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Carnival Elation 4-night Baja, Mexico cruise round-trip San Diego

Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line
Ship: Elation
Sailing Date:
June 7, 2007
Itinerary: Round-Trip
San Diego with Cabo San Lucas

 

Review of Elation 4-night cruise - Round-Trip San Diego, CA to Baja Mexico

 

I sailed on this ‘inaugural’ of Elation’s new Baja itinerary to give it a test run.  Us California cruisers are tired of going to the same old places on the same old itineraries, and this is a breath of fresh air to me. 

 

Itinerary:

 

My reviews generally go in chronological order, starting with pre-cruise and pier comments and then discussing various parts of the cruise, the ship, and the ports.  This is special because it’s a new itinerary though, so I’m starting there.  I’m also a cruiser that loves days at sea, so short cruises from LA usually have very little sea time and this one really appealed to my love of the sea.

 

I don’t think this itinerary is a really great one for the “port” loving people, even though the port is great. 

 

Thursday           depart San Diego 4pm

Friday               at sea

Saturday           Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, 8a – 4p (ship tenders)

Sunday             at sea

Monday             arrive San Diego 7am

 

The “Fun Days at Sea” were very well done.  There were a lot of fun activities to do.  I played a couple of trivia games, read my book, played poker, attended meetings… just tons to choose from.  Of course, there were the typical art auctions, hairy chest contest, and bingo, but I didn’t partake in those.  I do give them very high marks for variety of choices though.

 

Cabo San Lucas is my favorite Mexican Riviera port.  It’s a common one on 7-night Mexico cruises, so it was my fourth time there, but I still enjoyed looking at it.  If you’re interested in water sports like snorkeling, diving, deep sea fishing, jet ski / wave runner riding or parasailing … it’s the perfect port.  The water in the bay where the ships anchor is 75+ degrees.  Just perfect for those that like sun/fun/beach.   I personally didn’t partake in any of those things this time (I did horseback riding on the beach off my Mercury cruise 10/03 if you want to read that review).  I just got off the ship to buy a couple of t-shirts at Del Sol, walk a bit, and get back onboard.  It’s just not as much fun to do activities when I’m traveling without my hubby.

 

Port of San Diego - convenient:

 

San Diego is an easy port to fly into and get right to the ship.  The airport and the pier are both on the waterfront, just a short distance away from one another.   I didn’t take a taxi, but I’d guess that it would be cheaper than the ship transfers if there were two or more in your party.  Just like Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Very convenient.

Another good option for getting to San Diego is taking Amtrak from the LA area.  It’s a nice ride down the coast, and my Carnival sales rep traveling with me did that route as there is some kind of partnership between Amtrak and Carnival where you can get discounted train tickets.  It’s worth looking into if you’re coming from LA.  The train station is also convenient to the port.

 

And, of course, there are lots of fun amusement parks and such in San Diego.  It’s a vacation destination in itself.  So, if you were interested in taking a short cruise with a few days pre or post cruise, this would be a great port for that.

 

Embarkation:

 

Embarkation was fast, but not TOTALLY perfect.  Here are a few tips:

 

When you arrive, you’re not going to walk up to the center of the port driveway where the cars can drive, you’re going to head for the little white booth near the sidewalk on the opposite side of the pier from the ship.  (Near the big building, not near the ship.)   There, they’ll check your ID to your FunPass / documents and let you through.   These ‘check in’ security personnel SHOULD tell you where to drop your bags next, but they don’t.

 

Once you get past the chain link, head to the LEFT, towards the ship, and drop your bags with the porters.  Just keep your carry-on with your tickets, medications and valuables with you.

 

Then cross the driveway again, and go into the main cruise terminal that says something like “enter here”.   Before getting to the pier, you should have the “Sail & Sign Account” form from your documents completed / separated as that’s the only piece of paper in your documents you’ll need to turn in.  After your bags get x-rayed, you’ll go into the line to check in where you turn in your Sail & Sign form with the credit card, show your passport / other immigration documents, and get your room key.  Your one card will be your room key and your charge card for everything on the ship except gambling in the casino.

 

Once you're onboard, be prepared to "muster" in a public room and then have to walk, with lifejacket on, to your muster boat boarding area.  One of the longest muster drills ever.  I LOVED my cabin also because we mustered on the pool deck and we just stayed where we were when everyone else had to hike around the ship!

 

Dining & Dress Code:

 

This 4-night sailing has one formal night, the first sea day.  I’d say most of the cruisers dressed up in dark suits or other dressy clothes, with a few that stayed casual all night and ate dinner in the buffet.   One of the things I found quirky was that they had photo taking EVERY SINGLE   NIGHT.  So, whether you were in your casual clothes or your formalwear, there were photographers set up everywhere to take your photo.

 

We thought the food was good.  The service was good (some waiters excellent and others just OK).  I was traveling with a large group of travel agents (it was an educational type trip with seminars all morning, etc.) and the group as a whole had 8pm dining.  I’m not too partial to eating so late, and neither was the lady traveling with me, so we just joined the group for formal night in the dining room and did the buffet one other night.  The other TWO nights, we had group cocktail parties (the first and last) where the hor'devors were SO filling and yummy that we skipped dinner entirely!

 

I had room service breakfast two days, and did the buffet two days.   The room service gets delivered when you ask or slightly late, which is nice.  One of the problems I’ve had on other lines is they deliver earlier than I requested and I’m not even dressed or still in the shower or something.  That’s just so silly!  I wasn’t sure how it would be with Carnival, but I was pretty pleased.   There is a large selection in the regular buffet for breakfast, and there is a custom omelet / egg station out by the pool at the hamburger grill area but I didn’t try that. 

 

For lunch, the buffet, the dining room, or the grill by the pool are open.  Inside the buffet there is great pizza on the far end, and at the same counter as the pizza is a really good deli sandwich place.  There is no big neon sign that says ‘deli’, it’s just a small little menu to the left of the straight on pizza section.  The food from that was yummy.  I had a hot ham & cheese sandwich one day and a hot pastrami another.  And the burgers from the grill were good as well.   One of the things that was the most popular was the soft-serve ice cream being always available in the buffet.  There is one dispenser that puts out frozen yogurt and one side that puts out ice cream.  They look similar, so know what you’re wanting before you go up.  They both had vanilla, chocolate, and mixed.

 

As is normal, they offer some free beverages, like coffee, tea, water, and punch out of dispensers in the buffet.  If you want a soda, you have to pay for it from a waiter or at the bar.  You can possibly save money with an unlimited soda card, but I didn’t inquire about it since my soda-fiend hubby was absent.

 

One of the places where I spent more time than would normally be called for was the coffee bar.  They seemed to have the air conditioning cranked up the whole time, so rather than wanting frothy fruity drinks, I wanted mocha frothy HOT things.  I got tons of those, but also at this bar they have ‘pay for it’ premium desserts.  Of course, if you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’d know that I LOVE chocolate covered strawberries.  Well, this is where to get them.  $1 each or $2 for 3.  I tried them out one night and they were very good.  They also had huge cakes you could get by the slice, larger special occasion cakes (anniversary, etc.), and other premium treats.  Everything was reasonably-priced.

 

They also have a "Gala Buffet" around midnight one night.  The food art was fabulous and I do suggest you go with your camera for the photo-taking part of the event.  (I did.)   I didn't choose to eat the art that night though.

