I recently sailed on the Carnival Ecstasy as an invited guest and hosted by Carnival Cruise Line. Although reporting as a Carnival Partner and sailing free of charge, all opinions are my own.
I happen to be at a cross-roads age. I want my cruise to be fun but I’m not looking to party all night or all cruise long. I want my cruise to be family-friendly in case I bring along my grandchildren but don’t want to be tripping over kids and kids activities if I don’t. I’m sort of in the middle when it comes to what I want to do.
Carnival Cruise Line Ecstasy – The Ship and It’s History
The Carnival Ecstasy is a bit older and smaller than most of the ships in the line. All of the newer ships being built are much larger. The ship first set sail in 1991. The Ecstasy has since undergone three refurbishments. The first, begun in 2007 and completed in 2009. All staterooms were refurbished, and a mini golf course was added. Children’s facilities were improved and adult-only “Serenity” decks were added. The second refit, in 2014, added the Red Frog Rum Bar, Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, both poolside and the third refit, in 2017, added, Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Cherry On Top, Alchemy Bar, and crew area renovations. The ship holds somewhere around 2400 guests, a size I prefer since there is nothing worse than spending a cruise vacation constantly getting lost on a huge ship! (Newer ships in the line can handle around 4,000 passengers.)
The Carnival Ecstasy offers a six-story atrium with glass-sided elevators. You can choose between several bars and lounges, the casino and a multitude of activities that include dancing around the pool, trivia contests, karaoke and comedy shows.
Planning with Carnival
Planning for your Carnival cruise is easy on their website. You can easily see all that is offered during your cruise, make shore excursion reservations, spa reservations, purchase the “Cheers” drink package and stay current and up-to-date with all information. Everything you need to start out on your cruise is perfectly explained on the website, easy to navigate and gives you all the information you could possibly need.
Ports of Call
The Carnival Ecstasy currently cruises from the Port of Charleston in South Carolina and visits the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Eastern Caribbean. All of the itineraries offered are short, fun excursions.
Wi-Fi is available ship-wide. You can choose between different packages: Social, Value and Premium. You can purchase them for one day or for the entire length of the cruise. If you are a person that simply can not unplug, the full cruise, unlimited package costs $88. I found the wi-fi to work amazingly well, much better than a recent cruise I took on another line.
Dining on the Ecstasy
When it comes to dining, guests can go traditional or casual in the two main dining rooms, either choosing a fixed early or late seating or just dropping in whenever they like between about 5:45 and 9:30. If a dining room isn’t your thing, there are several buffet style options on board on the Lido Deck including Guy’s Burger Joint (great burgers!).
I would recommend taking full advantage of your dining room meals. The service is outstanding. The wait-staff makes great recommendations and by cruise end knows exactly how you like your meal. The food was delicious each and every meal. The variety and selections at each dinner was more than enough to please anyone. I was truly impressed with the amount and quality of the food in the dining room.
The dress code is flexible. Cruise casual is the norm. Formal night displayed a mix of elegantly dressed cruisers as well as those in their normal cruise casual attire.
On sea days you can take advantage of the sea day brunch in one of the dining rooms that has everything from soup, steak, eggs, and french toast to signature dishes and even includes bar service! The hours are normally from 8:30 am to 1 pm.
For breakfast and lunch you can head to the Lido deck and have your pick of a variety of items: pizza, hot dogs, burgers, taco, salads, Italian, American and on and on and on! The choices seem endless and one thing tastier than the next.
Room service is available 24 hours a day. It’s super easy and convenient to leave your breakfast room service request hanging on your door before bed at night and have your coffee and breakfast arrive at your desired time in the morning.
The Cheers Package
Iced tea, lemonade, coffee, hot cocoa and water are free. Anything else you want to drink comes at a cost. Carnival offers the CHEERS beverage program that allows you to pay a flat fee before your cruise departure date ($49.95 per person, per day, plus gratuity) or when you arrive on-board ($54.95 per person, per day, plus gratuity) that allows you to enjoy unlimited soda, beer, wine and cocktails. Depending on how many cocktails you plan to enjoy during your cruise, including your wine with dinner, do the math before purchasing. $49.95 per day was worth it for myself and my friend (everyone on your reservation must purchase the package). Fancy drinks with umbrellas around the pool average between $12 to $15 each. Wine with dinner averages about $10 per glass. A beer around $6.75. Never mind a cocktail or two in the casino in the evening! Two fancy umbrella drinks and a beer during the day, two glasses of wine with dinner, a cocktail while playing the slots would have easily cost more than the $49.95 per day cost of the Cheers package.
There is also a Bottomless Bubbles unlimited soda program, which costs $4.95 a day for guests ages 17 and younger and $7.50 a day for guests 18 and older, plus gratuity. Well worth it for soda drinkers.
Tip: The Cheer Package doesn’t carry over to Princess Cays, the cruise line’s private island. This was a little disappointing since sitting on the beach all day, you will have to pay for anything you wish to drink, however, it is clearly noted in the programs purchase description (that I didn’t bother to read – my fault).
