Sunday, September 10, 2006

Review--Ecstasy--September 4-6, 2006

Ecstasy 9/4/06 - 9/9/06 Galveston -Progreso-Cozumel-Galveston
This was my seventh Carnival cruise, third solo, and first time on Ecstasy. The ship isn’t sailing full. There will be many comparisons with Conquest since I just sailed her a few days ago.

Monday / Embarkation / Day 1 Embarkation was smooth for most. I had a some small problems. There was no S&S card for me. I did book late, four days earlier, but have booked even later twice & had S&S card without problem. It would not have been a problem, but the lady who checked me in gave me the wrong information. She wrote something on doc and said proceed to pursers desk for card. Didn’t sound quite right but did as she said. Of course, Security said “wrong wrong”. I had to go get a temporary badge to board, then go to pursers desk. I could have taken care of the temp badge before boarding if given correct instructions to begin with. Anyway, no big deal, some delay, but everyone was nice about it. When I did finally receive my S&S card I had to back track for security photo, etc.. On top of that no dining table assignment. Well my favorite place is the lobby bar on embarkation day, so now that I had a card I could start the “sail away specials” and wait for the Maitre’D. C-C member oldmedic saw me at the bar and mentioned his table number. When it was time to make dining assignment changes I was able to get that table. I should mention that the dining room changes were handled very well. A waiter queues everyone outside the dining room and admits one at a time to the Maitre’D station . Seems to work smoother and people can’t just shop the tables, but legitimate changes are made fairly easy.

The Lido had the usual buffet for arriving guests. The deli also has hot sandwiches so a Rueben right away for me. This was a pleasant surprise as the Elation did not have them.

Time for more sail away drinks and to explore the ship. Yes there is the secret door. Actually a couple to the same forward deck.

One complaint I heard was that muster drill runs too long and into the sail away. We were well underway before dismissed from “muster”. Still time to see the dolphins as we left the harbor if you hurried though.

Welcome Show tonight. “Rebecca” is the CD. Entertainer was Gene Merola. He was funny, I’d seen him before on the Elation. . I always enjoy the dancers and the two feature singers were very good. After show a visit to the sushi bar.

Dinner was nice. Late seating in Wind Star Dining Room. I was at table 115 and the waiter & staff are very good. There are three couples and myself. I had the Filet Mignon and sampled the shrimp. I think the shrimp were better. The breads and salads are excellent. I had two deserts, don’t tell DW. Towel animal on first night.

Tuesday / Fun day at Sea / Day 2 Good sleeping with the inside cabin, but up early (ranch life, I guess) so to the dining room for breakfast. I’ve had the same breakfast on the first morning of all my CCL cruises: Sectioned grapefruit & oranges, Eggs Benedict with side of bacon, and french toast. I have to say that this one was the best I have ever had. Much better than Conquest which I was on just a few days ago. You could tell the difference. I’m not much for sun, I get all of that I want at home, so indoor activities for me. They had Indian food on the lunch buffet so I had to sample the mulligatawny soup. It was better than Conquest, but just OK. I guess there are as many variations of mulligatawny soap as there are chiefs.

A two hour+ nap this afternoon. That was nice. Drink special today is Yellow Birds, but this afternoon was Pilsner Urquell day for me at the atrium bar. A good place to people watch. Good bartenders (Aleksandar & Nyoman) at this bar as well.

This is formal night. Captains reception is in show lounge. I prefer how they do it on Conquest, but they have the larger clubs to host it in than on fantasy class ships. Formal dinner was nice. I had lobster of course. I had already told my table mates about the new desert Bitter&Blanc and it was served tonight. I think I have a new favorite.

The productions show, Dream Voyage, featuring the Carnival dancers and singers was tonight. It was very good. I was too tired for the gala midnight buffet which was tonight, so off for some sleep.

Wednesday / Progreso, Mexico / Day 3 The docking procedure woke me up about 6:30. I wanted to sleep in as I had no real plans for Progresso. They finalized docking and slept in long enough to not rush to dining room breakfast. IMHO The standard buffet breakfast is just OK. I sure the omelets are good, but I didn’t want to wait. We dock in Progreso, the only hold up is the shuttle, Since I was solo I went the shuttle route as I usually rent a jeep here. This was my 4th time in Progreso and I just did a few things: went to bank, the internet location (still only $1 for an hour), and then to my favorite spot Le Saint Bonnet. Padre saw me right away (4th visit) and seated me. A DosXX, bottled water, and shrimp cocktail. I bought a small wooden bowl ($5) with a spurtle to use at home to muddle mint for my mojitos. I went back to the ship early to beat the late rush and get some lunch. I had the hamburger. They had a desert bar in the Panorama Grill and the Napoleons were fantastic. Drink of the day today is Blue Margarita. Second trip to the sushi bar, they do vary the selections. For dinner the seafood delight is very good. A variety of different seafood. Tiramisu for desert. The talent show was tonight, but I watched a bit of Texas hold’em poker and retired early.

