Carnival Elation: A review (with photos)

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We just sailed on the Carnival Elation, the oldest and smallest ship in the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. We chose the ship because it sails out of Jacksonville, our preferred port for this particular cruise. In this Carnival Elation review, I share what we learned about this beautiful ship, and some recommendations for which cabins to book and other helpful tips!

Do you wonder if it’s a good ship for cruising? Or what to expect on board? You have come to the right place! Much of this Carnival Elation review was written in real time, as we sailed.

Carnival Elation in port in Nassau Bahamas with two ladies posing in front.

Ship overview

Let’s kick off this Carnival Elation review with our first impressions. Honestly, the ship is beautiful and so clean. We were truly impressed! It’s got a regal presence, very old world European. But, it is smaller than new ships which are essentially cities at sea.

It sails out of Jacksonville, making it a popular cruise option for people who can drive in from the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. We met people from Chicago, Wyoming and Massachusetts and other places, too, so it’s not just a “local” cruise. Our itinerary was a five night cruise to the Bahamas, with stops in Nassau and Bimini. For Nassau, we recommend the British Colonial Nassau Day Pass shore excursion for its convenient location and beautiful new resort pool area!

The ship was last updated in 2023, and it still looks fresh and clean. The rich, warm browns, beautiful lights, gleaming floors and railings are striking. But, the atrium is small, with a central bar in front of the grand staircase surrounded by the guest services desk and the shore excursions desk. Musicians perform on the small stage behind the bar, filling the atrium space with music. Otherwise, this area is not used for activities.

Carnival Elation atrium as seen from a high balcony showing the skylight window, the pool deck windows, and lighted balconies overlooking a bar.

The cabin areas have a more tropical vibe. Between cabin doors, floor to ceiling tropical murals brighten the space. Interior cabin walls are bland beige, but the artwork suggests watercolor surf boards stacked on a beach. Bedding, towels and carpet were all in great shape, and the beds and pillows were comfortable.

Carnival Elation review shows cabin hall with new carpet, tropical murals and woodgrain doors with keycard locks.

There’s a bit of a disconnect thematically between the public spaces and the cabins, but everything was so clean, who really cares!

Carnival Elation Rooms

The ship’s smaller size and age mean there are fewer categories of cabins onboard than the larger ships offer. Most cabins are between 160-185 square feet.

Regular Cabins

With 468 Ocean View Cabins, this is the largest category of Carnival Elation Rooms and each room is 185 square feet. While not fancy, they are spacious and comfortable, with a surprisingly large bathroom. These cabins sleep up to four people. The windows do not open. Check out our cabin video!

There are several Porthole Window Cabins and a large number of Interior Cabins as well. Porthole Cabins also offer an ocean view, just through smaller porthole windows. Interior cabins are slightly smaller, at 160-170 square feet, but all regular cabins sleep two to four people, depending on the configuration and have the same size bathroom.

Porthole Cabin.

Balcony Cabins

There are 109 Carnival Elation rooms with balconies. They are the same size as the regular cabins, 185 square feet, with small balconies to enjoy private views of the sea.

Cruise reviewers say the Carnival Elation rooms with balconies on Deck Five, Midship, are the quietest. Though, with only 12 cabins in this particular spot, book early if you want one!

Suites on Carnival Elation

There are very few Carnival Elations rooms classified as suites on the ship. The The 49 Junior Suites offer 220 square feet of space with a sitting area in the cabin and a small balcony. These suites come with upgraded amenities, but do not include priority boarding or other perks. Junior Suites sleep only three guests.

There are 28 Grand Suites and two Grand Scenic Suites on board. These Carnival Elation rooms sleep up to five guests. They are larger at 330 to 348 square feet with balconies, upgraded amenities, priority boarding and debarkation, and reserved seating at shows.

Our Cabin: Carnival Elation Room R35

Our Cabin, Room R35, was located on Deck 4 (Riviera Deck). This is the lowest passenger cabin deck on the ship, and it’s the furthest from the food and activities.

