkeled and loved it. Cozumel is always Great! Snorkeling, shopping, beaching, etc.. Take a taxi to the ruins or the beach and save a lot of money. Grand Cayman is a must. Snorkeling and swimming with the stingrays. We love Carnival, but we will not cruise again with Carnival. I would suggest that Carnival increase the cost of its fares by 50-75% in order to weed out the low end class traveler.

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Apr 25, 2010

Ensenada

We stayed 4 nights on the elation. By the third I was ready to depart this ship. I found the food on the borderline of nasty. The ship was very old and it does show its age. If the crew would take better care of it,it might have looked decent. The public bathrooms looked like those you would find in gas stations.We were traveling with my kids on their first cruise and they did enjoy it, although my oldest daughter which was supposed to be in the circle

c program didn't care so much for it. Maybe it was because there wasn' t that many kids signed up. My youngest loved camp carnival. Very bland. The juice they served was very sweet. I had a headache for the first day after drinking it. I drank water for the rest of the cruise and purchased a soda card for my kids. The stateroom was small but big enough to fit all four of us. I didn't care for the decor but I cant complain since the price was right for the four of us. The one thing that was really great was the beds. Very comfortable. They also have over sized plush pool towels, and bathrobes. In the day, I found that the activities lacked. Especially for a family. The activities were plentiful at night. It was hard to catch them all because most are going on at the same time. The shows in the Mikado were excellent.My kids enjoyed them as well. We didn't do much in Catalina. The weather was bad. It was interesting to see. I have been here before but my kids enjoyed it. To get to Catalina you need to take a small boat. The ocean was very choppy. I was sea sick coming back to the ship. After we came back to the ship,we found out that they closed the boats so no one else was able to tender.Wish I would've known. I would not have gone. As for Ensenada, I don't care for it. To many swindlers. It makes me uncomfortable. My kids didn't like it either. Next time we will stay on the ship. Overall, We did have a good time. The best thing is the family time spent together. I did get a pretty good price and they will always remember this vacation. I think that I will try Royal Caribbean next year though. Even if the price is a little more.

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Aug 4, 2009

carribean

While being on numerous cruises before, and 3 different lines, I found that as ships have grown in size, the service depletes. The food was very basic. They try to make it look gourmet but the steaks were dry and the lobster was over cooked. Also, the waiter always messed up the orders. Our room was a nice E-55 with two beds with a fold out bunk. It accommodated us all comfortably. The on board activities were very basic, geared more toward

older teens, or people in their young twenties. We were on the eastern carribean itinerary: St.Thomas, San Jaun, Grand Turk, Halfmoon Cay. It was a great itinerary except for San Jaun was a half day in port. That's a very large city to see in very little time. What really aggravated me was the automatic gratuity put on my credit card. The service was bland, the staff knew tip was included so they never really wanted to give their best effort. I'd recommend going to the Pursers desk to have them remove charges for tip; then tip accordingly. I hope this will make them service the coustomer better.

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Jul 29, 2009

Baja Mexico

I was aboard Elation in September of last year. I had an absolutely wonderful time, so I decided to go again. What an incredible disappointment! The level of service, in just nine months, had degraded to abominable. I had problem after problem for five days, not the relaxing adventure I had envisioned. The one bright spot was the guide on the Taste of Mexico shore excursion in Ensenada. Her name was Martha, and she made that day more than memorable.

What a fabulous attitude and personality, we had such a good time. Unfortunately it was just five hours out of five long, unpleasant days. Elation should be called Frustration these days. The food is decent. The staff is clean and efficient. The boat was wall-to-wall screaming, unsupervised kids who are apparently allowed to do whatever they want at the expense of adult experiences. Ensenada Taste of Mexico was a surprising amount of fun. Cabo was ruined for us by the ship's shore excursion "team". Won't do it again.

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Jul 25, 2009

Sunday- Thursday

We went on this cruise as a family reunion to celebrate Grandma & Grandpa's 60th anniversary. We have small children. It was great for the large family group. The kids loved the pool with the slide. Note: pools are filled with sea water. So it is cold and saltwater, but the kids don't mind. We had a cabin that sleeps four. I was concerned about how this would work but it was great. We had 1 queen size bed, a lower twin size and an upper fold out bunk

twin. The cabin seemed a little larger so we weren't too crowded with 4 of us. The food was OK. The presentation was very nice but tasted mass produced as it is (e.g. Lobster was pretty but rubbery). The entertainment was fair. We attended one evening show that was supposed to be family friendly, but the dancers wore thongs for part of it!!! Not family friendly. This was our 3rd cruise and embarkation/disembarkation has never been so painless as at San Diego. The terminal was very industrial looking but quick. There was 24 hour access to food which was nice with the kid, they could have a snack whenever they got hungry. No waiting. We didn't check out much of the shopping but the liquor store which had GREAT deals. A $55 bottle of patron for $30 and $22 bottle of Absolute for $10. Overall a very nice cruise but I would go for warmer water and more interesting ports in the gulf of mexico next time. The food was average for this grade of cruise. Never ending food, massive buffets. There was excellent presenttation in the dining rooms. But as I have experienced on previous cruises, the food tastes mass produced, because it is. So most of the deserts an entrees look very appetizing you may find that they taste a little like cafeteria food. The accomodations were roomy. We had a stateroom that slept 4 and it was comfortable for all 4 of us. But badly in need of renovation. It was all pink and red, very 1980s. The TV was ancient. THe bathroom was also tacky pastel pink and green. The water pressure was great, but there was a very high risk of scalding. The water was soooooo hot and temperature changed drastically with the slightest adjustment. I was very concerned about the kids burning themselves. I read that the ship had been redecorated in 2008 and all the TVs had been replaced with flat screens. If they did this they skipped the Riviera deck. The room was decorated in tacky 1980s pink and red with a TV that looked like circa 1984. The on board activities were ok. The day activities were pretty lame and we werent out much at night because of the kids. The camp carnival wasn't as useful as I had hoped. The day at sea they wouldn't take our age of kids 'till 2pm. The build a bear thing was an extra $20 per kid. I heard people complaining that they didn't open on time.

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Jun 7, 2009

Baja Mexico

We went on this cruise with a large group of friends and family. This cruise is definitely a great value, and is just the right amount of time to be at sea. The food was absolutely fantastic. Both the dining rooms for breakfast and dinner and the buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner were all wonderful. There was a great variety of foods, all cooked very well. we couldn't have been happier with the food available. My wife and I just had

a simple interior state room. Nothing to jump up and down about. We felt a little small but for an interior state room, it got the job done. There was a free room safe to use which was very nice to have, good sized bathroom and shower, bed was very comfortable. Overall very nice for the price paid. The was definitely a large variety of activities available to do on board. Every night there a full list of everything to do the following day, including casino activities, comedy shows, and many many other things. There were lots of things for famillies, and just couple or friends to do. Catalina Islands was very nice. We did the glass bottom boat, not a bad excursion but not something I would do again. However, it was pretty reasonably priced at only $19.00 per person. I heard that the tour of the city was a very nice excursion to do and that the snorkling was ok but little over priced. Overall the stop was very nice, great little Island to see if you have never been before. Overall it was a great vacation. We would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a more inexpensive cruise for their first cruise maybe. I only paid for alcohol and gambling which was great, all of our food was paid for with our ticket. But, if you are looking for something a little more elegant or something a little longer, I don't think i would recommend this cruise.

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Apr 19, 2009

Baja Mexico

Background: I took a 3-day Spring Break cruise with my friends and family from 4/2/09 to 4/5/09 out of San Diego, CA. Overall, this was a great cruise due to its affordability, their lobster dinner, and their fun cruise director. I got a little sea-sick in the beginning, so don't forget to bring some Bonine just in case. I was a little worried about the college Spring Breakers, but they were not a problem at all. In fact, they were cordial and

respective to families w/ kids. Parking: If you arrive by car, I highly recommend parking at Park and Go. The rates are $7 per day with this coupon: http://www.longtermparking.com/COUPONS/cpparkandgosan.htm . There is a free shuttle that takes you directly to the pier. Our driver was really friendly, so I gave him a tip. Embarkation: My friends and I arrived at 12:30 pm to check in. It was a breeze because we all had our Fun Pass (online check-in) completed. It took us about 15 minutes. Since we only brought carry-on luggage, we headed straight to the lunch buffet. The food menu was a mixture of Mexican, Italian, and American. It wasn't too bad, but nothing spectacular. Food: I was not too impressed with their breakfast service. There was an omelette station that moved really slow. Most of the time, it was only one guy handling the extremely long line. The breakfast food was the same all three days. The lunch menu was a little more diverse with the normal buffet, grill station, pizza station, and Mongolian stir fry. The burgers were delicious, the pizza can be made fresh if requested (24 hrs BTW), and the lunch buffet changed daily. The stir-fry was too salty. The sit-down dinner menu was my favorite. The lobster was superb (I ordered two!) and the waitstaff were highly attentive and entertaining. Do partake in the formal dinner (I didn't see any guys in tuxedos though) and take some professional photos. Some of the backgrounds were quite charming. Stateroom: Since I've been on Carnival before, I got a discounted rate on an oceanview room. I loved it! We saw dolphins swimming and jumping near our ship and the view was awesome. Our attendant was friendly and made some cute towel animals. The shampoo and conditioner were not that great, so I would recommend bringing your own. Carnival does provide soap and even a shaver. The rooms were mostly clean, I just found dust on one of the hardcover books. On board activities: Out of all the cruises I've been on, this cruise director was the most energetic and enjoyable. My favorite activity was the evening Lido Deck party. It is a must-do! The dance class and towel folding class were informative and fun. The best show was the Hypnosis Show. I thought their broadway shows were cheesy and monotonous. Their costumes were atrocious. I did like the singing, though. I'd say check out at least one show. Excursions: Since the only stop was Ensenada, we took the shuttle to La Bufadora. It is cheaper to get your own tour off the ship. I believe it was about $18 total. You get to see the blowhole (45 min ride), do some shopping, get a free margarita, and even cruise around downtown Ensenada. We went early so that we could be back in time for lunch on the ship. The only downside to the La Bufadora area was that the salespeople were way too pushy. If I ever go on this cruise again, I would probably stay on the ship since Ensenada was not too exciting. Disembarkation: We got up early, had a leisurely breakfast, and waited it out on the Lido Deck. Don't wait indoors, it gets too claustrophobic. It was much nicer to be outdoors and take some last minute pictures. Bring a book or a magazine if you don't like to wait. The exit process was pretty smooth. We got out at about 9:00 am. Overall, this was a fantastic cruise!

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Nov 10, 2008

Baja Mexico

The service was amazing and the staff was wonderful. The food was very good, fresh and wide variety to choose from. Room was clean and spacious, warm and welcoming. Lots of things to do and places to go. Stay away from the Clear water Kayaks in Cabo San Lucas. It was extremely expensive and over-rated. I had soo much fun and Can't wait to cruise again!

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Nov 3, 2008

Mexican Riviera

This was a delightful cruise. The cabin (#M-34) was huge and spacious. All the needed amenities were in the head and the room, in fact the whole ship, was clean!!!!!! The service was excellent and the clientele and staff friendly and supportive. A great time. I ate at a table of 8 with the best waiter on the ship (table 107, Imagination Dining Room). The food was spectacular and we had plenty of it! Immaculate. The steward was creative

and friendly. I loved the towel art and especially his attention to every detail of the room. They were fun, varied and frequent. The performers in every venue were professional and entertaining. Cabo San Lucas is hot! Bring a hat and plenty of sun block. Excursions were delightful. I was part of a support group for caregivers and we were pampered beyond belief. It was a wonderful change of pace. I want to do it again as soon as possible!

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Oct 17, 2008

baja california

This was absolutely the worst cruise ever. The staff is rude and unfriendly. Elevator was down in atrium and the other you had to be careful that you didn't trip because it wasn't level with the floor. Shows were lousy. Room was noisy and vibrated alot from the ship. Was not informed by travel agent or Carnival about it. Were told afterwards, by an employee, that they should have warned us. We asked to get off ship, but there was no airport

in Ensenada, that we would have to pay for couple different bus transportations. We asked to move to another room, but they were booked. Photo staff was very disorganized. The cruise director and his staff were not enthusiastic. Very boring. Been on two carnival cruises before and loved it. Best advisement before you book is to read the reviews and get other peoples opinions. Also find out who your cruise director will be on the cruise before you go. Carnival's recommended Sail and Snorkel Fiesta excursion - beware - snorkel into a very populated boating area. Beware a boat or kayaker doesn't hit you. The worst trip we have ever taken.

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May 19, 2008

Mexican Riviera

An exceptional cruise experience! I am a well traveled person who took the Mexxican Riviera cruise with a six month pregnant new wife. The pacific is a little choppy and Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta were intensely humid and disappointing [lots of poor people, a few rich, and us tourists], although Cabo San Lucas made it all worthwhile. Did you know that the "cheap' interior rooms on the near center line of the lower decks are just

as big and beautiful -with much less motion? We had a starboard ocean view room that was really wonderful and constantly cleaned. You will be spending most of your time elsewhere anyway. Tipping on Carnival is not mandatory like other cruise lines, and you will find that the staff really works for it's tips. I sent a request to the captain, who has better things to do, to read a brief renewal ceremony for us if he had time I did not expect that he reserved a lounge and provided us with a cake, champagne, a photographer and a couple of large portfolio photographs with his best wishes! I and my wife will not forget this fine Italian Captain or his old world charm. The first officers and two of our dinner guest companions also attended. I certainly expected to pay something for all of this, but the entire affair was compliments of the captain. I believe there is normally a charge of a few hundred dollars for a wedding ceremony, and would have been well worth the cost, as my experience was FAR more memorable than a $10,000 affair at home! I no longer drink but have always enjoyed fine dining, so I will say without hesitation that the food was very good and occasionally exceptional, and room size well above the average industry standard, a beautiful modern ship with very attentive staff with somewhat crowded pools. These are the reasons Carnival is number one. It is very possible to have a bad cruise experience, but I can't believe the weird crap reported in some these reviews. If you don't gamble and run up the bar tab you will have a great time! Two of our sunburned dinner companions spent a lot more on booze, canned tours and gambling than they did on the cruise fares. It's against the "rules" but you can pack a quart of booze or two [it's illegal but some folks I know put in a shampoo or rubbing alcohol bottle] in your baggage if you like to drink. Gambling is for suckers but that's your deal. The Elation has moved over to Galveston from L.A., which is good because the Caribbean is less choppy than the Pacific, and although I would like to try a different ship, I believe I will book her again for my Mom and in-laws in the near future to go with us on a 7 night Western Caribbean cruise. Something always goes wrong with every vacation trip -even with savvy travelers, [I bought a $10 calling card when we were in Puerto Vallarta at a reputable Pharmacy chain -only to have it not work and no way to return it], so travel light and comfortable, stay away from the crowds and the canned tours, keep an open mind, and relax.

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Mar 19, 2008

Mexican Riviera

This was our 5 cruise, first on Carnival. They certainly are FUN ships. We had a wonderful time. The food and service is not the same quality as Princess but certainly satisfactory. We travelled with our neighbors, it was their first cruise. They can't wait to cruise again. I work in the TV industry and was very impressed with the quality of the entertainment. I really like the idea that Carnival changes entertainers half way thru the cruise

so you are always seeing new entertainment. The casino was the best ship casino we have seen. The best shore excursion was not offered by the ship. I found it on the internet. If you enjoy horseback riding or would just like to try it check out Ranjg20@prodigy.com.mx. Randi's Happy Horses in Mazatlan. We had a wonderful time riding thru coconut plantations and along the beach. My wife is a pretty good horsewoman, I am a beginning rider, and our friends had never ridden before. It was the best off ship activity we did on the whole cruise. We would have liked more time in Cabo San Lucas. Puerto Vallarta was fun. We went to Senor Frogs and had a blast. The cabins were fine. I didn't think they were any larger than those on other ships we have been on. I really recommend this cruise to firstime cruisers or someone who just wants a week at sea from the west coast.

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Mar 11, 2006

Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Line Elation Cruise Review Western CaribbeanJustin Holland This was the first cruise I have ever been on. I am a college student in Houston, and decided to take a cruise for Spring Break with my girlfriend. I booked the cruise about six months in advance, to get the best price. We originally booked a cruise leaving from Alabama, deciding that driving there would be cheaper than taking a cruise out of Galveston. Due to

the hurricanes, the cruise was cancelled, so Carnival moved our cruise to the Elation, leaving from Galveston, and gave us a $50 ship credit. Be advised: if you don't use the $50 on the ship, it's not refundable. I prepaid my tips, which came to $50, and the travel agent told me the ship credit would cover it anyway. If I hadn't used the $50 credit, it would not have covered it, so there's a little sneaky thing Carnival does. It's better to not prepay if you have a credit so the tips will be billed to you, and then the credit will cover it. We got to the port at 11:30am, and boarded in 10 minutes!! We then made our way to Tiffany's on the lido deck to eat the buffet that was set up. They had an army of servers offering the "drink of the day", which is $6.95, and refills are $5.95. But, on all drink purchases, alcoholic or not, they had 15% gratuity, so basically it's a forced tip on everything.The ship definitely has a lot to do, so you can make your cruise as fun as you want. I enjoyed the casino, probably too much, definitely didn't make any money. The drinks are way overpriced, a Bud Light is $4.50, plus 15%, so actually it's $5.18. The happy hours are around 50 cents cheaper, and they water everything down, so don't get excited. Cozumel was great, we did the Catamaran excursion that took us to a snorkeling spot and a private beach with awesome burgers, although they cost $8. Progresso was not fun at all, it's basically a small town with a nice beach, but it's impossible to enjoy with a local coming by every 5 minutes asking for money or for you to buy something. The locals also like to stare if you have a girl with you, unfortunately my girlfriend has blond hair, and that seems to attract large groups of guys, which can be a little scary by yourself. A little tip: use the free shuttle at the port, there are cab drivers everywhere offering rides, but just walk past them and find the bus. It was air conditioned and comfortable. Back on the ship, room service is free, so take advantage of that. I had four turkey sandwiches at 1am for nights in a row, and the server was very polite. The only rude people I encountered the whole time were the people working the information desk. Try calling them from the room if possible, they are MEAN! All in all, I enjoyed Carnival, the only two negatives I have are how everything is set up to get more money out of you (I paid $600 for the cruise, but ended up paying about $900), and the other negative is the kids. There are little children everywhere, but what's worse, it seemed the median age on the ship was about 17. There were millions of high school aged kids running around everywhere, and they are all DRUNK. I went out to watch the ocean at midnight on one night, but was surrounded by high schoolers smoking and drinking and cussing and yelling and fighting. I've been told Royal Caribbean and Princess are geared for a higher age group, so maybe I'll try them next. I do intend on becoming a regular cruiser, although there are some negatives, it was an amazing trip that I will always remember. Just make sure to take someone special with you!

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Feb 2, 2006

Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Elation Cruise Review Western Caribbean Shannon Chtaignier This was my second cruise, my first with Carnival. I was on a trip with my daughters 11, 17 and their dance teams and families. Our girls participated in a program called "Dancin' At Sea." They performed in the Mikado Lounge on the Sunday. Overall, we had a great time. During my review I will make comparisons with my first cruise which was on the

RCI Majesty of the Seas. EMBARKATION: We traveled to Galveston on chartered busses from Louisiana. We were dropped off right in the front of the entrance where the porters picked up our checked luggage. I tipped a guy $5 for 4 pieces of luggage. From there went went in with our carry-ons, zipped through the check-in lines and on to the picture taking. This all flowed pretty fast. No complaints. THE SHIP: The ship was in good condition. The layout was confusing in the beginning (but aren't they all!) but by the middle of the the cruise I pretty much had it down. My girls had NO problem maneuvering the ship. We bought cheap walkie talkies from Wal-Mart to keep in contact and they worked fine. CABIN: I was in cabin E141, mid-ship. I liked where my room was very much. Easy to get to as it was near the Photo Gallery. This location also played a key part in our cruise enjoyment (I'll explain this later!) FOOD: Okay, I can only compare it to Royal Caribbean. I'm not a negative person. When I'm on vacation I'm not that hard to please. But I have to admit I wasn't very impressed with Carnival's food. There was plenty of it, I think they had more offerings than my RCI cruise, but it just wasn't that great. RCI's quality was better I think. But honestly, I didn't expect that much. I'm from Louisiana and food plays a big part of our culture. We like seasoning and gravies...what more can I say. I did enjoy the ice cream! ENTERTAINMENT: Lots of it! We saw both shows put on by the dancers and really enjoyed them. My girls got to work with them for about an hour one day and they really liked them. There was a band that would play in the Romeo & Juliet Lounge and they were awesome. We danced til 1:30 one night to 80's music. They sang so well. That was a blast. We all enjoyed the karoake bar. The girls were allowed in there so let me tell you, we took that place over (in a good way). They sang and danced and really entertained everyone. I think that's why their show was filled, people on the ship were so curious about these girls. They really had a lot of attention. Some of the other parents saw the rated R comedy show and they said it was pretty good. PLAYA DEL CARMEN: We took the bus to Xcaret. Booked it through the ship. Went in the underground river (freezing) and took the snorkel excursion to the reef (again water was freezing cold, but you get used to it). Had a good time and saw lots of fish and a stingray. Then we headed out of the park and grabbed cabs to go to Carlos & Charlie's. Had a few drinks then it was time to go back the ship. Just not enough time here to do everything. I suggest you pick one or the other. Don't do both like we did. Our cabs had to race us back in time. We felt like we were in The Amazing Race!!! OTHER: Okay, I've been on these boards for the past 3 months almost everyday. I've read comments and took the negatives with a grain of salt because I believe that a cruise is what YOU make of it. And we had a great time on ours. BUT, please listen up if you are easily car or sea sick. It is not an exaggeration when you hear that this ship rocks. THIS SHIP ROCKS!!! We were rockin' and rollin' most of the cruise. On that last night it looked as if everyone was DRUNK because no one could walk a straight line. Some people were really scared! I'm not saying this is what it is like all of the time, but our waiter said that from Sept. through March-April the seas are rough. So, just make sure you have something to help you. My mom who gets car sick used tose sea bands and she never got sick the entire cruise. But I've been off the ship for about 27 hours now and I'm still rocking...Since my cabin was mid-ship the rocking was not as bad as other parts of the ship so my cabin placement was great! DEBARKATION: Took a while but once you start the process it went smoothly. We were off the ship with our luggage and on our bus by 10:30 a.m. It was later than normal because we got into Galveston late because the seas were so bad the night before. I hope I've answere some of your questions. If you think of anything feel free to email me or visit the message boards. There is almost always ann answer.  

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Oct 31, 2005

Western Caribbean

Carnival Elation 7 Day Western Caribbean Marcia First things first: I guess early planning isn't always a good thing. We planned early, had to sweat and worry thru 3 hurricanes, change ports, change ships, and finally, change ports of call. I think next time I will do one of the "last minute" cruises and save my sanity! Galveston: This was my first time there and I enjoyed it tremendously. Don't miss Moody Gardens if you go to Galveston.

They have an awesome aquarium, a rainforest area, an IMAX theater, a paddle wheel boat ride, and many orther attractions for one price. We chose the Holiday Inn on the Beach because they let us park in their 24 hour secured lot for free and shuttled us to the cruise port. This not only saved us money parking, but the area of town by the port didn't appear very safe to me, so I felt better leaving it where we did. Embarkation: We sailed thru security easily and headed for the Skipper's Club. That made everything easy, after checking us in, the clerk walked us past the long lines of people right to the gangway. We were on the ship in about 20 minutes after arrival at the port. The it that way. Every time we were in port, there were people scrubbing the sides of the ship. The atrium is gorgeous and the bar in the atrium lobby usually had a quartet playing, which was nice. However, this ship ROCKS! It was always swaying, enough to move the curtains in the Mikado Lounge. I spoke with several people who have cruised many times and they said they had never been on ship so rough.... Our room: We were on the upper deck, U112, and it is a very spacious room. The carpet was stained in several places with what appeared to be pink kool-aid, but other than that it was fine. The bathroom was larger than I expected, about the size of a hotel bathroom, and had a whirlpool tub. We had a wonderful balcony and we spent more time there than I expected. It was nice to go out on your own balcony and watch the sunset. Our room steward, Galina, was an absolute doll and was very helpful. Ports of Call: Puerto Progreso: We only found out we were visiting there about 4 days before the cruise, so I couldn't do much research. And even if I could have done more, I still couldn't find out much about Progreso. It is a small port with a 5 mile long pier. When you walk off the ship, there is a small shopping area that you must pass thru to get to town. Everyone here speaks at least some English and they are friendly. They have the usual t-shirts, blankets, and pottery as well as some nice silver items with fairly good prices. After you go thru this area, there is a free shuttle to the town area. As you arrive, the people on the shuttle give you a short presentation on excursions that they provide and then they drop you off at a little flea market area. I actually found some nice little items here as well and they will bargain with you here. We then took off on our own and explored the town. We found more shops but didn't venture more than a few blocks as we were afraid we would get lost! Silly touristas! VeraCruz: This is a large city of about 1 million people...and in those 1 million we could not find anyone who spoke English! They are not accustomed to having Americans there and they appeared a little skeptical about us. Prices there are not up for discussion, they will not bargain with you at all. I was very disappointed in the items offered here, no nice silver, mostly t-shirts, keychains, and other trinkets. There is a lot of fast moving traffic here also. And some of our shipmates went to the Pharmacia there and found that the prices were not cheap as in Cozumel. I was not impressed with Vera Cruz at all and wished I could have spent more time in Progreso. General: All in all, we had a good time. We went to a few shows, but were not really interested in the gameshows and some of the other productions. We did spend some time every day in the casino and my friends won quite a bit of money. However, I just donated to the machines but had fun. They now have penny machines, which I enjoy, but the higher denominations seemed to pay more. Just my luck! Disembarkation went smoothly as did customs. Hints: 1. Take lots of dollar bills for tips. 2. If you smoke, wait til you get on the ship to buy them as they are cheaper. And buy all you want of your brand the first day because they sold out of my brand and I wish I had bought more. 3. Everyone who got seasick said Bonine works better than the patch, and it is available in the duty free shops on ship if you need it.

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Jul 9, 2005

Western Caribbean

We spent the night at the La Quinta on 14th st in Galveston. We could leave our car in their lot and take a taxi to the ship. We left around 10 a.m. and got caught in a lot of the people still getting off the ship. Next time we won't leave the hotel before 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. When we disembarked, we were through immigration and in a taxi going to the hotel with in 10 minutes. The ship seemed in very good shape. Since we've sailed on

the Ecstasy and Fantasy, we were able to find our way around very well. Jorge the Cruise Director and his staff were great. The shows were enjoyable and were very entertaining. We were able to attend 2 of the comedy shows and they were just as good. Our daughter (5 yo) attended Camp Carnival a few times and really enjoyed it. She came back every afternoon with her face painted and even wore it that way to dinner once. There weren't too many specific programs for her age group (2-5), but I think if we go again next year she'll have more activities catering to her age level. The meals were very good. Our wait staff was very courteous, but kind of slow. Tiffany was always a good option for breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed the varying lunch menu, but breakfast was the same every day. This was the first cruise where we stayed in an inside cabin and it was just fine. Except for the smoker in the cabin next door. The smoke filled the halls and our room. It was hard for us to handle at some times. We mentioned this on our comment card. I would think there must be some way to seperate smoking and non-smoking rooms or ventilate designated smoking rooms better. Smoke didn't bother us anywhere else on the ship except in the casino which is to be expected. The photography staff was VERY busy. There were at least 10 backgrounds set up every evening and you couldn't get very far without someone wanting to take your picture. I thought the 8x10s were over priced ($20 each), but we purchased a few for family portraits. With a five year old we limited our excursions, but still had lots of fun on the ship when it wasn't too crowded. In Progresso we took the shuttle into town. It stopped at a nice market and we did some shopping. There were also shops right at the dock at the end of the pier. The prices here were much better than the ones we saw in Cozumel. In an hour we were heading back to the ship. In Cozumel we took a taxi to Paradise Beach ($14 each way). Admission and use of chairs and umbrellas were free. There is a charge to use the equipment ($8 per person). Its a great beach and if we cruise to Cozumel again, we'll go back there. In Belize City we took the city tour. It was interesting to learn about the city and its history, but not too many great sites. Its a very low income country. Overall, it was a great trip and we're ready to plan our next cruise.

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Jul 9, 2005

Western Caribbean

Carnival Elation 7 Day Western CaribbeanG. Busbee My Husband and 14 year old son and 8 year old daughter and I went on the Carnival Elation. Overall we had a great time. We had previously sailed the Norwegian Sea and Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas. (All out of Galveston). We drove down and parked at EZ cruise. The shuttle was not going to leave for another 30-45 minutes as we got there about 10:30. So we dropped off the

bags at the terminal and my husband and son parked and walked back. We were on board by 11:00 or so. (Very Quickly) Getting off was another story. When we got off we were one of the last groups off and by this time the line for our shuttle was very long and we were informed that two of EZ cruises shuttles were out of commission. My husband asked if he could load our stuff if he went and picked up our truck himself. The security would not let most of the traffic stop and our cart guy had already dropped our stuff at the end of the terminal where the shuttle was. They could not guarantee us that the security would let us stop and load so we just waited in the line. 1 hour and a half later we were getting in our truck. hint: You must get in a line to get the cart helpers for your luggage when you are getting off the boat. You can't just flag one down. Due to the fact that we have always brought our kids with us we have never treated ourselves to an upgrade in the rooms. We were located on the bottom floor near the center of the ship on the interior. It was larger than any room we had had in the past and we were pleasantly surprised. Our room steward was very efficient and we have absolutely no complaints. As we were leaving Hurricane Dennis was pounding the coast of Florida so we were pretty rocky in the water for the first 24 hours. I took my motion sickness pills and although I felt queasy It was not so bad that I could not enjoy myself. But other people were sicker than I was. After the first night things settled down and all was calm. My 8 year old loved the kids camp but she is the kind of kid that would have fun as long as other kids were around. I found Carnivals kids camp to be very rigid and not as laid back as RC's. They would only let the person that signed your child in to be the one to pick them up. So if I dropped my daughter off my husband could not pick her up and they would only let persons that signed a release at the beginning of the cruise pick them up. Having my 14 year old son take her or pick her up was not allowed. They also carefully looked at the signature when picking her up. Even though they recognized me and would call her over to the door, they still insisted on inspecting my sign and sail card and carefully checked to see if my signature had changed. I wanted to change my signature by the last day to see if they would detain her! The room was also very small and their activities were more quieter craft like things versus the more energetic things RC had them do. They did have a a party on the last night and they took the kids to one of the bars for some dancing. My husband and I and some other parents tried to join them only to be kicked out. (For security reasons). It just seemed funny to me that they were fine with letting the 9-11 year olds wander the boat, but the parents could not join their children at a party. The other thing is if your child wants to perform in the talent show they do not allow gymnastics. They also do not allow Kareoke. Well, this was my daughters plan so after hearing she could not do either I asked if she could dance. They informed me they had to see the dance and it had to be the same one that she showed them. Since she is only 8 she feared she would forget the steps so she was intimidated out of performing. If your child wants to sing be sure and bring your own music. On RC they encouraged and helped your child put together an act and encouraged all children to participate. I found Tiffanies buffet food to be really good. Better than RC and Norwegian. The had wonderful wood fired pizza around the clock. They also had hamburgers with warm buns and sautéed mushrooms and onions everyday. I never had their hotdogs but my daughter lived on them for the week. Their french fries tasted like McDonalds. (YUM) The breakfast was good. Crispy Bacon (Which we love) and they had moist and fresh pancakes and French toast. RC could learn from them on this one. The dining room was a disappointment to my husband. He rarely had a meal he truly enjoyed. His steak was always too rare for him and I heard others complain about that too. The desserts mainly forgettable except for a few. The chocolate cakes were usually pretty good. The temperature on the boat was too cold for me but I am easily chilled. Luckily I brought a sweater and wore it everywhere indoors. It was a pain to put it on and take it off all day as I went from indoors to outdoors. It was the same temperature as a grocery store so if that temperature suits you you will be happy. In progreeso there is not much to do. If your child wants her hair braided do it here. We were quoted $25 for the whole head. We decided to pay that as we thought that was a fair price for an hours work. Our tablemates waited until they got to Cozumel and their starting price was $60! I think they ended up paying $45. Hint: Use sunscreen on the top of your head after braiding to prevent sunburned scalp. We went to Paradise Beach in Cozumel. My son got a henna tattoo for $12 which is the same I paid for a spray on for a little one for my daughters arm that only lasted 3 days. My sons is still there after more than a week. I just hope it comes off by the time school starts. We did the Coral Breezes Caye Caulker and snorkeling trip. This excursion and probably all of them in Belize require a lot of riding on boats getting to and from Belize city. It took about an hour each way to Caye Caulker. The snorkeling is fine but their is a lot of swimming. Everyone jumps off the boat at the first stop and follows in a line way out away from the boat and then back again. I was so tired when we got out there I was hoping they would drive the boat to us to pick us up. No such luck, we had to swim back. I did not have on fins because they are hard on my bad knee and it was a struggle to get back. My husband was with my daughter and she had trouble with water getting in her mask. They were like the last ones to make it back. We were all exhausted. One poor guy was told to take his 4 year old with him since no one was left on the boat. Well, his son did not want his face wet. Needless to say he did not get much snorkeling done at this stop. We then went to Shark and Stingray alley and this was more our style. Everyone stayed by the boat snorkeling and checking out all the nurse sharks and stingrays. It was cool. My daughter did not even need her lifejacket here as she is a good swimmer. Then we went to Caye Caulker island and it was a very laid back place. We had the Belize stewed chicken and it was good. My kids ordered the grilled cheese and were surprised to find out that a grilled cheese in Belize is a sandwich with Unmelted cheese with a tomato, lettuce and cucumber. Well, my son ate it because he was starving but my picky daughter would not eat it because the tomato had touched her cheese. I did not taste it but it might have been really good. But their fries were cold. My son said he had wished he had ordered what we got. We arrived 45 minutes before the last tender back to the ship. My husband was worried that we would not make it back to the ship in time so if you are a worrier you might want to use Carnival Excursions in this port. But we did have a nice time. The cruise director on this ship is the funniest guy I have ever heard. His name was George and I loved listening to him. The first show was better than the second in my opinion. We enjoyed watching them. The midnight buffet was beautiful but the foods were weird so not really our style. You did not really know what you were eating. The bacon wrapped green beans were good as was the desserts on this night. Get the chocolate cake even if you don't get any food. It is worth standing in line for. I had heard that Carnival was full of drunks and rowdy teens but I did not find that to be the case. In fact, I rarely saw my 14 year old and I was keeping my eye out for him all the time. Sure, we saw groups of kids but nothing disturbing. The worst thing I saw was someone had dropped their plate of food in one of the elevators and it had not been cleaned up. It may have just happened and with that many people on board accidents happen. Anyways, would I cruise Carnival again? In a heart beat. Would my husband? Only if the price was too good to pass up. Feel free to email me any questions that I did not answer.

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Jul 9, 2005

Western Caribbean

Elissa Daniel For the past 6 years I have been taking annual cruises with my family. We usually cruise with NCL or Royal Caribbean, which we have always been very pleased with, but this year we decided to give Carnival a try. We booked a 7 day cruise on the Elation for 11 of us, ranging in age from 7 years old to 85 years old. We were scheduled to leave on July 10 and make three stops in Progresso, Cozumel, and Belize, then return

to Galveston on July 17. Over all, this was not an unpleasant cruising experience; however it was not exactly wonderful either. To start out on a few good notes, the Elation is a beautiful ship, especially Tiffany’s, which is a restaurant on the lido deck. It is a pretty new ship so I expected it to be in nice shape. We had a cabin on the Upper Deck, and our cabin steward, William, was very friendly. We always ran into him in the halls and he would stop and talk with us. He did an excellent job keeping our room clean and making the cute little towel animals that we have come to expect on cruises. The service at the purser’s desk was also excellent. The lines were often very long and slow to get up to it, but they were very friendly and helpful when it was finally our turn. The embarkation and debarkation processes at the beginning and end of our trip were surprisingly easy. We got to Galveston at right about noon, and it took no longer than 15 minutes to get on the ship. (I would recommend EZ Parking if you plan on driving to the port.) We also managed to get off of the ship rather quickly. The ports of call were beautiful and the excursions weren’t bad. We reached Progresso on Tuesday and our family booked the Corona Beach Break excursion. The beach was disappointingly small and right next to the highway which made it loud and the waters weren’t as clear as other beaches. But if all you are looking for is a beach to lie on and an open bar, this excursion will do just fine. Cozumel was a much nicer experience. We went on the Playa Mia Beach Deluxe excursion, and it was fabulous. The beach was much bigger, the waters were clearer, the drinks were better, and there was a ton to do. They had a water trampoline, kayaks to rent, an inflatable climbing wall in the water, hammocks on the beach, and a big restaurant to eat at. I would highly recommend this excursion. In Belize we took the Belize City and Baboon Sanctuary Tour. It was a bus tour through Belize City for about an hour and a half, and then we arrived at the Baboon Sanctuary which was run by some locals. They had a small museum to walk through then they took us on a 30 minute hike through the jungle to find the baboons. They baboons that we were looking for were actually black howler monkeys, and when we found them it was amazing. Our guide got the male to howl at us, and it was incredibly loud. It sounded like something out of Jurassic Park. We even got to feed them cashew fruit and they took it right out of our hands. It was a great experience. The days at sea were not as much fun. Unless you are under the age of 12, there is not much to do on the ship. The other cruise lines I have been on offered a lot of fun things to do during the day, and this ship seemed to have nothing. We wanted to try to go to an aerobics class one morning, but they were charging $10 a person just to do yoga. I would think that if we are paying them almost a thousand dollars a person for our vacation, we could at least take a yoga class without shelling out some more money. Most of their classes were like that, and I was not at all pleased about it. One of my favorite things about the other cruises I had been on was the shows after dinner each night. Especially NCL, their shows were amazing! The entertainment on the Elation was horrible! The song and dance numbers looked like a cheap Vegas act. One night there was a balancing act and a comedian lined up. The balancing act was okay, but nothing spectacular, and the comedian was hardly memorable. He told a few jokes for about 10 minutes and then wanted us to buy his CD. It felt like his whole act was just a teaser for the real jokes you will hear if you make that purchase. The most exciting thing about most cruises is meal time. On the Elation I almost dreaded going to the dining room each day. The food was extremely disappointing. There were very few options on the menus, and what you got was very often not what you expected. The fish was often undercooked and tasteless, and the steak is either rare or well done, I don’t think they are capable of cooking anything in between. The desserts were also disappointing and the cakes were always dry and impossible to eat. The service was not great either. Our waiter was very nice, but also very slow with our service. He was in charge of two tables, including ours, and it seemed to me like he was playing favorites. He always served them first, and we just had to wait our turn. We thought at first that maybe it was because they just got to the dining room sooner than we did, so we decided to be early for the rest of the week. We would arrive each night just as the doors were opening and we got to our seats quickly, but it didn’t help. Even when the other table was late to arrive, our waiter would always just wait until they got there and serve them first. We ended up being the very last table left in the whole dining room on most nights. Other tables were getting served their desserts as we were ordering. It was very irritating to feel like we had to take a back seat to this other table. There were a few times that I wanted to just pull up a seat at their table just to get some service. Dinner began at 5:45 and we usually did not get to leave until 7:30 at the earliest. I was glad to hear that there was an internet café on the ship because I am currently enrolled in a couple of online classes at my university. I brought my laptop with me for that very reason. We had the option of either purchasing 100 minutes for $55 or 250 minutes for $100. We decided to get the larger plan just to be safe. The man at the internet café who was assisting us was extremely abrupt and rude to us. When we asked questions he would speak to us like we were complete idiots. His entire attitude was very offensive. Then we found out that the service was ridiculously slow. We were glad that we bought 250 minutes because we spend most of the time waiting for the connection to go through. After a couple of days, however, the connection just failed all together. When I would try to send my school work, every time I hit a button it sent me back to the login screen causing me to lose all of my work. It was incredibly frustrating and it was impossible to ask for help without getting attitude from that same man. We finally went to the purser’s desk to complain and they did offer us a full refund, which helped a lot, but it doesn’t help me get caught up on all of the class work that I missed. Overall, I cannot say that I did not enjoy my vacation. If you are looking for some down time to relax and get a suntan, then this is a great cruise to go on, especially if this is your first cruising experience. However, if you have cruised with NCL or Royal Caribbean before, prepare to be disappointed by the Elation, because it cannot even compare. I would recommend this cruise to people with young children, but I will not be cruising with Carnival again.

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Jun 25, 2005

Western Caribbean

Preparing For the Trip In February 2005, our family (two adults, 15-year-old girl) and some good friends (two adults, 9-year-old girl) booked a trip through a travel agent aboard the Carnival Elation for June 26 through July 3. This cruise departs from Galveston, Texas and travels to Progresso, Yucatan; Cozumel, Mexico; and Belize City, Belize. This was our first cruise, so I immediately started looking at reviews and information

on the Internet to help us prepare. Some of the helpful sites I found are: http://www.tips.devisland.net/index.html http://cruiseclues.com/carnivalcruisereviews.htm http://www.gofox.com/cruises/tips.php http://www.cozumelmycozumel.com/index.htm http://www.freetraveltips.com/Cruises/ The following sections (organized by topic) provide information we discovered or found useful during our cruise. Children Traveling Without Both Legal Parents A couple of weeks before the cruise we received a notice from our travel agent. It said that children traveling to Mexico without both parents had to have a permission letter from the absent parent. This is in response to a growing problem with child kidnappings, and in general I think it is a good thing. For us, however, this caused some consternation, because my daughter is actually my stepdaughter. She was four when my wife and I started dating, seven when we were married, and fifteen at the time of the cruise. My wife was convinced it would be difficult if not impossible to get a permission letter from the natural father. We spoke with Carnival, and they said it wasn’t an issue – it only applied if we were stopping at a Mexican port for over 24 hours. Still, we had concerns about this, and started investigating options. Then we discovered that the father’s name was not on the birth certificate, which gives my wife sole legal custody. So although this turned out not to be an issue for us, it may apply to you. If you have this issue, see the U.S. Department of State Consular Information Sheet on Mexico at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_970.html  Here’s an excerpt from that sheet: “Mexican law requires that any child under the age of 18, of any nationality, traveling into or out of Mexico must carry notarized written permission from any parent not traveling with the child”. Other countries may require this as well. Trip Insurance I decided to buy travel insurance to make sure we were covered in case of illness, injury, lost luggage, cruise cancellation/interruption, and other mishaps. If you think you might want travel insurance, www.insuremytrip.com lets you compare policies from different companies. I wound up buying insurance from a company called Travelex. One of the main selling points for me is that they provide primary coverage – in other words, they pay off their coverage first, before you deal with any other insurance you might have. This policy wound up providing only peace of mind, as we fortunately had no mishaps on the trip. Packing One of the first things to think about when packing is - the end of the cruise. Really. Here’s why: if you want to be among the first off the ship, you need to be able to carry all of your luggage off the ship by yourself. Carnival has what they call “Express Self Debarkation” which lets all those carrying their own luggage debark first (around 7:30 am). Deciding whether or not to use Express Self Debarkation will help determine the amount of luggage you take on board, which can in turn determine what you pack (and don’t forget to leave extra room for souvenirs). Another factor when packing is to consider using the onboard laundry facilities. The ship has two small self-service laundry rooms, and a laundry service. During our cruise, the laundry room rates were 75 cents to wash and the same to dry. There was a vending machine in the laundry room with laundry soap and other items, as well as an ironing board and iron. If you do some laundry during the trip, you won’t have to pack as much. The laundry rooms are closed when the ship is in port. Some websites tell you only to use hard-sided luggage and to secure it with duct tape. Well, we checked a garment bag, three soft-sided suitcases, a duffel bag, and a beach bag (which is held closed by only a small velcro strap). We carried on a duffel bag, a small soft-sided overnight case, and a camera case. I don’t know if our experience was typical, but we had no problems with our luggage. There are several websites with advice to help you choose what to pack. Some items that we brought that were useful for us included a small first-aid kit, an over-the-door shoe rack (which we used for toiletries and miscellaneous items, not shoes), a few games, post-it note paper, paper and pens/pencils, an alarm clock, a disposable underwater camera, a nightlight, and a power strip. I also wish that I had brought toothpicks. Getting There When we received our tickets, the embarkation time was listed as 1:30 – 3:30 pm. We live in Dallas, so we could have gotten up early Sunday June 26th and made the 6-hour drive to Galveston in time to catch the ship. However, we decided to drive down on Saturday and stay the night in a local hotel. About a month before the start of the trip, I started checking with the moderately priced hotels that my research had shown were decent places to stay, and that offered free parking for our car during the trip. They were all booked full. So, we decided to stay at a more upscale hotel – the Moody Gardens. We enjoyed the hotel and surrounding attractions, but it cost more than I wanted to spend. The morning of the cruise, the hotel staff gathered our luggage and put it in a van, which carried us and several other travelers to the cruise terminal. We arrived at the terminal around 12:30. Since the tickets stated that embarkation began at 1:30, I thought this might be too early, but it wasn’t – see the Embarkation section that follows. The hotel also gave us their number to call when we returned so that they could pick us up. Embarkation When we arrived at the terminal, several baggage handlers were collecting luggage in front of the terminal building. We handed over the five bags we wanted checked through, along with a five-dollar tip, and headed into the terminal with our carry-on bags. Our first stop in the terminal was at a security checkpoint. After about 15 minutes in line, our bags were x-rayed and we passed through a metal detector. I expressed concern about passing my camera bag through the x-ray machine, but the security agent told me that the type of machine they use does not harm camera film. Also, while we were waiting in this line, a Carnival representative handed us a notice that said we could board the ship, but we could not go to our cabins until 1pm. This turned out to not be an issue, since we did not get on board the ship until after 1. After security, we were directed into the ticket processing line. This line was quite long (good thing we got there early) and took at least a half hour. However, once we got to an agent things moved very quickly. I had previously completed the Carnival “Fun Pass” registration on the Carnival website, so they already had most of the information we needed. They checked our passports, swiped our credit card (used for shipboard purchases) and gave us “Sign and Sail” cards. These are linked to your credit card, debit card, or cash deposit, and are used for almost every purchase onboard ship. Your Sign & Sail card is also your door key and your pass to leave and re-enter the ship. >From there we moved to yet another line. This one was quick. We had to show our ID (in our case our passports), then move to a photo station to get an embarkation photo taken (which you can purchase later). The final stop was at the entrance to the ramp that would take us onto the ship. Our Sign & Sail cards were validated by running them through a card reader, and individual photos were taken. These photos are for security use – they show up on the card reading machine each time you use your Sign & Sail card to enter and leave the ship. For some reason, they made me remove my glasses for this photo. Once past that station we walked up the ramp and onto the ship. Settling In To save a few dollars we had originally booked an interior room, but our travel agent had managed to get us a free upgrade to an exterior room on the same deck. After boarding the ship, we found our room and began unpacking our carry-ons. Over the next couple of hours our checked luggage arrived – three bags were delivered to our room and the other two we found by walking out into the elevator lobby and perusing the luggage carts parked there. As we were unpacking, we were summoned to “muster stations”. This is the security drill mandated by the U.S. Coast Guard that makes sure that everyone knows where to go in case of emergency. We grabbed the life jackets provided in our room and headed to the station listed on the back of our wardrobe door (which in our case was one of the ship’s lounges). There, we waited for everyone to reach their muster stations, were given some instructions, and put on our life jackets. Then we were led to a lifeboat deck, where we were packed together out in the sun, standing there for an uncomfortable 15 – 20 minutes before the drill was over. The Room The room was small as expected but adequate for the three of us, especially since we spent little time there when we weren’t sleeping. The window was well off the water, even though we were on deck 5 – the next-to-lowest passenger deck. If you listened, you could hear the engines, but it was never loud enough to bother us. Furniture: There were two twin beds on the floor and one bed that pulled out from the wall above. The ladder to get into this upper berth was in the closet. There was also a chair, and a desk with a stool. A trashcan was located under the desk. In the corner was a table with a top that opened – the life jackets were inside. We also used this space to dump our dirty clothes during the trip. Above the table mounted up on the wall was a TV. There was a window ledge wide enough to hold some items. Storage: There was room under the beds for suitcases. There was a small closet for hanging clothes, and a wardrobe that had a few shelves and another space to hang clothes. The desk had four drawers that we also used for clothes. The mirror in the bathroom was also the doors of a medicine cabinet, with narrow shelves for bottles, tubes and other toiletries. Bathroom: The bathroom was larger than I expected, but it was still compact. There was plenty of room in the shower for my 6-foot, 195-pound frame. There are dispensers loaded with soap and shampoo. Towels are provided of course, and there is a sign that tells you to leave towels on the floor if you want them replaced – if you hang them on the towel racks it is assumed you want to reuse them. There is a small basket of assorted toiletries provided. Other: There was a safe on one of the shelves in the wardrobe: it’s open when you check in, and you slide your Sign & Sail card to lock and unlock it. There is one 115V and one 230V outlet next to the desk – if you need additional outlets bring a power strip. There are no outlets in the bathroom. There are bottles of water and soft drinks on the desk – if you open one it will be charged to your Sign & Sail account. There is also an ice bucket on the desk, which magically kept refilling itself (or perhaps it was the work of our room steward). There is a phone by the desk so you can call your steward, room service, or other shipboard services. You can also make ship-to-shore calls if you are willing to pay the charges – I think they were around $7.00 / minute. In the closet was a laundry bag – fill it up and for $15 the ship’s laundry service would wash the contents. On the table was a directory of ship services. The Ship The Carnival website has deck plans for all of their ships. I wish I had printed these and brought them with me. In addition, Carnival provides foldout cards with the deck plans, but in a different format from the plans on the website. Since you can see the deck plans online, I will only make a few comments about the ship in general. The lowest decks (1 – 3) are the ships machinery, and crew quarters. Decks 4 – 6 are passenger cabins. Deck 7 is a mix of cabins and public areas. Decks 8 – 12 are public areas. There is an adults only / no cameras / tops optional sunbathing deck around the smokestack, which is only accessible by two small staircases. There are four sets of elevators that get you between decks, as well as several staircases. The first day on board is a good time to explore the ship and get a feel for where everything is and how to get to it. For example, it’s good to know that the elevators at the rear of the ship travel decks 4 – 10, while those in the center of the ship only traverse decks 4 – 9. If I remember correctly, the front starboard elevators traverse decks 4 – 10, while the front port elevators span decks 4 – 12. There are also the glass elevators in the atrium that move between decks 7 and 12. Currently, the plan for deck 8 of the Elation shows a Card Room. On our voyage, this room was used to display some of the art that was offered during the several art auctions held on board – it was not used as a card room. Instead, we played cards in the Library, which is always open (although there are only a couple of hours per day that you can check items in and out. From what I could see they had books and games available). The Dining Room You are assigned a table in one of the dining rooms, but this is for dinner only. For breakfast and lunch, the dining rooms have open seating, so you do not have to sit at your assigned table. There is a dress code during dinner -- no shorts or t-shirts are allowed. There are also two formal dinners with a more fancy dress code, and let me tell you, a lot of folks really go all out dressing for these dinners. Each dining room serves an early and late dinner at staggered times. The Inspiration dining room serves early dinner at 5:45 and late dinner at 8:00, while the Imagination dining room serves early dinner at 6:15 and late dinner at 8:30. You have a wait staff assigned to your table, so the same folks will serve you every night that you eat in the dining room. Dinners in the dining rooms are full service and more upscale than the buffets on deck 9. Small children may not be able to find selections that they like on the dining room menu, which includes items such as “fettuccini tossed in a mushroom cream” and “pan-seared filet of grouper with caramelized shallot vinaigrette”. But, if you don’t care for the dining room selections, you can always head upstairs to the buffets. The Buffets Deck 9 has Tiffany’s, which has buffet lines both outdoors on deck and indoors. The indoor part of Tiffany’s also has a salad bar, a dessert bar, a sandwich bar, ice cream dispensers, and a pizza station. You cannot order custom made pizzas at the pizza station: they make a half-dozen or so types of pizza, and that’s it. The buffet lines pretty much serve the same things at breakfast, although one of the lines has an omelette station where you can get an omelette made to order. For lunch, there are burgers and hot dogs outside, and different options inside. Same for dinner. On some days, one of the buffet lines indoors is reserved for the “Camp Carnival” Kids Club. Carnival Capers Each day you receive a newsletter that lists and promotes the next day’s activities. This newsletter also contains inserts selling various goods and services on the ship. On days when you stop at ports of call, the newsletter contains an insert with information about the area. You can use the newsletter to plan how you will spend your time aboard ship and in the ports. Here’s the back page of one of the newsletters. It is in color, but was scanned in greyscale to save disk space: The Casino The Elation has a full casino on board that is open when the ship is in international waters. The slots and video poker machines generally are available each day about an hour before the table games open. The slots are available in denominations from 1 cent to 1 dollar. I saw video poker machines at 5 cents a play and 25 cents a play. The table games include multiple varieties of blackjack, let it ride, Caribbean stud, 3-card poker, roulette, and craps. Minimum bet at table games is 5 dollars, although several of the games are set up with options for you to make additional bets. We were hoping that with the current popularity of poker tournaments, there would be one or more held during the voyage, but there wasn’t. The casino did hold slots and blackjack tournaments, however. Progresso Since the Carnival excursions all started early (around 8 – 8:30), we decided to get up at our leisure and head into Progresso, and try our luck at finding a tour in town. When you leave the ship, you enter the terminal on the pier, which has several shops, including an auto rental agency if you want to head out on your own. There are tour operators here, but we bypassed them and boarded the free shuttle into town. (It is illegal to walk into town, but you wouldn’t want to – the pier is five miles long.) The shuttle drops you off at a market square, where merchants in outdoor booths hawk various items for sale (with prices in U.S. dollars). We wandered the square and my wife and daughter bought brightly-colored fans for a dollar each. Later my wife would comment that this was the best purchase she made on the trip, since they were quite useful in the hot weather. There were tour guides in the square, and we purchased a tour to the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins at almost half the cost of the same tour from Carnival. We boarded a modern air-conditioned bus and headed out to the ruins. The tour itself was only a couple of hours long, which was good in the hot and humid weather. There is a museum and gift shop on the grounds – we passed through the museum during the tour, but not the gift shop. On the return trip, our guide gave us the option of stopping back at the market square in Progresso, but everyone was hot and tired and we all opted to proceed back to the pier. By the time we got to the terminal, the air conditioning in the bus had cooled us down enough that my wife and daughter spent an hour shopping before we returned to the ship. Later, my wife talked to some folks who had left the market square and walked around Progresso. They said that they felt uncomfortable in the city. Cozumel Cozumel has been a tourist destination far longer than Progresso and Belize, and it shows. There are two ports that I saw – the Elation stopped at the downtown port, which is far more touristy than the other port (which is a few miles away). In the downtown area there are lots of shops and restaurants, nearly everyone speaks English, and U.S. dollars are accepted. However, it appears that many of the snorkeling and other water activities take place closer to the other port. When you exit the ship and walk to the end of the pier, the Carnival tour guides are there to start you on whatever tour you have signed up for. My wife and daughter had signed up on board for the underwater “helmet trek” where you put on a large pressurized helmet and walk around on the sea floor. She had also signed all of us up for a submarine tour of the reef for later on. So while they went off on their helmet dive, I did some exploring. When you get to the end of the pier, you are routed upstairs into an alcohol & sundries shop, which exits to a bridge that takes you into a shopping area on the other side of the road. (It is possible to stay at ground level and walk around the shop and cross the street also.) I walked through the shopping area, then walked from the downtown pier to the other pier, taking a few snapshots as I went. It turned out to be a longer walk than I expected, and by the time I reached the other pier I was hot and tired and decided to take a taxi back downtown. I had no problem finding a taxi and getting a ride – taxis are constantly driving up and down the street that goes from one pier to the other. Also, English seems to be a second language for everyone in the tourist area, so I didn’t have to tax my limited Spanish vocabulary. After waiting at a downtown restaurant awhile for my family & friends (turned out their tour took longer than planned), I headed back to the ship for a quick freshen up. Then I headed out in search of my party, and lo and behold there they were at the end of the pier. While they were telling me how much they enjoyed their underwater walk, the tour guide for the submarine tour showed up and we were herded into taxis that took us to the appropriate pier. There, we boarded a tender that took us out to the submarine, which is built so that every seat faces out a window. We descended to 100 feet, passing amazingly close to the reef. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed Cozumel. No one felt unsafe out on the streets, but none of us ever got outside the tourist areas. If we return, we will book our tours ourselves and not through Carnival to save money. Many of the attractions have websites where you can book tours. Belize Belize does not use daylight saving time, so on our summer trip we had to set our clocks and watches back an hour for the day we were there. The waters around Belize are shallow, and the ship cannot move close to land without grounding. Because of this, the ship anchors offshore and passengers are debarked into transport boats (“tenders”) for the trip to the Belize port. Belize is an English-speaking country, and the Belizean accents sounded to my unsophisticated ears similar to Jamaican accents. The port is a gated and guarded shopping area catering to tourists. It is also a jumping off point to go on tours. Many of the tour activities take place on islands off the coast. We did not book a tour through Carnival, but we considered booking one from a local tour guide like we did in Progresso. We met one guide who was hawking tours that did not interest us, but he told us that we could walk a few blocks away and catch a water taxi for a reasonable price. So, we headed out into the streets of Belize, and although we did find the water taxi station, we did not feel comfortable there or in the neighborhoods surrounding the shopping village. We later learned that the neighborhoods bordering the port are some of the most disadvantaged in Belize City. We do not recommend walking out into Belize unless you are the adventurous type. We returned to the shopping village, where I used the internet café to check my email. I looked at some souvenirs, but the prices didn’t seem to be anything special, so I wound up not buying anything. My wife, however, did purchase some items. By that time, we felt it was too late to head out on any of the tours. We walked back along the pier where signs had been set up to point tourists from different ships to the correct tenders. We found the tender for the Elation and headed back to the ship. The Goodbye On the last day of the cruise, Carnival holds a meeting where they give you the details of the debarkation process. Most if not all of this information is also provided in your copy of Carnival Capers. This meeting is also used to promote the staff (and perhaps to get you to provide additional tips). They review the tip amount that is automatically charged to your sign & sail card – where it goes and how it is set. They also remind you of the separate tipping of the maitre’d (for which they provide a convenient envelope). They then show a video of clips taken during the voyage, while “Times of Your Life” plays in the background. When the video ends, the screen raises and reveals crewmembers representing all the ship’s services. The ships captain then hands out awards to some of the crewmembers while everyone cheers. Finally, they ask you to fill out the feedback forms left in your cabin, and make sure you commend anyone who has provided top-notch service. Debarkation Seven days after leaving Galveston we were back. We had too much luggage to haul it off the ship ourselves, so the night before we set it outside our room where it was picked up and taken to a holding area. Then, as soon as the ship docked, it was offloaded to the customs terminal. On debarkation day, anyone willing to haul all of their own luggage off the ship gets to leave first – around 7:30 am. While they are doing that, all of the other passengers are routed to deck 10, or to the Mikado Lounge on deck 9. Once the self-debarkation group is off the ship, those left are called according to the color of their luggage tags (different sections of the ship have different-colored luggage tags). This is the only time you leave the ship without signing out using your Sign & Sail card. We headed down the ramp and into the customs area, where no photographs are allowed and all the luggage was placed in sections according to tag color. We found all of our bags and wanted to have a porter cart them to the exit line, but there were only a few porters and they were all very busy. So, we grabbed everything and hauled it all over to an exit line ourselves. We waited as each group in front of us had their documentation checked by a customs agent. Eventually it was our turn and we passed through with no problems, and exited the terminal. There we called the hotel to be picked up, and were told a van was already on the way. When it arrived, there was barely room inside for all the passengers and luggage – we almost had to wait for the driver to make another circuit, but he managed to squeeze us all in. Then back to the hotel, put the bags in the car, and we were headed home. The Cost This being our first cruise, we discovered that the amount you pay Carnival for the trip is just the beginning. Here are other costs you may incur during the trip: Drinks: Carnival provides water, coffee, tea, lemonade, and assorted juices. Bottled water costs extra. Soft drinks cost extra. Specialty coffees/teas cost extra. Milk shakes cost extra. Alcoholic drinks cost extra. You can buy cards on board that let you have unlimited soft drinks: on our cruise these were approximately 35 dollars for kids and 45 dollars for adults. We decided to pay as we went, and did not spend nearly the 125 dollars on soft drinks that the cards would have cost us. Our friends, however, bought the cards and may well have gotten value from them, as they drank many soft drinks. Tips: Carnival automatically charges 70 dollars per person to your Sign & Sail cards to cover tips for your room steward, dining room wait staff, and a few others. You can go to the purser’s desk and adjust this if you wish. In addition, Carnival provides an envelope at the end of the cruise to use for tipping your maitre’d. Other tips you may provide include baggage handlers (at the terminal and elsewhere), tour guides/drivers, room service on the ship, casino dealers, taxi drivers, and others. Bring along a bunch of small bills for tips. Gambling: It probably comes as no surprise that you must pay for your gambling activities separately. Although our luck ran both hot and cold, in the end we lost money in the casino. The ship also hosted several bingo games during the trip that cost various amounts. My wife played a couple of these, and I joined her for the game where the prize was a free cruise. In the bingo games, you can pay with your Sign & Sail card. Shopping: Carnival makes shopping a big part of the trip, both on board and at the ports of call. There are a few shops on board, including an alcohol/tobacco shop, a jewelry shop, and a souvenir/sundries shop. There is also an on board spa, and a golf pro who provides lessons. And of course, the photographs. Carnival photographers snap pictures of you entering the ship, leaving the ship, going to the formal dinners, participating in ship’s activities, etc. These pictures are posted in the photo gallery, which sells them along with related items such as photo albums. You pay with your Sign & Sail card for your on board purchases. At each port of call, you are first led through a shopping area. You pay with cash/credit/traveler’s checks etc. at the ports of call. At each port, there are shops recommended by Carnival. These shops pay a fee to Carnival to be promoted as recommended shops, and they also agree to provide shoppers with a 30-day guarantee. However, in order to get this guarantee, you must fill out a Buyer’s Guarantee form and submit it to Carnival. There are two ways to do this – you can fill out a paper form that Carnival gives you, or register online at http://www.ppigroup/PPFservice.htm  Tours: At each port of call there are various activities you can pursue, such as snorkeling, visiting Mayan ruins, taking a submarine ride, etc. There are two ways to book tours: though Carnival or on your own. If you book them through Carnival, they cost more, but you don’t have to worry about dealing with a local tour operator, and they are charged to your Sign & Sail card. If you wait until you get off the ship and book a tour with a local tour guide, you won’t have the same assortment of tours offered by Carnival (although some will be the same), but they will be cheaper. For example, we booked a tour of the Dzibilchaltun Mayan ruins from a local guide at the Progresso shopping square. This was the same tour offered by Carnival (we know because our tour group was right behind the Carnival tour group as we walked the ruins), and it cost us 30 dollars per person instead of 55. Therefore, if you are flexible about what you do at a port of call, you can save money by booking tours locally. On our cruise, the shore tours from Carnival ranged from 26 dollars (child price for the Playa Mia beach break in Cozumel) to 235 dollars (golfing in Belize). Most activities were priced in the 79 – 99 dollar per person range. So it could be quite easy for a family of four to spend 1000 dollars or much more on shore tours – and at some ports you may want to take more than one tour.

