Skip to main content

I took a spring break cruise on Carnival's smallest ship. Here’s why I wouldn’t do it again


Debating on booking a Carnival cruise over spring break? Following the winter holidays, spring break is often the first chance families have to vacation together without pulling children out of school. Since many breaks across the United States line up, this leads to an increased demand for cruises, which is why you'll often pay more for a cruise in March or April than in January, February, or early May. 

The last time I took a spring break cruise was nearly a decade ago. My family and I embarked on a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise onboard Oasis of the Seas. It was a fun last-minute trip that we booked one week out, as we had originally planned to visit Nashville.

10 years later, my partner and I were interested in taking a cruise over her spring break, as she's a teacher and doesn't have as much flexibility with work as I do. After cruising on three of Carnival's newer ship classes, I opted for a 5-night sailing on Carnival Elation out of Jacksonville, Florida. 


Carnival Cruise Line is often referred to as the "party" line. Weirdly enough, my last three Carnival cruises seemed to defy that stereotype. While there were certainly rowdier cruisers onboard, there were also families and groups celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, etc. You definitely didn't have to partake in the wilder events if you didn't want to.

I wasn't quite sure of what to expect on my short Bahamian spring break cruise onboard one of Carnival's oldest ships at sea. After 5 nights onboard, here's a recap of my experience on Carnival Elation. 

I received an email from Carnival prior to our sailing that made me anxious about how rowdy they were expecting the cruise to be


Three days before my cruise, I received an email titled, "Important advisory regarding your upcoming Carnival cruise." At first, I thought there may have been an itinerary change. Would we no longer be visiting Half Moon Cay or Nassau? 

"You will be sailing with us during Spring Break," the email began, "which is traditionally a period of high occupancy. As part of our commitment to create the best environment to provide a fun and memorable vacation for all, we would like to remind you of our Have Fun. Be Safe. guidelines."

While the information provided wasn't anything new, encompassing familiar rules such as the prohibition of Bluetooth speakers, limiting guests to one bottle of wine, and the ban on marijuana, I had never received a similar message on any of my three previous Carnival sailings. It set the tone for a wild ride, so I was anxious to see how the experience would unfold. 

Read more: Things that can get you instantly kicked off a cruise ship

The lack of available chairs was perhaps the most annoying aspect of the cruise


One of the biggest gripes with this cruise was the chair hogs. While that's to be expected on any sailing, I'm usually able to find chairs somewhere onboard, even if they aren't in the middle of all the action. 

On the first sea day, my partner and I enjoyed a leisurely Sea Day Brunch before making our way to the top deck. To our surprise, there weren't any chairs available. We looked on Deck 10 near the pool, as well as Deck 11 near Waterworks. We even ventured down to the Serenity adults-only area and still weren't able to find two chairs. 

We ended up circling the lido deck like hawks for about thirty minutes before finally finding some loungers. Those by the single pool onboard seemed to be reserved by families, whereas those on the upper deck tended to be taken by groups of college students or couples. Oftentimes, there were numerous chairs in a row that were reserved with bags and towels with no owners in sight. 


The same was true in Half Moon Cay. Those arriving on the island later in the afternoon struggled to find seating. In fact, one group set up camp with their ship-provided towels right behind us! 

There were a few rare occasions when we were greeted by long lines; however, there were minimal wait times for the majority of the cruise


The lines for BlueIguana Cantina or Guy's Burger Joint never felt excessive. Moreover, the longest I had to wait for a drink was on embarkation day right before sail away. It was rather easy to get a drink at any point during the rest of the sailing. 

We encountered the longest lines at the pizza and deli stations in the buffet and during the tender process to Half Moon Cay, as well as disembarkation. However, the tender congestion could have been avoided with more organization, as the entire process was pure chaos. Additionally, we felt as though they weren't baking the pizzas as fast as they could have been, as usually only two or three came out at a time. 

Tendering can be a bit of a gamble because, like any port, you're never guaranteed to be able to get off the ship. On this particular day, they were only able to use the midship gangway for the first few hours, leading to extensive wait times. Rather than abide by the line that had been waiting for close to one hour, the crew member pretty much made it a free-for-all, sending frustrated passengers down all corridors to the open tender. 


One thing to note is that we tried to eat around 5:30-6:00pm each evening, as we realized the wait time increased closer to 6:30-7:00pm. I don't believe it was due to the spring break crowd, though, as there were only two specialty options onboard: Chef's Table and Bonsai Sushi Express; the primary evening dining venues were either the Main Dining Room or buffet.

Of course, when going to a show, we knew the importance of lining up early, as this is a common practice on any sailing. For comedy shows, we tended to arrive about 5-10 minutes before doors opened to ensure we got a good seat. However, if you aren't picky, I think it would have been possible to secure a seat anywhere up to ten minutes before showtime. 

