The Ecstasy is a “Fantasy Class” ship, which means it is the smallest of the Carnival fleet. Don’t let the word “small” fool you; The Ecstasy is 855 feet long and weighs a whopping 70,367 tons. There are 920 staff members on board, and room for 2052 guests (double occupancy). The cruising speed of the Ecstasy is 21 knots.
Second, let me tell you about the two different cruises offered on the Ecstasy. The first cruise is a 4-day, 4-night cruise to Baja, Mexico. The Ecstasy departs Long Beach, CA at 5:30pm on Monday, then follows the following itinerary throughout the cruise:
TUESDAY: Arrive Catalina, CA at 8am. Depart at 5pm
WEDNESDAY: Arrive Ensenada (Baja), Mexico at 9am. Depart at 10pm.
THURSDAY: Fun Day At Sea
FRIDAY: Arrive Long Beach, CA at 8am.
The second cruise is a 3-day, 3-night cruise also to Baja, and it departs Long Beach at 5:30pm on Friday. It then follows the following itinerary:
SATURDAY: Arrive Ensenada (Baja), Mexico at 9am. Depart at 6pm.
SUNDAY: Fun Day At Sea
MONDAY: Arrive Long Beach, CA at 8am
Dionne and I took the 4-day, 4-night cruise. Originally, it was supposed to be me and my husband, but he decided that he wanted out of our marriage on 10/3, just 10 days before the cruise. Unfortunately, the cancellation policy is that if you cancel less than 2 weeks before the cruise, you lose 1/2. (If you cancel less than a week, you forfeit your cruise.) So, being the wonderful friend that she is, Dionne volunteered to go on my cruise with me. After all, I earned this cruise!!! I don’t enter sweepstakes for nothing… ;-)
When I received the tickets, it said “Ship departs at 5:30pm.” I figured that we would be allowed onto the ship at 4:30. Boy, was I wrong. Apparently, the fun starts on the ship with a “welcome aboard” lunch at 1:30. Oops. We arranged Dionne’s flight with America West to arrive at 2:54. Since LAX is relatively close to Long Beach, we thought we’d have plenty of time. WRONG! Dionne’s flight got in late, and she didn’t get into my car until 3:30. We arrived at the parking garage at Long Beach Pier at 4:15, due to traffic on the 405 (of course). We dropped off the luggage and parked the car in the garage. (FYI– If you park in the garage, it’s $10 for every 24 hours. We ended up paying $40 in parking.) Then, Dionne and I high-tailed it to the Epcot Center-looking building where we were to check in.
Checking in was simple. We put my credit card as the card to be charged for both of our Sail and Sign Cards. A Sail and Sign Card is the currency that you use everywhere on the ship, except in the casino. (Even then, you can use the Sail and Sign Card to get money at the tables of from the cashier to gamble with.) You must be careful, though. It’s hard to keep track of everything you spend. They don’t give you a tally every night, so you have to keep your receipts and figure everything out if you’re on a budget. To insure that you’re the only one using your Sail and Sign Card, they take a photo of you that is linked to the card.
Since my ex was on the ticket, we had to change it to Dionne’s name. It was an extra $50 to do the name change, but it went very smoothly. The people at the front desk were terrific. We spent no more than 5 minutes checking in.
Once we were all checked in, we were to walk upstairs and pick up our Sail and Sign Cards. On the way up, there is usually a photographer set up. However, since Dionne and I were so late, we had no such luck. Oh, well. We’d just have to take plenty of photos on the ship.
As soon as we got upstairs, the guard directed us towards the gangway. Dionne and I had a chat with a nice woman named Hannah, who gave us our Sail and Sign Cards. We then took our photos for the cards and boarded the ship.
OH!!! The Ecstasy is docked right next to the Queen Mary, which Dionne and I planned to visit once we got off of the ship on the way back. It was WAY cool to see that as we boarded.
By this time, it was about 4:45. The photographer that took the pictures as we boarded the ship wasn’t there, either. However, we were greeted by at least 4 crew members, one of which gave us a map of the ship. We then hopped on the elevator and made our way to the Verandah (that’s how they spell it) Deck, to our cabin V-18.
