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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CRUISE REVIEW - about the ship



This was my 3rd group cruise with Carnival on the Ecstasy. The past two cruises were excellent. We had perfect service, friendly staff, and wonderful food. I am sorry to say that this year’s cruise was VERY different.

I am the group coordinator and had some communication problems with my travel agent from the beginning. I will NOT use that company again. I also NEVER met the Group Manager on-board until the last day at sea when I went and FOUND her and introduced myself. She acted offended when I asked her if she was the Group Manager. Previously, they always came by my cabin and introduced themselves. It was just very different.

In Carnival’s defense I will say that they have JUST returned to the Galveston port after Hurricane Ike and they are also getting ready to launch the Carnival Conquest to sail out of Galveston. These two issues probably played a factor in these problems.

So, the first issue was that the ship was late getting to port. All of the travelers had to sit around the terminal until after 3:00pm before we were allowed on the ship. Most of us had arrived a little before noon anticipating the GREAT food on the Lido deck. There were NO food services or even water. Since the hurricane had closed many of the facilities around the port of Galveston, the only place for the 1,000 plus passengers to go was the small Starbucks across the street. I was glad I had brought a jar of nuts to snack on.

I remember the first time I went on a cruise and stepped into the Atrium lobby. It was a magnificent sight and I was in awe of the size of the ship. For some strange unknown reason, THIS time we boarded on a different level and were not greeted with the usual “party” atmosphere. I thought perhaps it was because there was some sort of trouble causing the delays, etc. USUALLY there were waiters with pretty trays of drinks and music playing and lots of smiles. Did not see that and I was a little dissapointed.

By the time we got to our room, grabbed the life preservers, and finished muster, we only had 30 minutes to get ready for dinner. So the first evening meal found many tired & gritty passengers. Comparing the service THIS time to my previous experiences, it was more “distant” and impersonal. On my previous Carnival Cruises, we got to know our waiter and his assistant and anxiously tipped them well. THIS time we had to wait for our orders to be taken, call for the wine steward (several times) and wait for the order, and it seemed like a longer than usual time for our food to arrive. AGAIN, I thought perhaps it was related to the initial ship delay and would get better the next night. Our waiter was nice enough, but he just wasn’t “there” all the time like before. The food was good, but often cold.

Previously the Cruise Directors were a little more vocal and visible, but not so much this year. It’s kind of interesting that the first cruise director was “perfect”, second cruise director was TOO much, and this third cruise director was invisible. Just an interesting observation. Most of the time I did not know what was going on and had to be SURE I did not leave my cabin without the schedule of events.

Concerning our room steward, again the room was always clean, but we never saw them. On previous experiences the steward introduced himself and was always available to answer questions and help out. We NEVER saw our steward – only evidence that he had been there. To some people that might be ideal, but I missed the personal touch.

I did have a GREAT time at the Spa. This was the first time that I had my hair done onboard and it was wonderful. Previously I was nervous about letting someone fix my hair because I did not know their experience level. I was hesitant to waste money on something I might not like. That was a totally wrong perception because I watched them do hair on other guests, including my own and everyone was very happy with the results. I LOVED my hair and especially the treatment I received. THEY made me feel special and it felt like the “other” cruises! This is something I would do again! GREAT experience.

Our first port was Progresso. I was surprised that we had to be back on the ship by 2:30pm. That seemed way too short of a time. I wondered about some of those LONG excursions (like Chichen Itza) and hoped they would make it back in time. We did hear a rumor that 10 people did NOT make it back and had to ride on the other cruise ship that was in port to meet up with us in Cozumel.

My opinion was that January was too early to cruise because the water was too cold to enjoy. I loved the shopping and just walking around town, but I would have preferred to go a month or so later when it would have been a little warmer. We went to the same restaurant we went to last year because they had a wonderful dish of grilled calamari and garlic. They waiter told us they had it and we all sat down and ordered. THEN the waiter came out and said that they were out of the calamari so we had to change our orders. The food was okay… but again, the atmosphere was different. This was also probably due to it being too early in the season.

One day we all decided to go to the dining room for lunch instead of the grill. I ordered the fried fish. I was disappointed that it was 3 “fish sticks” – the kind you get from the grocery store. I will not do that again. Other people got the ribs and said that they were good. Generally though, it was another bad experience with slow service, grouchy lunch companions, rude waiter, & cold food. This is VERY unusual for this cruise ship.

Well, this was not the BEST cruise I have ever been on, BUT it will not stop me from going again. Next year we are all going to try a different port and a different ship. I just choose to think that everyone has a bad day occasionally – and this was the Ecstasy’s bad week.

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