Built in 1991, Carnival Ecstasy is the second oldest ship in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. Numerous refurbishments over the years have kept the wear-and-tear to a minimum, and although small signs of age are beginning to show, the crew makes up for any physical flaws with superior levels of service.
A 2017 makeover brought some much-needed food and beverage additions that passengers have come to love on other Carnival ships, like Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, Alchemy Bar and the Cherry on Top candy shop.
Carnival Ecstasy features an easy-to-love grand atrium with a "big city lights" theme that flows throughout public spaces. The vibrant colour scheme invites passengers to enjoy their time onboard participating in every activity imaginable from deck parties and dancing into the night to karaoke, trivia and bingo.
The ship also offers some family-friendly amenities that up the ante in terms of fun. Hasbro: The Game Show brings audience members onstage to compete in life-size versions of favourite childhood games, while Carnival WaterWorks provides fun, twisty water slides and splash pad fun for all ages.
At night, the adult fun on Ecstasy includes lots of bars and nightlife along with the Punchliner Comedy Shows and Playlist Productions big stage evening shows. For something different, try the Alchemy Bar where "prescription" cocktails offer a spectacle of their own.
On the downside, the ship only has a single pool and lounge chairs are in high demand. Getting a prime position around the pool requires getting up early or staying onboard during port calls.
While Carnival Ecstasy may be small in size (at least compared to some of today's mega-ships), it is big on service. Crew remember your name with only a single introduction and dinner is a dream without having to ask for your favourite drink, an extra roll or after-dinner coffee past night one. Don't be surprised if someone on the crew recognizes you, even in port, and calls you by name.
Everyday dress on Carnival Ecstasy is casual with shorts, T-shirts, swimsuits and flip-flops being the normal poolside attire. Most passengers wear the same attire into the dining areas during the daytime, adding a cover-up or shirt if they're in just a bathing suit.
In the evenings, men mostly wear slacks and collared shirts while women don skirts, dresses and other casual items. While the dress code states no jeans, it is not as strictly enforced as the policy requiring collared shirts.
Elegant nights come with a suggested attire of suits or dress pants with a jacket for men and cocktail dresses for women. We saw few passengers so dressed up, finding most on Ecstasy were low-key and skipped the fancier clothing.
The Blue Sapphire Lounge is the main stage for Playlist Productions, Carnival's fast-paced musicals featuring tunes and musical icons that will resonate with the entire audience. The beautiful, two-tier venue holds just a tad over 850 people so come early for the best seating at one of the two nightly performances. "Latin Nights," "Motor City" and "The Brits!" are the Playlist shows currently headlining on Ecstasy and are all equally entertaining. Yes, it's an older ship that doesn't boast lots of flashy effects, but the shows are still hopping and full of energy.
The theatre also plays host to other entertainment as well. Passenger favourites like Hasbro: The Game Show (where games like Connect Four are brought to life) and the Love & Marriage Show, as well as shore excursion and disembarkation talks are also held in the venue.
A day on Ecstasy offers a myriad fun activities. From trivia to bingo, sports tournaments and the ever-popular hairy chest competition, you'll find something to entertain everyone in your party. Families might want to check out Seuss at Sea featuring the once-per-cruise Seuss-a-palooza Parade and Storytime, which includes an onstage and interactive reading of a classic Dr. Seuss book.
There are many areas aboard lively Carnival Ecstasy to enjoy the evening dancing, singing karaoke, listening to tunes or joining in a fun mega deck party. With plenty of music going until the wee hours of the morning, there's no shortage of lounges to find the party atmosphere you enjoy most.
If the casino is your jam, head to Deck 9 for slots and table games at Crystal Palace Casino. Keep an eye on FunTimes for casino tournament information.
Atrium Bar (Deck 7): Modern and convenient, the Atrium Bar is right in the middle of all the fun where you'll find nightly music and dancing. There is seating at the bar in addition to the surrounding area.
Neon Piano Bar (Deck 8): A fabulous and fun venue with a large, curved piano as the centrepiece. The pianist takes requests from the crowd and passengers enjoy singing along.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 9): Added during a 2017 refurbishment, Alchemy Bar is a "pharmacy" themed lounge with mixologists working with passengers to "prescribe" the perfect concoction, made from different elixirs (rum, vodka, etc.) and creative ingredients.
Chinatown Lounge (Deck 9): Asian-inspired furnishings and decor, including paper lanterns, set this lounge apart from the rest and creates an inviting atmosphere for fun evenings.
Metropolis Bar (Deck 9): Often referred to as the Casino Bar, Metropolis is located right outside of the Crystal Palace Casino. Reward yourself after a big win in the casino with a top-shelf drink and listen to nearby music. Keep in mind that both the casino and part of this bar allow smoking.
