Embarking the New Carnival Elation in Jacksonville

Carnival Elation, at anchor off Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, later on in our cruise. Note the new superstructure additions above the gymnasium, one deck above the bridge. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Monday, January 22, 2018

This afternoon, I stepped aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,130-guest Carnival Elation in the Port of Jacksonville, Florida, for a five-night cruise to the Bahamas, with calls on Nassau and the private island paradise that is Half Moon Cay.

Embarkation was quick, efficient, and most importantly, friendly. Kudos to JAXPORT for their fantastic staff. Between the smiles and the speed with which I embarked (a mere 26 minutes from curb-to-ship), my first embarkation in Jacksonville is one I’d gladly repeat.

Downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

I’ve come here to experience the “new” Carnival Elation, which went through a massive drydock last fall that gave this classic FunShip new balcony staterooms, more FunShip 2.0 features, and an entirely new look for every guest corridor and all 1065 existing staterooms onboard.

Of course, some fun in the sun at the same time is never a bad thing. A look at our quick trip aboard Carnival Elation:

Carnival Elation to the Bahamas

January 22, 2018Jacksonville, FLEmbark4:00pm
January 23At Sea
January 24Half Moon Cay, Bahamas9:00am5:00pm
January 25Nassau, Bahamas8:00am5:00pm
January 26At Sea
January 27Jacksonville, FL8:00amDisembark

Reasons to Be Elated

The second-last Fantasy Class ship to enter service for Carnival, Carnival Elation made her debut on March 20, 1998. She was christened by Shari Arison, daughter of Carnival founder Ted Arison and sister to Carnival Corporation & plc Chairman, Micky Arison. Carnival Elation is also noteworthy, together with sister Carnival Paradise, for having the first azimuthing propulsion systems fitted to a cruise ship.

Flash-forward twenty years and Carnival Elation is now as trendy as ever following a fall 2017 refit that added the features, amenities and décor of Carnival’s newest ships, like Carnival Vista, while still retaining much of her classic Joe Farcus décor.

Atrium Frenzy. The six-story atrium aboard Carnival Elation, designed by Joe Farcus, is classic Carnival, and Farcus at his most restrained. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Despite suffering a weeklong setback as the result of Hurricane Irma, Carnival Elation emerged from a stay at the Grand Bahama Shipyard in Freeport on October 7, 2017 with a new exterior profile, and all-new features for guests to look forward to.

What I like about this refit is that Carnival was mindful about the ship’s exterior profile. The new deck installed high atop the Fitness Center (which used to house a small observation area and mini-golf) has decks that cascade back attractively. Balconies have been added below deck areas that, for the most part, also extended out over the side of the ship. A new transom stern, added for stability and fuel economy, actually helps to give the ship a more modern appearance.

One of the new sections of balcony cabins added to the ship during her fall 2017 drydock. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

A total of 98 balconies were added to existing oceanview cabins, appearing on both port and starboard sides of the ship, and at the stern. Carnival added another 38 cabins to a new deck on Deck 14, built in prefabricated blocks by ALMACO. The company built all cabins, bathrooms, corridors, elevator lobbies and stairwells off-site and then installed them aboard the ship – a process that became infinitely complicated when Hurricane Irma developed, resulting in cabins being temporarily offloaded and secured while Carnival Elation set out to sea for safety. Following the Hurricane, these were reinstalled and work was completed on the ship’s exterior.

A pretty ship by day, Carnival Elation looks best by night, when the full glamour of her interior decor can best be seen. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Walking through the ship today, it’s easy to see how sweeping these changes have been. Throughout, Carnival Elation sports all-new décor in every passenger corridor that mimics the “Cool Caribbean” vibe introduced aboard Carnival Breeze. The Fantasy Class used to have dark, dimly-lit corridors with pop-art style paintings of old ocean liners. Now, for the first time, corridors feel light, bright and airy.

Fantasy-class corridors, pre-refit. As seen aboard Carnival Paradise, August 2017. Carnival Paradise will go through her own sweeping refit in February. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Refreshed corridors aboard Carnival Elation: a world of difference! Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Another area of the ship that benefited heavily from these refits are the ship’s two dining rooms, which have been completely redone with newer and more modern décor. Carniavl Elation also received Guy’s Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina & Tequila Bar, the RedFrog Rum Bar, a new WaterWorks aqua park and Twister slide, a mini-golf course and refurbished Camp Ocean kids clubs – all of which help transform this venerable twenty year old into a thoroughly modern cruise experience.

My Stateroom: A New Category 8B Balcony

I finally stopped marveling at the new corridors and made my way to my cabin, located on the port side of Upper Deck 6. This used to be a Category 6C Oceanview Stateroom; after the refit, it is now a Category 8B Balcony Stateroom.

