December 2016 - Carnival Ecstasy to Caribbean - Bahamas
We really enjoyed the chance to see historic Charleston before cruising. Access to the port was easy and convenient. Security and boarding lines were long, though we arrived at our designated boarding time. Security people were rude, and even ripped a bottle of water, with one gulp left, from my hand without giving me the chance to finish. Aft-facing cabin E255 was small but adequate for 3 people, though we should have been advised that one would have to crawl into the upper berth each night -- not great for older travelers! Carnival provided a very nice New Year's celebration, with a balloon drop from the atrium at 11:00 and a deck party and countdown at midnight. Really enjoyed hearing the ship's horn sound at midnight! Lots of champagne was distributed, too. Throughout the cruise the service was excellent, and while the Ecstasy isn't one of the newer boats, it is still in good condition. It was great to have the water park separate from the regular pool, though the hot tubs were always overrun with unsupervised kids. There was a good mix of cruisers on the trip, from children through seniors. Entertainment was okay -- we heard '80s music and "Bohemian Rhapsody" ad nauseum, and the cruise director, Dustin, was a bit over the top. Still, Carnival tried to entertain all age groups. Short show, Brits, was cute. As for the destinations, they left something to be desired, though they were warm and sunny.
We enjoyed our excursion to Atlantis, but it was way overpriced. Basically we got to walk through the aquarium, sit on the beach, and eat a hamburger for $100 each. We were quite disappointed in our Freeport excursion, which was supposed to be a sailboat ride. After waiting for over an hour where we were told to wait, no one showed to take us on the boat. Finally we were told the excursion was cancelled. At that point the only excursion open was the West End tour. We spent about 90 minutes at a really nice beach, and the guide, Sebastian, was very cordial and entertaining. However, there was really nothing to see except a very small old lighthouse and lots of storm surge from the October hurricane. In fact, the entire West End was a mess. I would not recommend this excursion.
It was good to be able to buy 12 bottles of bottled water for the cabin for about $5, and a 6-pack of soda for about $10. We had ordered a birthday cake, but it never arrived and the order was lost. Overall, by the time Carnival added gratuities and other expenses to our account, it was not a great value. Charleston, however, was outstanding.