Our reactions:

  • Beds: Configured as two twin beds with a nightstand between. The beds were a bit soft for my liking, but otherwise comfortable. The comforter, sheets and pillows were very nice!
  • Electrical Outlets: We had plenty of outlets, one at the desk area with mirror to do hair, and outlets that allowed us to charge our phones from bedside.
  • Closets: We had more than enough closet and dresser space, with a drawer for each of us, several shelves for folded clothes and two closets for hanging clothes. We had lots of extra space. With so much space, we didn’t have to be too picky with our Carnival Cruise packing list!
  • Makeup: This was the only area we found a bit lacking. The drawer by the desk mirror has the ship’s blow dryer, so there isn’t room for a makeup bag. And, with the water (It’s not free) taking up valuable counter space, we had to juggle makeup bags. Not a major issue, but one to know.
  • Bathroom: We loved the bathroom! It’s small, but well laid-out. The shower is much larger than I expected, and there are towel bars galore. It’s fabulous.
  • Cabin Temperature: The cabins have touchscreen temperature controls. If you set it at the coolest temperature, the fan runs all night and provides great “white noise” so you don’t hear people in the halls.

I’m also glad that Carnival Elation rooms still get towel animals. They make me smile.

Deck 7 Aft Cabins: Because of the ship’s design, the only way to get to the Inspiration Restaurant (Deck 8, Aft) is by going down to Deck 7 or up to Deck 9. From 5:45-9:30 p.m., there is a bit more foot traffic from midship to the aft staircase on Deck 7. It’s not a big deal, probably, but if you like quiet, don’t select cabins here.

Carnival Elation things to do

When looking for Carnival Elation things to do, you won’t be disappointed even though it doesn’t have the splashy activities of the new, larger ships.

Activities on Carnival Elation

The ship has the basic activities, expected on most cruise ships in the Caribbean.

Pool Deck on the Carnival Elation at dusk with sun decks, lifeboats and ship's tail showing.

There’s one pool on the ship, and while there are reviews that say there are three pools on board, they are wrong. There’s one pool on Deck 10 — the Lido Deck. There’s also the Waterworks water slide and splash zone at the back of Deck 11, putt putt and shuffleboard on Deck 14, and ping pong.

Water slides at Waterworks on Deck 11.
Waterworks on Carnival Elation, Deck 11
Putt Putt Golf on Deck 14 of Carnival Elation with girl smiling and cruise director taking his shot.
Putt Putt on Carnival Elation, Deck 14

If you’re looking for the fitness center, it is located on the 12th Deck with an entrance through the spa. The fitness center is not labeled, so I included a photo below for reference. Lots of people couldn’t find it!

Fitness center on Carnival Elation.
Fitness Center Equipment
Spa entrance on the Carnival Elation is also the entrance to the fitness center.
Spa entrance is also the entrance to the fitness center which is beyond the spa.

One thing the Carnival Elation does not offer, and which I really missed, was a walking track area. Technically, you can do “laps” on Deck 11, which overlooks the pool, but it passes through the smoking area, which was crowded.

Other fun and games on Carnival Elation

The entertainment staff is really active on this ship. We enjoyed trivia, karaoke, and live music. I especially enjoyed the steel drum sounds by Keith, while Ellie enjoyed the singers and the rock band. There was lots more like Bingo, Deal or No Deal, the casino, and shopping deals.

Performers singing at the Rock music stage show.

Each evening, offered fun activities, like a silent music night, 80s party night, and stage shows.

Dressed in neon yellow for 80s night on the Carnival Elation.

If you see Sterling from Ohio, say hi for me!

One of my favorite activities on board was the Art Scavenger Hunt. It drew quite a crowd of all ages — and you don’t have to know a thing about art to participate. It was a fun way to get people into the art area to look at different pieces and appreciate them without any pressure to buy. The Park West art staff was there to help people if they couldn’t find an answer or to discuss the various pieces. I’ve not seen this on other ships, and think it’s a great addition on the Carnival Elation.

