Christian, writer, reader, nature lover, night owl, awkward, romantic, Ravenclaw, INFP. English major at the College of Charleston.
Ports: Nassau, Bahamas
"First cruise with Heavenly!!!"
My wife and I chose Carnival to begin our cruising life together, since we'd never really taken a real vacation together. As Charleston residents, the Ecstasy is a convenient ship to embark on from the port here in the city. Although I have cruised once before, back when I was in high school, via Norwegian Cruise Lines, I think I was too young to appreciate the experience or really enjoy it. Not so this time! I loved the atmosphere, especially the calypso and reggae music played on the Lido deck, where you can get drinks from the two bars, Red Frog and Blue Iguana, within eyesight of the pools and hot tubs. We got the Cheers package, so we never had to worry about running up a bar tab anywhere on the ship.
We never really got into the pool on the Lido, but it was fun to sit around and watch for hours. They have tables that you can eat at around the pool (from any of the many restaurants on that deck — a pizzeria, a Mongolian place, a buffet which features different styles of food on different days, etc.), and lounge chairs for enjoying the sun. Another favorite part of the ship was the Serenity Deck, one level below the Lido, and accessible by stairs from the back of the ship on the Lido as well. It's an adults only area, so there's not a lot of noise. Very relaxing, with plenty of lounge chairs and two hot tubs. The best part of the Serenity deck is being able to just completely relax and enjoy the experience, while reading, sunning, napping, or even looking off the back of the ship and watching the wake play among the waves.
We also really enjoyed the comedy shows at the Punchliner in the Starlight Lounge. Of the two comedians on board, the Fryman and Thea Vidale, Thea was by far the better of the two. We went to two of her shows, and laughed raucously each time. I also enjoyed Eden's performance in the Piano Bar.
The main dining room on our cruise, the Wind Star, was enjoyable if a little old fashioned, both in the decor and in the types of foods offered, although one thing I really enjoyed was that each menu featured a different offering in a category that was unusual or exotic, like alligator fritters or sushi. (Neither of these are particularly exotic to me, but I like that they go there.) There is an everyday menu which doesn't change, and this has great options like the Indian vegetarian, as well as a daily menu which offers different choices each time you dine. The brunch is also good. We chose Your Time Dining, instead of having our dinners scheduled for 6 or 8. While we did have to wait in a line a couple times, there was never a wait time beyond that, and the lines were only about 5-10 minutes long, if that. The service was really good, especially if you go on the earlier side.
We got an interior room without any view, and without too much extra space, but for what it was, it was very comfortable and felt luxurious. Our room steward, Patrick, was very attentive and checked in on our room to make sure we had fresh towels and a freshly made bed almost every time we left. That's another thing I'll remark on: the service overall, in pretty much every part of the ship, is outstanding. Attentive, solicitous, and extremely courteous. I believe that most of the staff are not Americans, which I only mention because I wondered briefly about the ethics of hiring foreign workers and paying them what are probably very low wages since the cruises operate mostly in international waters. I think that job opportunities like this are good ones for them, overall, though. Whatever the case, they never appeared anything less than happy; a lot happier than many of the American guests on the ship, which I sometimes found to be ungrateful, entitled, and unreasonable. But that's something you're going to get almost anywhere you travel to.
An instance in which this could be seen was the cancellation of our trip to Half Moon Cay, due to weather and safety issues. Even though the excursions we booked were automatically refunded, people were questioning the captain's decisions and offering to complain to his bosses, all of which I found extremely juvenile behavior. A cruise is what you make of it, and if you go into the experience with the intention of enjoying every moment, then I believe you will. The ocean is a vast, unknowable, and certainly not tame place, and you have to realize that sometimes it's not going to accommodate your schedule. That can be a thrilling thing, if you let it be.