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Baja Mexico 4 night Cruise departing from San Diego with stops at Catalina Island and Ensenada Mexico. Carnival canceled the Ensenada stop due to the swine flu outbreak. In exchange provided with on board credits or full credit on a future cruise. We chose to cruise now as Ensenada wasn't the main reason for this cruise.
When searching for a cheap cruise within driving distance, the Carnival Elation seemed like the perfect choice. We chose to depart from San Diego simply because when living in South Orange County, San Diego was our get away town. We've been back almost yearly since leaving California. Since we were driving and there is no terminal parking, I researched the local parking facilities and came across this from a cruise review:
Using Park and Go's coupon, which changes periodically, we only paid 32.00 total for our parking for the four night cruise. Service was outstanding which is why I'm giving them a plug. The shuttles come around and you do not even need to haul your luggage to the little canopies for pickup. If they see you (so wave) they drive right to your trunk. The gentleman was very friendly and we tipped him well. The same on the return. It was literally trunk to ship and ship to trunk. We couldn't have been more pleased with the service.
This was our first Carnival cruise so we did not know really what to expect. We have heard good and bad, especially about the crowd being more young, etc. That seemed true and my husband made several comments about this but when you choose a cheap cruise you have to put up with more. A more expensive Carnival cruise is something we look forward to very much.
For embarkation we waited in the terminal for about 45 minutes but they kept us moving the entire time. It didn't feel very long at all. Everything was extremely well organized and we were on board pretty quick. We went straight to our room but the fire doors were closed and they had guards. With that being a no go we chose to go to the Lido Deck to check out the pool and the eats. No real good buffet but they had awesome hamburgers. We had to wait an extraordinary long time but that was to be expected. I had to go to the restroom and the restroom by the pool was awful and reeked of urine. I even checked to make sure I was in the ladies (no offense guys) but well, never mind. It was not a very good impression at all. I've been to Southern California beach restrooms more pleasant smelling that this one. Public restrooms overall elsewhere on the Elation were not that much cleaner.
Killing time we went to the Internet Cafe and the person staffing it opened up an hour early just so he could get us setup. I had a coupon plus he offered me extra minutes for the embarkation day special. After that we just went exploring. She seemed a pretty ship.
When finally checking out our room we liked the appearance overall. We had an ocean view cabin which I picked closer to the front of the ship hoping to get more wave action. What was I thinking. With just hugging the coastline down to Baja, it would not likely involve serious wave action of any kind. What we received was no heat and plenty of anchor action. There was absolutely no heat and you couldn't turn the air conditioner off. At best there was low setting and it continuously blew out cold air. I've only been on two cruises but I remember comfortably sleeping in shorts and a t-shirt and it always being nice in the room even when the weather was bad which it was the last two nights because a hurricane was coming. It was freezing on deck and no one was going outside. I called and they said our only option was more blankets as they have no heat. At night we froze even with the blankets because the AC was constantly blowing. Our restroom was really spacious however there was someone's razor still in the shower and it wasn't as clean as I'd expected. I should have called to have it redone but we just threw the razor away and figured it wasn't worth it. Our room steward turned out to be really nice and took care of everything we needed. Kudos to him!!
Finding our dining room was quite an accomplishment. We just found it confusing to have both an Imagination and an Inspiration. Being new to Carnival it seems making the names be more different from each other would make more common sense. Once arriving to our dining room we were seated promptly but service was absolutely horrible. While the food was awesome, the staff never introduced themselves, nor did they ever offer us drink choices. On night two our assistant waiter seemed extremely bothered that we even asked for ice tea. Next night I was hoping she'd remember but as soon as she saw us seated she had come over and promptly began pouring water without even asking again. I never saw a bar waiter...someone at our table did ask and was told he wasn't available. When checking other tables you saw no wine or cocktails and ALL WATER. I really thought I was in the twilight zone. The two Maitre De's ? were no where to be found even when we were wanting to tip at the end of the cruise. Not one person ever in the dining room other than our table mates ever introduced themselves or asked if we were enjoying our cruise. The food was indeed VERY good. Food at Tiffany's was also good. Steve loved the soft serve ice cream. We'd have to go by there when we went to do anything. "Honey I'm going to the hair dresser".; "Okay but can you bring me back ice cream"? It was pretty funny. We are all meat and potatoes so I can't advise on the seafood. Steak and burgers all the way.
