The Ecstasy Back-to-Back Bahamas/Caribbean Cruise May 9, 1997
Recently, I took a vacation on the Carnival Ecstasy from May 9-16, 1997. The Ecstasy does 3 and 4 day cruises each week, leaving from Miami. The 3 day (Friday-Monday) goes to Nassau, Bahamas for 24 hours, a day at sea, and then returns to Miami. The 4 day goes to Key West for 5 hours, a day in Cozumel, a day at sea, and then returns to Miami.
As a result of the cancellation of the "Shake-down" cruises on RCI's Rhapsody of the Seas, my friends and I ended up on back-2-back cruises on the Ecstasy (meaning we got to experience both itineraries). I will tell you a little bit about this experience.
In a nutshell, it was WONDERFUL! From the moment anyone on the ship found out we were their guests for a full 7 days, they went out of their way to make it the best vacation ever!
Since one of the "cruises" was booked one week before the cruise, Carnival was not able to let us keep the same room for both cruises. However, Carnival was able to match the price we were paying with RCI! For the 1st 3 day cruise, we were assigned a window room on the Main Deck, and for the 2nd 4 day cruise, an inside room on the Empress Deck. Unfortunately, this meant dragging our luggage up 2 decks, and to the other end of the ship between the cruises, something we were not looking forward to.
After the first day went by, we went to the pursers office, to inquire if we could keep our first room for both cruises. (We really liked our cabin steward, Matacqan and our window!). They said they would see what they could do. The next day, we received a very nice letter under our door, which apologized that they could not let us keep the same cabin, as it had already been assigned. However, they were able to move us 2 doors down to another cabin with a window, and the same cabin steward! GREAT JOB CARNIVAL!!!! (plus, the new cabin had an upper berth as well as 2 lower berths, which eliminated the need for the rollaway bed in the first room).
We were also extremely happy with our waiter (Carlos) and busboy (can't spell it, much less pronounce it!! But he was great). So, we asked the maitre d' to allow us to keep them for the 2nd cruise. He indicated that he had already done the assignments for the next cruise, but he would do his best.
He came to our table the next morning, and said there was no way he could fit us in Carlos's area... however, he was able to move us to a better table on the other side of the dining room, closer to a window. AND, the head waiter agreed to move CARLOS to our new area just for the 4 day cruise!
Other staff members also gave us that extra special touch when they found out about the back-2-back. After getting to know some of the pit-bosses in the casino, they bought us a couple of drinks! (and we were not high rollers... just 5-10 dollar Blackjack/Craps/Let it Ride players). One of the casino bar staff brought us our drinks before we even asked, knowing which ones we preferred.
My favorite "perk" was during the first debarkation (Monday), we received word from the pursers office that we would not have go through the debarkation process. Instead, they suggested that we eat breakfast, and then just hang out in our room or on deck until everyone left. Once we returned from breakfast, our steward had our new cabin ready for us (he did it first), gave us the keys, and helped us move our luggage! Then, once everyone left, we sauntered down to the pursers office and "checked in" for the second cruise. Completely easy!!!
Some of the things I was worried about when doing the back-2-back cruise:
On a quick aside, I read a lot of people complain about the food on Carnival. In speaking to several crew members from the dining room, they all admit that the food level has improved tremendously over the past 2 years. I go out to eat a lot (being a bachelor) and have to admit that the food was absolutely incredible. Every piece of meat was tender and cooked perfectly, all side orders were flavorful, portions perfect, the presentation beautiful, and the salads were each a work of culinary art. The only negatives were they only had 2 lunch menus, and the Mexican midnight buffet and the captains party finger food were mostly fried.. but my roomies loved these!!!
As far as the shows go, they have 2 large production shows, Obo Obo, and Pure Ecstasy. Both are absolutely incredible (and I have seen many Broadway shows and Vegas shows, and these were completely up to par, if not better). We saw the Obo Obo show twice! As far as the rest of the acts, they were completely different on both cruises! We saw 2 different magicians, 3 different comics, and 2 different singers. (one was the lead in the shows, but she did a special show on the last night). So, other than the repeated production shows, it was a completely different experience each night! (a quick word of advice... Skip the Jubilation show in Nassau... the performers looked bored, and the show paled in comparison to the shows on the ship).
As far as the activities, we were happy that they repeated the activities, as it gave us a chance to relax and not worry about "getting to the knobby knees contest" or "Gold Card bingo". We figured "we could do it next time".
Now, a little bit about the passengers. The people on the 2 different cruises were VERY different. I had a discussion with one of the pit-bosses about this, and he agreed. On the 3 day Nassau cruise, there were much more Florida locals who were there just to gamble. They knew the blackjack rules (for the most part) and it was sometimes tough to get a seat during busy times. However, they were also a little "less" friendly and not as willing to strike up a conversation or start a new friendship. Now, this was not everyone, but it seemed to be the pattern.
On the 4 day cruise, there were more "vacationers". The casino was a lot less crowded, a lot of the players didn't know the "rules", the activities and shows were more heavily attended, and the people were a lot more willing to meet someone new, etc.
I know this sounds negative, but please don't take it that way. Just an observation! We met lots of people, and had a blast on both trips!
Now, a word about buying stuff on the ship. Art auctions are a rip-off. Being a little into art, I definitely saw some people get completely ripped off. Drink specials are not "special" as you can order any drink for the same price. Actually, we learned quickly NOT to order the special, as they were very weak since they were premade in large batches. Better to go directly to the bar, and have a bartender make your drink. Also, you should wait till the last day before you buy that Carnival tee-shirt for that relative at home. They lower some of the prices.
Regarding the ports, here is a quick overview of what we did. Nassau, we walked around the straw market (very touristy), and went to Paradise Island for the beach and to rent a wave runner. Lots of fun! In Miami, we toured South Beach, Bay City, and saw the Viscaya House (which was INCREDIBLE!). Key West, we did the Conche Train tour, which was INCREDIBLE! The island is beautiful, and the tour is very comprehensive (2 1/2 hours, which left you wanting more). Cozumel, we went to Chakanab beach for snorkeling, which was beautiful, tons of fish (bring little boxes of cereal from the ship.. the fish will follow you around for hours), and very clean (it costs 7 dollars to enter the "park", but well worth it.
Photo by Andy Newman of Carnival Cruise Lines
In retrospect, I found the entire Carnival package to be the absolute best value in vacations... I LOVED the ship (very glitzy), loved the staff, and loved the food and entertainment. I recommend it to anyone who wants a great vacation at a great price!
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please