 

Cabin:

 

We had a Category 6C Oceanview stateroom, U141.  As with all Carnival staterooms, it was large and comfortable.  If you’re not a Carnival expert, Carnival has 185 square foot staterooms for all categories on all ships except the suites.  This is a very big size, but for us enhanced by the fact that we had our beds in ‘twin configuration’.  They set the beds in an “L” shape against the wall when you want twins, so that made the center of our room very big and comfortable.  And the window was a large picture window.  There was plenty of closet space – an open closet by the door, then a closed closet that was for hanging clothes on the left and had shelf space on the right.  On the eye-level shelf was a built-in safe that was activated by a credit card.  I thought this was a bit weird on a cruise, because you always had to be carrying around not only your cruise card but a credit card that you locked your safe with.  It also was a bit inconvenient because I was traveling with another lady travel agent.  If it had been a safe with a 4-digit code, we could have agreed on a code.  Being it had to be just ONE person’s credit card, we can to constantly coordinate with one another getting in and out of the safe.  And the only other odd thing about the cabin was the AC control was on the CEILING.  It’s a round dial like you’d see in your car sort of, and it was either on low or high but never seemed to be ‘off’ totally. 

 

The beds were Carnival Comfort Beds, lovely with a duvet.  I didn’t have to ask for a special pillow or an egg crate mattress or anything.  I was happy just as it came!  (Now, there’s a newsflash.)   As far as the other amenities in the bedroom section of the cabin, there was a large desk with drawers and the usual one electrical outlet on the wall next to that.  Something I thought was odd was there was no built-in hairdryer.  I just used my own, because I always travel with one, but I did learn later that you can just request one from your room steward and a stand-alone one you can plug into the wall will be delivered for your use.   I was also impressed with the two types of bathrobes they now offer.  Every cabin now gets bathrobes to use, and there is a ‘waffle’ type for regular customers and a thick cotton one for suite / high level past passengers.     

 

The bathroom, like the entire stateroom, was large.  The shower was extra big and on the left of the bathroom.  It had dispensers with conditioning shampoo and body cleanser (no cute little bottles, and no separate conditioner).   The showerhead was adjustable height-wise though, and it had decent pressure.  I didn’t notice a laundry string or anything.  The sink area was big and above it was a very large, normal mirrored medicine cabinet.  Plenty of room in there for all our stuff.  And then the toilet was on the right hand side of the bathroom.  Just really spacious and well laid-out.  Oh!  And my roommate was impressed that even though we didn’t get hand lotion (she was bummed), they did offer his and hers packaged really nice flexible head razors with a coupon from Bik, and packets of vitamins.  (Like Airborne you put in water to pep you up if you’re feeling worn out.)  The only thing that was a bummer was that if someone was in the closet area of the room, you had to be careful getting in and out of the bathroom. 

 

As far as our cabin location, we really liked it.  It was nice and amidships.  The ride down from San Diego to Cabo was a bit bumpy the first night, and I was glad to have a centrally-located cabin.  It was also easy for us to use the aft stairway to get to many of the places we visited most often on the Promenade Deck.  Going up the central stairs put us in a really weird dead area at the back of one of the dining rooms.  Not really convenient at all.

 

Entertainment:

 

The quality of the entertainment was OK.  I skipped the “Welcome” show entirely, as I’d gotten up very early on embarkation day to do some work before heading to the airport.  I did catch part of the main show two other nights, and it didn’t make me gush afterwards, but it was OK.  They had a comedian one night, and a production show another.

 

Daytime activities varied, trivia contests, scavenger hunts, the usual art auctions and bingo, dance lessons, ice and veggie carving demonstrations, etc.  There was a lot to choose from for most folks.  I chose a few trivia games and beyond that just spent my spare time reading or playing poker when we were at sea.   I was happy that they actually seemed to have enough dealers to offer Texas Hold’em Poker from about 2pm onwards on the sea days rather than just late at night.  And if you’re looking for the poker, don’t look in the casino.  They’ve put the two poker tables WAY down the ship in the aft bar Gatsby’s Great Bar, right outside the aft Cole Porter Lounge.  You can find out which ships have poker tables added by visiting www.oceanplayersclub.com for updates.  Many Carnival ships are adding electronic poker tables, so the games should run faster and be more efficient.   This ship still had live dealers when I sailed though.