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Jun 18, 2005

Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Line Elation Cruise Review Western Caribbean Dillon Pyron This was our second cruise, and second with Carnival. The first was on the Celebration, also out of Galveston. A 5 nighter. I must say that we enjoyed this cruise much more. This is my first real attempt at a cruise review. I wouldn't hold your breath reading it, I will not be responsible for the head injury you receive after passing out and falling on the floor.

We had a target of getting out of Austin for Houston by noon on Friday. Started packing at 1:30. We spent most of the day making last minute preparations for the flooring install while we were gone. Finally left town about 5:30, actually had clear sailing on I-10 through Houston and arrived at the in-laws about 8:50 after stopping for dinner in Bastrop. Saturday was spent lounging around the house and making a trip to Academy to find a hard shell water proof glasses case, since mine was sitting in a drawer at home. That evening we celebrated Father's Day with Carol's folks, with a little something for birthday's and anniversary. Left the house about noon, made it to the parking lot (Easy Cruise, $55 for the week) about 1:00. And waited 20 minutes in the Texas noon day sun for a van. I don't think it was worth the money saved. Maybe next time we'll try Dolphin, although they didn't seem to have anymore covered spaces. We were at security by 1:30 and whizzed through that line. Ran into a very long line at check in, but it moved quite quickly. There was a lady walking through the line, making sure that our Sail & Sign authorizations were fill out correctly. Finally reached the head of the line, with 22 check in stations it didn't take long. The gentleman that took our information asked our name, looked it up on the computer and didn't even ask for the Funpass form. He just said "I need to see your passports" and then asked for a credit card. He handed us our gold Sail & Signs, we signed them and were off to the ship, all before 2:00. Our room was ready, so we dropped off out things and headed out to explore the ship. The flowers I had ordered were there and looked quite nice. The Rhapsody was in port, too, it was interesting getting a look at her. She had been in port when we were in Cozumel last year, but was at Puerto Maya. We took some pictures of her from the fan tail, then went in for a little something to eat at Tiffany's. Good food, which portended well for the trip. Our room was made up with two twins pushed together. We flagged down a steward in the hall and asked who our steward was. He said he was it and I asked that the beds be made up as a king. He said he'd do it while we were at dinner, which he did. More on the steward in a moment. Dinner was very good. I won't go into everything we had, but the starters, salads and main courses were consistently good to excellent through out the week. I already knew some of our table mates, as it was a group another agent had set up that I booked into. They were celebrating her in-laws 40th, so we kind of skipped my birthday. Our waiter Otto (Hungary) and assistant John (Taiwan) introduced themselves and Otto said that if there was anything they could do, just speak up. They definitely made dinner a very pleasant experience. We returned to our stateroom to find our bed made up and turned down. We had spent about three hours in our stateroom unpacking before dinner (and just relaxing) and had never met our steward. I didn't expect to see him at 9:30, so we just assumed we'd see him in the morning. We crawled into bed only to discover that our bed was made up with several sets of overlapping twin sheets, with double coverage in some areas and no coverage in others. Not a good end to the day. Monday morning (Carol's birthday) we had a wake up call. After I did the shower & shave thing, we were off to breakfast in the restaurant. After breakfast it was back to the room for a little lounging. Room was made up, but no steward (you can see where this is going). We got up, walked around the deck for a while before heading down to the Mikado theater for a welcome aboard show. Our CD Jorge Solano was very funny and kept things going. We had the traditional spoon race with some pretty hilarious moments. One of the women was asked who she was traveling with and she replied "my wife and two kids", followed immediately by "no, I mean my husband"! "I thought we were having a Dr. Phil moment" said Jorge and someone in the audience yelled "Jerry! Jerry!". The race was fun, with comments along the lines of "guys, more slack, I don't want to see the color of her panties". The comedian was great, just wish I remember his name. Then it was off to lunch. After lunch we spent some more time on deck, playing a little cribbage and one of us doing some people watching, or at least certain parts of certain people. We both had manicures done ($40 each plus tip) and Carol headed back to the room for a nap. Did I mention she works 10-12 hours a day, sometimes 6 days a week? I went off to the Cole Porter lounge for a quick drink. While I was gone, we had a little delivery. A gift basket with two champaign flutes, a picture frame and a bottle of Korbel were delivered to the room, courtesy of a good friend of outs. I got back to the room in time to dress for dinner (late seating) and we headed back for another pleasant dinner. Since it was formal night, we did lots of pictures. I gave Carol a card at the restaurant, and had another hidden under her pillow. Bed turned down and towel animal in place along with mints. But the sheets were once again an arrangement of twins that didn't really work and caused some entanglement. Tuesday was Progresso. We slept in, had breakfast at Tiffany's (that would make a great movie title) and headed into town. The jetty is almost five miles long and took about 10 minutes by bus. Once into town, we walked a few blocks to the beach. After searching for about 10 minutes for a palapa, we went to a restaurant and I ordered a Carona while Carol had lemonade. We chatted with another group there, had some lunch and mas cervasa, then headed back to the ship for our massages. We had a couples massage scheduled for 3:00. It was great, well worth the money ($242, discounted as it was a port day). While we were there, the ship headed out. Tuesday was our 25th anniversary and I had a cake ordered. We took along the champaign, which Otto substituted for one already chilled. We had flutes set out for all the adults at the table and split the bottle over dinner. GiGi (celebrated there 40th on Sunday) had iced tea but no sugar. So I jokingly suggested a little champaign. Which she tried and loved. And got a little sloshed. Our cake, chocolate was delivered, along with their cake (coconut cream), which was supposed to have been delivered on Sunday, but Carnival had lost the order. There was singing and laughter. It seems that there were two or three birthdays or anniversaries every night. Both cakes were delicious. Our room was turned down, again, but, surprise, twin sheets. Wednesday was Cozumel. Carol was going to do a little unsupervised shopping while I went diving. I had had mixed results with Sand Dollar on our last cruise, but they were much better this time. Instead of a 45 minute boat ride to their shop, we took taxis. I had all my gear, so it was a bit of a drag for me. Our first dive was Santa Rosa wall, which was supposed to be 80 for 30 but my computer said it was more like 90 for 35. Second dive was Yocab, 60 for 35. Hard floor at 65 kept that limit, but I went 45 before being ordered up by the DM. Then it was another trip back to the shop and another taxi ride back to Punta Langosta. Carol was already back in the room, having spent only a little money on some candle holders (onyx) and some 2.5% hydrocortisone. We had lunch at Tiffany's and then played some more cribbage in the room. We went back on deck for the sailing. Dinner was again very good, although we did have a little drama. Carol had the filet. Suddenly I heard her gagging and trying to cough. I gave her a slap on the back, then got up and went behind her. I put my arms around her and gave a pump. Nothing. Another squeeze and out came a big chunk of meat. By this time, Otto, John and two other waiters were there. Carol was gasping, but otherwise okay. In a flash, Otto picked up the plate with the chunk of meat on it. He asked if there was anything they needed to do for her. She said she was okay. He then asked if there was anything else he could get her and she said no. John made sure her water glass was full (as if he didn't do that every night). She had a sherbet for dessert, which she ate fully. People were calling me a hero, I was calling myself a lucky husband. We went back to our room and were amazed to discover king sheets on the bed. But we still didn't know who our mystery steward was. Thursday was another early day. We had booked a cave tubing trip through shoretrips.com. We were supposedly to wait until all of the ship's excursions had tendered in, but ran into our friends who had stickers saying they were on the ship's trip. So we went to the Mikado, told them we were on the cave tubing excursion and got stickers for the earlier tender. Okay, so we cheated. But we never said we were on the ship's trip, just "a" cave tubing trip. The excursion was great, there were only 14 of us, we got a quick tour of Belize City along with a history of the city and Belize. Then it was off into the country. We were in a brand new 15 passenger Toyota van, delivered the day before. When we took off down the dirt road, I laughed and said "new shocks, new paint" and the driver said "not for long". Surprisingly, it rained in the rain forest. We hiked about 45 minutes to the put in point, with a nature and history narrative along the way. The path was muddy, slippery and tricky to navigate with an inner tube on one's shoulder. To get in the water, our guide (Marcel) hopped in first, then took the tube. You hold onto a rope, lean back and drop into the tube, then float along. He had us set up in a long train as we floated into the first cave. Being a claustrophobe, I had no idea how I'd feel, but only had minor twinges and no real panic. We had headlamps, but they were off for parts of the trip through the caves. There were some rapids and shallow spots, for which we learned the phrase "wiggle wiggle wiggle". Also "up butt". Which didn't prevent some of us (not I) from dragging bottom. The float trip took about an hour and a half. Then it was a ten minute walk back to the base, where we had an excellent lunch. I snoozed on the trip back to the pier. Once there, we did some shopping at a little market on Fort Street, where we found some very nice wood carvings and an attractive belt for Carol. We caught a late tender back to the ship and watched the last minute tenders coming in, wondering who figured that 5:15 really meant 5:20. It turned out that several of our group WERE on the very last tender!! Once everyone was onboard, we left very quickly. We napped for a while, took another tour around and watched some of the festivities. We had been invited to a past guests reception, complete with free booze and hors 'dervors. Then it was off to another marvelous dinner. And a bed made with king sheets! Friday was a late day, with breakfast at Tiffany's. We had a little snack there later and were amused to hear a page for someone. Then a second. The story on the whole thing is posted below. Dinner was kind of subdued, although the waiter's parade and singing went on as scheduled. It was the second formal night, so more pictures. Much conjecture and speculation as to what actually happened. Saturday was an early day, as Carol had a spa taster treatment at 8. After she got back we went to breakfast, then took another stroll around the deck. The forward observation deck was incredibly breezy. After lunch we went back to the stateroom when we heard the announcement about the engine (did he really mean the pod?) We made two stops for repairs. Once again we went to the gym for a workout (went almost every day) along with a soak in the whirlpool. I got back to the room in time for a shower and then headed out to the spa for a facial. Very nice, probably worth what I actually paid for it. Got the heavy sell on product, but didn't buy anything. Afterwards I went to the Lido deck and tried to enter the hairiest chest contest, but was #11 of 10. Sigh, and I was clearly better than the winner. Dinner that night included château briand. Since we had had that on our honeymoon at the Don Cesar in St. Petersburg, we just had to have it. We made another circuit of the deck, taking pictures and memories. Sunday was early up early and off to Tiffany's again. We choose the express self debark. With everything that went on, we were only about an hour late getting to the dock. We were off the ship and through Customs by 9:20 and at our car by about 9:35. We got to Carol's parent's house about 10:30 and the pups were happy to see us. We repacked the car with all of the stuff and headed out shortly after noon. Nothing else of interest happened, and when we got home we were very please with the new flooring. Now all we have to door is put felt on everything and seal the grout. I'm sure I've forgotten numerous things. Like how I burned 98 of my 100 minutes of internet time. Or all the pictures we bought. Now the grim story. We heard a page at about 11 for Mrs Vonnie Ailes to report to the purser. I made a comment about burning through her cash deposit. Then another page about 15 minutes later. We went back to our room, heard another page in the hall. At about 11:45 there was a page in the room, which caused a little concern. Carol said "this can not be good". Another page. Then at noon the Captain came on. "Ladies and gentlemen, we appear to have lost a passenger. We are turning around and returning to the point at which she was last seen at 7 am this morning." All during the day her picture was seen on every TV screen on the ship. They had it on two channels in the staterooms and it was shown during breaks in the programs in all the bars. We did several figure eights along the way and were escorted by two Mexican Guardia Civil ships and later a Mexican warship and the Coasties. We reached our destination around 5 and orbited for about an hour. Finally we headed back. During the entire trip down, I think that every pair of binoculars on the ship were in use. We reached our turn around point around 10:30 pm. The ship was really moving. I think we were doing close to maximum. The bow was up and we were riding stern down. On Monday we read that the FBI had ruled out accident and foul play, but didn't really say the actual cause. It turns out that she was an epileptic and was suffering from depression. She had apparently taken her medication and then said she was going out to find a place on deck to snooze. That was the last anyone saw of her. A very sad time for her family, who have our sincerest condolences.  

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May 28, 2005

Western Caribbean

Our impression of this, our 3rd Carnival cruise, is that Carnival has decided to mass market cruises. In fact, their stated goal is to have 5 million cruisers per year. The only problem with this goal is that Carnival seems to have lowered their standards and quality of service to keep prices low so as to appeal to this "mass market." The Elation is a fine-looking ship, better than many ships we have taken. However, the food

was, at best, mediocre. We are hardly difficult to please, but lunch was so bad that most of the days we found ourselves eating hamburgers on the Lido deck instead of the buffet. When we did try the offerings on the buffet, the food was cold - apparently the food warmers were not working properly. The dinners were also not up to the level of past cruises. Steaks were tough, lobster was overcooked, and food selection appeared to be more limited than in the past. Service was also disappointing. Cabin stewards are readily available only in the morning and for the evening bed turndown. In the past, stewards seemed to always be cleaning cabins, meeting cruisers' needs, etc. Now, if one is not up and about when they are cleaning cabins, the cabin does not get cleaned. Cabin stewards do have a pager number, but we received no reply at all to repeated pages. It appears Carnival has decreased the number of stewards, thus increasing the workload of those remaining. The result is lower costs for Carnival and less service for the customer. The itinerary was fine. Cozumel offers, among other attractions, magnificent snorkeling, Progresso (and Merida) are interesting, and Belize offers tours to the rain forest and a baboon sanctuary. We enjoyed our times in all three ports, but some of those we met onboard did complain about the cave tubing - apparently the water in the river was too low for much enjoyment. Will we use Carnival again for a family vacation? Probably not. Vacations are important to us and we will pay the few extra dollars for a much more enjoyable cruise experience. Of our 6 cruises, this was probably overly the worse food, and certainly the worse service.  

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May 14, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my 3rd cruise with Carnival. My first 2 were on the smaller Celebration and Jubilee. This ship was beautiful and sailed so much smoother and quieter than the ones in the past. My overall experience with this ship was a pleasant one. Not too many complaints. Food: Buffets, pizza and hamburgers are available almost around the clock. They are average. For the really good stuff, eat in the dining room. I was a little disappointed

with the desserts as I am a huge sweets fan. Service: Impeccable as always. You are treated like a star. Ports: Progresso is very poor and doesn’t have alot to offer. They do have a beach right off the pier that doesn’t require a fee or a taxi ride. If you venture any further than the end of the pier, you will regret it. I recommend booking an excursion. Cozumel: pretty and tons of stuff to do. We took the Playa Mia beach break and loved it. We finished off the day at Carlos N Charlie’s. Belize: Nasty Nasty and scary. I never wish to go back here again. An awful place. I was really afraid. We took a water taxi to Caye Caulker. It was supposed to be a pretty island with a beach. It is NOT. Do not waste your time. I hear the snorkeling and diving is great here, but if you don’t do that, I suggest staying on the boat. My biggest complaint: When we signed up for golf in Progresso, the golf pro told us we were the only ones who had signed up so far. We asked him if that would be a problem and he said “no, not at all, I could use the practice.” The night before the excursion, at 7:30pm, he slid a note under our door stating he cancelled it due to lack of participants. The excursion desk was closed and we hadn’t done any further research on any other excursions so we basically wasted our entire day roaming around a poor city. The weather was beautiful all 7 days and it was the smoothest cruise I have ever taken. Show up at 1:00 for embarkation and you will be on the ship with a drink in your hand in 20 minutes, I promise. Pack light and agree to carry your own luggage off the ship during debarkation and you get to go first. This is a new option and we did it. We were off the ship and in our car at 8:30. If not, you will be on the ship till about 10 – 10:30. The Hotel Galvez offers a great cruise package. Room, brunch, shuttle service to and from the pier and parking for the length of the cruise for $155. Well worth it. No car to pick up and no traffic to sit in. All in all, I love sailing on Carnival and will continue to do so. I am in my early 30’s and it seems to suit me just fine. People of all ages and are lots of fun. (I do not cruise during summer as I am not a big fan of other people’s children!)

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May 14, 2005

Western Caribbean

We just got back from our Elation cruise. This was our third cruise and I don’t think I am an expert but I do feel like I have some ideas to share that might be helpful to someone else. First of all, we spent the night in Galveston, stayed at the Flagship hotel which is an old hotel but was fun because it stuck out in the water. We left our car there for free, took a taxi to the terminal which cost us $7.00 each way. They charge

an extra dollar per person so you might drop your luggage and family off and then drive back to the hotel and come in the cab by yourself. On all three cruises, we have been at the terminal by around 11:00 and gotten on early every time. It pays to stick your swimsuit in your carry on and start swimming while everyone else is coming on. They have lunch ready for you as well. The Elation is a very pretty ship. When we stepped into the ship and saw the Atrium, I couldn’t stop saying how pretty it was. Someone wrote a review that said the ship looked old. I didn’t see that. There were workers working constantly, cleaning and painting and taking care of the ship. I thought it looked great. There are tons of places that you can sit and just relax, looking out at the water. There are at least 10 bars where you can get drinks. There was a café where you could purchase slices of cake for $2.00 a piece. There were cookies, milkshakes, specialty coffees and chocolate covered strawberries, all really inexpensive but delicious. I went there every afternoon. The food in Tiffany’s was ok. Not fabulous but good. They had one side where they featured a different kind every day like Indian, American and Mexican. The other side had regular things like roast beef, ham etc every day. There was an outside grill that you could get great hamburgers, fries, hot dogs etc. The pizza is the best I’ve ever had. The evening dinners were ok. They had a steak choice every night, a pasta choice, a fish choice and a vegetarian choice. It was a lot of gourmet stuff. It was nice being served. Our servers were very nice and took good care of us. Michael was our head waiter and he called me by name every night. The assistant waiter was very nice also but I can’t spell her name. They sang and danced for us a couple of nights. The rooms were nice. Plenty big enough. The bed was very comfortable with a nice soft comforter and two different pillows so you could choose either a soft one or a more firm one. The shower was big, shower head put out a lot of water and the water was plenty hot. There is a safe in your room for your valuables. We had portholes windows which they said were cheaper than a full window and we could see out pretty good. Having a window helps not to feel so claustrophobic. The TV ran movies everyday and you could also get the major networks, ABC, CBS and NBC as well as CNN. Now for the bad stuff. This ship shook and swayed 24/7 and the water was calm. I get motion sickness in bad weather so I took patches with me and I had to wear them the whole trip even though the weather was calm. Even with them on, I felt a bit nauseated. I spoke with one of the workers and she said that she had been on 4 other ships and none of them did like this one. The ceiling tiles in the dining room were even shaking. I took a cruise last year on Royal Caribbean and only wore a patch one day. Another thing I didn’t like was the pool. There were small kids in it constantly and you could hardly get in it. The pool designed for the kids had adults sitting all around the top. I guess because they couldn’t get in the other one. Royal Caribbean has an adult only pool that makes it a big plus for people who don’t want to be bombarded with kids. I also should say that we were a little disappointed with the shows on this cruise. There were comedians 3 nights and they were good but we wanted more Vegas type shows. Excursions: Progresso. We did the Corona Beach Break. They over booked this excursion and we happened to be on the last bus that got there and there wasn’t enough chairs for everyone. We had to sit on our towels in the sand. I wasn’t happy about that. The people working there were very attentive and served you on the beach. They were very nice. Just get there early if you want a chair. Cozumel. We did the Playa Mia deluxe beach break here. It was a very nice beach. We drove there on an air conditioned bus. They had a fresh water pool that I loved. The drinks were free and very good. They also had a lunch buffet that was good. They had water toys. We didn’t use any but the people who did looked like they were having fun. Belize: You have to take a tender boat in from the ship. It wasn’t too bad. We did the Altun Ha tour. We had about an hour and a half bus ride. It took us on a tour of the city and then to the ruins. Part of the way was on a single lane road and it was pretty scary when you met another bus coming towards you but our driver did a great job. It was bumpy though. Our lady tour guide was wonderful. She was very knowledgeable about Belize, having lived there all her life. When we returned we went to a restaurant recommended by the ship called the Harbor View Restaurant. It was good but it was a little scary walking through town because there were guards standing around with shot guns. But we made it ok. To sum things up, the Elation is a very pretty ship and the staff were top notch. Loved the cruise director, Jorge. I don’t think anyone would be disappointed with it. However, if you have motion sickness, remember to bring your patches and expect a lot of movement. I probably will not take this ship again because it was too much for me. I will take Carnival again but not this one. And if you prefer to swim without kids, Royal Caribbean is your best bet.

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May 7, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was a very disappointing cruise for us. The ship suffered from really bad wear and tear. I was shocked when I looked at the date it was built on a plaque on the Lido Deck. The ship is only seven years old but shows like it is twenty. The food was never very good. With the exception of the Pizza which was excellent, everything else seemed like run of the mill Mall cafeteria food at best. The "Tiffany" area has a different

international flavor every night. The American food was average at best. I was getting really hungry looking at all of the restaurant commercials from back home, on the television in the cabin. The Lido deck was closed on the last full evening of the cruise so I was unable to listen to my XM radio to catch the Richmond Nascar Race. No other provisions to watch Nascar races is provided. (Don't these people know that Nascar is the second most popular sport in the U.S.) I generally found the Pursers and the management to be inept and didn't seem to have any answers. Overall the worst experience I have ever had on a Cruise. Security was lousy as 10 to 12 years old kids constantly ran the halls and ran the elevators all night without impunity. Good Luck if you book this cruise

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Apr 30, 2005

Western Caribbean

I must say that this was our first cruise since 1998. We had read many reviews about this ship and turned out to be extremely pleased with our cruise. We stayed at the Holiday in on the Beach the night before the cruise and enjoyed our visit in Galveston. Nice hotel and they allow you to leave your car there while on your cruise and will shuttle you back and forth to the cruise terminal. When we checked into the hotel the earliest we

could catch the shuttle was 12:30 so we opted to take a cab( $12 cab fare one way). We arrived at the terminal at 11:15 and were immediately escorted to the Skipper's Club check in area since we booked a cat. 11 suite. We were the only one's checking in at that moment so everything we was quick and easy and then we were escorted to a separate area to wait for boarding. We boarded at 11:45 right after those with special needs and a wedding party. We went straight to our room and found it ready and waiting for us. We were extremely pleased with the size of the room and the balcony. Our room had spacious closet space with plenty of hangers. We had a good size bathroom with a great shower and water pressure. The room had a built in soap and shampoo dispenser as well as razors, lotion, toothbrushes, etc for our use. We had several electrical outlets. We brought a power strip b/c we thought there was only one plug but that is not the case in the suites at least. There was not a plug in the bathroom but was there a plug on the vanity and another location in the room. We had a tv with vcr. TV got CNN, music channel, TNT, ABC, NBC and several ship movie channels and ship specialty channels. I was surprised to get the major next works but they were broadcast from Detroit or similar. We had a brand new king size down comforter on the bed with great pillows. All suitcase(7) fit under the bed. Balcony had two white plastic chairs and a table. Plenty of room for 2 people. It was so awesome to watch the sunset, have drinks, eat breakfast, etc out on the balcony. We will never cruise without a balcony again!! We found the ship to be a little difficult to navigate and there was signs of wear and tear but a cruise is only what you make it and we were not going to let a scratch here and there influence our trip. The fun day at seas were great for relaxing, sunning and shopping. We truly enjoyed the shows, games and night life. We spent a lot of late nights in the dance club or disco and for those of you wondering, they play a lot of hip hop and mostly recent selections. You can also find plenty of country music in the Drama Bar and 70 and 80's rock earlier in the night at the disco. the Piano Bar was a lot of fun and the Karaoke is not to be missed. The Newly Wed-Not so Newlywed game was absolutely hilarious and not to be missed. Excursions: Progresso- Very hot! We did the 4 hour Mayan Ruin tour. My husband absolutely loved it. I found it to be very hot and not my idea of fun. The city does not have much to offer. Cozumel- we did the Hideaway Beach and Boat tour. We were given a small two seated speed boat and followed the guide for 45 minutes or so around the island and then to a secluded island. On the island they had a large Mexican buffet spread and drinks (no alcohol on this excursion due to driving the boats). We had about 1 1/2 hours to play in the water explore the island, etc and then headed back to our starting point. The seas were very rough on the way back. We spent the rest of the time exploring the tourist village in Cozumel. Belize- This was our favorite port. We did the 4 hour Alta Hun and Rivew Wallace tour. the ruin site was much nicer here and the River Wallace tour was awesome. We saw so much wild life and the beauty of the land was incredible. We would do a land trip to Belize again anytime. We did see a lot of armed guards once we left the tourist city gates but we never felt scared. And to think that we almost cancelled our excursions in Belize b/c we had been reading about alot of political unrest and uprisings that had taken place the week before we left. Embarkation- we were assigned orange tags. People who were disembarking with self assist were called at 7:45am. Orange tags were called at 8:30 and that included cat 11 and 12 suites and special needs. We were on our way home by 8:45am. Very easy process, at least for us. Maybe we got lucky!! Overall, the cruise was much better than we expected. Carnival provided a very "fun ship" atmosphere and we truly enjoyed every minute. We were almost in tears when we had to disembark. We plan on cruising every year from now on and we can think Carnival for that. We plan on trying each cruise line and plan to cruise on Princess next year but we would travel on Carnival again in the future.

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Mar 27, 2005

Western Caribbean

OVERALL I have read many reviews of this cruise and while most are favorable I am afraid I will have to agree with the minority that were disappointed overall. The main impression I had was that everything had become so streamlined or so mainstreamed that this has become what I call a Generic Cruise. So if you like Kraft Dinner you won't like this cruise, but if your OK with generic mac and cheese you might like the cruise. BOOKING

RESERVATION You think when you book 6 months (October 5) in advance you would get the room and dining times you requested ? NOT SO. We were shocked really to find out that not only did we not get the room we requested were were bumped to the other dinner seating times. So if this is important to you forget about it because they don't even tell you till it's too late. LINE UPS Of the seven days of the cruise I think 2 full days were spent in line-ups. You are lined up to get on the ship, lined up to get off the ship, line up at the buffet, the burger stand, the information desk, line ups for water, beer, towels, excursions and pictures. I could just scream sometimes. SHIP CONDITION Although this ship is only 8 years old it is showing more like 20 years old. Just about every washroom had hand dryiers that were out of order, elevators were out of order, and areas were fenced off for maintenance and repairs. In the stateroom, closet doors were hanging off their hinges, the television and remote didn't work properly and the mirror doors on the medicine cabinet were so rusted we didn't even know that they were supposed to open. SECURITY ON BOARD I don't know if there was any sort of security on board. I saw kids dropping stuff in the stairwells to see how many deck they could get it down. I saw kids climbing the front of the ship like it was a rock climbing wall and I saw teenagers lying/blocking in the corridors like it was a college floor party. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment is so "canned" that you often wonder if those are real people lip synching or just a hologram. The only thing that was enjoyable was the "R" rated comedian at midnight. INTERNET CAFE Although I was assured by customer service that they had memory card readers to upload your camera pictures there were none. The Internet manager said they don't want to run the risk of viruses ??? In addition the service isn't all that fast so you eat up the minutes pretty quick. SCHEDULE Everything ran late. They were like an hour late getting people off in Cozumel which meant we missed out Atlantis Sub tour and that screwed up our plans for the entire day. So don't book any tours without a big time cushion. Please email me if you have any questions, I will be happy to help.

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Mar 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

Important things to have prior to going on cruise: Birth certificates, waterproof cameras, power strip for stateroom, wine, suntan lotion, motion sickness pills, waterproof container to put ship and shore card into, money, etc, that you can wear around your neck, comfortable shoes, hat, and remember to put colorful ribbons on your luggage so that you can find it quickly when you disembark. Also be sure to purchase trip insurance prior

to going. It is inexpensive, but well worth the money (about $29 per person). This cruise went well. We made all 3 ports without a hitch. We were on time for each port. There are only 2 seasons in the caribbean - hot and wet. There really is no winter/summer. We went on the Chichen Itza tour in Progresso. I was very impressed. We were there on the spring equinox day so it was a big event there if you're there til 5. Since we had to leave, we missed the big event. But this excursion is well-worth the time. It is THE myan site in Mexico. Expect the weather to be very hot. It was 108 degrees the day we went. Take plenty of water and wear a hat! Bus that excursion goes on is air conditioned and has a bathroom. They also serve you lunch on the bus. There are 2 opportunities to shop on this tour - once on a quick bathroom break, and again at Chichen Itza. We found lots of bargains at both locations. Not much else to do in Progresso. Progresso is not really a town, it is a new man-made port. Our guide said that it was the biggest port in the world - about 5 miles. We were the only ship in port that day, but I think they're going to grow as more ships come in. Don't try to walk from the port to the nearest town, Merida. They don't recommend it, and there are free shuttles to the town. There is a nice little beach at the end of the port, and I saw a lot of people there. Warning to those thinking about eating there - a group of people on our boat ate in Merida, and they were all sick the next day. Don't eat there unless you know for certain the place you're going to is safe. Better check with the ship staff and ask around. Next stop was Cozumel, and we've been there before. Don't bother with signing up for excursion. There are cabs everywhere, and you can save money and do your own excursion when you get off the boat. WE took a taxi to Channakab park for $10. Then our 4 family members went to the park. It is very big, and you can snorkel, swim, sit on the beach, drink beer, eat lunch, see the jungle life, or even swim with dolphins. Very nice park. They even have modern bathrooms and free lockers with keys. We then took the taxi back to port, and spent the rest of the day shopping and eating/drinking at Carlos and Charlies. Not many bargains here, but it is a very fun island to snorkel, and just have fun. Last stop was Belize. 2 of us booked the intertube jungle tour. 2 other family members took the bike ride to Altun Ha. We all loved our excursion. My son an I did the intertube jungle tour. It was totally awesome. (No mosquitos - it was the dry season, and our tour guide said the bats eat all the mosquitos anyway). We were tubing in a rainforest mountain stream through caves that was clean enough to drink out of. The water was very clean, cool, and very beautiful. Then we ate at a restaurant called Cheers on the way back. Very unique restaurant, but very rustic. It takes about 10-15 minutes to take the ferry from the ship to the port, but it is a beautiful ride there. Belize City seems to be a bit on the absolute poverty stricken side. Our tour guide tried to convince us it was "laid back", but when we saw the armed guards with machine guns outside the local bank, we did not think "laid back" was the property term for this city. The port has some very nice shops, and there was live music and nice restaurants. But, don't venture beyond the port area very far, it did not seem safe and there were beggars, free wheeling tour dealers, and somewhat very poor people outside the port. I also noticed that the port area had a parking lot area that was reserved for tour buses, and it was secured by an iron gate with a guard on duty to keep unwanted traffic out. Probably want to be sure that you book an excursion in Belize, otherwise you may not see much (unless you want to take your chances). I spoke to others who took the snorkeling tours in Belize and they absolutely loved these. The outlying islands are very beautiful with lots of opportunities there to scuba and snorkel. Ship activities: There were 3 art auctions on the ship, and I found that I attended all of them. The auctions really are a bargain, and you really will get a deal on what you buy. Additionally, the art auction dealer will buy back your purchase if you should find it cheaper off the ship, or if you have buyers remorse. He was right, when I got back home, I checked our purchase price with the going price for the 2 works of art we bought. We did get great deals -about 40% less than what you'd pay at a gallery. Most pieces go for around $280 (includes frame and mat). some go as high as $13,000 but that was a rarity. Even if you don't buy, go for the free champagne and the art education. You'll have fun, and who knows, you may win a free art print. We one a free art print! The food was about the same as the last cruise we went on. It was ok, but not exceptional. I tend to stay away from high, high, calorie foods, so I had my fill of fresh fruit, veges, croissants, cheeses. My 2 teen sons ate a ton of the hamburgers and they loved the pizza. I have not had the pizza yet, but someday I may do so. We booked an inside cabin this time, and we were fine with it. Just need to be sure to bring a clock with you so that when you turn on the light, you know what time it is. The # of sea days and port days is about right for this cruise - 2 day of rest, 3 days of ports, and the last 2 days for rest. This cruise was a spring break cruise, so we expected to have a large # of kids on this ship with mostly teen drunken party goers. If there was a lot of loud drinking, we did not notice. Our cabins were very quiet at night, and we were never bothered by rowdy people. The parents who did bring children seemed to do a good job making them behave. I did not see many problems. Only thing I did see was a few rowdy young teens who were throwing dishes over board, throwing a deck chair overboard, and a bucket overboard. If you are repeat cruiser with Carnival, don't miss the repeat cruiser reception. They gave me drink, after drink, after drink. The cruise director, Jorge Solano, stopped over and visited with us for about 20 minutes. Also, I was impressed with the entertainment on this boat. They were really good. There were 3 different comedians over the course of 3 days, and they were all excellent for a cruise ship. One word of advice about Galveston. It is not a resort town. If you leave out of Galveston, and you drive, stay at the Holiday Inn on Seawall boulevard. You can leave your car there for the week for free, and there is a free shuttle to/from the ship pier. Can't beat that. Otherwise, expect to pay $70 for parking. Be sure to see The Strand which is across the street from the pier. It is Galveston's downtown shopping area. About the only thing to see in Galveston, except for the cruise ships. Embarkment and Disambarkment went well. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. We were off about 1 1/2 hours after leaving our room. Not bad at all! I would recommend this cruise especially to those like me, who drive from the midwest. It is shorter than driving to Tampa or Miami, and the ports of call are decent too. For those of you making your own flight arrangements, Galveston Limo is about the only company who provides transportation to/from Hobby or Bush airport. Cost is around $50 for one person. Otherwise, you'll have to rent a car from Houston.

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Mar 20, 2005

Western Caribbean

Ok, this review is from a teenagers prospective. I am 17, and this was my first cruise. I traveled with 3 of my friends, and two of our moms. Here are some things I wish I had known before I went. First things first. I live in Dallas and we drove down to Galveston on the day before we boarded the cruise. Driving went well and we stayed at the La Quinta in Galveston. The hotel was fine, and we enjoyed the breakfast the next morning. We

took a small van cab to the port the following morning. This worked out well; make sure you call and reserve a cab. They met us right outside our hotel exactly on time. We drove to the terminal, and checked our bags. Make sure you have small bills to tip the bag guys with. We walked into the terminal and went right up to the check in lady. There was no line what so ever. Very easy. They said we were early and thats why it was so easy. Everyone was very helpful. We did our fun passes early so we had no problems checking in. We sat in the terminal for about 30 minutes and then we got on the ship. Super easy. Once we got on the ship, we had some lunch in Tiffanies. It was good and we were really hungry. After lunch we were very anxious to look around the ship. We were shocked at the size of the pools. They were practically nonexistent. That was something that was very important to us, and we were very disappointed. There was no place to cool off. There are 3 pools, all the size of standard above ground pools. We didn't go in any of them the whole trip. Very disappointing. A word about alcoholic drinks...if you are under 21 you cannot buy alcoholic drinks on the ship. Of course there is always a way to get around the rules. If you buy the "frou frou" drinks from the guys coming around to you, then they don't check your id. They just take your card number and walk away. But do not try to go to the bar and order one, because it wont work. A little later we went to our rooms. The four of us girls in one cabin and the two moms in another. The cabins were really nice for a cruise ship. Everything was clean and in order. We did have some dirty towels in our room, but our room steward took care of them for us. Our room steward was amazing. His name was Ludimel. Everyday he cleaned our room, and our bathroom, turned down our beds, gave us ice and fresh towels. He was great. On the last day he was really sick, and he still was so sweet to us. We each gave him an extra 5$ because they work VERY hard and deserve it. After that we did the life boat drill. It was tedious, but necessary. It didn't take that long. Our bags got to our rooms around 6ish maybe. We went to dinner in our same clothes though. We had late seating in the Imagination. We liked it alot. It wasn't what I expected but it was still nice. It was actually very casual. I expected it to be fancier. No "real" dress code. If you have little kids, go to the early dinner. All the kids in our dinner were falling asleep. Oh yea, they also had really bad music choices...not dinner music. Overall we were impressed with the dinners. My advice to you is, check the menu earlier in the day and decide whether it is important to go or not. There was a couple of nights where we just didn't appreciate the dinner selections and weren't that hungry anyways. The food in Tiffany's is mostly good. I ate alot of salads, and sandwiches. Very good. I would say that you should stay away from the Mexican night, it looked pretty gross...but thats my opinion. Pizza was amazing, and the desserts were really good. The ports were all great. I have alot of things to say about them. Too much really, so e-mail me if you have any questions. We shopped and went to the beach in Progresso. We went on the Catamerian Snorkel and beach party tour thing in Cozumel, and it was really fun. I would recommend that. But if you have ever done any really good snorkeling, then don't expect much from this. We booked this through the tour. After the tour we went to Senior Frogs. That was a blast. No id checking, just pure fun. Def a must. In belize we did the cave tubing. That was really cool. We booked with Reggie tours and got a really good price. The were really nice and we were very happy with that decision. Again, please e-mail me if you have any questions about anything. Lets see...all the sea days were fine. Uneventful really. The shows at night were not very good. Except for one adult comedian show. It was hilarious! Funniest thing I have seen in a while. If you are offended easily, skip this one. Lots of crude jokes and drunk people. It was great fun. Well thats really all I can think of right now...if you think of anything e-mail me. Hope this helps! I would def go on this cruise again.

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Mar 6, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our second cruise with Carnival, and this time we took our three children. What a disappointment for us. When you arrive at the terminal one of the first things you receive is a sign and sail card. Two of our children we wanted to just put money towards the card for them. Was told we had to get aboard and see the Purser's office for this request. The Purser's office was never able to get this done for us and for 7 days the kids

had no use of their sign and sail cards. The dining room was a nightmare, the food was cold and if you have an early sitting your rushed out for the next group to dine. The buffet dining was at least warm but very limited on choices. If you do want a good shore excursion don't book with the ship. In Belize we booked a afternoon snorkel trip, well the morning was cancelled due to weather yet the afternoon was beautiful. But, once they cancelled the morning the afternoon was also cancelled. In Progresso we went to the ruins and enjoyed this trip. Cozumel was our day for shopping. If traveling with teens. The ship does not have a curfew hour for teens. So we had kids up all night running hallways and the security did not step in and handle the teens. Our teens wanted to stay out past 2am and we did not allow them too. But a curfew would have help us out as parents to enforce this time with our teens. Looking forward to another cruise, but not again with Carnival. My advice choose your cruise wisely and research what you want out of the money and time your going to give to a cruise line.

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Feb 12, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise. We had a wonderful time! Let me say, I have read allot of reviews and listened to people talk about the horrible things about cruises, I think that your cruise is what you make of it. We were on the Empress deck, which was centrally located. We had the early seating in the Imagination Dining Room. The room: The room was larger than I expected. The bathroom was allot bigger than what I had been told. I was

very surprised. It was very clean and well stocked. The room steward was nice. We never saw her in the room but sometime were able to talk with her in the hall. Our luggage was at our room very early and we were able to unpack and roam around before diner. Tiffanys: We ate there several times. The food was your standard buffet with a twist. They had a different theme for the food everyday. Although there were always sandwiches and pizza if you were not adventurous enough to try the different things they had. The only disappointment was the desserts. I would have thought the desserts would have been better than they were. But oh well, you cant have it all. Imagination Dining Room: The food and the service was wonderful. We loves out waiters! Now on to the ports: Progresso: We took the Merida City Tour and loved it. You were able to learn allot and there were plenty of times to shop if you wanted to. I liked it allot. Cozumel: We went on a glass bottom boat tour, that was really fun. I booked it through an outside party other than the cruise ship and it was great. The taxi was cheap and we had time to shop before the boat trip. It was allot of fun and you got to see allot of colorful fish and things. Belize: This was the big disappointment for me. I was surprised at the guards that are all around everywhere. There is nothing that you can do there unless you want to take your chances. It is not a safe place outside of the gates. I was disappointed. In talking with other passengers they were disappointed as well. Overall: The ship was wonderful. We had a wonderful time. I have to say that room service was WONDERFUL! Always fast and the food tasty!!!!! I loved the cruise and we are planning another one for next year.

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Jan 30, 2005

Western Caribbean

All and all a bad experience and we will not be using Carnival again. It first started with our assigned room M265. The carpet was wet and had a bad mildew smell for the 2 days we were in it. We talked to the pursers office and they arranged for us to move to another room M258. Our next experience was a raffle for a free facial. My wife won. Which is great until she tried to collect. The were booked and had no times available. Then there

was a loud speaker announcement on Friday or Saturday. It stated that there were discounts on Salon services. So we went up and scheduled my wife for a facial. We actually had someone chase us down and tell us unfortunately there was a misunderstanding and they can't book us. We had some good experiences in port of Progresso. We went ahead and booked a shore excursions with Carnival to Uxmal. That was very neat. We swam with the dolphins in Cozumel. With the costs and the commercialization of Cozumel, we probably could have hired a taxi and just paid park entrance fees. Would have saved anywhere from 50% to 75%. Went Cave tubing in Belize. Very good experience. Very happy with purchasing the shore excursion on line with Wet n Wild. Our worst part of the cruise came after we returned home. Carnival charged the wrong credit card and other than saying the purser shouldn't have done what they did made no offer to make it right. We were charged with NSF charges 5 times. We contacted our bank and Carnival the same day.

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Jan 23, 2005

Western Caribbean

My wife and I just got back from our 25th anniversary Cruise on the Carnival ship Elation. We drove down to Galveston, Texas to board the ship from that port since it was the closest to us. It was a windy cool day that Sunday morning. We thought it would be warmer than it was. We booked our parking on line with EZ parking which is about 3 blocks from the ship. We pre-paid so it only cost us $35.00 for the week. They have a van that takes

you to the port entry. Double check with the driver where they will be when you get off the ship the next Sunday. They ended up being at the East end of the drop off instead of being at the West end as they told me. This cost us about 1/2 hour getting to our vehicle. The processing went smoother than I had expected. Be sure each luggage has a tag plus put a sheet of paper inside your luggage with your name, phone # etc. if the outside tag becomes lost. We boarded the ship somewhere around noon. Our room was ready for us to put our carryon luggage into the room, but it was around our first evening meal before the rest of the luggage was put outside our door. If you need any necessary items before then you had better put them into the carry on luggage. After the life boat seminar the ship sails at 4:00. We went out on deck to watch the ship depart. It was still very windy and cold so we didn't stay out very long. As long as the ship is close to shore it is smooth sailing. Once you get out into the Gulf the ship will rock. If anyone gets car sick I would recommend the patches for seasickness as soon as possible. My wife got sick the 2nd night and started taking the Dramamine pills, but it takes awhile before they take effect. I had a splitting headache and took some Ibuprofen. I guess I had a different type of seasickness. My head hurt but I felt fine. Our first port was Progresso. We didn't book from the ship since the ship tours are more costly than booking on your own. We found a van that took us to Chichen-Itza Mayan Ruins. His name was Marco. He could speak some English. My mom and Step dad were with us and my mom could speak the language well enough to get us by. It was a 11/2 hour drive to the ruins. Marco set us up with a guide. His name was Pedro. He could speak English very well. It was around 78 degrees that day with bright sun. Somewhat different than Galveston. Marco got us back in time to get back aboard the ship. We were in the Inspiration dining room. We had a very good Head waiter at our table. The food the whole trip was excellent. We were in the cruisereviews.com site a lot before the trip and people were saying how the desserts were not very good. Don't know what they were talking about. We all thought they were super! Be prepared to have your picture taken allot. Just buy the ones you like, throw the rest away. You may not want to buy the first day but wait towards the end of the cruise then pick and choose the ones you like. Our 2nd port it Cozumel. This is an awesome Island. We got off the ship and found a catamaran that took us snorkeling, beach party, then back to the port in 31/2 hours. Plenty of liquor. All part of the $55.00 price. We went to Carlos & Charlie's to fill out the rest of time before boarding the ship. The 3rd day is in Belize. We had already booked a Cave Tubing tour online before our cruise. It was with Reggie Tours. They were waiting for us after getting off of the Tender boats. We told them that we wanted to be back at a certain time as to not miss the last tender boat. The cave tubing was awesome! I recommend Reggie tours. They made the day very enjoyable. We left Belize Thur. evening and sailed back to Galveston arriving on Sunday morning. We had time to lay out and tan and swim Friday before we got too far north to the colder weather. The shows on ship were very good. We thought all the entertainment was very good. We set up an email account on board to check back home on things. Our sons are away at College so we emailed them to say how things were going. It cost $3.95 to set it up with .75 cents per minute while on line. As you are setting up the account the clock is running. We ended up spending around $35.00 for the week. This sounds high but if someone calls to talk to you by phone it will cost them $9.50 per minute!!!! If you call to the U.S.A. it will cost you $6.99 per minute!!!! We chose the email!! This was our first Cruise. I liked it well enough that if money and a Job! was not a problem I would sail again as soon as possible.

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Jan 8, 2005

Western Caribbean

Yee Haa! Galveston! We were having Mid-West Chill a while back, and searched the Internet for Value and ports of call a tad new to us! What we found of course was Carnival, a leader in the Cruise Industry for value, but the only port new to us was Progresso, Mexico. The one week cruise was from Galveston, Tx. Good or Bad place to leave from? Galveston, to be honest, is a port I can say...Been there and done it, and time to move on

for a port city to embark from. Galveston was fine, and had a nice old town section, and the cruise ships are right in front of the old town area, but as the port grows it is a bit crowded and chaotic embarking when a lot is going on. Time may have some expansion. Oops the closest airport is Houston. We were told that Houston Bush was about 40 miles to the port. It was 83. We opted to save some $$$ and we rented an Enterprise Rental at the Bush International. I mention this name of rental for advice ... they have no DROP charge. The rental was ab out $38 with all taxes and the optional insurance for 24 hours, compared to the $70 for the Carnival Transfer for two persons. Humm, good choice or bad? After a hour of being lane harassed by Texans ... who drive like broncos on steroids ... I wished I had opted for the Carnival Transfer ... and Texas must not want you to find Galveston, as you will be in a lane ... it ends suddenly with the option to off ramp on an incorrect ramp, or feed into the Bucking Broncos in the faster lane ... which I had to do, and pray! I'd say 80 mph seemed to be Texas slow lane! But once in Galveston the car proved a worthy exploration tool, so on whole a good decision. On way back the one way was $10 higher ... so I opted out of self-drive to avoid another road rage contest with me unwilling to drive Texas or Houston style of lane switching constantly at 20-39 mph above speed limits! Ship Shape Elation at about 70K tons is a 90's lovely ship! She is the sister ship of former Smoke Free Paradise, and a lovely counterpart! The decor and amenities are excellent, from the steam and sauna, workout area, dining, deck space and pool and a lovely 6 or so story atrium! Our cabin was standard outside with window, and was well sized and the a/c worked fine. We had an issue that our return vent did not work, but we were greeted with 3 fixit men and all was vented well in a couple hours, plus a letter of apology. This is class service! To Dine The cuisine on Carnival is always a solid B to B+ and the service personnel are well educated in client pleasing. We had no problems throughout our trip with any room, or dining or other personnel. A plus service! Entertainment? Yes, we had a couple great Production shows, and some featured acts that varied from good to better than average. Overall we were pleased! What better way to vacation than to UNPACK and your hotel moves with you to enjoyable ports of call! Itinerary We had 3 lovely SEA days. For us this was super as we wanted days of sun and relaxing. Our ports of Progresso allowed us to see Chichen Itza the famed pyramid of the Mayan world, and then Cozumel, and Belize City. The Chichen Itza trips was long, but a long overdue trip and one we should all see to appreciate our fore-thinkers of the Mayan world! There is nothing going on in Progresso unless you do a shore trip. Cozumel, we opted for a beach trip using local taxi cabs, and in Belize we did our own trip to an out-island for some snorkeling ... forget that idea ... I made a mistake. The island was very pretty, but beaches are non-existing in most of Belize and the snorkeling from shore is tough at best! Best to take Ship Planned trips as they know the when, where and why, and if our self-tour 30 miles away had not gone as planned...well off goes Carnival Elation without us. A sad day indeed that would have been, but having cruised a lot we sought more adventure, but it did not turn out that great! Overall We loved Elation Grade A We loved the food Grade B+ We loved the Entertainment Grade B Ship overall Grade A We recommend the ship and Carnival. I had in mind the ship would be full of rowdy Texans out for a week of “Yee Haa“, after seeing the driving patterns in Houston! It was fine and our floor was quiet by 10PM every night. In fact our cruise as far as guest behavior was one of our best! Our room was cozy and comfortable with plenty of storage space. Our room steward made us Towel Creatures each night to be funny and clever...and by the end of the week it was quite a sight! Monkeys here, Elephants there...fun.We had a great week and felt the Carnival Elation a great value and ship.  

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Dec 26, 2004

Progress, Western Caribbean

There were 4 of us in our group that went on the Elation out of Galveston. We arrived in Galveston early to board. However, due to weather problems the ship disembarked late. This resulted in us getting on the ship later than expected. Carnival cannot be blamed for the weather. Needless to say, the Elation did not sail out of port until almost 7:00 p.m. This had no impact on the time of arrival at our first port. I must say right away

that we had the best waiter (Joven) and steward (Joslyn) one could possibly want. These two people were courteous, friendly, and wonderful to know. I cannot imagine a company having better employers than these two people. The first port stop was in Progresso. I booked a tour online through Autoprogresso. There were problems at first since we did not catch up with the tour guide immediately off the ship due to communication problems. Even the police in downtown Progresso weren't able to help us. However, we did make our connection with Autoprogresso and had a great experience. Juan Carlos was our tour guide and took us to Uxmal to see the Mayan ruins and then to Merida to do some shopping. Uxmal is a beautiful ruin. I also contacted the Yucatan Tourism Office and was told that Uxaml was more beautiful in architecture than Chichen Itza. We truly enjoyed this experience. The walking sure helped us burn off some of those calories from the food on the ship! Juan Carlos then took us on to Merida - the capital city of Yucatan. We bought a lot of gifts - especially handmade crafts (carved jaguar head, wooden bowl). Since we still had time to shop after Merida we went back to Progresso to do some shopping. We ended up buying some silver jewelry. The next port was in Cozumel. I booked reservations ahead of time with Dolphin Discovery to swim with sea lions at Chankanaab National Park south of town. We took a taxi from the port terminal to the park. This was a nightmare! I was amazed with the construction and traffic. We had some free time to spare before the sea lion adventure when we arrived at the park so we decided to snorkel for an hour. The cost was $8 for mask, snorkel, and fins. The water was nice and clear and we saw lots of fish. I kept on sticking my head too deep under the water filling up my snorkel with salt water! The sea lion swim was truly an experience of a life time. The water was a little cool at first. How many people will experience holding and kissing a sea lion? After this we took a taxi back to downtown Cozumel and did some more shopping. We shopped quite a bit. The next port of call was Belize. We took tenders off the ship into the port. I am not a big fan of tenders. I booked an excursion with X-Treme to go cave tubing. We did not get off of the ship until after 9:15 or later. We were on the 1st tender available for persons not having a tour with the cruise line. Our tour guide (Emanuel) met us at the dock and briskly took us to the van. There ended up being 6 of us on this tour. We ended up driving down a BUMPY (and exciting) road on our way to the river. Once there, Emanuel took us on a hike in the rainforest and pointed out various trees. He walked very fast. We ended up going through 2 caves (the cruise ship tour takes you through 1 cave). The first cave was great since there were only the 7 of us in it. This was a great experience. I can see why this excursion has received rave reviews from people. After the tubing we went back to the terminal and did some shopping. The next two days were spent on the ship. I laid in the sun for 2 of them, watched football (New Year's Day), shopped on board in the gift shop, and did a little gambling at the casino. Now for the down side of the cruise. First of all, I was not pleased with the teenagers (13-15 years old) being drunk on the ship. I complained at the information desk about this and was treated like I was the guilty party. I did not witness the unruly behavior by teenagers on my previous cruise. I do not know if this was because of the date of the cruise of where the cruise was from. Secondly, one night our waiter was assigned an extra table. Some special people (cruise workers from Italy) came aboard ship in Cozumel. Both the Maitre d" and his assistant kept telling our waiter to give them special attention. This was done in front of us. My prime rib and broccoli were cold. I did not want to complain at the time as I did not want our waiter to be reprimanded. At the end of the meal the Maitre d" pointed to our waiter to get over to the other table when his was passing out pictures of the ship to us. This angered me and did my best to bite my tongue. Not once did the Maitre d" come to our table. However, I counted 5 times during the one evening that he came back to the "special" table to instruct our waiter to service them. My final complaint is not exactly against the cruise line or the Elation staff. The ship had difficulty being allowed to dock once we arrived back in Galveston due to severe fog. People were supposed to stay in their designated areas. However, people disobeyed the staff's requests and packed in the halls, stairways, and main entrance. This caused problems for the way people should have left the ship. I don't know if this was just a Texas thing, but I have never witnessed such rudeness like this before. Overall, I thought the food was good. Joven brought me 3 main dishes on the last night (veal, spinach stuffed chicken breast, and beef tenderloin). We ate in the Imagination dining room every night. I must admit that I am more of a meat and potatoes type of guy but did find something every night that I enjoyed. Here are some hints if you are planning on taking this trip. 1. Take an excursion while in Progresso. I suggest that you contact Autoprogresso and arrange a tour through them. Uxmal is wonderful! Don't miss it. Don't pay more with the ship and be stuck with lots of people. This will also give you time to shop. 2. I recommend Chankanaab National Park while in Progresso for the fact that you can do several things in one area (dolphins, sea lions, snorkel, shop, eat). There is a changing room (lockers cost $3) at the park. The cab ride costs $10 one way from downtown Cozumel. This will also give you time to shop in Cozumel. 3. Book cave tubing with XTreme. This allows you to go through 2 caves. This is a longer tour than the one (and cheaper) offered through the ship. The shops in the port terminal at Belize our nice. 4. Avoid going out of Galveston during the winter, especially if you have a flight to catch prior to 4:00 p.m. I have been told that there are regular delays with the ships both leaving and arriving during the winter. 5. Save lots of money by booking tours ahead of time. Don't forget that you can always book an excursion when you get in port. I have all of the contact information with people if you need it.

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Dec 12, 2004

Western Caribbean

Introduction: As a Christmas present to myself, I decided to take a cruise alone. This was my third cruise and my first with Carnival. I was rather limited on the cruise line I could choose because none of the others believe in giving decent rates to single travelers. In a nutshell, the price drew me there. Embarkation: Being that Carnival specializes in first time cruisers, I would imagine that the lines are substantial if you try

to check in right at 1:30. I checked in between 2:30 and 3:00. No problems whatsoever. It was easier than checking into the airlines. Cabin: I bought my ticket knowing that it was "guaranteed" with no specific cabin assignment. I was pleasantly surprised to be assigned an outside cabin with 2 portholes. The downside is that the cabin is located at the very front of the ship (M1). There is more movement than other cabins I have been in. My cabin was relatively small but that did not create a problem being alone. The room was very clean and sufficed. The bathroom was bigger than in my past cruises. The one major drawback, in my opinion, was that there were no comfortable chairs or a sofa present. Food: The food was good and comparable to a Royal Caribbean cruise taken earlier in the year. The service was outstanding. There are inherent problems with trying to serve 800 people at one time. However, I encountered few real problems. The buffets were pretty good. However to fully enjoy the cruise go to the main dining room. The sushi bar offering was awesome! While on the subject of food, I was horrified at the number of grossly obese women who gorged themselves at the dessert buffets. Entertainment: The shows were kind of weak. The comedians at the midnight shows were a lot of fun. I did notice that Carnival offered very few activities on the ship. They are prone to try to get you to spend money on other things like shore excursions and art auctions. None of which, I was particularly interested in. They really need to kick the cruise director in the butt and get him into the spirit. The most pleasant surprise of the trip was a classical trio that played before dinner in the Atrium Bar. The trio consisted of 2 violins and a piano. They were from Poland and added a decided touch of elegance. A band which was comprised of people from Japan was a kick when they sang country music. Children: There were not too many on my trip. I will always go on a cruise when school is in session. However, if you are a parent please read this. Children do not belong sitting at a bar. I asked the bartenders to remove several children from bar stools and they gladly did it. Just because you paid for the cruise does not entitle you to take the week off from parenting. Most children looked bored to tears. They also monopolized the pools. When an unattended child was acting up they were corrected by me. Or a staff member was alerted. For god's sake the whole world is not for children. Pay off grandma and don't bring them. Staff: These folks are from all over the world and I found them to be intriguing. They were always friendly and willing to talk. Always informative and helpful. I was recognized as a single traveler and was even chided by a bartender for not coming to her bar one night (in a playful sense, of course). My stateroom attendant was OK. He was not particularly mindful of my one request……….keep my very small ice chest full of ice. Ports: Progresso: I was expecting Pancho Villa to ride into town. It is a dusty, nasty Mexican town with no real appeal. No good shopping. No good food. No good bars. Cozumel: I enjoy Cozumel and the numerous bars and shops. There appeared to be some good prices to be had. Go up the street a few blocks to rent a scooter and the price will drop to $20.00. Belize: Even nastier than Progresso. I heard the shore excursions were nice. There are no shopping bargains. That is, unless you go to the Pharmacy. Some of the geriatric crowd proudly proclaimed their acquisition of Viagra. Too much information for me! Tipping: Carnival will automatically add $70.00 as a gratuity on your credit card bill. I prefer to tip in cash and hand it to the person whose service was appreciated. The pursor gladly removed the charge and gave me envelopes. Every drink has a 15% gratuity added to it, so I did not feel terribly compelled to adhere to the ship's tipping guidelines. Overview: As with any cruise, it is what you make of it. There are many first time cruisers and many folks are not cut out to leave the farm for a full week. If you are not having a good time, keep it to yourself! I was pleasantly surprised to find cruisers in my age range and plenty of singles. I was seated with 3 other single travelers. All were men and in the same age range as myself (mid 30's to mid 40's). By the second night I had invitations to dine with several single women. There were not too terribly many senior citizens. Who can be as annoying as children. I will sail on this ship again due to the great rate that I obtained.

