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Cruise Ship Review

Carnival Ecstasy - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

Editor's Note: All eight of Carnival's Fantasy-class ships will receive extensive upgrades as part of Carnival's $250 million "Evolutions of Fun" program. Expansive children's water parks, a new design style and features for the pool areas, and the creation of the Serenity adults only deck area will be part of the changes to the open decks of Carnival Cruise Lines' eight Fantasy-class ships.

The expanded outdoor recreation areas will be initially incorporated onto the 2,052-passenger Inspiration and Imagination during month-long dry docks in fall of 2007 and added to other Fantasy-class ships in 2008 and 2009 during scheduled dry-dock periods.


In the world of cruise ships, Ecstasy is proving to be a golden oldie. I loved my five-day trip and would sail the very comfortable Ecstasy again in a heart beat. It boasts many of the amenities standard on 21st-century vessels such as flat-screen televisions and Internet cafe, but with more than a touch of Carnival's original classic neon and glitz. Ecstasy is a Fantasy-class sister to Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise, and cost $315 million when it debuted in 1991. One of three vessels (along with Sensation and Holiday) Carnival chartered to FEMA after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Ecstasy has recently undergone a major refurbishment, and is offering two five-day sailings and one four-day sailing, departing Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Mexico from the Port of Galveston.

The refurbishment included changing and thoroughly cleaning carpets throughout the ship. Pictures on the wall are new, there are the aforementioned flat-screen televisions in all cabins, the new Carnival Comfort bedding has been installed in all cabins, and public rooms have been updated and brightened. It was a boatload of intense spring cleaning, and the ship has aged well.

Among the larger changes? A mini-golf course was created, and Camp Carnival, one of the most attractive features of these Carnival vessels, was relocated. (More than 600 kids were registered during one spring break week.) An Internet cafe is located at the Promenade deck (Deck 9), down the hall from Rolls Royce, a new coffee shop offering a variety of designer coffees and milkshakes priced between $2.50 and $4 each. There's also a late afternoon sushi bar and a new photo gallery that winds around the Atrium.

This well-maintained vessel is ideal for families, multigenerational groups, honeymooners and singles, providing that proverbial something for everyone, including fine entertainment, comfortable accommodations and excellent food. The cruise line has set out to attract "age is a state of mind" travelers across the spectrum who are looking for a more spirited vacation experience. Because of its four- and five-day schedule, Ecstasy attracts a large number of families and kids of all ages.

And yet at the same time, veteran travelers who remember the earlier days of contemporary cruise travel, won't be disappointed. The "newlywed game," name that tune contests, ice carving and bingo are still part of the frivolities. An extended camp program for kids between the ages of 2 and 17, art auctions, wine seminars, spa classes attractive to the fit, and late-night entertainment appeal to all demographics.

The Ecstasy features a New York City theme that runs throughout the public rooms. If you seek a lively, active cruise with plenty of nightlife, this ship is for you. This vessel appeals to the young-at-heart of all ages who like a more spirited than subdued holiday. You will find terrific Las Vegas-style entertainment, a selection of theme bars and lounges, and some of the largest standard cabins in the cruise industry. Despite the large number of passengers, there is no sense of being crowded onboard.

Dining

Once upon a time, the dining experience wasn't Carnival's high point, but that was then. In the now, the line's ships offer exciting dining options and truly good food. Service has been considerably refined and is outstanding.

Wind Star and Wind Song are the two main dining rooms. Menu items include a wondrous raspberry mousse with chocolate cake; a free-range chicken specialty with creamed foie gras sauce served with grilled zucchini, glazed mushrooms and a basmati rice pilaf; and more. An appetizer that got rave reviews on Ecstasy was the smoked duck and caramelized oranges with onion and oven-dried tomato confit.

Menus also offer spa alternatives, lower calorie items with calories and fat grams listed. (How about grilled baby veggies with tangy soy vinaigrette at 121 calories and only 2 grams of fat?)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at the Panorama Bar & Grill, a buffet eatery where a 24-hour pizzeria, 24-hour yogurt and ice cream station, and deli sandwich bar are also located. Breakfast on the Lido Deck includes a made-to-order eggs/omelet station, fresh breads, Danish pastry and muffins, many items for lunch plus a salad bar, and at dinner, some of the offerings from the main dining rooms.

A children's menu featuring those ubiquitous chicken fingers, small pizzas and pasta is always available.

Service in the dining rooms -- and the Panorama Bar & Grill -- is consistently good. Attentive waiters fill glasses, offer more (oh so good) bread and make that extra effort to ensure guests enjoy the meal.

The two dining rooms accommodate 650 passengers. The two seatings are at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

All dining venues are non-smoking.

Room service -- with a limited menu -- is available 24 hours. Salads and sandwiches are pretty much all that's offered for lunch and dinner, and a continental breakfast of cold cereal and/or breads is delivered promptly with the toast still warm.

Late night offerings include the ever-popular midnight buffets -- yes, Carnival still offers them -- and that 24-hour pizzeria. A sushi bar on Promenade Deck is in operation before dinner.

Public Rooms

City Lights Boulevard is the name of Ecstasy's promenade on Deck 9. The Photography Gallery -- a repository for all those pictures taken during the cruise from embarkation to farewell dinner -- encircles the Grand Atrium, between the casino and Blue Sapphire Lounge.

One deck below, on Deck 8, is the Explorer's Library (open two hours a day) and Neon, a popular piano bar. An electronic games arcade is also located on Deck 8.

The ship's most active areas dot the Boulevard, which runs from the Blue Sapphire Lounge through the Grand Atrium, and down to the Society Bar and the larger Starlight Lounge near the aft end of the ship.

The Lobby -- where guests enter and gaze up the seven-story Atrium in awe -- is home to the U-shaped bar that also serves coffee. Between the shore excursion desk and the ship's front desk, it is a busy hive of activity when the ship is not in port.

Internet service is available in a great location, 24 hours a day on Promenade Deck, across from the Rolls Royce patisserie. Packages are available for about $29 an hour.

Cabins

Standard Oceanview cabins are 190 square ft. and inside cabins are 185 square ft. Most the ship's cabins feature twin beds, combined into an extremely comfortable king-size bed. Carnival's Comfort Bed is a new sleep system that is on a par with those in five-star hotels.

Cabins offer good lighting for reading in bed. New flat-screen television sets are wall-mounted. Oceanview cabins and higher feature bathrobes, but don't expect hair dyers, so pack your own. Only top-priced cabins have a verandah. Amenities include wall-installed, in-shower bath gel and shampoo, plus a basket of sample-size goodies, including Crest toothpaste, Tylenol, Tums, razors, etc.

Triples and quads accommodate the needs of three or four people traveling together. These cabins go quickly -- especially over school holiday periods -- so book early. Interestingly, all of Carnival's Fantasy-class ships have cabins that can accommodate five -- very unusual in the industry. It goes without saying that this can be quite appealing to families.

Twenty cabins have been designed for physically challenged guests.