We were thrilled to find our luggage outside of our cabin. We knew that it would be brought to our cabin, but we didn’t think it would be THAT fast. We opened the door to our cabin and hauled our luggage inside.
The cabin was INCREDIBLE. Then again, we were in a category 11 cabin– The highest you can get is a category 12. A category 12 cabin is basically the penthouse on the ship. Dionne and I were on the Veranduh Deck in cabin V-18. Our cabin was equipped with a bar, queen-size bed, mini-fridge, pull-out single bed, vanity and mirror, bathroom with medicine cabinet, two closets, safe, television, and, of course, our fantastic ocean-view balcony. AMAZING.
While unpacking, Dionne and I were called to the Muster Stations for the ship’s emergency drill. We grabbed our life preservers from the cabin and headed to our muster station. Everything was conducted in an organized, orderly fashion and we were back in our rooms in no time at all.
The boat was late in departing, as they needed to clean the keel. It was really neat watching the Coast Guard go past the ship in their boats. Since we left at 6:30 instead of 5:30, Dionne and I were in the Wind Star Dining Room for the main seating dinner when the ship started to move. (We had a choice between the main seating at 6:00 and the late seating at 8:00.)
Dionne and I were seated at table 166. This would be our table for dinner during the entire cruise. Two sisters from Utah shared our table with us. There were two other empty seats, but it seemed as though no one was assigned to them.
The dinner menu sounded impressive. I can’t remember what else was on it, but I ordered the escargot in butter and garlic for my appetizer, garden salad with ranch dressing for my salad, lamb for my entree, and the chocolat con tres leche (chocolate cake in chocolate milk) for my dessert. The food was good, but nothing to write home about. I was surprised, as everyone was telling me to watch what I was eating because the food was “so good.” I just wasn’t impressed.
Dionne crashed almost immediately after dinner. I went down to the Crystal Palace Casino, located on the Promenade Deck and played some slots and table games. After getting bored (and whooped), I walked around the ship a little. I went down to the Rolls Royce Cafe and Chinatown Lounge, both of which were closed for the evening. With nothing left to do, I found my way back to the cabin and went to bed. (Dionne was already sleeping.) I was pleased to find my bed turned down for me and a couple of chocolates on the pillow. Also there was a copy of Carnival Capers— A list of the next day’s activities.
Before dinner, Dionne and I had signed up for our shore excursions in Catalina and Ensenada. We had an Eco Rafting Adventure at 8:45 in the morning, which meant that we had to be on the tender (the boat that brought us to shore from the ship) at 8am. I arranged for a wake-up call for 6:30 am so that we could get ready, go to the open-seating breakfast, then head out.
Dionne, of course, was up before I was. She’s an early-riser, and I basically stumble around until I have some coffee. We both threw on our clothes, then headed down to the Wind Song Dining Room for open-seating breakfast. Breakfast was held between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00. We got there at 7:30 and it was pretty empty.
We were seated with several older couples and given menus. The first thing that popped out at me was the Eggs Benedict– my favorite! I ordered that, coffee, and some orange juice. Life was good, and it was only 7:30am. Before the main breakfast arrived, a waiter came around with warm pastries: danish, turnovers, cinnamon buns and croissants. YUMMY! I helped myself to a cheese danish, and life was even better than it was when I just had the juice and coffee. Since the couples at the table were a bit older than me and Dee, we were kind of left out of the conversations. No biggie– Dionne and I are our own party. We finished breakfast (which was pretty darned good) and headed out to find the gangway to the tender.
That proved to be a chore in itself. The ship is so frickin’ huge that we got lost. Whenever we asked a staff member where we could find the gangway, they would answer with “Go forward.” VERY aggravating. We finally found our way… Someone told us to go through the door that said “Crew Only,” as it was the only staircase to the gangway. Now, how would someone know that without asking first? Good grief. Directions to the gangway need to be a lot clearer.
