This will get long, here are my observations. My wife and I did the 8/29/04 Elation cruise out of galveston and had a great time. I did alot of research on 7 nighters, and found it to be the cheapest cost of any 7 night cruise in Carnival or other competing lines. I think CCL is trying to get legs on this new port and are promoting it by price to be the best value in 7 night cruise category. Then I looked at itineraries and peeps were saying the days at sea were the best part, and there Elation wins again. Galveston as a port leaves ALOT to be desired, but if i save $400 on two people I don't care about the port issues. Also 3 out of 4 people on ship are Texans, great if your from texas, not so great if you're a yankee. Florida locals going on cruises from Florida are less annoying I think, then again I'm not trying to make life long friends here and I did save $400. Bottom line, we'll probably do the Elation again unless some promotion drives us to another ship.
Galveston flight arrival strategy is to fly into houston hobby and stay Sat night before departure at a business class hotel near airport, then following day get a ride to port of galveston. Weekend rates in galveston are very high as a beach destination, and if you fly in sat probably you won't have time to do anything there except eat dinner and go to bed. Biz class hotels are cheap on weekends! I had a Hyatt Regency airport for $62 plus taxes for sat night. Most people drive in from other parts of texas and the best deal i heard is to stay saturday night at a hotel that lets you park there for free during the week.
Elation does 3 ports of call and 3 days at sea, 7th day arrival back -nice balance. Some 7 night cruises go to like five ports, thats a lot of running around. IMHO, I didn't like the pressure of having to be back by 4:30PM in one port and 5PM in another port. Days at sea are not boring! Sunning, reading, eating drinking on ship is a blast. Food in the formal dining was excellent every evening. Buffets are convenient but not great. I recommend going to the seated meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast and lunch put on dress shorts and a hawaiin shirt, dinner wear dress slacks,(err not black denim jeans and cowboy boots) with a polo shirt and you're fine. On excursion days get the seated breakfast and go for hamburger or pizza bar upon return to ship. Their are two formal nights, bring a suit, dress socks and shoes. You can rent a tux, I think its overboard and somewhat obnoxius, but if you want to pose for the many photographers rigged with fancy lighting and backscreens on formal nights, its an opportunity to get a great portrait momento.
We did the Uxmal ruins tour in Progresso, had a great guide, did it through the ship. Did a 2 tank scuba dive in Cozumel, on my own really hectic getting back to ship saved $25 for the headache. We did cave tubing in Belize, through xtreme, great time Richard owns the company, does the tour and turns people away. Go through Xtreme! book in advance, $25 holds spot for two people on tour and is refundable. If weather had been bad and chose not to go it would have been worth the $25 risk.
I wanted us to do power snorkeling in Cozumel through ship, its a self propelled mini jet ski thing that drags you around so you dont have to kick. You can do surface dives under power to chase fish! sounded really cool but was sold out 2nd day... Point is 1st day immediately when tours desk opens get in line and sign up. Since we couldn't do that I walked the shore and was solicited by some guy to go scuba diving and did that by myself,(wife doesn't dive, she shopped and stayed on ship).
Progreso is a pit, Merida is beautiful and worth the excursion from what I heard. You don't want to just wander around this boring little chithole town. We did Mayan ruins, its good to schedule through ship as most are a long day and you don't want get nervous in a bus half hour before ship leaves.
Cozumel port is loaded with annoying hawkers selling dragging you into shops, mister mister got to be really annoying. They follow you down the street if you act in any way interested in what theyre selling! Wet excursions are fantastic here! dive, power snorkel if you can get in go to a beach, but get the hell away from the immediate vicinity of the port as fast as you can.
Belize port requires tender service, its annoying waiting for 50 person boats to cue up and load people. If you book an excursion outside of the ship, go to pursers desk the night before and they will give you an early tender reservation number. CCL excursions get off ship first, and even if someone doesn't have a early excursion time, they get off first. Our Xtreme cave tubung left at 9AM and we had only 5 minutes to spare. As it turned out, Richard would have waited for us for next tender had we missed the one we were on.
SHOWS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Amazing musical and dance show first night, very talented belong on broadway. 2nd show country and western I hated that... lot of pandering here with "who's from Texas!"
Comedians OK, Im not a gambler or drinker, lots of drinking going on... Man, security I think should cut people off after 10 umbrella drinks. Lots of wasted people running around.
Maybe all cruise ships do this gawdy, false elegance, very Bob Guccione love palace, shiney foil and tiffany glass crap. Perhaps it's for the casino crowd who find it exotic, or the hillbillies who think it is elegant. I got over the tacky appearances in day 2.
Great experience friendly wait staff, cabin steward and maintenance. No bad attitide anywhere! They aim to please. New automatic tipping is great! last time I cruised there was that awkward night before leaving when all the workers stood with hands out begging for tips. This is a much better system.
9 out of 10