Carnival covers all of the bases
By Jules E. Beuck and Rose Botkin-Beuck
Photo by Rose Botkin-Beuck
Planning for vacations can sometimes be as much work and hassle as being at the job. Deciding where to go, finding hotel accommodations, figuring out what to do once you get there, planning meals-- all can cause such headaches that sometimes you would rather stay home. One form of vacation that takes care of a lot of that for you is cruising. On a cruise, your meals are planned out for you (and usually included in the price of the cruise), your accommodations are taken care of and the ship will get you where you are going. While you are getting to your destinations, there are activities to keep you occupied or you can just lie by the pool reading a book. As you may have guessed, we have cruised in the past and love it. Our latest cruise was on Carnival Cruise's Superliner, the Ecstasy. Let us tell you about our experience.
The Ecstasy's itinerary has it going back and forth to Ensenada, Mexico from San Pedro, California. The sailings are either for three or four days. The four-day sailing includes a stop in Catalina and a day at sea, whereas the three-day cruise eliminates Catalina.
The Ecstasy is a large ship. It has ten decks and can hold a maximum of 2,606 passengers (although the normal capacity is 2,052 passengers). An international crew totaling 920 serves the passengers.
As we said, this is a large ship. Our first day on board, we attempted to explore the whole ship and by the time we were done, we were so tired we had to take a nap. So let us tell you about our room where we went to take the nap. Most staterooms on cruise ships tend to be on the small side unless you can afford a suite (not these writers). We had what is called an Ocean View room. This meant we had a large window in the room. The room was large by cruise ship standards. There was plenty of room to maneuver without bumping into your roommate.
The room had a full-length mirror, a remote-controlled television, a desk area, chair, closet area with plenty of hangers, safe, three drawers for clothes, and two twin beds that we had our room steward convert to a king size bed. The bathroom was also larger than we have experienced on previous cruise ships. On many cruise ships, you have to be a contortionist to take a shower. Not on the Ecstasy! The shower stall was large enough for the average size person to easily maneuver. There is a medicine cabinet that has enough room and shelves to hold all of your toiletries and/or medication. A basket of amenities was waiting for us. In addition to the usual amenities of shampoo and lotions, there were also disposable razors, aspirin, deodorant and even little candies. We would have preferred it if our beds were a little firmer, but otherwise we were very pleased with our room.
The Ecstasy has two main dining rooms and four dining times (a main and late dining in each dining room). Each serves the same menu and provides first class service. There is also a casual dining area if you do not care for the choices in the main rooms or a scheduled activity conflicts with dinner (which can happen with the late dining times). The food was good and plentiful. You could have as much as you wanted. On lobster night, we joked that we wanted another dinner and, even though we told the waiter we were joking, it was too late-- once you ask for it, you get it. In the casual dining room there is a 24-hour pizzeria. If you wish to dine in your room, there is also 24-hour complimentary room service. There were the famous midnight buffets as well.
If you want to try to work off all these calories you are packing on, there is an outdoor jogging track that is an eighth of a mile. The track surrounds a volleyball net and two shuffleboard courts. There is also a full-featured indoor spa/workout area. In the spa, there is a room for aerobics and another room with free weights, treadmills, exercise cycles, steppers etc. After your workout, you can relax in the sauna or whirlpool. For a fee, there are massages, hairstyling, facials and the like.
While you are at sea, the Ecstasy has a casino with slot machines and live games. There is also, a major draw on most cruise ships, bingo in the main showroom. Available as well, are two Ping-Pong tables and a chess set with two-foot high chess pieces.
Of course, you may want to just kick back with a good book. The Ecstasy provides a library where you can borrow books in a number of different languages. The books appeared to be fairly current too. The library is an interesting room in its own right. As you walk in, there is a giant globe of the world. The tables in the library are all replicas of old style maps and the armrests on the chairs and couches in this room are carved in animal shapes.
There are many areas to listen to music. On the pool deck there was an island music band. On the same floor as the casino, are various lounges to hear various types of music. Many of the artists on board perform with only a guitar or piano and pre-recorded backup music. If you wanted to provide your own entertainment, Karaoke was one of the options offered up.
There was also the cruise ship staple of shows in the main showroom. Those were Las Vegas-style production shows with dancing, singing, comedy and magic. Two of the comedians did an all ages show in the main showroom and then did a midnight R-rated show in one of the lounges. One of the comedians even entertained people waiting to disembark after the cruise was over. His name was Jerome and he called his disembarkation show the "bonus cruise." Of all the fine entertainment we saw on our cruise, we probably enjoyed Jerome the most.
Separate programs for small children and teens are provided so they are not bored and the parents/guardians have some time alone. Three pools and numerous whirlpools also compliment the Ecstasy. The pools are not heated and it was rather cool on our cruise so we did not take too much advantage of the pools. You can also find a two-story, winding slide for the main pool. Only the children were brave enough to try the slide on this trip. For the little ones there was a wading pool.
The ship is decorated to resemble a city. The lounges are named as if they are parts of a city such as the Metropolis Bar, Chinatown Lounge or Society Bar. The Neon Bar has many neon signs like you would see as you travel through a city. The seven story grand atrium is designed to give the impression of being surrounded by gleaming skyscrapers. The ceiling has numerous fiber optic twinkling lights to give the impression of a starry sky as you walk through the ship.
For those who cannot bear to be away from the Internet, there is a cyber-station with a satellite hook up. Here people can log on and check their e-mail or surf the Net (for a fee). Everyone is given their own unique e-mail address so the poor suckers left on land can interact with them. When the ship docks in a port, there are various tours that are offered through the ship or you are free to go off on your own if you wish.
If you have never cruised Carnival offers a program to entice you called "Vacation Guarantee." This program provides that if you are not enjoying your cruise, you can get off in the first non-U.S. port of call and receive a pro-rated refund for the unused portion of the cruise, as well as reimbursement for coach air transportation back to the ship's home port. This option is also open to past cruisers, but they probably already know what they are going to encounter on a cruise.
We enjoyed our cruise quite a bit. In speaking with our fellow passengers, we found that they were also enjoying themselves. The Ecstasy has three and four night Mexican cruises year round. Contact your local travel agent or call Carnival at (800) CARNIVAL (800-227-6492) for more information. Carnival also has a Web site that can be reached at www.carnival.com.
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