Thursday, April 6, 2006

Fat Cat Catamaran--April 1, 2006

Fat Cat Catamaran Adventure Excursion
Puerto Adventuras - Playa del Carmen - Calica Mexico

While sailing on the 3/30 Elation cruise, I booked an independent tour, the Fat Cat catamaran adventure excursion, for Calica. There were three C-C members and ten others from the Elation. A Fat Cat representative met our group and we were off for about a fifteen minute drive to Puerto Adventuras. The cat is docked in a private resort area which is also the location for dolphin interactive tours. We were able to see the dolphins, manatees, and sea lions while waiting for the others sailing on the Fat Cat. This is definitely a barefoot cruise, you leave your shoes in a box before boarding. We sailed about 10:00 a.m. with 49 passengers and crew of four. The crew was very accommodating and friendly. They were very generous with the rum punch and beer as we made our way north. We sailed to the reef just south of Calica for 45 minutes of snorkeling. Water was a bit choppy but used the all the allotted time in the water. This was a small reef, but very colorful and alive. Lot’s of fans, more than cozumel IMHO. Many colorful fish as well. Setting sail back south, more beer and rum punch along with chips, guacamole, and pico de gallo. All of which was very good. Those that wish could experience the drag net behind the boat. Hang on and don’t lose your shorts. We stopped within some protected jetty's for swimming. You could dive from the boat. Very nice and calm waters. We got back to the pier and were taken back to the ship arriving about 3:30. The fare includes your transportation and your drinks and snacks. I rate this excursion five ***** stars for both value and content. I would happily do this excursion again.

Their web site:

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Review--Carnival Elation--March 30, 2006

Worlds longest review (and title) of a Four day Elation cruise which is
redundant as she will no longer sail from Galveston

Review--Elation 4-day Cruise
March 30-April 2, 2006

Booked this cruise because I wanted to sail the Elation one more time before she leaves Texas. Did this one as a solo. I am an experienced cruiser, but this was my first 4-day cruise and only the second that left port on a weekday.

First checked Galveston web cam at 6:00 a.m. before leaving and the Elation was already in port. A good sign. Arrived at EZCruise Parking about 11:15 and was promptly taken by shuttle to the terminal. No lines at security nor check-in. They hadn’t started boarding yet so sat in chairs near the boarding area. I saw a chair on an end back row that had luggage in front of it. I went and ask the man for the chair and he complained but moved his bag. This was not a C-C group and I knew that this may be THE chair. Soon we were ready for boarding and the Carnival attendant said, “we are going to start boarding with that guy (pointing to me). Yep, a first for me, I was the first to board the ship (at least through normal boarding procedures). Knowing the system, I was through the photographers on board before the others knew what had happened. Some cabin attendants apparently have a pool as to who/what is the first passenger to board because I heard “your #1” from several the rest of the day. This may be new, they had attendants stationed in each hallway entrance on all decks to direct passengers. I don’t recall this on Conquest or previously on Elation. My cabin was only the second from the lobby entrance (deck seven E-57) so I dropped my backpack off and was off to the Lido deck. Being first had the advantage off seeing the buffet before anyone is served, I will admit it looked great--almost like the grand buffet. I was the first to begin and that was nice, almost like a private buffet for a five minutes. I got a table facing the others as they came in and began watching “the show” Again this was not a C-C or experienced group for the most part. I overhead one teenager ask her mom, “Wow how much does this cost?” meaning the buffet. After lunch I must go find Maria at the lobby bar for the first “Sail Away”.

When boarding I noticed that the Elissa looked like she was getting ready to sail, so forward to the “secret door” and the view. The Elissa was just off. Very nice to see although she wasn’t under sail but power. Still great to see an 1877 sailing ship.

Cabin was ready by 1:00 and my bag was delivered sometime before 2:00. So unpacking was early and easy. Another sail away special and people watching from the lobby bar until muster drill. Another new thing noticed while setting there is the Platinum club sign above the pursers window. Looks like CCL has the new program down. Some large groups boarding- an Elvis group and two high school bands included. Looks like the ship is more than full. I had tried to add DW a few days before and CCL wasn’t really interested. Now I know why, they probably had lots of 3-4 pax in cabins already sold. Also lots of small kids. Well this will be an interesting cruise.

Muster drill was at about 4:00, but departure was delayed they said because of loading luggage. We got underway about 5:30 and it was a beautiful day to be on deck. We watched for the dolphins and the US Coast Guard move vessels who approached too close to the ship. Soon on starboard (note: wrong side) comes the Elissa. She had been under sail, but with traffic now under power. Still great to see her being maneuvered into Galveston harbor as a cruise ships sails past.

I don’t wear a watch at home and although on my cruise packing list I forget my watch, which I happened to purchase on the Elation in 2004 at the $10 store. The watch has been on seven cruise since until this one. I was depending on the time on the television--mistake. I thought I was leaving early for the Welcome show and I was actually half an hour late. Well god forbid I’m late to dinner so off to the $10 shop for another watch. No way could I set it, but a very nice person, who love challenges, at my table was able to set it for me. Dinner was nice. I had late (8:30) dinner in the Imagination dining room. Waiter was Magi (nickname). You never know what your going to get when you book a solo, but we had a nice six top table. Four booked single, and one charming couple. I had the fruit, salad, filet mignon and cherries jubilee cake. Being late and a long day (1st on ship) back to the cabin for R&R.

