July 2014 - Carnival Ecstasy to Caribbean - Western
I sailed with my two kids (our first cruise) and my sister's family (their 3rd or 4th cruise). Overall, I was pretty happy with this cruise. Embarkation was slow (we waited in line over an hour and only 2/3 of the checkin desks were staffed) and as soon as we boarded we had to go to the safety briefing, so the kids were a bit cranky by the time we settled down. Staterooms were nice and decently roomy. We had an oceanview room on the bottom deck. Ship was in very good condition and room were made up several times a day. They even re-carpeted what appeared to be perfectly good carpet with more carpeting of the same exact loud, colorful pattern. Our dinner tablemates complained of some sewage-y odors near their cabin, although we never smelled it ourselved. My only real complaint about the room was the anemic AC - it barely kept the room at ~78. The food in the main dining room was hit or miss. Some dishes were really delicious and others just bland or way over-cooked. However, the wait staff was quick to bring out something else if you didn't like your first choice. While the food service in the main dining room was generally quick, there was often a several minute gap between a single course delivery for different members at the table; usually about 3-6 appetizers would get delivered (our table seated 12) and then the rest of the appetizers (often the same exact menu item) would show up randomly over the next 10 minutes. Same for the main course. Drink service in the main dining room was abysmal the first two nights and improved to mediocre by the end of the cruise. That said, the overall atmosphere was a lot of fun (kids loved the little after dinner show / waving napkins, etc.) and the service lapses didn't really bother me that much. You're never really in a hurry anyhow...
The buffet meals were generally decent with the exception of the mongolian grill item I got which was positiviely terrible. Lunch buffet lines were also horribly slow, though the breakfst lines were fine.
The kids (ages 5-16) loved the waterslides though they tired of them quicker than I expected - but between the hot tub, soft serve ice cream machine, mini golf, and room service they had plenty of activities to keep them occupied.
Nightly dancing kept me entertained; i did check out one show (meh....) and went to a comedy show for ~15 minutes (which I didn't find particularly funny and, other than a few really drunk people in front, that sentiment seemed to be a consensus based on the muted chuckles for the comedian's "jokes").
Disembarkation was slow but since we were in "steerage" and were going to be last anyhow, we simply enjoyed a leisurely sit down breakfast and then played cards. Not clear to me why dismbarkation was so slow; one ship staff member blamed customs but when we got to the customs line it appeared to be moving faster than the line of the ship. Anyhow, the ship docked at 8 and we finally got off the ship maybe 1115 and then another 30 minutes or so to get our luggage and go through customs.
Despite all my nit-picks above, my family and I thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and would cruise Carnival again.