Our identification was checked and we were permitted to board the tender. We walked down the staircase and onto the little yellow boat. (It seated maybe 25.) Only four other people boarded the boat. Since the other tender was completely empty and able to take 25 other passengers, we left. No one else was waiting, so it was pretty quick for us to board the tender and leave.
Dionne, of course, snapped some photos on our way in. We also had someone take a photo of the two of us. We wanted to document as much of our trip as we possibly could!
As soon as we arrived at the docks in Avalon, we had our photo snapped by a Carnival photographer. Dionne had to run to the restroom, so after we found where we had to wait for the Eco Rafting Adventure, Dionne took off for the bathroom. Only two other women, Karen and Courtney, were waiting for the tour. We were pretty stoked, as we thought that the four of us would be the only ones on the adventure. The motivation to do this tour was because the people that took the early tour were offered 10% off in the spa. Since Dionne and I had booked appointments in the spa for after our tour, we were pretty excited that we could save some money.
Dionne came back just as our tour guide, Heidi, arrived. A bunch of other guests arrived on the next tender, so we weren’t as lucky as we had hoped. All in all, there was about 12 people on our rafting adventure.
I won’t go into details of the Eco Rafting Adventure Shore Excursion here. You can either read Dionne’s Account or my account. Since this review is already way long, I’ll just stick with info about the cruise.
After our shore excursion and touring around Avalon for a little while, Dionne and I made our way back to the tender. Talk about perfect timing! We showed our IDs and jumped onto the tender. Immediately following us were 23 other people. Actually, there were more, but they had to be left at the dock to wait for the next tender.
The ride back in was rather slow. Dionne and I wanted to have lunch before our spa appointments, so we were frustrated. We finally pulled into the gangway, and it took forever to get off of the tender! It was so disorganized. People were crowding and pushing their way off of the boat. It would have been great if someone fell into the ocean. (I was actually hoping for it, to tell you the truth…) We finally got onto the boat with 30 minutes to spare before our appointments. It was a rush to get to the Wind Song Dining Room for open seating lunch, and then to the spa on the Sports Deck. But, darn it, Dionne and I were hungry.
We booked it to the dining room and were seated with a pleasant family. Dionne got the spaghetti and meatballs while I opted for the veggie fajitas. Both were quite good. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and couldn’t sample the dessert. We excused ourselves to the family (I just remember that one of the daughters was named Fiona) and rushed to the spa.
At the spa, we were greeted by the receptionist who booked us the night before. There had been such miscommunication between the two receptionists that we weren’t sure if our appointments were at 1:00 or 1:15. We got there at 12:55, just to be sure.
Dionne and I were called in immediately. We were given robes and locker keys. It would have been really nice if we were given flip-flops, too, as we had to walk on the floor in our bare feet. Besides, I had been given flip-flops at every other spa I had been to. The lockers weren’t in a private area, so Dionne and I slipped into our robes in the bathroom, then put everything in the lockers.
Soon after slipping into our robes, Dionne and I were greeted by our massage therapists. Mine was from Scotland, though I can’t remember her name. Dionne’s was named Ria, and I think she was from England. We were brought to separate rooms and our treatments began.
The first treatment was a 25 minute relaxation massage. The therapist and I had a very nice conversation as she massaged my back, shoulders and neck. I was a little disappointed because there wasn’t enough time to get to other areas, like my arms and legs. The massage just went by too fast. She also did the next treatment, which was massaging my feet and legs. It felt soooo good! However, this massage, too, seemed not to last long enough. The lights were on the entire time– not dimmed in the least. The room was quite sterile as well, not cozy like other spas I have been to.
After my two different treatments, I was told that the bill would be broken up. Rather than paying the entire $99, we would be billed $74 by our therapists and $25 by the manicurists. Dionne and I presented them with the 10% off coupon, but were told that we weren’t able to use it on the $99 special. No where on the coupon or on the sign in the salon does it say that. Annoyed, Dionne and I waited for our manicures.
Hayley called me into the salon so she could do my nails. To tell you the truth, she didn’t do that great of a job. I could get a manicure and hand massage for $8 at Queen’s Nails in the mall. Being charged $25 for our nails to be painted was just outrageous. On top of that, Dionne and I were expected to tip everyone. Whatever.
