(I haven’t gotten around to finishing recapping Iceland – but I really want to do that because it was the best trip. My goal is to get that done before classes start in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed.)
My mom and I talked about doing a mother/daughter trip for a long time before finally deciding to go for it this year. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise and we really didn’t know much about them, in general – so we decided to go for it and try something new.
We chose a short(ish) 4 night option in case we hated it. Booked on Carnival Ecstasy (out of Miami) with stops in Key West and Cozumel. It’s a smaller (and older) ship, which appealed to us since we were both a little apprehensive about being trapped on a boat with a bunch of people.
My mom super generously picked a suite, so we had a pretty big room and balcony.
Very basically, here was our schedule:
The first day/night on the boat (Monday) was spent checking in and traveling to Key West.
We arrived pretty early the next day (Tuesday), so we chose to eat breakfast in Key West – then rode the tour train around since we didn’t have much time. We were able to be off the ship from around 8AM to 1PM, I think. My mom mostly just wanted to be back in Key West to reminisce, which we accomplished. It was fairly emotional for me since I hadn’t been back since my step-father died and I went down to pack up my mom’s house and help her move back to TN.
Fun morning, though.
We made it to Cozumel the next afternoon (Wednesday). We were able to be off the ship from around 1:30PM to 9:30PM.
We chose to do an “ancient culture” excursion that took us to the San Gervasio Mayan Ruins. The guide was great and the tour/excursion, in general, was fun – our time in Cozumel was just too short.
The excursion included a stop at a beach for a short time (meaning 20 minutes).
We walked around the port area and ate dinner before heading back for the night.
We spent Thursday at sea. We wandered around the boat, saw a couple of shows, ate, took a nap, etc.
It was a gorgeous day. (I have not altered the color in any way.)
We woke up super early on Friday morning, disembarked and flew home.
I’ve heard people rave about cruise food and somehow generally understand that it’s a thing. You eat well on cruises – and you eat a lot. I don’t know that I can say that I necessarily disagree with that, but I certainly don’t know that I’d rave about the food or the eating experience, either. Maybe it was just our cruise or what I chose to eat or maybe I’m a total food snob? It was good and they obviously do a great job feeding thousands of people at once, but the overall experience was just … ok.
Here’s what I ate:
The first lunch after checking in was a buffet situation. I got some stuff from the salad bar and then grabbed a few roasted vegetables and pieces of chicken. I’m not sure what the bread was. My mom and I got a plate of desserts to split and sample, too.
We went to dinner that night in the Wind Star Dining Room, which is where we ate most meals (since we chose the option to eat at any time vs. designating a set time). As with each meal we had there, we could choose from a list of starters, main entrees and desserts. I almost always skipped the starter and stuck with the main course and dessert.
Dinner the first night was tilapia, carrots and a tiny dish of mac and cheese. I was pretty impressed with (and grateful for) the small/appropriately sized portions. For dessert, I had the chocolate melting cake that the people sitting next to us told me is famous, but apparently failed to take a picture.
We ate breakfast the next morning in Key West. I had eggs and ham on a croissant (with hashbrowns). Poor choice. Not a fan of American cheese slices.
We decided to order room service for lunch when we got back on the boat since we were both sort of tired and wanted to hang out on our own balcony where it was quiet.
I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich on rye with potato salad. We also asked for a “sample of cookies” and a piece of chocolate cake to split. It was all ok.
Dinner that night was the “elegant evening.” No shorts. I chose chicken, broccoli and roasted vegetables (that turned out to be potatoes and sweet potatoes). Black Forest cake for dessert.
I was pretty hungry on Wednesday morning, so I ordered a couple of things: oatmeal and a bagel with smoked salmon.
Lunch was a salad with beef and a citrus dressing before we arrived in Cozumel.
We ate dinner that night in Cozumel at an extremely loud and overpriced restaurant because it had wi-fi. The guacamole is deceiving. Flat plate.
We ordered room service again on Thursday morning. Breakfast via room service was continental only, so I had another bagel with smoked salmon. We also asked for some croissants with orange marmalade, because I LOVE orange marmalade. It’s a vacation only treat, so I put it on everything when I travel.
They had a “sea day brunch” on Thursday, so we went to that in the late afternoon after spending the morning doing a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship. I ate pancakes (with a side of corned beef hash) AND had banana cream pie as a dessert AND had a pastry of some sort that they brought to the table – and promptly fell into a sugar coma.
I wanted a simpler dinner, but chose all 3 courses: mozz & tomatoes, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and zucchini, Baked Alaska for dessert.
We ordered room service again on Friday morning, mostly so I would have coffee before we left at 8AM. I had a bagel with smoked salmon again.
As I said earlier, we ate at the Wind Star Dining Room or ordered room service each time – which might have limited us somewhat – but those were really the only choices I liked. The other options were a buffet style bar & grill with standard burgers and chicken fingers and fries, a pizza & deli counter or a Mongolian Rotisserie Grill – all that always had super long lines and would have left us searching for a free table and wading through crowds.
I could have chosen healthier options sometimes (i.e., I can’t recall the last time I had pancakes and I certainly shouldn’t have consumed so many bagels). I also could have chosen not to eat the bread they brought to the table at each meal. Few of the desserts were fantastic enough to bother eating in full, but I ate them all anyway. Overall? I could have done better, but I could have done WAY, WAY worse.
We saw two (music) shows – Motor City and The Brits!. Both were entertaining and worth taking the time to see. We also stopped in to watch the Love & Marriage show, which was sort of a newlywed game show thing.
The common areas look like a casino. I don’t know if that’s common on all ships or what?
It has a small mini golf area and a water park.
Also has an “adults only” spot.
There’s a spa, gym and jogging path.
We had some sort of fast track check-in because my mom booked a suite, so we got to skip the masses the first day.
We did not have the same fortune getting off or back on in Key West or Cozumel – or disembarking. We waited in line FOREVER several times. While they do a fantastic job herding cattle – I’m not a fan of being such.
(So. Many. People. Everywhere.)
I learned to say no to the photographers very quickly.
I wasn’t happy that the wi-fi was so ridiculously priced that it just wasn’t worth it. I will never want to completely “unplug” and I’m ok with that. It would be one thing if it just wasn’t available – but it was. Just very costly.
Best part of the trip? The previously mentioned 3-hour behind-the-scenes tour of the ship. I was most interested in seeing the kitchen and how that operation works, so I was happy the head chef briefly spoke with us. Very interesting.
Would I do it again? No.
It was very fun to be with my mom and I’m glad we did it, but it’s just not my way to travel.
The chaos and feeling as if I was being herded like cattle just wasn’t enjoyable. Sensory overload, for sure.
I wanted to see Cozumel, but instead I mostly just saw a highly commercialized port and the inside of a bus. I’m not even counting the experience as having “been to Cozumel.”
Carnival clearly does a very good job at what they do. Zero complaints about them. In fact, their staff, customer service and herding of cattle are all excellent.
I just don’t like crowds and chaos, don’t gamble, don’t drink, like to be free to do my own thing – and baking at the side of a pool is my version of hell – so maybe this just wasn’t for me?