Closet and drawer space is standard. A safe, which guests can program individually, is located in each cabin.

Suites on the ship were redone during the refurbishment program.

Launderettes are situated throughout the ship.

Entertainment

Carnival entertainment is varied, ranging from classical music to X-rated comedy, and includes some of the most outstanding stage productions -- real Las Vegas-style revues -- on the seven seas.

Xtreme Country is the name of a western-themed show, performed the last night at sea, and practically tailor-made for the Galveston-based vessel and its passengers. Once a replica of a pickup truck appears on stage, the standing room audience is completely captured. No one can sit through the show without tapping a foot, and a few dance in the aisles. Loud, colorful and dynamite, Xtreme Country is marvelous.

Stripes Dance Club is a wild and crazy place. Chinatown also features music. Rolls Royce -- and yes, there is a real Rolls on display -- is a patisserie and coffee house, and the Crystal Palace Casino is often the hottest spot on the ship.

The Blue Sapphire Lounge, a two-tiered showroom, features a lot of glitter, a lot of blue, some wonderfully comfortable seats, but also those darned poles that ruin sight-lines on the Fantasy-Class ships. It is a shame, because many of the shows produced in this room are about the best in the business. It is an elegant show room -- in a 90's sort of way.

Crystal Palace Casino is a full-service casino with slots and table games and weekly slot and blackjack tournaments. Table games include blackjack and Caribbean Stud Poker, three card poker, roulette and craps. Slots are state-of-the-art.

Neon offers sing-alongs and karaoke.

Fitness and Recreation

The spa and fitness center offers separate saunas and steam rooms for men and women, as well as coed whirlpool tubs. Classes, such as aerobics and Pilates, are offered; some levy a $10 charge. Ecstasy has three pools, including a wading pool for Camp Carnival. The main pool is where the action is (live music, pool games and Carnival's signature water slide). There is a quiet aft pool and two whirlpools for guests who choose to get away from it all and relax in peace.

Carnival has been very aggressive in growing its golf programs. Onboard Ecstasy, a golf pro sails on each cruise -- and will arrange golf outings during calls at Mexican ports. Just want to play at it? Check out the new nine-hole miniature golf course.

Another hit is the trademark Carnival slide, open on sea days.

Family

If ever a ship and/or itinerary lent itself to family cruising, this is it. Camp Carnival provides super programming for kids of all ages. They have a blast. New audio/visual equipment in the Camp, relocated in the refurbishment to a new area reached by the Forward elevators, makes it a really attractive area to youngsters.

Family programming goes on all day and includes pool games, dance lessons, and an evening production revue.

Fellow Passengers

Galveston has proven a popular drive-to port with hundreds of Louisiana residents, Texans, other Gulf Coast folks, and many Middle Americans opting for the Galveston-based itineraries.

Expect to find people from many walks of life traveling in groups, a couple of in-their-own-world honeymooners, some first-time cruisers and a lot of repeat passengers. Because of this broad sweep of passengers, ages skew all over the board. Most appear to be in the 40 to 60 age group.

Dress Code

This is a casual ship -- and it is usually quite hot in Mexico, as well as in Galveston -- so shorts, T-shirts and sandals seem to be the uniform of the day, everyday. Long pants are appropriate at dinner. Formal nights on Ecstasy don't seem to require a tux. A suit or sport jacket and slacks are the option most men choose, while women dress up a bit more. You can dine in swimwear at the Lido or around the pool. Wear a cover-up.

Gratuity

A fee of $10 per person, per day is added to each bill. It covers tips to room stewards, dining room waiter and team waiter. Additional tips to maitre'd, dining room captains or camp counselor are at your pleasure. A change in tips is possible by visiting the front desk before departure. Carnival adds a 15 percent tip to all drink bills.

--by Marcia Levin
In the world of cruise ships, Ecstasy is proving to be a golden oldie. I loved my five-day trip and would sail the very comfortable Ecstasy again in a heart beat. It boasts many of the amenities standard on 21st-century vessels such as flat-screen televisions and Internet cafe, but with more than a touch of Carnival's original classic neon and glitz. Ecstasy is a Fantasy-class sister to Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise, and cost $315 million when it debuted in 1991. One of three vessels (along with Sensation and Holiday) Carnival chartered to FEMA after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Ecstasy has recently undergone a major refurbishment, and is offering two five-day sailings and one four-day sailing, departing Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Mexico from the Port of Galveston.

The refurbishment featured the addition of a new wireless Internet cafe, an expanded Youth Program facility, a resort-style pool, Carnival WaterWorks water slides, and the adult-only Serenity sun deck. Efforts also entailed changing and thoroughly cleaning carpets throughout the ship. Pictures on the wall are new, there are the aforementioned flat-screen televisions in all cabins, the new Carnival Comfort bedding has been installed in all cabins, and public rooms have been updated and brightened.

Among other changes? A mini-golf course was created. Rolls Royce is a new coffee shop offering a variety of designer coffees and milkshakes priced between $2.50 and $4 each. There's also a late afternoon sushi bar and a new photo gallery that winds around the Atrium.

This well-maintained vessel is ideal for families, multigenerational groups, honeymooners and singles, providing that proverbial something for everyone, including fine entertainment, comfortable accommodations and excellent food. The cruise line has set out to attract "age is a state of mind" travelers across the spectrum who are looking for a more spirited vacation experience. Because of its four- and five-day schedule, Ecstasy attracts a large number of families and kids of all ages.

And yet at the same time, veteran travelers who remember the earlier days of contemporary cruise travel, won't be disappointed. The "newlywed game," name that tune contests, ice carving and bingo are still part of the frivolities. An extended camp program for kids between the ages of 2 and 17, art auctions, wine seminars, spa classes attractive to the fit, and late-night entertainment appeal to all demographics.

The Ecstasy features a New York City theme that runs throughout the public rooms. If you seek a lively, active cruise with plenty of nightlife, this ship is for you. This vessel appeals to the young-at-heart of all ages who like a more spirited than subdued holiday. You will find terrific Las Vegas-style entertainment, a selection of theme bars and lounges, and some of the largest standard cabins in the cruise industry. Despite the large number of passengers, there is no sense of being crowded onboard.

Dining

Once upon a time, the dining experience wasn't Carnival's high point, but that was then. In the now, the line's ships offer exciting dining options and truly good food. Service has been considerably refined and is outstanding.

Wind Star and Wind Song are the two main dining rooms. Menu items include a wondrous raspberry mousse with chocolate cake; a free-range chicken specialty with creamed foie gras sauce served with grilled zucchini, glazed mushrooms and a basmati rice pilaf; and more. An appetizer that got rave reviews on Ecstasy was the smoked duck and caramelized oranges with onion and oven-dried tomato confit.