People doing the art scavenger hunt.

There’s an adults only sun lounging area for ages 21+ on Deck 9 Aft, called the Serenity Deck. It has two hot tubs and cushioned loungers. This area was comfortable but very crowded. We found that the Deck 15 Sun Deck was larger and quieter. While the sun deck does not have a hot tub, it was our favorite place to relax with a good book! And, since my daughter is only 19, we could hang out together.

Sun Deck on our ship.

Carnival Cruise Kid Activities

Since this is a popular cruise line for families, I made sure to talk with the kids’ recreation staff for this Carnival Elation Review.

All kids who cruise on Carnival get a wrist band (ankle band for babies) for their safety, particularly if they’re enjoying Carnival Cruise kid activities when an emergency happens. The staff explains all of that to parents in the kids’ clubs on embarkation day.

Carnival Cruise Line offers children’s activities on every ship. Dedicated kids’ clubs group kids by age with age appropriate activities.

  • Circle C, for the tweens, is on Deck 8 near the Atrium.
  • Club O2, for the teens, is on Deck 9 near the Atrium.
  • Camp Ocean, for ages 2-11, is on Deck 11.
Camp Ocean space on Carnival Elation

The staff we spoke with all recommended that families stop in on Embarkation Day to register their kids, take a tour of the space and meet the staff. After that day, parents are not allowed inside for security reasons so they can’t tour the space later in the week.

The Camp Ocean has a dedicated bathroom area, so kids do not have to leave the space to use the restrooms. There’s also a high half door with an “alarm” that helps keep the space secure. It’s got a long wall of windows overlooking the pool, and spaces that can be divided out for different ages or activities. It was bright and incredibly organized!

The staff member who greeted us has an education degree and infinite patience!

Sensory Bags for kids

There are sensory bags available for any kids who might need them, available at Camp Ocean on a first come first served basis. The bags have headphones, fidget toys, a feelings card which also has pictures of “needs” on the back, and a list of recommended times for using the headphones. When my kids were young, these bags weren’t available, but what a game changer for easily overwhelmed little ones.

Sensory bag on Carnival elation with headphones, helpful tips cards, fidget toys and a VIP badge to help crew identify kids with needs.

Carnival Elation food

What are the Carnival Elation food options?

When it comes to Carnival Elation food, you’ll find the main dining rooms on Deck 8 and the casual dining on Deck 10. There are no dining areas near the atrium on Deck 7.

You can enjoy a seated breakfast or brunch in the Imagination Restaurant on Deck 8 as well as dinner in the Imagination and Inspiration Restaurants. But, for lunch, snacks, water stations, coffee, ice cream, pizza and Guys Burger Bar, you’ll have to trek up to Deck 10.

I think this is the only real complaint in this Carnival Elation Review. It would have been nice to have free coffee and water stations at the bar on Deck 7 for convenient morning coffee for those of us with lower deck cabins.

Carnival Elation Casual Food options

On Deck 10 near the pool, you’ll find the casual dining options. The buffet is at Tiffany’s Restaurant at the back of Deck 10. There’s also Guy’s Burger Joint, the Carnival Deli, Pizza Pirate and Blue Iguana Cantina in the same area. I really liked this layout, because food is prepared to order at each of these places. And, unlike many ships, we didn’t encounter super long lines at any of the casual dining areas or the buffet.

Line waiting at Guys Burger Joint on Carnival Elation
Typical line at casual dining venues

Does Carnival Elation dining include your time dining?

As to dinner, when you book your cruise, you have three choices, Your Time Dining (no set dinnertime), Early Dining at 6:00 p.m. or Late Dining at 8:15 p.m.

