This is a review of Carnival Cruise line’s Elation cruise ship. The cruise left San Diego and stopped in Cabo San Lucas and Ensenada Mexico. The entire cruise was 5 days. It was me and a couple of women on this trip during July of 2008. The Carnival Elation is a recently refurbished cruise ship.
This is very subjective since it really depends on who you sit with at dinner and how open you are to meeting people around the ship. The three of us met some people at dinner and at different actvities (like at karaoke) and we all hung out for the entire cruise. That helped make it a memorable experience. In fact, it was a lot of fun being with another group of party people. Some people go on cruises to get away from boring daily routines and live a different life for a while. I can respect that. Still, others want to be on their own and that’s their prerogative. The beauty of a ship this large, as opposed to a small cruise ship, is that you can do your own thing and be on your own.
If you’re a single guy, don’t be shy and mingle because you’re bound to find single women on board. There were also a lot of families but I must say that overall, there was a fair mix of “everyone” and no one got in your way or anything like that which I think is good to know.
The food on the Elation was generally average. Most meals at dinner were good although as the cruise went on, it got a little worse. I had steak the first night and it was great. By halfway through the cruise, it tasted like re-heated left-overs. The portions were a bit small but if you weren’t shy, you could ask for more. The deli sandwhich counter always had a very long line which was highly irritating, although once you got your sandwhich – it rocked! The other lines for food moved at a decent pace given how many people were in line. Even in the morning when you’d see a big line and think that it would take forever before you got to eat, we were pleasantly surprised with how fast we were able to get our meals (buffet style). Juice was included but if you wanted alcohol or soft drinks, you had to buy them separately.
Cabo San Lucas Excursion
In Cabo San Lucas, by having booked an excursion we got priority on a tender (you get on a smaller boat to go to shore because the ship is too large to dock at the port). We took the bus trip to the beach, lunch, and short trip to the mall excursion. It was helpful to have a local tour guide but I think a lot of people might feel ripped off because you can easily get to the places that we went to.
While in Cabo, we also took the boat tour out to see the cool rock formations. This was a relatively quick trip and was worth it.
Just one word of caution about Cabo San Lucas jet ski rentals and water craft activities: It’s the wild west. These water activities are extremely dangerous and it is highly recommended that you don’t do them. From our short trip to the beach there was story after story about how every single day people get into accidents and a tourist had just been killed when his jet ski smashed into another one. There is no emergency help beyond one shmo on a jet ski who doesn’t speak English. If he can’t help you, he takes off. I wish I was kidding. One jet ski operator showed me his contract which, with typos all over it, stated that they did not have any insurance and you were completely liable. It was ridiculous. While we were there, a father and his daughter went on a banana boat ride, fell off, and the guy driving the boat broke the key off , couldn’t control it and ended up circling for a long time to protect them from the zillions of water taxis, tour boats, jet skis, and other craziness that crowds the small bay. It’s really dangerous so watch out. I know you always think that accidents will happen to someone else but if you stand on the beach and look out at how busy the water is, you’ll understand. Note that the cruise people also say to stay away from jet skis in Cabo for the same reasons listed.
Ensenada Studio Excursion
Take the movie studio tour. It’s fun and the food was great! It involves taking a bus tour of the coast line while the tour guide gives you the scoop about that part of Mexico. Then you visit the movie studio where Titanic, Deep Blue Sea, and some other Hollywood movies were filmed. They also have X-men and Star Wars memorabilia which was cool, like the X-men blackbird jet cabin which you can sit in. You then go on to eat lunch at a restaurant in a nice hotel. Afterwards, you can walk through the streets and visit local shops and markets.
As with most large cruises, this was a very organized ship which helped things move smoothly along. Given that there were thousands of people on board this cruise ship, it’s amazing how easy it is to get around the ship and get on and off of it at the different ports.
The staff were friendly, even if we didn’t always speak the same language. Since this cruise was part of a much longer trip for us, we decided to do laundry. We asked staff for some help and they did their best to do so but the language barrier did get in the way a bit. Other than that, all of the ship’s staff members spoke English and were clearly a mix of people from around the world. In fact, our waiter told us that he sends a large part of his money home to help his family in Asia.
The basic price for this cruise was totally worth it. At about $700 for 5 days, I think it was money well spent. Of course, the costs add up as soon as you order drinks, take an excursion, buy over-priced jewelry and photos, and so on.
This ship has a great pool with great tanning opportunities. Poolside, there’s a cool summer reggae band playing to help you feel like you’re on vacation. The staff also organized activities around the ship and some were on deck near the pool (like the “dancing” competition for men – hilarious!!!). There’s also an outdoor basketball court and several on-deck hot tubs. There’s also a running track around the ship (and a fitness center inside). You can also eat on deck since there is access from one of the restaurants. Very cool!
Whales & Dolphins
While at sea, you come across whales and dolphins so be on the look-out for them! The first time we passed them, everyone was so excited, running to windows and out to the deck. It was really funny. I think it depends what time of year it is to see them.
We went to the club each night. There were enough people to have fun with at the nightclub but the DJ was horrendous (and I mean unbelievably awful!). If the DJ was better, I’d give this a better rating. Also, the karaoke needs to be longer! The karaoke DJ was also beyond awful. He’d let the same people sing over and over then announce that karaoke was closed for the night, leaving a lot of people angry.
The shows were so-so to lame. Really nothing special on this cruise. I mean, the dancers were talented and all, but the shows themselves weren’t spectacular.
The rooms were small but well designed, with adequate space for our belongings. One area under the TV in the corner of the room made it difficult to get out of the bed on one side. A little better design would have made this a highlight. Still, the rooms were fine.
Terrible Internet Access
The Internet was extremely slow and very expensive. I had no choice because I had to do some business work. If you can stay away from your email for a few days, then stay away. Go enjoy your cruise and leave Facebook behind!
Constant Photography Push
I coudn’t stand the constant push to get us to pose and take photos. It’s great for some people, especially families who want themed photos (like cowboy gear) and such, but for me as a photographer, it was really annoying, especially since I can take photos of me and my friends anytime and don’t need a formal pose.
Continual Sales Push
I didn’t like that there was so much pressure to buy junk and more junk at elevated prices. I know that the junk buying push and the photography push are very common among cruises and I understand that it’s a big part of their revenue, but it’s annoying. I would have prefered it if they raised the cruise price and had less of this sales nonsense. You’re even guilted into paying tips for staff all over the ship (typically on the last day). Tipping the room cleaning staff and waiter is one thing but the Maitre D? Um, I don’t think so. Again, they should just raise the cost of the ship and not surprise you with a bill at the end of the cruise. I know it’s a marketing ploy to show you the low price of the cruise but it’s very annoying.
- Most of the people on the cruise were from California and Arizona (which makes sense since it was a short trip that departed from San Diego)
- Again, water sports in Cabo San Lucas are extremely dangerous. I highly recommend against banana boat rides, jet skis, and so on. There’s at least one boating/water-related tourist accident every single day (that’s a fact) .
In sum, this is a quick, fun trip that’s worth a little vacation time.