Menus also offer spa alternatives, lower calorie items with calories and fat grams listed. (How about grilled baby veggies with tangy soy vinaigrette at 121 calories and only 2 grams of fat?)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at the Panorama Bar & Grill, a buffet eatery where a 24-hour pizzeria, 24-hour yogurt and ice cream station, and deli sandwich bar are also located. Breakfast on the Lido Deck includes a made-to-order eggs/omelet station, fresh breads, Danish pastry and muffins, many items for lunch plus a salad bar, and at dinner, some of the offerings from the main dining rooms.

A children's menu featuring those ubiquitous chicken fingers, small pizzas and pasta is always available.

Service in the dining rooms -- and the Panorama Bar & Grill -- is consistently good. Attentive waiters fill glasses, offer more (oh so good) bread and make that extra effort to ensure guests enjoy the meal.

The two dining rooms accommodate 650 passengers. The two seatings are at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

All dining venues are non-smoking.

For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multi-course dinner hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a non-traditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library.

Room service -- with a limited menu -- is available 24 hours. Salads and sandwiches are pretty much all that's offered for lunch and dinner, and a continental breakfast of cold cereal and/or breads is delivered promptly with the toast still warm.

Late night offerings include the ever-popular midnight buffets -- yes, Carnival still offers them -- and that 24-hour pizzeria. A sushi bar on Promenade Deck is in operation before dinner.Editor's Note: All eight of Carnival's Fantasy-class ships will receive extensive upgrades as part of Carnival's $250 million "Evolutions of Fun" program. Expansive children's water parks, a new design style and features for the pool areas, and the creation of the Serenity adults only deck area will be part of the changes to the open decks of Carnival Cruise Lines' eight Fantasy-class ships.

The expanded outdoor recreation areas will be initially incorporated onto the 2,052-passenger Inspiration and Imagination during month-long dry docks in fall of 2007 and added to other Fantasy-class ships in 2008 and 2009 during scheduled dry-dock periods.


In the world of cruise ships, Ecstasy is proving to be a golden oldie. I loved my five-day trip and would sail the very comfortable Ecstasy again in a heart beat. It boasts many of the amenities standard on 21st-century vessels such as flat-screen televisions and Internet cafe, but with more than a touch of Carnival's original classic neon and glitz. Ecstasy is a Fantasy-class sister to Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation and Paradise, and cost $315 million when it debuted in 1991. One of three vessels (along with Sensation and Holiday) Carnival chartered to FEMA after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Ecstasy has recently undergone a major refurbishment, and is offering two five-day sailings and one four-day sailing, departing Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Mexico from the Port of Galveston.

The refurbishment included changing and thoroughly cleaning carpets throughout the ship. Pictures on the wall are new, there are the aforementioned flat-screen televisions in all cabins, the new Carnival Comfort bedding has been installed in all cabins, and public rooms have been updated and brightened. It was a boatload of intense spring cleaning, and the ship has aged well.

Among the larger changes? A mini-golf course was created, and Camp Carnival, one of the most attractive features of these Carnival vessels, was relocated. (More than 600 kids were registered during one spring break week.) An Internet cafe is located at the Promenade deck (Deck 9), down the hall from Rolls Royce, a new coffee shop offering a variety of designer coffees and milkshakes priced between $2.50 and $4 each. There's also a late afternoon sushi bar and a new photo gallery that winds around the Atrium.

This well-maintained vessel is ideal for families, multigenerational groups, honeymooners and singles, providing that proverbial something for everyone, including fine entertainment, comfortable accommodations and excellent food. The cruise line has set out to attract "age is a state of mind" travelers across the spectrum who are looking for a more spirited vacation experience. Because of its four- and five-day schedule, Ecstasy attracts a large number of families and kids of all ages.

And yet at the same time, veteran travelers who remember the earlier days of contemporary cruise travel, won't be disappointed. The "newlywed game," name that tune contests, ice carving and bingo are still part of the frivolities. An extended camp program for kids between the ages of 2 and 17, art auctions, wine seminars, spa classes attractive to the fit, and late-night entertainment appeal to all demographics.

The Ecstasy features a New York City theme that runs throughout the public rooms. If you seek a lively, active cruise with plenty of nightlife, this ship is for you. This vessel appeals to the young-at-heart of all ages who like a more spirited than subdued holiday. You will find terrific Las Vegas-style entertainment, a selection of theme bars and lounges, and some of the largest standard cabins in the cruise industry. Despite the large number of passengers, there is no sense of being crowded onboard.

Dining

Once upon a time, the dining experience wasn't Carnival's high point, but that was then. In the now, the line's ships offer exciting dining options and truly good food. Service has been considerably refined and is outstanding.

Wind Star and Wind Song are the two main dining rooms. Menu items include a wondrous raspberry mousse with chocolate cake; a free-range chicken specialty with creamed foie gras sauce served with grilled zucchini, glazed mushrooms and a basmati rice pilaf; and more. An appetizer that got rave reviews on Ecstasy was the smoked duck and caramelized oranges with onion and oven-dried tomato confit.

Menus also offer spa alternatives, lower calorie items with calories and fat grams listed. (How about grilled baby veggies with tangy soy vinaigrette at 121 calories and only 2 grams of fat?)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at the Panorama Bar & Grill, a buffet eatery where a 24-hour pizzeria, 24-hour yogurt and ice cream station, and deli sandwich bar are also located. Breakfast on the Lido Deck includes a made-to-order eggs/omelet station, fresh breads, Danish pastry and muffins, many items for lunch plus a salad bar, and at dinner, some of the offerings from the main dining rooms.

A children's menu featuring those ubiquitous chicken fingers, small pizzas and pasta is always available.

Service in the dining rooms -- and the Panorama Bar & Grill -- is consistently good. Attentive waiters fill glasses, offer more (oh so good) bread and make that extra effort to ensure guests enjoy the meal.

The two dining rooms accommodate 650 passengers. The two seatings are at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

All dining venues are non-smoking.

Room service -- with a limited menu -- is available 24 hours. Salads and sandwiches are pretty much all that's offered for lunch and dinner, and a continental breakfast of cold cereal and/or breads is delivered promptly with the toast still warm.

Late night offerings include the ever-popular midnight buffets -- yes, Carnival still offers them -- and that 24-hour pizzeria. A sushi bar on Promenade Deck is in operation before dinner.In the world of cruise ships, Ecstasy is proving to be a golden oldie. I loved my five-day trip and would sail the very comfortable Ecstasy again in a heart beat. It boasts many of the amenities standard on 21st-century vessels such as flat-screen televisions and Internet cafe, but with more than a touch of Carnival's original classic neon and glitz. Ecstasy is a Fantasy-class sister to Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation, Paradise and Sensation, and cost $315 million when it debuted in 1991. One of three vessels (along with Sensation and Holiday) Carnival chartered to FEMA after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Ecstasy underwent a major refurbishment in fall 2009, and offers four- and five-night cruises from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean. (Editor's note: Beginning in November 2011, the ship's homeport will switch from New Orleans to Port Canaveral.)