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Nov 21, 2004

Western Caribbean

Well, this was our first cruise ever. I can definitely say that we are not cruise people. We did this cruise on a request of my brother for his 40th birthday celebration. Arrival at the terminal: We opted to stay at a local hotel (Hilton) the night before we set sail. This allowed us to leave the car at the hotel and save the hassle and cost of parking the car at the terminal. The hotel shuttled us from the hotel parking lot directly

to the front of the terminal where porters received our luggage. Embarkation: First and foremost, the “Skipper’s Club” that Carnival has for their category 11 and 12 staterooms is a joke. We came upstairs from the street level and found an enormous crowd in line for the security checkpoint. When informing the Carnival staff that we were members of the “Skipper’s Club”, we were very rudely informed that it made no difference and everybody has to stand in the 45 minute to an hour line to go through one of two metal detectors that are more sensitive than those in airports. There was a third station available and staff was available, but apparently they were not in the mood to speed up the process. Once through this mess, there was a special place for the “Skipper’s Club” members to get checked in and receive the Sail and Sign cards, but this process was not any faster than the regular process, as the other members in our group, who stayed in the smaller cabins, got through just a fast. At this point, we were escorted to the front of the line to have our picture taken, which we could then purchase on board for the great price of $7. This is where the “Skipper’s Club” benefits stop. You must then stand in another very long line to get your picture taken for the Sail and Sign card, then stand in line to get on board. This was a bad first impression for us. The Ship: It showed signs of wear and tear in a few places but that is to be expected considering that it never sits still. The rooms were clean due in part to the twice a day service by the room staff. I was impressed that our room did not have the stench of cigarette smoke considering that people frequently smoked in their rooms. The air conditioning in the ship worked too well. On deck you were comfortable in shorts and t-shirt, but walk inside and it's like a meat locker (long pants and jacket required). The Food: What can I say? If you like Luby's style food prepared for 2,500 people, than you will love it. For us, on the other hand, it was nothing to write home about. We ate in the dining room on 3 nights and in Tiffany’s the remaining nights. As we really do not like getting dressed up in formal attire, we skipped the formal nights. The food quality between the two restaurants is similar. The presentation of the food and the service in the dining room is a bit nicer. The Drinks: This is apparently where Carnival makes their money. Be prepared to be nickel and dime’d to death here. The only liquids that are free of additional charge on board are coffee, selected juices, and tap water. Everything else from bottled water to sodas to beer to wines to liquor is an additional charge on your Sail and Sign card (more about that later). The Service: The service is good. The dining room staff was friendly and always bringing you more stuff to consume. The room steward and staff were friendly and helpful as well. Ports of call: Take you time and review the excursions carefully before you get to the ship. Once in the ship, immediately go to the “Shore Tours” desk and sign up for the excursions that you want to take. They can fill up quickly leaving you with an activity that you do not care for. Progresso – This is a poor little harbor town on the northern end of the Yucatan peninsula with the world’s longest pier. Do not consider walking to shore from the boat. It’s six miles and there is no sidewalk. The street vendors there really want you to see their crafts and buy something including Cuban cigars (too bad I don’t smoke). One note here, the vendors will try to tell you that Progresso is much cheaper that Cozumel. Even thought he tagged price may indicate this, the Cozumel dealers will bargain the price down to below Progresso prices for similar items. Beer on the other hand is really cheap here and you can get loaded with minimal effort and cash. The good news, they virtually all take US Dollars (and a profitable exchange rate, of course). Our excursion was the Kayak Adventure. I wish that the trek had been longer and further way from the main road. We constantly heard the roar of cars has we were paddling the mangroves. Cozumel – Right outside the pier entrance is tourist central with every shop imaginable from Burger King to arts and crafts to cigars. We ate lunch at Carlo’s and Charlie’s across from the pier. A bit on the expensive side but a lot of fun and the food was great. Our excursion here was the beginner’s scuba. Even though we both were already certified, we did not have a lot of dive under our belt (a total of 10 between the two of us), and we figured that this would be good for us. The outfit, Sand Dollar Sports, did a great job and the group size was small (4 divers with 1 instructor). Basically, this is the PADI Discover Scuba class. Belize – The ship does not dock here. Instead, tenders take you to shore or directly to the excursion. We did not go ashore here. Instead, we directly boarded the dive boat for our excursion to the Turneff Atoll. What a great dive. We were definitely the novices on board, but felt very comfortable diving here. This outfit, Hugh Parkey’s Belize Dive Connection, was very well organized and accommodating. We are already planning our next trip here, spending an entire week diving around the atoll. The Entertainment: It broke the boredom. The Vegas style shows were a bit weak. The musicians, on the other hand, were quite talented and a pleasure to listen to. The comedy acts were entertaining, but it’s best advised not to annoy the comedian during the midnight comedy show. Some poor lady in the front row got roasted by the comedian during the R-rated midnight show that was anything but politically correct, albeit quite funny. The in-room movies were decided upon by the ship’s staff and recycled over and over again. It would have been very nice if they had offered a pay per view selection in the rooms similar to what hotels do. Also, the major network TV channels available were from cities and towns in the north and northeast. The ship sails from Galveston. They really should broadcast the Houston TV channels. The Art Auctions: There were a few art auctions during our trip where one could buy the art displayed throughout the ship. The auctioneer kept things moving very well. The best part about this is the free champagne. We got loaded. The prices were out of our league so we just sat back and watched as paintings and prints went for as high as $20k. Sail and Sign Card: This is your room key, admissions card to get back on board after going ashore in the ports-or-call and your on-board charge card. Since almost every thing on board costs you extra, this card becomes your lifeline. The shore excursions are billed to the same card. We knew going in that we had to be very careful when using this card as it is quite easy to run the bill up. We saw some people on board with two or three kids whose bill was several pages long and easily ran $2000 or more (ouch). Other Stuff: One of our luggage pieces did not make it to our room. If the luggage tag becomes separated from your luggage, it all gets lined up by the information desk and you get to waffle through it all to find your stuff. We found ours relatively easily. We were concerned about Sea Sickness as my wife gets motion sick very easily. This did not become a problem even though we could definitely feel the ship move significantly and the sea was actually relatively calm. Our single biggest gripe was that there were too many screaming kids running around everywhere. Out of 2500+ guests on board, over 700 were below the age of 16. Don’t get me wrong. I love kids. But this many kids concentrated and bored on the ship, leads to anything but a relaxing time. The pools and hot tubs were constantly overrun by kids. The mandatory tips were another sore spot. Note to Carnival here; just add it into the price of the cruise and pay the staff a bit more. We had splurged for a nicer cabin and ended up on the Veranda deck (#11). This ended up to be a very pleasant thing as not many people, or kids for that matter, walked up and down the hall there. This made for some quite time away from it all. A special note to people on this level; the last three rooms on either side have the view partially blocked by the lifeboats. Also, forget about taking the elevators unless you have a lot of time. They are very slow and will stop on every floor. Debarkation: This was the icing on the cake. First you must vacate your cabin by 8am. Then you go through immigration on board (in order by color which depends on were in the ship you room is). This process will take time. The last color got called around 10:30am. Then you get to sit around in the Mikado Lounge, Promenade deck, or Lido deck and twiddle your thumbs until your color gets called to leave the ship. You have the option of doing a “Self Assist” when leaving your ship, which means you can be the second group off (right behind those that are about to miss their flight out of Houston). The only catch here is that you have to hand carry all of your belongings yourself and no carts are their to help you. Pack very light if you wish to do this. Overall Impression: This was our first cruise ever. Based on our experience this time, we will most likely never do another cruise, especially not with Carnival. The pricing of the cruise is a bit deceiving. Our cruise price was about $2700 for two adults in an upgraded room with balcony, but after everything was said and done (shore excursions, drinks, mandatory tips, etc.), the real price was closer to $4000. Even though one may think a cruise for two can be less than $1200, rest assured that by the time you walk off the ship, you will have spent a lot more. All this having been said, we did have an ok time. Not great, not terrible, but ok.

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Aug 13, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our first Carnival cruise and we were pleasantly surprised. We had cruised on Celebrity and NCL before, but never Carnival. In the past we had heard negative things about Carnival: bad food, lots of screaming kids, bad service, gaudy ships etc. We found this to be pretty far from the truth! The room and deck chairs! The dining rooms were nice as well. Cabins were spacious and very nicely decorated as well. Restaurants were

great too, as was the casino and the lounges and bars. Food: Okay. The quality of the food is not nearly as good as it is on Celebrity but it isn't horrible either. The food in Tiffany's was not the best - overcooked chicken swimming in oily sauce, watery lettuce in the salad bar, tasteless vegetables etc. Tiffany's did have a 24 hour ice cream and yogurt machine and burgers and dogs (quite good) were available nearby. I did not try the pizza but heard it was sub-par. We ate in the Inspiration Dining Room. The food was, for the most part, pretty good. The vegetarian entrees were generally quite good - I had a veggie lasagna that was out of this world. The pasta dishes were consistently good. The beef was always overcooked...I ordered my filet mignon medium rare and it arrived well done....as did everyone else's. The Beef Wellington was overpowered by the foi gras...not good. The desserts were just average. But as a whole, the food here was better than at Tiffany's! Service: The service was quite good! Our wait staff was excellent. - very friendly and accommodating! Our cabin steward was great too. The Purser's desk was always helpful and cheerful. Of course, the service is not white glove...but people are very friendly and helpful. Ports of call: Progreso - Kind of an ugly little city. We took a tour of the Mayan Ruins at Chichen Itza and I highly recommend it! Definitely worth long trip (especially because there isn't much else to do in Progreso). Cozumel - We had been here before so we took a taxi to the beach and snorkeled all day long. Cozumel is my favorite of all three ports. Great shopping, dining, bars, beaches. Belize - A woeful little city. Lots of poverty. Very dirty. We did the cave tubing tour (a 45 min hike through the rainforest and then a tubing adventure down the river and through some natural caves). I recommend this tour for anyone who doesn't mind a bit of exercise and is looking for something adventurous! Overall we were pleased with our cruise. We found Carnival to be a fun and affordable vacation! I would definitely take another Carnival Cruise in the future.

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Aug 7, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise. I went with my 26 year old brother as a graduation gift to myself. We picked this cruise because of proximity to our hometown and the price. EMBARKING: Only 2 of the 3 security checkpoints were open so the lines were unusually long. It took about 3 hours to get on the ship. The process of parking the car in the Port lots was difficult, as you have to leave your passengers and ALL luggage, even carry-ons,

at the terminal and then park the car and shuttle back. NOTE: This happens in reverse when you get off. FOOD: Overall I give it a B+ to A-. Some items were really good (pizza, calzones, burgers) and some was poor (grilled chicken). The formal dining room food was overall pretty good with lots of selections. I didn't have trouble finding something to eat and tried some new foods. The buffet area, called Tiffany's, has a different ethnic food theme each day - Italian, Greek, Indian, etc. It was typical buffet food. I did like the salads, desserts, breads, and fresh fruits. If you get tired of the rich foods they have a good sandwich line at lunch in Tiffany's. DINING ROOM: It was nice to have the same waiters (Jesus and Christina). They were pros and took great care of us. Our table-mates were entertaining and we overall enjoyed their company. ENTERTAINMENT: We enjoyed the comedy acts (some more than others) and the talent show. The piano bar ("Duke's") was great and was led by a talented guy named Damien. Unfortunately, he was only going to be on the cruise until the end of August. The games aboard Carnival are fun if you like that kind of thing. We don't and didn't participate. They do a new thing to promote competition and divide the whole ship into three teams called Red, White, and Blue. Points are awarded for participation and at any public event they always asked, "What team are you on?!?" By the end of the week all 3 teams had thousands of points (which were given out somewhat randomly) and the winning team gets....nothing. This got real annoying after a while... ART AUCTIONS: Free champagne, good prices on art if you are into that sort of thing. Auctioneer very good and informational. PORTS: PROGRESO: A new port in a city that was recently destroyed by a hurricane. It is an authentic Mexican city that hasn't been too spoiled by tourists yet. Because of that, there is not much to do. You dock 6 miles off the coast at a pier and take a free shuttle to the edge of the city. There is a shopping area that has typical Mexican things: blankets, tshirts, onxy carvings, wooden bowls, jewelry, and so on. We found the prices very reasonable and did most of our shopping for souvenirs here. Exact same things were twice as high in Cozumel, so shop in Progreso. The beer was really cheap - $1 Coronas were easy to find. I enjoyed this place but unless you want to shop or see Mayan ruins there isn't a lot to do. COZUMEL: We are not into the beach/snorkeling/diving thing, so we chose to ride ATVs in the jungle. This was booked through Carnival and was $99 a person. The boat docks right at the island and we met our group of about 18 with a very nice tour guide. He took us to a bus for a 30 minute ride to a private ranch, where we got a lesson in how to ride ATV's. Then we were off on a caravan through the jungle. We took breaks and looked at some ruins and drank some water they provided (bottled). I've never riden an ATV before and I must say it was really fun! At the end of our time (we rode for about 2 hours) they took us back to the boat. Our entire group was covered in dirt and dust and we had to get back on the boat and take a long shower and change clothes. I highly recommend this tour to anyone who doesn't want to do the water things on Cozumel. It was well worth the money and our group all gave it good reviews. BELIZE: Boat stops 4 miles off shore and you tender to the island. This adds a lot of time to the process. The tendering boats drop you in a tourist compound (yes, that is the right word because you need a ship ID card to get back in if you leave the compound - which you will not want to do). There are places to eat, bars, and lots of shopping. Higher priced stuff here, including some nice wooden carvings from the rain-forest woods. We wandered around the shops and decided that we were glad we had bought stuff in Progreso. We had some forgettable Belizean beer. We ventured to the edge of the compound, which is surrounded by iron gates, and there were some scary looking people accosting us, trying to sell us drugs, and so on. Belize is a very poor country and the ship even warned us to not wander around on our own outside the compound. So be careful. But our table-mates did some diving and said it was spectacular. CASINO: We are both frequent travelers to Vegas, but the Carnival Casino was still pretty fun. They had lots of slots, video poker, and video keno and blackjack. Table games included roulette, blackjack, craps, let it ride, and carribean stud poker. We mostly play BJ and craps. Had decent luck at BJ overall. They only have 1 craps table and they really need 2 or 3. That table was either closed (they don't open it until the aftenoon and evening for some reason) or it was packed with 40 or 50 people. So packed that we never got to play. But those who did seemed to be winning. ROOM: We were in R11 on the lowest deck. Room was nice - we had booked an interior stateroom but were upgraded to this room which was exterier with 2 port holes. I think it was because there were only 2 of us and there were lots of families who probably needed rooms for 4. CRUISE DIRECTOR: The cruise director (Risa) was good, but she said she is transferring to the Celebration soon. She did a Q&A session the last day that talked about cruise life as a staffer. That was fascinating - those people really work hard. TIPS: Carnival now charges $10 per person per day ($70 each for this cruise). We were fine with that - most of that money goes to the room steward and the dining room staff, all of whom did a great job. People NOT included in that fee are the Maitre'D (turns out he is in charge of all the waiters and the flow of the meal, not just for seating arrangements - give the guy a tip the last day); the musical talent, who were very good; the shuttle bus drivers and tour guides on your tours in ports. Get some dollar bills from the casino (for the shuttle bus drivers) and some 5's or 10's for the tour guides. Tips are the main source of income for these people and they deserve something. THINGS I WOULD CHANGE: The movies shown in the room recycled a lot and by the end of the week we had seen them all. Thought they should have a few new ones each day. The ship is a little hard to navigate the first day but easy after that. SEASICKNESS: Not a problem for us. It was a little rocky the last 2 days (a hurricane was nearby) but we didn't feel nauseated. I kind of compare it to flying - you can tell when the plane is going up or down or turning but it isn't distressing. DEBARKING: No matter what you do, this is a long procedure. Our color was the last color to be called, and it wasn't called until 11am. There was apparently a long holdup with immigration for the first hour and that threw everything behind. Once we went through immigration, we went to get our bags, walked through customs without a problem, and then had to go get the car (again, you have to leave all your passengers and luggage at the terminal and go back and pick them up). By then there were people arriving to be dropped off so that was utter chaos and it was really hard to find my brother in all the mess. Other than some patience and perhaps some Valium, I don't know what would make this go any smoother. OVERALL IMPRESSION: We both had a good time. You can be as active or inactive as you like, and no one will care. I would do another Carnival cruise but probably would do different ports just for the variety. I was a little disappointed in Belize (see above comments). But overall, I felt like the cruise was relaxing, the scenery was beautiful, and the price was very reasonable.

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Jul 31, 2004

Western Caribbean

As extensive travelers and past cruisers, we looked forward to introducing our adult children and grandchildren to the world of cruising. We are not picky or demanding people. Bending with the wind and going with the flow in any given situation is more our motes operant. We went onboard with the ‘you make a cruise what you want of it” attitude. However, there is a limit to anyone’s patience and tolerance. We’re sorry to say, ours

was stretched to the extreme on this trip. Please bare in mind, we wish not to dissuade anyone from taking a cruise. This is only our experience we report on. PARKING: We discovered EZ Cruise Parking online (www.ezcruiseparking.com), made advanced reservations, and were extremely pleased with the location (one block from the ship) and service we received. The attendants loaded our luggage into the shuttle, delivered us promptly to the terminal, and assisted us in finding a porter to handle our luggage. Upon our return, we found EZ waiting for us with an air-conditioned bus. Without delay, they loaded us up and whisked us back to our vehicle. We highly recommend this parking facility for the Galveston cruiser. EMBARKATION: We encountered mass chaos at the terminal, with departing passengers pushing and shoving to get out of the terminal. Buses, shuttles, taxis, and private cars challenged each other for space to drop off and pick up passengers. One wrong step placed you in grave danger of being hit by a charging vehicle. The situation was basically a “survival of the fittest”. The police and/or port authority attempting to direct the grossly congested traffic were less than effective. After processing through the scanning station, we were directed to the Skipper’s Club while the others in our group were routed through normal check in. The clerks were cordial and efficient, but that was the extent of the VIP processing. We finished in the same amount of time the normal check in lines did. At this point, the herding of passengers began and continued throughout the cruise. Our VIP status did not afford early boarding as promised. We moved with the rest of the cruise cattle. Abbreviated instructions were given and we were put into line to get on the ship. Passenger comfort was not of priority. From beginning to end of the cruise, the rule of the day was ‘hurry, move faster, get out of the way, don’t ask questions, don’t ask for anything’. SHIP CONDITION: The Elation’s décor was based on the Greek Muses, but the color scheme made the interior appear to be dark and small. There was a musty order to the carpets in the hallways and rooms. During the cruise, one elevator or another was being repaired. The Lido deck proved to be hazardous when the salt-water pool was open. Two four foot rubber mats were placed end to end at the ladder leading up to the slide, but the remaining exposed deck around the pool was very slippery. We witnessed a few bad falls by young and old passengers. The other malady was the ongoing severe rolling of the ship, which kept most passengers reeling and unsteady. Very few were unaffected by the intense rocking, dispelling the belief that you do not feel the motion on the larger ships. The general comments were suspicion that the stabilizers were not being activated. Throughout the cruise, sections of the ship were being blocked to the passengers due to repairs of one sort of another, making getting around the ship difficult. CABIN: Our balcony cabin on the Veranda deck was a major disappointment. We’d expected it to be small, but the old, worn carpet, bedspreads and drapery left much to be desired. The musty odor took some getting used to. The balcony was just large enough to accommodate two plastic lawn chairs. Sitting down was like threading a needle. You had to hold the rail and skinny between it and the chair to sit down. The enormous price was worth paying to quietly watch coming in and leaving each port. The room safe was nice to have and proved to have no problems with security. The refrigerator was a Godsend for keeping our special meds cool and safe. The cabin was constantly hot due to ineffective air conditioning. We never got this issue resolved with ship’s maintenance. Our many requests were ignored. FOOD: Main dining: dismal with little or no variation. Atmosphere music…crashing dishes and staff falling on wet floors. Getting wine and mixed drinks was quick and easy (naturally, since this was extra expense on the passenger). However, getting a simple glass of tea (one of very few freebies) took an act of Congress. It normally arrived after the meal was over. Tiffany’s: better than the main dining room with a better, wider variety. Room Service: limited menu, but very prompt arrival. Specialty cafes: only open certain hours, except the pizza bar where your choice was limited. Coffee: The coffee islands offered a very strong, bitter serving of coffee. STAFF: Cabin Stewards - High marks for V15 attendants. They went above and beyond their duties to take care of us. Waiter - table 199, Imagination dining room. This man should find another line of work. He was rude, pushy, arrogant, and completely unable to understand what you wanted. On the formal night, my husband had pulled my chair out to seat me. The waiter jerked the chair out of his hand, shoved it into the back of my knees, causing me to fall into the chair, and then he shoved me into the table. He avoided taking orders for tea. You had to step out in front of him to get him to bring it to the table, normally after the meal was over. We never went back to the dining room again, ate the rest of our meals at Tiffany’s. Busboy - not much better than the waiter. Maitre’d - not a clue who this was, never saw him. Security - the most arrogant and ill mannered of all the ships crews. Sea-going Gestapo. Bar Attendants - Tiffany’s bar – good; Lido deck bar- very bad manners, disrespectful. Photo Gallery - very cute lady with nice sense of humor when she wasn’t inundated with unruly crowds. Purser Staff - Curt, short, and seeming lost as to what they were supposed to do. Cruise Director - Risa -very nice lady. Ass’t Cruise Director: Janie-best person onboard the ship, funny, entertaining, helpful. Room Service - extremely nice staff, quick and efficient. Photographers - obnoxious, rude, disrespectful…total paparazzi…would not take no for an answer, forced their photo taking on you, and became hateful if you refused. SAIL AND SIGN: The onboard credit card took some getting used to, but proved to be better than having to carry large amounts of cash around. The one problem we saw was there was no distinguishing between an adult card and a minor’s card. We witnessed underage alcoholic drink purchases being made all over the ship. All the teens had to do was wander around and find out which bartenders would ignore the rules and sell liquor to them. The kids had an information network for their pleasure-needs up and running in short time after boarding. Billing statements didn’t arrive until the last night with the warning that you’d be publicly embarrassed over the PA system if you were overcharged and didn’t settle up with the purser. If you queried prior to the statements were issued, you were greeted with distain. There was no way to check on your balance on the television as advertised and questions about that was not welcomed or answered. FUN DRINK CARD: This card proved to be more hassle than helpful. You could only buy very small (six ounces) fountain drinks, which were extremely diluted. To get a bottled drink or canned drink, you had to use the Sail and Sign card and pay twice the price. Also, you had to present one card per drink when you tried to purchase more than one drink at a time, i.e. husband and wife had to present their individual cards to get a less-than-satisfying cold drink. PORTS OF CALL: Progresso: great shopping in a primitive little street market. Cozumel: very tourist oriented town. Paradise Beach had many water toys and excursions offered. San Francisco beach was wonderful. Disembarking was not a pleasant experience. We were pushed, shoved, shouted at, whistles blown in our ears by the ship’s staff and local law enforcement, with no explanation for the heavy-handed treatment. Belize: Cannot make comment on this port since we were very distressed by this time and opted to stay onboard. ONBOARD ACTIVITIES: Shows - mediocre. Games - only slightly better than the shows. Casino - crowded and loud. Karaoke - dominated by the unruly, unsupervised teenagers. Swimming pool - too small for the number of passengers. Closed too early each night. Ping Pong Tables - unusable due to unruly teens. Basketball court - no comment. Spas - overpriced and over-advertised, Galleria Mall - a few good sales, but over all overpriced. Photo Gallery - one of the worst issues onboard…ill organized, ill located, and ill staffed. Many people were unable to find the day’s pictures. The gallery was only open in the evening hours and in the worst location. DEBARKATION: This only went moderately better than embarkation. The staff began shutting down the pool, game rooms, refreshment areas, and even decks the night before, leaving the passengers use of very limited areas of the ship. Our group had the orange colored tags, which put us off the ship by nine am. Make sure you put something very noticeable on your luggage handles so it stands out in the mounds of ‘tossed’ luggage inside the terminal. TERMINAL PORTERS: This man was wonderful. He wadded in and found our luggage for us. We followed behind him as he created an opening in the crowd for us to walk through. We handsomely tipped him for his courageous effort. GENERAL COMMENTS: CCL advertises their cruises as being the best bargain in vacations packages, XX% all-inclusive…this is far from the case. CCL neglects to mention all the subtle charges, fees, and extras you encounter at every step on board. The passenger is bombarded with non-stop hawking of this sale, that special, and other money-grabbing announcements over the PA system. Once on board, the passenger becomes the hooked fish waiting to be reeled in. If you are an older cruiser, we suggest you pick trips during the school year. Also, from June first to November is the hurricane season. We were hesitant to believe some of the stories told on various online message boards about how the children were running amuck, uncontrolled, unruly, and totally disrespectful of other passengers. We now, without hesitation, verify this to be true. They take over the ship like an infestation. There is no such thing as a quiet night stroll around the deck. You will be approached by pot smoking, cigarette -bumming, booze-mooching teens. The open decks are littered with drunken teens until early morning. Stairways are hazardous to navigate due to children running helter-skelter and hazardous litter from the night before. Elevators are a nightmare with unsupervised, screaming children using them as play toys. Between the rude, ill-mannered staff and unruly, unsupervised teenagers, this cruise brought us to realize that the loud, rowdy, unfriendly, alcohol-driven ‘Fun Ships’ are not what we wish to sail the seas on any more. We will move on to more sophisticated ships.

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Jul 10, 2004

Western Caribbean

My family & I (DH, 7yr old, 10yr old) went on the 7/11 Elation cruise. This was our 3rd cruise as a family and we had a good time. However, we did have one continuous issue for the first 5 days, more on this later.. The day we left, we were all very excited, my 2 boys couldn’t wait to meet other kids (and they met a bunch & no they weren’t the ones running between peoples legs or playing in the elevators! Lol). We boarded

about 1pm so we were able to go straight to our cabin to dump off our carry ons and then we went to grab some lunch and explore the ship. The ship was very clean, there were some signs of wear and tear but still clean. ? We had requested an early seating for dinner but we were assigned the late sitting. Upon returning from dinner the first night, our cabin carpet near the door was damp. We weren’t sure why. First day at sea, the boys were itching to SWIM, so off we went. That lasted a couple of hours and then they needed additional entertainment so off to Camp Carnival they went. I was relieved. I went back to the cabin to find standing water (at least an inch) in the bathroom. I was a little grossed out but I just threw all of the towels down and paged the stewardess. She came by and informed us that the night before while we were at dinner that she had discovered the same situation and had called the plummer (ie. wet carpet) and he had come to fix it. He again was called and returned to try and open the drain where the water was rising up from (clean water or sewage tainted?), as he worked on this he would stomp through the water and onto the carpet. All I could do was leave and shake my head. Later that day upon returning, no water but wet carpet and a wet smell. I told my stewardess that afternoon but nothing was done. That evening getting ready for dinner, the water was draing very slow and after 4 showers, more water in bathroom. JEEZ. Tuesday morning I finally went to the pursers desk. They said they would send the HEAD pummer to evaluate. Wednesday, still not fixed, still rising, I am getting frusterated. I go to see the purser again, they assure me that the HEAD plummer says it is fixed. I assure them that it is not, they reply with, “I will have it looked at again.” Through all of this I NEVER acted ugly or threw a fit because I thought if I was very polite they would want to hurry and fix this instead of if I was hateful they would think, “what a witch, let her suffer.” Thursday, smell increasingly worse, returned to purser, they finally had someone shampoo the carpet. For “my trouble” they sent me 3 5x7 photo coupons. Oh by the way, I failed to mention the drain contiuously gurgled day and night like water was trapped and bubbling in there, very annoying but just kept thinking that surely it would be taken care of soon.On the last night of the cruise they sent me a letter with a voucher for 15% off of our next cruise. Not hardly compesation for the ordeal. I just wished they would have changed our room to another one without the problem. BUT, we NEVER let this really bother us. We had a ton of fun, the stewardess was very nice, the dining room staff was very nice (DH & I only ate there 5 nights & never breakfast or lunch and my 2 boys only ate 2 nights with us there, with the late sitting it was easier to eat on the Lido). The first port was Progresso, we did not book an excursion because the ruin were just too far to sit on a bus and listen to my kids complain so we went to town, shopped and then walked over to the beach. Very pretty. The boys of course wanted to swim and their suits were on the ship (five miles down that long road) so we went over to their market and bought them some shorts to swim in, easier then returning to the ship! They had a lot of fun. Their town is very clean but seems to be very poverty stricken. None of the local children had shoes on and I am sure the concrete was very hot. The second port was Cozumel, this is our third time there so we got in a cab and went down to a beach that had umbrellas, a swimming pool and a restaurant. It was great. We snorkeled some and then the kids swam in the pool. We stayed several hours then returned to the ship to shower and change and then we headed to town to shop and eat. What a fun and tiring day! The third port was Belize. We received ta ticket for tender #2 and we were off of the boat but and in Belize by 10am. We weren’t sure what we were going to do there but decided on the cave tubing. It was great! Very reasonable at $160 for the 4 of us (on the ship it was $89 a person). We went on a 15 passenger van with a guide who gave us a tour and some background knowledge of Belize. It was a nice day. With this being our third time, we had learned to NOT book an excursion through the ship. It is way to expensive. No matter what port you go to, there are many people there trying to sell you a tour for much less. We learned this when we had sailed previously to Cayman and purchased a tour with the stingrays. When we got there, people were buying from the man driving our bus for ½ the price we paid and going with us on the same excursion. We learned our lesson! J I am sure I am leaving something out. Please ask questions.

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Jun 12, 2004

Western Caribbean

I cannot say enough good things about this experience! My wife and I and our two teenage sons were first time cruisers. We had booked the Cat 11 suite with the small balcony - WELL worth the price - BUT - the cabins Below V30 on either side have their views blocked by the lifeboats !!! Ours was not and it was wonderful. We had the boys directly across the hall in their own small, inside cabin. Boarding was a breeze for us - and I don't

know why. We were taken to the Skipper Club and all our boarding documents were already there - we were escourted directly to the ship. I don't think it was the cabin class but maybe it was... anyway, it was great. The food, entertainment and activities that Carnival offers are perfect for the large age group they have aboard. There were kids from 1 - 90 and there seemed to be something for everyone most of the time. The food was great as well. I have eaten in some of the best resturants in the world - Carnival does a spledid job of serving at least 4-star food to hundreds of people in a two hours seating. I don't know how they manage it but we never felt rushed and the selections were varied and very well presented. I never - ever - met an unfriendly face, voice or person working in the staff or the crew. Everyone and I mean everyone down to the little guys painting over small scratches in the walls were very polite - always. We liked being up on deck 11. I admit that the water was pretty calm for the whole trip but I don't really think it would have mattered that much if it had not been. Being up high in the ship, I think, made a big difference in the hall traffic.... it was always quiet in our area and we were just one deck up from the Lido deck - a mainstay during the whole trip. For the money, I don't think you could beat this vacation value. If you want to be pampered at a one - to - one level - then you need to spend 3 times what this cruise costs. The ship was super clean - well managed - and well liked by everyone we came into contact with.

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May 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

We came from Alabama, Florida and Texas. "We" are six girls who graduated from high school together....some 40 + years ago, off on our annual spring fling. We are particular, fussy, finnicky and hard to please. We have had some wonderful adventures together but never tried a cruise. We chose Carnival, frankly, because it was convenient and thought it would be a good way to test the water, so to speak. We came away from our week

on the Elation, totally elated! Our trip started with an overnight in Galveston at The Holiday Inn on the Beach, as it was one of the few hotels on the island that would take a one night booking. I cannot say enough about this hotel. We have never encountered a staff quite like this one. They literally work overtime to please their guests. Case in point being the shuttle driver who dropped us at Guides and told us to take our time...he got off at 10:pm but waited until well past 10:30 for us to finish. We took advantage of the Holiday Inn free parking for cruise customers and used their shuttle service to and from the dock. Our driver was Rodney, who was more than cheerful about loading and unloading our many bags. With a twinkle in his eye, as he lifted the 4th big bag onto the van, he said, " so you ladies are off on a months cruise?"....Our kind of guy! He told us exactly where to meet him upon debarkation, we had no sooner gotten our bags together than he appeared). Carnival seems to have boarding down to a fine science....it was fast and worry free. >From the time we were dropped off at the dock until we were on deck, with a drink in hand was less than an hour. We had three cabins in a row on Rivera deck and were very pleased with the amount of room we had. We had read a review from an earlier cruiser advising packing an over the door shoe bag...a great tip, as it came in very handy for makeup, and various sundries that would normally clutter up a bathroom counter. By the time we finished muster, our bags were waiting for us in the hallway. We brought aboard a soft side ice chest that held cokes, water, a gallon bottle of Vodka and Bloody Mary mix, all of which made it up with our luggage unscathed. Floyd, our room steward had his work cut out for him, but he kept us well supplied with ice and anything else we needed and ran his area cheerfully and efficiently. We had the late seating in the Imagination dining room and were well served nightly by Steven and Rommel. They were fun and very good at what they do. You can't help being impressed with Carnival's food service when you consider how many meals they prepare and serve daily. During the course of a week we all had different favorites, but can't remember a time when we were truly unhappy with any of our selections. At the end of the cruise there seemed to be allot of pressure to tip the maitre d'...this didn't sit particularly well with our group, as we rarely saw him and were only greeted by him at the door on our last night. If we had any dining room criticism it would be: If the maitre d' wants a tip, he should make a point at some time during the week, to briefly visit at each table. We had prepaid our tips but were more than happy to tip over and above to those who gave over and above. We seemed to gravitate to the Empress deck each evening for cocktails before dinner and a few minutes with the wonderful trio that plays there nightly. This bar is just outside of the Photo studio, which also deserves some mention. What a cute and friendly bunch they are...Leah, was always on hand to greet us and seemed to know immediately in which direction to point us to find our current pictures. The entire photo staff made looking at our sometimes ghastly photos a fun part of our cruise experience. We had read grumblings about the ubiquitous photographers, but we decided it was all part of the total experience, posed when they asked us to, and only bought what we wanted. We all took advantage of the spa, in one capacity or another. I highly recommend Edwin in the hair salon for a cut and style....really one of the best cuts I've had in years. Several of us opted for the treadmills for morning workouts....less windy than the outside track. Our Monday at Sea, was extremely windy. However, this didn't deter us from finding our place in the sun, but did send us chasing hats and towels across the deck a few times Part of our group did the Chichen Itza tour in Progresso and were very pleased with the experience. Two of us did the Hacienda Tour, which was interesting and we had darling young guides, Mario and Vicco). The tour included one church and one hacieda, I would have liked a few more stops for comparisons. They did however, serve us a delightful light lunch on the veranda and were most anxious to share any information they could. We passed a public market in Progresso that I think would be worth exploring...maybe next time. In Cozumel three of our group did the kayak trip and loved it. Three of us went to Chankanaab and did the Royal Swim with Dolphins which we had booked online prior to departure. Recommend this highly, it was very exhilarating and showing your pictures when you get home will make you a hero to your kids. The Gardens at Chankanaab are well worth the trip. In the afternoon we took a cab out to El Sol Cabanas del Caribe for margaritas with Trinidad. If you are tired of touristy things by this time, I suggest this quiet get away. A small hotel, off the beaten path, with a lovely restaurant right on the water, and Trini's palapa bar on the beach. Quiet and restful...wish we'd had more time to enjoy the peace and quiet....next time! Belize was a nice surprise. We all did the Altun Ha and City Tour, with very knowledgeable young guides who gave us a great overview of Belize. It reminded me allot of early trips to the Yucatan, before cruise ships and huge hotel complexes. We had an enjoyable lunch in the courtyard of the Smoky Mermaid, within walking distance of the tender dock. Bought Belizean Cashew Wine at Altun Ha on a whim, and was pleasently surprised to find a poor mans version of Chateau d'Quiem...wish I had bought more bottles...next time! The last two days onboard were leisurely and delightful, each of us doing our own thing and meeting up occasionally for latte or lunch on the Lido deck, (I highly recommend the grilled potato and yam salad at Tiffany's). The casino onboard is small but they made loosing almost enjoyable. We tried the art auction, but lost interest early on. Several of us are veteran auction goers and thought this could have been more exciting...starting the bidding lower and working up would have allowed more people to get involved, a good auctioneer can always get his price. We all decided the shopping onboard was a nice surprise....good selections, good prices, and personable and helpful salespeople The piano bar was fun, particularly for Elton John and Billy Joel fans. We never made it into the karaoke bar, but were told it can be the best entertainment onboard. The shows we attended in the Mikado were well done and very entertaining...our big complaint being that there are too many onboard options for a seven day cruise....There will definitely be a next time!!!! I guess if you are looking for things to grumble and groan about, you would be able to find plenty....little things that aren't worth ruining a vacation over. There are so many options onboard that if one doesn't suit you, something else surely will. We all decided it was the perfect trip for a group with different interests and different expectations. Tip: Take a set of walkie-talkies, it will definitely help cut down on the time spent chasing your group from one deck or venue to the other...sounds silly, but getting lost onboard was a daily occurrence that made for a bit of frustration and lots of giggles. A quick PS: The unsung heroes of the Carnival fleet are all those people you pass everywhere, constantly cleaning and polishing, always with a smile or pleasant greeting...a very impressive crew.

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May 15, 2004

Progresso, Cozumel, Belize

Parking- We have now tried both the Port Authority parking and the Dolphin Parking lot. The price is about the same. (You can pay $7 more for a covered space at Dolphin.) The port authority system has you drop off your bags and passengers, at the terminal and drive, down a private road, to the parking lot. There you pay $60 to park for a week. A bus brings you back. You do not have to wait long for a bus, once a bus pulls behind the

bus you are in, it takes off for the terminal. They usually do not wait for the bus to fill. As long as there is another there, they leave. You can complete the process in 20 minutes. The only thing time consuming is the drive back to the terminal. Depending upon the time of day, there can be quite a bit of traffic going to the terminals. After the cruise it is a simple procedure to get on a bus and return with your car for your passenger and bags. This may take 20 minutes. The Dolphin parking lot advertises that this is “The quickest way to the ship.” DO NOT BELIEVE THIS! Just about every other way will probably be quicker. We arrived at 11:40. We waited, with our baggage for exactly an hour before we could get on a bus. There were people, on our bus, that had waited since 11:00. The busses have to deal with people leaving the ship, and their baggage. They load them and then unload them. Then they load you and your baggage. This is very time consuming. After the cruise we were at the curb at 9:30. We stood there for about an hour before we could get on a bus to our lot. We were told by our tablemates that across the street from the Elation is the “EZ” park (Easy Park?) parking lot. They charge $35 and you carry your own bags across the street to the ship. This is not the easiest of walks, but is possible. The best thing might be to stay at a Galveston hotel that allows you to park your car there for the week. They will also usually shuttle you to the ship. If not you can take a cab. The Ships, R = Rhapsody, E = Elation Food locations: While E has more lounges and places to eat, the main dining room on R is very large. It is two stories with a open area in the center. This gives you a roomier feel. E has two smaller formal dining rooms, with low ceilings. On E, navigating from one dining room to the other is impossible without going up or down a flight of stairs, they are on the same floor but not connected by a hallway. You have to walk up and down a flight of stairs, walk to another stairway, then back up or down to the dining room. Both ships have casual dining areas. As mentioned in other reviews, for the same price, the staterooms appear to be a little larger on Carnival. This was nice. Entertainment: E appears to have more music venues than R. The musicians on both ships are very good. The main show room on E is the Mikado Lounge. This place is terrible for seating. Someone in a previous review mentioned the columns and seating arrangements. They were being kind. There are 10 to 15 columns scattered about the small auditorium. Unless you are in the first few rows, you WILL have one OR MORE of these in your view. I would venture to say that half the people in the theater have really bad seats. The seats are made up of round booths. This means that half of the people will be required to turn sideways to see the stage. The main theater on R is large and most of the seats offer good views. The one other thing that stands out about the main shows on the Elation, compared to Rhapsody is the time schedule. On both ships there is a late and early dinner seating. On R there are two shows. While the early eaters are dining, the late seating is enjoying the show. This is around 5:30 or 6:00. While the late dinner seating is going on the early diners are enjoying their show. This is at 8:00. I thought that this was a really good system. This also allowed the casual diners to pick a show that is best for them. On E there is only one big show and this starts at 10:30 every night. Once the cruise director comes out and talks about the next day’s activities or whatever and two acts are seen, the show goes beyond midnight. If one has had a full day of activities, this is hard to stay up for. On R the shows are mostly variety entertainment with a headliner. This might be a magic act or whatever. We enjoyed the shows very much. On E, two of the shows were the big Vegas dance shows. You know, g-strings, giant feathers etc. Not our taste. Food- Several reviews have mentioned that they thought the food on Elation was sub par. I thought they these people might have been just picky eaters. They were right. I tried three omelets. All of them were not that good. They were over cooked to the point of being black on the edges. When they were folded over, they broke in half. I could list things like cold and gritty clam chowder, unrecognizable “Southern fried chicken”, and a poor pizza selection. I have forgotten how many things were found to be served cold by our tablemates and us. The desert selection on Elation was nothing to rave about. The cheesecake is dry according to everyone at our table. The cookies at lunch look like they just came out of a Chips Ahoy box. Each day they have a “Sweet Treats” serving from 3:30 to 4:30 in the Tiffany (casual) dining room. This always consisted of only little triangles of pound cake and a few things you could put on it if you wished. For example, Chocolate syrup, coconut, etc. E did have a 24 soft serve ice cream machine. You could get chocolate or vanilla. Elation does have a place to BUY better deserts. You can get special coffees and better cheesecake, etc. here. We tried it once for an afternoon snack. The other people there agreed that it was NOT the best carrot or chocolate cake we have ever had. They also SELL real ice cream here. By comparison, Rhapsody has a large selection of fresh made cookies and pastries that is served at lunchtime. This stays out, in the Windjammer Café for most of the afternoon. Since we had a late supper seating we would make a habit of an afternoon snack in the Solarium. This included, for me, some of the best oatmeal/raisin cookies I have ever had. Both ships had a place where you could get hot dogs or hamburgers almost any time. On E the selection of food for lunch was just not that good. The selection on R was much better, for both breakfast and lunch. The omelet cooks on Rhapsody, in the Windjammer Café, were good. Pool Deck- Elation probably wins this one. E has a water slide and might be a little larger. R’s pool area is nice but probably not as fun for kids. Staff- Rhapsody promotes itself as “The Friendliest Ship”. While I would say that there is nothing wrong with Elation’s crew, R was probably friendlier and more professional. But this is like comparing an “A” to an “A+” score. The casino staff on Elation were very nice. (Even though I won on R and lost on E.) Conclusion- We had a good time on both ships. But the best part of the cruise on Elation had to be our tablemates for dinner. My wife and I tend to keep to ourselves but these people were so much fun. We compared days ashore and supported each other in games and activities. If I had to choose I would pick the Rhapsody over the Elation. The food and the entertainment were superior on Rhapsody. Part of this was due to the poor seating situation, and times, on Elation. We will probably always choose Royal Caribbean over Carnival in the future. Ports- We have never taken a ship-sponsored excursion and probably never will. This is not to say that ship excursions are bad. They serve a valuable purpose and there is a place for them. Sometimes you can save money by booking your own excursions but there are risks involved. It is not for everyone. There also some things that are best handled by the ship. It just depends upon what you want to do. Progresso- Not much here. This is a place to get transportation to another place. You can choose between several Mayan ruins sites. The distance to the ruins range from 15 minutes to 2.5 hours. The “pier” is five miles long. There is a bus that takes you to the city. As soon as you get off the ship, you enter the cruise ship terminal. This is a new facility that offers all the same excursions you can find on the ship for about 60% of the price. If you go into town you can get them for about half price. The bus lets you off in a little tourist area of the city. We took a $5, open-air bus, tour of the city. This lets you get off to see something and then catch the next bus if you wish. DO YOUR SHOPPING IN PROGRESO! The prices are mush better here. I stopped to look at one of those hammock swings. I asked the price. “$50!” my disinterest cause him to say, “Today only $35.” I shook my head. He said, “How about $25?” I started to walk off. He said, “OK, $13” Around the corner there was a guy with a sign advertising them for $10. You will not get deals like this in Cozumel. I bought my wife a shell necklace for $4. Progresso is not a very good place. While we never really felt threatened or unsafe, we were offered cigars, cocaine, and hashish. Cozumel – There are several things to do here. We have always just rented a scooter to do this. My wife loves sitting on the back of a scooter even though a little car is just $5 more. They are easy to find and rent. They are just outside the gates of both terminals. (Don’t believe the car rental salesmen who will tell you that they are not available.) You can see Mayan ruins in several locations. The best is reported to be San Gervasio in the center of the island. But it is not the easiest to get to. There is a road or path that goes south from the ships that is just for bicycles and scooters. This road takes you to several places. Going south in order: Chaakanaab Park – Very pretty. Snorkeling, dolphins etc. $10 each admission. Playa Corona – This is a little beach café with tables and umbrellas. There is no admission charge. It is probably one of the best places to snorkel or dive from the beach. Entry is easier than some other places. They will watch after your bags and gear while you swim. All they ask is $1 for a table and 1$ for showers. They also sell drinks etc. Their prices for renting snorkeling gear was very reasonable. You can get everything you need for $8 - $10 a person Paradise Peach – This is connected to a resort. This place is VERY NICE. A beautiful beach, nice umbrellas, a bar area you won’t believe, kayaks etc. Sometimes they have a live band. Cost: 0. All they ask is for your bar business. Bringing in your own drinks is not allowed. El Cedral Mayan Ruins – Just go a little further south from Paradise Beach and you will see a large arch on the left. You can’t miss it. You have to pay an admission fee. There are other things, such as a wildlife preserve, on further south, but we have never gone there. People say that the wildlife preserve is great. Grand Cayman – We walked on shore without a plan. As soon as we got off the tender we saw a nicely dressed man holding up a sign that said “Tour of Island”. We asked him how much. $15 each. “When does it depart?” “When you are ready.” We toured the island with five other people from our ship. We saw the Turtle Farm, Hell, Seven Mile Beach, The Governor’s home, the Run Cake factory and more. He could not have been nicer and more knowledgeable. It was more fun than we could have imagined. Belize- There were all kinds of excursions offered from the ship. The ship anchors four miles out to sea. The excursion seemed to be designed to prevent one from actually stepping foot on the mainland. A boat picks you up from the ship, takes you to a small island or up a river or to a landing where you are picked up by a bus. We wanted to see Belize. We waited until all the excursion people had their turn to leave the ship and we took a tender to shore. There is a tourist compound on the shore. This is nothing more than a place where you can by souvenirs. Note: There is an open-air market outside where you can get slightly better deals. But you can’t just leave the compound unescorted. We saw a small woman holding up a sign that informed us that we could be driven anywhere we wanted to for a fee. After talking with her we decide that we wanted to go to the “Baboon Preserve”. We asked if we could see the driver and the vehicle before putting down $40 each. She said that she would take us herself. For $80 we had our own driver take us to the jungle and there a very knowledgeable guide took us in to see Howler monkeys. This was a trip of a lifetime. Howler Monkeys are indescribable. http://208.55.3.170/spanish/guide/pa/pa05.html http://www.watauga.k12.nc.us/staff/felkera/Howler_3.JPG This was not a “Preserve” in the way you might be thinking. This is just an area of 25 sq miles with as many people as monkeys. (About 1500) The tour through the city and the 30 mile drive from town, along with all the strange animals that are in Belize made this one of the highlights of the entire cruise. We are ready to go back to Belize for a week. But don’t misunderstand; Belize is a very impoverished country. There are only three traffic lights in the entire country. They had four until a hurricane damaged one. This is an adventure. Our driver was Marcia Garcia. She attended the most prestigious high school in the country and went to university. Her website is: http://www.cbelize.com

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Mar 14, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our first time traveling on a cruise-liner and can honestly say we had a wonderful time on the Elation. Cabins: The rooms were small but then we did hear they were considered larger than other ships so we figured we were okay with their size. The only thing about our cabin was we had three adults staying in our room with two adult twin beds and one small "cot" that had you practically sleeping on the floor. We requested

that bed to be switched out for another bed that sat higher and it was immediately brought to our room within a couple of hours. It wasn't like the other twin beds but was much better. Our steward was great - - very friendly and offered assistance with a smile on his face each time. We enjoyed our towel pets each evening. Last but not least about the cabins - they were really clean. The Photo Gallery: Probably could have used a more organized system of laying out the photos for viewing/purchasing even though we seemed to find ours fairly quickly. The pics were very clear in quality. Dining: The Lido Deck restaurant, Tiffany's, was okay. Probably could have had a larger selection of entrees. The salad bar was good. Didn't try the ice cream or desserts. The 24-hr pizzeria was okay too. Marguerita was the better out of all of the selections. The Caesar salads were very good. The pizza servers were very nice and accommodating. The pool-side grill was good. The burgers and fries were good. Didn't try the desserts but they looked okay. The grill servers were very courteous and always smiled. All of the drink waiters were very friendly and accommodating. VERY PROMPT Service! Ramile (pool-side waiter) was very friendly and called us by our first names. We laughed at that because he seemed to remember all of us and there were so many in our group! Imagination Dining Room / Inspiration Dining Room: Ivan, our Assistant Maitre'D, was very friendly and funny. He came by our table each night to sing his personal rendition of James Brown's "I Feel Good". We really enjoyed his company even if it was for a short time each night. He welcomed us in each evening and said good night to us as we left. Our waiter, Robert S. of South Africa, in the Imagination Room was very professional. He started out a bit quiet but as time went on he was cutting up with us all. Robert put smiles on our faces each and every evening and had the best sense of humor. He found time during his busy evenings to joke with us all at our early 6:15p dining table 108 and still provided the best professional service each and every time. We will truly miss him and hope to see him again on future cruises. The Mikado Lounge shows: We're really not that big into the Vegas style shows. These were okay. Comedy night was fun. Didn't participate in Bingo. Cole Porter Lounge: We had a great time listening and watching the band, The Dirt Poets. They were pretty cool and played a lot of our favorites. The drummer, Don Smith, was awesome. The whole band had a great sense of humor as well. It was fun each and every night and they managed to put up with our song requests even if they didn't play some of them. The wait staff needed a bit improvement. They probably need to be a bit more attentive in providing service, but they were friendly and prompt when we requested them. The Piano Bar was fun, too. The piano guy, Joel, was fun. We didn't hear him play too long but the short time we did he was good. Too bad there was a young drunk girl in there who kept interrupting his performance; however, she was eventually escorted out by Security. What a relief for her sake and ours. Tea-time and dessert was good there, too. It was a quaint atmosphere and service was very professional. The cruise director, Larry, was such a good speaker. He was very motivating and provided the most important information. He was a lot of fun. The assistant cruise director, Amy, seemed fun. A bit loud, but seemed to have fun with the younger aged groups. The duty-free shops were okay. Prices were pretty reasonable - especially the liquor. The Ports: We had a good time in Progreso, Mexico. The beach was beautiful. Our tour guide was good and very funny. We toured some of the Mayan ruins and spent the rest of the time at the beach. Cozumel: Playa de Sol. The buffet wasn't too great. It seemed they served more American food than Mexican food. We should have ordered from the menu. The guacamole and totopos tortilla chips were awesome and worth ordering. The shopping was okay but really expensive. I bought a dress for my little girl for $8 in Progreso and Cozumel vendors wanted $28+ for the same dress and would not negotiate. The water was beautiful. It was Spring Break so we did expect the party crowd. It was fun even though it poured down for a while. Belize: We made the mistake of getting a late start. We did take a while trying to figure out what we were going to do after learning Belize had no local beaches. The beaches were quite a drive and cost a lot to go to. We ended up taking a 30-minute drive to a river (sorry, forgot the name) and had a great time. It was a very beautiful river. The water was shallow enough to swim and the kids had a chance to swing from a rope swing into the water. It was well worth it. Our guides were very nice and had a good sense of humor. They shared with us their knowledge about their culture and gave us a few good tips along the way. We had to be back early to catch the last tender back to the ship. When we arrive at the pier, we decided to eat at the restaurant, . It was okay. The Jerk Chicken sandwich was very good. The margaritas weren't good at all. Overall, we wish we had more time to see Belize. We probably would have had a better time. We had a wonderful time on the Elation and would highly recommend it to others. We do hope to go on another cruise again one day and will definitely consider The Elation as a future choice. Thanks to all of the crew for such wonderful service and good times! G & C

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Mar 7, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my first time on a Carnival ship. It was the beginning of Spring Break and you could certainly tell from the number of young children and teenagers. Next cruise for me will be when school is in session! Where where the parents? Kids were running everywhere without them. Enough said. The food was very good, but the desserts seems stale. I am a fish lover and was not dissappointed. On the first formal night we had lobster tail.

Those who love beef would not be dissapointed either. Filets and prime rib were also good according to my table mates. The wine selection was more than adequate. Getting in and out of Galveston is the biggest headache. Be patient! And take a good book. I must say that all the Carnival employees I encountered were more than helpful, polite and ready with a smile to assist. I did not like the way the photographs from the ship's photographer were displayed though- it was very difficult to find my pictures. Oh, and girls- if you are single and hoping to meet single men--just go and have fun--mostly familes and couples on board. The workout area was great-not too crowded. I never saw anyone in the wet or dry saunas! I took a kick boxing class that was really fun. Progresso was a small town-be sure to go and see the local church-it's open air and very nice. I had lunch across from the beach and shopped in the market. Everyone was very friendly. Cozumel was in Spring Break mode. Young people everywhere drinking lots and lots of alcohol. If you are easiliy offended, beware of Senor Frogs! I took a taxi tour of Belize and was not disappointed. The driver was so nice and would stop and let me take pictures anytime. Be sure and see the local cemetaries. In all I would book another cruise, just not when I have to content with so many young children.

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Mar 7, 2004

Western Caribbean

The ship is very nice and is laid out great. The atrium is beautiful! Our inside stateroom was nice. We had a king size bed and two pull down beds. The shower was bigger than we’ve seen on other ships. The room stewards were very attentive and we enjoyed our towel pets every night. The theater is large and very comfortable. There are several lounge areas and each one is unique and has great details. The casino was okay but needs a better

selection of slot machines. It did not pay off very good for us. The ship entertainment was very good. The rock & roll band “Dirt Poets” was good. We also enjoyed Joel, the piano entertainer. We enjoyed the Elation dancers and their costumes. The Las Vegas style productions were fun. The other two cruises we’ve been on did not have the Las Vegas style costumes. The Disco played too much hip-hop music and very little disco. The ship activities were okay. Bingo is too expensive. We enjoyed the game show events and horse racing. The scavenger hunt was a lot of fun. The cruise staff is excellent. Larry, Mike, and Cindy were all entertaining. Meals in the dining room were very good with a variety of entrée selections each night. The buffet area was okay but was lacking in entrée selections. Desserts were not very good. Pizza and ice cream are available 24-hours a day which we loved. There were plenty of tables in the buffet area and outside on the deck and by the pool. The Gala Buffet presentation was amazing. The chefs did a fantastic job creating the food presentation. We went to three ports – Progresso, Cozumel, and Belize. In Progresso, we took a city tour and sat on the beach under Tiki huts where we enjoyed drinks with chips & fresh salsa, and listened to strolling mariachis. The locals were very friendly. We didn’t swim because the water was muddy due to several days of rain before we arrived. Cozumel had beautiful blue water. We took a taxi to one of the beaches and enjoyed snorkeling and sitting on the beach again under Tiki huts. In Belize we took one of the Carnival tours to a Mayan ruin and a riverboat trip down the Belize River through the rain forest. We saw howling monkeys, manatees, bats, crocodiles, iguanas, etc. The tour guide was excellent! Our days at sea were very relaxing. The weather was great except for a quick rain shower one day and a rainstorm when we arrived back in Galveston. The ship rocked a little bit but most of the time it was smooth. The Mexican midnight buffet by the pool was lots of fun – good food and music. We did not enjoy the band that played every day by the poolside. We enjoyed the hamburger grill – we miss the fries already. Getting on and off the ship took a lot of time – much more than on our other two cruises with Princess and Royal Carribean. This ship did not disappoint us. We had a great time and would recommend the ship to anyone.

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Feb 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

When arriving in Galveston Port, the weather was rainy and windy. Boarding the ship took a while, and was to be expected for the large number of people boarding. However, there was a problem with their electronic security system going down several times which halted the line from moving for about 20 minutes each time. I will cut to the chase about our experience with this particular cruise. This ship sailed out on a day that had bad

weather. It seems a warm front was pushing in from the gulf. Consequently, the first 3 days were very windy and ship rocked, shooked, and pitched alot and moved about like a small boat. The exits to the top deck (Lido) were sealed closed with signs taped saying high winds and so noone is allowed outside. I was so sea-sick that I wanted to disembark on the first port and go home. But decided to stick it out since the sky seemed to be clearing. The first port was Progresso/Merida. We did not do much except drive around Merida in our rented Jeep (which was in poor condition and had the heater stuck on in 96 degree weather). While speaking to others, there was a consensus that many of us were in a daze from being sea-sick and generally did not feel well. The heat compounded this general malaise. Then the trip to Cozumel seemed to be better, not so much rocking. The island was beautiful. We rented a Jeep and just explored the island which gave us the freedom to go to different beaches and also explore the Mayan ruins. Then the ship sailed to Belize. This trip was very rocky and from my cabin wondered what was going on outside (storm?). I really did not want to know and tried to sleep through it. Once in Belize, there is no port and so you must be tendered. Many people I heard on this ship did not want to do this since the seas were very rocky and these tiny boats were bobbing all about an awful lot. The Elation was also anchored quit a distance from shore( ~ 30 to 40 minutes away). I overheard some people upset about the excessive rocking of the ship that night. When the Elation finally did sail away that afternoon, the seas were getting rough again. I tried to stay on Lido deck, but the wind was horrendous. There was howling wind that was blowing everything around, including spray from the ocean. My girlfriend was nearly blown off the ship when she tried to walk around the observation deck. My guess would be about at least 50 to 70 mph winds. Throughout the first 4 nights, the winds were strong and seas were rough. From the inside of my cabin I could hear a periodic pounding on the side of the ship that sounded like a drum and reasoned that it must have been the seas crashing against the ship since it was always accompanied by a dramatic rock and the sensation of the ship accelerating and decelerating. Another sensation was the persistent rumbling of the ship. No matter what part of ship you were at, you could feel a hopping sensation. My girlfriend and I joked that it was a busted prop or cylinder on the engine. Either way it was significant( people jiggling in there seats) and very annoying. It kept me from sleeping most of the time and I would awaken to the sensation continuing even though I was no longer laying down. For the exception of this rumbling, the last 2 days were wonderful. I enjoyed for the first time being on the ship and not being sick. Talked to other people on the ship who have taken many cruises before, and they said this was a new experience for them. They definitely were not pleased with the rough seas, and a couple of them stated they would never cruise again. They just wanted to get home without anymore rough seas. The ship rolled into a very thick fog and the ship blew its horn. This was really cool and gave me a feeling of being in a movie or something. But it freaked out some people. A cowboy in the bathroom started making comments and panicking about rough seas. I assured him rough seas are not accompanied by fog. I think the first 4 days really bothered the people on board and I noticed alot of people did not leave their cabins. Heard many were sick. This all made me wonder how far a ship's captain will push a ship into bad weather. The profit motive for this cruise line seems to be strong. Anyway, was glad to be home. Disembarkation by the way is a very long and time consuming affair. The Cruise line assigns you a color code to get off the ship, if you are unlucky, you will be onboard for hours. The terminal is complete chaos and traffic is backed up as well.

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Jan 28, 2004

Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise line Carnival Elation 7 Day Western Caribbean Kamryn and Mark Well What can I say. For the most part we had a good time, mainly because when we travel we always try to make the best of any situation The Bus Ride from Houston: Can you say yuk: The bus smelled and they cram it full I was car sick by the time we arrived. Embarkation: Went fairly smooth. We got on later so it it lunch was over and we had to suffer

thru the fire drill. Needless to say by the time that was over we were both starved and tired so we didn't do much the first day. The next day it was still cold and rainy we both read and relaxed Food: We learned quickly to stay away from the buffet during regular feeding hours. We usually would eat very early to avoid the long line and the rude people. It amazes me how a 500lb women on a rascal can over power an entire line of people. Lunch we ate out on the deck. We kept it simple burgers and fries. Dinner. The Formal dining room food was horrible so we ate at the buffet. Overall the food on a scale of 1-10 was about a 3. The entertainment was average. We enjoyed the comedy acts and the talent show. We did have one bad incident. We were watching a guest show and the asst cruise dir made a very negative racial comment about Mexicans over the microphone. We went to the purser to complain and it was handled as if nothing ever happen. I did write and complain when we returned only to receive letter of apology and a 10% discount on our next cruise. We loved Belize but would not do the bat caves again. This excursion is very physical and you MUST BE in tip top shape tp have any fun. Over all we had a great time because we made it great. I would not do this cruise again mainly because the ship is filled with TEXANS and they don't let you forget it. Many of them were rude. Also the average age on this cruise was probably 75. My husband and I felt like at night if you didn't play bingo there was nothing else to do. We are taking a RC cruise in a few weeks and I can't wait to see the difference

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Dec 28, 2003

Western Caribbean

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 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. 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. CW, Oklahoma

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Dec 14, 2003

Western Caribbean

Space on this ship is more than adequate. Cabins are roomy for a ship and so are the bathrooms. Since this is a fairly new ship, everything is in really good shape. Food was much better than expected and entertainment was first rate. Dining room staff made me feel like I was their favorite cruiser, even though they do this day in and day out for many months at a time. Weather was awful during this cruise (12/14-12/21/03); overcast, windy

and cool except for Progresso and alternate port of Calica. Couldn't land in Belize at all because of rough water and no water excursions in Cozumel for same reason. Captain and crew, however, kept everyone informed of conditions and found an alternate port quickly. Ship is absolutely gorgeous although a little inconvenient to get around . . . really big and a lot of walking is required. Disembarkation is a mess once you get off the ship...people everywhere, cars everywhere, no convenient way to get around it. Would go again, but would probably park car in Houston and take a shuttle to ship.

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Dec 7, 2003

Western Caribbean

Pam Hoffman We arrived at the pier around 11:00a.m. The pier is still being built up, but the interior of the building was very nice and clean. It didn't take very long for my husband to park the car at the Galveston Port Authority lot. He dropped me off with the luggage at the door of the terminal. We went upstairs and got our cabin assignment (we were on a guarantee) and had been upgraded from a porthole to a regular window. The were

already letting people go through the metal detectors and check in. Check in was very smooth and attendants were very friendly. We then took a seat and waited for them to let us board. It only took about 30 minutes before they let us on the ship. It wasn't very crowded at this time, so if you can get to the port early, I think you're better off. Heard other people say it was terrible getting on, but they arrived later in the afternoon. Once on the ship, we immediately went to the shore excursion desk and filled out our forms. We had researched in advance which tours we wanted, so it was easy to finish. Computers were down, but they just handwrote the receipts so we were able to get something to drink. We then had lunch at the buffet in the Tiffany Grill. Food was just OK. It did improve over the course of the cruise. We then walked around the ship. Everything was clean, though the carpet was a bit worn in spots. Our head waiter & assistant waiters were excellent. They remembered our likes and dislikes through out the cruise. The food in the dining room for dinner time was absolutely incredible! The best I've had. The lunches and breakfasts were great, but not as good as dinner. While service for dinner was excellent, the service at lunch & breakfast time was not as good, though not bad by any means. I think since the lunch and breakfast seatings are open, some of the wait staff doesn't try as hard as they do at dinner. Some of the wait staff is great all of the time though. Our room was nice, Riviera 187. Our cabin steward was fantastic. Our room was always clean, and we rarely saw him! Bar drinks were all made well. We also tried the sushi bar, which was good. The majority of staff we encountered were wonderful. The one exception was when we went to have afternoon tea at Duke's Piano Bar. The waiters basically ignored us, kept walking by. My husband had to ask three times for us to get some service. The waiters' boss came in after a while and all of a sudden they were very attentive. My husband did speak with the manager about the situation, but this experience was definitely the exception, not the rule. The pool decks were not too crowded. We usually chose to use the aft pool and hot tubs, because very few people were back there. Never more then 3 or 4 in a hot tub at a time, and it was usually only 1 or 2. Pool never had more than 3 people in it. I had my hair & make up done for formal night and I also had a pedicure & facial on other days. Staff there were good, not too pushy about trying to get you to buy extra stuff. They'd tell you about it, but not be pushy. I went to a line dance lesson which was fun, though the teacher, one of the dancers, didn't really seem all that happy to be there. We were always in port early, and we were let off a bit early in two of the ports. The excursions we took through the ship were good ones. Lounges were clean and not overly crowded. Shows were good. Casino was nice. I only play slots (occasionally) and there were always some to choose from. Midnight Gala Buffet was excellent, other buffets were good, but not great. Only the Gala Buffet was held in the dining room. The others were in the Tiffany Bistro. Pizza was good. Hamburgers at the grill on the Lido deck were fantastic. Overall, food, service, activities and shows were all a 10 in my book. I would definitely sail on the Elation again.

