Sunday, December 2, 2007

Review--Carnival Ecstasy --11.26.2007

Review--Ecstasy --November 26, 2007
Just The Facts:
Carnival Ecstasy
Five Day-November 26-December 1, 2007
Captain: Pier Paolo Scala
Cruise Director: Goose Neumann
Ports: Galveston-Progreso-Cozumel-Galveston
Weather: Overall Nice. Lt. rain in Progreso, Beautiful in Cozumel

Aware of pricing going up for cruises out of Galveston, and looking for bargain fares, I booked this as a 1A solo as it seemed to be a good value. Actually had a very small price drop, but pricing really went up on this as well as all cruises from Galveston. This was my 11th Carnival cruise and 3rd on the Ecstasy. I booked cabin E-181 which is on my favorite deck for a Fantasy class ship.

Note: I wanted to note this before reading my review as my activities on board this week were somewhat determined by the ‘bug’. As I live in a very rural area and I’m not exposed to many people my tolerance and resistance to germs is weak. I did do the Airborne before leaving as usual, but did seem to get a ‘bug’ and had a sore throat for most of the cruise. I sure did not drink as much or attend the late shows trying to get more rest. I could have got the ‘bug’ at Thanksgiving or first day on board so I won’t blame ‘muster drill’ or something else. Sorry the review will not be as complete.

Embarkation / Day 1.
The day began as usual with a check of the Galveston port web cam. There was no Ecstasy to be found at 6:30 a.m.. The drive from Bosque county was fine and Houston traffic wasn’t too bad for a weekday. I arrived at EZ Cruise about 11:15 a.m. I walked over to the terminal with bag in tow. I dropped my bag off myself skipping the porters. There was a line for building security before even entering the building as in September. Once inside it went very well. There was actually a line for VIP through security. I think this is new as it wasn’t there for my two cruises in the past several months. After security you go to the VIP rooms to check in which my timing was good. They took me right away. Several parties came while I was there so they had a small wait. After receiving my S&S card and separate room card it was a simple process boarding the ship. They did have another security check before getting your photo which was taken at the ship entry. I was onboard at 11:50, a smooth process, less than half the time last year on the Ecstasy. I wasn’t sure if the Grand Buffet Lunch would be ready as it opens at 12:00 noon, but they were already serving. Typical Carnival buffet with roast beef as the feature. It was good, but not great, but I am probably a bit more critical. Since the cabins won’t be available until 1:30 I went to the Atrium bar for my first Funship Special. The bar soon filled up with ladies, most ‘red hatters’. I think they are going to have a FUN cruise. I even had a lady buy me a drink which also happened last time I was on the Ecstasy. I think I like this ship. Soon the ladies discovered that I was Snoozeman and the experienced cruisers among them had the newbies read my blog and previous Ecstasy reviews as an introduction to the ship. Small world, and glad I could help. The cabin was ready at 1:30. I had a Platinum welcome letter so that all seems to be in order. I unloaded my carryon and then hit the buffet again for a light snack. I tried to take a nap, but too many announcements about the up coming muster drill to sleep. They began announcements after 3:30 and sounded the alarm just before 4:00. The room steward did check the cabin. The all clear sounded at 4:25 so the process took about half an hour. We did pull away from the dock during muster drill, but you could still see dolphins and the harbor as we left Galveston. As tradition a couple more Sail Away Funship specials during sailaway. I went to the Lido pool bar to see if anyone would show for the C-C meet&mingle and one couple did show in beads. I was later able to introduce them to the red hatter C-C members. My bag arrived by the time I returned to my cabin so I settled in nicely. I tried the sushi bar, which was good, on the way to the Welcome Show which was before dinner for late seating. The show featured comedian Phat Kat with the CD Goose and the singers and dancers.

I have 8:00 dinner in the Wind Song dining room, table 201. The waitress is Nana and she greeted me by name, (she must have a Platinum list) very impressed. I am at a solo table. Five guys and two gals, the exact same ratio at my solo table previously on the Ecstasy. For dinner, I had the penne pasta as an appetizer, green salad, filet mignon, and the black forest gâteau for desert. All was very good especially the steak. After dinner I returned to the cabin for a much needed rest.