The refurbishment featured the addition of a new wireless Internet cafe, an expanded Youth Program facility, a resort-style pool, Carnival WaterWorks water slides, and the adult-only Serenity sun deck. Efforts also entailed changing and thoroughly cleaning carpets throughout the ship. Pictures on the wall are new, there are the aforementioned flat-screen televisions in all cabins, the new Carnival Comfort bedding has been installed in all cabins, and public rooms have been updated and brightened.

Among other changes? A mini-golf course was created. Rolls Royce is a new coffee shop offering a variety of designer coffees and milkshakes priced between $2.50 and $4 each. There's also a late afternoon sushi bar and a new photo gallery that winds around the Atrium.

This well-maintained vessel is ideal for families, multigenerational groups, honeymooners and singles, providing that proverbial something for everyone, including fine entertainment, comfortable accommodations and excellent food. The cruise line has set out to attract "age is a state of mind" travelers across the spectrum who are looking for a more spirited vacation experience. Because of its four- and five-day schedule, Ecstasy attracts a large number of families and kids of all ages.

And yet at the same time, veteran travelers who remember the earlier days of contemporary cruise travel, won't be disappointed. The "newlywed game," name that tune contests, ice carving and bingo are still part of the frivolities. An extended camp program for kids between the ages of 2 and 17, art auctions, wine seminars, spa classes attractive to the fit, and late-night entertainment appeal to all demographics.

The Ecstasy features a New York City theme that runs throughout the public rooms. If you seek a lively, active cruise with plenty of nightlife, this ship is for you. This vessel appeals to the young-at-heart of all ages who like a more spirited than subdued holiday. You will find terrific Las Vegas-style entertainment, a selection of theme bars and lounges, and some of the largest standard cabins in the cruise industry. Despite the large number of passengers, there is no sense of being crowded onboard.

Dining

Once upon a time, the dining experience wasn't Carnival's high point, but that was then. In the now, the line's ships offer exciting dining options and truly good food. Service has been considerably refined and is outstanding.

Wind Star and Wind Song are the two main dining rooms. Menu items include a wondrous raspberry mousse with chocolate cake; a free-range chicken specialty with creamed foie gras sauce served with grilled zucchini, glazed mushrooms and a basmati rice pilaf; and more. An appetizer that got rave reviews on Ecstasy was the smoked duck and caramelized oranges with onion and oven-dried tomato confit.

Menus also offer spa alternatives, lower calorie items with calories and fat grams listed. (How about grilled baby veggies with tangy soy vinaigrette at 121 calories and only 2 grams of fat?)

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at the Panorama Bar & Grill, a buffet eatery where a 24-hour pizzeria, 24-hour yogurt and ice cream station, and deli sandwich bar are also located. Breakfast on the Lido Deck includes a made-to-order eggs/omelet station, fresh breads, Danish pastry and muffins, many items for lunch plus a salad bar, and at dinner, some of the offerings from the main dining rooms.

A children's menu featuring those ubiquitous chicken fingers, small pizzas and pasta is always available.

Service in the dining rooms -- and the Panorama Bar & Grill -- is consistently good. Attentive waiters fill glasses, offer more (oh so good) bread and make that extra effort to ensure guests enjoy the meal.

The two dining rooms accommodate 650 passengers. The two seatings are at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

All dining venues are nonsmoking.

For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multicourse dinner, hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley, led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a nontraditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library.

Room service -- with a limited menu -- is available 24 hours. Salads and sandwiches are pretty much all that's offered for lunch and dinner, and a continental breakfast of cold cereal and/or breads is delivered promptly with the toast still warm.

Late night offerings include the ever-popular midnight buffets -- yes, Carnival still offers them -- and that 24-hour pizzeria. A sushi bar on Promenade Deck is in operation before dinner.

Fitness and Recreation

Carnival Ecstasy's 12,000-square-foot Spa Carnival, a combination spa, beauty salon and fitness center, is run by Steiner, the Britain-based company with a near-monopoly on big-ship spas. The spa features the obligatory massages, facials and salon services.

The ship's modest-sized gym has seaview treadmills, bikes and elliptical trainers, as well as weight machines and a variety of free weights. The multiple fitness classes offered are either free (aerobics, sunrise stretch) or for-fee (yoga, Pilates at $12 per person). Men and women get their own sauna and steam room, which are located in their respective locker rooms.

During the September 2009 dry dock, Carnival Ecstasy's top deck areas were transformed. The ship now has just one pool, located midship. During sunny sea days, the lido pool is a beehive of entertainment, hosting pool deck Olympics, ice carving demonstrations and plenty of live music (from calypso to classic rock covers). The ship's other area for water-based fun is the aft-situated Carnival WaterWorks, which includes a four-story tall, 300-foot-long corkscrew waterslide; an 82-foot-long triple-lane waterslide (great for racing); and a spray park, complete with various sculptures spewing water. (Note: The water park replaced what was formerly the ship's second pool.) Onboard water parks are hot right now, and Disney Dream (debuting in 2011) and Norwegian Epic are certainly in the running for best at-sea waterslides, but even so, Carnival's Fantasy-class ships won't disappoint.

The adults-only Serenity Deck, also added during the dry dock, is a teak deck space located on the ship's stern (out of earshot from the more boisterous WaterWorks). The space includes two hot tubs and a decent number of loungers with thick, blue padding -- so comfortable that you're likely to doze off as you stare out at the ship's wake. The Serenity Deck offers both sunny and shady spots, with yellow umbrellas and a thatched-roof overhang providing cover from the Caribbean sun. The Serenity Deck also hosts more low-key, adults only evening entertainment featuring a solo guitarist and drink theme (mojitos or margaritas, for instance).

Family

The Camp Carnival program is one of the best in cruising, offering activities for children broken down by ages 2 to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14, and 15 to 17.

Carnival Ecstasy's dedicated space for the 2 - 11's, complete with video game consoles, arts and crafts supplies, and various toys, is on Verandah Deck. The 2 - 11's are further broken down in three groups, each with its own age-appropriate activity list. Toddlers (2 - 5) might enjoy story time or finger painting. Juniors (6 - 8) can participate in jewelry making or bingo. Options for Intermediates (9 - 11) include scavenger hunts and pool parties.

Camp Carnival activities are included in the cruise fare up until 10 p.m. for the 2 - 11's. A babysitting service is available from 10 p.m. - 3 a.m. at a cost of $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional sibling. The occasional "Curfew Extended Parties" for kids are held within Camp Carnival from 10 p.m. - midnight (babysitting fees still apply).

Circle C, located off the atrium on Deck 8 (Atlantic), is the spot for the "tween" 12 - 14 set. A major focus here is on video games and movies, with Nintendo Wii consoles and a decent selection of games on offer. Other tween activities include dance parties (hosted at one of the ship's dance clubs before the adults take over), sand art making, build your own pizza, group mini-golf, T-shirt decorating and waterslide races. The 12 - 14 set (as well as the older teens) can come and go as they please.