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Oct 25, 2003

Western Caribbean

Carnival Elation was built in 1998. She is in terrific shape. Our 7 day cruise departed Galveston on October 26, 2003. Our scheduled ports of call were Progresso, Mexico, Cozumel, and Belize. We had to miss Belize due to problems with the ships propulsion system. There was some disappointment, but we got an extra day in Cozumel to finish our shopping or explore the wonderful snorkeling and beaches available. Progresso is a very small fishing

village. The shopping there consists of a flea market run by locals with t-shirts and hand crafts. They love to barter and are very friendly. The town of Merida is the capital of the Yucatan and about 30 miles away. The ship offered a shopping trip there. Progresso is also the gateway to several Mayan Ruins sites including Chichen Itza and Uxmal. The Elation is one of the middle size ships of Carnival...not the smallest and not the largest. She has several bars and lounges with various music, a gourmet coffee bar with wonderful pastries, a three piece 'orchestra' in the atrium bar, three pools, a water slide, spa and gym facilities and spacious staterooms. This ship only has interior (no window) and ocean view (window) rooms available. No balconies (even in the suites). The food and service were superior. The staff and crew were the friendliest I have encountered, even on other Carnival ships. Since it was Halloween, the ship had a huge parade for those in costumes with a prize for the best dressed. The Camp Carnival group had a trick or treat time for the kids with candy stations throughout the ship. Feel free to email me for more details. And be sure to check out the special Halloween cruise for next year.

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Oct 19, 2003

Western Caribbean

Fun, Fun, This is a fun party ship. Four of us took the Elation out of Galveston, Texas a few weeks ago. This Western Caribbean cruise makes ports of call were Progresso, Mexico, Cozumel, and Belize. This was my 1st cruise. This was also the first cruise for my four co-workers and friends in our late twenties, who shared in the activities on this fun boat. We all thought the staff on this ship were great, they were helpful to us first

time cruisers for the seven days. Food and service in the dining rooms was wonderful. We had no major problems. We found the Elations" to be first-rate and what I expected this cruise to be. We came to Texas early. We flew into Houston from Minneapolis on Friday afternoon. Our travel agent arranged for a private shuttle service she had used, to transfer us to Galveston, Texas which is about 80 miles from the big airport in Houston. Before driving us to Galveston, our driver give us a "look see" of Houston. I didn’t realize that Houston was such a huge city. We arrived in Galveston about 6:30pm, and check into our hotel. The hotel was great. We stayed at the "Tremont Hotel" downtown in the old historic district of Galveston. After our check in, we place our bags in our room and walked down the street for dinner. We were in the middle of all the fun in the downtown area. The weekend we were there, was the weekend of the Galveston Greek Festival. And being Greek myself I really got into the spirit. All the fun was within a block or two of our hotel. Lots of neat bars and great restaurants with fresh Texas Gulf Coast seafood. It was worth the trip to Texas just to visit the fun city of Galveston. On Sunday at noon our hotel provided us with free transportation to the "Elation" which was only three to five minutes away from the hotel. We checked in on the ship about 12:30pm and when to our cabin. Our cabin was standard in size. The four of us shared the same cabin. Elation’s cabins are bare bones in décor and amenities: We had a color TV with CNN, telephone and radio, the cabin has no hair dryer and a basket of "free-sample" toiletries. The bathroom was fairly large, with hand-held shower. Our room attendant took good care of our needs. We enjoyed the live entertainment, lavishly costumed casts perform two live production shows weekly is an integral part of the Elation’s nightlife, We started our evenings after dinner at Duke’s piano bar on Elation, where one finds replicas of New York’s Empire State Building. At then we headed for a hopping disco and the large and active casino. The food was absolutely wonderful, all the restaurants did a good job the four of us really enjoyed ourselves, we didn’t have a bad day from the time we left the Houston Airport to when we returned. This is truly a fun cruise, with lots of fun loving people on board to keep the party going. I think the people from Texas are friendly and fun loving people. The weather was absolutely great the whole time Texas and at sea. I should mention that some of the people on the ship told us that they started getting a little ill, with flu symtoms. They think they got it from people on the ship’s shuttle bus from the airport. One lady told us that there was people on the bus sneezing and coughing without covering their mouths. I’m glad we didn’t use the ship’s shuttle. As I mentioned earlier we found a shuttle service in Houston from our travel agent, who read about this service in cruise reviews from other cruisers, much like the one I’m writing now. We had also arranged for the shuttle service that brought us to Galveston, to pick us up at the ship for our return to the Houston Airport. I should also mention that getting back to the airport seems to be less of a hassle the way we did it, than circus we saw other cruisers go through trying to board buses to the airport. And hoping they wouldn’t their flight. On our return to Galveston we cleared customs at about 9:45am, called our shuttle driver from our cell phone, our driver was standing by just off site. Five minutes later we were on our way to the airport. We arrived at the airport at 11:15, in plenty of time for our flight back to Minneapolis. We wish to thank Carnival Cruise Line and its staff for keeping to party going and us making us comfortable for seven wonderful days. I recommend this ship and this itinerary to anyone who is planning a fun cruise vacation. I also recommend you spend an extra day in Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico. If anyone want or need information about our hotel, or Mr. Cormier, the shuttle driver who drove us to and from the airport, or the Galveston restaurants we visited. Please feel free to write me at : sophiepappas@hotmail.com

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Oct 4, 2003

Western Caribbean

Arrived at dock to unload luggage and found mass confusion due to debarkation of previous passengers. Best to park in Port Authority parking and allow shuttle to take you to dock. There were ten in our party and Carnival got us all at the same dining table even though we each booked separately thru different travel agencies. The ship left on time. The first day was a day at sea and there are plenty of activities on board to keep anyone

busy plus the non-stop eating. Day 2 was at Progreso. The port was nice with clean shops but a little pricey. Best to wait until returning to ship to purchase any items there. Carnival provided free buses from the pier to Progresso. Regretfully, Progreso is a poor city wich is reflected in the filthy and unkept conditions of most streets and buildings. They do have one 2 story mall with A/C but not too many shops in it. Found some good bargains but headed back to the ship due to the heat and no desire to eat while on shore. Day 3 was at Cozumel where we rented a jeep and toured the Island. Was here in 99 and found everything (shopping, food, etc.) to much improved. The shopping in town and at the pier was marvelous. Wish we could have spent 2 or 3 days here. Day 4 was at Belize City. Ship dropped anchor 6 miles from port and had to ride a tender to the port. Shopping in port is OK but once you step out of the port you encounter another poor and filthy city that has no interest other than possibly some of the excursions. We did the cave tubing trip thru X-stream which we booked over the Internet for $50 less per couple than what Carnival's excursion cost. Was truly glad to get back on the Elation. Days 5 and 6 were at sea as we traveled back to Galveston. The Elation crew and activities were wonderful and the food and dining for the most part were exceptional. Our waiters were marvelous and our steward kept our room neat and clean. As others ... thought the Bingo was too expensive. Only gripes are the ship's photography where they force you to buy 8x10 photos for $19.95 each when a $7.95 5x7 would have done just as well. Would prefer the choice. Got a little hassle trying to get on a tender to meet our excursion guide in Belize for the tubing. Carnival gives preference to those booking their excursions on the ship. Thought that was unfair but managed to talk a purser into getting us on an early tender. No smoking allowed in the cabins or on the cabin decks but not enforced by the crew. Otherwise had a wonderful time but had we known about Progreso and Belize City would have opted for another cruise.

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Sep 13, 2003

Panama Canal

We just got back from 2 wks aboard the Elation; going from Long Beach CA to Galveston TX - via Acapulco, Panama Canal, Ocho Rios Jamaica, and Cozemel. This was my first cruise and I enjoyed it immensely! The majority of the passengers were senior citizens, with less than 12 young children. (probably due to school having already begun). Members of the crew were very nice and were always busy - painting, polishing, & cleaning the ship.

We met people from many different countries, all speaking pretty good English. We were several hrs late getting out of Long Beach; leaving around 8pm instead of 5pm. This was due to the fact that we were a full ship and would be gone 14 days thereby needing extra supplies. Also, the Longshoreman were changing shifts and we had to wait for the evening crew. We had an inside cabin on the Riviera Deck (deck 4) which was the lowest deck for passengers. I was disappointed at first but soon was glad because it was not noisy and you noticed very little sea motion. We were just above the Infirmary and Gangway - a very handy location. There was always something happening on the Lido Deck - ice carvings; water sports/hairy chest/ limbo contests, etc. The food in Tiffany's was just OK, nothing really spectacular although they always had some type of roast (beef, pork, lamb) which was usually very good. Although pizza was served all day long we only had it once. I thought it was too dry. I don't like pizza that has been kept warm for hours. Ice Cream and frozen yogurt were also available 24 hrs a day. We had the early seating in the Inspiration Dining Room with 10 at our table. Our waiter Tibor and his assistant Ailena were always attentive. We had a good time with them. There were 2 formal evenings as well as several evenings where the waiters and their helpers entertained with singing. Gratuities are automatically added to your Sign & Sail card the first day. For 14 days it was $136. Even though they don't advertise it, you can have this removed from your card if you wish to pay in cash. This way you can adjust the amounts depending on the service you received. Most of the stage shows in the Makado Lounge were excellent, especially those put on by members of the crew. Bingo was rather expensive to play, usually $10 for one card & for only a few (3-4) games. The Carnival Capers (their daily newspaper) specified NO SAVING SEATS for the shows; but many people ignored this. There was at least 1 incident where Security was called to prevent a fight. This lounge is not laid out very well and there are many pillars that hinder your vision of the stage. There was a craft class twice a day for most of the sea days. All the kits were free and there was a nice variety of classes. These were well attended by both women and men. I heard that passengers had to pay for kits for craft classes on other ships. The only bad part of the trip was after we debarked in Galveston. Out trip included air fare back to LAX via Continental Air Lines. The port was not prepared for all the passengers getting off and we had to wait over an hour in the heat, behind Customs, for enough buses to arrive to take us to Houston International Airport. Overall I enjoyed this trip and am looking forward to my next cruise - maybe on the Paradise since that is a non-smoking ship.

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Jun 21, 2003

Mexican Rivera

We just got back from sailing on the Elation today, the 29th of June. I can not say enough good things about the ship and crew. The crew was always painting polishing and washing the vessel. The cabin staff and food and beverage staff were very attentive and seemed to enjoy their work. A wide variety of crew to interact with. The first two days out of Long Beach were cold and wet, as soon as we hit Cabo (for an emergency off loading

of a passenger for medical reasons) the weather turned perfect. PV was tropical and very humid, we just toured the little shopping area around the ship. Mazatlan was great, the outside air temp was the same as the water, about 90 degrees, the warmest water we have ever witnessed outside of our hot tub. My highest recommendation for a tour goes to Randy's Horses in Mazatlan, this amazing woman (American) has been in the area for 15 years and has been putting together riding tours on the beach and mango groves for 7 years, she has everything down pat. Clean blankets on the saddles and very gentle horses that also know the routine. Be sure to take towel's from the Elation to dry off after you swim in the water. After the ride and before the water sports, she feeds you lunch at Victors on the Beach, a quaint local's only restaurant. There, for only 30 peso's local's will pull you on a water weenie for 10 minutes, our two girls (14 & 11) loved it. The exchange rate is great now, 10 peso's to the US Dollar, so for 3 bucks they had a real (safe) thrill ride. Back on the ship towards Cabo it is "hot" 95 degrees. They CCL pushes the drinks but not too hard. Plenty of water and if you take your kids do use the soft drink cards for them, if was worth it for our two teen/tween. Cabo was nice, but like you have already read, only about 4 hours in port, with a 20 minutes shuttle each way to account for also. As soon as you leave Cabo the wind pick's up dramatically and towel's and clothes begin flying everywhere. The ride back to Long Beach was cold and rainy. The insides of the ship were now crowded. It was difficult to find a place to read with out someone else in your space. The Elation is moving on Sept 10 to Galvaston and a bigger ship will take its place so that will hopefully help. Our ship was completely full, however the crew and staff were always right were you needed them to be, serving or picking up. The casino seemed to be rather loose on our trip, the slots included. A wide variety of travelers were on board for our trip, young families and blue hairs as well. Like so many others have said this is the Target of cruising, very efficient and a good value.

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Jun 14, 2003

Mexican Riviera

  This was our tenth [or so] cruise with Carnival, and our sixth to the Mexican Riviera. We are unashamedly big fans of Carnival and of the West coast of Mexico. We are SoCal residents, and drove to the ship. This was our first time to use the new terminal at Long Beach, near the Queen Mary. Unfortunately, we received no prior instructions on how to get into the terminal so it was trial and error the first time. There was

some sort of event going on in the nearby park and traffic was backed up for quite a ways. We finally got in and found the parking structure to be more convenient that the old huge parking lot at the San Pedro terminal. [$70 a week, and mostly covered. Pay when you leave.] The embarkation process was quite efficient, and the personnel friendly and courteous, with the possible exception of the security personnel, who were not Carnival employees who were sour and cranky, and apparently not too bright.] We had requested an inside cabin, as usual, but were upgraded to a "porthole" cabin, way up forward, so it was like looking thru a torpedo tube to see out the window. The stateroom was on the "Main" deck and very comfortable- identical to every other Carnival room we've had. The cabin steward was the usual efficient elf who cleaned the place at all the necessary times. Puerto Vallarta was nice as usual, though very hot and humid at this time of the year. We didn't get off the ship except to shop in the little Mercado on the pier. I noticed much more pier security that in previous trips. Food this cruise was quite good, probably better than any other Carnival trip so far. The true test was the lobster and it was tender and juicy, and hot, not the sometimes tough overdone tail you sometimes get. Dining room service was excellent and the organized waiter antics were kept to a minimum. We had an excellent set of table partners, well-matched to us. Carnival is great at selecting compatible table mates. We always ask for a table for ten as a good way to meet others. Mazatlan was fine, better weather that PV. This time we took the Stone Island tour, upon the recommendation of previous fellow travelers and we were very glad we did. It was a pleasant catamaran raft ride out thru the mouth of the bay, around El Faro Point and around to the beach located on the south side of the island that forms the south side of the harbor channel. The ship was visible for some time, just over the low hills. The island is primitive with low palapa-type restaurants and beaches like those in the picture books, white sand, palms and gracier blue water in protected covers. You can take horseback rides or horse cart rides through the coconut plantations, all included in the tour. Lunch and an open bar both on the boat and on the island rounded out the perfect day of relaxing and cavorting in the surf. The vendors are there but well controlled. We may go back and stay there a week. Cabo San Lucas was as fine as I've ever seen it, beautiful sun a fresh breeze and temps in the low 80's. Just perfect, even for one of the most perfect places on earth. Carnival can always be counted upon for the perfect cruise. Do as much or as little as you please, lay back and enjoy or dance the night away. Tips this time were added to our Sail-and- Sign account, so that saved us a good bit of time and trouble getting the right combination of bills all into the right envelopes. One lesson we learned. Don't go cruising just after school lets out...too many kids, too much noise, but I suppose if you have kids of school age, all the other kids will keep them busy. The Camp Carnival staffers were working hard on this cruise! Otherwise, perfection- Thanks Carnival.

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Jun 7, 2003

Mexican Riviera

I'll preface my remarks by saying that I am not one who considers a cruise to be the vacation of choice, so if my remarks are a bit jaded, take that into consideration. Just because of sheer numbers, embarkation is tedious, but the staff did their best to process us as soon as possible, so no unreasonable circumstances there. The Sail and Sign card is a good idea for ID and security on the ship was excellent at each port. They took

their job very seriously. The room (inboard, Empress Forward) was comfortable, reasonably roomy and remarkably quiet, considering that an elevator shaft ran behind the room. We never heard anything of that nor any other passengers in the adjoining room (ours was at the end of a block of rooms) At that deck level there was also no engine noise. We had two rooms booked as we were travelling with our adult daughter and her boyfriend and the ship is large enough and varied enough in activities that they could have their own vacation without us in the way. It was her graduation from College celebration. I'm not a fan of formal events.... my idea of formal is to iron my T-shirt, so the formal nights in the dining room were a bit uncomfortable, as much from peer pressure as from the necktie. The waiter was very good as was his assistant. The food?.....well considering that the kitchen prepares about 10,000 meals a day it wasn't bad, albeit somewhat limited in portion size. My real complaint with the dining room was the Maitre'd. He had a habit of waiting until most of us were just into our main course when he would come on over the PA and play some "Funky Music" to which the waiters would dance and encourage the guests to get up and do the Macarena or something. At late dinner with everyone trying to have a quiet, posh dinner and polite conversation with their tablemates, this was not only inappropriate but downright annoying. I didn't like the surprise at the end of the voyage when we were told that it was customary to tip the Maitre'D at the final meal. If it's not mentioned up front...it's not part of my vacation...and I told them so. Being the anti-formal sod that I am, Tiffany's was a place I enjoyed, even if it was rather brightly colored in a peacock theme. We don't gamble, nor do we smoke so the casino was a place to avoid, but the Library with it's Mississippi sternwheeler theme was very relaxing. We had good sailing weather, ..a little grey and cool in the LA area and it rained on arrival in Puerto Vallarta, but the sun was out by 10am. Ask for the taxi rates up front...usually $3 per person into town. Know where you want to go as the driver will try and take you on an excursion you weren't planning on. We started off at one of the jewelry shops endorsed by Carnival that was furthest from the ship and walked back as far as we could, then for $2 per person we took a cab the rest of the way. Mazatlan, I can't comment on as I stayed on board (one shopping district looks like the next to me) while my three companions went into town. I stayed and ate. and ate. and ate.... Cabo was very nice. but too short...I understand that Carnival is going to be replacing the Elation with a faster ship and that will allow more time in Cabot in the future. The evening shows were OK, the band was very good, the singers and dancers quite nice. The Cruise Director was sort of funny and had a habit of ending each session with "Bye..."(pausing then) "I said Byeeee"...which is something I felt like repeating as I left the ship at the end of the cruise. If you drink....be prepared to have a whopping bill at the end of the cruise. We didn't drink any alcohol but a bottle of wine at dinner one night and stuck to juices for refreshment (OK so I'm cheap). One fellow was falling down drunk before we had been out of Long Beach for a half hour. I'd hate to see his bar bill... I can imagine that with a couple of tours and the bar bill and shopping on board as well as a bit of gambling, the statement they present under your door the last day at sea could easily equal or exceed what you paid for the cruise itself, so beware. You'll develop favorite places on the ship. Mine were the ice cream machine and the back corner of the small deck above the bridge where, at night, I could stand, maybe 6 to 8 feet out from the side of the ship and look back at the ship's hull and wake, lit up by the lights from the cabin windows. Wonderful on a moon-lit night. Now..... The big complaint.... My daughter and friend booked themselves on a day-long snorkeling excursion in PV. When we arrived in PV it was raining quite hard, as I said earlier. The sea was a bit rough and conditions for snorkeling were abominable..the water too stirred up to see anything. Did they cancel the tour?...noooo. As a result my little gal was violently sea-sick (along with a half dozen other passengers) on the small sailboat that took them out about a 2 hour ride from PV. She was so ill they had to carry her off the boat when they came ashore at the location they finally decided upon. Consequently she wasn't able to do any snorkeling and those that did, got less than 15 minutes in the water before behind hustled back on shore for lunch on a filthy beach, where the sanitation was atrocious and her boyfriend was offered weed and a hooker within minutes of arriving. Then, of course she was sea-sick all the way back. Refund money?...not Carnival. no way. We heard others with similar tales of woe on the tours that they considered to be a complete rip-off and while we were all in line waiting to pay our final shipboard bill, one fellow stood at the bottom of the 6 storey atrium and called out for everyone's attention whereupon he proceeded to voice his displeasure at not being able to get a refund for a useless tour. He didn't get his money, but he got some satisfaction in perhaps embarrassing the company in public. Carnival has to do better in controlling it's sub-contactors on these tours. My advice..don't take one. Cruising has something for everyone and I'm glad I did it just to say I did. But I'm not likely to go on another. I like independence and anonymity, two things just not possible on a cruise ship. I was happy I didn't get sea-sick, but if the weather had been rough..who knows? My hat's off to the staff in Tiffany's who are constantly cleaning up after everyone and ever so polite in the process. The debarkation process was relatively quick, but because the crew members are on board for something like 8 months at a time, all the pay phones around the Carnival terminal were jammed with crew members calling home. I had to call someone specifically to pick us up and could I get a phone?...not likely. I had to walk over to the Queen Mary to find an unused phone...you'd think that a company as big as Carnival could supply free phones for it's crew inside the terminal and free up the pay phones outside for the passengers. I don't live in LA so my cell phone plan doesn't cover out of country calls. All in all I'd say most people will have a good time as long as you are smart about where you lay down your money both on and off the ship. I hope that I wasn't too negative and perhaps your vacation will be better knowing some of the pitfalls that you might face. Bon Voyage!

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May 24, 2003

Mexican Riviera

Anyone thinking about a cruise should defiantly consider this one. A whole week of fun and relaxation. The crew was wonderful, the food was excellent-and you can eat anytime of the day or night-in your cabin, or at the all day, all night pizzeria. I've eaten a lot of pizza in my life-but this was far the best I've ever had. We didn't do any excursions and just went out on our own-and we still had a blast. In Cabo San Lucas, there wasn't

a whole lot of time-and we didn't see much, but what we did see, was very typical. Mazatlan was probably the best for us. There is so much to see, and the prices are great too. Puerto Vallarta was fun, but a little scary-there are taxi's everywhere-and lots of traffic-but no one follows any "road-rules"-and the streets are all cobblestone. When taking a taxi, I highly recommend wearing a seat belt-and negotiate the price before hand! We went with three teenagers, and they had a blast just doing what they wanted on ship-but I insisted we stay together in port. This trip was so well worth the money. The ship is beautiful and clean. The shows were fantastic! If you read negative reviews-they are probably written by people who would complain regardless. We can't wait for our next cruise and we will defiantly cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines!!

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Apr 19, 2003

Mexican Riviera

The grand atrium is the first thing you see when you walk in, it is beautiful. The room had plenty of space for my family of four. With two bunk beds. We had a window and getting a window room is so worth the extra price. We had some family members in an interior and it seemed tiny! The food in the dining room was awesome which is half the reason you go on a cruise) We went during Easter break...tons of kids. Great if you have kids but

I heard many singles complaining about it. Camp Carnival was a big hit for my 7 year old. He was even in the talent show and did great! We took the Eden tour in P.V. It was beautiful, with natural waterslides and a rope swing. My kids are not at the swimming level where they could participate in this (too deep) and they had to sit at the table. I wish I would have known about that before. Then we went to the beach right by the port (ask a local how to get to it, through some weird alley) The resort hotels wont let you pass through. Anyways, beautiful, warm water, white sand beach. Mazatlan was my favorite but everyone else I talked to hated it. Maybe they didn't go to the right spot. we took one of those little cabs to the golden zone. It was 8 American dollars. There is good shopping there and a beautiful beach. We had lunch outside at a nearby hotel. There are lots of peddlers in Mazatlan but they seem friendly and it is not a big deal to just tell them no thank you. In Cabo we tool the sail and fiesta snorkel tour. It was a really good one. Great Margaritas included. A perfect spot to see lots of fish. My In laws took the Santa Maria snorkel tour( write this down) Don't take it. Bad food, they take you way out in the ocean and they only saw a couple fish. We had to be back on the boat by 11:30 am. Not nearly long enough but I heard in sept. they will stay in port until 4:00 The Las Vegas style shows are really good. The comedian is rude but very funny. I wish they had more big shows. They only had 2. Plus the children's talent show that is(: The staff was great, The boat is really beautiful. The ports are warm and friendly so I definitely recommend it. I talked to some people on the cruise who hated it. They didn't like the food. They prefer down home cooking....fried chicken, mashed potatoes, apple pie etc. You won't get that on this ship. They have filet mignon, lobster, baked Alaska etc. Some people didn't like Mexico because the shops and things were not kept up like in America. They never have a solid price for their wares and you need to haggle. There are peddlers that will ask to braid you hair. It's a different country, different culture but I like it. It was a nice vacation. I think the Elation is best for families or young singles. But I would recommend it to who ever is thinking of cruising.

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Apr 6, 2003

Mexican Riviera

This was our first cruise, it was very good. I will keep this short. Boarding the boat...They said boarding starts at 1pm. We got there at about 1pm to find a HUGE line. CHECK your bags with the bag porter. Then get in line. On board by 3:45 (2:45 in line). Food all day long. We did not buy the drink card, as they have free juices and water. Puerto Vallarte, we did the Beach Party at the hotel. It was fun forthe 3 kids. The bus ride was

fun for the sight seeing. Mazatlan, we booked a horse tour on our own from the internet, Randies Horses (?), EXCELLENT. We took our 12 year old daughter and she had a blast, mostly older folks though. Cabo San Lucas,just walked around. Some people did alot of activities and had enough time. This would be the place to return to. Overall cruise staff, very nice and polite. Waiter, Noel, excellent. Our room steward Armen, EXCELLENT. Getting off the boat was the most confusing. They wake the entire boat up at 6:30 am, to wait your turn. Your turn might not be til 9am. Leave your carry-ons in the room. Go thru customs. Eat breakfast. Go get your carry-ons, and wait in your designated area for them to call you. Again a 6:30 am wake up PA, off the boat at 10:00am (3:30 later). Had A blast, would do it again.

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Apr 6, 2003

Mexican Riviera

The reviews I read were so helpful in planning for our first cruise, I just had to write one of my own. We took this cruise for our 10th wedding anniversary; my husband and I originally were going to go on our own, but then when his parents wanted to join us, we talked about turning it into a family vacation. Due to the great things I read about the kids’ program on Carnival, as well as how little our youngest one was (I just couldn’t

bear to leave him with my parents, even though they offered), we took all the kids with us. Our kids are ages 9, 7, and 1 (he turned 1 the week of the cruise). Overall we had a fabulous time, just as I knew we would. Like many of the other reviewers, our family is pretty easy to please, doesn’t let little things bother us, and we were bound and determined to have a great time – so we did. I would highly recommend reading the other reviews; like I said, they were enormously helpful. Most of the things I could say would just be repeating what others have said, so I’ll just make this a fairly brief review with some of the “surprises” I encountered that either weren’t covered in other reviews, or were different from what I expected: Embarkation I had read all about what a horrible, patience-testing process this is, especially with kids. Maybe it was because I went in with the mindset that it would be awful, but it wasn’t that bad. I guess I was wondering who the reviewers are who wrote about what a terrible experience it is – have you never been to Disneyland? I mean, there are over 2000 people trying to get through one door; what did you expect, that you wouldn’t have to wait in line? Where do you go where you don’t have to wait your turn? Basically there are 3 lines – 1 to check your bags, 1 to get into the building, and one to go through immigration or whatever it is. We showed up at 11:30 and I waited with my kids and mother-in-law while my husband & his father went to park the car (we live in the LA-area, so drove right to the terminal). It took them about 20 minutes to do that, after which we went through the lines. We got into the building by about 12:30. The last line was the only one that was pretty slow-moving. It’s sort of like waiting in line at a bank – there are a bunch of Carnival employees waiting in a long line of desks with computers, who call the next person in line up as they can. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and helpful, so I’m not sure what could have been done to speed up the process. In any case we got through it and took our first boarding picture at exactly 1:30 (they have a clock right in the backdrop) and then boarded the ship. Cabin I was mentally prepared for a tiny cabin, so again maybe it was the mindset, but I found the setup to be very nicely done. We were in an inside cabin on the Main Deck, which is the second from the bottom (level 5), and it was a great room. The bathroom was a good size, and there was plenty of closet and shelf space. There was a bureau with a large mirror over it that almost all of my kids’ clothes fit into, and then my husband’s and my clothes were mostly hung up with the shelf space in the closet left for shoes, souvenirs, etc. We had a hanging toiletries bag (there were several hooks and racks in the bathroom for hanging things, which was helpful). I had brought a large black mesh bag that I hung on a hook in the room and used for a dirty clothes hamper all week – I highly recommend this, it was so helpful for keeping the room clean and made packing easy too. We had a bed against the wall straight ahead (underneath what would have been the window if we were in an outside cabin) and one against the left wall, so we pushed the one from the left together with the one straight ahead for my husband and me. Then there were two Pullman beds, one against the right wall and one against the left, which pulled down for my two oldest kids. There was a crib in the room when we arrived, which we set up (just unfolded it and put in the mattress, very easy) and there was room for it underneath the Pullman bed, where the larger bed used to be. This left us with actual floor space in the middle of the room. My youngest daughter (age 7) bumped her head several times during the week on one of the Pullman beds, but other than that, it was a great setup. Food I had arranged for early seating (5:45) for dinner. I was concerned about the late dinner being during my son’s bedtime, plus a big consideration was that I didn’t want to infringe upon others’ romantic late dinners. I actually didn’t think we would be able to eat in the dining room every night; I thought my kids would get bored with it, or it would infringe upon other activities. But we actually made it every single night to the Inspiration dining room – it was a great experience, and like other reviewers, I highly recommend doing this. We were seated at a window table for 8, which left 2 empty chairs since my son was in a high chair, but our dinner companions never showed up. Although it would have been nice to meet others on the cruise, it was kind of nice having the whole table to ourselves. My daughters sat by the window every evening and watched the sun set over the water, and they loved it! There was never anything wrong at all with the service, and our server, Michael, was very pleasant, but after shelling out all the money for the cruise, plus with my experience in the service industry (upscale hotel training experience, for 7 years) I guess I really have high expectations for service. At least twice during the cruise my daughters ordered steak, and Michael did cut their steaks for them, but he wasn’t all that personable – he just provided extremely efficient service. His assistant, Medea, was from Hungary, and she was much more personable – she brought yogurt to the table every night for my son, and after the first night when she discovered my daughters loved having hot chocolate, she brought it every night. So I definitely can’t fault them. In the dining room, yes you can order whatever you want, which was great. I generally ordered one thing from every section – starters, salads, entrees, and of course I had dessert every night. (I had joined Weight Watchers about 3 months before the cruise and lost 20 pounds, so I gave myself license to eat whatever I wanted during the cruise! Even with all that, I only gained two pounds – not too bad, I guess.) The portions are fairly small, so it was okay to eat all of that and still have dessert. The only night I felt overly full was when I had filet mignon – usually I had fish or shrimp. The food was always delicious. I highly recommend trying different things than you would normally eat at home. My husband is normally a creature of habit, but he got really into the spirit of things, and one night he even ordered escargot! (They weren’t too bad – tasted like mushrooms.) But hey, when else would we do that but on a cruise? As others have said, Tiffany’s was fine for breakfast and lunch. One thing that did surprise me about Tiffany’s is that the selection is pretty limited. I guess I was expecting a Las Vegas-style buffet, but it’s not like that – for lunch. there are maybe two entrée choices, plus 2-3 hot “sides” – i.e. mashed potatoes, etc. For breakfast it was almost the same thing every day – eggs, sausage, bacon, and then daily change with French Toast, or pancakes. But how much variety do you need in breakfast anyway? Plus, our dinner was so early that at lunchtime all I ever ate was salad. The salad bar was very fresh, again limited in selection, but not a big deal. The salad bar turned into a fruit bar with fresh fruit and yogurt at breakfast (the peeled, quartered grapefruit was a big treat). At the end of the salad bar, they had chefs making something – sometimes grilling salmon for the salad; sometimes making crepes. They also had lots of desserts, but other than at dinner, all I had was the ice cream. My girls especially loved this – they got quite spoiled with going to the ice cream machine whenever they wanted. We occasionally ate outside at the pool deck, but there isn’t a salad bar outside – just a few cold salad selections (i.e. potato salad) alongside the hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries. Soda Card I am a big Diet Coke drinker, so I bought a soda card the first day. I figured $32 was no problem to spend for a week of drinks. But this was a bit of a disappointment. First of all, I could only order the drinks directly from a bar. Even in the dining room, the waiter had to bring over the bar lady to get me my drink. When I showed my card and ordered a Diet Coke, I always got just a vaguely disappointed look from whomever was taking the order – from the dining room woman, the look was downright cold. I’m sure this is because they knew they wouldn’t get a tip (there is a 15% gratuity automatically added to Sail & Sign card drink orders) but it was still mildly irritating. The drink consisted of them pouring a warm Diet Coke from a can into a fairly small cup filled all the way up with ice – resulting in less than ½ the can going into the cup. I could drink the entire thing by the time I walked from the pool bar to my lounge seat, and they wouldn’t give me the can, so I had to go back to get a refill. The entire cruise I probably drank maybe two six-packs, and probably ½ of that was the last day, when the cocktail waitress in the Mikado Lounge was super nice. She actually approached me twice to ask if I wanted more! This never happened the rest of the cruise. If I do Carnival again, I would bring a couple six-packs or 2-liter bottles and keep them in my cabin. Tipping We had a notice enclosed with our first “Carnival Capers” (the daily newsletter, slipped under the door) that “due to popular demand,” tips would be included on our bill rather than giving tips in cash at the end of the week. There was a breakdown of who would get what, which was about what I was expecting (it amounted to $9.75 per person per day, but they didn’t charge for the infant) I was surprised by this, but found it very convenient – we didn’t have to worry about having enough cash at the end of the week. I am very much a proponent of tipping for good service and not tipping when it is not appropriate, and even though the service was not over the top, it was very good. Plus I felt kind of bad for our room steward (Lawrence) who again was not incredibly personable, but he did have to empty the trash with my son’s dirty diapers. Plus he decorated the cabin (at my in-laws’ request) for my son’s birthday. My in-laws were very impressed with the service and so they gave our server and his assistant an additional $40 each (Medea for her personality, Michael for his efficiency) at the end of the week, plus left $20 for Lawrence and $20 for the maitre d’ (who was not included in the automatic tipping – good thing, because I would have had that adjusted off. I heard his voice over the loudspeaker in the dining room, announcing the singing and whatnot, but never even saw his face the whole week). Pools/hot tubs A couple of times we did go to the aft pool, which is a deck up from the Lido deck, where the main central pool is. But mostly my kids wanted to hang out at the Lido deck pool because that’s where the water slide is. I was pleasantly surprised that the pools were warm – at least by the time I got in, which was usually in the afternoon. The disappointment was that they were almost as warm as the “hot” tubs. I don’t think the hot tubs ever got above medium warm, even the one in the gym. They also closed at 10pm, which was a big disappointment because after we got the kids to bed (they were very worn out and were ready to sleep by 10-11 every night), it would have been nice to hit the hot tubs for relaxing conversation with my in-laws – or with other passengers, for that matter. I’m sure this was done because of the alcohol factor – I know hot tubs aren’t good for people who are drinking. But again, this was a disappointment. Other than this, the pools were fine and the kids had a really good time. In fact, they didn’t want to go to Camp Carnival a lot of the time because they just wanted to hang out at the pool. I guess they’re like me – they go on a vacation to relax. Which leads me to… Camp Carnival Like everyone else has said, this is a good program with fun activities; my kids really enjoyed it when they went. I was a little surprised that the 9-11-year-olds are allowed to sign themselves in & out, without an adult, but it worked out really well with my daughter, who is pretty responsible. She could go by herself (sometimes she left right after dinner) and then meet us later at the pool, or the cabin, or whatever. The layout of the ship and the location of our cabin was pretty convenient and made it easy to get around; by the end of the week we could even rely on our 7-year-old to go down to the cabin on her own to change clothes or whatever, and then meet back at the main pool. Activities My husband and I don’t drink or smoke, so automatically about ½ the activities didn’t appeal to us. I think I walked through the casino once, but it was so smoky I wouldn’t have even sat at the poker slot machines, which I occasionally do in Vegas. (By the way – the Mikado lounge, as well as all restaurants on ship, are non-smoking, so the only area of the ship that was at all smoky was the area of Elation’s way that immediately borders the casino. Everywhere else was perfectly fine.) Also, we go on vacations to relax, plus we were blessed with warm sunny weather almost the entire trip, so it was very nice to just sit by the pool. The poolside games were a little hokey, but fun. I was picked to play in “Shipboard Survivor,” which was a silly and fun way to pass an hour or so. The shows in the Mikado were fine. The last day of the cruise was cool and cloudy and so we did more indoor activities, and I’m really glad that didn’t last more than a day – everything seemed more like just a way to pass time than something that was supposed to be entertaining. The comedian the last night was hilarious, but the one earlier in the week (I think his name was Lowell Thomas) was just okay. The singer the last night was too funny – he was a great singer, but he just tried so hard to be Wayne Newton, or Englebert Humperdinck. Sorry if you like those singers but I just think it was pretty cheesy. But he did have a great voice. One thing about the poles in the Mikado lounge. I didn’t have any problem with them – I had more issues with heads in front of me than the poles. The Vegas-style shows we went to involved constant movement around the stage anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal at all. I am glad I chose the early seating, though, because that probably helped a lot in getting good seats. I’m really glad I didn’t choose a cold-weather cruise, like Alaska, because if I couldn’t sit in the sun and just relax, or read, I would have been hard up for entertainment. But for what we used it for, it was fine. Debarkation Refer to comments about Embarkation. Are other people not accustomed to waiting their turn? There are actually two waiting periods – one for going through customs, and the other to get off the ship. We were mentally prepared for this, plus our waiting area was in Tiffany’s, which was convenient, so we had a deck of cards and sat and played while waiting for our luggage tag color to be called. It really wasn’t a big deal at all, and we were off the ship by about 11am – almost exactly one week after we had first boarded. Overall I wholeheartedly agree with the reviewer who said that Carnival is like Target – it’s a good value. Yes, there were minor irritations; a few people I know who cruise mentioned other cruise lines where these things are not an issue. But overall, we had a wonderful time. I was glad to see other families with kids, and almost everyone we talked to was a first-time cruiser and very pleasant. It was very sad to be going home – we all wondered how we were going to adjust to sitting at a table with no ice-cream machine nearby. We’re already talking about our next cruise – maybe to the Bahamas! Please feel free to email me if you have any additional questions!

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By Sue_CR

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Mar 23, 2003

Mexican Riviera

We went to Mexico on possibly one of the busiest weeks of the year, Spring Break. The ship was filled with young people, which pleased us, because we brought our two teenaged boys. Our boys, being shy, did not connect with ANYONE the entire week, so spent a lot of time in their cabin. The opportunities for connection DO exist; our kids just were too shy to participate. This was the case for other kids too, I noticed. In the meantime,

my husband and I sort of flitted from one activity to another-- listened to classical music in one location, had a couple of rock-and-roll dances in another, threw some change in the slots, etc. (there is always eating). We enjoyed the ship and many of these conveniences. Our cabin steward was extremely accessible and very nice, esp. about waiting until our kids were finally out of the room to clean it! All the staff was very friendly and upbeat-- . It's easy to spend money on a cruise ship. They are constantly trying to get you to part with your money, either gambling, horse races, bingo, or continual sales on board. Of course you can ignore all this, which we did. If it overwhelms you, go find that quiet place to escape. Embarkation-- takes awhile, but very smooth. We had our luggage by about 7:00. We actually didn't sail until 6. Debarkation--- confusing, but here's the deal. Go down to the Cole Porter lounge with all your papers and family at anytime, early. (they made it seem like you would be called for this, but it isn't necessary) Then get some breakfast and go to the stations they tell you for debarkation, at the time when they tell you. It is quite simple and when you leave your luggage sits right in front of you. The ports: Sign up for offshore excursions IMMEDIATELY on boarding the ship, or you will likely not get them. We hardly had any and people really loved them. I heard you could get excursions onshore, but you have to be sure you will get back to the ship before departure. We stayed mostly at the ports, did a lot of walking and let our kids have a few excursions. If I were to do it again, I would rent a car and go see REAL Mexico, not just the ports where you are constantly asked to buy things and get in a taxi. By the way, it is IMPOSSIBLE to not find a taxi back to the ship. They are EVERYWHERE. Mazatlan was our favorite port, because we went into old town and got away from that for a bit. Even rode in an actual bus. We are not shoppers, so all the toursity stuff is a waste for us. We did go to lots of galleries and enjoyed the art of the region. Food-- the food was good, not fantastic, but good and lots of variety. Our wait staff was WONDERFUL!!! You can eat all day long. We never made any buffets, and I had pizza only once, and it was very good. I have been on Weight Watchers, and was worried about the amount of food, but there are tons of choices and always healthy alternatives. My only "bad time" was the discovery of the "Sweets Treats" time, and they have these wonderful peanut butter cookies,, mmmmmm. The last day was very rocky-- high waves, and those of us unprepared were quite sick. It took me over a week to get over it, too, so if you were interested in a patch, I'd suggest discussing this option with your doctor. Once I got seasick, the motion tablets did no good. Have a good time!

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Mar 23, 2003

Mexican Riviera

Overall it was a memorable experience. This was my family's first cruise experience. I took my staff as part of staff enrichment/development cruise and they enjoyed it very much. My children had a wonderful time with Camp Carnival (ages 2 to 10). They really miss the "Big Boat" even today. Being a vegetarian there was limited food selections but the waiting staff went out of their way to provide variety. There was a strong

smoke odor in the cabin and the common areas there could be better ventillation. I have an allergy to sea food that causes by airway to close - Unfortunately, when I ordered my burger the grilled mushroom on my garden burger must been cross contaminated with sea food which caused my to have a reaction. It turned out to be ok because I carried and administered an Epi-pen, however; no follow up from the cruise management nor from the headquarters as to how I was doing during the cruise nor afterward. The dining staff could use first aid training - they were all standing around not knowing what to do. We recieved more offers of help from the fellow passengers then we did from the staff. The "ticket agent" at the dock when checking in could be a little more courteous and be aware of her geography a little better. I was born in Seoul, Korea. She insisted that I fill in the state. I kept insisting that Seoul is the capital and Korea was the country and since Seoul was the capital, did not have a state. She even had follow me all the way to the gangway with a supervisor to have me fill in the state portion at which I explained to the supervisor that Seoul did not have a state. Conclusion: If smoke bothers you this is not the cruise for you. If you have a food allergy make sure you tell the dining staff that you are allergic to food and carry your own Epinephrine such as Epi-pen. The dining staff will go out of your way to give variety veggies.

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Mar 16, 2003

Mexican Riviera

Our 3rd cruise…we had been on Carnival Jubilee, Royal Caribbean Rhapsody & finally Carnival Elation. I was so impressed with Carnival our first time around; if they paid for referrals, I’d be rich now! You have to wonder how there can be so many different reviews, which is why you want to know a little bit about the person writing it first. Find someone similar to you and your traveling experiences and skip the others. a few

facts about us … Love a good time and if one can’t be found, usually create it Would never stay at anything less than a Marriott Hotel Don’t mind paying for great service BUT appreciate great values Married 16 years, 2 teenage children, 100k+ tax bracket Embarkation/Debarkation – If patience is not a virtue of yours; consider taking up drinking or drugs to calm you down. Even if you have gone through this process before, expect to be confused and cranky. Cabin – We were in cabin U150. Convenient to everything. We could have been upgraded to the Empress Deck but concerned about being directly below public areas. Next time we’ll try Veranda Deck. Our Cabin Steward, Yusef was very attentive. Consider taking a scented candle, disinfectant wipes, illuminated clock. No matter how clean the room, thousands of people have stayed here and used the bedding, etc. Dining – We had the late (8:00 p.m.) seating in the Inspiration dining room. We were seated at a table for 6. Unfortunately, with 3 couples sitting at the table, we had to take turns sitting separately from your spouse. No real hardship except when kicking your husband to get his attention discreetly, don’t miss! Our waiter Noel was very efficient and enjoyable. His assistant, Noberto, was great too. Order 2 of whatever you think you might like – our favorite was the “Starters”. We ate all but 1 dinner in the dining room. Tiffany’s is perfect for breakfast and lunch. We tried pizza and considered it o.k. Although a 24 hour Pizzeria, it should be called “Wait 8 minutes”. We ate at the sushi bar every evening. I’koman was the Sushi Chef and another asset to the Carnival Staff. The “Rest of the staff” – Anyone outside of food service & housekeeping area would not be worth mentioning. As a Corporate Trainer, I have a few basic suggestions but they would be interjected with bad words. Entertainment – Our most pleasurable entertainment experience was in our room. For a good time…make friends with everyone. This really is the best part of a cruise. We enjoyed “2 Slick”, interesting to watch, sit and listen. Plug your ears in the Drama Bar “James”’ he wouldn’t last 20 seconds on the Gong Show. “Music Motion” is an all Philippine Band that we danced to out of desperation. We went to a few of the shows in the Mikado. If you have super powers and can see through solid objects, then you will appreciate the Mikado Lounge. There are floor to ceiling poles strategically placed to block as much of the stage as possible. Took a nap during “Rhythm”, walked out on “Fiddler”, cracked a smile with “Meryl Hobbs”, “Steve Carte”, comedian/juggler was the only worthwhile entertainment (other than friends and husband). I love to dance but steer clear of “Ryan” in Jekyll & Hyde. In past cruise, this was a VERY fun place to be but this cruise, Elation catered to the age group of 18-23. Ship Activities: Auction, Putting Contest, Gemstone Showcase were cancelled at the last minute and never rescheduled. All Games started 10 minutes late and were extremely unprofessional, unorganized and “hokey”. Simon Prendergast, Cruise Director should be fired. Shore Excursions/Ports – I did an immense amount of research on each port and as we had been there before had a good idea what to expect. Las Caletas Tour in Puerto Vallarta was very good. The ocean was too choppy so we couldn’t snorkel or kayak but nice sunbathing area and wonderful massage. Carnival gave us a $40.00 credit since there were no activities and quite a few people were seasick. It is a beautiful island, good food, great service. Mazatlan, we hung out at El Cid Marina. Absolutely beautiful facility and will return for a week long stay soon. Cabo was fun too! We actually like the vendors! Shopping – My favorite past time. Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club just a few blocks from the port in Puerto Vallarta, just in case you forgot something. Best bargains were in Mazatlan Arts & Craft Center just outside the enclosed vendors as you walk towards transportation vans. In Cabo, walk just a few blocks to Cabo Wabo. You’ll find unusual items of fairly good quality on your way there. Can’t beat the prices for watches, liquor or perfume while shopping on the Elation. Overall Impression – I’m not sure what will induce me to try Carnival again. I’ll usually give a place “the benefit of the doubt” so if they have a non-smoking ship, lots of wind free sundecks, better organized and sophisticated ship board activities and cater to the average age cruiser, I just might “forgive and forget”. Carnival Elation is for you! If you; Yearn for lots of smoking areas: on every floor, by every elevator, down every hall, your next door neighbor. There are smoke free areas but you’ll inhale toxic amounts of smoke on your way there. adore bingo love to dance to rap ardent admirer of a well rehearsed, “canned” Cruise Director passionate about mediocre entertainment love to wait get emotionally attached to “staff in training” do cartwheels when “your fun” is cancelled

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Feb 16, 2003

Mexican Riviera

We flew to LAX from Minneapolis on Saturday, arriving by 9:00 a.m. We rented a car and spent the day driving up the coast. We stayed overnight at the San Pedro Hilton, an excellent hotel and location not far from the cruise departure dock (complimentary hotel shuttle to the pier on Sunday). (Background – 52 and 50, both professionals, celebrating our 30th anniversary with our second cruise, first time on Carnival). Embarkation - The

hotel shuttle dropped us at the pier sometime after 11:30 a.m. The lines were already very long, but the only wait we had was for obtaining a porter to take our luggage. After dropping the luggage and tipping the porter, a Carnival representative directed us to wait in the area directly in front of the front entrance. He said that we would be admitted just after the passengers with special needs. I would estimate we stood maybe 5 minutes, then were ushered in. Just inside the main entrance there was a conference table set up to check in those of us in category 11 and 12 cabins (“Skippers Club”). In my opinion, this was one of the greatest advantages of paying more for these categories. While we were signing for our sign and sail cards, they began letting in the long outside lines. We went directly from the check-in table to the waiting area chairs. When boarding began, we were among the first dozen or so people to go through the photo station and on to the ship. I don’t think it was more than 30 minutes from the time we got out of the hotel shuttle to the time we walked up the gangplank. Cabin – We were in cabin V7 on the Verandah deck. The mini-suite seemed to be about the same size as outside standard rooms but was a little more nicely designed, with a real queen-size bed and a small balcony. The nice thing about the balcony was just being able to open the door, latch it and leave it open when we wanted to just stand on the balcony or let the sea air and sounds of the waves into our cabin. There were numerous bar and wine glasses, a mini-refrigerator, TV with VCR (I brought a few VHS tapes). Our room steward Winni (Winnifredo) did an excellent job all week. We’ve heard the comments about there being more motion on the higher decks and this seems to be accurate, but we really liked the Verandah deck. There are far fewer cabins than on the lower decks and it seemed very easy and convenient to move back and forth from the cabin to other locations, especially to the outside Lido deck. We also noticed fewer children on this deck. Dining – We had the late (8:30 p.m.) seating in the Imagination dining room. We were seated at a table for 10 (we had 5 couples, one of which only ate one dinner in the dining room) just next to the Captain’s table. Our waiter Ilham was very efficient and enjoyable. He is Indonesian, served with Carnival for 18 years, and has 2 daughters in college in Amsterdam. His assistant, Julie, was from Australia, and was extremely friendly. We enjoyed our tablemates, but conversations at these large tables is very difficult. We found the food quality to be excellent. While we were comfortable occasionally ordering more than one item from the “starter” (first) course, none at our table saw the need to ever order more than one entrée. I preferred the beef items. My wife and I agreed that the Chateaubriand on the final night was our favorite meal. I also liked the crème desserts (Crème Caramel, Crème Brulee, etc.). We had wine with every dinner and found the wine list to be adequate for our needs. We ate all dinners and all but two lunches in the dining room. We had a few breakfasts in the dining room with open seating and found the same situation as our last cruise with the waitstaff at best indifferent, at times rude, serving breakfast. I recommend Tiffany’s for breakfast. The staff in Tiffany’s were excellent and most accommodating during the breakfast hours. We tried pizza once or twice and considered it good, nothing outstanding. I visited the sushi bar every evening at 5:30 p.m. This was an excellent experience. We also ordered room service for 2 breakfasts and 1 late afternoon snack and the BLTs and brownies were very good, service was prompt, friendly and efficient. The Cruise Director – Paul Santley, was very entertaining, one of the best I’ve ever seen. I didn’t consider the loudspeaker announcements to be too intrusive. Casino – Worth mentioning only because on Monday evening I hit a jackpot of 2,000 quarters on slots, then again on Friday evening (same machine) for 1,000 quarters, giving me total winnings of $750. This does not happen to me often. Entertainment – Our most pleasurable entertainment experience was when we sat and listened to the Classical String Trio (piano, violin, cello). We saw them the first day as we boarded in the atrium, then again at a 4:00 p.m. tea in Duke’s, and they performed some evenings at various locations before dinner. They were outstanding. We went to a few of the shows in the Mikado. Not bad, but not worth going in early just to hold seating (8:30 p.m. dinner seating detracts from your ability to get to the 10:30 p.m. shows early). The midnight adult comedy shows were very funny. We found Duke’s to be the most comfortable bar. Also enjoyed Gatsby’s Great Bar (cigar smoking allowed, with very good ventilation). Stayed away from Jekyll & Hyde – where all the teen disco activity was happening, followed by adult dancing. Shore Excursions/Ports - As soon as we boarded on Sunday, I dropped our completed shore excursion request sheet for Puerto Vallarta at the excursion request box on Empress Deck, near the info desk. I requested the Unimog Adventure and we received it. It was an excellent excursion, and not as “bumpy” as promoted. The guide was outstanding, one of the best we’ve ever had, and this experience truly allows you to get a feel for a bit of some “true” Mexican landscape, villages, and beaches. Our second excursion was Randi’s Happy Horses at Mazatlan, not a Carnival excursion. We booked 4 months ahead by email and again this was a most enjoyable experience. I highly recommend both of these excursions. We did not take any excursions in Cabo. There really is not much time and having to use the tenders cuts in to the little time you do have. We did not book this cruise for the ports, had been to Mexico previously, so had relatively low expectations. Overall, our port experiences were better than we expected, mostly due to the Unimog and Randi’s activities. Everyone seems to say they like Cabo the best. I theorize that this is partially due to the fact that it is the most “Americanized” of the 3 ports. Except for the rock formations, I felt like I could have been in Malibu or Orlando. I don’t mind seeing a little of the “underside” that you experience in Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. Speaking of “Americanized”, I will concede that it was surprising and somewhat disturbing to note that the first sight we saw from our balcony as we approached docking in Puerto Vallarta was no less than a Walmart Superstore, complete with an attached Sam’s Club. Debarkation - A true display of the “Ugly American” concept when so many people seem to completely disregard any of the most basic instructions from the staff. The Cruise Director practically had to use threatening language in an attempt to keep people from congregating around all levels of the atrium, hallways, fire exits, etc. We gathered in Duke’s because we were to be among early departees signed up for the coastal bus tour ($35 each add-on safe for those with outgoing flights of 3:00 p.m. or later). Debarkation did not seem to have much order and people were angry at violators and saying so – closest thing to “road rage” that we experienced. I suggest staying in your cabins as long as possible, have a good book, and relax. Overall Impression – I would recommend this cruise, ship and itinerary and will sail Carnival again in the future (we want to try the smoke-free Paradise sometime). We enjoyed sailing on the Elation. After our cruise, it was scheduled to sail to San Francisco and 2 weeks of drydock for sprucing-up. Overall, I found it to be clean and attractive. There were some signs of wear (such as the lighter-colored carpeting on the steps showing stains) that will most likely be corrected in drydock. I was impressed with the massive size of the ship. With the exception of debarkation, we never felt crowded in the common spaces. We sailed during Presidents Week, a time when a lot of schools have vacation. There were a large number of young people on this cruise – someone heard that there were 700 under 21 and all rooms were completely full. The kids and teens did not bother us. Probably the most noticeable thing would be if you wanted to use a swimming pool (we did not). We used the adult (topless option) sunning deck (funnel) and felt very comfortable and private. Our weather was exceptional. Absolutely no rain and we were able to sunbathe all 7 days. We enjoy “at sea” days as much as port days, one of the reasons we chose this itinerary. Feel free to email me with any questions.

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Dec 1, 2002

Mexican Riviera

This was our first cruise all together, All I have to say is magnificent! It was wonderful, Staff was excellent every body was friendly. My family and I would highly recommend it. For it is the ultimate getaway.

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Sep 28, 2002

Mexican Riviera

This was our third cruise, and the second on Carnival. It started out a little rough with the embarkation process. When the ship arrived not everyone showed up to clear immigration, and they lost a few hours chasing down those bozos. Nobody can get off until everyone clears. We arrived at the pier at 11:45 and got on the boat at 2:30. No signage at the pier to tell you where to go – just find the longest line and get in it. There were

a few Carnival employees who came by once in a while shouting about having coupons 1 & 2 filled out. Once we got inside the terminal, the in processing went smoothly. We found our rooms, stashed our carry-ons, and had lunch at Tiffany’s. We pushed away from the dock at about 5:30, about 1 ½ hrs late. All went well – the first two days are at sea, so we spent most of the time eating. We got to Puerto Vallarta Wednesday morning on time. Weather was good, as it was for the entire cruise. We did the Eden Jungle tour – I wouldn’t recommend it. They take you into the Jungle to the “Predator Set” where the movie “Predator” was filmed. It consists of a restaurant next to a river with a natural water slide and swimming hole with a rope swing. The way it’s set up, you have to go through the restaurant to get to the river. The tour guide explains that it is best to order your food before you go play in the water, as it takes about 35 minutes to get your food. Since it was only 10 am, we weren’t hungry and skipped the whole restaurant scene. We were there about 2 hours. The kids had fun on the water slide and rope swing, but the water was too cold for Mom & Dad. Mazatlan was next. We took the Sierra Madre tour, which was about 7 ½ hours. We went through the city, stopped at a brick factory, furniture factory, the little town of Concordia with an interesting 18th century church, and a small mining town in the mountains where we had lunch (included). On the way back, we stopped at the “Golden Zone” shopping district, mercifully for only 30 minutes, since we were running late. Got back to the boat 10 min before the deadline. Saturday was Cabo San Lucas. Got there at 7 am and we were only there until noon, not really enough time to do a whole lot. At Cabo, the ship has to drop anchor and shuttle passengers ashore in tenders. The tenders are small and it’s a slow process. We left Cabo and got to LA about 6:45 Sunday morning. On Saturday, they have a presentation in the Mikado Lounge about the debarkation process, but you don’t really need to go. Just read the directions in the “Carnival Capers” newsletter and do what it says. We had an early flight, so we were in the first group to get off, which was 10:00. The debarkation process was smooth. Some overall thoughts about the cruise. It seemed like there was no escape from cigarette smoke. Smoking was not allowed in the dining areas or the Mikado Lounge, but just about everywhere else on the ship was fair game. Carnival’s smoking policy is way too liberal. For this reason we won’t do another Carnival cruise except possibly on the Paradise (smoke free ship). Smokers liked to congregate around the elevators for some reason, so we usually held our breath and headed for the stairs. You’d be at the rail watching the ship dock, and somebody would stand next to you and start puffing away. The entertainment on this ship was below average. There were no shows at all on three nights. The dancers only performed on two nights. Contrary to what they advertise, the early show is not kid-appropriate due to the dancer’s exposed butt cheeks. The food was excellent. We think the food on Carnival is better than Royal Caribbean, but the opposite in the entertainment department. Service from our waiters and cabin steward was outstanding. We witnessed some disturbing examples of extreme drunkenness while waiting in line to re-board the ship in Mazatlan. The cruise director, Greg, spends a good bit of time promoting “Senor Frog’s” and cheap tequila in his little “what to do in port” chats, and it is apparently effective. It was definitely a Jerry Springer type of crowd on this ship, something we did not notice on our previous Carnival or RCCL cruises, both of which were out of Miami. We won’t be doing this one again, but if you’re a pierced and tattooed party animal, leave the kids at home with grandma and have at it!

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Jun 1, 2002

Mexican Riviera

Since flying has become such a lengthy ordeal, we decided it would more efficient to drive from Phoenix to L.A. We didn't figure in time for the 2 hour traffic jam though. We didn’t get to board as early as I had hoped but still made it in time. As soon as we sat down for lunch the muster drill was being called. I know it's mandatory, but what a hassle. I had booked directly through Carnival as a TBA. We had purchased a separate cabin for our two

daughters and I was assured twice by Carnival's personal vacation planner that their cabin would be next door or across the hall from ours. Not even close. Took my complaint to the information desk and was told it was a full booking and nothing could be done about it. I wish SOMEONE had of told us that the first two days at sea were windy and COLD. We packed only short sleeve items. As soon as you leave Cabo it's the same story until you get back to L.A. Some of the crew members told us that was the norm. The food was excellent and plenty of it. The crew was outstanding with the exception of one rude waiter at the pool bar. We enjoyed the ports but as with most of the reviews I've read, Cabo was the best and was the least amount of time to spend there. After shopping in PV, we spent the rest of the day at the Krystal hotel in their wonderful pool. It cost about $6 per person and was within walking distance of the ship. Mazatlan was much the same as PV, after morning shopping we hung out in the pool at El Sids, free. We plan to cruise again, but never to this location. You lose almost 4 days to the bad weather and remember, pack a COAT!

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Mar 17, 2002

Mexican Riviera

My Wife & I chose to celebrate our 25th Anniversary aboard the Elation. Our decision was based upon the brochures and Itinerary. It is safe to say we had no idea what to expect. To say the least we were overwhelmed! The food...the service...the activities.. the staff.. everything about this cruise gets our highest recommendation. May we suggest the following: Request "late" dining, it eases the rush of daily activities and seems to make the nights

last longer. Try to take in all the "shows" that are offered...even the "Passenger Talent Show" was awesome. The cruise director and staff have a way of making you feel that this is "thee only" cruise of the year and you are on it. As far as shore excursions. We recommend the Horseback riding in Puerto Vallarta (we crossed the river 6 times on horseback) The "Dolphin Encounter" was also fantastic. We took the "Deer Island kayak tour" in Mazatlan. It features an interesting boat ride to the island...a short but exhilarating hike to the top of Deer Island...and a fun cool kayak trip. The snorkeling is the best bet in Cabo due to the short time spent there. The souvenirs are the same in every port...cheapest in Puerto Vallarta.. and by far the most expensive in Cabo. A last bit of advice...try as early as possible to get into the "rhythm" of the ship...leave your stress and impatience at the dock, relax, enjoy...and most of all talk to and get to know your fellow passengers.. there are some great people out there. We give the Carnival Elation "Two Thumbs Up".

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By Dan_CR

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Nov 11, 2001

Mexican Riviera

Upon returning to the Cruise Ship we reported our adventure and explained that we were upset about the misrepresented trip. We then were told that we would hear from someone the next day. The next day came and went with no response. So we called again. We again were told that we would hear something tomorrow. That never happened. Finally three days later we received a letter and were credited 50% of the excursion. The whole process was very long and

drawn out. Carnival did not seem to be willing to make things right. In all of the ports you can see and do just about everything on your own and save a lot of money as well as being able to find out exactly what it is that you will be doing or seeing.

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Apr 14, 2001

Mexican Riviera

Carnival is not for everyone. We took this trip knowing full well that Carnival has a reputation for being a party boat for families and a generally younger crowd. The fact that it was also Spring Break made for an even younger than ususal clientele. The boat was very full--about 2,300 passengers against a two-occupant per cabin capacity of about 2,000--including about 800 kids aged 18 or less. The whole week was a lot like a trip to the mall.

