Jump to content
  • Deals
  • Find a Cruise
  • Reviews
  • News
  • Cruise Tips

A Winter Escape on Elation


Recommended Posts

Yesterday we departed off of the Carnival Elation and we have a lot of pictures and info to share with all of you! While we edit pictures and get our full review ready, I wanted to start you off with our short thoughts on various parts of the trip. Full explanations for why we did or did not like something will be in the longer review.


Exterior Spaces of the ship: Most of the outside of the ship was well worn and showing rust, paint chips or age. That said, it didn't bother us at all and everything was functional and still very beautiful. The Serenity deck was amazing!


Interior Spaces: We loved the Vegas style on this ship and the interior was in amazingly good condition. In particular the Mikado show lounge was stunning.


Stateroom: Much like the exterior the rooms looked worn and outdated but still entirely functional. Our bed was comfortable and the shower was surprisingly nice. The life jacket box made a permanent impression on my shin...


Food: Breakfast and lunch were good, but both had their hit and miss dishes. I particularly didn't like the eggs, but the fresh fruit and oatmeal were good. There was always a good station for lunch, but it seemed like everyone else had the same opinion, so I stood in a few lines. Dinner was fantastic. In all cases we both ate far too much food!


Staff: The dining staff and bar staff were both top notch. Our waiters at dinner were one of the highlights of our trip. We also had a lot of friendly banter with the coffee shop staff. Our stateroom steward on the other hand was simply terrible. He never introduced himself and I had to go to guest services to get him to do anything more than make the bed. We had a mixed bag with the ship officers. Some were friendly and talkative while others were simply rude. Steve, the cruise director was good, but we actually found his assistant Brandon to be much more entertaining.


Entertainment: We didn't see much except the comedy. The rest of the stuff didn't appeal to us much (I'm not saying any of it was bad, we simply set a high bar to pull us away from the Serenity deck). One of the comedians was awesome while the other was simply OK. We also had a lot of fun watching the very talented singer in the atrium lobby.


Cozumel: Beautiful port and we had a wonderful time at Dolphinaris. I am going to describe our trip extensively here as we couldn't find answers to a lot of our questions about this place. We could go to Cozumel a hundred times and never be sick of it.


Progreso: The absolute opposite. While we got some good photos of Chichen Itza, we were uncomfortable the entire time. Our tour guide was more interested in selling us trinkets and Mayan calendars than telling us about the ruins. The park itself was overrun by peddlers, and every peddler we saw was aggressive and deceptive. I doubt we will ever visit Progreso again.


Fun Ship: We loved the environment on this ship. We made a lot of friends and met a lot of friendly, fun loving people. For us this was the perfect group of people. This was complimented by the atmosphere the crew gave the ship, where you felt like you could goof off and have fun without worrying. There were also very few children on this sailing. One word of warning though: while we loved it, this ship was very informal and had a bit of a party atmosphere. Not a place for the uptight. If jeans on formal night or a little crude humor offends you, the Elation is not for you.


Overall we loved our experience, despite a few negatives. We will likely be sailing with Carnival again, as soon as we are able. I will have a picture heavy day by day review coming soon, and will further explain all of the points I made here. Leave any comments or questions and I will try to address in my coming posts. Thanks for reading!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

An Introduction:




On the right is me (Shaun) and the left is Jacob. This cruise celebrated our one year anniversary together, and was booked right after Black Friday (the most horrible season if you work in retail as we do). We live in Indiana and after looking at falling gas prices and an awful flight path, we decided it would be best to drive 13 hours to New Orleans and save some money and hopefully a headache!


I tend to be a bit obsessive researching things so I began looking through these forums as soon as we knew we wanted to travel and continued to check them daily, as well as the Carnival website. I'm honestly not sure what to do now that I don't have the regular ritual of checking for price drops...


I've never been on a cruise before and was excited to finally get on a ship, especially after having to cancel a planned cruise on the Ecstasy in 2013. Jacob sailed on the Imagination 10 years ago as a kid and was excited to experience a cruise from the adult (not so sober) perspective.