Thursday / Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4 We are tendering into Cozumel, but at least to the San Miguel pier and not Puerto Maya. Taking a casual breakfast in dining room as I’m not in a big hurry to get to shore as I was just there and since solo have no plans to rent a jeep or tour. It went very smooth. They opened to general boarding just about 9:15 a.m. not long after finishing breakfast. Took some friends by a shop that I know the owner. I have never visited the Cozumel Museum so thought this would be something to do in the morning. It was nice, but the best feature is the snack bar on the second floor. It overlooks the harbor at San Miguel and being a beautiful day you could clearly see Playa del Carmen and Xcaret across the straight of Cozumel. They seem to feature breakfasts at this cafe and the menu looked good. A little shopping on the way to the Havana Club. Excellent mojitos, best in the caribbean. There were a lot of RCL employees from the Navigator of the Seas which was docked at the International pier. They have WiFi at the Havana Club so many had laptops. Wanted to try my laptop from ship since we were anchored just opposite, but didn't get back to ship in time. It may work from an upper deck. Also great views of the ship from the Havana club. A few cervezas from before returning to the ship to rest a bit form a hot day in Cozumel. The return guest party is tonight although I skipped. Drink of the day is Mexican mama, but didn’t try it. Wow guess you can’t drink all the time. Dinner was OK another seafood combination since Wednesdays was so good. This was as well. Baked Alaska for desert. The feature show is X-treme Country. It was very good. Best show of the cruise.

Friday / Fun day at Sea / Day 5 Usual dining room breakfast as it will be the final one since I will do self-debarkation the following morning. This was the second time I’ve seen flying fish while returning from Cozumel. They are small, but very numerous. Also Dolphins were seen following the ship most of the day. Last Rueben sandwich for awhile as well for lunch. Afternoon spent at the Texas Hold’em table. A lot of fun. Visiting with some C-C folks and new friends at the atrium bar was very enjoyable as well. Anytime a lady buys you a drink at the lobby bar AND you walk away with $ from the tables--It is a good day! Final dinner was nice I had the pork and of course the desert was the Grand Marnier soufflĂ©. Bags were to be out before midnight, but I’ll be doing the self debarkation.

Saturday / Debarkation
The only hitch of the cruise-ordered room service (and as a wakeup call) for something light between 6:00-6:15 a.m. It never showed. Finished packing and was in line for self debarkation by 7:15. It went smooth. They had 6 agents working so it went very fast through customs. I was off the island by 7:45 a.m.

SHIP-- The Ecstasy is an older ship. She seemed in great shape. She does show her age is some areas, but is very clean and nice. I like the layout. There are a lot of “hump” locations on the upper decks which make watching the sea or views very nice. Also the ceiling above the atrium is skylights. I like it. That’s all the sun I want to see during the day. I knew there was a lot of neon so I was prepared for it, but it was not dated at all and is very impressive in the evening. A very different look. No smoking in the lobby area at all. This is much better than on Conquest. Although I overhead a lady complain about smoking I thought it was better controlled than either Conquest or Elation. The new mini-golf area is very nice.

CABIN-- I booked late on a 1A guarantee bargain deal. I received a 4A, cabin R234 located aft so I was happy with that. The cabin steward is excellent. One of two best I’ve ever had. I actually saw him cleaning the base in the hall with a toothbrush. The cabin was always clean. The retrofit in dry-dock was well done. Changes I noticed included: New doors for bath and hallway entry, new flooring in bathroom, new fixtures in bath, magnetic doorstops (that work), new telephone, flat screen televisions, the new Carnival bedding system, new stateroom directory (smaller than those on Conquest & Elation), new upholstery, and new carpet. Also, the cabin was a quad, but didn't have the drop down from ceiling bunks. They were built into the large heavy wooden head/side boards of the units. I'm sure these were new. It looked more like nice furniture than ugly metal bunks.

Important: The flush button is above the toilet lids. Much better than those that are semi-hidden behind the lids. You conquest class folks know what I’m saying! No comedian jokes inserted here!

The only negatives are the exhaust fan is noisy. Doesn’t bother me that much easily confused with the sound of running water in the bath. Also you have a separate card to open your door. The Sail&Sign does not act as your room key. Minor, but I was always afraid I’d leave the room key since I wasn’t used to carrying two cards.

There are no refrigerators in the 4A’s. (OK by me I never use them) There is some vibration at times, especially aft I suspect, but I just reminds me that I’m on a ship.

DINING / FOOD-- Overall, I think the food was better on Ecstasy than on Conquest or Elation. The thing I liked the most was the table set up. They use the old standard (and proper IMHO) silver set up with all silver on the table at the beginning. On Conquest, they have gone to the 1on1 system which is just a short cut for the servers as they will use the slight of hand not actually change out the silver (caught you Zoltan). I did mention this to the Ecstasy Maitre’D and he seemed pleased to hear it. He said it’s the newer ships are using the other system.

GENERAL-- The gulf was almost dead calm so the sailing was very smooth. There are a lot of Texans on board although a lot of people from all over. I met a lot of very nice people. I differently will do this cruise again with DW and DD. In fact the Ecstasy may become my new favorite CCL ship.

No comments: