Attention Carnival fans! Have you been waiting for something different in a Fantasy-class ship? Left Coasters, have you been waiting for a brand new mega-ship based in Los Angeles? Well, here she is!
Carnival's new Elation just completed her inaugural Panama Canal cruise which left Miami on March 20th and arrived in Los Angeles 16 days later. On March 18th, I was fortunate enough to be on board for a 2-day pre-inaugural "Cruise to Nowhere" to try her out. Elation is the 7th Fantasy-class Carnival ship and, having sailed on four others, I was expecting "more of the same." I knew immediately upon boarding that something was different. As I toured and inspected the ship over the next two days, I found many changes which appeared to be "parented" by the Carnival Destiny:
ATRIUM: While just as magnificent as on all the previous vessels, on Elation, a lobby bar called the Plaza Bar sits at the base of the atrium in place of the high-rising modern art sculptures on previous Fantasy-class ships. The Plaza Bar incorporates a raised stage with a grand piano where a classical trio often performed. Surrounded by quiet and comfortable sitting areas on both sides of the ship and close to the Information and Shore Excursion desks and the photo gallery, this area lends itself very well to a relaxing meeting place.
MUSICAL CAFE: Located on the enclosed promenade (Elation's Way on this ship) near the Disco, this "coffee and pastry bar" was well-used by all -- not so on the previous Fantasy-class ships. For instance, on Sensation, this area known as "Joe's Cafe" was a bit of a joke on my last cruise on her last September. The only "things" we ever saw sitting here were the paintings for the silent art auction! Elation's Musical Cafe is very similar to Carnival Destiny's Cafe on the Way, with a pastry and coffee bar open most of the time, private banquette and table seating surrounding another grand piano and facing out to sea. On occasion, a pianist played both classical and popular music here while folks enjoyed superb pastries, cakes, pies & cheesecake and a selection of coffee and tea drinks.
DRAMA BAR: The focalpoint of Elation's Way, this "main bar" and the surrounding area has always been a popular people-watching and meeting spot on Carnvial's Fantasy Class ships. In the evenings, a combo of some sort would always set up on the floor itself and folks would listen and dance wherever they could find a spot. I've always thought that it must be hard to perform with people constantly walking in front of and around the performers.
Elation's Drama Bar fixes this problem! The bar area itself is much larger and there is an elevated stage BEHIND the bar for the performers. Yes, another grand piano is up there, too. On our short cruise, a very good entertainer by the name of Barry Miller accompanied himself with a guitar and electric piano. His position behind the bar made his interaction with the audience much better than had he been performing in the area used by the previous Fantasy-class ships.
CONFERENCE ROOM: With seating for approximately 200 and all the audio/visual equipment needed for business meetings, the Conference Room is located aft of the Inspiration Dining Room on Atlantic Deck, a spot occupied by the kids' rooms on the previous Fantasy-class ships. Having conducted a conference on the Sensation without such facilities, I can only praise Carnival for this change. With the addition of this facility, Carnival has created a new Incentive Sales program - the combination of the two should interest Corporate meeting planners.
HINT: Aft of the Conference Center, there is some PRIVATE deck space. Most folks don't know it's there, so if you want some quiet time, head for this area. The easiest way to access it is from Promenade Deck above -- take the stairway down from the children's pool area. The best use of this area would be at night, before going to bed, holding hands with your significant other while gazing out at the moon and the stars shimmering on the wake of the ship.
KID & TEEN STUFF: Elation's Children's World has been moved up to mid ship on the Sports Deck just behind the top deck of the Atrium. While a much larger and better organized area than on the previous Fantasy-class ships, it is pretty far away from the Children's Pool located aft on Promenade Deck.
"Teens" of all ages should enjoy Virtual World which is located forward of the casino on Promenade Deck. I'm not into virtual reality myself, but this area appeared to be pretty well stocked with action games of all types. There were no kids or teens on our short cruise, but Virtual World was still loaded with mostly middle-aged men at all hours of the day and night!
DESIGN BY JOE FARCUS
Joe Farcus has designed most, if not all, of the interiors on board Carnival cruise ships. He has also designed several public rooms of Holland America Line cruise ships, including the Dining Room and Show Room of the Veendam.
Joe's *theme* for the Elation takes its cue from the Greek Muses. What I call a "Grecian Urn Motif in Terracotta" is prevalent throughout the Atrium, elevator lobbies, staircases and Elation's Way enclosed promenade. The "urns" are surrounded by tiny neon lights which change color constantly, replacing the mostly "in your face" neon bars of the early Fantasy-class ships. Complementing these are wood veneer and plaster walls highlighted with bronze and faux-bronze.
At first, I thought the look was terrific -- much calmer than on the Ecstasy and Sensation, for instance. After two days, the "terracotta" coloring and the "Grecian Urns" got to me a bit.
For those of you who like less color and "busy"ness in your decor, the Cole Porter Club, Gatsby's Bar and the Romeo and Juliet Lounge are all a bit more muted and calm, as is the main showroom, Mikado Lounge. Also, the use of live plants and toned-down neon signage throughout the ship adds a lot of class to this ship.
FOOD & SERVICE
I won't say much about the food, as we were served from a set menu of appetizer, soup, salad, pasta and dessert, with a choice of three entrees each night. Your menu will be much more extensive, but what we were served was excellent. Presentation has improved a great deal since my last Carnival cruise in September.
At least for the near future, cruisers on Elation will have the same crew and staff which served us. I was not the only one to comment on the fact that the service staff was the friendliest I've ever encountered on a Carnival ship! Carnival College which was formed about 5 years ago to train new Carnival staff has done a great job. No matter where I went on this ship, passing staff and crew always smiled and greeted me. Every aspect of the service was top notch for the short time I was aboard.
Elation will begin sailing 7-night cruises to the Mexican Riviera, round trip from Los Angeles, on Easter Sunday, April 12, 1998. For folks living on or near the west coast, she is right in your back yard which will cut down on travel costs and time. For the rest of North America, there are some very good reduced airfare specials for you to take advantage of right now to see this new Carnival beauty for yourself!
For more detailed information on the Elation and lots more photos, CLICK HERE
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please