(Live Blog Day 2) Cruising for $14 Per Day on Carnival’s Oldest Ship: Neon, Gambling, and The Beatles

Note: I am currently sailing a 5-day Mexican cruise aboard Carnival’s oldest ship — Carnival Ecstasy, a trip that cost only $14 per day in cruise fare. Each day I cover the experience, giving you an inside peek at what it’s like to sail this trip.

You can view other days here:

Today the Ecstasy is on her way toward Cozumel with a day at sea, sailing across the Lake of Mexico.

Carnival Ecstasy at sea
The weather in the morning was fantastic — sunny, warm, and with amazingly calm seas.

At the risk of angering the weather gods, the Gulf of Mexico this morning may as well been a lake. The water was completely flat, like sailing across a pool table. And while there have been some spotty clouds here and there, the weather has been largely perfect for a day at sea. Temperatures around 80 degrees, sunny, and with the ship underway, enough of a breeze to keep you cool without blowing too much.

My morning started with a quick stop in the gym to work off some of last night’s chicken parmesan and to work up toward one of my guilty pleasures at lunch.

On new cruise ships the gym is a pretty big focus. They aren’t some afterthought with a couple of exercise bikes and a few old weights. Yet, given the age of this ship, I was expecting something along the lines of a hotel gym — small, cramped, and with only a few options.

That’s not the case at all. The gym sits in the front of the ship with large windows on three sides and plenty of equipment. It could be larger, but it was nicely appointed with anything you wanted to do.

From there, it was back to the room to change before heading off to morning trivia. Where newer ships have a lot more activities and things to do and see, Ecstasy definitely calls back to a simpler, more laid-back time.

That means things like trivia are one of the few options to do, especially early in the morning. While I didn’t win this round (who knew the Missouri River is the longest river in the United States?!), it was still a fun way to spend a half-hour.

After trivia, I walked over to the casino but not to gamble. On every cruise I go, I like to see if they have any used cards or dice at the cashier’s station. Used cards from a casino make my favorite playing cards as they are slightly broken in but still have a lot of life. Used dice make a great souvenir that most people don’t think about. Sure enough, the cashier gave me a old die to add to my collection.

Want a fun (and free) souvenir? Ask the casino cashier if they have any used dice. I snagged this one (but wish they drilled through from another side!).

Of course, on a day at sea when the weather is perfect, the big draw is the pool deck. I headed out about mid-morning and it was already packed around the pool. In fact, the pool already had so many people in it that it seemed more like a human bowl of soup than a swimming pool. Even finding an open chair was tough.

But aboard Ecstasy there is plenty of deck space, including both forward and aft of the pool. So instead, I headed toward the back of the ship near the waterslide where there wasn’t any sort of crowd.

With weather like this, you better believe the pool was packed. Instead, I headed toward the back of the ship where it was easier to find a chair.

I mentioned hitting the gym to enjoy lunch. That’s because I hit up one of my favorites — Guy’s Burger Joint. I’m a sucker for a good burger, and Guy’s is one of my favorites either on land or at sea. Today it definitely hit the spot.

Now, for as beautiful the morning was, the afternoon had different plans.

Quickly the clear sky turned to gray and the clouds unleashed. Occasional rolls of thunder and lots of rain… only a few brave souls stuck in out in the hot tub while the pool deck emptied. Even with the rain, however, the seas have stayed calm. So everyone took the party inside.

With the rain on a day at sea, you start to see the limitations of a smaller and older ship. Much of the entertainment put on by the crew involved music and games out on the pool deck. Inside there isn’t near as much going on. The scheduled trivia contests were quickly packed, as were the shops on the ship. And the casino was as busy as it you’d expect for a Friday night on land.

Everyone was simply looking for a way to stay dry while also keeping entertained.

Remember how I bragged about the great weather? Mother Nature had other plans in the afternoon.

To stay entertained myself, I spent some time hanging out in The Neon Piano Bar. Even when there isn’t any piano playing going on, it’s still available as a lounge and all the cool neon signs are simply a lot of fun to be around. It’s a fun atmosphere.

As well, pretty much around the clock there is some live music playing somewhere around the ship, so it’s easy to simply sit, have a drink, and listen. It’s not exactly the same as riding a roller coaster on Carnival’s newest ship — but if you want to just relax and do nothing on vacation, it’s hard to beat. Kids would definitely be bored by it… but for adults it’s a luxury to sit and have to do nothing.

As day rolled into evening, it was elegant night on the ship, so the people-watching in particular was fantastic as roughly half the ship (including me) was dress in their normal casual wear while the other half was dressed to the nines.

The interior of Ecstasy at night comes alive. Those neon lights circling the atrium that slowly change throughout the entire color spectrum.

I also spent some time gambling in the casino, making a much-needed “donation” to Carnival. In this case I jumped back and forth between some slots and video poker and while I didn’t come out ahead, I did get some good play out of it. Seems like these days that’s the best you can ask for.

Unfortunately, the smell of smoke in this casino is particularly bad — the sort that’s been so heavy that it lingers around the place even when no one is smoking right by you. If you don’t smoke, it’s not the sort of place you want to stay too long.

Since it was elegant night in the dining room and there aren’t too many restaurants on the Ecstasy, I opted for what I think is one of the best-kept secrets on Carnival — the deli. I rarely hear anyone mention the Carnival Deli. It’s almost an afterthought and hidden compared to more popular spots like Guy’s or BlueIguana.

The deli is located in the buffet area but is separate from the main buffet. And while there might be dozens of people lined up to get buffet food (which I’m not really a fan of on any cruise line), the line for the deli is typically short.

However, I think the food here is fantastic. They serve all sorts of sandwiches and wraps, but I’m a big fan of the turkey sandwich. It’s turkey, with avocado, cucumber, arugula and basil, all served on a pretzel bun. It’s all made-to-order, instead of sitting out, and it’s delicious.

In fact, I was sitting on the outside terrace eating my sandwich while watching the ship’s wake when someone randomly passed by saying “Turkey on a pretzel bun? That’s a good one.” So maybe the word is getting out.

The production show tonight — “The Brits” — featured music from all the big hits of the British Invasion era.

To close out the day, I caught the production show for the night — “The Brits”. As you might expect from the name, the show is all about the British Invasion of the ’60s, as the singers go from wearing drab gray suites and end up in brightly colored outfits as the decade progresses. The music is from all the British favorites, including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, and tons more. If you’re a fan of that era (I am), then it’s a lot of fun to watch.

Interesting Observations

  • Gambling in the casino, I had forgotten that Carnival switched to no longer having cashout tickets. If you want to get your money from a machine, you need to have your keycard inserted. It’s then loaded onto your card, which you put in the next machine. If you try to cash out without it, then you have to be hand-paid by an attendant. I’m not a fan. It means if you want to turn your credit back into cash, you have to go stand in line at the cashier booth with your card or wait for a hand pay.
  • After a couple of days in my cabin, I’ve noticed that I can hear seemingly every toilet flush for a lot of cabins. Thankfully I can’t hear what comes before. But in the mornings when people are waking up, it’s a loud “whoooooosh” seemingly every 2-3 minutes. And once you’re tuned into it, it’s hard to ignore. 

Tomorrow the ship docks in Cozumel.

Popular: 39 Useful Things to Pack (17 You Wouldn't Think Of)

Read Next: Park & Cruise Hotels for Every Port in America

Popular: 107 Best Cruise Tips, Secrets, Tricks, and Freebies


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here