This is the first time that we left home the same day that we were set to take our cruise. We live in South Carolina, and since Jacksonville is normally about 4 1/2 hours from home, we decided to save the money on a motel and drive straight to the port. It was a bit stressful; you just never know how I-26 and I-95 in Jacksonville will be. So many times we’ve driven to Florida only to find long backups. We left our home at 6:30 am, and it was foggy all through South Carolina, but the traffic was fine.
At the port
We’ve never sailed out of Jacksonville before, but we got some really good VIFP (Very Important Fun Person) offers from Carnival, and we couldn’t pass them up. This particular cruise was a Halloween cruise, and our cruise began on Halloween day.
The Port of Jacksonville (JAXport) and Parking
We opted to park right at the port for the first time. I figured that since we didn’t know how long it would really take to get to Jacksonville, we didn’t want to bother with waiting for a shuttle to take us. We had a five day cruise, and it cost us $85 total, but it was worth it. Be sure to have your boarding pass and your photo ID ready before you get into the line for the port. We didn’t know that, and we had to pull off to the side and find our boarding passes for the ship.
You can pay for your parking ahead of time to guarantee a spot. We paid online and printed out our confirmation. There are three toll stations, and once you get to the front of the line, you can pay or show them your confirmation slip, which he’ll scan. At that point you drive to an open air parking area and choose any spot. You can also have people drop you off at the ship.
We chose a spot that would be convenient for us as we leave the ship. We pulled our check on luggage to a waiting porter, and tipped him a couple of dollars.
Our embarkation time was 11:30. We arrived at the port just a couple of minutes early but that wasn’t a problem. We had our boarding pass and passport ready to go, and walked right into the terminal building. It was so easy. Everyone was friendly and helpful.
First, we put everything through the security scanner, as usual. Then we were immediately shown which clerk to go to so we could get checked in. Then we walked right onto the ship. I really think that this was the easiest boarding that I’ve ever had. We’d heard stories about how hard Jacksonville is at the terminal, but definitely not for us. The one thing that I do need to mention is that the ramp to the ship is steep and very long. If you needed help, they could get a wheelchair for you.
On the ship
This is the smallest ship that we’ve sailed on since our first cruise on the Carnival Fantasy. The Carnival Elation is in the same class that Fantasy was, and similar in layout. But after sailing so many large ships, this one takes some getting used to. We walked into the Atrium area and saw the usual Halloween decor out, including Patch, the Pumpkin. But the Atrium is very small compared to most ships.
We decided to find the Buffet. As usual, it’s on the Lido Deck, which is deck 10 on this ship. The ship seemed crowded, but most ships do on embarkation day. We did manage to find a table fairly easily in the buffet, and while he saved the table, I went to get some food. I was starving and thirsty after that drive. I did find that the buffet has limited food selection, but there was enough for us. Honestly, I was so tired that I don’t remember what I ate, but I do remember the cute Halloween dessert selection. I love Halloween cruises! The buffet was very warm that first day, but maybe because it was embarkation day and so many doors were opening up.
Looking around and waiting for our room to open up
After we ate lunch we explored the ship for a while, but since we were carrying around our heavy carry-on bags, we decided to sit down for awhile.
Just before 1:30 pm we saw that the doors to the room hallways were open so we went in to see if we could get into our room. Our sea card, which is also our room key, was on the door, so we went in. Almost immediately our Steward, I Nyoman, came over and introduced himself. I have to say that he has been a great steward so far, and it’s nice to talk to him. He’s from Bali, I always feel bad because I know these crewmembers have families at home. I’ve put a short video of the cabin, which is U4, down below. It’s a nice cabin, but it did smell a bit of cigarette smoke from sometime in the past. It’s a small cabin, but has enough room and storage for what we need. The walls are not very magnetized, so they won’t hold magnetic clips. They do have a couple of clips already on the wall. The bathroom has no magnifying makeup mirror like most Carnival ships do. Also, the sink is very small and doesn’t have a lot of shelf or storage space. The shower is very large for a ship, though. There is a safe, and a number of shelves out in the open, so they’re really not practical for storing clothing. The drawers are small. This room is close to the area where the stewards store their equipment, I’m hoping it won’t be a noisy area.
One of the few good things that came out of Covid was the easier, much more pleasant, Muster Drill. On the Elation we were told to go to our Muster Station, which was A (in the theater) when we got on the ship. We actually went after lunch. It took less than a minute for the crewmember to show us how to put on our lifevests, then they checked us into the system as having done our drill. No more standing outside in the heat behind a bunch of people.
Our ship sailed at 3:30 pm, so a few minutes earlier than that, the Captain came onto the PA system and told everyone to do their drill. Please don’t try to get away with not doing it or you may have to hear your name on the PA being told to do it. Then our Cruise Director, Neil, came on the PA with the instructions again. Then they played the signal on the horn, and believe me, it’s LOUD. We were on the highest deck in front, and the speakers were right by us. Hold your ears!
As we left port, we passed under a large suspension bridge on I-295. Honestly, when you’re approaching you can’t see how the ship is going to manage not to hit the bridge, it comes pretty close to the bottom of the bridge. But we made it and were out to sea.
Halloween on a ship
After an afternoon of exploring, we went to dinner. Our waiter was Juan, he was great but we were disappointed that we hadn’t been seated with other people. We like to get to know people when we cruise. We did get to meet Hengky, the Assistant Maitre’ d’, who seemed fun, and the Head Maitre’ d’, Haris. Dinner was delicious! I started out with Fried Calimari with Marinara Sauce, and a small Quesadilla. Then I had the short ribs, which were wonderful. Dessert was suggested by Juan. Halloween treats…pumpkin cheesecake and Chocolate Decadent.
Evening entertainment and bed
The entertainment for the evening was Halloween themed, of course. Our Cruise Director, Neal, had an interesting costume on. Since I’m not of that generation I’m not sure who he was supposed to be, I’m assuming a band member of something. Perhaps you can enlighten me. But he seems great, and has a lot of energy.
First show was the Welcome Aboard show. Basically the same Welcome Aboard show that Carnival ships always have. I do wish that they’d switch things up on different ships like they used to. It’s hard to sail Carnival a lot anymore because of the limited variety of shows. The performers are very good though.
After that was the costume judging contest. They gave out flashing rings to everyone, and then got together in the Atrium. The Atrium is too small for a crowd, so they then went to the area outside the Casino. Which was alway WAY too small. They should have done this either on the pool deck or in the theater. We ended up leaving because we couldn’t see anyway. But there were a lot of people in costume.
And then, since it had been such a long day, we called it a night and went to bed. I’ve put a few more pictures of the day below. Stay tuned for day two.