(Live Blog Day 1) Cruise for $14 a day on Carnival’s oldest ship: Not what I expected!


When it comes to vacations, it’s well known that cruising offers some of the best value you can find. You get a room, meals, entertainment, and transportation to exotic ports of call…all for typically less than a fraction of what you’d spend on a normal vacation.

Cruise deals? How about a cruise fare per person of $70 for a 5 day trip – or $14 per day? This sailing takes place aboard Carnival’s oldest ship, the Ecstasy.

That’s not to say every cruise is cheap, but if you want to have a great time for not a lot of money, then it’s hard to beat.

But there are also offers that are so ridiculously absurd that they seem too good to be true. I’m talking about a cruise for not only less than a traditional vacation, but less than the cost of a plane ticket. A cruise where it is really expensive less to get to the port than to leave.

This is what I recently discovered at Carnival.

Carnival is well known for being a budget cruise line. It’s not uncommon to find cruise fares starting at just a few hundred dollars. But a few months ago I saw an offer that I had never seen at such a low price.

It was a trip aboard Carnival for a five-day cruise, with fare starting at just $70 per person. It comes down to just $14 a day.

Sailing from Mobile on a 31-year-old ship

Ecstasy comes in at around 70,000 gross tons. Modern cruise ships are double (and in some cases triple!) that size. Here you can see the Mobile skyline in the background.

Needless to say, with the price of the cruise so low, I jumped at the deal.

By now you probably know that the overall price of a cruise is only a fraction of what you will pay in total. First, the cruise fare is priced per person. So right off the bat the fare doubled to $140 – despite this solo trip. And then you have to add shipping and tax – an extra $92.

Nevertheless, all set to sail for five days i paid $232 which is only $46 a day.

As you’d expect, this inexpensive trip isn’t aboard Carnival’s biggest and newest ship. In fact, he sails aboard Carnival Ecstasy of Mobile, Alabama.

Ecstasy started sailing in 1991, over 30 years ago. His first navigation dates back to when George Bush was president… not that one… his father. It first sailed more than three years before Friends premiered. And Beanie Babies – the quintessential fashion of the 90s – had even been invented yet.

In fact, Carnival has already announced that the ship will be retired in October. So the ship I’m sailing right now won’t even be in the fleet in a few weeks.

This cruise departs from Mobile, followed by a day at sea before visiting Cozumel, then Progreso. The trip has another day at sea before returning to Alabama.

Arrival at the terminal

I admit paying so little for a cruise on a ship over three decades old…there was some trepidation. So what about so far? Let’s say it’s not what I expected.

First, to get to Mobile, I skipped a quick flight to Alabama, arriving just before noon. Upon arriving, it’s obvious that things move a little slower here. The airport seemed to double in size when our small commuter plane arrived.

I booked shuttle transportation through Carnival, and finding my ride wasn’t difficult – there was literally one person at arrivals and she was holding a little sign for Carnival passengers. It’s far from flying in Miami!

From there I walked to the shuttle and I was the only person waiting. I spoke to the driver, who was a super friendly Mobile native who shared stories of his travels (including seeing Tina Turner, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Sly and the Family Stone in concert in 1971) while we waited for a ride. other passengers.

And waited…and waited. All in all, I ended up waiting an hour for the next plane to arrive. At least I had good company with the driver to pass the time. Finally, two more passengers boarded the small shuttle, and then the three of us and the driver headed for the port.

I must say that checking in at a cruise terminal is normally not much to write about. Sure, some terminals like the new builds in Miami are beautiful, but it’s normally a matter of checking your documents, taking a photo, boarding the ship.

It was much the same in Mobile, except I was blown away by the friendliness of all the staff. Every person seemed approachable, patient and friendly as hundreds of people made their way to boarding. This is something that definitely marked me.

After check-in, it was time to see exactly what I was getting into when boarding Ecstasy.

First impressions of the oldest carnival ship

Atrium on Carnival Ecstasy
The main atrium of the ship. It’s well-maintained, but there’s no denying the dated feeling. It feels a bit like a time capsule to be honest.

Now I’ve been on a lot of cruise ships through all kinds of cruise lines. I will say that upon stepping aboard immediately, I realized that I had never been on a ship like this.