Starlight Lounge (Deck 9): Home to The Punchliner Comedy Club, this is the place to laugh out loud and enjoy a drink. Catch a PG-rated show earlier in the evening, but as the night goes on the shows become R-rated and strictly for adults.
Stripes Nightclub (Deck 9): A popular dance club, Stripes is the happening spot for late nights. Opening at 10:30 p.m. and going until the wee hours of the morning, Stripes offers varied music ranging from '70s and '80s to Latin-inspired tunes and nightclub hits hosted by a DJ.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10): BlueIguana Tequila Bar is a Mexican-themed poolside bar with several brands of tequila and several different Mexican brews. Relax with a frozen concoction, cocktail or margarita by the glass or pitcher. If you're brave enough, try a spicy Mexican beer cocktail -- Blue's Corona Extra Michelada -- made with fresh lime juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco and Corona Extra served in a salt-rimmed glass.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10): Another poolside hit, the RedFrog Rum Bar is a Caribbean-inspired hangout with rum-based drinks available by the glass or pitcher. With an island vibe, this popular bar also features Carnival's signature private-label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Red.
Pour Your Own Beer Station (Deck 10): Swipe your Sail & Sign card and be your own bartender. The Beer Station offers the line's in-house brew --ThirstyFrog Red -- plus other passenger favourites like Bud Light and Miller Lite at a walk-up dispenser with usually not much of a line.
The Lido Deck (10), midship is where you will find the one and only pool on Carnival Ecstasy. Surrounded by loungers, its flanked by Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, BlueIguana Tequila Bar and RedFrog Rum Bar, making it a busy spot throughout the day. There's always an event or some sort of live music happening here and the vibe is happy and relaxed. It can be difficult to find a poolside lounger if you are a late riser, except on port days.
Carnival Ecstasy has a WaterWorks play area on Deck 11 that includes a water slide suitable for all ages in addition to a couple of kiddie slides. You can also try your hand at the nine-hole mini-golf course on Deck 14 or take on some friendly competition in the Arcade on Deck 9.
Besides the pool deck, you can find extra loungers -- and a nice breeze -- on Deck 11 under the iconic Carnival whale tail. There is also a nice space on Deck 10: the Serenity adults-only retreat, which has two hot tubs, loungers, umbrellas and a shady area. Serenity is only steps away from the Lido Restaurant, so never far from snacks and meals.
You'll find Ecstasy's guest services desk on Deck 7, along with a shore excursions desk for anyone who needs more information about what to do in port. There's also an Art Gallery on Deck 7 and a Deck 9 Pixels Photo Gallery, where you'll find copies of all the pictures the photographers have been taking of you all cruise long. The shops on Decks 8 and 9 offer up official Carnival merchandise (shirts, hats, coffee mugs and the like), as well as jewellery, liquor and bargain accessories. You'll find a variety of candies at the sweetest spot onboard -- Cherry on Top.
Rainy days are a great time to check out indoor spots like the Explorer's Club Library, where passengers can engage in intense card or board games or grab a book from the collection. Located on Deck 8, the library is decorated with dark, rich woods, deep hues of blue and displays a beautiful globe.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship and Carnival offers several internet plans to meet the needs of all passengers, from a basic social media package (from $4 per day) that provides access to the most popular social websites and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger and more. The Value Wi-Fi Plan starts at $10.25 per day and allows you to surf the internet, email and more. The Premium Wi-Fi Plan starts at $14.88 per day and is the fastest connection available. With this plan passengers can email, Skype and more, but FaceTime, and music and video streaming are not supported. All packages must be purchased for the full sailing and you can save up to 15 percent by booking a plan prior to sailing rather than onboard.
Coin-operated, self-service laundry facilities are located on two decks: 6 (across from cabin U154) and 7 (across from cabin E6). Bring your own detergent or purchase from vending machines. There are also irons and ironing boards located in these areas for passenger use.
Decorated in calm neutral tones, Spa Carnival on Deck 12 offers a variety of facials, massages and other body treatments. Acupuncture is also on the menu, as are a variety of teen services. Look for spa deals on port days for the best values.
Salon services are also available for both men and women. Menu items include haircuts, styling and colour treatments as well as mani/pedis and tooth whitening.
For folks that want to keep up their workouts while on vacation, the fitness centre (open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.) offers cardio, strength training and for-fee classes such as aerobics, Pilates, yoga, spinning and more. There are quite a few treadmills and ellipticals along with free weights. Go early or late to avoid crowds, or on port days when the gym is at its emptiest.
Separate women's and men's locker rooms feature showers, a changing area, a sauna and steam room.
You'll find the jogging track on Deck 14. Runners and walkers will need to make 11 laps for a mile, but the track is comfortable and wide enough for everyone. Mornings are the least crowded times to use the track.
