The Elation is a special ship for me for several reasons. Back in the year 2000, she was my first experience of cruising on any of the Carnival fleet. The litmus test for a product that, back then, I was not sure whether I would love or loathe.
As it turned out, I did enjoy all the razzle, sizzle and sheer joie de vivre of this great, contemporary floating resort. At a bit over 70,000 tons, the Elation was the seventh member of the eight ship Fantasy class (to be followed by the Paradise, the first attempt at a non smoking ship anywhere).
In addition, she was the first cruise ship anywhere in the world with azipod propulsion, a kind of reversible set of propellers that made the huge ship vastly more easy to handle in confined waters. As such, she was a globe trotting prototype that blazed a trail for the entire cruise industry.
But it wasn’t that mechanical tour de force that made the Elation so much fun. Part of it was certainly down to the itinerary; in those days, the ship sailed from Los Angeles on seven night runs down to the Mexican Riviera. It is a part of the world that I have since come to love; exhilarating, fun and dramatically beautiful. And my voyage on the Elation was my first encounter with this wonderful slice of the planet.
The ship herself was brash, vibrant and fun; brimming with good things, and suffused with a round the clock party atmosphere. A conga line of tasty, sassy food treats danced on our taste buds day and night. These were the days before balconies really became so prevalent, but the cabins on the Elation seemed huge all the same. And, at something like 185 square feet both for standard insides and outsides, they really were the biggest in the mega ship market at that time.
So, from the start, I associated the Elation with some very positive memories; a true feel good experience. Eight years later, I boarded her once again in San Diego for an abbreviated, four night re-run of the original cruise.
I was eight years older by then, and vastly more travel savvy (I like to think). I did kind of wonder whether those swathes of Farcusian neon and glitz interiors would still be to my liking. And, having become accustomed to balcony cabins for several years now, I did wonder if I would feel cheated of their absence.
Not at all, as it turned out. That second, short cruise was a whole lot of fun and games. I met some people on that cruise that I have stayed friends with ever since. Warm sun, frosty Margaritas and impossibly tender Pacific sunsets garnished this second ‘fun run’ like the stuff that sprouts on some particularly colourful cocktail glass. Powerful magic, indeed.
And now, six years later, I am contemplating a return. Now restyled as Carnival Elation, the ship sails out of New Orleans on four and five circuits of the western Caribbean.
But the old girl has had some significant upgrades. A whole raft of balcony cabins has been grafted on to her, as well as a much anticipated Serenity Deck, an adults only relaxation area with padded loungers and hot tubs that offers a marvellously chilled vibe.
The idea of being able to combine a much anticipated return visit to the incomparable ‘crescent city’ of New Orleans is, of course, compelling enough in itself. As an avowed soul food gourmet, I came to love this rollicking, humid tribute to the good life a few years ago.
And, oh yes- combine the opportunity to cruise the balmy Caribbean at any time of the year, plus the chance to do it once again on a ship I remember with such fondness, and I think we have a winner.
Elation is more than just an idea; more than just a state of mind. People, it’s a ship as well. A fun ship.
Here’s looking at you, kid. Again.