My expectation? With such an old ship and the fact that it is about to leave the fleet, I thought it would be shabby and run down. This is not the case.

Don’t get me wrong, it shows a lot of age. Wooden decks require a lot of work. There is wear in the cabin. But I’m actually amazed that it can look like this after three decades at sea. (I will say that some other passengers I spoke to weren’t as impressed.) I think it helps that the ship has the Looks like it’s recently had a new coat of paint.

What really grabbed my attention so far, though, is that the ship looks like a time capsule, and I totally agree.

Normally when a ship is refurbished it means tearing out many places and starting over. Here, it seems that it was a question of refurbishing what existed. There is a 1990s style on the ship.

It’s a lot of bright colors and a lot of mirrored surfaces. And while things like the cabin aisles are wider, in general things feel more cramped than on a newer ship.

I can safely say that despite sailing tons of cruise ships… I’ve never seen scenery *ahem* quite like this. To be honest… I like it as a throwback.

The fact that the ship is in such a dated 90s style – yet still looks maintained – makes it unique. Instead of having a bunch of trendy muted browns and grays that you see with contemporary styling on ships, Ecstasy stands out. It’s a step back in time in many ways. Do I want every ship to look like this? No way, but it’s fun to experience before it’s gone.

But another thing I notice is that, as you would expect, there aren’t as many amenities and activities as with a modern ship. For example, there’s a specialty restaurant on the ship – and it’s quick-service sushi (don’t worry, there’s a Guy’s Burger Joint!). Pool activities include the pool, a small water park for children, and a mini-golf course. That’s it.

So while there are things to do, it’s far from what you’d expect from a newer ship.

Spend my first day on board (including a surprise night)

Today I just got to know the ship while exploring. A quick lunch of tacos at BlueIguana after embarkation held me back for the Sailing Party, which was as lively as one would expect on a Carnival cruise. With a little less space, the pool deck seemed more packed.

The Neon Bar is a piano bar filled with neon signs covering every square inch of the walls. It definitely grabs your attention.

If there’s one place that’s caught my eye on Ecstasy so far, it’s the Neon Piano Bar. I have never seen this on any other Carnival ship I have sailed on. It’s a piano bar (which is common) but decorated with huge neon signs that take up the walls throughout the place. It seems like a fantastic place to have a good time.

Dinner was in the main dining room where I had a great plate of chicken parmesan (not the best, not the worst) followed by a fantastic tiramisu.

The evening then turned into something special, unexpectedly.

First, after dinner, I simply took the boat on this first day at sea where everything was buzzing. I walked through the crowded casino. I had a mojito at the Chinatown Lounge (a 1940s Chinatown-themed hangout, complete with paper lanterns and a dragon on the ceiling) while watching karaoke. I sat on bingo.

If Ecstasy leaves the fleet in a few weeks, do you think I can bring this guy back with me?

But to end the evening, I simply strolled on the deck of the ship’s pool, a drink in my hand. I always like to hang out here at night because it’s so different from daytime. At night it’s mostly empty, quiet and quiet.

Anyone who’s been on a cruise knows that despite being at sea, the ship’s light pollution makes it difficult to see many stars. But on Ecstasy, there is a place at the front of the boat that has almost no light at all. The only illumination comes from the mini golf course which is also behind a wall.

The result? A place where the ship darkens… and the sky lights up.

By the pool, I could only see a few of the brighter stars. Here I could see the glow of the Milky Way in the night sky, thousands of stars, and even spotted a satellite crossing overhead.

This view alone definitely got me my $14 today.

Interesting observations

Leaving Mobile, the ship passed right by the USNS Comfort, which was a nice sight to see.
  • Leaving Mobile, we passed what looked like a military shipyard. Docked there was the US Navy hospital ship Comfort – which sailed to New York at the start of the Covid pandemic to deliver aid. Very cool to see.
  • One interesting thing about Ecstasy is that deck levels aren’t always referenced by numbers. Instead, they have names like Riviera Deck, Atlantic Deck, Empress Deck, etc. Even the floors listed above the elevator display “3 RMUEAP” instead of “3 4 5 6 7 8 9”. Honestly, it makes no sense not to use numbers!

Tomorrow the ship is at sea.

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