For me and my wife, it was a week of loud rock and roll when we would have preferred smooth jazz. There was little opportunity to just sit quietly on deck and read or watch the ocean go by. Carnival runs a fleet of "Fun Ships" and you'd better believe they intend to live up to their slogan. There is always something happening, whether it be a hairy chest contest or an art auction. This is clearly what I lot of people want in a cruise vaction and I think they should all seek out Carnival. For fuddy-duddies like me, it would probably be better to seek out another line. I was concerned about the food on the Elation, based on various things I had seen and read. I must say that I was very pleasantly surprized by the quality of the food. My wife is a very demanding diner and she was extremely happy with a lot of the food, especially the soups and appetizers. At one meal, she had two soups, a salad, and two appetizers with no main course at all. She was very pleased. The 24 hour pizza is also very good. We only ate in the buffet a couple of times but it was also far better than I expected. I have cruised on Celebrity before and they have a good reputation for their cuisine. I would have to say the Elation was every bit as good. The service in the dining room was very good. Carnival has a strong reputation for their entertainment but I would have to say I was disappointed. I went to the theater show every night and only found a couple of the shows to be worthwhile. The "Las Vegas" style shows were well done but poorly conceived. The comics were funny. The juggler was awful. The magician was so-so. My wife and I really did enjoy listening to the Mozart Trio, a small classical group, during afternoon tea every day. The kids, two teenage boys, hung out in the disco every night and had a great time. The only ship sponsored shore excursion we took was the Ecological Snorkel at Cabo. It was worthwhile though the water was much colder than we expected. The quality of snorkling, the temperature aside, was good, not up to Hawaii standards, but better than anything else on the West Coast. We arranged our own trip in Mazatlan with Randi's Happy Horses (go to www.mazinfo.com/horsebackride/ and check it out.) We had a great time riding through a coconut plantation and along a beach. In Puerta Vallarta, we just hung out at a resort. Our cabin was nice, reasonably big, and featured a world-class shower. The cabin steward provided good service. There is not much to see on this trip (compared to, for example, Alaska) so a balcony would see a silly extravagance. Carnival does a poor job of getting people on and off the boat. Everyone says this and I can only hope they will check out how other lines do a better job and learn from it. In conclusion, I would recommend Carnival to anyone over 14 and under 40, or anyone who feels that way. For those looking for a quiet trip with time to read and reflect, I would look for another company.

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Apr 14, 2001

Mexican Riviera

Lloyd   This was our second trip on the Elation, both at this same time of year.  This time we had a large group.  Our local travel agent (Cruise One) was very helpful in making all of the arrangements for the group.  It helps if you have someone who knows how to work directly with Carnival. Connections.   Our connections from our Seattle flight worked well and the Carnival representatives were helpful in getting

us to our shuttles.  The shuttles were also nice since your luggage was taken directly to your rooms.  Bags did not appear to be checked for alcohol.  This time the wait in the processing line was better, but still took us ½ hour to get on the boat.  As I have read before, the wait to disembark can be long, but since we had a flight before 12:30 we were able to get off the boat in one of the first groups, gathered our luggage and were through customs in just a few minutes.  Compared to other customs this one is cursory.  There was no checking at all, just dropping off forms. Room and Service.   Since we had a large group we had one Category 12 suite.  This was a very nice room with a refrigerator, lots of seating for hosting a group, a large bathroom with jetted tub, a large bar area, and lots of windows and balcony.  We used the balcony a lot for socializing and observing activities at the ports.  The main beds were twins that could be pushed together.  The only negative was that the bed for the third and fourth persons was a hide-a-bed, which was a bit larger than a twin.  This worked marginally with kids which could also use the remainder of the couch, but I would not advise it for adults.  The room steward was exceptional.  Our room was kept spotless and he was very responsive to requests.  This is one of the best parts of the trip. Dining.   The food was great.  We made all of the dinners in the main dining rooms, and split the lunches and breakfasts between the dining room and Tiffany’s, the casual eating area.  I have seen some negative reviews on the Elation food, but I found it to be very good.  The dining room menu is varied.  Although the portions are not small, it is made up by the variety and the ability to order extras.  The presentation was always exceptional.  The only item that I thought was not up to par was the lobster.  The year before was much better.  The service was good.  The waiters were very friendly and accommodating.  The wine list was very good and well priced.  The big negative for the trip occurred in the dining room.  Our agent had arranged for three window tables of eight.  When we arrived we were put in the middle in two tables of ten and a table of six.  The maitre d’ admitted that he was the one that made the switch.  He was not able to move us.  In the future I would want a guarantee. Entertainment and Facilities.   Lots to do.  The shows were good, but most were identical to one year before.  I would have liked to have seen some turnover.  I especially liked the Elation fitness facilities.  They were top notch and most of the time were not crowded.  We spent a lot of time on deck sunning.  A note here.  Since the prevailing winds are from the north, on the way back once you clear Cabo San Lucas, there is virtually no place on deck that you can lay out in the sun without strong winds. Ports.   I have heard that you could get better value for tours off the ship so we did not book any.  Some in our group did and thought they were ok, but not great.  The one exception was the Puerta Vallarta Unamog excursion.  This included an oversized dune vehicle excursion and dinner.  Another trip I had read about was Randi’s Horses in Mazatlan, but unfortunately I tried to book over the internet too late.  Overall, I would not rate the activities in the ports too highly.  We found it better to lay out on the beaches, go to Senor Frogs or Carlos O’Briens to party, or pay an English speaking cab driver to tour the city. Other.   I have read that the last two days at sea were usually rough, and this was the case.  The last day was particularly rough with a number of people feeling seasick.  Given the size of the seas, the boat did well, but make sure to not plan any special events this last day. The Carnival Line is great for kids.  Our two early teens were always off with new found friends, so we had plenty of time alone.  Since not a lot of schools had this week for a break the ratio of kids and adults was good.  I would rate the trip a real value.  However, I would like some variety in the future.

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By Judy_CR

  • New

Dec 17, 2000

Mexican Riviera

I admit that this is my first cruise so I have no other cruise to compare it to, but I have traveled extensively through the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia so I'm not new to travel. I was a bit apprehensive about cruising but I am now hooked on it. The Elation exceeded my expectations. Embarkation: This took a couple of hours and could have been handled much better. In a cruise line this large, more clerks to check documents, etc., would have

really speeded up the process. We boarded quickly after checking in and had no trouble finding our room. But that was mainly because I had studied the map in the brochure well. This was the only poor service we got...during embarkation. No one seemed willing or able to help us find our way around. After that, things looked up tremendously. Room: My husband and I were traveling with our teenagers, a 17 year old daughter and a 14 year old son. We also didn't want to spend extra money for the room since none of us planned to spend much time in it. We were in the bottom deck, the Riviera, in a room for 4. The room had 2 single beds and 2 overhead bunks, a desk with 5 drawers, a closet with shelves to fold our clothes on, and 2 hanging closets. These provided more than enough space for all our things. Our suitcases were quickly emptied and put under the beds until time to go home. The bathroom was fairly roomy and had a great shower. There was a TV with limited channels but who-the-heck goes on a cruise to watch TV? The only problem was the fact that sharing a room with our kids limited our chances for "spontaneous romance." Ah, well. Next time we'll probably go alone or splurge on another room for the kids. The room was clean, comfortable, and the service by our room steward was excellent. He was a real gentleman. Courteous, helpful, and thorough. Food: Wow! I gained about 10#. I guess that says it all. I ate like a pig but didn't care about the "shrinking" pants. The food was excellent both in the dining room and in Tiffany's where the buffet was served. We always chose to eat breakfast and lunch at the Tiffany's buffet and had dinner each night in the main restaurant. Breakfast choices included anything you could desire: ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, made to your request omelettes, french toast, pancakes, fried potatoes, toast, oatmeal, cold cereal, fruit, juices....a great wake-up for the taste buds. Lunch changed daily and included numerous delicious choices. Daily there were seafood, poultry, beef, and pasta choices to choose from (or have a little of each). There were numerous rice, paella, pasta, potato, vegetable side dishes. And each day there was an excellent salad bar. The dessert choices ranged from plain cakes to cheesecakes to fruited jellos to ice cream and never disappointed. Our dinners in the main dining room were delightful. Numerous appetizers, salads, and entrees were offered each evening and the menu choices never repeated. There were always a seafood, poultry, pasta, and meat choice to choose from. I am a fairly picky eater yet I never had a bad meal. And the presentation was excellent. For example, a fruit plate would arrive with the fruit arranged like a flower in the center of the plate with the fruit dip piped onto the edge of the plate looking like the fruit "flower's" leaves. I almost hated to eat most dishes because they looked so pretty. Past experience had me believing that if the food's presentation was excellent, the taste was not. This was NOT the case on the Elation. Dining Room Staff: Our waiter was named Marius and his assistant was Eddie. They were the best and really made the trip special. Marius made the effort the first night to learn my 17 year old daughter's name and she was thrilled. She had a bit of a crush on him and he went out of his way to make her feel special. But he did this in a very respectful way. At no time was he disrespectful or inappropriate....just charming. They both did an excellent job of anticipating our needs without being obtrusive. I wish we could have afforded to leave them a much bigger tip at the end of our trip. We tipped them just a bit over the recommended amounts but would have liked to have given them more. They deserved it. The Head Waiter did a nice job as well but nothing exceptional that stood out. Hints for Dining: Remember that you have paid for the food with your cruise package. It was wonderful to be able to send something back that you didn't like (a few of our table-mates did this) and get another dish. It was also wonderful to be able to order two or more dishes if you were especially hungry or, as in my case some nights, I couldn't decide what I wanted. So, for example, one night I couldn't decide between the salmon and the prawns so I had both. My husband enjoyed the lobster so much that he had three servings! I'd hate to see our bill in a nice restaurant if we did that here at home. Activities & Entertainment on board: We didn't partake of any of the silly games but it was fun to watch some of them. The few that I watched (the hairy chest contest and the Newlywed Game) were hysterical and the cruise director, Simon Pendergrast, was quite charming and funny. I thought the shows were well done and enjoyed the two Vegas-style shows. They weren't top-notch but they were well done with beautiful costumes. My only complaint was the female lead singer. Her voice just didn't cut it. But the male singer, the dancers, the sets, and the costumes made up for that. The female magician was excellent and I enjoyed the comedians as well. Again, not necessarily entertainment that was up to real Vegas standards at the nicer clubs, but still pretty darn good. The various music throughout the ship was excellent. We spent a lot of time at Duke's listening to the piano player. He did a nice job and sometimes cruisers got up and sang individually or in a duet with him. At other times, we just all belted out and sang along. Dave, the guitar player at the bar in Elation's Way was excellent. Man, he could really play. We also attended a couple of the art auctions for a short time. It was amazing the quality of some of the art work that they had. We saw a Peter Max sell for about $5100. Wish we had the $$ to splurge on something there. We didn't gamble but we did walk through the casino a few times. It seemed to have a nice selection of slots and tables. The dance clubs were a lot of fun but we didn't stay in them long. We usually were pretty tired out by that time of night and preferred sitting on our ever-enlarging behinds and listening to the piano and guitar players. There was also a nice selection of classical music being played at various times in some of the other lounges. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed the dance scene at night and would often get to the room later than we did. She had a great time dancing and meeting new friends and it was nice to know that she was safe on the ship somewhere. I never worried about her like I do at home when she's out driving around at night. My 14 year old son really didn't get involved in too many activities but he still enjoyed himself quite a bit. In short, there was plenty to do on the ship and you would never be bored unless you chose to be boring yourself. If you didn't want to see the shows or partake in the organized games and competitions, you could go work-out at the fitness center which had excellent weight machines. The gym also had free weights and numerous bikes (both upright and recumbent), rowing machines, treadmills, and stair-climbers. In addition, there were various aerobic, Tae-bo, walking, stretching, and other fitness classes to take. There were steamrooms and saunas as well as whirlpools to enjoy as well. In addition, they also had numerous talks per day including skincare, weightloss topics, and a fun massage class for couples where my husband and I both learned some new massage techniques to use at home. If you really want to splurge, you can have various massages (full-body, head/neck, feet/ankles, etc.), facials, body composition analysis, and more. Again, there is something for everyone. Kids: My kids chose not to do the activities for teens so I can't comment on them but I talked to some folks who had younger kids involved in Camp Carnival. This seemed to be a fun time for their kids and gave the parents some quiet time for themselves. In addition, babysitting is available in the evenings for those parents of young kids who want to party a bit with the grown-ups. Shore Excursions: These went very smoothly and were not a hassle to get on-and-off the ship for. Only if you waited until the last minute to re-board did you have to suffer through a long wait in line. Due to budget concerns, we didn't do any of the offered excursions but, instead, went about on our own. Those I talked to really enjoyed the excursions they took. It's just a shame that Carnival doesn't send you the information with your cruise packet so you know some prices and options ahead of time. Simon, the cruise director, does give a nice talk on Monday morning with plenty of good information about what to do. Just remember to budget accordingly. I believe the excursions were anywhere from about $30-90 per person and included scuba diving, horseback riding, driving tours, and the opportunity to use the facilities at beachside resorts. Puerto Vallarta: we took a taxi into town in the morning and did some shopping and walking around sightseeing. We then took a taxi back to the ship and had lunch, got our snorkeling gear, and took a taxi to Mismaloyas Beach. From there we took a water taxi out to Los Archos for some great scuba diving. The water taxi driver offered to give us a tour of the beach area to a place where the Predator movie was filmed. We chose to forego that so we would have more time to snorkel. The snorkeling was great with lots of great fish of various colors. Mazatlan: we decided to spend that day doing our Christmas shopping for the family at home as we had not bought any gifts yet and wouldn't be returning home until late on Christmas Eve. We got some excellent deals there. The choices in the shopping area were excellent. We also had nice shopping at the little trading post set up on the dock. Prices seemed reasonable and we were able to dicker down some prices pretty good. We never felt ripped off. We would have stayed in Mazatlan longer but ended up going back to the ship because my daugher was ill. More on that below. Cabo San Lucas: we only had until Noon there so we immediately got a water taxi (right on the pier where the boats from the ship dropped us off) and went snorkeling at Pelican Rock. While Simon pushed snorkeling at Lover's Beach, we were told that Pelican Rock actually had better snorkeling. It didn't disappoint and the snorkeling there was even better than in Mazatlan. I'm really glad we didn't do the tour offered for this. Not only was this a cheaper option but we snorkeled for about 3 hours instead of the 1 hour you got in the excursion package. SNORKELING HINT: You can rent snorkeling gear on the ship if you don't want to purchase the snorkeling excursion package but the rental is fairly expensive (about $40 for all 3 stops per person for fins, mask, and life jacket). Bring your own and this would be a real inexpensive, yet fun, option. Also, buy your waterproof disposable cameras at home. We forgot them and the price on the ship was quite high....$26 each. Medical Care: As I mentioned above, my daughter got sick on the trip. She woke up Tuesday with a sore throat and by Wednesday morning, her tonsils were quite enlarged and pussy. The doctor in the infirmary was helpful and gave her antibiotics and throat lozenges. This cost us about $50. Unfortunately, my daughter has never had penicillin before as our MD usually uses amoxicillin or other antibiotics. Well, on Thursday while in Mazatlan she was feeling extremely bad and was covered in a heat rash (or so we thought). We went back to the ship about 3:00 and took her back to the infirmary. The doctor insisted that she go into the hospital in Mazatlan because her throat was so closed up and she was having trouble breathing. It was fairly scary. My husband went with her and they had to check off the boat as if they may not be coming back in case she was advised not to sail. An ambulance met them and took them to the hospital and a ship's agent went with them. My husband was very impressed with the level of service at the hospital. There was no wait at all. They took x-rays to make sure her chest was clear and realized that her rash was an allergic reaction to the penicillin. They gave her another antibiotic in a shot as well as oral antibiotics and stronger lozenges. They also sent a syringe with a shot for the ship's doctor to give her the next day. The ambulance returned them directly to the ship shortly before casting off. I was informed that the ship's schedule was flexible enough that they would have waited for a few hours if necessary. All in all, the kindness and professionalism of both doctors (on-board and at the hospital) and the other ship's staff really helped us feel OK about this situation. Formal Nights: You don't have to eat in the dining room on formal nights and can choose to do the buffet if you don't want to get dressed up. It was fun to dress up the two nights and attend the Captain's Cocktail Party with free cocktails the first formal night. People were dressed in everything from ball gowns and tuxedos to nice suits and cocktail dresses. There were a few folks a bit more casual but they did look a little out of place. Again, this is something you can opt not to do but I would encourage to experience the elegance. For people like us who normally dine at fancy places like the local burger bar and pizza, the formal nights were a real treat. DINING HINT: We chose the late dinner seating at 8:15 and are really glad we did. The early seating was at about 5:30 or so and it seemed to early to be going to dinner....especially on the formal nights. We were usually in the gym about first-seating time and would have hated to be getting dressed up for the formal nights as early as 4:00 or so in order to be ready on time. Remember, if you don't want to have the early breakfast, you can have the same great breakfast food in the Tiffany buffet later on when you get up. Just my thoughts. My mom who has cruised a lot disagrees and chooses the early seating but she's in her 70's and probably didn't enjoy the Piano Bar late at night like we did. Drinks: If you have kids with you, you can buy them a drink card on-board for $20 that will get them unlimited soda pop during the trip. My son especially enjoyed sitting up at the guitar bar in Elation's Way and ordering a coke. He said he's really gonna miss that here at home. You can also buy a soda-pop card for adults for $30 if you want one for yourself. My husband and I enjoyed the margueritas on board a lot....perhaps a bit too much but, hey, we're on vacation! And we didn't have to drive anywhere either. The drinks were good and reasonably priced. Depending on what bar we ordered them in, they ranged from abour $4.50 to $6 each. The sizes of glasses were different in different bars so I think that's why there was a price difference. MONEY HINT: Bring plenty of smaller bills (ones, fives, tens, and twenties) for the taxis and shopping. Everyone took American currency but know the exchange rate. This is posted by the purser's office daily. It was great not to have money on-board and use your Sail-and-Sign card (which doubles as your room key) for all purchases on-board. Also remember to bring money for your tips as you can't put these on your Sail-and-Sign card. There is an AMT on-board but they don't guarantee it will still have cash at the end of the week. The suggested tip rate is $3.50 per day per person for the waiter and steward, and $2 per day per person for the assistant waiter. They really earn it and I feel it's reasaonble for all they do to make the cruise special. Deparkation went smoothly but it would have been nice to have the run of the ship rather than being made to wait in designated areas. Well, I hope this helps someone. I really enjoyed the cruise a lot. Work had been extremely stressful the last few months and I came back truly refreshed. It was a great time and my husband and I are thinking of doing the same trip on the Elation by ourselves. We wouldn't hesitate to do that or sail on any Carnival ships if they all have service like the Elation. Have a good one and Bon Voyage!

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  • New

Nov 7, 1999

Mexican Riviera

This is a review I wrote shortly after our Elation cruise in Nov.'99. Well, my wife and I just got back from a week on the Elation on Monday Nov 15.(We spent the night in Vegas on the way back) We stayed at the San Pedro Hilton the night before and it was great! The marina is a beautiful place for a walk and there is lots to do around there. Ports of Call has 50+ shops and restaurants. It was wonderful. We got to see the Elation come in at

around 6:30 am from our room window. This was a total fluke. I just got up to use the washroom and took a look. It was pretty neat. We took a hotel shuttle to the port. The Rhapsody of the Seas was in port also. What an impressive ship! The Elation is a gorgeous ship too. She is very similar to her sister the Imagination which we went on a couple of years ago, with a few minor changes. Seating. Even though we were confirmed for late seating, we were assigned to early seating with 2 other couples from Canada. We wanted late seating so changed it and wound up at a table of 60+ (years) people. Half of whom wound up not coming to dinner. Needless to say, dinner conversations were a bit of a let down. We did wind up at a large table though and what conversations we did have were interesting, I don't know if it is was LA or if its because the Elation has a great kids club but I figure 50% of the people on board had kids. Running and screaming, bumping in to you and sitting at the bar with you (that's tough to get used to). I would not recommend this cruise to someone who is child intolerant. We have a little girl and decided to leave her at home but after a few hours I began to wonder why, we just could have let her roam free on the floating daycare like all of the other people. One couple had 6 kids with them. Three young ones and a set of newborn of triplets. What kind of a holiday is that? I myself would not take this cruise again and I think I will avoid Carnival in the future. I have been on three of their ships now and I think its time for a change. I found many of the guests to be pushy and rude. Even though I'm still in my thirties I think its time to move up to Princess or Holland where proper manners and dress are still (I hope) in effect. The rum swizzle party was insane! People pushing and shoving everyone just for a free drink. When we cruised on the Imagination last time we set our watches to ships time and left them there. This cruise has you changing your watches 4 out of the 7 days. This is a real pain in the behind and I don't know if it is because of the itinerary or what. Oh yes, a guest got sick and the ship had to be diverted to Mazatlan on the way down. This caused us to be about 4 hours late and we missed our tour that we booked independent of Carnival. This was the only tour we booked so we were a little disappointed in missing it. The guest was in stable condition last that we heard and they gave us one extra hour in PV and 2 extra hours in Cabo. Lastly, the seas are very rough on this side of the world! The ship was constantly rocking and listing side to side. Many people were sick the entire voyage and the waves were not even that high. On the positive side, we met some very nice people (including a waiter we exchanged addresses with), saw some nice ports, got some sun and had a lot of fun! The cruise director was a riot and seemed to be having a lot of fun too. FYI, I didn't use it but saw many people using the ATM successfully. Richard & Cathy

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Both my wife and I were under a little stress after 9/11, and in October I was surfing the net looking for something to do to get away. I landed on Carnival’s website and a cruise sounded like a good idea. The three/four day cruise out of Los Angeles looked like a fun diversion, so I made an Inquiry. Carnival contacted us and offered us a four-day cruise for less than $350. I E-mailed back and told them it wasn’t much of a deal,

since the regular price was about the same. Carnival wrote back and said that was the rate for TWO! They had a lot of cancellations and were having difficulty in filling up the ship. We signed on and then took the next week off work. Elation: The Elation and the Ecstasy are ‘sister’ ships and are laid out the same except for the color scheme and a few minor differences on the Promenade Deck. The Elation is quite a bit more subdued in colors, Mauve, copper, dark woods and black and tan marble tile, leaded glass ceiling lamps along the promenade, and tiny color changing lights - very elegant. The Ecstasy on the other hand is neon and stainless steel, very flashy and gaudy like a Vegas Casino. Mechanicals: The major difference in the Elation is the ‘Azi-pod’ propulsion system. Does it make a difference? You bet! First the ship is ‘Diesel-Electric’ just like a modern train locomotive. The ship does not have engine and propeller drive shafts, but rather has two electric motor driven propellers. This means there is no vibration from the engine. And the thing is almost 900 feet long but can turn around in place. Not a U-turn, but it can pivot on itself. I was up on deck as we pulled into Puerto Vallarta, the ship pulled into the harbor, near the pier. Stopped, made a 180 and pivoted, then went sideways over to the dock. Amazing! Our first four-day cruise wasn’t long enough. You spend almost one day getting on the ship and one day getting off. I promised my wife we would go on the seven day and this week was the only one available for both of us. Big mistake…the kids went back to school the following week and the rates also went down. Had we been able to wait another week, the price would have been better, and there wasn’t as many kids aboard. We don’t have any kids, and have nothing against kids, but the parents just turned them loose, and they ran up and down stairs, up and down the hallways, held elevator races, and hogged the Jacuzzi’s. Some even practiced graffiti in the elevators and was really annoying to me. If you have four or five 10 to 16 years olds, you’ll love this! Just buy them a ‘soda card’ and arrange to meet them again on Sunday before you go home. It seems everyone else did. The ship rented ‘walkie-talkies’ for about $40 a week, but you could buy a pair at home for less and take them home with you. Lot’s of kids had the walkie-talkies. Sail and Sign Cards: When you embark, you give a credit card number for shipboard charges. They also have your dinner time and table assignment on the card, and as you board, you put your card in a machine and as it takes your picture, it records the digital photo on the magnetic strip on the back. Every time you get off, and every time you get back on, you insert your card. This identifies you, AND it takes attendance. So they know if you are back on board. But…they will not wait for you. If you miss the ship in Puerto Vallarta, then you have to make arrangements to catch up in Mazatlan. If you miss the ship in Cabo San Lucas, well, thanks a lot, and we will see you at home. Annoyances: The embarkation / debarkation process and the life boat drill are the only areas that seemed a little annoying but this is the federal law we are talking about and EVERYBODY must go thru this. Some people thought they could hide in the stateroom during the lifeboat drill, but they check all the rooms, and we can not stand down until you show up on deck. Don’t keep everybody waiting, get your life jacket and report to your station on time. Don’t be so inconsiderate. Everybody now has to clear thru immigration and customs on board before we disembark in Los Angeles. EVERYBODY must clear immigration BEFORE the ship starts to discharge passengers. All members of the family must be together, for immigration. All. The final passengers eventually get off the ship around noon. Be Early. I had prepared for the worse so it really didn't seem that bad. We arrived at the ship a little after 10:30am on Sunday. We found a porter and went to the lines. After waiting for about an hour or so, we were off to finally check in and board the ship. We picked up our room keys and had our picture taken when boarding. Then it was off to a week of fun. Cabin Assignment: Carnival advertises “7 days from $599.” That’s an inside cabin, with upper and lower bunks. The ship only has ten of these rooms and they really don’t want to sell them until the very end. That way they can still advertise the $599 rate. If you book early at the $599 rate you will be given an option to upgrade, and be moved to another cabin. On my first cruise I booked at the $599, and ended up with an outside porthole cabin on the upper deck. Not too bad. However, this cruise we picked an inside cabin on the Veranda deck. (11) It cost about $100 more, but was on the top deck in the “high rent” district. All the neighbors had balconies and suites. I’d do it again, the lack of a window didn’t make much difference to us, and we didn’t spend any time in the cabin anyway. It was much quieter on the Verandah Deck there are only 42 cabins on Verandah. We also had the first call at disembarking. First we stopped by our cabin, just to check it out. It was a nice room, just the way I expected. The shower was nice and there was always plenty of hot water. All the cabins are alike, 185 square feet inside and 195 outside. Either you got a window or you didn’t. Bring your own shampoo and conditioner and a hair dryer. They only provide little samples, and you have to beg for more. Lunch: We then went up to the Lido deck restaurant, Tiffany's. The food there was awesome, with some of the best pizza I have ever had. We got a snack, and then took a walk to explore the ship. This ship, I think is the prettiest and is also recognized as the cleanest. They win fleet awards on inspections and the crew does a great job keeping the ship clean. We stopped at the dining room and checked our table assignment. We then went back to our cabin and the luggage had already arrived. We unpacked and got ready for dinner. Food Service: I guess the difference between a ‘buffet’ and a ‘cafeteria’ is at a ‘buffet’ you get to hold the serving spoon. The buffet at Tiffany’s and the Lido Pool Deck was good. They make awesome omelets in Tiffany’s for breakfast. - Go to the front of the line first and order your omelet, then go backwards and get your bacon, sausage, and hash browns. –or- work as a team, one order the omelets, and the other get the ‘fixin’s’. The pizza bar at the stern was real good. It’s open 24 hours. Try a slice and a Caesar salad. The “Tom Milano Magic” I read Tom and Mary Milano’s reviews and decide to try his “pre-tipping” method. Before I left home I got three $50 bills and put them in envelopes. I wrote on the outside, “ We believe in recognizing people for good service. Enclosed is a ‘down-payment’ on your tip for this week. We will have another envelope for you on Saturday night. We know you are going to take good care of us” - Don and Narcing Cabin V-12. Our table waiter was Elmer Arellano from Baguio City, Philippines. A “First Class’ Gentleman. His assistant was a Sanji, a rookie from Nepal. At the end of our first dinner, we lingered over coffee and waited until the others had left the table. When we were alone, we gave Elmer and Sanji the envelopes, and said goodnight. They were stunned! We ate lunch and dinner in the dining room every day. I enjoy the table service. At home we either eat alone, in front of the TV, standing up over the sink, or while driving the car. This is such a pleasant and civilized way to have meals. My wife didn’t make it to breakfast, but I did for three days. The next day we came together for lunch. We asked for iced tea with our lunch, and never had to ask again. The waiter, his assistant, and even another waiter from the next table were all over us for the next six days. We were always offered another entrée or two, and two or more desserts. Elmer also insisted on making a ‘to-go’ plate of deserts for my wife to take back to the cabin (for later). If we let them, they would have washed our feet before dinner. On Saturday, we gave Elmer another $25 and his friend Jeffery $25. (Jeffery wasn’t even our waiter) and Sanji, the rookie only got $5. He has a lot to learn, and Elmer will explain it all to him. We also tipped our Cabin Steward the same way. She was from Lithuania, named Jeannie and she was terrific. On Tipping: The Waiters and Cabin Stewards sign a contract for eight months. They must first pay an employment agency to get them the job. They also must pay air transportation to Miami for training. They are then given free room, board, uniforms and laundry service. They are then paid $45 a month. That’s right, $45 a month! The Cabin Stewards, hire an assistant, usually another crewmember who doesn’t work in a ‘tip’ job. Like a janitor, security, kitchen service, or dishwasher. The cabin Steward then pays his/her helper $200-300 a week out of her tips. Our cabin steward would make the beds and vacuum and her helper did the bathrooms. Our cabin Steward had 20 rooms, and, if she got the minimum, each week- $50 per room, then she could make $1000 a week - less $200-300 to the helper. On an eight-month contract, she could ‘bank’ $20,000. or so. But not everybody tips, and don’t forget she owes the agency a fee, and airfare home. The Waiter and Cabin Steward jobs are highly prized, and they have to do a couple of cruises first, before being ‘promoted’ to waiter or steward. It’s important to tip, and be fair about it. I hear people say they don’t go to dinner on Saturday night ‘cause that’s ‘envelope night’. Or they skip out and stiff the cabin steward. Or think because they have two kids they don’t have to tip for more than the adults. We know your kids pick up after themselves, and keep their room at home clean and neat too. I always see the waiters playing with the kids, entertaining them, and letting them participate in the singing and dancing, and getting special meals for the kids. ‘Come on, don’t be a jerk. Tip the guy. How would you like to be away from your family for eight months and have somebody not show up for dinner on Saturday so they can save $50 bucks? Room Service: Room Service is free. I brought $50 in ones. We called room service every morning and ordered orange juice, Danish, bagels, melon, and a pot of coffee. I don’t know how they do it, but the knock on the door comes about five minutes after you hang up the phone. I used the $1’s for tips, and gave the guy $3 each trip. They have an ATM on board in the Atrium; I forgot my ATM card. But rather than take a cash advance on our credit card we found if you need cash, you can get an advance in the casino $3 for a hundred in chips, at the table, then cash the chips in at the cashier’s cage. Also a good place to get change for shore shopping and tip night. At Sea: Day two and three were our first full days at sea and they kept us busy. We took a tour of the Spa and Gym up on the Sports Deck (12). The gym looked inviting and the Jacuzzi was appealing. I promised myself I’d come up and at least walk on the treadmills every day. (I never set foot inside the gym again) My wife did make an appointment for a facial and a massage and she said it was terrific. The Spa employees work for Steiner Company, and try to sell a lot of products to you. If you want to pay $50 for a bottle of lotion, this is the place to buy it. But if you are firm and say ‘NO’ they will leave you alone. Entertainment: I’m not going to go thru all the meals and shows day by day. Except for: Billy Armstrong, the fiddle player was amazing. He doesn’t work everyday so you have to look at the schedule to find him. Greg Kneale the cruise director, This guy never sleeps. He is all over the place 24 hours a day and co-ordinates everything from the life boat drill to the disembarkation. On Friday night at mid-night Greg Kneale sings a Tribute to the Beatles in the Cole Porter Lounge with the band “Music Boardwalk” What an amazing band. Four guys from the Philippines, with an incredible sound. Playing covers that were just terrific. This was the most fun night we had. But the Beatles tribute with Greg, If you close your eyes, they sounded just like the recordings 2Slick: Quirky- would be the best term to describe this duo. Playing nightly in the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ lounge. All I can say is they were interesting. The keyboard player plays off a computer with midi files, and the vocalist plays conga and sings in a voice that’s hard to describe. Really good- reminds me of a cross between Billy Vera and Devo. I spent four nights listening to 2Slick and even bought a CD. What a great title: “Better than a T-shirt” (as in cruise souvenir, get it?) Ports of call: Day four was Puerto Vallarta, We had read the reviews and took the “Unimog Outback Adventure” The price was $88, and we had a great time. Make your reservations early on the first day. This tour sells out, because they only have four trucks, and hold twelve people each. We saw a little bit of Mexico that most people never see. Read some of the other reviews, they are correct. This was the best. Our guide was Lalo, whose father is an American. Lalo speaks better English (without an accent) than I do. Day five was Mazatlan. Again we read the reviews and reserved a horse back ride with “Randi’s Happy Horses” at. Randi is a 50’ish American, living in Mazatlan for the past eleven years. She taught English at the Pacifico Brewery to the Executives and management. (Being taught English by an American is a great privilege, and the students will learn correct pronunciation and a minimal accent) Randi has been renting horses for the past three years and will take good care of you. My wife had never ridden and was quite apprehensive about horses, but Randi and Stuart took good care of her. Lunch on the beach at “Victors” My wife had barbecue shrimp, I had pelicano (chicken) and a half a dozen bottles of Pacifico. Total tab: $23 including a tip. Afterwards we made a stop at Senor Frogs, which is a must; also the best shopping is in Mazatlan. There were tons of great deals here. Be careful…if you are going to buy jewelry, the guys with the display cases of “Silver” are slick. If you can’t tell the difference between silver and polished tin, don’t buy anything. Day six, the shortest day - at the best port. Cabo San Lucas is wonderful and clean. I wished they would spend more time here. Carnival intends to replace the ‘Elation’ next year with a bigger and faster ship. Hopefully they can spend more time in Cabo, since the “Pride” can go faster and make it back to LA by 6:00AM on Sunday. There is no pier in Cabo San Lucas so we get ashore by tender boats. This must be tough when the water is rough or the wind blows. Tequila 101: We went ashore, all I wanted to do was go to Sammy Haggar’s club “Cabo Wabo” and buy some of his tequila. But before we went into town, we browsed the market by the dock. While my wife wandered the souvenir stalls I found a bar right in the middle of the marketplace. - Weird! The bartender had all the bottles lined up on the bar and I went over and looked at Sammy Haggars Tequila. “Is this stuff any good? I asked. “There is much better for a lot less money, senor” he replied. O.K. Tequila comes in three forms: Silver, Anejo, and Reposado. Silver is fresh tequila, new tequila. Anejo is one year old Tequila, and Reposado is aged tequila. Sammy’s tequila comes in a hand blown glass bottle and costs $28, $36, and $48 respectively. The bartender gave me a ‘taste’ of Cabo Wabo, reposado, and another called Callares? I can’t remember, but it had a picture of a deer on the label. I noticed a remarkable difference. I could buy about seven bottles of the ‘Deer” for the price of one of Sammy’s. It’s just a short walk into town but we took a pedal cab into town, it cost $2 each and I’d rather give the money to the guy with the bike, than pay $5 for a taxi. The same guy saw us later in town and gave us the return for $1 each. We went to Cabo Wabo and looked at the pictures on the walls, but it’s like 9:00 am and it’s too early to be drinking. We walked around a bit then went back to the ship. When leaving Cabo San Lucas. Go down to the Mikado Showroom. On the first level. Take the hallway that goes beside and behind the stage to a great deck where you can look overboard and watch the flying fish, rays and dolphins. The dolphins escort the ship out to sea along side the bow and this is one of the only places you can see the bow wake. There are also sea lions all over the rocks. This is really a most beautiful place. Days Six and Seven at sea. We arrived in San Pedro at five am. Disembarking is a real pain. Everybody goes thru immigration, not just the non-citizens. We were on Veranda Deck so we got called first. We were off by 10:00 AM. We live close by so I made a reservation with the Blue Super Shuttle, before we left. It cost $18 to get home and we were home by 11:30. Parking at the Pier is $10 a day. Photographers: Aside from constantly taking pictures at dinner, each time disembarking and while on deck. The photographers set up in the Atrium on formal nights. We decided to take all the pictures we could, and would just buy the ones we wanted. Every other day or so we would go down and look in the gallery, and on the last night we went and pulled all our pictures. At $20 a pop for 8x10’s we didn’t but a lot. All of this is charged on the card. Sail and Sign Card and the bar tab: The drinks are really strong, no watered down liquor here, Beer costs $3.75 - tip included. The casino is a fun way to pass the time. Some people lost their shirts while others made a killing. My wife did very well at the blackjack tables. Very nice and knowledgeable dealers and pit bosses. Since you can’t spend money on the ship, and everything goes on the card, our tab came to $1,100. The shore tours, video diary, photograph four or five drinks a day. It all adds up. Quality and Value: Some people shop at Nordstrom’s, some people shop at K-Mart. Carnival is like Target. It’s a good value. If you figure about $140 a day each for Hotel, Meals, Entertainment, and Transportation. Plus you don’t have to pack and unpack to move to three destinations. It’s worth it. We live here in LA and at this time Carnival is the only ship plying the route. Maybe next year we will go again on another line, or maybe on the Carnival Pride.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

I returned today from a seven day cruise on the Elation. I was cruising with a group of 24 family members as a single male. I was very active on this ship and I was never bored when at sea or at port. The embarkation process and debarkation process are the only two areas that seemed a little unorganized but I had prepared for the worse so it really didn't seem that bad. We arrived at the ship a little after 2pm on Sunday. We found a porter

and went to the lines. After waiting for about an hour we were off to finally board the ship. We picked up our room keys and had our picture taken when boarding. Then it was off to a week of fun. First I stopped by my room, just to check it out. It was a nice room, just the way I expected. The shower was nice and there was always plenty of hot water. I then went up to the lido deck restaurant, Tiffany's. The food there was awesome, with some of the best pizza I have ever had. If you go hungry on this cruise it is not because of a lack of food. We went through the regular drill with everyone having to report to their muster stations. I went back to my room and the luggage had already arrived which was good because I had my dinner sitting at 5:45. I feel that this is a little early to eat but there is always a late night buffet. After dinner I went to the first game show, and as I mentioned earlier I was involved in many things so I signed up. It was great fun and some wonderful prizes were handed out. The singles party the first night was a little disappointing but you do have a very friendly atmosphere on board to make the small talk easy and the singles were plentiful on this cruise. Day two was our first full day at sea and they kept us busy. I love to run but on this entire cruise I never made it to the gym and spa, which I heard was beautiful. The jogging track was beautiful and was a great quality track. This day was full volleyball, ping-pong and rides on the water slide. The pool was full of young kids most of the time and at times the decks appeared to have everyone on board out on them. But when the weather is beautiful where else would the 2056 people on board want to go. This was the first formal night and everyone on board looked wonderful. The next day was a day at sea and they had survivor at sea as a deck game. I joined in and had a great time. I made it to the final which seemed a little unfair. The final four left were two guys both 6' and two girls about5'6" and 5'. The final was a limbo, so guess who won. It was fun though and we made the travellog, the video of the cruise. Day four was Puerto Vallarta, the most disappointing of the ports. The surf was rough and it smelled really bad. Parasailing here was great and the prices here were affordable. There where a lot of peddlers on the beach. Day five was Mazatlan the port to shop at. The were tons of great deals here and Senor Frogs is a must. Day six the shortest day at the best port. Cabo is wonderful and I wished they would spend more time here. When leaving look overboard and watch the wild live. Some people saw dolphins and rays swimming beside the boat. There are also sea lions all over. This is the most beautiful place. Day seven, back at sea with more contest. Today it was overcast, misty and cold. The worst weather of the trip. I entered more contest and ended up with a medal, a bottle of bubbly and a ship on a stick. YIPPIE. Have to give it to Carnival though that let you just do what you want and have a good time. Day seven and we are home. We had to have all the luggage out this morning by 1 am. It was a long process but everyone was off the boat by noon. We had to wait on one couple to clear customs or it probably would have went faster. A couple other notes.....The drinks are really strong, no watered down liquor here, the casino is a fun way to pass the time. Some people lost their shirts while others made a killing. Very nice and knowledgeable dealers and pit bosses. Carnival gave us a wonderful time and I couldn't ask for more.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

My family and I love the cruise experience and we highly recommend this kind of vacation to our friends and family. We are not the "sit-on-the-beach" type (at least for a whole week) so its perfect for us. This trip on Elation was a great time and it is a beautiful ship (our son called it too gaudy). The atrium area is wonderful, and there are many interesting features of this ship, although not a lot of non-smoking places to sit inside (when it's

cold at sea on day 2,3 and 6) besides the Mikado lounge which is not always open. Its one of the cleanest ships we've seen and the crew is right proud of that. We were a family of four with two rooms, our 18 yr old son in with me and our 19 yr old daughter in the room next door with my wife. We figured we don't spend that much time in the room anyway so we were on the lower cost Riviera Deck, inside cabin amidships... but we had TWO bathrooms! Many people (at home) have stated their concern with a cruise is getting seasick. I can get sick sometimes when trying to read in a car, or on an airplane, but I never had trouble on the ship... its such a smooth rocking it's almost soothing, rather than the random jarring of a car, train, or airplane. Plus these large ships, with flat bottom and stabilizers take the edge off all but the biggest waves anyway. That part of the Pacific is fairly quiet in July too. Of course, we kept our belly full the whole time too, if you go hungry on a cruise it's not their fault, and it does help ease the sick feeling (although many people think the opposite). Since this is our 4th cruise on 3 different cruise lines, we knew that "boat drill" would be a pain, but there needs to be a way to explain this ahead of time to first-time cruisers... hey, this isn't the Love Boat! We also knew that the embarking and disembarking process could be stressful, but it helps if you know to expect that. The Elation leaves from the Long Beach, CA pier but getting there from LAX was just a long wait for a bus ride. However, the disembarking process when we got back to Long Beach was the worst we've seen. They had taken the luggage off the night before with color-coded tags by deck (like they all do). When cleared by immigration, they said they'd let off by luggage tag color (after the wheelchairs and their groups etc) but many people just pushed their way to the front of the line to be one of the first off the ship. When we finally got down to the pier terminal, all the luggage for our color tags were in a small room with no room to even hardly move, with everyone trying to find their own bags in a sea of look-alikes. Our five bags were in 4 different corners... isn't there a better way? The crew on board was great, everyone we met seemed to be concerned we had a fun vacation. We don't drink alcohol so by the 2nd day or so the bar servers remembered that and left us alone, but they were very attentive to the passengers who wanted that service. They don't mention enough that they take 15% tip on EVERY (already overpriced) beverage purchase, plus encourage more tipping on top of that. Okay, let's talk tipping. Since they recommend tips for the Dining Room crew and Room Steward on a per person basis, our having two rooms did not affect that. Tipping is one custom or ritual that I understand but don't necessarily like or agree with. I realize it is the only way to encourage and reward good service but we spent $250 (cash) for the four of us on tips alone on the ship and we didn't even use the dining room every meal since we slept in and/or went ashore every stop. This is another item that needs to be further explained to first-time cruisers ahead of time. At the Mexican ports we found the people to be generally happy to see us (and our money) and only a few were outright anti-American (as we've encountered at other places). Being hounded by street vendors gets tiring after awhile but they are just trying to make a living themselves. If you are part of a shore tour, they can shield you from much of that if you prefer. While in the shopping districts you have to expect being approached to some degree. They will take US Dollars if you have nearly exact change or don't mind Pesos in return... just watch the exchange rate as many will try to take advantage of your math skills or timidity to say something. The larger shops are easier to deal with than the myriad of smaller shops were you find the bargains. At Puerto Vallarta, we took the "Unimog" Outback adventure. It was highly recommended on the ship and sold out quickly. It is a VERY bumpy ride but we got to see parts of Mexico few tourists can claim... the real Mexico beyond the shopping districts and fancy hotels. Our guide "Sebastian" made our vehicle of 12 passengers feel special and even our teenagers are still talking about what fun we had and what we saw. In Mazatlan, my wife and daughter took the $10 cab ride to the shopping district. My son and I took the "Stone Island" tour... what a joke.. it's just a public beach right across the bay from where the ship is docked not an island at all. But, it included lunch and a private place to eat and put your towel and valuables away from the vendors. The water was great here, warm and waves (that day) not too high to make being in the water difficult. The Banana boat drivers and jet ski riders came WAY too close to swimmers for my comfort so you had to be careful. Everyone says the stop at Cabo San Lucas is too short, basically just the morning, but we understood the reasons... this ship needs all that time to get back to Long Beach. We were told that the Elation will be moved to another route soon and a larger, faster ship will be taking that run so that might add a couple more hours. They cannot go to Cabo first because of the problems docking in Puerto Vallarta at the end of the week (too many other ships). It was a beautiful place though, and probably the only spot of the 3 we'd consider to return to. We've been to several other parts of Mexico and can still say that. We were surprised that the "Elation Dancers" didn't have a show every night like on other ships we'd been on, just two nights. They were required to interact with the passengers though because they helped at many of the bingo games and dance lessons etc so got to meet them up close too. We don't care for filthy comedians but the one they had was funny at the "family" show. Our Room Steward "Mackenzie" was always pleasant and eager to please. We didn't see him when we didn't want to but could reach him when we needed something (as its supposed to be) We are used to being independent in a room but having your bed turned down and ready for you is a nice thing on vacation. Plus instead of cleaning the room just once a day at their convenience (like at a motel), he kept ours clean all day but around OUR schedule (at meals, ashore etc) and always respected our privacy and sleep-in days. We are not night-owls or enjoy eating late at night so we didn't make the midnight buffet but we heard it was fabulous... Even our son, the 6'5" human stomach, didn't make it except on photo night... but they knew him by name at the 24-hour pizza bar! We flew Northwest from the midwest on a couple of Free (Frequent Flyer) tickets but our flight times were changed about a month before we were to leave. Our outbound flight was moved up two hours (from 9 am to 7 am) but that was okay, we were ready to go and missed rush hour traffic to the airport. However, our return flight was moved from 2 pm Sunday afternoon to 12:30 am Monday morning, didn't arrive home till after 7 am Monday morning (with time changes etc). We had to take an extra day off work and slept most of the day. However, since we had all afternoon and evening at LAX, we rented a car and drove to Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica etc and didn't spend that much time at the airport anyway. We met several people who had taken this cruise many times and enjoyed the repeat visits to their favorite places (like Senor Frogs bar etc). However, we like seeing new places so probably wouldn't repeat this destination again soon (although we still recommend it to friends and family).

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

This was our fourth cruise and the second with Carnival. We felt that the Elation was over-rated. Our cabin was an inside and was comfortable as most cabins are on Carnival are but the room was cold due to the air conditioning. We turned it off at night but had to turn it on because it would become stuffy. We requested an extra blanket. This ship is very clean with the crew and staff servicing it around the clock. Elation's public

areas were "COLD!" Over air-conditioned! It was humid outside and frigid cold inside. Heaven help you if you did not bring a sweater or jacket but of course you could have bought one (everything onboard is for sale). The entertainment was marginal at best but lacked variety. The nightclub/lounge acts took place late or after midnight, for the late dinner seating, so by that time we were either in our cabin or in that blasted Casino waiting. The library only opens for an hour a day. When you're at sea for 2 1/2 days straight, not to mention after you leave a port, you'd like to something other than hang out in the Casino. Most of the events they had planned didn't last longer than 30 minutes. For instance, Bingo was scheduled from 1:30 - 2:00. The first 20 minutes was for selling and then they play 3 really quick boring games. The galley tour was a joke because if you were not in the front of the line, you had no clue as to what was being said and no one accommodated the people in the back of the line with what had been said. I guess there's not much to say about a "kitchen." However, at the end of the tour, sure enough, they were trying to sell you cookbooks; as if I'd eaten anything worthy of repeating! Now about "THE FOOD!" & #61516; As we all prepare to board ships, the first thing that comes to mind is the endless array of succulent dishes that we're about to partake in for 7 glorious days. Breakfast, lunch and dinner! Yum Yum…..I can hardly wait!! What a joke !! The food was "just ok" in both Tiffany's and the Dining Room. Nothing to really write home about. In both places, your food was never served really hot and if you were in Tiffany's you needed to get your beverages first, then your food or it would be cold. Now, the Pizza, it was always hot. I'd say that was probably their best food, and that is not saying a lot for a cruise ship where food is suppose to be one of its best features. One day in the dining room, my husband ordered a Philly Steak sandwich and the bread was so hard that we could not imagine that someone actually prepared it and then had the audacity to serve it to you!! If you'd thrown it at a window, you would have broken it. I ordered the Rainbow Trout Almondine. Yeah, well, that trout had been dead a long time when they thought about adding it to the menu. Aaah! The Casino. We should have stayed away (but there wasn't much else going on). The staff was friendly and drinks were plentiful, but don't request a glass of water, see it's free and it will be a crapshoot if you receive it or not. Ok, so I think I've beaten up on the ship enough. Puerto Vallarta was hot and humid with the usual hustle from the locals. We took the E! Eden tour. It took about an hour to reach the spot mostly due to bad roads. The road to E! Eden was bumpy all the way up. The jungle is quite beautiful once you reach there with the natural pool flowing through. The hike was fun and informative. In Mazatlan we became annoyed with the "Local Hustle" and along with 2 other people hired "James" who took us on a 1-hour tour for $5.00 per person. Great bargain considering what this same tour would have cost had we booked in on the ship and it was a 3-hour tour. We learned some of the history of Mazatlan, went places where the tour buses never went, stopped at monuments and Cathedrals along the way for some great photo ops. Our guide was funny, witty and full of great information. We did the Senor Frogs thing, ate a great lunch, laughed at and with the people and ended up running into James again who agreed to take us back to the ship at whatever price we wanted to pay. Overall a good day in Mazatlan! As everyone has already written on the subject of Cabo, too short! All in all, the experience wasn't totally unpleasant; it's just that we expected better quality in food and entertainment. Carnival is great for the budget but the next time out we're traveling on another cruise line.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

We had been on a 4 day carnival cruise about 5 years ago and could not recall anything negative about that cruise. My sister-in-law had never been on a cruise any we decided to take her on this one. I have read most of the reviews and would like to comment on some of the negatives that I read. Also within the last year we did the transatlantic crossing on the QE 2, you will see comparisons to that here also. Embarkation: arrive at the

pier at 11:30 on the date of your arrival. If you are arriving by car suggest you drop companion and baggage off and them park your car. The cost is $10 a day and they only accept CASH, so be prepared for this. It will take approximately one and half hours to get luggage picked up, stand in line to get your cruise line credit card, picture taken, and then shown where your room is. I found this time within a half an hour to other cruise lines. If you have read other reviews they all say the same thing. Occupancy: there were 2400 people on the cruise of which about 450 were children or teens. We are not water people and did not spend much time near the pool but on the occasions we were there I DID NOT see any riotous behavior by the kids. Also during the whole trip we did not encounter any disturbances or rude behavior by the kids. Remember you were a kid once yourself, now face your own punishment. Also for 2400 people on the ship you will wonder where they all are. The ship is so big it absorbs everyone easily. Food: I found the food to be very good and far superior to the QE2. The waiters were excellent and the rapport that our table had was very nice. Anytime I asked for two entree's they supplied it cheerfully. There is some complaint regarding treys in the buffet room. If you think about this you will come to the conclusion if people had trays they would load up with food they would not eat. This is a cost factor. We had late seating for dinner and therefore were not very hungry at midnight. We went to the buffet and usually just sampled stuff. I found the buffet to be adequate but not super. The grand buffet is excellent and do not miss the chance to take pictures. Rooms: we had a ocean view room on the Riviera deck which is the lowest passenger deck. This is where you want to be. The lower deck and in the middle of the ship. Very little noise and a lot less rocking than the upper decks have. The room was quite a bit larger than the QE2 and much nicer. The three of us cruised and lived very comfortably for 7 days. The room steward was also excellent. Tours: we only went on one tour and that was Randy's horse ride in Mazatlan. Recommend you do this for the $45. Other than that I cannot offer any advice on the ship stops. Debarkation: again about an hour to hour and half standing in line. Be prepared to do it and it won't stress you so much. Overall: I found the ship, crew, and food to be far superior to the QE2. I expected a lot from the QE2 and was pretty much disappointed. While the three of us cruised for $1450 and got a lot for the money. I suppose the cruisers who wrote negative articles about Carnival may have valid points but I could not find anything negative. Should you have any questions please feel free to contact me and I will do my best to answer your questions honestly.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

My cruising experience to the Mexican Riviera was great! We departed from Los Angeles (Pier at San Pedro) and we got on board with no fuss by 12pm. There was food being served as soon as we got on. The next couple of days we spent at sea. The ship itself was quite nice with a bit of a Las Vegas style to it. The gym facilities were great...and there weren't too many people meaning the equipment you wanted was easy to get. There were a number

of organized activities throughout the day such as dance classes, gym classes (but beware...there is a fee for some of these!), competitions by the pool deck, information seminar regarding the ports of call & shore excursions etc. And for those who do not like to get involved in these activities, there's always the library, cards room, ping pong, or just simply go for a swim or relax by the pool! The nightly entertainment was quite boring except the Magic Show...but I think it's a personal taste. We did not attend any of the talks on the ports of call as we had discussed with our waiter (for dinner) what would be the best thing to do at each port. Also, the talk is played on TV in the evening...so we'd turn it on & listen for a few tips. The seminar is good for those who have not done their own research on each of the ports. There were 3 of us traveling ...and we stayed in an inside cabin...there was plenty of space in the room compared to the ones on other cruise lines. Staff & crew were quite friendly. The best part about the cruise was definately the food. I have been on 5 cruises and this one is 5-star quality in terms of food. And there was an abundance of it...you couldn't starve but were forced to go to the gym to burn off those extra kilos!! One disappointing ting was the fact that there weren't any themed nights. There were only a couple of formal nights for our 7 night cruise. Another factor was that there weren't enough people in the 25 to 30 range. It made it difficult to meet other people who you were going to be with for 8 days. The ports of call were great....however we chose to do our own thing rather than spend alot of money on shore excursions. From experience, we find that making your own plans is much more cheaper & more flexible. But it depends on what you like doing, and if you'd prefer to pay for an organized tour. Our first port of call was Puerto Vallarta...it was nice but ruined. There had been a hurricane 2 weeks earlier which damaged the apparently beautiful waterfront boardwalk. But we managed to enjoy the shopping & visited Chicos Paradise...a tiny waterfall!! Definitely not worth the trip. Another option would've been to go to Paradise Village but due to time constraints we didn't get the chance to go. We also stopped off at "Senor Frogs Restaurant & Bar"...if you like the party atmosphere, then this is the place for you! The second port was Mazatlan...this was a beautiful city. Having low expectations, I was impressed. We obtained tickets to go to a resort "El Cid" where we went swimming in there huge pool (with a slide & diving rock). Plus there was a beach behind the resort which was also good for a swim. We spent most of the day there - apart from sightseeing downtown for about an hour or so in the morning. The final port was Cabo San Lucas...although we didn't spend a lot of time here, it was enough to visit the tourist attraction...being Land's End. A variety of rock formations at the tip of Cabo. We went snorkeling at one of the beaches near the rock formations - we had taken our own snorkeling gear. After that we returned in a water taxi back to the port where we did a bit more shopping while we waited for the queue for the tenders (to get back to the ship) to get smaller. We sailed for the next 2 days where it did get a bit rocky ...but it's all part of the wonderful experience of cruising! The disembarkation process was a little lengthy, but that is something to be expected especially with 2000 people trying to get off the ship at once! But overall it was a good cruise and I don't think I'd travel on it again because of the age group but I'd definitely go back to Mexico! Hope this review helps any future Carnival Elation cruise-goers!

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexico

Not sure what the last reviewer is complaining about (except everything). We loved the cruise. The food was wonderful in the dining room. Okay in Tiffany's. The Pizza at the Pizza bar was also good. The service was amazing. The waiter and busboy were always pleasant and so very attentive. The room attendant was wonderful. Almost invisible. Entertainment was o.k. Casino...lost quickly. But my husband saw a woman win a very large jackpot

on a slot while he was in there. The ship was extremely clean. I think the only disappointment for me was the pool. Much smaller than I expected, but I guess it's a ship after all. The shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta that we took was Los Caletas. I would HIGHLY recommend this to everyone. So wonderful. Heaven. A 50 min. boat ride (bring drammine) to the boat accessible beach. Cobbled pathways in the lush foliage. Thatched roof huts for dining and others with hammocks. Tropical birds. Nice fabric/wood lounge chairs on the beach. The beach was wonderful. We snorkeled and Kayaked and had an authentic Mexican lunch. The best excursion. Mazatlan's Deer Island excursion the next day was extremely disappointing after Los Caletas. We were boated to a barren island and parked in plastic chairs under two tents. We were served fruit and rolls before Kayaking. We were told not to go into the water because of the Jellyfish. One man on our excursion didn't heed the warning and got stung 3 times. We left early. Nothing to do. The boat took us over to Mazatlan where we were swarmed by vendors as soon as we hit shore. No less than 20 in the first 5 minutes and it was continuous for the next 45 mins. Took a cab back to the ship. Mazatlan is not my idea of a vacation destination. Loved Puerto Vallarta much more. Cabo San Lucas was also great. We took the Los Gatos Booze cruise. It was a lot of fun. We snorkeled by Los Arcos. The boat crew was great and kept us filled up on rum punches. Then we rented wave runners for 1/2 hour and also para-sailed. It is common knowledge that the stay in Cabo is way to short (only 5 hours) but I hear it's because of the tide. It's the only port where we had to be transported to shore via tinder boats. The line to come back was horrendously long and a fair amount of vendors going up and down the line. Great cruise. We took our 7 and 8 year olds. They loved it. Wonderful family vacation. Highly recommended by us.

