ABOARD CARNIVAL ECSTASY — The dictionary defines “ecstasy” as “an overwhelming feeling of great happiness or joyous excitement.” That’s a perfect description for the many fans of Olivia Newton-John, who have been eagerly anticipating this 3-day voyage to the Bahamas that departed June 27 from Miami. The highlight of this cruise is an in-person appearance by Ms. Newton-John as part of the “Live Concert” series Carnival is hosting throughout the year.
It’s our first time aboard Ecstasy, one of the longest-tenured ships in the Carnival fleet, having debuted in 1991. With several upgrades over the year, she is wearing her age well.
Before we get to the main event — the concert — let’s take a quick tour and highlight some of the ship’s features:
OUR STATEROOM: Ours was an ocean-view cabin on Deck 5, with a window. It was plenty roomy; lots of storage space. The bathroom was nicely appointed and functional. Jose, our steward, was excellent in all regards. Our one complaint — and it’s a common one — not enough electrical outlets (maybe all rooms should come equipped with 6-power strips).
THE SERVICE: 4 stars here. We found everyone we encountered uniformly friendly, smiling and helpful.
THE FUN: Carnival is all about family and fun. There was plenty of both on this trip. We saw family reunions, family celebrations — a big quinceanera included — and lots of kids and parents gathering material for “here’s what I did on my summer vacation.” The pools were jammed and anyone not swimming was jammin’ to the music from the poolside DJ.
If you’re looking for something more relaxing, go to the aptly-named Serenity on Deck 9, adjacent to the Starlight Lounge. It’s the adults, 21 and over retreat where you can grab a lounger, soak in a hot tub or just chill with your favorite beverage. Nice!
THE SHOWS: Setting aside the Olivia Newton-John concert for now, the productions in the Blue Sapphire Lounge were very entertaining, especially if, like us, you’re a big fan of British or Motown music. “The Brits” (featured in the clip above from YouTube) is a fast-paced homage to the British Invasion groups of the 60s, like Herman’s Hermits, The Kinks and of course The Beatles, with clever costuming and imaginative set changes (we loved the “Magic Bus” sequence). “Motor City” did much the same for the great era of the Detroit Motown sound, from Aretha Franklin to Michael Jackson. Fans of comedy could go to the Starlight for either the PG or R-rated versions of stand-up.
THE BARS: As our readers know, Cruising Squared is always on a mission to find and report on the best martinis. We hit the jackpot on this trip at the out-of-the-mainstream Society Bar on Deck 9. Bartender Cherry introduced us to the Stoli vodka “mini-martini flight,” where you pick four cocktails from eight choices. You can opt for the Classic Cosmo or get crazy with the Spicy Chipotle. There are no wrong answers for this one, and Cherry is there to help you every sip of the way. As a bonus, you’ll also get a martini charm. We call that a win-win!
THE FOOD: Overall, we would rate the food good to average. The buffet at the Lido deck’s Panaroma Bar and Grill offered good selections. You can choose anytime dining at the Wind Star, or set seating at the Wind Song dining rooms. And if you stroll down the City Lights promenade on deck 9 you may encounter The Taste Bar, where you can get food samples. In our case, it was two choices from Carnival’s new eatery, the Blue Iguana Cantina. Yum-o.
There is one category that no one does better than Carnival — those inventive towel animals. Here was one we found camped out on our bed, and wearing my sunshades: