Elation To Cabo

Sailing Day

This trip is a bit different than the last. I’m a member of an invited press group of eleven travel writers who specialize in cruising. The occasion? The inaugural of Carnival Elation’s year round cruising schedule from San Diego; four days to Cabo San Lucas alternating with five days to Cabo and Ensenada. We’re on the four day to Cabo along with hundreds of travel agents. Elation has a capacity of 2,052 passengers. The ship is full.

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Carnival is a mass market cruise line. This means prices are low; less than $100 a day for an inside cabin. The bathroom toiletries are “samples”. For instance, the skin cream is what you might find attached to a magazine ad. Once used, they are not replaced. The soap is a solid green square that claims to contain sea kelp. In the shower there are two liquid dispensers. One is labeled “Body Wash”, the other is yellowish and unidentified. I guessed shampoo. I hope I’m right. On the other hand, the robes are substantial Turkish cotton terrycloth.

My cabin is an “ocean view”. There is a hair dryer, but no refrigerator, and a box about 2 ½ by 3 feet that completely blocks any access to the window side of the bed. If there were two people in this cabin (I’m solo on this trip), the one sleeping on that side would have to clamber over the comfy king size duvet. And, if need be, in the middle of the night, scramble out. Try to go over “the box”, and you’ll do face time with the TV. The box does have a function; it contains the life jackets, with room for at least five of them. That being said, the bed is very comfortable, and the pillows, although filled with some kind of polyester, feel like feather.img_2258.JPGcabin

Boarding was well handled. Although Elation didn’t board until noon, a lot of folks checked in earlier. When boarding was announced, about 300 passengers were seated and waiting. Boarding was done by zones. At check in, each cabin was handed a boarding card delineating a zone. When your zone was called, you passed by a Carnival staff member, handed him the card, and then through one of four control lanes to smile for your ship’s ID photo. Everything was very smooth and efficient and moved quickly, at least for me. I had a VIP zone card (the power of the press) and was first aboard.

Getting settled in the cabin was easy, and my luggage arrived in less than two hours. I did have one little scare. I dumped my documents out on the bed to put away for safe keeping, and couldn’t find my passport. I looked everywhere….gone! In the terminal I had put my cabin card and passport in the same pocket, figuring it would be safe and easy to get to. I was half right, it was easy to get to and gone. I panicked! I have a cruise to Alaska in a week and no passport and only a weeks time to get one, meant not only no trip to Alaska, but a looooong explanation to Michael, my wife.

I went to the Purser’s office mumbling entreaties to the traveler’s god, passport division, and whimpered my predicament. “Are you Geoff Edwards?” the assistant purser asked. I said yes, and showed her my cabin card. She smiled and handed me my passport, which had landed on the terminal floor when I pulled my other documents out of my pocket. From now on, I am contemplating carrying it in my teeth. I shall practice talking with it firmly in place.

Boat drill was smoothly handled. My muster point was in the Mikado Lounge, the main showroom. The seats filled quickly, and as people came in they were exhorted to be sure and have their life jackets on. Later, when we were all kapok encumbered, crewmembers demonstrated the correct way put on the life jackets. I’ve never understood this backward procedure, but almost every line I’ve sailed, except Regent Seven Seas, does it the same way. One thing Elation did that I have not seen before, was to ask all fire fighters, police officers, doctors, and registered nurses to give their cabin numbers to a staff member in case they might be needed in an emergency.

Boat drill over, Stuart Dunn, Cruise Director, said we were beginning the best four days of our lives. The bars filled, the music started, and off we went.img_2268.JPG

We had a press cocktail party, met each other, the Hotel Manager, and genial Giovanni Cutugno, Captain of Elation. Then it was off to dinner. As I’ve mentioned, there are eleven of us, plus guests, all shepherded by Jennifer de la Cruz,, an old friend and one of the most efficient PR people in the business. Two tables were reserved for us. Well, there was not a “reserved” sign, but all passengers’ cabin cards were imprinted with dining venue, time, and table. Our two tables were full. Kind of a “let’s all sit together, it doesn’t make any difference” declaration that some travel agents crafted. Jenifer talked to them, asked to see their cards, and moved them all out without a snarl from the bunch. Amazing! If she ever tires of Carnival, she should head for the Diplomatic services.

Dress code was casual, but no shorts are allowed in either Imagination or Inspiration, the main dining rooms. Fughedabout it. Perhaps the pants that come a bit below the knee are technically not “shorts”, even though coordinated with wife beater tees. Tomorrow night is formal. That will be interesting.

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img_2264.JPGElation is a beautiful ship; lovely ambiance, especially in the dining rooms. Some of the tables are individual booths for four, others larger, but with railings and posts strategically situated so that you don’t see a whole crowd of diners from wherever you are located. We had two waiters from Romania who were both friendly, and efficient. The menu has loads of choices and the people at my table all liked their meal. With the addition of a French Executive chef whose name, if I remembered it, I couldn’t spell, Carnival has come a long way in the quality of its main meal “cuisine”. (I’ll get that name tomorrow.)

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