Almost all the dining on Carnival Ecstasy is free as there are no up-charge speciality restaurants. For the best selections, hit up the main dining rooms for evening meals, which feature a full three courses plus dessert. Lido buffet selections are typically plentiful and include a daily Chef's Choice (ranging from American to French to Italian) that we always enjoyed. There are ample places to grab a quick bite at nontraditional meal times as well as a (for fee) coffee shop.
Wind Song and Wind Star Dining Rooms (Deck 8): Wind Song and Wind Star are Carnival Ecstasy's two main dining rooms and they look and feel alike, right down to sharing the same menu. The main difference is that you'll find traditional set dining times for dinner in Wind Song (6 and 8:15 p.m.), while Wind Star is for passengers choosing the flexible Your Time Dining, open each evening, from 5:45 to 9 p.m.
Wind Star also offers open seating for breakfast daily from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and lunch from noon to 1:30 p.m. Breakfast in Wind Star is generally good with omelettes, fruit and hearty servings of bacon and sausage. We found lunch to be too heavy on the salads and sandwiches so preferred opting for the Lido Deck, where the variety was greater. Always double-check your FunTimes (the printed daily schedule) as other events sometimes replace these meals -- like the Seaday Brunch, which is not to be missed with its fancier fixings like salmon, pancakes and other delicious treats.
Only dinner is served in Wind Song, with the exception of the Dr. Seuss-themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast on the last sea day (reservations are encouraged and there is a small charge).
Both main dining rooms offer the same menu each night consisting of rotating items and several choices that remain the same. Steakhouse selections are also available in the main dining rooms for an extra $20 charge and include filet mignon, New York Strip, lobster or surf and turf options. The rotating menu always offers a variety, including at least one vegetarian choice. Waiters are careful to work with those who have food allergies to come up with versions of menu items that suit their needs.
Among our favourite meals were the grilled tilapia and asparagus, prime rib, lasagna Bolognese and chateaubriand (thick-cut tenderloin filet) with bearnaise sauce. Featured salads were tasty, packing some extra servings of veggies, and appetizers were consistently good. Feel free to ask waiters to swap out an appetizer if the one listed with the entree you want isn't to your liking.
One weak spot was the steaks, which we found came out the same regardless of how we asked them to be cooked. We discovered we got better steaks if we ordered them from the everyday menu on nights when they weren't a featured entree.
Carnival's famous warm chocolate melting cake is the most popular dessert by far featuring a chocolate cake with a pudding-like centre served with vanilla ice cream. It's fantastic with an after-dinner coffee. Other desserts are also always available including scoops of ice cream in different flavours, sherbets, sugar-free options and a cheese platter.
Lido Restaurant (Deck 10): The Lido buffet is casual with plenty of seating and lots of options. Breakfast begins at 6:30 a.m. with a continental option just ahead of the full breakfast, which starts at 7:30 a.m. Options include eggs, bacon, grits, oatmeal, fruit, cereal and yoghurt as well as awesome made-to-order omelettes that are outstanding. Carnival also offers late-riser breakfast choices up until noon; these include cereal, yoghurt, scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal, pastries and a small selection of fruit.
Lunchtime diners will find the salad bar and different versions of fish, chicken and pasta along with several side options. There is a daily Chef's Choice (American, French, Italian, etc.) that we found to be quite good. Lunch is served noon (sometimes 11:30 a.m.) to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner is available from 6 to 9 p.m. and is noticeably more crowded on port days than on sea days. The salad bar is always popular and dinner choices look much the same as lunch.
There is a dessert table at lunch and dinner and Swirls (soft-serve ice cream or yoghurt) is available 24/7.
Pizza Pirate (Deck 10): Hugely popular with the younger crowd, yet tasty enough for everyone, Pizza Pirate makes thin crust pies 24 hours a day. Wait time is short for popular cheese and pepperoni varieties but note that special orders (multiple meats or additional veggies) can take a little while. Located at the back of Deck 10 close to the buffet, but at its own separate counter, Pizza Pirate shares space with the Carnival Deli.
