Sail Date: June 23, 2014
This was our first cruise as my girlfriend and I enjoyed a fine vacation to Key West and Cozumel. Here are my thoughts on our experience:
Embarkation: We purchased the Faster to The Fun package and got to the front of the line in regards to registration and boarding, which was extremely convenient. We were able to get straight to having fun without any issue. Our luggage was delivered to our room very quickly and was able to change and get straight to the pool deck.
Food: Very marginal. Some foods were decent, some was not so good. I did like the varieties they offered but thought the foods were a tad bland. For the pool deck foods, very bland due to the heat of the kitchen and the outdoor area. The fine dining room was very well done in presentation, but the food was small in portions and the taste again was average. The best food we had were in Key West and Cozumel.
Pool: I get that the Carnival Ecstasy is the second oldest ship in the Carnival fleet, but their pool size was rather disappointing. It's not very big (about as big as 2 above-ground pools put together) at all and during peak times, very crowded. You don't really "swim", but rather, get wet to cool off. Also, the jacuzzis were very small in that only 4-5 people would fill one up. There were lots of kids on board and they made sure that both the pool and jacuzzi was in use. You had to get to the pool in order to get a lounge chair and to make the most of your time there. Thankfully, the Serenity area was a nice retreat from the pool when wanting to use the jacuzzis. Also, the pools are salt water and was so salty that I could have seasoned a meal in it. The cruise line needs to cut back on the salt.
Entertainment: We got to see the "Love & Marriage" (aka The Newlywed Game) show and it was really funny. We also played along from our seats. We also took in the Hasbro: The Game Show and it was really cool to experience this. It felt like being in the audience of an actual game show. We also caught the adult-only comedy show and we laughed ourselves silly. I got featured in the Kevin Burke act and Will Mafori had us almost rolling in the aisles. It was a fun time.
Stateroom and Service: Without question, this was a highlight of the trip. Our stateroom steward, Yoko, was on top of his game and made sure our room was clean, always stocked with towels, and even made sure we had a bucket of ice to keep our champange cold. He was very friendly and took care of us. It didn't matter of what time it was, he made sure our experience was memorable. The rest of the waitstaff on board was also very friendly and was always attentive to us. If we wanted a drink, someone was nearby to get it for us. If we needed a question answered, someone was there to get us the correct information. Also, guest services was very attentive to our issues and was very gracious. Jacques, our cruise director, made sure that all events were announced on time and knew when things were going on. Very well done.
Ports of Call: We had a blast in Key West and Cozumel, but wished we had more time in Key West. We only spent 6 hours in Key West, which was definitely not enough. We only got to have 4 good hours experience all that we could while the last hour was spent in line awaiting the trolley shuttle that took us back to NAS Key West where our ship was docked. The Carnival Security team was very kind to us as we exited and re-entered the ship, but very attentive to not let anything undermine ship security.
Disembarkation: We were in no rush to get off the ship and were among the last to get off. But we were able to get our bags at baggage claim and went through the CBP checkpoint without an issue. Also we were able to get shuttled back to Ft. Lauderdale without a hitch - a very smooth experience.
Overall: It's a solid 3 of 5 stars. I give it 3 stars in that the food was marginal, the length in the ports of call was small, and the pool was tiny. I understand the boat is heading for a dry-dock refurbishment and hope they fix many things. It definitely is in need of improvements, but it was a pleasant experience for our first time on a cruise line. I would like to try another cruise line to see the differences. I recommend this cruise, but the upgrades are needed.