I attended seminars all morning both sea days, so that cut down on some other stuff I MIGHT have done also.   No spa treatments for me this time.

 

 

The Elation:

 

The Elation was 9 years old when I sailed it in 2007, one of the Fantasy-class ships.  She is in good shape but will soon be in better shape.  All Fantasy-class ships are getting enhancements called “Evolutions of Fun”.   Based upon photos of the Ecstasy, which was already done, I’d say Elation is part way through the transformation.   The staterooms, the internet cafe and spa are still to be re-done, but the ship already has the mini-golf, photo gallery on Deck 9, and the coffee bar.  Here is a link to the Ecstasy’s ‘new and improved’ photo gallery.

 

http://www.carnival.com/cms/Static_Templates/Promos/ecstasy/default.aspx 

 

As stats show, she holds 2,052 passengers, double occupancy.  More with third and fourth berths full.  And she’s a mega-ship at 70,367 tons, but I’d call that medium by today’s super liner standards.

 

The layout of the Elation is not my favorite, but it’s not the end of the world either.  I love walk-around promenade decks.  I like to stroll around and around after I’ve eaten dinner at night.  I like to enjoy the promenade and see just miles and miles of sea.  I found that if I don’t spend enough time gazing out to sea, I won’t have felt like I’ve taken a cruise afterwards.  (And therefore still feel the need for a ‘cruise fix’.)  Without the sea, you’re just in a fabulous resort that could be anywhere, right?  Anyway, The Elation has just a few outdoor decks that are…disjointed.   I guess that’s the right word.  Off the Lido (Deck 10) there is a straight side section of outdoor deck on both sides, but it runs into a bulkhead.  So, you can’t go too far.  There are some more outer decks at the aft of decks 11 and 12 that were great for standing at sail-away, but they weren’t good for walking.  They DO have a jogging track at the top on the Sun Deck (where the mini-golf is), and you can get an unobstructed view of the front from there.. but it’s closed off due to high winds at night and when we’re moving and stuff.   I found it when we were at the port of Cabo and the view was great.

 

The main pool in the center of the ship was a very busy place.  For a little more quiet / sanity, don’t miss the aft book on the Verandah deck.  Two hot tubs flank this lesser-used pool in the back.  And there is a kiddie wading pool at the aft of the Promenade deck as well.  You can get there down stairs from the Lido deck or through doors going out the back side of the Cole Porter Lounge.

 

Most of the stuff you’d be most interested in at night was on Deck 9, the Promenade Deck.   The main showroom was at the front, the atrium is right off that, so I consider the atrium to be towards the front not in the center of the ship.  Beyond the atrium are the casino, the Drama Bar (just a bar in the hallway basically), two nightclubs, the coffee bar, the aft lounge and the Cole Porter aft big show lounge.  You can’t stroll both sides, you can only stroll on the starboard side, but it’s a wide, easy-to-navigate straight shot up and down the ship.  This promenade walkway has lots of window seats and tables so you can just sit and relax and enjoy the view without being stepped on by those passing by.

 

In another strange quirk of the deck plan, the shopping area is interesting.  Basically, you need to go to the main show lounge (Mikado Lounge) at the front and step out of it’s doors on Deck 8 (the lower level of the Mikado) and you’ll see the entry to the shopping when it’s open.  (This is between the atrium and the Mikado Lounge basically.)  The shopping is a maze that you can enter from doors on two sides of the hallway there.  Basically, you walk into one side and it’s the Carnival logo stuff and you hook into little room after little room all from one entry point with men’s clothes, women’s clothes, trinkets, photo albums, you name it with “Carnival” on it.  The other side looks like just a jewelry store, but keep going as there is a clothing store, a cosmetics store, a handbag store and an alcohol/sundries store all off that main one.  Again, kind of a little maze.  You can NOT access it from the other side.