Carnival Elation Dining: Your Time Dining

With Your Time Dining there’s no set dining time. Just like a regular restaurant on land, you’ll make a reservation for dinner using the Carnival hub app on a smart phone. I have no idea what people without smartphones do to reserve their dinner time. The app will tell you how long your wait will be. Then, it will alert you when your table is ready. Once your table is ready, you have ten minutes to check in.

With Your Time Dining, you can end up anywhere in the dining room and you don’t have the same staff each evening. But, it comes with flexibility to eat when it fits your schedule.

Carnival Elation Dining: Early and Late Seating

With set time dining, you’ll choose either early or late dining. The early seating is at 6:00 p.m. and the late seating is at 8:30. You sit at the same table with the same servers each night. Sometimes, you’ll get seated at a table with other guests, and sometimes you don’t. We sat at a table for 8 and enjoyed meeting the other guests.

Slow roast beef with beans and potatoes and topped with a tomato slice.

Carnival Elation’s set time dining is in the Inspiration Restaurant on Deck 8 Aft. The kitchen is between the Inspiration and the Imagination Dining Rooms, so you can’t walk through Deck 8 to the restaurant’s entrance. We actually had to ask for directions and we weren’t the only ones!

Inspiration Restaurant table 305.

So here you go…. Midship go down to Deck 7 and walk toward the back of the ship (Aft). Cabin numbers will go up. At the last section of orange carpet, which they use to indicate where staircases are, go up one flight of stairs to the restaurant entrance.

Empress Deck 7 cabin directory on Carnival Elation.
Follow signs to the AFT of Deck 7 to get to the Inspiration Restaurant

Or, on Deck 9, go to the Alchemy Bar at the back of the ship (Aft) and go down the beautiful staircase there into the restaurant below. But if you can’t find the Inspiration Restaurant, ask one of the crew. They’re clearly used to that question!

How is the Carnival Elation Food?

Overall, we liked the Carnival Elation food options. Like any restaurant, we liked some meals better than others. Everyone at our table agreed that dinner was better the first two nights than the last two nights, but that might have been our personal food preferences. The menu had more fish options as the week went on, and most of us didn’t like fish that much.

The buffet, Guys Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina all had great food. We liked the options and that there was plenty of seating on the ship. Our favorite place to eat casual meals was outside behind Tiffany’s Restaurant (near the rear sports bar and the pizza place).

Do they have specialty dining?

There are no specialty dining restaurants on the ship, but the restaurant staff has come up with a few creative solutions to allow people an upscale dining experience even without dedicated space for it.

First, in the main dining rooms, they offer a specialty menu for an upcharge (about $23). These options are listed on the menu with upcharge clearly marked.

Also, Guys Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina become a “Steak and Frites” restaurant in the evenings. You can get a cooked to order steak, fries and sides for an upcharge. The steaks are on display to help you choose. Personally, I found both of these options a great solution to the limited space onboard.

Carnival Elation Review Summary

Let’s make sure I have answered your questions in this Carnival Elation Review. These are the questions we consider for how to pick the right cruise.

If this Carnival Elation review has sold you on this beautiful ship, read other reviews online. You can book your cruise at a great price here.

Is Carnival Elation a good ship for cruising?

Yes, overall, the Carnival Elation is a great cruise option. The ship is beautiful, not worn out anywhere! The cabins are comfortable. The ship is incredibly clean. The staff is friendly and efficient. I loved having a bathrobe in my standard cabin!

Is there enough to do on Carnival Elation?

The Carnival Elation is the smallest ship in the Carnival fleet. It does not have a huge sports decks or multiple pools, but there are water, sports and dedicated children’s activities on board. Other entertainment and a casino offer non-sports entertainment options from morning to late night. The ship offers both dining room, upscale and casual dining as well as many bars.

What’s the worst thing about Carnival Elation?

Honestly, the only thing I would say is not great about the Carnival Elation is how far Deck 4 is from any food or beverages. The fourth floor cabins are quiet, but they are far from the coffee, snacks and beverages on Deck 10. I recommend a Deck 6 cabin for better convenience to shipboard amenities.