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Nov 30, -0001

Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas

Contact: lorne_torres@hotmail.com After checking through multiple cruise destinations the wife and I decided to take a Mexican Riviera cruise on Carnival’s Elation cruise ship. We have sailed previously on Carnival 3 times (Destiny, Fantasy, Paradise), with our last cruise on RCCL’s Grandeur of the Seas. I must mention that we prefer Carnival to RCCL, there is a more fun atmosphere in the air and better late night

activities. Neither of us has been to the Pacific coast so we decided this would be a good cruise to take. Also, for the price it really couldn’t be beat. We used Expedia for booking our flight and cruise. We purchased the Cruise and flight separate and also the travel insurance and the vouchers for travel between airport to port, then port to airport. This is a pretty lengthy detailed review (day by day), so for those who don’t care for detail this review isn’t for you. My punctuation and grammar are not the greatest so ignore that aspect of this review and take in the content. I typed this review each day in my cabin so as to keep all my experiences freshly written. Overall, I’d say this is the best cruise we’ve been on yet. This is truly how life should be everyday. Please keep in mind, there were a lot more things that we could have done but didn’t and since you can’t do everything you end up missing some things. The trick is to do what you are in the mood for. Day one: Info on the flight - We found it by booking the flight separately than with the cruise. We were able to get the flight for $500.00 less and able to get a straight shot from Cleveland to LA with no layovers in another city. (Very convenient by the way). We have booked with the cruise/airline combo way before and found it to be more hassle because they decide when you come and go and sometimes send you out of the way to hop on another airplane to the final destination. You can ‘pick’ your preferable flight method but you pay an extra $50.00 per person. So we saved a total of $600.00. I would recommend this way, but the travel agents will disagree saying something about the guarantee is only valid if you purchase the tickets with the cruise. Bah! I saved money and time by doing it my way. Cleveland Hopkins Airport – Talk about tough security. They made me take off my shoes, felt me up like a two dollar whore, and searched my bags. They did the same for my wife except the shoes thing. Ugh.. thanks 9/11 The flight – There really isn’t much to say here. Took a Continental 737 straight from CLE-LAX, it’s a little over a 5 hour flight. They gave us breakfast (milk, cereal, banana, and muffin) and had two movies for us to watch. I decided to load up the laptop with DivX movies and watch them instead. The bathroom on this airplane was in good shape surprisingly since there were about 30+ teens on it roaming like Grand Central Station. J The things that really bugged us about the flight was that it was completely full, extremely hot (even with the blower on above us), and CRAMPED… my goodness!!! Are we people or sardines here? Airlines really need to give people more leg and shoulder room on these flights. Not all of us have loads of money to spend on first class. Since I have problems with my pain in my ears as the plane descends I purchased those “earplanes” (specially designed earplugs to stop pain on aircrafts) and they did absolutely nothing. I was in agonizing pain as usual. My ears are overly sensitive though so you may have a better experience with them. Arriving at the airport – After getting to the airport and making the usual bathrooms stops we went to claim our baggage. Much to our surprise there was a Carnival rep (named Joan D… a nice talkative lady) who called the coach for us to come pick us up. We were surprised because she was waiting for just us and called to us by name. Pretty exclusive treatment if you ask me. Brownie points for that one Carnival. ;) Bus ride over – Your standard bus ride over with some guy cracking some pretty dry jokes prior to departure. LA is a very unique city to view from a bus and a lot of diversity. We could have done without seeing all the industrial crap towards the pier, but oh well. After getting off the bus and them collecting the bus tickets we got our bags (we traveled heavy) gave two to the porter (tipped him 3 bucks for just placing our bags on a cart). And off we went to Carnival Security with our 4 carry on bags. **HEAVY** Carnival Security – Oops… we didn’t have the boarding pass slips filled out. After getting our bags checked at security I filled out the boarding passes. This security was a little more mellow this time (just bag scans) which was nice since we were already miserable because of the hot crowded flight. Embarkation – We waited in the embarkation line for about 20 minutes or so. The teller we got was a little cranky because I didn’t have the paperwork in the proper manner she was accustomed to but towards the end of the conversation she ended up being nice. Strange but oh well. She was probably having a bad day or something who knows. Anyways, I gave her a credit card and off we were to pick up our sail and sign card. We did the obligatory “hey you’re walking on the ship he’s the fake background let me snap you’re picture”.. yeah yeah whatever. After we walked up the steps to get the sail and sign card they made us pop it in a machine and it snapped our picture. Then it was finally off to the ship! Embarkation and Debarkation are the most annoying parts of cruising. Carnival Elation – Upon walking up to the boat we were greeted by a nice lady and she handed us the ship layout leaflet. We headed our way to our room, dropped off our heavy carry on luggage and flew over to the Lido deck for lunch. The lunch was great and better than I remember for Carnival lunch fare. I had Turkey breast (freshly carved), stuffing, mixed veggies, candied yams, tomato ravioli’s, and some bread. It was wonderful. I saw the other dining area and it had other diverse things such as burgers, salads and pizza. There were also plenty of desserts to choose from. We shared a blueberry cheesecake. The ship – The ship looks very nice, not as “in your face” as other Carnival ships look. I kind of missed all the neon colors from the Fantasy. It’s well laid out and easy to access. The elevators were either really slow to come, or really fast (mostly slow). We ended up on the Upper Deck (even though we paid for the lowest possible cabin). We thought we were going to end up on the Riviera Deck (ugh!). Props to Carnival for that one too. Our room – We walked in and were pleasantly surprised at the size of our cabin and the fact that our luggage had been delivered already. It was in U-91. The beds were separate from each other but who cares. We sleep together every other time in life we could do without a week of sleeping together for a change. The room had the usual items in it that you would expect from a hotel room or any other room accommodation. The nice part of it was the fact that they gave us a goodie basket which contained (2 Bic Softwin shavers, Dove deodorant, Oil of Olay foaming facial cloth, soft soap body wash, 2 packs of skittles, Clairol renewal shampoo and conditioner, 2 sample packs of Tums cool relief, 6 orange cream savers by Life savers and 2 small bags of Skittles.) The room also had regular deodorant soap. I wanted to check the TV out which had about 7 working channels. It was okay, but the picture was grainy on several channels. The room was nice and cold (exactly how I like it) and is adjustable by the dial in the ceiling. Normally on similar cruises we would get whiffs of sewage throughout the ship and in the room but on this cruise we didn’t which was great. Our cabin location was very close to the main area (dining room, Mikado lounge, etc) so this helped too. Room Steward – We love water and since we drink so much we called our room steward and they have a system where if you call them and don’t get an answer they call you back since they know who called them somehow. We asked him to make sure our Evian water supply was plentiful in our room at all times. (I said 6 at all times to be safe). This by the way is very helpful if you like to drink alcohol as it keeps you from dehydration. Evian has minerals in it, which seem to help more so than normal bottled water such as reverse osmosis. He kept the water supply at six the entire time. Our room was very clean. He came at least twice per day and sometimes three times. We never had to ask for anything. We always had towels, toilet paper, tissues, and our beds made. Everything was clean. Great guy! His name was Fausto Francis. Lifeboat Drill – Okay, this has to be the most annoying part of any cruise. It does very little good because you know in an actual emergency people aren’t going to follow in a single file line up to a muster station and board the life boats in the women/children/sick people first fashion. It would be a chaotic mess. But anyways, it’s the law so we had to do it. (We tried to sleep in our cabin during this but someone opened our door and told us to get out). I wish this wasn’t mandatory. I’m going to give the Captain (Alessandro Galotto) a big thumbs down on his choice of time for this little exercise. He decided to do it while the ship first set sail. Normally on other Carnival cruise ships the lifeboat drill is done before the boat takes off from the port. Not this one. It made us mad because even though it’s cheesy, we didn’t get to go to the top of the boat and wave to all the poor unfortunate people who weren’t able to sail with us for the week. J Wrong dinner seating – Originally they had us down for the late seating even though we requested early seating. We promptly went to the Maitre D and asked to be placed in the early seating. He obliged, but said we would get placed with people out of our age group. He also said if we stuck with the late seating we’d be able to get a table for two of our very own. After talking with our tablemates we discovered they were handed the same line since they requested the early seating but were sat at the later time originally. I’m not quite sure why the Maitre D wanted us to go to the later dining, but something was definitely odd. We still decided to go with the early seating because we feel you are able to do more activities in the evening. For example, at 9:00-10:00pm there was a trivia game that we would have not been able to enjoy in if we did the 8:30pm late seating. If you enjoy your nights more than your days I would recommend the early seating. If you’re a day person then get the late seating for your days to last longer. 1st Nights dinner - We got to our table and were greeted by two very nice ladies (Liz and Shelly) and started conversation with them and then soon after that we were joined by four Canadians (Wayne, Ron, Sherron, and Gwen). They were older but still lots of fun. One of the guys Wayne even ended up buying me a drink. (Thanks Wayne!). The menu selection from carnival has improved. There were 5 or 6 appetizers and at least 7 or 8 main courses to choose from. I opted for the Chicken satay appetizer and the Mushroom soup (Fungi something or other), which were awesome. I didn’t want to stuff myself so I ordered the NY strip steak for the main course. I ordered it medium and it came closer to well done. It was a little tougher than I’m used to but still good. So I’m not going to get steak unless it’s Filet Mignon next time. Our waiter Andrei was a very enthusiastic server he seemed to enjoy his job (we later found out he was smiling because he was about to go on vacation for 3 months). He was the type that smiled and danced around while cracking jokes. My wife and I were very impressed by him since we usually get very quiet “let me take your order” type of server. Also our assistant waiter seemed like a really hard worker and a very humble and kind gentleman. We had the best table and staff and loved every minute of it. 1st Night Welcome aboard show – After going back to the room after dinner to empty the belly and change into some shorts we then went to the Trivia game show. The wife had a really bad migraine headache and ended up leaving early to retire for the night. The show consisted of Trivia questions “name this theme song” or “name the person saying these words” and was fun. The scores were really close. The questions started off easy but towards the end they got harder. After that they did the usual “Bingo before show” for a chance to win $500.00. Two people ended up splitting it. Then it was time for the Magic show. The cruise director said she was from Las Vegas. Her name was Debra Kim. I was sitting all the way to the left of the Mikado lounge so I was able to see how she did two of her ticks. (The newspaper rip, and the bowling ball picture thing). I wish I was sitting front and center and then I would have been wowed by those two. But oh well, she was decent and did a few other tricks I couldn’t figure out. She had a kind of David Copperfield thing going on where the trance like music plays and then performs her magic while dancers do their moves in the background. I thought the magician on the Destiny was better. One thing I did notice is that because I’m from Cleveland (3 hours ahead) I started feeling really tired around 10:00-10:30 (it was really 1am for me) so it through me off a bit. After the show I went to the top deck and had a few drinks and watched the moon on the water. It was pretty cold out there (45-50 degrees), definitely not what I was used to in the Caribbean. Then I headed to bed. Day two: Lunch – Hehe, we didn’t get up for breakfast or the morning Trivia game show. We slept in and enjoyed our first morning aboard the ship. We walked on over to our lunch table and didn’t see anyone from the night before. We did however sit next to one other couple from Reno Nevada who sits at the same table but on the late seating. We talked to them for a bit. Nice couple. I decided to be a semi pig today for lunch and had the California Rolls (decent but not wonderful) and the Pepper Pot soup (really tasty). For the main dish I had the vegetable fajitas (yummy) and the fish (very light, no fishy taste). Then we headed off to stroll around for a bit. Deck Games – We went up top to check out the deck games. It was basically getting 6 people to make farm animals noises/strange celebrity quotes to the tune of Old Macdonald had a farm. Every time it was your turn for the noise you had to chime in. It was funny and people could not stop laughing. It got annoying midway through it but was cute. Newly Wed, Not so newly wed game – We always attend the newly wed game because some of the answers given are pretty funny. Today’s show was no exception. Especially the elderly couple that was married for 57 years. (They have to lift the old man on stage because he was in a wheelchair). The cruise director Chris Roberts is a lively guy and definitely the funniest one I’ve seen. It was nice that the cruise director was younger as the younger ones tend to have a better sense of humor. I had a strawberry daiquiri and the wife had a long island iced tea (she said they put too much sour mix in hers) and my daiquiri was a little light on the booze. I think I’ll stick to beers or shots for the rest of the cruise. My Room service experience #1 – We decided to bring about 4 bottles of travel booze (the kind you get at the liquor store but in plastic). Since we had booze but nothing to mix it with I decided to order room service to get some Coke, Diet Coke (for the wife), and some orange juice. Within 5 minutes there was a knock at the door. He asked if he could come in, I let him in and he placed the drinks on the mini table that you find in every Carnival room. I tipped him 2 bucks (I should have given him 3 after thinking about it) and signed my slip. It costs 9 dollars for each six-pack of coke you buy so beware. All in all, fast friendly service in this run. Captain’s Cocktail party – This was actually really cute. On other Carnival ships, the cocktail party usually happens in the smaller lounge but on this cruise they had it in the main lounge and the turnout was huge. I’m guessing because there were a larger group of 40+ years of age on this ship. They played some older swing music and some jazz. The dance floor was dead and then one couple went up there and all of a sudden there was about 12 couples dancing to the music. Some really fun couples dancing with looks on their face like they were having the time of their life. It brought tears to my eyes. I was surprised and really thought the free drinks would be watered down versions of their real life counterparts however they were generous with the liquor on this occasion. 2nd Nights Dinner (Formal night #1) – The wife and I dressed up for this event as usual on our cruises. We entered the dining room checking out the various outfits of others. It ranged from business casual to tuxedo and ballroom gown. We sat down at our table and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with our great tablemates minus two of the guys from Canada (Hey Wayne and Ron get a tie on your butts and get to dinner, your wives had to dine alone and you missed out on the lobster tail). I had 3 lobster tails because they were just so good. J After getting back to the room we had our excursion tickets and an invitation to a repeaters party. We booked the Unimog Adventure in Puerto Vallarta (because I read some rave reviews on it) and the Kayak Tour in Mazatlan. We decided two tours this cruise would be sufficient and since we were in Cabo San Lucas for only 5 hours we just will walk around for a bit and check out the area. Showtime: [Rhythm] (starring the Elation dancers) – We tried going to the early show, but it was packed. We even got there 20 minutes before the show started. The upper and lower part of the lounge was completely filled. There was like one or two seats here and there but they were so far up there is no way we could have even enjoyed the show. We decided to go to the later show. When we got to the later show it was just as packed (and we came 20 minutes before Showtime). We don’t know why the shows were that crowded on the Elation because on all our previous ships it was never this hard to find a seat. Luckily, we found a seat. The show was just singing and dancing with lighting and smoke effects. The lead vocalists in this group were really good especially the woman. I did find the show however to be kind of bland. I must first say that I’m not the type of person who can sit there and watch pretty outfitted dancers sing and dance. It just reminds me of a bad TV commercial. Anyways we sat through 99% of the show and then I told the wife I wanted to leave. So we left. I’m sure others enjoyed the show, but it wasn’t for me. Massage chairs – Shelly and Liz from our table told us about the massage chairs right outside the Casino. (It costs 2 minutes for every dollar). Since the wife had been having severe back pain from the plane flight the day before she really wanted to check these chairs out. I dropped 5 bucks into the chair and she sat and thoroughly enjoyed the chair for those ten minutes. I went to the other chair (they only had two) and dropped 5 bucks into it as well. It was nice, and at some points on the back and neck felt like human hands. Other parts of the back it felt like it was ripping your spine apart. You kind of had to move your body accordingly so as to not get hurt. It snapped my back into place and all was good. Fiddle show (Billy Armstrong) – Billy Armstrong is an extremely talented fiddle player and is world-renowned. He has been playing it for 50 years now and is rated the #1 country western fiddle player 13 years straight and boy it shows. He played that fiddle like most people know how to walk (without thinking about it) and made it make sounds I didn’t know a fiddle could make via electronic modification. The show consisted of about 5 or 6 songs off of his “The Musical Moods” CD. After the show I bought a copy of that CD for $15.00 and he was autographing them all. I also asked him if I could take a picture and he let me. Seemed like a really nice guy. The wife ended up going to off to bed but I wasn’t ready to. Guy playing piano and guitar – I didn’t get the guys name, but basically there was this guy playing the piano at a bar (not Duke’s piano bar) and the people sitting at the bar were able to pass around a microphone and sing along with him or by yourself while he played. He seemed like a real talented player. He played the keyboard, the bass, and the electric guitar. One of the guests named Todd was singing some of the Ratpack songs (Frank, Dean etc.) and he sounded like a professional. We started talking and laughing about a few things it was a fun time. He talked about how he wanted to sing professionally and I truly think he could. My room service experience #2 – After the fiddle show I started getting hungry but didn’t want to go to any buffets so we ordered a Turkey Sandwich, a Ham & Cheese, a veggie tray, and some coffee. The Ham & Cheese was good but the wife thought the Turkey was mediocre. We had the food within 5-7 minutes. Day Three: Lunch – Yes, we slept in again. I had the fish and chips and ordered the baby back ribs however the ribs were tough so I sent them back and ordered the spinach ravioli in mushroom sauce. It was really good. Then for dessert I had a something cinnamon. I forget the actual name but it was decent as well. We enjoyed a nice conversation at lunch with Liz and Shelly. I started feeling relaxed around this day. It always takes me a few days to get into things. Deck Games (Survivor) – For those of you who have seen the TV show survivor this is the onboard equivalent of that. Three teams, doing various mildly physical challenges with only one team winning immunity and the losing team having to vote someone out. It seemed fun however we didn’t stay for the whole thing because it was very crowded on the deck. There were no available places to sit it seemed. That’s the main thing that is frustrating about a day at sea where everyone is onboard. You either get to the chairs early in the morning and reserve it, or forget about sitting up there. This kind of disappointed me because I wanted to make this my main “taking in the sun” day. Guess you can’t have everything. Lazy day - After leaving the lido deck we went back to the room for a nap (don’t ask why, we were both just tired for some reason). After napping for an hour I woke up and watched Princess Mononoke on my laptop (Japanese anime). After that it was time for dinner (heh, what a day eh?). 3rd nights dinner - Yes I was a piggy again and I had the escargot and the lobster bisque for an appetizer and the American beef (medium rare) with zucchini and horseradish-mashed potatoes. I also had the chicken dish, which was very tender and very pleasing to the stomach. For dessert I had the chocolate soufflé with chocolate sauce and then ordered some mixed cheeses. Gluttony doesn’t exist in this dojo does it? No sensei! I ordered a drink for Wayne too since he took care of me the other night. Showtime [Comedian Merl Hobbs, and more Billy Armstrong] – Yet another packed show but this time we actually found seats (although not the greatest it was on the top section) The comedian started off with is mellow show and was really funny. He talked a lot about the cruise ship annoyances as well as married life annoyances that many people related to, me included. (Hi honey!). J Billy Armstrong played again tonight with different songs from the night before equally as amazing. He has a very emotional playing style. He even did the Charlie Daniels band (devil went down in Georgia) to perfection. Repeaters party (now called Past Guest party) – Basically the same as the Captains cocktail party but with what seemed like more variety in drinks. They had some bite sized cakes, cheeses, and fruit to snack on. They also had a band playing music for people to dance to. They introduced the ships crew once again and did some “cheer if you were on xxxx ship” thing. We left about 15 or so minutes into it because we were ready for something else and the free drinks started to wane off. I took a picture of the wife next to the cruise director though. I’d say probably one of the few cruise directors worth taking a picture with. There seemed to be some life in this one. Bathroom observation – The size and frequency of my feces disposal has increased by 50%. I wonder if eating like this is healthy or not. J Oh, I also gained about 7 pounds while on this ship. The Midnight comedy show [Merl Hobbs] – This guy was great. They said it was going to be a ‘rated R’ show however he only swore a few times and the topics of discussion was not dirty. He was hysterical. One of those comedians who make you laugh about things you think about but never mention. We were laughing almost the entire time. I definitely recommend checking this guy out if you have the chance. Room service experience #3 – Called room service at about 1:10am. We were hungry after the shows. The lady who answered seemed either burnt out, or just miserable. She did however take our order and it arrived correctly. We had the shrimp salad sandwich, a BLT, a veggie sandwich, 2 milks, and the vegetable platter. All the food tasted good and arrived promptly. (I tipped the guy 3 bucks for this round) We also asked her for a 7:30am wakeup call which thankfully woke us up on time. Oops, time to get to bed now for the Unimog tour tomorrow. Day Four (Puerto Vallarta): Breakfast – Yes, we ate it! Since we had to get up for the Unimog tour we had breakfast on the lido deck. I kind of wanted to go to the regular seating breakfast but figured it might end up taking longer and didn’t want to take a chance and miss the excursion. I ended up having some scrambled eggs (not sure if it was real or an egg beaters type), sausage, hash brown circles, French toast, and a piece of Canadian bacon. It was decent. I would never feel like I would be ‘missing’ the breakfast, but it was definitely doable. The Unimog Outback Adventure (7 hours) – This excursion was awesome. I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed this. It was the most peaceful and fun cruise we’ve ever taken. I read reviews on the net before selecting this and the people were right about how fun it was. Puerto Vallarta is gorgeous. We couldn’t have asked for better weather that day. It felt about in the 70’s or 80’s with mild humidity. The air felt like it had blends of cool and warm pockets that added to the experience. It started off by us getting bussed from the pier to the area with the Unimogs (a cross between a jeep and a truck which seats 2 in the front (driver/passenger) and 12 in the back military style). The drive was a bit windy and dusty but that added to the excitement of the trip. There we met our tour guide for the day. I tell you, we had the best one of all of them. He seemed the most enthusiastic and was a very sincere and humble guy. His name was Azael Saldana. Throughout the entire tour he was constantly pointing out different things about the culture, the crops, and the people. We started out by riding the Unimog to the quaint town where he explained the history and the area. We also got to try fresh tortillas out of the machine. They were so warm, fresh and tasted like a tortilla should taste (not the preservative added crap you get in the grocery store). On the way there we played a “you better remember this persons name or you will drink a shot of tequila for everyone you miss” game. It was fun, and it really worked, as by the end of the game everyone seemed to remember who was who. (This is the best version of ‘get to know the group your with’ I’ve ever seen). Everyone on this excursion was really nice and got into the atmosphere of this excellent adventure. We then took a trip for a while over a few Mexican states or so to some remote area for a snack (cheese and tomato sandwiches) and some beers (extremely tasty Corona in the nice brown Mexican bottles). On the way there we crossed several small areas of water that was bumpy and wet (and fun!). We rode on the freeways and drove passed other towns (very beautiful). We saw horses, cows, dogs, and some strange animal (a cross between a raccoon and a dog). The whole trip was amazing learning about Mangos, Pineapples, Tobacco plants, colors of businesses and their meaning behind them, Mexican politics, horse pooh pooh (as Azael would say), schooling, foreign fruits, and a lot more. It seems the Mexican community as well as many other non-American communities have a tighter knit family structure in place which really benefits the overall happiness of the individuals that live there. There just seemed to be a pleasantness and level of inner peace seen within the people. I envied it so. Along the way Azael would stop and grab fruits off of the tree and let us try them and told us what not to eat and what to stay away from. It seemed like I was one of the few adventurous ones trying the food. They were very good. We stopped at a few smaller places like a cemetery where he explained how once per year they honor the dead and bring food, booze, and play music in the cemetery. Then it was off to the Mexican jungle where we walked up and down a path of dense forest (it started getting a little humid but still nice). We learned even more things there and were able to try fresh mini coconut. Finally after walking out of the jungle we ended up at the gorgeous beach and were treated to an open bar, a delicious Mexican lunch, and soaked up the sun a bit. On the way back on the Unimog it was open bar time again where we did the Tequila shots, Rum and Pepsi, and drank more Corona. We had to get back to the cabin for a rush shower and get to dinner. Rating 9/10 4th night’s dinner – Another great dinner of shrimp and mussel appetizer, wan tan soup, artichokes and lettuce in creamy Italian dressing, and The Game Hen. I wasn’t super piggy this time because of the late lunch we had on the Unimog tour. Folkloric show [Mexican Junior Ballet & The Mariachis Popular] – After dinner was a cute little Mexican dance with the mariachi playing in the background. It consisted of 3 guys and 3 gals dancing various classical Mexican dances. Some of the dances seemed very strenuous. They also had a guy with a lasso who jumped through it and spun it all around. Supposedly he was the lasso champion of that area and he did a fine job. Comedy Juggling Act [Fred Anderson] – This guy was extremely funny, he always had me laughing. His act was very unique. I would say a cross between Carrot Top, David Copperfield, and your standard juggler with a distinctive personality of his own. He chose my wife for one of the parts of his show, which was funny. He turned a floating rose into to a real one (and yes it was real) and gave it to her. I would totally hire this guy (if I could afford him) to do a show at a large gathering. Deck Party and Midnight buffet – The deck party was “LOUD” (exactly how I like it). The usual conga line and a Mexican buffet with Taco’s, Chimichangas, Rice & beans, Mexican pasta, and Texas chicken. I would loved to stay for the whole thing but we didn’t because we had to get to bed early for the next days excursion. We also had some pizza (mmmMMmm.. Carnival pizza rocks). Day Five [Mazatlan]: 2nd Breakfast – Our breakfast consisted of pizza and salad this day. (It was around 10:30-11:00am). We didn’t want the breakfast food this day so pizza it was. The pizza is very good on this ship. Carnival is well known for their tasty 24-hour pizzeria much better than RCCL. We had the goat cheese pizza, and the deluxe (they had different names but you get the idea). Oh, and the Caesar salad was pretty good too (you could taste the anchovies in the dressing more heavily than other dressings I’ve had). That filled us up for awhile. Deer Island Kayak Tour (5 hours) – We chose the Deer Island tour because it seemed to be the most fun thing to do in Mazatlan. It started us off by taking a tram over to a four person car where the guys drove like crazies. I’m a fast driver back home and usually don’t complain about fast drivers but they take too many chances while driving in Mexico. I didn’t see a single traffic light in this area and people were all over the place. What’s the #1 cause of death in Mexico you ask? You guessed it, car accidents. We lived to tell so that helped. We get out of the car and walk through a market or something to finally get to the pier. Then we had a 35 minute boat ride over to Deer Island while the tour guide (Pancho) gave us some history of the area and the island. We could hardly hear him though because the combination of his accent plus the low volume level of the speakers he was talking through. While this is happening a lady (Lupita) is walking around with a T-shirt trying to sell it to everyone (everyone wants your money). Anyways, we finally get to Deer Island. They split us up into two groups one doing Hiking first and the other Kayaking first and then vice versa. Our group was the hiking group but we opted to stay on the beach and enjoy the sand and water since we weren’t given a chance to see the beach too long in Puerto Vallarta. The beach was nice, seemed very safe but didn’t have the beauty of other beaches like in St. Maarten or other places. I guess it’s the Pacific in general. While we waited for the hiking group to get back we roamed the beach (I chased a crab and lost), drank some of the purified water and ate a few pastries they provided. The wife found a few shells she liked and brought them back with us. I also tried the beer Pacifico it was pretty good [$2.00] (although not as good as Negra Modelo my all time favorite beer). Soon after it was time for the Kayaking. Since it was our first time Kayaking we listened to the debriefing on it. I was a tad nervous because I didn’t want to tip the thing in the middle of the ocean. They said there were sea lions in that area and you know sharks are close at hand because of that. Anyways, the Kayaking guide was very descriptive in explaining the do’s and don’ts of Kayaking. In a matter of minutes we were on the Kayak. We had no clue how to do this without exasperating ourselves so about halfway on the way to the turnaround point we were burnt out. I started to catch on how to do it using the least amount of energy and explained it to the wife and she eventually caught on. Closer to the end of the tour did we finally have a smooth flowing pattern going. Is it something I would do again? Sure. If you had asked me that on the first 10 minutes of the experience I would have said no though. The sun was EXTREMELY powerful this day. The wife had SPF 48 on and she still was burnt (and she applied it like 5 times in a few hour timeframe). I ended up getting burnt too and feel like shoving my head in ice water for the next 2 days. On the way back Pancho said it was going to be an open bar and he was right. The bar was open, but you had to buy your drinks. I guess the American definition of open bar didn’t apply in Mazatlan. You’d think with the amount of money they take from each person for this excursion ($88 pp) the least they could do is include a few beers on the house while heading back to the ship. At this writing you get 9 pesos for every 1 American dollar. Think they could afford those beers? It was fun but could have been better. This type of excursion I think would be more fun with less people. Rating 6.5/10 5th Nights dinner – Corn Chowder, Egg roll, Crab meat, Filet Mignon, and a wonderful scallop dish. By this night, you are starting to really get used to fine dining and hoping never to eat a microwave dish again. Guest Talent Show – We had a nice time at the Guest talent show. There were about 8 acts. Three of them in my opinion were very good and they were the Hula dancer, the guy singing a classic Mexican song, and Todd (who I met a few nights back) and sung wonderfully. After the show I asked the Hula dancer what song she used for her dance and she told me but I didn’t have paper to write the name down. She insisted on getting the CD and giving it to us. She was a very nice woman and danced beautifully. She ended up giving us two CD’s and explaining the meaning of the dance she just performed. Outside on the top deck – One of my favorite things to do on the cruise is go out on the top deck at night when most people are retiring for the evening and get away from everything. There is something about watching the moon reflect off the water, feeling the powerful wind all throughout the body and listening to the smooth sounds of the waves. This night is the night I decided to enjoy that along with a bucket of beer (4 beers in a bucket for $14.00) I also brought my CD player and headphones with some choice music burned with Nero. 6th Day: Cabo San Lucas – Okay so we were only given 5 hours in Cabo San Lucas and we woke up at 9:30am so that tells you how much time we had on Cabo. All we did was buy a few things at the shops right at the place where the tender drops you off. I would have liked to see more, but oh well we had enough sun these past few days. Cabo is beautiful though and I recommend checking it out if you have a chance. Lunch – Seafood salad, German Lentil soup, Chinese pepper steak, and an apple dessert. You start getting a level of relaxation like no other by this day. Eating on a ship is as peaceful as gentle massage. Bumbing around – Didn’t do anything until the Kitchen Tour. We just wanted to relax in our cabin. The wife slept and I ended up playing “Magic: The Gathering” computer card game on my laptop for an hour or so. Kitchen Tour - They let everyone who wanted to tour the kitchen come at 4pm to do just that. We started walking through checking out the massive kitchen. It was very clean and organized (obviously prepped that way for the tour) but I was still impressed. The food on this ship has been amazing (except for a few very minor things). Too many people showed up for this and the line was moving at a snails pace. After a ½ hour of moving only about 50-100 feet (there was about 5 times that to cover) we decided to leave the tour early so we could get ready for the final formal night. 6th Nights dinner (Formal Night #2) – Two shrimp cocktails, 2 prime ribs, broccoli and cheese soup, and baked Alaska. The food is always the best on the two formal nights. The prime rib was perfect. Add to that a bit of horseradish and was the best prime rib I’ve ever had. Much better than any other ship I’ve been on. I made sure our waiter took a picture of the entire table in our formal wear. He was always so willing and helpful. Showtime [Spin] (Starring the Elation dancers) – The show consisted of Vegas style dances and choreography from different cities and time periods. It was cute and the dancers did well but this type of show doesn’t hold my attention for long. It all starts seeming the same after awhile. I would have preferred another magician or perhaps a play like Phantom of the Opera or similar. 2nd Midnight Comedy show [Lowell Sanders] – This guy was funny and kept us laughing almost the whole time. He brought out a lot of good points and was right about many of them. Beware though, for those easily offended you’d better not go to this as he does swear a lot. He was selling his CD’s for $10.00 after to show. We didn’t get one but Liz (one of our dining room tablemates and friend) did. Late night – We ended up staying up until about 3:30am talking with Liz and Shelly. Liz said we could stay at her home in Los Angeles for a getaway if we ever wanted. (Thanks Liz! We’ll probably take you up on that). J 7th and final day: Someone won a cruise for two in a Category 12 cabin on the Carnival ship of their choice at the bingo game this morning (I’m jealous) because Cat. 12 is how I’d prefer to cruise but it’s just so expensive. This was probably worth about 6000-8000 dollars. Lunch – Spinach cream soup, Fried Calamari in a Tomato sauce, Chicken Parmesan, Philly Cheese steak with French fries and Chocolate Éclair. After lunch we just kind of moseyed around in and out of the cabin taking shots etc.. Dinner – Chateau Breanne, Navy Bean soup, smoked chicken appetizer and a chicken and mushroom base pasta dish which was excellent. Tip night – It was tip night. Everyone who serviced us exceeded our expectations. We tipped them over the amount suggested because we loved them all and they really did do a great job. Big thanks go out to our Dining room waiter Andrei and our room steward Fausto. Our assistant waiter was also wonderful and a hard worker but he was quiet and we really didn’t get to know him. Showtime (Starring the Ventriloquism of Sammy King & Comedy of Lowell Sanders) – First off was the ventriloquist of Sammy and his Mexican parrot. It was a cute show with some spicy humor involved. I would have like to see multiple puppets in this show instead of just one. All in all it was a decent show. After him Lowell Sanders came back for his ‘PG’ rated show. He was still funny, but not as funny as his uncensored show. Good laughs and ready for more. Time to pack – Came back to the room and finished our packing and placed our bags outside our cabin for them to pick up. I never really feel comfortable doing this especially since the airlines ask you if your bag has been with you the entire time since you packed them. What are you supposed to say… no? I guess you could say that but only if you want to go through another 3 hours of waiting and getting drilled with question after question. Duke’s Piano Bar – This place was cute. As soon as we walked in the guy made me kiss my wife “like she’s never been kissed before”. He then went on to tell a few stories and ask people about embarrassing moments. There was lots of singing and audience participation. I would have liked to hang out there more but it was kind of hot in there so we decided to leave. Final day of walking the ship – The wife and I decided to walk around the ship for the last time to take a few pictures, check things out outside, and see what was going on. Everything seemed dead. I think 90% of the ship decided to go to bed early for all the early garbage that was to happen for Debarkation. As we went to go back to our cabin we stopped at Liz and Shelley’s home (the Casino) to see if they were there and lo and behold. They were. We tried to remove the glue but they weren’t getting up out of those seats to hang out so we called it a night and headed back to our cabin. 8th Day (return home): Breakfast – Ugh, today we had to wake up at 6:00am so as to get ready for immigration. The getting up part sucked but it was time to start getting used to Eastern Time again so it didn’t bother me as much. We sat down for our first ‘sit down’ breakfast in the main dining room. I had the Eggs Benedict and some hash browns and corned beef hash. The sauce added a nice flavor to the eggs. During breakfast our color luggage tags were being called for immigration but oh well… we waited until we were done with breakfast before going there. Immigration - Immigration was just some guys sitting at a table in the Cole Porter Lounge putting a stamp on your US Customs form. Obviously they checked you out (by looking at you) to see if you were some stowaway or something but still not worth the time in line. There has to be a more efficient way of doing this. The wait to get off the ship – After Immigration it was time to wait in the Mikado Lounge (we had the green tickets and that was our designated waiting area). In that lounge they had the TV playing on the theatre style white background to pass the time. We had to wait until about 11:00am. We left before they called our green colored luggage tags because we heard they were letting green off but hadn’t called them yet. At this point you get sick of waiting because you’re tired, and ready to get the final process over with. Debarkation – While leaving you have to have your US Customs form in your hand as well as a driver’s license to get off of the ship. They also had a dog sniffing the bags for drugs and what not. A porter walked up to us and asked to do our bags for us (we agreed because we had more bags than we could handle) we tipped him $6.00 for about 5 minutes of work. Finally we were off the ship. We took the bus back to the airport but our flight wasn’t until 11:30pm and it was only 12:00pm. I knew this ahead of time so I booked a room at the Crowne Plaza Hotel until our flight this evening. We took a Crowne Plaza Hotel shuttle from the airport to the hotel. Lunch – We had lunch in the Crowne Plaza Café. The wife and I both got the burgers and the salad bar. They were both pretty good. Crowne Plaza Hotel – Your average room ($98.00US) were we slept a little bit, watched some TV, and hopped on the high-speed Internet connection there [1200kbps] ($9.95 unlimited usage 24 hour period). I had to catch up on some emails and such and so did the wife. Time to take the shuttle back to the airport around 9:15pm. Airport Security (again) – My belt buckle triggered the alarm systems in LAX so I had to remove the shoes and was felt up again. They made me take out the laptop and place it in a separate container and they even sent my wallet through the conveyor belt. It’s a good thing the scanners don’t ruin the laptop as I had tons of pictures on it (and this review). The Return Flight – Took another Continental 737 flight straight from LAX-CLE. It was crowded again but was more bearable because the flight back was only 3 ½ hours instead of the over 5 hour flight on the way to LAX. Watched “Bandits” on DivX. The movie they had playing on the return flight was Black Knight after which they played some normal TV shows. They just had snacks like pretzels and peanuts and some drinks. Good thing I brought along a beef jerky bag. I really wish they would keep the plane cooler because when it’s full it gets super stuffy. Home crap home – Even though we enjoyed our cruise it was nice to see home again. Of course ask me in a few months and I’ll be ready to get away again (on another cruise). J Time to get back to work and the other daily routine of life (sigh). Would have been nice if: They had an in room ironing board and hair dryer. There were more pursers Carnival started becoming all inclusive (alcohol, excursions, etc...) The cabin steward was more accessible between the 1-5pm hours (ours was wonderful though so no complaints here). The Mikado lounge didn’t have those stupid poles all over the place (they obstructed the view of the shows) They told us what “Friends of Bill W. Meet” is. The Jacuzzis were on at night. This is the best time to go in them IMO. They probably have them shut off because kids drown themselves or something.

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By Jodi_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Bahamas

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review BahamasJodi Date of Cruise: April 5th, 2007I booked my cruise through vacationstogo.com and they were great. I only wish it wouldn’t have been Carnival. You will see why, as you read my review. Embarkation: We went to get in line with our luggage in hand and were told by a blonde woman standing at the door, in uniform, that we must check-in our luggage. We proceeded to do that and I

later found out if your luggage is a certain size you can carry it on. She did not offer us this option. Well, they ended up losing my luggage. I had NO luggage for the entire cruise. 4 days with no clothes, underwear, bathing suit, Nothing! The info desk was very rude and not helpful at all. I felt they were dishonest with me and would say anything to get me to leave the desk. I spent a majority of my trip at the front desk dealing with the office. They gave me the run around pretty much the whole time. My luggage was found once the cruise was finished and we got back to the port. Everyone had cleared the ship and they said it was found on an elevator. I just feel that if they were searching as hard as they told me they were that it would have been found. The only compensation they gave me was 2 t-shirts and a $50 credit on my sail and sign while on the ship. I had to beg them to do my laundry the last night so I’d have something clean to travel home in. They basically said they had done enough for me and that the supervisor would not ok them to give me any more money. It was only $4 to do laundry but I didn’t feel I should have to pay for it. One woman at the info desk laughed at me while I stood there in tears explaining my situation. I will NEVER cruise Carnival again. I cant believe how horrible my first cruise was. I saved for this vacation and instead of relaxing and enjoying it, I was stressed the entire time and worried that I’d never see my bag again. What I really needed was assurance that if it was not found that compensation would be given and that they would make things right. I was never told that. I’m still in a battle with them to get my money back from the cruise. With all the money they do make I don’t think its too much to ask to get my money back for the cruise. Please take my advice and don’t cruise with Carnival. The I was not impressed with the ship. Dining areas were hard to find and when you ask for directions, they sent you all the way across the ship just to find out the place you were looking for was on the opposite side. I constantly felt the ship moving. Especially at night. Cabin: The cabin was small but that is to be expected. The steward we had was extremely nice. He was the only nice employee on the ship. He kept our room neat. The room did stink however. I recommend getting a window room. Our room was like a dungeon. Food: Yuck, yuck, yuck is all I have to say. Don’t go on a Carnival cruise expecting good food. You WILL be disappointed. Service: Dining service was pretty good. We had a friendly waiter and assistant. Entertainment: We watched 2 shows while on board. The hypnotist show was pretty good. The rated R show was not as funny as the other though. The dancing show was pretty bad. They sang a lot of songs no one had ever heard of. Ports: Freeport was awful. Very rundown and dirty. You had to drive 30 minutes just to get to a beach. Not much shopping. The only things they had for you to buy were towels and straw bags. Nassau was better. Atlantis was beautiful but the tour we were given was not very good. The tour guide pointed out every fish in the tank but did not take us inside the hotel. Only in the casino. Straw market was very aggressive. But you can bargain with them, so that was nice. They’ll pretty much take what you’ll give them. Debarkation: I was told by the chief purser I would be first off the ship to look through all the luggage and of course that didn’t happen. Goes back to honesty. They were not straightforward with me and would never tell me the next step. Summary: Don’t book a cruise with Carnival. Don’t waste your money. There are too many other cruise lines out there for you to book with Carnival. I had a miserable time.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanAndy Vale Date of Cruise: August 6th, 2006I have just returned from my first cruise, a week on Carnival's Elation out of Miami to Half Moon Cay Bahama's, St Thomas US Virgin Islands, San Juan Puerto Rico and Grand Turk BWI. This review is written from the perspective of a well-traveled, rather insular, somewhat cynical Londoner, traveling with my teacher wife, daughter age

12 and twin sons age 10. Hopefully you will see past the irony and glean something useful from it. We picked this cruise primarily because of the dates, departure port and attractive destinations. We also hoped it might be free of other Brits (we live in fear of the British abroad), which it was. We opted for a large cabin because it would occupy all 5 of us and then thought 'what the hell - let's go for it' and got one with a private balcony. Having got the Brits out the way, this last thought was a defensive measure by very conservative, first-time cruisers against being over-run by thousands of loud Americans, especially kids. Let me say straightaway that in fact the Americans, young and old, turned out to be an absolute joy and one could not imagine a more perfect set of fellow shipmates. In fact there were few kids on board I think due to the dates being close to the new Florida semester and also the fact that, at least on this cruise, the customers seemed quite interested in gambling and shopping. There was no evidence of alcohol abuse, at least not during our waking hours. Having booked the large cabin, its status as a category 11 or 12 gave us priority check-in which was great as we sped through the security and other formalities. I thought that this experience paid back much of the extra cost straight away. This was about the limit of the benefits although I was offered priority disembarkation by a very helpful assistant purser on account of the aviation terrorist threat to and from the UK and its potential to disrupt our journey home. Our cabin was amazing and the ship overall I thought incredible, other than the rather gaudy decor, a blend of mauves, purples, greens and dark woods. The Atrium which extended over 6 floors was truly breathtaking. Also the way the ship quietly and smoothly handled the moderate swell we experienced towards the southern extremes of our trip with barely any pitch or roll greatly impressed this experienced yachtsman, albeit one who has thrown up on a few Channel ferries. I'm sure experienced cruisers would say 'that's nothing when compared to newer, bigger ships, (in St Thomas we berthed next to 'Mariner of the Seas' which made Elation look like one of the aforementioned ferries). I did though start to get worried by the crew's use of the term 'fun ship' whenever referring to the liner. This brought echoes of British holiday camps of the 50s - I immediately started to question what qualifications the staff might have to make a boring fart like me have fun. We really didn't anticipate relying on any organized activities in order to get what we wanted from the trip and were worried about being cajoled. We wanted to keep ourselves to ourselves and maybe we put out negative vibes about being sat with other people at dinner as that didn't end up happening, or maybe it was the behavior of my kids on the first night. In any event we were relieved, we're not very good with the 'SHF' thing ('Special Holiday Friends' we call them, the ones you exchange numbers with, swear undying love to but then never call). My concerns about the 'fun ship' culture grew as the Maitre D' announced that he would be performing for us during our dinner each night. Err...the Maitre D' ?? This brings me on to my major complaint of the trip. For my wife and I, the evening meal was expected to be our main event of the day, one to be savored and enjoyed at leisure. I got increasingly frustrated as the week wore on at the pace of service. It was as if the meal was a race and I swear we won every night. Along with the American habit of whipping away your plate before the last mouthful has gone down, regardless of one's eating partners progress, as soon as one course was finished the next was there. There was no time to savor what was pretty good food and wine. This rushed meal preceded the 'show' which consisted of the waiters and some guests dancing for a few minutes 'Macarena-style' between the tables. You can imagine what this cynical Brit made of that especially when feeling aggrieved at the pace of what went before. Then on night 5 I finally flipped, letting my good-natured and attentive waiter have it big time. What triggered this was tiredness, a few drinks earlier and him, not for the first time, pouring out my previous evening's left-over wine before I had chosen my meal thereby making the all-important wine decision for me. He took my tirade well and explained that this was how American's liked their service. He told me that Brits were rare on the ship and that he would slow down for us in the future, and he did. Funny enough the incident broke the ice with him and we got on well after that even if it did mean he was not always free to participate fully in the 'show' . I suspect his and his team's enthusiasm for fully taking part in the 'show' was the background to the problem. The resolution of this problem had the effect of relaxing me and coincided with the kids becoming more independent and forming friendships. They had a good time at 'Camp Carnival' though they thought the Camp crew lacked control sometimes. (Funny hearing your kids complaining about a lack of control!!) Their comment rings true with my impression of some of the staff being willing but lacking communication skills. My wife and I were at times annoyed that certain activities were nominated as 'family activities' which usually involved extra payment which was alright but then being obliged to stick around for the duration which was not alright, for instance 'Making the Teddy Bear'. We were also annoyed by the requirement to pay $54 for all 3 kids to be cared for between 10pm to 3am when we only needed childcare till 11pm, so we declined that offer. As the week passed, despite the ubiquitous photographers following my every move (I swear they stole my soul over the course of the week) and the offer to sell me my amazing Carnival cabin bed (come on, I'd have slept on a bed of nails given the motion and the sea air), my cynicism about the influence of the Carnival corporate machine slowly broke down and I started to be won over by the friendliness and efficiency of the crew and a general admiration for how well-run the ship was. I even started to visit some of the shows (including the 'Talent Show' and 'Elation-Idol'). The 'cruise director' was MD at most of the theatre shows and was genuinely funny and that made the difference. The generous-nature of our American shipmates became apparent at these shows and I ended up wishing I'd made the more effort earlier in the cruise. Music on the ship was mixed. Some of the musicians scattered about the ship had no right being there they were so poor. And like poor musicians everywhere they played too loud. The poolside music was unbearable. The house band (for the shows) was good although it appeared to be missing a trumpet (knowing brass players, he no doubt got very drunk in Miami the night before the ship sailed and missed the gig!) The formal big show (I suspect this show is common to all the Carnival cruises this season) was only OK, the music and chorus were pre-recorded, the house band mimed and badly so, the bored drummer playing along so off the beat that it threw the (under-rehearsed) dancers and the 2 excellent production singers out-of-time. The Music Director sneaked back and told him to quiet down. Oh, I laughed! The sets and costumes were excellent though. The destinations were varied. Half Moon Cay is owned by Carnival. It was reminiscent of the low tech bits of Disneyland, a bit manufactured. You couldn't see a wooden bench without a sign saying something like 'Sit and Chill' which raised my heckles slightly as I have had some experience with seats and know how to use them. But the bathing was wonderful and the ship looked great. The tender business from and to the ship wasn't too bad and was only required once on the cruise. My family tried the 'Stingray Experience' excursion which involved swimming with and feeding Stingrays. About 50 were trapped in a netted off area of a lagoon, not very ecologically sound I suspect. My wife and kids were terrified as the rays slithered around their legs and they barely got wet. But I went for it and rather enjoyed the experience of snorkeling with these beautiful and apparently harmless creatures. St Thomas seemed all about shopping. If you are in the market for a new quality watch I suggest working out and pricing exactly what you want in the UK before the trip (with and without VAT) and then haggling like mad on St Thomas. I got the impression the approved shops and products were bona fide and that savings of maybe 25% on UK pre-duty and VAT prices on Omega watches might be possible. St Juan had a tired feel about it. The ship was only there for a few hours. We spent most of those trying to find somewhere to eat and get a drink. I thought Grand Turk had little to offer though I'd recommend the snorkeling. Although there is little live coral there are some lovely colorful and friendly fish. There is good bathing too around the newly developed Carnival 'resort' at the southern tip of the island. The ship ties up at a quay and the walk is only a few hundred yards to the beach, complex and inevitable shops. Tipping on board is done in accordance with the practice within the rest of the industry. I really should have delved into the tipping thing more deeply, and customized it to our particular circumstances. Apparently the bulk of our (more-or-less compulsory) daily $10-each gratuity went to the 'formal' restaurant waiting staff despite my kids not attending most meals (preferring to do their own thing, eating elsewhere on the ship). I would have preferred to bias this tip towards the stewards who were good, and give some to the pursers and other crew. Of course I could have done this if I had the time and energy on the final day but after 3 weeks in the U.S. I was pretty well 'tipped-out' (in the U.K. gratuities are the tip, in the U.S. it sometimes feels that they are the iceberg!) It would have been interesting to know to what extent each part of the crew rely on gratuities. Regarding the private balcony, it was great and negated any feeling of claustrophobia. We thought it very worthwhile except when it got a bit choppy for a couple of days, the spray made it unusable. So I would suggest caution if contemplating booking a balcony room on an Eastern Caribbean cruise though I understand that the Western Caribbean tends to be calmer. I was thrilled that there was wireless internet access from my cabin (possibly due to proximity to the Internet Cafe so this might not apply to all cabins regardless of category). It costs up to 75c a minute and is fairly slow (I estimate 40Kb/sec). TV is good with CNN and a few other channels, though the on-ship movie channels were unwatchable due to poor picture quality, and there are about 6 channels promoting Carnival or showing highlights of the day's action full of happy smiling faces (of course). They sell compilations on DVD of these daily video logs on the final day of the cruise. Impressive really. You can remind yourself of all those 'Special Holiday Friends'. Would I recommend Carnival? For some of my friends, yes. But personally, when I cruise again (and I think I will someday), I'll not be choosing a 'fun ship' but something more formal, just to see the difference. But then, who knows, maybe my 3rd cruise will be back on Carnival.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanC. Walker Date of Cruise: August 13th, 2006I am a true cruiser for life. I have previously been on four Royal Caribbean cruises, Monarch, Majesty, Vision and Explorer. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of those cruises. The Elation is my first cruise with Carnival. I was booked on Elation last year, but Carnival cancelled because they rerouted Elation due to the use of the Ecstasy

for Hurricane Katrina. I was very disappointed and promptly booked on the Vision of the Seas for the Mexican Riviera cruise. Carnival gave me a $100 ship board credit (which was disappointing since I lost the $75 credit I had on the original cruise, I felt it should have been additional credit.) My experience with Carnival is somewhat dampened by more positive experiences with RCCL. I enjoyed my cruise on the Elation very much, but many details I am used to with RCCL were lacking with Carnival. The variety of the food was very minimal, especially in the buffet areas. The ship seemed very dark, but I got used to it after a couple of days of trying to figure out what and why areas were designed as such. After awhile the ship grew on me. I began to see the ship as beautiful in it’s own way, it was still dark though. My cabin was nice for me and my two children, son age 20 and daughter age 10. The beds were arranged in a U-shape. My daughter had a nice size cot that raised about 6 inches off the floor. The ship was clean and functional. The last night, my closet door came off the hinges and luckily for me it also had a support strap which kept it from falling on my feet. I mentioned it the next morning to the cabin steward, Thong, whose response indicated to me he knew it had problems. He did not fix it either. Other than that no real problems with the cabin. My daughter who has experienced RCCL and their Ocean Adventure Club enjoyed Camp Carnival. The few times I looked in on her in the camp, she seemed to be “in charge” of her age group and having a wonderfully good time. She was able to sign herself in and out and come and go as she pleased. She participated in one slumber party when they keep the kids until 3 AM for a cost of $26 for the first child in a family and prorated for additional children. They actually walk the children back to their cabins at 3:00. This was cool albeit eye-opening when I had to let her in at 3. I had issues with the management of the pool and water slide. The water slide was the 2nd factor (after the $100 credit) in my decision to give Carnival another chance because I knew my daughter would enjoy it. None of the ships I been on with RCCL has the water slide. The first day, the slide was not open. We carried on her swim suit and thought we would get on the ship, eat lunch at the buffet in Tiffany’s and she would get to swim and play on the water slide. This did not happen since it was not open. She finally got to use the slide the 3rd day when we were at sea. The slide opens at 11 and closes at 6:00. If the slide attendant has to take a break, he just closes it off without a backup attendant to keep the slide going. I thought this rather rude as kids who had gone down the slide a few minutes earlier would climb out of the pool and run up to the slide only to see that it was closed all of a sudden. Their expressions were priceless. On the 5th day at San Juan, the ship departed at 3:30. We had to be back on at 3:00. All the pools were closed except the whirlpools. When I asked an attendant why, he said they were closed for cleaning. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why they didn’t clean the pools while most people were ashore rather than that evening especially since it was an early return from the port. I never saw anyone come up that day for cleaning. However the pools were open the following day. The slide should be open earlier and longer. Compared to RCCL, I was very disappointed in the food and service. I expected to see an abundance of food in Tiffany’s. But this is not the case. The lines are very very long during peak times, I found this not to be very efficient at all. Breakfast didn’t deviate from the omelet station, bacon sausage links, ham, scrambled eggs, potato, and one hot cereal each day. They served either very thin pancakes or poorly battered French toast on alternate days. Other breads were short on variety, a few muffins, bagels, and dried/hard pastries. Only a handful of fruits consisting of cantalopes, prunes, honey dew, oranges sections, grapefruit sections, no watermelon, but fresh apples, oranges and bananas which they ran out of in the middle of the cruise. The same space was utilized for lunch which consisted of 3 meats including a carving station, a couple of vegetable dishes, couscous or rice and two pasta stations. Then two breads, some fruit, salad bar with miscellaneous items and some desserts. They chose to serve us the cheesecakes on the buffet. Dinner consisted of the same. When I tried to get two slices of meat at the carving station, I always felt like I was breaking a rule. I also felt the same at the dessert station. It seems like Carnival was trying to save money on the food by serving and resisting requests for more than one slice of meat or cheesecake. And the juices were never sweet. They were very tart. The fruit punch was plausible. The formal dining room became my main source for the day. I agree with another reviewer, they seemed to be rushing all the time. I originally requested the 2nd seating at 6:15. They put me and it seems many other parties in at 5:45. Since I made my reservation in the early spring, I don’t understand why I got bumped. When I talked to the maitre d’, Yusef, he obviously did not want to make the change, but told me that I could come at 6:15 because he had a 30 minute timeframe he could work with. We were seated at a table with another single parent and two children who were also told they could come at 6:15. This seemed to frustrate our wait staff, but they got used to us and we got used to them. My son, straight up told me the first night that there was nothing on the menu he wanted and thus ate in Tiffany’s the rest of the trip. My daughter would accompany me only if she didn’t’ have anything better to do or was not taking a nap. By they way, the steaks are terrible. They are tough and rubbery. When I told my server that, she was clearly taken aback, but brought me the sweet and sour shrimp I ordered as a replacement which was excellent. Also the lobster on lobster night is very good. They also served prime rib that night, so my server brought me both dinners even though I only ordered the prime rib dinner with an ala carte lobster tail. They didn’t seem to be able to adapt to special orders so they either over did it or got it completely wrong. The prime rib and lobster served were excellent! The gala buffet was minimal. It was beautiful, but again lacking in variety from what I am used. I really missed the shrimp cocktail as well as more variety of choices I was used to on all of the RCCL gala buffets. Carnival served the desserts during the gala buffet. I just couldn’t get over them serving the desserts, again, saving costs? There was plenty to do on the ship. The shows were great. Entertainers are very talented. They may not have been multi-million dollar entertainment, but good enough. And Jorge—you just can say enough about the wittiness of Jorge the cruise director. He is a life saver for the ship. That’s just how good he is. I saw people winning at the slots in the Casino. I enjoyed the band in the Romeo and Juliet lounge. The ship has many lounges, plenty of late night activity. I believe the band in the Romeo and Juliet lounge was Boardwalk. Very cool band. The Music Café has great desserts for additional charge of $1.00 to $2.00. The strawberry cheesecake and white or black forest individual cakes were to die for at $2.00 per slice. Big homemade looking cookies were $1.00. And they served Lattes, cappuccinos and other coffee drinks. It was one of my favorite places. The ports of call were wonderful with the exception of San Juan. On Monday, Half Moon Cay is gorgeous and under developed. I liked that. Large angelfish swam around us in just 3 feet of water. The waves were gentle and the water just warm and cool enough. It was a nice beach. The sand felt like powder and the water was clear to several shades of turqoise. The luncheon was not very organized. Again long lines, because the burgers, though excellent were cooked to order. They also had hot dogs, jerked chicken, salad items, brownies and cookies. The punch was not very good. Tuesday was a day at sea and we just enjoyed the ship. The pools and water slides were fully optional. The burgers at the Lido deck buffet (an outdoor extension of Tiffanys) were very good. On Wednesday, St. Thomas is breathtaking. We did a tour I had researched on the internet by Godfrey’s Tours for $25 per person. The the same tour on the ship was $40. The tour consisted of 1-3 hours of shopping, your choice of how much time so we only did two hours. A tour with stops for picture taking up to the Mountain top where we have the most spectacular view of Magen’s Bay. Then a two hour stop at one of three beaches. We chose Coki Beach because of Coral World aquarium. Coral World was a big disappointment at $15 a piece (get coupons for 3 dollars off the $18 price on the internet.) It’s old and somewhat run down. We spent one of the two hours on the beach (Coki) which was a small but functional beach. On the way back we stopped for additional pictures and were dropped off at the ship at 4:00. The ship spends 12 hours in St Thomas, so many people went back out for shopping at the dock or eating out since we had until 7:30 to get back on board. Thursday, San Juan turned out to be dirty looking and looked polluted. The water was a dirty green with trash floating around in it. Definitely not the clear turquoise water we had seen at Half Moon Cay and St Thomas. The kids slept in and so we didn’t get off the ship until about 11. My son went his own way. We had to be back on the ship so my daughter and I walked up the three blocks of hills and did some light shopping. I thought San Juan was much more expensive than St Thomas. Some others thought it was cheaper. I really felt it was very Americanized. Pigeons were everywhere. My daughter had a Happy Meal at MacDonalds, I tried a fried beef pie concoction with an overly sweet pineapple soda from a food stand at the dock which was too greasy so we fed it to the pigeons and went back to the ship. I was disappointed that we did not get to do any tours especially the forts, but was able to take pictures of two forts on the edge of San Juan as the ship sailed to Grand Turk. Friday was Grand Turk and was a late noon arrival, but it is gorgeous. Beautiful waters, underdeveloped and under-commercialized. Again, we didn't do any tours, just hung out at the beach. The nachos at Margaritaville were really good but the drinks are over priced. People were partying up a storm at Margaritaville. Defintely the party place. There was also a large pool for our use at Margartaville right in the middle of all the excitement. Again we encountered small fish in the shallow waters at the beach. The cabanas were free but you had to be one of the first to get one. There were a few shops which are worth browsing through. My daughter got a little too much sun so we got back on the ship about 4:00. The ship departed for Miami at 7:00. Saturday was the last day and we were at sea. Again we just relaxed and enjoyed the ship. I got a lounge chair early in the day since I knew they would be all taken. By now, I was used to being on the Elation and could appreciate it much more. I decided I would try at least one more Carnival cruise. I figure different companies will have different experiences as in the case of Carnival vs. RCCL. I am currently booked on the Majesty of the Seas again in January 2007 with a small group from my 30 year high school reunion. I may try a Carnival cruise later in the year, if I don’t do the new Freedom of the Seas. It was docked when we were there and there just aren't any comparisons when the ships are there together. But once we were sailing, the Elation still seemed to be huge. I kept getting turned around on the ship. It’s not a small ship, just ½ the size of RCCL’s 138,000-158,000 ton mega ships. So next time I will try one of Carnival's newer and larger ships. All in all I enjoyed my cruise on the Elation. Do they have opportunities? Definitely! Would I recommend them to anyone? Yes, especially for first time cruisers.  

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By Andy_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanAndy Date of Cruise: August 27th, 2006I decided on checking out the CCL after going on my first cruise in November 2005 on the RCCL Sovereign of the Seas, Based on CCL being a "Fun Ship" and recommendation from family. What attracted me to this cruise was itinerary and pricing.. Although Half Moon Cay was cancelled due to TS Ernesto and replaced at the tail end of this 7

night cruise with Nassau which I was mad about but knew this was out of CCL's hands as they need to make a safe docking for the safety of the ship and everyone on board. Day 1: Sunday 8/27 Very low key, quiet day. Everyone boarding the ship and settling in. Upon boarding the ship, in the first hour, I knew things were going down hill. The staff on this ship does not have much personality. When I look back to the RCCL cruise last year, I was greeted with big smiles and hellos walking through the terminal and onto the ship, to my stateroom. Not with this ship. Staff seemed relaxed. Ok I was hard on expectations from the get go, so I let that slide. After settling into the stateroom, I proceeded to check out the ship for the next hour or two before muster drill. At 4:00pm, they started the drill with everyone gathering at the designated stations. After all gathered, proceeded to the sides of the ship on the Lido Deck. The drill time at this point was around 4:45 or so. As the drill was going on, the ship pulled away from the Port of Miami. A big Downside here, on the RCCL last year I could hang out on the deck, the drill was over, and watch the embarkation. Not with CCL, or atleast this ship. As the night went on, it was quiet. Proceeded to dinner, it stunk. Was not attracted to any of the food on the menu, this ship seemed to go in the direction of a lot of foreign food and overly fancy. Your traditional foods- steak, chicken, beef was not an option. I asked the waiter for something different, and was told what is on the menu is there and all there is to offer. He did offer hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken nuggets. I freaked. My mouth dropped. I said, I am not a kid, that is kid food with a wise crack. I just got up and left never came back the whole week for dinner there. Lounges were dead, Lido Deck was quiet, and no welcome aboard show - just a plain old dance show with a few introductions (Nothing like my awesome experience on the RCCL) DAY 2 - Out To Sea (Half Moon Cay Cancelled) This was a fairly decent day. The weather was nice. Band played on the Lido Deck for a couple of hours. A couple of games in the afternoon on the Deck. Lounges had something going on every night from Karaoke (the biggest attraction all week in Cole Porter Lounge) to 70s/80s music in Romeo n Juliet Lounge.. To a guitarist playing guitar in the Drama Bar-Deck 9 for most of the night. Disco in Jekyll & Hyde  to Showtime every night in Mikado Lounge(Deck 9).. Sing-along Piano in Duke's Piano Bar... So my spirits brightened... I had Lunch and dinner at Tiffany's (Buffet Lounge - Lido Deck), very poor quality and quantity when I compare to my past RCCL cruise. Food didn't seem to be cooked 100% fresh. The pizza area was a shame. Pizza wasn't even fresh or crisp like RCCL. Seemed like soggy cheese. The Midnight Buffet was ok but the quality of the food could have been cooked better. Salad Bar looked good but I didn't bother. Soda seemed watered down though it was coming out of sealed cans. Alcohol was great as always. Pricey but good (average 5.18 a drink) Day 3- Grand Turk Spent the Day at this island. Went on a kayaking/snorkeling/island tour combo excursion for 69.00 (3 hr trip). Was nice, got to see plenty of fish in snorkeling. Spent 3 hrs or so at the beach. Nice and clean, plenty of sand. This is also home to Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville, very interesting. Island seems a little under-developed but is nice overall for something out in the middle of nowhere. Day 4- Old San Juan, PR Changed from an 8 or 9 hour stop to a 12 hr stop so that was cool. Did the Bacardi Distillery Tour (3 hrs). Provides 2 free drinks of Bacardi at the Distillery factory. $35.00 for the trip. This excursion takes you to Fort San Cristobal after the Bacardi tour for 40 minutes. Nice old historic fort to see and take pictures at. Throughout the shuttle to and from the Bacardi tour/ Ft San Cristobal, the driver was very informative about old San Juan, pointing out some areas of interest. Explaining some PR history along the way. Got a picture with 3 parrots sitting on me on the way back to the terminal from some guy taking pictures with his parrots for cruisers at the terminal. Senor Frogs is across the street from the terminal, this is a must see restaurant! A little pricey but good quality, a break from the poor cruise line food. Day 4- ST Thomas USVI Changed from a 12 hr stop to an 8 hour stop which was depressing. If at all cost, try to take an excursion on the island here. The island tour companies are much cheaper and as accommodating as CCL might be. I took a tour with Godfrey's Tours in ST Thomas. $20 for the shuttle to Coki Beach. There is also Sapphire Beach and Megan's Bay for beaches. I think and have been told, Coki Beach is the clearest water and nicest beach of all. In fact, it was. I was amazed and this stop made my cruise better after a miserable first few days on the ship. There is Wave Runners here for $90/hr or $50/half hour. Beach Chairs are $5.00 to use. Snorkels are also $5.00 to use. Fins and everything else is u want then are 5,10.00 etc each. Floating tubes are 5.00 also. Be prepared to pay a 5.00 deposit if you use snorkels, tubes because that's how they make sure they get their stuff back, or you lose that money. Overall, need more time here. Definitely will try to come back here on a 12 hr stop or 2 day stop, or maybe even vacation here! Stores are outside the ship, plenty to shop from, to walk to. All the Tour Companies line up outside the ship and average $20-$35/40.... well worth saving money and the others I heard about from other people had no problems getting cruisers back in time for the ship (1 hour before departure).....There was a buffet around midnight, 1 of 2 for the week. This was lame, Mexican food buffet? No variety.....There was live band music and a game on the deck which was interesting. Day 5 - Sea Day Band was playing when I woke up around 10:00am on the Deck. Great start. Amazing to see the ship liven up for one morning on this cruise outside. (I don't envision taking a cruise and hanging out inside in the lounges to have fun all week). Also, lounges were mostly ice cold or near ice cold. Another down point to this cruise. Games in the after noon into the night, mostly leading into the lounges after 4pm. Band played most of the day, surprisingly.. which I loved...Kept me outside for once! This was also Formal Night. Did not attend. The midnight Buffet in the dining room was just crackers and desserts mostly. Some examples of the ice carvings were there too. Could have brought this onto the deck and made it more interesting. How pathetic! Tried Room Service, was going to be an hour or longer wait, very busy. Not sure if this is customary or this ship was not prepared for a busy night and under staffed. Day 6- Nassau 7 hour stop here (12pm-7pm). Last ship in, first one out! Did the Pearl Island Stingray Adventure. There are 2, one is an encounter which is more less aimed for younger people. The adventure is where you can snorkel with the sting rays. What an experience. And they are cute! After Snorkeling freely for 45 minutes, did 30-45 minutes of snorkeling with sting rays. Not a beach day. Overcast clouds to start with a big thunderstorm that ruined the day. Although, got to do the snorkeling in time. Ate dinner at buffet as did all week. This was the best buffet of the cruise. Turkey w/ stuffing and bread. Yummy. Midnight buffet at Tiffany's as every other night was the same, same all week! hot dogs, small chicken breasts, french fries, cookies and bread/butter... Day 7- Home. Debarkation was smooth. Self Assist went first around 715am. Once customs gave the general clearance around 9am, the ship emptied quickly, not by colors. Just a general clearance and everyone headed out, off the ship by 945-1000am. The terminal was smooth sailing out. Luggage was there and waiting, all lined up by Deck your stateroom was. Made that somewhat easy rather then spin on a belt like in an airport. Overall: 1-10 ratings Stateroom Staff - 10 Dining Staff - 1 Social Hosts - 4 Cruise Director - 5 Shows/ Lounges - 7 Lido Deck Activities- 2 Casino -8 Photo Quality - 3 Food - 2 Itinerary - 10  

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanPaul Vivian Date of Cruise: August 27th, 2006 This was our family of four’s second time cruising on Carnival and although we had a good time (it being difficult to “not” enjoy a cruise), this cruise did not come close to exceeding our expectations, which is Carnival’s stated goal. Having said that, and to be fair, it should be kept in mind that from the time we booked

this cruise some eight months before  we sailed, this was one of the lowest priced Caribbean cruises available during the time period that we were interested in. So, the fact that not every aspect of the cruise was “up to par” was not a crushing disappointment. The ship itself was quite satisfactory considering the age of the ship. The reasonably sized cabins (and cabin bathrooms) were clean and well maintained. Public areas as well were generally fine, although there was a rather musty smell on the spa interior deck which blemished the impression somewhat. I had thought that perhaps the gym was undersized the first morning when I arrived to find lineups for the exercise machines, but apparently everyone had good intentions of staying in shape that first day that didn’t continue, as after that first day I never had to wait. We were generally impressed with the level of staff service. Our cabin steward was excellent, and our waiter and his assistant were both quite professional. Bar staff were available but not obtrusive in their quest to sell you more alcohol. A better than average grade goes to the Elation in this regard. On the subject of alcohol, most cruise lines prohibit bringing alcohol on board. Carnival has a similar policy but they do allow you to bring a reasonable quantity of wine on board at the beginning of the cruise for consumption other than in the dining room (where a corkage charge applies). My wife and I took advantage to bring 3 bottles of wine each. Kudos to Carnival for this policy, which we had not seen on our 8 previous cruises. The quality and variety of food on the ship was definitely below average. The food wasn’t dreadful by any means and some things (particularly the beef selections) were generally quite good. However, I know that most cruisers are not exactly health conscious but really, shouldn’t you be able to get some whole grain breads on a cruise? And advertising “hearts of iceberg lettuce”-the cheapest and least nutritious type of lettuce available- as being some sort of a specialty salad offering was pretty laughable. Our initial thought was that the overall food quality was lower perhaps because this was one of Carnival’s lower end cruises, but we were told that Carnival’s menu is standard throughout their ships, so apparently that is not the reason. Another thing that we missed on the Elation that is available on some of the larger ships are the specialty restaurants (featuring better quality and more unique foods) that are available for a small additional fee. On the positive side, our teenage kids liked the availability of pizza 24 hours a day that is a feature on Carnival ships. Don’t expect gourmet pizza though. The on-board entertainment was hit and miss-unfortunately though it was mainly miss. I went to most of the headline performances in the show lounge and of those there was exactly one-a comedy juggler-that was worth seeing. They had 3 or 4 standup comedians whose performances ranged from mediocre to dreadful. Lest you think I am overly harsh, I can assure you that the size of the crowds and the general audience reaction to the shows supported my critique. The smaller lounge entertainment likewise was inconsistent although there was a band from the Philippines who were great. They went from doing the Temptations to the Bee Gees to Pink Floyd and did a credible job of each. The only bad thing was that they played in a smoking lounge for the entire length of the cruise, and so several times where we might have enjoyed listening to them the prospect of doing so in a smoke filled room put us off. One of the things that attracted us to this cruise was the port itinerary, two of which (Grand Turk and Half Moon Cay) we hadn’t visited before. Due to Hurricane Ernesto Carnival changed our itinerary, dropping Half Moon Cay in favor of Nassau, and rearranging the schedule. Our first port of call was therefore Grand Turk. Having significant cruise experience and a desire not to pay the inflated cost of the cruise lines excursions, our preference is to pre-arrange our port activities prior to our cruise and in the case of Grand Turk we had booked a scuba diving trip with a local dive operator Blue Water Divers. We were not disappointed as we had two great wall dives in the pristine waters a short drive from the ship’s dock. Afterward, we walked around the main town of the island before returning to the ship. A word of caution to other “independent” cruisers- apart from some scuba dive operators Grand Turk appears to have little developed tourist infrastructure. You get off the boat and if you don’t have a ship’s tour booked you can hang around in Carnival’s “created” shopping/beach area (which in fact looked fairly nice) or you can hire a cab, although its not too clear where the cabs will take you other than to another beach. The cabs themselves are all fixed price per person, and seemed a bit pricy to me. Our next port was San Juan, which we had visited before. Because the scuba options within the proximity of San Juan are limited we decided to rent a car and drive to El Yunque, the rainforest national park. This was a great choice, as we are avid hikers and the park itself is beautiful. However we made a couple of mistakes-the ship arrived at 11 am and because we were scheduled to be in port until 11 pm we assumed we had loads of time. Wrong! It took us 2 hours to clear US customs so we couldn’t get off the ship until 1 pm. Then we found that the car rental place which we had booked on the internet wasn’t nearly as close to the cruise docks as we thought and by the time we had gotten the courtesy car to pick us up and our car rented it was 3 pm. Another hour through traffic to get to the park left us only two hours to explore the park before its 6 pm closing-not nearly enough time. There did appear to be car rental opportunities at the dock which might have been the better option in retrospect. St Thomas was next and that was another dive for us with Blue Island Divers. I recommend them for any dive enthusiast taking this cruise-included in the trip cost is a courtesy pickup a 5 minute walk from the ship. Nassau was the final port and we didn’t do much here-a bit of a look around and some shopping. From reading other reviews Half Moon Cay seems a much better choice for a Bahamas port. In summary, for the budget conscious cruiser this cruise provides an interesting itinerary at a bargain basement price. Cruising on Royal Caribbean or Norwegian however might be a better choice if you are willing to invest a little more.    