Pre-cruise we decided to book both excursions with Carnival. The Chichen Itza tour we felt it necessary since even the ship's excursion cut it close to departure time, and the Dolphinaris trip was priced the same whether we went through the ship or not. We initially booked an interior room in the aft of the ship on the upper deck, but I received an upgrade email inviting us to an Ocean View room on Empress deck right off the Atrium for $30. We took the upgrade and packed our earplugs anticipating the noise from the atrium.


We had also planned to stay 2 nights in New Orleans at the Staybridge Suites in the downtown business district prior to our cruise. From there we planned to tour the city, the aquarium, visit Bourbon Street and hopefully take a ghost tour.


Prior to leaving we had to drop our puppy off with Jacob's mom 2 hours north in Michigan. We had a very sad night packing our bags without the pitter patter of her little feet. But we held fast and had everything packed with plenty of time. At 5 AM we got up, showered and put everything in the car. The thermometer read -14 degrees F and the car didn't really want to start. We were ready for warm weather...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pre-Cruise Day One/Part One:


Our drive was thankfully very uneventful. We passed through Indianapolis, Louisville and Nashville while seeing nothing but snow and ice on the side of the road. We laughed a little every time we saw a sign reading "Caution, there may be ice on the road!" as we had just driven from 4-5 inches of snow that had not been cleared yet. As we entered southern Tennessee and northern Alabama we saw the results of the ice storm, which was quite beautiful:



The roads were clear, but there was ice on every tree and frozen waterfalls down every rock face. I wish the photo did it more justice, but I think you get the picture!


We got into New Orleans around sunset to find an absolutely beautiful city and palm trees! Palm trees!!!! Okay... we might have been a little too excited about that. The drive to the hotel was a short trip down Canal Street, which gave us an awesome first impression of the city.




We had picked the Staybridge Suites shortly after booking the cruise in December. It was the only hotel we could find for these days at under $150 a night and in the French Quarter or business district. When we booked, it looked decent but outdated and mentioned nothing about any complimentary food or drinks. Well, we were in for a pleasant surprise as the hotel had since been updated quite a bit.


Our room was modern and had some Mardi Gras themed art on the walls (for some reason we didn't take any pictures of the room) and had all new furniture and a very nice king bed. We were informed when we arrived that cocktail hour had just started and to please join them for free food and drinks. They also let us know about their breakfast buffet, which turned out to be quite good. Overall this turned out to be an awesome place to stay. It was centered in the middle of all the things we wanted to do, and while it lacked the classic charm of the French Quarter hotels, it did offer a fantastic view!




After unpacking, we headed out to explore the town...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pre-Cruise Day One/Part Two:


As soon as we got out of the hotel we started walking on Canal Street and got our first drinks of the trip! Unfortunately we decided that frozen daiquiris sounded good. We spent the next hour fighting brain freezes in 45 degree weather as we forced ourselves to finish. Silly selfies included:




After that we walked down a few other streets before discovering Bourbon Street almost by accident. We were surprised it was so busy. Mardi Gras was over, but no one told the people on the street! Bourbon Street was packed with people and it was a scene a little unusual to us. Where we are from there is no open alcohol allowed outside of the bars or restaurants. Here it seemed everyone was ordering their booze, then walking into the street with it. Barkers from nightclubs and strip clubs stood out on the street trying to get us to visit. Most of them didn't seem to pick up on the fact that no matter how beautiful and tempting they made the women sound we sorta aren't into that... lol! Regardless we found a few bars and had a few too many drinks to start off with. So we went in search of food for our empty bellies!


We found a nice little place called Remoulade. The decor was a little bit French Quarter flair, a lot 50's diner. But our waiter was very friendly and helped us pick out some great food. Jacob had a loaded hot dog (yeah, he isn't very adventurous when it comes to food) and I had some amazing BBQ Cajun shrimp. While waiting on that we snacked on some awesome chicken wings!