Here’s a look at how these rooms used to appear, as seen on Carnival Paradise last summer.

Oceanview Stateroom, Carnival Paradise. August 2017.  Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The new look on Carnival Elation today:

My Category 8B Balcony Stateroom: a former oceanview room turned balcony paradise. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Staterooms now boast new wall treatments, desks, closets, flat-panel televisions, switches, and even lighting. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

New closets complement a safe, mini-fridge and hair dryer: all things that many Fantasy Class staterooms historically lacked. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

The changes are massive and sweeping – and they go far beyond appearances. But let’s talk about those first.

No one is going to miss the old black-on-peachy-pink colour scheme. No one. Or the pink ceiling tiles, or the bathroom that used to look like it belonged in a motel in a David Lynch movie. The transformation is so dramatic that I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Whoa!” to myself as I stepped in.

Carnival deserves major credit for the extent of this refit. Rather than just swapping out the carpet, it went all out. That awful little box that used to house the 13-inch CRT TV’s of the days of old? Gone! The old damper-controlled AC that was mounted to the ceiling vent? Obsolete, replaced with a new, digital thermostat. The weird, oddly-open closets? Gone! The bathroom? Completely redone!

Stateroom bathrooms as-built, seen aboard Carnival Paradise. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Bathrooms have been substantially changed and reflect the more modern style found on the line’s newer ships. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Bathrooms are MUCH brighter than in their past incarnation. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Yes, even the sinks are new. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Pump soap shampoo and conditioner in the shower. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Staterooms have safes now. Mini-fridges. Better desks. New wall treatments. New headboards. New lighting. They also have new electrical, which should be exciting for anyone that ever had to use the single socket that used to exist in these rooms. Rather than playing Sophie’s Choice with your electronic devices, you can now charge them all, thanks to newly-added electrical and USB outlets.

Carnival Paradise, August 2017. Much of these rooms still exist as when constructed in 1998 (Paradise is Elation’s closest fleetmate, and the final ship in the Fantasy Class). Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

My stateroom at dusk. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

It took me the better part of the day to realize that the throw on my bed is actually a graphic printed onto the sheets. I’m split as to whether I like this or not. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

In the past, other Fantasy Class ships have been refitted with balconies, but none have been given this kind of sweeping treatment. Pre-refit, these were comfortable – if outdated – rooms. Post-refit, Carnival has breathed new life into this classic, humanly-sized ship.

Setting Sail from Jacksonville, Florida

Carnival Elation sets sail from Jacksonville under chilly conditions…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…but that doesn’t stop the sailaway party. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Following the customary muster drill at 3:30pm, Carnival Elation maneuvered away from her berth at the Jacksonville Cruise Terminal shortly after 4:00pm. The weather had turned chilly and windy, but that didn’t stop guests from flocking to the ship’s open decks for the Caribbean Sail Away Party.

This had everything that makes Carnival fun: live music, pool drinks, dancing. The kids onboard wasted no time in discovering the newly-installed Carnival WaterWorks on Deck 11 aft, with its colourful waterslides and spacious splash area. This used to be an open (and rather forgotten) deck space. Not anymore.

Carnival WaterWorks: a brand-new addition to Carnival Elation. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

While passengers went around sipping cocktails from souvenir glasses shaped like Carnival’s iconic funnels and grooved to Celebration, I watched as we slipped under the Dames Point Bridge and headed out into the open expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. This part of the cruise never gets old for me: the moment when your ship piles on the speed and heads out to sea.

Carnival Elation is full of plenty of cozy lounges…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…each with its own unique atmosphere and vibe. Shown above is Gatsby’s Great Bar, Deck 9 Aft. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Because this is a short cruise, Carnival’s wasted no time getting the fun started. Tonight, guests can enjoy the always popular “Welcome Aboard Show” in the Mikado Lounge on Decks 8 and 9 forward; rock the promenade in the Atrium Lobby at 11pm, or take part in the first (and very adult) Punchliner Comedy Club performance of the cruise at 11:15pm. Tonight, Richie Holliday performs his adult-only show, “Just Plain Silly” in the Cole Porter Club on Deck 9 aft.

How you enjoy your evening, even on a FunShip, is up to you. Aboard the refitted Carnival Elation, decked out in her swanky new look, short cruises have never looked so fun.

The soaring atrium aboard Carnival Elation, as night falls. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Elation continues tomorrow with a Fun Day at Sea. Follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Carnival Elation to the Bahamas

January 22, 2018Jacksonville, FLEmbark4:00pm
January 23At Sea
January 24Half Moon Cay, Bahamas9:00am5:00pm
January 25Nassau, Bahamas8:00am5:00pm
January 26At Sea
January 27Jacksonville, FL8:00amDisembark

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