I was impressed. The casino, opened when the ship is at sea, is the perfect size and layout. It’s the right mix of tables and slots and offers fun contests and tournaments. I was shocked at the number of people that won large sums in the casino. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. Let’s just say I made a bit of a donation! I also made some new friends which is always a nice plus on any vacation.
Tip: If you have an aversion to cigarette smoke, you’ll want to stay clear of the casino area and the bar/lounge adjacent to the casino. Both allow smoking. Smokers from around the ship tend to gather in both spots. There is a smoking area outside on one of the decks as well, with plenty of comfortable seating.
The Private Island
Princess Cays is a tourist resort at the southern end of the island of Eleuthera, Bahamas. It is owned by Princess Cruises, who use it as a port-of-call on cruises in the Caribbean. The island is also used by Carnival Cruise Line. It is a large island with only a portion of it dedicated to the cruise lines use.
There is not a dock that can accommodate a large ship, so you are taken to the island by smaller tender ferries.
Guests can go swimming, kayaking, banana boating, paddle boating, snorkeling, sail boating and a number of other activities. Cabanas are available for daily rental.
There are several shops and kiosks on the island full of souvenirs as well as a lunch buffet (included in your cruise cost).
Pelican’s Perch is a great area for the kids that will allow parents to enjoy some quiet time on the beach.
The Punchline Comedy Club is definitely a highlight! Early evening shows are family friendly with late night “adult” comedy entertainment.
Music, dancing, drinking and singing are common, no matter where you end up on the Ecstasy! Sing-alongs and karaoke are happening all over the ship. Your biggest decision will be which lounge to visit first.
There is a nightly musical revue in the Blue Sapphire Lounge with a different theme each night – Motown and the 80’s & 90’s Brits were two that I was able to catch. The audience was up and dancing and singing along within minutes. The shows are lively, fun and entertaining and you can bring the kids along to each of them.
Entertaining the Kids
The Carnival Ecstasy offers outstanding kids’ programs. From interactive rhyming sing along times to special showings of movies. Carnival Cruises’ Seuss at Sea will delight children of any age. Seuss Bookville story times, conga dances down the Promenade with the Cat in the Hat and other Seuss characters, and Seuss inspired art, crafts, and toys are all part of the fun. Including a Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast!
Towel animal creation around the pool is fun for kids of all ages too!
Youth groups are divided according to age. Club O2, is for ages 15-17. Circle “C” includes activities for the 12-14 age group. Camp Ocean Child Development Center takes excellent care of the youngsters with age appropriate divisions.Toddlers ages 2-5, Juniors ages 6-8 and Intermediates, ages 9-11 each have their own Camp Director and dedicated space with age appropriate planned activities are provided throughout the cruise.
Kids of all ages can enjoy the 9-hole miniature golf course, the giant chess set and the Water Works water slide, dual racing slides, and water spray toys. There’s also a children’s play room and a separate tween space, plus a teen center sporting a dance floor and soft-drinks bar.
If your children aren’t the type that you can leave with counselors, what I found most interesting on this cruise was the fact that children were welcome to all of the early shows and venues and everything was family friendly and appropriate.
The Spa on board is fabulous. You can pre-book spa treatments or wait until you board to take advantage of embarkment day specials which are a pretty good savings from the usual cost. You can also get 20% discount for a second spa treatment booked during your cruise. I took advantage of the embarkment day special and enjoyed a 90 hot stone full body massage just before bed on the first night. Normally around $199 the first night special cost $139. It was ideal! The spa crew members are great, friendly and knowledgeable.
There is also a beauty salon on-board that offers styling, cuts for both men and women and a men’s shave package for those days you feel you need just a little bit of pampering!
Manicures and pedicures are also offered. You must be 18 years old to enjoy the spa.
The adults-only space, the Serenity deck, is located at the very back on Deck 10. It is an amazingly quiet area and not at all crowded. Passengers can relax on padded lounge chairs or soak in the hot tub. It’s a fabulous location to enjoy some quiet, ocean gazing, relaxation.
Overall, cruising on the Carnival Ecstasy is a great and fun (and relatively inexpensive option) for families, singles or couples.
Keep in mind that the Ecstasy is an older ship so is much smaller than what you might be used to. This includes cabin size. Although smaller than what I was used to, I found my balcony cabin to be comfortable (the bed was amazing!). Also, if you are a family full of electronics, keep in mind that an older ship does not have those built in extra outlets and USB ports like some of the newer ships do. I recommend bringing along an electrical power strip for extra outlets. There were only two outlets in my cabin (one in the main area and one in the bathroom).
Service is one of the Ecstasy’s highlights! If you’re thirsty, it won’t be long before a bar server passes by asking what he (or she) can get for you. At dinner, your servers will not only remember your name after the first evening, they will remember how you like your food, what you like to drink and how you take your after dinner coffee. When they pass by you during the day in other parts of the ship, they remember your name and make sure you have everything you need. Each and every crew member you pass, even the deck-hands washing the ship, say hello, ask how your day is and are eager to help if you have a question.
To be honest, I can’t wait to go sailing with Carnival again!