Once we got our food, I decided to get a little revenge on my mom. Two years ago she called me from a Miami hotel room the night before a 14 day cruise on Princess to tell me how they accidentally ordered way too much pizza and she wished I was there to eat it. Yes, she was a little tipsy and no I couldn't possibly have gone. So as I ate my BBQ shrimp, I called her and told her how much she would like the Cajun food in New Orleans (she loves spicy foods) and then asked her how she liked her snow vs our palm trees.


After eating we encountered some friendly locals who were happy to help us continue our bar hopping. Things got a little blurry from there... but we did find a great apartment in case we decided to stay in the city!!!



Well, that's if the ghosts would let us anyways! This was so strange for us to see tons of real estate listings, each declaring whether the apartment or condo was haunted or not.


Soon we stumbled back to the hotel and slept like the dead. (For those of you not into the drinking scene, don't worry. This was our only night of real partying. The photos get a lot better from here)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Loving this review! I can't wait to read the rest of it. :)


Did your hotel offer free parking or did you have to pay for that separately?


Thanks! I'm trying to write in between doing vacation laundry and getting caught back up on everything I missed!


The hotel did not offer free parking. There was a lot run by Premium Parking that was next to the hotel at $30 per night. It sounds like a lot, but the difference between our hotel and others in the French Quarter that offered free parking was $70 or more, so it was worth it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pre Cruise Day Two/Part One


Everyone buckled in and ready to go? We slammed a lot of New Orleans into a very full day. Tons of pictures and adventures before we even got on the ship. I would recommend planning a day here before you get on the ship. We had as much fun here as we did at any port.


We woke up in the morning and stumbled downstairs for a breakfast that was surprisingly good. It was not just the typical continental breakfast, but a true buffet with omelets, bacon, sausage and grits (or oatmeal). There was a waffle station, fresh fruits and all sorts of other goodies. We ate light and immediately headed to CVS to get rid of the Bourbon Street hangover from the night before. The walk down Canal Street was our first in the daytime and it was awesome to see the busy street cars driving right under the palm trees.


The only problem that was reoccurring in this city was the homeless population. Many of them were either under the influence of something or had conditions that caused them to act very strangely. We had to learn to just ignore it when someone stepped in front of you and stared, or launched themselves into the sidewalk. It never bothered us too much, but this behavior became rather scary when witnessed later at night. We were told by locals to be extremely careful once darkness fell, as they were known to rob and assault tourists in less populated areas (how this didn't happen to us when we were drunk and stumbling the night before was a miracle).


There was one man we started to call "shoes" and he seemed to be everywhere. He would stand on the side of the sidewalk with untied shoes or boots on, would see someone, step out of his shoes and charge across the street in front of them, only to stop and stare at the street when he was done. We must have crossed him half a dozen times this day, each time on a different street and with different shoes.


After we got going for the morning, we headed to the Audubon Aquarium on the Riverfront walkway. We arrived just before it opened and buying tickets was quick and easy at the outdoor ticket booth. They opened the doors and we walked in right behind a large group of elementary school children.


The aquarium is laid out quite nicely and it guides you up and down through all the various sections before leading you out to the exit when you are done. For those with kids, it had a ton of interactive displays and tons of employees performing demonstrations. While we didn't partake, we saw the school children having an absolute blast at these stations.


The very first area showed ocean exibits, then you entered a rain forest section, followed by river sections, penguins, birds and then the large ocean tank. We spent a few hours in here and took lots of pictures, but I will only make you look at a few:



This is one of many menacing looking tiger sharks in the large ocean aquarium. Jacob is scared to death of sharks (too many Jaws movies at too young an age) and he was both freaked out and fascinated by the shark's toothy smile. I repeatedly told him this is what he could look forward to if our ship sank (yeah, I'm a jerk, but he deserved it!)



And here is a lionfish tank in the Mayan section. Most of the areas had a theme that they continued through the displays. It made for a very smooth looking set of displays and reminded me just a little of how theme parks set up each area.