We felt good and pampered, so we went to chill out in the room for a bit. We still had some wine left over, so we made a couple of spritzers. Dee and I both took naps, then showered before dinner. It certainly had been a full day.
Dinner on the second night was the formal dinner. I had packed a bunch of clothes without trying them on first (stupid move). Since I lost a bunch of weight, the clothes just didn’t fit me right. I was totally mortified. Fortunately, I had a black skirt and a shiny button-down shirt that did the trick. Dionne looked fabulous in a little black dress she brought.
Before dinner, Dionne and I decided to get formal portraits done by one of the Carnival photographers. We waited in line for a gentleman named Richardt (Pronounced RIKE-ert) near the elevators on the same deck as the Wind Star Dining Room. After all, Dionne and I have been friends for 12 years and never had a formal photo taken! Richardt was fantastic. He snapped about 5 photos and sent us on our merry way.
Once again, Dionne and I made our way to table 166. The two girls weren’t there, but a man and his son were. Nick and I actually played Three Card Poker at the same table the night before, so we knew each other. He introduced us to his son, Sonny, who was a doll.
The choices for dinner seemed divine. Dionne went with the cornish hen, I opted for the prime rib, and Nick and Sonny both went for the lobster tail. I can’t remember the appetizers. The dinners arrived, and the only one that was happy was Dionne. Sonny’s lobster tail was tiny. My prime rib just wasn’t very good. Nick’s lobster tail was just plain nasty. (He sent it back because it wasn’t fresh, and he was worried about food poisoning.) I opted for the eggplant and zucchini parmagiana while Nick and Sonny got new lobster tails. Dessert was some sort of Italian souffle, which was quite good. As entertainment, the staff performed the Italian song “O Solo Mio”, which was impressive expecially because no one on staff was from Italy.
After dinner, Dionne and I walked around the ship for a little while. We found ourselves at the Love & Sex game. I was knocked out in the first round, so I took photos of Dionne as she competed. She made it pretty far, but was knocked out as well. The woman that won was a newlywed on her honeymoon, so it was pretty cool. They gave her a bottle of champagne as her prize. Talk about fun!
It was late and Dionne was getting tired, so she dropped me off at the casino and went up to the cabin. I followed shortly thereafter, $250 richer than I was when I walked into the casino. It had been a long but wonderful day. When we woke up in the morning, we were going to be in Ensenada, where Dionne and I signed up for a shore excursion to go horseback riding through the mountains of Ensenada.
Early the next morning, Dionne and I were awakened by our wake up call. Thankfully, Dee let me sleep in a little while she got ready. When she came out of the bathroom, she nudged my comatose body awake. I quickly dressed, then we both stepped onto the balcony. We kept hearing something that sounded like… Well… seal barking. We thought, “No way that there’s a seal around here.” We were docked in Ensenada, and it was great. We were thrilled that we wouldn’t have to take the tender in.
Dionne and I headed down to breakfast, where I helped myself once again to the wonderful pastries and eggs benedict. I also ventured into the lox and bagel arena as well, and wasn’t let down. Of course, the coffee gave me that jolt of energy I so desperately needed to get my butt in gear.
Once we were off the ship, we still heard the barking. Lo and behold, a sea lion was chilling out on a buoy! We couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, neither one of us thought to take any photos, and he was gone when we got back.
Our tour guide, Miguel, met us right on the pier. He held up a sign that read “Baja Bandidos,” which was the horseback riding tour we signed up for. It was really convenient to not have to wander through Ensenada to find our tour. Talk about door-to-door service!
Since this shore excursion didn’t take place on the cruise, I have a separate review on it. You can read Dionne’s Account or my account if you want to read more about Ensenada.
We were both absolutely exhausted when we got back from the horseback adventure. We went to our cabin to relax for a little while before lunch. My legs and rear-end were killing me. I just wanted to sleep the pain away and get a little energy back.