Carnival Deli (Deck 10): Side by side with Pizza Pirate is the Carnival Deli with wraps and sandwiches like a turkey wrap, tuna on white bread, pastrami on rye and a grilled Reuben, just to name a few. This is a nice, lighter alternative to the heavier meals found in the buffet; sandwiches can be pressed or served cold. The deli is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 10): Located poolside, BlueIguana Cantina offers breakfast from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. serving burritos stuffed with your choice of Mexican scrambled eggs, chicken sausage, ham, skillet hash browns, tomatoes, cheese and other scrumptious fillings. Lunchtime (noon to 2:30 p.m.) is similar: choose a tortilla or taco and then pick out a protein (chicken, fish or pork) and fillings from the fantastic choices like roasted corn, refried beans, tomatoes, cilantro lime rice, black beans, lettuce, peppers and onions. The salsa bar is extensive and offers ice-cold watermelon. This ended up being our favourite lunch spot, and we weren't alone.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 10): Awesome burgers with lots of fixings can be found at Guy's Burger Joint, Carnival's partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri. Featuring burgers grilled to perfection with many topping choices (think lettuce, tomato, onions, pickle, onion ring) and served with hand-cut fries, this poolside spot is popular with all ages thanks in part to the burger shack look that sports surfboards and sees the silverware rolled in red "oil rags." Guy's Burger Joint is open daily 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Room Service: Breakfast room service is limited to the continental variety, but especially nice if you have a balcony; choose items from a list and place a hanging card outside your door before you retire for the evening. The rest of the day meals can be called in, with standard choices like sandwiches and salads that are free of charge, or hot foods for a small fee. Also, late-night options are available after 10 p.m. for a small fee. Room service is available 24 hours a day; remember to tip a couple of bucks.
Chef's Table (Deck 8); $75 for kids, $95 for adults: This exclusive dinner experience is hosted by the Master Executive Chef and comes with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and a divine multicourse dinner including appetizers, entrees and desserts that are not found on regular dining menus. The once-per-cruise event takes place in the library and you'll need to reserve through Guest Services early on as there's only room for 14.
Rolls Royce Café (Deck 9); a la carte: Treat yourself to a speciality coffee or freshly brewed cup of tea and a pastry or a milkshake at this grab-and-go spot. You can also find special treats like chocolate-covered strawberries. Rolls Royce is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.; be sure to get a selfie with the cafe's namesake.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Deck 8, Wind Song); $6: The entire family can enjoy this festive Dr. Seuss-themed breakfast with bright, colourful tablescapes and appearances by Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am and Things 1 and 2. Choose the classic Green Eggs and Ham or go for some funky French toast (coated in Froot Loops) coupled with "Moose Juice" or stick with a standard breakfast offering of eggs, bacon, waffle or other familiar choices. (Note: They allow time for photo opportunities with the characters, including official ship photos as well as with your own camera.)
As far as cabins go, those on Carnival Ecstasy are comfortable and slightly larger than those on newer ships, given that this ship was built in the days of roomier cabins. Warm tones of orange and beige complement wood finishes throughout the 1,026 cabins, where there is ample storage in closets and drawers. No need to bring your own hangers, there are several in each room. Carnival Comfort Collection linens line the twin beds (which can be pushed together in all rooms to make king-sized beds) making them seriously nap-worthy.
Room amenities include safes, telephones (for room-to-room, guest service and cabin attendant calls), bathrobes, and flat-screen televisions with limited programming. You can check your shipboard account from the TV, plus view port excursion options and other ship activities. There is a handful of news channels plus a movie channel. Some suites have hair dryers, but most rooms do not. Plan to bring one along, as well as a power strip due to lack of outlets.
Bathrooms are only large enough for one person at a time and the showers sport clingy curtains rather than doors. Storage is limited to one shelf for toiletries; Carnival provides bar soap for hand and face washing, along with shampoo and body wash dispensers in the shower.
There are 24 accessible cabins onboard. Additionally, 109 cabins are adjoining making it possible for families to stay together and yet spread out.
Interior: Interior cabins are the lowest-priced room category on Carnival Ecstasy; they are a comfortable 185 square feet. Room configurations might include two twins (or twins combined into a king), or a twin with a sofa bed or a pull-down bed. Interior cabins come with two nightstands, a vanity and stool, a shelf and sitting chair; they can sleep up to four people depending on the configuration.
Oceanview: These 185-square-foot cabins are the same as the interior rooms, but feature either two portholes (both 17-inch diameter) or one window (4 by 4 feet). Ocean-view cabins can sleep up to five people depending on the configuration.
Balcony: Balcony cabins are also 185 square feet and have the same amenities as their interior and ocean-view counterparts, but they feature a 35-square-foot balcony, which includes two mesh chairs along with a small table. Extended balcony cabins feature a 55-square-foot veranda. Balcony cabins can sleep up to four people depending on the configuration.
Junior Suites: A little roomier at 220 square feet, Junior Suites come with 30-square-foot balconies and 4-by-4-foot windows. There is a couch and table (coffee table size) as well a vanity and a mini-fridge. Junior Suites can hold up to three passengers.
Suites: Measuring 330 square feet, the ship's Grand Suites also have extra-large balconies (70 or 115 square feet) and windows (5.5 by 4 feet). Rooms have a couch, comfy armchair, coffee table and mini-fridge in addition to expanded bathrooms that have a tub, which is especially good for anyone travelling with children. Suites also have hair dryers. Passengers staying in suites receive VIP check-in. Suites can hold up to five people.