From the unique and festive city of New Orleans, USA to the Carnival Elation cruise ship and the vast ocean, then to the ports in Progresso and Cozumel, we absolutely loved our first cruise experience!
We sailed in January 2016, so it was a little chilly, but we actually really liked that it wasn’t too hot on the ship or too crowded on the decks. Before we got off the ship we were already talking about when we could embark on our next cruise!
To read about our second cruise, aboard the Carnival Fascination in the Southern Caribbean, check out this post!
The Carnival Elation
Leaving from the cruise port in New Orleans was novel because the beginning of our cruise was on the river until we got to the ocean. It was fun to see the riverbank on both sides of the ship and the water was smooth and calm.
Aboard the ship it was so wonderful, especially with kids, to never have to think about food. There was something for everyone at the buffet during mealtimes and anytime we felt like a snack, and we all enjoyed eating at the restaurant for some of our meals.
Because of our budget travel style (actually lifestyle!) we don’t eat out as a whole family very often. So it was extra fun to eat in the Imagination Dining Room and order whatever we wanted from the menu. My husband and I tried new foods like frog legs and Indian curry, and our kids loved that they could have pizza, french fries, hot dogs, and ice cream for every meal if they wanted!
We also enjoyed the fun activities and amenities on the ship including the giant chess board, the pools (even though it was freezing most of our cruise!), a towel-folding demonstration, the family game show, some live music, and just walking around the ship and enjoying the views.
My husband and I enjoyed exercising in the mornings in the gym on the top deck with big windows overlooking the vast ocean. And our kids enjoyed some fun activities and crafts at Camp Carnival–we let them go when they wanted and stay with us when they wanted. I liked that they gave us a cell phone so they could reach us if our 3 ½ year old needed anything.
We paid extra for the Cat in the Hat breakfast but were not impressed with the food. The green eggs were sickeningly sweet, like they were mixed with frosting and lots of dye, and the waffles were also too sweet with frosting on top. It probably didn’t help that the waters were rough then so we were all feeling a little sick to begin with, but I feel queasy just thinking about the breakfast! I recommend skipping it unless your child(ren) are really excited about the characters.
Our stateroom on the ship was perfect for our family of 5, with beds for all of us! It’s hard on many cruises to fit more than 4 people in one room, so we loved that we could all stay together on the Carnival Elation.
We didn’t get seasick until the seas got pretty choppy on our way back to New Orleans. We didn’t have anything to compare it to, but other passengers told us it was the worst seas they had experienced, so we don’t think our experience was typical, just some bad luck weather.
Most of us endured some queasiness and/or dizziness, but we were still able to enjoy ourselves and the ship’s activities on the way home. My Sea-Bands and the Dramamine we brought along were a big help.
Port 1: Progreso, Mexico
At this port we took the ship’s offered excursion to Uxmal to see the Mayan ruins there. Uxmal was over an hour from the port in Progreso so we decided we didn’t want to worry about getting back to the ship on time with an independent company.
The trip was interesting especially for my husband and I. Our kids were sometimes more interested in the giant iguanas, butterflies, and grasshoppers than in the actual ruins, but they did enjoy the scenery and the experience of exploring the site.
As part of the excursion we also stopped at an outdoor area for an authentic Mexican lunch after our morning at the ruins.
Port 2: Cozumel, Mexico
We loved our stop in Cozumel! We skipped the formal excursion this time and took a taxi to Chankanaab National Park just minutes away from the cruise port. We booked tickets ahead of time from the National Park’s website instead of through our cruise and saved a lot of money that way.
The highlight of Chankanaab was swimming with dolphins. It was surprisingly affordable and such an amazing experience. We also loved the sea lion show, snorkeling, holding parrots, and playing in the sand.
If you are new to crusing, check out Our Best Cruise Tips: How to Save Money, What to Bring, and More!
Staff members on a cruise ship provide some of the best customer service we have ever experienced, and they will do all that they can to take care of you. I still remember the name of the waiter on our first cruise because we liked him so much that we requested a table in his section for all of our meals. So don’t worry too much about details, just relax and enjoy your trip, confident that you are in good hands!
Have you been on a cruise? What tips do you have to share with others who are planning one?
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