E-57 is an inside, but still a good upgrade from the 1-A’s solo cruisers usually get. It has been a while since I had an inside and I had forgotten how great it is to sleep in one. Wow nice. Almost late for breakfast in the dining room, but made it for the Eggs Benedict. My usual CCL breakfast.

Today is Indian day in the Taste of Nations so I had to try the mulligatawny soup. It was just OK. The best is on Rhapsody although the chef on Conquest (he’s Indian) made very good mulligatawny by special request for our table last year. Late lunch in dining room was fair, but nothing special.

Yellowbird is the drink of the day today. Very good, a bit sweet perhaps, but going with the flow.

Captains reception was very good. Sat in the “prime” area to get the maximum waiter exposure. After tipping on the first drink, I never had to ask for a drink the remainder of the party. I always had one (or two) in reserve. Thank you captain Giuseppe Donato. Formal night dinner went well. Second lobsters for those who requested.

Having seen the production show just a few weeks ago I decided to go to karaoke. It was good, even Elvis did a number. The late night comedy show followed and Tim Harkleroad was very good. Recommend his act. Usually not up this late I had to visit the Gala buffet. I had seen the viewing of it in November, but this time I got to partake. Very good with a lot of different selections. My favorite, the Hearts of Palm salad. Desserts looked great. Too late at night for an old rancher so off to bed after the late night snack.

I used room service as a wake up call and get ready as we arrived at Calica about 8:30 a.m. Debarkation went smooth. I booked an independent tour, the Fat Cat catamaran adventure excursion. There were three C-C members and ten others from the Elation. Met our group and we were off for Puerto Adventuras where the cat is docked. This is the location for the dolphin interactive tours so we were able to see the dolphins, manatees, and sea lions while waiting for the others on the Fat Cat. We sailed about 10:00 a.m. with 49 + crew. They were very generous with the rum punch and beer as we made our way north to the reef for 45 minutes of snorkeling. Water was a bit choppy but used all the allotted time in the water. Setting sail back south, more beer and rum punch along with chips, guacamole, and pico de gallo. We stopped within some protected jetty's for swimming. Very nice and calm waters. We got back to the pier and were taken back to the ship arriving about 3:30. I must say this was a very good and worthwhile excursion. I’ll place a review in the Playa/Calica ports of call page. Nap time and may have missed dinner if cabin steward hadn’t knocked on the door. Others may have napped as only three of us showed for dinner which seemed to be the norm for the entire dinning room. Dinner was good, I had the chateaubriand. Dessert was Baked Alaska which I had to have two just to confirm that it was that good. Back to the cabin to finish the nap.

Daylight savings time began so everyone seems to have gotten off to a slow start on this day. Actually lucked out and was able to change the new watch without assistance. The usual Eggs Benedict, French Toast and Bacon for me this morning in the dining room. Good R&R day. Drink of the day is “The Ultimate Suntan” I decided it’s good after several samples, but not as good as Funship or Yellowbird.

Spin is still the production show. Glad I went, there are new feature singers and dancers. Again they are getting younger each sailing it seems, let alone each year. Good dinner, the escargot & pork dish were excellent. Of course the SoufflĂ© for dessert. Best dinner of the cruise. Checked the karaoke as two of the girls from our table were to sing, but didn’t catch them, but it was worth the trip as Elvis again performed. Not a late night for me as I’m up early in the morning.

Elected for self debarkation. There used to be only a few hundred doing this, but has become very popular and they have to call by deck now. I was ready with bag in hall and they called my deck first. Remember I was only two cabins away. I was 5th to step off the ship, but first to be presented to US customs. (The family in front had to regroup) I just walked over to the EZCruise lot and was on my way by 7:30.

What are the odds of being the first on and the first off?

As mentioned this is my first Four day cruise. We did not have a return guest party, tiramisu for dessert, nor enough time. A five day is much better as a short cruise. Also much higher percentage of first-timers on a four day.

Washcloths seem to be a thing of the past. No one I asked had any. Don’t know if they will return after dry-dock. I’ll be curious to know. E-57 is not a handicap room, but did have a folding seat in the shower. Not a bother as the showers are roomy compared to most. It was nice to NOT have thresholds between the bathroom & cabin and between shower & bath. There were built-in drains. Should be this way on all cabins, but would be harder to design ships with the extra plumbing.

The new CD is Greg Hutson. A young guy although I may be just getting old. I thought he was very good. The same old CD jokes, but he did them with enthusiasm and improved some (the microwave story). Josh, the assistant CD, is also good and remembered me from previous cruises.

Service was good overall. I do think the crew is getting just a bit “antsy”. Many if not most are leaving at the dry-dock in five days. Some will stay with the ship in Florida. Some will come back to the Ecstasy out of Galveston. Some go to new ships. Womma at the lobby bar is outstanding. Maria also there is also great. Both are leaving at dry dock.

Again, the most unique things to the Elation: the Pizza is great and the water pressure the best of any ship I’ve sailed.

I met lot's of very nice people and enjoyed the cruise very much.