Ahoy Everybody! My son Ryan and I have just returned from our yearly father and son cruise. This year we sailed on a five day cruise aboard the Carnival Ecstasy from Jacksonville to Princess Cays and Nassau, with sea days on both ends.
I will not be doing a full blown out picture review of this cruise. Frankly, I just don’t have enough time. In three weeks Patti and I will be doing a B2B on the Carnival Sunrise from New York to Bermuda and New England / Canada, so our focus now is to prepare for those cruises. I did however, take plenty of pictures. I also have the Fun Times and other stuff to scan and share with you. Once I get that done, I will upload them to my photo hosting site, then come back and provide you with a link if you want to see them.
The Carnival Ecstasy. We love cruising on the Fantasy Class ships from time to time, as they give you a more intimate cruise experience. Yes, they don’t have all the bells and whistles of the newer ships, but they never feel crowded, and it’s great to get to know most of your fellow passengers and crew members. More than one crew member told me that after working on the Vista and Horizon, they couldn’t wait to come back to a Fantasy Class ship. These ships are great for the shorter Bahamas, Western Caribbean, and Baja California runs, especially when a tender port is involved. Would you rather tender ashore with two thousand of your fellow passengers, or with the four thousand plus passengers that the bigger ships carry? Yes, I know that the tenders are now called water shuttles, but screw that, I’ve been cruising since 1985 so they will always be tenders to me!
The Carnival Ecstasy. I have only cruised on her one time before, and that was twenty eight years ago in 1991 when she was brand new. She is exactly as I remembered her, a Joe Farcus acid induced design with enough glitz and nonsense to cause a sensory overload. I love it! Many people today will say she is outdated, garish, and just plain ugly and outlandish. I say it’s nostalgic and it brings me back to my cruising roots, however the ships that I first sailed on with Carnival are long gone.
She will going in for a short dry dock in October which will only involve some cosmetic stuff, sprucing up, and the usual hull work. To tell you the truth, I didn’t see anything major that needed attention, nor did I smell any funky smells. To me, she seems to be in pretty good shape.
We booked this cruise with a Hot Streak casino promotion. This gave us a great casino rate for an inside cabin, DOU for both of us, and $500 OBC (not free play!). We also purchased the Cheers program for those out of the casino moments, and besides, we had to spend that OBC somewhere! We knocked it out of the park with Cheers. We maxed out every day, plus had plenty of coffees and sodas. Looking back, it turns out that only 30% of our drinks came from the DOU cards, and the rest were covered by Cheers.
We drove down from New Jersey the day before the cruise, and as is our custom, we stayed at the Country Inn & Suites in Kingsland Georgia, which is off of Exit 3 on I-95. From here it is about a thirty minute drive to Jaxport. The next morning, after enjoying the hotel’s free breakfast, we arrived at Jaxport at 10 am. I immediately noticed two major changes from when we were here last year. First, the parking lot is now to the right on the opposite side of the terminal from where it used to be. This now puts the parking even closer to the terminal itself, which is a good thing. Parking is still $17/day or $85 for the five day cruise.
The second thing is that they have built a ramp so that you now embark into the Atrium Lobby on Empress Deck 7, instead of boarding on Deck 3 forward. Great job Jaxport!
Check in was a breeze, and after a short wait in the Captain’s Lounge we were the first to board the ship after a pretty large wedding party. I know that we were on before 11 am. We were in cabin E85 which was just a short trip down the hall from the Lobby. Our Sail & Sign cards were waiting for us, wedged behind the cabin number plate. There aren’t any mailboxes on Fantasy Class ships. The cabins are outdated, but they are clean, the beds are comfortable, and everything worked. There are no mini fridges, and the cabin safe was the keypad type. One other thing to note. If you are an early or light sleeper, this location would not be good for you. Even though they close the heavy doors at 9 pm to cut down the sound of the music and buzz from the Atrium, it can still be heard pretty far down the hall.
Here are some notes about our cruise, as much as my alcohol infused brain will allow me to remember. Ryan and I never saw the dining room. We ate all of our meals on the Lido, even though we had been comped steakhouse selections from the casino one night.
Other than to take pictures, I never went to the Blue Sapphire Lounge, which is the main show lounge on the ship. For those that want to know, the Playlist Production Shows are Motor City and America Rocks.
Ryan and I did go to some of the comedy shows which are held in the Starlight Lounge, which is the aft lounge on Promenade Deck 9. The two comedians on this cruise were Derrick Eason and Steve Burr and they were very good. They performed the first night and on the two sea days. On port days, in the evening, they showed movies, since there are no Dive In Movie screens on the Fantasy Class ships. The night we left Nassau, Carnival Quest was held back there at 10:30 pm. What happens at the Quest stays at the Quest, but it was great as usual.
The Diamond Event (12 Diamonds), and the VIFP Party (around 60 D/P) were also held in the Starlight Lounge. Both were a lot of fun!
I won the blackjack tournament and frankly, it was like taking candy from a baby. As is usual for these types of cruises, there were a lot of newbies on board. For our final table it was me and six newbies that had never played in this type of tournament before, including this gentleman who had never played “jack black” in his life. After two hands I knew what these players were trying to do, so I just bet the minimum, sat back, and watched the carnage. After five hands, four of them had busted out and the other two had $500 or less remaining. I was sitting with the $2000 I started with. Game over. BTW, Mr. “jackblack” came in second! They all were a great bunch of guys, and I think most of them learned something tonight.
Both sea days were sunny and hot. There were plenty of adults in the pool, and kids in the hot tubs. Walking by, If I had wanted to find a lounger it wouldn’t have been a problem.
When we arrived at Princess Cays, they were experiencing severe thunderstorms. I thought at first that the Captain would be skipping this stop, but he simply waited for the storm to pass. Tendering started about an hour late. It rained until mid-morning, but even after it stopped, it remained cloudy all day. Ryan and I had never been here before, so around noon we took the tender over to check it out. We walked around taking pictures, had the BBQ lunch, had some beers at the different bars, and then went back to the ship. It looks like a nice fun place, but I still like HMC better.
In Nassau we had no plans to leave the ship, which was a good thing since it rained all day until just before sail away. I felt bad for those who booked this cruise for the ports, and hope the rain didn’t “dampen” their spirits!
The people that cruise from Jacksonville are some of the nicest people you want to meet. What a diverse group. Everyone was polite, friendly, respectful, and just plain fun. All I saw were smiling faces! As I said there were a lot of blue and red cards on board, I think Carnival has won them over!
I can’t say enough about the crew on board the Ecstasy. All were friendly, smiling, energetic, and true assets for Carnival. I wish I could name them all, but my two standouts were Catherine (Cat) from the Atrium Bar, who would serve my 15th every evening, and William at the Red Frog Rum Bar who started my every day by pouring me a Red Frog Wheat to go with my breakfast burrito. Kudos to all the casino staff, and the bar waiters there, who would never keep us waiting for a drink. Thank you all so much.
Debarkation was also a breeze. We were in our car and on our way back to New Jersey at 7:55 am.
I think that’s it for now. If I think of anything else I’ll add on. I guess the million dollar question is would you sail on the Ecstasy again? The answer is a resounding “YES”. If you have any questions I’ll be sure to answer them. For now, may you all have calm seas and clear skies!