The 15- to 17-year olds can make use of Club 02, located up a deck from the tweens on Deck 9 (Promenade). Like Circle C, Club O2 has Nintendo Wii's for video gaming and big-screen TV's for movie watching. Club 02 also has its own dance floor and "mocktail bar" with various Coke products. Other teen offerings include pool parties, mock casino night, Rockband Karaoke and a selection of board games.

Next to Club 02 is a small 24-hour video game arcade featuring the typical mix of car racing and first-person shooter games (killing big bucks or criminals); games are $1.25 per play. Parents take note: Each child's sail and sign card comes with a set spending limit of $20 per day; this can be raised or lowered to any amount at the parents' discretion.

Gratuity

A fee of $10 per person, per day is added to each bill. It covers tips to room stewards, dining room waiter and team waiter. Additional tips to maitre'd, dining room captains or camp counselor are at your pleasure. A change in tips is possible by visiting the front desk before departure. Carnival adds a 15 percent tip to all drink bills.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff. An envelope is provided on the last night for those who want to extend thanks to the maitre d'.In the world of cruise ships, Ecstasy is proving to be a golden oldie. I loved my five-day trip and would sail the very comfortable Ecstasy again in a heart beat. It boasts many of the amenities standard on 21st-century vessels such as flat-screen televisions and Internet cafe, but with more than a touch of Carnival's original classic neon and glitz. Ecstasy is a Fantasy-class sister to Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination, Inspiration, Elation, Paradise and Sensation, and cost $315 million when it debuted in 1991. Ecstasy underwent a major refurbishment in fall 2009, and offers four- and five-night cruises from Port Canaveral.

The refurbishment featured the addition of a new wireless Internet cafe, an expanded Youth Program facility, a resort-style pool, Carnival WaterWorks water slides, and the adult-only Serenity sun deck. Efforts also entailed changing and thoroughly cleaning carpets throughout the ship. Pictures on the wall are new, there are the aforementioned flat-screen televisions in all cabins, the new Carnival Comfort bedding has been installed in all cabins, and public rooms have been updated and brightened.

Among other changes? A mini-golf course was created. Rolls Royce is a new coffee shop offering a variety of designer coffees and milkshakes priced between $2.50 and $4 each. There's also a late afternoon sushi bar and a new photo gallery that winds around the Atrium.

This well-maintained vessel is ideal for families, multigenerational groups, honeymooners and singles, providing that proverbial something for everyone, including fine entertainment, comfortable accommodations and excellent food. The cruise line has set out to attract "age is a state of mind" travelers across the spectrum who are looking for a more spirited vacation experience. Because of its four- and five-day schedule, Ecstasy attracts a large number of families and kids of all ages.

And yet at the same time, veteran travelers who remember the earlier days of contemporary cruise travel, won't be disappointed. The "newlywed game," name that tune contests, ice carving and bingo are still part of the frivolities. An extended camp program for kids between the ages of 3 and 17, art auctions, wine seminars, spa classes attractive to the fit, and late-night entertainment appeal to all demographics.

The Ecstasy features a New York City theme that runs throughout the public rooms. If you seek a lively, active cruise with plenty of nightlife, this ship is for you. This vessel appeals to the young-at-heart of all ages who like a more spirited than subdued holiday. You will find terrific Las Vegas-style entertainment, a selection of theme bars and lounges, and some of the largest standard cabins in the cruise industry. Despite the large number of passengers, there is no sense of being crowded onboard.

Entertainment

Carnival entertainment is varied, ranging from classical music to X-rated comedy, and includes some of the most outstanding stage productions -- real Las Vegas-style revues -- on the seven seas.

Stripes Dance Club is a wild and crazy place. Chinatown also features music. Rolls Royce -- and yes, there is a real Rolls on display -- is a patisserie and coffee house, and the Crystal Palace Casino is often the hottest spot on the ship.

The Blue Sapphire Lounge, a two-tiered showroom, features a lot of glitter, a lot of blue, some wonderfully comfortable seats, but also those darned poles that ruin sight-lines on the Fantasy-Class ships. It is a shame, because many of the shows produced in this room are about the best in the business. It is an elegant show room -- in a 90's sort of way.

Crystal Palace Casino is a full-service casino with slots and table games and weekly slot and blackjack tournaments. Table games include blackjack and Caribbean Stud Poker, three card poker, roulette and craps. Slots are state-of-the-art.

Neon offers sing-alongs and karaoke.

Fellow Passengers

Expect to find people from many walks of life traveling in groups, a couple of in-their-own-world honeymooners, some first-time cruisers and a lot of repeat passengers. Because of this broad sweep of passengers, ages skew all over the board. Most appear to be in the 40 to 60 age group.

Dress Code

This is a casual ship so shorts, T-shirts and sandals seem to be the uniform of the day, everyday. Long pants are appropriate at dinner. Formal nights on Ecstasy don't seem to require a tux. A suit or sport jacket and slacks are the option most men choose, while women dress up a bit more. You can dine in swimwear at the Lido or around the pool. Wear a cover-up.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends $11.50 per person, per day. The guidelines allocate $5.80 to dining room services, $3.70 to cabin services and $2 per day for alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel staff members. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills. Tipping for room service at delivery is expected (and appreciated) by the service staff.

Built in 1991, Carnival Ecstasy is the second-oldest ship in Carnival Cruise Lines' fleet. Through the years, it has undergone significant refurbishments -- including an overhaul in 2009 that added waterslides among other things -- that make it feel newer and distinctly Carnival. The ship shows little sign of wear, and you'll find plenty of glitz onboard.

Colors are bold: bright oranges, purples and blues with plenty of neon and shiny silver surfaces. Subtle, it's not. Still, the palette perfectly matches the vibe onboard, which is 100 percent fun. Passengers sail for just a short time, and virtually every minute is packed, be it dancing poolside, trivia contests, karaoke, comedy or concerts courtesy of the line's Carnival Live! concert series.

When compared with more modern mega-ships, Ecstasy, which carries 2,052 passengers, is small. It's got just one pool, and it hasn't received many of the line's newer Fun Ship 2.0 innovations, such as Guy's Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina or EA Sports Bar. Still, the indoor public spaces generally don't feel overrun, even on sea days. Passengers don't have to wait to get in a round of mini-golf or feel crowded out on the jogging track. That said, the pool area gets really crowded on sea days, and lines for the waterslide are long. If you want a poolside lounger, you'll have to get up pretty early or move really quickly when one is abandoned.

Ecstasy doesn't have for-fee alternative dining, so pretty much every meal will be eaten in one of the two main dining rooms or the lido buffet restaurant. While that means passengers can avoid the nickel-and-diming so often equated with new, large ships, you might wish for more variety. It also equates to long lines for some of the most popular dining options, including the deli and pizza bar, Mongolian Grill and poolside grill.

Service is one of Ecstasy's bright spots. If you're thirsty, you won't be for long; bar servers are abundant throughout the ship. At dinner, waiters and waitresses will remember your name and preferences from the first meal; by the last night, your decaffeinated coffee or side of salad dressing will be delivered to you without your even asking.