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanMaureen Date of Cruise: July 9th, 2006This was our 3rd cruise- we had been on a Costa and Carnival cruise in the past two years. This was a 7 day Caribbean cruise that I went on with my 67 year old mother and my 8 year old son. My mother was in a wheelchair due to a broken foot, which did not end up a problem except at ports. We boarded the ship easily, and enjoyed the open

buffet for lunch as soon as we boarded. In the evening, I had to go and grab a steward to help me pull down the bunk bed for my son as there was a hidden button that is hard to find to pull it down. I paged the room steward repeatedly without success. Our steward did not see us until the next day, at which time he said that his pager was broken and if we needed him we should "just look for him". Pretty convenient- for him. Fortunately, we did not need him after the first evening. The food on the ship was good. We had the sit down dinner each night. The seafood Newburg dinner was overcooked and tough, but the beef Wellington was great. Overall, good. Camp Carnival, the program for kids, unfortunately was not good overall. The first night, parents were to register their children in the camp at 5:00 pm. I waited until 5:30, (with all the other families and small children crawling over a room on the ship with nothing to do) and no one showed up. I left, and at 6:30 that evening another message was made with a new time to register at camp, now 7:00 pm. I had it with that whole scene, and instead registered my son at camp the next day. The third day into the cruise, we were at port at Puerto Rico. My son stayed at the camp from 9:00-3:00 pm, at which point I picked him up to go swimming and eat dinner with us. I asked the camp counselor when the camp would reopen after dinner, as I knew that my son would enjoy going to see the show with them in the evening. Much more fun than going with us. The counselor replied that since it was a port day, Camp Carnival did not recommend more than six hour intervals at camp. Camp Carnival recommended that I keep my son for the evening. I was shocked and insulted to be getting advice (unsolicited) about the best way to occupy my son's time on the cruise from a youth counselor, who, most likely, wanted less kids to watch so she could have some free time at port. I ended up complaining to the head of the youth program, who informed me that indeed that is the policy of Carnival on port days, although "perhaps" the counselor was overzealous in explaining it. Never in past cruises have I had any situation like this, and hopefully never will again. I kept my son away from the camp as much as possible for the rest of the cruise, because I sensed that he was not doing much besides playing PlayStation 2 anyway, and I had serious reservations about the youth counselors. For myself, I will be looking for a Disney cruise next time. If you plan on traveling by Carnival with kids, stay away from the Elation.    

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanSam Maraldo May 28th, 2006This was a 7 day cruise and there were 5 of us. I loved it overall. There were 2 excursions I would avoid and that was the bus tour of Puerto Rico and bus tour of Grand Turk, BWI (horrible, never got off the bus!) The ship Elation was fabulous. We loved the staff, especially are waiter, Rolando, and his assistant, Rosemary. We shared a table with 5

fabulous young women which made dinner time fabulous and full of laughter (Hi Mel, Eli, Liza, Jen, Chris - you were great!) Our cabin staff was also fantastic and we looked forward nightly to the towel animals. Our beds and pillows were SO comfortable - thanks Lucky and Annak. Every person, except a very, very few, were friendly and extremely accommodating. The food was very good, with some dishes being outstanding. The ship was impeccable. Now my favorite places were Half Moon Cay, Carnival's private island. We rented a cabana - and it was worth the price. The island was great, water was spectacular, and we thought it was a great way to start our cruise. Next was St. Thomas with an excursion to St. John. Great shopping in St. Thomas. We snorkeled at Trunk Bay and it was fun but nothing like when we snorkeled at Caneel Bay. Caneel Bay is a far superior place to visit and snorkel. Then we were off to Puerto Rico. Too rushed, not very impressed with the tour, shopping was pretty good but way too rushed. Then we were off the Grand Turk, BWI. This was expensive place to shop, but what a place to have fun!!! Margaritaville had a wonderful shop, an incredible pool, swim up bar, great music, and yummy drinks. Like I said, it was expensive but worth every cent. To be in my early 20's again!! Note - buy your shirts as soon as you get on the island since they run out of sizes quickly. DO NOT TAKE THE ISLAND BUS TOUR - A WASTE OF MONEY AND THERE IS NOTHING NICE TO SEE OR PLACE TO SHOP! I would definitely take this cruise again. Suggestions - Spend the extra money and get an outside cabin with a balcony. It is wonderful sitting out there and relaxing. In Puerto Rico, take a taxi to the shopping area - it is a lot cheaper and you will have more time. Grand Turk - stay at the beach, you will have a blast! Thanks, Carnival, for a wonderful time I got to spend with my sister, her husband, her daughter, and my daughter - these memories will last a life time!  

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Carnival Elation Western CaribbeanLaura Szasz Overall, the cruise experience aboard the Elation was a very good one. The first disappointment, however, was in our transfer from the Houston airport to the Galveston Pier. The buses were very late, and we waited for almost 2-1/2 hours. When we returned home, we realized it was because of the buses unloading passengers from the previous cruise. If you are a non-US citizen, the wait at

customs (off the ship) will take you 3 hours. I was traveling with my 73 year old mother, and there was nowhere for her to sit down and it was almost 100 degrees that day. I will be writing to US customs, as it really has no reflection on Carnival. The FUN ship is called that for a reason. The events were well organized, and everybody had a great time. I laughed a lot – enjoyed the comedy acts and all the “game shows” and trivia events, Karaoke, etc. The staff was all friendly and helpful. The food was very disappointing (sub standard). I didn’t have one hot meal all week. The dining experience was enjoyable, but only because our wait staff was professional and they made it worthwhile. I looked forward to coming to dinner every night, even though the food was not entirely appealing. My 13 year old son especially enjoyed Tiffany’s where he could go any time to grab a slice of pizza and some ice cream. There was a lot to do for kids (older teens) and younger kids under the age of 11. I found fewer activities for my 13 year old son, although he enjoyed the pool and the arcade. We even played a few card games in the library. The ship was immaculate. There was always someone shining, cleaning, and washing something. Also, it was beautiful and in great shape. The shore excursions are better found off the ship where you will find them at less expense. It might be worth the hassle for you to just book them aboard the cruise, though. All in all it was a great experience. We met lots of people and had tons of fun. I can’t wait to go on my next one.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Carnival Elation Carnival ConquestLisa Hutchinson My Husband and I took this cruise 2 days after we got married, and what a wonderful honeymoon we had! This site helped us so much - so I'm going to give it my all with the details! BOOKING: We booked our cruise back in February of this year, through the Southwest Airlines website, and ticked off that it was our honeymoon ... this is very important - when you book your ticket, check

off if it is a special occasion (see embarkation for reason). Also - it really did speed things up having completed the FUNPASS online before we left. I reccommend doing this to everyone. EMBARKTION: We arrived in Galveston Sunday August 14 at around 2:15PM (I'm lucky enough to have a friend that lives in Houston, so we flew to Houston on Saturday, and stayed with her Saturday night). Getting to the cruise terminals is very easy, as everything is very well marked with road signs. My friend hadn't been there before, and we didn't look up directions before heading out, and we had NO problems finding exactly where we needed to be. When you pull up to the curb at the pier, one of the valets that works at the pier comes right up to you, and helps you with your bags. We tipped one dollar per bag. We had read about this before our trip, and thought that we could manage our own luggage ... but that isn't really an option. Plan on having the valet take care of it for you. He/She checks it in, and then it gets delivered to your room on the ship. We looked at our booklet of information the we received in the mail, and it said to ask for the Skipper's Club. We figured that this was because of our "honeymooner" status ... so into the terminal we went, and found the Skipper's Club. We got to skip the line-up of people waiting to check in (like at an airport), sit down in a private office, check in, get our Sail'n'Sign cards, and then once we were done, we were taken over to the line of people that had already checked in and were now waiting to get onto the ship. The Carnival employee cut us into the front of the line so that we wouldn't have to wait. This is one thing that was a little awkward, as once the Carnival employee left, the people in line behind us that we had just been placed infront of weren't thrilled. Getting onto the ship, they make you stop and take an embarkation picture, then you walk up the ramp to enter the ship on deck 7, the Empress Deck, at the bottom of the Atrium, by the Information/Pursers desk. >From there they had staff to help you find your room, etc. My Husband and I immediately found our room, which was V-15 ... this was on the Verandah Deck. Once we got up there, we realized that this was certainly not the room that we had picked when we had booked our cruise ... WE HAD BEEN UPGRADED TO A JUNIOR SUITE!!! How thrilled were we? This is why we had the VIP Skipper's Club treatment. We had a big bed, a vanity desk with stool, bathroom, closet/etc., a couch, coffee table, and our own private balcony with two chairs and a table. So ... it pays to mark off your special occasion, and to BOOK EARLY! We received both pieces of my luggage before our 5:45 dinner seating, and my Husband's after dinner by about 7:00. Because Jason didn't have his bags until after dinner, he was stuck wearing his travel clothes to dinner. Anything you want to have to change into - put it on your carry-on. Also - I put our anti-nausea patches in his suitcase, and I would have liked to have had those in our carry-on. When you first enter your room, you'll find your first copy of "Carnival Capers" on your bed. This is the newsletter that you receive everyday that tells you about all the ship activities. Sunday, August 14: Upon emarking, my Husband and I did a once over of the ship. We toured around to see the general layout, and check out the sundeck/pools. We went through the Life Boat Drill at 3:30. We had to retrieve the lifejackets in our room, put them on properly, and find our muster station. It took awhile for everyone to get organized and herded into their respective areas, but for our muster station (F), they had put out chairs for all of us, which was greatly appreciated. After the Muster call, we put our lifejackets back, and went to the Drama Bar on Deck 9 - Promenade Deck - and purchased two Adult Fountain Fun Cards ... this came to $88.00 for both of us, and yielded us unlimited pop/juice for the rest of the cruise. I know it was worth it for us ... you can purchase them at any of the bars on the ship. By this time, many people had hit the sundeck, so have your bathing suit in your carry-on luggage if you want to do this. We went to the Inspiration Dining Room on the Atlantic Deck (Deck 8), where we had the early seating of 5:45. We were shown to our assigned table, and had a seat with three other couples all in our age range. Two others were also honeymooners, and one was a wedding anniversary. We had a waiter, an assistant waiter, and a beverage guy assigned to us for the entire cruise. You're presented with a menu with about 4-5 different choices for a starter, 2 salad choices, and about 4-5 choices for an entree. Then, you receive a separate menu with dessert options, once the dinner dishes are cleared. We rated our meals on a 1 (yuck) - 10 (yum) scale. Jason had smoked salmon to start (8/10), a garden salad with blue cheese dressing (6/10), steak with peppercorn (8/10), and chocolate ice-cream for dessert (10/10 - he got two scoops). I had chicken satay skewers to start (7/10), skipped the salad, fish of the day (8/10), and the napoleon for dessert (9/10). Service was excellent, and we were both overall very happy with our food. We left the dining room as soon as we were finished eating - which I would NOT recommend, as the Maitre'D and his staff impart some important information to you after dinner. We missed this and had to catch up later. After dinner, we went to the Welcome Aboard Show in the Mikado Lounge on Promenade Deck (9). This show had singing, dancing, comedy, and some informative material about the cruise. I would recommend going to it. After the show, we went to the Cole Porter Club on the same deck, to watch karaokee. What a riot! On our way back to our room, we hit the Tiffany's Bar & Grill to get some of the 24-hour pizza. It wasn't gross, but it wasn't fabulous. We gave it a 6/10. BUT - it WAS available 24-hours a day. We considered changing our seating time for dinner to the late seating time (you arrange this with the Maitre'D, and if you want to do this, you should do it ASAP), but decided that we liked watching the shows after dinner as opposed to before (as you do with a later dinner seating), so we stayed with the early seating. The line-up at the Purser's desk was pretty long, so if you need anything, I'd reccommend going to the Purser's desk immediately after the Life Boat Drill. They close for the drill, and if you hurry you can get a good spot, since most people go put their life-jackets away first. I think if you go there the first day, and it isn't a full ship, you can request a room upgrade. Our ship was full, so they had a sign up stating that there would be no room upgrades. We completed our Shore Excursion request form (you get this in your room, and there are extras at the shore excursion desk) and submitted it into the box that was on the desk of the closed Shore Excursion Desk (hadn't opened after the lifeboat drill yet) ... this was super easy. When Jason and I were ready to retire, we went back to our room, and were delighted to find the efforts of the turn-down service. We received two chocolates, and some beautifully folded towels, as well as the Carnival Caper for the next day. This was repeated every night. When we tried to turn out our lights, nothing happened. We called the Purser, and they walked us through a few things, and when still nothing happened, they sent up a maintenance worker. He could not fix the problem, so he said that he'd send the electrician. The electrician arrived Monday morning, so we slept all night in the brightness of day. Wasn't too big of a deal, but kind of inconvenient. It was fixed promptly Monday morning, and we had no further problems. Monday, August 15: Helpful hint - if you think you're going to sleep in, put out your "Privacy Please" sign. We were awoken by housekeeping at 10:00 AM. We got up, donned our suits, and hit the "Late Risers Breakfast" at the Lido Poolside Grill. They had eggs, bacon, ham, toast, omelet's, hash browns, sausage, cold cereal, yogurt, fruit, juice, coffee - pretty much anything you could possibly want. We hit the sundeck as well, by the pool. It was not hard to obtain a lounger, and we raced down the waterslide a few times into the pool - which IS filled with seawater ... so it's salty. We lounged the rest of the day and hit the gym. The gym had a few cardio machines, some free weights and weight machines, but no mats to stretch or anything. It was HOT in that gym too, since there was lots of sweating going on, and there were many windows which seemed to produce a greenhouse effect. I'd stick to walking/running on the outdoor track on the Sun Deck. Another couple that we befriended participated in the "Survivor at Sea" activity. She won the whole challenge, and as a prize received a Shore Excursion for two in Belize worth $99/person! We got dressed for the FORMAL Captain's cocktail party in the Mikado Lounge. This is worth going to, as there are really good hors d'oeurves, and free drinks. It's also pretty neat to shake the Captain's hand. After the cocktail party, we went to the Captains dinner. We learned here that you MAY ask for seconds on any meal that you have ordered ... also it's good to note that if you aren't happy with anything that you order, they'll gladly replace it with anything else as long as you haven't finished the first meal. Jason - Prawns to start (9/10), Caesar salad (8/10), Lobster (9/10) and SECONDS OF LOBSTER, chocolate ice-cream (8/10 - only got one scoop). Lisa - Pumpkin Soup to start (9.5/10), no salad, Quail (8.5/10), Passionfruit Indulgence (10/10 - best dessert I had the whole time). We went to "Rhythm" in the Mikado lounge which had music, dancing, singing. It was Vegas style, and we rated it 7/10. If you want good seats for any of the shows, you SHOULD get there EARLY ... it fills up quick and there are some bad seats due to random poles in the theater. We watched karaoke in the Cole Porter lounge afterwards, and stayed for the midnight show of comedian Lamar Wilkins. He was great - 10/10. Really funny, and not super offensive. Again - it was standing room only, so get there early to get a seat for the comedy shows. While we were out, our tickets for the chosen shore excursion were delivered to our room. Tuesday, August 16: We did breakfast early in the Imagination dining room. Breakfast and lunch are open seating in the formal dining rooms, so you go, and you'll get placed at a table. Jason had french toast (6/10), I had Eggs Benedict (7/10). Progresso Port - this was a neat port in that it has one of the longest piers in the world. You can't walk it, but there's a free shuttle that takes you to the beach. Jason and I took a cab to Meridia - a city about 30 KM away from Progresso. We paid $60 for our cab driver to take us and stay with us until we re-boarded the ship. Meridia is a BIG city with Home Depot, Walmarts, etc. We went to the city centre, saw city hall, some gorgeous cathedrals etc. It was fun, but we were looking to do some shopping and didn't really find what we wanted. The quality silver is pretty expensive (from what we expected), and so we didn't buy much of it. The cheaper trinkets available back at Progresso looked SOOO much cheaper, and we didn't buy any of it. We also did the boardwalk up the beach in Progresso. In the 7-11 on the beach you can buy a 1L bottle of SOL beer for $2 US ... we bought two for our stroll up and down the beach. The beach in Progresso was mostly populated by local Mexican people ... not many cruise folk ventured into the water here. My suggestion for Progresso - do an excursion to visit some of the pyramids/Mayan Ruins. That's what we wished we had done. Also - it is much cheaper to get an excursion on the pier from one of the locals than to book it through Carnival. Back on the ship, we ordered some sandwiches from room service for lunch (which is so great that it's included - but it is a limited menu). We watched a movie in our cabin. For dinner - Jason had lobster bisque to start (8/10), garden salad with ranch dressing (7/10), beef sirloin (8/10), and kaluha cheesecake for dessert (6/10).

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By C.B._CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Western CaribbeanC.B. To see photos of this cruise visit: http://community.webshots.com/user/carlalena1 GALVESTON/EMBARKATION: Galveston was not an obvious port for me to pick- Miami would have been the more likely choice. The price of the cruise, combined with the itinerary and strangely enough, the cheaper airfare from Buffalo to HOU, all factored in my choice of this cruise and port.

Unfortunately, I cannot give high marks to Galveston as a cruise port. Flying into and out of Hobby airport was wonderful. It is so small that I returned the next day to pick up two more in my group, both on different airlines, and all I had to say was “look for me outside.” It is literally a straight shot from HOU to Galveston. I got to the hotel based on directions my seatmate on the plane gave me- and I didn’t even write them down. It is that easy. I rented a car from Enterprise, and it was very easy to pick up. I went to the counter, they ran my credit card, I jumped on the shuttle, picked up my Impala, and voila! 75 miles per hour to Galveston (I don’t recommend going any slower or you will be run off the road). It takes about 45 minutes. We stayed at the Victorian Inn Condo Hotel and Conference Center on Seawall. The suites were fine. Nothing special. I paid 550 bucks for two nights, the first night in a one bedroom suite (fine for me and my four kids) and the second in a two bedroom (fine for us plus my mother and great aunt). The swimming pools were excellent. The kids’ pool, which is huge and has a deep end, has a crocodile raft and a mushroom fountain, along with a pirate’s cannon that shoots water. Very nice. The continental breakfast was huge and included waffle irons and fresh fruit. They have no problem with kids loading up plates with food and taking them back to the room- great practice for the cruise. There is a Kroger Signature store down the street, and the suites have kitchenettes (NO STOVE - so don’t buy pizza!). This cuts down on the food bills considerably. The problem with Galveston is the smell. I am not joking. How can I describe the smell… take one part paper mill, one part dead fish, two parts rotten eggs and about ten parts straight garbage. If it is possible to add a salty after taste when you swallow, add it in. The beach was grim. One night we were walking on the beach, with our heads turned towards the water in an attempt to breathe normally, and one of my sons said “Oh look, how nice, a picnic!” I turned to look and of course it was two heavily tattooed teenagers smoking and eating a pizza (box was in the sand), drinking 40’s and sitting on a decades-old Kermit the Frog kiddy sleeping bag. This was the scene. The morning of the cruise I dropped my party off at the cruise terminal and took the car back to Enterprise. My mother and great aunt, hereinafter referred to as The Ladies, took the hotel shuttle, which was nice and fast. The terminal is 5 minutes from the Seawall hotels. Enterprise was 20 minutes from the terminal, and it was a disaster. I walked in and there were people CRYING in the office. The office was staffed by one man and the computers were down. There were about ten of us waiting to drop cars off- Enterprise will only let one person in your party use the shuttle, FYI. The problem was that there were easily ten people who had just gotten off the Elation waiting to pick up. These people were standing in line, calling people at the terminal, calling the airlines, literally missing flights waiting. They were begging for cars, we were standing there holding keys. Eventually the guy just said “here” and grabbed our keys and gave them to the others (sensible). FYI- Enterprise charges a 250 dollar deposit- even if you picked the car up that morning. No computers means no way to settle up with Enterprise- unless you want to call from Belize on the way to cave tubing. When I got home I saw that I had been billed 138.00 for Fri-Sun, including the “drop charge.” This whole process took place at 12:30 pm. This prepared me well for the debarkation when we returned. I knew there was no way we were getting off that boat until noon and I was right. The main problem with Galveston’s cruise terminal is that there is literally a two lane road leading to the terminal. Two lanes. 2000 people getting off the Elation, 2000 getting on. You basically have to open the door, kick your passengers out, throw their luggage at them, and step on the gas. Embarkation seemed a little long, but I think I’ve been lucky in the past. It took about an hour and a half after I got back from Enterprise. Part of the holdup was due to about four of the ten windows being staffed with agents, and for some reason people still keep bringing arcane forms of ID. I am glad passports are about to be mandatory. THE SHIP: The Elation has seen better days. I’m just going to knock that one out of the box from the get go. There is a pervasive use of plastic tubing throughout- no other way to describe it. It is like PVC pipe that has been painted a dark gold color, and it lines the ceilings, some of the walls, parts of the elevators, and it is present in every common area of the ship. It is fine- I am not objecting to the artistic value of it. The problem is that it has been dented heavily in areas and it can get to be a distraction if you let it. The carpets are stained- yet also actively dirty. The old and the new, working in harmony to give the overall impression that 100,000 people have walked on them in the last year, which of course they have. The steps are carpeted a light beige, which boggles the mind. There are dust bunnies running along the sides of the stairs. I kept wishing I could give Jose (more on him later) my Dyson for him to go wild with. The above can be considered a disclaimer. This boat ROCKS. THE CABIN: I was traveling with four sons, ages 15, 13, 11 and 7. One cabin. The Ladies each had their own cabin. We were all on the Main Deck- I was in M65, a quad cabin with a rollaway (rollaway is the wrong term- it is really a mattress on a plastic webbed frame- very comfortable). For a regular stateroom it was huge. There were two full closets, plenty of drawers, and a floor to ceiling set of shelves. The suitcases fit under the beds. There were also plenty of hooks, small shelves, and the bathroom had a two door medicine cabinet. The beds were very comfortable- even the bunks. The blankets and duvets were fine. One small problem- the room smelled of smoke. One kid said to me on the fifth day “It finally doesn’t smell like smoke any more” and he was right. When are cruise ships going to confine smoking to one or two areas? Doesn’t that make sense? One moderate problem: the pillows smelled like… people. Having no options there (“Jose, can I have a pillow that smells less like people than the other 10 pillows in the cabin?”) I decided not to let it bother me. THE COMMON AREAS: I had read about the 7 story atrium and it is kind of cool. Truth be told, if you’ve seen a six story atrium, or even a middling 5 story grand centrum, you get the picture. I wasn’t wowed by it, although it is beautiful. Elation Way, however, is mind boggling for a ship this size. It is a clear shot right through three quarters of the length of the ship, and it is very broad. The casino, the coffee bar (Musical Café), and several other cafes and discos are integrated into the flow of Elation Way. It is impressive- almost intimidating when you first arrive. There are little groupings of seats in the promenade area of Elation Way, and one night the party moved out of one of the lounges and about a hundred people were doing the Electric Slide right out in the promenade. It was thrilling and I was so glad that I ran into my kids at that minute- they were looking at me and I was looking at them and the same thought was running through our minds: “How cool is THIS?” There are three pools on Elation. The main pool, on Lido Deck (of course) has a 150 foot water slide. My recommendation: go on the slide. Again and again and again. The Lido Deck area is very congested the first day at sea, but things calm down once the gamblers start to keep their hours, the little kids keep their hours, and the sunburns start to take their toll. Chair saving isn’t really an issue, probably because I made sure to save my chairs EARLY… joking… but not really. The upper deck that looks over the pool is the best seat in the house. You can see the pool if you wish, but the view of the ocean is gorgeous, and the waiters are always available, and the wind blows, and it is the most relaxing place on Elation. The other two pools are children’s pools, and they are on different decks. Not much to say about them- they hold water- that’s about it. There are Jacuzzis- two for adults and one for children. The gift shop is big. Very big. The Mikado Lounge is next door- check out the curtain. It is gorgeous- it shimmers and sparkles and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I would go in there when it was empty just to look at that curtain. The shows were hit or miss. One night was excellent, the next night I couldn’t help but remember Simon Cowell’s remarks on American Idol: “You look like a bad cruise ship act” and “You are destined to spend the rest of your life singing on a cruise ship.” Some parts were excellent, some had you eyeing the doors. The Dave Blazer Band was outstanding. The whole “going to the show” angle has been hard for me to warm up to. I guess the point is not whether it is good enough to make you get in your car in -5 degree weather and pay 50 bucks for it, the point is whether it is worth rolling yourself out of the dining room and sitting through it. YES. THE FOOD: The Lido deck outside buffet- basically a glorified hamburger stand- was very good. Breakfast was served there, along with burgers and chicken dishes in the afternoon. My kids went there for the first of their three French meals a day- French fries, that is. Lemonade, iced tea, fruit punch, coffee and hot chocolate are available there 24/7. Tiffany’s, also on the Lido deck, is the main buffet restaurant and one of two options if you don’t want to eat in the main dining room(s). The other is room service, which is complimentary and available 24 hours a day. Tiffany’s is fine- much, much better than the buffet options I have seen before. There are the usual omelette stations, carving stations, etc., and quite a few daily options at lunch and dinner. It is a nice looking restaurant and very well staffed. Considering that it feeds more people that any other restaurant on the ship, it is a relatively calm, attractive and inviting place. The main dining rooms- the Imagination and the Inspiration- continue the PVC-pipe theme and are a little too dark and over the top for me. The service was excellent. We picked the early seating- something I will never do again. It is impossible to get back from shore excursions- or even from the pool- and get dressed in a relaxed fashion and still be in your dinner seat at 6:15. The crew does an excellent job of serving on schedule, but one gets the feeling of being hustled out the door pretty fast after eating. The food in the main dining rooms ran the gamut from very good to… pretty good. A few highs and no real lows… except for the desserts. The desserts throughout the Elation- Tiffany’s, main dining room, Musical café (which you have to pay for), room service- were all utterly tasteless. Even the chocolate buffet was bland. The menu was creative, the presentation was excellent, and all in all the dining room experience was quite nice. The waiters did a little song and dance, excuse me: “boogie-boogie,” every night. We all loved it until night four, when we began to feel sorry for our friends, the waiters. By the time they sang “We’re leaving… on a Fun Ship…” to the tune of Leaving on a Jet Plane we were cringing. THE CREW: Hard working, friendly, competent. How hard working? Every day, all day. We leave and the next pax get on in one continuous motion. I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically mention two people who went above and beyond the call of duty to make our vacation so outstanding. The first is Rajesh, a waiter from India who I first met in Tiffany’s. He was incredibly professional, solicitous, friendly, and really took the time to talk to my children. It was so nice to walk into Tiffany’s, catch his eye, and have him say “I saw two of them before but they headed that way…” With everything that man has to do he still had the presence of mind to give me the heads up about where my children were. He showed us magic tricks, including one that left us speechless and has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with skill. Unbelievable. My kids absolutely loved him- even my 15 year old. The next is Irina, our headwaiter in the main dining room. Again- professional, courteous, and service above and beyond. I was dumbfounded when, on day three, she said to my son “William, you will be having Ranch with your salad again?” DO THE MATH: 2000 pax, week after week, nine month contracts- and she knows what the preference of an 11 year old is after two nights of serving us. Carnival is lucky to have these two- and they should be compensated for their efforts. And they are waiters, not clowns. They should only have to dance once. Our room steward, Jose, was jovial and responded to every request immediately. He knew which cabin I was in from the moment I met him. FOR KIDS Camp Carnival has four age brackets- 3-5, 6-8, 9-11 (at this age they sign themselves in and out as they wish), and 12-14. My seven year old loved it. My 11 year old was lukewarm about it, mainly because it detracted from the time he spent wandering around the ship on his own, using his room key, throwing ice cream cones overboard, etc. The counselors were fantastic. This is no place to simply park your kid- there are activities going on all the time and the counselors stick to the schedule. The first time I brought my 7 year old, the counselor said “Do you like BINGO Hugh?” (Yes) “And do you like Starburst?” (Hell yeah, see ya, Mom). He was gone. If anyone has concerns about a 9 year old being able to cruise around the ship, checking himself in and out of CC, even while the ship is in port and the parents are off the ship, don’t worry. That was one of the best things about the trip- my children were respected and not treated like infants. The 13 and 15 year olds (Nick and Woody) were gone all night. They would come in around 2am, just as the 11 year old (William) and I were finishing room service and watching a movie. William had free run of the ship and usually came in at night just because he wanted to play GameBoy- and that was very late. One of us would go back to the cabin with Hugh at around 10, he would fall asleep immediately, and then we would take turns keeping an eye on him. Parents who want freedom for themselves and their children should cruise Carnival. The crew keeps an eye on the kids, families are around, things are happening, and I never had any fears about my children. By the last two days my 7 year old was keying himself into the room and going around on his own without any problem. AMENTITIES: I don’t want to waste a lot of time here reciting a laundry list of things that are easily available elsewhere… but here are a few. Laundry is 4 bucks a load, and there were always washers and dryers available, as well as irons and ironing boards. The TV plays three movies a day- family fare. Also: CNN, Cartoon Network, and endless loops of shipboard hijinks. There is a topless area. The purser has stamps of each port of call. The photo area is packed but developing your own rolls is only 7 bucks. I dropped off the last roll at 10 the night before we left and picked them up the next morning. THE FUNNEL: No review of Elation is complete without a short study on the funnel. It is the most intimidating thing I have ever had the good fortune/misfortune to live and breathe under in my life. I think if I set up a tent under the Eiffel Tower that would be less imposing- mainly because the funnel is ALIVE. The funnel is the God of the ship. Think Hawaii. Every so often, while one is gazing at the funnel, it will emit a great cloud of black smoke from one side of the funnel. No way of knowing why that side, or what the passengers did to deserve it. Sometimes a thin trickle of smoke comes out of both sides- why? It looks… angry. I am serious- this is the feeling you get. I was not the only one who felt that way. One night I was standing alone on the jogging track at the front of the ship watching an enormous full moon. A guy came up and said, in awe, “isn’t it HUGE?” and of course he meant the funnel. Even on the tender from Belize people were looking at the funnel and saying “Wow.” THE PAX: I sweated bullets on this one before we left. I was worried about out of control kids, wild boozers, people grumbling that there was no Wal Mart in Belize, people ordering three entrees at dinner, etc. None of the above. The kids were wonderful. People were having a good time and being pleasant while doing so. It was a solid cross section of… the middle class. No highs, no lows. Elation’s home port is Galveston, and Houston has a large minority population. This was by far the most diverse group of people I have ever cruised with, and that was a major plus. There was a big group of black women from some church on board, and they OWNED the karaoke contest. They were a lot of fun. There was some serious dressing up on formal nights by the African American people on board, and I appreciated it. My last cruise was a bit downmarket in terms of pax- but this one had a very large group that dressed to the nines and behaved in a very elegant fashion. There were also a lot of Spanish speakers on board, which I appreciated. PORTS OF CALL: PROGRESO: Several alternatives went through my mind as I took the bus from Progreso to Merida: was this some sort of joke? Is CCL in dire straits financially? Do they think we are stupid? I remember reading that this was the World’s Longest Pier or something along those lines. Aren’t piers supposed to be elevated, or at least pier-like? This is a man made peninsula from Hell, with concrete trucks rumbling by at breakneck speeds, and in the distance, piles and piles of broken concrete, rusty ships, third world industrial things… and this was before the ride from the ship to the end of the pier. Never has the word “shuttle” meant so little. The little shopping area in Progreso is where you should pick up your trinkets, jump back on the “shuttle” (imagine Tom Sawyer’s school bus preserved in acid and then carted on a rusty barge to Botswana, used there for a century, and then hauled here), and kick it back to the Lido Deck. Do not, repeat, do not go to Merida. It looks up to being Tijuana. I know there are aficionados of Merida, and you would do well to read their reviews. I am calling it the way I saw it, and I saw nothing redeeming about the place but the cathedral, a picture of which will accompany this review. My mother and the big boys went to Dzibilchaltun and they absolutely loved it. They ate in a café in Progreso afterwards and loved that, too. I should mention that my mother is Cuban and obviously fluent in Spanish, so she managed to find some off the beaten path taqueria that was some kind of undiscovered gem. Whither Progreso? Why would anyone who is not an Amnesty International rep want to visit there? What part of “cruise ship vacation” says Progreso? Mayan ruins? Give us an extra day in Cozumel and we’ll see them from there. COZUMEL: Thank you, Carnival. Now I understand. You wanted us to see Progreso FIRST, so we would love Cozumel even more. Cozumel is beautiful. We walked off the pier (2 minutes) and grabbed one of the clean taxis from a very organized taxi stop. There are the usual guys standing around with pictures for shore excursions, and when I asked one about Chankanaab park he directed me to the taxi stand- no haggling, no trying to sell me. I have to say that my preparation for Cozumel consisted of reading the CCL shore excursion description that morning. I decided to just get off and do it myself. It cost 16 bucks each (4 for the cab and 12 for the entrance to the park). The taxis then wait by the dozen outside of the park to take you back to the ship. You can easily walk off the ship at your leisure, grab the taxi, go to the park, snorkel (incredible), swim, read, tan, go back to the ship, eat at Tiffany’s if you feel like saving money and eating in the AC, shower, change and go BACK to Cozumel and shop. There is a dolphin swim at Chankanaab that I had wanted to do, but the kids were creeped out by the moral implications of keeping dolphins in a pen to give rides to cruise ship passengers, so we passed. BELIZE: The tender situation was not good. In keeping with my general vacation vibe I wasn’t worried, but there were people who were getting very angry and abusive to the CCL girl in charge of giving out tender tickets. Basically it went like this: “How many tender tickets do you need, sir?” “THIRTEEN! I need them NOW! We are going DIVING and I have been here since 7:45!!! What kind of system is this???!!!”” We made it off on the second tender and not a moment too soon. We opted to take Reggie’s A-1 Cave Tubing tour. It was excellent. He is great- gave us a nice tour of Belize city on the way there. The ride is beautiful. After you get to the staging area you walk about 45 minutes to the drop off point, and when we went it was quite muddy and slippery. Not an easy walk if you are out of shape, so be careful before booking this tour. The tubing was awesome and the caves were very cool. It was definitely worth the 45 bucks a person that this tour cost. If I had to do it over I would book the Goff’s Caye excursion through CCL for two reasons: the boat pulls right alongside, dispensing with the tender trap, and the snorkeling in Cozumel was so incredible that I would have loved to continue it on the Belizean barrier reef. GENERAL VIBE: Fun. Not contrived Fun Ship fun, but actual real live FUN. There was not a bad moment on this trip. The cruise director was a bit wooden, but he was out of my face and I can appreciate that. I saw him once. The announcements were few and far between, and very low key. There was almost no hawking of jewelry at all. BINGO was talked up, of course, but not much. I just didn’t get the feeling that I was being sold something all the time, and that was a great feeling. Every person I saw was having fun. Every smile I gave I got back. I was never so relaxed in my entire life- and this was with four children on board. EMBARKATION: Not great. If I had a plane leaving at 1, or even 2, I would have been sweating bullets. The whole system might have worked (although it is a bit Rube Goldberg-esque) if customs had been staffed properly. Living on the Canadian border I see it all the time- ten lanes with two open and a line of cars two miles long. We cruised up to Tiffany’s at 8am with our carry on bags, figuring we would eat and then be perfectly positioned to wait on the Lido Deck for our luggage tag color to be called (like I said, Rube Goldberg: “Can we have the Peach Aft people come forward now? So far we have called Peach Aft, Gray Fore and Red Aft…”). You know how the time/space continuum can be tweaked, so that a century passes in a second, and three hours in 100 degree heat outside on a pool deck can seem like a century? That’s what it was like- except for me. I had seen the mess at Enterprise and I figured it would be noon before we were called. We got off at 12:30, and wisely I had booked to Carnival transfers at the purser’s desk the night before (33 bucks times 5 for me- WORTH IT). CONCLUSION: This was a cruise that had so many elements which could have wrought disaster. There were two flights to HOU, the whole Galveston portion, the ship itself, the ports of call, the money factor, the debarkation, the flights back… and there was not one bad moment. Not one. Nobody even stubbed their toe. It was total fun from the beginning to the end, and we will never forget it. No matter what future cruises I take in my life, this is the one against which all others will be measured. I encourage single parents to cruise Carnival. You will find others of your species aboard. All families were having fun because the kids were having fun. Camp Carnival is ready and waiting to take your child at any time, and the kids are ready for a little AC and computer time, too. Singles should also book a cruise on Elation. It isn’t a singles cruise, per se, but there were many single people on board- even single people traveling solo. I will definitely cruise CCL again if the opportunity arises. I am going to cut Galveston a wide berth, but I was pleasantly surprised- shocked- at the Carnival experience.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern Caribbean Cridappers May 7th, 2006My wife, 19 month year old and I ventured onto our our very first cruise, the Elation. We departed from Miami on 5/7 and returned yesterday. Not knowing what to except from the new itinerary, this ship was clean but like Gerhardtm said the linens were upgraded to down pillows and comforter. The new ports are beautiful. Half Moon Cay in my rating

a 10! Carnival made it easy for the sail and sign card to be used. BBQ Food was served for lunch right on the island. The beach has the clearest water I ever seen. We went on the Glass Bottom Goat Tour and the wife got seasick but was okay because we recieved a refund for her, which was cool. Overall, Beautiful Small Island-rated a 10!. St. Thomas was most enjoyable for us. With shopping right off the boat. Easy offered tours all around. We book a tour to Megan's Bay and Paradise Point. Receive a fee drink after the tour. Expect the small drink! Magen's Bay is over rated. This beach has a nice view with very little coral and a food stand with a bar. Rating a 8 for Megan's Bay but a 9 for St. Thomas! Next time St. John, Trunk Bay. San Juan was an okay 7. We arrived 7:00 early raining and no shops opened till 9.00am,. We book a tour to the Bacardi Factory and City Tour @8:45am for 3-4 hrs. Same to expect with the 2 fee drinks after the tour. After the Bacardi factory, we took a ferry across the bay back to the ship. Need to stay longer and try the beaches and forts. Grand Turk was a pricey 9! Sunny when arrived! The Prime Minister for Turks was awarding Carnival with food for lunch. Jimmy Buffets Margarita Bar was cool but with a nice pool. The beach you arrive on to, the port is full with destroyed coral everywhere. Snorkeling is good on left side of pier. Beautiful turquoise water! The small shops are pricey and need more development. Maybe try the Trolley Train and Governor's Beach.

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Nov 30, -0001

Eastern Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review Eastern CaribbeanDave Hertz Date of Cruise: October 8th, 2006  The 2,052 passenger, 920 crew Carnival Elation was introduced in March 1998 and is the seventh of eight Fantasy-class ships. The 70,367 ton ship is 855 feet long and was the first cruise ship to be equipped with a state-of-the-art Azipod propulsion system which made for a smooth cruise despite the periodic turbulence of the ocean.

My cruise aboard the Elation was my third cruise on Carnival and my fifth cruise overall. My first cruise was aboard Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress (renamed to Empress of the Seas) in cabin 7515 from November 15-22, 2003 and sailed roundtrip from Tampa to the Cayman Islands, Belize and Mexico. My second cruise was a one-day Discovery cruise which sailed roundtrip from Port Everglades to the Bahamas on June 5, 2004. My third cruise was aboard the Carnival Destiny in cabin 1211 from December 5-12, 2004 which sailed roundtrip from Puerto Rico and stopped in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Barbados and Aruba. My fourth cruise was aboard the Carnival Victory in cabin 7398 from January 22-29, 2006 which sailed roundtrip from Miami and stopped in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and the U.S. Virgin Islands. EMBARKATION My cruise aboard the Elation was quite simply filled with elation from the moment I arrived at about 2:30pm on Sunday October 8, 2006. Once again, my boarding experience with Carnival was smooth and virtually trouble-free. However, this time I was left hanging by my travel agent who had neglected to include a Bahamian visitor's form which everyone else in line seemed to have already completed prior to arrival at the port of Miami. Despite this, I happily checked into cabin M200 which was port-side aft on the Main deck with a fabulous window view. My window was actually a free upgrade from my travel agent (Cruise.com) who should be commended for making my fifth cruise that much more special since this was my first stateroom with a window. STATEROOMS The room itself was a spacious 185 square feet with two twin beds that could be pushed together to make a king. The bedding was Carnival's luxurious Comfort Bed which feels far better to relax on at the end of a busy day of touring than its modest look. In fact, an excellent night's sleep was the norm given the comfort of the Bonell mattress combined with the gentle rocking of the ship. The room was clean and comfortable and was well-maintained by my friendly cabin steward David from Indonesia who was kind enough to turn my bed down twice a day and to leave those famous Carnival towel animals which seemed to mysteriously appear each night upon my return from dinner. The television selection was minimal as on all cruise ships where the signal is provided by satellite and is subject to frequent changes. In addition to the ubiquitous CNN International and Travel Channels, this cruise featured local news coverage provided by the Denver, Colorado ABC, CBS and NBC network affiliates. It was interesting to note that while they were reporting about snowstorms and freezing temperatures in the metropolitan Denver area, I was enjoying nothing but sunshine and hot weather in the Caribbean. PUBLIC AREAS, ENTERTAINMENT & CLIENTELE As with past cruises, I spent much of my time in my favorite gathering spots once they were chosen and located. I was particularly fond of the ship's Grand Atrium with its bright lights, neon signs and great people-watching venues. The Past Guest party which was held on the last formal night in the glitzy Mikado Lounge was hastily-arranged but well-intentioned with its friendly faces and free finger sandwiches and drinks. The ship's Japanese-influenced architecture and design made for some fantastic photo opportunities and I also enjoyed trying my luck in the Moroccan-influenced Casablanca Casino. While the ship permits smoking in the casino and many of the lounges, I found this to be a little deceiving. While I enjoyed the modern rock of the all-Filipino band Music Blitz in the Romeo & Juliet Lounge, I was asked to put out my fine cigar or leave this venue as it and most other smoking areas only allow cigarette smoking. I suppose they think that lung cancer is somehow preferable to mouth cancer! The only place where I and my Macanudo were welcomed was at Gatsby's Great Bar which was adjacent to the Cole Porter Lounge and its nightly karaoke antics. Despite this initial disappointment, I did manage to find an excellent place to relax after dinner and a long day of sightseeing. My only other disappointment was in the clientele of this particular ship. While it wasn't the case with my four previous cruises, there were more than a few times where I felt as though I was trapped in a massive floating urban ghetto. I found this to be a surprising and unfortunate issue at times as I actually felt the need to leave several public areas during the week simply because I felt as though I'd walked into "the wrong part of town." The considerable number of large, raucous families with more than a few children running in tow and often speaking a form of English that one usually only hears on the streets of inner-city America made for a below-par cruise at times. However, knowing that Carnival has no control over who chooses to sail with them, I couldn't hold them accountable for this particular issue. Several other guests quietly commented to me about the same issue and that the time of year (i.e. on/off season) might have had something to do with this but also made no mention of it to anyone else due to the political correctness of the age in which we live. DINING Breakfast and lunch in the Tiffany Dining Room were an often hurried and frenzied race for a good spot in the long but fast-moving meal lines. Breakfast was hot, fresh and plentiful with me having no problem in getting an ample supply of scrambled eggs, pancakes, oatmeal and orange juice. Lunch was somewhat slower-paced than breakfast but finding a good seat with an ocean view was sometimes a challenge. The Lido Deck grill served up tasty hot dogs, hamburgers and I even opted for the occasional and reminiscent-of-home bagel, cream cheese and lox with my iced tea. My late-seating dinners were eaten in the Imagination Dining Room at Table 179. While I chose to eat late to avoid having to be back aboard ship early from tours, dinner didn't start until 8:30pm which was 30 minutes later than all my other cruises. However, the five-star cuisine and professionalism of the dining room staff more than made up for this. My headwaiter Freddi from Romania and his assistant Marlon from Peru were extremely attentive to my needs and literally had my drinks refilled just before the glass was empty. The sumptuous three-course meals consisted of such favorites as chilled lychee fruit soup, Caesar salad with freshly-ground pepper, filet mignon with Portobello mushrooms and "real" Key lime pie, among many other delicacies. Needless to say, the finest restaurants here in Clearwater, Florida barely compare to the fine cuisine of French chef Georges Blanc who was hired by Carnival to design many of their meals. My dinner companions were a lively and interesting bunch of American "southerners" from as nearby as Daytona Beach and as far away as northern Alabama. We all had a great time discussing the sights and sounds from our time aboard ship, as well as our past cruise history and future vacation plans. Coincidence or not, it was interesting to note that our table consisted of two other young married couples in addition to me and my wife and our cabins all happened to be located on the Main Deck within eyeshot of each other. ONBOARD SHOPPING & PORTS OF CALL Shopping aboard the Elation was a pleasant experience. The duty-free shops had prices comparable to those found at the various ports of call and I was able to get some good deals on liquor, including a one liter bottle of Grey Goose vodka for US$28.95 and a one liter bottle of Glenfiddich whiskey for US$23.95, both of which were about half the price paid in the United States. The Elation's first port of call was the Carnival private island of Half Moon Cay which is located about 100 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas. The ship was in port from 9am-4pm on Monday, October 9, 2006 and this was the only port where a tender boat was needed to reach my destination. This desolate and undeveloped private island mostly known for its beaches and animal sanctuaries was extremely hot and there was little shelter available. Despite a large and attractive beach area, shopping was limited to a small rotunda (aka "the frying pan") consisting of couple of "mom & pop" stores selling mostly t-shirts and handmade Bahamian goods. While this island was a sun-worshippers paradise, as a shopper and souvenir hunter, I wasn't terribly impressed with Half Moon Cay but I know that beach-lovers would definitely disagree with me. We arrived in the port of Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Wednesday, October 11, 2006 and were there from 8am-8pm. As with my two previous visits to St. Thomas, the first attraction I enjoyed was taking the tram up 700 feet to the top of Paradise Point. While the US$18 per person roundtrip ticket wasn't the best deal in transportation, the view from the top of Paradise Point was one of the highlights of my cruise. While there are a few stores up on the mountain, the area is more of a visual attraction than a shopping one. I did manage to find a good deal on a Panama Jack hat which I bought from a Palm Harbor, Florida native who relocated to St. Thomas and owns The Pirate's Chest souvenir shop. This and a tasty Bailey's Bushwacker complete with souvenir ceramic mug made for a fun time up on the mountain. Back at sea level, shopping in the Havensight Mall area was once again lively and exciting with my picking up several fine souvenirs, including a good deal on a bottle of Joop! (my favorite cologne). Setting sail from St. Thomas at night was a treat in and of itself since the view of all the lights radiating from the mountainside cottages were breathtaking to say the least. Thursday, October 12, 2006 was a fine day to spend the Puerto Rican holiday of Dia de la Raza (Columbus Day) shopping in Old San Juan. The Elation was in port from 7am-3:30pm and I spent the day wandering around the steep, narrow and winding streets of San Francisco, so to speak. The main shopping area is located on Calle San Francisco (San Francisco Street) and was filled with numerous fine jewelry, tobacco, perfume and souvenir shops. Among other things, I found excellent deals on FIBO Italian stainless steel jewelry and Macanudo cigars and I only had to pay 1% sales tax on these items. But be forewarned, I was told by a San Juan Radio Shack sales associate that this tax will increase to 7% (same as Florida) on November 1, 2006. Needless to say, I think that Puerto Rican tourism will suffer greatly as a result of this absurd sales tax increase. After all, why should I purchase items in Puerto Rico if I can buy the same things here in Florida for the same price? Cockburn Town, Grand Turk is the capital of the Turks & Caicos Islands and was the fourth and final port of call on this cruise. We were there from 12-7pm on Friday, October 13, 2006. Similar to Half Moon Cay, Grand Turk was a very attractive but small island that caters primarily to beach-goers. To its benefit, Dufry was a newly-built duty-free shopping area that offered some good deals on alcohol, tobacco and perfume. The main attraction was Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Grand Turk, BWI which was the most popular hangout spot for sun worshippers. The roped-off swimming area is as shallow as a couple of feet deep near the beach but suddenly drops to over 7,000 feet several hundred yards offshore which is no wonder why the waters of Grand Turk are known for their excellent scuba diving and underwater photography opportunities. DEBARKATION As is typical of Carnival, debarkation consists of two groups of "evacuees" and usually begins promptly at 7:15am. All guests who carried their own baggage ashore and don't plan on checking anything are free to leave between 7:15-8:15am. At 8:15, all other guests debarked the ship in the order that they appeared at the gangway on Empress Deck 7. It's not always the smoothest of processes but it's worked as well as possible from what I've seen over the years. My frustration this one and only time was directed at the Purser's Desk. While I had no checked luggage, I wasn't ready to debark the ship at the scheduled time and instead wanted to wait until about 8:30am and leave with the checked-baggage guests. This was due to the fact that my transportation from the port of Miami was running later than planned. After calling the Purser's Desk no less than four times between 7:15-8:15am and being put on hold for nearly ten minutes at a time, I was given three different answers (ranging from "immediately" to "10:30 to 11:00 at the latest") from three different people as to whether it was permissible for me to disembark at 8:30am as needed. Needless to say, I was irritated by the fact that these crew members couldn't seem to get their facts straight. While I understand that they were obviously quite busy due to the nature of the situation, this was no excuse for their lack of knowledge and professionalism during such a crucial time. SUMMARY Despite a few issues which I think were all related to time and circumstance, I had yet another fantastic cruise experience with Carnival and I wouldn't hesitate cruising with them again. In fact, my wife and I are already in the early stages of planning our 2007 vacation. While I enjoyed cruising with Carnival again, I'd probably be more inclined to sail on a larger ship next time as I did on my first two Carnival cruises since my experiences on the 100,000+ ton ships were better primarily due to their itineraries, amenities and clientele. However, if you're interested in trying out Carnival for the first time or you're a first-time cruiser in general, I'd recommend the Carnival Elation as an excellent way for you to get your feet wet, so to speak!    

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Nov 30, -0001

Bahamas

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review BahamasMyles Date of Cruise: December 14th, 2006 We booked our cruise through Carnival Cruise lines. The booking process is a painless process, and the person on the phone was most helpful with our numerous questions from us “Rookies.” Being a rookie, I had no idea, except from the numerous reviews I’ve read on-line, what to expect for service, food, cabin size, embarkation/debarkation,

etc., so please bear that in mind when you read this. Embarkation/Boarding: The boarding process was smooth and painless. The (expected) wait in line was not long, and in minutes, we were aboard the ship. What surprised me however, was when we checked in, we were told our cabin number, which we already knew, and were told to go through to the gangway and onto the ship, and that there was a buffet being served on the Lido deck. There were no directions given to our cabin, which we did find with ease. It was only the day AFTER we sailed that we discovered there was a such a thing as a “Deck Plan”, which we found out about after discovering where the Purser’s desk was. I STRONGLY recommend to Carnival that they pass out deck plans as passengers are boarding. This may seem small, but to those of us first-timers, they’re invaluable! The I was not prepared for the sheer multitude of people I ran into (and ran into, and ran into again…). While this is not a show-stopper, it can lead to over/under – shooting the floor you want to get off of on the elevators. Getting an elevator can be an… interesting… process in of itself. Patience is the name of the game, here. Trying to get information at the Purser’s desk was a chore. I don’t know how it happens on other ships, but this one had a ten person wait in line AT LEAST at any given time, day or night. A solution to this might be to take one of the rooms that see little to no traffic and convert it into a secondary “Information-Getting” area. I found the ship to be clean, and you have to walk around very off hours to find slices of pizza where no slice of pizza has been before, BUT for the most part, I found the ship was kept well. On a side note, I noticed some art rated PG-13 or higher displayed in public areas, and was not really meant for young eyes to look at. Three Cheers for the advanced technology propulsion system they had! Not to mention the drug Bonine: We had some pretty rough seas the first and last nights of our cruise, and I’m sure the propulsion system dampened out much of the motion of the sea. If anyone has seen the cartoon where Tweety offers Sylvester a nice, juicy piece of salt pork, you will have an excellent picture of what the ride could have been like. I heard of other couples being thrown around in their beds, but from where we were, the most we experienced was some rocking around and some lurching. Cabin: Since this is our first time cruising, I will not be able to comment on whether our stateroom was large or small. What I can say is that we were on the Upper Deck, starboard side, forward, in an interior stateroom. At 6’ 2”, I am in no way the smallest person you would ever meet. That said, I found the cabin to be adequately sized, although I had to often, time my bathroom runs with when my wife was standing in the entranceway or not. Getting in and out of bed at night was complicated, as the only way they were able to push the two twin beds together to form a queen/king was to shove a twin bed next to the wall, the shove the other twin bed next to that. I’ve read numerous reviews from people complaining about the air conditioning on their various cruises: There’s NOOOOO problem with the A/C here! We froze! We didn’t meet our cabin steward until the day after we sailed. I had no idea I was supposed to meet him before this time, but he did keep our room well-kept. One of the days, when I was trying to catch a nap, we heard the sounds of construction coming through the walls, which woke me up. We went to the Purser’s desk to complain, and to Carnival’s credit, the noise stopped soon after, and there was a follow-up phone call and letter. Although the stateroom is really just supposed to be a place you briefly visit to change, nap (?), or otherwise visit for only an hour or two, before venturing out for more shipboard fun, I would probably get an exterior stateroom with a balcony next time, just to see what it’s like. Food: The food wasn’t GREAT and TERRIFIC like I read in various other reviews, but it was palatable. Due to our lifestyle being as busy as it is, we eat out often. I was therefore expecting better quality food than what one would find in your average buffet-style restaurant, and that includes the formal dining. The formal dining was a disappointment: It took them three tries to get my steak right one night, and on the rest of the nights, it usually took them at least one try to get the steak right, and it also took me a couple attempts to get the waiter to understand that I didn’t want dressing on my salad. When I asked one waiter for salad without dressing, he said the salads were already pre-made with dressing (huh?). I don’t know if he just didn’t understand what I was saying, or if he just didn’t want to be bothered with taking my “special order”. HOWEVER, once the waiter(s) understood what I wanted, all went well from there in the salad department. Service: The service was good. There was a considerable language barrier, however, which at times I found to be rather annoying, especially when I was asking someone a question, and some of the bridge officers could also stand to read “People Skills 101.” Still, the service itself was good. I can remember several very helpful crew members in the buffet restaurant who went out of their way to help me. Two of the nights, we walked into our stateroom to find towel animals on our beds, and this was a nice touch, and there was always a brochure with the next day’s activities waiting for us each evening. Entertainment: Much of the entertainment centered around drinking, gambling, and shows with costumes that definitely did not warrant a “G” rating – if you know what I’m talking about. Neither my wife nor I gamble or drink, and I personally don’t go for those kinds of shows, so there wasn’t a whole lot left over to do after that. The game show was fun, and the cruise director was a pretty good game show host. There were also a couple trivia contests, ice-carvings, and other such activities available. Still, I would have enjoyed a wider variety of activities than what was offered: A movie, perhaps? I DID try one of the shows – “SPIN” – and it was okay. Being a musician, I appreciated the band, which was very good. In fact, I give a “thumbs-up” to all of the musicians on board. There was a classical trio in the atrium consisting of flute, piano, and cello, and there was a jazz trio in the rear lounge. In retrospect, I’m probably not giving the entertainment as glowing a review as it deserves. It rained almost constantly from the day we boarded until the day we docked, so we didn’t intend or use many of the activities/amenities because of this. It’s also because of the bad weather that there probably wasn’t as much TV footage as they would normally have hoped for. This caused them to endlessly repeat the footage they DID manage to get over and over and over again. You can only watch clips of the “Men’s Hairy Chest Contest” (don’t ask…) so many times before you start going a little wakka-wakka. A word to the wise: DO NOT go on a cruise in the Bahamas in or around mid-December. Any money saved by cruising during the off-season will be spoiled by the rainy weather and overcast skies. Ports: We were both not impressed with Freeport, and I would not recommend it to anyone. The port of Freeport is in an industrial area with many factories and ship loading facilities surrounding it. As far as I can tell - and I could have missed something here - there was a small beach, a shopping area, and that was pretty much it. Nassau was much nicer. The weather behaved, too (yeah!). If I had time, I would have rented a car and explored the island. We spent a solid few hours at Atlantis, and it was well worth the time and taxi fare to see. “The Dig” is a must-see. The downtown area was a nice walk, but be forewarned of the drivers: They slow down for no pedestrian. In most cases, the merchants were aggressive, but not obnoxiously so, at either port. A solid “No, Thank you” and a livening of your step will lose anyone who’s more persistent. Getting on and off the ship to go to these ports was a breeze. We avoided the excursions because we wanted to explore the area ourselves. If I may suggest, this is actually the best way to see the ports. By the time most everyone on the ship was waking up and thinking about an excursion, my wife and I had already gone ashore, seen what we wanted to see, purchased what we wanted to purchase, and then came back to the ship, all of which with very few crowds and lines to deal with. Debarkation: After reading many stories and reviews about the almost-controlled madness known as “Debarkation”, I won’t elaborate on this too much except to say this: - Have ALL of your information (final bill, etc.) in hand and ALL of your questions answered the night before debarkation. DO NOT expect to get information (or anything else, for that matter) from the Purser’s desk the morning of and during debarkation. - The Pre-Debarkation talk is most informative and helpful, and I recommend attending it – heed the warnings about not packing your travel papers (I, fortunately, was spared that…) – , which leads me to my next point which is: - If it’s at all possible, use self-debarkation. Although there’s a certain convenience to leaving the bags for the porter the night before, this means the morning after you will have to go to a separate room with about 2,000 other people all clamoring to find their luggage, which has been sorted by the color baggage tag you have been given. Did I mention the REAAALLY long line to get to that room with the 2,000 people? We found self-debarkation to be much more efficient, even though we toted our own bags. Summary: This cruise was good, but not great, and in many cases, I was disappointed with what I saw. I don’t know if I was expecting too much; I know I’m not the “Party ‘Till You Drop”/Clubbing type; and I know the weather was most certainly a contributing factor to my disappointment. Nonetheless, the jury has been ordered to NOT render a final verdict about cruising until at least one more cruise has been taken. That way, I’ll know for sure as to whether cruising is really my cup of tea or not. I would not choose to go on Carnival the next time around, and I would most certainly not choose to go at the time of year that I did, but overall we enjoyed cruising, and we most certainly will try it again, and I also know I would try a bigger ship next time around. I’ve already begun checking out other cruise lines and ships, and if anyone wants to e-mail me with suggestions for cruises that offer a more Disney-like atmosphere and set of activities please do so at mylesschuster@bellsouth.net. I will appreciate any helpful suggestions you may have. I’ve already got Disney Cruise Lines on the consideration list, but it’s VERY expensive. If anyone has any insight as to why Disney Cruise Lines is worth twice as much (if not more) than any other cruise line, once again, that is helpful information. To conclude, The favorite memory of our cruise for both my wife and I is sitting out on deck – when the weather permitted – at the back of the ship, and watching the wake and the ocean go by.      

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Puerta Vallarta: Ship pulls dockside (that's a plus), right next to a shopping complex. That's the best place to buy your souvenirs. The countryside tour I took was fairly dull, and they were always taking us places where you could buy something. The bullfights, rescheduled to Wednesday nights so that the Elation tourists can see them, were not going on this month. However, that might be a possibility. They were offering a beach party excursion;

I think it's what I'd do if I took this trip again. Mazatlan: Ship pulls dockside again, but you have to be tendered by land to a staging area where bus tours depart. I went on a countryside tour, which was more of the same, but they did take us to a shopping strip next to a beach at the end of it. I wasn't interested in shopping by then (I was broke, and had plenty of souvenirs), so I just hit the beach. Wish I'd been there all day. Cabo San Lucas: We were tendered ashore, leaving the Elation floating in the middle of the ocean like a gleaming mountain of white. There were no directions on how to get to the beach, so I had to muddle my way there. Had I not had a large bottle of water along, I might have collapsed from dehydration. We had to leave there far too soon. It was my favorite of the three ports. DEBARKATION:    Debarkation was slow, but straightforward. I recommend bringing a book or a gameboy or something else to entertain yourself. This may be the first time you'll need it, but will you ever... OVERALL:    First, I'll restate the improvements I'd most like to see, and add some new ones. First, more free drink options. Second, better maps. Third, longer waterslide and Jacuzzi hours. Fourth, less pressure to gamble outside the casino. Fifth, a longer time in the casino where the limits are reduced. Sixth, a more extensive Room Service menu (no big thing, though. You could get pizza 24 hours a day). And one more thing, not really a complaint but a recommendation: Cruising is fun alone, but it's even better with a loved one. I hope that, by my next cruise, I have someone to go with. Overall, though, I loved the Elation, and I still do. And my next cruise will also be on a Fun Ship, though probably one of the ones sailing the Bahamas or Caribbean.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexico

Carnival Cruise Line’s 7-Day Mexican Cruise on the Elation NACTA Travel Agent's Group Review Embarkation The embarkation process for the Elation could definitely be improved. It was lengthy and confusing. We were not guided through the maze of lines. We had to wait in three lines before we could even check-in. The whole process from luggage drop off to ship boarding took just under two hours. The lack of access to food

or drink during that time increased our discomfort. Many of us had experienced warm and personal welcomes during the boarding process on other ships. We did not have this experience when we boarded the Elation. Instead of being escorted to our cabins, we were simply pointed in some direction. This simply added to the confusion of 2000 passengers trying to locate cabins on a ship with which they were totally unfamiliar. Disembarkation Disembarkation was much more orderly than embarkation. However, it took a long time. We had to vacate our cabins by 8 AM, and disembarkation did not even begin until approximately 11 AM. During that time all the passengers were crowded into only three or four areas on the ship. It would have been much nicer if we either had more time in the cabins or at least had the run of ship until the ship was cleared by Customs at 11 AM. The luggage had been color-coded. Disembarkation time was determined by the color codes, and the luggage was sorted according to the color codes. This greatly expedited the process of locating luggage. We located our luggage immediately. Ship Layout The layout of the Elation was similar to other Carnival ships. However, it was larger and grander in design. Most entertainment areas were on the Promenade Deck that made it easy to go from one club to the other. Shopping was limited, but it was conveniently located around the Atrium. Public restrooms were inconsistently placed on the decks, hidden and not well marked. The theater was large and had a very interesting Japanese design. The stage had tremendous lighting. However, the floors were not sloped and contained numerous support poles that significantly diminished the sight lines for many passengers (especially in the balcony). Also, the sound was deafening for the majority of passengers. The sun bathing areas were more than adequate in space and had beautiful hardwood decking. These decks were quite slippery in the morning. There was a separate wading pool and play area for children as well as a small topless deck for sun-loving adults. I’m not sure anyone realized the top deck was topless or else we had a very conservative crowd. Although there were several pools, each was small. The whirlpools were large but constantly crowded. Cabins Standard cabins were 185 square feet and included more than sufficient closet and bathroom storage space. These cabins included just the beds and a dressing table. The bathroom was larger than on most ships. Ocean view cabin windows were large but dirty. The ship was well designed with a good number of quads and special facilities to accommodate families and individuals in wheelchairs. Dining We were very impressed with the quality of the food. There was an abundance of prime rib, lobster, steak, chicken, duck, veal and wonderful soups in the dining rooms. The ship offered health fare (including veggie burgers), but it did not included diabetic menus or oatmeal. The dining rooms were attractive but certainly not breathtaking. Service (including room service) was excellent. One of our tables experienced an annoying traffic pattern. However, the Maitre De promptly addressed the problem and offered complimentary wine to compensate for the inconvenience. Lido deck dining offered a large variety of good quality foods, including made to order omelets and ice milk/frozen yogurt machines. These were extremely popular. Also very popular was the 24-hour pizzeria that served a variety of high quality pizzas. Balancing dinner plates and drinks without trays was often quite difficult, especially for senior citizens and families. The addition of trays would definitely have simplified the Lido deck dining experience. The ship offered two supplementary culinary experiences for those with more exotic tastes. A sushi bar was available before dinner and an exotic coffee/pastry bar available most of the day. The sushi bar was popular, but the pastry bar was not. Passengers were entitled to enjoy the sushi bar at no charge while the pastry bar charged fairly significant prices to those wishing to indulge in these pleasures. It seemed that many passengers were quite irritated by a dining policy that was advertised as all-inclusive yet charged for pastries! Entertainment The entertainment on the Elation received mixed reviews. Those who had not experienced the entertainment on lines such as Royal Caribbean, Holland America and Celebrity perceived it as good. Agents who had experienced entertainment on the other ships rated Carnival’s entertainment as poor. The entertainment in the lounges was very loud and not especially good. Televisions were in each cabin, but they only offered two or three stations, which played reruns or ship advertisements. Las Vegas style song and dance shows were only available on two evenings. "Spin" was one of these shows. It was appreciated for its creativity, costumes and unique use of media. An illusionist, comedian and talent show entertained the audience on three of the evenings. The quality of the evening shows was somewhat salvaged by the entertainment of Billy Armstrong and his fiddle. His warm personality and unbelievable skill playing the fiddle definitely left passengers in awe as they left the show. He was a quality entertainer with a history that confirmed his incredible talent. The comedian was regarded as the worst entertainer on the ship. He attempted to entertain late night passengers with "R" rated material. However, his material was in poor taste and not the least bit humorous to the majority of the audience. Many passengers walked out after waiting patiently through the smut to hear something actually funny. Shore Excursions There was a limited number of shore excursions available through the cruise line. However, the ones that were available were quite enlightening, entertaining and relaxing. Travel agents felt that the cruise line should have provided more information about each port prior to arrival. An enrichment lecture series would help passengers more fully appreciate and prepare for their visits. Puerto Vallarta Puerto Vallarta is a medium sized city and offers a variety of shopping, beaches and countryside tour opportunities. The countryside tour will take you up into the mountains to a town named Las Palmas where Mexican life is the same today as it was years ago. Visitors will really get the true feeling of the original Mexican lifestyle. You will see children riding donkeys, residents chatting together outside of their meager one-room homes, and children doing rope tricks to pass the time. You will also have the opportunity to taste real corn tortillas freshly made before your eyes. It is best to use a tour guide to help you appreciate the incredible variety of foliage and share with you the traditions and folk stories passed down through the generations. Shopping values abound for those who have learned the art of negotiation! Mazatlan, Mexico Mazatlan, the lovely seaport of Mexico, is known as one of the best fishing ports on the Pacific Coast. Mazatlan’s location on the mainland of Mexico at the mouth of the Sea of Cortez makes this the ideal location for over 180 species of fish that swim between the warm Sea of Cortez and cooler Pacific waters. This port is more of a working city than many other destinations. The older city of Mazatlan has a mix of cultures. Visitors who are offended by the lifestyle of the Mexicans will not enjoy the old city, as the poor segment of the population is seen around the cathedral and marketplace begging for coins. However, the best shopping for Mexican products can be found in Old Town at the Mercado (marketplace). In the Golden Zone visitors can enjoy the tourist resorts and shopping. Here, visitors can also enjoy the sandy beach that attracts beach lovers. Prepare to be approached constantly by beach vendors selling jewelry, sunglasses, serapes, and boat rides. Visitors who wish to avoid some of this harassment should probably head toward the hotel zone. However, none of the beaches are private so some solicitation cannot be avoided. Water sports abound here, with most any activity available. Due to the location, just southeast of the Baja Peninsula, Mazatlan seldom suffers severe weather storms. Clients will find June to the middle of October to be the rainy season when several inches of rain can fall in a 24-hour period. Temperatures will reach up to 100 degrees. The Sierra Madre Tour into a sleepy little Mexican town and the City Beach Tour were both recommended by travel agents. Mazatlan is an excellent family port with a large variety of activities for all ages. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Cabo San Lucas was one of the most beautiful ports. Much less populated than the other ports, the area seemed more romantic, adventurous and picturesque. Rock formations and caves formed by years of erosion were absolutely spectacular. Isolated beaches available only by water taxis touched the hearts of those who desire a return to nature. Carnival Cruise Lines offers a combination catamaran/snorkeling excursion, which is highly recommended. This tour offers passengers the opportunity to sail around the fascinating rock formations, view sea lions lounging on the rocks, view the beautiful fish below the sea and party with unlimited drinks and dance music. Unfortunately, we were only allowed to visit this beautiful port for 5 hours. Most guests would have willingly sacrificed more time in other ports to spend more time in Cabo San Lucas.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

 This cruise was our gift to ourselves for our tenth anniversary, and we had agreed to splurge. We paid for the trip in installments over one year, and saved up plenty of money so we wouldn’t have worry, or stick to a strict budget. I recommend that anyone planning to cruise over budget as we found the entire trip more expensive than we had anticipated.  We live in Las Vegas, and had the travel agent cancel our flight (which was

originally included in the price) and had friends drive us to LA instead. This saved us about $350.00 and allowed us to spend the night in Long Beach which we love, and our friends used the trip to visit with family in the area. We also saved parking fees and worries about delays or connections. 6 of the group flew in from Oklahoma, 4 drove from Oklahoma (decision made at the last minute due to the 9/11/01 attacks and subsequent flight delays) and we found them in line at the port. Embarkation:  Embarkation was total chaos. As it was the Sunday after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, security was extremely tight. Apparently they were hand checking every bag for those debarking and those embarking. The debarking passengers were not allowed off the ship until after 1pm. There were very few Carnival representatives around, and only a handful of porters; nobody gave us any information and there were no announcements.  There were many cancellations due to the attacks, and just as many people were there who had booked the cruise at the last minute. There was a long line as early as 10 am, and only two people checking the information. I think things would have gone smoother had they grouped us by our tag color and made announcements keeping us apprised of the situation. People were fighting and arguing in line over their places, and porters were picking up luggage only if you waved money in the air. We paid 50.00 to have our bags picked up, and we were moved towards the front of the line, which angered others and caused an argument. Finally around 1:15 the porters came out in full force and picked up everyone’s luggage.  When the doors were opened, all semblance of order broke and people pushed and shoved their way in. As we were in front, we entered the ship by 1:30.  I am not sure if it always this bad, or if it was due to the 9/11/01 attacks, but the entire situation could have been handled much better. Embarkation was not completed until after 6pm. The Ship and Cabins:  The ship is quite beautiful and well decorated. Many were awed by its grandeur, but it reminded us of a Las Vegas hotel, so we felt quite at home.  We would have appreciated a better map, as the layout is a bit confusing for first timers.  We had to visit the purser’s desk to trade cabins with another couple in our group (due to a booking mistake by the travel agent). They were very polite, efficient and helpful, and handled the change in minutes. Many were in line inquiring about upgrades thinking there were a number of cancellations. The Purser told us that every cancellation had been made up for with last minute bookings and we were to have a full ship.  The cabin was smaller than I had expected, I had thought it would be like a standard motel room, but adequate with plenty of storage space and a window. Others who had cruised before said they were a little above average. Though the twin beds were pushed together, they were made up separately, and there was a gap between them. It would have been nice to have a connector as I have seen in some motels. Also there is only one outlet at the vanity, fine for us, but it caused some problems with the three single ladies in our group who were sharing a cabin. The bathroom was roomy with a great shower, good water pressure and temperature control. There was a small basket of toiletries, though it was not replenished during the trip.  The TV worked well, and had movie offerings and 24-hour news (very appreciated by all passengers during our trip).  Our room steward, Lesley, was excellent and kept everything neat and clean He was responsible for 5 of our group, and learned all of our names, and made a point of spending a few minutes conversing with each of us.  They have quite a strict schedule apparently as he seemed disappointed on those days we slept in, and our room was not cleaned if we weren’t out of it before 11:00 am. The turn down service and little towel animals were appreciated and we looked forward every evening to our surprise. Dining:  We were booked in the Imagination dining room for the 6:15 seating. I would recommend the late seating, however, as we felt rushed at times to finish and leave. With so much food I would have liked more time.  We had two tables due to the size of our group, a large rectangular and a booth. Everyone agreed a round table would have been better as the rectangular did not facilitate conversation. We all took turns at the booth and rearranged our places every night so we could dine with everyone at least once, which worked out very well. The first night, a single male passenger had been seated at the booth with the singles in our group. He was quite a bit older than them, and very drunk. He made the ladies very uncomfortable and made lewd comments. The problem was mentioned to the excellent Maître d' who had the offender reassigned for the rest of the cruise.  Most of the dishes we tried were excellent, the presentation was beautiful, and the service outstanding. Our waiter Rosario and our two assistants were great. They memorized our names and took the time to talk to us. Our favorite dishes were the unusual soups and appetizers, especially the Pumpkin soup. The entrees were served with delicious and unique sauces and seasonings. The menus were well conceived with nice variety and complimentary starters and salads. We liked that we could order as much as we wanted as several nights it was difficult to decide, or someone loved a dish so much they asked for seconds.  Twice they had soufflés as a special dessert and they were excellent!  The only disappointments were the lobster tails that my husband said were not the best he had had (even so he ate two and another gentleman in our group had 4!), and the crème brulee as it had not been caramelized and so was just custard. I was also disappointed that they served Beef Wellington (which I love) the night we were in port late, as we did not make it on the ship in time for dinner. They did however serve my other favorite Chateaubriand the last evening and it was perfect.  We usually grabbed a light breakfast or lunch at the Lido buffet, which was nice, but nothing special. They had water and juices available, but the cups were so small we were forced to make several trips per meal, or purchase bottled water. I did not try the pizza, but others in our group said it was very good.  Several of us ordered room service, the BLT being favored among the men. I ordered the vegetarian sandwich twice, which was quite good. For some reason, room service did not provide napkins and flatware, which was very inconvenient when I ordered a bagel and cream cheese. Twice the cups provided with our sodas were cracked. Entertainment and Activities:  There was always something to do on the ship; in fact there was often times too much! I felt somewhat guilty if I just wanted to relax or sleep. My husband and I both participated in the Game Show the first night. I won my round and was awarded a bottle of champagne and a small plastic trophy in the shape of the ship. I was not aware they were filming until they showed it all the next day on the ship TV channel, and was a bit embarrassed as was my husband as they had him do the twist during his round. It turns out they film all activities for the Video Diary (available for purchase at the end of the cruise), and show them the next day. Many people do not like to be filmed, and so would not participate even if the activity interested them. We watched the Newlywed game and the Austin Powers dance class which were both entertaining. Another lady and I attended the classical music, wine and cheese social, which was lovely. The whole group attended the Captains cocktail party and enjoyed the big band music provided by the ship’s orchestra. There was a swing dance group on board and they were all dancing and having a great time, and it was super for us to watch!  I attended one of the Vegas style shows. It was okay, but being Las Vegans, we have pretty high standards, and this just did not meet them. The best part was that the music was live and the orchestra is outstanding.  Overall the dancers, concept and choreography were mediocre.  I watched one of the comedians and my husband saw two. Both were quite funny, though the language used at the later “adult” show offended some in attendance. It was no raunchier than any number of comedian’s sets, and I had a great time, as did my husband.  My husband and the other men in our group enjoyed the casino, which was up to our Las Vegas standards.  It has a nice variety of table games and slot machines and the dealers were friendly and quite good at their jobs. Several participated in the poker and black jack tournaments, my husband winning second at poker. He received a hat, a key chain, a T-shirt and a beach bag.  The nightclubs and bars were great fun and we spent several late nights listening to music and dancing and drinking. Ports: Puerto Vallarta: We had spent a week here 8 months ago at a friend’s private home, and so had planned to hit some known shops and restaurants. Unfortunately a recent hurricane had damaged our favorite bar/restaurant and it was closed. We enjoyed shopping, but found the city was transformed on “ship day”.  As soon as we got off the ship those offering tours and excursions all but attacked us. The normally quiet town was decorated and the strolling vendors were out in amazing numbers. The prices in most of the shops actually seemed to have been raised, and there was very little negotiation going on. We were stopped every few feet by people trying to get us to attend time-share presentations and small children panhandling and selling Chicklets gum. When we finally found a bar with tables on the beach we were literally inundated by vendors, we had at least 20 milling around us. If we actually made a purchase, more came running offering better prices. Needless to say it was somewhat annoying. On the positive side, the water was perfect and we enjoyed swimming, the guys were taken out on a “banana” raft, and my husband parasailed. These activities were actually priced lower than our previous visit. The ship’s bulletin warns against these activities, and you sign a release, so participate at your own risk. We ate lunch at the Hard Rock which is always fun. Mazatlan: We had no choice but to take a trolley to huge tourist complex.  Once there, we were again inundated with tour operators, it was like an auction everyone screaming out better prices. We negotiated a van for 12.00 per person for the whole day. I recommend you do not pay up front. If you agree to pay at the end of the day, your driver will not leave you stranded somewhere! Our driver was very knowledgeable, and gave excellent information about the city. He pointed out schools and unique architecture, showed us beautiful courtyards and churches, and stopped so we could watch a cliff diver. He stopped at a store and explained it was the best in Mazatlan (obviously he received something for bringing groups there, but that’s to be expected). It actually was a very upscale shop and we bought several gifts for family and friends. The city has an unusual amount of graffiti ( a real pity as it is a pretty city)  and the narrow streets were packed during siesta time. He then took us to a restaurant he recommended. It was somewhat expensive, the food was mediocre, and one dish was downright bad and made my husband mildly sick. He ordered the Seafood Cocktail, which turned out to be a sort of soup in a milkshake glass. It contained octopus, shrimp and oysters. His first oyster was bad and he immediately spit it out, but he had already eaten several pieces of octopus. He ended up with stomach cramps, and was unable to even look at seafood the rest of the trip. We then went to the Golden Zone, where some of the group went shopping, and several of us went to the beach bar at a hotel. My husband and another gentleman rented jet skis for half an hour, and another went parasailing. I swam and enjoyed margaritas. Our driver met us exactly when he said he would and took us back to the ship. Cabo San Lucas: One member of a group was simply too tired and slightly ill, so didn’t even get off the ship. Some of us were determined to snorkel and go to lover’s beach, while others wanted to go to Cabo Wabo so we split up. We negotiated for a water taxi and snorkel gear and took off for lover’s beach. The boat driver stopped at Pelican beach and asked if we wanted to snorkel there, but it was so overcrowded we decided to skip it. Lover’s beach is stunning; with a narrow passage between two huge rock formations the Sea of Cortez is one side and the Pacific on the other. The sand is white and the swimming and snorkeling on the Sea of Cortez side is great (few fish, but the sand formation and sudden drop is dramatic)! My husband decided to risk his life by entering the large and violent surf on the Pacific side. It turns out it is very dangerous and shark infested and so is illegal. As the beach is remote, the Mexican Navy patrols the area, and came to shore after my husband came out of the water. It was very scary to see 10 men with machine guns jump out of a boat and spread out across the beach! We had arranged for a water taxi to pick us up at 10:45, so jumped in what appeared to be the same company’s boat. The men that helped us load our items and get on the boat (difficult as it was right in the surf!) hung on until we tipped them. The driver then looked at our receipts and said it was a different company, and that we needed to “take care of him” or get out of the boat! We paid him a few dollars apiece but felt cheated. We wish we had more time here…and plan to visit again when we can spend a few days. There were beautiful beaches and snorkeling and we didn’t have time to see much. Debarkation: Two passengers did not show up at the customs check and could not be found. We were forced to sit in a lounge with all of our bags for several hours while listening to the crew paging them over and over. Once we got off the ship, our bags were in huge piles by color, nobody was checking claim tickets so we were lucky we didn’t lose anything. Mark your bags with some sort of brightly colored tape or ribbon, anything to make it stand out! Every bag was a black Pullman type! Summary: Overall, we had a good time, spending time with our friends and getting some sun. We were able to preview some places in Mexico that we wish to return to in the future. It seems some people become addicted to cruising as our friends have, but we don’t really feel it is our preferred vacation. If we do it again, it will be to Alaska, which I have always wanted to visit and my husband loves. Pleasant Surprises: The ship, the service, and the food were excellent and surpassed our expectations. The spa is world class and many in our group enjoyed massages and facials. Disappointments:  I would rather have had a half-day between ports to rest, and more time in Cabo San Lucas. It seems they could change the schedule to accommodate this. We were in no way prepared for the drink prices. I thought sodas and water would be included with our package, but they were not. You have to purchase a soda card for 30.00, which is not a bad price, but seems needless to me. Alcoholic drinks were priced, as they are anywhere, at 3-7 dollars. This is ridiculous and I would have happily paid an extra 200.00 per person to have a true all inclusive package, or at least inexpensive drinks in the 1-3 dollar range. Our final total on our sail and sign card was over 1000 dollars. This included several bottles of wine with dinner but it was not like we sat at the bar all day! Add that to the tips (total 150.00), the price of the cruise, and shore excursions, and you do not have the value expected. We could have spent a week at a luxury resort in Hawaii or roughly the same price. Lastly, my biggest complaint was the picture taking. They take your picture as soon as you get on the ship, (not appreciated after standing in line for hours in the hot sun), they take your picture every night at dinner, they take your picture as you get off the ship at every port, and they take your picture as you are trying to relax by the pool. I was expecting a photographer to jump out from behind a plant! They also have photographers around the ship where you can have a professional type sitting. The photos are all posted on the wall in a hallway and are expensive in my opinion. We did not buy any.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines Sailing Date: November 25th, 2001 As this was my first cruise, I had so many questions before leaving, and was very happy to find this cruise review website to answer some of those questions. Do be prepared for a long day if you have to fly in and then take a shuttle to the ship. We flew in from Sacramento and unfortunately our flight arrived at LAX so early that we had to wait at the airport

for nearly 2 hours before boarding the shuttle bus to the ship. The wait was worth it once we were processed onto the ship and I received my Ship & Sail card. Your Ship and Sail card is attached to your major credit card and allows you to make virtually any kind of purchase on the ship (including drinks). At the end of your trip you receive a statement, much like checking out of a hotel with a summary of your charges. My first reaction when boarding the ship was that of Elation! I actually jumped up and down and giggled. It is so beautiful and huge inside that you don’t feel like you’re on a ship. I highly recommend attending every single night of the dining room experience (except maybe the one night that they have the extravagant buffet). The dining room is elegant and the food is superb. I had filet mignon, lobster, salmon, escargot, roasted chicken, clams, desserts I can’t pronounce and the most fantastic service from Dang (our waiter the entire trip). My kids and traveling companions enjoyed playing bingo, watching ice carving demonstrations, room service, karaoke and various other activities. This ship is wonderful for the young and old alike. They say Carnival is for the younger crowd but I would certainly travel it as an older person as well. Every night our room was made up to the highest standards, and there were 5 of us in one room. I don’t know how the room steward did it, but with 4 girls and 1 guy, we left that room a wreck almost everyday. When we returned it all somehow looked like new again! I was told that the rooms were very small so I was concerned about feeling closed in. Our room was on the Main deck and had a window (it didn’t open) but it was large and allowed plenty of light in. It was plenty of room for 5. Puerto Vallarta was beautiful and if you’re a sun worshipper, go relax over at the Krystal Hotel. The food is out of this world authentic Mexican. They play bingo in Spanish and English and the pool is right on the beach. You can order drinks right from the pool! I also did some shopping in Puerto Vallarta, but make sure you understand the dollars/peso conversion. Mazatlan’s El Cid hotel was a terrific stop (we had kids) and it too was right on the beach. My kids enjoyed the shallow long beach, along with the beautiful hotel swimming pool. We also tried Senor Frogs (definitely an experience) where the music was loud and the dancing does not end! My most favorite stop was Cabo San Lucas. A little more Americanized than the previous 2 stops, I felt I could have stayed there a week with no problem. The beaches are the most beautiful, the shopping terrific only not enough time in port! I could smell fish being grilled out in the open air. It was fantastic. In summary, I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of my week in the Mexican Riviera on the Elation and have highly recommended it to family and friends. Bon Voyage!

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

My husband and I sailed on the Elation on February 21, 1999, to the Mexican Riviera. We have taken this same 7-day cruise three times before, but never on the Elation. I have sailed on the old Sitmar line, Princess and Carnival before this. We were going to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and just wanted an easy and relaxing vacation. Embarkation: We live in So. California. My husband surprised me with a limousine at our front door, to

take us to the port of Los Angeles. It was a wonderful way to go, and an even better way to return home after our vacation. Carnival’s cruise documents state that boarding begins at 1:30pm. Having cruised this line before, we knew better. We arrived at the dock at 11:25am, handed our baggage to the porter, went through the security scanner, and walked right up to the check in window. Because we had booked a Category 12 cabin, I had been advised that we would embark the ship via the "Skippers Club". There were some questions on the boards whether this club existed in Los Angeles. I can tell you that the actual sectioned off "Skippers Club" boarding area does not exist, however, you receive a VIP boarding pass. You are the first people called to board the ship. Boarding was called at 12:00pm, and my husband and I were one of the first to enter the ship. It was a quick and painless embarkation. At about 12pm, there was a long line of people waiting outside of the building, to go the security scanner. Apparently, security only allows a certain amount of people to enter at a time, to eliminate an overcrowding problem. Suite: My husband and I have always had an outside cabin whenever we cruised. This was our first suite. It will not be our last. I think we are spoiled forever!! As you enter the cabin, the full size bathroom, with Jacuzzi tub is on one side. The walk in closet is on the other side of the entry. The closet has a full-length mirror inside and is full lighted. There is a very good size safe in the closet as well. There was plenty of room for 2 people to hang their clothes (but I am not a light packer). Three people could use it also. Anymore than that….pack light!!!. There are also 5 shelves in the closet, which can be used to store your clothes. In the vanity, there are 4 drawers (2 big and 2 small) on each side. Across from the vanity are twin beds that can be "pushed" together to make a king size bed. The bed area is separated from the seating area by a raised divider, with a glass partition. This is nice, because you can see the ocean from your bed (if the curtains are open). The sectional couch has a pull out bed in it. There are also two single chairs, a small table, and a coffee table in front of the couch. Next…the balcony…which is wonderful! It has two chairs, a small table, and a lounge. It is wonderful and relatively private. One would have to lean over the rail to look into your next-door neighbor’s balcony area. The refrigerator is small, but adequate. TV/VCR were fine. but we never used the VCR. My only complaint about the room, was the actual cleanliness. There is some beautiful burl wood panels, with a high glossy finish. You could see fingerprints all over the wood. There was a heavy layer of dust around the TV/VCR, and the room divider. The mirrors over the vanity and in the bathroom were also speckled and dirty. I wasn’t impressed!! Lastly, your room steward will leave you bathrobes to use during the week. He will take them the last night out…so don’t expect to wear it on the morning you leave. If you want to buy the robe, the cost is $39.00. If you have this cabin…leave the door open at night. It is wonderful. The location of the cabin is excellent…midship…it is very stable and smooth. Other cabins: Our friends had a CAT 11 cabin, for three adults, on the Verandah Deck. Their room was a disappointment. However, it looks exactly like the brochure. They just thought it would be bigger. The room is a little longer that the standard outside cabin. The length is for the addition of a two seater couch , with turns into a bed. The room has a queen size bed next to the window. The balcony is small, about 5x3, but big enough for two chairs. It had a small refrigerator, bar, TV/VCR. The bathroom and closet were the same size as a standard outside cabin. This room would be fine for two people. But according to my friend, it was much too small for three adults…two men and one woman. Also, due to the location of the room, there is a lot of movement from the ship. It is on one of the top decks…and you really feel the motion. Having seen both cabins, I would always take a Cat 12. I would book a Cat 11, on a different ship, if it wasn’t located on the Verandah Deck. Public Rooms. When you enter the ship, on the Empress Deck, through the atrium area, it is very impressive. The dark woods, subtle lighting (I know…unusual for Carnival), and softer colors are beautiful. Having spent a week on this ship, I am still impressed. The public rooms are easily accessible. I didn’t have a difficult time finding my way around shortly after arriving. However, I did study the brochure before going and knew the location of most of the rooms. The Elation Way, which is the main thoroughfare on the Promenade Deck was a great place to sit and watch the water, or listen to the music at the Drama Bar. The casino is also there. The casino had just about everything you could want, except baccarat. I even learned to play Caribbean Poker, and won!! The Sushi Bar is right next to the Casino. I am a great lover of Sushi. The best thing about this sushi was the wasabi!! The sushi is all cooked fish. I tried it one time, and passed the rest of the cruise. There is no charge for the sushi, but they charge $1.50 for saki. Other reviews have noted the poor visibility in the Mikado lounge. I agree completely. The poles are very distracting, but you can watch the show despite them. Of all the lounges and bars (there are 8 of them I believe), my husband and I had the best time in Duke’s Bar. Cameron, the piano player, played every song you have ever heard on the radio, and sang along with!! I have been hoarse for 3 days, from singing. The entire bar sings along, and makes requests. The actual bar is a piano with keys (that don’t work), with Cameron and his piano in the very center of it. Excellent and unobtrusive bar service in here also. Johnny, one of the servers, remembered what my husband and I were drinking , and would have our drinks ready for us when we entered the bar. I have never tipped a drink server in all my cruises, but we did tip Johnny at the end of this cruise. He was excellent. The Lido deck has the pool/slide area, lido stage, and Tiffany’s, aft of the stage. Tiffany’s also has an area for Pizza , which was great. The room is larger, good seating and the decor is attractive. I remember the Boiler Room on the Tropical, and this was so much nicer. Food: We had late seating in the Imagination dining room. We had cruised last May on the Holiday, and I was not impressed with the dining room service on that ship. The menu was the same menu that Carnival has had for the last 10 years. I was pleasantly surprised by the food this time. The alternative dining in Tiffany’s was very good, and went far beyond the ubiquitous hamburgers and hot dogs. The main dining room had wonderful, new entrees. They offer Lobster, Filet Mignon, Chateaubriand, Long Island Ducking, Tiger Prawns, Escargot, Alaskan King Crab, Halibut, Pasta, Veal Parmigean and Pork Medallions to name a few. For dessert: Chocolate Souffle, Tiramisu, Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee and Amaretto Souffle. Don’t forget to try to Wild Mushroom soup the first night, it was fantastic. The portions were small, but you could order as many selections as you wanted. Our waiter was good, not excellent, but good. Our busboy was excellent however. In addition, for the first time, I experienced an excellent head waiter, Ivan. On all our other cruises, the head waiter would usually ignore us until tip night. Ivan visited us every night, chatted awhile, arranged a special anniversary and birthday surprise for our table, and generally was great. We also tipped him for his service, but it was well deserved. The breakfast and luncheon menus in the main dining rooms are normal breakfast fare: Eggs Benedict, Lox and Bagels, Omelets, Hash Browns etc. Room Service: It was great. We would order a pot of coffee, a basket of fruit, and bagels and cream cheese for breakfast. We would sit on the balcony and ENJOY. Service was fast, and the food was good. Shore Excursions: As I mentioned before, my husband and I were greatly in need of a vacation and had "done" this cruise before. We didn’t take any shore excursions. Our friend took the Mismaloya tour in Puerto Vallarta, and the City Tour in Mazatlan. They enjoyed them both. We all walked through Cabo San Lucas, and visited "The Office", where the locals have pancakes and margaritas for breakfast. I have come to the conclusion that the pancakes are eaten to absorb the alcohol. We enjoyed our margaritas and came back to the ship for a long nap. It was a fun place. Cabo is my favorite port. The Pirate Ship Whale watching tour was a blast, but in February, you have to dress very warmly. It is cold on the ocean. We did see whales, dolphins, and flying fish (from our balcony too!) Entertainment: The Elation has all the typical Carnival shows and games. The shows in the lounges are big, flashy, and fun! They have Ice carving demonstrations, Hairy Chest, Knobby Knee contests, and Kareoke contests. The galley tour and bridge tour were interesting. There was a show in the Mikado lounge called "Spin", which I went to and left after about 15 minutes. It just didn’t hold my attention. I had some problems with a dealer in the casino, that same night. He mis-dealed a hand. Later, he paid me off improperly. Since I had no idea how to play the game, or what the payoff should be, I didn’t notice. The gentleman next to me did. He pointed it out to the dealer, who got very huffy and belligerent. The pit boss ended up coming over and corrected the payoff. Fortunately, I hadn’t picked up any chips, or my cards, so the problem was easy to correct. I did find that several of the dealers in the casino were very abrupt, and less than polite. This is the first time I have ever experienced that problem. Service: I have mentioned the service in the casino, dining room and bars. I would like to add that I never felt pressured to buy a drink while seating on deck, or in the bars. A "No thank you" was enough, and usually responded to with a smile. Other than the cleanliness of my suite, which I attribute to our room steward, I was pleased overall with the service. Mexican Riviera: One problem that we have encountered on every Mexican Riviera cruise is very rough seas on the return home. This trip was no different. The swells were huge and you could really feel the motion. The ship was steady, but you could feel it "riding" the waves. This ship was much more stable than the other ships we have cruised. Debarkation: (HINT) Everyone has a black suitcase!!! Take colored electrical tape, colored bungy cords, or anything else bright and wrap it around the handles of your suitcase or put a stripe across the front. This makes it very easy to distinguish from all the other suitcases that look JUST LIKE YOURS. I found debarkation sad, but very easy. We had to be out of our room between 8:30am and 9:00am. We went to the Mikado lounge at 9am. Customs cleared our ship at 10am. Our room tags were green, and we were the 1st color called to exit the ship. We located our bags, walked through customs, and were in our limousine, headed home by 10:15am. A painless departure. I would recommend that everyone take Customs seriously. As we pulled into port, I saw the customs officials, with their dogs, inspecting the luggage of the ship next to us, RCCL-Song of America. Do not attempt to bring anything illegal back, drugs or cigars, because they will find it. Lastly, there has been a lot of controversy about bringing alcohol on board. I didn’t find any security officer who was looking for alcohol at embarkation or at any of the ports. No one was OBVIOUSLY bringing alcohol on board, however. That is your clue. Use it if you wish. I definitely enjoyed my cruise, and can’t wait to book my next one. I will have to go in a suite however. We will not repeat the Mexican Riviera Cruise…3 times is enough. Possibly the Caribbean or Alaska next. I enjoyed the Elation and thought it was the best Carnival ship that I had been on. I will sail Carnival again, but will continue to sail other lines also. It is nice to sail other lines and compare them. I hope that Carnival can correct it’s relatively minor service problems. With their new ships, and the change in their menu, they are real competition for all the other lines. Carnival seems to offer excellent value for the price. Hopefully their service will improve as much as their food has.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

Cruise Line: carnival Sailing Date: December 15th, 2002 We had the best time, and this was our second time on this ship, we initially took our honeymoon on the ship. You probably will get very sick of gourmet food, and must request and up-to-date- songs at the disco's. the food is great, the ship was so clean it was stunning. the only words to describe this trip for a FAMILY, COUPLE , or OLDER COUPLE is pure ELATION!

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Nov 30, -0001

Bahamas

Carnival Cruise Lines Elation Cruise Review BahamasRachel Recknagel Date of Cruise: January 20, 2007 This was my first cruise. I have never considered myself a cruise person – I don’t use tanning beds. I’m not a big drinker. I have always traveled to one destination and explored that area after extensive research of what was available. I don’t use travel agent. That being said, I was expecting an 86% good time, I had 97%. In

every aspect, my expectations were exceeded. My parents-in-law said they wanted to go on a cruise to celebrate their retirement this past year. My husband and I, and my sister in law and her husband joined them for a small group of six on a Carnival cruise to Nassau, Bahamas, Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, and Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos. The ship itself was great. We had a little trouble finding our way around. We tore out the map of the decks from the catalog we got from Carnival and that helped a lot, but there are maps at every elevator and it was fun just to wander. There was always music playing and the rocking was noticeable, but I personally loved it. My husband and I chose to take meclizine (Antivert) every day. It’s available without a prescription and we figured prevention is better than trying to treat motion sickness once you have it. Our stateroom was on the inside, forward, lowest deck which turned out to be excellent as the debarkation for ports was one deck below and we could stop in to our room to get our bag for the day and pop out without waiting for elevators (which were near the cabin and we never heard the bell or the people getting on and off). I would request the same room again. The elevators were quick, considering the volume of people using them, but I really started to appreciate my young knees when I saw how many of the older guests had to wait for the elevators even for one floor. There were many outdoor areas and many quiet places to read – surprisingly not the library which is right off the atrium and the piano music from the bar below was distracting. Everything is highly decorated, a little heavy on the orange/brown coloring, impeccably clean, and in good working order. The mirror in one of the elevators got cracked the third night of the trip and was replaced within 18 hours. Embarkation went smoothly. They had a buffet all ready when we got onboard. We grabbed the first table we could – by the pool – and when the band started playing it was painfully loud. We could have gone inside or moved to several other tables that were available right around the corner on the Lido deck, so I recommend you look around before parking in front of the earsplitting - but really talented - band. They mostly played crowd favorites (we must have heard ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ five times over the whole cruise). Our luggage took a little time to get to us. We were glad we had packed swimsuits in the carry-on. Our travel companions had a room change and were concerned their luggage would not follow them, no problem, even though the tags had the wrong room number on them. Dinner the first night was casual in the dining room just in case people had trouble with bags. We had the requisite lifeboat drill. It was well-organized and over with quickly. We chose to unpack while the boat pulled away. I seldom use the drawers and completely unpack on a vacation, but I did and it was worth the effort to get the suitcases out of the way. Our twin beds were pushed together and there was space between the bed and the wall. There is shampoo and bath gel in dispensers in the shower, which is plenty big enough for two (wink - wink), and a lot of free lotions, razors, and vitamin C drink powder by the sink. Dinner the first night was when we met our wait staff who were wonderful, hard working, and thoughtful. I really can’t say enough good things about them. Our table was near a clearing station and it was awfully loud, but there weren’t any quieter tables available. I didn’t notice it so much the second night, so it may have been just the consequence of a long day traveling. The menu was incredibly varied. There were five options that stayed the same every night – the alternatives – and five entrée, appetizer, dessert, salad options that were unique to each night. I had heard that the steaks were not good as they have to cook them for so many people and were medium well for everyone. This is not true, the med/rare were perfect, and I usually like steak to just suffer a little on the grill. Very tender fillet, very good prime rib, which other people in our party enjoyed. I preferred to order things I couldn’t pronounce (cream of leechee soup) and things I don’t get at home. The offerings at the Lido restaurant (Tiffany’s) were better than most buffets (casino or Old Country): good salad bar, good dessert bar, the two lines were sometimes different from each other and different from the poolside buffet. The 24 hour pizza was delicious and although there was often a short line for it, the guy running it had an uncanny ability to remember who ordered what pizza. They also make sandwiches and Panini grilled sandwiches at that station. We went to the big midnight buffet which was so pretty and such a variety. I ate too much that night, should not have gone up for seconds. Some of the foods really were better to look at than eat, though - unless you really like fish paste. The dessert selection was mind boggling. Our port time in Nassau was fun. It was my third trip to Nassau, and my husband and I chose to walk a long way (about three miles) to the Ardastra Gardens and Zoo after shopping in the downtown and the straw market (newly rebuilt after burning to the ground five years ago). In the straw market, the front section is crowded, loud and the sellers are very aggressive. Push your way through to the back where the stalls are wider and it is quieter or just walk around the back. Don’t settle for one T shirt for $10. You can get three or four for ten dollars if you haggle or look disinterested. The same is true for other items. This is a great place to get souvenirs, I prefer it to the shops right at the cruise port. The Tortuga Rum cake factory is a blissful oasis of peace if you get tired of the noise on the street. You can buy the same cakes cheaper on the boat, though. We paid a little more and bought direct – they make them right on the premises. Our family took the historical tour and saw the things we have seen in the past: the Queen’s staircase, Fort Fincastle, the library and parliament. These are worth a look. Our walk took us out of the tourist area, it was Sunday morning and we walked past three churches filled and singing. The landscape is typical tropics, flowers everywhere, scrubby palms and overgrown yards with abandoned vehicles. The houses are small and old and painted brightly, and we knew we were in a foreign country. The streets were well marked and the free tourist map was accurate. We asked a drink stall man for directions once we got to Fort Charlotte and he walked with us quite a ways to make sure we were on the right track. Then he refused a tip for his effort. The Bahamians were consistently friendly, polite, and helpful. The gardens were worth the walk. If your time is limited; go to the right of the snack bar/bathroom area, that’s where the flamingoes, jaguars and other large mammals are. The plants are well-marked and the snack bar staff helped us find transport home: $30 cab back to the port or go to the main road and wait for a $1/person jitney ride with the locals. The mini-busses run every ten minutes on weekdays or Saturdays. Sunday they weren’t so frequent but better than the walk back and saved us money. At the crossroads there were a group of bar/restaurants and we got conch for lunch – which was about the only thing not available on the ship – which was delicious. I also highly recommend seeing Atlantis resort/casino if you have not been there in the past. Half Moon Cay (pronounced Key) was our next stop. Many day trips sold out so really, book them as soon as you embark. To prevent a long wait at the door, they hand out tickets for the tender boats. Don’t you believe it is leaving “right now” which they will tell you. Members of our party took 15 minutes to get their stuff and still we waited 20 minutes on the boat before it left the ship. There was so much to do at Half Moon, or not do if you just wanted to lie around. We brought snorkel gear from home (why let it dry out in your closet if you own it?) and this was wasted as the snorkeling sucked. The beach more than made up for it. The sand was like sugar. It was as crowded (with really nice people having a good time) or private as you wanted it to be. The chairs were comfortable; the clam shell was worth renting for the shade ($15 for the day). You don’t need towels from home as you get them in your room. If you steal them they will charge you $22 which might be worth it. The barbecue they provide was very good – hamburgers, hot dogs, jerk chicken, salads, fruit and desserts of course. Free water, iced tea and punch were available. The line was long, but moved quickly and the food was prepared fresh. There is a cute little chapel for pictures or kissing in private. There is a bar with the pool, a band playing and organized games if you’re into that. We brought our own empty water bottles and refilled them each day and I recommend this (and betray myself as a total cheapskate) as they provide a big liter bottle in the room which will cost you $5 if you open and I thought was too heavy to carry in a bag for the day. The tender back had some problems docking and we went round and round to get lined up. We deserved an explanation but never got one. The crowd was getting a little testy and my husband started singing the song from Gilligan’s Island. We then went through every song we could think of related to boat accidents, including ‘the Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ and ‘My Heart will Go on’. Anyone who wasn’t laughing was beyond hope for redeeming a bad situation. It was resolved when they brought out a more experienced captain on a speedboat and it beat the heck out of being at home shoveling snow. The Captain’s dinner was this night and I was all stressed out about what to wear. I had a cocktail dress for the occasion which was fine and my husband wore a suit and tie. There were a lot of ‘mother of the bride’ dresses and a few tuxedoes. Most of the men wore khaki pants with a button up shirt and a tie. Some of the women had pant suits on. It really didn’t matter as much as I feared. I was impressed across the board with the entertainment staff. The games were fun. Brandon, who ran the trivia games that I played, was perfectly on the line between tongue in cheek and genuine enthusiasm, a la Chuck Woolery from the Dating Game. The Vegas-style shows were certainly titillating but I would have brought my 3 yr old girl who would have loved the costumes and my 6 yr old son who would have been a little embarrassed but would have liked it. I really don’t know how the dancers did their moves with the rocking of the boat, although I didn’t notice it while I was doing the aerobics class. It didn’t start on time, and was more repetitive than I am used to, but I got a sweaty work out and didn’t feel as guilty eating cake that day. Back to the shows, the jugglers/comedians were really fun, and there was one band from the Philippines in the Romeo and Juliet lounge (labeled ‘Party Music’ in the Carnival Capers daily program) that knocked our socks off. Karaoke was well-run; get your name in early if you want a part of the show. There was one singer who was better than any professional I’ve ever heard. Grand Turk was our next day. This is an island on the verge of transition. The recently built cruise port is very pretty and clean and you could have a great day shopping, dining and drinking and swimming in the pools at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. The beach right there is wonderful, and justified our hauling the snorkel gear as there were many fish and even some live coral right off shore. There is a bar nearby playing music and the general atmosphere is laid back and tropical. We paid $160 for both of us to go Snuba diving – like Scuba but without the tanks. Carnival needs to clarify the meeting spot as ‘the end of the pier’ meant ‘the other side of the duty free shops’. The Sea Trekker staff was outstanding, I used to be PADI certified about 14 years ago, and my husband has snorkeled a few times before so we had no problem getting in the water and getting around. There was one couple who stayed on board because of problems using the regulator, so that left four of us swimming around the coral heads, lots of fish, and eels. After Snuba we took a cab for $5 people to Cockburn Town. The population of the island is less than 4,000. It’s the capital so there are government buildings and three old hotels and there are a few dive shops. We ate at the Water’s Edge bar/grill; excellent food and quick service. There’s a restlessness in the people, though as they time their days around the coming and going of the cruise ships and there is at least one site with plans to build big timeshare style condos. This island will not be the same the next time we are there. Our taxi driver found us shopping the downtown souvenir stalls and gave us a little tour as we got back to the ship in plenty of time. I had planned to bike to the town to see the museum highlighting the island’s history as a slave trading port, pirate port, and salt producing center. There just wasn’t enough time with the Snuba trip in the middle of the day. It would have been tough biking with the heat and the narrow roads, but the speed limit is seldom over 25 miles an hour and there were plenty of grocery stores to get a bottle of water at (for less than $5). There’s a part of me that really didn’t want to leave. As we pulled out of port, I was on deck high enough to see a humpback whale – 2500 of which are calving in the area and will leave April 15 as they do every year – and a school of about 20 dolphins. This was shared with a group of Georgians who were there on a work incentive program having a great time, really fun people. We watched the sun set and left the deck which got really windy after the sun went down. The ‘Fun Day at Sea’ is as fun as you want it to be. I read a book on the sports deck, played some games, ate self serve ice cream whenever I wanted, and generally relaxed. It rained for about 15 minutes in the afternoon, and there was a double rainbow to see off the Eastern bow when the rain cleared – it was so painfully beautiful I cried. The rest of the night we listened to music, ate, gazed at stars when they came out – you kind of have to hide under the lifeboats to block the lights of the ship. I tried to find ways to delay going to bed as I just didn’t want the trip to be over. I would highly recommend this ship, this itinerary, this experience to anyone who doesn’t hate boats and even a few who do. Our table staff did advise that the 4-day cruise is a different feel, with more ‘drink, eat, sleep’ pattern to it. Our next cruise will hopefully be longer, and more ports, but I would do this exact one again. Bon Voyage!!  

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexico Riviera

I would recommend the ship as a first cruise but if you have been on other ships you may be disappointed...food is ok but other lines are better...the rooms are nice size for 2 people we had ocean view but I don't think 3 or 4 in the room would be comfortable...ports of call along Mexico were ok but again not wonderful really one 2.5 days in 3 ports....service was fine...getting on and off the ship is a bad, took several hours to get off!!! we ran

into bad weather coming home last day at sea (13 people in my party) most of us got sick but hey thats not carnivals fault...bring sweater lots of ac including the stateroom which can not be controlled well, also look out when you flush, whoosh the noise can scare you to death...spa was pretty decent...like I said at the begining great as a first cruise but if you have better cruises are out there...also carnival has to add internet access onto its older ships,,,I understand new Spirit has internet access but all the ships should add it...best tip...best food was the room service roast beef sandwich, 1st port check wed check out bullfight (if you are not squimish) 2nd port hit the beach hotel Sids.... good luck enjoy.

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By Eva_CR

  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

I sailed the 5-day Baja California cruise with Carnival Elation with my husband on Dec. 13-18. It was my first cruise. Overall, I was disappointed with the ship's decor. It was unbelievably outdated and worn-out looking. I initially thought the ship was built around the '70s but was suprised to hear that it is only 10 years old. I was blown away by the service. It completely exceeded my expectations. Stateroom stewards greet you in the hall, entertainment

& dining staff very courteous and warm - not fake. Entertainment was geared mostly toward children under 12 and adults over age 40. Not enough activities for young adults. Musicians were mostly top notch. Be sure to go when the weather is nice. Rooms are cold with no heat. Ensenada was cold, rainy and windy; we spent a short time off the ship before giving up and going back in because of the terrible weather. Also, bad weather and winds makes the ride more rocky. Embarkation & Disembarkation of the ship was smooth and easy - much more so than I had anticipated.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Cabo San Lucas

Note: I have an image gallery, and video tour from our cruise posted at my personal site, http://www.ChrisMyden.com Our cruise ship, the Carnival 'Elation', was to leave port from Los Angeles and set sail down to Mexico. The original itinerary had us going to Puerto Vallarta first, then Mazatlan, and finally Cabo San Lucas. However, due to a problem with too many cruise ships being in port at once, our itinerary was reversed,

which meant that we sailed all the way down to Cabo San Lucas first, and headed back towards Puerto Vallarta. Our cruise director, Greg, assured us this was a good thing, as it meant more time for us in Cabo San Lucas, which he claimed as being the best port. However, to leave port, you should first have your luggage, and unfortunately not all our luggage made it to Los Angeles at the same time as us. When we were leaving Calgary, they informed us there was a problem with one of the cargo bays on the airplane, and that approximately 60 pieces of luggage would be left behind. United Airlines assured us the luggage would be sent out on the next available flight, and that our luggage would arrive by 5:30 p.m. One problem however, the cruise ship was leaving at 4:00 p.m. so we wouldn't have time to stick around. Fortunately most of our luggage made it, and we were only missing two suitcases, one belonging to Melanie and the other to Sheryl. (Luckily, being women, they had multiple suitcases, most of which did indeed arrive). Carnival Cruise line couldn't have been more accommodating, and they had the delayed luggage routed to Cabo San Lucas, our first stop. So in 2 day's time, Melanie & Sheryl would be able to pick up the rest of their luggage, which was delivered right to our cabin. Carnival Cruise also gave them $100 credit to buy anything they couldn't live without for the first 2 days. Once again, being women, they bought shoes. Just kidding. Another couple from Calgary who were in the same situation told us that Carnival couldn't help them, because they had won their cruise, but had booked their own flight. To make matters worse, not a single piece of their luggage had arrived, so they had nothing for their first 2 days on board. This is something to think about for those of you who are thinking about booking your cruise & flight separately. If anything goes wrong, i.e. delayed flight, lost luggage, Carnival won't be held responsible. 'The Elation' Despite being well aware of the scientific principles behind buoyancy, one is still amazed that such a huge structure can float. The porters brought all our luggage to our room, which was located on U deck, near the rear of the ship. It certainly wasn't the quietest room, you could hear a lot of noise at night, but it didn't bother me. The room was about 100 square feet, which for 4 adults isn't a lot of space. Somehow 4 beds were squeezed into this tiny area, 2 bunk beds, a regular bed, and a bed on the floor. Once you throw a dresser and a bathroom in there, and unpack all your luggage, there's about 2 feet of actual walking space. The Food In general, all the food is located on the rear end of the ship, and all the entertainment is near the front end. The place where you end up eating the most is called 'Tiffany's', and can best be described as a cafeteria-style dining room that's open 24 hours a day. In the morning they have eggs, pancakes, bacon, etc, all served buffet style. For lunch they have hamburgers, chicken, steak, etc. For their midnight buffet, they have a chef preparing giant crepes, and of course the pizzeria is open 24 hours a day! In short, if you go hungry on a cruise ship, you've got a problem. They say the average weight gain on a 7 day cruise is 5 pounds and I believe it. I found the food to be delicious, but the cruise booking agent said if we had ever been on a Royal Caribbean Cruise (supposedly the best food of all the cruise lines) we would find a huge difference in food quality. However, talking to people who had been on both Royal Caribbean, and Carnival, those claims are unfounded. 'Tiffany's' is just ONE of the dining rooms available to you. The main dining room, the one where everybody goes to for dinner, serves breakfast & lunch as well. In addition, there is also a sushi bar, and a large buffet available on the main outside deck (Lido deck). Conceivably, you could stuff yourself 24 hours a day on the cruise ship. There are 2 formal nights where everyone dresses to impress, but the rest of the time you're just expected to wear decent casual clothes in the dining room. Hopefully you will be seated with some great dinner companions like we were, because you'll be spending 7 dinner nights with them! If you can tell right off the bat you're not going to 'mesh well' with your dinner guests, politely take the maitre d' aside and ask to be moved. Our maitre d', Merwyn from India, was superb, and catered to our every whim, he even brought me gourmet macaroni & cheese. His assistant, Victor from Russia, was also great, and both of them chatted with us quite a bit during the cruise. One note, you are expected to tip your table staff, which was no surprise to us, but what did surprise us was learning that these guys are paid absolutely no wages. They are not American citizens, and thus are not required to be paid any minimum wage. This is the way it is on all cruise lines, not just Carnival. Merwyn & Victor pointed out that Carnival treats them very well, and of course they can live & eat for free, but their wages are based entirely on tips. The 'suggested tip' is $25 per person for your maitre d' (for the entire week) and $14.50 for the assistant waiter. They have 4 tables (2 tables at the early seating, 2 at the late), with approximately 10 people per table, which means conceivably they could earn $1000 in a week, if everyone pays the recommended amount. However, many tables are full of kids, and I guarantee most parents won't be shelling out $25/kid, and some people are just jerks and don't tip. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if the head waiter takes a percentage of the tip. These guys also seem to work 18 hours a day, I see them working bright & early in the morning, all the way into the dead of the night. Your cabin attendant will also be expecting a $25 tip from each person, so when you book your cruise, tack another $100 on to it in your head. When you book your cruise, you'll have a choice of being seated for the early dinner (5:30ish) or the late dinner (8:00ish). Personally, we liked the late dinner, because all the entertainment starts right after the late dinner. With the early dinner, you'd be sitting around bored, waiting for the late dinner folks to finish. Plus, when you're at port in Mexico, you can stay longer without worrying about coming back on time for dinner. The Staff We didn't see much of our cabin attendant, Yul, in person, but it is their job to be discrete. You could certainly see his effects though. If you leave your cabin for more than a half-hour, expect to come back to find it all tidied up. Once a day Yul would leave chocolates on our pillows, and make animals out of our towels. Overall, I thought he did an excellent job, and the general consensus on the ship seemed to be everyone was pleased with their cabin attendants. Our cruise director, Greg, was excellent. The cruise director is basically your M.C. for the entertainment in the theatre (Mikado Lounge), and he did a great job. Greg was very funny, and really seemed to get involved with the crowd. The rest of the staff was excellent as well, and were 100% courteous and considerate at all times. According to Greg, 'The Elation' has been rated #1 in the Carnival fleet via the passenger feedback forms you receive at the end of the cruise. Apparently 'The Elation' was rated #1 in cleanliness, entertainment, staff, and food, although I have no way of verifying this. Greg really did seem to be proud of his crew though. The Entertainment Each night, in the Mikado Lounge, you are treated to at least one entertaining show. There were 2 Las Vegas-style revue shows that were pretty decent. Obviously this isn't Broadway, so don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed. In the Mikado Lounge there are quite a few seats that have views obstructed by poles, so get there early if you want a good seat. Often times there will be a bingo game before a show, so sit through the bingo game, and acquire yourself a good spot. There were a few comedians, each of which had a regular show, and then an 'adults only' show later on around midnight. I found the comedians to be really good, especially 'Jarome'. Jarome is a young black guy who I thought was really talented, and made fun of all the quirky experiences you'll find on the cruise ship. Jarome also gave a bonus show in the Mikado Lounge during the entire debarkation process (end of the cruise), which as experienced cruisers will tell you, can be the most boring part of the cruise. There was also a talent show, which was alright (every 'talent' was singing), some funny audience-participation skits, and of course a world-famous fiddler! I'm not sure if they're on 'The Elation' all the time, but if the classical music girls are performing, be sure to check them out. They are 3 blonde girls from Poland, who play wonderful classical music, and are very easy on the eye. If I had my way they would have their own show in the Mikado Lounge! There were a few 'party nights' on the main deck, outside, but it wasn't used as often as I imagined it would be. I always pictured everyone using the pool a lot, but hardly anyone did at all, except for little kids. Mind you, the weather wasn't the greatest coming out of Los Angeles, and when you're at sea it can get pretty windy. Unless you're a sucker, don't buy the drinks on board. They're $7.50 a pop ($10 Canadian!) and they are watered down. Do what we did, and sneak your alcohol on board in your suitcase (they don't check luggage). Sneaking alcohol on after this point is much trickier, when you come back on board after a day in Mexico, they scan your stuff and 'hold your alcohol for you' until you disembark. Just bring a few bottles of Vodka, and make your own drinks with the free orange juice & lemonade! The Ports Our first stop, on our reverse itinerary, was Cabo San Lucas, which is apparently the nicest port of the three. It definitely seemed nice enough, but looked a lot like the other two ports to me. I swear the same little girl sells chiclets in all 3 ports. We just walked around the Cabo San Lucas boardwalk, there really wasn't much to see besides a few stores. Cabo seems to be the most modernized of the 3 ports, and the cleanest. It might be a good idea to look up some highlights of the city first, so you don't end up just walking around all day like we did. The second stop was Mazatlan. You'll want to take a taxi from port, otherwise it's a long walk to anything worth seeing. Don't worry about there being a shortage of taxis. You'll see many glorified golf carts zooming around dangerously, those are the taxis. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, negotiate a price with the driver before you get in the taxi. Point to a spot on your map, ask how much, and then offer him half. We had our driver take us to the Mazatlan beach boardwalk, and started near the cliff divers, and worked our way towards Senor Frogs. We never made it all the way to the so-called 'Golden Zone', but I don't know why you'd want to go there anyways. Ask any local about The Golden Zone and they'll just laugh. They'll tell you that the Golden Zone is for suckers, and if you want any sort of real deal on jewelry, you need to go to the less touristy areas. Senor Frogs was fun, but pretty pricey. Our last stop was Puerto Vallarta, and was the stop I was looking the most forward to, because we had reserved ourselves a spot on the 'Unimog Outback Adventure' tour. It's $80 a person, but it's about 7 hours, and in my opinion well worth it. If you don't know what a Unimog is, they're very powerful off-road vehicles designed for the German army. The tour takes you deep into a Mexican Jungle, and you stop off at a small village that gives you a true sense of what most Mexicans live like. You are also given a lot of information the plants & trees in the jungle. Along the way you're fed all the alcohol you want, and at the end there is a buffet, with more alcohol, and a very nice beach to swim at. At $80 it's one of the pricier tours offered by Carnival (although not by much), but everyone who goes on it says it's worth it. Until the Unimogs came up, I had planned on renting dune buggies, which would have been a blast as well. Things I'm Glad I Brought My own alcohol An alarm clock Multiple electrical outlet adapter (there's only one plugin in your cabin) A video camera Photo ID Conclusion Overall, I think Carnival is a great way to go, although it's the only cruise line I've been on so I really can't compare. I would definitely cruise on Carnival again, and I really can't think of any complaints. If you have any questions feel free to give me a shout.

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