After the aquarium we walked further down the Riverfront to Cafe Du Monde and ordered their famous cafe' au lait and beignets!



Now please don't kill me New Orleans fans... but it just wasn't that great. I ate them, they were good... but I don't see what all the fuss is about. the beignets reminded me of funnel cakes at the local festivals here in the summer, while the cafe' au lait turned out to pretty much be the way I prepare my coffee every day. Again, it was good, but every person I talked to prior to this trip said these would be mind blowing items of food found only in New Orleans. Sorry...


After ordering our food and still trying to puzzle out the reason for the reputation, we walked up the riverfront to do a little ship watching!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pre Cruise Day Two/Part Two:


As we walked up the riverfront we saw a little results of Mardi Gras Voodoo (or at least an attempt at it) on the beach. This appeared to be a few weather worn Voodoo dolls facing the river.



And what's that in the background? That would be a cruise ship! It was a small ship from Aida cruises, but I never figured out which one. It spent the day in New Orleans and later that night we still saw it lit up and sitting in the river. It was gone by the next day, so they must have had one fantastic and long port visit! The only thing we thought was a little bizarre is that the ship appeared to be parked in front of an empty warehouse instead of near any of the terminals or docks near the riverfront activities.


We saw a ton of paddle boats on the river, and each one was a beautiful example of a bygone era. Most of them looked like they did lunch or dinner cruises for a few hours, but one looked set up for overnight or even multi-day cruises. We spent a bit of time thinking about what it must have been like when these things clogged the river as a primary mode of transportation.



This particular ship took off for dinner cruises with a jazz band. The band would play even at the dock, and it was a great strategy as many people would wonder over to hear the band, only to purchase tickets and get on the ship. If we weren't already prepping for a cruise ourselves we would have partaken. But instead we walked on. We had a cemetery to go visit.


Fans of American Horror Story, you will like our next post. We visited the tomb of Madame Marie Laveau as well as took a ghost tour that stopped at the house of Madame Delphine Lalaurie.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pre Cruise Day Two/Part Three:


By now our feet were very tired as we decided to walk our entire day, in the hopes we could burn off some of the calories we were about to eat on board. We wondered through the French Quarter and the atmosphere was simply wonderful. Up and down each street there were street performers, musicians and displays set up everywhere. It was a festival... except that it wasn't. We are told this is simply everyday New Orleans. I don't think you can go anywhere in the French Quarter without hearing live music. We decided we wanted to go on a Ghost Tour, so we wondered into one of the many little shops that sold tours, selected the one recommended by the agent, put down a $10 deposit and were told to meet at the Jackson Street Brewery at 8 PM. Our tour company was Livery Tours and the price was $25 per person. It seemed a little steep, but it may have been the best money we spent.


We stopped for lunch at a hotel bar shortly after. We ordered a rather nice lunch. I ordered turtle soup, a small steak and some sort of potato dish with lobster in it. Jacob ordered a fantastic sounding bacon cheeseburger.


And we waited...

And waited...

And waited...


They brought us bread, and then we waited...

and waited...

and waited some more...


Finally the bartender came over and apologized, saying our server (who was walking around but not actually stopping at any of his tables) had mis-entered our meal ticket and our food was only now being started.


So we thanked her, and waited...

and waited...

and started getting irritated...


Finally we received our meal and the bartender apologized profusely for the long wait. We did not speak our complaints, but our impatience at this point was obvious. We had been seated for well over an hour and everyone who entered with us had long since received their food and were preparing to leave. She asked if the hotel could buy us some dessert in apology. We placed our orders and were reasonably happy with the outcome.


We finished our meals and our dessert, which the bartender ensured came immediately after our meals. She apologized again, then went to prepare our bill. We started talking about what to do next, and shortly after were approached by the manager. He told us that the service we received was below his expectations, and that we therefore would not be paying for our meal today. This sort of shocked us, as this was a fairly expensive lunch and our bill was likely to be around $50 even without dessert. We thanked him, then handed a sizable tip to the bartender for taking care of us when our server didn't.