Dining

Free Dining

Ecstasy was built long before alternative dining venues were pervasive. As such, nearly all of the dining options onboard are free. You'll get the best food in one of the two main dining rooms: Wind Song or Wind Star. Otherwise, food is pretty average, mostly because variety is limited.

Wind Song Dining Room (Deck 8): Wind Song is the restaurant for set dining at dinnertime. Two seatings take place there each night, one at 6 p.m. and the other at 8:15 p.m. Neither breakfast nor lunch is available there.

Deep reds, soft greens and blues, and a bit of neon decorate the restaurant. Service is excellent, with a team of waiters and waitresses tending to every table. The menu has a good variety of options each night, and healthier fare and vegetarian dishes are highlighted. Carnival also provides a "didja ever (as in did you ever)" option, which walks a little on the more adventurous side. Options include items like escargot, alligator or frog legs. And you'll always have a "comfort food" option, such as meatloaf or mac and cheese. Choices available every day include fried chicken, flat-iron steak, shrimp cocktail, grilled chicken breast and burgers.

The quality in the dining room is consistently the best available on the ship. The lobster tail, despite being prepared for hundreds of passengers at once, is delicious: perfectly broiled with just that perfect touch of natural sweetness. The vegetarian Indian option, available daily, has plenty of spice, though you probably won't sweat, and the masala is well balanced. Sides include the traditional papadum (flaky and slightly salty) and a cooling yogurt and cucumber raita.

We would have loved more traditional, light salad options on the menu, which instead featured items like Caesar and "heart of iceberg." Skip the shrimp cocktail, which is rubbery and lacks flavor. Steaks on our sailing were consistently overcooked, an issue easily solved by ordering it one level less done. (So, if you want a medium steak, order it medium-rare.)

Among the dessert options, Carnival's famous warm chocolate melting cake is a hit, with its intense chocolate flavor and gooey center. The sugar-free options, such as the orange sponge cake, are predictably bland and aren't likely to satisfy anyone craving something decadent. Instead, opt for a scoop of ice cream or sherbet, available every night. A cheese platter is also an everyday option.

Wind Star Dining Room (Deck 8): Passengers who choose Your Time Dining will eat in the Wind Star Dining Room, open for dinner from 5:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wind Star, located midship, is a virtual twin to Wind Song, with the same color palette and overall look, though there are subtle changes in the carpet and upholstery. Menus in both restaurants are the same each night.

Wind Star is the option for traditional seated dining at breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) and lunch (noon to 1:30 p.m.). Check the daily FunTimes schedule, as hours for breakfast and lunch vary depending on itinerary schedule. Breakfast includes standards like Eggs Benedict and omelets, while lunch is generally sandwiches and salads. Passengers can partake in a sea day brunch, served 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The menu offers a large number of options, from eggs and pancakes to salads and grilled salmon. For a sweet treat, try the chocolate chip pancakes, served hot enough to melt the chocolate chips. Mimosas and Bloody Marys also are served (for a fee).

Panorama Bar & Grill (Deck 10): Those looking for a more casual option can hit the Panorama Bar & Grill buffet, where there's plenty of seating. Continental breakfast starts at 6:30 a.m., and the full breakfast buffet is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Late risers can still find a smaller selection of breakfast food until noon. Pastries and bread, fruit and cereal are available, as well as hot options like scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal and grits, although standard cruise-ship options like smoked salmon and muesli are missing. Still, the scrambled eggs, which are fluffy and light, are among the best we've had from a buffet at sea. The omelets prepared at the made-to-order egg station, located outside on the lido deck, are the best onboard.

For lunch, there's a small salad bar, a limited selection of hot foods like grilled fish, jerk chicken, pasta and rice, as well as bread and a dessert station. The chef usually selects a theme -- think "Caribbean" or "American." The ever-popular self-serve soft ice cream is (strangely) located on the salad bar, and it's available 24 hours a day. Lunch is served from noon to 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m.

Dinner runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and was lightly used on our sailing. At night, the salad bar includes more cold cuts and a section of cheeses. Hot options vary each night but are similar to what's offered at lunch: fish, chicken or beef with a grain or pasta. Desserts include items like tiramisu and various cakes.

Pizza Pirate (Deck 10): Really just an extension of the Panorama Bar & Grill, Pirate Pizza is located all the way aft on Deck 10. Two chefs toss pizza dough onsite, and pies are baked fresh 24 hours a day. Crusts are excellent: thin, crispy and flaky. Variety is just so-so, with mostly standard options like cheese or pepperoni. While the fresh pizza option is great, it does slow the process, and lines are often long, with wait times approaching 15 to 20 minutes.

Carnival Deli (Deck 10): Carnival Deli shares a counter with Pirate Pizza and offers sandwiches and wraps, made to order. Options include turkey wraps, Reubens and pastrami sandwiches that can be served cold or pressed. With only one or two chefs working there at once, waits can be long, even when there are only a few people standing in line. The deli is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Mongolian Rotisserie Grill (Deck 10): By far the most popular lunch spot onboard, the Mongolian Rotisserie Grill is a pretty true-to-land Mongolian restaurant. Passengers pile noodles and veggies into bowls, which are handed to chefs who add meat (salmon, chicken or beef) and sauce (black bean, Szechuan or Thai barbecue) and heat the concoctions in searing-hot woks. The sauces are nice, with the Szechuan packing some spicy punch. The downside? It's only open from noon to 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. each day, and lines are long from the start. It's not unusual to wait for a half hour to 45 minutes for a bowl of food. A rotisserie is located at the end of the Mongolian counter, and options include items like pork loin or prime rib. Lines there are much more reasonable. It's open at the same time the Mongolian Grill is open.

Off the Grill (Deck 10): Passengers can get burgers (both veggie and beef), dogs, chicken breasts and fries with chili or cheese at the ship's outdoor grill. Lines are long, but they move pretty quickly. The grill is open from noon to 6 p.m. Keep an eye on the daily FunTimes schedule for late-night buffets, which take place at Off the Grill. Our sailing had a Mexican Buffet, complete with tacos, fajitas, quesadillas and plenty of salsa.

The Taste Bar (Deck 9): Ecstasy lacks the Fun Ship 2.0 restaurants, but passengers still can try out samples of dishes from the RedFrog Pub or BlueIguana Cantina at The Taste Bar, open each night from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Room service: Passengers can order room service for the morning by hanging a card with their choices on their doorknob the night before. Breakfast is strictly of the continental variety: cereal, toast, juice and fruit. While passengers are required to select a time window (say, 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.), room service stewards won't necessarily show up on time. Ours was knocking at our door 15 minutes early with the explanation that "we have a lot of orders for that time period." Sandwiches, both hot and cold, salads and desserts are available for lunch or dinner. Beer and soda can be ordered at regular bar prices. Room service is available 24 hours a day and is free, though a tip of a dollar or two is encouraged.

Fee Dining

Ecstasy has no true alternative dining venues. The Chef's Table and Rolls Royce Cafe offer the ship's only true for-fee options.