 

Lastly, to get to the two main dining rooms, you’re going to want to transverse the ship on Deck 9, Promenade, or Deck 7, Empress – a deck of cabins.  The way the dining rooms are situated with one aft, the galley in the middle, and then one off the atrium you can’t walk fore and aft on the Atlantic (Deck 8) where the dining rooms actually ARE.  So, just realize this, check out your deck plan in your brochure at home (I suggest ripping it out of your brochure rather than using the one they give you on the ship which shows the ship in profile instead of detail), and use the aft and central stairways/elevators to get to your assigned dining.

 

Disembarkation:

 

If you want to walk off with your own luggage, and be one of the VERY first off the ship, they offer Self Disembarkation.  With this, you don’t put your bags outside your room the prior night.  You just keep everything and walk off the ship when they call you.  Be ready though, as the Express folks are the FIRST that are offered to leave the ship, at 7am.  Of course, you can get off the ship any time after you’re called, so many of those folks probably disembarked later.  They were waking us all up with announcements in the hall for these folks at 7am though.  Ick!

 

I have experienced Express/Self Disembarkation on other lines, and knew it would be a madhouse with folks carrying their own stuff off.  I don’t know why they think lugging big suitcases off the ship, down stairs, through hallways, etc. is better than putting the big stuff out the prior night and picking it up on the pier in the morning?  I just did it the old-fashioned way and put the bags out the prior night.  Something that Carnival does that is smart and different from other lines is the EMBARKation tags are the exact same ones as the DISEMBARKation tags.  You just don’t take them off your bags, and put them out again.  Huh, who thought of that smart idea???  Of course, not being used to that, I was a bit confused, but I recovered quickly upon going to the shore excursions desk and looking over the tags they had sitting out there for folks to grab themselves.  (Another fine idea!  No line!)

 

The daily Carnival Capers newspaper said we should be out of our room at 8:30am and wait in a public area.  However, even though I was ready to go by then, I asked the steward if we could hang out in our room until called and he said no problem.  I really liked that.  I think the other positive thing of being a ‘go by my color’ person instead of a self-disembarking person is that the stewards have enough folks running to get off the ship in the morning that they’ve got plenty of rooms to clean and they are not stressed to get you out of your cabin.  I really liked that. 

 

Another tip…they say to go to the forward stairs to disembark…but they were actually having us walk off at the center of the ship.  This means folks were backing up at the forward elevator and stairs, and creating a big line on the disembarkation deck (4 I think?) all the way down to the gangway.  My roommate needed the elevator and it was constantly clogged with folks and their large self-disembarking bags…so I took her down to the center elevators which weren’t busy AT ALL, and without realizing our good fortune, stepped out of the elevator right into the line three steps from the gangway.  We, of course, hadn’t planned to ‘cut in line’ but since she needed the elevator, it just turned out perfect for us!  Have your keycard ready, as you’re bling out quickly if you go the same route!

 

In Summary:

 

If I hadn’t been going on a work-related seminar trip, I probably wouldn’t have tried out this ship.  However, I’m really glad I went.  I thought the service overall was very good.  I thought my waiter and my cabin steward did a fine job.   Cabo is a beautiful Mexican port, my favorite by far, and I love sea days…not something you get a lot of on a short cruise.  Because of those combinations, I would rank this cruise as my top pick for a long weekend/short cruise from Southern California.  It’s a nice breath of fresh air from the same old stuff from Los Angeles.  And leaving from San Diego was very convenient.

 

I still wouldn’t rank Carnival as high as other cruise LINES, but it is what it’s advertised to be.  It’s a contemporary cruise, and very fun.  I thought it was clean and a very enjoyable vacation.

 

The photo slideshow below is a new feature that is under construction.... please be patient if it doesn't look right quite yet!

 

Check out these photos.. my own and then some provided by Carnival (they were doing PR photos of the Elation in San Diego and I asked for copies)
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