We then walked to St. Louis Cemetery #1 to visit the grave of Madame Marie Laveau.



We were sort of shocked by the condition of the tombs in this cemetery. Most were broken and damaged, and even the tomb of the great Voodoo Queen was caving in on top. Later, we learned that a combination of drunks as well as people wishing to perform Voodoo rituals at the tombs were creating significant damage to the site and that soon you would only be allowed to enter with a certified tour guide. Notice in the picture all the X's on the brick? Legend says that placing three X's on the tomb of the Voodoo Queen, as well as leaving gifts and other various steps allow you to ask wishes of her. Unfortunately the X's are often carved out by breaking brick or stone off of other tombs, and the gifts left are frequently food or alcohol, causing the cemetery to be a buffet to the less fortunate.


After leaving here we walked through Jackson Square, which was probably the most gorgeous part of the French Quarter. Lined with mansions, museums and old government buildings, it was obvious you were in the heart of the old city.



We were to meet our ghost tour guide in the old Jackson Brewery building. We found out that the building was bought by Ripley's and turned into a museum after the brewery shut down, but the museum was closed due to damage from Hurricane Katrina. Only recently had the space been re-opened as a bar, mini-mall, and club. The interior was beautifully re-done with all recovered materials that had been salvaged from Katrina damaged homes and businesses. We had a very nice dinner there while watching the river and waiting for our ghost tour to start.


Our Ghost Tour was a 2 hour walking tour led by a elementary history teacher who led these tours by night. She was fantastic and gave us a haunting tale of ghost stories, vampire stories and New Orleans legend, all the while peppering in the history of the city. She was one of the best storytellers I've ever heard, making our walk through the city spooky and everything we hoped it would be. We also got a little entertainment from the few women who oddly wore tall heels for the tour. Combined with being less than sober, it led to a lot of comical stumbles and a lot of slurred complaining. Seriously... who signs up for a 2 hour walking tour, then complains about all the walking?



The highlight of our stop was the home of Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a New Orleans socialite who turned her attic into a house of torture. For those of you who watch American Horror Story, you will know exactly who I'm talking about. For the rest of you, look into it with caution. She committed some of the most horrible crimes you can imagine, which is why this house is known as the most haunted in America.


After a truly once in a lifetime tour, we headed back to the hotel to pack and get ready for our cruise. The Carnival Elation was making her way up the river for us and we wanted to catch her before the crowds!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Enjoying your review! So glad you got to tour NOLA before your cruise. We did a cruise out of NOLA 10 years ago, but our pre-cruise visit was cut short due to a canceled flight. (Our pre-cruise tour ended up being in Chicago - nice, but not the same.) Thanks for sharing your vacation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your reply!


And....I love American Horror Story!!! (Except maybe Emma Roberts...but anyway) Did you get to go inside Madame Delphine's house?


We didn't get to go in the house. It is privately owned by the daughter of some billionaire (Nicholas Cage recently sold it and was very reclusive about the property). We were told that she wanted to open it to the public, but that insurance companies won't allow it. Fact or legend? Who knows.


One more update before bed, then I'll try to post some more tomorrow evening.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Day One/Part One


I woke up before Jacob the morning of the cruise and looked out the hotel window around 6:30 AM. I saw a Royal Caribbean ship (Sovereign of the Seas I think) parked in front of one cruise terminal, but didn't immediately spot the Elation. After some searching I saw the whale tale off in the distance. I woke Jacob up excitedly and pointed to it, but he couldn't distinguish it from the buildings and went back to bed. Like a little kid waiting for Christmas I sat up and watched the Elation snake its way down the Mississippi River until I saw this:



Now the plan was to arrive at the cruise terminal by around 10-10:30 AM. I had heard if you arrived much earlier you might not get in, but much later and you would fight the crowds. After having a nice final breakfast and checking out of the hotel (which I can't stress enough how surprised I was at the quality of this place), we made our way over to Fulton Street Parking.