Chef's Table: Open to just 12 passengers, the Chef's Table takes place once a cruise in nontraditional dining venues like the galley or library. The night includes a galley tour, led by the ship's executive chef, a private cocktail reception and a multicourse dinner. The experience costs $75 per person.

Rolls Royce Cafe (Deck 9): For those passengers who want a better cup of coffee, there's the Rolls Royce Cafe, which serves specialty coffees, cappuccino, lattes and espresso, as well as spiked coffee options and milkshakes. It also offers desserts like chocolate-covered strawberries and towering slices of red velvet cake. All items are priced a la carte. Hours vary depending on port schedules, but it's generally open in the morning and again in the evening, usually until midnight.

Public Rooms

Cabins

While cabins industry-wide continue to shrink, Ecstasy's 1,026 rooms stand out as larger than more modern options. Cabins are decorated in shades of deep orange and beige with cherry-colored wood. Bathrooms have bright blue floors. From the smallest cabins on up, there's plenty of space, with big closets, plenty of hangers and drawers.

All cabins have safes and telephones. Each passenger is provided a bathrobe for use during the cruise. Hair dryers are not included, so you'll have to bring your own. Electrical outlets are sparse, so bring an adapter. Bathrooms are large, though relatively utilitarian. There's a small shelf that will hold little beyond a toothbrush and toothpaste. You'll also get bars of soap for hands, face and body, and showers include dispensers for shampoo and shower gel. Showers are on the large side, though they come with clingy curtains.

Each cabin has a small flat-screen TV, though much of the programming revolves around ship and port activities. One channel is devoted to a different movie each day, and several news channels are available. If you want to watch sports, you'll have to head to a bar; there are plenty of TVs throughout the ship.

Most come with twin beds that can be combined to form king beds. Twenty-four cabins accommodate disabled passengers, and there are 109 adjoining cabins.

Interior: At 185 square feet, Ecstasy's Interior cabins are comfortable for two people. Some Interior cabins have two beds that can be combined to form king beds, while others feature one twin bed and either an upper Pullman or sofa bed. Each cabin has two small night tables, a shelf and a vanity with a stool and chair.

Porthole/Oceanview: Each porthole cabin features two 17-inch portholes, while Oceanview cabins each have a 4-foot-by-4-foot window. All are 185 square feet and include the same items as Interior cabins.

Balcony: Balcony cabins are 185 square feet and feature balconies that are 35 square feet. While many modern ship balconies have sliding-glass doors, Ecstasy's balcony doors swing open, and each is paired with a 4-foot-by-4-foot window. Balconies hold three blue mesh chairs and a small table, while extended Balcony cabins in this category boast 55-square-foot verandahs. All cabins include the same items found in Interior cabins.

Junior Suites: Junior Suites, which can accommodate three passengers, are 220 square feet and come with balconies that are 30 square feet and windows that are 4 feet by 4 feet. Some cabins in this category have obstructed balconies. Cabins feel roomier, and each includes a couch and small table, as well as a gray granite vanity and mini-fridge.

Suites: Grand Suites are the biggest cabins onboard, at 330 square feet. Balconies are either 70 or 115 square feet, and all rooms have windows that are 5.5 feet by 4 feet. They can accommodate five passengers each. Cabins feature true sitting areas, with couches, armchairs and coffee tables, and bathrooms are spacious, with separate shower and whirlpool bathtubs. Hairdryers and minifridges are included. Suite passengers also get VIP check-in.

Entertainment

Theater

The Blue Sapphire Main Show Lounge, located on decks 8 and 9, serves as the ship's main theater. There, passengers can catch Carnival's Playlist Production shows, though the electronics are missing because the theater can't accommodate. This waters down the production a bit, and it feels a lot more traditional than you might find on other, newer ships. This is also where you'll catch acts that are part of the line's Carnival Live! concert series. The venue holds only 855 passengers, so passengers can get really close to the various artists. Sight lines are fine on Deck 8, but a number of obstacles on Deck 9, including a railing along the glass balcony and big pillars, make it difficult to see the stage. Show up early enough to grab a good seat.

During the day, various activities like the line's famous Hasbro The Game Show and Love and Marriage Game take place there.

Daily Fun

Cruises on Ecstasy are loaded with activities. Several trivia sessions are offered each day at the various bars and lounges, and bingo is available, too. On the lido deck, activities include table tennis tournaments, hairy chest competitions and giant Jenga. Shore excursion lectures are given in the Sapphire Lounge. The casino is located on Deck 9 and offers table games and slot machines.

At Night

Sing-alongs, karaoke and dancing are common all over the ship at night. Theme parties are common; think 80s Flashback Party, Mexican Fiesta Deck Party and Electric White Party.

Carnival Ecstasy Bars and Lounges

For a relatively small ship, Ecstasy has plenty of bar and lounge options. Most are pretty high-energy venues that are hopping late at night. Because Ecstasy sails shorter itineraries, passengers onboard seem to pack as much into every second as they can. Music, dancing, drinking and singing are common, whether poolside or in the clubs.

Neon Piano Bar (Deck 8): Carnival is famous for its sing-along piano bars, and this one is tough to miss. As the name implies, it's loaded with neon signs. But the hub of activity is the piano, which takes up a circular space in the middle of the room. There, the piano player sits, taking requests as passengers sing the lyrics to popular songs.

Society Bar (Deck 9): The Society bar is a laid-back spot to hang out for some quiet time with pals or to watch sports. It has plenty of large flat-screen TVs and comfy seating.

Starlight Aft Lounge (Deck 9): The Starlight Aft Lounge is where you'll catch comedians as part of The Punchliner Comedy Club Presented by George Lopez. Earlier shows are appropriate for families, while late-night options are strictly for the adults. When comedians aren't on stage, passengers there have a blast with Carnival's Superstar Live Karaoke, which puts singers onstage with a live backup band.

Stripes Discotheque (Deck 9): A true dance club at sea, Stripes is packed from about 10 p.m. on. A DJ spins tunes, with a heavy emphasis on Latin beats.

China Town Lounge (Deck 9): Decorated with paper lanterns and Asian-inspired furniture, China Town Lounge is a lovely yet comfy space that hosts karaoke some nights.

Metropolis Bar (Deck 9): This bar, adjacent to the casino, is reminiscent of an old-time diner, featuring lots of chrome. At night, musicians -- guitar and vocals, for example -- play there. Be warned: Smoking is allowed in a section of the bar, and its location, near the casino, means it can get quite smoky.

Pool Bar (Deck 10): There actually are two bars poolside: one port and one starboard. They're identical to one another, with seating at the bar and at tall tables with stools. They provide a shaded oasis from the sun. Smoking is allowed at the starboard bar.

Carnival Ecstasy Outside Recreation

Pools

Ecstasy has only one pool, located midship on Deck 10. Before 10 a.m., you're likely to find a seat poolside, even on sea days. After that, the DJ cranks up the tunes, and space is at a premium, especially in and immediately surrounding the pool. The mood in the area is festive, with lots of dancing. If being close to the pool isn't important to you, head on up to Deck 11, and grab a lounger beneath the whale tail; you'll get a combination of sun and shade, and a good breeze keeps you cool. There's usually plenty of space, and you still can hear the music from the pool without the crush of people.