I will briefly mention cocktails. We had a very difficult time getting service at any of the shows or engagements. I want to be served. We probably spent about $150 bucks less because of this. I'm not going to get up to go get drinks and I certainly hope that is not the norm on Carnival. Everyone else was getting up and going out to the nearest bar to get something and bring it back in. You would see one or two waiter/waitresses for the whole show. I wondered if it was due to the economy or was it you just get what you pay for?
We felt the entertainment was cheesy to say the least. We hope it improves on larger Carnival ships. Maybe the Elation just has the C string or something. They had one comedian who performed at the One Big Show on the first night and had other performances elsewhere on other nights. He was pretty good. These guys didn't hold a candle to the Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers on the Enchantment of the Seas. They couldn't dance, were not in sync, couldn't sing, looked unhealthy and Steve wanted to get up and leave when they came out with a plastic big turkey. A big huge plastic turkey. Huh? Seriously?
Day two was Catalina Island. We have been there so many times so at first we were not going to get off the ship. Since our Baja cruise was not going to include an actual stop in Mexico now, we figured what the heck. We can go laugh at how the first time we were there we went to the Casino looking for table games. We found one of those inside island tours and had a really good time. We did some shopping after. I purchased a cool Del Sol shirt that changes colors. Hey..I don't get out much. What I did not like about day two was having to rush back to get ready for formal night. Yes, it was on a port day. I had a hair appointment to have my hair done real nice. Turned out the girl whined and complained the whole time because she doesn't like the job she took. She tried on my hair but it wasn't exactly what I had in mind. I don't know if I knew what I had in mind.
We were pleasantly surprised when they announced that Mexico was making us dock at Ensenada because the WHO had lifted the Swine Flu advisory. The Captain said we had to have the stop certified by Mexican authorities because they must have one stop at a foreign port per cruise. Because of the WHO advisory they were letting ships get in tender range and they would literally go and meet the ship. I actually think we were the first ship to dock again in Ensenada. That day the Mexican authorities were claiming the advisory was lifted so if the Captain wanted the stop certified we must dock. We had shore trips mentally planned but we dismissed the idea when we received word Ensenada would be scratched from the itinerary. I was not feeling well so we just stayed on ship. I continued to feel a little off for the next two days. At one time I thought I was having motion sickness but I never have before so I really do not know what it was. Because of this I was not motivated to do much or take many pictures. The day I began to really feel better was the last day. That was also when the cruise director actually began to get funny. He seemed really bland the entire trip. The last day he kept whispering in the intercom sounding very creepy and then welcoming us to Honolulu with every update.
Debarkation went extremely smooth. We were off the ship quickly and Park and Go got us to our car very quickly. Will I sail the Elation again? That would be a no. Was I completely disappointed? No, considering I wasn't feeling well, we had a good time. It was great to get away on on a ship again even if just for a few days. It was nice and enjoyable except at night when we froze. We extended our vacation to include two days at the Sheraton in La Jolla. Very nice hotel so I'm giving them a plug too. Housekeeping came very very late the first full day we were there and then was banging on our door before we were even awake on day of checkout. Beyond that it was an outstanding hotel and we had great fun cruising around and at the beach. Pretty awesome considering how I didn't feel too good on the cruise. Next time I will contact guest services and arrange for nearly exact maid service. Then again, they have probably cut back due to the economy and there isn't much to say or do about that. We will for sure stay there again if ever in the La Jolla area. Pricey but usually they have good specials at their website. We were able to stay for about 300 bucks for two nights. Room was awesome and newly redecorated. TV was a flat screen nearly larger than the bed.
Overall it was a great little get away on a minimal budget. You do get what you pay for so I can't really complain about that. If you were to sail on this ship on a longer cruise then my complaints would most likely be something to take into consideration.