Overall, though, the lines were much shorter than those on ships like Carnival Celebration where I waited an hour for Guy's on embarkation day! It was also impossible to get a drink on the lido deck during sail away. While the line was long on Elation, it wasn't unbearable, and my partner and I had a cocktail in hand within ten minutes. 

The deck parties were a lot of fun


During my 5-night cruise, I attended three nighttime events on the lido deck, all of which were filled with lively music and dancing. The 80s Rock N' Glow Party saw an older crowd, whereas the Mega Deck Party felt more like a college event. The Silent Disco definitely had the widest range of attendees. 

It was evident the spring breakers came out in full force during the Mega Deck Party. While my partner and I are both younger, we only lasted about fifteen minutes before deciding to grab a slice of pizza and head to bed. 

The Silent Disco, on the other hand, matched our vibe. There were cruisers of all ages in attendance, and we loved dancing to popular songs underneath the stars. Like a couple other onboard events, though, it was a little unorganized. The line to retrieve headphones cut through the middle of the dance floor, and due to all the information they were collecting by hand, it wasn't a fast process. 

We witnessed a couple pier runners in Nassau


Our all-aboard time in Nassau was 3:30pm; however, the gangway was still open until 4:00pm due to some stragglers. I can't say I'm surprised, either. 

While there are definitely better places to eat, we wanted to experience what Nassau at spring break was like, so we decided to have lunch at Señor Frog's around 12:30pm. What I was shocked by, however, was the number of families. With the music as loud as it was, it wouldn't be my first choice for a family meal in The Bahamas!

Of course, the families were easily outnumbered by the partiers. We returned to the ship around 3:00pm and were greeted by a relatively long line to board. As soon as we were through security, we headed to the top deck for sail away, but we noticed that the gangway was still down at 3:30pm. 


Shortly after, an announcement was made over the PA system requesting for about seven passengers to contact Guest Services. My guess? They were guests who weren't keeping track of the time. We saw one girl sprint down the pier closer to 3:45pm, with her friend following behind as if they weren't in a rush. A few minutes later, a family with younger children followed. 

We departed shortly after Carnival Paradise, leaving Nassau close to 4:30pm. I would imagine that some people onboard didn't have a great night after spending all day in the sun drinking. 

Read more: Is a spring break cruise with Carnival too crazy? I went onboard to find out

My cruise onboard Carnival Elation wasn't the cheapest I've ever taken


Despite being the oldest and smallest ship I've ever sailed on, I've found much better deals on newer ships outside of spring break. In January, I took a 4-night cruise on Carnival Conquest that cost around $820 for two cruisers, including taxes, fees, and gratuities

In comparison, my 5-night spring break cruise on Elation was just over $1,470. While this sailing was one night longer, there were fewer amenities onboard, and my cabin, particularly the bathroom, felt more dated. It even broke at one point during the cruise! 

According to Carnival's website, sailings on Carnival Elation can start as low as $269 per person for an interior cabin. Of course, this price doesn't include taxes, port fees, and gratuities, which will likely add at least another $200 per person. Either way, $470 per person is more reasonable than $735! 

Overall, the cruise was more tame than I had anticipated, but I wouldn't cruise on Carnival Elation again during spring break 


While there were moments when Carnival's "fun ship" atmosphere was present, I never felt too overwhelmed by the amount of partying. In fact, my partner and I ventured into the ship's nightclub one night and commented how it wasn't anything special; I had seen better nightlife on longer Royal Caribbean cruises! 

The sailaway party was similar to other Carnival sailaways that I've experienced. There were definitely a ton of people hanging out on the lido deck and partaking in the festivities, but I actually felt as though there were more children than wild college students. It seemed as though the majority of passengers were aware of their presence, as the dancing (for the most part) wasn't as provocative as other Carnival cruises. Only one man took his shirt off! 

Additionally, the lido deck had more family-friendly activities than I remember on previous sailings. I even witnessed an event just for children! It was cute seeing kids compete to sing different songs. If they repeated any, they were eliminated. 


While there were definitely those onboard who were making use of their drink package, it wasn't any different than other sailings I've been on, whether it was onboard Carnival or not. There will always be those who see cruises as their time to indulge in adult beverages, regardless of the time of year. 

I think if I were to book another spring break cruise with Carnival, I'd prioritize a ship with more to do onboard. The singular pool was overrun by children, making it unappealing to adults. In fact, a child had an accident on the last day, and they had to close it for a while! Moreover, my partner and I are no longer interested in college-like parties. There wasn't a lot to offer those in between both groups. 

Instead, we'd prefer a ship with more specialty dining and interesting ports of call, as well as a larger adults-only section. 

Loading Comments