Recreation

Among the items added in 2009 was a large waterslide, perfect for all ages, and two small slides for the kiddos, part of a larger Waterworks water play area. Ecstasy also has a fun and well-maintained nine-hole mini-golf course on Deck 14.

Sun Decks

The adults-only space, Serenity, is located on Deck 10, strangely below the kids Waterworks area. Still, it's surprisingly quiet and never crowded. Passengers can relax on the loungers below bright yellow umbrellas or hang out in one of the two hot tubs. There's also a shaded area for passengers who want to relax without the rays, and Serenity is convenient to the Panorama Bar & Grill, so passengers can pop in for a quick snack or drink.

Carnival Ecstasy Services

Ecstasy has the usual assortment of cruise ship standards, including a small art gallery on Deck 7, a photo gallery on Deck 9 and a variety of shops on Deck 8, where passengers can purchase essentials like sunscreen and lip balm, as well as logo apparel, sun hats and bags. The ship also features the line's candy store, Cherry on Top, with bulk candy options and oversized lollipops, gummy funnels and jawbreakers.

A small Internet cafe is located on Deck 7 across from the Grand Spectrum Atrium Plaza, and Wi-Fi is available shipwide. Passengers can purchase Internet minutes via the pay-as-you-go option at 75 cents per minute or buy packages: 480 minutes for $159 (33 cents per minute), 240 minutes for $89 (37 cents per minute), 120 minutes for $59 (49 cents per minute) or 45 minutes for $29 (64 cents per minute). As with all Internet at sea, speed is slower than you would get on land, especially during peak times and sea days.

Ecstasy has forward, midship and aft elevator banks.

The Explorer's Club Library, a comfy spot decorated with dark woods and deep blues along with a massive globe and ship model, is located on Deck 8. It offers a decent variety of books -- both fiction and nonfiction. It also has a large seating area, where passengers sprawl while reading or playing games. Board games, such as Guesstures and cribbage and decks of cards are available for use onboard for free.

Self-service laundry facilities are located on Deck 6 (across from cabin U154) and Deck 7 (across from cabin E6). Machines take coins, and detergent and fabric softener are available for purchase from vending machines. Passengers can also use the iron and ironing board in each spot for free.

Passengers can learn about and book shore excursions at the shore excursions desk on Deck 7, right next to the guest services desk.

Fitness and Recreation

Spa Carnival is located on Deck 12. The space, decorated in neutral tones of beige, blue and cream, is relatively small, with just a few treatment rooms. Separate men's and women's locker rooms are fairly large, and each houses showers, lockers, a changing area, sauna and steam room. Treatments are standard and include bamboo and hot stone massages, Ionithermie, teeth whitening and acupuncture. Teen treatments, including anti-acne facials and mother/daughter or father/son massages, are available. Spa specials are offered throughout the cruise, usually on days when the ship is in port.

Adjacent to the spa is a beauty salon, where passengers can get haircuts, styling and color treatments. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to spa and salon services.

The fitness center onboard has a good selection of cardio and strength training equipment. Treadmills and ellipticals line the windows, and a small number of free weights is available, though the dumbbells in the midrange are lacking. Before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m., the fitness center is relatively empty, but you'll be waiting for equipment during peak hours, especially on sea days. Classes take place in the adjacent aerobics room. Options include Pilates, yoga, boot camp and spinning, for fees starting at $12. Free classes, such as stretching, are also available.

Runners and walkers can use the ship's jogging track, located on Deck 14. Eleven laps make up a mile, so you'll be doing a lot of turning on longer runs. The track is wide and has a little bounce so it's more comfortable on the knees. It's virtually unused on port days in the mornings, but on sea days you'll find a mix of runners and walkers.

Family

Ecstasy has plenty of activities onboard that are suitable for kids of all ages. Waterworks, with its sprinklers, sprayers and waterslides, appeals to the younger kids, while the ship's video arcade on Deck 9 -- adjacent to Club O2 -- is perfect for tweens and teens. Ecstasy will add the Seuss at Sea experience by the end of 2014. Kids menus are available and appeal to the fussiest eaters, offering mac and cheese, PB&J, chicken nuggets and hot dogs.

Camp Carnival, located on Deck 11, is designed for 2- to 11-year-olds, and the line further separates kids by age: 2 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11. Activities for each group are age appropriate, so the youngest kids might do finger painting, the middle group might play video games or do arts and crafts, and the oldest might have pool parties or scavenger hunts. Toys and video game consoles abound. Camp Carnival is open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

After 10 p.m., Camp Carnival Night Owls opens, and kids can play, party and hang out in a supervised environment until 3 a.m. While Camp Carnival is free during the day, Night Owls costs between $13 and $20 per night, depending on the age of the children. Snacks and beverages are provided, and kids can bring blankets and pillows to enhance the slumber party feel. Onboard baby-sitting is available, too, for $6.75 per child, per hour, plus a 15 percent gratuity.

Tweens, ages 12 to 14, hang out at Circle C, located on Deck 8. This chill space has video game consoles, comfy booths, and TV and video monitors galore. There's also a dance floor. Circle C is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Located on Deck 9, Club O2 is the spot for teens, ages 15 to 17. There, teens can play games, sing karaoke, play sports or watch movies. The space has plush seating, plus bar stools (with a mocktail bar) and space to sprawl. Carnival also organizes pool parties for this crowd, as well as teens-only shore excursions. Club 02 is open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ecstasy has 109 adjoining cabins suitable for families.

Fellow Passengers

Because Ecstasy sails short cruises to the Western Caribbean, families are fairly common, particularly during the summer, spring break and the holidays. It also draws a fair number of passengers who are interested in the line's Carnival Live! series, where passengers will see music acts perform live on the ship while it's docked. South Florida residents who can snag last-minute deals from Miami also are common.

Dress Code

During the day, casual and comfortable dress is encouraged. Shorts, flip-flops, swimsuits and virtually anything else are appropriate poolside. Indoors, swimsuit cover-ups, shoes and shirts are required, though the code is not strictly enforced. One caveat: Men are required to wear shirts with sleeves in the main dining room, and the crew enforces this.

At night in the main dining room, men tend to wear khakis or slacks with collared or button-down shirts, while women where capris, slacks or skirts with blouses, or sundresses. The ship has one elegant night per sailing, when men are encouraged to wear suits or dress pants and jackets, and women are encouraged to wear cocktail or evening gowns. Elegant night is pretty toned down, though, with most passengers electing not to dress up.

Gratuity

Carnival recommends tipping $11.50 per person, per day, which is split among the staff. The amount is automatically charged to each shipboard account, but it can be adjusted at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar and spa bills. The room service staff appreciates receiving a couple dollars in cash for delivery, though it's not required.

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