At Sea / Day 2
I slept very well, almost to 9:30 a.m. I always eat in the dining room for 1st breakfast and order the same items. Can get a feel for the food for the rest of the mornings by doing so. Almost late, but in under the wire of 10:00 a.m. Eggs Benedict were a bit dry. I should have gone with an omelet since I was eating so late. Excellent service though.

I loaded my Poker pro card for the Texas Hold ‘em table. Yes they now have the automated table on the Ecstasy. It’s located at the edge of the casino almost into the City Lights Blvd. I played for a while, but didn’t do well.

I had lunch in the Wind Star dining room which was very good. The chocolate gâteau cake was excellent. Today is a beautiful day so all the lido deck activities are going well although I didn’t participate in any. Today was indian food day in the buffet so I had to just try a few items. The mulligatawny soup was just OK, the poppadam was very good as were the sauces. Returned to the Texas hold’em table this afternoon. Did much better. Pretty good crowd playing including one from our dinner table. I spent some time at the Atrium bar, my HQ, during the cruise.

The Captains party was this evening and went well. It is held in the Blue Sapphire Lounge which is not ideal, but fine. Found a nice spot at a back table and the cocktail waiters brought plenty of drinks. I have found that tipping helps keep your table filled with drinks. It became amusing as there were a lot of drinks on the table and I really had too many. Formal dinner this evening and the lobster tail was good. My favorite appetizers as well: Jumbo shrimp, Stuffed Mushrooms and the Pumpkin soup. A little disappointed with the Bitter & Blanc. This was yet another version, at least the third. This version has the vanilla sauce baked into the top of the dish. The production show, Dream Voyage was held after dinner, but I retired early. I have a bit of a throat irritation probably from the casino smoke while playing cards.

Progreso, Mexico / Day 3
My 6th time to Progreso so I’m not planning on going into town so it’s a nice day to sleep in which I did. We are docked next to the Fantasy, out of New Orleans, a sister ship to the Ecstasy. Its almost like looking at a mirror. The weather is overcast with a brisk north wind. Looks like more passengers staying on board than usual. The buffet was full which I wasn’t expecting. I had an omelet from the omelet station which was good. Usually a good time to use ship facilities since most people are off the ship. I took a steam in the spa which is very refreshing and seems to help clear the system as well. It began to rain so no pool or mini golf as I had planned for my on board port day. I did play in the 11:00 trivia game and had the same questions before. Still didn’t win (2nd) as I can’t remember names, etc. I will try to learn the names of the Hardy Boys, when toenails grow fastest (summer), and most popular color (red) before the next cruise.

Enjoyed a nice lunch in the Panorama Grill. It was French day and the feature on the regular side was roast pork. They had poppy seed napoleons in the desert area, very good. I did go off the ship in the afternoon, but only went to the touristy shops right at the dock. The new Cinco Soles shop which opened this year is a great addition. Walking back to the ship I noticed the new sign age. The new official name is Carnival Ecstasy. I had a Reuben sandwich as a late afternoon snack then had another steam hoping to relieve my throat. I had no congestion, just a sore throat so I am taking it easy today. Dinner was good, best was the Broccoli soup and Tiramisu for desert. Tonight was amateur show so I skipped that and review it on the cabin television later

Cozumel, Mexico / Day 4
Arrived in Cozumel and disappointed that we are docked at the International Pier. The Fantasy is docked at Punta Langosta. We are the only two ships today. Began the day with breakfast in dining room and had the omelet which was very good, and then prepared for trip into San Migel. Because we are at the Int’l pier you have the expense of a taxi to town. I went by the Mayan Pearl a nice jewelry store in Cozumel near the square run by our friend Nelly. We discussed something we are going to make for DW and pick up in January. It was just 10:00 and Martin, my barber, was a little late opening his shop. I understand Island time since I live on Bosque County time. Got my haircut and again saw Nelly and next to her shop is a Pharmacy. I had her translate to the druggist so that I could get something for my throat. Whatever it is works great. I felt better. Since I didn’t get my ‘on ship’ port day yesterday in Progreso, I returned to the ship early. I missed my usual mojitos with Jorge, but since I had taken the medicine, all worked out for the best. I was in the ship pool by 11:30 a.m. and even used the slide a few times. Lunch on the ship and then I got a table on the outside Lido deck facing Cozumel and did some reading. The weather was fantastic with a breeze to keep it cool. I went forward to watch the late arrivals at sail away. Always an interesting sport and again didn’t disappoint as a staggering lady hit the deck.