I reserved a spot with Fulton Street because if booked online, it is $8 per day, rather than the $16 per day at the cruise terminal. I've heard horror stories about the place, but also some strong recommendations.


Arrival was pretty simple, they have a lot of people standing around with signs trying to waive you in, so they were more than happy to point me into the garage. I pulled in, showed them my reservation (which you absolutely have to print to get the credit) and they gave me a ticket, as well as slapped a sticker on my back window. I drove all the way to the roof (as that was the only way to get parking for $8) and was told to take the elevator down.


We stood outside of the garage for a minute as a little confusion occurred on which shuttle would be going to the Carnival terminal and which would go to the Royal Caribbean terminal. We were the only outgoing Carnival passengers, so they ended up just dropping us off at the Carnival terminal and taking everyone else to the RC one. As we were riding I couldn't help laugh when I overheard the driver talking to his ride-along porter:


Porter: Man, I hurt my shoulder again.

Driver: Unloading the Royal bags?

Porter: Yeah, them are heavy man.

Driver: I know. Carnival bags, Norwegian bags, them are alright. But those Royal bags, its like they packed bodies inside. Who even owns that much clothes!?

Porter: And they're even heavier when they get back. What they buying on those ships? Children?


We both couldn't contain our laughter. The Royal passengers on the bus weren't so amused...


When we got to the port it was slightly disorganized. I think the Elation was in just a little late, and some passengers were still debarking even though it was around 11 AM now. They also had 2 weddings on the ship, which likely added to the confusion. Once we got past all of the security checks we were escorted into the main area and told to stand in the check in line. This line moved very slowly and we were absolutely envious of our FTTF shipmates. Turned out that it didn't matter much though. Shortly after we got our S&S cards they began embarking, flying through zones almost as fast as they could speak them. By noon, we walked into the Elation for the first time!


In retrospect, we could have probably beaten the crowds and gotten a better zone number had we arrived closer to 10 AM. However with the weddings and the late arrival I don't think anyone boarded before 11:30 anyways. The ship was loading bags well past 4 PM and I think the last passengers got on the ship around 4, despite the many warnings that people would be cut off at 3:30.


We explored the ship, but most of the pictures came in the form of video (which hasn't been edited or touched yet). I did manage this good one from the Promenade deck:



After lunch they opened the doors and announced that everyone could gain access to their rooms. We walked into ours and this is what we saw:



Perfectly clean room, but the beds had not been put together as we asked. No big deal, we just got our stuff unpacked and continued exploring the ship. Later, just before dinner we stopped back in and found the beds still apart. We pushed them together ourselves, unpacked our checked bags (which had finally arrived) and went to dinner.


We were about to get a preview for one of the highlights (dinner) and one of the lowlights (cabin steward) of our trip. But for now, I've got to sign out. More of this coming tomorrow! Until then please leave any comments or questions!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Can't wait to read the rest. We sail 4 weeks from today!


My 17 year old son really wants to do a haunted tour in New Orleans. Were there any age limits that you noticed?


I'll be writing as fast as I can. Didn't realize how long it would take to get all of our pictures edited, so I'm a little behind on those!


I used Livery tours, which I would highly recommend. They didn't note any age restrictions, and the tour guide mentioned she had children on her tour prior to us. So I think he'd be good to go. Just wear comfy shoes!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd you search for Livery tours it should be your first hit. The tour we took is listed on their website under this:


Haunted Houses and Ghosts Walking Tour

Haunted Houses of the French Quarter. We are the only Ghost Tour in New Orleans that actually enters a 200 year old Haunted Mansion!




I plan to get my next few entries in tonight or tomorrow morning. Figures that my free time is at work and away from my photos!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Welcome to Cruise Critic
      • ANNOUNCEMENT: Explore 5 Unique Destinations With All-inclusive Pricing
      • Holiday Exchange - Jingle and Mingle 2023
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Cruise Critic News & Features
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • Canadian Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
  • Create New...