This is an old review of my sailing out of Miami, FL on the Carnival Ecstasy in December 2014. The itinerary was four nights going to Key West and Cozumel. It is posted on Cruise Critics; however, I wanted to add some tips.
I had an overall enjoyable time on this cruise despite minor annoyances from my travel mates. I believe this type of cruise ship is perfect for those wanting an inexpensive and brief vacation. I would not recommend it for longer itineraries since it does not have as many perks as other ships. As a person who THOROUGHLY prepares for everything, I read reviews about this cruise and for the most part, I don’t understand some of the complaints. I honestly may account it to noncompliance or failure to prepare. The ladies I cruised with ran into some issues because they were unaware of the alcohol carry on policy.*
PREPARE and understand what to expect. This is a fantasy class ship and pretty much everything you need to know is online. Just read it. Fantasy-class ships are smaller and older. I love the smaller ships when I just want to get away without dealing with large crowds.
If you plan on driving then leave the day before so you won’t get caught in traffic. We had time to eat at IHOP once we arrived around 6AM (The cupcake pancakes are so good!). Alcohol can not be purchased before 7AM (local laws) in case you forgot to bring a bottle for the cruise. Traffic becomes wild after 7:30AM. We had FTTF*** and would not purchase it for Miami again. Just arrive at the port around your scheduled time. We also took our time for disembarkation and ate breakfast. Watch the video the night before and simply follow instructions.
Port & Shore excursions:
We did not participate in any excursions. I can only comment on the shopping and sightseeing aspect. I would like to see Key West for a longer time frame and at night. I get the feeling it would be festive. In Cozumel, If you truly have no intention of buying anything, then it is okay to turn down offers to visit a store. Otherwise, you may end up spending money you didn’t want to or feeling pressured/guilty. One vendor waited for us outside a restaurant with an item we inquired about early. It was slightly annoying and creepy but I appreciated the effort and bought it. Also, this is a good port to buy alcohol to take home. BTW wear sneakers to both ports.
I’ve never eaten so much food in a week and I don’t see how considering there weren’t that many options. The question wasn’t whether or not if we were hungry but if we could eat and we did! We were either eating, getting ready to eat, or just finishing eating. My favorite menu items were the scallops and risotto, crabcakes, custom made omelets, MDR ice cream, meatloaf, baked Alaska, huevos rancheros, and lido deck chicken tenders. MDR breakfast service is slow and not worth the wait unless it’s Seaday brunch. Go to the Lido deck.
We often passed out on the Serenity deck due to the comfortable nature of the lounge chairs. The comedy shows were our primary method of entertainment. I knew one of the comedians from a previous cruise and he was funnier then. One of the best things to consider is booking your next cruise onboard. You will get OBC. I came with a list of options I wanted to try and caught an unexpected sale. That trip became my first solo cruise.
The staff and service members were pleasant and sociable. Kudos to Miguel who is a drink server in the MDR and nightclub. Also to Taku who helped me book my next cruise.****
Be mindful that having a positive disposition and a grateful mindset can make a world of difference during your travels. Happy sailing 🙂
*You must bring your bottle of wine with you onto the ship and not in your checked luggage. If you fly then just make the switch before giving your bags to the porter.
**I recommend bringing a small pack or bottle of cleaning wipes. I typically clean my room if I plan on unpacking everything for longer cruises. It seems like a good practice considering the COVID pandemic we are currently experiencing.
***FTTF aka Faster To The Fun is a program that allows you priority access to certain services. Carnival has significantly improved their embarkation process so if that is your primary concern then pass on it. However, if you are going to ports that use a charter to get on the island (Grand Cayman) then I’d recommend for larger ships. It’s a big bonus when it comes to waiting in line at the customer service desk.
****Carnival team members depend on your surveys for promotions and pay increases. If you had a great experience then please share with the company so that the individual can be rewarded.