The welcome guest party was this evening and nice. You could have as many drinks as you wished as they had plenty of servers working the party. The Captain is a hoot. Dinner was good. I again ordered the steak from the alternative menu. They served the Grand Mariner soufflé for dessert, which IMHO is the best item on the menu. The production show tonight is Ultimate Country and is a big crowd pleaser. Don’t miss this show if you’ve never seen it.

At Sea / Day 5
Final breakfast in dining room. I had fried eggs for a change of pace. They were good and cooked to order. It is a beautiful day and a good time for the Lido deck activities. I had lunch in the dining room and it was very good. I had Fish & chips and a salad. I took the Galley tour as they allow Platinum's to go ahead of the regular tour and I knew it would go smoothly. I thought this galley tour was better than the one on the Conquest. I took some cabin time and I watched a movie, the most recent Die Hard, this afternoon as well as playing some poker, but the smoke really bothered me so quit that. After cashing out the poker card I just took the $ and paid my Sail & Sign account so I’ll be ready to go with a zero balance.

I went to the final show which featured Glenn Miller a comedy hypnosis act. Very entertaining. Dinner was very good, one of the better ones of the cruise. The Neptune Basket is becoming one of my favorites. I also had the Pork Chop as well. Both were excellent. The desert was Baked Alaska. I retired to the cabin to pack and rest for an early self-debarkation.

Platinums meet at 8:00 a.m. in the Library for self-debarkation. They never came and got us, but I was watching them prepare and went when they first called for self. Really had no problem, but I would have just stayed on Empress deck and not had to have used the stairs twice if I knew they weren’t going to get us first. I was at EZ Cruise by 8:30 and on my way.

I have E-181, a 1A (upper/lower) on the Empress Deck. The configuration is different because of the center interior location. The cabin does have the new furniture installed following the Katrina retrofit: flat screen TV, carpet, chairs, tables, and bedding and because of the configuration plenty of room and storage for a single. The wood is a big improvement from the metal. The bathroom is different. The shower is larger than the usual shower. The sink is more of a pedestal style. The actual toilet is against the wall (not opposite the sink) and could be cramped, but overall I think the bathroom is larger than the standard bath on Ecstasy. My cabin steward was great and he kept my ice chest full and cabin cleaned very well. The cleaning service does seem to be later in the day, sometimes after lunch. No refrigerator, a punch code safe, no hair dryer, one power outlet, one chair, one stool, two small tables and the Carnival bedding.

Food / Bar
Having cruised a lot I am probably more critical of the food. Overall the dining room food is good to very good. Some entrees better than the others. You do have a great variety of dishes and the service is excellent. The deli sandwiches are very good as is the salad bar and desert station in the Panorama grill. Many rave over the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake with ice cream on the side. It was a desert that was available every night. I thought the Bar Service was excellent although I didn’t spend as much time at HQ as usual due to my ‘bug’. Friendly bartenders and cocktail waiters everywhere. The staff always seemed willing to help with special requests and were always willing to serve. There were no Red/Blue/White team interruptions at dinner which I feel is an improvement. Still have the singing/dancing waiters though. Probably a good compromise.

Again the ship is in great shape since the refit. Very clean and well maintained. The staff is friendly and you can see why they have won the award for best service three of the past six years. The ship was decorated for Christmas and it looked very nice especially in the atrium. Captain Scala has several scheduled times to meet and talk to guests (other than the usual receptions, etc. ) such as a cigars under the stars and in a lounge on sea day. Very good Captain.

Overall another great cruise. I met a lot of very nice people, made some new friends and I will be cruising the Ecstasy again.