PRE-CRUISE: We left Las Vegas for LA the day before the cruise and stayed at the Hilton Port of LA/San Pedro under the Park and Cruise Program. Had joined the Hilton Honors Club online (free) and was automatically upgraded to a balcony room. Champagne and full American breakfast included. Room was quite comfortable. The Hilton watched our car for the cruise duration and shuttled us back and forth to the pier as part of the Park and Cruise. All in all, worth every penny.EMBARKATION: Arrived at the pier at 11:00 and was onboard by 12:30. Carnival is just initiating the Skippers Club in LA, so personnel were unsure of the routine for CAT 11 & 12 Suite passengers. Basically, we got VIP check-in and boarded among the first cruisers. Curbside porters take baggage leaving you with carry-on for the X-ray machines. Security is tight with everyone getting checked closely. The embarkation personnel were very friendly and upbeat. Had to show birth certificates and photo ID along with cruise docs. The pier is undergoing construction so it's pretty basic, but lots of seating available. This is the place where you get your "Sign and Sail" cards (one for each person including children). Just have all your paperwork from the cruise docs completed and check-in will be quick and hassle free. There are lines, though, so be patient.Overall: Efficient process, considering the amount of people checking on board.BOARDING: As we boarded the Ecstasy, we inserted our Sign and Sail card into a slot and a photo was recorded for the security camera. This is used each time you embark and disembark the ship at ports to assure the correct person is matched with the card. We entered the ship at the atrium level and were immediately struck by the bright colors and festive decor. Ship personnel directed us to the correct elevators for our suite, as there are lots of elevators, stairways and hallways to get lost in! We were impressed by how clean and well maintained the ship looked. Overall: Exciting, smooth introduction to the Ecstasy.CABIN SUITE: Suite U102 on the upper deck. As first-time cruisers, we were unsure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised. Walk-in closet with hangers provided, shelves to stack shoes, etc., and a full length mirror. Bathroom with shelves for toiletries, glass shower doors and whirlpool tub. Lots of towels. Two twin beds (a bit firm) with a nightstand in between. Large vanity area with 8 dresser drawers. This is where the only plug in the room is located, so bring a power strip! TV, VCR, refrigerator (not very cold) and bar is attached. Sitting area with pull-out sofa bed (double) sectional, coffee table, two side chairs and a large window. Door to balcony is heavy, bring a bungee cord to hold it open if you want. Balcony has two chairs and one lounge chair and worth the price of the suite by itself. We had seen postings from other cruisers about the "worn out look" of the furnishings and occasionally about unpleasant odors, however we found the furnishings quite satisfactory and no odors anywhere on the ship (except the wonderful smells from the galley). Complaints about the suite: fridge could be colder, bars in the sofa bed might bother a light sleeper. Overall: Great! Our cabin steward, Anne Marie, was attentive and accommodating. And the balcony was WONDERFUL!!FOOD: We ate dinners in the Wind Star Dining Room with a wonderful wait staff. The menu changes every night so you never get tired of the same food. Our waiter, Regino, made us feel quite special each meal and made sure no one left hungry. You can get two or three of anything. We had purchased a Soda Card ($18) and had unlimited soft drinks for the entire cruise. With soda at $2.50 a glass it was worth it. We alternated breakfast at the dining room or the Lido deck where it was buffet style.
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