My strategy worked. An hour later, Dionne and I headed down to the buffet lunch on the Promenade Deck. We ran into Karen and Courtney, whom we shared a table with. I was really not impressed with the food at the buffet. I picked a couple of things, then munched a little. Afterwards, the four of us decided to hit the jacuzzi. First, the girls would come up to our cabin to check out the balcony and have some wine.
After spending a little time in the cabin, the four of us headed down to the pool deck. There were kids EVERYWHERE. Karen told us that there were 2 other jacuzzis on the other side of the boat, so we all went that way. We nabbed four chaise lounges with a great view of Ensenada, snapped some photos, and jumped into a jacuzzi. We ended up sharing the jacuzzi with an older couple– The man happened to be the uncle of a friend of mine that I went to college with! (Talk about a small world and six degrees of separation!) We spent maybe an hour on deck, then decided to head back to our cabin.
Once in our cabin, Dionne and I showered and got ready for dinner. I can’t remember what we had for dinner, but I do remember the buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad, which was awesome. Dionne probably had chicken or pasta of some sort. I just can’t remember. At the end of the night, the staff did some sort of Mexican hand jive. Ulysses, our waiter, had asked me if I knew how to do the hand jive. Since I was in Grease, I told him that I did. Only when the music started did I realize that I had absolutely no idea as to what I was doing. Regardless, I tried to follow and Dionne snapped some photos. Halfway through, Dionne and I switched spots: She danced and I snapped the photos.
After dinner, I was determined to do karaoke. So, Dionne and I headed to the Chinatown Lounge, where the karaoke party was going on. After listening to a few people, I signed up to sing Manic Monday by The Bangles. I sang and tried to get the audience involved as much as possible. Several other people got up to sing, then Dionne and I took off.
We walked around for a little, then played some slots in the casino. Both of us were pretty tired, so we headed upstairs to bed. It was another fabulous day thanks to Carnival.
The fourth and final day was our “Fun Day At Sea.” I woke up late and had a nice conversation with an empty bathroom. When Dionne left, she left the light on by mistake in the bathroom and shut the door. I thought she was in there, so you can imagine my surprise when she walked through the front door of the cabin as I was asking her about breakfast. We had a good laugh about it, since she wasn’t in the bathroom at all. She had taken advantage of the gym and exercise classes offered while I took advantage of the comfortable bed and quiet room.
There were tons of activities offered throughout the day. It was overwhelming! Dionne and I participated in a few activities, then returned to the room to get ready for dinner. After all, it was our last night and we wanted to look good! We hung out on our balcony for a little while, then readied ourselves for dinner.
Surprisingly enough, all of the people that were seated at our table were actually there for the final dinner! We snapped a few photos after having another great meal. All of the wait staff performed a conga line to Hot, Hot, Hot!, and Dionne was pulled in. I, of course, stood by and snapped some photos.
After dinner, we played Bingo, and lost. We watched the end of CarnivalSurvivor, which was absolutely hysterical– A bunch of guests get on stage and compete to become the sole survivor, just like the TV show. (Our winner was a guy that called himself “The Snailman.”) It was too, too funny. If you happen to go into the Sapphire Lounge for a show, be sure to get a mango daiquiri. YUM!
The next morning, I woke up and Dionne was already gone. We had arrived back in Long Beach. I knew she was somewhere taking photos or something to that effect. (She’s such the morning person. I, on the other hand, am a night owl.) We went to our final breakfast, then left the ship. We were in the orange class, so we were permitted to leave the ship first. (They classify you according to your cabins. Since we were in first class, we were orange.)
Our suitcases were waiting for us when we got to the holding area. Going through Customs was a breeze. We walked a short distance to the parking garage, found our car, paid the $40 parking fee (as if we didn’t spend enough money already!), and left.
This was the best vacation I’ve been on since my mother and I went to New Orleans in July, 2000. I am so glad that I was able to share it with Dionne. I hope that she and I have started a new tradition and go on vacation every year!
If you’ve never been on a cruise, I think that a trip aboard the Ecstasy might get you hooked. It’s not too expensive – cabins ranging from $299 to $899 – and well-worth the trip.